Friday, December 27, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: True Blue's Top 5 Best Movies Of 2019

As we close off not only another year but an entire decade, the way 2019 ended off the 2010's was like a smooth train ride...a train ride that's going at a breakneck speed in which has gone completely off the rails conducted by a bunch of insane and corrupted politicians who think they're immortal kings that's going headfirst off a cliff leaving us all wondering when will this madness stop before it's too late.  In other words, 2019 was quite insane and the same can be said about films released this year to be honest since the outcomes of them have been all over the place where some were major hits and some were shocking flops and you never know how the movie itself will be rather if it's great, mediocre or absolute garbage.  Watching a new feature in 2019 was like a complete gamble where the movies have brought out both the best and the worst out of the entertainment industry that are even highlights of the whole decade on both sides...and with a crazy lineup like this, they can result in the perfect formula to make an unforgettable recap.  While there were plenty of films that made the year feel like salt to an open wound making everything worse, these are the five films that made the year a time to be alive...we're in for a crazy list, I'm True Blue and these are my top five best movies of 2019!


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5.) The Banana Splits Movie - 7.5/10

When the Banana Splits came back into the news of them becoming a R-rated horror movie, it was possibly one of the weirdest pieces of news that I have heard in recent years but I knew that I wanted to go and check it out while hoping that this film would answer three big questions: why do they want to turn The Banana Splits into a horror movie, why do they want to make a Banana Splits movie after fifty years since it existed and why are Warner Brothers and the people handling the Hanna-Barbera properties okay with this and I know that I left a lot of nitpicks and criticisms in my review back in October when it was broadcasted on SYFY for their Halloween programming...but let's be honest: all of that does not matter, it doesn't matter of the dumb things or the criticisms or the problems with 'The Banana Splits Movie' since it knows very well what it is.

It's absolutely stupid, it's just supposed to be your typical slaughter film but with The Banana Splits and I will say...yeah, it's a bad and stupid movie but yet it knows what it is and it knows its kind of audience since you're just here to see The Banana Splits kill people in a very gory fashion and it did deliver what it's supposed to do on that front. I can't hate or fault it...and after watching this movie for Halloween, I feel like 'you know what, it accomplishes its mission and it wanted to do what it wants to do...this movie succeeds in its mission' and I think it's worth it on that front. While it is uncertain if a sequel to 'The Banana Splits Movie' is in the future based off the cliffhanger we received at the end, one thing is for certain...now the show can go on forever and ever and ever.


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4.) The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part - 8.5/10

Undeniably, 'The LEGO Movie' is one of the most influential animated features of the decade not only by launching the careers of Phil Lord and Chris Miller to become acclaimed filmmakers but also putting Warner Brothers back as serious animation competitors being an inspiration for many animated films to come either for better or for worse while having the legacy of a milestone movie.  While I would hesitate to call the original LEGO Movie one of the best animated features ever like how some would highly praise it, but I do agree that it is a really good film that is a lot of fun and captures the spirit of being a kid playing with LEGOs on top of some of the most creative use of animation in recent years-in a way, it managed to do what many people once considered impossible by taking an absurdly abstract concept and not only succeed in making it but making it very well without entirely feeling like a ninety-minute commercial

But thinking about it now, making something that would even get to the level of the original is a rather impossible task yet this did not completely fail on its own either.  While 'The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part' may not be in the ranks of either the first film or The LEGO Batman Movie, it did come out as a good sequel and not like something that wants to rip itself off like The LEGO Ninjago Movie...it is clearly weaker by delivering a predictable story that would end up messing up its own concepts and characters that are fun but nothing more complex outside of that, but it does stay true to the spirit of The LEGO Movie with a good heart as well as enjoyable humor and the great animation that people have come to love.  You'll still get a good kick out of it if you're a major fan of the original LEGO Movie, but I recommend lowering a bit of your expectations and thinking you're in for something good instead of great...and while I can't say everything is as awesome as it was before, but I would say rather that everything is now decent


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3.) Thomas & Friends: Digs & Discoveries - 8.5/10

I know that 'Digs & Discoveries' isn't technically a movie even by Thomas The Tank Engine standards since it was pretty much two extended episodes made for the twenty-third season of the television series, but then I remembered that 'The Adventure Begins' counted as a movie for the Thomas franchise even if it was only forty-five minutes thus 'Digs & Discoveries' counts as this year's movie tentpole for our little blue tank engine as he ventures to Italy and reunited with his friend Gina from the Great Railway Show's shunting competition back in the 2016 special 'The Great Race'

While the writing for 'Digs & Discoveries' isn't the most original to come out of Thomas The Tank Engine due to re-using story concepts that we've seen countless times before from Thomas thinking he knows everything about things he doesn't know during the first half of the special to wanting to impress friends by discovering something special in the second half, it makes up for it with some absolutely beautiful animation as well as a healthy dose of Italian culture for kids to learn about along with a great cast of characters from engines like Thomas and Gina to road vehicles like Jack And The Pack and giving us plenty of new characters to meet like Stefano as well as Lorenzo and Beppe.  With the seventy-fifth anniversary of Thomas & Friends right around the corner, I look forward to where our little blue tank engine goes on his next big adventure...after all, the world's just a train ride away!



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2.) Frozen 2 - 9/10

After several years since Elsa was crowned as the new queen, it is time to go back to Arendelle and experience some new magic that's just waiting for us to discover...when looking back at the first movie, there's no secret as to why it earned an official sequel instead of Disney's other fairy tale based animated features-okay yeah, it's because it's one of Disney's most profitable properties and the movie went on to win multiple awards and had the title of the highest grossing animated film of all time-but there is a good reason why it became a phenomenon.  After seventy years of Disney trying to make a film adaptation of 'The Snow Queen' by Hans Christian Andersen, they finally hit their mark with a feature that strongly connected with audiences with its powerful story along with stunning animation and memorable characters and not to mention some of the most well-known and beloved songs featured in a movie in recent years...it proved how the timeless Disney formula still resonates with audiences to this day and what The Lion King did back in the 1990's is what Frozen did in the 2010's.

Is 'Frozen 2' as good as the first movie, honestly no...does it still have that same wow factor and masterclass craftsmanship that's worth checking out, absolutely.  'Frozen 2' may be a minor downgrade from the legendary original, but it is still a greatly built animated feature that keeps the spirit of Frozen alive and deliver what made the first one one of the most iconic movies of the 2010 decade.  While the story may be poorly organized, the movie is still highly engaging with intense action and enjoyable humor along with the return of beloved characters with amazing voice acting accompanied by beautiful animation and songs that are on par to the ones of the original.  For my recommendations, I believe that the ones who will enjoy this the most will be fans of the first...if you like the original Frozen, then this is worth checking out however I don't think I would say the same for those who are not.  I don't believe this would really change the minds of those who are doubtful of Frozen, then again I could be wrong just by glancing at the wide variety of reactions.  Is there a point to having a 'Frozen 2', probably not but the effort to prove its worth is certainly admirable


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1.) Toy Story 4 - 10/10

It may not necessarily be the first Pixar sequel that no one expected to happen since they did make a 'Finding Nemo' sequel three years ago in the form of 'Finding Dory', but I can definitely say that 'Toy Story 4' is a follow-up that many who were not necessarily positive have expressed some strong emotions just by the idea alone that Pixar was making this.  In fact for years before its release, the movie received a good amount of backlash for continuing the franchise after the third film delivered not a great ending but the perfect way to conclude 'Toy Story'-on top of that when a film franchise would receive their fourth movie, they usually end up going completely off the rails and break down with the previous three established or sink lower if they already did.  In the case of 'Toy Story', it's often unanimously said to be the greatest animated film trilogy of all time where each movie is considered a masterpiece in their own right and there would be a massive angry mob on the Internet if the fourth film doesn't meet up to those standards.

But there is a very good reason why the 'Toy Story franchise' continued after the third film since 'Toy Story 4' is a phenomenal achievement by Pixar where they not only created an amazing animated feature but they also managed to do the impossible by continuing the story after making the perfect ending after 'Toy Story 3' and finding a way to still maintain the franchise's legendary quality: it delivers an engaging and thought-provoking story, beautifully detailed animation, complex yet memorable characters both old and new and many strong emotional moments that will make you laugh and cry.  It may come to a surprise for many, but...yeah, 'Toy Story 4' is an absolute must watch even if you have doubts about its existence and cherish the ending of 'Toy Story 3' as the definitive end where you might just discover yourself that maybe there is more to tell after three.  Whether there are more 'Toy Story' movies after this is up for debate at this point, but for now 'Toy Story' has become one of the greatest franchises in movie history and that is why 'Toy Story 4' earns the title of the best film of 2019!

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...and there you have it, ladies and gentlemen-my top five best movies of 2019!  After that crazy year of widely varying films that can either be amazing or horrible and the wave of sequels and films of already existing IP's, I think it's time to have a completely fresh start in 2020 and be ready for some new and more original features.  So before we go, let's take a look at these films and see if we'll be starting 2020 on the right foot...


IMPRACTICAL JOKERS: THE MOVIE...anyone got some 'scoopski potatoes'?
ONWARD...don't know if I want this, Pixar
MULAN...why bother if it has that much bad publicity?!
THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN...this review is gonna get nasty!
SCOOB...please let this be the comeback of Hanna-Barbera!
SOUL...I know I want this, Pixar!
MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU...you can have one more movie, but make it worth it
BOB'S BURGERS: THE MOVIE...I don't watch the show, but I'm curious
JUNGLE CRUISE...another attraction-themed Disney movie?  Sure, why not
RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON...this is gonna be epic, I can feel it!
THE CROODS 2...are you sure people still want this after all these years?

2019: A Year Of Many Emotions

As 2019 finally comes to an end, it gave me time to reflect on everything that has happened this past year.

After the massive shit storm that was 2018 from absolutely no progress on the search for employment to the deaths of some of the most well-known people in the industry along with all of the bullshit that went down in the My Little Pony fandom from massive leaks to the ousting of pedophiles, I think we can all agree that we hoped and prayed that there was a light at the end of the tunnel for next year…but while it was a slight improvement even if the changes made were very minimal, 2019 was to be honest a very emotionally draining year-like, you hardly got a chance to breathe from one dose of bad news before you got hit with another stroke of bad luck but this time even worse!  From the passing of both my great aunt and uncle on top of some of my closest friends in the online redub community for Thomas The Tank Engine closing up shop to pursue more original content as well as what was easily the biggest letdown in Super Bowl history when the song ‘Sweet Victory’ from the SpongeBob episode Band Geeks was denied a performance at the halftime show as a tribute to series creator Stephen Hillenburg, 2019 really didn’t start off on a good note.  But as we neared the halfway mark of the year all the way up to the end, that is when things started to turn around for the better from getting to see one of the world’s most famous steam locomotives making a special visit to the Strasburg Railroad in the form of the Norfolk & Western #611 to joining my sister in celebrating the holiday season at Six Flags America as well as helping her to promote what will soon be the new home for My Little Pony conventions on the East Coast at Ocean City Comic Con to close out the year.

And then, there was 2019 for the My Little Pony fandom…a year that many of us were emotionally not prepared for as the time had come to close the book on the final chapter for both ‘My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic’ after nine years of adventures as well as for the convention that started it all for the many fans of the series BronyCon after over ten events and moving between three different states, but man did we find a way to go out with a bang from the numerous events that I joined the DC Bronies for whether it be a museum trot around the Smithsonian or to watch the final set of episodes that we would ever receive during this fourth generation of the series with our event for the Season 9 premiere in April managing to break a record as the biggest premiere event in the country…and of course, who could ever forget the record-breaking final celebration that was BronyCon 2019 from attendance numbers to the amount of money that we raised at the charity auction on top of what was easily the biggest and best closure to the Grand Galloping Gala that the convention has ever seen.  Even though it's gonna feel weird and maybe even a little sad to see everything come to an end, I am glad that I stuck around until the very end of the series getting to spend those last few minutes with the characters that we've all grown to love and enjoy while thinking about where everything will go from here. Despite the problems I may have with the fandom, I'm not finished with this community just yet and I hope a lot of you out there aren't either.

But all that I can hope for is that I can have a happy, healthy and much better start of a brand new decade in 2020 since there's plenty of things to be excited about like hopefully finding a job at last after almost three years of struggling as well as what is sure to be a very interesting year for entertainment with the movies that have been revealed so far on top of what is sure to be the biggest celebration that the Island Of Sodor and the North Western Railway has ever seen as we celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of Thomas The Tank Engine.  But I definitely know one thing for sure: 2020 is definitely gonna be a very interesting year for the My Little Pony fandom as we begin the long hiatus before the upcoming fifth generation of the series in 2021 with many fans still under the delusional belief that the end of Generation 4 was the end of the entire fandom and their friendships…but with the debut of several new conventions on the horizon including the highly anticipated SeaquestriaFest in May of next year on top of there being more events than ever before among local groups in the community, I think we can all agree that this fandom is gonna be just fine until then as long as we continue to embrace the Elements Of Harmony in our everyday lives and still hold true to the magic of friendship.  As ACRacebest said during the closing ceremonies of BronyCon, 'the fandom is not done...'

Until then...Happy New Year, everyone!  Let’s kick off a brand new decade in style…

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: How The Grinch Stole Christmas! | #TheGrinch

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HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
Written By Dr. Seuss
Composed By Albert Hague, Eugene Poddany and Dr. Seuss
Produced By Chuck Jones and Ted Geisel
Edited By Lovell Norman and John O. Young
Directed By Chuck Jones and Ben Washam

It's funny how a lot of these Christmas specials seem to focus on the negative...take the Grinch for example: HE IS LITERALLY STEALING CHRISTMAS, and the whole special is just showing in great detail how he's doing it and yet the Grinch is still very likable in what a curmudgeon he is. With his grinchy Grinch frown and the voice of the Frankenstein monster himself, Boris Karloff-grrrr, Christmas bad-how can you not be drawn to this holiday stick in the mud?

Of course, all the negativity pays off when we discover that he can't steal Christmas...no one can since Christmas is something much deeper than he could ever imagine as he realizes in the end which is ironic because the name of the story is "HOW the Grinch Stole Christmas", not "DOES the Grinch Steal Christmas"...and don't even get me started on that pigshit Ron Howard movie-if I wanted to scare my kids with a green monster filled with hot air, I'd let them listen to one of Al Gore's speeches on global warming!

For some of us, the Grinch is the first real villain we ever came across and thus 'You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch' is the first villain song we ever heard...and boy, what a good one to serve as an introduction to villainy. The tune of course is very catchy and the singing voice of Tony The Tiger himself Thurl Ravenscroft just sounds fantastic, but what really makes it stand out are the lyrics: naturally the rhyming master himself Dr. Seuss had a big part in writing the words and it shows...just listen to how despicably detailed these lyrics are, how can you not fall in love with such disgusting images? The Grinch still continues to be one of the great bad guys of Christmas and this song certainly played a large part in making that happen...a perfect melody for the red and green villain of the red and green holiday.


Regardless of which version you prefer, The Grinch was colorful, creative and dripping in holiday cheer...just enough to make anyone's frown turn upside down.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: The Three Caballeros - Birds Of A Feather For 75 Years | #ThreeCaballeros75

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THE THREE CABALLEROS
Written By Homer Brightmen, Ernest Terrazas, Ted Sears, Bill Peet,
Ralph Wright, Elmer Plummer, Roy Williams, William Cottrell,
Del Connell and James Bodrero
Composed By Edward H. Plumb, Paul J. Smith and Charles Wolcott
Produced By Walt Disney
Directed By Norman Ferguson, Clyde Geronimi,
Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts and Harold Young

'The Three Caballeros' is probably much better known than 'Saludos Amigos'...but to be fair, they're not that much different. It is true in comparing the two, there does seem to be a lot more passion thrown into this one: it's longer, there's more energy, and this is some of their best as far as their basic cartoon animation goes-I mean, the motion and the line work just leaps off the screen sometimes...look at how fast they're going! But can these birds of a feather still flock together after seventy five years or do we have a bunch of 'pollo locos'? Let's find out, this is 'The Three Caballeros'!

THE THREE CABALLEROS: Comical mixture of animation and live-action featuring Donald Duck in four short stories as he travels around South America. En route, Donald meets a flying donkey named Burrito and Pablo the Penguin who hates the cold

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Much like 'Saludos Amigos', there isn't really a story with 'The Three Caballeros'...or well in about as much as, it's just Donald opening some presents. Yeah, that's the story...isn't that riveting? He gets a package on his birthday which it turns out is Friday the 13th-bet you didn't know that-and each present it turns out is a presentation on some place he's never been to before. Like 'Saludos Amigos', there's shorts and songs and there's Donald Duck acting like Donald Duck and I was kind of getting into it at first since I was kind of enjoying all the randomness mixed in with the music and that really fast-paced animation like I said earlier. On top of that, the stories were a lot more memorable too from 'The Cold-Blooded Penguin' involving a penguin named Pablo trying to get to warmer climate to 'The Flying Gauchito' about a burro named Burrito who can fly...but then the stories sort of stop and we get that green parrot Jose Carioca again as he and Donald look around Brazil a bit dancing and singing while having fun.

Then, Donald opens the last package and we have the rooster Panchito who comes out to sing about Mexico and...literally, the last third of this movie is just Donald trying to get laid. Every time you see him, he's fawning over a woman or women and just trying to get somebody to tickle his tail feathers. Two thirds of 'The Three Caballeros' is pretty much like just being at a party which at first sounds awesome, but at some point you kind of wanna leave that party and find something else or talk to somebody or take a breather or...I don't know, but there's only so long you can do it and that's the problem with this film: after a while, it gets tiring. The animation continues to impress as well as some really good live-action mixing, but you're just sort of watching people dance most of the time and it's fine for a few minutes yet it gets old pretty fast for a whole second half of a movie. Then we just cut to the three of them acting goofy in abstract land again as they jump around shooting some guns, firing off some fireworks and...that's it, that's the movie. Um...fun?

There's a lot of things I really like about 'The Three Caballeros': I like a lot of the scenes, I like a lot of the animations and the short stories which is why I hate it so much when I see it all together because it suddenly becomes boring. This is one of those movies where they would chop it up and they would just show it as little shorts on their cartoon shows on the Disney Channel and that's really where it belongs in my opinion since I can't see this really functioning as a film. Maybe if they went for more of a Cirque du Soleil thing or kept a little bit more focus or even lack of focus-just something that went all the way because here it seems like they kind of want to do short stories and now they kind of wanna do it as one long party and now they kinda want make it educational but now they kinda wanna make it silly. The only thing that's consistently good as I said before is the animation which is really stylized and fun...but for me, I don't think that holds the film.

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Overall if you wanna see 'The Three Caballeros' just for the motion and the cool drawings, I'd say maybe check it out...but even then, that's a big maybe. There's other Disney films that do animation better and they have good story and characters to go along with it, so I'd probably just recommend those. But if you're curious enough, it does have some good moments...take that for what it's worth since that is why I'm gonna give 'The Three Caballeros' a rating of a 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, December 20, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - A Very Minty Christmas | #MyLittlePony

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MY LITTLE PONY: A VERY MINTY CHRISTMAS
Written By Pat and Jennie Romano
Composed By Mark Watters
Produced By Robert Wintrop
Edited By Derek Iversen
Directed By Vic Dal Chele

Throughout the fourth generation of My Little Pony, we had some pretty memorable and heartwarming Christmas specials: from learning about the origins of their holiday back in Season 2's "Hearth's Warming Eve" to learning/sharing about family traditions back in Season 5's "Hearthbreakers" as well as the special "Best Gift Ever" and even telling one of if not the greatest holiday story ever back in Season 6's "A Hearth's Warming Tail", everypony within the fandom has that one holiday episode from the series that they can look back on and enjoy watching during the most wonderful time of the year.  But now that the fourth generation of My Little Pony has come to an end and with the arrival of the upcoming fifth generation on the horizon, I thought it'd be interesting to look back on the previous three and a half generation of My Little Pony to see how far the brand and we as a fandom have come throughout these past thirty five years...and with Christmas right around the corner, what better place to start than with a Christmas special.  But I'm not just doing any Christmas special from My Little Pony, I'm doing the most infamous one of all from the universally hated third generation of the brand...let's just get this over with, this is 'My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas'!

MY LITTLE PONY - A VERY MINTY CHRISTMAS: Clumsy Minty Pony breaks the holiday candy cane that guides Santa Claus to Ponyville every year

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Do I even need to say how awful this is?!  'A Very Minty Christmas' actually took a lot of effort to get through: the pacing is padded, the characters are annoying, the story is forced, the writing is obnoxious, the music is bland, the imagery is consistently creepy, the message is vague at best...it's everything that you would think was bad about Generation 3 and even then manages some surprises on how bad it could possibly be.  From the recycled animation to the repetitive dialogue and the paper-thin conflict, I am downright amazed that we ended up with 'Friendship Is Magic', so I am in a way glad that I gave it a watch since getting through a Generation 3 episode actually helps you to appreciate just how much love went into the series we were all drawn into.  As much as we sometimes like to pick on 'Friendship Is Magic' for obvious toy tie-ins or questionable moments, none of them even come close to this level of sub-mediocrity...it sucks, end of story!

But it's like Walt Disney once said, "you're dead if you aim only for kids, adults are only kids grown up anyway"...I feel that that is a very poignant quote since 'Friendship Is Magic' became successful because it thought about the adults too since fathers and daughters could watch it together and they could both enjoy it.  That wasn't the case with Generation 3 of My Little Pony which was obviously only appealing to little kids, so much that only little kids could enjoy it...but a parent is supposed to spend time with their children and nurture them.  So when parents are being forced to suffer through stuff like this, they're less encouraged to do their jobs.  I never had to grow up with this kind of garbage and I'm glad I didn't since seeing junk like this makes me more appreciative of the animation companies who thought of the ones who are watching with the kids: the parents, whose life ambitions are to be good mothers and fathers and they as such didn't just stick us in front of the television with any old sub-par movie to just shut us up.  When they could pull themselves away from making sure the household didn't crash and burn, they actually sat down and watched stuff with us because they cared...they loved us so much, they actually cared about the stuff being put into our heads at a young age to the point where they can actually quote what we watched better than we could.  Seeing how awful this special was made me appreciate all of this more...so thank you, 'A Very Minty Christmas'-thank you for making me a little more thankful for the good I have in my life.  Merry Christmas, everypony!

MLEEP Reviews: True Blue's Top 5 Best Animated Films Of The 2010 Decade

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TRUE BLUE'S TOP 5 BEST ANIMATED FILMS OF THE 2010 DECADE

There are always two ways to look back at something like a whole decade: with animated features, one can admire the innovations achieved over the years like the exciting and immersive stories and revolutionary animations along with all the unforgettable and inspiring characters as well as delivering powerful commentary regarding our culture in ourselves and especially presenting new ways of entertainment there were not long ago once thought to be unimaginable.  This decade proved how animation can truly push the limits of imagination as a storytelling medium...and while there will always be the side that showed how some movies reach new lows, the 2010's were a decade of experimentation and innovation.  Now that animation has a good feel of new technology and after testing the gadgets and software in the 2000's, they're ready to go and try new things in order to truly advance animation as a storytelling medium.

Since then, we have seen exciting and engaging stories, visuals that can inspire new art styles and create immersive worlds, unforgettable characters that help symbolize an entire generation, social commentary that made these works a lot smarter than they seem and the push of entertainment to the next level that turned animation into a billion-dollar industry.  The decade is filled with many noteworthy animated projects that defined its time...but when it came to feature films while there are many that are fantastic, only a few stand out as some of the greatest achievements of the medium and we're here to look back on them today.  I'm True Blue and these are my top five best animated films of the 2010 decade!

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5.) Coco

What's great about animated films is that they don't just transport audiences to fantasy worlds, but they're also a powerful tool to prominently present the art and culture of different countries...what better way to educate others to be more inclusive than to get them invested in a great story.  In the 2010's, Mexico coincidentally had a couple of animated features highlighting their culture themed to the holiday Dia De Los Muertos: first there was 'The Book Of Life' which became a highly artistic fan favorite...and then a few years later, Pixar stepped up their game and released 'Coco'-a feature length love letter to Mexico that turns their traditions, art and music into an emotionally engaging adventure that very few films have this kind of power.  As it presents Mexican culture with its gorgeous and endlessly colorful animation, it follows the journey of Miguel as his love for music also shows him the importance of family provided by the help of a large and talented cast of characters that make the story fun, exciting and packed with a lot of heart and unexpected twists and turns.

What's funny is that while almost all animated films are family-friendly, it's rare to find a movie like this that's actually about family...something that everyone can watch and walk out feeling more appreciative of each other and their ancestors that are no longer among the living.  'Coco' adds a bit of Mexican spice to add flavor to this by showing how they honor their loved ones with the meaning of Dia De Los Muertos and the concept of the Ofrenda...this is how 'Coco' accelerates from many of the rest with a love for the country and the love of family to create one of the most heartfelt animated features that is worth remembering 


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4.) Frozen

In every decade, there's always that one animated film that helped to define the pop culture of its time and would continue afterwards to be a global phenomenon: the 1990's had 'The Lion King' and some of the other Disney Renaissance films, the 2000's had 'Shrek' and the Pixar films and in the 2010's there was 'Frozen'.  While it may have taken Disney seventy years to create a film adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" that is worthy of the company's legacy, the final result with the 2013 movie made the journey and the wait more than worth it featuring captivating computer animation that brings Disney's magic to life in an entirely new way, unforgettable songs that still resonate with millions of people to this day, enriched and complex characters that make the feature more enjoyable and deep and a story that's one of the biggest proofs that the Disney formula not only still works but still has plenty of strength to enchant audiences again and again.

In fact, Elsa's powers are so strong that they not only made the movie win multiple awards but that magic crowned the film as the highest-grossing animated feature during that time.  The craze of 'Frozen' was so big that the film brought out not one but two theatrically released shorts and became one of the extremely rare Disney animated films to receive an official sequel six years later with 'Frozen 2' to which despite the wide variety of reactions, it still has quite an epic punch that still keeps the spirit of Frozen alive and well...but regardless of all the little follow-ups that happen in Arendelle even if it was made as recently as the 2010's, 'Frozen' has already made its mark in pop culture as a timeless Disney classic.


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3.) Toy Story 3 & 4

At the start of the decade, audiences were presented with a nostalgic grand finale of one of the greatest animated film franchises of all time: 'Toy Story 3', a perfectly timed feature where the kids that grew up with the first two films have now grown with Andy to see Woody and Buzz's new adventures where they mistakenly get donated to a daycare.  As the toys supply the film with some great comedy and exhilarating animation on top of some surprisingly intense moments, it also delivers some deep and tear-jerking times as it explores a lot more into the concept of a toy with how they're treated in a daycare and what happens to them when their original owners grow up.  It ended on what many people consider to be a perfect ending after crying their eyes out, so much so that it made history by being the first ever animated feature to make a billion dollars at the box office and get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture

Afterwards, the world felt very satisfied with what Pixar had created and unanimously proclaimed Toy Story as the best animated trilogy...that is until the end of the decade when they released one more movie with 'Toy Story 4'.  Many were doubtful, frustrated even that they would continue after the third...but when the latest addition had its chance to prove its worth, it managed to do what many say to be impossible and present why there's more to tell after 'Toy Story 3'.  Not only does it keep the same emotional power, but it also greatly expands the secret world of toys adding new memorable characters along with an update on Bo Peep and continuing the long and complex character arc of Woody.

Now while both are fantastic, there is one question that remains: which one is on the list here, is it 'Toy Story 3' or 'Toy Story 4'?  Well to be honest, why not both: they both have masterclass writing, they both pack a powerful emotional punch, they both feature top quality animation and they both supply unforgettable characters old and new...why pick a favorite when they both continue the legacy of one of animation's most important and legendary franchises?


Image result for inside out 2015
2.) Inside Out

You know what I just noticed?  There seems to be a theme that these movies are on this list partially by how emotionally powerful they are, how emotionally invested they can make the audiences be about the characters and the journey they go through supplying plenty of moments of laughter and tears...but with all these movies delivering the emotions, why not make an entire feature about emotions and 'Inside Out' did exactly that right in the middle of the 2010's.  Before it announced its true title, it was originally referred to as the Pixar movie that takes you inside the mind: that may sound abstract and complex at first, but that's because it actually is in the best way possible that is both easy to understand and very admirable in how it's one of the most original movies in recent years.

As it takes place in the mind of a young girl moving into a new environment, it is completely enriched with clever ideas on how the mind functions in an enjoyable creative way, a story that presents a psychological shift as this fun-filled adventure starring two opposite emotions working together, characters that are a brilliant personified representation of human emotions and an extraordinary achievement with the animation that balances the ordinary realistic world and the colorful and cartoony world in Riley's mind that takes the imagination to a whole new level...but most of all on top of its legendary creativity, this movie is brave enough to encourage its audiences to let out their true emotions: most movies would just tell people that it's only best to be happy and that the only thing we should be is to be all happy.  'Inside Out' on the other hand explains that while it's great to have joy, it is also great to blow off some steam when you're angry, get grossed out when you're disgusted, be scared when you're afraid and most importantly that it's perfectly fine to be sad and have a moment to cry.

It is a movie that not only proves that originality and creativity in film-making is alive and well, but it also helps us understand ourselves and our thoughts so that we can grow to become better.  When a movie can get in your mind like that, then it accomplished in being much more than a phenomenal film...


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1.) Zootopia

Throughout the 2010 decade, we have seen a lot of amazing animated features that have advanced the medium in terms of storytelling and technological accomplishments...these movies have soared to new heights, told us unforgettable stories, bring magic to life and have us emotionally on board with them from beginning to end...and then there is this one: an animated film that is so beautifully crafted, so thought-provoking and so meaningful that it resulted in not just the best of the decade but also one of the best animated features that the studio ever created...and considering that this is from Disney, that is saying a lot!  If I have to choose what is the best animated film of the decade, it has to be 'Zootopia'.

What may seem like your typical kids flick with anthropomorphic animals is actually a powerful commentary that not just kids but also adults can appreciate on an intellectual level: of course as a movie it is wonderfully well made with excellent writing that provides a highly engaging story filled with good twists and enjoyable comedy, an entire city filled with memorable characters, some suspense and action to keep the engagement with this film strong and not to mention the beautiful animation that made Zootopia itself feel larger than life and let out the most of its creativity with all the different mammals who inhabit there...but what truly makes 'Zootopia' one of Disney's greatest achievements is something that possibly no other mainstream animated film would ever have the courage to do: this movie got political!

The feature's best accomplishment is its message against discrimination and bigotry, to take a stand and call out the hate and prejudice that's corrupting our culture that's standing in the way of a more educated, peaceful and progressive future: even if it was released just before this brand of hate enveloped the end of the decade, in a way this movie is ahead of its time for calling out nationalism, calling out Trump and the GOP, calling out the Brexit movement and calling out all forms of far-right extremism that wants to replace democracy with segregation and ignorance.  During that time, many people acted cowardly in front of this and not only tried to hide from it but also try to silence the voices that call them out with comments like 'stop talking about politics'...but like anyone should, 'Zootopia' ignores those comments and speak out in the hopes that people can listen and contribute to make the world become a better place.

As much as we'd love for more animated films, we should have more animated films to be political, to be brave by taking on serious issues and have audiences leave with not just enjoyment but also something to think about.  This is a revolutionary feature that goes beyond what the common animated film can do...and for being Disney's most contemporary and thought-provoking feature, 'Zootopia' is the best animated film of the 2010 decade.

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But as the 2010's come to an end, it should be viewed more as a new beginning with all the inspirational films that we've gotten recently...who knows what animators and filmmakers can go even further with what they can achieve?  With new stories, new risks and new styles on the horizon, I look forward to seeing what new amazing animated films await us.  I know some will say that it'll be tough to top what was done in the 2010's, but then again that's what people said in the last decade

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Cats | #CatsMovie

Cats 2019 poster.jpg
CATS
Written By Lee Hall and Tom Hooper
Composed By Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Produced By Debra Hayward, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Tom Hooper
Edited By Melanie Ann Oliver
Directed By Tom Hooper

There is no denying that 'Cats' is one of the most iconic stage musicals ever made-in fact, some can even go as far and state that it was a massive game changer for musicals and was a key player in making Broadway popular in the mainstream all over again.  Based on the series of poems 'Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats' by T.S. Eliot, one guy who was a fan of the book since he was a kid was Andrew Lloyd Webber and one day decided to write some songs based on the poems that would eventually become his most well-known musical next to 'The Phantom Of The Opera'.  Ever since its debut in 1981, it has had ten of thousands of performances all around the world as well as receiving numerous of awards and one of the songs 'Memory' went on to have an entire life of its own as one of the most recognizable songs from a stage musical.

But that's just a very brief summary of Cats...believe me when I say that it would take an entire review in itself for me to go and fully discuss about the making of the musical and its cultural impact.  However one thing that I have yet to say is the fact that while it is a very popular musical, it is also a very polarizing musical: there are some people that would either really really love this or they would really really hate this.  Which side am I on...well to be very honest, I honestly don't know because I have actually never seen 'Cats'-yeah, very surprising considering the fact that as a musical guy I have never seen one of the most well-known musicals in existence.  But in all seriousness though, it is gonna be time that we are gonna go and change that...however, there aren't really any stage productions happening anywhere near me so the only thing I could now is just watch the next best thing before going into this new version: the direct-to-video movie.

Between 1998 and 2000, a trio of Webber's musicals were turned into direct-to-video films that would completely recreate the stage show and package it all to be released in home media and air it directly on television: there was 'Jesus Christ Superstar', 'Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' and the first one of the group 'Cats' featuring a mixed cast of those that were still performing in the stage shows at the time and the originals from West End and Broadway including Susan Jane Tanner, Elaine Paige and the one I recognize the most among these cool cats Ken Page-the voice of Oogie Boogie himself from 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'.  Sure it's definitely not like watching it on stage, but for the sake of this review...got to work with the materials that I have in front of me right now.  But the question remains...can turning a direct-to-video movie of a stage musical into a feature-length movie be the cat's meow or will we be the ones sniffing catnip?  Let's find out, this is 'Cats'!

CATS: Over the course of a single night, a tribe of cats called the Jellicles make what is known as "the Jellicle choice" and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life

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With all that said now that I have finally seen this, how is my first taste of this musical...what do I now think about 'Cats'?  Well, I'd be more than happy to tell ya...that is, if anything was happening in the first place!  As this is my introduction to the musical, what I was hoping for is that this would tell me what 'Cats' is all about-like, what is the story of 'Cats'?  Apparently, all of the cats of the Jellicle tribe gather once a year for something called the Jellicle Ball where the leader of the group Old Deuteronomy makes the Jellicle choice to select one cat that will go to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a new Jellicle life...okay, but it just sounds like the base concept though-what about the journey of selecting this cat, who are the central characters we follow and what are the obstacles they have to face that lead to the ultimate selection?  The answer, there isn't any-in fact, that's the problem with this musical: there is no story, this is just a collection of presenting random characters many of whom only appear for one scene contributing nothing and that's it!  There's nothing that's keeping any of this in order resulting in the show's narrative to be a complete mess with the biggest consequence for its lack of story being that it makes the musical feel much longer than it actually is.  Since it's mostly an opera, it's most notable with the songs where they feel like they drag on for so long just to prove only one point: that they're cats!

Speaking of the songs, they also contribute to another issue with the musical: maybe some can appreciate them individually...but when putting them together for the show, it results in 'Cats' to have a continuous tonal whiplash: they each have their own style and mood while being drastically different from one another...and as an opera that mostly jumps from one song to the next, it doesn't give audiences room to breathe after what they've just felt: you'll have one scene that is dark and somber about the unfortunate and sympathetic state of Grizabella and how all the other cats don't like her for it and then immediately jump to Bustopher Jones.  What's even more frustrating is that even if it doesn't have a story at all, it sometimes teases that maybe a plot could unfold but it never does: like, there was one time when Old Deuteronomy gets kidnapped by Macavity-alright, so now it's time we see some action going on...right?  Actually no, instead we're gonna watch two sexy cats perform a burlesque show singing about how they hate Macavity and how he's evil...but then, how are they gonna get him back-magic?!  No seriously, they sing about this one cat that's a magician and one of his tricks is magically bring back Old Deuteronomy and they continue like nothing happened...okay?

I know that I am tearing this up into pieces like a dog, but it's just that my problem with how it doesn't have a story is that the musical itself doesn't have a set purpose-like, what is the point or why should I care about anything that you're presenting to me when they all ultimately lead to nowhere and all you're doing is just presenting me a whole bunch of random characters that just end up becoming irrelevant afterwards.  Now I understand that this is based on a series of poems which is a bit explainable onto the musical's format-like okay, that does make sense a little bit...but all of this is not going to matter at all if you can't even answer the simple question of answering to me 'what is the point of any of this'-like what does it ultimately lead to, what is the connection with everything, there's just no answer!  However with that said, is there anything that at this point that I could say that's actually positive about 'Cats'-like, is there anything at all that I would say that I like?  Well honestly that's gonna be a little bit tricky, but after some thought I guess I could say that...the dances are pretty good, I guess?

If there is one way to describe 'Cats' in a positive manner, it's that 'Cats' is a choreographer's dream production with a large open stage that the performers can take full advantage of and a wide variety of styles from the musical numbers...this is a musical where the dances literally take center stage and they don't just take any Broadway performers either: to be in a production of 'Cats', an actor has to physically be flexible to the point of also performing acrobatics and even ballet on stage.  At the very least while the musical may not know what it's doing and it's just throwing out all these random things without any form of order or consistency, the choreography is impressive and the same goes for the set design having a cool look as this junkyard where all the cats gather around filled with props of regular objects that have been enlarged to sell on the illusion that the performers are actually the size of cats...but then you have the costumes and make-up, possibly the most well-known element from the musical: with the addition of how the actors also act as cats on the side, this is a make-or-break deal for viewers...keep in mind that for about two hours, you'd have to sit there and watch people dress and act like a cat while they dance on stage-there's nothing else that the musical will ask you to look at depending on who's watching it, it's either that they will be completely amazed by the artistry put into the look and truly feel like they've entered in a new world where they're invited to be a part of the Jellicle Ball or they will be completely freaked out right from the very beginning that they have no choice but to watch literal crazy cat people!  Back on the lighter note while I did slam on the songs earlier for feeling long with how they can be vastly different from one another, it's the kind of soundtrack that audiences will walk away with at least one song that they will appreciate and it doesn't have to be 'Memory'-even the harshest critics will have that one song in the musical that will get their mind off of the serious issues of 'Cats': for example, mine is the song with Gus The Theatre Cat where he looks back at his old days when he was a prominent actor...maybe this is just my actor side talking, but I felt like it was a very sweet moment that I can relate to when looking back on my old days when I used to hit the stage.

Then again, some could say that my perspective of the musical is mainly because of the specific version that I want to watch which in this case is the 1998 direct-to-video film and this new adaptation to compare and contrast.  Now it is true that sometimes when a film adaptation would be done that is based on a stage show, they would go and do a whole lot more than what the stage could allow them to do like add some really neat tracks or some cool special effects and make sets that are way bigger than what you can put on the stage.  Now that certainly is the case with what they have done with 'Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'...but in this case with 'Cats', honestly that's a whole different story because honestly thinking about what they could do on stage and what they presented in the movie...there ain't much of a difference.  According to my research, the differences between the direct-to-video film and this movie from the live show are very minimal making this a straightforward film version of the stage musical...maybe they built a new set for this production, but the most significant change is that this new film version of 'Cats' is actually shorter than the direct-to-video film as well as the stage production by five minutes to make it more movie-friendly at just under two hours with what it had to do to shorten the time is take away one of the songs and abridge some of the others.  Considering the musical's issues, that's actually kind of a blessing because I feel like I might lose my mind if I sit and watch any more of these cat people pointlessly prancing around and introducing me to random folk for no reason.

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I have nothing against the 1998 version of 'Cats' or this new version: everyone who worked on it did their job and did it well, it's just that the real problem is not how they executed it but instead the fact that it's 'Cats'-the musical itself is the problem!  Yes the set looks nice and it has some cool choreography, but the play itself is an absolute mess: it's not just the fact that it doesn't have a story, there's just no purpose that links everything together...and even if it seems like it has one with the Jellicle choice, the musical treats it as a little side note to make room for bringing out wacky and insignificant characters that each have a vastly different musical style that causes the whole musical to have the tone to go all over the place surrounded by people in weird cat costumes.  The best way to describe 'Cats' is that it's confusing and pointless: as someone familiar with the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, I highly recommend watching any of his other works instead-I mean, this is the guy who took 'The Phantom Of The Opera' and turned him into a Broadway legend and the fact that a musical like 'Cats' is in his portfolio seems entirely out of place!  I know that people put in effort into the productions of it, but the core of it all is hopeless and that's why I'm giving 'Cats' a rating of a 4 out of 10...this has to be one of the worst cat videos I've ever seen!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Fantasia 2000 - 20 Years Of Classical Celebrities | #Fantasia2000

FANTASIA 2000
Composed By James Levine
Produced By Roy E. Disney and Donald W. Ernst
Edited By Jessica Ambinder-Rojas and Lois Freeman-Fox
Directed By Don Hahn, Pixote Hunt, Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg,
James Algar, Francis Glebas, and Paul and Gaetan Brizzi

Well, the sequel to one of my favorite films of all time has finally come out: Fantasia 2000. This is what Walt Disney originally wanted to do: he wanted to continue the Fantasia legacy by having new movies come out, but they decided to scrap that idea since the first one didn’t do so hot. However, the popularity for Fantasia kept building and they decided to finally do a sequel years later. It’s fantastic, it’s brilliant, it’s stupid and lame...it’s new and inspiring, it’s old and it’s been done...it’s a creative magical experience, it’s a complete sell-out by every means of the word. So as you can imagine, my emotions run pretty high with this movie. But in keeping with the Disney tradition, the stuff that’s good is really really good...or has this long awaited sequel turned into a 'silly symphony' after twenty years? Let's find out, this is 'Fantasia 2000'!

FANTASIA 2000: 'Fantasia 2000' continues and builds upon Walt Disney's original idea with the creation of a new musical program interpreted by a group of distinguished Disney artists and storytellers. Adding to the fun and entertainment, celebrity hosts from the various arts appear on screen to introduce each of the segments. Included in that prestigious group are Steve Martin, Itzhak Perlman, Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, James Earl Jones, Penn & Teller and Angela Lansbury.

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I guess the best way to go about it is just to talk about the segments. It starts off with Beethoven’s "5th Symphony" and they’re trying to do what they did with the first film by having the abstract art try to match the music. At times it does, but for the most part it’s trying to tell a story like how there’s this mama butterfly and this baby butterfly and they try to get away from these evil black butterflies...and yeah, why are you trying to put a coherent narrative to it if it's trying to go abstract? On top of that sometimes, the coherent narrative doesn’t match the music thus it doesn’t even work in that sense yet it’s got a few good visuals in there.

Next, we have the "Pines of Rome" with the flying whales...this is awesome! The CG-animation makes the size and weight of the whales just look gigantic. It matches the music perfectly...and on top of that, it just builds and builds at the end. In fact, this probably would’ve been better as the last one...but you know, what can you do? The story of the Tin Soldier is okay though they change the ending around like most Disney films...it matches the music and it manages to be a cute little fairy tale. "Rhapsody in Blue" is a new take not only in music but in style too since they take sort of an Al Hirschfeld style to the whole thing and...yeah, it works really well-it matches the music nice and it’s good to see Disney try something new especially with Fantasia.

The flamingo with a yo-yo...yeah, just say that out loud: there’s a flamingo with a yo-yo that’s the focus of one of the musical segments in a Fantasia movie. Well, you can guess my problem: it’s cute, but really you could see that on 'Tiny Toons' or something...it doesn’t seem like Fantasia-related. They replay "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice", that’s always fun...and then we get "Donald’s Ark" which again is funny and cute, but let’s face it: every time you hear that music, you’re gonna think of graduation and it’s kind of distracting but it gets a few laughs though and I guess it works fine...and the last one is the "Firebird Suite"-again, some of Disney’s best animation here mixing some of their classic style of animation but also mixing some new stuff...is it me or does that sprite look very anime-ish? Well this one matches the music great, it looks great and it’s a nice finale...though again the whales would’ve been a little better, but I’m just nitpicking.

Unfortunately, we also have celebrity appearances...that’s Steve Martin probably at his worst. We also have Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Penn and Teller...oh for f--k's sake-Penn and Teller, really?! That’s like when they invited Beavis and Butt-Head to the Oscars, just something doesn’t seem right here! Some of them can add a little bit of class and dignity, but most of them are just spending time either congratulating what a great movie it is even before it’s done and the rest of them are just making really painful jokes...yeah, the look on that woman’s face when Steve Martin drops his bow and acts like a camera hog says it all. The original Fantasia had a dignity to it, like they were gonna treat the audience seriously like "Hey, this was for adults...we’re not gonna talk down to you. This is some of the greatest music ever written, we worked really hard on this and we’re gonna treat it that way." Here..."It’s Steve Martin, do-wee-do-do-ti-do-ti-do!"

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So on the whole, Fantasia 2000 is pretty hit-and-miss...but to be honest, the only major miss would probably be the celebrities. I can’t think of any musical segments where I was just like "wow, that was awful"...I mean, even the ones that aren’t very good are just not very good by Fantasia standards but they’re still fine on their own....and as I said before, the stuff that’s good is incredibly good. This is some of Disney’s best animation in years. It allows them to just be creative, do what they want, just let the animation breathe...there’s a sense that there wasn’t as many limitations to this and you know what, it really does show half the time and not so much in the other half. So honestly despite its flaws, I still highly recommend it. Is it the first film, no...do any of them meet the power or seriousness of the first film, no...but some of them do come close. Overall, I really like 'Fantasia 2000': yeah, I hate sitting through the celebrities and some of the other musical segments as much as you do...but the payoff is just too good of a payoff and that is why I'm giving 'Fantasia 2000' a rating of a 6 out of 10. I say definitely check it out...just have the fast-forward button on standby.