Saturday, 28 May 2011

Buffy: 3.17 ‘Enemies’

Buffy and Faith as enemies Pictures, Images and Photos

Writer: Doug Petrie
Director: David Grossman

What's the sitch?

A demon approaches Buffy and Faith offering to sell them the Books of Ascension which will tell the gang everything they need to know about the Mayor’s plans. Secretly working for the Mayor, Faith goes back, kills the demon and takes the books. Faith is also making nice to Angel pretending she needs his help to deal with what she’s done. Really she is conspiring with the Mayor to turn Angel back to Angelus so as to be her perfect partner in evil. Her plan to seduce Angel and give him a happy in order to take his soul doesn’t work so the Mayor contacts a powerful sorcerer who, in front of Faith, appears to remove Angel’s soul thus bringing back Angelus. After a brief tussle the bad pair makes a truce and head off to see the Mayor, who, much to Angelus’s delight, instructs them to find, torture and kill Buffy. Faith and Angelus lure Buffy to the mansion where Faith then reveals her true evil colours to her sister slayer. Buffy, horrified at Faith and the return of Angelus, is knocked out. She awakens chained up, with Faith about to begin torturing her with lots of very sharp implements, Angelus looking on gleefully.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

The nurture vs. nature aspect of Buffy and Faith comes to a head here as Faith reveals her true colours to everyone. She is an immature child who is so full of rage because of the dreadful life she’s had. And that rage is only made the worse when seeing all that Buffy has – family, friends, love, a sense of normality and stability (though Buff would probably disagree with those last two). This just seems to rub Faith’s nose in her own short comings and makes her focus all of that inner rage of hers entirely on Buffy. Of course this is utterly unfair to our girl. Faith’s problems go back way further than Sunnydale and slaying. She’s lacked the unconditional love and support and role model of a strong parental figure her entire life. And that’s something she still very much needs and craves, which is why she latches on so hard to the Mayor, an apparently loving and supportive father figure. Plus when Faith first arrived in Sunnydale Buffy was rather threatened by her and seemed to want to keep Faith out of her circle of friends. This reaction only stored up even more enmity in the dark slayer towards Buffy. So while Buffy isn’t responsible for Faith’s behaviour and actions she didn’t exactly contribute to improving Faith’s chances for a better life.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?

Faith, Angelus, The Mayor, and a freaky glowy eyed sorcerer.

Why it rocks

The script. ‘Enemies’ is a well constructed script by ace Faith writer Doug Petrie. It simultaneously delves deeper in to Faith’s character and her deep-seated troubles, explores the continually fracturing relationship between Buffy and Angel, and pushes the season’s main arc plot in to the beginning of its epic final act.

Eliza Dushku. As always Eliza is great as Faith. Here she gets to let rip and be the full-on nasty psycho Faith we know she truly is. Her vitriolic outburst to Buffy about why she hates her so much is wonderfully delivered. You can almost feel the waves of hate radiating. Her jealousy of Buffy and Angel is also very well played, as is her dangerous seduction technique with Angelus. And speaking of…

Angelus. Always good to see Boreanaz getting to have a ball as Angelus. The actor knows nothing of subtlety in this role…but then neither does Angelus, a monster that is gleeful in causing pain and suffering, so it works out fine.

Buffy and Angel exiting the movie theatre at the start, confused and shocked by the sexually explicit art house film they’ve just seen.

The sorcerer. He is one weird and creepy dude with his blue face and glowy eyes all wrapped up in black robes.

The reveal.

Giles the supernatural matchmaker. lol

Why it sucks

Buffy’s overreaction to what Angel did at her request regarding Faith feels a tad too much. Get over it Buff.

Why didn’t Giles and Buffy fill everyone else in on their plan especially poor Xander?

Well, Faith is officially playing for the bad guys now. Not suckage, just a bit of heart sinkage for the dark slayer cuz you know it ain’t gonna end well for her. :(

It's Buftastic

The moment when trickery is revealed:
Faith (to chained up Buffy): “What can I say, I'm the world's best actor.”
Angel (to Faith): “Second best.”

Dialogue to die for

Giles: “Demons after money. Whatever happened to the still-beating heart of a virgin? No one has any standards anymore.”

Buffy (on Faith's apparent intimacy with Angel): "You're right. Faith would never do that."
Willow: "Faith would totally do that. Faith was built to do that. She's the 'do that' girl!"

Xander: “And on the day the words flimsy excuse were redefined, we stood in awe and watched.”

Xander: “Yes. I feel so much better knowing that he broke my face in a good way. It's a good bruise.”

And another thing

The sexually explicit art house movie Angel and Buffy see is called "Le Banquet d Amelia." Don’t go looking for it. It’s not a real movie.

Oz's ever-changing hair colour is back to being blond again.

How many stakes?

The truth hurts. 4 (out of 5)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Movie Update: From Genius Ghibli To Silly Ghosts

Grave of the Fireflies


Made in 1988, Grave of the Fireflies was written and directed by Isao Takahata who hired Studio Ghibli to do the animation. The film, set in Japan towards the end of World War 2, tells the story of teenage Seita and his little sister Setsuko who survive the firebombing of Kobe, though their mother sadly doesn’t. With their father away in the navy, homeless and parentless, the two children take to the road in order to survive. But Japan is now a broken and devastated country, still not having surrendered. Food is scarce. Kindness even scarcer. Living rough, Seita does his best to care for his little sister but things just go from bad to worse for the pair until their story finally reaches its horribly inescapable conclusion. Grave of the Fireflies is a devastating watch being all about the cruelty of war and the price paid by its most innocent of victims. The animation is horribly beautiful, as is the symbolism of the fireflies, which plays throughout the film - little creatures burning so brightly but dying far too soon. This is one of those films that should and does get to you. But while you can fully appreciate it for its greatness, it is also a film you simply couldn’t watch very often. It’s just too darn hard, packing a hugely painful emotional gut punch. It reminded me of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List that way. Film critic Roger Ebert considers Grave of the Fireflies to be one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made. He’s not wrong. Devastating stuff. 5 (out of 5)

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Hayao Miyazaki’s 1986 fantasy adventure was the first film made and released by Studio Ghibli. It tells of a young girl called Sheeta who falls from an airship and somehow lands safely in the caring hands of a young miner called Pazu. Pirates and shadowy military types are chasing Sheeta as the girl apparently holds the key to finding the mythical Laputa - a huge flying castle lost for centuries that once housed a great and highly advanced people. As to be expected this is a great movie that plays host to many of Miyazaki’s favourite themes – a love of flying, the horrors of war, respect for nature and the environment, female empowerment. It’s essentially the hero’s journey myth as young Sheeta escapes her many pursuers and on the way discovers who she really is and what she can do, all the while being ably assisted by her loyal friend Pazu. As always with Ghibli the film looks gorgeous and is crammed with wonderfully inventive design and ideas. Charming, exciting and thoughtful, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is another Ghibli movie not to be missed. 4.5 (out of 5)

Whisper of the Heart

Made in 1995, this was the first theatrical Studio Ghibli feature to be directed by someone other than Miyazaki or Takahata, and the only film to be directed by Yoshifumi Kondō, who died in 1998 aged just 47. It’s a simple, gentle, positive tale of two young people who find each other through their shared love of creativity and go on to inspire each other to do better in their art. Shizuku is a junior high school girl who loves writing – mostly lyrics for songs. Seiji is a boy of the same age who makes and plays violins. He wants to make violins for a living and would love to go to Italy to train properly. The two become close friends but Seiji soon heads off to Italy to undertake a short trail period at a famous violin making school. While he’s away, Shizuku is inspired to concentrate on her own art by writing a novel which tells the magical story of The Baron, a cat statue in Seiji’s grandfather’s antiques shop. Shizuku sets herself the deadline to finish her book as being Seiji’s return in a few weeks time. She is determined to be as talented in her own field as he is in his and dedicates herself to finishing her story no matter what. Whisper of the Heart is a delightful film that celebrates the joy to be found in creative and artistic expression for its own sake as well as how the right person can inspire you to achieve your dreams. 4 (out of 5)


Kenneth Branagh does a bang up job in bringing Marvel’s take on the Norse God of Thunder to the big screen. This was always going to be the trickiest of heroes for Marvel to translate as it has to deal with an overtly fantasy based concept of gods and mystical realms etc. But they manage it very well and make a thoroughly entertaining, fun, funny and good looking film anchored by Chris Hemsworth in the title role. A star in the making, the guy has presence, charisma and is a deft hand at comedy. And he sure swings a mean hammer. Thor fits nicely in the upper strata of Marvel films and makes me all the more excited for this summer’s Captain America: The First Avenger and next summer’s Joss Whedon written and directed The Avengers. Make mine Marvel. 4 (out of 5)

Attack the Block

Joe Cornish writes and directs this British scifi/action/comedy/thriller as invading aliens attack a block on a council estate in London. And the only defence against the savage feral alien fiends is the savage feral British youth who when not taking drugs or mugging people are up for some serious alien bashing. Poor aliens, they never stood a chance. Despite the annoying youth speak, Attack the Block is a great movie aping the antihero based siege films of John Carpenter but with the witty, slightly tongue in cheek, down to earth feel of Neil Marshall’s awesome Dog Soldiers. The film looks great, is nicely tense and properly exciting and the young cast are superb. Kudos to all involved. Respect. Innit. 4 (out of 5)

Source Code

Duncan Jones’s follow up to his excellent debut Moon is a sci fi tale that plays like an extended episode of The Outer Limits mixed with a hefty dose of classic 90’s TV series Quantum Leap. And that’s a good thing. Jake Gyllenhaal is the soldier who’s mind keeps being sent back in to the body of a man on a train for the final 8 minutes of his life until a bomb goes off. Jake’s mission is to identify the train bomber in order to help prevent a future attack, nothing more. For some reason his superiors tell him he can’t alter the outcome of this train attack and to just stick to the mission he’s been given. But the presence of ultra-cute and sweet Michelle Monaghan on the seat opposite who’s destined to die in the explosion makes Jake determined to try and stop the inevitable no matter what his orders are. Source Code is a lot of fun. Most of that fun comes from trying to work out the truth of Jake’s situation and why he apparently can’t save the train. Also his relationship with Michelle Monaghan helps make the film. She’s lovely and you can fully understand why he’d do anything to save her. A quality scifi thriller with an emotional core, Source Code is good stuff and another feather in the cap for Mr Jones. 4 (out of 5)


Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne move in to a new house with their three kids. Almost immediately ghostly goings on kick off and one of their kids falls in to a coma. So, as Eddie Murphy once wisely suggested about haunted houses in his stand up routine, the family quickly relocates to a new home, away from the spooks. But like those annoying relatives you just can’t ditch, the ghosties only go and follow them to their new home. Doh! So when this kinda spooky thing happens, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters? Nope. Lin Shaye apparently. Um, okay. Now, to be fair, there is some good stuff in Insidious. Saw director James Wan handles the early set-up pretty well making it nicely tense and subtly creepy with some good jump scares thrown in. It’s solidly relatable too as spooky things start happening to apparently normal people in a normal home. But once nutty psychic Lin Shaye and her two goofy tech guys enter the fray to provide wildly bizarre information dumps, it all gets monstrously silly. Up till now Insidious has been a fun and reasonably effective little spookfest that played like a low budget Poltergeist meets Paranormal Activity with a smidge of The Exorcist. But suddenly it goes totally bonkers with Lin Shaye in a gas mask (?), crap CGI, and Patrick Wilson astral travelling to another dimension. Poor Nite Owl. Looking like he wants to fire his agent, Patrick wanders around in slow motion through 80’s dry ice while dodging stupid looking ghosts and a hoofed demon who looks like Darth Maul and Freddy Kreuger’s love child. C’mon, Dave Grohl was scarier in Tenacious D’s Greatest Song in the World video. As you can probably guess, this film had totally lost me. I was laughing way too hard. It was Lin Shaye in her gas mask that set me off. Plus there’s the cheesy ghosts and the hoofy demon looking utter pants, only being effective in the quick glimpses we get of them earlier on. Insidious ends up like some silly mash-up of Poltergeist, Paranormal Activity and crap homage to Argento/Fulci surrealism. If they’d retooled the third act and dumped the stupid astral travelling/dry ice stuff this could have been an effective little spookfest – a half-decent Paranormal Activity meets Poltergeist job. As it is, it’s just a very silly film that I found unintentionally hilarious. Still, points for making me laugh. And for Rose Byrne being very cute in her PJs. 2.5 (out of 5)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Buffy: 3.16 ‘Doppelgangland’

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon

What's the sitch?

Anya, the ex-vengeance demon last seen in 3.9 ‘The Wish’, embarks on a mission to get her mystical necklace back so as to restore her power. She tricks Willow in to helping her with a spell to reclaim the necklace from a point in time before it was destroyed. Willow, feeling put upon and taken for granted by everyone including loathsome Principle Snyder, Giles and her friends, agrees to help Anya, being eager to experiment more with the black arts. But the spell goes wrong and WiIlow takes off leaving behind an angry and despondent Anya. However, unbeknown to them both the spell did actually work…kinda. Only instead of Anya’s necklace, it brought in to our world the deliciously slinky and evil Vampire Willow from the alternative reality last seen in ‘The Wish’. Buffy and Xander run in to the newly arrived Vampire Willow at the Bronze thinking she is their Willow but soon discovering to their horror that she is actually a vampire. Assuming their Wilow is dead, the two shocked friends head back to the library to tell Giles the awful news. Meanwhile, confused and upset by this new world full of many happy humans and not so many evil vamps, Vampire Willow decides to recruit a vampire army from those she can find, who are all currently working for The Mayor, in order to start taking back the night for vampire kind, beginning with attacking the human crowded Bronze. A potential mass slaughter awaits unless Buffy and co. can work out what's happened and ccme up with a plan to save the day.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

Don’t be a pushover. Get in touch with your inner badass and stand up for yourself. In this utterly brilliant episode good old reliable Willow, that so very smart, eager and kind teenager, is finally and justifiably feeling put upon and taken for granted by her friends and pretty much everyone else around her. People constantly expect and demand stuff from her be it knowledge, expertise, remembering things they’ve been too lazy to remember or to do themselves. And the girl has had enough. Bringing back the wonderful Vampire Willow doppelganger from ‘The Wish’ lets us and the world see a whole other side to the very sweet Ms Rosenberg – a tough, sexy, confident and devilishly playful side that won’t take crap from anyone be they obnoxious high school jocks or unthinking best friends. Willow sees in her evil doppelganger things to fear and to loathe, but she also more importantly sees things to admire and to emulate in her own life. Just not the killing and the S&M wear.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?

Vampire Willow, Anya and assorted vampire goons.

Why it rocks

Joss at his best. Doppelgangland is utter perfection on every single level – character, drama, theme, acting and bringing the major league funny. If you wanted a Buffy novice to know why Joss’s little myth garnered such love and widespread acclaim (despite the goofy title and premise) then you’d simply show them ‘Doppelgangland’ along with a few other choice episodes – probably ‘The Body’, ‘Hush’, ‘Once More With Feeling’ and ‘Becoming 1&2’. The script here is so well written by Joss who always starts with character and theme and then builds his story up from there. And what a story it is. Through Vampire Willow we see the Willow we know and love in a whole new light. Especially when Buffy tells her to remember that a vampire’s personality has nothing to do with the human they were before and Angel almost contradicts her for he knows that simply isn’t true.

Alyson Hannigan. The entire cast is wonderful but Ally Hannigan is the shining star here. Playing the dual roles of sweet, meek, put-upon Willow and sleek, sexy, deadly Vampire Willow, the girl just stuns.

Vampire Willow. An instant smash with the fans when she first appeared in ‘The Wish’, Joss obviously loved her too because here she is in all of her slinky, sexy, evil, and kinda gay glory. Vamp Willow is scary and sexy but she is also drop dead funny. Her deadpan reaction to seeing ‘our’ Willow is priceless: “Look at me. I’m all fuzzy.” As is her exasperation while locked in the book cage, trying to convince an unsuspecting Cordelia to let her out. “What?” asks vain Cordy, frowning at Vampire Willow who’s staring at her hungrily. “Do I have something on my neck?” “Not yet,” is the dryly-muttered answer.

The entire old reliable vs. Old Faithful vs. Old Yeller exchange and Willow’s subsequent attempt to storm off.

Thinking his cross is not working properly after aiming it mistakenly at our Willow, Xander shakes it as you might a faulty flashlight. LOL

Giles’ reaction when he sees that our Willow is not in fact dead.

Angel’s confusion at seeing our Willow alive. “Hey Willow. Wait a sec…”

Wesley’s girly scream when Cordy surprises him.

Willow, surprised, noticing her own cleavage while wearing Vampire Willow’s low cut getup. “Gosh, look at those.”

Cordy lecturing a caged Vampire Willow on the ethics of boyfriend stealing thinking she's talking to our Willow.

Willow impersonating Vamp Willow at the Bronze.

Willow’s signal (a scream)

Buffy’s end fight at the Bronze and her cool use of a pool cue as a weapon.

Vampire Willow’s reaction as she arrives back in her world and is promptly staked.

Why it sucks

Nothing. Zero. Nada. No suckage here.

It's Buftastic

The entire scene of our Willow impersonating Vampire Willow at the Bronze – especially the little hidden wave she gives Oz to let him know its her. Wonderful.

Dialogue to die for

Oh God, I could quote the entire script but I’ll try and keep it down to a few choice cuts. Here goes...

Willow: "Buff. I'm storming off. It doesn't really work if you come with me."

Willow (confused after Buffy, Xander and Giles crush her in a big hug): "It's really nice that you guys missed me. Say! You all didn't happen to do a bunch of drugs, did ya?"

Vampire Willow (meeting the real Willow): "Well, look at me. I'm all fuzzy."

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

Willow (looking down at her cleavage): "Gosh, look at those!"

Willow: “No, it's fine. I'm 'Old Reliable'.”
Xander: “She just means, you know, the geyser. You're like a geyser of fun that goes off at regular intervals.”
Willow: “That's Old Faithful.”
Xander: “Isn't that the dog that, that the guy had to shoot...”
Willow: (angrily now) “That's Old Yeller.”
Buffy: “Xander, I beg you not to help me.”

Xander: “Uh... Will, this is verging on naughty touching here. Don't wanna fall back on bad habits. HANDS! Hands in new places!”

Buffy (to Xander): “Aren't you gonna introduce me to your...Holy *God*, you're Willow.”

Angel(rushes in): “Buffy, I…something's happened. Willow's dead.”
He glances over and sees Willow. She waves at him.
Angel(casualy): “Hey, Willow."
He does a double take.
Angel: "Wait a second…”
Xander: “We're right there with you, buddy.”

Willow: “This girl has a history of mental problems dating back to early childhood. (desperately) I'm a blood-sucking fiend! Look at my outfit!”
Vampire: “A human. I should have smelled it right away.”
Willow: “A human? Oh, yeah? Could a human do this?”
She screams at the top of her lungs.
Anya: “Sure. Yeah. Humans do that. Yeah. (shrugs)”
Vampire: (concurring) “Yeah. Yeah, I think, yeah.”

And another thing

In the Bronze when Willow is pretending to be Vampire Willow, she runs her hand through a girl's hair. Some fans thought that girl was Amber Benson (who played Tara in later seasons). Nope, it's not her.

How many stakes?

Double trouble means twice the greatness. 5+ (out of 5)

Friday, 20 May 2011

Buffy: 3.15 ‘Consequences’

Writer: Marti Noxon
Director: Michael Gershman

What's the sitch?

Following on from the events of the last episode, Buffy is keeping quiet about what happened - namely Faith killing a human being – though doing so is eating her up inside. She wants to tell Giles but Faith won’t hear of it. The dark slayer is acting as if nothing happened, as if what she did had no effect on her at all. But the man Faith killed was the Deputy Mayor and the police are intent on nailing his killer. Clues eventually lead them to questioning Buffy and Faith separately with both girls claiming to know nothing. But it’s all too much for Buffy and she breaks down to Willow telling her friend what happened. Willow tells Buffy she has to go to Giles, which she does…only to find Faith already there having told the ex-watcher that it was Buffy who killed the Deputy Mayor. Giles pretends to believe her but after Faith has gone he reveals to Buffy he knows Faith is the real culprit. Giles thinks she first has to admit what she’s done before she can be helped and he doesn’t intend to tell the Watchers Council. Unfortunately new Watcher Wesley secretly overhears this and heads off to make his own plans for Faith. Meanwhile Buffy has asked Angel to intervene, to try and reach Faith. Angel captures Faith and takes her to his mansion in a kind of forced intervention…only to have Wesley and some Watchers Council goons interrupt and snatch Faith away in order to take her to England for a tribunal. But Faith goes and escapes from the hapless Council goons and heads to the docks to catch a freighter out of the country. Buffy finds her there just in time only for Mr Trick and some vamp heavies working for the Mayor to attack and try to kill both slayers. As the battle starts going badly for Buffy, Faith is forced to make a choice – flee and let Buffy die at the fangs of evil vamps or stay and saver her sister slayer. Luckily Faith saves our girl and Mr Trick, that coolest of cool cat vamps, is dusted. Later, Buffy and Giles confer and Buffy says she thinks Faith may have a chance at being helped and that she won’t give up on her. But at the same time, across town, Faith goes to see the Mayor, this season’s big bad, and offers him her services.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

It’s all there in the title. All actions have consequences. To deny that only serves to make things worse. Faith’s selfish code of “Want. Take. Have” has all of its own unforeseen consequences and is not a sustainable way to live. It’s a very teenage thing. Live in the moment, do what you want, forget about what might come. Life is forever and you are invincible. Only age and experience counters this. And experience if not age is something Buffy has over Faith. Buffy dallied with Faith’s philosophy for a bit. It seemed exciting, freeing. It wasn’t. Quite the opposite. Actions and their consequences are a running theme in Buffy forming the basis for Angel’s character arc as well as Faith’s throughout the rest of Buffy and in to Angel and beyond.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?

Faith, Mr Trick and his vamp goons

Why it rocks

It’s an effective part 2 to what began in the previous episode and nicely draws the distinction between the sort of slayers that Buffy and Faith are.

Buffy is put through the emotional wringer. You can feel the huge weight on her tiny little shoulders, her big eyes full of fear and pain all the way through. When she finally breaks down to Willow it is a well-earned release and you feel real sympathy for her. SMG does a great job.

Eliza Dushku. As always Eliza is great as Faith. She is effectively bullying Buffy all through this, forcing our girl to keep quiet and tow the line. She is also clearly coming unhinged. The scene where she almost kills Xander after he comes to offer her help, first forcing herself on him sexually, then throttling him, is pretty chilling stuff. And she really does sell it. She’s gorgeous and sexy but she is also one scary girl. Luckily Angel shows up just in time or the Xan man would have been history.

Harry Groener. As The Mayor Harry Groener is so much fun to watch and so darn good. He can do warm, funny, chilling, goofy, evil, all in the same scene, sometimes in the same line of dialogue. This is why he was and will always remain my favourite Big Bad of Buffy. He’s an evil monster, but you can’t help but love the guy.

Faith and The Mayor. This episode marks the very beginning of what is one of the best and sweetest relationships in the entire Buffyverse: Faith and The Mayor. Yes, they are the villains, but they also form such a close and caring father/daughter relationship mirroring that of Buffy and Giles that is genuinely charming and affecting. Not many shows will invest this much time and real sympathy in its villains.

Why it sucks

Where’s Oz?

Major continuity gaffs. The day after the Deputy Mayor’s murder (in the previous ep.), Buffy went to Faith's (in bright daylight and a clean outfit). This episode begins with Buffy in her pyjamas, waking up from a nightmare. She then goes to school meaning this is at least the second day since the murder. But the detective questioning the witness at the scene of the crime says, "You heard the man scream at about what time last night?" Later that night, Buffy says to Faith, "Less than 24 hours ago, you killed a man."

In the Dock fight it is fairly plain that it is SMG’s stunt double in a lot of the fight. The director didn’t hide the fact very well at all.

How did Wesley get the key to free Faith from Angel’s chains?

What exactly led the police detective to go question Buffy and Faith? It’s a bit of a dramatic leap. Sure, they found wooden shards in his wound but the cops don’t know about slayers. Or do they?

Mr Trick, that super cool vampire dude, goes out like a punk, staked in the back. What a waste of a great character. Boo!

It's Buftastic

It has to be the scene in Faith’s motel room where she molests and assaults poor Xander and almost kills him. Chilling.

Dialogue to die for

Willow: "I've been letting things fester. And I don't like it. I want to be fester-free."

Willow: "Oh, Buffy! Don't cry! I'm sorry. I was too hard on you. Sometimes I unleash, I don't know my own strength. It's bad. I'm bad. I'm a bad, bad, bad person!"

Buffy: "Oh."
Giles: "Oh!"
(They all look at Willow.)
Willow: "I don't need to say 'Oh.' I got it before. They slept together."

Cordelia (seeing Wesley): “Check out Giles: The Next Generation. What's your deal?”

And another thing

Kathleen Wilhoite, who sang the featured song in this episode, is also an actress. One of her notable roles was the recurring character Chloe Lewis on ER.

How many stakes?

Bad Faith is good. 3.5 (out of 5)

Monday, 2 May 2011

Buffy: 3.14 ‘Bad Girls’

Cool vid of double slayer action mostly from this ep.

Writer: Doug Petrie
Director: Michael Lange

What's the sitch?

A vampire duellist cult called El Eliminati comes to town searching for a mystical amulet which is said to be able to heal their stricken demon master Balthazar. Meanwhile Buffy and Faith’s new Watcher – an arrogant and stuffy young chap called Wesley Wyndam-Price – has also arrived and is looking to take charge and directs Buffy and Faith to find the amulet first. Giles is quietly annoyed and wilfully unhelpful while Buffy is happy to play along with Wesley while teasing him continually. Faith, meanwhile, is having nothing to do with this new interloper. The two slayers go hunt for the amulet with Faith slowly convincing Buffy not to play by the rules, to be more like her and enjoy using her power, to let loose and do as she pleases. Unfortunately Faith’s responsibility-free philosophy of “Want. Take. Have.” soon leads to tragedy and makes Buffy realise she does indeed have a responsibility to use her power wisely and unselfishly. And also that Faith may not be playing with a full deck.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

The Seduction of Buffy. With great power comes great responsibility is what our girl learns first hand here. She is seduced by Faith’s free spirited, do as you please, act on impulse nature and experiments in being carefree and revelling in her power. And it eventually leads her to a very dark place indeed. Buffy’s seduction by Faith has also a rather obvious lesbian subtext, one which writer Doug Petrie openly admits to in his commentary. Faith is young, sexy, dangerous, care free, and Buffy is attracted to that. The scene where Faith tempts Buffy out of an exam at school is great. She turns up at the classroom window, breathes on a pane of glass and then draws a heart in the mist…before adding a stake. Buffy can’t resist her. Who could?

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?

El Eliminati – sword wielding duellist vampires.
Balthazar – a monstrously fat demon in a tub.
Faith – specifically in the episodes last scene.

Why it rocks

The seduction of Buffy. It’s a great idea and really highlights the differences between the two slayers. The lesbian subtext works well too, as Faith is a highly sexual creature (though no Faith on Buffy action is seen except for their sexy dance.)

Eliza Dushku. As always she is fab as Faith, really selling that sexy, impulsive, bad girl persona. Like I said earlier, the bit where she tempts Buffy out of class is great.

Xander’s twitch. Gotta laugh at Nicky Brendon’s nervous eye twitching every time Buffy mentions Faith's name to him (a call back to his sexual encounter with her last episode).

Alexis Denisof. Alexis makes his Buffy debut as new watcher Wesley Wyndam-Price. Essentially Wesley is like a younger Giles as he was in early season 1 only more inept and with more talk and less actual ability. Here he’s mostly comic relief in his stuffiness but Wesley will go on to join Angel in his own series and will become one of the most changed and best characters in the whole of the Buffyverse. Though it is hard to imagine that from this episode.

Fights. There’s some pretty cool fights in here and some nice stunts.

Fairytales. Another Buffy fairytale treat. This time it’s a blatant Alice in Wonderland riff with Buffy and Faith tumbling down a rabbit hole (or sewer pipe) in to the unknown.

Buffy’s sarcastic but immensely cute childlike reply to Wesley when he asks her if she’s not used to being given orders. “Whenever Giles sends me on a mission, he always says 'Please.' And afterwards I get a cookie."

The Mayor testing his new invulnerability then literally checking it off of his to do list. Heh.

Why it sucks

Balthazar the demon is a bit crap. He looks very similar to the uber-fat vampire Pearl from Blade but nowhere near as good.

Buffy’s seduction by Faith happens rather quickly.

The amulet and the El Eliminati are nothing but an obvious and rather dull plot device that goes nowhere.

Angel’s heroic entry to Balthazar’s lair is ultra cheesy.

Though the underlying theme is strong and individual bits are great the episode overall doesn’t hang together as an entirely satisfying affair.

It's Bufftastic

A tie between the delicious school exam seduction scene with Faith tempting Buffy out of class and the sexy slayer dance at The Bronze. Sorry, can’t help it. I’m a man.

Dialogue to die for

Xander: “Harvard... Yale... Wesleyan... Some German Polytechnical Institute whose name I, uh... I can't pronounce. Is anyone else intimidated? 'Cause I'm just expecting thin slips of paper with the words 'No Way' written in crayon.”
Oz: “They're typing those now.”

Wesley: “I didn't get this job because of my looks.”
Buffy: “I really, really believe that.”

Wesley: “Buffy, you will go to the Gleave's family crypt tonight and fetch the amulet.
Buffy: “I will?”
Wesley: “Are you not used to being given orders?”
Buffy: “Whenever Giles sends me on a mission, he always says "please." And afterwards I get a cookie.”

Buffy: “Faith, wait! Look, I know this new guy’s a dork, but… Well I have nothing to follow that. He’s pretty much just a dork.”

Buffy: “Okay, we got ten, maybe twelve bad guys, and one big demon in desperate need of a Stairmaster.”

And another thing

Anthony Stewart Head and Alexis Denisof both did guest appearances on the TV series "Highlander."

El Eliminati" is a fictional cult. But maybe Doug Petrie named it after the "Illuminati," which is supposedly a secret group whose primary goal is to have complete control of the entire world, destroying all religions and governments in the process.

How many stakes?

These bad girls could have been badder. 3 (out of 5)

Sunday, 1 May 2011

More Films: Classic Ghibli, Insane Superheroes and a Ghostly Romance

Just a few more to add to the list. I’ve recently embarked on a mission to watch all the Studio Ghibli films after seeing and loving Kiki’s Delivery Service last Christmas on TV and recently rewatching the brilliant Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. For those who don’t know, Studio Ghibli is an animation studio in Japan founded in 1985 and headed up by the legendary directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. The studio is synonymous with high quality traditional animation built around story, theme and character and of developing talent and creativity in a nurturing and supportive environment. Studio Ghibli is very much akin to Pixar in the USA. And though Pixar are CG animation based it is the same ethos, the same dedication to meaningful stories and characters with genuine heart and soul as well as to beautiful animation that makes both these studios great and their films some of the most successful ever in their field. In fact Pixar and Ghibli have a relationship with Pixar supervising dubbing and US releases for several Ghibli films.

Anyway, here’s the update.


Iain Softley’s 2001 drama starring Kevin Spacey as the man claiming to be an alien from the planet K-Pax being treated by psychiatrist Jeff Bridges. This is a nicely made and mildly affecting drama about how tragedy affects people and how some people can positively affect others. Spacey is great, Bridges is fine. It’s a tad too mawkish and predictable at times but I still found it pleasantly watchable. 3 (out of 5)

Howl’s Moving Castle

Hayao Miyazaki’s 2004 animated tale concerning a young girl called Sophie who works as a hatter and gets cursed by a jealous witch and turned in to an old woman. Sophie’s only hope lies in the form of a handsome, vain and self-centred wizard called Howl and his magical moving castle. But Howl is also in trouble being as he is on the run from sinister dark forces while the world around looks about to erupt in to a devastating war. Howl’s Moving Castle is a beautifully animated fantasy adventure with real depth and some great characters. Many of Miyazaki’s familiar themes are at play – female empowerment, learning to take on responsibility, hatred of war and violence, respect/love for nature, truth found in dreams etc. Wonderful stuff. 4.5 (out of 5)


David Keating’s grim, bloody and pretty effective supernatural folk horror set in rural Ireland starring Aiden Gillen, Eva Birthistle and Timothy Spall. A couple moves to the small Irish village of Wakewood to try and recover from the recent loss of their young daughter only to discover some truly weird local goings on. Think The Wicker Man (original not the Nic Cage abortion) meets Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery with a hint of Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. A very decent little chiller co-produced by the resurrected Hammer Films. 3.5 (out of 5)

Your Highness

The team (sans Seth Rogen) who made the excellent Pineapple Express come back with a foul-mouthed sword and sorcery comedy/adventure. Problem is it ain’t very funny (the gags work way better in the trailer) and James Franco is awful. Still, at least Natalie Portman looks hot and made me laugh out loud by mentioning the burning in her beaver. Disappointing and a little tiresome. 2 (out of 5)


Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s rather overripe 1946 gothic melodrama starring Gene Tierney, Walter Huston and Vincent Price. This was something I accidentally stumbled across on Film4 and just kept on watching…mostly because the late Gene Tierney struck me as being utterly gorgeous and quite a mesmerising screen presence. The story’s the same old guff about a young naive girl going to a be a governess at a big old house (the Dragonwyck of the title) where she then falls for the house’s master and local landowner only to latterly discover that he harbours a dark and deadly secret. Dragonwyck is a handsomely made and nicely shot film from back in the day. It’s those handsome production values and the strong performances by the lovely Tierney and the always fun to watch Price that elevate it above most of the other turgid melodramas of the period. As does its theme of 19th century America trying to throw off the old world shackles of titled landowners who by right of birth alone own not just the land but everything on it. Not great then, but watchable. 2.5 (out of 5)

The Ghost and Mrs Muir

I think Film4 must have been having a Gene Tierney season as this one was on a couple of days after Dragonwyck. The Ghost and Mrs Muir is a 1947 romantic fantasy also directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and based on a novel by Josephine Leslie. Set in 1900 England, the story follows young widow Lucy Muir who moves with her daughter to a cottage by the sea only to find it haunted by the ghost of its former occupant - a roguish sea captain played with great charm and gusto by Rex Harrison. After failing to scare the headstrong Lucy away, the ghost and the widow become reluctant friends and with Lucy battling money troubles they soon begin working together on a novel based on the captain’s colourful life. This is a cosily funny and pleasingly sweet story of loss, love and fighting to come to terms with the changing world around you. Once again, Tierney is lovely to look at and has an appealingly gentle, yet also strong and feisty take-no-crap persona. Harrison (as to be expected) is pure class and charisma as the rough, gruff ghost with a soft centre. Interesting to note it is Natalie Wood playing Lucy’s little daughter. This is a well-made and cute little tale with a bittersweet ending. But it’s probably not for all you hardened cynics out there. Call me an old softy. 4 (out of 5)

My Neighbour Totoro

Hayao Miyazaki’s delightful animated film set in 1958 tells of two young sisters Satsuki (10) and Mei (4) who move to a house in the country with their professor father while their mother recovers in hospital from an unnamed illness. While out exploring one day, Mei discovers friendly spirits living in the forest next to their house. One in particular – a big fluffy creature who sleeps in a giant Camphor Tree and calls himself Totoro – becomes her friend. Older sister Satsuki becomes jealous and wants to see Totoro too. She soon gets her wish in possibly the films greatest and most iconic sequence as Totoro comes to stand next to her at a bus stop while she and Mei are waiting in the rain for their dad to come home. This is a lovely and refreshingly innocent, fun and freespirited film. The story is simple. There are no bad guys or villains. Nobody dies or gets hurt and the two young sisters are great characters, full of life who charge everywhere at full speed eager to see and enjoy as much of the world as possible. It’s simply a great, positive tale of childhood imagination and exuberance filled with flights of creative genius and a warm beating heart. But underlying all of the fun is a childhood fear of losing parents, of being left alone in the world. The long mystery illness of the mother is always on both girls’ minds as they often fret that she might not come home to them as promised. And one evening when dad is not on the bus as he’s supposed to be on that fear of potential parental loss hits again. But this is all quite subtle and the overall feeling from the film is of upbeat and imaginative childish joy. A justified classic for kids and grownups alike that puts most Hollywood family films to shame. 5 (out of 5)

The Cat Returns

A Studio Ghibli film from 2002 directed by Hiroyuki Morita and a partial sequel to Ghibli’s 1995 film Whispers of the Heart. In The Cat Returns, Haru, a quiet, shy high school student, saves the life of a cat on a busy city street one day. Amazingly the cat speaks to her, thanking her for saving its life and promises a reward. Later, Haru receives a visit from the Cat King himself who showers her with gifts she doesn’t want (mice, cat nip etc.) and also says that as thanks she will be taken to the Cat Kingdom to marry his son the prince, the very same cat she saved. Horrified, Haru runs off and is guided by a mysterious voice to the Cat Bureau where she meets The Baron, a suave and kindly cat who promises to help her get out of the marriage. Soon, Haru is taken forcibly to the Cat Kingdom where as soon as she arrives she starts turning in to a cat. The Baron, together and his fat cat friend, Muta, travels to the Cat kingdom after Haru where he must somehow convince the King not to go through with the marriage and to return Haru home before she becomes a cat forever. The Cat Returns is another delightful fantasy adventure from Ghibli, this time being directed by first timer Hiroyuki Morita who does a great job. As with all Ghibli films it looks gorgeous and the story is full of charm and warmth. It’s not quite as rich in depth and scope as most other Ghibli films but The Cat Returns is still a great looking, fun and effortlessly charming affair. 4 (out of 5)


James (Slither) Gunn’s violent, demented and blackly hilarious real world superhero film tells the story of a man called Frank losing his mind as he falls in to the pit of personal despair after his drug addict wife whom he loves dearly leaves him for her rich nasty dealer. Frank’s reaction to his trauma is to channel his righteous rage (inspired by a terrible TV Christian superhero) in to becoming The Crimson Bolt. Armed with a hefty wrench, Frank/Crimson Bolt goes out on the streets and beats to a pulp dealers, thieves and just about anyone who does anything he doesn’t like including obnoxious people who push in line in queues. However Frank’s ultimate mission is to rescue his wife from the clutches of her drug dealer. At the same time the cops as well as local criminals are looking to hunt down this troublesome new costumed vigilante ‘hero’, a hero who has also now managed to pick up a sidekick - a psychotic comic book nerd girl who calls herself Boltie. Super is a brilliantly sad, bleak, scary, funny satire on superheroes, religion, love, longing, and life in general. As Frank, Rainn Wilson is very good, but it’s cute little Ellen Page as scary psycho Boltie who steals the show. And now Boltie's following me on Twitter. Gulp! 4.5 (out of 5)

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Miyazaki’s 1984 classic is a visually arresting, exciting, thought provoking and emotionally engaging tale of environmental collapse and humans battling the threat of their own extinction from ever encroaching poisonous jungles whilst also fighting each other for control of dwindling land and resources. In the midst of all this is Nausicaa, a young princess from an isolated and peaceful valley who has a natural affinity for all animals and who may hold the key to the human race’s ultimate survival. The story of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is beautifully told, intricately structured and plotted, and the characters – especially the smart, kind, sensitive, determined Nausicaa - are immensely appealing. Wanton environmental damage and the pointless and self-defeating nature of war and violence are familiar Miyazaki themes that are all present here and will be further explored in the likes of Princess Mononoke. Primarily, though, this is a sci fi post apocalyptic tale and is not folklore/magic-based, as is Mononoke. Watching Nausicaa I was struck by how much it reminded me of Cameron’s Avatar with a dash of The Lord of the Rings. The imagery is very similar to Avatar – the big, multicoloured jungles filled with hostile beasts where you can’t breathe the air, as it’s poisonous to humans. Then there’s the young princess who has a natural affinity with nature. And the main jungle creatures, the Omes, huge insect things, even produce glowy tentacles, which they use to communicate and also to heal. Plus you also have the big, lumbering human warships flying over the jungles, looking to wreak havoc. I’m sure Cameron is a fan and used much of this for inspiration for Avatar. A shame then that he didn’t also use some of Miyazaki’s more complex and richer storytelling. Nausicaa from the Valley of the Wind is a great movie and one I’ll be watching many more times. It’s intelligent, exciting, emotionally engaging and looks beautiful. This was the film that effectively birthed Studio Ghibli being a huge hit and allowing Miyazaki and co. to go set up their own studio. If you like intelligent sci fi that’s actually about something then give it a go. 5 (out of 5)