Shows

Gravity Falls Gets Even Weirder

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Gravity Falls Season 2

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When my sister wanted me to watch Gravity Falls, I was skeptical about whether I would like it. It looked like an uninteresting kids show or like it would have a style of humor I wouldn’t be a fan of. However, it has become one of my favorite shows.

Background

Gravity Falls Season 2 was released in 2014-2016. It stars the voice talent of Jason Ritter, Alex Hirsch, Kristen Schaal, and Linda Cardellini.

It can currently be watched on Disney Plus.

Summary

Season 2 focuses on the search for the author of the journals, Gruncle Stan’s past, and the struggle against Bill Cipher.

Pros

  • Loveable characters
  • Unique villains
  • Interesting supernatural beings
  • Touching character dynamics between the twins
  • Entertaining setting
  • Clever and amusing dialogue
  • Fun animation
  • References to other shows and pop culture
  • Continuity between episodes unlike in some cartoons
  • Enjoyable for adults and children alike
  • Original catchy music

Cons

  • Gets darker in a way that is a bit much (though this is a minor con)

Observations

  • The whispers at the end of the intro song of each episode are hints to solve the cryptogram at the end of each episode
  • Alex Hirsch is the voice actor for Gruncle Stan, Soos, Old Man McGucket, and Bill Cipher.
  • Dipper’s hat was originally supposed to be red, but the creators feared that he would look too much like Ash Ketchum

Review

Characters

My Favorite Pic of the Whole Gang

Mabel Pines, the girl in the pink sweater and braces, is a quirky and boy-crazy girl. She wears a different sweater almost every episode and is very spontaneous.

Dipper Pines, the boy in the blue hat, is adventurous, practical, and cautious. He is eager to find out what supernatural forces are at work in Gravity Falls.

The twins do a lot of growing in their understanding of themselves and the world around them during Season 2. They have to realize what is most important and worth protecting.

Wendy Corduroy is the redheaded teenager. She is tomboyish, strong, assertive, clever, and funny. Wendy is my favorite character.

Gruncle Stan, the old man, is the main characters’ Great Uncle. Get it? Gruncle? He is miserly, bossy, and occasionally engages in criminal activities. Nonetheless, he is one of the most loveable characters.

Soos is the handyman in the green shirt. He is laidback, has a big heart, and is very close to the Pines family. He acts kind of like a big brother to Dipper and Mabel.

I can’t imagine the show without any one of these characters. They are all essential and add so much to the story.

There is only one character of note who debuted in the second season, but his existence is so integral to the plot that I cannot reveal who it is without major spoilers.

Bill Cipher is the iconic villain of Gravity Falls, and the main threat of Season 2. He’s just so weird….some of his scenes from Season 1 involve deer teeth and possession. It’s all quite odd, and that’s what makes him so unique. He is sadistic and thoughtless and enjoys making deals. Season 2 gets even weirder with his greater involvement.

Relationships

The relationship between the twins is so sweet and authentic. It is clear that they genuinely do care for each other and enjoy each other’s company. Gravity Falls avoids common tropes used in shows for twins–such as twins that are identical or very similar in personality, or the twin that is always right vs. the one that is always wrong, single-minded twins, etc.

Season 2 delves into this relationship more by revealing more of the twins’ pasts and creating conflict between them.

Setting

The show is set in Gravity Falls, Oregon. A lot of time is spent at the Mystery Shack in particular, which is a tourist trap filled with gimmicks and odd artifacts.

Dialogue

Pain is hilarious! And two eyes? This thing is deluxe!”

Bill Cipher, referring to humans

Romance is like gum. When it loses its flavor, you just shove another one in.”

Mabel Pines

A TV show that has big mystery elements and jokes that go over kid’s head’s”

Gruncle Stan, referring to Ducktective in a metajoke also referring to Gravity Falls itself

Animation

The goofy and sometimes postcard-worthy animation of Gravity Falls is attractive and fits the theme of the show.

Allusions

  • When Soos says “Shining, shimmering, splendid,” he is referencing the song “A Whole New World”
  • Smez is a spoof of the brand Pez
  • “We Built This Township on Rock and Roll” is a reference to “We Built This City” by Starship
  • “The Golf War” title of an episode alludes to the actual Gulf War
  • One episode has several allusions to the Muppets
  • At one time the Eye of Sauron can be seen in the Mystery Shack
  • There are so many more!

Continuity

The show is dependent on the episodes that come before for a lot of the development and for most of it to make sense. That makes it different from many TV shows where the episodes can be watched in any order.

Audience

The audience for this show is varied. When I was looking at who had left ratings on IMDb, there was a large age range from teens to people in their mid-20s or mid-30s–even people older than that such as in their 50s. In addition, it was made for children, so it fits all of these audiences well. There are a lot of jokes that adults will appreciate that kids may barely notice. The darker themes at times in the show makes it appealing to adults as well.

Music

The theme song is so catchy my sister and dad both made it their ringtone. I love it. It’s one of those iconic songs that will always bring back good memories for me.

Conclusion

I recommend this show for all ages except for very young children due to dark elements. Admittedly this season is darker, so parental guidance may be best. Things such as a person turning into cockroaches and a couch made of petrified humans might be uncomfortable for very young audiences, as well as the darker overall atmosphere.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Movies

Knives Out Will Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

Knives Out (2019)

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

I don’t watch mystery movies too often, but I really enjoyed this one. I watched it once with my uncle and once with my roommate.

Background

Knives Out was directed by Rian Johnson. Many people are not happy with what he did to Star Wars, but I can honestly say that he was in his element when he directed this movie.

The movie stars Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.

Knives Out is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Summary

Detective Benoit Blanc investigates an apparent suicide, believing it to be a murder. Investigation into family matters reveals most family members had sufficient motives for murder, but this wacky mystery is much more complex than it seems.

Pros

  • Creative title
  • Phenomenal acting and cast
  • Complex and entertaining characters
  • Interesting setting
  • Subtle aspects of the film rewarding those paying attention
  • Plausible yet unexpected ending

Cons

  • Marta’s vomiting is overused

Review

Title

The title was well-chosen, part of one of the most impactful quotes in the whole movie by Benoit Blanc – “You’re a pack a vultures, knives out and beaks bloody.” In context it is blunt, but cuts to the heart of the problem with the whole Thrombey family.

The title could also be a reference to the stunning display of Harlan Thrombey’s knives, which was certainly the most iconic object in the movie.

Acting

The acting was phenomenal, especially by Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc and Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera. Some people found Craig’s southern drawl annoying, but it didn’t bother me.

Characters

Again, Benoit Blanc and Marta Cabrera were the best characters, though I appreciated Harlan Thrombey as well.

Benoit is an eccentric detective, not just another cookie-cutter Sherlock. He has elaborate metaphors involving donuts, and even seems incompetent at times. Yet he is super sharp too.

I feel a noose tightening. The family is truly desperate. Desperate motives, with the mystery of who hired me, the impossibility of the crime, and yet a donut. One central piece, and if it reveals itself, the fog would lift, the arc would resolve, the Slinky become unkinked.

Benoit Blanc

Marta Cabrera is a kind-hearted nurse who cared for the deceased Harlan Thrombey during his old age. She has complicated relationships with all the members of the Thrombey family. She is basically the protagonist of the movie.

Setting

The house most of the action is set in, becomes, as a character pointed out, just like a Clue board. It has all these quirky aspects that made it stand out. These details are what made the family home the family home. And as a former English major and a (hopefully!) future librarian, I appreciated the sheer number of books in the house. At the same time, I don’t think I could handle the clutter. That being said, this house just had so much character.

Details

There are some details that added to this masterpiece of a story. When each family member told the story, the flashbacks had slight differences even in places where they intersected, which is especially notable in the scene with the birthday cake.

Different members of the family say that Marta’s family is from different countries. Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil…none of them cared enough to know for sure her story.

According to Fandom, the accuracy of the clocks was carefully considered when setting the scenes. Each one was carefully at the time it should have been for the scene.

The timing of Benoit hitting a piano key during the investigation was the way one of the investigators was prompted to ask a certain question. I thought that was pretty creative.

Ending

The ending was well-executed and I would say most people would not see it coming. Obviously I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that I certainly was not disappointed.

Conclusion

I would recommend this movie even for people who don’t usually watch mysteries. It’s not your typical whodunit. The rating of PG-13 is entirely reasonable.

Also, I heard a sequel is coming out, so it’s the perfect time to watch Knives Out!

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Links

Shows

A Supernatural Summer Adventure

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Gravity Falls Season 1

Rating: 9.5 out of 10 stars

Intro

When my sister wanted me to watch Gravity Falls, I was skeptical about whether I would like it. It looked like an uninteresting kids show or like it would have a style of humor I wouldn’t be a fan of. However, it has become one of my favorite shows.

Background

Gravity Falls Season 1 was released in 2012-2013. It stars the voice talent of Jason Ritter, Alex Hirsch, Kristen Schaal, and Linda Cardellini.

It can currently be watched on Disney Plus.

Summary

Twins Dipper and Mabel Pines travel to Gravity Falls, Oregon to stay with their great uncle Stan for the summer. While there, they are involved in all sorts of paranormal adventures.

Pros

  • Loveable characters
  • Unique villains
  • Interesting supernatural beings
  • Touching character dynamics between the twins
  • Entertaining setting
  • Clever and amusing dialogue
  • Fun animation
  • References to other shows and pop culture
  • Continuity between episodes unlike in some cartoons
  • Enjoyable for adults and children alike
  • Original catchy music

Cons

  • Doesn’t start out as good as it eventually gets later in the season

Observations

  • The whispers at the end of the intro song of each episode are hints to solve the cryptogram at the end of each episode
  • Alex Hirsch is the voice actor for Gruncle Stan, Soos, Old Man McGucket, and Bill Cipher.
  • Dipper’s hat was originally supposed to be red, but the creators feared that he would look too much like Ash Ketchum

Review

Characters

My Favorite Pic of the Whole Gang

Mabel Pines, the girl in the pink sweater and braces, is a quirky and boy-crazy girl. She wears a different sweater almost every episode and is very spontaneous.

Dipper Pines, the boy in the blue hat, is adventurous, practical, and cautious. He is eager to find out what supernatural forces are at work in Gravity Falls.

Wendy Corduroy is the redheaded teenager. She is tomboyish, strong, assertive, clever, and funny. Wendy is my favorite character.

Gruncle Stan, the old man, is the main characters’ Great Uncle. Get it? Gruncle? He is miserly, bossy, and occasionally engages in criminal activities. Nonetheless, he is one of the most loveable characters.

Soos is the handyman in the green shirt. He is laidback, has a big heart, and is very close to the Pines family. He acts kind of like a big brother to Dipper and Mabel.

I can’t imagine the show without any one of these characters. They are all essential and add so much to the story.

Lil Gideon is perhaps the most annoying character in the show, but that is what makes him so effective. He claims to be psychic and is a rich kid.

Bill Cipher is the iconic villain of Gravity Falls. He’s just so weird….some of his scenes involve deer teeth and possession. It’s all quite odd, and that’s what makes him so unique. He is kind of sadistic and thoughtless and enjoys making deals.

Relationships

The relationship between the twins is so sweet and authentic. It is clear that they genuinely do care for each other and enjoy each other’s company. Gravity Falls avoids common tropes used in shows for twins–such as twins that are identical or very similar in personality, or the twin that is always right vs. the one that is always wrong, single-minded twins, etc.

Setting

The show is set in Gravity Falls, Oregon. A lot of time is spent at the Mystery Shack in particular, which is a tourist trap filled with gimmicks and odd artifacts.

Dialogue

There is so much fun dialogue in this show. Mabel probably has the best jokes and lines, but all of the characters are hilarious.

For instance, when Dipper freaks out because one of Mabel’s latest crushes does not seem to blink, she suggests:

Maybe he’s blinking when you’re blinking.”

And there is a line by Dipper that has become an often used GIF. Dipper is listening and writing down in a notebook these words:

I am pretending to write something down.”

Mabel has another great line shown below:

Boys, why can’t you learn to hate each other in secret. Like girls do.”

Animation

The goofy and sometimes postcard-worthy animation of Gravity Falls is attractive and fits the theme of the show.

References

There are so many references in this show to older shows, movies, and pop culture. I’ll name a few below, but be on the lookout for more if you watch Gravity Falls.

  • Stan wears a Gill-man mask once, which is a reference to the creature from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
  • Mabel takes an object out of the box and spins like Link from Legend of Zelda
  • When Soos is pretending to be Bigfoot, he uses a pose from the famous alleged film of Bigfoot
  • Monsters Inc reference, but “It’s a 2316” instead of 2319
  • Smile Dip alludes to the brand Fun Dip
  • Mabel sings “Don’t Start Un-believing,” a reference to the song “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey
  • Dipper’s statement “Yes, yes I am” is a reference to Phineas and Ferb

Continuity

Continuity is established through references events in early episodes, such as the gifts the twins choose from the shop, and the damage to the sign on the Mystery Shack.

Audience

The audience for this show is varied. When I was looking at who had left ratings on IMDb, there was a large age range from teens to people in their mid-20s or mid-30s–even people older than that such as in their 50s. In addition, it was made for children, so it fits all of these audiences well. There are a lot of jokes that adults will appreciate that kids may barely notice. The darker themes at times in the show makes it appealing to adults as well.

Music

The theme song is so catchy my sister and dad both made it their ringtone. I love it. It’s one of those iconic songs that will always bring back good memories for me.

Conclusion

I recommend this show for all ages except for very young children due to dark elements.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Anime, Shows

It’s No Spoiler: They’re all Dead

Spoiler-Free Anime Review:

Angel Beats! Season 1

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I first started Angel Beats!, I wasn’t sure if I liked it. After getting a few episodes in, it became one of my favorite anime. I watched it once with my siblings, partway with my ex-boyfriend, and again by myself because it was so good.

Background

This Japanese anime series, released in 2010, was based on the ideas of Jun Maeda and Na-Ga. The studios that produced the anime are P.A. Works and Aniplex.

Summary

High schooler Yuzuru Otonashi wakes up in the afterlife without warning and lacking any memory of his life on Earth. Once there, he finds that the members of the Battlefront are engaged in war against a mysterious individual they call Angel, who has supernatural powers. All members of the Battle Front seek to defy God due to their seemingly unfair lives and/or tragic deaths.

Pros

  • Unusual concept
  • Fascinating characters
  • Well-developed tragic backstories
  • Balance of humor, tension, and tragedy
  • Beautiful animation
  • Attractive intro and outro that change often
  • Phenomenal music throughout
  • Title that has significant meaning revealed near the end

Cons

  • Minimal character development for many characters
  • Felt rushed
  • Repetitive at times
  • Violent and uncomfortable relationship between two characters

Observations

  • An interesting theme to trace is characters’ attitudes toward God

Review

Concept

Battle Front Emblem

The concept is entertaining and held my interest throughout the anime. This is the only anime I’ve ever watched where the characters all start off dead. Nonetheless, the show encourages emotional investment because the characters can be obliterated. This can happen if they obey school rules and try to fit in, if they find peace, or give in.

It is interesting to trace characters’ opinions toward God throughout. There is a wide range of outlooks. Some openly defy God. Others are ambivalent. Still, others believe that He is potentially good and that the afterlife is no punishment. One character believes he is God, and another insists on being called Christ (even though no one is willing to call him that.)

Characters

Angel is a high schooler with supernatural powers such as Hand Sonic, which causes a blade to sprout from her hand. She is believed to be an agent of God’s will and not a dead human like the rest of the characters. Her personality is calm, collected, determined, and generally quiet. She is incredibly powerful, and it typically takes several members of the Battle Front to even slow her down.

Yuri “Yurippe” Nakamura is the fearless leader of the Battle Front. Due to her tragic past, she founded the Battle Front to defy God. Yurippe is defiant, stubborn, and serious, yet has a sense of humor. She is a match for Angel because of her great skill in combat, and she is the character that seems most traumatized by her past.

Yuzuru Otonashi wakes up in the afterlife without any memory of his life on Earth. Initially he is uncertain of who to side with, Angel or the Battle Front. Otonashi does not believe that it is impossible to die in the afterlife because he does not believe he is already dead. As a result, he needs proof. Otonashi is kind, adaptable, and willing to disagree with the crowd. He could probably be considered the main character, even though Angel and Yurippe are extremely important to the storyline.

Hideki Hinata is the co-founder of the Battle Front along with Yurippe. He is one of the strongest members of the Battle Front, but is not afraid to go against the crowd when his beliefs clash with theirs. He quickly develops a close friendship with Otonashi. Hinata gave Angel and Yurippe their nicknames. He is loyal and laidback, but occasionally violent towards Yui.

Yui is a fan of the band Girls Dead Monster. She has an awkward friendship with Hinata that is uncomfortable at times. She is short, easily frightened, energetic, and sometimes annoying. The other characters rarely take her seriously. She is also a skilled vocalist and guitarist herself, although she struggles when she has to do both at the same time. Yui’s tragic past makes her want to make the most of her time in the afterlife.

Backstories

The character backstories for some characters are superbly developed and tragic. Some characters have revealed deaths, while others just have tragedies revealed in their pasts. Many of the characters are not well-developed and have simple yet unique personalities that add to the show even though they are not developed.

Uncomfortable Relationship

The relationship between Yui and Hinata is uncomfortable at best. Don’t think that it’s just Hinata beating up on poor Yui either–they both beat on each other frequently and it’s played for laughs. If it wasn’t meant to be humorous it would be better, but it still would be disturbing to see them fight in a way that is that toxic.

Balance

There is plenty of comedy in Angel Beats! Above, there is a picture of Yurippe creating a distraction by rocketing a team member into the ceiling. While this is happening, dramatic music plays.

There are other sources of humor, such as when the characters consider what would happen is they were obliterated (disappear from the afterlife). They guess at various forms of sea-life they could be reincarnated as.

There is also a lot of sad moments, some of which made me tear up. The backstories of many characters are terrible and tragic too.

Furthermore, there are several tense missions that require a lot of sacrifice and pain.

Animation

The animation is beautiful, particularly the shots that involve light or the sky. It is one of the most attractive styles of animations that I have seen.

Intro & Outro

The intro is attractive and changes with every episode. I love when that happens because it takes extra effort and keeps people engaged during the opening. The piano playing of Angel in the intro is beautiful, and the song is fitting–called My Soul, Your Beats! The outro is softer and sadder, using a song called Brave Song.

At the end of the outro there is a preview that is basically snippets of conversations. It is very intriguing and always makes me look forward to the next episode.

Music

The music is phenomenal, whether its the intros and outros or the performances by the band Girls Dead Monster throughout the episodes.

Length

This anime would have been so much better if the creators had gone with the original plan of 26 episodes rather than cutting it down to 13. So many other characters could have been explored. Even though the show felt rushed, it was still amazing enough for me to watch it several times.

Repetitiveness

The Battlefront has a tendency to use the same battle plan multiple times upon finding it effective; for instance, Operation Tornado. Furthermore, once they find one way to solve a problem, they will often use the same solution over and over during the same episode.

Title

The title has a special meaning that will only be revealed to you if you watch the entire season. It is well worth it!

Conclusion

I would recommend this anime for ages 13 and up.

I think it is worthing noting that as a Christian, I still enjoyed this show and found it worthwhile and touching even though the characters were trying to defy God. The overall message was very positive and heartwarming, so I recommend it for Christians, those of other religions, and nonreligious people alike.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links