Here’s The Latest Teaser for Stranger Things!


Game of Thrones may be over but Stranger Things is coming back!  In fact, the new season will be dropping on Netflix on the 4th of July!

What does season 3 have in store for us?  Well, as you can tell from the teaser below, it’s summer in Hawkins!  That means that Billy is in charge of the public pool and Mrs. Wheeler is apparently hoping to be in charge of Billy.

Anyway, here’s the teaser.  If nothing else, it looks like Mike might be traumatized for life by the end of the summer.

Again, season 3 of Stranger Things will be dropping on July 4th!  Do you think we can convince Case to review yet another season for us?  Speaking of which, I should probably hurry up and review the next two episodes of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina so we can get that out of the way before Independence Day.  Fear not, I’m on it!

Here’s The Trailer for Rim of the World


So, apparently, the plot of this Netflix film is that the aliens have invaded and only a group of children can save us.

In other words, humanity is screwed.

Anyway, I guess this is kind of like Stranger Things meets Independence Day.  It was directed by McG and you can tell the audience that this film has been made for by the fact that the trailer describes McG as being the director of The Babysitter instead of the director of Terminator: Salvation.

I have to admit that I’m always kind of amused by the fact that people actually call the director “McG.”  I know, I know …. it’s a childhood nickname, like Beto.  Still, it’s always a little hard for me not to smile whenever I hear anyone casually talk about “McG” in an interview.  I remember listening to that infamous Christian Bale rant from the Terminator set and thinking that Bale sounded like a rather unpleasant person to work with.  But then Bale said something like, “McG, are you going to say something?” and I just started laughing.

Anyway, here’s the trailer.  It’s a Netflix film so I guess it will be streaming sometime in May.  Have you noticed recently that Netflix seems to be kind of obsessed with the end of the world?  I guess they’re hoping to reinfect us with some of that Bird Box fever.

Film Review: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (dir by Joe Berlinger)


Early on in the new Netflix film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, there’s a scene in which Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) and her sister, Joanna (Angela Sarafyan) go to a bar.  Through some rather heavy-handed dialogue, we learn that Liz has just broken up with her boyfriend, that she has next to zero self-confidence, and that she’s a single mother.  She doesn’t think that there’s a man anywhere who would be interested in her.  Joanna responds by pointing out that there’s one man who appears to be very interested.  In fact, he hasn’t taken his eyes off of Liz since they entered the bar.

That man’s name is Ted (Zac Efron) and, at first, he seems like he’s too good to be true.  He’s charming.  He’s a law student.  He appears to love spending time with Liz’s daughter.  He looks like Zac Efron.  Perfect, right?

Of course, we know something that Liz doesn’t.  We know that Ted is Ted Bundy and that, eventually, he’s going to become one of America’s notorious serial killers, a symbol of evil so potent that, more than 30 years after he was executed by the state of Florida, he continues to get movies made about him.

Because we know who and what Ted is, we spend the first fourth of the movie cringing at everything that makes Liz happy.  For instance, Liz is shocked to discover that Ted apparently loves her daughter but we’re just like, “Oh my God, that’s Ted Bundy!  GET YOUR DAUGHTER AWAY FROM TED BUNDY!”  Liz thinks it’s romantic when Ted makes breakfast for her but we’re just staring at the big kitchen knife in his hand.  When Liz and Ted make love, only we notice the blank look on Ted’s face as he looks down at Liz and we find ourselves wondering what’s happening in his mind.

The film is told largely through Liz’s eyes and, with one exception, we never see Bundy actually committing any of his crimes.  (That’s a good thing, by the way.  We already know who Ted Bundy was and what he did.  There’s no need to sensationalize the very real pain that he caused.)  Like Liz, we find out about Bundy’s crimes through news reports and arrest records.  For instance, when Bundy is arrested for attempted kidnapping in Utah, Liz doesn’t find out about it until a story appears in the local Seattle newspaper.  When Liz demands to know why he didn’t tell her what was happening, Bundy gives her a bullshit story about how he’s being framed and how his lawyer is going to get the case thrown out.  We know that Ted’s lying but Liz believes him because …. what else is she going to do?  Is she going to believe that this perfect man who seems to love both her and her daughter is actually a sociopathic monster?

The film follows Bundy from one trial to another, as he’s charged with crimes across country.  It shows how this superficially charming law student became something of a media celebrity.  (When a reporter asks him if he’s guilty, Bundy grins and asks if the reporter is referring to a comic book that he stole when he was in the fifth grade.)  Bundy escapes.  Bundy is arrested.  Bundy escapes again.  Bundy eventually ends up being tried in Florida, where he revels in the attention.  When Liz loses faith in him, Bundy replaces her with an unstable woman named Carole Ann (Kayla Scodelario).  However, even while Carole Ann is dutifully delivering statements from Bundy to the press, Bundy is still calling Liz and begging her to believe that he’s innocent and he’ll soon be freed from prison.

Why is it so important to Bundy that Liz believe in him?  Is he just entertaining himself by manipulating her or, in his relationship with her, does he see the type of normalcy that he desires but knows he’s incapable of ever achieving?  Towards the end of the film, Liz comes close to asking Bundy if he was planning on killing her the first night that they met.  She doesn’t and it’s doubtful that Bundy would have given an honest answer but it’s still a question that hangs over every minute of this film (as does Liz’s physical resemblance to the majority of Bundy’s victims).

Though the film may be told from Liz’s point of view, she’s often comes across as just being a meek bystander, watching as the darkness of Ted Bundy envelops her world.  The film itself seems to be far more interested in Ted Bundy and his twisted celebrity.  Zac Efron plays Bundy as someone who knows how to be charming and who is good enough at imitating human emotions that he’s managed to keep the world from noticing that he’s essentially hollow on the inside.  Bundy has gotten so used to acting out a role that, even when he’s on trial for his life, he can’t resist the temptation to turn the courtroom into his own stage.  He demands to defend himself and, though he initially proves himself to be a good lawyer, his demands and his questions become progressively more flamboyant and self-destructive.  It’s as if he’s gotten so caught up in playing his role that he’s incapable of recognizing the reality of his situation.  He performs for the jury, the judge, and the television audience, treating the whole thing as if he’s just a character in a movie.  It’s only when he has no choice but to accept that he’s been caught and he’s never going to escape that Bundy finally shows some human emotion.  He cries but his tears are only for himself.  It’s a chilling performance and Zac Efron deserves every bit of praise that he’s received.

Unfortunately, the film itself doesn’t really tell us anything that we didn’t already know.  Director Joe Berlinger is best-known as a documentarian and he talks a “just the facts” approach to the story.  We don’t really get any insight into how a monster like Ted Bundy could come to exist.  Outside of Efron’s revelatory performance, there’s not much here that couldn’t be found in any of the other films that have been made about Ted Bundy.

(Interestingly enough, as I watched the film, it occurred to me that Ted Bundy was a monster who could have only thrived in a pre-Internet age.  For all the books and movies that portray him as being some sort of cunning genius, Bundy actually wasn’t that smart.  He approached two of early his victims in a public place and introduce himself as being “Ted,” usually within earshot of a handful of witnesses.  He was so brazen that the police even ended up with a sketch that pretty much looked exactly like him.  In all probability, the only way that Ted Bundy avoided getting arrested in Seattle was that he moved to Utah, where his crimes were unknown and the sketch wasn’t readily available.  Today, of course, that sketch and Ted’s name would be on Twitter and Facebook as soon as they were released by the police.  My friend Holly would probably retweet the sketch and say, “Do your thing, twitter!”  He would have been identified and arrested in just a matter of time.  Instead, Bundy committed his crimes at a time when news traveled slower and law enforcement agencies were not in constant communication with each other.)

The good news is that Extremely Wicked is not, as some feared, a glorification of Ted Bundy.  He’s a monster throughout the entire film.  Zac Efron proves himself to be a far better actor than anyone’s ever really given him credit for being.  It’s a flawed film but, at the very least, it’s also a disturbing reminder that sometimes, darkness hides behind the greatest charm.

 

 

Here’s The Trailer For See You Yesterday!


The trailer for See You Yesterday dropped earlier on Monday.  Originally, there was some confusion on twitter because someone said that this was Spike Lee’s newest movie, which led to others assuming that Lee had directed the film.  Actually, Lee served as the film’s producer while Stefon Bristol is making his feature directing debut.  (According to the imdb, Bristol previously directed a handful of short films.  In fact, See You Yesterday appears to be an expansion on a short film that Bristol wrote and directed in 2017.)

Judging from the trailer, See You Yesterday appears to combine science fiction with social commentary.  Two African-American teens discover the secret of time travel and attempt to save the life of their brother, who was previously gunned down by a member of the NYPD.  However, it appears that changing the past is just as difficult as changing the present.  It also appears that there’s only a limited number of times that they can travel through time.  I’m intrigued by the concept.  If Bristol manages to strike the right balance between entertainment and commentary, this has the potential to be a powerful film.

See You Yesterday will be released on May 17th.  Here’s the trailer:

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!

 

 

Spring Breakdown #7: FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (dir by Chris Smith)


So, last night, I finally watched FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, the Netflix documentary about the infamous Fyre Festial.

As you may remember, the Fyre Festival was supposed to be the greatest party of 2017.  Influencers played it up on Instagram.  A commercial for it, one that featured the world’s top models on a beautiful island, was pretty much inescapable on Facebook.  It was going to be the greatest musical festival of all time, with luxury villas and yachts and private chefs and …. Blink-182?  Even before the entire festival was revealed to be a massive fraud, I have to admit that I was kind of like, “All this for Blink-182?”

Anyway, the festival did turn out to be a disaster.  A lot of people paid a lot of money to end up on the beach, staying in rain-soaked FEMA tents and eating pre-packaged sandwiches.  The bands cancelled so there wasn’t even any music.  After the festival was officially canceled, several people found themselves stranded on the island.  Those of us who weren’t there followed the drama on twitter.  We joked about the Lord of the of Flies.  One of my favorite tweets about the whole mess compared it to an episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.  “The Gang Puts On A Music Festival.”

At the time, very few people had much sympathy for anyone involved in the Fyre Festival.  Not only did the organizers seem to be a group of insufferable douchebags but so did the people who paid thousands for dollars for a FEMA tent, a cheese sandwich, and Blink-182.  Having now watched the Netflix documentary …. well, I still don’t have much sympathy for the organizers or the participants.

I do have sympathy for the people who actually lived in the island.  They were taken advantage of and most of them received no financial compensation for the work that they put into the festival.  While we were all laughing on twitter, one poor restaurant owner lost a fortune feeding all of the people who were stranded in the Bahamas.  While we were making jokes, the people who actually did all the work went unpaid.

The documentary starts with festival organizer Billy McFarland and celebrity co-sponsor Ja Rule annoying Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajowski, and Hailey Baldwin on an island that once belonged to drug lord Pablo Escobar and it ends with McFarland heading for federal prison.  Billy McFarland emerges as a professional con man who built his success by exploiting people’s desire to be a part of an “exclusive” club.  Before Fyre, McFarland ran a credit card company.  Even after the disaster of the Fyre Festival, McFarland continued to use the Fyre e-mail list to try to sell VIP access that he couldn’t actually provide.  Even when under indictment, McFarland allows himself to be filmed while he brags about “hustling.”  He really can’t help himself.

Ultimately, this documentary works best as a portrait of the power of fame.  From the start, it’s obvious that the festival is going to be a disaster.  Everyone who is interviewed states that, at no point, did they think Fyre would be a success.  (One person explains that it takes at least a year to set up a successful music festival.  Fyre tried to do it in a matter of weeks.)  But, because Billy McFarland paid Kendall Jenner and a bunch of other social media superstars to promote the festival, people who should have known better paid a lot of money for a tent and a stale sandwich.  McFarland may not have known how to put on a music festival but he definitely knew how to exploit our celebrity-obsessed culture.

During the documentary, one of the festival’s organizers — Andy — tells a story about how he was prepared to give a customs official oral sex in order to get him to release a delivery of Evian water.  Reportedly, due to the success of the documentary and the popularity of that anecdote, Andy will be getting his own reality show.  That seems like a fitting coda for the whole thing.