TheLittleSongbird

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Reviews

The Johnstown Flood
(1946)

The lacklustre flood
Terrytoons Studios' output is very hit and miss but when seeing it as a completest it is also quite fascinating. Most of it ranges between mediocre and pretty decent, though there are cartoons of theirs that are more and also less. The Mighty Mouse cartoons up to this point of his series were generally watchable if very formulaic (though that is not the case for all), though there was yet to be one that was above very good level and Mighty Mouse himself is a pleasant enough if limited character.

1946 was a patchy, well up and down, year for Mighty Mouse, despite it also being a prolific one. 'The Wicked Wolf' was by quite some way the best of the previous 1946 Mighty Mouse cartoons and a few others were quite decent too. 'My Old Kentucky Home' was very weak though and one of Mighty Mouse's worst. 'The Johnstown Flood' is not an awful lot better, for 1946 Terrytoons this was quite a lacklustre cartoon with enough halfway decent things to make it slightly watchable.

Coming off best in 'The Johnstown Flood' is the music. Outstanding yet again and the component consistently good even in lesser outings such as this one. It is its usual lush and characterful self, not just adding to the action but enhancing it as well and also love how wild it is. The animation is equally great in quality, especially the backgrounds and landscapes, the characters are well drawn and the colours are really beautiful on the eye. Everything with the flood is vividly animated.

Did think that the final third, or more the last two minutes, did have tension and it was exciting, despite the very end never being in doubt as it is the more of the same ending seen throughout the series. Mighty Mouse is plot-device material and feels a bit shoe-horned but one has to admire his courage in such a difficult situation.

Most of the story didn't really grab me. It is a loose animated re-telling of the big flood with a Mighty Mouse to the rescue spin, so there should be no expectations of accuracy and instead try and accept it as a what if sort of story. By all means some will find it hard to do it as it was such a big disastrous event and feelings still would have been raw even years later, even though intended to be a loose re-telling some may not take kindly to this event being re-told family-friendly style and in their minds "trivialised". If this comes over as nit-picky or disrespectful, that is not intended and is just my perception. Only in the final portion does 'The Johnstown Flood' properly come to life.

Elsewhere, 'The Johnstown Flood' takes too long to get going and despite the cartoon being short it really seemed to struggle to fill enough content to fill the length. Most of the cartoon is paper thin and stretched out and everything leading up to the final third failed to generate much sense of danger, emotion or tension. Didn't really felt emotionally invested and my interest wasn't entirely there either. None of the other characters are particularly engaging and are not particularly distinct either.

In conclusion, lacklustre though the final portion or so redeems it. 4/10

The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour: Watt a Shocking Ghost
(1976)
Episode 4, Season 1

High voltage
Am someone who has always loved Scooby Doo, as a character and the franchise in general (though not all incarnations are great or even good, 'Shaggy and Scooby Doo: Get a Clue' is yuck and the individual Shaggy, Scooby and Scrappy episodes do not hold up). And 'The Scooby Doo Show' has always been one of the best shows in the franchise, some very memorable stories and villains and in feel it is the most faithful to the original of the other shows in the franchise.

"Watt a Shocking Ghost" was to me one of the best episodes of 'The Scooby Doo Show' as a child, despite being very creepy, certainly one of the ones that stuck out in my mind between one watch to the next. Twenty plus years on, my positive feelings have not changed. It still is one of the best and the creepiness has not been lost, also noticed on my last watch even more things to like forgotten about or not picked up upon as much before. Some may look at my high rating for "Watt a Shocking Ghost" with scorn, but it is all personal opinion.

The 10,000 Volt Ghost is a very memorable villain, the way it looks is likely to stay with one forever, their actions and the way they move speaking louder than words. There were villains on the show that were particularly once seen and never forgotten and the 10,000 Volt Ghost was one of them. Will admit to not being massively surprised by the identity of the responsible, though actually it is far from a case of it could only have been one person (like other episodes), then again only a few of the reveals on the show left me floored. Their plan though was a clever one that is clearer from a young adult perspective and the motive isn't made obvious too early. The mystery is always intriguing as is the backstory, which always struck me as a creepy one.

It is not just the 10,000 Volt Ghost that's memorable. There are two scenes that especially stick in the mind, that with the parrot (a scene that makes more impact as a young adult, with it being more obvious what kind of scene it was) and the one with the file cabinet. The final trap is one of the cleverest. The writing keeps one on their toes and puts a smile to the face regardless of any corniness (which is not to me of the groan-worthy kind), the scene with the parrot is a writing standout.

Animation makes the most of the wintry setting, not being over elaborate that it swamps things or over-sparse that it looks cheap. The setting still looks ominous. Have never had fault with the music and the theme song is catchy. Shaggy and Scooby are so amusing and endearing and they and the rest of the characters are very well voiced.

Overall, one of the show's best. 10/10

Phineas and Ferb: Raging Bully/Lights, Candace, Action!
(2008)
Episode 5, Season 1

Thumb wrestling and at the movies
Once again, the premises for both "Raging Bully" and "Lights, Candace, Action" were great. Structurally they follow a formula that 'Phineas and Ferb' was heavily reliant upon, but to me because the settings and writing did have enough variety the formula didn't feel repetitive, especially early on. Anybody who has been in a similar situation ever to Phineas in "Raging Bully" will relate and anything centered around making films is always fun.

Found once again "Raging Bully" and "Lights, Candace, Action" to be great. And equally so rather than being a case of one being better than the other. They are as funny and often hilarious at their best as each other, both make the most of their premises, the Doofenschmirtz and Perry subplots are hugely entertaining in both and they are inspired enough. Do have a slight preference for the story in "Lights, Candace, Action" but "Raging Bully" also has that truly great song.

Like some other 'Phineas and Ferb' episodes, some of the pacing is a little too manic where transitions from one gag to the next could have occasionally done with more breathing space.

So much is great though in both episodes. The animation is still wonderfully vibrant and the attention to detail in particularly "Lights, Candace, Action" for the backgrounds is beautifully done. The music is dynamic with the action and the theme song is insanely catchy with very clever and quotable lyrics that anybody still in school fishing for how to spend their vacation will relate to. "He's a Bully" also is one of the best songs to ever feature on 'Phineas and Ferb'.

Writing is witty and is accessible for children and adults alike, nothing is simplistic here while still being easy to understand. There are plenty of gags here and neither of them miss. The whole "same thing tomorrow?" exchange, Ferb shines in this part, is priceless. The stories are delivered with great energy and affection. The wrestling preparation and movie making premises are made the most of, "Lights, Candace, Action" doing particularly well, and both Doofenschmirtz and Perry subplots are hugely entertaining. Absolutely love Doofenschmirtz's plan to speed up the aging process, but not for an as evil cause this time, and the episode is worth seeing for him trying to age Perry alone.

Still love the characters, especially Perry. Candace and Buford shine too as does all the character chemistry, Doofenschmirtz and Perry are so much fun together. The voice acting is very well done. Interesting to hear Evander Holyfield voicing himself.

Concluding, great. 9/10

The Balloonatic
(1923)

Up, up and awry
1923's 'The Balloonatic' should have been so much more. Considering that it has such a great title and that it starred one of comedy's funniest and most daring performers in Buster Keaton. Actually like to love a vast majority of Keaton's short films and the best of his feature films (i.e. 'The General') are masterpieces. So that this review is not as enthusiastic as most of my other reviews for Keaton's work is regrettable, nothing malicious about it at all.

'The Balloonatic' is one of Keaton's weakest short films and for me it is lesser Keaton overall as well. It is far from terrible, would call very, very little of his work that, and it does have its charm and good things. There are just funnier, clever and bolder short and feature films that Keaton did, and the execution is quite uneven. 'The Balloonatic' is watchable enough but not essential, and is more a curio or if one wants to see everything that Keaton did.

Am going to start with the good things. It is nicely made, not looking primitive. Keaton is not at his funniest or boldest, but he is amusing, he has a lot of likeability and he still shows that he is one of the masters at deadpan. Phyllis Haver is also appealing and has a spirit about her. She and Keaton have an adorable chemistry together.

Some parts are fun. The stuff with the balloon is creative and Keaton's bear encounter is pure genius. 'The Balloonatic' starts and ends very well.

It's what happens in the middle that's a bit hit and miss. Nothing is unfunny here, but only a few parts are hilarious and there are far more inspired and funnier gags in other Keaton efforts. Wouldn't have said no to more gags perhaps, and those that were there could have connected with each other more tightly and with more cohesion. The story is very slight and could have had more energy, it is basically a series of cobbled together gags that gives the structure a disjointed feel.

Compared to other Keaton efforts, 'The Balloonatic' felt a little bland. It's not just the humour and Keaton's athleticism and mastery of deadpan that plays a huge part in his appeal, it's also the jaw-dropping and ahead of the time stunts. 'The Balloonatic' is somewhat short-changed on this front.

On the whole, watchable but Keaton did so much better before and since. 5/10

Branagh Theatre Live: The Winter's Tale
(2015)

"I speak as my understanding instructs me and as mine honesty puts it to utterance"
'The Winter's Tale' is not one of the very best plays of William Shakespeare, a master playwright and one of history's most important, with one of his more improbable plots. It is still though a charmer that really casts a spell when done well, has interesting characters difficult to portray in some cases (especially the Othello-like Leontes), has Shakespeare's usual mastery of language and has emotional impact. To me, even when Shakespeare was not at his very best there was still an awful lot to admire.

As well as liking the play and loving watching live filmed play productions, my main reason for seeing Kenneth Branagh's production of 'The Winter's Tale' was Branagh himself and Judi Dench. Branagh is very experienced in Shakespeare, both as actor and director, and has proven a number of times that he is excellent at it as seen with his film versions of 'Hamlet', 'Henry V' and 'Much Ado About Nothing'. Dench has for a long time been a personal favourite, she has such authority and dignity and doesn't try to do too much. Both come off well brilliantly here and count me in as another person that loved this production of 'The Winter's Tale', among the better productions of the play seen.

One of the best aspects of the production is the acting. Branagh excels as Leontes, a complex role performed with equal complexity in a performance that has searing intensity as the jealousy grews and also poignancy. Really liked that the performance started off quiet and subtle and then became more intense and icy as Leontes became more jealous, showing a character progression, Leontes is not the kind of role to underplay and play too subdued, neither of which Branagh does and very effectively. Dench is every bit as great, Paulina ties everything together and drives and fixes the action which Dench conveys with intelligence and understated compassion, she is very movingly tender when Paulina shows Leontes his baby (a part that was very moving in the production).

It is not just them that come over so well. Miranda Raison is a suitably forceful and also affecting Hermione, her anger blazes when being accused while being controlled enough to avoid over-acting. Jessie Buckley's free-spirited-ness is immensely appealing and full of life. Everybody is believable. Even though not set in the period that the play is set in, the production looks good and looks tasteful. No over-grimness or mishmashes. Absolutely loved the wintery atmosphere, especially at the very Christmas-like beginning, which didn't come over as heavy-handed or too cold.

Shakespeare's text shines through, amusing, tense, loving and poignant in equal measure. The staging is always absorbing and done in good taste, it didn't come over as too busy or too static while also not resorting to pointless distaste. Everything is coherent too, one would never guess that the plot of the play is not the most probable of ones. Despite trying not to be too much of a traditionalist, have liked concept productions of plays and operas, but it depends on how the concept is executed, whether it and the staging touches make sense and don't offend. The pace is fine and the spirit of the play is maintained with full impact, shining in how the characters are directed with a clear understanding of Leontes in particular. Emotionally, this 'The Winter's Tale' is a real winner and is very poignant at the end.

Concluding, wonderful. 9/10

Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Silver Lining
(2004)
Episode 8, Season 4

More than silver in quality
Like to love almost all of the previous Season 4 episodes of 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent', a great show when at its best (which was mostly the earlier seasons). With the only disappointments being "Eosphoros" and "In the Dark". Anybody else that was blown away by the previous episode (and a season high point) "Magnifcat", like me, will undoubtedly expect a lot from "Silver Lining", even if reading the premise for this episode doesn't hit as hard as the one for that.

"Silver Lining" for me wasn't as good as that episode. It didn't quite have its emotional impact, hard hitting edge or tension, nor did it have supporting performances quite as memorable. Things that were also present in other superior Season 4 episodes "Semi-Detached" and "Want". Is that disparaging its quality as an episode on its own terms? Absolutely not, as "Silver Lining" is still a very good episode in its own way, without comparing it to anything else, with lots to admire.

It is a bit of a slow starter, the storytelling on the thin side to begin with and bogged down by a little too much jargon.

However, it is a slickly made episode as usual with the photography's intimacy not being too filmed play-like. The music isn't overused or overpowering and suits the tone of the show aptly. The script is mostly taut and really made me think on each of the four viewings had of this particular episode. That final line is quite chilling.

The story is mostly compelling. Once the case gets going it's clever and keeps one interested, with characters and events turning out to not be what they seem. There are some good scenes here in "Silver Lining" as well, the Eames-led interrogation, the meeting between Goren and the husband and the stakeout. Not to mention that cute and very funny touch with Goren and the files, that apparently was improvised. The characters are all well written, with a quite fascinating perpetrator in particularly why they behave the way they do, Goren dominates but doesn't so too much.

Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe are both on top. David Harbour again proves that he can do creepy effectively, having done a creepy performance in the 'Special Victims Unit' episode "Dolls".

On the whole, not one of the season's best but very well done. 8/10

Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Magnificat
(2004)
Episode 7, Season 4

My soul
It is hard to resist an episode with a title as beautiful as that, the name given namely in choral music to the Hymn of the Virgin Mary (or canticle). It was no surprise to me that this was not going to be a pleasant episode, that is obvious reading the plot synopsis whether online or on the television guide and if seeing other episodes of 'Criminal Intent' and the whole 'Law and Order' franchise, known for uncompromising approaches to heavy subjects.

Of which "Magnificat" has one of the heaviest. Really do have to disagree respectfully with the user that considers it the worst episode of 'Criminal Intent'. To me it is absolutely nowhere near being one of the worst let alone the worst. If anything, "Magnificat" again from personal opinion is one of the best. Not just of Season 4 but of the show in general, that sees the season and show back on track. A vast improvement over the disappointing previous two episodes "Eosphoros" and "In the Dark".

"Magnificat" is especially good in the performances and the emotional impact. The acting is some of the best of the entire show in my view. Everybody is brilliant but two especially stand out. One is Vincent D'Onofrio, which was no surprise as he was always brilliant as Goren but here is some of his best work. Showing the beauty of emotions and thought processes telling so much through the use of the eyes and the face. Not just in his anger towards Whitlock, such as in the interrogation where Goren's and Eames' incense at Whitlock's uncaring attitude is very deeply felt by the viewer as well, but also in his compassion when speaking with the child that survived. Carrie Preston is deeply moving, broke my heart actually, in a difficult role as a deeply troubled character.

Kathryn Erbe works and contrasts beautifully with D'Onofrio, she is just as good as him at showing anger and is equally expressive. Her heartbreak over such a terrible case is also immensely believable and incredibly authentic, as is when she and Goren realise the truly gut-wrenching truth. Sam Robards plays one of the show's most despicable characters in a truly chilling way and brilliantly, especially in the interrogation scene, effectively making the blood boil.

This is an incredibly emotional and very disturbing episode and one that grabs the attention straightaway right up to the last second. The case on the surface is enough to make one cry and be angry at how something like that could happen, but every bit as soul-destroying is what drove the perpetrator to do what they did. In one of the few 'Criminal Intent' where the viewer's anger and hatred is directed towards another person other than the perpetrator, so much so that one in a way roots for them to be the one responsible. The interrogation is Season 4's finest in my view and one of the best of the whole show, and it was amazing that the political and social aspects of the case were handled in the nuanced way that it was (as this could easily have been heavy-handed).

Could find nothing wrong with the slick production values, the haunting but not overpowering music or the tight and sincere script. As well as the subtle but never dreary direction.

Overall, incredible episode and one of the season and show's best. 10/10

Law & Order: Criminal Intent: In the Dark
(2004)
Episode 6, Season 4

In the bizarre dark
Season 4, following on from three solid previous seasons, started off so well, with "Semi-Detached" and "Want" being especially brilliant episodes thanks to very interesting killers and seeing a different softer side to Goren. So it was a shame that it went downhill with the uneven "Eosphoros", which had a good idea and interesting title but didn't completely work. So there was the hope that "In the Dark" would be better, as the premise did sound interesting.

"In the Dark's" execution sadly wasn't as interesting and it turned out to be a bit of an inconsistent potential waste. It started off very promisingly, so on that front it was well on its own way on being a big improvement over "Eosphoros". So it did frustrate me that it became increasingly bizarre and implausible, when looking at the premise it had the potential to be really quite chilling. "In the Dark" could easily have been one of the best Season 4 episodes with that premise, but ended up as one of the season's weaker episodes.

By all means it is not all bad and there are actually a number of good things. The slickness and grit is still present, complete with a moodier atmosphere that fits very well with the concept. The music is suitably haunting and doesn't make the mistakes of over-powering or overuse. The script probes enough thought, Goren's perceptions are entertaining and interesting and Eames' snappy one-liners bring a smile to the face.

Did think that "In the Dark" did start off incredibly promisingly, it held my attention, had me invested and there was a creepiness to it. Goren is such a big part of 'Criminal Intent's' appeal and he continues to shine, as does his chemistry with Eames. Although there is no doubt that it is them early on, the perpetrator is fascinating and creepy. The acting is very good, not just from Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe but also a sinister Geoffrey Lewis.

After such a promising start though, the more obvious and conventional the story gets the less suspenseful and such the episode becomes. Other than a surprising and quite bonkers twist concerning the truth about a character's condition things get pretty predictable. By the final act, "In the Dark" had not become too tame but it also had become really strange and confused from trying to cram in too much and not going into enough depth.

Found the perpetrator's motives for the crimes underdeveloped and implausible, and if the episode delved into his mind and explained further his psychological state that would have made more sense and been easier to swallow. The final solution had a lot to cram in and really struggles to do so, the ending felt very rushed and left too many things left in the air.

Bottom line, another disappointing episode. 6/10

Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Eosphoros
(2004)
Episode 5, Season 4

Bringer of dawn
"Eosphoros" (interesting title) was one of my first 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' episodes when starting to get into the show in my late teens. Back then it struck me as interesting enough but not exceptional or attention-grabbing all the way through. Watching more 'Criminal Intent' episodes subsequently not long after, "Eosphoros" didn't strike me as memorable as a lot of the episodes watched after and to be honest was soon near-forgotten about apart from the beginning.

Re-watching it recently, while there is a good deal to like about "Eosphoros" it still struck me as unexceptional and the second half was a good deal better than the first. So above average if it is stuck with but considering how one knows what the show is capable of this disappointed, and as far as the early season episodes go it's one of the lesser ones easily. Compared to other episodes of Season 4 and of 'Criminal Intent' in general, this episode felt on the bland and not particularly memorable side in a season that had a lot of tense, intricate and emotional episodes. Good idea, unevenly executed.

The episode is slick-looking and visually doesn't try to do anything too fancy or indulgent while also not being too safe. The music is not too dramatic and to me doesn't over-emphasise. Enough of the script intrigues and entertains, Goren's perceptions and such are as apt and amusing as one expects. The second half is better than the first, thanks to the chemistry between the responsible (an interesting and creepy dynamic), a few surprising twists that make what seemed obvious at first not so much and of course Goren (a lot of fun at the end). Didn't see the final solution coming.

Goren is still the fascinating lead character that plays a big part in the show's appeal. Love his and Eames' chemistry and Eames has some nice snappy banter that contrasts well with Goren. Can see nothing bad about Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe.

Having said all of that, the first half to me was on the mundane and ordinary side, not much tension and with not enough to make it stand out. Too much of it felt predictable and the pace lacks tautness. Frank Whaley overdoes it as Mitch, almost unintentionally comical in his final scene, where his moods and reactions being borderline erratic.

While enough of the script intrigued and entertained, some of it is too conventional early on and other parts, like at the end, were on the overcooked side. Goren's final line is quite terrible, one of his worst ever final lines and not worthy of him, and a line that will make atheists in particular grimace.

Concluding, not a bad episode but uneven. 6/10

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Rainbow Falls
(2014)
Episode 10, Season 4

Quality falls
Am a fan of 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' and Rainbow Dash had some wonderful episodes centered around her ("Sonic Rainboom" is one of the show's best ever episodes in my view). The subject is quite an interesting if familiar one, and you don't have to be a sports fan to find value in the setting. Although not the biggest of fans of the Wondebolt characters, it was interesting to see them returning with a character arc. Most of the previous Season 4 episodes are good and more, "Rarity Takes Manehattan" being brilliant.

"Rainbow Falls" sadly sees a decline in quality, going from solid enough with "Pinkie Apple Pie" to very average and with very conflicted feelings in so short a time. While "Daring Don't" and "Flight to the Finish" disappointed me too, they were still above average and middle of the pack episodes. "Rainbow Falls" is not Season 4's worst but it is towards being in the bottom tier when ranking the season. Didn't hate it but it should have been a lot better than it turned out.

There are quite a few things done well. The animation is full of vibrancy and rich detail in the backgrounds. The character designs are better and more consistent than in "Pinkie Apple Pie", the movement is a lot more natural here. The music fits beautifully and is fun and pleasant to listen to. The action in the last act excites and there are moments of amusing humour in the slapstick, like with Bulk Biceps and Fluttershy (the mountain scene really brought one of not enough smiles to my face).

While the characterisation has been much better in other episodes, Rainbow Dash carries the episode beautifully and Soarin is less of a jerk luckily compared to before. Did like the rest of the Mane 6's support for Rainbow Dash and Derpy's appearance was great. The voice acting is very good, especially from Ashleigh Ball. The moral is another important and worth relating to one.

Sadly, "Rainbow Falls" for me did have a number of big drawbacks. While the last act was exciting, it sure did take time to get there, the first two thirds had too much all over the place pacing. The middle act is rushed from trying to cram too much in and the first took far too long to get going and felt padded. The writing has been much better in previous and succeeding episodes, some of the dialogue is pretty redundant and most of the humour falls flat. Rarity deserved a lot better than the tired material she got, which really frustrated me as she is one of the biggest overall high-points of this season.

Other than Rainbow Dash and a few other exceptions, the characters are not written well. Pinkie Pie was annoying and dumbed down and Rarity deserved better. The rest of the Mane 6 are not out of character but are fairly bland. Didn't like the Wonderbolt characters on the whole apart from Soarin. Fleetfoot especially is so excessively villified for reasons not made clear, her mean-spirited personality taken to a whole new level in a not very tasteful way. While Fluttershy was fun, her presence struck me as a little pointless. Everything here is resolved far too easily and with no subtlety whatsoever.

In summary, disappointingly average. 5/10

Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Great Barrier
(2004)
Episode 4, Season 4

Great return
If one loved the character of Nicole Wallace, brilliantly played by Olivia D'Abo, in her previous appearances "Anti-Thesis" and "A Person of Interest" (both from Season 2), they would likely be enthused by her return here in "Great Barrier". Speaking as one of those people that loved her before and was so excited at her returning. While worrying that it could potentially feel like one appearance too far and that it would be too derivative of the other two episodes, something that was felt regarding the character of Cat Adams on 'Criminal Minds'.

"Great Barrier" to me didn't feel like one appearance too far and it also didn't feel too derivative. Wallace has lost none of what made her such a great character, actually think she has grown as a character, and the chemistry between her and Goren still blisters. Nothing stale here on this front, plus her interaction with Eames chills just as much. "Great Barrier" struck me as a great episode, not as good as "Anti-Thesis" but is equal to "A Person of Interest".

There is actually not really anything really wrong here, just felt that "Anti-Thesis" especially had more shocks and suspense and early on it was not always easy to follow.

So much to love however in "Great Barrier" though. The production values are stylish and like Seasons 2 and 3 there is a slightly brighter look than the first season while maintaining the show's grit. The music doesn't overbear and is not overused. The direction is deft and allows D'Onofrio and D'Abo to have fun. The script is tight and intriguing, sometimes deliciously over-the-top, Wallace's taunting really gave me chills (such as with Eames and her sister's child, yeesh) in particular.

Once again, the story always compels and while it is very intricate it doesn't feel incoherent. Nor does it come over as too simple, thanks to lots of twists and turns. Everything with Wallace's past intrigues and is illuminating and despite the material not being subtle it didn't to me get too melodramatic. Goren is as perceptive and neurotic as always and Eames has some great snappy lines.

Even better is Wallace. She is as deceptively attractive and frighteningly cunning as she was before, but also deadlier and more manipulative. One of not many 'Criminal Intent' guest characters to fit under the term "Goren meets his match" and worthy of his intellect. All the performances are dead on, especially Vincent D'Onofrio (hardly surprising) and Olivia D'Abo proving once again that she can do skin crawling brilliantly.

Concluding, great. 9/10

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Waste
(2002)
Episode 8, Season 4

The complete opposite of a waste
Anybody who has read any of my other reviews for for example individual episodes of the 'Law and Order' shows, am slowly working my way through writing reviews for all the episodes of 'Law and Order, 'Special Victims Unit' and 'Criminal Intent' with a long way to go, will know already how much admiration there is from me for anything that tackles difficult and controversial themes and issues. "Waste" is no exception, perhaps one of Season 4's most controversial.

While it may not be one of the season's best, most tense or most emotional episodes, "Waste" was actually one of the most interesting subject matter-wise and that it explored such a tough and complicated subject that was relevant then and is hardly out of date now at all is to be admired. That it managed to handle it very well is something to give it extra props for. "Waste" sounds very strange and convoluted when reading the plot synopsis, but in execution it somehow it managed to be neither.

My only real complaint in an episode that has so little wrong with it is that to me the ending seemed a bit too hastily wrapped up and the episode could have gone into more depth with the why the perpetrator wanted to keep the baby for the quite strange reason given.

The episode otherwise does a great job with this subject. It was quite illuminating in what it had to say on the issue and with each watch (my recent watch was the fifth) what is said made more sense with each viewing. Do agree that it is all very ghoulish, without going over the top on that, but it is handled sensitively and with intelligence too. The script is thought-provoking and doesn't take itself too seriously that it becomes dreary.

Love the team interaction and all the regulars shine in their own way (i.e. Stabler's steely intensity, Munch's dry humour). The supporting characters are interesting too, with Mandell being a slimeball. The acting is great from all the regulars and Bruce Davison is suitably unsettling. The story intrigues and is engaging, even when not as edge of the seat as some other episodes of the season and show.

It's a good looking episode as usual and when it is used the music is not intrusive thankfully. The direction is both alert and accomodating.

Great episode overall if a little rushed and underdeveloped at the end. 8.5/10

Law & Order: American Dream
(1993)
Episode 8, Season 4

Fighting with fire
Up to this point of Season 4, of which "American Dream" is the eighth episode, all the episodes ranged between pretty good ("Discord") to outstanding ("Profile"). Like Seasons 2 and 3, it did have to undergo changes, with two new characters introduced (both at this point already making a big impression) and the changes that this season underwent settled much quicker than especially those for Season 2. With one of the most interesting premises of the season and also that it was Stone-heavy, "American Dream" had real potential to be good.

It turned out to be more than good. Would actually go as far to call "American Dream" amazing. Not just one of the top 3 best episodes of Season 4, but also an early season standout. One of Stone's best episodes, that saw him shining even more so than usual, too and with one of his most fascinating and creepiest opponents. The episode also is a masterpiece of character interaction, which is great as that is one of the biggest pleasures of the 'Law and Order' franchise at its best.

"American Dream" is a slickly made episode, the editing especially having come on quite a bit from when the show first started (never was it a problem but it got more fluid with each episode up to this stage). The music is sparingly used and never seemed melodramatic, the theme tune easy to remember as usual. The direction is sympathetic enough without being too low key on the whole.

The script is full of tension, intelligence and tautness. Swann has some truly chilling lines and the exchanges between him and Stone leave a big impression in the dialogue and in the delivery. As said too the episode is masterful when it comes to how the characters interact. Not just Stone and Swann but also Stone and Kincaid, which was getting stronger and stronger all the time (likewise with Kincaid herself). Schiff's concern and amazement at how such a strong person like Stone was so easily gotten to is also telling.

Furthermore, the story is extremely clever and absorbing, with tension galore and some clever references to real life cases. Helped by the huge impression Swann leaves, giving Stone a run for his money on the juiciness factor. It never comes over as too easy to solve, neither does it become over-plotted or incoherent and also appreciated its change of pace (from highlighting mostly two characters and being less of a half-police half-legal story and instead being procedural heavy). The ending satisfies immensely, in fact to me the story was so good that for me it was easy to forgive how contrived one of the big clues is.

Can't fault the performances either. Michael Moriarty gives one of his ever performances of the role, the intensity, authority and torment beautifully balanced and riveting to watch. The other standout is Zeljko Ivanek, bone chilling in one of Season 4's (and early seasons) standout guest turns that is also classic 'Law and Order'.

In summary, amazing and a top 3 best episode of the season. 10/10

Sweet and Sourdough
(1969)

Neither sweet or sour
Up to this point of the interesting but uneven Roland and Rattfink series, with 'Sweet and Sourdough' being only the fifth cartoon (of seventeen), there had been a particularly awful, or even good cartoon. At the same time, there had also not been a particularly great, or even good one either. All five veered between average and decent without being any more or any less than that, meaning on the most part watchable but nothing special.

There is nothing in 'Sweet and Sourdough' that is enough to make it go sour, but there is not enough in it to make it go sweet. Instead, 'Sweet and Sourdough' is average and watchable but not much stands out. The Roland and Rattfink series was only five cartoons in, but of the five, 'Sweet and Sourdough' on reflection may be the weakest. Didn't care enormously for 'Hurts and Flowers' but it at least tried to do something different, or at least do something different from the formula. Didn't find that the case here, which is why to me it is marginally worse.

'Sweet and Sourdough' does have good things. The animation has a lot of vibrant colour, doesn't look rushed looking and the cartoon has one of the more vivid settings of the series. The music is a continual good thing in the series and it still is here, anybody who loves the music for the Ant and the Aardvark series will like the music here.

Although the gags are not enough and are very familiar, there are amusing moments if mildly so. Both Roland and Rattfink, the latter in Snidely Whiplash mode, are served equally well and are nice to watch, as is their chemistry. The voice acting suits the characters well.

On the other hand, 'Sweet and Sourdough' suffers from that it feels very predictable and repetitive in the story, apart from the setting it is standard Roland and Rattfink in a formula that is not a new one in the first place, and that not enough of the material, again very derivative of gags seen in other cartoons and better, is very funny. The ending, better aspects for some of the series' other cartoons, for instance is not particularly inspired at all.

While not completely dull, 'Sweet and Sourdough' never properly comes to life pace-wise and is quite routine generally instead. Giving it a bland feel, which not every cartoon in the series has. Nothing really is done terribly in 'Sweet and Sourdough', there is just little that stands out either.

In conclusion, didn't do an awful lot for me but a long way from being terrible. 5/10

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital: Part One
(2018)
Episode 7, Season 2

Sinister hospital
To me, 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' book series deserves its popularity, its formula can be understandably perceived as repetitive but the colourful supporting characters (namely the juicy tour-de-force that is Count Olaf), increasing darkness and mystery and prose add to the entertainment value. While starting off a little unsettled, this series adaptation that adapted all thirteen books (with all but one of the books adapted in two parts) more than laudably does very well.

Season 2, which adapted "The Austere Academy", "The Ersatz Elevator", "The Vile Village", "The Hostile Hospital" and "The Carnivorous Carnival", felt more settled than Season 1, which comprised of "The Bad Beginning", "The Reptile Room", "The Wide Window" and "The Miserable Mill". Season 1 was very promising and established the book series' basic tone very well indeed on the most part, but the second season built upon what was introduced and established and the mystery became darker, more suspenseful and richer without being convoluted.

Whereas most of the two part adaptations of the 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' adaptation were a case of one part being slightly better than the other (the second half tending to be better) , there were exceptions where both parts were equally good. "The Hostile Hospital" is a strong example of this, one of the best of the whole series and a contender for the best of Season 2. It's a slow starter, which is true for the book as well, but once things get going it is classic 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'. The first part also doesn't have Mr Poe, which is a major plus.

It is a great looking episode for one. The production values were one of the series' biggest and most consistent high points, "The Hostile Hospital: Part 1" the lighting has a genuine eeriness and the photography is full of atmosphere and style. Most striking is the setting, the hospital setting is one of the most strikingly done and most atmospheric settings of the series and really does stand out. Those corridors have a real sense of claustrophobia that makes one appropriately uncomfortable, especially those actually that have been in and out of hospital for a large portion of their life (myself included, one of the worst cases being complications from a viral infection a few months back). If a lot has been said about this asset, it is because it is that striking to be mentioned a lot. The opening titles sequence is right on the money for reasons that have been said already. The music atmospherically is a perfect match and there isn't a placement that's questionable.

Snicket's writing translates very well here in "The Hostile Hospital: Part 1". As well as having the right amount of entertainment value in a dark way and suspenseful intrigue, there is also a melancholic edge in the narration (not overused or over-explanatory here to me) not seen as much before (when Beatrice is referenced). The story compels throughout, and up to this point of the series "The Hostile Hospital" has been the adaptation to have the most sense of jeopardy that built and built.

Count Olaf is at his most sinister, a genuine threat here, and so is Neil Patrick Harris. Patrick Warburton is suitably mysterious and manages to deliver and emote in a way that was amusing but also very serious (my definition of deadpan but in a good way). Lucy Punch has just as great a time as Harris and brings smiles and chills. David Alan Grier is a sympathetic Hal and Olaf's theatrical troupe are a joy, very theatrical but also very creepy and very funny. Actually think the Baudelaires' acting has grown in confidence over time, their material generally just isn't as strong as the rest of the cast's.

Altogether, one of the best of the series. 9/10

House of Cards: Chapter 73
(2018)
Episode 8, Season 6

From brilliance to abomination
Never in the history of television has a show resembled a large pack of cards held high and strong for most of its run crash to the loudest of thuds to utter destruction in the way 'House of Cards' did in its final season, and especially its final episode. Have said more than once about considering it the worst final episode for any show, yes worse than those for 'Game of Thrones' (hold that show in very high regard on the most part) and (from memory) 'Dexter', and still stand by that opinion.

'Game of Thrones' final episode "The Iron Throne" may have made me truly mad and induced an over an hour long phone conversation with my brother talking about what went wrong, but it didn't make me want to throw something out of the window or make me want to punch the wall in the way 'House of Cards' "Chapter 73" did. And no it is not just that Frank isn't in it, like the whole of Season 6 there is much more to the problem than that. Couldn't even appreciate Michael Kelly's valiant effort in the acting stakes because of how badly Doug is practically character assassinated (far more complex than the one-dimensional psycho he was reduced to in the last two episodes).

Didn't even find the photography all that special here, it's not bad but it doesn't stand out, and the editing doesn't have the tautness it usually does. The music is ham-fisted and while that the episode was directed by Robin Wright herself sounded promising on paper, having been impressed by most of her previous directing efforts for the show, this is quite pedestrian work from her.

The script manages to be the worst of the whole of Season 6, and of 'House of Cards', and dialogue-wise Season 6 was very poorly written to put it politely. So that took a bit of doing. The sharpness? The bite? The complexity? The thoughtfulness? None present here, replaced by fatigue, convolution, cheese, absurdity and contrivance. Only Kelly is halfway compelling here, wasted by Doug's simplistic character writing and the out of character and eventually cowardly way he behaves (also felt that he over-egged it at the end). Wright is both wooden and over the top, Claire lacking gravitas as a lead and not capable of making decisions that have any logic. Everybody else looks disconencted.

From start to finish, the story is both drawn out and tries to have too many ideas and does nothing with any of them. It all lacks cohesion and there is nothing illuminating or interesting here. The episode is almost single-handedly ruined by the ending, which is to me one of the worst and most insulting ever endings for anything to exist and a disgrace to the 'House of Cards' name. Too melodramatic, too illogical and too anti-climactic, that doesn't make sense and destroys Doug's character. The big revelation is an intelligence-insulting slap in the face and then the whole episode, and season and show, ends with almost everything unresolved.

Concluding, don't use the word abomination a lot but that is the perfect way to sum up this season and show finale that betrayed every character, theme, event, basically everything 'House of Cards' stood for. 1/10

Taggart: The Ties That Bind
(2005)
Episode 3, Season 21

Death in the slow lane
"The Ties That Bind" was one of the few Burke-period 'Taggart' episodes that was seen for the first time by me after the show had finished. Can't really think of a reason why, other than that the later Burke-period episodes tended to be aired more when first getting into 'Taggart'. Really loved the idea for the story, though there was the worry as to whether it would be convoluted or be complex enough without going too far that way.

Luckily, to me "The Ties That Bind" was in the latter category. While the Taggart and Jardine periods were superior and more consistent, the period with Burke in charge did have some great episodes. "The Ties That Bind" is one of those, and one of the best. It was a little confusing to me on first watch, which was about a decade ago and when not in the right mindset, but on re-watches the plotting is a lot clearer and actually found more to appreciate.

It is well-made visually, with the usual grit and moodiness in the photography. The striking is both picturesque and unforgiving. The music matches that perfectly and the main theme is not one to forget.

From a writing point of view, it has the right amount of entertainment value (the banter) and grit (in the crime solving it doesn't shy away). The story is a complex one with many unexpected twists and turns, all plausible and don't feel too many. Doing so without being incoherent and it is always involving, plus its approach to such a gritty plot line is very pull no punches.

All four lead characters work cohesively, with plenty of amusing banter and hard boiled edge in their interaction with each other, and shine in their own way. With "The Ties That Bind" being one of Burke's most interesting episodes as an individual character.

Overall, wonderful. 10/10

Last Vermont Christmas
(2018)

Last Christmas at home
Not all Hallmark films are bad, so this is not somebody who gives a low rating and negative review to every one of them in existence (or at least the ones rated and reviewed so far). Actually have been pleasantly surprised by a fair share of them, though have yet to come across a flawless one (my highest mark for Hallmark Christmas films has been a 8). There are though a fair share of below average and worse ones though, but few are irredeemable.

'Last Vermont Christmas' is one of the below average Hallmark Christmas films, well actually it is worse than that. It is not one of the worst of their output and it is not without its redeeming qualities, but there is a lot that is wrong here. And there is much more to the problem than just Justin Breuning's distracting and "has to be seen to be believed" hair-style, which is like a character of its own. Many of the typical Hallmark flaws in fact are here.

As said, 'Last Vermont Christmas' is not a complete waste. It looks quite good, especially the scenery and the look of the film isn't drab or garish. There are some pleasant moments on the soundtrack.

Breuning and Erin Cahill actually do their utmost best in the lead roles and generally do credibly. Some of their chemistry is sweet enough.

Though also in terms of development very rushed and under-baked, with the romantic relationship needing more time to grow rather than a series of unrealistic decisions that move onto the next one too quickly. The rest of the acting came over as very phoned in and like the actors didn't know what to make of their poorly written lines. Or like they didn't know what to do with their shallow cliches passing for characters. Most of the chemistry between the cast lack warmth and seem disconnected.

Excepting moments of pleasantness, the music tends to be rather too constant and could have been toned down. The direction is rather run of the mill, getting the job done just about but with no distinction. The dialogue throughout makes the toes curl, the cheese and schmaltz often overkill. The story is too thin and everything is obvious from miles away, the pace tends to be pedestrian too and the charm and warmth there in other Hallmark Christmas films aren't here.

In conclusion, pretty weak. 3/10

A Twist of Christmas
(2018)

Charming Christmas
Lifetime Christmas Films have been a very mixed bag in not just each of the years they've been doing them but also of their whole output. Personally do like some of them, as some are nice enough and succeed at their main objectives providing one takes them for what they are. Others are not very good and have a lot of things done badly, even when trying not to take them seriously too much. Others are a mix of good and bad, ditto.

'A Twist of Christmas' was a pleasant surprise. Of Lifetime's 2018 Christmas output, it's among the better ones. Of all the (relatively) recently seen Christmas films, 'A Twist of Christmas' is one of the better ones too. It's not my definition of great and has its flaws (and it is not going to be for everybody and that is fine), but it did charm me and was an easy watch. A case of a dubious start that got a lot better as it went on, so it is worth sticking with and not bailed out upon too early in my view.

There are a few not so good things. The early portions are a little too slow and with some laughably bad dialogue and one does not like how the characters behave at first. So actually can understand why people thought negatively of the film in the early stages, but didn't wait long enough for it to get better. The story has a lot to like about it, but there is not a lot about it that's particularly twisty.

Structurally and such it is standard Lifetime but does it better than most previous Lifetime film viewings. Some of the supporting cast don't have much to work with and don't register enough as a result.

However, the soundtrack is pleasant enough and doesn't come over as overdone. The direction is not exceptional but is solid enough for the type of film it is. The film looks attractive, especially the scenery and the leads do become a lot more likeable later. The younger actors are sweet without being too much so and Vanessa Lachey and Brendon Zub are very engaging as well in the lead roles, especially Lachey. Their chemistry comes over as genuine and develops more realistically than most previously seen Christmas films with similar romances.

While the dialogue is far from perfect, it did improve later on and didn't feel as corny or gooey. It induced some smiles. The story may be straightforward and doesn't have many surprises, but the setting is made very good use of and there is not too much of a stale feel compared to other Hallmark Christmas films, not feeling as over-familiar. The film is very light hearted and really warmed my heart and when the sentiment came in it didn't feel excessive or manipulative.

Overall, pleasantly charming. 7/10

A Snow White Christmas
(2018)

A Snow White humbug
Love Christmas and love the 'Snow White' story, one of my favourite stories since childhood, so the concept of having elements of the story mixed with the Christmas setting really did intrigue me. Actually one of the most interesting concepts of any Christmas film seen recently, so the potential was definitely there for it to be at least above average. There are many classic Christmas films as well as some real misfires out there and was hoping that with a concept this interesting that 'A Snow White Christmas' would not be in the latter category.

Sadly to me 'A Snow White Christmas' was a catastrophic misfire in pretty much every way. Have always tried to be as kind as possible when reviewing something and am usually generous with my ratings, ratings under 5 have been less frequent. The lowest possible rating is a very rare rating for me these days, my last 1/10 was given to a 'Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders' episode way back in June. But 'A Snow White Christmas' deserves it, the worst Christmas film seen in a long time and the worst overall seen since 'Flesh Feast' with Veronica Lake. What a massive potential waste.

'A Snow White Christmas' least bad asset is the music. Even that is forgettable at best.

Everything else though ranges from bad to pretty abysmal. It is a cheap-looking film, all looking rushed and under-budget. There were instances of some films that were made in a matter of days and not on an expensive budget but still managed to be great because of the writing and acting being so good (i.e. 'Margin Call', just a brief example). The photography was drab and the editing was erratic throughout with a mix of jumping about and drawing out. Have seen better designed settings at Christmas plays.

In regard to the writing, that is one of 'A Snow White Christmas' worst done components. The amount of cheese, awkwardness and unintentional camp increasingly became really hard to take. There is too much going on in the story, it all felt far too busy with a lot of things happening but pretty much all of it being skimmed over and done next to nothing with. The romance is incredibly rushed and severely underdeveloped, with a major character behaviour in particular being so unrealistically abrupt and going from one extreme emotion to another (and the complete opposite) in a matter of seconds. In facts there are too many characters, too many relationships between them and any references to the 'Snow White' story are like shoehorned in throwaways rather than affectionate.

Next to none of them developed well. One knows how everything is going to map out exactly in all the relationships and one does not connect in any of them. Because there is far too little done with them, meaning a lack of emotions, and because the characters are so sketchy and little more than bland and obnoxious stereotypes they are impossible to connect with too. Lets not get started on the lifeless direction, the complete lack of charm and the far too broad acting.

Concluding, terrible. 1/10

Once Upon a Time: Chosen
(2018)
Episode 17, Season 7

The chosen one
"Chosen's" main interest point was that it was the directing debut of Lana Parrilla, yes our very own Regina. And that it was Zelena-centric, and she is one of my favourite 'Once Upon a Time' characters. Despite Season 7 on the most part being a disappointment, part of me is very fond of 'Once Upon a Time' and there are a lot of great episodes, namely in Seasons 1-5 (though the Underworld arc of the second half of Season 5 had flaws).

Although it is still not a great episode and not a 'Once Upon a Time' high point by any stretch, "Chosen" is nonetheless one of Season 7's better episodes and one of the few of the season to show a significant amount of story progression. Also a significant improvement over the disappointing previous episode "Breadcrumbs". There is finally some much needed advancing of the Candy Killer storyline, beyond a last minute revelation revealing the perpetrator's true identity, and the motive/significance of the killings are revealed.

Some dodgy, less than wondrous effects aside, "Chosen" is still shot with a good deal of atmosphere and is attractively designed. The music fits the atmosphere well enough and Parrilla does a more than competent and even good job directing. Rebecca Mader and Robert Carlyle in particular give fine performances, as does Parrilla, Mader especially pulling out all the stops. It was good to see the mystery progressing and in a way that intrigued and had some tension later on, while the flashbacks did well in establishing the origins of the killer and their motives.

The chemistry between Zelena and Regina is both tense and heartfelt, especially apparent in their emotional final scene. Emotion felt too between Zelena and Margot, their final scene being one of the most poignant moments of the season (Zelena and Regina's likewise). Weaver has another one of the season's shining moments, the line regarding her being finally chosen over Regina is his greatest line in a long time and a contender for the best line of Season 7. Their chemistry is a breath of fresh air. The dialogue is not as campy or as cheesy as most episodes of the last two seasons, and there are moments of levity and pathos.

Henry however is very bland and "Chosen" is another case of the season and show not knowing what to do with him other than being a stereotypical accessory. Although Nick/Hansel comes on a lot characterisation-wise, the chemistry between him and Henry still falls flat because the tension isn't there and their character relationship never really developed.

Samdi/Facilier always struck me as a bit annoying and his motivations always could have done with more clarity, everything with the curse also feels dragged out and Gothel's role serves little point to the story other than a bit of foreshadowing.

On the whole, pretty good for this season. 6.5/10

Tiny Toon Adventures: Son of Looniversity Daze
(1990)
Episode 47, Season 1

More lunacy at Acme Acres
Am a big fan of animation, have been all my life and love it even more actually. 'Tiny Toon Adventures' was a personal favourite when younger, through young adulr eyes it is still wonderful. Not every episode is great, "Whale's Tales" doesn't do much for me, but when 'Tiny Toon Adventures' was at its best (for examples "Her Wacky Highness" and "Fields of Honey"), it was as great as the best of 'Animaniacs', 'Pinky and the Brain' and even Looney Tunes which is a big compliment.

"Son of Looniversity Daze" is another look into university, or should that be looniversity, life following up from the similarly titled "Looniversity Daze". Another similarity being that it is also structured of three segments. "Son of Looniversity Daze", comprised of "Plucky's Dastardly Deed", "Open and Shut Case" and "C Flat or B Sharp", does this concept on the most part very well. It also is for me the better of the two episodes, thanks to it having the best segment of the two episodes.

Despite loving Plucky as a character and segments centered around him are usually great, but surprisingly "Plucky's Dastardly Deed" turned out to be my least favourite of the three segments in "Son of Looniversity Daze". Plucky is amusing (though he has been in far more rootable situations), but the segment could have been wackier, the dialogue has been sharper in other segments for the show and there is not much originality to the material. Then again it is not easy making a fairly old-hat premise unpredictable.

It was a surprise though that "Open and Shut Case" was much better than expected, was expecting that to be the weakest. Although Hamton is not the most compelling of all the 'Tiny Toon Adventures' characters and has some blandness here and there here, the segment is compensated by the clever gags, that are much wackier here, and the school locker. Everything with the school locker is done with a good deal of imagination and is a lot of fun.

The best of the three segments, and my personal favourite of the segments for the two "Looniversity Daze"-titled episodes, is to me "C Flat or B Sharp". Which is a joy for classical music fans, the premise is also a familiar one but the execution of it is wonderfully wild, affectionate and at its best hilarious and fondly reminds one of when Looney Tunes, Disney and Tom and Jerry did their music-themed cartoons. It doesn't hurt that two of the best characters of the show are the main characters here, Buster especially makes any episode better.

Coming onto talking about "Son of Looniversity Daze" overall, the animation is bright and meticulous as always and the music is full of energetic character and beautiful and clever orchestration. The theme song will never get old in my mind. The wit and wackiness is present for most of the episode. Have no issues with the voice acting, Charlie Adler shining most.

Overall, very nicely done look at looniversity life at Acme Acres. 8/10

Never Sock a Baby
(1939)

The consequences of spanking
Like to love a vast majority of the Fleischer Studios Popeye output, the late-30s cartoons being particularly good and where the high quality was the most consistent. By 1939 the studio, before they declined drastically in the early 40s, was still going solidly and so was the Popeye series. All the 1939 output was decent to great, the previous Popeye cartoons for that year being a mix of very good and excellent, so again a very solid output.

'Never Sock a Baby' is not one of the best 1939 Popeye cartoons though, for me it is one of the lesser ones and compared to the high quality the series enjoyed in the late-30s it was a little disappointing if not a total let-down. Entertaining and well made still sure (hardly surprising for Fleischer Studios' Popeye cartoons and somewhat expected) with a lot of great things, but also with a couple of big problems. It is interesting for having neither Olive or Bluto and just being Popeye and Swee'Pea.

Will start with the good things. The animation is fine, neatly drawn and lovingly detailed, especially the backgrounds and Popeye's expressions and movements. The music adds a lot to what is going on and even enhances it, loved the characterful energy and the sumptuous orchestration. Which is hardly surprising as these traits were present in all the Popeye cartoons from both Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios, even in the lesser ones.

There are plenty of amusing moments, especially in the fun and suspenseful climax, and it all goes at a lively pace. Despite disliking him at the beginning, Popeye's regret and learning from his mistake makes one quickly endear to him again. Swee'Pea avoids being too cute or too bratty, felt sympathy actually in parts. The voice acting is great.

Did also find the message laid on too thick to the point that it's like being beaten around the head with it, the title alone is enough to make one get it.

Also felt, despite the fun and suspenseful final third overall, that the very end was a cop-out.

Overall, good but not great. 7/10

Spy in the Wild: Bad Behavior
(2017)
Episode 4, Season 1

Mischievous behaviour
There are some very interesting topics covered in 'Spy in the Wild'. We have love, we have intelligence, we have friendship, we have the lengths the animals would go causing mischief. We also have fascinating situations in the second season, that unlike the first season don't focus as much on a specific topic, to name a few we have animal testing of intelligence, we have glimpses of animals' ways of unwinding, we have how they raise the young and we have searches for partners.

All interesting to watch. "Mischief", as of now titled "Bad Behaviour" (actually a more appropriate title) here, is the episode where we see the animals causing mischief and their methods of bad behaviour. Some not ever encountered before and certainly not in this intimate a way, which is a big part of 'Spy in the Wild's' appeal. It is another great episode and not just a contender for the best episode of Season 1 (loved all four, excluding the behind the scenes for now, equally though) but also one of the best of the whole series.

"Mischief" is playfully and charmingly scored, which does help in getting a wide audience of children and adults alike, without being too simplistic. It doesn't feel tonally at odds either. The narration writing entertains, with some charmingly amusing moments, and educates without any preaching. Delivered once again with enthusiasm and sincerity.

It was very interesting to see how the various animals behaved badly and got into mischief and the lengths they would go. There was some nice tension, such as in the frigite bird sequence. There are also some very funny moments, especially that with the lemur which was just priceless and the funniest part of the whole series in my view. There are parts too that are easy to relate to when animals are in human situations, such as with the chimpanzees.

While the tropicbird spy looks a bit on the cheap and obvious side, the scenery is enchanting and at times unforgiving, especially with the adelie penguins, and the camerawork throughout is excellent and at times quite clever, particularly during the aerial attack.

Overall, a great way to end (as said am excluding for now the behind the scenes episode which is fascinating but like a separate documentary in my view) a great first season. 9/10

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Pinkie Apple Pie
(2014)
Episode 9, Season 4

Pinkie Pie and the Apple clan
Pinkie Pie is admittedly not my favourite of the Mane 6, though on the most part she is an enjoyable character and there are some great episodes centered around her. There are episodes where she is a lot of fun and cute, there are also episodes where she is rather annoying. There are a lot of examples of both of those extremes. The Apple clan have also been variably portrayed, they can be a lot of fun and at other points unlikeable. Did like the premise to "Pinkie Apple Pie".

And on the most part, "Pinkie Apple Pie" handles its premise very well. It is not quite among the best Pinkie Pie centric episodes ("Pinkie Pride" for instance), but it is a great representation of what is good about her and has some nice development to her. It is too one of the better depictions of the Apple clan. It was a very well done episode on the whole, though not one of Season 4's best and a let down after the brilliant "Rarity Takes Manehattan".

Not all the animation is great here. On the most part it's fine, with one of the better scenes in this regard being in the "Apples to the Core" sequence and how well synchronised the dancing is. Occasionally the character animation is on the stiff side, the Apple clan have looked better in other episodes.

Other episodes are better paced too. It's a pretty thin story that at times is a little too stretched out and doesn't really progress very far at the end of the day, not much being accomplished, while the final quarter felt on the rushed side. After such a great run of episodes where there was a lot of humour and it all working, not all the humour completely lands here. The "eyeup" running gag suffered from what running gags have the danger of doing, getting repetitive and tired fast.

However, much of the animation is colourful and beautifully detailed. Absolutely loved the character animation in the "Apples to the Core" musical number. Which is equally great as a song, very catchy and sticks in the head for a while and not irritatingly so. Showing how loving and loyal to each other the Apple family are. The music in general is as dynamic as ever. There are jokes and lines that did make me laugh out loud, that eagle is a riot. Not all the comedy works but the material that does is funny, just wish it was more consistent like the previous few episodes. The moral can be appreciated for its maturity, as far as morals of Season 4 go this is one of the most mature, and how it hits home for anyone close to their families.

Even if the story didn't bowl me over, the moral is great and much of the episode is fun and charming. Some fans had issues with the inconclusiveness of the ending, which was an issue for me on first viewing, but actually it doesn't bother me now. Actually liked that it was open ended and allowed fans to have their own opinions on what they want to happen, which is implied quite heavily but not explicitly said out loud. "Pinkie Apple Pie" is carried by its characters and the character interactions, in this regard the episode is masterful. Pinkie Pie was amusing and adorable and also felt for her in a relatable situation, didn't mind whatsoever about her hyperactivity being toned down. The Apple family make one of their best and most interesting appearances here where their personalities are clearly defined and distinct and their bond entertaining to watch, also liked how the characters learn from their mistakes so while the story progression may not be there the character progression is. The voice acting from particularly Andrea Libman is pitched perfectly all round.

Concluding, good solid episode if not one of my favourites of Season 4 or 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic'. 7/10

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