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Writing a review can be very time consuming when you want to talk about a lot of things and go into a lot of detail about each, the reiteration happened in order to save time when needing to do other things as well and had nothing to do with accumulation as one prolific reviewer attacked me for. Also because when talking about individual episodes for shows many have similar strengths and flaws. If this is what is bothering you, I am genuinely sorry and I am really trying to address it, though I do think that that is a ridiculous and petty reason to hate on someone and their reviews and it is really none of your business how I choose to word what I'm writing.
I am feeling targeted and with me physically and mentally ill at the moment, including a major seizure a few days ago, I cannot deal with feeling that way. So if you have any regard of feelings towards people's health respect those wishes, which is clearly not happening now. Seeing as this has been happening a number of times suspiciously since November with knowledge of how I'm feeling at the moment and about this that this is still happening is worrying. If this is coming over as extreme, it is because of my anxiety and autism and I am at the stage where feeling targeted when doing something I love is something I can do without at the moment. I have really tried to grin and bear it since reporting this terms-and-conditions violating issue, but I have now had enough. Get all of that through your skulls and leave me alone. If you have any issues with my reviews, just take note of my user name and ignore me as this has become beyond a joke and immature.
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.
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)
Vremena goda (1969)
The stunning seasons
Soyuzmultfilm's vast output has given me great pleasure for nearly a decade now and it is a shame that a lot of their output is much worthier of more credit than it has at the moment. It is rare to find a studio where what has been seen of theirs, which is a vast majority in my case, has never been average or less. With their best work being as close to perfect as Russian animation gets. That's refreshing when one sees at least one misfire with most studios and some studios that don't even have a single good effort and their best being average at best.
1969's 'Seasons' is in the top half of Soyuzmultfilm's work, and of the work of director Ivan Ivanov-Vano (really like to love what has been seen, which is a vast majority, of his work), yet sadly among their most under-valued it seems. It is gorgeously animated, very delicate and very charming and anything that contains the music of one of Russian's greatest composers (my personal favourite actually) Tchaikovsky immediately has me sold.
One of 'Seasons' biggest assets is the animation, which is nothing short of stunning. Loved the varied and richly textured colours, the complex attention to detail in the backgrounds, the depiction of the beauty of Russian nature (some of the most beautiful) and how it fitted so well with the characters' psychology. When it comes to visuals and music, it is difficult to better Russian animation and cinema's depiction of winter especially. Tchaikovsky's music is sublime on its own and fits perfectly for all four segments, especially spring and winter with the former being suitably quaint and lushly orchestrated and the latter having much mystery and pathos.
There are a wide ranging mix of emotions in 'Seasons', joy in summer and loneliness in autumn being most striking. Found myself very touched and charmed throughout. The story may basically be four segments tied together, but it captures the psychology of the young couple so well, has a lot of emotion and has a sense of going on a plausible and relatable journey in characterisation (which matures more and more as the story progresses) and emotion. Matched perfectly by the visuals and music.
A wonderful job too is done celebrating the seasons, summer is just so joyful, in a way that is so distinctively Russian (meant in a very good way) and Russian nature is so movingly and affectionately depicted with much charm, poignancy and nostalgia. Going from charmed in spring to being an emotional wreck by the time winter comes. The young couple are easy to relate to from the get go, especially if there is anybody who has been there (haven't been myself but have seen it happen with most of my family), and their relationship and actions resonate. That it's wordless works in its favour, showing the beauty of telling such a lot without having to say anything which is something that impresses me all the time and actually wish was done more.
In conclusion, truly beautiful. 10/10
Priklyucheniya Buratino (1960)
The Russian Pinocchio at its most golden
Saw 'The Adventures of Buratino', based upon, what strikes me as the Russian Pinocchio, 'The Golden Key' by Aleksey Tolstoy (not to be confused with Leo), as a fan of Russian animation and of Soyuzmultfilm. Some real classics in this regard. Also really like to love a lot of the work of Ivan Ivanov-Vano, apparently nicknamed the patriarch of Russian animation and it is not hard to see why. Am especially fond of 1952's 'The Snow Maiden', titled 'Snegurochka' just in case one is interested.
'The Adventures of Buratino' does a wonderful job with this great story, in detail and in spirit (something you don't always get in animated adaptations of literature), and is wonderful stuff on its own as well. Do consider it one of Ivanov-Vano's best along with 'The Snow Maiden', 'The Humpbacked Horse' (the 1947 version), 'The Twelve Months' and 'The Battle of Kerzhenets', though all his work is never less than worth watching. One of his most mature for what is a mature and sometimes quite dark but still charming enough story. If anybody wants to see other adaptations of 'The Golden Key' (of which this to me is one of the best), look no further than the 1939 stop-motion animated film from Aleksandr Ptsusko, do slightly prefer this despite that being a bigger technical achievement.
Here in 'The Adventures of Buratino', the animation is extremely well done with stunning looking landscapes and beautifully detailed backgrounds. The characters' expressions are wide in emotion and never look stiff or exaggerated. The music is one of the film's biggest assets, there is haunting atmosphere but also lush orchestration and charming lyricism. The song lyrics are clever and intelligently handled, never childish while not being over-complicated. Likewise with the dialogue and it is not easy to do when trying to appeal to children and adults alike and adapting a story of this nature.
Furthermore, the story is never dumbed down and it is easy to follow. It handles the original story's mature tone with suitably menacing villains without being too overly dark or grim. The moral elements, with the familiar expressions, don't preach and are not laid on too thick, again not easy to do and easy traps to fall into often done. The titular character is an engaging one, and even though flawed it's not in a way that it becomes difficult to root for him. The voice acting avoids being over-theatrical and doesn't sound inappropriate for the characters.
Concluding, wonderful. 10/10
Period of Adjustment (1962)
It's a not so wonderful life
Hold Tennessee Williams in very high regard indeed, and although his plays work better performed as filmed productions or television films that doesn't mean that they don't translate well to film. Even when toned down thematically there are good to great film adaptations, 'A Streetcar Named Desire' being the best. Come to think of it, 'Summer and Smoke' is one of the few to not do much for me and that was still watchable because of the incredible lead performance.
'Period of Adjustment' is not one of the best Tennessee Williams film adaptations and may not have the complex characterisations or as mature themes as others. It is a very easy and likeable watch though and is a good adaptation of a lesser known play that is actually one of Williams' most accessible, that it is also one of his most light-hearted for many will work in its favour. The film manages this light-heartedness as well while avoiding over-syruping and still taking the content seriously enough.
It's not perfect. The message could have been delivered with more subtlety, one of the biggest traps often fallen into with messages in film is heavy-handedness which is the case here.
Williams' work can be very melodramatic, 'Period of Adjustment' is no exception and for a play as comparitively light-hearted compared to other work of his as this the melodrama here can get over-heated. George Roy Hill did go on to do better with 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' and 'The Sting', he was an inexperienced director at this point and it can show in some awkward shifts here and there (mostly though all things considered he does pretty well).
However, 'Period of Adjustment' looks great. Especially the photography, which is positively luminous and really enhances the sumptuous production design. The music suits the tone, without too much syrup or bombast. Williams' writing really shines through, it's funny, it's touching and it has the right amount of intensity. The story manages comedy and drama well individually, with the comedy well timed and rarely less than amusing and the drama poignant but never dreary, and balances them with coherence and without imbalance.
A big part of 'Period of Adjustment's' appeal is the cast. A cast against type, her more homely look very different from her usual glamorous image, Lois Nettleton is absolutely sublime and gives to me the film's best performance in a difficult role. Anthony Franciosa is excellent too in a role that actually does him justice, and Jim Hutton does bring charm and adept timing to a character that is very different to Hutton himself, a likeable actor playing an unlikeable character but one one doesn't completely hate. Jane Fonda is the biggest surprise though, am not a fan of her usually but her sparkling performance here is one of her better ones.
Summing up, there are better Tennessee Williams film adaptations but this does justice to an undervalued play. 7/10
Doctor of evil
Really liked to loved all the previous 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' episodes, "The Pardoner's Tale" (the one that won't be to everybody's taste with it being particularly sordid) being perhaps my least favourite but even that managed to have a lot of great things. "The Faithful" and "Jones" fared the best of the eight, with the ending (one of my favourite 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' endings) for "Jones" being especially memorable for its increasing tension.
"The Good Doctor" up to this point of the show is one of 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent's' better episodes and an excellent episode for the show overall and for anything for that matter. Namely for one of the first season's, and early seasons' even, most detestable main suspects, some of the regular cast's best acting and an ending that is likely to stay with one for a while after (it certainly did with me and still do remember it).
My only nit-pick for the episode is that, and can see where another commentator is coming from here, the suspects being far too few and the over-obviousness of the responsible does take away from the surprise and doesn't keep one guessing as much as other episodes. Considering though that this is not the only episode of the show where this is the case it didn't frustrate me enormously.
Production values are still high, never too elaborate and never sedate. The music isn't constant and is not overbearing, which are always great things. Do prefer 'Law and Order' and 'Special Victims Unit's' main themes but the one here suits well.
Writing achieves as ever a good balance of not being overly-simple or too complicated, treating the viewer with respect with neither making them feel dumb or losing them. All the dialogue in the courtroom is both entertaining and powerful. The story is compelling throughout, with the methods the detectives use to get a result as ever fun and interesting to watch, the ambiguity of some of it may frustrate somewhat but not enough to ruin the episode for me because the outcome wasn't really in doubt.
As far as individual parts go, "The Good Doctor's" best part is the ending, the back and forth between Carver and Kelmer riveting in its increasing tension before concluding in explosive fashion. Goren's behaviour is unprofessional in this portion of the episode and not really something that would usually happen regularly in a courtroom but it proves crucial in getting a result and works, making for an interesting change of pace.
Cannot fault the acting, Kathryn Erbe contrasts beautifully with Vincent D'Onofrio and her softer approach is effective. D'Onofrio's intensity avoids being over-played and is quite thrilling. Courtney B Vance's acting in the final parts of "The Good Doctor", in his rapport with an appropriately repellent Robert Knepper, is some of his best ever in my mind.
In summary, excellent episode. 9/10
On the most part, the previous Season 1 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' episodes were of very high quality which is pretty amazing for so early on. My favourites being "Payback" (the first episode, but it sure didn't feel like one), "Uncivilised" and especially "Stalked". The only disappointment for me was "Wanderlust", Olivia's behaviour in that episode just frustrated me and the story had me mixed.
Season 1 unfortunately is back to disappointment with "Stocks and Bondage". After two superb episodes, it was so disappointing to have an episode that saw quality go backwards rather than going forwards in the right direction. Loved the team interaction, which is one component that is getting stronger and stronger with each episode, but the story could have been much better executed and one of the few cases of the first season that didn't do an awful lot for me. Am saying this with a heavy heart.
Will start with what "Stocks and Bondage" does right, and there are quite a number of things that it does right and really quite excellently. It looks suitably slick and doesn't look too drab, suiting the gritty tone more than convincingly. The taut and intelligent dialogue is allowed to do all the talking and is not drowned out by constant and over-obvious music, which is used sparingly and generally low-key apart from in major revelations. The main theme is not hard to forget.
Dialogue is taut and thought-provoking, including some funny moments (like the tattoo exchange) with particularly Munch. Who is a joy in this episode, anybody else who is a fan of his dry wit will be in heaven. Elliot and Olivia's chemistry is getting stronger all the time and sees some entertaining moments between them, ones where one can see different viewpoints and ones where one can see that they care for each other. "Stocks and Bondage" is a big example of an episode where the team interaction and the character moments are better and more gripping than the case itself. The acting is very good from the leads/regular cast with no exceptions.
However, found myself not caring all that much for the case which was reason enough to drag the episode down significantly. It didn't grip me and is far less suspenseful and surprising than the previous episodes, which also got going quicker and didn't confuse too early. Some of it got over-complicated too so it was not always easy to follow, found myself indifferent to when one finds out the truth (who did it and why) due to losing interest and focus too early.
The supporting cast are competent enough and do their best, but nobody really stands out as such and the characters are not particularly interesting and more of those just there sort. The pacing could have been tighter.
All in all, some great things make it a decent episode but it is very hard to give something a high score when one finds major faults with the story. 6/10
Law & Order: Indifference (1990)
With the Briscoe (though not the very early episodes, more from Season 7 onwards) and post-Briscoe episodes tending to be aired much more, hence there is more familiarity with them, it is very easy to underrate or forget 'Law and Order's' pre-Season 7 years and especially the first three seasons. Although they are hardly prime-'Law and Order', they still shouldn't be forgotten, with there being a lot of great things, interesting cases and good handling of very heavy subjects.
"Indifference" is not one of those episodes to be indifferent to. In my mind actually, it is one of Season 1's best episodes, the first truly outstanding one and the best since the very first episode "Prescription for Death", even better than that actually. Here the pace is tighter than the previous episodes and the characterisation is some of the season's meatiest, and in this case especially in support with the defendants. It also has one of Season 1's most powerful stories, regardless of the beginning disclaimer, and two of its (and the early seasons' too for that matter) best guest turns.
As with the previous episodes, "Indifference" is well made in the production values. Slickly photographed throughout, a perfect match for the gritty tone, and New York looks both striking and atmosphere-filled. The music is only used when necessary and when it is used it does stick in the mind and not done so ham-handedly. Both the main theme and opening voice over are memorable. It is directed with a confident and sympathetic edge.
The writing provokes a lot of thought and the writers were clearly enjoying writing the dialogue for Stone, ever the juicy character. This heavy subject matter is handled with intelligence and dark poignancy without being dreary or preachy, going into more depth than the previous episodes with their subjects thanks to two very strongly written supporting characters. In particular Carla.
Michael Moriaty fares the best of the regulars and George Dzundza and Chris Noth's chemistry is getting stronger all the time, their hard boiled performances still shining. It's the two main supporting performances that manage to steal the episode from under them. David Groh is one chilling reptile but even better in the more complex role is Marcia Jean Kurtz, both frightening and moving.
Summing up, superb episode and the best up to this point of the season. 10/10
The Words (2012)
Emotions speaking louder than words
Two of the biggest main selling points in seeing any film are a great concept and a great cast. 'The Words' has both, have not come across a concept this ambitious and intriguing for any film in a long time and when you have a cast that includes Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid and Jeremy Irons one cannot help expect great things. It sounds like a treat if you are somebody who loves literature, am very much one of those people.
Watching 'The Words', it was an interesting film, well made and mostly well acted with intriguing and heartfelt moments. Part of me felt though that it could and should have been much more, worth watching definitely but very uneven. It is not a waste of potential, as there are things that are done very well and a lot of effort went into it. It is sadly unfortunate that the full potential is nowhere near close to being full lived up to, which is so frustrating and a real shame.
Beginning with the strengths, 'The Words' is a very good-looking film, the photography making for some truly beautiful images and Paris especially of the locations is strikingly captured. The music matches the film's understated tone with a subtle, melancholic edge without tugging at the heart strings too much. Some of the dialogue is truly thought-provoking, with some inspired references, especially that of the Old Man's.
Although the story-within-a-story-within-a-story structure doesn't completely come together, a lot of the inner story elements intrigue and move. The Old Man's, one of the more interesting characters of the film too, past scenes make for the most engrossing story and the one that had my attention the whole time. The acting mostly very good, the acting honours going to Jeremy Irons in a very touching and suitably enigmatic performance as The Old Man. Ben Barnes touches the heart too, while Bradley Cooper tones down the intensity that can be seen in other performances of his and the subtlety is effective. Zoe Saldana is much more than just decoration, there is not a lot to her role but she makes the most of it and does it with charm.
Sadly, 'The Words' is dragged down badly by the "real life" story, to the extent that it nearly but not completely ruins the film. It was very tedious, with more questions than answers, nothing investable and an aimless pace. The romance is full of cheesy dialogue and doesn't really go anywhere, the chemistry more unintentionally creepy than charming. Found Dennis Quaid's performance too underplayed to the point of phoning in and Olivia Wilde's performance and character were just bizarre.
Letting 'The Words' down significantly too was the ending, which was little more than an incomplete damp-squib. Ambiguity can work, but this attempt at it felt less like ambiguity, this actually felt like an ending started being written, then the writer got distracted and completely forgot about concluding it. Despite the whole literary concept, the film tends to over-explain or things are spoken when they could easily have been shown. A lot of effort went into 'The Words', but it did feel like it tried too hard.
In conclusion, interesting and has a fair share of good things, such as the production values, most of the acting and one particular story strand, but very frustrating with one story and the ending spoiling things badly. 6/10
The Shooting of Caribou Lou (1967)
When ranking The Inspector cartoons, thirty four in number between 1965 and 1969 courtesy of DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, 'The Shooting of Caribou Lou' is to me one of the better-faring ones. Not disparaging the series in any way saying that, not all the cartoons are great but the series on the most part is good fun and one of DePatie-Freleng Enterprises' better theatrical series along with those for Pink Panther and The Ant and the Aardvark.
'The Shooting of Caribou Lou' is one of those good fun cartoons, both from the series and animation in general. At the same time it's not one that bowled me over, 'The Shooting of Caribou Lou' is more amusing than hilarious and the gags could have been more in number and they could have been a little fresher, but it does entertain, has nice conflict and that The Inspector himself is a compelling character helps make his series more than watchable.
Story-wise, 'The Shooting of Caribou Lou' has one of the more interesting premises for The Inspector series and mostly executes it quite well, with it still being amusing and the Inspector and Caribou Lou are strong enough characters to carry the cartoon. As said above though, the execution could have been even fresher with more variety and surprises.
Pacing could have been tighter occasionally perhaps, particularly briefly in the middle, though the cartoon is full of a great bubbly energy.
Animation however is simple but colourful and charming in its simplicity. The music is typically slinky and jaunty. The voice acting is well done, Pat Harrington Jr does not disappoint and captures The Inspector's bumbling and irony to entertaining effect. Mark Skor clearly sounds like he was having fun voicing Caribou Lou.
More often than not, 'The Shooting of Caribou Lou' is very amusing and the gags are timed well. The dialogue has some great interplay between the two characters. The ending was not a predictable one and did bring a smile to my face. The Inspector's bumbling is not overdone, the physical comedy sharp enough and the irony is hardly neglected. Have always liked the character of The Inspector, and 'The Shooting of Caribou Lou' does nothing to change my mind. Caribou Lou himself is one of the better opponents of the later The Inspector cartoons in my mind, he may look little but his personality is big.
Overall, doesn't blow the mind but a lot to enjoy still. 7/10
"The act may be done in the night, but I will have blood for this"
Season 1 may have started off a touch on the slow and finding-its-feet side, though none of the episodes in my opinion were less than decent and there were some very memorable little things and scenes, but things improved by quite a bit halfway through. Season 2 was consistently great, despite one dragged out subplot, with its best assets fantastic, while fininishing to me on a contender for the best episode of 'The Borgias' with "The Confession" (especially for the Juan's burial scene).
With "The Face of Death", Season 3 started off with a bang and on an immensely powerful note with 'The Borgias' best opening, dipped a little bit with "The Purge" and then returned on form with "Siblings" despite the controversial unconventional relationship that actually was handled extremely well. "The Banquet of Chestnuts" continues the incredibly high standard set by "Siblings", with some of the highest amount of tension on the show, most of it coming from one character in particular.
Maybe it's just me but Alfonso still comes over as a little bland and hasn't progressed as much as the other characters or had anything of note to make him as memorable, apart from his anger at not feeling accepted as part of the family thanks to Cesare.
Everything that makes me love 'The Borgias' and why it is so addictive to me is here in "The Banquet of Chestnuts". As to be expected, it looks wonderful. Have never been disappointed by the photography or costumes. Likewise have never been disappointed by the music, which has lost none of its beauty and intensity. The opening titles sequence is one of my all-time favourites for any television show and actually ever, it never fails to give me goosebumps. Ferdinand has not been on the show long and he is already one of its best opponents along with Caterina, he is a nasty piece of work and contempt has rarely been portrayed this well.
Francois Arnaud still has its dark intensity as the show's most interesting character and Holliday Grainger has progressed more than believably to the young girl not as capable of making her own decisions to the more cunning and assertive, and highly strung, Lucrezia portrayed in history. Lotte Verbeek is as ravishing, sympatheric and scheming as ever and her chemistry with Jeremy Irons, here given a new dimension, is one of "The Banquet of Chestnuts" highlights. What is also striking about Irons here is, as well as his commanding presence, distinctive line delivery that is expressive and powerful and ability to tell so much by body language and his face without having to say much, his irate anger, it is chilling to watch, almost like he was having a bad day and was releasing it on set. Especially when hearing of the marriage not yet consumated.
A lot of very-difficult-to-forget moments, not just the titular event, which is done in a way that one cannot believe that it was ever approved let alone filmed, this is meant in a good way just to say. The consumation was full of tension and emotion, a masterclass of editing and Lucrezia's hurt and shock got to me. The scenes between Rodrigo and Giulia are some of their best and sees a different dimension of genuine tension (am aware of having used this term a lot in this review, but that's what the episode is full of and is), and everything to do with Ferdinand, Rodrigo and Cesare had me on the edge of my seat. The ending makes one go "ohhhh, he's in for it now."
In summary, excellent episode. 9/10
House of Cards: Chapter 38 (2015)
"We've been lying for a long time, Francis. To each other"
While all the previous Season 3 episodes were solid to excellent in my view, though those that disliked "Chapter 29" and "Chapter 32" will agree, the season's first outstanding episode was the previous episode "Chapter 37". The only one of the season to be equal to the best of Seasons 1 and 2, not an easy feat to achieve when both at their best saw such incredible quality that made 'House of Cards' in its prime one of the best and most addictive shows.
"Chapter 38", Season 3's penultimate episode, continues the season's big improvement that it garnered in its second half (pretty much "Chapter 33" onwards) and is as every bit as outstanding as "Chapter 37". The vast and nail biting tension of that episode is here too in "Chapter 38", and the characters and their interactions, intriguing to begin with already but the tension and emotion increased, have come on quite a lot since the start of the season. There is a lot going on here but it didn't feel like too much and didn't leave me confused.
Again, it was "Chapter 38's" tension that immediately struck me. Political and personal. It is indeed ferocious to nail-biting effect, namely with Jackie and Heather and Frank versus anybody which feels pretty much like the rest of the characters. Frank is still unscrupulous without dominating too much. The other standout character is Jackie, great to see her properly interesting again here and in "Chapter 37", love her fierce steel and her surprising chemistry with Remy. Remy is relatable and another thing that leapt out at me other than the tension was Thomas Yates. Here at his most interesting all season with how he is written here not what we expect, being the complete opposite here to how he was in the previous episodes.
The story is thoroughly absorbing, especially the tension, the intrigue and the character interaction. There are twists and turns that are unpredictable and intriguing, ones that don't over-crowd or over-complicate what is already going on, which is already a lot. The storytelling throughout feels advanced and not stuck or gone backwards. The script is sharp and biting, with a lot of thought-provoking and not talky conversations, and Frank and Claire have lost none of what makes them such compelling characters and their relationship shows great intensity (it has also been great to see a different side to it in Season 3). Heather adds a lot to the tension too and it is pretty shocking.
Have no issues with the acting, with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright seeming incapable of disappointment. The production values are nothing short of slick and stylish.
Summing up, outstanding. 10/10
Taggart: Fade to Black (2002)
Quality was fading
During the Taggart era, 'Taggart' was up there with the best gritty kind of detective/mystery series. Also found a lot to love about the early half of the Jardine period, though his later episodes were more variable, none being misfires though. Post-"Death Trap" and when Burke was in charge, 'Taggart' didn't feel the same while not completely hating it (there were moments).
The previous Burke-era episodes were indicative of the show's decline. "Fade to Black" does nothing to make me change my mind about 'Taggart' not being as good as it used to be, while not being an unwatchable episode (generally found it very average and at this point of the show's run by 'Taggart' standards that is underwhelming). And for the same reasons pretty much as well, so the Burke-era episodes were not getting better at this point.
"Fade to Black" looks good, even the lesser episodes had the production values as one of their better components. Although ideas and momentum were running out, the stylishness and grit is not lost here and never did. The music is also suitably moody and have never had any trouble remembering the main theme.
Intriguing moments are there and the denouement is a little more surprising than the ones for the previous two episodes (particularly "Hard Man"). The acting is generally more than serviceable, with Blythe Duff continuing to be one of the main reasons as to why 'Taggart' was still stuck with.
Burke though has yet to be an interesting character, no subtlety to him at all and very obnoxious, in serious need of some anger management. Had still not warmed to Alex Norton either in the role. The chemistry between the team doesn't really have enough spark, the odd smile-worthy line aside.
Compared to before, the intrigue and bite present before in the writing aren't there enough. The story felt tired and indicative again of the show running out of ideas, complicated by the Burke subplot which was not very interesting and didn't add much to the mystery or to Burke himself.
On the whole, disappointing but not without its good points. 5/10
Creep Nation (2019)
Do have to give some degree of respect to anything that deals with, or has elements of, the subject of online predators (and networks of them), the dangers and the consequences. It's not to put it lightly easy to explore, is clearly very scary from how it has been portrayed elsewhere and is relevant, one that's important to talk about and should be addressed more. So already before watching there was respect for 'Creep Nation'.
Would have had more respect for 'Creep Nation' if it was executed much better than it was. It's not particularly well made, even for something that's not low budget. Just to say too that even if a film didn't look good that is not an excuse to not put enough effort into everything else, there are plenty of films that are low in budget visually but do well in most of everything else. And it is neither creepy or illuminating enough, really admired the concept but felt that much more could have been done with it and that more could have been done showing the full horrors.
'Creep Nation' has moments of creepiness and tension later on when it briefly gains a little momentum.
The acting was not awful and wasn't exactly special either, but compared to everything else it was competent enough. Adam Seybold as the brother fares best. Did find Liv Collins didn't quite have the range or presence for the lead role though.
Visually, 'Creep Nation' has the look of the crew experimenting with techniques without thinking through or having much of a plan which ones to use and how to do them, as well as when. It all looks very unfocused. The sound also has that sense on top of being poorly recorded while the score is neither memorable or well used. Instead of adding to or enhancing the atmosphere, it distracts from it and at odds, not sounding like it belonged.
Not a particularly good job is done generating much tension from the script, which could have done with the tightening up and a read-through. The story takes far too long to find its rhythm, with in the too long first act too slow a pace and too little plotting. When it does briefly get going, 'Creep Nation' feels too much like a different film and one that has been seen many times before and with much more thrills and suspense those times. It is a frightening subject but executed too ordinarily and with not enough enthusiasm or tension.
It is not a terrible film as such but it just felt very bland and never really properly comes to life. 3/10
Body at Brighton Rock (2019)
Really wanted to like 'Body at Brighton Rock' much more. Absolutely loved the concept, yes as one can tell good concept for films and television really do draw me in and it makes it hard to not expect a lot. The poster/cover for the film was quite appetising as well, those two things are two frequent reasons for wanting to watch something. Them and talented casts, when there is one or more actor/actress that more often than not leave a big impression on me in a good way.
After seeing 'Body at Brighton Rock' when it appeared as a recommendation (having seen a fair of low budget horrors and thrillers lately for completest sake), count me as another person who was very unimpressed by it. Was really hoping that it would be one of the few exceptions of films etc seen recently that actually lived up to their potential and exceeded them, but once again good potential is wasted and it is hard to not feel frustrated.
'Body at Brighton Rock' is not without marginal redeeming value. The scenery is both beautiful and atmospheric.
That cannot be said for the rest of the production values though, which had a constant rushed and chaotic look. The same can be said for the direction visually and dramatically it is not much better, pretty sluggish. The music does not add to the atmosphere at all, actually think it could have been used much less and been much more subtle because this was over-bearing stuff that didn't fit.
What there is of the dialogue is nothing to write home about, sounding like it was written in haste with no checking to see whether it flowed or made sense and that it was written with no heart. The story feels like one for a short film stretched to feature length, which severely hurt the momentum and made the film feel uneventful and padded. Tension is zero, sense is zero and surprises are zero.
Far too much familiar ground here executed very blandly. Wasn't interested or engaged by any of the characters, all of whom were sketchy and with a lot of illogical behaviour going on. The acting is not much better before, with a good deal of over-compensating.
Concluding, have seen worse but this didn't work at all. 2/10
The Evil Inside Her (2019)
Psychosis in the wilderness
The best thing about 'The Evil Inside Her' is the cover, that looked suitably freaky. It is one of those rare films seen recently though that did not have much of a good concept or much potential going for it in the first place. Even from looking at the plot summary, no matter how semi-interesting the title of the film is, one knows that the film is going to be very silly, not very scary and muddled, so not good. See it for the title and as a low budget horror film completest, but very little else.
Despite how good the cover looked, it was not really enough to save 'The Evil Inside Her' from not being halfway watchable. Everything else is executed so dreadfully that 'The Evil Inside Her' is the complete opposite of that, starting off badly getting increasingly worse all the time with no signs of recovering. If one's gut instinct was to avoid the film, it is best to keep it that way unless you are very, very curious (the reason for seeing it in the first place when it appeared in the more like this section) like me.
First and foremost, 'The Evil Inside Her' looks shoddy. Especially the less than slick, sometimes barely coherent, editing and erratic photography. There is very little atmosphere in the lighting too. The music never seemed to fit, the tone could be wrong and fails to convey any kind of mood while the placement could also be inappropriate.
Can say nothing better about the script, which had no life or flow and tending to sound stilted and cheesy. The story can be pretty uneventful and often very dully paced, 'The Evil Inside Her' is not even a very long film and the story felt thin and too stretched out. There is nothing scary or suspenseful whatsoever, and a lot of the film doesn't even make sense and gets ridiculous.
All the cast give lousy performances, doing nothing to make us care for their predicament or make the characters likeable or interesting. The acting instead was worse than bland and could irritate. Then there is Eric Roberts whose performance is a mess of phoning in and scenery chewing, found nothing creepy about him and thought his character was written too obviously and nowhere near mysteriously enough.
In conclusion, awful. 1/10
Suicide or murder
There was no bias against 'Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders', being a fan of detective/mystery/procedural show and considering the original 'Criminal Minds' one of her most watched shows. Was disappointed in the first spin off 'Suspect Behaviour' but 'Beyond Borders' did have potential to be better and Gary Sinise has been good in other things. Sadly it managed to be even worse, at least 'Suspect Behaviour' wasn't offensive or talked down to you.
Despite heavily disliking the previous three episodes, though actually "Harvested" was the least bad of the three, "Whispering Death" had a great idea for a story, the best idea of the show up to this point, and had real potential for being the best episode of Season 1 and 'Criminal Minds Beyond Borders' so far. That was not the case, it may not reach offensive levels that the very first episode "The Harmful One" did and may not shoehorn in for questionable reasons much better characters and waste them (i.e. Rossi and Garcia) but the same problems that plagued the previous episodes are all here too.
"Whispering Death's" least bad component yet again is Alana De La Garza, the only one who tries but that she has very little to work with works against her. The most memorable part of her role here is that cringe-worthy "don't be mad" exchange with Mae, as ever with a really bad attitude.
Have always hated Mae's condescension and here she has a sarcasm that comes over as truly disrespectful and makes anybody that disliked her quite intensely in the first place (like me) dislike her even more. The only person she treats halfway decently here is Russ, who is also very annoying and like a male imitation of Garcia, but with absolutely none of what made her a high point in the early seasons of 'Criminal Minds'. Gary Sinise is sleepwalking again.
Really didn't care for any of the characters, people will find the stereotypes and culture portrayal objectionable and the chemistry between the team isn't there. Same with any little character moments and how they work in solving the case isn't delved into enough. The perpetrator has no menace or with anything that makes one feel sorry or anything for them, they are just vanilla pretty much and used poorly which kills what little suspense there was.
The writing is nothing but pure awkwardness and preachiness while the story has no suspense, little intrigue and can be implausible. Complete with a dull and anti-climactic ending. The visuals again are choppy and obvious and the music is overbearing and could have done with being used less, it is also at odds with everything. One never really feels like they are in the setting, so much the lack of authenticity.
In summary, a waste of time. 1/10
Mutant hair raiser
Love 'Tiny Toon Adventures'. Did as a child, even when not understanding all of the humour it was still very funny and well made and loved the theme tune and characters. Love it even more now, not just for those reasons (and those reasons are very important in liking a film, show and cartoon or not) but also because the writing is funnier and more imaginative, now that more has been gotten out of the gags, references and in-jokes due to understanding it more.
'Tiny Toon Adventures' is equally great when an episode has an individual, or one single, story and when an episode is made up of a series of segments tied together by a theme usually. Have a slight preference for the former because in the segment-structured episodes there can be one segment that is weaker than the others and whether one likes an individual segment or the episode can be dependent on what their stance is on the character most focused upon.
"Hare Raising Night" is an example of the former type of episode and while it is not one of my favourite 'Tiny Toon Adventures' episodes it is still great and to me one of the better ones to centre around an individual story rather than being made up of segments.
Writing is razor sharp and wonderfully wacky in "Hare Raising Night" as one expects from 'Tiny Toon Adventures', while managing a deliciously spooky and sinister tone that evokes the classic horror/mad-scientist-themed Looney Tunes cartoons brilliantly too (without being too scary). It's always great when 'Frankenstein' is referenced, no matter how many times, and Buster's line in it is hilarious and very knowing. Some inspired references and inside jokes (most coming from Buster) here, again typically for the show, and are placed without being random or unnecessary. Adults are more likely to get them more but children will delight at the characters, the funny dialogue and the spooky tone.
In terms of story, "Hare Raising Night" is slight and not always very surprising, but it was impossible to dislike the witty character interactions, the tone and the character of Splicer (reminiscent of the deranged, sinister mad scientist characters in the Looney Tunes cartoons where they feature. He has a great line too regarding bad guys.
Really love the characters, especially Buster and Babs. Hamton has been better used and funnier in other episodes though. The voice acting is without complaint, Charlie Adlier was clearly having fun here. The animation is crisp, with lovingly detailed backgrounds, beautiful colours and well drawn characters, here too with some creepy atmosphere colours in the backgrounds too. The music is as good as the old Looney Tunes cartoons (prime-Looney Tunes, not most of the 60s ones) in being characterful and adding to the action, if not quite enhancing it in the same way. It always helps to have a memorable theme tune, and the one for 'Tiny Toon Adventures' is suitably hip and very catchy.
Summarising, great. 9/10
Fowl Play (1937)
Falling "fowl" of the parrot
The cartoons of Fleischer Studios more often than not amused and charmed and were always well made. Not without over-cuteness at times and stories were seldom a strong suit, but they were always made up for significantly in appealing characters, outstanding music and visuals that were inventive and with innovative animation techniques.
'Fowl Play' is not quite one of the best Popeye cartoons or one of the best Popeye cartoons from 1937 in the best period for the series (the late 30s). That is not knocking it in any way as it's still a great cartoon and saying what was said about it not quite being one of the best 1937 Popeye cartoons is only because really that 1937 was one of the best and most consistent years for the series where all the cartoons pretty much were very good and more, great in the case of many.
Other than the story not being much special, the only major problem really is Olive. Am aware about saying more that once about her being underused and having material not as strong as Popeye and Bluto's, but very seldom has she been practically pointless and given next to nothing to do. The only thing one remembers about her role here is the running gag about her fainting frequently and that was really not that funny or endearing.
Popeye and Bluto always did have stronger material and their animosity always had plenty of fun and tension. Both are obvious in 'Fowl Play'. Absolutely love their chemistry, which is deservedly legendary and just sparkles in energ, while Popeye is immensely likeable with great comic timing (Jack Mercer's voice acting helps quite a lot) and Bluto is a mix of funny and formidable. The parrot though actually steals the show from under them, it is not everyday when a supporting character is more entertaining and interesting than Popeye and Bluto and is a relatively rare occurence. Some hilarious dialogue can be heard with the character.
Lots of energy can be seen here in 'Fowl Play', especially in the last portion where it becomes increasingly wild to hilarious effect. Lots of gags spot on in timing, with not a misfire in the lot. As always, love Popeye's mumblings and asides and there were not many other animated characters to be as funny as Popeye in that regard.
Ever excellent for this period is the animation, beautifully drawn, lively, smooth and meticulously detailed, never too elaborate or cluttered neither too static or simplistic. Every bit as good, and even better perhaps, is the music, with its lush orchestrated, merry energy and character, it adds to every expression, gesture and action and at its best it enhances the impact. Fleischer's direction is as accomplished as ever. The voice acting is very good.
In summary, not Popeye at his best but lots of fun. 8/10
Okavango: Water in the Desert
While there may not be an awful lot new in terms of some of the content, 'Wildest Africa' is still among the best, most comprehensive and most must see documentaries on African wildlife and one of the standouts of the 'Wildest' series. With there being thirteen episodes of the perfect length each, a lot is covered. Yet it never feels like there is too much information given and the episodes don't feel rushed or cluttered.
"Okavango Water in the Desert" is a great first episode and a great way to start off 'Wildest Africa'. To me it is one of the best and most illuminating 'Wildest Africa' episodes, found the quality throughout the series consistent but some episodes had more not so familiar content and that was the case here. It is also a strong example as to why the series should be seen by more people and even more highly regarded.
The episode focuses on the Okavango Delta, pretty much a fairly new environment to me. That is one of the reasons as to why "Okavango Water in Desert" is one of the more illuminating 'Wildest Africa' episodes. Various wildlife can be seen, such as hippos and buffalo, the latter migrating being a memorable image. It is more focused though on water and various wetlands, as well as the dangers of them and how it affects the wildlife and people.
All handled in a way that is entertaining as well as informative, really learned a lot here. Colin Salmon narrates with enthusiasm and sensitivity, his narration adding to any tension and emotion.
Visually, "Okavango Water in the Desert" looks remarkable, the deserts and wetlands looking absolutely amazing on film. It is more than just beautiful scenery, it's unforgiving too and gorgeously photographed. How such a lot of it managed to be filmed so intimately with such full impact is anybody's guess, meant in the best possible way. The music rouses and also has edge.
Summarising, great. 9/10
Not a show stopper
'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' when first hearing about it didn't sound like it would be my thing. Giving it a chance, it turned out to be one of the best, most addictive and most refreshing animated shows in recent years that has a big (and unfairly criticised at times) fanbase and can personally see why. Not all the episodes are great and each season had disappointments, but when the show was good and at its best it was fantastic.
Season 1 had brilliant episodes, especially as far as the previous episodes go "Sonic Rainboom", but some disappointed. "The Show Stoppers" is one of the disappointments, and even, as far as the previous episodes go, like it less than "Boast Busters" (boasting some of the worst and most inconsistent characterisation), "Feeling Pinkie Keen" (despite that episode's senseless message being worse) and "Stare Master" (somewhat bland and didn't like the treatment of Twilight).
"The Show Stoppers" is not an unwatchable episode, or at least not to me, despite being one of Season 1's lower rated episodes. It is though disappointing by 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' standards, and a let down compared to "Dragonshy", "Winter Wrap Up", "Suited for Success", "Fall Weather Friends" and especially "Sonic Rainboom".
Despite the disappointment, there are good things. The animation is vibrantly coloured and it's not hard to see that much care went into putting detail and finesse to the backgrounds and drawing. The music avoids repetition, isn't too loud and the placement isn't random. Not everybody will like the theme song, have never had any problem with it myself. The Cutie Mark Crusadors theme is very catchy.
Love the different Cutie Mark Crusaders' talents, they are amusing, inventive and are plausible. Scootaloo's especially. The voice acting is very good as always, particularly Michelle Creber (though hers is a singing role).
However, there is too much focus on the Cutie Mark Crusaders. It is admirable that the episode tried to make them more interesting, but those for the Mane 6 are far more compelling and individual and some of the episode got rather too sugary sweet as a result. Somehow it didn't feel right having an episode focus too dominantly on characters that were not interesting enough yet. While the talents themselves were fun, didn't find myself as impressed with their consequences and how they went wrong which didn't come over as very funny and could be at times mean-spirited.
Writing has been much better in a vast majority of episodes before and since, there is a lack of maturity and wit here and the character interaction doesn't shine anywhere near as much as it does with the Mane 6. Which has much more range, chemistry and complexity thus feeling more real. The story could have done much more with its concept because it did feel pretty bland and predictable here. An example of how to make a pretty imaginative concept and execute it rather ordinarily. Was mixed on the message too, it is a good one but felt under-explored and the ambiguous ending may frustrate.
Overall, not unwatchable but should have been much more. 5/10
The Two Barbers (1944)
Mighty Mouse at the barbers
Terrytoons Studios' output is variable but when seeing it as a completest it is also quite fascinating. Most of it ranges between mediocre and pretty decent, though there are cartoons of theirs that are more and less. The Mighty Mouse cartoons up to this point of his series were watchable if very formulaic generally, though there was yet to be one that was above decent level and Mighty Mouse himself is nice enough if limited.
1944 was not a bad year for Terrytoons, far from it actually with very few of them being mediocre or less. There were a few exceptions though, one was 'Eliza on Ice' and 'The Two Barbers' worked for me even less. Do find 'The Two Barbers' the worst Mighty Mouse cartoon up to this point of his series, among his worst overall, a contender for the worst of Terrytoons' 1944 batch and one of Terrytoons' overall worst in a while. Am saying this with regret, as on the most part Terrytoons had actually improved quite a lot, regardless of the stories (never a strong suit for the studio) and characters the animation had advanced significantly and there have been cartoons where the gags were more and funnier.
Will start with the good things. The music is its usual lush and characterful self, not just adding to the action but enhancing it as well. The animation is equally great in quality, especially the backgrounds and landscapes, the characters are well drawn and the colours are really beautiful on the eye.
Of the characters, the most interesting are the cats being the ones to have some degree of personality. They are though not much different to most Mighty Mouse adversaries, those in other cartoons being more sinister and with more entertaining methods.
Mighty Mouse however for a lead character should have been used more and introduced earlier, when he does appear 'The Two Barbers' becomes standard Mighty Mouse territory of even weaker quality to before and feels too much of a different cartoon. The mice characters are very bland, again little different to "characters in trouble" in other Mighty Mouse cartoons.
Conflict lacks tension, with such bland characterisation and a pace that never really comes to life, and what little there is of the story is formulaic, veering on too cute and routine with not an awful lot of momentum. The gags are far too few in number, next to none, and when there are attempts at any they are not funny, tired and seen it all before. The writing is pretty corny.
In summary, weak. 3/10
The Marriage of Mrs Fox
'The Marriage of Mrs Fox' is an interesting Brothers Grimm story with a surprising moral, though not a story that will appeal to everybody upon first reading. Namely with the male protagonist being a character one doesn't really feel much sympathy for and have seen and heard a lot of debate regarding Mrs Fox's actions at the end. From people that deem her something of a "gold digger" and from others that understand her actions as acting upon a genuine belief.
Although it is not without its flaws/inconsistencies and some episodes are better than others, 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater'/'Grimm Fairy Tale Classics' is well worth watching and is quite a fascinating series. It does a very good job with its version of 'The Marriage of Mrs Fox', that like the original story will evoke and has evoked a debate over the ending and Mrs Fox where one can see both sides. Not one of my favourite episodes, up to this point of the series it's somewhat of a lesser one from personal opinion, but one of the more interesting ones in a way.
Like some episodes, was not a fan of some of the voice acting. There is a tendency to speak too fast so it is not in sync with the mouth movements, and not all the voices seem to fit the characters. Such as Mr Fox, who sounded a bit too gruff for my tastes and could have been more suave.
Didn't always find the music all that memorable, also didn't find it that dynamic either. The opening scene being one of the exceptions. The character designs generally in the series tend be much smoother than the ones here, here they looked more rushed than usual.
Most of the animation isn't an issue to me though. There are some lovely fluid colours and a lot of care and love went into the backgrounds. Really admired the maturity of the writing, perfect for a story that is very mature, and the story compelling. One of the most interesting aspects of 'The Marriage of Mrs Fox' is the moral, a quite dark and remarkably adult one but a realistic one too, and while the ending has sparked debate it is a rare one for 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater' that isn't pat.
Personally am going to be one of the people that understood Mrs Fox's, the most rootable character in the episode, actions and why she acted the way she did, which were not malicious at all and do not blame her here for what was clearly deceit. Especially when Mr Fox is characterised so unsympathetically, actually come to think of it because of the way he's characterised her actions are more understandable and rootable. The intro and outro songs are charming and found the maid to be the best voiced of the characters.
In conclusion, well done. 7/10
DuckTales: The Money Vanishes (1987)
As a major fan of animation and Disney, 'Ducktales' has always been a major personal favourite. Even with my tastes broadening all the time, in film and television of all genres and all decades, there is still a soft spot for 'Ducktales' and actually like said a few times before it is even better as a young adult than as a child. A prime example of classic Disney, which has been very much missed on the most part for a long time now.
While not quite one of my favourite 'Ducktales' episodes overall, though there are so many to choose from at a point of the show when disappointments were few. "The Money Vanishes" is still great and has pretty much everything that makes me love the show in the first place. It is one of the most inventive and funniest episodes and one of the best centering around the as ever awesome Beagle Boys, or the ones where they play a major role in the story.
"The Money Vanishes" starts off a touch on the slow side, story-wise that is, and there is a little too much of characters being too easily fooled.
Otherwise, there is so much about it that works brilliantly. It is very much a gag-driven episode and the good thing is that there are lots of them and they are not just hilarious and timed beautifully, but they are also inventive and have variety so it doesn't feel repetitious. And this is apparent right from the very start with some hugely entertaining character interaction between the Beagle Boys, luckily they don't disappoint at all here.
Neither do the nephews, who come over as very clever and instinctive being the characters that come to the truth. All in a way where behaviour makes sense. Or Gyro in an episode that uses him amusingly and creatively, though some may think that he comes over as naiive and too trusting. Did find myself feeling for Scrooge somewhat in a situation that is easy to relate to, even when it is not a new idea for the show. The story is thrilling and has heart and the writing is typically smart.
Animation in "The Money Vanishes" 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. The voice acting is terrific from all.
Concluding, great and hugely entertaining episode. 9/10
The Electric House (1922)
Keaton's house of tomorrow
Buster Keaton was nothing short of a genius, in comedy or for anything for that matter. Not just because of his humour hilarious, his charm endearing and his physical comedy enough to make many envious, but also because of how he was never afraid to take risks (his most daring work making the jaw drop) and because he was an unparallelled master when it came to deadpan, a lot of people struggle to do it well but Keaton was brilliant at it.
'The Electric House' is not him at his best and he did in my mind do a lot better work both before and since. It is very funny still, and Keaton fans should still see 'The Electric House' without question, with a great premise (among the better ones for his short films) and even greater gadgets. But Keaton and his physical comedy have been better served elsewhere, and that's where some of the disappointment from some people lies.
It is a good looking short film, not among the most technically advanced of Keaton's but it's not primitive either. On the most part, the many gags are well timed, very funny and are suitably inventive. And who cannot help loving those gadgets? Made me craving to have them. The story is slight but has a lot of energy and charm.
Keaton has great comic timing and is easy to endear to, his deadpan "Great Stone Face" acting style having not lost its appeal.
Parts veer on the repetitve side though, or so to me they did.
Also, there is not near enough of Keaton's physical comedy and certainly not of the daring kind that made him so original.
Summarising, very enjoyable but something missing. 8/10
The Hollow Crown: Henry VI Part 2 (2016)
A far from bloodless war
All of William Shakespeare's history plays are at the least well worth reading and watching at least once, my personal favourite being the most famous one 'Richard III'. Which is why 'The Hollow Crown', both seasons but especially the first consisting of the Henriad tetralogy (with 'Henry V' being the one slight disappointment), is so highly recommended, its acclaimed reception being more than justified.
'Henry VI Part 1' was a very good start to the second season coined War of the Roses'. Found Part 2, which has the same strengths and not quite so good things, even better, found the performances even stronger, that it had more tension and it was a little more tasteful. Neither part of 'Henry VI' make the play a favourite of mine, but it is one of Shakespeare's darkest, longest and most difficult to perform and worth getting acquainted with regardless of whether it does much for you or not. It is again one of the least faithful adaptations of 'The Hollow Crown', with there being omissions/truncations in the text which can make the adaptation feel a touch rushed on occasions.
Visually, 'Henry VI Part 2' is very handsome, as can be expected with 'The Hollow Crown' series, with a lot of effort put into making the costumes and settings as evocative and detailed as possible, neither being too stark or too elaborate. The photography is often cinematic-like, expansive in places without being overblown and intimate in other places without being restricted. The music also achieves that balance, didn't find it over-scored anywhere which is so easy to do with such a big, bold approach to the material.
Shakespeare's text, even when not complete, is as poetic and thought-provoking as ever, while Dominic Cooke does wonderfully with not making the adaptation feel stagy or too much of a filmed play. Instead it's opened up without being too over-theatrical, it is often dark, bold stuff that doesn't jar that much with the material. The pull no punches direction of some scenes is hard to watch but also powerful and didn't find it that tasteless. There were times though to me where some of the uncompromising approach was taken too far.
The performances are even better here, and they were fantastic in the first part too. A big standout being Benedict Cumberbatch's goosebump-inducing Richard. Sophie Okonedo is very commanding without over-playing as Margaret, no mugging or looking bored in sight, her out-and-ahead-of-her-time portrayal is still interesting. Tom Sturridge is a charismatic and sincere Henry, while Ben Miles' Machiavellian Somerset stands out again. Adrian Dunbar plays Plantagenet with plenty of fire, and Keeley Hawes has seldom been more pert.
In conclusion, great and even better than the very good first part. If you don't like cuts and uncompromising approaches to material this won't be for you, but if you like something brilliantly made, compelling and with more than great performances this shouldn't be missed. 9/10
Tri mushketyora (1938)
All for one and one for all
Soyuzmultfilm, in a very early work of theirs, don't disappoint and it was interesting in 1938's 'The Three Musketeers' to see a short from Ivan Ivanov-Vano in the early parts of his career. Just as interesting was how 'The Three Musketeers' would do making a very condensed and loose take (knew that it was never going to be, or intended to be, straight up faithful with it needing to be a feature-length film for that, of which there are only elements of it, of the timeless Alexandre Dumas book.
Ivanov-Vano did do much better in his later work when his style became more refined and when he took on more "adult" subjects (i.e. the horrors of war), shorts based on Soviet tales and stories with a message. So did Soyuzmultfilm when they started to properly hit their stride in perhaps the late 40s and even more so in the 50s onwards. Still they do come off well here and 'The Three Musketeers' is a likeable enough short with a lot going for it.
'The Three Musketeers' is not perfect. The animation does lack finesse and cold have done with more detail, looking more like it was made in the late 20s rather than the 30s. The dogs, representing the villainous characters, were a bit bland for my tastes and didn't feel that much of a threat from them.
And if there was no prior knowledge to me of the cats versus dogs meaning to represent heroes versus villains it would have not have been completely obvious to me. Really do hope that that doesn't sound idiotic but it was just my on-the-spot thoughts when watching 'The Three Musketeers'. Some of the pace could have been tighter perhaps too.
However there is a good amount to like. The best thing about 'The Three Musketeers' is the music, which is full of energy and beautifully orchestrated and sung in a distinctively Russian way. The songs, which do serve a very important purpose in moving the story forward and explaining the action (without over-explaining), are very catchy.
The lyrics are suitably witty too while much of the story has much excitement with amusing interplay between the duckling and the cat musketeers. The duckling is a likeable hero with an actual personality and the cats have the charisma and wit necessary for the musketeers.
Overall, nicely done. 7/10