IMDb member since January 2009
    2018 Oscars
    2015 Oscars
    Lifetime Total
    Lifetime Name
    Lifetime Filmo
    Lifetime Trivia
    Lifetime Title
    Top Reviewer
    IMDb Member
    14 years


So You Said Yes

Not really worth saying yes to
2015 did see some good and more Hallmark films, such as 'Surprised by Love', 'A Country Wedding' and 'All of My Heart'. It did also see some duds, like 'Merry Matrimony', 'Love by the Book' and 'Portrait of Love'. The 2015 Countdown to Valentine's Day block was mostly a solid one, with 'All of My Heart' faring the best. The premise for 'So You Said Yes' left me feeling unsure, being unsure as to which way it would go between charming and fun or unbearably cheesy and irritating.

Unfortunately, 'So You Said Yes' is closer to the latter extreme, while not quite bad enough to be embodying it. It is one of only two disappointments in the 2015 Countdown to Valentine's Day block, the other being the marginally worse 'A Wish Come True'. 'So You Said Yes' is not quite one of the worst Hallmark films that year, but one of the best it most certainly isn't in my view. Not an awful film, but also not particularly good with a lot of bad things. Mediocre is the best way to describe it.

There are good things. Chad Willett does give an amiable and down to earth performance as a character that was easy to like up to a point. The other good performance, and the only performance of the supporting cast that stands out in a good way, is a fun Bruce Boxleitner.

Furthermore, it looks nice, especially the scenery, and the music is pleasant enough and doesn't feel too much in tone or placement. There are a few amusing moments.

'So You Said Yes' does have a lot of drawbacks however. Kellie Martin is much too neurotic, even in a role that is pretty all over the place, and it made her come over as very annoying. She also is too mature for a role clearly intended considering the writing for someone younger, and whenever she tries to look, act and sound younger it comes over as very artificial. Jennifer Dale does give it her all, but for me her character was really over-bearing, too domineering and pushy and it did unbalance the film. Did appreciate the attempts to develop her character, but it comes too late and feels too rushed and too suddenly introduced when spending so much of the film's length intensely disliking her. The rest of the cast fail to register in very sketchy roles.

Didn't detect any chemistry between Martin and Willett and also found them mismatched in personality. The relationship is underdeveloped and also underused, one remembers Dale's character's pushy antics and the increasingly neurotic whiny personality of Martin's one a lot more which is not a good one. The story is not a well written one at all, it is just too over the top ridiculous, very dully paced and too reliant on forced contrivances and convenient coincidences. Not to mention excessively predictable and too neatly and easily resolved. The dialogue never sounded natural, instead coming over as awkward, and the cheese really got too much.

All in all, mediocre though semi watchable as a curio. 4/10.

A Country Wedding

Country at heart
Expectations were mixed here. Music is a big part of my life and this is the sort of story that is relatable to me. While country is not my favourite style of music, there is still a lot of love for it. Autumn Reeser and Jesse Metcalfe have both been good in other things, particularly Reeser who has been in a higher number of good films. Am not a fan of most of Hallmark's June Weddings films and that seasonal block has always been one of the more up and down ones every year since it was introduced, but there have been some decent and more ones.

Following on from the mediocre 'Perfect Match' and the pretty good 'Love, Again', 'A Country Wedding' is a winner. It is for me the best of the 2015 June Weddings films, helped by that it had the most appealing premise of the three, and also among the better June Weddings Hallmark films overall. Not to mention proof that Hallmark and country music do mix very well, which was also proven more than once since in other music-themed films of theirs.

It is not perfect, with some of the dialogue sounding a little awkward and sappy.

The film maybe could have gotten going a little quicker.

'A Country Wedding' has a lot of good things though that balance those not so good ones out. The best aspect is the music, which is just great. So infectiously uplifting and soothing on the ears and both Reeser and especially Metcalfe have very pleasant singing voices. The lip sync is also a lot better than most music-related Hallmark films, with there being a number of ones where this aspect has been sloppy. Reeser is like a ray of sunshine, while Metcalfe is a subtle easy going contrast. Really liked their truly endearing chemistry, that amused, charmed and heart-warmed. The supporting cast are all solid and the characters never bored or irritated me.

Furthermore, it looks good. Especially the scenery. The script has some awkwardness but is suitably light-hearted, the rapport between the two leads made me smile. The story may be formulaic and not exactly original, but its energy, charm and ability to lift the spirits more than made up for that. Not to mention that it was to me easy to relate to. The ending, though foreseeable, is sweet and doesn't ring false or feel contrived.

Overall, very nicely done. 8/10.

Bridal Wave

Charming wave
My main reason for seeing 'Bridal Wave' was for Hallmark completest sake, started watching their work as undemanding escapism (or at least that was the intent) back around 2019. Focusing solely on their Christmas output for a while and then watching overtime their other seasonal blocks. Have seen Arielle Kebbel and Andrew Walker in other things, and while Kebbel is take and leave for me Walker in my view is one of the best and most consistent Hallmark regulars.

The premise was one that did sound quite cute but also potentially thin, was hoping that it would be closer to sweet and charming in alternative to cheesy and awkward. Luckily, 'Bridal Wave' is the former a vast majority of the time, although there are occasional instances of the latter. As far as the first half of 2015 goes for Hallmark's output goes, 'Bridal Wave' is one of the better faring ones. There were better Hallmark films that year and Walker continued to mature with each film, but there were also far worse.

Did think that it did have some awkward moments and that went at times a little overboard with the cheese. Especially with Jaclyn Smith's character, who as a character is pretty unbearable. Overbearing, rude and selfish, as well as too much of a snob, and Smith for my tastes overacted as well and came over as very cartoonish.

Pacing is not always there, with it starting a little on the slow side and yes the film is predictable, like at the end.

However, there is a lot to like about 'Bridal Wave'. Both Kebbel and Walker are solid as rocks in their roles, especially Walker as the more interesting and likeable character. Just loved his usual easy going charm and while he did mature as an actor he at least looks comfortable and has a sweet gentle chemistry with perky and emotive Kebbel (actually thought she dealt with the dramatic parts fine). The supporting cast generally were fine, excepting Smith and with amiable David Haydn-Jones (also a later Hallmark regular) coming off best, and the characters did interest and weren't too perfect or over-negative (except once again Smith).

'Bridal Wave' is attractive visually, especially the scenery, is directed with assurance and the music appeals on the ears and isn't the over loud or over constant stuff heard a lot. Furthermore, the writing mixes genuinely funny, playful humour and warm-hearted, non sugary drama a lot better than most Hallmark films, with it being pretty expertly. While predictable and not always perfect in pacing, the story more than delivers on the light hearted-ness, warm heart and charm, with it going at a lively enough pace. It doesn't feel too neat either.

Nice on the whole. 7/10.

Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!: Into the Mouth of Madcap
Episode 24, Season 1

Bedlam at the Big Top
Despite being a massive Scooby Doo fan for goodness knows how long, expectations were somehow not high for 'Be Cool Scooby Doo' prior to giving it a chance. The advertising in my mind was terrible and the animation style, one of the franchise's least appealing, was very off putting. Still gave it a chance as a fan of the franchise and of animation in general and there are films and shows that have bad advertising but turn out to be good and this was one of them.

The first half of Season 1 was rather inconsistent, though neither of the episodes fit my definition of bad, but the second half felt much more settled with a higher number of very good and more episodes. Something that was actually even stronger in Season 2. One of the best episodes of Season 1 for me was "Into the Mouth of Madcap", the Scooby Doo franchise has done circus/carnival/amusement park settings numerous times and mostly very, very well and "Into the Mouth of Madcap" compares favourably.

Very little wrong here actually, but the animation is not really to my taste and it never was, it did get better in Season 2 but almost every other Scooby Doo show fared better in the animation style (with only 'Get a Clue' being worse). Here though, it has never looked attractive and instead looks scrappy, flat and borderline psychedelic looking, excepting the character design for Madcap.

Everything else is great and more. Absolutely loved the boardwalk amusement park setting, which gave off a nostalgic and creepy vibe that reminded me very fondly of old Scooby Doo. Madcap the Clown is a terrific villain, genuinely frightening yet immensely fun and is not going to change the minds of anybody already with a fear of clowns. The atmosphere is like the setting, very eerie but also colourful and nostalgic.

"Into the Mouth of Madcap" is on point with the humour, with the jokes being great fun and not predictable or corny. Loved the balloon animals and Wayne is fun. The mystery is lively and atmospheric, with a reveal that was not expected and different (not one of the numerous easy to figure out quickly endings seen in most previous episodes) and also loved the mix of old and new. With it having the old Scooby Doo creepiness while maintaining 'Be Cool Scooby Doo's' usual quirkiness. Couldn't help thinking of 'Scooby Doo Where are You' at points, with some smart, affectionate referencing to "Bedlam at the Big Top" and "Foul Play at Funland" (both show high points). Or at least that was what it felt like.

Have no issues with the gang, Shaggy and Scooby are always a delight and Daphne continues to be refreshing. The writing is funny and smart and the quirkiness still endears. The music fits with the tone of the show and the voice acting is on point all round.

Concluding, great. 9/10.

Law & Order: Innocence
Episode 16, Season 20

Playing hardcore
Expectations were high for "Innocence". The premise is one of the most interesting ones, one that could pass easily for a story from the earlier seasons and makes one think this could be a tense episode if done right. Season 20, with a few exceptions like "Blackmail", was a solid final season to an often wonderful show, primarily in Seasons 1-10. Actually have a high opinion of Cutter, though he didn't work straightaway when there was a brief period in Season 18 where the legal scenes disappointed.

They certainly don't here, quite the opposite. The whole legal portion is to me one of the best of Season 20 and of the post-Fontana episodes, it sees Cutter at his best and "Innocence" is an excellent episode. One of the best of the season, certainly of its second half, and one of the ones that leaves me intrigued, unsettled and saddened. High expectations were more than lived up to and close to exceeded. There could well be a chance that anybody who wasn't a fan of Cutter before may find themselves converted.

"Innocence" is only not quite as compelling in a rather nothing out of the ordinary first quarter.

Can't see any issue with everything else though. Can find nothing to fault the production values for though, the slickness and grit still present and likewise with the more fluid editing. The music is used relatively sparingly and is not too intrusively orchestrated, fitting too with the mood. The direction is generally alert but also sympathetic, shining in the character interactions in the legal scenes. Liked the tautness, edge and thought-probing of the second half's writing.

Furthermore, the second half is absolutely riveting. Suspenseful, intricate without being convoluted, ethically intriguing. A tough subject handled with force and tact, and with no preachiness or one sided-ness. It is a great showcase for Cutter, making here his meatiest appearance since Season 18's "Quit Claim" and it is an appearance that is even meatier than that. It is also the closest Cutter ever came to being true to and capturing what made Jack McCoy such a great character.

All the performances are spot on, with Linus Roache giving a contender for his best performance of the show and Amy Madigan touches. Then we have the truly frightening Robin Taylor.

Summarising, excellent. 9/10.

Doch solntsa

In search of the sun
Watching Soyuzmultfilm's output has given me great pleasure for nearly a decade now and it is a shame that a lot of their output is worthy of more credit than it gets. It is very rare to find a studio where what has been seen of theirs, which is a vast majority in my case, has never been less than decent. With their best work being as good as Russian animation gets. That's refreshing when one sees at least one misfire with most studios and some studios that don't have a single good effort and their best being average at least.

Aleksandra Snechko-Blotskaya's 'The Daughter of the Sun' is not one of Soyuzmultfilm's best known, but it is wonderful and deserving of more popularity. Snechko-Blotskaya's work was consistently of exceptionally high quality, whether in fairy/folk tales or the five Greek myth adaptations she did late in her career, and one of her darkest and moodiest 'The Daughter of the Sun' is no exception whatsoever.

Everything is wonderfully done. Absolutely loved the animation, which did make me pine for the return of traditional animation. As great as the rich dark colours and distinctive (and more stylised than usual) character designs are it's those pretty incredible-looking backgrounds and landscapes that are especially good here, though noticeably with a darker colour pallette than most of Soyuzmultfilm's output. And that is the case of a lot of their work this decade.

The music score is haunting and has the right amount of brooding mystery. The writing is sensitive and doesn't try to either over-complicate or dumb down, so target audience is never in question, while the story fills the short length well without over-stretching or cramming too much in. It is very rich in mood in what is one of Snechko-Blotskaya's darkest works, without getting too dark, and a fantastic job is done immersing the viewer into this very mystical and haunting world that does unsettle.

Characters are similarly well realised and faithfully written and voiced very plenty of enthusiasm without being theatrical.

Absolutely wonderful all in all. 10/10.

The Pink Panther: The Pink Tail Fly
Episode 2, Season 1

Classic Pink Panther
The Pink Panther to me is one of animation's most iconic characters. DePatie-Freleng Enterprises' output was very hit and miss, or at least post-1970 it was, especially the later theatrical series. With hits such as Pink Panther and the Ant and the Aardvark, and duds such as Crazylegs Crane. For me, The Pink Panther on the whole was the studio's best theatrical series, though The Inspector and Ant and the Aardvark ones come close. It did become very variable from the mid-70s onwards, but the 60s-early 70s output contained some of the studio's best work.

One of the studio's best cartoons in my view is 'The Pink Tail Fly'. It is classic Pink Panther and one of the best of the series, despite holding the Pink Panther in very high regard this is the first cartoon since 'The Pink Phink' (the series' first) where this reviewer has been this raving this much about any cartoon in the series. If anybody has never seen this or a Pink Panther cartoon, and is doubting DePatie-Freleng Enterprises' appeal from watching Crazylegs Crane or Tijuana Toads, 'The Pink Tail Fly' is a good example of why the studio shouldn't be met with too much scorn.

It is well animated, the style is simple but the colours are beautiful to look at, the backgrounds are not too sparse and the two characters are well drawn. The iconic main theme still has its infectious quality, and the background music is similarly catchy. The gags are both imaginative and hilarious, with the sound effects adding a lot.

Regarding them the sound effects are some of the best of any Pink Panther cartoon and both characters are a lot of fun to watch. I do prefer Pinky when he is the one outwitting his adversaries but because he has such a strong adversary this time round with great comic timing and great material it works very well here and he is a joy to watch.

The fly is hilarious and a perfect match for Pink, an annoyance but a pretty hilarious one. The story is well paced and not too routine and never simplistic.

In conclusion, recommended highly for those who love the Pink Panther. 10/10.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Little White Frock
Episode 39, Season 3

Season 3 was a season that started off absolutely wonderfully and it started off a lot more settled and more consistent than the previous two seasons. It was also another solid enough season, there were disappointments sure which was true of all 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' seasons. Such as "Silent Witness", "Dip in the Pool", "The Percentage" and especially "Sylvia". But also some absolute gems, like "The Glass Eye", "Reward to Finder", "The Right Kind of House" and particularly "Lamb to the Slaughter".

"Little White Frock" is a wonderful last episode to Season 3 and one of the season's best. Most of Herschel Daugherty's episodes were solid and more, and "Little White Frock" is one of the best of them and his best since "The Creeper" and perhaps surpassed only by that. It is a very different episode in that it is not about a crime strictly speaking and is more a character study with the themes of loss and betrayal, which is all done brilliantly in an episode that haunts the mind and tugs at the heart.

Playing a huge part in "Little White Frock's" success is the very powerful performance of Herbert Marshall, one that really hits skin deep emotionally and is really one of those performance of a lifetime performances. One of the best leading performances of the season along with Barbara Bel Geddes in "Lamb to the Slaughter". Tom Helmore and Julie Adams are also splendid and the dynamic between the three throughout is dynamite.

Furthermore, the episode is well made visually, especially the photography which has a lot of style and atmosphere. Simple but not simplistic. The main theme in the music, "Funeral March for a Marionette" has never been utilised better in film or television, is still haunting and has always fitted perfectly with the tone of the series. The script is incredibly thought provoking and not too rambling or wordy (despite there being a lot of talk, appropriate considering the story being told) or soapy, with some typically ironic bookending from Hitchcock.

The storytelling is pretty much spot on too, didn't mind at all that it was not the suspenseful or macabre kind and was more reflective, more personal and more emotional. The story that is told really tugged at my heart strings and is poignantly melancholic without wallowing in sentiment, rounded off beautifully by a very unexpected and clever ending.

Concluding, absolutely wonderful end to a solid enough season and a season high point. 10/10.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Impromptu Murder
Episode 38, Season 3

Paul Henreid was the second most prolific director for 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', the most prolific being Robert Stevens. None of the regular directors for the series were consistent, with pretty much all of them having a mix of very good and more and not particularly good episodes. As well as the second most prolific director, Henreid was also one of the more variable in terms of episode quality. As far as his previous episodes go, there were winners like "Last Request" and "A Little Sleep" but also disappointments like "Silent Witness" and "Enough Rope for Two".

Season 3's "Impromptu Murder" is one of his best in my view and enough to leave one excited for the last episode "Little White Frock" (outstanding by the way). It is a very good episode and was actually nearly great, with the lead performance and twist being particularly good with very little wrong actually. As far as Season 3 goes "Impromptu Murder" is not one of the very best, but it is in the better half of the season and the best of the many good things being pretty fantastically done.

Do have to agree with anybody that says that Hume Cronyn's character's actions at the end are on the sloppy and rash side, but really there is very little to fault about "Impromptu Murder".

Cronyn is superb, with the performance blazing with authority and intensity. The lack of a British accent for me was not bothersome at all. The rest of the cast are also fine, if not quite on his level. The characters are very interesting and don't have character flaws exaggerated. Hitchcock's bookending is still wildly entertaining and full of his usual droll humour.

The story is compelling and has tension, while not being too simple or convoluted. The script is intelligent and as lean as beautifully cooked steak. Henreid directs thoughtfully and makes sure that the tension doesn't slip in one of his better directing jobs in his early episodes for the series.

Production values are simple but never cheap, the simplicity isn't a bad thing here with it being an intimate location and some slick atmospheric shots are managed. The main theme has never gotten old and fits the tone of the series beautifully.

Very well done episode with lots of great things. 8/10.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Canary Sedan
Episode 37, Season 3

A mystery in Hong Kong
Robert Stevens' Season 3 episodes were mostly solid, with three great ones in "The Glass Eye", "Heart of Gold" and "The Motive". Only "Miss Bracegirdle Does Her Duty" didn't do much for me as far as his previous episodes for the season go. "The Canary Sedan" is also the third and last outing for Jessica Tandy, the others being "Toby" and "The Glass Eye" (both of which she was marvellous in and both also directed by Stevens). Did like the premise here, which is very Hitchcockian sounding and that is a great thing.

"The Canary Sedan" however could have been better than it was. It is far from being one of the worst episodes of Season 3 (a season that started off incredibly strongly but became inconsistent a third of the way in), but it is also a long way from being one of the best. Did think though that it was one of the more disappointing ones in how it did not near enough with the great potential it had, such a good premise and the execution was not fully realised. Of Stevens' Season 3 episodes, only "Miss Bracegirdle Does Her Duty" was weaker.

Certainly there are good things. Tandy is truly excellent, alluring, tense and affecting and her character was very interesting psychologically. Hitchcock's bookending is amusingly ironic. The episode does start off very intriguingly.

Did also find the settings very striking in one of the better looking episodes of Season 3, and while the photography is conventional it is also slick and framed with a lot of care. The audio is atmospheric enough and "Funeral March of a Marionette" is such an inspired and haunting choice of theme music.

However, "The Canary Sedan" could have been better. Story-wise, it never really came to life and was in real need of a lot more suspense, the second half sounded from the synopsis that it was going to be full of it but actually felt a bit dragged out and safe. More could have been done with the psychological aspect of it, the set up is intriguing and neat but it isn't fully explored and is not insightful enough.

Stevens' direction is competent but also undistinguished. The script could have been tauter, as it can be too talky, and not felt as over-heated. The ending, while not expected, was to me too abrupt and inconclusive in an episode that had a story in need of a resolution, instead of the incomplete feeling damp squib one we got.

Overall, watchable but a bit mixed. 5/10.

Deviled Yeggs

Very un-devillish
Feelings on The Dogfather cartoons were a very mixed bag as a child, they had their moments but DePatie-Freleng Enterprises did far better and far more memorable theatrical series. Decided to watch all the cartoons to see out of curiosity how well they stood up by young adult standards, whether they would be better on rewatch, the same or worse. Some of DePatie-Freleng Enterprises' theatrical series were good, some were mediocre at best or in one case bad.

The premise was not that appealing in my view, with it sounding very limited and potentially too cruel. 'Devilled Yeggs' struck me as very mediocre, while not a disaster as it has a few good things, and it does very little to make the premise appealing (quite the opposite). Really don't like it when films, television, cartoons etc do that. As far as the Dogfather cartoons go, in a series where none of the cartoons are particularly good (none as bad as the entire Crazylegs Crane theatrical series), 'Devilled Yeggs' is one of the weakest.

'Devilled Yeggs' does have a few good things. The best aspect is some of the voice acting, with Bob Holt's Don Corleone/Columbo-esque work for Dogfather and Frank Welker's spirited Croaker. Croaker fares best of the characters, being a character that was not too hard to sympathise with, while Dogfather had a few amusing lines.

Also thought that there were moments of nice colouring and the music is upbeat enough. The theme song is catchy.

However, Charlie the Singer is a very limited character in personality, his role in the cartoon is repetitive and is very obnoxious rather than funny. Reminding me a little of Crazylegs Crane's son. Also didn't like the devil character, who also annoyed rather than creeped out, while Pug has practically nothing to do. The character chemistry never ignites and lacks entertainment value and tension and while Welker is fine as Croaker he grates as Charlie (a waste of one of the voice acting greats). A big issue too is that 'Devilled Yeggs' is just not funny, or even amusing, the gags are stale retreads of already long stale gags and there is little variety in how the lives are lost which made the cartoon feel very tired and repetitive. Sometimes found it too on the cruel side.

Moreover, the story is very thin and derivative, this premise has been done before more than once in animation (with wildly variable success, as it is not a great or imaginative premise) and actually better. There is no imagination here and the pacing is erratic, with some jumping around in the middle and with everything feeling so tired it feels dull too. The cartoony violence is too tame, while the at times childish comedy by adult standards and complicated mobster terminology that will go over younger viewers' heads doesn't ever gel and made me question the target audience. The animation is cheap looking on the whole, with tight time constraints and low budget showing in especially the unfinished and sparse-looking backgrounds.

In summary, very mediocre. 4/10.


Heart-wrenchingly beautiful
There were two main attractions for me prior to seeing 'Coda'. One was the critical reception, with three Oscar wins and many other accolades (making it one of the best received films of the year). The other was the subject matter, have liked to loved many coming of age films and what interested me was that it was one that had deaf characters and ones portrayed by actors who are deaf in real life. Have always felt that deafness has not been represented anywhere enough in film or television (or at least to this extent), so that it was explored here was great.

'Coda' for me was a heart wrenchingly beautiful film, one of the most emotional, most charming and most relatable films of 2021 and of a very up and down year that has seen a fair share of disappointments it is easily one of my favourites and one of the few Best Picture winners in a long time to deserve that honour. It is a remake, but it sure didn't feel like one in my view (which was true for some of my friends who saw it too and loved it) and stands on its own absolutely brilliantly.

It looks beautiful, it is beautifully shot throughout and the scenery is picture perfect. Loved too the sensitivity of the direction, that allows the drama to take its time while giving it momentum as well. Definitely indicative of someone in full control and understanding of the material and with a willingness to treat it in a respectful and accessible way.

One of the best things about 'Coda' was the soundtrack, which was nothing short of amazing and you know a soundtrack is brilliant when it is like a character of its own while not just perfectly placed throughout but also wonderful on its own. One of the best of the year. Not just the original score, which is sparingly used but is haunting and sensitive when used with particularly clever use of the strings, or the seamless inclusions of the likes of Etta James, Marvin Gaye and David Bowie classics. But also the hugely powerful "Beyond the Shore", how it was not even nominated for an Oscar is beyond comprehension (especially when it is memorable than the song that actually won).

Another major strength was the acting, in the best ensemble cast of the year for me. Emilia Jones is a revelation in a truly expressive and truly inspiring performance that really connected with me. Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotspur are also outstanding in performances of great warmth and sincerity, Kotspur has one of the most emotional scenes of the year when he is with Jones and gets her to sing while feeling the throat. Eugenio Derbez is wonderfully wry, and while his character is of the inspirational kind it is one that doesn't fall too much into cliche territory. 'Coda' is also one of the very few films seen recently where all the characters were relatable.

Furthermore, the script is a beautifully balanced mix of genuinely amusing humour and sincere, touching drama, the coming of age element being so easy to relate to. The story isn't too conventional, despite it sounding so on paper, even with some elements that are seen a lot in other coming of age tales yet fresh spins are put on it. It goes at a gentle pace but never becomes dull, and is full of immensely charming and poignant scenes. Also had no problem with its portrayal of the deaf community, am a disabled person myself and not only was the exploring of an under-represented disability appreciated, and with honesty and tact, it was so refreshing to actually see it embraced and in a way that was inspiring rather than treated as a negative. So many disabilities and conditions are stereotyped and often negatively too often, which has always been so frustrating, and there have been times when someone intended to be positive but comes over as unintentionally patronising, which 'Coda' does not do. It especially shines and resonates in the heart wrenching final act.

Overall, absolutely captivating and truly beautiful. 10/10.

Law & Order: Brilliant Disguise
Episode 15, Season 20

Death in disguise
"Brilliant Disguise" sounded like the sort of story that 'Law and Order' was known to excel well in. It does sound ordinary on first glance, but had real potential to be an episode that had tension and emotion if done right. 'Law and Order' did do well often at making something complex out of what sounds basic when getting the basic jist of the synopsis. Other episodes in Season 20 took on more challenging subjects with mostly very solid if not always consistent success, but that's not an issue.

As far as Season 20 episodes go, "Brilliant Disguise" is neither one of the best or worst. Somewhere in the middle if anything in my view, which is not too bad a position to be in (quite solid actually). It does fall short of being brilliant and the story doesn't blow the mind, but it is still pretty good with a pretty unforgettable perpetrator. Very interesting to see Adam Driver in an early role before he made it big in the role of Kylo Ren, though there are things about "Brilliant Disguise" that are more memorable than him.

The episode is another one that starts off rather ordinary and with not much inspired. The conclusion is a little over-crowded and rushed as a result.

Did feel that compared to the rest of the cast Driver (who has come on a long way since) came over as a little bland, but that may be down to his character being quite sketchy.

However, a lot is recommendable. It doesn't look drab or gaudy, and the editing is far from slapdash. The music avoids getting too melodramatic in the more dramatic moments while not being too low key, it has always been a good move that it is used relatively sparingly. The direction especially shines in the character interaction in the second half. The script is beautifully balanced, there is a lot of talk but taut enough to avoid it from waffling.

On the whole, the story is intriguing and isn't too predictable or doesn't try to include too much. Much of the tension and intrigue comes from the lengths Cutter undergoes to get a result and of course the tensions between him and Timothy Busfield's character. The perpetrator is a truly loathsome where their conviction is rooted for. The acting is very good, with only reservations about Driver. Daniel Eric Gold makes for one sinister character and Busfield captures his character's ruthlessness with relish.

Concluding, not great but well executed on the whole. 7/10.

The Inspector: Plastered in Paris
Episode 5, Season 1

Around the globe with The Inspector
Am someone who mostly likes the Pink Panther cartoons. Did remember The Inspector cartoons and remember liking them if not as much as the Pink Panther's, and when recommended to me by someone saying that if you like Pink Panther you'll like The Inspector. Seeing the cartoons, have to agree on the most part and as a young adult noticed and understood a lot more, which has lately been the beauty of watching a lot of animation recently, where childhood favourites have been even better through young adult eyes.

The Inspector series is not a consistent one, some cartoons inevitably are better than others. They are all worth a watch in some shape or form, and 'Plastered in Paris', which is neither among the best or worst of the series, is not an exception. 'Plastered in Paris' is not as good as the first two cartoons, but is much better than 'Naopoleon Blown-Aparte' and on the same level as 'Cirrhosis of the Louvre'.

It is very thin and predictable story-wise, which was not unexpected as it is part of a fairly formulaic series, and there are far more interesting and imaginative villains.

While none of the gags misfire and there are a sufficient amount, they are mostly more amusing than hilarious.

On the other side of the argument, the animation in 'Plastered in Paris' is great. With the different locations, actually think that it is one of the more visually interesting The Inspector cartoons. The sceneries are beautifully rendered, Fairly simple in terms of drawing but never ugly, while the somewhat abstract backgrounds have nice attention to detail, more so than the Pink Panther cartoons (not a knock at all on the animation of that series), and don't look sparse. But it is the deep and rich colours that stand out in this regard. Like the jazzy slinkiness of the music, it fits and it doesn't sound cheap.

'Plastered in Paris' physical comedy is nicely timed and never comes over as vulgar or tired. The verbal humour is suitably ironic with some amusing mumblings and subtle word-play. The highlight of the cartoon though is the absolutely hilarious ending. Really like The Inspector and Deux Deux's chemistry and their well contrasted personalities help make it work expertly. Pat Harrington Jr voices both The Inspector and Deux Deux and does wonderfully in providing the necessary energy and managing to differentiate the two voices that is important in making the contrast between the two believable.

Summarising, pretty solid. 7/10.

The A Word

Can't believe it took me so long to review 'The A Word', due to being behind with what to review with being busy and slowing down a little. Actually have not watched the BBC that regularly for a few years now, with it no longer showing primary school education programmes and being populated with shows past their sell by date, wastes of potential and very politically biased presenting and news. There is every now and then a gem with a tough subject that hits home with me and done in a way that is relatable and emotionally investable.

'The A Word' was one of those gems. As someone who is autistic, it really resonated with me, moved me, entertained me and illuminated throughout. Personally think it deserves the praise it gets, with programmes in general that explore autism and Aspergers generally not getting enough credit for even trying to address it and spread more awareness for a condition that has so many misconceptions, generalisations and ignorance directed at it. And don't agree about it being dragged out, Season 3 may not have been quite as strong as the previous two but it was only because the previous ones were so good.

First and foremost, for me the acting was one of the main reasons as to why 'The A Word' worked so well with everybody giving never less than fine performances. With particular praise going to Max Vento, who succeeds in creating a very relatable and fully rounded character in a way that balances comic timing and pathos remarkably expertly. And to Christopher Eccleston, who has hilarious comic timing and often has the best lines.

Actually had no problem with the way the characters were written, sure they are flawed and don't always handle difficult situations particularly well but their portrayals and dynamics for me were very relatable. Could see a lot of myself as a primary school student in Joe and some of his situations were like reliving some of my childhood, which made me more understanding of my issues while being painful to watch in particularly difficult scenarios. Could also see my parents in Joe's parents, and the decisions they made and their feelings (which were as complex and as tough for them) were more understandable through young adult eyes and less confused. 'The A Word' came over to me as a realistic and relatable portrait of how difficult autism is and how it affects not just the person with it but also the family and community to educational and poignant effect.

Refreshing after seeing films and television programmes covering conditions and relevant themes and only skim the surface without showing the full extent (ie. Seeing how it affects the primary person going through it but nowhere near as much with how it affects those around them, like 'Still Alice' and the portrayal of Alzheimers). The family relationships are complex, but it didn't come over as contrived for this viewer and they were intelligently handled.

It is a beautifully made show, with scenery that makes one want to book a holiday there, and the music doesn't overbear or feel overdone. The script balances the comedic and the serious expertly with no jarring tone changes, crudeness or over sentimentality. Maurice has plenty of lines that made me laugh out loud, while many scenes were heartfelt and thought probing.

Overall, wonderful and for me one of the BBC's best dramas in a while. 10/10.

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye

Ruthless corruption
There's always at least one main reason for any film with me and it was the cast in 'Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye'. Very hard to go wrong with the likes of Ward Bond, Luther Adler and particularly James Cagney in a kind of role he always excelled in. It is hard to resist any film with such a great title and the plot synopsis also grabbed the attention. Have always made a big effort to appreciate all film genres and all decades, and there are plenty of great noir-ish gangster films out there.

'Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye' is one of those great ones. It is great to see others regard it so fondly, but it is sad that it isn't as better known than it is. Despite a great reputation over the years, it is still criminally underrated with most probably have not even heard of it. 'Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye' may not be one of my favourite films, but of all the films in this genre released in the 50s it is for me one of the better ones as well as one of the most pull no punches and tautest.

Did think that the film could have done without the romantic subplots, which were unnecessary and ones that the film does very little with. Merely there for setting up plot device reasons.

Cagney however is on cracking form, maybe he is too old for the role but he has the perfect amount of grit and menace, the charisma burning the screen. Barbara Payton has the most interesting and most developed character, she puts a lot of intensity and heart into her performance especially in her off the charts chemistry with Cagney, when she is confronted for instance the terror felt very realistic. Bond is suitably sleazy as one very corrupt character, while Adler plays his unsettlingly amoral role with relish. Gordon Douglas' direction is taut and unfussy, he could do this sort of material in his sleep effortlessly but it doesn't feel in any way that there was any sleepwalking or phoning in.

While the budget is modest, to me 'Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye' did not look cheap and did have some nice moody atmosphere in the photography and lighting. There is nothing exceptional about the music, but when it is used it fits the mood and doesn't over-emphasise or intrude. The film further benefits from a very pacey, gritty and pull no punches script.

As well as a tightly paced, no frills or fuss, unyielding story that is never predictable and has a lot of eerie edge and suspense. The action excites, choreographed with verve while also not shying away, this is very daringly uncompromising stuff here. The characters are all unsympathetic with no exception, which will upset anybody who watches films for rootable characters, but in a morality story where there are no morals or ethics this was not in any way a detriment and actually added a lot to the film's edge.

In summary, truly great and deserving of a lot more credit. 9/10.

The Crown: Terra Nullius
Episode 6, Season 4

Nobody's land
Seasons 1 and 2 were quite excellent on the whole, with even the weakest episodes still being good. Season 3 started off rather slow and finished underwhelmingly, but it did have high points with "Aberfan" for example being one of the best episodes of 'The Crown' in my view. Still liked the show well enough to watch Season 4 and because Emma Corrin has so far impressed me hugely as Diana (less so Gillian Anderson as Thatcher). Not to mention Josh O'Connor has been consistently excellent ever since he was introduced.

"Terra Nullius" details Charles and Diana's Australia trip and we see fully how complicated their marriage was. Regardless of whether it's true to the facts or not, which was never going to be an issue actually as somebody who always judges something on their own merits (always have and always will do), "Terra Nullius" is a wonderful episode on its own in pretty much every area. It is much better than the uneven previous episode "Fagan" and one of the best episodes of an up and down but still worth watching Season 4.

Occasionally the pace could have been a little tighter, but that was not a major issue for me.

Not when everything else was so good. Emma Corrin is an emotional powerhouse as Diana, very poignant performance. Josh O'Connor continues to shine as Charles, bringing out Charles' conflict of choosing royal duty or following his heart with a lot of nuance and in a way where his point of view is understood. Their chemistry is sheer magic and they succeed brilliantly at showing Diana and Charles as complicated, damaged people and that their marriage is likewise.

Furthermore, as ever the production values are superb. The production and costume design are both classy and sumptuous, but it's the photography that stands out in this regard. The music is not overbearing or low key. The scripting is thought provoking and intriguing, uncompromising yet sensitive in its handling of this subject without descending into melodrama.

Also doing well in showing more than one point of view and in a way where all are understandable. The storytelling continues to advance and while deliberate it is also very absorbing and emotional. The second half did break my heart emotionally and it was hard not to sympathise with Diana, without feeling like you had to do so.

In conclusion, wonderful. 9/10.

Christmas with a Prince: Becoming Royal

Not particularly becoming
Love Christmas with all my heart. Love the fun and nostalgia it brings, and cherish all the time spent with family and friends every year. Decided in 2019 to see some newly released (at that time) Christmas films to broaden my Christmas film horizons (namely those from Hallmark and Lifetime), this turned into a quest that is still ongoing. Feelings have been extremely mixed doing this and even when trying to take them for what they're meant to be some have been lacking (though there have been some surprisingly good ones too).

Didn't really care all that much at all for the first 'Christmas with a Prince' despite a few good things, but did see its first sequel 'Becoming Royal' for curiosity's sake to see if either of its sequels were better, on its same weak level or worse. The good news is that this is marginally better, with the same redeeming merits plus another redeeming quality (hence the higher rating). They are sadly outweighed by the bad things, which are pretty much the same as before and executed every bit as badly.

'Christmas with a Prince: Becoming Royal' isn't a complete loss. The scenery is lovely to look at. The music captures the festive spirit with great affection, although some of the placement was questionable.

There are a few amusing moments and a few very cute ones. Josh Dean's (giving the film's only good performance) character is refreshing and likeable and he is a charmer in it.

Unfortunately the scenery was not properly done justice, suggestive of somebody behind the camera that had too much to drink on a long night out. The direction is some of the most disorganised and leaden for any film seen recently and of all the recently seen Christmas films, clearly having no idea what to do with the story and the direction of the actors. The story is thin as a wafer and also lacking in charm and full of ridiculousness and excessive predictability.

Likewise, the script still has no tension or emotional connection and is ruined by an overload of the cheesiest of cheese and equally excessive difficult to stomach sentimentality. The chemistry between the actors, especially the two leads, is so disconnected and the story jumps around and is so dreary and predictable not to mention jawdrop inducing daft. None of the characters are worth identifying with and actually found myself irritated by them, especially Tasha like with everything to do with the security. The rest of the cast look uncomfortable, and either try too hard or don't try that much. Both leads are in both extremes, she in the former extreme and he in the latter one.

In summary, a slight improvement but very mediocre. 4/10.

Angel Falls Christmas

Not angelic but doesn't fall
Expectations actually weren't very high watching 'Angel Falls Christmas'. While liking Chad Michael Murray elsewhere and feeling that he has come on a long way and liking quite a number of 2021's Christmas output, Jessica Lowndes (with a small group of exceptions) has always been one of my least favourite Hallmark actresses due to finding her screen presence very flat and wooden in most of her films. The premise was one that could have gone either way of sincere and sweet or weird and awkward.

'Angel Falls Christmas' for me was very half and half. It really does start off very rough and it has to be admitted that part of me did consider quitting, but didn't in order to be kind and having seen plenty of films where the film starts off badly but gets better. And luckily 'Angel Falls Christmas' is one of those. It is never a great film and could have done a lot more with its premise, but there are a lot of good things, the good intentions were noble and one aspect really surprised me in a good way. Not one of GAC's best thus far, but also not one of the worst.

There are plenty of good things as said about 'Angel Falls Christmas'. It looks lovely, especially the scenery which really does have a festive magic about it. Without being gaudy or drab. There has in Christmas films from Hallmark, Lifetime, UPTV etc been a real tendency to be over-scored and have music that drowns out the dialogue and is used too much, while nothing exceptional the music was pleasantly festive enough and has some nice nostalgia.

Once the film does get better, the dialogue flows well and has real honesty and maturity, while not being too overly serious. The story is well meaning and has real charm and touching emotion without being too sentimental. Was touched by the ending, even if the outcome was never in any real doubt. The messaging is sincere and isn't laid on too thick. Was very surprised by Lowndes, whose performance has a lot more range than usual and displays a charming personality that doesn't come over as flat and she is a lot more natural than usual. The supporting cast are solid.

Like others, this reviewer did find Murray very unconvincing, he just comes over as very robotic and unintentionally sinister. And this is one of the main reasons as to why the first act was not just very rough but very difficult to sit through. Thought the first act also suffers from a lot of very stilted dialogue, very stiff, static character interaction that would even feel out of date in a silent film, a very weird vibe, uneventful pacing and that the characters weren't interesting yet.

Did find the pacing too often too over deliberate and over-stretched, with the film needing more content for a gentle approach to the material to work. The Gabriel and Ally chemistry is too underdeveloped and phoned in, which stopped me from fully connecting with the premise.

Concluding, a lot to like but could have been more. 6/10.

Every Time a Bell Rings

Christmas bells
There were two main reasons for seeing 'Every Time a Bell Rings'. One was for the cast, which is a very talented one indeed. Actually have liked Erin Cahill in some of her other films, have always liked Wes Brown and Ali Liebert is watchable more often than she isn't. The other was the premise, which was a very cute one, one of the most mature ones of the 2021 Hallmark films and had real potential to be very heartfelt. As said in some other recent reviews, 2021 was a variable year for Hallmark and their Chrustmas output but some of their films were good and more.

'Every Time a Bell Rings' had potential to be one of those films, but ended up being something of a missed opportunity. It is not terrible and does a good number of things very well, but it would have been a much better film and executed its premise to full potential if it tried to do less and focused more on a few of the subplots. All the subplots featured in 'Every Time a Bell Rings' had a lot of potential, but too many don't quite come off. As far as 2021's Hallmark films go, this is middling.

Am going to begin with the good things. Cahill, Liebert and Brittany Ishibashi are very good, particularly radiant and quite moving Libert. The chemistry between the three is strong too. Almost all the performances in fact are well above average, though their material did vary. Did like the idea of the story structure, it was interesting to not have just one big plot and another subplot but to have other ones.

Some come off well, especially the scavenger hunt (wish there was more of it) and the biological parent story did start off well and had some heart. It is attractively made, beautiful scenery, and the soundtrack isn't too constant or melodramatic. Had no problem with the diversity or the same sex couple, and really fail to understand why it has been such an issue for some regular Hallmark viewers as of late.

Do wish that the story was more focused and more fleshed out. It tried to cram in far too much, and a few of the subplots are given short shrift. Especially the incredibly underwritten and practically sidelined romances. Also didn't find some of the attitudes and reactions, like how indifferent the biological mother was which was a waste of a subplot that started with such promise and the sisters' over the top reaction to what was considered a betrayal. As a consequence, the structure felt rushed but because too much of the content was underdeveloped the film felt bland and uneventful.

Furthermore, a lot of the dialogue is cheesy and overwrought and the characters could have been fleshed out more, they sounded like real people on paper but some behaviours didn't ring true for them to be relatable. The ending is very anti-climactic, needed more time to unfold and the too little that is resolved is done so too quickly and too easily. The complete waste of Brown was unforgivable, have always liked him but here he is very bland in a role that gives him absolutely nothing to work with and came over as pointless.

Overall, watchable but it was good potential not fully lived up to. 5/10.

Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: When the Cicada Calls
Episode 13, Season 1

Bug creepiness
There is a small soft spot for "When the Cicada Calls", as it was the episode that introduced me to 'Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated'. On first watch, it was a very strong and creepy episode with nothing massively wrong really and with almost everything done right. There were better and more memorable episodes before (though all of those were seen later) and since, something that was felt when getting into the show and something that has always been felt on all rewatches.

"When the Cicada Calls" still is a very good and well executed episode, with genuine creepiness. Enough to make one be put off bugs for a long time, it certainly did that with me except in my case it made me for example freak out whenever seeing a spider in the bath. It is not one of the best of 'Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated', with "Howl of the Fright Hound" and "The Shrieking Madness" being superior as far as previous episodes go, but it is a strong representation of what was so good about what is to me one of the best and most interesting Scooby Doo shows.

My only real issue with "When the Cicada Calls", and this was true of quite a lot of Season 1, is Velma's character writing. Just didn't like at how much of a jerk she was/is and in my mind for no reason.

However, there is a huge amount to enjoy. The bugs are very creepy in an understated rather than too overt way and their character animation does give the creeps. Those that are afraid of bugs already are not going to be converted and anybody who wasn't before may find that the episode has enough to make them be put off them for a long time. The opening is truly unnerving. The mystery is eventful and has a lot of spooky atmosphere without being too serious, with the more comedic moments being amusing and not overdone.

Furthermore, the final solution doesn't come over as obvious at all, like "Howl of the Fright Hound" this reviewer actually didn't suspect the responsible and the motive wasn't expected too. It is well animated, with a great mix of the old and the new, the CGI for the bugs doesn't look out of place or jarring at all, nothing cheap here and it blends with the traditional backgrounds well. The music fits nicely and has the right amount of energy and atmosphere.

Velma aside, the gang's character writing is spot on. Shaggy and Scooby particularly. The supporting characters are well written as well. The voice acting is without issue.

Concluding, very good with lots of excellent things. 8/10.

Law & Order: Boy on Fire
Episode 14, Season 20

Could have done with more fire
This was one of those 'Law and Order' episodes on first watch that had a number of good things but it 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.

My generally positive but not blown away thoughts felt on first watch for "Boy on Fire" are pretty much the same today. As far as Season 20 goes, it had real potential to be one of the best but was closer to being one of the lesser ones. There are plenty of good things with "Boy on Fire", namely the opening and the guest turn, but time constraints and that it doesn't do enough with such a tough subject stopped it from being the great episode that it had potential of being.

"Boy on Fire" could have been better. For a less than an hour format, to me it did try to include too much, all with good potential, and doesn't do enough with some of them (like the advantages and disadvantages of charter schools) due to the limited time (this is a subject that lends itself better to a film due to its complexity).

Did think also that there could have been a little more tension and emotion, they were there but more in the second half than the first, which is quite formulaic outside of the opening.

However, a lot is good. 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, which is where "Boy on Fire" fares a good deal better. The script is intelligent, lean enough and thought-provoking on both sides of the arguments, not too much of one side here.

Most of the story absorbs and moves, starting truly harrowingly and with Debra Winger's character's testimony being the dramatic highlight, thought-provoking and devastating. The performances are all of high quality, with Winger searing in her role.

In conclusion, pretty good but not great. 7/10.

The Metropolitan Opera HD Live: Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor
Episode 9, Season 15

Thoroughly modern misfire
Have loved Donizetti's music for a long time and 'Lucia Di Lammermoor' is my personal favourite of his operas, namely for the sextet and the Mad scene. It is though an opera that has been better served on recordings (the Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti being a notable example) than in live performance or film. The Metropolitan Opera HD Live series has two previous 'Lucia Di Lammermoor' productions, one starring Anna Netrebko and the other Natalie Dessay.

Of the three, this 2022 production is easily the worst. Regardless of whatever misgivings anybody had for Mary Zinnaman's production, and there were staging touches that weren't really to my taste, they may find themselves appreciating that production after seeing this badly misconceived effort. One that is possibly the worst production of the entire Metropolitan Opera HD Live series since Luc Bondy's 2009 'Tosca'. Even with lots to like and even love musically, though even that wasn't entirely smooth sailing, one is far too distracted by the disastrous visuals and staging.

There are three things that are outstanding. The high point is Riccardo Frizza's conducting in what is one of the best conducted 'Lucia Di Lammermoor' productions this reviewer has seen. He is a leading interpreter of Donizetti and the expertise really shows in a hugely energetic yet also extremely richly detailed reading, even succeeding in bringing out little details very rarely heard so prominently. The orchestra play wonderfully under him, with the strings and winds on particularly good form. Also standing out was the harmonica in the Mad scene, very haunting and affecting.

Also thought that the chorus gave some very committed and musical singing throughout, despite being ill served by the staging. Of the principals, the one outstanding one is Artur Rucinski. Who makes for a vocally thrillingly robust yet elegant and dramatically deliciously wicked Enrico, while never coming over as a one dimensional villain. Did think though too that Eric Fenning and Deborah Nansteel were good and Matthew Rose acts and sings with authority, despite some unsteadiness here and there.

Nadine Sierra was a lot more mixed in the title role, loved her middle register and her voice is surprisingly agile for an instrument that may be classed as a little on the heavy side for the role. She sounds wonderful in the Mad scene and vocally only some oddly articulated trills let her down. Dramatically, apart from her haunting account of the Mad scene, she is too one dimensional with most of it revolving around one expression, a blank stare that makes Wednesday Addams' deadpan expressions more animated. Javier Camarena on the whole sounded over parted as Edgardo, he does very well in the duet between him and Rucinski and even better in a musically done and expressive Act 3. Too often though he was too strained and underpowered, with pretty much the whole of Act 1 sounding off, and he never comes to life dramatically in a very stand there and sing with stock gesture type of acting. He and Sierra never blend well together and their chemistry lacks warmth and passion.

Faring worst are the production values and the staging, which are quite frankly a disaster and prove themselves frequently obstacles and distractions for the performers and even more so the viewer. There is far too much use of the video screens, used in every scene and done in a way where the viewer doesn't know where to look which really affected the drama's coherence or being able to get invested in it. Also didn't see the point of them most of the time, with them adding absolutely nothing to the drama and only succeeds in confusing it, and they were ugly to look at, only working in Lucia's Act 1 aria. The costumes are a complete mish-mash and an unappealing mish-mash at that, where telling the time and place was very hard. Especially Edgardo's.

Have also not seen a worse staged production for anything in a long time. Far too much use of the rotating set, which again was predictable and added nothing, with the Mad scene being especially wronged in this aspect. Far too much blocking, especially for the chorus throughout who are never able to show much individuality as a result and at the start of Act 1. Far too much emphasis on gratuitous everything but the kitchen sink stereotypes, some distasteful like with the zombies and everything with the Goya beans. And throughout it's very chaotic and over-cluttered, which meant that investing in the drama and characters was pretty much impossible. Not only is the drama dull and lacking in focus, it is also incoherent where character motivations are unclear, the whole concept jarring with the text and where the question why is present on the viewer's lips.

Overall, very underwhelming. Lots to like musically but wasted by boo-worthy production values and staging. 4/10.

Star vs. the Forces of Evil

A Disney Channel star
Saw 'Star vs The Forces of Evil' as a fan of Disney, which has been the case since childhood. It has been hit and miss for years, with the Disney Channel being nowhere near as good as it was (going from one of my most watched channels to only watching a small handful of shows and their films since my late teens when they started airing their sitcoms more). Saw it too as someone who really liked the concept and who has been really surprised by the quality of Disney's recent animated shows.

While preferring 'Amphibia' and especially 'Gravity Falls', 'Star vs The Forces of Evil' to me was very good and at its best made for one of Disney's best shows in a while. Can totally understand why there has been so much praise for it, while not going as far to call it one of Disney's all time best. Can also totally understand the polarisation, as it is an uneven show with a couple of major debits. It does succeed a lot more than it doesn't and the best of the many good things are outstanding.

Beginning with the faults, it is a little bit of a slow starter with it taking time for any plotting to get very far, the shorter episodes also feeling too much like filler, and some of the humour is childish and tries too hard to be weird. Very similar issues had with 'The Owl House' when it first started, though the character writing is much better and more consistent here than that show.

Also felt that while appreciating the darker and more mature tone of the later episodes and finding there to be a lot of emotion, it did feel on the rushed side towards the end and the final episode feels rushed and anti-climactic.

However, a lot is great. Really like the animation, which is very vibrant in colour (the colours literally popping out without being too dizzying), quirky in character design (Toffee's very creative character design being a standout) and rich in background detail. The character designs are also creative. The music is always dynamic with the action and full of energy and atmosphere. The theme tune is very catchy. The voice acting is excellent all round, particularly from Eden Sher, Adam McArthur and Alan Tudyk. Michael C Hall is effectively sinister too as Toffee.

The writing often is very funny and smart and mixes humour and poignant emotion very well from late Season 1 onwards. Season 2 being the best and most consistent one. Actually appreciated the darker and more mature tone of the later episodes with the themes as well as more threatening villains, as well as the much tighter pacing, and admired its addressing of relevant and challenging themes such as prejudice, personally didn't find that preachy or out of place and prejudice is something that should be talked about to children early seeing how much this has increased. The more complex plotlines from Season 2 onwards didn't come over as too complex and were intelligently and intriguingly done. The often wonderfully wild and visually creative action excites.

Loved the characters too, and these were characters that were interesting and appealed in personality (even with the flaws) almost immediately and showed significant growth the more complex the character arcs became. The Eclipsa and Ludo arcs stood out. Ludo, Tom and Toffee were particularly well written and Star was a flawed (though not overly so) but likeable and rootable character. Really liked her interactions with Marco.

Concluding, very, very good. 8/10.

The Walking Dead: Warning Signs
Episode 3, Season 9

Tense warning signs
Will admit to not having high expectations at all for 'The Walking Dead's' Season 9. While really liking to loving Seasons 1-5 and finding a huge amount to admire about Season 6, Seasons 7 and 8 were really not up to standard and were huge disappointments (despite having some exceptions). Especially Season 8, where the worst episodes were pretty dreadful and where many of the episodes were mediocre or less. It felt like the show had lost its identity and what made it great in the early seasons, and this viewer really did feel that it was completely dead.

The previous two episodes of Season 9 though were absolutely great and felt like 'The Walking Dead' had returned to its roots, rediscovered what made it so good in the early seasons while also starting a new chapter. This feeling continues and even more strongly with "Warning SIgns", one of the best episodes of a surprisingly good season and the best episode since Season 6's "Not Tomorrow Yet". Being the first episode since that to have for this viewer nothing wrong with it, the previous two episodes had occasional forced moments but didn't see any of those here in "Warning Signs".

It is a very stylishly and atmospherically made episode, with no signs of self indulgent gimmicks or showing off. The music is also full of atmosphere of the haunting and ominous kind, while also having emotion that is not spelled out. The more action oriented moments are thrilling, suspense laden and well choreographed with little coming over as ridiculous or chaotic.

Furthermore, the massive improvement in the writing obvious in the previous two episodes carries over into "Warning Signs". The previous two seasons had a lot of (too much) extraneous talk, long winded-ness and soap-opera, and none of that is here in a tight and thoughtful script that treats the viewer with respect. The story absorbs throughout, even when not fast paced it never felt dull and nothing for me felt confusing or over silly, a lot of it was also very tense and suspenseful in a chilling way. It also does a great job progressing what happened at the end of "The Bridge" and leaves one excited for what's to come.

None of the characters frustrated me, with none of the intelligence insultingly ridiculous and vague decision makings and motivations that plagued too much of Season 7 and nearly all of Season 8. These past three episodes have seen me connect to all the characters for the first time since the first half of Season 6. The acting is excellent all round, particularly from Andrew Lincoln.

Summing up, outstanding. 10/10.

See all reviews