FILM: Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998, Jim Stenstrum)

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Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is a direct-to-VHS spin-off film from the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Mystery, Inc. visit Moonscar Island, upon which is a mansion supposedly haunted by the ghost of Pirate Captain Moonscar. However, not long after arriving they encounter zombies all over the island. But is there more to these creatures than the usual men in masks and animatronics that the gang have made a living out of exposing?

PROS

  • For a direct-to-VHS feature the animation is far more detailed than one would expect to find, with a lot of texture, expressive character designs and a dark, eerie quality to the zombies, as well as to Moonscar Island itself.
  • The usual eerie quality of the franchise’s mysteries is done well, with a gradual build-up to a shocking revelation which no fan of Scooby-Doo could have ever seen coming upon first viewing, and which set the precedence for some future direct-to-VHS/DVD films.
  • The screenwriters utilise well some renowned aspects of the cartoon series, such as the underlying sexual tension between Fred (Frank Welker) and Daphne (Mary Kay Bergman), Velma (B.J. Ward) catching people out on small details, and Shaggy (Billy West) and Scooby-Doo (Scott Innes) thinking with their stomachs.

CONS

  • A narrative which is ultimately quite poorly paced, with an unnecessary prologue which adds nothing really to the narrative, while parts of the main body of the narrative are quite rushed.
  • At times the film is quite tonally inconsistent, as the soundtrack is at times inconsistent with the overall tone of the narrative, while it also goes into far darker realms than is appropriate for young children (a fair sized percentage of the Scooby-Doo fan base).
  • The new characters created for this film are a fairly uninspired bunch that mostly fulfil one-note stereotypes (including the redneck fisherman, exotic Europeans and the surly servant).

VERDICT: 5/10

The Apprentice Series 15, Week 5: Oxford and Cambridge Discount Buying

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Task Summary

Every year Lord Sugar sets a discount buying task, giving the candidates a list of items (some with specifications) and the job of negotiating discounts on them all, as well as buying the lot in a day. This year (having set the task at the end of the last episode) Lord Sugar gave them nine items to find in the historic University cities of Oxford and Cambridge. Jemelin was Project Manager for Empower, putting herself forward as she had not done so yet, and made Riyonn the sub-team leader, sending his sub-team (which also had Lewis and Pamela) to Oxford, while she went to Cambridge with Ryan-Mark and Carina. Marianne was Project Manager for Unison due to her lateral thinking and negotiation skills and headed to Oxford with Scarlett and Iasha, while sub-team leader Lottie headed to Cambridge with Dean and Thomas.

Both teams made negotiations to varying degrees of success and skill, but there were other problems though. Empower had real issues with their communication between the two teams, with Jemelin’s team in Cambridge somehow managing to go for nearly five hours without making a single purchase. Unison meanwhile were hampered somewhat by the fact that Marianne was thinking too much outside of the box and, had it not been for the sub-team’s insistence down the phone, would have incurred heavy fines regarding a pre-1939 copy of a book from the Alice in Wonderland collection.

Fortunately all candidates made it to the final meeting point in time (which rarely happens). Following their day out to two historical (and frankly beautiful) University cities, the candidates went into the boardroom the next day to find out the results. Empower had bought seven items and (including fines) spent around £630. Fair – there have been far worse results in past years. Unison, however, found eight-and-a-half items and (including fines) spent around £370, securing themselves a win. Wow – a very good result for one of the most challenging tasks that Lord Sugar sets. Many viewers claim it to be easy, but lateral thinking, logistics and negotiating are not inherently easy things to do, especially when under a time crunch, so well done to Unison.

No photo description available.

My Thoughts

Empower: Jemelin only put herself forward as she had been not been PM yet, and so did Ryan-Mark, although he then voted Jemelin to be PM before making an attempt to be a backseat driver as (unlike Jemelin) he had visited Oxford before. This team have also become renowned (in a bad way) for not knowing when World War II started when looking at the specifications for the Alice in Wonderland book. As much as it is shocking that none of them knew, it is actually surprising how many people out there in the UK do not know that…I guess they all had bad History teachers. Anyway, they ultimately doomed themselves from the start by assigning a PM who was not right for the role (they should have voted for Ryan-Mark and watched him sweat as he realised that he could not dodge responsibility, or try to mark Jemelin the scapegoat should the task go wrong).

Some of the negotiations were very good – Lewis negotiated a damned good deal on a rigger jigger, which Lord Sugar commended him on. Other negotiations were not so good, such as Pamela starting a negotiation for a mortar board by making it clear that they were desperate for one. Such negotiations do happen every year, and every year those negotiations are among the lesser ones. Ultimately, no matter how good their negotiations, they were doomed due to a lack of strategy (including some noticeable blunders by Riyonn), poor communication, and a Cambridge team who spent most of the day wandering around looking lost, with no idea what they were doing. Plus, Ryan-Mark’s throwing Jemelin under the proverbial bus meant that there was an underlying sense of the team being unwilling to fully trust him.

Unison: I have already mentioned earlier why Marianne became PM, but Lottie also put herself forward due to her knowledge of Oxford and Cambridge, her analytical skills and negotiation skills. The fact that they still voted for Marianne just shows that Lottie’s past behaviour has rubbed her teammates up the wrong way and they lack confidence in her – although Marianne making Lottie sub-team leader reflects that she was willing to accept that Lottie had the skills needed for the role on a task like this, which became especially clear when Lottie took a backseat driver role in analysing the required items with close attention-to-detail on the specifications, before dividing the items between the two teams.

As sub-team leader, Lottie was effective as she had a clear strategy, but she ended up making Dean and Thomas feel like naughty school boys on a trip due to her bossiness and insistence that, as their sub-team leader, they had to agree a final price with her before agreeing it with the seller. That was never going to work in the long run with Thomas, who got a punting pole down to £50 from £200, before trying to get it down to £40 via a coin toss. Lottie berated him for gambling, but Lord Sugar later pointed out that taking a gamble is a part of being in business, showing A) that Lottie still had a lot to learn, and B) that he does have a soft spot for Thomas.

Nevertheless, Unison may not have won without Lottie, as her attention-to-detail with the specifications meant that they knew what they were buying and had a strategy. However, even if Lottie had not been so good with the specifications, and so insistent that Marianne’s team follow her instructions, they still may have won as there was far more strategy from both teams within Unison than there was from anyone on Empower, and strategy is key to winning this task, no matter how good your negotiations. Unison definitely earned that victory!

Final Boardroom

For the final boardroom, Jemelin brought back Riyonn for his poor leadership of the sub-team, and Ryan-Mark for his lack of contributions to the task and throwing her under the proverbial bus into the PM role. Very good reasons for bringing them both back at the end of the day. Jemelin showed that she really is a feisty person, telling Ryan-Mark bluntly that he is being carried by his teammates and should not be in the process, while Ryan-Mark got sulky and criticised the lack of strategy by her and Riyonn.

Lord Sugar was blunt with Ryan-Mark and likened him to a weather cock, as the opinion that Ryan-Mark expressed about Jemelin’s leadership changed depending on the context in which he was being asked, thereby showing a lack of backbone. I wish someone had called Ryan-Mark a “u-turn”, which is what he repeatedly called Dean in Week Two. Despite severe criticisms of Ryan-Mark and also of Jemelin, Lord Sugar could not ignore the fact that Riyonn had lost all five tasks to date, and also the fact that Riyonn’s lack of strategy and poor communication skills had greatly impacted their chances of winning. And on that basis, Lord Sugar fired Riyonn.

Riyonn Farsad, The Apprentice 2019 candidate
Riyonn Farsad

I think Lord Sugar made the wrong call this week. Yes, Riyonn made some big mistakes this week, but his were certainly no worse than Jemelin’s. Furthermore, multiple losses has not stopped some past candidates from reaching the Interview stage (Tom Pellerau – the winner himself – of Series 7, Mark Wright – the winner himself – of Series 10, and Frances Bishop of Series 12 being just three examples). Ultimately, I believe that Ryan-Mark should have been fired. Yes, he has shown some business skills and won two tasks, but he has not done anything to make himself stand out yet, has shown less of a skillset than Riyonn, and has also shown a serious lack of backbone and integrity – not qualities which you want to find in a business partner.

Lord Sugar made it clear to Ryan-Mark and Jemelin that their cards had been marked, but reluctantly gave them both another chance to prove themselves in the process (although at first it really did look like a double firing was about to happen). At this point in the process, Lord Sugar does take into more serious consideration past performance in the final boardroom, and Jemelin’s has been the best of the three. As for Ryan-Mark, part of me wonders if the producers influenced that decision due to the potential entertainment value which they saw in Ryan-Mark, but ultimately I think that Lord Sugar allowed him to remain reluctantly for the same reason that he did in Week Two – the fact that he is still only 19-years-old and Lord Sugar is willing to be a little lenient due to his memories of the big mistakes that he made in business at that age. Either way, both are on very thin ice and will have to perform well in the upcoming tasks.

Thoughts on the Remaining Candidates

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  1. Carina Lepore – so far she has generally shown herself to work well within a team, to be a good saleswoman and have some good business acumen, although she can be a bit too blunt at times.
  2. Dean Ahmad – no longer making bold claims, he has also sold and negotiated well during the process, showing that he has learnt from past mistakes and therefore improving his chances in the process.
  3. Iasha Masood – once again she was back in Silent Assassin mode this week, but the fact that she is the only candidate to have won every task shows that being quiet does not stop her from being an asset to her team.
  4. Jemelin Artigas – she led poorly this week, but other than that she has a good track record, having been an excellent sub-team leader with a good skillset, who had approached each task with passion and determination.
  5. Lewis Ellis – his chances in the process continue to look good as he remains a nice chap and team player, who is level-headed and clear thinking, and has proven himself to be skilled in sales, marketing and negotiations.
  6. Lottie Lion – has proven herself to be a good saleswoman, a very good strategist and somebody with a real eye for detail, but her track record of rubbing her teammates up the wrong way looks set to bite her in the backside for a while yet.
  7. Marianne Rawlins – while she is not always a team player, she has shown good leadership skills (particularly in her utilisation of Lottie’s skillset this week), and is a headstrong woman with good business acumen.
  8. Pamela Laird – she has made some minor mistakes, but she has consistently been a calm and collected presence, and a real team player who contributes very well, although she has also shown that she has a slight stubborn streak too.
  9. Ryan-Mark Parsons – he can be very nice and polite, and he has shown some business skills, but he has also shown a lack of integrity and proved this week that he does have a naive side and is not always a team player.
  10. Scarlett Allen-Horton – generally she has so far shown herself to be a level-headed team player with a number of good business skills, and a passion for the tasks, although at times she could do with speaking up more.
  11. Thomas Skinner – a nice chap with phenomenal passion and enthusiasm for the tasks, excellent salesmanship and good negotiation skills, getting himself a soft spot with Lord Sugar and Claude Littner. He is also gradually toning down the louder aspects of his personality, thereby improving his chances in the process.

PREVIEW: November 2019

Well, another month has come to an end, and I cannot believe that we are getting this close to Christmas. In 31 days time (December 1st) I will be digging out my Christmas jumpers and decorating my Christmas tree (after years of people telling me that November is too early, I have finally started to listen). As for the past month, I have published a lot of content (as is the norm for me in October especially for some reason), but I still have not reviewed all of the new releases which I saw in cinemas – reviews for The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Terminator: Dark Fate (both of which I have seen in the last few days) will be published soon.

For the month ahead I have a number of cinema trips planned, including Doctor SleepSorry We Missed YouThe AeronautsAfter the WeddingFrozen IIThe Good LiarMidwayKnives Out21 BridgesLast ChristmasCharlie’s Angels and Le Mans ’66 (or Ford v. Ferrari as it is known outside of the UK). I will endeavour to get reviews for all of these films published (time permitting, of course), as well as reviews for The King and The Irishman, which are coming to Netflix (the latter of which I am especially excited about). Furthermore, I will complete my series on my Top 10 Pokémon from the first seven Generations, and my thoughts on Ash Ketchum’s Pokémon to date in the anime, as well as continue my series of thoughts on Series 15 of The Apprentice.

Thank you as always for visiting this blog, whether it is your first time doing so or your one-hundredth, and for the month ahead I, as always, wish you Happy Reading!

THOUGHTS: Ash’s Johto Captures

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Continuing this new series on my thoughts concerning all of Ash’s Pokémon to date in the anime series, I will be discussing my thoughts on his Pokémon from the Johto region. In other words, it is time to go back to the point in the Pokémon anime where we realised that the size of the Pokémon world was bigger than we had ever expected it to be.

Heracross

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Ash captured Heracross not long after arriving in the Johto region. He later sent Heracross to Professor’s Oak’s laboratory when en route to Goldenrod City, and has since called upon him for several battles.

PROS

  • Physically powerful, enthusiastic and headstrong, Heracross is a reliable and tough battler who has been a real asset to Ash in several battles.
  • Heracross is a very friendly Pokémon, showing real affection towards Ash, and is central to the running gag of his sucking the sap from Bulbasaur’s bulb.

CONS

  • When on Ash’s main team, Heracross became far more seldom used in battle after Ash captured Chikorita and Cyndaquil.
  • The fact that Heracross was sent to Professor Oak after less than 30 episodes prevented him from receiving any real character development.

VERDICT: 5/10

Chikorita→Bayleef

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Ash captured Chikorita en route to Violet City. En route to Olivine City, she evolved into Bayleef to protect Ash from Team Rocket. Ash left Bayleef with Professor Oak when he headed to Hoenn, and has since reunited with her on several occasions.

PROS

  • As a Chikorita, what she lacked in size she more than made up for in guts and fighting spirit, and as a Bayleef she remained a powerful battler, utilising her greater size well and also adapting well to Ash’s unorthodox strategies.
  • It was an interesting idea by the writers to give Ash a Pokémon which seemingly has a crush on him, but this led to a good running gag of Chikorita always going for a cuddle when sent out to battle, and they share a very close bond.
  • Bayleef underwent good character development during her time on Ash’s team, as she became a better team player, developed closer bonds with her teammates, and also needed time to adjust to her larger frame upon evolving.

CONS

  • At times the writers did rely a bit too much on Chikorita’s affectionate behaviour towards Ash, or her jealousy of some of the other Pokémon at points where it was simply unnecessary, and ultimately relied on these aspects of her personality as a time-filler more than anything else.

VERDICT: 8/10

Cyndaquil→Quilava

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Ash captured Cyndaquil en route to Azelea Town, and left it with Professor Oak when he headed off to Hoenn. He briefly brought Cyndaquil back to his team for the Sinnoh League, where it evolved into a Quilava while battling Team Rocket. It has since has several reunions with Ash.

PROS

  • The fact that Cyndaquil was comparatively shy and timid next to Bayleef and Totodile brought a good sense of balance (personality wise) to Ash’s party and especially their little trio. However, the fact that it became far more confident and headstrong upon evolving testifies to just how much Quilava has with Ash.
  • Ash’s success in helping Cyndaquil to overcome its struggles with battles early on in its journey with him testifies to how well his method of working with each individual Pokémon and helping them grow through their bond works.
  • Quilava became one of Ash’s most reliable battlers in Johto after some initial struggles, and subsequently became the MVP in several of Ash’s Gym battles, so much so that we the viewers were amazed that it did not evolve during Johto.

CONS

  • While we the fans were delighted when Cyndaquil eventually evolved, the issue with it evolving during a brief return for the Sinnoh League means that we never got to witness its full and greater strength and potential in battle.
  • Despite receiving some good character development, it neither received as much as Bayleef, nor received as much screen time in general as Bayleef (despite being at least as dependable in battle).

VERDICT: 7/10

Totodile

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Ash captured Totodile en route to Goldenrod City, and left him with Professor Oak when he headed to Hoenn. Ash has since reunited with Totodile on several occasions.

PROS

  • Totodile has a lot of personality, and is a highly energetic, enthusiastic and positive Pokémon, who is very tough to anger or upset, and can constantly be seen dancing, making the viewer smile whenever he is let out of his Lure Ball.
  • Totodile’s tendency to dance has been a great source of comic relief, and has even proven useful in battle – namely in his defeat of Harrison’s Sneasel in the Johto League (still the most amusing win ever).
  • Totodile is an affectionate Pokémon, who has developed close bonds, both with Ash and his teammates.

CONS

  • Considering that he got quite a bit of screen time during the Johto saga and some of his guest return appearances, it is quite surprising how little battling Totodile has actually done (especially next to Bayleef and Quilava).
  • Despite being a bit of a triple-act/ensemble with Bayleef and Quilava (especially before those two evolved), Totodile got far less character development than them, or even opportunities for some.

VERDICT: 7/10

Noctowl

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Ash captured his shiny Noctowl en route to Goldenrod City, and later left it with Professor Oak when he travelled to Hoenn. Ash has since called upon it for battles.

PROS

  • As well as being Ash’s first (and only) shiny Pokémon, Noctowl is stoic, highly intelligent and serious – personality wise it is a huge contrast to Bayleef, Cyndaquil and Totodile.
  • Noctowl has some powerful Psychic abilities, which have have proven highly useful both in and out of battle.

CONS

  • Noctowl got quite sidelined in order for Bayleef, Cyndaquil and Totodile to have more screen time and character development.
  • Despite its powerful Psychic abilities, Noctowl did not get used that regularly in battle, its primary role on Ash’s team being to conduct searches and pop Team Rocket’s balloon.

VERDICT: 5/10

Egg→Phanpy→Donphan

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When Ash won the Extreme Pokémon Race (while en route to Mahogany Town) his prize was a Pokémon Egg, which later hatched into Phanpy. Ash left it with Professor Oak when he made a fresh start in Hoenn. Following his Hoenn journey, Ash did a second tour of Kanto, for which he brought Phanpy back to his team. During this journey, it evolved into Donphan, before eventually returning to Professor Oak’s laboratory when Ash headed to Sinnoh. He has since called upon Donphan for battles.

PROS

  • As a Phanpy, it had a very childlike personality and energy which perfectly reflected its young age. It retained many of these traits upon evolution, which reflected well that becoming a Donphan did not stop it from being young.
  • Loving and loyal to its trainer, Phanpy was always eager to battle, and upon evolving into Donphan took battling very seriously and proved a tough opponent.
  • Its return to Ash’s team for his second tour of Kanto came as a very pleasant surprise, especially as we the fans felt he had not been present for enough of the Johto saga.

CONS

  • Phanpy’s introduction to the series came far too late at the end of the day, as though the writers realised “Ah, we probably should give Ash’s current party a sixth member.” At the end of the day, this meant that Phanpy did not get enough screen time or character development.
  • While it got more screen time and character development upon returning to Ash’s party, upon evolution the amount of screen time it received once again dwindled a bit.

VERDICT: 6/10

FILM: Official Secrets (2019, Gavin Hood)

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Docudrama Official Secrets is distributed in UK cinemas by Entertainment One, following its premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The film tells the true story of (now former) GCHQ employee Katherine Gun (Keira Knightley). In early 2003 she was asked to work on a memo which detailed US/UK tactics that were designed to bully the UN Security Council into backing the invasion of Iraq. Horrified by Bush and Blair’s plans to initiate an illegal war, Katherine leaked the document to The Observer. In doing so she put her entire future in jeopardy as she was prosecuted for breaching the Official Secrets Act.

PROS

  • Released at a point where both the UK and US are losing faith in their political leaders, this is easily one of 2019’s most timely releases, it is an intriguing film with sharp screenwriting, which examines the morality of war, the complexities of political corruption, and the importance of good quality investigative journalism.
  • The screenwriting team ensure that there is some rather welcome comic relief in this film as well through the dynamic between the staff at The Observer, who have a great sense of workplace banter between them, and have some hilariously blunt and sarcastic moments amongst themselves as well.
  • Gavin Hood has a polished directorial style, drawing attention to the importance of small details, and approaching the subject matter with real maturity and presenting a grounded, focused film, in which he gets a good balance between the political and legal content and Katherine’s personal life. Furthermore, he also utilises archive footage excellently.
  • A strong cast carry this film, with Keira Knightley giving easily one of her finest performances to date, bringing real nuance and maturity to her turn as Katherine. Matt Smith gives a dynamic, confident turn as journalist Martin Smith; Ralph Fiennes gives a sharp, authoritative performance as lawyer Ben Emmerson; and Rhys Ifans and Conleth Hill prove show their comedic chops very well as US correspondent for The Observer Ed Vulliamy and Observer editor Roger Alton respectively.

CONS

  • The fact that the bulk of the narrative is told in flashback does rob the second act of some of its suspense, as we the viewers are already aware of where Katherine ends up as a result of the authorities trying to get to the bottom of what happened.
  • Several talented supporting cast members (including Tamsin Greig, Hattie Morahan and Katherine Kelly) are given little more than cameos, thereby having little to sink their teeth into and stretch their acting muscles with.

VERDICT: 8/10

FILM: Zombieland: Double Tap (2019, Ruben Fleischer)

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Zombie-comedy sequel Zombieland: Double Tap is distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. Set a decade after the first film, survivors Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Witchita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are living comfortably in the White House. Little Rock, however, heads off alone to meet people her own age, so the rest of the group go after her, and what follows is a life-changing road trip filled with zombie kills, including a new advanced sub-species of the living dead.

PROS

  • This film has lot of energy in its direction, performances and screenwriting (which boasts some good gags).
  • All four of the central cast members give energetic performances and have great comic timing, as well as real chemistry with each other. Of the new cast members, Rosario Dawson is the most memorable due to her chemistry with Woody Harrelson.
  • Vivid splatstick gags in the zombie killing, with bags of fake blood and gore used to hilarious effect in scenes that are high in energy and physical comedy.

CONS

  • The new characters are, for the most part, rather contrived and several simply feel as though they were brought to the narrative in order to pad it out past the 90 minute running time. The charm of the original was its focus on the main quartet, and this time it is far less focused.
  • There are some good gags, but there are a lot of bad ones, especially some frustrating running gags focused on dumb blonde Madison (Zoey Deutch).
  • A frankly unnecessary mid-credits scene which just feels tacked on and contrived.

VERDICT: 5/10

THOUGHTS: Ash’s Orange Islands Captures

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Continuing this new series on my thoughts concerning all of Ash’s Pokémon to date in the anime series, I will be discussing my thoughts on his Pokémon from the Orange Islands. In other words, it is time to go back to the first filler arc of the Pokémon anime, which holds a special place in the hearts of fans of the original series of the anime.

Lapras

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When Ash met Lapras on Tangelo Island, it was still a child (despite being strong enough to carry at least three humans on its back across long distances) that had become separated from its family. Ash captured it with the promise that he would reunite it with its family. It transported Ash and his friends across the stretches of water between the Islands. Following the Orange League, Ash and the gang found Lapras’s family, and Lapras was released back to them. It briefly reunited with Ash when it bumped into him late in his Johto journey, where it was shown to have grown into a young adult.

PROS

  • While Lapras was not primarily used for battling, it nevertheless played a vital role in Ash’s Orange Gym battles, thanks to their unorthodox nature. Plus it was a powerful swimmer and it is now impossible for many long-term anime fans to picture a nicer way of travelling across water in the Pokémon world.
  • A very kind and gentle Pokémon, with a loving, caring nature and a deep love for Ash and his friends, Lapras also grew in confidence while travelling with them.
  • Its physical growth and maturity in its guest return appearance showed the growth of Pokémon in a way which had never been done before.

CONS

  • Ash’s promise to return it to its family was never mentioned between after its capture until its release episode, a screenwriting issue which meant that viewers were caught annoyingly off-guard by Lapras’s release.
  • When Lapras did battle it was shown to be a tough and forward-thinking, so it would have been great if it had just had more opportunities to battle.

VERDICT: 7/10

Snorlax

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Ash caught Snorlax on the Grapefruit Islands and eventually sent him to Professor Oak’s laboratory just before his Orange League Championship match as Snorlax would not wake up in time for it. Since then Ash has called on Snorlax several times for use in major power battles.

PROS

  • Deceptively agile, physically powerful and with great defensive abilities, Snorlax is one of Ash’s all-time powerhouses and has been the MVP in several of his trainer’s major battles.
  • Snorlax’s gluttony has been a source of dependable comic relief, as has his love for sleep (especially in Ash’s Johto League quarter-finals battle).
  • Not only has he proven incredibly dependable when called upon, but he also has a very affectionate personality, particularly towards Ash and Pikachu.

CONS

  • Due to his size and laziness, Snorlax was seldom seen during the Orange Islands saga, which was disappointing given how useful he proved when he was used.
  • Despite being a mega powerhouse, there are several battles where Snorlax should have been called upon but was not – a glaring error by the screenwriters which has frustrated fans.

VERDICT: 7/10

THOUGHTS: Ash’s Kanto Captures

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To kick off this new series on my thoughts concerning all of Ash’s Pokémon to date in the anime series, I will be discussing my thoughts on his Pokémon from the Kanto region. In other words, it is time to go back to where it all began for the main character of the Pokémon anime.

Pikachu

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Pikachu was Ash’s starter Pokémon, which he received from Professor Oak, and as such became the mascot for the entire Pokémon franchise. He is the only one of Ash’s Pokémon to have travelled with him throughout his entire journey, and Ash regards Pikachu as his closest friend. His power levels are also the reason why the Team Rocket trio have followed Ash since the second episode.

PROS

  • A leader to the rest of the main characters’ Pokémon, Pikachu is a very friendly Pokémon and very much a team player. He is mature, serious and has the best interests of his friends at heart at all times, but also knows how to have fun. Furthermore, Pikachu is very compassionate towards his friends (and even, when appropriate, to his enemies), but he is also willing to rebuke those he cares about when necessary.
  • Having shown himself to be very powerful in battle time and again, Pikachu has shown guts and determination in countless battles, and has also pushed himself to learn new moves to increase his chances in battles (such as Quick Attack and Iron Tail).
  • Has taken down numerous powerful opponents (including Legendaries and Pseudo-Legendaries) and been a key member of Ash’s team time and again. Furthermore, Pikachu’s adoption of Ash’s unorthodox battling style emphasises the close bond between the pair.
  • It is impossible to picture Ash without him as they have been a team for so long now.

CONS

  • Whenever Ash and Pikachu arrive in a new region, Pikachu receives a power-down so that he does not have an unfair advantage over inexperienced trainers. While this is understandable, it becomes very frustrating when he loses easily to inexperienced Pokémon or Pokémon with a type-disadvantage.

VERDICT: 9/10

Caterpie→Metapod→Butterfree

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Caterpie was the first wild Pokémon that Ash caught in Kanto. He evolved into a Metapod after defeating Team Rocket, and then evolved into Butterfree when defending Ash from some Beedrill. All of this during their trek through Viridian Forest. Some time later, Ash released Butterfree so that he could start a family with his own kind.

PROS

  • From his capture as a Caterpie, Butterfree marked several milestones in Ash’s journey when he was still very much a beginning trainer. Even his release marked a milestone (and what remains one of the biggest tearjerkers in the anime to date).
  • A friendly Pokémon who showed a lot of affection towards his travelling companions, which can be seen in his close friendship with Pikachu and his love and devotion to Ash, which humbled his trainer.

CONS

  • Butterfree became quite sidelined following Ash’s capture of Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle, and ultimately got little chance to shine in battle during his tenure on Ash’s team.
  • While his narrative arc did mark milestones for Ash, it did feel altogether quite rushed (even by the standards of the first 30 or so episodes of the original series).

VERDICT: 5/10

Pidgeotto→Pidgeot

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Ash caught Pidgeotto in Viridian Forest and it remained on his team for the rest of his Kanto journey. Following the Kanto League, Pidgeotto evolved into Pidgeot to defend some wild Pidgey and Pidgeotto in Viridian Forest from a Fearow. After this, Ash released Pidgeot to protect the wild Pokémon, promising to return for it after his Orange Islands journey (yeah, we are all still waiting for that to happen!).

PROS

  • Pidgeot started the tradition of Ash’s Flying-types playing a key role in foiling Team Rocket’s plans.
  • A dependable Pokémon whose loyalty to Ash was unwavering.

CONS

  • Of Ash’s original team of six, Pidgeot was the one who received the least development and personality by far.
  • Sidelined for most of the series, it rarely got any chance to battle opponents other than Team Rocket, let alone to shine in battle.
  • The fact that Pidgeot was released straight after evolving was vexing, as it meant any chance of developing its character and giving it chances to shine immediately went out the window.
  • The fact that Ash is yet to fulfil his promise to return for it vexes fans to this day (myself included).

VERDICT: 3/10

Bulbasaur

Ash Bulbasaur.png

Ash caught Bulbasaur while the group were heading to Vermilion City. He travelled with Ash for the rest of his Kanto journey, for his entire Orange Islands journey, and the for the first two-thirds of his Johto journey, when Ash sent Bulbasaur to Professor Oak’s laboratory to act as peacekeeper. Bulbasaur has since been called upon for several battles.

PROS

  • Bulbasaur’s backstory of helping abandoned Pokémon informed his character in his earlier appearances, and provided visible character development as he became more trusting of humans.
  • Bulbasaur is dependable both in battle (he has had some great wins) and with other Pokémon, his mature approach to conflict resolution having helped Ash and Professor Oak out on numerous occasions, and he has ultimately become the leader of Ash’s Pokémon at Professor Oak’s laboratory.
  • Bulbasaur’s close friendship with Ash’s Squirtle is easily one of the series’ best bromances, and their totally different personalities provides the ultimate chalk-and-cheese relationship.

CONS

  • Ultimately Bulbasaur should have been left with Professor Oak far sooner, as he became quite expendable during his time on Ash’s Johto team, as Ash preferred to use Bayleef, Cyndaquil and/or Totodile in the majority of battles and situations.

VERDICT: 8/10

Charmander→Charmeleon→Charizard

Ash Charizard.png

En route to Vermilion City, Ash found a Charmander who had been abandoned by his previous trainer (Damian). Ash adopted him, and he evolved into Charmeleon en route to Cinnabar Island, after stopping a group of rampaging Exeggutor. Not long after, he evolved into a Charizard to battle an Aerodactyl. Charizard stayed in Ash’s party for the Orange Islands and his early Johto journey, where Ash left him at the Charicific Valley for private training. Charizard was later called upon for several important battles, before returning to his team just after his Unova League campaign, and then travelled with Ash through the Decolore Islands. After that Charizard was left at Professor Oak’s laboratory.

PROS

  • Starting from his capture as a Charmander, Charizard underwent the finest character arc of and the most character development of all of Ash’s Pokémon to date, which served as an ongoing storyline that had a natural procession and was paced very well over a long period of time.
  • Charizard’s relationships with Ash and his teammates underwent good development as well, and the fact that they have all remained close through the ups and downs emphasises the series’ key themes of family and friendship.
  • He has been Ash’s major powerhouse with a great variety of moves, having won numerous tough battles for his trainer, even adopting Ash’s unorthodox strategy in order to do so, and has a signature finisher in Seismic Toss.
  • Not only did Charizard grow in battling strength and learn a lot of new moves during his training in the Charicific Valley, but he also really grew in maturity, which was emphasised during his journeying with Ash in Unova and the Decolore Islands.

CONS

  • While his return to Ash’s team during Unova was a lovely throwback to the old days, and was a marked improvement for the dire Unova saga, Charizard did not get used to his full potential, and frankly it would have been nice and welcome to have him back for a lot longer.

VERDICT: 9/10

Squirtle

Ash Squirtle.png

When Ash first met Squirtle en route to Vermilion City, he led the Squirtle Squad – a gang of Squirtle abandoned by their trainers. Squirtle joined Ash’s team and travelled with him through Kanto and the Orange Islands. Early in Ash’s Johto journey, he rejoined the Squirtle Squad as their leader to work as a firefighting service for the local Officer Jenny. Squirtle has subsequently returned to Ash’s team for several important battles.

PROS

  • Due to his gutsy, headstrong and proud nature, Squirtle quickly became a reliable battler who would not go down without a fight and constantly sought for ways to improve his strength and skillset.
  • Squirtle has not only visibly grown in strength and skill through his work and training with the Squirtle Squad, but he has developed his natural leadership skills and has visibly matured.
  • Squirtle’s close friendship with Bulbasaur is easily one of the series’ best bromances, and their contrasting personalities provides the ultimate chalk-and-cheese relationship. Squirtle is also a good team player who developed close relationships with Ash and his other teammates.

CONS

  • Squirtle featured far less in Gym battles than Pikachu, Bulbasaur and Charizard did, and never got any chance to shine in the Kanto Gym battles in which he was used, the writers failing to use him to his full potential.

VERDICT: 8/10

Krabby→Kingler

Ash Kingler.png

Ash caught Krabby near Bill’s Lighthouse and it was immediately sent to reside at Professor Oak’s laboratory. Ash brought it to his team for the Kanto League, where it evolved into Kingler during his first round battle. Ash brought Kingler back to his team briefly during Johto for the Whirl Cup Tournament.

PROS

  • It introduced the concept of leaving Pokémon with Professor Oak.
  • It has proven to be a trump card in Ash’s arsenal, and remains the only Pokémon to win a three-on-three League battle single-handedly.

CONS

  • Due to its permanent residence at Professor Oak’s laboratory, it has received very little in the way of personality and no real character development whatsoever.
  • It is among Ash’s more forgettable Pokémon due to the fact that it has made so few appearances compared to most other Pokémon which Ash has owned (its last in the flesh appearance in the anime to date was 14 years ago).
  • The fact that it has been used so little despite having proven to be a trump card is quite insulting, and becomes even more so given that a real cop-out moment robbed it of any chance of battling for Ash in the Johto League.

VERDICT: 2/10

Primeape

Ash caught Primeape en route to Celadon City. En route to Fuschia City, Ash partook in the P1 Grand Prix with Primeape, and they won. Afterwards, Ash left Primeape in private training with Fighting-type specialist Anthony.

PROS

  • Primeape’s character arc testified to how Ash’s approach of loving and working with any Pokémon does work.

CONS

  • Primeape was only part of Ash’s party for 5 episodes, and only appeared in 2 of those, meaning it got little in the way of character development and personality (bar the obvious tendency to rage).
  • The fact that Primeape was left in training almost as soon as it became loyal to Ash was a wasted opportunity, as it could have become a key member of Ash’s team and could have received far more development.
  • Of all of the Pokémon that Ash has left in private training, Primeape is the only one who has never been called upon to return (even briefly) to Ash’s team for a battle.
  • Ultimately Primeape served no real purpose in the series and is easily one of the most forgettable and expendable Pokémon which Ash has ever owned.

VERDICT: 1/10

Muk

Ash Muk.png

Ash caught Muk in Gringey City and sent it straight to Professor Oak’s laboratory, where it remains one of his reserves. It has subsequently been brought back to Ash’s team on several occasions, usually for a battle.

PROS

  • Muk is an affectionate Pokémon, its affection for others becoming a running gag as, whenever it appears (including most of Ash’s visits to Professor Oak’s laboratory and a number of phone calls there), it smothers either Ash or Professor Oak out of affection, and has even done the same to Jessie, emphasising its friendliness.
  • In battle Muk has caught opponents off-guard due to the fact that its squidgy body means that it can absorb physical attacks with ease, and its first victory in the Kanto League was comedic gold.

CONS

  • While Muk has more personality than most other Pokémon who have spent the majority of their time under Ash’s ownership in reserve, it has not received any character development as a result of living at Professor Oak’s laboratory.
  • Despite its ability to catch opponents off-guard, Ash has seldom used it in battles (only three to date), and it has so far only had one victory, meaning that the writers are yet to use Muk to its full potential.

VERDICT: 5/10

Tauros (x30)

File:Ash Tauros.png

Ash captured an entire herd of Tauros in the Safari Zone, and immediately sent them to Professor Oak’s laboratory. There they are constantly running around and getting exercise. Ash has called upon some Tauros power in several battles over the years.

PROS

  • Can be depended upon for the running gag of Ash being sent flying as they rampage towards him in excitement whenever he visits Professor Oak’s laboratory.
  • Have shown that they can be tough opponents to take down in battle.

CONS

  • The issue with Ash having 30 of them is that none of them receive any character development or personality, other than that which comes naturally to their species (a.k.a. the love for exercise and rampaging).
  • Despite having proven a trump card in Ash’s (reserve) arsenal, Ash’s calling upon the use of Tauros power for battles has been very little (a total of four occasions to date). Plus, with there being 30 of them it is impossible to know whether Ash has simply called upon the leader of the herd each time or if Professor Oak has sent Ash a random one each time.
  • It is vexing that on Ash’s two most recent visits to Professor Oak’s laboratory to date (2013 and 2017), he has been seen reuniting with very, very few of the Pokémon that he has there, yet he always gets sent flying by Tauros – a.k.a. an entire herd of some of his most forgettable Pokémon.

VERDICT: 2/10

A New Series of Posts…

As I am sure many of you are aware, I am a huge fan of Pokémon (games and anime alike), and have been delving into my Top 10 Pokémon of each Generation to date in the run-up to the release of the Generation VIII games (Sword and Shield next month). As the Alola saga of the anime ends this Sunday, two weeks before the new (and very different) era of the anime begins, I am going to do a new series of posts, in which I will discuss my thoughts on Ash’s Pokémon from each region to date.

File:Ash with Pikachu.png

Ash has been the main protagonist now for over 22 years and the best part of 1100 episodes, and has caught many Pokémon over the years, with some being more memorable than others. As such, this seemed like the perfect way to mark the end of one era for the anime and the start of a new one. I will only discuss Pokémon which he formally owned (sorry Haunter and Larvitar) for more than one episode (sorry Raticate), and will not discuss any Pokémon which he traded for good (sorry Aipom).

Kanto, the Orange Islands, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, Kalos and Alola – eight regions, numerous captures, thoughts on each of them coming to this blog over the course of the coming week.

FILM: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019, Joachim Rønning)

Maleficent Mistress of Evil (Official Film Poster).png

Fantasy-adventure Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is distributed by Disney and the sequel to Maleficent. Set five years after the original, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is engaged to Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), and his father King John (Robert Lindsay) suggests that they meet Maleficent (Angelina Jolie). However, when Maleficent seemingly puts John into a cursed sleep, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) declares war on the Dark Fae. But is there a more sinister motivation for Ingrith, and can Aurora get through to Maleficent?

PROS

  • A handsomely designed film with a great sense of scale, the production design and costume design are both very detailed, while the Dark Fae character designs have a gothic quality suitable for the character of Maleficent.
  • For the most part this is a fun fantasy-adventure, with some good imagination and some darker moments that, fortunately, never go too far.
  • Good central performances from Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning and Michelle Pfeiffer, with Elle Fanning getting far better material to work with as Aurora this time around and using that to her advantage. The stand-out supporting turn comes form Chiwetel Ejiofor, who gives a confident performance as Conall, and good chemistry with Angelina Jolie.

CONS

  • For the first half-hour of this 2 hour film, the filmmakers ultimately struggle to find their feet as they struggle to establish a tone and pace, plus there is also a lack of focus, which is a recurring issue throughout the narrative.
  • Despite being handsomely designed, the fantasy world created here does have a really artificial quality due to the use of overly blatant CGI which stands out like a sore thumb and, similarly to the original, this is most prevalent in the on-screen creation of Aurora’s three fairy godmothers (Imelda Staunton, Leslie Manville and Juno Temple).
  • A considerable number of supporting cast members get little chance to shine (including Sam Riley and Warwick Davis), while Ed Skrein gives a poor performance in a vain attempt at being intimidating.

VERDICT: 5/10