Review: Double Rainboom (2013) by Zachary Rich et al

vlcsnap-2013-03-31-17h52m43s45Double Rainboom is a half-hour long animated episode, made as a college project by fans of the TV show My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. And it’s not only of professional quality, it comes very close to the actual show.

The story follows Rainbow Dash, as she experiences unexpected side effects of a magical potion, and takes us on a ride with with plenty of references to the My Little Pony fandom and to other animated shows.

Compared to the other recent fan-made episode, Snowdrop, production values are much higher. The animation is much more complex and ambitious, with lots of visual gags. Voice acting is also better than in Snowdrop, even if it can’t match the top-tier professional voice actors working on the TV show.

The most apparent flaw is the pacing, which is a little bit slower than we’re used to in animated children’s shows. In dialogues, it feels like we’re always waiting for characters to voice their lines. The episode could probably have been cut 5 minutes and been better for it.
Despite this, the episode ranks up there with an average Friendship is Magic episode, and is much better than many professional animations shown on TV.

This episode is well worth watching for anyone who likes children’s animation. And for fans of My Little Pony, I can only say: DO NOT MISS!

Review: Snowdrop (2013) by SillyFillyStudios

Screenshot scaled

When My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic started airing in 2010, it inspired a huge fan following, not among it’s primary demographic, 7 to 12 year old girls, but among teens and adults of both genders. They’ve produced a huge amoung of fan art, fan fiction, fan music and fan videos, and more than one group has set out to create an entire fan-made episode of the show. The first of these has now been released: Snowdrop.

The story is very simple: A school class is preparing gifts for Equestria’s princesses on the spring sunrise celebration. Snowdrop, a blind filly, can’t find anyone who wants to work with her, and has to use her unique skills to come up with a gift.

The animation is beautiful, but relatively simple, since the story is told mostly through dialogue and narration. The individual frames are beautifully drawn and closely follow the TV show’s style. Fans of the show may also appreciate the appearance of the Princesses Luna and Celestia in younger form, complete with exquisitely flowing ethereal manes.

The voice acting is not quite up to professional standards, but very competent. It could also have benfitted from a more diverse casting. The actress who voices the school teacher is far too young, despite her effort to vibrate her voice to give it an old lady’s timbre.

The story itself succeeds in being sentimental, sometimes a little too much. It also suffers from a flaw which is all-to-common in fan fiction: the main character starts out being misunderstood, then ends up being much more successful and celebrated than the story motivates. Despite this, it’s touching and poetic. A “must watch” for any fans of the show.

Peace Prize Committee awards prize to Alfred Nobel


Oslo, October 12
— Earlier today, the Stortinget in Norway announced this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate. In a surprising move, they decided to award the prize to its long-dead founder, Alfred Nobel.

In recent decades, several of of the Peace Prize winners have been controversial, including Barack Obama, who received the prize two weeks into his presidency, and Mikhail Gorbatjov, who lead the Soviet Union through the end of its Communist era.


“It was really hard picking the prize this year”, the chairman of the committe, Olaf Ruskebus, says. “We already gave the prize to all the democracy champions of the world, and giving the prize to a world leader backfired twice. Finally, someone had a brilliant insight: If the Peace Prize is so important, surely the one most deserving of it, is the man who created it!”

When asked if he thinks this year’s prize will be controversial, he responds, “It’s always been controversial when a new breed of laureate is announced. Gandhi was controversial. And now is the first time we give the Prize to a dead person. Who knows who’ll get it next year?”

When asked about next year’s prize, Ruskebus says, “We have some very interesting candidates! We’ve received nominations both for The People of Earth, and for Peace Itself!”

Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Rises

(spoiler-free)

In the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, the inspiration seems to have been lost. The previous two films worked so well, not in small part due to the excellent character portrayls, but in this film, the characters lack depth and their actions are not well explained. This is a major blow to the film, becuase we need to go deep into the characters if we are going to believe that heroes dress up as bats to fight crime, or villains spread chaos around them for no good reason.

The plot quickly turns into a stereotypical comic book plot. There’s actually a pretty clever plot twist, but it falls flat because we’re not invested in the characters.

It’s an adequate film for a few hours of quailty entertainment, but not nearly as memorable as The Dark Knight.

Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

The much anticipated Hunger Games film is based on Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel of the same name. Not having read the book or exposed myself to spoilers, I was forced to rely solely on the film to grasp the plot.

The basic premise is simple: in a post-apocalyptic future, North America is divided into twelve districts, mostly living in poverty, while being ruled by the affluent, high-tech metropolis called the Capitol. As punishment for a previous uprising, each district is forced to send one male and one female contestant each year to the Hunger Games, where they will fight to the death, leaving only one survivor.

When Katniss’ younger sister is selected for the Games, she volunteers to take her place. It gets even more complicated when the other contestant from their district is a boy she has sympathies for, and vice versa – only one can come out of the games alive.

The contest bears an uncomfortable resemblance to today’s reality TV shows. Taking place outdoors, they’re being filmed and televised by hidden cameras, and watched on big screens even in the poor, low-tech districts. The contestants are assigned stereotypical personas and backstories so they can more easily be sponsored and marketed. But the premise of reality TV is twisted an extra turn: having sponsors determines the contestants’ chances of getting extra help during the contest. This makes their very survival dependant on turning themselves into fake media personalities, and their fight for life and death into crowd-pleasing theatre.

So how enjoyable is it? In my opinion, the film is very well executed. It’s suspenseful and it’s easy to identify with the main characters. It’s relatively realistic and down-to-earth, which makes the characters’ situation feel more real (except for the characters’ near-perfect looks, of course, despite scratches in the face and being out in the wilderness for several days). It has violence and gore, but it never revels in it – it uses it to show the seriousness of the situation and add to the realism. There’s romance, but it’s never allowed to take over the storyline.

I only have a few complaints. The premise behind the Games seems a little sketchy, and the authorities blatantly interfere in them, which strains believability. The story also takes the easy way out a few times. The main character (Katniss) is sometimes a little too perfect, and hard situations and choices are sometimes avoided a little too easily, by events outside the main characters’ control.

Fortunately, the film resists a perfect happy ending, instead focusing on the hypocrisy of the Hunger Games and leaving some ambiguity.

Recommended for anyone who likes drama or suspense, and can stand some tastefully depicted violence.