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“The Angry Birds Movie” (2016) MOVIE REVIEW

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Red is a grumpy bird who often lets his temper get the best of him. This anger leads to a court ruling that requires him to attend anger management classes, where he meets a bunch of other ill tempered birds, and he has to commit to calming exercises. While the other patients are eager to socialise, Red would prefer to keep to himself, pushing away new potential friendships.

One day, a community of pigs dock off at the birds’ island, introducing themselves as harmless new friends, but really, they want to steal all the birds’ eggs. Red is the only one who sees through their sham, even though everyone else is convinced that these swine mean well, so the feathered grouch has to convince his fellow birds that these piggies mean trouble.

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I’ve only played an Angry Birds game once, it was 3 or 4 years ago, I can’t even recall which game it was? So, I’m no expert or loyal fan, but one doesn’t need to be when it comes to critiquing movie adaptations, a film is a film regardless of what inspired it. The Angry Birds Movie is certainly high spirited, with it’s bounc-ily paced comedy and colourful character designs, but as a movie? It’s pretty…. meh.

It’s story is as predictable as they come! We know that the pigs are really up to no good, we know that they’ll reveal their true intentions eventually, and it’s more than obvious that the birds will seek revenge once the cat is out of the bag. Until then, we’re playing the waiting game, counting the minutes until the rouse is exposed, with nothing much happening besides the pigs distracting the birds with dance parties, and it’s all pretty much filler to say the least.

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To also pass time, Red and his friends venture to find the legendary “Mighty Eagle”, which leads to the cliche plot of discovering that a hero is a let down, who wastes his days doing nothing, and it’s up to Red to motivate the eagle back into action. How many times have we seen this plot? Maybe in nearly every average animated kids’ movie? And this is what’s going to keep us entertained until the finale? Thanks, I don’t like it.

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The humour is hit or miss. A few lines and gags hit the mark, but this wasn’t a consistent laugh riot for me. The film is clearly struggling to keep the comedy alive, so it reaches for easy gags in desperation, the kinds of jokes that are obviously going to make small kids giggle no matter what, from pigs slapping their butts at the camera to an awkwardly long urination scene. This potty humour is just tasteless and gross, a lazy attempt to be funny without taking risks or being inventive.

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The Angry Birds Movie is at it’s most imaginative, when the birds finally attack the pigs, in a climax that resembles the playthrough of the original video games, the very thing that fans came to see the movie for. This is when we get to see each bird displaying a unique power, crashing into towers in a satisfyingly destructive fashion, all while the villain runs around in a panic. Unfortunately, this sequence overstays it’s welcome, overdoing the novelty of watching birds smashing into buildings, and even young kids might get tired of the repetition.

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Red himself is the only character I enjoyed watching, a cynical bird who makes the most sense out of everyone. He keeps others at a distance while yearning for company, making for a relatable lead. He might be a grouch, but hints of a nice side are sprinkled into little moments, and he does eventually let his guard down once pushed into the role of leader, proving that he is capable of empathy if others trust him.

The lesson he learns is surprisingly unconventional too, teaching that anger can be justified when the situation calls for it, but controlling your temper is just as important. That’s a pretty risky philosophy for a kids’ film! The idea that what you do with your anger is your real test of character. What can it be translated to? How much of it should you let out? Anger is a complex emotion, it’s refreshing to see a children’s film address it without saying “bottle it up inside”.

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The side characters though? They’re pretty one dimensional and annoying, including Bomb the whiny bird with the one trait of exploding, Chuck the super-fast bird that is only defined by his speed and hyperactive personality (imagine Hammy from “Over the Hedge”, just unfunny and less sympathetic), Terrance (grunted by an underused Sean Penn, which is admittedly funny) is kind of endearing in his own gentle giant sort of way, but I can’t say that he’s a well defined character beyond his grunts.

The villain, Leonard, is far from threatening or clever, being not exactly subtle about his intentions, he’s just lucky that these birds have been written conveniently dumb enough to fall for his plans.

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To Conclude, “The Angry Birds Movie” does have a pretty solid lead character, vibrant cartoony visuals that are decent to look at, plus a rather complex view on the emotion of anger that’s quite refreshing. But overall? It’s cliche, predictable, uninspired, and not as frequently funny as it could have been. I wasn’t exactly let down, as I was never an Angry Birds fan in the first place, so I can’t say that I’m annoyed at my experience, but I also can’t say that this is a film I’d be eager to watch again.

2 and a half Strawberries


“Black Mirror” – Fifteen Million Merits (EPISODE REVIEW)

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This “Black Mirror” story is set in a dystopian future, in which humans are paid in merits to power the world’s electricity through pedaling, but the mundane living doesn’t stop there, because they all also come home to rooms where the walls are monitors, and everyone is forced to watch adverts or pay fines if they stop viewing. We centre on Bing, one of the rare people actually sick to death of this place, with a longing to feel some sense of reality, but that’s hard to expect in such a world like this.

Luckily, Bing meets a woman named Abi, who has a talented singing voice, but she can’t afford a chance on the talent contest show “Hot Shot”. So he uses money left to him by his dead brother, to buy her an audition entry. Unfortunately, the judges turn her down, and one of them hires her as a pornstar for his streaming channel instead. Angered by the judge’s treatment of Abi, as well as the technology driven world they have created, Bing becomes determined to get revenge, by saving up merits to get on Hot Shot himself.

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Now, this is actually the first “Black Mirror” episode I’ve ever seen, which is actually shocking when I always knew that it was my cup of tea, because I’m a huge fan of it’s creator Charlie Brooker. Plus my own stories are often centered on technophobia. One thing I will say, is that “Black Mirror” really is like an extended higher budget sketch from “Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe”, because his ranting and raving about bad television is all over this episode.

This episode’s message is rather on the nose though, it’s not exactly subtle about the point it wants to get across or the specific kind of people it wants to attack, especially when it has a character standing on stage spelling out the intended societal criticism by the end. That our everyday lives are built on performing daily monotonous tasks to afford survival, with shallow entertainment or pointless consumerism being our only reward for living on, and the only alternative is selling ourselves out as commercial celebrities.

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It’s cynical, but I get the frustration that Brooker and co-writer Konnie Huq (Brooker’s wife, who used to be a presenter on BBC’s Blue Peter) are venting. There’s an element of truth to his point of view. My issue is that the message is driven into the audience using the nuance of a foghorn, with not much left for viewers to work out themselves, as there’s a huge lack of cryptic depth to the episode’s substance. Plus the more despicable characters are more over-the-top than discreetly underhanded, thus making it hard for me to call the episode clever. Sure, the extremity of this execution is a good way to better highlight societal toxicity, because it makes the often ignored problematic undertones of television media or human interaction more obvious, but it comes at the cost of assuming that the audience can’t read between the lines themselves.

The characters aren’t exactly well developed, very flat caricatures who better represent theories, personas, or principles than real individuals; so I can’t say that they were interestingly-written. Having an hour to work with, there could have been more to them here, little extra details that made them more than just tools for the political satire. That’s not to say that I didn’t care for our protagonists, it was pretty easy to like them, mainly because everyone else in this society is either totally terrible or has become a mindless sheep.

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However, the strength of the episode isn’t how it conveys it’s message or the characters we follow, but rather the the atmosphere it creates, this claustrophobic bleak corporate building where you can’t escape adverts or avoid technology. There’s something nauseating about being in this tightly small futuristic setting, not just because it’s painfully mundane, but it’s also a terrifying reflection of the cycle many of us are in right now – an analogy for those living life to the most basic standard just to get by.

While the episode is rather cruel to it’s characters, there are moments of brief hope and love, all thanks to the blossoming romance between Bing and Abi, as the idea that Bing would give up all his merits to see Abi be happy is beautiful. The fact that Bing also sacrifices his budget for food and resources, JUST to reach 15 million merits sooner, shows how passionate he is about making his voice heard, but it’s also a dark reflection of how much society asks us to give up to risk chances.

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Of course, in true Charlie Brooker style, the episode ends on a bummer, because while Bing does get to protest on live television, speaking out against everything he feels is wrong, the judges ultimately see him as another cash cow, and package him as a livestream entertainer for the masses. While this is a bitter ending that highlights how even a societal protest can be rebranded for consumer use, limiting Bing to the only way he can keep his voice heard, it’s more of a wake up call than a sign to give up, asking audiences to realise how much we’re diluting authenticity in an already fabricated culture.

To Conclude, I did quite enjoy this “Black Mirror” episode, because of it’s creepily dull setting, sweet central romance, and important message about finding reality in a life without meaning. I do wish that the message was less loud and some of the characters were less cookie cutter, but there is a strong personality to the episode through it’s extreme portrayal of a media dominated society.

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“Recess” – Lost Leader (EPISODE REVIEW)

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When a plan to retrieve a lucky baseball bat fails for the Recess gang, TJ blames himself for it going wrong, vowing to never be a leader again. Without their leader Gretchen, Vince, Gus, Mikey, and Spinelli struggle to come up with a good plan without him.

TJ’s distinct role has always been the leader, so seeing the poor guy beat himself up about it is sad. We know he really is the best leader for this rag tag team, but sometimes the smallest hiccup can make someone feel insecure. TJ is a selfless hero too, so of course he’d immediately blame himself for everything going wrong, especially when his failed plan resulted in a casualty.

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It is fun seeing what kind of plans that the gang come up with by themselves. Each one failing to see the drawbacks if their wild ideas. However, it’s the flawed logic in their suggestions that highlight TJ’s importance. When it boils down to it, the gang need TJ for his clever imagination. The rest of the gang’s strengths aren’t suited for leadership, and they all have their own talents or skills that are better suited for supporting roles. TJ knows how to find the right balance of possibility and creativity; plans that make sense yet retain a child’s imagination.

You maybe wondering why this lucky bat is so important? Well, the gang’s rival Lawson bets that they can’t retrieve the bat, confident to the point where he’s willing to challenge them to a game the next day. This makes the mission more than just a simple rescue, it’s a race to outwit the cocky Lawson.

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However, the gang do come to the humble conclusion that none of them are born leaders, graciously accepting the truth, and they instead focus on helping TJ. The gang put on an intentionally ridiculous heist for getting the bat, each kid doing something hilariously stupid as part of their fake heist. They do this while all acting like TJ is useless after all, and this makes Teej finally realise how hard he’s been on himself.

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While this is technically reverse psychology, it’s all done out of love. The gang do end up confessing their true intentions by the end too, so Teej isn’t left feeling insulted. Sometimes, we do need our friends to make us see how silly we’re being when self blaming, and that our guilt is really actually uncalled for. A good friend’s sincere perspective can really help you see what you can’t see in yourself.

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The episode concludes by saying that mistakes are human. This is a terrific lesson for perfectionists to relate to, because it teaches that high standard results can’t ALWAYS be consistent. Even the best of the best can miss the mark, and expecting 10/10 every time is unhealthy.

Interestingly, this was the last ever episode of “Recess”! Three straight video films kept the franchise alive shortly after (two of which were technically just feature length clip shows), but this was the last episode of the actual TV show. I think it’s nice that the series concluded with an episode that reminded fans why TJ was so important.

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“Hey Arnold” – Helga on the Couch (EPISODE REVIEW)

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In this episode of “Hey Arnold”, Helga is caught punching Brainy in the face, so she ends up being psychologically analysed by professional therapist Dr. Bliss. Therapy seems like a chore to Helga, but she’s also terrified that these sessions will result in confessing her Arnold to crush.

Many “Hey Arnold” fans consider this to be the best ever episode of the whole series. Helga has always been a fascinating character, because she’s complexly passive aggressive. Psychologically understanding such a character’s psyche was always going to make for a deep episode.

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One of the major strengths of “Hey Arnold” is it’s courage to show the diversity of children. That they’re not all typical nuclear family households. Some kids watching this show are not privileged or loved, and this show gives them archetypes to connect to.

Dr. Bliss is a fantastic therapist! She professionally keeps herself calm while this angry little girl rants aggressively, knowing exactly what she can do to help, but also respecting that Helga is very smart for her age.

It’s amazing how this kids’ cartoon is 20 minutes of character therapy, with a majority of the episode being set in an office. Creator Craig Bartlett actually believes that kids will have the patience and understanding to enjoy something so minimalist. Although, it helps that Helga is a very charismatic character, so its no surprise that Craig had faith in the setup.

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The episode isn’t ALL set in a therapy office though, as we do get flashbacks to keep things visually engaging. These sequences help us to see how hard Helga’s life really is, by exposing what shaped Helga into the girl she is today. Her father is a bad tempered loud mouth who sees Helga as a liability, her mom is an air-headed woman who is possibly an alcoholic, and her older sister Olga gets all the attention that Helga craves.

Like I said, Helga’s main concern is to not expose her crush on Arnold in session, but that’s very hard when Arnold is such a big part of who she is. We even get to finally see what made Helga first fall in love with the football head! In a flashback demonstrating Arnold’s natural compassion to a down-on-her-luck Helga on first sight.

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When someone is living in an toxic environment, the slightest kind gesture can mean the world to them. It’s a really cute flashback that gives us an eye into where everything started; filling in gaps that the show never explored before.

Of course, Helga doesn’t have a full grip on what it means to be loved or love someone, because her family neglects her, so she doesn’t know how to healthily address her feelings towards Arnold. This is why she turned this love into aggressive hate instead. Sadly, this defensive attitude stuck with her and ended up turning her into a school bully – even though she’s good at heart.

Now, Helga does finally confess her feelings for Arnold to her therapist, but what is she so afraid of? Well, it seems that she was under the assumption that Dr. Bliss would share her secret with others, but really, she HAS to keep sessions confidential. It’s clear that Helga either doesn’t understand therapy policy (she may be smart, but she’s still a child) OR her trust issues made her assume the worst.

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Watching Helga scream her lungs out about how much she adores Arnold, is so damn perfect – relieving even. We’re really happy for her, because we know she’s had to keep these feelings bottled up, but who could she ever tell? This is why therapy was always the best route for the poor girl.

Dr. Bliss assures Helga that her feelings are normal, and that she’s free to express them – as long as she’s not hurting anyone. It’s so beautiful seeing Helga having her deep complex emotions validated, every kid deserves that. I couldn’t help but smile seeing Helga leave her therapy session with a newfound sense of self acceptance, even hugging Dr. Bliss with loving gratitude (a BIG deal for Helga, who very rarely shows affection).

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To Conclude, Helga on the Couch isn’t just one of the best “Hey Arnold” episodes, it’s one of the best cartoon episodes EVER. A story that gives a voice to neglected kids everywhere and normalizes child therapy. I actually grew up taking therapy as a child, but I never saw this episode as a kid, and I really wish that I did though.

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“Arthur” – Arthur Meets Mr. Rogers (EPISODE REVIEW)

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In this special episode of “Arthur”, children’s entertainer Fred Rogers comes to Elwood city, with the intention to speak at Arthur’s school, and he’ll be staying with the Reeds’ home (Fred is an old friend of Arthur’s mom). Arthur is actually quite embarrassed about Mr. Rogers boarding at his home, because his schoolmates are giggling over a “baby show” host coming to visit, so Arthur desperately tries to hide this fact from his pals.

It does make sense that Arthur and Fred Rogers would eventually had a crossover, as they were both children’s edutainment programs that aired on PBS – a station that Fred fought hard to keep funding going for. It’s match made in heaven! Arthur is a show that sets out to teach kids about better understanding the world around them, as well as common etiquette in social situations – things that fit Mr. Roger’s philosophies superbly.

Now, I did not grow up with “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”, I’m not even sure if it was ever even aired in the UK? However, after seeing the Fred Rogers documentary “Won’t you be my neighbor?”, I felt instantly jealous of anyone who DID have a childhood with him, because he stands for everything I believe in! He was a kind man who actively validated children’s feelings and intelligence.

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This episode’s portrayal of Fred Rogers is so perfect, because it captures Fred’s personality spot on! From his calm charisma that soothes the soul to the sincere way he talks to kids. I’m not sure how much Fred had to do with the script, but I can totally imagine him making sure that the lessons were healthy and constructive.

This Arthur episode teaches that you shouldn’t let fear of embarrassment consume you. Arthur goes to so many lengths to hide Mr. Rogers, that he doesn’t realise that he’s worrying his pals. When Arthur admits his concerns to Fred, Mr. Rogers kindly lets him know that he understands.

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Mr. Rogers doesn’t look down on or judge Arthur for feeling ashamed of being associated with him, but completely sees where Arthur is coming from, because the boy is at an age where he wants to feel grown up, and this a validation that older kids need sometimes. Even as a person gets older, Mr. Rogers STILL respects their feelings! He might specialise with very small children, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t teach something wise to an older child, and that’s because Mr. Rogers wanted to show love to EVERYONE.

With Arthur’s friends being worried about their oddly-behaving pal since Mr. Rogers moved in, Fred makes Arthur realise that maybe these aren’t the friends who will poke fun at him. When you assume that your friends will maliciously mock you for something, especially something out out of your control, then you need to question your relationship with your friends, because real friends don’t do that.

The episode also teaches that it’s okay for preschool entertainment to still mean something to you, that the best shows for young kids are so special that they stay with you forever, and it’s totally okay to admit that you still like them. The best television entertainers can shape our values, humour, and imagination!

These entertainers may present themselves in a way that’s most suitable for young kids, but as we get older, the world still scares or confuses us sometimes, because adults are human, and people like Mr. Rogers suddenly become a useful inspiration to us again.

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For example, British children’s entertainer Mark Speight, who sadly committed suicide once I grew up, was someone I LOVED as a kid (The first career that I ever considered was a CBBC presenter). His wacky sense of humour and fun approach to creativity really inspired me. I watched a tribute to him recently, and I never realised how much he influenced my personality! When we sneer at these kinds of people, we’re not just insulting their hard working profession, but we’re also arrogantly ignoring the subconscious impact that they first had on us.

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By the episode’s end, all the kids shyly admit that they are actually excited to meet Mr. Rogers, suddenly showing happy joy at the very sight of their pre-school hero, and they drop their “I’m too big for this anymore” act. This teaches kids that you don’t HAVE to abandon or hate certain childhood things to be grown up, because you can keep your love for them in your heart, and you’re not immature for saying that they are still special to you.

The show also says that it’s perfectly fine to openly dislike something that you used to love, but DON’T sneer at kids who do enjoy it, because it’s the world to them at their age, and you have no right to steal that joy from them. Even as a critic, this is a value that I hold true, because I know that some children’s media I criticise could mean the world to some child, and I’d NEVER think less of them for having fun watching it.

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The episode is also followed by something so precious! Fred Rogers himself telling kids in the audience how he was animated into the show, there’s nothing more wholesome than watching Mr. Rogers gently teaching this art form to young viewers, and hearing him say “Anyone can animate” is the cherry on top of this magical ice cream. Fred was terrific in the episode, bringing a natural delivery to his lines that couldn’t be replicated by even the best impressionist, the episode NEEDED the real Fred Rogers to work I think.

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“Batman: The Animated Series” – Heart of Ice (EPISODE REVIEW)

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A strange man in a suit wielding a freezing gun, who goes by the name of Mr. Freeze, has been attacking the offices of GothCorp. So, Batman has been trying to investigate who this rogue could be? He meets with GothCorp CEO Ferris Boyle, who likes to put on the act of a humanitarian for PR, but is much less compassionate behind closed doors.

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After digging through some files, Batman discovers that Mr. Freeze was really a scientist called Dr. Victor Fries, who tried to use GothCorp equipment to cure his terminally ill wife Nora, but Ferris shut down the project. This resulted in a fight between the two that led to a coolant accident, which caused Victor to not be able to survive above sub-zero temperatures – hence the suit.

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This Emmy winning episode of “Batman: The Animated Series” introduces a more sympathetic villain to the series, a baddie who has developed an apathy to humankind after Ferris lacked remorse in his wife. Mr. Freeze is a red eyed pale faced menacing threat, unwilling to reflect emotion after everything he’s been through, expressing all his dialogue with a deadpan cold tone.

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But we do feel sorry for Victor, because we can see why he’d lose remorse for everyone except his wife, his only hope betrayed him, and now he sees that Ferris cared more about money than saving lives. We don’t agree with Victor’s methods or forgive his crimes, but we get why he’s the way he is, because he now only has faith in himself after GothCorp let him down.

This is why I love Batman in this episode, he shows genuine sympathy towards Victor! The caped crusader is angered by Ferris’ careless attitude towards Victor’s personal mission to save his wife, even though the GothCorp CEO is out doing charity work to look good in the media. That’s not to say that he completely sides with Victor, because his Mr. Freeze persona is still putting lives at risk.

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I also like how Batman has a cold in this episode, it reminds audiences that he is still human. He’s just as vulnerable to low temperature conditions as everyone else, but he doesn’t let his fever hinder his responsibility as the caped crusader. It’s adorable that Alfred shows concern for his master’s cold, he is Bruce’s only family after all, even lovingly giving Batman a flask of chicken soup to help cure him; a beverage that will later come in handy!

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Batman must find a middle ground as a hero, by defeating Mr. Freeze for the safety of people’s lives, while also exposing Ferris’ crimes too – killing two birds with one stone if you will. This decision helps to show that Batman cares about Victor’s pain, but that he should be punished for using this heartache for criminal activity, because a sob story doesn’t justify putting others in danger.

By the episode’s end, Victor is placed in Arkham Asylum, where he is shown begging his wife for forgiveness, weeping at a music box that resembles her. It’s a powerful moment that brings a humanity to one of Batman’s foes. It’s moments like this that show why Batman’s gallery of rogues are so memorable, they’re either wildly fun to watch or have a sympathetic tragic backstory.

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“Heart of Ice” really deserved it’s Emmy. It’s an episode that shows that villains don’t always have to be one track minded enemies for Batman, they can be just as human as he is, and it’s this extra dimension that makes Victor into an actual fully fleshed out character.

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“Watch My Chops” – Things That Go Woof In The Night (EPISODE REVIEW)

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“Watch My Chops” (aka Corneil & Bernie) is a French cartoon about a dogsitter called Bernie, who has to look after a dog named Corneil, but this is no ordinary canine… Corneil can talk! In this episode, Bernie’s schoolmate Romeo comes over to his home to watch a scary movie, but mistakes Corneil’s cleaning as a paranormal activity. To cover for Corneil’s secret, Bernie says that a ghost does live in his apartment, and he has to convince other school friends that this is true.

The fun thing about this episode is seeing how Bernie can use Corneil’s secret to his advantage, knowing how his friends wouldn’t suspect Corneil to be the real culprit behind the staged haunting, and it takes quite the creativity to achieve Bernie’s desired tricks. From making a grandfather clock move on it’s own to flickering the lights, this dog and dogsitter team find imaginative ways to suggest that a ghost is up to mischief.

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What really carries the episode though is the character of Martha, who stubbornly refuses to believe in anything she witnesses, while other characters are naively falling for everything. Audiences are rooting for Bernie and Corneil to successfully trick Bernie’s pals, so Martha makes for a good antagonist, because she’ll possibly break the illusion.

Her denial becomes so strong that it even inspires Corneil, who has already been a reluctant player in this, to try even harder to make believable ghostly antics, because he’s growing so frustrated by her criticisms of his special effects. What makes this even funnier is that Corneil is a stern non-believer of ghosts himself, so seeing such a scientific minded character being THIS bothered is highly comical, because Martha’s stubbornness annoys him more than his own principles.

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Romeo, a character who is usually very cocky, is a wreck in this episode, and I really liked seeing this scared side of him. He shifts his dynamic with Bernie into a relationship where Bernie is the dominating confident force, and it is satisfying seeing a jerk like Romeo exposing what a coward he really is.

I also love Bernie’s theatrical approach to the whole stunt, donning a Halloween cape as he tours the apartment with a candelabra- the man knows how to play a horror host with style. Bernie is much more into this than Corneil, to the point where he embraces the project’s entertainment value more than it’s actual important purpose – which plays into Bernie’s childish personality.

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Luckily, Bernie’s Uncle Rico does give our protagonists some fodder, leaving a birthday surprise in the cellar that will later double as an unintentional part of the prank – a punching bag stand hidden under a white sheet. It may seem a little contrived how well this plays into where the stunt is going next, bordering on the over-convenient, but I can’t say that Rico’s birthday present idea is too out of left field (especially when we know that Bernie is into sports).

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To conclude, this was a pretty good episode! One that took the show’s usual formula into a weirder direction, a bit like another episode called “Close encounters of the third kind”. If you want a family friendly horror special, without any actual genuine scares, then this the cartoon is for you.

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“The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” – Krunch Time (EPISODE REVIEW)

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In this episode of “Jimmy Neutron”, Jimmy invents the greatest candy ever! However, this homemade confectionery is so delectable, that that the people of Retroville become addicted to it, and Jimmy decides to take advantage of their dependence.

Whenever I look back on this show, it’s this particular episode that sticks out the most, but why is that? Well, my theory is that it simply appealed to my childhood love of sweets, because what kid doesn’t love candy? Okay, maybe a few, but it’s still a common passion when you’re 12 or under.

The candy itself doesn’t exactly look yummy, it appears a little off-putting even. So yeah, I don’t think I can even imagine what it would taste like based on it’s design, but it’s people’s reactions to eating it that says everything. Their highly satisfied taste buds make this weird yellow spotted ball seem so appetizing! To the point where I’d actually love to try one myself haha.

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Even though this episode has a goofy tone, there is a dark side to it that I never noticed before, because this candy brings out the worst in EVERYONE. Not only does it turn loved ones against each other, to the extent where they fight one another for one measly bite, but their addiction also inspires Jimmy to exploit them; bringing out a rather sleazy side of Jimmy that we don’t often see.

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Although, Jimmy is still Jimmy, he knows when he’s ended up going too far with an invention. He still has his morals despite giving in to easy temptations sometimes, and he does end up wanting to do the right thing by the end.

What changes his mind? Well, in a sinister change, the entire town becomes a sugar hungry mob! Even his own loving parents are out for his blood. Not just that, Jimmy’s confections have also put Sam the candy bartender out business – sparking him to want to rile up the mob.

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Most “Jimmy Neutron” episodes are about an invention going terribly wrong, but this one ends up being a parable on something deeper than usual, whether it was intentional or not. I can’t confirm if an underlying metaphor for the candy was on purpose, but it is easy to come up with interpretations – especially for adults going on nostalgia trips to revisit this show.

You could see Jimmy’s candy as an analogy for drugs, how their addictive element can bring out the worst in their users and what lengths they’ll go to show their loyalty to their dealers. On the other hand, the episode is sort of a commentary on the candy industry in general, because most candy is produced with addictive chemicals that’ll send kids loopy. With the drug metaphor not being blatant as all hell, it makes for a much less preachy story.

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Heck, not many drug related kids’ cartoons are about actually MAKING drugs, they’re usually warnings about not saying yes to them, so it’s quite refreshing to see one showing the dangers of drug production.

To Conclude, this is a great Jimmy Neutron episode! It’s exciting seeing what this candy does to these usually harmless friendly characters, there’s some hilarious black comedy from Jimmy’s parents turning on their own son, and the episode acts as a good lesson on the dangers of producing addictive products for the public.

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“Team Sonic Racing: Overdrive” (2019) CARTOON REVIEW

Written by Jambareeqi

Posted 22nd May, 2019

“Team Sonic Racing: Overdrive” is a two part cartoon web series designed to promote the new video game Team Sonic Racing. It has a simple plot that follows a race between Team Sonic, Team Rose, and Team Dark.

Now, I’ve not played “Team Sonic Racing”. I’ve only a played a few Sonic games in my lifetime to be honest. Despite my lack of attachment to the Sonic franchise, I totally followed these cartoons pretty fine, getting the gist of each characters’ personality or a racing gadget’s purpose very easily. I wouldn’t say that you need to be a Sonic fan to have fun watching it; but I’m certain it’ll help you get more into it.

There’s no dialogue at all, so the animators have to rely entirely on visuals for the storytelling, with characters giving clear gestures or expressions to communicate team play or taunt a racetrack rival. It’s impressive how vivid it all is, especially when the budget is clearly quite low for a video game promo. By the looks of it, flash animation was the tool used, but it’s stylistically shaded flash; the kind of hip aesthetic needed for a Sonic cartoon.

The race itself is at a constant momentum, but don’t expect it to be a straight forward race, because the main selling point is teamwork, so camaraderie drives this race’s dynamic. It’s the power of friendship that’ll help teams win. It’s a refreshing change of pace for a racing cartoon, when we’re used to characters only being out for themselves, and the sentiment adds some heart to the race.

While Sonic may be the star, fans might want to cheer on the other teams. Which isn’t a bad thing, heck I know that players will have their own team of choice when they get the actual game, and that can make each fan’s experience watching this short different! Who will they want to win? Personally, I was supporting Team Sonic, because they demonstrated teamwork the best, and it’s great seeing stone faced Knuckles being a helpful dude.

The cartoons also have a brilliant sense of humour, with wacky ways for racers to get distracted or knocked out of the race. I counted myself laughing more times than once. From Big the Cat being drawn away from the race by cute merchandise, to Rouge the bat trying to get help after her car is busted. There’s a gag a minute to spice up the race with comedy.

Robotnik does take part in the race as a comic foil, not because he has world domination motivations in mind, but he seems to be just having fun causing trouble, and it is revealed that he has a secret plan to steal the trophy. It’s kind of funny seeing Robotnik, a character who usually has wide scale tyrannical intentions, just being a bit of a dick haha!

“Team Sonic Racing: Overdrive” is targeted towards selling a game to Sonic fans,  Team Sonic don’t shy away from that fact, but it’s still a very entertaining sports comedy cartoon that anyone can enjoy. It’s only two 4 – 5 minute shorts, yet the animators put in their A game, giving viewers a fun little ride to serve as a bonus feature for this new hyped up game.


“The Smurfs” (2011) FILM REVIEW

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Written by Jambareeqi

Posted 29th April, 2019

The Smurfs are a village of little blue people, who are being hunted down for their magical essence by the evil wizard Gargamel, but try their best to live in peace during the blue moon festival. When Gargamel begins chasing down the Smurfs after finding their village, a group of them lead by Papa Smurf end up jumping through a portal to escape. Said portal takes them to New York city, where they meet marketing executive Patrick Winslow.

When filmmakers don’t know how to adapt a source material into a feature film, they tend to use this uninspired formula: Send them to an American city (always usually New York), where they must avoid or escape a villain, and make them interact with humans. Rather than being about the Smurf’s imaginative world, this film focuses more on the cliche joke of “Haha these alien creatures don’t understand human culture, they’re so silly”.

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As usual for a family film about a workaholic father (soon-to-be in this case), the film guilts Patrick for not putting his family or the fantastical characters before his job, when really he NEEDS his job to support his loved ones. Yes, your family is special, but without an income, you can’t exactly feed and shelter them! So this message comes off as naive. His own wife, who may show concern for husband’s job, actually says that the smurfs are “The Bigger Picture” when he is stressing over possibly being fired, as if the little blue people are a larger concern than their livelihood.

Yes, the film is clearly trying make the Smurfs be an analogy for Patrick’s baby, but it’s an unfair comparison. The Smurfs have invaded his life and are making him to put their dilemma before his career, while a baby is something Patrick has planned out with his family in advance. Patrick’s baby WILL be important, but he shouldn’t be expected to drop his work duties for the infant (unless it’s an extreme medical emergency, of course). You can’t safely raise a baby on the streets.

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The Smurfs themselves are very aggravating! Constantly moving or talking, each having the energy of a Cheetah on Red Bull, always using “Smurf” as a pun for EVERYTHING (a joke that’s not even funny the first time it’s used). I never felt enamored by them, because they are more annoying than charming. It doesn’t help that they all have the limit of being stuck in one trait personalities, their names defining their ONLY identity as characters. Such a lack of dimension doesn’t make for creatures I can enjoy watching for almost 2 hours.

Even Papa Smurf, the most laid back of the Smurfs, is hard to like, why? At the start of the film, he learns of a prophecy that involves all the Smurfs ending up in Gargamel’s cages, but he hides this information under the belief that he’s protecting them. This makes the Smurfs WAY too confident and relaxed about their predicament, each assured that things will pan out fine, when really, they should be taking things much more seriously!

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The film does attempt to make Clumsy Smurf have an arc, trying to prove that the other smurfs shouldn’t undermine him due to his accident prone nature, but he makes no effort to learn self coordination throughout the film. He just whines that he’s never included, then suddenly he gets to do something right in the finale. Character development? What’s that?

Why couldn’t he have learned a sport from Patrick? Or Maybe someone could have built him a mini gymnastics stage? He’s not allowed to join the action anyway, why not help him improve in this time? I can’t blame the other Smurfs for not letting him help them, because his track record of accidents outnumber his efforts to grow.

Gargamel isn’t much of a fun villain… Most of his humour is based on gross out jokes, he is easily distracted, he rambles unfunny monologues, and he isn’t even scary or menacing once he has power. Kids might laugh at him getting hurt or giggle at him making pee jokes, but he’s far from a well written antagonist. Parents being forced to watch the film will just roll their eyes at him. Although, fair play to Hank Azaria for trying his best to bring Gargamel into live action, he is attempting to recreate the character. It’s just a shame that the film has no idea what to do with him most of the time.

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Don’t get me started on all the product placement in this film, there’s constant excuses to advertise things in this movie, which is disgustingly crude when the target audience is so young. From an excuse to film a scene in a toy store, to a whole scene dedicated to the Guitar Hero. It’s utterly shameless how this film puts commercial opportunities before telling a meaningful story with good faith.

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I tried to fairly find something good about this film, but it’s a real challenge when there’s not enough sincerity behind the film to compliment. I guess that the voice actors are well cast, each one doing decent jobs portraying their assigned personality; even if their characters have as much depth as a puddle in a dry dessert. Neil Patrick Harris, who is obviously only here for a cheque, does try to bring his trademark charm to Patrick.

Patrick’s wife Grace does have a sweet girl to girl bond with Smurfette too. I can imagine little girls in the audience resonating with their relationship, mainly those who feel like they struggle to find other girls to befriend, maybe because they’re surrounded by boys or lack the confidence. That’s the thing too, I may dislike Grace’s insistence that the Smurfs are more important than anything, but she is a nice lady with a kind and maternal nature.

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This movie is as cynical as they come. I heard it was bad, but I think I underestimated HOW bad it would be! Maybe because I had a small glimmer of hope. “The Smurfs” is a ruse to advertise toys & candy to kids, under the guise of being a tribute to the classic comics by Peyo. It’s a film that exploits it’s young audience AND the legacy of an artist who charmed generations.

1 and a half Strawberries

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