Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Pony Sunday

Episode of the week: Mystery on the Friendship Express
I didn't like it. It was significantly more childish than every other episode in its season, as if it was aiming at a demographic at least 5 years younger than the actual target audience of the show (and yes, I do mean kids).
It went overboard with silliness to a point where the jokes were no longer amusing. Some of the visual gags had too much unnecessary complexity to them, making the situation too unrealistic to be actually funny. The whole thing just looked like a desperate attempt to entertain a discontented baby.

In my eyes, it failed as a mystery special. The fact that Scooby Doo episodes are pretty much the same length shows that "Mystery on the Friendship Express" (I also think "Mystery on the Canterlot Express" would have been a better title) had all the chances of being a good, elaborate detective story. Instead, the plot was very basic and it just dragged on. The point of any good mystery tale was completely missed - the viewer never got  a chance to make any guesses. The clues were so basic we weren't even shown any until the reveal.

All in all, a disappointing attempt that suffered greatly from a lack of a convincing problem, as well as bad storytelling in general. I think this script would have worked well in G3, which was aimed at much younger children.

Anyway! Moving on...

Community Highlights
Art of the week:
Gummy and Pinkie
Queen Chrysalis
Queen Chrysalis (2)
Wrong turn
Chrysalis The Dark Queen (I've been waiting for this! A rather badass painting closely resembling 40k battle art).

Videos of the Week:
"We are No Pushovers" Hub Promo
Epic Wub Time: Musicians of Ponyville
MAGIC.MOV (not exactly new, but perhaps someone's not seen it yet)

Great scene. Still didn't like the episode.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Life and Times of Juniper Lee: a review

"The Life and Times of Juniper Lee" is an alright show about a girl with super powers who fights monsters. It was somewhat short-lived - ran for 3 seasons with a total of 40 episodes.To me it felt dropped rather than finished.

Series name: "The Life and Times of Juniper Lee"
Foxy's rating: 
Expectations Exceeded? In a certain way, yes
Disappointed: No
Writing: It isn't bad. The stories are reasonably original. The show has its own feel to it, which makes it stand out from other CN cartoons. You'd have to watch it to see what I mean, but it's mostly the character mentality and cast choices that are quite different from what you'd usually expect from Cartoon Network. But... sometimes it comes across as "trying too hard".
Animation: Expressive, dynamic, fun and quite pretty to look at, too. The style works very well. 
Action: Plenty of it! 
Drama: It is a comedy without serious drama here. There's plenty going on and it's all in good fun. But some conflicts seem forced, some witty lines sound as if they've been read from a cue card (cause realistically, who can manage to deliver quick snappy comebacks 100% of the time?). 
Humour: Once again, on trying too hard... the word "butt" is a bit overused. Sometimes they're obviously looking for excuses to make the protagonist look cool. Sometimes they're shamelessly pandering to RPG fans, which isn't a bad thing at all when it's done right. The random monsters that appear all seem to have the same not caring, sarcastic attitude, which gets repetitive - think of the animals from Flintstones .

Worth watching: Give it a try. If you like any of the characters, the show will be more than bearable.

"In a world full of monsters and demons, June is the only one who sees them"  goes the opening theme. And it sounds like a recipe for disaster - you'd kind of expect some boring, repetitive garbage based on Power Rangers, which kind of implies the protagonist might be crazy. But the show is much more decent than that. I especially like its lack of a predictable structure (for example - hero has a normal day at school, monster appears, hero transforms, monster is beaten)

Juniper Lee is the protagonist here. She is the Te Xuan Ze - the keeper of balance between the world of magical creatures and the human world. The monsters exist all around, but they're invisible to humans. They're allowed to simply roam free and get on with their stuff, as long as they don't break any rules. And when they do, June swoops in to "kick butt", as we're constantly told.
June doesn't want to do it. She's inherited the power from her grandmother and so far it's been doing nothing but ruin her social life. And she has to put up with her loud and hyper little brother and a talking Scottish dog, who hates everything. 
Her power is super strength and agility. No transformations, no magic wands. She just fights well. Occasionally she gets to use one magical artifact or another, but that tends to be rare. 
As far as her personality goes, I find June rather likable. She isn't girly, but she isn't trying to prove herself as a tomboy either. She likes video games and plays guitar. 

The best episode:
I'd probably have to say "Magic Takes a Holiday". June's entire class goes to a performing arts camp and Ophelia Ramirez, the goth chick, gets to direct the play they're all in. 

Curious finds:
If you like Ophelia, you should like this plushie.

To sum up, it' is a pretty good show. I like the fact that it's clearly different from all other CN cartoons on many levels. Still, it's more of a "nice" cartoon than a spectacular one, but do feel free to give it a shot.

Juniper, her brother Ray Ray and Monroe the angry pug. I think this image sums up the show pretty well.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Pony Sunday

Well, I haven't done this for a while! My apologies. Since the season has just finished, I will be reviewing the episodes I've missed from latest to earlies in the upcoming weeks.

This Week's Episode:  A Canterlott Wedding
My verdict? It was rather awesome. Not sure if it will be in my top 5, but it's fantastic for what it is. It was very Disney - we got a prince and a princess about to get married and a treacherous villain trying to stop them. A villain with a swarm of evil mindless minions, I might add! There were some heartfelt songs that, I'm sure, were purposely Disneyesque. Especially since we've finally heard an evil character sing, as they tend to do in Disney movies. That's all good.
Now what makes the episode awesome? Spoiler alert, if you haven't seen it! 
The changelings look pretty badass! I thought the queen didn't look all that great in the show's visual style, but I love the concept anyway. The hungry swarm of these bug-like creatures just looked like the MLP version of Tyranids. 
Another thing I loved was that not only did queen Chrysalis simply defeat Celestia, but the mane six haven't even had a chance to stop her. Sure, she was beaten by "the power of love", but let's face it, it's a more original solution than just using the elements of harmony and their giant rainbow death ray. 
What could have been improved, imo? Well, much like the other two-parters, it felt rushed. I guess we are kind of used to it by now. I know this can't be done, but I wish MLP was a slower-paced series with multiple intertwining plot lines. For example, I would have liked to see Twilight wandering through the crystal caves for a few days while the villain tries to convince her friends that everything's fine, or replaces her with a changeling and the friends are starting to notice something's not quite right.  Instead, Twilight escapes the caves in no time at all, which makes it sound like the evil queen was majorly exaggerating when she said you could wander in the caves forever. And once again, we get the effect of "Oh look! An awesome villain! ...and they've killed it".
I know it's too much to ask for from a kid's show, but I think it would have been a lot more interesting if it didn't have a predictable "problem-solution" structure to every episode.
(Then again, we got "Swarm of the Century". The ending made me happy).

Community Highlights
Okay, since during all the weeks I've missed I've only been looking at art, I'm just gonna feature a lot of images this time!

Art of the Week:
My Punky Pony - Rarity (If you know me, you'll know that I'm a sucker for cool mohawks!)
Everything Changes
Long Live the Queen
Trixie - I won't lie anymore...

South Pony
Error in Trajectory
The Fun Has Been Doubled
Luna's Lament
Smart and Fancy
MLP: Manly Dash is Manly
Derpy and Dinky
Hell's Kitchen
MeFashionista - Krakenbell
Rainbow Dash Charm
Spike and Peewee
Woodland Cottage
Establish Pony Connection..4:3
MLP - Another day o' labor
My Little Sharkies
Derpy's gonna Derp
The Muffin Queen
There On The Battlefield She Stands
Dusk in the North

Queen Chrysalis in all her glory. She might as well be saying:" That's right! No one cares about you, ponies! It's all about us changelings now."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Freaky Friday/Психоделическая пятница

I've stumbled upon quite a lovely painting that fits the theme quite nicely! The artist doesn't have any other surreal art in her gallery, but I like this piece enough to dedicate the whole post to it.

Aries in the Desert
by Atenebris

Friday, April 13, 2012

Freaky Friday

This Freaky Friday I've decided to feature something other than paintings/drawings. Instead, I'd like to bring a certain game to your attention.
It's called The Endless Forest. It's a social game that can be run either on its own, or set as a screensaver. Effectively, an MMORPG, but very different from what you'd expect from the genre.

What makes it interesting? Well, you play as a nameless deer. All other players can recognize you by is the unique glowing symbol that sometimes appears above your head. You can communicate only through body language and generic animal noises. You can do a bit of magic as well. Nothing harmful, mainly stuff that can change either yours or other players' appearance. There are no objectives in the game other than exploring the forest and hanging out with your fellow deer.
The forest has a couple of landmarks. Mainly a ruin and statues. You can read more about it in the wiki article

And, more importantly, what makes it freaky? Well.... they've got human faces! At what point did that seem like a good idea, I ask you! Stick a human face on anything other than a human and you'll end up with something creepy!  If you like the look, however, you can find some more screenshots, as well as the actual concept art, here.

My thoughts? Well, I have tried playing "The Endless Forest" a while back (at least 4 or 5 years ago). It doesn't look like it's changed much though. While I like the idea behind it, I didn't think much of the game itself.

Sure, having a screensaver that "transports you to a magical place" is fun and all. Especially since your character can't be harmed when you're away. But, having a screensaver that has to load and refuses to easily go away can get really annoying. Sure, you can play it as an application, but I don't think it offers enough to be a standalone game.

As for the social aspect of it, I think there simply isn't enough you can do with other players. Sure, I like the idea of limited communication, which adds to the illusion, so to say. It also means that annoying idiots can't ruing the game for you. But I just think that Journey does it better and simply is a better game in every respect. Sure, the forest is rather large for an open space, but you'll know your way around it in a day. Then what?

By the looks of things, "The Endless Forest" has not had a face-lift since it was released, so it doesn't exactly look breathtaking. I think it could have made up for the lack of activity with amazing graphics (I mean if it's an interactive screensaver, it's the looks that make or break it, right?). Since that's not the case, I think it's safe to say that there are much better time wasters out there.

So yeah. I don't care much for the game, even if find the idea interesting. But hey, feel free to give it a try if you like! It won't cost you anything.

Some areas in the forest grant random accessories. Masks are great. They hide the scary human faces!