Wednesday, October 11, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - The Movie

MLEEP Reviews: The Big Freeze

At any time of the year, there can be hazards on the tracks and the engines always have to be careful and alert with things like leaves on the line in the fall and buckled tracks in the summer...but snow and ice can really bring the railway to a standstill if the engines aren't careful-a mistake that Thomas made in the final festive episode of the season, this is 'The Big Freeze'!

When a big freeze hits the Island Of Sodor, it causes confusion and delay for all of the engines...and when the steam engines run out of coal, the diesels are left to do their jobs.  When this episode was announced, I was really excited to see it because the title of the episode as well as the concept reminded me as well as a majority of the fandom of the series finale of the sister series to Thomas The Tank Engine known as TUGS under the name of 'Bigg Freeze'...but would this be a loving and warm-hearted tribute to the fans or would we end up being frozen solid?  The answer is...a loving tribute to the fans of Bigg City Port.

When it comes to the story, I love the fact the snow and ice has an actual impact on the engines and the railway as we've had so many episodes in the past that have only had snow in them.  But this episode was finally the one that comprehensibly showed off what can really happen in wintry weather with things like frozen points and icy rails as well as delayed deliveries...and if you thought Big Mickey talking was the big nod to the sister series of TUGS, then you were wrong as this felt like one big tribute to the series finale of TUGS known as 'Bigg Freeze' with Thomas being in the role of Lillie Lightship and Diesel as Zorran-a role he was born to play especially with all of the parodies among the fandom-and the rest of the cast being the Star Tugs and Z Stacks with Sir Topham Hatt as Captain Star.  Speaking of Sir Topham Hatt...much like with 'Confused Coaches', the comedy in this episode mostly relied on him tripping up on the ice and they repeated this three times-there has to be more variety with his humor since this is now starting to become cringy rather than funny!

As for the animation...even if this episode was meant to be one to show how much of a dangerous impact that winter has on everything, the team at Jam Filled got to show how beautiful a time of year it can be especially with the landscape shots during the opening and at the ending with the engines rushing about their work as well as all of the wildlife like deer and rabbits.  On top of that, I love the addition of icicles and frost to Thomas and his coaches when they end up spending the night at Kellsthorpe Station-guess you could say that he now knows how Percy felt being left on that siding and becoming 'Jack Frost' back in Season 6!

And when it comes to the characters, the theme of listening to others and advice made for a good fit with Thomas as well as what happens with Diesel in the episode.  Diesel was a real highlight for me since it's obvious that he's still trying to help and make friends but he's still doing it in his own way and his interactions with Annie and Clarabel were fantastic-they even reminded me of the one-off Christopher Awdry story 'Thomas and the Evil Diesel' in a way and it would be rather interesting if we saw them together again in the future, bravo to Joseph May and Kerry Shale for some fantastic performances!

Overall, 'The Big Freeze' definitely knew how to melt our hearts for a festive time of year and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

MLEEP Reviews: Confused Coaches

Gordon and Spencer-even though you two are cousins who were built by the same designer, you two in actuality are bitter rivals to the core who love to try and outdo one another in terms of speed and strength...but will you two learn to put aside your differences for the sake of your passengers on the new year?  Let's find out with 'Confused Coaches'!

When Gordon and Spencer's competitive behavior gets out of control on the last day of the year, it may end up causing more confusion and delay than ever.  When this episode was announced, I was actually rather intrigued by the concept since it has been quite a while since Gordon and Spencer were given some major screen time together and it felt great to see them get it a bit of the action with the writing being as entertaining as it was...but was it entertaining enough?  The answer is...yes, yes it was

When it comes to the story...even though the main point of the episode doesn't kick in until halfway through and the comedy with Sir Topham Hatt is now starting to become repetitive, the holiday that ties this episode together is one that we haven't seen before.  Whereas every holiday-themed episode in the series has always been either Christmas and maybe Halloween, Helen Farrall actually decided to give us a New Year's Eve episode-that's an idea so obscure that only fans of the show would ever consider trying let alone the corporate company that runs the to see a New Year's Eve episode finally make its way into the series was really nice to see especially with the moral of learning to put aside differences and starting fresh again especially when you think about how long of a rivalry Gordon and Spencer have had with each other.

As for the's always great to see more of Jam Filled's continued work from Arc Productions with winter-themed episodes and they really got to show what they could do during the sequences of Gordon and Spencer racing each other as well as the editing of the shots when Spencer is scheming to get back at Gordon which reminded me a lot of the series '24' and let's not forget the beautifully animated fireworks at the end of the episode to celebrate the new year and close out the episode with a moment where I just wanted to reach out through the screen and hug Philip.

And when it comes to the characters, it's always fun to see the massive egos of Gordon and Spencer go head to head and I can tell that Kerry Shale was having a field day when voicing for Gordon during the climax.  Some have said that Flying Scotsman should've appeared as well to be the voice of reason between the two engines and while I would've loved to see him again since that role would've been perfect for him, it would've been overkill considering that we would've already had an episode like that in this season with 'Emily In The Middle'.

Overall...even though there were some delays in the writing, 'Confused Coaches' goes full steam ahead for the new year and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Monday, October 9, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Shadow Play

Season 7, Episodes 25-26: Shadow Play
Written By Josh Haber

Well, everypony...this is it: the Season 7 finale of 'My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic'!  Not only is this finale being brought to us by veteran writer Josh Haber, but it is also giving us one of the biggest surprises that we could've asked for in the entire series.  What could it possibly be, let's take a look...this is 'Shadow Play'!

When Sunburst discovers the lost journal of Starswirl the Bearded, Twilight becomes obsessed with saving her magical idol and the Pillars Of Old Equestria from a thousand-year-old prison to defeat the Pony of Shadows.  When this episode was announced, the entire fandom including myself was going crazy with was finally happening: Starswirl The Bearded-a character who had been mentioned and brought up by Twilight Sparkle ever since Season 2-was finally going to be making his official debut on the show...and on top of that, we were finally going to be learning more about the mysterious Pony Of Shadows who had been mentioned in Season 4's 'Castle Mane-ia'.  This was easily the most anticipated episode of the season among everypony in the fandom, but was it everything we ever hoped for?  The answer is...yes, yes it was!

When it comes to the story...much like with 'The Perfect Pear' earlier in the season, this finale was another instance where meeting the expectations of the fans could either make or break the episode and the idea of having Starswirl trapped in a thousand-year prison to re-emerge in the modern age and meet Twilight face to face helps us to better understand as to why the show staff made such a push for including so many of these ancient legends from the Legends Of Magic comic arc of heroic ponies that our main cast admired; that reason being that they wanted to bring these heroes into the modern age of Equestria...maybe to set up a major shift in tone for the upcoming eighth season of the series?  We'll have to wait and see what they do with this...but for now, not only did this two-parter give an exciting and action-packed conclusion to the Legends Of Magic series but it also gave a great moral of how powerful of a force the magic of friendship can really be in the darkest of times when turning away from others hurts yourself as well-a lesson that both Starswirl and Twilight ended up learning through Starlight Glimmer herself in a case of where the student was becoming the teacher!

As for the animation...with all of the Legends Of Magic suddenly being thrusted into the modern age of Equestria, you really have to wonder if they all want to go back and visit their homelands with each of the Mane 6 wanting to venture with them because it seems that it was what DHX was going for since we got to see every ancient homeland of these heroes that we've seen in this season from the pyramids of Somnambula back in 'Daring Done' where we even got to see the return of Daring Do who has carried on the message of never giving up hope to the people of the village and Mage Meadowbrook's home of Hayseed Swamp from 'A Health Of Information' where Fluttershy has carried on her ways of collecting flash bee honey to Cattail-we even got to see old locations make their return through the legends like the Dragon Lands where Flash Magnus' shield was discovered by none other than Garble to use as a surfboard on the rivers of!

And when it comes to the characters...with this being the epic conclusion of the Legends Of Magic comic series, you know that you are gonna be seeing every single heroic pony that has been introduced in this season up until now as well as getting to hear their brilliantly performed voices again like Giles Panton as Flash Magnus to Ellen-Ray Hennessy as Mistmane-we even got to finally hear legends who never spoke at all in their episodes like Murry Peeters as Somnambula and Matt Cowlrick as Rockhoof who also happens to be the voice of Dragon Lord Torch from 'Gauntlet Of Fire'.  But let's get to the real reason to why the fans really tuned into this episode: the long-awaited and highly anticipated introduction of Starswirl The Bearded.  While I am disappointed that he wasn't voiced by Patrick Stewart like we were all hoping that he would, the voice that is provided by Chris Britton actually managed to suit him better than I thought it would and I love how he had to learn about the magic of friendship in the same way that Starlight Glimmer did from Twilight in order to save Equestria from the Pony Of Shadows-not only was it great to finally get the history of how the legend came to be, but the voice that Bill Newton provides suit the villainous role pretty well...and did you know that he was also the voice of Pharynx and Bright McIntosh? 

Overall, 'Shadow Play' brought the Legends Of Magic series to a close in the best way possible and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.


And thus, Season 7 of My Little Pony comes to a close...hoo boy, what a ride!  So, what did I think of the season overall?  Well to start, let's be honest...after the awesomely action-packed thrill ride that we went on in Season 6, we need a calm and relaxing season to help us breathe before the next big adventure and I would say that Season 7 was definitely the season to do that as we expanded upon the story arcs that Season 6 had closed off with a heavy leaning towards things like family bonding and how our former villains were going about making friends of their own.  It wasn't until the second half of the season when things really started to pick up with the addition of more action with things like the introduction of the Legends Of Magic comic arc characters and the long awaited history of the Apple Parents-these two being the biggest highlights of the season among many of the Bronies and Pegasisters of the fandom.

That's not to say that Season 7 was a perfect season either as there were episodes that really missed the mark like 'Honest Apple' and 'Secrets And Pies', but a majority of the episodes in this season ranged from being great to hitting the perfect bullseye...and much like how 'To Where And Back Again' set the new standard for the series with the former villains being the ones to save the heroes, everything about 'Shadow Play' with the legends of old now living in the modern age of Equestria set another new standard for the series and I would be fine if they ended right here as it feels like a good conclusion...but no, we get more and I'm fine with that too since I can't wait to see where they go with this new set-up.

This was a great way to close a great season, here's to Season 7 with an overall score of an 8 out of 10...not quite as good as Season 6 or Season 5, but it comes pretty damn close.  With that said, I'm True Blue and I'll see you all for the highly anticipated review of 'My Little Pony: The Movie'...until next time, stay awesome and I'll see you at the movies!

MLEEP Reviews: Uncommon Bond

Season 7, Episode 24: Uncommon Bond
Written By Josh Haber & Kevin Lappin

Sunburst and Starlight Glimmer-ever since you two went your separate ways in foalhood, you have been through quite a lot together from Sunburst excelling in magic at Celestia's School For Gifted Unicorns to Starlight going from communist villain to heroic pupil to Twilight Sparkle herself.  But now that you two have reunited and a good amount of time has passed, is there enough in common for you two to be friends anymore?  Let's find out with 'Uncommon Bond'!

When Starlight gets a visit from Sunburst, she discovers that he has tons in common with her friends and starts to wonder if he still has anything in common with her.  When this episode was announced, I remember the concept of Starlight and Sunburst reuniting being the best element about the Season 6 premiere 'The Crystalling' and I was keen to see what the show staff were planning on doing with it...but then I saw who the writers for this episode were: Josh Haber and Kevin Lappin.  With Josh being known for some pretty fantastic episodes and Kevin making a less-than-stellar impression on me in this season, I was unsure how they were gonna tackle this subject matter with Starlight and Sunburst and sure enough...I was left unimpressed.

When it comes to the story, I don't know if it's just me...but the concept of how people can grow and change with their interests that Josh and Kevin decided to go with in this episode was already done in the beginning of the season with Rarity and Sweetie Belle back in 'Forever Filly'...and whereas the writing of 'Forever Filly' tried to be clever and creative as well as really funny with Rarity, a majority of 'Uncommon Bond' was spent on cracking weak jokes like in the opening at the train station before Sunburst even arrives in Ponyville and repetition of story elements that got old extremely fast such as when Sunburst is meeting all of Starlight's friends like Maud and Trixie while she is getting more and more upset over him bonding more with them than her even going as far as using the same music cue three times as well.

As for the animation...unlike the story which was re-used and lazy, the animation from DHX truly delivered and helped make the story a bit more entertaining to watch as we got to see old locations return like the Ponyville Train Station and Twilight's Castle-even getting to see the Mirror Pool again after we last saw it during Season 3's 'Too Many Pinkie Pies' as well as the childhood home of Starlight and Sunburst after we last saw it during the Season 5 finale.  While we're at it, I love how they expanded upon existing locations by giving us new visual delights like finding out that the cavern which leads to Maud's home is connected to the one where Pinkie Pie first found the mirror pool way back during the early days of the series.  Also, did I spy a bit of foreshadowing in the 'blind bag' barrel as to what's to come for the final episode of the season at the end?

And when it comes to the characters...while it was great to see characters like Maud Pie and Trixie return to the screen once again after not having seen them in a long time, what goes on between Starlight and Sunburst is something completely different since they were really effected because of the story since I was really starting to feel for Starlight with how she felt she had nothing in common with her first friend anymore until she performed the completely unnecessary spell to recreate their childhood memories even to the point of turning them into foals once again.  As my friend Stuart (Speculore) brought up via one of our chats, it would've been so much better if she had flashed a projection of their memories into Sunburst's head to remind him that she is his friend too or even talking about how she felt neglected due to him making her feel left out...but no, they just had to show that Starlight Glimmer is a pony who can't get over anything and is willing to use magic to solve all of her problems if it means getting what she wants!  But for what Kelly Sheridan and Ian Hanlin were given script-wise, they still did a marvelously magical job as always!

Overall...when you combine the writing of a good writer with that of a bad writer, the result will be an episode that was very average and 'Uncommon Bond' fits the bill as I have to give this a rating of a 6.5 out of 10...but here's hoping that the season finale ends this year with a bang.  Until then, see you next time!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Secrets And Pies

Season 7, Episode 23: Secrets And Pies
Written By Josh Hamilton

Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash-we may not get many episodes with the two of you together in the starring role, but it is always a treat when one actually does appear...and speaking of treats, this week's episode involves pies...but what secrets are these two friends really hiding in these pies?  It may not be the Krabby Patty Formula, but let's find out the truth with 'Secrets And Pies'!

When Pinkie Pie thinks she sees Rainbow Dash throw away one of her pies, she suspects the worst - that Rainbow Dash secretly hates her pies, so she attempts to catch Rainbow Dash in her web of lies using pies.  When this episode was announced, I know a lot of fans were really looking forward to the return of the 'Party Of One' version of Pinkie Pie with how she overreacts in some entertaining yet frightening ways...but I was really hoping that this wasn't just a rehash of said episode from way back in the early days of the series.  Hesitant as I was, I went into this episode with an open mind and...out of all the episodes that Josh Hamilton has wrote for this season, this is unfortunately his worst.

When it comes to the story...I never understood why 'Party Of One' is hailed as one of the best episodes of the series among the fandom considering how it spawned one of the goriest fan-fictions of all time and I'm sad to say that my fears of this episode being a rehash of 'Party Of One' in order to make the Bronies and Pegasisters happy sadly came true as there were several times during the episode where I kept saying to myself that we have done this before and it is being told in the exact same order of events as well which resulted in the episode just feeling like an all-out snore fest with how weak and predictable it was.  They do try to supply the traditional laughs from Pinkie Pie via using the mystery angle from 'MMMystery On The Friendship Express', but they didn't try to do anything clever with it at all and the constant joke of Pinkie giving Rainbow Dash pies to get her to try them got old extremely fast.

As for the animation...unlike the story which was dull and lazy, the animation from DHX really made up for it as we not only got to see old locations return like Sugarcube Corner and Wonderbolts Academy but we also got to see the traditional comedic and wacky antics of Pinkie Pie herself especially with that fantasy of a demonically possessed Rainbow Dash destroying Pinkie's pies which I can't wait to see what the fandom will be doing with that and some new mentally insane facial animation which I know will spawn plenty of new meme material among the fandom-even giving us flashbacks to episodes like 'Pinkie Pride' and even getting to see her party cave again after we last saw it in Season 5's 'Party Pooped'.  But that's not to say that the animation was perfect either because while the demonic Rainbow Dash sequence was cool to watch, it didn't try to do anything clever like 'MMMystery On The Friendship Express' did with the different film genres and only made Rainbow Dash come off as...well, a heartless demon.

And when it comes to the characters, they were really effected because of the lazy and predictable story because...while Pinkie Pie doesn't go as completely insane as she did back in 'Party Of One' and while she does supply some great laughs, a majority of the episode was spent on highlighting the parts about her that most people in the fandom who could care less for her can't stand about her character...but you can understand as to where she is coming from during all of this since she knows that seeing ponies smile because of her hard work always brings a smile to her face.  While we're at it, Rainbow Dash may have spent a majority of the episode lying about what she does with Pinkie's pies and it can really make her unlikable...but she did it as a way to spare Pinkie's feelings with the fact she doesn't like pie in general and even going as far as eating a pie that she made herself which gives the 'Nasty Patty' from SpongeBob Squarepants a run for its bits-that shows true loyalty to her element on her part, bravo to Ashleigh Ball and Andrea Libman for some perfect performances!

Overall, it barely managed to escape being like 'Honest Apple'... but the only secret that was kept about 'Secrets And Pies' was how bad it turned out to be and I unfortunately have to give it a rating of a 4 out of 10.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Daisy's Perfect Christmas

When we last left Daisy The Diesel Railcar, she had become friends with Harvey The Crane Engine after he came to her rescue when some crates fell onto her line...but what happens when the most wonderful time of the year isn't so holly and jolly? Let's find out with the third of five festive episodes for Season 21, this is 'Daisy's Perfect Christmas'!

When Daisy's plans for a perfect Christmas don't go as according to plan, she is left feeling very disappointed. When this episode was announced, I was already thrilled with the amount of attention and character development that Daisy had gotten so far in this season of the series from teaching Diesel the real way to make friends to becoming friends with my engine counterpart Harvey...and with her getting another Christmas-themed episode after being at odds with Annie and Clarabel last time, did she get a perfect episode for Christmas? The answer is...yes, yes she did!

When it comes to the story...whenever the series tackles the concept of "old vs new", they so often teach that old is still useful at the expense of destroying the new which can really ruin the episode depending on what they did with it.  So to have an episode where we actually have traditions being broken treated as a good thing in order to make new traditions was a nice breath of fresh air while also supplying some great comedy and strong character interactions.  In fact, this may be the Brony in me...but did this episode remind anyone of the My Little Pony episode 'Hearthbreakers' with Daisy being in the role of Applejack and her family while Ryan and all of her friends along the branch line in the roles of Pinkie Pie and her family?

As for the animation...even though we only got a glimpse at the Arlesburgh-Harwick branch line in wintertime during the opening sequence of 'The Railcar And The Coaches' from Season 20, it was so great to finally see the branch line during such a festive time of year as we got to see so many old and new locations make their return like the Search And Rescue Center and Harwick Station as well as even getting to see them decked out for Christmas like Vicarstown Station and Arlesburgh West where we finally got some interactions with the miniature engines...but I'm really hoping that we get more episodes with them at some point this season and are not just forgotten about entirely. On top of that, I love the way that Jam Filled animated Daisy's fantasy sequence when she is explaining her traditions to the other diesels...and I swear that the show staff were trying to poke fun at fidget spinners with Harold The Helicopter towards the end of her fantasy.

And when it comes to the characters, I love that they gave Daisy the starring role for this episode not only for her portrayal but because she's one of the few characters it would have worked with. She's been known to like things "just so" and to watch her have to struggle with the changes to her favorite traditions felt like an allegory for a majority of the fandom who complain over every single change we have gotten in the show up until the point; most notably Edward's switchover from Tidmouth Sheds to back on his branch line at Wellsworth in 'A Shed For Edward' as well as the upcoming special and season of the show which I will get to at a later time.  Bravo to Tracy-Ann Oberman for a delightful performance as our favorite diesel railcar!

Overall, 'Daisy's Perfect Christmas' is an episode that is just right for our classy and sassy diesel railcar and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

MLEEP Reviews: Once Upon A Zeppelin

Season 7, Episode 22: Once Upon A Zeppelin
Written By Charles Demers

Ah, Twilight Sparkle-my favorite pony in all of Equestria who has really grown up throughout the years from an anti-social bookworm as the pupil to Princess Celestia to becoming the Princess Of Friendship who is now tasked with saving Equestria on a daily basis...but every now and then, you need to take a break from your royal duties and it sounds like you won't be able to do that either after what happened in today's episode-this is 'Once Upon A Zeppelin'!

Twilight is torn when she discovers the cruise she and her family are on is a themed vacation experience in which ponies have paid for the privilege of spending time with her and she must please both her family and the cruise attendees.  When this episode was announced, I was not only really excited to see an episode about who I consider Best Pony and her family but the concept was one that we have never seen before in the series up until now...but could a fresh and new concept about choosing family over subjects make this episode soar to new heights?  The answer is...if you thought that the last episode hit close to home for you, then this episode personally hits the bullseye for me.

When it comes to the story...even if somepony set up this cruise on Twilight's behalf, I love how newcomer to the writing staff Brittany Jo Flores addressed the situation of what one is supposed to say to those who have perhaps only one opportunity in their entire lives to spend time with their idols as well as how one balances family obligations when everyone is going to feel betrayed no matter what choice that person makes extremely well-not to mention the idea of how families spend so much of their efforts in making sure that everyone else has a good time that we start neglecting our own well being in the process and a brilliantly mature moral of how there are lines that need to be drawn which is one that you don't see very often in most media these days.

As for the animation...once we are given our prologue setup for this episode inside of Twilight's Castle, the team at DHX really got a chance to show their magic with their animation work when it came to the zeppelin cruise itself from the design of the zeppelin itself from the exterior to the design of the rooms on the interior or the wheelhouse where a fan favorite antagonist makes his return (we'll talk about that later) and especially the aerial views of around locations that have had something of importance to Twilight Sparkle and her family like at Canterlot where she was coronated as the Princess Of Friendship or the Crystal Empire where Shining Armor and Princess Cadence gave birth to their daughter Flurry Heart

And when it comes to the characters...with the reintroduction of Twilight's parents who we've known since the very beginning of the series, it is so great to see them finally having established personality traits and feel more like real characters rather than background cameos which made for some really strong interactions between Twilight as well as the Royal Family of Shining Armor, Princess Cadence and Flurry Heart and made them all feel like a really family-really hoping that we get more of this in the future.  Speaking of Twilight herself, it is easy to understand why she would feel uncomfortable given these awkward moments as well as sympathize with her when she gets so frustrated to the point of losing her temper with our newbie Star Tracker-a shy and socially awkward fanboy who had been dreaming of this moment for years, and I'm just gonna say right now that I felt like I was watching myself with how this character reminded of when I finally got to meet Twilight's voice actress Tara Strong at last year's BronyCon since I remember trying so hard not to geek out in front of her while also trying to be as professional as I could since a moment that I thought was never gonna happen was finally coming true and I didn't want to blow it and end up making her uncomfortable.  Tara Strong, if you're reading this...thank you so much for all that you do with the role of Twilight Sparkle since she's made such a huge impact on my life ever since I first joined this fandom and getting to finally meet you in person on that day during BronyCon was a dream come true.

But the biggest surprise in terms of the characters was without a doubt the completely unexpected return of the one and only Iron Will who we haven't seen since Season 2's 'Putting Your Hoof Down' and the role that he was given in this episode suits him perfectly seeing as he's more competent than most of the villains on the show with being a business man and how he offers a free vacation to Twilight's parents rather than to Twilight and having her read the contract too thoroughly to be pulled in by it since he knew that Twilight wouldn't want to disappoint anypony when put in the middle of these circumstances-even to the point of having a backup plan and a 'no refunds' policy when things fall apart. 

Overall, 'Once Upon A Zeppelin' is such a heartwarming episode about spending times with those who we love especially when you have Twilight Sparkle herself as the center of attention and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Friday, October 6, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Emily In The Middle

Ah, Emily-the eighth member of the Steam Team who acts as a sisterly figure to the other engines with her kind and compassionate personality even if her patience can be tested at times...but let's see how she manages with the constant bickering from the Scottish duo of Donald and Douglas in the second of five festive episodes for Season 21, this is 'Emily In The Middle'!

Emily is called on to help Donald and Douglas with a huge shipment of steel bound for Vicarstown, but the constant arguing of the twins may end up causing confusion and delay.  When this episode was announced, I was actually really excited to see it because we were not only getting more of Donald and Douglas but the fact that their last wintry adventure ended up becoming one of my favorite episodes from Season 20...and by adding Emily into the mix, how did the Scottish Twins fare up this time?  In all honesty, this is easily one of the strongest stories stories so far!

When it comes to the story, I think there's some sort of hidden rule where Donald and Douglas can only have one episode a season as to not feel forced like Duck and Oliver were when they came back to the series and that they have to star in a wintry episode since these two definitely have a lot of potential going for them and...while it's not as good as 'Love Me Tender' from Season 20, it is definitely on par with it since Davey Moore took a slightly different angle with the bickering of the twins by involving the whole island and how it could affect other engines.  In fact, this may be the Brony in me talking...but did this episode remind anyone of the 'My Little Pony' episode 'Look Before You Sleep' with Donald and Douglas in the roles of Applejack and Rarity while Emily is Twilight Sparkle?

As for the animation...much like with 'Terence Breaks The Ice', the team at Jam Filled have done a splendid job with another wintry episode and there are so many visuals delights to take in with this episode from the point-of-view opening of the snowball at the very beginning to the very clever way of how the Scots could hear what the other was saying with Emily through the loads of steel pipes.  But let's not forget what the highlight of the episode was in terms of animation: the crash on Gordon's Hill-not only was it really well executed, but the way that it was animated really helped to make it feel so much more intense than what you may think.

And when it comes to the characters, Emily would have definitely been one of the only main characters that could've handled the bickering of the Scots at their worst seeing as her patience was really put to the test and she had no other choice but to yell at them in order to put them in their place...and when arguments get this bad and disruptive, what Emily had to go through comes off as rather relatable.  But all I can hope for is that we get more varied episodes with Donald and Douglas from now on instead of using the same idea over and over again to the point where they become hated by the fandom...bravo to Jules De Jongh, Rob Rackstraw and Joe Mills for some sensational performances!

Overall, 'Emily In The Middle' may not be as good as Love Me Tender in terms of Donald and Douglas episodes...but it's definitely one of Emily's best episodes and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Terence Breaks The Ice

Ah, Terence The Tractor...ever since you rescued Thomas from a snowdrift, you two have been the best of friends along the Ffarquhar Branch Line and he doesn't think your caterpillar tracks are ugly anymore.  But the real ugly thing about all of this is that you were never seen on screen again after Season 7 and the fans were crying out for you to come back to the television series for years...and after almost fifteen years, you're finally back and plowing the fields of Sodor once again.  Let's welcome Terence back to the series with our first festive episode of Season 21, this is 'Terence Breaks The Ice'!

While collecting trees for the Christmas Market, Terence takes a shortcut across a frozen pond to fetch a tree for Ulfstead Castle only to almost end up taking a swim. When news of Terence returning to the series first surfaced long before Season 21 premiered, the entire fandom including myself was going crazy with excitement since the original cast that started it all back in both the Railway Series and television series was finally gonna be complete after so long...but did our excitement and hype all pay off in the best way possible? The answer is...yes, yes it did!

When it comes to the story...the moral of how it's better to be safe than sorry may be one that we've seen quite a number of times in the series before this episode ever came out and while it did feel hammered in at points, but the theme was fantastic as well as the flashback to the story of 'Thomas, Terence And The Snow'...even if it went on for a little too long and made the pacing feel wonky-was there not enough new material to work within nine minutes?

As for the animation...much like the fall episodes from earlier in the season, Jam Filled has also seemed to carry on the torch from Arc Productions in terms of the winter episodes beautifully with things like the pine trees and icy pond on the snowy landscapes where we even got a reference to the classic Disney film 'Bambi' as well as a very well executed and intense rescue sequence with a reference to the film 'Titanic'...speaking of the rescue, that brings us to how Jam Filled rendered Terence The Tractor for his return and he looks incredible with how he is accurate to his model counterpart with extra details added on like rivets and even eyebrows instead of his widow's peak on his face-and even though the flashback to Terence's debut story went on for too long, I adore how it stays accurate to the original Railway Series illustrations!

And when it comes to the characters,Terence was never the most dynamic character in the early Railway Series books and the TV series in general.  It was only in the Railway Series book 'Toby, Trucks And Trouble' where he actually gained a more cocky personality... and this episode has adopted that beautifully as well as presenting a strong dynamic between him and Thomas.  Thomas trying to pass on the lesson he'd learned back in the day to help Terence now when the tractor was in trouble was a nice bit of development for him since it felt like he was returning the favor to Terence for rescuing him years ago as well as helping to make the theme even stronger than ever-bravo to Joseph May and Tom Stourton for some terrific performances!

Overall, despite some problems...'Terence Breaks The Ice' cleared a path to welcome back everyone's favorite tractor and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: A Shed For Edward

Ah, Edward...the very first character to be written in the Railway Series and a favorite among the Awdrys and fans everywhere. When it comes to the television series, Edward should earn a lot of respect from the show staff especially the writers...and even though he had quite a few bumps along his journey while at Hit Entertainment, things have only gotten better since thanks to Mattel-let's see if they can keep the streak of good episodes for him coming with today's episode to finish off Season 21 for a while, this is 'A Shed For Edward'!
When Edward's shed is being repaired, he is first sent to Philip's shed and then the Steamworks and then Brendam Docks...but they are all too noisy for him to get a good night's sleep! Three months before Season 21 premiered, there were rumors going around the fandom about Edward and Henry being written off the Steam Team because they weren't marketable enough for Mattel-this being at a time when the fandom was trying to slanderize and take Mattel down at all costs including a prank at the upcoming Wood range of toys. But now that the episode finally aired, did everyone's worst fears come true or did they get all bent out of shape over nothing again? The answer is...they got angry over nothing, this was actually a pretty damn good episode!
When it comes to the story, I love the fact that we're getting so many two-parters this season since it helps the show staff to create bigger stories with more action and thrills rather than trying to cram that as well as character interactions and comedy within the timespan of a nine minute episode...and seeing as this takes place immediately after 'The Fastest Red Engine On Sodor'-even showing us the awesomely epic crash sequence from the episode once again, this episode addresses the matter of where Edward was going to sleep until Tidmouth Sheds was fixed and Lee Pressman managed to succeed in doing that while supplying some great comedy and thrills as well as some strong character interactions with characters like Philip and Edward...I'll explain why I felt it was so strong in just a second.
As for the animation...not only did we get to see the awesomely epic crash from last time like I said earlier, the team at Jam Filled gave us so many new visuals around Edward's branch line like Philip's Shed and even during the sequence of Edward looking all over Sodor for a quieter place to sleep like Ulfstead Castle Mine only to be woken up by blasting rocks to the Steamworks where we see some of the repairs being made on James after his accident and even on a cargo ship of all places only to be woken up by the ship's horn and the ocean waves-not to mention that I love how they animated how exhausted Edward was becoming after not sleeping right for days to the point where he's become disoriented and everything appears to go in slow-motion before drifting off to sleep.
And when it comes to the characters, you really do feel sorry for Edward in this episode since all that he wants is to get is a good night's sleep and yet he isn't able to do that due to things like Salty singing sea shanties in his sleep or workmen repairing James during the night and even Philip being an all-out bigger chatterbox than Pinkie Pie back during the early seasons of My Little Pony...but I've actually realized something: with Edward moving out of Tidmouth Sheds to reside on his branch line and sleep in Philip's shed, then Edward can teach Philip what it means to be a Really Useful Engine in the same way that he did for Thomas back when he first arrived on Sodor...really think about it, we will more than likely get more episodes on Edward's branch line because of this decision to be more like the Railway Series...bravo to Keith Wickham and Rasmus Hardiker for some excellent performances!
Overall, 'A Shed For Edward' made for an excellent episode to ease our axles from the first half of Season 21 and I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

And thus, we enter the mid-season hiatus...all we can do now is play the waiting game...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: The Fastest Red Engine On Sodor

Ah, Rosie-much like the television series itself, you've also had an extremely speckled history: you went from having starring roles in really bad episodes like 'Thomas And The Birthday Mail' and 'Rosie's Funfair Special' to being a side character who only spoke every once in a while to just being a cameo character and it got to the point where the fandom was crying out for years to have you in the spotlight again since the show staff weren't sure what to do with you...but now, your chance to shine has finally come in today's episode as you get to race against James to see who really is 'The Fastest Red Engine On Sodor'! Let's take a look...
When Rosie is painted red, she is challenged to a race by fellow red engine James. When a screeching sound leads Rosie to suggest that James should get his brakes checked, he is too proud to do that which leads to trouble. Long before Season 21 premiered when we received the promotional photo for the season and we found out what the future of Rosie was gonna be for the franchise, the entire fandom including myself was going crazy with excitement since Rosie was finally get the attention that she was needing for years and it sounded like they were even gonna be changing her original personality entirely as well...and now that Rosie is finally back on the rails, did our excitement all pay off in the best way possible? The answer is...yes, yes it did!
When it comes to the story, it may be very basic upon first glance since we have done this before in Season 12's 'Thomas Puts The Brakes On'...but unlike in that episode where the three strikes formula and flanderizing of characters like Thomas made it unbearable to sit through, the story in this episode is done so much better here since it held by the strength of the characters and the theme and moral of how it's better to fix a problem when it is small before it gets bigger and out of control-one that I can certainly relate with and even managed to make this episode feel personal for me, but I shall not go into why for personal reasons.
As for the animation, the team at Jam Filled have done a splendid job with every aspect in this episode from our first real look at the new and improved Rosie (no, 'Journey Beyond Sodor' does not count!) to the racing/chase sequences with James and Rosie...and let's not forget what the highlight of this episode was: the crash at Tidmouth Sheds-it was friggin' excellent and the damage detail on James is easily the most damage I have ever seen him take on the show! Moments like this are exactly what the CGI era was lacking for the longest time, so it is so great to finally see some gritty and action-packed moment on screen once again as well as having this being a foreshadowing to what will happen in tomorrow's episode...but that's another story.
And when it comes to the characters...after so many years of James worrying about the littlest things like a tiny scratch on his paintwork back during 'All In Vain', seeing him being annoyed when someone points out a serious problem was great while also showing that he was incredibly stubborn and unwilling to admit he was wrong until it’s too late-a clever way of pointing out the problems with the older fans in the fandom if you ask me. But let's get to the real reason why people tuned into this episode: the introduction of the new and improved Rosie and...although she wasn't given much room to show her true personality and while we don't get an explanation as to why she is now red, it's to be expected of Mattel since they gave Henrietta a face on a whim and I'd rather have her like this over her obsessive stalker personality back when she first arrived-bravo to Rob Rackstraw and Nicola Stapleton for some splendid performances!
Overall, 'The Fastest Red Engine On Sodor' managed to go full steam ahead and take the lead for this week of Season 21...and for that, I give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Monday, October 2, 2017

MLEEP Reviews: Philip's Number

Ah, Philip...ever since you first arrived on Sodor, you've been the most divisive character in the entire show among the fandom especially with how you started off constantly annoying the engines to race with you and getting away with the trouble you cause. But after Season 20 developed you really well when you became friends with Toby, let's see if the start of Season 21's third week can continue this trend with your character...this is 'Philip's Number'!
When Philip is teased about having the number sixty-eight painted on his side, he tries to discover why he was given that number. I'm gonna be honest here...out of all the episodes that we had coming so far in Season 21, this was the one that I was the least looking forward to seeing since I'm not really a big fan of Philip and it seemed like this was gonna be a giant step backwards in his character development-I mean, the engines making fun of him because of his number...seriously?!? Even though I was hesitant, I went into this episode with an open mind and hoping that it would turn out good and...surprisingly, it was!
When it comes to the story...even though the pacing is a little bit wonky since the exposition about the main cast and their numbers as well as the sequence of Philip looking around for why he has the number he was given make the story take a while to get going, the themes of 'carving your own path' and 'only you can define who you are' are absolutely wonderful since it's a reused thread that writer Lee Pressman took and made it more nuanced to the point where it's something that we've never seen before. On top of that, there was plenty of chuckle-worthy humor scattered throughout the episode to keep it entertaining...which brings me to my next point.
As for the animation, there is only so many times you can say that the animation looks great without sounding like a broken record since that has been one of the biggest selling points for the show since Day 1...but since the story produced such a huge talking point, it only makes sense to talk about the weirdness factor. In most media, editors add so many filters and effects to dream and thought sequences to the point where it becomes so blatantly obvious...but this episode was smart enough to respect its audience to think that it's an insight into Philip's ridiculous and over-the-top thoughts without adding any effects or filters while keeping the rest of the episode grounded and expecting us fans to fill in the gaps-some excellent film making from the team at Jam Filled if you ask me!
And when it comes to the characters, the story and theme really managed to match Philip's childlike wonder really well and it's nice that the show staff are moving him away from who he once was and on to where he fits in among the immersive cast of the series.  Another character that got some fantastic development and who I really have to commend was Gordon since the conflict was set up really well with him belittling Philip at the start and seeing him praise Philip as well as willingly apologizing was wonderful to see considering how this era has focused so much on his arrogant and stubborn side up until now-bravo to Rasmus Hardiker and Keith Wickham for some fabulous performances!
Overall for an episode that I thought was gonna suck, 'Philip's Number' turned out to be a pretty good adventure of self discovery and I give it a rating of an 8 out of 10.