Val’s Movie Roundup #10: Hallmark Edition

My memory may be a little fuzzy on these since they are all murder mystery movies. Also, some other stuff like getting Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Fester’s Quest for the NES working interjected themselves between viewings. Don’t judge me! I had them as a kid and they need to be beaten. Luckily, because of the kind of movies these are, I don’t think it will be a problem.


Mystery Woman: Oh Baby (2006) – I hadn’t seen Kellie Martin since she was on floor dead in her final episode of ER. I really enjoyed her on that show. This movie pairs her with Clarence Williams III who people probably remember best from The Mob Squad, but I remember him from The General’s Daughter (1999). Martin runs a book shop she took over from her uncle called Mystery Woman Books. The movie begins with a guy getting murdered on a golf course by the partner they were playing with. A woman then shows up at the bookstore with a baby. She knew Martin’s uncle so Martin opens up her home to her and her baby. Soon the mother disappears to join the husband who is on the run. The husband is a groundskeeper who witnessed the murder, but instead of reporting it, ran away. Thus, the police are after him as a suspect. Martin and Williams gear up to try solve the crime. This is the best murder mystery series I have seen so far on Hallmark. Martin and Williams are likable. They don’t come across as busy bodies. You can follow the mystery. You actually care to follow the mystery. And it isn’t sanitized to the point of looking like the Stepford Wives. This one is worth checking out.


The Gourmet Detective (2015) – This is the film that introduces us to the Brooke Burns’ cop who still identifies herself as a detective even though SFPD officers of her type are called inspectors. It also introduces us to Dylan Neal, know as The Gourmet Detective. The setup for him and getting them together is pretty stupid. I can’t believe Neal kept a straight face while explaining that he is called The Gourmet Detective because if a key ingredient runs out, then someone like him hunts down a replacement. The setup BS is just annoying. The rest of the mystery is done well enough. Apparently, just like the second film, a journalist dies. The only really noteworthy thing is that they bother to stop and give us a real recap of what has been figured out so far. I don’t think any of the other ones I’ve watched have done it, or at least in a useful manner. This is really nice. Especially for someone like myself who has difficulty following along. Okay to see, but the second one is better because it doesn’t have all that setup stuff.


Murder, She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery (2015) – Think that title is long enough? Why not The Incredibly Sensibly Dressed Baker Who Stopped Making Cookies And Became An Amateur Detective. Maybe that will inspire Hallmark’s next series. This is one of those films that people seem to refer to as a cozy mystery. I guess cozy means sanitized and set in nice areas to the point that the Stepford Wives are soon to arrive and the town is going change it’s name to Pleasantville any day now. The movie is about a baker played by Alison Sweeney. After a friend and a delivery driver get killed, she investigates. A cop played by Cameron Mathison comes into things. He’s really just there to add a romantic interest in much the same way they did in Wedding Planner Mystery. It’s neat that Sweeney actually cries over the loss of her friends. In the others it’s like it’s just an excuse to investigate or they don’t seem to care. I remember a scene in Lies Between Friends where Gabrielle Anwar just stared from a distance at the dead body of her friend like she caught her doing something dirty. I would recommend any of the other three films listed here over this one. It’s so sanitized that things like suspense simply don’t exist.


Mystery Woman: Redemption (2006) – Again, we return to the bookstore with Martin and Williams. This time John Ratzenberger plays a Vietnam vet who shows up in the bookstore and soon after is found murdered. The investigation ultimately leads back to something that he and others went through during the Vietnam war. They found something special that they were planning to return to the government later on, but never did. All the good things about Mystery Woman: Oh Baby are present here. In addition, they don’t have to keep a baby in tow. Plus, the story is more interesting. The two Mystery Woman movies are definitely the ones to go with here. I have one more of these films to go and will write about it once I have seen it.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Killer Mermaid (dir by Milan Todorovic)



Killer Mermaid!

That’s a great title, isn’t it?  Originally, the title of this 2014 film from Serbia was Nymph.  However, by the time it reached Netflix, it had become Killer Mermaid.  And really, everything you need to know about this movie is right there in that title.  It’s a movie about a mermaid that kills people.  If you have a strong desire to see a movie about a mermaid that kills people, Killer Mermaid is for you.  If you don’t have that desire, then you’re probably not going to be reading this review.

Killer Mermaid takes place in Montenegro.  Two American tourists — Kelly (Kristina Klebe) and Lucy (Natalie Burn) — are visiting their old friend Alex (Slobodan Stefanovic) and his girlfriend Yasmin (Sofija Rajovic).  (Just in case we forget that Kelly and Lucy are Americans, Lucy wears American flag shorts.)  At first, they do typical Americans-in-Europe things.  Kelly attempts to confront some past childhood trauma.  Lucy sleeps with Alex and then worries about Yasmin finding out.  They meet and flirt with Bobban (Dragan Micanovic), a local who looks a lot like Lost‘s Henry Ian Cusick.

And then they make plans to spend a day on a nearby island and exploring an abandoned old military fortress.  They do this despite a local fisherman, Niko (Franco Nero!), telling them that it’s a terrible idea because the fortress was built by evil Nazis and anyone who explores it is destined to die a terrible death.

“Ha!”  the tourists say, “We’re too young and American to die in Montenegro!  Now, let’s go to the remote island with some guy that we’ve only known for 12 hours…”

Ignoring Niko, they go out to the island and … well, you can probably guess what happens.  There’s a mysterious caretaker (Miodrag Krstovic) wandering around the fortress.  He’s protecting something very important to him and, if that means he has to kill some tourists, so be it.

What is the caretaker protecting?  Well, you can probably guess from the title of the film.  There’s a mermaid (Zorana Kostic Obradovic, who has a fantastically evil smirk) living in the waters around the island and she’s a killer.  Whenever she sings, Alex, Bobban, and the caretaker all go into a state of zombiefication.  As women, Kelly, Lucy, and Yasmin are all immune to the mermaid’s song but it really doesn’t matter because, even with that advantage, no one is anywhere close to being smart enough to survive a horror movie.  Just the fact that they ended up on that island in the first place should tell you all you need to know about the intelligence of the characters in Killer Mermaid

But that’s okay because, with the exception of Niko and maybe Bobban (depending on whether or not you had a crush on Lost‘s Desmond Hume), you really don’t care enough about any of these characters to get upset over their impending doom.  This film is all about the killer mermaid.  It takes her a while to show up and she doesn’t get any lines but she still dominates the entire film.  Say what you will about the script and some of the performances, the filmmakers went to the trouble to give us a believable and viscous mermaid.

Killer Mermaid works far better than it should.  Yes, it’s pretty much your standard killer monster movie but the film looks good and the mermaid is an impressive monster.  While it may never make sense for everyone to have headed off for that island in the first place, the film still makes good use of the atmospheric location.  Add to that, Killer Mermaid delivers exactly what it promises.

And, of course, you’ve got Franco Nero as Niko!  Now, I have to admit that I didn’t recognize Franco when he first showed up.  He’s made up to look as weather-beaten as possible and Nero downplays his trademark charisma, playing Niko as a haunted and emotionally withdrawn man.  To be honest, it’s a far better performance than you would probably ever expect to see in a film called Killer Mermaid but, then again, that’s always been the case with Nero.  He’s always good, no matter how bad some of his movies may occasionally be.  As I’ve said in the past, any movie can be saved by a random Franco Nero appearance and that’s certainly the case with this one.

(That said, it’s hard to imagine that any film will ever top the exhilarating oddness of Franco Nero’s cameo as Jesus in The Visitor.)

That’s Killer Mermaid for you.  It’s exactly what you think it is but, with that in mind, it’s entertaining enough.

And it’s currently available on Netflix!

The First Annual Academy Awards: 1914

Hi there! The blogger known as Jedadiah Leland and I have launched a TSL side project. We are taking Oscar history, re-imagining it, and turning it into something much better, one year at a time! I, of course, will be handling the even years while he handles the odd years. (Why? Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers, that’s why!) Here’s our report on the First Annual Academy Awards, honoring the best of 1914.

(You read that right…)

Through the Shattered Lens Presents The Oscars

Mack Sennett, the 1st President of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Mack Sennett, the 1st President of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Ironically, considering its current prominence in American culture, the origins of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are shrouded in mystery.

Reportedly, in February of 1914, a meeting was held in New York City that led to the founding of the Academy.  While all exact records appear to be lost, it is generally agreed that the meeting was attended by Mack Sennett,Thomas H. Ince, William Randolph Hearst, Charles O. Baumann, John R. Freuler, Samuel S. Hutchinson, Jesse Lasky, William Fox, Adolph Zukor,D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, William Kennedy Dickson, Mary Pickford,J. Stuart Blackton, Albert E. Smith, Carl Laemmle, and L. Frank Baum.  By the end of the meeting, not only had the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences…

View original post 584 more words

Face Front, True Believers! The New Fantastic Four Is As Bad As The Old Fantastic Four!

FFFace front, true believers!

This is the one you’ve been waiting for!  There’s a new Fantastic Four movie out, looking to cash in on this cozy crazy comic book fad!  It’s been getting terrifyingly terrible reviews and the ravenous reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes have given it a scintillating score of 9%.  But don’t let my manic misplaced modifiers put you off, pilgrim!  The ancient prophecy is true!  Fantastic Four is as boldly bad as everyone says!  Not even the merriest members of the Merry Marvel Marching Society will find much to marvel at here!

This is the latest attempt to start a Fantastic Four film franchise.  This time Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) are both unlikely teenagers.  Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) recruits Reed to help work on a “Quantum Gate” that will transport explorers to the Negative Zone.  Instead of being transformed by gamma rays, Reed and his friends become super human as a result of going to Planet Zero and getting splashed by green goo.  Reed has the power to stretch.  Ben develops a rock-like hide.  Dr. Storm’s son, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), becomes a human torch while his adopted daughter, Sue (Kate Mara), is given the power of invisibility.

Doctor-DoomIt takes over an hour for Reed and friends to become fantastic and, even after they do, there’s no sense of wonder or excitement to Fantastic Four.  It’s obvious that a lot of money was spent on special effects but there is not a single scene that can match the power or imagination of a Jack Kirby illustration.  Worst of all is what is done to Dr. Doom (Toby Kebbell).  One of Marvel’s most complex and iconic characters is reduced to being just another vaguely motivated movie bad guy.  Fantastic Four feels like a throwback to the worst comic book movies of the 90s.  Nuff said?

This version of Fantastic Four was directed by Josh Trank, who previously directed the excellent ChronicleFantastic Four is so joyless and rudimentary in its approach that it feels like the anti-Chronicle.  After the initial negative reviews came out, Trank tweeted, “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.”  (He later deleted the tweet.)  Perhaps studio interference explains why Fantastic Four feels so disjointed.  It seems to be missing key scenes.  For instance, do you remember all of those cool moments from the trailer?  Most of them are not in the actual movie.

fant_fourIf you count the never released Roger Corman-produced 1994 film, this is the fourth attempt to reboot The Fantastic Four.  When I was growing up and reading comics, I never really cared about The Fantastic Four.  The only time I ever read Fantastic Four was if they were doing a crossover with the X-Men or Spider-man.  I knew they were important to the history of the Marvel Universe but they also seemed old-fashioned and almost corny.  It’s hard to take seriously a scientific genius who can not come up with a better name than Mr. Fantastic.  As characters, the Thing, the Human Torch, the Invisible Woman, and Mr. Fantastic all feel like they still belong in 1961 and maybe that is why all the recent film adaptations of The Fantastic Four have failed.   Perhaps the fifth attempt should take a retro approach and set the story in the 1960s.

Perhaps then the flashy, fulsome, and far-out Fantastic Four will get the marvelous movie masterpiece that they deserve!