The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer#1) by Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty
(Summer #1)
By: Jenny Han

Some summers are just destined to be pretty.

When each summer begins, Belly leaves her school life behind and escapes to Cousins Beach, the place she has spent every summer of her life. Not only does the beach house mean home away from home, but her favorite people are there: Susannah, her mother’s best friend, and her sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has been chasing Conrad for as long as she can remember, and more than anything, she hopes this summer will be different. Despite distractions from a new guy named Cam and lingering looks from Conrad’s brother, Jeremiah, Belly’s heart belongs to Conrad. Will he offer his to her? Will this be the summer that changes everything?  – Goodreads

Expectations are a very dangerous thing. Its no secret for frequenters of my humble blog that I’m a huge fan of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. While the trilogy had its imperfections as it went along, it still had a lot of great moments much like the Netflix adaptations that still managed to capture the essence of the story from both a coming of age and teen romance angle. I’m not going to lie that the synopsis of The Summer I Turned Pretty wasn’t exactly capturing me a lot in the first place however, sometimes the actual read could give some surprises. The issue is that The Summer I Turned Pretty basically didn’t give me any surprises and was what I expected out of an average teen romance.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is pretty much a through and through teen romance. Its a little bit of coming of age and friendship but overall, its mostly focused around its main character Belly (short for Isabel) and her sweet sixteen summer. Belly is not a very captivating character, in fact as a main character from her point of view, it probably painted her out to be much more annoying than anything else. The deal is Belly has a certain grounded-ness, which is the good part like her insecurities as a teenager and trying to feel accepted in a group of friends. Those things worked in favor to her character however for the most part, she did make some pretty bad decisions or inconsiderate ones, although sometimes I feel that its my age reading this now that makes me see this more mature and this stuff is normal for someone at sixteen.

However, talking about the mature element, there are parts of this where Belly feels like she is more than sixteen in terms of how she views love itself and how she words certain things. Its a very odd character that’s been put together. Thing is, looking at the other characters, they feel even less fleshed out and while this inevitable love triangle between her and the brothers Conrad and Jeremiah, the two brothers also feel very lightly written and then the ending gives them a sudden shift.

This does bring us to the execution and structure for The Summer I Turned Pretty. The execution style is actually one that I do enjoy which creates something of a scrambled storyline as she talks about the current and then it links back to a past story regarding a younger self at the summer house vacation. Its meant to create context to give some depth for the story itself, which it does do for the most part. Even if the story itself doesn’t really feel that surprising most of the time, it still adds to the story itself to build up on the events that bring these characters together. That’s the main thing is everything is just about the events but never truly about the growth of the characters other than their expected growth due to getting older.

Overall, The Summer I Turned Pretty is very average. It all dials down to some rather lackluster characters stuck in a predictable teen romance situation. The best part of the story actually are the moments when its not about the romance and the vibe of how the summer house is with the two mothers and their kids in the little anecdotal chapters. Some of them show a rather heartwarming and positive family vibe. Its hard to talk about this one since it stands a bit in the middle. Considering the ending did feel like it had a resolution, it did feel self-contained which is a trait I love in books that are meant to be some form of series. In this case, I’m rather hesitant about reading the rest of the trilogy.

Goodreads score: 3/5

TV Binge: Never Have I Ever (Season 2, 2021)

Never Have I Ever (Season 2, 2021)

Creators: Lang Fisher & Mindy Kaling

Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Poorna Jagannathan, Darren Barnet, John McEnroe, Jaren Lewison, Benjamin Norris, Richa Moorjani, Lee Rodriguez, Ramona Young, Megan Suri, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Adam Shapiro, Christina Kartchner, Niecy Nash, Dino Petrera, Common, Utkarsh Ambudkar

The complicated life of a modern-day first generation Indian American teenage girl, inspired by Mindy Kaling’s own childhood. – IMDB

Picking up right where Season 1 (review) left off, Season 2 continues on as Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is now faced with her mom deciding to move with her to India as this prompts her to believe that dating both Paxton (Darren Barnet) and Ben (Jaren Lewison) secretly is a great idea. However when the India idea is cancelled, she now faces the consequences of her actions when both of them now despise her. At the same time, another cooler Indian girl Aneesa transfers to Sherman Oaks which makes her feel uncomfortable. On the side, Kamala (Richa Moorjani) has to deal with her new lab and labmates and her long distance relationship while Devi’s mother, Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) is faced with dealing with another dermatologist Dr. Jackson (Common) who has opposing approaches to their practices as well as still trying to figure out how to deal with Devi’s constant issues.

The second season of Never Have I Ever is pretty fun. Arguably, probably even better than the first season because the foundation has already built for all the characters. The series still focuses on Devi quite a bit as she is still coming to terms with a lot of herself as she constantly made bad decisions which always lead to some bad situation that she needed to resolve. She is a very imperfect teen and that’s what makes her so easy to connect to as she struggles with her culture and blending into the student body with a lot of the high school drama. Before getting into the student body, its really about navigating between her two boys, Paxton and Ben and learning that she can’t really get everything, her temper/rage needs to be in check and she needs to embrace that she doesn’t have to be perfect despite remembering that her father would always call her “perfect girl” but slowly feeling less confident about things as everything seems to fall apart. Amidst all this, its learning about honesty and trust throughout this season (which was cleverly introduced through one of her therapy sessions) as well as not feeling the need to reach unrealistic expectations for herself (which leads to great revelation when she dreams of her father who explains why he calls her “perfect girl”. Devi’s journey is a fascinating one to say the least, even if sometimes she seems to truly go way off in her interpretation but its what makes her charming and comedic to watch.

As for the rest of the characters, the script makes them go through a lot of the issues that teens would encounter whether its from a teen dealing with their single parent like their disapproval of their new love interest. For Kamala, who is in her lab rotation, she has to deal with the realities of workspace in terms of gender and blending in. The high school setting brings on the issues of not fitting into despite coming out for Fabiola and somewhat losing herself in the process while Eleanor deals with a toxic relationship which she soon learns to differentiate. At the same time, Paxton gives a new angle to the jock forced to turn academic due to unforeseen issues. With dances, PDA and boyfriend/girlfriend issues to deal with, there’s a lot of area to cover for the show and probably a lot more issues to explore.

While the first season also had these characters, the second season really gave the smaller supporting characters so much room. They aren’t very deep characters but they had their purpose of being either very over the top or simply weird to mostly give insight to the main characters but a lot of times add in another level of comedy. The one that comes to mind is absolutely the history teacher Mr. Shapiro (Adam Shapiro) who is such an odd teacher especially with his freestyle of teaching history and his reactions to certain things but so funny to watch in all his weirdness. There’s characters who are impactful like Paxton’s sister Rebecca (Lily D. Moore) who is there to be the person to set Paxton straight. The new addition this time is Devi’s English teacher Mr. Kulkarni (Utkarsh Ambudkar) who comes in as a love interest for Kamala but also has the cool teacher vibe.

The culture and the generational gap plays a big part in the show breaking some of the stereotypes. That’s a big element of the show that also makes it rather appealing. Its nice to see Netflix embrace these things especially as its an international streaming service, much like its recent release of the romantic comedy film Wedding Season. Another big part of the show’s appeal which makes it unique is the voice-over by John McEnroe for Devi which adds a ton of charm to the show as someone who judges her on the spot a lot. Last season had Adam Samberg do a voice-over commentating on Ben and this season, there was one episode for Paxton with Gigi Hadid doing her narrative for his point of view which was quite a nice change of pace.

Running at 10 episodes of around 30 minutes ( makes it approx. 5 hours in total), Never Have I Ever is completely bingeable. To be fair, much like most comedies, the humor does depend a lot of a person’s taste. For myself, the first time watching Season 1 didn’t quite work too well but the show did grow on me that I’ve gone on to rewatch it a few times since its release of Season 1 and 2. Its an easy and fun watch overall and one that does share a lot of deeper topics despite navigating a teen’s life as she constantly messes up and learns from those mistakes. Isn’t that what life is, even if we’ve probably not gone through all of it.

TV Binge: Resident Evil (Season 1, 2022)

Resident Evil (Season 1, 2022)

Cast: Ella Balinska, Tamara Smart, Siena Agudong, Adeline Rudolph, Paola Nunez, Lance Reddick, Anthony Oseyemi, Connor Gosatti, Pedro De Tavira

Nearly three decades after the discovery of the T-virus, an outbreak reveals the Umbrella Corporation’s dark secrets. Based on the horror franchise. – IMDB

Its hard to not know what Resident Evil is at this point, whether you are a gamer or not. Of course, if you are a gamer, then you are much more familiar with the source material depending how thorough you were with the entire game franchise. After Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil film franchise (franchise overview) which really went off into its own tangent and basically only retaining the world itself and into his own writing and production (depending on the film), a handful of animated films, the reboot of the game once again with Welcome to Raccoon City (review) and last year’s Netflix animated series (review) (which honestly was more like a film split up in 4 episodes), Netflix’s Resident Evil series finally released and it takes the story into the future, decades after the outbreak at Raccoon City and writing up its own story. While I’m not sure its something that Resident Evil fans have been looking forward to, considering some of my friends would like a legit decent survivors escaping Raccoon City story which we’ve seen too many times in my opinion, regardless of whether its good or bad, for myself, the direction was a good one which if successful, will breathe some needed new life into Resident Evil to at least give it a boost into the alternate future. It all leaves the question of whether it was able to achieve that or at least, is Resident Evil still what it is if it takes out the 1998 outbreak setting.

Resident Evil series delivers a parallel storyline. This first is set in the past and an alternate present in our terms in 2022 when 14 year old fraternal twins Billie (Siena Agudong) and Jade Wesker (Tamara Smart) move to New Raccoon City, an Umbrella planned community as Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick) works on finalizing a drug called Joy for Umbrella corporation to hit the markets. Umbrella is now under new leadership under the daughter of Dr. Marcus, Evelyn (Paola Nunez) who reclaimed her father’s company. However, when the twins break into the lab, they learn some dark secrets there which ends up putting their lives in danger. The second plot runs in the series present in 2036 as it follows a grown-up Jade Wesker (Ella Balinska) who is studying the “zero”-filled world to track their evolution and mutation of the T-virus. Zeroes are what “zombies” are called in this world. As Jade tries to evade Umbrella who is hunting her down, she is helping do research for a hidden organization The University who tries to present the old world artifacts.

Looking at the story premise, the series takes a decent step forward. Its pretty ambitious considering its bound to disappoint a lot of franchise fans seeing as it revamps the entire story and only uses the Raccoon City event everyone is familiar with as a backdrop. However, pushing it to the future is a good idea and with what they have, the parallel being there retains both elements of still keeping the T-virus and its existence along with Umbrella still having dark secrets and they things they are trying to hide from their past while adding in a central character which never has been the center with Albert Wesker in the future, even if he still is top bill but more supporting than the twins. At the same time, the 2036 events is proof that whatever Umbrella was trying to do under new management wasn’t contained as the world is in its apocalyptic state with zeroes running rampant and in its own way, introducing this new world’s monsters whether the “zombies” or other mutations. In that sense, the story does try to maintain a balance. The two sides of the story do work well to complement each other and each has their redeeming qualities and tension. Of course, the 2022 events with the teen twins in their school environment adds the teen element as they try to blend in, get bullied and try to make friends. Some of that feels a little mundane in the spectrum of things but luckily, the casting for the young Jade and Billie are decent, even if their teen characters are a little frustrating a times.

Taking a quick glance at the cast, its some rather fresh faces. Adult Jade Wesker is played by Ella Balinska who was previously in the reboot of Charlie’s Angels (review) as one of the Angels. Jade is the focus of the series and she takes the role pretty well. The action sequences involving her are done pretty good and as she does get caught up a few dicey situations. Her younger self portrayed by Tamara Smart is a little more frustrating to watch as mentioned above. Billie on the other hand portrayed by Siena Agudong is done pretty well. Her character goes through a lot more in the younger sequence and puts her in constant inner struggles. The older self is portrayed by Adeline Rudolph (plays Agatha in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) which was a pretty short presence in this season. Lance Reddick’s Albert Wesker is probably not the expected choice however, the character itself is built pretty well to fit in this world. Honestly, I haven’t seen Lance Reddick other than as the hotel manager in John Wick films and his role there is fairly small but so good. Seeing as Wesker’s side of the story is rarely dived into thoroughly, there is a lot of space to build it up. Focusing on his daughters makes it all the more good as he is there but it adds a new generation to the new Raccoon City and the future of Resident Evil’s setting. Its a pretty nice touch (perhaps I’m just overthinking it as usual).

What’s Resident Evil without its villains and here, the villainous character here is Evelyn Marcus which is played relatively well by Paola Nunez. Sometimes, Evelyn is fairly annoying as most villains are but she has a dangerous edge to her that carries well enough, some parts a little overdone but there is some development. Of course, the other villains are the zeroes and the mutated creatures. In that sense, the mutated creature designs here are probably the element that I’ve always loved about the franchise and in this case, this new future brings in some giant versions of animals which are quite fun to see. If only there was more then the 3 or so types shown. This does tie in to the world building which honestly gets showcased much more in the 2036 side of the story as there’s so much more to discover in the wastelands.

In the end, your enjoyment of this series will hang heavily on asking the the initial question as to what makes Resident Evil, well, Resident Evil. While this series pushes it to the future and uses Umbrella and the T-virus as its foundation, it still doesn’t feel too different from being another zombie series, but then that is what Resident Evil is, right? Its another type of zombie franchise, except in this case, its set with a younger cast, has a bit of teen and family drama and a few other tangents. Or perhaps the 1998 events of the outbreak is what makes Resident Evil what it is or perhaps its the main cast of Chris and Claire, Jill and Leon, who obviously is not in this series so this will definitely not fit. If we look at this from solely an action horror series, then its actually not too bad as it does have a lot of action and a good bit of horror.

TV Binge: Riverdale (Season 2, 2017)

Riverdale (Season 2, 2017)

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.