Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: The Wrong Student (dir by David DeCoteau)


Y’all know that I usually avoid politics like the plague but this is just something that needs to be said:

The U.S. Government could stand to learn a little from a good Lifetime film.  A good Lifetime movie is not expensive (and usually can be viewed for free).  A good Lifetime movie does not demand that the audience watch it but instead, provides a good reason for you to sacrifice 90 minutes of your time.  A good Lifetime movie does not attempt to rob you of your individual freedoms and, in fact, it celebrates your right to talk back to the screen.  A good Lifetime movie delivers exactly what it promises.  A good Lifetime movie does not talk down to its audience.  A good Lifetime movie goes out of its way to keep its audience entertained.  If the U.S. government was more like a Lifetime movie, we wouldn’t have spent the past 17 years dealing with one tedious situation after another.  If the U.S. government was more like a Lifetime movie, life would be a lot more fun and twitter far less annoying.

I found myself thinking about this as I continued to clean out my DVR by watching The Wrong Student.  I recorded The Wrong Student off of Lifetime on March 11th.  I’m glad I did because The Wrong Student epitomizes everything that I love about Lifetime.

Add to that, it’s a film that proves something that I’ve always suspected — soccer is the source of all evil.

Maddie (Evanne Friedmann) is a teenager who loves two things: soccer and the new soccer coach.  The new coach is Dominic (Jason-Shane Scott), who has amazing pecs and abs.  How in love with Dominic is Maddie?  Well, she’s so in love with him that she’s willing to do almost anything to keep him around.  Does that mean that Maddie is willing to poison the old soccer coach?  It sure does.  Does that mean that Maddie is willing to fake an injury so she’ll have an excuse to get naked in the locker room while a mortified Dominic hides his eyes?  Of course!  What about pretending to get drunk at a party and then begging Dominic to give her a ride home?  Hey, who hasn’t done that?  In fact, Maddie is so obsessed with Dominic that she’s even willing to murder her ex-boyfriend.

Maddie’s pretty, intelligent, and apparently her family has some money but she sure does have some issues.  Personally, I blame the soccer.

Amber (Kennedy Tucker) is also on the soccer team.  Amber is living with her Aunt Kelly (Jessica Morris).  Obviously, Amber knows that Dominic is too old for her but he’s exactly the right age for Kelly!  When Maddie realizes that Kelly and the coach are getting close, can you guess what happens?

Anyway, The Wrong Student is a lot of fun.  David DeCoteau has directed a lot of “wrong” films for Lifetime, including The Wrong Roommate and The Wrong Child.  He knows exactly how to make one of these films entertaining and The Wrong Student is an enjoyably self-aware melodrama.  Evanne Friedmann is wonderfully unhinged as crazy Maddie and Jason-Shane Scott looks great without a shirt on.  The Wrong Child is a wonderfully entertaining example of just how much fun a Lifetime movie can be.

Everything should be more like a Lifetime movie.

A Movie A Day #76: Harry Tracy, Desperado (1982, directed by William A. Graham)


The year is 1902.  The old west is coming to an end.  Almost all of the famous outlaws are either dead or imprisoned.  Only a few, like Harry Tracy (Bruce Dern), continue to make a living by robbing banks and trains.  Though he is often captured and even sentenced to death a few times, Harry is always able to escape.  His latest escape, from a prison in Washington, has led to the largest manhunt in American history.  Harry is being pursued by a trigger-happy army, led by U.S. Marshal Morrie Nathan (played by singer Gordon Lightfoot).  Harry has been in this situation before but this time, things are different.  Harry is traveling with Catherine Tuttle (Helen Shaver), the daughter of a local judge.  Harry and Catherine are in love but that does not matter to the men with the guns.

Harry Tracy is a sadly overlooked and elegiac western from Canada.  It is based on a true story.  Outlaw Harry Tracy really did escape from several prisons and he eventually was the target of the largest manhunt in U.S. history.  (His relationship with Catherine was apparently created for the film.)  In real life, Harry was reportedly considered to be more ruthless than Jesse James and he killed not only members of law enforcement but also members of his own gang.  The movie’s Harry is a much more gentle character.  In the film, Harry only kills in self-defense and he robs banks not because he’s greedy but because it’s the only life that he has ever known.  Harry is a relic of a time that it coming to a close.  In one scene, he is shocked to come across a man driving a car.  For an outlaw who usually makes his escape on horseback, the new century does not hold much promise.

In the tradition of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Harry Tracy mixes comedy with tragedy.  The film’s defining image is Harry fleeing from his latest robbery and dropping most of the money in the process.  Harry often seems to be bewildered by all the fuss that people are making over him.  Bruce Dern and Helen Shaver are great as Harry and Catherine.  Even the casting of Gordon Lightfoot works.  (Lightfoot also wrote the movie’s theme song.)

Harry Tracy is an overlooked classic about the end of the old west and the beginning of the modern era.

Diamond in the Rough: RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 (Allied Artists 1954)


crackedrearviewer

Back in 1951, movie producer Walter Wanger (rhymes with danger) discovered his wife, actress Joan Bennett , was having an affair with her agent, Jennings Lang. The enraged husband tracked them to a parking lot, where Wanger shot Lang in the groin. That’ll teach him! Wanger was subsequently arrested, and sentenced to serve a four-month bid in a Los Angeles county farm. His stint in stir, though brief, affected him profoundly, and he wanted to make a film about prison conditions. The result was RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11, a ripped-from-the-headlines prison noir that’s tougher than a two-dollar steak.

Wanger hired Don Siegel to direct the film. Siegel was gaining a reputation as a director of muscular, low-budget features, and RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 is a great early example of his harsh, brutal style. The movie’s sparse, shadowy setting was filmed on location at California’s infamous Folsom Prison thanks to…

View original post 584 more words

Music Video of the Day: Since You’ve Been Gone by Rainbow (1979, dir. Ken Walz)


What is with some music videos not letting the thumbnail go through to an embed? You can see a less complete, but better looking version below that does display its thumbnail. They are both here at the time I am writing this, which is the day before this post goes live.

Okay, I think I can make this have to do with my current ABBA retrospective and tie in with Power Rangers (2017).

The first is obvious. I know next to nothing about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers except that they are multi-colored. Thus, Rainbow. Much like Power Rangers, the group has gone through so many different people that someone on Wikipedia put this chart together.

Second, this song was originally written by Argent guitarist Russ Ballard. You can hear his version below.

Russ Ballard would go on to write I Know There’s Something Going On for Frida and Can’t Shake Loose for Agnetha. That’s the ABBA connection.

The director of Power Rangers is Dean Israelite who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. After the Russ Ballard version, Since You’ve Been Gone was covered by South African band Clout. You can hear two versions from them below. One appears to be the original, and the other for a more recent album.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that lead-singer Cindy Alter was also born in Johannesburg.

There are my connections to ABBA and the new Power Rangers movie. But there’s other interesting information about the song and music video.

The song would also go on to be covered by Cherie and Marie Currie.

I like this version because they turned it into a duet. It’s tough to beat Graham Bonnet’s vocals on Rainbow’s version, so I like their different take on it. Brian May of Queen would also cover it later with his own band.

The director of the video is Ken Walz. He did most of his work in music videos as a producer. Notably, he produced Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper. Both of them were directed by Edd Griles who also directed several music videos for Rainbow. Ken Walz also directed I Know What Boys Like by The Waitresses, along with a few others.

I love connections.

My favorite connection via the song is that you can tie Black Sabbath to The Righteous Brothers via Rainbow covering it. Ronnie James Dio fronted Black Sabbath after Ozzy Osbourne. Rainbow’s original vocalist was Ronnie James Dio. The original version of this song was produced by Roger Glover. Clout covered Substitute by The Righteous Brothers and this song. Roger Glover was the bassist for Rainbow during this period.

My favorite connection via the music video is that you can tie Rainbow to Pierce Brosnan’s wife Keely Shaye Brosnan. This music video was directed by Ken Walz. Ken Walz produced The Heart Of Rock And Roll by Huey Lewis & The News. The music video for Stuck With You by Huey Lewis & The News starred Keely Shaye Brosnan.

Add the two together with TV, and you can even bring Black Sabbath together with the short-lived sitcom My Two Dads, since Cyndi Lauper had a reoccurring role on Mad About You and Paul Reiser was on both shows (Black Sabbath->Ronnie James Dio->Rainbow->Edd Griles->Cyndi Lauper->Mad About You->Paul Reiser->My Two Dads).

Enjoy the song and music video.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Forgotten Evil (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)


Earlier tonight, as part of my continuing effort to clean out my DVR, I watched Forgotten Evil!  I recorded Forgotten Evil off of the Lifetime Movie Network on March 12th.

As soon as the words, “The Asylum Presents” appeared on the screen, I knew that I was going to love Forgotten Evil.  Though the Asylum may be best known for the Sharknado franchise and several subversively entertaining mockbusters, they’ve also produced several films for Lifetime.  An Asylum Lifetime film is always delightfully melodramatic and a lot of fun.  My optimism only increased when I discovered that Forgotten Evil was directed and written by the man behind Sharknado, Anthony C. Ferrante.

“This is going to be fun!” I thought and it turns out that I was right.

Forgotten Evil opens with a woman in a bag being dumped over the side of a boat.  The opening scenes have a surreal, almost dream-like feel to them.  Ferrante does a good job of creating a properly ominous atmosphere.  As I watched that bag crash into the water, I was reminded of my own rather morbid fear of drowning.  Fortunately, the woman in the bag survives.  Unfortunately, when she’s found floating by the shore, she has absolutely no idea who she is.

That’s right!  Jane Doe (played by Masiela Lusha) has amnesia!  Even though she does occasionally have flashes of memory, she can’t put together what they all mean.  She has no idea who she was or why she was dumped in the water.  Eventually, she starts using the name Renee but that’s just because she saw a boat named Renee before she nearly drowned.

Amnesia, needless to say, is always a good way to start an intriguing story.  I mean, let’s be honest.  The idea that people can suddenly forget everything is really quite fascinating.  It’s impossible not to wonder what you would do if you were in the same situation.

Despite having no idea who she is, Renee tries to start a new life for herself.  A nurse and a police officer become her new BFFs.  Her therapist becomes her new parental figure.  She even gets a job and a new boyfriend (played by Kyle McKeever), one who is surprisingly good at karaoke!  That’s really not too bad for someone who, just a few weeks previously, was being dumped over the side of the boat.

Except, strange things keep happening.  She loses her job when semi-explicit Polaroids mysteriously appear on her desk.  She continues to have flashes of disturbing images and she’s convinced that someone tried to drown her while she was taking a bath.  She thinks that she sees a mysterious man following her around.  And that perfect new boyfriend of hers?  Well, he appears to be just a little bit too perfect.  It’s hard not to suspect that he’s hiding something.  Especially when he takes her to an isolated cabin which, in a Lifetime movie, is never a good sign…

I enjoyed Forgotten Evil.  This is pure and enjoyable melodrama, well-directed by Anthony C. Ferrante and featuring all sorts of twists and turns.  Masiela Lusha is likable and sympathetic in the main role.  All in all, this is a fun Lifetime movie.  Keep an eye out for it.

Rest in Peace, Tomas Milian


I have some sad news to report.  The great Tomas Milian, an actor beloved by fans of Italian cinema everywhere, has died.  He was 84.

Perhaps because of the type of films that he made, Milian was never the household name that he deserved to be.  In the United States, his death is not even trending on twitter.  #ThickThighTwitter, which is essentially a bunch of people bodyshaming anyone who happens to be slim, is trending.  Tomas Milian is not.

And it’s a shame because Tomas Milian was one of the best.  He may have been beloved by fans of Italian cinema but Milian was truly an international actor.  He was born in Cuba, the son of a general who committed suicide after being jailed.  Milian left Cuba after his father’s death.  He moved to New York City, was a member of the Actor’s Studio, and became naturalized citizen in 1969.

Milian’s acting career took off when he started making movies in Italy.  He appeared in everything from spy movies to spaghetti westerns to horror films to 1970s police dramas.  Whenever I see one of the many films that Milian made in the 60s and 70s, I’m struck by his intensity.  Milian was one of those power actors who often seems like he might leap off the screen at any moment.  He played driven and often haunted men.  Along with an undeniable charisma, Milian radiated danger.

Of the many Westerns he made, The Big Gundown may be his best known.  Here’s Milian with co-star Lee Van Cleef:

My personal favorite of his spaghetti westerns?  The surreal Django Kill:

For me, Tomas Milian was at his most menacing in Lucio Fulci’s underrated (and not for the faint-of-heart) Four Of The Apocalypse:

Four of the Apocalypse was not the only film on which Milian would work with Fulci.  He also played the hero in Fucli’s classic giallo, Don’t Torture a Duckling:

In the 70s, Tomas Milian appeared in several Poliziotteschi, Italian cop films that were largely designed to rip off the success of gritty cop films like The French Connection and Serpico.  Milian was always the ideal rebel cop, though he could play a dangerous criminal just as easily.  Check him out in The Cop In Blue Jeans, perhaps parodying Al Pacino in Serpico:

The films weren’t always good but Milian always commanded the screen.  It’s hard to think of any other actor who was always so much consistently better than the material he had to work with.

With the decline of the Italian film industry, Thomas Milian relocated his career to the United States.  In his later years, he was a character actor who frequently appeared as corrupt military men and politicians.  His best known performance from this time may be his quietly sinister turn in Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning Traffic:

Earlier today, Tomas Milian died of a stoke in Miami.  Rest in peace.