Am a big fan of Scooby Doo and have always liked but not loved 'The New Scooby Doo Mysteries'. Some episodes are better than others, and it is very common for when two episodes are doubled that there is a difference in quality, in some cases a big difference. Have always found a lot to like about both "Dooby Dooby Doo Ado" and "Showboat Scooby" and because of them being among the first episodes of the show watched there is a little nostalgia value.
With "Dooby Dooby Doo Ado" and "Showboat Scooby", they are one of the episode couplings where the two are pretty much equal in quality in a good way. "Doom Service" and "A Code in the Nose" being the other. Personally do give the slight edge to "Showboat Scooby" for its stronger mystery and its more unique setting, though it was nice to see another glimpse of Scooby's family relations and anything centered around music is an immediate attention grabber.
"Dooby Dooby Doo Ado" (7/10)- The mystery isn't much of one and would have worked better if the truth wasn't given away so early on in the episode perhaps. The final act isn't as strong as the rest, with it being basically one over-stretched and fairly predictable escape (though it has amusing moments).
The animation was colourful enough and the music was like a big character of its own, appropriate considering the premise. The intro is catchy and the music style is one that is always one that has been held with fondness for me. The setting is suitably glitzy and captures the excitement of performing very well. The gang are all fine, Shaggy and Scooby are amusing and the voice acting is solid. There are some memorable scenes, Scooby pretending to be his cousin and how that goes and the ending being the best parts. The first half is great too. Scoobys cousin is likeable and his singing an affectionate throwback to the crooners such as Sinatra and Martin.
"Showboat Scooby" (7/10)- As said above, this gets the slight as the better episode and of the few Scooby Doo episodes set on a showboat this is the infinitely better one of the two (didn't like the 'The New Scooby Doo Movies' one with Josie and the Pussycats). The animation is colourful and atmospheric, the showboat backgrounds faring best. The music fits nicely and am still fond of the "Thriller"-like intro. The showboat setting has great atmosphere and never wasted and the ghost is creepy. Shall never fail to be creeped out by his first appearance.
He is also one of the few antagonists of the show to have a backstory and it's an intriguing one. The mystery is a lot of fun, more eventful than an episode like "South Pole Vault" or "The Bee Team" and it also has a suspenseful climax, only rivalled/bettered in the suspense factor by "Happy Birthday Scooby Doo". The coda was quite sweet and there are some classic amusing Shaggy and Scooby moments, such as Shaggy thinking that the ghost when calling out Magnolia is Scooby. Had no issue with the voice acting.
It's not perfect though. There could have been more of Dixie Doo, who is very come and go in her appearances. It could easily have been a two parter for that reason and perhaps a little more of the backstory. While the identity of the perpetrator was a surprise, one of the few on the show that shocked me, it would have made a lot more sense and been less out of left field if the ghost was the one that is strongly suspected from the start (with him seeming to be the only one with a motive). Also the implausibly rapidly fast costume change and suddenly appearing from the opposite direction made things make even less sense.
'The New Scooby Doo Mysteries' to me is one of the more underrated Scooby Doo shows. Not one of the best ('Scooby Doo Where are You' and 'The Scooby Doo Show') and not one of the worst ('Shaggy and Scooby Doo Get a Clue'), but have always been fond of it warts and all. And it probably would be better known if it wasn't automatically dismissed because of Scrappy, to me he is actually tolerable in this show and is helpful in the mystery solving.
Of the single episode couplings (which were a mix of both being consistently good, one episode being significantly better than the others and neither doing anything for me), "Night of the Living Toys" and "South Pole Vault" possibly is the biggest divide. Though "Scoo-Be or Not Scoo-Be" and "Stoney Glare Stare" comes close. "Night of the Living Toys" is one of my favourite 'The New Scooby Doo Mysteries" episodes, whereas "South Pole Vault" is one of my least.
"Night of the Living Toys" (8/10)- The idea of the story sounded fun and any Scooby Doo episode to revolve around toys immediately grabs the attention (i.e. 'What's New Scooby Doo's' "Toy Scary Boo" being the finest example of this) and the episode does a very good job with it. The animation is colourful and the music never jars. The intro is affectionately 80s and clever. The toy store setting is made the most of and the toys seen brought me back to my childhood and my toys.
Shaggy and Scooby are funny in an endearingly goofy way and love their charming chemistry. The gang work really well as a team and the regular voice acting is great. The mystery is fun with some neat clues, how the thefts are done was a pretty ingenious method and the Elf King is a cool villain and easily the best voiced of the supporting characters. The climax is one of the show's better ones, loved the energy.
Only the over obvious identity of the perpetrator (though in all fairness few reveals of the show are particularly shocking) and the dodgy accents of the supporting characters aren't so good.
"South Pole Vault" (4/10)- Really do wish that the same could be said of this, meaning that this being on that episode's level. But that was not to be. It has its moments, the South Pole setting is beautiful and atmospheric in the animation and the scene stealing penguin is adorable and funny. Once the Mad Sea Lion appears he is suitably formidable in personality.
Voice acting from the regulars is fine. The music doesn't disappoint and neither does Shaggy and Scooby's chemistry.
Everything else does. The story is wafer thin and at best forgettable, with very little mystery and with only only enough content for like five minutes. It takes too long to get going and the Mad Sea Lion is introduced too late and is underused. The character animation is rather rushed looking, only the backgrounds and the look of the penguin aren't a problem. The dialogue isn't too great, Shaggy and Scooby's humour has been funnier in other episodes.
The ending is too rushed and the defeat far too easy and the supporting characters are too come and go. We barely see the prime suspect for instance. Most disappointing was the reveal, the perpetrator was not a surprise at all, and it contains the worst and most trivial motive of the entire show. Can't believe the perpetrator went through such an elaborate scheme for such a silly and they did it for that goal.
In conclusion, liked very much one episode, have never cared for the other. 6/10.
"Heartfelt Passages" is the second part of the season finale two parter, the first being the exceptional "Intersecting Lives". Of all the episodes of Season 17, "Heartfelt Passages" was the one watched with the most anticipation. Because of the promos being so good and promising so much. Was really hoping though that the episode would live up to the hype, as "Melancholy Pursuit" earlier on in the season was very promisingly advertised and turned out disappointing.
Luckily, this is an example of an episode that absolutely lives up to the hype. Many of the show's season finales were heavily hyped, not all were as good as the hype (that's including the previous season's finale "Surrender Noah") but "Heartfelt Passages" is one of the season finales that is every bit as good, despite the outcome of the big event being given away. It is also every bit as outstanding as "Intersecting Lives" and a few things are executed even better, would argue that it is even more tense and emotional. What stops it from doing that is one part of the story not being done enough with.
That being Barba's subplot, absolutely love Barba and his subplot had real potential to be tense. But to me it was too underused and felt incomplete too.
Everything else is fantastic. The episode looks good, with the usual slickness and subtle grit. Really liked too that the photography was simple and close up but doing so without being claustrophobic. The music has presence when used, and luckily it isn't constant, and when it is used it doesn't feel over-scored. The direction allows the drama to breathe while still giving it momentum as well.
Script is one of the most intelligent and tautest of the season, no corn, melodrama or triteness in sight and Brad Garrett's dialogue later on chills. The story pulls no punches, has genuine tension. The major event that dominates the episode could have been dragged out, ridiculous and predictable, but it was neither and also had nothing gratuitous (unlike "Townhouse Incident"). It was exciting and genuinely suspenseful, and the treatment of this harrowing subject is uncompromising as ought. Will agree though that it is frustrating when someone who is clearly a criminal has their profession in solidarity with them, but that has been the case with the franchise for years with corruption in the police force being shown more than once in the original.
Despite the big fate of one character and the outcome of the conflict being given away somewhat in the promos, that didn't stop the outcome from being truly heart-rending. The hospital scenes really moved me. The performances are spot on, Brad Garrett at his nastiest coming out on top but Peter Gallagher also deserves a big mention for his truly poignant delivery of the scene where Dodds opens up. Actually saw him in a different light here, felt truly sorry for him and respected him.
Overall, wonderful way to end a patchy but not bad at all season. 9/10.
Season 17 was an inconsistent season but was also a watchable one. When it comes to the previous episodes, there were some disappointments such as "A Misunderstanding", "Maternal Instincts" and "Melancholy Pursuit". Yet there were also some truly great ones like "Institutional Fail", "Collateral Damages" and "Unholiest Alliance". 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' has always varied with its season finales, but there are some wonderful ones.
Of which the two part finale "Intersecting Lives"/"Heartfelt Passages" is one of the best. The former getting the slight edge as the better episode. When it comes to giving an award for the best episode of the season, it has got to be "Intersecting Lives". Though "Heartfelt Passages" did come extremely close and would have gotten my vote if Barba's subplot was stronger. "Intersecting Lives" is Season 17 at its most tense and powerful.
"Intersecting Lives" looks good, with the usual slickness and subtle grit. Really liked too that the photography was simple and close up but doing so without being claustrophobic. The music has presence when used, and luckily it isn't constant, and when it is used it doesn't feel over-scored. The direction allows the drama to breathe while still giving it momentum as well.
The script is one of the most intelligent and tautest of the season, no corn, melodrama or triteness in sight and Brad Garrett's dialogue later on chills. The story pulls no punches, has genuine tension and even when setting things up for the events in "Heartfelt Passages" it unsettles and doesn't come over as too predictable. Corruption is a familiar topic for the franchise, but you wouldn't think that watching the episode. The topic is hard hitting and sadly still relevant, its treatment here is uncompromising and suspenseful.
All the regulars are excellent. Best of all is a genuinely scary Garrett, as the scariest and most disgusting character he has ever played and one that is among the most disgusting in 'Special Victims Unit' history (and boy does he have truly stiff competition).
Prior to my first watch of "Assaulting Reality" when it first aired, it was the episode that in all honesty this reviewer was looking forward to the least. Primarily because of the premise and my intense dislike of reality shows and what they represent. The 'Law and Order' franchise have ventured into stories revolving around reality shows and with very mixed results, mostly actually not too great (one of the exceptions being "Sweeps" from the original).
"Assaulting Reality" doesn't really do anything to change my negative opinion of reality shows, if anything it reinforces it, and it's the third disappointing episode in a row. Again there are good things here and it is not unwatchable, thanks to the guest stars namely, but it just didn't come together and makes the mistake too of feeling out of place tonally. Of Season 17, to me "Assaulting Reality" is in the bottom five episodes along "A Misunderstanding", "Melancholy Pursuit", "Maternal Instincts" and "Community Policing".
There are some things that make it watchable. The photography while very close up doesn't come over as too static or filmed play-like, while the production values are typically solid and have subtle atmosphere while not being drab and keeping things simple. When the music is used it is haunting and has a melancholic edge that is not overdone. The regulars are very good.
Even more so are the guest cast, with Wendy Malling and Michael Gross having a ball in their roles. Larisa Oleynik also does her best with what she has. Some of the outsmarting is very amusing.
However, much is wrong. The story is very thin, with no suspense or surprises. Everything is easily foreseeable some way off before it happens and the case is overshadowed by the over the top-ness of the writing and the setting. The writing for my tastes was far too goofy, even for the more comedic vibe it just felt like too much and jars a lot with the serious subject. The dialogue did have times where the corniness was intentional, like with the show contestants, but with pretty much all the dialogue being corny (even in the many parts intended to be serious) it felt like corn and goofy overkill.
Like what was said a couple of sentences ago, the subject is a serious one, but the over the top goofiness and corn really jarred and like the subject was being poked fun at. Olivia and Tucker have no chemistry together and the relationship between them is not ringing true yet, given Tucker's history. Didn't feel that much for the victim, she does a lot that makes it less easy to sympathise with her.
The general standard of the Terrytoons cartoons was between mediocre at worst and decent at best, though there are plenty of examples of better and worse than those extremes. Never irredeemable, though there were some very weak cartoons both in their earlier and later output, but also never classic despite some actually very good work in the mid-late-40s for example. The music was always the best asset, while the animation improved vastly over time, in spite of the weak stories.
1950's 'Mother Goose's Birthday Party' is one of the small handful of Terrytoons cartoons to be based on nursery rhyme/fairytale characters, and it is one of the good ones. It would have worked better though without Mighty Mouse and it could easily have been a cartoon centered around the nursery rhyme characters featured. 1950's batch was a very watchable one for Terrytoons, though typically inconsistent. 'Mother Goose's Birthday Party' is towards being one of the better ones.
As said, it would have been better not having Mighty Mouse there whose role is more an extended supporting one rather than lead. He doesn't really add that much and feels out of place within the cartoon, whenever he's there it feels like a different cartoon and a quite tired one with typical Mighty Mouse material.
Was expecting the story to be quite slight, and it was more than just slight but instead pretty much plotless and just a series of gags and nursery rhyme characters. It also is a little bit of a slow starter with it taking a little too long to get going.
However, there is a lot that is good about 'Mother Goose's Birthday Party'. The animation is great and one sees how far this aspect has come on since the studio started, Terrytoons would never have been able to do animation as elaborate and ambitious in movement as this in the 30s. It is nicely detailed, lively and colourful, with a vividly rendered setting and vibrant colours that don't look garish, and the movements are remarkably smooth and cleverly synchronised. The best aspect though is the music, which is full of characterful energy, emotion and lush orchestration. It also synchronises brilliantly with the action, not only adding to it but enhancing it.
'Mother Goose's Birthday Party' is full of charm, has a generally lively pace and has a fair share of amusing moments, not much surprising but it is all well timed and amusing. It was a lot of fun spotting all the nursery rhyme characters and all of them make strong impressions in their own way, so much more so than Mighty Mouse.
'Scooby Doo and Guess Who' sounded very interesting and really liked the idea of the gang solving crimes with various guest stars (a mix of real life celebrities in the film, music and sporting industries and popular characters). So a more modern version of 'The New Scooby Doo Movies', loved that show as a kid and quite a lot of episodes and guest stars hold up but some episodes and guest stars don't quite do it now. This show turned out to be mostly very well done and at its best great.
Liked "The Nightmare Ghost of Psychic U" quite a lot on first watch, and one of the primary reasons was Whoopi Goldberg. Have always liked her as an actress, having grown up with her 90s work. Am a lot less keen on her politics, but that doesn't stop me from liking her work as a firm believer of separating the person from the artist. On rewatch, "The Nightmare Ghost of Psychic U" still is quite good if not mind blowing or one of the best 'Scooby Doo and Guess Who' episodes. With Goldberg, the villain and atmosphere more than compensating from the writing not always working.
"The Nightmare Ghost of Psychic U's" best aspect is Goldberg, she is an absolute joy here and clearly had fun doing the episode. It was clear that the writers had fun writing her dialogue as well with some great sassy humour. She interacts very entertainingly with the gang and is well used, not dominating too much (unlike Steve Urkel for example) or underused (from memory Christian Slater). Shaggy and Scooby are their usual delightful self, being as hilarious, charming and endearingly goofy as ever.
What also works really well is the very atmospheric setting, that is one of Season 1's creepiest. One cannot talk about "The Nightmare Ghost of Psychic U" without mentioning the villain, calling it terrifying is an understatement (nightmare inducing on first watch. A few fellow Scooby Doo fans talked of it reminding them of Slender Man and can totally see why. The perpetrator is a big surprise, there are many episodes where it could only have been one person or if the suspect count is low but there are also some where the perpetrator was a character that this reviewer didn't suspect. And the latter is the case here.
Most of the writing is fine with some amusing humour, with it working best with Goldberg and with Shaggy and Scooby. The story has a lively pace and has a lot of spookiness, the mystery is quite thin but the atmosphere more than makes up for that. The animation mostly is good, with rich background detail with the interiors and vibrant and eerie colours. The music fits well tonally and the theme tune is still catchy though too on the short side.
However, "The Nightmare Ghost of Psychic U" is inconsistent in the character writing and the writing in general. Had no issues with Goldberg, Shaggy and Scooby, but Fred, Velma and Daphne don't have a huge amount to do here and come off a bit bland. What really stuck out like a sore thumb was Velma's line regarding the FBI and law enforcement. For someone so intelligent, it was staggering to me that she would make such a basic fundamental falsehood like that.
Not all the animation is quite there, with some of the character designs being off model and there was a sense that more than one animation company worked on the character animation because the difference in quality with the gang and Goldberg (the latter is much better drawn) is pretty vast and immediately noted.
'Phineas and Ferb' was so good in helping me through my tough periods during its run, which were many. Still do get a lot of pleasure out of watching re-runs of what was, when airing, one of the few shows on the Disney Channel regularly worth bothering with. Admittedly the later episodes are not quite on the same level as the more creative earlier seasons, but 'Phineas and Ferb' at its weakest still managed generally to be better than a lot of animated shows recently at their best.
This double bill of episodes is worth watching, though for me one episode is much better than the other. "Ferb TV" has a premise that has been done before many times on a lot of animated shows on a wide variety of subjects (such as music and history), but it is the far more consistent, fresher and funnier episode. Not perfect, but great at its best. Whereas "What a Croc" is uneven and bland at times, though with still a number of good things. There are better 'Phineas and Ferb' episodes out there but it doesn't in any way change my positive opinion of the show.
When it comes to the individual elements, so much works. The animation is bright and colourful, with such vibrant colours that literally pop out at you and beautifully detailed backgrounds. The music is in the style that is not usually my style of choice when listening to music, but it is very catchy and pleasant to listen to. The theme song is irresistible with a melody that sticks in the head for days without being an earworm and with very quotable lyrics.
Furthermore, the writing is very funny and smart in "Ferb TV", rarely childish or over complicated. It was a lot of fun seeing real shows and cable networks parodied and it was done in a way that was very funny and clever, with some affectionate, knowingly witty referencing aplenty. A vast majority of the parodying in "Ferb TV" works incredibly well, is very funny and at its best hilarious. Meap's and Roger's shows come off best. Only Buford's doesn't come off to me, with the humour being quite juvenile (even the title puts one off) and the whole thing felt silly.
"What a Croc" has a wonderfully wacky Doofenschmirtz subplot, resourceful and adorable Perry and Ray Liotta's fun guest turn going for it and Irving amuses. The Phineas and Ferb plot is pretty thin and uninspired however and Candace's doesn't really add an awful lot.
Character writing is fine and likewise with the voice acting.
All in all, worth watching though a case of one great episode and one uneven one. 7/10.
While it was an inconsistent series, the Kartunes series from Famous Studios made in the early 1950s was still worth watching. Some of the cartoons were not great, with the first half generally being better than the second (something that was very obvious in the cartoons between 'Snooze Reel' and this), but the weakest ones still managed to not be misfires (unlike the better known Screen Song cartoons) and the best surprisingly very good, like for example the first 'Vegetable Vaudeville'.
Even though not an innovative idea by any stretch of the imagination, the idea for 'Forest Fantasy' with a night time setting was still a good one. It was a very cute and charming cartoon that is a lot funnier and a lot less sentimental than it sounds. For me, 'Forest Fantasy' is one of the best cartoons in the Kartunes series, the best since 'Snooze Reel' and a much needed step in the right direction after a quality slump with the previous three cartoons.
The singalong portion is where 'Forest Fantasy' is at its weakest, which was not a surprise as that was common for the Kartunes series. The second half is not as good as the first, it's made up of the singalong and while the song itself is a lot of fun and a deserved popular standard the singalong material wise felt too cutesy and was in serious need of variety.
As to be expected, the plot is non existent and a series of gags of the blackout kind. When it comes to the originality, 'Forest Fantasy' is fairly hit and miss, a couple being fairly typical and easy to predict.
However, a lot about 'Forest Fantasy' is good. It is beautifully animated. The colours are vibrant and there is meticulous attention to detail in the backgrounds. If there was one aspect that was consistently good in Famous Studios' 1940s and 1950s output, it was the music scoring. And it is outstanding here. The orchestration has a lot of energy and there are some truly luscious sounds throughout.
Furthermore, enough of the gags are visually inventive, full of energy and don't come over as cutesy. It is on the corny side at times, but the gags are also plentiful and to me they were very amusing on the whole. A beautiful job is done with the night setting, especially visually and the characters are cute with a good deal of personality. Pacing is fine, with a lively first half.
Although 'Richard II' may not be my favourite Shakespeare play, it does deserve to be performed a lot more. It's thematically fascinating, especially from a political standpoint, has great characterisation (especially the titular character and Bolingbroke) and while some may find the verse heavy dialogue too rambling it's still distinctive Shakespeare. It has been performed well many times and of the filmed adaptations 'The Hollow Crown' version is particularly stunning.
There are a number of fine productions of 'Richard II' available, with the BBC Television Shakespeare, 'The Hollow Crown' and Royal Shakespeare Company productions (National Theatre Live's was disappointing) all being outstanding (haven't seen the Ian McKellen production). This Shakespeare Globe production of 'Richard Ii' is pretty much on their level, it is not one of my favourites of the Shakespeare Globe productions available on DVD but it is to me proof that the company's reputation as one of the leading Shakespeare companies is richly deserved.
Did find the scene where the nobles hurl their gages at each other a bit too overblown and veering into absurdity for personal tastes.
Everything else was fantastic. Have nothing to complain about the performances, even the very different interpretation of Richard from Charles Edwards, bringing a more humorous touch and indifference to a role usually played seriously. David Stuzarker is ruthless to dangerous effect as Bolingbroke while not coming over as pantomimic, he does bring intensity and nuance enough. William Chubb's York is good fun and Anneika Rose manages to make a usually very underwritten character complex in a spirited and dignified turn. The best performance comes from a truly moving William Gaunt, have never seen the valedictory speech delivered so powerfully and Gaunt's grief is tear inducing.
Spot on too is the character interaction, especially the violent tension between Richard and Bolingbrooke where the tension does chill without being overplayed. Simon Godwin's stage direction is always tasteful, everything made sense, it isn't too safe, the drama has the right amount of the wide range of emotions and all the different touches worked. Not just how Richard is interpreted but even the staging and decision of the coronation chosen to preface the action comes off really well, it could have been potentially distracting and gimmicky but was quite shrewd and a good way of setting things up.
Production values are elegant and atmospheric with nothing coming over as jarring. The intimate photography makes the viewer feel like they are part of the action. Have no qualms with Shakespeare's dialogue, personally have never found it rambling and the wide range of emotions and intrigue still remain. It may alienate those not familiar with it beforehand, but with more familiarity of the play it shouldn't be as alienating.
The fashion industry is such a great backdrop for anything related to crime and has often been used effectively in crime/mystery shows (i.e. 'Murder She Wrote', 'Monk', the 'Law and Order' franchise, most Scooby Doo incarnations). My main reason for rewatching Season 17's twentieth episode "Fashionable Crimes" was John Munch returning, loved him as a character when he was a regular and hated how increasingly underused he became.
It was great to see him again, though the episode itself could have been a lot better. There are a lot of good things with it, and that is including Munch, but there have been much better stories, writing and character interactions on 'Special Victims Unit' episodes before and even since. Liked the idea of the story, which did have the makings for an at least interesting episode, but the execution generally felt on the bland side. A middling Season 17 episode.
Munch is a delight, some amusing lines and great authority and Richard Belzer embodies all that. Really loved his cute final scene, and the episode's closing scene is very sweet without being sickly. The writing was rather wanting here, but there were moments. With Barba's recovery from the bonnet line being hilarious.
Barba was always one of the best things about the latter seasons and his authority and sass shine here. Raul Esparza does a great job. The production values are still fully professional, the slickness and subtly gritty style still remaining. The music is sparingly used and is haunting and thankfully non-overwrought.
However, there are an equal number of shortcomings. Most of the team seemed tired and disconnected, have seen far more nuanced and involving performances from Mariska Hargitay since and especially before. The story is rather bland and suffers from a lack of any surprises or suspense, what should have surprised was obvious.
Carisi does some uncharacteristic conclusion jumping, immediately believing that the screams were genuine. There have been plenty of rootable victims on 'Special Victims Unit', but somehow the victim is rather unsympathetic with some of their behaviour frustrating where one is not sure whether to trust. The dialogue is fairly mundane and doesn't always flow.
In conclusion, another mixed feelings sort of episode. 5/10.
On first watch, "Unsheltered Outcasts" didn't impress me all that much. Not in a didn't do anything for me way, but more in a very mixed feelings to indifferent way. Season 17 was an acceptable enough season, though a very inconsistent one. Excellent at its best, like the two part season finale, and mediocre at its worst like "A Misunderstanding" for an example. The plot was not a new one but 'Special Victims Unit' has had instances of doing something great with basic sounding material.
"Unsheltered Outcasts" is not one of those episodes, with my feelings on rewatch being unchanged. It's not awful and has enough to make it worth a one or two time watch, but it could have been a lot more and could have executed some of the material more tactfully. As far as Season 17 goes, "Unsheltered Outcasts" is one of the lesser episodes (though there was worse this season and almost certainly throughout the whole show.
There are things that are done well. The production values are solid and the intimacy of the photography doesn't get static or too filmed play-like. The music when used is not too over-emphatic and has a melancholic edge that is quite haunting. Most of the acting is fine, Peter Scanavino faring best and proving why Carisi was one of the best additions of the later seasons.
Carisi is still a breath of fresh and there is a very cute scene between him and Rollins.
Did feel though that the pace was quite dull, due to being rather thinly plotted and there is too much of a derivative feel from revisiting a familiar theme and scenario. Also because of the lack of tension and suspense. The perpetrator's identity was not a surprise at all.
Kevin Tighe is wasted in far too small a role, also thought his brought back character and his underused subplot added absolutely nothing to the case. If it was left out, as it was the least important plot point, it would not have harmed the episode and it would have tightened the pace probably. Did feel that it tries too hard to make rapists look not as bad as they actually are and not as bad as murderers and could have explored how rape affects victims afterwards.
The first part of this two parter "Manhattan Transfer" was a very good episode and one of the better faring ones of the latter half of Season 17. Not a perfect episode, with a couple of things that don't quite come off but when it works it is truly excellent. Memories of "Unholiest Alliance" were extremely positive and that it was a very powerful and memorable episode, the episodes that fit those adjectives is very good sign of when the show is on form.
Re-watching "Unholiest Alliance" not long after "Manhattan Transfer", my thoughts are still extremely positive and actually found it an even better experience than the previous times. While liking "Manhattan Transfer" very much, this is even better and even more powerful. Containing all the great things of that episode yet executes them even better, while also having even more great things. One of the best episodes of Season 17.
My only issue is that it did try to cram a little too much towards the end.
"Unholiest Alliance" otherwise is excellent. It looks good, with the usual slickness and subtle grit. Really liked too that the photography was simple and close up but doing so without being claustrophobic. The music has presence when used, and luckily it isn't constant, and when it is used it doesn't feel over-scored. The direction is controlled but also tight. The script is thought provoking and doesn't ramble, while also having edge and tact.
Story-wise, this is even more sinister and more tear and anger inducing than "Manhattan Transfer". It is a topic that is in need of addressing as it certainly is not dated, and what is scary is that it does happen. It is not unrealistic at all. We also don't have to worry about Olivias fundamental errors that compromised the case in the first part, which stuck out too much.
Peter Scanivino is splendid here, in a Carisi-heavy case where one sees how it affects him, and Robert John Burke's reaction in regard to Eugene is very believable. Carisi's hurt and shock at this breaks the heart, underneath all that straight talking carisi really does have a heart.
Anybody who has read any of my other reviews for for example individual episodes of the 'Law and Order' shows, have been for the past three years slowly working my way through writing reviews for all the episodes of 'Law and Order and 'Special Victims Unit' with a long way to go, will know already how much admiration there is from me for anything that tackles difficult and controversial themes and issues. The topic here did sound interesting and quite brave.
"Manhattan Transfer" is the first part of the second two parter of Season 17, the first being "Devil's Dissections"/"Criminal Pathology". The subject here is a courageous and scary one and also very sensitive, that in the right hands can be powerfully explored. Though there also can be the risk of heavy handed-ness and one sided-ness. "Manhattan Transfer" and its second part "Unholiest Alliance" for me was in the former category and is a very good episode.
Nearly everything works and there for me was little to criticise. It is an incredibly well acted episode, with no real sore spot. Raul Esparza is heart breaking jn his reaction to Benson and tucker and Robert John Burke gives one of his best performances of the show. Love Tucker's softening and development. The story is harrowing and chilling, an example of a subject in need of an umcompromising edge getting exactly that. It really chilled and moved me and it's only the first part of the two parter. It's also tactful, which is not always the case with episodes that have religion playing a big part.
The script is intelligent and tight, not coming over as melodramatic or too on the surface level. It looks good, with the usual slickness and subtle grit. Really liked too that the photography was simple and close up but doing so without being claustrophobic. The music has presence when used, and luckily it isn't constant, and when it is used it doesn't feel over-scored. The direction is controlled but also tight.
However, considering how Tucker treated SVU in the past, where he was very antagonistic and one of those love to hate it characters, he and Olivia are not ringing true yet.
A bigger issue is that Olivia makes a lot of basic mistakes here, the worst one being the senseless and unrealistic stuff with Nina.
This is another episode that has a type of story that tends to leave me rather eh. There are times where it has been done very well on 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit', where it's hard hitting and thought provoking. But when it is not done well, it's heavy handed and too sleazy, the worst of them being on the sensationalist side. The episodes in the latter seasons that had this type of story tended to be on the latter side, or at least close to it.
"Star Struck Victims" doesn't completely fall into that category, but there are too many times where it comes very close to being. It is not a terrible episode at all, more slightly above average with major reservations, and other 'Special Victims Unit' episodes executed this type of story a lot worse. It does though fall into the biggest traps that come with this concept and has a few of the things that make me not a fan of this type of story.
Am going to start with the good. The production values are slick and professional, not lavish but it is not that type of show. The music is haunting while not intrusive or overused. The direction is sympathetic without being too low key. Dodds Jr's character writing here has improved vastly compared to his previous appearances, much more personality. He especially shines in his chemistry with Rollins, wasn't crazy about her here on the whole and their chemistry was enjoyable to watch.
Did think that there was some taut and thought provoking lines, and Barba's sarcasm comment was gold. The acting is very good all round.
In my view though, most of the team are too underused and some of the character writing for the regulars didn't quite work. Especially with Olivia's hypocritical and sanctimonious attitude towards Rollins, and Rollins being beyond unprofessional to the point of being criminal.
Furthermore, not much sympathy was felt for the victim here on my part. Too many story changes and contradictions. While Delaney Williams has always done a great job as Buchannan, (every prosecution witness' worst nightmare for good reason), there are times where you wonder why he still has his job with the things he says frequently, the worst of which are distasteful as can be heard at times here.
Concluding, slightly above average but not great. 6/10.
Despite the setting being a very familiar one, the premise did sound very cute. Jen Lilley is a bit hit and miss for me, but she is good in the right roles. Brendan Penny is more consistent, his subtle charisma and easy going charm obvious in most of his roles apart from when his material is weak or/and has bad leading ladies. Have always liked Peri Gilpin and love her on 'Frasier', an all time favourite of mine. Hallmark's Countdown to Valentine's Day output is very up and down, but there are some good ones out there.
'A Dash of Love' thankfully is one of them. A very worthwhile and charming watch and one of the better Countdown to Valentine's Day films from the year, even though not great with a few of the flaws often found in Hallmark films. It does show that Lilley can be good with the right material and it doesn't do anything to disgrace or waste Penny and Gilpin. As far as 2016's Hallmark output goes, 'A Dash of Love' is neither one of the best or worst and is instead around solid middle.
It isn't perfect. It could have done with more freshness, really liked what was done with the setting but the basic story is pretty formulaic and there is not much surprising.
The biggest problem, and the only massively major one that sadly dragged the film down significantly, was the truly ridiculous, rushed and contrived last 30 minutes that is capped off by an ending that is too convenient and unrealistically so.
However, a lot is good. The best thing about it is Lilley, who is a radiantly charming presence and works very hard in making the film without trying too hard. Her character is a flawed one but not overly flawed. Penny brings subtle charisma and easy going charm to his role, one that is not much different from most of his roles but it is a type of role he plays well. Gilpin gives a zesty supporting turn in a role very different from Roz. The characters are cliched but are engaging and easy to connect with, until the last act. The romantic chemistry is understated but always natural and genuine.
The direction is not innovative, but 'A Dash of Love' is one of those films that doesn't require that. It still shows a nice understanding and control of the material and the character interaction doesn't come over as static.
Production values are well crafted and never look cheap, the scenery is especially nice. Hallmark tend to over-score their films, the music here fits nicely and doesn't come over as constant or too loud. Certainly not to the extent where you can't hear the dialogue. The dialogue here is suitably light-hearted and playful, while also having the right amount of seriousness without being melodramatic. The story makes great use of the setting, which has great nostalgic value, and while unoriginal and formulaic it is also lively and has a light and warm heart.
Hallmark may be very inconsistent in all their season blocks every year (their Christmas films particularly), but there are films of theirs that are surprisingly well above average and more in every season block and every year. Their 2018 output did have misfires throughout the year ('Christmas at Pemberley Manor'), but also films that impressed me ('Pearl in Paradise'). Was very impressed by the 2018 Fall Harvest efforts, and consider the 2018's Fall Harvest block one of the more consistent Fall Harvest blocks.
'Under the Autumn Moon' is on the whole a pretty good effort. Is it a great film? Not quite, actually an easy film to criticise if one is particularly not familiar with Hallmark's output, which is quite more of the same and very up and down in all its own. Is 'Under the Autumn Moon' worth watching and does it have a lot of good things? Yes, and as far as Hallmark's 2018 output that had been aired already goes it's one of the solid middle ones but also among their better ones overall that year in a typically variable year for them.
It is far from perfect. It is formulaic and doesn't have many surprises, almost everything is obvious well before it happens (and it is not just the neatly wrapped up ending).
As well as the too neat and convenient ending, the whole final act is rushed and contrived. Also didn't like the too constant and over loud music, not uncommon with Hallmark.
On the other hand, there are a lot of good things. Lindy Booth and Wes Brown, both pretty consistently strong Hallmark regulars, are good, and their chemistry connects well and is suitably romantic. The supporting cast are solid. It is a good looking film, especially the scenery. While not a script that will win awards, the script is light-hearted and witty, clearly knowing what it was trying to be and clearly understood the genre the film fits under. Doing so without trying to throw in too much tonally or adding anything unnecessary.
Story is not original, but is full of charm and never takes itself too seriously, while also treating the subject with maturity. The pace never felt dull while not being rushed. The supporting cast are solid.
Also felt that the characters weren't too stereotypical and were more than just typical Hallmark cliches that is seen too often with Hallmark. Also cared for them, with them being true to life with personality traits that appealed with situations worth relating to.
Despite being a massive Scooby Doo fan for goodness knows how long, expectations were somehow not high for 'Be Cool Scooby Doo' prior to giving it a chance. The advertising in my mind was terrible and the animation style, one of the franchise's least appealing, was very off putting. Still gave it a chance as a fan of the franchise and of animation in general and there are films and shows that have bad advertising but turn out to be good and this was one of them.
"If You Can't Scooby Doo the Time Don't Scooby Doo the Crime" is not one of the best episodes and a let down after a few rather great outings, especially the previous one "Where's a Will there's a Wraith". It's still good fun and has a lot to like, but it did feel like something was missing. As far as 'Be Cool Scooby Doo' up to this point of its run goes, "If You Can't Scooby Doo the Time Don't Scooby Doo the Crime" is one of the lesser episodes. Nice idea and setting, but the writing in particular was hit and miss (disappointing as this is one of the strongest aspects of the show usually).
Am going to start with the not so good things. Really don't care for the animation though, it still is flat and sparse and the character designs have always come over as ugly to me. Was rather disappointed by the character writing for Daphne this time, on the whole this was a revelation in the show and so refreshingly quirky but here she is both bland (having lost her quirkiness) and annoying.
Plus there are some major trust issues between her and Fred that doesn't sit right in the episode, meaning it was out of place. While a vast majority of the writing works, the lasergun sharks recurring joke was repetitive and got stale quickly and the trust issues and Fred losing it because of his obsession were overwritten. The final solution is pretty predictable.
However, a lot works well. As said, a good deal of the humour is great. The sandwich gag, also repeated, is hilarious. The setting is cool and creepy, proof that the franchise lends itself well to prison settings, evident already in 'The Scooby Doo Show's' "The Creepy Case of Old Iron Face", 'Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo's' "I Left My Neck in San Francisco" (though this featured in only a small part of the episode) and 'What's New Scooby Doo's' "The Case of San Franpsycho". Stealin Stan is not one of the show's best or most memorable villains but has the right amount of creepiness.
Shaggy and Scooby are delightful, while enough of the dialogue is smart and amusing. The story isn't perfect, but it's nicely paced and entertains and intrigues enough. The voice acting is great.
Of the two leads, there is more familiarity with Emily Kinney from watching 'The Walking Dead' in its early seasons (back when it was great) when her character Beth was on the show. Am one of not many who didn't dislike her, despite her there being far more interesting and plausibly developed characters. Have not seen enough of John Reardon's work, but in what has been seen of him has not stood out that much. Watched 'Love on the Sidelines' primarily as someone who has been watching Hallmark films for a while now.
'Love on the Sidelines' impressed me on the whole and it is one of the better faring Winterfest films. It isn't a great film and is not exempt from flaws, but there are a lot of good things as well and it is a nice effort generally. As far as Hallmark films from that year go, 'Love on the Sidelines' is not one of the best. And it is also not one of the worst. Instead one of the solid middle efforts, which is not too bad a position to be in when seeing how variable that year was for Hallmark.
It isn't perfect. There is absolutely no doubt how everything is going to map out or end, the Winterfest films are quite samey structurally and 'Love on the Sidelines' follows the formulaic structure to the letter pretty much. Making it predictable too many times, especially in the final third, and pretty much all the standard Hallmark cliches are here.
Would have liked more spark from Reardon's performance, with him coming over as a little bland at times. The ending is also too convenient for my liking.
There is however a lot to like, with 'Love on the Sidelines' being especially worth watching for Kinney. Who is a real charmer in her role and brings a lot of energy and charm, this is a role that suits her well and it helps that the character is a likeable one. The supporting cast are solid and Kinney and Reardon do work well together, understated but not disconnected and the affection is felt.
It is a good looking film visually, regardless of the lack of authenticity/accuracy the scenery is gorgeous and taken full advantage of in the photography. The music has been known to be overdone and intrusive in Hallmark, it is pleasantly festive here. The script is playfully light-hearted and has a good deal of heart without being sentimental. The story is far from perfect, but it was clear what it was trying to do and wanted to be and it is very charmingly cute and heart-warming.
Throughout my recently started Hallmark film completest quest expanding (so The Spring Fever, Summer Nights, Fall Harvest etc blocks on top of the Christmas films) an interesting quest but very mixed one, there was never the mentality of expecting a classic or the film in question to be flawless. Which never was the case. There was always the expectation of seeing a film where one can see at least some effort rather than merely cash-in level.
Effort that can absolutely be seen in 'A Novel Romace'. It is only the second 2015 Hallmark film and already that year has gotten off to a promising start for Hallmark. No Hallmark film seen yet has been great, though many has had many great things while having a few not so good ones. Which is the case with 'A Novel Romance'. Really liked the concept, which was cute if familiar, and the film does a nice job with it while never doing anything extraordinary.
'A Novel Romance' isn't perfect. It is let down by the very rushed and very silly final act, with almost everything happening too hastily and most of it not ringing true. Like most Hallmark films, the ending is a bit too neat.
Was expecting to be pretty predictable, and was not disappointed in this respect, very by the letter.
However, so much is great. It is a very nice looking film, one of Hallmark's best looking 2015 films in my view. The scenery really does entrance and the photography doesn't cheapen it at all. The music at least fits tonally and in placement and has presence without being over-loud. The dialogue is sharp enough and flows naturally, while also having the right amount of sentiment (not too much in quality and quantity).
Characters aren't complex, then again that shouldn't be expected watching Hallmark, but aren't too stereotypical and are generally likeable enough. The story may be predictable and not perfect in execution, but it is incredibly charming, sweet without being too sugary and very heart-warming. There is a nice lightness to it too on the whole. The cast are all solid, with Amy Acker being especially engaging. Very nice chemistry with her and equally charming Dylan Bruce.
On first watch, "Collateral Damages" came over as a truly powerful and intelligent episode. Not only did it become one of my easy favourites of Season 17, but also saw it as an episode that got the season back on the right track. 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' has been very on and off as a show for me for a while now. The early seasons saw a lot of brilliance with only a small handful of disappointments, but from the mid seasons onwards it varied wildly.
"Collateral Damages" still is that powerful and intelligent episode, once again the subject is an extremely tough one that needs a lot of uncompromising and tact to pull off well. Both can be seen here, and what could easily have been disjointed considering the structure was anything but. "Collateral Damages" may not be a 'Special Victims Unit' high point, but to me it is easily the best episode since "Institutional Fail" and in the top 5 of Season 17.
Almost everything works wonders. It is shot with the right amount of intimacy without being claustrophobic and that the editing has become increasingly tighter over-time has been great too. Nice use of locations too. The music doesn't get over-scored or overwrought, even in the more dramatic revelation moments. The direction doesn't try to do too much and is understated but never flat or unsure.
The script is intelligent, non-soapy and layered with no signs of rambling or dumbing down. Excellently done too is the story, which is harrowing and truly sad. One that goes from one case to another (am not always crazy when this happens because it can mean disjointed-ness) seamlessly. The regular acting is without issue, the standout being Raul Esparza. Barba's justifiable anger and frustration towards Abraham is very believably done. The best overall performance though comes from an outstanding Jessica Phillips in what is easily her best appearance, was not a fan of Cox's previous appearances but felt really sorry for her here. Josh Pais is strong too, the writers do laudably in not making Abraham too loathsome or too sympathetic, but at absolutely no point is any sympathy felt for him. Really like how Tucker has softened, though his chemistry between Olivia has changed too quickly in my view.
Not a perfect episode by all means. The sentence is far too lenient considering the severity of the crime.
Did think also that Fin is criminally under-utilised and bland.
Otherwise, excellent episode and one of the best of Season 17. 9/10.
Gregory Yates was a character that made such a big impression in his previous appearance on 'Special Victims Unit', the 'Special Victims Unit'/'Chicago PD' crossover "Daydream Believer". Throughout the time he was on both shows, he proved to be a very creepy character though his arc did last for about two episodes too many perhaps. His episodes this season were far from perfect and were not for all tastes but he did not lose what made him so memorable.
My feelings on "Nationwide Manhunt" were mostly positive, while also not being amazed by it and being really put off by one major event that took away from enjoying the episode further. It is a shame that that was the case, because there was a lot to like about "Nationwide Manhunt", primarily the atmosphere and the acting. "Nationwide Manhunt" may not be one of the best episodes of Season 17, but it is a long way from being one of the worst.
What really brought the episode down was the prison escape, truly unrealistic and even more unrealistic than when William Lewis escaped. It is done in a way that would not be allowed in real life and done by somebody who should never have been there in the first place (her presence should have been considered immediately suspicious).
It can get predictable and some of it, such as the ending, is too reliant on coincidence.
For all those not so good things, there are plenty of things that are done well, very well even. The production values are slick, gritty and professional. The music is haunting while not spelling out the emotions too much. The direction has enough momentum while not rushing. The script always intrigues and has enough tautness as well. The regular acting is all fine.
Jefferson Mays and particularly Dallas Roberts, once again showing his expertise at playing creepy, are suitably unsettling as Rudnick and Yates. The story on the whole has not lost its creepiness or tension, especially when things become more urgent.
"Forty One Witnesses" struck me as quite a powerful and well done episode on first watch, despite some of it being on the obvious side and easy to solve sooner than it was. The subject is another tough one and 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' often had a strong track record of its pull no punches way of tackling controversial or difficult issues. This aspect was handled a lot more consistently in the early seasons, but had many instances later on of doing this aspect well.
Luckily, "Forty One Witnesses" is one of those episodes. My feelings on it are still quite positive with more good found with it than bad. The story is not a perfect one and the extra something (such as more surprises, tension etc) that make the best episodes of 'Special Victims Unit' so good isn't quite there. It does do a good job with one of the tougher and most relevant subject matters of Season 17 and is a major improvement over the underwhelming previous episode "A Misunderstanding".
Sure, it doesn't hold very many surprises and is rather slow to begin with.
The character writing isn't flawless either, with Rollins being unusually unsympathetic and Olivia's sight sighted-ness and pushiness is getting old.
However, a lot is good. The production values are still slick and suitably gritty (without being too heavy in it). The music is not too melodramatic and is not used too much, even not being too manipulative in revelations. The direction lets the drama breathe while having enough tautness too, so things don't get dull. Barba is a sassy and authoritative breath of fresh air as always and Carisi is a strong presence too.
Furthermore, the script on the whole is well done, provoking thought throughout the length and is like a lean steak cooked just enough to not have too much fat while not losing the flesh. The story grabs the attention later on and intrigues and frightens. The acting is very good, especially from Raul Esparza and Peter Scanavino. Patrick Breen has the most interesting supporting character with a unique way of thinking ( that the episode did well exploring) and plays him compellingly.
Am really not a fan of the "she said, he said" sort of stories overall. Especially when a show like 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' does them in most of its seasons (especially the later ones) and to such variable effect. Some are hard hitting and powerful, like "Burned". Others are sleazy and one sided, like too many in the later seasons. So expectations were not high on first watch of "A Misunderstanding". Was not impressed with it on the whole on first watch.
Sadly, "A Misunderstanding" also wasn't much better on rewatch and epitomises why this sort of story is not a favourite. With it having all the reasons as to why the later seasons "she said, he said" cases don't do it for me and to a distasteful degree. Season 17 was an inconsistent season but not an awful one, and this is very easily down there among the worst episodes of the season. Not unspeakably awful, but the aftertaste it leaves is quite a bitter one.
It has things that redeem it a little. On a visual level, the episode is solid and the intimacy of the photography doesn't get static or too filmed play-like. The music when used is not too over-emphatic and has a melancholic edge that is quite haunting.
There are some nice one-liners from especially Barba and Calbourne. The Romeo and Juliet references were interesting. The acting is very good considering the material, the best performance coming from Raul Esparza.
However, absolutely nothing new is done with the type of story this is, most of what happens is what has been seen quite a number of times. It has a very flimsy case with too much circumstantial evidence and very slight. There is no suspense, with the urgency already drained early on from the overlong opening scene, and it is dully paced and overstretched, this could easily have been done in half the time.
Olivia comes over as self righteous and biased, really don't when she jumps to conclusions with little evidence and where she judges on her gut instinct and doesn't consider any alternative. The ending left more questions than answers, the truth seemed vague to me. The writing is very preachy, especially in regard to the discussion about a sexual engagement law and affirmative consent, and just didn't care enough for anybody involved.
Was initially nervous prior to my first watch of "Townhouse Incident" when it first aired about seeing the episode to be perfectly honest. Not because of hating 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit', as that is not true (although it has not been the same for a long time). But because of getting tired of seeing episodes where Olivia is in peril and so soon after everything with William Lewis, so it was a case that she should have really not gone near.
"Townhouse Incident" turned out on first watch to be much better than expected. Did find one scene in bad taste that also bothered a lot of fans. On rewatch, it holds up and is every bit as good. It is a long way from being a show high point and it is not one of the best episodes of Season 17 (as well as nowhere near one of the worst), but it delivers on the tension that is expected from this type of story and is not as drawn out or as ridiculous as feared.
Still felt that the much-criticised rape scene was completely gratuitous and seemed to be a cheap way of bringing back Olivia's traumas.
Also felt that Barba and Fin were under-utilised, Fin especially has next to nothing to do and is bland.
However, a lot of things about "Townhouse Incident" are good. To me, it is the best looking episode of Season 17. Especially the photography, which has more slickness and variety in types of shots than has been seen in some time. When the music is used it is haunting and has a melancholic edge that is not overdone. The episode is sympathetically yet uncompromisingly directed, especially in the more tense second half.
Furthermore, the script is intelligent, taut and thought-probing, with a lot of talk but not in a way that rambles or feels padded and it doesn't get too melodramatic. There is also a tense and adrenaline filled story that doesn't get too predictable and doesn't feel dragged out or far fetched. Mariska Hargitay has the right amount of steel and vulnerability, things that she always brought whenever there was an Olivia in peril type of story. The supporting cast fare solidly, was very unsettled by the perpetrator. Did like that Tucker had softened and a lot more likeable (and that is saying something) than he was in the early seasons.
In summary, very well done though won't be for all tastes. 8/10.