Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 180: On the Oche

Read it Later story count: 390 (-5)

I'll be glad when (if?) I return to the point when I'm able to return to reading five or more stories just about every week. I'm not there yet, as another three-fic week demonstrates. Here's the little collection I've been able to consider:

Loss by Kaylee
Head-first to Equestria! by Simon_oSullivan
It's Just a Game by HashMark111

★: 0 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 0 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The importance of having fun

    "Uh, one teensy thing to remember – have fun!"—Cherry Jubilee, "The Last Roundup"

From time to time, I get (usually at least semi-unwillingly) caught up in a discussion/argument about whether the standards of writing for Friendship is Magic have fallen since the early days. The more I think about this, the more I think that my answer would be that they probably have – but that this isn't actually the be-all and end-all, and that it hasn't made me like the show less.

There's certainly less attention paid now to keeping continuity perfect, and sometimes we get stuff that just doesn't seem to have been thought out at all and bears no real connection with the rest of Equestria: the Bunyip in "P. P. O. V." is a particularly egregious example. In that episode's case, I felt that part was actively harmful to the entertainment factor, but it certainly isn't always so.

Compare the works of Tolkien with Doctor Who. There's no doubt at all that Tolkien's writing is better – but for the most part, I would rather sit down with Doctor Who. It may play fast and loose with its continuity to an almost ridiculous degree, but to me it's generally a good deal more entertaining. The only Tolkien book I've truly loved is The Hobbit, and I don't think that's entirely an accident.

I watch My Little Pony for 22 minutes of entertainment, and I am more interested in the question "Did I have fun?" than in the question "Was it beautifully constructed?" My guess would be that there's a significant negative correlation between those who share my feelings and those who feel the show is a shadow of its former self. (I think S7 has been great, on the whole.)

Now, I am, to a very minor extent, a writer. And there have been times when I've felt that even I could do better than the show staff. (This isn't new, though: "Somepony to Watch Over Me", anyone?) The thing is, this doesn't ruin my enthusiasm for the show as a whole. As long as they keep churning out stuff that makes me happy to watch, that is good enough for me.

Maybe I should be more demanding. I would be with fanfic. But you know what? I don't care. I like Starlight, in spite of the obvious problems with her characterisation, notably the non-explanation of her extraordinary power level. I like the movie, in spite of its undoubted flaws. And why? Because in both cases, they contribute to my being entertained. And to me, that matters most of all.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

UK of Equestria's overall S7 ranking list

As we've done for the last couple of years (for S5 and for S6), we've been asking people to rank all this season's Friendship is Magic episodes. Because of having no double-episode premiere this year, members were asked to rank the episodes from 1 to 25, with the finale counting as one. We had 15 respondents, a little down on S6's 18 but still enough to get a good idea. S7 has been pretty well received overall, but what you see here is based on the overall means.

The tier boundaries were decided very simply: any episode with a mean position of five or below got a five star rating. Then any ep with an average of worse than 5th but equal to or better than 10th got four. And so on down the line, with episodes with a mean score below 20 getting a one-star rating. This year, we have eps in all five tiers, which makes my job a bit easier! It's also the first time we've had more than six episodes in the top two categories. Here's the list:

★★★★★
1. A Royal Problem
2. Shadow Play

★★★★
3. The Perfect Pear
4. Once Upon a Zeppelin
5. Parental Glideance
6. Rock Solid Friendship
7. It Isn't the Mane Thing About You
8. All Bottled Up

★★★
9. Fame and Misfortune
10. Discordant Harmony
11. A Health of Information
12. Celestial Harmony
13. Campfire Tales
14. Uncommon Bond
15. Secrets and Pies

★★
16. Hard to Say Anything
17. To Change a Changeling
18. A Flurry of Emotions
19. Marks and Recreation
20. Daring Done?
21. Triple Threat
22. Honest Apple
23. Forever Filly


24. Not Asking for Trouble
25. Fluttershy Leans In

Number of times each episode placed first
5: A Royal Problem
3: The Perfect Pear
3: Shadow Play
1: All Bottled Up
1: Fame and Misfortune
1: Once Upon a Zeppelin
1: Parental Glideance

Number of times each episode placed last
6: Fluttershy Leans In
4: Not Asking for Trouble
1: Fame and Misfortune
1: A Flurry of Emotions
1: Forever Filly
1: Honest Apple
1: Secrets and Pies

Most controversial (highest standard deviation)
1. Fame and Misfortune
2. Secrets and Pies
3. Hard to Say Anything

Least controversial
1. A Royal Problem
2. Fluttershy Leans In
3. To Change a Changeling

"A Royal Problem" was universally liked and widely adored: everyone placed the episode in their top nine, and 12 voters had it in the top four. In fact, it (just) displaces "Amending Fences" as the most popular episode of the past three seasons. At the other end of the table, the bottom two were widely unpopular, being more than three points adrift of the rest, and "Fluttershy Leans In" had a highest position from anyone of 17th. That wasn't even from me!

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the most controversial episode was "Fame and Misfortune", and I suspect that argument will run and run. We all know that M. A. Larson doesn't like the fact that his name is attached to it, but that doesn't stop many people (including me) from enjoying what we ended up with. "To Change a Changeling" was an unusual episode where there was near-unanimity on its middling status: out of 15 people, 13 placed it between 10th and 17th in their lists.

The general feeling among those people discussing the most recent season has been that S7 was for the most part a very good run, and certainly a step up from S6. This means that a three-star ep this time around might in fact be more popular in absolute terms than a three-star ep last year. But the rules of the poll don't allow you to make your rankings on that basis, instead requiring only relative positions to be taken into account, so bear that factor in mind.

Friday, 17 November 2017

The movie's performance in the UK

Yesterday, I went to the Showcase cinema in Dudley to see My Little Pony: The Movie for the third time. I'm not a big film-goer, and in fact this is the first one I have ever seen three times on the big screen. It's almost at the end of its run now, and on a midweek afternoon there were only five people in the auditorium – including someone with a UK PonyCon T-shirt! (Actually, two, as I was wearing mine as well.) But I still enjoyed it a lot and even noticed some things I hadn't picked up on before. (No spoilers here!)

Back at the start of October, I wondered whether the film might actually do better (relatively speaking) over here than in North America. At that point, we weren't even sure how widely it would be carried in UK cinemas. The answer: very. While it didn't generally sprawl across multiple screens per cinema in the way Blade Runner 2049 was, the movie was shown in the vast majority of cinemas. According to Box Office Mojo, the total for the UK, Ireland and Malta (which are lumped together) peaked at 555 cinemas in its third week.

BOM tells me that its UK (etc) weekend rankings for the first four weeks of general release were 6th, 7th, 7th and 11th. Compare that with North America, where it started higher (4th) but then fell more quickly (9th, 15th, 19th). The NA box office after four weeks was a smidgen over $20 million. Over here, the same figure is roughly $4.5m, so 22.5% of the NA total. That seems to me to be a respectable performance: The Lego Ninjago Movie made 20.9% as much here as in NA, for example.

What I don't know is how well (comparably) movie-branded toys have done on each side of the Atlantic, or whether the availability of Pony on free-to-air TV in the UK has helped. I do know that few cinemas here are now showing the film in midweek, and that Paddington 2, which went straight in at no. 1 last week, will eat up a great deal of the family-film market from now until Christmas. So... I might have been overly optimistic to hope MLP:TM would do better over here, but it does seem at least to have held its own.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 179: Starlight Glimmer Edition

Read it Later story count: 395 (-1)

For the first time in I don't know how long (because I'm too lazy to look it up), I'm doing a character-focused PR today, and it's the turn of a certain overpowered unicorn. Five stories, and there's certainly some interesting stuff within them. Here's the list:

I Have Many Forms, but This One is Mine by Raugos
Waiting by Silver Moon
Solving for Death by Majin Syeekoh
Same Apples, New Tricks by Bookish Delight
The Alicorn Curse by chillbook1

★: 0 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Monday, 13 November 2017

CD review: My Little Pony: The Movie Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Front cover of the MLP Movie soundtrack CD
"The Mane 6", apparently...
Whew, that title is a bit of a mouthful, isn't it? Luckily, that subject line will be the only place I write it out in full. In line with my policy of avoiding movie spoilers until the New Year, I will be placing most of the review of this CD (for which I paid £10 in Tesco) under a cut. Spoilers ahoy! However, I will say up here that there is a manufacturing flaw in one track of the disc that should not have got to retail copies. Anyway...

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Pony Music Library 48: "Loyalty"

As it's well over a month since the last PML post, I think it's time to do change that. For what it's worth, no movie song will be eligible until next year, partly to avoid any spoilers and partly to give the songs time to settle in my head. Today's inductee is one you've probably all been waiting for almost since the start. Well, wait no longer!


What? "Loyalty"

Who? Acoustic Brony & Mandobrony

Which? Original song

When? January 2012

Why? Well, here it is. I don't think this ode to Rainbow Dash's general awesomeness is the best song these musicians have come up with, and they're no longer even really involved with our fandom at all – but "Loyalty" is just too significant to leave out. It's also, undeniably, damn catchy, and it has one of my favourite guitar solos in all of pony music. I heard Acoustic Brony play this (not acoustically :P ) at BUCK 2014, and it had as much energy then as it does in this recording. It may be more nostalgic than ground-breaking now, and Dash herself may have progressed a lot since 2012 – but whether you love it or loathe it, "Loyalty" is one of those songs that everyone in the fandom recognises. As such, it's something that binds us together, and it demands its place in the PML.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Text Review Roundup: "Shadow Play"

I may be late, but I have at least finished with S7 now as far as TRR is concerned! This finale brought a generally positive reaction, but as usual that reception wasn't quite universal. Pony Press News Journal has been removed: it seems to have ceased publication as there's still no review past the near-month-old "Secrets and Pies". A shame, that.

ArthurCrane – extremely positive ("Lots of fun, lots of story, lots of character. It’s a near-perfect.")

Batbrony Reviews – "My full review of this finale ... won't be out for some time"

Cuddlepug – mixed (graded B-; "a little contrived [though] ending on an epic note is appreciated")

Derpy News – extremely positive (graded A; "Every single character was in top form ... a top class finale")

Louder Yay – extremely positive (5/5; "sheer epicness is what pushes this episode into the highest star bracket")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (10/10; "brought the Legends Of Magic series to a close in the best way possible")

Rainbine – mixed (7/10; " I did like the finale. I thought it was pretty good [but] Stygian/Pony of Shadows is the worst villain in the entire series")

The Super Mario Brony Blog – very positive (5/5; "undoubtedly one of the best two-parters since [The Return of] Harmony and [Twilight's] Kingdom")

TheDragonWarlock – generally positive (graded B+; "The characters are written well for the most parts, sans Twilight being way too reckless ... It's a very solid finale")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – negative (48%; "When world is emphasized over character, you must have a good enough world to hold it up, and this show simply does not anymore.")

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 178: Fisherman's Friend

Read it Later story count: 396 (nc)

I'm up to five fics today! It's been some time since that happened, and I wouldn't go assuming it's going to be the norm, but I'll take the chance while I can. As with last week's PR, all the stories under review are very short; I hope to get a little more time to read slightly longer fics in the near future. We have:

Grind by Cola_Bubble_Gum
I'm Not Small, I'm Aerodynamic! by PonyThunder
Somno Captis by Flint-Lock
Another Chance by Jay David
Chrysalis Visits Minion Mart by Dunsparce

★: 1 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Film review: My Little Pony: The Movie

The Mane Six looking angry, with a startled Spike
I like the way each character's expression is fitted to them
You'll already know from my spoiler-free review of My Little Pony: The Movie that I enjoyed the film. At that time, I'd only seen it once, but I've since been to the cinema again (this time with the Worcester meet mob). And on that occasion, since I knew more or less what was coming, I could relax a bit and watch out for certain things. So, under the cut is a spoiler-filled review of the movie.

Note: all screenshots are from official trailers

Monday, 6 November 2017

UK PonyCon 2017 report, part 6: Final reflections

I don't need any extra encouragement to ramble, but here goes anyway. This sixth and last part of my UK PonyCon thoughts is a general look back at a few aspects of the con that I perhaps didn't give much space to in my previous report posts. Some of this is stuff that I included in my official feedback form – I hope you returned that if you were at the convention – but some is new. Page break time!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Episode review: S7E25&26: "Shadow Play"

Meadowbrook and Fluttershy using their Element
Okay, I can stop the review here, really. Five stars!
Well, here we are at the end of S7, and what an interesting season it's been. A satisfyingly good one too, if you ask me. I'll probably do some sort of overall retrospective of the season on LY eventually, but for now let's concentrate on the season finale. The end of "Uncommon Bond" looked very much like a set-up for this finale, and so it proved. But did I actually like it? After the break, you'll get your answer.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Text Review Roundup: My Little Pony: The Movie (part 2: Britain and Ireland edition)

I hope to get the S7 finale review up very soon (sneak peek: I loved it) and then my film review a little after that. Speaking of the movie, though...

Here we go with the second part of the My Little Pony: The Movie megaTRR, or whatever you'd like to call it. As with the much longer first instalment, I'll put the actual review extracts under a cut in case anyone finds them a little too spoilery – one review blatantly gives away something we only discover close to the end of the movie. I've included The Times review even though it's paywalled, since what you can see free is actually everything but the BBFC rating and the running time!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

UK PonyCon 2017 report, part 5: Merch haul (ish)

Table holding things I got at UK PonyCon 2017
Relatively restrained on the Fluttershy front, I feel :P
Above is the more-or-less compulsory photo of the things I brought home from UK PonyCon 2017. That "ish" in the subject line is because two were actually presents before the event began, but I'm including those specific items here as I took them both to the convention. As usual, click it to enlarge. Going roughly across rows from the top left, you can see:
  • G1 Posey from Chrissytree – my very first G1 pony
  • Legend of Everfree DVD – a con exclusive for a full two days :P
  • The con book. Duh
  • 4DE Fluttershy plushie – a gift from Rorschfox
  • The con poster, designed by Sparkler
  • Applejack Hearth's Warming card from Limelight Press
  • Two original Fluttershy A6 pieces by StormBlaze
  • Derpy print by Dori-to
  • Mailmare Derpy postcard by PoneBooth
  • Fluttershy "Best Pony" badge, also by PoneBooth
  • The all-important con badge (with themed lanyard)
  • Supporter-tier enamel badge
  • Celestia "Best Princess" badge – PoneBooth again
  • Mystery Mini Scootaloo – a gift from Snowkitten
  • Fluttershy print – another one from Dori-to
  • Con T-shirt, designed by Sparkler
I'm not sure exactly how much this little lot cost me, but it wasn't especially out of line with what I've spent on merch at previous conventions. The only time I splashed out was for the pair of StormBlaze originals, but I didn't really have a choice with those. Not pictured: cider and muffins. :P

Next time: some final thoughts on my UK PonyCon 2017 experience

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 177: Puck will make amends!

Yes, PR is back! Whether or not this is a good thing is for you to decide, but I'm hopeful that there won't be another gap in the series this side of Hearth's Warming. I may even get a review of The Skyla Pseudonym out by year's end, though don't put your last penny (or indeed any penny) on that one.

Read it Later story count: 396 (-3)

Four stories this time. All very short, but that's partly because my time is also very short at the moment. They were chosen by skimming a list of highly-rated fics of less than 2,000 words. They all feature Rainbow Dash in one way or another, but that wasn't a deliberate thing. For newcomers, please remember that a story I consider average gets two stars, not three. This week's fics are:

Buckball Abstract by Pineta
Em Dash by Cloud Hop
Dragon Bucking by deleteme29358
Rainbow Unicorns by Hopeful_Ink_Hoof

★: 0 | ★★: 3 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 0 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

UK PonyCon 2017 report, part 4: Monday

All good things must come to an end, and UK PonyCon 2017 had been a very good thing indeed. Hawthorn and Rorschfox had gone home after the con on Sunday, but Snowkitten, Bridle Timeout and I were still present to have breakfast together on Monday morning at the slightly more civilised hour of eight o'clock. The breakfast was table service this time, but the stuff I ate was still a mix of fry-up and Continental.

After retrieving our bags and checking out of the Premier Inn, the three of us lugged our stuff to the bus stop, and amazingly (this being First) one turned up almost at once. We needed two buses to get us to Bristol Parkway station, and Bridle did a little spam-zapping on UK of Equestria during the trip. The first bus deposited us at Cribbs Causeway shopping centre, where we made the brief detour to Pegasus Road, just because.

Our second bus brought us to Parkway, where we ran into a couple of fellow UKPC-goers. One, a first-timer, opined that "Everyone was so friendly!" which was great to hear. On the platform, we saw one of the first in-service Class 800 trains, though naturally it was going to London and we poor Midlands-bound folk had to put up with ye olde CrossCountry Voyager. Still, we all managed to get seats, so no complaints there!

Unbeknownst to us until a quick tweet exchange, Oilyvalves was on the same train, a couple of coaches back. We arranged to meet at New Street, though Bridle stayed on the train as it was continuing to his northern England home town. The other three of us headed for Muffin Break, appropriately enough, where we had a nice relaxed chat. I chose an apple and cinnamon muffin, my favourite flavour and suitable for the con theme.

Eventually, the time came to go home. Oilyvalves went to get his train to the East Midlands while Snowkitten and I headed for Moor Street station and our own transport home. The reasonably quiet service allowed us one last chat about how we really didn't want the con weekend to end, and then after a final hug we both headed for our own homes. An awful lot had happened since Friday, but nearly all of it was fantastic. Roll on 2018!

Additional: as OilyValves' comment reminds me, on the approach to New Street the guard/conductor/whatever on the train made some mildly humorous remarks about the attractions of Birmingham... and mentioned that it was a place where "the wheels of friendship" turned. We did wonder whether he knew! :P

Next time: the infamous merch haul photo!

Monday, 30 October 2017

Text Review Roundup: "Uncommon Bond"

Whew, I did get behind whilst I was at UKPC, didn't I? I will try to catch up! Anyway, you know the form. Off we go.

ArthurCrane – no review at time of writing

Batbrony Reviews – positive ("[a few] issues aside, this was a very quietly mature episode with a just as subdued lesson, but one which was very smart and mature")

Cuddlepug – positive (graded B+; "As a critic of Starlight Glimmer, seeing her in this episode made me like the character more than I had previously.")

Derpy News – fairly positive (graded B+; "a decent episode")

Louder Yay – fairly positive (3/5; "For an E24 it's perfectly decent fare, but it's clearly there as a lead-in to the finale")

MLEEP Reviews – mixed (6.5/10; "when you combine the writing of a good writer with that of a bad writer, the result will be an episode that was very average")

Pony Press News Journal – no review at time of writing

Rainbine – very positive (9/10; "It was funny. It was enjoyable. And it used Starlight and Sunburst very well.")

The Super Mario Brony Blog – mixed (2.5/5; "Uncommon Bond at best is an acceptable installment")

TheDragonWarlock – fairly positive (graded B; "I don't find this episode bad at all [though it's] certainly not as good as Starlight's other episode, A Royal Problem.")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – rather negative (50%; "the episode is hardly offensive or anything, but it's also dry and flat ... soulless")

Sunday, 29 October 2017

UK PonyCon 2017 report, part 3: Sunday

Onward! Since there were no official evening events on the Sunday of UK PonyCon, this will be a rather shorter report than that for Saturday, but I think it's still long enough to warrant a page break. And since someone asked: yes, there will be a merch haul photo at some point after the write-ups themselves are done. I didn't get a huge amount, but you'll get the photo anyway, because it's my blog and I want to. :P

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Episode review: S7E24: "Uncommon Bond"

Sunburst conjuring handkerchiefs from Trixie's ear
I can well believe that Trixie's skull is full of those
It's been a bit of a while, I know, but that's what going to conventions does to you. Anyway, "Uncommon Bond", the final regular-style episode in S7, was co-written by Josh Haber and Kevin Lappin. I actually saw this some time ago, but I watched it again last night to refresh my memory. Past the cut, you'll find a fairly short waffle about what I thought of it.

Friday, 27 October 2017

UK PonyCon 2017 report, part 2: Saturday

I got up at six o'clock, which was a fine way to start a holiday weekend, I can tell you. :P At least that allowed me to get up slowly before I met up with Snowkitten and Rorschfox at seven for breakfast. The restaurant was dark and almost deserted, but it was open and since it was included in the room rate, I made the most of it: bacon, sausages, fried egg, tomato, baked beans and hash brown on one plate, then two mini muffins, a bagel, a pancake and a yoghurt on the other. Plus orange juice.

Rorschfox's tiny yet TARDIS-like car took us to the con venue at UWE and we arrived a little before nine, so were able to witness the VIP-tier Raritys sauntering in while we Applejack-style salt-of-the-earth peasants shivered in the near-gale (though there was a rainbow!) and bought our optional-but-everyone-buys-them upgraded lanyards. Come 9:30, though, we plebs were also allowed in. Well, as far as the registration desk, though reg was very quick and smooth. I picked up my con book, weekend pass and Supporter-tier badge and I was in!

Today's report is long, so I've added a page break.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

UK PonyCon 2017 report, part 1: Friday

UK PonyCon 2017 was fantastic. Let's get that out of the way straight off. My favourite of the six Pony conventions I've been to, so huge thanks to everyone who worked so hard in making it so good.

This year's iteration of the convention was held in Bristol, at the University of the West of England (universally known as UWE, pronounced "Yoo-ee") Exhibition and Conference Centre. The theme for this year was "Wild West and Rodeo", so as you can imagine there was a very strong Apple Family presence. A more unwelcome presence was my cough, the entire weekend, though it was mostly kept under control by the consumption of vast quantities of mints.

This was my fourth UK PonyCon and sixth MLP convention overall, but it was the first time I'd had a travelling companion on the train – Snowkitten. (I know him better under another name, but Snowkitten is the one he used for the con book, so that's what he gets here!) After a quick yet important stop at Muffin Break at Birmingham New Street to get into the mood, we made it to Bristol Parkway on time at just before 2pm. There, we met up with Rorschfox, who I only knew through Twitter but Snowkitten had met before; he'd kindly offered to give us a lift to the hotel where all three of us were staying.

Once we'd negotiated Parkway's bizarre layout – seriously, for a relatively small station the place is a maze – it was a fairly brief journey to the Premier Inn on the Filton roundabout. We checked in and spent a little while chatting about this and that, and (among other things, not all pony-related) Rorschfox gave me a beautiful 4DE Flutterplush, which has always been quite hard to get in the UK, and a really nice card he'd asked Kelly Sheridan to sign with a little message to me while at BronyCon

After dumping our bags, we had a quick scoot(aloo) around Home Bargains to see what they had in the way of Pony. Reshelving meant there wasn't much, but GoH Big Spike was there for a tenner. We then had a decent enough meal (gammon steak in my case) at the Brewers Fayre adjacent to the hotel, and there was of course more chatting. We were slightly disappointed not to meet any other con attendees, but we knew some were getting in much later, and in any case that state of affairs would change.

We all felt we'd like a fairly early night, given that our plans required us to be up before dawn on Saturday morning. As happens irritatingly often, I couldn't get to sleep for ages, and let's just say that I failed the first part of the 6-2-1 Rule with a vengeance. At least I got some shut-eye. I can't imagine how people manage who share rooms with friends; I've always shelled out for a single room at cons, because I absolutely need peace and quiet overnight at my age!

Next time: rainbows, karaoke and Awesome Applejacks

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Text Review Roundup: My Little Pony: The Movie (part 1)

Come on, I could hardly not do a TRR for this, could I? Unsurprisingly, there are a lot more review sources than for show episodes, so I have had to pick and choose a little bit. I'm prioritising freely accessible, non-paywalled sites, but I am not giving priority to those reviewers who happen to agree with me. This is intended to be a reasonable cross-section. Also, the amount of syndication in US movie reviewing is ridiculous.
 
As a large number of these are professional reviews, there have been many more text-based reviews than we get for an episode – a YouTube video just won't cut it if you're writing for a national publication. So it's a long list – seriously, a long list! Off we go, then. As it's inevitably very spoilery, I'm using a page break – come past the cut for the reviews!

Note: I will probably do a separate TRR at some point for reviews from British sources, and maybe even another for text-based reviews of the movie from within the fandom.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Text Review Roundup: "Secrets and Pies"

As this gets published, I should be in the final stages of getting ready to depart for UK PonyCon in Bristol. The weather forecast for Saturday is what with British understatement I'll call "not ideal", but thankfully today is okay so travelling shouldn't be too hard. Other than pre-scheduled posts, I won't be saying anything here for a little while – if you do Twitter, I'm at @louderyay. (Actually, I still am even if you don't!)

Inevitably, my having to write this early means that some TRR regulars hadn't got their reviews posted in time, so there are quite a few gaps. On the plus side, Pony Press News Journal is back with a text-based assessment and there's a newcomer in Rainbine. Reactions to this episode really were all over the place.

ArthurCrane – no review at time of writing

Batbrony Reviews – no review at time of writing

Cuddlepug – no review at time of writing

Derpy News – positive (graded B+; "[Rainbow's] way of trying to make it up to [Pinkie] is ... overly-complicated [but] that was the only sore point")

Louder Yay – mixed (2/5; "does have a few problems [but] for simple character moments, it's pleasant viewing")

MLEEP Reviews – negative (4/10; "the story ... was dull and lazy [though Pinkie] does supply some great laughs")

Pony Press News Journal – positive (9/10; "Although the episode is pretty simple, it's still a really fun and enjoyable episode")

Rainbine – very negative (4/10; "a pointless, boring, and most unnecessary episode")

The Super Mario Brony Blog – extremely negative (0/5; "a huge step in the wrong direction for both Pinkie and Rainbow Dash ... [a] travesty")

TheDragonWarlock – rather negative (graded C; "At best, this episode is okay; at worst it's a complete bore.")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – sort-of positive (63%; "In my brain, I know it's not very good. But it's one of the few episodes this season which I'd watch again in a heartbeat.")

Friday, 20 October 2017

Tips for UK PonyCon-goers 11: Have fun!

As I'm setting off for UK PonyCon in not much more than an hour, this will be the last post I actually see go up until I get back. With that in mind...

Tip 11: Enjoy the convention!

Yes, we've spent months waiting for this. Some of us will have worked hard on art or cosplay or music or plushies or stupid stories about custard, while others will be working during UKPC, whether as staff or volunteers. But the thing that unites all of us is a love of pastel ponies. (If it doesn't, you booked at the wrong con!) So let's make the most of a weekend where nobody will question that aspect of our lives, and where "I love My Little Pony" is a statement that can be taken as read and appreciated, without the need to explain or justify ourselves.

See you in Bristol!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Text Review Roundup: "Once Upon a Zeppelin"

There'll be no Ponyfic Roundup for a week or two owing to the imminence of UK PonyCon, but I'll at least try not to get too far behind with TRR. This time around, the episode was well received, with nobody at all giving it an outright negative rating and several reviewers rating it highly.

ArthurCrane – mildly positive ("a perfectly serviceable episode")

Batbrony Reviews – very positive ("while not a flawless episode, this was still a very exceptional Season 7 episode")

Cuddlepug – no review at time of writing

Derpy News – very positive (graded A; "a very enjoyable episode")

Louder Yay – very positive (4/5; "about as good as filler gets, and it's definitely an episode that I enjoyed greatly")

MLEEP Reviews – wildly positive (10/10; "such a heartwarming episode")

Pony Press News Journal – no text-based review for this episode

The Super Mario Brony Blog – mildly positive (3.5/5; " I just wish [Twi's family] could've been done more interestingly ... impressive visuals ... moral comes off as a good one ... reasonably good")

TheDragonWarlock – positive (graded A-; "it feels like Twilight was forced through the wringer [but] it's still a great episode with a good moral")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – very positive (88%; "a last-minute delight which combines the two things season 7 excels at: new family characters and Twilight Sparkle")

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Bristol cinemas showing the movie over UKPC weekend

Some, but not all, cinemas in Bristol are now listing My Little Pony: The Movie for next weekend – so if you're attending UK PonyCon and would like to take in the film, you should be able to do so. (I won't be going to see it again myself until the week after.) Where two prices are listed, they're off-peak / peak, but every cinema differs on when you get an off-peak price.

Most of the big chains are carrying the movie at their Bristol sites. Here's what I've found so far:

Cineworld, Hengrove (south of city)
Showing at 13:10. 15:40 and 18:10
Tickets: £9.00 / £10.50
Online booking fee: included
Book tickets here | Google Maps

Odeon, Broadmead (city centre)
Not wheelchair-accessible
Showing at 13:30 and 16:00, plus 11:00 Sat–Mon (subtitled on Sun only)
Tickets: £5.75 / £10.50
Online booking fee: included
Book tickets here | Google Maps

Scott Orpheus, Westbury Park (north of city)
Not wheelchair-accessible; requires phone number to book online!
Showing at 15:00 (Fri–Sun), 12:30 (Sat–Sun) or 14:00 (Mon)
Tickets: £5.50
Online booking fee: not sure
Book tickets here | Google Maps

Showcase, Avonmeads (just east of city centre)
Showing at 10:00, 12:25, 14:55 and 17:20
Tickets: £7.90 / £9.75
Online booking fee: 60p
Book tickets here | Google Maps

Showcase de Lux, Cabot Circus (city centre)
Showing at 11:15, 13:55 (not Sun) and 16:30
Tickets: £8.30 / £10.50
Online booking fee: 60p
Book tickets here | Google Maps

Vue, Cribbs Causeway (north of city)
Showing at 10:35, 12:20, 13:35 and 16:55 (Fri)
Showing at 10:10, 11:20, 12:40, 13:40, 14:30, 15:40 and 16:20 (Sat)
Showing at 10:05, 10:45, 11:40, 12:35, 13:25, 14:25, 15:25 and 16:25 (Sun)
Showing at 10:05, 11:05, 12:05, 13:15, 14:15, 15:00 and 16:00 (Mon)
Tickets: £9.49 / £10.99
Online booking fee: 75p
Book tickets here | Google Maps

Tips for UK PonyCon-goers 10: You always take the weather with you

Here's a tip for UK PonyCon that I was considering publishing anyway, but given the weather forecast I now think it's an important one:

Tip 10: Remember, it's October. In England

That means you're not going to have a weekend of balmy temperatures and gentle breezes while you sip cocktails by a tropical lagoon. The River Avon's path through Bristol is full of mud most of the time anyway, thanks to the Bristol Channel's 15-metre tidal range – the highest anywhere in the world outside Canada, fact fans.

That's not relevant to the convention, though, What is relevant is that the Met Office outlook is currently predicting a spell of very wet and windy weather over con weekend, and you're likely to regret it if you don't prepare for it. While this area of Bristol isn't on an exposed headland or anything, it can get pretty windy during autumn gales.

So, if you're driving to UKPC, be prepared for stuff like trees blocking roads or speed limits across the Severn Bridge. If you're travelling by train, there may be longer journey times or trees or fallen overhead wires blocking routes for a while. Even once you arrive at your hotel, you may get soaked walking across the car park if the rain's falling hard enough.

On con days themselves, consider what you'll do if it's pouring down at queue time – one of those single-use plastic coats might be handy, as the wind's likely to be too strong for umbrellas to be useful. Also, bring plastic bags of some sort to wrap items susceptible to water damage. You don't want your beautiful new plushie waterlogged on the first day!

I don't want to go overboard here. Even a severe gale storm would be unlikely to be as disastrous as Ophelia was to Ireland in a non-coastal city like Bristol. But it does look increasingly as though the weather will not be as benign as it has been for the last few UKPCs, and it's better to have preparations you don't need than to need preparations you don't have!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Episode review: S7E23: "Secrets and Pies"

Angry Pinkie Pie with pie filling all over her face
At least she didn't get at Spike this time round
As you might expect, with UK PonyCon coming up, my normal schedule here will be considerably disrupted. I might have one or two pre-written posts that will appear during the con, but otherwise: Ponyfic Roundup will not appear this week, and may not appear next week either. Reviews for episode 24 and the finale will get done when I get the time, and ditto for Text Review Roundup. On to today's business, though – thoughts on Josh Hamilton's episode after the break.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

UK PonyCon let down by supplier; no exclusive plushie this year

Some unfortunate news from UK PonyCon today. It's been announced that, due to problems with the supplier, it's proved impossible to supply this year's exclusive convention plushie. This is the themed pony which was going to form part of the goodie bag VIP ticket-holders were given as part of their registration deal. (And possibly end up being sold/auctioned as well, I guess.)

The con organisers are currently in discussions regarding the payments they've made to the supplier, and this means that they're not able to go into details. It's bound to be frustrating for VIPs not to know exactly what's gone wrong, but there's no practical way around it: if one side gives a running commentary in a situation like this, it almost always ends up being worse for everyone in the end.

As I understand it, VIPs should check their email as they will have been contacted by UKPC and offered a number of options about what they want to do. According to comments on the UKPC Facebook post about this, there is a refund option; I don't know what the others are. (I can make some decent guesses, but I have no actual knowledge and don't want to confuse the issue.) So please read that email!

I hope people will be understanding of UK PonyCon's situation here. Without knowing the details, it does very much sound as though they've been left in the lurch by a supplier that hasn't kept up its end of the bargain. And it's not as if they could commission dozens of plushies in the next six days! I'm not a VIP ticket-holder, but I'll now be making sure to buy a little extra something from the UKPC merch stall.

Spoiler-free review: My Little Pony: The Movie

Please note that "spoiler-free" means that the level of information here is roughly what you'd get in a general media review. If you're trying to avoid all information about the film, stop reading now!

I'd been expecting my reaction to My Little Pony: The Movie to be something along the lines of "Well, that was okay, I guess" – something that might have just about scraped a three-star rating. In the event, I liked it a good deal more than that. However, I can see why some people wouldn't, and I don't think this is a movie that's likely to convert huge swathes of general filmgoers to the cause of Pony. But I was thoroughly entertained, so ★★★★. Considerably more – but still spoiler-free by the standard given above – is written below!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

UK PonyCon questionnaire thingy!

I often see these things published by people who are about to head off to a convention, so here's one from me. Feel free to use and adapt the format for yourself if you like!

What do I call you? Logan, for preference. Everyone else does and I respond to it pretty much automatically now. The full version (Loganberry) is fine too, especially as that's my actual username in most places! If I've told you my real name, that's okay too if you prefer.

What will you look like? A horse. No, afraid not – cosplay isn't really my thing. I'll be wearing a variety of pony T-shirts and carrying some sort of bag. Other than that, I'm older than most bronies, I wear glasses and I don't wear jeans. (Denim irritates my skin.)

Who will you be with? Anyone who can stand my presence for more than 30 seconds. I can't afford to be fussy. :D Also, whoever wants to join in any impromptu singing sessions! Oh, and the Pub Quiz crowd, naturally!

What will you be doing? Not a clue. The timetable for UKPC has an awful lot on it this year, and I don't generally stick to my planned schedule anyway. But as just mentioned, there'll definitely be singing involved. Lots of singing.

Can I talk to you? Sure, I'm happy to talk to just about anyone. Please don't do a Quibble Pants and keep pestering me when I obviously want to be doing something else, because that will annoy the hay out of me. But a hello and a quick chat? Absolutely. :)

Can I take your photo? Um, why? I don't cosplay, as I said. But if you really want to, then ask me first and I expect I'll be okay with it. If you take video of me doing any sort of performance, I want to see a copy, please. Just for my amusement, not so I can sue you later. ;)

Can I hug you? I guess, though please, please ask me first. I don't want you to accidentally break something fragile and feel awful about it!

Can I buy you a drink? Now we're getting silly. I don't expect anyone to buy my cider for me. I don't even know whether my health will let me drink alcohol during the con.

How long are you staying? I'm coming down on Friday afternoon and going back up on Monday morning, so I'll get to attend the whole con. :)

Where are you staying? The Premier Inn on the Filton Roundabout. I always choose the most glamorous locations.

How are you travelling? To Bristol? By train, probably via Birmingham. I'll wear a pony shirt during the trip, though I don't know which one yet, so feel free to come and say hi!

Favourite ponies? Fluttershy, Scootaloo, Celestia, Derpy.

Anything else I should know? I take the all-ages nature of this convention seriously. Being foul-mouthed or talking about NSFW stuff are really good ways to annoy me fast, so please leave off the f- and c-bombs, unless they're "filly" and "colt". :P I prefer to avoid that sort of thing even outside the venue.

This is very much a specifically pony-themed weekend for me. While that doesn't mean I won't talk about anything else, if you want to have a long conversation about Doctor Who or railways or something, another time might be better. Political discussions are right out for the duration of the con. Not interested.

Also, I'm diabetic. I don't have to avoid sugary foods entirely, so a muffin or two is fine, but I can't go overboard. Partly but not entirely related to this, my state of health can change very fast. Please be considerate if it does.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Text Review Roundup: "Marks and Recreation"

I've let this feature slip a bit recently! I'll do a TRR for "Once Upon a Zeppelin" in the next few days, though that for tomorrow's episode may well have to wait until after I get back from UK PonyCon. On the plus side, being late means I have an ArthurCrane review to include! Also, a new reviewer: Pony Press News Journal. Still no reviews from The Southern Nerd or the Super Mario Brony Blog, so those sources have been removed from the list.

ArthurCrane – generally positive ("Rumble is a very good example of how you can make a non-villain character unlikeable, but nonetheless interesting.")

Batbrony Reviews – very positive ("a fun CMC episode with a very good, well-written lesson at its heart)

Cuddlepug – extremely negative (graded D-; "a spiteful episode ... almost entirely without merit")

Derpy News – broadly positive (graded B+; "not overly spectacular, but ... a good episode nonetheless")

Louder Yay – mildly positive (three stars ("just"); "a pretty average episode of FiM – but that's still better than many shows' average.")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (9.5/10; "a marvelous episode that was full of surprises")

Pony Press News Journal – mixed (6/10; "I found most of this episode boring until the point where the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Rumble have an argument")

The Super Mario Brony Blog – positive (4/5; ""yet another good moral ... a well constructed plot ... and more great moments from the Crusaders ... strong, if imperfect")

TheDragonWarlock – rather negative (graded C; "It wants to be ambitious, but it's held back by how its botched execution.")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – negative (43%; " yet another crushingly dull entry in what's shaping up to be a crushingly dull season")

Tips for UK PonyCon-goers 9: Read the rulebook

I think it's about time we had another UK PonyCon tip. This one is a little more serious than some, but...

Tip 9: Make sure you know the rules

I've already mentioned the need to remember that this is not a brony convention. Tying in with that is that UKPC's rules differ somewhat from those of other pony-centric events; there are good reasons for this, but it will help you a lot if you're clear about them before you set off for Bristol. None of them are unreasonable, at least not in my view, so learn 'em and follow 'em.

Notably, there's the fact that this is a strongly family-friendly con, and that there will therefore be many more young children in attendance than you may be used to. So don't swear. At all. (Well, not beyond what's in the show. "What in tarnation?" is probably okay. :P ) And don't make a lot of noise unless you're in an area where it's expected, such as a singalong. You may scare kids, and that wouldn't be very friendly!

The Prohibited Items section is worth perusing, too. "No weapons" means no weapons at all, including toys. This is not the con for Nerf guns and water pistols. Note that "aerosols" are listed, so don't bring in pressurised deodorants and the like assuming they'll be okay. (A dry-stick deodorant is an alternative that can feel refreshing even if you've had a shower that morning. And you will have a shower, won't you? Good.)

Most of the rest is simple common sense. Ask before you take someone's photo, and do not argue if they say no. That applies however they're dressed – cosplay is not consent. Don't disrupt panels by chatting through them – there's a dedicated chill-out space this year, or you can go to the café or bar. Have your bag ready to be searched when you go in – this will speed things up for everyone. And so on.

Some of that sounded a bit heavy, I know, and I promise there'll be at least one lighter tip before this series comes to an end. But really, all you have to do is remember this: be generous, honest, kind, laughing, loyal, magic and friendly. Do that and you'll have a great UK PonyCon 2017!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Good article about the fandom

(Brief disclaimer: I know Andrew Crome slightly and have met him on a few occasions.)

I'm so glad I'm not employed as a headline writer, because as you can see I'm terrible at it. :P However, it is at least accurate: once you get past its mildly irritating headline, Andrew Crome's piece is a very solid summary of our weird and (usually) wonderful fandom, and one which goes a few steps beyond the cookie-cutter stuff you often get in such articles. You don't often get a piece about My Little Pony that brings in Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer!

I found the most interesting parts of the piece those which looked at the challenges the brony fandom presents. The article is timed to coincide with the movie's release, and we get a reminder of the fan backlash at Sia getting a top-line credit but not Tara Strong and co. There's also a brief mention of the very interesting question of whether the young girls who are supposed to be MLP's core audience are being sidelined somewhat by fan-targeted marketing.

Crome's article, published on theconversation.com, can be read for free here:

Meet the ‘Bronies’: adult fans giving My Little Pony a marketing headache

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 176: All Bound for Morningtown

PSA: I am less likely to review your story if you're using a seasonal username at the time, as it's a real pain for a reviewer's record-keeping. (This is one reason I never change my own username.) Feel free to exploit this information as you wish. :P

Read it Later story count: 399 (+2)

Another three-short-fic week, something you probably won't be too surprised to see. What you may be surprised to see is the nature of a couple of the stories under review. Let's just say that in one case, I didn't want to wait any longer, and in the other, I was dared to review something of that nature. Name withheld to protect the guilty. :P My RiL list has expanded slightly, too, as was probably inevitable after several weeks of limited time to read and review. Anyway, today we have:

A White Hearth's Warming by Chris
Skintight Payback by Aspirant
A Tea Party by Maniac92

★: 0 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 0 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Well now, this is an interesting development

Cinema ticket to see the MLP Movie on 14/10
Yup – I'm going to see My Little Pony: The Movie early! :D After I said I didn't want to go on my own, OilyValves kindly offered to join me, so we'll be seeing the film at Showcase Cinema de Lux Leicester at lunchtime on Saturday. This showing is actually the only one of the three that day I can easily make, as the 10am one is just too early (given I need to travel for two hours to get to Leicester) and I need to be home later in the evening, so I'd be in too much of a rush if I waited for the 3pm screening.

And yes, I will still be going to the already announced movie meet in Worcester on the 28th. This is an extra. :)

If anyone else reading this will also be at the 12:30 Showcase Leicester showing, leave a comment!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Early movie releases... in England! *UPDATED*

Awooga! Awooga! Pastel alert!

Big news if, like me, you live in the UK outside Scotland and are counting the days until the film's release on the 20th... there now seems to be a limited early release in England too. I don't know how many cinemas will be involved, as the numbers seem to have gradually increased during the Scottish previews, but so far I've found:

Brighton: Cineworld
Showing at 10:30, 13:10 and 15:30
Tickets: £11.30 Sat/Sun, £9.80 weekdays
Online booking fee: 70p
Book tickets here

Brighton: Odeon
Showing at 11:50 and 14:20
Tickets: £11.25 every day
Online booking fee: included
Book tickets here

Leicester: Showcase Cinema de Lux
Showing at 10:00, 12:30 and 15:00
Tickets: £9.90 Sat/Sun, £7.95 weekdays
Online booking fee: 60p
Book tickets here

Leicester: Odeon
Showing at 10:15 (Sat-Thu only), 12:45 and 15:15
Tickets: £11.00 Fri-Tue, £8.75 Wed-Thu
Online booking fee: included
Book tickets here

Loughborough: Odeon
Showing at 10:45, 13:15 and 15:45 (not Sat)
Tickets: £4.75 every day
Online booking fee: included
Book tickets here

Thanks to mlpbronypony on UK of Equestria for the initial heads-up.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Episode review: S7E22: "Once Upon a Zeppelin"

Shining Armor is airsick in the tiny boat
That was about my reaction too to that mask, Shiny
For what it's worth, I will now be sticking to the Discovery Family schedule for episode reviews as much as UK PonyCon allows. This week we had "Once Upon a Zeppelin", by a new writer to the show, Brittany Jo Flores. It really had been quite a while since we'd got a Twilight-focused episode where she didn't share the spotlight with Starlight (so many lights!), and I was interested to see what we'd get out of it.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Tips for UK PonyCon-goers 8: Have a go!

What with all the movie-related news in recent weeks, it's been too long since the last one of these. So...

Tip 8: Take part in the fun

One of the unique things about a convention is that it gives you the chance to be part of the action in a way that you can't do on your own, or even at a regular meet. This does not mean that you need to go up on stage in front of everyone; there are plenty of ways you can take an active part in UK PonyCon even if you find actually "performing" too stressful to manage.

Bidding in the charity auction is participating. Joining in one of the singalongs is participating. Entering for "Destroy a Fakie" is participating. Chatting to a stallholder (when they're not busy!) is participating. Letting someone on their own join your group is participating. Having a bite at the café or a drink at the bar is participating. Directing someone at the station to the venue is participating...

...you get the idea. Of course, if you do have the ability and desire to do so, by all means get in touch with the UKPC staff about volunteering – they're always grateful for more help and will welcome you with open hooves! But for those of us for whom that's impossible for health or other reasons, we can still be more than simply passive consumers. And really, at a con, everyone can be part of the show!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

CinemaScore for the movie is out!

As with the Rotten Tomatoes post, I'm marking this as spoilery beyond the cut, even though it really isn't. As with that earlier post, this is just a case of talking briefly about a grade. There are no spoilers for the plot of the movie whatsoever in the post itself.

Logan rates Logan

A little while ago, Chris did a post in which he compared how Fimfiction users ranked his published stories to how he personally would rank them. He took this concept from horizon, who took it from Estee. And now I'm taking it from Chris! I've made very few changes to his format, since it seems to work.

At the time of writing, there were 23 eligible stories – Little Bits and Friendship is Poetry are open-ended and/or incomplete. Just for the hay of it, I'm going to list them in reverse order. Here, then, is how I rank each story, along with a brief explanation of why. It's quite long, so I've used a page break.

Friday, 6 October 2017

What constitutes a movie spoiler?

I've now found a cinema in the English Midlands (my home region) where the movie is open for booking! It's the Broadway in Nottingham, where there are two showings a day from 20/10 to 31/10. The major chains don't tend to open bookings until a week or so out, so it's not surprising an indy would be the first I noticed.

This is a spoiler-free post, in spite of being about spoilers!

Now that we've reached the day when My Little Pony: The Movie goes on general release in North America (and a bunch of other places), the potential for being spoiled on major aspects of the film's plot is about to increase enormously. Most of us in this part of the world are trying to avoid spoilers to some degree – but what actually is a spoiler, especially as far as this blog is concerned?

I think we need to be realistic. If you're expecting to get through to 20th October without even seeing a still picture of any of the new characters, then frankly you're going to fail in that quest pretty hard. You'd literally need to hide in a cave for the next fortnight to achieve that. There's already a ton of merch on the shelves starring the main newcomers, and soon there'll be posters and perhaps even TV ads.

UK PonyCon is coming up just as the film releases, and that convention does indeed have a no-spoilers policy – but again, a total blackout is simply not going to happen. How could a convention like that possibly ban vendors from selling a huge range of merch? Answer: they can't and they won't. You will see images and toys featuring movie-specific characters there, and there is no realistic way of avoiding that.

Since I don't want to spoil people on specifics here, I'll use an analogy to explain Louder Yay's position: that of the first Equestria Girls film from 2013. This was where Sunset Shimmer made her debut – but I would not consider a still picture of Sunset in a neutral setting to be a spoiler. However, I would consider a picture of Demon Sunset to be one, as that's a significant plot twist. See?

And what about trailers? Frankly, neither they or synopses are really spoilers, since they're intended to be viewed before the film itself appears. However, here on LY I've still been reasonably careful to put them beyond a page break if their thumbnails reveal anything of significance. The official "Rainbow" video, for example, has a thumbnail that's simply Maddie Ziegler. Not a spoiler.

Now, how long will my spoiler blackout period last? Another vexed question, as there'll always be somebody who hasn't seen the film, even in ten years' time. I've taken the decision to be careful up until the end of 2017. As far as I can tell from IMDb's not-always-reliable list, nowhere that's going to get the film at all will have to wait until 2018, and that's informed my decision.

I will, of course, be posting a review of My Little Pony: The Movie once I've seen it on the big screen – but that will take a similar format to how I reviewed the Equestria Girls films. The above-the-line picture will be a neutral one, and nothing in the pre-break paragraph will reveal significant plot points. If you click beyond that point, though, I don't want any complaints about spoilers!

If you have any thoughts or comments on what I've just said, please feel free to use the comments section as normal. I'd ask that you avoid movie spoilers in any comments you do make, please.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Movie: UK cinema showings from 6th Oct... but only in Scotland!

Screenshot showing the Vue Stirling cinema listing the MLP Movie for 7th Oct
This is somehow far more frustrating than waiting past the US release!
This is a spoiler-free post

Up until very recently, I'd imagined that there would be no previews or early showings of My Little Pony: The Movie in the UK, except perhaps one organised by Hasbro in London. However, it seems I was wrong. You can go and see the film before its general release date of 20th October – but there's a catch, and a pretty big one for me and indeed most of the UK: you have to live in, or at least be able to get to, Scotland.

I was confused as to the reason for this at first, but Silver Broom on Twitter helpfully explained: the half-term break in Scotland is two weeks earlier than it is in England, and since the reason the movie's been delayed south of the border is to coincide with half-term, I have to concede that earlier Scottish showings make sense.

Not all cinemas even in Scotland are showing it, as far as I can tell, but those I've found that are already listing it for an early release include:

Cineworld: Falkirk and Dundee (from Fri 6/10)
Odeon: Dundee and Dunfermline (from Sat 7/10)
Vue: Stirling and Inverness (from Sat 7/10)

And since you ask, yes I darn well am jealous about this, not to mention frustrated that a day trip to Scotland is beyond both my budget and my health. Booking has not yet opened for the movie at any English cinema, as far as I can tell, but I'll be a great deal more relieved when it does! :P

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 175: Spotlight on The Arbitrage of Moments

This wasn't originally going to be a Spotlight review, but I've discovered I've got more to say about GaPJaxie's fic – which, incidentally, is the only story on Fimfiction to have the word "arbitrage" in its title – than I can fit into my usual single paragraph. Here we go, then...

Read it Later story count: 396 (-1)

The Arbitrage of Moments by GapJaxie
Twilight, OC and Mane Six
Sad/Slice of Life; 12k words; Jun 2013; Teen
When you have so little, and another has so much, it’s easy to justify theft. The more precious the commodity, the easier it is to tell yourself you need it more than they do. And what is more precious than time?
This is a really thought-provoking story, though which thoughts it provokes are likely to vary from reader to reader. At its heart is Applejack reading a diary, and later on Rainbow Dash's strong reactions to its contents. However, it takes a while to see what's going on, including why Twilight is specifically tagged. The main OC (the journal writer) is somepony who provoked strong feelings, but not all of them aligning. This isn't a story for those who are looking for easy answers, but if you don't mind greyness then it's fascinating. If you read the author's Royal Canterlot Library interview for this fic, you'll discover that he's not entirely happy with it. I haven't read the (much longer) story he feels is better, but despite a few niggles (eg a rather unnecessary final chapter) I still think he did a very good job here. Oh, and for what it's worth, I'm in the "wow" camp regarding a certain highly contentious line that you'll know when you see it. ★★★★

If you don't mind plenty of spoilers, then past the break you'll find some more of my thoughts on this tale.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Pony Music Library 47: "My Past is Not Today"


What? "My Past is Not Today"

Who? Daniel Ingram

Which? Equestria Girls short

When? April 2015

Why? At the start of April 2015, three music videos appeared on Hasbro's channel. There'd been no hint that they were coming, strange as it may seem in these days of blanket promotion, and they blew the fandom away. I like all of them, but "My Past is Not Today" is probably the one which had the most impact. After Sunset Shimmer's triumphant Rainbow Rocks appearance, she'd become a hugely popular character, and this song cemented that further. It's a great power ballad about her redemption, sung excellently by Rebecca Shoichet and featuring a fine hook, a catchy melody and a strong bass line. The lyrics are solid and easily singable, too. The quality of the animation doesn't hurt, either, but it's the song itself that's getting inducted here.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Episode Review: S7E21: "Marks and Recreation"

Rumble standing at the door of the Clubhouse
"Er, Rumble... I said to use paint for your circles..."
As the hypemobile for the movie moves way beyond 88 mph, the show just keeps chugging along. This week's episode was written by May Chan, which wasn't a name to excite me given that her only previous ep was the less than impressive "Not Asking for Trouble". Still, one episode does not a failed writer make, so let's have a look and see whether this week's instalment was an improvement.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

A comment on something I've seen regarding the movie

Spoilers beyond the cut!

Just something I read in a small early review. I'm deliberately not giving anything away up here as to whether it's good, bad, both or neither, and I wouldn't recommend going any further if you've chosen to stay spoiler-free.

Might the movie do better in the UK than the US?

An interesting compilation of vague first impressions of the movie here on NeoGAF by ShinySylvee; that page itself is spoiler-free, but some of the links from there are not. Apparently the embargo on full reviews expires today, so the vague things above will probably be overshadowed – but the first signs are that the film was received pretty well. Okay, now to the main stuff.

This post is spoiler-free

This weekend sees the first public previews of My Little Pony: The Movie on the other side of the Atlantic. Inevitably, that's going to mean lots of people spewing spoilers all over everywhere, which isn't something I'm looking forward to but is probably something that's unavoidable. However, it also means people wondering about how well the film will do at the box office.

In the US, MLP's wide release on 6 October is going up against Blade Runner 2049, a behemoth by comparison – and one which has received ecstatic early reviews from the critics. (At the time of writing, it has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98%.) It would take a miracle of epic proportions for Pony to match either BR's critical reception or its commercial performance, and I don't expect it to get close on either score.

Here in the UK, however, we have to put up with waiting another fortnight, until 20 October, to see the film. (I've seen a few hints of some 19 October previews, but I have no hard information.) And you know, there's not a great deal of competition on that date. The Lego Ninjago Movie arrives on the 13th, and that's the only big release I can see to target much the same audience.

Now, it's hardly a new thing for a film to flop in the States and do well over here. Watership Down did exactly that in 1978 – it's generally seen as a cult film in the US, but it was a major commercial hit in the UK. More recently, The Golden Compass did pretty well here and pretty badly in America, though its philosophy (real and perceived) might have had something to do with that.

I'm speculating here, but perhaps with MLP it might also be a factor that the G4 hypewagon is a little newer in the UK. It's only really since about 2014 that Hasbro UK have really pushed hard with bringing merch to us; previously, we tended either to have to import at inflated prices or, at best, wait a year or two for anything to appear. Similarly, our fandom, though small, is still quite strong.

One factor will be whether or not the UK's largest cinema chain, Odeon, decides to show the film. We already know that numbers two and three on the list, Vue and Cineworld, will – but Odeon carrying it would make a big difference. As things stand, it will be more prominent than Equestria Girls, but not that much more. It would be great if British cinemas went all-out with the MLP movie.

So, while I hope My Little Pony: The Movie will do at least well enough to put the memory of the commercial failure that was its 1986 namesake to bed, I don't expect it to be a $100 million blockbuster or anything. It doesn't need to be, really, as long as it drives toy sales enough. But it wouldn't altogether astonish me if it turned out to be a bigger hit outside its North American homeland.

Friday, 29 September 2017

UK PonyCon vendors list is out

It's always a big moment for a convention (in this case UK PonyCon) when you finally discover which stalls are going to be in operation. And here's the answer! Fitting in with the "biggest UKPC ever" theme, I think this is probably the biggest vendor hall ever. Not counting the con's own stalls and the RDA's charity table, I reckon there are getting on for 50 of the things this year.

I've been looking through the list, and I'm quite excited about the volume and variety of people selling this time. This being UK PonyCon, it's good to see plenty of G1-G3 vendors in there, even though I'm inevitably going to concentrate on G4 stuff. Art prints are a near-certainty for me, and if anyone's selling shirts I might be tempted. Plushies may be beyond my budget, sadly.

There's an odd gap where stall C2 should be. I guess either it's a vendor who booked a table but then had to pull out, or it's a place where a table doesn't fit because of a pillar or something. Not that it's important – it just looks a bit odd on the plan. Also, I wondered at first why K1/K2 weren't in the main hall. Simple answer: they sell CCG stuff, and that's where the card games area is!

Looking at the floor plan, I can't help but notice that the stalls area opens out into the bar. I suspect that will prove a popular decision with a number of attendees! I may write another post about the overall layout later on, though of course you never quite know how well it will work until you're there in person. Still, my hype levels are definitely higher after this stalls announcement!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Text Review Roundup: "A Health of Information"

It's that time of the week again. ("Thursday"—Ed.) There's actually yet more UK PonyCon news to post about, but I'll do that tomorrow or Saturday. Unfortunately there was no sign of ArthurCrane or The Southern Nerd's assessments at press time. It's also starting to look as though Batbrony has moved to a later schedule, so I'm going to have to link to a forum post again.

From those who did review the episode, "A Health of Information" got a generally good rap. Nobody was outright negative about it, and most people enjoyed what they saw.

ArthurCrane – no review at time of posting

Batbrony (forum post) – wildly positive ("Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, that episode was AMAZING!!!")

Cuddlepug – fairly positive (graded B; "exchanges between Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy are well-written ... varied facial expressions")

Derpy News – positive (graded A-; "a very good one that has a lot going for it [though] fans might get a bit disturbed by Fluttershy’s determinator status")

Louder Yay – very positive (four stars; "The episode title is horrible, but very little else is ... Despite ... minor complaints, this was Fluttershy's second excellent showing of the season")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "simply sweet performances ... a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down")

TheDragonWarlock – mixed (graded B; "a good episode, but a step down from last week's ... it wasted another chance for another proper Zecora episode")

The Southern Nerd – no review at time of posting

The Super Mario Brony Blog – extremely positive (four-and-a-half stars; "a wonderful, endearing story, another good friendship moral ... one of Fluttershy's best episodes")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – very positive (rated 83%; "easily the funniest episode since at least 'Discordant Harmony' ... surprisingly high stakes ... Give me more like this.")

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 174: You Know When You've Been Ponied

Read it Later story count: 397 (nc)

Back down to three stories this week, partly as a result of a visit to the dentist and partly as a result of there being way too much movie-and-convention-related news for me to keep up with. The lucky(?) few that made it are:

Room by Zaid ValRoa
Starscape by Carabas
A Thousand Roses by Titanium Dragon

★: 0 | ★★: 0 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

UK PonyCon schedule is out!

There have been occasions on which the convention events schedules have appeared at almost the last minute, but not this time around. Here is the UK PonyCon timetable, and it's immediately apparent that the "biggest UKPC ever" words are going to be backed with actions. It may not look huge to those of you used to the likes of BronyCon, but believe me, there's a lot going on here by the standards of previous UKPCs.

At first glance, I am very happy with what's on offer. There's a decent variety of panels, including (yay) some writing-based ones. The extra space available in this year's venue means that it's possible to run several events simultaneously – not an entirely unmixed blessing, as I'll get to in a moment, but definitely more good than bad. And I like the fact that the whole thing has been pushed slightly earlier in the day, meaning an 11pm close rather than midnight.

There is a lot of music this year. I am especially happy to see some live music, something I remember with pleasure from UKPC 2014. Unfortunately, the second half of this Musical Celebration clashes with the Pub Quiz, and the Pub Quiz is sacrosanct, but never mind. There were always going to be a few clashes. I'll definitely try to make the first part of the performance, at least. Also, those singalong sessions before the opening and closing ceremonies look great.

And of course there's My Little Karaoke, which I am being not-that-reluctantly forced to do again. I'm not sure how they're going to fit it in with Trotmania (which I am not going to do!) but I'd guess the singing will predominate as it allows others in the room to participate in a way that Trotmania doesn't so much. As for what I'm going to do at karaoke... that information remains classified, mainly because I don't know yet. :P

UK PonyCon is more fun if you participate (more on that in a future Tip!) and I'll be playing my small part there. Yes, a lot of it will involve singing, because I love doing it and it's not something I get a chance to do (in company, anyway) at other times. But I also see Rainbow Dash Attack is back, and I may not be able to resist that. "Who Said What Now?" looks like great fun as well, and a couple more things besides.

Still, the very best thing about a convention is seeing so many other people who are just as crazy about these colourful ponies for little kids as you are. I'm hugely looking forward to catching up with several old friends, as well as meeting new people, buying some nice merch, eating far too many muffins and just generally having a good time. This schedule looks like making the last one particularly easy.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Episode review: S7E20: "A Health of Information"

Fluttershy and Twilight outside Cattail's treehouse
"It's everything I've always wanted to be!"
The schedule for UK PonyCon has been released, but that deserves a full post of its own, which will be along either tomorrow or Thursday. The latest episode of the show, meanwhile, was written by Sammie Crowley and Whitney Wetta, the team responsible for the okay-I-guess "A Flurry of Emotions" earlier this season. This episode was released in Russian almost a week early, but my review is based on the English-language ep. Beyond the cut, then...

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Sia's "Rainbow" for the MLP movie – the video is now officially out

I live in the UK, and this blog is deliberately somewhat UK-centric. Therefore, I am easily irritated by people raving about stuff that only applies to the US as though no other countries existed. "I'm going to see the movie on Oct 6!" is fine. Telling me I should see it on Oct 6 is less so. I can't, okay? Right, whinge over. On we go.


I'm putting the video out in the open as the thumbnail doesn't give anything away, but the video itself is extremely spoilery, to the point of giving away one of the major twists of the plot. I would most definitely not recommend watching this if you're trying to stay unspoiled – although you're probably safe with just the audio, as it's not especially specific.

It's still more than a month until I'll get to see this film, thanks to a combination of the late UK release date, UK PonyCon and my desire to see the movie along with the Worcester meetup group. Nevertheless, I'm really looking forward to seeing it on the big screen, and the "Rainbow" video (which isn't about Dash, by the way) has just reinforced that desire.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Text Review Roundup: It Isn't the Mane Thing About You"

Here we go with the usual batch of assessments written by those fine people who aren't obsessed with shoving everything they do on YouTube. It's good to see ArthurCrane back – actually, he did eventually post a moderately positive "Daring Done?" review, but it came much too late to make last week's TRR. To balance that, unfortunately, Batbrony hadn't posted a review at the time of going to press. A pretty good reception overall for this ep.

ArthurCrane – mostly positive ("while its logic issues are inescapable, the episode delivers big time on its central message")

Batbrony Reviews – no full review at time of posting, but this forum post suggests he generally liked it but was a bit iffy about the hair loss aspect.

Cuddlepug – negative (graded D+, though the PDF consists almost entirely of a long quote from 2012. Um.)

Derpy News – very positive (graded A; "here's Rarity to get every pony energized again.")

Louder Yay – very positive (four stars; "refreshing change of pace")

MLEEP Reviews – wildly positive (rated 10/10; "a truly fabulous episode ... I'm sure to come back to [this] many times in the future")

TheDragonWarlock – mostly positive (graded B+; "Zecora was just dumb in not labelling her potions [but this] does feel like it's recapturing some elements of the first few seasons")

The Southern Nerd – mostly positive ("The writers ... seem to understand that caring about your looks ... is not necessarily a bad thing [though] the ending confused a little")

The Super Mario Brony Blog – positive (four stars; "a breath of fresh air from Haber's previous iffy installments")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – moderately positive (rated 65%; "At worst, it's watchable and inoffensive, and at best it's as charming as anything else this season" [Thrond generally dislikes S7.])