4 Shots From 4 Films: The Touch of Her Flesh, Nightbirds, Dream No Evil, Last House On Dead End Street


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.

After spending the previous week watching and reviewing 19 Lifetime films, this edition of 4 Shots From 4 Films is my return to the grindhouse.

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Touch of Her Flesh (1967, directed by Michael Findlay)

The Touch of Her Flesh (1967, directed by Michael Findlay)

Nightbirds (1969, directed by Andy Milligan)

Nightbirds (1969, directed by Andy Milligan)

Dream No Evil (1970, directed by John Hayes)

Dream No Evil (1970, directed by John Hayes)

Last House on Dead End Street (1977, directed by Roger Watkins)

Last House on Dead End Street (1977, directed by Roger Watkins)

Hallmark Review: The Nine Lives Of Christmas (2014, dir. Mark Jean)


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Gotta admit, I was worried when I started this movie up. No, not because Mark Jean directed it. I was worried because it was written by Nancey Silvers. Nancey Silvers is the one who brought us the scripts for A Country Wedding and The Color Of Rain. But, it turned out to be decent.

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The movie opens up and we meet Zachary Stone played by Brandon Routh. Yep, the abandoned 2006 Superman himself. The firehouse he works at is putting together one of those hunk calendar things. Even the photographer hits on him.

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Now we meet Marilee White (Kimberly Sustad). She’s a veterinarian student and works at a pet store.

He finds a cat named Ambrose. She is a cat lover herself, but her landlady has a strict no pet policy so she has to hide it. Although we don’t see the bar graph for it like we did in The Wish List, it does look like there’s a high probability she’s going to eat a whole tub of ice cream.

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They meet at a grocery store and either I’m going crazy and seeing it everywhere at this point, or that is the boom mic popping in from the top of the frame.

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There honestly isn’t much to this story. I mean there is some product placement like this.

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They make sure you get a good look at that Folgers coffee. There’s also this rather unfortunate line.

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Finally, trying to figure out where this movie is supposed to take place and this shot not helping matters.

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Some shots will say Portland and others will say Jamestown. Luckily, the filmmakers left in this shot…

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in case we really wanted to know this was shot in Fort Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Or at least that one scene was done there.

Otherwise, what you have here is a straightforward, but well acted enough standard Hallmark romance. Just add cats. I mean he’s dating a girl who’s a stuck up female dog. She’s tossed aside pretty quickly. Marilee’s friend does put her on a dating site, but they don’t do anything with that. They keep spending time together, so do their cats, and eventually they end up together.

Well, there is this with the dating site.

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Uh, doesn’t that mean she has selected she is a man? I mean given there is no other part to that profile page that indicates her gender and it is above the “Looking for a:” box.

There’s really only one problem I had. This film kind of ends, but still has running time left. She hangs up some mistletoe hoping for a kiss from him. He cleverly pretends to not see it for a bit, then swoops in and kisses her. They are already living together at this point. The movie should end there, but it doesn’t. Instead, she mistakenly thinks he went out with some blonde, they’re apart for a bit, and then they find each other again. It should have ended on the kiss, whether that meant stopping the film where it occurred or moving that scene later into the film. It’s an unnecessary last minute speed bump.

That’s a minor complaint. There isn’t anything special here, but I liked the two leads and believed they actually liked each other. This movie even did the moving focus from one actor to another pretty much right. You’d think that is a given, but not in Hallmark movies. Sometimes they move the focus too slow and it gives you time to dwell on the change when there’s no reason to. This movie doesn’t do that.

Sorry there isn’t more to say. At least we can leave it on a shot that makes Brandon Routh look like he’s a psycho with a sign that says “Merry Christmas” behind him!

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Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 92010 Story (dir by Vanessa Parise) and The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story (dir by Mark Griffiths)


Well, it’s finally done!  A week ago, I started the process of cleaning out my DVR.  I’ve lost track of how many movies that I have watched and reviewed.  And now, finally, I can say that I have finally reached a stopping point.  When I started this process, I only had 5 hours of space left on my DVR.  I now have 48 hours of space.

Keep Calm Because Lisa Rocks

I’m reviewing my final two “DVR” films in one post because they really do go together.  But before I get to the review, here’s a little background.  Lifetime now has it’s very own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  True, it hasn’t proven as popular as the MCU nor have any of the films been as critically acclaimed as Guardians of the Galaxy or the first Avengers.  But, all the same, these four Lifetime films share a common continuity.  Call it the Lifetime Cinematic Universe.  LCU for short.

I’m talking, of course, about the Unauthorized films.  In these films, Lifetime takes us behind the scenes of an iconic old television show.  The first of these films was the absolutely terrible The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story.  Then, earlier this year, we got the not-terrible-but-extremely-forgettable Unauthorized Full House Story.  Finally, on October 3rd and the 9th, Lifetime broadcast the latest two entries in the LCU — The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story and The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story.

I was on vacation when both of those films were originally broadcast but, fortunately, my sister had the foresight to set the DVR to record both of them!  YAY!

(Seriously, my sister’s the best.)

Unauthorized Beverly Hills

Of the two films, The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 film was definitely the best.  In fact, it’s definitely the best of the LCU films to be released so far.  The film starts with a teenage Tori Spelling (played by Abby Ross, who is a lot prettier than the real Tori Spelling will ever be) convincing her father, producer Aaron Spelling (Dan Castellenata), to take a chance on a TV show about high school students.  Spelling recruits Darren Starr (Adam Korson) to run the show and together they cast a group of hopeful performers and fight with the nervous TV execs who worry about the slightest bit of controversy.

They also have to deal with lead actress Shannen Doherty (Samantha Munro), who proves herself to be as difficult as she is talented.  Whereas the Saved By The Bell and Full House films suffered because of a lack of behind-the-scenes drama, The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 film is all about conflict.  From the minute that we first see Shannen, she’s making sure that everyone knows that she’s the star.  And yet, despite that, Shannen Doherty remains a compelling and sympathetic character.  Samantha Munro (who played Anya on my beloved Degrassi) gives a wonderfully complex performance.  When she eventually ends up trying to beat up Jennie Garth (Abbie Cobb, who also appeared on the 90210 reboot), it’s more than just a cat fight.  It’s Shannen declaring that she’s a star and she’s not going to let anyone push her to the side.  And, even if Jennie hasn’t really done anything to deserve being called out, the film ultimately makes the case that Shannen, alone out of the cast, was the one who understood how Hollywood actually worked.  Shannen’s a fighter because she knows the only other option is to be a victim.

Director Vanessa Parise does a good job keeping the action moving and giving us a glimpse of what it’s suddenly like to be world-famous.  Some of the film’s best sequences are just the camera tracking through the studio, giving us a look of each star in his or her dressing room and providing a glimpse into the different personalities who make up the show’s ensemble.  As opposed to the previous Unauthorized films, you finish the Beverly Hills 90210 Story feeling that it was a story worth telling.

One final note — Alyssa Lynch, who played Tiffani-Amber Thiessen in The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell, shows up playing the same role in Unauthorized 90210.  It’s a nice nod to continuity.

The Unauthorized Melrose

The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story picks up where Beverly Hills 90210 ends.  Darren Starr (Korson again) decides that he wants to do a show about people in their 20s.  Aaron Spelling (Castellenata, again) agrees to produce.  Once again, we get a lot of scenes of nervous network executives trying to tell Starr and Spelling what they can and can not do on television.

There’s a great scene in Unauthorized Melorse Place in which Heather Locklear  (Ciara Hanna) strolls out on the soundstage, smirks, and says, “Did anyone order a bitch?”  It’s a great line (and one that I’ve been using ever since I first saw the commercials for Unauthorized Melrose) but, unfortunately, Locklear’s just talking about her character.  Whereas Unauthorized 90210 was all about conflict, Unauthorized Melrose seems to be about how well people get along behind the scenes.

True, there’s a few scenes where the actresses compete for the spotlight and there are hints of jealousy among the cast.  Actor Doug Savant (Joseph John Coleman) gets upset because the network won’t let his gay character have a substantial storyline.  Otherwise, there doesn’t appear to have been much drama behind the scenes at Melrose Place.  That’s a good thing for the people who worked on the show but it doesn’t exactly make for a very compelling unauthorized story.

Along with the characters of Darren Starr and the Spelling family, both the Unauthorized Beverly Hills Story and the Unauthorized Melrose Place Story have one other thing in common, a shared joke.  Both films feature actors talking about losing a role to Brad Pitt and someone else replying with, “Who?”  It’s kind of an obvious joke but, again, I always appreciate continuity.

Keep Calm and Love Lisa

And that’s it!  With these two reviews, I have now not only cleaned out my DVR but I have reviewed every single original film that has appeared, in the year so far, on both the Lifetime network and SyFy!  Thank you for your indulgence and I now return you to regularly scheduled programming…

 

Myths and Legends: John Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (20th Century Fox 1946)


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“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”, says the newspaperman in John Ford’s 1962 THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE. The facts surrounding the famous O.K. Corral shootout are given a legendary backstory by screenwriters Samuel G. Engel and Winston Miller in MY DARLING CLEMENTINE. It may be historically inaccurate, but Ford’s painterly eye (aided by DP Joe MacDonald) elevate this low-key Western to high art. Every frame is a portrait, a Frederic Remington or N.C. Wyeth brought to life in glorious black-and-white.

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In Ford’s version of the tale, Wyatt Earp and his brothers are driving cattle to California. Wyatt meets up on the trail with Old Man Clanton, who offers to buy the herd. Wyatt turns him down, but Clanton doesn’t give up easily. Wyatt and brothers Morgan and Virgil go into the “wide open town” of Tombstone for an evening of relaxation, while baby brother James stays to tend the herd. When…

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Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: A Mother Betrayed (dir by Michael Feifer)


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After I finished up my review of Seeds of Yesterdayit was time to rewatch and review A Mother Betrayed.  Last Sunday, A Mother Betrayed premiered on Lifetime.  I watched it and I had a lot of fun live-tweeting it.  Seriously, it’s a fun movie.

The plot may, at first, sound similar to Dangerous Company but A Mother Betrayed quickly establishes it own nicely berserk identity.  When we first meet Monica (Lynn Collins) and Jonathan (David Paetku), they’re standing on the beach and declaring their love for each other.  Since this is a Lifetime movie, we know that early declarations of undying love will only lead to tragedy.  Sure enough, Monica and Jonathan are soon in a car accident.  Monica, who was pregnant at the time, survives.  Jonathan does not.

Just forward 3 years and Monica is now a single mother who is obsessed with her job (she’s in charge of an architectural firm) and her daughter, Maddy (Ariella and Isabella Nurkovic).  At a party, her assistant, Lisa (Bree Williamson) introduces her to a single man named Kevin (Adam Kaufman).  Within a few minutes of meeting, Monica and Kevin are in love.  Ignoring the concerns of her mother (Joanna Cassidy), Monica marries Kevin.  Kevin adopts Maddy and appears to be both the perfect father and the perfect husband.

But is he!?

Well, the name of the movie is A Mother Betrayed

It turns out that Kevin has plans of his own and Lisa, the perfect assistant, is a part of them.  Of course, what’s interesting is that Maddy is a part of Kevin’s scheme as well.  No, Maddy is not conspiring against her mother.  However, it quickly becomes obvious that Kevin really does love Maddy and he actually is a pretty good father.  He wants to take over Monica’s business because he’s greedy but he wants custody of Maddy because he appears to genuinely love her.  That plot development brings an unexpected amount of depth to this Lifetime movie.

(And other plot development that I, speaking as an administrative assistant who happens to be named Lisa, appreciated was that the movie’s Lisa actually made a pretty good point when she eventually taunted Monica by pointing out that Lisa was doing a better job running the company than Monica ever did.  Up to that point, everything that we had seen in the movie seemed to indicate that Lisa was correct.  Between Kevin’s parenting and Lisa’s efficiency, the villains of A Mother Betrayed were nicely nuanced.)

Much as in Dangerous Company, Monica soon finds herself suffering from terrible headaches, forgetfulness, and even hallucinations.  Kevin arranges for Monica to be committed because, in the tradition of all paranoia thrillers, literally everyone appears to be in on the plot — even the doctors!

However, Monica is not alone!  She starts to see Jonathan.  Is she hallucinating or has his spirit really returned to help her?

A Mother Betrayed was a lot of fun and I recommend it to everyone who wants to watch an enjoyably over-the-top Lifetime melodrama.  The entire cast does a pretty good job, with Adam Kaufman even managing to generate some sympathy for the duplicitous Kevin.  (Seriously, Kevin is so good with Maddy!)

Finally, on a strictly personal note, there’s no way that I couldn’t appreciate a film that features an administrative assistant named Lisa.  Finally, a character to which I could relate!

Seriously though, Lifetime replays their movies constantly.  A Mother Betrayed is one to keep an eye out for.

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: Seeds of Yesterday (dir by Shawn Ku)


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For this past week, I’ve both been dealing with a sprained foot (and it’s doing much better, thank you very much) and I’ve been cleaning out my DVR.  As I woke up this morning, I realized that I only had four more movies left in the DVR that I needed to watch and review.  So, I decided to jump right into things and I finally watch Seeds of Yesterday.

Seeds of Yesterday serves as a sequel to Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind, and If There Be Thorns.  Like those three previous films, Seeds of Yesterday is based on a novel by V.C. Andrews and premiered on the Lifetime network.  Seeds of Yesterday was originally broadcast on April 12th and, considering how much I enjoyed Flowers and Thorns, I’m not sure why I missed Seeds.  Maybe drugs were involved, who knows?

Anyway, Seeds of the Yesterday continues the story of the Dollangangers, the family that simply cannot stop literally and figuratively fucking each other.  As the film opens, 13 years have passed since the end of If There Be Thorns.  Bart (James Maslow) is now a 25 year-old religious fanatic.  Since learning, in Thorns, that his parents were actually brother-and-sister, Bart wants nothing to do with them.  He has even changed his last name to Foxworth, in honor of his evil great-grandfather, Malcolm.  Bart has rebuilt Foxworth Hall and, on the occasion of his birthday, he invites his estranged family to come visit him.

Jory (Anthony Konechy) is now a ballet star and is married to an emotionally fragile dancer named Melodie (Leah Gibson).  The parents, Chris (Jason Lewis) and Cathy (Rachel Carpani), have finally come to peace with the fact that they are also brother and sister.  And then there’s adopted daughter Cindy (Sammi Hanratty), who Bart considers to be sinful even while he lusts after her.  When all of these people arrive at Foxworth Hall, they are excited to learn that Melodie is pregnant.

Well, everyone’s excited except for Bart.  Bart not only lusts after his stepsister but also after his sister-in-law.  Bart does a lot of lusting in general.

For some reason, Bart has demanded that Jory and Melodie perform a dance from Samson and Delilah at his birthday party.  However, since Melodie is pregnant, she can’t dance.  (“You’re not even showing!” Bart snaps, angrily.)  Instead, Cindy says that she’ll be Bart’s dance partner and, on the night of the performance, a huge piece of scenery falls on Bart and severs his spine.  Bart will never dance, walk, or make love again…

So now, Melodie is depressed and can’t bring herself to even visit Jory in the hospital.  She discovers that Jory will never be able to have sex again so, instead, she and Bart start fucking.  Bart, however, is still lusting after Cindy and complaining that everyone around him is a sinner…

And it goes on like that for about 90 minutes and then the movie’s over.

On a strictly personal level, I enjoyed Seeds of Yesterday because it had a lot of sex, a lot of overacting, a lot of gorgeous clothes, some dancing, and a big mansion.  But, for the most part, Seeds of Yesterday is a total mess that never really makes much sense.  I have not read the original novel but just taking a quick look at its Wikipedia page reveals that a lot of plot and quite a few characters were left out of the adaptation.  Obviously, there’s only so much you can put into an 88 minute movie but, in the end, Seeds of Yesterday still fills rushed and overly busy.  All the characters are so busy scheming schemes and having melodramatic confrontations that you never really get any sort of emotional insight into them.  All in all, Seeds of Yesterday is a disappointing end to fairly entertaining series of films.

That said, we should give praise to James Maslow.  From the minute that Bart shows up, it’s obvious that he’s batshit insane and, for lack of a better term, Maslow “goes there.”  His performance is so enjoyably melodramatic (and, just so there’s no understanding, perfectly appropriate for the material that he’s been given to work with) that he elevates the entire film.

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: A Mother’s Instinct (dir by Jason Bourque)


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After I finished watching and reviewing Night of the Wild, it was time to continue cleaning out my DVR by watching A Mother’s Instinct.  A Mother’s Instinct premiered on Lifetime on November 9th.  On that night, I was out celebrating my upcoming birthday with my family.  Fortunately, before I left, I remembered to set the DVR to record A Mother’s Instinct.

Like many Lifetime films, A Mother’s Instinct takes place in the suburbs.  It’s the type of place that is perfect on the surface but the digger you deep, the more ugliness you discover.  It’s the type of place where happy families are never quite as happy as they seem.  It’s the type of place where danger lurks in the shadows, waiting for the chance to make itself known.  It’s the type of place where the pervert across the street takes pictures of his neighbor undressing in front of her bedroom window.  It’s the type of place where pets are kidnapped and killed and left on a driveway as a threat.

It’s also the home of the Bettners, mother Nora (Josie Bissett), teenage daughter Scarlett (Sarah Grey, who had a similar role in director Jason Bourque’s earlier Lifetime film, The Wrong Girl), and youngest child, Gus (Spencer Drever).  When Gus disappears, Nora and Sarah immediately suspect that he’s been kidnapped by Seth Durand (Richard Harmon).  Seth and his mother have just moved in across the street.  Before Gus vanished, Seth was spying on and harassing Scarlett.  After Gus vanishes, Seth taunts the Bettners.  Or, at the very least, it seems that he does.  Is Seth guilty or is he just a jerk?  This is the question that rests at the heart of A Mother’s Instinct.

Nora’s instinct is that Seth is guilty but despite her belief, the police have no proof that Seth kidnapped Gus.  So, with Scarlett’s help, Nora abducts Seth and, after stripping him down to his underwear, locks him in a cage and proceeds to torture and interrogate him.  Soon, that cage becomes Nora’s private version of Gitmo, with Seth as her helpless prisoner.  The more that Seth claims to be innocent, the more extreme Nora’s methods become.  Eventually, even Scarlett starts to worry that they’re going too far…

But are they?  Up until the final 30 minutes of the film (at which point something happens that pretty much answers all of our questions), we’re never quite sure whether Seth is innocent or if he’s guilty.  Our natural instinct is to assume that he must be guilty because the kid is such a creep.  But, as Nora’s methods get more and more extreme, we’re left to wonder if she’s the one making the mistake.  Has she now crossed the lines and become the dangerous one?  Or is she just doing what needs to be done to save her family?  That sense of moral ambiguity is what sets A Mother’s Instinct apart from other abduction-theme Lifetime movie.

Though the plot is similar to 2013’s Prisoners, A Mother’s Instinct manages to establish an identity of its own.  It’s an intense film that will keep you guessing about whether Seth is guilty or innocent.  Richard Harmon gives an excellent performance as the creepy Seth, making the viewers feel both sympathy and revulsion towards the character.  Josie Bissett is perfectly intense as the determined mother while Sarah Grey does a good job of capturing both Scarlett’s anger and her doubts.  A Mother’s Instinct is a good and intense Lifetime movie, the type that will keep you guessing until the end.