Monday, September 25, 2017

The Phantom of the Opera (2004) (Movie Review)

     Movie musicals have gone through various highs and lows over the years, and at one point between the mid-80’s and the 2000’s it seemed that musicals were shinning brightest on stage, while the movie musical was all but dead. Then at the start of the new millennium, the musical genera sprung back to life with gigantic hits like “Moulin Rouge” and “Chicago”. Over the years many of the classic stage musicals were given the big screen treatment, and most of them turned out quiet successful including “Sweeney Todd” and “Les Miserables”. One musical adaption that didn’t do so hot was the 2004 movie “The Phantom of the Opera”, and is often regarded along with “Burlesque” to be one of the weaker musicals of the new millennium. I’ll admit I didn’t care much for this film upon my first viewing, but it’s kind of grown on me over the years, to the point where I don’t think it’s that bad. It has short comings, but it’s not without some highlights. In general, despite the flaws I’d still personally rather watch a movie based on the musical as opposed to all the other horror movie versions of the character.

    I’ll do my best to review this as a movie on its own, and not in comparison to either the stage musical, or the original novel or the other horror movie versions. Adapted from the hit Musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “The Phantom of the Opera” tells the story of a dark and mysterious person who hides away in the dreary catacombs under a famous Opera House. In secret he coaches a new young actress named Christine Daae how to be a talented Opera singer, and dose all in his power to make sure no-one else takes her spot light. Many at the Opera believe him to be a Phantasm of some sort, while Christine is under the delusion that she’s communicating with the spirit of her long lost father. Over time the mysterious Phantom begins to fall in love with his winning student, and in return she begins to develop feelings for her mysterious teacher. Soon an old friend from Christine’s child hood named Raoul arrives at the Opera house, and it doesn’t take long before the two of them form a relationship of their own, which enrages the Phantom. Now it’s a battle between lovers with the Opera house caught in the middle. In the end, it becomes a classic tale of recognizing the ugliness within ones soul, and identifying what makes a man a monster.   

     Let’s start by looking at our star, The Phantom of the Opera played by Gerard Buttler. Let me start by saying that I like Gerard Buttler a lot, and he’s a powerhouse actor when given a character that’s suited for him. As far as his portrayal of The Phantom is concerned, he’s good in spades but not as a whole. His best moments are when he acts through his emotions or with his facial expressions, as he can certainly convey both the pathos and subtle menace of the character. When he’s lurking through the shadows or on screen without any lines he dose convey something of a presence. 

As for his singing voice ... well, Gerard Buttler never had any singing experience prior to this film, and it kind of shows. To be fair I think he sounds a lot better than most other celebrities that are hired on to musicals because of their popularity, and not due to any real singing talents. I also like the effort to make the Phantom more intimidating with a deeper, more baritone singing voice as opposed to the high pitch voice of Michael Crawford from the Broadway musical. I don’t mean to slam Michael Crawford because he’s got a phenomenal singing voice, but personally, I just didn’t think his vocals worked for the character. With all that said, the one thing I could never get behind was the overall look and design of the Phantom in this movie. Sure he has the famous mask and is draped in black attire, but he’s just too polished, clean and nice looking. I always pictured the Phantom as this dirty, frightening and mysterious figure from the sewers, and not a handsome, well dressed guy with a third of his face covered. Heck, when he appears in the iconic “Red Death” costume, which is supposed to be really intimidating, he still looks more like a swashbuckling action hero. Even when his face is revealed it just looks like a guy with a bad sunburn as opposed to a horrifically scarred face. 

    The remaining cast is kind of hit and miss. The two British Opera house managers are delightfully over the top, Miranda Richardson is good as the quiet yet mysterious Madame Giry and of course Minnie Driver fits the role of the Opera Houses prima donna named Carlotta like a glove. Patrick Wilson plays the dashing Boy Friend Raoul, and he really puts his all into making this character as interesting as possible. Even in the Broadway play, the character Raoul was always the least intriguing, so kudos to the actor for giving him some dimension and even a passable singing voice. Of course Emmy Rossum plays our lead heroine Christine, and she’s perfectly fine, but maybe a little too wide eyed and cute for the characters own good. Again, I always pictured Christine as someone beautiful and talented but also terrified, yet capable of taking action when needed. While this portrayal of Christine certainly looks good and has a pretty voice, there’s not much else to her. She kind of gets led by the noise and doesn’t take any real action of her own choice until the very end. Her voice is also very nice, but she doesn’t have the same commanding vocals I feel the character needs. It’s like comparing a sweet singing voice to a strong one, and you can definitely tell the difference. In fact I honestly remember watching a High school production of “The Phantom of the Opera”, and the actress playing Christine had these downright captivating vocals that entranced the audience.

   Now Andrew Lloyd Webber, the creator of the Broadway play was also the producer and screen writer for this movie, but I think he was in the mind-set for a stage production when he wrote this. Obviously when adapting any source material, filmmakers need to make it faithful to the original, but there’s also limits to how much of its source should be translated over to film. If something works in a play or book, that doesn’t automatically mean it works in a movie and should probably be tinkered with. This leads me to my first real issue with the film, the narrative structure is kind of a mess, and even the tone gets a little inconsistent at times. Case in point, there’s a scene in which the Phantom sabotages a play in order to make sure Christine is the one performing on stage. Then he chaises down this guy, kills him in cold blood and then proceeds to hang his body in full view of the theater attendance, which subsequently ruins Christines chance to perform for them. I get that he was trying to send them a message, but wouldn’t it have made more sense to let her perform first, and then when the audience leaves, the guys body is discovered in the manager’s office with a warning note attached. This horrific death scene is then abruptly followed by a romantic scene on a roof top between our two lovers, and the tones just don’t mesh well at all. Heck, no one even seems that phased by the guy being hung, they just sort of continue on like it was a mild inconvenience. Also the relationship between Christine and Raoul can’t help but feel a little forced. It’s addressed that they knew each other as kids, but that’s the films only reason as to why they’re both falling in love, and that’s just not enough. I’ll say this, the two actors are at least capable of conveying a romantic chemistry.

     Now let’s talk about some additional scenes and content that were added in for the movie version, most of which I’m actually quite pleased with. First of all, I like how this movie occasionally cuts back and forth between the colorful present day story and a gloomy black and white future. Those little snippets of the future help segue certain scenes, and it gives the movie a gothic atmosphere knowing that no-matter what the outcome of the present day story, there’s no escaping this depressing future that lies ahead. The greatest transition of all is the opening scene itself when the once broken chandelier is raised followed by the scene shifting from the dark future to the beautiful past, and all while matched to the sensational overture music. Not only does this scene look amazing, but it also builds on our excitement of seeing this story told, and what lead to that chandeliers, as well as the Opera Houses demise. 

I also really like how the movie is book-ended with a candle flickering on and off, and even though that’s a minor point, it’s those little details that I feel add a lot to the overall viewing experience. There's an original song titled "Learn to be Lonely" that plays during the end credits and that was another welcome addition to the film. It even gave the movie an Oscar nomination of best original song. The Phantom is also given a much darker back story where as a kid he was caged and beaten by the people of a traveling carnival. It works in getting us to sympathize with the villain for a little, and I like how the flashback establishes his connections with another member of the Opera house. There’s also some small action scenes added in to give the film some excitement and some times it works. I actually like the addition of a sword fight in the cemetery, and even though it’s not in character for the phantom to be a swordsman, it’s still cool to see him clash blades with our hero. Having said that, I do think the sword fight could have been shot, edited and even choreographed a little better. 

    Now this adaption of the play was directed by Joel Schumacher who also directed “The Lost Boys”, which is one of my favorite 80’s horror movies. In that film, Joel Schumacher directed it with a sense of euphoria, giving all the songs and transitions an atmospheric dreamlike quality. Some of that carried over into this film very nicely, most notably during “The Phantom of the Opera” song number itself. In this scene, our lead heroine meets the titular Phantom for the first time, and she seems to be in a perpetual dream like state. They walk through this hallway with candlestick holders that move on their own, but then vanish in the following scene when another character walks down the same hallway. This suggests that she has a very operatic imagination, which I found a welcome touch and it’s just a plain cool visual. I also love the build up to this song as we see all the lights and candles going out in the Opera house leading up to his appearance in the mirror. This was also my favorite song from the play, and it was cool to see it brought to life in film form. Although much like the previously mentioned sword fight, I think it could have been shot and staged a little better.

    This actually brings me to my biggest issue with the movie, while the production quality of the film is outstanding, I found the actual film-making on display kind of mediocre. Joel Schumacher is a director with a talent for showing-off his big elaborate set designs with lots of wide shots. Again, the set designs are great spectacles to behold, and the film rightfully got an Oscar nod for best Art Direction. Unfortunately, while the wide shots do help submerse us into the setting this also leaves little variety to the actual cinematography on display. Most of the time it feels like the camera is only stationary while the cast just casually walk around their surroundings. While this works for a stage production, it makes the movie feel a little dull and tired at times. Personally, I feel that musicals shine best when the filmmakers play around with the camera, how it’s positioned and how it moves. Here’s a perfect example, the set design of the cemetery during the song “Wishing you were Somehow here Again” is a thing of beauty to look at, but nothing else about this song number is engaging me on either a technical or even emotional level. The song “Music of the Night” of course is the most famous of all the numbers from the play, and while it’s a good song on its own, it’s also the most boring part of the whole film. This scene just drags itself on and on, with generic staging and little else to engage the viewer. Once in a while “The Phantom of the Opera” has some good cinematography, most notably the scene in which our female lead takes a carriage ride to the cemetery. This scene was shot very well, and boasts some great atmosphere. Moments like this were just enough to give Cinematographer John Mathieson an Oscar nomination. 

    One thing this movie absolutely succeeded in was making the Opera house a character in of itself. It’s always a busy environment, with lots of movement, lots of costumes, and lots of details in both the foreground and background. In this respect the film reminds me a lot of “Moulin Rouge”, which had an equally busy environment with lots of detail, but the one glaring difference between the two is that “Moulin Rouge” had a far more appealing color scheme. This leads me to yet another short coming for “The Phantom of the Opera” as it just couldn’t decide what kind of color scheme should characterize the film. At times it’s not dark enough and other times it’s not colorful enough, instead it’s this horrible in-between colorization that’s not very appealing. The only way I can describe it is faded black mixed with the worst shade of yellow. Take the “Masquerade” ball number as a perfect example, it’s once again a lavish production with a very lively environment, but all the color is sucked out in favor of this ugly overblown yellow coloring. Now once in a while there are some fairly welled colored scenes, like the roof top song number “All I ask of You”. During this number, Christine’s bright red dress is a terrific contrast to the colorful dark-blue sky and glittering snow fall.   

     Now we come to the third act of the movie, which like the film itself is a mixed bag. On the one hand the final “Past the Point of no Return” song number, in my opinion is one of the best musical sequences of the film. I like the hellish red stage design, and it’s satisfying to have a closing musical number with both Christine and the Phantom on stage together. I especially love that the falling chandelier was saved for this finally as opposed to the middle, and it is a gorgeous spectacle to view on screen. Unfortunately things wind down to a typical boring climax where the girl is snatched by the villain, and the boy friend rushes to the rescue. The movie then waists perfectly good time with our hero fighting through randomly placed death traps that are neither suspenseful nor exciting and only slows things down. Even the final three way confrontation between our main cast feels kind of mediocre and seems to lack any real tension. Never the less, I found the resolution at the end effective enough, and it closes the movie on a good note.  

    I realize my opinion in this review has been all over the place, but that’s kind of the film in a nutshell. In the end, despite all its shortcomings, I do still like this movie. I’ve been a long time fan of the Broadway play and even though this film was far from perfect, it’s still very satisfying to see the musical brought to life in film form. To be honest, even though it’s not a classic like the first two horror movies based on the character, this is still personally my favorite movie rendition of “The Phantom of the Opera”. He just feels like a character that was meant for a musical as opposed to horror film, but that’s just me. Also the movie looks amazing, the songs are still good and I remember the cast in their respected roles. This is a special case in which I’ve gradually grown to like a film over time, and while it doesn’t represent the best of what musicals from the new millennium have to offer, I also don’t think it should be completely ignored either.  

I give the 2004 musical “The Phantom of the Opera” 3 ½ stars out of 5.

“It’s over now, the music of the NIGHT!”  

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Star Trek Movies: All 13 Ranked (In my personal oppinion)

Star Trek is personally my favorite franchise of all time (which is no small accomplishment), not just in regards to the movies but the whole TV franchise as well. Now after all these years a new Star Trek TV show is coming out called “Star Trek Discovery” and it has gotten me pumped to dust off my Star Trek movie collection and quickly discus my feelings on each film. Now years ago back in 2013 I went through each film individually and graded them, but this time I’m going to arrange them in my own personal order of least favorite to favorite. This of course is just my own personal opinion and I can guarantee that the placements of some select films may shock fans, but I’m not about to lie about my honest feels toured a film and how I’d rank them. So with all that said, here are all 13 Star Trek movies ranked in my own personal opinion from least to best.

#13 Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1980)

 My overall score is 4 out of 10
It’s ironic that of all twelve Star Trek movies, the first film is my absolute least favorite. Despite being credited for re-launching the series and introducing us to the awesome musical score composed by Jerry Goldsmith, this film just can’t redeem its painfully slow passé, overly long run time, and it’s completely empty story that doesn’t focus on the characters. Some of the ideas in this film are interesting, there's some good atmosphere, and the visuals are spectacles for its time, but that’s all this film is, just one long, slow special effect that doesn’t do anything meaningful with its iconic cast. It’s a very rare case in which the first movie is the worst and all the sequels (even the bad ones) are far superior, but that's just my opinion. 

#12 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

 My overall score is 4 out of 10
Often regarded as the worst of the Star Trek series and for good reason, “The Final Frontier” provides a ludicrous story, with constant plot wholes, really bad visual effects, painfully stupid hummer, boring villains and there’s just one ridicules event after the next. However, there are at least some really good character moments and even some good statements on accepting the pain in one’s life, but that’s still not enough to save this disaster of a movie.

#11 Star Trek Generations (1994)

 My overall score is 7 out of 10

The average story, annoying scenes and slow passé keep this from being the great first installment that the TNG franchise deserved and is probably the weakest of their four films, however, it certainly isn’t terrible. For all its shortcomings there are still enough dramatic moments, charismatic charms and power house scenes to make it worthwhile. Plus, it’s a real treat to finally see Captain Picard and Captain Kirk together on screen.

#10 Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

My overall score is 7 out of 10

Even though the plot is very similar to "The Wrath of Khan", there's just enough smart twists and turns to hold it's own in the series. There's some really good character themes, and dilemmas that are once again balanced with some thrilling action scenes, breath taking visual effects, and an amount of energy that never dies. Oh, and I almost forgot, Khan is back and just as awesome as ever, that alone makes this film worth while.

#9 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) 

 My overall score is 7 out of 10

Even though the story isn’t structured as well as its predecessor and features some really odd plot points, it's never the less a really fun adventure to embark on with the classic crew. There's lots of high-teak Sci-Fi charms, some of the best character moments in the series run, including a very touching ending, plus Christopher Lloyd and his Klingon’s are a lot of fun to watch.

#8 Star Trek Nemesis (2002)

 My overall score is 7.5 out of 10

I’ll admit this movie has some areas that could be improved upon, but never the less I consider "Nemesis" to be very underrated entry in the TNG series, and personally it's another small favorite in the Star Trek motion picture line up. The premise gives the TNG crew more of a character themed story than any of their other films, and there are even some intriguing concepts of nature versus nurture. More than anything, it’s the conflicts between Captain Picard and the villain Shinzon that elevate the enjoyment and character depth of this movie. Throw in some incredible visual effects, another terrific score provided by Jerry Goldsmith, some of the best action scenes in Star Trek history, including a powerhouse climax and you get a mostly worthy installment in the Star Trek cannon.   

#7 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

 My overall score is 8 out of 10

Any hard core Star Trek fan would label this film as the best of the series, however while it’s personally not my absolute favorite, “The Wrath of Khan” is undeniably the classic movie that started everything. The performances are all stronger, especially from Ricardo Montalban who’s downright chilling as the villain Khan. The story is structured very firmly and focuses on the characters first before spectacles. But more than anything, it’s the films deep-context regarding life and death that make it one of the most meaningful entries in the series.

#6 Star Trek Insurrection (1998)

 My overall score is 8 out of 10

The internal conflicts of the film are really one-sided, resulting in a serious problem regarding the films sub-text, and the main plot is very reminiscent of several TNG episodes. However, the premise is engaging enough as Picard and crew deify their superiors and defend a planet from a global invasion, which just happens to be their very own Star Fleet. This leads to some exciting action sequences, and it's a cool situation to see our hero's in. There are plenty of Trek charms, fine performances and it’s the only film that allows us to just have a fun time with the next generation crew. Plus, from a personal point of view, this is my favorite Star Trek movie to look at. I love all the scenery, landscape, spaceship interiors and all of the dazzling effects provided in this film. For all it's faults, this is sill a personal favorite of mine.

#5 Star Trek Beyond (2016)

My overall score is 8.5 out of 10

The third entry of the new reboot series gives us a fast paced adventure set on a planet for once, which is a refreshing change of pace, and allows for some gorgeous scenery. This is arguably the best looking Star Trek movie sense “Insurrection” back in 1998. Aside from all the visual appeal and spectacular action, this film really stays true to its roots, pays respect to the characters, and is just a wonderful love letter to the legacy of this 50 year old franchise. The banter and interactions between the cast are some of the most enjoyable to date, and new characters like Jaila help breathe some new life into the film.

#4 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

 My overall score is 9 out of 10
Of the six original films, “The Voyage Home” is my personal favorite. The plot is very odd but so well constructed, combining themes and morals with a very fun time travel concept and lots of comedy. The whole movie experience is just a real joy to watch, providing lots of excitement while still teaching the viewer simple life lessens along the way. There’s just no other way to describe this movie other than a simple, lighthearted and completely joyful experience.

#3 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

 My overall score is 9.5 out of 10

I stated earlier that “The Voyage Home” is my personal favorite of the original six, which it certainly is, however, I honestly consider “The Undiscovered Country” to be the absolute best. It just gets everything right, boasting an intriguing, character-driven mystery plot with lots of incite on themes of prejudice, forgiveness, betrayal, nationalism and the fear of an un-known future. The result is a genuinely thrilling and even inspiring motion picture that’s nothing short of a masterpiece.

#2 Star Trek (2009)

 My overall score is 9.5 out of 10

Just like “First Contact”, this film is a spectacle that non-trek fans can enjoy and even more importantly it proves that an old franchise can still thrill and excite audiences for a new generation. The characters feel fresh and new while still keeping their timeless and charismatic charms intact. The story is very engaging, heavy on classy Sci-Fi elements, boasted by some stellar set pieces, livened up by some really good hummer, and electrified by some awesome action scenes. Finally, everything is presented in a vary energized tone, which makes the whole experience nothing short of a fun time. I don’t even know what else to say about this one, it’s just a really fun movie that’s sure to win the franchise some new fans.

#1 Star Trek First Contact (1996)

 My overall score is 10 out of 10
This is the Star Trek movie that seems to have something for everyone, whether their fans or not. The story is exciting, there’s plenty of action, some stealer visual effects, a beautiful musical score composed by Jerry Goldsmith and standout performances from James Cromwell and star Patrick Stewart in his respected roll as Captain Picard. Plus the film manages to juggle a relatively dark, even frightening overtone involving the popular Borg villains with plenty of humanity, good character structure and even a subtle touch of hummer. It’s just an excellent film on all grounds and it still stands as my personal favorite of all twelve Star Trek movies.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gravity Falls: My Top 10 Favorite Episodes

      In the strange little town of Gravity Falls, twin siblings named Dipper and Mable spend their summer going on wild and hilarious supernatural adventures. Watching over the kids is there cranky old uncle named Stan, who makes his living as an expert con-artist. This show came well after my childhood had passed, but word of mouth got around to me, and upon my first viewing I realized that this series was right up my alley. It’s got the spooky charms of shows like “Goosebumps” or “Courage the Cowardly Dog”, combined with the brilliant comedy one would expect from shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or “The Simpsons”. Unlike other Disney programs, I was quiet surprised with just how funny this show got, as well as how exciting it got. It had an engaging mystery plot that was slowly unraveled, but more to the point, it just had a splendid cast of characters that I loved going on adventures with. I loved the atmosphere, I loved the creepy moments and the cast was solid. Rather then spoil the experience by covering the show as a whole, here are my personal 10 favorite episodes that might just win over anyone not familiar with the series.

#10 The Deep End (Season 1 – Ep. 15) 

It’s the hottest day in Gravity Falls history, so our Treo head to the public swimming pool to cool off. Upon arriving they break up and have three separate little adventures in this one location. Mabel befriends a merman trapped in the deep end of the pool, Dipper is put through intense life guard training and Stan is competing with his arch enemy little Gideon for ownership of the best sun-tanning chair. I love how this episode can take a small location like a swimming pool, and give it a large variety of funny side ventures. There’s some hilarious jokes involving the detention center for misbehaving swimmers, an uptight life gourd who’s more like a drill sergeant, and Mable’s relation with the stranded Merman is every bit as charming as it funny. The episode actually ends with a surprisingly wild car-chase involving mini-carts, and everything closes with a nice little wink to “Free Wily”. It’s charming, it’s funny and a refreshing offset to some of the stranger and scarier things our hero’s come across in the show.

#9 Scary-oke (Season 2 – Ep. 21) 

Following up on the epic season one finally, season two picks up with our hero’s throwing a party to celebrate their resent victory. The one person who’s not in the party mood is Dipper, who’s more eager then every to solve all the supernatural mysteries of Gravity Falls. When two government agents make a sudden arrival to investigate, Dipper instantly wants to join them, and tries showing them his special magic journal as proof that he can help crack the case. In a hilariously dark turn of events Dipper unintentionally brings to life an army of Zombies, and nothing quite livens up a party better than an army of the dead. Most of my favorite episodes tend to be the really spooky ones, and this Zombie themed episode just hits it out of the park with some really cool creature designs, and awesome zombie action. This is also a very colorful episode and features some terrific animation highlights. There's also some really funny lines from Uncle Stan’s remarks at the dead. Best of all, this is the first time Stan reveals to the kids that he’s known all along about the oddities of the town, and aids the kids in saving the day. Needless to say, it was a real treat to finally see all three of our hero’s together. This leads into one of my favorite finales in which the group need to sing karaoke to defeat the Zombies, which is hilarious. 

#8 Little Dipper (Season 1 – Ep. 10) 

When Mable learns that she’s slightly taller than her twin brother Dipper, she finally has an excuse to upstage him at something. In order to get back on even ground (or in this case height) with his sister, Dipper discovers some magic stones and uses them to create a device that can shrink or grow items. His efforts to grow himself fall short (pun intended) when their arch enemy little Gideon steals the shrink gun, reduces both Mable and Dipper to the size of ants, and threatens to use the shrink ray as a weapon against Uncle Stan in an effort to claim his mystery Shack. Now brother and sister find themselves off on a grand adventure of a small scale. This is the mandatory shrunken kids adventure, which I’m a sucker for. I love when characters explore regular every day surroundings that appear larger in scale. Its just a cool way to make the familiar, everyday world feel so much more epic. While not a very original concept it’s still executed very well in this show, with no shortage of funny situations, and lots of creativity. I especially love how the shrink gun is simply a flashlight with a multi-colored lens. Also Dipper and Mable’s sibling relationship is always at the heart of the show, so it’s great to see them resolve issues together and share an adventure.    

#7 Gideon Rises (Season 1 – Ep. 20) 

Little Gideon had been the main antagonist of season one, and it’s here in the season finally that we see him unhinged. He steals the deed to Uncle Stan’s shack, banishes our hero’s from town, becomes the towns idle and learns of Dippers magic journals. Outmatched and beaten, Dipper and Mable decide to head home, but not before battling a giant Gideon robot. Meanwhile, Uncle Stan is looking for a way to expose the little monster for the fraud he is. I was quiet surprised with this one and never would have expected things to get as epic as this riveting season finally did. The climactic showdown with the giant robot is both funny yet quiet intense, and features one of Dippers most heroic moments as he faces the villain head on. It’s beautifully animated, and highlights Little Gideon as a surprisingly fun antagonist. Plus, the episode closes on a nail biting surprise cliff hanger that’s among the shows best, and was bound to bring in fans for another season.

#6 Summerween (Season 1 – Ep. 12)

This was the episode I was looking forward to the most, as I love Halloween episodes, and to see the possibilities of what “Gravity Falls” could bring to my favorite holiday was beyond exciting. Now while the show is set during the summer time, the people of Gravity Falls love the holiday so much that they celebrate it twice, and one of them is during the summer in which it’s lovingly called Summerween. That premise alone is ingenious and makes me wish I could have grown up in that town. As the episode continues we see that Dipper is ready to grow up, and spend Halloween with the older guys as opposed to his sister. This causes a rift between the two as Mable wants to savor every Halloween she can with her brother before they become teenagers. To make matters worse, the kids are soon chased by a deadly entity called The Trickster who threatens to harm all who don’t keep the holiday spirit alive. The details in this episode are great as it creates a perfect Halloween atmosphere, and feels like a special I’d watch yearly around the season. The back-story behind the Trickster is brilliant, the spooky action sequences are great, and there’s yet another really sweet sibling story going on between Mable and Dipper. It’s a solid episode and personally one of my all time favorite Halloween themed episodes I’ve ever seen from any TV series.   

#5 Dreamscaperers (Season 1 – Ep. 19) 

Just before the events of the season 1 finale, we see Little Gideon hatch a plan to steal the deed to Uncle Stan’s mystery shack, and it all starts by summoning an ancient demon called Bill Cipher. With the evil entity unleashed he probes Stan’s mind to uncover his most valuable secrets. Once the kids learn of the threat, they follow Bill into their Uncles mind, which leads into one heck of a trippy dreamscape adventure. The setting of Stan’s mind is one of my favorite locations from the show, with twisted visuals, and literally features a lot of imagination at work. There’s even some great morals revolving around the “tough love” some family members inflict on their kids in order to make them both physically and mentally stronger. This also marked an important introduction to the shows greatest antagonist Bill Cipher, who’s every bit as charismatic as he is threatening. Throw in one of the shows most entertaining final battles, along with an exciting cliffhanger leading into the season one finale and you got a solid episode.  

#4 Northwest Mansion Mystery (Season 2 – Ep. 10) 

Of all the dark spooky adventure episodes, this one is my personal favorite by far, and probably features some of the creepiest imagery. Bratty rich girl Pacifica Northwest, who’s always been a rival of our hero’s now finds herself in a situation where she needs their help, or more specifically Dippers help. Her home is haunted by a mysterious ghost and is threatening to ruin her parents party. I love seeing two enemies paired together to solve a problem, and both Dipper and Pacifica actually make for a terrific match. As the two look for clues and battle all kinds of haunted house obstacles, more and more dark clues about both the ghosts past, and Pacifica’s cruel parents are slowly being revealed. It’s a captivating dive into the study of a bully character whom we the audience didn’t initially care for. The animation in this episode is also gorgeous, with some downright terrifying haunted house imagery that could have been right out of the “Evil Dead” movies. Also the back-story of the ghost himself is one of the darkest the show has ever gone, and proves that this series wasn’t afraid to take risks. The episodes haunting atmosphere is sensational, the colors pop on the screen and it made one of the shows least likeable characters quiet interesting by the end.   

#3 Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future (Season 2 – Ep. 17) 

With one week left of Summer vacation, Dipper and Mabel prepare for their 13th birthday party which promises to be a huge turning point in their lives. However, change is both an exciting and frightening concept as both the twins soon discover. Dipper on the one hand after rescuing his Uncle Ford from an Alien space craft is offered a chance to take his life in an exciting new direction where he can live his dream. Mabel mean while is terrified of the changes she’ll have to face when she grows up, is also bummed about leaving town, and worse yet may be separate from her brother for quite some time. This for me is one of the shows most emotional episodes, and one that I can honestly relate too. I remember what it was like to face big changes in my life, I still face changes every day, but I also learned to compromise, grow and it’s a thoughtful message to convey to a new generation of kids watching this show. Of course one of the shows greatest strengths is Dipper’s sibling relationship with Mable, the challenges they face and it’s very touching to see them face the unknown that lies ahead. The episode then closes on a deeply thrilling segue into the three part series finally and leaves you exhilarated to see how their story will come to a close in the following arch.  

#2 Not What he Seems (Season 2 – Ep. 11) 

This episode is often described by fans and critics as arguably the best of the show, and who can blame them because it’s an amazing episode that changes everything. The episode begins with our three principle characters having a fun morning bonding together, which is both funny and always gets me in the feels. Then things take a sudden turn when strange gravity anomalies start to spike up in town, and Uncle Stan is arrested by the government agents on charges of creating a secret dooms day device. Dipper and Mable begin investigating to prove their great uncles innocents, but only discover more and more odd secrets about him that throws all their trust in a loop. Maybe their uncle isn’t even their real uncle at all, and worse yet, he might just be creating some kind of dooms day weapon. This was a surprisingly dark episode, with a very different tone then anything previous. This was an episode that had fans second guising a character we thought we knew, and it just keeps delivering one exciting twist after another. More than anything, this episode features one of the most emotionally resonant finals of the whole series, and possibly my favorite moment of the show. Sure enough the kids discover a secret machine hidden under their shack, and its slowly ticking away to something big. At this point Mable’s trust in her uncle is put to the ultimate test, dose she destroy the machine before the final countdown, or dose she trust the mysterious uncle she still loves. It all builds to an incredibly beautiful visual of her surrendering to her faith in Uncle Stan, as well as a long awaited reveal as to what’s been going on. It’s an emotional ending with a great cliffhanger and without a doubt one of the shows greatest achievements ... but there is still one more episode I personally like more. 
Before I reveal my #1 favorite episode here are some special Honorable Mentions ... 

A Tale of Two Stans

Little Gift Shop of Horrors

Dungeons, Dongeons & More Dungeons 

Soos and the Real Girl

The Inconveniencing

#1 Weirdmageddon (Season 2 – Ep. 18-20) 

When I first started watching “Gravity Falls”, it felt mostly derivative, just a little slice of fun and creativity, but as the story began to unravel and the characters became more interesting I slowly found myself getting more and more submersed into this series. Then the journey reached its end with the epic three part ark titled “Weirdmagedoon” and I couldn’t even find the words to describe how amazed I was with this show. Following immediately after the events of “Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future”, the demonic entity Bill Cipher is released, at fool power, and ready to kick start the end of the world. For good measure he traps Mabel in a prison bubble where she lives in a colorful fantasy that’s making all her dreams come true. 
Meanwhile the apocalypse is raging outside, armies of monsters have taken over the city and it’s up to Dipper to rally as many friends as he can to stop Bill. It seems that all the best shows have similar series finalizes in which a super villain is threatening to end the world, the sky permanently turns red, cities are brought to ruins, and our hero’s make a desperate last stand against improbable odds. “Avatar: The Last Air bender” had a similar series finally, as did the initial series finally for “Teen Titans”, and heck even “Pokémon: XYZ” had a similar series finally. “Gravity Falls” however dose something wildly different with its apocalyptic final, as the design resembles the cover of a heavy metal album, and it seems to pay homage to ever popular “end of times” setting including “The Walking Dead” and “Mad Max”. There’s a wild car chase that takes many odd turns, including a moment in which the characters are live action for a second.

I also love the internal conflicts of Mable’s arch and how she’s torn between living in either her beautiful fantasy world or the terrifying real world, which reaches a very emotional and poignant conclusion. One of my favorite moments is when Mable and dippers awkward sibling hug becomes a sincere one. subsequently, the world of Mable's mind is one of the wildest and most creative I've ever seen, and I love how all the bright colors of her world clash with the darkness of Bills fiery Apocalypse. The final battle with Bill Cipher is nothing short of epic as the mystery shack comes to life like a giant anime robot and battles various monsters, all while matched to a thrilling rendition of the show’s theme song. On a side note, Bill Cipher had already proven to be an awesome villain, but this arch really made him stand out as one of the greatest cartoon villains of the millennium. When all the exciting action is said and done, we’re treated to a very heartfelt epilogue that ties up everything beautifully, and gives the audience a chance to say good-bye to the characters we’ve come to know and love. 
It’s simply the perfect ending to a great series, and a perfect final episode usually stands as my personal favorite. As the credits of the last episode rolled by, I slowly realized that “Gravity Falls” wasn’t just a derivative piece of fluff, it was actually an experience, and one that I’d gladly keep with me. It was a show that proved almost too good for Disney channel, it was creative, it was funny, it had fairly good morals and just a wonderful cast of characters. I don’t watch cartoon shows that often unless I have some kind of nostalgic connection with it, but “Gravity Falls” was a special treat that took me by surprise and proved to be a fantastic series that I wouldn’t mind experiencing again. If you’ve never seen this show I highly recommend it to anyone that loves fun, imaginative, coming of age stories, fantasies or spooky mysteries, because this show has it all ... and then some.

The End