TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2.8 “The Mandrake” (dir by Kevin Sullivan)


When last we checked in on the adventures of the Greendale’s most boring family of witches, Sabrina had been resurrected as some sort of witch messiah and was planning on revealing the truth of her powers to all of Roz’s church friends when she was suddenly stopped by Harvey.  Harvey cried out, “If you ever loved me, stop!”  That got a look from both Roz and Nick, not to mention Sabrina.

Anyway, it turned out that Harvey found a wall painting of Sabrina in the mines and apparently, the painting indicated that Sabrina was destined to be the herald of Hell and bring about the apocalypse.

“Am I evil!?” Sabrina asked.

The 8th episode of the 2nd season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina attempted to answer this question and, as is typical with this show, the results were mixed.  In order to try to exorcise the evil out of her, Sabrina convinced Ambrose to help her create a duplicate Sabrina, a “mandrake.”  The Mandrake Sabrina would have all of her powers but none of her humanity and the plan was for the real Sabrina to kill the fake Sabrina 24 hours after creating it.  This would not only vanquish whatever evil that Sabrina had inside of her but it would also deprive her of both her powers and her immortality.  In short, Sabrina would become a normal mortal but, at the same time, she also wouldn’t end the world.

Sounds like a good plan, right?

Of course, it didn’t work like that, largely due to the fact that Sabrina is incredibly incompetent.  While Sabrina managed to create the Mandrake, she didn’t do a very good job of keeping track of it.  This led to the Evil Sabrina wandering around Greendale and exploiting all of her friends’s insecurities and weaknesses.  Of course, since Sabrina only has three friends, this means that the Mandrake just tracked down Harvey, Roz, and Theo.  If Harvey, Roz, and Theo were complex characters (as opposed to thinly drawn caricatures), it would be potentially interesting to see how the Mandrake manipulated them and tried to use their weaknesses against them.  But, as I’ve been saying since this season began, there’s not much to say about the members of Sabrina’s supporting cast.  Everyone has one or two traits that are used to define them.  Of course, Roz is going to be insecure about her relationship with Harvey and her eyesight because that’s really the only two things that Roz has going on in her life.  The show’s refusal to dig any deeper into its supporting cast remains one of its most glaring flaws.

On the plus side, the Mandrake’s plan to create duplicates of Harvey, Roz, and Theo did lead to a nice homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Kiernan Shipka did a great job playing both Sabrina and her evil twin.  As is usually the case with this series, Kiernan Shipka’s efforts to hold this uneven episode together were nothing less than heroic.

When the episode wasn’t dealing with Sabrina and her Mandrake, it was focusing on Father Blackwood’s attempts to break away from the Church of Night and join the Church of Judas.  It was …. well, not very interesting.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Wardwell sent a reanimated scarecrow to kill Sabrina.  The scarecrow failed, of course but Sabrina has now finally figured out that Wardwell is her enemy.  Considering that Mrs. Wardwell has never been a subtle antagonist, you have to wonder how dumb Sabrina is to have only now figured this out.

Anyway, I actually liked this episode a little bit more than the previous one.  It had all the usual flaws that we’ve come to expect from this series but Kiernan Shipka’s evil turn as the Mandrake elevated the episode.  As usual, Kiernan Shipka remains the show’s greatest strength.  At times, it’s the show’s only strength.

Up next, Case finished up season 2 by reviewing the finale!

Shadowbanned Again, Naturally


Well, I’ve been shadowbanned on twitter.  Again.

Shadowbanning is when you still have a twitter account but, for whatever reason, twitter goes out of its way to hide your tweets.  Right now, people can read my tweets by going to my profile page or by following me.  That hasn’t changed.  However, my tweets do not currently show up under most twitter searches nor will they be found under any hashtags.

So, for instance, let’s say that someone decided to go on twitter and search for which film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier today.  They’ll probably find a lot of tweets about it but what they won’t find is the post that I wrote for this site or the link that I tweeted out earlier today.  Or let’s say that someone was searching to see if anyone on twitter had written a review of the new Netflix film, Maria.  Again, I have.  And, as always, I posted a link to it on twitter.  But only those people who are already following me are going to see that link.  A random person searching for “Maria review” will not.

Why have I been shadowbanned?  I don’t know.  As you may remember, the same thing happened to me three years ago and the shadowban was lifted after three days.  From my own research, I imagine that it’s because I post a lot of links (mostly to this site) and I’ve been doing some automated tweets as my way of wishing everyone a good morning.  Here’s an example of one of them:

The Twitter Algorithm has apparently been set to treat with suspicion any account that posts a certain amount of links or which posts any automated tweet.  A human being, of course, could just look at my profile and see that I’m a very real person who talks to a lot of other very real people.  The Algorithm, however, doesn’t have to worry about any of that or any of the damage done by its decisions.  For a film blogger, being shadowbanned from the country’s biggest social network — even if it is just for a limited amount of time — can seriously and adversely effect that number of daily page views that their site receives.

I’ve been told that the best way to get unshadowbanned is to basically just go silent for a few days.  Apparently, under the new rules, these shadowbans usually only last 48 hours from the moment that you stop tweeting but they can last up to 5 days.  To me, this seems like bullshit and it also seems rather unfair but I guess that’s what I’ll do.

It’s frustrating.  Twitter says that they want to promote “healthy conversation” but this isn’t the way to do it.  A look at my twitter timeline will show that I’m probably one of the nicest, most positive people on twitter.  I don’t pick fights with people.  I don’t send abusive tweets to anyone, regardless of whether they’re verified or not.  I’ve studiously avoided getting involved in any of the political fights that have come to define social media as of late.  My only sin is that apparently I tweeted too much, I posted too many links, and I thought it would be cute to wish everyone a good morning.

I’m mad.  I’m hurt.  I’m sad.  And quite frankly, I’m not alone in this.  There are others who have been shadowbanned for the exact same reason.  They did something that tripped up the algorithm and they were shadowbanned without warning.  Tweeting at @Twitter or @Jack or @TwitterSupport, as so many people do, will not make any difference.  But you have to wonder how exactly we’re supposed to follow the twitter rules when no one knows what the rules are?

It’s easy to just shrug and say, “Well, forget twitter.  Who needs social media?”  Realistically, though, social media has become too important to be ignored or causally dismissed.  My fear, though, is that twitter’s foolish attempts to control “healthy conversation” will ultimately just make society sicker.  If you want to know why so many people end up on social media sites like Gab (where most of their interactions will likely be with Neo-Nazis who were previously kicked off of twitter), it’s because of stuff like this.

Anyway, I guess my twitter silence begins now.  I’ll be back in a few days, hopefully.

Fortunately, however, I will never be silent on this site.  TSL forever!

That too.

(And, by the way, check out this Shadownban Test, in case your curious about the status of your own account!)

Bong Joon-ho Wins At Cannes while Tarantino and Malick are Snubbed


The 2019 Cannes FIlm Festival is over and here’s what won!  Interestingly enough, for all the critical acclaim and excitement that greeted Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, the jury ignored both of them.

COMPETITION

Palme d’Or: Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
Grand Prize: Mati Diop, “Atlantique”
Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, “Young Ahmed”
Jury Prize (tie): Ladj Ly, “Les Misérables” and Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, “Bacurau”
Actor: Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
Actress: Emily Beecham, “Little Joe”
Screenplay: Celine Sciamma, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”
Special Mention Prize: “It Must Be Heaven,” Elia Suleiman

CAMERA D’OR (across all sections)

César Diaz, “Our Mothers”

UN CERTAIN REGARD

Un Certain Regard Award: “The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao,” Karim Ainouz
Jury Prize: “The Fire Will Come,” Oliver Laxe
Best Director: Kantemir Balagov, “Beanpole”
Best Performance: Chiara Mastroianni, “On a Magical Night”
Un Certain Regard “Heart” Prize: “The Climb” and “A Brother’s Love”
Special Jury Prize: Albert Serra, “Liberte”
Special Jury Mention: “Joan of Arc,” Bruno Dumont

CRITICS’ WEEK

Nespresso Grand Prize: “I Lost My Body,” Jérémy Clapin
Leitz Cine Discovery Prize for Short Film: “She Runs,” Qiu Yang
Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award: Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, “A White, White Day”
Gan Foundation Award for Distribution: The Jokers Films, French distributor for “Vivarium” by Lorcan Finnegan
SACD Award: César Díaz, “Our Mothers”
Canal+ Award for Short Film: “Ikki Illa Meint,” Andrias Høgenni

FIPRESCI

In Competition: “It Must Be Heaven,” Elia Suleiman
Un Certain Regard: “Beanpole,” Kantemir Balagov
Parallel Selection: “The Lighthouse,” Robert Eggers

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

Europa Cinemas Label Award for Best European Film: “Alice and the Mayor,” Nicolas Pariser
SACD Award for Best French-language Film: “An Easy Girl” Rebecca Zlotowski
Illy Short Film Award: “Stay Awake, Be Ready,” Pham Thien An
Carrosse d’Or: John Carpenter

ECUMENICAL PRIZE

Prize of the Ecumenical Jury: “A Hidden Life,” Terrence Malick

GOLDEN EYE

“For Sama,” Waad al-Khateab and Edward Watts
Special Prize: “The Cordillera of Dreams,” Patricio Guzman

QUEER PALM

Queer Palm Award: “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” Céline Sciamma
Short Film Queer Palm: “The Distance Between Us and the Sky,” Vasilis Kekatos

Palm Dog

Brandy (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood)

The Things You Find On Netflix: Maria (dir by Pedring Lopez)


Once upon a time, Lily (Cristine Reyes) was one of the most feared cartel assassins in the Philippines.  Working with her lover, Kaleb (Ivan Padilla), Lily killed a lot of people and she did so with the an unstoppable ruthlessness.  However, she soon grew tired of the killing.  When she told Kaleb that she wanted out, he told her that there was no way to get out.  Lily decided to prove him wrong by betraying the cartel, faking her own death, and building a new life for herself.

Years later, Lily is now knows as Maria.  She’s a wife and a mother.  While her new husband is enthusiastic about a politician who says that he’s going to do whatever needs to be done to put the cartel out of business, Maria is always careful to remain apolitical.  In fact, she does nothing that might bring attention to herself.

Unfortunately, disappearing is easier said than done.  The cartel learns of her new location and Kaleb and his men are sent to kill her and her family.  They easily manage to kill both her husband and her daughter.  However, Maria escapes.  While Kaleb is forced to deal with the machination of a rival member of the cartel, the brutal Victor (KC Montero), Maria once again enters the criminal underworld.  She now only has one mission and that’s revenge.  She’s going to kill anyone who had anything to do with the death of her family….

Earlier tonight, I watched the Filipino film Maria on Netflix.  It’s pretty much a standard revenge thriller.  The action scenes and the over-the-top violence were clearly inspired by films like The Raid and John Wick.  One could just as easily replaced the cartel with the Russian mafia and Maria’s family with a collection of house pets and then sold that film as being about John Wick’s long-lost sister.  However, Maria didn’t have any of the winking self-awareness that makes both The Raid and the John Wick films so memorable.  Really, the only thing that Maria has to distinguish itself from other action films is that the lead character is female but, at times, that’s enough.  Even though the whole “action girl” character has become a bit of a cliche in the years since Kill Bill and the original Resident Evil, there’s still something undeniably satisfying about watching a woman kick ass.  If nothing else, this makes Maria an appropriate film to watch if you’re having a bad day and you need the catharsis that comes from watching some really bad dudes not get a fair trial.

The film itself is a bit oddly paced.  The first fourth of the film is a bit-heavy on torture scenes with one in particular being drawn out to a painful degree.  Things pick up once Maria starts beating people up and Christine Reyes gives a sympathetic and highly-charged performance in the title role.  Maria is not a particularly challenging film, nor is it one that you’ll necessarily remember two hours after you’ve watched it.  That said, for what it is — i.e., a modest revenge flick, it gets the job done.  Just like Maria!

Music Video of the Day: Dangerous by Big Data (2015, dir by ????)


Yes, it’s another live performance of Dangerous.  

What can I say?  I like this song.  I saw Big Data perform at the House of Blues last October and it was amazing.  Such an energetic performance, it made paranoia fun!

Enjoy!

Previous Dangerous Videos:

  1. SCANTRON and Greg Yagolnitzer version
  2. Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci version
  3. The Big Kitty Version
  4. Live from KROQ Red Bull Sound Stage
  5. Live on the ALT98.7 FM Penthouse rooftop at the Historic Hollywood Tower.

Music Video of the Day: In the Sun by She & Him (2010, dir by Peyton Reed)


You’re going to have to excuse me if my thinking is a bit incoherent right now.  Between my DVR exploding on Monday night and some issues with my laptop on Tuesday, I’ve only had about 4 hours of sleep over the past two days and, as I sit here typing this, I am on the verge of passing out.  On the plus side, I may be exhausted but at least everything seems to be working now.  The laptop is working fine.  The new DVR has arrived.  My thumb — which I slightly burned when, while unplugging the DVR, I accidentally grabbed the metal part of the plug, despite the fact that there was an actual plume of smoke rising up off of it — has finally stopped throbbing and is back to being it’s wonderful self.  Now, I just need to get some sleep and hopefully, when I wake up, my heart will no longer be racing and my thoughts will be much more coherent.

Fortunately, there’s a solution for when you’re trying to write about a music video but your brain is screaming at you to fall asleep.  You can just pick something from She & Him!  She & Him, of course, are Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward.  Both their music and their videos tend to be so wonderful and endearing that they can pretty much speak for themselves.

This video was directed by Peyton Reed.  Today, of course, Reed is probably best known for directing the Ant-Man films.  When this video was shot, he was best known for directing the original Bring It On.  As such, it’s not surprising to see him selected to bring this video’s high school world to life.

Enjoy and good night!

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2.7 “The Miracles of Sabrina Spellman” (dir by Antonio Negret)


GOOD GOD, CAN SOMEONE IN GREENDALE TURN ON A FREAKING LIGHT!?

As you may have guessed from the introduction, I am once again reviewing Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  I will be reviewing the seventh and eighth episodes of the 2nd season and then Case will be back with us, covering the big finale.  If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you know that one of my huge issues with this show is that no one in this damn town — even the mortals — seems to know how to flip a light switch.  Visually and thematically, this is one dark show.

It’s also, especially during season 2, been a rather dull show.  Watching it, one gets the feeling that the writers ran out of ideas halfway through season 1.  Yes, everyone worships Satan.  Yes, they’re all witches and warlocks.  That should be interesting but trust this show to make the dark arts seem boring and rather tedious.  “What the Heaven’s happened!?”  Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis) exclaims at the start of the show when she sees as seriously, perhaps fatally, wounded Sabrina and replacing “Hell” with “Heaven” is supposed to be shocking but, at this point, who cares?

The show’s main strength has always been Kiernan Shipka’s performance Sabrina.  She’s always been able to bring life to even the laziest of dialogue but this episode comes close to defeating even the normally reliable Shipka.  Kiernan Shipka has always kept the show grounded but this episode sent her up into the air.

While the previous episode ended with Sabrina nearly dead, this episode opens with Sabrina coming back to life and becoming not only a healer but also a messianic figure.  Sabrina not only heals Ambrose but she also prevents him from being executed.  And it says a lot of about this show’s flaws that I wouldn’t have minded if Amrbose’s head had been chopped off.  If nothing else, it would have meant no longer having to listen to him whine about every little thing.  Sabrina also gives Roz back her eyesight, so I guess that subplot’s resolved.  Roz is no longer blind and yay, I guess.  Roz is a flat, one-demensional character.  You didn’t care when she went blind and you’re not going to care that she can now see.  By that same token, you’re not going to care when Aunt Zelda is freed from the spell that Blackwood’s put her under because, again, she’s just Zelda and she’s not that interesting.

Anyway, now that Sabrina has returned from the dead and can magically do whatever the script requires her to do at any given moment, she wants to spread her father’s gospel and bring together mortals and humans.  Alone among the students at the Academy, Nick Scratch thinks that’s a good idea and I’d be worried about that if I cared about Nick and Sabrina as a couple….

Really, this was a surprisingly uninvolving episode.  I’m not even going to discuss Harvey and Theo in the mines or Ms. Wardwell creating a servant in her bathtub.  Nor am I going to talk about the rat that a possessed Zelda drops in a meat grinder.  It all plays out very slowly and it mostly plays out in the dark and it doesn’t work because none of these characters feel like they’re worth all the trouble.

As I pointed out earlier, even Kiernan Shipka stuggled during this episode.  Over the course of one episode, Sabrina goes from being a teenager trying to find her place in the world to being some sort of witch messiah and, in the process, she becomes self-righteous and a bit dull.  The episode ends with Sabrina looking at a cave painting, a prophecy that proclaims her to be the herald of Hell.

“I’m evil!” Sabrina says, shocked.

And who knows?  Maybe she is.  But seriously, who cares?

Coming up next, once I’ve found the strength to continue, episode 8!  And then Case will be here to wrap things up with the finale!