Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week

I took a week off from the postings, but that doesn't mean I took a week off from saying or doing stupid things. Even so, I think I'm going to bestow this great honour on my uncle, who was telling me the other day about being a teenager, and having a big brother who, by virtue of being twice his size, often smacked him around or let his friends pick on him. "Would've been nice to have a big brother who acted like a big brother," my uncle said, angry at pretty much every one of his brothers right now.

I was reminded of that awesome, iconic moment in ON THE WATERFRONT, where Marlon Brando says, "You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me." I asked my unclde if he felt that way, and quoted the famous part to him: "I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody. Instead of just a bum. Which is what I am."

Jeez, it was such a profound moment in that film, and so profoundly describes my life, that I almost got emotional quoting it to him.

And then my uncle said, "No, not at all. I AM somebody. I AM a contender. And I didn't need anybody to do it."

The warm feeling in my corrupted bosom faded away, and was replaced by the kind of disgust I feel when I go into a toilet stall and find it unflushed, or see a lawyer destroy a timid, unschooled witness on the stand.

So, there's that. You can give the Stupid Thing to my uncle the lawyer this week, or to me, as usual.

Rish "Waterfront" Outfield

"Veronica Peaks" post

We've got another "Buffy"-free week here on Rish's Rather Retarded Ruminations, but that's not really for lack of trying. When I went up to tyranist's the other night, I fully intended for us to watch the 1992 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER movie, which he owns. I thought, having not seen it since the theatre (in '92), that it would be pretty fresh to me, and something I could blog about.

But tyranist had no desire to watch it because he, get this, watched it just a couple of weeks ago, during a lull in our regular "Buffy" viewings. So he lent it to me, and I watched it at my place.

Or rather, I tried to watch it. Really, words fail me in describing my experience, and I don't think I can manage an entire post about it.

Frankly, the movie was awful, much much worse than I remember it being, and pretty much the shameful trainwreck Joss Whedon seemed to think it was back in 2001 when we had our conversation about it. I remembered enjoying it (at least enough to see it twice), but also recalled it being mostly a comedy, so when the WB Network started airing a TV version of the movie, I assumed it would be lite, funny teen fare.

But man, I had no idea how simply STUPID the movie was
with scenes such as the vampire basketball player flying around with pointed ears and bright red teeth, or Hilary Swank being interviewed about the bloodbath and thanking the Academy for her award, or the principal dropping detention slips on the bodies of the slain vampires at the dance. And the scene I remembered the most over the years, where Paul Reubens dies painfully for ten or fifteen minutes, was just embarrassing.

Really, the only highpoint of the movie was Buffy herself, playing by Kristy Swanson. She really was exquisitely beautiful, and she and her breasts delivered an enjoyable performance. But Donald Sutherland, with his silly mid-Atlantic accent, and the great Rutger Hauer, with his Dracula cape and Seventies porn moustache, were way below their normal levels here.

I know a lot of people kinda like the movie, but I honestly don't know how Gail Berman thought it would've made a good TV show. But God bless her for it. I'll say no more on the matter, and promise to soon be back in Joss Whedon's television universe.

In the meantime, I wanted to set aside a night to watch "Twin Peaks," preferably a Tuesday or Thursday, since it sounded nice to say "Twin Peaks Tuesdays." Not that "Buffy Wednesdays" had any kind of alliterative qualities.

Because I actually showed interest, and had the requisite "Veronica Mars" dream, tyranist allowed me to come over for a second night and finish that show's Season Two. While not enthralled in the way I have been with "Buffy,"* I have become interested in its characters, and was moved to tears that Enrico Colantoni did not kick the bucket as we were led to believe.

And while I believe I mentioned it before, the reason I ended up seeing "Veronica Mars" in the first place was because tyranist truly loved the show (in fact, he may have been one of those pesky fans who sent Mars Bars to the CW last year) and consistently tried to get me to watch it. Eventually I gave in, and I don't regret it at all.

In fact, had I been as persistent in hitting on Denise at my last steady job, she would have certainly slept with me.

So, I brought over my still-unwatched "Twin Peaks" boxed set and proceeded to fire 'er up.

"Twin Peaks," for you youngins, was a mid-season replacement in the 1989-1990 television season, that aired on ABC as a two hour movie and seven episodes, after which it went on summer hiatus (which is when I discovered it). It was created by David Lynch and Mark Frost and tells of a quaint Northwestern community that is shaken up by the brutal murder of the prom queen, and the mystery that surrounds her death. Also, it follows FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) as he works with the local authorities to get to the bottom of it, and falls in love with the unusual little town. And really, according to David Lynch, that's what the show is about, the townspeople and their secrets, the weirdness and humour and evil that takes place behind closed doors.
When it first aired, people didn't know what to make of it. It was so strange, and so surreal, that it sort of defied easy description. And it was in serialised format, which was also atypical (though certainly isn't now), told in long form, in a cinematic, stylised way that still seems a little unusual.

It was one of those "water cooler shows" that people talked about the next day at work (or school, in my case), and I just ate it up, watching it long after everyone else stopped watching (which, also strange, happened with lightning-fast rapidity in the second season). Partly I watched for the mystery, partly I watched for the style, and partly, it was for the girls.

"Twin Peaks" had just about the hottest female cast of any show I can recollect, and I was just at that age where I was concerned with such things. That, and absolutely no social life, contributed to my being a fan of the show all the way to the end.

I don't know if tonight was the best time to start watching "Twin Peaks." We still have a season to go of "Buffy" and "Veronica Mars," and I'll admit now that there's a slim--but enfattening--chance that I will resume "Angel," but what's done is done. Now that summer's started, perhaps The Captain will be willing to stay up a little later before shoving me bodily out the door, or give up a couple more nights so we can get together and explore the Laura Palmer mystery.

I'd like to have waited until other shows were done, so that I could blog about them, and talk about how I was reintroduced to the show, and go into detail as to what I like, what I used to like, and what (if anything) I don't like about the show.

And maybe I will. Sometime.

Rish "BOB" Outfield

*Yes, and "Angel" too. I'll not gainsay it, spirit.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Even More Films I Hate That You Love

I didn't do a Top Five email this week, so I'm forced to think on my feet. Hence, back by no demand, here are five more movies you and I will never agree on.

Basically, I just have a difficulty with the Coen Brothers. With the exception of RAISING ARIZONA, I just cannot like their movies. Either I look around at all the people laughing hysterically at something I find less funny than sewage treatment blueprints, or I am the only one in the art gallery who doesn't get how a doll crazyglued to a barbecue grill is art. In FARGO, I only liked one character, and I guess we weren't supposed to like that character. I want to like these movies, but I'm just not able to.

Mostly, I just hate Owen Wilson. But yeah, I saw this in the theatre, because I like Jackie Chan. Maybe I should've put "liked Jackie Chan," but I still like the guy, what can I say? It wasn't funny, it wasn't well-done, and I couldn't get around a guy in the old west talking like a modern-day surfer.

Now, it's not everyone who loves this movie. There are a lot of smart adults who recognise the crap that is this dookie. But younger people--teenagers, mostly--seem to think it's on par with the earlier films, or praise the ending, like it because "the chick is so hot." Dude, this was not at all a good movie.
Just because it wasn't BATMAN & ROBIN-level awful doesn't mean it's worth complimenting.
Now granted, I am biased towards James Cameron, and complain endlessly about his franchise being taken away from him, but even without the man, they could've done better than remake the second film (but with a far less threatening antagonist). I honestly don't know how Cameron got away with having the Terminator say, "Hasta la vista, baby," and "I need a vacation," but somehow, there weren't people throwing excrement at the screen like monkeys at a South American zoo. But "Relax," and "She'll be back," and "Talk to the hand"* . . . well, what's that in my hand?

TRON blows, folks. I feel a bit bad listing it here because my friend Matthew really loves it, and brought it over for me to watch with him. He's one of those guys who only owns twenty DVDs because he abhors spending money, but TRON was one of them. I never told Matthew how much I hated it, but boy, I sure did.

Alright, you got me, I still haven't seen NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. It was playing when I was on the set of THE SANTA CLAUSE 3, though, and I got to hear ole Jon Heder talk, and that was enough. Hey, I know you love it. I know your wife loves it. I know you've based the whole of your life on its teachings. But hey, my dad had a real big problem with that part in the Bible where God makes a bet with the devil about how much of a pounding our man Job can take, and he still goes to church. I'm man enough to admit that I have issues that will prevent me from ever enjoying NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, and that we should still be able to be friends. If you're man enough to admit that Cheryl Ladd was the hottest of Charlie's Angels.

Rish "The Fat Roger Ebert" Outfield

*I could be wrong, but I believe they also had him say, "Chill out, my negro brutha" at one point in the film.

brief Indy Jones reflection

So, INDY IV came out. And it didn't suck. How great a movie it is is open to debate, but I hope people in the near future don't make the mistake of declaring that it sucked. Hey, it could've been a lot worse, and the fact that it made me want to see more Indy films and introduced him to a new generation are points in its favour.

And speaking of the new generation, tonight, I had the pleasure of taking my seven year old niece to see it. I offered to see PRINCE CASPIAN with her (since I haven't seen it yet and it seemed more appropriate for a child), but taking after her wacky Uncle Rish the way she does, she really wanted to see INDIANA JONES AND THE SEARCH FOR THE SKULL OF THE ALIEN ROBOTS THAT HAVE SO IRRITATED THE FORMER COMMUNISTS OF RUSSIA.

In fact, when she found out INDY IV had been realised, and I saw it on Thursday, she expressed a mixture of disappointment and rage that I had gone to see it without her.

And there was no talking her out of it.

So, we hit the cinema tonight and I saw it for the second time, and, as I have been enjoying lately, I tried to watch as much of it through her eyes as I could. She made no remark on how old Indy was, as she had when she saw the trailer, and seemed to think that Cate Blanchett's character, Irina Spalko, was frightening.* When Indy gets killed at the end, she thought that--

Oh, spoiler warning, by the way.

When the "other" crate is broken and we spy the Ark of the Covenant inside, she leaned over and said, "Ohhh, that was the table thing from the other one, huh?" "Yes," I said, "The table thing."

She recognised the scene with Indy teaching his class as being at the same place as in the beginning of RAIDERS (the only Jones film I've shown her twice), and became excited at the appearance of, and I quote, "the kid from HOLES."

She covered her eyes when what she referred to as "the skeleton guys" appeared to confront our heroes, and was creeped out by the scorpions, which began to worry me. How would she react to the army ants sequence?

I must admit that, seeing it a week ago, that was really the only scene that bothered me, 'cause I frankly found it a little excessive. Just the one ant that bites Irina Spalko is disturbing enough, but when they swarm over the poor Russian bastard and go into his mouth, well, that made my scrotum do a full military retreat.

So I wondered, since I was there in the capacity of my sister's kid's adult guardian and semi-de facto parent, if that was appropriate for her young eyes. After all, how many kids from my generation were traumatised by the Ceti eel going into Pavel Chekhov's ear in WRATH OF KHAN?**

Hey, even little tiny ants are scary, and millions of great big ones? So, I wondered if it would be the sort of thing she'd take with her into slumber tonight. And tomorrow night. And the night after, etc..

But it's only fair to mention that the part of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK that thrilled me the most when I first saw it . . . was, yes, the exploding/shriveling/melting heads at the end. I told everybody about it, and frankly thought it was the greatest thing I'd ever seen. I only wish I could've seen Phoebe Cates in FAST TIMES a year later.

Anyhow, the army ants sequence arrived, and she didn't squirm much as they first showed up, though I admit that I was twitching about it since I knew what was coming. And when Colonel Dovchenko (yeah, I looked him up) gets covered and inundated with the massive ants, I heard a few audience members gasp, but from my niece came . . .

"Awesome!" And then she laughed.

In fact, when the movie was over, that's all she talked about, referring to it as "the coolest, most disgusting thing I've ever seen!"

I don't need to mention the old apple falling near the tree saw, but I will say this: maybe the things that bother us adults and the things that bother kids aren't always the same thing. I remember the hubbub and controversy in '84 when TEMPLE OF DOOM and GREMLINS had parents howling and stamping their feet, and my reaction to those offensive scenes was amazement and delight. I just responded to the spectacle and found the grossness to be (a rather large) part of the attraction of those films.

I am very glad my niece enjoyed the film. Because she did, I enjoyed it more myself.

I just hope that she doesn't develop an acute fear of insects and arachnids later in life (and skeleton-faced warriors and aliens, for that matter), and blame it all on me.

Unca Rish Outfield

*Wait'll she gets a load of Galadriel. I'd take Freddy, Pinhead, and Hannibal Lecter all together before I'd face her in a shaded alley.

**Oh really, you too?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Simply Passing Through History

21 May 2008

"Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This, this *is* history. Inside the Ark are treasures beyond your wildest aspirations. You want to see it opened as well as I."

Back in November 2001, I read a fantastic essay online (I don't have the exact title or link right now, but I may dig them up later), written by a huge fan of the Harry Potter books, written on the eve of the release of the first POTTER film. In his essay, he wrote something that has really stuck with me, something like, "Tomorrow, the images I created in my head reading and re-reading the books will be gone forever, supplanted instead by those created by Chris Columbus in the Warner Brothers film. Today is the last day that Harry Potter is just a book." Or something along those lines.

Well, you probably know where I'm going with this. Today is May 21st, and it is the last day that there are only three Indiana Jones films: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE.* Tomorrow, a fourth film joins that pantheon: INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, making it a quadrilogy, or quadrology, or a saga, or maybe just a series. Or who knows, maybe the rumours are true and there will be a second trio of films with Mutt Williams in the central role and we'll refer to the Eighties films as "The Original Trilogy" and the 21st Century ones as, I don't know, "The Sequel Trilogy." Who knows?

I've said it many, many times, probably in these pages too, that seeing RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK as a child was the first mind-blowing, seminal trip I took to the movies, changing how I thought, who I was inside, and who I wanted to be. I still remember swinging from our garage door, pretending it was my whip, and pulling the garage door down and rolling under it like it was the huge stone door that comes down to seal the chamber forever.

My mom and dad took me to see RAIDERS in '81 and we watched it together. My mom took me and my friends to TEMPLE OF DOOM in '84, and we sat away from her (I believe, in the front row). And my mom dropped me and those same friends off at LAST CRUSADE at that same theatre I'd seen the other two in, since by then, I was old enough to see them on my own. I love all three of those movies, though, unlike you, I love them in order of their release, with RAIDERS being the grand favourite.

I'm not sure if the Indy Jones Trilogy is perfect (there's that moment in LAST CRUSADE where the model tank hits the ground and falls apart, along with an obvious doll attached to it), but it's pretty darn close. And like all people who start getting older, I clutch it fiercely to my breast and want nothing to sully those films (such as renaming the first film INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK).

And that includes a fourth film that may or may not be as good as the originals.

I've seen a couple of childhood franchises brought back recently, with mixed results (SUPERMAN RETURNS, for example, or last year's TRANSFORMERS), but none have been so jarring or unavoidable as George Lucas's STAR WARS Prequels. It is simply impossible to divorce the Original Trilogy from the Prequels (especially since Lucas has now tinkered with the OT, adding Dewbacks and Hayden Christensens and digital changes right and left), and for this generation of children, there are simply six films, not three.

And I quite hate the Prequels. In watching Season Six of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and seeing Willow's fall from grace and turn to the Dark Side, I can't help but feel sad that Lucas couldn't create something similar for Anakin Skywalker's fall, something with that much inspiration, intensity, and emotional power. Nope, the Prequels are what they are, and I'm no fan of them.

But here we are, the EXACT same number of years since the last Indy Jones movie as Lucas waited to follow up RETURN OF THE JEDI, and we've got a new Indy flick. It's actually playing as we speak in my town. And while I've tried to avoid reviews, fan sites, and news articles, I've already heard a bit of buzz that maybe the flick isn't absolutely fantastic.

And how could it be? It's been twenty seven years since I sat in that theatre seat and was whisked away to South America, Nepal, Cairo, and the South Pacific and introduced to my all-time favourite cinematic hero. A lot has changed in the world, in the way movies are made, in audience sensibilities, and in my own mind. There's no way I can see INDY IV the way I saw INDY I.

Plus, to quote Indy, it's not the years, it's the mileage. I have become a lonely, sad, embittered, critical, and curmudgeonly old young man since the old Indy films came out. A lot of the sense of wonder I had in the "good old days" of the nineteen-eighties has been stamped out of me by my many failures at life, by the negative influences of (some of) the people around me, but the loss of innocence we all go through, and by my own near-constant reminders of a myriad of shortcomings and personality flaws. Oh, and by that time I came back after reclaiming my lost droid only to find my uncle and aunt as charred skeletons near the smoking ruins of my childhood home.

My friend Ian, who I met a decade ago, used to always tell me that whenever he got excited about THE PHANTOM MENACE, the first Star Wars Prequel, he'd hear my pesky voice in the back of his mind, saying, "No matter how great it is . . . it can never be as good as I want it to be," like some kind of unpleasant Obi-Wan Kenobi, a depressing sourpuss from great beyond.

I feel bad that I cast a grey shadow over his enjoyment of those movies (and indeed, over pretty much his whole life, as I still bother him at least once a week to give me Top Five lists), but here's a silver lining: as bad as STAR WARS: EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE was, I didn't notice a great deal of that when it came out in 1999. I went to see it with a big group of friends, and was transported to a galaxy far, far away again, dazzled by the special effects, thrilled by the podrace sequence, awed by the John Williams score, and enthralled by that still-fantastic lightsaber battle at the end of the film.

I saw the movie several times that summer, and it wasn't until later, replaying scenes in my head or talking about it, that I found fault and began to decide that, Jake Lloyd wasn't all that good, for example, or poop jokes don't really hold up to repeated viewings. Yes, now I hate PHANTOM MENACE**, but back then I didn't, and that gives me a bit of hope.

I hope that I can enjoy the experience of seeing the new Indy film tomorrow, with a smile on my face, letting the undoubtedly excellent score carry me away, seeing my all-time favourite actor reprising his greatest role, wincing with punches and holding my breath through the hairpin turns and narrow escapes. I hope that I can forget the last couple decades, and be a little boy again, and just believe that it's all happening for real before my eyes, like I used to be able to do all the time (and now only manage when it's Joss Whedon pulling the strings).

I hope I overlook CGI effects or dialogue or changes in sensibilities that might take me out of the film. I hope familiarity breeds affection rather than contempt, and that somehow Spielberg manages to find a little magic in that dusty old hat (a Fedora instead of a top hat, in this case). I do dare to hope.

And as old Red taught us, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. You know the rest.

Rish Indiana Outfield

*And you know, there have been followups, such as "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" TV series, and the Made For TV movies like "The Mystery of the Blues," which even had Harrison Ford in it, so technically it isn't just a trio of films. But you know what I mean.

**Though not as much as its two sequels, where I feel the real failure of the Prequel Trilogy shines through.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The End of Buffy Season Six

There were three episodes left, and I asked tyranist that if the next one, "Villains," ended in a satisfying way, we could quit and leave the last two to next week. He agreed, and we pressed onward.

"Villains" was written by showrunner of Season Six, Marti Noxon, and picks up right where "Seeing Red" left off. Xander has called an ambulance to come get Buffy, with no idea that Tara is dead in Willow's arms upstairs. Willow calls on Osiris to bring Tara back to life, and a big disembodied image of him appears, telling her that because Tara died from human means (as opposed to Buffy, who died from magical means), he can do nothing. Willow becomes furious and sends Osiris away, then stomps downstairs.

Xander sees her and tells her what Warren did to Buffy, apparently not seeing her bloody clothes or scary face, and gets into the ambulance and rides off.

Later, I was surprised to find us in a jail cell, back with Jonathan and Andrew. I guess they still have a part to play in all this, for good or ill.

Warren comes into the demon bar and brags about having killed the Slayer, with a gun--something none of them ever thought of using. The vampires and demons all seem to know something he doesn't, and finally reveal that it was on the news that a small attractive blonde from Los Angeles but currently living in Sunnydale with a lot of scars and a healing factor was taken to the hospital, and is still alive. They laugh that it will be more fun to watch what the Slayer does to him than to kill him themselves.

Willow bursts into the Magic Box, going for the forbidden black magic books. When Anya tries to reason with her, she uses a spell to restrain her, pulls the books down to her, and begins to suck the knowledge directly from the pages onto her skin. It's not my favourite look for Willow, but her hair turns black and veins appear all over her.

Dawn comes home from school with no knowledge of what happened that morning. In a world without cellphones, she has no choice but to walk through the open front door, up the stairs, and into her mothers' room, only to find Tara dead on the floor.

Warren goes to visit Rack, the warlock who helped corrupt Willow a few episodes back, and offers him a thick roll of money to protect him from Buffy. But Rack tells him the real threat is Willow, who is rampaging through town looking for the man who killed her girlfriend. Rack has something that will help Warren, but he warns him that an enraged Willow is the most powerful force imaginable.

Said witch goes to the hospital, where doctors are doing what they can for Buffy, and tyranist marvelled that Xander is allowed to observe from behind glass. Willow dismisses the physicians and uses magic to remove the bullet from her chest and heal the wound. Xander still doesn't know why Willow has made this transformation, but he surely welcomes her aid in this situation.

Buffy recovers quickly and Willow leads them to Xander's car to go after Warren, who she can sense leaving town. Willow uses magic to make the car go faster, and Xander reminds her that she promised not to use magic anymore. Willow responds that Buffy would be dead by now if she didn't, and I guess you can't really argue with that.

Warren is on a bus in the desert outside of town (this seems to be the same place their RV was attacked by knights on horseback a season ago), and Willow stops it in front of her. Warren seems pretty terrified when she catches up to him, but to her surprise (and mine as well), he turns out to be one of his robots, "magicked" to give off Warren's aura.

Buffy and Xander see that she's only more angry now, and at last, she tells them about the bullet hitting Tara. Even so, Buffy and Xander tell her not to kill Warren, that there's another solution to the situation. But Willow is pretty driven and goes off to do the deed alone.*

Buffy and Xander plead with her not to kill Warren, because it's wrong and it will take her to a dark place from which she might never return. But Willow doesn't want to listen and shoves them away as she departs.

They go back to Buffy's house, where Dawn is still alone with Tara's body. I was going to say something about a fifteen year old not having the wherewithall to call 911, but I'll just let it go. Tara was way cool, and I'd mourn her too.

They call for an ambulance, or maybe just a coroner, and Tara's body is taken away. Then it's Buffy, Xander, and Dawn on the couch (IS it the same couch?), talking about what they should do about Willow. But Dawn thinks she should kill Warren, that he deserves to die, and she'd do it herself if she could. And gosh, it's pretty hard to argue with her logic. But maybe that's just me.

Xander agrees with her and says that Warren is just as bad as any vampire they've dusted over the last hundred and nineteen episodes. And Buffy says, "Being a Slayer doesn't give me a license to kill," as if she'd heard me make my James Bond comparison ("...licensed to kill who he pleases...where he pleases...when he pleases."), but she makes a pretty great argument too, about how Warren will pay for what he's done, but she won't let Willow destroy herself making it happen.

Xander is convinced, and offers to go to the Magic Box to look for Willow, while Buffy goes elsewhere. Dawn wants to go with them, but Buffy won't put her in harm's way (which is completely understandable, even if it pisses Dawn off), and decides to take her to Spike to look after.

Which isn't quite so completely understandable.

No, no, I say when the show is great, and I've got to say when the show isn't. And this is less than twenty four hours after the whole attempted rape upstairs thing. Hey, I love Spike, as you know, and I've always been a fan of the Spike/Dawn relationship, but if Buffy thought he crossed a line when he tied her up and threatened to feed her to Drusilla, well, last night seems a good ways past that line.

Of course, the argument is that Spike's chip prevents him from harming Dawn, and I guess that's a pretty good argument, but it's just . . . it's just too soon, maybe. Or maybe it sends the wrong message, or maybe Buffy just came back wrong, I don't know. I'll let it go, but I don't know why they didn't just send to to stay at Janice's or somewhere comparable.

Buffy takes Dawn to Spike's crypt, but Clem is staying there instead. He tells them that Spike left town but doesn't know why, and Buffy leaves Dawn with Clem instead.

I don't know, folks. Clem seems nice, as harmless as can be, but he is a demon of some sort, and how much do we actually know about him? Enough to guess that he probably doesn't have a chip in his head to keep him from--

No, I'm just going to pretend that there was an episode--or a comic book--where Buffy encountered Clem's kind before, and Giles explained that that particular demon race is entirely benign and actually quite helpful for information-gathering, locating old manuscripts, and child care. So there, I'm fine with her leaving her sister with him.

We do get to see Spike in this episode, as he has apparently traveled to Africa for what he seeks. He goes into a cave with lots of violent drawings on its walls, and meets a deep-voiced, green-eyed demon there. Spike explains that "the bitch thinks she's better than me. Ever since I got this bleeding chip in my head, everything's gone to hell." Spike wants to return to his "former self," and is willing to undergo trials to achieve that.

Xander finds Anya at the Magic Box, and she is still pretty cold to him. She tells him she can sense Willow, as she has a thirst for revenge, and he realises she's a vengeance demon again. Buffy comes in and wants to know whose side she's on. She says something odd: "I'll help, but I'm helping Willow. She's close to him. He's in the woods."

In the woods, Willow is stalking Warren, all Jason-like. He pops up (also all Jason-like) and whacks her in the back with an axe. Not to belabour the point, but Willow rises back up, yes, all Jason-like, and keeps after him. He sends an exploding magic snitch after her, but she freezes the fire and walks on. He envelopes her in some kind of magical goo, but she sears through that and keeps coming . . . like the villain in one of those horror movies I've never seen.

Tiring of the chase, Willow commands the vines to ensnare Warren, and they hold him, spread-eagled, while she approaches. Warren's scared, but I am impressed by the nuts on this guy, as he continues to snark and insult her. I myself would have shat myself just from seeing her all-black eyes. But hey, that's me.

Willow realises that Tara wasn't the first girl he'd killed, and she conjures up his dead girlfriend Katrina, all pale and accusatory. And Warren still spits and snarls, even then.

Buffy, Xander, and Anya arrive at the woods, just as Willow takes the bullet she got from Buffy and magicks it into Warren's body, explaining how it will move around in there, hurting him until it finally reaches his spine. He pleads, and she sews his mouth shut. But now, it seems, Willow is more sad than angry, thinking about what the bullet did to Tara, and what that did to her.

Maybe that was telling, 'cause she starts to focus on her anger again, asking him if he can feel the bullet, and removing the spell so he can speak. He apologises and tells her she's not a bad person like him and that she'll lose everybody if she does this.

Willow sees her friend approaching and says to Warren, "Bored now," as the vampire Willow did. She casts a spell that tears all his skin off his body, then burns it into dust. She looks at her friends and says, "One down," then disappears in a flurry of smoke and lightning. The end.

I do want to say one thing that I found strange while watching this one. As much as I love Willow and found Warren to be alternately annoying and repellent, there were moments in this episode when I found myself wanting him to get away, to trick Willow or knock her out and make his escape. I asked my cousin about this and he told me I was a psychotic bastard who ought to have his skin ripped off too.

Actually, he told me that maybe I just didn't want Willow to make that final step into full corruption, that I had seen what happened with Faith, and didn't want Willow to go the same way.

"I hope you're right. I really do." But it could be that I somehow relate more to Warren than I do to Willow, or it could be that the episode was just structured that way (what with Willow becoming an unstoppable force of destruction), and everybody felt that to a certain extent. I don't know if tyranist responded that way, since he refused to talk about it, so I can only be honest in how I felt, and leave you poor nonexistent reader to judge.

So, my initial offer to tyranist was to stop after this episode, if there was reason to stop, but he probably had no intention of ever stopping, and we immediately went on to the next episode, the cleverly titled "Two To Go."

It was written by Douglas Petrie and picks up right after. Buffy, Xander, and Anya discuss what just happened and who the "two to go" are. Anya explains that Willow could only fly to the jail, but with her vengeance demon powers, she can just teleport there. Which she does. Buffy explains that Willow is different now that she's killed somebody, and won't stop until she kills Jonathan and Andrew too. Willow has smashed Xander's car so they can't follow her, and Buffy starts Jamie Summers running to get to them faster. Xander, feeling worthless as usual, is left there alone.

In their jailcell, Andrew and Jonathan bicker over whether Warren will rescue them or not, and trade really weak insults.** Then they sissy fight. Anya appears and updates them on the situation, then calls the guards to let them out. Sadly, a lot of this is played for laughs, and I wonder if I'm just weird for not thinking any of it is funny or appropriate, considering what's been going on. I guess there are different strokes for different folks.

As she's arguing her point, Willow arrives and begins taking bricks out of their cell wall while she stands outside. Andrew bawls that they don't deserve to die, but Jonathan is resigned to his fate, saying that they got into supervilliany and this is where it took them.

Buffy arrives and runs inside. Willow finishes with the wall, but finds the boys aren't there anymore. Their cell bars have been forced open. Anya is the only person there, and tries to talk to her, but Willow flings her aside like a valentine from Rish Outfield, and continues the hunt.

Buffy has Andrew and Jonathan on the street, and Andrew makes a Dark Phoenix reference, then Xander pulls up in a police car and they hop in. They don't get far before Willow appears behind them, standing on the hood of a semi truck which she's magically maneuvering. It slams into them a few times, but then Willow starts to weaken (Jonathan calls it "draining") and her control over the truck stops.

Two blocks away, in Spike's crypt, Dawn is bored in Clem's care. He offers to do whatever she wants, and she asks him to go with her to find Rack, the warlock Willow took her to once before. She thinks that Willow will either be there or Rack will know where she is, and she needs a demon to sense where Rack's place is. It's all very logical, really.

We also have our requisite Spike scene where he is undergoing some kind of trials, where he has to fight some hugely muscular dude with fiery hands. He is burned and bruised, but manages to knock the guy down and break his neck. That, of course, was only the first test, with more to follow.

Anya, Xander, Buffy, and the two remaining geeks go to the Magic Box, where Anya tries to find a book that can help them. There are some "anti-magic" spells, but they're written in a language Anya can't read. Jonathan offers to help, and Buffy stares him down, telling him she's not protecting him, she's just trying to keep Willow from crossing a line.

Xander asks Buffy what they're going to do if they manage to confront Willow, what they're going to say, but I don't think they know.

Dawn and Clem find Rack's place, but they're too late. Willow has already shown up and though she seemed the timid, unsure Willow for a second or two, stuck her hands into Rack and pulled out all his power, recharging her batteries.

Dawn sees Rack's dead body, and Willow is standing there, veiny and black-eyed. Dawn tries to talk sense into her, and Willow doesn't brush her off (as I would think would be natural), but rather, offers to end her suffering, turn her back into a ball of light, and relieve us all of her "constant whining." It's some of the coldest shit we've seen on the show, and Allyson Hannigan sells it completely. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but I guess she's just that good.

At ye olde magic shoppe, Anya and Xander are trying to translate the anti-magic spells. Andrew tries to convince Jonathan to cast some spell to enable them to escape. He is a very whiny, selfish character, so much so that he makes Jonathan look heroic by comparison.

Xander asks Anya whose side she's on, that she won't turn on him like Willow will. They have an impassioned conversation where she tells him how much he hurt her and that this whole thing with Willow is his fault. Now, I don't know how in the name of Monica Bellucci's breasts you can make that claim, but Xander seems to think that she's right. He tells her that he just stood there, frozen, when Warren pulled the gun, and that he was as useless then as he is now.

Buffy enters and tells Willow to get away from her sister. Willow calls Buffy a "buzzkill" and, yeah, I'm starting to think that she's irredeemable. Buffy tries to reach her, to reach the Willow that she knows and loves. Dark Willow scoffs at that, reminding us of the mousy, picked-on Willow that was a loser in junior high, high school, and college . . . until she met Tara and became somebody in her eyes. "And that will never happen again."

Buffy says if she lets the magic take her over, that her world will end, and all the good in life that there is to live for--

But Willow reminds her that she hates this world more than anybody, that she is so unhappy that an insane asylum was a positive alternative, and that the only time she's really been happy was when she was dead. While she's talking, she transports herself, Dawn, and Buffy to the magic shop, then turns around and faces the two remaining Geeks.

She casts some purple plasma energy at them, but it is blocked. Anya is hiding in the corner, reading from the magic book, shielding Andrew and Jonathan. Willow tries a different tack, casting a spell on herself making herself insanely strong, and Buffy steps forward to fight her.

Xander takes this opportunity to get Dawn, Jonathan, and Andrew out of there. Anya says she has to stay to keep up the spell on Willow (which must mean it wasn't a protection spell at all).

So, Buffy and Willow fight, and I guess now is the time to mention it: I couldn't help but think about Darth Vader, and the enormous missed opportunity those damned Prequels were, at not only the corruption and fall of Anakin Skywalker, but the big, sad, epic battle between two best friends, Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin, that I had envisioned in--heck, that EVERYBODY had envisioned in their minds--since I read it in James Khan's novelisation of JEDI.

It's probably no coincidence that Andrew refers to Willow as "Darth Rosenberg" earlier in the episode, so it was probably in the back of Joss's or Marti's or whoever came up with this arc's mind, and it really is what EPISODE III should've been.

Heck, I'll take it a step further and say that this is the new benchmark as far as your Dark Phoenix/Parallax/Onslaught/Scarlet Witch/Malice stories go. As great as the Season Two "Angel becomes Angelus" storyline was (and it WAS great), this one feels so much more organic and grounded, so real that I can't really imagine anyone topping it. Hey, I'd hate to have to try.

Not that it's absolutely perfect (at one point, Willow says, "Get off, superbitch," which probably should've been snipped), but it does feel epic and lengthy and really hard.

Xander and the others stop while he tries to think of how to keep Jonathan and Andrew safe. Andrew has the idea of heading to Mexico, but Jonathan thinks they need to stay in Sunnydale and go back to jail. If they survive the freezing process, that is.

At some point in the fight, Willow discovers that Anya is there, chanting. She grabs her, knocks her out, and suddenly, she has her offensive powers again. She unleashes a blast of the magic at Buffy, slamming her lifeless to the floor, and then, a huge wave of green energy sweeps Willow off her feet. She looks up, bleeding, to see Giles standing in the doorway. The end.

Well, there's not really much I can say. I appreciate that, for once on this show, they didn't telegraph the surprise guest star in the opening titles. But you know, I'll bet Joss hates that as much as I do.

We didn't have to wait a week for the next--and last--episode, which is probably the problem with my generation. I mean your generation. 'Cause you guys really suck.***

And on we went to "Grave," the Season Six ender, written by David Fury. I could be wrong, but this seems to be the first season finale not written (and directed) by Joss Whedon.

Buffy and Anya come to, and Willow tries to stand, but Giles uses magic to knock her down again. She says that it's borrowed power, and none of this concerns him, but Giles tries to reason with her, tries to get through to her, that she concerns him. Nothing can reach her now, though, and she begins to repell his advances, so he creates a sort of stasis spell that envelops her.Buffy hugs him, Anya hugs him, and I wish I could hug him. I've missed Giles almost as much as I miss California. But Giles smells better. He explains that there's a powerful coven in England that sensed the rise of a dark power in Sunnydale, one fueled by grief, and that they transferred all of their power to him to do battle with it.

He asks what's been happening to bring this all about, and Buffy tells him about Xander and Anya, about Dawn, about her and the Doublemeat Palace, and about her and Spike, and Giles laughs. He laughs long and hard, and I don't really know why or what, but okay. Giles apologises for having gone away, but Buffy thinks it was the right thing to do, that she had a lot of issues she needed to work through on her own. At the same time, she still doesn't know why she's there, why she came back from the dead, why it had to be her and not someone else. And I don't suppose there are answers to questions like that, are there?

I've been around an awful lot of people who know an awful lot of things, and I never cease to amaze myself at how little I really know or understand. Other people around me seem to struggle against ignorance, or avoid the very possibility of not having the answers in life, or coming up short. And maybe that's why I have been such a great failure, that I am content to announce to the world that I don't know, or can't achieve something.

I do hope that my ghost hangs around for a while, though, so I can torment everybody just a little longer, and see if they still claim to know . . . with me scratching at their ceilings. But I digress.

Willow uses a Jedi Mind Trick on Anya to get her to help her escape Giles's stasis field, and walks in on him just as he's telling Buffy that he doesn't know how to remove Willow's powers without killing her, and that even if he does, she might not be the same person anymore. Willow shoots her lightning at Buffy, then sends weapons at Giles, which he blocks. He then unleashes some kind of volley on her that sends her through the wall and across the next room.

Xander is leading Dawn, Jonathan, and Andrew around town, but bemoaning the fact that he's no good at anything. Dawn suggests they go fight Willow, but Xander dismisses that idea. When Dawn suggests that Spike would go back and fight, Xander tells her, "Sure, if he wasn't too busy trying to rape your sister." Dawn doesn't believe him, but when she searches her feelings, she knows it to be true. Why else did he leave town?

And speaking of Spike, he's just bested another couple of demons in his quest to get a . . . a revenge on Buffy. Then a bunch of CGI beetles start crawling on him (one goes in his nose--gross), so I guess test number three has begun.

The Magic Box lies in ruins as Willow and Giles have apparently been fighting for some time. And tyranist, horrified, rewound the tape to show me that there was a William Shatner book among the wreckage. I believe he was fully prepared to abandon "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" at that moment, like I abandoned the other show, but I sprang to life, explaining that Xander was probably reading one of the "Tekwar" books and left it behind the counter. Tyranist, apparently satiated, continued the episode. Whew.

Willow is a bit battered, but Giles is much more worse for wear. She heals her wounds, and tells him that nothing can hurt her, and he says he wonders what Tara would think of what she's become. She tells him he can ask her himself, and knocks him down again. Buffy gets in between them, and Willow creates a living fireball to track down Jonathan and Andrew, and kill them.**** She tosses it into the air and challenges Buffy to get there first. Buffy runs off, leaving Willow and Giles alone.

She thoroughly thrashes him, but he reminds her that she's weakened from expending so much energy. She agrees, and grabs him, draining out all his borrowed power into herself. Giles lies paralyzed on the floor as Willow revels in more power than any mortal should ever have. She's connected to everything, to everyone, and feels our pain and suffering. He tells her to stop, and she decides to make it stop. The world's suffering, that is.

Xander has led his little group to the cemetery, where they try to find a crypt to hide in when Willow's fireball appears in the sky. Buffy is close behind it, pushing Andrew and Jonathan out of the way before it hits. The ground begins to give way, dropping Buffy, Dawn, and the swords the Geeks were carrying in the last episode (I failed to mention them, sorry) into a underground burial chamber.
Xander is knocked out, and Andrew and Jonathan take off running.

Anya awakens and finds Giles on the floor, barely conscious. He explains that he thought taking his power would help reach Willow, but instead, she's gone away with a new mission. He can see where Willow has gone and that she's going to bring about the end of the world.

With the sun rising outside, Buffy tries to climb out of the hole they're trapped in. She is interrupted when Dawn asks her about Spike, and why Buffy didn't tell her what happened. Buffy explains how she's trying to protect her, but Dawn says she can't be protected from life, and needs to know these things.

Xander awakens and tries to find rope to pull them out. Anya also appears (through her demon powers) and updates everyone on Giles and Willow's plan: she's unearthing a Satanic temple on a ridge overlooking town (maybe the same one where Angel went to watch the sunrise in "Amends?"), and is going to channel the earth's lifeforce through a demonic statue there until everything blinks out. Anya tells them that no supernatural force can stop Willow now, then remembers that Giles is dying, and teleports away to be with him.

Buffy chooses to ignore what Anya/Giles said and struggles to get out and stop Willow. Willow pauses and turns the ground around Buffy into man-like creatures to stop her. Buffy fights them, but she hands Dawn a sword to fight at her side. Dawn is actually pretty good, but the monsters keep coming.

Anya tells Giles not to die, that it was good of him to come, although in retrospect, he probably shouldn't have, since Willow is now ten times as powerful as she was. Willow begins her end-of-the-world spell and earthquakes begin all over town. She's funneling this cool green light into the statue, which I guess is Mother Gaia's lifeforce.

That is, until Xander steps into the beam. "Hey, black-eyed girl," he says, and she tosses him away from her. But then, she hesitates. It's just a little thing--a sign of regret for hurting Xander?--but Giles smiles and says, "It's not over."

Willow starts the spell again, but Xander gets up a blocks it again. She tells him she'll kill him and he says that she's his best friend, if he's going to die, he wants it to be there, beside her. She scoffs at him, but he tells her about the first day of kindergarten, how she broke the yellow crayon and cried, and that he loved that Willow and he loves scary, veiny Willow too. She strikes out at him with her magic again and again, but he keeps getting up, and telling her he loves her. And every time he does, her power gets weaker.

Finally, she has no power left. She hits him with her fists, and he hugs her. She weeps. Her hair turns red again. The monsters fighting Buffy and Dawn disappear. Giles recovers.

He tells Anya that he intentionally let Willow steal the magic he had been endowed with. It was the purest kind of magic, not the rage-filled kind she had been running on, and it allowed her to feel again. It was Xander, he tells Anya, that got through to her in time, and saved us all.

In their hole in the ground, Buffy and Dawnie realise that it's over, that the world didn't end, and Buffy cries. Dawn doesn't know if Buffy is happy or sad. Buffy tells her she's happy, that she's going to make everything right again, that instead of shielding her sister from the world, she's going to show it to her. She helps Dawn climb up to the surface and a Sarah McLachlan song plays (I didn't know this one, but it's apparently called "Prayer of St. Francis") as we catch up with our characters: Willow and Xander on the hill, Jonathan and Andrew leaving town, Giles and Anya stumbling out of the magic shop, Dawn and Buffy in the cemetery.

And Spike in Africa. He's beaten and bloody and is told that he has endured the required trials. He demands what was promised him, "so Buffy can get what she deserves," and the demon says, "Very well. We will return your soul." The end.

So, thus ends Season Six, that most reviled of "Buffy" seasons. I don't really have much more to say, really. A lot of it was unpleasant, and while my niece has been eager to devour as much BTVS as she can when she comes over, I've been really hesistant to show her more episodes from this season. I wonder how much of it I'd like to revisit in the future, or if I'll simply skip around.

Regardless, I've got to say that this whole Dark Willow arc was simply fantastic. If the show does lose its spirit and fun and sense of positivity, it's all worth it for these last six episodes, all of which were pretty darn great. I know very little about Season Seven, but I want desperately to know if Willow is going to be alright, if Giles sticks around for longer this time, if Anya and Xander have a shot at getting back together, and just what the hell Spike with a soul will be like.

Because I can't help myself, I will tell you what I find out. Though I hope not in as much detail as I have these past couple.

Well see,

Rish "Dork Willow" Outfield

*Actually, there's this great line, where Xander says, "You said it yourself, Will: the magic's too strong. There's no coming back from it." And Willow says, "I'm NOT coming back." Really good stuff. As if you didn't know.

**Listening to Andrew talk, I have to wonder if that's how lame I sound talking about organic webshooters and midichlorians. No wonder I got beat up so much.

***Apparently, this episode and "Grave" were shown on the same night when it premiered. So there may be hope for your generation after all.

****It's crazy, but I got a laugh when Willow refers to "Jonathan and the other one," since the joke has always been that nobody knows who Andrew is, so I guess I open to some levity in this after all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Top Five SNL Cast Members

Last Saturday, "Saturday Night Live" just aired its season finale, its thirty-fourth season finale. Steve Carrell was the host, and though I thought it was only a fair episode, everyone has their generation of SNL cast, and everyone thinks theirs is best. I know I do.

I considered going online and digging up a list of all the cast members, past and present, but ultimately, laziness won the day. Or, rather, I, er, thought it wiser to leave the names to the memories of everyone who answered, so they'd only list the five people who actually came to mind.

My list would have to be:
1. Eddie Murphy
2. Dana Carvey
3. Phil Hartman
4. Dan Aykroyd
5. Gilda Radner

Sadly, I've never met any of them, though I did watch Eddie Murphy goof around the set of DREAMGIRLS.

Tyranist was the first to respond. Apparently, he has yet to tire of these pointless lists.
1. Phil Hartman
2. Jimmy Fallon
3. Mike Myers
4. Jon Lovitz
5. Dennis Miller

Cousin Ryan was quick to answer (though I'd have bet your college fund he never really followed "Saturday Night Live"), with:
1. Dan Aykroyd
2. Chevy Chase
3. Adam Sandler
4. Steve Martin
5. Chris Farley

I don't know if I should allow Steve Martin or not, but I gotta admit that looking back, I've considered him a cast member a time or two.

My high school buddy Rhett usually waits quite a while to send me his list, but this time, he was about a week ahead. I thought it interesting that he made sure to list most of the dead ones.

1. Chris Farley
2. Dana Carvey
3. Phil Hartman
4. Chevy Chase
5. John Belushi

Prison Guard Johnny sent me this list (not only listing Steve Martin, but placing him first):
1. Steve Martin
2. Chris Farley
3. Chevy Chase
4. Eddy Murphy
5. Dennis Miller

Jeff the Sex Chemist sent me an interesting list. I suppose it shows just how much older he is than me.

1) Dan Akroyd
2) Gilda Radner
3) Billy Crystal
4) Dana Carvey
5) John Lovitz

Lorraine Newman and Jane Curtain are my #s 6 & 7.

I expected a couple other people to respond, but they didn't yet. So here I wait.

Rish "The Jean Doumanian Season" Outfield

Stupid Thing of the Week

I've been snagging boxes virtually everywhere I go lately for my online business. Oh, it's going swimmingly, if my intention was to spend as much money on the least possible return.

My pal Merrill and I get together one night a week, and sometimes we go to the store around one am, so I can snag the boxes they've put out their inventory with. And when I do, Merrill thinks it's amusing to sing, "You're a box scrounger," to the tune of "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benetar.

And just between you and me, it is amusing.

Today, I was at the post office, and someone had left a box on the counter near the line for a teller/cashier/whateveryoucallthepersonwhohelpsyouatthewindowofthepostoffice. I asked the lady in line ahead of me if it was hers. She grunted a negative, so I picked it up. It had some stuff in it, but the box was a really good size, so I took out its contents and stuffed the box into my bag. Later, while I was being helped, I saw a guy step away from the teller/cashier/... and go to the counter. He looked around for a moment, then scooped up the stuff I had emptied from the box and walked out of the building.

I was more than expecting to find him in the parking lot when I went out, waiting to catch the thief, but he was nowhere around.

I was going to list this as my Stupid Thing of the Week, but now I'm not so sure. If he had pummelled me, it would certainly be worthy of a blog post, but as it stands, it just makes me look like a . . .

You know, I will list it.

Rish "In The Clearing Stands A Boxer" Outfield

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Buffy Wednesday (14 May)

Wow, kids, have I got a lot of typing to do here.

A part of me just wants to barrel through it, going into as little detail as I can, and another part wants me to take my time, go over each nuance, treasure each moment . . . 'cause it'll never come again.

Maybe I'll do both, and try to find a healthy bala--

Oh, screw it, I choose the second one.

The Captain and I saw six--count 'em, six--episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" tonight, and since he was acting in the position of captain, there was no dissuading him. Not that I tried real hard.

Tyranist did, however, try to convince me to watch "Angel" tonight, and when I refused, he did use the patented Guilt Trip Method, reminding me that he had bought all five seasons of "Angel" because, well, I forced him into it.

This is both true and false, but if you read my last "Angel" post, and god help you if you did, you'll know that I already argued this, and laid the patented Guilt Trip Method handbook out beforehand.

I hope tyranist is content with a simple, "I don't say that no, absolutely I will never watch 'Angel' again, I just say that right now, I don't want to watch it, and I don't know how long that feeling will last." 'Nuff said?

Anyway, this is about "Buffy," and while I shed more tears tonight than I have at any point since "The Body,"* I was very happy to be along for the ride.

First up was a great episode called "Normal Again." It was written by newcomer Diego Gutierrez, and directed by Rick Rosenthal, who directed HALLOWEEN 2 (and 8).

Buffy is searching for the Evil Geeks (they refer to themselves as "The Trio" in tonight's episode, so I will too), checking out newly-rented houses, and we see them in the basement, bickering and being dorks. They see Buffy coming and Andrew summons a demon with big bubble eyes that leaps out and attacks her. We get a ridiculously choppy fight, during which, the demon produces a stinger from its wrist and pokes Buffy with it, then takes off.

During the next hours, Buffy intermittently finds herself not in Sunnydale, but in Los Angeles, in a mental hospital, surrounded by doctors and orderlies. It's confusing and disorienting, but keeps happening, and each time she stays there a little longer before leaping back to her normal, awful life as the Slayer in the Sixth Season.

Meanwhile, Willow is at school, building up the courage to ask Tara out again when she sees her with some other girl. It looks like Tara may have moved on, and Willow turns tail and flees without a word to her.

I gotta warn you, right out of the gate, that I knew that a major character would die before this season ended, and I thought I knew how she would meet her death (although this turned out to be a mistake, which I'm actually grateful for, as the real death hit me completely by surprise, as it was meant to). So, I've been walking on eggshells the last few weeks, tensing up each and every time Amber Benson shows up in an episode.

We don't know how long it's been since the botched wedding, but Xander and Anya have both been gone for days, and Xander makes his return, mentioning that the magic shop is closed. He wants to talk to her and make things right, but has no idea what to say. The girls are all very warm and welcoming to him, and I'm glad.

And I think I ought to digress a second time and mention that tyranist misunderstood my last BufWed post that I hated Xander for what he did to Anya. Actually, that's not even remotely true. I love Xander, warts and all, and while I don't agree that he handled his wedding doubts in the best way as possible, I fully understood his motivation and feelings. I was just so embittered by the "Angel" episode fallout that it may have tainted by "Buffy" post. More on that later.

Spike and Buffy do get together shortly after, but it's not in the way they usually do. He is more than interested in continuing the relationship, but she is adamant that they stay apart. Buffy passes out then, and awakens in the sanitarium again. The doctor tells her she's been there for six years, that her Sunnydale experiences are all in her mind, and that her parents are really concerned for her. She looks up, and there are Joyce and Hank, both alive, both still married, and yes, they look very worried about their daughter. She's got schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder, she's created this intricate universe in which she's a sort of superhero, but she's been coming out of it.

It's a weird way to look at the series, and have the characters comment on certain absurd aspects of the show, like a sister who was a ball of energy and then suddenly has always been there, or that three dorks could be the major villains of 2002. Even Buffy thinks it's silly, ridiculous, sad, that she could imagine herself to be the protector of the world, but also so screwed up that she's sleeping with her hated enemy.

We also catch up with the Trio and find that Warren and Andrew are plotting against Jonathan, who's never been the same since Warren killed his ex-girlfriend.

Buffy tells Willow about her reality-shifting, and when Willow tries to convince her that it's all being caused by that demon sting, Buffy reveals that she spent two weeks in a mental health clinic when she was fifteen and first claimed to see vampires. A bit earlier, I mentioned to tyranist that when we first saw the second season episode, "Killed By Death," that I thought the doctors would hear her raving about vampires and think she was insane, but instead we got the cool der kinderstad monster. And tyranist then reminded me of the comic book he let me read where Buffy was indeed institutionalised and tries to convince herself she's not the Slayer, something I had found interesting but dismissed as fictional, but I think now may have been written in response to this episode.

Xander and Spike go out together, despite Xander's continued animosity toward Spike (something that can only increase in time), and manage to find and capture the demon that stung her. Willow breaks off its stinger for use in an antidote.

Dawn takes care of Buffy, who jumps back to the hospital, where Joyce tries to convince her she doesn't have a sister. When Buffy jumps back, Dawn is hurt that in Buffy's fantasy, she is an only child again. She leaves, but Spike shows up, concerned for her. When she brushes him off (yet again), he says that she gets off on being miserable and won't allow herself to be happy. When he leaves her alone, she tosses the antidote in the trashbin.

When she flashes back to the hospital, she tells them that she doesn't want to be crazy anymore, that she wants to be healthy, to be normal again, as the title goes. The doctor says she has a circle of imaginary friends that keep her in her psychosis, and to be rid of it . . . she must rid herself of them.

So, Buffy ties up Willow and Dawn and Xander (after hitting him in the face with a frying pan) in the basement, next to the bug-eyed demon that is chained up there. The doctor is telling her to destroy those links to her fictional world, and she unchains the demon, and hides under the stairs while it attacks Xander.

At that moment, Tara shows up, and I gotta tell you, my sphincter tightened up like the garbage smasher in STAR WARS. She comes down the stairs, hearing the noise, and uses magic to distract the demon. Then Buffy grabs her leg and trips her, and I thought, "Oh no, here it is. It's finally come." I was freaking out here, as much as Buffy, who is in her hospital room, being coached by her mother to be strong, to find the will to do what she has to do to overcome this mire she's found herself in. And Joyce's words do get through to her, 'cause she looks at her mother, tells her goodbye, and returns to herself in the basement.

She rises, and in about three-tenths of a second, has killed the demon. Her friends--Tara included--are all okay, and she apologises for what she did and asks for the antidote again. The en--

Oddly, the episode ends in the mental institution, where Buffy's doctor and her parents grieve that she's withdrawn completely into her fantasy reality. Unsettling.

Wow, this was one belter of an episode (if a "belter" is, indeed, very good, and I haven't misused the word), emotional, powerful, scary as all hell, and all the things the best BTVS episodes are.

Since I'm only allowed to say it six more times (unless I've lost count), I'll use one of those to say that, yes, I am hugely jealous of you fans who got to see this when it was new, as well as the truly great rest of the season. At the same time, what would it have felt to be a long-suffering fan and have to, well, suffer through the last dozen unpleasant, depressing, dark, dismal, almost-painful shows? Did the programme lose viewers? Were there people who felt about "Buffy" halfway through the season the way I feel about "Angel," and abandoned it?

These things I can only know from interacting with other people, something I'm unable to do in my current state of social paralysis. But I'll have you know that my giant loser existence is actually just a figment of my twisted psyche, and that I'm really a successful screenwriter living Malibu, and currently dating both that girl from "24" and Dakota Fanning.

Our second episode of the night, "Entropy," which was written by Drew Z. Greenberg, we get our follow-up to the wedding show.

The Trio is up to no good, planning something big and running afoul of vampires. Buffy and Spike destroy the vampires, but Spike
tells her she'd better tell her friends about their relationship, or he will.

On the more positive side, Tara and Willow seem to be getting along swimmingly, and start spending time together again. Also spending time are Buffy and Dawn, who go shopping together, and we are told that Dawn has repented of her stealin' ways, and has returned the items she shoplifted. Buffy is trying to reconnect with Dawn after her selfishness and insanity, and Dawn tells her the best way they could spend time would be if she let Dawn go patrolling with her. Of course, Buffy is unwilling to put her sister at risk, and for the first time that night (but not the last), I am reminded that Buffy is not only an adult now, but she is Dawn's mother, as much as Giles was Buffy's father.

Also, Anya is back in town, and seeks out Xander at his apartment. He apologises profusely, and seems to be making headway before he ruins everything by telling her he wishes he could have cancelled the wedding long before the day.

Anya becomes furious, and wishes horribleness on Xander, her face turning demony. But it doesn't work, and Xander doesn't notice. She leaves and goes to see her demon pal Halfrek, who laughs at her and says that you can't wish vengeance yourself, but must find someone to do it for you.

At this point, tyranist paused the DVD and asked me how this was any different than what I am incapable of forgiving Angel for. Sometimes I wonder if he really wants to know my answer or just tell me I am wrong, but I guess I do that too. And my answer, as irrational as it may be, was that I just feel what I feel, and the way it was done really influenced that. Anya spends the whole episode wanting to curse the hell out of Xander, but it's pretty much played for laughs, and Angel was just a cold-blooded, deadly serious being, with nary a chuckle to be found. Perhaps what Wesley did to Angel was worse than what Xander did to Anya (I just used the word "perhaps," remember), but it was not presented in the same way to me, the viewer.

The Trio continue with their master plan, and Warren and Andrew plot against Jonathan.

So, Anya goes to see Willow and Tara, and because they're lesbians, she knows they hate men and wish ill on them. Men like Xander. But god bless 'em, these two clarify that they're not about hating men, but about LOVING women. It's part of why I love this couple and have absolutely no issue with the lesbianation of Willow. If something is done well enough (like the sudden introduction of a little sister, or the gradual empowerment of Willow, or even the [rather one-sided] romance between Spike and Buffy), I can accept pretty much anything.

But yes, Anya wants them to curse Xander, but they don't. So she goes to see Buffy and Buffy says what Xander did was wrong, but she loves him and wouldn't want to see him harmed. Dawn too fails to curse him, and Anya heads for the hills when Xander comes over.

In a roundabout way, Buffy discovers a hidden camera watching the house, and thinks that it's Spike spying on her. She confronts him, but he plays the spurned suitor card and tells her he loves her and would never hurt or threaten her.** She has a bit of trouble swallowing this, but believes it's not his camera.

Spike heads to the magic shop just as Halfrek advises Anya that she needs to find someone who doesn't like Xander, and that person will help her curse him. Spike wants some kind of spell or elixir to make him feel better, and Anya offers him a bottle of Jack Daniels. Halfrek leaves them alone, and they get drunk, all the while Anya talking about nasty old Xander and Spike talking about that awful girl who stomped on his heart.

Buffy shows the camera to Willow, who gets on her computer and traces its signal. She discovers many more cameras all around Sunnydale, and they can watch the feeds to see what the Evil Trio sees.

Oh yeah, and the Trio have this headpiece to the Staff of Ra thing that tells them on a map of Sunnydale where some hidden source of terrible power is.

Spike and Anya, having both lived much longer lives as evil beings that have recently changed their ways and been spurned in love, really should have been closer before this episode, but I think this was the first scene between them . . . ever.

But instead of wishing boils or testicular devastation on Xander, Spike kisses Anya, and when she kisses him back, promptly mounts her, right there in the Magic Box.

Yes, I said it. UPN isn't the only one; I can do it too.

Unfortunately, Willow has tapped into the camera feed, and witnesses this. And then Buffy does. And then Dawn does. And then Xander does. Well, as you can imagine, he doesn't take this well.

Well, neither does Buffy, and Dawn realises why it bothers Buffy so much. Dawn asks why Buffy didn't tell her about her and Spike, and I don't know if it was the wrong choice or not. Nevertheless, Willow lets them know that Xander grabbed one of Buffy's weapons--an axe, in this case--and has gone off to use it.

I don't know how Sunnydale's geography works, but the magic shop seems to be within walking distance of . . . well, everything else in town. Maybe it's on a grid, like Arizona and Utah.

So, Spike and Anya seem somewhat ashamed of what they did--which is understandable--and might have worked out their issues, had Xander not arrived to kill Spike. But you know, he's more angry at Anya than he is at Spike, and tells her, "This is how you get back at me? By letting this THING touch you?" Anya responds that he's in no position to judge and attacks not just his walking out on their wedding, but his whole personality as well. But Xander tells her what she did was sickening, and Spike remarks, "It was good enough for Buffy," just as she arrives on the scene.

Everybody responds to that revelation, and they all go their separate ways, with no further violence. Or vengeance-wishing.

The episode ends on a high note, though, with Tara coming to visit Willow and talking about how long the road to them repairing their relationship could be . . . and that she hopes they can just kiss and skip all that. So they do. The end.
The third show we watched was called "Seeing Red," written by Steven S. DeKnight. It was with both intense joy and rumbling trepidation that I saw Amber Benson was in the opening titles. I hoped it meant she was going to be in all the remaining episodes of the season, or at least . . . ahh, I don't know what I hoped.***

So, Willow and Tara are in bed together, having spent the whole night making up, and it's nice SOMEBODY on the show gets to experience a little happiness. However brief. Willow mentions that Spike said something about being with Buffy, and Tara tells her what she knows. Willow is a bit horrified and wonders why she was left out of the loop, and I wonder if she would have understood, not having been with anyone who sucked before. Of course, she was doing the whole magic addiction thing, so maybe she would have understood completely.

Dawn sees that Tara and Willow are back together, and she is completely happy about it. However briefly.

Meanwhile, since Willow traced the video feed, Buffy has found and burst into, the Trio's hideout. She finds a message of "Too Late" left for her. The house pretty much self-destructs, and Buffy does make it out alive, and with some of the Trio's papers. She gathers the girls together and they set out to find Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan.

Anya is off vengeance demoning, but she's so fixated on her own grief and anger that she doesn't grant wishes. She's upset that "he lied and lied and lied" to her about wanting to get married. But you know, she had to have been aware of his cold feet, since they each sang about it in "Once More With Feeling," and she certainly was listening closely enough to hear him say her toes were hairy.

Dawn visits Spike at his crypt, informing him that she knows he had sex with Anya and Buffy. She lectures him about hurting Buffy when he supposedly loves her and leaves him pondering the thought of how he shows his love to her.

One of the best relationships they set up in Season Five (which, sadly, they abandoned rather quickly), was the one between Dawn and Spike, and I was pleased when Dawn went to his crypt to talk to him about his dalliance with Anya. She asks, "Do you love her?" and he thinks she's talking about Anya, but of course she isn't. "Then how could you do that to her?" she asks, this time referring to Buffy. Dawn says, "What you did last night...if you wanted to hurt Buffy, congratulations." Like I said, there's an interesting dynamic between Spike and Dawn, and it's a shame they don't use it more.

The Evil Geek Trio goes to a cave (where they had been led in the last episode) where some kind of energy field protects a demon lair from non-demon types. They dress Jonathan in the skin of one and push him through the barrier. He comes back with two red balls, the Orbs of Shakakhan****, which give their possessor strength and invulnerability. Warren puts them in his manbag, and immediately confronts one of the demons, which he kills in a couple of deft moves.

Buffy goes to Xander's to, well, have a big moral argument, I suppose.***** They each call the other on the things they've done wrong lately, but Xander mentions that his mistakes are nothing compared to the things Spike has done, and just because he has a chip in his head doesn't mean he has a soul. Characters on this show often have self-righteous attitudes, and it bothers me, but I've got to remember that not everybody hates themselves as much as I do, and that there are actually people with strong convictions AND a sense of self-worth. So I'll let this argument slide.

Everyone's pretty much in pain, and Xander seeks solace at the bottom of a glass in the Bronze. The Trio enters with Warren all superpowered. He hits on a hot chick, then confronts her angry boyfriend, who used to pick on him in high school. He beats the boyfriend down, and a couple other guys for good measure. Xander comes out of the bathroom and challenges Warren to a fight, but he gets his face mangled for his effort.

Buffy gets hurt fighting a vampire, returns home, and goes in to have a bath. Spike appears and, in one of the darkest moments in easily the darkest season on pretty much any show ever, puts the moves on Buffy, and when she tells him no, tries to rape her. It starts just like any other Buffy/Spike scene, with him apologising for squishing with Anya, her insulting him, him saying she should've let Xander kill him, her saying she couldn't do that, and him saying she loves him and her saying she doesn't, and him coming over and grabbing her, and her pushing him away . . . but the next thing you know, she's yelling stop, and he's on top of her, and he's not stopping. And it's hard to talk about, let alone see, since I tend to adore Spike, and it's a stark, ugly moment, and would have gone further had she not gotten a moment in where she could kick him off (and across the room).

I suppose it's then that Spike realises what just happened, and he tells her he's sorry, that he could never . . . well, he would normally never . . . except he could.

I understand why it's necessary from a character point of view, but wow, that's probably not something I'm going to be showing my seven year old.

Xander comes over to tell her about Warren, and sees Buffy crying on the floor and Spike's leather jacket. He puts two-and-two together, but when Willow comes in and sees Buffy there and Xander's bloody face, she doesn't seem to notice much. She tells them that she and Tara analysed the Trio's plans and knows where they'll be that night. Xander does warn Buffy about Warren's new strength, and that seems to encourage her (since he ain't exactly human anymore, right?).

Spike, meanwhile, goes back to his crypt, replaying the attempted rape in his head. His demon friend Clem (the one with the sunny demeanor and saggy skin) comes over and Spike rants to him about Buffy and how vampires are supposed to kill Slayers, not love them, and that the damn chip in his head won't let him be a monster, and he can't be a man. But maybe he can do something after all.

The Trio's plan is to go to the local amusement park, which has just had its very profitable opening day, and clean out the profits. There's an armoured car, but Warren stops it with his bare hands. Buffy arrives and there's a pretty good fight, and I'm finding myself hoping that Buffy tears Warren's head off and scores a goal with it, but Warren just can't be stopped.

In a surprise move, Jonathan leaps on Buffy and while struggling, whispers how she can defeat Warren. She tosses him away, and fights Warren again. When he gets the upper hand, she grabs the Orbs and shatters them.

Warren has a jetpack hidden under his coat, and he uses it to get away. Andrew too has a jet pack, but he crashes when he tries to escape. Jonathan just stands there, understanding that he was meant to take the fall by the other two. Andrew and Jonathan are arrested, and though I figured their story was over, we follow them and their conversation from the police car to the station.

Spike leaves Sunnydale, but vows things will be different when he returns.

The episode ends with a nice moment the next morning, where Buffy and Xander are in the backyard, talking. She tells him what happened last night and he tells her he's sorry for the things he's done. They talk about friendship and the mire their lives have gotten into, and hug. Tara and Willow are in their bedroom talking, Tara looking down at Buffy and Xander below.

Xander notices first when Warren approaches. He threatens Buffy, then raises a pistol and fires it, gangsta-style, several times. The shots go wild, but one takes down Buffy, and another goes through Tara's chest, spattering Willow with blood. Warren runs off, Xander goes to Buffy, who is lying on the grass with a spreading gunshot wound. Willow does the same to Tara, screaming and crying, but Tara is obviously dead. Willow's eyes go black, then red as her horror turns to fury. The end.

You know, I don't know if I knew it was coming or not. They deliberately got us to lower our guard with the scene between Xander and Buffy, and the attack came out of nowhere, and was over in about three seconds. It was horrible, yes, and I wept, but like in "I Was Made To Love You," the shock of it came first. The grief would come in the next episode.

I wish I didn't know Tara was going to die, but I did hear about it countless times over the last few months, and Joss had said himself at last Comic-Con about his plans to bring her back in Seventh Season, so I knew she had at least gone away back in July. On the positive side, though, I had either read or misheard that it was Andrew that killed her, by summoning some demon that did the deed. So when she came to the basement toward the end of the first episode we watched ("Normal Again"), I was convinced that it would happen then. When the episode focused on Andrew and Jonathan after they'd been arrested, with Andrew bawling about Warren abandoning him, I figured he'd eventually escape, summon the demon, and Tara would pass away then. So, though I knew it was coming, I mis-knew, and that helped me greatly.

I told tyranist that this was a perfect place to end, since I would be on the edge of my seat all week, just as you normal viewers out there would've been. I went to the bathroom, and when I came out, he had already put in the next disc, queueing up the next episode.

Okay, I think I'm going to end right here. I did try to convince tyr not to push play, claiming that it would be good for us to wait to see what happens, and that if we started the last disc in the set, there was no way he could just stop with one more . . . he'd watch through to the end.

Apparently, though, tyranist took this as a signal that we were on the same page, and continue to the end of Season Six he did.

Rish "Zero Willpower" Outfield

*And you know, pound for pound, more tears might have been shed tonight than during the forty-eight minutes of "The Body," since there were more shows to go around. Plus, I'm pretty sure I was more broken-up by tonight's events than tyranist was. Maybe I'll ask him sometime.

**Luckily, this was my first-ever episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," so I was able to take Spike on his word there, knowing he would never hurt, stalk, attack, insult, demean, or spy on her.

***I hope this doesn't count as one of my turns, but gosh, how would it have been to have followed the show and love Amber Benson/Tara as much as I've grown to, and finally see her a full-fledged cast member? I'd probably have cheered and thought, "Now that the family is back together, everything is going to be alright!" At least that's what I THINK I'd have felt. It's all-too possible that in 2002, the spoiler-happy internet would have blabbed the unpleasant truth and fans everywhere would've known what was coming ten minutes after they filmed the scene. Damn world wide web.

****Okay, it was Nezzla'Khan, but I get tired of trying to remember the names of these things.

*****Actually, it was to tell him that Anya loves him and made a stupid mistake, but it devolves into an exchange of hurtful words.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stupid Thing of the Week

13 May 2008

Boy, my cousin is going to think I'm picking on him. But hey, when you've got as few friends as I do, it's hard to pull laughable conversations from the, say, three you have in a seven day period.

But Ryan and I went to see IRON MAN the other day, and beforehand, I was telling him about problems I have with certain movies and certain actors. He tends, like tyranist before him, to like just about everything, and I, like Jeffrey Dahmer before me, tend to hate just about everything. But sometimes, there's a movie I would see if it starred anybody but Keanu Reeves, or Vin Diesel, or Reese Witherspoon, or Owen Wilson. Oh, and Marky Mark.

I really hate Marky Mark. But Ryan didn't know who I was referring to when I said that, so I told him it was Mark Wahlberg I was talking about. But he didn't know who I was referring to when I said that, so I mentioned a couple of films, like the remake of PLANET OF THE APES and SHOOTER, to try and identify him. But, he still didn't know who I was referring to, so we benched that motion for now and I just got my rant out of the way, namely "I friggin' hate Marky Mark, and they keep on casting him in these movies where I want to see the film, but I'm pretty sure I won't like it if I go because Marky Mark is in it. And . . ." I complained, "They don't usually cast him as the bad guy (except for this gigantic turd called FEAR), but will cast him as the good guy opposite someone--Edward Norton, for example--who is way more likable or has way more charisma than he is, and I just root for the bad guy, and in a Marky Mark movie, that's not a good idea."

Or something like that. And my cousin's response was, "Edward Norton? I have no idea who that is."

Now again, don't get me wrong here, I love hanging out with my cousin and I'm grateful that anyone will spend time with me, AND this is not the Stupid Thing of the Week yet. Nothing that he said up to or leading up to us going to see IRON MAN was.

But during the trailers, there was one for M. Night Shyamalan's newest film, THE HAPPENING, during which I leaned over and said, "That's who I was talking about. That's Marky Mark." To which my cousin responded, "Oh, he was in ITALIAN JOB! I love that guy!"

Rish Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Outfield

Monday, May 12, 2008

Top Five Summer Movies?

12 May 2008

I really should've sent this one out a couple of weeks ago, so that IRON MAN could have made the list. As it stands, I'm not sure if five is too many to ask.

Well, it was really hard for me to come up with the following five (though the other participants seemed to have had less trouble with it):
1. WALL-E (I know I have unreasonable expectations for Pixar's latest work, but these guys have absolutely set themselves up for unreasonable expectations. Plus, the story of this film looks right up my alley)
2. INDIANA JONES IV (silly, silly me, I've somehow started to believe this will be really fun. Now, that's not the same as really good, and George Lucas has certainly fooled me before, but I go see everything Harrison Ford is in, and this will be no exception. Heck, I sat through RANDOM HEARTS. Ick.)
3. THE DARK KNIGHT (it's weird, I didn't really love BATMAN BEGINS, though I recognise it was very well done. I expect the same from this one, and who knows, maybe it'll be like SPIDER-MAN 2 or FANTASTIC FOUR 2, and the arbitrary changes won't bother me as much as they did the first go-round)(which is crazy, since BATMAN BEGINS was the most faithful to the comics of any of the Bat-films. But I feel what I feel)
4. THE INCREDIBLE HULK (you know, I gotta admit that my desire to see this decreases with each trailer that I see. But I really like the Hulk, I like Edward Norton, and their presentation at Comic-Con really made me think the movie would be good. This is probably the iffyiest one on my list, 'cause the outlook isn't good. But I do look forward to a good Hulk movie someday in my lifetime)
5. IRON MAN (ah, what the heck. It was a great movie)

Tyranist was the first to get back to me. This was his list:
1. Hellboy II
2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
4. Prince Caspian
5. (tie) X-Files/Brideshead Revisited

Cousin Ryan was next, claiming that five was pretty easy this summer.
1. The Dark Knight
2. Hellboy 2
3. Iron Man
4. Indy Jones 4
5. Prince Caspian
Big Shot Lawyer Ian responded with three and then two runner-ups. I'll just list them as five.
1. The Dark Knight
2. Indiana Jones
3. The Happening
I'm also excited to see
4. Pineapple Express
5. Tropic Thunder

Jeff the Sadistic Chemist sent me a gigantic list, citing pretty much every single movie coming out this summer and what he thought of it (I'll give you this excerpt: "Kung Fu Panda? oh HELL no. Jack black can suck my schlong."). He finally did end up with three, though he was reluctant.
1. Ironman
2. Wall*E
3. Dark knight

I'm afraid that's going to be me in a couple more years (or a couple more SPEED RACERs).

Prison Guard Johnny surprised me by providing a list that wasn't a week late. His was:
1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
2. Iron Man
3. Get Smart
4. The Incredible Hulk
5. Kung Fu Panda

Merrill also gave me a lengthy commentary, as he usually does. I'll include his prologue here:
You're a little late with this list, because one of the movies I was looking forward to the most is here. Iron Man would have been number two or three on the list. Maybe, since it came out so early it's not a summer movie after all. Spring movie? Late spring movie? By the way, I recommend to all the millions of readers of your blog to go and see Iron Man, it was like NBA action... Fantastic!
I think, since most people DID end up listing IRON MAN, that I'll go ahead and stick it at the number two spot on his list. Sorry, Prince Caspian.

1. The Dark Knight
2. Iron Man
3. Wall-E
4. Indy 4
5. The Incredible Hulk

My high school buddy Rhett sent me this list:
1. Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
2. The Dark Knight
3. The Incredible Hulk
4. Iron Man
5. The Clone Wars

Lastly--or what feels like lastly--Beta Ray Charles sent me his list, and while I'd rather choke to death on African baboon spiders than see SPEED RACER, our tastes tend to fall very similarly, so I'll let it go this time.

There were a couple people who didn't get back to me, but I'm going to go ahead and print the results now. I guess that puts our big winners as:

I'm going to send out the next one right now, so I can be a little quicker with that one.

Rish Bennie Outfield

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Buffy Wedn--Thursday

8 May 2008

We couldn't get together last night, so we got together on a Thursday this week. We watched two "Buffy" episodes tonight, and either I'm still soured from the last "Angel" we saw, or these weren't great episodes.

My cousin, his wife, and I drove for six hours on Sunday, coming back from a wedding, and while we spent a while talking about "Star Trek," the majority of our time was spent talking about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Twas my cousin who proclaimed BTVS as "the greatest show of all time," not long ago, and got me saying it too. But I was totally interested in what his wife had to say about it, as I've gotten to know her a little (mostly through him) and have been lending him my boxed set DVDs, then finding out what she thought of each episode.

I've made it no secret that I don't understand women one iota, and I've found that their thought process is simply different from mine, so I like to hear them speak (intelligently) about why they feel a certain way. It was she I asked about Kirsten Dunst's behaviour in SPIDER-MAN 3 (chiefly, what the devil was going through her head?), and I very much enjoyed hearing her defend Buffy, Willow, and--gasp!--Cordelia, while finding out her opinions on Xander, Angel, Oz, and Spike's actions.*

So, the first of the two we watched was called "As You Were," written and directed by Douglas Petrie.

In it, Buffy is still working at Doublemeat Palace, and there's a new coworker who always talks about college--actually, he talks like a big, overeducated tool, but his conversation makes Buffy think about college--and Buffy mentions that she's reapplying for school.

She goes home, and Spike is waiting for her behind that tree he always hides behind. Buffy says he can't go in the house, so he tells her to come outside . . . and they have sex. Ah, I get it, you can say stuff like that on UPN, apparently.

When Buffy finally goes in the house, she gives Dawn a mashed bag of Doublemeat dinner, which has been going on a while, apparently. Dawn isn't thrilled, but Willow comes downstairs and offers to take Buffy to the Bronze for a little relaxation. She's too sad to play dodgeball, so Willow takes Dawn instead.

At the Bronze, Xander and Anya are still planning their wedding, which we find out, is in one week. Anya's demon guests and Xander's horrible family will both be staying at their house and that only adds to the list of headaches they've got to deal with.

The next day, Buffy gets a rejection letter from UC-Sunnydale. The bastards didn't accept my application either. She goes to work, and who should come to the register but a Mister Riley Finn, formerly of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," now of "South American Demon Chasers" on the Discovery Channel. He's got a scar across his face now and asks Buffy to help him on a mission in town.

She abandons her post and goes outside with him (no idea if that means she was fired or not), where he lets her know what they're up against: a big mass-murdering demon that breeds like a trailer park inhabitant. It's been drawn to the Hellmouth, and they've got to kill it before it lays its eggs.

In fact, there it is on the streetcorner set. Buffy and Riley fight it, and it escapes, but not before Riley tags it with a transmitter. They go to Riley's vehicle and follow it, catching each other up on what's gone on since Riley left.

In my favourite exchange of the episode, Riley is talking about all his adventures in the past year and how they might compare to Buffy's and she asks, "Did you die?" When he says "No," she says, "I win."

Riley drives to a big dam we've never seen before, and the two of them rappel down it. Tyranist really hates Riley, and revealed to me that he despises him more than even Harmony Kendall. When they get to the bottom, the demon jumps out and they fight it. Buffy saves Riley, and then a woman--a tall supermodel type--also rappels down to join them. Her name is Sam, also a soldier, and she also starts fighting the demon.

Finally Buffy goes over, puts it in a headlock, and breaks its neck. The two soldiers react with displeasure and we find out they needed the creature alive to find out where its lair was. Riley apparently left that part out of the catch-up conversation.

Oh, and Sam is his wife. We both left that part out.

Buffy takes them back to her house, where they great Willow and Dawn. Willow tells Buffy that she is willing to hate Sam and be cold to her for Buffy, who isn't allowed to act that way for protocol reasons.
Riley and Sam tell us what's up with the demon and that a character known as The Doctor is trying to sell its eggs here in town. Riley asks Willow to cast a spell to find the eggs and/or Doctor, but Willow explains her situation, and Sam is all understanding and, like, totally supportive of Willow's problem, explaining that she knew a pair of shaman that had the exact same addition and it destroyed them. Sam makes a good impression on everyone, and treats Dawn like a grownup, which she likes. Xander asks Riley about being married, about what their wedding was like, and for last minute marriage tips.

Xander seems to think Riley is alright, and really, I'm cool with this. I don't know if Xander ever saw Riley as a rival in the way he looked at Angel, but with the guy married and out of the picture, there's a lot to like about the man. And this is actually the case with tyranist as well--no, no, since he got married, he sucks more than ever, I'm talking about his blinding hatred of Riley, or Marc Blucas, as he prefers to call him. As a guest star, only appearing in this one episode, sure to go away before "Grrr, arrgh," tyr doesn't find Riley smarmy or obnoxious, and is able to talk about how handsome and tall he is, and how he hopes Riley has a good and fruitful life. It's almost nice, really.

Later, Buffy and Sam go patrolling together, and Sam can't stop talking about how much she admires Buffy and wishes she can be like her and how Riley only has good things to say about her and how impressed she is that Buffy can be the Slayer and also have a life and how good CRUEL INTENTIONS was and how much the sequels sucked. She asks about Buffy's lovelife and Buffy claims not to have one. Then Sam goes on and on about how it's better Buffy is with no guy than the wrong guy and that it would totally suck if she hooked up, with, say, a zombie or a ghoul with an English accent or--

Finally, Buffy suggests they split up, and goes straight to Spike's crypt. She asks him if he knows someone called The Doctor, but is more interested in feeling . . . well, it's hard to know what she thinks or feels, because soon she and Spike are naked, and snoring away in post-coital exhaustion.

And that's when Riley walks in. Buffy is embarrassed, but Spike is proud about the situation and taunts Riley about it. Then Riley calls him The Doctor and asks for the eggs. Spike pretends not to know what Riley is talking about, but sure enough, in the basement of Spike's crypt are several ALIEN-looking eggs.

Well, Buffy is not happy about this turn of events, and Spike feels the pressing need to be elsewhere, so he leaves Riley and Buffy alone together. Well, alone together with tons of hatching monster eggs. They do a little fighting, then toss a grenade the demons' way, and blow the basement up.

Riley asks Buffy if he should do her a favour and eliminate Spike, but Buffy has to admit that she's seeing Spike and as effed-up as the relationship is, it's what she's got going on in her life. But Riley takes this in stride and tells her she's doing the best she can with the cards she's been dealt, and yeah, the guy is totally non-hatable (as much as it's strange to agree with tyranist on Riley Finn).

Oh, and Buffy apologises for how things ended in "Into the Woods," and Riley pretends it's no big deal. He and Sam go away, but say real goodbyes this time and on good terms, and are lifted away by a helicopter in a big, expensive-looking special effects shot.

Buffy then goes to Spike's crypt, which is burnt-out and ruined, but he doesn't seem too upset about it. Also not too upset is Buffy to find out he was The Doctor and selling demon eggs behind her back. As she puts it, she knew what he was when she got involved with him.*** But, she tells him--yet again--that it's over between them. This time, though, it feels more permanent. She says she can't ever love him****, and she's using him, and it makes her feel bad to do that. The clincher for me is that she calls him "William," and then walks away. As far as I can remember, only Faith ever called him that (and she was in Buffy's body at the time), so it struck me as somehow stronger than just calling him by his vampire name. The end.

I told tyranist after watching this that I thought it was a pretty mediocre episode. But now, after recapping it, I don't know what it is I didn't like. He told me I was just internalising the breakup with Spike, and he may be right.

The second episode we watched was "Hell's Bells" which was written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner. It's the big wedding episode, but I was pretty darn sure no wedding would take place. How did I know? Well, there's that mystery song from "Once More With Feeling" where Anya sings "I'll be Misses Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins Harris," and I thought it would be geeky of me to go onto Anya's page on wikipedia and make sure they had her full name there. Well, they did . . . but there was no "Harris" at the end of it. Whoops.

The whole episode takes place in the pouring rain. An omen, perhaps. Buffy and Willow each have bright green bridesmaid dresses (with long, unnecessary sleeves), and it is revealed that Xander asked Willow to be Best Man. Now that's class.

Xander's family has been told that Anya's demon guests are circus people, and they've been fighting like bats and frogs. Xander's father and mother, who we spend time with for the first time in this episode, are a drunken lout and cringing sycophant, respectively. Xander's Uncle Rory is also a loudmouth idiot and was played by the teacher who died in "The Wonder Years."

Buffy tries to be in all places at once, helping everyone, tying Xander's bow tie, reassuring people, keeping Xander's dad away from the booze, and greeting people. Among the guests is Spike, who has shown up with a black-haired chick who looks familiar, but I couldn't place her. Also, D'Hoffrin, the guy who made Anya a vengeance demon comes. I believe he was giving away the bride, which is pretty clever.

Willow and Tara are both at the wedding, and seem to be getting along really well. I'm really pulling for those two . . . he said, through fear-clenched teeth. Anya is Season-Three-cute with her made-up vows and nervousness about saying the right thing when it's time for her to speak.

Willow is also really lovable as she hugs Xander and makes a joke about how seeing him in her tux makes her relieved she found out she was gay.

And then, an old man shows up at the wedding. He looks afraid and in a hurry, and as soon as he took Xander aside, I knew who he was going to turn out to be. I was both right and wrong.

It seems that he is Xander Harris, from many years in the future, returned through time to warn the young Xander not to go through with the wedding. Through a magic sphere, he shows Xander a vision of his future: with him an unhappy father of bratty and half-demon children, unable to work because of an injury he suffered trying (and failing) to save Buffy, constantly being belittled and judged and lied to, hated by his own children, hated by himself, until ultimately, he attacks her.

Xander returns to the present, shaken and horrified. I remember when this same thing happened to me when I was seventeen, and there's not a day that goes by when I don't wish I had done the righteous thing and jumped off the Sky Ride at Lagoon to my death. Xander goes into the kitchen, and when Willow comes in to check on him, he doesn't confide in her. Instead, he takes off into the downpour outside, saying nothing to anybody.

Spike tells Buffy he brought the date to make her jealous. She tells him it worked, but she's not getting back together with him. He sees that it would be unwise to press her, so he leaves.

The time of the ceremony begins, and Xander is nowhere to be found. Buffy tries to stall Anya and the guests, but eventually the guests start to fight and Anya starts to worry. She hears that Xander is gone and is confronted by the old man Xander Harris. He laughs at her pain, and reveals himself to be a demon that Anya punished many years before, there for his own revenge. He plans to kill Anya, but Xander returns (a soaked mess) and pushes him away. Buffy kills the hell out of the guy (the demon, not Xander--this is not "Angel" we're watching), and Anya tells him that the visions he showed her weren't real, that they should still get married.

But Xander isn't ready. He was freaked out by what the demon showed him and thinks he rushed things and doesn't want to end up like his parents. He takes off to spend the night in a motel, leaving Anya mortified and heartbroken in front of her many guests. The last thing we see is D'Hoffrin comforting Anya. Comforting her with the possibility of becoming a vengeance demon again. The end.

So, they didn't get married, which is a shame. Despite knowing the truth, Xander called the wedding off. I thought he might spit in Anya's face then punch her in the stomach, but we were watching "Buffy," not "Angel."****

I don't know if that was the right decision or not, folks. Xander and Anya have had little to do this season, but as tyranist sometimes points out, they are the only real adults on the show, now that Giles is gone. For them to fall in love and stay together and ultimately get married would've been a nice progression on a series that has seen literally every single one of its characters fall in love, get together, split up, and seek someone new during its run (with the exception of Dawn, but hey, remember that kid she dated for, like, three episodes in Season Two, but then he turned into a monster in the Halloween episode and tried to eat her when she turned into a butterfly because of her Ethan Rayne costume, and then she broke up with him when they reverted to human form?). But I don't really know what is coming next, and it may be that it was part of their master plan and where it goes will be as brilliant as the Angelus arc in 1998. At least I hope so.

Tyranist told me we are only a half-dozen episodes away from finishing Season Six, and I have to admit that I was happy to hear it. Defend it though I have in the last several posts, all this misery and unpleasantness has really taken its toll, and I do hope that Joss grabs the reigns again and steers the stagecoach back toward Little Rock.

'Cause, you know, everybody loves Little Rock.

Rish Ebeneezer Outfield

*She's only on Season Three, which I just finished rewatching. Ryan, my cousin, is considering stopping at a certain point (before the darkness of Season Five and the utter misery of Season Six begins), and I'll be darned if "Graduation Day, Part 2" isn't the perfect place to quit. If one has to, that is.

**Why can't girls ever be like this with me?

***Why are girls constantly like this with me?

****Am I making too big a deal of that? It's fine if you think so, but I took my mom out for Mother's Day dinner today, and I found myself thinking about that awful last moment of the last "Angel" I watched, and it really disturbed me, even two weeks later. I may be wrong to be so bothered by it, but I plan to keep dwelling on as long as I can anyway.