Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #11: Cavalcade (dir by Frank Lloyd)


So, I’ve been cleaning out the DVR for the past week.  Fortunately, I’m going to be off work for this upcoming week, which should give me a lot of extra film-watching time.  That’s a good thing because I’ve got 36 movies that I’ve recorded on the DVR since Thursday and, over the past seven days, I’ve only watched 13 of them!  That’s 23 movies to go and I hope to be finished by the end of the next week.

The 11th film that I found on my DVR was the 1933 film, Cavalcade.  I recorded it off of FXM on April 3rd.

The main reason that I recorded Cavalcade was because it was the 6th film to win the Oscar for Best Picture.  Now, I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much from Cavalcade.  It’s a film that many Oscar historians tend to list as being one of the lesser best picture winners.  Cavalcade is often unfavorably compared to the films that it beat — movies like I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, A Farewell To Arms, Little Women, and The Private Life of Henry VIII.  Cavalcade was the first British to ever win the Best Picture and its victory is often cited as the beginning of the Academy’s love affair with British productions.

And really, Cavalcade couldn’t be more British if it tried.  Based on a play by Noel Coward, Cavalcade follows two families through several decades in British history.  One family is wealthy and is anchored by a patriarch who is knighted in the Boer War.  The other family is lower middle class, anchored by a patriarch who starts out as a butler but who eventually manages to open up his own pub.  Through the eyes of these two families, we view what, in the 1930s, was recent British history.

For modern viewers, it may be helpful to watch Cavalcade while consulting Wikipedia.  For instance, the film starts with the two father figures preparing to leave to fight in the Boer War and I’m sorry to admit that I really wasn’t totally sure what that was.  I had to look it up in order to discover that it was a war that the British fought in South Africa.

But you know what?  That’s not really a complaint.  I may not have known what the Boer War was before I started the film but that had changed by the time that I finished watching Cavalcade.  Several times, I’ve mentioned on this blog how much I love history but watching Cavalcade made me realize that I still have more to learn.  Even more importantly, it encouragds me to learn.  That’s always a good thing.

Certain other historical events were more familiar.  As soon as I saw the title card announcing that the date was 1914, I knew that I would soon be seeing a World War I montage.  And, as terrible as World War I was (though, naturally, the film refers to it as being “the Great War,” and, for a few moments, I considered the fact that there was a time when nobody thought there would ever be a second world war), I was actually kind of happy for the montage because it got the characters out of the drawing room and out of the pub.  Cavalcade is a very stagey film.  Though there are a few attempts to open up the action, you’re always very aware that you’re essentially watching a filmed play.

Of course, the film’s best historic moment comes when a recently married couple goes on their honeymoon.  We see them standing on the deck of a cruise ship, talking about how much they love each other and how wonderful life will be.  They then step to the side and we see the name of the ship: RMS Titanic.

In many ways, those dismissive Oscar historians are correct about Cavalcade.  It’s stagey and it’s old-fashioned and some of the performances are better than others.  But, dammit, I liked Cavalcade.  As the upper class couple, Diana Wynyward and Clive Brook made for a likable couple and they got to exchange some sweet-natured dialogue at the beginning and the end of the film.   Add to that, it was a film about history and I love history.

Cavalcade is hardly a perfect film and it probably didn’t deserve to win best picture.  But it’s still better than its reputation suggests.

Music Video of the Day: Tarzan Boy by Baltimora (1985, dir. ???)

Why Tarzan Boy you might be asking yourself. Sure it’s fun. Sure it’s catchy. But as soon as it’s over you forget about it. That’s the point. At the time of writing this, the music video has been on YouTube since November 2nd, 2005. That’s only about 7 months after the very first YouTube video was uploaded for a current total of about 10 years. Also, it kind of fits to end LGBT month. So, enjoy this catchy fun Andy Warhol inspired music video of the 1980s.

Cleaning out the DVR, Again #10: Get Out Alive (dir by George Erschbamer)


After I finished up with The Perfect Daughter, it was time to continue cleaning out the DVR by watching Get Out Alive.  Get Out Alive originally aired on March 27th on the Lifetime Movie Network and it is quite possible the silliest movie that I’ve ever seen on Lifetime.

Now, that’s not necessarily meant as a complaint.  Part of the appeal of the movies that premiere on Lifetime and LMN is often the very fact that they are so silly and melodramatic.  Get Out Alive is a film that not only embraces the melodrama but practically drapes itself in it.  And while the naysayers may complain that Get Out Alive doesn’t make much sense, they’ll be missing the point.  It’s not about making sense.  It’s about being entertaining.

Or, at the very least, memorable.

Or, at the very, very least, it’s about going totally batshit crazy during the second half of the movie.  Get Out Alive started slow.  For the first hour, I was unimpressed.  But then it went totally batshit crazy during the second hour and I said to myself, “This is why we watch Lifetime movies!”

Get Out Alive tells the story of a young married couple.  On the outside, they look perfect.  But, once you start to dig and actually look under the surface, you discover that they are on the verge of breaking up.  Lucy (Beverely Mitchell) is organized and practical to a fault.  She is not spontaneous.  She does not take risks.  For some reason, she wears absolutely no makeup, which she really could have used in a few scenes.  (She also could have benefited from doing something with her hair.)  Meanwhile, husband Greg (Ryan Williams) is all about taking risks and living life to the fullest.   Their marriage has become so strained that Greg was even briefly tempted to cheat.

Well, what better way to fix things than to go to a marriage retreat?  They’re invited by another couple, both of whom swear that the retreat will work miracles.  And, at first, everything seems fine.  The retreat is located in a beautiful wilderness.  The cabins are nice.  There’s an older, friendly couple who immediately befriend Lucy.  Sure, the guy in charge (played by Vincent Gale) is a little creepy but who are we to judge, eh?

(Did I mention that, like most good Lifetime films, Get Out Alive is a Canadian production?)

However, there are a few things that make Lucy suspicious.  For instance, there are guards wandering all over the compound.  The old couple vanishes.  At one point, Lucy tumbles down a hill.  Greg suggests that maybe she just tripped but Lucy is convinced that she was pushed!

So, what’s happening here?  Well, as I watched Get Out Alive, I came up with two theories.

My first theory is that the whole thing was just a big trick to make Lucy think that she was in danger.  Seeing Lucy frightened would cause Greg to realize how much he loved his wife and then the movie would end with the guy in charge emerging and revealing the hoax.  “You saved our marriage!” Greg would happily proclaim.

That was one theory.  My other theory was that the retreat was actually an elaborate ruse to steal Lucy and Greg’s internal organs and sell them to the highest bidder.

Which theory was right?  You’ll have to watch the movie to find out!  I’m sure it’ll show up on Lifetime again at some point in the near future.  Lifetime is pretty good about continually rerunning their movies.

But anyway, my point is that Get Out Alive is totally ludicrous and kind of silly but that’s kind of the film’s charm.  It makes so little sense and takes place so far outside of the realm of probability that it becomes oddly fascinating.  Add to that, the film’s title doubles as good advice.

You should always get out alive!

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #9: The Perfect Daughter (dir by Brian Herzlinger)


After I finished watching Anne of the Thousand Days, the next film on my DVR was The Perfect Daughter.  The Perfect Daughter originally aired on March 26th on Lifetime.  According to the imdb, it was originally called The Carpenter’s Daughter but I imagine Lifetime changed the title so that it could fit in with films like The Perfect Teacher.

(Add to that, The Carpenter’s Daughter sounds like it should be another one of those films where Tom Hanks argues that Jesus survived the crucifixion and ran off with the Magdalene.)

Anyway, the perfect daughter of the title is Natalie Parish (Sadie Calvano).  Natalie seems to have a great future in front of her.  She’s pretty, she’s smart, and she’s responsible.  She has the grades to get into the Ivy League college of her choice.  On top of all that, despite being shy, she has just been elected student council president!

Oh sure, not everything is perfect for Natalie.  She doesn’t have a boyfriend.  She’s frequently insecure.  She idolizes a mother that she’s never met and her father, Martin (Brady Smith), may be a hunky blue-collar type of guy but he’s also extremely over protective.  He worries that Natalie will grow up to be like her mother, who apparently was not the saint that Natalie believes her to be.

Martin grows even more concerned when, while driving home one night, he comes across his daughter in the middle of the road.  She went to a party, she got drunk, and she had sex with popular jock Sam Cahill (Reiley McClendon)!  Martin freaks out and takes his daughter to the hospital, causing her nonstop embarrassment at school.  He also demands that Sam be arrested for raping his daughter.

Of course, what Martin is overlooking is that Sam did not rape his daughter.  As Natalie tells him, the sex was consensual.  Martin is shocked but he’ll be even more shocked when Natalie reveals that she’s pregnant.

Complicating matters is that Martin is working for Sam’s father, the snobbish Bruce Cahill (Parker Stevenson).  The film also suggests that Martin may be in love with Bruce’s wife, Julie (Meredith Salenger).

What I was wondering, as I watched the film, is why Natalie was chasing after Sam when Martin’s business partner, Nick (Johann Urb), was so much hotter.  And he was also single!  Seriously, Sam was a nice guy and everything but Nick epitomized this sort of sweaty, manly glory, the type of sexy that otherwise seems to be limited to the guys that you see in pickup truck commercials.

ANYWAY — The Perfect Daughter may sound like a typical Lifetime film but actually, it’s not.  Though there is a little bit of melodrama towards the end, The Perfect Daughter is more of a character study of an overprotective father struggling to accept that his daughter is growing up.  The story has a bit more nuance than the typical Lifetime story but, at the same time, the decision to tone down the melodrama comes at a cost.  The Perfect Daughter is a well-acted and intelligent film but it’s not a particularly fun movie.

In the end, it’s okay but it’s no Perfect Teacher.

Late Night Cable Movie Review: Wicked Deeds (2016, dir. Seth Kieffer)


Wicked Deeds is much like Carnal Wishes (2015) in that it takes a familiar film noir and/or noirish elements and adds explicit sex. However, unlike Carnal Wishes, it screws up in my opinion. Also, I doubt that my review of Wicked Deeds will end up being a part of a political scandal like it was when Ted Cruz pulled that attack ad of his. She didn’t even have a sex scene in the movie, but only made a cameo appearance at the end of the film. That didn’t stop the law firm Rick Santorum once worked for from paying a visit to my review.


I’m not really surprised that somebody at K&L Gates looked at my review. What I am surprised at is that I didn’t do any hacking to get that image. I was looking at our site’s stat section when I saw a weird URL so I clicked on it. What should have just been an internal network message from some sort of edge router to the person coming to my review from a computer at the firm was actually at a publicly accessible URL. I’ve seen this one other time on another one of my late night cable reviews. I don’t know why ScanSafe thought this was a good idea.

I also don’t know why the filmmakers of Wicked Deeds thought it was a good idea to take an otherwise decent porno noir and extend the sex scenes so long that any pacing is broken. At least they were kind enough to give me a title card that I didn’t have to black box in any way.

The movie begins like slasher movies do. Except instead of someone getting killed, two people have sex. The two people are a married couple. She is named Kira (Anna Morna). Luckily, we are getting An Erotic Tale of Ms. Dracula (2014) Anna Morna rather than Lolita from Interstellar Space (2014) Anna Morna. The husband is Roy (Chad White). He too was in both An Erotic Tale of Ms. Dracula and Lolita from Interstellar Space. You may remember him as playing Van Helsing. I will give the sex scenes in this movie one thing. They tend to be more intimate and erotic, then the usual stuff you see. That’s why I don’t mind this opening sex scene so much, but them reusing the length of this scene for all of them, becomes a problem. This sex scene should have been the longest to establish intimacy between the married couple, while the later sex scenes should have gotten shorter and shorter to go along with the building of suspense in the film.


Something else to mention here is that this is another one of these that was shot by Lex Lynne Smith. So, no matter what, it is well shot for these movies. Usually that’s something you say almost as an insult to a film, but after seeing some of these shot on video sex late night cable movies like Monster of the Nudist Colony (2013), I mean it genuinely.

After they are finished, we get a scene almost like the one from Carnal Wishes. At the end of the married couple’s sex scene he just got up and left for a late night meeting. Here, we find out that he is going out of town to do some survey work. She kind of wants to come along, but he tells her that they both know she doesn’t like the jungle heat. She brings up that the hotel probably has a nice spa so that he has an excuse to bring up that he finally heard back from the handyman who is going to fix their spa. It’s not only part of the setup for the film, but also an obvious reference to the stereotype that all porn begins with a woman inviting over a pizza deliveryman for sex. She also mentions that she would feel more comfortable if she had a gun in the house also as a setup for something later in the film. He says absolutely not, and that having guns in the house means it’s just an accident waiting to happen. Funny how some these porno films seem to have more progressive politics than a lot of mainstream cinema.


Anyways, you can see that there is a gun in the house. It’s in his night table, but even having watched the whole film, I still don’t know if it was a gun he or she was keeping in secret. She wakes up to find that not only has her husband left a rose on his pillow for her, but the handyman named Derrick (Ryan McLane) has arrived. You may remember Ryan McLane as the toughest scientist to convert in Vixens from Venus (2016).


She goes back inside the house and receives a mysterious phone call asking her who the killer was in the first Friday the 13th movie. That, or something about telling her that her husband needs to stay out of Mexico. She tries to get in touch with him, but no such luck. She calls her sister-in-law Rose (Chanel Preston). She comes over to try and calm her down. I don’t know where you might know Chanel Preston from, but she did play Marilyn Chambers in Night at the Erotic Museum (2015). That reminds me that I will have to get around to reviewing Behind the Green Door (1972). Not because it was a landmark film of the genre, but because an early childhood friend of mine was the daughter of parents who managed the Mitchell brother’s empire. Neither of us was told by our parents till we were older.

Kira goes to take a shower or something and comes back to find this.


It’s another joke about the whole pizza deliveryman cliche. This is also where the film starts to get strange because Kira talks with her sister shortly afterwards and she denies it ever happened. At this point, Kira just chalks it up to her sister being embarrassed to have hooked up with a handyman she has never met before. But the weirdness doesn’t stop here. It only grows. I think it’s safe to say that the film is going for the Gaslight (1944) type thing here. It’s not really a spoiler because I am going to explain the whole thing anyways.

After talking with her sister, Kira lies down and appears to go to sleep. Then we are treated to a sex scene between her and the handyman. Interestingly, she wakes up suddenly from it in her bed rather than on the couch where she was lying down before the scene started or at the pool where the scene occurred. It goes without saying that she still can’t reach her husband.

Sis continues to try and calm her down, which is precisely why she invites her friend Tracy over so that actress Silvia Saige can get her fifth acting credit on IMDb. Once again, it’s a sex scene that goes on way too long. It’s there because it’s another thing that Kira needs to witness to further push her into a perceived insanity when everyone acts like it didn’t happen.


Even the pictures/video she takes with her not-iPhone will end up magically disappearing later on. After that scene finally ends, we get a reappearance of Mister New Jersey Show Me State from Scared Topless (2015). That being Billy Chappell making an appearance as another handyman there to fix the spa. He even has a text that he claims was sent by Kira to him.


Kira finds that the pictures are missing and everyone denies anything she has seen. She goes up to bed, which apparently means the couch where her husband appears out of nowhere.


The scene of course goes on too long again. The next morning she finds the rose on his pillow, but when she gets Roy on the phone he says he’s still in Mexico. Kira’s sister is very concerned and brings in a doctor played by Robert Baldwin.


It’s not likely, but you may have seen Baldwin in something like the Fred Olen Ray film Illicit Dreams 2 (1998). As you can see, he is very concerned for Kira. Again, she goes to sleep and again, she is visited for another sexual encounter. This time it’s the original handyman.


This is when things really start to spin out of control. I say that because even my iPad decided this scene needed a Dutch tilt.


Kira confronts the handyman about taking advantage of her while she was drugged by the doctor. She cuts him with a knife and he flees. She then tells her sister that she thinks she might have been raped. Then the handyman comes downstairs and doesn’t remember any of it. In fact, he’s not even cut.


Kira kicks both her sister and the handyman out of the house, but finds blood on the floor. She comes into her living room to head upstairs and sees the other handyman with Tracy.


This is a perfect example of why this film ultimately doesn’t work. This should immediately lead to her going upstairs to discover this.


This scene should also be followed immediately by her passing out and falling down the stairs, which then leads us to our dramatic reveal and ending. But in both cases, they lead to long sex scenes. It completely ruins the suspenseful atmosphere that should be present in this part of the film. It leads me to believe that on the one hand they wanted to do this Gaslight style story, but on the other hand they were obligated to have a certain number of sex scenes that were required to be of a certain length. It’s like watching an action movie where foot or car chases go on so long that you are no longer caught up in the moment. Too bad cause I like the ending.

It turns out that the husband and the sister-in-law arranged this whole thing to drive Kira crazy. The doctor even performed ECT on her. The idea was that the only way Roy could get around the prenup that Kira’s brother had him sign was to get her committed.


But what about that gun from earlier?



Cut to black, and we hear gunshots.

If they had just trimmed down the sex scenes so that they moved from long and intimate to short almost glimpses as her mind spiraled more out of control, then this could have been one of the best of these I’ve seen so far. Sadly, it doesn’t do that. It’s one of these films that I call a missed opportunity.

Film Review: The Conjuring 2 (dir by James Wan)


The Conjuring 2 will scare the Hell out of you.

Seriously, I’ve seen a lot of horror films, including the first Conjuring (which I absolutely loved).  I’ve seen ghosts, vampires, demons, werewolves, psycho killers, and threats in the shadows.  I’ve seen cats jump out of closets.  I’ve seen ghostly faces suddenly appear in the darkness.  I’ve heard screams and chants and howls.  I’ve seen limbs severed in every possible way.  I’ve seen a lot of cinematic horror and, as a result, I tend to feel that there is nothing that can scare me.

Well, it turns out that’s not true because The Conjuring 2 scared the Hell out of me.

In many ways, The Conjuring 2 tells a familiar story.  Once again, the film begins with an opening crawl that informs us that what we’re about to see is based on a true story.  Once again, a loving but chaotic family is being haunted by evil spirits and the Church has asked paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to investigate.

The setup may sound familiar but director James Wan manages to keep the scares compelling.  Over the past few years, Wan has emerged as one of our greatest genre filmmakers.  Whether he’s directing an Insidious film or the latest Fast & Furious installment, James Wan knows how to hold an audience’s attention and how to make the potentially predictable compelling.  In The Conjuring 2, Wan creates and maintains such an atmosphere of dread that even the expected scares (bumps in the dark, voices in the shadows, slamming doors, and faces suddenly appearing in the background) take on an ominous intensity.  From the very first shot, Wan leaves the audience with a profound feeling of unease.  I was not alone in covering my eyes during a few scenes.  I was also not alone is occasionally looking around the darkened theater, just to make sure that there weren’t any ghosts creeping up on me.

That said, we all already know that James Wan is a master of horror.  We know that he can tell a ghost story and, from the minute we saw the first trailer, we all knew that The Conjuring 2 was going to be scary.  What sets The Conjuring 2 apart is the same thing that made the first Conjuring so special.  (For that matter, it’s the same thing that made Wan’s Furious 7 so special.)  Wan fills the screen with horror and spectacle but he also finds the time to celebrate his character’s humanity.

There’s a scene that occurs about 90 minutes into The Conjuring 2.  Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) are visiting with the haunted family.  The family has been shaken by both the supernatural and the fact that so many people refuse to believe that they are actually being haunted.  Ed spies a guitar sitting in the corner of the room.  He grabs it and, with the haunted children gathered around them, he launches into a surprisingly good Elvis impersonation.  He sings I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You, all the while glancing over at Lorraine standing in the doorway.

(What makes this especially touching is that Lorraine has been having premonitions of Ed’s violent death and is terrified that she’s going to lose him before they finish investigating this case.)

It’s a totally unexpected scene and yet it works perfectly.  Some of it is because Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have this great chemistry that makes you believe that they actually have been married for years.  But it’s also because the scene reminds us that The Conjuring 2 is about more than just ghosts and scares.  It’s also about love and family.  The haunting is threatening to end Ed and Lorraine’s love story.  The haunting is threatening to destroy a loving family.  Ed and Lorraine aren’t just investigating a ghost but they’re also saving a family.  They’re not just fighting against the supernatural.  They’re fighting for love.

And, in our cynical times, that may sound corny or silly or old-fashioned.  Well. you know what?  The Conjuring was an old-fashioned film and, in a way, so is The Conjuring 2.  But who cares?  Horror works best when it’s mixed with humanity.  The Conjuring 2 may be a horror film but it’s also a celebration of humanity, love, and family.

You may have noticed that I haven’t go into many specifics about the plot of The Conjuring 2.  I don’t want to spoil it for you.  This is a film that you should experience with fresh eyes.  I could tell you about the scariest scene in this film but, if I did, you would not get the full experience.  I’ll just say that I’ve seen a lot of scary movie nuns but none of them can compare to The Conjuring 2.

The Conjuring 2 is the best supernatural horror film that I’ve seen this year so far.  It will scare you and it will touch your heart.  See it.

Also, be sure to stay for the end credits, which feature a lot of genuinely creepy snapshots of the actual locations where the film’s haunting is said to have occurred.  Not only are the pictures scary but they also show the care with which The Conjuring 2 recreated 1970s London.  Is the picture below a scene from the film or is it a picture that was taken during the actual haunting?  You’ll have to see The Conjuring 2 to find out!



Music Video of the Day: Puttin’ on the Ritz by Taco (1984, dir. Jean-Pierre Berckmans)

I know I am probably in the minority, but I prefer Taco’s version over the Fred Astaire version. Fred Astaire’s version makes me think “dancehall”. That doesn’t seem to fit for me. Taco’s version evokes images of high fashion, which is what I think of when hear the lyrics of Puttin’ on the Ritz.

As for the video, I think they did a great job of juxtaposing the images of high fashion the music brings to mind with the world on the outside of the Fred and Ginger Art Deco palaces of the 1930s. Someone I knew who blogs about classic films once referred to the video as Occupy the Ritz. This is the uncensored version that includes the blackface number as reference to the blackface number in Swing Time (1936). I especially love how in the end, both Taco and the other well to do people become ghosts.