First Impressions: Cutie Markless (SPOILERS) #MLPseason5

HO. LY. SHITAHE MUSHROOMS.

Now THAT is how you open a season! If this is what took you guys so long, DHX, then I am sorry for EVERY SINGLE THING I ever complained about during the wait. Because WOW.

I never thought there’d be an episode of My Little Pony that includes false imprisonment, implied starvation, brainwashing and COMMUNISM.

One thing you’ll notice very quickly about the episode is that not a single moment is wasted. The plot gets started almost immediately with the animatic, and from there there’s always something happening. The plot here is probably the most… ‘full’, for lack of a better term coming to mind, of any of the two-parters we’ve had so far. Nothing is rushed, there’s no wasted space, everything that happens leads into something else, the humor is right on the dot… I’ll have to watch it again to be sure, but it doesn’t seem like a single inch was poorly handled.

Now, the song. ‘Our Town’. It reminds me of a marching tune (as in ‘marching in lockstep’), and the entire sequence is just creepy enough to be unsettling while still keeping the facade of a happy group intact. I don’t know who pulled that off, but they need a medal or something.

This episode also introduces us to a new mage character named Meadowbrook, with 8 magical items. Also, he’s apparently an ‘eastern unicorn’ from the distant past. I’m glad they didn’t go with Starswirl the Bearded yet again, and it’s a nice bit of world-building.

Starlight Glimmer is… a good villain. She’s intelligent, charismatic and devious with the ruthless cruelty to lock people in a shed to be brainwashed (and while it’s not outright stated, it’s implied that the ponies in that shed don’t get any food. Did you see any plates during that time lapse portion? I didn’t.). Her plan was both ingenious and horrifying, and I have to agree that getting a Princess to Equalize willingly would be a huge boost to the town’s popularity. The fact that she was the only pony in town whose colors weren’t desaturated (i think that’s the right word? eh, someone’ll call me an idiot if it’s not) was a brilliant bit of foreshadowing that both called back to Discord’s personality altering-magic and also helped Starlight to stand out amongst the group.

I was going to call her ‘great’, but there’s one big problem: We never really figure out why Starlight believes what she does, and it kinda harms the character. We don’t know why she decided that all cutie marks were bad, or what she wanted the community for. She says in the episode that she wants to foster friendship by making everyone equal, but not only does she not hold herself to that standard, she continues to say it even after it’s too late to fix anything. Presumably there’s a reason she’s doing this, but it’s never really made clear.

Also, much like with Sunset Shimmer, her name is basically ‘Twilight Sparkle’, which is distracting as all crap. She definitely works as an evil mirror counterpart to Twilight, so I can see why they did it, but the fact that this had been done before got a little distracting.

The good news is that she ultimately escapes at the end of the episode, meaning there’s a chance she’ll return as a recurring villain, and we can learn more about this philosophy of hers.

While the Equalization was an interesting idea, it wasn’t around long enough to get a good look at in my opinion. When the Mane Six were Discorded, we had numerous scenes showing what each of them was like under the effects. We had something similar here, and it could’ve been brilliant, but unfortunately we only get one or two jokes from each of them. It’s a little disappointing, but nothing that distracts.

One other bit that sort of disappointed me was the chase at the end. While it’s a very good climax, so much of what occurs during that climax feels… off. Double Diamond just happens to find his skis during the chase? And they just happen to work fine after what I can only assume was years? Really? And while it’s a minor nitpick, I was disappointed with the balloon bridge portion – What I thought was going to happen (and would’ve been very appropriate to the episode’s theme) would be that Night Glider (and maybe another pegasus) would pick up the other ponies and bring them across the bridge.

But again, that’s a nitpick. This is by far the best opener to a season we’ve had so far, and hopefully a sign of good things to come.

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Halloween Special: John Carpenter’s The Thing from a horror novice

Yeah. Title pretty much should tell you all you need to know about this experiment of mine.

See, it’s Halloween but I don’t trick-or-treat anymore. Don’t even really get dressed up – I generally just stay at home and hand out candy for the kids.

This year, though, I wanted to do something different.

Now, as the title may have clued you in, I hate horror. I hate it with a passion.

The crappy horror is… well, garbage in the extreme. Physical/body horror doesn’t interest me, and poorly done psychological horror is just a snorefest.

The good stuff, say, Midnight, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, that sorta thing? I don’t like being that thoroughly creeped out. It’s just not for me.

Tonight, though, I plan to watch John Carpenter’s the Thing. It’s been a few years since I’ve watched horror, and it’s the first time I can remember knowing that it’s a horror movie going in. I also know the general plot (and the ending, too) so there’s no huge surprise. I’ll give horror another chance to impress me.

This part was written up BEFORE watching the movie, but as I said, I know the general plot and have even seen a few clips from it. I’ve even watched Atop the Fourth Wall’s reviews of the Thing comics, where Linkara talks a bit about the movie. Everything from here on, though, is going to be post-movie stuff. So keep in mind: Spoilers maybe probably.

Well, I know what I’m doing for Halloween next year.

The Thing is a masterpiece of a film, with very few hiccups, and even the few it does have are tiny. It’s a very suspenseful story, well crafted and well told. The actors all turn in decent performances, the sets and enviornments all look… ‘real’, i guess the word would be.

I tend to judge a film’s quality in large part by how often I think of it as a movie instead of something happening in real time, and let me just say: I only thought of it as a movie twice throughout the whole film, and that was to gush over how awesome it was. Everything happening on-screen felt visceral and amazing.

What makes this film brilliant isn’t what it shows us, though: It’s what it doesn’t show us. This is a film about paranoia and mistrust, and it helps instill this feeling in the audience by never showing us everything. At any given time in the movie, one character or another isn’t going to be on-screen, meaning that we’re never quite sure who to trust. This is helped by the film’s many jump-cuts that pull away right as something important to the truth is about to happen – the audience is rarely clear on what happened in a scene where a character is isolated, and our minds are left to fill in the blanks. There’s one instance where a character we’d been following for the past few minutes suddenly turns up dead, apparently through suicide. However, the last we saw of this character (i don’t remember his name, sorry) he’d just found MacCready’s shredded jacket, pointing to MacCready as being one of the Things.

In addition, each character behaves is as reasonable and intelligent a manner as one could ask of a human being under the circumstances.  However, since (again) this entire scenario breeds paranoia and mistrust, the characters still make mistakes and behave erratically at times. That’s okay, though – they’re afraid, it’s easy to understand why (for instance) Windows runs from the group to grab a shotgun or why MacCready threatens to blow everybody up.

There’s a bit of an apocalyptic theme to the movie, too, since the titular Thing could potentially doom all life on the planet. However, this theme is kept in the background so that the conflict is small and personal. Like MacCready says, “nobody trusts anybody anymore”, and our focus is kept firmly on that.

And that ending… just… THAT ENDING. Perfect.

All in all, a fantastic movie, and one that gets my recommendation. Kudos, Mr. Carpenter, I no longer hate horror out of hand.