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.

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: Deadly Class (Season 1, 2019)

Deadly Class (Season 1, 2019)

Creator: Miles Orion Feldsott & Rick Remender

Cast: Benedict Wong, Benjamin Wadsworth, Lana Condor, Maria Gabriela de Faria, Luke Tennie, Liam James, Taylor Hickson, Jack Gillett, Tom Stevens, Michel Duval, Sean Depner, Olivia Cheng

A coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of late 1980s counterculture, which follows a disillusioned teen recruited into a storied high school for assassins. – IMDB

Based on the comic book series of the same name by Remender and Wesley Craig, Deadly Class is set in the 1980s revolving around a hidden private academy called King’s Dominion which trains those skilled with assassin abilities, honing their unique and individual skills. Its with this that Marcus (Benjamin Wadsworth), who is on the run for allegedly burning down the orphanage he lived in that he is recruited by Master Lin (Benedict Wong) with a little help from his trusted student Saya (Lana Condor). Not from an elite dangerous order, Marcus finds himself not truly fitting in except for a group of misfits at the school as he navigates through this new environment and embraces his own capabilities as new dangers start targeting both the school and himself personally.

Deadly Class is an interesting existence. It embraces and integrates its comic book roots as it does add in these animated sequences especially when recalling the past of the key characters with this group of friends that has bonded together due to different issues. Their back stories help explain the motives of their characters. The comic book elements down to the whole cinematographic elements of the show gives its a lot of style whether its the character designs or King’s Dominion. The whole tone of the show blends well together and is visually appealing for the most part, capturing both the environment of the school but also the grimy outside world that exists which polishes them as they go on their own “missions”.

The tone and plot point can be a little off-putting as the high school drama for the most part. Especially by the middle of Season 1 when Marcus, Maria and Saya have this very wishy washy sort of love triangle that gets a little frustrating to watch as these three take a turn in their character arcs. Much like most series, when things go bad, everything else is going bad at the same time so its all goes a little crazy which is intriguing to watch how it all unfolds since it adds in other elements that help build up the world but also adds in some annoying bits that seem beside the point especially since Marcus is a character with his own issues that also seem rather easily manipulated into certain situations. With that said, the best parts of the show is the action and assassin oriented bits when each of these characters do work together or go into some outing together to achieve something. The danger and the classes do make it all the more intriguing to navigate but at the same time, it somehow does feel like the angle being this unique school gets lost in the bigger plot. Thats not to say that the enemy isn’t decent. For the most part, its the typical mentally unstable sort of character coming for some kind of revenge but there are some outside forces that are targeting the school as well. The two together works well enough.

Looking at the cast itself, everyone fits their role fairly well. Benjamin Wadsworth plays Marcus fairly well. It does capture that teen angst and inner struggle, considering the show is mostly about him. The standout of the show absolutely goes to Benedict Wong as Master Lin who is a tough headmaster of King’s Dominion but also done in such a well-balanced way. Much like its great to see Lana Condor as Saya to be playing this Japanese yakuza’s daughter who is a femme fatale in training with her motorcycle and her katana in hand. Much like Maria portrayed by Maria Gabriela de Faria whose character is on the more frustrating side but does have a lot of ups and downs but her assassin look is really great.

Overall, Deadly Class is a pretty fun ride for its first season. The premise is pretty original and isn’t quite like other teen dramas especially with the school for assassins setting. Sure, there’s a few things that I wasn’t particularly happy about but it did have some pretty decent style. Its a little sad to see that after the great foundation it set up and the cliffhanger ending that it was cancelled for season 2.

Double Feature: The F**k-It List (2020) & The Girl Next Door (2004)

The F**ck-It List (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Michael Duggan

Cast: Eli Brown, Madison Iseman, Marcus Scribner, Karan Brar, Tristan Lake Leabu, Jerry O’Connell, Satya Bhabha, Andrew Bachelor

After a prank blows up on a high school senior’s life, he shares a list of certain things he wishes he’d done differently. – IMDB

As we go through an array of teen films in the past month, I’ve come to the realization that a lot of the plot is pretty similar, mostly surrounding really academic-focused teens realizing that they should have done more upon reaching graduation. The F**k-It List takes it on the other side of the gender scope as we dive into a teenage boy and his friends endeavors when a prank literally does blow up his life which sends him into a spiral which blows him up on a social media level when he talks about his F**k-It List, which is pretty much a list of things he would’ve done but never did. This strong message inspires many to share their own lists and do some of the things, some good and some bad, of course. In many ways, the plot of the film is a good direction since it gives others courage to achieve those things they weren’t able to before but at the same time, the film takes the approach of making this specific teen’s journey a tad whiny and shallow at times. His journey does end on a rather positive note but the process of it feels really irresponsible, which probably was intentional as it was somewhat his way of “acting out” and adding in that coming of age element. The key of the whole plot being finding the balance in life between work and play.

The F**k-It List in all its glory is a bit meh. There are some decent feel-good moments. The soundtrack itself for a teen film is rather decent. The journey itself is a little been there done that but still makes for a good angle. The execution is where it feels a little boring at times. There’s a decent amount of time floating on a pool and pondering and some of the conversation feels a little tip-toeing around some issues that probably are usually talked about more openly. The world of teen films does revolve a lot around young female characters and their coming of age journey in a quick retrospective (or maybe its just me since those seem to hit higher popularity or on my radar more frequently) so this was a decent angle to approach especially watching what would happen to someone who has his life planned out optimally suddenly be hit with something that shatters everything.

The issue with The F**k-It List is essentially the main character himself. Its not really the actor Eli Brown’s issue since he seems to fit the role well enough but perhaps how his character is scripted. It felt like he transitioned into this when his plans went down rather quickly. There’s still conflict but it lacks something to the whole character development. He does play opposite Madison Iseman who seems to be popping up on my watchlist quite a bit the past month. Her character has a lot more conflict and offers another perspective to this whole “f**k-it list* concept.

The Girl Next Door (2004)

Director: Luke Greenfield

Cast: Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Christopher Rodriguez Marquette, Paul Dano, Timothy Olymphant, James Remar

A teenager’s dreams come true when a former porn star moves in next door and they fall in love. – IMDB

Its kind of surprising how long its taken for me to get around to watching The Girl Next Door mostly because upon the release of this film back in 2004, it was the talk among my high school crew as Elisha Cuthbert was also an alumni. Of course, she’s a few years older than myself so not really certain of who she is or what she did (or maybe I just don’t remember a conversation from almost 2 decades ago). But here we are! I finally got around to watching it! The Girl Next Door is pretty fun overall since the whole story has it fun parts of dating an ex-porn star and learning about reality and expectations. Nothing like a high school student having to rethink everything for love, right?

Looking at the overall cast, Elisha Cuthbert plays well into her role as Danielle, an ex-porn star that is house-sitting while trying to run away from her past and trying to start anew before it comes chasing her down. The running away does make for an encounter with her neighbor’s son Matthew (Emile Hirsch) who takes a peek at her changing from his bedroom window and eventually having a friendship and eventual romance. She breaks him out of his studious shell and pushes him to try more daring things in his high school life which he wasn’t able to do being scared of the consequences of his actions. Talking about that, the film does a really great job by creating those made-up moments play through in his head of the worst case scenario much like having best buddies who also are very much like him, one of them played by a young Paul Dano, who is extremely awkward. The film does shift its tone when the danger of Danielle’s past comes finding her in the form of a porn director played by Timothy Olymphant, taking the group to Las Vegas for an adventure. The

The execution of the film works really well also. The building of the relationship between Danielle and Matthew is played out well. The whole shift in tone to add danger to the situation also propels the film in another direction. There is a certain amount of absurdity to some of the scenes but it does add a decent humor to the whole film. Whether its creating the scene where Matthew imagines a lot of things or the crazy adventure that these boys probably would never do if they had it their own way, the film manages to be pretty fun in general. It all culminates to the final scene where they are trying create what seems like a porn video in school on prom night and trying to avoid the eyes of the principal and staff when things definitely take a fun twist for the big final reveal that actually is quite clever as it gives a nod back to something mentioned at the beginning.

TV Binge: All of Us Are Dead (Season 1, 2022)

All Of Us Are Dead (Season 1, 2022)

Creators: Lee JQ, Chun Sung-il, Kim Nam-su

Cast: Park Ji-hu, Yoon Chan-young, Cho Yi-hyun, Lomon, Yoo In-soo, Lee You-mi, Kim Byong-chul, Lee Kyoo-hyung, Jeon Bae-soo

A high school becomes ground zero for a zombie virus outbreak. Trapped students must fight their way out or turn into one of the rabid infected. – IMDB

The latest Korean series to land on Netflix is a zombie high school horror drama called All of Us are Dead set for the most part in the suburban high school and follows the different groups of students trapped in as this zombie virus outbreak hits. All of Us Are Dead is rather unique. The angle it approaches to how this virus was produced and the motive behind it attacks a core issue which essentially didn’t do anything to fix the problem itself but the intentions being respectable for a science teacher with a desperate mission to help his son find the courage to fight off his bullies. This factor alone makes the virus outbreak being in the high school seem like a reasonable and suitable location.

Running longer than the average Korean series available on Netflix, All Of Us Are Dead has 12 episodes where each runs over an hour long. While the execution of the show itself is relatively decent, the pacing is where it tends to feel little stretched out in parts especially with some of the side plots and side characters, some of which feels almost unnecessary as it isn’t developed in enough length to make them meaningful other than being an additional factor that changes the main group of high school students trying to move from one location to the next to find safety and escape.

With that said, there are some great elements in terms of execution. The zombies and their transitions are done really well. The exploration of the virus is explained as it follows these video logs from the creator as he tries to track its change and hopefully find a treatment which sporadically pops up as the students experience those moments. There are decently executed and well-spaced out twists that give the story enough pivot to keep it engaging. The students themselves also have some creative ways in defense and finding ways to escape their current predicament. Adding in a touch of humanity in times of crisis and survival and mostly decent character development and some meaningful supporting characters regardless of their screen time and All of Us Are Dead is definitely an engaging viewing experience.

All of Us Are Dead is actually much more than a zombie teen drama. In fact, the whole teen element adds in their own coming of age angle for a few of the characters. Its main storyline revolving around two teens who are neighbors and childhood friends On-jo (Ji-hu Park) and Cheong-san (Chan-young Yoon) who have the most character development throughout the series, making their friendship and bond very meaningful to watch. However, that doesn’t discount the other characters in this group of classmates who add in their own comedic relief and different know-hows that contribute to various solutions. Of course, also having some students who have their own selfish personality, perhaps one of the most irritating characters played by Squid Game’s supporting actress Ji-Yeong who lands a role as a classist and snobby girl, Na-Yeon (Lee Yoo-mi).

Much like the main antagonist of the story right from the start, Gwi-nam (In-soo Yoo) who also ends up having an annoying and hated role which feels like it doesn’t quite reach the satisfying sort of ending that his character would probably deserve in the end. Or even dialing right back to some of the other classmates who feel like significant characters but lack a more in-depth character development to give them more context. Of course, this is a survival show so a lot of the emotions grows as the body count increases as the classmates also start being infected one by one and the longer time surviving together creates a bond between them. That element plays incredibly well and is honestly the strength of the show, even when it expands later on when the military gets involved.

In the heart of keeping this mostly spoiler-free, I don’t want to dive into too many details. All Of Us Are Dead is a pretty decent Korean zombie series. It has a lot of great elements in terms of execution of the horror and tension while balancing it with some comedic relief. A lot of that is contributed by a rather solid cast even if some characters do lack more development, the friendship and bond between each of the groups do prove to be what carries a lot of the story and makes the more dramatic moments more emotional. There are some arcs that definitely could have been spared or shortened and some supporting characters that probably didn’t get enough screen time. The length did affect a bit of the pacing making some parts feel longer than it needed to be but overall, the series does a great job at building up to a good ending that makes for a great direction to expand if they were to have a second season.

Double Feature: Dude (2018) & Every Day (2018)

Dude (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Olivia Milch

Cast: Lucy Hale, Kathryn Prescott, Alexandra Shipp, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Brooke Smith, Jerry MacKinnon, Satya Bhabha

A group of teenage girlfriends deal with their impending graduation from high school. – IMDB

Dealing with high school seems like a central focus of coming of age stories as the next step in life triggers change and insecurities. Dude focuses strongly on its group of four girl friends as they face loss right before their final year. As they each have their own worries, they all individually make their own decisions even if it isn’t always in agreement with their group. Between getting ready for graduation, getting high together and planning out their next step for college, their last 2 weeks before graduation is one filled with both comedic and dramatic moments.

Girl friends stories are always quite endearing to watch. These four friends each have their own unique personality. Two of the girls are specifically focused with Lucy Hale’s Lily and Kathryn Prescott’s Chloe who share the same loss at the beginning which makes each of them cope in their different ways. The film does a good job at building their friendship where they go to events/parties/school together but gradually all have their own experiences which change each of them, giving them their individuality as well. Lily has her encounters which takes her aback while Chloe chooses to pivot her plans to be closer to home. All these things highlighting the process of moving on to the stage and accepting change and separation. In comparison, Alexandra Shipp’s Amelia and Awkwafina’s Rebecca both have rather one goal oriented, giving them a much simpler role but still they add some fun scenes.

Overall, Dude is a fairly basic coming of age teen comedy/drama. The issues they face are fairly relevant and believable and the characters are decent. If anything, the characters do make the film rather enjoyable. Plus, you even get to enjoy a verse or two from Awkwafina rapping. The writers remember that the film is about teenagers so there is a good balance between drama and fun.

Every Day (2018)

Director: Michael Sucsy

Cast: Angourie Rice, Justice Smith, Debby Ryan, Jeni Ross, Owen Teague, Lucas Jade Zumann, Katie Douglas, Jacob Batalon, Sean Jones, Nicole Law, Maria Bello

A shy teenager falls for a spirit who wakes up in the body of a different person every morning. – IMDB

Adapted from the young adult novel of the same name by David Levithan, Every Day stands out from its unique premise where a person “A” migrates through different bodies everyday of the same age. Despite this, they still find a girl Rhiannon (Angourie Rice) who is willing to love them for who they are, putting aside gender and appearances. The story itself feels relevant to today more than anything and tells a story about acceptance and love.

Every Day builds on this premise. The film’s focus in love and acceptance is due to this person’s personality or soul and their connection. Another side of this premise highlights all the different person exist within one community from homeschoolers to extremely religious student. While the story itself seems a little ahead of times for teenagers especially talking about romance in connections and such, the message here is pretty good. The whole body migrating mostly remain a mystery as they never quite figure out what it is however, there seems to be some control as they soon discover which also brings up the question of how unfair it is to take over someone’s life and make them lose out. The whole mystery of the situation also does lead to some unclear moments where A embodies the person but still manages to have their skills. Something that isn’t explored quite enough perhaps but then this is a teen romance drama and not some sci-fi or fantasy film.

The film itself works pretty well as the young cast delivers some good performances. The main constant being the female lead played by Angourie Rice as she faces this person and starts to accept him. Angourie Rice does a great job with the role at hand especially when faced with this odd person who morphs everyday. The conflict, the acceptance, the heartache is all well developed and portrayed by her. The cast which A migrates includes a handful of characters which have more screen time with Justice Smith, Owen Teague, and Lucas Jade Zumann. To be fair, the film itself does a decent job but while I haven’t read the source material, the premise itself has a lot to do with the intrigue. The execution is fairly well where credit is due but there are still parts that feel a tad disjointed.

Double Feature: Booksmart (2019) & Carrie Pilby (2016)

Booksmart (2019)

Director: Olivia Wilde

Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Victoria Ruesga, Mason Gooding, Skyler Gisondo, Diana Silvers, Molly Gordon, Billie Lourd, Eduardo Franco, Nico Hiraga

On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night. – IMDB

Olivia Wilde’s debut directorial feature film is a raunchy teen party film. Booksmart is a pretty fun little high school graduation romp that circles around two girls who have given up their social life for the duration of high school to excel in her studies to realize on the day before graduation that their dedication to the books was in vain as other students who also had fun also got into great Ivy League schools.

One night adventures are something that are quite the fun ride most of the time like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Booksmart actually works in a similar structure as the two best friends try to hunt down the biggest party that they should be at before their high school life is over but ends up in many other places and meeting some strange people along the way. The fun in all of it is that they soon realize that their classmates are more than meets the eye whether it is quirky or different, they all have their own passions and don’t quite have everything as together as they make it seem. Perhaps they don’t quite see it until the end, but a lot of the assumptions they make are eventually overturned throughout the night one by one as they get caught up in different scenarios.

Booksmart is very focused on its two young leading actresses, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein playing Amy and Molly respectively. These two bring their characters to life really well. The two both reveal some glaring differences that make them opposites which all comes crashing down as their own issues surface however, these two do have something great that defines their friendship in a positive way in that they have their own structure as friends and their own rules and words and the essence of their friendship is further encouraging as the two take every moment to lift each other up. The best is when they get changed into whatever outfit and they give each other endless oddly structured compliments which adds humor but is very endearing as well. All great friendships do have those little things and its what makes their feel genuine.

If there was something to nitpick about the film, it has to be that some scenes are taken a little overboard mostly in comedy which makes it sometimes a little unbearable and perhaps could turn some people away as it does come on a little strong. Its not too frequent but the quirkiness and oddities could sometimes feel that way. One of the bigger examples could be Billie Lourd’s character which pops up everywhere. Most of the time, she is very funny and her character does come together by the end when her underlying characteristics are further defined as they know the other people. There really isn’t a whole lot to criticize for this film. Booksmart has a lot of elements that work really well for a teen coming of age comedy about best friends. Its just a lot of fun.

Carrie Pilby (2016)

Director: Susan Johnson

Cast: Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, William Moseley, Desmin Borges, Vanessa Bayer, Colin O’Donoghue, Jason Ritter, Gabriel Byrne

A person of high intelligence struggles to make sense of the world as it relates to morality, relationships, sex, and leaving her apartment. – IMDB

Based on the novel of the same name by Caren Lissner, Susan Johnson’s full length feature directorial debut was for Carrie Pilby which centers around a young girl with high intelligence and realizes that outside of her books and routine, there really isn’t much else. In terms of human relationships, she lacks the ability to find her place, losing out on the social life that she should have at her age. When her therapist makes a list that she needs to complete, her life slowly starts to form together as the emotions with the people she meets brings back a past event that overshadows her in a certain way.

Carrie Pilby is a rather interesting film. The film has some great characters and it focuses a lot on the whole socialization of a the character as she enters the adult world ahead of her time, missing out on the experiences that could craft those skills. Instead her life is filled with books. Honestly, I don’t really see the issues with it being a reader and all, right? However, for her, its a much deeper issue that her therapist is addressing linking back to her family and her past. While not exactly a fish out of water sort of story, Carrie is an odd character and her interactions do turn out to be a little comedic when she easily overthinks a situation or misunderstands certain scenarios or simply making some bad judgment calls. However, it all dials down to her character development being set in a rather emotionless world to protect herself and these tasks help her take down her walls gradually and let those emotions back in. The execution of that element is done very well and Bel Powley does a great job portraying the character.

While Carrie’s character is done pretty well, the other characters do leave a little to be desired as they are designed fairly thin. The other more prominent character does go to her therapist played by Nathan Lane who does a rather decent job to achieve the means. The other characters are just scattered people from dates to neighbors to her father who really just help push her to learn more and see more about other people in the world to see what humanity is and embracing the imperfections of the world. It captures the essence of coming of age pretty well overall.