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The Metropolitan Opera HD Live: Verdi: Aida (2018)
Season 13, Episode 1
8/10
Near-triumphant 'Aida'
20 November 2018
'Aida' is one of my favourite Verdi operas. It boasts some of his best and most beautiful music, with "O Patria Mia", "Celeste Aida", the Triumphal scene and Judgment/ final tomb scenes being the highlights. It also has a story evoking many emotions and compelling characters, especially Amneris.

The 'Metropolitan Opera Live in HD' series is not entirely consistent. It has some gems as well as some real disappointments, while most fall within the solid-very good category. Generally do enjoy this series very much, it is interesting and it is great to feel like you are there at the Met when actually it at the cinema with full impact yet for much cheaper. This 'Aida' is very good and near-triumphant with a couple of flaws sadly bringing it down. A more than solid start to the 2018/2019 season.

Visually the production is stunning, love its grandeur and its traditional approach is appreciated, generally find that 'Aida' with such a specific setting doesn't translate well to modern productions. The sets are large and very lavish, and the costumes are intricate in detail. On a technical front when seeing it in the cinema as part of a live simulcast, it also impressed. The camera work is very good, especially in Act 2, and the picture quality is clear and sharp.

Stage direction is well and truly impressive as well, always compelling and dramatic, complete with very dynamic and deeply felt choreography. The Triumphal scene and Grand March are triumphs here (having seen quite a few productions where they are poorly, and worse, staged), few opera houses do Act 2 as well as the Met.

Musically there is very little to complain about, though Nicola Luisotti's tempos at times are a little slow in the final act. There is some really evocative orchestral playing, like in the Nile scene forming Act 3, yet it allows for the more sensitive moments like "O Patria Mia" to be every bit as effective. The chorus are well up to the task as well, their animated and individual (their acting has come on such a long way) stage presence and full-throated singing make for some outstanding work particularly in Act 2. Luisotti's conducting on the most part was alert and accommodating.

With the exception of one, the performances are of very high quality. The production is most notable for it seeing Anna Netrebko debuting the title role in another one of her transition to heavier and more dramatic roles. Did worry as to whether the role would be too heavy for her, Aida is a big sing and a difficult one. Netrebko instead is remarkable, her voice is dark and of a gleaming beauty with striking musicality, her pianissimo singing positively melting. Dramatically, she is sincere and moving while also showing steel, loyalty and in no way passive.

Netrebko is more than well matched by the magnificent Amneris of Anita Rachelishvilli, who actually steals the show in the Judgment scene and blisters in her intense confrontation with Netrebko. Her voice is rich and powerful while also attractive, and she encompasses the many complex emotions of this fascinating character never losing command. Quinn Kelsey is an authoritative and sympathetic Amonasro with a noble sturdy voice that doesn't sound taxed, and his music in the big duet between Amonasro and Aida is not easy in Act 3.

Dmitri Beloselsky is resonant and commanding as Ramfis, not in any way allowing the role to become static. Ryan Speedo Green makes the most of the relatively small but crucial role of Il Re.

The one exception to an otherwise fine cast is agreed Aleksandrs Antonenko whose Radames was pretty bad mostly. He is clearly taxed by "Celeste Aida", for being the first thing Radames sings it is a nightmare but Antonenko sounds very strained and spends the whole time looking as if he didn't have a clue what he was singing about. He also sings (or more like shouts and strains through) the rest of the role, excepting in the final tomb scene where some surprising soft singing is attempted but it feels too little too late, with no nuance, lyricism or legato, while his acting is more of the same (stand there and sing with the odd dramatic outburst) throughout. Not trying to be a killjoy, just my perception.

Overall, very good, especially for Netrebko and Rachvelishvilli despite being significantly brought down from greatness by Antonenko. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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The Grinch (2018)
6/10
Neither a Christmas cracker or a bah humbug
20 November 2018
Part of me was interested in seeing 'The Grinch', being a fan of the original Dr Seuss story and especially the 1966 animated version with Boris Karloff voicing Grinch (do like the Jim Carrey version better than most) and being someone who likes Benedict Cumberbatch and a lot of what he's done. Was nervous though too because the trailer did not look good, the reviews are mixed to not great and did question whether it was necessary.

Dr Seuss adaptations have been very hit and miss. The animated short television specials have fared significantly better than the feature films, Dr Seuss' work lends itself better to adaptations of a short length and the television specials were not only great adaptations and true in detail and spirit but great on their own. Of the feature films, the best one is by far 'Horton Hears a Who' with the worst being the live action 'The Cat in the Hat' (to me among the worst films ever made). Illumination has also been variable, loved the first two 'Despicable Me' films while not caring for 'Minions'.

Saw 'The Grinch' anyway as someone trying to see and review as many 2018 films as possible and loving the story and Christmas films, also to see how Cumberbatch would fare as Grinch. Seeing it, it is nowhere near as good as the 1966 version and is neither a Christmas cracker or a bah humbug. It is also neither among the best or worst films of the year, somewhere in the middle for me.

There are definitely great things here. The animation cannot be faulted, so much gorgeous and meticulous attention to detail and rich vibrant colours that really immerses one into the world of Whoville. Some of the soundtrack has a festive and infectious feel. There are funny and emotional moments, the former with the funny and adorable (plus more interesting) Max and the latter with the Cindy Lou subplot, that and the character herself being the sweet and charming heart of the film.

It is not a film without soul, having a warm glow more than once and some spirited elaborate set pieces, it does well with sticking to the spirit of the story and with the back and forth between Mount Crumpet and Whoville. As said, Max and Cindy Lou are the best characters. Mostly the voice acting is good, with Cameron Seely being the clear standout.

Having said all of this, 'The Grinch' could have been better. It does offer very little new or fresh, trying to be faithful to the source material while not moving enough beyond that that it all feels too safe. It could have done with more humour and heart generally.

Found myself mixed on the pretty unrecognisable Cumberbatch. He does well providing a curmudgeonly touch and has moments of grinchy- meanness, plaudits too for not making Grinch too scary or resorting to excessive mugging. Do feel though that he was not mean or Grinchy-enough and he would have fared much better using his own voice for the character which would have fitted better. Had a big issue with the annoying, intrusive and over-explanatory narration that was not always necessary and with a rather out of place Pharrell Williams. Other parts of the soundtrack grated and too reminiscent of commercial music neither catchy or to my taste that didn't gel with the setting or the rest of the film.

Overall, better than what the critics have generally said but was rather mixed. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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Our Mutual Friend: Episode #1.6 (1976)
Season 1, Episode 6
10/10
Our Mutual Friend (1976): Part 6
20 November 2018
Have always loved period dramas and adaptations from a relatively young age, and love and appreciate them even more as a young adult where plot points and themes are easier to understand and things that didn't quite catch my attention when younger makes them even more interesting now. There are disappointments out there, as adaptations and on their own terms, but there are many ones worth recommending or are a must watch, both for television and film.

Anybody who does try to adapt the work of Charles Dickens deserves brownie points for trying, regardless of how well it comes off (most have come off very well to brilliantly). Dickens is difficult to adapt, and the bigger and richer the book the more complicated it gets to adapt it. 'Our Mutual Friend', like 'Bleak House' (which is even bigger), is one of those examples. And fortunately this 1976 adaptation is an example of Dickens being adapted very well, same goes for the 1998 adaptation.

The sixth and penultimate episode is every bit as wonderful as the previous five parts with the increasingly meaty storytelling and characterisation shining every bit as much and perhaps even more so.

One of the things that is so good is its atmosphere, done in a way that is very evocative. Perhaps the 1998 adaptation has a better contrast between the rich and the poor, but the atmosphere there didn't quite feel as powerful as it did here. The costumes and sets are beautifully produced and evocative, not too clean and the camera work never once shows its age. The music fits the atmosphere and moods of each scene, and if a scene needs an intimacy it's either used sparingly or not used at all.

For any film or TV series to adapt source material, it should not only be a solid adaptation (and this doesn't mean word for word, true in spirit works just as well) but even more importantly work on its own. 'Our Mutual Friend' (1976) does wonderfully at both. Again, it is very detailed and faithful in spirit. As well as intricate handled with dignity.

The dialogue is rich in flavour with intelligent handling of subtle comedy and heart-tugging pathos, and it is Dickensian all over. There is some slowness but considering the length of the book and how much story and characters are involved the more measured approach was necessary.

Excellent performances also help, and once again one gets them. It is not hard to go wrong with Leo McKern enjoying himself thoroughly. As does Warren Clarke, both chilling and heart-tugging, two adjectives that sound oxymoronic together but work. John McEnery's restraint and quiet authority resonates beautifully, one doesn't mind about any reservations of him being age-appropriate which proved to be an insignificant issue watching his performance. Lesley Dunlop is an appealing and appropriately honourable Lizzie, she doesn't play her as too meek like Dickens heroines can fall into the trap of being.

Nicholas Jones is touching in his particularly conflicted role while Jane Seymour plays the unpleasant and selfish character of Bella more than convincingly as well as making her somewhat attractive. Great support too from David Troughton and Ronald Lacey.

Altogether, wonderful penultimate part to as good an adaptation of 'Our Mutual Friend' as one can get. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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Leprechaun in the Hood (2000 Video)
3/10
Three rappers and a killer leprechaun
20 November 2018
The 'Leprechaun' films are ones that can be seen from either way. Some people will, and do, consider them guilty pleasures not to be taken seriously, most acknowledging that they are not necessarily great films. Others will, and do, dislike them for mostly being cheap, far from scary, too dumb to be entertaining and not very interesting.

Finally decided to see all the 'Leprechaun' films to see which above extreme they would fall under, being on a horror franchise roll recently. Even when genuinely trying to judge them for what they are and what they're trying to do, am going to agree with the latter. Disliked the first film as far as the previous three films go, and while the next two were marginal improvements they were not particularly good either while up to this point of the series the fourth film fares the worst.

'Leprechaun in the Hood', while a marginal improvement over 'Leprechaun 4: In Space', for me is among the weakest of the franchise. Apart from a few bright spots most of the film is poorly executed for reasons that are similar and even the same as the previous four films.

Once again, Warwick Davis is the best thing about 'Leprechaun in the Hood', like he was with the previous four films so that was not a surprise. He really does throw himself into the role and has enough moments of amusement and grotesque creepiness. The material is beneath him but he gives it his conscientious best and one of the few assets of the film that showed signs of trying.

Aside from Davis, there are a few mildly amusing moments and the idea was a weird but interesting one. That's pretty much it.

However, the production values look cheap, very sloppy and hasty looking and the special effects look as if they were made as a last minute afterthought with the small remainder of what was left of the budget. Can't say anything good about the music this time, it was repetitive and is neither well-placed, memorable or appealing to listen to. The rap song was abysmal as a song, with lyrics that try to be cheesy fun but instead are inane and grating, and was not necessary.

The direction has such an indifferent feel to it, and apart from Davis the acting is awful, struggling to do anything with lead characters that have no personality and irritating supporting ones behaving vaguely and idiotically. Ice-T came over as really out of place and was just annoying.

Very like as with before, 'Leprechaun in the Hood' is particularly undone by the script and story. There is nothing funny in the script, it was instead very crude and childish with forced moments of whimsy. Everything sounded so awkward and contrived. On top of not making sense to the point of incoherence, the story overdoes the dumb factor with an ending that is so over-the-top ridiculous it's laughable. It is also often uneventful, with some dragging on forever stretches that feel like padding. There is nothing scary or suspenseful due to the excessive predictability and no atmosphere. The kills completely lack creativity or anything unsettling, too many parts feel random and there are too many things added for no reason.

Concluding, not a well executed film at all. 3/10 Bethany Cox
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The Farm (I) (2018)
2/10
Dish of death
20 November 2018
The idea for 'The Farm' sounded very schlocky and could easily be shoddily and gratuitously executed. Yet there was something oddly interesting about it, it could if done right have been quite creepy and fun. Part of me did want 'The Farm' to work, even if it was not a complete all-round winner and more a moderate at least film.

Neither of those distinctions apply with 'The Farm'. It is even more schlocky than the concept indicated on the most part and was mostly shoddy, dumb and had nothing at any point entertaining, surprising or unnerving. There are worse films in the genre, with similar budgets and overall, again though not that that is saying much when almost every aspect is executed poorly.

Albeit two exceptions. One is some decent camera work at the beginning, which was sort of promising before derailing fast.

The other was the music score which did have the atmosphere missing everywhere else and didn't sound cheesy or misplaced.

Production values however for the rest of the film is very shoddily done, with most of the camera work being very unfocused in how blurred and chaotic it is. There is little cohesion in transitions or the editing which affected story and continuity clarity. The direction is barely existent.

Where 'The Farm' falls down the most is the story and to a lesser extent the script. The script has so many head-scratching howlers and the delivery felt so awkward and jumpy. The story never comes to life, has a very choppy and disjointed story structure that makes things lack coherence and unfinished-feeling and has far too many implausibilities and head-scratching intelligence-insulting moments. There is no tension or suspense whatsoever, nothing to make one jump, one's heart race or hands sweat. Any shock value is gratuitous.

None of the characters are engaging or interesting, and their lack of personality and illogical behaviour makes them annoying and impossible to endear to. The acting is both histrionic and robotic, with no sense of vulnerability or terror.

Overall, very poorly done. 2/10 Bethany Cox
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Extremity (2018)
2/10
The horrors of perdition
20 November 2018
'Extremity' happened to appear in my recommended for you section, and because the idea sounded so fascinating it was difficult for me to say no to watching it. The cover also was a creepy one and the title was attention grabbing. And despite how my previous reviews have looked like, there is absolutely nothing against films made on a low-budget, there have been numerous good ones. Despite how it indicates otherwise, also do appreciate horror, which has seen many great films, even if it is not my favourite genre.

So there was potential for 'Extremity' work. It is said with a heavy heart, not malice or prejudice in any way, that it doesn't...at all. Have seen far worse films of the genre, of similar budget and overall and it is not completely irredeemable, other films have insulted the intelligence more and have been worse looking, written and acted. Not that that is much of an endorsement, there is so much done wrong here in 'Extremity' and to a quite annoying degree.

The setting is spooky and the costume design is decent looking.

It is hard to appreciate both though when the rest of the production values look as though they were made with no care and in haste. The editing especially lacks cohesion, it's too drably lit and there is just no atmosphere or style at all. What little there is of atmosphere is undermined by cheap-sounding and random sound effects that are intrusive in placement and recorded too loud. The music didn't seem to fit and offers nothing unnerving or memorable.

Furthermore, the script is so start-stop awkward and cheesy that it doesn't matter whether you are trying to not take it too seriously, it would stick out like a sore thumb regardless of how one tries to watch the film. The story takes a premise that could have been very creatively, and executes it so ordinarily and dully. Nothing is surprising and 'Extremity' fails to be both interesting or scary thanks to a dull pace and no tension, suspense or creepiness.

Just non-stop obviousness (most of it having been done to death long before the film existed) and ridiculousness, complete with far-fetched and sometimes vague moments and very bland and irritating characters that behave and make decisions in a way that makes one endear to them less. The direction has no personality or distinction, not even rising above competent, while the acting with no exception is not really worth mentioning and not in a good way.

Overall, very bad but have seen worse. 2/10 Bethany Cox
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The Walking Dead: Consumed (2014)
Season 5, Episode 6
8/10
Journeying to Atlanta
20 November 2018
It took a while to get round to watching the much recommended from friends and IMDb reviewers 'The Walking Dead', both from being busy and also not being sure whether it would be my cup of tea. 'The Walking Dead' turned out to be very much my cup of tea gradually getting through the episodes over-time and as good as the hype made it out to be, at its best it is extremely addictive.

Season 5 started off extremely well, brilliantly in fact. For me Season 5 had the most consistent start quality-wise, none of the previous seasons had equally brilliant first three episodes, that are up there with the most gutsy and powerful episodes of the show, like Season 5 did. It still shocks me at how an intelligent, well-made (so much so that it is easy to mistake it for a film) show about zombies could be made when so many films have tried and failed abysmally to do so. "Slabtown" and "Self Help" had a lot of great merits but underwhelmed a bit.

"Consumed" is not as brilliant as the first three episodes but is an improvement on "Slabtown" and "Self Help".

Maybe it, being an action-light and more dependent on characterisation, is a little slow with the basic story being quite slight. A little heavy on the talk perhaps too.

Everything else however is terrific. It, like all the episodes before it, is superbly made. It has gritty and audacious production design, effects 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, having presence but not being intrusive.

There is a lot of thought provoking writing and emotion. There is subtle tension and emotional power and some great character development that feels advanced rather than reiterated or going in circles. It was a good move focusing on fewer characters and the setting intrigues and provides both nostalgia and tears at how it's become since it was first and last seen a while ago in the show's run. Have always liked Daryl and Carol and it was great to see further development to them, particularly with Carol. It is an example of a slower episode working well mostly and that 'The Walking Dead' can do them well, never do expect non-stop action from the show because it excels even more at world immersion, character building/development and interaction, all three of which "Consumed" excels quite brilliantly in.

"Consumed" is directed with control on the most part and the acting from Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride is exemplary.

In conclusion, very good. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Pinky and the Brain: This Old Mouse (1997)
Season 3, Episode 7
10/10
Changing destinies
20 November 2018
Have always loved animation. Have loved it from a very early age, especially Disney, Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera and Tom and Jerry (with tastes broadening further getting older with Pixar, Studio Ghibli and some of the more mature animations out there), and still love it to this day as a young adult.

'Pinky and the Brain' is every bit as great as 'Animaniacs' and perhaps surpasses it. Find it brilliant, extremely well made, cute at times and very funny and actually hilarious frequently as a child. Still think all of that as an adult, and even more so with 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.

"This Old Mouse" is a brilliant episode. Not only does it have everything that makes 'Pinky and the Brain' so great, it has even more that makes it quite special such as a remarkably deep and mature story and more emotional impact than usual.

The animation quality is terrific. The setting is an atmospheric one, credit is due making a quite confined setting interesting which this, and the whole of 'Pinky and the Brain' for that matter, does really well. The characters designs are smooth and not stiff at all, the backgrounds are very rich in detail and the colours are a mix of vibrant and atmospheric.

Similarly, the music is great. The scoring is dynamic and cleverly composed, adding to the actions, expressions and gestures and doing what good music scores in animation should do in enhancing them.

'Pinky and the Brain' throughout its too short run was always superbly written. It is such smart writing, at its worst it's very funny, at its best it's not just hilarious but riotous. "This Old Mouse" has 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. With it being a more depth-filled and serious episode, there is less of all that here but there is enough for it to not feel like it belonged in another show.

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 which are nowhere near as silly as one would think looking at the premise. One worries about repetition, no worries are needed because there is a lot of freshness and variety to stop that from happening and the setting and time period adds to the freshness. Some of the content here is outrageous, but endearingly so (the outrageousness and creativity of Brain's plan was part of the show's charm and intentional, as is not being surprised by the outcome of Brain's plan), but it is from start to finish very engaging, lively in pace, clever and always structured coherently, being not being too complicated for children and not too simplistic for adults. There is also a surprising emotional impact here with one of the most depth-filled premises of the entire show that is quite deep for an animated show.

Other than the writing, especially good are the characters. Pinky and Brain were two of the best characters on 'Animaniacs', Brain stole the show whenever he appeared, and more than deserved their own show. For me they are even more interesting and defined and one can see that here. It is hard not to endear to Pinky and his inane comments and actions, he is very stupid and one can see why he frustrates Brain. But he is one of the finest examples of stupid not falling into the trap of being obnoxious, a trap often fallen into, Pinky instead is very funny and often hysterically so and simply adorable, one has to admire his spirit and perseverance.

Brain is slightly more interesting in the showand being an episode centred around him he is much more interesting actually here, he 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 scheme here and how he goes about it, nor is it impossible not to love his deadpan personality and dark sarcasm. Again, there is a different side to him though in "This Old Mouse" and it is this side that is brought out more. The whole soul searching makes one feel for Brain and he is characterised with surprising pathos not present much before. Not knocking the show's previous episodes at all, just that this was special in this regard.

Although this is essentially a Brain-centric episode, there is enough of the relationship between him and Pinky. The two have such compellingly real personalities and one can see here even early on some development and there is more to them under the surface. The chemistry between the two is just a delight, fun and sometimes antagonistic but there is more substance to it than all of that. It is essentially the heart of the show, it was important for it to work and it has always been one of the greatest assets and a huge part of the show's appeal.

Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche, two of the best and most prolific voice actors around that time and in the voice acting business overall, are flawless providing Pinky and Brain's voices. LaMarche in particular. They give Pinky and Brain so much life and also surprising depth, their voices suiting the characters and their personalities perfectly. The bond between them is obvious.

The rest of the cast are spot on too though with less to do.

Concluding, wonderful. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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7/10
On the repair ship
20 November 2018
Will admit to having a general preference for, as far as Popeye cartoons go, Dave Fleischer's output. On the most part, they are better made, more inventive and funnier, they tended to be formulaic in terms of story but when they did their changes of pace (and they had a number of those) they were generally better than those of Famous Studios.

That is not saying that Famous Studios' output isn't good. Much of it is, the later years did see evidence of tight budgets and hasty deadlines which accounted for the inferior animation quality (a general issue with later Famous Studios actually), the stories being more formulaic and the humour not as plentiful or imaginative, also more amusing than hilarious. With that being said, most of them were among the studio's better efforts in an increasingly variable output.

Although better than the previous WWII "propaganda" cartoon 'You're a Sap...' from Famous Studios which happened to be Famous Studios' first for the series, this, one of the earliest Famous Studios Popeye cartoons (the fourth in fact), is still not one of the best representations of Popeye. The best Popeye cartoons are great to classic, this was just pretty good which is a good distinction still.

It is not perfect although there is not an awful lot wrong with it. It is occasionally a little on the heavy-handed side and It is not hard to figure out what happens next and how the cartoon is going to end.

Like 'You're a Sap...', the Japanese are also again portrayed very stereotypically in character design and behaviour, and while not as unsubtle as before in 'You're a Sap...' the portrayal is still not for the easily offended.

Saying that, they are however here much more convincing as conflict than those in 'You're a Sap...' and the conflict is stronger here because the personalities are more interesting. Popeye is likeable and amusing as well as resourceful and brave, he seems more comfortable and fits better here, whereas there were reservations in the other cartoon about him fitting and being suited.

Regarding the humour, this is very funny material and does boast some inventive moments visually and in the well-timed gags. As said, the characterisation is stronger, meaning that there is more tense and humorous interaction.

No complaints to be had about the animation and music either. The animation is fluid and beautifully detailed, everything looks meticulous and like a lot of effort and care went into it. The stereotypical character designs for the Japanese sticks out like a sore thumb a bit but the rest of the animation is fine. The music is outstanding as always, lushly and cleverly orchestrated with lots of energy, it adds to the action and enhances it even. Jack Mercer does a great job as Popeye.

Overall, pretty good if not top-tier Popeye. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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Secrets of Wild India: Tiger Jungles (2012)
Season 1, Episode 2
9/10
Tigers in the jungle
20 November 2018
'Secrets of Wild India' was seen for two primary reasons. Am a big nature documentary fan and have been watching the famous and highly regarded ones and pleasant new discoveries as part of a binge which so far has seen few disappointments. The other reason being my love and admiration for David Attenborough, considered a national treasure for very good reason no matter as to whether he likes the term or not.

He is hard to beat when it comes to documentary narrating and presenting and have yet to see anything bad from him. His very best works are works of art. While not my favourite of his work or one of his very best, or one of the standout documentaries of my binge, 'Secrets of Wild India' is still a wonderful and fascinating series. If one has to be recommended a documentary on Indian wildlife, 'Secrets of Wild India' should be strongly considered.

After a wonderful first episode, one expects the following episode, which had a hard task living up to it, to be just as good. "Tiger Jungles" is every bit as great.

First and foremost, "Tiger Jungles" cannot be faulted visually. It is gorgeously filmed, done in a completely natural and intimate way and never looking static. In fact much of it is remarkably cinematic and intimate, which are lovely qualities to see in a documentary series. The editing is always fluid and cohesive and one can never get enough of jungle settings.

Music score fits very well generally, not overly grandiose in sound while not being inappropriately placed. Occasionally it is a little intrusive and could have been used less, my only one of two complaints of the series, other being that it maybe could have been a little longer with so much to cover.

Like the rest of 'Secrets of Wild India', "Tiger Jungles" fascinates, teaches, moves, entertains and transfixes. In terms of the facts there was a very good mix of the known ones and the unknown, while also dealing with the subject with tact. As was expected, there was a nice mix of old and new in how it's shown.

Narration by Attenborough helps significantly. He clearly knows what he is talking about and knows what to say and how to say it. He delivers it with his usual richness, soft-spoken enthusiasm and sincerity, never talking down to the viewer and keeping them riveted and wanting to know more. Some may not find "Tiger Jungles" treating the respective animals in a human-like way in all the instalments to their taste, personally love it myself and it made it easier connecting and relating to the animals and the things covered. Yet remarkably it doesn't feel over-subjective or too speculative, a potential trap for documentaries, or have too much of a story approach that could compromise the facts.

It's not just visually beautiful and informative. The animals, not just the tigers, featured show a mix of playfulness, pathos, cuteness and ruthlessness. There is some charm seeing the behaviours and a lot of personality. Was very much invested and fascinated by the information provided, also loved the intimate portrayal of the animals featured.

Every bit as interesting is that it is not just the animals that "Tiger Jungles" focuses on. It also focuses on well-explored, well-researched and fascinating in detail the jungle setting.

"Tiger Jungles" was by no means episodic. Instead feeling like a riveting and emotionally complex story. It could easily have been bloated with so much covered but it thankfully .

Overall, wonderful once again. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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5/10
Music in the shipyard
17 November 2018
The Terrytoons are oddly interesting, mainly for anybody wanting to see (generally) older cartoons made by lesser known and lower-budget studios. They are a mixed bag in quality, with some better than others, often with outstanding music and with some mild amusement and charm and variable in animation, characterisation and content.

1942, like all the other years for Terrytoons, saw a hit and miss batch, though slightly more consistent than previous years, with some decent hits, a lot of watchable but average or slightly above cartoons and a few mediocre misses. 'Shipyard Symphony' is one of the average-middle ones (average-middle and slightly above average was the most common standard that year) 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, being generally average, and has the same amount of problems as it has the amount of strengths. 'Shipyard Symphony' is watchable but unexceptional, completest sake is the main reason to see it.

'Shipyard Symphony's' best asset is the music, which cannot be faulted, essential to the impact of a cartoon and like a character of its own. 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 other big merit is the animation, the ambitious, elaborate detail in the backgrounds is still great to see, as is the comparatively improved fluidity of drawing and movement and increasingly smoother transitions. The synchronisation in movement and sound is neat.

There is some zest and natural charm and a few amusing moments, and parts of it and the basic set up are nicely done.

The story is paper thin and formulaic with not an awful lot to it (like the cartoon in general) and doing little with a premise that's hardly new.

Gags aren't enough, and most are not that memorable or funny. There is definitely once again a sense of the studio having run out of ideas and just re-treading old premises and material. Parts are repetitive and the characters have too little personality or distinction to properly engage.

Altogether, worth a one-time watch but not much special. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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7/10
The Three Little Pigs
16 November 2018
Have always had a lifelong love of animation, old and new. Disney, Studio Ghibli, Hanna Barbera, Tom and Jerry, Hanna Barbera, Looney Tunes and also the works of Tex Avery and Fleischer. With a broader knowledge of animation styles, directors, studios and how it was all done actually love it even more now.

Also have an undying lifelong love for the classic stories of the Grimm Brothers. Their tales are beautifully written, full of soul, imagination and joy and enchanting in their own way, if quite dark in some stories and at times gruesome, and with many memorable characters that are iconic in literature. Their fame, importance and the timeless appeal of their stories are more than justified and Would see any adaptation of his work, animation or live-action, and there have been numerous times where his work has lent well to animation.

For an introduction to their stories if unfamiliar with them, this overlooked German animated series 'Simsala Grimm' (although there are a few episodes with other authors, especially in the third season where the universe is expanded) fits the bill very nicely. Even those familiar with the stories are likely to find the series and how it approaches and tells the stories featured interesting. It was great to see the famous tales and also the not so familiar and not often adapted ones. In its own right, 'Simsala Grimm' is quite well done, not one of my favourites but it's an interesting approach to the various stories and a great way to introduce newcomers to them, which will give them the want to read the stories.

Based on one of the most famous stories in the world, 'The Three Little Pigs' is pretty good though there are better episodes of the series. It is perfect for younger audiences and with more than enough to satisfy the older crowd, providing that you don't expect it to capture the essence in spirit of the original story.

Like with some episodes of 'Simsala Grimm', 'The Three Little Pigs' does feel somewhat padded in places and not everything felt necessary.

Do like the characters of Doc Croc and Yoyo but there is a little too much of them here, some of their input is not always crucial to the story and wastes time. The dialogue is corny occasionally.

Doc Croc and Yoyo are entertaining and likeable characters and their roles in telling the story and playing roles in them, namely being helpful or being voices of reason, are done cleverly. Yoyo is adorable and funny as always and it is not hard not to love Doc Croc's resourcefulness.

'The Three Little Pigs' characters are interesting enough, they do have personality. The wolf is the best character, always did find him the most interesting character in the original story so there is a slight bias. The voice acting fits them well.

More so than not, the story is engaging, ideally paced and entertaining and relaxing to watch, with emotional impact and cuteness. All the crucial scenes are done well. There is plenty for youngsters, without being juvenile or dumbed down, while also enough for adults feeling nostalgic and traditionalists. The writing is neither too complicated or simplistic, and entertains and charms.

The animation is quite nice and easy on the eyes as an overall whole. Simple and not always imaginative, but generally colourful, nicely detailed, fluidly drawn and the charming traditional look was perfect. The music fits well and is dynamic. The intro has a nostalgic charm and love the storybook once upon a time approach.

In conclusion, pretty good. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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10/10
Scrooge may be having a bad time, but the viewer doesn't
16 November 2018
Love animation to bits, always have. Not just Disney, Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Tex Avery and Hanna Barbera, but getting older it also broadened to include Pixar, Studio Ghibli, Soyuzmultfilm and Fleischer. It has always been a huge part of my life and helped me through all the tough times in school, with a broader knowledge actually appreciate it even more now.

'DuckTales' is a show dear to my heart. While not quite one of the all-time greats in animation and ever it is a personal favourite and one of my favourite shows from Disney. Felt that way as a child, still do. One of those personal favourites from a young age that has held up very well (not all my childhood favourites have), and like many favourites seen recently as a young adult 'DuckTales' is even more entertaining through adult eyes from appreciating the writing and stories even more.

After such a consistently good to outstanding run of episode, one expects a lot from the "Catch as Cash Can" four parter. The first part "A Drain on the Economy" did not disappoint, neither does this second "A Whale of a Bad Time".

The animation in "Catch as Cash Can: Part 2- A Whale of a Bad Time" is very well done, nothing shoddy about it. Instead 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.

"Catch as Cash Can: Part 2- A Whale of a Bad Time's" writing is even smarter, even more intelligent and even funnier as an adult. Part of this is due to understanding and appreciating the references, which came over as very funny and brilliantly timed when a child but easier to get and notice as an adult. Have found the same experience re-visiting other favourites like 'Animaniacs', 'Pinky and the Brain' and 'Tiny Toon Adventures'. The dialogue is hilarious, quotable and surprisingly fresh by today's standards, also surprisingly thought-provoking and educational.

Similarly great in "Catch as Cash Can: Part 2- A Whale of a Bad Time" is the storytelling. It is a thrilling and remarkably inventive story that is not predictable or repetitive, also not taking too long to get started or to the point. It is immensely entertaining to watch, has thrills and energy aplenty, is never dull and has emotional investment while the conflict has tension.

Have always loved the characters. Scrooge is one of those characters that does live up to his name at first, a notable example actually of the show being here, but the character grows and goes on a journey. It is wonderful to see Huey, Dewey and Louie be given distinct personalities and it is much easier to tell them apart as a result than before when partnered with their uncle Donald Duck. Donald makes another more than worthwhile appearance. Glomgold add to the conflict with enough fun tension and fun.

In "Catch as Cash Can: Part 2- A Whale of a Bad Time", the voice acting is faultless. Cannot imagine anybody else as the character of Scrooge than Alan Young, he is a big reason why Scrooge works so well as a character. Russi Taylor shows no signs of being over-parted. Glomgold (one of the show's best supporting characters) couldn't have had a more perfect voice actor than Hal Smith and Tony Anselmo fills Clarence "Ducky" Nash's giant shoes perfectly without being an impersonation.

Summing up, wonderful second part to high-quality four parter. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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Way Out West (1937)
10/10
Laurel and Hardy go west
16 November 2018
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were comedic geniuses, individually and together, and their partnership was deservedly iconic and one of the best there was. They left behind a large body of work, a vast majority of it being entertaining to classic comedy, at their best they were hilarious and their best efforts were great examples of how to do comedy without being juvenile or distasteful.

'Way Out West' is one of their best feature films, another favourite being 'Sons of the Desert'. 'Babes in Toyland' and 'Fra Diavolo' are also another two of their best feature films for me. Not only is 'Way Out West' one of their best feature films, it is also one of the best works they ever did, coming from somebody who doesn't dislike any of their work and find a good deal to like about their lesser efforts. As well as one of their funniest, with 'Way Out West' containing some of the funniest moments of any Laurel and Hardy film, short and feature.

Both Laurel and Hardy are on top form, both having many moments to shine individually and together. Both are hilarious and likeable, handling the sly and sharp verbal wit and nimble, beautifully timed and never contrived or cartoonish physical comedy with ease. Their comic timing is impeccable and the chemistry between two is proof that their legendary reputation is justified.

'Way Out West' is also one of the best examples of any slightness or silliness in the story not mattering that much, due to the snappy, being always compelling and entertaining and having a lot of content. It is one of their best feature films in terms of how the comedy and musical interludes are balanced. Neither overshadows the other, the musical interludes not being too many, too long or distracting from the story. Fortunately, the musical interludes are good, wonderful in the case of particularly "Trail of the Lonesome Pine".

As said, the comedy is some of Laurel and Hardy's funniest, the best being hilarious. A standout being the soft-shoe shuffle sequence, closely followed by the apartment chase. The supporting cast add a lot, with cracking support from Sharon Lynn and the ever reliable James Finlayson. 'Way Out West' looks good, has lush and cleverly orchestrated music and the direction is suitably no-nonsense and to the point.

Concluding, wonderful and one of Laurel and Hardy's best. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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4/10
Not much range here
16 November 2018
Love animation, it was a big part of my life as a child, particularly Disney, Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera, Studio Ghibli and Tom and Jerry, and still love it whether it's film, television or cartoons. With significantly broader knowledge of different directors, animation styles and studios, actually appreciate and love it even more now.

Rudolf Ising made a lot of cartoons leaning towards the cute kind of cartoon rather than the laugh a minute kind, the latter being the one that a lot seem to prefer (understandably, though am hardly biased against the former). This approach has varied in cartoons. In some instances it has been very sweet and charming, in others it can be cloying and too cutesy. 'Home on the Range' unfortunately falls in the latter category. Not one of Ising's very worst (though among the lesser ones) by all means, with obvious strengths but with a good deal of big drawbacks.

Starting with the good things, the animation is very well done. It is fluid in drawing, vibrant and atmospheric in colour and rich in meticulous detail. The music is even better and performed with gusto, it's full of energy and character and is lushly and cleverly orchestrated, adding to the action and enhancing it.

A few parts charm and the voices are solid.

On the other hand, the story is paper thin and full of old-fashioned melodrama that holds no surprises whatsoever. Too often the cartoon is too sugary sweet and the over-stretched feel of the story makes 'Home on the Range' feel dull, very little energy here. This is further accentuated by the agreed overlong length, 'Home on the Range' easily should have been three minutes shorter.

'Home on the Range' is completely humourless and near-completely charmless, none of the content engages enough, while the characters are never interesting or even appealing excepting the jackrabbit.

In summation, nicely made but lacklustre and doesn't hold up well. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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The Gay Bride (1934)
6/10
Love and death
16 November 2018
Love classic film and there are numerous great, some classic even, examples of films that mix comedy, drama and crime mystery. But my main reason for seeing the film was Carole Lombard (before she became the wife of Clark Gable), a lovely very talented actress who died tragically far too young with so much more to give, in her only film for MGM.

It may not be one of Lombard's best films, and it doesn't contain one of her overall best performances (not a knock against her), and would hesitate in calling it great. Instead it is an uneven but interesting and entertaining film, that would have been better if the story was more focused. There was a lot of potential, considering the cast and that the script was penned by successful playwrights that were far from inexperienced. Potential that could have been lived up to more, not a complete squandering by all means though.

The best thing is the cast. Lombard looks luminous and is both witty and charming. Chester Morris is a terrific male lead and perhaps gives the best performance in the role, he has great comic timing and has the right amount of intensity. He and Lombard work wonderfully together, with their banter snappy and their delivery and chemistry sparkling. The supporting cast on the most part also fare well, Leo Carrillo enjoys himself in his role as does ZaSu Pitts in her too short screen time.

Visually, the production values are stylish and elegant. Much of the script is tight and witty, with plenty of laugh out loud funny moments, and the story does compel on the most part and never dull if more in the comedy-oriented parts. It's all competently, if slightly uninspiredly, directed.

However, the material is a little on the slight side, with there not being quite enough to fill the length (the film is not a long one). The story generally could have been more focused, tonally it is a bit of a mishmash of comedy and crime melodrama. The comedy elements fare much better.

While intriguing and with moments of suspense, the crime melodrama lacks surprises and can get preposterous, with some silly character decisions. Nat Pendelton also came over as rather colourless in an indecisively written dim-witted role.

All in all, uneven but worth the look for Lombard and Morris especially. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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Taggart: Berserker Part One (1998)
Season 14, Episode 1
7/10
The trouble with deadly drugs
16 November 2018
Have always adored detective dramas/mystery series, when a new episode of favourites or a new detective/mystery drama appears it would be seen without hesitation. This has been apparent half my life, when getting into Agatha Christie through Joan Hickson's Miss Marple, David Suchet's Poirot and 'Inspector Morse'.

Favourites are many and show a wide mix of styles and tones. There are the more complex ones like 'Inspector Morse' and anything Agatha Christie. There are the grittier ones like 'A Touch of Frost' or the wonderful Scandinavian series like 'Wallander' and 'The Killing, though 'A Touch of Frost' is balanced brilliantly with comedy too. There is also the light-hearted ones like 'Murder She Wrote' and prime 'Midsomer Murders'. 'Taggart' is one of the biggest examples of the grittier ones, especially the Mark McManus years and the earlier James MacPherson episodes.

"Beserker" is not one of the best episodes of 'Taggart' for me though. It's good still, although "Apocalypse" underwhelmed none of the episodes at this point were bad. There are just episodes before and since that executes what made 'Taggart' a great show in its prime much better.

Starting with what didn't quite work for me, there could have been more suspects (which we also could have gotten to know more, Danny is the only one that showed much development) and surprises. Uncharacteristically found the supporting cast variable, with the male cast (Cameron Jack coming off best) faring better than the ladies, the acting for Linda and particularly Juliette came over as bland to me.

The biggest issue for me was the ending. Not because of the identity of the murderer not being a shock (it was not one of those left me floored ones), but because of the lack of tension, that it was not particularly well-acted (especially from the killer) and the unbelievable "they killed for that" motive.

However, despite how the above sounds there are a number of good things about "Beserker". Love the stylish grittiness of the production values and how Glasgow is like a character of its own. The music fits well and is used only when needed, while the theme tune is timeless. It's thought-provokingly scripted, with some splashes of levity to not make it overly-serious. The story could have been tightened momentum wise in spots but is generally diverting and keeps one on their toes and guessing.

Cannot fault the leads, James MacPherson and Blythe Duff turn in great work and have always loved their chemistry. Stuart and Colin McCredie have settled well and Robert Robertson steals every moment he appears in.

Overall, pretty good but not 'Taggart' at the top of its game. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996 Video)
3/10
A Leprechaun in space
16 November 2018
The 'Leprechaun' films can be seen from either way. Some people will, and do, consider them guilty pleasures not to be taken seriously, most acknowledging that they are not necessarily great films. Others will, and do, dislike them for mostly being cheap, far from scary, too dumb to be entertaining and not very interesting.

Being on a horror franchise roll recently, after having more free time after such a lot going on professionally and personally, finally decided to see all the 'Leprechaun' films to see which above extreme they would fall under. Even when genuinely trying to judge them for what they are and what they're trying to do, am going to agree with the latter. Disliked the first film as far as the previous three films go, and while the next two were marginal improvements they were not particularly good either.

'Leprechaun 4: In Space' for me is one of the weakest of the franchise. There is far worse in the genre and overall, but apart from a few bright spots most of the film is poorly executed for reasons that are similar and even the same as the previous three films.

Once again, Warwick Davis is the best thing about 'Leprechaun 4: In Space'. He really does throw himself into the role and has enough moments of amusement and grotesque creepiness. The material is beneath him but he gives it all a good bash.

Aside from Davis, there are a few mildly amusing moments and the idea was a weird but interesting one. The music is not exactly memorable but it didn't jar or sound cheap.

However, that adjective is a good way to describe how the production values look, very sloppy and hasty looking and the special effects look as if they were made as a last minute afterthought with the small remainder of what was left of the budget. The direction has such an inexperienced or indifferent feel to it, and apart from Davis the acting is awful, struggling to do anything with lead characters that have no personality and irritating supporting ones behaving vaguely and idiotically.

Very like as with before, 'Leprechaun 4: In Space' is particularly undone by the script and story. The script is crude and childish in humour, nothing funny here, and everything sounded so awkward and contrived. On top of not making sense to the point of incoherence, the story overdoes the dumb factor, is often uneventful, with some dragging on forever stretches, and there is nothing scary or suspenseful due to the excessive predictability and no atmosphere. The kills completely lack creativity or anything unsettling and there is a good deal of randomness and things added for no reason so it feels gratuitous.

Summarising, another weak instalment. 3/10 Bethany Cox
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Ride (III) (2018)
3/10
Not worth sharing this ride
16 November 2018
'Ride' did have a cool cover and an interesting idea going for it. The low rating and negative reviews did make it apprehensive admittedly, but as someone who always gives every film that interests me or comes my way a fair chance with an open mind it was seen anyway.

While not a complete waste of time, 'Ride' is not my definition of a good film. To me, there was a lot wrong with it and it is a very weak film in general. 'Ride' does not deliver on any promise it had, which may not have been massive but the film was hardly devoid of it, and was the complete opposite of what it could have been. This is being said with no malice, bias or prejudice (actually with regret), part of me wanted to not be as bad as has been said and have been known quite a few times, especially in my early years as a reviewer here, to go against the grain in not caring for a positively reviewed film or liking a panned one.

There are good things. The music is not obvious or intrusive and didn't feel at odds with the rest of the film. Visually, 'Ride' is reasonably slick and doesn't look too cheap.

While the acting is hardly great, the actors do do their best and their performances came over as committed and not overdone.

Unfortunately, the script and especially the story brings 'Ride' down. The script is very awkward sounding and doesn't flow, some of it is very difficult to take seriously. The story is excessively dull and has no surprises, tension or suspense. Instead it is ridiculous and implausible, with so many intelligence-insulting moments and parts that don't make sense or make one throw a hissy fit in confusion.

On top of that, the ending is extremely abrupt, it ends just like that with no resolution and gives the sense that the film was left incomplete. The characters irritate and there are frequent instances of them behaving without any logic or intelligence, could not believe that the film had characters behaving so stupidly, vaguely and illogically.

Summing up, weak. 3/10 Bethany Cox
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6/10
Mysterious isolation
15 November 2018
The cover/poster was very unnerving and the advertising likewise. Really liked the concept too, not an original one perhaps but it sounded really intriguing and was already admiring its subject matter and ideas. All those things were enough to make me want to see it.

'Boarding School' turned out not to be a great film, there are issues here. But for a low-budget horror recent viewing as part of one of my many quests recently, 'Boarding School' is easily up there with the few ones that was actually decent. Can totally see why others have liked it. Am one of those whose feelings are mutual, but admired what it set out to do, it doesn't waste its idea and its tackling of the theme was brave.

Lets start with the good things. 'Boarding School' looks good, there is a sense of dark unsettlement, the editing was at least cohesive and the photography is stylish and doesn't try to do too much, not static or chaotic. The music is suitably ominous and there is tension, creepiness and suspense, with a good deal of the second half being unnerving. 'Boarding School' avoids being over reliant on jump-scares, too much predictability, being cheesy or hackneyed, with some surprisingly thought-provoking explorations of sensitive and relevant issues and not in a preachy way.

The acting is much better than average, with Luke Prael showing good potential as Jacob. Was at least engaged for much of the duration, had no trouble understanding what was going on, was emotionally invested and at no point was my intelligence insulted. The characters show some signs of depth, at least have personality and didn't behave in a way that irritated me. The ending was unexpected and quite clever and unsettling.

As aforementioned, there are drawbacks too. Some of the pace could have been tighter, a little slow in spots. The script is quite a big weakness, it is not always easy to take it seriously, there is some awkwardness and cheese and it could have been tighter.

It is agreed that some of the film does get silly and too on the strange side later on when the film tries to do a little too much. The sound quality is not always well balanced with it tending to favour the music.

All in all, better than expected though not without things to criticise. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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2/10
How to begin a short-lived show on a less than promising note
15 November 2018
Have always had a love for detective/mystery shows and there are so many great ones out there, whether it's the slow-burning, more intellectual ones ('Inspector Morse), ones that mixed comedy and drama ('A Touch of Frost'), anything Agatha Christie (namely 'Poirot'), the light-hearted ones ('Midsomer Murders' in its prime) or the gritty ones ('Taggart').

Am a great fan of 'Criminal Minds', if more in the early seasons which were much more consistent. So was looking forward to 'Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour'. Especially after catching up on some short-lived shows, that while having flaws showed a lot of promise and were cancelled when they were still growing. 'Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour' unfortunately never seemed to get off the ground, a slow start like this one would have been forgivable (most shows do and even 'Criminal Minds' did a little) but to show little, if any, improvement even when halfway through was indication of a show that wasn't going to work and for me and many others its cancellation after 13 episodes was justified.

Its pilot episode "Two of a Kind" is a perfect example of how not to do a pilot episode. There are fantastic examples of show pilots around, a prime example being 'Lost', but when a pilot doesn't establish anything or make its characters, interactions and how they work interesting or clear one knows something is wrong.

Sure "Two of a Kind" is well-shot but never anything extraordinary, lacking the darker, grittier touch that the original 'Criminal Minds' show brought to its darker scenes. Also thought very little of the music, the background scoring brings nothing different compared to that of other detective shows, sounding more generic than haunting or pulse-racing and the opening titles theme is so rushed that remembering it is impossible. The writing is all over the place, constantly not knowing what to do with itself and filled with poorly written lines delivered like wood. All of it just sounded rushed, on-the-surface with no development whatsoever and often over-the-top.

The story line for "Two of a Kind" is never attention-grabbing, feeling like retread of a standard child abduction story for the original 'Criminal Minds' but with none of the tension, suspense or the emotion. It was all just so dull and bland, parts were ridiculous and motivations are vague . None of the characters are easy to engage with at all either, little if anything is learnt about them, one actually doesn't know who is who at first, apart from Garcia (who is pointless on this show and has none of her spark) and Simms of the new characters. The interaction between them is barely existent and quite awkward and there are no little character moments, which was a constant strength of 'Criminal Minds', even in several lesser episodes. The unsub, revealed too early and used too much (a weakness of latter season 'Criminal Minds') is too vanilla, not creepy enough to be anywhere near as detestable as the best villains on the original and their development is at best sketchy to feel anything else for him.

Acting is also some of the worst ever for any detective/mystery series from personal opinion, with only Michael Kelly showing any effort of the regulars. Raphael Sbarge does his best in an against type role but his character doesn't give him much to do anything extraordinary or memorable with it.

Especially bad is Janeane Garofalo, who shows the emotions of a robot, if she was trying to be serious it comes at the expense of personality, and the character just grates. Forrest Whittaker is terribly and shockingly inconsistent, at points he goes completely through the motions (slurring words and all) and at other points he clearly over-compensates for the poor writing, the authoritative personality is overdone and then any empathising or emotion is delivered with a face of stone. Kirsten Vangsness, a bright spot in the original, doesn't make a smooth transition here, Garcia is pointless and just doesn't fit, like numerous episodes of the later seasons of 'Criminal Minds' her role is also too convenient and there to just provide the answers. Vangsness has lost her spark due to poor writing and being underused.

Overall, a less than promising and actually pretty poor pilot. 2/10 Bethany Cox
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8/10
Uniting bands and throwing parties
15 November 2018
Love animation to bits. It was a big part of my life as a child, especially Disney, Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera and Tom and Jerry (with tastes broadening further getting older with Pixar, Studio Ghibli and some of the more mature animations out there), and still love it to this day as a young adult whether it's film, television or cartoons. Actually appreciate it even more now, with more knowledge of the different animation styles, directors, studios and what work went into them.

'Animaniacs' always was one of my favourite animated shows. So is its spin off 'Pinky and the Brain', which is on the same level and almost surpasses it. Found it brilliant, extremely well made, cute at times and very funny and actually hilarious frequently as a child. Still think all of that as an adult, and even more so with more knowledge of animation and understanding the humour more. '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.

Another episode divided into two segments, it is very good, if just missing the extra something of the very best episodes. It does show the show's high quality and indicative at how well things settled so soon and kept going stronger and stronger and quickly hitting its stride. As said a number of times already, lots of shows take a while to find their feet but 'Pinky and the Brain' found it straight away and generally was very consistent and the consistency generally, if slightly bumping compared to even better episodes, shows here.

What stops the episode from being one of my favourites is that the supporting characters are not particularly distinctive or memorable enough and one is likely not to like how Brain behaves at the end of "Pinky's Party", even for him it was mean.

The animation quality is terrific. The setting is an atmospheric one, credit is due making a quite confined setting interesting which this, and the whole of 'Pinky and the Brain' for that matter, does really well. The characters designs are smooth and not stiff at all, the backgrounds are very rich in detail and the colours are a mix of vibrant and atmospheric (having been throwing this word a lot recently but can't help it).

Similarly great is the music. The scoring is dynamic and cleverly composed, adding to the actions, expressions and gestures and doing what good music scores in animation should do in enhancing them. Then there is the theme tune, which is hard not to forget.

'Pinky and the Brain' throughout its too short run was always superbly written. It is such smart writing, at its worst it's very funny, at its best it's not just hilarious but riotous. Both segments, in equal measure (especially in "All You Need is Narf"), are full of 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. The exchanges between Pinky and Brain are masterpieces of how their personalities and way of speaking contrast so well with each other.

While somewhat formulaic (all the stories in 'Pinky and the Brain' are, but in structure, the concept was actually very original), this and all the show's episodes 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 which are nowhere near as silly as one would think looking at the premise. One worries about repetition, no worries are needed because there is variety to stop that from happening. Some of the content here is outrageous, but endearingly so (the outrageousness and creativity of Brain's plan was part of the show's charm and intentional, as is not being surprised by the outcome of Brain's plans), but it is from start to finish very engaging, lively in pace, clever and always structured coherently, being not being too complicated for children and not too simplistic for adults.

Other than the writing, especially good are the characters. Pinky and Brain were two of the best characters on 'Animaniacs', Brain stole the show whenever he appeared, and more than deserved their own show. For me they are even more interesting and defined and one can see that here already. It is hard not to endear to Pinky and his inane comments and actions, he is very stupid and one can see why he frustrates Brain. But he is one of the finest examples of stupid not falling into the trap of being obnoxious, a trap often fallen into, Pinky instead is very funny and often hysterically so and simply adorable, one has to admire his spirit and perseverance. One here though sees a different side to Pinky where he comes over as resourceful and well-intentioned, it was lovely too to have more focus on him and both segments waste no opportunity to give more to him than one usually sees, which is truly admirable.

Brain (who has more to do in the episode) is slightly more interesting, he 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 scheme here and how he goes about it, nor is it impossible not to love his deadpan personality and dark sarcasm. His perseverance is also admirable and although his ego is bigger than usual at this stage of the show it doesn't make him unlikeable generally. The end of "Pinky's Plan" is somewhat of an exception though. The two have such compellingly real personalities and one can see here even early on some development and there is more to them under the surface. The chemistry between the two is just a delight, fun and sometimes antagonistic but there is more substance to it than that, being essentially the heart of the episode, every episode in fact, and the show it was important for it to work and it has always been one of the greatest assets. Like with Pinky's character, one sees a different side to their relationship, where one sees how much Pinky cares for Brain that he would do a lovely gesture for him regardless of how he tends to be treated.

Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche, two of the best and most prolific voice actors around that time and in the voice acting business overall, are flawless providing Pinky and Brain's voices. LaMarche in particular. They sound like they were having a lot of fun and give Pinky and Brain so much life and also surprising depth, their voices suiting the characters and their personalities perfectly. If they recorded the voices together, one can really feel the bond between them.

Summarising, very good though not one of the best episodes. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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9/10
Popeye and the prisoner
15 November 2018
Dave Fleischer was responsible for many gems. Ones that were amusing and charming, though over-cuteness did come through in some efforts and the stories were always pretty thin, with appealing characters, outstanding music and visuals that were inventive and with innovative animation techniques.

'Choose Your Weppins' for me is among my favourites from this particular period of the Fleischer output. Despite liking many of Popeye's cartoons almost all the best came from the Fleischer era, Fleischer's efforts were always well animated and scored with lots of entertainment value and great chemistry between Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto. 'Choose Your Weppins' has everything that makes the Popeye series so appealing in its prime era and does nothing to waste the main characters or make them less interesting. It is also a nice change of pace, being a cartoon (not the first or the last) where Bluto is absent, and the story is less reliant on formula.

The story is an interesting and beautifully paced one, never being dull, and due to being a change of pace for Popeye it is not as formulaic. Sense is not a strong suit but in all honesty nobody looks for that and it is so easy to overlook. The humour and gags make it even more entertaining, avoiding the trap of repetition and actually being deliciously wild and imaginative.

All the characters are great. Although Olive Oyl is a little underused as she did tend to be around this point she is fun to watch. Popeye is always amusing and likeable and his role here is imaginatively handled and Wimpy is enormously entertaining in his short appearance. It is the prisoner though who steals the cartoon, very amusing and equally menacing.

Furthermore, the animation is beautifully drawn and with enough visual detail to not make it cluttered or static 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. Fleischer's direction is always accomplished and his style is all over it.

Voice acting is dynamic and of very good quality. William Costello does a nice job as Popeye, have a preference for Jack Mercer though. It is hard to imagine anybody else as Olive Oyl other than Mae Questel while Gus Wickie brings a lot of amusing and imposing character to the prisoner.

Overall, a terrific Popeye cartoon as one can hope. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Secrets of Wild India: Elephant Kingdom (2012)
Season 1, Episode 1
9/10
Elephants in the Himalayas
15 November 2018
There were two primary reasons for watching 'Secrets of Wild India'. Am a big nature documentary fan and have been on a binge watching the famous and highly regarded ones and pleasant new discoveries which so far has seen few disappointments. The other reason being my love and admiration for the national treasure that is David Attenborough.

When it comes to documentary presenters/narrators he is hard to beat and his best work (haven't seen anything bad from him) are works of art. While not my favourite of his work or one of his best, or one of the standout documentaries of my binge, 'Secrets of Wild India' is still a wonderful and fascinating series. If one has to be recommended a documentary on Indian wildlife, 'Secrets of Wild India' should be strongly considered.

'Secrets of Wild India's' first episode "Elephant Kingdom" is a wonderful way to start.

First and foremost, "Elephant Kingdom" looks amazing. It is gorgeously filmed, done in a completely fluid and natural, sometimes intimate (a great way of connecting even more with the animals), way and never looking static. In fact much of it is remarkably cinematic and intimate, which are lovely qualities to see in a documentary series. The editing is always succinct and smooth and the scenery is pure magic.

Music score fits very well generally, generally not overly grandiose while never being inappropriate with some lovely sound. Occasionally it is a little intrusive and could have been used less, my only complaint of the series (other than it maybe could have been a little longer with so much to cover).

"Elephant Kingdom" fascinates, teaches, moves, entertains and transfixes. In terms of the facts there was a very good mix of the known ones and the unknown, while also dealing with the subject with tact. Their intelligence comes out on screen crystal clear and how they live is a nice mix of old and new in how it's shown.

Narration by Attenborough helps significantly. He clearly knows his stuff and knows what to say and how to say it. He delivers it with his usual richness, soft-spoken enthusiasm and sincerity, never talking down to the viewer and keeping them riveted and wanting to know more. Some may not find "Elephant Kingdom" treating the respective animals in a human-like way in all the instalments to their taste, personally love it myself and it made it easier connecting and relating to the animals and the things covered. It doesn't feel over-subjective or too speculative or have too much of a story approach that could compromise the facts.

It's not just visually beautiful and informative. The animals, not just the adorable elephant calf whose perspective the episode is told from, featured show a mix of playfulness, pathos, cuteness and ruthlessness. "Elephant Kingdom" also displays a wide range of emotions and found myself really caring for everything that was shown to us on screen. There is some charm seeing the behaviours, with some fierce and emotional moments too, there is a lot of personality. Found myself really caring for what is said and shown to us, loved the intimate portrayal of the animals featured.

To make things even more intriguing, it is not just the animals that "Elephant Kingdom" focuses on. It also focuses in well-explored, well-researched and fascinating detail biotypes and as well as the Himalayas.

"Elephant Kingdom" didn't ever feel like an episodic stringing of scenes, but instead like the best nature documentaries it felt like its own story and journey, with real, complex emotions and conflicts. With so much covered, one worries about bloating but the series just about avoids that potential trap.

Overall, wonderful with very little to complain about, other than wishing it was a little longer and the music used a little better. Have seen complaints for the annoying subtitles on the DVD, being somebody who rarely uses subtitles this didn't bother me. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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3/10
Failed magnanimity
15 November 2018
The Terrytoons are oddly interesting, mainly for anybody wanting to see (generally) older cartoons made by lesser known and lower-budget studios. They are a mixed bag in quality, with some better than others, often with outstanding music and with some mild amusement and charm and variable in animation, characterisation and content.

1942, like all the previous years for the studio, saw a series of Terrytoons that were variable. A few decent, none great, most watchable if average and a few mediocre or less. Sadly, if there was an award for the worst 1942 Terrytoon, for me it would go to 'Eat Me Kitty, Eight to the Bar'. Really liked the concept of the cartoon, which did sound like an attempt at something different conceptually for Terrytoons (when they had run out of ideas and were recycling old ones. It was just executed badly.

As with all the Terrytoons the best asset is the music, an asset that was consistently a highlight of the studio's cartoons and a redeeming quality for their lesser output (like here). It has energy that was lacking everywhere else in the cartoon, is lushly and cleverly orchestrated and adds a lot to the action, even enhancing it. Close behind is the animation, as has been said quite a few times already this component has come on enormously over-time, it was very problematic in their early output and overtime improved to hit and miss to decent to quite good, the latter being the case here. The elaborate, more ambitious detail in the backgrounds is immediately noticeable, as is the more fluid drawing and movement and smoother transitions.

It is agreed that 'Eat Me Kitty, Eight to the Bar' starts off well, one of my favourite openings for any Terrytoon actually and gives the impression that the cartoon would be one of the best 1942 Terrytoons cartoon, sadly that was not to be. The cat is the best character here, with an attempt to give him some personality.

'Eat Me Kitty, Eight to the Bar' deteriates after a promising start however. What seemed like an attempt at something different was executed in a practically plot-less, very predictable and disjointed fashion, the outcome is not a surprise in any way and it all plays like a stringing along of too many ideas not really relating to each other. The gags are far too few and none are remotely amusing let alone funny, furthermore a lot of the material is uninteresting and so perfunctory in timing.

None of the character engage or interest, with a bland mouse character and a bulldog whose over-seriousness jars with the rest of the cartoon. The cat character fares least badly because there are glimpses of a personality, but glimpses aren't enough. The voices sound bored.

Concluding, weak despite starting off promisingly. 3/10 Bethany Cox
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