International Weirdness : “Invoked”

Trash Film Guru


Conventional wisdom would have you believe that the word “sucker” is spelled S-U-C-K-E-R, but I’m here to tell you, friends, that simply isn’t the case. “Sucker,” you see, is actually spelled R-Y-A-N.

Honestly, I have no one to blame but myself : when a new foreign “found footage” horror flick — from Ireland, in this case — shows up on Netflix, my instinct compels me to give it a shot even though I know that it’ll probably suck. We all have our unhealthy obsessions, and these sorts of films are mine — which would cause any reasonable person to conclude that I must be a glutton for punishment, I suppose, but in my own defense, once in awhile a Die Prasenz comes along that makes enduring all the Archivo 253s and what have you worth it. Unfortunately, 2015’s Invoked, which I just caught last night (and is also…

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Back to School Part II #56: Everybody Wants Some!! (dir by Richard Linklater)

(For the past three weeks, Lisa Marie has been in the process of reviewing 56 back to school films!  She’s promised the rest of the TSL staff that this project will finally wrap up by the end of today, so that she can devote her time to helping to prepare the site for its annual October horrorthon!  Will she make it or will she fail, lose her administrator privileges, and end up writing listicles for Buzzfeed?  Keep reading the site to find out!)


Well, here we are!  It’s taken nearly four weeks but we have reached the conclusion of Back to School Part II!  I started this series by taking a look at Teenage Devil Dolls.  Along the way, I’ve reviewed everything from Andy Warhol’s Vinyl, A Clockwork Orange, Animal House, and Can’t Hardly Wait to Hollywood High and Keith.  I’ve even found an excuse to review four different Degrassi films!  I’ve had a lot of fun but, with October approaching, I’m happy to be finishing up this series of reviews so that I can concentrate on the TSL’s annual horrorthon!

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!

Everbody Wants Some!! generated a small flurry of excitement when it was first released back in March.  Not only was it Linklater’s first narrative film since the critically acclaimed Boyhood but it was also advertised as being a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused.  Like Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! was a period piece that would follow an ensemble of Texas teenagers over the course of one long weekend, the big difference being that Everybody Wants Some!! would take place in 1980 (as opposed to 1976) and it would deal with college freshmen (instead of high school juniors).  There were even a few articles that pointed out that several of the actors in Everybody Wants Some!! physically resembled some of the actors in Dazed and Confused.

(Seriously, Glen Powell looks like he could be Matthew McConaughey’s younger brother.)

The film was well-reviewed by critics, even though few of the reviews were as rapturous as the reviews that greeted previous Linklater films like Boyhood and Before Midnight.  As for the audience reaction … well, Everybody Wants Some!! was not exactly embraced by audiences.  I saw it at the Alamo Drafthouse and the theater was nearly deserted.  (Considering that the Alamo’s audience prides itself on embracing independent film, a near-empty theater for a showing of a Linklater film is not a good sign.)  The few people in the theater seemed to feel that the film went on for too long and that it needed a stronger plot.  That’s a complaint that I’ve heard a lot of people make against Everybody Wants Some!!

It’s not a complaint that I agree with.  Those who complained that Everybody Wants Some!! was essentially plotless obviously haven’t seen many Richard Linklater films.  Though Linklater has made his share of commercial films, his more personal work — like Everybody Wants Some!! — is often plotless.  That’s actually one the keys to Linklater’s aesthetic.  He’s more interested in recreating a specific time and place and observing how different characters react to their environment than he is in telling conventional stories.  A film like Everybody Wants Some!! is less about telling a story with a definite beginning and end and more about capturing a very specific experience.

And, on that level, the film definitely succeeds.  Watching Everybody Wants Some!!, you literally do feel as if you’ve stepped into a time machine and you’ve been transported to the past.  Jake (Blake Jenner), a college freshman who is attending fictional Southeast Texas College on a scholarship, may be the main character but, ultimately, he’s not that important.  More important is seeing how people lived, interacted, and thought in 1980.  Everybody Wants Some!! is a time capsule film.

(Apparently, it’s a bit of an autobiographical film as well.  Cinema snobs like me tend to forget that, before he became a filmmaker, Linklater was a jock who, like Jake, attended college on a baseball scholarship.  As much as we may not want to admit it, not all artistic geniuses spent high school writing angsty poetry about eating disorders.  Some of them played sports.)

Everybody Wants Some!! follows Jake and his fellow baseball players over the course of the weekend before classes begin.  One night, they end up in a redneck bar.  Another night, they end up at a punk club.  They go to a drama department party.  They practice baseball.  They all drink.  Some of them smoke weed.  Some of them get laid.  And, at the end of the weekend, two of them sit down in their first class of the semester and promptly fall asleep.

One problem that I did have with Everybody Wants Some!! is that, as good as job as it does of creating a time and place, it didn’t necessarily convince me that it was a time in which I would want to live in.  As I stated earlier, Everybody Wants Some!! was promoted as being a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused.  However, Dazed and Confused featured a greater variety of characters.  Practically everyone of note in Everybody Wants Some!! is a member of the school’s baseball team.  True, some of them are smarter than others.  Some of them smoke weed.  Some of them are ultra religious.  But, ultimately, they’re all jocks and they’re all frat boys.  How much you enjoy hanging out with these characters will depend on how much tolerance you have for jocks, frat boys, and their hyper-masculine rituals.  Whenever I’ve seen Dazed and Confused, I’ve thought to myself that if I had been alive and in high school in 1976, I would have wanted to be friends with at least a few of the characters.  On the other hand, if I had been alive and in college in 1980, I would have gone out of my way to avoid that baseball team.

(And, as a result, I probably would have missed a chance to meet Richard Linklater!  There’s a lesson to be learned there.)

Ultimately, though, Everybody Wants Some!! succeeds because, even if the characters aren’t particularly likable, the film itself does capture the feeling and the excitement of having your entire future ahead of you.  Admittedly, there’s a hint of melancholy running through the film.  One character is revealed to be a 30-something imposter who regularly uses a false identity to enroll in different colleges because he loves to play baseball but he knows that he’ll never succeed in the major leagues.  Throughout the film, there are hints that none of these baseball players are ever going to be as successful as they are during that one particular weekend.  But, ultimately, the film tells us that the future doesn’t matter.  What matters is that, for that one weekend, they had their entire future ahead of them and it seemed like anything was possible.

Everybody Wants Some!! may not be Linklater’s best but it definitely deserves to be seen!

(And that concludes Back to School!  Thank you everyone for reading!  Love you!)


Back to School Part II #55: Sorority Nightmare (dir by Devon Downs and Kenny Gage)

(For the past three weeks, Lisa Marie has been in the process of reviewing 56 back to school films!  She’s promised the rest of the TSL staff that this project will finally wrap up by the end of today, so that she can devote her time to helping to prepare the site for its annual October horrorthon!  Will she make it or will she fail, lose her administrator privileges, and end up writing listicles for Buzzfeed?  Keep reading the site to find out!)


When I was going to college, I was actually encouraged by quite a few people to join a sorority but I never did.  What can I say?  I fancied myself as being an artist and an intellectual.  I had no interest in conformity and, to me, that’s what sororities and fraternities represented.  Why would I want to waste my time with that when I could spend my time writing poems about death?  (Add to that, why go through all the trouble of joining a sorority when I knew I could get into all the good parties, regardless of whether I was a member of one or not?)


So, I made my decision to never get involved in any of that and I think I probably made the right choice for me.  But occasionally, I’ll see a film on Lifetime that will make me change my mind.  It seems that every year, there’s a few dozen Lifetime movies that are about something strange happening in a sorority.  In the world of Lifetime, sororities are full of dark secrets, constant melodrama, and, more often than not, a murder or two.   Lifetime makes sorority life look … well, if not exactly fun, at least entertaining!

Consider for instance, the film Sorority Nightmare!  Sorority Nightmare aired on July 21st and, in the best Lifetime tradition, it totally lives up to its name.  All you need to know about Sorority Nightmare is right there in the title.  It deals with a sorority and, oh my God, is this place ever a nightmare!  (According to the imdb, the film’s non-Lifetime title is Twisted Sisters.  That’s a good title because these sorority sisters sure are twisted!)

As the start of the film, first-year college student Sarah (Sierra McCormick) is a lot like me.  She’s an intellectual, a free thinker.  She’s not really interested in being a part of a sorority.  She’d rather hang out with her snarky roommate, Jodi (Sarah Kapner).  Add to that, Sarah still blames herself for the death of her older sister, Jill.  Jill was driving Sarah home after Sarah got too drunk at a party.  When Jill attempted to pose for a selfie while driving, she ended up crashing the car and dying in the process.  Sarah survived but, for obvious reasons, she’s no longer interested in getting drunk at parties.

But, her mother was a member of Psi Kappa and she insists that Sarah actually check the place out.  And since Sarah is a legacy, she’s asked to pledge.  Even though it means losing whatever credibility she may have with Jodi, Sarah decides to join.

It quickly turns out that Psi Kappa is more of a cult than a sorority.  The cult is led by Daisy (Cassidy Gifford), who is friendly, perky, intense, and more than a little frightening.  Daisy not only decides that Sarah is her new best friend but she also suggests that maybe Sarah shouldn’t have any other friends.  When Daisy isn’t trying to control everyone’s lives, she busy popping what she says are breath mints but are actually “diet pills.”


Anyway, Sorority Nightmare pretty much plays out exactly how you would expect it to but that doesn’t matter.  As played by Cassidy Gifford, Daisy is literally a force of nature.  She’s a nonstop tornado of manipulation and malicousness and it’s a lot of fun to watch.  Sorority Nightmare is one of those wonderfully over the top Lifetime films where it’s obvious that the cast and the crew is in on the joke.  Sit back, don’t worry, and enjoy the melodrama!

Back to School Part II #54: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (dir by Nicholas Stoller)

(For the past three weeks, Lisa Marie has been in the process of reviewing 56 back to school films!  She’s promised the rest of the TSL staff that this project will finally wrap up by the end of today, so that she can devote her time to helping to prepare the site for its annual October horrorthon!  Will she make it or will she fail, lose her administrator privileges, and end up writing listicles for Buzzfeed?  Keep reading the site to find out!)


How many times can the same thing keep happening to the same people?

That’s a question that you may be tempted to ask yourself while watching Neighbors 2.  Neighbors 2 is, of course, a sequel to the original Neighbors.  In the first film, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne played Mac and Kelly Radner, a married couple who are struggling to deal with the fact that, as new parents, they are now officially adults.  When a crazy and wild fraternity moves in next door to them and refuses to tone down their partying ways, Mac and Kelly are forced to take matters into their own hands.  Occasionally hilarious mayhem ensues.

In Neighbors 2, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne again play Mac and Kelly Radner, a married couple who are struggling to deal with the fact that, as parents who are awaiting the arrival of their 2nd child, they are now officially adults and may have to finally move into a more family friendly house in the suburbs.  When a crazy and wild fraternity sorority moves in next door to them and refuses to tone down their partying ways, Mac and Kelly are forced to take matters into their own hands.  Occasionally hilarious mayhem ensues.

Yeah, it’s all pretty familiar.  Not only are many of the same jokes from the first film repeated but they’re often repeated at that exact same spot in which they originally appeared.  To the film’s credit, it does occasionally acknowledge that it’s repeating itself, though it never quite reaches the self-aware heights of something like 22 Jump Street.  Even Zac Efron returns and, again, he is initially the Radner’s enemy before eventually becoming their ally.

That said, the familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing.  Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne both know how to get laughs, even when they’re telling the same joke that they told a year ago.  Zac Efron tends to try too hard whenever he has a dramatic role (like in The Paperboy, for instance) but he’s got a real talent for comedy.

Ultimately, though, the best thing that saves Neighbors 2 from just being a forgettable comedy sequel is the sorority.  As opposed to the first film’s creepy fraternity, the sorority in Neighbors 2 is partying for a cause greater than just hedonism.  Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz, finally getting to have fun in a movie) starts her independent sorority in response to being told that official sororities are not allowed to throw parties and, instead, can only attend misogynistic frat parties.  When Shelby and her sorority buy the house, it’s not just to make trouble.  It’s because they need a place where they can have a good time without feeling that they’re in constant danger from drunk and perverted frat boys.  A subtext of empowerment through partying runs through Neighbors 2 and it elevates the entire film.

Neighbors 2 is an entertaining film, even if it never leaves as much of an impression as you may hope.  (I have to admit that, whenever I try to list all the films that I’ve seen this year, Neighbors 2 is one of those that I often have to struggle to remember.)  That said, it’s not a terrible way to spend 97 minutes and it’ll make you laugh.  And, ultimately, that really is the most important thing when it comes to comedy.

As for the question of how often can the same thing happen to the same person…

Well, I guess we’ll have to wait for Neighbors 3 to get our answer!

Late Night Cable Movie Review: The Deadly Pickup (2016, dir. Dean McKendrick)


Yes, you read the title of the post correctly. No matter how much that title sounds like a Lifetime movie–it isn’t. I’m not sure how Dean McKendrick beat Doug Campbell to that title.

This time around we have one of those good old misleading posters.


Death also gives top billing to an actor who is well-known, shows up for one sex scene, and then is killed off. Better than the cameo appearance from Amy Lindsay in Carnal Wishes (2015) that probably accounts for 80% of the views I have on that review. She had as much importance in that movie as Colonel Sanders did in The Phynx (1970).

The Phynx (1970, dir. Lee H. Katzin)

The Phynx (1970, dir. Lee H. Katzin)

That is to say, next to nothing.

That country road is also not to be found in the film. The car of course is impossible to be in this film considering it is a late night cable movie about a hitchhiker who kills her victims after having sex with them. There just isn’t enough room. You will also only see her hitchhike once in this film. However, she does pretty much look like that.

Anyways, the movie opens up with shots of the beach, including a seagull that is here to tell us Dean McKendrick also edited the film in addition to writing and directing it.


Then we find out that Dean McKendrick and Sal V. Miers joined forces to bring us this movie.


Does that mean we are going to get a genre spoof with progressive politics mixed together with sex? Not exactly.

Once the credits are done, our deadly pickup appears on the side of the road.


That’s Breezy played by Carter Cruise. They call her that because the movie was written by Dean McKendrick.

She is picked up by Josh (Michael Hopkins). He is headed for the local state university. She plays along till they have killed enough time for a sex scene to happen.

Once the scene is complete, she sticks him with a poisonous ring, and he dies.


She then makes a rather pitiful attempt to wipe the car of prints. That’s a little bit of the humor I would expect from Sal V. Miers since because it is softcore, there wouldn’t be the kind of DNA evidence you would expect from actual sex.

Now we meet a couple–Brian and Traci–who have a room for rent and are played by William F. Bryant and Kira Noir respectively.


Maybe it’s just because I recently read someone else’s review of Clueless (1995), but I took one look at her, and thought: Porno Stacey Dash. It’s actually kind of clever what they do with her. She will only have sex with her husband, which in turn, foreshadows the ending of the movie. The instant they are done having an exposition conversation to setup the plot of the film, Breezy shows up at their door.


Since none of the other actors are in need of a place to stay, they let her rent a room to help pay his college tuition while Traci works at a bar.

That’s when a cop shows up to discover the last sex scene.


He is played by Billy Snow, and his character is Deputy Randall.

Next, Breezy decides to take the slowest shower ever. Seeing as Traci is working at the bar, Brian is left alone to stumble upon her in the shower, and seems to be enjoying it more than the audience.


Traci gets home from work to find Brian very much in the mood for love. The plot will have to wait a bit.


Now we cut to an office, or somebodies house, where we meet Sheriff Bates played by Michael Gaglio.


You might recognize him from numerous films of this sort, but he has also appeared in and worked on other films such as Lifetime and SyFy movies. He even played Santa in the movie A Perfect Christmas List (2014).

He recognizes the M.O., and tells Randall to pull the file on a similar case in Nevada. He then sends him out to canvass the houses nearby where the incident occurred since there aren’t many in the area.

That’s plenty of plot for now, so Breezy discovers a guy named Rick (Jon Fleming) on the beach.


Lucky for them, he has a van parked nearby so they won’t have to worry about the sand. This really makes me wonder. Does she seek out people who have cars large enough to have sex in? Does she let the ones who don’t, live? Doesn’t matter, once the scene is done, he gets pricked by the poisonous ring too.

Deputy Randall then shows up at Traci and Brian’s place. He talks to them about the situation. Then Breezy walks in, so he talks to her alone. As he is leaving, we get this shot of Carter Cruise looking devious.


Now we cut to the bar where Traci works for that person who left a comment on my review of Bikini Model Mayhem (2016) that was disappointed they didn’t show the bartender more, and he didn’t have a sex scene.


That’s Charlie, played by Cody Deal. This whole conversation exists so that Charlie can’t point out the obvious to Traci. That being, that if a murderer is on the loose and a random woman showed up to live at your house, that it’s a good idea to look into her a bit.

Then we cut to the police station where Deputy Randall gets a call that they found a dead body on the beach. What?!? We just saw him alive a few minutes ago in between the two scenes above.


But seriously, he’s dead. I’m guessing something happened that I don’t recall, or they just decided they needed him killed off after some aborted plot they had in mind.


In between, Sarah Hunter shows up to make her Sophia Loren in Operation Crossbow (1965) cameo appearance.


Of course she ends up dead too. Breezy is an equal opportunity murderer. It’s a shame. I’m assuming since Sal V. Miers was involved in the production of this movie that after she broke out of prison in Bad Girls Behind Bars (2016), she lost her way, and wound up here to get murdered.

We’re getting down to the wire here as evidenced by Billy Snow’s intense look.


Breezy and Randall have a conversation at the bar. Traci goes back home to snoop in Breezy’s room. Breezy goes with Deputy Randall back to the police station because she needs to accidentally knock over his coffee. That can mean only one thing.


Since we need someone to stop Breezy, the sheriff shows up to interrupt her plans to murder him. The sheriff receives a call, and we find out Breezy’s real name is Brenda Johnson. She worked at her father’s factory that made rat poison.

Now Breezy catches Traci looking through her stuff, tries to seduce her, and is told she needs to be out by morning. Traci found some incriminating evidence, so she calls Deputy Randall. The call comes complete with flashbacks, and now Randall is out to catch Breezy.

But they save the best for last. Seriously, it’s like they were teasing the audience the whole time as to whether Charlie would have a scene. After they make good use of a pool table, Deputy Randall shows up to put a stop to the movie, so Breezy threatens to kill Charlie.


It’s funny, but during this brief scene, Carter Cruise suddenly goes from she can’t act to save her life to I want to see her in something where she doesn’t play a murderous ditz. Deputy Randall takes the shot, and Billy Snow gets to deliver a line he was probably dying for the chance to say.


Then we get what always feels weird when it happens in these movies–a happy ending I would expect from a mainstream TV Movie.


They get $50,000 for turning in Breezy, it pays his college tuition, and they decide to have children.

In summary, we have a couple who is tempted to cheat on each other by a woman who moves in with them, and it ultimately brings them closer together by resisting her temptations.

It’s not the worst I’ve seen. I’ve seen far far worse, but I would recommend some of the other late night cable movies I’ve reviewed like Bikini Model Mayhem instead. This, like Wicked Deeds (2016), seems to have been made off the heels of the film noir Carnal Wishes, but it just doesn’t come together as well, nor is as interesting. Also, if you want to see Sarah Hunter in something decent that I’ve reviewed, then watch Bad Girls Behind Bars.

Back to School Part II #53: Stalked By My Doctor: The Return (dir by Doug Campbell)

For the past three weeks, Lisa Marie has been in the process of reviewing 56 back to school films!  She’s promised the rest of the TSL staff that this project will finally wrap up by the end of today, so that she can devote her time to helping to prepare the site for its annual October horrorthon!  Will she make it or will she fail, lose her administrator privileges, and end up writing listicles for Buzzfeed?  Keep reading the site to find out!)


Oh Hell yeah!

Eric Roberts is back as Dr. Beck and, once again, he’s obsessed with a teenage girl!  Believe it or not, this is a good thing because this obsession leads to Dr. Beck spending a lot of time sitting in a car that’s parked in front of Amy’s (Claire Backwelder) high school.  By doing so, Dr. Beck justifies my decision to include the 2016 Lifetime film Stalked By My Doctor: The Return in my series of Back to School reviews.

Thank you, Dr. Beck!

As you may remember from last year’s Stalked By My Doctor, Dr. Beck is a neurotic doctor who has an unfortunate tendency to get obsessed with his patients.  At the end of the first movie, the good doctor narrowly escaped the police and was last seen flashing a somewhat nervous smile.

At the start of The Return, we find Dr. Beck now living in Mexico.  He’s done a pretty good job of avoiding arrest and has a successful career going as a beach bum but he has yet to find true love.  However, it seems like that might change when, one day, he spots a teenage girl drowning in the ocean.  Dr. Beck not only saves Amy from drowning but he also literally brings her back to life.  Seriously, my wonderful readers, be sure to learn CPR.

(Then again, I’m not sure that I’ve ever learned CPR.  I guess I should.  We can’t always depend on a crazy fugitive doctor to be around.)

Both Amy and her overprotective mom, Linda (Hilary Greer), are thankful and now, Dr. Beck is now obsessed all over again.  In fact, he’s so obsessed that he even risks capture by returning to the United States.  Under the pretense of merely wanting to check up on his patient, Beck starts to stalk Amy.  Taking a lesson from Nabokov’s Lolita, Beck starts to go out with the neurotic Linda.  By marrying Linda, Dr. Beck hopes that he can get to Amy.

All together now: Ewwwwwww!  Bad doctor!

Amy and her boyfriend (Mark Grossman) eventually grow suspicious of Dr. Beck.  They even recruit Amy’s Uncle Roger (Christopher Crabb) to investigate the good doctor.  However, Linda refuses to hear a word against him.  That’s not surprising, considering that she’s just agreed to marry him…

Stalked By My Doctor: The Return is a deliberately over-the-top melodrama, one that has more in common with the snarky satire of A Deadly Adoption than the previous Stalked By My Doctor.  Sprinkled throughout the film are several scenes in which Dr. Beck has conversations with the voices in his head and, as you can probably guess, Eric Roberts plays the Hell out of these scenes.  In fact, Roberts is a force of nature in this film, keeping a straight face while ripping through his overwrought dialogue and only stopping occasionally to wink at the camera, almost as if Dr. Beck realizes that he’s just a character in a Lifetime movie.  Roberts is obviously having a blast in the role and his demented joy is somewhat infectious.  After imagining that he’s killed a dining companion, a blood-covered Roberts says, “Check please,” and his delivery of that one-liner is absolutely brilliant.

Stalked By My Doctor: The Return is a blast of over the top, Eric Roberts-inspired lunacy.


Back to School Part II #52: Nerve (dir by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman)

For the past three weeks, Lisa Marie has been in the process of reviewing 56 back to school films!  She’s promised the rest of the TSL staff that this project will finally wrap up by the end of today, so that she can devote her time to helping to prepare the site for its annual October horrorthon!  Will she make it or will she fail, lose her administrator privileges, and end up writing listicles for Buzzfeed?  Keep reading the site to find out!)


Recently, I came across someone on twitter wondering if Emma Roberts is ever actually going to play an adult role.  Personally, I think the question is a bit unfair (just because you’re playing a teenager, that doesn’t mean that you’re not dealing with “adult” issues) but I understand the logic behind it.  Emma Roberts is a Hollywood veteran who made her film debut 15 years ago.  She’s currently 25 years old but, more often that not, she’s still cast as a high school student.  (At the most, she might occasionally get to be a college student.)  Going solely by her film and television roles, Emma Roberts has been a high school student for 12 years now.

But you know what?

I say more power to Emma Roberts.  Being a teenager is a lot more fun than being an adult and she should stay in high school for as long as she can pull it off!

Anyway, this year’s Emma-Roberts-In-High-School film was a thriller called Nerve.  Actually, very little of the film takes place in high school though a running theme through the film is the desire of a senior named Vee (short for Venus and played by Roberts) to attend the California Institute of the Arts after she graduates.  Unfortunately, it costs money to go to a good school and Vee’s mother (Juliette Lewis) doesn’t have any.  As well, both Vee and her mother are still struggling to accept the recent death of Vee’s brother.

However, there may be a way for Vee to raise the money.  Vee learns that her friend, Sydney (Emily Meade), has become an online star by playing Nerve.  Nerve is a game where you can either volunteer to be a player or you can pay to be a viewer.  (There’s a third role that you can play in Nerve but it’s not a good role and we don’t learn about it until later in the film.)  The watchers dare the players to do something.  If the players do it, they win money.  If the players fail … well, there are consequences for everything.

Though initially reluctant, Vee agrees to be a player.  At first, it’s a lot of fun.  The normally cautious Vee gets to experience the exhilaration of taking a risk.  She even meets another Nerve player, Ian (Dave Franco) and soon the two of them are a team, partners and perhaps something more.  But, as the game progresses, the dares become more dangerous and the stakes get higher.  And, of course, Ian has a secret of his own..

The great thing about Nerve is that it tells a story about what’s is pretty much happening right now.  It’s easy to imagine a real-life version of Nerve going on right now.  As I watched Vee and Ian play Nerve, I was actually reminded of how much fun twitter used to be.  And then, just as happens in Nerve, more and more people got involved and things quickly went downhill.  The more popular both twitter and Nerve became, the less pleasant the experience.  The same is true for just about everything that’s ever happened online.  It always starts out as fun until the trolls arrive.  (And trolls, of course, have the magic ability to use their mere presence to transform former non-trolls into trolls as well.)  Nerve answers the age-old question of why we can’t have nice things.

Beyond that, it’s an entertaining film.  Emma Roberts and Dave Franco make for an exceptionally likable couple, the film is quickly paced, and Michael Simmonds’s cinematography gives the film an appealing and slickly flamboyant look.  Nerve didn’t really get as much attention as it deserved when it was originally released but I have a feeling that it is a film that will be rediscovered and appreciated by viewers in the future.


Back to School Part II #51: Killer Coach (dir by Lee Friedlander)

For the past three weeks, Lisa Marie has been in the process of reviewing 56 back to school films!  She’s promised the rest of the TSL staff that this project will finally wrap up by the end of today, so that she can devote her time to helping to prepare the site for its annual October horrorthon!  Will she make it or will she fail, lose her administrator privileges, and end up writing listicles for Buzzfeed?  Keep reading the site to find out!)


The 2016 film Killer Coach premiered on Lifetime on July 30th.  At the time, I suspected that it was probably being released specifically to capitalize on all of the attention that was being paid to the Summer Olympics in general and Michael Phelps in specific.  After all, Killer Coach is a film about a swimmer in trouble and, as you might guess from the title, a lot of that trouble has to do with her coach.

Now, I have to admit that I kinda ignored the Olympics this year.  I’m as shocked as anyone by that but, quite frankly, I just wasn’t feeling it.  2016 has sapped the enjoyment out of a lot of events that you could previously depend upon.  Hopefully, I’ll regain my excitement in 2018 because I’d hate to miss the curling.  Along with not being into the Olympics this year, I also have an intense fear of drowning and movies that feature people trapped underwater tend to give me nightmares.  With all that in mind, I was worried that Killer Coach might not be for me.  However, I still watched it because it was on Lifetime.  You know how that goes.

Well, I shouldn’t have worried.  Killer Coach was pure Lifetime goodness, even if it never quite reached the wonderful heights of The Perfect Teacher or Babysitter’s Black Book.  Though the film may have been advertised to exploit all the attention being given to the Olympics, it was not necessary to be a swim fan to appreciate it.  As for the drowning scenes — well, there were a few but they didn’t traumatize me.  In the best Lifetime tradition, Killer Coach is pure entertainment.  No need to worry about trauma.

As for the film, it’s about Samantha (Javicia Leslie).  Sam is a smart and popular high school student.  She also has the potential to be one of the best swimmers in the country and is looking forward to going to college on a swim scholarship.  Who knows?  Olympics medals may be in her future!  As for Sam, she’s mostly just looking forward to a future with her boyfriend (Cameron Jebo).

Sam’s coach, Gina (Keesha Sharp), puts her under constant pressure.  Nothing is ever good enough for Gina.  That’s what a coach is supposed to do, right?  The only problem is that Gina is also Sam’s mother and it’s obvious that she’s reliving her own past as a championship swimmer through her daughter.  Gina is so intense that Sam is happy that the new assistant coach appears to be so laid back.  Even better, Bryce (Tom Maden) is hot!

Of course, he’s also kind of crazy.  After a one night stand, he grows obsessed with Sam and starts stalking her.  It’s actually kind of a nice reverse on the typical Lifetime storyline.  Usually, it’s a student stalking a teacher.

Anyway, there’s more to the story than just that.  Bryce is fueled by more than just obsession and Gina has secrets in her own past.  I didn’t really care about any of that and I could have done without it.  The film is far more interesting when it just focuses on Bryce as a crazed authority figure.

Killer Coach is well-filmed by veteran Lifetime director Lee Friedlander and he keeps the story moving along quickly.  Leslie is sympathetic as Samantha and Maden is memorably unhinged as her stalker.  Killer Coach is an above average Lifetime film and definitely an entertaining way to spend two hours.

Here Are The Primetime Emmy Winners!


The flame-haired one missed watching the Emmys this year but don’t worry!  The kitty’s here with all the winners!  It was a good night for Game of Thrones, which won a record number of awards!  It was also a good night for Veep, which the flame-haired one says is the best comedy ever!  The People vs. OJ Simpson was the other big winner!

Main lesson that I took away from the Emmys?  Humans love Jimmy Kimmel!


“Master of None”
“Modern Family”
“Silicon Valley”
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
X – “Veep”

Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”)
Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”)
Will Forte (“The Last Man on Earth”)
William H. Macy (“Shameless”)
Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”)
X – Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”)

Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
X – Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”)
Laurie Metcalf (“Getting On”)
Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”)
Amy Schumer (“Inside Amy Schumer”)
Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”)

X – Louie Anderson (“Baskets”)
Andre Braugher (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”)
Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”)
Tony Hale (“Veep”)
Keegan-Michael Key (“Key and Peele”)
Matt Walsh (“Veep”)

Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”)
Gaby Hoffmann (“Transparent”)
Allison Janney (“Mom”)
Judith Light (“Transparent”)
X – Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”)
Niecy Nash (“Getting On”)

“Master Of None,” “Parents”
“Silicon Valley,” “Daily Active Users”
“Silicon Valley,” “Founder Friendly”
X – “Transparent,” “Man On The Land”
“Veep,” “Kissing Your Sister”
“Veep,” “Morning After”
“Veep,” “Mother”

“Catastrophe,” “Episode 1”
X – “Master Of None,” “Parents”
“Silicon Valley,” “Founder Friendly”
“Silicon Valley,” “The Uptick”
“Veep,” “Morning After”
“Veep,” “Mother”



“The Americans”
“Better Call Saul”
“Downton Abbey”
X – “Game of Thrones”
“House of Cards”
“Mr. Robot”

Kyle Chandler (“Bloodline”)
X – Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”)
Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”)
Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”)
Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)

Claire Danes (“Homeland”)
Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”)
Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”)
X – Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”)
Keri Russell (“The Americans”)
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)

Jonathan Banks (“Better Call Saul”)
Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”)
Kit Harington (“Game of Thrones”)
Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”)
X – Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”)
Jon Voight (“Ray Donovan”)

Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”)
Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”)
X – Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey”)
Maura Tierney (“The Affair”)
Maisie Williams (“Game of Thrones”)
Constance Zimmer (“UnReal”)

“Downton Abbey,” “Episode 9”
X – “Game Of Thrones,” “Battle Of The Bastards”
“Game Of Thrones,” “The Door”
“Homeland,” “The Tradition Of Hospitality”
“The Knick,” “This Is All We Are”
“Ray Donovan,” “Exsuscito”

“The Americans,” “Persona Non Grata”
“Downton Abbey,” “Episode 8”
X – “Game Of Thrones,” “Battle Of The Bastards”
“The Good Wife,” “End”
“Mr. Robot,” “”
“UnREAL,” “Return”



“American Crime”
“The Night Manager”
X – “The People v. O.J. Simpson”

“A Very Murray Christmas”
“All the Way”
X – “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride”

Bryan Cranston (“All the Way”)
Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock: The Abominable Bride”)
Idris Elba (“Luther”)
Cuba Gooding Jr. (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”)
Tom Hiddleston (“The Night Manager”)
X – Courtney B. Vance (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”)

Kirsten Dunst (“Fargo”)
Felicity Huffman (“American Crime”)
Audra McDonald (“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”)
X – Sarah Paulson (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”)
Lili Taylor (“American Crime”)
Kerry Washington (“Confirmation”)

X – Sterling K. Brown (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”)
Hugh Laurie (“The Night Manager”)
Jesse Plemons (“Fargo”)
David Schwimmer (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”)
John Travolta (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”)
Bokeem Woodbine (“Fargo”)

Kathy Bates (“American Horror Story: Hotel”)
Olivia Colman (“The Night Manager”)
X – Regina King (“American Crime”)
Melissa Leo (“All the Way”)
Sarah Paulson (“American Horror Story: Hotel”)
Jean Smart (“Fargo”)

“All The Way”
“Fargo,” “Before The Law”
X – “The Night Manager”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “From The Ashes Of Tragedy”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “Manna From Heaven”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “The Race Card”

“Fargo,” “Loplop”
“Fargo,” “Palindrome”
“The Night Manager”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “From The Ashes Of Tragedy”
X – “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson,” “The Race Card”


“The Amazing Race”
“American Ninja Warrior”
“Dancing with the Stars”
“Project Runway”
“Top Chef”
X – “The Voice”

“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
X – “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
“Late Late Show with James Corden”
“Real Time with Bill Maher”
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

“Documentary Now”
“Drunk History”
“Inside Amy Schumer”
X – “Key and Peele”
“Saturday Night Live”

“Adele Live in New York City”
“Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo”
“58th Grammy Awards”
X – “Grease: Live”
“The Kennedy Center Honors”

“Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo”
“John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid”
X – “Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping”
“Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted”
“Triumph’s Election Special 2016”