Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #30: The Inherited (dir by Devon Gummersall)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by the end of July 11th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)

The-Inherited

The 30th film on my DVR was broadcast on the Lifetime Movie Network on June 5th.  It was aired under the title The Inherited but, according to the imdb, it was originally called Stranger In The House.  I imagine that Lifetime changed the title in order to keep viewers from confusing it with a previous Lifetime film that happened to have the same title.

Anyway, regardless of the title, this is a very confusing movie.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  This is just one of those films where, in order to truly understand what’s happening, you have to be willing to give the film some thought.  It’s a film that raises many questions but doesn’t always supply easy answers.  The answers are there but you have to be willing to look for them.

Unfortunately, because this film demands a certain amount of focus on the part of the audience, commercial television is probably the worst place for it to show up.  When the action stops every fifteen minutes for a 3-minute block of commercials, it makes it a little bit difficult to remember what’s happened from one scene to another.

Stranger In The House/The Inherited tells the story of Eve (Jenn Liu) and Tom (Nathan Darrow).  Eve and Tom has just gotten married.  Eve lost her parents when she was younger and — well, to be honest, I’m not sure why the film opens with Eve’s parents dying.  (Later, we find out that Tom’s parents also died when he was young.  Maybe it’s all connected, maybe it isn’t.  I honestly don’t know.)  Tom is a widower.  His first wife died but, in her will, she left Tom her family’s home on the condition that Tom never sell the house.

As soon as Tom and Eve move into the house, strange things start to happen.  Eve thinks that she hears strange noises and she’s upset to discover that Tom has secrets that he hasn’t told her about.  When his former sister-in-law, Wendy (Tammy Blanchard), comes over for dinner, she and Tom get into a huge argument that ends when Wendy’s necklace suddenly tightly wraps around her neck.  Eve thinks there is something terrible in the house but Tom continually says that she’s imagining things.  Fortunately, the housekeeper (Annabella Sciorra) believes Eve and even shares the fact that Tom cooked all of his first wife’s meals before she mysteriously fell ill and died.  Suddenly, Tom’s cooking for Eve…

Soon, Eve doesn’t know who she can trust.  Is the house haunted or is she going crazy?  Is Tom trying to murder her or is Eve just going crazy?  Is the housekeeper Eve’s friend or is Eve just going crazy?  Could the film be any more of a Rebecca rip-off or is Eve just crazy?  Is this film Gaslight or is it The Haunting?

I had to watch the ending a few times before I could tell you for sure.  The Inherited is not always an easy film to follow.  It’s directed in a deliberately dream-like manner, which leads to some memorably surreal scenes but which can also be frustrating when you’re trying to figure out what the Hell’s going on.  Personally, I liked The Inherited because it had a lot of atmosphere, some good acting, and a lot of twists and turns.  But it’s definitely not a film for everyone.  You have to be willing to accept the fact that the movie is never going to make much sense.

On  final note, Jenn Lui not only wrote this film but she also gave herself the lead role.  That was a smart decision because the script is definitely written to her strengths as a performer.  She gives a great performance, one that helps to hold this somewhat uneven film together.

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #29: You May Now Kill The Bride (dir by Kohl Glass)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by July 11th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)

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The 29th film on my DVR was You May Now Kill The Bride!  You May Now Kill The Bride originally aired on Lifetime on June 4th, during which time I took part in one of the most epic live tweets ever.  This was one of those films that brought out the best in everyone!

First off, You May Now Kill The Bride wins points for having one of the most brilliant titles of all time.  Not only does it tell you exactly what the film is about (i.e., weddings and killings) but it sets the tone perfectly.  When you see a title like You May Now Kill The Bride, you know that there’s no need to even try to take what you’re about to see seriously.  You May Now Kill The Bride says “Sit back and have fun.”

You May Now Kill The Bride tells the story of Nicole (Ashley Newbrough), a 30-s0mething teacher who has yet to get married or have children.  Almost everyone has given up on the idea of Nicole ever finding true love.  And, really, that’s okay because Nicole has a fun-loving best friend named Celine (Aubrey Reynolds), who is always available to come over to the house and get drunk.

However, to everyone’s shock, Nicole meets and falls in love with the handsome and sensitive Mark (Rocky Myers).  Mark asks Nicole to marry him and it’s really great because Mark is not only nice to look at but he owns a really nice house as well.  He also has a stepsister named Audrey (Tammin Sursok) and here’s where things start to get a little bit complicated.

Y’see, Audrey isn’t quite sane.  Not only is she obsessed with her stepbrother but she’s also interested in being Nicole’s best friend at well.  Even though Celine immediately decides that Audrey is crazy, Nicole insists on making Audrey a bridesmaid.

Why not maid of honor?

Well, Celine already has that job.  Or, at least, Celine has that job until she mysteriously ends up getting tossed over the ledge of a parking garage…

Now, it may sound like Audrey is really dangerous but actually, I think she was only trying to help out her new sister-in-law.  During an earlier scene, Nicole announced that she was going to wear perhaps the least flattering wedding dress that I have ever seen in a Lifetime movie.  Celine supported Ncole’s decision.  Audrey, however, immediately started to plot to destroy the dress.

Sometimes, a bridesmaid just has to do what a bridesmaid has to do.

It is true that, plotwise, You May Now Kill The Bride may be a perfectly standard Lifetime story.  But the cast throws themselves into their roles, the dialogue is full of snarkiness, and Tammin Sursok fully commits to playing obsessive Audrey.  This is a film that lives up to the crazy promise of its name.

 

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #28: The Turning Point (dir by Herbert Ross)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by July 11th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)

The 28th film on my DVR was the 1977 film The Turning Point.  I recorded it off Indieplex on June 3rd.

I guess I should start this review by admitting that I really have no excuse.  As someone who grew up dreaming of being a prima ballerina and who unknowingly caused her mother to spend an incalculable amount of money of dance classes, dance outfits, dance shoes, dance trips, and all the medical bills that go along with having a klutzy daughter who is obsessed with ballet and as someone who continues to love to dance today, I really have no excuse for not having seen The Turning Point before last night.  Along with The Red Shoes and my beloved Black Swan, The Turning Point is one of three ballet movies to have been nominated for best picture.  It’s a film that, as a result of its box office success, established many of the clichés that continue to show up in dance movies to this day.

Seriously, how had I not seen it before?

And make no mistake about it — The Turning Point is a dance movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  There’s a plot.  Actually, there’s several plots and it’s not incorrect to describe The Turning Point as being something of a soap opera.  But ultimately, all the plots are just window dressing.  Director Herbert Ross started his career as a choreographer with the American Ballet Theater and the characters in The Turning Point are fictionalized portraits of people that he actually knew.  Ross’s love for both ballet and the dancers comes through every frame of The Turning Point and the film’s best moments are when the melodrama takes a backseat to the performances onstage.

But I guess we actually should talk about the melodrama.  Okay, here goes:

Many years ago, DeeDee (Shirley MacClaine) and Emma (Anne Bancroft) both belonged to the same New York ballet company.  DeeDee was the star of the company and was set to play the lead in Anna Karenina when another dancer with the company, Wayne (Tom Skerritt), got her pregnant.  DeeDee not only dropped out of the company but she married Wayne and moved back to his home state of Oklahoma.  (The film suggests, in an oddly regressive moment, that Wayne only slept with DeeDee in order to prove that, despite being a male dancer, he wasn’t gay.)  DeeDee and Wayne opened a dance studio in Oklahoma City while Emma got the lead in Anna Karenina and went on to become a prima ballerina.

18 years later, Wayne and DeeDee’s daughter, Emilia (Leslie Browne), is invited to join the company.  Because Emilia is shy and somewhat naive, DeeDee accompanies her to New York while Wayne stays behind in Oklahoma with their younger children.

Once in New York, DeeDee starts to wonder if she made the right decision when gave up ballet for domesticity.  She run into an old friend, conductor Joe Rosenberg (Anthony Zerbe, not playing a villain for once) and has an affair with him.  Meanwhile, Emma is having an affair with a married man named Carter (Marshall Thompson) and is struggling to accept that she’s getting older and will soon have to retire.  Just as DeeDee regrets giving up dancing, Emma regrets never having children.

Meanwhile, Emilia slowly starts to come into her own and blossom as a dancer.  She even ends up having an affair with the self-centered and womanizing Yuri (Mikhail Baryshnikov), one of the stars of the company.  Emilia and Emma start to grow close, with Emma treating Emilia like her own daughter.  DeeDee finds herself growing jealous of both her daughter and her former best friend.

Needless to say, it all leads to Emma throwing a drink in DeeDee’s face and the two of them having a cat fight on the streets of New York…

The Turning Point is no Black Swan or Red Shoes.  Leslie Browne (who was playing a character based on herself) was a great dancer but not much of an actress so you never care about her the way that you do Natalie Portman in Black Swan.  The dancers are amazing in both films but Darren Aronofsky literally put the audience in Portman’s ballet slippers while Herbert Ross keeps the audience at a distance, allowing them to watch and appreciate the dancers’s passion but not necessarily to experience it with them.

But, with all that in mind, I still enjoyed The Turning Point.  What can I say?  I love dance movies!  Both Shirley MacClaine and Anne Bancroft give excellent performances.  Bancroft apparently had no dance experience before shooting The Turning Point (and it’s hard not to notice that, whenever Emma is performing, the camera focuses on those moving around her as opposed to Emma herself) but she still does a good job of poignantly capturing Emma’s fear of getting older and her joy when she realizes that Emilia looks up to her.  MacClaine, meanwhile, has an amazing scene where she watches her screen daughter perform and, in just a matter of seconds, we watch as every emotion — pride, envy, regret, and finally happiness — flashes across her face.

And, of course, there’s that cat fight.  It’s a silly scene, to be honest.  But seriously, if there was any actress who could convincingly throw a drink in someone else’s face, it was Anne Bancroft.

The Turning Point was nominated for 11 Oscars and it ended up setting a somewhat dubious record when it managed to win exactly zero.  (This perhaps shouldn’t be surprising when you consider its competition included Annie Hall and the first Star Wars.)

Well — no matter!

Though the film may not be perfect, I liked it!

The Turning Point

International Weirdness : “The Presence” (A.K.A. “Die Prasenz”)


Trash Film Guru

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When it comes to the “found footage” horror genre, there’s really not much you can realistically ask for at this point, is there? 15 years into the ever-dimming past, “scare me” seemed a reasonable enough request; a decade back, “show me something new” would have sufficed;  five years ago, most of us were willing to settle for “at least do what you’re gonna do well.”

Today? Shit, I dunno — speaking personally, I’d say that I’ve been worn down to the point where “just don’t bore me to death” will do the trick. So when something like 2015’s ultra-cheap German “shaky-cam” flick Die Prasenz (or, as you’ll see it listed on Netflix right now should you care to look for it, The Presence — oh, and it’s most likely also available on Blu-ray or DVD depending on which part of the globe you call home) comes along and actually proves…

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Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #27: Running For Her Life (dir by Philippe Gagnon)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by July 11th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)

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The 27th film on my DVR was Running For Life, which originally aired on Lifetime on May 29th.

Running For Her Life has a very simple and yet very important message: if you’re going to take part in hypnotherapy, make sure that your therapist isn’t a fucking psycho who is obsessed with you.  Really, that seems like it should be common sense but I’ve seen enough Lifetime films to know that people of a certain age and socio-economic background are often way too quick to enter into co-dependent relationships with people that they barely know!

For instance, Alison Wynn (Claire Forlani) wants to be an Olympic-winning triathlete, despite the fact that she’s still recovering from a major accident, one that caused many doctors to tell her that she would never walk again.  Alison proved them wrong then and she wants to prove them wrong now!  The only problem is that something is holding her back from giving it her all in competition.  Could it be a childhood trauma of some sort?  Could it be her own insecurity over her husband’s attractive new assistant?

What better way to find out than to convince the famous and controversial Dr. Laura Stevens (Michelle Nolden) to take her on as a client!  At first, Laura says that she only works with professional athletes and suggests that Alison just read her book.  But Alison continues to beg and eventually, Laura relents.

It turns out that Laura is a demanding coach.  She pushes Alison to the limit and then demands even more, all the while screaming at her that her mother was right and that Alison is worthless.  But, despite the harsh treatment, Alison starts to get better.  It especially helps when Laura hyponotizes her and implant psychic suggestions in her brain.  Of course, there is a nosy reporter (Arnold Pinnock) who claims that Laura is less of a coach and more of a brainwasher but at least Laura is getting results!

Of course, that’s not all Laura is doing.  It quickly becomes apparent that she has grown obsessed with Alison.  Soon, Laura is breaking into Alison’s apartment and hiding panties behind the cushions of the living room couch.  “THESE AREN’T MINE!” Alison later yells at her husband.

It all leads to a scene in which Alison’s husband confronts Laura and Laura literally smashes a bottle over her head.  Seriously, it’s one of the most batshit crazy scenes to ever show up in a Lifetime film and it makes the entire film required viewing.

Anyway, I rather liked Running For Her Life.  Yes, it’s predictable but it’s also fun.  As well, this is one of the rare Lifetime films where the victims are just as interesting as villains.  Claire Forlani really throws herself into the role of Alison and you actually find yourself hoping that things actually do work out for her (though I have to admit that I’m still not totally sure I understand what a triathlon is).  Meanwhile, Michelle Nolden turns Dr. Laura into a truly classic Lifetime villain.

Keep an eye out for Running For Her Life!

International Weirdness : “The Pack”


Trash Film Guru

The-Pack-Movie-Poster

Late last night my seemingly endless quest to find you, dear reader, the at-least-occasional undiscovered gem among current Netflix horror offerings brought me to a mostly-unassuming, quite-obviously-low-budget Australian indie number from 2015 entitled The Pack (which I’m guessing is probably also available on Blu-ray and DVD if you must go that route), the brainchild of director Nick Robertson and his screenwriter, one Evan Randall Green, that marks yet another entry in the “nature’s fury unleashed, subgenre : wild dogs” category that we see from time to time and that, let’s be brutally honest, probably has nothing especially new, per se, to offer audiences. But hey — that doesn’t mean that it can’t tread its patch of well-worn ground reasonably effectively, does it?

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The premise here is about as basic as you’d expect : struggling family farmer Adam Wilson (played with requisite stoicism by Jack Campbell) and his supportive-perhaps-to-a-fault…

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Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #26: The Maid (dir by Darin Scott)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by July 11th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)

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The 26th film on my DVR was The Maid, which I recorded off of Lifetime on May 28th.

According to the imdb, The Maid is also known as A Housekeeper’s Revenge.  Regardless of which one you go with, both titles reveal this to be a Lifetime film.  That’s one thing that I always find interesting about Lifetime films — everyone always has a beautiful house and, naturally, everyone always has either a maid or a housekeeper.  I guess I find it interesting because very few of the people I know can afford to have a full-time maid, though I did once date this guy who was going to SMU where the school’s motto might as well be, “Our maid went to UT.”  When you get down to it, there are very few Lifetime films about poor people, unless the film is about somebody overcoming poverty so that they can go to Harvard or marry a professional athlete.

And I’m not complaining!  Lifetime is all about crowd-pleasing entertainment and, for the most part, we would all love to live in a big house with a great kitchen.  I know that most people would want to have a housekeeper or a maid.  Not me, though.  I like cleaning.

Anyway, in the case of this film, the maid is Colleen (Fay Masterson).  Colleen has just been hired to work for the Blackwell family!  Paul Blackwell (Lance Irwin) has just married a woman who is several years younger than him and, while they’re on their honeymoon, Paul’s angry, college student daughter, Laura (Kathryn Newton), has been left alone in the house with Colleen.  What could go wrong, right?

Well, a lot could go wrong.  If nothing went wrong, it would be a very boring movie.  Laura has had some trouble back at college.  Her boyfriend apparently got really possessive and then Laura started to receive threatening emails.  Even after returning home after her father’s wedding, strange things continue to happen.  Someone hacks into Laura’s Facerange (to use the Degrassi equivalent of Facebook) account and changes her password.  Someone is passing out flyers that announce that Laura’s a slut.  Her dog mysteriously disappears…

Could it be Laura’s ex or it could be … THE MAID!?

It turns out that Colleen has secrets of her own.  Her developmentally disabled son committed suicide, shortly after one of his high school classmates stood him up on a date.  Is it possible that Colleen is trying to destroy Laura?

Of course, it’s possible…

The Maid is pretty much a standard Lifetime film but that’s why I enjoyed it.  This is one of those totally over-the-top films where everyone is either bitter or crazy or both.  You won’t believe the plot for a second but you’ll be having so much fun with all the melodramatic twists and turns that it won’t matter.  Fay Masterson especially deserves a lot of credit for fully committing herself to playing the title character.  When she glares at the rich people that she’s planning on destroying, you never forget it.

And don’t worry,  It’s a made-for-TV movie so you know the dog’s going to be okay.

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