The previous Heckle and Jeckle cartoon, which immediately preceeded 'Out Again, In Again', 'Free Enterprise' was good fun, well made and entertaining. At the same time it was also not one of the duo's best or funniest, and by Heckle and Jeckle standards at this point of the series it was reasonably tame and not as true as other Heckle and Jeckle cartoons to the series' generally darkly anarchic and "holding little back" tone.
Following on directly from where 'Free Enterprise' left off, 'Out Again, In Again' is the better cartoon. Also think that it is one of the better and funniest entries of what is to me Terrytoons' best and (certainly in the earlier years) more consistent theatrical series. It is not a classic, but it is on par with being among the best that the studio, whose output was very inconsistent (their best work being very good and their worst terrible), did. As far as the 1948 Terrytoons cartoons go too, 'Out Again, In Again' is one of the best in a pretty decent year for the studio.
'Out Again, In Again' has very little to criticise. Like the previous reviewer, my only major issue with it was the ending. For me it was rushed and it was obvious from the get go how it was going to end which took away a little from the tension, which did already begin to run out of steam in the last minute and a half. It is agreed that the title is far too much of a giveaway.
However, 'Out Again, In Again' starts off really well with lots of wild energy and a degree of suspense. Where it really comes even more to life is the action on the train, which contains some of the funniest, wittiest and most inspired Heckle and Jeckle action of the series. Also making one feel nostalgic for the Marx Brothers, who the two magpies impersonate hilariously towards the end. There is nothing tame about the humour here, while other cartoons in the series are more malicious the anarchy is fast and furious as well as very witty. There are plenty of gags and nearly all of them hit, apart from when it became predictable in the last minute and a half.
The character interaction is witty and sparkles at its best. Heckle and Jeckle are highly entertaining characters, their movements, the way they talk (in the use of language and the voices themselves) and their expressions make them quite unique characters for Terrytoons, although other cartoons see them more malicious. The guard dog is a nice contrast as is ever amusing and rootable Dimwit.
Likewise, the animation is still good, with vibrant colours, nice attention to detail and far from static or simplistic backgrounds. The drawing is so much smoother than when the studio first started and the transitions are much more fluid and less choppy, nowhere near as much recycling or cutting corners either. The music never disappointed with Terrytoons, always the best asset of their worst efforts and it is one of the best things here still. Actually would go as far to say that it's even better than the animation. It is so lovely to listen to and there is such an uplifting vibe hearing it because of the snappy character it has.
In conclusion, very well done and an improvement over the previous Heckle and Jeckle cartoon. 8/10.
The previous two episodes "To All the Ghouls I've Loved Before" and "Scoobra Kadoobra", especially the latter, saw 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo' starting off so well. Although the show is to me a lot better than given credit for and have always enjoyed it on the whole, it was not a consistent show and a few episodes were a lot weaker than others. 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo' works though because of the premise being so good, Vincent Price and that it's entertaining and a welcome change of pace despite annoyances.
"Me and My Shadow Demon" is not as good as the previous two episodes and delivers less than it promises. It is not a bad episode at all, actually quite like it still as there are a lot of things that are good here. "Me and My Shadow Demon" though has always struck me as an episode of two halves, an episode that starts off absolutely brilliantly and with the potential to be one of the show's best episodes but then runs out of steam later. Which is quite frustrating.
Shall start off with what is good. The animation is fine, particularly the character designs of Morbidia and the Shadow Demon and the interiors of Befuddle Manor. Have no qualms with the music, which was a consistent strengths on the show and never got old despite some of the motifs being repeated, it never feels discordant with the action. It's particularly good in the mine sequence. The "Me and My Shadow" scene is a delight and classic Shaggy and Scooby. The voice acting is with few issues, though have always found that although Susan Blu always voiced Flim Flam with enthusiasm it was a little short when it came to the nuance. Vincent Price though was just made for Vincent, clearly based on him and has always been my favourite character.
As said before the first half is brilliant in my view, with the scene in the mine being both entertaining and freaky. The best supporting character is easily the Shadow Demon, especially the creepy look that was suitably villainous. Morbidia left me somewhat mixed as a character, but she certainly looks imposing and Linda Gary's voice acting is marvellous. The "Me and My Shadow" scene is a lot of fun and so is the climax, where the episode briefly regains lustre, and the clever wordplay. Vincent is always a pleasure.
It is unfortunate though that the huge promise shown in the first half doesn't carry over later, as "Me and My Shadow Demon" goes downhill after the "Me and My Shadow" musical number. Structurally, the story was already quite thin, but that wasn't obvious in the first half whereas the episode is near-plotless once Morbidia reveals herself. The truth about the Shadow Demon always has struck me as a real cheat after such a great build up, and when the episode did so well in making him more than he actually turns out. It would have been better if the episode actually kept him as the seeked ghost or made him complicit.
Have already said that Morbidia looks and sounds wonderful and she is memorable. Just wish that she had more to do, more screen time and had more than giving orders. Do agree with others elsewhere that she is one of the few ghosts of 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo' who didn't feel like one (along with Rankor in "Coast to Ghost", though he was worse). Flim Flam's pleading is truly cringe-worthy, as usual.
Overall, starts off so well but the high quality isn't consistent all the way through. 7/10.
Despite being a huge Disney fan, 'Phineas and Ferb' was one of those shows before starting to watch where there was uncertainty as to whether it would be my cup of tea. Luckily, it turned out to be a major hit with me and my brother and sisters and very quickly we became addicted to it. Even if it is very formula-based, there are so many cool situations, quotes and songs and have always loved the characters and the theme song (which avoided it becoming repetition heavy).
"She's the Mayor" and "The Lemonade Stand" both had strong concepts. Both are also very well done and even great episodes, with "The Lemonade Stand" getting the slight edge as the better and more consistent one. There are even better episodes of 'Phineas and Ferb' about (which says a lot about how brilliant the show is at its best), but the exceptionally high quality that the show had at this point is still very much there in both "She's the Mayor" and "The Lemonade Stand".
Candace's behaviour in "She's the Mayor", even for her goal, when abusing her power was taken a little too much into extremes and almost too cruel. One of the main reasons as to why "The Lemonade Stand" struck me as the better episode was that she was written better and had a moral conflict that risks breaking a crucial relationship. One that was worth investing in.
The animation is bright and colourful, with such vibrant colours that literally pop out at you and beautifully detailed backgrounds. The character animation in the Doofenschmirtz subplot in "The Lemonade Stand" is particularly good and has some inventive and wonderfully exaggerated details, big and small. 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. Some nice visuals accompanying it too.
Writing is full of wit and intelligence in both episodes, equally so and not one being better in this regard than the other, and the pacing is lively. It is never simplistic or forced, neither is it too complicated or tries too hard to be clever. The stories in both episodes are charming and fun, although "The Lemonade Stand's" Doofenschmirtz subplot is funnier and more imaginative (and more like him) than the one in "She's the Mayor" both represent him very well as the wonderfully kooky character that fans know and love. The character writing and voice work are excellent.
Prior to experiencing Rabbit Ears Productions' adaptation of 'Anansi', the character and his escapes were not known to me. After my first experience of this adaptation, loving it then and loving it just as much on numerous re-visits overtime, it did make me interested in getting to know them better. Doing so proved to be really fascinating and actually made me appreciate this adaptation of 'Anansi' even better. Those that like Denzel Washington as an actor, like me, will not be disappointed.
There are many gems in the "We All Have Tales" series, with not a bad one in the lot. 'Anansi' is one of the gems and adaptations of Jamaican literature don't come much better. All the three major components of what makes Rabbit Ears Productions' output so fascinating (the art styles, varied use of music and an assortment of narrators chosen for their talents rather than just star power) are done brilliantly and so is the storytelling. No weaknesses at all here, all virtues.
A good starting point in praising 'Anansi' would be Washington's contribution as narrator. The "We All Have Tales" series had a lot of standout vocal contributions, like Robin Williams ('The Fool and the Flying Ship'), Max Von Sydow ('East of the Sun, West of the Moon'), Michael Palin ('Jack and the Beanstalk') and Whoopi Goldberg ('Koi and the Kola Nuts'). Washington for 'Anansi' is every bit as brilliant, full of energy and gravitas and one is actually convinced that he is from Jamaica.
Just as brilliant are the visuals and the music. The visuals do have an endearingly jagged and appropriately rough around the edges look in the way things are drawn, but are also very vivid and colourful in the backgrounds and the character design of Anansi is quite a unique one for Rabbit Ears Productions. The music is courtesy of UB40, and it not only has an authentically Jamaican vibe in sound and rhythm but it also fits the tone of the story like a glove. It is cool and laid back at some points, but very upbeat and catchy in others.
In terms of the writing, that is full of entertainment value and honesty all round and flows as smoothly as silk. The story is essentially two escapades in one whole story, but it doesn't feel that way with the tone not being disjointed or too different at all and any transitions from one scene to the next are seamless. The titular character is an interesting one with both virtues and flaws.
Saw this version of 'Richard III' for primarily the cast, being a long-term admirer of both Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave. Rupert Goold is also no stranger to Shakespeare and, being someone who loved his production of 'Macbeth' with Patrick Stewart and the 'The Hollow Crown' version of 'Richard II', there was no doubt that he would do Shakespeare's best known historical play at least well. A fine play it is too, not one of my favourites from the Bard, but lots of memorable scenes and lines and an even more memorable titular character.
This is not the best production of 'Richard III' seen. There is a preference for the Laurence Olivier, Ian McKellen and 'The Hollow Crown' versions and the condensed animated version (as part of 'Shakespeare: The Animated Tales') and the BBC Television Shakespeare one are well worth checking out too. This production is not great or flawless and is not one of the best that Goold has ever done, but there are a lot of admirable and well done things about it.
'Richard III' (2016) looks very atmospheric for one thing, not lavish or beautiful but it didn't need to be. It is minimalist but also suitably dark and unyielding, which suits the story's tone very well. It's very nicely shot too. Standing out on the visual front though is the dusky but also ominous lighting. Adam Cork's hauntingly spine-shivering music score is an ideal fit. The staging on the most part absorbs, with menacing and emotionally investable character interactions and detailed characterisation. It has tension and emotion, while the climax made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
Most of the performances are extremely good. Redgrave is an authoritative and refreshingly soft spoken Margaret. Finbar Lynch is a calculating yet understated Buckingham. Susan Engel is an imperious Duchess of York. And Aislin McGuskin is a fiery and wounded Elizabeth.
Was mixed to positive on Fiennes. He definitely has the presence for the title role and is in full command of the text, which he delivers with intensity and his Richard is suitably menacing and unsettling. Against all those fine qualities though, there could have been more variety in the interpretation as well as more emotional variety.
A lot of the staging is very well done, but there are a few questionable touches. Especially that pointless and head-scratching touch with Redgrave with the doll and the equally unnecessary and tasteless rape. The casting weak link is Joanna Vanderham, who looks bewildered the whole time as Anne and some of her line delivery veers on histrionic.
In conclusion, many great things but falls short of overall greatness. 7/10.
It's all about hate, but there is nothing to hate about this episode
Anything race related is covered and depicted a lot, but that is in no way a bad thing. Racism, a major issue for decades, is a very brave and difficult topic. It also is a very important thing to address and explore and today it maybe should be addressed more with it being just as bad. Another major and relevant issue tackled is freedom of expression, something that should exist definitely but is too often abused to the point that it becomes hate speech.
"Hate" is another great episode from Season 9, of all the Season 9s of the three major 'Law and Order' shows (the original, 'Special Victims Unit' and 'Criminal Intent') that for this show is by far the best and most consistent seeing as those for the other two were very up and down. It is not perfect or the best episode for anything to tackle these issues, but it does very well addressing the themes. "Hate" is not the first or last episode to tackle the themes, but so much is done brilliantly.
To me, "Rage" and "Profile" as far as other 'Law and Order' episodes go tackled racism especially with more tact and everything with the freedom of expression could have been more subtle. Especially with the character of Willis, who comes this close to being cartoonish and is one reason as to why there should be a limit.
On the other hand, "Hate" is excellent everywhere else. The production values as ever have slickness and grit, with an intimacy without being claustrophobic. The music has presence when it's used but does so without being intrusive, some of it is quite haunting too. The direction is also understated but the tension never slips, the second half being full of it.
Script is taut and intelligent. It is very intelligently crafted and has intensity and edge, most of it doesn't preach either and tries to not make too much of a judgement. The story is lean and pulls no punches, providing edge of the seat tension and emotion.
Character writing is spot on with genuinely tense conflict in the chemistry for the legal scenes. As is the acting from all the regulars, while Michael Cumpsty relishes his part and Paul Dawson is suitably unnerving.
"Hunters" was one of those 'Law and Order' episodes on first watch that had a number of good things but did feel on the ordinary side and didn't stick in the mind long after. There are episodes of the show and the 'Law and Order' franchise in general that felt like this, but there are many on both counts where that type of episode on first watch fared better on rewatch and were better than remembered seeing it through older eyes.
Season 9's "Hunters" is one of those episodes. It's not quite up to the same level of the previous two Season 9 episodes, but it is still truly excellent. On paper it sounds fairly standard and is a bit ordinary to begin with, but the execution is a lot more complex than that. When things become meatier and twistier "Hunters" becomes very intricate and it is one of those episodes that induces anger and outrage by its end.
As said, "Hunters" starts off a little on the ordinary side and didn't immediately grab me straightaway and did think too that the final 5 minutes or so were on the rushed side from trying to cram a lot in.
This is a feeling however that didn't last long at all and the rest of "Hunters" is very good indeed. It is as ever shot with the right amount of intimacy without feeling too up close, even with a reliance of close up camerawork. That the editing has become increasingly tighter over-time is great too. The music isn't over-scored, manipulative or used too much. There is intimacy and tautness in the direction.
The performances are never less than superb across the board, Sam Waterston's authority and ruthlessness shines too, as does Jerry Orbach's conflicted intensity. The script is intelligent and lean with no signs of fat. It also has intensity, emotional impact and even the odd sprinkle of humour. Briscoe's strong feelings over the case are very understandable and compelling to see.
Really liked the storytelling too. A lot happens, without mostly being over-stuffed. It is complicated too without being convoluted, and it is basically one of those episodes that leaves one deep in thought and outraged.
'Law and Order' was a brilliant show in its prime and overall is actually my favourite of the 'Law and Order' franchise and out of it, 'Special Victims Unit' (the longest running) and 'Criminal Intent'. Despite not feeling the same post-Briscoe. 'Special Victims Unit' started off brilliantly, but became hit and miss Season 7 onwards and has not lived up to the early seasons generally for a long time. 'Criminal Intent' also was truly fine in its early seasons, but became wildly inconsistent mid-run.
"Haven" for me is not one of the best 'Law and Order' episodes or even one of the best of Season 8, which on the whole was re-watching it recently is very good. It is still a good if uneven episode that is evidence of how truly great, even fantastic, the season's best episodes are. "Haven" is a case of one half being better than the other and of missing the extra something that other episodes of the season had. The acting also adds a lot. As said, it's still good. It's just not fantastic.
Am going to start with what could have been done better. Actually think that it could have done with more surprises, other episodes of the season were twistier and the twists were a lot more unpredictable (whereas here the only shock is the end).
It perhaps could have done with more tension and emotion, from tackling more difficult subjects in a more complex and pull no punches way. The first half isn't quite as good as the second, it's interesting enough and Briscoe and Curtis' banter is entertaining, there is just a feeling of we've seen this all before.
However, there is an awful lot to like about "Haven". Despite how the above sounded. One of the better aspects is the acting, with one of the guest stars making a particularly big impression. Jerry Orbach, Benjamin Bratt, Sam Waterston and Angie Harmon are all excellent, Orbach really relishes those one-liners of his, his chemistry with Bratt (who has settled very well) has gone from strength to strength. Waterston is very resourceful and authoritative and Harmon shows why Carmichael was my personal favourite of McCoy's assistants. The supporting cast are all strong too, especially Ruben Santiago-Hudson.
The script is intelligent, lean enough and thought-provoking on both sides of the arguments, although it doesn't quite have the extra spark. It is particularly good in the legal interactions. The story does pick up in the second half, where the material becomes richer.
Moreover, 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. The direction shows some nice tension in the legal scenes.
In summary, not great but very worthwhile and with more than enough to show why 'Law and Order' was so great in its prime. 7/10.
Have loved the original 'Law and Order' for a long time, particularly the earlier seasons, and consider it my personal favourite of the 'Law and Order' franchise. Did like the idea for Season 9's "Ramparts", though on paper it may seem too basic and ordinary. 'Law and Order' do have a good track record at making something great and more complex than expected out of stories that don't sound out of the ordinary on paper and understandably one expects similar from "Ramparts."
"Ramparts" is a very good episode, if falling a little short of being great despite having a lot of great things individually. Like a lot of episodes in 'Law and Order's' mid period, it is a case of one half being superior to the other. But not because one half is bad, just that there is one half that executes the storytelling especially even better. "Ramparts" is not a season high point, but it was interesting to see it centered around a past cold case and how it is gone about solving it.
The second half is better than the first, which was slightly routine.
A lot is truly great on the other hand. . As usual, 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. The direction is sympathetic enough while also taut.
Moreover, the script challenges enough without being too much of a challenge in terms of understanding what's going on. It is taut and intelligent throughout. The story is always engrossing and tight in pace, with enough surprising twists and turns to be satisfied by.
Can't fault the acting of the regulars either and Michael Higgins is wholly successful in making one feel some degree of empathy towards someone that should on paper be detestable.
It is always worthwhile when 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' focuses on the Cutie Mark Crusaders. On paper, they have the real danger of being too cute and sugary. Yet actually on the whole they and their interactions between themselves and the Mane 6 have been very interesting and surprisingly well developed, and enough of the episodes centered around them are good. Don't ever like it when they are punished too cruelly, which is what happened at times in the earlier seasons.
Season 8 started off very well, but between the two part premiere "School Daze" and this the episodes have merely scraped average or just above territory. Even though a filler episode, "Surf and/or Turf" is the best episode since the season opener up to this point, though better episodes would follow, and was pretty decent. It is far from perfect or great and it is not going to appeal to all fans (and hasn't), there are also better episodes of Season 8, but it was a good deal better than expected and not as pointless as feared.
As said, perfect "Surf and/or Turf" is not. It is understandable if people consider it a filler episode and in my mind it sort of is, as it is very slight and at times padded, meaning that some of the pace drags, and doesn't really progress any crucial events.
Did feel that the ending was a little too on the pat and convenient side.
On the other hand, the animation in "Surf and/or Turf" is absolutely beautiful, actually think it is one of the best looking episodes of Season 8. Mount Aris looks amazing and the episode does such a great job immersing one into its world and lore. The music is beautifully orchestrated and used and has a good deal of character and emotion. "Your Heart is in Two Places" is not one of the show's best songs, but it is well meaning and catchy and doesn't have childishness or sentimentality. All the voice acting cannot be faulted, with no weak links.
The writing is a good mix of amusing while not being goofy humour and poignant but not too gooey emotion and is thought provoking and sensitive in its treatment of an adult and identifiable subject. Although the story is slight, the situation it revolves around is something that is very relatable to anybody that wants a better bond with their parents. It resonated actually with me because of my youngest sister being in the same position. All the characters are well written, loved all the Cutie Mark Crusaders, all engaging and likeable with good intentions and distinct personalities, and Twilight. While the supporting characters are interesting and worth relating to.
The character of Zach Nichols didn't do much for me in his first two episodes, neither of which doing much for me as episodes. My problem does not lie with Jeff Goldblum but the writing. In the next two though, my opinion on him completely changed and the episodes in question were also much better. Serena Stevens was a bit mixed for me as a character and it did depend on the material, the chemistry between her and Nichols was never non-existent but it didn't ignite in the same way Goren and Eames' did.
Season 9 is a very variable season of 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' that suffered from primarily too much change too soon that never completely gelled. It just in general, despite some very good episodes, lacked the same amount of spark that the best of Seasons 1-4 had. "Traffic" is one of the weaker episodes of the season, though not a show low point. It's far from terrible, but it's not too great either. My view is somewhat conflicted this time.
Certainly there are good things in "Traffic". It is a visually slick episode, typical for 'Criminal Intent' and the 'Law and Order' franchise, and one with the right amount of muted grit, the photography doesn't try to do anything too fancy or gimmicky while not being claustrophobic and keeping things simple. The music doesn't overbear with the theme tune still memorable. There are moments of tight direction.
Goldblum is always watchable and he understands his material and gives life to it without overdoing it. The supporting cast are above competent. The ending is nicely staged enough if not exceptional.
However, there are shortcomings. Callas is still not doing it for me as a character and has in general been underdeveloped, have absolutely nothing against Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio but she never seemed to click or look too enthusiastic in the role. Saffron Burrows is radiant to watch and is nicely understated, but opposite Goldblum in chemistry she generally seemed bland throughout her stint compared to his stronger personality and that's the case here.
Also on the whole found the plot rather over-stretched and dull, with very few surprises and too much been there done that. The script could have had more edge and tautness. The supporting characters seemed underdeveloped.
It does pain me to provide a seemingly contrarian opinion (well here it seems, actually know fellow fans that dislike the episode) on "Paternity". There are plenty of highly rated episodes of 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' that are that good, but there are also some that are not all that. The most memorable part of "Paternity" has always been the big dramatic event that dominates the final quarter, the part that is the most talked about amongst the fandom (though strongly divided).
"Paternity" for me is one of the highly rated episodes that sadly isn't that good and closer to being in the category of lesser outings than the best ones of Season 9. Really wanted to be one of those people that loved it, and while there are a lot of good things there are some big debits as well. "Paternity" is an episode that has always left me mixed, the final quarter is definitely very powerful but one main subplot and the character writing of one character brings things down considerably.
There are definitely a good deal of strengths here. 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 direction is suitably uncompromising in the second half and the beginning likewise.
Speaking of the beginning, it is certainly attention grabbing. The final quarter, despite the annoying medical inconsistencies often picked up upon, is very powerful and does not shy away when it comes to the tension and the emotion. The acting from the regulars is great, especially Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay. Their chemistry is cute and the chemistry between Olivia and Kathy is poignant, it is very clear who much Olivia cares about Kathy's welfare.
One aspect is uneven. The script does have some thoughtful moments but it also has some forced corn.
As much as it saddens me to say so however, "Paternity's" case goes downhill quickly after a promising start. The story generally is very predictable and is neither complex or suspenseful. What really brings the episode is the paternity conflict, which is a ridiculous, over-heated soap-opera mess. Ruined further by the senseless way the characters behave and the near-irredeemable unlikeability of Leah, a character that one despises once the truth comes out and hates even more the bigger the hole she digs for herself by what she says gets.
Really did not like the scene in the hallway either, that couldn't have been a more worse way of finding a secret out and Stabler should have been more tactful, it is also another case of him getting away with far more than he should have done. The support acting generally is unexceptional, with the character of Leah being over-acted. Isabel Gillies' hard hitting acting in the final quarter fares best in this respect.
Concluding, quite a lot of very good things here but didn't come completely together for me. 6/10.
'Law and Order' was incredibly good at exploring challenging topics and themes that hit hard and are still relevant and important to address. It was also, as has been said more than once in previous reviews, incredibly good at exploring them in an honest and pull no punches way and in a way that still holds up. The debate here in "True North" is not a new one for the franchise and was explored a number of times since, but is always interesting when addressed. Season 9 was another very solid season with many great episodes and no real misfires.
"True North" struck me as a very good episode on first watch, especially the legal portions and the performance of Bellamy Young in the latter stages. Also admired its handling of the capital punishment debate and what it has to say about extradiction. On subsequent rewatches overtime, the latest being a couple of days ago, "True North" is even better and got more out of it due to understanding what is said in the episode more. Did notice a flaw though that wasn't apparent or picked up on on first viewing.
It did strike me as heavy-handed in spots, with "True North" not being subtle in its representation of Canadians. Not to mention agreed the father's innocence proclaimation, which was dramatic overkill.
Everything else is executed fantastically however. The production values are slick and have a subtle grit, with an intimacy to the photography without being too claustrophobic. The music isn't used too much and doesn't get too melodramatic. The direction is sympathetic but also alert. All the regulars are absolutely terrific, particularly in the legal portions and in the debates. Young is chillingly amoral and also oddly moving, it is agreed that her acting leaves one moved at the end but one doesn't buy the plea for a second as it goes against how she is written in the rest of the episode.
Writing is very thought-provoking and felt real. It is also taut, intelligent and well balanced, with the different sides of opinion being handled in a hard-hitting but also tactful way where one can see where all sides are coming from. All while developing a firm opinion themselves where one argument is particularly persuasive (i.e. Schiff's view on warning signs), some episodes in the franchise (especially 'Special Victims Unit's' mid period) made it too clear what their opinions on controversial issues were but "True North" doesn't do that.
Moreover, the story is engrossing throughout and while both the policing and legal halves are brilliantly written and fascinating the more complex and suspenseful legal one is even better. All the regulars are written beautifully, especially McCoy. Carmichael has settled beautifully.
Concluding, excellent episode despite moments of heavy-handedness. 9/10.
While not an innovative one in animation, Looney Tunes did similar quite a few times, the premise (have a thing about good, promising premises which has always been a selling point) for 'Croakus Pocus' was very unlike the rest. The atmosphere is very different, with none of the other cartoons having this setting or spookiness. The witch is also a unique character for the series, in one of the few Tijuana Toads cartoons to have a human character as the opponent.
Despite being indifferent on the most part to the Tijuana Toads cartoons, there were a couple of exceptions that were above average. 'Croakus Pocus' is one of them, the other is 'Frog Jog'. It is not a great cartoon by any stretch in regard to animation overall, but by this series' standards it is quite decent and is much better than the mediocre (the general standard of the series) previous outing 'A Frog in the Deep'. Due to having one of the series' better opponents, having a different setting and actually being quite amusing.
'Croakus Pocus' is not perfect or great by any stretch. The story, not unexpectedly, is very slight and predictable (despite being unique for the series) as far as overall animation goes, with it feeling a little too derivative to the point of retread level of a Bugs Bunny and Witch Hazel cartoon. Except not as sharp or as witty.
The animation is not great too, it has its moments with the castle's interiors and some nice colours but most of it is too rushed looking and sparse. Wouldn't have said no to more gags and ones that felt less rehashed with the cartoon being a bit of a slow starter in regard to the humour.
However, the music (the only consistently good aspect) is light-hearted and lifts the spirits while also being appealingly orchestrated. Doug Goodwin always delivered on memorable themes and he did in the Tijuana Toads series. Did think that some of 'Croakus Pocus' is quite amusing, especially in the latter stages (such as the outcome of the taking of the potion), especially in some smile worthy lines. The ending was quite nice, if on the predictable side, with a nice cameo appearance from what looks like Roland from the Roland and Rattfink series.
El Toro and Pancho are actually tolerable here, with Pancho having one of his best ever lines regarding the hair. The witch is a Witch Hazel prototype somewhat, but is still entertaining and not too goofy. The voice acting is still broad but not overly so this time, with Anthea Lorde giving by far her best voice work of the series (which is saying a lot as she didn't do anything for me in her other appearances).
In conclusion, nothing brilliant but decent. 6/10.
As well as my high appreciation for stop motion/puppet animation and for Jiri Trnka, my main reason for seeing 'Story of the Bass Cello' was to see how it would adapt one of Anton Chekhov's, known more for his multi-dimensional characterisation and mastery of mood building that is evident in the likes of 'Uncle Vanya' and 'The Cherry Orchard', most accessible pieces of literature. With it being simpler characterisation-wise and thematically than his better known works.
'Story of the Bass Cello' is adapted beautifully here and is likely to make one eager to get more acquainted for Chekhov's work. Just be prepared for everything else of his being very different, and it may come over as a shock at first. It was the other way around, being familiar with Chekhov already but only having seen this recently. 'Story of the Bass Cello' is excellent too as a standalone and for me it is one of Trnka's best and most accessible short films and stacks up very well with the rest of his work as well.
My only issue really for 'Story of the Bass Cello' is that it is a little slow at times.
It however does look wonderful, as colourful and beautifully and meticulously detailed as ever. As well as scored in a way that suits the charming atmosphere fittingly. The comedy is genuinely amusing, it is all silent and of a gentle rather than outrageous kind but beautifully timed.
The story is very sweet, without being sickly, and filled with charm. Was moved by it too. The characterisation is simple but also very human and easy to be endeared by.
'Sweet Spring' is the fifth effort of Ivan Askenchuk's seen. The others being 'The Little Mermaid', 'Zolushka', 'Plus Electrification' and 'The Tale is Told', watched in that order. 'The Little Mermaid' and 'Zolushka' were exquisite and 'The Tale is Told' was also brilliant, sadly 'Plus Electrification' was disappointing (part of the problem was the execution of the subject matter and the type of film it was). So hopes were very high for 'Sweet Spring', as is the case for a lot of Russian animation (a lot of truly fine ones out there).
This was yet another case thankfully of high expectations being met and pretty much exceeded. 'Sweet Spring' is not one of my favourite Russian/Soviet animations and as far as Askenchuk's work goes there is a preference for 'The Tale is Told', 'The Little Mermaid' and especially 'Zolushka'. But it is leagues better than 'Plus Electrifcation' and is another very good effort from Askenchuk, where its best aspects are wonderful. If one loves animation, loves Russian/Soviet film and both, there is no reason to not see 'Sweet Spring' really.
Once again we see the cut out character designs against tapestry painting kind of visual style that was there in most of the cited above films. And it looks very striking and beautifully detailed, especially the backgrounds. The music is distinctively Russian and really liked its nice variety of moods and its style.
Writing is neither too simple or complicated and it doesn't get too cutesy. The messaging is sincere and well-intentioned, even if it is slightly on the heavy side. The story is not cutesy or dark, perfect for children and adults alike. It's slight and doesn't get going straight away, but always cohesive and not too simple. It also has a good deal of charm.
Characters are colourful and interesting enough, particularly the boar despite deliberately not liking his character. The voice acting is enthusiastic without being too theatrical.
"Paterfamilias" is the penultimate episode of an on the whole very good Season 2 of what was one of Netflix's best shows in its prime (Seasons 3 and 4 aren't as consistent). The premise immediately intrigued me, as it does deal with a tough topic and it was a look at Prince Phillip in his youth. Was hoping though that it wouldn't be too melodramatic, would handle the subject in good taste and that it would develop Phillip better than "Lisbon" earlier in the season did.
It certainly does thankfully and absolutely brilliantly. It is an illuminating, harrowing and poignant episode and definitely one of the best episodes of Season 2, a season where even its weakest episode "Lisbon" was still good. Along with "Marionettes" and "Vergangenheit". Not just that, "Paterfamilias" is up there with one of the best episodes of 'The Crown' and demonstrates what it is all about and stands for. If one is wondering whether the hype is deserved, look at this for example and it will be easy to see the appeal.
Visually "Paterfamilias" is faultless. The expense really does show in the classy, sumptuous period detail and the atmospheric and elegant way it's shot. The music for me wasn't too intrusive or low-key and was beautiful scoring on its own. The main theme is not easy to forget.
Writing probes a lot of thought and is never less than intriguing and emotionally investable, it never veers into soap-opera land and doesn't sound too modern. The retrospective structure is always clear and never jumpy, the past never dulling the episode's pace. What young Phillip goes through is not an easy watch, but while it pulls no punches it doesn't become too heavy. Emotionally a lot of poignancy can be found.
The episode contains some of the best character writing of the season and of 'The Crown', young Phillip's character writing and development is illuminating, very insightful and helps one understand how he came to be the way he became when he became Elizabeth's husband and Duke of Edinburgh. The acting is top class all round, with top honours going to an outstanding and often moving Finn Elliot (one of the best and most layered performances of the season).
Throughout my whole Christmas film completest quest undertaken since late 2019, an interesting quest but very mixed one, there was never the mentality of expecting a classic or the film in question to be flawless. Something that was never managed with Hallmark's and Lifetime's output in particular. There was however always the expectation of seeing a film where one can see at least some effort rather than merely cash-in level.
A distinction that does not belong to 'The Perfect Christmas Present' in any way. It is not quite a Christmas classic, but out of the films seen between then and now (which have been very hit and miss) 'The Perfect Christmas Present' is easily among the best faring and quite a pleasant surprise for a premise that could have gone either way. With almost everything done remarkably well and only a couple of things done imperfectly which was not unexpected in a way.
For me the final quarter was on the rushed and too convenient side. It did take a bit of time for me to warm to Tom and it was once the romantic chemistry got going when it was easier to do so.
Sadly am another person that didn't always care for Tara Holt here, she did have some odd overdone mannerisms and it made her performance on the mannered and over-eager side at times.
However, Sam Page is charming and did like how Tom grows as a character. Nice genuine chemistry with perky Emily Peterson too. Generally the characters were interesting and engaging and the romantic chemistry moves at a realistic rate and felt natural and genuine.
Production values wise, 'The Perfect Christmas Present' is not too drab or garish in photography, the editing didn't seem rushed or disorganised and the scenery has a real charm to it. Most of the soundtrack is nostalgic and appealing to listen to, capturing the festive spirit well. Have seen a lot of over-scored Christmas films, but that's not as much the case here.
Furthermore, the script just about avoids being corny and saccharine, with it never coming over as awkward, and the story is mostly very engaging, easy to be uplifted by and heart-warming. Not to mention quite poignant, with a serious theme being handled tactfully.
While loving Christmas (a lifelong love too) and having liked/loved many Christmas films, there are plenty of Christmas films that are too sappy and cheese ridden as well as predictable. Have seen quite a few films in the past few years with this type of story, which has been familiar territory for most holidays (all holidays not just Christmas) for a while now, and they have varied in success, some are very charming, sweet and engaging while others are too simplistic, dull and silly.
Mostly this second instalment in the 'A Golden Christmas' film series fits in the former category. While it is a long way from a flawless film (with the story being easy to criticise) and would also hesitate in calling it great, it is an improvement over the previous 'A Golden Christmas' film. One of the biggest improvements that is immediately noted being that the female lead character is a lot more tolerable and actually does not ruin the film unlike before.
It could have been better. It is over-silly in parts, which makes some comedic situations feel forced and over-engineered. The plot does feel thin and sometimes over-stretched, and there could have been more freshness as there is too much of a seen it all before vibe throughout.
The dialogue also isn't always great, especially in the first third where some of it is quite painfully cheesy.
However, a lot is done right. It is pleasant looking, especially the scenery inside and particularly out. The music doesn't sound cheap or over-bearing, and was clearly done by someone that knew what they were writing music for. The direction is generally confident enough and it doesn't get heavy-footed or hectic. The acting is better than average from all, particularly from Julie Gonzalo and Alexandra Peters, and the dogs are absolutely adorable and are worth seeing the film for alone.
Actually did like the characters, they had personality and personalities that endeared and entertained rather than irritated or being ones with overblown flaws. After seeing far too many annoying, unlikeable and overly-negative female lead characters recently, it was a relief to see one that was easy to like and warm to. There are plenty of funny and sweet moments in the dialogue when the writing did start to get better. Most of the film isn't dull and the story is good-natured, light-hearted and charming.
Concluding, not something to be bowled over by but pleasant enough film. 7/10.
Over the past two years or so, my Christmas film completest quest (made up for primarily those from Hallmark and Lifetime) has been very interesting but also hit and miss. Some were very charming, easy to digest and lovely watches with good casts, providing that one doesn't expect too much. Others were very dull, cheesy, too sentimental and badly written and acted with excessively predictable and thin stories (due to doing nothing new with familiar formulas).
Unfortunately, 'A Perfect Christmas List' is one of the films in the latter category. Have actually seen worse Christmas films overall, but what could have been a decent warm-hearted film turned out to be anything but with nearly everything falling as flat as one can get. 'A Perfect Christmas List' is not a complete and utter disaster as there is one performance that stops it from being so, and lifts it to a very weak film with many terribly executed elements.
That good performance comes from a charming and perky Marion Ross.
Also thought that the production values were quite nice, especially the scenery.
Everything else fails. The rest of the acting is a mix of looking ill at ease to shameless overacting. Despite his part not being massive, Richard Karn does grate from trying far harder than he needed to and it does stick out. Didn't find myself caring for most of the flimsily fleshed out to the point of dullness and stale stereotypical characters, with only Ross' having much spark or rootability. The romantic chemistry is practically non-existent and the romance itself in writing is completely charmless and strained, not to mention very underwritten.
Furthermore, the music is too loud and too much of one mood. The dialogue continually sounds awkward, and is very cheesy and over-sentimental too. The pacing is sluggish (direction likewise), especially in the over-stretched middle act. The story is very thin and predictable, the final third is of the kind that has a contrived dramatic situation and ends on a very pat note. The lack of warmth and charm is noticeable and the Christmas spirit didn't seem there either, it all felt bland. Do agree that the theft scene was very out of place and brought a temporarily mean spirited edge to the story.
Hopes were not high for "The Damned", the second episode of Season 8 which was an even more disappointing season than the panned among fans Season 7. Being somebody who was not impressed at all with the season premiere "Mercy". There was some glimmer of hope though, with the hope that 'The Walking Dead' would improve as it frequently hit masterpiece level in the first five seasons and even at points of the less consistent Season 6.
"The Damned" is not really much of an improvement, but actually is marginally better. It is more action packed sure and faster paced, which will please some, yet similar and even the same flaws for "Mercy" remain and just as badly executed and actually the faster pace proved to be something of an undoing also. "The Damned" is not quite as awful as some of the other reviews have rated it (some, not all on the whole though, giving every episode of Seasons 7 and 8 in my mind is not mature), though their criticisms in my mind are valid, but 'The Walking Dead' is far from being back on form and that was a stage Season 8 never got to. Just to say, if anybody liked the episode that's cool and fine, but can the condescending attacks on those that disliked it seriously stop as it doesn't make you any better than those you're criticising.
A few redeeming qualities can be seen here. There is some nice atmosphere in the lighting and some of the photography. The music is ominous and at times refreshing. The end twist is interesting and very unexpected, with a surprise return after so long.
One scene did get me emotionally, Rick coming across the sleeping infant. His devastation was quite moving. The acting is fine considering what the actors had to work with, Andrew Lincoln commands the screen so well.
However, while it was good that there was more action it never entirely enthrals and could have done with more tension and urgency, while also at times being too disorganised. It was very amateurish early on and the firefight takes protracted and silly to a whole new level. Again the episode generally does not look great, the camera work being too gimmicky and self-indulgent at points, instead of the cinematic-like quality of Seasons 1-5 especially, and the editing tending to be too sloppy.
Moreover, the script needed a severe tightening up, too much of the talk being stilted and going nowhere. It also can feel too repetitive and melodramatic and Ezekiel's dialogue is really hard to take. Outside of the action, the basic story itself is very thin, quite stale from knowing and getting exactly what is expected and doesn't really progress all that much, the closest it comes to doing that being the end twist. The pacing is erratic, structurally it feels chaotic and rushed, which really affects the cohesion and then other points feel dull and tired. The characters are neither interesting or investable, the Ezekiel (here annoying) and Carol scenes added nothing and Tara's pomposity grates. The senseless and too rash decision making, like in the firefight sequence, is a cause for frustration.
Concluding, a marginal improvement but a long way from good. 4/10.
Really did want to like "Best of Buster Day" a lot more when watching it for the first time years back. Actually love 'Tiny Toon Adventures' and consider it a personal favourite, despite not caring for some episodes, and Buster Bunny is one of its funniest and most interesting characters. The premise is not that exciting but as 'Tiny Toon Adventures' is absolutely brilliant at its best, there was the hope that the episode would do something more interesting with a premise that doesn't feel so.
Sadly, it didn't do so enough. "Best of Buster Day" is not a terrible episode, far from it, actually don't consider any episode of 'Tiny Toon Adventures' terrible. It has always though been a disappointment for me and is as bland as the concept. It is another segment structured episode and only one of the segments works, and even that is far from being one of the show's best segments. There are also a lot better representations of Buster in other episodes.
Of the three segments, the best easily is "Compromising Principals". Buster does come over as a bit too mean in his treatment of Yosemite Sam, but the segment does have wit and it is the segment that is the closest in capturing the wackiness of classic Looney Tunes that 'Tiny Toon Adventures' was so good at doing at its best.
The other two didn't do it for me, neither did the wraparound story. "Maid to Re-Order" is a rather bland segment, not particularly interesting story-wise and not very funny. Montana Max's personality has been a lot more interesting in other episodes, the only improvement that the segment has over "Compromising Principals" is that Buster is a lot more likeable and has good intentions this time.
"Class Without Class" doesn't have an awful lot of urgency, lacks wit and the rivalry and divide lacks tension. Dizzy is not a bad character but his personality has never been as strong as Buster's and that is true here and it would have helped if the dialogue was sharper too. The wraparound story is pretty bland.
Speaking of individual elements that were consistently good, the animation is vibrantly coloured and beautifully rich in detail, not just the backgrounds but also the expressions and reactions of the characters which are wonderfully loony. The music is dynamic and characterful as always and the theme song has always brought a smile to my face. Something that was the case when a child and still is now.
Voice acting is very good and all do so well with delivering material that is not really worthy of them. All involved are/were immensely talented voice actors and never disappointed throughout the show's run.
Reading the synopsis of 'Gift of Gag' on first watch, a large part of me was very conflicted. Despite really liking Popeye and having always found him a fun and easy to like character, the nephews were more variable depending on how strong or weak their material was. The scenario is a good one but there was conceptually nothing special about the story whatsoever. Decided to rewatch 'Gift of Gag' on rewatch as someone who likes the series on the whole.
'Gift of Gag' didn't do much for me on first watch and still didn't on rewatch. It is far from a terrible cartoon and has its moments and good things, but there is next to nothing new or inspired here and all the characters have been a lot stronger in other cartoons. And it was a good example of how hit and miss the Popeye series and Famous Studios' output in general had become by this relatively late stage or at least was starting to, which does sadden me a good deal.
There are good things. The animation still looks like effort and care was being made, there may have been more budget and time limitations at this point but unlike the late-50s that is not as obvious here. There are rough moments in the drawing but the backgrounds have a lot of vibrant colour and meticulous detail. The music is one of the consistent high points of the 50s Famous Studios output (Popeye and overall), and it is one of the best things here. The lively character of it is just infectious and it has an energy that the rest of the cartoon lacks, while the orchestration is as beautiful as ever.
Furthermore, the voice acting is very good. Especially from the definitive voice actor for Popeye Jack Mercer. Who is an engaging character here and it is easy to appreciate highly the nephews' good intentions. Although the conflict is very seen it all before it has moments where it is fun and tense. The final third is amusing and energetic and there are nice affectionate western touches.
Which unfortunately cannot be said for the rest of 'Gift of Gag'. The story is far too formulaic and has a very tired feel. Popeye feels underused and plays second fiddle to the nephews. While there are moments of amusement, they are infrequent in a cartoon that really lacks freshness and imagination. Rather by the numbers and one can tell that the series was running out of ideas. The attempts at sneaking the gift could have done with more creativity.
Excepting the final third, the energy just isn't there due to the material being so predictable and the nephews are still not very well animated, animation-wise to me they never transitioned easily to colour. The chemistry between them and Popeye is not always there.
'Kingdom of the White Wolf' is a gem of a series. When it comes to anything documentary-related about wolves, it doesn't get much better or more comprehensive than 'Kingdom of the White Wolf'. Proof that wolves should be shown on screen a good deal more than they are and that there should be more documentaries available based solely around them. Also loved its different approach, seeing it from the point of view and journey of Ronan Donovan as well as the wolves.
"The Last Hunt" concludes 'Kingdom of the White Wolf' and of the three episodes it gets my vote as the best, but only marginally. And that is only because all the episodes of the series are so brilliant. Of the three, "The Last Hunt" is the most comprehensive, most eventful, most intimate (this is the episode where one sees the wolves the most up close) and the most educational in detailing how Donovan gains the trust of the wolves and observes their behaviours and ways of living.
Expectedly, "The Last Hunt" looks wonderful. It is beautifully shot and enhances the truly enchanting but also unforgiving scenery. The wolves are a mix of majestic, adorable, caring and intelligent with a touch of uncompromising and it was easy to invest in what they have to go through good and bad.
Furthermore, the information is very entertaining but is also very educational, despite wolves being familiar animals there is a lot that is illuminating, and emotionally investable. Delivered with sincerity and enthusiasm by Donovan himself, whose personal journey is as interesting and investable as that of the wolves. The footage is educational and very sweet without being sickly or too sentimental, it also doesn't hold back when needed yet doesn't go over the top on that either.
Overall, wonderful conclusion to a gem of a series. Documentaries on wolves don't get much better than this. 10/10.
While there have been times where Rainbow Dash has not been well written, there were a few episodes of Season 6 that messed her up big time, or where she is poorly treated (i.e. The Wonderbolt-set episodes), there were many other times where she was very funny and worth relating to and had great character interaction with the rest of the Mane 6 and characters ("Sonic Rainboom" for instance is still a high point of the show).
"Grannies Gone Wild" is not a great episode or a must watch, with it having strong potential of being even better with a clearer moral. It is however worth watching and above average, with a colourful setting, great cameos and Rainbow Dash has fared far worse in terms of character writing here. There are better Season 8 episodes than "Grannies Gone Wild", and it is a shame that this and the previous two episodes are not on the same level as the promising two parter that opened the season ("School Daze"), but there are also worse. This is one of the middling episodes.
Shall get the negatives out of the way. The moral was not as focused as it could have been. On paper reading the synopsis, it immediately caught my attention and related as prejudice is still such a big problem for so many things and should be addressed more anywhere. It is handled with good intentions and Rainbow Dash clearly learns from it, but it is also muddled a little by Applejack coming over as little over-protective (other episodes did that worse though, "Somepony to Watch Over Me" for example and it's actually more understandable here considering that a family member is part of the party and the age group) and that the episode also seemed to be teaching that she was not to be trusted judging from how her instructions are carried out.
Rainbow Dash has been worse written than in "Grannies Gone Wild", it was moving when she opened up and actually she is not near as prejudiced here as feared (being somebody who has been in similar positions more than once in my life, same with my siblings). But she didn't usually strike me as being as selfish and reluctant to do something in the way she is here and there are not many other episodes where she puts her want to achieve a goal over the safety of others. Then again that is my take. The story occasionally could have done with more energy and while the ending was sweet it was a little too neat.
However, the animation is great. Very colourful and beautifully detailed, Las Pegasus really struck me as a place where the hype and excitement is more than earned considering how vibrantly it's depicted. The music is characterful and there is never any trouble with fitting with the action. Have also no issues with the voice acting, Ashleigh Ball and Tabitha St Germain voice Rainbow Dash and Granny Smith beautifully.
Despite Rainbow Dash being imperfectly written, her honesty was sincerely written and loved the chemistry she had with the rest of the characters. She and Granny Smith interact very well and surprisingly do gel for two very different personalities. The rest of the Golden Horseshoe gals (parodying the Golden Girls) are amusing and charming. The background pony cameos are absolute joys, including ones based upon Rick and Morty, Gordon Ramsay and even Walter White.
In conclusion, worthwhile if not the show on peak form. 6/10.