Thursday, September 27, 2018

MLEEP Reviews: The Happytime Murders | #HappytimeMurders

THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
Written By Todd Berger and Dee Austin Robertson
Composed By Christopher Lennertz
Produced By Brian Henson, Jeffrey Hayes, Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone
Edited By Brian Scott Olds
Directed By Brian Henson


Wow...just wow, I’ve just seen the saddest movie of the year. Now, this isn’t a sad movie or has any sad moments by any means...but this is a film that the critic side of me has a tear for something that has all the potential to be something great, but completely blew its opportunity when it had its moment to shine. All I can ask is 'how did things go wrong for 'The Happytime Murders''?!

Now, the reason why it’s sad is because it’s got all the right materials and all the right people to make something good since some strengths are presentable like the puppetry and how they seamlessly (no pun intended) blend in with the real world-this is mostly down to director Brian Henson being the best man to direct a feature set in a world where humans and puppets live together from his work on past projects like 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' and 'Muppet Treasure Island' while knowing the perfect puppeteers who can deliver fun and believable performances with them...what do you expect from the son of the one and only Jim Henson himself?!  I’ll even go as far to say that Phil Phillips was a great character and has the funniest moments with his cynical wit along with Maya Rudolph and Leslie David Baker...even Melissa McCarthy did well in this despite me not being a fan of her previous projects whether film or television. So at this point, where did it go wrong?

If there’s one thing that can destroy a movie with good actors, a good director and one that is visually pleasing...it would have to be a bad script and this one was total crap by using the most bland and unoriginal detective story that has ever been put in a movie right down to the point of incorporating all the clich├ęs that come with it the package-trust me, guessing who the villain of the story is was a lot easier than you might think. It's basically like if you took everything that 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' already did and succeeded with, but did everything wrong!

Now, I’m sure a lot of people are wondering about the comedy...with a story as bland and unoriginal as this, is it at least funny film? For most of the movie, no. I got some laughs out of Phil’s snarky remarks, but a lot of the jokes end up flat...and this is sadly not as raunchy or extreme as you think since all the nastiest parts are in the red band trailer and the rest is just puppets going “F**k you” or reusing the “sugar is puppet cocaine” gag.

I wouldn’t go as far to say that this is the worst movie of the summer, but 'The Happytime Murders' is one of the biggest wastes of a golden opportunity. It may have great puppetry and puppeteers, a great director with some good actors doing their best with the characters they’re playing...but it had such a terrible script that there was nothing that anyone could do to save it.

If you want an actually GOOD version of 'The Happytime Murders', just watch The Muppet Show episode that guest starred Liza Minnelli...or like I said earlier, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' which succeeded in every area this film failed in.  You can sacrifice the R-rating, but you do have good comedy and a good ending twist in exchange.  I didn't expect much from this movie, but I can definitely say that this mystery of lost potential is best remained unsolved...

MLEEP Reviews: Counting On Nia | #BigWorldBigAdventures

Season 22, Episode 26: Counting On Nia
Written By Lee Pressman


Ever since Thomas first met his new friend Nia when he went on his first big world adventure, her adventurous and fun-loving ways helped our little blue tank engine learn about true friendship and her truthfulness and kind heart have won over her many new friends on the Island Of Sodor when Thomas gave her a home at Tidmouth Sheds...who better to close out the twenty-second season of 'Thomas & Friends' than one of the newest members of the Steam Team?  Let's go go go on one last big adventure and bring Season 22 to a close with 'Counting On Nia'!

Nia is a really clever engine and knows about all sorts of things...but when Sir Topham Hatt asks her to take Annie and Clarabel and pick up passengers from Knapford Station, Nia has great trouble finding the right platform.



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Season 22 has certainly been an eventful season...from traveling the world across three different continents to meeting so many incredible animals and new friends along the way, it has certainly been a big adventure not only for Thomas but also for everyone in the fandom and I think we have earned that nice and relaxing season finale back on the Island Of Sodor.  With our new friend Nia finally getting a starring role to herself after being a side character or a cameo appearance throughout the season, would we end Season 22 with a bang or a bump?

PROS:
  • Nia-with how much that the fandom originally called Nia a 'Mary-Sue' for appearing to be too perfect, seeing that Nia can count but not understand what the numbers look like due to coming from Africa where the numbers do look different...I also like how Nia suffers from a language barrier which makes her entirely relatable to immigrants who come to a new country!  With this being Nia's only starring role in the entire season, it was a rather interesting direction to go with her...
  • Annie and Clarabel-the dynamic that Annie and Clarabel had with Nia was so great to see with them acting like a motherly figure to her and helping Nia gain her confidence back by reminding her of how clever she is from the clutter of trucks at Brendam to the 'leaf funnel' during her big world adventure with Thomas...and after Nia reveals that she doesn't know what the numbers on Sodor look like, they are right there to help her by finding things around the railway that look like those numbers-speaking of which, next topic!
  • The fantasy sequences-with this now being one of the major selling points for the series, this sequence was probably one of the most subtle moments coming from the writers especially since it helps kids that don't know how to count learn their numbers as well as Nia does here in this episode...it also doesn't feel like it was there to chew up the running time but was more part of the episode as Annie and Clarabel help Nia find things that look like the numbers on the railways of Sodor

CONS:

  • N/A

Overall, 'Counting On Nia' not only makes for a pretty good ending to Season 22 but also makes for an pretty great final episode to one of the best writers that the series has ever had...and I'm proud to not only give 'Counting On Nia' an 8 out of 10, but also give Season 22 an overall rating of an 8.6 out of 10-not quite as good as the previous two seasons, but it is a step up from Season 19 and I can tell that this revamp of the series is already on the right track.  Let's go go go on a big world adventure, the world's just a train ride away! 




Wednesday, September 26, 2018

MLEEP Reviews: BoJack Horseman - The BoJack Horseman Story, Chapter One | #BoJack

Season 1, Episode 1: The BoJack Horseman Story, Chapter One
Written By Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Throughout my time in the My Little Pony fandom, I have been introduced to quite a number of different shows as well: my BronyCon friends Sarahndipity Cosplay and Shelbeanie Cosplay along with Active Eyebrows Cosplay introduced me to 'Gravity Falls' and 'Star VS. The Forces Of Evil' through their cosplays while Digibrony introduced me to 'Rick And Morty' through the Horsecast Live panel during my very first trip to BronyCon back in 2015...but one show that had been mentioned time and time again by the fandom for a few years was the series 'BoJack Horseman'-a series that I had been meaning to check out for quite a while, but couldn't do so because it had originally started off as a Netflix series. But now that BoJack has made it way to Comedy Central for weekly airings on Wednesday, was all the hype that had been built up by the fandom worth it in the end? Let's find out at long last...this is 'BoJack Horseman'!

THE BOJACK HORSEMAN STORY, CHAPTER ONE: To help with the memoir he hopes will put him back in the spotlight, BoJack hires a ghostwriter.
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PROS:
  • The humor-even if it does have a couple sex/masturbation jokes that are sure to have the cloppers in the MLP fandom as well as the furries going wild, a majority of the jokes managed to get a chuckle out of me whether it was BoJack's horse puns from 'Horsin' Around' or all of the visual gags whether in the background or right in front of your face...if you blink, you may miss them!
  • The animation-with this being my introduction to the animation team at ShadowMachine, I would say that they've done a pretty good job so far...I wanted to say that this series is animated with Abobe Flash-the same animation for 'My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic' and it turns out that I was right!
  • Will Arnett as BoJack Horseman-even if he does feel like a mix between Rick Sanchez from 'Rick And Morty' with his self loathing and alcoholic behavior as well as Will Arnett's Batman from the LEGO franchise with his insecurities and loneliness, I can relate very much to BoJack with how much he tries to be caring and insightful and yet his self-doubt results in devastating those around him
  • Paul F. Tompkins as Mr. Peanutbutter-with Mr. Peanutbutter being BoJack's former sitcom rival with how BoJack claims that his series 'borrowed' from 'Horsin' Around' and with how it turns out that he is dating the ghostwriter for BoJack's memoirs after his previous wives outgrew and tired of his immature behavior, I know that this will make for some entertaining conflict between him and BoJack for future episodes-speaking of which, next topic!
  • Alison Brie as Diane Nguyen-we may not get to know Diane until the last third of the episode, but Diane has already made quite an impression on me with how she wants to make the world a better place and expects others to behave to a higher standard, even though she often falls short of her own ideals...she even manages to help talk BoJack out of the funk that he has been feeling about both his life after his series got cancelled as well as ease his stress about his memoirs!


CONS:
  • The sex/masturbation jokes-not only will they be sure to drive the cloppers and furries wild with the amount of times that it is brought up throughout, but they actually go as far as to animate a scene of BoJack banging another woman while watching re-runs of 'Horsin' Around' after breaking up with his 'girlfriend' Princess Carolyn...I know that this kind of thing is natural in relationships, but I didn't think they would actually go that far!

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Overall for the pilot episode for a critically acclaimed series and while it did push the boundaries (at least for me), 'BoJack Horseman' was definitely worth the hype that everyone built it up to be...'The BoJack Horseman Story, Chapter One' helps get Season 1 off to a pretty good start with an 8.5 out of 10. See you next week when 'BoJack Hates The Troops'!



The BoJack Horseman Story, Chapter One: 8.5/10

MLEEP Reviews: Banjo And The Bushfire | #BigWorldBigAdventures

Season 22, Episode 25: Banjo And The Bushfire
Written By Tim Bain


Thomas has been on some pretty big adventures in Australia so far, hasn't he...from becoming a tour train in the outback to celebrating the holidays with some kangaroos to coming face-to-face with a crazy cyclone, it has been one heck of a ride for our little blue tank engine.  But sadly, our adventures in Australia as well as our international travels for the season must come to an end with a blazing bushfire in the rainforest...let's go go go on a big world adventure and travel to the land down under one last time with 'Banjo And The Bushfire'!

While working in the Kuranda Rainforest, Thomas offers a lift to a ranger named Jill.  He is excited to learn from her about all of the animals that live there, but he is too loud and impatient to be very useful...but when a bushfire endangers the land, it's Thomas to the rescue!



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So, here we are at the final international episode of the season and I think that everyone in the fandom can agree that the episodes set in Australia have been the most consistent in terms of quality compared to both China and India where the quality was all over the place-most of that comes from the fact that there wasn't a cultural consultant for the Australia episodes compared to the other two countries for this season.  But getting back to this episode, I was actually rather intrigued by it since we have had plenty of examples of fires throughout the series but never have we had an example of a bushfire...and with all of the wildfires that have been taking place on the West Coast lately, naturally it made sense to address this issue head-on.  But would it result in a heroic rescue of an episode or did it go up in flames?

PROS:
  • The animation-with how often we have seen the team at Jam Filled reuse a lot of assets from Sodor in order to create the international railways of Australia like they did for the movie, it's so glad to see that the only reused asset was of Dryaw Station where all of the endangered animals regroup after being rescued by Thomas and Ranger Jill...because the team at Jam Filled did an amazing job in capturing the beauty and lush atmosphere of the Kuranda Rainforest from the iconic red-rock monolith as well as the lush forests full of trees and different kinds of plants...not to mention the many different kinds of wildlife seen throughout the episode from koalas to crocodiles!
  • Teaching Australian culture-some or even many fans might be turned off by this due to feeling like that they are back in school learning things that they don't want to (as if they didn't want to learn anything before), I'm all for learning new things about different cultures because the closest that I have ever gotten to Australia was going to Outback Steakhouse for dinner on occasion and I did actually watch some of 'The Koala Brothers' when I was younger (anyone remember that show?) and it was great getting to learn new things as well such as how the rainforest is home to so many endangered species like the Kuranda tree frog and how cutting trees down as well as wildfires can soon make species of animals become extinct if not careful...and with looking after wildlife/nature being one of the global goals for Thomas through their partnership with the United Nations, they couldn't have chosen a better one to showcase to end the international episodes for the season!
  • Ranger Jill-with gender equality being one of the global goals for Thomas through their partnership with the United Nations and with how often we have seen male officers throughout the series, having a female ranger was a nice breath of fresh air to the series and Tariro Mavondo does a great job with her performance even if it's just for one episode...in fact, I'd go as far to say that Ranger Jill is what our other new character for this episode should've been of who I will be getting to very soon!
  • The fantasy sequences-with this now being one of the major selling points for the series, this sequence of Thomas fearing all of the people on Sodor being replaced by crocodiles as well as Sir Topham Hatt himself when an egg is brought into his cab was not only on the same level of humor as Sir Topham Hatt as an elephant from 'Trusty Trunky' but it is also a nice bit of continuity from 'Outback Thomas' with his fantasy of falling off the bridge into the pit of hungry crocodiles...what else can you say except 'crikey'!

CONS:
  • Tamika-as great and unique of a character that Tamika is being based off the South Australian Railways SMC Class, this is sadly the only episode where we really get to know her out of the four Australia episodes which is a real shame because she seemed like a great character with her being an animal lover just like Shankar back in India and how she does everything she can to help protect the endangered species from becoming extinct...but nope, this is her only appearance in the entire season!  Oh well, it was fun while it lasted...

Overall...despite having a new friend with a lack of development, everything else that was good about 'Banjo And The Bushfire' saved it from going up in flames in order to bring the international episodes of Season 22 to a close from the culture of the rainforest to the breathtaking animation...for all these reasons and more, I'm gonna give 'Banjo And The Bushfire' a rating of a 9.5 out of 10.  See you all tomorrow for the season finale!


Monday, September 24, 2018

MLEEP Reviews: The Case Of The Puzzling Parts | #BigWorldBigAdventures

Season 22, Episode 24: The Case Of The Puzzling Parts
Written By Davey Moore

When Percy first discovered the Vicarstown Dieselworks, he met so many new diesels there including the forgetful Sidney who had been hanging around waiting for his new wheels to be delivered for a very long time and his wish to be Really Useful again finally came true when Percy gave him his long-awaited wheels as a Christmas present a few years ago...but that hasn't stopped Sidney from being the most forgetful engine on the whole of the North Western Railway. Wonder what predicament he has gotten himself into this time...let's go go go on a big adventure with Sidney as he solves 'The Case Of The Puzzling Parts'!

Sidney is shunting a flatbed of engine parts, but he can't remember what he's supposed to be doing with them. Paxton thinks this sounds like a mystery-the kind that can only be solved by a Special Agent!



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When the initial announcement of this episode was made long before Season 22 premiered via fans pestering writer Davey Moore about the episodes that he had written...as they so often tend to do, they were going nuts with excitement while I saw a really great episode with plenty of potential to poke fun at the theme of detectives especially when you have a comedic duo like Paxton and Sidney as the stars to drive the conflict on the right track. Who knows...this could have the potential to be right up there with some of my personal favorite detective/mystery themed episodes and television shows in media like 'MMMystery On The Friendship Express' from My Little Pony as well as the world famous Great Dane himself Scooby-Doo! But could we crack the case before Paxton and Sidney figure it out or would this mystery remain unsolved?

PROS:

  • The detective/mystery theme-as you can tell, this episode was a loving tribute to all of the famous mystery themed books and television shows and movies complete with all of the typical mystery tropes that you can think of while giving the characters plenty of time to ham out their characters and giving the audience plenty of time to solve the mystery on their own while not being too obvious with the reveal...kids' show after all. Plus, this episode was more focused on making a humorous mystery rather than giving us a moral and it definitely succeeded in doing so while not sacrificing plot coherence for the sake of making a funny reference!
  • Paxton and Sidney-ever since they made their initial debut back in the special 'Day Of The Diesels' (albeit never saying a word) and as they have gotten more and more appearances throughout the series, Paxton and Sidney have really grown on me as some of my favorite characters in the CGI era of the franchise with Paxton having the conscience and self assertion to do what's right for everyone while Sidney is the helpful but forgetful soul who wants more than anything to be Really Useful...really hoping that we get more comedic episodes with these two in the future, they're such a great combination of characters with plenty of potential!
  • The fantasy sequences-with this now being one of the major selling points for the series, this sequence of Paxton and Sidney as special agents solving a mystery by following a colorful trail to their culprit Diesel was so great to see with how it pokes fun at the old film noir mysteries with a black and white backdrop while our heroes and the clues remain colorful to attract the eyes of the kids watching...not to mention that it was introduced quite humorously with Paxton trying to figure out how to start it up by first trying his lamp before revving his engine and spluttering exhaust from his vents!

CONS:

  • N/A

Overall...by following the clues as well as the wacky antics of some silly diesels, 'The Case Of The Puzzling Parts' has been solved and it resulted in a very fun and creative adventure...for all these reasons and more, I'm proud to give it a rating of a 10 out of 10.



MLEEP Reviews: Cyclone Thomas | #BigWorldBigAdventures

Season 22, Episode 23: Cyclone Thomas
Written By Tim Bain

During Thomas' big world adventures in Australia, he has become a tour guide in the outback with disastrous results and celebrated the holiday season in a very different way with some jumping joeys all while reuniting with old friends while meeting new faces and learning about the culture of the people and engines who work on the Australian Railway...but now is the time for action when a twisted tornado threatens people needing emergency treatments, let's go go go on a big world adventure and see if we can be blown away by 'Cyclone Thomas'!

Thomas wants to be just like Isla-a Flying Doctor's plane who transports Dr. Claire to remote places where it's hard for patients to get to hospitals or doctors for treatment.

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When the initial announcement was made about this episode, many fans including me were excited seeing as this episode was going to give us our first example of a cyclone in the entire Thomas franchise with how often we have seen rain or snow and even sunshine...but at the same time, the story and theme sounded similar to that of the Season 10 episode 'Thomas And The Jet Plane' with our rail vs. air rivalry that we haven't seen for quite a while since Season 20's "Letters To Santa" with Percy and Harold.  But could the cyclone truly blow us away with an amazing episode or did it leave behind a great deal of damage?


PROS:
  • The story-even though it does copy the Season 10 episode 'Thomas And The Jet Plane' as well as its theme of playing to your strengths/being brave, I like how writer Tim Bain who also voices Aiden gave it a new twist with adding more action and conflict with us getting to see Isla in action for the first time and how she takes her job seriously...if you really think about it, this episode also has an 'Edward's Exploit' vibe as well with Thomas doing something that Isla can't which made for a very intense climax when he and his coaches have to travel into the cyclone to evacuate the city-with how cyclones can happen in the northern part of Australia, it was a nice bit of education on how powerful they can be as well as how they function!
  • Teaching Australian culture-some or even many fans might be turned off by this due to feeling like that they are back in school learning things that they don't want to (as if they didn't want to learn anything before), I'm all for learning new things about different cultures because the closest that I have ever gotten to Australia was going to Outback Steakhouse for dinner on occasion and I did actually watch some of 'The Koala Brothers' when I was younger (anyone remember that show?) and it was great getting to learn new things as well such as how some people in Australia are too far away from hospitals to receive treatment thus needing Isla to fly Dr. Claire to them as well as how cyclones function with how the eye of the storm is the only safe spot of the entire storm!
  • The animation-even if they had to reuse a lot of assets from Sodor in order to create the railways of Australia like they did for the movie such as Maithwaite Station in order to create Pine Tree Station as well as Harwick Station towards the end of the episode, you can't deny that the team at Jam Filled still did an amazing job in capturing the beauty and rustic atmosphere of Australia from the iconic red-rock monolith as well as the dunefields full of rolling tumbleweeds (possible returnee from 'Magic Railroad'?) and different kinds of wildlife across the outback like kangaroos and crocodiles which still look absolutely amazing if 'Outback Thomas' was anything to go off of...not to mention that the animation of the cyclone during the climax truly helped make the story feel intense, maybe this is where TrackMaster got the inspiration for the Twisting Tornado set from!
  • Isla-we may not have gotten to know that much about her back in 'Outback Thomas', but it is great to see more and more rolling aircraft characters being introduced into the world of 'Thomas & Friends' especially when giving more of a variety as to where these characters come from as well as getting to see Isla truly prove herself to be really useful with how she is able to transport Dr. Claire to people that are too far away from hospitals...if only she could stop teasing Thomas about the time that she rescued him from the old rickety bridge when he first arrived in Australia, but I know it's only playful!
  • The fantasy sequences-with this now being one of the major selling points for the series, this sequence of Thomas imagining that he has wings like an aeroplane like Isla and flying to people's aid/delivering supplies was actually rather creative seeing as the team at Jam Filled reused Thomas' winged design from Season 19's "The Other Side Of The Mountain" rather than having to render a completely new model of Thomas as an aeroplane and it really does fit with Thomas' helpful nature when you really think about it...he may be a steam engine, but he wants to be able to do things that he can't normally do!  Also, that final part of the fantasy with the crocodile attack...#RIPSkiff

CONS:
  • N/A

Overall...despite yet again having another predictable story, 'Cyclone Thomas' still manages to blow me away with some great animation and memorable characters who know the ways of the world around them.  For that, I'm gonna give 'Cyclone Thomas' a 9 out of 10.



Sunday, September 23, 2018

MLEEP Reviews: Hunt The Truck | #BigWorldBigAdventures

Season 22, Episode 22: Hunt The Truck
Written By Michael White

Over thirty years ago, we were introduced to the most mischievous pair of engines on the North Western Railway: Bill and Ben.  Together, these two pull trucks of china clay for engines on the main line and for ships in the harbor...until the day that their trucks were accidentally stolen by 'the diseasel' Boco and the twins decided to pay him back by using their identical looks to make him think that one engine kept vanishing and reappearing...but now it seems like the twins may have been inspired by our metropolitan diesel in today's episode, let's go go go on a big adventure and join Bill and Ben as we 'Hunt The Truck'!

Bill and Ben's latest game consists of hiding trucks and making other engines hunt for them.

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When the initial announcement and promo image were released showing the twins looking at something in awe, the fandom went crazy with excitement at the possibility that they could be in awe at the return of the metropolitan diesel himself Boco who we hadn't seen for twenty years ever since his last appearance in Season 5's "Double Teething Troubles"...and as much as I would've loved to see another classic character make his return to the series, the chances of that actually happening were very very slim. But when I saw that the writer for this episode was Michael White-the same one behind the fan acclaimed episode 'An Engine Of Many Colours', that possibility of Boco returning to the series did seem possible...but could we hunt down another awesome episode by a member of the community or would it result in Season 22 being lost?

PROS:

  • Bill and Ben-even though their trick of hiding trucks and making other engines find them is nothing new seeing as we had seen them do this before with Timothy back in Season 18's "Timothy And The Runaway Truck" despite the truck not even being real, the fact that the tables have now been turned and now it is Bill and Ben hunting the truck instead of gullible Timothy was both a nice breath of fresh air as well as some great revenge on them for the many pranks that they have pulled throughout the years...not to mention that this was their first ever Christmas episode, so them hiding the truck that was needed for the Earl's Christmas party that evening really showed how much something valued by everyone on the Island Of Sodor was truly on the line if Bill and Ben didn't stop playing their game on the other engines!
  • Edward-with how often we have seen Timothy reprimand Bill and Ben for their tricks and as much as we would love to have seen Boco make a return to the series after twenty years despite knowing that it was never gonna happen, seeing Edward reprimand the twins again after over three decades ever since Season 2's "The Diseasel" was a nice and serious breath of fresh air with how many times we have seen Timothy being gullible to the pranks from the twins...he is so used to Bill and Ben's pranks that it's like he knows every move that the twins make to the point where he is easily the best father figure to the twins, plus getting to see him interact with the engine who 'replaced' him at Tidmouth Sheds was also really cool to see happen on screen although I know that it won't calm the manchildren who still think he should be a star!
  • The fantasy sequences-with this now being one of the major selling points for the series, this sequence of Bill and Ben imagining what will happen to the Earl's annual Christmas party without the truck that Edward was supposed to collect was truly something to see with how depressing it was presented as the colorful and festive castle suddenly turns to bare and gray with each element of the party being taken away as the twins talk about it...I may be reading too far into this, but did it give anyone else vibes of the movie 'It's A Wonderful Life' or the many adaptations of 'A Christmas Carol'?
  • The humor-with this now being one of the major selling points for the series, you know that you're gonna get an episode that is packed to the brim with humor when you have Bill and Ben as the stars with a majority of the humor taking place during the middle portion when they are searching endlessly for the truck that Edward was to take to Ulfstead Castle for the Earl's Christmas party from the 'shunt and shove' at the shunting yards after nearly crashing into Duck or being chased out of Henry's Tunnel by Gordon and the express only to be covered in snow shaken off from the noise and speed of the big engine thundering through!

CONS:
  • N/A

Overall as the second episode to be written by a fan member from the community, 'Hunt The Truck' is another amazing entry for Season 22...and compared to the past couple of episodes we were given from 'Apology Impossible' to 'The Water Wheel', this was a massive improvement and rightfully so deserves that 10 out of 10 rating.  Who knows...maybe one day Boco will return to the series, but we'll just have to wait and see


MLEEP Reviews: The Water Wheel | #BigWorldBigAdventures

Season 22, Episode 21: The Water Wheel
Written By Davey Moore

Thomas has been on some pretty big adventures in China so far, hasn't he...from racing to be the true Number One Engine to celebrating the Chinese New Year to learning the ways of tai chi to discovering giant pandas, it has been one heck of a ride for our little blue tank engine.  But sadly, our adventures in China must come to an end with the delivery of a wild and wacky water wheel...let's go go go on a big world adventure with Thomas and 'The Water Wheel'!

Hong-Mei tells Thomas that the water wheel he is carrying is made from bamboo and is very important. But in his eagerness to discover other things made from bamboo, Thomas forgets about his mission and ends up taking a shortcut via a low bridge, which knocks the water wheel off his flatbed and sends it rolling off across the Chinese countryside!



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Back in 2015 as part of the seventieth anniversary festivities, we were given a YouTube short with a very similar premise of Thomas discovering what could be made from bamboo as he made a delivery of it to some giant pandas of which bamboo is the only thing that they eat...even though the story to this episode was one that we had seen before on YouTube three years ago and while it was definitely one of the weaker World Tour shorts, I was interested in seeing how the show staff would expand on the idea of bamboo being really useful to our number one tank engine into an episode for the twenty second season of 'Thomas & Friends'. But would our final adventure in China be quite a splash or would we get soaked with a stinker along the way?

PROS:
  • The animation-even if they had to reuse a lot of assets from Sodor in order to create the railways of China like they did for the movie such as Maithwaite Station and Tidmouth Sheds, you can't deny that the team at Jam Filled still did an amazing job in capturing the beauty and tranquility of China from the hills to the valleys...not to mention that I love the team at Jam Filled brought back some old locations from throughout the China episodes such as the bamboo forest from 'Thomas In The Wild' to tie in with the concept for this episode as well as bringing in new locations to the series like Tu Ze Quan where the water wheel for this episode is being delivered to!
  • Teaching Chinese culture-some or even many fans might be turned off by this due to feeling like that they are back in school learning things that they don't want to (as if they didn't want to learn anything before), I'm all for learning new things about different cultures because I actually did take Chinese classes a while back and it was great getting to learn about how the water wheel is used for the paddy fields at Tu Ze Quan where the rice grows as well as the many different uses for bamboo due to being strong and tough whether it be for scaffolding for building works or even something simple like musical instruments!
  • The fantasy sequences-with this now being one of the major selling points for the series, this sequence of Thomas being built from bamboo jumping off the tracks and racing around the waters of China like a speedboat was certainly interesting to say the least and it did manage to get a chuckle out of me...even though there are some people who will view this sequence as pointless, it actually did manage to tie in with the story's theme of uses for bamboo!

CONS:

  • The story-I knew that this final adventure in China was gonna be a weak one due to being based off of the YouTube short, but I didn't think that it would also copy Season 12's "Steady Eddie" as well where the main character delivers a water wheel only to take a shortcut resulting in him chasing the water wheel down all over the place which took up most of the episode's pacing might I add...not to mention that the ending was extremely contrived-of course the water wheel would end up travelling through the water to save Thomas from trouble, it’s just lazy storytelling!  I understand that the theme of this episode was not wasting water to tie it in to the global goal of keeping water clean and accessible, how much better do you think this episode would've been if a heat wave had struck China with water drying up that must only be used for emergencies?
  • The characters-with a story as weak and reused as it was being a YouTube short and a mediocre episode combined, it also took its toll on the characters as well since having Thomas as the main character for this story felt extremely done...there was no reason for him to go through all of this again other than to contrive a conflict, this episode would've been a much better fit for Hong-Mei who was in need of some serious character development due to being nothing but a blank slate. At least Thomas didn't take a shortcut to show off the water wheel like Edward did...

Overall as the episode to end our adventures in China, the chances of 'The Water Wheel' were sadly washed away to reveal what was a real dud...I don't know if it was the time limit or trying to weave a story around the culture and while some elements in this episode were good, they weren't enough to save what was a weak story with recycled characters. It barely managed to escape being 'Thomas And The Monkey Palace' levels of bad, but 'The Water Wheel' still gets a rating of a 5.5 out of 10