Saturday, November 30, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation | #ChristmasVacation30

Image result for national lampoon's christmas vacation
NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION
Written By John Hughes
Composed By Angelo Badalamenti
Produced By John Hughes and Tom Jacobson
Edited By Jerry Greenberg and Michael A. Stevenson
Directed By Jeremiah S. Chechik

Much like Home Alone, 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' knew how to combine the annoyances but also the charm of staying home for Christmas. What I really like about this movie is that it focuses on a lot of details: sure it has all the pratfalls and slapstick like many physical comedies, but it also has all the little moments that you don't think about but always recognize like the grandparents asleep on the chairs or someone just mindlessly watching a Christmas show and ESPECIALLY the family conversations.
The film got all the bits that people find annoying, but also surprisingly endearing about Christmas time; that and I'm always shocked that even though Chevy Chase plays such a filthy dirty a-hole, he still seems to be likable in his naivety. All he wants is the perfect vacation which of course never happens, but by the end he realizes all the memories it's left behind and how they'll enjoy them forever. Funny, detailed and capturing every Christmas moment, 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' knew how to expose this holiday for the enjoyable curse that it is.

Friday, November 29, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Frozen 2 | #Frozen2

Image result for frozen 2
FROZEN 2
Written By Jennifer Lee and Allison Schroeder
Composed By Christophe Beck, Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez
Produced By Peter Del Vecho
Edited By Jeff Draheim
Directed By Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

After several years since Elsa was crowned as the new queen, it is time to go back to Arendelle and experience some new magic that's just waiting for us to discover...when looking back at the first movie, there's no secret as to why it earned an official sequel instead of Disney's other fairy tale based animated features-okay yeah, it's because it's one of Disney's most profitable properties and the movie went on to win multiple awards and had the title of the highest grossing animated film of all time-but there is a good reason why it became a phenomenon.  After seventy years of Disney trying to make a film adaptation of 'The Snow Queen' by Hans Christian Andersen, they finally hit their mark with a feature that strongly connected with audiences with its powerful story along with stunning animation and memorable characters and not to mention some of the most well-known and beloved songs featured in a movie in recent years...it proved how the timeless Disney formula still resonates with audiences to this day and what The Lion King did back in the 1990's is what Frozen did in the 2010's.  But now that the Royal Family is heading into the unknown, will Elsa still have enough magic to enchant the movie like before or will the sequel leave its viewers in the cold...let's find out, this is 'Frozen 2'!

FROZEN 2: Three years after the events of the first film, Elsa starts to hear a strange sound from the north calling her. Together with her sister Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven, they embark on a new journey beyond their homeland of Arendelle in order to discover the origin of Elsa's magical powers and save their kingdom

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PROS:
  • The animation-while the story may be lacking compared to the original, thankfully the animation is still as great as ever...say what you will about this feature, but there is no denying that this is a beautiful looking movie: in fact now that it is set during the fall season, it results in being a lot more colorful than before not only to bring more life to Arendelle and the Enchanted Forest but also to collaborate with the lighting to really set the mood.  Speaking of the areas with how this movie takes importance to world building, it takes its time to make the backgrounds feel as immersive as possible: while audiences are familiar with the Norwegian style kingdom of Arendelle that many people call home, the Enchanted Forest is a highly detailed area that is meant to present nature at its finest and rarely touched by men but contains some magical secrets to deliver some elements of surprise.  As for the look of the characters, the designs are still great like they were from the previous film with the only addition being the new people that the family encounters in the Enchanted Forest while also presenting the elemental spirits as the standout new characters to the Frozen world...but when it comes to the character animation, the animators have given their all to make the film visually engaging through the movements of the characters: they help enforce the emotions of the moments especially to make the musical numbers stronger and the action more intense to keep audiences at the edge of their seats.  But if there's one standout component of the animation that makes this a true visual spectacle, it's the use of effects: the first movie did a great job with Elsa's ice powers, but now the sequel has plenty of new elements to play with and uses them quite effectively to enhance the magic of the movie's environment along with staying true to that Frozen spirit where the magic plays a big role in the characters' identity like with Elsa
  • The characters-part of what builds a great amount of anticipation for the sequel is to see the beloved characters return on another epic adventure, the good news is that most of them come back presenting what made them Disney icons in the first place...however the key word here is most: starting off with the royal sisters Anna and Elsa, it's like I said before...they supply the heart of the movie with their family love for one another.  Now that they're spending more time together after the years of isolation, this quest to seek the truth about Arendelle and their family's past put their bond to the test: while each sister also has an important goal to accomplish for it, Elsa wants to figure out what's that voice she's been hearing in the hopes that it could answer many questions for herself while Anna wants to keep Elsa safe and make sure to stick by her side so that they don't up distant from each other again.  Olaf also has a prominent role in this new installment and at first I was worried if his goofy sense of nature would be too out of place for a movie that might want to take itself a little more seriously...as it turns out, he's actually a well needed comic relief: it's possible that his humor might not connect with everyone, but his role is to balance the tone by supplying his innocent personality and light-hearted comedy like a moment for audiences to breathe easily after an intensely serious moment.  As for the new characters, they don't play that much of a significant role in the feature itself: for the most part, they're meant to enhance the world building of the Enchanted Forest...but among all the people of Frozen, none have gotten more of an unfortunate downgrade than Kristoff: his problem is that he has this side plot that serves little to no purpose in the main story where he tries throughout the feature to propose to Anna...being this tedious trope is one thing, but it makes it worse with the fact that Disney has already done this is one of their older animated sequels with Bernard in 'The Rescuers Down Under'!  However regardless of which character it is rather it be great or flawed, there is one thing that helps embolden the cast: just like the crew making this film, the actors have this strong sense of passion for making this movie the best it can be and deliver a fantastic voice-over performance that helps strengthen each character...they play a vital role in easing some of their issues and carry a positive note to keep some form of likability onto them.
  • The songs-out of all the elements of the movie, the songs are most likely the ones that would have the toughest act to follow after what the first established: keep in mind that with the first Frozen, they're some of the most well-known and beloved songs that came out of the movie in the entire decade.  While the story and some of the characters may not get that same standard as the first, the musical numbers surprisingly do: they contain the same strong sense of emotion, that impact, that epic feeling that made the older ones viral sensations.  They start out on a strong note with a lullaby-like melody called 'All Is Found' which encompasses the whole feature and set the story.  There are also a few songs that aim to be a little more comical or joyful that end up with some mixed results: there's 'Some Things Never Change' that feel like a throwaway for the sake of moving the plot forward while others like 'When I Am Older' and 'Lost In The Woods' are enjoyable where Olaf's song adds a bit of naive fun to play more with his character while Kristoff's song is possibly the funniest in the way that it parodies those 1980's style love songs.  But then there are Elsa's numbers: some say that it can't be done to make something equally as powerful and unforgettable as 'Let It Go', but this movie found a way with not one but two songs with 'Into The Unknown' and 'Show Yourself': they're the ones that let out the biggest emotion and deliver the best moments of the movie that make it feel like a true spectacle and I'll even give credit to 'The Next Right Thing' to have it be Anna's strong solo moment-I'd also like to add that the visuals really helped with the musical numbers to amplify the mood rather it be to make things funnier, meaningful or even more grand.

CONS:
  • The story-as Elsa and her family take on a brand new adventure in the Enchanted Forest to discover the truth of their family's past, they find themselves in honestly a bit of a mess...and I don't mean they got themselves in a sticky situation, I mean that the story itself is poorly planned out.  This is unfortunately the biggest issue with the sequel that makes it a bit of a downgrade to the original: in terms of the plot itself and the story structure, they're just not as well handled as the first and results in a predictable and clumsy outcome.  The foreshadowing makes things obvious, there's no balance on what the movie should be about, there's a pointless side plot with Kristoff and there's a good amount of questions that end up getting unanswered...I don't necessarily blame the filmmakers for this because it is noticeable that they were having a hard time to figure out how to continue the story and to do so while maintaining the high standard of the first.  Disney is amazing at making timeless animated films, but let's be real: follow-ups are not their specialty.  However even though it's not a great story, that doesn't mean it's hopeless since the writing still tries everything it can to make the most out of the concepts while maintaining the elements that audiences love the most from the predecessor: yes, the story itself can be debatably weak...but it still provides a strong amount of heart from the sisterly bond between Anna and Elsa as well the light-hearted humor that helps balance out the serious and dark moments that gives the film a sweet charm and some surprisingly intense moments coming from the musical numbers and the action scenes.  It also does well on the world building to make the Enchanted Forest highly immersive with the elemental spirits in charge of the place in the history between the Arendellian soldiers and the Northuldra tribe: if it cannot deliver in the concepts, then it tries all it can to make up for it with the execution to make it as epic and engaging as possible while still staying true to the spirit of the first film

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Is 'Frozen 2' as good as the first movie, honestly no...does it still have that same wow factor and masterclass craftsmanship that's worth checking out, absolutely.  'Frozen 2' may be a minor downgrade from the legendary original, but it is still a greatly built animated feature that keeps the spirit of Frozen alive and deliver what made the first one one of the most iconic movies of the 2010 decade.  While the story may be poorly organized, the movie is still highly engaging with intense action and enjoyable humor along with the return of beloved characters with amazing voice acting accompanied by beautiful animation and songs that are on par to the ones of the original.  For my recommendations, I believe that the ones who will enjoy this the most will be fans of the first...if you like the original Frozen, then this is worth checking out however I don't think I would say the same for those who are not.  I don't believe this would really change the minds of those who are doubtful of Frozen, then again I could be wrong just by glancing at the wide variety of reactions.  Is there a point to having a 'Frozen 2', probably not but the effort to prove its worth is certainly admirable and for that earns a rating of a 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Thomas & Friends - Thomas And Percy's Mountain Adventure | #HappyThanksgiving

Written By Britt Allcroft and David Mitton
Composed By Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell
Produced By Britt Allcroft and David Mitton
Edited By John L. Wright
Directed By David Mitton

Happy Thanksgiving, everypony!  True Blue here with a new editorial to mark this special occasion, so let's talk about the American narration of the 'Thomas & Friends' television series: now we all know that when Thomas The Tank Engine first aired on Shining Time Station in the U.S., series creator Britt Allcroft changed the terms trucks to cars as well as goods to freight and so on in order to use terminology that the new target audience would be familiar with.  Now this is understandable, but Britt Allcroft also changed the titles of numerous stories when they were released in America: 'Thomas And Gordon' became 'Thomas Gets Tricked', 'The Sad Story Of Henry' became 'Come Out Henry' and so on and so forth throughout the first few seasons.  This has always struck me as strange as there was really no reason to do this when the titles didn't mention trucks or The Fat Controller, but I'm not here to talk about those episodes...I'm here to talk about the one episode that was completely rewritten just to coincide with a Shining Time Station episode and I'm of course talking about the infamous 'Thomas And Percy's Christmas Mountain Adventure'.

Originally titled 'Thomas And Percy's Christmas Adventure' in the U.K., the episode centered around Thomas and Percy trying to provide food for Christmas dinner to villagers stranded by a snowstorm...but when the episode aired on the Shining Time Station episode 'Billy's Party' in 1993, it focused on Thanksgiving rather than Christmas to fit the Thanksgiving theme of the Shining Time Station episode.  How strange did this classic episode get due to the rewrite?  Well, it only made sense to revisit this iconic episode from the classic era of the series to compare and contrast the two versions and see which one is superior...and I think we can all figure out where this is going, this is 'Thomas And Percy's Christmas Mountain Adventure'!

THOMAS AND PERCY'S CHRISTMAS MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE: Harold, Terence, Thomas and Percy rescue villagers stranded in a snowstorm

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'It's nearly Christmas Thanksgiving and I'll bring you lots of letters and parcels'

The episode starts out pretty well as we see Thomas making his way to the village of Ulfstead nestled deep in the heart of the Island Of Sodor, but it is fifteen seconds into the episode when we enter the village of Ulfstead that our biggest problem with this rewritten episode lies when Thomas is giving 'season's greetings' to all his friends in the village: in the U.K. version where the holiday being represented is very obviously Christmas in the month of December, the U.S. version says it takes place at the time of Thanksgiving in November...the problem here is that Thanksgiving is an AMERICAN holiday and Sodor happens to be a British island with British engines, they wouldn't celebrate Thanksgiving on Sodor thus it doesn't make sense to have a Thanksgiving episode of the series!


After Thomas leaves the village of Ulfstead, we go full steam ahead into our plot device for the episode in the form of an early snow storm a week later leaving the Island Of Sodor covered with thick snow and the engines either finding their work difficult like James trying to free some buried tankers to no avail while others like Donald are helping to clear snow from the track while the workmen hack away at the frozen banks of ice.  Okay, I know I said the whole Thanksgiving was the major issue with this rewrite but yet this is another big thing since it hardly ever snows that much in November in the U.K. and it hardly ever snows in November where I live-this is coming from someone who lives in a place that is stereotypical in snowiness.

'Driver says there's lots of mail for the village, I'll need an extra car for it all'
'It's not fair, you're not leaving any mail for me!'

We then see Thomas and Percy at Arlesburgh Harbor collecting important mail for Christmas Thanksgiving and Thomas is bragging about there being lots of mail for the village to the point where he'll need an extra mail car for it all leaving Percy feeling very left out at the thought of Thomas not leaving any mail for him...really, is Thomas gonna take all of the mail on the island leaving none left for Percy-I'm sorry, but I'm calling B.S. (aka 'Bad Steamer') on that one!  But the squabble of the best friends is interrupted when a change of plans from Sir Topham Hatt sends Thomas to Knapford Station while Percy is to take Thomas' train to the village of Ulfstead leaving Percy feeling delighted but Thomas feeling sad that he won't be able to say 'Happy Christmas Thanksgiving' to all of his friends despite Percy offering to do it for him-that's right, because you live in Britain and Thanksgiving is an AMERICAN holiday...everyone you know that celebrates Thanksgiving probably lives thousands of miles away!


Percy is making good time on his way to the village of Ulfstead when his driver spots a fogman by the line holding a red light informing them that the village is cut off by the snow and that they need snowplows, workmen and a helicopter thus prompting Percy to leave his mail cars in a siding and race to Harold's airfield at Dryaw calling upon the helicopter for his help in the rescue...and with Percy calling Harold 'lazy wings', I'm surprised Harold didn't respond that he wasn't going anywhere until Percy took back his remark.  Once Harold takes off, Percy then finds Thomas with Terence The Tractor and a works train...and with that, the rescue team of friends head back to Ulfstead where the rescue operation begins with Thomas and Percy clearing the lines and Terence The Tractor plowing the 'lovely stuff' as he says away from the streets and roads while Harold The Helicopter is busily dropping food for Christmas Thanksgiving dinner to the people below-if you listen very carefully, you can hear the villagers calling up to Harold going 'stop dropping turkeys, we have food...we don't even celebrate Thanksgiving!'

'Well done, Percy!  Well done, Thomas!'

Once the rescue mission is complete, the villagers thank Thomas and Percy for everything they've done while Thomas remembers that Percy's mail train is still back at the siding leaving Percy hurrying back to fetch it...but wait a second, there was a huge chunk of dialogue missing there!  Here is what was said in the U.K. version:

'Well done, Percy! Well done, Thomas!
You're the best Santa Claus this village has ever had!'
'What's a Santa Claus?'
'Santa Claus is someone who drops presents down chimneys during Christmas time'
'I wonder if...'
'No! Chimneys, Percy! Not funnels!'

That is a brilliant little bit between Thomas and Percy...why, why did they cut that-oh yeah, because of the Thanksgiving theme!
We then see Toby and Henrietta arrive with lots of hot drinks and food for the villagers until the engines go back to their sheds, but Toby and Henrietta stay behind in the village where the villagers have made a plan to thank the engines for all their hard work as they load paint pots and parcels into Henrietta before setting off into the moonlit countryside...but in this 'Thanksgiving' version of the episode when it was originally released on the 'Percy's Ghostly Trick' video cassette, did anyone just hear Percy whistle? That's because without that little bit of dialogue between Thomas and Percy about Santa Claus in the U.K. version, the music and sound effects are way out of sync: now they do try to fix this issue in the version seen on the 'Thomas' Christmas Wonderland' release, but it is now the narrations that are way out of sync since they used the footage and orchestrations from the U.K. version...just watch both versions and see for yourself, that's just lazy editing! While Toby has no idea what the villagers are going to do, he knows that it's going to be a big surprise...
Turns out Toby is right since it is a big surprise as the engines cannot believe their eyes when they wake up the next morning as they find that the sheds have been repainted and decorated with parcels laying everywhere around a huge tree...for Christmas?! I-I thought this was a Thanksgiving episode, didn't you...and thus concludes 'Thomas And Percy's Christmas Mountain Adventure'.
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Overall, what is the point...what is the point of this episode?! I understand wanting to make a Shining Time Station episode that's Thanksgiving themed because Shining Time Station is set in the United States, but does it really have to have an episode that's almost completely rewritten?! There are plenty of pre-existing episodes that have themes about being thankful and grateful for the people and things around you: the Shining Time Station episode wouldn't have suffered if they had just re-used some old stories and the U.S. wouldn't have lost a great Christmas episode, but at least they didn't change the name of Christmas into some silly generic non-denominational holiday for the sake of political correctness...like they say in the television series, 'but that's another story'. Until next time, I'm True Blue wishing all of my friends and family in the United States a very happy Thanksgiving and...brace yourselves, the winter holidays are coming!

Monday, November 25, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: The Princess And The Frog - 10 Years Of Going Down The Bayou | #PrincessAndTheFrog10

Image result for the princess and the frog
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
Written By Ron Clements and John Musker
Composed By Alan Menken
Produced By John Musker and Howard Ashman
Edited By Mark Hester
Directed By Ron Clements and John Musker


For a while, the 2-D Disney Animation Studio was shut down because the last few movies that were made were not huge financial successes and half of them weren't even critical successes. So after a long time away, Disney decided to finally return to its roots: go back to the fairy tales, go back to the happily ever afters and go back to the magical stuff. This is where 'The Princess And The Frog' comes in: let me tell you, I was excited to see an animated 2-D Disney film on the big screen again...and not just a satire one like 'Enchanted', I mean a real one. Can Tiana and Naveen still find a way to 'Dig A Little Deeper' and deliver a traditionally animated masterpiece after ten years? Let's find out, this is 'The Princess And The Frog'!

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG: Hardworking and ambitious, Tiana dreams of one day opening the finest restaurant in New Orleans...but her dream takes a slight detour when she meets Prince Naveen who has been turned into an amphibian by evil Dr. Facilier. Mistaking her for a princess and hoping to break the spell, Naveen plants a kiss on poor Tiana thereby turning her into a frog as well resulting in the pair hopping along on an adventure through the bayous to seek the help of a powerful voodoo priestess.

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Let’s look at our characters starting with Tiana who at the time of the film's release was probably the best female lead since Belle from 'Beauty And The Beast'-she’s a fast thinker, she’s positive and she’s a workaholic...gosh, never thought you would see that in a Disney Princess! Prince Naveen is also a lot of fun-he’s full of himself, but he’s also got a lot of innocence to him. Tiana’s best friend Charlotte La Bouff is f--king hilarious since I haven’t seen a Disney character this funny in a long time-every second she is on screen, she just cracks me up. The villain Dr. Facilier is also a lot of fun-the fact that he’s into voodoo allows for a lot of creative visuals and a lot of great possibilities while they take advantage of them all. On top of that, the rest of the side characters are also very memorable from Louis The Alligator who wants to be a musician to Ray The Cajun Firefly who thinks he’s in love with a star in the sky and a witch doctor by the name of Mama Odie who always has the answer to every question.

So okay, this film sounds about as good as the classic traditional great Disney movies...what could possibly go wrong with it? Well, there’s only one problem with the movie and sadly it’s kind of a big one: the story. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just...a little too complicated-I mean okay I told you the basics, but I didn’t even tell you about the fact that Dr. Facilier has a deal with the underworld so that he can take control of the town...but in order to take control of the town, he has to have the guy who looks like the prince marry the daughter of the mayor of the town...but in order to do that, they constantly need the blood of the frog prince to constantly give to that guy or else his disguise will fade away...but it turns out the prince has to be kissed by the daughter of the mayor because the mayor always appoints himself the king of the parade which technically makes her a princess...but that has to be done before midnight on the certain day....but on top of that, you also have to have the two main characters fall in love with each other while they're discovering how to fix their own faults as well as each other’s...oh, and did I mention that there’s also a totally unnecessary death and a totally goofy silly funeral scene that’ll either make you laugh or cry or both-oh my gosh, it’s too much!

I always said that this should’ve been called "Loophole: The Movie" because that’s what it always seems like: every second, they’re trying to look for a new loophole to get around something. Now I guess it's not a major problem, but here's the thing: one of the charms of movies like 'The Little Mermaid', 'Beauty and the Beast', 'Aladdin' and so forth is that the stories were always very flowing since they knew exactly how much to give to the characters and exactly how much to give to the details while 'The Princess And The Frog' has way too many details going on...but it’s not that bad like I said, it’s just not as good as the other Disney flicks had it put together. Yes, the songs are by Randy Newman and two of them are pretty good to be fair with "Friends on the Other Side" being a great villain song and "Almost There" actually having a very memorable nice beat to it. The others however, I don’t remember them and I guess again that is a problem with the movie...but then again to the movie’s credit, it does take place in New Orleans and at least the musical style does match even if it’s not all memorable.

I guess I should talk about some of the controversy that surrounded 'The Princess And The Frog' before I wrap up: of course, Tiana was the first black princess and there was a lot of talk about the fact that she was originally supposed to be a chambermaid yet they changed it and made her a waitress while that caused a lot of uproar too..."oh, it’s changing history...it’s changing the way things were back then!" Well, you know what...there’s a f--king talking frog, I think we’ll live! Yeah it’s changing things, but you know what...we’re always gonna have reminders of how things really work because this is a fairy tale, let the kids have their fairy tale. On top of that, there’s also controversy about why the film didn’t do as well as Disney was hoping: now let me clarify that, it didn’t bomb...but it wasn’t the gigantic hit they were hoping for. Was it racism, was the world just not ready for a black princess yet? I guess it could be, but I have my own theory: I think it is a prejudice, but it’s not against black people but rather against hand-drawn films.

It’s been a while since one has been marketed to both adults and kids...and let’s be honest, this is still a family picture and the majority of family pictures coming out nowadays are either live-action or 3-D. Personally, I think a lot of adults still see hand-drawn films as kid stuff. I mean, it could get people in the seats if it was really doing something new like 'The Little Mermaid' or just did it spectacularly like 'Beauty and the Beast'...and to be fair even though I like this film, it really didn’t since it updated the fairy tale very nicely and very cleverly and yet the problems with the story do hold it back from being anything spectacular. Like I said before, only a few of the Randy Newman songs are memorable since there’s no "Be Our Guest" in there...so that’s my theory. But to be honest, it still made money and I’d be more concerned if nobody saw it...but you know what, people did-it wasn't a ton of them but a lot of the past 2D-animated Disney films didn't have a ton of people looking at them at the same time and nobody screamed racism at that. But I don’t know all the people in the world, so it’s anybody’s guess...it’s just a theory.

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Overall on the whole though, I really enjoyed 'The Princess And The Frog' since I felt just like I was seeing 'The Little Mermaid' or 'Beauty and the Beast' again. It was great to see it on the big screen, it was great to see these characters and I had a lot of fun watching it: the animation's great, the colors are great, the characters are great...I enjoyed watching it and I know I’ll be seeing it a few more times in the future, so 'The Princess And The Frog' for that gets a rating of an 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie - 15 Years Of Goofy Goobers | #SpongeBobMovie

Image result for the spongebob movie 2004
THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE
Written By Derek Drymon, Tim Hill, Stephen Hillenburg,
Kent Osborne, Aaron Springer and Paul Tibbitt
Composed By Gregor Narholz 
Produced By Stephen Hillenburg and Julia Pistor
Edited By Lynn Hobson
Directed By Stephen Hillenburg

I think it's safe to say that SpongeBob Squarepants is one of the very few modern cartoons that became one of the biggest animation icons in history and Nickelodeon's greatest creation where his fame and cultural impact can be considered on par with Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny.  I've probably said this before, but almost everyone nowadays has at least one fond memory related to watching the lovable sponge from Bikini Bottom: even back when I was a kid when he started dominating television with his first few seasons, I used to be a major SpongeBob fan...but considering how much of a phenomenon the show became even back in its early days, a SpongeBob movie was unavoidable-so much so that not even creator Stephen Hillenburg himself could resist after trying for a while to say no to the idea.

It was originally meant to be the grand finale of the series-like after SpongeBob's biggest adventure, the show would be completely over...but of course, that did not happen!  So now that we're diving deep to explore SpongeBob's first big-screen adventure to save Bikini Bottom, will we find that this movie is as much of a treasure as Neptune's crown or does it actually tumble around like a goofy goober?  Let's find out, this is 'The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie'!

THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE: In this lively animated adventure, undersea oddball SpongeBob SquarePants and his starfish friend Patrick embark on a quest to clear the name of Mr. Krabs-the owner of the Krusty Krab restaurant who has been framed for stealing the crown of ocean deity King Neptune. Leaving the familiar confines of Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob and Patrick venture out towards Shell City where they hope to find Neptune's crown but numerous obstacles stand or float in their way

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Well, one thing's for certain: the stakes were never higher at Bikini Bottom than this: SpongeBob and Patrick have to get the missing crown of King Neptune, save Mr. Krabs from being executed and stop Plankton from taking over the entire town.  You gotta give the filmmakers credit, they took advantage of going beyond what they usually do for their regular episodes and really make things big for their feature film-like, give a legitimate excuse as to why this story belongs on the big screen rather than just telling it on television.  Okay, at least it's off to a good start with that...but what about the story itself, was it at least told well?  Honestly, I would say more so than many other animated films of its kind: for anyone who has seen the feature, it's pretty obvious that this is the kind that does not take itself seriously at all...it's highly self-aware how dumb it is and completely embraces it from beginning to end.  However while it does relish on its own goofiness and deliver gag after gag at every second, the movie does not forget its main goal: to tell a story, to present SpongeBob and Patrick's journey to prove to everyone including themselves that they are capable of doing anything despite being labeled as kids-it's actually quite rare to see an animated comedy do something like this especially in recent years!

You see, the problem with animated comedies nowadays is that they always try to sacrifice their quality of storytelling in favor of gaining their quantity of humor which often backfires because it results in the film to have a bland and boring story with comedy that's at best hit-and-miss.  With SpongeBob however, it doesn't take out anything holding on to both the storytelling and the comedy to present its adventure: it's like if a goofball is telling the story where they stay focused on what they want to do while the way they're explaining it is always silly and gives out a good laugh rather if they do so intentionally or not and the best part is that it leaves more than enough room to supply other elements like delivering some surprisingly effective action and some heart with the well executed message of believing in yourself and staying true to who you are.  Oh, and there is one more thing that it succeeds well than most other films based on television shows: the movie is actually very welcoming to people not familiar to 'SpongeBob Squarepants'.  Right at the beginning, it quickly sets up the show's signature tone as well as present who some of the characters are and explain all that's happening in Bikini Bottom-it's like if the film tells its audience 'here's who they are, here's what's happening and here's how we're gonna do it...you're cool with that, good, then let's do this'.

As SpongeBob made the jump to the big screen, he upgraded the story to bring his audience into an incredible journey they've never experienced before...in terms of the animation, well sorta.  Okay, here's the thing: as it is based on an animated series, it's no surprise that it doesn't have top hand-drawn quality like if it was made by Disney.  The animation is still limited that displays some of that television quality, but what it does to top the series at the time is playing a lot more with the characters' expressions often for comedic effect and nowadays can be considered meme-worthy including the famous 'Surprised Patrick'.  In fact, a good amount of the humor is visually based along with the witty writing and the absolute silliness of everything resulting in a wide variety of strong comedy throughout the feature.  However despite the limited nature, the movie does make the most out of the materials that were given: while it balances limited animation with more expressive poses and faces, it also takes advantage of the lighting and colors to set up a strong mood especially when there's a presence of danger.

As for the designs, they stay true to how they look on television but new elements are added to help present the kind of tone it wants to deliver like the classic cartoon look or being an uncharted in dangerous territories with the backgrounds also functioning in a similar effect with plenty of details to bring the environments to life and let them visually explain the scenario that's going on.  But one of the more unique elements of the visuals is in the third act when SpongeBob and Patrick enter the world of live-action: of course it's impossible to imagine how these flat 2-D characters can blend seamlessly in a real environment which in this case they don't, but that's part of the fun.  With all the unexpected twists and turns the boys get themselves into, seeing them interact in a live-action setting oddly makes sense in the SpongeBob world which presents new scenarios where they find themselves in a human gift shop or literally fighting on the back of David Hasslehoff-plus, the way the animated characters interact with the humans actually look great.  It can seem absurd, but the live actors do look like they are holding cartoon sea creatures.

For their theatrical debut, many of the Bikini Bottom residents have returned to be a part of one of SpongeBob's biggest adventures...however, only a selected few ended up having a significant role in the feature with everyone else like Mrs. Puff and Sandy all have they roles reduced to extras and even Squidward's part is particularly minor despite contributing a little bit to progress the plot.  On the other hand, the characters that are involved in the movie carry a lot of the charm and even some of the heart of the film where it may act entirely silly but it knows how to make the viewers emotionally invested with what they are going through.  So, who would be the ones driving the movie with the Patty Wagon?  Well of course, the picture stars: SpongeBob-an optimistic and fun loving sponge, and his good friend Patrick-a dim-witted sea star who is SpongeBob's biggest supporter.  As they agreed to take the task to rescue Neptune's crown, the two experienced a somewhat coming-of-age story to discover what they are capable of since everybody's been calling them kids which restricts them from certain opportunities like a manager position...but to save the people they love, they're ready to prove that regardless of who they are their willingness and perseverance can still achieve greatness and even what's often considered to be impossible.

One of the biggest reasons why SpongeBob accepted this mission is to save his boss Mr. Krabs-the money loving head of the Krusty Krab who's now been accused of stealing the crown and have it be found in the forbidden Shell City.  But of course, we know it's not his fault since that would be the main antagonist of the feature: Plankton, he's the kind of villain that loves how evil he is displaying a delightfully over-the-top nature...and the more his Plan Z goes into effect, the more of a threat he can actually be.  But with every movie based on a television show, new characters join the journey to either help SpongeBob and Patrick or to take them down.  There's King Neptune-the powerful yet self-conscious ruler of the seas that highly values his crown as it helps cover his...uh, thinning hairline.  To balance his tyrannical nature, his daughter Mindy is the kind-hearted princess that wants to help the boys succeed on their journey aiding them along the way and then there's Dennis-a cold hearted hitman hired by Plankton to kill the main characters...and in every scene he's in, he presents how he is the toughest fish in the sea that no one should mess with.

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Movies based on television shows are not a rarity, but ones that are considered great and can stand very well on their own are and this is one of them since 'The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie' is a highly enjoyable animated feature that took the beloved sponge during the height of his popularity and elevated to become a memorable adventure that both longtime fans and non-fans can have a blast with with an incredibly well-written story as well as charming characters and great comedy along with enjoyable animation...all one has to do is watch the film for themselves to understand how this movie played a key role in making SpongeBob a cartoon icon.  Like I said before, it doesn't really matter if you ever watch the show or not since I highly recommend checking this out if you ever need to watch a goofy comedy.  Maybe this film might not be for everyone, but if you're ever in the mood for something that doesn't take itself seriously and just need a good dose of silliness...then this is the movie.  Now with their film, they can do anything: get the crown, save the town and earn 'The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie' a rating of a 9 out of 10.

Monday, November 18, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: The Swan Princess - No Fear For 25 Years | #SwanPrincess25

Image result for the swan princess
THE SWAN PRINCESS
Written By Brian Nissen
Composed By Lex de Azevedo
Produced By Jared F. Brown and Richard Rich
Edited By Armetta Jackson-Hdamlett and James Koford
Directed By Richard Rich

I honestly think from Day One that I've been getting requests to review 'The Swan Princess': while I don't know anyone that sees the 1994 adaptation of 'Swan Lake' as the worst thing ever, it does carry this awkwardness that just enough people saw it to make eight-yeah, EIGHT-more direct-to-DVD awkwardnesses. It also helped that the movie at the time was very well advertised since every other kids' show had a commercial for this playing in between, but also keep in mind that at the time the only animation studio making any kind of profit back then was Disney...and just the same way Disney re-released 'The Little Mermaid' for a limited time when 'Anastasia' posed a threat, guess what movie only five months after its premiere they decided to re-release on the exact same da-D'OH, highest grossing movie Disney's ever made at the time! What lousy luck, what are the chances we just happened to re-release this film on the exact same weekend? But after it went to video, kids were still kinda curious whether or not there was anything worth watching in it especially as we celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. The answer? Well...

In all honesty, 'The Swan Princess' feels like the movie that 'Enchanted' was satirizing in the first third: it doesn't feel like someone wanted to tell a story out of passion but rather it feels like it was told because someone else was making money with this other formula and now they're gonna try that formula. The leads are a bore, the comedy's weak and the animation is much better at being wild and energized rather than soothing and romantic but even then a lot of the timing and characters are so poorly executed that even that doesn't hold much water with the only thing that comes close to enjoyable is that opening musical number 'This Is My Idea'. If the movie was just about these kids growing up, I think we might've had a stronger movie...but as it is, it's phoned in, unimaginative and just a dull waste.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: The Little Mermaid - 30 Years Under The Sea | #LittleMermaid30

Image result for the little mermaid 1989
THE LITTLE MERMAID
Written By Ron Clements and John Musker
Composed By Alan Menken
Produced By John Musker and Howard Ashman
Edited By Mark Hester
Directed By Ron Clements and John Musker


After the disappointment of 'The Black Cauldron', Disney suddenly got on this huge kick: not only were they gonna be turn out better projects, but they were gonna turn them out fast.  The films went from coming out every five to seven to even ten years to suddenly every year and the film that sparked the Disney Renaissance...the revolutionary film that started hit after hit after hit again is none other than 'The Little Mermaid'-yeah you all know it, you've all seen it and now we're gonna talk about it.  Is there any point in comparing it to the Hans Christian Andersen story, I mean we all know Ariel doesn't die in the end since Disney wouldn't do that-in fact, heck I think they couldn't do that.  So much like 'Oliver & Company', let's just keep it to the content as it is because this is the first film in a long time where the animation was actually looking like Disney animation-this was the return to the fairy tales, the smooth lines, the nice songs, the beautiful backgrounds, all the stuff that started with 'Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs' and most people think of when they hear the word Disney...but is life truly the bubbles under the sea with Ariel after thirty years?  Let's find out, this is 'The Little Mermaid'!

THE LITTLE MERMAID: In Disney's beguiling animated romp, rebellious 16-year-old mermaid Ariel is fascinated with life on land. On one of her visits to the surface which are forbidden by her controlling father King Triton, she falls for a human prince. Determined to be with her new love, Ariel makes a dangerous deal with the sea witch Ursula to become human for three days...but when plans go awry for the star-crossed lovers, the king must make the ultimate sacrifice for his daughter.

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The feedback I get from 'The Little Mermaid' is fascinating and not actually from guys believe it or not but from women who find they either love or hate this movie and all of it centers around the main character Ariel...okay, so what's bad about her?  Well, she is whiny to the point where even the song 'Part Of Your World' when you get down to it is just very pretty whining.  On top of that, Ariel certainly has all of the typical sixteen-year-old cliches: hating her father, talking about boys, wanting to throw her life away for them...but let's be honest, that's kinda typical for a lot of girls and maybe that's why some women hate the film since I guess Bella from the Twilight Saga is living out a lot of girls’ fantasies too and yet that doesn’t necessarily make her a good character. Ariel definitely has a passion and a drive that sets her apart from a lot of the other Disney female leads-a hopeless romantic but also determined who will go to whatever lengths it takes to get something she wants. So for the most part, I thought a lot of the backlash about Ariel was just sort of nitpicking...until it was brought to my attention that Ariel doesn't really change or learn anything, yeeeah that's a really good point. Despite her causing all this trouble, she still gets exactly what she wants...she whines and complains and she's rewarded for it in the end. Now you could make a very slim argument that once Ursula has Ariel and she’s apologizing to her father, she has acknowledged she made a mistake and that admittedly she shouldn’t have done it...but the scene is two seconds long and she gets her way anyway at the end, so it doesn’t really matter.

I guess there are some major character flaws with Ariel, so why do I still enjoy her? Well horrible to say, I actually really like it when she can’t talk. Before you all start making whatever "women shouldn't speak" joke you want, let me explain why since that’s not the reason I like it: I like it because Ariel's curiosity comes out in full blue since she isn’t complaining here...she’s enjoying, she's in heaven seeing all these new things. She’s a wanderer, she’s an explorer and likes discovering things...nowhere does that come out clearer in just the simple expressions and the great animation like in the scene where she brushes her hair with a fork in front of Prince Eric and Grimsby at the dinner table-this scene alone had me pissing my pants with laughter! Even though the song 'Part Of Your World' which like I said earlier is sing-complaining, it actually really does show how she feels about a situation and it’s very passionate...so I guess that’s what a lot of people really do get behind in this movie. I also like the fact that this was the first Disney film where the couple actually had to build their romance from something since they didn’t just meet and suddenly love each other. Well...okay, they meet and they love each other but they had to meet and work at it again at the same time. It’s not like 'Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs' where they meet and they get married or 'Sleeping Beauty' where they meet, sing, and suddenly they’re in love because there is some development here even though it did take three days-in the Disney universe, that was a long time!

Now that we've addressed the controversy surrounding Ariel, we've gotta look at the good stuff starting with the music which you pretty much know in and out-it's Alan Menken's songs and man are they memorable and catchy as hell from the bouncy and fun 'Under The Sea' to the slow and romantic 'Kiss The Girl' to the diabolical 'Poor Unfortunate Souls', he gets the tone just right!  The comic relief is also fun-there's some fun tidbits with Sebastian The Crab, we have Buddy Hackett as Scuttle The Seagull and the crazy Chef Louis voiced by Odo from 'Deep Space Nine'...it's pretty good!  The animation is top notch-this is the animation people wanted to see from Disney for a while and man did it blow people away!  It still blows me away watching it today looking at these angles and the colors, everything...it just pops!  The villain Ursula is great...much like Ratigan from 'The Great Mouse Detective', she just so enjoys what she's doing although it's much more of a revenge fest than it is just to be evil thus making her plot a little bit more motivation.


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Overall deconstructing childhoods aside, how does 'The Little Mermaid' hold up? Well, I guess it has the ethical flaws that a lot of people say are just ethical flaws in Disney films in general like just meeting a person in a day and wanting to marry him while not always dealing with the consequences of your actions. But the stuff that’s good is really friggin' good: the music-outstanding, the animation-stellar, the comic relief-memorable, the villain-awesome, and even the father character of King Triton-a character that usually gets tossed aside in most Disney movies is actually pretty well-developed here and our main characters despite their flaws still have a lot of things you can like about them. Personally, I still really enjoy 'The Little Mermaid'-it has its issues, but the good stuff is just too damn good and this would only be the first monster hit that would send Disney on a roll...so for that, 'The Little Mermaid' earns a rating of a 9 out of 10.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Toy Story 2 - 20 Years Of 'Woody's Roundup' | #ToyStory2

Image result for toy story 2
TOY STORY 2
Written By Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlin and Chris Webb
Composed By Randy Newman
Produced By Helene Plotkin and Karen Robert Jackson
Edited By Edie Bleiman, David Ian Salter and Lee Unkrich
Directed By John Lasseter

While 'A Bug's Life' was a success, it didn't quite bring in the numbers that 'Toy Story' did and even the critical reaction to it seemed to be kind of mixed thus Pixar went back to the drawing board with 'Toy Story 2'. I don't think people really knew what to expect with this-I mean, it's a sequel to a film they really really liked...and seeing how this was a new production studio, we didn't know: could they do sequels, could they do follow-ups well? A lot of sequels are usually not as good as the first one, so people were kind of nervous but at the same time they were excited to see their favorite characters again...and from my standpoint, Toy Story 2 was not only as good as the original but I think it's even better. Is 'Toy Story 2' still the rootinest tootinest sequel in the Wild Wild West after twenty years? Let's find out, this is 'Toy Story 2'!

TOY STORY 2: Woody is stolen from his home by toy dealer Al McWhiggin leaving Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang to try to rescue him. But when Woody discovers that he's actually a valuable collectible from a once-popular television show called "Woody's Roundup" and is reunited with his horse Bullseye, the yodeling cowgirl Jessie and his faithful sidekick Stinky Pete the Prospector, he doesn't want to leave.

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...and it's great writing like this that once again makes 'Toy Story' great. While there is kind of a villain in this movie with Al McWhiggin and even Stinky Pete The Prospector that's eventually revealed who also managed to cause quite a bit of controversy recently with one of his bloopers on the original release of the movie in the wake of the #MeToo movement, but again their motivations are understandable and it's just the fact that they want to force their point of views on other people that ultimately make them kind of bad guys...but the dilemma that Woody has to go through is actually a good dilemma-in fact, you're kind of siding with him going to the museum.

Heck, some of these toys even have backstories with Jessie's backstory as told through the song 'When She Loved Me' being one of the emotional highlights of the entire film. But to balance it out, she's not just a sad stick-in-the-mud because she's a very fun and active character as well-in fact, all the new characters are from a Mrs. Potato Head to the evil Emperor Zurg to another Buzz Lightyear that goes through the exact same motions as the first one and even Barbie makes an appearance in this...how cool is that that the marketing team that brought us Barbie which is something so controlled and so protective of their identity actually allowed them to kind of make fun of their brand?

I may not be the biggest Randy Newman fan, but you know what...the song in here with "When She Loved Me" is a good song-probably one of his best in fact and I'll admit it's very well done. The CG-animation on the people has gotten better too-I mean, it's true they don't look like actual people but yet the textures are better, and even a lot of the facial expressions seem to work pretty well. The dramatic moments are very strong and they're never out of place, they're very emotionally satisfying and you relate with every single aspect of it because you relate with dealing with the inevitable: what will ultimately happen in the end, what should you do, what's the better thing for yourself and for others, what's the selfish thing, what's the unselfish thing. All this stuff plays in and it's very very smart and very very well done.

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Overall...just when you think something like 'Toy Story' couldn't possibly get any better, the team at Pixar surprises us with this very well-told and well-written as well as being well-developed and interesting continuation of a story-not a rehash! It's clever, it's funny, it's dramatic, it's visually interesting, it's musically interesting, the characters are wonderful...I've gone on about it long enough, see 'Toy Story 2' if you haven't already because it's well deserving of a 10 out of 10 rating.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

#DontBeAQuibblePants



It feels weird going to a themed night for a film franchise that you know little to nothing about among a social group full of die-hard super nerds of that franchise who act like they know it all...it can make you feel like the odd one out a lot of the time and I know that not every fandom is perfect, but it feels like every fandom I have tried to be a part of whether for Thomas The Tank Engine or My Little Pony or even Rick & Morty has been toxic in some shape or form. When I first started my YouTube channel, I realize looking back that I did come off as that die-hard super nerd when it came to Thomas and My Little Pony because I was excited and eager to share my contributions with the rest of the online community...and while I'm proud to be a passionate fan of both franchises, I've learned from experience and even first-hand that acting like die-hard super nerds when it comes to something you hold close to your heart can get you into a lot of trouble

In 2015 when Thomas The Tank Engine celebrated his seventieth anniversary, I had made a review of the anniversary specials 'The Adventure Begins' and 'Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure' where I spent a lot of time praising the films and not really addressing any problems that the films may have had which resulted in a majority of the fandom relentlessly harassing me for being too positive and it got so bad that I actually ended up leaving the fandom the very next year. While I still continue to produce Thomas content and while I have learned my lesson ever since those two failures of reviews, I refuse to get involved with the 'higher-ups' in the community who act like they know it all and it has only gotten worse ever since I left the fandom when the initial announcement of 'Big World Big Adventures' was first made: because the series was being given a multicultural revamp and it wasn't what the hardcore fans were used to, it caused them to attack the show staff with death threats and being extremely racist towards the actress who voices Nia of whom I am proud to be friends with on Twitter which resulted in the show staff calling out the fandom in an interview and making those of us fans who were looking forward to the future of the series look just as bad as those who were attacking the show staff for doing what they were asked to do in making Thomas still relevant in today's age of kids' entertainment

But if you thought the behavior of the Thomas The Tank Engine fandom was bad, you haven't seen what the My Little Pony fandom has been up to ever since the very beginning and I even made a point about this in my editorial about Derpy Hooves that I made for Autism Awareness Month a couple years back: because the show staff wanted to thank the fans for developing what started off as a technical glitch back in the first season of the show by giving Derpy a speaking role in Season 2, it resulted in so many being offended by her portrayal in the original release of the episode 'The Last Roundup' and sending the show staff death threats...and this would not be the last time that the Bronies would do this since they did it again for Pinkie Pie's portrayal towards Fluttershy back in Season 4's "Filli Vanilli" and even just this year regarding the series finale with the plot twist of Grogar being Discord in disguise. It's not just what happens in the episodes that gets the Bronies jazzed up, it's also whenever something gets released early in another country or is leaked by mistake which results in those who want to stick to the American broadcasting schedule to be wary of spoilers and I've had my fair share of die-hard fans coming at me for reviewing episodes of the series whenever they get released early...but the early releases got so bad that the fandom had the international releases of the last few episodes of the series pulled until they were broadcasted in the States!

Like I said, I'm proud to be a passionate fan of both Thomas and My Little Pony...but as I've gotten older and more experienced and while I am still very much a fan of both shows, I'm not as into them like I was back when I first started my YouTube channel since I have seen first-hand the dangers of being a die-hard super fan of something you love whether in film or television. So while I think it's perfectly fine with being a fan of something that means so much to you in media, please...don't be a Quibble Pants!