Tag Archives: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Favorite songs of 2015: The 3rd Q review

Anonymous, Desaparecidos – Probably has my favorite lyrics of the year: “Freedom’s not free / Neither is apathy.”

Better Man, Leon Bridges – Soul music, smooth and clean, that has an Otis Redding feel to it.

Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, Unknown Mortal Orchestra – A slow beginning evolves into an absolutely addictive track.

Dreams, Beck – Beck dumps the doldrums of his previous album and gets to work making music to shake ya ass to.

Drum Machine, Big Grams feat. Skrillex – Big Boi with Phantogram and Skrillex? Count me in.

Gwan, The Suffers – Kim Franklin’s gorgeous voice pushes everything forward.

Go Head, Awreeoh – A tasty hip-hop nugget from the film Dope.

Handsome, The Vaccines –  Brash, cheecky pop punk.

Hate Street Dialogue, The Avener feat. Rodriguez – The lyrics are much darker than the music backing it would imply.

Holy Ghost, A$AP Rocky feat. Joe Fox – What do you do when the church offers no solace? If you’re A$AP Rocky, you write one helluva song about it.

I Don’t Think She Cares, White Reaper – Had the pleasure of seeing these Louisville rockers at their hometown Forecastle Festival this summer. Best show I saw that day. White Reaper rules!

In My Mouth, Jeff the Brotherhood – Drudgy, cocky and hilarious. I’d love to see these guys live.

Institutionalized, Kendrick Lamar feat. Bilal, Anna Wise and Snoop Dogg – Kendrick and Co. get their Bernie Sanders on and attack income inequality.

Lawman, Girl Band – I love bands that aren’t afraid to make noise. The bass makes this particular track.

Out of the Woods, Ryan Adams – I’ve never really doubted Taylor Swift as a songwriter, I’m just not much into Swift the performer. Adams makes the entirety of 1989 work.

Paper Girl, July Talk – See July Talk live. Please. Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay will make sure it’s a show you never forget.

Pedestrian at Best, Courtney Barnett – Courtney’s smart, funny, melancholy, endearing, stream-of-consciousness lyrics are all her own.

Rap Zealot, K-OS – Short and to the point. Love the production.

Smarter Than I Was, Buddy Guy – While B.B.’s always kind of been the super-ego of blues, Guy is pure Id.

Stalker, Kasey Chambers – Smart, funny lyrics and Chambers’ unique voice are a winning combination.

Strange Hellos, Torres – I love how Strange Hellos builds, and the PJ Harvey-like strength from Mackenzie Scott’s voice.

Tease, Pale Honey – I don’t know if this is a trend, or if I’ve just been lucky in finding them, but there seem to be a lot more female-led bands making big, fuzzy, loud guitar rock in 2015. Pale Honey kicks out the jam here with Tease.

Trustful Hands, The Do – There’s just something warm and familiar about this track that gets me every time.

Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – I love the horns, I love Bruno, I love the funk.

Victory or Die, Motorhead – It’s not rocket science. Lemmy = Awesome.

On the bubble: All My Heart, The Mynabirds; Blud, SOAK; City Boy Blues, Action Bronson; Foreign Object, Mountain Goats; Johnny Delusional, FFS; Milkman, Bully; This World is Not My Home, Robert Earl Keen; Vices, Slayer; Wicked Game, Wolf Alice

Honorable mentions: 15 Years, Houndmouth; Ashes to Ashes, Warpaint; Awake, Snoop Dogg; Baby Britain, Seth Avett & Jessica Lee Mayfield; Bleeder, Ceremony; Bunker Buster, Viet Cong; Chalk Snake, No Joy; Carrion Flowers, Chelsea Wolfe; CHERRY BOMB, Tyler, the Creator; Don’t Wanna Fight, Alabama Shakes; Feel Right, Mark Ronson feat. Mystikal; figure 8, FKA twigs; How Could You Babe, Tobias Jesso Jr.; I’m Callin’, Tennis; I Feel Love, The Dead Weather; I’m Gonna Teach You, Daniel Romano; 100 Watt Horse; Kokaine Karolina, Elle King; Melt Me, Hanni El-Khatib; My Own Fantasy, Royal Headache; Only You (Live), Anderson East; Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves; Rain or Shine, Young Fathers, Romance Dawn, Radkey; Run, Rainbow Kitten Surprise; Solid Gold, Turbowolf; Son of God, Will Butler; Vital Signs, Gang of Youths; the valley, Miguel; Young Girls in Space, The Unwed Teenage Mothers

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New ‘Apes’ works for me in ways original movies never did

It's time to call in the cavalry.

It’s time to call in the cavalry.

I’m a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Thematically, both shows were challenging, the core group of actors worked well together and the humor is terrific. I know some folks had problems with the rubber masks, but that never bothered me. Vampires, demons, werewolves, they aren’t real, so if they look a little hokey, I can live with that.

That’s why I never could get into the original Planet of the Apes movies. Apes, monkeys, orangutans, whatever, they are very real and have unique features that distinguish them from each other, as well as from humans. The apes from the old flicks mostly just kind of looked and sounded like humans, except they were wearing bad masks. They were hokey, and every time I tried to watch them, it took me completely out of that world. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief.

The new Planet of the Apes films, on the other hand, I find fascinating. The first flick was a nice set-up, a prison escape film that give us an interesting inside perspective on being a wild animal in captivity, as well as the damaging psychological effects on such animals. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes really got me cheering on this series. We watch as the apes sulk and scream in rage, spitting out their animosity at the humans every chance they get. And yet, when the time comes, the apes evolve into scheming, duplicitous, violence-loving bipeds that seem a lot like the people they despise so very much. When Caesar’s death is orchestrated to appear as if it was done by humans instead of his own lieutenants in order to unite the apes against the humans, I thought of the Gulf of Tonkin incident that led up to increased U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the sinking of the USS Maine that was the preamble to the Spanish-American War.

And I was able to enjoy all of this because I was never taken out of the moment by stiff, rubber-masked pseudo-apes. With my disbelief sufficiently suspended, I could really soak in the story. And I’m left wondering what War of the Planet of the Apes has in store for us next.

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Why MTV’s ‘Scream’ did and didn’t work

Familiar, but not the same.

Familiar, but not the same…

Writer’s note: This was initially, accidentally published before completion. So if some of this looks familiar, well, it might be. Also, there are going to be some spoilers, so you were warned.

Two reasons to like the Scream series on MTV …

  1. MTV pays due tribute. The disfigured, outcast madman from years before, the person who is not among our new Scream-ers but at the center of its mystery, is killed at a lake, an homage to Friday the 13th. That’s probably the least subtle nod, and there are tips of the hat to Halloween and Saw, as well. Hell, at one point I was sure I saw an exterior shot that had to be the old Buffy Summers’ residence. But what I thought was both fairly daring and a great change that set the show apart from the movies is the new mask. That’s precisely the sort of change that usually drives genre fans bugshit. But the mask wasn’t just changed for the sake of change. The change is tied to the new story, and it’s still true to the movie mask. It was a small but key change, and shows some of the thought that went into this endeavor.
  2. The ending. The creative team had me fooled, no doubt. I was convinced it was the sheriff and his son behind the murder. Then the killer was revealed, and it appeared that there was only one, which would have been a change from the original. But as the very end showed, there was at least one person who had regular contact with the killer prior to the murder spree. We don’t know the depths of said person’s involvement, but it’s a peek at what we might expect next season. It was a nice move that saved a somewhat anti-climactic season finale.
Yes, the dialogue was bad, but it wasn't that bad. ... OK, it was pretty horrifying.

Yes, the dialogue was bad, but it wasn’t that bad. … OK, it was pretty horrifying.

Three reasons not to like the Scream reboot.

  1. The dialogue. It’s bad. It’s awful. It’s atrocious. It’s … so bad we might need a new word to describe it. Part of what made the original Scream movie so fresh was that, unlike the many horror flicks that it was parodying, the kids were fairly smart, aware and funny instead of just attractive, dim-witted meat for the slasher grinder. MTV’s Scream often acts like it uses some random, genre-based, dude-bro/basic-bitch phrase generator to come up with dialogue. Among the adults, it’s hyper-serious and too spot-on. When some truly terrible phrase exits the mouth of one of the actors, it’s hard to stay in the moment within the drama. Noah, the series horror-movie fan stand-in for Jamie Kennedy’s Randy, is forced to spew half-assed, poorly set-up monologues far too frequently. The overall dialogue is so bad, even my 13-year-old daughter mocked it with regularity. Something to work on for Season 2.
  2. The cast and the characters they play. I thought, when it came to the adults, the casting was pretty well done. But with the teens … I think it can be summed up by Bella Thorne’s appearance in the pilot. The Disney star is the token big name who bites it in the opening scene, a good choice to relate to the target audience. However, unlike Drew Barrymore in the original Scream, we’re in no way sad to see Thorne’s Nina bite it. Drew’s character is a little catty and flirty, but also genuine and a fighter when the knives come out. Thorne is convincing as a bitchy teenager, but it’s a wasted performance because it isn’t what we need from the character. We need to have a rooting interest in Nina, but that’s not developed. It’s a poor match for Thorne, and it was the wrong way to go for the character. And that sums up plenty of the younger cast members in Scream. With the possible exception of Bex Taylor-Klaus’s outcast lesbian Audrey, there are too many poorly thought-out characters played by actors who don’t have the chops to elevate their roles.
  3. The ending. Yes, I know I just praised the ending. But the problem with the end is related to issue No. 2 above. Amelia Rose Blair, who plays podcast journalist Piper Shaw, is horrible. The wardrobe people put a pair of horn-rimmed glasses about two sizes two big on Shaw in an attempt to make her look like a Smart, Serious Journalist. She mostly looks like a kid who stole her dad’s eyewear. Plus, Blair can’t pull off acting concerned or intelligent, as if she’s never had the opportunity to witness or experience either. And when the big reveal comes that she’s our killer, she’s about as scary as a toddler dressed as a vampire heading out to trick-or-treat. I think the storyline could have worked much better had the Scream folks found an actress who could carry the weight. Blair was not the right woman for the job.

In the end, MTV did just enough to get me back for the second season. The first season was uneven but entertaining, and the set-up for the next round seems promising. Plus, my daughter and I had a lot of fun MST3K-ing from the cheap seats as the body count rose. Bonding over buckets of blood will keep us engaged for at least one more go ’round.

And now I’ll let my daughter’s words wrap this piece up. “She can’t carry everything she needs for school in that bag. My biology book wouldn’t even fit in there. … What kind of school is this?”

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Superheroes, less-than-super teens and good deaths

the100_040214_1600

It ain’t easy being one of 100 teens raised in a space station, then dropped to post-nuclear apocalyptic Earth.

In the DVD commentary for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot, Joss Whedon (known now for helming The Avengers as well as planning for the entire non-Sony Marvel-verse) talked about how much he wanted to kill a main character in the very early going. So much so, in fact, that he considered putting Eric Balfour – the actor playing Jesse, best friend of Xander – in the opening credits of the show despite the fact that he doesn’t make it past episode two of the series. Whedon’s point was that by killing a “main” character early, the creator was setting the stage for some serious uneasiness by fans concerning the fate of all of the characters. It’s a red, blinking sign that says “No one is safe.”

That’s part of the reason I admire The 100, a new series on the CW. The basic premise is that 100 kids who have grown up on a now-dying space station are launched to a post-nuclear war Earth in hopes of saving what’s left of humanity floating around the planet. Brilliantly, The 100 makes it seem as if they kill a main character off in the pilot, when Jasper, played by Devon Bostik (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), takes an enormous spear to the chest. It’s a red herring, as Jasper survives to fight another day.

However, in episode three, The 100 shows us what it’s made of. Wells Jaha (Eli Goree, pictured above) is the best pal of the main character Clarke. Wells is also the son of the political leader of the space station, Chancellor Jaha. He is earnest, interested in what’s best for Clarke, a bright mind who can help lead the rag-tag group. But, in an extremely gripping scene, Wells is murdered, tragically, quietly, away from prying eyes. Wells had all the traits of a main character expected to be there for the bulk of the show, if not the entire run. It’s a brilliant example of what Whedon talked about on the Buffy commentary: Don’t let the viewers feel safe, and put doubt in their minds about the safety of their favorite characters.

On the big screen, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 went where I wasn’t expecting, allowing Gwen Stacey to fall to her death before Spidey can save her. Spider-Man 2 is a long, slow movie, decent but bogged down in the middle by plot meant to explain much and set up more. But the payoff was brilliant. Peter Parker lives haunted by the fact that he didn’t act during a bodega robbery, followed by said robber killing his uncle. Here, Peter is marred by the fact that he did act, he did stop the bad guy, he did save hundreds and maybe thousands of lives by battling and defeating Electro. Yet he still failed, setting up Gwen to die a pre-mature death because he both failed in his promise to her father and because with great power comes great responsibility. Peter abdicated his responsibility to Gwen’s dad, and the predictable happened. Peter loved Gwen and would do anything to protect her except that one thing that really would protect her: Walking away.

It’s satisfying to see franchises with much to lose – Spider-Man, a global movie juggernaut, and The 100, trying to find its footing and an audience – willing to make such difficult choices. It might hurt them in the short run, but the payoff is a fan base prepared for anything and on edge about what that anything might mean for their favorite characters.

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Feeling the ‘Hunger’

I enjoyed reading the Hunger Games series. I thought it was well done as a tragic adventure story for young readers, and for more mature readers, Suzanne Collins does a deft job of selling her take on the future and its celebrity culture, reality TV, political manipulation and the constant struggle of an elite class to accumulate as much power as they can.

I’m also pleased because it’s a book my daughter can read that gives her someone to look up to and identify with in a positive manner. Katniss Everdeen is brave, loyal, smart, self-reliant and inventive. She’s also a disaster at personal relationships and is tone deaf to the politics of any situation. In other words, she’s human. She’s also a terrific, tortured main character. For a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan like me, I know these sorts of heroines are rare and am left wishing each of the three books in the Hunger series was about 200 pages longer. And though her love relationships tend to be complicated, Katniss isn’t stuck making a choice between two boys who aren’t good for her. On the contrary, both are solid citizens and love her completely, which helps make the choice even more difficult.

The type of character that seems all too common – and I hope my daughter will avoid showering her affection upon – is exemplified by Bella Swan. She gives up all of herself for someone who is cold, distant and bloodsucking. Her other choice is a shape-changer that, on a bad day, would eat her alive and pick his teeth with her bones. Bella sacrifices her life, although she’s reborn as a vampire, for Edward. Her adoration is blind and stupid. Her actions are foolish and usually with little thought for anyone but her and her undead lover. Her life is Edward’s, not her own, and by her choice. It’s not how I want my little girl to think about her relationships with boys, and I’m not sure why everyone seems to think it’s so romantic in the Twilight series. On the contrary, it’s pathetic.

Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick with Katniss, and encourage my daughter to do the same.

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Bring out your ‘Dead’

The long arm of the post apocalyptic law

Is anyone else at all disappointed with this season of The Walking Dead?

Don’t get me wrong: Slightly off WD is better than Two and a Half Men when it’s dead on … if Two and a Half Men has ever actually been dead on. I’m not saying The Walking Dead creates a vacuum or anything. It’s just not as good as I want it to be.

I’ve narrowed it to two issues: Pacing and my Child-In-Danger theory.

Pacing

The first season was very, very short, but the writers managed to really deliver a flood of character information and a menacing intensity that was the under the surface waiting to boil over. … And sometimes doing just that, boiling over, exploding in ways that both drove the story and served the characters. They had to trim all fat because there was simply no room for it. It reminds me of how concise BBC dramas (I’m thinking specifically of Luther) have to be because they have such short seasons. A BBC show may get eight episodes while mid-season replacements on the major America nets will get 11-13. There’s little fluff and navel gazing across the pond. It’s straight to what’s important, what drives the story. Walking Dead‘s first season had that compactness, and it’s part of what made it so great.

Now … there’s a lot of gazing. A gaggle. A plethora. A ton. It’s starting to remind of the worst aspects of Lost. I’m almost to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack and Sawyer show up to fight over/pine over Freckles. (Hopefully, should that happen, they’ll all be zombies. Fingers crossed.) I’m all for character development. And I realize part of what was happening in the first half of season two was a lulling of the characters (and viewers) into believing the farm was safe and permanent. But there were times I thought I was going to fall asleep. The writers now have more episodes, more screen time, yet if feels like rather than taking advantage of that, they’re just writing what they’ve would have written for a shorter season, only dragging it out. Maybe I’m overly sensitive and things will pick up now that Shane’s forced the issue. I hope so.

Child in danger

One of the things that drives me nuts about TV dramas is that they tend to want to put children in danger solely to play on the feelings of a viewer that should know that kid ain’t going nowhere. They may be hospitalized. Maybe even a coma to really drag the predictable boredom out. But they will not die.

Sure, you’re going to immediately point to the fact that Sophia ended up being as a zombie, then ended up as a dead zombie. Of course she did. Because when you put not one, not two, but THREE children in danger, one of them isn’t going to make it. And when one’s the son of the main character, and the other is a fetus that can stoke the tensions of an ill-fated love triangle, the daughter of the secondary character who ran off alone into the zombie-infested wild? She’s the one getting the bullet in the forehead. A terrific moment, dramatically, because it reinforced what makes the Rick character so vital: He’s the one who will do the dirty job when the time comes. He won’t put it on anyone else. He won’t hide it or hide from it. But I thought having all three of the pre-junior high age kids put in mortal danger was too over the top and came off in a soapy way.

All of that said, I’m not dumping The Walking Dead anytime soon. I often complained about the pacing of the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but when I reviewed it after the series ended, it worked much better than I’d believed at the time. I have a feeling, despite my uneasiness concerning the first half of season two, that I’m going to come to a similar conclusion in this instance.

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