Gravity Falls Review: "Weirdmageddon III – Take Back The Falls" (Season 2, Episode 20)

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Massive Inter-dimensional pyramid with bowtie used mega fist pound! It’s not very effective.

Airdate: February 15th, 2016

Synopsis: After going through the sugar-coated hell that was Mabeland, Dipper, Mabel, Soos, and Wendy team up with a group of refugees taking shelter in the Mystery Shack alongside Stan. There, they devise a plan to rescue Ford and bring down Bill. Thing is, Stan is remiss over rescuing somebody he feels screwed up purely on impulse. He begrudgingly goes along, but his feud with Ford almost brings the Pines family – and, on a larger scale, the entire town of Gravity Falls, Oregon – to the brink of death.

Review: First off, a personal note. I can’t believe that this is the last one of these new episode reviews that I’ll do for this show. Sure, I’ll re-review the show in the not-too-distant future, maybe set up a “tribute” site, but it won’t really feel the same. The waiting for every Gravity Falls episode will never be experienced again.

With that said…

“Ah, summer break. A time for leisure, recreation, and taking her easy… unless you’re me. My name is Dipper – the girl about to puke is my sister, Mabel. You may be wondering what we’re doing in a golf cart, fleeing from a creature of unimaginable horror.

Rest assured – there’s a perfectly logical explanation…

On June 15th, 2012, with those words, we were introduced to the world of Gravity Falls, thanks to the Disney Channel. Initially coming off as merely a quirky Disney cartoon, within 22 minutes, the show unveiled itself as something more complex and brilliant. What was Grunkle Stan doing at the end of that last episode? Who did write that journal? As it turns out, we were about to go on a beautiful journey.

Forty-four months later (to the day, no less), the long, long, long summer ended. So, how did this last episode close it all out?

Warning before we go further… spoilers are legion. Watch the episode before you go any further. I am dead. Serious.

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Movie Review: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

“The battle for galactic peace has begun…” (Screencap from Wikipedia, poster by John Alvin.)

Premiere: December 6th, 1991

Synopsis: The moon that provides the Klingon Empire’s energy suffers a major disaster, releasing ozone onto the planet. This potentially condemns the empire to a maximum of fifty years, should the planet not reign in it’s military expenditures. The Federation is ready to broker a treaty between them and the empire, and sends Captain James T Kirk and the Enterprise out to make a truce. Thing is, Kirk doesn’t trust the Klingons – something about them stabbing his son and wrecking his old ship doesn’t endear them to him.

Just after a series of awkward talks between the Klingon Ambassadors and the Enterprise (appointed ambassadors), the latter ship fires on the former’s ship, killing the Klingon Chancellor. With no knowledge of who did it, Kirk and Dr. McCoy stand trial and face life in prison, and the two forces appear on the brink of war.

Review: Well, it took far longer than I expected (again, my apologies), but here we are. The last movie solely based off of Star Trek: The Original Series, and the last film produced during Gene Roddenberry’s lifetime (he died a month and a half before the premiere, but got an advance screening two days before he died).

After the utter disaster that was Star Trek V, nobody was sure what to do with Star Trek VI. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was the franchise’s 25th anniversary, and that TNG had done alright in the ratings so far, Paramount probably would’ve sunk Star Trek into history. After waffling around as to what the plot would be, the end result is actually a genuinely moving film – an arguably overlooked classic in the Trek canon.

(Warning: spoilers. Proceed at your own peril. Or disappointment. Hey, it’s a movie.)
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Gravity Falls Review: "Dipper and Mabel Vs. The Future" (Season 2, Episode 17)

The truth is… surprisingly, not that far out there. (Small note, but building that bridge must’ve required some awesome engineering.)

Airdate: October 12th, 2015

Synopsis: Mabel is ecstatic – the end of August marks her and Dipper’s 13th birthday, and she’s planning a celebration to mark both the occasion and put a massive cap on the summer. Excited for everything, her happiness is slowly quashed as the world she once knew begins to fall apart. Wendy pops her bubble about high school, there can’t be a party at the shack itself, and her best friends can’t come to the party.

Meanwhile, Dipper and Ford go looking for a super-adhesive glue to try and seal a crack in the globe that holds the rift between the universes. To do this, they wind up going under Gravity Falls… a town founded over a UFO. (Arnold Rimmer has been vindicated.) After a series of strange events, Ford offers Dipper a proposal – stay in Gravity Falls after the summer ends, and become his apprentice in mystery solving.

When the two plots intersect… the end results are not good, to say the very least.

Review (WARNING, LONG REVIEW. ALSO, SPOILERS FOR VARIOUS PIECES OF MEDIA): Shortly before the premiere of “Roadside Attraction”, Alex Hirsch tweeted something to the effect that “RA” was a “breather episode” before the epic episode afterward. Reading that, I thought that this episode would change the show’s status quo on a scale unseen since “Not What He Seems.”

Well, it turns out, I was wrong.

For “Dipper and Mabel vs the Future” has less changed the status quo… and more curled the status quo in a ball, flung said ball out the window, and sent it barreling towards the sun at speeds so fast, the Millennium Falcon wouldn’t be able to catch up.

I’m not even sure how else to put it, other than this episode is undeniably the most stunning in the history of the show.
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Gravity Falls Review: "The Last Mabelcorn" (Season 2, Episode 15)

 

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Warning: neither moment nor episode are as lighthearted as this picture makes them out to be.

 

Airdate: September 7th, 2015

 

Synopsis: Tortured by a nightmare of Bill Cipher, Ford asks that Mabel go and find a unicorn, so that he can use its locks to help build a force field. Alongside Wendy, Candy, and Grenda, Mabel actually manages to stumble across a unicorn village. The unicorn nearest the front gate declares that she will give her hair to the one “pure of heart”. Mabel doesn’t necessarily fit that, though. Cue emotional crisis!!!!

Meanwhile, Ford and Dipper use a machine to try and encrypt their minds, in an attempt to protect themselves from mindjacking via Bill. What happens is… weird, to say the very least.

Review (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD – READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION)Always! I wanna be with you! And make believe with you! And live in harmony, harmony! Oh, yeah!

Uh, sorry about that. Curse you, Andy and Vince!

Anyway… unicorns. Those mystical magical horses are among the most used fictional animals in fantasy works. Their powers, their pointy horns, their hybrid of grace and power all contribute to the unicorn’s staying power in the fantasy canon. I believe that the unicorn itself gained it’s most recent spike in popularity with the use of Twilight Sparkle, one of the protagonists of the cult hit My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic. Many new “unicorns” have been used since then and have gained cult followings, such as recurring antagonist Pony Head from Star Vs. The Forces of Evil.

Naturally, Gravity Falls, being a part-fantasy show, needed to take it’s stab at it in one episode this season. And wow, was that a great episode. An awesome episode, in fact.

But how awesome was it? Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: "A Tale of Two Stans" (Season 2, Episode 12)

 

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Weird science!

 

Airdate: July 13th, 2015

Synopsis: After a whole bunch of madness, Stan’s brother has returned from the abyss – uh, portal. He is not thrilled, slapping Stan as his first action outside the portal. With Dipper and Mabel confused as to what the hell is going on, Stan decides to go way back…

…Glass Shard Beach, New Jersey, early 1960s.

Stan and Stanford – referred in this review henceforth as Ford – were the closest of brothers, with the two going on lookouts for mysterious goods, and Stan coming to Ford’s defense – which happened a lot, as Ford had six fingers due to a birth defect. The two plan to grow up, get on a boat they found in a cave, travel the world. However, it all goes to naught when Ford is offered a full ride to West Coast Tech, provided his science project impresses the advisors. In a fit of rage, Stan accidentally breaks the device – a perpetual motion machine – the night before. The family’s chances of financial greatness sullied, Ford sits back as their parents chuck Stan out.

After Ford gets a PhD at a… less prestigious school, he goes on investigating the anomalies of the US. He winds up in Gravity Falls, Roadkill County, Oregon, and constructs a device that could transport him to another dimension, which he believes is the source of the town’s anomalies.

Meanwhile, Stan tries to impress his parents by making a fortune as a traveling salesman. End result? He’s banned from Jersey, chucked out of Pennsylvania, winds up in various prisons, and is almost broke by the time he meets his brother again, in Gravity Falls.

Review: It’s BACK!!!!!! AGAIN!!!! Jeez, being a fan of this show requires you to have a ton of patience. Anyway, enough about that – after all this time waiting, theorizing, fanfic-writing, freaking out about how long each hiatus is, how was the episode?

Gorgeous.

(WARNING: SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON. WATCH THE EPISODE BEFORE READING ON. UNLESS YOU DON’T MIND SPOILERS. THAT’S COOL.) Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: Season 1, Episode 3: "Headhunters"

Three figures, only one with dignity
In fair Oregon, where we lay our scene.
From retro grudge to break a nouveaux peace
Where wax-made hands make wooden floors unclean.
From forth the fatal hands of Mabel Pines
A wax figure of Stan loses his head.
But Stanford’s wax head had no connection
To Archibald Cox and eighteen minute gaps.

Airdate: June 30, 2012

Synopsis: Dipper, Mabel, and Soos stumble across a hidden room in the Mystery Shack. Said room is full of wax figurines. Stan reveals that he once had a wax museum, but it didn’t bode too well for him financially. He decides to reopen it, and commissions Mabel to make a new figure. She makes one based off of Stan. The figure itself, plus the poorly-organized press conference announcing the relaunch, makes the wax museum fail once again.

The night after the press conference, the wax figure is decapitated. With the cops on other business, Dipper and Mabel set out to find the vandal. Who is the vandal? Well, let’s just say they were close to wax Stan… and far from regular Stan.

Review (SPOILERS): One of the many, many, many things that drives people to watch Gravity Falls is the relationships between the characters – especially between our protagonists. After all, many TV shows showcase something of a power struggle between siblings, or partners/bosses in detective-type shows.

What makes Gravity Falls unique in this regard is the relatively egalitarian relationship between Dipper and Mabel. This episode cements this idea. Neither of them are a “leader” or a “follower” – they both participate in the investigation, contributing equally, while adding their own quirks to make the characters relatable.

We got a glimpse of that at the end of “Tourist Trapped” and during parts of “Legend of the Gobblewonker”. However, in the latter, the two were buoyed by Soos, and the latter was more to introduce the characters, with the dynamics being secondary. Here, the focus is on Dipper and Mabel. The dynamic that they have is brilliantly played – whatever conflict there is between them comes not from a desire of power, but due to their contrasting personalities.

It really is refreshing to see a show without a battle in the balance of power. Granted, shows like that are not to be knocked: House of Cards (both versions) and Red Dwarf showcase an antagonistic relationship between the main character and another character or two or ten. However, not every show can be Lister v Rimmer, or Frank Underwood v the President. It’s nice to see a friendly relationship such as the one between Dipper and Mabel written so well.

Their plot is actually intriguing enough as it is – not only is the twist generally, uh, “twisty”, but the climax is actually pretty scary. It’s the first time the show actually went into a sense of terror, rather than just use peril for comedy.

One might wonder whether the wax figures were really nuts before their interactions with Stan, or whether being locked away drove them mad. That’s our moral dilemma for the episode – relatively small, but worth thinking about.

John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) does a brilliant job as Wax Sherlock Holmes – managing to convey a form of comedy and terrifying leadership in his character. Oh, and getting Coolio and Larry King to guest star? Ignore the hiatus – this really shows what Disney thinks of the show; they had so much faith in it, and were so impressed, that the third episode got high-end voice actors. Brilliant.

That’s not even getting into the rest of the characters. Sherrif Blubs, Deputy Durland, and Toby Determined, as far as gag and minor characters go, are all brilliantly written, multi-dimensional, and hysterical. Kevin Michael Richardson, Keith Ferguson, and Greg Turkington are all fantastic voice actors.

While not a “must watch” episode, it’s definitely a fun one, showing the show’s evolution in the three episodes alone.

Trivia:

  • While Stan’s reaction to losing his wax self might seem exaggerated, recent events do show a… darker side to this loss. Still, a bit egocentric, eh?
  • Come to think about it, Soos’s keyboard is a bit tragic, given that he got it on the day that he realised his dad was a damn deadbeat!
  • When I first did the review, I read on the Gravity Falls Wiki that one of the detectives on Duck-Tective was voiced by Gavin McTarvish, who voiced Warden Ackerman in Series VIII of Red Dwarf. Turns out that was just a rumour. Also, I said in that review something along the lines of “weak Dwarf is better than no Dwarf.In hindsight… not so much.
  • One thing I don’t like is that they gave Richard Nixon… nothing. C’mon. Nixon would’ve been awesome. Two words: Billy. West.
Favorite Scene: The botched exposure of Toby Determined, including… “Your little knees must be sore… from jumping to conclusions!” Yeah, it’s corny, but there’s also a hint of character in it. 
Least Favorite Scene: Take out the “Duck-tective” scenes – not because they’re not funny, mind you, but because they’re unnecessary – and you would get just a bit more wax figure lines and action. Thankfully, “Duck-tective” does help flesh out Dipper and Mabel’s character, so it’s not a total write off.
Score: 9

Gravity Falls Review: Season 2, Episode 4: "Sock Opera"

“WE HAVE A TITLE!”- Joel and the Bots, MST3K (“I Accuse My Parents”)

Airdate: September 8, 2014

Synopsis: Mabel’s “boyfriend of the week” is a puppet snob. Getting trapped in a lie, she needs to produce a decent puppet show. This interferes with Dipper’s goal to secure the password to the laptop they found a couple of episodes back. Running out of options and time, he manages to come across a certain isosceles monster, who is willing to make a deal… seemingly.

Review: While Gravity Falls normally has awesome character development, a sizable chunk of it has been centered on Dipper and Stan. Mabel seems to have been put behind as far as character development goes. This episode goes far in trying to flesh her out, and in doing so, continues a streak of fantastic episodes. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: "Into the Bunker" (Season 2, Episode 2)

“This baby is called the Withstandinator. It can take a six megaton blast. No more. No less.” -Herman, The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror VIII”

Airdate: August 4th, 2014

Synopsis: Dipper is at the end of his wits when it comes to his relationship with Wendy: he needs to confess, yet also refuses to. A botched attempt at a confession drives Wendy into one of Dipper’s investigations: exploring the bunker under the tree where 3 was first found. As Dipper, Wendy, Mabel, and Soos dive down into the bunker, events conspire that drive Dipper closer to the breaking point, the duo to what seems to be a figure of local lore, and the quartet close to their demise.

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK*

Review: Last time the writers dedicated an episode to the faux-supercouple of Wendy and Dipper, the relationship between the two bottomed out. For those unawares, after Wendy broke up with Robbie, Dipper tried to get Wendy on the rebound. Wendy responded by blasting Dipper and Robbie’s misogynistic, self-serving maneuvers, before running off distraught.

That episode was “Boyz Crazy”, which was my favorite episode when I first reviewed it. Its dark themes in both its plot and subplot were striking, yet also realistic. They showed a darker side to our favorite characters.

“Into the Bunker” seems to be an attempt to finally put something of a confirmation to where Dipper and Wendy stand. In so doing, they have made an episode that further reaffirmed just how far the writing for the show has gone. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: “Scaryoke” (Season 2, Episode 1)

Airdate: August 1st, 2014

Synopsis: With Gideon finally secured in a local prison, the Mystery Shack holds a mixer to try and celebrate something of a return to the status quo. Pretty much the entire town is invited to the party. However, Stan’s activation of his device in the basement alerts the federal government to the town. Dipper tries to convince the feds that the town is strange… to the point where he raises the dead and wrecks the party.

*WARNING: SOME SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON. READ AT OWN RISK*

Review: To quote Red Dwarf’s Dave Lister… “SHE RIDES!”

Gravity Falls comes back, and it comes back with a bang! I’ll put it this way: it was worth the year-long hiatus. Want more? Well, so do I!

Want more? Well, so do I! Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series VI, Episode 3: "Gunmen of the Apocalypse"

Airdate: 21 October 1993

Synopsis: As Lister is in the TIV machine (dating various characters), the wackos aboard Starbug are intercepted by Rogue Simulants, who just happen to despise humans and humanoids. An attempt to trick them fails (said attempt involves googly-eyes), and they are put to sleep. They are woken up, to find that the shuttle has been upgraded in terms of weaponry… so that they can battle.

Thanks to the Cat’s theories (and his dismissal of Tom and Jerry logic), the crew manage to destroy the Simulants. However, the Simulants go out with a bang; they inject a virus into Starbug that shuts down their controls, sending them hurling to a lava-moon. Fearing a wreck, Kryten wires himself into the computer to beat the virus. Said computer and virus manifest as a TIV-style game set in the Wild West, where Kryten is a cowardly, burnt-out drunkard of a sheriff put up against the “Apocalypse Boys”, who want him out of town.

Fearing for their lives, the gang wires themselves into the game to take down the virus, giving themselves strategic advantages via the “special powers”. Thus, the ballad of The Riviera Kid, Dangerous Dan McGrew, and Brett Riverboat begins. They have to deal with cowboys, barmaids, and the risk of the loss of “special powers”.

Review: I’ve noticed one thing about this series that really stands out. To be specific, that would have to be the pseudo-sequels that have made up most of the series; episodes that took strong elements from earlier episodes. “Psirens” was something of a sequel to “Camille”, “Legion” had elements of “Queeg” and “Justice”, “Rimmerworld” holds elements from “Terrorform” and “Meltdown”, “Out of Time” holds elements from “Stasis Leak”, and “Emohawk: Polymorph II” is a 3-in-1 package (“Polymorph”, “Dimension Jump”, and “Back to Reality”).

“Gunmen” is no exception; it really feels like a sequel to “Better Than Life”. I’ve mentioned before that “Better Than Life” holds a place in my heart; it was the episode that hooked me on Red Dwarf once and for all. This episode is also spectacular; in the somewhat lackluster Series VI, this episode is awesome.

Most of it has to do with it’s inventive and carefully-created plot. The Wild West has been something of a centerpiece of science fiction television. Star Trek did it thrice (in Enterprise, The Original Series, and The Next Generation). Doctor Who did it a couple of times (the obscure-ish “Gunfighters” and the recent “A Town Called Mercy”). Naturally, Red Dwarf had to not just do it, but parody it, interject it in a creative manner, and above all, make it funny.

And parody they did. Oh, and don’t forget to interject it in a creative manner. The drinks scene, the fight scenes, and the dynamic between the characters are comic knocks on the Western cliches. What starts one fight? Rimmer does not react well to a drink poured at the saloon.

Note that every time Cat pulls out his guns, he does not directly hit anybody; rather, due to the application of his “special ability” of creative shooting, he either knocks bullets out of the air, or knocks a sign down on somebody, knocking him out cold. No blood is shed. Oh, and Cat acts like such an exaggerated version of a stereotypical Latin dancer. The Riviera Kid: the awesomeness of a sheriff, the gracefulness of, well, a Cat.

Rimmer also gets a chance to get into typical bar fights. The parody comes in Dan McGee’s behavior; despite getting into fistfights, he’s still quite a bit of a coward, still really aspires to the upper class, and still isn’t that bright. He finally gets something on his side; his physical strength is increased. Yet, it’s clear that all this has really done is boosted his ego. Once his special power gets damaged he’s back to the same old cowardly Rimmer. As much as Rimmer might be more one-dimensional this series than ever before, this is still an awesome reminder of something going right for him… and having it cruelly taken away. The writing for him is quintesential Red Dwarf; instead of just being a jackass, he is a man kept down by life itself.

Lister gets some throwbacks to his Series I and II childish behaviour, albeit not in the western itself. It’s found in his initial use of the TIV, which is to go on various dates and one-night stands. Also, his attempt at diplomacy with the Simulants results in what is considered one of the funnier scenes in Red Dwarf history.

Oh, here’s how you DON’T do diplomacy.

Just… fantastic.

Kryten’s Dwarfer traits have manifested in the TIV. There, desperate, he becomes a drunken wreck. I took it as Kryten showing a deep-seated reluctance to serve a slob, a narcissist, and an all-around wreck of a man. Of course, I might be looking too deep into his actions.

The sets and special effects are awesome, especially by BBC standards. I love models in this series. It would be a damn shame if they ever converted to CGI for the purposes of staying “modern” and developing cheap sci-fi plots.

It would be like The Simpsons making Elf-like Jockeys the villains for an episode, or Star Trek putting an entire episode in sickbay for the purposes of innuendo and sexual tension. Thank god those are just worst-case scenarios and never manifested… right?

Probably my biggest problems with this episode include the pacing (it seems to feel a bit too lanky at the beginning of the episode, and thus, a bit too rushed at the end of the episode) and the re-use of the sitcom gags (although these are funner this time around). Otherwise, we have a pretty good outing, one that really elevated the standing of Series VI as a whole.

Tidbits:

  • The BBC’s Head of Art and Entertainment, Janet Street-Portier, actually got hold of the script. She informed Grant/Naylor that the episode would be way too expensive and complex, and thus, demanded production be shut down. Her memo came down just in time for the episode to be in post-production.
  • One year earlier, Star Trek: The Next Generation aired an episode similar to this, called “A Fistful of Datas”. It’s actually not a bad episode in and of itself, even though it falls victim to some TNG-era cliches (Data wanting to be more human, the Holodeck breaking down, etc.)
    • Speaking of which, Patrick Stewart managed to catch this episode during an airing. Thinking it was a ripoff of “Fistful”, Stewart almost threw a lawsuit at the BBC. Then he began laughing…
  • The noir-type game at the beginning is a parody of the somewhat obscure 1971 UK film Gumshoe, which was set in Liverpool.
  • This episode was written main plot first; the Simulant plot came after.
  • Personal opinion; the music here is perfect. Do I have to mention the ending theme? It’s simply perfect.
  • For an episode that almost got shut down by the BBC’s arts department and almost got Grant/Naylor sued, this episode…
    • Won an International Emmy in 1994;
    • Topped Red Dwarf polls in 1994 and 1997
    • Ranked second in 1999;
    • And, after a 10-point drop in 2008, was bumped up to #3 in 2013.
Favorite Scene: Pretty much everything from the Vindaloovian scene to just before the final battle. It’s some of the best Red Dwarf ever.
Least Favorite Scene: The noir scene just goes on too long.
Score: 9. It deserved it’s smeggin’ Emmy!