Women In Chains (1972, directed by Bernard L. Kowalksi)

Sandra Parker (Lois Nettleton) is the world’s most dedicated parole officer.  After one of her parolees is sent back to prison and then dies under mysterious circumstances, Sandra decides to investigate on her own.  For Sandra, this means changing her name to Sally Porter and arranging to be sent to prison on a phony charge.  For some reason, Sandra/Sally only tells one other person what she’s doing.  The plan is for Sandra to spend two weeks undercover and then her friend, fellow parole officer Helen (Penny Fuller), will reveal the truth to the proper authorities and get Sandra sprung from prison.  It doesn’t work out that away, as Helen is killed in the line of duty shortly after Sandra finds herself behind bars.

The prison is run by the tyrannical Claire Tyson (Ida Lupino!), a matron who is more interested in exercising power than in rehabilitation.  Claire’s main enforcer is a butch prisoner named Dee Dee (Jessica Walter!!).  As soon as she enters the prison, Sandra gets on Tyson’s bad side.  Sandra asks too many questions and makes the mistake of demanding that her fellow prisoners be treated humanely.  Sandra even demands that a prisoner be given aspirin for a migraine, which is the type insubordination that leads to a stay in solitary.  (What’s strange is that, in solitary, Sandra ends up sharing a cell with another prisoner which I would think would defeat the purpose of being in solitary.)  With Tyson openly plotting to kill her and the only person who knows where she is dead, Sandra has to figure out a way to escape the prison and reveal the truth about what goes on behind bars.

Compared to most women-in-prison films, Women in Chains is pretty tame.  This is a women-in-prison film that you could safely watch with grandma.  This one was made for early 70s television, so there’s no nudity, no strong language, and even the required prison riot is restrained.  The film asks us to believe that Sandra would not only be stupid enough to only let one person know that she was going undercover but also that a parole officer could somehow walk around the prison without running into any prisoners who she previously dealt with. Obviously, the film’s plot is not its strong point but viewers with an appreciation for camp will undoubtedly enjoy the performances of Ida Lupino and Jessica Walter.  They rule that cell block with an iron fist and are entertaining to watch.

Of Myths And Morons : David King’s “Hercules And The Orbs Of Woad”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

After knocking it out of the park with his flawless all-ages comic Yellow Flag Intelligence Squadron, cartoonist and self-publisher David King came back in the latter part of last year with a decidedly more — mature, I guess? — offering in the form of the magazine-sized Hercules And The Orbs Of Woad, a smartly contemporary take on the hero of ancient Greek mythology that takes what we know about the character to logical, if extreme, conclusions in service of something of an old-school illogical romp.

If that seems a bit vague, I apologize, and since I’d hate to be accused of tiptoeing around the issue, I’ll just lay it out in plain English : we all know that, like his daddy Zeus, Herc would pretty much fuck anything that moved, but what would happen if he got “blueballed”? If you’ve always wondered, here’s the answer you’ve been…

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4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Sofia Coppola Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite American directors, the one and only Sofia Coppola!  In honor of this day, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Lost In Translation (2003, dir by Sofia Coppola)

Maire Antoinette (2006, dir by Sofia Coppola)

Somewhere (2010, dir by Sofia Coppola)

The Beguiled (2017, dir by Sofia Coppola)

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 3.4 “The Hare Moon” (dir by Viet Nguyen)

I have to admit that I groaned a bit when I discovered that the fourth episode of part 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was going to center around yet another holiday.  Seriously, how many holidays do these witches have to celebrate over the course of year?  This time, the holiday was the Hare Moon, which involves everyone dressing in white, going on a picnic, and not killing a rabbit.  The holiday itself doesn’t make much sense and, to the show’s credit, this episode opens with Sabrina telling her aunts that it doesn’t make much sense.

So, I wasn’t expecting much from The Hare Moon but, to my surprise, it actually turned out to be a pretty good episode.  At the very least, it held my interest and that’s more than I can say for the episode that came immediately before this one.  I think it helped that a good deal of this episode took place in the woods during the day, which meant that I could, for once, actually see what was happening without having to strain my eyes.  I know that I spend a lot of time complaining about how underlit and dark the majority of Sabrina‘s interior scenes are but I think this episode proved my point.  When I could actually see who was talking, it was a lot easier for me to actually care about what they were talking about.

The highlight of this episode came when, during the Hare Moon ceremony, the witches ran into the pagan carnival people, who were all celebrating a holiday of their own.  The interaction between the two groups was wonderfully awkward and, even more importantly, the carnival people seem like worthy adversaries to the witches.  The carnival people worship the Green Man and, by the end of the episode, they had delivered an ultimatum to the witches.  The witches can either worship the Green Man or they can die.  Since the covens powers have been weakened by a petulant Satan, the witches are momentarily at a disadvantage.

In other developments, Harvey and Roz decided to investigate the carnival on their own, which led to Roz getting turned into a statue and …. well, I mean, it’s Harvey and Roz.  If either one of them had a personality beyond Harvey being amiably stupid and Roz having an overprotective father, it might be interesting but they don’t so who cares?  Nick also ended up setting Satan free because Nick’s main reason for being on the show is to do stuff like that.  Of course, the Spellmans were going to free Satan anyway so that they could get back their powers but Nick decided to go ahead and do it so now the Spellmans are still weak and even more screwed than before.  Way to go, Nick!

Anyway, this was actually a pretty entertaining episode.  The carnival people are wonderfully sinister and Will Swenson was well-cast as their leader. Kiernan Shipka remains the show’s greatest strength and even Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis got a few good lines in this episode.  There was still a bit too much filler but all in all, this was one of the better episodes.  If only every episode was this good.

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 3.3 “Chapter Twenty-Three: Heavy Is The Crown” (dir by Alex Pillai)

What’s this?, you ask.  Just now, you’re finally getting around to reviewing Chapter 23 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?

Admittedly, it has taken me a while.  The third season or third part or whatever the Hell you want to call it of this show was released on Netflix all the way back in January.  That’s a long time ago even by normal standards.  In May of 2020 (this is May, right?), January seems as if it might as well have been a decade ago.  You remember what the world was like in January — Iowa caucuses, open movie theaters, strong economy, and no social distancing — and it feels like some sort of lost age.  Case reviewed the first two episodes of Sabrina‘s third season back in February.  I was supposed to review episodes three and four as soon as I got back from my vacation in March.  Of course, as soon as I got back, the entire world went into lockdown and it was easy to get distracted from the latest Greendale drama.

Plus, I have to be honest.  So far, for the most part, I just haven’t enjoyed Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  There have been a few tolerable episodes and Kiernan Shipka deserves to be a bigger star but the show itself often feels like a dead end.  The pace is often maddeningly slow and, other than Sabrina, almost all of the characters are rather flat and dull.  With the exception of Sabrina, everyone gets one defining trait and the show tends to beat viewers over the head with that trait.  As such, Aunt Zelda is always going to be arch and dismissive.  Hilda is always going to be naive and neurotic.  Ambrose is always going to decadent in the most boring ways possible.  Harvey is always going to be a dullard.  Roz is always going to be boring.  Beyond the one-dimensional characters, the whole look of the show bugs me.  Why does no one in Greendale ever turn on a light?  Why do I always have to strain my eyes trying to see what’s happening?  It gets frustrating.  Working up any enthusiasm to sit through another one of Sabrina’s adventures can be a struggle.

And yet, I will continue to watch the show because I do think that it has potential.  Now, to be honest, some of that is because the show is often so bad that it has nowhere to go but up.  But occasionally, there will be an interesting twist or a line of dialogue that doesn’t crash to the ground with a thud.  It doesn’t happen often but it does happen enough that I keep hoping Chilling Adventures will get things together.  My main hope is that, someday, the show will actually be worthy of Kiernan Shipka’s consistently excellent lead performance.

Just take the third episode of Part Three for example.  On the plus side, this episode features a trip to a wonderfully creepy carnival.  And even though the carnival itself is pretty obviously borrowed from Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, it’s still a lot of fun and effectively surreal and ominous.  However, to get to the carnival, we have to suffer through a lot of underlit drama featuring one-note characters.  We have to sit through Roz and Harvey having the least interesting relationship ever to appear in a Netflix drama.  We have to deal with Nick and his PSTD.  We have to deal with Miranda Otto delivering all of her lines in the same monotonous style.  We also have to sit through yet another quest.  In this case, Sabrina has to find three artifacts to hold onto the title of the ruler of Hell.  She manages to find Herod’s Crown but she still loses it to her rival for the throne, Prince Caliban.  So, I guess Sabrina is going to have to find the other two artifacts over the course of the season. I’d probably care more if Hell, as presented on this show, wasn’t so damn boring.  Presenting witchcraft as being tedious might make for an effective short film but making an entire series out of it is another thing all together.

And yet, Kiernan Shipka gives such a good performance in the lead role that you can almost overlook how annoying the show itself tends to be.  Shipka brings so much sincerity to her role that you want Sabrina to succeed.  I just wish the show was more often worthy of the talents of its star.

Oh well.  Fear not!  I actually liked the episode that came after this one.  I’ll be rewatching and reviewing it soon!



Greg Stump’s “Disillusioned Illusions” : Endurance Test, Sublime Joy — Or Both?

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

If there’s one comic that’s taken me a damn long time to wrap my head around, it’s Greg Stump’s singularly bizarre Disillusioned Illusions, originally self-published by the cartoonist in 2009 and later re-issued by Fantagraphics Underground in 2015. Folks are fond of saying that Seinfeld was a show about nothing, but this goes a step further — it’s a 356-page book about being about nothing.

Told via a strict, minimalist grid that shows its two principal characters (and later a third) in silhouette in front of a blank background with various inanimate objects and accessories making their way in and out of the narrative as necessary, each page is a short strip in and of itself in old-school “Sunday funnies” tradition, complete with either a concrete or vague “gag” ending, but — as with newspaper strips again — each builds upon the other to tell a long-form, overarching story…

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Music Video Of The Day: Keep The Streets Empty For Me by Fever Ray (2009, dir by Jens Klevje and Fabian Svensson)

Before anyone makes the obvious assumption, allow me to assure you that I did not pick this song as a way to comment on whether or not people should be sheltering in place.  I just like the song and I like the atmospheric music video.

Watching this video reminds me of this time when I woke up at 3 in the morning and discovered that a huge fog had rolled into town.  Even though it was probably totally foolish of me, I threw on a robe and then I went outside and walked around in the fog for a while.  It was the thickest fog I had ever seen, too.  It was ominous and frightening but kind of beautiful too.  I felt like I was walking through someone else’s dream.  This video brings back that memory.