My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Friendship Games

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The Equestria Girls series is one franchise that’s reception has definitely improved overtime. Looking back, I remember when people thought it was some kind of cruel joke, taking the beloved characters from the highly successful television series, removing them from their enchanted and immensely interesting world of Equestria, and placing them in a high school setting for their first feature film seemed like a real slap in the face from Hasbro. I’ll admit it though, I saw the first two Equestria girls movies in the theatre, and I liked them. I wasn’t over the moon about them or anything, and they certainly didn’t win me over as much as the TV show did, but I thought they were fun, cute little films that had way more effort put into them than films of their type normally get. So If I enjoyed the first two films, I just had to have liked the latest entry, Friendship Games. Right? Uh….well…….here’s the thing……let’s get into the review and I’ll explain.

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One of the best parts about last fall’s Rainbow Rocks was it’s cliffhanger ending, which introduced The human world’s Twilight Sparkle (Let’s call her Sci-Twi cause it’s cute.) I was really curious to see where they were gonna go with this character. She’s pretty much the same as the Twilight Sparkle we know and love, just a little nerdier and a bit more socially awkward. She’s adorable, and one of the few things that I thought the movie gets absolutely right (Until the climax.…) as far as the other characters go, it’s kind of lacking this time around, with the one notable exception being Sunset Shimmer. Girl, you are OWNING these films! Sunset once again carries the whole film with her character arc still being the most interesting to watch. So far, she’s the only My Little Pony villain to be reformed that hasn’t felt forced. It’s a much more natural transition from a one-note bad girl to a more fleshed out character, and she’s still the best and most relatable character the Equestria Girls series has put forth. Surprisingly, and disappointingly, the main 5 (Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Fluttershy) are some of the more forgettable characters this time around, which is surprising. Applejack is given a nice and touching scene where she teaches Sci-Twi how to use a bow and arrow, but the scene only lasts for about a minute, and aside from that moment I can’t really say that the rest of the main 5 do much that’s terribly memorable.

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The Rival School, Crystal Prep Academy, houses a few more interesting Characters, but most of them are still underdeveloped, with most of the students only receiving a few lines of dialogue and not enough screentime. If you were to ask me what their names were, I’d have to double check some of them. (although I will say that Lemon Zest is pretty much the greatest thing ever. And I’m not just saying that because I adore her hair and infectious spunky attitude.) What the film truly lacks is a strong villain. Rainbow Rocks had three fun Villains in the form of the sirens. They weren’t terribly complex, but were still threatening enough and had some terrific songs to accompany them. Friendship Games doesn’t have the Sirens. Instead, we are given Principle Clinch, the leader of the Crystal Prep students.  While her first appearance is fairly effective and moody, the character simply isn’t all that interesting, and I couldn’t help but feel like she was just a less engaging version of Dean Hardscrabble from Monsters University. The film also tries to throw in another villain towards the end of the film, and while I won’t give away who it is, the character’s transformation feels rushed and lacks the impact it should have. (though they do pull off some pretty unique and fun visuals during the film’s climax.)

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The story itself at times can feel oddly convoluted despite the basic premise being relatively thin. I understood it fine, but for a newcomer? This movie really expects you to be familiar with both the show and the previous two films and I can see some new people being a little lost. All that being said, the film still looks really nice. This is the first Equestrian Girls film not to be given a theatrical release and while it feels less cinematic then the previous entires, the film is still bright and colourful and the animation is smooth and refined, resulting in some of the best flash animation you can possibly see. The film’s soundtrack is also, unsurprisingly, utterly brilliant. Composer William Anderson and Songwriter Daniel Ingram return once again and the two conjure up some wonderfully catchy tunes for this film, with both “Unleash the Magic” and “ACADECA” being the two showstoppers of the film.

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Friendship Games is a little more clunky than it’s predecessors. That being said, it’s not a train wreck or anything. It’s not even necessarily disappointing. It’s an Equestria Girls movie, which means It’s got good animation, great music, not so great writing and Characters that vary in quality. I’d say that if you liked the first two films, like these characters and want to see where they go next, by all means, buy it. Heck, even I bought it. The Blu-ray itself comes with a great audio commentary and some interesting special features. But newcomers might want to become more familiar with the first two films first before watching this one.

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

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I was just about ready to call 2015 the year of Artificial Intelligence movies. The genre has been a popping up quite a few more times then usual this year, being showcased with films like Ex Machina, Chappie, Age of Ultron, Tomorrowland and Terminator. As I was in the theater watching Man from U.N.C.L.E. though, I realized that we’ve been treated to just about an equal amount of spy movies as well. 2015’s offered Kingsman and the secret service, Spy, Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the latest James Bond flick, Spectre, will finish us off in November. Which genre won the year? It’s hard to say at the moment. I haven’t seen Kingsman, Spy, or Chappie yet, and Spectre hasn’t even been released yet, but does The Man from U.N.C.L.E. certainly makes a good case for the Spy genre? Let’s see.

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What makes this film stand out among the rest of the spy movies that have come out this year is it’s lighthearted tone and period peace aspect. Based off the classic television series of the same name, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (I’m just gonna call it “Man from Uncle” now.) is fairly effective at capturing it’s 1960’s cold war setting, as well as being a fun and confidently made spy movie in it’s own right. The film’s tone is what makes the film really refreshing. Though I did enjoy this year’s Mission Impossible, it did suffer from taking itself too seriously at times, as well as not feeling all that different from the previous entires. Man from Uncle, on the other hand, totally embraces it’s campy nature through the use of both subtle and in-your-face comedic moments that are sprinkled throughout it’s fairly straightforward story. The story isn’t what carries this movie in particular though. The Man From Uncle earns it’s gold stars from it’s charismatic leads and it’s confident direction from Guy Richie. Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kurkyakin (Armie Hammer) are engaging leads with great chemistry. All the actors do a good job here, but the Cavil and Hammer work off one another so well that I would like to see more films with these characters in the future.

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George Clooney and Tom Cruise were both originally in line to play the part of Napoleon, but George dropped out due to health problems, and Tom decided that he’d rather focus on Mission Impossible 5. Even though I think both actors could’ve done a good job, Henry Cavil really nails the whole classy and suave character that’s often accosiated with spies. (plus, it would’ve been weird seeing Tom Cruise star in two spy-themed films that were released just months apart). I heard that somewhere in the film’s development, Quentin Tarantino was going to direct, and while his take on the film would’ve been interesting to see (there certainly would’ve been waaaay more blood) I still think Guy Richie did a great job in the director’s chair this time around. While it’s a little style over substance He brings his signature style to the film that makes it unmistakably his own film, particularly in the climax. He often combines humor with intense action set pieces, and he makes use of that trademark many times throughout the film with great effect.

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The Man from Uncle kind of got unfairly lost in the shuffle this summer, and that’s really a shame. I thought it was a confidently made and fun throwback to the classic espionage classics of the ‘60s, and as far as summer movies go, this was one of the better ones I saw this year. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about it, nor does it necessarily bring anything new to the genre. But as it stands, I had alot of fun with the film, and consider it to be my favorite Spy movie of the year so far. Now bring on Spectre!!