Sunday, June 26, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Finding Dory

Written By Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse
Composed By Thomas Newman
Produced By Lindsey Collins
Edited By Axel Geddes
Directed By Andrew Stanton

Just finished watching 'Finding Dory' via a link to the entire movie and...being someone who loved 'Finding Nemo' and after seeing Ellen DeGeneres pester Pixar for thirteen years to make this movie as well as seeing so many people going ga-ga over it, does it live up to the hype or are we hyping this film up way too much?  The answer lives up to the hype.

When it comes to the story, it may feel like a lazy re-hash of 'Finding Nemo' when it comes to the bare structure since they do copy a lot of the elements from the first film...but there is actually a big difference between the two if you really take the time to analyze it.  While 'Finding Nemo' was more about the adventure of a father swimming oceans to find his son, 'Finding Dory' looks into Dory's origins by showing flashbacks of her as a child as she remembers the small things that ultimately led to her getting separated from her parents-if anything, this movie can be described as literally a trip down memory lane for the audience while at the same time also supplying what made the first movie so great in terms of the sense of new adventure to the humor to the heart as well as the theme of family.  What's also surprising is that 'Finding Dory' looks into the subject of living with a disability by using your strengths and what you can do best in order to achieve your goals with the help of your friends and family-something that I think everyone who has a disability can relate whether you have autism or are handicapped.

Much like the first movie, one of the strongest and most memorable things about 'Finding Dory' is its animation as Pixar has shown once again how they can go above and beyond in the world of 3-D animation by giving us something truly phenomenal to look at as the ocean itself.  Due to the improvements that Pixar makes from the previous movie due to how much more technologically advanced they’ve become, it allows them to make the characters and the environment that they're in look more realistic than ever before from the textures to the new locations to the character animation that looks so believable.  But the shining star of the animation in the film is hands…I mean, ‘tentacles down’ Hank the septopus.  Sure we’ve seen animated octopuses before, but Hank truly stands out from the rest in terms of all the creative camouflage possibilities and results that the team at Pixar came up-heck, they even turn the end credits into a game of ‘Where’s Waldo’ with Hank’s camouflage abilities!

And when it comes to the characters, Dory is easily the strongest character of the cast as she has risen from comic relief to becoming fully developed and rather complex from her trying to cooperate with her short-term memory loss to finding out where things from the first movie came from like the ‘Just Keep Swimming’ song or speaking whale.  As for Marlin and Nemo, I was afraid that they were just gonna be along for the ride and they wouldn't have a significant role...but I'm so thankful that they did and they actually had a reason to be in the movie-not only that, but Nemo has changed quite a bit in terms of his personality from being rebellious and afraid to being more assertive and sarcastic.  As for the new characters, Destiny and Bailey supply some fresh comedy and Hank made for quite the perfect foil for Dory as he tried to use Dory for his own goals and benefits.  But as for the returning characters, don’t expect them all to come back as the only ones that appeared and had a role with Mr. Ray and his school as well as Crush and Squirt.

Overall, for a sequel that I originally didn't ask for and thought was gonna suck, I’m not gonna be able to look at ‘Finding Nemo’ the same way again as ‘Finding Dory’ is a surprisingly well-crafted sequel that captures the fun and heart that the first movie gave us…but I think it just barely missed the mark that ‘Finding Nemo’ hit thirteen years ago.  But regardless, ‘Finding Nemo’ gets an overall rating of 9.5 out of 10…and always remember: just keep swimming.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: The Angry Birds Movie

The Angry Birds Movie poster.png
Written By Jon Vitti
Composed By Heitor Pereia
Produced By John Cohen and Catherine Winder
Edited By Kent Beyda and Ally Garrett
Directed By Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly

Just finished watching 'The Angry Birds Movie' via a link to the entire movie and...being someone who enjoys playing the game as well as this film being a last resort for Rovio to save themselves from being shut down, did it live up to the awesomeness of the game? Well...yes and no.

When it comes to the story, the source material doesn't really give the movie enough to work with in order to make it worthwhile-thus making the writing of the story feel rather weak for the most part with the three acts being totally separate from each other from starting off with a mean-spirited first act where we get to know Red and the world he lives in to the second act where things start to get predictable with the introduction of the pigs since we know that the pigs are the villains of the game...but the third act totally makes up for it by deciding to give up building a story and give us the destructive slingshot action that we love from the game. As for the humor, the jokes aren't entirely bad since there are a few that work very well...but a majority is nothing more than slapstick that can get annoying pretty quickly.

So whether you love or hate the story, you can't deny that the animation does its job for the movie that it is very well. The birds and pigs may look different to how they look in the game, but the arms and legs are a nice update in my opinion and the design stayed true to how they look in the game as well. One thing that I will have to give the animators major props for is all the individual birds to the point where even the extras look unique...however, the same can't be said for Bird Island and The Mighty Eagle's Cave. As for the character animation, its highly energetic cartoony style actually works very well-especially with Chuck. And like I said before, the third act is when the animation truly shines when we're given what we want to see in an Angry Birds movie from the layout of Piggy Island/Leonard's Castle to all of the effects when the birds destroy buildings/blow something up.

And when it comes to the characters, the birds may be memorable in the game in terms of what they can do to save their eggs...but they somehow didn't up becoming memorable characters from the angry outcast Red (who I can surprisingly relate with on a personal level) to the overly-hyper Chuck (is it wrong to say that I prefer Olaf to this guy?). As for the pigs, they may be just the bland villains on paper...but they actually end up being pretty funny who actually end up becoming the saving grace of the film's second act. And then we come to The Mighty Eagle and the other birds like Stella or Hal, Mighty Eagle just ends up becoming a one-note joke and the other birds are just there to make references to the game.

Overall, 'The Angry Birds Movie' may not be all that good as an animated film...but it could've been a hell of a lot worse especially considering the source material, so I have to give everyone on the cast and crew credit for at least trying and I'll be nice by giving 'The Angry Birds Movie' a 5 out of 10.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Spice Up Your Life

Season 6, Episode 12: Spice Up Your Life
Written By Michael Vogel

Ah, Rarity and Pinkie Pie…whenever you two are on screen together, it’s always a treat.  And speaking of treats, this week’s episode involves cooking…so let’s hope it’s a delicious delight as we stir up some fun with “Spice Up Your Life”!

Pinkie Pie and Rarity are called to Canterlot to solve a friendship problem where they discover a father and daughter whose relationship is strained as they struggle to keep their restaurant open. Pinkie Pie and Rarity both want to help, but have different ideas on what 'help' means.  When this episode was first announced, I was excited by all of the creative possibilities that could come from it and did my excitement pay off for the best?  Yes, yes it did.

The story is actually a very clever little take-that to the analysts and reviewers of the Brony community and it showed that you don’t need approval from other people on what you can and can’t like and you can give your thoughts in your own way without quoting anyone else to back your thoughts up to the point of it turning it into a rant-something of which I have to give Mike Vogel major props for truly understanding the characters inside and out while also supplying some chuckle-worthy moments here and there.  As for the song ‘It’s Gonna Work’, it’s a song that’s slowly growing on me because of its unique instrumentations that add its own flavor to complement the harmonies of Rarity and Pinkie Pie.

In terms of animation, the team at DHX did an outstanding job in trying to capture the Indian culture and atmosphere when it came to the design of The Tasty Treat especially in the d├ęcor of the restaurant…but this is where we are for a majority of the episode along with visiting various restaurants in Canterlot in the beginning that sport the exact same design and food to go with it.  But for what we get in this episode, the animation is still a tasty treat for the eyes.

And when it comes to the characters, Rarity and Pinkie Pie were in top form because their dynamic is still as strong as it was back in ‘The Gift Of The Maud Pie’ and it felt like they were the only members of the Mane 6 that this type of story could work for in terms of the conflict-bravo to Andrea Libman and Tabitha St. Germain for giving another awesome peformance with their characters!  As for Saffron Masala and Coriander Cumin, they add quite a bit of diversity within the pony culture due to them being Indian…also, is it me or did Saffron remind anyone of Esmerelda from ‘The Hunchback Of Notre Dame’?  And then, we have our ‘villain’ for the episode in the form of food critic Zesty Gourmand and…is it wrong to say that I prefer Anton Ego from Ratatouille to her?  The thing is…whereas Anton Ego showed a change in perspective in Ratatouille, Zesty refuses to change her ways-thus making her a less memorable character who I’m sure we’ll never see again.

Overall, ‘Spice Up Your Life’ is a delicious delight that I’ll be sure to come back to many more times in the future and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10…my only advice: don’t watch this episode if you have an empty stomach as I’m sure you’ll be pausing the episode to look for food.

And thus, we enter the mid-season hiatus.  All we can do now is play the waiting game…until then, see you in Part 2, everypony!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Flutter Brutter

Season 6, Episode 11: Flutter Brutter
Written By Dave Rapp

Ah, Fluttershy…you’ve come a long way from your timid beginnings to be more assertive without going overboard with it. But now, it’s time for you to put your assertiveness to the ultimate test…let’s take a look at “Flutter Brutter”!

When Fluttershy’s self-absorbed brother starts freeloading off their parents, she encourages him to move out. Unfortunately, he moves in with her instead, forcing Fluttershy to stand up to her brother and help him get over his fear of failure. I’ll be honest, this was an episode that I was excitedly waiting to see ever since I first heard about it…and sure enough, this episode managed to deliver beautifully.

When it comes to the story, the show staff could’ve very easily gone down the road of “Can You Spare A Dime” from SpongeBob Squarepants and…while I do like that episode, I’m glad to see that the staff of My Little Pony knew how to take this episode seriously instead of comedic especially with the moral of striving towards your life goals even though they can be hard-a message that’s more for adults rather than kids when you think about it…and thankfully, there were some jokes here and there to give us a chance to breathe.

In terms of animation, the team at DHX has done another outstanding job as always and it really comes into play with the designs of Fluttershy’s parents’ house and cloud garden as well as during the song “Can I Do It On My Own”… which may sound like “Winter Wrap Up” and “The Rules Of Rarity” combined, but it’s a very motivational song about not giving up and the vocals are nicely done as well.

And when it comes to the characters, Fluttershy was in top form as it felt like she was the only member of the Mane 6 that this type of story could work for-in fact, I dare say that this is her best episode to date considering everything she went through and standing up for what she believed in…bravo to Andrea Libman for giving us an awesome performance as our lovable animal caretaker!

As for Zephyr Breeze, it would’ve been easy for the writers to make him an unredeemable slob with no regard as to how much of a burden he is to his family and…while he is that way at first, but I was amazed at how realistic they made him at his lowest point and how it stems from a fear of failure; thus making him quite a relatable character to many. Couple those two together with Fluttershy’s soft-spoken and non-confrontational parents as well as some interactions with Rainbow Dash as a foil and you’ve got quite a cast of characters.

Overall, “Flutter Brutter” is not only the best Fluttershy episode to date…but it is also another all-time favorite episode for me.  It made for quite the graduation present and it gets a rating of a 10 out of 10.