What Lisa Watched Last Night #124: Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story (dir by Peter Sullivan)

Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime original movie, Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story!

hannah-3_r620x349Why Was I Watching It?

The most obvious answer is because it was on Lifetime.  As y’all know, I love Lifetime movies, especially when they’re based on a “true” crime story.

As well, I am among those who, since 2013, have been fascinated and frustrated with the twists and turns of the Hannah Anderson kidnapping case.  Hannah was a 16 year-old cheerleader who was kidnapped by a family friend, James DiMaggio.  DiMaggio also murdered Hannah’s mother and younger brother.  When Hannah was finally found and rescued by the FBI, many questioned whether Hannah had been DiMaggio’s victim or his accomplice.

I can still remember when questions were first raised over Hannah’s role in DiMaggio’s crimes.  It seemed like everyone had an opinion.  There were some days when I felt like Hannah had to be innocent and then there were other days when I thought the exact opposite. Nearly two years later and I still go back-and-forth.  That’s the main reason I wanted to see Kidnapped.  I wanted to see whether this would be the film that would finally convince me one way or the other.

What Was It About?

The film begins with the FBI rescuing 16 year-old kidnapping victim Hannah Anderson (Jessica Amlee) and killing her kidnapper, Jim DiMaggio (Scott Patterson).  A traumatized Hannah returns home but soon discovers that some, in the media, are claiming that she collaborated with Jim to murder her mother and younger brother.  Hannah goes on a talk show to tell her side of the story.

What Worked?

Scott Patterson and Jessica Amlee gave good performances as Jim and Hannah.  Amlee was sympathetic throughout.  Patterson was properly creepy.

What Did Not Work?

The main reason that this case captured everyone’s imagination was because of the ambiguity of it all.  Nobody was quite sure how they felt about Hannah Anderson and, especially in the early days of the investigation, Hannah’s behavior gave a lot of people reason to feel uneasy about her story.  And while that’s probably not fair (who knows how any of us would act in a similar situation), it’s still the reason why people continue to debate the specifics of the Hannah Anderson kidnapping to this day.

Unfortunately, none of that ambiguity was present in the film.  The only voice heard is Hannah’s and those who had doubts about Hannah’s story are dismissed as being trolls and bullies.  In the process, a multi-layered mystery is reduced to just being the latest anti-bullying PSA.  Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story had all the elements necessary to be a truly intriguing and potentially unsettling film but, in the end, it’s just a standard Lifetime movie.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Considering the subject matter, I’d just as soon say that there were no “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moments.  However, that’s not quite true.  There were times that I cringed at the flashbacks to Hannah and Jim’s relationship before the kidnapping, because, when I was that age, I did have some similar relationships that, in retrospect, were more than a little bit creepy.  In particular, the scene where 40ish Jim says that he wishes he could “date” the 16 year-old Hannah brought back some less than fond memories.

Lessons Learned

Never underestimate the power of narrative ambiguity.

This Trailer Has Cooties


Every year there’s always a few horror films that seem to come out of nowhere that everyone ends up getting hyped for by word of mouth. Zombieland from several years back was one such horror film that worked both as horror and comedy.

This year it looks like Cooties may just be that one horror-comedy that has a chance to surprise an audience that’s become jaded when it comes to their horror entertainment. It definitely wears it’s comedic side on it’s sleeve in the trailer. Now whether it succeeds as a horror-comedy we shall soon find out when it comes out on Sept. 18, 2015.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #84: The Forbidden Dance (dir by Greydon Clark)


I love to dance, I loved to teach others how to dance, and I love watching other people dance.  If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, then you know that I can not resist a film that features a lot of dancing.  It doesn’t matter if the director is inept.  It doesn’t matter if the script makes no sense.  It doesn’t matter if the actors don’t have a bit of acting talent to use to their advantage.  As long as the film features a lot of dancing, I’m happy.

Seriously, people, when in doubt … DANCE!

Let’s take the 1990 film The Forbidden Dance, for instance.  Now, if I wanted to be nit-picky, I could probably find a lot to criticize about this film.  I mean, this film even has a pro-environmental message and you know how annoyed I can get with message films.  And you know what?  You can do a google search and you can find all sorts of insanely negative reviews of this film.

But you know what?

I don’t really care about any of that.  This is, at heart, a dance film.  It features almost non-stop dancing, so I really can’t be too critical of it.  Add to that, it also features memorable performances from Sid Haig and the late Richard Lynch.  Unfortunately, neither Haig nor Lynch get out on the dance floor because, if they had, The Forbidden Dance would have been legendary.

The Forbidden Dance begins in the Brazilian rain forest.  A tribe of Native Brazilians is happily dancing and basically not bothering anyone.  As we learn later on in the film, the dance that they are doing is called the Lambada and apparently, the Brazilian government tried to ban it “because it was too sexy.”

(Amazingly enough and according to Wikipedia, the Lambada apparently was an actual dance craze back in 1990.  The Forbidden Dance came out on the exact same weekend as a competing film about the Lambada.  That film was called, appropriately enough, Lambada.  Strangely enough, two years ago, I randomly reviewed that film for this very site.)

Anyway, all the dancing and the fun is interrupted by the arrival of Benjamin Maxwell (Richard Lynch), a mercenary who works for a Big Evil Corporation.  Maxwell tells the tribe that they might want to stop dancing and leave because the rain forest is going to be destroyed.

Naturally enough, the tribe’s king responds to this by sending his daughter, Nisa (Laura Harring), to America.  Accompanying Nisa is Joa (Sid Haig), a witch doctor.  However, Nisa and Joa’s attempts to invade the headquarters of Big Evil Corporation results in Joa being arrested.

(Incidentally, you might recognize Laura Harring from David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, where she played a similarly mysterious character who was lost and hunted in Los Angeles.)

Left to fend for herself, Nisa gets a job working as a maid for a wealthy family.  And while neither Mr. nor Mrs. Anderson has much interest in the backstory of the help, their son Jason (Jeff James) is a different story.  As Jason’s mother complains, Jason doesn’t have much interest in anything other than dancing.  And, when Jason spots Nisa dancing in her bedroom, he becomes intrigued with her.  Ignoring the snobbish reactions of his wealthy friends, Jason asks Nisa to teach him the Lambada!

And hey!  Guess what!  There’s going to be a dance contest and it’s going to be televised!  What better way to get a platform to protest the destruction of the Brazilian Rain Forest then by winning the contest?  Standing in the way of this plan: Benjamin Maxwell (who, in one icky scene, demands that Nisa dance for him), Jason’s parents and friends, and the fact that, through a complicated series of events, Nisa ends up being forced to dance in the sleaziest club in Los Angeles.

So, look — there’s all sorts of things that I could say about The Forbidden Dance but it features a lot of dancing so I’m inclined to be generous towards the film, especially since Laura Harring and Jeff James both know how to move and look really good dancing together.  I mean, the word Dance is right there in the title. The film promises dancing and it delivers.  Plus, it also delivers Sid Haig and Richard Lynch at their demented best.

So, why complain when you can … DANCE!?


Neon Dream #8: Aphex Twin – Flim

I had a really neat experience once in Monterey. I had never been to California before, I didn’t have a car, and I didn’t get to see much of anything getting there, so I had no idea what existed outside of the town itself. I volunteered to help in the Big Sur marathon, and we loaded up at 4am to drive to the starting point. I knew we were going around a lot of twists and turns, but it was dark and I didn’t think much of it. When the sun came up, we were in a forest, so I figured we must have traveled inland. On the way back, I realized that we’d been dangling on the edge of a cliff dropping into the Pacific ocean the whole way. We were so high up and it was so foggy that sometimes I couldn’t see the ocean at all, and it looked like we were on some floating island in the sky.

An inner city doesn’t work like that. At night, your senses are distorted by a thousand lights shining at you from every direction. Mile-high offices dot the sky like stars. Roads expand to accommodate a vast matrix where red and white atoms shift about chaotically. Black holes surround floating portals into the dimensions of designer makeup and investment banking. Nothing really ends; it just blurs into an electric haze in the distance. The daylight shrinks it all back down into something you can swallow. The cars are just cars. The billboards abandon their depth. The towers have their peaks. Without distinct points of light, they fade from your awareness. No matter how vast the sun-lit scene may be, something about it feels just a bit smaller. It’s quaint, really–a return to a simpler world where buildings are merely a thousand feet tall and bodies line the streets in self-propelled steel boxes, listlessly nodding their heads to music beamed in from outer space.

“Flim”, by the venerable Aphex Twin, appears on the 1997 Come to Daddy EP. It has the sense about it, to me at least, of opening blinds at the top of a highrise hotel and staring across a city in its mid-day bustle.