John Rubinstein

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) s01e03 – The Trial of Sabrina Spellman

No Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa script this episode, Ross Maxwell instead, which initially confirmed my idea about how the first two episodes were the extended pilot and now we’re getting into series proper.

Actually, no, because this episode serves to set the series up to be, you know, a series. The episode opens with teenage half-witch who denied the Dark Lord Kiernan Shipka running out of principal and temporarily possessed by said Dark Lord Bronson Pinchot’s office and bumping into teacher Michelle Gomez, who’s also possessed—unknown to Shipka—by a demon in the Dark Lord’s employ. Their goal? Get Shipka to sign her soul over to the Dark Lord.

Then Shipka goes off and has flashbacks about the event, which occurred at the end of last episode. Like we didn’t just stream it. “Sabrina” seems like it was intended as a weekly show. Possibly with a two hour pilot episode. Meaning Aguirre-Sacasa left it up to Maxwell to get “Sabrina” from pilot to series, meaning a resolve to what came before while still allowing for an interesting future. So a trial.

Where Dark Pope and not Ewan McGregor Richard Coyle is going to try Shipka for not signing her name in the book—she breached contract, implied by her wearing a wedding dress to her Dark Baptism—and Shipka has to convince human lawyer named Daniel Webster (John Rubinstein) to defend her in court. Witch court. Meanwhile her boyfriend, Ross Lynch, has to contend with a bullying father sending him to work in the mines, which would be unpleasant even if Lynch hadn’t wandered down into them and seen the Dark Lord once in childhood.

Then Shipka’s friend, Jaz Sinclair, has a subplot about discovering Pinchot’s soft-censoring books from the school library while Chance Perdomo has a romance arc with fetching, suspicious warlock Darren Mann. It’s a full episode, with yet another strong lead turn from Shipka. The supporting cast is all good too. Rubinstein does a lot with a guest spot, Gomez is fantastically evil… Lucy Davis is really good. The story even seems to be going in a direction Miranda Otto could work out.

I would just like the show to start now. Like, a full quarter turn at the end of next episode should be expected at this point; the show hasn’t had to settle in yet.

The Car (1977, Elliot Silverstein)

Sitting and watching The Car in 2006, it was amusing to know what Universal studio executives were saying about the film some thirty years ago… “It’s like Jaws, but with a car.” At first, I thought the movie was some kind of Duel remake, but then the Jaws comparisons became obvious, but not obvious in any sort of interesting way, not any sort of amusing way. Instead–in between scenes of the demonic (literally) car–the movie’s filled with some really lame melodrama and some really lame performances. R.G. Armstrong, who I thought was good for some reason, is terrible as a wife-beating husband. The only amusing role he plays in the film is when it turns around and heroizes him. John Marley is laughably bad, Ronny Cox is on the lousy side of mediocre, and lead James Brolin’s most interesting contribution is his unmoving hair helmet. John Rubinstein is good in his one scene and Kathleen Lloyd–who I watched the movie for in the first place–varies in degree, getting quite appealing at some points… usually when she isn’t acting alongside Brolin.

The film’s almost indescribable to those who haven’t seen it and I wonder if it didn’t sustain my interest just as a relic. Universal pictures from the 1970s have some distinct common elements and I kept recognizing them throughout The Car. Not the bad acting or the visually stymied direction from Elliot Silverstein, but the setpieces. Somehow, they were all familiar, like Universal had gotten a formula from The Birds and just kept on using it. The writing is horrendous too, with the aforementioned bad melodrama, but also the stupidity of the film’s situation. I kept waiting for it to get freaky or interesting (like what if someone got in the driver-less, devil car or what if the guy who kept Clark Kenting during the car’s appearances had something to do with it), but it never did. The resolution, which looks like it was filmed on someone’s front lawn in parts, is ludicrous. It’s unbelievable it passed studio muster, though the film might have just been a B-picture, though I always thought Brolin was actually a movie star in the late 1970s. I’m most upset about Kathleen Lloyd, who’s only been in a handful of movies and one of them had to be this piece of–somehow perplexing enough to be watchable–crap.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Elliot Silverstein; written by Lane Slate, Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack, from a story by Butler and Shyrack; director of photography, Gerald Hirschfeld; edited by Michael McCroskey; music by Leonard Rosenman; produced by Silverstein and Marvin Birdt; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring James Brolin (Wade Parent), Kathleen Lloyd (Lauren), John Marley (Everett), R.G. Armstrong (Amos), John Rubinstein (John Morris) and Ronny Cox (Luke).


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