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Stan & Ollie (2018)
10/10
More than fine and a long way from a mess
12 January 2019
Being very fond of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, comedy geniuses and their partnership was an iconic one (in their prime, late 20s-mid/late-30s, they were the funniest comedy duo), 'Stan and Ollie' for a while was one of my most anticipated films. Really like biographical-type films and if there was anybody who deserved a film about them or one period in their life it was Laurel and Hardy, with there being a lot to their lives, personalities and partnerships to work from.

Seeing it last night, 'Stan and Ollie', did not disappoint in any way. What was one of my most anticipated recent films became one of the best films seen in the cinema in a long time. Not many films recently had me laughing, crying and thinking and then coming out of the cinema with a smile on my face, made me feeling warm inside and holding back tears. It is the complete opposite of a mess and calling it fine isn't enough, this is referring to the common "another fine mess". It was very interesting too for the film to focus on one period (the close of their career and their farewell tour) with references to past work, instead of trying to cover their whole career, one that sees different sides to Laurel and Hardy's friendship relationship, with blessings and burdens, and to Laurel and Hardy themselves.

The film is beautifully made visually. Cannot fault the evocatively rendered period detail, that's sumptuous but the postwar gloominess hangs over, or the clean cinematography that is a loving complement to it. A standout in the case of the latter being the single tracking shot at the beginning where it was like the two brought to life, similarly the effective fixed frames where the interaction between Laurel and Hardy truly shines through. In this regard though, the star was the make-up/prosthetics used on John C Reilly as Hardy, you know the make up is good when it looks authentic and like time and care went into it as well as not being able to recognise the actor. Did not recognise John C Reilly and he did not look uncomfortable at all. Didn't even notice or realise that CGI was used to extend some of the locations, in a period where this aspect is overused, abused and distracting to see a film that uses it yet subtly and sparingly was refreshing and preferable actually to back projection (on a side note some of the later outings used back projection and did so poorly).

Rolfe Kent's score fits beautifully, full of whimsy and nostalgia and knowing when to be prominent and when to step back. Loved the use of "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine", and it's affectionately choreographed and performed. Could really tell that director Jon S. Baird had a lot of passion and adoration for the duo and story judging from the sincere directing style that balances comedy and pathos effortlessly when there are films that struggle badly in this.

Qualities that are balanced every bit as adeptly in the witty, poignant and thought-provoking script, the later emotional moments especially where you see how strained the relationship was later on which was sad in itself. The story also, with the recreation of the classic routines, sly and hilarious and also endearingly innocent, affectionately done and enormously entertaining, while the slapstick gags with the bell and the oversized trunk were a genius move. Much of it was truly affectionate and nostalgic and it is so obvious seeing what the duo's appeal was, their relationship having so many layers and any shifts to it never jarring or rushed and both the personalities are portrayed to perfection. Yet it is the later emotional moments that got to me, it broke me seeing Hardy in the state he was. The ending was both triumphant and moving and the end credits were a lovely touch and takes one back, newcomers to the duo will want to see their work after seeing this film.

No issues to be found with the casting here. There is terrific support from an amusing yet stern Nina Arianda, loyal Shirley Henderson (in one of her best performances) and haughty Rufus Jones, the contrast between the two wives in their interaction is well done. The stars, as it should be, are Laurel and Hardy themselves. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are both extraordinary, so much so one is convinced Laurel and Hardy had come to life right from the opening sequence. For me, Coogan has never been better, he is very funny, precise (he times the schtick brilliantly) and at times arrogant, his restraint absolutely captivating. Was even more impressed by Reilly, in so far career-best work too, perhaps he is ever so slightly too tall for Hardy but that is as if nit-picking but he nails Hardy's comic timing and personality, but he is also extremely moving in the latter stages and sometimes without saying much. The chemistry between the two really lifts the film to an even higher level, the wit, tension and pathos nailed individually and equally dead on in balance.

In conclusion, truly delightful. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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7/10
Legend of interesting strangeness
12 January 2019
Love watching live opera and ballet transmissions/simulcasts in the cinema, with so many favourites in both mediums and wanting to experience watching a production of those favourites. It's a thrilling experience and have always loved how authentic the atmosphere feels, as if you are actually there. Except in reality, it is the cinema, a more accessible location for many, and at a much cheaper price.

This production was an interesting experience. As was experiencing the ballet for the first time watching the production. Didn't find myself in love with the production to be honest but found an awful lot to admire and did appreciate it. The ballet itself while intriguing is a bit of a strange one and compared to most ballet it is very different (which is actually part of the interest value), but again one of those appreciate than love experiences. Liked the music, which was thrilling and full of atmosphere that didn't come over as dissonant or too safe, it was the story that wasn't quite my cup of tea. A bit contrived in places and doesn't always make complete sense.

As far as this production of 'Legend of Love' goes, it could have been more cohesive narratively but the only real issues were the production values. The costumes are a bizarre mish-mash and just look ugly. And the lighting mostly is far too dark.

Will say too that the minimal set wasn't to my taste, but the starkness actually fitted the tone of the ballet and the story.

On the other hand, the music is brilliantly performed by the orchestra, as ever alive to power, energy and nuances, and alertly and sympathetically conducted. The dark conflicts presented in 'Legend of Love' did maintain interest and created atmosphere and tension, while the choreography, different in style with a more Middle Eastern-touch which was both alluring and fascinating, is one of the production's finest assets.

Choreography that is done justice by the excellent cast, the standouts being Denis Rodkin (superb in dancing and interpretation, and his character is a literal emotional minefield) and a very powerful Maria Allash. The Corps De Ballet are also impeccable, a lot of them and with a lot to do.

In summary, strange but didn't regret experiencing it by any stretch. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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House of Cards: Chapter 3 (2013)
Season 1, Episode 3
9/10
"Humility is their form of pride"
12 January 2019
'House of Cards' in its prime (Seasons 1-4) was a brilliant show. Unfortunately it went downhill dramatically in Season 5 and has been even worse, yes hasn't been cancelled and that unfortunately has been a mistake, since Kevin Spacey was fired. The prime brilliance can be seen in the first two episodes, both directed by David Fincher, both great in nearly every way and both among the better-directed 'House of Cards' episodes.

While missing Fincher's touch, which had more of a cinematic quality that could have passed for one of his films (a big compliment), "Chapter 3", the first of twelve episodes to be directed by 'Glengarry Glen Ross' James Foley, is still as an overall episode on the same level as the previous two. In a way, while not quite as strikingly directed (Foley's direction though is still highly impressive, keeping things always engaging), things feel more settled here than in the first two episodes. Found this to be particularly true with the pace, tighter here and a little less mechanical (as seen occasionally in the previous two episodes), and the writing, here continuing to get tighter and sharper.

Visually, "Chapter 3" is very stylish and atmospheric with really quite wonderful photography and locations. Foley directs with control and tautness. The music knew when to have presence and when to tone things down to let the dialogue and characters properly speak, with again some very clever sound quality.

Writing bites, thought-provokes and engages even more than it already did, with Frank's eulogy being a major highlight. The political elements again (namely in Zoe's storyline) aren't heavy-handed, are handled intelligently and didn't go too much over my head, never problems in prime-'House of Cards'. The story is compelling, with Frank's, Claire's and Zoe's storylines being equally as interesting though Frank has the slight edge due to him being the more interesting character.

Characterisation has yet to falter. Frank is at this point of the show at his slimiest and one can see why he further went on to be one of contemporary television's most fascinating lead characters. One of the most consistent elements, as well as the production values, has always been the acting, and it doesn't disappoint here. Spacey, Robin Wright and Kate Mara are all on top form.

Overall, great yet again. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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All at Sea (1957)
7/10
Alec Guinness at sea
12 January 2019
Anything from Ealing Studios promises a lot from the get go. Their films tend to be funny (hilarious at their best), charming and well made with great actors with a gift for comic timing. Am especially fond of 'The Ladykillers', 'The Man in the White Suit', 'The Lavender Hill Mob' and my favourite 'Kind Hearts and Coronets'. So of course one would expect a lot before watching any of their work.

The last Ealing comedy, and the last film Alec Guinness made with them, 'Barnacle Bill' is far from one their best. For me, it is one of their weaker films and does lack some of the things that make the studio's work so good at their peak. Despite how this sounds, 'Barnacle Bill' (or 'All at Sea') didn't strike me as a bad film, actually considering Guinness himself absolutely hated the film, referring to it later as "wretched", and only did it for a favour it was in a way better than expected in that regard. Even if it didn't work for me, would certainly not dislike it as vehemently as Guinness did.

'Barnacle Bill' does lack some of the wit and bite of Ealing at their best. Not that it is never there, just not as much or as effectively.

Some of the story, with echos of previous Ealing Studios (an obvious one being their masterpiece 'Kind Hearts and Coronets') felt contrived, especially in a few of the flashbacks. And the ending is not really much of one at all.

However, 'Barnacle Bill' is well made with handsome sets and photography particularly. It's whimiscally and lushly scored and Charles Frend keeps much of the film moving along nicely. It does have quite a number of amusing to very funny moments, that didn't feel over-stretched or tired, and has an immense charm throughout.

While not a tour-De-force as such (like his performance in 'Kind Hearts and Coronets'), the ever reliable Guinness shows authority and immaculate comic timing as multiple characters. The rest of the cast do well though nobody gets anything meaty as such.

Overall, lesser Ealing but still decent Ealing. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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Suzy (1936)
7/10
Tense love
12 January 2019
The main attraction of 'Suzy' for me was the cast, namely Jean Harlow (a very charming actress who died far too young with so much more to give) and Cary Grant (have always loved him, both in comedy and drama). The story also sounded interesting, though there was the worry from the sounds of it of whether it would try to do too much, and my love for classic film, and film in general of all genres and decades, played a big factor further.

'Suzy' turned out to be a worthwhile film with a lot working in its favour, the cast being one of the main assets. It is uneven and there are a few knocks against it (story-related mainly, am not going to go into the whole lack of authenticity in the accents, decided to suspend my disbelief on that one and judged the actors by their overall performance). But generally 'Suzy' is a film deserving of more credit than it gets. It was the only feature film pairing of Harlow and Grant, and judging from their work and chemistry one does wish they did more films together.

As said, 'Suzy' is not perfect in the story. Do think it tries to do too much in balancing too many tones that it left some confused spots. The start is on the slow side.

More problematic was, as has been said, the too coincidence heavy and sometimes silly third act.

However, 'Suzy' is nicely photographed and the outtakes from 'Hell's Angel' that formed the flying sequences were exciting and didn't look cheap or stock. The music fits well and the film is directed with good balance and control. The song "Did I Remember" is one of the film's highlights. The script provokes thought and both entertains and intrigues.

Likewise with the story, which comes to life once the action gets to Paris and has fun and tension, as well as a solid pace. The tension and pathos of the character chemistry, romantic or not, really elevates the film, as does the surprisingly well rounded characters. Characters that are all round beautifully played, as said decided to ignore the accents. With accents it for me is always less forgivable when the rest of the performance isn't good. Harlow is her usual charming self and Grant is surprisingly comfortable and credible as an amoral cad (the complete opposite of his usual roles). Franchot Tone has fun in his role and Lewis Stone brings moving, understated dignity to his.

In conclusion, pretty good. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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9/10
Introducing Bleak House
12 January 2019
Have always had a lot of love and respect for period dramas/adaptations. Regardless of how they fare as adaptations or how faithful they are to the source material, there are many (too numerous to list) that are good or more as standalones.

There will always be inevitable comparisons to which adaptation of 'Bleak House' people prefer, this or 2005. From a personal point of view, there is no real preference as both adaptations are outstanding in their own way. And not just as adaptations, but also on their own as well, which is every bit as important. The book is compelling, atmospheric and rich in characterisation. It is a mammoth book, and one of Dickens' least accessible(from first-time personal experience, the law stuff took its time to get completely). Both are well-made, tell the story extremely well indeed and brilliantly written and acted, the 2005 adaptation's characterisation is a little richer but this adaptation is a little more atmospheric.

Not everybody will find the 70s-80s Dickens serial adaptations their cup of tea. They may find them slow, long and with a lot of talk. That isn't the case with me. Of the ones seen, they respect their source material(even with omissions and changes here and there), are detailed, very evocative and Dickenesian and are well-made, written and acted. And that is the case with this 'Bleak House' exactly (great and faithful as an adaptation, without being too faithful), with it getting off to a great start here.

Visually, the costumes and sets look beautiful and very detailed, succeeding also in capturing the bleak nature of the book. They are also full of atmosphere and don't come across as too clean. The music is a pleasing mix of haunting overtones and delicate chamber-music-like, and fit with each scene excellently, even if some may prefer the more understated quality in the 2005 adaptation.

Scoring highly too is the writing. The dialogue is intelligently adapted, there is a lot of talk but they weren't that tedious to me. The heartfelt tragedy, poignancy, sharp observations and nobility of Dickens' writing comes through loud and clear, the writing distinctively Dickensian in style. Even in just the first episode, the characters are splendidly drawn and crucial scenes have their impact.

There's a lot of characterisation and plotting going on so interest is always maintained. Things can unfold slowly and some of the episode drags slightly (my one complaint here, particularly early on), but generally it is not a turn-off. The book is also huge and has so much to tell, so the pace was somewhat necessary.

Acting is very fine from all. Diana Rigg is an aristocratic Lady Deadlock. Denholm Elliot is a noble, gentle and moving Mr Jarndyce. And Peter Vaughan is splendidly sinister as Tulkinghorn. Suzanne Burden plays Esther with backbone instead of being insipid or too meek, if not as warm as Anna Maxwell Martin.

In conclusion, excellent first part. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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1/10
Let there be the complete lack of bite and blood
12 January 2019
Despite hating the first two films, saw 'Bloodrayne 3' anyway out of curiosity. As a franchise completest, to see whether it was that bad and again to see whether Uwe Boll, considered one of the worst ever directors, had a halfway decent film in him (having seen no evidence of that with any of the previous films seen and probably never will). Expectations were not high at all but there was small glimpses of hope, am trying to be kind here as hating on films is a long way from being a hobby (hate it on the most part actually).

'Bloodrayne 3' is no improvement whatsoever on the first two films. Hard to say which is the worst of the three, because they all have the same faults and are as amateur hour as each other. Boll has yet to show that he can make a halfway decent film or show any enthusiasm or passion for directing. Like the second film, it is down there with the worst sequels but like that film it also but doesn't have the issue of disgracing the original film with the original film here not being good in the first place. Everything is abysmally executed have very rarely recently called a film irredeemable, it actually takes a lot for me to call a film that.

'Bloodrayne 3' once again couldn't be worse on a visual level. Photography that is both chaotic and static, bacon-slicer-like editing, drab costumes that don't fit the setting and like they came from a very low-budget fancy dress party (which actually are generally more appealing), continuity errors galore (more than anybody can count), afterthought-like visual effects, lighting completely lacking in atmosphere, those can all be found. The music is never dynamic with anything on screen, often working against it and like it belonged in another film entirely, on top of that it is very unpleasant to listen to.

Ever atrocious (every Boll film has it), the writing doesn't flow and the cheesines gets far too much, enough to make one want to vomit and again became exhauted by the amount of unintentional camp and complete lack of wit there was. The hugely unexciting and momentum-less action, when it features, is chaotically edited, under-rehearsed choreographically and a lot of it is incomprehensible. Ineptitude is all over it, it doubled in the second film and it doubled even more here. As is the story, which is actually not much of one in the first place, it never comes to life and is not easy to follow often. Boll's direction is typically non-existent and cold, as well as smug. The characters are walking cliches that are neither interesting or worth rooting for, instead bland and irritating. There are a lot of gratuitous elements that look cheap, are inserted randomly and have no reason usually for being there, and the love scene was completely out of place and pointless.

Acting is not much better. Natassia Malfe looks completely uninterested and also doesn't look comfortable. Meanwhile the rest of the cast are even hammier than before, perhaps arguably twice as much and the support acting was very hammy in the second film though Ben Kingsley in the first out-hammed them all.

In conclusion, can once again say nothing good here. 1/10 Bethany Cox
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1/10
Vampires in the wild west
12 January 2019
'Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance' was seen out of curiosity to see if they were as bad as its terrible reputation, like the other two films in the trilogy. As well as seeing whether one of the worst directors of all time Uwe Boll was capable of making a good film. Something was slightly intriguing though about the premise for the film, it did sound cheesy and didn't think to myself "hey maybe this could be a guilty pleasure".

No such luck. The first 'Bloodrayne' was awful and deserving of its reputation. So is 'Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance', both with the same flaws pretty much that deciding which is worse between the two is very difficult. Came to the conclusion watching the first film that Boll is incapable of making a halfway decent film. That feeling has not changed at all here. As someone who is usually very generous rating and reviewing films, 'Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance' is down there with the worst sequels but doesn't have the issue of disgracing the original film with the original film here not being good in the first place. Everything is abysmally executed and there are no redeeming qualities at all, have said that about very few films seen recently.

'Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance' once again couldn't be worse on a visual level. Photography that is both chaotic and static, bacon-slicer-like editing, drab costumes that don't fit the setting, continuity errors galore (more than anybody can count), afterthought-like visual effects, lighting completely lacking in atmosphere, those can all be found. The music is never dynamic with anything on screen, often working against it and like it belonged in another film entirely, on top of that it is very unpleasant to listen to.

Writing is atrocious beyond belief, it doesn't flow and the cheesines gets far too much, enough to make one want to vomit and again became exhauted by the amount of unintentional camp there was. The action has no momentum or excitement whatsoever, is chaotically edited, under-rehearsed choreographically and a lot of it is incomprehensible. It really takes ineptitude to a whole new level. As is the story, it never comes to life and is not easy to follow often. Boll's direction is typically non-existent and cold, comparing him to Ed Wood is rather insulting when although Wood's films were the complete opposite of fine heart one could see that he had his heart in the right place (something that has never been the case with Boll). The characters are walking cliches that are neither interesting or worth rooting for, instead bland and irritating.

Acting is not much better. The lead Natassia Malfe is a little superior, at least there is a little more emotion, but one doesn't remember her very much afterwards. Meanwhile the rest of the cast provide far too much ham that one can bear, Michael Pare especially over-compensating.

Overall, awful first sequel and certainly does not stop the heart. 1/10 Bethany Cox
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BloodRayne (2005)
1/10
Completely bloodless
12 January 2019
Saw 'Bloodrayne' and its two sequels out of curiosity to see if they were as bad as their terrible reputation. As well as seeing whether one of the worst directors of all time Uwe Boll was capable of making a good film. On top of that, like Ben Kingsley a lot as an actor and he is reason enough to see anything he's involved in. Did not have my hopes up, because even looking at the advertising and trailers 'Bloodrayne' looked awful.

The terrible reputation and dubious advertising do not lie. 'Bloodrayne' to me and many others really is that bad, bad actually is an understatement. Have come to the conclusion that Boll is incapable of making a halfway decent film, have not seen everything of his but all that has been seen has been terrible and as bad as their reputation. As someone who is usually very generous rating and reviewing films, 'Bloodrayne' does stand out as one of the worst films seen recently and actually full stop. Everything is abysmally executed and there are no redeeming qualities at all, have said that about very few films seen recently.

'Bloodrayne' couldn't be more inept visually. Photography that is both chaotic and static, bacon-slicer-like editing, drab costumes that don't fit the setting, continuity errors galore (more than anybody can count), afterthought-like visual effects, lighting completely lacking in atmosphere, those can all be found. The music sounds cheap and is never dynamic with anything on screen, often working against it and like it belonged in another film entirely.

Writing is horrendously stilted and cheesy, enough to make one want to vomit and the unintentional camp later on becomes exhausting. The action has no momentum or excitement whatsoever, is chaotically edited, under-rehearsed choreographically and a lot of it is incomprehensible. It really takes ineptitude to a whole new level. As is the story, it never comes to life and is not easy to follow often. Boll's direction is typically non-existent and cold, comparing him to Ed Wood is rather insulting when although Wood's films were the complete opposite of fine heart one could see that he had his heart in the right place (something that has never been the case with Boll). The characters are walking cliches that are neither interesting or worth rooting for, instead bland and irritating.

You know something is wrong when the best performance comes from an angry-looking Michelle Rodriguez. Elsewhere there is an emotionless lead, Meat Loaf's uncomfortable cameo and Michael Madsen and Billy Zane going through the motions. Worst of it is Kingsley in his worst ever performance, taking hamminess and chewing-scenery-to-pieces to mind-boggling extremes.

Summarising, completely bloodless and appallingly awful. 1/10 Bethany Cox
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The Walking Dead: Them (2015)
Season 5, Episode 10
7/10
On the harsh road
12 January 2019
It did take me time to get round to watching 'The Walking Dead'. Despite reservations as to whether it would appeal to me, 'The Walking Dead' though was one of those gradually getting through the episodes over-time experiences but at its best it proved to be extremely addictive viewing for Seasons 1-5 and in its prime was a brilliant show. Was disappointed though generally by Seasons 7 and 8, which made it feel like a different show, which is a real shame.

The first half of Season 5 ranged from good to outstanding from personal opinion, there were episodes that others didn't like or had a divisive critical reception/fan reaction but had a lot of fine merits still for me while acknowledging the flaws. "What Happened Then and What's Going On", which commenced the second half of Season 5, was a memorable if flawed episode. Would say the same for the marginally better "Them". There is a lot to like about "Them", but it is far from a 'The Walking Dead' high point.

"Them" does move somewhat too sluggishly at times for my liking and this may have been more forgivable if the storytelling was more consistently compelling and fresher. Other episodes do much better with plot advancing, can understand the filler complaints.

Although the story has moments of brilliance and is investable enough, along with the pace not being tight enough it breaks no real new ground and reiterates too much so it feels repetitive too.

Like all the episodes before it, "Them" is superbly made. It has gritty and audacious production design, visuals that are well crafted and have soul rather than being overused and abused and photography of almost cinematic quality. The music is haunting and affecting, without being intrusive. The direction is controlled yet alert and the acting is never less than great, with the standout for me being Sonequa Martin-Green, an intensely moving performance here.

Especially in one of Rick's greatest speeches, there is a lot of thought provoking writing and emotion. It is one of the more intriguing 'The Walking Dead' episodes up to this point of the show from a thematic standpoint, and raises some interesting questions on survival and death. Also appreciated it approaching the characters from a psychological standpoint, which was also done very well in "What Happened and What's Going On", as it added a lot to the characters. Aaron's introduction here is an interest point. The ending was somewhat refreshing but it was how the grief of the characters was presented that was most striking, like with Sasha, Daryl and Maggie and the barn door and Sasha's rage, heart-wrenching scenes.

Overall, pretty good but didn't blow me away. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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9/10
"Who would want to see Snow White and the Seven Samurai?"
12 January 2019
Although a big lifelong aficianado of animation, here wouldn't be any question of seeing anything animated regardless of the studio, director, style, how old it is and its critical reception, will hardly say that everything animated is great. There is some bad or worse animation out there. With my knowledge having been extended and broadened, my love and appreciation has overtime significantly increased.

'Pinky and the Brain' is an example of good animation. Make that brilliant. Although a fan of 'Animaniacs', 'Pinky and the Brain' has always been even better. All of 'Animaniacs' numerous qualities are present here while making them even better, even more in quantity and even bigger in quality. It has always been one of my favourite shows, but love it even more as an adult. Due to more knowledge of animation and understanding the humour more. Same with animation in general. 'Pinky and the Brain' is like 'Animaniacs', it has something for everybody and children and adults alike will love it, it is so much more than "just another kiddie show" and should never be dismissed as such.

"Leggo My Ego" and "Big in Japan" are both great, a personal preference (marginally) being for "Leggo My Ego".

There is little to criticise the animation quality for, though some of the drawing could have been smoother. The characters designs have no stiffness (personally think they have a little more refinement than those in 'Animaniacs'), the backgrounds are very detailed and the colours are a mix of vibrant and atmospheric.

Music is also faultless. The scoring is dynamic and composed in a way that is always adding to the actions, expressions and gestures and doing what good music scores in animation should do in enhancing them.

Have never faulted the writing. It is very smart, its best parts riotous and the exchanges between Pinky and Brain are mini masterpieces. There is zaniness, wit and surprising intelligence and has references that will delight adults especially as they are more likely to get them, while having some educational parts for children. It achieves a perfect balance of never being too simplistic or too convoluted, "Leggo My Ego" being especially successful.

While somewhat formulaic (all the stories in 'Pinky and the Brain' are, but in structure, the concept was actually very original), this is a not so common example of formulaic not being a bad thing and not mattering at all, because of the cleverness, creativity and idea variety of the writing and storytelling, here benefitting from a different opened up location. One worries about repetition, no worries are needed because there is a lot of freshness and variety to stop that from happening.

Younger audiences will have little trouble understanding but adults will get more out of it, because the humour is more understandable when older due to more familiarity. Both are easy to follow while not being childish, something that is remarkable for "Leggo My Ego" with an ambitious subject that could go over children's heads. Yet it is done in an accessible way. Did like "Big in Japan" quite a lot too, and it is nowhere near as silly as it sounds, nor is it culturally insensitive. 'Pinky and the Brain' always excelled when it came to references and spoofs, and there is no exception here.

Characterisation always was a major strength, it is in both segments here. Pinky and Brain were two of 'Animaniacs' best characters, Brain especially stole the show whenever he appeared and elevated already very good to great episodes to an even better level, and more than deserved their own show. For me they are even more interesting and defined here in 'Pinky and the Brain'. It is hard not to endear to Pinky and his inane comments and actions, he is not the brightest mouse on the block and Brain's frustration is understandable. But he is one of the finest examples of stupid not falling into the trap of being obnoxious, throughout the show's run Pinky never once annoyed me. Pinky instead is very funny and often hysterically so and simply adorable.

Brain is the infinitely smarter one of the two, a genius in fact, although also the meaner and more intricate one, a very large contrast. Somehow though he is still very lovable, it is impossible not to fall in love with his schemes (both inspired, especially in "Leggo My Ego" and how he goes about it, nor is it impossible not to love his deadpan personality and dark sarcasm.

Have always loved the relationship/chemistry between Pinky and Brain. The duo's always compelling personalities never feel false or overdone, and the depth to their contrasting personalities and relationship has not been forgotten. The chemistry between the two is just delightful, sometimes antagonistic but there is more substance to it than all of that. It is essentially the show's heart, it was essential for it to work (make or break) and it does brilliantly.

Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche cannot be bettered as the characters. Both are amazing and throughout the show gave some of their best ever work, especially LaMarche. They are one of the main reasons as to why the characters work so well, their voices suiting the them and their personalities perfectly. The bond between them throughout 'Pinky and the Brain' has always been present and never been lost.

Overall, great. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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8/10
Popeye on the home front
12 January 2019
Like the character of Popeye very much, have said this more than once. The odd disappointing one aside, really like to love a vast majority of his cartoons. If more Fleischer's output than Famous Studios'. Fleischer's Popeye cartoons tended to be funnier, more imaginative and better made, Famous Studios' on the most part entertained though their later Popeye, and overall filmography actually, cartoons had tighter deadlines and lower budgets evident.

Of the wartime Popeye cartoons made during World War II, 'Ration for the Duration' is agreed one of the best. Also think it is towards the better earlier Famous Studios Popeye cartoons. Generally, the wartime Popeye cartoons varied in overall standard, with some having a good deal of entertainment value and interest, and generally while initially not so sure Popeye works well within the setting. And there were others that were not as funny or imaginative and heavy-handedness and not-for-the-easily-offended stereotypes were also evident.

'Ration for the Duration' can be very corny sure, a few of the puns are ones where you are not sure whether you want to chuckle or groan.

Parts are predictable and some of the drawing lacks refinement.

However, most of the animation is fine, simple but has some nice detail in the backgrounds, the shading is crisp and the character designs are far from ugly or off. The inventive overhead shots are striking. Even better is the music (always important for me to talk about and Popeye cartoons always fared very well in this respect), again lush and cleverly orchestrated and doing so well adding to and enhancing the action. The dialogue amuses mostly and even more so the increasingly wild action. Popeye is amusing and likeable, with great rapport with the rest of the characters, and Jack Mercer as always does a great job voicing him.

Even if there are predictable moments here and there, what sets 'Ration for the Duration' apart from other wartime Popeye cartoons is that it tries to be different. The setting is different and it does a nice twist on 'Jack and the Beanstalk', doing so amusingly but in some places poignantly when one is reminded how rationing affected people back then. It is one of the funnier wartime Popeye cartoons, the action and gags are far from scant, they are well timed and most importantly they are funny. It refrains from preaching too, it is so easy for something to make a point about something important and relevant and lay it on too thick.'Ration for the Duration' may not say much new, but it does educate and to me it didn't go overboard making its point. The supporting characters are colourful in personality, the most memorable being the giant, and are not stereotypes, certainly far from ones to be offended by. In fact there is nothing offensive at all here.

Summarising, very well done. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Dynasties (2018– )
10/10
The importance, rise and fall of animal families
12 January 2019
When it comes to nature/wildlife documentaries, to me, and most likely many others, David Attenborough (still going strong with no signs of tiring for such an amazingly long career) is the unrivalled king. Just love his delivery, with a voice that one can listen to for hours. Everything he's done (some of it ground-breaking or the quintessential documentary on the subject in question) is so well made, educational, always compelling and have always felt a lot of emotion from a vast majority of them. The best documentaries are landmarks and some of the best ever produced, nature or not.

'Dynasties' is yet another gem in a huge body (several decades worth) of work full of them. Attenborough's filmography is a very, very rare case of not having anything bad in it, even find the more flawed work decent. Not one of his very best, but again only because the gems are so many, but everything so amazing about his work is present here and in a way that doesn't feel tired. The animals covered are familiar ones, but actually the approach 'Dynasties' takes is for an Attenborough documentary not one done much before if ever. In that it follows specific families within specific species. Some of the Attenborough 'Wildlife Specials' did it but not to this extent.

It looks amazing for starters. The scenery takes the breath away, especially in "Tiger", but it is more than just beautiful scenery. For example in "Emperor" one is reminded of how cruel the Antarctic can be. The scenery is complemented by photography of quite cinematic quality, not just a feast for the eyes but it is also expansive and intimate in equal measure, enhancing the impact of the emotional and tense scenes of which in 'Dynasties' there are many. A fine example being the wild action in "Lion". The music has both grandeur and atmosphere, not intrusive at all and adds a lot more than once.

As one can expect, the narration is very thought-provoking and never rambling or speculative. Although the animals themselves (here chimpanzees, emperor penguins, lions, painted wolves and tigers) and the habitats are familiar, the approach that they are explored in feels fresh and sees the animals in a new light, or so that's how it felt. 'Dynasties' did not feel like five episodes, it felt like five individual stories with animals portrayed as relatable characters (without being too humanised, even when given names like David the Chimpanzee) and a wide range of emotions.

Don't let the criticisms 'Dynasties' faced before airing put you off, the portrayal of the animals is not reassuring on the most part and certainly never one-sided but instead complex and uncompromising, while the landscapes have more than them than looking glorious and nothing feels sugar-coated or over-humanised. A lot of information is covered but felt properly explored and not rushed or disjointed, and the facts educate and illuminate while not being compromised for the emotionally complex storytelling. One does feel upset and angry at what happened to David, and the penguins facing perilous danger leaves penguin lovers biting their nails. But the scene that stayed with me the most was the chilling and heart-wrenching scene with Red and the hyenas in "Lion".

Once again, Attenborough's distinctive and unequalled narrative delivery is sincere, enthusiastic as well as understated. One can listen to him for a long time and not tire of him, no other nature/wildlife documentary narrator/presenter has made me feel this way. The behind the scenes footage fascinates and also leaves emotional impact at how inspirational the crew are, especially in "Emperor".

Summarising, wonderful. For me it was one of television's 2018 highlights, only took me so long to review it due to being busy and having lots to watch and review. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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6/10
It's a cute life
11 January 2019
Have found the Terrytoons cartoons, in my Terrytoons completest sake, oddly interesting. They are a mixed bag in quality, often with outstanding music and with some mild amusement and charm and variable in animation (which improved significantly by the late 30s compared to in their very early years), characterisation (tending to be the villains stealing the show and the leads being bland) and content (again bland and increasingly running out of ideas).

1942, like all the other years for Terrytoons, was in terms of quality hit and miss, mostly falling into somewhere in the middle camp. Of which 'Life with Fido', another cartoon in the watchable but generally quite on the cutesy side Dinky Duck series, is one of the middling ones ranking it in correlation with the rest of the Terrytoons and one of the middling 1942 cartoons. It is an unexceptional, nothing exactly special cartoon and has the same amount of problems as it has the amount of strengths. 'Life with Fido' is definitely watchable, as is the Dinky Duck series in general if one doesn't demand too much, but the main reasons to see are for Terrytoons Studios completest sake and seeing more lower-budget older animation. As far as the Dinky Duck cartoons go, it is one of the better ones.

Cannot fault the music, consistently the best thing about the Terrytoons cartoons. It is so beautifully and cleverly orchestrated and arranged, is great fun to listen to and full of lively energy, doing so well with enhancing the action. The animation has come on leaps and bounds over-time, one can see more ambitious, elaborate detail in the backgrounds, and the fluidity of drawing and movement continues to improve, transitions are smoother, and some synchronisation is neat. The colour is vibrant.

Some mildly amusing moments, if not particularly imaginative, and there is some zest and natural charm, and parts of it and the basic set up are nicely done. Dinky is cute and relatable enough, if not always compelling (the titular character is the more interesting character here), and the message is well intended. There is some nice conflict and it is hard to not be endeared by the cuteness, luckily not too excessive.

However, the story is paper thin and formulaic with not an awful lot to it (like the cartoon in general), doing little new with a not so original idea. Gags aren't enough, and there is not much especially memorable about some. The cartoon is pretty predictable most of the time, parts also being rather too sentimental. The taking-too-long-to-get-going beginning being one of the biggest examples of both.

Overall, unexceptional but watchable enough. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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7/10
Snow White and Rose Red
11 January 2019
For me, 'Snow White and Rose Red' is one of my favourite fairy/folk tales, the most familar version to me (and the most famous one overall) being the Grimm Brothers one. Will say that if looking for a straight up faithful adaptation, this episode will disappoint. On its own terms, there is enough to make one intrigued into checking out. On its own though, this is a nice above average episode that doesn't disgrace.

It is a variable series, 'Simsala Grimm' that is, but deserves more credit as a standalone as it does fare well on that front, a good way to introduce youngsters to the stories if not done already. Children are more likely to enjoy the series more than adults, but it will be hardly a chore for older audiences who should find the different spins on the stories interesting. It was great to see a nice mix of the famous and oft-adapted tales and also the not so familiar and not often adapted ones. The 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater' anime from the 80s also does this very well, perhaps even better. On its own merits (again best forget about expecting something faithful), 'Simsala Grimm' is pleasant, though not one of my favourites, and those not familiar with the original stories may find themselves intrigued into checking them out.

Character designs are somewhat derivative and dare it be said recycled, anybody who has seen many of the previous episodes will see a lot of similarities in the character designs between those and this.

Some 'Simsala Grimm' episodes have less than great writing (especially 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp'), with 'Snow White and Rose Red' not being without its corny moments, though these are occasional moments.

Having said that, 'Snow White and Rose Red' generally is another one of the better faring Season 3 (which expanded the Simsala universe somewhat) episodes and one of the series' better later epiosodes. Doc Croc and Yoyo do serve a point here and they play helpful roles, not feeling like wasted filler generally, though one can question whether they are entirely needed within the context of the story. Both are also likeable characters. Hard to tell who's my favourite between resourceful Doc Croc and adorable Yoyo. The original characters are handled very well.

Again, enough of the (traditional hand-drawn) animation is pleasing, the finesse is not always there or the imagination, but there are some lovely and never flat colours and it's nicely detailed. The music fits well (likewise with the never hammy or bland voice acting) and the main theme is catchy. Have always really liked the once upon a time approach to the intro.

'Snow White and Rose Red's' story really does charm and involve, some of the latter parts touching, and actually there is less corny writing than other episodes in the series. There is not an issue with pacing with it not feeling too hasty or dull, there is no trouble understanding what is going on yet it doesn't feel like it was dumbed down too much.

In summary, pretty good. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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DuckTales: Sphinx for the Memories (1987)
Season 1, Episode 40
8/10
Ancient Egyptian mania
11 January 2019
When younger, watching animation, great animation, music, characters and voice acting were prime attractions and appreciated. Whereas as an adult, where my love for animation was even stronger, more components were noticeable, with more knowledge was garnered of behind the scenes and of the different studios, animation styles and those involved.

Grew up with 'Ducktales' and always did consider it a personal favourite. Actually like it even more and that is very high praise when some past favourites are far from it now. By today's standards, it is funnier, even more entertaining finding even more to like and from getting much more the references, humour and dialogue, not admittedly always the case when younger. That has been the case with many animated shows re-visited recently, with prime examples being 'Animaniacs', 'Pinky and the Brain' and 'Tiny Toon Adventures'.

"Sphinx for the Memories" is not one of the best 'Ducktales' episodes, some of the supporting characters are more memorable than others and there are a few moments that were to me reliant on convenience (like with "The Garbled One" headdress), but it is still very enjoyable and interesting in a few ways. One of the episodes actually that fared better as an adult.

Everything else pretty much fares strongly. The animation as expected, some lack of finesse in drawing aside, is very vibrant, fluid, clean and the attention to detail in the backgrounds is also note-worthy. One of my main reasons for loving the show has always been the music, the score is dynamic, beautifully orchestrated, never jarring with the action and full of energy. Disney had many theme songs that were difficult to resist and were very catchy to the extent one doesn't forget them, and that for 'Ducktales' to me was one of the best.

The writing is extremely funny with some really clever and surprisingly fresh references that were not hard at all to get. Quantity-wise, "Sphinx for the Memories" doesn't go too crazy on them either. It too surprisingly, and rightly, plays the mummy unravelling straight which allowed the emotion to resonate. The story is energetic and thrilling, the Ancient Egyptian setting put to very effective and imaginative effect. Making for genuinely suspenseful and surprisisingly, for 'Ducktales', spooky moments (like Donald's truly creepy possession). The antagonist was suitably menacing and it was interesting that the subject is a more serious/dramatic one for the show, with everything with the perils that did have a sense of danger that one doesn't expect.

All the regular characters are on top form but here it is Donald, with a different (who knew Donald could be so ruthless?) side to him as "The Garbled One" that was interesting but also slightly disturbing, that steals the show. Appropriate as it is essentially a Donald-centric episode. The voice acting can't be faulted with Tony Anselmo being especially good.

Concluding, very enjoyable. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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4/10
Undercooked trouble
11 January 2019
One can totally understand Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's appeal, with distinctive comic timing and easy to remember personalities. It is also very easy to see why the chemistry was, and still is, considered legendary. Their best material, both verbal and particularly physically, was amusing to hilarious, with quite a fair share of classics.

It is unfortunate that Laurel and Hardy had a big decline in the 1940s (know that a few of the late 30s films were less than great but not to this extent). A period when Laurel and Hardy in some became underused, they and their material on the most part were tired, they were put in settings that they didn't gel in, the films seemed to forget what made Laurel and Hardy's prime period as great as it was, a lot of the verbal humour was dumb and trite, the supporting casts were variable and a few were too plot-heavy and the plots were far from great. Found 'Nothing But Trouble' to be one of the misfires from this period and for Laurel and Hardy overall, one can do with far worse but for Laurel and Hardy this really does not do them justice.

'Nothing But Trouble' does have a few amusing moments and lines, the stealing the steak from a lion being the highlight. Laurel and Hardy, who at least feel like leads, have some nice moments, ones that are fleeting in-character, where one can see their great chemistry and unique comic timing.

David Leland adds a good deal as the boy, both amusing and likeable. Some of the photography is nice.

However, 'Nothing But Trouble' really doesn't do either of the boys justice. Both look tired and don't have enough of the energy and enthusiasm that they displayed so wonderfully in their prime, Laurel especially, as well as being out of character in a dumbed down and over sweetened way. Their chemistry doesn't sparkle and neither does enough of the comedy. There is too much reliance on the verbal comedy, a vast majority of it quite weak in an embarrassing way, making the two speak uncharacteristically and nowhere near tight enough in timing. When there is physical comedy, it fares a little bit better because there are fleeting flashes of in-character moments, but again most feels like rehashed material executed to fatigued effect.

The story, which feels like a strung along series of comedy scenes, lacks energy and takes itself too seriously, with too much emphasis on excessive sentimentality. Some of it is rather mean-spirited too, which must have been quite dispiriting for the duo, plus some near-nightmarish parts that felt very out of place. At least it's easy to follow, unlike the one for 'The Dancing Masters' but there is nowhere near enough to sustain the length. The rest of the supporting cast don't stand out while crude editing and obvious back projection makes the film generally look cheap.

All in all, a lacklustre misfire with moments. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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Henry VIII (1979 TV Movie)
10/10
Touches a high point of greatness
11 January 2019
Have made a point a few times about the BBC Television Shakespeare being an interesting series for seeing so many talented actors and seeing the plays, familiar and not so familiar, adapted and performed relatively faithfully on the whole. Some are better than others, with not every performance in the series working and there could be issues with low budget production values and in some productions stage direction.

'The Famous History of the Life of Henry the Eighth' is one of the best of the series. One of not many performances where there wasn't anything to me that stood out as wrong, whereas even the other "one of the better" productions have one or two reservations. Also agree that it is one of the (very) few BBC Television Shakespeare productions to be much better than the play it's based on, when it comes to Shakespeare that is a near-unheard of feat. The play has interesting characters, but the story doesn't have the same amount of meat and engagement, by Shakespeare standards it's fairly dull, and even Shakespeare's language doesn't see him at his most inspired. All of these are miraculously brought to life and fully fleshed out in 'The Famous History of Henry the Eighth'.

It is one of the better-looking productions visually, being one of only two of the series, the other being 'As You Like It' (better than credit for to me but nowhere near as good still) to be shot on location so the action feels opened up and not confined. The locations have a real sense of period and you would be hard pressed to find more colourful more beautifully tailored costumes in the series than the ones here. The masque is indeed sheer magic. The use of music was lovely, couldn't question any of the placements and it is lovely music in its own right.

On a stage direction level, it is one of the main reasons as to why 'The Famous History of the Life of Henry the Eighth' is one of the series' best. It has tension, intrigue and emotion throughout, and sometimes not in an overt way. It is not only because the energy is never lost, it's never static, it is always tasteful with no pointless touches and that it never resorts to overblown excess that swamps everything else. It's also because of the subtleties and the details, big and small, where the characters are so well fleshed out (Katherine and Wolsey especially) motivations are clear and everything seems to happen for a reason and not randomly.

All the performances are top-drawer, with as others have said the acting honours going to a dignified and moving Claire Bloom and Timothy West mastering Wolsey's complex character. John Stride gets Henry VIII in personality and manner spot on, even if not the most ideal physically. Ronald Pickup is a noble Cramner and Barbara Kellerman was a pleasant surprise as Anne, alluring and never passive and by Kellerman standards the performance is pretty restrained which is great.

Concluding, wonderful and one of the best in the series. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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8/10
Through the looking glass
11 January 2019
Have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of watching Russian films, especially fantasy. Both five years ago, when going on a bit of a quest to help me through an intensive period of studying, and now when re-visiting the fond happy memories during a much calmer period. Watching the films has given me great pleasure and it is somewhat too an education, getting acquainted with these stories and making one interested in learning Russian (a lovely language, though not easy to learn).

'Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors' is not one of the standouts of the "re-visiting" period and it is not one of my favourite Russian fantasies. It is still a lovely film, very entertaining and charming and with a lot in its favour. As noted, there is a 'Alice in Wonderland' influence to the story and atmosphere, but it is hardly derivative. There are enough imaginative touches to set it apart and the atmosphere has a sense of wonder, the surrealism being a big part of the appeal. It is another winner from Alexandr Rou, have not seen all his films but have liked all that have been seen. It will be a shame though that some viewers will be most familiar with him from 'Frosty' (or 'Morozko'), riffed on MST3K, which to me is not near as bad as indicated and not done justice by its dubbed version (like all the Russian fantasy films riffed).

The production values are not always mind-blowing. The costumes are over-saturated and some of the special effects do look rushed and not very special.

Some of the acting is a touch on the broad side.

On the other hand, enough of 'Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors' is colourful and nicely designed with a good deal of atmosphere. Other special effects have a charm to them and are quite imaginatively used. The music is lush and atmospheric and Rou directs with an assured touch that never gets too serious or farcical. The writing flowed enough and made enough sense, some of it is on the cheesy side but again not in a way that was distracting as it didn't feel over-the-top and it certainly doesn't complicate the storytelling which is actually pretty simple.

Liked the storytelling, which was fun and amiable with a sense of wonder and endearing quirkiness, and the viewer is fully immersed into a wonderfully bizarre world. The surrealism is done inventively and even though strange (in a captivating way) didn't to me become incoherent. The characters are immensely colourful in personality and it is difficult to not remember them. The acting is not the greatest but there was something oddly likeable in this respect.

In conclusion, very nice. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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5/10
Peril at End House
11 January 2019
Have mentioned many times about Agatha Christie being one of my favourite authors, my love for detective mysteries started actually from watching the Joan Hickson adaptation of 'A Murder is Announced'. Got recently acquainted with the French series 'Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie', after only hearing of its existence relatively recently, which is essentially loosely adapted Agatha Christie with a French light comedy-mystery twist. On its own terms it is fascinating and charming with intriguing stories as long as one doesn't expect complete fidelity.

Loosely based on 'Peril at End House', though structurally and in detail it is one of the more faithfully adapted episodes even when still a basic framework, "La Maison Du Peril" was a step down from the previous three episodes ("Am Stram Gram", based on 'Ordeal By Innocence', being the best of the three) and for me it's one of weaker faring Larossiere/Lampion episodes. There is enough of what makes the series as interesting as it is here in "La Maison Du Peril", but it didn't grab my attention as much as the previous three episodes. Which is a shame as it is based on a fine book, previously superbly adapted for the Poirot series with David Suchet.

Will start with the strengths. There is some handsome and evocative period detail, the colours sumptuous and vibrant that could be quite atmospheric when needed. The stylish photography complements lovingly. The music continues to match the light-hearted and at times very atmospheric tone very well. On the most part, the writing is thoughtful and attention grabbing with the right amount of entertainment value. Will agree that the ending is memorable, found it very powerful and the surprise factor is not lost.

Character is improving all the time, found the Larossiere in love subplot quite charming and it didn't take up too much of the episode. Larossiere and Lampion are still compelling and well contrasted characters, even though Larossiere continues to be the more interesting one of the two and liked his more human side here. Josephine is a well written and empathetic character. Antoine Dulery and Marius Colucci are still very strong as the two detectives and Elsa Kikoïne's performance as Josephine is one of the better supporting actor performances in the series in my view.

Did feel though that "La Maison Du Peril" did lack suspense and a lack of dread and one doesn't need to have read 'Peril at End House', actually a cleverly crafted mystery, to feel that there are not enough surprises. Those who have will admire that nothing is necessarily distorted, but still feel most likely that it is rather predictable and too conventional because there is not enough here to make it its own.

Also agree that the pace is an issue, with too much of the episode dragging badly. More imaginative direction, which is here okay but on the pedestrian and safe side, would have helped. The lighter elements still need to calm down.

On the whole, a bit lacking this time round. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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8/10
"Nothing is permanent in this world"
11 January 2019
When Preston Sturges was in his prime (1940-1944, with 'The Great McGinty', 'Christmas in July', 'The Lady Eve', 'Sullivan's Treavels', 'The Palm Beach Story', 'The Miracle of Morgan's Creek' and 'Hail the Conquering Hero') it made for one of the best golden years/prime periods for any director in my view, where five or more very good to masterpieces in a row were made close to each other. Of those seven films mentioned, the top two for me are 'The Lady Eve' and especially 'Sullivan's Travels'.

'The Palm Beach Story' is not quite one of the best from this period and not on the same level as those two. It is still a very good film though that has a lot of what makes Sturges at his best such a good director and writer. Well worth sticking with, because it really does get better, if one finds themselves put off by the early scenes where 'The Palm Beach Story' is at its weakest. Being somebody who always aims to be fair watching and reviewing films, and this is including watching the whole film before passing judgement, will admit that the early scenes left somewhat of a false impression on me. Having heard nothing but great things, and who really likes Sturges' work and the cast, decided to keep watching with the gut feeling that it would get better. And it luckily did.

Reasons for not being crazy about the early scenes of 'The Palm Beach Story' are that the pace lagged somewhat, tedious at times even, and the opening credits are a head-scratcher. Although likely intentional, Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea seemed somewhat cold in their chemistry together, the latter at first coming over as stiff and stern.

Some of the comedy early on felt over-played and stretched to the limit, not being as funny as ought.

However, there is so much to recommend. It's beautifully filmed and adroitly directed by Sturges with just the right touch of light sophistication while with enough punch to stop it from veering into fluff. The story is lively and compelling much of the time with a lot of charm, it is absurd in places but endearingly so rather than insultingly so, also never too cluttered or simplistic. The script is typical Sturges, razor sharp, witty, slyly cynical and sophisticated. The dialogue given to Mary Astor and Rudy Vallee is absolutely priceless at its best.

Vallee's musical number is a memorable one and didn't feel out of place. The cast sparkle, McCrea becoming much more comfortable as he grows into the character, and in doing so the chemistry between him and Colbert becomes warmer and the writing for him, while never as quotable as the others, lightens up. Colbert is an absolute delight here throughout, radiating charm and wit and she is always at ease doing it. Vallee and Astor are hilarious scene-stealing support, Vallee having most of the film's best lines, and Robert Dudley enjoys himself.

Overall, very good film that falls short of being great due to an unsettled start. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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4/10
American decadence
11 January 2019
Michaengelo Antonioni is an interesting director, but personally more appreciate and recognise him for his influence in film than love him. His films are extremely well made and thematically interesting (some like urban alienation being ground-breaking) and his directing style is unique. He is though a divisive director, for while his films fascinate and transfix many they alienate and perplex others and he has been criticised for detatchment, self-indulgence and ambiguity. Can see both sides from having seen films that fell in both extremes.

'Zabriskie Point', his first American film, has garnered its admirers over-time, but it was a bomb financially and critically at the time, faring extremely unfavourably with a great many. Seeing it, it is not that bad and is a long way from being one of the worst films of all time, let alone the worst. It does have its merits, don't think any of Antonioni's films are irredeemably bad even if not all have connected with me. Can see though why the reaction here is polarising and why it was and still is negatively received by many others to the extent it is, for it has everything pretty much on both good and bad sides that makes Antonioni either revered and/or disliked. As far as Antonioni's films go, 'Zabriskie Point' is for me one of his worst and it's one of the biggest misfires for any great and influential director.

Starting with the good things, as always with Antonioni 'Zabriskie Point' does look great. The scenery has atmosphere and the film is so exquisitely and vividly shot, the unforgettable final shot being the standout. The sparse use of music is effective, it was good that it was not over-used or used constantly and what there is complements what's going on rather than clashing and doesn't intrude.

The film starts off well with an intriguing first portion.

However, the acting is really not much to write home about. The supporting cast try but have little to do, while the leads even with their lack of experience are pretty dreadful. Especially Mark Frechette, who at his worst is worse than amateurish. There is not an awful lot of chemistry between them and they looked awkward together to me. The characters never grow and everything about them is shallow and vague, found myself not interested in any of them or liking them. The dialogue is clunky and very rambling, the images say quite a fair bit so the script didn't need to further emphasise what was already being shown.

Count me in as another person who found the story a mess. It is very thin and silly, meanders increasingly throughout the second half and then further ruined by a sprawling structure that makes feel it disorganised and confused, too much ambiguity in the second half, a complete lack of subtlety and rather aimless pacing. Found 'Zabriskie Point's' approach to an interesting and potentially ground-breaking subject both simplistic, with very little new or insightful to say, and heavy-handed, so much so that it alienated me and felt like a sermon. Emotionally, like with 'Blow-Up', 'Zabriskie Point' just didn't connect with me (just to say that other Antonioni films did connect with me, especially 'La Notte') and found it very cold and detached. There is a constant try too hard feel and it gets very self-indulgent, on top of having too many ideas introduced and either under-explored or neglected quickly. The final act is pretty nonsensical.

Overall, extremely impressive visually and an interesting subject but one not particularly well explored and the film didn't connect with me regrettably. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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5/10
Soapy grass with not much splendour
11 January 2019
It is very hard to not expect a lot from 'The Sea of Grass'. A talented cast, including greats Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (deservedly one of the most legendary screen pairings) in the fifth of nine films together. An interesting subject. And also that it was directed by one of the most influential directors Elia Kazan, responsible for classics such as 'On the Waterfront', 'East of Eden' and 'A Streetcar Named Desire'.

'The Sea of Grass' turned out to be something of a disappointment. Personally don't think it is that bad, not enough to make Kazan himself disown the film and regret making it, but it doesn't do Tracy, Hepburn or Kazan justice and doesn't really allow them to play to their strengths or show what made them as popular as they were and still are. All three have done much better than this, as far as Kazan films go from personal opinion it is down there with his worst and sees him at his least involved. And it is definitely a lesser film for Tracy and Hepburn together, might actually put it below 'Keeper of the Flame', had formed the opinion of that film being their weakest but that was before re-watching 'The Sea of Grass' and noticing more flaws with it than remembered. It also sees them both in lesser roles to usual (especially Tracy).

Certainly there are good things. Cannot fault the production values, the sets and costumes are handsome and evocative but it's the quite outstanding cinematography that is particularly good in this regard. It is scored with a stirring atmosphere too.

Although they come too far and between, there are moments of tension and pathos, especially in a tragic scene later on involving Robert Walker. The supporting cast are very good, with Edgar Buchanan running away with the film. Harry Carey comes close, while there is sturdy support from Phyllis Thaxter, Robert Walker and Melvyn Douglas (whose chemistry with Hepburn is much stronger than hers with Tracy).

Mainly because the chemistry between Hepburn and Tracy isn't really there, seemingly curiously detatched. Neither of them are at the top of their game either, Hepburn is much better and is still quite good (she's heartfelt and spirited) but Tracy is out of his depth and looks like he wants to be somewhere else. Kazan's direction is uncharacteristically undistinguished and like he was not interested in the material.

Not that one can completely blame him there because the script is far too heavy in the soapy melodrama and rambles badly. Meaning that the story becomes long-winded and fails to sustain interest, due to the pace becoming very sluggish (a problem for a film that also felt overlong) and some of it is lacking in plausbility. Am another person to dislike the ending, very contrived and considering what was going on in the rest of the film what happens and the decision that is made just doesn't ring true at all and doesn't make sense.

Overall, far from a must avoid but to see what is appealing and influential about Kazan, Tracy, Hepburn and Tracy and Hepburn's chemistry it's best looking elsewhere because none are really done justice here. 5/10 for mainly the production values and the supporting cast. Bethany Cox
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Garfield on the Town (1983 TV Short)
8/10
Garfield gets emotional
11 January 2019
Find the character of Garfield, 'Garfield and Friends' and his specials to be even better now than as a child. Really liked to loved them then, still do and am not saying this out of nostalgia. Have stressed the point a few times of not all my childhood favourites holding up. Have found the humour funnier and cleverer as an adult and have found more things to like and invested emotionally more, the main reasons why the character, 'Garfield and Friends' and his specials still have appeal today.

'Garfield on the Town' is not for me one of the best Garfield specials (all of which worth watching at least once, so that is not in any way a knock). It is still very good and very enjoyable, with it being nice to see a different side to everyone's favourite orange cat and in terms of tone, but misses the extra something of the best ones. Again not a knock, because saying that is only meaning that the best ones are so great with a high standard hard to live up to. Do have a personal preference for the holiday specials as far as Garfield goes, especially 'A Garfield Christmas Special' and 'Garfield in Disguise', both quintessential when it comes to things to watch on Christmas and Halloween and essential Garfield.

Other Garfield specials are funnier when it comes to the humour, approach their subject more imaginatively and perhaps more refined in terms of animation.

That is not saying that the animation is poor, far from it. It is still bright and colourful with some nice detail, just that the drawing and movement have been smoother elsewhere. Cannot fault the music, which is incredibly infectious and hard to forget, complete with clever lyrics. "The Claws" is one of my favourite songs of any of the Garfield specials.

Humour is still playful and classic Garfield, but it is the emotion that sets 'Garfield on the Town' apart from the other specials. On top of being charming and nostalgic, 'Garfield on the Town' has a lot of heart and is likely to evoke tears (the reminiscing has always done with me), with being saccharine or over-sentimental. Garfield is still an immensely likeable character, with a different side to him and some proper character development, and Lorenzo Music was born to voice him and hasn't been equalled or bettered since.

In summation, very enjoyable and heartfelt. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Christmas with a View (2018 TV Movie)
1/10
Not worth the viewing
11 January 2019
Love Christmas with all my heart. Love the fun and nostalgia it brings, and cherish all the time spent with family and friends every year. As well singing all the Christmas songs and carols and re-visiting as many of the films and special as possible. Recently wanted to see some different and new Christmas films to stretch my horizons beyond the ones traditionally watched every year. Feelings have been extremely mixed doing this and even when trying to take them for what they're meant to be quite a good deal of them have been lacking.

Of which 'Christmas with a View' has stood out in a bad way, in that it was one of the worst. Did watch it expecting some cheese and schmaltz (as long as it wasn't overdone), but was not expecting to bombarded so excessively by both that it made for uncomfortable viewing. And then there is the further problem of pretty much everything done on an amateurish level, this was another example of a film when there was the serious temptation to turn it off (another recent example being 'New Years Eve') but stayed with it to be fair. Absolutely hate judging films unfairly or on a biased level, have always really tried to make it my duty to not do it.

'Christmas with a View' has next to nothing good about it apart from the scenery. Which was wasted by photography and editing suggestive of somebody who was not sober. Nothing memorable about the music, which sometimes was placed questionably. 'Christmas with a View' felt like it was directed by someone who had no idea what to do with the film, it was just so disorganised.

As was the script, as well as being heavy gratingly so on the cheese, soap, cringe and schmaltz, it was as others have said jumpy and borderline incoherent. The story is the same, on top of being very dull and predictable, next to nothing made any sense and was ridiculous. As said already, did have to refrain from switching the film after being so embarrassed by the first portion due to how bad the dialogue and camera work and how the characters had already grated on my nerves.

Something that continued for the rest of the film, either the stereotypical characters were dull as dishwater or were insufferably irritating. There was no chemistry between the leads, with the actors looking like they hated each other. The acting is a mix of going over the top and robotic, nobody looked comfortable as their characters and it made me uncomfortable watching them.

In summary, awful and not worth the viewing. 1/10 Bethany Cox
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