Tuesday, March 31, 2020

MLEEP Reviews: 2020 And What We've Learned So Far


The way 2019 ended off the 2010's was like a smooth train ride...a train ride that's going at a breakneck speed in which has gone completely off the rails conducted by a bunch of insane and corrupted politicians who think they're immortal kings that's going headfirst off a cliff leaving us all wondering when will this madness stop before it's too late. In other words, 2019 was quite insane and we all hoped for a shining start to a brand new decade...but with the start of a brand new year and decade already in full swing, I think we can all agree that this scene of Thomas suddenly taking ill from Season 23's 'Free The Roads' is an accurate representation of how the first quarter of 2020 has been for many people: an absolute mess...but let's take a look at what we've gone through so far

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JANUARY: the first month of a brand new year and decade and...it was absolutely miserable, it was just death upon death upon death whether of people who I enjoyed from the entertainment industry like Terry Jones of 'Monty Python' and Jack Sheldon of 'Schoolhouse Rock' or loved ones especially with the father of my high school friend CJ and let's not forget the day that one of the most famed YouTube channels in the My Little Pony fandom by the name of Duo Cartoonist was shut down which meant that some of the most celebrated projects in the community were lost to the sea for good, even the positives for the month ended up being lackluster to okay at best from simply getting a redub that spent months in development finally completed to an appreciation day with the DC Bronies on who has always been my favorite character from My Little Pony...even if the fandom may think that Twilight Sparkle is a boring character with her 'egghead' mannerisms. For what could've been a promising start to a new year and decade, January much like the events that happened in the month felt very lackluster and all we could do was hope next month was better

FEBRUARY: now this is where things really started to pick up for the year...we still had the passing of well-known people as expected like Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and famed NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson and not to mention the occasional bad movie or episode of television to review, but the positives for February more than made up for the lackluster ones of the previous month ranging from a special Hearts And Hooves Day meetup with the DC Bronies to Thomas The Tank Engine finding a new broadcast home on Netflix after being taken off of Nickelodeon's programming towards the end of the last year...but one of the true highlights of this month and maybe even the whole year was going to see 'Impractical Jokers: The Movie' on its opening night and I even got to meet Murr himself a few days after on the last stop of his local promotional tour of the film. February was truly a month full of love, but no one was ready for the hell that would await us just around the corner for next month

MARCH: we have finally reached where we now stand today and just when we thought that there was a light at the end of the tunnel for what had been a very lacking year, it turned out to be an oncoming train going at a breakneck speed before going completely off the rails headfirst off a cliff...I think we can all agree that while there have been plenty of highlights for this month like the upcoming documentary 'An Unlikely Fandom' having an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign as well as becoming online friends with those from the world of My Little Pony whether from the fandom or the show staff and not to mention the extremely unexpected premiere of Thomas' twenty-fourth season even if it was just two episodes for the time being, the negatives far outweigh the positives for this month unfortunately as we are currently dealing with a worldwide pandemic that has shut down the whole planet on top of the usual passing of well-known people in entertainment and the news of two famous bands at Epcot's World Showcase retiring.

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As we reach the end of the first quarter for the new year, 2020 has been a massively mixed bag...we've had the good in February, the bad in January and now we have the ugly for March. But as we begin the second quarter and complete the first half, three big questions are on everyone's minds: will the coronavirus pandemic ever end, can we save our plummeting economic growth and...although we are practicing social distancing and self-isolation during these chaotic times, will we ever be able to see our friends and loved ones again when this is all over? We'll just have to wait and see...stay safe, everyone!

MLEEP Reviews: The Road To El Dorado - It's Tough To Be A God For 20 Years | #RoadToElDorado20

Image result for the road to el dorado
THE ROAD TO EL DORADO
Written By Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Composed By Hans Zimmer and John Powell
Produced By Brook Breton and Bonne Radford
Edited By John Carnochan, Dan Molina, Vicki Hiatt and Lynne Sutherland
Directed By Don Paul and Eric 'Bibo' Bergeron

I'll admit, I didn't see 'The Road To El Dorado' when it first came out because it just sort of looked cheesy and that's kind of what it is in some ways but it's actually really smart in other ways...but in other ways, the animation is a little lacking but it's fantastic in other ways...in other ways maybe it would've been better as a live-action film, but in other ways animation is the perfect way to get across some of this comedy in other ways and...oh boy, we've got a real doozy of a movie to get through today!  Let's find out, this is 'The Road To El Dorado'!

THE ROAD TO EL DORADO: Two con-men get hold of a map to the lost City of Gold, El Dorado. After stowing away onto one of the ships of the Spanish explorer Cortez, the pair escapes and eventually do find the city where a priest proclaims them to be gods in a scheme to win control of the city for himself while they meet a beautiful girl who helps them in their ruse.

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The writing for this movie is very good: actually, it reminded me a lot of 'The Princess Bride'-in fact, it felt eerily similar: a lot of comedy, a lot of jokes but also still trying to get across an action-adventure and yet my problem with the film and I'm really gonna sound weird for this is that the animation is actually too good.  What do I mean by that, well 'The Princess Bride' was funny because it's live-action people acting like cartoon characters and my theory is that it would've been funnier if 'The Road to El Dorado' was actually live-action. Now what sense does that make, you have an animated movie where characters are acting like animated characters...shouldn't that be ideal? Well the animation looks very similar to 'The Prince of Egypt' in that it's very pretty and it's very nice-looking but that doesn't always translate into comedy since the weakest part of 'The Prince of Egypt' was the comedy yet that's okay since it wasn't essentially meant to be a comedy first but this is...and if you're gonna do comedy in animation, you better have some damn funny comedic animation.

This is where you need Warner Bros. to come in: you need the fast pace, you need the over-the-top reactions because they never allow them to get really big goofy over-the-top reactions here since I think they were more concerned about making them look handsome because it's pretty restrained for the most part. I don't know if that totally comes down to them being good-looking though because Chel's pretty good-looking and she gets some really funny reactions, but I think you need the team from either 'The Iron Giant' or 'Hotel Transylvania' in order to make something like this work since the people don't move realistically enough for us to mistake them for human and they don't move cartoony enough in order for us to laugh at them. But with that said, I don't think it's a total abject failure either since it is written very well like I said and some of the lines do get a good laugh like when Tzekel-Kan confronts our heroes about not being gods as well as when our heroes are talking with the Chief about not staying with them for the next thousand years.

The action-adventure stuff seems to work pretty well and it's good to look at, but again it's not quite as big or grand as something like 'The Prince of Egypt': don't get me wrong, it's impressive but yet you need some big grand animation and some big grand angles when you really want big grand moments and...yeah, it's okay but it could be stronger. The songs are by Elton John and Tim Rice-the same team that brought us 'The Lion King'-and I personally think that the songs are a step down from their work at Disney because where I liked the iconic songs from 'The Lion King' like Be Prepared and Circle Of Life, I can't think of any songs I liked from this one-hell, I barely even remember them and even that's sort of strange because the heroes sing one song and it's obviously a musical number yet they never sing any of the others since it's just Elton John singing it thus it's really out of place and odd although I will admit that "It's Tough to Be a God" will be in my head for weeks in the same way that "Hakuna Matata" was for many and...yeah, you know what I think of that.

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I suppose that I probably am being too harsh to 'The Road To El Dorado' in many respects because it's innocent enough: it's got some likable characters, it's bright, it's colorful, some of the jokes work but you can just tell though this film is trying hard to make you laugh often and they really needed some different animation if they really wanted that to work. But it's upbeat, it's well-written, it's got some good stuff and I think you could even argue there's some good commentary with the gods trying to play the priests against each other and how religions work and...I don't know, I think there's some in there and that's maybe the best way to describe it in the end. There's something there, it's just not fully realized...but for what it is, I'm glad I saw it. I don't think a ton of my time has been wasted or anything since I was kind of amused by kind of a good movie and that's kind of all I got to say about it thus I'm gonna give 'The Road To El Dorado' a rating of a 7.5 out of 10. I'd say if you're looking around the video store and there's no other movies you can find, this one might be good to look at but only if 'The Princess Bride' isn't there.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

MLEEP Reviews: Kung Fu Panda DOUBLE FEATURE | #KungFuPanda

Kung Fu Panda (2008) - IMDb
KUNG FU PANDA
Written By Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
Composed By Hans Zimmer and John Powell
Produced By Melissa Cobb
Edited By Clare Knight
Directed By John Stevenson and Mark Osborne

Talk about the ultimate "never judge a book by its cover" movie...'Kung Fu Panda', I thought was the dumbest-sounding title I've ever heard and it looked like the film was gonna represent that stupid-sounding title too. Jack Black as a panda, get ready to ask for the refund...but watching this film not only was I shocked at how funny and likeable the characters are, but good lord it's beautiful! I couldn't believe how much atmosphere, movement, color and even sort of classic philosophies that this movie adapted...I think it's actually sort of right up there with 'Shrek 2' as one of the great animated comedies, but did Po truly have what it took to become a true hero? Let's find out, this is 'Kung Fu Panda'!

KUNG FU PANDA: Po might just be the laziest and clumsiest panda in the Valley of Peace, but he secretly dreams of becoming a kung fu legend. When the villainous snow leopard Tai Lung threatens Po's homeland, the hapless panda is chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy and defend the Valley from attack. Training under Master Shifu, Po embarks on an epic high-kicking adventure as he sets out to thwart Tai Lung's evil plans.

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The world they create is a very unique and pretty world to look at: it lives sort of in that same timeline as 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' or other martial arts movies, but it has a modern-day sense of humor and it's a good modern-day sense of humor. Po is very likable in his innocence and his need not to give up, and the other characters are very relatable in how they think they've been gypped but slowly start to open up to his charm. While it is essentially a comedy, it does surprisingly well mixing in drama and the emotions that anyone would feel being put in these circumstances. The teachings and the philosophies actually do sort of stick to a martial arts set of ideals-I mean, okay it's either a little played down or exaggerated but they're still there. On top of that, the martial arts in this movie is pretty good too since the film totally takes advantage of the fact that it's animated and it's a comedy and it gives us some unbelievably fast, stylish and action-packed fight sequences...these are great fun to watch.

If I did have one problem with the movie, it's that the villain Tai Lung does seem kind of weak: I mean, he's not terrible and he voice actor Ian McShane isn't terrible, even the design isn't that bad and they even gave him a decent backstory...but I think compared to everything else and just how much he's been built up, you could've had someone either more evil or more funny in this part. They try to play it half-and-half, but eh...I think they should've leaned more towards one or the other. But honestly, that's a nitpick since he still serves as a threat who's still really cool at what he does and he even gets a funny line here and there.

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Overall, I think Kung Fu Panda is wonderful and just saying that sentence sounds so strange to me. "Kung Fu Panda is wonderful", but you know what: if there's anything the movie wants to teach, it's never judge solely by appearances and maybe it teaches that lesson a little better than I thought even to a point where the film looks so ridiculous and over-the-top that it actually sort of works-strike that, it doesn't sort of work...it really works. 'Kung Fu Panda' is a great film for children and adults of any age: it's energized, it's fun, it's smart, it's humorous, it has great characters, it has a wonderful story...see it if you haven't already and it is well deserving of a 9 out of 10 rating.

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www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/v22vodart/3575546/p357...
KUNG FU PANDA 2
Written By Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
Composed By Hans Zimmer and John Powell
Produced By Melissa Cobb
Edited By Clare Knight
Directed By Jennifer Yuh Nelson

All right, so you guys heard me gush over 'Kung Fu Panda': you know that I love the movie and the visuals and the jokes and the characters and so forth, so that's putting a lot of pressure on its sequel 'Kung Fu Panda 2' and what I think of that...honestly, it's even better than the first. That's right, I think this one is not only as great as the original but it surpasses it since I think the first one already set the bar pretty high. It ups the jokes, it ups the action, it ups the characters, it even ups the drama...yeah, there's some real tearjerker scenes in this movie. Yeah, I know...from Kung Fu Panda 2, man these movies are so "never judge a book by its cover". But can Po and the Furious Five make another marvel of martial arts movie magic, let's find out...this is 'Kung Fu Panda 2'!

KUNG FU PANDA 2: Now known as the Dragon Warrior, Po protects the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters the Furious Five. However, a dangerous villain threatens Po's awesome new life with plans to use a secret weapon to wipe out the martial art and conquer China. In order to defeat the new enemy, Po finds he must recall his past and unlock secrets of his mysterious origins...only then will he find the strength to vanquish his foe.

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Rather than just tell the same story in the first one or rehash anything, they actually decide to continue the story like a good sequel should: Po is not only learning more as a person, but he's also learning more in his technique and the Furious Five aren't just making fun of him anymore since they actually legitimately respect him and I even think there's a very good, real and believable friendship between him and Tigress. Again, all the techniques have a very heavy lean towards actual martial arts philosophy and ethics with this one leaning towards learning to conquer yourself before you conquer your enemy. Speaking of enemies, remember how I said in the first film that the villain Tai Lung was a little weak? This one in the form of Lord Shen is the exact opposite, this is a great villain: he has a fantastic backstory, he has a great design, he has a devious voice but they still managed to get some good comedy out of him too...it's a perfect balance.

There's also new characters played by Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme and even the return of old favorites like Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu. The film is great too in that I didn't really know where it was going...at least not the whole time. I like the first one a lot, but you could pretty much tell what direction it was leading towards while this one threw in a few more twists and turns and made it a little bit more dramatic-hell, I actually heard people crying at some scenes in this movie...yes, 'Kung Fu Panda 2' starring Jack Black actually made people cry in the cinema...that's a damn impressive feat! To be honest, I have no problems with this movie at all since I think it's another one of those perfect films because everything has been stepped up to the next level: the action, the characters, the story, the visuals and of course a great villain.

However, is there a downside...yes, there is: it came out the same weekend as f--king 'Hangover: Part 2', so everyone went to see the same rehashed bullshit that wasn't even really that funny in the first one instead of seeing this really funny, really smart, artistically put together film...and what did everybody say about The Hangover 2, 'yeah, it sucked...it was just Hangover 1 again!' What did everyone say about 'Kung Fu Panda 2', 'that was good, it wasn't just Kung Fu Panda again!"...but no, everyone went to see 'Hangover 2' and...oh lord, f---k that movie! If they didn't make a 'Kung Fu Panda 3' because of this, I would've been really pissed off and the end indicated that there was going to be a sequel...and good lord with two films this good already under their belt, I am so glad they f--king made it.

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Overall, I don't even know what else to say without giving away too much...I just adored 'Kung Fu Panda 2'. It's a film series that just keeps getting better and better and thankfully it continued to do exactly that. If you like the first one, then you're definitely gonna love the second because it truly deserves that perfect 10 out of 10 rating.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

MLEEP Reviews: How To Train Your Dragon - 10 Years Of Fiery Fun | #HowToTrainYourDragon

Image result for how to train your dragon 2010
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
Written By Will Davies, Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
Composed By John Powell
Produced By Bonnie Arnold
Edited By Darren T. Holmes and Maryann Brandon
Directed By Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois

This high-flying film brings Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois' amazing talents back on the big screen...and this time, they're on DreamWorks' side now.  Today, 'How To Train Your Dragon' is getting huge amounts of praise by critics and I mean it's crazy how much they like it.  By reading this, everybody is wondering about the same thing: is it really that good after ten years?  Let's find out, this is 'How To Train Your Dragon'!

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: Hiccup is a Norse teenager from the island of Berk where fighting dragons is a way of life and his progressive views and weird sense of humor make him a misfit despite the fact that his father is chief of the clan. Tossed into dragon-fighting school, he endeavors to prove himself as a true Viking...but when he befriends an injured dragon he names Toothless, he has the chance to plot a new course for his people's future.

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Surprisingly, it isn't as good as I thought it would be: it's where two guys who are supposed to be enemies are friends and stuff...because of this, it makes the story pretty predictable and less interesting-it's like you know what's going to happen next, I mean that kind of story has been used a lot of times before!  I will give it some points for the idea of 'vikings versus dragons' though, that is cool...on top of that, they would mix it with the underdog story where in the beginning the main character is a loser and as the movie progresses he becomes more and more of a winner.  So in all, they mix two typical ideas in one film...does it make it new and special, no-oh, and one more thing I have to say that the ending is pretty redundant.

The animation however...now here is the movie's strongest point, this is seriously one of DreamWorks' most beautiful animated films ever made since every little detail has been perfected from the hair to the skin to the scales of the dragons.  The character design is also pretty good since we can see the Chris Sanders style on it...and then there's the dragons: I know there is a little bit nitpicking, but why do all the dragons have big eyes and giant jaws?  Now I know what you're about to say, 'what about Toothless, he doesn't have big eyes or giant jaws' and that's because he's modeled after Stitch from 'Lilo & Stitch'...oh and one more thing, keep your eyes out for Hiccup and Toothless when they're flying in the air since it's like the best part of the film and it's possibly one of DreamWorks' best work.

The characters in 'How To Train Your Dragon' are pretty good and the acting is okay, but not all are memorable...let's start with our main character Hiccup, let me tell you that this guy is pretty annoying-I don't know if it's either his voice or anything, but he gets irritating for a while and it doesn't help that he's the main character of the movie thus you should get used to it if you can.  There are also the students that are actually not bad, likable even...and then there's Astrid who I think is the strongest character of the film and may I say 'damn, is she hot'.  I don't really care about Stoick however: yeah he's a leader of the Vikings and yeah he's the main character's dad, we've heard that before...but Gobber, I like him and I think you'll like him too.  For the dragons, I find that it's a great idea that they made a variety of dragons and each of them have different abilities and stuff but yet it makes you wish that there are more than four different kinds of the film if you don't count Toothless and the other one which I won't tell.  I know they mentioned more than that, but that's how many kinds of dragons that appeared in the film to the point where it's like in the Pokemon games where there's only one of your main guys in the entire game but there are like a bajillion of different kinds everywhere as opposed to only a few different kinds of guys when you stay around one place.

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Overall, 'How To Train Your Dragon' is pretty much the Avatar of DreamWorks animation...we all have heard the story before, but the animation is just amazing and even beautiful.  What the critics have given the film however, I think it's a bit over-exaggerated...I'm not saying that the film is bad-in fact, I think it's actually pretty good but I wouldn't put this film almost a hundred percent but rather a 7.5 out of 10 for my overall rating.  As for the 3-D thing, you should save your money and go with 2-D since there's like no different at all.  Great job with the animation, DreamWorks...just work a little harder onto the story, okay?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

MLEEP Reviews: Flushed Away | #FlushedAway

Image result for flushed away movie
FLUSHED AWAY
Written By Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Chris Lloyd, Joe Keenan and William Davies
Composed By Harry Gregson-Williams
Produced By Cecil Kramer, David Sproxton and Peter Lord
Edited By Eric Dapkewicz and John Venzon
Directed By David Bowers and Sam Fell

It's a little weird to see Nick Park's 'Wallace and Gromit' design in a CG-world, maybe it had to do with the fact that their studio burned down around that time...maybe this was meant to be stop-motion, but because of that they had to make it CG. Well whatever the reason, Flushed Away is a pretty enjoyable flick...but has fifteen years since its initial release turned Aardman's first dive into the CG-world into something that deserves to be flushed down the toilet? Let's find out, this is 'Flushed Away'!
FLUSHED AWAY: After an ignoble landing in Ratropolis, a pampered rodent enlists the help of a sewer scavenger in finding his way back to his posh London flat. Getting home is not the only problem however since a rodent-hating toad wants his notorious cousin Le Frog to exterminate the pair.
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The under-sewer world of Ratropolis that they create is incredibly fun and inventive which also gives away to a lot of jokes involving them using everyday props as, well, ways of communicating with each other like when The Toad uses a cell phone held by the mime frog to confront our heroes Roddy and Rita...that's wildly creative! The film also sort of has that British mentality and that very laid back sort of humor mixed in with a lot of goofy action scenes here and there, it creates for a lot of good chases as well as a lot of good jokes and a lot of good character moments...it's a fun adventure that knows just when to throw in the right amount of jokes and just when to throw in the right amount of character.
Hugh Jackman's character of Roddy of course is the priss who must learn to be tough and Kate Winslet's character of Rita is the fun-loving action hero who must show him the way...they get along well, they share pretty good chemistry and they have several moments of trying to rescue the other. I think that 'Flushed Away' was the film I started to realize that DreamWorks was sort of the "out of the box" animation company in that they're making sort of these general films for the general public but they're really thinking of these odd abstract ideas to put in these general audience-pleasing films and I think it's a good mix since the general movie public can get sucked in to the characters and sort of the everyday emotions but then they can laugh when something just so bizarre and so strange pops up like the tongue battle between The Toad and Le Frog over a fly.
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Overall, 'Flushed Away' is definitely one of those movies that employs a lot of those tricks...it's a lot of fun to watch. It's got some great voice acting, it's got some good animation, it's got that wonderfully strange British humor, it's one of the only films that goes down the toilet but in a good way and that is why I'm gonna give it a rating of an 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

MLEEP Reviews: Thomas & Friends - Thomas And The Inventor's Workshop | #Thomas75

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Season 24, Episode 2: Thomas And The Inventor's Workshop
Written By Camille Ucan and Rose Johnson
Directed By Ian Cherry


The history of railroading has come a long way, hasn't it...as Stephen explained to the Steam Team when he first arrived at the Sodor Steamworks to be restored, most railways didn't have any engines and the trains were pulled by horses.  Soon, steam engines were soon the latest thing and people were worried about them since they didn't always work right or at all...but being brand new and experimental, they soon proved they were stronger and faster than horses with Stephen's lightning fast speed charging the way for the future of rail travel opening up the world as speed grew faster and the engines grew stronger.  Every inventor in the world has found their own place that they can call home and it looks Thomas is going to help his friend Ruth The Inventor find a place of her own on Sodor, let's go go go on a big adventure as we build something really useful with 'Thomas And The Inventor's Workshop'!

THOMAS AND THE INVENTOR'S WORKSHOP: Thomas helps Ruth The Inventor to find a place to live

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PROS:
  • 'There's No Place Like Home'-while the concept of helping someone look for a place to call home is nothing new for the television series considering how we had a similar story like this back in Season 15's 'Toby And Bash' on top of having the overused and tired moral of 'just because it's old doesn't mean it's not useful' that has been repeated numerous times throughout the series, what saves the story to this episode from being a complete letdown is the execution and the cast of characters: not only do we get to see the likes of the team from Arlesburgh Harbor while Thomas plays the role of real estate agent that you'd see on shows like 'House Hunters' where I am so happy to see that Skiff The Railboat is still voiced by Jamie Campbell Bower three years after his last appearance in Season 20's "Skiff And The Mermaid" along with having a cameo appearance of Rex to let the fans know that the miniature engines are still very much a part of the television series as well as getting a nice nod to both the Railway Series with the famed 'Gate To Adventure' on Thomas' branch line from the Four Little Engines book as well as the return of what could be the famous windmill on Thomas' branch line from the opening credits to the classic series being turned into Ruth's Workshop by the end of the episode with a little and literal 'spark' of imagination through the help of her friend Thomas in the form of a reference to the famed 'Back To The Future' franchise...and of course, the fantasy sequence of Thomas taking to the skies with a sail powered propeller was honestly cute and funny at the same time!

CONS:
  • 'The Truth About Ruth'-while I think that Ruth is a very interesting character not only having an eccentric yet creative personality emulating that of famed inventor Doc Brown from the 'Back To The Future' film franchise and I am happy to welcome Dominique Moore to the voice cast of 'Thomas & Friends' as the voice of Ruth beginning with this season, the problem I have with her has nothing to do with her character at all but rather the release date of her first appearance...by that, I mean that this episode and 'James The Super Engine' got leaked online a couple months before Season 24 is scheduled to make its official debut here in the United States before the broadcasting across the pond in the U.K. and Australia and especially before Ruth's official debut in the 'Marvelous Machinery' double length two-parter thus it feels weird to see that Thomas already knows who Ruth is and wanting to help her find a place to live on Sodor before we see her officially welcomed into the series with the storyline of the Technology Fair featuring our token newbie Kenji whom I am really looking forward to seeing in action which explains why we see the giant ferris wheel at Ulfstead Castle in the opening.  Not much of a negative regarding this episode, but more along the lines of a nitpick considering the order that these episodes are being released lately...

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Overall despite having a recycled story-line and message along with having a new character appear for the first time before her official introduction into the series mostly due to broadcasting conflicts within the television series in recent years, 'Thomas And The Inventor's Workshop' was still a pretty great adventure of invention and realizing at the end of the day that there truly is no place like home and thus earns a rating of an 8.5 out of 10


Thomas And The Inventor's Workshop-8.5/10

SEASON 24 OVERALL RATING: 8.75/10

Friday, March 13, 2020

MLEEP Reviews: Thomas & Friends - James The Super Engine | #Thomas75

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Season 24, Episode 1: James The Super Engine
Written By David Stoten
Directed By Dianna Basso

Five years ago as part of the seventieth anniversary celebrations for Thomas The Tank Engine, a brand new merchandise range debuted by the name of Thomas MINIS and these pint-sized puffers certainly gave a whole new meaning to the phrase 'big things come in small packages' through the many different themes and waves of characters being released throughout the years that the range has been available.  But of all the different themes released for the Thomas MINIS, one theme in particular that was super popular among many fans and especially among those who love comic book heroes were the DC Super Friends MINIS which for their first cross-over themed proved to be a massive hit as we saw our favorite engines from the Island Of Sodor don the costumes of some of our favorite comic book heroes from Thomas as Superman to Diesel 10 as The Joker...and even our splendid red engine himself James got to be a part of the heroic fun as both hero and villain ranging from The Flash to Braniac whether in the merchandising or through specially made promotional videos on the official Thomas YouTube channel.  But as we begin the twenty-fourth season of the television series, it looks like James is about to discover what it takes to become a true hero...let's go go go on a big adventure as we kick off a brand new season of heroic tales with 'James The Super Engine'!

JAMES THE SUPER ENGINE: When James sees some children cheering about the superhero Red Shadow in their new comic book, he wonders if he has superpowers too

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PROS:
  • 'Never Fear, Rail Rocket Is Here'-while the concept of everyday people wishing to become superheroes while not knowing how to truly be one is nothing new since we have seen this particular story done before countless times in other television shows and movies ranging from the SpongeBob Squarepants episode 'Patrick-Man' to the animated Disney film 'Hercules', having James be the central character with his cocky showoff attitude opened the door for a loving tribute to the legacy of superheroes throughout the years from the comic book-esque fantasy sequence where James saves Rebecca from falling off the Sodor Suspension Bridge after being struck by lightning to seeing the many ways that James goes about trying to be a hero in his own way which reminded me a lot of Darkwing Duck from his iconic Disney Afternoon show with how he constantly looks for attention and provides his own narrations out loud like a little kid would in their imaginary adventures before discovering his true superpower of kindness ranging from helping some children get their kite down after being stuck in a tree to saving Rebecca from being hit by a wobbling coal hopper after Percy's nasty yet epic accident from trying to pull too many coal trucks than he could handle on his own...to quote Zeus from 'Hercules': 'for a true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart'.

CONS:
  • N/A

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Overall while it may not have the most original concept for its story, 'James The Super Engine' is still quite a heroically humorous tale of adventure taking full advantage of its concept and theme of superheroes all wrapped up in a kind heart with our favorite splendid red engine doing what he does best...James may not have been a hero by his strength, but he was a true hero by the strength of his heart and that is why 'James The Super Engine' gets a rating of a 9 out of 10.


James The Super Engine-9/10

SEASON 24 OVERALL RATING: 9/10

MLEEP Reviews: Frozen Fever - 5 Years Of Making Today A Perfect Day | #FrozenFever

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FROZEN FEVER
Written By Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Marc E. Smith
Composed By Christophe Beck 
Produced By Peter Del Vecho and Aimee Scribner
Edited By Jeff Draheim
Directed By Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck


While the 2015 live-action remake of Disney's 'Cinderella' may have been a modest hit at the box office, I'm sure some of you didn't even care about the movie since it wasn't the attention-grabber of the show but rather it was the animated short before the film by the name of 'Frozen Fever'.  At the time of the short's release and even to this day, we're still living in the big Frozen hype or at least during the time period it came out in thus Disney is of course giving everyone a little taste of more 'Frozen'...but was it truly a perfect day for a celebration or will we be as sick as Elsa was for her sister's birthday?  Let's find out, this is 'Frozen Fever'!

FROZEN FEVER: Elsa and Kristoff plan a special birthday celebration for Anna...but when Elsa catches a cold, her icy powers put more than just the party at risk.


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So after five years, did 'Frozen Fever' live up to the phenomenon of the original movie?  Well, not really...I mean, here's the thing: this is a short about Elsa and the gang trying to prepare a major birthday party for Anna-in fact, some can argue that this is more of a music video for the new Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez song 'Making Today A Perfect Day' and it's okay on its own for what it is: the song is decent, the animation is always great and some of the gags are funny...but don't expect anything too much coming from the story since it often throws jokes most of the time that basically say 'hey, remember this in the movie?'.  What I can say about 'Frozen Fever' is that you shouldn't come in all hyped up if you really want to see the short, but just remember that it's just a short about Anna's birthday...nothing more, and besides you can just go watch the movie as well as its recently released sequel again or listen to the soundtracks or go on the ride at Epcot if you guys really need more 'Frozen'...as long as the ride hasn't broken down again, that is.

But in order for me to properly talk about 'Frozen Fever', I also find it a bit necessary to compare it to the other 'short' released for the Frozen franchise by the name of 'Olaf's Frozen Adventure'...and I say "short" very much in quotes that ran before an amazing movie by the name of 'Coco' back in 2017. I know that's probably not fair to 'Frozen Fever', but at the same time one short only did okay and one short did a lot better and 'Frozen Fever' was the one that did a lot better. Okay, some of you might not even know what I'm talking about years from now and you might just be like "Oh, this is just a cute little short with Olaf...what's the big deal?" Well, 'Olaf's Frozen Adventure' has kind of a weird checkered history which you might be thinking "Why this, something that's based around one of Disney's biggest moneymakers and it's still really really popular" but people turned pretty fast on this short even to a point where they had to actually take it off the opening of 'Coco'-there was that much backlash! Man, there were already people kind of getting sick of 'Frozen'...but to actually have it taken off a Disney property, that's crazy!

So, what went wrong...well, the big thing is the running time: we're used to seeing shorts now before Disney property which was kind of started with Pixar bringing them back and sometimes they were part of the selling point-I mean, 'Frozen Fever' was a big hit since you saw girls dressing up in the new outfits that they made for that and they seem to love it but again they were kept to the appropriate time. I'll admit that at about the twelve minute mark of 'OIaf's Frozen Adventure', I was looking at my watch saying "are we in the right movie? Shorts are supposed to be...short, right? Like, this is a full episode of something you'd see on television"...and it turns out that kids and parents were doing the exact same thing since they were wondering if they had the right movie theater or maybe they walked in on the wrong one-I mean, yeah they did advertise this before 'Coco' but people were going to see 'Coco' and having to wait longer and longer to see the film you paid good money to see was getting on people's nerves...in fact if they wanted to come back and see 'Coco' again, they realize they'd have to wait twenty minutes before they could see that flick.

Because of this, it resulted in people starting to get really pissed off and they started to say "The short was terrible! The songs were terrible! We're sick of Frozen! This has got to stop! Knock it off!"...and while I'm sure there are some people that would watch this and probably not like it on its own, I feel like the majority would probably see this on a DVD or on the Disney Channel or whatever and think it's fine: it's still well-animated, the songs are good and it has a good lesson. Like I said if you show this on its own, then people probably wouldn't have a problem with it...but it wasn't shown on its own, it was shown before a big movie that everyone was saying you gotta go see and on top of the advertisements for the movie theaters along with advertisements for other films and advertisements to turn your phone off...you now also have to sit through a twenty-one minute short before you can get to your flick-yeah, it's very understandable why people would get angry at this. But once they took 'Olaf's Frozen Adventure' off of 'Coco' and just released it as its own thing, kids seem to like it fine and I even talked to people who have kids and seen it on DVD showing it to them and they're like "this is fine, why did people not like it?" and I have to explain the story about it running before 'Coco'.

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Overall, I guess the initial idea behind this comparison review is to say that both 'Frozen Fever' and 'Olaf's Frozen Adventure' are perfectly fine shorts: the songs are catchy, they look very pretty, they get their points across, they have a few laughs here or there and they're just the right amount of charming...but obviously you have to know your audience which 'Frozen Fever' understood more with its shorter running time whereas the audience that wanted to see 'Coco' wanted to see 'Coco' and not a twenty-one minute holiday special with Olaf. I guess what I'm saying is that if you enjoy the 'Frozen' franchise, check these out...they're actually perfectly fine. I feel bad for 'Olaf's Frozen Adventure' though because it got a lot of hate and I'm sure the people that worked really hard on this were getting balled out like "yeah, the short is bad and we shouldn't have made it" but yet it really isn't...it's nothing fantastic or groundbreaking, but it was what it was: a cute little short in the 'Frozen' universe that had a nice little message and it looked nice and sounded nice and was a nice little thing for kids. If you're not burned out on 'Frozen' yet, I say these shorts are worth checking out-they're not that bad and they have a lot of likability to them, but see them the way they were meant to be seen: on their own. If you are sick of 'Frozen' and never liked Olaf, then...yeah, I think it goes without saying that you're not gonna get into these shorts.

MLEEP Reviews: Cinderella 2015 - Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, A 5 Year Remake Too | #Cinderella

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CINDERELLA
Written By Chris Weitz
Composed By Patrick Doyle
Produced By Simon Kinberg, Allison Shearmur and David Barron
Edited By Martin Walsh
Directed By Kenneth Branagh

Ah yes, what can I say about Walt Disney's "Cinderella"?  Sure you may not find this one in a lot of people's favorite Disney movies lists, but it most certainly is one of the most important films that they have ever done: you see like 'Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs', Walt Disney took a huge gamble on this film considering that he had lost a lot of money back in World War 2.  Thankfully, the movie became a huge success and it helped grow his company into the major corporation that we know today managing huge budgets for their films and still telling beloved stories to a new generation.  Put them together and what have you got...a bunch of forgetful pieces of embarrassment!  I know technically Disney was just getting started with these live-action remakes of their animated classics...but the ones we had gotten so far like Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland" and "Maleficent" had left us with a pretty bad taste of what was probably yet to come.  I'm not saying they're terrible, but the way that they mess with the original source material practically ruins the experience...and even if they would make a ton of money, Disney would just forget all about it the following year and put the focus back on the original animated films.  So, there's no surprise when I say that I wasn't too excited to hear that they were going to give the live-action treatment to Cinderella...I mean, really?!  Is our modern society in a major crisis where we need to be reminded about that girl who talks to mice, met a guy and lost a glass slipper...or maybe that's just me talking, but is there some magic still left in this now five-year old remake?  Let's find out, this is 'Cinderella'!

CINDERELLA: After her father unexpectedly dies, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and stepsisters who reduce her to scullery maid. Despite her circumstances, she refuses to despair. An invitation to a palace ball gives Ella hope that she might reunite with the dashing stranger she met in the woods, but her stepmother prevents her from going when help arrives in the form of a kindly beggar woman who has a magic touch for ordinary things

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The issue that I was worried about the most was actually the treatment of the original story since I wouldn't be surprised if they decided to do a reverse Maleficent and turn the Fairy Godmother into a villain or something like that...but surprisingly they did none of that, the filmmakers decided to stick with the original source material.  'Cinderella' was the first of these Disney remakes that actually showed some respect to the original source material: no role switching, no big action scenes, no familiar characters with unfamiliar personalities...this is pure Cinderella from beginning to end.  Whatever they have to add for this film is just very minor details and it doesn't alternate anything from the heart of the story...this is still about love and kindness conquers all.  This is what adaptations should do: unless your movie is loosely based on something, do whatever you have to do to turn it into a film but always remember to keep the message as it is...if it's not broken, don't try to fix it or else it'll be broken.  Plus, I have to give credit to some of the actors offering some pretty good performances and making some right choices: now they know very well that they'll never outshine their animated counterparts, so they didn't even bother competing and go with their own interpretations like Helena Bonham Carter's eccentric Fairy Godmother and Cate Blanchett's devilishly charming Lady Tremaine along with Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger's bratty yet dumb stepsisters...the list goes on!  Oh and for any Disney fans out there, you'll be happy to know that there are plenty of references to the 1950 feature-sometimes they're pretty obvious, sometimes you'll need a good eye and ear in order to spot them all.

I'm actually pleasantly surprised that Disney is capable of doing something like respecting the source material-it would have been a great help in their last remakes!  However in this case, sticking to the original story is a double-edged sword: some respect is great and all, but it's hard to stand out at the same time as an adaptation.  If there is one big problem with 'Cinderella', it's that...it's Cinderella.  At this point, we all know the story and everything that happens in it: the evil stepmother, the pumpkin, the mice, the glass slipper and more!  This movie focuses so much on sticking to the book that it forgets to add anything unique that would give a reason why this Cinderella is different than any other adaptation.  I mean, take a look at the animated film: sure as a Disney film it doesn't really have much to stand out from the rest outside of the 'Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo' scene...but with the help of some lovable musical numbers and fantastic animation,, it's one of the more memorable adaptations of this story to this day.  With this Cinderella however, the only actual unique thing it has is a big budget and thankfully it does come with the benefits since this really does look gorgeous: the sets are beautiful, the costumes are extravagant and some of the special effects do give it a bit of that extra magic.

But even with that, it still makes me ask the question 'what makes this Cinderella so different from the rest' since it really doesn't help either that the main characters are not that interesting.  Cinderella and Prince Charming here share the same issues as the animated ones: same absence of development, same blandness and sometimes not even as interesting with the only real difference being that the live-action ones have more screen time.  So I guess in short, the big problem here is that it's very predictable from top to bottom-even when I was watching it five years ago, I ended up bored and decided to list all the things they had left to do...and trust me, this is the last thing you want your audience to do when watching your movie.  But even at that, I wouldn't say it's bad at all.

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Overall, the live-action remake of 'Cinderella' is exactly what you think it is: another retelling of Cinderella with a big budget...no big surprises, no big changes, nothing that can make it stand out from the rest.  But considering the last Disney live-action remakes, it's nice for a change that they didn't add anything stupid and actually give respect to the source material for once.  In terms of recommendation, I just simply ask you 'do you want to see a big-budget Cinderella movie'?  If so, then go check it out...if not, then you're not missing anything since you see is what you get and that is why I am giving the live-action remake of 'Cinderella' a rating of a 7.5 out of 10.  Not the greatest adaptation of the story, but still fine as it is...

Thursday, March 5, 2020

MLEEP Reviews: Alice In Wonderland 2010 - A Mad Mess Of A Decade | #AliceInWonderland

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ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Written By Linda Woolverton
Composed By Danny Elfman
Produced By Richard D. Zanuck, Joe Roth, Suzanne and Jennifer Todd
Edited By Chris Lebenzon
Directed By Tim Burton

Disney likes profitable faces, doesn't it? Don't get me wrong, some of the most timeless characters have made money for years but they also like to focus on what's popular for the moment: whether it be Disney Channel Original Movies, DVD sequels or buying what you thought for a second wasn't theirs, they finally asked the question 'what if they combined their timeless stories still making money with their search for fads still making money and...with less creative effort?' Hey, they had to continue those timeless stories that already made the money...what if they just told them again? The Disney live-action remakes for the most part have turned in a huge profit, so much so that at least twelve other Disney stories are in the process of being remade-it's like 'Groundhog Day' except instead of you becoming a better person, the world is becoming continually worse and the one that started it all was none other than their remake of the 1951 animated classic 'Alice In Wonderland'...after ten years, is Disney's first live-action remake as bad as some people make it out to be? Let's find out, this is Tim Burton's 'Alice In Wonderland'!
ALICE IN WONDERLAND: A young girl when she first visited magical Underland, Alice Kingsleigh is now a teenager with no memory of the place except in her dreams. Her life takes a turn for the unexpected when at a garden party for her fiance and herself, she spots a certain white rabbit and tumbles down a hole after him. Reunited with her friends the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and others, Alice learns it is her destiny to end the Red Queen's reign of terror.
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Just from that plot synopsis alone, you can already see the problem I have with this remake: in 'Alice In Wonderland', the story based on the Lewis Carroll novel...Alice is not a girl, she's a woman...she's not in Wonderland, she's returning to Wonderland...and Wonderland itself in fact isn't Wonderland at all, it's called "Underland"...UNDERLAND?!? UNDERLA-that sounds like a made up world in a Fruit Of The Loom commercial! I'm sorry, how the flying f--k am I supposed to take an adaptation seriously when you can't even get one word...ONE F--KING WORD OF THE DAMN TITLE RIGHT?! I'm gonna say it, 'CARE BEARS IN WONDERLAND IS A BETTER ADAPTATION THAN THIS'! Yeah, come on...I said it!  Apart from at least giving us what the f--king title promises, 'Care Bears In Wonderland' and not Underland is still mad nonsense where everything is backwards: the villain of the movie wants to bring sense and order to it-that would be a legitimate threat to their world, so the fear in the movie is 100% justified. But here, the queen is just a jerk...but as long as she's as crazy as the rest of them which she supposedly is, Wonderland-oh, I'm sorry-Underland shouldn't care because unless you missed what was constantly hammered in both the story and the book and every interpretation ever made, THEY'RE MAD...THEY'RE ALL F--KING MAD, so what should they care about any of this bullcrap?  Don't get me wrong, 'Care Bears In Wonderland' is an awful movie: it's really bad, they do some stupid shit like making the queen nice, a whole bunch of other f--k...but in terms of which one is closer to the spirit of what 'Alice In Wonderland' is? I'm sorry, the f--king Care Bears got closer since they embraced the insanity of Wonderland while this one is ashamed to even be called Wonderland...f--k that shit!
I'm sorry, I know a lot of people really enjoy this movie but I just think it's awful! What should've been a match made in heaven turned into a needlessly complicated story-line from a seemingly simple source material, how can a movie based on a pointless book be even more pointless by trying to give it a point? On top of that, the film thinks that the more evil it can make the villains, the more interested we'll be in our heroes rather than just writing the heroes interestingly: you can make it dark, you can make it intense...but unless you have a coherent story and characters that have a little bit more charm than snake vomit, it doesn't amount to anything! Sometimes the visuals are nice and once in a while it brings out a little bit of the zaniness from the book, but most of it misses the spirit, the charm and yes...even the wonder that made 'Alice In Wonderland' no matter which version you grew up with whether the book or the animated Disney film so great...and that is why I'm giving the live-action remake of 'Alice In Wonderland' a rating of a 4 out of 10.

Monday, March 2, 2020

MLEEP Reviews: Thomas & Friends - The Adventure Begins | #Thomas75

THOMAS & FRIENDS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
Written By Andrew Brenner/Originally Written By Rev. W. Awdry
Composed By Peter Hartshorne
Produced By Ian McCue and Jennifer Hill
Edited By Gavin Ebedes and Adam Garner
Directed By Don Spencer

Ah, 'The Adventure Begins'...the special that momentarily transformed all adult Thomas fans back into four-year-olds again.  So, where do I even begin...I mean, 'The Adventure Begins' is the best Thomas special-like it's not even debatable, it's the best Thomas special ever and nothing will ever be able to top it.  So for those reading who don't know what 'The Adventure Begins' is, it was a movie made to celebrate Thomas' seventieth anniversary as a franchise and strings together the very first Thomas stories ever told in The Railway Series.  It told the story of Thomas' first days on the Island Of Sodor, his first encounters with the other main engines and how he got his branch line...we had never seen something like this where they recreate the original Awdry stories and make a movie out of them, that's something so obscure that only fans of the show would ever consider trying let alone the freaking corporate company that runs the franchise.  I mean, don't get me wrong since I take joy in all the Thomas specials to some extent: 'Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure' was really great, 'Blue Mountain Mystery' gave us so much promise and 'The Great Race' was a lot of fun...but none of those just can't recreate the emotional impact that 'The Adventure Begins' had on me and the entirety of the Thomas fandom.  Using the Awdry stories for a production as big as this is something I can't respect enough and I think 'The Adventure Begins' trumps all of the specials in the past or future for just that reason alone...but has five years since its release caused it to come off the rails in its popularity?  Let's find out, this is 'Thomas & Friends: The Adventure Begins'!

THOMAS & FRIENDS - THE ADVENTURE BEGINS: All aboard for Thomas' very first adventure, a little tank engine discovers a big new world when he arrives on the Island Of Sodor.  Escapades abound as Thomas explores his new home and meets some Really Useful new friends...finding the true blue meaning of hard work and friendship, Thomas transforms into the Number 1 engine!

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...and what a better way to start than with this beautiful beautiful intro-I mean, geez...talk about making a good first impression!  I don't know what I love more about this intro: the beautiful panning shots, the heartstring-pulling music or just how clever it is.  Think about it: this is the movie that pretty much starts everything, this is the perfect movie for a person who has never seen Thomas before...first impressions really do matter in a movie like this.  I would think in most cases someone would likely start out this story with the narrator introducing the Island Of Sodor talking about how it's coated in railway lines and the engines that work on it...but instead of telling us what Sodor is, they go in a completely different direction and they just freaking show it.  You want the Island Of Sodor, well here it is in all its glory...not a single line of narration is said in this opening and the audience knows everything they need to know before the story starts: Sodor is an island surrounded by the sea, it has lots of harbors, it has very green hills, it's coated in railway lines and the trains can talk.  The beauty and cleverness of this intro is just so amazing to me and I want to say it's my favorite part of the whole movie-literally, I love this intro so much that I nearly teared up on my first ever viewing of the film...and just for the record, there were three particular moments where I felt like tearing up when first watching this.  The movie's intro was the first...

 

I love the way the characters are introduced too, all five of the engines have very memorable intros into the film: Edward and Gordon get a very nice brief intro by the narrator that very much harks back to the Awdry style of writing, James gets a wonderfully awkward intro new voice and all and I love the panning from his wheels to a full wide shot slowly revealing that black paint job everyone was so excited to see, Annie and Clarabel even get a pretty nice intro later on that establishes them as characters before they become Thomas' coaches and that's such a smart move considering how relevant they are now in the show and the award for the best character intro of all goes to no other than Thomas The Tank Engine himself-seriously, they could not have brought him into the film any better way!  This was the second moment where I wanted to tear up, by this time in the viewing my mental dam started to crack and my feelings of nostalgia were leaking through: whether it was the dialogue harking back to Thomas' actual introduction in both the books and the show, the mentioning of him being from Brighton, the slow reveal of him in his LBSC livery and his theme subtly being tossed around in the background...everything about it made me want to tear up.

I absolutely love the characters' banter in this scene too, everyone's character here is so strong: Thomas is feisty, Edward is trying to be polite with how he words things, James is cocky and blunt, Sir Topham Hatt tries to maintain his authority, etc.  It's so apparent that the writing team really understands these characters and that's really important in these dialogue heavy exposition scenes, I also really love how Sir Topham Hatt mentions 'I am a very busy man and this is a very busy railway'...very busy railway despite the four of his five engines all sitting in the yard doing absolutely nothing.  I just mentioned Thomas' theme being played and the 'Really Useful Engine' musical number is about to start, so I suppose it's a good time as any to bring up the music in the special...yes, it's the classic Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell themes being re-imagined and I freaking love them.  I can't really say much about them that hasn't already been said, so I'll just leave it at that...I felt I had to obligatorily mention the music since it was one of the best surprises the movie had to offer, so there it is.  As much as I love the music that Robert Hartshorne has composed for the animated series though, I do hope they continue this trend of incorporating the old themes with the new ones: Season 19 did a pretty nice job of subtly blending the two and it thankfully continued in Season 20...I do worry it may not happen now since they gave Hartshorne the boot and brought in Chris Renshaw, but I'd like to remain hopeful.


So the sky starts to darken and the rain starts to fall, guess that means it's time to rant about the most controversial part of the film: Henry.  There's no doubt that Henry's involvement in the story is what most fans will say was poorly handled, well I'm going to be that one guy that says that I actually think what they did with Henry here was really clever.  Henry's been portrayed as a wimpy worrier character for years now and I guess fans hoped that in the special that pays homage to Awdry's writings, Henry may finally be portrayed as he originally once was which was an arrogant cynical misfortunate engine but instead he remains a worrier more than ever...I totally get why people have a problem with this, but personally it doesn't bother me.  I mean if you're going to make any of the main cast the timid character, Henry is the logical choice as he's been portrayed as worried in the past like 'Henry's Forest' and 'Henry And The Elephant'...and with his history of misfortunes and breaking down and steaming problems he's had in the past, I don't blame him for being paranoid.  Mattel obviously wants Henry to be that token worrier character of the main fleet to make him more easily identifiable and relatable among the kids watching and it's not like they could just you know not include Henry as he's one of the primary characters in the early stories so they had to figure out a way to work that persona into this story.  So...what did they do, probably the most clever thing they could have done: they took the actual Awdry dialogue written as is and put a different spin on it which still stays faithful to the original story and at the same time embraces the cowardly Henry persona-I mean, Awdry himself said Henry was afraid of the rain...right, right?

Now obviously Henry wasn't really scared of the rain in the original story, but in the context of this story it works: making Henry a vulnerable character in this telling works especially well in my opinion not just because it embraced the type of character Mattel wants him to be but it allowed the writers to show another unseen side of Thomas-his caring side...and in a movie which is quite literally about Thomas' development as a character, this aspect is important.  Think about how much the story would have lacked if the bit with Thomas helping Henry overcome his fear was cut out, think about how little of a role Henry would've had in this thing...doing it this way allowed Thomas to make some sort of different and viable connection with each and every main character in the story, I'll go ahead and make the bold statement that I am a-okay with Henry being a cowardly character and the way they went about portraying that in 'The Adventure Begins' was extremely clever.  Ironically enough, the one aspect of 'The Adventure Begins' I have the biggest issue with is Henry himself: it's not Henry's character I'm put off by, it's his physical appearance...why is he not in his old shape?  This is literally a tiny nitpick that's probably not even worth mentioning, but seriously though: I mean I wouldn't even bring this up if Arc hadn't rendered a black James, a green Thomas and brand new breakdown cranes...obviously they were trying to be as accurate as possible with every element in the special, but for some reason they just let the Henry continuity slide.  I mean Henry being in his old shape would not offer really anything to the story so I guess I understand why they didn't bother...but in a special where it's so obvious that they're trying to be as accurate as possible, why not go the full mile?  I can't imagine no one noticed at Mattel: someone had to have at least suggested using the old shape, right-I'm looking at you, Sam Wilkinson-and I doubt it would have been hard to make either, all you literally have to do is remove the splashers and taper the firebox...someone could've done that in like ten minutes!  But like I said, Henry being in his old shape offers really nothing to this story of Thomas' first days on Sodor...but still it would have been nice to see just for the sake of being accurate.


Now that that Henry rant is over, let's move on to something else: Thomas goes to the Steamworks to be repainted blue and this scene and the subsequent scene of Edward explaining the coffeepots is another one of my favorite sequences in the entire film.  Why, because they answer the major questions that I always wondered since childhood: why is Thomas blue and why is he number one, the reason given as to why Thomas is number one is so freaking clever and I give Andrew Brenner major kudos for it.  Not only does it manage to bring relevance to the coffeepot engines-some of the most obscure engines ever created by Awdry himself, but it also explains how Thomas came to be number one when he wasn't actually the first engine.  I don't know about you guys, but I never bought Awdry's explanation that Thomas came to Sodor before everyone else to help with the railway's construction or whatever...I don't care what year the E2's were actually built, but there is no way-no way Thomas is older than Gordon and Edward, no way in hell.  Now that Thomas is finally blue and the characters are all set up, they jump into retelling the first stories with Thomas ever starting with no other than 'Thomas And Gordon'-yet another clever aspect I appreciate about 'The Adventure Begins is that they managed to retell the stories from the first two books in the order they were written in: the first story retold is 'Edward And Gordon', then we get 'The Sad Story Of Henry', then Thomas' story starts and we end on 'Thomas And The Breakdown Train'.  'The Sad Story Of Henry' may have been a flashback implying it happened before 'Edward And Gordon' which does mess up the official continuity a little bit...but who cares, right: the stories appear in this film in the order they were told and I simply love that-so clever, I tell ya...so clever!


We later meet the breakdown cranes Jerome and Judy, they're a little crazy but I like them nonetheless.  Before we knew of their return in Season 20 of the television series, it was really too bad we would never ever see them again but I suppose it's understandable considering the position the writers must have been in when writing this: very similar to Henry's persona predicament earlier, they had to choose whether to involve a new breakdown train that resembles the one from the books or just use Rocky...well if they went the lazy route and just used Rocky here, every fan would have complained endlessly-myself included-and there's no way Mattel would have allowed using some random crane without a face, so they gave the breakdown cranes faces and names and here they are.  These characters really are kind of a waste of potential since Rocky is the prominent breakdown train in the show and having three breakdown train characters would be a really bad marketing move and not to mention confusing to the kids watching, still it would've been nice to see if we saw Judy and Jerome in the background somewhere or maybe at work in a wide shot of some construction site or something.  Take the hint, Mattel...take the hint!  'Thomas' Train' and 'Thomas And The Trucks' play out pretty similarly to the original stories so it's not really much to talk about there, I will say though that I do love that they made the runaway sequence a musical number-that was a really clever decision, I do really like the re-compositions of the two songs in the special and I'd go as far to say that I prefer them to the originals.


...and once that finishes, we see possibly the most epic exciting thrilling chase sequence in all of Thomas history: James becomes a runaway and Thomas chases him down in an attempt to stop him.  When I first saw the trailer for this and was aware that this chase was gonna be a thing, I was honestly skeptical: it's so different than how the story actually went and not to mention incredibly unrealistic, but let's be honest...who cares about realism at this point, right?  Everything about this chase sequence won me over whether it was Rob Rackstraw's wonderful screaming voice for James, the tension of the guard trying to couple Thomas with the shunter's pole or that really stupid but somehow hilarious pun...everything here was just so epic and to top it all, the eventual crash was quite literally the best crash I've ever seen in the animated series-maybe even the whole series in general, I'm not even lying about that.  Usually in crash sequences, the camera is situated a bit far away from the action so you can see it all unravel in one shot...but here, nope: nothing is off screen, none of the action is far away, we get insane close-ups of all the action...I literally cringe at the shot of the ballast scraping James' face when he tumbles over, it's so graphic!  'The Adventure Begins' seems to have started the trend of amazing on-screen crashes for the series: prior to 'The Adventure Begins', there were a few crashes each season and usually most of them were pretty harmless...but then comes this movie and then Season 19 and just wow, there were at least three major crashes in that season that were all on screen and close up.  I have no idea who made the change to start showing gritty actiony awesome crashes again, but whoever it was...I sincerely thank them.


After that epic crash, Thomas goes back to get the cranes and we get the dumbest line of dialogue said in the whole movie by Sir Topham Hatt when he questions if he saw Thomas returning to the yard...no Topham, it's the other blue tank engine you have working on your railway at this time!  Thomas rescues James, gets called a Really Useful Engine and the story comes to a close the exact way you'd expect it to but not before James gets a nice re-introduction with his red paint job and we meet 'Mr. Coffeepot': I'm glad they had this little exchange with Glynn, it does seem really forced and out of place especially right at the end but I honestly don't know how else they could have worked him into this.  Like with Judy and Jerome earlier before we found out about his return in Season 20, the only thing I wished they did with Glynn is what they didn't do with him and that's to keep him relevant in the series after this special...like, we didn't expect an episode focused on Glynn at the time or anything but it would've been some great continuity if they kept him as a part of the Ffarquhar set in later episodes.  Maybe he was just someone that Thomas said hello to on his daily journeys or someone Thomas consulted when he was feeling conflicted about something, the fact he wasn't there on that siding anymore was kind of morbid when you thought about it...like, what happened to him and the other coffeepots for that matter?  Did they all get cut up and scrapped...I thought you were against scrapping steam engines, Topham!  Nonetheless, Glynn seemed pretty chipper talking to his replacement and knowing his eventual doom was inevitable.


So the movie ends on a really great shot of Thomas which then transitions into Railway Series illustrations as the credits roll and this was the third time I felt like tearing up.  The end credits sequence is just a punch to the stomach, the movie ends so brilliantly with the 'Really Useful Engine' song and Glynn and the illustrations, I don't think there's a better way they could have ended this...it starts brilliantly and it ends on the best possible note.

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If I had to sum up 'The Adventure Begins' with one word, it'd be clever: everything about it from the way it answered the questions of Thomas' roots to the way it mixed the old with the new to the decisions made to keep things as accurate as possible to the way it started, the way it ended, the way it was marketed and the impact that it had on the fandom...everything about this special was just absolutely clever.  As I watched this movie, I felt proud to be a Thomas fan and that's what I appreciate most about it...'The Adventure Begins' made Thomas fans feel prideful of their fandom: it wasn't just a marketing gimmick to sell toys like 'Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure' or 'The Great Race' were, there was a lot more heart to it than that...it was a reason to celebrate and not to say the other specials like 'Sodor's Legend Of The Lost Treasure' or 'Tale Of The Brave' aren't good since they're great Thomas films and they have a lot of fun moments, but they will never make fans feel that sense of pride and celebration they got when watching 'The Adventure Begins'.  'The Adventure Begins' brought the fans together more than anything else-hell, fans banded together and remade the whole movie on the Thomas The Tank Engine Community channel...if that doesn't say proud and united, I don't know what does!

As much of a guilty pleasure as I may find Thomas' big screen debut, I really wish 'Thomas And The Magic Railroad' didn't exist and in its place was a movie like 'The Adventure Begins'...Thomas' first cinematic movie experience should have been this story that tells his roots and his first coming to Sodor, instead we got a stupid movie full of magic trains and gold dust and Alec Baldwins.  I tend to attribute most of Thomas' downward spiral in the 2000's to the initial blow which was 'Thomas And The Magic Railroad': if it weren't for its financial blunder, Britt Allcroft would never have sold the show's rights...yada yada yada, you all know the story.  To close the review, I leave you all with this thought: where would Thomas be now in 2020 if 'Thomas And The Magic Railroad' was instead something like 'The Adventure Begins'...would the franchise have been completely obliterated and eventually sold to HiT still or would the show have ended by now or would it have soared and still be in the hands of the original owners.  Thank you so much for reading this celebratory re-review, everyone...I'm True Blue and I absolutely love 'The Adventure Begins'.