TheLittleSongbird

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Reviews

My Boy Johnny
(1944)

Terrytoons grow up
In general, the standard of the Terrytoons cartoons was between mediocre at worst and decent at best. Never irredeemable, though there were some very weak cartoons both in their earlier and later output, but also never properly outstanding. The music was always the best asset, while the animation improved vastly over time. The story however was very nearly always the sore spot even in the best Terrytoons cartoons, and the characterisation and the gags were hit and miss.

1944's 'My Boy Johnny' is something of a departure from Terrytoons' usual work, one of their more mature cartoons with a heavier subject that one doesn't expect from Terrytoons. When looking at the studio's filmography, there is no question that for this reason it stands out. That was what was meant by the review summary, if it sounded derogatory and like a knock against the studio that wasn't the intent. Found 'My Boy Johnny' to be one of the best 1944 Terrytoons cartoons and one of their overall best even.

Even if it is a cartoon that appeals more to adults, who will find themselves relating to it more, and one of the few where it might not appeal or be as understandable to younger audiences born well after this was made and not familiar with the subject. That is not meant to be any kind of generalisation, or to imply that younger audiences are dumb (far from it).

The story is flimsy and pretty basic, a common problem with Terrytoons that they never really managed to sort out, and could have tightened in pace.

'My Boy Johnny' though clearly has its heart in the right place and doesn't feel too preachy. There is some nice well-timed humour that managed to be amusing enough and some of it, especially the ending, is poignant. The characters are not rich in development but are hardly devoid of personality.

Furthermore, the animation has improved so much since the studio first started and is very good. When Terrytoons first started, the animation was not really good at all, now it is the component that has shown the most improvement. It is nicely detailed, lively and colourful, with a vividly rendered and not too cutesy setting and vibrant colours that don't look garish. Even better is the music, the one component that never faltered. It is beautifully and cleverly orchestrated and arranged, is terrific fun to listen to and the lively energy is present throughout, doing so well with adding to the action.

All in all, one of the better Terrytoons cartoons from 1944 and stands out in premise and in quality. 7/10

Gurimu meisaku gekijou: Tsugumi no hi ge no ousama
(1988)
Episode 20, Season 1

King Grizzle Beard
'King Grizzle Beard' (or 'King Thrushbeard') is a story that has grown on me over-time. On first read, the unlikeability of the female protagonist and what to me seemed over-the-top abuse of her put me off. But now as a young adult, they don't put me off anywhere near as much and really do appreciate the story for its character growth and the valuable lesson/message it teaches. An important one to teach and is hardly out of date today, far from it.

Although it is not without its flaws/inconsistencies and some episodes are better than others, 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater'/'Grimm Fairy Tale Classics' is well worth watching and is quite a fascinating series. Of which its version of 'King Thrushbeard' ranking all the episodes is in the better half. It does very well at making the story engaging and accessible and gives it near-full impact while still being tasteful. It handles the story better than 'Simsala Grimm' did, which made the titular character too cruel.

Will admit to not always being particularly bowled over by the voice acting, which is generally one of the more variable components of 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater'. That aspect was starting to improve, fit more and become more consistent, and this felt like a step backwards. The narrator and the voice for Helena's father came off best, the latter being the one that fitted the most. Did think that the titular character should have had a more mature voice, he sounded more like a prince than a king and it didn't fit his treatment of Helena. Who came off better and softened when she grew as a character but sounded shrill at the start.

Some of Grizzle Beard's treatment of Helena, while thankfully not too extreme, was done in a way that made one feel sorry for Helena too early, despite hating her at first.

The animation though is bright and detailed, if not always with finesse in the drawing. The music doesn't feel as recycled or too 80s and is in sync with what's happening well. Really admired the maturity of the writing, perfect for a story that is very mature, and the story compelling. The lessons Helena is taught make their mark without going too extreme on the cruelty.

Helena's character writing is one of 'King Grizzle Beard's' most striking assets. You do hate her at first but by the end she's the one one feels sorry for. Of the female characters that have negative character traits and are taught a lesson, Helena is the among those that to me grows the most throughout the story and her change is believable as a result. The valuable lesson/ message 'King Grizzle Beard' resonates without being laid on too thick.

In conclusion, very well done. 8/10

DuckTales: Time Is Money: Part 5 - Ali Bubba's Cave
(1988)
Episode 5, Season 2

Diamond in the rough
Love 'Ducktales' even more now than as a child, and it was one of my favourite shows when younger. Do think though that the first and second seasons are better in quality than the other two, still a lot of fine things in the other two but the previous two seasons had more spark, fared a little better on the animation front and when it came to character focus they were more balanced.

"Time is Money" is an inconsistent arc, one of two that the second season consisted solely of, but never less than watchable. Put the fifth and final part "Ali Bubba's Cave" bang in the middle ranking the five parts that the arc is made up of. The best being the first part "Marking Time" and the fourth "Ducks on the Lam", the former being more exciting and the latter having more emotional impact. Do put this above "The Duck Who Would Be King", which was entertaining but did have little to do with the arc, and particularly "Bubba Trubba", which didn't do an awful lot for me and needed much less Bubba.

"Ali Bubba's Cave" does not quite have the poignant emotion and heart that "Ducks on the Lam" conveyed so beautifully, where the relationship between Bubba and Scrooge was so heartfelt. When that was done so well there, it was slightly disappointing that it didn't quite have the same impact.

It, the episode that is, also wastes everything to do with the going back in time introduced previous to it. It's brought up but nothing is done with it, an important plot point that is practically ignored. Where every one of the diamonds end up in the outcome, considering how they were gotten out of the cave, wasn't buyable to me and seemed on the convenient side.

However, there is so much to love here. Do love Scrooge and Bubba's relationship, and despite what the title suggests Bubba is not overused, serves an important purpose to the story and is interesting. Will always love Scrooge as a character, he's a miser but a likeable one, and he contrasts well with Glomgold. The Beagle Boys are great fun.

Story is very compelling with some exciting action, lots of entertainment and thrill value and an unexpected twist. Everything to do with Bubba is very nicely done and balanced. The animation is fine, it is very vibrant, fluidly drawn and the attention to detail in the backgrounds is also note-worthy. Can say nothing wrong about the music, the score is dynamic, beautifully orchestrated, never jarring with the action and full of energy. Just as animated shows of this kind should be. It is impossible to resist or forget the theme song, one of the catchiest in animation and ever. The dialogue is smart and a nice mix of funny and emotional. The voice acting is without complaint here.

Overall, decent episode and conclusion to a generally well above average if inconsistent story arc. 7/10

The Play House
(1921)

Wackiness in the playhouse
In his prime, there was nobody quite like Buster Keaton, deservedly considered one of the greats in silent comedy. Nobody back then and even now were as daring when it came to high-risk stunt work in physical comedy and he was an unparallelled master at making deadpan both funny and expressive. Something that one doesn't see an awful lot as many would struggle at doing one of those let alone both well.

'The Play House' may not quite be among his very best overall, in a filmography full of quintessentials. When it comes to Keaton's short films though, and there is a vast amount of them, it's one of my favourites. 'The Play House' is a must see for any fan and for anybody and everybody and it is one of the most imaginative and funniest examples of the type of story it has, deliberately and undoubtedly silly certainly but endearingly so.

Of his silent short films, 'The Play House' is one of the best looking. The closest his short films get perhaps to being a technical achievement with a surprising amount of boundary pushing in film trickery when playing the amount of characters Keaton plays simultaneously.

A lot of funny and even hilarious moments, beautifully timed, deliciously wacky and it never feels too much. All of them work, when you watch 'The Play House' having just watched a good comedy albeit with a couple of misses in the humour department or a comedy that is not funny at all and not good in quality too that is great. There is enough variety to not make it all repetitive. Some of the more physical work is typically daring

While a very slight one, the story is charming and never dull, even with the freedom it has. The vaudeville dream sequence is the very meaning of a show-stopper. Virginia Fox is appealing and the rest of the cast have fun with their roles.

Keaton is the reason to see 'The Play House' though. In a huge number of roles executed simultaneously and handled expertly. Such great comic timing and he is worth rooting for as well, his unique quality of his deadpan delivery never faltering.

Summarising, wonderful. 10/10

Titus Andronicus
(1985)

"Blood and revenge are hammering in my head"
'Titus Andronicus' is not among my favourites of Shakespeare's plays, a playwright of whose lesser plays are still worth the watch and read. Of his tragedies though it is in my opinion one of his most disturbing and moving. It is very powerful when performed well, Shakespeare's dialogue is unmistakable in style and rich in emotion and the characters are typically compelling. If asked as to whether 'Titus Andronicus' is worth the watch or read or both, the answer would be yes.

In 1978 to 1985 the BBC did a series of Shakespeare performances, performing all of his plays, even the lesser known and problematic ones. The quality was uneven, as has been said more than once, but the series overall is just fascinating and most of the productions are well done or more and feature solid and more performances from very talented actors, varying from deservedly lauded to the under-exposed. This 'Titus Andronicus' is the last of the series and to me it's one of the best, doing full justice to the play. Saw the 1999 film version some years ago and loved that version too in its own way.

Did feel that Anna Calder-Marshall and Paul Davies Prowles were slightly bland in their roles, but part of it is down to that neither role is particularly meaty to put it lightly.

All the rest of the characters are never less than excellently performed. Thought the standouts to be Trevor Peacock's noble Titus and Hugh Quarshie's slimy, shrewd and sometimes witty Aaron. Edward Hardwicke is an authoritative Marcus with the right amount of subtlety and forceful, while Brian Protheroe is suitably sinister if not always nuanced. Eileen Atkins is regally poised as Tamora.

While not the most lavish or elaborate in terms of production values, 'Titus Andronicus' is not dreary or cheap either.

Excepting a slightly jarring opening, the staging is compelling. Very poignant and disturbing, it doesn't quite have the pulls-no-punches feel of the film version. It is still uncompromising and doesn't tone down anything.

Overall, really great. 9/10

Das tapfere Schneiderlein
(1956)

The Brave Little Tailor
There are fairy/folk tales that perhaps lend themselves better to short films or television episodes. Would class 'Das Tapfere Schneiderlein', translated into English as 'The Brave Tailor' as actually a fairy/folk tale that has enough to sustain just about feature length, with a lot going on. It is typically for the Brothers Grimm (or at least their collection of tales) entertaining and engaging, even if not among their most imaginative.

1956's 'Das Tapfere Schneiderlein' makes do as an older adaptation of a story that is not adapted an awful lot compared to other Brothers Grimm fairy/folk tales, even if you only see it once. Seen as part of my older East German fairy/folk tale quest, it is not one of the best but it is a definite interest point for those interested in seeing older fairy/folk tale stories adaptations. The case with me. Still continue to feel why there aren't any more of these old East German fairy/folk tale film adaptations around and why those that are available aren't better known, because most are better than a lot of fairy/folk tale adaptations made in recent years.

It has its dull and occasionally aimless stretches and the film could have shorter by about ten minutes, despite saying that the story has enough to fill a length longer than a short film/television episode length.

Not all the acting is the best, Christel Bodenstein's performance can tend to be pantomimic but the character is part of the problem, difficult to bring much endearing to anybody with a selfish, vindictive character trait.

However, 'Das Tapfere Schneiderlein' has a lot of good things. Visually it holds up with imaginative production design particularly. It was appreciated that it wasn't too flashy or big in spectacle at the risk of being overblown and not too much on effects at the expense of everything else. Atmosphere, whimsy and character is peppered in the music. A nice job is done mostly with the characters, with an easy to root for protagonist/titular character.

'Das Tapfere Schneiderlein' doesn't get too mature or too dark that it is inaccessible for younger audiences, yet it also doesn't get too childish that adults feel there's not enough for them. It would have been a shame if either or both of those things happened because 'The Brave Little Tailor' is a story that has enough appeal for both target audiences and suitable for the whole family. Even if familiarity with the story may need to be in order perhaps. The story is charming and entertaining on the most part, it does get strange but weird in an intriguing, fun way and not in a way that cohesion is lost.

All in all, nicely done. 7/10

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie: Meurtres en solde
(2018)
Episode 22, Season 2

Hercule Poirot's Christmas
'Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie' consists of loose adaptations of Agatha Christie's books, using them as a basic framework. Anybody wanting one hundred percent faithful adaptations may find themselves disappointed. Judging the series and the episodes as standalones, one should be in for a treat providing they known what to expect. Because on its own, the series and most of the episodes are very enjoyable and charming.

"Meurtres en Solde", adapted from 'Hercule Poirot's Christmas' (though of course without Poirot), is an excellent example of this. Alice fans, me being one, will love it and it does really show how far the Laurence/Avril periods have come on. With what really didn't work at first no longer being problems as such, some episodes also adopting a darker and more suspenseful tone while not taking things too seriously. "Meurtres en Solde" is great and among the better Laurence/Avril episodes, even if it has pretty much nothing to do with 'Hercule Poirot's Christmas' (not one of my favourites from Christie but the pretty ingenious final solution elevates it, previously adapted very well for the David Suchet adaptation).

Will admit to not being the biggest of Tricard fans, too little to do and doesn't add an awful lot. Just personal opinion and probably not one many will agree with.

However, "Meurtres en Solde" is full of fantastic things. Visually, it was clearly made with a lot of care and love with nostalgia-inducing period detail that is vibrant and atmospheric complemented beautifully by the photography. The music has a good mix of light-hearted and suspenseful, a good match for the beautifully balanced writing and storytelling. The writing is thought-provoking while the levity was welcome and didn't feel stale or forced.

The story mixes complex, twist-filled mystery, in a way true in spirit to Christie's writing, with vintage Laurence/Alice/Marlene chemistry, which is great fun and charming. Alice and Marlene continue to be bright spots, Alice has lost none of what makes her so great a character, and Laurence is so much more relaxed and likeable compared to his early episodes (he's also pretty amusing). His personal life is interesting and doesn't get too in the way of the mystery.

Blandine Bellavoir is a joy particularly of the regulars. Aurore Clement is great support and Jacques Frantz revels in his character's unpleasantness (without over-doing it).

Overall, fine episode. 9/10

Transfer
(1966)

Strange transfer
David Cronenberg is a very interesting director, one unlike any other. Not one of my all-time favourites, but most of his work ranges from above average to outstanding. My favourites, talking about films for now, from him being 'The Fly', 'Dead Ringers', 'Eastern Promises', 'A History of Violence' and a toss up between 'The Brood' and 'Spider'. And my least favourites being 'Stereo', 'Crimes of the Future', 'Cosmopolis' and 'Maps to the Stars'.

'Transfer' is most interesting for being Cronenberg's first short film and his first work. Other than that and completest sake (wanting to see as much of his work as possible), there is not an awful lot going for it and do feel bad for saying that, being an admirer. Every Cronenberg effort is watchable, even if just the once, 'Transfer' for me is a lesser work of his and with not enough to make me want to see it again. A couple of nice thematic touches that Cronenberg introduced, but he explored them much better later.

It looks surprisingly decent for such early Cronenberg, actually looking better than a couple of his early films (i.e. 'Shivers', 'Rabid') and having a suitable amount of eeriness. The photography and editing do not look amateurish.

Some nice quirkiness here and there and the feeling of loneliness is suitably mysterious and oddly moving.

Cronenberg's direction shows inexperience however and does have the feeling of a student film that barely passes when assessed. The story, for something so short, really lacked lustre and can perplex more than intrigue. Like his lesser efforts, 'Transfer' felt very clinical and emotionally distant, one of not much of his work to not make me feel anything.

Didn't find that the dialogue flowed very well as it should and was delivered stiffly, that was when one can hear it. As one of the short's biggest problems is agreed the awful sound.

Summarising, a failure but not an unwatchable or uninteresting one. 4/10

National Theatre Live: The Audience
(2013)

Explosive intimacy
'The Audience' was a completely new discovery for me but really wanted to see it for a good deal of things. Have immense fondness for the National Theatre Live cinema series, of which there are many gems, and love how accessible they are. Also love Helen Mirren as an actress and she fits and plays regal characters magnificently. A play mixing humour, pathos and satire sounded really appealing and the concept just sounded so interesting.

Found myself not disappointed at all by 'The Audience', then again to be honest there were no doubts in the first place. Found the play very interesting and entertaining with good balance of tone. And the production was first rate. It is always great to see a production of a play completely new, being somewhat refreshing when you want a change from seeing either productions of plays that are oft-performed and very famous or productions of plays that aren't as well known and revived. That is the joy of the National Theatre Live series, that balance of new, familiar and seldom performed often with great casts.

Mirren is the main reason to see 'The Audience', she is the full embodiment of Elizabeth and plays her with full authority and nuance. The other outstanding performance came from Richard McCabe, the scenes between him and Mirren really struck an emotional chord. Barely recognisable Paul Ritter's performance is also deeply felt and the fiery Haydn Gwynne is a very strong contrast, her and Mirren's chemistry has a lot of fire and steel.

It is a simple but also attractive production visually, the actors also cope with the transformations incredibly well and some were pretty rapid. The staging is intelligent and despite the story structure it is not hard to follow and entertained and moved. The young Elizabeth touch wasn't in any way distracting in my mind, and helped give Elizabeth some dimension.

As far as the script goes, that is one of the best things about 'The Audience' other than Mirren. Humour, pathos and satire can be heard throughout, beautifully balanced and each executed extremely well on their own. The humour is genuinely funny and can be witty and also ironic. The pathos is genuinely moving and will admit tearing up, especially in the scenes between Elizabeth and McMillan. The satire is sharp and mocks effectively, but never in a mean way, enough of it was pretty gentle.

Do agree though that Edward Fox was dull as Churchill when he didn't have the tendency to go overboard with the line delivery.

Altogether, apart from that this was a fine performance. 9/10

Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Art
(2001)
Episode 2, Season 1

The dark side of art
The original 'Law and Order' will always to me be the best of the 'Law and Order' shows (other than the UK 'Law and Order', but that feels more like its own separate show or at least how it feels to me). Do feel though, since seeeing them regularly through late night re-runs though that both 'Special Victims Unit' and 'Criminal Intent' are worthy spin-offs, if more in the earlier seasons than the later ones.

"One" was a very good if not completely settled start. "Art" sees 'Criminal Intent' continuing to go strong and actually find it an even better episode. Whereas the original 'Law and Order' and 'Special Victims Unit' saw a slight step down in quality between their respective first and second episodes, 'Criminal Intent' instead got better in this regard which is what it really should be. It got me hooked and there wasn't the feeling of being unsure or having the decision as to whether continue or bail.

Goren and Eames' chemistry gelled and settled more in subsequent episodes, though can't be too hard on the episode on this front because the show has literally just begun.

Wasn't admittedly left completely floored by the denouement, though it is a clever and plausible one.

Besides, "Art" is a fine example of the beauty of 'Criminal Intent' being in how Goren and Eames get to the truth, their methods, Goren's being unusual and the more psychological approach. Very intriguingly done and doesn't come over as overdone or rocky. The writing is a good balance of not being overly-simple or too complicated, treating the viewer with respect with neither making them feel dumb or losing them. The story is a more complex one than the one for "One", with twists and turns that are plausible, don't complicate things too much and are clever. The dark side of art is not a novel concept but is treated very well here.

"Art" is a slick looking episode, like the production values for 'Law and Order' and 'Special Victims Unit' and the music thankfully doesn't intrude or feel ham-handed. The direction has momentum and breathing space, so it's not hard to digest what is going on yet it doesn't become dreary either. The detective methods and psychology are very intriguing, as is the character of Goren. A character brilliantly portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio and there is a nice softer contrast in Kathryn Erbe. Tomas Arana is not one to forget as Langer and Elizabeth Marvel is just as strong.

In summary, great second episode. 9/10

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: A Single Life
(1999)
Episode 2, Season 1

Not so simple death
Re-watching 'Law and Order Special Victims Unit', through its regular late night re-runs, overall has seen me having a more positive opinion of it. The early seasons, with many brilliant episodes, are better by quite some way. Despite not being aired as much as the more recent seasons, which to me have a different feel and are not as balanced in focus. Overall though the show has grown on me.

It is episodes like "A Single Life" and even more so the brilliant previous episode "Payback" that helped re-assess my "started off brilliantly but jumped the shark" initial opinion of 'Special Victims Unit', or at least not as drastically as that. This was back when there was a better balance of case, trial and moral issues, when characters behaved with more professionalism and when personal lives didn't take over too much of everything else. "A Single Life" is not quite on the same level as "Payback", then again that would have been a hard thing to achieve, but it is impressive stuff.

Do agree that "A Single Life" starts off somewhat rough, it came over as pretty awkward and Benson's showing up was on the convenient side.

Wasn't sure what to make of exchanges like the one between Stabler, Benson and Cragen when going through the victim's belongings. The dialogue did admittedly make me laugh out loud, but at the same time the exchange didn't really gel with the rest of the writing and tone and one that will be taken either way of amusing or cringe.

"A Single Life" otherwise has a lot of great things about it. It is a typically well made episode visually for the same reasons as with the production values for the original 'Law and Order', being suitably slick and gritty. The music is spare in use but has presence without being intrusive or repetitive. The main theme and voice over have always stuck with me.

The writing has tautness and provokes thought without being melodramatic, a few clumsy attempts at humour (my opinion) aside. The story is not quite as complex or as disturbing as the one in "Payback", but it did make me think, make me feel uncomfortable and balanced its story elements well. The climax is absolutely searing, especially for Laila Robins acting the heck out of it. Can't fault the performances either, from all the regulars, but especially Mariska Hargitay, and from a poignant Robins and creepy Paul Hecht.

Very good episode on the whole if a step down from "Payback". 8/10

Law & Order: Subterranean Homeboy Blues
(1990)
Episode 2, Season 1

"Trust and lawyer, that's a pair of words that don't match"
In my mind, 'Law and Order' was at its best in the Briscoe years (especially in the 90s). Pre-Briscoe it still made for solid and more television, and on the whole the 'Law and Order' that started it all (this) is still the best. Post-Briscoe, again from personal opinion, it didn't feel the same. Do like 'Criminal Intent' quite a bit and 'Special Victims Unit', again the early seasons being better by quite a bit, has grown on me on re-watch.

"Subterranean Homeboy Blues" had to follow on from a very, very good start in "Prescription for Death", which also handled a difficult subject and based on a real life case that divided opinion. Didn't feel that it was quite as good, while still considering it very well done and crafted on the whole. 'Law and Order' when it had properly found its feet did become tighter and meatier later, in pace, character writing and character chemistry, but it is great to see the tone of the show established well so early on.

The difficult and heavy subject is every bit as much as that in the previous episode and really makes one probe a lot of thought and try and form an opinion on a moral issue that can be seen from both sides. Again the handling of it is admirable and intelligently done. At the same time, the subject in "Prescription for Death" was done with a little more subtlety and had a little more poignancy in my opinion.

Otherwise, there is not anything wrong really with "Subterranean Homeboy Blues". Visually, the gritty tone of the episode is matched by the slick photography and New York is both beautiful and unforgiving. The music is neither placed and composed with a heavy hand, and the main theme is one that does stick in the head (likewise with the opening voice over). The dialogue, with the music used relatively sparingly, really gets to shine because it doesn't have anything intruding or overbearing it.

Furthermore, the dialogue is of high-quality, being very thought-provoking. Although there is not as much of Stone's dry humour, it doesn't feel over-serious that it becomes dreary, to me there are things done here that are done better than "Prescription for Death". There is more of the facts of the case it's based on and more is done with them. Really liked that you could see the issues from both sides so it doesn't feel biased. The characters are interesting, with a perpetrator that is oddly rootable despite it being a case of not being sure as to whether that is the right thing to do. Stone is still the juiciest character and Shambala Green makes a memorable first appearance.

Have no issues with the acting. Cynthia Nixon excels in the first of three 'Law and Order' (the overall franchise, not just this show) appearances and Lorraine Toussaint is suitably tough as nails. George Dzundza and Chris Noth have enough of the hard-boiled edge needed for their roles, even if their chemistry has yet to gel fully, and Michael Moriaty's authority and dryness adds hugely to his juicy part.

Concluding, very well done. 8/10

Annabelle Comes Home
(2019)

Return to the Conjuring universe
Although horror is not my favourite film genre, and have made that known more than once before in the past, there is still high appreciation for it. Although there are a fair share of average at best films or even clunkers (even when trying to take them for what they are or intend to be), there are also an equal fair share of good horror films as well as classics, which won't be named in order to be fair.

Really enjoyed the two 'The Conjuring' films for the same reasons to each other, that they were well-made, well-crafted, suspenseful, entertaining and had genuine shocks. 'Annabelle' is inevitably compared to them, but to me it doesn't compare favourably and could have been much better. Its prequel 'Annabelle: Creation', although far from perfect or great with some of the same mistakes being made, again to me fared better, though again not close to the quality of 'The Conjuring' films. 'The Nun' meanwhile was a mediocre disappointment. Put 'Annabelle Comes Home' in the middle and personally found it a difficult film to rate and review, though it will be easier for others.

'Annabelle Comes Home' looks good. There is a great Gothic atmosphere, lush and darkly atmospheric production design and stylish photography. The supernatural effects are surprisingly excellent too. The music is haunting and the direction brings a genuine eeriness and mysteriousness in places. There are parts that are suitably uneasy and eerie once 'Annabelle Comes Home' gets going.

The pace, again once the film gets into gear, it has been said that the mute vision in the television is the scariest part and do have to agree with this. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga do good jobs, though take a backseat to the younger cast. Was worried that this would not work, but the younger cast carry the film quite well and don't bore and annoy as feared.

However, the story is near-non existent with few surprises and can get very silly. Especially towards the end. Although there are moments of scares and suspense, there are not enough of either and could have done with more build up that would have made them less predictable.

Did feel that the pacing was still very flawed. 'Annabelle Comes Home' takes too long to get going and then the climactic parts feel very rushed. The ending is one of the film's biggest issues, as well as being rushed it was very anti-climactic and bordered on plain ridiculous, as well as illogical. The dialogue is no improvement too, very awkward-sounding and banal, doing little with developing rather clich├ęd characters.

Summarising, difficult to rate and review. Watchable but never rises above borderline between average and decent. 5/10

Le Pig-Al Patrol
(1967)

Chasing motorcycles
De-Patie-Freleng Enterprise's The Inspector, perhaps their second most popular, better and biggest in number of cartoons after The Pink Panther series, series is made up of thirty four cartoons. The first being 1965's 'The Great De Gaulle Stone Operation' and the last being 1969's 'Carte Blanched'. Not all the cartoons in the series were particularly great, some average or less, but most are well worth watching.

1967's 'Le Pig-Al Patrol' fits under that distinction. Consider it among the better The Inspector cartoons and the best of the 1967 cartoons as far as the previous ones of that year go. It is one of the well above average, even good, The Inspector cartoons, well made and enjoyable. Also one of the funnier 1967 The Inspector cartoons. At the same time, it's not one of the series' most inventive as an overall whole.

Story-wise, it is relatively formulaic and some of the pacing could have been a touch tighter.

Pig-Al is a great villain and among the better ones of the series perhaps, the best and most memorable in a while. The chemistry between Pig-Al and The Inspector sparkles, important for 'Le Pig-Al Patrol' to work as it centres pretty much only on them. Pat Harrington does a particularly great job and Marvin Miller was interesting.

Gags, mostly physical and visual, are many and they are very funny and clever. Do agree that the air and cab door gag was a standout and also loved those signs. It could have been sharper at times but the wit and irony are done well. It was a shame that Deux Deux and the great personality contrasts between him and the Inspector are missing, but their absence don't have too much of a big hole.

'Le Pig-Al Patrol' is fine visually. The animation is simple but never cheap-looking, while the somewhat abstract backgrounds have nice attention to detail, more so than the Pink Panther cartoons (not a knock at all on the animation of that series), and don't look sparse. But it is the deep and rich colours that stand out in this regard. Liked the jauntiness and jazzy slinkiness of the music, which didn't sound too cheap or repetitive.

In summation, well above average and well done. 8/10

The Borgias: The Siege at Forli
(2012)
Episode 7, Season 2

"If you don't have the stomach for this spectacle, you'll find that Spain lies that way"
Season 2 in my mind is more settled and more consistent than the patchy (with a little bit of a slow start) but very promising Season 1. Namely because the dialogue and pacing improved by quite some way in the second season, when they could be issues in the first. Up to this point, Season 2 hasn't had a bad episode (don't consider any episode in Season 1 bad either), actually loved all of them equally.

"The Siege at Forli" continues the continually high standard, with so many things that can't be faulted. It may not have the emotion of a couple of the previous Season 2 episodes, namely the climax of "The Choice" (and of the suceeding episodes "The Confession"), but the entertainment value and intensity is in full force. Likewise with the intrigue. It's an eventful episode, but doesn't in my mind feel rushed or overstuffed.

Did feel that despite the charming chemistry that everything with Lucrezia and Raffaello seemed on the underdeveloped side.

Also, although showing a degree of progression the Della Rovere subplot did generally feel rather dragged out in the second season, feel the same here although it doesn't feature too heavily.

Other than those, "The Siege at Forli's" strengths outshine them and they are nearly ignorable because the good things are so good. The return of Juan is hardly wasted, his role dominates the episode actually. The good news is that Juan is an interesting enough character to justify that, he is even more detestable than before, everything with Caterina is just brutal and David Oakes relishes that. The action scenes are tense and pretty graphic and one of the episode's clear highlights is Savonarola's "bonfire of the vanities" scene which has the ability to shock. There is also some welcome entertainment value too to balance all that out, on this front this is one of the funnier episodes. The opening scene is very amusing, and everything with the cigars equally amuses and doesn't get tired too early. The dialogue is thought provoking and doesn't sink into melodrama too much, this is an aspect that's come on a lot since 'The Borgias' first began. Lucrezia's wit shines most.

Caterina again lives up to her "Tigress of Forli" nickname, and Gina McKee is both radiant and cunning but also vulnerable in her chemistry with Oakes. Sean Harris shows the ability to be chilling but not overtly and remarkably subtle, namely through the eyes. Machiavelli is fun, Jeremy Irons' underused comic timing is put to good use and the writing for Lucrezia has thankfully, despite threatening to, not gone backwards, viewers will be relieved now that the character has since undergone a significant character growth. Other than Juan, the character that made the biggest impression on me was Savonarola, as well as being quite frightening an Uncle Fester-like Steven Berkoff has an absolute ball here and it is so much fun to watch.

Visually, "The Siege at Forli" is spot on. The costumes are just exquisite, especially those of Lucrezia and Giulia, and the scenery and interiors have the wow-factor, namely the interiors of the Sforza Castle. The photography captures those qualities beautifully. The music still has the beauty and intensity that were present in the previous episodes. Meanwhile the opening titles sequences and main theme still give me the chills. one of my favourite opening titles sequences of all time (film and television). The main theme is incredible, the sheer intensity, grandeur and drama (already sending chills down the spine and induces goosebumps before the episode's even begun) makes it one of my favourite main themes for any show.

In conclusion, incredibly well done. 9/10

House of Cards: Chapter 31
(2015)
Episode 5, Season 3

"No writer worth his salt can resist a good story, just as a politician can't resist making promises he can't keep"
The first season of 'House of Cards' was wonderful and remarkably consistent, its weakest episode "Chapter 8" still being good. The darker Season 2 was never less than very good with so many fantastic elements, though to me the second half of it was better than the first, the best episodes of the season all being in the second half of it and rivalling the best of Season 1.

'House of Cards' has not lost its solidity yet, which is great, with the show still being in its prime (Seasons 1-4, was disappointed in especially Season 6). Although this and the previous four episodes of Season 3 are not quite up to the same level as the best of Seasons 1 and 2, the intrigue and tension is more than there and all the episodes are very high in both. There is also a lot to admire about all the episodes up to this point of Season 3, the best elements wonderful, though apart from the excellent "Chapter 28" the story direction didn't feel completely settled.

"Chapter 31" is on the most part very good and actually very close to great, the strengths far outshining the couple of weaknesses.

Will be honest in feeling that Jackie was written more strongly in the previous season, with more force and steel and her subplots in Season 2 were more interesting and more relevant. Am not disparaging her and her writing here, this is in comparison considering she was one of my favourite things about Season 2 whereas here it has been more about the tensions and intrigue between Frank, Claire and other additional characters. With her subplot, found Remy, felt sorry for him actually, easier to get behind.

An awful lot is fabulous here though. The new characters are handled very well here. Thomas' introduction was very strikingly done, David Fincher would be proud and couldn't help being reminded of him looking at how it was shot. Did feel in a way though that it went on a little too long. Kate is also interesting, a smart character and charming too. Do not agree with the previous commentator regarding Kim Dickens being bad, thought she did a great job and it reminded me of the way she played her relatively similar character in 'Gone Girl'. Claire's sparring with the suave and enigmatic Russian Ambassador had the right amount of tension and showed Claire's increasing ruthless.

Frank continues to be a fascinating, increasingly unscrupulous character, with typically memorable lines and have always loved it when he breaks the fourth wall. Don't think he dominates too much, which was a criticism had with the first half of Season 2. The acting is terrific as always from all, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright do not disappoint. The production values are slick and stylish and the writing distinctively sharp and biting. The story always compels and even if the political elements are not an awful lot new they haven't lost their intrigue or suspense. James Foley returns as director, and there was a reason as to why he was one of the show's most used directors, he paces things very well and his film experience shows too.

On the whole, very good. 8/10

Bleak House: Episode #1.2
(2005)
Episode 2, Season 1

The Evils of Chancery
Charles Dickens is very difficult to adapt, 'Bleak House' being the most complicated with its long length, complex and narratively and character rich and sprawling (somewhat) nature. It is not one of the most gripping or accessible first reads, but being older and being more familiar with Dickens' style it strikes me as classic Dickens in a good way. Despite its complexity it's easier to read now, and watching this adaptation really helped at the time.

After an outstanding first episode of the second, more accessible, better known and equally brilliant adaptation of 'Bleak House' (after the 1985 one), it is hard to not expect a second episode as good or preferably on the same level and perhaps better. Wasn't disappointed at all. The pacing hasn't loosened and the story and characterisation are richer. As an adaptation, it's wonderful, it is every bit as successful on its own terms.

The first episode was a setting things up one and introducing everything, which it did outstandingly. Episode 2 builds upon what was set up before, again doing so outstandingly.

Episode 2 looks wonderful once again. It's beautifully shot and the Victorian era is nailed in both look and atmosphere, although the buildings and costumes are so handsome to look at one can feel and smell the full impact of the dangerous living conditions present in the era. The music fits nicely.

Once again, the characters and story are treated with respect while still making it easy enough to follow. The intensity has also increased, with Tulkinghorn being even more of a nasty piece of work. The dialogue is thought provoking and with the right emotional impact, type and amount.

While all the performances are never less than strong, the outstanding one comes from sinister Charles Dance. Gillian Anderson has lost none of her haunting presence as Lady Dedlock as well.

In conclusion, outstanding. 10/10

A Private War
(2018)

A powerful war
Marie Colvin was a truly courageous and inspirational person, one of the most courageous and inspirational people of her time perhaps, with a story that should be known and told more. It's one that resonated with me reading of it and despite not going through anywhere near as much as Colvin did (despite having a lifelong rough time myself) it was very easy to relate to her and root for her cause all the way. The trailer also looked great and Rosamund Pike has impressed me a number of times previous.

Despite 'A Private War' being critically well received and Pike's performance being pretty much universally acclaimed, when finally released in my country it was criminally and shamefully underseen with hardly any advertising and a limited cinema release (the few cinemas that did show it had screenings at inaccessible times). Much more than this incredible woman and her story deserved and for the film to get this treatment is an injustice. Finally seeing it a few days ago, it was well worth the wait because while not perfect 'A Private War' was a powerful experience. Actually felt it treated Colvin and her story with respect and subjectively feel that some of the criticisms it's garnered here are unfair and over-the-top to the point of disrespect.

'A Private War' is not perfect. There are time jumps back and forth that can feel rather jumpy and rushed, so it's a little disjointed at times.

Stanley Tucci is far too underused in a very underwritten part, Tucci plays it well and gives it a good bash but it is hard to do more with limited screen time, a sketchily developed character and some of the film's more clunky dialogue.

However, 'A Private War' has a lot working in its favour. The production values are both beautiful and grittily unforgiving, with editing that really adds to the increasingly hard-hitting authenticity and a striking wide variety of camera shots that don't give the impression of being too clever or showing off, instead doing what the editing excels in. Matthew Heinemann directs with enough momentum and breathing space with no visual self-indulgence at the same time, especially good in the latter stages. The music is used in the appropriate places, recorded without being too loud and has the right amount of unsettlement. Am surprised that hardly anybody has mentioned Annie Lennox's Golden Globe-nominated original song "Requiem for a Private War", truly haunting stuff.

Other than some melodramatic moments, the script is thought-probing and poignant and one feels constant admiration for Colvin. While the back and forth structure was flawed, the story still continued to grip and the film does deserve credit for not trivialising the subject. It actually pulls no punches and is not an easy watch (both her bleak personal life and the job), doing so in a harrowing way and it had me emotionally drained by the end, more so than most films seen recently. Did not feel 'A Private War' glorified Colvin or villified anybody else, and thought a difficult story was treated with respect.

Have a lot of praise for the cast too. Jamie Dornan shows that in the right role with good writing he can be good, a very deeply felt performance, while Tom Hollander is also very good. 'A Private War' though belongs to Pike, who is absolutely exceptional as Colvin, one of the best of the year in my view, and it is a mystery that she didn't get more awards attention. Giving a lead performance as fearless and intensely committed as Colvin herself, doing it while disappearing into the role and becoming her and not being an impersonation, have always liked her a lot but her performance is is on the same level as her unforgettable turn in 'Gone Girl' in its own way.

In conclusion, very well done film though a hard watch. To be seen mainly for Pike. 8/10

Toy Story 4
(2019)

Pixar on the road
Am a big fan of Pixar and have been for two decades or so. Have not loved everything they've done, 'Cars 2 and 3' and 'The Good Dinosaur' (to a lesser extent too 'The Incredibles 2') disappointed though certainly didn't dislike any of them. Their best work though are masterpieces, for me the previous three 'Toy Story' films, 'Inside Out' and 'Coco' fit this distinction as do most of their short films.

Was in two minds when hearing that there was going to be a fourth 'Toy Story' film. Am somebody who would see the latest Pixar film, regardless of critical reception, at the earliest opportunity, not for nostalgia but for being an animation fan and having appreciation for high quality stuff. But it is very understandable that people are saying that they questioned the point of this being made and that 'Toy Story 3' was a perfect end, that was the very first reaction felt when first hearing of it. Those who weren't bowled over by this shouldn't be crucified for feeling underwhelmed and feeling that it was unnecessary.

My aforementioned initial reaction was still not completely quashed finally seeing 'Toy Story 4' for myself. Thought actually it was still a good film, namely on its own, but if quickly getting any comparisons out of the way it is quite a bit below the quality of the first three 'Toy Story' films and as far as Pixar films go it's towards the bottom in my opinion. Which is actually not a bad thing, it says a lot about how brilliant much of their work is. A lot of great qualities, but the disappointment from some is understandable.

The story is a slight one and can feel over-stretched, especially when in the latter antique store scenes. This is the only 'Toy Story' film where the pacing was flawed in my view. It is a shame too that most of the original gang are underused and their material not being much of note.

Buzz didn't have the same spark and it was like those involved had not remembered what made him so memorable. The ending is proof that the ending of the third film was the perfect note for the 'Toy Story' films to go out on, because this one is one of the most anti-climactic and unsatisfying-in-outcome for any recently seen film (for me that is).

However, the animation is superb and the component that actually improved with each film, although that in the first is ground-breaking. Was transfixed by the vibrant colours and rich background and character details, toys and humans. The antique store and fairground settings are vividly done. It was great to have Randy Newman back on board again, not easy to imagine a 'Toy Story' film without him and the magic hasn't been lost. Reprising "You've Got a Friend in Me" was a genius move and that was what stuck out most memorably in this particular regard.

Enough of the dialogue is witty and sharp, 'Toy Story 4' is far from laugh a minute but it is a long way from humourless. The best laughs coming from Ducky and Bunny, Duke Caboom was fun too. 'Toy Story 4' is not without soul either, found Gabby to be one of the Pixar's most empathetic and interesting supporting characters of their 2010s output (a "villainous" character that is not really a villain). Forky is likeable and his chemistry with Woody, on top form, is charming. It was great to see more of Bo Peep and her personality more developed, a mix of sympathetic and sassy. Her chemistry with Woody, which one really feels, is one of the film's biggest pleasures.

Voice acting is terrific, Tom Hanks, Annie Potts, Christina Hendricks and Tony Hale standing out. Didn't recognise Keanu Reeves either.

Overall, good film but not a great one. 7/10

Rent: Live
(2019)

Didn't leave me frozen, but doesn't burn
'Rent' may not be one of my all-time favourite musicals, speaking as a fan of musicals, but it has great songs and a lot of emotional power with sensitive and powerful themes. There is much worthy of admiration. The 2005 film is definitely worth a look, a solid adaptation (though not as good as on stage) and although imperfect it also is a worthy film on its own. Between that and this, there is no doubt really which is the better 'Rent' of the two.

Considering that one, as indicated already, is actually good. Whereas, apart from some great things and moments, this "live" production doesn't really cut it and generally does not gel. It had all the ingredients to gel and be a harrowing, moving experience but it never properly gets there, by all means it's not terrible or irredeemable but it is very easy to see why people were disappointed. Have seen a fair share of these live musical productions made for television and haven't really been a fan of any of them, especially 'Peter Pan' namely because of the usually great Christopher Walken.

Will start with what was good. Brennin Hunt, giving the performance of the night (his vocals makes the jaw drop and the raw grit does wrench the gut), and Jordan Fisher are powerhouses in their roles. If the production did something well it was how it accommodated Hunt's injury. Brandon Victor Dixon is touching as Tom. The most unexpected good surprise was Vanessa Hudgeons, didn't have as big an opinion of her before but she is a revelation here, her voice has grown so much and she acts with a lot of feeling. The same can be said for Kiersey Clemons.

There are a few highlight numbers. "Over the Moon" is one of the few times where the production properly came to life. "I'll Cover You" reprise was the one that brought the lump to my throat the most and "Take Me or Leave Me" is the production's show-stopper in my mind. The costumes and sets are evocatively rendered and the orchestra sound great and perform 'Rent's' fine score and songs with plenty of spirit. The ending is very powerful.

A lot unfortunately doesn't work and don't really have much to add to what has already been said. The camera work is far too frenetic, as an epileptic some of it left me nauseous, and is often focused somewhere else (all the times irrelevant) other than where it should be. The sound quality is badly unbalanced, with the orchestra too loud frequently and some of the vocals sounded underpowered (i.e. Tinashe). Have also not come across a more irritating audience for anything in a long time, actually manages to be even worse than the audiences on the television talent show competitions. Too loud and at inappropriate times.

Have said that there were good renditions here, but the production would have been better if the pace calmed down and the choreography wasn't so erratic (with a mix of just right, too busy and under-energised). A few powerful and moving moments aside, there are some unnecessary and downright strange changes that kill the momentum of the drama and stops it from having enough emotional impact, 'Rent' shouldn't leave one cold but by tampering or toning down what was so resonant and daring about it the production felt bland and too safe. The nadir though, other than the irritating audience, is the walking disaster that is Valentina's Angel. Won't go into detail as to why because everything about the performance was wrong other than managing to look the part, will say though that the all over the place singing was especially painful.

Concluding, a very mixed bag. 5/10

Once Upon a Time: The Garden of Forking Paths
(2017)
Episode 3, Season 7

Up the not so peaceful path
Will admit to being rather underwhelmed by the previous two episodes of the seventh and final season. Didn't hate either of them mind, but considering how good 'Once Upon a Time' was at first and how much it improved it is sad that it started to become uneven during the second half of Season 5, run out of ideas and try to do too much. All of which the previous two episodes suffered from.

Unfortunately, although not quite as badly, "The Garden of Forking Paths" suffers from all of that as well. Am saying this with a heavy heart and with absolutely no malice whatsoever, have never reviewed anything with malice or intended bias (even when frustration and over-passion, and occasional defensiveness, kicks in) and have always tried to be fair and balanced. Hope this comes over here in this review. "The Garden of Forking Paths" is not a bad episode, nor is it a particularly great one with a mix of some good and some bad.

The good things will be started off with. The production values are still impressive, they are far from ugly, with a lot of colour without going overboard, and the atmosphere is still there. The photography may not be cinematic-worthy, but is still highly attractive. The music doesn't ever sound cheap or out-of-kilter, fitting well with the mood and never found myself questioning its placement. The main theme is still memorable.

Andrew J. West has settled really well as Henry, with plenty of charisma and emotion. Actually think he settled quicker than Jared Gilmore. Gabrielle Anwar continues to kill it as Victoria, the most interesting character here and a plausible and suitably menacing antagonist. Really liked Tiana and seeing more of her, her entrance was one of the episode's best moments. Lana Parrilla continues her streak as the most consistently good actor on 'Once Upon a Time', outshining another cast bright spot Robert Carlyle who from personal opinion was not well used in Season 7, she commands the screen so well.

Carlyle left me mixed here, which is a bit disappointing by Carlyle standards. He is great on the interpretation level, is fun to watch and makes much of his material, but there is far too little of him and Cockney accents are really not a strength of his.

Nobody else really stands out. Excepting in a bad way Dania Ramirez (again, there is a reason as to why she is the show's most widely panned actor), really do disagree that she improves here. Actually thinking that there is not much difference and it stayed that way somewhat throughout Season 7. Would forgive the fact that she is implausibly too old if everything else worked, sadly nothing about her work. Find her very irritating rather than charming, she never looks comfortable and there is no chemistry between her and any of the rest of the cast. Sincere apologies if this comes over as nasty, that's not the intent but personal feelings.

What also has failed to improve is the writing. That element was patchy to start with at the start of 'Once Upon a Time' but got significantly better quickly, before varying from the Underworld arc onwards. Here, there is no nuance or little wit here, instead it is a whole bathtub's worth of melodramatic soap and unintentional camp. There is nothing fresh about the romantic elements, which feel more like rehashed cliches, and the conflict is still feeling too underdeveloped and introduced too suddenly. Nothing really feels fresh, there is an unfocused feel as a result of trying to include too much, it manages to feel both rushed and dull (with the newer material making no impact) and instead of questions being answered more questions are raised, not what a season with the intent of refreshing a show should do. Nothing really comes together cohesively and feels like two or more episodes in one.

Summing up, didn't hate "The Garden of Forking Paths" but it could and should have been much better. 5/10

Tiny Toon Adventures: The Buster Bunny Bunch
(1990)
Episode 5, Season 1

Won't leave the viewer riled
There are a number of shows that have gotten better and better with each re-watch, even with not every episode working to full potential. Ones where things that impressed on first re-watch are even stronger and also things not noticed beforehand or paid as much attention to very much noticeable and to every bit as good or even better effect. 'Tiny Toon Adventures' is very much one of those shows, loved it when younger but love it even more now and that shouldn't be a shameful thing to admit.

Satirising 'The Mickey Mouse Club', "The Buster Bunny Bunch" is another episode to be divided into two or more segments. In this case three, made up of "Buffed Bunny", "Squish" and "Born to be Riled". It is an example of how to do a segment-structured episode well and for me one of 'Tiny Toon Adventures' best early episodes. For a three segment episode, "The Buster Bunny Bunch" is a consistent one, where all three segments are equally great. Rather than one being weaker than the other, was thinking that "Squish" would not be as strong with it focusing on a character not as strong as the others but it more than holds its own, not wearing the justice at the hands of fate premise too thin.

Of the three, my favourite is "Born to be Riled". Babs' imitations are indeed dead on and are absolutely brilliant in accuracy and comic timing. Love Plucky too and he has one of his best (and most truthful, love Plucky by the way and consider him one of the show's best characters) lines regarding him having an ego the size of Cleveland.

"Buffed Bunny" sees Buster and Arnold on top form and is the closest segment to match the episode's title. Perhaps the segment too to feel the most true in spirit to the original Looney Tunes cartoons.

Animation continues to be great. Bright, smoothly drawn and beautifully detailed. The music is as good as the old Looney Tunes cartoons (prime-Looney Tunes, not most of the 60s ones) in being characterful and adding to the action, if not quite enhancing it in the same way. It always helps to have a memorable theme tune, and the one for 'Tiny Toon Adventures' is suitably hip and very catchy.

Writing here is wonderfully wacky and razor sharp in wit, as well as being smart and spot on in comic timing. The references are both inspired and cleverly inserted, none feeling random or misplaced. Absolutely love the characters and the voice acting is on the money as one can't help expect from some of the most talented and most deservedly prolific voice actors in the business at that time.

Altogether, love this episode and wasn't riled up by it in any way. 10/10

I Likes Babies and Infinks
(1937)

Cheering Up Baby
Fleischer Studios made numerous good and more cartoons. Regardless of how some of them veered on being the wrong side of cute and thin plotting was a common feature in their cartoons, they were also very well made and scored, the characters appealed and enough of them were amusing and charming. If asked whether their cartoons are recommended, the answer is a yes. The mid/late-30s Popeye cartoons especially.

Of which 'I Likes Babies and Infinks' is in the top half, in one of the studios best years. It is all of the above positive things and just about avoids being too cute, despite the presence of a baby (a dangerous type of character to pull off in animation and any visual media for that matter), even if the story is somewhat thin and formulaic. It has enough invention, in visuals and humour, to stop it from becoming predictable and repetitive, or too much so at least. It is a fine example of why Popeye and his cartoon appeal a lot to me and what makes them work so well is all evident here.

Apart from the thin story, the only other flaw is that again Olive has too little to do compared to the other characters, screen time and in material which is also weaker than that of the other characters. All of which are spot on. Popeye is amusing and likeable as always with his as ever hilarious asides and mumblings, and Bluto is an even funnier and imposing foil. Love their chemistry, which was always a strength even in their lesser efforts. Not making Swee'Pea sugary sweet and obnoxious would have not been easy, but 'I Likes Babies and Infinks' just about achieves not doing it and Swee'Pea was a scene stealer in a way.

'I Likes Babies and Infinks' does not disappoint when it comes to the animation, which is very good. It's beautifully drawn and with immaculate visual detail, that doesn't ever feel cluttered or static, and lively and smooth movement. Neither does the music underwhelm in any way, lots of merry energy and lush orchestration, adding a lot to the action and making the impact even better without being too cartoonish. Fleischer's direction is always accomplished and his style is all over it.

Lots of very funny to hilarious gags here and the ending is very clever and a nice pace-changer. Jack Mercer is especially good of the voice actors, his vocal delivery being why the asides and mumblings make as much impact as they do.

Summarising, great. 9/10

Wild Down Under: Wild Down Under
(2003)
Episode 1, Season 1

Natural history down under
'Wild Down Under' may not be one of my all-time favourite nature documentaries, or one of the best or most ground-breaking, but it is absolutely fascinating to have a look at Australian wildlife and habitats in more detail and remarkably varied in types. Proof that David Attenborough is not the only person responsible for high-quality nature documentaries, there are many 'Wild (insert country or subject)' and 'Wildest (insert country or subject)' documentaries and all worth watching at least

This first episode, also titled "Wild Down Under" deals with Australia's natural history, with a wide range of species and types of forests. This includes Tasmania, the Australian Alps, the Top End, Kakadu. "Wild Down Under" couldn't be a more riveting start, setting the high standard of high production values, variety, a mix of entertaining and informative and a mix of the familiar (but shown in a different way) and unfamiliar. Couldn't have asked for more really.

As to be expected, "Wild Down Under" is a wonderful looking episode and features some of the series' better-faring Aerial shots, namely with the Australian deserts and what can be found there (i.e. parallel dunes, new to me). Always looking fluid and liked the intimacy, despite being familiar with Tasmanian devils, through Looney Tunes, it was very interesting seeing them up close and behaving in a way that was very educational and not an easy watch, amazed that they actually managed to film it. The different forests look absolutely stunning and that they're shot so expansively enhances their beauty.

Music complements very nicely and adds a lot, not always enhancing but never intruding as such. The information is both entertaining and informative, and delivered by somebody who clearly had a lot of enthusiasm and love for the project and what was being talked about. All without being over-eager or preaching. Freshwater crocodiles, wombats and platypus are not unfamiliar territory, though like the Tasmanian devils how they behaved and were filmed illuminated.

It was great too to have a mix of familiarity and not so familiar, the most familiar animals and content being with the kangaroos and koalas, later on too the Great Barrier Reefs. Never felt bored, a lot of emotion was felt and it never felt disjointed or episodic.

All in all, wonderful first episode. 10/10

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Winter Wrap Up
(2010)
Episode 11, Season 1

Wintry coolness
That does not mean that "Winter Wrap Up" is an episode that left me cold, and am aware that it is a summary that could potentially mislead people. Quite the opposite, it actually left me very warm inside. That summary actually means in my book that the episode does such a great job making wrapping up winter and preparing for spring cool and fun, as well as emotionally investable, when in real life that is not always the case.

"Winter Wrap Up" for me is one of the best episodes of the first season of 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic'. A show that when before watching and getting into it didn't strike me as one that would have the immensely popular reputation it has. Was not expecting when hearing of it to love 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' but it turned out to be one of the biggest surprises at the time of starting to watch. Now consider it one of the best animated shows in recent years, it is easy to say from looking at the marketing that it would be a shallow, over-cute show with a limited audience, actually find it much more than that which is evidenced by the popularity from children and adults of all ages.

Really appreciated what "Winter Wrap Up" does with Twilight. She is not a character with a one-dimensional personality, messing up in an obnoxious way. Actually found myself relating to her, her good intentions and her want to fit in and feeling sorry for her. Her messing up is also to me very funny, even if it is easy to see why it would upset others. The character writing and their interaction is, and always has been, a major part of 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic's' success, and it shines here. While Twilight is the focus in "Winter Wrap Up", the other ponies are hardly side-stepped. The personalities are distinct and far deeper than the character designs suggest and it is so great that again the friendship theme is honoured.

Also loved the episode's message and the song. The message of not giving up holds a lot of emotional power and is an important and relevant one (that is another great thing about the show, the messaging and how they're handled). What's more, it's handled with a lot of maturity and is not laid on too thick, contributing a lot to why the ending is as powerful as it is. The song, even when listening to a lot of as unforgettable as you can get classical and operatic pieces, is infectiously catchy and is still in my head. One of the best songs of the first season, not just the melody but there are some clever lyrics and some surprisingly imaginative animation.

Speaking of the animation, that continues to be of a high standard and is getting better and better with every episode. It's vibrant, elegant and meticulously detailed. The music fits without being intrusive or repetitive and while the theme song is far from forgettable, there is a preference for the "Winter Wrap Up" song. The writing is both entertaining and sincere, not being simplistic for adults or too complicated for children. The story is fun, cool and investable emotionally. The voice acting is typically great, especially Tara Strong as Twilight.

In summary, one of the season's best. 10/10

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