Sunday, June 18, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - Equestria Girls: Magical Movie Night

My Little Pony - Equestria Girls: Magical Movie Night
Ever since the events of ‘Legend Of Everfree’, everypony has been wondering as to what was to come next for Twilight Sparkle and the Equestria Girls at Canterlot High...and after months of waiting, we have finally gotten our wish with not one...not two...but three half-hour specials, so grab some popcorn and your best friends as we have ourselves a 'Magical Movie Night'!
Written By G.M. Berrow
When Rarity finds out about a music video competition, she's eager to convince her friends at Canterlot High to enter the contest. The girls soon learn that Crystal Prep Academy is also interested in participating in the contest and on top of that have many more resources including better dancers! Will they be able to pull together and make a winning music video?
I’ll be honest…of all three of these specials, this was the one that I was the least excited for since this particular concept has been done in countless movies and sitcoms before which really made me start to think that the Equestria Girls series may have worked better as a TV series rather than a movie series-especially considering the writer for this entry who I haven’t been a fan of in the past; that writer being G.M. Berrow. But I did my best to go into this special with an open mind and…what I feared for this special sadly came true.
When it comes to the story, it really shows that the high school-setting can really limit your story ideas and possibilities because the concept of a music video competition resulting working together has been done before in countless movies and sitcoms like I said earlier and…being written by G.M. Berrow, this felt like another one of her chapter books again with a hit-and-miss range of laughs to keep the experience entertaining…but at least they gave a good moral of how winning isn’t everything. As for the song ‘Dance Magic’, it’s a great song but what I don’t understand is why they held off a song that was included on the ‘Friendship Games’ soundtrack until two years later…then again they did the same thing for three songs from ‘Rainbow Rocks’, so we can let it slide.
As for the animation, DHX continues to give us more and more visual eye candy throughout the Equestria Girls franchise and we got to see plenty of new locations with this special like the mall and diner as well as our first look at Rarity’s room-not to mention that the visuals during the Mane 7’s music video concept ideas as well as the ‘Dance Magic’ video were pretty creative and visually amazing…including one that will be the center of our next special, but we’ll get to that shortly.
And when it comes to the characters…now I don’t know how many people actually wanted to see the Shadowbolts again after we barely got to know them at all during ‘Friendship Games’, but I will say that it is nice to see them fleshed out more with this special and continuing on from their reformation back when they debuted. As for the Mane 7 themselves, I admire Rarity’s determination for wanting to create a winning music video…but revealing your entire concept to your biggest rivals, really?!? You are not this stupid, Rarity…not to mention that the rest of the Mane 7 were way too eager to give up and quit on bringing their A-game to the video, but I’m glad to see that everyone on the voice cast be it Tabitha St. Germain as Rarity or Sharon Alexander as Sour Sweet still did a great job regardless.
Overall, ‘Dance Magic’ was okay…but really needed to work on its moves and I give this special a rating of a 6.5 out of 10.

Written By Noelle Benvenuti
The Equestria Girls have been specially invited by A.K. Yearling to go on the set of the upcoming Daring Do movie and they are overjoyed. For super-fan Rainbow Dash, watching behind the scenes as her favorite heroine comes to life is a dream come true. But when a rare and important prop from the set goes missing and puts the movie on hold, Rainbow Dash's dream becomes a nightmare.
When this special was announced, it sounded like it had more potential than the last installment and I was looking forward to more of Rainbow Dash’s inner fangirling and the idea of a movie set that could bring some fantastic possibilities…but the premise reminded me of a Season 5 episode that wasn’t really much of a mystery; that episode being ‘Rarity Investigates’. But much like ‘Dance Magic’, I did my best to go into this special with an open mind and…what an adventure this turned out to be!
When it comes to the story, I’m happy to say that writer Noelle Benvenuti who is known for the episodes ‘Maud Pie’ and ‘Made In Manehattan’ did a great job in making this special not feel like ‘Rarity Investigates 2.0’ but rather along the lines of a traditional Scooby Doo-esque mystery where the villain that commits the crime of the episode turns out to be the one that you wouldn’t expect…heck, they went all out in satirizing our lovable great dane from the chase montages to how the characters act and even some of the situations that the characters would usually get in like getting locked in a room or raiding the food buffet-all we were missing was Spike saying Scooby’s famous line at the end of every Scooby Doo project ever made.
As for the animation, the idea of a movie set can really help to bring some fantastic possibilities like I said earlier especially when it helps to break away from the high school setting and what we got really helped to capture the overall tone and experience of a movie set like that of something from the ‘Indiana Jones’ franchise from the different sets to the costume designs-heck, we even got to see the Equestria Girls version of the Power Ponies in a very comedic scene that may have been a way of poking fun at Bronies and even some movie sets that references franchises like ‘Fast & Furious’ and ‘Star Wars’.
And when it comes to the characters, it was great to see more of Rainbow Dash’s entertaining inner fangirl for anything Daring Do coming out like it has in the Friendship Is Magic series…even to the point where it can get in the way of studio shooting, which I found to be pretty humorous and adorable at the same time-awesome work as always, Ms. Ball! Speaking of Daring Do, I was a little disappointed that Chiara Zanni didn’t come back to do her voice or pull off what she did with ‘Daring Don’t’…but I think that Kira Tozer did a good job of portraying her as Chestnut Magnifico who I swear looks like a character from ‘Littlest Pet Shop’. As for Juniper Montage, she just comes off as nothing more than a spoiled brat who will stop at nothing until she gets what she wants even to the point of endangering others, which will also come into play in our final special coming up shortly…but Ali Leibert still did a great job for her debut appearance.
Overall, ‘Movie Magic’ definitely knew how to give its A-game for the big screen and gets a rating of 9 out of 10.
Written By Rachel Vine & Dave Polsky
As the pages in her journal run out, there's only one thing for Sunset Shimmer to do: return to Equestria to get a new journal! There, she meets Starlight Glimmer and agrees to bring her back to experience life at Canterlot High. But while Sunset Shimmer was away, a revenge‐seeking Juniper Montage finds a beautiful hand mirror enchanted with Equestrian magic than can not only provide a window into another land, but can also make things trapped between the two realms disappear into limbo!
Now, THIS was the special that I was the most excited for…I mean, Sunset Shimmer going back to Equestria and possibly making amends with Princess Celestia-we fans have waited to see that happen for years! Not only that, but we were also gonna see her form a friendship with Starlight Glimmer whom many fans have called ‘Sunset Shimmer 2.0’ had a lot of creative possibilities and…even though we don’t get to see her make amends with Celestia like we were hoping for, what we were presented was still really good!
When it comes to the story, introducing more Equestrian magic to create problems for both universes is really what the Equestria Girls series needs in my opinion and it really helps it in going to make it stand out from countless other high school-centered shows. What was a big surprise to me was that veteran writer for the Friendship Is Magic series Dave Polsky came back after writing his last episode of the series to work on this special and he hasn’t lost his comedic edge when writing for MLP as there were plenty of chuckle-worthy moments throughout the special from Starlight getting used to her new surroundings which I was so relieved that they didn’t repeat over and over again like they did in the first movie as well as the usual antics of Pinkie Pie…even including a great moral of how you should trust that things will work out in the end and to not worry over everything.
As for the animation, the quality of DHX’s animation really does reflect how we as fans feel about their work and they did another fantastic job as always with giving us more and more new visual delights ranging from another new location in the form of the movie theater to getting our first look at the Equestria Girls form of Starlight Glimmer…who looks super adorable by the way-even Juniper Montage has a pretty cool villain transformation in the climax…even if it does rip off Gloriosa Daisy’s transformation in ‘Legend Of Everfree’.
And when it comes to the characters, I love how Sunset Shimmer and Starlight Glimmer have now developed a strong friendship and were able to find a common ground between them because not only did they both have to learn about friendship after turning away from it for so long…but they are skilled with both the knowledge and use of magic, which really makes me wish that Sunset had been Starlight’s childhood friend all along….and if anything, this friendship can put the whole ‘Sunset VS. Starlight’ flame war in the fandom to rest-awesome work as always, Kelly and Rebecca! As for Juniper Montage, she’s still the whiny spoiled brat she was from last time…but towards the end, she’s able to find common ground between her and Starlight-even Sunset and Twilight as well, which made for a very funny scene towards the end…but why do I get the feeling that Juniper is now a part of the main cast now with Starlight to soon follow?
Overall, ‘Mirror Magic’ is easily the best out of the three specials for our magical movie night and I give it 10 out of 10 as well as give ‘Magical Movie Night’ an overall rating of an 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 16, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Cars 3

Written By Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich
Composed By Randy Newman
Produced By Kevin Reher
Edited By Stephen Schaffer
Directed By Brian Fee

Cars…a Pixar franchise that honestly has no real majority consensus in what fans think of the films-either you love them, you hate them or you just find it okay.  I’m more than likely in the minority when I say that Cars is one of my favorite Pixar franchises because of its heartwarmingly fun stories and lovable characters.  When it comes to my thoughts on the films themselves, I loved the first Cars even though I knew nothing about it before seeing it and I’m one of the very few people who actually liked Cars 2 despite it being heavily panned by critics and audiences everywhere.  So when I heard there was gonna be a third Cars movie made for this year, I was pretty damn excited for it especially with the teaser trailer that got so many of us and even the haters of the Cars franchise hyped up…but does Lightning McQueen have what it takes to become a racing legend again or has he raced for the last time?  Let’s find out…this is ‘Cars 3’!

So, what’s the story?  Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast cars led by Jackson Storm (played by Armie Hammer), the legendary Lighting McQueen (once again played by Owen Wilson) finds himself pushed out of the sport that he loves. Hoping to get back in the game, he turns to Cruz Ramirez (played by Cristela Alonzo)-an eager young technician who has her own plans for winning. With inspiration from the Fabulous Hudson Hornet (played by the late Paul Newman) and a few unexpected turns, No. 95 prepares to compete on Piston Cup Racing's biggest stage.

The overarching theme of Cars 3 is about admitting that you’ve become too old for something and accepting retirement…that’s actually pretty damn deep and mature for a kid’s film in my opinion especially with how it takes a good hard look at what it’s like to be an aging athlete or rather anyone going through a mid-life crisis while at the same time is a tale about mentorship and learning to put aside your ego to bolster someone else’s as Lightning McQueen realizes that this is the end of his reign on top of the racing world and must now mentor and train Cruz Ramirez to become a champion in the same way that Doc Hudson did the same for him which really helps to make the story really effective and feel like it’s truly about something and not just there to sell toys…it even made me like the first Cars movie even more than I did before.

Moving on to the animation, Pixar has always done an incredible job and have really come a long way ever since their early beginnings…but here, the environments in particular such as the racetrack for the Florida 500 where the climax of the film takes place as well as Fireball Beach where the training sequences begin look so amazingly photo-realistic to the point where the racing scenes and characters look better than they have ever been before-some would say that the cartoony cars against the real-life backgrounds feels out of place, but it doesn’t feel distracting to me at all.  It’s incredibly detailed, it’s stylish and it does well to add to the proceedings in the film itself-well done, Pixar!

You really do feel sorry for Lightning McQueen in this movie with the more times that you see him struggle and try to learn all of these new techniques-it really helps to make him more of a fully developed character since he’s determined to end his career on his own terms while realizing he’ll never be who he once was especially with how Owen Wilson’s performance captures the ‘wait, am I really becoming the old guy?’ feeling that he’s going through and knows that he must make room for the future in the form of his new trainer Cruz Ramirez.  Cruz is a great new addition to the cast who you really become invested in especially with how Cristela Alonzo’s performance captures both the enthusiasm and trepidation as we learn more about her hopes and dreams for what might have been of becoming a racer after being inspired by Lightning McQueen.  As for Jackson Storm, he is easily the best out of all of the rivals that Lightning McQueen has ever had to face throughout the franchise-he actually does feel like a threat towards Lightning McQueen’s racing career with how much faster and strong he is and not to mention has the personality and mind of an overly confident bully who’s willing to bring both Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez down whatever it takes.

Overall, ‘Cars 3’ is a deep and emotionally heartwarming adventure that helped to end the Cars franchise on the best note possible and gets a rating of 10 out of 10...and if this truly is the last adventure in the Cars series as director Brian Fee says it is, then I will always remember Radiator Springs as ‘a happy place’.