Perhaps appropriately, 2020 is in with a non-committal shrug. Will it come with the shiny potential a new year brings? Meh.
The year promises to be in line with our first pick for the Blog Collab 2020 as it is similarly likely to feature apathetic hipsters, inappropriate gaslighting attempts, and ’90s nostalgia out the wazoo.
Based on a true story, a woman in ’90s San Francisco pretends to be the made-up persona of a trendy writer.
Savannah is a young woman looking forward to the possibilities of living in a new city–San Francisco, specifically–with her brother Geoff and his live-in girlfriend Laura. Both are part of what is most likely a painfully grungy underground band, and Laura is not-so-carefully guarding a secret: she is the writer JT LeRoy, behind the edgy pseudo-memoir everyone is talking about. Her biggest secret? JT is a persona she has made up, pretending to be him on the phone and always making excuses for his refusal to be seen in public.
After reading the novel for herself, Savannah feels deeply connected to the words and persona of JT. The book is supposedly based on JT’s real experiences as the child of a sex worker who provided services to men at truck stops. Laura asks Savannah to pose for a picture as JT by donning a wig (one of so many featured) just this one time. Famous last words.
More and more, Savannah appears as JT LeRoy for magazines and in public appearances. The persona of JT is naturally awkward and standoffish, working conveniently well for Laura’s purposes. Posing as his manager (with a rather cringey British accent), Laura effectively answers any question that comes JT’s way.
Though uneasy with the arrangement and constantly convinced she’s about to get caught, Savannah does enjoy trying on the role of JT. She has extra incentive to keep up the charade when she meets director and actress Ava, who is keen to get the film rights for the novel. However, this does complicate her personal life and relationship with her boyfriend.
When the book’s publishers agree to send JT and his manager to Paris, Savannah has the chance to get closer to Ava. But is there a real connection there when Savannah is pretending to be a 19-year-old boy with a traumatic childhood? Laura suspects not and, worried about her loosening control over the situation, tells Savannah that Ava only cares about the film rights.
Meanwhile, Laura is neglecting her relationship with Geoff, as well as her commitment to the band. But the JT act is going swimmingly. JT LeRoy is such an avant garde hipster that any challenges to his identity or history are easily shaken with a blasé shrug.
Once the film begins rolling, Savannah feels more conflicted about lying to Ava about who she is, and the existence of JT altogether. Despite pressure from Laura, Savannah decides to give up the act. However, after the film is completed and accepted into the Cannes Film Festival, Savannah agrees to make one final appearance as JT. We all know how that goes…right?
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Laura Dern in all of her ’90s grunge finery alone makes this film worth a watch. LD, like she does in basically everything, looks GOOD. And her ever-rotating quirky grunge looks are so delightful here.
However, considering the madness of the story itself, it’s a bit of a letdown that my only real question here is “So what?” We don’t get a whole lot of insight into why Laura and Savannah hatch the JT LeRoy scheme. There are some half-explanations about Laura’s past in a group home, her mystical connection to the character of JT, and her need for recognition as an author without being fully in the spotlight. Savannah’s motives are similarly superficial–and if that’s truly the case, making this film seems like a waste of time. I hoped for an inside look into what made these two tick, but it falls flat. Even their relationship isn’t particularly convincing, and the two seem to annoy each other more than anything else.
I’m disappointed that, like its subject, this film takes the too-cool-for-you hipster brush off approach rather than pausing to offer a thoughtful reflection.
Someone must have posted this on the internet; if not, it’s included on the last season of Sabrina
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 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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Time for Remembrance of Films Past, my oft neglected series of posts started with the best of intentions.
Sabrina Down Under
Where to Watch:
Youtube (apologies in advance for the terrible screencaps)
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, visits Australia to fulfill her dreams of becoming a marine biologist. There are mermaids.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
Siblings must contend with a werewolf curse in LA while surrounded by 1990s pop culture references.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.