Sunday, September 25, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony - Equestria Girls: Legend Of Everfree

Written By Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco
Composed By Daniel Ingram and William Anderson
Produced By Angela Beylea
Directed By Ishi Rudell

Ah, the Equestria Girls series...we may have had a rocky start with the release of the first movie back in 2013, but things soon got better immediately with the releases of Rainbow Rocks and Friendship Games.  But now that there is a fourth installment in the franchise, will the magic of friendship be better than ever?  Let's find out with 'Legend Of Everfree'!

When Canterlot High School goes on a trip to Camp Everfree, they’re surprised to find a magical force is causing strange things to happen around camp. With the help of the Mane 6 and especially Sunset Shimmer, Twilight Sparkle must confront the dark 'Midnight Sparkle' within herself and embrace her newfound magical abilities to save the camp.  When I first heard about a fourth Equestria Girls film in the works, I didn't think much of it since I thought that 'Friendship Games' was a good film to end the franchise on and that this was gonna be a half-assed rehash of Rainbow Rocks in terms of the whole 'main character redemption' plotline.  But I did my best to go into the film with an open mind and I was left completely surprised by how good it was.

When it came to the story, this is easily the darkest of the films in the series so far especially with how it tackled the subject of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the form of Twilight recovering from the events of the last movie when she became Midnight Sparkle.  Not only is the subject matter dark, but a lot of the action sequences are pretty damn dark too-especially during the climax and final battle sequence...but don't worry, there is plenty of humor supplied from the cast of characters that ranged from chuckleworthy to those that are more suited for the older demographic.  And if you're wondering if this is gonna be one of those eco-friendly films with the whole 'save the trees' moral, it is much more complicated than that.

As for the, I had already done a review of the soundtrack a few weeks back before the movie had premiered and found it to be a mixed bag.  Turns out all that I really needed to do was wait until the movie finally premiered to have a change of heart.  The main title song 'Legend Of Everfree' may sound like 'Ballad Of The Crystal Empire' from back in Season 3, but it has that nice feeling that not only welcomes you into the movie but the camp as well.  As for 'The Midnight In Me', the orchestrations and performance by Rebecca Shoichet truly help capture the traumatic stress that Twilight feels for a majority of the film.  Speaking of Rebecca Shoichet, that brings us to her second solo song in the movie-Embrace The Magic, and...while not as good as 'My Past Is Not Today', it's still a pretty good song for Rebecca to showcase her talents as Sunset Shimmer.  And now we come to our villain song 'We Will Stand For Everfree', which...while not quite as good as 'Welcome To The Show' from Rainbow Rocks, it's still pretty damn eerie and creepy and newcomer Enid-Raye Adams has some great singing chops...also, I think this song is what 'Unleash The Magic' from Friendship Games should've been.  Then, that brings us to our final songs 'Be The Legend You Were Meant To Be' and 'Hope Shines Eternal' and...while not as memorable as the closing song from Rainbow Rocks, I still think that they are great songs to end the movie.

As for the animation, there's no doubt that the team at DHX's work with the franchise is constantly getting better and, they really amped up their game especially with the fact that this was the first film in the franchise to not use the high school setting and Camp Everfree looks incredible from the different designs of the buildings to the scenery around the campsite...not only that, but the animation also helps to make a lot of the action-packed dark sequences feel pretty damn intense like during the 'We Will Stand For Everfree' song and villain battle as well as Twilight's numerous 'Midnight Sparkle' nightmares.

And when it comes to the characters, Twilight Sparkle was extremely well-developed and relatable in this movie especially during the first two minutes when she has her first nightmare where Midnight Sparkle basically kills her friends-that alone is pretty damn dark, even by the show standards!  As for Sunset Shimmer and the rest of the Mane 6, they were also well-developed as they all try to help Twilight overcome her fears of the past in their own respected ways.  Now, we come to our new characters Gloriosa Daisy and Timber Spruce.  Gloriosa may not be as memorable as The Dazzlings in terms of villains, but she is definitely better and more memorable than Principal Cinch was in the last movie...while I think Timber's relationship with Twilight works so much better than Twilight and Flash Sentry (they actually did address this issue, THANK YOU HASBRO!!!) since they have a lot more in common and are actually given time to get to know each other.  But if there had to be a problem with the characters, it would have to be Filthy Rich.  I know that they had to have a character to put the film's conflict into action, but I personally think Spoiled Rich would've fit better since Filthy's appearance in this contradicts with his humble businessman persona in the show with his pony counterpart.

Overall, while I still think that Rainbow Rocks is the best film in the Equestria Girls series, 'Legend Of Everfree' came pretty damn close to becoming my favorite film in the franchise and gets an rating of a 9.5 out of 10...and with that cliffhanger ending, all I can say is: BRING ON, EQUESTRIA GIRLS 5!

MLEEP Reviews: Every Little Thing She Does

Season 6, Episode 21: Every Little Thing She Does
Written By Michael Vogel

Ah, Starlight Glimmer…with this being your season of redemption, we haven’t seen or heard much of you.  Maybe it has something to do with this week’s episode…let’s find out with ‘Every Little Thing She Does’!

Although Starlight Glimmer is excelling at her magical studies with Twilight Sparkle, she has been avoiding her friendship lessons. Feeling pressure to impress her teacher, Starlight attempts to tackle several friendship problems at once, with questionable results.  When I first heard about this episode, I was rather intrigued as to what was gonna happen and also excited at the same time to see more of Starlight…an episode I was excited to see and it did not disappoint.

When it comes to the story...some would call this a Starlight Glimmer version of Season 2’s ‘Lesson Zero’ and while that is true, this is probably the best version of that particular episode especially with how the story and characters were written especially in how it provided some explanation for why Starlight was hardly seen at all in this season.  Mike Vogel truly seems to understand Starlight Glimmer inside and out, but it really does ask the question of ‘Lesson Zero’ possibly being the Holy Grail of episodes in MLP to the point where they’ve used that particular formula so many times.

As for the animation, it feels so great that the team at DHX are expanding upon existing places like how they expanded on Manehattan and Canterlot in episodes like ‘The Gift Of The Maud Pie’ and ‘Spice Up Your Life’ and their work truly shines once again as they expanded upon Twilight’s castle with where Starlight’s been sleeping as well as getting to see the kitchen-not to mention that the magic training sequence at the beginning was friggin’ awesome!

And when it comes to the characters, Starlight Glimmer was so relatable to me since she was kinda like those people that become so used to failing in everything that they try which end up becoming so hyper-focused on using that one talent that they’re really good at as the solution to everything that they come across to the point of stagnation and it really helps to which explain the social anxiety that Starlight was facing when interacting with the rest of the Mane 6-heck, even Twilight and Spike have really mature reactions to Starlight enslaving their friends to do her bidding and they try to help her overcome her fears…and the Mane 6 didn’t even feel shoehorned into the episode at all!  Bravo to everyone on the voice cast for some awesome performances!

Overall, ‘Every Little Thing She Does’ truly is a magically fun episode for Starlight Glimmer’s story arc and gets a rating of a 9.5 out of 10.

Friday, September 23, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Storks

Written By Nicholas Stoller
Composed By Mychael and Jeff Danna
Produced By Brad Lewis and Nicholas Stoller
Edited By John Venzon
Directed By Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland

Saw the new movie 'Storks' with my aunt (thanks again for the free preview passes by the way!) as well as my friends Brad and CJ back a couple weeks ago and...after the success of 'The Lego Movie', can Warner Bros. become one of the big names in animation once again with this movie?  The answer is...kinda.

When it comes to the story...when you're given the legend of 'storks delivering babies to new parents' to work with, the story that accompanies it is actually very fitting since they took the legend of the storks and brought it into a contemporary environment complete with their delivery history as well as how they made the transition from delivering babies to delivering packages in an company; thus making it feel very creatively interesting...the same can't be said for the plot however since it feels kinda like a re-hash of 'Arthur Christmas' in terms of the whole 'grand adventure of delivering an important package' aspect as well as modernizing a classic tradition-not to mention that a lot of the film felt very predictable to the point where you can see stuff coming from a mile away.  But what saves the story from being dull has to be the comedy as it's one of the stronger aspects to make the journey enjoyable ranging from just a few chuckles to laugh-out-loud hilarious.

As for the animation, it's not every day that we get animation that can help make a film look and feel fun at the same time.  Sure it may run on the same speed as either 'Looney Tunes' or 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs' when it came to giving it a cartoony flair, but it actually works out really well for this film especially when they're making visual gags and it really helps make the humor effective with characters like Junior or the wolf pack.  As for the design, the more cartoony look is given to the animal characters while the human characters are given more of a baby theme with there being no sharp corners and having a round facial structure-not to mention having a bigger head and eyes.  However, the downside of the animation is that the backgrounds don't really offer much since we've seen caves and warehouses and homes before in other animated films from other studios...but that's not to say that it is very creative.

And when it comes to the characters, the movie really did try to make some good characters with their good intentions...but they end up having mixed effects on the audience.  Starting with Junior and Tulip, the movie shows great effort in providing good chemistry between the two of them as they try to take care of the baby...but they however have the same 'eccentrically funny' personality especially with the numerous scenes of the two of them arguing with each other.  As for the villains, Hunter does provide some great comedy with how he's the big head of Cornerstone...but Pigeon Toady has this strange contrasting personality of being the straight-forward businessman while talking like he's a stoned hip surfer.  And then, we come to the wolf pack and they're nothing more than an obstacle for Junior and Tulip to face while taking care of the baby...but they deliver some of the most comedic moments in the movie with how they can morph or transform into literally anything.

While not the best animated film or even one of the best films that I've seen this year, 'Storks' is still an overall cute film that I'm glad I saw and gets a rating of a 7 out of 10.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Viva Las Pegasus

Season 6, Episode 20: Viva Las Pegasus
Written By Kevin Burke and Chris 'Doc' Wyatt

Ah, the Flim Flam Brothers…two of the best villains that we’ve ever had in My Little Pony and two of the best con artists we’ve ever had in media, but what tricks have they got up their sleeves this time? Let’s find out with ‘Viva Las Pegasus’!

The Map sends Applejack and Fluttershy to Las Pegasus where they find Flim and Flam working in a resort called Gladmane's, where suspicious dealings are going on.  I gotta tell ya, I was extremely excited to see this episode when it was first announced-not only because of the long-awaited return of the Flim Flam Brothers, but because we were finally getting our first look at Las Pegasus after years of waiting and did it all work out for the best?  Aw, heck yeah!

When it came to the story, this episode can easily be described as Season 2's 'Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000' and Season 4's 'Leap Of Faith' done right especially when it came to the way that the characters were written as well as the storyline itself...and while the humor isn't laugh-out-loud hilarious like in past episodes of the series, the way that the conflict and resolution were written really helped make this one of those episodes where the writers weren't trying to make us laugh.

As for the animation...with us finally getting our first look at the city of Las Pegasus as well as its never-ending crowds and parties, the animators came up with quite the impressive variety to present us with as they recreated the look and feel of Las Vegas while keeping the activities suitable for a younger audience-if anything, some of the attractions feel more like stuff you'd find at Chuck E. Cheese's...and please don't judge me when I say that I am one of those people who actually still enjoys going to Chuck E. Cheese's, but it really does ask the question of how ponies have arcade games and yet still not have television.

And when it comes to the characters, the pairing of Applejack and Fluttershy is probably the last possible combo we were expecting when it came to an episode involving the map...but when you really think about it, we've never actually had an episode where these two play off each other like this before since Applejack wasn't willing to help the Flim Flam brothers at first given their past encounters while Fluttershy was the one to rekindle their friendship since she was the only willing to put up with Discord's shenanigans back in Season 3.

As for Gladmane, funny story: I actually thought he was gonna be voiced by Ned Beatty-the same actor who voiced Lotso in 'Toy Story 3' since their voices sounded eerily similar and...while it's not him supplying the voice of Gladmane, the character really did remind me of Lotso with how he was welcoming and friendly on the outside while being an all-out power hungry liar on the inside.  And now, we come to the Flim Flam Brothers themselves and...I'm gonna be honest, I was fearing that the writers were gonna end up redeeming the brothers in this episode and it certainly seemed that way for a majority of it...but I however am happy to report that they still remain those lovable con artists that we know them for.  Bravo to Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Sam Vincent and Scott McNeil for some truly fabulous performances!

Overall, 'Viva Las Pegasus' is easily the Flim Flam Brothers' best appearance in the series to date and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10...and remember, everypony: Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire...singin' Viva Las Pegasus...Viva Las Pegasus...Viva, Viva Las Pegasus!

Friday, September 16, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Legend Of Everfree OFFICIAL SOUNDTRACK

Composed By Daniel Ingram
Sung By Rebecca Shoichet, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman,
Kazumi Evans and Enid-Raye Adams

With the last few days winding down until the Netflix release of 'My Little Pony - Equestria Girls: Legend Of Everfree', I thought it'd be a good time for me to take a listen to the songs on the film's soundtrack while also make some predictions about what might happen in the movie itself. Bring it on, Daniel Ingram!

1. Legend Of Everfree (Main Title): While it does have that campfire song tone to go with the film's setting of a campsite and has a good beat to it, it sadly sounds too much like 'Ballad Of The Crystal Empire' from the Season 3 premiere...which reminded a lot of Bronies of 'Some Nights' by Fun.  Overall, an alright song

2. The Midnight In Me: This is easily the Twilight Sparkle version of Sunset Shimmer's 'My Past Is Not Today'...but mixed in with 'What More Is Out There' from the last movie and 'Luna's Future' from Season 6's 'A Hearth's Warming Tail', although I do love the orchestrations by Ingram as well as Rebecca Shoichet's singing for Twilight Sparkle.

3. Embrace The Magic: As Sunset Shimmer's solo song in this movie, it felt and sounded more like 'Can I Do It On My Own' from Season 6's 'Flutter Brutter' in terms of the key that the song is sung in as well as the orchestrations...but like the last song, the orchestrations are great and Rebecca Shoichet can do no wrong as Sunset Shimmer

4. We Will Stand For Everfree: As Gloriosa Daisy (one of our new characters for this movie) 's solo in this movie, I have a feeling that this is gonna be our villain song for the movie and...I have to admit that it is quite menacing in terms of its orchestrations and the singing by newcomer Enid-Raye Adams as Gloriosa Daisy...who might end up turning out to be Gaia Everfree and her brother Timber Spruce could end up becoming a Timberwolf because of Gloriosa.  Not quite as memorable as 'Welcome To The Show' or 'Under Our Spell' from Rainbow Rocks, but still pretty damn good and it is better than 'Unleash The Magic' from Friendship Games.

5. Legend You Are Meant To Be: I have a feeling that this is our closing/end credits song and I'm just gonna's pretty much 'Right There In Front Of Me' from the last movie again, but mixed with 'A Friend For Life' from the first movie and with more synth pop added to it as well as a lower key.  I'm sorry, but I can't get invested in this song and it makes 'Shine Like Rainbows' sound better by comparison.

6. Hope Shines Eternal: Not sure where this song will be in the film, but this is pretty much the opening credits song again in terms of beat and tone...except that it's in a lower key.

Overall...I'm sorry, but Daniel Ingram was not on his A-game in terms of the songs for 'Legend Of Everfree' and this actually has me concerned about the new movie...will it be a camping-themed re-hash of 'Rainbow Rocks' or will it be something completely new and different?  I guess we'll have to wait and find out, but for now...I have to give the 'Legend Of Everfree' soundtrack a 6 out of 10.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: The Fault In Our Cutie Marks

Season 6, Episode 19: The Fault In Our Cutie Marks
Written By Ed Valentine

When we last saw the Cutie Mark Crusaders, they had helped a little colt named Tender Taps overcome his fear of stage fright and earn his cutie mark...but can they help a griffon get a cutie mark?  Let's find out with 'The Fault In Our Cutie Marks'!

A young griffon from Griffonstone named Gabriella (Gabby for short) comes to the Cutie Mark Crusaders asking them to help her get a cutie mark as she believes it will help her define her purpose in life, but will the CMC be able to do the impossible?  When I first heard about this episode, I was rather intrigued and excited at the same time since we've never seen any other species in Equestria actually find interest in discovering their own destiny in the same way that the ponies do and I always look forward to whenever new characters are introduced...and what did I think of the episode when it finally premiered?  Honestly, it was really good.

When it comes to the story, it does share a lot of similarities to Season 4's 'Flight To The Finish' when it came to Gabby's quest to find her cutie mark/purpose in life being similar to Scootaloo attempting to fly when it comes so easy to every other Pegasus until they have to admit that they can't which actually leaves a lasting impact on the audience's own lives...and even the song 'Find The Purpose In Your Life' has a very 'Hearts As Strong As Horses' vibe to it when it comes to the march-like percussion, but it is very catchy and one of the more memorable songs in the series and there was plenty of references to older episodes to help get the audience caught up with whatever they missed.

As for the animation, the team at DHX once again do an outstanding job with their work for MLP and it really comes into play during the many montages throughout the episode such as Gabby's backstory as to why she wants a cutie mark as well as during the 'Find The Purpose In Your Life song'...which like I said may be similar to 'Hearts As Strong As Horses', but is still incredibly catchy.

And when it comes to the characters, Gabby is an adorable and much welcomed addition to the world of MLP and she really reminded me of my BronyCon cosplayer friend Gabby (Strumpet-in the world of cosplay/the MLP fandom, for whom this review is dedicated to) with her Pinkie Pie levels of optimism and cheery demeanor as well as having a drive to discover what her purpose in life will be to the point where you really do want her to succeed...and did I forget to mention that she's voiced by the same actress who did Little Strongheart five years ago back in Season 1's 'Over A Barrel'?  Not only that, but you're right there with the Cutie Mark Crusaders as they question whether the impossible can really be done even when Apple Bloom begins to question whether building up hopes for something impossible will end up making things worse-bravo to Michelle Creber, Claire Corlett, Maddy Peters and Erin Matthews for providing some adorable performances!

Overall, now this is how you do a follow-up to the CMC getting their cutie marks since 'The Fault In Our Cutie Marks' truly feels like a step towards the next stage in the CMC's lives and gets a rating of a 9.5 out of 10.

Friday, September 9, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Bradford The Brake Van

Season 20, Episode 5: Bradford The Brake Van
Written By Lee Pressman

Ah, brake vans…an important and essential part of railways all over the world especially when providing additional brakes for heavy trains and the weird thing about all this is that we haven’t had a brake van character in Thomas ever since Oliver’s brake van Toad-and that was over twenty years ago, but that all changes today in the first week closure of Season 20-Bradford The Brake Van!

When Bradford the Brake Van arrives from the mainland, Thomas is delighted to work with him as he is excellent at keeping the Troublesome Trucks under control. He is also a real stickler for the rules, which keeps making Thomas late…but what will happen when Thomas decides to go off without him?  Much like ‘Henry Gets The Express’, I was extremely excited to see this episode at the thought of a new brake van character and I’m proud to say that this episode did not disappoint.

When it comes to the story, I love how they show the importance of brake vans on a railway-in fact, I dare say that it does it better than in Season 18’s ‘Toad’s Bright Idea’ in terms of how the characters were written.  Not only that, but I also love the moral of how safety comes first before being on time-especially when you try to take on more than you can handle.

As for the animation, the team at Arc’s work really amazed me in this episode especially when it came to the design of Bradford from his two-tone army green colors to the sequences of him explaining the rules of the railway to engines like Whiff or Henry to his army-inspired theme by Chris Renshaw…and while the crash may be disappointing to fans who looked forward to it, I’m alright with what we got.

And when it comes to the characters, Bradford is a welcomed new addition to the world of Thomas since he is a stickler for rules and I think Lee Pressman handled his personality better than how Fergus was handled back in Season 7 with how he never repeated one sentence over and over again and has an army-type personality…also, is it me or did Bradford remind anyone of Bluenose from the series TUGS?  Bravo to Rob Rackstraw for a delightful performance of our new drill sergeant brake van!

Overall, ‘Bradford The Brake Van’ is easily the best episode of Season 20’s first week and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Diesel And The Ducklings

Season 20, Episode 4: Diesel And The Ducklings
Written By Lee Pressman

Oh, Diesel…for being this franchise’s first-ever villain who wants to rid the island of all steamkind, the people at Hit really do like making you that ‘poor misunderstood castaway with a heart of gold’.  But can you be both at the same time?  Let’s find out in today’s episode-Diesel And The Ducklings!

Diesel always likes to appear rough and tough in front of ‘Arry and Bert, but Thomas discovers that he is a big softie when it comes to baby ducklings.  So, Diesel promises to be nice to everyone in exchange for Thomas's silence…but how long can he keep it up?  I’ll be honest, I was dreading this episode so much when I first heard about it since I couldn’t believe that Hit was still trying to make Diesel nice especially when we were finally getting the Diesel that we knew and loved back too.  But I did my very best to go into this episode with an open mind and…I was really surprised!

When it comes to the story, I can’t believe I’m saying this…but this episode handles the concept of Diesel being nice much better than in Season 19’s ‘Diesel’s Ghostly Christmas’ especially when it came to the way that the characters were written especially with how Diesel tried to be nice and yet his old habits keep coming back as well as the moral of how everyone can have a soft side-even the roughest and toughest of engines.  Not only that, but there was plenty of humor to keep the episode entertaining.

As for the animation, the team at Arc went all out on the adorability factor in this episode especially when it came to the scenes of the pond and the ducklings-I mean, it’s like you can actually reach in and feel how fluffy those ducklings are.  Not only that, but the music especially Diesel’s new theme by Chris Renshaw is incredibly catchy and knows how to capture each scene.

As for the characters, like I said earlier…Diesel being nice works much better here than in last season since he’s trying his best to be nice and yet his old ways keep coming back.  And while some may say that Thomas’ appearance felt forced here and should’ve gone to Duck, it works better with Thomas in my opinion since Thomas really would be that cheeky enough to tell ‘Arry and Bert about Diesel’s love for ducklings and he also helps to provide the moral-bravo to Kerry Shale and John Hasler for some awesome performances!

Overall for an episode that I thought was gonna suck, ‘Diesel and the Ducklings’ really surprised me with how good it was and gets a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Henry Gets The Express

Season 20, Episode 3: Henry Gets The Express
Written By Helen Farrall

Ah, Henry…we haven’t seen you pull the express for years since Season 8 and let’s just say that it didn’t go over so well, but let’s see if you can do a better job this time in today’s episode-Henry Gets The Express!

When Gordon is late, Sir Topham Hatt asks Henry to pull the Express and he proves to be a huge success…but Gordon thinks doing Henry’s work is beneath him and decides to go on strike.  I’ll be honest, I was extremely excited to see this episode when I first heard about it and…I’m happy to say that this episode didn’t disappoint.

When it comes to the story, I kept saying to myself that this is what Season 8’s ‘Henry And The Wishing Tree’ should’ve been especially when it came to the way that the characters were written especially with writer Helen Farrall balancing out both Henry’s original arrogant persona with his current worrier persona as well as the moral of doing jobs as you’re told to do them by your parents…not only that, but there was plenty of references to classic series episodes and humor to keep the episode entertaining.

As for the animation, the team at Arc’s work truly shone in this episode and it really comes into play with the many camera angles and shots as well as during the montage sequences of Henry pulling the express and Gordon pulling goods trains…not to mention that the music truly knows how to capture each sequence of the story.

And when it comes to the characters, I love the dynamic between Henry and Gordon as it has that classic or Railway Series vibe since they work so well together and…like I said earlier with how Henry is portrayed, it really shines in the scene of him manipulating Gordon into taking the Flying Kipper and making Henry the big friendly giant was probably one of the best traits they’ve ever given him-bravo to Keith Wickham for delivering a delightful dual performance as some of our favorite tender engines.

Overall, ‘Henry Gets The Express’ gets a high recommendation from me as well as a rating of a 10 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Toby's New Friend

Season 20, Episode 2: Toby's New Friend
Written By Andrew Brenner

Ah, of my favorite engines ever since the very beginning and it feels so great to have the Toby that I knew and loved as a kid back again as of last season after hitting quite a bit of bumpy tracks with his stories from Season 8-18.  But let’s see how our wise steam tram handles that little boxcab Philip in today’s episode-Toby’s New Friend!

Philip thinks that Toby is a diesel boxcab just like him and wants to become friends, but Toby doesn't like doing the same things as Philip and finds him persistent and rather overwhelming.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too excited about this episode when I first heard about it since it reminded me of a certain fifteenth season episode that dealt with the exact same thing and proved to be pretty mediocre; that episode being ‘Big Belle’.  But much like last time, I did my best to go into this episode with an open mind and…much like last time, this episode proved to be pretty good too.

When it comes to the story, I kept saying to myself that this is what ‘Big Belle’ should’ve been especially when it came to the way that the characters were written (which I’ll get to in a second) as well as the moral of everyone being different in terms of what they like and dislike…and on top of that, there was plenty of humor to make the story entertaining.

As for the animation, the team at Arc really does know how to capture the season of autumn in this episode and it really comes into play with the leaves fluttering in the breeze as the engines go by as well as the different animals in many of the landscape shots…not to mention that the music is very soothing for the time of year.

And when it comes to the characters, Toby was absolutely brilliant seeing as he was worried about not trying to offend Philip and his love of racing…but not in a wimpy way since he doesn’t want to race, and I love the husband and wife dynamic between him and Henrietta.  Not only that, but Philip was great too-sure, he’s still very talkative and young…but he means well and is eager to make a good impression and at least he actually learns his lesson this time unlike his introductory episodes.  Bravo to Rob Rackstraw and Rasmus Hardiker for giving awesome performances as our new best friend duo!

Overall, ‘Toby’s New Friend’ is a new episode that is definitely worth a watch and gets a rating of 10 out of 10.

Monday, September 5, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Sidney Sings

Season 20, Episode 1: Sidney Sings
Written By Lee Pressman

Twenty seasons of 'Thomas & Friends' know, it's hard to believe that a television show that got its start in the 80's using live-model animation and big names like Ringo Starr or the late George Carlin has made it this far...even if it's had its up and downs. So, let's kick off this milestone season with our first episode-Sidney Sings!

When Sir Topham Hatt asks Sidney to go to Brendam Docks to collect Percy's new wheels, Sidney worries that he might forget as his memory isn't very good. Thomas suggests making up a little song to help him remember, but will Sidney remember when he gets distracted? When I first heard about this episode, I wasn't sure what to think since I was happy that Sidney was finally getting an episode to himself...but at the same time, I didn't think a Sidney episode would do so well. However, I did my best to go into this episode with an open mind and to my surprise...this episode was actually pretty good.

When it comes to the story, some would call this a role-reversed re-hash of Season 17's 'The Missing Christmas Decorations'-heck, they even reference the episode...and while that is true, I loved that episode and writer Lee Pressman was spot on with writing Sidney's personality in this episode despite that it was written out in a promotional booklet five years ago for the 'Day Of The Diesels' special...but at least he didn't make Sidney flat-out stupid since it does provide some great comedy. Not only that, but Mark Moraghan's narration was balanced out well with the visuals so that the visuals could tell the story.

Speaking of the visuals, the team at Arc is constantly improving with every new project that they do in the Thomas franchise and it really comes into play with the many different camera angles and shots...and like I said earlier, I am so glad that the visuals are actually telling the story instead of the narrator all the time.

And as for the characters, I like to think of Sidney as the Dory of 'Thomas & Friends' seeing as both characters have short-term memory loss and yet still try their best at whatever they have to do whether collecting new wheels for their friend or finding their long lost parents-bravo to Bob Golding for a fantastic performance as our forgetful diesel.

Overall, 'Sidney Sings' is a great way to kick off Season 20 and...considering the last season premiere we had which was also written by Lee Pressman, this is a big improvement and gets a rating of an 8 out of 10.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

MLEEP Reviews: Buckball Season

Season 6, Episode 18: Buckball Season
Written By Jennifer Skelly

Evening, sports fans and welcome back to Pony Playback!  I’m your host True Blue coming to you live from Twilight’s castle bringing you the biggest event in pony sports history: Ponyville VS Appleloosa in ‘Buckball Season’!  Who will win?  Let’s take a look!

When Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy turn out to be Ponyville’s best Buckball players, Applejack and Rainbow Dash agree to coach them against Appleloosa. But when the pressure’s on and the players stop having fun, Ponyville’s newest star athletes lose their competitive edge and quite possibly the biggest Buckball game in history!  I’ll be honest, I was actually rather intrigued when I first heard about this episode with the fact that they were presenting a whole new concept to the world of pony sports…and did it work out for the best?  Yeah, I’d say so.

When it comes to the story, I kept saying to myself that this is what ‘The Cart Before The Ponies’ should’ve been especially when it came to the way that the story was written with the set-up of buckball being easy to understand and the game being both difficult and fun to watch.  Not only that, but I love the two morals of how people handle pressure differently and how it’s not about the winning or the losing as long as you have fun.  To be honest, this was kinda like watching parents expecting too much from their kids on little league teams and being surprised when they don’t want to play anymore.

As for the animation, the team at DHX never disappoints with their quality of animation and it really comes into play during the buckball training sequences as well as the 3-D tracking shot inside the train and the many facial expressions from characters like Fluttershy that will soon become instant memes by the fandom.

And when it comes to the characters, I have to give major kudos to both Ashleigh Ball (Applejack/Rainbow Dash) and Andrea Libman (Fluttershy/Pinkie Pie) for another awesome performance as it was really seeing their two different characters having conversations with each other while playing off each other when it’s really voice actresses having conversations with themselves.  But the biggest surprise of this episode in terms of characters is not the dual performances of Ashleigh and Andrea, but it’s the fact that the staff has finally found a way to make Snails a genuinely entertaining and enjoyable character without changing anything about his established personality…and thank Celestia that he’s not a dimwit again!

Overall, ‘Buckball Season’ definitely scores a home run in my opinion as well as a rating of a 10 out of 10…and somewhere mares are laughing and somewhere fillies shout, but there is no joy in Appleloosa: mighty Braeburn has struck out!