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Mask-A-Raid (1931)
10/10
Queen of the masquerade ball
20 April 2018
Fleischer were responsible for some brilliant cartoons, some of them still among my favourites. Their visual style was often stunning and some of the most imaginative and ahead of its time in animation.

The character of Betty Boop, one of their most famous and prolific characters, may not be for all tastes and sadly not as popular now, but her sex appeal was quite daring for the time and to me there is an adorable sensual charm about her. That charm, sensuality and adorable factor is not lost anywhere here, nor her comic timing and she is very well supported by the ever fun Bimbo and the suitably sinister antagonist.

'Mask-A-Raid' is up there with one of my favourites of Betty Boop. It's slight and standard but it is a strong example of how to execute a familiar and melodramatic premise and give it freshness and plenty of imagination and entertainment.

The animation is outstanding, everything is beautifully and meticulously drawn and the whole cartoon is rich in visual detail and imagination. Every bit as good is the music score, which delivers on the energy, lusciousness and infectiousness, great for putting anybody in a good mood.

As hoped, the fun is ceaseless, with some very well timed and funny gags, and delivers on the creativity and imagination as well as (for Betty Boop especially) and as ever ahead of its time humour. The voice work and such is good.

Overall, excellent. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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9/10
Past ties
20 April 2018
'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' may not quite be among my favourite shows of all time, but it's a riveting series that keeps getting better and one of the better detective drama shows in recent years. It is always fascinating to see a mystery series from outside England and America, and 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' is one of the better examples.

Unfortunately, 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' tends to be buried within daytime television scheduling, both on the BBC when first getting into it three or so years ago and on not as much watched channel (i.e. Alibi). It also tends to be aired at a time where most people will be at school or work, for me it was during sporadic periods when not needing to go into music college. The series deserves much better than that when it has consistently been one of the better shows to be aired in the early afternoon.

With "The Ties of the Past", 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' continues its excellent streak with not a misfire yet. Not quite one of the best Season 2 episodes but a great representation of what makes the show as great as it is. By now, 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' felt like it had found its feet and had established things well by this point. Relationships and characters continue to deepen, the mysteries are even twistier and the pace has more lustre.

Like the rest of the series, "The Ties of the Past" is exceptionally well made. The post-war period is beautifully evoked in the sumptuous but also atmospheric settings and scenery and charming costumes and period detail. It is beautifully shot and atmospherically lit, the dark grey-ish tinge being very appropriate and adding much to the overall feel of the episode. It is scored sensitively and the haunting theme tune gets embedded in the brain, while the direction is suitably restrained.

Writing continues to be very good with the tone established very well. There is great thought-provoking dialogue that always makes the mystery elements interesting but the atmosphere doesn't ever feel too grim. The story is riveting, suspensefully written and you care about having it solved. The solution is not obvious nor is it too complicated, very neat without being too pat. The characters are well written and more than just stereotypes, Lucien Blake still has it in how fascinating a character he is. This is even more apparent in "The Ties of the Past" than before.

Craig McLachlan is superb in the role as well, quite possibly his best role and certainly the best acting he's ever done. He seemed an unlikely choice at first, but the character suits him perfectly. All the acting is very good actually, and seldom if ever any less. The relationships between the characters are well worth investing in.

In summary, great episode yet again. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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The Sign of Four (2001 TV Movie)
3/10
Betrayal, greed and revenge at their most bloodless
20 April 2018
Love Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, the best of which among the masterworks of the crime fiction genre. Have always had a soft spot for 'The Sign of Four', not just for the iconic characters and duo of Holmes and Watson and the compelling story but also for the ingenious denouement, one of Conan Doyle's most fascinating antagonists and one of his greatest climaxes.

Didn't care for the first Sherlock Holmes Hallmark film featuring Matt Frewer 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. Like their adaptation of 'The Sign of Four' even less. And no, it's not only because Frewer has more screen time and the film is longer, those are the least of its problems. It really doesn't do this fabulous story justice and is a strong contender for the worst adaptation of 'The Sign of Four', which hasn't been adapted as much as 'The Hound of Baskervilles' but the Jeremy Brett Granada adaptation is especially great, actually one of my personal favourites of the Brett Sherlock Holmes adaptations.

'The Sign of Four' is not without its good spot. The best thing about it is Kenneth Welsh, whose Watson is the more faithful loyal, sympathetic and intelligent one rather than the buffoon that has been seen in other Watsons. Marcel Jeannin's suitably eccentric Thaddeus Sholto is the only other good performance.

It starts fairly promisingly. Also found some of the locations suitably atmospheric, if perhaps not authentic, and the adaptation shot competently enough.

Sadly, that is it for the good things. Other than Welsh and Jeannin, the acting, as has been said (there is not much new that hasn't been said already), is awful. Not just from Matt Frewer's far too arrogant, manic and too over-reliant on hammy humour Holmes, but even worse were Sophie Lorain's all over the place Mary Mortstan and Michel Perrin's over-acted Jones. It has been noted that the accents are atrocious, with Lorain and Perrin's accents being a mishmash of at least three different accents apiece and all done badly.

For such a good story, 'The Sign of Four' is poorly adapted here. It's dull thanks to the lack of terror, tension or suspense (all completely absent after the promising beginning) and the pedestrian direction. Once again, the costumes are cheap. The editing is sometimes choppy and the music strives for authenticity but comes over as contrived and often unnecessary, especially in the flashbacks. The dialogue is stilted, over-emphasises the humour to hamminess and fails to bring intrigue and life to something as good as 'The Sign of Four'. The story is generally dull here and told in a vague manner at times.

Never thought it would be possible to foul up 'The Sign of Four's' ingenious denouement, the antagonist's back story that while difficult to adapt and often criticised for being overlong (don't agree personally) shows brilliantly how he came to be that way and the ruthlessness, the suspenseful climax and the fascinating character of Jonathan Small.

Believe it or not, this adaptation fouls up all the above. The denouement couldn't been less tense and more dull than it is. The back-story actually suffers and worse for what it's criticised for in the story and feels anti-climactic. The climactic scene that is one of the highlights of the story is rushed and staged in a way that even a B-movie western would reject, absolutely no need or excuse for straying so drastically from something so perfect and doing so so amateurishly. Jonathan Small is very underdeveloped and there is very little of his menacing ruthlessness or the slight sympathy one feels when it is revealed how he came to be the way he does, here he is a caricature and Edward Yankie not only comes over as not very charismatic he plays the character too broadly, none of the nuances seen in John Thaw's brilliant portrayal (by far the best Jonathan Small of all the adaptations) in the Brett version. Tonga is not scary at all here either.

Overall, very disappointing. 3/10 Bethany Cox
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5/10
Living life after death
19 April 2018
Saw 'The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud' as somebody who really liked the idea, has found that Zac Efron has grown as an actor and wanted to see how he would fare in one of the first roles to break from his 'High School Musical' image. There are some good, great and more even, tear-jerker films out there so there is hardly any bias against them.

'The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud' is definitely watchable and do not have regrets watching it. It has moments of genuine emotion, it is more than competently made with a few good performances and it does intrigue with its ideas on paper. Will admit conversely to wanting to like 'The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud' much more, a case of great potential for the story that was under-cooked in execution and didn't do enough with its more interesting ideas.

Efron gives a very commendable lead performance, it is a far cry from 'High School Musical' (thankfully) and he does command the screen and gives his role a good deal of heart. Charlie Tahan is appealing as his brother, and the fraternal bond is sweet and touching. Amanda Crew has moments of being a sympathetic love interest and, while his character is underused and quite strangely written, Ray Liotta's performance is heartfelt.

It's a beautifully filmed film too and the locations are even more gorgeous to look at. The music is understated without being low key and soothing. There are sweet, poignant and intriguing moments here, especially at the beginning before and with the tragedy. The direction is suitably earnest.

Not all the acting works however, though the sketchy and sometimes ambiguously written character writing works against them. Crew does have some very awkward dialogue too often and it shows that she is not completely comfortable with it. Kim Bassinger is even more underused than Liotta but doesn't have his presence to register, didn't even remember her involvement on the most part at all. Then there is Augustus Prew, who features too much and is pretty annoying with some misplaced and not funny humour.

Chemistry between Efron and Crew is not as believable or as genuine as that between him and Tahan. It just feels very underdeveloped and contrived on the most part. A lot of the dialogue is cringe-worthy and lays it on too thick with the corn and schmaltz. The storytelling generally is very muddled and can be dull and unsubtly maudlin, with the aftermath of the tragedy and especially the supernatural elements rather under-explored, the latter generally not making much sense. The final twist doesn't work as a result, found it confusing and very silly.

All in all, far from bad but didn't live up to its potential. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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3/10
In the undead west
19 April 2018
Like what was said recently with 'Cowboys vs Dinosaurs', watched 'Cowboys and Vampires' knowing exactly what to expect, with the title (a dead giveaway off the bat) and premise (though the set up was interesting somewhat) the film has. Was expecting it to be ridiculous and not particularly well made. Part of me was hoping though when watching out of curiosity that it would have a little entertainment value and be a small guilty pleasure.

'Cowboys and Vampires' (aka 'Dead West') was more or less what was expected, it is ridiculous and not well made at all. Would also be lying if said it is a good film, it is a long way from that and doesn't have anywhere near enough to make it a guilty pleasure though not unwatchable. There are worse films around, of the genre and overall, and the film at least knows what it's trying to be, not leaving me bored, not insulting my intelligence and having glimpses of a story (the set up is neat and the film starts reasonably decently).

Angelica Celaya is the film's bright spot, being appropriately vampish. The scenery is okay and there is some jauntiness and eeriness in the music when it's memorable (too often it's not).

Sadly, 'Cowboys and Vampires' is drably shot, with it also looking disorganised, and throughout it's incoherently edited, making it difficult to decipher what's going on in particularly the more action-oriented scenes (too few and not exciting or suspenseful).

The rest of the acting is very bad, especially from the conflict that ranges from pantomimic to somnambulist and the male lead was pretty wooden. The characters though in all fairness are not that interesting or easy to get behind, thanks to sketchy development and stupid character behaviours. The effects, make-up etc. are amateurish at best.

Writing is rambling and juvenile, while the direction is fairly characterless and while there is more story than expected it's a ridiculous one as well with very little tension or suspense. Things get over-the-top at the end and the campy silliness is taken to extreme levels that it becomes far-fetched.

On the whole, have seen worse but a pretty lame film. 3/10 Bethany Cox
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Lost: Tricia Tanaka Is Dead (2007)
Season 3, Episode 10
8/10
Good quality come to life
19 April 2018
When 'Lost' was in its prime, it was must-watch television. Remember first watching it, found it remarkably easy to get into, was hooked from the start and was on Season 3 by the end of one week. The general consensus is that the final season is a disappointment and cannot disagree.

"Tricia Tanaka is Dead" is not Season 3 or 'Lost' in general back on very top form and may lack some of what makes the classic 'Lost' episodes as great as they are. It is however a huge step up from the previous episode "Stranger in a Strange Land", a huge disappointment and a rare early seasons-'Lost' misfire and even one of the show's worst. Count me in actually as another person who liked "Tricia Tanaka is Dead", didn't mind it was not a conventional episode as such and who considers it underrated.

Can understand why some would consider it a filler episode, though "Stranger in a Strange Land" fits that description a lot more and does a much worse job with it. It may not say anything new, there have been more illuminating flashbacks before and since (though at least they didn't feel pointless) and it doesn't necessarily progress character development (apart from Hurley) or the story and on-island/mystery events.

Having said all this, "Tricia Tanaka is Dead" was a very pleasant watch and actually appreciated its laid back approach, not every episode of 'Lost' has to have full on intensity and such, without feeling dull. Parts are very funny, agree that some of the comedy touches are great. The episode is also poignant and heart-warming with a lovely message. Hurley has always been very likeable as a character and it is always great when he is much more than just comic relief, there are signs of that definitely but Hurley's dramatic situation avoids being too soap-operatic.

All the acting is very good, with top honours going to Josh Holloway and particularly Jorge Garcia.

Loved too the stylishness and atmosphere of the visuals, the effective use of music, the taut writing and the tightly controlled direction (one of the season's best directed episodes).

Overall, very good. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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House of Mouse: King Larry Swings In (2002)
Season 2, Episode 11
7/10
The swinging in of King Larry
19 April 2018
Have a lot of fondness for 'House of Mouse'. Love Disney and the concept was such an interesting and for Disney shows at the time a unique one. There are times where it could have done more with the concept, with showing more of some of the guests and not focusing all the featured cartoons on Mickey and the gang. It is however so much fun and how it makes an effort to retain the spirit of the classic old cartoons is to be lauded.

"King Larry Swings In" is good fun, like all 'House of Mouse' episodes. It is also though one of my least favourite episodes of the show, nothing is done terribly as such but there are assets done quite a bit better in other episodes before and since. It's all solid, just that it feels something is missing. Really like that it and the rest of the show tries to and succeeds in making the personalities of Mickey and the rest of the gang true to those of their "golden age" ones when they first came out (1930s-1950s), especially Donald. Except that Mickey is far more interesting in personality in 'House of Mouse', feels like a lead character, is used well and isn't over-shadowed by the rest of the characters. Minnie is also more resourceful.

Larry himself is lively enough and suitably pesty, if slightly feeling like a King Louie clone than his "twin" brother. Not enough here distinguishing the two from each other. Jim Cummings is exuberant voicing him too, though his voice work is somewhat too similar to his voice work as Louie in 'Talespin', making it again not so successful in setting the two characters apart.

Of the three featured cartoons, the very cute 'Mickey and the Seal' from the classic Disney era is the best of the three. It is very easy to watch, a good situation for Pluto and Mickey to be placed into, the production values are high and the adorable seal steals the cartoon. Was not as sold on the two Goofy cartoons. They are entertaining sure, 'How to Be a Gentleman' emulates the spirit of the old "How To" Goofy cartoons very adeptly, with Goofy's ineptitude at certain things, the fun situations and the entertaining and educational narration (beautifully voiced by Corey Burton), though there are better and funnier in the show.

'Paracycling', from the "Extreme Sports" cartoons (basically the "How to" cartoons except oriented around sports) doesn't have the most interesting of subjects, not much new is done with it and it all feels too typical, once you've seen a couple of "Extreme Sports" cartoons you've seen them all.

Generally there are more memorable little character moments with the various Disney characters and what there are, while lots of fun, are not particularly standouts. One of "King Larry Swings In's" highlights is Mickey and Larry's playful take on the iconic song from 'The Jungle Book' "I Wanna Be Like You".

While not surprising in outcome, the story is lively and engaging, kept afloat by the character interaction, characters and the atmosphere. The writing is clever and very funny, even with the deliberately corny moment and pun which made me grin rather than groan.

Furthermore, the animation is very colourful, smooth in movement and with some meticulous detail. The cheap recycling footage for the audience reactions at the end of the featured cartoons does jar and annoy though. The music is suitably groovy and cleverly used, while the theme song is one of the catchiest of any Disney show in the past twenty years.

Voice acting is very good as always.

In summation, good fun though not a favourite. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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6/10
The kitten and the dog
19 April 2018
Van Beuren cartoons are extremely variable, especially in the number of gags and whether the absurdist humour shines through enough (sometimes it does, other times it doesn't), but are strangely interesting. Although they are often poorly animated with barely existent stories and less than compelling lead characters, they are also often outstandingly scored, there can be some fun support characters and some are well-timed and amusing.

With the anthropomorphic character design for the kitten, 'Scotty Finds a Home' is one of the most visually interesting cartoons of the variable "Rainbow Parade" series. Generally it is one of the better cartoons in the series as well. Not great, and it's not hard to see why it won't connect with others, but above average and pleasant. Saw it really as somebody who is trying to see as many Van Beuren cartoons as possible, so that is pretty much the main reason to see it.

'Scotty Finds a Home' has a number of strengths, more strengths than flaws from personal opinion. Personally quite liked the animation, compared to the animation in the Cubby the Bear, most of the Tom and Jerry and other cartoons of Van Beuren, their production values came on a long way when switching to colour. There may be a lack of refinement in some of the drawing and the colour scheme is simple, but the cartoon is lusciously coloured and the backgrounds meticulous in detail. The anthropomorphic design for the lead character was also interesting. Even better is the music score, it is so beautifully and cleverly orchestrated, is great fun to listen to and full of lively energy, doing so well with enhancing the action. Some of the lyric writing is on the simplistic and saccharine side though.

Some of the synchronisation is sharp enough. Was not left bored by the cartoon, thanks to a lively pace, and there are more gags than there usually are in the "Rainbow Parade" series, some amusing like with the dog. The kitten is a sweet and likeable protagonist, not being too cutesy and not being a brat, the dog is amusing and adorable and the bulldog is a good threat. Wasn't completely sold by the grandmother at the start though. While still a little too cutesy, there are far more saccharine and excessively sugary "Rainbow Parade" cartoons.

Having said that, the story, despite the very relatable concept (especially for those always wanting a pet and having to fight parental/adult disapproval), is very flimsy and very predictable. The ending can be seen from a mile away and is not a particularly memorable one.

While there are amusing moments and there are more gags than usual (although also still not enough), others are bland and over-familiar with easily foreseeable outcomes and once again any absurdist surrealist humour is missing. As said, still a bit too cutesy in spots.

Overall, pleasant and above average if not great. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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Life Story: Parenthood (2014)
Season 1, Episode 6
10/10
Animal parenting
19 April 2018
David Attenborough is nothing short of a national treasure. He may apparently dislike the term, but it is hard to not say that about such a great presenter who has contributed significantly to some of the best programmes (of the documentary genre and overall) the BBC has ever aired/produced.

It is really hard picking favourites, let alone a definite favourite, among what Attenborough has done because he has done so many gems, it is the equivalent of trying to choose your favourite ice cream flavour or your favourite operatic role (for examples) and finding you can't pick. To me though, 'Life Story' is up there with his crowning achievements and one of the best documentaries ever viewed, and as has been said already there are a lot of great ones. It has everything that makes so much of his work so wonderful, hence some of the reiteration of my recent reviews for some of his work (being on a nature documentary binge in my spare time), and deserves everything great that has been said about it.

What is always great about Attenborough is no matter familiar the themes are and how many times he does them, there is a knack for still making them interesting, a freshness and approaching these themes from a different angle. This can be seen in "Parenthood", which sees another amazing quality often seen in Attenborough's work of feeling relatable and relevant to a human, with its very human theme that most people go through, despite it being centred around animals.

An obvious starting point in praising "Parenthood" is the production values. Simply put, "Parenthood" 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 with some of the shots being unique for a documentary series, making one forget that it is a series. The editing is always succinct and smooth and the scenery is pure magic, similarly really admired the wide-ranging diversity of the different landscapes rather than restricting it to just one habitat. The music score fits very well, never overly grandiose while never being inappropriate.

Again, like so many Attenborough nature/wildlife documentaries, "Parenthood" fascinates, teaches, moves, entertains and transfixes. In terms of the facts there was a very good mix of the known ones and the unknown, some facts being familiar to us while going into detail about the different animals and the challenges they face.

Narration and presenting 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. Really cared for what was behind the camera as well as the front.

The animals are big in personality and very diverse. The conflict has genuine tension and suspense, there is some fun and a lot of emotionally powerful moments done with a lot of tear-jerking pathos.

Like much of Attenborough's other work, "Parenthood" doesn't feel like an episodic stringing of scenes, but instead like the best nature documentaries it feels like own story and journey, with real, complex emotions and conflicts and animal characters developed in a way a human character would in a film but does it better than several.

Overall, wonderful once again. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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5/10
The bee and the butterfly
19 April 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.

1934, like all the other years for Terrytoons, saw a hit and miss batch, more so than the other years even. Of which 'My Lady's Garden' is one of the middling ones ranking it in correlation with the rest of the Terrytoons, though one of the better faring ones of the batch up to this point. It is an unexceptional, nothing exactly special cartoon and has the same amount of problems as it has the amount of strengths. 'My Lady's Garden' is also watchable, completest sake is the main reason to see it but it's not the only reason.

Best asset is the music, which predictably is incredible. 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 ambitious, elaborate detail in the backgrounds is still great to see and some synchronisation is neat.

A few amusing moments and there is some zest and natural charm. The spider is a fun and sinister, if somewhat typical for Terrytoons, antagonist.

Outside of the backgrounds however, the animation is primitive at best with a fair bit of crudeness, over-simplicity and choppiness.

Likewise, the story is paper thin and formulaic, once again executing an already fairly tired premise with nothing new and in a melodramatic fashion. Gags aren't enough and there is not much especially memorable about them. The leads and their chemistry are bland and the conflict is predictable. Some choppiness too.

In summary, watchable but nothing special. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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8/10
Well worth the time
19 April 2018
Fleischer were responsible for some brilliant cartoons, some of them still among my favourites. Their visual style was often stunning and some of the most imaginative and ahead of its time in animation.

The character of Betty Boop, one of their most famous and prolific characters, may not be for all tastes and sadly not as popular now, but her sex appeal was quite daring for the time and to me there is an adorable sensual charm about her. That charm, sensuality and adorable factor is not lost anywhere here, nor her comic timing, and her role as a mermaid is handled beautifully without dulling down her personality.

For me, 'Time on My Hands' is among the better Fleischer/Betty Boop animation-mixed-with-live-action efforts. Not one of Betty or Fleischer's overall best by any stretch, but it is more imaginative and interesting than most of their cartoons featuring live-action and real life performers. As far as those with Ethel Merman goes, 'Time on My Hands' is a better cartoon than the still pleasant but not great 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart'.

Admittedly, the story is flimsy, barely existent even, and anybody looking for non-stop hilarity are best looking elsewhere. The title song is pleasant enough, but not an especially memorable one. Wouldn't have said no to more animation perhaps as well but that's probably just me.

However, the animation is outstanding, everything is beautifully and meticulously drawn and the whole cartoon is rich in visual detail and imagination. Every bit as good is the music score, which delivers on the energy, lusciousness and infectiousness, great for putting anybody in a good mood.

On top of these, 'Time on My Hands' is amusing and charming with a delightful Betty, a creatively rendered underwater world and a surrealism that's both wonderfully strange and transfixing. A big interest point too is Ethel Merman sounding a dream and with an incredibly vibrant presence in nicely shot live action.

All in all, very nicely done and well worth the time. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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The Doctor Blake Mysteries: The Silence (2014)
Season 2, Episode 7
10/10
The case of the murdered head master
18 April 2018
'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' may not quite be among my favourite shows of all time, but it's a riveting series that keeps getting better and one of the better detective drama shows in recent years. It is always fascinating to see a mystery series from outside England and America, and 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' is one of the better examples.

Unfortunately, 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' tends to be buried within daytime television scheduling, both on the BBC when first getting into it three or so years ago and on not as much watched channel (i.e. Alibi). It also tends to be aired at a time where most people will be at school or work, for me it was during sporadic periods when not needing to go into music college. The series deserves much better than that when it has consistently been one of the better shows to be aired in the early afternoon.

Up to this point of the show, "The Silence" for me is the best and also one of the best 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' episodes overall. Not just because of how disturbing and frightening it is, but also of its interestingly different viewpoint/meaning of a familiar theme.

By now, 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' felt like it had found its feet and had established things well by this point. Relationships and characters continue to deepen, the mysteries are even twistier and the pace has more lustre.

Like the rest of the series, "The Silence" is exceptionally well made. The post-war period is beautifully evoked in the sumptuous but also atmospheric settings and scenery and charming costumes and period detail. It is beautifully shot and atmospherically lit, the dark grey-ish tinge being very appropriate and adding much to the overall feel of the episode. It is scored sensitively and the haunting theme tune gets embedded in the brain, while the direction is suitably restrained.

Writing continues to be very good with the tone established very well. There is great thought-provoking dialogue that always makes the mystery elements interesting but the atmosphere doesn't ever feel too grim. The story is riveting, suspensefully written and you care about having it solved. The solution is not obvious nor is it too complicated, very neat without being too pat. The characters are well written and more than just stereotypes, Lucien Blake still has it in how fascinating a character he is. Loved what was done with Lawson here, always a good character but the most interesting he's been up to this point.

Craig McLachlan is superb in the role as well, quite possibly his best role and certainly the best acting he's ever done. He seemed an unlikely choice at first, but the character suits him perfectly. All the acting is very good actually, and seldom if ever any less. The relationships between the characters are well worth investing in.

Overall, brilliant. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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4/10
Almost a dog but not quite
18 April 2018
Am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and get a lot of enjoyment out of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' is one of the, perhaps even THE, most famous Sherlock Holmes stories and is the most adapted. For good reason, it is such a thrilling and scary story and contains a tantalising mystery.

The first of the four Hallmark films starring Matt Frewer doesn't do this wonderful story justice. To me, it's the second worst adaptation with only Peter Cook's being worse and nowhere near in the same league as those of Jeremy Brett, Basil Rathbone and Peter Cushing. All wonderful, Brett's is my personal favourite with Rathone's a close second (coincidentally they're also my two favourite Holmes), and with vastly superior interpretations of Holmes. Not a complete mess, with a few things stopping it from being a complete dog, but should have been much better.

Kenneth Welsh is the best thing about 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' and the only good actor in the film. He is an excellent Watson and more the faithful interpretation of a loyal and intelligent Watson and not the bumbling buffoon for comic relief purposes.

Also found some of the locations suitably atmospheric, if perhaps not authentic, and the adaptation shot competently enough. The music score is eerie. Credit is due for that the culprit is not revealed too early, a potential trap adapting 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' and has been fallen into a couple of times (i.e. Richard Roxburgh's version).

However, the rest of the cast do not fare well. Matt Frewer doesn't work as Holmes, far too manic and eccentric and his rapport with Watson too abrasive and borderline bullying. Jason London is also miscast, very stiff and too modern. Also found Robin Wilcock's Stapleton, though he does try, too energised and not sinister enough. The rest of the cast while not terrible don't make much impression.

For such a good story, 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' is poorly adapted here. It's dull thanks to the lack of terror, tension or suspense and the pedestrian direction, and due to the significant abridgement that underuses Holmes drastically, the changes and omissions really affecting the coherence and intrigue, the telling also feels jumpy and rushed. The costumes are cheap and the hound is far from terrifying, the only terrifying thing about it is how laughable and so 1950s or earlier it looks.

Overall, not a complete dog but almost is. Very disappointing. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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Safe Haven (I) (2013)
5/10
Average Haven
18 April 2018
Lasse Hallstrom has been responsible for some great films ('My Life as a Dog' being a personal favourite) and there are some good Nicholas Sparks (not a bad writer) adaptations (such as 'The Notebook' though film adaptations are very variable). With such a good book, one of Sparks' most interesting, and a great idea, 'Safe Haven' had potential to work.

Sadly, found, as much as it pains me to say it, found 'Safe Haven' to be one of Hallstrom's weaker films. As well as one of the weaker adaptations of Sparks' work. That it is a poor adaptation of the book, which is far more intense and emotional and with character motivations and situations clearer, is actually while something of a problem not as big a problem as how 'Safe Haven' fares on its own terms. There is far more to the problem than it being a poor book adaptation. By all means on its own 'Safe Haven' is not a terrible film, far from it. It's just that it is not a great film either, and it should have been considering its potential.

Commencing with 'Save Haven's' strengths, it looks good. Beautifully filmed and with suitably idyllic locations. It begins intriguingly and has a suspenseful climax, although it feels like it belongs elsewhere. Nice soundtrack too.

Of the performances, bubbly Mimi Kirkland, charming and hunky Josh Duhamel and especially a very creepy David Lyons fare best. Cobie Smulders does decently in the limited screen time she has. The big halfway through twist was a shocker.

However, the romantic element to the story is pure formula and while the romantic chemistry has charm it lacks emotional connection. It would have helped if Julianne Hough gave a stronger performance than the anaemic one she gave. The character of Josh irritates and his change of heart is too out of the blue and rings false. Hallstrom's direction is fairly paint by numbers, not much of his style in sight here, somehow it doesn't feel like a Hallstrom film.

The script is both bland and over-egged and the story suffers from a general lack of emotion and charm, the suspenseful climax is an exception. The overlength, due to that the story is so slight, is a further issue. The flashback would have fared better if there was more of an insanity factor to Kevin's character and if the film showed the full effects and intensity of domestic violence. The final twist doesn't work, on paper it sort of does, executed in this film it's daft and manipulative and felt tacked on. Wanted genuinely to be moved by the film and the ending, but was left cold and there were a few scenes like Alex's reaction to the flyer that came over as silly.

In summary, average but watchable. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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4/10
Jurassic cowboys
18 April 2018
Watched 'Cowboys vs Dinosaurs' knowing exactly what to expect, with the title (a dead giveaway off the bat) and premise the film has. Was expecting it to be ridiculous and not particularly well made. Part of me was hoping though when watching out of curiosity that it would have a little entertainment value and be a small guilty pleasure.

'Cowboys vs Dinosaurs' is not a good film by any stretch and doesn't have enough to it to make it a guilty pleasure. It is a mediocre at best film that has its good things but its bad things are pretty awful, and sadly as indicated there is too much of the latter. Having said that, 'Cowboys vs Dinosaurs' also could have been far worse and there are definitely worse films around, dinosaurs or not. It gets a couple of brownie points for at least knowing what it wanted to be and not being intelligence insulting. It also didn't leave me completely bored and there were signs of some story.

The scenery and photography are not too bad. Neither is the jaunty music score.

John Freeman, Rib Hillis, Casey Fitzgerald and particularly Sara Lane give reasonable performances.

Unfortunately the rest of the acting is very bad, especially from the rest of the women. And then there is the biggest name Eric Roberts sleepwalking through his role. The characters though in all fairness are not that interesting or easy to get behind, thanks to sketchy development and stupid character behaviours. Then there are the special effects for especially the dinosaurs, which were quite terrible. Not much personality or menace to the dinosaurs either, when they weren't being "there for the sake of it and not much else" they were pretty goofy.

Writing is rambling and juvenile, while the direction is fairly characterless and while there is more story than expected it's a ridiculous one as well with very little tension or suspense. The last 20 minutes takes camp to a whole new level and this is not meant in a good way, culminating in one of the silliest endings seen in a while.

So all in all, not good but also not a complete waste. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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Once Upon a Time: Bleeding Through (2014)
Season 3, Episode 18
9/10
Any stolen bleeding heart
18 April 2018
When 'Once Upon a Time' first started it was highly addictive and made the most of a truly great and creative premise. Really loved the idea of turning familiar fairy tales on their heads and putting own interpretations on them and the show early on clearly had clearly had a ball. Watched it without fail every time it came on and it was often a highlight of the week. Which was why it was sad when it ran out of ideas and lost its magic in the later seasons.

"Bleeding Through" is another one of Season 3's best, and like the previous episodes after the mid-season finale "Going Home" (that episode being one of the show's most special) it has been great that the second half of Season 3 has not been affected at all by the hiatus after the mid-season finale. There are instances where the less focused on ideas and characters are not as interesting as the more prominent story lines and characters, but this is very minor and only indicative that the main story is so good.

Regina is fantastically written here with some of the episode's best lines, and her relationship with Mary Margaret has moved on from the standard and repetitive it at times was before. Really loved seeing Young Cora again, having made such an impression in Season 2's "The Miller's Daughter" and "Bleeding Through" has not lost what made the character interesting and progresses her even more.

Am continuing to love the character of Zelena, who made a very big impression when she was first introduced, she is a very interesting and well written character. Peter Pan left very big shoes to fill as the villain of the first half of the season, Zelena fills them pretty brilliantly. The flashbacks are illuminating and compelling to watch, with nothing being padded out or confused, really advancing the characters.

Something that the episode overall does a very good job in, there is a good deal of progression here and new ideas introduced with great potential. Love the character relationships.

Have no qualms with the acting. Rebecca Mader, Rose McGowan and especially Lana Parrilla have the meatiest material and it shows in their acting.

Furthermore, "Bleeding Through" is a very handsomely mounted episode visually, the settings and costumes are both colourful and atmospheric, not too dark or garish and never cookie-cutter. It is photographed beautifully too. The music is haunting, ethereal and cleverly used with a memorable main theme.

Writing has the right balance of humour, pathos, mystery and intrigue.

Overall, excellent and one of the season's best. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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House of Mouse: Super Goof (2002)
Season 2, Episode 10
7/10
Goofy as Super Goof
18 April 2018
Have a lot of fondness for 'House of Mouse'. Love Disney and the concept was such an interesting and for Disney shows at the time a unique one. There are times where it could have done more with the concept, with showing more of some of the guests and not focusing all the featured cartoons on Mickey and the gang. It is however so much fun and how it makes an effort to retain the spirit of the classic old cartoons is to be lauded.

There are from personal opinion better Goofy-centric episodes. Have a preference for the ones that place Goofy in very human and relatable situations, like with Max, and where one relates to Goofy better regardless of any faults he has. "Super Goof" is still a good episode, and like with every episode of 'House of Mouse' really like that it and the rest of the show tries to and succeeds in making the personalities of Mickey and the rest of the gang true to those of their "golden age" ones when they first came out (1930s-1950s), especially Donald. Except that Mickey is far more interesting in personality in 'House of Mouse', feels like a lead character, is used well and isn't over-shadowed by the rest of the characters. Minnie is also more resourceful.

Did like the concept of the story a lot, a little silly in places, but the parodying of 'Superman' (or at least that's how it seemed to me) was fun and it was interesting to have the least likely main character to fill the role. It also sees a different side to Goofy, other than the clumsy goofball or the father figure.

Of the two cartoons featured, 'Locksmiths' fares best. It's very funny, sometimes hilarious, lively and clever and the personalities and chemistry between Mickey, Donald and Goofy carry the cartoon brilliantly. 'How to Take Care of Your Yard' is entertaining too and it emulates the spirit of the old "How To" Goofy cartoons very adeptly, with Goofy's ineptitude at certain things, the fun situations and the entertaining and educational narration (beautifully voiced by Corey Burton). It is not the most interesting of subjects for this particular series of cartoons, and there are better and funnier efforts that don't feel as predictable or typical.

It is always nostalgic watching 'House of Mouse' and seeing characters from various Disney shows, cartoons and films. There are more memorable little character moments though, not as many standout moments as other episodes.

While not surprising in outcome, the story is lively and engaging, kept afloat by the character interaction, characters and the atmosphere. The writing is clever and very funny, even with the deliberately corny moment and pun which made me grin rather than groan.

Furthermore, the animation is very colourful, smooth in movement and with some meticulous detail. The cheap recycling footage for the audience reactions at the end of the featured cartoons does jar and annoy though. The music is suitably groovy and cleverly used, while the theme song is one of the catchiest of any Disney show in the past twenty years.

Voice acting is very good as always, Bill Farmer and Corey Burton being the standouts.

In summary, good episode, not one of the show's best though. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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4/10
A very odd hunting season
18 April 2018
Van Beuren cartoons are extremely variable, especially in the number of gags and whether the absurdist humour shines through enough (sometimes it does, other times it doesn't), but are strangely interesting. Although they are often poorly animated with barely existent stories and less than compelling lead characters, they are also often outstandingly scored, there can be some fun support characters and some are well-timed and amusing.

While not quite down there with the worst of the twenty seven "Rainbow Parade" cartoons from Van Beuren, the second of six Molly Moo-Cow cartoons 'Hunters are Coming' (aka 'The Hunting Season') has got to be one of the strangest. While it didn't do an awful lot for me, 'Hunters are Coming' is not unwatchable or without redeeming merits. Saw it really as somebody who is trying to see as many Van Beuren cartoons as possible, so that is pretty much the main reason to see it.

There are strengths as aforementioned. Quite liked the animation, which has come on a lot since (human) Tom and Jerry and Cubby the Bear. Despite the character drawing lacking refinement and some garishness which does give off a primitive feel, the colours appeal generally to the eye while the backgrounds are elaborate and meticulous. Even better is the music score, it is so beautifully and cleverly orchestrated, is great fun to listen to and full of lively energy, doing so well with enhancing the action.

Some of the synchronisation is sharp enough. Molly makes more of an impression than she did in her first cartoon 'Picnic Panic' (one of the worst for me from the "Rainbow Parade" series), while she is not a particularly charismatic or interesting character her gentleness and playfulness makes her a pretty likeable one.

'Hunters are Coming' suffers from a lot of things, and with complaints common in the "Rainbow Parade" series. The content is pretty thin, not much to it, and not only are there not enough gags as such but any absurdist humour or surrealism present in some of Van Beuren's earlier work is completely absent. The cartoon is too saccharine and very cutesy in characterisation, some of the sugar excessive. Especially in the too long and extremely saccharine opening.

Then all this cutesiness is mixed with a darker and more violent tone once the conflict appears, and not only does it jar tonally (feeling like two completely different cartoons) the violent tone came over as fairly extreme and the whole cartoon becomes very bizarre and not in a good way. The story is paper thin, the pace doesn't have enough kick (with the beginning dragging badly) and the rest of the characters are instantly forgettable at best.

In summary, not terrible but very odd. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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Life Story: Courtship (2014)
Season 1, Episode 5
10/10
The courting of animals
18 April 2018
David Attenborough is nothing short of a national treasure. He may apparently dislike the term, but it is hard to not say that about such a great presenter who has contributed significantly to some of the best programmes (of the documentary genre and overall) the BBC has ever aired/produced.

It is really hard picking favourites, let alone a definite favourite, among what Attenborough has done because he has done so many gems, it is the equivalent of trying to choose your favourite ice cream flavour or your favourite operatic role (for examples) and finding you can't pick. To me though, 'Life Story' is up there with his crowning achievements and one of the best documentaries ever viewed, and as has been said already there are a lot of great ones. It has everything that makes so much of his work so wonderful, hence some of the reiteration of my recent reviews for some of his work (being on a nature documentary binge in my spare time), and deserves everything great that has been said about it.

"Courtship" may not be new territory, but is approached from a different angle. At times showing the glamour of it and some cute parts while also showing the dangers of it and the conflicts that can ensue in protecting the offspring. All the previous four episodes were wonderful. So is "Courtship".

An obvious starting point in praising "Courtship" is the production values. Simply put, "Courtship" 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 with some of the shots being unique for a documentary series, making one forget that it is a series. The editing is always succinct and smooth and the scenery is pure magic, similarly really admired the wide-ranging diversity of the different landscapes rather than restricting it to just one habitat. The music score fits very well, never overly grandiose while never being inappropriate.

Again, like so many Attenborough nature/wildlife documentaries, "Courtship" fascinates, teaches, moves, entertains and transfixes. In terms of the facts there was a very good mix of the known ones and the unknown, some facts being familiar to us while going into detail about the different animals and the challenges they face.

Especially interesting and powerful are with the birds and the conflicts for the salmon and the seals.

Narration and presenting 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. Really cared for what was behind the camera as well as the front.

The animals are big in personality and very diverse. The conflict has genuine tension and suspense, there is some fun and a lot of emotionally powerful moments done with a lot of tear-jerking pathos.

Like much of Attenborough's other work, "Courtship" doesn't feel like an episodic stringing of scenes, but instead like the best nature documentaries it feels like own story and journey, with real, complex emotions and conflicts and animal characters developed in a way a human character would in a film but does it better than several.

Overall, wonderful once again. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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See the World (1934)
5/10
In the Navy to see the world
17 April 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.

1934, like all the other years for Terrytoons, saw a hit and miss batch, more so than the other years even. Of which 'See the World' is one of the middling ones ranking it in correlation with the rest of the Terrytoons, though one of the better faring ones of the batch up to this point. It is an unexceptional, nothing exactly special cartoon and has the same amount of problems as it has the amount of strengths. 'See the World' is also watchable, completest sake is the main reason to see it but it's not the only reason.

Best asset is the music, which predictably is incredible. 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 ambitious, elaborate detail in the backgrounds is still great to see and some synchronisation is neat.

A few amusing moments and there is some zest and natural charm.

Outside of the backgrounds however, the animation is primitive at best with a fair bit of crudeness, over-simplicity and choppiness.

Likewise, the story is paper thin and formulaic executed in a familiar and unimaginative fashion. Some of the gags, of which there are not enough, don't quite have the lustre and cleverness as others and there is a choppiness and lack of energy at times. The characters are bland on the most part.

To conclude, worth a one-time watch but not much more than that. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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Barnacle Bill (1930)
7/10
Barnacle Bimbo
17 April 2018
Fleischer were responsible for some brilliant cartoons, some of them still among my favourites. Their visual style was often stunning and some of the most imaginative and ahead of its time in animation.

The character of Betty Boop, one of their most famous and prolific characters, may not be for all tastes and sadly not as popular now, but her sex appeal was quite daring for the time and to me there is an adorable sensual charm about her. That charm, sensuality and adorable factor is not lost anywhere here, nor her comic timing. She is definitely more interesting here than Bimbo, who is fun enough but is again stuck in a standard role with not much special to do. Do enjoy their chemistry though, that stops Bimbo from being completely bland.

Betty, Bimbo and Fleischer have done much better than 'Barnacle Bill'. It's pleasant enough and is a decent cartoon, but it's not a great one and doesn't stick in one's head as much as other offerings of theirs. For me, while a long worst from being one of Betty's worst cartoons (pretty much all her lesser efforts being when the Production Code was enforced, the material became tame and Betty while still engaging lost her trademark identity), it is far from one of her best either.

Admittedly, the story never was one of the best assets in a Betty Boop cartoons and it is very flimsy and predictable in 'Barnacle Bill' and the momentum is not always there.

However, the animation is outstanding, everything is beautifully and meticulously drawn and the whole cartoon is rich in visual detail and imagination. Every bit as good is the music score, which delivers on the energy, lusciousness and infectiousness, great for putting anybody in a good mood.

On top of these, 'Barnacle Bill' is amusing and charming with a delightful Betty and adorable and fun chemistry between her and Bimbo. All the gags are well-timed and fun, if not ever hilarious or creative.

All in all, decent. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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The Doctor Blake Mysteries: Mortal Coil (2014)
Season 2, Episode 6
9/10
Going grave digging
17 April 2018
'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' may not quite be among my favourite shows of all time, but it's a riveting series that keeps getting better and one of the better detective drama shows in recent years. It is always fascinating to see a mystery series from outside England and America, and 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' is one of the better examples.

Unfortunately, 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' tends to be buried within daytime television scheduling, both on the BBC when first getting into it three or so years ago and on not as much watched channel (i.e. Alibi). It also tends to be aired at a time where most people will be at school or work, for me it was during sporadic periods when not needing to go into music college. The series deserves much better than that when it has consistently been one of the better shows to be aired in the early afternoon.

With "Mortal Coil", 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' continues its excellent streak with not a misfire yet. "Mortal Coil" is one of the best second season episodes for me if not quite one of the best episodes overall. It occasionally gets a little over-complicated, with agreed how the crime came to be and what caused the activist to get involved was kept too vague.

By now, 'The Doctor Blake Mysteries' felt like it had found its feet and had established things well by this point. Relationships and characters continue to deepen, the mysteries are even twistier and the pace has more lustre.

Like the rest of the series, "Mortal Coil" is exceptionally well made. The post-war period is beautifully evoked in the sumptuous but also atmospheric settings and scenery and charming costumes and period detail. It is beautifully shot and atmospherically lit, the dark grey-ish tinge being very appropriate and adding much to the overall feel of the episode. It is scored sensitively and the haunting theme tune gets embedded in the brain, while the direction is suitably restrained.

Writing continues to be very good with the tone established very well. There is great thought-provoking dialogue that always makes the mystery elements interesting but the atmosphere doesn't ever feel too grim. The story is riveting, suspensefully written and you care about having it solved. The solution is not obvious nor is it too complicated, very neat without being too pat. The characters are well written and more than just stereotypes, Lucien Blake still has it in how fascinating a character he is. Jean is also great and do agree that the plate/dinner table line was a fun one.

Craig McLachlan is superb in the role as well, quite possibly his best role and certainly the best acting he's ever done. He seemed an unlikely choice at first, but the character suits him perfectly. All the acting is very good actually, and seldom if ever any less. The relationships between the characters are well worth investing in.

In summary, great episode yet again. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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6/10
Conflicted feelings on this Hound
17 April 2018
Am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and get a lot of enjoyment out of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' is one of the, perhaps even THE, most famous Sherlock Holmes stories and is the most adapted. For good reason, it is such a thrilling and scary story and contains a tantalising mystery.

This 2002 adaptation could have been better and is not in the same league as those of Jeremy Brett, Basil Rathbone and Peter Cushing, all wonderful and with vastly superior interpretations of Holmes. While one of the lesser adaptations of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles', it's not the worst. It is better than the Matt Frewer film and although it needs to be re-watched remember the Peter Cook film being an abomination (from personal experience, while there have been a fair share of changes most of my re-watches have seen my opinions unchanged).

Certainly there are plus points. On the most part, 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' looks great. There is a real creepiness and authenticity to the settings and production design and the costumes show a careful eye for detail. It's beautifully photographed. The music is suitably eerie.

Writing intrigues and entertains, while there are some genuinely creepy and suspenseful moments. Especially the opening and the attack on Seldon, as well as some of the build ups. It's paced in a lively fashion while still having some breathing space. Direction is competent enough at some points but low key in others.

Of the acting, the standouts are Ian Hart's loyal Watson (to me one of the best, most interesting and most faithful interpretations) and Richard E. Grant's skin crawling Stapleton (have only seen him creepier in the 'Trial and Retribution' episode he featured in). John Nettles is also splendid, and Danny Webb fares decently as Lestrade. Really liked Holmes and Watson's loyal yet strained chemistry and Watson featuring heavily in the second half which made him more interesting.

Was more conflicted though on Richard Roxburgh. Didn't mind the lack of physical resemblance, for me he did a serviceable enough job and has some charisma but he is also a bit bland and pales in comparison to very stiff competition, particularly Brett and Rathbone. Holmes could have been written somewhat better too, much has been said about the over-emphasised and out of character drug use (he did them, but not how depicted here) and his deductions seemed too convenient and telegraphed somehow.

Matt Day to me was a dull Sir Henry and Neve McKintosh, while lovely, seemed too modern for the period and the character is gratuitously treated here.

Also felt there were dull stretches, with the party and séance sequences feeling like padding. The hound effects are really quite dreadful, looking like something out of the 50s or earlier except worse looking, the culprit is obvious far too early (even for those familiar with the story or knows it inside out) and the ending is confused, rushed and anti-climactic, as well as missing the point of the ending, story and title.

In summary, not bad but could have been better. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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Stranger Things (2016– )
8/10
Turning the world upside down
17 April 2018
Having heard nearly nothing but good, actually great, things about 'Stranger Things', despite it attracting some criticism (like a lot of popular shows do these days, interest was high watching it. Due to being so intrigued by its concept and various ideas and tones.

'Stranger Things' on the most part is deserving of the love it has, for me its lack of originality was not a problem because it executes so much of everything else so wonderfully. It is not perfect and not an even in quality show, but when it was good, as shown in a quite excellent first season, boy was it more than great. Along with 'The Crown' and 'House of Cards' in its prime, 'Stranger Things' is one of the best Netflix has done and in well above their general standard.

Do agree absolutely that Season 2 is not near as good as Season 1. There are still a lot of elements present in Season 2 that was especially good about the first season and part of the show's appeal, but somehow the writing didn't always feel as tight, focused or rounded and some of it was a bit forced and obvious.

Also felt some of the effects weren't as refined either. While the acting is great from almost all the cast, Winona Ryder's melodramatic over-acting did feel at odds with everything else.

Everything else is executed so well. A vast majority of the time, apart from the lack of refinement of some of the effect in the second season, the production values are just great. Very stylish and atmospheric, with some truly beautiful images that one can't believe such high quality comes from a Netflix show. The music is haunting and nostalgic.

Writing is thought probing and has a lot of brains and heart, with some nice gentle humour that doesn't overpower, some truly poignant drama and tension. The story is rich in atmosphere and even though the story ideas are not original and have been understandably described as derivative, it's the execution and telling of these ideas that makes one look past that. The suspenseful mystery elements, the inventive and intriguing sci-fi elements and dark and disturbing horror elements are beautifully balanced and handled adeptly on their own. With an emotional core and nostalgic homages added as well.

Characters are compelling and it's the chemistry and interaction and how the relationships are written that makes 'Stranger Things' work so well. Excepting Ryder, the acting is terrific. The standouts being Finn Wolfhard and particularly Millie Bobby Brown (such an expressive actress in a beyond-her-years subtle way), if they continue to act this way and be wise with their career choices they are very likely to have big careers.

Overall, very good show and at its best excellent. Do wish that Season 2 was as good as the first though. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Terrifier (2017)
6/10
One will be terrified of this clown
17 April 2018
'Terrifier's' cover looked very cool and eerie. Furthermore, the concept was really intriguing and one of the best for any film personally seen recently. There are some halfway decent killer clown films out there and have an appreciation for horror. So yes 'Terrifier' was watched with some anticipation and want to like it, as well as some apprehension with so many wastes of potential on recent film viewings.

While it is an uneven film, where the first half is better than the second half, 'Terrifier' turned out to be much better than expected. Considering the budget and there are also a fair share of killer clown films that are not good ('Clowntergeist' was a significant recent example in this regard), it could easily have been a bad film if executed in a way that wasted its promise. Luckily, 'Terrifier' didn't fully live up to its promise but it doesn't waste it either.

Quite a lot to like here. 'Terrifier' starts off really well, great even. Despite the slightness of the story that doesn't really do anything new, the first half was tightly paced and genuinely scary and suspenseful with well-timed shocks. The killings are gory, without being gratuitously so while not holding back, nail-biting and inventive. Enjoyed the 80s throwback feel to the atmosphere.

Visually, 'Terrifier' looks pretty impressive for a film made on a high-budget. It's beautifully and stylishly shot, slickly edited and atmospherically lit. The make-up and effects were surprisingly and refreshingly good, seeing as there have been so many recent film viewings where the make up and effects looked terrible that was a real pleasure to see. The killer clown Art is truly freaky and is up there with Pennywise actually as the stuff of nightmares.

Acting from the main cast is better than average, with a likeable lead actress and a fiendishly good David Howard Thornton. It's all competently directed and there is a real eeriness too to the music score.

However, 'Terrifier' sadly has a second half that is not up to the same level. Although there is creepiness, suspense and a few of the killings are inventive, the thinness of the story affects the momentum and things become dull, silly and repetitive, there is a pattern here and one that repeats itself so often that it becomes very predictable quickly. The ending felt rushed and incomplete, leaving the viewer in dumbfounded confusion.

Not that 'Terrifier' was perfect already, it wasn't, but the flaws are more apparent and more problematic in the second half than the first. Not enough of the characters are rootable or interesting enough, with the most likeable characters disappearing too early and any development is sketchy and cliched. The lead character and oddly enough Art are the most interesting characters here.

Although the main cast are fine, the side characters are very annoying in how they are written and portrayed. There are also too many annoying and illogical actions and decision-making which made parts hard to swallow and ridiculous. Too much of the script is limp, ridden with clichés and too often underdeveloped and silly.

Overall, pretty decent with a lot of good merits although with significant problems. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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