Film Reviews

Sabrina Goes to Rome, or: Harvey and I Will Bury You in the Catacombs, Paul

The Film:

Sabrina Goes to Rome

Where to Watch:

Someone must have posted this on the internet; if not, it’s included on the last season of Sabrina

The Premise:

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, travels to Rome in order to uncover the secret of a locket that has been in the family for centuries.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Just as a word of caution, the music in this film is about as good (bad) as you’d expect from a movie based on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Right out of the gate there’s this really bad ‘90s dance track about everyone traveling their own road.

So basically the big setup for this movie is that Sabrina is in Rome to open a locket her dad sent her in a letter; she has to figure out a way to open it within the next 2 weeks or…I don’t know, I guess it will just be closed forever. At this point I was trying to get beyond the fact that Sabrina’s parents aren’t dead. Or at least her father isn’t. I kind of assumed that she lived with her aunts at least partially because her parents are dead.

When Sabrina arrives in Rome, she discovers she has a roommate in what is essentially a B&B for witches. Her roommate is Gwen, who I thought was her cousin, but I guess not. Gwen is an English girl with a really bad cockney accent and a jellybean obsession. Because the writers of Sabrina NEVER give in to stereotypes.

With Gwen’s help, Sabrina discovers the owner of the necklace was her aunt Sophia, who was banished after she fell in love with a mortal artist. He revealed she was a witch, and that gave her 12 hours to turn him into a pile of stone or be banished (yeah, those are the fucking rules in witchcraft. You do not talk about witchcraft).

So Sabrina and Gwen kind of alternate between fun touristy trips and locket-uncovering missions. Sabrina makes a wish in the Trevi Fountain and sees Sophia reflected in the water in a moment completely out of The Lion King. She’s just about to fall into the fountain when a really smooth American dude helps her (moral of the story is always don’t date the foreign guy).

If you've ever played the Lion King board game, you know the agony of failing to make Mufasa's face appear in the reflection pool.
If you’ve ever played the Lion King board game, you know the agony of failing to make Mufasa’s face appear in the reflection pool.

Suavity in action:

Sabrina: You forgot to make a wish.

Smooth American Paul: What if it already came true?

Then he basically loses all points in his favor when he starts taking pictures of her after saying goodbye. It turns out he’s a photographer for a shady Italian tabloid. Paul and his friend Travis follow Sabrina to a museum the next day, where Gwen accidentally brings the statue of David to life. Sabrina, master of trickery and deceit, yells “Hey, look—the pope!” to distract Paul and Travis (which works). However, Paul and Travis are both onto her. Travis, true American that he is recognizes immediately what to do with an unbelievable, incredible story: sell it! The two bros have to get video of Sabrina practicing witchcraft to sell to the shady tabloid editor. With the money, Paul can finally be a REAL journalist.

'90s movie would be incomplete without camo pants.
’90s movie would be incomplete without camo pants.

Paul waits by the B&B wearing shades and holding a single rose. Sabrina hesitates but agrees to get breakfast with him, aka zip around Rome on a scooter. (I totally never realized how much of a Roman Holiday rip-off [tribute?] this is.) When they finally make it to breakfast, Sabrina bonds with Paul over the “real issues” she’s covered in her high school paper.

To search for clues, Sabrina and Gwen dig around the archives (archives in popular culture!). They discover the house where Sophia lived, but don’t realize Paul and Travis are on their trail.

So it turns out Sabrina has to find the portrait the artist, Roberto, painted of Sophia. There’s also an extended shopping montage for no apparent reason besides that this movie is apparently targeted to preteen girls. Paul and Travis continue to follow them around. Travis turns out to be a frenemy; when Paul is taking artistic pictures of Humans of Rome, Travis says it’s a waste of time.

Meanwhile, Gwen accidentally turns Alberto, the son of the lady running the B&B, into a pigeon. The spell can only be broken by kissing Alberto…so Gwen has to go around kissing EVERY pigeon in Rome.

I need you to appreciate that there is a montage to “Crush” in which Sabrina does archival work, runs around exploring with Gwen, and goes on dates with Paul.

Sabrina tells Paul she’s researching a minor Renaissance painter (you’ve probably never heard of him), and he finds a museum that houses a still life he painted.

Shortly after, we FINALLY get the time travel scenes we’ve been waiting for. Sabrina goes back in time to warn Sophia, who, conveniently, looks EXACTLY like her. Roberto’s “best friend” Mercutio suspects Sophia’s a witch and threatens to publicly announce it in the square tomorrow. Roberto then says she’s cool even though she is a witch, thus betraying her. It turns out Lorenzo, the dude Sophia’s family keeps pushing at her, paid Mercutio to trick Roberto. Somebody needs to tell these dudes to ditch the frenemies. Sophia forgives Roberto and refuses to turn him into a pile of stones, which means she will be banished. She then disappears, and Sabrina has to swordfight EVERYONE. Luckily, she makes it back to the painting and returns to her own time fairly quickly.

I believe this is the only instance of Sabrina sword fighting (though I've been wrong before).
I believe this is the only instance of Sabrina sword fighting (though I’ve been wrong before).

At this point, Paul decides he’s too noble to keep up this sham; however, Travis continues to creepily record everything Paul and Sabrina do.

At the end, Gwen finally kisses Alberto Pigeon, and he becomes human again. He overheard Travis and Paul’s plans when he was a pigeon, so he and Gwen race to warn Sabrina.

Too late—Sabrina has already revealed her secret by transporting herself and Paul to see his family, who I’m pretty sure are all dead? Paul promises never to reveal her secret just as Salem, Gwen, and Alberto arrive to tell her about the scam he and Travis are running. Salem’s sage advice is to turn Paul into a pile of stone, but Sabrina refuses.

Paul then finds Sabrina at Sophia’s portrait, showing her the destroyed tape of her performing witchcraft. His message is, essentially, thank you for believing in me (and not turning me into a pile of stone).

HOLOGRAM SABRINAAAAA...was probably an unnecessary expenditure.
HOLOGRAM SABRINAAAAA…was probably an unnecessary expenditure.

At last, the locket is magically opened with LOVE. Sophia appears as a hologram and advises Sabrina that the ones you love are always with you. Also that you should always choose love over magic (I’m sorry, but I would choose magic, esp. witchcraft). Salem, a cat after my own heart, tells Paul “You’re lucky I’m declawed!” Sabrina just kind of fucks with Travis by turning him into a bunch of different animals.

And they all lived happily ever after, except for Harvey.

The Critique:

I just don’t like this one as much as Sabrina Down Under, largely because Salem gets significantly less screen time. Also a little bit because Sabrina dates someone besides Harvey. I know that’s wrong. Sabrina can date whoever she wants to, but I’m still going to be upset when it’s not Harvey.

There’s something generally punch-able about Paul’s face.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherHalf Pink Panther head 2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I feel I need to express my discontent with the lack of Salem screen time, though, objectively, this is probably no worse than Sabrina Down Under.

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Film Reviews

Sabrina Down Under, or: Malleus Mer-eficarum

Time for Remembrance of Films Past, my oft neglected series of posts started with the best of intentions.

The Film:

Sabrina Down Under

Where to Watch:

Youtube (apologies in advance for the terrible screencaps)

The Premise:

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, visits Australia to fulfill her dreams of becoming a marine biologist. There are mermaids.

All Clips Featuring Mark Stanley in Lieu of Trailer (one of the only Youtube clips I could find besides the entire movie):

The Uncondensed Version:

Hopefully if you’re reading this review you’re okay with a little (a lot) of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Remember how there were a couple of TV movies that seemed to have approximately zero connection to the series except for the fact that Sabrina and Salem appeared in them? YOU’RE ABOUT TO. (Don’t worry, I WILL be reviewing the other one, Sabrina Goes to Rome, as soon as possible.)

At the beginning of this particular movie, we learn of Sabrina’s hitherto unexplored passion for marine biology. (Right? I seriously don’t remember her mentioning marine biology even once in the series.) Apparently a book written by one Dr. Martin (don’t worry—not Doc Martin) inspired her to visit the Great Barrier Reef. I WONDER IF SHE WILL ENCOUNTER THIS DR. MARTIN DURING HER VISIT. HMMMMMMM.

As Sabrina rides over the ocean in a helicopter to wherever the fuck she’s going in Australia, she sees someone in the water. I wonder if it’s a merman (spoiler alert: it is).

Meanwhile, Salem has planned his own getaway, booking his favorite suite at a hotel where it is apparently normal to get a room for your cat and arrange for him to have massages and drink cocktails. “Your cat’s every whim is our desire” is literally a line uttered in this movie.

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Seriously, not one eyebrow is raised at the cat drinking cocktails by the pool.

Meanwhile, Sabrina is meeting up with her English cousin, Gwen, who is something of a fuck-witch (get it? Get it?). Gwen’s goal is basically to watch hot Australians sunbathing, a hobby Sabrina greatly approves of but is not very good at. One of her astute observations is “He has dimples as big as coconuts.” Uh…are we talking about the same thing here, Sabrina?

This is interrupted when Sabrina realizes the disgruntled Aussie yelling at everyone for trespassing is none other than Dr. Martin. Sabrina tells him she’s a huge fan; he basically just continues to mutter to himself. However, he does invite her to join his diving expedition the next day. (It’s okay—for once, that is not a euphemism.)

The next day, Sabrina and Gwen show up in what has to be Barbie brand diving gear. They go diving to this really bad cover of “Octopus’s Garden.” Like the ’90s pop version of “Octopus’s Garden.” I would recommend watching this scene on mute. Sabrina turns herself into a fish for no apparent reason whatsoever EXCEPT to conveniently assist her in discovering a supposedly extinct species of fish. Gwen swims back to the surface and meets BARNABY (that’s seriously his name) the merman who appears to be sick or injured; when she tries to introduce him to Sabrina, he mysteriously vanishes.

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I swear to god there’s a Barbie in hell with this exact outfit.

Meanwhile, Salem discovers there’s a white Persian staying at the hotel, who is a witch serving out a sentence as a cat. There are SLOW MO shots of the Persian shaking her head and licking her lips. (This movie’s target audience HAD to be cat ladies.) Though Salem expects they will bond over being trapped in cat bodies, the Persian flat out rejects him. He tries to win her over by sending himself to her on a tray. Yeah, there’s an uncomfortable amount of cat sexualization in this movie.

3
Obviously cheaper to buy animatronic cats than to train live cats to wear hats.

Returning to the Sabrina storyline, Dr. Martin informs her they will have to verify the rare fish sighting and is generally a dick since he’s miffed he wasn’t the one to discover the fish. There’s also some dramatic foreshadowing about toxic waste being dumped in the ocean and killing the reef.

Then Sabrina and Gwen find what they initially believe is a dolphin but is, in fact, Barnaby the MERMAN lying on the beach. OF COURSE they try to give him mouth to mouth as Barnaby’s sister, Fin, and a dolphin watch, dismayed that the humans have Barnaby. Sabrina teleports them away from the beach, and they drag Barnaby to her room run a bath for him (I promise you this movie is not a porno).

4
Continuing to stare at his chest will make everything all better, right?

When he wakes up, the merman has an American accent; clearly, the moral of the story is don’t date Australians. (The human/merperson barrier is easier to breach than the Australian/American.) In order to better fit in while he recovers, Sabrina gives him legs as well as blue camo pants and a beanie (I think Sabrina’s cruel streak runs deeper than anyone ever knew during the series). There’s a montage of Barnaby using his legs to a really bad cover of “Livin’ la Vida Loca” including riding a Sea Doo, going shopping, and eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

5
With that outfit it’s not surprising that Barnaby’s only friend is a dolphin.

In the meantime, someone shows Dr. Martin pictures of the merman, which he vows to find and capture FOR SCIENCE. When Sabrina brings ointment to a sick Fin, Dr. Martin places a tracking device in her backpack so he can finally have a merman of his own.

On the comic relief front, Gwen accidentally turns Salem into a catfish, who falls into the ocean. The Persian is supposed to meet Salem for dinner (and nobody at the restaurant questions this), and it turns out Salem is in fact a fish in the restaurant’s tank. By the time Sabrina transforms him back into a cat, the Persian has already left. To make it up to her, Salem takes the Persian to see the sunrise and conveniently snaps pictures of illegal toxic waste dumping in the ocean.

Returning to the unfolding mermaid tragedy, on the day Sabrina’s spell on Barnaby will wear off, Dr. Martin prepares to find the mermaid colony. To stop him, Sabrina decides to create THE PERFECT STORM; this can only end in tears. Because she’s standing in the water when Sabrina accidentally hits herself with lightning and knocks herself unconscious. Apparently this renders her temporarily unable to cast any more spells.

This entire sequence is all in vain as Barnaby crashes a car just after turning back into a merman right in front of Dr. Martin, who imprisons him in the hotel pool (that has got to be against hotel policy). Luckily, Gwen’s boyfriend, who does a really bad mermaid drag act, distracts everyone while Sabrina and Gwen free him.  Unfortunately, Dr. Martin and his gang of scientists put out nets to catch Fin and Barnaby. Sabrina manages to get aboard with the help of Fin’s dolphin friend (seriously). After Dr. Martin catches the merpeople, Sabrina magically finds the supposedly extinct fish and tries to convince everyone it’s more impressive than the discovery of merpeople. She starts cutting the net; I want a movie about Sabrina becoming a member of PETA and throwing blood on people wearing fur. Is that weird? She then makes a point about who is REALLY the poacher and demands Dr. Martin let the merpeople go (LET MY MERPEOPLE GO).

After this sequence of events, Dr. Martin’s dedication to the profession is renewed; he proceeds to recite the Endangered Species Act. The Persian transforms back into a woman since her sentence is over and breaks up with Salem (as a side note, witches/warlocks really need to work on a better crime deterrent because spending 1,000 years as a talking housecat does not sound like punishment at all to me). The identified ship that has been illegally polluting is stopped, and the reef is saved. Sabrina and Gwen go scuba diving with the merpeople, wooooooooo.

The Critique:

The biggest disappointment of this movie is that Sabrina’s quirky aunts don’t appear at all. They were a vital part of the show, and the dynamic is entirely ruined by their absence.

I am also both delighted and dismayed that there was no Sabrina/Barnaby romance. In my memory there was, which is rather upsetting because of Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey and also because the merman’s name is BARNABY. (I really apologize to any and all members of the general population named Barnaby, but to me it sounds like the name of a sickly child in a 19th-century novel.)

On the bright side, there’s A LOT of very dramatically urgent didgeridoo music in the score (if made-for-TV movies can be said to have scores). I still think this is a reasonably entertaining movie, though perhaps not exactly the stuff that dreams are made of.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther heads

It hurts to give this movie a mere 3, but, my love of Sabrina aside, this is a fairly nonsensical film. If you never watched Sabrina, you will probably only enjoy this movie if you’re really into didgeridoo solos, cats, and/or mermaids. Mercats?

Sorry my longest review ever focuses on a made-for-TV movie about Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. It’s unforgivable, truly.

Yearly Review

2014 in Review: It Was the Best of Blogs, It Was the Worst of Blogs

So this is a bit on the cheesy side, but I will share anything that includes animated fireworks.

This is a summary of my blog in 2014.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 10 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Other points of interest not included in the report: Somebody searching for “french puns” found my blog. I MUST BE DOING THIS TAGGING THING RIGHT.

Other search terms that will bring you to my blog: “Pink panther dancing poetess,” “fdr werewolf, cock,” “amateur critic of movie and tv shows,” and “fdr badass shitting.”

I can take real pride in my blogging accomplishments of 2014.

Film Reviews

Cursed, or: Long Live the ’90s

The Film:

Cursed

Where to Watch:

Netflix, Amazon Prime

The Premise:

Siblings must contend with a werewolf curse in LA while surrounded by 1990s pop culture references.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Our movie opens with a Bowling for Soup cover of that uncomfortable song about Little Red Riding Hood (also memorably covered by Joey Fatone).

Abruptly, we cut to the gypsy prediction of doom present in basically every werewolf movie. Because it’s Wes Craven, the girls who receive the gypsy’s dire warning call bullshit: “You can’t tell people this shit.”

Then we meet our protagonists, Jesse Eisenberg (playing a bullied nerd [duh]) and his older sister, played by Christina Ricci (CR). The two live alone since their parents died (killed by werewolves???). CR is dating a guy who is opening a wax museum that also features a number of horror movie artifacts (because it’s LA, and that’s what you do in LA). Her night out is cut short when JE (for Jesse Eisenberg, not Jane Eyre) calls and asks her to pick him up. As they drive home, they’re involved in a terrible crash with an animal and one of the girls who is supposedly cursed.

CR attempts to help the girl trapped inside her car, but the animal returns, attacking and dragging her away. JE is convinced the animal was a werewolf, but CR remains skeptical. In a scene that appears almost identically in Twilight, JE researches werewolves by looking at a bunch of shitty GeoCities pages. Or, you know, so I’ve heard. From a friend who’s seen all of the Twilight movies.

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Facebook was really started so Mark Zuckerberg could determine whether or not you’re a werewolf.

Meanwhile, Christina Ricci hears creepy noises in the house. When she goes downstairs to investigate, her boyfriend shows up. She bites him, and suddenly wakes up. Although the entire sequence was a dream, we still learn not to trust the boyfriend (it’s a Wes Craven movie, after all). Don’t trust a bro, Christina Ricci.

At work the next day, one of CR’s co-workers can’t help noticing she seems a little different today. (Also don’t trust any dude who finds you attractive. It’s all a lie. He just wants to tear your face to shreds.)

Judy Greer is CR’s boss, playing essentially the same character as in 13 Going on 30, aka backstabbing bitch. Apparently Judy Greer used to date CR’s boyfriend. CR and her boyfriend have a serious talk, in which he claims that what they have is special and he doesn’t want to lose her. SERIOUSLY, don’t trust this dude. Their conversation is cut short when CR notices it’s a full mooooooooooon and excuses herself.

Moments later, the other girl who received a warning from the gypsy is attacked by THE WOLF. She does a reasonably good job at hiding: taking off her high heels, making sure the wolf can’t see her feet when she hides behind a car. And then she decides hiding in the elevator will end well, so she’s doomed.

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THE WOLF.

The next day at work, CR begins transforming in the bathroom. She manages to avoid killing one of her co-workers (which would be an impressive feat even on a good day).

JE is undergoing some transformations of his own. When he shows up at school, he has “cool” ‘90s hair and stands up to one of the homophobic bullies. He then wrestles his bullies, thereby impressing his crush, Brooke.

3
I understand that the ‘90s were your golden age, Wes Craven. But they’re over.

After JE returns home, the homophobic bully arrives at his house and professes his love for JE (of course). At this point, JE realizes that his DOG is a werewolf, so he and the bully have to make a quick escape. The two head to the opening of the wax museum to find CR.

Just before the opening, CR has a creepy confrontation with her boyfriend. He’s THE WOLF (duh). However, he reveals there’s another werewolf that has been killing people. He was born with the curse and has learned to control it, but the new wolf hasn’t. CR doesn’t trust him at all. Thank god.

At the opening, THERE’S A CAMEO BY LANCE BASS. There’s also a cameo by Pinhead, which is pretty spectacular.

4
I’M SORRY, WES CRAVEN, BUT THE ‘90S HAVE BEEN OVER FOR 15 YEARS.

Of course a werewolf attack disrupts the party, leaving CR and JE trapped in the wax museum with the wolf. Pretty sure the wolf hides behind a wax model of Dustin Hoffman from Tootsie at one point.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, the wolf turns out to be CR’s bitchy boss, Judy Greer. So there’s this extended fight scene in which CR and JE fight her werewolf boss. Then CR’s boyfriend shows up and helps them. THEN the police show up and shoot her.

So she’s not so much a werewolf as Smokey the Bear on steroids.
So she’s not so much a werewolf as Smokey the Bear on steroids.

After all this, CR and JE’s lives return back to normal. …OR DO THEY?

On the next full moon, both siblings begin to TRANSFORM. CR’s ex(I presume)-boyfriend arrives at the house, telling her that she needs him to help her through the transition. He doesn’t mention that he plans to kill her brother because there’s only room for one alpha male. We get another lengthy fight scene that ends with CR killing and decapitating her ex, whose body bursts into flames and disappears.

Finally, JE’s crush, Brooke, and his former bully arrive at the house. JE and Brooke make out, which causes a lot of embarrassment for all witnesses.

The Critique:

I love Scream, so this film is pretty disappointing. Apparently Wes Craven was contractually obligated to direct this movie, so it makes a bit more sense that it’s incredibly bland and generic. I still wish there had been some kind of major twist as there usually is with the Scream series. Or that the “curse” had been someone’s period a la Ginger Snaps.

Biggest takeaways here (as with all Wes Craven films): 1. The ‘90s were truly the golden age of civilization. 2. Don’t trust a bro. Please.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 2/5 Pink Panther heads

Just not a particularly memorable film.  It could’ve been worse, but it could’ve been so much better too.