Thursday, July 22, 2010

Top 20 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Part 2)

Continuing on, promoting season eight, with a countdown of Buffy's best episodes ever. Here, we have reached the top ten.

10. Chosen (Season 7, episode 22)

Here we have what was (until very recently) the series finale, and even if it isn't it marks the end of an era. It's an episode about changing the world, achieving a mission statement, and it pulls it off beautifully. The First Evil has amassed its forces and Buffy and the gang must prepare for war. Hatching a plan to defeat the first, Buffy has Willow perform a spell that results in every potential slayer worldwide becoming a slayer. Spike, given an amulet by Buffy, reaches a peak of his hero's journey when he sacrifices himself to close the Hellmouth and save the world. As far as series finales went, it was one of the best, and most touching, ever. With an eighth season now, it still holds up as one of the series' best.

Best quote: "Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?"-Buffy

9. The Gift (Season 5, episode 22)

While "Chosen" tried to be the end of the series, "The Gift" was designed to feel like it could be the end of the series. Buffy finally reaches the meaning of the first slayer's cryptic message "death is your gift" and comes to reach the peak of her own heroism. Glory is going to use Dawn's blood to open the portal and destroy dimensions. Dawn's blood is the only way to close the portal too. But Buffy will let everyone die before anyone touches her sister. Her love for Dawn finally shows, and we see that she actually trusts Spike with Dawn's life... an improvement for them. But seeing Buffy sacrificing herself to save the world is a powerful, powerful image, bested only by Giles killing an "innocent" man because he can do what Buffy cannot.

Best quote: "Tell Giles... I understand now. And I'm okay. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be strong. Live. For me." -Buffy

8. "Becoming, Parts 1 and 2" (Season 2, episode 21 & 22)

Ending the season that kicked the show into high gear, Buffy is finally ready to put Angel down, while we see glimpses of where he came from, and how he came to be. In one night, Buffy is stripped of everything. She is expelled from school, kicked out of her house, and has to kill her boyfriend to save the world. It's one of the series most heartbreaking episodes, as proven by the Mutant Enemy, who proclaims at the end "I need a hug."

Best quote: Angel: "Take that away and what's left?" Buffy: "Me."

7. Conversations With Dead People (Season 7, episode 7)

A truly great episode, and again one of those episodes that sets up the entire season. It's also one of the scariest, especially when Dawn is visited by the possible ghost of her mother. This episode, is literally as the title states. Basically five interconnected short stories. Buffy awkwardly discusses her issues with a vampire psych major, Willow talks to The First as Cassie, who claims to have a message from Tara. Spike picks up a girl in a bar, and in a nice play on words, doesn't actually say anything the entire episode. Andrew is talking to the First as Warren, who convinces him to kill Jonathan, a character reoccuring since the first season. Great piece of storytelling, feels almost like a separate artwork unto itself.

Best quote: "I miss my friends. I miss my enemies. I miss the people I talked to everyday, and I miss the people who never knew I existed. I miss 'em all. I want to talk to them, you know? I want to find out what's going on in their lives."-Jonathan

6. Restless (Season 4, Episode 22)

Buffy's such a deep show, there have been many books and essays written on it. Restless is the only episode that has an entire book written on it. You can watch this episode over and over and over again, and never see everything that's there. The episode also uses TV's four act structure brilliantly, dividing it up into four parts, and the whole thing takes place in each character's (Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles) dream. On the surface, they're being stalked by the first slayer, but beneath that, they're facing their own fears, their own nerves, and Willow is facing the stangest performance of "Death of a Salesman" ever.

Best quote: "I showed up early so I got to be cowboy guy." -Riley

5. Passion (Season 2, Episode 17)

Though Angel had gone bad in "Innocence" and it had been bad, but he hadn't really done anything truly evil yet. This episode was written to fix that. Giles and Jenny are repairing their relationship after he learns her backstory and her role in Angel's fate. She desperately wants to make everything right with him, so she makes a move to restore Angel's soul. And we almost think it will work. Until Angel shows up and chases her through the high school, snapping her neck, in a truly terrifying scene. But what's really scary is also maybe the most beautifully choreographed shot in TV history. Giles comes home with a sweetly written note saying "upstairs" and a rose petal on each step, and disovers Jenny's body sprawled out on the bed. And then Angel's smile at Giles's call to Buffy and Willow to tell them what happened. And we understand that Buffy's boyfriend is gone.

Best quote: "Without passion, we'd be truly dead." -Angel

4. Who Are You (Season 4, Episode 16)

The second half of a two parter in which Faith wakes up from the coma Buffy put her in at the end of "Graduation Day". She has found the Mayor's final gift to her... a gift that allows her to switch bodies with Buffy, giving Faith what she always really wanted... Buffy's life. It takes the usual 'body swapping' plot and makes it so much more than that. Sarah Michelle Gellar playing Faith playing Buffy is a truly stellar performance. And Faith's repeating of the line "because it's wrong" finally meaning it the last time, is a huge step toward the character's redemption.

Best quote: "I could ride you at a gallop until your legs buckle and your eyes pop. And you know why I don't? (mocks Buffy) because it's wrong."

3. Hush (Season 4, Episode 10)

We're getting into obvious territory here, as Hush is probably the most revered and critically acclaimed episode of "Buffy". It's proven by its Emmy nomination for "Best Writing for a Drama Series" in 2000. And it's worth every acclaim. Whedon apparently heard that his series was only successful due to its witty banter and created this: an episode with 23 whole minutes of silence. On top of that, it is easily the scariest episode of "Buffy" ever, with the scariest villains in the form of the Gentlemen. Most people say to start the series with this episode. I say don't. You have to earn your way to this one.

Best quote: "When I kiss you, it'll make the sun go down." -Riley

2. Once More, With Feeling (Season 6, Episode 7)

There's nothing to say about this episode that hasn't already been said. Like Buffy at its best, it is groundbreaking television. But this breaks more ground than any other single episode of a television series. TV's done musicals before, with disastrous results. Joss taught himself how to compose music to come up with this musical episode (also one of the only musicals ever to acknowledge the singing and dancing is out of the ordinary). There's the perfect, Whedon twist in that the characters are singing everything that they don't want to say to each other. The things they can't express in words are coming out in song. It is, ironically, the polar opposite of "Hush". As with many of the greats, this is one of the most touching, saddest, and funniest episodes of the series all at once, and maybe one of the best musicals in general in a long, long time.

Best quote: "They Got. The Mustard. OOOOUUUUUUUT!!!" -Mustard Guy

1. The Body (Season 5, Episode 16)

"The Body" is a masterpiece in every since of the word. In terms of directing, writing, and acting, it is the single most well-crafted episode of television to appear before or after it. Everything fits. And everything is heartbreaking, because everything feels so real. The show, despite its demons, always feels real... but in this episode, in which Buffy discovers her mother's dead body on the couch and goes through the motions of the immediate way to deal with death, it feels as though it's happening to you. It's tough. And it's powerful. And it is, in every since of the word, remarkable.

Best quote: "I don't understand how this all happens, how we go through this, I mean I knew her and then she's... there's just a body, I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead, it's stupid. It's mortal and stupid and Xander's crying and not talking and I was having fruit punch and I thought that Joyce would never have any more fruit punch and she'll never have eggs, or yawn, or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why." - Anya

Top 20 Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Part 1)

This is, possibly, the hardest list I've written on this blog. To provide a simple answer, "Buffy" is one of the best shows that's ever been on television, certainly the best genre show, and there's never been a bad episode. Certainly, the first season and first half of the second season comprise many "less memorable" episodes, but a bad one? Never.

So, after great turmoil (inner and outer, as is only fitting) I present the top 20 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (20-11).

20. Dopplegangland (Season 3, Episode 16)

After a wish that created an alternate reality (see #19, The Wish) in which Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, the vengeance demon Anyanka, or "Anya", is searching for the necklace she lost in that dimension and recruits Willow to help her. Willow, who is feeling less than needed, agrees and accidentally releases that reality's version of her into her world. It allows for a wonderful performance from Alyson Hannigan as both the normal reality's Willow and her evil, bisexual, vampire doppleganger. The gang's reaction to Willow's death (and then the fact that she's alive) is a hilarious, yet somehow touching moment.

Best quote: "That's me as a vampire? I'm so evil... and skanky. And I think I'm kinda gay."-Willow

19. The Wish (Season 3, Episode 9)

Cordelia, having broken up with Xander after discovering him kissing Willow, makes a wish to the vengeance demon Anyanka that Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale. It creates a grim alternate reality where Xander and Willow are vampires, The Master was never defeated and controls the entire town, Angel is his tortured pet, Giles, Oz and Larry are the only ones trying (rather unsuccessfully) to make a difference. And Buffy is stripped of her friends, her family and a good portion of her humanity, making her very similar to Faith.

Best quote: Giles: "I have to believe in a better world." Buffy: "Go ahead. I have to live in this one."

18. Normal Again (Season 6, Episode 17)

Buffy gets infected by a demon and begins to have visions of a world where she is in a mental institution, and her mother and father are still together. In that world, her doctor tells her that Sunnydale is all an elaborate fantasy created in her mind, and that if she wants to be normal again, she has to destroy the things tying her down there (i.e. her friends and her sister, Dawn). The episode plays brilliantly with Buffy's own troubled psyche of this season, and with the fact that it never overtly states that this other world isn't the real one.

Best quote: "Buffy's delusion is multi-layered. She believes she's some sort of hero." -Doctor

17. Prophecy Girl (Season 1, Episode 12)

Giles reads a prophecy that states clearly that if Buffy is to face The Master when he rises, she will die. Buffy is terrified by the news and says that she quits, but after Willow and Cordelia discover two students killed by The Master's vampires, Buffy goes down into the underground church to face him. He overpowers her, proclaiming that the true prophecy reads that the slayer is the one to set him free, and without her he cannot rise. Having said this, he leaves her in the water to drown. Xander and Angel discover her at the last minute and Xander performs CPR, bringing Buffy back to life. Re-energized, Buffy kills The Master and stops the Hellmouth from rising. All in time for the dance.

Best quote: "I may be dead. But I'm still pretty. Which is more than I can say for you." -Buffy

16. Band Candy (Season 3, Episode 6)

Principal Snyder awards Buffy and the gang the dubious honor of selling "Band Candy", chocolate bars to support the school's marching band. The candy, however, is being produced by Giles's old nemesis, Ethan Rayne. The candy reverts all of the town's adults back into teenagers. It's the best straightforward comedy episode of the series, and also an interesting character study revealing what Snyder, Joyce and especially Giles were like as teenagers.

Best quote: "Whoa, Summers! You drive like a spaz!" -Principal Snyder

15. Lover's Walk (Season 3, Episode 8)

Spike returns to Sunnydale after Drusilla breaks up with him. A husk of the villainous vampire he was in the previous season, he is drunk off his ass and kidnaps Willow and Xander, forcing Willow to do a love spell to make Dru want him again. Instead, he runs into Buffy while Willow and Xander hide in the factory, assuming they're going to die. They give into passion and kiss...right as Oz and Cordelia appear to rescue them. The real treat of the episode is James Marsters who has never been in better form as Spike. Psychotic, sympathetic, and outright hilarious, all in one episode.

Best quote: "Love isn't brains, children, it's blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it." -Spike

14. Earshot (Season 3, Episode 18)

After being scratched by a demon, Buffy is informed by Giles that she will gain "an aspect of the demon", which turns out to be telepathy. It's a wonderful character study figuring out what each character is thinking (Willow's nervous Buffy will know Oz better than she does, Oz is geniusly philosophical, Xander really can't stop thinking about sex, and Cordelia really is that shallow) except for Angel, as it seems vampires are immune to telepathy. The plot thickens when Buffy hears someone say they're going to kill everyone in the school. Even with a hilarious twist at the end, it becomes a very serious episode about school violence and the angst of high school has never been covered better.

Best quote: "You think it's quiet down there. It's not. It's deafening." -Buffy

13. Bad Girls (Season 3, Episode 14)

Season 3 kicks into high-gear with this episode, which introduces Buffy and Faith's new watcher, the more-Giles-than-Giles Wesley Whyndam Price. Faith seduces Buffy into her way of thinking, that slayers are above the law. They steal weapons, fight more vamps than they can handle, and Buffy is starting to really love it...until Faith accidentally stakes the deputy mayor, a human. Faith's road to the dark side starts here with her dumping the body, brushing it off like it never happened, and threatening Buffy if she tells anyone.

Best quote: Buffy: "Faith, you don't get it. You killed a man." Faith: "No. You don't get it. I don't care."

12. Innocence (Season 2, Episode 14)

Some may, with good reason, consider this episode the true beginning of the series. This is the episode where Buffy went from being a "very good" show to a "good goddamn phenomenal" one. Picking up on the cliffhanger of surprise where Buffy and Angel have sex, then Angel stumbles into the street in immense pain, it is revealed that part of Angel's curse is that if he ever has a moment of true happiness, he will lose his soul. We see Angelus for the first time, and see what a tremendous bastard he is. The scene where Buffy and Angel meet up for the first time after having sex is heartbreaking, as is (to a lesser extent) Willow finding Xander and Cordelia kissing.

Best quote: "I'll call you."-Angelus

11. Fool For Love (Season 5, Episode 7)

In this episode (actually my personal favorite episode) we get to see Spike's past, and after so many "Angel flashback" episodes, it's great to balance it out. Buffy gets nearly killed by a single vampire and she wants to know how the other slayers have died, so she goes to the only vampires who has ever killed two: Spike. He gives her the rundown of his past, from London 1880, to China 1900, to New York, 1977, to Brazil 1998. There's hilarious stuff here, full of in-jokes, poking at continuity for all it's worth... but there's a beautiful piece of narrative television here, focusing on one of the most complex characters in all of television history.

Best quote: "Every slayer has a death wish. Even you." -Spike

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review of Buffy episode 801 "The Long Way Home, Part 1"

It's here. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is back on the screen (computer screen, for now, but with DVD release in the Fall). As an avid fan of the show and avid reader of the season 8 comic series, I was awaiting this release pretty heavily. And I was not disappointed.

It's four years after the show. After they changed the world by turning every potential slayer into a slayer and destroying Sunnydale. The new base of operations is in Scotland, operated by Buffy and Xander. Buffy and her squad of slayers (including new characters Satsu, Rowena and Renee) find a corpse with a mysterious symbol on its chest. Meanwhile, a military group investigates the Sunnydale crater and finds its only two survivors...

The story's adapted nicely from the comic. A few lines are taken out, a few lines are added and it's an acceptable balance. The animation actually flows quite nicely compared to many motion comics. It brings a lot to the new format, especially the action sequences, which are pulled off very well. Another bonus is the music. Having the theme back really brought this home as season eight.

Things that may take getting used to: the voice acting is obviously jarring at first because I'm so used to the cast, but you'd be surpised how quickly you get over it. The short format only leaves you wanting more, which is probably not a bad thing, especially with season eight being twice as long as every other season. The biggest thing that takes getting used to is the fact that the character's mouths don't move. With how well the rest is animated, you'd think they'd be able to do something about this. Again, this becomes tolerable fairly quickly, but I would like to see them fix it.

Overall, the season, finally in moving-picture format, is off to a good start and gets a solid 8/10 from me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Five Reasons to Watch the New "Buffy"

Those of us who have read the comic already know what Whedon has in store for the return of the series, which premiers on itunes in about a half hour. For everyone else (those who are illiterate, don't have time, or are against the medium) they will be introduced through this (finally) animated version of Joss Whedon's eighth season. From someone who has read, speaking to those who have not, here are the reasons to look forward to the show:

5. Action and Epicness. One of the goals of turning Buffy into a comic or animated series (which was initially planned before a comic was) was to step up the scale of the action due to not being bound by a TV budget. And the comic did just that. In season 8, you will be treated to action and monsters on a scale the show never touched upon (including the US army vs. an army of slayers. And werewolves). There's some serious Lord of the Rings shit going on in these battles, and the new season will present all of them. It's hailed as Buffy's most epic season, and in terms of actually being an epic, it is... actually epic.

4. The Return of Your Favorite Characters. Joss Whedon is, by standard definitions, the Lord. Defined in that he giveth, and he taketh away. Given his track record, he'll probably giveth back what he taketh, but with Joss, everyone seems to come back eventually (except for a few cases where, as Jud Crandall would say, "shometimes dahd is buttah"). And if you had a favorite character, they'll be back this season. Talking and acting and making sweet, two-dimensional love. But because Joss is a magical man with magical trousers, it will not be forced. Everyone will return when they need to and because they need to. Except Tara, who remains shot in the chest.

3. The music. We get the storytelling, and it was good...and very moving. But Buffy had a one hell of a score through each of its seasons. Stabbing your hunny bunny through the chest is more painful when accompanied by a tragic piano diddy (which, spoiler alert, you will be hearing again).

2. Character development. It was what drove the show. Buffy, with its immaculate writing, had phenomenally crafted characters. They grew so much from season to season. And their may be more growth here than in any one season of the show. In Dawn's case, about 20 ft. There are character relationships/hookups that are the most surprising since Willow and Tara. Characters doing and saying things you would never expect them to, because they are still growing. And some doing exactly what you might expect them to, because, while growing, they're still the same person.

1. Its Immaculate Writing. Buffy was possibly the most well-written show in TV history. The entire writing staff has returned. While it's the one thing we got in the comic, it is still the big thing here. Some may very well say "the thing that makes it good". But the gang is back together. Its Joss Whedon, returning to his baby. Not only that, but this is the longest season of the show (see above: epic) at two volumes that will comprise 40 episodes. It also has the largest cast, because those slayers... there are a lot of them.

Also, if that didn't sell you... the villain's name is Twilight. So, world, let it be known that Buffy will truly and literally be kicking Twilight's ass on a weekly basis.

Trailer premiered but was taken down due to a sound mixup. First episode still scheduled to premiere sometime today.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Today's Epic B-Movie Scene: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you... the Crispin Glover dance. For those of you unfamiliar with this icon, this is George McFly of the Back to the Future series. Or, more recently, creepy one-armed bellhop from Hot Tub Time Machine. Or creepy eyepatch guy from Alice in Wonderland.

Either way, here he is laying down the moves that undoubtedly led to the conception of Marty McFly.

Friday, July 2, 2010

"See Anything You Like?" The 100 Greatest Horror Movies You've Never Seen

In apology for not posting as often as promised, here's a monumental list. A monumentally monumental list. And, because it is so monumentous, it is presented in no particular order. Especially alphabetical.

1. Pumpkinhead
2. Phantasm
4. Dog Soldiers
5. The Devil's Backbone
6. Boy Eats Girl
7. Candyman
8. The Descent
9. High Tension (aka Switchblade Romance)
10. Martin
11. Cannibal Holocaust
12. Trick 'R Treat
13. Nosferatu (1977 remake)
14. The Hitcher (1986)
15. Martyrs
16. Creepshow
17. From Beyond
18. The Beyond
19. Zombie (aka Zombi 2, aka Zombie: Dawn of the Dead)
20. Castle Freak
21. The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)
22. Audition
23. Alice, Sweet Alice
24. Let's Scare Jessica to Death
25. Near Dark
26. Fright Night
27. The Last House on the Left (1972)
28. It's Alive
29. Peeping Tom
30. Black Christmas (1974)
31. Suspiria
32. Freaks
33. The Serpent and the Rainbow
34. Jacob's Ladder
35. Wait Until Dark
36. Grace
37. Nightbreed
38. Lord of Illusions
39. Book of Blood
40. The Midnight Meat Train
41. Dread
42. Dead Alive (aka Braindead)
43. Return of the Living Dead
44. The Fog (1981)
45. My Bloody Valentine (1981)
46. Cronos
47. Dead Girl
48. Prince of Darkness
49. Day of the Dead (1985)
50. Wes Craven's New Nightmare
51. The Changeling
52. Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man)
53. Wolf Creek
54. The Ugly
55. Repulsion
56. The Monster Squad
57. Night of the Creeps
58. Inferno
59. Return of the Living Dead 3
60. Tourist Trap
61. In the Mouth of Madness
62. They Live
63. The People Under the Stairs
64. The Ninth Gate
65. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1995)
66. Hellbound: Hellraiser II
67. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
68. Event Horizon
69. Re-Animator
70. Puppet Master
71. City of the Living Dead
72. I Spit on Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman)
73. Videodrome
74. The Fly (1985)
75. Shivers
76. Arachnophobia
77. The Girl Next Door (2007)
78. Ichi the Killer
79. 'M'
80. Eyes Without a Face
81. Sleepaway Camp
82. The Howling
83. Se7en
84. Scanners
85. Session 9
86. Alone in the Dark (1981)
87. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
88. Hatchet
89. Fido
90. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
91. The Crazies (1972)
92. May
93. Ginger Snaps
94. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
95. Let the Right One In
96. Diary of the Dead
97. The Wicker Man (1973)
98. Teeth
99. Horror of Dracula (1958)
100. Dario Argento's Opera

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Today's Epic B-Movie Scene: They Live

Immortal. Poetry. This film (and John Carpenter, obviously) is legendary.