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!

 

 

Guilty Pleasure No. 40: Parking Wars


Strange show, Parking Wars.

Between 2008 and 2012, A&E aired 104 episodes of Parking Wars.  Even though the show’s no longer in production, episodes still seem to air on nearly a daily basis.  If you can’t find it on A&E, check on FYI.  If you can’t find it on FYI, check WGN or TBS or any of the true crime networks.  Nearly seven years after it stopped producing new episodes, Parking Wars airs so frequently that one could be forgiven for thinking that it had never been canceled.

It was an odd show.  It was a reality show, one that allowed viewers a chance to see what it was like to be a part of the parking authority.  You read that correctly.  This show was devoted to perhaps the least useful members of law enforcement.  The first two seasons focused exclusively on the employees of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.  Since the members of the PPA were all municipal employees, I’m going to assume that the show’s producers had to get permission from the city to follow them as they worked.  One assumes that the hope was that the show would improve Philadelphia’s image.  That’s why it’s interesting that the main lesson to be learned from those first two seasons of Parking Wars appears to be that everyone should stay the Hell out of Philadelphia.

Seriously, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would book a flight to Philly after watching an episode of Parking Wars.  Not only do all of the traffic cops come across as being assholes but so do most of the citizens that they meet over the course of their day.  Everyone comes across as being a jerk.  On the one hand, you have the motorists who regularly ignore posted signs and who often have no hesitation about double parking or blocking traffic.  At the same time, the show’s parking cops tend to the biggest bunch of self-important pricks that I’ve ever seen.

Each episode is usually divided into three sections.  In Ticketing, we follow some civil servant in a uniform while they walk up and down the street, looking for anyone to whom they can give a ticket.  While they do this, they talk to the camera about why their job is important and why people shouldn’t hate them.  It usually only takes a minute or so to realize that we’re not exactly dealing with the most eloquent or witty group of people here.  Typical words of wisdom: “People think I’m picking on them but ….. I’m just doing my job.  If they hadn’t broken the rules, I would not be writing them a ticket.”  Never mind that, half the time, the parking meters are broken or that the “No Parking” sign has weathered so much abuse that it can barely be read.  Whenever someone asks a legitimate question about why they’re getting a ticket, the show responds with a silly sound effect.  “Only dummies question authority,” the show is saying.  On those occasions when someone actually proves that they’ve been wrongly ticketed (and it happens more than a few times), they’re told to call a number or go to court and get it dismissed.  “Once I start writing the ticket, I can’t take it back,” the parking cop explains, as if that somehow excuses any inconvenience that anyone else might suffer.

The 2nd section of each episode often took place at the impound lot, where the citizens of Philadelphia would go to get their cars after they had been towed.  The impound lot sequences basically highlight everything that intelligent people hate about bureaucracy.  I’ll always remember the woman from Delaware whose car was impounded in Philadelphia, due to a mistake made by the Delaware Highway Patrol.  Even after the woman got a signed letter from a judge in Delaware exonerating her and saying that her car shouldn’t have been impounded, the lot supervisor said that the car couldn’t be released because the state of Pennsylvania still had her on its impound list.  When the woman was told that she could hire a tow truck (at her own expense) and have the car towed to Delaware, the lot workers were shocked when the woman angrily announced that she wasn’t going to pay any more money just because of someone else’s bureaucratic snafu.  When Pennsylvania finally did get its act together and announced that the woman could have her car back, one of the lot workers had the nerve to say, “Y’know, my supervisor went to a lot of trouble for you.”  (From what we saw on the program, it appeared that the supervisor made one phone call, mostly to get confirmation that she should refuse to release the woman’s car.)  The look the woman from Delaware gave that worker pretty much said it all.

Finally, an episode would usually wrap up with a sequence about booting.  The booting sequences dealt with the people who drive around and randomly search for people with multiple unpaid tickets, so that they can put those big yellow locks on people’s tires.  On the one hand, the booting sequences were a bit less annoying that the ticketing and impound sequences because most of the people getting booted did owe several thousands of dollars in parking tickets.  On the other hand, it wasn’t hard to notice that the boot crew usually only seemed to search for cars in lower-class neighborhoods.  It was rare you ever heard anyone suggest maybe going to a rich neighborhood and seeing if anyone there needed a boot.  Instead the people being booted were often the very people who would need a car if they were ever actually going to get the money necessary to pay their tickets.

Throughout it all, the show punctuated every action or comment with a combination of zoom lenses and silly sound effects.  If someone declared that they needed their car for work, we’d hear someone dramatically go, “DAMN!” on the soundtrack.  If the parking cop pointed out a sign that said no parking, we’d get a zoom to the sign along with a smack-smack sound effect.

Even though the show is less than ten years old, watching it can be strange today.  Parking Wars was clearly made before the era of #MeToo.  If the parking cop is a woman, one can be sure that we’ll get at least a few interviews with the citizens of Philadelphia talking about how cute she is.  If the parking cop’s a man, one can be sure that he’ll take the time to leer at any passing women while the camera zooms in on what part of her body has drawn his attention.

Eventually, it would appear that the city of Philadelphia figured out that being advertised as being the worst cities on Earth was perhaps not the boon for tourism that they thought it would be and Parking Wars started to focus on other cities.  When they started to film in Detroit, we were introduced to a parking cop named Pony Tail.  Pony Tail was perhaps the most obnoxious character to ever be unleashed on the brave viewers of A&E.  Pony Tail was the type of creep who would brag about how he was punishing evil doers (because being parked at an expired meter is a sure sign of evil) but who would then spend his entire segment pouting after a random passerby yelled out, “Parking Authority sucks!”

Things got even worse once the show expanded to New York and started to feature “independent” towing companies.  If it could be said that the parking cops were at least enforcing the law, the independent towing people were just straight-up assholes.  Whenever they towed a woman’s car and responded to her complaints by calling her “sweetheart” or “honey,” you just wanted someone to jump in and smack the Hell out of them.

And yet, oddly enough, Parking Wars was (and is) addictive viewing.  I can’t speak for everyone but for me, it’s a show that I almost hatewatch.  It confirms everything negative thing that I’ve ever felt or suspected about the people in authority.  If you believe that most people will let even the slightest bit of power go straight to their head, this is the show for you.  If you distrust the government and think that most bureaucrats are petty tyrants, Parking Wars is a show that will confirm your every suspicion.  The best moments of Parking Wars are the ones that suggest that maybe the show’s producers were secretly poking fun at the parking authority’s delusions of grandeur.  I’m talking about the moments when the ticketed got their chance to yell at the ticketers and the ticketers, for the most part, were reduced to weakly saying, “I’m just doing my job….”  Could it be that Parking Wars was one of the biggest practical jokes in reality show history and perhaps Pony Tail and the folks at the Impound Lot were being punked without even realizing it?

Probably not but it’s fun to think about….

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean
  37. Death Wish
  38. Shipping Wars
  39. Ghost Whisperer

6 Super Bowl Commercials that Lisa Won’t Forget


So, I’m sitting here like I do every year and I’m trying to pick my favorite Super Bowl ads.  (After all, the commercials are the only reason that I ever watch the Super Bowl.)  And I have to say that I’m having some difficulty doing it this year because, for the most part, all of the commercials were hella forgettable.  There were a few good ones and a few bad ones but the majority of them were just kind of there.

The bad ones, of course, were easy to spot.  There was that creepy Robochild who I guess is supposed to convince you to get your taxes done or something.  The first Google ad — the one about people using Google translate to discover how to say “I love you” — was a bit too desperate to convince us that Google is a force of good as opposed to evil.  (As long as I can always use it to check the weather, I really don’t care what Google does in its spare time.)  I might have liked the Steve Carell Pepsi ads if they had been for Coke instead.  You have to understand that, down south where I live, we kind of find Pepsi to be offensive.

To be honest, the best ads were the movie trailers but I just spent about 5 hours posting all 16 of those to the site.  Here are 6 other commercials that, regardless of whether I liked them or even found them to be effective, I won’t forget.

1.  Every Super Bowl, I look forward to the new M&M’s commercial.  This year’s was as cute as always and Christina Applegate did a good job selling the frustration.

2. I didn’t necessarily like this Audi commercial but it did spark an interesting theological debate between me and my sister about whether or not anyone would really need a car in Heaven.  Eventually, we concluded that the guy was actually in Purgatory, or at least he was until his life was saved.  It bothers me that, at the end of the commercial, that guy has a half-digested cashew somewhere on his desk.

3. I preferred the robots from this Michelob commercials to the Robo Child.

4. I’m not really sure what’s supposed to be going on in these commercials for Turkish Airlines.  I’m assuming that this is meant to be appeal to international assassins.

5. I did like this Olay commercial, mostly because of the horror angle.

6. And finally, there’s this commercial, which starts out as a Bud Light commercial but then quickly becomes something else.  I know I already shared this earlier tonight but seriously, this was so obviously the winner of the Super Bowl commercial sweepstakes that I simply have to show it again!

Here’s The Super Bowl Spot for Hanna!


Hanna was my favorite film of 2011 so I’m really hoping that the Amazon Prime adaptation does it justice.  Here’s the Super Bowl spot which, if nothing else, is far more exciting than the game that is currently being played in Atlanta.

Hanna will be available to Amazon Prime subscribers, right after the game ends.

Here’s The Super Bowl Spot for Our Planet!


This might be nice!

Our Planet is a new Netflix series where Sir David Attenbourgh explores never-before-seen habitats.  I always get a little bit worried about nature documentaries because they always seem to lead up to a bunch of tigers eating a gazelle but, judging from this Super Bowl spot, it looks like the show features some really impressive footage.

Plus, I can’t resist anything that feature animals looking quizzically at a camera.

Here’s the Super Bowl spot for Our Planet!

Here’s The Super Bowl Teaser for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone!


Did you know there’s a new Twilight Zone coming out?

Yes, again.

There’s actually been quite a few Twilight Zone revivals but this latest one involves Jordan Peele, who is a certified superfan of the show.  I mean, Get Out basically was a feature length Twilight Zone episode and Us was apparently inspired by the show.

Plus, the new Twilight Zone is going to be online which, in theory, means a bit less censorship.  That’s always a good thing.

Here’s the Super Bowl spot for Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone!