Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Scooby Doo Return To Zombie Island Review


It’s time for the Scooby gang to return to a rather familiar location. Zombie Island is known as one of the best Scooby Doo movies and I can confirm that it was quite excellent. This one is trying to play on nostalgia to sell, but does it actually have the quality to back it up? Unfortunately it feels like Zombie Island in name only. I wasn’t really expecting anything more than that, but it would have been nice if the plot had actually been a bit more relevant. Maybe that was hoping for a bit much to be honest, but it would have been nice. As it stands this is still a reasonable Scooby Doo adventure.

The gang has just finished solving a bunch of mysteries. They then sold the Mystery Van (For money I guess? The movie never really goes into detail on exactly why they had to sell the thing, but I assume they were low on cash) so now they are wondering what to do. Shaggy and Scooby pounce on their momentary weakness and force the gang to sign a promise that they will stop investigating mysteries. Shaggy then wins a vacation for the gang so they all head to an island. Interestingly it looks just like Zombie Island, but the gang is determined not to find any mysteries here. The creepy instances continue to add up though and they may be forced to break their promise this time. Can the gang stay strong?

Of course the place they went to is Zombie Island. The film does a good job of at least giving us a good narrative reason as to why they would return. They were basically suckered and the mastermind behind this had a good reason for doing this. The big twist here is on the fun side. It may not be exactly what you were expecting, but it does make sense without messing with the first film. You’ll be glad to know that the film doesn’t retcon the first one. That would have definitely been pretty annoying. It’s really just a completely separate adventure that happens to take place after the first one. There will be some continuity issues here like how the gang is younger now than they were in the original. This movie tries to hand wave that as a summer job, but we all know the truth.

The animation is pretty good and it looks a lot like a DC film with the backgrounds. The opening scene can easily be mistaken for one at first before the characters show up. It isn’t super detailed or anything, but I’ve always thought that this part has been pretty consistent over the years. Scooby Doo looks good and if the films continue with this style I’m certainly satisfied. The music is a bit more of a miss though. It’s trying to go for some kind of pop/scary theme and you can’t really pull both off at the same time. It’s an admirable attempt to be sure, but not one that really works.

As far as pacing goes, the movies have no problem with that. If anything it feels like this movie ends really quickly. By the time we find out the first twist the movie is basically halfway over. Then we get to the second half and it’s done. These movies end so fast that half of the time it’s hard to even pick someone as a suspect because the mystery is all wrapped up. I suppose it feels like that here as well since for most of the movie the gang is trying not to solve anything. If they were actually trying then this would be over very quickly. It’s a complement to the film’s writing though since any time a film ends so quickly that means they did something right. The humor with Shaggy and Scooby may not work too well, but the others are good. Scooby Doo is the kind of movie that will take a good gag and run it into the ground so you do have to be prepared to see the same jokes used a lot. They’re harmless fun though.

The cast is basically the same as you would usually expect. Fred is still the best member as he takes charge and solves all the cases. He does miss the van a lot, but you really can’t blame him for that. The van was a true member of the team and losing a squad mate is never easy. I also do respect the fact that he and the rest of the gang were determined to keep their promise to Shaggy and Scooby. Even when things got tough they didn’t cave. Shaggy and Scooby forgetting about the promise entirely just hurts them even more.

No worries we do get at least one supernatural element in the film. The movie intentionally doesn’t bother finishing this plot so it can just leave it out there. I appreciate having it, but it does basically amount to being a pointless addition in the end. Take this part of the plot away and nothing changes. I wouldn’t say it’s objectively bad to do that because everything within media is subjective, but it’s still an odd choice. You rarely see something like that nowadays.

Overall, Return to Zombie Island can’t beat the original but I don’t think very many of us ever assumed that it would. The first Zombie Island was great because the creatures were real and there was a lot of danger and suspense. You won’t be seeing that in a newer Scooby Doo film because the films go for a much lighter tone nowadays. It’s more comedy than horror while the original tried for a more 50/50 split. I do think it’s interesting how the animation looks worse than the original in many respects but one day we’ll catch up. The animation here is good as I mentioned earlier, it just doesn’t feel quite as detailed and fleshed out. If you haven’t seen this movie yet then you should check it out as long as you’re still a fan of the franchise. It gives you the experience you’d expect. It’s just a fun film and if we’re dipping into nostalgia I’d like to see a crossover with the other continuities in a film someday. Something like Spiderverse for Scooby Doo fans. Now that’d be ambitious and a blast!

Overall 7/10

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Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Hercules Review


It’s time to watch another big Disney classic. This time we are thrown into the world of myths and heroes with Hercules. This is definitely one of the more action packed titles and it holds up quite well to this day. While the songs aren’t quite as memorable as some of the other films, we do get one of the best Disney villains in Hades. The guy has a lot of charisma and steals all of the scenes he is in.

The film starts off with Hercules being born and Zeus has a big party to celebrate this. He invites all of the other gods of course and it’s a perfect day. This changes when Hades shows up and hatches a plan to prevent this. He turns Hercules into a mere mortal and Zeus is forced to banish him to Earth. The only way for Zeus to re-obtain his godhood is to become a true hero by performing many feats. It’s not as easy as saving people though, he has to do something truly heroic for noble reasons. Can Hercules become a god again before Hades conquers both of the worlds.

Lets quickly just talk about some things here that are a bit iffy, but in character when you look at the myths. One thing is how Zeus can’t let Hercules stay once he is mortal. Zeus is the highest ranked god in this universe right? Why does he have to obey a law when he is the one making them? Most people who create laws rarely end up following them and Zeus is always shown to be a pretty selfish guy. I guess this one’s just too heroic for that, but it’s still a bit iffy. He’s also super oblivious like how he didn’t notice that Hades tried to stab baby Hercules. How he didn’t realize that Hades would be a bit upset after being banished to the Underworld is also interesting. I do like Zeus a lot to be fair. He’s just a lot of fun which is rare for most portrayals of his character. That being said, he’s not very smart of strong. In the climax he looks pretty terrible to be honest.

I also have to question how there is a potion that can take away your godhood so easily. Can’t Hades just trick the other gods into drinking it too and then he would rule the world? If the film mentioned that it only worked because Hercules is half human then I’ll have to retract this issue. Both of these are extremely minor observations that don’t effect my enjoyment of the film or the score, but were worth noting. I was definitely thinking about this as I watched the film.

Hercules is definitely a good lead. He reminds me of early Superman when he would work on the farm using his super abilities. Hercules doesn’t have a secret identity to worry about so he just works hard and does his best at all times. The townspeople are annoyed by him which is unfortunate. While Hercules can be a bit sloppy, he really seems like an earnest chap. He does fall for Megara pretty easily and doesn’t listen to Phil as much as he should, but all in all Hercules can easily hold his own film. He already seems more powerful than most of the gods which is also quite impressive.

Phil was always fun in the Kingdom Heart games and is good here as well. He definitely flirts a lot though so I have to doubt his concentration as a coach, but once he actually gets his hat on straight then he’s ready to work. He probably could have done a better job of explaining to Hercules what was up though. As for Megara, she’s a tough heroine. Megara is the kind of character who always tries to get the last word in and is pretty jaded on romance in general. This does result in what I would say was a pretty quick 180 with Hercules but I suppose he is basically a god so I imagine he was impressive in person. I do think it would have been a good dynamic to have had them stay friends though.

As mentioned earlier Hades is definitely the big character here. He is proactive compared to the rest of the gods and characters. While they sit back and eat he is always planning. His plan was pretty much fool proof and while his lackeys aren’t too helpful (They don’t really add to the film and could have been cut out) Hades is prepared for that as well. He probably should have just hurried a little more near the end so Hercules wouldn’t arrive in time. His abilities aren’t tough enough to actually fight head-on with Hercules and Zeus, but it would have been interesting to have seen him fight a little more. Most of the gods lost effortlessly to the Titans though so those guys got quite a lot of hype.

I did like that in the ending Hercules quickly went to the underworld to save Megara. In any story where the underworld is a place you can visit it feels mandatory that the characters should head on over. Hercules was able to win on his turf so he should at least believe that he can win here as well. That’s the level of determination you need in order to be a good main character. What would have made the ending perfect would have been if Zeus said that Hercules and Megara could both come to their world and they could just go back between Earth and the realm of the gods whenever they pleased. It’s the last the gods could do since they’d be dead otherwise.

The scene with Hades talking to the fates are interesting dialogue-wise but the whole eyeball thing was more gross than creepy. I could have gone without that scene to be honest. As for the songs, we do get some catchy songs from the fates, but none of them quite have the same heart that you would see in Aladdin or Frozen. I already can’t say that I remember the lyrics to any of the songs. They have that classic Disney auto tune (Not auto tune, but a voice modification thing that makes them all sound the same) effect which works well and I’m glad they had these songs as opposed to not having any, but it’s not the strength of the film.

The writing is really where the film shines and the pacing is tight. Then we’ve got the solid animation which is as sharp and colorful as you’ll remember. It holds up to any and all of the other Disney films. We also get some fun fight scenes which is great like Hercules vs the Titan or the first bull creature. I was surprised that Hercules didn’t win his first fight with more ease though. Even if he didn’t know how to fight yet, I figured that his super strength would make any fight an easy win. I guess it’s good that he’s not too OP yet, but then it does make you wonder how strong the gods are. It is reasonable to say that the humans could possibly win a fight with them in a few hundred years once they got gun powder.

Overall, Hercules is a very good movie. It’s definitely the definitive version of the story and I’d be down with Disney making a sequel someday. They’ve been doing a lot of remakes lately but not a bunch of sequels. A crossover of all their 90s classics would also be a blast. That’d be very ambitious, but it would make for an excellent watch. I was long overdue to watch this film and it lived up to the wait. If you haven’t seen this movie yet then I recommend changing that and watching it as soon as possible.

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade Review


The gang is back in another adventure. This time it’s more of a full fledged movie so everyone can really contribute and we have a longer plot. I would give the first film the edge overall, but this is a good follow up. It’s on the same level and while it does have some more weaknesses it doesn’t do anything bad either. Diana also gets to look good here as she performs some really high level spells so I definitely can’t take issue with that.

The annual witch festival is coming up and Atsuko has been put in charge of the ceremony for this year as a punishment. Why is this a punishment? Well, the festival is basically just an excuse for the humans to mock the witches as they torment them with a bunch of games. Atsuko realizes how ludicrous this is and decides to put on a happy festival instead. Tension quickly begins to build between her, Lotte, and Sucy though as Atsuko begins to get a little obsessive. Fortunately she meets up with some other kids in the group who might be new friends to replace the older ones. Atsuko has to tread carefully here. Even if she can get this parade working, can she really repair the relationships between humans and witches?

I have to say that the whole premise further reinforces why Shiny Chariot was really good for the Witches. People actually liked her quite a bit. If anything the fact that witches didn’t like her probably just made the various relationships a whole lot worse. The school is partially to blame here for allowing such a parade though. From the screens they showed of the previous years it was totally at the witches expense. That’s not a good way to run such a big event, especially in front of impressionable kids.

This special does introduce some more concepts such as the fact that the witches are basically powerless away from their energy source at the castle. This is a bit alarming as they can barely even take on a bunch of school kids without their powers. I know this isn’t an action series so they don’t have to worry about invasions or anything, but I do think this weakness is a bit extreme. Hopefully as they grow older they will be able to store larger amounts of magic power to at least be able to defend themselves with. Otherwise it’s definitely going to be a rough road for the witches.

The two annoying parts of the film are Lotte and the kids. There’s a subplot where the kids represent the rest of the humans in how they don’t like the witches. They steal the power source and engage the witches in a fight near the beginning. The kids are just very annoying. Sure, they’re young so they don’t totally know what they’re doing, but it’s still painful to watch since the heroes can’t do much about it. How can you attack a kid right? By the end they end up helping out, but the problem was because of them in the first place so I can’t give them too many brownie points for that.

Then we have Lotte who is pretty unlikable here. She has valid reason to be upset with Atsuko for breaking her music book, but beyond that she just wasn’t very co-operative throughout the adventure. This was a pretty big deal for the lead so I think Lotte should have been more amiable. Susy took things a lot better and ultimately works as a person in the middle to get the others talking again. Atsuko is still quite solid even if she did let the festival get to her during different parts of the film. Fortunately Diana was there to give a pep talk. While Diana doesn’t get as much combat here, she still shows her expertise during different parts of the film. Easily the best character like last time. As I mentioned we did get a few new kids. The main important one is Amanda who is a solid addition. While she isn’t as much of a prodigy as Diana, she has skills of her own. She actually does stick by Atsuko’s side the whole time which is great and is quick to help out in the fight with the kids. She did the best in that battle for sure.

The animation is definitely pretty sharp as with last time. I’m not sure if I’d say it’s better but it’s at least on the same level. There aren’t any real action scenes beyond the climax, but the energy effects still look good. There’s still not much of a soundtrack. I don’t know how long the gap was between this film and the first, but it does a good job of feeling like it took place pretty quickly afterwards. If you watch both films back to back they look almost identical which was probably nostalgic depending on how much later it was.

Like with the first film, the real strength here is in how likable the characters are and the fun setting. There’s a reason why school films and shows are so popular. It’s just a fun setting for the characters to interact and to quickly throw in a lot of fun scenarios. Something as simple as planning out a parade can easily be a full movie plot whether or not the main characters have super powers or not. At this point it’s hard to tell exactly what kind of movie series this is trying to be. A school days type plot or more of a fantasy adventure. Perhaps it will change from adventure to adventure but so long as the writing stays strong I don’t imagine it will falter at all.

Overall, The Enchanted Parade is a good follow-up to the original. It’s nice to have a feature length film for the gang. In order to get that film experience the film added more characters and a longer plot, but I don’t think all of it was necessary. Cutting out the kids would have gone a good way, but I think it would have been even cooler if the film had higher stakes like the original one. Having the witches go on a field trip somewhere would be a pretty cool plot. Regardless, I’d recommend checking this one out. If you have to choose a side, I recommend picking team Witch.

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Little Witch Academia Review


It’s time to look at the fairly well known Little Witch Academia special. I remember seeing this one mentioned online a lot and always wondered if it was made as some kind of rival to My Hero Academia. The timing was just coincidental I’m thinking though because the two aren’t very similar at all. It’s a pretty fun fantasy story and feels like like Spirited Away or the other big anime films that can also make it as a Pixar type film. It’s a good movie that can appeal to just about anyone. It introduces the characters right away and gives us a good debut adventure.

The story starts by introducing us to Shiny Chariot. She is pretty well known to the humans and serves as a shining example to how Witches are. Atsuko has always wanted to be a witch and thanks to Chariot’s grand display Atsuko reaffirms her wish to join the school. She has now made it and must aim to do well in her classes. It’ll be difficult as she didn’t grow up with magic the way that most of the others did. She is a quick study though and makes it to the team phase with two other girls named Lotte and Sucy. The 3 of them must climb a tower and find some items in a scavenger hunt, but when a dragon shows up the danger becomes very real.

You’ll get some Harry Potter and RWBY vibes here as well. It’s an all girls school since it’s for witches so that part is like RWBY (Yes, there are some guys in RWBY, but rarely are they important) but it’s less action based and more of an adventure/fantasy like Potter. The characters even have wands and such to use their spells. I think starting off with this tower exploration was the right move since it feels like a video game mission and lets the characters interact with each other in a fun environment. Now lets take a look at the cast.

Atsuko is our lead and she’s a good main character. Her determination and youthful energy are what you would expect upon seeing her and she does not disappoint. Wherever there is action you’ll find her at the center. Atsuko isn’t irresponsible though and stays determined even when the others don’t take her seriously. None of the other characters like Shiny Chariot, but Atsuko doesn’t take it too hard. Then she comes in clutch during the climax with the legendary scepter weapon and manages to save the day. I definitely look forward to seeing more of her. Her teammates Lotte and Sucy are less impressive. Sucy’s fine, she’s fairly aloof and doesn’t talk all that much. It’s hard to get much of a gauge on her character beyond that but her spells are quite potent. I can easily see her being the secret weapon on the team. Lotte is more of a book worm and fairly timid. She’s not my kind of character but I wouldn’t say that she is bad.

Shiny Chariot is the legendary witch that humans like, but ironically witches don’t. She seems nice enough so I have to disagree with the witches here. They don’t like her theatrics, but as we learn in the next movie, humans and witches don’t get along very well. Isn’t it good that she is bridging the gap? While it’s not outright stated, it’s heavily implied that she was forced into early retirement and now works as a teacher in the school. Her teacher persona is basically like Clark Kent. She can’t act very tough in this one, but it works well enough since it isn’t the real her. I do hope we get to see Chariot fight again soon though.

Finally we have Diana who is the rival character in the series. She is a prodigy and typically can master any spell with ease. The tower is pretty much a cakewalk for her. What I like about Diana is that she’s portrayed as a tough character, but she never becomes petty. A lot of times the bullies will show up to make fun of the main character for no real reason and quickly get jealous. Here Diana does get into it with Atsuko, but only in passing and it never becomes a priority. Diana isn’t suddenly switching life goals just because Atsuko is here. She also does her best to help against the dragon at the end. Diana is easily my favorite character and I look forward to seeing her return. She’s definitely a dependable ally that you can count on to always see the bigger picture.

The animation definitely looks really good. There aren’t a lot of flashy scenes to really let the animators show off, but the make the most of each moment. The opening scene with the monster and Chariot looks good and likewise for the climax. The rest of the film is smooth as well. You definitely can’t take away any points on this one. The soundtrack is fairly standard so that part doesn’t really stand out. What you’re really here for is the quality writing and pacing which is on point. The characters are all pretty realistic and the film doesn’t have any real negatives. It’s just a pleasant experience and one that will have a lot of replay value.

Overall, Little Witch Academia is a title that I would recommend. It’s pretty short as it skirts the line between a mini movie and an episode, but it does a good job of setting up the universe and characters right away. By the end of the film you’ll have a good understanding of the world and what’s going on. I’ve already seen the next film so I’ll have a review up for that one as well pretty soon. So stay tuned since the Little Witch adventures are not over yet.

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Reign of the Supermen Review


It’s time to look at a pretty recent Superman film. This one is the follow up to the big battle with Doomsday that came out a while back. It’s a solid follow up that doesn’t quite match the action and intensity of the earlier film, but does give Superman’s supporting cast more of a role. If the last film was an end of the world type event then this film is the quick breather before things get back to end of the world stakes.

The film starts off by introducing us to the Supermen who have arrived to take over for Superman. One of these guys is Superboy who was created by Lex to show the world that the new Superman is under his leadership. He is fairly strong, but definitely has an ego and doesn’t seem ultra heroic. Then you’ve got Steel who doesn’t have any fancy super powers, but he does have his hammer which is pretty sturdy. You’ve got the Eradicator who is the most merciless of the Supermen and has made it his life
s goal to destroy all of the criminals. Even if the law doesn’t recognize someone as a criminal like Lex Luthor the Eradicator will try to take him down. Finally you’ve got the Cyborg Superman who claims to be the real one. He definitely seems the most compassionate of the 4 and the most powerful as well, but is it too good to be true? Lois must get to the bottom of this and get some closure on the status of Superman.

I’m less familiar with this follow up arc compared to the Doomsday one, but the film seems like a good take on it. Definitely more of a loose adaption since it’s putting this one in the New 52 continuity along with the Justice League. I miss the Blue and Red Supermen since I think they were in the original arc, but it is possible that they came in a little after. Either way, the important thing isn’t so much the adaption, but just how it stands up on its own.

First off the animation is still really good. I like the New 52 style animation, it’s actually decently close to how DC used to look at its peak. It may not be the DCAU, but it’s one of the next best things. It works well for the action scenes as well as the general landscape around the fights. Then the soundtrack is decent although not really memorable. The sounds and such work well during the film which is what counts.

From the 4 Supermen my favorite is still Cyborg Superman. He’s always been one of the better Superman characters so it’s nice to see him here. He may not be one of the most popular Superman villains, but he is still known well enough where people will probably be able to see through him pretty quick. His character arc goes down a pretty different path here as he actually works for someone which is a bit out of character. He does rectify this by the end which is good though. Then we have the Eradicator who is the next best member of the Supermen. It’s pretty interesting to see a Suprman who uses energy blasts instead of his fists. There’s a twist about his identity which works pretty well. It also makes him very versatile since he can really go anywhere.

Superboy is fun enough. He feels like the B grade version of Damian though. He is super confident, but tends to lose the fights he is in. It’s not his fault that he happens to be in a film with guys who are way stronger than him, but you would think that it would tone down his confidence a bit. He also has one critical moment where he just abandons someone to die as well. As I said, he’s just not very heroic. I think he’ll only get better from here on out though. Then you’ve got Steel who is the most out of his league here. He’s got a hammer, but what’s that gonna do against people who are as strong as Kryptonians? They can just shatter the hammer with ease. Steel means well though and he’s definitely a nice guy. He always gives me flashbacks of the old Steel film. I’m sure he’ll continue to be a useful ally as the films go on.

I do think that including the Justice League and the Darkseid plot was a bit of a mistake though. The main issue is that it brings in a lot of extra power level situations that aren’t actually needed here. One big question you’ll have is where are the League and what are they doing about the Superman situation. Well..not much of anything. Wonder Woman mentions that they’re stretched thin and then later on when they show up to help the President none of them actually want to go talk to Cyborg Superman. The way that they are written out of the film is also on the lazy side. You won’t actually be able to buy the scene for a second, not as long as someone like the Flash is there. This subplot does lead into the after credits scene which will likely be one of the best of the new line of DC titles. It still could have happened without the League actually appearing though. Just have the Cyborg Superman plot twist happen at the very end as he’s being defeated which leads to the cliffhanger. Darkseid and the gang are hype, but you know there’s no time for a proper round 2 anyway, that needs its own film.

The writing here is pretty solid. You’ve got an interesting plot that, while it may not have a whole lot of replay value thanks to the minimal amount of fights, makes for a good watch. It’s a fresh story so you’re ready to see where it leads you. The pacing here is good and it’s always interesting to see a world without Superman. The only scene that does drag on quite a bit is when Lois meets up with Wonder Woman. It seemed like a homage to one comic where they met up, but the dialogue was a lot stronger there. This scene mainly feels like it’s trying to buy time and it didn’t seem like it really set anything up either. Good to see that WW and Lois get along, but you could have probably guessed that anyway. I think if that had led up to a cool team up as they infiltrate LexCorp or something then that would be hype. Lois also has to use her charms to try and get some info at LexCorp so in general her plot was definitely one of the weak links here.

The best scenes are all when the Supermen are around and picking fights with each other. I haven’t mentioned Superman himself much yet, but he’s solid as always. He’s not really at full power here or even close to it so you don’t get to see him really taking it to anyone this time around. No worries, I’m sure he’ll get a lot of cool fight scenes in future movies as it is.

Overall, Reign of the Supermen is a fun concept and makes for a solid movie. It won’t go down as one of the more memorable DC titles, but there’s nothing really wrong with it either. It’s more of a low stakes film that focuses on the character development side of things. As Superman hasn’t gotten quite as much time in his Clark Kent form in this continuity I’m sure fans will like seeing how everyone reacts to him being gone. With this film done I’m pretty close to being caught up with the DC titles. Hopefully we get another Superman or Justice League film soon, but in the meanwhile the Wonder Woman one looks like it should be solid and Batman Hush always had an interesting plot.

Overall 7/10

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My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Sunset’s Backstage Pass Review


It’s time to look at the next big Equestria Girls special. This time Sunset takes center stage once more as she tries to enjoy a show despite Pinkie Pie’s best attempts to sabotage the whole thing. Sunset’s a very crafty character though so she definitely has some plans on how to stay ahead this time around. It’s a pretty nice homage to Groundhog Day which makes for a fun plot.

So the special starts off with Sunset and the gang waiting for the event to start. Sunset is hyped and the others are glad to be here even if they aren’t really planning on checking out the show. Only Pinkie Pie also wants to go, but she chooses Churros over everything else and a series of wacky circumstances causes Sunset to miss out. She wishes that she could try again and her wish comes true. Now she has a chance to go to the event. The problem is that the day continues to reset every night so now Sunset has to try and get out of the time loop, but is that even possible?

You definitely feel pretty bad for Sunset here since she is trying her best to accomplish her goals, but Pinkie Pie is here to stop her best attempts at every turn. That’s not the kind of friend that you want to have at your corner. You can maybe make the argument that Pinkie Pie doesn’t know better at first, but in some of the attempts Sunset really tries to explain to Pinkie Pie why she doesn’t want anything to go wrong and Pinkie doesn’t care. She even leaves Sunset alone to fight the villains while she grabs her Churros later on. It’s clear that Pinkie has got her priorities in a pretty iffy order here. She’s really a bad character in this special. Pinkie Pie has always been one of my least favorites as the series went on and she became more annoying than quirky, but this special probably takes the cake.

The rest of the Mane 6 don’t get to do a whole lot. When push comes to shove they do take Pinkie’s side over Sunset’s which is understandable since they are closer friends, but they aren’t particularly useful in this adventure. Twilight in particular may be disappointing for fans because she just restates the obvious and barely even tries to help Sunset. Sunset is truly on her own in this one, but she does a good job all things considered. She continues to learn more each time the day is started over and tries many different ways to get out. Her idea of being nice to Pinkie Pie in one timeline was good even if that surprisingly wasn’t the way out. Then she tracked down the villains who were red herrings.

Make no mistake, there are some villains in this special, but the old ones aren’t actually behind this latest series of events. They are really just around to sing songs and try to make a career. That doesn’t leave too many suspects, but I suppose I still won’t say who the villains are just in case. I didn’t mind the actual villains. They were pretty reasonable even if they didn’t get a lot of screen time. Their goals are a little weaker than the previous antagonists, but I still wouldn’t say they were terrible or anything. At the end of the day the still did manage to go pretty far.

As always the animation isn’t bad. It’s definitely not really my style, but it’s all pretty clear so you always know what is going on. That’s a good thing. There aren’t any real action scenes to test the animators this time, but you can’t win em all. Surprisingly we didn’t get a lot of songs this time. In fact, the mane 6 didn’t get to sing so it was up to the supporting characters this time. The song was actually fairly catchy though. I don’t think you’ll really remember it for very long, but just having a song can definitely go a long way.

As always there is a moral here, but how effective it is will depend on how you tolerate Pinkie Pie. The message is that even if you have to miss an event, being able to hang out with your friends is more important. That’s certainly true, but there’s also a reason why they say you never take a close friend to your favorite cafe. You want to keep your spot separate in case things don’t go well. So since Sunset was really looking forward to the play it may have been safer to go by herself, but these guys usually do everything together so it makes sense to go with Pinkie and the others. I just think that Pinkie should have been a lot more considerate all things considered.

The writing is strong and the pacing is good. I do think this special threw more twists and turns at you than some of the previous ones. At around 25 minutes in Sunset realized that her whole theory was wrong and the characters had to do some backtracking. The kept evolving with their theories and wasn’t very linear which is good. You’ll definitely be engaged with what’s going on and while it’s played for humor, you can also feel Sunset getting more and more desperate since literally re-living an entire day is definitely rough. She was here for weeks which would drive anyone crazy. Sunset managed to keep it together, but I’m sure she’ll be a lot more careful about what she wishes for going forward.

Overall, Sunset’s Backstage Pass is a fun special. It definitely delivers on the usual MLP qualities you would expect here. The characters are nice enough and it’s just a pleasant plot that you could really show anyone. It may not be ground breaking or one of the all time greats for MLP, but it was solid and a pretty good way to end the Equestria Girl movies. Of course I do hope they keep the brand going though. You never want to see something just end like that. If you haven’t checked this one out yet then I’d recommend changing that.

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

One Piece Strong World Review


This has definitely been a movie that’s been on the backburner for quite a while. Strong World is known as one of the better One Piece films or at least when it came out it was known as such. After that we got some heavy hitters like Z and Gold which have also forged a name for themselves. Strong World is definitely a fun film but definitely a step under Gold and I get the feeling that Z will win. It’s a good all around adventure, but does have some issues.

The film starts off with the Strawhats scattered once again amidst a bunch of flying islands. We then see that Nami has been captured by the pirate known as Shiki, the strongest man in the world. Luffy and friends will have to hurry if they want to save her and after this we also learn how she was captured in the first place. Shiki has amassed a large pirate army and many other crews have also gathered to help him wipe out the East Blue. The stakes are high and continue to escalate as the terror approaches the home of the Strawhats.

Shiki is definitely established as a powerful villain here since he is untouchable for most of the heroes and even Luffy has to play defense for most of their encounters. The film makes it very clear that Shiki is stronger than Luffy. In a straight fight the hero just has no shot to win here. While not unheard of, it is still rare to see Luffy losing like this. He takes quite a lot of hits throughout the film. Shiki’s ability is to manipulate gravity and that helps him enhance his speed and power as well. Shiki is definitely a powerful enemy, but I can’t say that I cared for him.

He’s super quirky to the point where it is hard to keep thinking of him as a threat. He panics with his subordinates quite a bit after all and has a very short memory span. Nami manages to escape from him several times as well so you do have to doubt his security measures. Being good in a fight is not enough to make you a great enemy. His two lieutenants also aren’t all that good. One is basically King Kong and the other one is decent with a sword, but too busy trying to keep up charades to actually remain as a threat.

As expected the animation is quite good. Surprisingly the film doesn’t lead off with the big high budget scene. Typically the films love to show the environment and the animation in the first shots like in all of the Pokemon films. For the One Piece film it starts off with a Shiki scene first and then cuts away to Luffy which is where the animation goes way up. The visuals for the jungles are definitely quite solid and the whole thing is very smooth. This is one area where it can definitely hold its own against the newer titles.

I also really liked the soundtrack. The tunes are a lot more fun than what is in the actual show. It’s going for a very “nature-esque” array of themes which makes sense since Luffy is in the jungle the whole time. It’s all very fast paced and high energy. The film definitely went all in on a technical level.

So where does the film falter? Well, it does have a fanservice issue. To an extent we can always expect that with One Piece with Nami around, but Gold for example did a good job of restraining itself. Maybe a tiny moment here and there, but Strong World just keeps it coming for quite a bit. It’s enough where it is noticeable. As mentioned, the villains are also a little on the weak side. The ones in Gold had a lot more character. Brook also still exists and so naturally most of his dialogue is terrible.

It is also a bit iffy to see Luffy and the others get wrecked so badly, but that I can roll with since you can’t ask for the strongest villain to fight and then be upset when he clobbers the heroes. At least Luffy and the others put up a fight although Luffy should have gone into Gear 2 as soon as Shiki went after Nami. There’s no real reason to hold back when lives are at stake right? Zoro and Sanji are definitely shown to be out of their league this time, but they do get to contribute a little at least. The scene of the whole team trying to fight Shiki was cool because they almost never get to fight an enemy like that. The only time I can think of off the top of my head is when they all fought Aokji. I love group fights like that and for One Piece I feel like that may never happen again, but the series has a ways to go so hopefully they do get to do that. In the meanwhile the movies help with this since it’s a lot easier to have the whole group assemble here.

A standout character was actually a thunder bird named Billy. At first you expect he’ll just be a fun animal mascot to aid Nami, but the guy can fight. He takes out a ton of giant monsters and without him Luffy wouldn’t have stood a chance against Shiki. Billy’s the kind of movie character you want to have. He doesn’t steal moments from the main cast, but does assist a lot so he doesn’t feel like a filler character either. The guy just wants to help his friends out and you can’t go wrong there.

One key part that the film does right is keeping the adventure very fast paced like all good fantasy films should. There’s rarely a time where the film really slows down so there is a lot of replay value. I may not call this film great, but I did have a fun time and there’s a lot to like here. It’s just a good popcorn fun adventure where you get to see all of the characters unleash their signature abilities and take down some villains. It’s a little contrived that both Sanji and Zoro’s opponents escaped only to have to fight them again though. I’m thinking they wanted to include their second intros, but you do have to wonder how the villains would have escaped in the first place.

Overall, Strong World is definitely a fun film that I’d recommend. Whether you’re a fan of the series or not you’ll definitely enjoy it. There are enough recap nods and such to ensure that even people unfamiliar with the series can get into it. I thought the opening showing off all the members of the crew was handled really well. They all get the name bumpers and a quick scene so you can see what they can do. Nami is the last to be shown, but I think you’ll still be able to tell that Luffy is the main character since his segment is the longest and he just feels like your classic Shonen lead. I’ve always loved character intros like this so One Piece really nailed it here. I look forward to seeing what the next film is like.

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review


It’s time to look at a crossover that came out pretty recently. I never read the comic although it always looked pretty cool. The film seems to be a pretty straight adaption which is nice and it’s definitely a story that holds up well. I’d consider this to be one of the stronger recent DC films and I’d definitely be up for a sequel since there is a bit of a cliffhanger at the end.

The film starts off with a group of FOOT soldiers showing up in Gotham and stealing some kind of experimental tech. Batman decides to look into it and the next target is determined to be Wayne Tech. He prevents them from stealing the device, but is ultimately defeated by their leader, The Shredder. Batman now needs to figure out how to stop this threat and believes there may be a connection with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They’d better give him some details or he’ll be taking them down.

With a crossover you always want a definitive victor and the film did a good job with that. Batman does fight the 4 turtles and he pretty easily takes them down. The fight is also very early on in the film which I think was a good idea. I like build up for a film as well but I feel like this outcome was pretty obvious from the start (no shade to the turtles) so this just made sense. Batman and Shredder also have a fight with an actual outcome which was cool. I definitely won’t say who won of course, but it was a really solid fight and there were no cop outs. I can’t say I agree with the outcome necessarily but I can respect it. It’s a pretty close fight either way and as a crossover it’s nice to see them battle since they’re both considered to be in the top% of hand to hand fighters in their respective universes.

The animation will take a little time to get used to I’d say. The character designs are a bit off and it’s definitely a step down from the mainstream DC films. Still, it’s probably this way to look more like the comic. Donatello is a little too slim but the others are mostly on point. I’d say that Leonardo definitely had the best design from the 4. The fight scenes don’t suffer from this as the characters just get right into the thick of the action and the fight scenes are nice and extended. There is time for both combatants to really get in on the action. Batman’s fight with the Shredder round 1 is the best part of the movie without a doubt.

This film has pretty solid writing to back it up as well. There isn’t really a weak point here and that’s important. At worst you can say that the breaking into Arkham for the 100th time was a bit old by this point. I wouldn’t have minded sticking to the main plot, but that probably would have made the film a little too short. The scene of Batman deciding that the turtles were getting in his way was also a little forced for drama I’d say. Still, these are extremely minor things.

Batman’s definitely the best character in the movie. He really gets to make the most of his experience and hand to hand combat skills. He may not trust the others much, but at the end of the day he’ll make the right call. Sadly this is one of Damian’s weaker appearances. He just isn’t nearly as skilled as he usually is and only puts up a fight against the Turtles in a bit of a comic relief battle. I feel like in a serious fight he should be able to beat them like Batman. Batgirl doesn’t get a huge role, but she is around for the Arkham battles and helps out. She gets to show off her intellect a lot here.

From the Turtle side, Leonardo’s the best one. He gets a lot of action and is certainly shown to be the most skilled of the turtles. He is always the one to help the heroes make a comeback and also manages to keep his emotions in check when it looks like it is curtains for the others. Raphael also looks reasonably good here. He definitely doesn’t get to have any real wins compared to Leonardo, but he is quick to get in on the action. Donatello and Michelangelo definitely can’t compete. Donatello at least has the planning on his side but Michelangelo is mainly just here for the gags. The comic relief character is usually doomed to be one of the weaker ones in the film.

For the villains, Shredder definitely looked good. It’s always nice to see him in his more serious incarnations. His armor was also top quality to hold its own against Batman’s. (Although Batman’s spikes were definitely shown to be sharper) I feel like Shredder was on the losing end of the bargain though since he has to trust Ra’s to keep his end of the bargain. Way I see it, you should never finish your part of the plan before the other guy has a chance to start his. Then there’s no incentive for the other guy to do his part. Meanwhile Ra’s definitely looks good. I don’t think this plan was his most brilliant one, but he does a good job of making sure it succeeds. He also puts in a pretty good fight which is to be expected since he’s a premiere fighter as well.

There are other sub villains, but they don’t get a huge role. Most of the Arkham guys aren’t even in their right minds since they took the serum. It was definitely a unique choice for the fights, but I think it would have been even better if they had stayed in their normal designs. The Arkham stuff was probably the weakest part of the film compared to the other acts, but at the end of the day it was basically nonstop fight scenes so it was still pretty solid. You can’t go wrong with a good action scene. Naturally the film does get a little violent at times, but it’s never nearly as excessive as some of DC’s other titles. A few people get sliced and diced but that’s basically the extent of it.

Overall, Batman vs the Ninja Turtles is a great film. There’s a lot of action here and a steady amount of good dialogue. I was definitely on Team Batman all the way, but the turtles make for good sidekicks. If you haven’t seen this film yet then I’d recommend checking it out. It’s always nice to have more crossovers get animated and this was a great pick. I’m hoping we get more such titles at some point. Maybe we can finally get the Superman vs He Man movie at some point.

Overall 8/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

My Little Pony: Rainbow Roadtrip Review


It’s time for the latest look at the MLP series. This special throws in the movie type animation which is a nice twist. It’s a good way to keep the fans satisfied as we await the rest of the final season. It’s a pretty fun special that gives each of the main characters a nice role while reminding us that there is always time for friendship. I would have liked a good fight scene though.

The special starts with the Mane 6 getting ready to leave Ponyville as they have been invited to a Rainbow event and Dash will be the guest of honor. However, when the heroes arrive at this town everything appears to be off. None of the events are as advertised and nobody wants to talk to them. The town has had its color drained away and have lost their happiness. Twilight and the others decide to introduce friendship to this town as they get this festival going. Can they really bring the color back!?

The special is definitely pretty solid so I’ll address the only weak point right off the bat. From the premise you are initially expecting some kind of villain here. After all, it’s not like the color left on its own right? Unfortunately the special does not take that route. There are no action scenes in this special nor is there a real villain. Sure, this series isn’t really about that but throwing in a villain would have been great even if she would have been doomed to turn good by the end. In a lot of ways this special feels like a redo of the Starlight Glimmer episode only without a lot of the best parts. Of course this doesn’t really hurt the score since it’s more of a “what if” than anything else, but it would have been pretty cool to have gotten a little more intensity in here.

All of the Mane 6 look pretty good. I’d say that Applejack and Rainbow Dash were the most dependable members of the crew though. Applejack really got the townsfolk to believe in themselves while Rainbow Dash inspired confidence in her fan club. They actively helped bring the color back into the town which was important. They also took the situation in stride pretty well. Twilight Sparkle tried using her science to secure a win here, but at the end of the day this task proved a little too difficult for her on her own. Together with the others she was ultimately able to succeed though.

Pinkie Pie probably looks the worst from the main characters though. She was almost mean with how she was knocking the old couple’s apricot pies. She has to realize that part of the problem here is that without being able to see color the apricots are all going to look the same. Then you’ve also got the issue with the neighbor being the only one with the good fruits. The resolution here is definitely a little on the cheesy side. It’s a decent subplot, but one where Pinkie Pie didn’t help quite as much as she could have.

Rainbow’s subplot is pretty good. The kids definitely mean well and did a good job of making the unofficial fanclub. It’s really one of the only parts of the town that was actually real even if they were short on members. The main plot involves one of the ponies blaming himself for what happened. I can see why though since he really did mess up here. There is a twist about this though so it’s not 100% his fault. He really just needed more confidence in general.

As I mentioned the animation is definitely pretty good here. The character models are on point and in general this style just makes every pony feel a lot more authentic. This style just fills out the characters a lot better than the old flash style could. Meanwhile we do get a big song at the end which is good. I wouldn’t say that it’s one of the strongest songs in MLP or anything like that but it’s always good to have a song regardless.

There isn’t much to say about the special in general because the whole thing is pretty straight forward, but it’s good at what it does. The writing is on point so even if the whole situation seems rather mild it makes for a pretty interesting special. You’ll definitely be on board right away and there’s no part of the special that drags on which is always important. It’s just a fun experience even if it may not leave much of an impression after you’ve finished it.

Overall, Rainbow Roadtrip is definitely a special that I would recommend to all big MLP fans. It definitely feels like one of the old episodes where you didn’t have to worry about supporting characters so the original 6 get all of the screen time. As good as the supporting characters are, it’s always good to be able to focus on the originals once in a while. There’s nothing to really dislike about the special and I hope to see more like this one in the future.

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Review


It’s time to look at the follow up to the original Lego Movie. That one was a pretty big hit and did a good job of being a big Warner Bros crossover. It was a good blend of action and comedy and brought the lego genre over to the general public. Unfortunately this sequel missed the mark on just about everything that made the first film so good. The biggest problem here though is that the film insists on making the human characters a bigger part of the experience and I don’t think this was a good move.

The heroes saved the universe last time, but the world is invaded by new creatures. I’ll quickly mention here that it was neat how quickly these guys attacked. It’s almost like the second Mortal Kombat film in that respect as they really waste absolutely no time. The heroes get wrecked and we get a 5 year timeskip. The Justice League left a while back to put a stop to these guys but they were never seen again. The invaders seem to be after colorful objects so the heroes removed all of them and now live in a very grim apocalyptic world. They’ve all adapted to these tough times except for Emmett. He still wants everyone to be happy but as a result his new house brings the invaders back. They break in and steal the 5 strongest heroes. Emmett must now man up and try to save them along with the help of the mysterious Rex. Can they do it?

Lets jump right into the human part of the movie. The big problem with throwing them into the mix is how it takes away from the actual movie. It worked a bit as a twist in the first movie, but this one should have just ignored the human aspect. Whenever the humans appear the film acknowledges this by showing us how everything happening in the fictional world is just pretend. Even the villain references this quite a lot about how their actions don’t matter since it’s all imagination. The heroes have the ability to slightly move but that’s about it. Also, the human scenes are pretty cringey. Maybe if the owners were adults it would help, but kids? Yeah, that’s not gonna work.

I think that if you’re gonna add human characters then you need to do it like in Toy Story. It works there because it’s acknowledges that the toys actually can move and think. They just pretend to be toys. In these films it’s basically stated that they actually are toys that only have small wills and can’t really do much of anything. It really takes you out of the zone whenever they show up.

If you ignore the humans then it’s still fun enough, but that’s hard to do. Rex makes for a pretty good character here. I dare say that he was probably the best character in the movie. He kept everyone on their toes and did a good job building his space ship and not being afraid of anything. He’s probably one of the only characters here who is actually prepared for an invasion. Even Batman wasn’t quite able to match this guy here. Batman gets his good share of scenes, but then towards the end there’s a bit of a marriage plot that doesn’t help his case. That whole plot….was not very good. I preferred the invasion dynamic. Of course the team-up is inevitable once you see the human plot, but it’s one that we really didn’t need.

Emmett is decent although I dare say he was better in the first film. Like all of the characters say here, the guy just hasn’t adjusted while everyone else has. While he is still a nice guy, those qualities that helped them in the first film are actually holding them back in this one. Every time there is a tense scene he quickly does something with comic relief to try and defuse the tension. It’s likely because he isn’t ready for this level of drama but after a point you want the heroes to put him on the bench so the real fighters can get in on the action.

Wyldstyle looks good as always though. When the first wave showed up she is one of the only ones who is able to put up a fight. She’s still got good fighting moves even if there are less opportunities to show them here. She’s definitely the best hero on the team. From the villains the best member was definitely Mayhem. She can also fight and definitely does a good job of infiltrating the hero base. If the villains had even one more fighter like her then the heroes would have definitely been doomed from the start.

As for the animation, it’s Lego style which still isn’t really my thing. That being said, I do feel like the animation here wasn’t quite as good as in the first film. This one feels more “normal” like any average TV special. The first one went all in with the action scenes and visuals. It could be in part due to the fact that there are less colorful backdrops here though or maybe that there’s less action and more comedy instead so the animators can’t show off. Regardless that part isn’t one of its strengths. The soundtrack is decent. We get a new rendition of Everything is Awesome although it’s not quite as good. I was surprised that the film didn’t opt to go for a whole new song instead but nothing wrong with throwing in a good remix.

One thing I’d like to have seen more here is the heroes manipulating the lego pieces to turn them into vehicles and weapons. That’s always been a pretty cool visual in the Lego films and the first one used it quite a bit. When you can turn anything into a weapon it really makes you a fighter to be feared. Emmett did try this near the beginning when he made a robot suit and while it wasn’t effective, I’d like to see him and the others do more of that. The final battle could have really been a battle of builders if the film had gone that route. It’s definitely the best way to handle the Lego visuals.

Overall, The Lego Movie 2 feels like one of those sequels that was slapped together for no real reason. It doesn’t really do anything original and instead just feels like a much weaker version of the first Lego movie. I think it should have had more screen time from Batman and I dare say that it should have had more fights with the invaders. There are some pretty neat themes here like time travel, but it’s not quite as big a factor as you would expect. I also liked the fake out for the film ending. It had been long enough where if you didn’t know your tropes you may have actually believed it for a second so that was cool, but does lead into the next part. The film’s pretty long and parts of it tend to drag on by the end. If you saw the first film then I suppose you should watch this one so you can say that you saw the full saga, but otherwise you should just stick to the first film. Still, it’s not as if it’s the weakest of the Lego films. There are still enough moments where you will have fun here. Hopefully we do get a proper end to the trilogy at some point though.

Overall 6/10