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My name is Bethany, and I'm 27 years old. I sing and play the cello. Had a major operation on my back in March 2011 to improve my scoliosis. I also have Aspergers Syndrome (hence why I get very overly passionate and hot-headed when something, especially reviewers resorting to condescension and with the inability to tell the difference between fact and opinion, annoys me) and primary epilepsy, both of which I'm coping with but there are also days that are a struggle with the epilepsy getting worse overtime. Also a problem in recent years has been an on and off weight problem, with a lot of losing weight in a short space of time because my insecurities and anxiety have been issues for a while.
Have graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire with a 2:1 in Vocal and Operatic Studies, and completed a Personal Study Programme there. Am a massive film, of all genres and decades, animation and classical music/opera lover. All of which helped me relax and kept me going when I was going through rough patches (namely health problems, stress and bullying) and had moments where I felt like giving up.
It is for those reasons as to why I have watched as much as I have and why I have contributed so heavily here. Furthermore, I enjoy it, doing the reviews has broadened my film knowledge significantly and has improved my writing skills and how I express myself.
A lot of my reviews (especially those for concert/opera ballet productions), during particularly prolific years, have been through watching things related to my course and during some lengthy breaks from studying. Just to clarify for those wondering, or even suspicious of (having been accused of being a liar a sometimes, a few of which got personal), how I have contributed as much as I have and why.
Being part of IMDb has not been without its downsides and annoyances, but the friends and admirers I've garnered through being a user has given me a lot of confidence. I also wish to thank everybody who have contacted me, with praise for my reviews and wishing me well, it means a lot. Apologies too for any slow or non responses, I can be very busy to reply or shy, it's not because I'm rude.
Ratings for films:
8. Very good
7. Worth watching
3. Pretty lame
2. Very poor
Mrs White: Life after death is as improbable as sex after marriage. (Clue)
Beautiful Creatures (2013)
Despite the mixed/average reviews, decided to see 'Beautiful Creatures' anyway as someone who did enjoy the book series, liked the idea of the story, enjoys films that fit under the same genres that this does and who really likes to loves a lot of the cast members in other things. Other than the reviews, what did make me a little nervous too was the constant references by many to the 'Twilight' franchise, am very much indifferent to that franchise to put it lightly and the best film from it ('Eclipse') is only slightly watchable.
Will get the comparisons out of the way. 'Beautiful Creatures' is in my mind much better than any of the 'Twilight' films combined, better made, much better acting (the 'Twilight' films only had like two good actors, whereas even with the accents the acting mostly wasn't an issue for me here) and the story, for all its problems, interested me more. 'Beautiful Creatures' is by no means perfect and would hesitate in calling it great, only generally found it slightly above average, but judging it as a film on its own merits (rather than frequently comparing it to the books, of which the film is a pretty poor adaptation of) it's a better film than given credit for.
Starting with the bad things, 'Beautiful Creatures' would have leant itself better to a film series rather than just one film, because there is a feel (and it was what was pretty much happening) of elements of two or more books in one film, which made it feel rushed and cluttered. The caster mythology could have been delved into much more, because that did tend to be convoluted (anybody who has no knowledge of the books may find themselves lost). Particularly towards the end, before the film ends in a vague and rushed way complete with a clumsy twist, it is not a surprise that book fans found the ending too much of a slap in the face.
Also found some of the earlier portions of 'Beautiful Creatures' to be too exposition heavy, with some clunky dialogue and the pace in need of a tightening up. The Lena's first day at school portion was very badly acted by the secondary cast, was really cringing, and written in a very bad teen school comedy film way. It has been said numerous times about the Southern accents being bad, do agree with it veering on either extreme of come and go (Jeremy Irons, accents never really has been his forte and this is coming from a fan of his) and exaggerated (Alden Ehrenreich) of the main cast. And it's even worse for the secondary cast playing characters that are very broadly stereotypical, that is true of a lot of Southerner portrayals on film, and never feel like real people.
Conversely, 'Beautiful Creatures' is a surprisingly good looking film, it was clear a lot of time, effort and money went into it. Especially loved the locations, with a big standout going to the Ravenwood mansion and the photography is both beautiful and gothic. The costumes are also ni nicely done, the kookiness of those of the Ravenwoods (including Eileen Atkins with a pink wig!) added to their mysteriousness, and the dinner table scene sees some editing and lighting that are wonderfully psychedelic without giving me too much headache or dizziness. The music fits quite nicely too and was hardly unattractive to me on its own, am big on both those things when it comes to music in film so both are good positions to be in.
The script is flawed early on but as the film progressed the snappier, more intriguing and tighter it became. Macon, with the film livening up by quite a bit when he appears, has some of the best lines and that's in his first scene alone. The story isn't perfect, but enough of it does compel with two scenes in particular standing out. One was the dinner table scene, along with Ridley's flashback that was the most striking scene visually, and the other was the Macon and Sarafine confrontation, the chemistry between Irons and Emma Thompson sizzles and seeing a clash of the titans-like moments between two great actors is always great to watch. The likeably natural, no awkwardness here (actually did get the sense that they were in love), chemistry between Ehrenreich and Alice Englert also helps as does the confident direction.
Found Ehrenreich and Englert to mostly not be bad at all in their roles, Ehrenreich's accent is not the best and he overdoes it at times but the quirkiness and likeability is there. While Englert is more subtle without being sullen or expressionless, did root for Lena myself having been treated like an outcast in school for prejudicial reasons too. They are very well supported, outshone even, by the veteran cast, with Atkins and Martina Martindale doing a lot with small roles and Viola Davis bringing sincerity to hers. The authors had Irons in mind when writing Macon and one can tell because not so good accent aside he was made for the character, and he looked like he was having fun while bringing gravitas and menace. Thompson even more so, camping it up deliciously and nearly stealing the film, and the same goes for a truly delightful Emmy Rossum.
Summarising, not quite beautiful but far from ugly. 6/10
Cirrhosis of the Louvre (1966)
Painting by blotching
Anybody who likes the Pink Panther cartoons are very likely to get a kick of the Inspector series. Count me as somebody who does like Pink Panther, if more the 60s cartoons than the ones from particularly the mid 70s onwards which were not as funny, looked cheaper and were more routine and formulaic. Found myself liking The Inspector cartoons just as much as the 60s Pink Panther cartoons as a child, like them even more through adult eyes.
'Cirrhosis of the Louvre', love that wonderfully corny title, is not one of the best The Inspector cartoons. It is an improvement over the fairly underwhelming 'Napoleon Blown-Aparte', with it being funnier and having a superior villain. But at the same time it's not as great as the first two cartoons 'The Great De Gaulle Stone Operation' and 'Reaux Reaux Reaux Your Boat', which were more imaginative and consistently funnier. The same strengths seen in those cartoons can be seen here but with a few problems that stop it from being on the same level.
The story is silly and predictable, even by The Inspector series standards, and some of the material could have had more variety which would have made 'Cirrhosis of the Louvre' feel fresher.
Do agree too that the ending, or at least the outcome, is groan-worthy, though the lead up to it was funny.
On the other hand, 'Cirrhosis of the Louvre' has a good deal to like. Drawn in the unmistakable DePatie-Freleng style, the animation is great. 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. With the music, the opening titles are classic, while the music accompanying the action, while not enhancing is not discordant at all with it either. Liked its jazzy slinkiness and it did not sound cheap either.
Liked the humour on the most part, though it could have been fresher. There is slapstick physical comedy, which is violent but not in a sadistic way, it is never vulgar, sharply timed, well timed and most importantly of all it's funny. Even better is the verbal humour, whether the more ironic moments, the mumblings or The Inspector's frustrations with Deux Deux, appreciated the word-play being subtle yet witty. Also great is the chemistry between The Inspector and Deux Deux (two great characters, love too the frustrations of the Commissioner). The Inspector's bumbling brings a great deal of amusement in the more slapstick-driven moments and did like that there was also a subtle irony in much of the comedy. This is beautifully and often hilariously contrasted with that of the more laid back and amusingly confused Deux Deux, one of the few characters in existence to make mumblings funny and not irritating or being over-whiny when complaining. Their interplay is a delight.
In 'Cirrhosis of the Louvre', the Commissioner also entertains, but it is one of the series' most amusing villains in The Blotch that is the real scene stealer. The Blotch also provides some of the cartoon's best moments, all to do with his methods of stealing. 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. Paul Frees does great voicing the Commissioner for the first time.
Summarising, good but not great. 7/10
The Borgias: Lucrezia's Wedding (2011)
"All things are permissible in our dreams"
'The Borgias', when on my re-watch binge recently, may have struck me as a slow starter (especially in the pacing and writing, which were both uneven but both improved a lot over-time). At the same time, it was truly absorbing and difficult to look away from. One can find much to criticise with the historical inaccuracies and some of the pacing and writing, but there are a lot of things that are brilliant about 'The Borgias' in my view, such as the production values, music, opening titles, Jeremy Irons and some very memorable scenes.
It got off to a very promising but also flawed start with "The Poisoned Chalice", a standard that was seen also in "The Assassin" for the same reasons good and bad. Both also with some very memorable scenes, especially "The Assassin". Things did to me show signs of improving with "The Moor", where the characters did become more interesting and the pace did improve with more going on. Found "Lucrezia's Wedding" to be a slight disappointment while having so many great things. A couple of improvements over "The Moor" though, it didn't at least have Augustus Prew or the increasing ridiculousness of the public swimming bath scene.
"Lucrezia's Wedding", as to be expected with 'The Borgias' is visually stunning. It is just so exquisitely shot, whether in more intimate scenes or the more expansive ones. The costumes, interiors and scenery left me in awe in their rich colours and attention to detail, as well as their authenticity. Having the feel of stepping into a Renaissance painting. A big standout in this regard was the wedding procession, which was one of my favourite scenes visually of the first season. The music also adds a lot, and it becomes a beautiful marriage of visuals and music and enough to bring tears to my eyes. The dynamic filming of the dancing also stands out. The music in general leaves a big impact on me in 'The Borgias', it's characteristically beautiful and sometimes intense in "Lucrezia's Wedding" and blends well. How it's performed adds a lot, very angelic in the aforementioned scene.
Cannot get enough of the opening titles sequence, one of my favourite opening titles sequences of all time (film and television). The main theme is incredible, the sheer intensity, grandeur and drama (already sending chills down the spine and induces goosebumps before the episode's even begun) makes it one of my favourite main themes for any show. Matched by splendidly and cleverly designed visuals. In terms of memorable scenes, the wedding procession is up there as is the interaction between Rodrigo and Vanozza. Lucrezia's outrage and hurt is understandable, while the dancing is beautifully choreographed and the ending (preparing us for one of the most interesting historical periods) really unsettles. My favourite was the scene between Rodrigo and Gioffre, both in interaction and dialogue and certainly wouldn't mind being taught history/geography by Jeremy Irons as it would be a good way of concentrating more.
Irons adds an enormous amount to 'The Borgias' appeal. He may look absolutely nothing like the real Rodrigo Borgia, but elsewhere his strengths as an actor are really brought out and it makes for one of not enough roles post-'Lolita' to do him justice. The gravitas and menace are especially nailed, and it's not just the relished line delivery in that wonderful distinctive voice Irons has but also how telling his facial expressions are, like his shock and fury at Vanozza's wedding appearance. Francois Arnaud, as at this point the show's most interesting character, brings the right amount of intensity, and Holliday Grainger is growing as Lucrezia (though the character has yet to be properly interesting). Joanne Whalley makes one feel for Vanozza, and she avoids histrionics, while Lotte Verbeek is luminous and really liked her sympathetic chemistry with Grainger. Steven Berkoff's scenery chewing, a not-so-common example of that term being meant in a good way, is delicious.
However, "Lucrezia's Wedding" is let down namely by the Della Rovere subplot, which was for my tastes very dull and lacked the required tension. That scene between him, De Medici and Machiavelli should have intrigued, 'The Borgias' so far had actually done very well delivering on the political intrigue and plotting, but instead that scene has always made me lose focus/attention and it still does. Della Rovere is also bland here, despite Colm Feore's best efforts, and that confessional booth scene was just asking for really bad consequences and the last thing one should do with that much opposition against him.
Dialogue is still uneven. Enough of it is entertaining and thought-provoking, like with Rodrigo and Gioffre (Aidan Alexander is very appealing in the role, very beyond his years). But some of it is rather melodramatic and over-archaic and would sound bad even said today, especially in Lucrezia and Giulia's conversation about Djem, "my dusky friend inhabits my dreams" primarily.
Also think more tension could have brought out regarding Giulia being Rodrigo's mistress, something that one thinks would cause an outrage but not much of a disapproving eye-lid is raised.
On the whole, slightly disappointing but good. 7/10
House of Cards: Chapter 19 (2014)
"Stubbornness is far costlier than obedience"
Season 2 had the difficult task of following on from a great Season 1, one where all thirteen episodes comprising ranged from good to brilliant. Up to this point, so from "Chapter 14" to this episode, Season 2 is not as great, but was never less than very good despite the tendency of Frank dominating too much and the newer characters not being as interesting as ought (Jackie being an exception though). Production values, writing and acting throughout the season were consistently of top standard.
"Chapter 19" to me is one of Season 2's best episodes, along with as far as the previous episodes go "Chapter 14" and "Chapter 17". It does see on the whole the newer characters standing out more, the tensions building, the storytelling and characters progressing in development and Frank still being a fascinating and juicy character becoming increasingly dominant and unscrupulous but not dominating too much. The last point being something that tended to be present in the previous Season 2 episodes.
Could care less though for Lucas, the previous episodes did not see him really as a very interesting, and at times like with "Chapter 16" frustrating, character and his subplots have also been one of the least compelling in comparison to the others in each episode.
That is my one real issue with an otherwise great episode. Do like that things continue to progress and things introduced, set upon and built upon in the previous Season 2 episodes build on further with nothing going round in circles. Loved the tension and suspenseful character interaction throughout, especially between Frank and Tusk. Was very much involved with everything with Claire, loved Jackie's fierce steel and also that there is more of Remy and that he is not wasted at all (far from it, found him one of the better-written characters actually). The political intrigue is not laid on too thick or hard to understand, the cynical edge of it intelligently done, and the darker tone of the season works.
John David Coles again returns as director and does a solid job, not as tight as the directing in previous episodes (especially James Foley) and his episodes are not as cinematic-feeling as the first two episodes directed by David Fincher. But it is also not too methodical and not indicative of somebody not interested in the material, there is both momentum and breathing space. "Chapter 19" looks slick and stylish, with lots of atmosphere with a darker look and no trouble with cohesion. Nothing to complain about there. The music knew when to have presence and when to tone things down to let the dialogue and characters properly speak. The writing is sharp and has bite and the story does engage for the reasons described in the above paragraph.
Of the newer characters, my favourite is Jackie. Love her steel, spirit and ferocity. Frank and Claire are both brilliantly written and the acting all round is never less than very good. Cannot fault either Kevin Spacey or Robin Wright, while Molly Parker and particularly Mahershala Ali are major standouts as well.
Altogether, a great episode and one of Season 2's best. 9/10
"I don't know why it is, but every time I reach out for something I want, I have to pull back because other people will suffer"
Only recently got acquainted with Arthur Miller's work, having heard a lot about it (most positive), and there was a while of meaning to but not getting round to doing so. Due to being a lot going on, personally and in watching and reviewing, meaning not much time to do. Going to a live screening at the cinema to see my first stage production, courtesy of National Theatre, of Miller's first success 'All My Sons' was a perfect opportunity of becoming more familiar with and appreciating it.
It was an experience that will never be forgotten and in a different league to anything else seen at the cinema recently. Only the Metropolitan Opera live screening of Poulenc's 'Dialogues Des Carmelites' comes close or equals it. A truly powerful production of a truly powerful play, a play that still insights and touches to this day with richly drawn characters (particularly Chris) and with some of the best dialogue for any play that isn't by Shakespeare, with it being so hard-hitting and thought-provoking. 'All My Sons' to this day is one of his more accessible and emotionally impactful plays, with a remarkably relatable subject then and now. The setting may be old, but the emotional power and theme of 'All My Sons' aren't.
This production is designed simply, with a single house and garden set, but also very handsomely and true to period, also quite rustic. Visually it doesn't try to do anything ambitious or anything that would swamp the drama, neither is it too spare or simplistic. The costumes are also pleasing on the eye, especially Ann's, and the intimate yet never too static, over-reliant-on-close-ups or chaotic photography makes it more interesting. Looking up close, it is detailed in a way that represents the American dream not being as it seems on the surface.
Miller's dialogue still provides a lot of insight, is very thoughtful and has a lot of poignancy. Especially in the last act, which in the most emotional moments truly blisters like with Kate. The staging is on neither extreme of cluttered or static, the dialogue and drama breathes but the time also flies by. The tensions pack a punch, like with Joe and Chris, and the last act is genuinely moving with each painful revelation.
All the cast are exceptional, with top honours going to Sally Field, shattering in the last act and her defensiveness and fragility always perfectly pitched, and Colin Morgan, one really feels the intensity of his anger and understands it. That is not to overlook the equally masterclass-level performances from Bill Pullman, understated and deceptively benevolent, and the charming and touching Jenna Coleman.
In conclusion, powerful and riveting production. 10/10
The Demi-Paradise (1943)
From Russia to England
Watching 'The Demi-Paradise', a reference by the way to the beginning of John of Gaunt's speech in 'Richard II', with my godparents just over a week ago, there were quite a few reasons in wanting to see it. Really like satires, whether razor sharp and gentle. Am familiar with Anthony Asquith's work and like what has been seen of it, including two of the best film adaptations of Terrence Rattigan's plays and the best version of 'The Importance of Being Earnest'.
Also like a lot of the actors/actresses, the most familiar to me being Laurence Olivier, Margaret Rutherford and Felix Aylmer. The subject was interesting, though did worry as to whether it would get over-serious or preachy, considering the period it was made in. 'The Demi Paradise' struck me as a mostly successful film with several good to great elements, without quite reaching greatness. Not a paradise, not a dystopia either, just a nice entertaining and inoffensive way to spend 107 or so minutes.
For me, the first half was better than the second. The first has a lot of breezy charm and gentle humour, while the second was while still amiable enough a little over-serious and lacked the first half's energy.
The characters are written somewhat stereotypically and despite being well acted by a great cast do have to agree that they never do feel like real people, with the exception of Ivan who does evolve. Maybe it is a touch too long by 10 minutes or so.
However, 'The Demi-Paradise' looks lovely. Particularly loved the sumptuous costumes, Penelope Dudley-Ward had some wonderful ones, and interiors, complemented beautifully by the photography. The music score rouses and is orchestrated with lushness while Asquith directs as assuredly as ever. It's drolly scripted, with the gentle humour boasting some genuinely funny moments.
Playing a big part in 'The Demi-Paradise's' appeal is its immense charm, which doesn't feel too old-fashioned now and just about avoids heavy-handedness. The ending speech is inspiring and quite moving, and the film didn't feel dull or too much like a filmed stage play. The cast are very good. Olivier is commanding and doesn't overdo or underplay, also doing credibly with the accent if not perhaps mastering it. Dudley-Ward radiates on screen and Rutherford is splendidly dotty. My favourite supporting performance came from a sincere Aylmer as the film's warmest and most likeable character, though Edie Martin is also wonderfully batty.
On the whole, nicely done film. 7/10
Appointment with Danger (1950)
One appointment that could have done with more danger
Films of this type, so namely thriller, really appeal to me, love films with tautness, edge and suspense and have done for a long time now. The story sounded great too on paper and the cast is a talented one, with Alan Ladd proving more than once that he does well in the sort of role he plays here (one that plays to his strengths rather than stretching him too much) and the rest of the cast is full of ever reliable actors.
'Appointment with Danger' for me was nifty and entertaining if a little disappointing at the same time, as there was more room for it to be better than it turned out to be with the promise it had. Having its issues while also having a lot to recommend, so all in all not too bad a position to be in. Regarding as to whether to class it as a film-noir, from my perspective 'Appointment with Danger' and can easily be classed as one, at the same time it can be considered a mystery/heist film with a lot of noir-ish elements (if not as hard-boiled as most and it does lack a strong "femme fatale").
Starting with what doesn't quite work, to me Phyllis Calvert's role is underdeveloped and her later scenes distract a little from what's going on and don't always add much. Calvert does portray her very winningly it has to be said, the fault does not lie with her.
Did think that at times the pace could have tightened up a little more in the middle and there could have been more suspense, with outcomes never really being in doubt and with there not being enough danger 'Appointment with Danger' has its bland spots.
It does look great though, loved the moody lighting and very atmospheric locations enhanced by some very stylish photography. They all gave off a real sense of foreboding. The music also gives off that vibe, classy and ominous without overbearing what's going on. Lewis Allen directs smartly and mostly does not let the momentum slip.
Maybe the script is not always what one calls hard-boiled, but it was hard to dislike its snappiness, tautness and surprisingly humorous moments, thankfully never unintentionally. The story on the most part does grip, thanks to a lot being packed in without feeling like there was too much going on and it doesn't feel muddled. Would have liked more suspense, but thankfully boredom never properly crept in and there were exciting moments, namely the climax.
The cast are good, a few great, Ladd has been better with him playing relatively similar roles with more steel but still does admirably (laconic does not come over as bland). Jan Sterling steals her (too few) scenes as the amusingly wise-cracking moll, that she plays the heck out of, and Paul Stewart does cynical and menacingly reserved expertly. Found the scene stealer to be a frighteningly vicious Jack Webb.
In summary, entertaining but more danger and suspense wouldn't have gone amiss. 7/10
Child in the House (1956)
A child's loyalty
Happened to stumble across 'Child in the House' when staying with my godparents, where my godfather had written numerous titles of films (a very interesting list by the way, mostly consisting of films not yet seen) to watch in the evening, for each evening of my stay with them. And 'Child in the House' stood out, despite a somewhat generic title the summary when described to me was intriguing.
Watching it, while reading no reviews beforehand which were actually not a lot when checking them out afterwards, 'Child in the House' turned out to be a pleasant little film deserving of more exposure than it gets. It does not deserve to be a film that is practically forgotten. It's not perfect, great or anything to be overly thrilled by, but there is nothing here that will annoy or offend anybody in any shape or form and to me it wasn't one of those films that made me feel nauseous from any overdoses of sugar.
'Child in the House' does get a little mawkish in places agreed, particularly towards the end and occasionally the pace is a touch staid.
The ending did seem on the too neat and pat side, there was a real opportunity for the film to end on an exciting and maybe even daring note but instead played it too safe and it undermined the tension of the last portion of the film in my mind.
On the other hand, 'Child in the House' is beautifully designed, absolutely loved the interiors of the house and the equally elegant costumes. Equally attractive is the photography, which clearly loved the interiors of the house and revelled in it. The music fits well, not obtrusive or so it felt that way to me (speaking as somebody who has an issue with music, a big lifelong part of my life, being intrusive/obtrusive), and is a nice sumptuously orchestrated score in its own right. The title song is a very charming one, without being sugary, and sticks in the mind.
Script provokes thought and avoided being too melodramatic or too overly-talky, despite being a pretty dialogue-heavy film. Though will say that when seeing it that the sound was not always great, meaning with the dialogue delivery tending to be so clipped that it was not always easy hearing it. The story is engaging on the most part and didn't feel too stagy or too much of a filmed play (some may disagree and that's fine in that respect). It's also agreeably directed and performed, one does wonder as to why Mandy Miller is not better known after this because it was a very appealing performance she gave without any sugariness or precosciousness. She more than holds her own against more experienced and distinguished cast members, such as a no-nonsense Phyllis Calvert and a more sympathetic Eric Portman. Stanley Baker is the most "likeable" adult cast member and does a nice job, though Calvert and Portman (though they did have more to do) have stronger written roles.
In conclusion, pleasant. 7/10
Battle of the souls
'Once Upon a Time' was very addictive when it first began. What really intrigued me into seeing it in the first place was its fascinating and creative premise of turning fairy tales and characters on their head and putting own interpretations on them. Good premises always do intrigue me and that or talented casts, or both, are usually my main reasons in my interest in watching something. Liked to loved a vast majority of Seasons 1-4 and found a lot to like about Season 5, despite reservations with the second half of it.
Season 6 was for me more hit and miss, leaning generally towards the disappointing. Personally thought that the first three episodes of the season were very good to great, especially "The Other Shoe". It was from "Strange Case" onward when the problems began and things got somewhat pear-shaped, when there was an increasing lack of new ideas and magic, increasing too were the campiness and soap opera, the over-stuffing and less interesting characterisation. It did get significantly better though towards the end of the season, but between "The Other Shoe" and "Page 23" the season was very uneven, though never unwatchable.
"The Final Battle", both parts, is a great episode and one of the season's best. Also one of the best episodes of the latter (meaning Seasons 5, or at least the second half of it, -7) seasons, and we are not talking marginally. It worked incredibly well as a season finale, one of the show's season finales, and actually would have worked equally brilliantly as an ending to the show.
Do feel that the cursed Storybrooke parts had more tension and emotion than the Enchanted Forest ones. The latter parts were charming and enjoyable, as well as interesting, if not quite going the extra mile like the Storybrooke parts did.
So much to love though however. What was striking about "The Final Battle" was how it returned to its roots and came back to what we already knew, but instead going round in circles it played around with it without contradicting. It was very affectionately nostalgic, though one is reminded somewhat of how 'Once Upon a Time' progressed so much since it first started on the whole, and packed a big emotional punch (i.e. Hook and Emma). A lot happens here, yet unlike most of the other episodes of Season 6 it didn't feel over-stuffed or rushed with it being spaced out over two parts. It to me didn't feel muddled and comprehension was not a problem.
What is also great is the character interaction and how the characters were written. Even with deliberately different takes on some of them, the characters are still very interesting and engaging, some being the most interesting they've been all season (i.e. Mary Margaret, showing some steel), and they don't come over as distorted. Actually really cared about all of them. Loved the character interactions, like with Emma and Henry, Regina and Evil Queen, Snow White and Regina, Hook and Emma etc. and the more subtle things, like how Rebecca Mader says Zelena's line regarding the destruction of Oz and with Snow White and Regina. The Black Fairy is a more than convincing antagonist and Gold's story here is very moving and really cared for Gold more so than any of the previous Season 6 episodes.
Even with the playing around and returning to the roots, the story grips and intrigues, while the dialogue is amusing, thought-provoking, heartfelt and intense, balanced very well. Less soap, corn and camp here. The production values have a lot of beauty and atmosphere, nothing drab or gaudy here, while being attractively photographed. The music doesn't ever sound cheap or out-of-kilter, fitting well with the mood and never found myself questioning its placement. The main theme is still memorable. Lana Parrilla, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle and Rebecca Mader are on particular top form of the uniformly strong cast.
Overall, a great episode and season finale. 9/10
Dance of evil
Am a big fan of animation while not being afraid to admit that there are average to terrible ones out there, so there is no bias here. 'Pinky and the Brain', despite being a personal favourite for many years, is not a show where every episode is outstanding. It is though a show where in my mind there isn't a bad episode, so quality-wise it is consistently decent to outstanding, something that is not found a lot when it comes to shows, animated and non-animated.
'Pinky and the Brain' is one of the best examples of a childhood favourite that has not only held up well but brilliantly, not every childhood favourite has so this has nothing to do with nostalgia. As a young adult, actually find it even better now, due to noticing and appreciating more things and the humour being funnier and easier to understand being more familiar with any references and such. Once again, don't fall for any misconception implying that animation is just for kids and exempt from criticism or to be shyed away from. 'Pinky and the Brain' has much for children and adults alike, young adults even are probably more likely to get the most enjoyment out of it, and there is much more to it than an animated show with two reasonably cute-looking mice.
"Brainwashed" is the only 'Pinky and the Brain' three parter, with all three parts being among the best 'Pinky and the Brain' episodes. The first one "Brain Brain Go Away" is my personal favourite of the three parts, but "I Am Not a Hat" is very close behind. It is not quite as witty or as clever as "Brain Brain Go Away", but it has a little more imagination, also liked that it was slightly less Brain-centric so Pinky had more time to shine. And is not near as weird or as silly as it sounds.
The animation is bright and colourful with nice attention to character and especially background detail, it's smoothly drawn too and expressive. Music is similarly blameless. The scoring is dynamic and composed in a way that is always adding to the actions, expressions and gestures and doing what good music scores in animation should do in enhancing them. The theme song is one of the catchiest in animation, have always felt that. "Schmeerskahoven" is a very catchy song and the typically clever lyric writing is present here as well.
Have very rarely been let down by the writing in 'Pinky and the Brain'. Am still not. The typical zaniness and wit is there, as well as the intelligence. Youngsters will still find the writing funny most likely because the comic timing and visuals are timed so well, and the exchanges between Pinky and Brain are mini-masterpieces of character interaction.
Will never stop loving the characters. The supporting characters are great but it's the two titular characters that everybody remembers the most. Pinky is incredibly endearing and as ever amusing, stupid can mean obnoxious but not in the case of Pinky. Brain comes over as a little more interesting and have always loved him for his deadpan personality and dark sarcasm. Have always loved the relationship between the duo, with such different personalities one worries as to whether they would gel together or clash but 'Pinky and the Brain' was always a masterclass of how to contrast two completely different characters and their personalities harmoniously and with substance and complexity.
Rob Paulsen and especially Maurice LaMarche do splendidly with the voice work, they have always been two of the best and deservedly prolific voice actors today and their work on 'Pinky and the Brain' is among their best. Also feel a bond between them when hearing their voice work.
All in all, every bit as brilliant as "Brain Brain Go Away". 10/10
Spinach Packin' Popeye (1944)
Blood and boxing
Like to love a vast majority of the Popeye cartoons. Also like Popeye himself. A likeable character whose chemistry and animosity with Bluto one that drives the cartoons with such fun and energy, always a highlight. Do have a preference for the Fleischer era cartoons, that are generally funnier, more imaginative and of higher quality, though many of the later Famous Studio offerings entertain, just inferior in quality.
When hearing that 'Spinach Packin Popeye' was a "cheater", my heart did admittedly sink as "cheaters" do not have the best of track records in animation, too many of them being cheap and pointless. The good thing is though that 'Spinach Packin Popeye' was not too bad at all for a type of cartoon that tends to not do much for me. Actually found it on the most part surprisingly good and found it a long way from cheap, even if the point of it was slightly in question. It is nowhere near close to Popeye being at his best, but doesn't disgrace him in any way either.
Part of the problem sometimes with "cheaters" is as to whether the clips inserted are actually good clips and how they fit within the rest of the cartoon. One can have clips that don't really do the character in question justice or have ones that are not even the best moments of the respective cartoons included. And one can also have a story linking it that is not that strong and the clips don't fit. Luckily neither are a problem with 'Spinach Packin Popeye', which includes clips from two of the best Popeye cartoons and the clips are good ones inserted without being disjointed. Sometimes in "cheaters" the quality of the clips compared to the story linking them can be too different, like one being cheaper than the others, not so here with the cartoon being made in one of Famous Studios' better periods. The story is one that is stronger than most stories for "cheaters" and is both amusing and sweet.
'Spinach Packin Popeye' has animation that is very good as always from this period. It's beautifully drawn and with immaculate visual detail, that doesn't ever feel cluttered or static, and lively and smooth movement. The music likewise, lots of merry energy and lush orchestration, adding a lot to the action and making the impact even better without being too cartoonish.
Olive Oyl is used well, even if Popeye and Bluto's material is quite a bit stronger. Both are great fun here, loved Popeye's cause here too, and their chemistry gels so well, shining especially in the clips, from cartoons that were Popeye at his best. 'Spinach Packin Popeye' is amusing to hilarious much of the time and has great energy. The voice acting is typically adept, with Jack Mercer's mumblings and asides coming over most memorably and cannot imagine a better voice actress for Olive Oyl than Mae Questel.
Unfortunately the ending is a let down. It is the one part of the cartoon that feels like a cheat, a cliched one that has been done to death in animation and ends an energetic and fun cartoon on such a bland fizzler.
That is my one big complaint of an otherwise surprisingly good cartoon that is definitely worth a watch, if mainly to see every Popeye as possible. 8/10
Our Planet: Jungles (2019)
Return to the beautiful jungle
'Our Planet' is another David Attenborough treasure that left me in shock and awe, not to mention tears. It may not be one of Attenborough's best or most ground-breaking, but was worried slightly as it was in collaboration with Netlfix and Netflix is spotty/variable when it comes to originals and 'Our Planet' blew them all out of the water and in a completely different league. One of my favourite television programmes so far this year without question and one of the most special.
Its first episode "One Planet" was an incredible start, with one of the most visually stunning opening sequences of the whole series being a big standout. Was riveted by the images, fascinated by the animals and what was being said and felt a wide gaumt of emotions, from biting nails, shedding tears, being shocked, being inspired, awwing at anything sweet and even being amused. The same goes for "Frozen Worlds", which boasted one of the, maybe the, 'Our Planet's' most controversial scenes. It certainly was the most emotionally devastating and it has not left my mind since.
"Jungles" is every bit as wonderful. The environment is one of the more familiar ones of the series and there are not really any scenes in the episode that have the emotional impact seen in the previous two instalments. There is a little bit more of a balance of the cute and sinister too, but it is still every bit as fascinating and visually beautiful and boasts a couple of the most memorable moments of the whole series.
Not easy to begin praising "Jungles" with such a lot to talk about and with so much that worked. Lets start with the visuals, which as always with Attenborough amazing. While not one of the best or most ground-breaking of Attenborough's work, 'Our Planet' is one of the most impressive visually of his, and "Jungles" is one of the strongest examples of this. The scenery is some of the breath taking of the series, and is enhanced by cinematic-worthy photography with a wider range of techniques rarely seen before, a feast for the eyes and also expansive and intimate. The jungle may not be as cruel or as unforgiving as the Arctic and grasslands for examples, but there is still much more to it than being a beautiful environment like it could be easily criticised as. The music has whimsy and jauntiness, especially in the preening bird sequence which was the single most amusing sequence of the whole series and it is amazing that any animal could behave like that up close. The music complemented well and actually made the scene funnier, plus have learned that it is a great way of making a good impression when looking for a mate.
Despite the familiar environment, with the jungles being visited frequently in Attenborough documentaries, to me there were moments that illuminated and were not so familiar and were amazing at how they were filmed in the first place. Not just the rarely seen preening bird, but the very intimately photographed sequence with the ants, behaving in a way that was uniquely different and not what one expects or sees much. The animals are hard to forget and have interesting individual stories, ones that humans can relate to without over-humanising.
The heavy emphasis on conservation/the environment for the series overall, and re-visited in all the episodes, has been criticised, didn't have a problem with it personally. Didn't feel lectured to, it made me think of the causes, consequences and how to stop it and it is something important to talk about and be addressed.
As one can expect, the narration is very thought-provoking and never rambling or speculative. There are some interesting individual feeling stories here throughout and so many of the species are easy to relate to. A lot of information is covered but felt properly explored and not rushed or disjointed, and the facts educate and illuminate while not being compromised for the emotionally complex storytelling. Once again, Attenborough's distinctive and unequalled narrative delivery, with his unmistakable voice, is sincere, enthusiastic as well as understated. One can listen to him for a long time and not tire of him, no other nature/wildlife documentary narrator/presenter has made me feel this way.
Summarising, another wonderful episode though not quite as much as the previous two episodes. To be honest though, they would have been difficult to follow on from with the standard being as amazing as it was in both episodes. 10/10
Mouse Menace (1946)
Porky's mouse trouble
Love animation and Looney Tunes. Do appreciate Porky Pig, he is likeable and is amusing but tended to be over-shadowed by funnier and more interesting characters, either playing it straight against them or on occasions having less to do, some cartoons were pretty bad at underusing him. Mel Blanc was and still is a voice acting legend and Carl Stalling has always been one of my favourite composers in animation. Do appreciate Arthur Davis' work.
Under Davis, who directs more than competently and with a good deal of confidence, 'Mouse Menace' isn't a cartoon that knocked my socks off, while also not having anything wrong with it, but it was fun enough and is well made. It is not one of the best Porky cartoons and he has been much better used before and especially since. One shouldn't be fooled thinking that this is a Porky Pig cartoon, don't get me wrong he is certainly in it but do agree that he is more of a supporting character here and 'Mouse Menace' is more of a featuring Porky Pig cartoon.
Do think that he is not in the cartoon enough and that the supporting characters are more interesting and have better material. Personal opinion of course. 'Mouse Menace' could have done with more variety in places and while it is always entertaining it is never what one calls hilarious.
The second half is to me the stronger half, there are more gags, it was funnier and there was more energy. Do feel that 'Mouse Menace' could have gotten going a little quicker, while liking Porky's rapport with the mouse.
However, the cat is a fun character and is amusing but do agree also that the best character in 'Mouse Menace' is the mouse, showing the most personality with the over-confidence not going overboard that it becomes annoying. Also really liked the different approach to the relationship between the cat and the mouse, where one does feel that the cat would normally is the more interesting character when being the brunt of the laughs.
Animation is excellent. Beautifully drawn, very detailed and the colours are vibrant, complete with some great expressions and Davis' distinctive style of the characters moving from foreground to background. Carl Stalling's music score is typically lushly and cleverly orchestrated, with lively and energetic rhythms, it's also beautifully synchronised with the action and gestures/expressions and even enhances the impact.
Not hilarious perhaps but 'Mouse Menace' still amuses and entertains with some nice wit and good timing in the second half. Mel Blanc as ever shows his pretty much unparallelled ability to voice multiple characters (in a one-man show here) and bring contrasting individual personalities to each without ever showing signs of fatigue.
Overall, decent fun while not blowing me away. 7/10
Somewhere in Egypt (1943)
Sphinx for the dreams
Quality-wise, the Terrytoons cartoons, as an overall standard, was always inconsistent. The most consistent asset has always been the music, in a great way, while the animation was something that was less than great before but the improvement over-time was enormous. Much more variable were the characters and material, the story also being a frequent weak spot. Generally though they are worth watching, if for some for one time only, if wanting to see all of their available cartoons. Some are decent, few great but there are a lot of lacklustre or less.
1943's batch of Terrytoons cartoons saw all of the above, though it was a case like all the previous years of some cartoons being better than others. With the music and animation being merits but characters and content being hit and miss. This was not unexpected, given that from 1929 onwards hit and miss has been the general standard for Terrytoons, but some years fared worse than others. Like the previous year, 1943 was one of Terrytoons' better years, none really being terrible and most ranged from average to decent while none being great. Do not consider any of the Gandy and Sourpuss cartoons terrible and Gandy improved hugely as a character when partnered with Sourpuss, he was very bland before when he was on his own. 'Somewhere in Egypt' is definitely watchable, if not one of the series' best. As far as the Gandy and Sourpuss cartoons go it was all starting to feel a bit on the tired side.
'Somewhere in Egypt', starting with the good things, is very well animated. Which was not a surprise as this aspect had come on enormously by this point with Terrytoons. It is nicely detailed, lively and colourful without being garish, particularly in some imaginative visuals in the dream sequence. Again, the music, the thing that was the most consistently good thing from the very beginning with Terrytoons, is a big strength. It is beautifully and cleverly orchestrated and arranged, is terrific fun to listen to and the lively energy is present throughout, doing so well with adding to the action.
There are amusing moments here, and the surrealism in the dream sequence (by far 'Somewhere in Egypt's' highlight and the only sequence that is especially memorable) is imaginatively handled particularly on a visual level. Gandy and Sourpuss carry the cartoon reasonably well, with Sourpuss being more interesting as a character, and their chemistry which has always surprisingly gelled despite how it sounds is nice enough.
It is a shame that too much of the rest of 'Somewhere in Egypt' is a standard Gandy and Sourpuss army cartoon, and with not much variation or surprises outside of the dream sequence and the different setting it felt very predictable and not much different to any Gandy and Sourpuss before it.
While there are amusing moments here, there aren't enough of them, and with the predictability and the less than snappy pacing in spots there was a real sense that the Gandy and Sourpuss series was getting tired and had, like Terrytoons' output in general for a while now, run out of ideas and were just recycling old ones with not so major variants. It doesn't really get going until the dream sequence and it can at times be a touch heavy-handed.
On the whole, watchable but pretty average. 5/10
Puss in Boots: Part 1
'Puss in Boots' may be a slight story, but one can see why it is popular and why it and its titular character are adapted and parodied a lot, animated, live action and even in ballet with Tchaikovsky's 'Sleeping Beauty'. It is memorable for having one of the most interesting and difficult to forget (in a good way) titular characters there is, with his wit and his way of tricking, and also the climax between Puss in Boots and the ogre.
'Grimm Masterpiece Theater's' (or 'Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics' in some places) version of 'Puss in Boots' is uneven, with the second half of the episode being much better than the first, part of it is to do with that that is also the case with the original story as well. Mainly to do with that this first half story-wise is not as eventful, there aren't to start with any moments that stand out as much as the episode's climax and the rest of the characters other than Puss are, although not annoying, are a little on the bland side. Having said that, the first half of the series' 'Puss in Boots' has enough to recommend it and the episode overall is entertaining enough, also being the best of the few animated versions of the story.
Am still having a problem with the music, which was a constant complaint of 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater' in general. The opening and ending credit songs are typically charming, but generally the music doesn't fit very well and sounds repetitive and very 80s. Only Puss stands out properly of the characters in the first half, with most having little to do to stand out.
The story charms enough but doesn't grip as much as the more eventful second half. The voice acting is on the most part not the greatest with too much of it not fitting the characters, the exceptions being Puss (voiced with a lot of energy) and the narration, complete with sloppy synchronisation.
However, much of the animation, though with the occasional lack of finesse in the character designs, was quite nice in its own simple but oddly charming way. It's atmospheric, mostly smooth and expressive and a nice job is done with the attention to detail in the backgrounds. The theme songs are pleasant and accompanied by well designed intros/outros.
Regarding the writing, it is surprisingly mature here, so it is successful in having something for older audiences, but it is easy enough to understand for youngsters without dumbing things down too much. Will say though that it could have slowed down more, some of it was in my mind too rapid. Again it is much better in the second half, in particularly the climax. Max, the only one of the brothers to show a little personality, has some likeability and did like his chemistry with Puss. The latter of whom easily steals the show as he ought to, loved his witty dialogue and how he goes about his trickery and he has all the best lines and the character voiced with the most energy.
Concluding, decent first half to an uneven but entertaining episode, that is brought up considerably by the second half. 6/10
DuckTales: Back to the Klondike (1987)
I smell money
Have said frequently about loving animation to bits and always have. Not just Disney, Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Tex Avery and Hanna Barbera, but getting older it also broadened to include Pixar, Studio Ghibli, Soyuzmultfilm and Fleischer. It has always been a huge part of my life and helped me through all the tough times in school, with a broader knowledge actually appreciate it even more now.
'DuckTales' has always been a show held with great affection by me. While not quite one of the all-time greats in animation and ever it is still a personal favourite and one of my favourite shows from Disney. Back when there were many classic Disney shows and when most Disney shows were actually good or more, that feeling on the whole is very much missed nowadays. Felt that way as a child, still do. One of those personal favourites from a young age that has held up very well (not all my childhood favourites have), and like many favourites seen recently as a young adult 'DuckTales' is even more entertaining through adult eyes from appreciating the writing and stories even more.
"Back to the Klondike" is one of my favourite 'Ducktales' episodes. Not just very charming and exciting, as well as typically for 'Ducktales' very well made and written, but it was lovely to see a different side to Scrooge.
The animation in "Back to the Klondike" looks very pleasing on the eyes, nothing shoddy about it. Instead it is very vibrant, fluidly drawn and the attention to detail in the backgrounds is also note-worthy. Can say nothing wrong about the music, the score is dynamic, beautifully orchestrated, never jarring with the action and full of energy. Just as animated shows of this kind should be. It is impossible to resist or forget the theme song, one of the catchiest in animation and ever.
Loved the writing, which was witty and very smart while always treating kids and adults alike with respect instead of insulting them. The story benefits especially from its nostalgic tone (being somewhat of a change of pace episode), the very natural and sweetly intimate chemistry between Scrooge and Goldie, which didn't come over as schmaltzy, and a truly excitingly rollicking climax that still gels very well with the rest of the story rather than falling into the trap of being too different tonally. The romance is familiar but always believable and easy to engage with, and the episode doesn't end predictably or patly.
It was great to see a different and more romantic side to Scrooge, without destroying his character. He has great chemistry with the very charming and daringly sultry Goldie. Dangerous Dan is an appropriately formidable foe, not being too scary or too goofy. The voice acting is great, with Alan Young being born for Scrooge, cannot imagine anybody else as him.
Overall, wonderful episode. 10/10
Game of Thrones: The Bells (2019)
For whom the un-ringing bells toll
When 'Game of Thrones' was at its best, it made for utterly riveting television and was the best television could possibly get. Very easy to get into, even though it did take me a while to get through the episodes with a lot going on and the watch and review list increasing all the time and now gradually decreasing, and one of the most addictive shows ever from personal opinion. This is especially true for the best of Seasons 1-5 and there were shining moments too in Season 6. Season 7 was uneven, with only two great episodes to me.
Am going to agree with those that have said that Season 8 has been disappointing. It started off quite well, though "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" was the only one to reach great standard while not being top-tier 'Game of Thrones'. "The Long Night" was by 'Game of Thrones' standards disappointing and the controversy is understandable, but still really appreciated the huge effort that was put into it and it is not an episode to forget. What was a major disappointment was "The Last of the Starks", which has been panned by a lot of fans and it is not hard at all to see why. Did say in my review for that episode that the last two episodes would need to step up big time. Something that "The Bells" did not do, didn't think it was that bad to warrant a lot of one star votes, some before the episode was aired, but it in my mind is not deserving of the 10/10s which seem to have been awarded for knee jerk reactions rather than merit. Also, can those who have given the episode 7 and above please actually write proper reviews for the episode and not be so immature and insulting to those who didn't like the episode in comments that read more like rants.
"The Bells" flaws do outweigh the cons by quite some way, like "The Last of the Starks" this is one of the two of the worst 'Game of Thrones' episodes (except this is worse, as that episode had a little more emotion and didn't have as many character inconsistencies) and doesn't do the show justice in any way. One of those examples of an episode that has completely lost what made its respective show so great in the first place, and that is just shameful. It is also like that episode one of the few where the hate is completely understandable and for valid from personal perspective reasons. And this is coming from someone who genuinely did see it earlier this week, and my siblings who are also 'Game of Thrones' fans expressed even more intense dislike than me. After this and the previous episode, hopes for the final episode are not high and am not sure as to how the show is going to pull off a final episode when "The Bells" itself felt like a show finale in its second half that was heavily problematic and the actual final episode may feel one episode too long. It would have actually been better that the first portion of the episode at Dragonstone was an episode of build up, namely for Daenerys, and all the events at Kings Landing being the final episode, and that would have solved the two or more episodes in one feel that the episode had.
Lets start with what "The Bells" did well, as there are good things here that are enough for the episode to warrant a 2 at least. Visually, it looks amazing, as one would expect for 'Game of Thrones'. One of the best looking episodes of the entire show actually, with some truly mind-blowing and cinematic-esque photography that was so immersive throughout. The scenery is throughout spectacular, the sets are hugely atmospheric and beautiful on the eyes with a real meticulous eye for detail and the costumes suit the characters to a tee. The make-up is beautifully done, while the special effects, while not the very best of the show, put many recent shows and films to shame. The dragon is extremely well rendered here.
One cannot not mention the thematically, orchestrally and atmospherically multi-layered music scoring and the unforgettable main theme. Again, worthy of a high-budget fantasy/action/drama film. The opening credits are beautifully designed. There are great moments here, the best being with Jaime and Tyrion, Sandor and Arya (both heartfelt) and a little tension in the Sandor/Gregor duel. The acting is very good considering the material, with Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Emilia Clarke coming off best. Peter Dinklage also does his best, despite his material being beneath him.
Sadly, there is so much wrong with "The Bells". It has a lot of the same flaws "The Last of the Starks" had, except executing them worse, and also having more problems. Everything felt very rushed and like 2 episodes at least in one, with little breathing space and a lot of the latter half of the episode came over as very muddled in what was happening. There are not as many dead spots as the previous episode, but too much is packed in but at the same time one can really tell that the show had run out of ideas and material as moments do feel like padding. The script is also an absolute mess, there is no intrigue and much of it is childish and forced, the cringe factor was high here. "The Bells" should have been an episode with the most tension and emotion of the series, both came in spades but unfortunately was distracted by the insulting lack of logic, the complete lack of sense, nonsensical character motivations, pointless moments, deux ex machinas, coincidences and inconsistencies that are too numerous to list and have been summed up already by others.
Found the ending to be too much of an anti-climax, leaving more questions than answers and doing an injustice to such great characters. Just to say, was not expecting a happy ending, that actually would have jarred and been too pat and many others would feel the same. This would have been the right way to end actually, but it was a case of the right ending being executed wrongly which is what people mean when criticising the ending. Saw no point in the overlong and truly ridiculous to the point of unintentional silliness scene between Jaime and Euron, and Euron here and in the previous episode was a waste of time as a character, one with no real threat and was rather cheesy instead, that could easily have been left out of the episode and nobody would miss him. The layered and complex characterisation and development is cast to the wind here, there is no character progression other than with the often spoken about Daenerys which was as others have said handled badly. If anything the character development has gone backwards in Season 8, not only are the characters cliched and pale shadows of their former selves behaving nonsensically or for little reason they are out of character and this was apparent from the very beginning of the episode. Too many have too little to do as well, Jon Snow is especially now a complex blank.
Regarding Daenerys, there was foreshadowing definitely throughout the show of how she would become the way she was here, which those that disliked the episode have not disputed. As they have not disputed that it was brought on by grief and hatred. But still the build up to the descent in the episode felt very rushed and another episode would have helped make it more gradual, and her actual actions were extreme in my view. Can understand taking revenge on Cersei and those who supported her, but not when it came to taking it out on entirely innocent people. That was not the signs of a conflicted and complex character who had lost everything, and instead one turned with little build up into a one-dimensional villain introduced in a way that made no sense. That's what people are getting at when considering what was done to Daenerys in the writing as a character assassination, in an episode full of them.
Altogether, hugely disappointing and instead of having high anticipations expectations for the final episode are now very low. 4/10
Innocence and jealousy
'Cymbeline' is one of the lesser known Shakespeare plays and that is evident in a very scant available video/DVD competition of film and stage productions. It is a shame, because while it is nowhere near among Shakespeare's best it does deserve to be performed more and it is more down to being difficult to stage, with one of Shakespeare's most complicated (sometimes over-complicated) plots, rather than the play's quality.
Although the BBC Television Shakespeare is not a series where all the productions of all of Shakespeare's plays, its interest point and one of the main reasons to check the productions out (especially when in a few of the plays the production in question is the only one available), are consistently great, for me a vast majority of the productions are well done to excellent. Found this production of 'Cymbeline' to be very good and despite the play being one of Shakespeare's lesser known the production is one of the better ones of the series. It's one of the more consistently and better cast productions, in a good way, and is one of the more visually striking. Personally did not find it dull, even if not every scene works.
Will start with what didn't quite work. Do agree that the Posthumous dream sequence was clumsily done and spoiled by unintentional silliness and also that there was some occasional strange editing.
Michael Pennington tries too hard as Posthumous and it comes over as very over-the-top and wild, especially at the end, and Robert Lindsay doesn't look as though he is having much fun and struggles being sinister and cunning as the Iago of the play Iachimo.
There is so much that works though. Although not exactly authentic to Shakespearean period, the production is still a treat visually and it feels coherent. A lot of work went into the sets and that is obvious, like a previous reviewer the mountain snow set really caught my eyes in a good way. Elijah Moshinsky returns to form here after disappointing so badly in the series' production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (one of its weakest). A couple of missteps here and there, especially the dream sequence mentioned above, but he does make the drama gripping, with the drama being genuinely poignant and the conflict has enough tension.
Furthermore, the rendition of "Fear No More" is absolutely beautiful and brought me to tears. It helps that it is a beautiful song with aching text already, but it is even more special when it's performed well. Shakespeare's writing still shines brightly. Excepting Pennington and Lindsay, the cast are more than strong and still stand by my thoughts of it being one of the better cast productions of the BBC Television Shakespeare series. Helen Mirren is a heart-wrenching Imogen, and that quality is matched particularly in the sensitive turn of Michael Gough. Richard Johnson is suitably cantankerous in the title role and Claire Bloom chills the blood as the queen in another one of the production's standout performances. John Kane and Paul Jesson are very good in their roles here, particularly Jesson, and Michael Hordern is luxury casting as Jupiter.
In conclusion, very good production of an in my mind undeservedly lesser known play. 8/10
'The Drummer' charms as a story that does deserve to be better known. Not one of my favourite, or one of the best known, stories that feature in overlooked German (English dubs also available) animated series 'Simsala Grimm'. Will say that if looking for a straight up faithful adaptation, on that front the series generally will disappoint. On its own terms, there is enough to make one intrigued into checking out.
Variable 'Simsala Grimm' may be, with some episodes being quite a bit better than others, but deserves more credit in its own right, a good way to introduce youngsters to the stories if not done already. Children are more likely to enjoy the series more than adults, but it will be hardly a chore for older audiences who should find the different spins on the stories interesting. It was great to see a nice mix of the famous and oft-adapted tales and also the not so familiar and not often adapted ones. The 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater' anime from the 80s also does this very well, perhaps even better. On its own merits (again best forget about expecting something faithful), 'Simsala Grimm' is pleasant, though not one of my favourites, and those not familiar with the original stories may find themselves intrigued into checking them out.
Character designs are somewhat derivative, anybody who has seen many of the previous episodes will see a lot of similarities in the character designs between those and this, giving the sense of recycling.
Some 'Simsala Grimm' episodes have less than great writing, with 'The Drummer' not without its corny moments, though it is not one of the worst cases ('Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp').
Having said that, Doc Croc and Yoyo do serve a point here and they play helpful roles, not feeling like padding. Have always loved Doc Croc's resourcefulness and intelligence and Yoyo is as ever adorable and amusing, both likeable characters. The original characters are well done with a likeable protagonist.
Again, enough of the (traditional hand-drawn) animation is pleasing, the finesse is not always there or the imagination, but there are some lovely and never flat colours and it's nicely detailed. The music fits well (likewise with the never hammy or bland voice acting) and the main theme is catchy. Have always really liked the once upon a time approach to the intro.
'The Drummer's' story is charming and engages. There is not an issue with pacing with it not feeling too hasty or dull, there is no trouble understanding what is going on yet it doesn't feel like it was dumbed down too much.
In summary, pretty good. 7/10
Murder is Easy
'Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie' may not be a consistent series, but it is very interesting and enjoyable. Did feel that Larrosiere and Lampion were far more interesting characters than to Alice and especially Laurence and gelled far better and quicker, yet they were in less episodes. Never had any problem with Alice, who is a joy in every episode, but their chemistry wasn't always harmonious and it took me a while to warm to Laurence and am still not the biggest of fans, though the writing for him has improved.
"Un Meurtre est il Facile" is loosely adapted from 'Murder is Easy', which again is not among the list of personal favourites of Agatha Christie's (one of my all time favourites and there is a reason as to why she earned the nickname as "The Queen of Crime") books. With that being said any book of Christie is worth a read at least once, but not all her late work did much for me. 'Murder is Easy' is not an exception, and actually it is still immensely entertaining and suspenseful with colourful characters (even if the lead lacks the charisma of Miss Marple and Poirot) and a wickedly clever denouement. "Un Meurtre est il Facile" is the second loosely based adaptation of 'Murder is Easy', the first being the 2008 adaptation with Miss Marple inserted, which is something to be enjoyed on its own terms because as an adaptation of the book it's fairly unrecognisable. This episode is one of the best episodes of the series and to me it's superior to the previous adaptation, more entertaining, more suspenseful and it at least acknowledges and is clear that it is not meant to be one hundred percent faithful.
Alice and Laurence's chemistry, which has started gelling better since "Sur Cartes Table" (the first great Avril and Laurence episode), doesn't have enough time to shine.
Do feel too that Alice is definitely the far more interesting character here (in fairness though Laurence has less screen time). Laurence has become more relaxed though Alice has always been far warmer in personality.
However, "Un Meurtre est il Facile" is a handsomely produced episode, the period lovingly recreated and leaves one nostalgic while also being beautifully photographed. With a darker visual style to match the darker tone while not being too dark. The music is both whimsical and haunting, while the writing is full of class and elegance, with some amusing and light-hearted moments that balances and gels with the mystery surprisingly well. They are not over-played and there is not an over-reliance on them, just enough to not make the story over-serious, and they were welcome.
Especially when the story is with as much suspense as it does and is more serious in subject than most previous episodes, with a very high body count and the murders are not tame. Very like the source material, which has one of Christie's highest body counts. This is not an episode that plays it too safe and it doesn't feel pedestrian. The ending is well executed and not obvious or revealed too early. Blandine Bellavoir as always is a breath of fresh air, and the supporting performances of Elodie Frenck, who was so good in "Pension Vanilos" ('Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie's' adaptation of 'Hickory Dickory Dock'), and Phillippe Nahon.
Overall, very good episode. 8/10
Eastern Promises (2007)
David Cronenberg is up there to me as one of the most unique and most fascinating directors out there. Not many other directors explore challenging and complex themes in a way that really gets under the skin, disturbing the viewer and making them feel uncomfortable. If anybody does feel that, that's a good thing as that is what Cronenberg and his films aim to do and to me it has seldom gotten excessive. Have also gotten a lot of dark wit and especially emotion from his films (especially 'The Fly'), which makes his work much more than full on body horror.
'Eastern Promises' is a very different film from Cronenberg's early work from the 70s and 80s, being a thriller whereas much of his early work was horror, though 'The Fly' onwards did see a more dramatic edge. And also exploring the very much completely different subject of violence and identity, which he also did in his previous effort 'A History of Violence'. To me, this is one of the best of his later films (by quite some way actually) and also one of his best overall. It's one of his more mature films but at the same time like 'The Fly' and 'Dead Ringers', two other favourites fo his, it's one of his more accessible. This is coming from somebody who likes to loves much of his work, though am not going to say that every film of his is good ('Cosmopolis' being one of his more notable disappointments, from personal opinion) and there are films that fit in my "appreciated and admired" category than "love and enjoy" one.
My only criticism for 'Eastern Promises' is the ending, which did feel abrupt and its tone and how too easily resolved it is felt like it belonged in a different film. It should strictly speaking have been the most exciting scene, but the film just fizzled out just like that, a shame.
However, 'Eastern Promises' looks great, loved the locations which were just as threatening as the characters and there is plenty of atmosphere in the grimy yet still audacious photography from Cronenberg regular Peter Suschitzky. Another Cronenberg regular penned the music score, Howard Shore's score here is thrillingly dramatic without being over-bearing and another case of a non-human character feeling like a character of its own, so much of an impact it makes. Felt no clinical coldness from Cronenberg, instead it's ambitious and pulls no punches which adds hugely to the unsettlement.
The script is thought-provoking and lean enough without much, if at all, of a padded feel. The switch between languages was not a problem here, never confused me and actually found it authentic, and never has been a problem in film. It is something that is seen frequently in film for authenticity reasons and rightly so. The story is up until the ending very gripping and drips with intensity with the distinctive effectively stomach-churning Cronenberg visual touches. Other than a disturbing opening, the film's highlight is the turkish baths sequence which is astonishingly choreographed and uncompromisingly brutal. The pace didn't feel too fast or too slow, and the characters interest.
Viggo Mortensen is just captivating here and gives one of his best performances in a chillingly calculating fashion. He does a decent stab at the accent, which is not an easy accent to master without overdoing or stereotyping and to me he did neither, and he is not too shabby at all (quite the opposite) at speaking in Russian, again not an easy language to master with so many rules regarding all the different vowels and hard and soft signs. Vincent Cassel is the same in providing one of his best performances, don't think he has been better actually, while Armin Mueller-Stahl is suitably sinister. Naomi Watts' role is not as meaty but she still gives a thoughtful performance and Sinead Cusack does much with her short appearance.
Concluding, a great film. 9/10
The Naked City (1948)
Eight million stories in the naked city
There were quite a few reasons for wanting to see 'The Naked City'. Like Barry Fitzgerald in a lot of other films ('And Then There Were None' being my introduction to him and still consider his performance in that one of his best), though it was interesting to see him in a lead role rather than his relative usual supporting roles and an atypical one at that. Really like what has been seen so far of Jules Dassin's work, especially 'Night and the City'. Also wanted to see whether the film lived up to its highly influential reputation.
Good news is mostly 'The Naked City' does. One can see why 'The Naked City' was influential in its documentary style, which at the time and even by today's standards innovative, and how it is treated in a way that is driven by its characters and with an emphasis on the police and how they worked. And that makes it a highly interesting film and elevates that is fairly conventional, with familiar genre tropes, in the story department. Yet still makes a gripping film regardless of that.
Not many problems here, though for my tastes Don Taylor seemed bland and detached, not always looking very comfortable either.
Do think that the narration could have been used less, as some of it did not always feel needed.
Conversely, 'The Naked City' is immaculately photographed and New York, like its own character, is a major star here. The cinematography and editing Oscars were richly deserved. The haunting score adds hugely, as does Dassin's direction. Dassin is highly successful in creating an authentic, audacious and sometimes unsettling visual style. He is equally successful at keeping the story at a controlled, yet never in my mind mannered or tedious, way that sustains the suspense brilliantly.
Loved the layered tautness of the script outside of the narration, while the story is gripping and its intelligence, high suspense and a knockout of a final chase made me able to forgive that it was quite conventional. The opening sequence is a unique one. Outside of Taylor, didn't actually have an issue with the performances. Although an effective Fitzgerald has been widely talked about, on both sides of good and not so good (am in the former camp), for me the best performance came from chilling Ted De Corsia.
In conclusion, very good film and deservedly influential. 8/10
Not an oriental pearl
Neither Alan Ladd or Veronica Lake were among my favourite actors and actresses, but they were watchable and that is evident in their chemistry together, which sizzled at its best. It is a shame that this promising pairing only lasted for four films. Having enjoyed to loved their previous films, 'The Blue Dahlia', 'The Glass Key' and especially their first 'This Gun for Hire', was somewhat let down by their last pairing 'Saigon'.
Not because 'Saigon' is a terrible film. It isn't. There are enough decent, good even, things to make it worth a one time watch, if not much more than that. It just lacks or more doesn't have enough of what made Ladd and Lake's previous films as good as they were. If ranking their films, 'Saigon', as sad as it is to say, is by quite some way their weakest, seeing 'This Gun for Hire', 'The Glass Key' and 'The Blue Dahlia', in order of release, were good to great and this was only watchable (from personal opinion).
Whatever problems 'Saigon' had, they did not lie with Ladd and Lake, who are actually the reasons to watch it. Ladd has the right amount of understated steel, even if it is not a performance of burning intensity, and Lake does sultriness, iciness and vulnerability beautifully. A great contrast but a contrast that does not come over as disconnected on screen, their chemistry is still very believable if not quite sizzling.
Luther Adler is suitably shady and the film does come to life in the last twenty minutes, which did have the tension that was not there before and was the most surprising it got. 'Saigon's' photography is well orchestrated enough and the costumes are beautiful.
On the other hand, 'Saigon' does lack tension and suspense which does severely affect the momentum, which is sluggish, and the story is silly and with nothing that really surprises. The edge, snap and conciseness in the script are not there either, too much of the dialogue is perfunctory at best and sometimes limp. The flatness is obvious in the direction, which lacks tightness and energy and instead feels bland.
A better supporting cast would have made things better, with only Adler standing out or doing a lot with what he is. Everybody else seemed indifferent or to have little clue of what to do with their too conveniently black and white (meaning standard cliches, nothing to do with ethnicity) characters, Douglas Dick is particularly weak. Apart from the photography and costumes, the production values are not much special. There is a sense of a rushed production and there is a studio backlot look.
Summarising, worth a one time watch but have no real desire to see it again. 5/10
The Glass Key (1942)
Film noir has always fascinated me and love many of them, most film noirs seen have rarely been less than solid and it takes a lot for me to dislike one or call them misfires. 'The Glass Key's' other main interest is that it was the second of four films to see Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake together, the first being 'This Gun for Hire' (Ladd's film debut too) and the last being 'Saigon'. In all those films, they were just great as a partnership and one does wish that they were in more films.
'The Glass Key' has an awful lot to recommend and is well worth watching (three of Ladd and Lake's films are, being somewhat let down by 'Saigon'), but do have a preference for 'The Blue Dahlia' and especially 'This Gun for Hire' as far as Ladd and Lake's films go. Don't quite consider it a film noir classic, of which there are many that fit that distinction, though its shortcomings are far outweighed by the many good, and even excellent, things about it.
As others have said, 'The Glass Key's' story tends to be convoluted to the point of being difficult to follow and sometimes it feels like it tries to cram in too much.
Clearer character motivations would have helped it, because they are murky and leave more questions than answers, and likewise with some parts slowing down and the film being a touch longer.
However, 'The Glass Key' is a very well made film. The editing is always tight and the photography is stylish and moody. The latter being helped by some highly atmospheric photography with a shadowy, noir-ish mood being perfectly evoked. The score, courtesy of Victor Young, has class and looms ominously, while Stuart Heisler's direction is assured.
Script has plenty of snap, is concise and has the right amount of edge. The story may be muddled and over-stuffed but also has many compelling elements, enough surprises so that it doesn't become predictable and its fair share of suspense. It's also surprisingly brutal, especially when Ladd gets beaten. The acting is good, with a steely Ladd and sultry Lake sizzling in chemistry together. Supported more than solidly by menacing Brian Donlevy and especially sometimes deceptively charming but more frighteningly sadistic William Bendix, in a different role to that of 'The Blue Dahlia'.
In summary, well done film and worth catching. 7/10
Keep Your Powder Dry (1945)
Far from dry powder
The prime reason for me seeing 'Keep Your Powder Dry' in the first place, and the reason to see it, is for the cast. Headed by Lana Turner and Laraine Day, but also having Susan Peters, Agnes Moorhead and others. Do appreciate WWII war-time films with a message for their good intentions, even if the messaging tends to be heavy-handed. So was definitely intrigued when it popped up as a recommendation.
'Keep Your Powder Dry' is worth seeing and much better than given credit for. Not from personal opinion a great film, but again from personal opinion 'Keep Your Powder Dry' is also a long way from bad. A film that is lifted by the dialogue and especially the cast, that works well as a comedy and as a drama. With the war effort/recruitment poster elements actually being where the film is at its least successful.
Story here is very slight and on the routine side, with the training also being under-utilised, and inevitably heavy-handedness creeps in at times. Did find that some of the photography, while mostly fine, was not always great with agreed some overdone soft-focus close ups.
However, the production values, while not exactly lavish, are pleasing enough and the direction is at least competent. The film does have energy and generates just about enough interest, despite the story being less than perfect. Where 'Keep Your Powder Dry' is most successful is in the script and cast.
Script sparkles in its wit and snappy banter, while the more dramatic elements are genuinely poignant. Complete with an ending that did make me shed a tear or two. Absolutely loved the electrifying tension between Turner and Day, but a large part of that other than the wriitng would have been to do with their relationship off-screen was as long away from amicable as one can get.
Every bit as good are the performances. Turner epitomises glamour and gives off genuine charm, while Peters is very moving and spunky in her role. Moorhead plays stiff upper lip with authority, while Natalie Schafer and Lee Patrick are sassy support. Day has the most interesting and most well-rounded character and indeed throws herself iinto the part and it is thrilling, entertaining and emotional to watch.
Overall, far from dry and enjoyable enough. 7/10