Saturday, September 30, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Marks And Recreation

Season 7, Episode 21: Marks And Recreation
Written By May Chan

When we last left the Cutie Mark Crusaders, the publishing of the Mane 6's friendship journal had given them the idea of putting together a cutie mark summer camp...and by the looks of what happened in today's episode, they really have their work cut out for them-let's take a look at 'Marks And Recreation'!

Wanting to help as many young ponies as possible find their Cutie Marks, the Cutie Mark Crusaders invite a host of "blank flanks" to their own "Cutie Mark Day Camp"...but they're surprised to find one camper by the name of Rumble who doesn't want a cutie mark.  When this episode was announced, the concept definitely sounded intriguing and...while the idea of addressing how one feels obligated to follow one path for their entire lives was already done before with Troubleshoes Clyde back in 'Appleloosa's Most Wanted' from Season 5, I was keen on seeing whether the show staff could improve on their previous attempts with this episode.  But did they?  The answer is...yes, yes they did!

When it comes to the story, I was surprised to discover that the writer for this episode was May Chan-the same person who wrote 'Not Asking For Trouble' from earlier in the season...and considering what I thought of her previous installment in the series, I was unsure as to whether or not she could redeem herself with an episode about the Cutie Mark Crusaders.  For what felt like it was gonna be a re-hash of Season 4's "For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils" in terms of what goes on between Thunderland and Rumble, it seems that she managed to succeed in making the story better in touching upon the subject of feeling stuck in a box when you get your cutie mark like I said earlier.  However, the humor feels to have taken a step backward from her last episode since it felt very hit-or-miss; the miss being the repetition of Kettle Corn's obsession with circles...but it makes up for it with a very catchy new song by the name of 'Blank Flanks Forever', which brings me to my next point.

As for the animation, I've gotta admit that many of us Bronies and Pegasisters were definitely not expecting the team at DHX to bring back Camp Friendship from Season 5's "The Mane Attraction"...but seeing as it was an episode that was praised heavily and critically acclaimed, it only made sense to bring it back and give us a chance to really get to see what the campsite looks like and I've gotta say that it looks incredible with activity areas like the horseshoe toss and the archery range-they even brought back the stage where Applejack and Countess Coloratura performed "Equestria, The Land I Love"-one of the most beautifully heartwarming songs of the entire franchise, but I still question how one plays guitar with hooves.  Speaking of songs, the animation of DHX really got to shine during the song for this episode titled 'Blank Flanks Forever' which was a nod to old jazzy showtunes...but how does one snap their fingers with hooves?!?

And when it comes to the characters...much like the return of Camp Friendship with the animation, many of us Bronies and Pegasisters were not expecting May Chan to write an episode that not only starred everypony's favorite crusaders but also gave a chance for the brotherly duo of Rumble and Thunderlane to really shine in the spotlight-great to see more of the side characters and fan favorites getting more attention!  You can really feel and understand what Rumble is trying to convey to everypony about how you're stuck doing one thing for the rest of your life once you get your cutie mark while at the same time understand what Thunderlane is trying to tell his younger brother about how one job will not define who you are for your life entirely and it won't be what people will remember you for-bravo to all of the voice cast from Michelle Creber as Apple Bloom to Vincent Tong as Rumble for some marvelous performances!

Overall, 'Marks And Recreation" was a marvelous episode that was full of surprises for the fandom to enjoy and I give it a rating of a 9.5 out of 10.

MLEEP Reviews: Unscheduled Stops

Ah, Thomas and Bertie-ever since you two had your great race way back in the early days of the series, you two have been the best of friends...but you two really need to remember to not bounce your passengers like peas in a frying pan and not race as dangerous speeds especially if it ends up leaving passengers stranded after what happened in today's episode, let's cap off the second week of Season 21 with 'Unscheduled Stops'!
When Bertie breaks down while they are racing, Thomas takes on his passengers and is soon getting requests for lots of other unscheduled stops from Bertie's passengers, which makes him run late and upsets his own passengers and even Sir Topham Hatt. Much like 'The Railcar And The Coaches' from last season where we explored the dynamic between Daisy and Annie and Clarabel, this episode is based on a single one-off line from Season 3's "Thomas Gets Bumped" where it is stated that Bertie sometimes stops between stations to let people off closer to their as you can imagine, a lot of fans were pretty damn excited for this episode whereas I was unsure as to whether a concept like this could really be pulled off in a nine-minute episode. But when I finally saw 'Unscheduled Stops', a concept that I didn't think would work and they managed to make a pretty damn good episode about it.
When it comes to the story, I know that we were all hoping for Andrew Brenner to write this episode considering how well he has written for the dynamic between Thomas and Bertie...well, almost considering what we got last time (COUGH) Other Side Of The Mountain (COUGH). But what was a big surprise to us that Helen Farrall was taking the reins of the Thomas and Bertie dynamic this time and I have to say that she did a really great job in exploring upon the concept of stopping between stations that was brought up twenty six years ago in 'Thomas Gets Bumped'-even throwing in some continuity nods to 'Thomas' Shortcut' from Season 17 as well as some great comedy that wasn't all too fast paced or slapstick especially when Sir Topham Hatt is spying on Thomas...someone put "Mission Impossible" music over that, that'd be hilarious!
As for the animation...knowing that we are on Thomas' branch line for the entire episode during the autumn season, you know that you're gonna get some beautiful visuals from the team at Jam Filled since they seemed to have carried on the torch from Arc Productions really well when it comes to these kinds of episodes especially in the beautiful landscape shots around Thomas' branch line like by the windmill or Farmer McColl's farm and I even see that they modified the route that we saw during the opening of 'Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure' so that we can see both of our main characters better this time...and their animation really got to shine when we were given another big surprise towards the end when a familiar rival comes back to the series.
And when it comes to the characters, I can definitely relate with Thomas wanting to help Bertie with his passengers while he is out of service and not wanting to let them and his own passengers down at the same time...and while some would say that he didn't learn anything from what he went through in this episode-even to the point of lying to Sir Topham Hatt about the unscheduled stops, I think it was more of the fact that he didn't want to cause Sir Topham Hatt any additional or unnecessary worry than not wanting to get into trouble. But the biggest surprise of the characters is without a doubt the reintroduction of the one and only Bulgy The Double Decker Bus who we haven't seen since Season 7's "Bulgy Rides Again"-he not only looks incredible in CGI, but I love how even the show staff agrees that turning Bulgy into a vegetable bus was a stupid idea and the voice that Colin McFarlane provides suits his character so well...and did you know that he also voices Beresford in 'Journey Beyond Sodor'? But a piece of advice to Hit and Mattel: if you really want to use Bulgy to his full potential, have him star in an episode with Duck and Oliver again because it would be a more fierce version of the 'Road VS. Rail' rivarly than Bertie's more friendly version of it.
Overall, "Unscheduled Stops" goes full speed ahead to finish off the second week of Season 21 and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: New Crane On The Dock

When we last left Cranky The Crane, he was joined along the dockside by a brand new yellow crane named Carly who had proved to be quite a charming new addition to the cast of characters...let's see how the two of them are getting on with each other in today's episode where it's a battle for the dockside, who will win?  Let's find out...this is 'New Crane On The Dock'!

Carly is so keen that she takes on all the work and Cranky finds himself with nothing to do, so he works harder and faster in a bid to keep up with her. But as the two cranes frantically try to outdo one another, their hooks become entangled and they find themselves stuck fast and unable to move! When this episode was announced, this was one that I was really excited for seeing as we were finally getting a chance to really see Carly in action as she gets to battle against Cranky to see who can unload the fastest and get the most work done...but after what we got last time with 'Cranky At The End Of The Line', I was really hoping for a stellar episode to make up for it bringing the long line of good episodes this season to a halt and did Lee Pressman succeed? The answer is...hell yeah, we did!

When it comes to the story, the moral of working together is one that we know all too well from many previous episodes before this one...but the show staff always find a way to make it feel fresh and new every time they use this particular moral and format and Lee Pressman really managed to make up for his mistakes with the last episode with this installment because he added a new twist to the story with the moral of how communication between friends can help prevent a situation from getting worse since it really helped with the narrative between Carly and Cranky and on top of that was packed to the brim with comedy-if 'Dowager Hatt's Busy Day' wasn't the episode to make fans burst with laughter, then this episode will certainly be the one to do it!

As for the animation...much like with the last episode, the team at Jam Filled really had to bring the razzle dazzle with their work once again since we are in Brendam Docks for the entire episode and especially after their awesome animation worked against the story last time...and man did they go all out with the animation this time as the sequence of Carly and Cranky racing to load and unload faster than each other had me in stitches from laughing so hard at how wonderfully over the top they animated it and even Salty's story about the sea serpents also got a good laugh out of me with the comedy being provided by the voices by Rob Rackstraw and even series producer Ian McCue himself which was a real surprise...but the biggest surprise of all is yet to come.

And when it comes to the characters...even though we didn't get much of Carly in the last episode, it was so great to finally see her in action with this episode since her excitable and bubbly personality played off of Cranky's more jealous personality so well to the point where they feel like a brother and sister duo and the best thing about this was that neither side of the argument made it feel like they were the villain of the story since it's a situation that we can all relate and identify with-bravo to Matt Wilkinson and Lucy Montgomery for some cheerfully cranky performances!

But the biggest surprise of the characters was without a doubt the introduction of the one and only Big Mickey. For those who don't know who Big Mickey is, Big Mickey got his start in the sister series of Thomas The Tank Engine known as TUGS where he helped out on the Steel Company dock as well as the Navy Yard; albeit never had a face like the Star Tugs or Z Stacks and only spoke through a megaphone like Captain Star and Captain Zero. When TUGS was sadly cancelled, Big Mickey became a part of the Knapford Harbor set in Season 3 before eventually being moved to Brendam Docks from Season 5 onward still not having a face but not having a voice...but in comes this episode a mere twenty six years after he first arrived on Sodor and he is given a new face and voice. While I am disappointed that he doesn't have a voice similar to the one that he had during TUGS, the voice that Rob Rackstraw provides suits him really well and I am so happy that Hit and Mattel made the smart decision to keep his original TUGS name as a nod to the late David Mitton-the man who helped make both Thomas and TUGS really shows that Mattel remembers that TUGS was a part of Thomas' seventy plus year history and who knows what Mattel could do with TUGS now that we have Big Mickey up and talking? Maybe a crossover between the two shows...wink wink, nudge nudge.

Overall, "New Crane On The Dock" was not only a much better introduction to Carly...but it also gave us one of the biggest surprises in this season so far and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Cranky At The End Of The Line

Ah, Cranky The Crane-the most famous crane down at Brendam Docks, but I feel sorry for you that you have to work all day and night without any rest at can really play a factor in your work performance and it sounds like your days of working at Brendam Docks may be over after what happened in today's episode, this is 'Cranky At The End Of The Line'!
After Cranky is teased about his age, he works twice as hard and through the night to impress Sir Topham Hatt. But the harder he works, the more mistakes he makes...and when a new crane named Carly arrives, Cranky thinks that his days at Brendam Docks are over! When this episode was announced, I was happy that Cranky was getting another starring role in an episode on his own since we haven't had that since Season 19's "A Cranky Christmas"...and we all know how well that episode turned out-not only that, but I was also excited for another new character being introduced after the performance that Hannah gave last time. So, I went into this episode with excitement and...after seven awesome episodes, this one brought the season to a grinding halt.
When it comes to the story...while I am glad that Cranky got another leading role, the concept feels like three previous episodes mashed into one: No Sleep For Cranky, Creaky Cranky and Away From The Sea...and the 'fear of replacement' trope is starting to get really old really fast since it's been done before in countless episodes before this one ever came out. Another thing that bugs me is the continuity since this season is set before 'Journey Beyond Sodor' and Thomas is able to go to the mainland with Edward to bring Carly to Brendam Docks...and yet he acts like it's his first time on the mainland in 'Journey Beyond Sodor' and not to mention that he's been to the mainland even before that movie ever existed-this routine of 'series before special' is also starting to get old! But the overly used story makes up for it with great comedy and strong character interactions...I'll get to them in a second.
As for the animation...knowing that we are at Brendam Docks for a majority of the episode, the team at Jam Filled really had to bring the razzle dazzle with their work and what they did here manages to make the lackluster story just a bit more entertaining as what they did with Cranky really gave them a chance to show what they could do when it came to the comedic sequences of Cranky making mistakes and when Cranky spends the entire night working-even a pretty morbid dream sequence of a helpless Cranky falling into the water, gotta admit that was pretty ballsy to include that considering how many oversensitive parents there are in today's age!
And when it comes to the characters...even though the story is one that we've seen countless times before, you really do feel for Cranky in this episode considering how his fears of being replaced caused him to create so much confusion and delay and again have a pretty morbid dream sequence to the point where you want him to prove that he still has what it takes to be Really Useful. As for our newbie Carly, there isn't too much that's known about her since she only appeared during the last few minutes and that she's voiced by the same actress who voiced Hannah and Lexi...but she definitely has some potential to be a great character and we know that she will get much more development in the next episode-bravo to Matt Wilkinson and Lucy Montgomery for some cheerfully cranky performances!
Overall, 'Cranky At The End Of The Line' brought the long line of good episodes this season to the end of the line and I give it a rating of a 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Hasty Hannah

Ah, Toby and Henrietta-when it comes to friendships, you two are inseparable and have been through quite a lot throughout the years that you have known each other in order to show everyone that you're both Really Useful regardless of your age...but with Henrietta being called off to the Steamworks today, let's see how Toby manages on his own with a newcomer in today's episode-this is 'Hasty Hannah'!

While Henrietta is getting her seats refurbished, Toby is given a replacement carriage named Hannah. However, she is so headstrong and reckless that Toby gets fed up with her urging him to go faster and faster.  But when Toby abandons her to visit Henrietta and she joins up with James, Hannah learns to her cost that going too fast for a little carriage is not at all wise.  When this episode was announced via the fandom making numerous upon numerous emails to writer Lee Pressman, I was both excited to see the direction that they were gonna take with this new character and ticked off at the fandom for once again showing their immaturity and making us look like a laughing stock.  But I put the fandom aside and went into this episode with a fresh and open mind I can see why you guys were so hyped up, this was another amazing episode!

When it comes to the story, I was saying to myself that this is what Season 16's "The Christmas Tree Express" and even Season 18's "Not So Slow Coaches" should've been because...unlike in those two episodes where characters were either out of character or were the cause of the problem and the alliteration/rhyming was annoying as hell, the moral of how it's better to be safe than sorry was done much better here and the events that unfurled managed to keep my interest throughout-not to mention that it was a very interesting twist of Hannah and Henrietta being sisters, but one thing puzzles me: if Hannah and Henrietta are sisters, then wouldn't Toby have known her too?!?  But you know what, I'm gonna attribute that to the fact that we haven't seen Hannah on the show before up until this episode.

As for the animation, you know that you're gonna get some beautiful visuals around Sodor when you have Toby and Henrietta as the stars of the episode and not only did the team at Jam Filled not disappoint...but they weren't afraid to also go all out with the animation during the scenes of Toby and Hannah racing around Sodor and especially the sequence of Hannah falling apart from going as fast as James.  Speaking of Hannah, I originally didn't like the fact that Hannah was basically a Henrietta recolor with a different face and tail lamps...but with the twist of her and Henrietta being sisters, it actually makes sense why this design happened and it doesn't bother me anymore.

And when it comes to the characters, I love how Lee Pressman captured the relationship between Toby and Henrietta since they need and love each other so much to the point where they kinda feel like a married couple and it's really heartwarming to see in my opinion-bravo to Rob Rackstraw and Maggie Ollerenshaw for some simply sweet performances!  As for our newbie Hannah, I originally thought that I wasn't gonna like her based on her design...but she proved to be a joy to watch since the moral managed to really suit her 'anti-Henrietta'-esque personality really well and the voice that Lucy Montgomery fits her perfectly as well...and did you know that Lucy also voices Lexi from 'Journey Beyond Sodor'?

Overall, 'Hasty Hannah' was a fabulous episode that truly knew how to live life in the fast lane and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

MLEEP Reviews: A Health Of Information

Season 7, Episode 20: A Health Of Information
Written By Sammie Crowley & Whitney Wetta

Ah, may have been given a bad reputation by everypony when you first arrived in Ponyville back in Season 1, but you've quickly become one of the fandom's favorite characters and are now someone that the ponies can trust whether they need some advice or need to solve a problem of the supernatural kind.  But it sounds like you may be the one with the supernatural problem after what happened in today's episode, this is 'A Health Of Information'!

While helping Fluttershy gather supplies, Zecora comes down with a terrible disease called Swamp Fever.  Even though a cure has not been discovered, Fluttershy makes it her mission to heal Zecora no matter what it takes.  When this episode was announced, it actually had me rather intrigued since it felt like it was gonna be a role-reversal of Zecora's debut episode and it only seemed natural for the Mane 6 to return the favor to Zecora after she had helped them with their 'poison joke' problem...but then, I saw who the writers for this episode were: Sammie Crowley and Whitney Wetta-the same writers for 'A Flurry Of Emotions', an episode that I found to be just alright...but could they redeem themselves with an episode about Fluttershy and Zecora?  The answer is...yes, yes they did.

When it comes to the story, the moral of 'taking care of yourself before you take care of others' is one that we know all too well from episodes like 'Lesson Zero' and 'Every Little Thing She Does'...but the show staff always find a way to make it feel fresh and new while also making the situation darker and darker as the series progresses and I would definitely say that Sammie and Whitney reached an all new peak with what they did with this for what is pretty much Fluttershy's take on 'Lesson Zero'.  The more that you think about what happened in this episode, the darker the implications become...I mean, the idea that there are flowers carrying swamp fever which can turn ponies into trees and no cure was ever found really helps to explain why the Everfree Forest is such a dark and magical place to begin with-I know they don't explicitly say it outright, but if that's what they were going for...then all I can say is 'this ain't a show for little girls anymore, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Body Snatching'!

As for the animation, the team at DHX gave us quite a healthy dose of visual eye-candy once again as we not only got to see old locations return with newly added expansions like the Everfree Forest where the prologue of the episode takes place as well as in Twilight's Castle before we head off to our new location for the episode-Hayseed Swamp, which I'm gonna say right off the bat looks incredible for being inspired by rustic Southern towns while not going full-on Cajun level with the design or even with the characters at all.  But where the animation truly shines is when we're being told the legend of Mage Meadowbrook-another "Legends Of Magic" character who was able to cure her entire town and even her mother of swamp fever in the same way that Fluttershy had to find a way to cure Zecora before it was too late and I've actually realized something: we've pretty much gone through every single character from the 'Legends Of Magic' comic series except one; that being Star Swirl The Bearded...and through an article on the season finale seen on Equestria Daily, we can now confirm that Star Swirl will be making his official debut in the show during that episode-who they're gonna get to voice Star Swirl however, we'll just have to wait and find out...please be Patrick Stewart!

And when it comes to the characters...with this being Fluttershy's take on 'Lesson Zero', she is now taking on the role of Twilight whereas Twilight is now in the role of Spike being the voice of reason for Fluttershy seeing as Fluttershy felt so heavily responsible for why Zecora came down with 'swamp fever' that she was willing to do whatever it took to find the unknown cure for this disease even if it means sacrificing her health for the sake of a friend-it really shows how determined Fluttershy can be when she puts her mind to it and is certainly a better portrayal of her than what we got at the beginning of the season with 'Fluttershy Leans In'.  Bravo to Andrea Libman, Tara Strong and even Brenda Crichlow as Zecora for some simply sweet performances!

Overall, "A Health Of Information" is a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Monday, September 25, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: P.A. Problems

Five hundred's crazy to believe that a kids' show about talking trains who live on an island off the coast of England has made it to five hundred episodes, so what do the show staff of 'Thomas & Friends' have planned to celebrate this special occasion? Let's find out with our first episode of Season 21's second week simply called 'P.A. Problems'!

Sir Topham Hatt splashes out on a new public address system, but the engines and passengers are struggling to hear the announcements resulting in holidaymakers ending up at the quarry, quarry workers ending up at the beach and Lord Callan ending up with an unexpected delivery of pigs!  When this episode was announced, the concept of addressing the public address system definitely sounded like a very intriguing idea among us fans to celebrate the show's five hundredth episode...but was it intriguing enough to celebrate a special occasion?  The answer is...yes, yes it was!

When it comes to the story, the moral of 'just because it's old doesn't mean it's useless' is one that we've seen countless times in the series before this episode ranging from an old calliope to Trevor The Traction Engine himself...but the show staff always find a way to make it feel fresh and new and Lee Pressman did it again with this episode as we not only got an in-depth look into what the function of the public address system at a railway station is as well as great comedy from characters like Sir Topham Hatt and Reg The Scrapyard Crane-nice to see him again after so long, but the moral made for a very clever metaphor for Edward as one of the main characters...I'll address this later on when I actually talk about the characters.

As for the animation...among the many different locations making their return like Knapford Station and Harwick Beach, you know that you will get to see Edward's branch line once again when you have him as one of the main stars of the episode and the team at Jam Filled have made it look even better than it's ever been as we got see locations along his line like the scrapyard where a good chunk of the comedy from Reg The Scrapyard Crane takes place...speaking of Reg, the way that the team animated him dancing around to the music being played over the P.A. system while in such a good mood got a few laughs out of me

And when it comes to the characters, like I said earlier...the moral of 'just because it's old doesn't mean it's useless' with Sir Topham Hatt and the public address system at Knapford as well as what happens down at the scrapyard with Reg The Scrapyard Crane made for a very clever metaphor for Edward seeing as he is an old engine and yet still manages to find a way to make sure everyone knows that he's still a Really Useful Engine-you can actually see this if you truly understand his character like I do, bravo to Keith Wickham for a delightful dual performance as the controller of the railway and our 'True Blue' Number Two engine!

Overall, 'P.A. Problems' caused no problems at all in helping celebrate a very special occasion in Thomas' history and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10...happy five hundred episodes, Thomas-here's to five hundred more!

Friday, September 22, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Runaway Engine

Ah, Millie-as the engine in charge of the Earl's Estate Railway, you have quite a lot of jobs to do in order to prove yourself Really Useful, so it's good to know that you have friends like Stephen and Glynn to help you ease your axles...or maybe not after what happened in today's episode, let's cap off the first week of Season 21 with "Runaway Engine"!
Millie is given extra work around the estate and gets very cross when Stephen and Glynn forget to clear up the garden waste to help her. When Stephen also manages to hurt her feelings and can't find her the next day to apologize, he thinks that she must have run away! Out of the five episodes that we were receiving for the first week, this was the one that I wasn't necessarily looking forward to-the concept sounded great (don't get me wrong), but I was fearing that Stephen and Glynn's personalities would end up being flanderized in order to make the plot of this episode work...but could Helen Farrall prove me wrong and make a fantastic episode to finish the first week of Season 21? The answer is...yes, yes she did.
When it comes to the story, it is very heartfelt and down to earth like all of Helen Farrall's episodes before this one as well as being accompanied by two great morals of doing what you're being told as well as being careful about what you say towards others since you might end up offending them-two morals that I can certainly relate and identify with since I've been down that road a few times beforehand especially with what Stephen, Glynn and Millie all had to go through with this episode, but I'll get to that in a second when I talk about the characters.
As for the animation...knowing that you have characters like Stephen and Millie and Glynn as the stars of the episode, you will once again get to see Ulfstead Castle in all of its beautiful glory and it looks just as amazing as ever especially against an early morning sky with locations like the Dinosaur Park as well as getting to see the Blue Mountain Quarry where we got to see the adorable dynamic between Millie and Luke again ever since they last met in Season 17's "The Switch"...although I have a feeling that we'll be seeing more shipping fanfictions between these two among the fandom.
And when it comes to the characters...some fans would say that Stephen felt out of character in this episode due to how egotistical of a hotshot he was and I can sort of see what they mean, but the dynamic between him as well as Millie and Glynn was great to see again since the Christmas episodes last year during Season 20 and it was also great to see some more sides of Stephen rather than him just being the 'old wise engine' especially when it came to the situation they all got into with the case of misunderstanding scenario-couple that with some interaction with the narrow gauge engines and the grumpy passenger from Season 18 as well as no sign of Thomas or any other member of the Steam Team and you've got quite a winning cast! Bravo to Miranda Raison, Bob Golding and Keith Wickham for some marvelously medieval performances!
Overall, 'Runaway Engine' managed to make the first week of Season 21 a runaway success and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

So far, Season 21 has been really wonderful and I can't wait to see what comes next...

Thursday, September 21, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Stuck In Gear

When we last left Harvey The Crane Engine, he had become friends with Daisy The Diesel Railcar after coming to her rescue when some crates fell onto her line...but what would happen if Harvey was the one that needed to be rescued? Let's find out with today's episode-this is 'Stuck In Gear'!
When a branch gets stuck in the open gears of his crane, Harvey is too shy to ask for help and he tries to fix it himself only to end up derailing himself inside a tunnel. Out of the five episodes that we were receiving for the first week, this was the one that I was the most excited for since Harvey is my favorite engine on the show and the one that I can identify and relate with the most-as you can imagine, seeing my favorite engine get another episode to himself after four seasons was enough to get me hyped, but was it a good one? The answer is...
When it comes to the story, some fans would complain that it may be too simple...but to me, sometimes simple can be a good thing in the way that being different is what makes Harvey special and I think that Davey Moore managed to write a very simple and sweet story with a great moral about not being shy to ask for help even when you're anxious and don't want to make a fuss-one that I can certainly identify and relate with especially with what Harvey had to go through in this episode. But I'll get to that in a second when I talk about the characters...
As for the animation, Jam Filled seems to have carried on the torch from Arc Productions in making some some of the most beautiful fall-themed episodes in the CGI era especially when after a big storm hits and it really shows with elements like the leaves fluttering in the breeze as the engines rush around Sodor to the detail on the damaged trees that end up wedged in Harvey's crane of which resulted in an extremely well animated and hilarious accident sequence. On top of that, it was great to see old locations return once again like Brendam Docks I spy a bit of foreshadowing to two of next week's episodes between Cranky and Big Mickey?
And when it comes to the characters, I didn't think Harvey could get any more relatable in my eyes ever since 'Gone Fishing' back in Season 17...but in comes this episode and he manages to strike a cord with me even more since his struggle of anxiety and being too shy to ask for help due to feeling embarrassed over others making a fuss resulting in making things worse is one that I can certainly relate and identify with since I sometimes have the same problem-a really great look into Harvey's sensitive side of his character if you ask me. Granted it did look a bit ridiculous with him swinging his crane at that fast of a speed, but was used to further his character development as well as the moral. Bravo to Keith Wickham for a classic performance as our favorite crane engine!
Overall, "Stuck In Gear" manages to keep Season 21 running smoothly and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Dowager Hatt's Busy Day

Ah, Dowager Hatt-you may like to have fun and live life on the edge, but you can also be quite stern when you want to be especially when there is confusion and delay on the North Western Railway...and with your son Sir Topham taking ill, your time to take control of the railway has come with today's episode-this is 'Dowager Hatt's Busy Day'!
While Sir Topham Hatt is sick, his mother Dowager Hatt runs the railway and creates chaos by getting everyone to do the wrong jobs! While a majority of the fandom was really hyped up for this episode as was I, I was also feeling hesitant at the same time as it could've had the chance to be a carbon copy of Season 10's "The Green Controller" done all over again...and we all know how well that episode turned out! But I did my best to go into this episode with an open mind as well as see why everyone else in the fandom was excited for it I see why you all were so hyped up, this episode was amazing!
When it comes to the story, it can best be described as 'The Green Controller' done right as it was structured much better as well as being very well-paced and engaging. Speaking of which, I don't think I've ever laughed this hard at a Thomas The Tank Engine episode in a long time as there were numerous upon numerous jabs made towards the Sharon Miller and Sam Barlow with things like the 'special specials' of collecting a new hat or an inflatable balloon and even just seeing which engines get slammed the worst when doing the wrong jobs like Percy pulling the express up Gordon's Hill or Philip working in Ulfstead Mine-in fact, a lot of fans have said that this felt like one big slam to the dreaded fifteenth season of the show and I can honestly say that I agree one hundred percent.
As for the animation, I can tell that the team at Jam Filled were having just as big of a field day with the animation as Lee Pressman was with the script for the episode and it really shows with this episode from the title scene of a firebox being stoked up to getting to see so many old and new locations returning like Knapford Station and Ulfstead Mine and especially how they animated the numerous jabs at the Miller/Barlow era like the giant balloon on the flatbed...although I must ask: during the traffic jam scene at Knapford, where the hell did Henry's front wheels go?!?
And when it comes to the characters, Dowager Hatt has been a joy to have around in the series ever since the CGI era first started and this episode is no different from when she first appears with that badass rock guitar theme to when she is working with Emily to get the North Western Railway back and running again-speaking of Emily, I absolutely adore the 'voice of reason' persona that Lee Pressman gave her in this episode and I love how she is the one who delivers the moral to Dowager Hatt of how there are some engines who are good at jobs that they're good at. Bravo not only to Keith Wickham for a delightful dual performance as the Topham Family, but Teresa Gallagher as well for always being an 'excellent Emily'...see what I did there?
Overall, "Dowager Hatt's Busy Day" is a gut-busting episode full of laughs that I'm sure to come back to time and time again and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: A Most Singular Engine

Daisy The Diesel Railcar and Harvey The Crane Engine-two very different and unique characters that actually have a lot more in common than they may thin...but what would happen if these two met each other and became friends? Let's find out with 'A Most Singular Engine'!
Diesel makes mischief between Daisy and Harvey by telling them both that the other is boasting of being unique. However, the two become friends while assisting each other on a job and Diesel does not understand why. Out of the five episodes that we were receiving for the first week, this was one of the two that I was most excited to see-I mean, my engine counterpart and my introduction to the series together in the same episode...this could only result in awesomeness and sure enough, it was!
When it comes to the story, this is honestly and exactly how I would've written a fan fiction of my OC meeting Daisy for the first time since it was very well paced and engaging throughout much like with 'Springtime For Diesel' and has a brilliant moral of how what makes someone special is not how they look but rather what they do-in fact, some fans have even said that this episode feels like a followup to 'Springtime For Diesel' and I actually see what they mean since it continues on with Diesel learning important lessons about friendship after his rocky start with Daisy. On top of that, the humor that was presented got quite a few laughs out of me...although I would've swapped 'Eye Of The Tiger' for 'The Good, The Bad And The Ugly' when Daisy and Harvey have their epic stare-down, but that's just me.
As for the animation, it was great to see more of the Arlesburgh-Harwick branch line once again as we got to see stops like Arlesburgh West where the miniature engines work (really hoping that we see them again in this season) as well as the ramp in Arlesburgh Harbor for Skiff The Railboat's tours where a very jealous Diesel has his accident a la 'Percy Takes The Plunge'-style from back in Season 2 of which was a very nice nod back to the good ol' days of the show. On top of that, I love the 'epic movie trailer' style editing of the stare-down sequence between Daisy and Harvey...even if the music didn't necessarily match the situation.
And when it comes to the characters, it's good to see that Diesel is continuing on with learning important friendship lessons like I said earlier and his frustration with Daisy's personality is easy to understand especially since Davey Moore did a good job in showing how overbearing she could be as well as showing how well Diesel's deviousness could be used to further his development. On top of that, including Harvey The Crane Engine right from the start was a genius idea-his mellow and laid back personality was really nice and him saving Diesel showed how big of a heart that he has which led to the overall message really well. Bravo to Kerry Shale, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Keith Wickham for some marvelous performances!
Overall, 'A Most Singular Engine' is a most spectacular episode to keep Season 21 on the right track and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Monday, September 18, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Springtime For Diesel

Man, what an awesome ride Season 20 was for us Thomas fans...we got to meet more new engines, side characters got more development and the show staff turned out some pretty fantastic episodes for the most part especially with how they adapted three Railway Series stories after over twenty years. But now, fans are wondering...what does Season 21 have in store?' With Jam Filled now animating the series and Mattel now having complete control over the franchise, can our engine friends from Sodor still make a fantastic season? Let's jump right into Season 21 with our premiere episode...'Springtime For Diesel'!
Diesel is always bumping into other engines and laughing, but he may have gone too far when he does it to Daisy and her springs need fixing. When this episode was announced, many of us fans weren't sure what to expect...the concept sounded great, but the reference to the hit musical 'The Producers' may it sound really odd...but could an odd concept make for a fantastic episode? The answer is...yes, yes it did!
When it comes to the story, it's very well paced and engaging throughout and what really sold this episode for me were the fact that the diesels got all of the attention which was a very nice change of pace from seeing episodes about the steam engines all the time and the theme of how 'being rude and cruel won't help your case of making friends'...especially considering how a majority of the fandom has been acting this year alone, but I'm sure we all know that they won't heed what the moral was since they can't take other friendship lessons in the series seriously. There is some questioning as to why the workmen couldn't figure out how to fix Daisy's springs, but I attribute that to the fact that we've never seen her at the Dieselworks until now.
As for the animation, I love how a majority of the fandom was fearing the worst now that the engines and other vehicles could gesture their bodies like the characters from the Cars franchise as of 'Journey Beyond Sodor' when they all seriously needed to remember that Season 21 was meant to come out before the movie and that we wouldn't see that concept again until the next season...and now that we can actually see that there is no bouncing to be seen, the fandom can just shut up and enjoy the episode since the team at Jam Filled did an absolutely outstanding job for their first entry in the season as we got to see old locations like the Vicarstown Dieselworks again as well as new locations like the Arlesburgh-Harwick branch line again in all of its beauty. On top of that, the sequences of Daisy's springs being damaged and Diesel apologizing to Daisy were animated extremely well done to all of the animators at Jam Filled and I'm looking forward to what you can do with Thomas from here on out!

And when it comes to the characters, Diesel has been a fascinating character in recent years. Once a devious antagonist, he's now become more complex to the point where his deviousness feels more like an old habit that he can't shake off. In fact, is Diesel starting to remind anyone of Discord from 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic'? If this is the route that Diesel continues to go down, I feel that would suit him much more than being a generic antagonist. As for Daisy, she's easily one of the most fleshed out characters in recent years and easily the best returning character out of everyone that the current team has brought back-what really sells her character for me in this episode is that even when her springs have sprung and you would think she would just stay there and make Ryan do all of the work, she makes a brave effort and her determination still manages to help her get her passengers home. Bravo to Kerry Shale and Tracy-Ann Oberman for some deviously delightful performances!

Overall, 'Springtime For Diesel' is an awesome way to spring us into a brand new season of 'Thomas & Friends' and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: It Isn't The Mane Thing About You

Season 7, Episode 19: It Isn't The Mane Thing About You
Written By Josh Haber

Ah, Rarity…you may care about your looks very often, but it’s always redeeming to see you sacrifice those looks to help somepony in need and it sounds like you may be that somepony in need after a case of a bad hair day with today’s episode-this is ‘It Isn’t The Mane Thing About You’!

When Rarity's shampoo is accidentally switched with Zecora's magical remover potion, she does everything she can to fix her devastated mane in time for an upcoming photo shoot.  When this episode was announced, I was extremely excited for it since we were getting both more of Zecora after she didn’t get a speaking role at all in Season 6 as well as more of Rarity being the comedic drama queen that she’s always been…but at the same time, I was fearing that it was gonna end up like Season 2’s ‘The Cutie Pox’ in which Rarity’s arrogance would cause the main conflict of the episode.  But did two bonuses make for a truly fabulous episode?  The answer is…yes, yes it did!

When it comes to the story, what really surprised me was that former writer Josh Haber who had left My Little Pony in Season 6 to work on two seasons of Skylanders came back to write for the series and it’s great to see that he hasn’t lost his touch of understanding the characters of Equestria inside and out with whatever crazy situations they get into especially with Rarity as she gets to really ham it up with her case of a bad hair day scenario which resulted in some very entertaining scenes…and if you thought Rarity shredding on guitar in ‘Honest Apple’ was hilarious, good for you because she goes full-on punk rocker in the third act.  But when the episode is not making us laugh with Rarity’s usual antics, I absolutely adore the moral that Josh Haber provided of how true beauty is found within…’Beauty And The Beast’, anypony?

As for the animation, you know you’re gonna get a wave of beautiful creativity with Rarity as the star of the episode and the team at DHX really knew how to show both the beauty and the comedy of their animation with getting to see many old and new locations return like Sugarcube Corner and Zecora’s Hut as well as everything having to do with Rarity before and after her case of a bad hair day from the many new facial expressions that I’m sure will spawn many new memes among the fandom and let’s not forget the design of Punk Rarity which I’m sure will get lots of fanfictions and plushies and even quite a few cosplays…personally, I would love to see this look again if she were to take part in a rock concert!

And when it comes to the characters, I originally thought I was gonna hate this episode if Rarity’s arrogance was the cause of her messed up mane which would result in it becoming a carbon copy of ‘The Cutie Pox…but my fears were thankfully set aside as Rarity was able to believe in her inner qualities despite what everypony thought of her outer qualities and was willing to sacrifice her possibly disastrous photo shoot with Photo Finish to help the ponies of Ponyville regardless of her messed up mane-that alone is one of the reasons why I love Rarity so much as a character because we’re all drama queens at some point and we can’t help but think of her whenever we sometimes act that way, so bravo to Tabitha St. Germain for a fabulous performance as our favorite fashionista!

Overall, ‘It Isn’t The Mane Thing About You’ is one of the main standout episodes in Season 7 that I’m sure to come back to many times in the future and I give this episode a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Despicable Me 3

Despicable Me 3 (2017) Teaser Poster.jpg
Written By Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio
Composed By Heitor Pereira & Pharrell Williams
Produced By Chris Meledandri & Janet Healy
Edited By Claire Dodgson
Directed By Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda

Despicable Me 3…ever since the film series first began back in 2010, ‘Despicable Me’ has established itself in becoming one of the biggest animated franchises of the decade with Disney being their biggest competitor.  Whether you love or hate the franchise, Gru and his minions have managed to build an empire of a billion dollars with their movies-most notably the 2013 sequel and Minions prequel in 2015…and it’s still impossible to this day to look around and not to see a Minion somewhere.  But now that Gru and his minions are back for a third time and currently with the highest grossing animated franchise of all time, will a return to villainy make us love them all over again or is the franchise starting to become as outdated as Balthazar Bratt?  Let’s find out, this is ‘Despicable Me 3’!

After Gru is fired from the Anti-Villain League, he decides to retire and travel to Freedonia to meet his long-lost brother Dru for the first time despite the Minions hoping he would return to a life of crime…but trouble soon strikes when a former 1980’s child star Balthazar Bratt seeks revenge on Hollywood for cancelling his show and it’s up to Gru and Dru to save the day.  Now, story hasn’t always been the franchise’s strongest quality and it really shows with this third installment.  I understand that they want to have different stories throughout the movie and I will admit that it does give time for the other characters to shine so that Gru doesn’t get all of the attention, but it doesn’t really save how predictable the different stories can be and how we know the outcome of each one whether Gru building his relationship with Dru while hoping to accomplish his mission of defeating Balthazar Bratt or Lucy trying to be a mother to the girls all while offering side plots that really don’t connect with the main story and that’s a shame because there really were some great concepts for character development like the Minions wanting to go back to villainy or Agnes wanting to see a real unicorn.  For some odd reason, it knows that these flaws are apparent since they know people don’t come to see these movies for the flow of the journey but rather for the heart and the humor which make the core of the movies and that’s where the story is at its best especially when they dive into the main plot of Gru and Dru which really helps to deliver many emotional and heartwarming moments while the humor continues to find a way to bring a bunch of laughs especially with the sideplot of the Minions.

Moving on to the animation, the team at Illumination actually did get more creative here unlike in the previous installments.  While it does carry some of the characteristics of the previous films, it does offer many new ideas and knows how to have fun with it with any flaws being things that we’ve already noted with the franchise before like the abstract and cartoony designs in contrast to the character animation where it’s smooth and grounded while the acting makes them feel more alive and it really comes into play with characters like Dru or Balthazar Bratt or even the Minions and whatever crazy situations they get into.  What has been improved from the previous films is the production design and new environments that the characters get into since they hadn’t really offered unique looking areas in the franchise other than the lairs of Gru and El Macho, but I’m happy that they managed to fix that for this movie when the characters enter Freedonia since it offers a wealth of beautiful new environments to explore like Dru’s pig mansion and secret lair and the European village.  However, the greatest new addition in the animation easily has to be Balthazar Bratt since his 1980’s aesthetics offer a whole new level of creativity especially with his arsenal of weapons based around whatever toys and references could be made from that decade and they really help to make the action sequences both intense and enjoyable.

And now, we come to the characters and I'm gonna say right now that anyone who goes into this film just to see their favorite characters again will be very satisfied while at the same time offering something new with the introduction of the new characters…even though they may have been affected because of the story which can take away their full potential.  Starting with Gru, who is learning more about his past and his family’s legacy resulting in feeling pressured to return to villainy as a way to continue the legacy and bond with his long lost and more flamboyant brother Dru who wasn’t liked by his father and is determined to make him proud in becoming a supervillain to uphold the family legacy while Lucy now has to start taking on the role of actually being a mother to the three girls of which Agnes gets the most attention driven by her passion of unicorns-they do try to give Margo some attention as well with how a Freedonian boy wants to be engaged to her, but that sideplot doesn’t go anywhere at all…and as for the Minions, they are back to being the comic relief of the film franchise while we’re at the same time exploring more about who they are and what they want when they decide to return to villainy.  As for our villain Balthazar Bratt, I originally thought he was the weakest villain in the franchise since he pretty much looked like El Macho 2.0 but with an 80’s flare.  However, little did I know that he would end up being one of the most enjoyable and entertaining villains in recent years with how he is driven by madness and refuses to move on from his past of his television show being cancelled by Hollywood to the point that he now actually believes that he is the character he played as a child star in the 1980’s with a plan for revenge on Hollywood while he is surrounding himself in everything related to that decade…but did we really have to give him the voice of Cartman from ‘South Park’?!

Overall, ‘Despicable Me’ may not be as good as the second movie or even the Minions prequel in terms of story…but they did their best in every other aspect to remind us of why people love this franchise to begin with and I’m gonna give this film a rating of a 7.5 out of 10.  If you don’t hate the Minions, you’ll have a good time with this one…

Monday, September 4, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Daring Done

Season 7, Episode 18: Daring Done
Written By G.M. Berrow

Season 7 has been quite an adventure so far, hasn't it?  We've discovered long lost family members, legends of magic were foretold, sibling rivalries were resolved and the magic of friendship continues to live on in a season with a very weird broadcasting schedule...but what's an adventure without good ol' Daring Do-she may have started off as a book exclusive character back in Season 2, but it was a big surprise to Rainbow Dash as well as the entire fandom when we found out that Daring Do was actually real two seasons later...but has Daring Do really embarked on her last crusade?  Let's find out with 'Daring Done'!

When Rainbow Dash's favorite author A.K. Yearling announces her retirement, Dash convinces Pinkie Pie to go on a quest to find out if the book on Daring Do really will be closed forever.  When this episode was announced, this was one that I was really excited about since the Daring Do episodes have always been some of my favorite episodes of the series to the point where they have even ended up in my top five favorites of the season that they took place in-as you can imagine, my expectations for this episode were incredibly high...but when I finally saw it, maybe I set my hopes a little too high.

When it comes to the story, it's no surprise that I haven't been a fan of G.M. Berrow's previous entries in the series which resulted in me being unsure as to whether or not she could truly capture the action and thrills of a traditional Daring Do episode...and while this is not the most action-packed or most subtle of the Daring Do episodes, I actually give credit to G.M. Berrow for touching upon a subject that we haven’t really covered yet with Daring Do in the series-that being how heroes can do things that can get them into a lot of trouble while doing what they can to catch the villain and whether or not other people will appreciate the hero for doing what they did….while at the same time, it was accompanied with a moral of how people need to take responsibility for their actions and to never lose hope even when things are at their worst as well as some laughs from good ol’ Pinkie Pie.

As for the animation, you know you’re in for a wave of breathtaking visuals when you have a character like Daring Do as the star of the episode and the team at DHX really brought their A-game in order to really capture the look and tone of an Indiana Jones-esque adventure especially when we enter the town on Somnambula-a Egyptian like town that is named after another Legends Of Magic character and we even get to hear the legend of how she saved a prince from an evil sphinx through the ancient art of hieroglyphics which is not only really creative, but stays accurate to the history of ancient Egypt…still waiting on that Star Swirl The Bearded episode, guys!

And when it comes to the characters…while some would say that this isn’t really the best portrayal of Daring Do considering how low her confidence and self-esteem were in this episode compared to previous entries, it actually does manage to reflect on the concept of the story as well as the message of never giving up hope when things are at their worst like I said earlier especially when you have great friends like Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie by your side to help along the way.  And now, we come to Dr. Caballeron and…if you’ve seen any of the previous Daring Do episodes before this one, you can tell right away that he’s gonna end up being the villain for this episode with how obvious that G.M Berrow made him out to be which can result in the ending of this episode being pretty predictable…but for what the cast of the episode gave us in terms of performances ranging from Chiara Zanni as Daring Do to Ashleigh Ball and Andrea Libman as Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie and even Michael Dobson as Dr. Caballeron, everyone still did a delightfully daring job!

Overall, ‘Daring Done’ may not be the best Daring Do episode…but it was still a pretty great adventure in building confidence and I give it a rating of an 8.5 out of 10.