Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6

After Buffy’s heroic death at the end of Season 5, I think a lot of people wondered how the show could carry on. The answer is Season 6 which emerges as one of the darkest series and one of the most hotly debated in the Buffy saga. Spoilers will follow in this overview.

The Scooby Gang is still reeling from Buffy’s(Sarah Michelle Gellar) death. Buffy Season 6 castGiles(Anthony Stewart Head) decides to return to England whilst Willow(Alyson Hannigan) takes over leadership of the group. With her Wiccan powers increasing, Willow decides that they must resurrect Buffy. She believes that Buffy must be trapped in a hell dimension after she threw herself into the portal of energy. Although Xander(Nicholas Brendon), Anya(Emma Caulfield) and Tara(Amber Benson) are unsure of the spell and worried about potential consequences, Willow takes command and decides to go ahead with the ritual. Buffy is in fact brought back, but exactly where she was left, her grave. Buffy resurrectedAfter clawing her way out of her coffin, Buffy is withdrawn and traumatized by the ordeal. We later find out that she was in fact in Heaven and her friends pulled her out of it. She further sinks into depression and finds comfort in the arms of Spike(James Marsters), engaging in a sexual relationship that soon becomes increasingly destructive for both involved. Whilst dealing with her dark ordeal, Buffy is faced with the Trio; Warren, Andrew and Jonathan. These three geeks have banded together to become super powerful, though they are mostly inane. They torment Buffy by summoning demons and toying with her. Buffy The TrioAs Warren craves more power, their mission takes a darker turn once they come into contact with Buffy. Meanwhile, Dawn(Michelle Trachtenberg) is feeling isolated from everyone and takes to stealing as a coping mechanism. Anya and Xander announce their engagement to the gang, although it ends in sadness. One of the most important character arcs this season is Willow’s. She is now becoming more powerful but continues to rely too much on magic. This makes Tara worried for her safety and the two begin to grow apart. As Willow begins to acknowledge her addiction, a tragedy sends her spiralling back into the realms of dark magic. Can Buffy regain her strength and bring her best friend back before it is too late? All will be revealed in this bleak penultimate season.

As I previously mentioned, Season 6 is controversial among fans. Many consider it too dark and that the series should have ended with the epic Season 5 finale. In one sense I do think that Season 5 made for an excellent finale, but Season 6 does have its good points in terms of characters and themes. Each character is going through a personal struggle of some sort. The most interesting examples are Buffy and Willow. Buffy must readjust to life again whilst trying to cope with the knowledge that in death she found happiness. Willow must deal with her magic addiction that is slowly taking her over. Season 6 does have its fun moments though, especially in the classic musical episode ‘Once more, with feeling’. In the episode, the residents of Sunnydale are afflicted with the urge to reveal their thoughts in song by a demon. The catch of this is that if they sing and dance for too long, they will combust. Buffy Xander and Anya DancingThe episode is filled with humour and some amazing vocal work as the characters find themselves telling their secrets to one another and delving into their personalities. Witty, theatrical and a joy to watch, it is classic and innovative Buffy.

Yet despite these moments of comedy, it is the tragedy and darkness that Season 6 will generally be remembered for. The most tragic moment has to be the death of Tara. After Buffy humiliates the power crazed Warren, he shoots her but a stray bullet hits Tara, who dies in Willow’s arms. Willow red eyesTara’s death is such a sad moment as she and Willow were just getting to know one another again and their rekindled relationship has been tragically cut short. Seeing Willow cry as she holds her beloved and her eyes turn to a scarlet red is both an emotional and scary moment. Tara’s death also functions as the key factor in Willow’s descent into dark magic with horrific consequences as she wants the world to know the pain her loss has caused her.  It’s sad to see Tara leave the show, because I’ve continually been impressed with Amber Benson’s subtle and moving performance as her. Yet I do understand that her death functions as a way to push Willow’s story forward. Although The Trio are used for comedic effect, even they take a dark turn. This is certainly in the case with Warren, who soon begins to lose his grip on plans.

Our cast delivers some stunning work during this season. Sarah Michelle Gellar flexes her acting muscles and gets to show us the vulnerable side to Buffy and how much death and resurrection has affected her. She’s still a fierce warrior who can take down the enemy, but this season showcases Buffy at her most frightened before she manages to reclaim her life once and for all. It is a true testament to Gellar’s talent that we sympathise with Buffy and want her to climb out of her sadness. Nicholas Brendon is great as Xander, who is going through his own set of problems. This includes his wedding day in which he can’t go through with it because he glimpses what a future with Anya might be like. Brendon imbues the part with emotion and earnest heart. Emma Caulfield continues her impressive portrayal of Anya, who is broken by being left at the altar. This causes her to reconsider her past of vengeance and Caulfield gets to show us the wounded woman who can’t deal with the human pain. Caulfield still has her laugh out loud moments but this is the season when Anya really grows as a character. Alyson Hannigan excels at showing Willow’s downward spiral into magic addiction and the horror of when she turns into an almighty powerful force who can wreak havoc on anyone or anything. Dark WillowShe also shows us the side of her that wants to stop, but can’t help but give into these dark impulses especially after the death of Tara. James Marsters reveals the caring side to Spike as he falls into a sexual relationship with Buffy, but how he can’t deal with the fact she is using him as a way to cope. This culminates in Spike attempting to rape Buffy, a decision that causes him to leave town and attempting to regain a soul. Michelle Trachtenberg captures the feelings of isolation as Dawn, who develops a stealing obsession that soon gets out of hand. Sadly, Anthony Stewart Head isn’t in Buffy as much this season as Giles, but when he does come back it’s certainly worth it. I mean any Giles is better than no Giles at all, isn’t it?

Season 6 may become a bit too grim for its own good, but the excellent performances and stories make sure that Buffy is still one amazing television series.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5

After the dreamlike finale of Season 4, Buffy Season 5 becomes one of the best seasons of the show along with Season 3 due to some amazing writing and moving performances. Featuring fantasy as well as genuine human drama, Season 5 adds maturity and darkness to the world of Buffy and her slaying of demons. Spoilers will follow in this review.

Buffy Season 5 CastBuffy(Sarah Michelle Gellar) is now approaching her second year of college and is back on good terms with Willow(Alyson Hannigan) and Xander(Nicholas Brendon) after they grew apart last season. She is finally embracing her destiny as chosen one, whilst also having time for a life. But then as is typical in Buffy’s job as a slayer, there is evil to be taken care of on a daily basis. The most mysterious occurrence is  the appearance of Dawn(Michelle Trachtenberg), Buffy’s sister. Up until now we haven’t seen her at all, let alone known that Buffy has a sister. Everyone acts as if Dawn has always been there. In actual fact, Dawn is the Key, a mystical source of energy that can be used for good and evil. Dawn just believes she is a normal girl growing up in the shadow of her older sister. She always feels left out of the group and forms a friendship with Tara(Amber Benson), Willow’s girlfriend who Dawn feels is the only person who treats her as an equal and not just a 14-year-old girl. When Buffy learns of the creation of Dawn and the threat of Glory, she vows to protect her. Buffy GloryA demented hell goddess named Glory is after the Key and will do anything to get her evil hands on it. Glory is more than a match for Buffy in terms of physical strength and feeds off the energy of humans to remain strong. Elsewhere, Buffy’s romantic relationship with Riley(Marc Blucas) begins to disintegrate quickly as he feels left out of the group and feels inadequate in comparison to Buffy’s old lover Angel. Giles(Anthony Stewart Head) considers leaving for England as he feels like Buffy doesn’t need a Watcher anymore, he later changes his mind when he realises that Buffy needs him. Spike(James Marsters) is back and realises he is deeply in love with Buffy, even though they have been sworn enemies in the past. Buffy’s mother Joyce begins to feel sick and is later diagnosed with a brain tumour that takes a debilitating effect on her. In the end to protect Dawn from the plans of Glory, Buffy is faced with a difficult choice that only she can decide in an emotional and tense finale.

As I previously mentioned, Season 5 takes on a darker vibe than Season 4 which produces poignant results and some devastating conclusions. Sure there is still the snappy dialogue and humorous exchanges, but it’s the dramatic and emotional parts of the season that linger long in the memory. The overriding themes of Season 5 are death, maturity and sacrifice. Chief among these is Joyce’s condition. Joyce has been with the show since the beginning and has grown to be loved by fans. She might not understand her daughter’s destiny, but she loves her with all her heart. After discovering her brain tumour, Joyce’s memory begins to change and she often has angry outbursts.

One of the most emotionally devastating moments has to be in the episode ‘The Body’ in which Joyce dies from the effects of her tumour and Buffy finds her, dead on the living room couch. Buffy Joyce's DeathThe episode is devoid of music which creates an atmosphere of numbness and disorientation that comes with death. We watch as the gang, of which many of them consider Joyce a mother figure, try to comfort Buffy in this difficult time whilst dealing with their own grief for the loving Joyce. What is most tragic about Joyce’s death is that Buffy is highly skilled in taking down evil and saving innocent people on a regular basis, but when it comes to the unfairness and sadness of life, she has no control and can’t reverse these tragic events. Poignant and soul-shaking, it is one of the most haunting hours of television I have ever seen. With Joyce’s death, Buffy gains more responsibility and must embrace the tribulations of adulthood that await her. She may be mature already, but this is the season when Buffy becomes a figure of responsibility to those around her and is forced into some difficult decisions to protect those she holds dear.

Rivalling this episode in terms of emotional stakes is the finale, entitled ‘The Gift’ in which Buffy sacrifices herself to save Dawn. Rather than let Dawn die, Buffy selflessly throws herself into a portal that has been opened in what is a hero’s death. Buffy's DeathHer voice over to Dawn about remaining brave in the face of danger and the devastated reactions of the gang are such heartbreaking scenes to watch as we see the bravery of this heroine and how she was willing to sacrifice herself to save others. If you don’t cry watching this episode, you clearly don’t have any emotions. With Buffy dead, what can possibly happen in the next series?

Another high point of season 5 is the villain, this time in the form of Glory who provides much of the humour in this sombre season. A destructive and unstable hell god who is crazed for power and will do anything for it. Glory’s personality is interesting as she flits from one extreme to the other and spells dire consequences for the gang. A clever tactic is introduced that Glory also occupies the body of Ben, a hospital intern who knows Buffy because of her mother’s condition. This adds danger to the mix as Ben wrestles with this knowledge that Glory may find out the identity of the Key and succeed in her plans. Diva like, despicable and delightfully sinister, as well as a highly skilled fighter, Glory makes for one of Buffy’s most dangerous adversaries.

The cast is again on fine form with involving performances all round. Sarah Michelle Gellar brings outward strength and inner vulnerability to the role of Buffy, as she accepts her responsibility as a grown up and defender of good, even when she is close to breaking down completely. We see how she has changed as a character and Gellar gives the role her all with compassion, relatability and intensity. Alyson Hannigan exudes knowledge, love and growing power as Willow, whose powers of witchcraft are increasing and are often utilised when battling the enemy. Buffy Willow magicWe also see how her power can be deadly and how it may overtake her mind if she continues to use it so much. Amber Benson is radiant and winsome as Tara, Willow’s girlfriend who is the most level-headed of the group and the one to keep her cool in a crisis. It is sad when Glory takes her energy and leaves her catatonic, but we do get to see Willow unleashing ferocious power on Glory in an act of revenge and later restore Tara back to herself. Nicholas Brendon continues his impressive performance as Xander, who may not possess any magical power, but whose quiet observations and caring actions make him an asset to the Scooby Gang. His relationship with Anya also provides many comical moments of misunderstanding. Emma Caulfield is a joy to watch as Anya, who often offends people because of her unfamiliarity with human ways and customs. Yet she also shows us how much Anya has learned about emotion from those around her, specifically her breakdown when Joyce dies and her questioning over life and death.

Joining the cast is Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn, the Key in human form. I know that Dawn can be whiny at times, but we do see her alienation when she discovers her life has been a lie and how she believes she brings harm to those around her because of her power. Buffy DawnTrachtenberg is perfectly suited to her character and provides many touching moments in which she questions her identity. James Marsters is typically bad ass as Spike, the vampire who is now an important member of the gang but can also pose a threat. It’s interesting to watch how he defects to the good side because of his growing obsession with Buffy, to which she tells him that nothing will come of it. We also get to take a glimpse of Spike’s past in which we see how he was a disillusioned man transformed into a vampire and how he has killed two slayers, one during the Boxing Rebellion in China and the other in 70’s New York. Anthony Stewart Head is particularly strong as Giles, who provides much-needed support and diligent strength when the group feels as if they are cornered. Marc Blucas bows out of Buffy as Riley ends his relationship with her as they drift apart from one another and he begins to frequent vampire bars in which he allows them to drink his blood. Riley becoming a darker character was a gamble, yet we’re so used to seeing him as a nice guy that it’s a bit of a stretch to see him behaving like this.

Dark, emotional and character-driven, Season 5 of Buffy is one of the strongest seasons boasting a great villain, deep themes and touching work from the cast.

 

Second Liebster Award

I recently received the Liebster Award for a second time from Tiago Ricardo over at Panda’s Choice. Please check out his amazing blog. Also, my sincere thanks to him for giving me this award again.

Liebster Award

There are a few rules that come with this award, here they are:

  1. Post the Liebster Award graphic on your site.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  3. The nominee has to write 11 facts about themselves.
  4. The nominee will nominate 9 other blogs for the award.

Facts about me:

  1. I’m a Sagittarius.
  2. I prefer watching football rather than playing it.
  3. Joss Whedon is one of my idols.
  4. Ellen Ripley is one of my favourite movie characters.
  5. I recently had my wisdom teeth removed.
  6. I have a knack for noticing symbolism in movies.
  7. I’m hopefully purchasing a Blu-Ray very soon.
  8. I judge a film on its merit rather than going with the majority of opinion.
  9. When I hear of a certain director, I try to watch as much of their filmography as possible.
  10. My favourite words from a song are “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return” from Nature Boy.
  11. I often use music as a way to relax.

My Nominees:

Once again I want to say thanks to Tiago for the award. If you can take part in the award, please do as it’s loads of fun.

 

 

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4

After the mesmerizing Season 3, Buffy Season 4 carries on the greatness as the characters mature and the threats against them become more dangerous. There may be some weaknesses in comparison with other seasons, but believe me, Season 4 boasts some classic episodes of Buffy that you don’t want to miss. Be warned, spoilers will follow in this overview.

Buffy Season 4After an eventful three years in high school, Buffy(Sarah Michelle Gellar) is now in college with best friend Willow(Alyson Hannigan). At first the experience is overwhelming for her and she feels left out as Willow and Oz(Seth Green) are happy together, Xander(Nicholas Brendon) is doing his own thing with Anya(Emma Caulfield) and Giles(Anthony Stewart Head) wants Buffy to act on her own. Matters are complicated by her pining for Angel, who has departed for Los Angeles. But gradually, she begins to blossom in college. Whilst juggling homework, she must also fight the demons that populate Sunnydale. There is also the matter of commandos that keep appearing on campus. It turns out that they belong to a program known as The Initiative. They capture demons, including vampire Spike(James Marsters) for research and experiments, yet there are more sinister motives brewing beneath this in the form of half human half machine Adam. Buffy and RileyIt transpires that one of the agents is nice guy Riley Finn(Marc Blucas), who Buffy begins to date as he seems like an average guy. As they pursue a relationship, they struggle to keep their identities as Slayer and Agent secret. Elsewhere, the relationship between Willow and Oz deteriorates as Oz fears he can’t control his power when he transforms into a werewolf. His exit to find an answer prompts Willow to sink into melancholy and start practicing magic, this time with unexpected results. Buffy manages to get through to Willow and make her face her problems. Another key component in Willow’s life is the introduction of Tara(Amber Benson), a shy witch who notices Willow’s power. It is Tara who brings Willow out of her confined shell as the two begin a relationship. As the gang starts to grow apart due to various things in their lives, they realise that in order to fight demons they must band together again.

Firstly, I want to get the flaws of the season out-of-the-way. At first, the idea of the nefarious Initiative is a very interesting concept. But I feel like it could have been expanded upon to give the story more of a jolt. To be fair, the Initiative does give us Spike with a chip in his head that prevents him from harming humans and therefore makes him align himself with the Scooby Gang. Buffy AdamI also feel that the Big Bad of Season 4 in the form of Adam, wasn’t as impressive as other villains such as The Master and The Mayor. Sure the Frankenstein like qualities to him add some form of interest, but he just doesn’t quite measure up to former villains on Buffy.

Now that I’ve got those flaws of Season 4, I will go onto the positives, of which there are numerous. As always, the writing is loaded with one-liners and pop culture references that contribute to the humour. The themes of alienation and isolation are expertly handled, mostly in the case of Buffy who becomes distant from her friends but realises the importance of them in her life and her destiny to fight the forces of evil. High school may have been hell, but college presents a whole new bunch of challenges for Buffy as she begins to find herself again. We have the welcome return of Spike, who provides a lot of the dry humour in the show. After receiving the chip that renders him unable to harm humans, he reluctantly joins the gang and proves to be a very useful ally when fighting the demons and monsters of Sunnydale. James Marsters impresses once again as Spike, capturing his bad ass, growling and violent demeanor to great effect. Season 4 also provides the introduction of Tara, who will become an important factor in Willow’s life. Played with virtue, nervousness and sweet-faced charm, Amber Benson excels as the shy witch who begins a tender relationship with Willow. Willow and TaraIt should be noted the importance of the relationship in terms of the way lesbians are portrayed on-screen. Before Willow and Tara, lesbianism had been used and exploited for male fantasies in many a TV show. In Buffy, it portrays their burgeoning relationship like any other on the show, with respect and warmth.

No discussion on Season 4 of Buffy would be complete without mentioning one of the best episodes, ‘Hush’. In this episode, creepy demons known as The Gentlemen steal the voices of everyone in Sunnydale in order to extract seven hearts from victims. Everytime they appear, The Gentlemen are bound to scare viewers. gentlemenFloating through town with metallic smiles and strange, courteous gestures, whilst being flanked by henchman dressed is straight jackets, they will forever be in people’s nightmares. I love how the episode examines what happens when communication is taken away from us and we have to find another way to get our point across. Featuring only 15 minutes of dialogue and a haunting musical score of Gothic choral voices, Hush is classic Buffy that is not to be missed.

Our cast of Buffy is again on super form delivering exceptional work. As the eponymous slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar combines humour, steel and compassion as she adjusts to college whilst facing her destiny to kill whatever demon stands in her way. Gellar has grown into the role so much that I can’t imagine anyone else ever playing the character of Buffy. Scooby Gang Season 4Nicholas Brendon excels at showing Xander feeling like the one who doesn’t contribute much to the group, but who in actual fact is a core member. Alyson Hannigan is exceptional as growing witch Willow, who has her heart-broken by Oz but begins to discover herself with the introduction of Tara. Seth Green is stoic and deadpan as werewolf Oz, who bows out of the series as he attempts to control his powers. Emma Caulfield is hysterically funny as former vengeance demon Anya, whose misunderstandings of human communication often lead to her awkwardness. Marc Blucas plays Riley as a good guy who comes to see the corruption in the work around him. Riley as a character may be a little bland and ordinary, but I believe this is the point. When he dates Buffy, he is the opposite of Angel and it shows how Buffy finally dates an average guy rather than a demon. Anthony Stewart Head provides wisdom as Giles, whose genuinely cares for Buffy in a fatherly way and is an important ally in her battles against evil. He also gets some really funny moments, including him embracing the Halloween spirit by answering the door to an embarrassed Buffy whilst wearing a Sombrero and upon being discovered with a scantily clad woman being compared to Hugh Hefner by Buffy .

Flaws aside, Season 4 of Buffy is still sexy, mature and addictive television of the highest order.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3

Following on from the shocking and heartbreaking finale of Season 2, Buffy Season 3 swings into gears as our fierce warrior battles all things that the darkness has to offer and survive high school at the same time. Spoilers will follow in this review.

Buffy Season 3After sending Angel(David Boreanaz) back to hell, Buffy(Sarah Michelle Gellar) has fled Sunnydale. When we catch up with her, she is working in a dodgy part of Los Angeles, using her middle name of Anne. She is plagued by dreams of the lover she had to sacrifice and can’t come to terms with it no matter how hard she tries. She is brought back to her senses after an encounter with a demon and decides to head back to Sunnydale, to face her responsibilities. At first, reconciling with Xander(Nicholas Brendon), Willow(Alyson Hannigan), Cordelia(Charisma Carpenter), Oz(Seth Green) and her watcher Giles(Anthony Stewart Head) is hard, but it eventually gets easier. Trouble is always round the corner for this slayer and the dramas keep on coming. Buffy and the gangCordelia and Xander’s relationship is changed after he and Willow share a passionate kiss. Rejecting the gang, Cordelia heads back to her bitchy self and her shallow friends, yet still can’t shake off the memory of her relationship with Xander. Oz on the other hand, eventually forgives Willow. A new slayer, Faith(Eliza Dushku), arrives in town. She is a charismatic and loose living girl with internal emotional scars whose friendship with Buffy begins to disintegrate after Faith kills a human, which is against the rules of  being a slayer and shows no regret for her actions. There is also the matter of the Mayor, this season’s Big Bad. To everyone else he is a chipper guy, but he is in fact involved with the underground demons and plans on becoming a demon once it’s graduation day and he can ascend to becoming a stronger power than he already is. And to top all that off, Angel is back from hell, leading Buffy to question their relationship with one another. For my money season three is one of the best season’s in the whole Buffy saga.

The scripts are as sharp and witty as ever, whilst effectively conveying the pains of becoming adults faced with a very literal hell.  The characters are really starting to grow and you feel genuine sympathy for them in their adventures, especially Buffy who must deal with what life throws at her as well as dark forces closing in. This season gets an extra dynamic through the introduction of Faith, who is played with tough yet vulnerable strength by Eliza Dushku. She’s such an interesting character to watch and in a sense we see that Faith is how Buffy may have ended up if she had grown up neglected and alone in the world. When Buffy becomes friendly with Faith, she flirts with the idea of being a bad girl. She is then brought to her senses by witnessing Faith kill a human and must therefore sever ties with her. Buffy and FaithAll of this leads to some feisty action sequences between the two as the clash of personalities stokes the flames of an already burning fire.  Season 3 also introduces the character of Anya(Emma Caulfield), a former vengeance demon now stripped of her power who must live a human life. She will later become a very prominent character in Buffy and Emma Caulfield is really funny in her early episodes. Also giving Season 3 an edge is the villain in the form of Mayor Richard Wilkins. He is such a creepy yet darkly funny guy who is treacherous to say the least but the kind of the person you just love to hate. Some of the lines he gets to deliver are so strangely funny and ironic such as “Who’s up for a root beer?” after killing an employer who disobeyed him.

The love between Angel and Buffy reaches its end as he struggles to think of a future for Buffy that won’t bring her harm. Their relationship is so emotionally moving and tragic in that they both love one another but are torn apart by all the hell breaking loose around them. It’s sad to see Angel go and he is certainly a missed character in the show. Another point of praise is the exploration of Buffy’s relationship with her mother Joyce. Having been forced to tell her mum of her duty, Joyce has taken time to get her head around it. They may come to blows, but we see how each would do anything to protect the other from harm. This season contains some of the most emotional in the season. Buffy Class ProtectorThe crowning one for me is when Buffy is awarded Class Protector at the prom. Initially believing that no one realises that she saves their lives on a regular basis, she is shocked but very happy to receive the award as the entire student body applauds her bravery and her beaming smile tells a thousand words. If this moment doesn’t get you tearing up, then I don’t know what will.

Our splendid cast delivers amazing work throughout Season 3. Sarah Michelle Gellar adds maturity and strength to Buffy as her life as the slayer continues. We are also shown the vulnerable side to her that wants to just be a teenage girl and isn’t immune to weakness. In other words, Gellar is phenomenal in her portrayal of a girl growing up fast. David Boreanaz bows out of Buffy in style as Angel, imbuing him with sensitivity, danger and melancholy as his doomed relationship comes to an end. Nicholas Brendon is ever reliable as Xander, who provides moral support and jokes, while Alyson Hannigan is luminous as Willow, who this season begins to hone her gift for magic. Charisma Carpenter also bows out of Buffy, and she provides Cordelia with enough barbs and humour to make sure she is a well-remembered character. Seth Green adds mordant and ironic humour to the role of Oz, while Anthony Stewart Head touchingly portrays the way Giles cares for Buffy in a father-daughter way.

Easily one of the show’s best seasons, Buffy Season 3 is not to be missed.

Cruel Intentions

Film Title

Cruel Intentions

Director

Roger Kumble

Starring

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar as Kathryn Merteuil
  • Ryan Phillippe as Sebastian Valmont
  • Reese Witherspoon as Annette Hargrove
  • Selma Blair as Cecile Caldwell

A 90’s retelling of Dangerous Liaisons, Cruel Intentions may be not as good as the 80’s movie but still has enough energy, sex appeal and darkness to enjoy with some good performances from a photogenic cast.

cruel intentionsKathryn Merteuil is a wealthy and popular girl who resides in New York’s Upper East Side. Despite her seemingly sunny personality around others, she is in fact a ruthlessly scheming bitch who thrives on the misery of others. Her stepbrother Sebastian Valmont is equally as devious and is prone to seducing girls for enjoyment. The two manipulative step siblings conspire to ruin the reputations of those they don’t like. Kathryn has a new conquest for Sebastian, the naive Cecile Caldwell. She wants to ruin Cecile because her former boyfriend dumped her for the impressionable girl. Initially bored with this, Kathryn then makes a wager with Sebastian that he can’t refuse. If he can seduce the virginal headmaster’s daughter Annette Hargrove, Kathryn will offer herself to him. If he loses, she will get her dirty hands on his prized Jaguar. At first, Sebastian relishes the chance to spoil the virtue of Annette, who is the epitome of chastity and goodness. But as time goes on and he gets to know her, he starts to fall deeply in love with her. This hitch in the plan leads to a glossy tale of jealousy and sex.

As I mentioned earlier I prefer Dangerous Liaisons to Cruel Intentions. Saying that, Cruel Intentions has many positives to it. The visual style and direction of Roger Kumble is amazing in showing the shallow lifestyle of wealth and how it leads to boredom and worse. The script although melodramatic at times, does have some very dark undertones and you can feel the perverse sexuality come through as the movie goes on as Sebastian struggles with his feelings for Annette, whilst Kathryn manipulates from the sidelines. A well-chosen soundtrack gives the film an edge, especially the use of “Bittersweet Symphony” at a key moment of the story.

While subtlety and restraint isn’t the film’s strong suit, it’s capable cast gloss over these flaws with their performances. Shedding her All American Girl image, Sarah Michelle Gellar is splendidly seductive, manipulative and twisted as Kathryn. Whether saucily kissing Cecile, flaunting her body for Sebastian or putting on her fake smile, Gellar is riveting to say the least. Ryan Phillippe is devilishly charming as the resident Lothario Sebastian, who doesn’t realise that he will finally experience love for the first time when trying to seduce Annette. He has great chemistry with Gellar that gives the film a twisted sexuality as we watch them try to get one up on the other in the machinations they devise. Reese Witherspoon injects intelligence and virtue into the character of Annette, who reluctantly falls for Sebastian despite her vow of chastity. Annette’s role is pivotal in changing Sebastian and Reese Witherspoon has enough sweetness and quiet strength to bring this role to life. In a supporting role, Selma Blair is suitably childlike and impressionable as a victim in the game of seduction.

Twisted, sexy and frothy, Cruel Intentions is not exactly a restrained examination of deceit and jealousy. But the cast and some excellent direction make it an interesting teenage version of Dangerous Liaisons.

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2

Season 2 of Buffy expands on the greatness of the short  Season 1 with interesting character arcs and writing. This is when the show really begins to hit its stride and capture the interest of viewers. Spoilers will follow in this review. Buffy Season 2 poster

After dying at the hands of the Master and then being revived at the end of Season 1, Buffy(Sarah Michelle Gellar) returns to Sunnydale, feeling distant and alienated. It seems that the deadly experience between her and the Master has had a deep effect on her. Willow(Alyson Hannigan),Xander(Nicholas Brendon) and Cordelia(Charisma Carpenter) are concerned for their friend and try to help her snap out of this state. It’s only after they are kidnapped along with Giles(Anthony Stewart Head) in an attempt to resurrect the Master, that Buffy manages to snap out of it and rescue them from danger. Other characters arcs are Xander and Cordelia dating despite the social difference, Giles beginning to find happiness with Jenny and Willow entering into a relationship with Oz(Seth Green), who just happens to be a werewolf.  But darkness is just around the corner with the arrival of the sadistic vampires Spike(James Marsters) and Drusilla(Juliet Landau) who become the main antagonists for this season. To add to this, Buffy’s relationship with Angel(David Boreanaz) deepens. After declaring their love for one another and sleeping together, Angel loses his soul because he has experienced true happiness. The downside to this is that he now reverts back to the bloodthirsty Angelus and soon begins to torment Buffy and those closest to her. In the end Buffy must decide whether to follow her duty as slayer and kill Angel or attempt to change him back. As passions collide and blood is spilled, who will prosper in this eventful season?

As I previously mentioned, this season expands on the first in many excellent ways. The writing is as fresh and witty as ever, but the tone is more serious. This season shows maturity as Buffy experiences the tragic effects of falling in love with Angel and the consequences of it. The darkness of the season is also embodied in the characters of Spike and Drusilla. Their relationship is a twisted and perverse one that makes for a creepy watch. Spike and DrusillaSpike is hotheaded and violent, Drusilla is childlike and doleful with a sinister streak. Their relationship calls to mind Bonnie and Clyde, in a dangerous vampire form. James Marsters and Juliet Landau make for inspired casting and imbue their roles with menace, dark humour and chills. Marsters makes Spike a dangerous enemy whilst imbuing him with a very dark sense of humour. Juliet Landau is perfectly cast as the fawning Drusilla, whose babbling and nursery rhymes belie her sadistic and twisted mind. This season has a dark and romantic atmosphere that keeps you hooked as each episode goes on, causing a correlation between the themes of love and death. The characters are growing up and we see the changes in them as they go through what life throws at them, with extra helpings of evil demons and fiends thrown in for good measure. Spike, Drusilla and Angel may take the honours of being the best villains, but there are plenty more foes that Buffy faces that are worth a mention. Buffy Rocket LauncherThese include a robot disguised as a businessman who take a shine to Buffy’s mother, a terrifying demon that can only be seen by children and The Judge, a supposedly indestructible force that Buffy takes down with a rocket launcher in kick ass fashion. Emotions run high throughout Season 2 with Angel killing Jenny a particularly shocking and unexpected moment that has a grave outcome for an emotionally shattered Giles.

As with the last season, the acting is of the highest order. As Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar exudes maturity, strength and intensity that aid her in her battles against demons and her protection of her family and friends. She shows how Buffy is learning about life and the wounds it can inflict on you, especially when it comes to love. David Boreanaz nails the role of Angel, who reverts back to his menacing old self and wrecks havoc on Buffy and her friends. Gellar and Boreanaz have great chemistry together and their scenes together are filled with passion, devastation and connection.Angel threatens WillowAlyson Hannigan subtly portrays Willow’s blossoming confidence and resourcefulness as she begins a relationship with Oz, who is played with easy-going charm by Seth Green. Nicholas Brendon continues to play Xander with lovable wit whilst also revealing the hidden depths to his character and how much his friends mean to him. Charisma Carpenter manages to give Cordelia an ever-growing sympathy as she joins the gang in their tasks. Her relationship with Xander proves interesting because of the way Cordelia shrugs off popularity to be with him. Sure Cordelia still retains some of her vanity, but she’s definitely more relatable this season. Anthony Stewart Head carries on his impressive role as Giles, who develops a close bond with fellow teacher Jenny, only to have it tragically taken away from him. I liked how this season expanded on the character of Giles and showed various incidents that happened in his past that have made him the way he is now.

Darkly romantic, dramatic and witty, Buffy Season 2 delivers the goods that really have me wanting to watch Season 3 as soon as possible.