Gravity Falls Review: “Scary-oke” (S02E01)

If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.

Welcome to Season 2 of Gravity Falls! What began as one man’s ode to the perfect summer his childhood self envisioned for himself and his sister has evolved into something greater. And what better day to return to it than on Alex Hirsch’s birthday? Let’s find out if Season 2 lives up to the hype.

Previously on Gravity Falls:
After finally reclaiming the Mystery Shack from their arch-nemesis Lil’ Gideon, twelve year-old twins Dipper and Mabel Pines and their seemingly clueless Grunkle Stan have moved back in and are about to reopen Gravity Falls’ favorite tourist trap. Grunkle Stan has taken Dipper’s mysterious Journal for his own unclear purposes. Combining them with the two other Journals, one of which he had been hiding all along, he has used their knowledge to begin operating a mysterious portal deep within the bowels of the Mystery Shack.

That very night, as the inhabitants of Gravity Falls sleep, Stan activates the portal. As the power slowly begins to build, Stan reminds himself he has to keep playing it cool so nobody will suspect a thing. Sure that there’s no one who can put a dent in his plans, especially now that he’s come so close to his goals, he puts the machine into overdrive.

But Stan isn’t the only one awake.

Miles away a government facility picks up activity the likes of which they haven’t seen in thirty years. And it’s coming from the one place that’s been on their radar since then – Gravity Falls, Oregon.

…Intro time!

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June Review: Clash of the Titans (1981)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material.)

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“As long as man shall walk earth and search the night sky in wonder, they will remember the courage of Perseus forever. Even if we the gods are abandoned and forgotten, the stars shall never fade.”
– Zeus

I can’t recall if I ever mentioned it before, but I’m big on fairy tales, folktales and myths. I’ve always been fascinated by how different cultures interpret familiar stories, or use them to relay well-worn morals or their take on how the world was formed. When I was a kid a friend of my parents gave me a copy of D’Auliere’s Greek Myths (which is a must-own for anyone who enjoys these classic stories) and I ate it up like the diminutive bookworm I was, but it wasn’t my first exposure to the pantheon of Greek legends. No, that was a film I saw when I was just seven years old, one that has left an indelible imprint on the collective subconscious of anyone exposed to it at a young age and has since become a cult classic for its take on one of the most famous Greek myths of all time.

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Now I wouldn’t call Hercules one of my top ten favorite Disney films, but its zany animation, fun characters and catchy music make for a fun viewing experience. Of course, being Disney, they left out all the family-unfriendly aspects of the original tale and reshaped it into what’s essentially a modern-Grecian take on the Superman/Moses story, but I’m not one to complain about that. You try making an animated film where the main character kills his wife and family in a bout of insanity brought on by his jealous stepmother and literally works himself to death trying to make up for it. Truth be told, about 90% of Greek myths involving heroes follow a similar plot – Zeus gets it on with a mortal, has a child out of wedlock, said mortal gets punished by Zeus’ wife Hera (because victim blaming really is a centuries-old practice), and the new demigod is gifted with special powers or weapons to fight tons of foes but still winds up with a fairly ironic and tragic demise. The one exception to this is the story of Perseus, which is the basis of the film we’ll be looking at today.

Now mythology is no stranger to the man behind Clash of the Titans, legendary stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. His other notable Greek outing, Jason and the Argonauts, is considered one of the most thrilling sword and sandal epics to have held up for the past fifty years, and is worth seeing for the skeleton battle alone (it also happens to be the favorite film of Sheriff Woody himself, Tom Hanks). In addition he created and animated puppets for the original Mighty Joe Young, the Sinbad movies, One Million Years BC, and more. Though he never directed any of them, these movies are forever associated with the name Harryhausen. CGI would eventually come along to push new boundaries in the field of effects animation, but his work has left an indelible imprint on many a future filmmaker, with big names like Pixar and Tim Burton namedropping him in some their own films. For a time Steven Spielburg even considered bringing many of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to life using stop-motion, clearly inspired by the dinosaurs that were featured in Harryhausen’s works.

Clash of the Titans was the last film Harryhausen made before he went into retirement, and it holds all his trademarks, both good and bad. So, did his career end on a high note, or does the movie fall to pieces like a poorly made Play-Doh sculpture? Let’s find out.

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Gravity Falls Shorts: Dipper’s Guide to the Unexplained

My last post on the Gravity Falls shorts produced during the series’ long hiatus focused about three disparate mini-series with only two shorts each. This one (and the next) had considerably more longevity with six shorts to their name. As much as I would have liked to have seen more of the previous ones, I understand that there’s only so many gags and short story ideas you can milk from a handful of secondary characters.

These shorts are framed as vlogs shot by Dipper chronicling some of the smaller unexplained mysteries of Gravity Falls. Also each one seems to end with a piece of a mysterious photo from the Journal…

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Your Movie Review for June Is…

Happy first day of June everyone! Apart from my crappy job, May was a lot of fun. I celebrated my birthday by being treated to the best homemade dulce de leche cake ever baked, started planning my next Disney World trip, and received some lovely feedback from longtime readers and followers. Thanks, guys!

Also, something interesting happened concerning the votes for this month’s review. Ties aren’t a common occurrence here but they have happened before, and now is another one of those times. Normally if there is one, I pick the winner from a hat. This time, however, the two movies in question are ones that would normally never get the spotlight when pit against most of the other films on the Shelf. Looking over both features I realized there’s so much I’d love to discuss, critique, and even joke around with that I couldn’t possibly decide between them. So, I’m making a bit of an unorthodox decision by reviewing one movie this month and the other in July. So this time around, we’re going to be voting for what’ll be reviewed in August. Everything still applies, one vote per person, perks with a charity donation, the whole shebang.

And now, your Movie Review for June is…
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Gravity Falls Shorts: Mabel’s Scrapbook, Fixin’ It With Soos, & Gravity Falls TV

I ended my last Gravity Falls review by pointing out a whole year passed between Season One’s finale and Season Two’s premiere. That gave plans plenty of time to form their own theories on the Falls’ biggest mysteries and lament the prolonged lack of new episodes. They weren’t completely starved for new content, however. During that long hiatus, Alex Hirsch and the Gravity Falls team produced a series of interstitial shorts for the Disney Channel and online. These vlog-style shorts provide equal doses of humor, mystery and charm in only a few short minutes. Also, keeping with Hirsch’s stellar continuity record, select things from the shorts either make appearances or play an integral role in future episodes. This is the reason why I’ll be looking at them in the weeks leading up to the return of full episode reviews. It won’t be your average in-depth review with call back and hilarity categories, just a minor retrospective with my thoughts. Let’s begin, shall we?

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May Review: Singin’ in the Rain

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material.)

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So…Singin’ in the Rain.

Considered by critics, historians and movie buffs alike to be the greatest musical ever made.

 

Go see it.

 

 

NOW.

 

 

 

 

Seriously, what are you still doing here reading my ramblings? You’re better off spending the next hour and forty-two minutes watching the film yourself.

 

 

…well, you came this far, didn’t you?

 

I’d hate to hype up this movie too much since it already has such a lofty reputation, but I can swear a solemn oath that its reputation is one that it has well and truly earned. I count my first viewing as one of those times where I looked at a classic film and said “Yeah, bring it on,” but minutes later was completely hooked.

It all began when Arthur Freed, famed musical producer for MGM, tasked songwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green to create a film using only well-established tunes from previous MGM musicals to show off their catalogue of hit songs.

In other words, the Greatest Movie Musical of All Time is in fact a jukebox musical.

So why is it that this movie gets all the praise (which it deserves, might I add) while films like Mamma Mia…don’t? Well for one thing, they put time and effort into crafting the story and how the songs play into it. They don’t use the elaborate musical numbers as a distraction from a wafer-thin plot or characters like some other movies I could mention.

Second, all the songs featured have become standards for a reason. Each one is an ear worm from start to finish. Though they’ve been featured in other movies, how they’re utilized here all but eclipsed their previous incarnations.

Third, it is funny. And I mean laugh-out-loud, every-line-hits-its-mark, future-screenwriters-please-watch-this-to-learn-how-to-write-good-crack-up-dialogue funny.

Fourth, let’s talk about Gene Kelly.

I have…mixed feelings when it comes to Gene Kelly and his works. Have you ever seen a movie that blew you away so much that any in the same anthology or of a similar caliber simply, for whatever reason, failed to match the same experience you had before? I’ve had that happen to me twice – once when I tried to watch the other Mad Max movies after seeing Fury Road, and again with most of Kelly’s films after Singin’ in the Rain. Kelly was an incredible dancer and choreographer; some might even say he was to dance on film the way Walt Disney was to animation. Talent and praise can go to your head if left unchecked however, and Kelly LOVED to show off his moves, even at the expense of the story. If you ever decide to play a drinking game when watching one of his movies, don’t drink whenever he stops the film just so he can dance. You won’t make to the end credits. Don’t get me wrong, I adore musicals and a good dance break is always welcome if it’s entertaining enough, but Gene indulges himself one too many times even for me. Also, if you know anything about him behind the scenes, the horror stories are sadly true. The man wasn’t a perfectionist, he was a full-blown diva. Both cast and crew lived in fear of his tantrums should one step fall out of place. Singin’ in the Rain is no exception to either of these truths, but one, you couldn’t tell by the great chemistry on screen, and two, with the exception of one or two moments, the dancing is so well integrated in the narrative that to cut any of it would be a detriment to the film. There are moments that left me slackjawed at how fluid and lively the choreography is. I can’t recall any other musical that has left me the same way regarding to that aspect.

Well, enough of my buildup, let’s look at that silver screen classic, Singin’ in the Rain.

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Your May Review Is…

Hey everyone.

Pardon me if I’m not entirely enthusiastic today. Apparently someone thought it was a good idea to tweet my thoughts on the Indians from last month’s review of Peter Pan to Donald Trump, and now he’s been bugging me for the past few weeks to join his cabinet. As such, I’ve been lying low somewhere that neither a millenial or one of his supporters would think to tread.

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“I’m guessing either a library or a mosque.”

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“HA! FINALLY FOUND YOU!”

What the – how?!

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“Wherever Cynicism goes, we’re usually not far behind. That’s the power of the internet for you.”

And let me guess, you’re going to call me out on my opinions too?

angry mob

“No! We’re here to stop you from accepting the position! We don’t need any more vile self-serving racists in the government than we do now!”

I DON’T EVEN WANT THE STINKING JOB!!

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“But we’ve already circulated several petitions around the internet that are amassing signatures as we speak.”

Can’t you all just leave me in peace to announce this month’s review?

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“All right, but as long as it’s not something controversial.”

Thank you. And now, your review for the month of May is…

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Gravity Falls Review: “Gideon Rises” (S01E20)

If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.

Previously on Gravity Falls:
Gideon has summoned a dangerous mind demon by the name of Bill Cipher to aid him in stealing the Mystery Shack from the Pines family. After traveling into Grunkle Stan’s mind and defeating Bill, Dipper Mabel and Soos wake up to find Gideon has already stolen the deed to the Shack and put his nefarious plans for the Pines and the town into motion.

Dipper wakes up from a terrible nightmare where everything I previously described happened and he, Mabel and Stan were forced to take shelter at Soos’ grandma’s house.

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Spoilers: It’s not a dream.

Unable to sleep, Grunkle Stan turns on the TV, which happens to be in the middle of a news story covering Gideon’s sudden ownership of the Mystery Shack and his plans for it. Gideon invites the whole town to hear his big announcement and promises free admission to anyone who wears his special Lil’ Gideon pins. Dipper is determined to set things right as is Mabel, especially if it means finally putting her grappling hook to good use.

Everyone in Gravity Falls comes to the Mystery Shack to marvel over Gideon and how his psychic abilities showed him some of the citizens’ biggest secrets. Soos, Stan, Dipper and Mabel also show up in disguise to hear the news. Gideon announces he’s turning the Mystery Shack into a theme park, Gideonland, and its mascot will be Waddles forced to wear a Gideon costume and wig. That is the last straw for the Pines. They storm the stage and declare that Gideon is a fraud and a thief. Gideon tells them that Stan gave him the deed, which he keeps on his person at all times and didn’t even bother to remove Stan’s signature from, and since the town follows the “finders keepers” rule that most movies and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad seem to have regarding property rights there’s nothing the Pines can do apparently. Gideon sics security and a Lil’ Gideon pin on Stan and boots them out.

Now the Pines are out of a home and Soos and Wendy are out of a job. Since Soos’ grandma can’t afford to keep the Pines under her roof for more than a few days, Dipper and Mabel have to think of something quick. Stan can only BS to their parents about their situation for so long before he has to send them home. Though it’s short, the scene where he lies over the phone in private while worrying about how he can take care of the kids with barely any money to his name is heartbreaking. It’s not much better for Wendy either as she informs a heartbroken Dipper that her father will be sending her to work at her cousin’s logging camp for the rest of the summer if the Shack doesn’t reopen. The upside is that it will get her away from Robbie until he finally gets over their breakup.

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Which may take a while.

At the Shack, Gideon is torturing poor Waddles in between poring over his Journal. When his father asks why he’s so busy reading instead of celebrating over Gideonland, Gideon tells him –

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April Review: Peter Pan (1953)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material.)

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“All this has happened before. And it will all happen again.”
– Opening lines

No truer words have ever been spoken.

JM Barrie’s Peter Pan is as timeless a fantasy story as you can get. It’s nothing short of pure magic. Who among us hasn’t wished to never grow up and live in a world not run by fun-sucking adults? Who can openly admit that they never dreamed of flying and going on exciting new adventures every day? The tale of Peter Pan appeals to the kid in all of us. It doesn’t surprise me that every couple of years we seem to get some kind of new retelling of it because the lore of the Boy Who Never Grew Up offers so many possibilities. It’s difficult to pin down which version could be considered the most definitive adaptation (though the 2003 film comes the closest to being the most faithful in story and tone) but this is a case where every single one out there has something to offer for each generation. There were stage plays and silent films for those who were children when the book first came out, the 1960’s musical starring Mary Martin (and later Cathy Rigby) was an annual television tradition for decades, Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates is considered one of the most creative animated shows of the late 80’s-early 90’s, Steven Spielburg’s unofficial sequel Hook has gone on to become a cult classic (as well as a kickass video game), and of course we have the film I’ll be looking at today, the Disney animated one from the 50’s.

Walt Disney once played the role of Peter Pan in a school production; as such, the story was very close to him. Peter Pan was planned to be one of the first animated films his studio would release – story ideas were tossed around as early as the mid-30’s – but it fell into development hell thanks to the frenzy of World War 2. Look carefully when watching the 1941 film The Reluctant Dragon and you’ll see early maquette versions of some of the characters in a few places. After the much-needed success of Cinderella in 1950, work resumed on Peter Pan. The results, however, were mixed, with some critics and even Walt himself being disappointed with the final product. Most audiences, on the other hand, gravitated towards it, and today it’s considered a classic of Disney animation as well as one of the most outstanding adaptations of Barrie’s work. Why is that? Let’s find out.

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