Wednesday, October 17, 2018

#OpinionatedOctober - My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

October 17
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (Recent Episodes)
TV Show

So this is kind of a mini-review for the latest two seasons of MLP:FIM, but neither of them as full seasons because of stupid streaming rules and messed up streaming services meaning that it's been actually kind of difficult for me to find the show when I want to catch up. At one point the only way I could watch was to pay $1.99 an episode and I'm sorry, but the show wouldn't have been worth that in the beginning when it was at its best so it's definitely not worth it now.

Which is the point of this review, now that we're in an eighth season of My Little Pony's revival, I think the holes are starting to show. There are almost 200 episodes and there's really a sense of diminishing returns happening. Characters are learning lessons that they've learned before, new characters are being thrown in and aren't as well developed. For a while there was entirely too much Discord, but that seems to be waning.

I don't know if it was just that the show started to decrease in quality after Lauren Faust left, but there's really a sense that crept in a few seasons ago that the show was almost buying too much of its own hype and being too meta about it's fandom and fans within the show instead of focusing on good storytelling. The episode I watched today (Forever Filly) was about Rarity not understanding that Sweetie Bell had grown up and while the message was good (if a little simplistic) it just didn't feel right. It didn't make any sense to me that generous Rarity would behave like she did in the beginning of the episode, being dismissive of Sweetie Bell's work, etc. And that's the problem, there's a lot more "we want to tell this story, let's just have these ponies do it" going on it feels like. And the less I say about "The Maud Couple" the better. Even the moral of that episode was bad, it absolutely teaches the wrong lesson.

One thing I can say though is that the "Young Six" might feel a little contrived at first (a new group of exactly six made up of perfect diversity from the different species that have appeared before because conveniently everybody we've met before has a younger sibling or child? Sure, sure, whatever) at the same time, I'm okay with it. They feel more natural and interesting than the Mane Six do at this point, because they are still figuring each other out and the audience doesn't know everything about them yet either. So they're definitely not on my list of "new characters I'm already tired of."

#OpinionatedOctober - Practical Magic Movie Party

October 16
Practical Magic Movie Party at Alamo Drafthouse

Like anybody with a film background, I've known about Alamo Drafthouse for a while. I'm not sure if I realized there was one so close to me, but I am lucky to live in an area where even though I'm about 30 minutes from an Alamo, I actually drive past three other theaters to get there. I just hadn't actually looked into it before when I randomly stumbled on an ad for a Labyrinth Quote-A-Long Movie Party. Obviously, my best friend and I had to go, and we were instantly addicted. I've lost track of how many movie parties we've gone to in the two years since that fateful day, but for Halloween they were doing a showing of Practical Magic. This is one of our favorite movies, so honestly the only delay in buying the tickets after I saw the email was to determine which of the two showings we were going to.

The movie parties are always a good time, and this one was no exception. You get to see a movie that you love on the big screen (or introduce somebody else to one that they've missed) and they lift their strict no talking rules *slightly* for the event (you can quote along with the movie, or sing in the case of Labyrinth, but no conversations or heckling). The food is always good but a couple we've gone to have had themed drinks just for the occasion. I did not try the Midnight Margarita this time around, because I'd already picked out a shake on their Halloween menu that I couldn't wait to try (The Sacrificial Shake, it was amazing). You also get props to use during certain parts of the movie, and this time we had a scratch and sniff card to smell at certain moments too (like sage to help cast the spell on Jimmy). The movie party props are sometimes better than others, and this was one of the best sets I think. Practical Magic is just such a fun movie to watch at any time, but seeing it on the big screen again was awesome. And as the host pointed out before the movie started, it was apparently the 20th anniversary of the film's release. I came home to check my book of ticket stubs, and it turns out we saw it in the day after it came out back in 1998. And yet there was STILL a moment where I realized something I'd never noticed before.

If you've not been to an Alamo Drafthouse before: always arrive early. The 30 minute pre-show before the movie isn't one of those obnoxious "shows" full of ads pretending to be entertainment news or whatever, but an assortment of weird semi-related video finds from who knows where. Trailers for old movies, music videos from who knows's always a weird, fun mix of stuff.

You can't talk about Alamo without mentioning the food. I didn't get anything from the special menu, but I just have to say the chicken & ricotta meatballs are always amazing. I still mourn the loss of the fish and chips (still the best ones I've had in years, haven't found any as good in another restaurant yet) but the meatballs aren't a bad go-to.

#OpinionatedOctober - Reply All: The Crime Machine Parts I & II

October 15
Reply All: The Crime Machine Parts I & II
Podcast Episodes

I've been a fan of Reply All for a while, but I have to admit it took me a bit to hit play on the two newest episodes. For one, because they dropped both parts of a two parter in one day, meaning that there was a lot of extra minutes added onto my queue at once and I'm really against that. I have an idea of how long each thing takes to listen to and specific times I like to listen to them, throwing that apart by doubling the length suddenly makes me grumpy.

But this episode was worth every minute they spent on it. The amount of research and effort it must have taken for them to produce it really shows, and it's extremely admirable that they went looking for an answer and actually dug until they found multiple angles on that answer. It's one of the best kinds of stories because while it's very local (specific to New York City in a specific time frame) but the issues that it touches on are ones that are plaguing communities around the United States. Specifically, they're looking at how a computer system and crime statistic reporting is causing police in NYC to engage in procedures that are racist and unethical. I don't want to spoil any part of the story, they unroll the different pieces of it at a really good pace. It's well worth a listen.