Translate

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically modified spider which bestows him with superhuman abilities thus turning him into a masked superhero.

Review: At first I was not sure what to make of this film because I love the character of Spiderman but hated with a passion the second and third of the Raimi trilogy. Thankfully this version delivers a more serious approach while still trying to remain true to the comics and beloved characters; I did like "Spider-man" more than I liked this film though. Although this film did an amazing (yeah, I went there!) job at revitalizing the franchise, there were most certainly hits and misses in the process. The character of Peter Parker, and Spiderman himself, feel more like how I imagined the personality of the comic and especially my vision based on the '90s cartoon. Peter is more of a normal guy despite being a dork, and Spiderman is much more of a comedian than in the Raimi films; I suppose this can be a bad thing if you preferred the emo Peter obsessed with Mary Jane. I appreciated Andrew Garfield's performance, but his look still isn't quite what I imagine Peter to look like. Spiderman's powers felt more accurate as well since now the webbing was back to web-shooters and he wasn't stopping trains! How Peter is bitten and this whole connection to Oscorp with his parents was just "meh" for me. I felt the same way with how he got the costume and not being the wrestler this time since it could have been done better, but I understand the attempt to distance themselves from the first trilogy. As far as going back to Peter's original love interest, Gwen Stacy, I felt that was a much needed change of pace and Emma Stone was a decent choice for that role. Ironically, Ms. Stone with her usual red hair dye is how I imagine the Mary Jane character to look (don't even get me started on how much I loathe Kirtsen Dunst's portrayal). There little romance felt more casual and less trying to be soul mates or whatever bullshit the Raimi films were trying to convey. On the other hand, the relationship with Uncle Ben and Aunt May felt significantly weaker even though more time was spent building the connections. I can't quite explain it, but it was handled more accurately the first time around, and I was annoyed they removed the "with great power comes great responsibility" line. Another weaker aspect was with the villain, the Lizard, compared to the superbly presented Green Goblin. The Lizard just wasn't fleshed out enough or something and is defeated far too easily after a nonsensical plot to turn the city into lizards. At the same time, he didn't bring the kind of threat or screen presence that Willem Dafoe was able to do through the goblin. I know that the Norman Osborn character was lurking in the background but whatever. Overall, the story, action, and pacing felt solid and definitely set the tone well enough for a new franchise. The presentation of Peter, Spiderman, and the general direction showed a lot of promise and improvement. There were some lame moments like with the construction guys helping Spiderman, and some characters and the villain weren't as memorable this time around. For what it is, I tried to rate this film as if the first trilogy didn't exist for comparison, and this allowed me to better appreciate this film for its own merits. I definitely recommend this to fans, but realize you will be treading over covered material for a large chunk of the film. Only with a sequel will we get to fully realize what this new franchise is capable of, but I am very much interested so far.

Notable Moment: When Peter finally stands up to his bully, Flash, and indirectly shows off his powers. This part is both satisfying and corny as hell.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Dredd Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: In a dystopian future, law and order are maintained by highly trained individuals called "Judges" who pass sentence on criminals.

Review: Forget everything you may know about the Stallone "Judge Dredd" and its campy nature, because this film distances itself a great deal while trying to remain more true to the comics. Although, I must admit, I did like the Stallone version with its over the top story and great one-liners (Law?! I AM the law!). This film actually reminded me more of a modern "Robocop" or something along those lines with just straight violent gunplay which this film is immensely successful with. The story is simple enough with Dredd training a rookie, named Anderson, as they investigate the deaths of some drug dealers. Little do they know that the drug dealers are connected to a much larger organization being run out of the giant housing tower they are investigating; the drug being sold is called "slo-mo" which makes your brain see things at a reduced speed, and the main villain is a female drug lord nicknamed Ma-Ma. I liked that they kept things simple with only four main characters: Dredd, Anderson, Ma-Ma, and Ma-Ma's main lackey, Kay. Unfortunately, I felt the only character that we come to learn anything about is Anderson. Anderson is interesting enough though since she has the ability to read people's minds and we get the most feel for her personality; her powers create the best moments of the film and allow for some cool scenarios. On the other hand, Dredd is just a one-dimensional killing machine, Ma-Ma only has a minor backstory, and Kay is just a throwaway villain. I really wanted more of a backstory for Dredd himself since this is his film, and because we are supposed to be establishing his character; this film felt more like a sequel than a beginning. It was as if the writers imagined that the audience would be familiar with Dredd and know how he is and why he's that way, but, alas, that is not really the case for the casual viewer. In fact, this is my main complaint with the movie overall because it's a solid action film that keeps you engaged, but is plagued by this feeling that you have no idea why this world is the way it is, you just have to accept it. We often see Anderson's psychic powers at work so why not introduce tidbits of backstory about Dredd through Anderson accidentally reading his mind at various points of the movie? This could have given us more depth to the character and kept the story moving at the same time. Oh well. Despite my complaints I rated this film so high because it has good acting (especially from Karl Urban as Dredd since he never removes his helmet), awesome action scenes, impressive visuals, and just the right pacing to keep you interested. I would have liked this movie even more had it not left me with a shallow feeling afterward. As it stands, however, it is a great foray into R-rated action that we so rarely see nowaday. You should definitely watch this movie if your a Judge Dredd fan or appreciate real action films.

Notable Moment: When Anderson kills the one corrupt Judge. It's funny because the Judge thinks Anderson is an easy kill, but has no clue Anderson can read minds.

Final Rating: 7/10

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ichi Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A blind swordswoman seeks out her mentor and must fight a group of bandits along the way.

Review: First, please don't mistake this for the movie "Ichi-the Killer" or think it has anything to do with that. For those who may not be all that familiar, this is a loose interpretation of the "Zatoichi" story, about a blind swordsman, but obviously this film has the protagonist as a woman. Speaking of Ichi herself, she is played by the unbelievably sexy Haruka Ayase; I have watched a few other movies with Ms. Ayase (which I will get to some time soon I hope), and you should know she's an incredible actress/singer and, despite how she looks in this film especially, she is quite the voluptuous woman! Oh the curves that lurk beneath that tattered outfit! Sorry, so distracted! Ms. Ayase does a fantastic job in bringing some tortured depth to the character as she is torn between helping people with her skills and coping with the fact that she doesn't have a real reason to carry on living. Essentially, Ichi is searching for her master (it is not entirely clear if he's also her father or not) since he's pretty much the only person she cares about and that cared about her; she was a part of a traveling group of blind performers, called goze, until she was exiled after being raped (yeah, I know, what the fuck, right?). Along her journey she meets a cowardly warrior, named Toma, that thinks he is saving her only to discover her remarkable abilities. Toma can be annoying especially since he is presented as Ichi's love interest, but for the most part he is a nice guy with a convenient story as to why he refuses to fight. Toma was being trained as a great fighter until he accidentally blinded his mother who then died a few years later as the only person who loved him. Although there is a connection made with their romance, I couldn't help but find Toma's attraction a little creepy since he is basically seeing Ichi as an extension of his mother; there is even a point where Toma is comparing the two indirectly and Ichi responds "I am who I am" to counter Toma. The other people helping Ichi are Kotaro, a boy who takes a liking to Ichi, and Kotaro's father; these two characters claim that they have heard of a blind swordsman who will be coming to the area which entices Ichi to stick around. Amidst this searching, Ichi and her crew become caught up in a local struggle with some bandits called the Banki-to and their leader Banki. Since arriving on the scene, Ichi has been leaving a trail of these idiots' bodies on the wayside, but Toma takes the credit for it since he is actually a great fighter when he's not too wimpy to do it; in fact, they seriously dragged out this "too scared to fight" plot line way too long which is probably why Toma annoyed me more than he should have. Eventually, Ichi decides to fight this Banki guy believing he may know what happened to her mentor only for Ichi to get her ass handed to her and learning her master is dead. Defeated, wounded, and without hope, this is when Ichi realizes she can't give up and that there are things in life worth fighting for. After being rescued by her crew, Ichi recuperates while Toma and the townspeople decide to fight Banki and his legions of rejects. This final battle is when the budget limits of the film showed, but it was still entertaining. There was something anticlimactic to it all though as Toma dies thinking he killed Banki followed by Banki easily being beaten by Ichi since he was barely alive; the film even emphasizes this fact by showing Banki stumbling due to the wounds given by Toma. I would have liked it much better if it was implied Ichi lost the first fight because she had nothing to fight for and that she was able to defeat Banki the second time because she was fighting for a cause...but nope. Overall, this is a well acted and excellent film despite some noticeable flaws. I definitely recommend giving this one a go especially if you liked a film such as "Azumi." Although this may not be that easy to track down, Ms. Ayase is reason enough to watch this!

Notable Moment: When Ichi and her friends are attacked in the woods at night. Ichi swiftly slices a lantern in half so it's dark and then dispatches of five goons all at once. Talk about epic!

Final Rating: 7/10

I don't know about you, but that "I'm going to kill you" look is really doing it for me!

House at the End of the Street Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A mother and daughter move into a house next door to where a young girl murdered her family and then disappeared.

Review: I have to say, the advertising campaign for this film is probably one of the most misleading I've seen in years. I can't believe they pitched this movie as a horror or even as a straight thriller. Unfortunately, the genre of the film itself is also confusing as it attempts to be a mystery/thriller but comes off more as a misguided romance with a tacked on thriller element mostly at the end (get it, the end...end of the street! Okay I'll stop). Let me address the so-called horror elements first: the opening shows the murder they keep talking about all film long, there are sparse hints as to what the brother of the alleged murderer, Ryan (hey, that's my name bitch!) is up to, and then of course the film amps up at the last 20 minutes or so. The rest of the film is a mix of mother/daughter drama and romance between the main girl, Elissa (played by the luscious Jennifer Lawrence), and the Ryan character; the mom is played by Elisabeth Shue who is still looking pretty hot as well. I was seriously wondering why were they building up so slowly, then I thought, why are they making Ryan seem so likable since we know he's going to be bad, then I finally wondered why didn't they just keep this as a romance film since it was starting to make me care about the characters getting together?! Basically, the story plays out similar to any chick flick: new girl is super hot but has no friends, befriends and falls in love with town outcast, antics ensue, and they live happily ever after with the girl tied to a chair waiting to be turned creepily into the guy's dead sister, Carrie Anne (the alleged murderer)...wait, what?! Okay, it's not as if the film brings this out of nowhere per se, but they really should have focused more on this being the core of the story rather than spending over an hour making Elissa and Ryan fall in love only for this to be the conclusion. And more annoying, they made me want them to get together damn it! Grr! I was actually quite surprised by the dynamics of Elissa and Ryan's relationship, the way it was presented, and even the atmosphere and music when Ryan was killing people. It's like the original writer had this tragic romance film in mind and they just decided to switch the genre at the last minute, but they kept too much of the original script intact or something. Anyway, Ryan was the real killer all along, Carrie Anne had accidentally been killed when they were kids, and Ryan was dressed up as Carrie Anne by the parents. Since then, Ryan has been kidnapping girls so that he always has a Carrie Anne in his life and so that he won't have to be her anymore...or something along those lines. I really don't know what to make of this mess except to say it's yet another mixed bag. I liked the acting, surprisingly the romance aspect was touching, and there are some decent ideas albeit wasted. I'd say maybe give this one a view, but know what you're getting into ahead of time and expect your final impression to be "why?"

Notable Moment: At the end when you realize Ryan was Carrie Anne. It felt like "Sleepaway Camp" all over again!

Final Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Apparition Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A young couple is being haunted by a malevolent force unleashed from some stupid experiment.

Review: I know that people will probably get tired of me saying this virtually every other review, but, seriously, so much damn wasted potential! It's almost as if this is two separate films just mashed together yet took the worst aspects of both instead of the best. One half is just a straightforward haunted house film with all your typical cliches well intact. The other half is a sci-fi horror with a feeble attempt at an abstract understanding of ghosts, where they come from, and their true intentions. The story is somewhat convoluted, but the main characters, Kelly and Ben, are taking care of some house for Kelly's parents when they start to notice weird shit happening. It is a slow buildup which sort of emphasizes how pointless it all is by the end. I don't understand this approach at all considering you come to find out it has nothing to do with ghosts technically. Why would this evil force manifest itself as horror cliches? When a "ghost" does finally pop up of course it's Grudge-looking. This is probably the most annoying part because the evil force is supposedly representing your fears, but some Kayako-wannabe is not most people's fear! Plus, with that kind of basis, that's the best they could do with it? Please. You find out Ben had been apart of a team that conducted an experiment to communicate with ghosts but somehow inadvertently unleashed this evil force. For some reason it is fixating on the people from the experiment allegedly because it "absorbed" one of the team members somehow. Supposedly it feeds off negative emotions until it is strong enough to physically appear which just sounds like typical haunted house bullshit anyway. In case you're wondering, nearly all exposition comes in the form of the only interesting character, Patrick (played pointlessly by Tom Felton since he is wasted here), who has figured out a way to keep the force from getting to you. Toward the last 10 minutes or so of this mercifully short film, it starts to turn into some kind of Kairo (Pulse) ripoff whereby people are disappearing and the world appears to be taken over by this force (it sure worked quick after taking its sweet ass time getting going). Of course the movie ends idiotically where Kelly just gets grabbed by a bunch of hands...I suppose it makes for a good trailer shot, right? I mean, what the hell were they thinking? This movie started off decent enough, had some nice cinematography, and good ideas, but a laughable execution. I actually really like this idea that ghosts are just this evil force screwing with people to find a way into our world, but why didn't they run with that notion instead of a haunted house flick? Likewise, they could have just kept that slow buildup for a haunted house film and then transitioned it into some kind of "Shutter" wannabe where you find out the dead girlfriend of Ben is haunting them because he got her killed or something to that nature. But nope, they tried to have both and instead got neither. This one is an easy pass unless you want to take tips on how not to put two scripts in a blender and film what comes out.

Notable Moment: When Kelly is humorously running around the house in her underwear for a good 5 minutes. A little ridiculous but I'm a sucker for a cute girl with a nice butt.

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hellgate Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A man narrowly survives a car accident that kills his wife and child, and now finds himself able to see ghosts.

Review: I'm kind of perplexed as to how to approach this film since I did like it, but it just felt so shallow overall that I couldn't bring myself to give it that high of a rating. The film's strong points were with the actors and the overall premise. Even though the plot is nothing new, they did change some things up like the main character, Jeff, is only able to see the ghosts because his soul has been trapped in the afterlife while he lives on; he only has a month, or something like that, to live on before his soul becomes trapped in the afterlife according to some Thai folklore. Jeff is played by Cary Elwes which is sort of surprising, but what is more weird is that William Hurt is also here as some kind of makeshift medium. Did they just blow their budget on getting a few somewhat recognizable names because this movie is low budget as hell? Rounding out the cast is Jeff's caregiver, Choi (played by the lovely Ploy Jindachote), who did an impressive job here trying to bring to life a character without a lot to work with. I did like the dynamics between Choi and Jeff since it felt natural, and Choi is so caring because she is used to taking care of terminal patients and Jeff is her first patient that will live. The way their relationship is presented leaves it up to the viewer whether there is a romance there or just good friends which made the ending feel more satisfying and less cliched. But other than some decent acting and a slight twist on a common ghost story, there isn't much else to attract an audience. I think most of my problems are budget related because there are so many moments where you just wish there was a higher production value here. The climax is especially painful because the characters are supposed to be going to some "shadow world" full of demons but instead it is just some fake-looking ruins, wet leaves, and a noticeably small set. Likewise, the demons are just people with shitty red makeup (supposed to be blood?), cheap looking claws and teeth, and not really doing much except for swiping a little at the characters. The direction with William Hurt's character, Warren, was just pitiful as he's supposed to be hiding out in the sticks of Thailand and yet speaks like all of two words in Thai?! There are too many moments of obvious Thai extras and William Hurt just smiling at each other as if they understand each other and this irked me greatly. On the other hand, I do appreciate the effort from Hollywood to tap the actual source for the actors rather than pulling a "Memoirs of a Geisha" and making all the actors a different ethnicity than they should be! The ending took me somewhat off guard because it ends on a happy note. Ending on a zinger or a bad ending has become the new cliche that to have the classic "Hollywood ending" back feels welcomed. Overall, this is a decent flick but it is hindered by low production values and just a hallow feeling to the experience. I'd say give it a watch just to promote more films like this where Hollywood and actors from other countries successfully merge.

Notable Moment: When Jeff first sees a ghost woman haunting his home; yes, it feels Grudge-like, but it was probably the most standout moment.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Silent Night Review


Check out my updated review here! http://thevagrantrises.blogspot.com/2014/12/updated-review-6-silent-night-2012.html

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: In a small town, some guy is dressed up as santa killing people on his naughty list.

Review: Okay, let's address the fact that this is an alleged remake right from the get go. The title is different, nothing at all except a few scenes (which are more of an homage than anything) reflect the original, and only with a loose interpretation of the plot could we reasonably call this a remake. In case you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about, there was a somewhat cult classic from the '80s called "Silent Night, Deadly Night," which was known for its brutality, at the time, and the ridiculously hilarious sequels it spawned. In fact, the scenes that this film tries to mimic from the original feel so out of place and bizarre you have to wonder why they bothered because the casual viewer is just going to think they're filler scenes. If anything, the identity of the killer is the only thing that truly pays tribute to the original's plot. Oh and don't bother trying to guess who he is because he's not an actual character you really see in the film. I will say that the reveal as to why the santa chose this town is satisfying enough to not make everything feel like a total waste. I think the only reason why I even rated this movie so high was because it delivered on its only promise: a guy dressed up as santa killing people. It's been done a ton nowaday, but I liked the interesting ways he killed people, and I did feel the makers of the film were having some fun here especially in the form of one angry santa guy who actually brings up some poignant problems about how Christmas is in this country. As for the cast, although I'm not a big fan of Jaime King, I do appreciate her growing work in the horror genre as I feel this generation has lacked some real scream queens. Oddly enough, Malcolm McDowell is here as a cliched small town sheriff which kind of felt out of place but okay. The biggest draw for me was the sexy Ellen Wong as the police dispatcher, but to my great dismay she hardly does anything; at least the writers had sense enough to not kill her off though. What really hurt the film was trying to give the audience red herrings as if we would think any of them were the actual killer santa...or was there some other reason except to pad the film out? Also, there was an overall sense of pointlessness to the whole premise as it just felt unnecessary except as a means to kill 90 minutes of your life. I'd say it's worth a watch if you are into this kind of thing or a fan of the original, but if this isn't your cup of tea, this is an easy pass.

Notable Moment: When a wannabe porn star, played by Cortney Palm, loses a leg and is thrown into a wood chipper. There was something so overly brutal about this killing that bothered me...I just didn't feel that that girl deserved such a horrid death.

Final Rating: 6/10

Ellen Wong: best thing going on here and she's terribly wasted!

Apt. Review



Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A depressed woman turns her attention to spying on her neighbors only to discover something more may be going on in their apartment building.

Review: My eyes are rolling here (as usual). Once again (and again and again) we have a case of wasted potential! I'd love to meet these writers that come up with really cool, creative, and interesting approaches to horror films only for them to completely drop the ball along the way. Maybe someone else ruins these movies along the way, but this is seriously a growing trend in recent horror movies. Let's start what with they did right: great atmosphere and mystery as we are given an interesting story about a workaholic, named Se-jin, who witnesses a suicide and becomes depressed because she did not intervene; I'll go more into that later. Anyway, Se-jin becomes bored and begins to watch her neighbors across from her building and the weird habit of their lights all going out at a certain time. She then learns that people are dying in that apartment building and begins to connect that to the flickering lights and that it happens at the same time each night. Unfortunately, this leads to many stupid occurrences and lots of padding to take this movie to the 90 minute mark; for example: Se-jin and her job never have any relevance, it being Christmas time, some nutcase shut-in, the police and their idiotic investigation, some teenage girl living in the building, etc. Eventually, you find out that a disabled girl named Yu-yeon, whom Se-jin had befriended, is actually a ghost and many of the things Se-jin has seen were hallucinations by the ghost. Also, the people who are dying were the individuals who tormented Yu-yeon in life. I will say this, Yu-yeon was well deserving of her revenge, but I seriously find it hard to believe this many weirdos would work together to torture this girl. Back to that suicide at the beginning...now this greatly bothered me in the long run because it all amounts to nothing in the end. That woman had some vague connection to the story that I didn't understand, but we come to find out that rather than simply not helping the woman, Se-jin pushed her away and contributed to her death. But all of this is meaningless because all it does is serve to explain why Se-jin even cares to help Yu-yeon (and about the events of the movie for that matter), but it never comes back to have a real purpose overall which sucked. Lastly, in typical K-horror fashion, the ending made no sense as we are to assume Yu-yeon killed Se-jin (for some reason) and the one detective idiotically moves into the apartment building and then sees Se-jin's ghost...huh? Roll credits?! This one kind of pissed me off, I have to admit, because it had me going at the beginning and then let me down hard by the end. It's worth a view, but don't go in expecting anything; the ghost is also a major Kayako wannabe.

Notable Moment: When Yu-yeon appears as a ghost and is staring into the window and we see only her reflection. This was a most effective use of lighting and camera angles to make the ghost look significantly scarier than the makeup effects were pulling off.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Top 10 TV Show Episodes

Disclaimer: Contains massive spoilers for multiple shows! Taking a break from movies for a bit, these statements are all in my opinion and don't necessarily reflect my favorite shows as many are not making this list because they don't have a stand out episode or not top ten worthy.

10. Supernatural "The French Mistake" (season 6 episode 15)
Had this show originally ended as intended after season 5, I would have said my favorite episode was "Yellow Fever" which is still a strong contender for this position. Despite season 6 being mediocre, it did produce my actual favorite episode so I appreciate it for that, but I still wish this show would get cancelled before it loses all dignity (which it's very close to). All you really need to know about this episode's story is that the lead characters, Sam and Dean Winchester, are sent to the "real world" where they are fictional characters and everyone believes they are their real-life actor counterparts. I hope that makes sense because it's hard to explain! Nonetheless, it leads to so many humorous situations that make fun of the state of the show and the actors themselves. For example, you have the Sam character, played by Jared Padalecki, going to Jared's house where you meet his real-life wife who was also a cast member of the show at one point. Another situation is that they keep mocking the fact that they are in season 6 and some acknowledgement of the show's decline with the original creator gone. The writers played with many ideas fans had wanted to see and joked about over the years and created an overall memorable experience that genuinely topped anything they had attempted before. Now if only all the episodes could have maintained such creativity and fun.

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Normal Again" (season 6 episode 17)
Much like Supernatural, season 6 of Buffy was at the point where things were falling apart and the show had been originally intended to end after season 5. This season did have some decent episodes overall, but it wasn't until this episode came along that I truly felt there was still some hope for the writers. Essentially, Buffy fights some kind of monster and is presumably poisoned. Buffy then finds herself stirring to awareness at a mental institution where we are told by her psychiatrist that she has been imagining all the events of the show up to that point. It works nicely because, through the psychiatrist, the writers give an honest critique of the season and how it has been a let down thus far. At the same time, they provide some interesting analyses of events in the show and connect them to how Buffy would imagine them to cope with her psychosis. While this is going on, Buffy is drifting in and out of consciousness and back to the "real" world where her friends (the Scoobys) are trying to figure out what's wrong with her. Eventually everything comes to a head as Buffy tries to kill her sister, Dawn, to escape her delusions, but is unable and returns to her "real" life as a vampire slayer. After being cured of the poison, Buffy is shown to be back to normal or is she? To my great rejoice, the writers did not wimp out and ended the episode with a shot of Buffy still at the mental institution allowing audiences to draw whatever conclusion they wanted about what is actual reality. While this plot line is nothing new, the way it is presented, and the way it is built upon a show with a rich mythos, it enhances the fun and creativity. (I should note a strong contender for this spot was an episode of the anime "Big O" called "Roger the Wanderer" which deals with this same theme which is definitely worth a view as well)

8. Batman: The Animated Series "I Am the Night" (episode 49)
Some may brush this show off as just a "kid's show" but it was far from that. This was one of the few shows out there to deal with violence realistically while featuring gunfire rather than lasers or whatever bullshit cartoons were doing over the decades. In fact, this episode dealt with the shooting of Commissioner Gordon and the possibility he could die; so you can imagine the themes were often mature and dark. But the heart of this episode and the reason why I love it so much is because it addresses Batman's doubt and weariness with fighting crime. The episode opens perfectly with some cool music and Batman wondering if he should throw in the cape while talking with Alfred. It happens to be the anniversary of Batman's parents being shot and you feel that despair as he limply brings himself to go out into the night. There was a powerful moment similar to this in the 1989 "Batman" movie, but this does it a little better as Batman leaves roses at crime alley. As I said, Gordon is shot and of course Batman feels responsible. He comes so close to losing it as he seeks revenge, but Batman is able to pull himself together. The show does end a little too cheerfully as Gordon recovers, a troubled kid reforms, and Batman feels he is, in fact, making a difference. The mood, atmosphere, music, and dialogue were so perfect in this episode, and it made such a great change of pace away from fighting one of the classic villains each week.

7. Xena: Warrior Princess "The Bitter Suite" (season 3 episode 12)
Selecting an episode from this show was difficult for me because I had to pick from one of the many great episodes featuring Callisto! This is a special circumstance for me because, while I do find the actress that plays Callisto (Hudson Leick) quite beautiful, obviously, I prefer the character instead. For the better part of a decade I found Callisto to be the most beautiful woman until I saw Ms. Rika Ishikawa (as I've mentioned before in other reviews), and as it stands goddess Callisto is my number 2. But anyway, the reason I chose this episode over an actual Callisto-themed episode is because this had her sexiness along with so many cool things going on at once; ideally the best Callisto episode is "A Necessary Evil." Like many long running shows, they often feature a musical episode and that's what this was. Surprisingly the songs are really good, catchy, and mostly sung by the actors themselves. The plot was that after Xena's son had been killed by her sidekick, Gabrielle's, evil daughter the two clashed in such a way it sent them to an alternate universe called Illusia. In this place everyone "speaks" through song and as such the two former allies are able to slowly recover their friendship while dealing with all the lies, tension, and disagreements they have faced up to that point. I really loved a lot of the presentation as they began to forgive each other and brought resolution to many ongoing plot lines. Although it kind of ends in a cheesy way, it was a fantastic ride with great musical numbers and, of course, heavily featuring my goddess Callisto! This was definitely the standout episode of the series and the only one to feature so many recurring characters all in one episode.


Callisto vs Rika...so hard to choose!



6. Community "Basic Lupine Urology" (season 3 episode 17)
While I love the natural comedy of Community and so many episodes feature the genius of pop culture references, this episode was virtually the ultimate homage. Borrowing from the storytelling formula of "Law and Order," the procedural crime drama is made to be its most ridiculous nature through the students of Greendale Community College. In a nutshell, the main cast is growing a yam for a lame science project and they believe someone sabotaged their project and begin to investigate. There are so many burst out laughing moments I can't possibly list them all. While you do need to appreciate the humor and characters of Community to "get it" you do also need to be familiar with L&O. For example, they mimic the scene setups as the witnesses always seem to be talking and doing their job at the same time, the clothes of the characters, a hilariously creative way to create the courtroom feel through a classroom, etc. They even use the same film quality and have a cameo from the medical examiner from L&O. The dialogue, the music, even the commercial breaks are perfectly timed to enact an episode from L&O. The writers do everything right...I just love it!

5. The Twilight Zone "The Hitch-hiker" (season 1 episode 16)
Now we come to one of the most legendary shows of all time with a long list of episodes that could have easily made my list. However, none impacted me more or resonated with me the way the "Hitch-hiker" episode was able to. I do want to say that many viewers nowaday are missing out on this episode in its entirety as it's shortened to allow for even more stupid commercials that were thankfully not played back in the '60s. The plot is quite simple as a beautiful young woman, played by Inger Stevens, is traveling across country and is being haunted by a man in black that is hitchhiking. The thing that is making her so uneasy is the weird vibe she gets from him and the fact that he is always ahead of her despite the fact that she is going faster and faster and almost never stopping. Now, for many that moment at the end of "The Sixth Sense" when you realize Bruce Willis was really dead came as a big shock, but I saw it coming a mile away because I watched this episode of the TZ. At the beginning of the episode, the woman just narrowly escapes being killed in a car accident only to suddenly be at a gas station fixing her car up. By the end of the episode you realize she really did die in that crash and that the hitchhiker is Death or something along those lines. That revelation at the end of the episode was when I first felt that shock that the character I've been following was dead all along. This left a strong impression upon me especially considering how excellently the Nan character is acted out through Ms. Stevens. She provides such a moving performance and considering how troubled her real life was and that she would later commit suicide, it was no wonder she probably connected so strongly with her own character. These kind of twist endings are the best part of the TZ, but this episode was able to pull a great story together and still stand the test of time.

4. Elfen Lied "No Return" (episode 13)
This was the final episode of an unfortunately too short anime that I think a lot of people missed out on. While the story is definitely complete, I would have loved to follow the further adventures of the main characters. Although many may be turned off by the ridiculous amount of violence, gratuitous nudity, and mature subject matter, there is actually a deep and compelling story worth checking out. What you need to know is that there is a growing number of mutated beings called the "diclonius" which have telepathic powers that appear as invisible arms called "vectors." Throughout the story we learn of the horrible lives of suffering the main characters have all gone through because they are a diclonius that have been ridiculed by society and eventually captured, experimented on, and tortured by the government, or they were the people that had the misfortune of being hurt by a diclonius' powers; there are a few characters who have even just had a shitty life flat out! It all sounds so depressing, but as the story progresses each characters seeks resolution to their story lines through forgiveness or a sense of love and belonging; it becomes quite touching by the end and this episode brings it all to a close epically. The two best moments are when the most powerful diclonius, Mariko, reunites with her father, Kurama, as he's come to kill her. Kurama had run the facility that experimented on the diclonius and the two reach forgiveness as they are killed by another scientist. But the most touching moment is when Lucy, the main character and the "queen" of the diclonius, reveals the only reason she endured being captured, tortured, etc. was for the chance that she could make amends to her only friend and crush, Kohta, because in a fit of rage as children she killed his father and sister with her powers. Lucy's begging for forgiveness almost brings a tear to my eye because it felt so sincere and you can just imagine how sorry she must have been to go through years and years of torture just to say sorry to someone who has every reason to hate her. There is so much more going on here that I'd rather save for a time I can do complete reviews on these entire shows, but, suffice to say, this episode rightfully earns its spot on my list for gripping storytelling and invoking an emotional connection with the characters.

3. Heroes "Five Years Gone" (season 1 episode 20)
It has always bothered me that this show had possibly the best single season of any show I've ever watched only to go downhill immediately afterward and later being cancelled in disgrace. But we can't let the failures of the later seasons hurt the image of the amazing first season in which this episode was the highlight. Here we have Hiro, whose power is to bend time and space, travels to the future with his friend Ando to find out how to save the world. I already loved most of the characters of this show, but this alternate future that they are trying to avoid provides the audience with a cool spin on each person. Each character has a chance to shine and we see how their lives could be totally different if certain events go unchanged. For example, some of the heroes are villains in the future and some of the villains are heroes due to some circumstances. The best part is of course when we realize that the Nathan character, who has become president of the United States, is actually Sylar, the main villain, in disguise as he absorbed the shapeshifting power from another hero. Worse yet, the cheerleader that they kept believing was the key to stopping Sylar had never actually been killed in the alternate timeline. The cheerleader's power was to heal from any wound and presumably immortality and she now has had that power taken by Sylar! One of the last shots of the future before Hiro and Ando travel back to present day is of Sylar and the main character, Peter, going toe to toe with all their powers (since each can absorb other heroes powers) and one is using fire and the other ice. It felt so epic and really had you hyped for the season finale! I loved watching this first season so much that I just imagine it all ended by the finale and that season 2-4 never existed.

2. Death Note "New World" (episode 37)
Let me begin by saying if you haven't watched DN yet, get out there and watch it! The writing is excellent and planned perfectly, the dialogue and story are clever and creative, and this show really moves you to cheer for one or both of the main characters, Light and L. The overall plot is that beings known as "Shinigami," which are like grim reapers, have magical notebooks that any name written in it will kill the said person. One "bored" Shinigami, named Ryuk, leaves his notebook in the human world where a young genius named Light picks it up. Light then takes it upon himself to kill all the criminals in the world in an attempt to make a better life for everyone or so he tells himself. Honestly, there is an incredible character study to be had here with Light as he began as an idealist obsessed with justice and doing what's right only for him to be tragically led astray into an egomaniac killer through corruption of the notebook's power and his inability to cope with the fact he had become what he hated. At the same time, he is being hunted by the world's greatest detective, L, who believes he can uncover the identity of the one killing criminals around the world. Most of the show is a cat and mouse game as the two come head to head. Eventually L is killed which leads us to this final episode which is my favorite. Anyway, by episode 37 Light has set into motion events that will finally kill everyone left who knows about the notebook leaving himself unchallenged. But L's successor, Near, manages to outsmart Light at the last minute. Considering the edge-of-your-seat buildup in the previous episode, "1.28," watching Light's plan unravel due to his reliance on controlling people backfires gloriously. Now revealed as his alter ego, Kira, Light goes crazy as his associates all realize the evil he has done throughout the series and how he has deceived them. It all ends with Ryuk writing Light's name in his notebook just as he had said he would do someday in the first episode. The music is phenomenal and enhances the reflection and conclusion to the series so appropriately. As much as a villain Light was, it was hard for me to see him go as I was still rooting for him to win! I love every second with this episode and often re-watch it because it's just that good!

1. Lost "Walkabout" (season 1 episode 4)
Okay, let me get a few things out of the way to start. As much as I loved "Lost," I have trouble looking back fondly due to the disappointing ending and my sense that the direction of the show was lost (no pun intended) at some point. But the first season, and this episode in particular, brings back a nostalgia that I wish never went away. There was so much wonder and mystery surrounding the show and you had no idea where the story or characters were heading. What was the island? Were the characters already dead? Why is there a polar bear there?! That fascination would later be shattered, but if you take yourself back to the days when we knew nothing, this really was the pinnacle of TV writing and storytelling. It has all the positives I've discussed thus far in other shows, except it takes it a little further. "Walkabout" focuses on my favorite character, Locke, as we first delve back into his life through flashbacks. There was a certain aura to Locke leading up to this episode as he seemed to know something about the island no one else did and he seemed oddly happy or just crazy. Now there were other cool things going on in the background of this episode like the main character, Jack, seeing his dead father roaming around the island, but the real action is with Locke. At first Locke appears to be some kind of survivalist, hunter, or maybe some kind of crazy military guy. However, through the flashbacks we discover Locke was just some office guy with dreams of going on an Australian "walkabout" in the outback while everyone else doubts him. Furthermore, Locke seems quite pathetic as he uses like a phone sex hotline to try and get a girlfriend and reveals he has a therapist. Back on the island, Locke, is trying to hunt wild boars and growing angry over people doubting him. In the most subtle and genius way, it is revealed that the reason why Locke is acting the way he has been is because he has been in a wheelchair, unable to walk, all of this time leading up to crashing on the island! Somehow the island has restored his ability to walk and now he is out to prove all the people wrong from his life telling him he can't do some things. If you watch the episode again, you see so many little clues you would easily overlook. The way the revelation is presented, the incredible music score accompanying the scene, and the final shots afterward create possibly the best twist in TV history while telling an amazing and inspiring tale along the way. I love this episode so much and only wish there could have been another episode on its level. While "Lost" is a fantastic show, it was sad that their crowning achievement was right out the gate and no episode could equal it...but then again it is a hard act to follow. This episode is a must watch for any fan of great story telling or else you're just missing out!