Tuesday, January 31, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Skiff And The Mermaid

Image result for skiff and the mermaid
Season 20, Episode 28: Skiff And The Mermaid
Written By Helen Farrall

When we last saw Skiff, he had saved Oliver and Duck from a fallen tree on their branch line and proved that those who may seem small and helpless can be the biggest of heroes...but let's see what happens when he tries to find a mermaid in our last episode for Season 20-Skiff And The Mermaid!

When 'The Mermaid' is expected to arrive at Arlesburgh Harbor, Skiff thinks it's a real mermaid and sets out with Sir Topham Hatt on a wild goose chase to find it.  I'll admit that before we actually got a synopsis on what this episode was about, I was actually rather excited since Skiff had already blown me away earlier in the season and was curious to see if he'd be able to do it again...but did he?  Yeah, I'd say that he did...but maybe it's just me.

When it comes to the story, I think that the show staff handled the concept of letting your imagination get the better of you far better here with Skiff than how they handled it with Daisy earlier in the season with 'The Way She Does It' especially when you really get to know our little railboat well...and on top of that, this episode was full of humor that ranged from chuckleworthy to laugh-out-loud like the reference to the 2000 Tom Hanks movie 'Cast Away'.

As for the animation, there really isn't that much to talk about without me repeating myself since we only really get to see Arlesburgh Harbor and the sea for a majority of the episode...but regardless, the team at Arc did an awesome job for what they were given especially with the model of the mermaid that we see at the end of the episode.

And when it comes to the characters...while some would say that Skiff felt like he was dumbed down in this episode, you can't really blame Skiff for what he did in this episode with racing off to find the mermaid as he's a young railboat and was just excited by the thought of actually seeing the underwater beauty-bravo to Jamie Campbell Bower for a truly seaworthy performance!

Overall, 'Skiff And The Mermaid' made for a really great farewell to such a landmark season of 'Thomas & Friends' and gets a rating of a 9 out of 10.

---

And thus...via DVD's/Internet postings and NOT through TV broadcasts, Season 20 of "Thomas & Friends" has come to a close...so, how does this landmark season hold up? Well, if I could describe this season in four words, they'd be: BEST CGI SEASON EVER!

Not only did it hold the same strong storytelling values that Seasons 17, 18 and 19 had...at least for a majority of episodes, but the experimental value was higher than it was in the latter season and it was clear that the writers were having a blast trying out all sorts of things for this season.

What I also noticed was that there was an even balance of characters between the Awdry and Hit era characters-a bold choice, if you ask me. Not only that, but the cast was even more expansive than it was in Season 18 and 19 with the amount of characters that we had as well as this year's newbies Bradford The Brake Van and Hugo The Rail Zeppelin. Another thing I should mention is that the character interactions are even stronger than they were before and each episode was driven by their banter and dialogue-heck, the narrator (Mark Moraghan) was hardly even in the episodes at all!

And much like in Season 18 and 19, we got character pairings that we never thought would happen like Ryan/Daisy and Toby/Philip and it feels so great to see the writers attempt these original pairings and to see them pay off in the end with an exciting story that breaks old clich├ęs.  Now, that doesn't mean that Season 20 is a flawless season as it had its problems-the biggest one being that some episodes that fell flat like "Three Steam Engines Gruff" and "The Way She Does It"...but they don't ultimately ruin this season for me due to how creative and strong it was.

So, for an overall rating, I give Season 20 a 9 out of 10...and with that said, I'll see you all for Season 21 and "Journey Beyond Sodor". Until then, stay awesome Tankies!

Monday, January 30, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Useful Railway

Season 20, Episode 27: Useful Railway
Written By The Rev. W. Awdry
Adapted By Andrew Brenner

Fifty years ago...three miniature engines by the names of Mike, Rex and Bert made their Railway Series debut in the twenty-second book titled 'Small Railway Engines'...forty-eight years later, they officially made their television series debut in the special 'Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure'...and now fifty years later, the stories that started it all for our three miniature engines are being brought to life in the twentieth season of 'Thomas & Friends'-finally, we have Rex in 'Useful Railway'!

When it's time for the sheep wool to be delivered to market, the miniature engines get their chance to prove how useful they really are...but will Rex ruin their chance by being overconfident?  Let's be real for a second, people...I don't think any of us were expecting what just happened in this episode or even this episode to exist for that matter, so...as you can imagine, the fandom was exploding with excitement when we knew that this as well as 'Tit For Tat' and 'Mike's Whistle' were going to be made into episodes after fifty years and I am so happy to say that 'Useful Railway' did not disappoint fans of the Railway Series at all.

When it comes to the story...much like 'The Adventure Begins' and how they adapted Thomas' first stories, Andrew Brenner has done it again as this episode can be described as another of his love letters to the days of the Reverend W. Awdry and his books that the miniature engines their start as he made sure to stay as accurate to the original story as possible while at the same time making some very creative and very entertaining changes that I don't mind at all as they actually help to make the story even better.

As for the animation, the team at Jam Filled did an absolutely magnificent job as they made this episode feel like one straight out of the model series particularly from Season 4 in terms of the landscapes and lighting-heck, they even used the original book illustrations as reference for when they were designing the track route of the miniature engines as well as the bridge where Rex has his accident...which was awesome by the way with the return of what I call 'Slo-mo Loco'-if this isn't a sign that the animators are that passionate about their work for a show about talking trains, I don't know what will be!

And as for the characters, it feels so great to see that our miniature engines haven't changed a bit throughout the past fifty years as they are all very easy-going and friendly to all people and engines…and in Rex’s case very hardworking and a natural leader.  But unlike in 'Tit For Tat' and 'Mike's Whistle' where Thomas' shoehorning was used effectively, they did nothing with him this time as his role could've very easily been replaced with Duck or Donald and Douglas...but it doesn't ultimately ruin the episode for me and I give major praise to the cast for some awesome performances.


Overall, 'Useful Railway' proved that Andrew Brenner can do no wrong with Railway Series adaptations and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Hugo And The Airship

Season 20, Episode 26: Hugo And The Airship
Written By Andrew Brenner

After the extraordinary new engine Hugo arrived on Sodor, he has become very popular among the passengers with his speed and spinning propellor...but let's see what happens when he tries to take to the skies in our next Season 20 episode-Hugo And The Airship!

After the engines mistake an airship for their new friend Hugo, the little rail zeppelin thinks he belongs up in the skies and tries again and again to fly.  I'll admit, before we got a synopsis on what this episode was about...it actually had me rather excited because I remember as far back as the classic series that some of the engines had dreams of flying and to see an engine actually attempt to fly and not in their dreams had me even more excited.  But did Hugo manage to soar to new heights with his second episode?  Yes, yes he did!

When it comes to the story, it can easily be described as the Thomas The Tank Engine equivalent of the SpongeBob Squarepants episode 'The Sponge Who Could Fly'-heck, I even found myself quoting that particular episode quite a number of times in terms of the concept of Hugo wanting to fly like the zeppelin and realizing that he's meant for the rails as well as the morals of just being yourself and all that you really need to fly is friendship...all you really need to do is replace Hugo and Skiff with SpongeBob and Patrick and you're all set.

As for the animation, the team at Arc have done another awesome job as always especially with things like the different camera angles and shots with how the team showed off Hugo trying to fly up in the skies with the zeppelin that also looks awesome since we've never seen a zeppelin in Thomas before-thus making it a first for the franchise...although I really wish that a majority of the Thomas fandom would stop making Hindenburg Disaster jokes about the zeppelin-seriously guys, it's insulting to history and to the people who lost their lives to this tragedy!

And when it comes to the characters...since the story feels like a Thomas version of SpongeBob episode that I loved on a personal level, it makes Hugo so much more relatable and likeable with his desire to fly and realizing that all that you really need to fly is friendship...and when you pair up Hugo with someone as friendly and adorable as Skiff, I can see a very strong friendship between them that will help Hugo soar to new heights-bravo to Rob Rackstraw and Jamie Campbell Bower for some awesome performances!

Overall, 'Hugo And The Airship' soared to new heights to become one of my favorites from Season 20 and get a rating of a 10 out of 10.

MLEEP Reviews: Engine Of The Future

Image result for engine of the future
Season 20, Episode 25: Engine Of The Future
Written By Andrew Brenner

Earlier in the season, we met a new brakevan by the name of Bradford who taught the engines a valuable lesson about how safety comes first on a railway and yet still hasn't had any merchandise made of him yet...but let's see what a new engine named Hugo can bring to Sodor in our next Season 20 episode-Engine Of The Future!

Fearing that they will be replaced by the fast and modern Hugo, the engines fail to befriend the new engine and make him feel unwelcome until they actually get to know Hugo and see that he's not as bad as they thought he was.  When this episode was first announced, I was actually rather intrigued by it as well as the concept of an propeller-driven engine that we actually haven't yet seen on Sodor and when I finally saw it...I was left blown away-no pun intended!

When it comes to the story, it can easily be described as Season 5's 'Thomas And The Rumours' done right in terms of the moral of how you shouldn't jump to conclusions before knowing the truth about someone new and the concept of a new futuristic-looking engine coming to Sodor...but if I had anything negative to say, it would have to be that the story feels just a bit rushed as it felt like they jumped over what could've been some very important scenes as well as making the entire concept of the Earl building a railway museum ever since 'Over The Hill' feel completely -however, I can't complain too much as I know that the show staff only have nine minutes worth of material to work with in an episode.


As for the animation, the team at Arc did a simply fantastic job as always when it came to the different angles and shots in how they could show off our new friend Hugo The Rail Zeppelin-who looks incredible by the way with his futuristic design based off of the German propeller driver engine known as the Schienenzeppelin...although I really wish that a majority of the Thomas fandom would stop making penis jokes about Hugo's design-it's supposed to be sleek and modern, guys...not sex and masturbation!


And when it comes to the characters, they were all handled much better here with the story than how they were back in Season 5 especially when it came to how the show staff handled Hugo and I have to say that they handled him extremely well as Hugo knows and is aware that he has his limitations with what he can do as a rail zeppelin and that doesn't stop him from doing his best to be Really Useful-bravo to Rob Rackstraw for providing a great German performance!


Overall, time to make way for the 'Engine Of The Future' as this made for a great introduction to Hugo and gets a rating of a 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Mike's Whistle

Season 20, Episode 24: Mike's Whistle
Written By The Rev. W. Awdry
Adapted By Andrew Brenner

Fifty years ago...three miniature engines by the names of Mike, Rex and Bert made their Railway Series debut in the twenty-second book titled 'Small Railway Engines'...forty-eight years later, they officially made their television series debut in the special 'Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure'...and now fifty years later, the stories that started it all for our three miniature engines are being brought to life in the twentieth season of 'Thomas & Friends'-next up is Mike in ‘Mike’s Whistle

When Duck’s whistle makes a funny noise, Mike insists that an engine that can’t whistle is not a proper engine…until he loses his own whistle.  Let's be real for a second, people...I don't think any of us were expecting what just happened in this episode or even this episode to exist for that matter, so...as you can imagine, the fandom was exploding with excitement when we knew that this as well as 'Tit For Tat' and 'Useful Railway' were going to be made into episodes after fifty years and I am so happy to say that 'Mike’s Whistle' did not disappoint fans of the Railway Series at all.

When it comes to the story...much like 'The Adventure Begins' and how they adapted Thomas' first stories, Andrew Brenner has done it again as this episode can be described as another of his love letters to the days of the Reverend W. Awdry and his books that the miniature engines their start as he made sure to stay as accurate to the original story as possible while at the same time making some very creative and very entertaining changes that I don't mind at all as they actually help to make the story even better.

As for the animation, the team at Jam Filled did an absolutely magnificent job as they made this episode feel like one straight out of the model series particularly from Season 4 in terms of the landscapes and lighting-heck, they even used the original book illustrations as reference for when they were designing the track route of the miniature engines as well as the field where Mike loses his whistle…and did I see a bit of foreshadowing to ‘Useful Railway’ with what looks like Willie and his tractor-if this isn't a sign that the animators are that passionate about their work for a show about talking trains, I don't know what will be!

And as for the characters, it feels so great to see that our miniature engines haven't changed a bit throughout the past fifty years as they are all very easy-going and friendly to all people and engines…and in Mike’s case very arrogant and irritable.  And while some may say that Thomas felt shoehorned, I love what they did with his character as…if you go by the Railway Series timeline, the miniature engines stories take place before Oliver’s escape from scrap and the Harwick expansion even existed-bravo to everyone on the cast and crew for giving some awesome performances

Overall, ‘Mike’s Whistle’ is a spectacular welcome back to the days of Awdry that makes me so proud to be a Thomas fan and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10.

MLEEP Reviews: Tit For Tat

Season 20, Episode 23: Tit For Tat
Written By The Rev. W. Awdry
Adapted By Andrew Brenner

Fifty years ago...three miniature engines by the names of Mike, Rex and Bert made their Railway Series debut in the twenty-second book titled 'Small Railway Engines'...forty-eight years later, they officially made their television series debut in the special 'Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure'...and now fifty years later, the stories that started it all for our three miniature engines are being brought to life in the twentieth season of 'Thomas & Friends' starting with Bert in 'Tit For Tat'!

Two clergymen come to the Island of Sodor to take pictures of interesting engines and make books of them. Bert finds them very polite at first...until he accidentally gets splashed with mud from their car and thinks they did it on purpose. Let's be real for a second, people...I don't think any of us were expecting what just happened in this episode or even this episode to exist for that matter, so...as you can imagine, the fandom was exploding with excitement when we knew that this as well as 'Mike's Whistle' and 'Useful Railway' were going to be made into episodes after fifty years and I am so happy to say that 'Tit For Tat' did not disappoint fans of the Railway Series at all.

When it comes to the story...much like 'The Adventure Begins' and how they adapted Thomas' first stories, Andrew Brenner has done it again as this episode can be described as another of his love letters to the days of the Reverend W. Awdry and his books that the miniature engines their start as he made sure to stay as accurate to the original story as possible while at the same time making some very creative and very entertaining changes that I don't mind at all as they actually help to make the story even better.

As for the animation, the team at Arc did an absolutely magnificent job as they made this episode feel like one straight out of the model series particularly from Season 4 in terms of the landscapes and lighting-heck, they even used the original book illustrations as reference for when they were designing the track route of the miniature engines with locations like the different stations along the route as well as 'The Lane' where Bert gets splashed with mud by the two clergymen and their car-if this isn't a sign that the animators are that passionate about their work for a show about talking trains, I don't know what will be!

And as for the characters, it feels so great to see that our miniature engines haven't changed a bit throughout the past fifty years as they are all very easy-going and friendly to all people and engines…and in Bert’s case gets the work done as long as he’s respected.  And while some may say that Thomas felt shoehorned, I love what they did with his character as they not only poke fun at how even the Reverend W. Awdry who speaks for the first time in this episode would hate how much of a camera hog Thomas has become lately…but the events of the storm on his branch line set up the events of the story with the miniature engines-bravo to everyone on the cast and crew for giving some awesome performances

Overall, ‘Tit For Tat’ is a spectacular welcome back to the days of Awdry that makes me so proud to be a Thomas fan and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Monday, January 16, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Buckled Tracks And Bumpy Cars

Season 20, Episode 22: Buckled Tracks And Bumpy Cars
Written By Lee Pressman

The tracks of a railway are full of surprises and dangers at any time of the year whether it's leaves in fall or snow and ice in winter...even summer heat as our engines of Sodor find out in our next Season 20 episode-Buckled Tracks And Bumpy Cars!

It's the hottest day of the year on Sodor and the sun is not only causing the tracks to buckle and bend, but there are more and more fires for Belle and Flynn to put out...all while Sir Topham Hatt has an argument with a new hat to wear in the heat. I'll be honest, I wasn't too sure about this episode when it was first announced...it sounded interesting-don't get me wrong, but I felt like there wasn't really enough material to work with in the span of nine minutes and my thoughts are exactly the same after seeing the episode as they were before going into it.

When it comes to the story, I will give it credit for the moral of how different colors absorb or reflect the summer heat...but I feel tjhat it lacks focus in which story it wants to tell...I mean, do they want to focus on the buckled tracks or Sir Topham Hatt's new hat-I get this was supposed to be a comedy centered episode, but Lee Pressman should've just picked one story and stuck with it; thus making this episode not feel like filler-not to mention that some websites misled us to think that this was going to be an episode about Whiff and he only appears for three seconds in the entire episode!

While the story is unfocused, the animators knew what they were doing and they made sure to make every little detail count especially with things like the radiation off of the sun and with how buckled and bent they could make the tracks look-not to mention that Arc has really improved on their fire animation from all the way to their roots in Season 17's 'Too Many Fire Engines'.

But great animation can't save the characters since the story doesn't know which set of characters to keep the focus on...Belle and Flynn on the buckled tracks, Sir Topham Hatt and Dowager Hatt, who are we supposed to be following on their adventure in the episode?!? But I will give credit to all of the voice cast for another great performance.

Overall, 'Buckled Tracks And Bumpy Cars' feels like filler rather than anything and gets a rating of a 6.5 out of 10.

MLEEP Reviews: All In Vain (100th Post Celebration)

Season 20, Episode 21: All In Vain
Written By Helen Farrall

When we last saw James, he had learned to change his attitude in order to get his work done...let's see if he remembers what he's learnt in our next Season 20 episode-All In Vain!

James is delighted to be picked to take the Mayor and Sir Topham Hatt to a ball at Callan Castle and promises to do all his jobs without complaint, but he's horrified at the end of the day when he finds a tiny scratch on his paintwork. When this episode was first announced, much like 'Pouty James'...this was one that I was split on since I was happy that James was getting another episode to himself but at the same time thought James was just gonna forget everything he had learned from earlier in the season. But like 'Pouty James', I did my best to go into 'All In Vain' with an open mind and I was left really surprised.

When it comes to the story, this episode can actually be described as a follow-up to 'Pouty James' and what Season 11's 'Dirty Work' should've been since they actually expanded upon what James had learned from that episode and how he's using it to make his life better for himself and everyone around him-not to mention that he actually does his work without complaining of being dirty!

As for the animation...like I say with all fall-themed episodes lately, Arc truly knows how to capture the season with the different colored trees and the landscapes-but not just that, I think Arc has truly captured the glossy paintwork of the engines from the days of the models especially during the scenes of James getting dirty.

And when it comes to the characters, like I said...it feels so great to see that James remembers all that he learned from 'Pouty James' about changing his attitude and how he's using it to make his life better not just for himself but also for everyone on Sodor-bravo to Rob Rackstraw for another simply splendid performance!

Overall, 'All In Vain' went all the way to be an awesome follow-up to my favorite episode of Season 20 so far as well as get a rating of a 10 out of 10

Saturday, January 14, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Moana

 Moana Teaser Poster.jpg
MOANA
Written By Jared Bush
Composed By Mark Mancina, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa'i
Produced By Osnat Shurer
Edited By Jeff Draheim
Directed By Ron Clements and John Musker
 
I know I'm late to the party with this one, but...I just got back from seeing 'Moana' and after the surprisingly phenomenal success that was 'Zootopia', will Disney be the ones saying 'You're Welcome' after another 'Shiny' success? Well, let's see 'How Far I'll Go' in giving this film the review it truly deserved...
 
When it comes to the story, it may be slow to start at the beginning and while it may go into territories that we've already been in with past Disney films like 'The Little Mermaid'...but once Moana gets going on her adventure, that's when the film picks up and becomes what we were expecting from a Polynesian-themed Disney movie-not to mention that its execution really helps capture the audience along with its balance of both action/songs as well as the relationship between Moana and Maui in how they need to learn from one another to understand how important their mission really is. On top of that, the world that the movie is set in really helps bring the folklore of the Pacific Islands as well as Moana's village to life like never before...and this film is just straight-up funny with plenty of jokes that range from chuckleworthy to gutbusting laughs-what do you expect from the same people who directed 'Aladdin'?
 
As for the animation, Disney shows once again that they are the kings and queens...or should I say 'princes and princesses of animation' since their interpretation of the Pacific Islands with things both believable like the respected looks of the Polynesian people and mythological like the creatures that our heroes face really shows how much important research that the studio did to make sure every little detail really brings the feeling of the location while being innovative and clever about the effects at the same time-not to mention that the action scenes really feel intense and make sure to grab the audience's attention as well as how they manipulate the water in both comical and awe-inspiring ways like with the Magic Carpet in 'Aladdin'.
 
As for the characters, the movie made sure to keep the focus where it should be among our cast-on our two main leads. Moana is sure to become another new role model for kids-especially with little girls-to look up to with how she cares about her people and yet wants to explore what's beyond the reef, while Maui is the comically egotistical who embraces the legend that he is known as with things like his superstar attitude during his first moments-what do you expect, he's voiced by 'The Rock' himself? But going back to Maui, I love how the filmmakers dove deep into his origin story and how he got his powers in order to become the demigod that he is today.  As for the rest of the characters, they sadly are a minor role and have their 'fifteen minutes of fame' as some like to call it...unless you count Gramma Tala, Heihei and Chief Tui. But what really surprised me was that there was no real villain to our story but rather just obstacles that our heroes have to face in order to complete their journey...kinda like 'Finding Dory' in a sense, if you know what I mean.
 
And when it comes to the songs, it should be noted that they were composed by the same person who brought us 'Hamilton'; this being Lin-Manuel Miranda and it really shows that Disney knew what they were doing when they hired him as well as Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa'i to create some truly memorable musical moments for this film whether it being capturing the theme of the Pacific Islands with songs like 'Where You Are' and 'We Know The Way' or being upbeat and comical with songs like 'You're Welcome' (didn't know 'The Rock' could sing as good as he did here) and 'Shiny'...which sounds like a song from Tim Curry's sexual fantasies. But if there would be a song that could truly represent this film well at this year's Oscars, it is hands down 'How Far I'll Go'-easily our 'Let It Go' for the movie in order to make Moana herself truly memorable in the eyes of us Disney fanatics.
 
Overall, Disney...you won me over again because I didn't expect much from this movie like earlier in the year with 'Zootopia', but...much like 'Zootopia', never would I have expected 'Moana' to be among Disney's best films ever made with how it presents the Disney formula in a whole new way that will be remembered by all for years to come and I'm proud to give 'Moana' a 9 out of 10.