Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: Cleveland Abduction (dir by Alex Kalymnios)


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After I finished up Ominous, it was time to deal with Cleveland Abduction.  Why was it something that I had to “deal with?”  Well, I originally watched Cleveland Abduction when it was broadcast on Lifetime way back in May.  I meant to review it when I originally watched it but, every time I sat down to write about this movie, I just couldn’t.  Just thinking about the movie and the true story that inspired it was too overwhelming and upsetting.  Cleveland Abduction is one of the most disturbing and depressing (and yet also inspiring) movies that I’ve ever seen.  It’s certainly the most emotionally intense film to ever be made for Lifetime.

A friend of mine actually told me that she could only watch 15 minutes of Cleveland Abduction and then had to stop because she didn’t want the film’s ugliness to get inside her head.  And I don’t blame her.  Cleveland Abduction is an ugly film about three young women who were kidnapped, held prisoner, and repeatedly raped by an evil man.  The film does not flinch from showing the details of their ordeal and it is all the more disturbing for being based on a true story.

I don’t know if I believe in demons or possession or anything like that but I do know that Ariel Castro was an evil man.  Castro, a school bus driver and wannabe musician, abducted Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry off the streets of Cleveland.  For 11 years, he held them prisoner in his filthy house.  (Disturbingly, some of Castro’s neighbors actually saw the girls in the house but refused to get involved.)  Rather than face a jury and spend the rest of his life as imprisoned as the three women he held captive in his house, Castro committed suicide in his jail cell.

The film centers on Castro’s first known victim, single mother Michelle Knight (a poignant performance from Taryn Manning, who perfectly captures Michelle’s quiet strength).  Castro (played, in properly brutal fashion, by Raymond Cruz) runs into Michelle while she’s walking to court to try to win custody of her son.  Castro offers her a ride and Michelle agrees.  Castro takes her back to his house and her 11-year nightmare begins.

And it’s not easy to watch, nor should it be.  The film doesn’t shy away from showing what Michelle and, eventually, the other two victims went through.  Spending her days either handcuffed or in a locked bedroom, Michelle’s only escape comes from thinking about her son.  When the other two girls are abducted, Michelle comforts them and help them to remain strong.  Meanwhile, on the outside, the police assume that Michelle has just run away from her old life and they refuse to even look for her.

It’s ugly and disturbing and difficult and infuriating to watch.  As I watched, I continually asked myself if I would be able to survive if I ever found myself in the same situation.  I always like to assume that, since I always have pepper spray and I’m a fairly god runner, nobody would ever be able to abduct me but, as I sit here couch-bound with a sprained foot, I know that it’s never that simple.  I also like to assume that I could be as strong as Michelle Knight.  Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out.

But here’s the thing — as disturbing and nightmarish as this film has to be — it’s ultimately a very inspiring film.  For all the ugliness, Cleveland Abduction is ultimately a film about survival and tribute to the strength, courage, and sisterhood of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry.  Based on Michelle’s book and featuring a compelling lead performance from Taryn Manning, Cleveland Abduction is not an easy film to watch but it is one that should be watched.

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: Ominous (dir by Peter Sullivan)


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After I finished writing my review of Lavalantula, it was time to bitch about my sprained foot to anyone who would listen.  After that, it was time to have dinner and then it was time to lay on the couch and try to get some rest and finally, after all that, I got back to the task of cleaning out my DVR.  The film that I ended up watching was Ominous, a SyFy film which was originally broadcast on October 10th.

Ominous opens with recovering alcoholic Michael Young (played by Barry Watson) putting his car into reverse and promptly running over his six year-old son, Jacob (Gavin Lewis).  Michael and his wife, Rachel (Esme Bianco), rush Jacob to the hospital but it’s too late.  Jacob dies.  Later, as they’re driving back from the funeral, Rachel demands to know if Michael was drunk when he ran over Jacob.  Michael says that he wasn’t drinking and that it was just an accident and then, as if to prove that he really is the worst driver in the world, Michael promptly runs over a dog.

When they arrive home, a man is waiting for them.  Known only as The Stranger (and played, in properly sinister style, by Mark Lindsay Chapman), the man says that he can bring Jacob back to life.  All Michael and Rachel have to do is dig up their son and bring his body back to the house.  And then, to prove his point, the Stranger brings the dog back to life.

So, of course, Michael and Rachel go out to the cemetery and dig up Jacob.  They bring him back to the house.  The next morning, Jacob is suddenly alive.  Yay!  Of course, Jacob promptly re-kills the dog, which is our first clue that Jacob is not quite himself.

We then jump forward a few months.  The Youngs have moved to a new town and appear to be living as normal a life as you can when your six year-old son is demon-possessed hellspawn. (Actually, he’s the Antichrist and don’t even pretend like that was a spoiler.)  Michael fears his son, especially after Jacob has a seizure in church and causes a priest to burst into flames.  Rachel continues to make excuses for her son, even when he does stuff like summon a sudden dust storm that manages to kill everyone on a playground.

There’s a scene early on in the film in which Jacob asks his mother if they can get a cat.

“I don’t think so,” Rachel replies, “Daddy’s allergic.”

“What about when Daddy’s dead?” Jacob cheerfully  asks.

That scene pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Ominous.  This is an unapologetically over-the-top demon child film, one that doesn’t make much sense but which is never boring.  It’s easy to recognize which films are being ripped off — The Omen, The Visitor, The Birds — but the film is so shameless in its thievery that it’s easy to be forgiving.  Is Ominous a rip-off or an homage?  How about both?

Barry Watson actually does a pretty good job as a recovering alcoholic and his performance is reminiscent of some of Patrick Muldoon’s better work.  Mark Lindsay Chapman is properly intimidating as the Stranger.  Full of gore, melodrama, metaphysical posturing, and children with creepy demon eyes, Ominous is more entertaining than you might expect.

Adventures in Cleaning Out the DVR: Lavalantula (dir by Mike Mendez)


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The SyFy film Lavalantula opens in Los Angeles and we immediately know what that means.  If it’s a day of the week ending with a y, it means that Los Angeles is about to attacked by some sort of giant monster.  In this case, it’s due to a series of volcanic eruptions that lead to a swarm of gigantic, fire-breathing tarantulas being released into California.

Now, if Schwarzenegger was still governor of California, these spiders probably wouldn’t have been much of a problem.  But have you seen the current governor of California?  Seriously, I take one look at Jerry Brown and my first thought is that he’s not someone I would call if I needed someone to come over and kill a giant spider for me.  I just wouldn’t.  Sorry, Jerry.

(Incidentally, y’all love to make fun of people in Texas for loving guns but when was the last time we had a giant spider invasion get out of hand like the one in Lavalantula?)

When the spiders do show up and promptly start burning Los Angelenos alive, the police, the military, and the fire department all prove to be pretty much useless.  Fortunately, L.A. is also the home of the film industry and, as has always happened whenever America has faced a monster-related crisis, the unsung heroes of the movie industry are willing to step up and save the day.  Actor Colton West (Steve Guttenberg) may not know much about spiders.  And, as we’re told at the start of the film, it’s been a while since he had a hit movie.  But none of that matters.  All that matters is that, back in the day, Colton starred in enough action movies that he now has a unique set of skills that can be used to defeat giant, fire-breathing tarantulas.

Of course, while saving California, Colton also has to save his wife, Olivia (Nia Peeples) but fortunately, Olivia is totally capable of kicking ass on her own.  In fact, the entire film industry is shown to be capable of kicking ass, as Colton recruits the crew from his latest movie to help him save Los Angeles.

(Ian Ziering also pops up for a funny cameo.  He can’t help Colton save Los Angeles becase he’s too busy trying to save the rest of the country from flying sharks.  It’s a cute scene that works a lot better than you might think.)

Now, I have to admit that when I went to the DVR to track down and rewatch Lavalantula, I was shocked to discover that I didn’t record Lavalantula when it originally aired on July 25th!  Usually, I both watch and record but, in the case of Lavalantula, I just watched.  This review has been written from memory but that’s okay because Lavalantula‘s an extremely memorable film.  Much like director Mike Mendez’s previous giant monster film — the beloved Big Ass SpiderLavalantula is an enjoyably over-the-top B-movie that succeeds because, while it never takes itself too seriously, it does take itself just seriously enough to remain interesting.  It expertly walks the fine line between tribute and parody.  Regardless of how silly the film may get, the entire cast brings a lot of commitment to their roles and the end result is a genuinely fun movie.

One final sidenote: Apparently, this film was full of inside jokes about the Police Academy franchise.  Having never seen any of the Police Academy films, I have to admit that the majority of the references probably went right over my head.  I did, however, recognize Michael Winslow, the guy who does all the sound effects.  He was one of the heroic crew people and he did a damn good job protecting California.

In fact, they all did.

Thank you, Hollywood.

Adventures in Cleaning out the DVR: Dangerous Company (dir by Sheldon Larry)


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Continuing in my efforts to clean out the DVR (as well as post a review of every single film that premiere on Lifetime, LMN, or the SyFy network this year), I just watched Dangerous Company.  Dangerous Company originally aired on LMN on August 15th, 2015.

Alicia Leigh Willis plays Pauline, the CEO of Wendy Blue Fashion.  Pauline inherited the company from her mother, who, years earlier, died of dementia.  Pauline took care of her mother in her final days and still resents the fact that her sister, Deanna (Susan Slome), was not there to help.  Pauline also lives in fear that she will someday follow in her mother’s footsteps.

At the movie begins, it appears that Pauline’s fears may be coming true.  She is frequently forgetful and keeps losing her cell phone.  Her husband, Aaron (Rick Ravenello), has to frequently remind her what their nightly plans are.  Eventually, her assistant — Elizabeth (Melissa Marty) — confesses that she’s been covering up a lot of Pauline’s mistakes.  When Pauline starts to tell Elizabeth about her mother, Elizabeth reveals that Pauline has told her this story many times in the past.

Finally, when Pauline goes to see a doctor (David Alan Graf), she suddenly freaks out in the examining room and, when a man claiming to be her husband shows up to pick her up, the terrified Pauline claims that she does not know who he is.  Finally, she’s given a sedative and, when she wakes up, Aaron tells her that the man she didn’t recognize was him.

And, at first, both Aaron and Elizabeth seem to be so concerned and helpful but, as the movie progresses, you start to wonder about both of them.  They are both just a little bit too eager for Pauline to say in bed and remove herself from running the company.  Whenever Pauline says that she’s okay, Aaron replies with, “Your mother used to say that.”  And then, of course, there’s a controversial business proposal that will result in Wendy Blue Fashion shipping jobs overseas.  Aaron is all for it.  Pauline is opposed.

(WAY TO STAND UP FOR AMERICA, PAULINE!  USA! USA! USA!)

For the first hour or so, Dangerous Company keeps you guessing.  Is Pauline really suffering from dementia or is this all just an elaborate Gaslight-like plot?  Alicia Leigh Willis does a great job portraying Pauline’s fear and confusion and director Sheldon Larry keeps the viewers off-balance.  Of course, since this is a Lifetime movie, we shouldn’t be shocked to discover that it all actually is a plot to steal Pauline’s company but still, Dangerous Company is very good at doing what it does.

Incidentally, my favorite character was Elizabeth, the duplicitous administrative assistant.  I’ve always been of the opinion that all of us office administrators could secretly rule the country if we wanted to and I have to give full props to Elizabeth for proving me right!  You go, girl!

Lisa’s Editorial Corner: On Tornadoes, Rango, social media, and Charlie Sheen


Well, it had to happen but did it have to happen so soon?

So, here we are.  Just two weeks into doing Lisa’s Editorial corner and already, I’m worrying that I may have nothing to talk about.  Of course, some of that is because I’m a little bit preoccupied.  Somehow — don’t ask how unless you really want the details — I managed to sprain my foot on Saturday morning.  I stayed on the couch for the weekend but then, foolishly, I attempted to both work and dance on Monday.  So, right now, I am home, my foot hurts, and I’m having a hard time focusing on anything else.

(At the same time, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve sprained my foot and/or my ankle.  It sucks right now but I’ll be okay soon.  I’m taking off work on Tuesday, which means that I’ll get to make even more progress in cleaning out the DVR!)

Plus, as I write this at 1:30 in the morning, we are currently under tornado watch!  If a tornado does decide to show up, I am not looking to forward to having to hop my way into the downstairs coat closet.  They say that, if you don’t have a storm bunker like the one Michael Shannon installed in Take Shelter, the downstairs closet is the safest place to get in case of a tornado.  I have never understood why.

This is why I sometime hate social media.

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Since Monday is always my crazy day, I was not on twitter when the whole “Charlie Sheen Has HIV” story broke.  In fact, I didn’t know a thing about it until someone mentioned it in passing that night and, at that time, I was so busy trying not faint from the pain of my sprained foot that it really didn’t register with me.

So really, it wasn’t until I got home, took a handful of Vicodin, and logged onto twitter that I was really aware of what’s been going on with Sheen.  Apparently, this Tuesday (i.e., today), Sheen is going to be on the Today Show and is going to reveal whether or not he has HIV.  There’s something really ghoulish about how much some people are anticipating Charlie Sheen announcing that he is HIV positive.

It’s also sad that, judging from many of the comments on twitter, a lot of people don’t understand that being HIV positive does not mean that Charlie Sheen has AIDS.  Check out a few of the comments:

Keep in mind that I’m writing this at 1:33 in the morning and Charlie Sheen has yet to officially announce anything.  By the time this post is published and you read it, Sheen will probably have announced whatever it is that he’s going to announce but, for now, nobody knows anything.  There’s just speculation.  For all we know, Sheen is going to announce that he’s HIV negative or that he wants to be Donald Trump’s running mate.

In fact, the only thing we know for sure is that a lot of people seem to be positively gleeful about the possibility of Charlie Sheen having HIV.  I’ve never been a fan of Charlie Sheen’s and I found his whole “winning” thing to be more pathetic than anything else.  But it has always disturbed me that his extremely self-destructive behavior has always been treated as a source of entertainment.  What’s particularly offensive is that many of the same people who loved to watch crazy old Charlie talk about “tiger blood,” are now gloating about how Sheen’s “lifestyle” has caught up with him.  It was a lifestyle that was largely dependent upon and made possible by American’s own twisted love/hate relationship with celebrity.

The blogger known as Jedadiah Leland and I have often debated whether or not social media is worth all the trouble.  Usually, I think I can make a pretty good case that twitter does enough good that it makes all the other bullshit worth it.  But, when I see thousands of strangers competing to come up with the best joke about someone being HIV-positive, I start to think that he may have a point.

And since I’ve just been critical of twitter, I’ll wrap this up with a tweet from my sister:

The best laid plans of Lisa…

Before I got caught up writing about Charlie Sheen, I was going to devote a bit of a space to talking about how much I hate it when people show up late for a movie.  I mean, seriously — we all know that, if a movie is listed as starting at 7:00, the movie isn’t really going to start until 7:20.  That’s a 20 minute grace period right there and there’s really no excuse for arriving at the theater after that grace period has ended.  If you’re going to be more than 20 minutes late, either go to a different showing or go back home.  But for God’s sake, don’t wander into the theater and go, “Oh, the movie’s started,” and then stumble around looking for a seat in the dark.

To be honest, I’d rather be stuck in a theater with a screaming baby than have to deal with people showing up 30 minutes late for the movie.

As long as we’re here, check this out!

The evil clown who pops up to sing ‘Get Yourself High‘ in the Chemical Brothers’ live show has his own Facebook page.  I am so happy right now!  Unfortunately, there’s not much information on the page about the clown but I liked it anyway.  You never know when the clown might decide to open up about his hopes and dreams.

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FLASHBACK TIME!

You know what you should find time to do today?  You should take a trip into the past and read the very first review that Leonard Wilson ever wrote for this site.  I present to you … Leonard’s 2o11 review of Rango!

One Final Thought…

At any given time, I usually have about a week’s worth of blog posts scheduled to publish on the various sites that I write for.  So, if I died tomorrow, my writing would actually outlive me.  Think about it — I could be dead and still giving you my opinion.  And if I am dead and I tell you to see a movie, you better see it!

Ghost Critic

Have a great week!