Val’s Movie Roundup #16: Hallmark Edition


Sorry, but during this period my Mom has been having knee replacement surgery so my descriptions are going to be so so at best. Luckily, I know that when it comes to Hallmark movies, you really just want to know whether it’s worth your time. That I can do.

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Mystery Woman: Sing Me A Murder (2005) – This one has Kellie Martin’s character hosting a charity concert for an old timey folk band. At the same time Clarence Williams III is doing side work investigating a series of bank robberies. I reached the end where they explain what really happened and it made little sense to me. I watched that section a second time, and it still didn’t make sense. This movie is a convoluted mess. It’s a shame because I have been enjoying this particular series of films. On the upside, this movie has John Getz in it. Movie lovers might not recognize the name, but you will recognize him when you see him. He is the lover in the Coen Brothers first film Blood Simple (1984). Just with 21 years added on to him. If you don’t have to see all of the Mystery Woman movies, then you can skip this one.

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Falling In Love With The Girl Next Door (2006) – Ever wrote a paper for school, had absolutely no inspiration, but powered through it and churned out something to turn in? That’s this movie. You already know this by just reading that title. It’s about two people who fall in love, want to get married, their parents interfere, and the couple ultimately gets their way. That’s it! Nothing worth seeing here. There are a few big name actors in here, but Bruce Boxleitner and Shelley Long, for example, are completely wasted. A definite skip.

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This Magic Moment (2013) – A film crew comes to a small town to shoot scenes. A local screenwriter hooks up with their lead actress, but belongs with another girl. He ends up with the local girl. I was quite bored out of my mind. However, it did remind me that the movie Love And The Midnight Auto Supply (1977) was shot in a neighboring small town to where I live, so I will have to review it at some point. I even have access to the old local papers from back then when it was being made.

If you can follow the conversations in this movie better than I did then you will probably like it more, but it’s still not a particularly good Hallmark movie of this nature. I’ve reviewed much better love stories such as Recipe For Love and the recent Love Under The Stars. Also, just like Falling In Love With The Girl Next Door, this movie has two good actors that it completely wastes. Those being Charles Shaughnessy and Corin Nemec.

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Mystery Woman: At First Sight (2006) – The interesting thing about this particular entry in the Mystery Woman series is that Kellie Martin herself directed it. It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, but she does at least as good a job as the others who have helmed other entries in the franchise. It begins with Kellie setting out to find her birth mother. She gets embroiled in a murder mystery that involves her biological family. It’s fine, followable, and not sanitized. That’s really the best you can ask for from a Hallmark mystery movie. At the same time, Clarence has his own plot that reveals or at least hints more at his mysterious background. Honestly, I prefer when Martin and Williams work together to solve the mystery, rather than each having their own plot to follow. I think they work well together. Oh, well. Even though this is my 5th Mystery Woman film, there are still six more of these to go. This one is perfectly fine to watch.

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The Things You Find On Netflix: Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s The Island of Dr. Moreau


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I have never actually seen the 1996 film The Island of Dr. Moreau but I certainly have read a lot about it.

It’s one of those films that seems to get mentioned whenever film critics start talking about the worst films of all time and, as a result, the story of the film’s production has become legendary.  The film’s shoot was difficult, for reasons of both nature and human nature.  The film was shot in the inhospitable Australian rain forest and shooting was briefly shut down due to a sudden hurricane.   Richard Stanley, the original director, was unceremoniously fired by New Line Cinema and apparently proceeded to go native in the Australian wilderness, smoking a huge amount of weed while the studio executives feared that he would return and burn down the set.  Veteran director John Frankenheimer was brought in to finish the film and clashed immediately with the film’s notoriously eccentric and difficult stars, Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando.

And I have to admit that, every time I read about The Island of Dr. Moreau, there’s a part of me that wants to track down and watch this film and see how bad it could possibly be.  But, every time I find myself too tempted, I think about a shirtless Val Kilmer lounging around in a kilt and I quickly change my mind.

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Bleh!

Fortunately, if I want to get a feel for the insanity behind the film’s production, I no longer have to actually watch The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Instead, I can just get on Netflix and watch an entertaining documentary called Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Lost Soul could have just as easily been called Everybody Hates Val Kilmer.  Val himself declined to be interviewed for the documentary and I have to say that I think that was a huge mistake on his part because literally everyone who did agree to be interviewed appears to absolutely despise Val Kilmer.  It’s not so much that everyone tells a story about Val’s bad behavior as much as the fact that, decades later, everyone still seems to be so traumatized by the experience of having been  anywhere near him.  (German actor Marco Hofschnieder especially seems to take a lot of delight in doing a devastating yet hilarious imitation of Val Kilmer smoking a cigarette and complaining about every line of dialogue, regardless of whether it was his dialogue or not.)

The documentary also includes plenty of crazy Marlon Brando stories but there’s a noticeable difference between the Brando stories and the Kilmer stories.  Brando is portrayed as being an almost tragic figure, a great actor who hated his talent and, as a result, went out of his way to give performances that mocked the very idea of even trying to be good.  As annoyed as everyone seems to have gotten with Brando, there’s still an undercurrent of affection to the Brando stories.  That’s something that is definitely lacking from the Kilmer stories.

(According to the documentary, Brando was not a Val Kilmer fan.  When Kilmer asked Brando if he had visited the Australian reef, Brando replied, “I own a reef,” and reportedly didn’t speak to Kilmer for the rest of the shoot.)

As interesting as the stories about Brando and Kilmer may be, the heart of the film rests with Richard Stanley, the promising young South African director whose brief “mainstream” film career was pretty much derailed by the drama surrounding The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Interviewed at his home in France and captivating the audience with both his intense stare and his mordant sense of humor, Richard Stanley describes both his vision for The Island of Dr. Moreau and the pain of having that vision snatched away from him.  Not only does he confirm that, as has long been rumored, he did sneak back onto the set as an extra but he also explains that the production’s problems were largely due to a mishap involving a warlock named Skip.

Lost Soul makes for an interesting cautionary tale about what happens when an artist has to deal with the establishment.  Watch it with Jodorowsky’s Dune and have yourself a double feature of “what could have been” cinema.

The Old Master: Boris Karloff in THE SORCERERS (Tigon, 1967)


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Boris Karloff had been in movies for almost fifty years by the time 1967 rolled around. The King of Horror hit it big in Universal’s 1931 FRANKENSTEIN, and went on to star in some of the genre’s true classics: THE MUMMY, THE BLACK CAT, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE BODY SNATCHERS, and BEDLAM. While THE SORCERERS isn’t quite in the same league as those films, it gives Boris a chance to shine in the twilight of his career, ably assisted by the direction of young Michael Reeves (THE SHE BEAST, THE CONQUEROR WORM).

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Karloff plays Professor Monserrat, an elderly “medical hypnotist” living in a flat with wife Estelle (Catherine Lacey). When bored young Londoner Mike (Ian Oglivy) meets the old gentleman, he’s promised “something new, something you’ve never done before….intoxication without hangover, ecstasy without consequences”. Mike is hooked up to the professor’s machine, a psychedelic light and sound trip that lets the aged…

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4 Shots From 4 Films: The Dunwich Horror, Dagon, The Call of Cthulhu, The Whisperer in Darkness


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films.  As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

This edition of 4 Shots From 4 Films is dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft, on the occasion of his 125th birthday.

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Dunwich Horror (1970, directed by Daniel Haller)

The Dunwich Horror (1970, directed by Daniel Haller)

Dagon (2001, directed by Stuart Gordon)

Dagon (2001, directed by Stuart Gordon)

The Call of Cthulhu (2005, directed by Andrew Leman)

The Call of Cthulhu (2005, directed by Andrew Leman)

The Whisperer in Darkness (2011, directed by Sean Branney)

The Whisperer in Darkness (2011, directed by Sean Branney)