What Lisa Watched Last Night #142: Are You My Daughter? (dir by Jason Bourque)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime movie premiere, Are You My Daughter?

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Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was on Lifetime, of course!  Of course, I was only able to watch the 1st hour before I had to change the channel over to SyFy so I could watch They Found Hell.  But, fortunately, Lifetime always shows their movies twice so, once They Found Hell was over with, I was able to turn back to Lifetime and catch the final hour of Are You My Daughter?

What Was It About?

14 years ago, Laura Paddington’s (Brooke Langton) 3 year-0ld daughter disappeared.  In the years since, Laura has suffered from a lot of guilt.  She’s also seen her marriage to Richard (Mike Dopud) end in divorce.

At first, when Laura meets Jacob (Peter Benson) is a support group, he seems like the perfect guy.  Jacob tells Laura that she has to move on from the disappearance of her daughter and, under Jacob’s guidance, Laura finally decides to clean out her daughter’s old bedroom.

However, when Laura attempts to donate her daughter’s clothes to the local shelter, she is shocked when she meets Rebecca (Stephanie Bennett).  Rebecca not only looks like a teenage version of her daughter but she also has the same birthmark on the back of her neck!  After Rebecca gets a DNA test, it is confirmed that she is Laura’s daughter!

Or is she?  When Richard meets her, he is immediately suspicious of both Rebecca and Jacob.  Is Richard being paranoid or is Laura the victim of a very cruel con?

What Worked?

There are certain directors who I’m always happy to see listed in the opening credits of a Lifetime or a SyFy movie.  Whenever I see that a film was directed by Doug Campbell, Grant Harvey, or Griff Furst, I always know that I’m going to see a movie that’s better than the average Lifetime melodrama.  The director of Are You My Daughter, Jason Bourque, is another one of those directors.  He’s directed and written his share of films for both Lifetime and SyFy and his films are always very entertaining and well-done.  That’s definitely the case with Are You My Daughter, which is a fun and twisty little melodrama.  (Bourque also directed a film called Black Fly, which I reviewed on this site a few months ago.)

As well, Stephanie Bennett did a good job as Rebecca/Zoe.  She kept you guessing.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked.  This was a fun and enjoyable Lifetime movie.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I’m not a mother yet but once I am, I am going to be so overprotective.  Seriously, my kids are never going to be out of my sight.  It’s hard for me to think of anything more terrifying than having your child disappear.

Lessons Learned

Keep an eye on your children.

 

Horror on TV: Twilight Zone 2.5 “The Howling Man”


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This is one of my favorite episode of The Twilight Zone. I originally shared it two years ago but it has subsequently been taken off of YouTube. At first, that upset me but then I realized that it gave me the perfect excuse to share it again!


In The Howling Man, American wanderer Dave Ellington (H.M. Wynant) comes across a castle. There’s a man (Robin Hughes) being held prisoner in the castle. Brother Jerome (the great John Carradine) explains that the man is the devil. The man says that Brother Jerome is crazy. Dave Ellington has to decide who to believe.


This well-acted, dream-like episode was written by Charles Beaumont and directed by Douglas Heyes. It originally aired on November 4th, 1960.


TSL’s The Daily Horror Grindhouse: They Found Hell (dir by Nick Lyon)


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They Found Hell, which premiered last night on the SyFy channel, deserves a lot of credit.  In the tradition of the best grindhouse films (and, make no mistake, this was definitely a grindhouse film even if it was made for TV), They Found Hell delivers exactly what it promises.  The title tells us that “they” will find Hell and that’s exactly what happens.

“They” refers to a group of college students who, through some questionable use of science, manage to not only open up a portal into Hell but get sucked into it as well.  One student does manage to avoid getting sucked into the portal but he turns out to be pretty ineffective.  When he goes to the local crazy professor (James Sobol Kelly), he tells him what has happened, and then suggests maybe calling the police.  (I assume so that the police could read Hell its rights?)  The professor responds by tying the student up.  The professor has a plan of his own.

As for the students actually went down the portal … well, they’re in Hell.  One student insists that there’s no such thing as Hell and therefore, this must all be a dream.  Of course, he’s the first to die.  This, of course, leads to an interesting theological question: if an atheist dies in Hell, does he just come back to life?  I mean, he’s already in Hell.  What else can be done to him?

Anyway, the remaining students soon find themselves split up and each exploring a different section of Hell.  And this is really where the movie triumphed because this was a very convincing and very memorable Hell.  One student found himself in a desolate forest and ended up getting attacked by a bunch of vines.  Another found herself wandering through the hallways of what appeared to be the ruins of a Tuscan castle.  Another student found himself in a burning city while two others found themselves chained to a wall while a pendulum swung back and forth.  (I assume they were in the Edgar Allan Poe Wing of Hell.)  It was all surprisingly well-done and quite creepy.

At first, it seemed that Hell was nearly deserted and I guess we should be happy about that.  (I mean, humanity must be doing something right if there’s hardly anyone on the streets of Hell.)  But, as we quickly learn, the students are not alone.  There are lizard creatures that jump through windows.  There are snarling dogs that eat men who have been tied to the trees in a dark forest.  And, of course, there’s the succubus…

And then there’s Charon, the boatman.  In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman who takes souls across the River Styx.  Of course, he’ll only take you if you can pay the toll.  Charon’s always been one of my favorite mythological characters so I was definitely excited when he made an appearance here, looking all spooky and ghastly.

When They Found Hell started, I noticed that a lot of Hell seemed to look like other horror movies.  There were some scenes that had a Saw feel to them.  And then there were others that felt like they could have been lifted from a zombie movie.  At first, I assumed the film was just ripping off other horror films and I was totally okay with that.  But, as we discover, there’s actually a very clever reason why the various sections of Hell resemble other horror movies.  I’m not going to spoil it but it really is pretty clever.

And really, that’s a great description of They Found Hell.  It’s a surprisingly clever little horror film, one that is full of spooky atmosphere and scary moments.  It’s also surprisingly well-acted, with the entire cast bringing a lot of conviction to their roles.  This is a fun movie, one that you should definitely watch with a group of your best, snarkiest, and smartest friends.

So, keep an eye out and, the next time that They Found Hell is on SyFy, be sure to watch!

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Horror Film Review: Crimson Peak (dir by Guillermo Del Toro)


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The fact that Crimson Peak, Guillermo Del Toro’s wonderful new film, is only getting mixed or grudgingly positive reviews tells you everything that you need to know about the sorry state of modern film criticism.

Taking place at the turn of the 19th Century, Crimson Peak tells the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska).  The daughter of industrialist Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), Edith is haunted by a childhood memory, in which her mother’s ghost appeared to her and told her to never go to Crimson Peak.  Edith grows up to be an aspiring writer.  She writes stories about ghosts, though she is always quick to point out that the ghosts are just meant to be a “metaphor for the past.”  Her publishers tell her that no one wants to read a ghost story written by a woman and they recommend that she concentrate on writing a nice romance.

Following the violent death of her father, Edith marries the charming inventor Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and moves to his family home in England.  Still in shock over the death of her father, Edith struggles to make things work in England.  Tom is nearly penniless and seems to be more interested in his inventions than with her.  (Not only did they not consummate the marriage during the honeymoon but Tom sleeps in a separate bedroom.)  Meanwhile, Tom’s older sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), does little to hide the disdain that she feels towards her new sister-in-law.

As for the house itself, it is on the verge of collapsing.  At one point, Tom mentions that, because of the red clay that sits underneath the mansion, their new home is sometimes called Crimson Peak.  If that wasn’t enough to panic Edith, she keeps seeing mysterious figures wandering through the halls.  Edith swears that she is seeing ghosts and that they are trying to tell her something.  Tom and Lucille tells her that she’s imagining things and continue to insist that she drink a special tea.  Could that tea be the reason why Edith finds herself coughing up blood?

(Actually, there’s a lot of blood spilled over the course of Crimson Peak.  It’s not just the clay that makes the ground red.  If Edith Wharton had written a horror movie, the end result would probably be a lot like Crimson Peak.)

And let’s just get this out of the way right now — Crimson Peak is an absolutely brilliant movie.  Those critics who have complained that Crimson Peak doesn’t have any of the expected “shock” scares are totally missing the point.  Crimson Peak is not about cheap scares.  Del Toro is not looking to make you jump by having a cat jump out of a closet.  Instead, Crimson Peak is all about atmosphere.  Del Toro maintains an atmosphere of consistent unease throughout the entire film.  The scares come less from what is shown and more from what is implied.  In that way, Crimson Peak pays homage to the great gothic horror films of the past.

And remember when I complained about how terrible Jessica Chastain was in The Martian?  Well, she absolutely brilliant in Crimson Peak.  The role of Lucille is not one that demands a lot of subtlety and Chastain appears to be having a great time getting to play such a menacing character.  If anything, this is one of Chastain’s best performances.  (One need only consider how overly mannered Meryl Streep would have been in the role to realize just how great an actress Jessica Chastain truly is.)  Mia Wasikowska is the epitome of fragile loveliness as Edith and Tom Hiddleston is perfectly cast as a handsome, slightly decadent aristocrat with a secret.  In fact, all three of them are perfectly cast.  Taking their roles too seriously would have been a mistake but so would have not taking the movie seriously enough.  The entire cast strikes a perfect balance, embracing the melodrama without going too far over the top.

So, why are so many film critics having such a hard time embracing Crimson Peak?  It’s pretty much for the same reason that a lot of them had a hard time with Pacific Rim.  Guillermo Del Toro’s films are masterpieces of the pulp imagination.  As such, he exposes the condescending attitude that most contemporary critics take towards “genre” films.  When mainstream critics dismiss Crimson Peak as just being “a horror film that isn’t scary enough,” all they’re really doing is revealing how ignorant they are of the horror genre.

So, in other words, don’t listen to those mainstream critics.  They are not worth your trouble.  Crimson Peak is a wonderfully acted and visually gorgeous gothic romance and it needs to be seen on the big screen.

Reportedly, Crimson Peak struggled at the box office this weekend.

Well, you know what?

If you haven’t seen Crimson Peak, you need to go out and see it this week.  It’s a great film and what good are we if we let the great ones go unseen?

Halloween Havoc!: EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS (Columbia 1956)


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UFOs have been spotted across the globe. Dr. Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) and his wife Carol (Joan Taylor) are on their way to the secret headquarters of Operation Skyhook when they’re strafed by a saucer! They tell Carol’s dad, General Hanley (Morris Ankrum) what occurred. The General in turn reports all the satellities they’ve sent up have been destroyed by mysterious forces. When Marvin and his crew send up the next one, the base is attacked by saucers, and the rocket launch incapacitated. Soon General Hanley is captured by the aliens, and Marvin learns to communicate with them. The alien’s intent: destroy Planet Earth! Our weapons are useless against their superior technology! CAN EARTH BE SAVED FROM THE FLYING SAUCER INVASION?!?!

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If you’re a fan of 50s sci-fi…

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The Poster For Star Wars: The Force Awakens Is Here and Look Who’s Missing


With the movie’s release just two months away, the official poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released earlier today and it looks great!

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It looks very Star Wars-y.  At first glance, it looks like they made sure to include every single character in the Star Wars universe in the poster.

There are new faces.

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There are familiar faces.

oldThere’s even a new mystery character standing behind R2.

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Could this be a new Death Star?  Is the third time the charm?  Hopefully, the Empire has finally figured out that they have a problem with that exhaust portal.

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Did you notice who’s missing?

Almost every major surviving character in the Star Wars universe is on that poster.  Luke Skywalker, however, is missing.  Does this mean that Luke Skywalker is only a minor character in The Force Awakens or does it mean something else?  Luke Skywalker is such an important character that there is no way that his absence would not be noticed.

Maybe we will learn more when the next trailer for the film is shown tomorrow during Monday Night Football.

Hallmark Review: Bridal Wave (2015, dir. Michael Scott)


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Sorry if I forget some things, but last night after watching this movie I lost cellphone reception and thus went into a severe panic attack. Just kidding, I just said that to make the point that the losing cellphone reception thing to show how shallow and disconnected someone is in a movie is a cliche that is getting really really old. Also, I’ve been quite surprised. I can drive many miles out into the middle of nowhere and still get near perfect LTE where I live. In fact, I only know of two places where I lose cellphone reception. A room that is basically a bunker and one of my favorite parks that is in a canyon. At least this movie didn’t have people in wide flat open spaces losing GPS signals because the writers don’t know how that works.

With a title like Bridal Wave you might imagine that there must be some surfing going on here. That maybe someone is going to end up in a wedding dress on a surfboard. No such luck. This movie opens up at plastic surgeon’s office. We meet Dr. Phillip Hamilton (David Haydn-Jones) and his assistant Georgie Dwyer (Arielle Kebbel). Wait…that means!

Now we meet a girl who for her 21st birthday has just received a nose job. I’ll have to take this movie’s word at that because I look at this girl and think she has had some work done on her eyes instead.

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As I’m sure you’ve guessed already, Georgie and Phillip are closer than just colleagues and are going to be married. Now we meet the parents. It’s not worth your time introducing them. All you need to know is that all the scenes with the parents make you think this is the first time either of them have met the other’s parents. And given a conversation at the end of this movie, I think that was done on purpose. That you are supposed to read it that way. This is a movie that has some uneven writing. This bit about the parents and two conversations at the end of the movie make perfect sense and are based in reality. However, the stuff in between falls back on stupid stereotypes yet again.

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Of course that means we need to introduce the right guy. His name is Luke Griggs (Andrew W. Walker). How do we know he’s the right guy? Because we see him mention that he doesn’t own a cellphone anymore. While we are talking about cellphones. Kudos to this movie for not screwing up the fake video chat scenes the way A Ring By Spring did by accidentally leaving the the bit at the top of the screen that shows what we are seeing is a pre-recorded video.

The setup is that Phillip and Georgie have come to an island that has a hotel which is a popular place to have weddings. In other words, they see wave after wave of brides come through their place. Hence the title Bridal Wave. Griggs is an architect who lives right next door to the hotel and is a little teed off about it because of the loss of the natural beauty of the island. However, up until the end of the movie he kind of comes across like an angry old man waving his cane at the modern world. My favorite part of this is when to explain his point about how imperfections in a person are what make them perfect, he compares them to an outcropping of rocks. Yes, because human beings are exactly like inanimate objects.

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This part happens during Luke and Georgie’s nature excursion. Phillip was called away to perform some surgeries because it was too hard to have both him and Luke in the movie at the same time and have Georgie still pick Luke. During this scene is when we get the ridiculous cellphone reception thing. We also get Luke being confused as to who might want to get their ears pinned back. I totally can’t think of anyone who might want that procedure done.

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Everything else is standard stuff except for two conversations at the end of the movie. The first is when Georgie and Phillip finally sit down and talk about that they probably shouldn’t get married. The reasons they bring up make absolute perfect sense and don’t rely on BS. They do have feelings for each other and they work together so much and so well that marriage just seemed like the next logical thing for them. That’s why they really hadn’t met each other’s parents because they are so busy all the time that they kind of wind up in their own world. Makes sense!

The second conversation is when Luke sits down with the owner of the hotel. Luke basically says the hotel and the marriages don’t bother him, but what bothers him is that the design of the place robs people coming there of the beauty they should be getting by coming to this island. He wants to sell off his place next door, tear it down, and restore it to the way it looked before as a natural grotto to hold weddings in. Again, makes perfect sense!

Why couldn’t the whole movie be like that? Although just to pander to people who want one last laugh at Phillip because he must be superficial and shallow since he does plastic surgery.

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After they cut to one year later to show Georgie and Luke getting married in the grotto, we see that Phillip is with a girl he gave a nose job.

This one is far far better than A Country Wedding, but it still uses too much stereotype BS. You can do better in general, and even from Hallmark.