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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)
House of Cards: Chapter 40 (2016)
"You know, when she got married, I was sure she would wake up in a year or two. I had no idea it was gonna take her 30"
'House of Cards' was a brilliant show in its prime and one of the most addictive. A show that deserved an infinitely better final season, which was a disgrace and could easily have passed for a season for another show entirely that didn't take off. Season 1 was especially brilliant of the prime period, while Season 2 was almost as good if better in its second half than first and Season 3 was never less than decent though again better in the second half.
Am going to be another person that found the third season finale "Chapter 39" disappointing, while still finding it a solid, very well done episode. Part of me was expecting excellence and a finale that continued the near-back on form quality of the season's second part ("Chapter 33" onwards) and especially up to the level of its previous two episodes. Season 4's premiere "Chapter 40" though, while not a return to form for 'House of Cards', is a superior episode and is a promising start.
"Chapter 40" is a set-up episode essentially. Not building upon or advancing much from before, but introduces new things and setting them up for what is to come. It does this very well indeed. Do agree that there could have been more of the political intrigue and less of the personal lives, as the political intrigue is one of the show's main attractions and what sets it apart and all the previous seasons balanced the politics and personal lives better and more evenly.
There is so much that "Chapter 40" does well though. It has its usual slickness, class and stylishness visually, the early scenes are especially well shot and have a genuine unsettlement to them. The music matches the tone well. The writing has the right amount of bite and intensity, with some of the best lines coming from the newly introduced character of Claire's mother Elizabeth Hale. The story is absorbing and the character interaction, especially Claire and Elizabeth and Frank and Elizabeth, carries it. The newly introduced characters all make a positive impression, especially Elizabeth, and the return of Lucas is handled well. Will admit to not being the biggest of fans of Lucas in the first half of Season 2, but a lot of the problem was that all of the rest of the subplots in that season were much more interesting than his and some of his behaviour was frustrating.
Found all the acting to be very strong, Kevin Spacey shows how and why Frank is such a fascinating lead character and Robin Wright does wonderfully in showing Claire's icy demeanour. A quality also embodied in Ellen Burstyn's scene stealing turn as Elizabeth. Neve Campbell, again proving that she is more than a teen idol, is subtly menacing in her role.
Overall, very good and very promising start to Season 4. Makes one highly anticipating what is to come. 8/10
Taggart: Blood Money (2002)
Will admit to not caring all that much for the previous five Burke-era episodes, "Fire Burn", "Watertight", "The Friday Event", "Hard Man" and "Fade to Black", while not hating them. Had no issue with the production values, Glasgow and the music, and Jackie is one of the main reasons as to why 'Taggart' remained watchable, but the stories felt tired, the team interaction lacked spark and Burke didn't do anything for me as a character.
"Blood Money" to me though was a marked improvement, despite a few of the above having higher ratings, though not in the same league as the best of the Taggart and Jardine periods (especially the former, when 'Taggart' really was in its prime). Not a great episode but a decent one where there are things that didn't work in the previous episodes but work here just about in "Blood Money", that was what was meant by me saying that the episode was better.
It isn't flawless. There is not an awful lot original here and there is a tried and tested feel at times. The identity of the killer was not a big surprise to me, the motive was (and it did make me feel sorry for them and it made me dislike one of the victims even more). But the killer was in my top 3 suspects list fairly early on and was almost certain it was them after the second murder.
The ending also felt on the slightly rushed side.
However, the photography is gritty and moody and have always loved how Glasgow has such a big presence in the show and like a character of its own. The moodiness is present in the music and the main theme as always is unforgettable. The team have more spark here and there is more of a sense of teamwork, the investigative elements and how they get the truth intrigue. Burke being so obnoxious and too much of a bully made it difficult to warm to him, but he gels better here.
Regarding the script, that's intriguing and there's more bite and dryness that were missing in the previous Burke-era episodes. The case is suitably gritty with enough twists and turns to satisfy without being convoluted. Really appreciated seeing Jackie and Burke getting on better than they did in especially "Fire Burn", and there was one bit where we learn more about Jackie regarding her knowledge of boxing. The acting is good, Alex Norton overdoes it less here and Mickey and Herron are the characters best acted.
Overall, decent. 7/10
Play or Die (2019)
Nowhere near close to being worth the play
What 'Play or Die' had going for it was its premise. It was hardly original, it is one that most would undoubtedly have seen before more than once beforehand, but it was certainly a decent one that makes one interested in watching. It interested me without a shadow of a doubt and with the right execution it could have been at least a decent watch that questions of it being derivative wouldn't have mattered so much.
'Play or Die' unfortunately is yet another one of those films, of which there have been too many recently of my recent viewings that it's becoming tiring, with a premise that draws one right in but the execution is completely unfulfilling and severely wanting. What it easily could have been, even with limitations, turned out to be the opposite, so it was yet another potential waste. Am not disliking 'Play or Die' with malice, actually sort of wanted to like it even if it didn't entirely work.
The setting was quite eerie but that is pretty much it for any minor redeeming merits. The drabness, erratic filming and effects that looked like they were made as an afterthought squander it though, that does annoy me because if the visuals overall were good my score may have been a solid 3 or a borderline 4.
All the cast give lousy performances, a lot of histrionics and just as much going through the motions. The characters are neither interesting or ones to endear to, there is very little development other than simplistic stereotypical character traits and almost all of them were annoying or without personality.
Dialogue is really quite painful to listen to, it reeks of cheese, has a complete lack of momentum, instead coming over as the dampest of squibs, and fails to flow. The direction is lethargic throughout but it's the story that sinks 'Play or Die', starting off worse than unpromisingly with a scene that will make even those who aren't easily squeamish squirm in their seats with embarrassed discomfort. It's sluggishly paced with everything telegraphed too obviously and too early and there is no tension, suspense or creepiness at all. It all feels bland and there is plenty to make one cringe in its far-fetched ridiculousness and lack of logic in events and character behaviours. There is nothing creative and it all feels too tame.
In conclusion, very poor. 1/10
Despite the cheesy title, there was a little bit of potential in 'Polterheist'. Comedy, horror and crime sounded very intriguing together, although they don't always mix perfectly, and highly appreciate all three of those genres on their own (especially crime). The premise was suggestive of it being an unsettling and entertaining film, or at least have the potential to be. The cover/poster looked quite creepy and not too silly at all.
'Polterheist' however was a mess on the whole, another waste of decent potential and have said more than once that one of my pet hates is good potential wasted. There are things that don't always make me proud to be a Brit, and watching 'Polterheist' is one of them (can think of a heck of a lot worse though, like the terrible political state we're in at the moment). There is plenty however that does make me proud, like some of the greatest literature ever written, great classical music composers and some immensely talented singers and performers amongst others.
The only real thing that stopped me from giving 'Polterheist' a lower score is there is some unintentional humour that did raise a smirk that did stop it from being a dreary experience.
Otherwise, apart from the odd moment of slick style the camera work tends to be erratic and the editing repetitive. The sound too often telegraphs what is going to happen prematurely, so nothing really surprises. Actually thought the dialogue to be quite clunky and forced, the supposed dark humour lacking wit and coming over as strained. The horror with the vengeful spirit is neither unsettling or entertaining, instead being very bland and more silly than scary (also thought it unnecessary), and plays third fiddle to the comedy and crime elements.
As for 'Polterheist's' crime element, there is no tension or suspense, not even surprises, everything is too easy to figure out and when there are any attempts to complicate the story it becomes unfocused. All three elements fail individually and make for a very muddled and unbalanced experience meshed together. Many other films and such do a far better job at the pulls no punches approach, which was pretty gratuitously done here. Didn't get anything from any of the characters, the direction struggles to balance the different elements together and the actors never really look comfortable.
In summary, a mess but not a beyond redemption one. 2/10
A long way from being worth a peek
Do appreciate horror and don't have any bias against low budget. Just want to make that clear, before anybody thinks that there is bias on my part against both, judging from me being negative about some recently, so there was no negative judgment passed before watching 'BOO'. The low rating, poor reviews and not particularly promising concept made me not expect too much but the creepy cover/poster did peek some interest and am on a low-budget horror completest quest.
'BOO' really is as bad, well lets change that to dire, as the rating and reviews say and am not saying that in a way that's ignorant or saying that my opinion is objective. It's my genuine opinion, meant with no disrespect or condescension (no fake reviews accusations here in this review, though can see where those that have panned the film and have mentioned that are coming from). There are not an awful lot of films seen recently or in general that have no redeeming merits whatsoever, 'BOO' is one of them.
It is a cheap-looking film for starters. Lets make that amateurish. Am aware that the budget is low but that is no excuse for the production values to look as if the crew were not even trying to do anything that would overcome that obstacle (plenty of modestly-or-less budgeted films have done that). Not even the location evokes any kind of eeriness, and even if it did it is completely wasted by chaotic photography, monotone lighting and afterthought-like effects. The sound is far too obvious and telegraphs any horror attempts far too early, not to mention poorly balanced, not balancing well with the dialogue, and intrusive.
Not that the writing was anything at all to write home about anyway. There is no flow at all, no personality and the cheese and cliches pile up. The story is even flimsier than the thin concept, what little there is of one (most of it is uneventful) is painfully dull, and further hurt by that there is nothing scary, suspenseful or creative in any shape or form. Everything is just so predictable and bland.
There is a lot of ridiculousness here too, and none of the characters are worth investing in or interesting. Have a lot of dislike for implausible and stupid character behaviours, and 'BOO' is full of it. The threat is as far away from creepy as you can get and is used poorly, too little and too obviously. The acting is reminiscent of random people being selected off the streets and putting them together with no rehearsal time.
Summarising, dire. 1/10
Once Upon a Time: Wake Up Call (2017)
Ivy turning poisonous
Season 7 was up to this point of the season, and as an overall whole, disappointing. Unwatchable it isn't, but compared to Seasons 1-(most of) Season 5 (Season 6 was very hit and miss) the magic has been lost and one can't shake off the feeling that the Season 6 finale was a perfect place to end. The general problems tending to be that the episodes tried to do too much, could be muddled, with some underdeveloped or senseless subplots, writing that had lost its layers and uneven performances.
There were though episodes in the season that were exceptions to this. Of the previous Season 7 episodes, "Beauty" was the one exception. "Wake Up Call" is another exception to the general underwhelming quality of the season. It may not be a 'Once Upon a Time' high point, and not everything works. A lot though is done right and it is one of not many episodes of Season 7 to remind me of 'Once Upon a Time' the way it used to be.
"Wake Up Call's" weakest element is Jacinda. Still find her very annoying and without any charm or any kind of appeal, although it is not quite as badly done as in "Greenbacks" which is likely to intensify any initial dislike towards her (it did with me) Jacinda just irritates me and really did not like her coldness. Dania Ramirez's acting is near-uniformally panned for good reason.
Didn't really see the need for her and Henry's subplot which is pretty derivative and added very little to the episode, especially considering that there is no real chemistry (or at least natural chemistry) between the two.
However, the production values continue to impress, have never really had an issue with them though, the odd dodgy special effect aside. They are beautifully designed and atmospheric, nicely 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. Most of the dialogue does not fall in the camp and cheesy camp, everything with Regina and Drizella is a fond reminder of the clever and layered writing of the earlier seasons. Especially with Regina, where one sees a complex tortured character that is never too perfect or too stock. Drizella up to this point of the season is a strong contender for the most interesting "newer" character, one with sinister actions that one doesn't agree with but can't help feeling sorry for her and understanding how she came to be that way.
Regina and Drizella's chemistry has intensity and pathos, and it's the fairytale realm story that is somewhat the heart of "Wake Up Call" and where the episode is at its most interesting and investable. Liked Roni's subplot a good deal too, mainly because Roni is equally compelling as a character. The symbol subplot is mainly setting up for what is to come and it does it well, without giving too much away or being vague too early, despite my disappointment with the season up to this point there was enough to that subplot to keep me intrigued in watching. Excepting Ramirez, the acting is fine. Lana Parrilla is an absolute knockout, and Adelaide Kane is intense and heartfelt.
In a nutshell, very well done and one of the season's better episodes easily. 8/10
Tiny Toon Adventures: The Acme Acres Zone (A Walk on the Flip Side/A Bacon Strip/Senserely Yours, Babs) (1990)
Tiny Toons meets 'The Twilight Zone'
Love 'Animaniacs' and 'Pinky and the Brain'. Love 'Tiny Toon Adventures' (which pre-dated them but for a while was more familiar with the other two) every bit as much, while putting it a touch below the other two. It was a great show through childs eyes, while not being as familiar with what was being referenced the dialogue and characters were still enormously entertaining. Love it even more as a young adult, and the humour is funnier and cleverer.
Spoofing 'The Twilight Zone', "The Acme Acres Zone" is another segment-structured episode rather than one that has one individual story, that 'Tiny Toon Adventures' (and even more so 'Animaniacs' and 'Pinky and the Brain', both of which did them more consistently) mostly did very well in. It is made up of three segments, "A Walk on the Flip Side", "A Bacon Strip" and "Senserely Yours Babs", and the execution is mostly very solid making for a very enjoyable episode on the most part.
My least favourite of the segments is "A Bacon Strip". Not because of Hamton, although there are 'Tiny Toon Adventures' characters more interesting than him he is a nice character. Just found the other two segments funnier and with even more interesting stories that fitted the theme of the episode better. The skinny dipping idea, and one of the show's least likely characters to do it, is suitably strange.
Faring best was "Senserely Yours Babs". It is partly to do with that Babs is one of my favourite characters on the show, but it is the segment that has the most razor sharp wit and wackiness, both of which 'Tiny Toon Adventures' excelled in. Montana Max has grown on me.
Animation is full of vibrant colour and is throughout rich in detail. 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. The use of pre-existing music is clever and the pre-existing pieces are great on their own. It always helps to have a memorable theme tune, and the one for 'Tiny Toon Adventures' is suitably hip and very catchy. The writing is sharp, smart and witty, with some inspired references that don't come over randomly. The voice acting is great across the board, particularly Tress MacNeille.
In conclusion, very enjoyable. 8/10
Service with a Guile (1946)
Popeye's service station
From 1942 and 1957, taking over from Fleischer Studios (the studio that originated the Popeye series in 1933), Famous Studios made 122 Popeye cartoons to Fleischer's 109. Despite the Fleischer period being quite a bit shorter, will admit actually to generally preferring it over Famous Studios, although a lot of the latter's output for the Popeye series is entertaining. Especially the late-30s cartoons which saw a lot of the best Popeye cartoons.
'Service with a Guile' is one of the earliest post-war Popeye cartoons, the first actually being the previous cartoon 'House Tricks?', and already the 1946 output was off to a promising start. It may not be one of the best of the series, or at least one of my favourites, but as far as the Famous Studios output goes it fares very favourably. If asked as to whether 'Service with a Guile' is recommended, my answer would be a pretty easy yes while not quite classing it as a must see.
To me, Olive is underused, something that has been very common for this series, and her material and her character are not near as funny or as interesting as Popeye and Bluto.
It still feels odd not having Jack Mercer, on temporary military duty at the time, as the voice of Popeye. Am not saying that Harry Welch is bad, he does amuse and Popeye is as likeable as ever, but Mercer relished the asides and mumblings (which are hardly unfunny still) more and did more with them.
Popeye though is as amusing and likeable as said, while Bluto is even funnier and even more interesting. Their chemistry really carries 'Service with a Guile' and has considerable energy and sees a lot of funny out-smarting moment between them. When it comes to the gags, there is hardly a shortage of them, quite the opposite. All of it works, even if not all of it is the freshest, and nothing misfires. While the story may be a somewhat formulaic one, it is elevated by the chemistry between Popeye and Bluto and by a nice ending that is not exactly a twist but didn't come over as predictable either.
Moreover, there is enough visual detail in the animation to not make it cluttered or static, vibrant colours and lively and smooth movement. The music is also outstanding, lots of merry energy and lush orchestration, adding a lot to the action and making the impact even better without being too cartoonish.
Concluding, very entertaining. 8/10
Ngorongoro: Born of Fire
With the previous two episodes being two of 'Wildest Africa's', anybody who wants to see a great documentary focusing on African wildlife, environments and cultures this is very highly recommended, best and most educational episodes, "Ngorongoro: Born of Fire" had a tough act to follow and it is hard not to expect a lot. Even if it wasn't as good, there would still be some credit given for trying.
"Ngorongoro: Born of Fire" though is as good as the previous two episodes, not quite as illuminating (wildebeest, elephants, lions and hyenas, being more familiar territory and have been educated more elsewhere for all of them, was illuminated most by seeing the largest flock of flamingo) but equally as high in quality. Actually still consider the episode quite excellent, even if the content is not quite as fresh as that in "Okavango: Water in the Desert" and "Namibia: Sands of Time" that doesn't stop "Ngorongoro: Born of Fire" from having a lot of exceptional things.
It was great to see a wide variety of wildlife, and regardless of any reservations of familiarity that doesn't stop the animals from looking great and providing at least two memorable scenes. The lions and elephants in particular featuring in two of 'Wildest Africa's' standout moments.
Again, like in "Namibia: Sands of Time", we see more of the human impact and cultural aspects. Was educated more by the Himba people and their rituals from that episode, but it was great to see the Masai tribe and the way they interact and dress. The episode was to me at its most educational with the use of salt and the cattle.
The writing and delivery is entertaining as well as informative, even though there is familiar territory that didn't stop me from still learning a lot. Colin Salmon narrates with enthusiasm and sensitivity, his narration adding to any tension and emotion. Especially with the lions.
Loved the scenery, beautiful yet also cruel (much more than gorgeous imagery with cutesy animals, and a long way from either and the same goes for the whole of 'Wildest Africa'). The photography is vivid and it was amazing to see so much of such impact so close. The music is dynamic but never intrusive.
Overall, excellent. 9/10
The first half of Season 1, from one of the best and most addictive animated shows in recent years (speaking as a big lifelong fan of animation of all kinds and of all decades regardless of country and studio), was very solid and actually mostly great. The second half of it was less consistent and some episodes disappointed, but there were also some very good and more ones (a few of which being Season 1, and early seasons, high points).
"Green Isn't Your Colour" is another episode from the second half of the first season, which despite having some disappointments was solid enough because there were a lot of great episodes. Along with the previous episode "A Dog and Pony Show" (which was a vast improvement over its underwhelming previous two episodes) "Green Isn't Your Colour" is in my opinion one of the better and great ones if not quite a season high point.
It was interesting to see a different side to Pinkie Pie, usually she is the cute comic relief character but there was a scary, almost psychotic, side to her here and it was interesting. Didn't really endear to her being rather manipulative at times however, which was not characteristic of her, her treatment of Twilight was enough to make some go right off her, she didn't quite do that with me but still didn't care seeing her like that.
Much is done right though and extremely well. That Rarity and Fluttershy, the focus points of "Green Isn't Your Colour", are such likeable characters here really helps make up for that Pinkie is the opposite of likeable here. Fluttershy is the one that one relates to and feels sorry for more though, but Rarity is in a scenario that is realistic and true of the modelling world then (and still is, you don't need to be a model yourself to know that, pictures and stories of those that are say it all) and she deals with it in a way that's different to what one expects, by Rarity standards she handles the situation quite maturely and in a way that's quite mature for Rarity at this point. Photo Finish was an interesting character.
At the heart too of "Green Isn't Your Colour" is the relationship between Rarity and Fluttershy, it was so lovely to see how their friendship is portrayed (with warmth and heart) and how they care for each other. That is what is striking in general about 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic', the character relationships and how they interact which have more complexity than one thinks. The story is entertaining and poignant, with the modelling world portrayed without being trivialised or too villified. The ending is heart-warming and the moral about lying being bad may sound simplistic on paper but it is always worth reiterating as it is still relevant today and avoids heavy-handedness.
Writing is handled in a way that's mature and relatable with some humour and pathos that is well balanced and done well individually. As ever, the animation is colourful and elegant and the music is suitably dynamic. Tabitha St Germain's voice acting as ever shines.
Overall, great again. 9/10
The Sultan's Birthday (1944)
A colourful birthday
Terrytoons Studios' output is interesting to watch but most it ranges between lacklustre and decent, seldom great but major misfires tended to be in their very early years or in their later output. An output that was uneven but intriguing. One of their most prolific characters, their most prolific character really, is the likeable but pretty limited Mighty Mouse, his cartoons mostly watchable but very formulaic.
1944 was another variable year for Terrytoons, though a little more consistent than previous years with a much lower number of less than average cartoons. It was also a pretty big year for Mighty Mouse, with a lot of the Terrytoons cartoons that year being his. 'The Sultan's Birthday' is not a great cartoon, but it is a vast improvement over the weak previous Mighty Mouse cartoon 'The Two Barbers' and around the high middle if ranking the 1944 batch of Terrytoons cartoons.
Best asset as ever is the music, which is its usual lush and characterful self. Also excelling in enhancing everything going on between the cats and mice. The animation is equally great in quality, especially the backgrounds and landscapes, though the colours are also very attractive and never drab or garish.
While nothing is completely hilarious, there is hardly a shortage of gags and they amuse if more in the second half. There is also a genuine sense of threat, without being too dark or too sinister. The story may be slight and predictable, but it engages and charms at least. While the mice are hardly devoid of personality and the cat villains are very entertaining and pose enough of a threat, it is the adorable belly dancer mouse and her surprisingly risque dancing that steal the show.
However, there are few surprises here and the events are very formulaic and easy to figure out, the second half being typical Mighty Mouse. If you have seen many cats versus mice cartoons you will have seen it all before here, likewise with Mighty Mouse's role here.
Mighty Mouse himself hasn't lost his likeability but for a titular character he could have been featured more and appeared earlier, am in two minds too as to whether his presence was particularly necessary considering that the cat versus mice battle was already engaging enough without him. Other cartoons however do worse though at this, and at feeling too much like two cartoons in one.
Concluding, nice enough though not great. 7/10
The Magic Heart
Brothers Grimm's stories give me a lot of pleasure, when it comes to fairytales they and Hans Christian Andersen are hard to top. Whether it's the famous stories or ones not as well known, their work can be dark and at times gruesome but it is also truly enchanting and provokes thought. It has been great over-time re-visiting old favourites and getting to know the stories relatively unfamiliar to me when younger.
'Grimm Masterpiece Theater' was rather great at achieving this balance of adapting famous stories and not as popular stories, despite the title the series doesn't restrict itself only to Brothers Grimm stories. Although the quality of the music and voice acting varied throughout 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater', the series was still very interesting and charming, also surprisingly dark. 'The Magic Heart', adapted from 'Donkey Cabbages' (a lesser known story of theirs to me), is very nicely done and if one is not familiar with the story beforehand 'The Magic Heart' may make them intrigued into reading it. It is a long way from being one of my favourite Grimm stories but it's a pleasant read.
Did feel that Lisabeth could have been voiced better. It was good that she didn't sound too young or high school teen-ish, but really would have liked more emotion because even in the emotional moments like at the end it was rather flat. Also felt that it sounded like she was voiced by a very mature voice actress trying to sound younger and it managed to fit the character design less than other female lead characters in the series that sounded too young.
A good deal of the lines are spoken a little too fast, so the mouth movements and voices tend not to match.
Most of the voice work was fine, especially the narrator and the protagonist. Loved the thoughtful soothing delivery of the former (the narration also moves the story forward and doesn't feel too much or over-explanatory) and the earnest heroic charm of the latter. The witch also didn't sound too over the top or creepy. The music may not enhance the action, but it didn't detract from it, sound too at odds or sound cheap.
The animation is colourful and atmospheric and with well designed backgrounds. The theme songs still charm, as does the intro. Am really not a fan of cabbage, but 'The Magic Heart' proved to be a rare case of a film, show etc. making cabbage look good and like one wants to eat it. The writing is neither simplistic or convoluted, managing to be just about accessible for all ages while providing enough for older audiences. Some nice breaking the fourth wall here, especially at the end. From the start, the story has much going on to stop it from having a dull spot while not feeling rushed, a danger with the short length. The protagonist is an appealing one.
Summarising, very nicely done. 8/10
DuckTales: Allowance Day (1989)
Global time bandits
'Ducktales' was always a personal favourite as a child and am still immensely fond of it now, even more so now actually with more gotten out of the humour and getting more out of the characterisation, how they interact and storytelling. Strengths and flaws, much more is noticeable now and appreciate more aspects/components as a young adult. Not every episode worked for me but when 'Ducktales' was at its best it was brilliant.
"Allowance Day" is not one of the show's best episodes. It is a good well done episode with a lot of fine things. It just falls slightly shy of being great, and considering that the premise was really interesting there was real potential for it to be of better quality than it turned out. And don't worry, "Allowance Day" is a far more entertaining and emotionally investable episode than one might think reading a one or two line basic summary that, depending on how one interprets it, makes it more mean-spirited than it really is.
The animation is bright and colourful, with lively fluid movement, smooth drawing and meticulous attention to detail in the backgrounds. The music again is dynamic and beautifully orchestrated, never jarring with the action and full of energy. Disney had many theme songs that were irresistibly catchy to the extent one doesn't forget them, and that for 'Ducktales' to me was one of the best. The writing entertains and is smart, Louie saying eclair instead of eclipse did make me laugh. Did like the story on the whole, it starts off promisingly and in hugely entertaining fashion.
Fenton has proven to be a worthy addition since he was introduced generally and the episode doesn't overuse him or overplay his character flaws. There is also though an emotional core, where it is easy to feel sympathy for Scrooge and one can see how powerful an influence he is. The cannon squad sequence was handled quite tastefully considering where it could easily have done, it sounded like it would leave a bad taste in the mouth but Fenton's presence didn't jar and stopped the episode from getting too dark. The voice acting is excellent, especially from Alan Young and Russi Taylor.
Gizmoduck again felt shoe-horned in with not much obvious reason for his inclusion and his role in the episode is almost too convenient. Again too it was difficult to believe that such clever characters, that uncover the truth behind things more complicated and less obvious, did not piece together the blatantly obvious connection between Fenton and Gizmoduck.
Did think that the outcome was never really in doubt and it felt rushed.
Concluding, good but not great. 7/10
Really like to love a lot of Fleischer Studios' early/earlier cartoons. Just wanted to make that clear before anybody thinks there is any bias. The best of Popeye, Koko and Betty Boop are especially worth watching, but their cartoons from around 1940 onwards did not represent them anywhere as well. The Stone Age series and the worst of the Gabby cartoons don't do Fleischer justice, neither do most of the Animated Antics cartoons.
'Way Back When a Nightclub Was a Stick' is better than the previous Stone Age cartoon 'Way Back When a Nag Was Only a Horse' and towards the better end perhaps of the series. Despite a couple of things done better, it does still have most of the flaws from that though and does show how drastically Fleischer declined in a fairly short period of time. Liked the idea for the Stone Age series, but the execution on the most part was really wanting.
The best thing about 'Way Back When a Nightclub Was a Stick' is the music score. Not one that will stick in the head for days, but it is suitably merry and lush and dynamic with what's going on. The animation is a little better, not great still but it's not as crude.
Although there is really not much to work with, the voices don't fare too badly. If it was Fleischer regular Jack Mercer responsible, he does sound as if he was giving his all. There are a few nice visual gags and although very thin and predictable there is much more of a story here, with there being more of a purpose and not being quite as much a stringing along of gags.
It is still not a great cartoon though, in my mind it was still pretty mediocre. There is a lack of energy and takes too long to get going. More could have been done with the nightclub setting, which is more vibrant and risky than shown here, a few nice visual gags aside this was a pretty bland depiction. 'Way Back When a Nightclub Was a Stick' is mostly unfunny too, there could have been far more and more imagination and freshness was needed, this was tired predictable stuff.
Story-wise, it is not as non-existent but it is not a particularly engaging one still and one has seen it all before (and better). Didn't care for the characters, all unappealing and with not much personality, really couldn't stand the overbearing wife character that the cartoon went pretty over the top with. The animation is a little better here but a lower budget does show, still looking basic.
Overall, better than the previous cartoon but mediocre. 4/10
The Hollow Crown (2012)
Far from hollow
'The Hollow Crown' consisted of seven adaptations and two seasons. Season 1 (the Henriad tetralogy) featuring 'Richard II', both parts of 'Henry IV' and 'Henry V', and Season 2 (War of the Roses) 'Henry VI' parts 1 and 2 and 'Richard III'. Both seasons are well worth seeing, the former actually being a must-watch, and the series is fascinating for seeing filmed productions of Shakespeare's historical plays and on the most part very high quality ones too.
It really is a great way to get acquainted with the plays, to see how Shakespeare can be performed well and seeing the lesser known ones (ie. 'Henry VI'). In case anybody's interested too, the late 70s-early 80s BBC Television Shakespeare series, that also features all the historical plays, is worth a view. The visual quality and production values are lower but they are faithfully done, interesting, tasteful and on the most part well acted, though do prefer all 'The Hollow Crown's' versions of the plays over those in that series. Of the two seasons, Season 1 for me comes off better but there is a huge amount to admire about both seasons and all the productions.
Not everything in 'The Hollow Crown' to me worked. The St Crispins Day speech in 'Henry V' (my least favourite of the first season but still very good, 'Richard II' and both parts of 'Henry IV', especially Part 2, were outstanding though), one of Shakespeare's most powerful moments, was too anaemic and restrained when it should rouse. Some of the battles came over as under-populated and needed more intensity.
'Henry VI', both parts, is not going to appeal to all. Especially those that prefer their performances complete, as both parts are very truncated and it does at times affect the pacing and story (a bit rushed and jumpy in spots), and are not too fond of the uncompromising approach in Shakespeare. Actually liked that both parts pulled no punches and had a dark bold approach that mostly did not jar, with some powerfully brutal moments like Joan's exit but this approach was taken too far at times especially with Margaret. Just in case anybody is wondering, did like both parts on the most part very much especially Part 2 ('Richard III' though is for me by far the standout production of Season 2 and the best since 'Henry IV Part 2').
All seven productions are very well made. 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.
Shakespeare's text, regardless of whether it's complete or truncated (the latter being the case with 'Henry VI'), has a lot of impact, most of the speeches sear with the one big exception being the St Crispins Day speech. Any comedy being genuinely funny with great comic timing (like with Falstaff, and it is not overdone or annoying) and the dramatic/tragic moments are powerful and moving. The series is directed in a way that doesn't come over as over-theatrical or static, much of it is tasteful and it doesn't feel too much of a filmed play. There is some great character interaction, like between Falstaff and Hal, Henry and Richard in 'Richard II' and Henry's dressing down of Hal (some tense stuff that).
Cannot say anything wrong with the performances. Standouts being Ben Whishaw's complex Richard II, Patrick Stewart's sincere Gaunt, Rory Kinnear's understated Henry, Jeremy Irons' anguished Henry IV (in a recent years role that shows how great an actor he is), Simon Russell Beale who was born for Falstaff, Tom Hiddleston's charismatic Hal/Henry V (prefer him as Hal), Melanie Thierry's touching Katherine, Sophie Okonedo's ruthless Margaret (am aware not everybody liked her casting though), Hugh Bonneville's nuanced Gloucester and Benedict Cumberbatch's machiavellian Richard III.
In a nutshell, an extremely good series and often fabulous with a few disappointments. 8/10
Zolotaya antilopa (1954)
The Golden Antelope
Consider Soyuzmultfilm the quintessential studio when it comes to Russian/Soviet animation, and one of the best when it comes to animation in general when getting into their work while my tastes in animation was continuing to broaden. And for Russian films and shorts. Have seen most of their output and have really liked to loved all seen, have recently re-started my completest quest in seeing their output and have yet to see anything bad from them.
'The Golden Antelope' is one of Lev Atamannov's best known animations, the most familiar to me being 'The Snow Queen' (followed closely by 'The Scarlet Flower') and again to me that film is his masterpiece and had a big influence on the likes of Hayau Miyazaki. And it is not hard to see why 'The Golden Antelope' is one of his best know. Also think that 'The Golden Antelope' is one of his best as well, a near-masterpiece and almost one of the best examples of Russian/Soviet animation.
It is a little bit of a slow starter to begin with, with it taking a touch too long to set up, but it does very quickly get better and everything else is superb.
Particularly striking is the animation. Especially the landscapes and the backgrounds, which are nothing short of incredible. The fluid, expressive movements for the characters also impress, as do the quite stunning but suitably subtle use of colour. The music never comes over as bombastic or too constant, instead it is used with restraint and elegance with lush orchestration in a way that's distinctively Russian and this is meant in a good way. Being a huge fan of Russian music.
From start to finish, 'The Golden Antelope' is written with much sincerity and charm, with some nice amusing gentle humour that never feels too much. The story is engaging throughout, slow start aside, and very charming in its quietness and simplicity. It never feels too slight and the moral doesn't preach, while the central relationship is touchingly and sensitively handled with two characters well worth rooting for. The voice work never sounded too theatrical.
Overall, a near-masterpiece. 9/10
Gadkiy utyonok (1957)
The Ugly Duckling
One of Hans Christian Andersen's best known stories, 'The Ugly Duckling' is a beautiful story that touches me every time, plus it is one that is relateable to me. It lends itself well to animation, actually think it works much better as animation than non-animated. It also works beautifully as a seven minute cartoon, when a few details are left out but the spirit still remains, and as a just under twenty minute short film with enough material to sustain it. As great as the story is, it is too slight for feature length.
This is all evident in Soyuzmultfilm's version. As far as adaptations of the story go, the 1939 Disney cartoon, an extremely poignant one but never came over as too cloying, will always be the closest to my heart. But Soyuzmultfilm's version is very close behind, yet another Soyuzmultfilm animation that should be better known worldwide and not restricted to near-obscurity. It really is a work of art, which is as affecting and enchanting as one can forget, it is much more than an animated television short film.
It is beautifully animated for one. It is never too elaborate, where there would have been a danger of swamping the story and its emotion, and neither is it simplistic to the extent that it looks cheap. A lot of time and effort went into 'The Ugly Duckling', especially in the attention to detail in the backgrounds and the use of colour, vibrant but never garish and in the more emotional moments more muted and darker. The music fits beautifully as well, nothing as catchy as the whimsical main theme of the Disney animation but the haunting and melancholic quality of it fitted perfectly with the story's emotion.
Of which it is filled to the brim with. It did bring tears to my eyes because it resonated with me and one hates seeing somebody alone in an unfamiliar place, have been there and it is not a nice feeling. The story and titular character are so easy to relate to, being someone myself who was, and occasionally still am, ostracised and bullied for being different. It was very upsetting for me but felt embarrassment in saying so out loud.
Altogether, beautiful and very touching. 10/10
The Frog Princess
When it comes to Russian/Soviet animation, it doesn't get much better than Soyuzmultfilm, a studio that quickly became a personal favourite for nearly a decade. Their best work is visually stunning and have stories that are charming, imaginative and full of atmosphere with some memorable characters and when adapted enhanced by the visuals and often the music as well. 'The Frog Princess' is one such story, with multiple versions and different variations in titles and origins.
Their version of the story, named 'The Frog Princess', took two years to produce/make and one can really see the effort and time that went into it. It is not among their best known work, but to me 'The Frog Princess' is very close to being among their best and should be seen much more. And not just by Russians or those that speak Russian (studied it myself on my vocal and operatic studies course, and while it is a difficult language to get your head around it is a lovely language), but to a much wider audience worldwide and anybody that loves animation (like me) should seriously consider seeing it.
One thing that is particularly striking in 'The Frog Princess' is the animation. It is rich in colour and is filled with atmosphere, whether dream-like in the more intimate moments with the Princess or nightmarish in the climax. The drawing and designs are expressive, despite occasionally a little more variety in movement for the princess, the animators seemed to have had a lot of fun with Koscchei, the climax and especially the freaky three headed dragon creature. It is the stunning landscapes that are the star though, the colour and attention to detail rich and meticulous throughout.
Also found the music beautifully done. The music for the princess is like listening to Russian folk song, which is a big compliment as there are a lot of lovely Russian folk songs and Russian songs in general. The lushness of the orchestration and atmosphere created is so unmistakably Russian in the best of ways, with some of the music in the climax reminiscent of slightly less wonderfully weird Mussorgsky.
In terms of the story, it never feels too thin or padded, even in the more intimate moments, and is very charming with a touch of strangeness. The climax is thrilling and sometimes even downright scary, reminding me a little of the Disney climaxes that scarred me as a child (namely the one for 'Sleeping Beauty'). The characters do stick in the mind, especially Koschei, who is a villain that has stayed with me forever. As appealing as the two leads are, this is a case of the villain stealing the show. The three headed dragon is also very scary. Another character that's memorable is Baba Yaga, suitably enigmatic while not being the stuff of nightmares that she is often portrayed as.
Voice acting fits the characters well, some may find it strange that Baba Yaga is voiced by a man and that was the case with me initially but pondering upon it it added to the character's enigma and gave her a not too hammy sinister vibe. Aleksandr Rumnyov clearly had a ball as Koschei.
Overall, wonderful. Anybody who loves the story or any of its variants should love it. 10/10
The Fugitive Kind (1960)
Fire, fever and desire
There were quite a few reasons for wanting to see 'The Fugitive Kind'. Have much appreciation and even love for Tennessee Williams, one of the great playwrights of the twentieth century, and there are some good and more film adaptations of his work (do think it lends itself better to stage or made for television). The cast is full of talented performers, especially love Marlon Brando. And it was directed by Sidney Lumet, a great director.
Found 'The Fugitive Kind' to be an interesting film. Not great but was actually led to believe that it wasn't even good, but it was better than expected and has a good deal to admire, especially the performances. There are far better film adaptations of Williams' work, have said more than once about considering 'A Streetcar Named Desire' being the definitive version and like the Paul Newman version of 'The Glass Menagerie' and 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' very much (although the latter is toned down from the play content-wise and thematically, the performances especially more than compensate for that). Consider it one of the lesser ones, 'Summer and Smoke' being a lesser one too, but a large part of the problem is the play, 'Orpheus Descending', itself which is very much lesser Williams.
Starting with what doesn't work, 'The Fugitive Kind' does have the same problems of the play, though it would in all fairness have been difficult to correct the problems. Although Williams is wordy, 'The Fugitive Kind' (and 'Orpheus Descending') is a case of it being particularly far too talky which bogs down the momentum quite a bit, so it does become a bit draining. Although there are moments thanks to the cast, the story doesn't always ignite, other Williams film adaptations and plays entertain, thought provoke and move much more and are bolder thematically.
Here, things do get over-heated and at times not always easy to follow, and the melodrama can get overdone. One example being the coda, that did have a tacked on feel to it as well. Joanne Woodward gives her absolute all and sears at her best, but her character is over-written and Woodward tries too hard in spots.
On the other hand, 'The Fugitive Kind' does look great, with one of the film's main attractions being that it is beautifully and atmospherically photographed without feeling like a filmed stage production. The bluesy score never intrudes in placement or mood and doesn't feel misplaced at all. Lumet is not at his best here, not like 'Network', '12 Angry Men' and 'Dog Day Afternoon' (nor is he at his worst, 'The Wiz' being among the biggest misfires for any great director), he does do nobly in opening up the play's drama and making the character interaction believable and he nails it on the visual front. There are some nice lines and some of the drama does have some fire while just about avoiding overdoing it.
Most of the above average rating goes to the cast, almost everybody giving immensely strong performances considering that the material is far from top Williams standard. Woodward is not always consistent but props have to go to her for making such a valiant effort in a problematic role. Anna Magnani is a big standout, with her touchingly vulnerable and also intensely fierce performance, while Victor Jory sends chills up the spine as Jabe. Brando is not at his best but he is always commanding and smolders in all the right places, and Maureen Stapleton brings a lot of heart to her character.
Summing up, not great but interesting. 6/10
All the previous episodes of 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' are in my opinion very good to outstanding, such a promising standard for so early on which one doesn't always get with shows but it has certainly not been unheard of. Which range from great from the get go, solid but a little unsettled but gets better and doesn't ever take off. "The Faithful" and "Jones" to me were the standouts as far as the previous episodes go.
"Enemy Within" is one of the weaker episodes of the ten (including this) up to this point of the season, and show, but is still a very good one with a lot of fantastic things. While just missing the extra something of the best episodes, which have more tension, more of the shock factor and are a little more complex in the storytelling. There is not really much inherently wrong with "Enemy Within", other episodes just executed a few of their components better that's all.
It has plenty to keep one going, though despite there being no shortage of suspects there was little doubt in my mind about which side of properly innocent or guilty the prime suspect was, their actions though are questionable and it is not a surprise as to why they're suspected, and guessed the identity of the culprit correctly quite quickly. Though the overall final solution was a little more surprising.
Despite being surprising certainly, a few of the motives of the suspects and how they act are a touch extreme, like for the prime suspect.
There is very little wrong otherwise though. The production values are slick as always and the music (though there is a preference for the other 'Law and Order' themes) isn't overdone in orchestration or how it's used. The writing is never simplistic or convoluted and respects the viewer, and the story has a lot of twists and surprises without feeling too many or muddled.
Vincent D'Onofrio expertly brings out Goren's somewhat eccentric and hard-boiled edge, beautifully matched by a more subtle Kathryn Erbe. Their chemistry carries the episode very well. The investigative elements and methods the detectives use in solving the case are fascinating.
Concluding, very good. 8/10
Law & Order: Prisoner of Love (1990)
All the previous 'Law and Order' episodes ranged from pretty good ("Everybody's Favourite Bagman") to brilliant ("Indifference"), with most being very good. Which is a good position to be in for so early on, even with an understandable finding feet feel. It is very easy to overlook the very early seasons of the show, with the Briscoe and post-Briscoe episodes being aired much more, but they are well worth the watch and should be seen more.
"Prisoner of Love" is one of the pretty good episodes of the first season, though far from being amongst the season's best episodes. It has a lot of great things, which is true for all the early seasons episode and for a vast majority of 'Law and Order', but it feels a little on the bland side as well, with the previous covering more challenging subjects and with more depth. It is also a bit of a let down after the brilliant previous episode "Indifference", a season high-point. Again, this is not disparaging it, just in comparison to before.
Do prefer 'Law and Order' episodes where there is more of characters having conflicts and moral dilemmas. Also ones that tackle difficult themes, subjects and social issues and the "taking influence from a real life case" ones, those kinds of episodes provoked more thought and connected with me more emotionally.
The case here is interesting and twisty enough, with both the procedural and law aspects being well handled (even if other episodes balanced them a little more equally), but fairly standard. If you've seen the later 'Law and Order' before seeing, it may feel a little on the familiar side.
However, it has always been of great fascination seeing how the detectives work and solve their cases and what work goes into preparing defence and especially prosecution. The script entertains and provokes thought, with some nice hard-boiled dialogue for both Greevey and Logan. Stone's dryness has not lost its juice.
Production values are suitably slick and gritty and the music is a good fit tonally and in placement. The acting is good, though it did get much better later when everybody became more comfortable. George Dzundza and Chris Noth are solid leads, with their chemistry gelling enough, and Michael Moriaty again makes the most out of Stone.
Overall, pretty good but not great. 7/10
"There are two ways to deal with these changes, you either accept them or you fight them like hell all the way"
Excepting two disappointments in the still above average "Wanderlust" and "Stocks and Bondage", the previous episodes of Season 1 of 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' were of a high standard. The standouts being "Payback" (rare for the very first episode to be one of the best epsiodes of the first season for shows), "Uncivilised" and "Stalked", all three of which were outstanding with the tension of "Stalked" really standing out.
"Closure" to me is one of the better episodes of the first half of the season, of the ten episodes up to this point of it it's in the top 5. It is a great example as to how 'Special Victims Unit' was so good early on. If you are more familiar with the more often aired mid-show/latter season episodes and have not yet seen the early seasons, am going to recommend doing so being someone who personally thinks the earlier seasons are better.
Did feel that the Olivia and Cassidy subplot didn't add very much to the story, other than being an attempt to give some development to the two of them. It did feel somewhat out of the blue as well, with it being the first time it was even mentioned in any shape or form.
Absolutely loved the case however. If that subplot was excised, "Closure" would have gotten a perfect score for the case alone, it was that good. If anybody thinks that the ending feels abrupt or the episode feels incomplete it's because it is actually the first part of a two parter, the second part being the third episode of Season 2. It is a harrowing and poignant case, as well as realistic, with the most revealing thing about the episode being how it shows everything that a rape victim has to go through in the aftermath and how detailed the process is.
Harper is a very well developed character that one feels a lot of sympathy for, both in the early parts and when she hardens (especially the latter actually). One roots for her closure and while some may find the outcome frustrating there is a painful realism to it too. The writing is taut and thought-provoking, with great emotional impact.
Visually, it is slick and gritty while the music is unobtrusive and not constant. The main theme is memorable. Mariska Hargitay shines in her sympathetic chemistry with Tracy Pollan, who is really quite excellent as Harper.
Summarising, absolutely great. 9/10
The Fourth Angel (2001)
The Exterminating Angel
It was not a case of 'The Fourth Angel' being doomed from the start. It had a lot of interest points. Although it was hardly a new idea, the story sounded interesting and did really like the sound of the moral issues. The trailer did make me want to see it, and even more so when seeing that John Irvin (who directed a personal favourite the television adaptation of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy') was director, had one of my favourites Jeremy Irons in the atypical lead role and had an interesting cast. Also do like action/revenge thrillers when done well.
'The Fourth Angel' could have been much better though. It is far from a bad film, it does have its good moments and good points and it does admirably with a difficult subject and moral issues which considering the timing as well is worthy of some credit. When it first started, to me it was actually a good film. Have however seen much better films that cover similar ground and at the end of the day 'The Fourth Angel' was rather uneven and somewhat strange as well.
As said, 'The Fourth Angel' did start off very well. There was tension and suspense in the opening and the outcome and aftermath of it are quite poignant. There are some interesting and thoughtfully put across, without being too ham-fisted, moral issues as well and some of the diaogue is thoughtful in the early parts of the film. It looks relatively slick and stylish with great use of locations, and as well as the opening there are some good individual scenes like between Irons and Forrest Whittaker.
Cast against type, being more closely associated with upper-class gentlemen with a dark or conflicted side (and one of the best at that), villains and complex real life characters often played with understated intensity, Irons surprisingly excels in the lead role. He is very moving in the early stages and when the character hardens he brings more intensity while not being hammy and never looking out of his depth. Whittaker doesn't have the best written of characters, a pretty stock role, but somehow Whittaker makes the most of the character and gives him much more thought and tension than one expects. He has some great chemistry with Irons. Jason Priestly, also against type, does smarmy quite well and Charlotte Rampling and Lois Maxwell make for interesting casting.
However, once it gets into more action thriller territory 'The Fourth Angel' becomes more routine and sometimes confused. The latter stages of the film stretch credibility to breaking point badly and it all becomes very far-fetched. Jack's grief is completely understandable, as is his want for justice, but can find that when characters go vigilante in films generally that their actions become on the extreme side and that's the case here. That's just my thoughts though. The music is a bit too intrusive and doesn't sound like it belongs in an action/revenge thriller from the early 2000s, more like from 10-15 years earlier.
Felt that the tension dissipates once the film gets increasingly implausible, and the very underdeveloped and non-threatening villains (the characters generally are sketchy, with the sole exception of Jack) and the standard and at times thrill-free action decreases it further. Apart from the climactic moments with Irons and Whittaker, the momentum dips, the direction loses subtlety and the dialogue loses its thoughtfulness and becomes unfocused. Actually felt like two different films.
Overall, watchable but strange and inconsistent. 5/10
London Derrière (1968)
An Inspector in London
DePatie-Freleng Enterprises did several theatrical cartoons series featuring the likes of Pink Panther, Ant and the Aardvark and The Inspector and others throughout the 60s and 70s. Of which The Inspector series is to me one of their better ones, perhaps second after Pink Panther, evident from that it is one of their better known and longer running ones. May not love all the Inspector cartoons, but do like most of the series more than most cartoons in some of the other theatrical series.
'London Derriere' is the twenty fourth The Inspector cartoon, of thirty four, and to me it is among the cartoons in the series somewhere in the middle which is not a bad position actually. It is well done in most areas, is amusing enough and The Inspector never stopped being a compelling character and is still very much one here. Albeit it doesn't make me go wow or bust a gut from laughing, much of 'London Derriere' is done very well but nothing as such is exceptional.
Although The Inspector cartoons are not really known or to be seen for their originality, even with a different setting the story is very formulaic and quite high on the predictability factor. It does take a little too long to get going and occasionally the timing could have been sharper.
More variety in the gags would have helped too, do agree that it is one-joke and although it didn't feel too stretched and wasn't unfunny it did get on the repetitive side at times. While the jewel thief character Louie Le Swipe is decent conflict and contrasts well with The Inspector, he is pretty forgettable and slightly derivative of other adversaries in the series.
The cartoon does manage to work though, and that The Inspector is a character that is both funny and compelling, as well as endearing despite all the bumbling (which thankfully isn't too overdone), plays a major part in this. 'London Derriere' does have a good deal of energy and both the endearingly clumsy and amusing physical comedy and ironic verbal humour come over well. Do agree that the ending is the best part. Did like the Scotland Yard character and the personalities for both characters contrast well, the chemistry gels too.
Voice acting is typically strong, still have no issues with Pat Harrington Jr. The animation is simple but colourful and charming in its simplicity. The music never felt too brash or worked against the action, matching the cartoon's tone well.
In conclusion, decent if unexceptional. 6/10
"Scandal may be the perrogative of kings, but we are the Pope of Rome"
All the previous episodes of Season 3 of 'The Borgias', which is not perfect but really love it and find it very addictive, were great, especially the opening episode "The Face of Death" which started it off so powerfully. The season generally was just as good as the consistently great Season 2 (to me the best season of the three, except one too dragged out subplot) and even better than the less even but mostly solid (especially the second half of it, where it started to settle) first season.
"The Wolf and the Lamb" is as good as the previous four episodes though not quite as great, with the only one of the four to be a little weaker being the still very good "The Purge". It just falls shy of being an overall great episode (it very nearly was though), with one subplot being weaker than the other two, the major two anyhow, and the writing for one of the characters could have been better. It's very good and typically superbly made though with many fantastic things, with lots of intrigue and its fair share of tension and emotion.
It is a great looking episode, wouldn't expect anything less though as the production values of 'The Borgias' are equal to those of some cinematic period/historical films made in recent years and even put some to shame. At its best actually, "The Wolf and the Lamb" looks stunning and very atmospheric in the latter scenes of the Rodrigo/Bianca subplot. In Cesare's there are some sumptuous, in detail and colour, costumes and there is a death scene that is very unsettlingly shot and edited. The music is as haunting and beautiful as ever, and really cannot get enough of the opening titles sequence (one of my favourites ever) and the hair-raising main theme.
Writing is thought provoking, Rodrigo having some of the best lines and that exchange between Georges and Cesare while brief did amuse me, and has come on a lot since 'The Borgias' first started, it's theatrical but wonderfully so and not excessive in it really. The storytelling is a vast majority of the time very compelling. There is lots of political intrigue in the Naples subplot (same in the not as prominent storytelling in Forli) where Ferdinand is truly contemptible, more so then before, and genuine tension. Lucrezia has truly grown as a character, she has been quite rootable at times while also having more of a voice and her scheming shocks. Underneath that creepiness, Micheletto really does have a heart too, and the portrayal of noblemen overtime on the show became much more real.
Elsewhere, the Rome subplot has its fair share of shocks in its revelations, while Bianca undergoes a character arc that is quite harrowing and makes her much more than just another Pope mistress. When it comes to memorable moments it is the emotional impact of the consequences of the Rome storyline and a truly gruesome climactic scene, you will not look at eels in the same way again. The acting is strong, excepting for me a bland Sebastian De Souza (do not find Alfonso the most interesting of characters), with Mindy Kreilig heart-wrenching as Bianca and Matias Verela quite chilling as Ferdinand. Jeremy Irons, with a new hairstyle, is wonderful as always, especially in the more tragic moments.
Didn't think "The Wolf and the Lamb" perfect however. The Avignon storyline doesn't have the same amount of intrigue or emotional impact, Francois Arnaud's performance and some nice lines aside for me some of it was on the dull side and none of the characters stood out.
Really didn't care too for how naiive Alfonso comes over in "The Wolf and the Lamb" either, seeming to be olivious to what his uncle was really like when it was so blatant to the rest of the characters involved in the subplot and to the viewer.
In conclusion, a very good episode and very close to great. 8/10