Monday, 2 January 2017

MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2016

So, goodbye and good riddance to 2016. A pretty ghastly year...albeit with some pretty darn good movies.

And here are my favourite flicks of the year. As always I don't claim them as the best films but simply the ones I personally enjoyed the most and that have made the strongest connection to me for many reasons, chief of which being the striking of a powerful emotional chord. My number one priority with a film is to be entertained and never bored. Closely followed by moved, then informed and also possibly inspired. If a film can do all those then you can get something pretty damn special.

Anyway, on with it...


20 The Mermaid
From China The Mermaid is the latest zany live action cartoon from the genius who is Stephen Chow. It may not be his best work (see Kung Fu Hustle) but this crazy/silly/sweet comedy-romance about mer-people trying to halt the human destruction of their undersea home is utterly bonkers, visually impressive, laugh out loud funny in places and also warm hearted and sweet with an important ecological message at its heart. Very silly but very fun and charming.


19 Our Little Sister
From Japan Hirokazu Koreeda's Our Little Sister is a simple story about three twenty-something sisters Sachi, Yoshino and Chika discovering they have a fourth half-sister – 14 year old Suzu who is now an orphan after their estranged father dies. The three sisters who all live together in an old family house decide to take in their new sibling and care for her. What follows is a gentle and lovely story about love, loss and familial bonds. Never sentimental Our Little Sister is just spot on and leaves you wishing we could all be so lucky as to share such close ties. Delightful.


18 10 Cloverfield Lane
Dan Trachtenberg's film is partly the usual JJ Abrams' (who produced) mystery box while also serving as a sort of continuation of 2008's Cloverfield brand. But thankfully the mystery box is not all this film has going for it. Not by a long shot. With a smart screenplay, taught direction from Trachetneberg and excellent performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman 10 Cloverfield Lane is a tense layered thriller which builds its tension and its characters along with its mystery until the intense climax. A brilliant example of a well made drama/thriller which keeps you pinned to your seat and willing our winning lead on to (hopeful) victory.


17 Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange is the 14th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a franchise which shows no sign of growing stale or getting boring if DS is anything to go by. Okay, so Scott Derrickson's film of the titular Marvel hero follows the standard superhero origin formula and Stephen Strange is a rather similar character type to Tony Stark – an arrogant, self obsessed jerk whose personal tragedy opens his eyes to the bigger picture and his own potential to make the world a better place. But an infusion of the bizarre and visually trippy mystical into the MCU along with a solid script which emphasises smarts and cleverness over smash bang wallop and a terrific lead actor in BennyBatch makes MCU 14 a highly entertaining entry that opens all new weirdly wonderful avenues for the franchise to explore.


16 Deadpool
Not much needs to be said about this labour of love by star Ryan Reynolds, director Tim Miller and millions of loyal fans who together with Reynolds and Miller convinced FOX to green light and make this modest budgeted cheeky, vulgar, violent, sweary, meta Marvel superhero flick. And boy did it pay off. In spades. A critical hit and commercial smash ($50m budget vs. $760m haul) Deadpool enjoys showing other superhero movies his cheeky bare arse before turning around and poking them in the eyes. Hilarious, exciting, violent, oddly moving and tons of fun, the Merc with a Mouth hit big this year. Bring on Deadpool 2.


15 Sing Street
John Carney's effortlessly fun, lively feel good ode to young love, living your dreams and 80's pop music is a delightful coming of age story set in 1980's Dublin where fourteen year old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) falls for older aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and decides to impress her by forming a band and filming music videos of which she will be the star. Carney's film captures a place and time in the mid-80's where Ireland is seen by its young as drab and done with many of them looking to get across the sea to England which is viewed as a land of colour, excitement and opportunity, especially in its vibrant world leading music and pop culture scene. The two leads are great as are all the supporting performances including Maria Doyle Kennedy, Aidan Gillen and Jack Treynor. And there is a fantasy music number at a school dance directly inspired by Back to the Future which should get your foot tapping and put a big ol' smile on your face. Just charming, grin inducing fun all the way through. Brill.


14 Room
Lenny Abrahamson's film written by Emma Donoghue and based on her novel of the same name is not the film you think it will be. Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) has been held captive for seven years after being kidnapped by a stranger who provides her with just enough to survive and who visits regularly for sex. In those seven years of captivity Joy has had a now 5 year old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), and together they live in a small shabby but secure shed they call Room. Jack's only knowledge of life and the world beyond is from what his mother tells him - very basic childish stories made simple for him to understand. But Joy hasn't given up on escape and is determined to try again even though Jack is emotionally attached to Room and the small simple secure world it represents. For such a grim subject the miracle of Room is that it finds joy, optimism and wonder in its story, seen almost entirely through the eyes of innocent young Jack. The direction is subtle and sensitive and the two lead performances by Larson and young Tremblay are fantastic. Room is tough and grim but also beautiful and life affirming. Quite the balance to strike.


13 Zootopia
Disney's latest in house CG animated feature film is a charming, witty, exciting, clever blast. Zootopia posits a world where intelligent animals – predators and prey – live together in relative harmony, especially in the huge titular metropolis. In to this world comes the first bunny police officer in the form of the clever, idealistic and enthusiastic Officer Judy Hopps. Soon circumstances throw Judy together with charming low level grifter fox Nick Wilde and together they must solve the case of disappearing predators and expose the dastardly conspiracy behind it. Zootopia reminded me of a Disney family animation if written and directed by Shane Black. It only missed the Xmas setting. The characters are rounded and vibrant, the story a genuine mystery with something to say about prejudice, the humour witty and clever, and the design and animation quite wonderful. The voice cast led by Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman are uniformly excellent as well. Another Disney winner.


12 Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi's latest is a wonderfully quirky comedy adventure which sees young kid Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) placed with new foster mum Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her husband, the crotchety and disinterested Hec (Sam Neill) who live together out in the New Zealand bush. Ricky is a wannabe tough guy/gangsta but with a deep-seated need to belong and to be loved and eventually motherly Bella manages to get through his tough outer shell. However circumstances intervene which sees Ricky and cantankerous Hec taking off into the bush together which kicks off a nationwide manhunt for the pair. Hunt for the Wilderpeople has a great offbeat charm all the way through while exploring themes of family, belonging and self discovery. Dennison and Neill make for a terrific on-screen duo with Neill giving some of the best grump this side of Harrison Ford. Great stuff. Can't wait to see what Waititi does with Thor: Ragnarok.


11 Under the Shadow
Iranian-born Babak Anvari's directorial debut is a deeply creepy and unsettling feminist supernatural horror set in 80's Tehran against the backdrop of the Iran/Iraq war. When former medical student and mum Shideh's (Narges Rashadi) building is hit by an Iraqi missile which fails to detonate a superstitious neighbour suggests the missile has brought to them a malevolent spirit known as a Jinn. As more and more disturbing things begin to happen and as Shideh's young daughter Dorsa's (Avin Manshadi) behaviour becomes increasingly disturbed, Shideh starts to believe there is indeed an evil presence in the house which may be after her daughter. Under the Shadow is a terrific debut that manages to capture a strange and scary world where the roles and lives of women have been drastically changed for the worse and where the growing fear of persecution, the fear of discovery of hidden western accoutrements as well as the growing intensity of war is horribly tangible. As well as exploring these themes the film also manages to be genuinely unsettling and scary with its glimpses of things in corners of eyes, in mirrors, in TV sets as well as nerve jangling waking dreams experienced by poor Shideh. Under the Shadow is my kind of horror film. It is rich in character and is actually about something other than just making you creeped out, although it does that admirably as well.


10 The Witch
Another terrific horror but this time a 17th century folk horror set in New England. A family expelled from their settlement due to a clash of religious interpretation sets up home on the edge of a big dark forest. Soon the family's baby son disappears whilst in the care of eldest daughter Thomasin. Baby Sam is thought to have been taken by a witch who lives in the woods. But gradually suspicion and fear of each other grows amongst the family egged on by mischievous young twins Mercy & Jonas and their sinister-yet-playful relationship with the family's goat Black Philip who they claim talks to them. Eventually, after son Caleb falls ill, the finger gets pointed at Thomasin who becomes the ultimate target of the family's fervent religious terror. The Witch is terrific stuff. Deeply unsettling and strange whilst never being out and out scary it creates a period accurate portrait of life which revolves entirely around pious belief and irrational behaviours possibly brought on by that belief or perhaps by physical environmental issues. Is the titular witch real? Is it all just in their heads – a shared hallucinatory experience? Who knows. That is the beauty of the film. It can work either way. Though personally I favour the idea of collective ergot poisoning. Whatever the case debut director Robert Eggers has created a fantastic and deeply unsettling mood piece which disturbs on a very basic level and the cast are all fab especially Anna Taylor Joy as Thomasin. Spellbinding stuff.


9 Kill Zone 2
Kill Zone 2 is a sequel in name only to Kill Zone, a 2005 Hong Kong action-er which starred Donni Yen. Kill Zone 2 has nothing to do with the original which I have not seen and has an all-new cast and director. Tony Jaa is the new lead and does his rather incredible athletic Tony Jaa thing including a gob-smacking forward flying kick through the wind shield of an oncoming bus! Awesome! Basically Kill Zone 2 is a martial-arts crime noir melodrama with a convoluted plot based around kidnapping, murder, illegal organ theft/transplants, corrupt prisons, a crime boss with a dodgy heart and a sick child who desperately needs a specific bone marrow donation. It sounds nuts but the plot kinda makes sense even if it relies on far too many coincidences to work. But it does work because the overall tone is operatic and of heightened reality with a slightly magical/fantasy underpinning. Amidst all of this are some truly spectacular and brutal martial arts sequences as well as exciting chases and bloody gun fights. All very John Woo. KZ2 may not be up to the same standard as classic Woo or even the last two Raid flicks but it is still one heck of an engrossing operatic action blast which puts to shame similar movies from the west. Bring on KZ3.


8 Audrie and Daisy
Jon Shenk & Bonni Cohen's powerful documentary film provides an unflinching focus on the rape of two young teen girls in different parts of the US. Through their experiences and those of their families in dealing with the perpetrators, the authorities and their local communities the film exposes the noxious rape culture which appears to have taken root in many parts of US society where even girls as young as 13 and 14 are seen as fair game and are branded either liars or seen as being to blame for the evil done to them. The film provides a harsh and totally justified indictment of this culture of entitlement that seems to allow young men to disregard others humanity for their own ends. The thing though about Audrie and Daisy is, yes, it is dealing with a grim and tragic subject which will make any decent human being with a heart angry and tear up at times, but it also has a tenderness and strong sense of uplift and positivity which comes through in the attitude of many of the survivors who share their stories but who refuse to be victims and who dedicate themselves to helping others who are suffering from these same awful crimes. I also saw another similar doc this year about US college rape culture called The Hunting Ground which was also shocking and eye opening. Together with the fab MTV show Sweet/Vicious raising awareness and tackling the same subject head on lets hope that some positive progress can be made in making things even a little bit better.


7 Mustang
Mustang is the feature debut of Turkish-French film-maker Deniz Gamze Ergüven and is the story of five young orphaned sisters living with their uncle and grandmother in a small village in idyllic rural Turkey. The five sisters who range in age from 12 to 18 are all fun and free spirited souls whose sense of freedom and adventure is about to collide with traditional conservative Turkish values especially after gossip and unwarranted innuendo about their behaviour gets back to their now furious uncle. As a result the girls effectively become prisoners in their home, being prepared for a traditional role and one by one being married off to 'suitable' husbands. What follows is a story of continual defiance be it in small ways or in larger more dramatic and sometimes tragic ways. Eventually the film becomes a siege/prison break drama as the remaining sisters plot and execute their plan of escape; an escape from abuse and from the restrictive and destructive life which will destroy their spirit if they fail. Mustang is beautifully shot and directed. It almost glows with an ethereal light making rural Turkey look heavenly. But that is all just a facade as what lies beneath the lovely idyll is dark and repressive and destructive especially for young women. Mustang also has a fairytale feel as well with its often ethereal look and its themes of young girls as prisoners escaping a darkly evil parental figure (the vile uncle) with the house becoming something like Rapunzel's tower or Sleeping Beauty's castle. Only here the girls have to forge their own escape as their is no handsome prince to come and save them. The five girls are a wonderful group, full of warmth, fun, life and mischief and they have a genuine chemistry. You really do feel for them and root for them to make good their escape, which leads to what is a bitter-sweet denouement. An all-round terrific film Mustang has warmth, darkness, tragedy, fun and charm.


6 Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest stop-motion animated film from Laika who made the terrific Coraline, ParaNorman and Box Trolls. And this is their best one yet. This is a simply beautiful film in all respects from its gorgeous animation and design to its sublime storytelling to its wondrous score. The movie tells a story set in ancient Japan about a young one eyed boy called Kubo (Art Parkinson) who seems to have magical powers whenever he plays his shamisen (a stringed musical instrument). Ignoring his mother's warning to be home by dark he accidentally summons a vengeful spirit from the past and after his mother tragically dies saving him, goes on the run in order to find a mythical suit of samurai armour that once belonged to his deceased father and which will enable him to face and defeat the ancient evil that is after him. Along the way Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) who help him in his quest and also to come to terms with his personal loss and to unlock his potential. A simple quest narrative provides the backbone of Kubo and the Two Strings but the incidents and characters and themes which that backbone supports are rich, complex, moving and wonderfully compelling. Dealing with loss and forging a family and fulfilling personal potential are among the themes at play. And there is also humour often of a gentle character based nature rather than quippy one liners. The film is warm and funny and exciting and gorgeous to look at and I was entranced by every minute. The best animation of the year bar none.


5 Train to Busan
If I were lazy then Yeon Sang Ho's brilliant horror thriller could simply be described in four words: zombies on a train. But that would be doing this tense, inventive, exciting, bloody, moving gem from South Korea a massive disservice. The premise is devastatingly simple. Seok-Woo is a divorced workaholic and absentee father to his young daughter, Su-an. For her birthday Su-an asks her father to bring her to the city of Busan to see her mother. Seok-Woo makes the time and together father and daughter board the train to Busan. Unfortunately their journey co-insides with a biological incident which sees the outbreak of a zombie plague across the country and very soon the enclosed environment of the speeding train becomes a potential gory death trap for Seok-Woo, his daughter and all the other passengers. Train to Busan takes its story, its characters and the situation deadly seriously. The characters are all well drawn and have their own arcs including the key passengers Seok-Woo and Su-an meet on the train. The main theme of the story is a familiar one: knowing what is really important in life and making time for those you love. But the movie explores it with genuine heart and sincerity and you really care about these people and what will become of them. And then there are the zombies. And they are awesome! They are of the speedy variety and are very animalistic acting purely on sight and sound to get their prey. If they can't see you or hear you they will not attack which leads to some truly tense sequences as passengers use their ingenuity and smarts to evade attack. The cast are all great and the film builds to an exciting and wrenching conclusion by which time you are wondering (and hoping to find out) what South Korea could do with other familiar western horror tropes. Something equally as awesome I bet. A stone cold zombie classic!


4 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Gareth Edwards Rogue One is a gritty, exciting and gorgeous looking war movie which just so happens to be set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Inspired by the first paragraph of Star Wars A New Hope's title crawl, the film explores how the Rebels got their hands on the Death Star plans which eventually found their way in to R2 D2. And it's a pretty compelling tale which hinges on a father daughter relationship and the right people coming together at the right time to do the impossible while also fighting to keep the fledgling rebellion from falling apart. Of course you can always say that the story told here is pointless as it is merely back story/set up for the original Star Wars. And you'd of course be right. But having a clever script enables new shades to be added to the colour palette of the original Star Wars meaning you now look at that film slightly differently. The story jumps around many locations before pulling its core group of characters together to embark on their seemingly hopeless mission. And what a mission. If nothing else the final act of Rogue One is worth the price of admission alone as battles rage across space and across a planet, all directed and edited with style and precision. And this is the best looking Star Wars film since the original trilogy, designed within an inch of its life while maintaining that lived in look but adding a grittiness previously absent in the series. ILM's FX are the best they have done for years with one major exception: a certain CGI character who while technically well done looks fake as anything and pulls you out of the film. I'd also have preferred a bit less fan service and cameo moments in the film which I really don't think were needed and just caused needless distractions. But those are small quibbles in what is otherwise a pretty damn great sci-fi/fantasy war movie. Oh and Michael Giacchino's score is brilliant utilising familiar themes and styles from John Williams while also adding his own new touches to the sound of Star Wars. So a great start to the SW stand-alone films then. Lets just hope the young Han Solo film can keep up the quality.


3 Captain America: Civil War
Entry number 13 in the ongoing MCU and a fantastic closer to the Captain America trilogy. The Russo Brothers return from Winter Soldier to direct with style, wit and muscle what many have called Avengers 2.5. But it really isn't. CW closes out the story begun in The First Avenger and continued with The Winter Soldier which is essentially the story of the deep friendship and brotherhood between Steve Rogers and James Buchanan Barnes. It just so happens that global politics and several of the Avengers get caught in the middle. What this film also does brilliantly is to close out the story of Tony Stark and his relationship with his parents especially his father whose shadow you have always felt he has been trying to escape yet also trying to live up to as well. Downey Jr has never been better than he is here bringing new depth to Tony and while he is still the same fun charming guy he is also deeply wounded and full of guilt over his actions in Age of Ultron (as he should be) which pushes him into arguably a mistaken course of action pitting him against his friend and colleague Steve Rogers. Speaking of... Chris Evans once again brings his innate likeability and tough vulnerability to the role of Cap cementing him as my personal favourite current Marvel character. The story of CW moves along at pace covering a lot of ground but is never shy of stopping for some quiet character moments amidst all the fighting and explosions. The action is pretty terrific especially the airport battle which is a huge rousing crowd pleaser of a sequence. But as great as the spectacle is it is the central concept of friends against friends, feelings of betrayal and of broken relationships that leaves the lasting impression. Plus it's so great to have the climax of a big superhero movie not be about saving the world or stopping the big bad guy but rather an emotional climax about two one time friends coming to blows because of their changed feelings towards each other. Steve Rogers has been the heart and soul of the MCU and his trilogy the strong emotional backbone of the franchise. I hope we get more Cap films but if we don't then Civil War was a great way to finish. Team Cap all the way.


2 The Nice Guys
Shane Black is back writing and directing a (shocker!) buddy detective neo noir comedy thriller set in 1977 LA. And nobody does it better. I love Shane Black. As should any self respecting film geek. His scripts for Lethal Weapon, The Last Boyscout, The Long Kiss Goodnight are the stuff of legend and just plain awesome. And then you get to his writing/directing with the sublime Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the excellent Iron Man 3 (screw the haters). Which brings us to this one. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a low rent tough guy forced by circumstance to team up with down on his luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) in order to track down the missing daughter of a high ranking official in the US Justice Department who is somehow involved in some major criminal conspiracy. To be honest the plot is not that important. What is important is watching Crowe and Gosling work together lurching from one odd and often darkly funny and violent set piece to another. They are an instant classic duo with Gosling hilarious as the hapless March. Who knew? Add in to the mix March's smart and good hearted teen daughter Holly (the excellent Angourie Rice) and a collection of memorable bad guys, what you get is an enormously fun, funny, violent, laugh out loud comedy thriller which has huge rewatchability. The most pure fun I had in 2016 watching a movie. Thanks Shane.


1 Arrival
Denis Villeneuve, who directed the excellent Prisoners and Sicario, returns with a hard sci-fi drama about our first contact with intelligent alien life which was written by Eric Heisserer, based on the short story 'Story of your Life' by Ted Chiang. When 12 alien craft appear in various locations around the world the US government brings linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) in to the team assigned to forge contact with the aliens in the vessel in Montana. What follows is a completely brilliant exploration of the mechanics of communication as well as concepts of time, the perception and knowledge of past and future events/causality and of human emotion and the need to love and be loved. Thankfully the science and big ideas explored in Arrival are never presented as dry and confusing but are instead wrapped up in an emotional and very human story concerning Louise Banks' memories and feelings concerning her life, especially her daughter who became ill and passed away while still a teenager. The film is handled with subtlety and a precise steady hand and the story of Banks' daughter is never jarring or mawkish or sentimental but is instead seamlessly woven in throughout the film and is genuinely moving forming the centre of the film's story and main theme. Technically the film is outstanding in every way. The design and execution of the alien 'heptapods' and their vessel (inside and out) feels genuinely alien and real. Also fabulous is Bradford Young's photography, the magnificent sound design and the eerie, ominous and haunting score by Jóhann Jóhannsson. Every tiny part of this film is designed to evoke a sense of otherness but also of emotional resonance and by the time the film's tense and emotional denouement kicks in to place you are completely enveloped and invested in this world and in the life, memories, feelings and choices of Louise Banks. Which brings us to the heart and soul of the film. Amy Adams. This is her film. One hundred percent. Renner provides solid support as does Forest Whitaker. But this is the story of Louise Banks and is told from her point of view. If we don't believe in her, if she doesn't pull us in to her thoughts and feelings and intelligence then the film simply would not work. But luckily Adams is such a skilled and talented actor that she has no problem investing us in Banks and making us care about this woman and her life. Adams is one of the very best actors of her generation and she proves it yet again here. I adore this film. It is incredibly smart and emotional and enlightening and makes you think and discuss and question. Denis Villeneuve is the real deal. Bring on his next - Blade Runner 2049.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

BUFFY: 7.1 “LESSONS”


Big Bads are back!


WRITER: Joss Whedon

DIRECTOR: David Solomon

WHAT’S THE SITCH?

In Istanbul, Turkey a young girl is chased through the streets by a group of creepy looking people in cloaks before being caught and brutally killed. Back in Sunnydale and it's a new school year and Dawn is starting at the all new Sunnydale High 2.0 which has been built on the site of its exploded predecessor. However, based upon her own experiences at the school's previous incarnation, Buffy is having a serious case of the nerves about her lil sis starting at the new Sunnydale High. At first Dawn thinks her big sis is being way too over protective and is worrying needlessly but a run in with a group of apparently vengeful spirits soon has Junior Summers and some new friends calling for emergency Slayer assistance. Meanwhile in England a remorseful Willow is learning to be herself again under the tender tutelage of Giles.

WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?

On one hand this episode is about fear. Fear of the past, the future, the unknown. Fear that your own life experiences, your own past will repeat and come back to haunt those you love and are responsible for. Buffy is afraid for Dawn. She is scared that Dawn will suffer the same high school traumas she did. But Buffy also knows that that is often unavoidable in life and that all you can do is to prepare youngsters as best you can before sending them out there, which is what she does by training Dawn in how to handle a vampire by herself. But Buffy also knows enough to let Dawn know to never be afraid to ask for help if she needs it as is shown by the cell phone she gives Dawn as a gift at the start of the Ep. and which comes in very useful later on. On the other hand this episode is also a short presee of what this entire season will be about: Power. Finding it, sharing it and using it.

WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?

Sunnydale High's vengeful spirits who seem to blame the living for their unnatural deaths and want to make them all suffer.

Creepy robed people hunting and killing a young girl.

An evil entity who appears to loony basement living Spike by taking on the forms of all previous Buffy Big Bads (minus Angelus) as well as, finally, the form of the Buffster herself.

WHY IT ROCKS

It is a Joss script so has some solid thematic depth, strong character work, funny moments and also sets up where everybody is both physically and emotionally while also laying the thematic and story groundwork for the rest of the season.

Director David Solomon manages to create at least two genuinely effective jump scares.

James Marsters gets to play a credibly loony Spike.

All previous Big Bads cameo (with the exception of Angelus) – great to see them again.

Cell phones finally make it to Sunnydale.

Buffy gets to make an effective weapon out of a handbag and some bricks and then wields it in a short but pretty cool fight scene.

Willow and Giles in England. Yes, actual real England.

WHY IT SUCKS

The basic story of the vengeful spirits at the school is pretty thin and in and of themselves they are not very scary.

This Ep. has a lousy phlebotnum i.e. "any magical or mystical force or event that arises in the process of inventing the Buffy mythology/or advancing the plot". It is just some random talisman Buffy finds lying around in the school bathroom which needs to be broken in order to vanquish the spirits. No explanation is ever given as to what it is or where it comes from or who put it there.

After a nice establishing matte shot the streets of Istanbul are clearly that overly familiar 'generic foreign town' set on the Universal back-lot.

IT’S BUFFTASTIC

The end monologue of the evil entity to poor nutty Spike as it lays out what it wants and what is to come while purposefully transforming from one previous Big Bad to another, ending finally as Buffy herself, telling Spike that none of this is about right or wrong, it is about power!

DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR

Xander (To Buffy): "The last two principals were eaten. Who’d even apply for that job?"

Vampire (to Buffy & Dawn whilst trying to get out of his grave): “Excuse me. I think I'm stuck.”

Buffy (after Xander asks how she is): “My sister's about to go to the same high school that tried to kill me for three years. I can't change districts, I can't afford private school, and I can't begin to prepare for what could possibly come out of there. So peachy with a side of keen, that would be me.”

Buffy (to Dawn): “Oh, we have to leave, though. Do you have everything? Books? Lunch? Stakes?”

Drusilla (to Spike): "That's where we go."
Master: "Right back to the beginning. Not the bang, not the word- the true beginning. The next few months are going to be quite a ride, and I think we’re all going to learn something about ourselves in the process. You’ll learn you’re a pathetic schmuck, if it hasn’t sunk in already. Look at you. Tried to do what’s right. Just like her... You still don’t get it. It’s not about right, not about wrong..."
Buffy: "...it’s about power."

AND ANOTHER THING

Joss wrote this episode but did not direct. He only wrote and directed one episode this season – Chosen, the series finale. He was kinda busy with a little show called Firefly.

Dawn's school friend Kit is played by Alexandra Breckenridge who most recently played Jessie Anderson in seasons 5 & 6 of AMC's the Walking Dead.

The character of Principle Wood as played by DB Woodside was written as gender non specific and with the gender neutral name of Robin Wood as Joss didn't know at the time what they were going to do with the character. It was only after casting DB Woodside that Robin Wood became male and developed the back story he would go on to have this season.

The scenes of Willow and Giles in England were indeed shot in England. Joss, Alyson Hannigan and her soon-to-be hubby Alexis Dennisof were in England in summer 2002 and were staying with Tony Head at his home just outside Bath. The house and the land you see in the scenes are Tony Head's actual house and farmland.


HOW MANY STAKES?

It's a hard lesson so 3 stakes (out of 5)

Friday, 1 January 2016

MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2015

Another year, another list of my favourite movies.

I can't believe 2015 is now in the rear view mirror. Time is flying by at such an insane rate. But the year is done and dusted and these are my favourite 20 films I saw in 2015. As always I don't claim them to be the best, just my favourite. It is all subjective. I'd just say as well that the top two films on the list stand a fair way over all the rest moving into instant classic territory. So without further ado...


20. The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Based on the graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures by Phoebe Gloeckner, this is the debut film directed by actress Marielle Heller and is a funny, dark, honest, non judgmental and wonderfully inventive coming of age story set in 1970's San Francisco. British actress Bel Powley gives an unafraid performance of depth and honesty as 15 year old Minnie who begins to explore the adult world of sex, drugs and misplaced love as she struggles to discover the person she truly wants to be. Excellent support comes from Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgård. Often uncomfortable but always honest and inventive, this marks a terrific debut for Heller as a director.


19. Sicario
Denis Villeneuve's tense and riveting thriller stars Emily Blunt as a principled FBI agent who is enlisted by a government task force to bring down the leader of a powerful and brutal Mexican drug cartel. The film is morally complex and tells a story set in the grey and murky margins of what is right and wrong both in means and ends. Blunt is great as is Benicio del Toro in a vital supporting role but arguably the true star of the film is DP Roger Deakins who once again does superlative work. Give him an Oscar already. Utterly gripping and morally challenging, Sicario is simply a terrific thriller.


18. Girlhood
Girlhood is the story Marieme (Karidja Touré), a young black girl who lives in a rough neighbourhood outside of Paris. The film follows her as she navigates through and struggles with social, gender and racial issues and pressures in modern France to try and forge some kind of worthwhile future for herself and her little sister in an uncaring and bureaucratic world that seems to have already written her off. Karidja Touré is a great find and while Marieme often does things we the audience find objectionable we stick with her and root for her because we see the real person within and how the deck is being constantly stacked against her. Sensitively written and directed by Céline Sciamma, Girlhood is often tough to watch but is ultimately a rewarding human experience.


17. Spring
Written by Justin Benson and directed by Benson and Aaron Moorhead (V/H/S: Viral), Spring is perhaps the most original and wonderfully strange film on my list. To escape his downward spiral of a life a young man (Lou Taylor Pucci) leaves the US for Italy where he soon meets a beautiful and enigmatic young woman (Nadia Hilker) with a dark and disturbing secret. What follows is a full-on and believable romance in the vein of Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise but given a dark and horrific twist. The film looks lovely, the two leads are likable, have real chemistry and are good to watch. Watching the film is like having a delicious delirious sun kissed dream of love tempered with sadness and icky horror. Kind of classic Cronenberg meets 90's Linklater. Weird, scary, gross, beautiful.


16. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
The writer/director debut of Iranian American Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a wonderfully stylish, evocative and thematically rich take on the vampire myth. Described as "The first Iranian vampire Western", the film is set in a fictional Iranian town nicknamed 'Bad City' and follows a female vampire aka the titular Girl who stalks the night time streets feeding off of the many lowlifes she encounters and who seems content with her solitary predatory existence until she crosses paths with Arash, a young, compassionate, hard-working man who lives with and takes care of his heroin addicted father. The film is about loneliness, isolation and the struggle to make meaningful personal connections as well as to overcome personal adversity and escape to a better life not to mention the actualization of innate female power. As The Girl Sheila Vand is powerful and hypnotic and the rest of the cast provide solid support. The film looks great, too, as director Amirpour shoots the entire movie in a stark and moody black and white making wonderful use of shadows and street lighting. Stylish and smart this is a terrific debut film from Amirpour making her a real name to watch out for.


15. When Marnie Was There
It wouldn't be a yearly top twenty without at least one animation from Japan and this last year saw what is likely the final full length feature from Studio Ghibli (at least for the foreseeable future). Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and based on the children's novel of the same name by Joan G. Robinson, When Marnie Was There is a simple and sweet little story about a troubled 12 yr old girl called Anna who is sent by her foster parents to stay for the summer with relatives in a small seaside town. Anna is a loner and outsider filled with self doubt and insecurities but while staying in the town she strikes up a powerful friendship with a mysterious young girl called Marnie who apparently lives in the big old mansion the other side of the local salt marsh. What follows is a simple and lovely story of friendship, family and love. As always with Ghibli the film looks beautiful with its gentle watercolour stylings and simple-yet-effective hand drawn animation. And while the story has a slight supernatural bent and a small mystery at its heart, it never lets the more fantastical elements overshadow what is a simple and heartfelt story of a young girl dealing with her troubling emotions and finding her own personal happiness. Sweet but never sickly and completely delightful. I miss you already Ghibli.


14. Turbo Kid
Written and directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell, Turbo Kid is a brilliant homage to 80's direct to video actioners mixing a post apocalyptic Mad Max type of flick with a kids adventure ala BMX Bandits with a horror/mutant exploitationer from the likes of Cannon or Charles Band. The basic plot sees The Kid (Munro Chambers), a teenage boy in the post apocalyptic wastelands become a mythical comic book superhero through the help of a mysterious girl he meets called Apple (Laurence Leboeuf). The pair then team up to stop the brutal and tyrannical leader Zeus (Michael Ironside) from ruling over the wasteland. To be honest the plot is really not important. What is important is the sheer creativity, exuberance and love shown for the material the movie draws from. There is action, chases, fights all done so weirdly and yet so imaginatively and with a ton of energy and style. Plus plenty of OTT gore. Also as Apple Laurence Leboeuf gives a winning and utterly adorable performance. Yes, she may be yet another example of the so-called manic pixie dream girl trope, but there is a twist here and her main trait is an adorable wide eyed innocence which is impossible not to love. A truly great genre homage and a hugely fun movie in its own right. I just hope we get a Turbo Kid 2: Electric Boogaloo.


13. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Otherwise known as the film that broke Joss Whedon. Only kidding...or maybe not. Ultron is huge. There is so much going on, so many spinning plates, so many characters, stories (and future stories) to serve that what could have been another truly great film from My Lord and Master Joss gets buried somewhere in the midst of TOO MUCH. Still, there are great ideas and strong themes throughout and all the main characters get moments to shine. The story is solid and thunders along at a decent pace and James Spader does a fun turn as the evil Ultron AI with daddy Stark issues. For the most part the action sequences are great if perhaps a bit too busy just like the rest of the film. By no means a bad film, AoU is actually a very, very good film...it just isn't as good as it could (and should) have been. Poor Joss. I feel for him. He did his best given all the masters he had to serve and ended up getting a ton of abuse on social media for such a totally misunderstood thing (Natasha and her sterilization). But hey, taking down a Hydra base, Hulk Buster, naughty Ultron, saving people above all else (take note Superman) and bringing Vision to life is more than enough to earn AoU its place on this list. So thanks Joss. Now, you have a nice long rest then go make something 100% YOURS again. Love you.


12. The Final Girls

On the surface The Final Girls is a very funny affectionate meta homage/spoof of 80's slasher films which sees a bunch of contemporary teens getting trapped inside 'classic' 80's slasher film Camp Bloodbath and having to then navigate through the story dealing with the actual characters within the film while discovering the rules which will allow them to eventually escape back to reality. Essentially this is Last Action Hero with stalk and slash. A fun concept for sure. But what makes the film work so beautifully is that it has real heart and is genuinely emotionally affecting. For beneath the silly concept the story is really about a young daughter desperate to reconnect with her mother whom she misses terribly after she was killed in a tragic car accident. And it turns out a younger version of her mother was an actress in the movie she is now trapped in. The film is inventive, stylishly shot and directed and has a funny, layered and emotionally affecting script. Also the performances are all terrific with Taissa Farmiga & Malin Akerman being the stand-outs as daughter and mother who eventually get to reconnect in the weirdest way possible. Stylish, funny, silly and touching, The Final Girls is a genuine unexpected gem. See it.


11. John Wick
Every so often Keanu Reeves makes an awesome action movie. It seems to be cinematic law or something. Point Break in 1991, Speed in 1994, The Matrix in 1999. So he has been long overdue a new one. But finally, here it is. John Wick isn't deep, it isn't clever, but what it is, is one hell of a cool and effective noir actioner which uses Reeves extremely well – a troubled loner of few words who unleashes one hell of a murder spree on bad guys after they steal his car and kill his pet dog. There is a bit more to it than that but basically this is a revenge thriller with ex-hitman Wick, a figure of mythic proportions within the criminal fraternity, taking down a whole organisation of bad guys with multiple head shots and ass kickery. The movie is smartly and sparsely written and is shot, directed and edited the hell out of. What is also great is the word building the movie does creating a strange-yet-believable criminal underworld for the movie's villains to inhabit. It feels like the film was based on a graphic novel ala Frank Miller or something but is in fact an original screenplay with the first time directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch drawing on anime, John Woo movies and noir crime thrillers to deliver something that feels original and delivers real visceral impact. Utterly awesome! Thankfully John Wick 2 is on its way. Keep your heads down bad guys!


10. Ant-Man
Ant-Man shouldn't work. It is a goofy character/concept with a daft title based on a comic that no-one outside of comic book nerds would have ever heard of. It certainly shouldn't be a better movie than a Joss Whedon Avengers throw down, especially considering how the original director left the project late in the game and a new director and writer were brought aboard to quickly re-tune the film and get it shot and done within a very, very tight time-scale. Nope, should be a train wreck, right? Wrong. Ant-Man is a blast. Against all the odds new director Peyton Reed and co-writer and star Paul Rudd pulled a blinder. The movie is a ton of fun, plenty weird (in a good way) and has a whole lot of heart. It is refreshingly small scale, too, and not just the titular hero. The story is not a save the city/world story but rather a heist film which is about righting past wrongs and reconnecting fathers and daughters. Paul Rudd is perfect as reformed criminal Scott Lang who just wants to make a life outside of prison and spend time with his young daughter, while legendary actor Michael Douglass is his usual terrific self as inventor Hank Pym who enlists Scott's help in preventing an old rival from using and abusing his potentially dangerous technology. Great support comes from the lovely Evangeline Lily as Pym's estranged daughter Hope, Corey Stoll as tech rival Darren Cross, and the fab and hilarious Michael Pena as Scott's former cell mate and pal Luis. The story is simple and fun and the action inventive and original with all the actors giving their all. Basically Ant-Man is just a whole heap of fun and I can't wait to see the sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp. Bring it on, Peyton! (see what I did there?)


9. Song of the Sea
For me, to be truly successful a film has to make an emotional connection. It has to make you honestly truly feel something real. I had no big expectations of Song of the Sea, an animated fantasy from Ireland. The reviews were great and it looked lovely in the trailers so I expected it to be good. But watching it I was instantly captivated and drawn in to its beautifully rendered world of Celtic myths and legends and its story of a brother doing his absolute damnedest to help and protect his little sister whom up until now he'd strongly resented. This is the story of two young children who have lost a mother and whose father has become somewhat withdrawn and remote and who are then taken away by their grandmother to live in an unfamiliar world which seems alien and uncaring. To save his little sister's life Ben must get little Saoirse away from the grim city and back home to their lighthouse by the sea. For it turns out that little Saoirse is a Selkie, a mythological creature who lives as a seal at sea and sheds its coat to become human on land. There is more story which has to do with ancient Celtic legends of giants and owl witches but at its heart this is a film about a fractured family reconnecting and getting over a tragic loss. Inspired, artful, beautiful and with Celtic influenced songs and music which can sooth the soul, Song of the Sea is a captivating delight that builds to a powerful emotional conclusion which I don't mind admitting moistened my eyes.


8. White God
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó, White God is a Hungarian film which follows mixed-breed dog Hagen, who moves with his 13-year old owner Lili to stay with Lili's estranged father. However due to local laws and Lili's father being an ass, Hagen gets dumped and the film follows both Hagen making his way through the city searching for Lili as well as Lili rebelling against her father and getting into all kinds of trouble while searching for Hagan. Hagen's journey is a dark and brutal one which includes escaping from dog catchers, getting brutalised in a dog fighting ring before finally being caught and put in the pound where he is scheduled to be destroyed. However something amazing happens and Hagen and a pack of feral dogs break out of the pound and go on a rampage through the city taking savage revenge on all those who have wronged and hurt them. As the police try and hunt the dogs down it is left to Lili to try and find Hagen and stop his rampage before he hurts anyone else or gets killed by the police. White God is a brilliant film. It is harsh and brutal and uncompromising and has something to say. This is no Disney flick, kids. Dogs are tortured (not for real I hasten to add). People get eaten and throats are torn out. Hagen is basically Spartacus leading a savage slave revolt and the film plays as a brilliant allegory for all downtrodden peoples who eventually rise up and strike back in fury. The last act also plays like King Kong as young Lili tries desperately to find and soothe the now savage beast in order to save him from a sure-to-be tragic fate. The film is directed with style and energy with chases and set pieces as exciting and tense and scary as anything in a big budget Hollywood movie. Young Zsófia Psotta as Lili is terrific and the film plays as much a coming of age story for her as it does a story of revolt and revenge for Hagen. Just see it, okay. It is great. And remember no dogs were hurt at all making the film. Dunno about the humans though.


7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
So, Star Wars. What more is there to say? Okay, so by all rights this film SHOULD have been number one. I wish it were. And while it is great and a ton of fun it has too many issues that just wouldn't let it creep any higher up my list. The issues are far from fatal and the good far outweighs the not so good. But those issues are there. And they are mostly down to story and plotting. I love all the characters old and new and they are all perfectly cast and all perfectly played. Harrison Ford is the most engaged he has been for years and having Han & Chewie back again is bliss. The film looks great, too, for the most part, and the pace is fast and fun as it charges along skipping merrily over plot holes and contrivances and coincidences to get to the exciting and emotionally charged finale. But despite all the good stuff, all the nostalgia, all the joy at having more Star Wars...I still have the nagging feeling that this is all just very expensive fan fiction. It feels like it. It plays like it. And that is fine. It is a lot of fun – basically just giving us fans what we want....but maybe not what we need. For at its core Star Wars IS George Lucas with all his genius and shortcomings. And yes, I know the prequels are not very good. But it was still his overall vision, what he wanted to say with his story, his creations. It's just a shame he lost his ability to communicate his vision back then. And while Abrams et al sure do make fast fun frothy popcorn flicks I can't help wondering/worrying that the core of SW has been lost. I dunno. I'm probably just being dumb. But hey, I loved this movie with all its problems and can't wait for more SW. I just kinda wish that somehow in some way George was still involved. Hey ho.


6. Ex_Machina
Alex Garland's directorial debut from his own script is a fantastic scifi story involving the potential creation of artificial intelligence, testing that it is true intelligence and the ramifications of man's hubris if such a creation comes to fruition. Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) gets invited by his employer, eccentric billionaire Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), to administer the Turing test to an android with artificial intelligence he has created called Ava (Alicia Vikander). Ava seems real and her and Caleb strike up a relationship which could be considered as love. Is Ava genuinely self aware and alive or is it all still just a computer program mimicking life? And what is Nathan's real objective in having Caleb and Ava interact? The film is set mostly in just one location – Nathan's reclusive modernistic Alpine house with its sharp sparse rooms and locking doors . The film feels like a three-hander play and is a story which could easily be put on stage. But it never feels stagey and is always cinematic and utterly riveting thanks to the deeply intelligent script, deft direction and fabulous performances, especially from Vikander. Themes of what being alive and being human actually mean, of slavery, of sexuality and of abuse are all there amongst others. The film is so deep and so rich with so much to chew on and is a damn smart think piece which is always compelling and never boring. Plus it looks amazing. The limited sets are all great and the FX used to help bring Ava to life are quite beautiful. Ex_Machina is a smart, engaging and brilliantly conceived and executed scifi drama. You don't get many films like this. Savour it.


5. The Martian
Finally! Ridley Scott is back at the top of his game with this, his movie version of Andy Weir's novel about a biologist astronaut who gets left behind on Mars and must somehow survive alone until a rescue mission can be sent for him...if one can be sent at all. Matt Damon is excellent as stranded astronaut Mark Watney who must “Science the shit of this” to survive in a totally hostile environment where nothing lives except him. The film could have been dry and heavy and tragic and very science heavy but Scott, working from a superlative script by Whedon alumni Drew Goddard, keeps the tone playful and light without ever making light of the actual situation Watney is in. There is humour to be found in all situations and Watney exemplifies this as it is his sense of humour as well as his smarts which keeps him alive and sane. This is simply a great story which takes itself seriously but is never po-faced or dour and treats its subject and its science with the utmost respect. Tense, exciting, charming, laugh out loud funny, The Martian is a great adventure which celebrates intelligence and humour and holds scientific discovery and exploration up as a dangerous but entirely worthwhile and noble thing to do. It is so good to have Ridley Scott back making great looking movies with great characters and a terrific script. It has been way too long. Welcome back, Sir Rid!


4. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Tom Cruise is back as IMF super spy Ethan Hunt along with Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and new addition Rebecca Ferguson as possible aly/possible betrayer Ilsa Faust. Long time Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie takes over writing and directing duties and delivers what is my second favourite of the franchise after Brian De Palma's classic first flick. The story is all about a shadow “anti-IMF” known as the Syndicate and Ethan's attempts to bring it down before it can do terrible damage to the IMF and the wider world. But really it is an excuse for more fabulous action and drama set pieces, for exotic locales and for Tom Cruise to run, fight, run some more, chase, be chased and hang off of things really high up. And that is fine by me. Cruise is great as always as is the returning supporting cast. But the stand out is Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust – a beautiful, lethal, charismatic and utterly compelling woman who has her own agenda and who can take down anyone (including Agent Hunt) without hardly breaking a sweat. She is awesome! Giver her her own franchise and cast her as Captain Marvel, like, NOW! The plot is actually well constructed and weaves around in a game of cat and mouse with the main bad guy played by Sean Harris a genuinely creepy and threatening dude. And it all comes to a head in a terrific end sequence on (and below) the streets of London. A ton of fun from a franchise which shows no danger of growing old and stale. Cruise, now 53, still looks and runs and fights better than many a guy half his age. Deal with the Devil or something (or maybe Thetans)? Jeez! So yeah, more please. I fucking love this franchise.


3. It Follows
I love this movie. David Robert Mitchell's film is a throwback to classier, smarter big screen horror which takes a shockingly simple idea and turns it in to a genuinely creepy and scary and disturbing piece of genius level cinema. The concept is simple. You have unwitting sex with a cursed person and the curse passes to you – an evil entity only you can see (taking the shape of a stranger or someone you know) begins to stalk you until either you have sex with someone else and pass the curse on or the entity gets you and kills you by busting your bones in to so very nasty shapes. But the thing is, if you do get killed by it, the entity goes back on down the line after the person who passed the curse on to you. Yikes! Our heroine is Jay (Maika Munroe) who gets the curse passed to her after a date with a guy she thought was a new boyfriend. After Mr Creep tells Jay the rules and shows her the evil entity coming for her he sets her loose. Somehow now Jay must evade the entity while convincing her friends that it is indeed real and that she is not mad. Can Jay survive? Will she pass the curse on to someone else? Who in the crowd of people at school or in the street is the evil entity that wants her dead? It Follows is not a jump scare movie like Insidious et al but rather a creepy atmospheric chiller with strong likable characters and a killer central concept which works as metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases. The script is taut, smart and does a good job of creating teenage characters we actually like and root for. Plus Mitchell's direction is old school Carpenter-esque but with plenty of his own artistic flourishes. The 360 degree camera shot at the school is brilliant as is the entire sequence at the swimming pool. As our lead Maika Munroe is great showing the same abundance of talent, likability and strength she showed in last year's The Guest. I've seen this film several times now and it continues to impress and to chill. Horror as smart art is a tough thing to do. The Babadook did it last year and It Follows did it this year. Horror as it should be.


2. Inside Out
Pixar's Inside Out directed by Pete Docter is a wonderful film on every level. The story is all about the internal emotional life of a young girl, 11 year old Riley who has just moved to San Francisco with her mum and dad. Riley misses her old home and her friends and her life and one thing leads to another causing her emotions to fall out of sync with Joy and Sadness being accidentally banished from her emotional control center leaving it up to Fear, Disgust, and Anger to try to keep Riley happy. But inadvertently they distance her from her parents, friends, and hobbies, and begin to cause the collapse of young Riley's internal emotional world. Meanwhile Joy and Sadness are trying to find there way back to HQ along with Riley's long lost childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong so as to try to restore Riley's emotional balance before it is too late. Can they do it in time? Can they bring Riley back to a place of happiness, bringing back her core memories where so many good times are recorded? Inside Out tackles a complex subject that many films aimed solely at adults don't even attempt. And it does so brilliantly. That this film aimed at children and families uses such genius methods to get across such complex concepts is, well, genius. And the story is completely engaging and charming and funny and invests us utterly in the emotional well-being of one 11 year old girl. The characters of the emotions are all terrific with Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith both wonderful as Joy and Sadness. Of course being Pixar the film's animation is top notch and looks gorgeous and the score by Michael Giacchino's, his fifth for Pixar, is as good as any he has done. In the end what this film does is exactly what I said a great film should do way back at number 9 with Song of the Sea – it has to provide an emotional connection, an emotional kick that gets you. And when what everything in your film boils down to is simply the happiness of an 11 year old child, then that kick comes hard and fast. And hits home. Inside Out is my favourite Pixar film. It is pretty much perfect and any normal year it would be my number one film. Any normal year that didn't have George Miller being insane in the desert with crazy vehicles and flame throwing guitars and Charlize Theron with a robot arm.


1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Please see below my honest reaction/review of Mad Max: Fury Road directed by the insane mastermind George Miller....

OH MY FUCKING GOD OH SHIT OH SHIT OH FUCK ME THIS IS AWESOME JESUS FUCKING CHRIST THIS IS INSANE LOOK AT THOSE CARS WHAT IS THAT GUY DOING CHARLIZE IS KILLING ME THAT DUDE HAS A FUCKING FLAME THROWER ON HIS GUITAR HOW DID NOBODY DIE SHOOTING THIS STUFF ARGGHHH MY BRAIN IS MELTINGGGGGG SO SO PRETTY IMAGES OF CARNAGE AND WHAT THE FUCK IS TOM HARDY DOING STRAPPED TO THE FRONT OF THAT CAR OH MAN LOOK AT THAT HUGE TRUCK TIPPING OVER JESUS H CHRIST I THINK I JUST PEED A LITTLE AND NOW THEY ARE GOING BACK THE WAY THEY CAME THIS IS INSANE THIS HAS NO REAL STORY BUT I DON'T GIVE A FUCK CUZ CARS CARNAGE EXPLOSIONS STUNTS CHARLIZE CHARLIZE AND MORE CHARLIZE OH GOD MORE CHARLIZE SHE IS SO GODDAMN HOT AND BADASS HOW COME MAX IS THE SIDEKICK IN HIS OWN MOVIE BUT HEY WHO GIVES A FUCK CUZ THIS IS FUCKING AWSEOME AND CHARLIZE AND OH LOOK MAX HAS LEFT AND CHARLIZE NOW RULES THE WORLD WHICH I SO WISH WAS TRUE PLEASE GEORGE MILLER MAKE MORE OF THESE AS IT FEELS LIKE HAVING A FUCKING TWO HOUR ORGASM IN MY BRAINNNNNNNNNN!!!!



Good movie. I liked it.

Roll on 2016.


Thursday, 1 January 2015

MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2014

And so here we are again. Happy New Year! And here is my twenty favourite films of 2014 in descending order. If you care. Don't blame you if you don't.

Please note: as per usual I do not claim that these as the best films of the year, just the ones I personally enjoyed the most. It is all subjective. I have a big ol' yen for Marvel flicks, apes on horseback and emotionally resonant Asian animation. So there you go. Also, at the bottom of this post you'll find my five least favourite films of 2014. Enjoy.

20. Frank



Lenny Abrahamson's strange, off beat dramedy stars Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy and Michael Fassbender as the titular Frank and was inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the comic persona of late comedian/singer/poet Chris Sievey. Abrahamson's film is a strange, funny and also sad tale with a top notch cast that has the excellent Fassbender proving again why he is one of our best current actors.

19. Jodorowsky's Dune



Frank Pavich's engrossing and fascinating documentary explores Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky's unsuccessful attempt to adapt and film Frank Herbert's legendary novel Dune in the mid-1970s. The interviews are all great but Jodorowsky and his Dune bible in which he has his entire movie that never was mapped out in script, storyboards and detailed artwork are the true stars. The movie had it happened would have been utterly insane but totally original. If only.

18. Only Lovers Left Alive



Idiosyncratic director Jim Jarmusch does his take on vampires by focusing on the current lives of a centuries old married couple played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton and how they both deal with unending life and the frustrations of the modern world. There isn't much story (an appearance from Swinton's troublesome undead sister played by Mia Wasikowska adds some jeopardy) but rather the film is about two very much in love people who just happen to be very, very old and is a brooding, contemplative, darkly humorous character study featuring two riveting performances from Hiddleston and Swinton - the coolest on screen vamp couple since Spike & Dru.

17. Stretch



Stretch is a sly, darkly funny, cynical LA noir thriller from Joe Carnahan which see Patrick Wilson as a down on his luck limo driver knows as Stretch who is trying desperately to raise some money to pay off gambling debts while at the same time trying to improve his life, impress his ex girlfriend and also get himself out of a criminal tangle his rich and kinda mad client has got him involved in. Stretch is slick, funny, satirical (esp about LA life and its glossy/seedy side) and features two great performances from Patrick Wilson in the title role and Chris Pine as the rich, mad, grubby and criminal client. A very, very fun ride of a flick. And a totally unexpected joy.

16. The Wind Rises



The Wind Rises is legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki's final film before he retired in late 2013. The film is a fictionalized biopic of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter aircraft and its successor, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, used by Japan during World War II. However the film is not about the war or about creating weapons of war but rather about a young man who since boyhood has loved aeroplanes and the idea of flying, a love and fascination shared by Myazaki. As such the film is an ode to that purest and most freeing of dreams and is also about how love and dreams become entwined to create a rich and full life. As always with Miyazaki the film looks beautiful and the themes are honest and relatable. Not his best work but a fitting note to end such an illustrious career on.

15. Gone Girl



David Fincher's film of the novel by Gillian Flynn is a savage indictment of the institution of marriage and what it can involve and potentially lead to – lust becomes love becomes routine becomes indifference becomes boredom becomes hostility becomes....something else altogether. Ben Affleck is very good in the role of the husband suspected of offing his missing wife while Rosamund Pike turns in a 'who knew?' performance that will surely bring her an Oscar nom. Sexy, riveting, scary. Another Fincher winner.

14. Godzilla



Gareth Edwards' update/remake of Toho's famous monster mash movie thankfully wiped clear all memory of Roland Emmerich's ghastly 1998 effort. The story here is rooted in family tragedy as a bereaved husband seeks to discover the truth about his wife's death in a nuclear power plant in Japan while his now adult son tries to stop him only to get embroiled in a multinational conspiracy to keep the existence of ancient monsters a secret. A secret which explodes in to the world with disastrous results. To be honest the human story here is secondary. It is fine. But what the punters want is Big G. To have him done right. To sell his size and majesty. And to see him kick monster ass! And boy doe we get that. What ever the movie may lack in its human story it surely succeeds in how it treats its star. Edwards holds back on revealing Big G...but when he does...wow! And every scene with our star, every sequence is directed the hell out of. This was a true cinematic experience that got my jaw well and truly dropped in the theatre. It does lose something on the small screen but still manages to sell its titular hero to us. Monstrously good fun.

13. We Are The Best



Swedish director Lukas Moodysson's sweet, funny, endearing coming of age story is about three young girls in 1982 Stockholm who start their own punk band just as punk is dying out. Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), Klara (Mira Grosin), and Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) are outsiders. Bobo and Klara are lifelong friends and already rebellious and looking for any opportunity to stick it to the system (in their own naive and sweet way), while Hedvig is a Christian girl who is great at guitar but is isolated from the rest of her peers due to her strong religious beliefs. But when the three girls come together they find common ground and a common spirit and embark together on a mission to form their band and play their punk songs to people, especially 'Hate the Sport' inspired by their shared hatred of gym class. The three young actresses are fabulous and you can't help but root for them in their small but so very important personal mission to express themselves to a world which wants them to conform and behave. A lovely, sweet and funny ode to friendship and rebellion, We Are The Best is a charming little gem.

12. The Grand Budapest Hotel



Wes Anderson's eighth film as director is now my favourite of his. It's a tale of old world manners and etiquette mixed up with a farcical comedic criminal conspiracy that features a hilarious and career best performance from leading man Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes is Gustav H, concierge at the titular hotel who teams up with one of his employees, bell boy Zero (Tony Revolori) to prove his innocence after he is framed for the murder of a rich old lady who he'd been providing extra 'services' to for years. Anderson brings his usual style of flat space camera moves, symmetrical compositions, snap-zooms etc. to showcase the small, idiosyncratic and also big and outrageous comedic moments that litter the film. The film also looks gorgeous having been designed and shot to within an inch of its life with Anderson making full use of his glorious sets and locations as well as his game cast. Odd, hilarious and utterly brilliant!

11. What We Do in the Shadows



A mockumentary about four old school vampires who live together in Wellington, New Zealand, What We Do in the Shadows follows their night to night lives, documents how they co-habit and how they deal with 'living' in the modern world. It also shows what happens to their home when one of them accidentally makes a new vampire who turns out to be a real pain in the neck. The movie was directed and written by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), who also star. The movie works on three levels. First, it is very, very funny with the characters great and distinctive and the comedy coming from how they interact with each other and with the outside world. Second, it pokes affectionate fun at many familiar tropes of the horror/classic monster movie genre. Third, the three main vampire characters have their own stories and arcs which we follow and we can't help kinda rooting for them. For despite their great age and monstrous nature they are still relatable and have to deal with many of the same things us humans do – keeping house, petty arguments, relationship problems, dealing with tiresome bureaucracy. But above all else this movie is just damn funny. I laughed and laughed and loved every minute.

10. X-Men: Days of Future Past



Original X-Men director Bryan Singer returned to the chair to make Days of Future Past, a further reset/course correction for the franchise after the excellent First Class in an effort to repair the damage done by X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the Last Stand. And he succeeded. A complex time travel story sees Wolverine altering the past to save the future and in doing so erasing much of what went wrong in the franchise. Once again Jackman is terrific as the hirsute hero while the First Class cast esp Fassbender, McAvoy and Lawrence all do great work. Arguably though it is Evan Peters as Quicksilver who almost steals the movie in his small but pivotal cameo. Full of great action, stylish visuals, resonant themes and strong acting, Singer has indeed succeeded in putting his X boys and girls back on top. Bring on Apocalypse!

9. The Babadook



Blimey! A horror movie that is actually about something and that is genuinely smart and scary. Doesn't happen often anymore. Jennifer Kent's powerful, creepy, emotional and affecting fairytale horror story is all about parenting and the stresses and strains of motherhood especially when doing it alone looking after a young child with emotional issues while at the same time trying to cope with one's own personal emotional issues. Isolation, grief, stress, terror all come to play here thanks to a truly remarkable performance by Essie Davis as the mother being driven to distraction by her child and by her own still raw grief at the death of her husband. The film is largely set in the dark and creepy house mother and son inhabit, a house that has been exquisitely designed, dressed and shot to enhance the levels of spine tingles and discomfort amongst the audience. And Mr Babadook himself is thing of nightmarish beauty. A marvellous creepy children's monster come to life. Is it real or are all the supernatural events in the film just the product of two traumatised minds? Who knows. And that's the beauty of it. Brilliant!

8. The Guest



The Guest was directed and edited by Adam Wingard, and written by Simon Barrett, the team who previously gave us the excellent horror flick You're Next. In The Guest the pair have made a retro 80's inspired action/horror/thriller about a mysterious, relentless and utterly lethal ex soldier who comes to visit the family of a deceased comrade and proceeds to cause bloody havoc in and around the family's lives. Small scale but beautifully directed, shot and edited ,The Guest benefits hugely from its stripped down script, 80's feel (complete with synth score) and rather stunning and star making central performance from one time Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens as David, the titular guest. Stevens burns up the screen with charm and charisma that barely covers a level of bestial menace and threat. And when he finally unleashes his full lethality he becomes a force of pure bloody destruction to rival the Terminator himself. Short, sharp, stylish, brutal, The Guest is bloody brilliant!

7. The Raid 2



If Gareth Evans' The Raid was his Indonesian take on Die Hard then The Raid 2 is his take on The Godfather. The simple 'fight your way through the building to get the boss' plot of the original has been replaced by a sprawling crime saga that follows undercover cop Rama and his battles with rival crime families and police corruption. The simplicity of the set-up of the original Raid was part of its brilliance and that simple brilliance does get lost in what is now a two and half hour crime epic. But Evans manages to weave a tense and compelling tale here with strong memorable characters even if some of the plot might lose you in places. But where he truly excels is the action. My God! The action! Nobody else is making action films like this. Epic, bloody, brutal, choreographed to insane levels...and now with added car chases too. They are like long and beautiful ballets of carnage and blood that do quite take your breath away. I do hope Evans doesn't get sucked in to the Hollywood system and just keeps on doing what he is doing. Because what he is doing is pretty much perfect just the way it is. Stunning!

6. The LEGO Movie



Everything is awesome! What more can I say? This movie IS awesome. Chris Miller and Phil Lord's blatantly commercial effort to sell more of the iconic Danish toy to kids worldwide had no business being this good. Being this smart. This sly. This funny. This...AWESOME! The visual style is pure genius, the gags (coming thick and fast) hilarious, the characters memorable, especially goofy Lego everyman Emmett (Chris Pratt – having a great year), the asshole Batman (Will Arnett) and the genius that is Bad Cop (Liam Neeson). The movie even tackles themes of creativity verses conformity and pokes fun at story archetypes, the corporate world and its money grabbing ways, and at adults who forget what toys are all about – imagination and fun! Just damn funny. Damn smart. Damn creative. And damn good FUN!

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier



And the Marvel machine keeps on rolling. And keeps on making top flight entertainment. But this time they added a little extra: a bit of social comment with a look at our current surveillance world and how our fears of terror and of crime can lead us to almost blindly give away the very freedoms we say we cherish and are fighting for. Basically Marvel made a 1970's conspiracy thriller which just happens to have a costumed super soldier as its main hero. New directors The Russo Brothers bring a more real world, gritty style and feel to the world of Cap and co. while still maintaining the scifi and fantasy elements that we love about the Marvel Universe. The film sees Cap struggling to find his place in this new and morally grey world when a deadly conspiracy throws him back in to action along with an old friend and a new one in a fight to save lives and stake out the moral high ground his way. Once again Chris Evans is terrific as Cap giving him a vulnerability and innate likability while always maintaining his strength and absolute badass ability along with the sense that he truly does believe in just being a good man and doing the right thing. Scarlett Johansen is also excellent as the sly yet ultimately loyal Black Widow and Anthony Mackie makes a great addition as Cap's new buddy Sam Wilson. Also only Robert bloomin' Redford!!! Awesome! Plus Cap 2 has possibly my fave action sequence of the year with the epic free way chase/battle. It's amazing and brings to mind the street battle in Heat. With this movie Marvel yet again proved they can find the perfect people for the job with The Russo Brothers who are returning for Cap 3: Civil War and are rumoured to be involved in the Avengers: Infinity War saga if Joss decides to bow out. The future is looking pretty darn Marvel-ous!

4. Edge of Tomorrow



Adapted from the 2004 Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Doug Liman's scifi actioner is bloody great from start to finish. Tom Cruise plays against type as the cowardly PR man drafted in to fight alien invaders on the front lines in a hopeless battle only to find himself caught in a repeating Groundhog Day style time loop which allows him to repeat the same day over and over until he gets trained up enough to get off the beach and ultimately find and destroy the core of the alien threat. Cruise is terrific as the coward who gradually becomes a deadly weapon. And he is assisted by the equally terrific (and very gorgeous) Emily Blunt as veteran badass soldier Sergeant Rita Vrataski aka Full Metal Bitch! The concept alone is brilliant and Liman and his writers mine it for all its worth. What is perhaps most surprising though is the level of black humour throughout inc. finding more and more creative ways to off poor Tom! The alien bashing action is all wonderfully staged and exciting and the cast are obviously having a grand old time of it. EoT may not be very deep or thought provoking but it is a great scifi concept well told that rollicks along and keeps the audience on their toes. The aliens themselves – mimics – are a cool and creepy creation, while the tech and the war imagery harks back to WW2 complete with the storming of Normandy beaches. The saddest thing here is that while the movie did okay at the box office it got largely overlooked in the busy summer season. While crap like Transformers 4 makes over a billion dollars a genunely great and fun scifi actioner like this is relegated to the lower BO leagues. Bummer!

3. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya



Isao (Grave of the Fireflies) Takahata’s animated adaptation of the old Japanese folk tale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter is easily the most beautiful animated film of the year and a gorgeous, magical, graceful and emotional joy from begging to end. The story is about many things – partially a coming of age tale it is also about how parents should allow their children to follow their own path to discover who they really are rather than forcing them down a path they think they should follow due to societal pressures or their own personal agendas. It is also about how society views women and young girls as well as ones own personal wishes and dreams and about being careful what it is you end up wishing for. But above all the story is about the simple pleasure and joy to be found in close familial bonds – the love of a mother and father for their daughter and vice versa. If nothing else though The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is simply gorgeous to look at. The animation is a sketchy simple style set over the usual vibrant watercolour type backgrounds, though here those backgrounds are of a lighter than normal style with the edges of each frame fading out to white. The effect is like a children's hand drawn storybook come to life. Almost every shot, every frame of this film you could put behind glass and mount on your wall. Simply this movie is irresistibly beautiful on every level.

2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes



I love the Apes movies (except for Tim Burton's crap 2001 remake) but when Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out three years ago I like many were wary. But then I saw it and loved it. It was a brilliant prequel/reboot to the entire franchise that started back with the classic 1968 original. When it came time for the sequel to Rise it was announced that Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) would direct. That made me happy as I loved both his earlier flicks. The resulting film is another triumph for the almost fifty year old franchise. A contemplative and character driven take on trust, betrayal, race relations and sharing (or not) the world with others who are different, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is Shakespearian in its tragedy and in the weight it puts on its characters especially the noble, caring and peace loving Ape leader Caesar once again played by the brilliant Andy Serkis. Caesar must deal with a city of humans wanting access to his land for their own needs while also dealing with fury and betrayal in his own ranks, all the while trying to keep what is a fragile peace between Ape and what remains of Man. Reeves focusses in on Caesar as the central character. The film starts close in on his eyes and ends the same way. We see in to his troubled soul. Serkis and the Weta FX team who help bring Caesar to life are astonishing. All the apes look amazing and are wonderfully performed especially by Serkis and Toby Kebbell as vengeful Koba. The humans are all fine and if they are short changed then so be it as this is Caesar's story and not theirs. The end of the film is sad and melancholic and points the way even more towards the future world we first saw through astronaut Taylor's eyes. Reeves is currently working on the next movie which is apparently a more or less direct sequel to Dawn. I for one can't wait. Hail Caesar!

1. Guardians of the Galaxy



Okay, so...its an action/comedy space adventure starring some chubby guy from a TV sitcom, a green woman, a talking raccoon... and a walking tree that can only say the same three words? And to write/direct we'll hire the guy who wrote Tromeo and Juliet, made weird no budget psycho superhero flick Super and those internet comedy shorts PG Porn? Sounds perfect. Lets do it!

And lo they did.

With GotG Marvel took their biggest gamble to date. Even bigger than hiring a then washed up actor and recovering drug addict to headline their first big budget movie about a B level comic book character. And that turned out pretty well. But that Kevin Feige guy at Marvel must have a crystal ball or something because they went and did it again. And yet again they pulled it off...big time stylee!

Guardians of the Galaxy is not the smartest, deepest, most intelligent, most artistic movie this year. It is not world changing in any way. It doesn't speak to the core of your humanity and say anything profound to you about life and creation.

But what it is, is one helluva good time.

It's a pure geek pleasure from start to finish that knows exactly what it is – a machine for making you smile, laugh, cheer, and laugh some more. Writer/director James Gunn and original writer Nicole Perlman took these largely unknown characters and made audiences love them. As with many stories I love (including the works of Mr Whedon) the primary theme of Guardians is family...but making your own family when you don't already have one or don't have one that 'gets' you. It's the group of freaks/outsiders who come together and forge loyal bonds of friendship and love that strikes a chord. It's Buffy. It's Angel. It's Firefly. It's Star Trek. It's Babylon 5. And now it's the Guardians.

So what else?

Simply Guardians is a blast. It's funny...so funny. Full of spectacle. Full of great action. Designed and shot beautifully (boy does it look good). It's a rollicking good roller-coaster movie ride. And those songs...oh wow! But all that would be for naught if we didn't love these guys. Peter Quill, a man-child who still mourns his long dead mom; Gamora, the assassin who hates what her evil 'father' has turned her in to; Drax, full of vengeful hate and emptiness due to the murder of his only family; Rocket, an angry, tormented and scarred little creature who has never known anything but pain and suffering except from his loyal pal Groot, the big lovable, childlike sentient tree who is like Rocket's very own Jiminy Cricket conscience. Yes, Gunn and co. made us love 'em. And that is why the movie works so well. Character. And the fact that it was cast perfectly and written and directed with a quirkiness that made it feel outside the box and some ways away from normal. Oh and that Quill named his awesome ship the Milano after his major crush on Alyssa Milano, something I can totally relate to. All that and we also get Howard the freakin' Duck at movies end!!

Before 2014 dawned Guardians of the Galaxy was my most looked forward to film of the year. I had a feeling. I trusted James Gunn. And Marvel too as they had shown they had the balls to make left field choices that paid off ridiculously well. So it is pretty bloody great that come the close of 2014 Guardians is indeed my favourite film of the year and is also my second favourite Marvel film to date being not too far behind Joss's The Avengers. And as they move forward and produce more and more movies Marvel continue to redefine blockbuster entertainment with the shared MCU having gotten bigger this year. Way bigger with a new wing having been added to the Marvel house - a cosmic wing inhabited by a talking raccoon and his weird, funny, lovable pals. And I for one can't wait to see what these awesome Guardians will do next. So bravo Marvel! Bravo James Gunn!

We ARE Groot!

BUBBLING UNDER:

Predestination, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1, Nightcrawler, Starry Eyes, In Your Eyes, Obvious Child



LEAST FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2014

5. In To The Storm

Tiresome and utterly stupid disaster movie starring the bland and uncharismatic Richard Armitage. At least Sarah Wayne Callies added some spark.

4. I, Frankenstein

Poor Aaron Eckhart. From The Dark Knight to this. Lame brained and utterly misconceived spin on Mary Shelley's classic tale. Dumb is being too kind.

3. 3 Days to Kill

Or where terminally ill Kevin Costner wears a silly scarf and kills people while trying to reconnect to his annoying teenage daughter in Paris. Not even the gorgeous Amber Heard can save this risible toss.

2. Devil's Due

Yes, because we really needed a found footage take on Rosemary's Baby only without the subtext, the style, the creepiness, the scares, the sense of any point to it all whatsoever. By the numbers and empty headed so-called horror for undemanding teens and nobody else.

1. Transformers: Age of Extinction

More loud, obnoxious, incomprehensible and needlessly vulgar crap from Michael Bay. I make myself watch these as I know that they will be the worst films I see in whatever the year they come out. It is quite reassuring to always be right. This one though... the film stops dead for scene where a early 20's guy explains to his teenage girlfriend's dad why it is okay for him to have sex with her and not get prosecuted for statutory rape! Yes. Really. Wonderful. Bay really outdid himself this time. Jeez!




Wednesday, 26 November 2014

BUFFY 6.22 ‘GRAVE’


The Dark Willow story

WRITER: David Fury
DIRECTOR: James A. Contner

WHAT’S THE SITCH?

Giles is back! He battles Dark Willow and manages to best her…temporarily. But soon Willow is free again and forcing Buffy to take off after Xander, Dawn, Andrew and Jonathan to save them from a seeking fireball Willow launched after them. Buff saves them just in time, but gets herself and lil sis trapped below ground in a collapsed section of graveyard. Meanwhile back at the Magic Box and Giles lies beaten and broken, the store in ruins, Anya by his side. Willow drained him of all his borrowed power and in doing so she became connected to every living thing on Earth. Being dark still she focuses in on every human being’s pain. And determined to end that pain, she decides to destroy the world!

WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?

It’s all about the pain. What else in a Joss Whedon TV show?

WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?

Dark Willow

WHY IT ROCKS

Giles is back! ‘nuff said.

Have a laugh: Buffy is so happy to see Giles and unloads on him all the grief that has happened to her and the gang in his absence. Giles stares at her with quiet sombre concern…only to then break in to uncontrollable laughter at the insanity of it all. Buff quickly joins him. And it is most amusing.

Spike: the platinum vamp, bloodied and bruised, completes the trials and gets what he wanted.

WHY IT SUCKS

Huh?: Okay, so I get what they were aiming for with this series finale – bringing our characters back to simple emotional truths about themselves and each other, having them realise what growing up is really all about. BUT… it gets fluffed. Xander stopping Willow and saving the world by saying “I love you” and reminding her about a yellow crayon she broke in kindergarten? Really? And Buffy’s realisation that she doesn’t want to be protecting Dawn from the world but wants to be showing it to her is beyond cheesy. The dialogue is pure bad soap opera.

Evil temple: So there is apparently a conveniently buried satanic temple on a cliff top which Willow can raise up and use to destroy the world. Um…okay. That came from out of nowhere. Talk about handy last minute plot contrivance. Sigh.

ITS BUFFTASTIC

Giles and Buff having a good ol’ laugh

DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR

Willow: "Uh-oh. Daddy's home. I'm in wicked trouble now."
Giles: "You've no idea.”

Buffy: "Everything's been so.. Dawn's a total klepto, Xander left Anya at the altar and Anya became a demon again. And I.. I'm so.. I've been sleeping with Spike."

Anya: "Giles? Giles! Don't die.. not yet. I.. there are.. I need to tell you... Thanks a lot for coming. I mean, it was nice of you to teleport all this way.. Though, in retrospect, it might have been better if you hadn't come and given her all that magic that made her ten times more powerful.. that would have been a plus."

Willow: "Is this the master plan? You're going to stop me by telling me you love me?"
Xander: "Well, I was going to walk you off the cliff and hand you an anvil, but it seemed kinda cartoony."

AND ANOTHER THING

Grave marks the first (and only) Buffy series finale not to be written and directed by Joss Whedon. And you can tell. Joss was busy with Firefly at the time and only wrote one episode this season - Once More, With Feeling. But boy, what an episode.

If you look closely at the devastated Magic Box, there's a smouldering William Shatner book on the floor. Poor charred Shatner.

The song played at the end of the episode is Prayer Of St. Francis, by Sarah McLachlan and is a rare track which appeared on the bonus disc originally included with the limited edition double CD release of her Surfacing album in 1997.

HOW MANY STAKES?

Not quite ready for the grave 2.5 (out of 5)



And so concludes my Buffy season 6 retrospective/review. Tune in soon for season 7.