TV Binge: Riverdale (Season 2, 2018)

Riverdale (Season 2, 2018)

Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: K.J. Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, Casey Cott, Madchen Amick, Vanessa Morgan, Mark Consuelos, Charles Melton, Marisol Nichols, Skeet Ulrich, Martin Cummins, Luke Perry

While navigating the troubled waters of romance, school and family, Archie and his gang become entangled in dark Riverdale mysteries. – IMDB

Picking up from the events of Season 1, Riverdale which was already a darker version of its original comics takes a step further into the darkness. Everyone finds themselves faced with the aftermaths of the previous season’s events and having to step up to take some dire measures. Archie faces his own inner struggles as he tries to make a stand against the Black Hood and the havoc wreaked, while wrestling with feeling like a coward for how he couldn’t protect his dad. Betty is faced with both family issues as it falls apart while she has to isolate herself due to Black Hood approaching her to pull out her darkness. Veronica gets more involved into Lodge Industries operations while struggling with how much she wants Archie involved. Jughead is dealing with joining the Serpents and standing up for his Southside family but being judged for growing up in the Northside alliances with his friends and Betty. Between the Riverdale mayoral elections in the horizon and Lodge Industries having some mysterious plans as they buy up a lot of the key locations and the Southside High’s merge with Riverdale High, more characters get involved and more issues get caught up in the mix.

Its been a while since I’ve watched Riverdale Season one but the feelings that I initially had with it were decent. The tone and atmosphere being the main thing that stands out especially since it is based on the graphic novels and not the comics, which already explains the dark tone. At the same time, my biggest criticism for the first season was Archie’s character really not quite hitting the mark and in turn, Betty and Jughead seemed to stand out a lot more. With the second season, a lot of that still applies. Riverdale takes a much darker tone this time around as it involves a lot of other elements with politics and isn’t just about the high school crew. Its about gangs, the underworld, the politics, etc. All this actually builds up pretty well for the Riverdale world as it gives the town even more life and draws a clearer picture of the nitty gritty elements of Riverdale and its division between the Northside and Southside as well as some of the deeper secrets of the key families. Having just finished Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, its also pretty nice to see constant nod to Greendale even if its not actively involving any of the characters there, mostly due to the different networks that the series have been released on albeit being created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.

When you dial it down, Season 2 is about two big plot points that trigger all these other little bits. The first is the whole Black Hood situation especially as it involves Betty directly since it almost seems like the Black Hood wants to use this to fully bring out her dark side so that she will do his bidding. Of course, its also once of the big twists as to who the Black Hood is. With that said, Lili Reinhart does Betty so much justice and truly captures that role so well that she’s definitely one of my favorite characters in the series.

On the other side, its all about what the Lodge Industries scheme is as they start buying up a lot of the Southside real locations with his shady connections coming into town, the conflicts between Veronica and her family’s choices as well as Archie’s gradual involvement into this which also puts a strain on his side. The upside is that Archie’s character does get a little more development since he is one of the titular characters and while Archie making dumb choices is all part of the character design in the comics and graphic novel, it gets frustrating to see him constantly be manipulated. It does match with the characters as well as Veronica and Archie as an item also seem to live in a rather shallow relationship in comparison to Betty and Jughead that seem to be more intellectual since they team together to solve mysteries, which is one of the very fun parts of the series itself.

Of course, Jughead has his own involvement here as he gets darker and more dangerously proactive as he joins the Southside Serpents and finds his place there. On that front, Season 2 did a good job of building up the characters further with these events and its not only the main characters but also expanding to the parent characters as well.

Season 2 was definitely a step in the right direction. Its a little dark and dramatic overall which is one of the reasons that I had stopped watching it in the first place since it just wasn’t the vibe I was looking for but they do capture the whole thing really well. Riverdale as a fictional town and the society comes to life just as much as the characters in it do as well. Not to mention, Season 2 had a cameo role with Tony Todd. With Season 2 done and dusted, it time to step into Season 3. There’s 6 seasons as this goes live so I have a bit of catching up to do especially with the final Season 7 set to premiere in 2023.

Double Feature: Deep Blue Sea 3 (2020) & Rogue (2007)

Deep Blue Sea 3 (2020)

Director: John Pogue

Cast: Tania Raymonde, Nathaniel Buzolic, Emerson Brooks, Bren Foster, Reina Aoi, Alex Bhat, Siya Mayola, Avumile Qongqo

Studying the effects of climate change off the coast of Mozambique, a marine biologist and her team confront three genetically enhanced bull sharks. Now, a new bloodbath is waiting to happen in the name of science. Will humans never learn? – IMDB

While Deep Blue Sea (review) is undoubtedly one of my favorite shark films ever, Deep Blue Sea 2 (review) was absolutely one of the most unsatisfying ones that I have watched. Its hard to fathom what this final film in this series is going to bring especially as it plays out as a direct sequel to the second film. Deep Blue Sea 3 might not really be any incredible shark film but it does deliver some decent entertainment. Of course, this depends what you look for in shark films. For myself, itself some creative shark kills (ridiculous as some of it might seem) and some fun characters and dialogue that might even add in a few laughs. As serious as Deep Blue Sea is, whether its the age or the bad effects, it had a decent balance of tension and fun to make it stand out. Deep Blue Sea 3 might not be in the same league as tension isn’t exactly high on the charts as the plot is a little too silly but there are some things that are done well enough to have a good time.

As mentioned before, Deep Blue Sea 3 picks up after the events of the second film as they try to track down the genetically enhanced bull sharks before they mate. Conveniently, they end up at an abandoned village on the water which has 2 inhabitants remaining and a small shark preservation crew has taken over with a underwater nursery to help monitor and preserve great white sharks. The crew itself consists of marine biologist Emma (Tania Raymonde) and Shaw (Emerson Brooks) who is something of a mentor and the muscle here, much like the tech-savvy Spin (Alex Bhat) and marine analyst Miya (Reina Aoi) are behind the scenes monitoring the situation when the boat carrying Emma’s college fling Richard (Nathaniel Buzolic) and his crew who are commissioned to find the bull sharks enter into the picture but decides to hide the grittier facts of the whole situation until they slowly get revealed and things get way out of control.

Let’s be honest here: Deep Blue Sea 3 is not exactly a great shark film, its not probably not even considered a good one. Looking at the plot and the dialogue, it walks on some thin ground. There’s some unnecessary romance side plot that doesn’t get anywhere; the usual untimely confession of feelings right before things go bad; some of the attacks are extremely predictable; dialogue feels a little ridiculous and cheesy at times. We’re not even looking at the big picture of the plot especially with the “bad guys” being not only the genetically modified bull sharks who not only swim backwards (which was a trait from the first film) but also recognizes bombs and reacts to mommy shark’s frequency, the bad guys are the crew from the big corporation who suddenly decides that they need to get down to business to get rid of the sharks and then decides to do stupid decisions like getting their minions to finish up a fight or just drop their weapons and go into hand to hand combat. Its actually quite funny to watch in all its ridiculousness. However, as much as there are things to criticize about the film, Deep Blue Sea 3 doesn’t really take itself that seriously and that really does help with the whole thing since it makes the second half when the whole island village goes down all the more fun with the sudden and unexpected shark kills to the big showdown finale.

There’s really not a whole lot to say about Deep Blue Sea 3 because its a rather middling experience. Its a fun time for sure if you enjoy shark films the way that I do in all its stupidity and ridiculousness but delivering some shark kills that take you by surprise. I mean, the effects here for the sharks at times reminds us that Deep Blue Sea from the start until now doesn’t seem like its changed much and that is a good or bad thing. Deal is, there are a ton of issues with Deep Blue Sea 3 that you can hate on it a lot. Honestly, I feel like they should have just left Deep Blue Sea in 1999 and never done any sequels but since the sequels are here, at least this one isn’t quite the wreck that the second film was. Maybe it simply had to do with the fact that its not another underground facility but much more minimalistic and embraces the “open waters”/open space a little bit more and keeps things above ground a little more as well.

Rogue (2007)

Director (and writer): Greg McLean

Cast: Michael Vartan, Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington, Caroline Brazier, Stephen Curry, Celia Ireland, John Jarratt, Heather Mitchell, Geoff Morrell, Damien Richardson, Robert Taylor, Mia Wasikowska, Barry Otto

An American journalist on assignment in the Australian outback encounters a man-eating crocodile while trapped on a rapidly flooding mud island. – IMDB

Allow me a moment to celebrate as Rogue finally gets added to the Netflix catalogue (Netflix Canada at least). Not the Megan Fox action thriller but the Australian crocodile creature feature. With the fun experiences of several crocodile/alligator creature features like Crawl (review), Alligator and Lake Placid (review), Rogue has been a film on my radar for a pretty long time and it lived up to my expectations. Directed by Wolf Creek director Greg McLean, Rogue steers away from the torture porn horror style and dives into the creature feature genre as a group of tourists get stuck on a tiny mud island as the tide comes in with a crocodile lurking nearby ready to attack.

Australia is such a prime location with all it deadly animals lurking about for creature feature content and yet, there’s not quite enough films to use that setting. Rogue actually takes the creature feature for a very different ride. The film captures the beauty where this tourist excursions are taking place, focusing on the nature around them and the lay of the land from up above and takes the time at the start to give this boatful of tourists as well as their tour guide a chance to show some of their characteristics and personalities before thrusting them into danger. It gives some context to who this group will be dealing with.

At the same time, the crocodile doesn’t really get as much camera time and is slowly revealed bit by bit. It gives it the mysterious element of how big this crocodile actually is while still using a crocodile’s hunting both to educate the viewers but creating some foreshadow of what to expect. There’s the unexpected window between kills which looms over the tourists and just how quickly they can be picked off while how much risk is too much risk to try to get off the island with both the night and the tide coming in all becoming pressuring factors. The way that the film uses these elements is what makes Rogue a tense creature feature.

Looking at the cast, there are some familiar faces here with Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan and Sam Worthington are the obvious recognizable ones. They also are the leading and bigger roles here with a little more focus on their characters throughout the film. Michael Vartan plays a travel journalist who finds himself becoming quite the hero in the process as the group starts falling apart and everyone’s true colors start showing. For Wolf Creek fans, John Jarratt appears here in a much more toned down type of role, much like there’s a young Mia Wasikowska playing the young daughter of a couple on the tour. With bigger groups of this, there are always a few characters which are outlined a little frustratingly and this was no exception.

Overall, Rogue is a pretty effective creature feature. It delivers a pretty tense crocodile creature feature. The beginning set up is a great contrast to the actual crocodile hunt portion. As much as its almost one location, the final act takes it into another area which gives it a nice change and adds to the danger element to push it a little further. Definitely an enjoyable one and one that I’d highly recommend to check out.

Double Feature: A Perfect Pairing (2022) & Trust (2021)

A Perfect Pairing (2022)

Director: Stuart McDonald

Cast: Victoria Justice, Adam Demos, Luca Asta Sardelis, Samantha Cain, Craig Horner, Lucy Durack, Antonio Alvarez

It follows a hard-driving LA wine-company executive who travels to an Australian sheep station to land a major client and there she ends up working as a ranch hand and sparking with a rugged local. – IMDB

The latest Netflix romantic comedy released pairs up Afterlife of the Party (review) Victoria Justice and the Sex/Life actor Adam Demos as they meet on a sheep station, one trying to use her hard work to prove her capabilities as a self-starter and win a contract from a wine company executive while also sparking a connection with the “boss cocky” as he teaches her the ins and outs. Suffice to say at this point, romantic comedies are rather rinse and repeat and for the most part with Netflix rom-coms, they haven’t really been too groundbreaking. A Perfect Pairing doesn’t escape the rom-com formula or deliver anything too special. What does give it a fun vibe is that the chemistry between the main leads are pretty good overall and the setting with the beautiful scenery of the Australian countryside.

With most rom-coms nowadays, the selling point is the chemistry that the main leads deliver. In this case, A Perfect Pairing is pretty good. Adam Demos and Victoria Justice do work rather well together in their respective roles and the progression of everything is pretty fun especially when you have a city girl thrust into a foreign rural setting, learning something from the start. The fun isn’t only with them but also the co-workers that she encounters there who go from doubting her to accepting her gradually in their own way. The little bickering and conversations are pretty good since there is a variety of people there. It makes Victoria Justice’s character’s initial goal to bag a deal for her little wine distribution company fall into the background. Like I said, that sort of thing isn’t exactly unseen, in fact its a plot point for many rom-coms for the main female lead to head out to achieve something with extreme measures to eventually realize that its not the point. Only difference here is that hers is very clear right from the start and in this scenario, Adam Demos’ character is the one with a bigger secret to hide (which actually didn’t feel like it was such a big secret overall and the reveal causing such big reactions).

Overall, A Perfect Pairing isn’t anything too special in terms of plot points or execution. However, where it works best is capturing the beautiful Australian vineyards and rural setting, adding in that bit of fun as Victoria Justice’s character gets dirty as a farm hand and the pretty decent chemistry between the two. In reality, Victoria Justice has proven time and time again that she does capture her roles pretty good.

Trust (2021)

Director (and co-writer): Brian DeCubellis

Cast: Victoria Justice, Matthew Daddario, Katherine McNamara, Lucien Laviscount, Ronny Chieng, Lindsey Broad

In this sexy and twisty ride, New York gallery owner Brooke and her husband Owen each face exceptional temptations, with most unexpected results. – IMDB

Trust is an erotic romance drama which is based on Kristen Lazarian, one of the co-screenplay writer’s play Push. I’m always a little skeptical when I start any film that sells itself as an erotic and romantic film. Most of the time, it lacks a lot of those elements and just turns into a really soapy sort of deal. Trust is a rather middling experience. There are some really good execution plot points that help make it feel pretty unique to watch. Its like a semi-Shadowhunters reunion with Katharine McNamara and Matthew Daddorio in bigger roles and then there’s Victoria Justice which I’ve been catching up on a lot of her films, much like the Season 2 of Emily in Paris actor, Lucien Laviscount. While the plot itself does try to seem more clever than it really is, it actually does work through the whole “trust” element in relationships pretty good. The ending is a bit silly but the overall feeling of the film does have a decent use of these two people who are encountered by their own temptations and emotions as they have their own experiences.

Taking a look at the execution, Trust uses a non-linear format to shed light on unveiling the story here from both the main characters Brooke (Victoria Justice) and Owen (Matthew Daddario) side of the story, filling in the pieces as it becomes relevant. Its one of the stand-out elements of this film as it keeps the mystery in place and helps keep up those questionable trust moments but also making the reveals gradually, sometimes being more effective than others. There is no doubt that the film itself takes up a rather soapy drama tone especially when dealing with a relationship square as there are 4 parties involved and the two mains having their own temptation: Owen with a girl at the bar Amy (Katharine McNamara) and Brooke with the artist that she represents Ansgar (Lucien Laviscount).

That leads to the characters themselves. The cast itself is rather small but is pretty sufficient for a story like this one that keeps it rather simple on the surface but when adding in the elements of trust between the characters, it does pull a few nice tricks out of the hat. That has to do with how these characters are portrayed as they develop throughout the film and does add a nice element of how trust should be portrayed and questions the element of trust effectively in its scenarios on both sides. The roles themselves are pretty much on the surface but then the story itself doesn’t really need too much depth since its more about the situation than the characters themselves.

To be fair, Trust isn’t anything to call home about and the ending itself seems a little flimsy. There’s a little play on details about trust and how Brooke and Owen will move forward after this all settles down. Its plays out thinking its more clever than it actually is, however, there is some decent entertainment here. I can’t say that its very romantic or erotic in that regard but there are definitely some moments that work relatively well that regard. For sure, its not a film for everyone and some moments and dialogue even feel a little cringeworthy but somehow, maybe the clever execution or how the story is plotted out that it works for me to a certain extent.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 4, 2020)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 4, 2020)

Creator: Robert Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Lachlan Watson, Gavin Leatherwood, Tyler Cotton, Sam Corlett, Jonathan Whitesell, Luke Cook, Skye P. Marshall

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

The final season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina picks up from the previous season as Sabrina is holding a huge secret where there are 2 of them. As she resumes her normal life without any threat, it creates an uneasiness making her feel less important and losing touch with her friends who all have their own lives and relationships and building up their own bands. Much like her lack of a love life as Nick has moved on to Prudence who are both finding solace in what happened in the previous season. The Academy of Unseen Arts has now moved on as well to worshipping Hecate, a female goddess for magic and spells. This season’s main focus is the warning that the 2 Sabrinas have created chaos. While not the whole reason, it ends up being the focal point as the Eldritch Terrors invade Greendale one at a time and the group now needs to deal with this one by one as they discover them as they come along in their own bloody and deadly ways.

This final part takes things in a much more focused plotline. For one, its all about the imbalance of having 2 Sabrinas (and the gradual knowledge to the other characters of their existence) and focuses on the Eldritch Terror, making each episode full of something different but all contributing to the question what could we expect next as the characters uncovers it themselves. Its like a little mystery. Each of these terrors are rather unique as well giving each episode something a little different in terms of the nature of the threat. It also takes the show into a little tribute to Sabrina The Teenage Witch in one part with cameo roles from Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick. Each terror does seem more threatening than the next so it starts playing with void, alternate universes, as well as the other realms of course, making it always have something new.

When looking at the characters, Sabrina is obviously still one of the huge focuses especially since there is 2 of her in the two realms, making their own decisions and finding companion in each other, especially for the Sabrina in Greendale as she feels like no one really cares about her anymore and starts making some irrational choices. The characters do all have some tough decisions especially as everyone embraces something a little different about themselves and slowly finds their ultimate character development by the end as the big finale approaches.

Thing is, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina probably could’ve gone on for more seasons (or parts as they call it) if the pandemic hadn’t hit (which seems to be the reason that it was cut short). However, the fourth season while keeping to its very fun scenarios and making each episode full of adventure and something new to discover about the realms and witch world and their own realm-building, the whole relationship elements and the characters starting feeling flat (for lack of a better word). It started feeling like when things were happening, it was a lot of fun but the characters lacked a little bit of the pizzazz they needed to hold up the show for longer, especially since the relationship problems or friendship issues or Academy issues all started feeling a bit rinse and repeat and felt like it dragged on in part. However, despite being cancelled, the show did manage to give itself a more absolute ending rather than some cliffhanger ending which seems to be the usual situation. For that, I personally am quite happy about it and makes the show feel like a complete viewing experience.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 3, 2020)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 3, 2020)

Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Gavin Leatherwood, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Miranda Otto, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Lachlan Watson, Sam Corlett, Richard Coyle, Alessandro Juliani, Luke Cook, Jonathan Whitesell

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

Picking from the events from Part 2, Greendale has completely switched around. Sabrina’s boyfriend Nick has sacrificed himself and taken to Hell with Lilith who now rules there. Much like Aunt Zelda who now has taken over the Academy of Unseen Arts to hopefully rebuild it. While Ambrose and Prudence have gone off to travel around the world trying to track down Father Blackwood and get rid of him before he can exact anymore hazardous plans upon his probable return. However, Sabrina soon gets dragged into a much more serious role in exchange for saving Nick as she takes on the role of Queen of Hell and is challenged by Caliban, the Prince of Hell who also wants to win the throne through a series of quests to find the Unholy Regalia.

Part 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes an interesting turn of events. The relationships are now pretty much set as much as the alliances. The shift in power as well as the new outline of who is running things starts having a bigger toll especially as a lot of the secrets were revealed by the end of the last season. This season, its about making up for those things with some rather dire consequences, notably the main one being Sabrina given the power of the Queen of Hell and having an inner tug of war between what she needs to do, what she should do and what is more important to her. This all comes crashing together in the big finale when there is a whole time manipulation sequence where things get warped and she has to find a way to fix it.

For Part 1 & 2 reviews, I haven’t really taken a lot of time to look at the other characters other than the character development of Sabrina. Part 3 seems like a good time since most of the main cast is now rather set and developed at this point. For the most part, the show does revolve primarily around Sabrina and her development and it ends up putting the others a little bit more in the background with little scenes that come and go which is mostly revolving around Ambrose and Prudence, the Aunts Zelda and Hilda, her mortal friends Harvey, Roz and Theo and her love interest at the moment. In this case, the season is mostly surrounding Nick and eventually also the possible interest in Caliban. In reality, the characters in Sabrina probably have a lot more space to develop and for the most part, they feel rather one dimensional despite some of their abilities being more fleshed out as the show moves forward, it could be one of the reasons that it feels a little less engaging.

The main engaging and fun element are mostly the events that they pop up that flips the situation. The gives the show a nice course of dilemmas and situations throughout that eventually lead to a big finale. In this case, it goes to a mysterious circus that comes to town and the escaped Father Blackwood messing things up in the background who all come into play as he now aligns with anyone who can exact the revenge he wants. The threat here being pretty much more engaging since this new crew of characters (the Pagans) pose their own threats. If the circus itself didn’t bring its own oddities, the people they bring also have their own influences to different characters and brings in yet another branch of belief and another force that wants to take over the realm. If the Hell issues weren’t enough, this definitely kept the plot points very busy.

Overall, Part 3 was a pretty decent one. It did step up a little from the second part. This time’s threats and dilemmas between the characters helped give it a lot of constant motion, propelling it forward so fast that it was actually rather fascinating. The twist at the end was a huge highlight especially since it gave it something of an adventure like Harrry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but the different realms giving some variation to the plot from its first 2 ways. The power struggle expands and pushes Sabrina to make some tough decisions, constantly developing her character further.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 2, 2019)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 2, 2019)

Creator: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Lachlan Watson, Gavin Leatherwood, Abigail Cowen, Alessandro Juliani

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

With the Part 1’s well-built foundation, Part 2 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sets off on a more solid plot trajectory. This season’s focus is not so much about Sabrina’s struggle between embracing the witch world and the mortal world but rather learning to embrace the power that comes with her new witch abilities especially in the face of the Academy of the Unseen Arts and the leadership of Father Blackwood who seems to want to take them on a more misogynistic direction to, and a paraphrase, return them to their old ways. With both Father Blackwood’s ambition to drive this new power and change and the Dark Lord trying to lay out his plans for Sabrina to finally lead her down the path to ruling at his side much to Lilith’s displeasure, the story is all about some of the well-known characters finding their own path as they wrestle with their alliances.

Part 2 also takes the audience into a lot of world-building especially for the witch world. One of the more fun elements do go to the different versions of celebrations that exist in the witch realm, especially the backdrop of Lupercalia, their version of St-Valentine’s. The season takes itself on a lot of paths with a variety of smaller threats and wonders like some tarot card readings from a stranger crossing through town to some witch hunters. At the same time, Sabrina has to deal with her friends who have started to not trust her because of her witch abilities and whether magic is good or bad in general. Sabina also has the matter of where her heart lies especially as Nick Scratch becomes a main character at this point as her love interest which also challenges her trust in him as love is an emotion for the witch realm is not quite the same.

What’s nice about the end of Part 2 is that the show works towards shifting the main plot and manipulation to its end so that it can propel into another direction for the next part. Part 2 focuses on the big reveal of Mrs. Wardwell and her true identity as well as the Dark Lord and his purpose and why Sabrina is such a key piece in their ploy especially as the series ends on the note of whether to go through with her role as the Queen of Hell. There’s a lot more at stake this season and while the season itself is a tad shorter than the previous one, there is a lot more to discover since the characters now, especially Sabrina a much more out of the teen angst elements and diving more into the bigger elements. Sure, there are still the high school drama here and there but the whole supernatural thing is much more emphasized as both sides of Sabrina’s world does have to come together to try to fight against the bigger and darker powers.

Overall, Part 2 is a step-up from the first part. Where the first season uses for its foundation building and its more teen-oriented issues giving Sabrina (and her friends) more of the “normal” high school experience, the second season has all that sorted out for the most part other than the little relationships and friends drama that do occur. The focus shifts to other conflicts and bigger issues to deal with especially as all the characters also have changed and developed since the events of the first season. Its a good progression of events and is pretty fun to watch overall especially since Sabrina constantly makes pretty bad decisions or just decisions where she underestimates her own capabilities and everyone has to team up to help her out of it. Its a little frustrating but then there is still a part of it that is reasonable as she is trying to stop certain bigger issues to become reality or the new norm.

TV Binge: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 1, 2018)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 1, 2018)

Director: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Tati Gabrielle, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto, Lachlan Watson, Adeline Rudolph, Abigail Cowen, Gavin Leatherwood

As her 16th birthday nears, Sabrina must choose between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends. Based on the Archie comic. – IMDB

Being yet again wildly behind on most Netflix series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina finally made its start as I work through the Netflix back catalogue. Being fans of Archie comics and originally meant as a spinoff of the show but no longer exactly the case, despite the mention of Riverdale in some occasions of the show in dialogue, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina starts off in its Part 1 setting up the stage from the get-go as Sabrina enters into her 16th birthday and has to decide whether she will be following her witch side or mortal side. Of course, she chooses neither, making her life split in half as she fulfills both sides of her obligations. With threats popping up from various locations and her human emotional side taking over her to protect her friends as some unknown manipulating forces also affect her situation as a whole, the show revolves around various topics in this world set in Greendale which has both the witch/warlock network but also the mortal network coming into play as Sabrina tries to strike a balance and starts to realize that maybe its not quite so easy to do that.

The first part lays out its foundation for everything and usually for these sort of teen shows are aimed to build up the scenario, the world and the characters. For the most part, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does a decent job. From start to the finish, all 11 episodes do contribute to crafting this dark world of Sabrina both on the mortal and magical side. Sabrina’s life takes a turn as it gets affected from her family to friends to love, making clear those divisions but also the things that makes her unique as a “half breed”. On a storyline level, it manages to keep it rather good but of course, with its fair share of teenage angst added into the mix as it brings up themes of bullying and gender much like the darker side has its own set of issues from the patriarchy and more older beliefs of the darker world at hand. There are some odd frustrating moments here and there especially since Sabrina’s character, as she shifts between the worlds, becomes rather annoying at parts but its all part of the character building as her character does solidify, much like the other ones, by the end of Part 1.

Perhaps one of the more head-scratching elements of the show is the visuals that the production or perhaps post-production decides to take as the show in almost the entirety has this blurry hue that soaks in the background. Its uncertain whether its meant to give the show the visual uniqueness or to create the separation of the two worlds, however as much as for some scenes, it does it some favors, in others, it is quite a nuisance to be present all the time and maybe even taking away the effectiveness it could have it wasn’t present most (if not all) of the the time. The revamped style of Sabrina the Teenage Witch to this version of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (much like Archie versus Riverdale) is already a darker and more graphic version so it almost feels unnecessary to try to push more of it onto its viewers. Sure, it is quite noticeable and gives it that unique feeling but when its the whole show that uses this, it eventually fades into the background and loses its meaning or purpose (if it had any in the first place other than just as a visual aesthetic).

Overall, Part 1 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a pretty fun ride. As a teen show, it still keeps a lot of the expected elements of teenage angst in the mortal world but still mirrors itself well into the magical world as she enters into The Academy of Unseen Arts. There are still the little cliques and the contrast of the values from each side, much like the contrast of the two worlds where the mortal emphasized the light/good element and is what the normal person would use in terms of lingo but the other side, the witch/warlock side is all about embodying the darkness which swaps things around turning things around. Its a pretty interesting world to dive into by the end even if there are some rather frustrating parts here and there but the show does keep things pretty constant with its conflicts and dilemma that surrounds Sabrina constantly.

TV Binge: Love Death + Robots (Season 3, 2022)

Love Death + Robots (Season 3, 2022)

Creator: Tim Miller

A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. – IMDB

Season 3 of Love Death + Robots has finally landed. For those who don’t know what it is, its basically an anthology series full of short stories revolving around the themes of love, death and robots sometimes touching only one of those domains and sometimes multiple ones. The big draw of the show does have to go to its production by David Fincher and Tim Miller who also does helm at least one of these episodes each. As a recap, Season 1 was a fantastic selection of shorts that created an incredibly memorable season. Season 2, while a step down from the first, changed its tone a little bit but not so much the variety and also delivered some pretty good shorts. Some had very good discussion points and some were simply meant for entertainment value. Season 3 comes up right in the middle of the two: Its not quite as good as the first but is a step up from Season 2. The stories are more equal in their execution and context and most of them are fairly entertaining

While I won’t go through each of the episodes one by one, here’s a quick rundown of how I’d rank this year’s episodes from most to least favorite. I don’t usually do it and honestly, not exactly why I chose this rather balanced season to do the ranking but here we go. It probably would change if I thought about it a little more depending on my mood as well.

  1. Bad Travelling
  2. Swarm
  3. Night of the Mini Dead
  4. Three Robots: Exit Strategies
  5. Jibaro
  6. Mason’s Rats
  7. In Vaulted Halls Entombed
  8. Kill Team Kill
  9. The Very Pulse of the Machine

Going quickly through what stands out in this group despite its rankings, Bad Travelling is David Fincher’s contribution and not so surprising it made the top of my list mostly because the story was like a creature feature and was on a boat. While not exactly unpredictable, it also included some good voice acting especially with Troy Baker part of it.

The second one is Tim Miller’s contribution Swarm which has to be one of the more detailed and vivid world building about a future where the arrogant humans have destroyed their world and are trying to find a way to rebuild using alien technology from the organic creatures around them.

Night of the Mini Dead is basically a small little world, almost like watching toy figures enacting the whole zombie apocalypse. This one is pure entertainment, packed with laughs and explosions in the most cartoon way possible and yet that is what makes it unique.

Another worthy mention does have to go to the middle of the group and the last episode of the series, Jibaro. This one is very odd and yet, the story it delivers is one that is very gripping even with its lack of dialogue and mostly visual value as it revolves around a lot of dancing to express the story of these two characters. The myth that it delivers along with the mystical creature at hand does bring in just enough lore to make it intriguing. Its definitely one that would be potentially a fantastic full length film.

As I try to stay fairly spoiler free with the stories themselves, since it would be horrible to spoil a short as is, the different stories here bring in a ratpocalypse, a space discovery, a lot of different creatures and a decent amount of action. There’s a lot to discover in the stories and probably some that might even bring in some discussion points.

Love Death + Robots, regardless of the season, is usually fun time. It stands out because of the shorts compilation which are all very creative in one element or another. It reflects on humanity, post-apocalypse and usually is in a world much different from our current reality whether its set on Earth or in space.

Double Feature: Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021) & Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021)

Director (and writer): Johannes Roberts

Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Robbie Amell, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue, Neal McDonough, Lily Gao, Chad Rook, Marina Mazepa, Nathan Dales

Set in 1998, this origin story explores the secrets of the mysterious Spencer Mansion and the ill-fated Raccoon City. – IMDB

*Originally reviewed for Friday Film Club*

Adapted from the first and second game of the Capcom video game series of the same name, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City sets itself on a parallel storyline which sets itself in 1998 when the zombie outbreak starts in the small town of Raccoon City and the group of survivors try to make it out where the events take place both in the Raccoon City Police Department but also at the Spencer mansion where the outbreak was suspected to have started.

Being undeniably avid fans of Resident Evil here at Movies and Tea as we covered all the Resident Evil movies by Paul W.S. Anderson being one of our biggest episodes to work on, and an upcoming episode in the works for its animated films, Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City is a film that was announced with rather mixed sentiments, some didn’t like the casting feeling like it didn’t do the actual character design justice to its original game design however the film also did finally bring in all the favorite characters and created a story adapted from the actual games. However, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a pretty decent alignment for a video game adaptation. Taking away the lesser role for their favorite character Leon Kennedy and dropping him to his rookie status who genuinely grows throughout the film as he encounters more, the fan faves are also all here with Claire and Chris Redfield holding down the fort on each of the locations as they move closer to each other. At the same time, the film also manages to bring in some other key characters like the well-known Albert Wesker and Jill Valentine, giving them an origin of where they come from.

This new reboot of Resident Evil, under the direction of Johannes Roberts does give it a lot more link to the story that the games are telling and the world building also deserves a lot of credit. Some scenes are almost identical to its game counterpart making it quite the treat for lovers of this gaming franchise, especially with its recent game remakes. At the same time, it still adds in a lot of eerie scenes whether being the zombie design to the mutations caused by the virus and looks into the connection of Claire and Chris Redfield’s story both when they were kids and their encounters to the present day, centering the story around them. Sure, in terms of story direction, Leon Kennedy being one of the bigger characters of the games does fall into the backseat a little and becomes more of a goofy rookie who is trying to catch up with the situation with better and more experienced cops but perhaps its a nice change to see the focus remain on one part of the story and if it does have sequel, it gives it more space to expand on the other characters’ storylines.

Overall, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a pretty decent reboot. Its one that stays much more true to its source material and still manages to recreate these eerie atmospheres using its two key locations as their focal points. It has a little something for both fans of the games and new viewers trying to follow the story. Its pretty well-balanced film in terms of action and horror.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)

Director: Cathy Yan

Cast: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett, Ewan McGregor, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina, Ali Wong

After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroines Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord. – IMDB

Superhero and comic book films have really been a bit overwhelming and not exactly on my radar regardless of Marvel or DC at this point. However, as Birds of Prey is leaving Netflix Canada and I do really like Margot Robbie, it felt like a decent film to catch up on. Surprisingly, the film was a pretty fun ride and also brought another femme fatale role for Mary Elizabeth Winstead as The Huntress which was also nice little surprise. The film overall is about these different female characters who team up against a vicious crime lord for their own personal reasons despite focusing on a post break-up with Joker Harley Quinn who ends up making some ridiculous decisions like blowing up the chemical plant and buying a hyena as her pet.

While superhero films all seem to entail the same thing and it all feels rather cookie cutter in terms of plot, making the whole situation fairly predictable, Birds of Prey is pretty fun. Perhaps its the over the top element which makes everyone from Harley Quinn to its villain feel rather cartoony and comic-like or its the fact that this film is about superheroines who find themselves teaming together for their own purpose and having their own style when it came to the big final showdown, these things all add color to the film and makes it entertaining. All the odd elements come together especially all these different ladies to make it a fun team-up.

With that said, the casting is pretty good, not only for its main ladies from Margot Robbie as the titular lady but also Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez as the cop Renee Montoya who is fed up with not being fully recognized in her efforts and Jurnee Smollett as a talented singer with a killer voice as Black Canary plus a little pickpocket girl Cassandra Cain played by Ella Jay Basco, but it also includes a rather over the top villain playing Black Mask with Ewan McGregor who was pretty decent and almost channelling the rich boy begging for recognition type of character so lashes out in extreme ways to get what he wants but also a supporting roles by Ali Wong.

Birds of Prey is a pretty fun movie overall. There’s not a whole lot to say about it but the stylistic approach and the wonderful kick-ass femme fatale casting does make for some entertaining moments. Its refreshing to see a group of superheroines band together against the villain and this film delivered the whole package pretty well.

Double Feature: Desperado (1995) & Rebecca (2020)

Desperado (1995)

Director (and writer): Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Joaquim de Almeida, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi, Carlos Gomez, Tito Larriva, Danny Trejo, Quentin Tarantino

Former musician and gunslinger El Mariachi arrives at a small Mexican border town after being away for a long time. His past quickly catches up with him and he soon gets entangled with the local drug kingpin Bucho and his gang. – IMDB

Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, Desperado is an action Western film and is the second part of his Mexico trilogy. While I can’t say how much you need to have seen the first part since I went into this pretty clueless about the existence of the trilogy and not quite a fan of Westerns in general, Desperado is a fairly fun romp despite its storyline revolving around a revenge plan, mostly because the film felt a little cheesy at times especially with the romantic interactions between the characters portrayed by Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, both of them oozing with sex appeal from their chemistry to their appearance. Plus, Desperado does keep a relatively light-hearted tone with a lot of scenes going over the top and the tone is set right from its first scene at the bar with the whole story-telling moment describing the gunslinger.

Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek are two actor and actress that I don’t watch too much of in general. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen them in anything other than voicing Puss in Boots for both of them. While I can’t say that Desperado is the film to showcase the acting talents they possess, their roles are done pretty well as El Mariachi and Carolina respectively. El Mariachi has a pretty epic type of gunslinger action sequence for his introduction and keeps up with building up on his story as the film moves along of why he is exacting this revenge and such. His plan and course of action takes shape throughout the film but perhaps one of the best moments are when he is spending time with the young guitar player and trying to set him on the right path. It adds a lot of depth to his character overall. In contrast, Carolina’s character is a little more shallow as she does save him and has a tough edge when needed but still plays more of a love interest. Of course, the film also includes some fun cameos with Quentin Tarantino and a side character which adds to the whole bad guys plot with Danny Trejo, who doesn’t have any dialogue but because partially a threat.

Desperado isn’t exactly a film to be dissected in depth since it is mostly a fun time with a lot of action. However, that isn’t saying that the execution isn’t good. There are some weird moments like how El Mariachi and Carolina really do move very quickly through their attachment or this one escape scene where this obviously a physics issue that doesn’t seem to make sense which gives the more flair but maybe not quite so much context. There is a lot of building up a moment especially for the El Mariachi’s entrance to the big action scenes where there’s a lot of gun action going on between the two sides and everyone wondering who this El Mariachi fellow is and what his deal is overall. It does put together some stylistic action for him.

While I’m not exactly a fan of Westerns, Desperado does have its fun moments. The story itself especially for El Mariachi might not feel very deep for the film overall but surprisingly does have some pretty good moments. There are some odd transitions for the plot points but still manages to keep it rather fun and focuses enough on the action to make it even more entertaining. I’m pretty late to the party (as my husband constantly reminds me) and didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did so I think this one is winner overall.

Rebecca (2020)

Director: Ben Wheatley

Cast: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Keeley Hawes, Ann Dowd

A young newlywed arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death. – IMDB

Rebecca is one of those memorable book discoveries born out of complete spontaneity for a school project decades ago and yet remains one that I have been meaning to own and re-read at one point. Having watched none of the adaptations, Netflix’s Rebecca fell under the radar for myself also sparked the discovery of the Armie Hammer issues that came to light, making this a rather conflicting watch and whether to review it. However, the film itself regardless of everything, is rather disappointing overall.

Looking at the best parts of Rebecca, it has to go to the costume design, style and the setting itself. The beauty of wherever they were gave life to the scene itself especially with the color palette that it chose. Of course, the manor itself also is a big highlight as it adds the suspense with all its corridors and mystery behind doors and hidden secrets. It usually does come with the whole big manor setting especially when the point of view is through the eyes of the new and young Mrs. de Winter (Lily James) who is only learning about her husband’s first wife and getting an incredible amount of resistance from the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).

The casting is actually not too bad. The main focus of the film from the point of the view of the new Mrs. de Winter portrayed by Lily James. This is probably one of the more complex roles that I’ve seen her in and she does do a pretty decent job. Especially faced across the housekeeper played by Kristin Scott Thomas who is a rather underrated actress overall but seems to pop up nowadays in films here and there. This role sees her being a housekeeper who has ulterior motives and trying to do many plans against the new Mrs. de Winter through manipulation and such. The strength of these two characters brings so much to the film that the Mr. de Winter character actually falls behind into this annoying and useless sort of character by the end, making the value of his role being the gentleman who sweeps his new bride off her feet and ends up sinking back into a mysterious front when he returns back to his mansion.

Overall, Rebecca is a pretty average film. It brings a bit of the suspense and mystery and visually from setting and costume design, it is quite a bit of eye candy but the film itself overall doesn’t seem to pull together a well-executed plot especially for the outstanding source material that they were working with.