My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “The Times They Are A Changeling” Review

“The Times They Are A Changeling” (try saying that in one gulp) is finally an “important” episode. Now, this is not to say that every episode of My Little Pony has to be “important” in the sense that it furthers certain plot developments or establishes a new status quo. Slice of life stories is the show’s strong suit, and something the first two seasons in particular excelled at. The reason why I used the word ‘finally’ is because the last few episodes have been more on the mediocre side. The writing just hasn’t been quite up to the usual standard. The latest installment fixes this. It’s not a perfect episode but it’s definitely leagues ahead of what we’ve been seeing.

Spike travels with Twilight and Sunburst back to the Crystal Empire to visit Flurry Heart, only to discover that the entire Empire is in a panic due to the reported presence of Changling spy.

Maybe the comics have spoiled me, but I couldn’t help but think how cool it would have been if the lone Changeling had been the prelude to a grand invasion. The first act with the Crystal Empire being worried that the Changeling could be anyone was greatly effective. Of course, the overall point of the story isn’t one of grandeur. It’s meant to convey yet another message of friendship, though this time with a different backdrop.

The main idea of the story is lineage, or one’s association. The Changelings in their appearance way back in the epic “A Canterlot Wedding” appeared almost as mindless drones. When one thinks of a Changeling, it’s associated with the sinister Queen Chrysalis. Therefore, if one of them were to appear, everyone would think the worst. But what the episode conveys is that one shouldn’t be judged on lineage or a stereotype. The son of a killer for example shouldn’t be judged on association. Just because he’s related to a criminal doesn’t mean he has to be a criminal as well. Thorax’s (the lone Changeling) plot was engaging. The flashback to ‘Wedding’ was very effective since we got to see things from his perspective.

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Spike’s role this season has been his finest. All of his prior development finally transformed him into one of the show’s most engaging characters. He was pretty solid here mostly. The inhabitants adoring him and his giving orders to the royal guards was a bit on the silly side. Also, instead of approaching Shining Armor about Thorax, why didn’t he confide in Twilight about the situation? Some of the happenings in the middle act could have been avoided. With that said, there’s some very powerful moments. The viewer can see the sadness on Thorax’s face when the only friend he’s ever had doesn’t stick up for him. Spike going back and making it right was excellent & great character development for him. The climax song was fantastic. Cathy Weseluck had never gotten a full-length song to herself before, so hopefully starting here we’ll hear more with her.

Overall, “The Times They Are A Changeling” is a very solid episode. It packs fantastic emotion and a quality message which unlike the last couple weren’t at the expense of character development. Aside from a few annoying moments here, Spike continues to be a great product of the latest season. The writing duo of Kevin Burke and Chris Wyatt deliver a winner.

8/10

 

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “28 Pranks Later” Review

I’ve been a My Little Pony fan for years now. I believe the first two seasons were the show’s prime. This is not to say it has been in decline since then, because if it’s one thing the show is good at, it’s that it had always been consistent with delivering quality. That’s why when more average episodes appear a review seems noticeably harsh, because at this point the show deserves to be held to a high standard. That’s why the previous couple of episodes, while not terrible (in comparison to what’s currently airing on television) got pretty low scores. There has never been a truly bad episode of MLP, but when you compare say the the previous episode to a Season 1 installment, the quality is noticeably lower. Season 6 has been definitely the worst season in this regard. Today’s episode continues this mediocrity, though at the very least it’s far more entertaining than the last one.

When Rainbow Dash’s pranking gets out of hand, everypony decides to give her a taste of her own medicine – zom-pony style!

So, what’s wrong with this episode? The show decides to tackle the message of pranks/jokes. Most of us know how to laugh at a well done surprise joke. Sometimes however they’re in bad taste or downright mean. It’s about balance and asking, “How would I feel if someone did this to me?” It’s definitely a pretty good message that the episode drives home at the end. Like “The Cart Before the Ponies” however, the message is at the expense of characterization. In this case, the victim is Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow has been established as a prankster in the past, mainly way back in the Season 1 episode “Griffon the Brush Off” and the Season 2 episode “Luna Eclipsed.” Since then however that part of her character hasn’t been touched upon all that much. Today we see it come back full force. The story doesn’t start out unreasonably. In fact, some of the pranks she pulls in the beginning are pretty funny. Plus, the banter between her and Pinkie Pie about them is great to watch. (Because the two are pretty similar in this regard.) Toward the middle act is where the main problem lies. Rainbow starts pranking all of Ponyville. She even disrupts a school lesson for the sake of a prank. Even for Rainbow, this is unrealistic and completely immature. There’s just no way she would go around doing this to all the citizens. If the school example wasn’t bad enough, she devises a plan to “infect” the girl scout cookies of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Rainbow was written pretty much like a villain most of the time here.

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The final act saves the episode from being just a mess of characterization. For pop culture fans, the title of this episode is of course a reference to the film 28 Days Later. The last 10 minutes parodies the plot of that movie in a very entertaining way. “(It’s also a tease, because the viewer now knows how awesome a real zombie apocalypse in Ponyville would be.) As started earlier, the message is delivered pretty well in the end. It’s a shame it was done with a villainous Rainbow Dash. Also, I believe it was a mistake to spoil the plan to make Dash understand the error of her ways in the description. It would have been far more entertaining to watch the events unfold without that prior knowledge.

Overall, 28 Pranks Later is a pretty fun episode, though the writing takes it way overboard with Rainbow Dash’s antics. At the very least, there’s some good dialogue between her and Pinkie. (F.M De Marco should write a team-up episode with the two.) There are other little annoying things not mentioned above, such as bringing back Fluttershy being scared of nothing for the sake of the story. While I greatly enjoy these slice of life adventures, Season 6 really needs an “important” episode to bring back its steam.

6/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “The Cart Before the Ponies” Review

It’s a nice thing to have My Little Pony back on the air. It’s perhaps one of the best ways to start the weekend. Last week’s episode put the spotlight on Rainbow Dash and brought back the Indiana Jones-inspired pony, Daring Do. It was also slightly meta, introducing a brand new character that represented a rather stubborn critic. Even though the writing wasn’t particularly great at some points, “Stranger than Fan Fiction” was still memorable. Today’s installment is also memorable, though for the wrong reason. It’s not the worst episode (though I’m having trouble thinking of a worse one) but it’s definitely on the lower spectrum of the show.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders are excited for the chance to race in the annual Applewood Derby – until their teammates Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash take over the competition.

So, what puts this episode as a lower tier one? Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash all are written very terribly for the sake of the lesson. Simultaneously these are their worst portrayals in the show. As stated in the description, the story’s main setting is a race, and the fillies are each allowed to ask for assistance from an older pony. The Cutie Mark Crusaders naturally ask their big sisters (well, sister in spirit for Scootaloo) which is of course welcome, and should make for a fun story. But, the three older ponies are written as unreasonable and stubborn. Almost from the start they take the race for themselves, thinking they’re the ones competing, not the fillies. To justify this, the writing throws in some backstory. The two biggest examples are Rarity’s, where she wants to win after dealing with a second place prize a long time ago, and Applejack’s, whom wants to keep with tradition. The episode really starts to falter here.

Throughout the middle act it seemed like the three Mane 6 members lost touch with reality and became downright mean. Every time the Crusaders would apply features (such as cardboard wings for example) to the cart, their older member would rudely remove them. Perhaps the worst scene was when Applejack threatened Apple Bloom with, “So are you an Apple, or are you an Apple?” when the latter wanted to make a more modern cart as opposed to a traditional one. Just about all the lines from the Mane 6 members were very jarring and forced for the story. It’s simple to see what the message was going for: saying that older people aren’t 100% always right and should listen to the opinions of their siblings/younger people. A message however should never be at the cost of quality characters.

This is not to say there weren’t some things to like. Writer Ed Valentine has a great handle of the Crusaders. The viewer sympathizes with them the entire time. The actual race was also fun. (It reminded me of Wacky Races.) The ending sadly is anticlimactic since we don’t see the actual ending to the race…which was the main part of the plot!

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Overall, Cart is definitely more of a mediocre episode. The message isn’t necessarily negative, but it’s at the cost of our favorite characters. At the very least, Crusader fans will be pleased with their portrayal.

5/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Stranger than Fan Fiction” Review

After a few months hiatus, My Little Pony returns for its second half of Season 6. By now there’s no need to discuss things generally speaking. If you’ve been following my reviews, then you know I consider Season 6 to be the weakest season so far. This doesn’t equate to bad of course, because the show is still leagues ahead of what is currently on television. It’s just when compared to the early seasons the episodes here have been of lesser quality. Today’s episode isn’t an immensely notable one. It is by no means terrible, or even a bad watch, just more on the average side.

Rainbow Dash attends the Daring Do Convention in Manehattan and meets a pony who hates Daring Do as much as she loves it.

Written by Josh Haber and Michael Vogel

This episode has two main parts, the first being at the convention and the next being the Daring Do adventure. First, the convention scenes were very well done. It’s accurate to how a real life pony, or any kind of pop culture event would be. We can see the genuine excitement on Rainbow Dash’s face throughout these parts. Perhaps the best scene is when she runs into another hardcore fan like herself, by the name of Quibble Pants. Again, this is accurate to a real life convention. When you meet someone whom has a heavy interest in a specific area, whether it be pony, Trek, or Japanese monsters there’s a cool little connection as two discuss things only true fans can talk about. These early scenes were fun. Sadly, the writing takes a dip in quality during the second act.

I applaud the show for talking about a great lesson, and that’s on the subject of opinions. Rainbow Dash thinks all the Daring Do books are excellent, especially the latter entries. Quibble on the the other hand can’t stand the latter ones, and refuses to acknowledge them. This leads to some heated discussion between the two characters. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, because often a lesson is learned after a hardship. The problem is that Quibble starting from the opening argument becomes a very jarring character to listen to. The ironically annoying part is that he proves to be seemingly smarter than Daring Do herself, showing her how to do her job in the climax.

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The overall message is that it’s okay for fans to have differing opinions on their favorite subject. For example, many Star Trek fans seem to agree that Nemesis is one of the worst films in the series, but what if a person says it actually isn’t that bad? Another example might be a Godzilla fan claiming Final Wars to be actually pretty good when many consider it to be one of the worst in the series. Instead of fans attacking one another, they should discuss things in a happy manner. So, it’s definitely a good lesson. A lot of the dialogue in the second half from Quibble, which is the constant mocking of the situation before realizing he’s in real danger was cliche and fell flat. As for Rainbow Dash herself, she wasn’t bad. The only hard-to-believe scene is that she would go out of her way and talk to Daring Do to get the latter to convince Quibble that all the books are good.

Overall, “Stranger than Fan Fiction” isn’t a 5 star episode, but still an okay watch. The message is something any fan of pop culture can understand and appreciate. The dynamic between Rainbow Dash and Quibble was good in the beginning, & in the final few minutes. In-between is where most of the negatives are. The viewers have to deal with the annoying dialogue from Quibble when they want to see more of Daring Do since she has been absent from the show for quite awhile.

6.5/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Spice Up Your Life” Review

Today’s episode of MLP is a bit on the sad side. It’s not because it’s extra emotional, but that it marks the final one until later in the year. Mid-season breaks are always disappointing, but good in a way as well. (The wait between seasons are shortened.) So today is a farewell installment for now. Interestingly, the story brings back the Friendship Map, which hasn’t been seen since the Season 5 finale.  This time, the Brave and the Bold duo is Rarity and Pinkie Pie. Michael Vogel wrote the superb “A Hearth’s Warming Tail,” so “Spice Up Your Life” was in good hands. This episode was definitely a much better one than what we’ve seen these last few weeks.

Here’s the official description from Discovery Family:

Pinkie Pie and Rarity are called to Canterlot by the map to solve a friendship problem. They discover a father and daughter whose relationship is strained as they struggle to keep their restaurant open.

What’s interesting about the Friendship Map is that it picks two ponies for a specific job. It’s not random; rather it picks them knowing their specific traits will be the best way to help fix a problem. Rarity and Pinkie Pie have never really had the focus on them together, (besides “The Gift of the Maud Pie,” though Maud took away from that focus) so that alone is enough to be extra interested in “Spice.” The two play off each other well throughout. Rarity is more fancy, looking for 3 star review restaurants, while Pinkie doesn’t care about stuff like that and just wants to eat good food, even if the place has no reviews. Vogel has a solid handle on their personalities. The action gets really interesting when they journey into a restaurant on the verge of closing down since there’s no customers. (Sort of reminds me of Babu’s predicament in his debut episode in Seinfeld.)

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The last few seasons have done a solid job at introducing fun new side characters. It’s particularly pleasing to hear such an amount of attention to the voice acting, something MLP has always excelled in. Saffron Masala was a fun character to have around. The writing does a solid job showing the intense emotion she has because of the disagreement on the restaurant business with her father, Corlander Cumin. He wasn’t quite as fun, but it’s easy to see what the episode was aiming for: showing a disgruntled store owner. For the most part the story succeeds at doing that. What it falls short in however is the character of Zesty Gourmand. Again, it’s easy to see what the writing was going for: a reviewing snob whom thinks her word is law. She was however just a little too exaggerated to take seriously.

Perhaps the most interesting part was how the disagreement between Rarity and Pinkie came about. People have different opinions on how things should be done. In the episode’s context, Rarity believes that in order for the restaurant to get a good review it should try to mimic the ones which have the full three stars. Pinkie on the other hand believes the opposite: the restaurant needs its own unique flavor. The argument between the two was fun to watch. The resolution seemed pretty fast, but also shows that the two friends can move past a dispute and get back to the issue at hand pretty quickly. The song was fun, though it seems the budget may have ran out since it reuses the same scene three times over.

Overall, “Spice Up Your Life” was a fun team up adventure. At its core, it’s about Pinkie and Rarity helping out a struggling family business. There’s nothing particularity negative about it, other than Zesty. The other new characters, especially Saffron, are good. It’s not a masterpiece, but still a nice watch on a Saturday afternoon. These duo episodes are some of the most entertaining in MLP.

8/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Flutter Bruther” Review

“Flutter Brutter” might be the most anticipated episode of the season. Unlike a lot of other episodes, this one was announced way in advance. (It was first announced that we would see Fluttershy’s brother at last years’s MLP panel at Comic Con.) Why does this deserve hype? Interestingly, despite having six seasons, we know very little of the Mane 6’s parents/siblings/relatives. We’ve seen some of them briefly, but the show chooses not to bring them into the fold that much. (We still haven’t seen Rainbow Dash’s parents aside from a brief flashback.) There’s technically nothing wrong with this approach, and for the most part the show has done a solid job showing us bits and pieces of the ponies’ families. This week, we not only meet Fluttershy’s parents, but her younger brother as well. This was definitely a big improvement over the last installment. It’s not as great as it could have been, but still not bad.

Here’s the official description from Discovery Family:

When Fluttershy’s self-absorbed brother starts freeloading off their parents, she encourages him to move out, but he moves in with her instead, forcing Fluttershy to stand up to her brother and help him get over his fear of failure.

Fluttershy has had a criminally minimal presence this season, so another reason why this episode was hotly anticipated was that it would be her first starring role since “Scare Master” in Season 5. She isn’t a challenging character to write. What is challenging is not writing her off as some timid side character in a given story. This episode doesn’t go that route. This time we see another whole side to her: a sisterly side. But not just the nurturing sister, also as a frustrated big sister with her younger brother’s childish behavior. She literally spends almost the entire episode being annoyed. Dave Rapp in just one episode proves he can write a fantastic Fluttershy.

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One of the big highlights was when Fluttershy kicked her brother out after seeing he wasn’t going to change his ways. This was powerful. Here we have her brother, family, mooching off of her. As painful as it is to do it, if someone is blatantly taking your space and completely unwilling to work when they could, well, it’s unfortunately goodbye. I was worried the episode would have her brother walk over her before she finally does something. Instead, the episode from early on establishes that Fluttershy has been dealing with this since they were fillies.

One of the problems with the episode is that it attempts to shove all this unseen backstory in less than 10 minutes. It’s similar to how Shining Armor popped up out of nowhere in the Season 2 finale. Putting that to the side, how is the character of Zephyr Breeze? Obviously, he’s written as obnoxious and annoying. Even with that in mind however, he’s a little too unbelievable sometimes. I believe the writing could have found a more realistic way to portray him without going in your face with how awful of a family member he is. Fluttershy’s parents were hard to watch sometimes too. Zephyr throwing away years of Fluttershy’s dad collection out the window, and the latter just rolling with it was too unbelievable.

A song was unexpected, but certainly welcome. Fluttershy has been part of some great songs in the past, and this one (actually her second duet with Rainbow Dash) is no exception. Unlike the last episode, the message isn’t blatantly in your face. In fact, it’s one of the show’s best. The thought of failure can be an immense deterrent to attempting to do something. But ultimately quitting is far worse than giving it your all and not succeeding. Whether it be in a video game, a job, or almost anything really, the fear of failure should be put to the side. I’m happy the episode incorporated this message into the great climax, even if Zephyr was hard to watch for the majority of it.

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Overall, “Flutter Brutter” isn’t the masterpiece Fluttershy adventure I was expecting. That’s not to say it was totally disappointing however. It features one of Fluttershy’s best portrayals, which makes up for her lack of appearing this season. The concept of her having a brother the complete opposite of herself is an engaging concept, but Zephyr could have been handled better. The climax is very good. While this isn’t close to being the best Fluttershy episode, it’s still a pretty solid one.

7.5/10

KONG: KING OF THE APES “THE ADVENTURE BEGINS” Review

It’s always odd when a film or TV series doesn’t have a section on Wikipedia. Relatively unknown films like Hunter Prey (one of the greatest science fiction films by the way) has a section, but something as big with the King Kong name? The entire King of the Apes  show has been on Netflix for six days already, yet there’s no section. Not only that, but marketing has been extremely poor. Prior to its release, there was no trailer. I’ll say that again: Netflix didn’t release a trailer beforehand. Actual information had also been scarce, right up until release day. And even then, the show just released with virtually no one realizing it. If a colleague didn’t remind me I probably would have forgotten about it until I turned on Netflix. Putting these negative aspects to the side, perhaps the pilot film would actually be pretty solid. Unfortunately it’s not. It’s competently written, but in the most generic way possible.

There are somethings you know about five minutes in whether it’s going to be mediocre or not. I already knew then I wouldn’t be checking out the remainder of the episodes here, but for the sake of perhaps being the only website review on the planet for the show, I powered through. King of the Apes is produced by Avi Arad, whom is a veteran with various shows and films. Unfortunately his most recently produced cartoon was PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures, and we all know awful that was. With the similar CGI and few images Netflix released, Kong sadly looked to invoke a Ghostly Adventures feel. Of course, when you’re a reviewer you have to do your best to put out preconceived notions. I also actually like the Kong films and character, so I went in hoping a new Kong show (yes there was one where he was “King of Atlantis”…which was probably better than this one!) would be interesting. Sadly it’s not.

The show’s main character aside from the gorilla is Lukas. For the first quarter of the pilot the story showcases the relationship between him, his brother, and their father alongside Kong. This was definitely a smart way to establish the status quo for present day…in theory. Everything happens so fast despite the premiere having more than a hour to develop the characters. Lukas becomes Kong’s friend abnormally fast. What’s worst however is Richard, the brother of Lukas. If you thought Caillou was a brat, this kid takes it tenfold. He hates Kong for virtually no reason on the onset. When the explosion happens in the lab (which of course was caused by his blundering) the viewer wishes he would have died right there. (That’s a harsh statement I know, but in cartoon land it’s okay.)

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The dialogue between the sons and father is completely forced and unnatural. The show even then tries to add deepness in a single sentence stating there was a divorce, but that plot point is quickly forgotten as the mediocre story continues. The entire point of showcasing the younger years was to show Kong’s friendship with Lukas and Richard’s rise to villainy. Richard is perhaps the most generic villain in the last few decades. All he’s missing is his twirling mustache. His motivation wasn’t clearly established back then, and it’s terrible in the present. It’s a scary thought that every episode will probably have him executing some one note plan that the heroes foil.

Quite a few of the characters have such mediocre designs. Lukas’ in particular embodies the generic “surfer dude”look for example. The voice acting is pretty awful and shows no one really cared about the product. Richard’s voice as a kid was so jarring I wouldn’t be surprised if some kids gave up after the sixth scene with him complaining. I did like the subtle building up to the giant robotic T-Rex from back then. Under different writing, this could have been fantastic, even frightening build-up. How about the action? Given the CGI nature and behemoth characters, the action scenes should be good. Unfortunately, they are incredibly lackluster. They’re more suited for a TV Y program. (To put this in perspective, My Little Pony, a TV-Y program, has better fight scenes.)

We’ll stop here. King of the Apes is incredibly mediocre. Kong himself is often portrayed as goofy rather than powerful, which longtime fans will find tough to get through. (Back in the day he could go one-on-one with Godzilla.) It’s true the show’s target audience is kids, but awful writing like this is no excuse. Why would you show your child this mindless entertainment (even calling it entertainment is a stretch) when there’s actual heart and thought put into other programs? Other shows on Netflix such as My Little Pony, Magic School Bus, Justice League, and many more offer better entertainment and makes the viewer think. If Kong had actually tried I could have forgiven it, but the problem is that it doesn’t try to be anything great.

2/10