Friday, May 31, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Aladdin 2019 | #Aladdin

ALADDIN
Written By John August and Guy Ritchie
Composed By Alan Menken
Produced By Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich
Edited By James Herbert
Directed By Guy Ritchie

Now THIS is what I call a fan favorite...as it was released in 1992, 'Aladdin' is often considered as one of the golden films of the Disney Renaissance next to 'The Little Mermaid', 'Beauty And The Beast' and 'The Lion King'.  However unlike those movies, it's not necessarily because of the way that 'Aladdin' would push animation or storytelling to a brand new level but rather how audiences would have so much fun with this film with the musical numbers and the characters among all sorts of magic and adventure that Aladdin himself would get into to the point where even animation legend Chuck Jones himself called 'Aladdin' the funniest movie ever and this is coming from the guy credited to making some of the greatest Looney Tunes cartoons.  It was a massive box office hit, a major awards collector and would be the one to initiate all of those direct-to-video sequels with 'The Return Of Jafar' being the first even bringing out a successful Broadway musical and an animated series that still has a cult following.  For Disney, 'Aladdin' is an entire treasure in itself...but can turning this animated classic into a live-action remake bring us into 'A Whole New World' or is it finally time to put the Genie back into his lamp?  Let's find out, this is 'Aladdin'!

ALADDIN: Young Aladdin embarks on a magical adventure after finding a lamp that releases a wisecracking genie

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As 'Aladdin' is making the jump from animation to live-action, there's no hiding that it did receive a downgrade; most notably how the jump made it become visually dull. One of the stand-out elements of the animated film is the way that it used color in order to tell its story while also giving the movie a high energy to always make every scene interesting and fun to watch. In the remake however, most of the color got sucked out in favor of adding lots of little details in the environment which doesn't deliver the same effect and sometimes can put the focus out of the characters that the audience is supposed to pay attention-even the CGI isn't all that appealing where it only stands out when it features the Genie or the animals just being animals with the only exception to this being the costume designs since at least that does try its best to give out more color and some life onto the scenes on top of really selling the idea that this is all set in an Arabian environment. But even with that, it still fails to capture the visual essence of the original and it results in having Agrabah look dull.

But that's not the only thing that's significantly weaker than the animated film-if you think that was bad, wait 'til you see what the remake did to Jafar...good lord, what have you done to my favorite of the Disney Villains?! Now some may have commented before on how attractive actor Marwan Kenzari was, but in here...he is one of the biggest turnoffs since his acting is constantly so stiff and nearly monotone throughout the film where he always sounds like he's mildly whining about his food not tasting as good as he expected to the point where it's almost like he's the real dad of the kids from the 'Dumbo' remake. Then again, Jafar isn't the only character making things worse for the movie since the film added a new character named Dalia who is Jasmine's handmaiden in an attempt to differentiate itself from the original-not only is she incredibly pointless to the feature, but also obnoxiously cringy with how she always tries to force out a joke with her airhead-like personality.

I guess there is no surprise here that there are many elements that failed to capture what the animated 'Aladdin' managed to do so well-in fact, there are some elements that we remember the most that ended up falling flat in the remake like Jafar being embarrasing, the visuals not being interesting to look at, the new additions only make things worse...and yet there's still not enough for me to call this a legitimately bad movie. As much as there are prominent flaws in this remake, there are still a good amount of elements that help make the feature go up to be at most enjoyable-one of which possibly being the main reason why many would want to see this film: Will Smith as the Genie...okay, not everything about him is great since the CGI when he is at his full Genie mode is laughably bad. Not only is it obviously out of place from the rest of the film, but the effect also made it look like it turned Will Smith into a blue Shrek...however when it comes to his performance, he actually inadvertently succeeded in capturing the spirit of the character. In the animated film, it's Robin Williams being a cartoony Robin Williams...and in the remake, it's Will Smith being a cartoony Will Smith which also allows him to be unique in his portrayal with his charm and delivering a good amount of humor that is actually funny.

I'll even give credit to most of the actors as well for doing a pretty good job on their roles like Mena Massoud as Aladdin. Granted they don't let out their full potential to the levels of their animated counterparts, but that less has to do with the actors and more at fault from the writing and the weak directing. Outside of that, most of the actors do well with the materials that they're given...but none of them and not even Will Smith is able to outshine one significant person whose performance is able to meet to the standards of the original feature. If there's one reason that can justify this remake's existence, it's Naomi Scott as Jasmine...for the first time in a Disney live-action remake, we got a princess that's actually good! So far, the ones we've got right now have acting and singing skills that range from a plank of wood with Aurora from 'Maleficent' to a short-circuiting robot with Belle from 'Beauty And The Beast'. But with Scott's Jasmine, she's like a breath of fresh air that now there's an actress that actually does care and put effort in portraying not just a Disney character but what many consider to be a role model-while she is a princess, what she wants most is to have her own freedom and to travel the world letting her voice be heard instead of serving to be an authority of men. With Naomi Scott's performance, it made it all feel believable and present that there is a lot more to her royal status.

But of course since this is Disney's 'Aladdin', you can't get out of this without talking about the songs...and in terms of this remake's rendition of them, I'll admit that they're alright with the most that I would criticize is that the visuals don't capture the same amount of high energy as the animated film because of the weak directing. But on their own, they do have some changes in the lyrics or enhance the theme to have them either sound more Arabic or give more of a hip hop flair to make it more accustomed to Will Smith's music style...other than that, they mostly stay true to the original versions making them at the very least decent on their own except for one since there is one new song made for the remake called 'Speechless' made by the same songwriters behind 'La La Land' and 'The Greatest Showman' and it turned out to be the weakest of the film. Hear me out: I love the idea of giving Jasmine an entire musical number that has a meaningful message and Naomi Scott is also a great singer, it's just that with 'Speechless' like with many of the works from those songwriters...the execution makes it feel soulless like it was corporately crafted to make it sound like any other pop song you've heard on the radio resulting in it feeling bland and easily forgettable.

There is one thing however that could potentially be a make-or-break deal for those who are possibly interested in checking this movie out: in the remake of 'Aladdin', ninety five percent of it is actually a shot-for-shot remake of what the original animated film already did...there is almost no difference at all between the remake of the movie and the animated film, they both pretty much have the exact same story-in fact, I would say that the biggest difference between the remake and the animated film is that the remake is in live-action and that is pretty much it. Now there are some people who might hear this and could consider that a good thing because that would actually make it a lot easier to go and recapture and relive the magic of the original 1992 film while others and based on my experience from watching the movie would actually go and sit in the theater to watch the film asking themselves why there are sitting there watching this movie when they could save money sitting at home watching the animated film so that they could literally have the exact same experience...that's probably the biggest problem with the remake of 'Aladdin' since it feels like the writing just took the script of the animated film while making a few slight adjustments considering it as an entirely new movie on its own resulting in the remake to feel hollow.'

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Overall, the live-action remake of 'Aladdin' is a movie that exemplifies the saying 'be careful what you wish for' where it does deliver a live-action version of the 1992 animated classic film but it also comes with its set of burdens: the costumes are really nice, but the visual wonder is gone replacing it with a colorless environment and unimpressive CGI...it features great performances by Naomi Scott and Will Smith, but at the cost of a classic villain that's now weak...it stays true to its source material, but so much so that it makes it nearly pointless and whatever new addition it tries to include either end up feeling forgettable or irritating. As for my rating being someone who holds the animated classic close to my heart, there is a lot of factors with this mixed bag...but I think it ultimately results in the live-action remake of 'Aladdin' getting a 5.5 out of 10

Thursday, May 30, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Maleficent - 5 Years Of Fairy Failures | #Maleficent

MALEFICENT
Written By Linda Woolverton
Composed By James Newton Howard
Produced By Joe Roth
Edited By Chris Lebenzon and Richard Pearson
Directed By Robert Stromberg

Maleficent, the Mistress Of All Evil...known for her fiendish personality and dark magic that is more powerful than anyone can ever imagine...because of this, she is recognized as one of the greatest if not the greatest Disney villain of all time.  Now what if I told you that everything I just said was apparently not true?!  For an idea that didn't sound very bright and that I didn't think much of, I was open to it to learning more about Maleficent's past at the same time...but it soon became very obvious what they were trying to do: the 'Wicked' formula again with trying to take a fairy tale we all thought we knew and telling it in a different way where the bad guy doesn't look so bad.  But when I really thought about it, I kept thinking about what they were trying to do to one of the great villains who was one of the great Disney icons from turning the Mistress Of All Evil into a simple case of misunderstanding to turning three of the most likable comic reliefs into idiotic morons while turning an iconic Disney fairy tale that had its flaws but was still pretty damn creative into every other poorly CG'd stale story that comes out about fairy tales nowadays.  Can the Mistress Of All Evil still find a way to work her magic into this remake?  Let's find out, this is 'Maleficent'!

MALEFICENT: As a beautiful young woman of pure heart, Maleficent has an idyllic life in a forest kingdom rising up to become its fiercest protector when an invading army threatens the land. However, a terrible betrayal hardens her heart and twists her into a creature bent on revenge engaging in an epic battle with the invading king's successor and cursing his newborn daughter Aurora realizing only later that the child holds the key to peace in the kingdom.

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The one thing that 'Maleficent' didn't tell you beforehand is that Maleficent is not the villain-in fact, she's not even evil at all since the movie took several liberties to change the story of the animated 'Sleeping Beauty' and turn her into a fairy godmother...and they don't just subtlety bring it up either since Princess Aurora flat out calls her 'fairy godmother'. They even changed some other significant scenes to make her look more sweet like changing her mind on the spot for Aurora to sleep than to die when she curses the baby even at that when she tries to revoke the curse after spending some time with her. Now some of you may argue that they're just doing the same thing as the hit Broadway musical 'Wicked' about the Wicked Witch Of The West: like Maleficent, they try to make the witch more sympathetic and just misunderstood than just feared by all in the land of Oz. While a good point, here's the issue with 'Maleficent': what worked in 'Wicked' is that the story is all about the development of how the Wicked Witch and Glinda became who we all know today without really altering the original story nor the characters during that time. In 'Maleficent' though, they tampered with everything-not just Maleficent, but also the story of the original movie and all the other characters as well. I can understand with what they're trying to do with the scenes before the big baby shower, but then afterwards they just took things way too far.

So if Maleficent isn't the villain, then who among the characters from 'Sleeping Beauty' is it? Other than Maleficent, the other character that they focus on a lot is Aurora's father King Stefan who in here is now a crazy tyrant focusing on nothing else than to kill off Maleficent even going as far as putting his mission over his own wife and daughter. I'm sorry, but I just can't see this guy as the villain since it would've been more interesting if the biggest conflict was the curse that Maleficent laid upon Aurora...I understand a bit with his development before he became king, but then afterwards he's just an insane man who I'm starting to question if he even remembers why he wants to kill off Maleficent in the first place because you might remember that King Stefan's most tyrannical moment in the original Sleeping Beauty is his argument-turned laugh fest with King Hubert if you have seen the animated film. On top of that, the actor playing King Stefan in this movie is awful...I mean, really bad. I guess he's supposed to be like this really complex character, but he just sorta has these weird mood swings and out of nowhere goes nuts and none of it's convincing to the point where it sounds silly. Something about his voice...I don't know if it's the inflections or the pitch or whatever, but he just annoys the crap out of me.

As for the rest of the characters, a lot of them are practically watered down from their animated counterparts: Aurora is still the same except she likes Maleficent instead of the prince, Prince Phillip is practically useless, Maleficent's raven Diaval turns into a human most of the time oddly enough and then there are the three good fairies-oh lord, what the hell did they do to them?! They're no longer Flora Fauna and Merryweather, now they're Disney's version of The Three Stooges reduced to do nothing but dumb slapstick at each other and fail miserably at taking care of Aurora since they need her friggin' babysitter to do the job for them-it's almost like the writer for this movie just didn't like the fairies in the original and really wanted to stick it to Disney! But then comes Angelina Jolie as Maleficent and there's no denying that she did an amazing performance capturing both the calm and fiendish nature of the original while giving her more of a personality and charm to the character. Trust me, Angelina Jolie was perfect as Maleficent and even some of the other actors are pretty solid-the only issue being the material that they're given.

Considering that 'Maleficent' was said to have a huge one hundred and eighty million dollar budget, there are some things where the money is put to good use since it heavily relies on special effects and CGI where I'll admit that it often looks gorgeous with many of the creatures that live in the Moors are highly creative in terms of design and the way that they come to life is so believable-funny enough, the entire land of the Moors reminded me a lot of the Blue Sky film 'Epic' in the way they both depicted their enchanted forest. Even if the characters are way off to what they're supposed to be, the settings look fantastic and they seem like live-action recreations of how they're depicted in the original Disney classic.

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Overall...when you first hear about the idea of a Maleficent movie, you probably expect that it will be about why and how she became the most notorious Disney villain of all time. But when you actually see it, it seemed like it was going to do that at first before taking a completely different direction and gave us a messed up retelling of the 1959 animated classic where Maleficent is the hero. If it were its own thing that's just loosely based on the classic fairy tale, it would've been a pretty solid film...but the fact that the movie tries so hard to connect itself with a Disney animated classic almost ruins it and it feels like it just wants to fix something that was never broken. While 'Maleficent' does look great with some of the acting especially from Angelina Jolie is magnificent, the writing is just a mess and some characters just feel pointless...for that, I have to give 'Maleficent' a 4 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Up - 10 Years Of Adventure | #Up

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UP
Written By Bob Peterson and Pete Docter
Composed By Michael Giacchino
Produced By Jonas Rivera
Edited By Kevin Nolting
Directed By Pete Docter

With how many times people constantly praise the Toy Story franchise, you would think that one of the films in the soon to be saga would be their favorite Pixar film...and actually, they are not since that distinction goes to 'Up' for a lot of people because it is one of the most perfect family animated films that has ever been made in their opinions through the film's funny and emotional scenes in an easy to follow story where you can get wrapped up in the drama with memorable moments and memorable characters in a bright and colorful animated world.  It's basically what a lot of people think of when they think of a perfect movie, but I never understood why people love it that much for the longest time...can this ten-year old classic soar to new heights and make me look at it from a different point of view?  Let's find out, this is 'Up'!

UP: Carl Fredricksen, a seventy eight year old balloon salesman, is about to fulfill a lifelong dream: tying thousands of balloons to his house, he flies away to the South American wilderness...but curmudgeonly Carl's worst nightmare comes true when he discovers a little boy named Russell is a stowaway aboard the balloon-powered house.

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When you look at 'Up' on the surface of its story, it doesn't sound like much to the point where it even sounds silly...and yeah, it is silly since I didn't even get to the point about the dogs flying the little airplanes-yeah, there's dogs flying little airplanes in this! But if you're willing to buy surreal ideas like a house that can take off with a million balloons, you'll buy stuff like that as well since that is what 'Up' manages to do with how it manages to pull you in with every silly over the top gesture because the dramatic moments are just as easily strong. You immediately identify with Carl and Ellie in the opening and I'm sure you've heard everybody talk about how unbelievably good the first ten minutes are and...yeah, they are. In fact, a common joke among people is that you can just slap 'The End' after the first ten minutes and the audience would probably be satisfied-it's the history of their life as a couple together without any dialogue since it's all done through visuals and music to the point where you honestly don't think the crew working behind the film are gonna top this and that they played their trump card too early.

But the rest of 'Up' is so imaginatively colorful and likeable that it's impossible not to get as drawn in as you were in the first ten minutes. Kevin never says a word and yet has a lot of personality, the relationship between Russell and Carl has both its funny and touching moments, the way they nail the personality of a dog by giving it a voice-box is ingenious and even the side villains are a ton of fun. As soon as the threatening Alpha showed up, you're probably thinking to yourself 'aw gee, here's the killjoy...no funny things are gonna come out of this guy'...but sure enough, you'll be laughing all the way through the moment you hear his voice. Yeah, it's childish since all they do is speed up the voice...but when you put that voice against that threatening image, it's hilarious!

However, I would say that the only nitpick I have with 'Up' is...how is it that Carl is watching his explorer idol Charles F. Muntz when he's young and yet they look roughly the same age when they meet up? I dunno, shouldn't Charles be dead by now? I kept expecting them to explain that, but they never do. But if that's honestly the biggest problem with 'Up', I have little to complain about since I can't think of anything else wrong with this film...the love is genuine, the friendship is genuine, the characters are genuine, the situations as crazy as they are seem remarkably genuine! It's a strange story with strange people, but how many great tales have started off with 'this is a normal story with normal people'?

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Overall, 'Up' has the perfect amount of drama and comedy with material for adults and children since it doesn't need a whole slew ton of characters to sell toys with when it only only needs a couple...but the couple they choose are so good and so likeable that it's all you need. For all these reasons and more, 'Up' gets a rating of a 9 out of 10 and remember...adventure is out the-SQUIRREL!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - Going To Seed | #MLPSeason9


Season 9, Episode 10: Going To Seed
Written By Dave Rapp

Despite her independence from her sister's overbearing safety measures, Applejack and Apple Bloom are as close as sisters can be while helping each other with the chores around Sweet Apple Acres day and night to provide for one another or competing in the Sisterhooves Social together.  But despite being full of potential, little Apple Bloom has a lot of growing to do and dreams of something bigger...and it looks like her fearlessness and determination are gonna come in handy when a magical spirit has the potential to help the Apple Family.  The hunt is on with Apple Bloom and Applejack 'cause we're 'Going To Seed'!

GOING TO SEED: Applejack's plans for an orderly harvest go awry when Apple Bloom becomes obsessed with catching a magical creature she thinks can help them

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PROS:

  • The Confluence-through an exposition dump by Applejack before we get into the plot itself, we find out about a very special harvest for the Apple Family by the name of The Confluence in which every apple comes ripe at the same time even going as far as showing us more of Bright Mac and Pear Butter from the universally praised Season 7 episode 'The Perfect Pear' with things like how Big McIntosh got his trademark harness from and baby Apple Bloom being carried around by her mother while the family harvests apples. But regarding the Confluence, we can clearly see that it has hit Big McIntosh like a ton of bricks as he is up late into the evening constantly working on the daily schedule for harvesting to the point where he ends up sleepwalking and ending up harvesting quite a number of apples in the orchard himself as the supposed 'Great Seedling' that Apple Bloom and Applejack spent a majority of the episode trying to catch in order to reward the family with crops that are always in bloom...speaking of which, next topic!
  • The Legend Of The Great Seedling-with Goldie Delicious having come to help the family at Sweet Apple Acres for the annual Confluence while Applejack's friends are busy at the School Of Friendship, it only seems natural that the historian of the Apple Family would be the one to deliver the story of The Great Seedling in order to set up the plot for this episode regarding Apple Bloom's desire to catch this magical spirit in order to reward the Apple Family with crops that are always in bloom...in fact for all of you retro fans out there, 'Going To Seed' is basically the My Little Pony equivalent of the classic Peanuts Halloween special 'It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown' where Linus waited in his local pumpkin patch on Halloween night for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin flying through the air and delivering presents to the children of the world only for his 'great pumpkin' to be Snoopy after crashing the Halloween party at Linus and Lucy's house-this episode honestly reminds me a lot of how parents let kids believe in things like Santa Claus even to the point of staying up on Christmas Eve waiting for him since it's fun for them because they're young!

CONS:
  • N/A

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Overall...I can't exactly say why 'Going To Seed' works, it just kinda does. The story may be very basic, but I think that's why it's so good: there's simply no bullshit in it...what you see is what you get and the team working behind the scenes still did their best to give us a straightforward episode of 'My Little Pony' that could possibly count as a Halloween special and the effort shows-it had great music, it had a wonderful theme and there's something about the bluntness of the Apple Family that's actually very refreshing. 'Going To Seed' is not laugh out loud funny, but I don't think it's supposed to be since it's almost like watching a holiday pageant that you know everyone tried their hardest to create-you can feel the effort, the commitment and the sincerity above all. Nothing seems manipulative at all-it's just straightforward and to the point...and it somehow just works in order to help give 'Going To Seed' a rating of a 10 out of 10


Uprooted-8/10
Going To Seed-10/10

SEASON 9 OVERALL RATING: 8.83/10

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - Sweet And Smoky | #MLPSeason9

Season 9, Episode 9: Sweet And Smoky
Written By Kim Beyer-Johnson


Like most dragons, Smolder has been shown as tough and competitive while initially being resilient to the idea of friendship when she first arrived at the School Of Friendship back in Season 8 after having been brought against her will...but after getting to know some of her fellow students as well as Spike, she has opened up and overall become much more friendly while secretly liking cute things such as dresses and tea parties.  But it would appear that Smolder is not the only dragon in her family with a soft side...time to return to the Dragon Lands where things are about to get 'Sweet And Smoky'!

SWEET AND SMOKY: Smolder returns to the Dragon Lands with Spike and Fluttershy to help cheer up her sensitive brother, but when they arrive they discover another surprising problem-the dragon eggs aren't hatching!


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PROS:
  • Fluttershy-in what was quite a nod to the series pilot in which Fluttershy was able to speak up and get all excited because of seeing 'baby dragons'...or at least who she thinks is a baby dragon when she first meets Spike, having Fluttershy tag along with Spike and Ember on their trip to the Dragon Lands was certainly a surprise and man was she laying on the overly adorable baby talk quite thick in this episode when talking to the eggs and reading stories to them. On top of that, having a Fluttershy and Spike centered episode is something that we haven't seen before in the series...even if it is just for a few parts of the episode that isn't really about them, but I will admit that Fluttershy joining Garble on the bongos for a few seconds was kinda fun and seeing her get angry while showing her scary side at Garble and his cronies doing everything short of giving them 'the stare' for abusing Spike was great to see again


CONS:
  • The story-it's been quite a while since we last had a dragon centered episode in the series ever since Season 6's "Gauntlet Of Fire" and while there is plenty of potential to grab at with the concept of Garble and Smolder being siblings as well as Spike trying to make amends and be the bigger dragon with Garble after years of bullying and threats made towards him, but we have seen this storyline of 'tough guys having hidden soft sides while acting like bullies' before in the series back in Season 3's "One Bad Apple" as well as in other movies and television like in the Thomas & Friends episode 'Diesel And The Ducklings'...and I honestly don't think 'Sweet And Smoky' is a new way of tackling the idea either despite finding a way to connect the plot of the dragon eggs with the plot of Garble showing his sensitive side because his cronies nearly caused a massive infanticide by redirecting the lava pools, not to mention that the ending felt like a seriously schmaltzy deus ex machina with how dragon fire weirdly gets hotter when they laugh as a way of solving the plot while having Garble out of the blue thinking of using his beatnik poetry in order to get everyone to laugh with little motivation and Ember declaring him the hero of the Dragon Lands forcing everyone to respect him
  • Garble-I won't deny that Vincent Tong does a great job voicing this character, but I've just never been a fan of Garble ever since Season 2's "Dragon Quest" especially since his idea of having fun back then was literally smashing phoenix eggs as well as back in Season 6's 'Gauntlet Of Fire' where he was all about what he wanted while having no intent of working with anyone else even when others are saving him from giant rocks...so seeing Garble have a soft side as a beatnik poet only willing to show it to his sister Smolder, I honestly didn't know what to make of it or what else they could really do with this concept other than just banging around on the bongos accompanied by some out there lyrics in what feels like a coffeehouse from the 1950's and yet I know the fandom is gonna be making fan art and plushies as well as new cosplays of 'Beatnik Garble'

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Overall...despite being burnt around the edges from recycling a story we've seen before while having an extremely schmaltzy ending, 'Sweet And Smoky' still manages to be an alright middle-of-the-road episode mostly for the interactions between characters like Fluttershy and Spike which for that earns a rating of a 7.5 out of 10


Uprooted-8/10
Frenemies-10/10
Sweet And Smoky-7.5/10

SEASON 9 OVERALL RATING: 8.68/10

Sunday, May 19, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Pokémon - Detective Pikachu | #DetectivePikachu

POKÉMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU
Written By Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman and Derek Connolly
Composed By Henry Jackman
Produced By Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Hidenaga Katakami and Don McGowan
Edited By Mark Sanger and James Thomas
Directed By Rob Letterman

Between the late 1990's up to the mid 2000's, kids all around the world were obssesed with Pokémon from the original one hundred and fifty one cards to the little figurines to the Game Boy video games to watching the movies and the anime.  I think it is safe to say that many were really excited for 'Detective Pikachu' even if they weren't always anticipated for it-in fact, I'd be lying if I said people never had any doubts about it since we're talking about a live action Pokémon movie from a major Hollywood studio and the word 'infamous' would probably be the best way to describe it considering their history of films based on video games to the point where some would expect something like the upcoming live action Sonic The Hedgehog movie when it was first announced.  Also, it was due to the fact that 'Detective Pikachu' isn't based on any of the main role playing games or even the anime starring Ash and the gang but rather one of the spinoff games that features a talking Pikachu solving mysteries...with all of the characters that we grew up with and the type of stories that they usually deliver, this is the one worth making a major motion picture out of?!  Looks like we'll just have to see for ourselves...let's find out because we gotta catch 'em all, this is 'Pokémon: Detective Pikachu'!

POKÉMON - DETECTIVE PIKACHU: Ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry's former Pokémon partner, the wise-cracking and adorable super sleuth Detective Pikachu. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to work together as Tim is the only human who can talk with Pikachu, they join forces to unravel the tangled mystery.

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I might as well start off with the best aspect of 'Detective Pikachu'...say what you will about the movie, but the visual effects here are amazing and it is all thanks to the Pokémon themselves.  In a way, the film managed to do the impossible by taking these cartoon-like creatures and adapt them in a live-action environment with realistic textures and movements yet still retaining their original designs from the games and the anime with the result giving its audience the Pokémon that they all know and love but in a way that feels completely believable.  This also plays a big part in making its environment feel immersive as well where it feels like the original game is coming to life and present the relationship between humans and Pokémon with some regions viewing them like wild animals where there is a distinct separation between the people and the creatures while others like Ryme City treats everyone like equals and Pokémon can help out on specific jobs and act more like the trainer's buddy.

As for the individual Pokémon themselves, they actually play a big role in making the movie enjoyable to watch.  Even though I am not a Pokémon fan, I do appreciate that the first generation of Pokémon are more featured here while including a whole bunch from the later generations as well in order to diversify the environment and also finding and recognizing them to feel rewarding-in a way, it's a lot like 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' or 'Ready Player One' where part of the fun is to look out for all the different cameos and appearances as well as numerous references to the games and the anime.  For Pokémon fans, it does have some re-watch value for the large amount of Easter eggs and there's always a good chance you'll find something new when you watch it again.

However just in case, it's probably best to not put your hopes too high if there's a specific Pokémon you want to see and have its moment in the spotlight-sure many of the popular ones that are mostly from Generation 1 like Bulbasaur and Psyduck are prominently featured on top of a few from the later generations, but the rest only have short cameos that appeared as much as they did during the trailers.  But then you have the star Pokémon, the one who even gets the privilege to have his name in the title...Pikachu.  As he is voiced by Ryan Reynolds, he is exactly what you'd expect him to be: Ryan Reynolds in a Pikachu body...and yet he is the most enjoyable character and the best actor of the film since there is a good contrast of the snarky attitude with the adorable yellow body and with Reynolds' signature Deadpool-like humor, he almost singlehandedly gave the film some strong comedy.

As a Pokémon movie, it really succeeded on the Pokémon aspect to really make it enjoyable for everyone since the fans will have a lot of fun checking out all the different scenes that would have every little reference as much as they can find on their own little Easter egg hunt while those who are less familiar with the franchise can still have fun with the moments where they see things that even they can recognize...but there is one big catch to 'Detective Pikachu'-no pun intended-since it certainly did the Pokémon aspect really well, but not so much as a movie since it comes out a bit weak unfortunately in terms of story.  It's not necessarily the worst detective story in a movie, but it does end up becoming predictable at times and doesn't actually answer all the questions to what happened in the mystery.  I understand that it mostly has to stay true to the game that it was based on in terms of the narrative, but it doesn't change that it can make the movie feel absolutely ridiculous even by Pokémon standards when some of the answers get revealed.

Another element that can take away some of the quality of 'Detective Pikachu' are the human characters...as fun as the Pokémon can be, the people and the trainers are not since they feel like a bunch of dull tropes with little substance to deliver onto the feature-even the dynamic between Tim and Lucy end up feeling generic and kinda makes them look dumb like they are not prepared to do these investigations.  Some could say that the relationship between the two is meant to be a bit of a throwback to the anime with Ash and his friends, but they end up feeling more annoying than relatable in a movie setting like this-even some of the acting isn't strong enough to help improve the characters although some do a good job on their own like Bill Nighy and Justice Smith, it's more of the writing than anything that makes the characters feel bad.  Then again, Pokémon has never really been known for the most compelling stories or complex characters that can bring out the best in actors...


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Overall, 'Pokémon: Detective Pikachu' is an interesting case that somehow works and doesn't at the same time since it fails to stand on its own with weak writing that can give out a predictable and sometimes ludicrous story with generic and unappealing characters as a movie while at the same time giving great visual effects with references sprinkled everywhere along with the show-stealers that give excitement and both the performance and humor of Ryan Reynolds as a Pokémon experience...and that is why for my rating, I'm gonna give 'Pokémon: Detective Pikachu' a 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - Frenemies | #MLPSeason9

No photo description available.
Season 9, Episode 8: Frenemies
Written By Michael Vogel


Back in the Season 9 premiere 'The Beginning Of The End', we were introduced to the one and only Grogar-a legendary tyrant who once declared himself emperor of a young Equestria as he created foul monsters to wreak havoc across the land until Gusty The Great took his mystical bell and banished him in a weak state.  By spending the past millenia recovering his strength and gathering the likes of Lord Tirek and Cozy Glow along with Chrysalis and King Sombrawhile observing their defeats, this blue-coated ram may just have the ultimate plan to defeat Twilight Sparkle and her friends once and for all...but with King Sombra already defeated, it appears that our fan favorite villains are about to go from enemies to 'Frenemies'!  Let's take a look...

FRENEMIES: Grogar sends his legion of doom on a mission to become allies with the enemy, but his plan unfortunately works too well and they almost become friends


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PROS:
  • The return of Grogar-after having done research on Grogar before sitting down to watch the season premiere last month, it is so cool to have another Generation 1 character from 'My Little Pony' to join the ranks of Lord Tirek and the Smooze when they made their debuts back in Seasons 4 and 5 and we can see that this blue coated ram means business when getting the rest of our team of villains to work together in destroying Twilight Sparkle and her friends by making them retrieve his mystical bell from Mount Everhoof as a means of getting them to working together...Doc Harris has done an amazing job in bringing this retro character to life for a new generation and I know this won't be the last we see of him during this final season with him having forced our non-reformed villains to stick with him after King Sombra failed to take over the Crystal Empire on his own back in the season premiere!  But it looks like we'll have to wait until the second half of the season to find out...although I fear that what our other villains have planned towards the end of the episode will lead to yet another 'trusting in traitors' reformation
  • The return of Queen Chrysalis, Lord Tirek and Cozy Glow-with these three characters being the only villains not to be reformed throughout the entirety of the series, we all knew that we would see them again soon after their big returns last season during 'The Mean Six' as well as during the season finale 'School Raze' as they are summoned by the legendary Grogar to help him finally destroy Twilight Sparkle and her friends...and as we saw towards the end of the season premiere 'The Beginning Of The End', our ragtag team of villains are having second thoughts about working together with Grogar after he uses King Sombra's defeat as an example to secure their loyalty to him to the point where they even plan to use Grogar's mystical bell that Gusty The Great took away of which they were supposed to return to their leader as part of their own plan to take over Equestria. What our villains have planned for their Equestrian takeover, we'll just have to wait and see in the second half of Season 9...
  • 'Better Way To Be Bad'-after two songs sung by the Young Six in both the episodes 'Uprooted' and last week with 'She's All Yak', it is great to finally have songs sung by the other members of the cast...not only does this episode give Queen Chrysalis a long awaited chance to sing again after seven seasons since she debuted in Season 2's "A Canterlot Wedding", but this episode also marks the singing debut of both Lord Tirek and Cozy Glow and man do Mark Acheson and Sunni Westbrook have some great singing chops! While 'I'm The Friend You Need' from the 2017 movie may have been the franchise's first ever tango-inspired song, it's great to see this style of music being used again in what could possibly be My Little Pony's interpretation of the classic Disney song 'Poor Unfortunate Souls' from The Little Mermaid

CONS:
  • N/A

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Overall, 'Frenemies' was in my honest opinion what last season's "The Mean Six" should've been...as much as I loved 'The Mean Six', seeing our ragtag team of villains act much more competent than a bunch of clueless clones getting smacked around by fate while actually achieving something they can use to their advantage and managing to supply some laughs made for a much more entertaining experience overall and definitely deserves a 10 out of 10 rating from me.


Uprooted-8/10
Frenemies-10/10

SEASON 9 OVERALL RATING: 8.85/10

Saturday, May 11, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - She's All Yak | #MLPSeason9

Season 9, Episode 7: She's All Yak
Written By Brian Hohlfeld


Ever since she made her big debut in Season 8, Yona has shown to be very proud of her home in Yakyakistan even going as far as proclaiming that everything yak-related is the best...but ever since she first came to Ponyville, Yona has also shown to be very excitable and clumsy while her jabs at other creatures have become good-natured after getting to know some of her fellow students who helped her overcome her fears of feeling out of place.  Unfortunately, Yona's fears of not fitting in may end up being her ultimate downfall like what happened in this week's episode...get ready for a smashing good time 'cause 'She's All Yak'!

SHE'S ALL YAK: When Sandbar asks Yona to a "pony dance," Yona becomes convinced she must ponify herself to be a good friend and thus goes to Rarity and her friends for a makeover in appearance and personality


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PROS:
  • The Fetlock Fete-through Twilight Sparkle hanging up posters on the School Of Friendship's bulletin board, one of Ponyville's oldest traditions that used to pony centric makes a return with an all-inclusive new name of the 'Amity Ball' which is a dance party featuring traditions like the Pony Pal Contest and a potluck dinner...also, did anyone else notice that Spike at one point was wearing a dragon themed helmet resembling that of Canadian electronic music producer deadmau5? Also, regarding Yona's traditional dance of 'The Yakyakistan Stomp' which is shown both at the beginning and end of the episode...considering the fact that this caused an earthquake on the Richter scale that bent the rafters of the Baltimore Convention Center's top floor, this is why BronyPalooza was moved to the basement!
  • Yona-out of our six main students in the series as of Season 8, Yona has always been my personal favorite with how much I can relate to her struggles of fitting in among everyone else who clearly stood out among the crowd because of the subjective popularity contest whether during my school years or during my time within the fandom...and while having to sit through the same 'just be yourself' plotline that we've seen thousands of times before especially in previous episodes like Season 7's "Discordant Harmony", this actually marks the first time that we have had an episode that focused solely on one of the members of the Young Six and it really plays into Yona's strengths/weaknesses in what can be described as an homage to the Broadway classic musical 'My Fair Lady' from the mouthful of brussel sprouts to traditional pony dances. I guess it is all a matter of whether or not you were a fan of Yona if you're gonna enjoy this episode...and with me being a fan of Yona ever since Season 8 like I said earlier, this episode was a joy to watch!
  • 'Fit Right In'-even if it is basically the My Little Pony equivalent of 'You Can Only Be You' from the Thomas & Friends special 'The Great Race' and while it can at times feel preachy, 'Fit Right In' is still a really sweet and heartwarming duet between Yona and Rarity as plans are laid out in order for Yona to 'fit right in' (see what I did there?) with the ponies of Equestria in order to attend the 'pony dance' at the School Of Friendship with Sandbar while also giving us our first look at 'ponified Yona' which I'm sure is gonna get a ton of fan art and plushies made by the fandom over the next coming weeks...kinda weird though how the Young Six are the ones receiving the songs for this final season so far and we're now seven episodes into the season, hopefully we get some songs by the other cast members on the show before the series finale premieres!
  • The moral-while the main moral of 'She's All Yak' about just being yourself has been done countless times before, I love how each member of the Mane 6 are putting in their 'two bits' in a way instead of the other members of the Young Six giving her this impression and they even admit towards the end that they didn't take into account exactly what made Yona unique even though they were trying to show Yona how to have fun (Rarity especially with how she didn't choose a dress for Yona based on 'earthy tones' and even harshly calling the dance a 'yak-ccident' right to Yona's face when everything falls apart...seriously, WTF?!) all while Yona learns to enjoy herself for who she is based on the way that Sandbar eloquently put it...the real moral for this episode was actually about how you can have a great time at any event despite popularity being so subjective-one that I can really connect with on a personal level whether it be school parties/dances and especially ever since I first started attending BronyCon along with the Grand Galloping Gala, this was a moral I needed to hear especially regarding recent events within the fandom!

CONS:
  • N/A

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Overall despite having a story and moral that we've seen numerous times before, 'She's All Yak' was just the rebound that Season 9 of My Little Pony needed in order to get back on track again...just like Yona, it proves that being yourself can truly help you to go far no matter how popular you are. For an episode that hit an emotional center within me, 'She's All Yak' earns a rating of a 9 out of 10...but there's a great evil on the horizon for next week when Grogar returns with his Legion Of Doom, see you next time!


Uprooted-8/10
She's All Yak-9/10

SEASON 9 OVERALL RATING: 8.66/10