Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2 E5, “Blackwood” (Dir: Alex Pillai) Review By Case Wright


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First of all, it’s always so fun to read Lisa’s reviews.   I hope she wants to review another one of these episodes.  She always sees things that I don’t like HERE!!!! and HERE!!!!.  It has been a true pleasure working with/for her over these years.  This series is making me already plan for my October reviews!!!  Weren’t they awesome last October?! Yes…Yes…They were.

Is this season getting better? Yes, but that’s mostly because the first episode of the second season was so very unsatisfying and disappointing. The series seems to be evolving into a Tales From The Crypt over the top fest.  I loved TFTC, but that’s not what I expected Sabrina to become.  I saw this series as a scary in your face we’re mad as hell at the patriarchy and we’re not gonna take it anymore!  The feminism is still there, but it really hits you over the head with its agenda ….every….single…episode; It comes across as a PSA sometimes.  When done right, like last season, you root for the agenda, but now I’m lectured by it.  It’s kind of annoying when you already agree.

This episode was directed by Alex Pillai (Riverdale) and he did a fine paint by numbers job with the episode.  It got the job done….fine, not great, but definitely fine like the Chicago Cubs in the 2000s or Two Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw).  The episode was all about marriage, the loss of feminine identity, and misogyny…lots and lots of misogyny.  Really, this Church of Night is a bunch of knuckle dragging dirtbags.  I get the whole- we’re evil bit, but it doesn’t really work all the time.  The characters are mostly strong women and the constant subjugation that the Church imposes seems kinda silly that anyone would put up with it let alone these powerful heroines.   Also, the constant “for Hell’s Sake” “Your Unholiness” “Your Dishonor” just makes me laugh;  I look like loon when I’m on the elliptical watching this.

In the episode, Aunt Z is getting married and she’s all jittery and worried about being exposed for stealing one of the Blackwood babies.  Also, Father Blackwood is going full-on misogynist pig. He wants the church of night to go back to its old ways of chauvinism.  His plan is to write up the basic philosophy and give it to the Anti-Pope (Ray Wise). (Side Note: God, I love Ray Wise.  He’s awesome in everything he does and was the best devil ever in Reaper. Unfortunately, he’s only in the show for a couple of minutes.) Sabrina catches wind of Blackwood’s Misogynist plan because Ambrose tells her .

The Solution: Sabrina gets her Dad’s manifesto that’s all women and men are equal, witches should marry mortals, and powertrain warranties are bullshit.  Sabrina has Nick retrieve it from the bottom of the sea.  Just as the Anti-Pope will read it, Father Blackwood has him murdered and frames Ambrose for it!!! DUN DUN DUN!!!!  Basically, all of Sabrina’s plans fail: Aunt Z and Blackwood marry, Blackwood has Aunt Z walk behind him (bleh), Ambrose is jailed, Sabrina and Nick are expelled, and Aunt Hilda becomes lactose intolerant.  Bad all the way around.

I normally don’t get into subplots, but spring is in the air.  Ms Wardwell and Adam are falling in love. It’s really sweet.  She explains that marriage is a complete destruction of a woman’s identity. Wardwell looks at Adam expecting a fight, but instead he accepts her, her values, and just wants to be with her. It’s …well….sweet.  I was a bit moved.  Satan gets jealous and wants her to kill him, but instead she makes him a ring of protection.  I hope these crazy kids make it work.

The show is moving in the right direction, but the show seems to collapse under its own weight sometimes.  It has these big themes and plots, but can’t quite deliver them this season because of the campiness, clunky dialogue, and endless subplots that grind the suspense and gravitas to dust.  Maybe this is the way Riverdale is?  I never wanted to watch that show and now I really don’t want to.  My guess is that season 1 was Ruth Chris Steakhouse and season 2 is Red Robin and yes I did get food poisoning from them once.

 

Why We Need It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown


It has now been over five years since ABC last aired It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown.  

While It’s The Easter Beagle might not be as well-known as either It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, it still doesn’t seem right not to air it.  It’s the perfect conclusion to all of Peanuts holiday specials, tying up all the loose ends and building on the lessons of the previous specials.  After giving Charlie Brown a hard time about serving popcorn and toast for Thanksgiving, Peppermint Patty discovers that it’s not so easy to prepare for a holiday at the last minute.  After getting laughed at about the Great Pumpkin, Linus is proven to be correct about the Easter Beagle.  After seeing his nest destroyed a countless number of times, Woodstock finally gets his own birdhouse.  Even Lucy is proven right about Easter being the “gift-giving season,” even if the Easter Beagle is just returning to her the same eggs that she previously painted and hid.  After not getting any cards on Valentine’s Day, Charlie Brown still doesn’t get any eggs on Easter.  Some things will never change.

Whether ABC realizes it or not, we all need the Easter Beagle in our lives.  He rewards our hope and reminds us to never surrender our faith in whatever it is that we believe in.  He brings happiness to all of the people of the world, or at least he tries to.  There’s only so many eggs that can be put in one basket.  He’s the Easter Beagle and things just aren’t the same without him.

Happy Easter!

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2.4 “Doctor Cerberus’s House of Horrors” (dir by Alex Garcia Lopez)


Is Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the most underlit show on Netflix?

Seriously, every scene on the show seems to take place in near darkness.  I get that’s because the show itself is supposed to be dark and spooky and I appreciate the fact that the show is trying to maintain a proper atmosphere but still, as I watched the fourth episode of the 2nd season, I found myself shouting, “Will someone turn on a freaking light!?”  Like a lot of things about this show, the constant darkness seems like one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” concepts.

That said, I also have to say that I liked this installment a bit more than the previous episode.  Though it can probably be correctly stated that this was something of a filler episode, it still had enough surreal moments to remain entertaining.  In fact, it reminded me a bit of last season’s superior Dreams In A Witch House.  Like that episode, House of Horrors largely took place in the minds of the show’s characters.  Whereas Dreams In A Witch House used the character’s nightmares as a way to provide a glimpse of their subconscious fears and desires, this episode used Tarot readings.

The episode begins with Hilda and Dr. Cee hanging out at Cerebrus Books.  No mention is made of the fact that Dr. Cee apparently has an incubus inside of him, which seems like an odd thing to go unmentioned.  Anyway, a fortune teller (played by Veronica Cartwright) shows up and asks if she can do readings in the back of the store.  Hilda and Dr. Cee promptly agree because …. well, when do they ever say no to anyone?

For the next hour, various characters wandered into Cerebrus Books and got their fortune read.  The fortune teller turning over her cards would lead to everyone having a surreal vision of the future.  The visions rarely turned out well but, with one huge exception, the fortune teller was always quick to explain that the ominous vision was actually a good thing.  For instance, Sabrina may have seen herself getting killed during Nick’s magic show but the fortune teller was quick to explain that the vision meant Sabrina should put her faith in Nick and not trust anyone else.  Theo may have had a vision of turning into a boy and then having his body turn to wood but apparently, that meant Theo should trust others to help him out.  Roz was thinking of having an operation to get her sight restored but her vision — in which a blind girl accused Roz of stealing her eyes — convinced Roz that she should remain blind.  Harvey saw that going to Rhode Island would lead to him having a Satanic roommate.  Hilda envisioned telling Father Blackwood the truth about the baby but then discovered that would just lead to Blackwood cheating on her.  “Some secrets,” the fortune teller announces, “should stay secrets.”

Finally, Ambrose showed up and got his vision of the future.  Four things disturbed him.  First off, Luke was nowhere in the vision.  Secondly, in the vision, Father Blackwood made him a member of the Judas Society and ordered him to murder the Spellmans.  Third, in the vision, Ambrose did just that.  And fourth, the fortune teller told Ambrose this was going to happen, regardless of what he did.

Rushing to Father Blackwood’s office, Ambrose asked for an assurance that Father Blackwood would never hurt the Spellmans. “Of course not!” Blackwood replied before informing Ambrose that Luke was dead and that Ambrose was now a member of the Judas Society….

After all this, it was revealed that the fortune teller had actually been Ms. Wardwell in disguise.  I can’t say that I was particularly surprised by this reveal.  Since Wardwell was, up until the show’s final five minutes, the only regular not to have made an appearance, it was obvious that the fortune teller would turn out to be her.  I’m going to assume that her advice was intentionally bad and we should definitely be worried about Sabrina’s relationship with Nick.

Anyway, this episode was entertaining enough.  Since Sabrina is really the only multidimensional character on the show, Chilling Adventures can be uneven when it doesn’t focus on her but this show managed to do a pretty good job with the other characters.  We may not have learned anything new about any of them but some of their visions were enjoyably surreal and macabre.  The scenes of Theo’s body turning to wood were well-handled and Roz’s vision was genuinely frightening.  Even though you knew they weren’t real, the scenes of a murderous Ambrose stalking through the Spellman House were appropriately creepy.

Up next in the TSL’s Sabrina review-a-thon: Case returns with his reviews of Episodes Five and Six!

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 2 Episode 3 “Lupercalia” (dir by Salli Richardson-Whitfield)


Hi, everyone!  Case already reviewed the first two episodes of the second season of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and now, I’m here to take care of episode 3.

Episode 3 is centered around Lupercalia, an actual Pagan holiday from ancient Rome that is reimagined here as a sort of Valentine’s Day for witches and warlocks.  Basically, in the Sabrina version of Lupercalia, the holiday begins with the Matching, where each witch is paired up with a warlock.  This leads to the Courting, where the warlock and the witch go out into the woods, get naked, and spend the night staring up at the moon.  Then, finally, we get the Hunt, where each witch chases her warlock through the woods and the whole thing ends with a big orgy.  (The Sabrina version sounds considerably more fun than the real version, which involved a lot of animal sacrifices.)  Though participation in Lupercalia is voluntary, Zelda tells Sabrina that it would be foolish for her not to take part.  (Hilda, meanwhile, can’t even bring herself to say the word “sex.”)  After all, now that Sabrina and Harvey are no more, this would be a perfect opportunity for Sabrina to spend some time with that charming young warlock, Nicholas Scratch.

Interestingly enough, Nick is just as fascinated with Valentine’s Day as Sabrina is with Lupercalia.  As eager as Sabrina is to leave behind Baxter High and experience life at the Academy, Nick is just as curious about experiencing what it’s like to be a mortal.  It’s actually one of the more clever things about this sometimes uneven episode.  Though I don’t trust Nick, he and Sabrina do make for a far more interesting couple than Sabrina and Harvey ever did.  It also helps that Kiernan Shipka and Gavin Leatherwood have an undeniable chemistry together.  You believe their romance, even when the show occasionally seems determined to mess things up with unnecessary filler.

Yes, that’s right.  I just used the dreaded “f” word.  As I watched Lupercalia, it occurred to me that I’d probably like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina a lot more if each episode was only 30 to 40 minutes long.  That way, the show could focus on Sabrina and we wouldn’t have to waste time with any of the less interesting characters or subplots.  Instead, this episode was a little over an hour long and it seemed that, every time that I started to get really involved in Sabrina and Nick’s storyline, the episode would cut to something less interesting.

For instance, Sabrina and Nick discover that Nick is being stalked by his former familiar, a wolf named Amalia.  Amalia is jealous of Nick’s attraction to Sabrina.  Ms. Wardwell says that the only solution is for Nick to murder his familiar.  Will Nick kill for Sabrina?  Will Sabrina kill for Nick?  Well, before we can find that out, we have to deal with stuff like Roz suddenly going blind right after she kisses Harvey and Father Blackwood asking Zelda to marry him.  Or else Hilda’s trying to let Dr. Cee know how she feels about him, just to discover that he can’t be with her because he has an incubus inside of him.  And the whole time this is going on, I was just thinking to myself, “Yes, but what about Sabrina?  I DON’T CARE ABOUT ANY OF THESE OTHER CHARACTERS!”

Kiernan Shipka has always been the best thing about Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Even when the writers fail her, Shipka always manages to keep the show afloat.  She’s likable, she’s compelling, and she’s believable as both a curious teenager and a naive witch.  Shipka has many great moments in Lupercalia but the episode’s momentum seems to come to a halt whenever she’s not on screen.  It’s not that the rest of the cast isn’t capable as much as their characters are all rather one-note.  Hilda is always insecure and introverted.  Zelda is always arch and sardonic.  Roz is always going blind and Harvey is always kind of a goof.  The only character, other than Sabrina, who is the least bit interesting is Theo and that’s because his storyline is about how far society has come and how far it has yet to go.

In the end, Lupercalia is an interesting but uneven episode of a frequently interesting but uneven show.

A few final notes:

  • It’s interesting to note that, much like Romulus and Remus — whom Lupercalia is meant to honor — Nick was raised by a wolf.
  • Though I find Ms. Wardwell to be a bit of a one-note character, I did enjoy her shock and horror upon discovering that she has a fiance.
  • The scenes in the woods were gorgeously filmed and full of atmosphere.  I’ve seen some people online saying that it doesn’t make any sense that Nick and Sabrina would be comfortable spending an entire February night outside in their underwear but since when does love and lust have to make sense?
  • The scene where Theo told his father that he was a boy (“I’m not a girl.”) was nicely and sensitively handled, I thought.
  • This episode ended with Sabrina killing a wolf, Nick in tears, and Roz apparently blind. What will happen next?  We’ll find out and I’ll be here to review episode 4 before turning things back over to Case for episodes 5 and 6!

 

 

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2,Ep2 Review By Case Wright


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Hello friends. Last time we spoke, it was really hard.  I wondered if my second favorite show after Santa Clarita Diet went Lost Season 2 on me.  The season opener was bad…really bad.  It was scary for me to watch the second episode.  I was actually worried that the show was a season 1 fluke or maybe I misread or willfully blinded myself to a meh show. Well, I’m happy to write that this episode was a solid …. Not Bad.  Its flaws were LEGION (and we’ll go over those), but the story had a theme, character growth, and despair.  Honestly, through in some Adele and Ben and Jerry’s and you got the makings of a lonely night in as you watch yourself age and love sulks away from you, broken, and never to return.

The episode is all about unrequited love and who We should be, but who We really are.  It’s fun, if you’re in the mood for it.  It was written by new writer Mj Kaufman and Christina Ham (Orphan Black) and these writers capture the loneliness of all of the most interesting characters.

The Devil talks to Ms Wardwell who we know is Lilith (Adam’s First Wife).  He not too gently casts her aside and tells Wardwell/Lilith that Sabrina is to be Satan’s Prophet and Queen, not Her.  The heartbreak is palpable, but the Devil’s  Costume looks like a step above Party City and it really takes me out of it.  Lilith asserts that Sabrina is too goody goody to be the Devil’s main squeeze and they wager on it: have Sabrina steal a stick of gum.  Sabrina resists.

I gotta ask why? She seemed all on board the Midnight Train to Gethsemane with Old Scratch, but she just can’t bring herself to steal the forbidden Fruit Stripe.  I would’ve been all in for the Freshen Up gum…ya know the one with the goo inside…I liked it….Whatever.  Because she refused, Satan starts hurting people around Sabrina by giving them Chickenpox.  WHAAAA?  Chickenpox?! What kind of anti-vax town is Greendale?! Let it burn to the ground! They’ll give us all measles!  To make amends to Satan, she starts to burn the school down as per Satan’s command.  Well, why bother?! They’ll all get Whooping Cough soon enough away.  Come on, Lucifer…this town is doomed and weird.

There are good subplots the Lilith story, which is a nice evil love story where Ms Wardwell watches her life portrayed as entertainment.  The Evil Dean wrote and produces a play of Lilith and Satan falling in sort of love.  It might of brought her a smile, but instead it brings tears because Satan has found a new special lady and Lilith’s destined to be eternally alone. We see in Ms Wardwell AKA Lilith how love is supposed to be, but how it withers and dies.

Suzie is now Theo is the focus of the other subplot. She should be accepted as a boy, but it doesn’t quite work out that way.  Theo tries to change in the boy’s locker room and is mocked by some, but gawked at by all.  The shot is done very well. We close up on the known bullies from the previous episodes, but then the camera pulls back and ALL of the boys are gawking silently, waiting to see female nudity regardless of her gender identity.  They simply can’t help it.  Where we should be, but who we are.  It’s disappointing, realistic, and sad.

Sabrina and Harvey react to a sensual spark and begin making out, but her tie to Satan destroys the encounter and ends their love affair forever.  What their love should be and the reality cannot be.

This was a good episode overall.  It allowed you to see and not be told Lilith’s story and the struggles that everyone has against loneliness and despair.

Adele

Sabrina S2 Ep1, Epiphany, Review with Spoilers by Case Wright


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October came early this year! It’s time to once again get down with the baddest witch this side of Massachusetts.  As you know from my previous reviews of this show, I’m a bit biased: I am a fan.  In fact, I was looking forward to this next installment since October. Well, I can say without a doubt that the Season 2 Premiere of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, “Epiphany”, was an episode that was made.

A lot of shows go through a Sophomore Slump- the underwhelming return of a beloved show.  By the end of the episode, all the characters that were the most interesting were diminished.  It was still fun to watch and is very entertaining and it’s not Season 2 Stranger Things terrible, but I hold this show to a higher standard: and I mean it!!!!

Season 1 was all about failure and corruption.  Sabrina set out to save her town and herself.  Not only did she endanger her town, she became so corrupted by ego and hubris that the price was her very soul.  It was Shakespearean with a David Lynch vibe.  Season 2 was less than, not to say it can’t or won’t get back on track because it likely will, but this was not great.

The episode was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Showrunner) and directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan who did ….. okay. The direction had the suspense of wet toast.  Not everyone can do suspense and horror and this was sub-awesome.  It sufficed as a recap episode, but not much more.

The plot is that Sabrina wanted to become the “Top Boy” of the witch academy and her love interest Nick is the favorite because he’s a dude.  Suzie who is now Theo wanted to try out for the all-boys basketball team.  I was excited to see them fight the patriarchy and all that, but they did so in the weakest way possible: they cheated.  Sabrina needed to complete three trials versus Nick.  The first one: she won because the Weird Sisters (including Zelda) who for no reason at all like Sabrina now and gave her the answers.  This really bugged because it was not fair to her character.  She’s Sabrina! She’s supposed to be this badass; anyone can win by cheating.

This theme is further reinforced by Sabrina fixing a basketball game so Suzie could win.  Suzie wanted to get on the boy’s team, which is a fair challenge and a good one for this show to tackle, but she was legit terrible at the sport and could only win because Sabrina cheated for her.  This is not empowering. It showed that Sabrina had no faith in Suzie and most importantly it made Suzie look stupid because she never noticed that she went from the beginning of the game from being the Generals to the Globetrotters?!  Suzie was diminished, Sabrina was diminished, and I was insulted by it.  It would have been so much better if Suzie was like WTF?! Why am I so great all of a sudden and then saw that Sabrina was cheating for her, the smile fades from her face, and then Suzie walks off the court.  This would have set up some good conflict with Sabrina, especially since she doesn’t really have any foes right now.

Roberto Sacasa needs to understand the characters he created.  Suzie, Ros, and even Harvey to a MUCH lesser degree were very aware of what was going on around them throughout season 1, making Sabrina’s unnoticed intervention on Suzie’s behalf a lot tougher sell.

There was a subplot of  Evil Three King Demons trying to mess with Sabrina because they were afraid she would ascend.  This could get interesting.  My hopes are high on that one.   This series is still fun, but if it continues down this lazy path it will be more of a guilty pleasure that I watch on the elliptical or something on while I fold the laundry.

 

 

Triple Frontier, Review By Case Wright


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The heist movie or treasure hunt movie is always the same and always pretty fun.  It’s not supposed to be Shakespeare; it’s supposed to pull you in and be a thrill ride.  This iteration is all about the down and out Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who decide to seek their fortune the old fashioned way: ripping off a drug kingpin!  In true heist genre fashion, everything works out great!

The characters came across as real Veterans to me.  After some research, the writer- Mark Boal was embedded with a platoon in Iraq and he also wrote The Hurt Locker.  The characters in Triple Frontier were like the men I knew: strong, divorced, and liked to joke.  Ben Affleck’s character Tom struck me as especially realistic.  He loved his daughter, but there was a distance because he was just not suited for civilian life.  She wanted him home, but he always wanted to be away.  You could see on her face that she knew the moment his buddies came calling that he was already gone.

Oscar Isaac plays Pope who has a gig doing private security/law enforcement in South America.  He is in pursuit of Lorea, a drug boss, who is causing all kinds of problems. Yada Yada Yada.  Pope finds the location of Lorea’s hideout which has hundreds of millions of dollars stashed inside, but he needs a team to kill Lorea, Lorea’s men, get the cash, and get out of the country.  He turns to his former squad to pull off the heist.  They need a little cajoling, but they come around. There isn’t a lot of dialogue after they agree to the heist, which makes sense.  They committed and now transitioned to soldier-mode.  The heist starts off with success in sight, but it’s not long before everything goes wrong and they are in a fight for their lives.

The film is shot really beautifully and has some high-priced songs for a Netflix program. Everything seemed very real.  Even the way the characters carried themselves and flowed through Lorea’s hideout was seamless.   They moved the way we are trained to move through rooms.  I am always looking for that in action films.  Are they not having muzzle-awareness (pointing there weapon accidentally at a friendly)?  Are they holding the rifle close to their face? Are they aiming right?  The answers to those questions were yes.   J.C. Chandor should be really proud of himself for the realism.

What kept pulling me into the story wasn’t the action (which was excellent BTW); it was that these men were like the ones I knew.  The team itself was representative of who does our killing for us: salt of the earth…men.   I like seeing women in action films and I am already excited about Black Widow, but the infantry in real life is male.  They are regular guys who are asked to do terrible terrible things.  When those terrible things are done, we cast the men aside.  The story concludes a lot like the war itself did with a lot of loss and not a lot to show for it.  This film has a political statement between the explosions and it’s worth listening to it. 

* I included Mary Pop Poppins by the True Loves in my review.  The song embodies the heist genre like no other.  Also, they are Seattleites!!!!