Saturday, March 30, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - Equestria Girls: Spring Breakdown | #MLPEquestriaGirls

EQUESTRIA GIRLS: SPRING BREAKDOWN
Written By Nick Confalone

Back in the Equestria Girls special 'Dance Magic', it had been mentioned by Sunny Flare of the Crystal Prep Shadowbolts that Principal Cadence would let them have the spring dance on a yacht if they raised the money necessary from the 'Chance To Prance' music video contest...and with the help and teamwork of the Mane 7, they became the Crystal Rainbooms and won the contest to have the maritime spring dance.  Two years later after winning the contest and the dance is about to get underway, but could stormy seas end up rocking the boat?  Let's find out, this is 'Spring Breakdown'!

EQUESTRIA GIRLS - SPRING BREAKDOWN: It's Spring Break and the Mane 7 are about to board the most glorious yacht ever for a relaxing cruise, but Rainbow Dash is convinced that Equestrian magic is on the loose and won't let anyone rest until she finds it leading to disaster on the high seas when Equestrian magic related to the Storm King has seeped into their world and is threatening everyone on board the yacht!

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PROS:

  • Continuity with 'My Little Pony: The Movie'-over halfway through this special, we finally get to the part that I'm sure mostly everyone appreciated: Sunset Shimmer, Rainbow Dash and Sci-Twilight Sparkle in the world of Equestria...seeing them sneak around Ponyville and interacting with both Princess Twilight and Spike were really fun to see like when Spike talks about having been to a dragon wedding of which I'm sure the fandom is gonna make several fanfics about this concept over the coming weeks. Also on a side note if you look really closely, you'll notice that Spike does not have his wings that he received during Season 8 which leads me to believe that this takes place right after the movie and it makes sense because this is the Storm King's magic that has seeped into the Equestria Girls universe and I can get behind the months of waiting before finally showing itself in true threatening fashion in the form of the storm that is threatening the cruise

CONS:

  • The story-unlike in last year's "Forgotten Friendship" which was ten times more memorable than what we got here especially with the way that Equestria was integrated into the moral they were trying to teach with Sunset Shimmer finally making amends with Princess Celestia actually working into the final conflict when she returned to Canterlot High feeling more like a much more flowing story, the story for 'Spring Breakdown' is all over the place where you get really excited to see certain parts of the special and invested in what will happen next...but much like Rainbow Dash herself in this special, it honestly feels like you're just waiting for something to happen for a majority of the time and hoping that they will move on to something much more exciting
  • The sideplots to Rainbow Dash's primary story-I know that there are plenty of people who want to see their favorite characters again through their adventure on this cruise, but I really don't think it was a good idea to try and focus on little tidbits from the rest of the Mane 7 especially when the sideplots are really not interesting from Pinkie Pie's obsession with a bundt cake to Rarity's 'liar revealed' romance...it would've helped if they spent more time focusing on what Rainbow Dash was trying to do instead of rushing through everything to get to the main conflict because the way that they step up her arrogance for this special so that she can get her own way whereas the rest of the group is clearly not interested makes it a little hard to swallow-this is not the first time that this has happened in either Equestria Girls or the main 'Friendship Is Magic' series!
  • The humor-throughout the entirety of the special, the humor is either hit or miss or just falls flat on its face...sometimes the humor can be funny like with Applejack's all too relatable scenario of getting seasick on the cruise and Sci-Twi's initial freak out to becoming a unicorn when she enters Equestria with Sunset Shimmer and Rainbow Dash, but the joke that made me groan the most was when Rainbow Dash was trying fondue in Equestria with Sunset Shimmer and the two Twilight Sparkles and says that it needs to be 'twenty percent cooler' due to how hot it initially is

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Overall, I really wanted to like 'Spring Breakdown' since it did have a lot of potential going for it from what I had seen via the teasers shown at last year's San Diego Comic-Con...but to have a story that is all over the place either moving too slowly or too quickly along with sideplots that really didn't need to happen and with humor that is hit or miss or falls flat, it resulted in me being nearly taken out of the adventure if it weren't for the scenes in the world of Equestria to keep me invested. For that, I unfortunately have to give 'Spring Breakdown' an average rating of a 5 out of 10...but speaking of Equestria and ponies, be sure to join me next week as we kick off the final season of 'My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic'!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Muppets Most Wanted - 'We're Doing A Sequel' For 5 Years | #MuppetsMostWanted

Image result for muppets most wanted
MUPPETS MOST WANTED
Written By Nicholas Stoller and James Bobin
Composed By Christophe Beck
Produced By David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman
Edited By James Thomas
Directed By James Bobin

As you may remember at the end of 2011, the Muppets came back to the big screen and became a household name all over again not only winning an Oscar for Best Original Song with 'Man Or Muppet' but also getting their own star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and even had the honor of hosting a gala at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal...so it would make sense that everyone would be excited when Disney announced plans for the sequel that quite literally takes place directly after the events of the first film-I'm serious, we literally go from seeing them waving goodbye to jumping right into the sequel to the point where you could just edit the two films together and make it one big movie if you really wanted to.  But would coming 'Together Again Again' continue the success of the Muppets or would it result in them getting thrown in 'The Big House'?  Let's find out, this is 'Muppets Most Wanted'!

MUPPETS MOST WANTED: Dominic Badguy-the Muppets' new manager-convinces the gang to embark on a world tour with Kermit The Frog doubting that it's a good idea only to be proven right when look-alike Constantine escapes from prison taking Kermit's place and landing Miss Piggy's sweetie in a Siberian prison. While Kermit tries to convince his captors of his true identity, Constantine and Dominic are free to carry out their plan to steal London's crown jewels.

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Sounds incredibly standard on paper due to recycling the same by-the-numbers doppelganger story we have seen several times before with Constantine replacing Kermit and fooling everyone into thinking that he is the real Kermit which I feel could definitely turn some people off, but it is incredibly funny and the Muppets even acknowledge that they're doing that cheesy story as established during the opening number 'We're Doing A Sequel'...whereas the previous film was trying to be similar to that of the original Muppet movie, 'Muppets Most Wanted' is trying to be like that of the second movie 'The Great Muppet Caper'.  Now some people didn't like this because they liked the emotion of the last movie only to have it not really be there with 'Muppets Most Wanted', but here's the thing: it's not supposed to be there since this one was just returning to the straight-on jokes with clever writing, catchy song numbers and goofy sequences with all of them working extremely well especially for those who have a nostalgic connection to 'The Great Muppet Caper' for its comedy and creativity.

In fact, I'd go as far to say that 'Muppets Most Wanted' even fixed a lot of problems with its predecessor most notably due to feeling more like a Muppet movie where the Muppets are the main focus especially when bringing out the fun and humor that we all know and love with all different kinds of jokes rather they be unexpected or meta or just plain goofy-it's honestly what makes the Muppets who they are.  Another improvement worth noting is that 'Muppets Most Wanted' tries to be more like a movie itself rather than doing more distracting things from the experience like how they removed all those dumb advertisements for other Disney products as to not feel like a complete sellout and even toning down all of the references to the original show as to feel more welcoming to a general audience over being one big nostalgia trip for huge fans ...anyone else remember them advertising 'Cars 2' during the production of the last movie?

So as you can imagine, I was scratching my head as to why people weren't getting into 'Muppets Most Wanted' as they did with the previous Muppet movie...now I don't know anyone who hated the movie, but people either didn't think too much of it or just found it okay.  I think the only thing that I can gather as to why is because the first one while having more problems than 'Muppets Most Wanted' took more risks and the emotional moments could've very easily bombed or been awkward while not paying off which would cause people to not only dislike it but really dislike it.  But because they took those risks and it worked, a lot of people got a lot more emotional to it and connected it with something much bigger than the other Muppet movies...and while 'Muppets Most Wanted' is a very standard movie with being nothing but jokes to the point where even the plot is one big joke to the point where the audience may be wanting something more, but I'm not bothered by this because that's just how the traditional Muppets were to the point where they even acknowledge in the opening number that sequels are usually not as good as the first one which ended up getting a good laugh out of me.


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Overall...while I do admire the risky chances that the previous Muppet movie took more and even if the story isn't that original, I can definitely say that 'Muppets Most Wanted' was the one that made me laugh harder to the point where it's kinda like 'pick your own poison'-the previous Muppet movie if you want emotion and laughs, but 'Muppets Most Wanted' for straight up comedy and I'm proud to give it a rating of a 9 out of 10.  Now that the Muppets seem to have a bright future ahead of them, who knows where we're gonna see them next...but until the credits roll, we'll have to wait for another go they can show so they can do it all again

MLEEP Reviews: The King And I - Getting To Know You For 20 Years | #TheKingAndI

Image result for the king and i 1999
THE KING AND I
Written By Peter Bakalian, Jacqueline Feather and David Seidler
Composed By Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II and William Kidd
Produced By Peter Bakalian, Arthur Rankin Jr. and James G. Robinson
Edited By Joe Campana and Paul Murphy
Directed By Richard Rich

In 1862, Anna Leonowens was given the opportunity to teach the many wives and children of Mongkut, the King of Siam to which she accepted and later wrote a series of memoirs about her experience called "The English Governess and the Siamese Court." The memoirs were...controversial, to say the least with many saying she exaggerated or downright fabricated her influence on the King and that she reduced a man who was a Buddhist monk for 27 years into a cruel, extreme and even violent monarch. Years later, Margaret Landon wrote a fictionalized or..."even more" fictionalized version called "Anna and the King of Siam" again reinforcing Anna as the revolutionary and Mongkut as the harsh eccentric ruler. Thailand finally said, "Hey, we've had it up to here with your bullshit! We're going to write our own version for English readers which will later become 'Mongkut the King of Siam' and our writings will be placed in the Library of Congress for all you readers to see the truth. Maybe then, America will know the true history of our beloved king". Then came Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'The King and I' in 1956 glorifying Landon's book and making her story more popular than it's ever been, so the controversy about telling only one side of the story continued from here on...but then another adaptation came out, this time in animated form, under the same name 'The King and I'. Distributed by Warner Bros. and released in 1999, this movie surely would offer a new outlook on history and myth: not unlike something like The Prince of Egypt did with taking a relatively famous tale, but updating it with modern dramatic storytelling while still coming from a different but respectful point of view. Perhaps Thailand's dignified look on their beloved King will finally come to light...so, how does this look back on history hold up after twenty years? Let's find out, this is 'The King And I'!

THE KING AND I: Anna, an English schoolteacher travels to the kingdom of Siam to teach children and finds her challenge with a stubborn king...But even as a wondrous friendship grows between Anna and the arrogant monarch, an evil sorcerer is conjuring up a plot to steal the throne.

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Now before I go analyzing this, I just need to talk about how this movie is universally hated because of how inaccurate and disrespectful it is to the original source material which in this case is the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical...I just want to point out that we're talking about an animated musical here: no matter who it's from or how the movie is, they've always been known to be completely different to the point that they butchered how it was originally told rather it be from a fictional book or an event that happened in real life.  I mean if you look at the animated films of Disney, they've been notorious to always add in some side characters or take away some dark elements just so it could be more appropriate to the big screen yet most of the time they end up being even more popular than the source material itself.  Yes, I know that Kralahome is not an evil wizard but neither was Rasputin and yet nobody complained about his role in Don Bluth's 'Anastasia'...you see, this is why I often don't go look or read where the movie originally came from since I judge a movie by how it is as itself and not as an adaptation.  Now with that said and done, let's go back to the movie's story which after all I've said about being an adaptation doesn't matter is not all that great since I can see how it's trying to tell the tale of Anna Leonowens and how she tries to teach the royal children under the ruling of the King Of Siam which in itself works pretty well...it can be a little harsh to prove how Western culture is superior to the Eastern one, but it's interesting enough to watch along with the relationship between Anna and the King yet it often gets out of focus with the subplots that doesn't really serve anything to the story.  Now I know that I haven't seen any of the previous adaptations, but I would know when it feels like they've obviously added some parts just for this movie like all the comedy bits are just sub-par slapstick that are rarely funny and the romance between the prince and the servant girl feels pretty forced like the filmmakers have to find a way to cram that in somewhere in the movie and that's the biggest problem with the film since they think that the main plot is not good enough for some reason and they try to make it more interesting with the comedy and romance when in reality it just delays the movie and makes the audience less interested with the characters and the situations that they're in.

Rather you like it or not, you can't deny that they did a pretty good job with the animation with what stands out the most here having to be the backgrounds: not only does it give out some beautiful details, but also thanks to the vibrant colors and interesting shapes of the palace itself it really captures the Siamese environment and architecture.  With the character designs, sure there's a bit of some Disney influence in there and you can see it more on Anna but it's different enough to distinct its own style to have both the feeling of the familiar and the new...I wouldn't say that the character animation is top-notch like Disney or Don Bluth quality since they are trying to capture more realistic movements with their characters, but it is decent enough for an animated feature and it is at its best during the musical numbers plus the fact that they incorporate some computer animation on to this and it surprisingly blends very well to the movie which is a feat that sometimes even the best animation studios fail to achieve.  However not everything is perfect with its looks: for starters, there seems to be no lighting at all on the characters which is a big problem since they all look completely flat and there's no sense of depth in them but what really bothers me the most is that there are times when the animation looks unfinished like there are times when they would freeze from pose to pose-sometimes it only happens for a second on an extra that's on the side, but then there are times when it can be obviously in front of the screen.

Like I mentioned in the story, whatever counts in the main plot are the more interesting while the ones who don't are not even worth remembering: first there's Anna Leonowens, the English schoolteacher who went to Siam from the orders of the King...she's an interesting and complex character where even if she disagrees with how the king rules with his traditional beliefs and it can really get on her nerves, she still has the heart to help him out and his kids to show the proper way of Western culture.  Then there's the King of Siam himself: although interested in modern science to revolutionize the world, he still believes in ruling Siam with the old ways...there are times we can see a charismatic side of him interested with Anna's ways of living and teaching, but often he could be passed on as a ruthless jerk who likes to abuse his power and rub it on Anna's face-kind of mean yes, but not a completely hateable character.  But then there's Kralahome, the main antagonist of the film who wants to dethrone the king to take his place with his evil magic...honestly, he's a terrible villain since not only is he trying to be a ripoff of Scar from 'The Lion King' but his plans and magic always gets spoiled so he's just passed on as stereotypical bad and non-threatening.  Then, there's Prince Chulalongkorn who's just meant to serve as the Aladdin ripoff romance plot where even though it's forbidden he's in love with this servant girl who's as useless as a rug.  Then, there are the comedic sidekicks who seem to be everywhere and useless to the plot which includes the king's panther and the elephant along with 'not Abu' Louis and Master Little...although Louis is not a comic relief, he is as useless as them and I will confess that there are times when Master Little made me chuckle a bit yet he is however entirely pointless.

There are a lot of things where this movie would screw up on: filling the plot with useless comedic bits or having some unfinished animation or even have a ton of animal sidekicks is one thing, but messing up the musical numbers is probably the stupidest thing you can ever do to this movie...I'm not saying that the songs themselves are bad since they're actually well executed on their own, it's just sometimes the visuals don't even match to what they're singing in the first place.  Songs like 'Getting To Know You' or 'A Puzzlement' decided not to show the singing characters, how they are or how they feel but show the funny Buddha man or the silly panther get themselves in wacky situations...sometimes in songs like 'Shall We Dance' and 'I Whistle A Happy Tune' would be really far fetched with what they show us rather it be Anna dancing with a ghost or killing off a dragon with a cheerful and upbeat song-is this a real freaking thing, that's like killing off the Maleficent dragon by singing 'Heigh Ho'!  I know this should probably be an issue I talk about on the animation, but it really does effect how we listen to the songs if what we see doesn't coordinate with what we listen-I mean, come on...this is 'Musicals 101' here!  It does happen though when the visuals do match with what the characters are singing like 'Hello Young Lovers' and 'Shall I Tell You What I Think Of You' and they're actually really well made...nothing exaggerated or random comedic bits interfering, just something that focuses on the song itself without taking things too far.

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This really could've been something great if this film was handled a bit better, this would've been one of the great non-Disney animated musicals of the 90's alongside 'The Prince Of Egypt' and 'Anastasia'...but as it is, 'The King And I' is just a weak movie since what seems to be from the original Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is done pretty well and there is some nice work on the animation but what changed or added for the movie like the comedic elements or the romance or whatever was horribly done and almost ruins the experience.  I normally recommend this to those who enjoy animated musicals and I don't mean just the ones by Disney to give it a watch on YouTube if you've seen or read any of the previous adaptations of 'The King And I', then it would be best if you don't touch this...like ever.  If you do want to see it though, just pretend this is not 'The King And I' since the similarities between this and the musical are just pure coincidence and that is why it gets a rating of a 5.5 out of 10.