‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’: Season 2 Review

Buff The Vampire Slayer: Season 2

Kinda regret making myself review every season of this, but not in a “this is so bad or pointless to even write about way,” but more in a “this show did everything I want/expected it to do and it’s really good!” I really don’t have much to say about season 2, except that it was really good!

As expected the full season let the show move forward with a season-long story arc with new vampire villain baddie Spike and a whole thing with Angel and Buffy which bored me that I’ll get to later. “Buffy” might be one of the best shows that I can think of off-hand who expertly balances the season-long story threads with standalone episode “cases” and baddies, playing off each other and usually the monster-of-the-week having some bearing or reflection of Buffy and friends overall dealings with saving the world from Spike and the Demons and bad Angel.

Because it’s a dumb teen show about dumb teen things that just so happen to have to deal with monsters, the show always doesn’t take itself that seriously, especially with some of the monsters they have to deal with, but in not taking itself seriously a lot of the stuff that’s supposed to be played serious fall flat some times.

Like, damn, this Angel dude gets his own spin-off show in a few seasons, but I just don’t get his appeal and can’t stand the all the trials and tribulations of the Buffy/Angel relationship. Angel is basically like what you imagine one of those “Twilight” vampire to be, all brooding and concerned with his feelings and how everything’s just SO tough being a creepy, old vampire macking on a high school student. And because Buffy is a high school girl she eats up all this faux emotional pandering and then Angel gets turned bad by Spike and then Buffy is really conflicted about her feelings. It’s all a little much and Whedon and company consistently lay it on thick while it just causes constant eye-rolling. This is the part of the show I find the most pause with, and while it makes sense to be dealing with these things in this type of show, it just goes way too far into the melo-dramatics and thus makes it so cheesy within the context of the rest of the show.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of Xander, mainly because he’s just really not that funny, and also dude’s just a major dick. He’s madly in love with Buffy, but Buffy wants nothing to do with him, Willow is madly in love with her and he doesn’t really care about her in that way, but then consistently tries to get with every other girl who isn’t Willow, ie. eventually Cordelia, which is admittedly a fun dynamic. Yeah, sure, Xander/Willow will probably end up together, or at least in part, but dude just continues to use Willow as a tool and crutch to get things he wants, ie. “better girls.” Luckily our boy Seth Green shows up this season to show Willow that she’s pretty cool and deserved to be liked on.

Man, we’re through two seasons and I’m still surprised that Giles is still alive and hasn’t been killed dramatically by Spike or someone right in front of Buffy as she contemplates this whole vampire slaying thing and how it has affected the people she loves. I mean, I’m sure it’s coming, but dang, props to Giles for sticking around this long. And then added on to his impending doom, Giles’ romantic interest in Jenny gets betrayed when, surprise, she’s actually a baddie and then gets killed.

Buffy’s mom finds out what she’s been up to all these nights out when she’s not trying to hook up with Angel, ie. slaying some vamps. Again, I commend this show on basically just having characters accept fairly quickly more-or-less that vampires, monsters and demons are jsut legit things in this world. It’s nice not to see episodes of a character refusing to believe all these fantastical elements and just being like “yep, I guess vampires are real things to be feared and fought.”

Anyways, yeah, this was a good season and following season one it build and expanded upon everything I hoped it would. I’m looking forward to soldiering on into what I think/hope are its best seasons. And I also will promise to take notes this time, because that does a lot in, you know, helping me remember things and hopefully actually make this stuff seem cognizant.

‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’: Season 1 Review

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 1

Everybody has their own pop culture blind spots including movies, T.V., music etc. etc. that people rave about that you just haven’t seen for whatever reason because there’s literally not enough time to see it all while also having a life, but that second part is overrated. Anyways, Buff The Vampire Slayer has been at the top of my list for as long as I can remember, and I’ve seen pretty much everything else Whedon has done outside of the Buffy world so it’s been long overdue to experience in seminal work.

Now I’ve never been the biggest supernatural/fantasy fan in the world, but I am a huge fan of teen angst and teens having to deal with their INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT problems and trying to make their way through life and all that. Of course Buffy’s caveat is that sometimes when the pressures of high school just aren’t enough, you gotta contend with creatures from the netherworld that try to kill you. Usually on these types of shows where they juggle the main conceit of the show with the characters dealing with their real life problems I tend to zone out of the former aspect of the show, especially when each story is contained to each episode. It’s a short first season, but the show does a nice job of stringing along a decent serialized story for the season that continues from episode to episode, if slowly, but also has episodes that you could easily just drop in for.

By far my favourite thing of the entire series was how quick it got itself off and running and how little exposition, if all, was used. There was no long drawn out episode or scenes explaining how or why Buffy was a vampire slayer of all things, it was just an assumed acceptance in this world and even though it’s a fantastical thing treating it this way kept everything very grounded. As well, when others found out what she does and that creatures such as vampires, werewolves and other demonic monsters are just as much real life as zits they didn’t freak out or take episodes trying to accept and come to grips with the world changing before they knew it, nope they just accepted things and it was off to helping Buffy or filling out the world in whatever sense. Cutting all this fat lets everybody get right to the meat of things and avoids storylines and cliches that we already know how they will end up. And with knowing that there’s six more seasons after this I’m sure a lot of that backstory and explanation will be further shaded in.

I really enjoyed the first season even though it didn’t do anything amazingly, but really used the 13 episodes it had perfectly to set up this world to even further expand and deepen it in the future. I’m really hoping the future seasons rely more on serialization and have long continuing stories and big bads that the show can build towards and off rather than just relying on baddies of the week all the time. I don’t have much else to say at this point, besides being really excited to see how this universe gets fleshed out and also I’m just counting down until Giles gets killed off, because that could not be more blatantly being set up for down the line.

‘American Tabloid’: Review

American Tabloid

I still remember spring break 2007 like it was yesterday. I was home alone for the entire week and was left up to do whatever I wanted until Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse came out on Friday, which my dad was taking me to to enjoy, along with seven other people as we watched it bomb miserably. Anyways, for some reason I was latched onto the allure of L.A. Confidential, hearing how great the movie was all these years, but for some reason I got the book first and set out on sparsely enjoying it over my break. Except it didn’t happen exactly like that, I became incredibly engrossed in the novel, attempting to make sense in my brain how a book this dense, sprawling and inter-woven could even be created. I was blow away by the uniqueness of storytelling, through a seemingly unlimited cast of characters, the way a picture of Los Angeles of years past was painted so immediately and perfectly and how every step the book took seemed perfectly ordained in some kind of masterpiece laboratory. James Ellroy became my favourite author after just that one book and I became one of those awful people who hocked how much better the book is than the film, even if the film is very, very good, it still couldn’t compete with the novel. I never understood how people said certain books were “unfilmable,” but after reading L.A. Confidential I understood, thus why the movie changes some things in order to make a two-hour movie make some sense.

Fast forward a few years, I’d read the rest of Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, The Black Dahlia being another incredible work and his second best known work, and then The Big Nowhere which I love and has some echoes of scope to L.A. Confidential, but never matches and then finally White Jazz which I enjoyed, but not to the level of the others. And now as I type for some reason the reading bug as hit me again and the thought of “Hey, if James Ellroy is indeed your favourite author you should probably, I dunno, read all of his books.” So, that’s why I’ve been doing, starting from the beginning of his bibliography and filling in the blanks.

I’d always been eager to get my hands on his first three books, but could never track them down, but now in doing so they serve as an interesting portrait to what Ellroy would eventually come. Brown’s Requiem is a solid, if not wholly memorable effort that sets the groundwork for the themes of the detective on the case, femme fatales, lowly street urchins, jaunts to Mexico, and the seedy language and environment that he’d make his name off. Clandestine was an immediate favourite for me, doubling down on the scope from his first novel, and providing that epic sprawling feature that his books always now seem to inhabit. Killer On The Road was an interesting departure, writing in the point of view of a captured serial killer as he documents his killings and evasion from the police. The Lloyd Hopkins trilogy are much more pared down detective novels that focus on Hopkins’ almost solely and his target, and in doing so are invitingly slim and easy to breeze through.

And finally (sorry for all this exposition babble, it’s my worst writing habit), I’ve reached the Underworld Trilogy, a series of books that I have always ben excited to undertake, with the thought of Ellroy’s prose hitting on the 60s era of happenings with the Kennedy’s and political intrigue seemed like too much of a perfect pairing. It’s the perfect way for Ellroy to evolve as a writer, yet still while sticking with what got him to the dance in the first place and what makes his stories tick. American Tabloid is another epic and sprawling tale that follows three men Pete Bondurant, an ex-con, hired gun for whoever is paying, Kemper Boyd, an ambitious FBI agent sent to infiltrate the Kennedy brothers’ organization who gets more than he bargained for and Ward Littell, an FBI agent who has the mentality of a cockroach when it comes to getting a job done, resistance. The book flips back and forth, chapter to chapter between each man as they progress deeper into the poltical underbelly of the late 1950s all the way through John F. Kennedy’s inauguration as president to the Bay of Pigs and ending with the assassination of JFK. The book is an epic and takes these events and expertly places these characters around these happenings in a realistic way that never infringes on history, but plays with it like a dangerous time bomb.

That’s one of Ellroy’s best skills, having his fictional characters interact with very real characters (such as J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hugh, Jimmy Hoffa) and real events that never seem like pandering or resorting to lame jokes in the vein of “Look at this interaction between fictional character and historical character that is only funny to you because of context!!!” It’s one of Ellroy’s best traits that again helps you immediately feel of the times and provides a very real backdrop to these characters and never seems like a gimmick or that he’s unnecessarily namedropping.

Again Ellroy creates a full roster of characters (you basically need to keep track on a separate piece of paper) that weave in and out of each other’s lives and who knowingly and unknowingly cause the downfall of others. As much as the time frame of his novels are celebrated, it’s always the vibrant and realistic characters to a fault that rings true for me. My favourite thing about the treatment of characters by Ellroy is the sort of see-saw rise and fall between the two FBI agents Boyd and Littell. Boyd begins the novel as a hotshot agent tasked to infiltrate and take down the Kennedy’s with full backing from J. Edgar Hoover, while Littell is a somewhat disgraced agent who is scraping by and attempting to remedy his clout with the agency, but messes up a bunch on the way that puts a target on his head. Eventually, without spoiling much, as the book progresses Boyd gets in too deep and his motivations change while he’s exposed to a different life than he’s been used to and it changes him, while Littell pulls himself out of his rut and becomes a a major player and catalyst to the ending events of the novel.

Nothing will touch L.A. Confidential, but American Tabloid gets that spirit and feel of that epic, sprawling historical/crime/political book that only Ellroy can write and something that you just know he feels little pressure to write from the shadows of his past monumental success’ to make another classic. It only gets me more excited to read the rest of the trilogy and again kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’: Review

Mission: Impossible - Rogue NationTom Cruise has been a top Hollywood for two decades now and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that when all is said and done the Mission Impossible movies will be his greatest legacy. Now on the outset that seems like a slight against a supposed good dramatic actor like Cruise (yes, good not great), but through all his dramatic performances, which again are fine, but nothing that has permanently resonated for him to make a career off chasing that Oscar. No, Cruise is through and through at his best when he takes on the action hero role, a role that again when just looking at him doesn’t really seem to compute for the small, diminutive Cruise who doesn’t look like he can kick all THAT much ass. But, ass he indeed kicks, and boy is he good at it.

The Mission Impossible movies have always been some of my favourite action movies, most noticeably elevated by Cruise’s performance and willingness to do just about anything. The first one just the steady introduction of the series as a remake of the TV series, into the ridiculous guilty pleasure, Limp Bizkit infused and John Woo directed second entry that holds a special place into my heart, into new-age techno-thriller area with the uniformly game J.J. Abrams at the helm, to the last installment which blew my mind and is one of the best action movies of the past decade with Brad Bird taking on directing duties. That’s one of the cool things about the series, each film in the five part series so far has a different director with their own subtle takes on how it should look and what the action set-pieces will entail. The suave coolness of Woo bleeds into the new generation of cyber happenings into Bird’s lavish globe hopping.

The fifth film led by Christopher McQuarrie definitely takes after the last entry in scope and framework, leading a basic storyline through cities across the world ripe for Cruise to engage in epic action scene after action scene. And through it all that’s what people want to see and that’s what they give you. The film opens on the heavily advertised scene of Cruise jumping on a plane and breaking into the cargo hold, with no wires or protection to save him from his fiery death, that oh yeah Cruise just happened to do by himself without any stunt protection. There’s a fun scene that happens concurrently with an Opera taking place, another where Cruise must hold his breath for two minutes while he traverses an underwater water system, a fantastic motorbike chase (with shades of the second film) and so on.

I mean, when it really comes down to it with action movies you don’t really care much about the plot or anything like that, it doesn’t hurt to have something engaging that makes the action and characters even that more relatable, but breaking things down to the bare-bones it’s the fun and epicness of action movies that makes them succeed. Hence why another deep series, “Fast And The Furious” has only grown more popular and exceedingly more outlandish. The Mission Impossible movies give you all that, the story is always the stock modern day spy tale where they good guys are trying to pry some technology from the big bad guy, and the movies do it well, but their grandiose action scenes and locales is what makes the films tick.

Any old film has action sequences, but the Mission Impossible ones always seem to take it up a notch, while seemingly equally out-of-this-world while also very grounded and believable. The fifth film hits similar notes to the fourth film, for its benefit, but unlike the last installment it loses its steam as it progresses leading up to a disappointing climax that witholds a large action scene in place of a more subdued and tense showdown of different sorts. It works fine enough, but it’s just not enough of a gangbusters end note to a movie that was already waning to the end. Again, these are modern-day Mission Impossible movies so of course it’s over two hours long, and undoubtedly could’ve been shaved down a bit to provide a tighter film. Cruise is the big selling point of course and he’s as great as ever, Simon Pegg is fine, I guess, as the most blatant example of comic relief ever. The real surprise is Rebecca Ferguson filling the necessary female role, but does it without falling into the trap of the female who needs saving or some kind of validation of Cruise’s character. I wouldn’t be against her returning in some capacity. And then boring Jeremy Renner showed up to collect his cheque.

Off the tails of “Ghost Protocol” a movie that actually made IMAX worth it for once and gave me a legit panic attack, the anticipation for the fifth installment was at an all time high for me, and was one of the few Summer movies I was anticipating. While it didn’t end up reaching the heights of the fourth one, still in and out itself it was a worthy successor and still continues to breathe life into a series that shows no stopping, especially with Tom Cruise’s inability to age or fail to want to do insane action scenes across the world.