Saturday, June 29, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - Rainbow Road Trip | #MLPRainbowRoadTrip


MY LITTLE PONY: RAINBOW ROAD TRIP
Written By Kim Beyer-Johnson

Two years ago, Twilight Sparkle and her friends set out on their biggest adventure yet as they journeyed beyond Equestria to seek help from some new friends and even an unlikely hero in defeating the Storm King from ruining the very first Friendship Festival in the fall blockbuster 'My Little Pony: The Movie'. Despite being a hit among kids as well as the fandom with having numerous premiere meetups and plenty of new merchandise taking over store shelves, the critics weren't so open to the movie and not only did the film not make the money it needed back because of an unfortunate online leaking that happened only a few days before the premiere but there was a huge lack of promotion for it as well considering the fact that it came out the exact same weekend as 'Blade Runner 2049' thus killing off any plans for possible sequels...or did it? Let's find out 'cause it's time to join the Mane 6 on a 'Rainbow Road Trip'!

MY LITTLE PONY - RAINBOW ROAD TRIP: The Mane Six hop a balloon for Hope Hollow where Rainbow Dash has been invited to be the guest of honor at the town's Rainbow Festival. But when they crash land in town, there's nopony there to greet them and the mystery only grows when the sun rises to reveal the entire town and the ponies in it have been drained of color! While Twilight Sparkle tries to discover what malicious magic caused the town to fade, her friends help the townsponies plan a new rainbow festival making friends along the way and restoring the hope missing from Hope Hollow.


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PROS:
  • 'Simplifying The Story'-the pacing/execution plays a big part in how people will react upon viewing 'Rainbow Road Trip' since it feels like a double edged sword in a way due to being a very slow burn with a very relaxed pace all throughout the special which might be an issue for some people from feeling like your typical 'slice of life' scenario through and through whereas the movie had an opposite approach with trying to throw anything and everything at you going from location to location and meeting all of the different characters of different species which can make 'Rainbow Road Trip' feel like a very low key episode of the 'Friendship Is Magic' series really stretched out to fill the run time of a movie...you could argue that barely anything happens in this movie and yet being someone who enjoyed the My Little Pony movie back in 2017 would probably see this as a downgrade, but you have to look at it from a different perspective and it all depends on what you enjoy...'Rainbow Road Trip' may be targeted for a much younger audience, but maybe that's why they felt that they had to simplify the story and the interactions taking the pacing to a slow burn because it takes a while for pretty much anything to happen with the Mane 6 each having their own character to encourage which can make the story feel very predictable and the message not feel very deep or leave much of an impact with how the new characters just need words of affirmation to get their lives back in order!
  • 'Where Did The Color Go'-the concept of a semi-mystery in finding out how Hope Hollow lost its color and how to bring it back: it would've been very easy to have another Starlight Glimmer-esque villain be the one responsible and yet I feel that would've made the movie feel extremely predictable, but instead the movie is especially simplified in trying to figure out what went wrong and why ponies don't like interacting with each other anymore which results in feeling like the movie was targeted towards a younger audience especially when the 'Friendship Is Magic' series having aspects that parents can really enjoy including elements that can go over kids' heads while appealing to the kids as well...you would think at first that Mayor Sunny Skies is the one responsible for draining the color from Hope Hollow and while it would result in the story not working as well, but it turns out that he just doesn't believe in himself anymore due to feeling like it was his fault that all the town lost its color and nopony enjoying each other's company anymore and yet that was a stronger direction to go with his character in my opinion-the writers picked a theme and stuck with it all throughout keeping it consistent!
  • 'The Return Of Toon Boom'-I really hadn't expected to see any more movie style animation until there was another movie, but 'Rainbow Road Trip' kinda counts in that regard since I can see a lot of really creative designs put together for these characters...it may not be as good as the animation from the movie due to having a lot more going on in various different scenes, but the character designs even in black and white or dull gray is actually very interesting even before the colors show up and everything just pops at the end when everything comes into color while having the final musical number which really speaks high of the animators!  Speaking of which, this is actually the first project in the fourth generation of My Little Pony where DHX Media had no involvement but instead being animated by Boulder Media who had previous experience with the 'Equestria Girls: Summertime Shorts' digital videos...I don't know what the future of My Little Pony has in store with Boulder Media for the series, but it looks and sounds pretty damn good for their first major outing!
  • 'The Town Of Hope Hollow'-while I love how we got to see the Mane 6 in their movie art styles again as well as giving each member of the group something to do compared to the movie from back in 2017, it's the new characters that we are introduced to in the new location of Hope Hollow who steal the show in this special and I think I had an easier time remembering the newbies from 'Rainbow Road Trip' compared to the 2017 movie due to a lot of characters are sharing a lot of the same qualities with more than half of the town having Canadian accents from the newlywed couple of Petunia Petals and Mayor Sunny Skies to Torque Wrench who was an obvious reference to Rosie The Riveter along with Kerfuffle who I am so glad to see that her being an amputee wasn't made into a big deal and that her disability doesn't make her any less happy or optimistic as she loves doing what she does best in fashion...they may not have that much time on screen and yet quite a few of them do leave an impact!

CONS:
  • N/A

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Overall while having a very simplified story and very simplified interactions, 'Rainbow Road Trip' still manages to deliver a sweet but fun story with some beautiful animation and memorable new characters both old and new...it may not be perfect, but I'm gonna give 'Rainbow Road Trip' a rating of a 8 out of 10.

Friday, June 28, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - The Last Laugh | #MLPSeason9

Season 9, Episode 14: The Last Laugh
Written By Michael P. Fox and Wil Fox

When Grammy-winning singer-songwriter 'Weird Al' Yankovic was first announced to be a guest star on 'My Little Pony' back in the Season 4 episode 'Pinkie Pride' as the super duper party pony himself Cheese Sandwich, I remember saying to myself 'yeah that sounds about right' since 'Weird Al' was no stranger to appearing in cartoons like 'The Simpsons' and 'The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy' as well as expressing his enjoyment of the series on multiple occasions and had closely worked with the show staff-heck, the guy who composes the scores for 'Friendship Is Magic' used to be in 'Weird Al' Yankovic's band!  But back to 'Pinkie Pride', it ended up not only being one of the best episodes from Season 4 but also hailed as one of the best episodes of the entire series with how much of a match made in heaven it was as Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich worked together to give Rainbow Dash the best birth-iversary party ever...but will the return of the super duper party pony himself be just as awesome as before?  Let's get the second half of My Little Pony's final season into motion 'cause it's time to see who will ultimately have 'The Last Laugh'!

THE LAST LAUGH: When Pinkie Pie seeks help from the super-silly Cheese Sandwich in finding her life's purpose, she discovers the unimaginable has happened

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PROS:
  • 'The Purpose Of A Party Pony'-while the basic concept of this episode may feel like a role reversal rehash of Season 4's "Pinkie Pride" with Cheese Sandwich now in the shoes of Pinkie Pie with finding his life purpose after losing his laugh from not seeing first hoof the laughter that his gags brought to ponies because of the factory he opened with Sans Smirk (who we'll get to in a moment) along with there not being as many laughs as we had back in Cheese Sandwich's last appearance, this actually makes for a very interesting yet thought provoking concept of Pinkie Pie trying to find her own life's purpose as well for when Princess Celestia and Luna eventually retire and her friends move on to bigger and better things like Twilight Sparkle assuming the throne and Fluttershy having her animal sanctuary on top of having yet another brilliant performance by 'Weird Al' Yankovic as Cheese Sandwich who despite not being able to hide his voice like other guest stars have done in the series still managed to have so much fun with the role he is given...in fact with this very well being the last Pinkie Pie-centered episode, this is also a perfect allegory for how a majority of the fandom has moved onto bigger and better things because of their creativity within the community whether they animate or write music: while one door may close, another one is bound to open at some point down the road!
  • Sans Smirk-while it's true that we've seen this kind of 'stick in the mud' workaholic characters who don't get the joke or the very concept of laughter before such as Mr. Banks from 'Mary Poppins' or Christopher Robin from 'Christopher Robin', you can see that he's really trying hard and you see that he is legitimately excited about it when he does actually want to help Pinkie Pie in giving Cheese Sandwich his laughter back even if it's just about something that he's excited about in terms of his work...some would compare him to Svengallop from Season 5's "The Mane Attraction" in how he used Coloratura's performances in order to live the life of luxury himself and while I can see that, Sans Smirk is honestly what Svengallop should've had in terms of a redemption arc with the moment where he finally figures out his own life purpose as well thanks to seeing first hoof the laughter that Cheese Sandwich's gags bring to everypony and he even gets to run the factory when Cheese Sandwich decides to retire in order to go back to doing what he did best-'Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory' anyone?
  • 'The Last Laugh'-while we may not have the musical writing talent of Amy Keating Rogers anymore considering the fact that she left the series with Season 5's 'The Mane Attraction' to work for Disney and while this song in particular isn't quite as good as the ones we had back in Season 4's "Pinkie Pride" when Cheese Sandwich first made his debut, "The Last Laugh" still managed to be a pretty great song in helping Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich as well as Sans Smirk rediscover their purposes in life in making ponies laugh since the polka sounded very authentic and yet 'Weird Al' didn't write the song here much like back in Season 4-it was actually the duo of Daniel Ingram and the Fox Brothers who obviously did their homework on the ins and outs of polka as well as the style of 'Weird Al' Yankovic's parody songs resulting in the composition matching 'Weird Al' Yankovic's tone perfectly!

CONS:
  • N/A

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Overall for what may very well be the last Pinkie Pie-centered episode of the entire series, 'The Last Laugh' still managed to turn what felt like a role reversal situation of a rehash and supply some great comedy not only from Pinkie Pie herself but also the highly anticipated return of the one and only 'Weird Al' Yankovic as the super duper party pony himself Cheese Sandwich and for that earns a rating of a 9 out of 10.


Uprooted-8/10
The Last Laugh-9/10

SEASON 9 OVERALL RATING: 8.57/10

MLEEP Reviews: Toy Story 4 | #ToyStory4

TOY STORY 4
Written By Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton
Composed By Randy Newman
Produced By Jonas Rivera and Mark Nielsen
Edited By Axel Geddes
Directed By Josh Cooley


Five years after The Muppets joked about this in 'Muppets Most Wanted' and they managed to predict the future...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.  So now that Woody and the gang are still going on adventures even after their days with Andy, can the toys still hold strong on their fourth round or will we learn why a trilogy should stay a trilogy?  Let's find out, this is 'Toy Story 4'!

TOY STORY 4: Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang embark on an adventurous road trip with Bonnie and a new toy named Forky when it suddently turns into an unexpected reunion as Woody's slight detour leads him to his long-lost friend Bo Peep where they soon start to realize that they're worlds apart when it comes to what they want from life as a toy.

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PROS:
  • The story-the best way to describe the story of 'Toy Story 4' is that another appropriate title for this film is 'Finding Forky' meaning that the entire mission for the toys is to get the new character Forky back to Bonnie which on that element can make the film end up with the same template as your typical 'rescue mission' movie complete with the same scenarios and character developments that happen during as well as times that can go well and when it doesn't and you could argue that the middle part where they try to get Forky out of the antique shop is a bit foreseeable, but the movie as a whole is anything but since it knows that it can't just offer a simple plot line like that which is why the writing was given so many layers in order to make the story feel so rich and complex.  One thing that it knows why audiences would want to watch this is because of the toys: this is why the plot is very character-centric that focuses on further building the beloved toys like Woody and Buzz as well as Bo Peep along with adding new toys to help on their adventures and give a whole lot of fresh materials to work with.  Another element that helps give the movie some new life is the franchise's theme of the life of a toy: the film this time goes into the core concept of it all discussing about the purpose of a toy and what they are made for-something that it mostly explores with the character of Forky.  But what makes the story feel so compelling is all about the execution since it takes the time to make each character's motives clear on what they want and pursue them as the driving force of the plot to see if they will achieve their goals...however while the story structure may be predictable like I said earlier, the outcomes are entirely unexpected since the film will often go to directions that can keep audiences guessing on what will happen next thus making it more engaging as it progresses.  And then when it reaches the end, well...I can only say that if you cried at the end of 'Toy Story 3', then get ready for Round 2 because this film is as equally emotional as the last three!
  • The animation-an important note to keep in mind is that there is a nine year gap between the third and fourth movie from 2010 to 2019 and many often forget that there are a lot of technological advances that occurred during that time including in the animation field: as great as the visuals of 'Toy Story 3' were and still are, 'Toy Story 4' managed to push the limits of animation even further to capture realism and detail that has yet to be achieved.  The most stand-out element that makes it visually more advanced than its predecessors is the use of effects and textures: since it's mostly from the perspective of a toy, the film pays careful attention to have the environments and the textures of the toys look as real as possible with elements like the rain on the gravel road and lights flashing all around the carnival and display a wide variety of toys to show different textures to have them feel like what they're made of whether it be plastic or plush or ceramic.  But it's not just the animators' tools that got a good update, the character designs also got some significant changes: there are some like Woody and Buzz with the rest of Bonnie's toys that keep the same look as before but again with a good texture boost, but then there are characters like Bo Peep whose looks significantly changed in order to keep up with the progressiveness of technology and to really sell what they're made of.  As for the character animation, the only people who had more fun playing with these toys than the kids are the animators since there are a lot of unique toys featured throughout this film like I said earlier and each of them present their full potential to show what type of character they are and what they serve to the feature...when these toys work together, they can deliver some exciting moments of the film and even make the operation of saving Forky feel intense where they either go through all the obstacles and creepy dummies in the antique shop or going all around the carnival!
  • The characters-the cast has noticeably grown larger than ever up to the point where many animated films can't even handle such a huge amount and yet this movie managed to find a way to not only balance them well altogether but also still leave room for its main characters to have more depth.  Starting with Woody, he realizes that he's starting to lack a purpose in life now that he and his friends are in the hands of Bonnie with the sad truth being that he is not Bonnie's favorite like Andy and after helping her make Forky finds new meaning where he now has to make sure he can keep Forky safe and have him stay with Bonnie.  Buzz is also prominent in the feature where he carries the message of following your inner voice and relying on his voice commands to know what to do...however, everyone else debatable as usual would stay in the background while Woody and Buzz go towards the action helping out by stalling for time so that they can all get back to the RV without the people noticing while also giving out some humor.  Then, there is the highly anticipated comeback of Bo Peep who is one of the big reasons why there is a fourth film in the first place so that we know why she wasn't in 'Toy Story 3': beforehand she usually had a minor role as Woody's girlfriend, in here however she and her sheep have become completely independent with no kid and go out to help other toys find an owner...and when Woody and Bo reunite, their spark reignites as their relationship starts fresh and explore to see if they still have feelings for one another.  As for the new characters, there's Ducky and Bunny who supply a lot of great comedy that only Key and Peele know how to deliver best along with Duke Caboom who is the overdramatic stuntman haunted by his past along with having a plethora of Canadian jokes as well as Gabby Gabby who is the sympathetic antagonist who wants a new voice box in order to have a new owner that can be quite a threat with her army of frightening ventriloquist dummies and Forky who is made by Bonnie herself to help her go through her first day in kindergarten but as a paranoid spork with newfound life wants to live in the trash and has to slowly learn about his purpose as a toy thus not only making him important for Bonnie but also for Woody to reevaluate his own purpose!

CONS:
  • N/A

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Overall...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 I am proud to give 'Toy Story 4' a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - Equestria Girls: Sunset's Backstage Pass | #MLPEquestriaGirls

EQUESTRIA GIRLS: SUNSET'S BACKSTAGE PASS
Written By Whitney Ralls


The second season of the 'Equestria Girls: Better Together' digital video series has had a number of arcs so far: influencer videos, pet shows and as of recently a music festival arc that all started a few weeks ago from Rarity and Applejack presenting the packing essentials for what they call 'glamping' to Sunset Shimmer giving a backstage V.I.P. tour and even getting to see The Dazzlings return to the screen again after five years since they debuted back in 'Rainbow Rocks'...but now, the big day has arrived and it looks like Sunset Shimmer may not even get to see the festival!  Time to rock out loud with the Equestria Girls as we solve the mystery of 'Sunset's Backstage Pass'!

SUNSET'S BACKSTAGE PASS: All the Equestria Girls are excited to be at the Starswirl Music Festival, but no one is more excited to see PostCrush-the most amazing pop duo ever-than Sunset Shimmer and Pinkie Pie! The only problem is that Sunset Shimmer is trapped in a time loop caused by Equestrian magic where she keeps reliving Day One of the festival over and over and hasn’t been able to make the right decisions to get to the big show.

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PROS:
  • The story-while I won't deny that the story for 'Sunset's Backstage Pass' is much more focused and knows what it wants to be more than 'Spring Breakdown' did since this special was meant to be a parody of the 1993 Bill Murray classic 'Groundhog Day', I feel like this leads to the story being a double-edged sword depending on people's taste in entertainment: while some will enjoy the parallels to 'Groundhog Day' as we see Sunset Shimmer try her hardest to make the right decisions in order to see PostCrush, having to listen to the same hit-or-miss jokes over and over again by the other members of the Mane 7 particularly from Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash who I feel were reduced to one-note gags can make the viewing experience boring at times on top of the fact that you may have to watch the digital video shorts on YouTube in order to pick up on all the continuity nods...even the scene in Equestria with Twilight Sparkle giving the exposition on the Time Twirler only exists to give more lore that I'm sure the fandom is gonna eat up for more fanfiction material!  But like I said before, the story for 'Sunset's Backstage Pass' is better than what we were given with 'Spring Breakdown' and I still wanted to follow Sunset Shimmer on her journey to make the right decisions during the time loop more than I did with Rainbow Dash's thirst for adventure like last time!
  • The animation-with 'Rainbow Rocks' still holding the title of the best project in the entirety of the Equestria Girls franchise, the team at DHX Media had to really knock it out of the park in terms of animation and...while we didn't quite reach the level of awesomeness that we did five years ago in terms of the visuals, what we were given is still pretty damn amazing to look at in terms of the various activities and events during the Starswirl Music Festival from the maze which at first made me think the Equestrian magic was gonna take effect inside to the vendors like the chef that we saw back in 'Spring Breakdown' who is now selling churros that taste like eating crowbars to the stage performance of the song 'True Original' by PostCrush (who we'll get to in a second) at the end with Sunset Shimmer and Pinkie Pie of which I will admit was actually a pretty good song.  What else can I say but...bravo and rock on, DHX!

CONS:
  • The Dazzlings-when it was revealed that the Dazzlings were coming back to the Equestria Girls franchise five years after their debut in the movie 'Rainbow Rocks', I was excited to see our favorite sirens return doing what they do best...however when they eventually did make their return nearly halfway through the special and while I will appreciate that the show staff kept their personalities intact even showing them having a grudge against Sunset Shimmer after the events of 'Rainbow Rocks', The Dazzlings are unfortunately in this special for fan service as a way of saying 'hey, remember these characters?' and 'ha ha, you thought we were the villains once again and you're wrong' which honestly had me feeling let down since I couldn't wait to see what grand scheme they had up their sleeves and it kinda feels like the show staff actually managed to reform them in a way that we didn't even see coming
  • PostCrush-you may have thought The Dazzlings were gonna be our villains for this special, but nope...it is in fact PostCrush who managed to acquire the Time Twirler and use its Equestrian magic to relive the same concert over and over again in order to make sure that it's perfect which is basically the equivalent of 'I don't like change, everything has to be the same'-while I will admit that they aren't as annoyingly selfish like Juniper Montage was back in the 'Movie Magic' and 'Mirror Magic' specials, this has been the lazy excuse for every single villain in 'Friendship Is Magic' ever since Season 5 with Starlight Glimmer up until the Season 8 finale 'School Raze' when we finally managed to break the cycle with Cozy Glow!  On top of that, we've seen this particular moral of 'perfection being impossible' done before earlier this year in the My Little Pony episode 'The Point Of No Return' when Twilight Sparkle was freaking out about her perfect book borrower title at the library!

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Overall...while 'Sunset's Backstage Pass' does have its flaws like hit-or-miss jokes and yet another villain reformation when we already had an amazing trio of villains that should've been used, it is still quite an improvement after what we were given earlier this year with the 'Spring Breakdown' special and for that earns a rating of an 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Thomas & Friends - Gordon Gets The Giggles | #BigWorldBigAdventures

Season 23, Episode 6: Gordon Gets The Giggles
Written By Becky Overton
Directed By Dianna Basso

Gordon's important position as the engine who pulls the express has made him extremely proud, pompous and self-important with a good reason too since he is the fastest engine on Sodor which can make him inclined to boast and act like a bully to the smaller engines on top of a great hate for pulling goods trains...but it looks like Gordon may have laughed his express-pulling duties away forever and it's driving him insane. Let's go go go on a big adventure for what is sure to be a very silly ride on the express when 'Gordon Gets The Giggles'!

GORDON GETS THE GIGGLES: On Sodor, Gordon becomes very worried when he gets a serious case of the giggles after Rebecca gets herself into a sticky situation

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PROS:
  • The story-while the concept of 'tough and serious engines having soft sides' is nothing new for the series especially with episodes like Season 20's "Diesel And The Ducklings' and even in other shows like in the recent My Little Pony episode 'Sweet And Smoky', getting to see writer Becky Overton really ham up Gordon's character of trying to keep his serious composure while laughing out loud at Rebecca's sticky mishap at the start of the episode really helped to give this episode some strong comedy from Gordon calling himself 'Big G' as well as the dramatic lighting when Gordon goes to the Steamworks to get help from Victor and Kevin...to quote Iago from 'Aladdin', 'ohhhh boy...he's cracked, he's gone nuts'!  But speaking of Rebecca, next topic!
  • Rebecca-I've said it before and I'll say it again, Rebecca is an absolute gem to have on the Island Of Sodor with her seeing the best in everyone along with her enthusiastic kindness despite being clumsy at times whether it be constantly bumping into Sir Topham Hatt like in her debut episode back in Season 22's "Confusion Without Delay' or here in this episode where she goes from bumping into honey jar flatbeds to almost crashing into Thomas to smashing into vegetable flatbeds of which I swear Mattel is gonna jump on the opportunity to make merchandise out of this particular moment and yet she just laughs it off while getting on with her work.  Also, GordonXRebecca ship confirmed...one of the few ships within the community that I can definitely agree on!
  • The fantasy sequences-with this now being one of the major selling points for the series and while I would like to thank this episode for making me remember my deep fear for clowns, this sequence triggered by Gordon's fears of being a silly engine because of his inability to stop laughing at Rebecca's mishap from the start of the episode certainly did its job in capturing how silly Gordon could be by juggling balls with his funnel and especially with the help of Mr. Bubbles and his bubble machine...but like I said before from my experiences, my deep fear of clowns made this particular fantasy sequence tough to get through!

CONS:
  • N/A

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Overall for what sounded like a very odd concept from the start, 'Gordon Gets The Giggles' still managed to be a pretty great episode for our first adventure back on the Island Of Sodor and for that earns a rating of an 8.5 out of 10.


Grudge Match-9.5/10
Batucada-9.5/10
Gordon Gets The Giggles-8.5/10

SEASON 23 OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

Saturday, June 22, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Thomas & Friends - Batucada | #BigWorldBigAdventures


Season 23, Episode 5: Batucada
Written By Davey Moore
Directed By Dianna Basso

Music and song has always been a really important part of 'Thomas & Friends' from the orchestrations heard during each episode and special whether it be done by Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell or Chris Renshaw to the sing-along music videos that have been around for twenty five years now and of course the big push to make full-length musical specials ever since 'The Great Race' three years ago...but what musical adventures will Thomas get up to when the carnival comes to Brazil?  Let's go go go on one last big world adventure back to Brazil as we jam along with Thomas to some 'Batucada'!

BATUCADA: Thomas finds a way to take part in the Brazilian carnival music

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PROS:
  • Teaching Brazilian culture-some or even many fans might be turned off by this due to feeling like that they are back in school learning things that they don't want to (as if they didn't want to learn anything before), I'm all for learning new things about different cultures because the closest thing that I have ever gotten to Brazil were the 'Rio' movies which had this same style of party music ...and we all know how well those ended up, so it was great getting to learn that Brazilian party music is known as 'batucada' as well as some of the instruments that are played during the batucada which really helped to make the episode fun to jam along to when the musical sequences did happen especially since it reminded me of my four years in the high school marching band whether it be on cymbals or bass drum!
  • The animation-even if they had to reuse a lot of assets from Sodor in order to create the railways of Brazil like they did for the 'Big World Big Adventures' movie such as Brendam Docks for Guanabara Bay and the shunting yards where Thomas looks for a replacement for his 'musical cars' of engine parts and iron pellets, you can't deny that the team at Jam Filled still did an amazing job in capturing the beauty and spectacular views of Brazil from the rainforest and seaside to the mountainous palm tree filled landscapes to the busy bustling town square where the carnival takes place for Thomas' desire to be a part of the fun from the vibrant colors everywhere such as the buildings or the festive decorations like bunting and confetti to the extravagant costumes of the performers parading down the street with Thomas at the end of the episode
  • The fantasy sequences-with this now being one of the major selling points for the series, this sequence triggered by Thomas' musical ride of cargo and passengers leading to what I like to call 'Drum Major Thomas' because of my four years in the high school marching band was an absolute joy to experience from the keyboards and bass drums on his tanks to the calliope pipes on his boiler to Thomas sporting sunglasses and tooting his whistle while playing the 'Big World Big Adventures' theme song...if anything deserved to be made into merchandise in my honest opinion, I would absolutely love to own this 'one man band' version of the number one engine!


CONS:
  • Gabriela-now I won't deny that Gabriela does have a very interesting design based of Baroneza II and Monica Lopera does give a very kind and comforting performance, but it's just that she just randomly appears out of nowhere without being properly introduced first in an episode of her own...now I'm going off of the U.S. broadcasting schedule and I don't know for sure if this is the right order to view the episodes in, but hopefully we'll get our official introduction to Gabriela sometime within this season
  • Fernando-unlike Gabriela who actually has a very interesting design, we were introduced to Fernando back in the 'Big World Big Adventures' movie albeit not knowing his name until just now and not to mention the fact that he's just another Class 08 shunter like Diesel...but like Gabriela, he just randomly appears out of nowhere without being properly introduced first in an episode of his own-now I'm going off of the U.S. broadcasting schedule and I don't know for sure if this is the right order to view the episodes in, but hopefully we'll get our official introduction to Fernando sometime within this season

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Overall, 'Batucada' brought Thomas' adventures in Brazil to a close in what was easily the best of the bunch...this episode just really took me back to such great musical memories and I'm proud to give it a 9.5 out of 10.  What else can I say except 'boom boom, cha cha cha'...


Grudge Match-9.5/10
Batucada-9.5/10

SEASON 23 OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

Sunday, June 16, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Tarzan - 20 Years Of Trashing The Camp | #Tarzan

Image result for tarzan 1999
TARZAN
Written By Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker and Noni White
Composed By Mark Mancina
Produced By Bonnie Arnold
Edited By Gregory Perler
Directed By Kevin Lima and Chris Buck

When I heard that Disney's next animated feature was gonna be 'Tarzan', I remember saying to myself 'yeah...that sounds about right' since it is a pretty well known subject matter lending itself to animation and I was wondering at the same time if it might have the same impact that 'Robin Hood' had with people being introduced to it through the Disney version as opposed to other forms of media.  The trailers may have gotten me excited and a lot of it exceeded my expectations when it finally came out, but other parts I thought were kinda mediocre...can Tarzan still find his place in the world as Lord Of The Apes after twenty years?  Let's find out, this is 'Tarzan'!

TARZAN: The orphaned Tarzan grows up in the remote African wilderness raised by the gentle gorilla named Kala. When a British expedition enters the jungle, Tarzan encounters the beautiful Jane and recognizes that he's human like her. Falling in love with Jane, Tarzan is torn between embracing civilization and staying with his gorilla family, which becomes threatened by the ruthless hunter Clayton.

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One of the biggest highlights of 'Tarzan' that comes to mind is the animation-I mean, yeah...look at it, what they can do with 'Tarzan' is unbelievable!  Before this, people would just associate Tarzan himself with swinging around on vines...but look at this, he's practically surfing the trees and it's really creative!  Speaking of Tarzan himself, he's a pretty decent character.  I mean, he does all the stuff you want him to do from snarling to sneering to roaring...but he does have those big 'puppy dog' eyes and he does manage to be sentimental at certain moments.  Jane is my example of a damsel in distress done right-I mean, yeah not every character has to be strong or wielding a sword...but they have to at least be interesting and despite needing to be saved all the time, Jane is still interesting: polite but eccentric, clumsy but has a good heart and it sorta makes sense that she would have to be saved all the time since she's out of her environment and this is very much how women were like at that time period while still contributing in being the education for Tarzan and also the emotional center.

Unfortunately, this is where the positives for 'Tarzan' end...so buckle up 'cause it's gonna be a bumpy ride starting off with Rosie O'Donnell as Terk.  Yeah, I'm not even gonna bother saying 'ideal casting' because let's face it that everyone else already has...and while Rosie O'Donnell is annoying, she's not as annoying as she could've been-trust me, Roseanne Barr was a lot worse as Maggie in 'Home On The Range' which came out five years later!  While the rest of the side characters are kinda forgettable, to be fair they keep the focus where it should be on Tarzan.  In terms of our villain...I don't think I'm giving anything away here, Clayton is obviously the bad guy-kinda like Gaston from 'Beauty And The Beast', except minus any of the comedy or charm.  He's not very interesting and his motivation is as boring as the Disney motivations get: it's just greed, it's Governor Ratcliffe from 'Pocahontas' all over again...the motivation is boring, he's boring, it slows everything down!

Another negative about 'Tarzan' are the songs by Phil Collins...wait, what?!  Phil Collins...what does he have to do with Disney or jungles or anything like that?!  But just when you think he will write some good songs for the characters, nope...they're not singing at all, he's just singing the songs right the f--k out of nowhere!  Every time Phil started singing, I expected all the animals to start looking around saying 'what the f--k is that'.  Sometimes the orchestrations of the songs can be nice, but the actual songs themselves don't do a thing for me at all.  I guess Phil sorta sings about what's going on but in the same way of 'this can be played on the radio as well', but it's all too vague...if the song's not totally invested in what it's singing about, then why should we?

But I think my main issue with 'Tarzan' as a whole is the conflict that Tarzan is going through which...don't get me wrong, it is there and it is addressed and they do take time out of the movie to look at it.  But I just wish that they took more time with it since I was kinda thinking to myself 'wow, Disney animation and the turmoil of Tarzan...what can they do with this, half man/half animal, I mean there are so many different variations you can do with animation'.  I guess I was sorta thinking of something along the lines of 'Hellfire' from The Hunchback Of Notre Dame where they visually show the turmoil that the person is going through as well as in musical form as opposed to Phil Collins telling you how to feel throughout the film.  But instead, it's sorta fighting for room with the comic relief and the villain and the Phil Collins songs and...I don't know, I guess I just wanted more of that to be the focus whether it be during his childhood of trying to fit in which is unfortunately played for laughs or when he meets Jane and touches a human hand for the first time-even the romance between Tarzan and Jane could've been explored a little bit more.  I mean, I guess it works alright...but again, it feels like they're trying to squeeze in too much that's not totally needed.

I guess I wanted more of Tarzan's internal struggle to take up the majority of the film, but then again...it is Disney, I mean I can't expect all of the characters to be like Frollo.  Maybe I'm just being spoiled, it's just this thought that Disney wants to get better and better...in many respects, they are.  So when a Disney film doesn't take advantage of a really great opportunity especially when it looks like you only have one shot at it, it's kind of a letdown especially when it's just thrown away to the same greedy plot device that the villain provides.  You know what, they're in the jungle where everything is already trying to get them...why do they need a villain?!

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Overall...for what 'Tarzan' is, it's an alright movie since the animation does have its moments and I do like our two main characters with there being some time set aside for character development even if it's not as much as I would like. On the whole, Tarzan is an alright film to check out as long as you know what you're gonna expect from it and for that earns a rating of a 7.5 out of 10

Saturday, June 15, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: The Lion King - 25 Years Of The Circle Of Life | #TheLionKing

Image result for the lion king 1994
THE LION KING
Written By Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton
Composed By Hans Zimmer
Produced By Don Hahn
Edited By Ivan Bilancio
Directed By Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff

And now, we come to the big one...The Lion King, the highest grossing 2-D animated film of all time.  When this movie came out, every kid was nuts...we were humming all the songs, we were re-enacting all the scenes, we were talking about all the characters, it was just a gigantic flick.  With 'The Lion King' coming out the year that I was born as well as being the very first Disney movie I ever saw, I know this movie pretty well-the songs, the characters, the story, I know it practically inside and out to the point where you could guess that I'm already sorta prejudiced towards 'The Lion King' as I'm obviously gonna love it.  But I don't care, 'The Lion King' is still a damn amazing movie-not just for the songs, not just for the acting, not just for the animation but also for the story and the characters...there's just no other word I can use for it except epic, it's a friggin' epic movie!  'Be Prepared', everyone...'cause 'I Just Can't Wait To Be King' in giving my childhood movie the review that it rightfully deserves, this is 'The Lion King'!

THE LION KING: This Disney animated feature follows the adventures of the young lion Simba, the heir of his father Mufasa while his wicked uncle Scar plots to usurp Mufasa's throne by luring father and son into a stampede of wildebeests. While Simba manages to escape, Mufasa is killed...but with the help of his new friends Timon and Pumbaa, Simba returns as an adult to take back his homeland from Scar

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The biggest highlight of 'The Lion King' for me has gotta be the message: the past can hurt, but you can either run from it or learn from it. It's a very adult message that I believe people during this day and age really need to hear especially in recent years with all of the scandals and controversies going on around the world whether in the entertainment industry or the world of the Internet and the way that it is presented through Rafiki's talks with Simba before he returns to the Pride Lands by using his staff as an example are really clever and I can totally get behind it. Now you could argue that Simba's fears started to win when he went back to overcome them and everything he was taught before was working against him while no one stood up for him because of a past that never happened, but that would require you being an idiot who is perfectly fine with enabling criminally toxic behavior...not only was Scar playing into Simba's insecurities and manipulating him in order to continue bringing imbalance to the circle of life which if you think about it explains why everything was dead from lack of food and water, but the other lionesses were in shock at the wild accusation and didn't know what to think or do as to who they should stand by or against. 'The Lion King' was never about convincing others you didn't make mistakes so you can have a happy ending, it was about teaching you to come forward about your mistakes and take responsibility for them...a lesson that certain reviewing groups on the Internet who shall not be named should've taken to heart long ago with the amount of damage they've caused.

Another highlight of 'The Lion King' that I'm sure everyone will agree on has gotta be the songs. What really helps to make the songs unforgettable is that they really put emphasis on the emotion that they're trying to convey onto each other rather it be 'Circle Of Life' to set the grand tone of the movie or 'Be Prepared' to know that bad things will be going down or the tenderness of 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight' and who could ever forget the fun of 'I Just Can't Wait To Be King' or 'Hakuna Matata'-a song that some people might disagree with me on because of how it was basically the 'Let It Go' from Frozen for the 90's. The songs are what people remember the most about 'The Lion King' because the crew working behind the scenes make them the highlights of the movie when Simba experiences an important character development that will change the outcome of what will be going on in the film...especially when you consider the size of the film coming from both the animation and the story. 'The Lion King' is basically a kid version of the William Shakespeare play 'Hamlet', but they treat it very seriously and don't sugarcoat it that much-they don't pull a 'Bambi's Mom' where the parent dies offscreen, you actually see the body...that was a big thing for kids back then and it was pretty unexpected for Disney at that time to have a death scene right in the middle of a big action packed moment.

But I think the main reason as to why 'The Lion King' is such a beloved classic even after twenty five years is that the film was basically the 90's version of 'Frozen'...in fact, both films are actually more similar than you'd expect: before they were released, people were unsure about how they would turn out rather it be Disney treating 'The Lion King' like a side project with the hopes of 'Pocahontas' being their big blockbuster or the public thinking that 'Frozen' was just gonna be 'Tangled On Ice'. But they both ended up as critically acclaimed Disney animated features with two Oscars including one of them being for Best Song and both held the title as the highest grossing animated feature. They both appear on television and more frequently at the theme parks and most importantly people would not stop talking about them or singing the songs for a while after their releases. Kinda funny how history is repeating itself...

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Overall, I honestly don't know what else to say that hasn't already been said...'The Lion King' is big in every sense of the word: big film, big story and big message-it's the film that introduced me to the wonderful world of Disney and it's one that I will always hold close to my heart. For that, 'The Lion King' definitely deserves the 10 out of 10 rating...and like Mufasa said, 'we are all connected in the great circle of life'.

Friday, June 14, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: The Secret Life Of Pets 2 | #TheSecretLifeOfPets2


THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2
Written By Brian Lynch
Composed By Alexandre Desplat
Produced By Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy
Edited By Tiffany Hillkurtz
Directed By Chris Renaud

Yes, it's time to check once again how some crazy domestic animals in New York live their lives when their owners aren't around...when 'The Secret Life Of Pets' first came out back in 2016, it was a relatively enjoyable experience although I wouldn't say it was great as an animated film especially how the plot is basically 'Toy Story' but with pets and yet it still did well on its own with some solid animation and a large cast of funny and memorable characters.  While far from the best, it was still cute and mostly harmless even with those who didn't like the film since we can all agree that there have been much worse out there worth steaming over.  However, one trick that these pets surprised people with the most is how they made the film so profitable-seriously, no one expected that a bunch of pets would become such an animated phenomenon and yet what didn't come with a surprise is that they made more than enough to come back for an encore bringing along some new friends into the mix.  But will bringing Max and the gang back for more domesticated madness result in the film being a good boy or is it time to put Bob Barker's advice to good use?  Let's find out, this is 'The Secret Life Of Pets 2'!

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2: Max faces some major changes after his owner Katie gets married and now has a child named Liam to the point where he becomes overprotective. On a family trip to the countryside, Max meets a farm dog named Rooster and both attempt to overcome his fears. Meanwhile, Gidget tries to rescue Max's favorite toy from a cat-packed apartment and Snowball sets on a mission to free a white tiger named Hu from a circus

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PROS:
  • The animation-while not necessarily noted to have the most revolutionary visuals, the animation of the first film does deliver some noteworthy moments like the photogenic views of New York City while exploring around from the point of view of the pets...in the sequel however, it doesn't do anything to top what it achieved before or doing anything new to make this look special. Whereas the predecessor successfully captured the atmosphere of Manhattan, this film brings its audience to a farm and a cat lady's apartment while briefly bringing the audience to a carnival with a circus-it doesn't even try to do anything new with the character designs to feature unique looking characters since the most that it adds is a bunch of different animals that are either domesticated or found on a farm or some miscellaneous offered by the circus and even staying consistent from before by keeping most of the movements down to earth and having the pets play around in their animal nature in terms of the character animation making it look visually dull at worst because of how it behaves like a very safe animated cartoon about talking animals. But that doesn't mean that the animation should be looked down upon even if it doesn't try anything new from a visual standpoint since the animators do make the most with the materials of what they're given since it is very well done in terms of execution with the character behaving just like their respective animal while also having it fit their personalities while the chase scenes offer a high amount of energy capable of grabbing the audience's attention and the backgrounds while not impressive in concept still giving the characters a lot to play with in order to spice up their scenes like with Snowball and Gidget
  • The characters-with a movie that has several stories, there would be several characters that have their moment in the spotlight...and yet they don't use it wisely to offer a stronger new side of them that they haven't shown before, but that doesn't mean some of them fail. Snowball has completely changed from his maniacal anti-human nature and now acts like a superhero with his bravery being far from a real one mostly relying on the help of Daisy to save a tiger, Gidget is determined to rescue the love of her life's toy while calling for the help of Chloe who shows no care or emotions to anyone to become a cat herself to show that she can retrieve it from a cat flooded room...and Max turned out to be the weakest of the pets since he falls victim to the old trope of the worrying parent who is always stressed out and concerned about the safety of his owner's new kid while learning how to stop worrying all the time and be brave in order to do what's best. As for the new characters, they can't offer a lot since they're stuck in their one plot from Hu being the tiger that behaves like an innocent child to Sergei being the circus owner to Daisy being Tiffany Haddish in a Shih Tzu's body and Rooster being the tough farm dog showing Max courage...and he is the best part of that respected plot despite his appearances being not as prominent as the others. While being written flatly with offering little outside of their personalities to show who they are, they benefit well from a strong voice cast capable of bringing full life onto the characters and making the humor often effective in order to give a good amount of laughs-even Patton Oswalt did a great job as the new voice of Max since the former had to get neutered and is now in serious need of a muzzle

CONS:
  • The story-with the sequel, it comes with both good news and bad news: while not ripping off 'Toy Story' and having plenty of other ideas to tell a fresh and new story, the bad news is that it wants to tell all of them at the same time. Since the film has a large cast of memorable characters, there isn't just one plot to follow that all of them get involved with because the sequel has three that the feature always has to simultaneously juggle from Max learning to be brave while being a nervous wreck about looking out for his owner's new kid which its redeeming quality was Harrison Ford as Rooster to Gidget needing help from other pets to retrieve Max's favorite toy which ended up in a cat lady's apartment which had the best jokes of the film to Snowball who teams up with Daisy to save a tiger from a circus which of the three brought the most energy with all of the chase scenes and giving the best excuse for the narrative to be in the movie along with an unexpected message about circus animal abuse. Considering that this film is from Illumination Entertainment, I do understand why they wanted to try this approach for the storytelling since they already have experience in telling several plots at the same time in movies that had numerous of main characters like 'Sing' and it wouldn't be hard to imagine that they had the confidence to do this again...unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work as well with this time since there is little to nothing that connects these plots to one another-sure it technically all comes together at the climax, but it's like they took the mini movies from their DVD's while cutting them up and mixing them together selling it as a movie that constantly hops from one plot to another for the most part only made worse by the fact that the stories are also boring and predictable since the outcomes are easy to guess when it presents the whole setup within the first twenty minutes

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Overall, 'The Secret Life Of Pets 2' is a passable followup to the 2016 blockbuster...while feeling dull and unoriginal at times due to weak writing and poorly managed story, it did escape from being considered as a full-on waste of time thanks to its well executed animation and great voice acting that helped give the movie at least some substance. For that, I'm gonna give 'The Secret Life Of Pets 2' a rating of a 6.5 out of 10...these pets may still have a secret life, but we’re not missing out on much.