Lifetime Film Review: Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer (dir by Norman Stone)

The latest Lifetime “true crime” movie goes a little something like this:

We start with a clip from a South African news program.  The anchorman talks about how much everyone loves Oscar Pistorius, the man who lost his legs when he was 11 months old and then went to compete in both the Paralympics and the Olympics.  In both his home country and abroad, Oscar is known as the Blade Runner.

Cut to:

Oscar Pistorius (played by Andreas Damm) running across South Africa.  A man in a pickup truck honks at him.  Oscar holds up his hand in greeting.  A group of children stop playing soccer long enough to watch Oscar run by.  No matter what, Oscar never stops running.

Cut to:

Oscar in his kitchen, on the day before Thanksgiving.  A title card tell us that we are seeing “the day before Reeva’s death.”  Reeva Steenkamp (Toni Garrn) is Oscar’s girlfriend and a model.  They talk, they laugh, they make love on a kitchen counter.  It seems like the perfect relationship.

Cut to:

Night.  The outside of Oscar’s house.  There are gunshots.  Reeva screams for help.  Oscar shouts “No!”

Cut to:

The morning after Reeva’s death and Oscar telling the police how he accidentally killed his girlfriend.

Cut to:

A few months before Reeva’s death.  Reeva tells her mother that she wants to move in with Oscar.

Cut to:

A few more months before Reeva’s death.  Reeva meets Oscar Pistorius and, for Oscar, it’s obsession at first sight.

And so the movie goes from there, hopping back and forth through time and telling the story of Oscar and Reeva’s ill-fated relationship.  Oscar turns out to be jealous and controlling.  Reeva is always a bit too quick to accept the blame for all of Oscar’s tantrums.  Oscar confesses to her that he’s always felt like he’s been alone in the world.  Reeva’s friends tell her that they think Oscar is creepy.  Reeva says that they don’t know him the way that she does.  Reeva mentions that she smoked weed while doing a shoot in Jamaica.  Oscar totally freaks out, as if he simply cannot believe that someone would smoke weed while in Jamaica.  (I mean, wouldn’t it be rude not to?)

And eventually, it all leads to Oscar shooting Reeva and the trial that captivated the world.  Did Oscar intentionally shoot her while in a jealous rage or, as he claimed, did he accidentally shoot her?  The film refuses to give us a definitive answer, leaving it up to the viewer to decide.  That seems to be a bit of a cop-out but then again, that’s the way it usually is with these true crime films.  They never definitely validate one side or the other.  It’s just like how last week’s Robert Durst movie couldn’t come right out and show Durst killing his wife even though everyone knows that’s probably what happened.  Ambiguity can be good but sometimes, you just want the movie to have the courage to offer up an answer.

Anyway, as for the rest of Blade Runner Killer, it was a bit too slow and disjointed to really work.  As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but feel that, unlike the Durst case, there really wasn’t enough to the Pistorius case to justify an entire, 90-minute movie.  Though the script never really dug far beneath the surface, both Andreas Damm and Toni Garrn did a good job as Oscar and Reeva.  Otherwise, this one was pretty forgettable.

A Movie A Day #306: Platoon Leader (1988, directed by Aaron Norris)

Having just graduated from West Point, Lt. Jeff Knight (Michael Dudikoff, the American Ninja himself) is sent to Vietnam and takes over a battle-weary platoon.  Lt. Knight has got his work cut out for him.  The VC is all around, drug use is rampant, and the cynical members of the platoon have no respect for him.  When Lt. Knight is injured during one of his first patrols, everyone is so convinced that he’ll go back to the U.S. that they loot his quarters.  However, Knight does return, determined to earn the respect of his men and become a true platoon leader!

Though Cannon was best known for making B action movies (many of which starred either Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson), they occasionally tried to improve their image by releasing a prestige film.  Platoon Leader is somewhere in the middle between Cannon’s usual output and their “respectable” films.  It is based on a highly acclaimed memoir and, though the film was made in South Africa, it does a good job of recreating the look of Vietnam.  For instance, Platoon Leader‘s version of Vietnam is more convincing than what Cannon later presented in P.O.W.: The EscapePlatoon Leader also spends some time developing its characters.  Lt. Knight is more than just a stoic action hero, which already distinguishes it from 90% of Cannon’s usual output.  At the same time, Platoon Leader was directed by Chuck Norris’s brother, Aaron, and he doesn’t hold back on the explosions and the gunfire that everyone had come to expect from a Cannon war film.  The end result is an enjoyably hokey film that has a few more layers than the typical Cannon production but not too many.

This film was originally titled Nam but, after the success of Platoon, the title was changed to Platoon Leader.  In typical Cannon fashion, Platoon Leader plays like a more jingoistic and even less subtle version of Stone’s film.  The main difference is that Platoon‘s Lt. Wolfe never won the respect of his men and ended up getting killed with almost everyone else while Lt. Knight beats back the VC and shares a celebratory embrace with his sergeant.

One final note: keep an eye out for genre vet William Smith, who starred in The Losers (a film about a group of bikers who are recruited by the CIA and sent to Vietnam), in the role of Dudikoff’s superior officer.  If Platoon Leader had been made in the 70s, Smith would have played Dudikoff’s role so his appearance here is almost a passing of the B-movie torch.

Special Veteran’s Day Edition: THE STORY OF G.I. JOE (United Artists 1945)

cracked rear viewer

William Wellman’s THE STORY OF G.I. JOE tells the tale of boots-on-the-ground combat soldiers through the eyes of war correspondent Ernie Pyle, Pulitzer Prize winning syndicated columnist for Scripps-Howard newspapers. The film was one of the most realistic depictions of the brutality of war up to that time, and made a star out of a young actor by the name of Robert Mitchum . In fact, this was the one and only time Mitchum ever received an Oscar nomination – a shocking fact given the caliber of his future screen work.

Burgess Meredith  plays Pyle, who embeds with the 18th Infantry’s ‘C’ Company in order to give his stateside readers the grim realities of war from the soldier’s point of view. The men accept him, affectionately calling him ‘Pop’, as he shares their hardships, heartbreaks, and victories. Meredith’s voice over narrations are taken directly from Pyle’s columns, detailing the cold nights, dusty…

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Cleaning Out The DVR: Off The Rails (dir by David Jackson)

(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 205 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only two months to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Off The Rails off of the Lifetime Movie Network on March 26th!)

Oh, poor Nicole (Hannah Barefoot)!

When we first meet her, Nicole is recovering from amnesia.  She knows that she was injured in a catastrophic train derailment.  She knows that she’s married to Mark (Thomas Beaudoin), who seems like the perfect husband.  She knows that her therapist is Dr. Teres (Andrea Cirie).  She knows that she’s oddly obsessed with maps and that she teaches at the local college.  However, she is still not totally sure what her life was like before the accident.  And sometimes, she wonders if she can actually trust Mark.  For instance, she suspects that, while she was in her coma, Mark added onto the deck in the back yard.  Mark swears that it was her idea but why would she want to do that?

Nicole is also convinced that she has never had a Facebook account.  She swears that she’s never been on Twitter.  She doesn’t even know what Instagram is!  “You call me a Luddite!” she says to one of her friends, “I do remember that!”  But, if that’s true, why do all of her friends swear that they’ve talked to her on Facebook?  And why are all sorts of sleazy men approaching her, all claiming that they met her online?

That’s not all Nicole has to worry about.  There’s also the weird visions that she’s having, many of them involving being watched by a menacing-looking raven.  And then there’s the French Canadian photographer (Andreas Damm).  Nicole is not sure who he is but she sure did take a lot of happy pictures with him.  Could it be that she wasn’t as happy in her marriage as both Mark and her therapist insist?

There were some parts of Off The Rails that I really liked.  The story was, at times, genuinely intriguing and I always appreciate it whenever Lifetime films mix a little surrealism in with the melodrama.  The first part of the film does a very good of creating a properly ominous atmosphere and Hannah Barefoot does a good job portraying Nicole’s confusion and paranoia.  Obviously, it demanded a considerable suspension of disbelief to buy into the idea that Nicole could possibly be so ignorant of social media in 2017 but then again, that’s Lifetime for you.  Social media is always the source of all evil in the world of Lifetime.

Unfortunately, there’s a twist at the end of Off The Rails that simply does not work and it actually cheapens the film a bit.  I understand that it’s a Lifetime film and that, therefore, things can never end on too dark of a note but, in this case, the movie’s story demanded and deserved an ending that was just a bit more bittersweet.

Still, I’d recommend Off the Rails.  Up until that final shot, it’s a nicely done Lifetime mystery.  You’ll probably figure out the solution early but it’s still entertainingly melodramatic and just weird enough to be worthwhile.


Weekly Reading Round-Up : 11/05/2017 – 11/11/2017

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

A varied and disparate selection of books came my way this week, some easy enough to find, others decidedly less so —

And on the “decidedly less so” front, we’ve got legendary auto-didact Mark Beyer’s Ne’er-Do-Wellers, a limited-as-hell (as in 200 signed and numbered copies) new publication that comes to us by way of Trapset Zines and was issued in conjunction with the opening of a new gallery show of Beyer’s work. Not so much a “comic” per se as a series of illustrations accompanying reports of particularly strange and sometimes brutal crimes that took place in recent years in Beyer’s hometown of Albuquerque, N.M., this is as stark a distillation of absurdity, deadpan humor, and pessimism for humanity as a whole as you’re probably expecting, and certainly Beyer’s unique-unto-himself style of illustration is every bit as much a dark joy for the eyes as it’s always been, but…

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Cleaning Out The DVR: Secrets In Suburbia (dir by Damian Romay)

(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 205 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only two months to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Secrets in Suburbia off of Lifetime on April 15th!)

Welcome to the Hell that is Lifetime suburbia!

Seriously, whenever you come across a Lifetime movie that has the word “suburbia” in the title, you know exactly what you’re getting: nice houses, nice clothes, beautiful people, adulterous affairs, and usually a little bit of murder.  Secrets in Suburbia features all of that and it’s an enjoyably over the top little movie.

We open with a nice house in a nice neighborhood on a nice night.  A party’s being thrown.  It’s a divorce party!  (Divorce parties, by the way, are super fun!  I’ve been encouraging all of my married friends to get divorced, just so we can all get together for the party afterward.)  The recently divorced wife gives a long and sarcastic speech.  Suddenly, her ex-husband shows up.  He’s waving a gun and rambling incoherently.  Then he shoots himself, which totally ruins the party.

(Choice dialogue: “I don’t need a dead body in my house!”)

We return to the party four more times over the course of the film, each time from the perspective of a different character and each time, we learn a little bit more about what happened on that night.  It’s a nicely done technique, one that forces us to pay close attention to the action unfolding on screen.  It certainly adds a layer of narrative complexity that one might not usually expect to find in a Lifetime film.

The majority of the film deals with Gloria (Brianna Brown) and her husband, Phil (Joe Williamson).  Gloria has a nice house, nice children, and a nice dog.  Phil has a lot of charm and a massive chip on his shoulder about the fact that, unlike most of his friends and neighbors, he wasn’t born rich.  Phil, it quickly turns out, has more than a little trouble being a faithful husband.  No need to be shocked by that.  It’s Lifetime and it’s suburbia.

One day, Gloria comes home to discover that her dog has been poisoned.  While she rushes the dog to the vet, she gets into a serious car accident.  It’s hard not to notice that, underneath all of his charm, Phil doesn’t seem to be that concerned about his wife.  Maybe it’s the fact that he keeps ignoring the doctor’s advice.  Maybe it’s the fact that he doesn’t seem to care about the dead dog.  Or maybe it has something to do with the antifreeze that he keeps putting in her drinks…

This is a movie that’s all about revenge, especially after Gloria learns that Phil has been cheating with her friends.  To be honest, the plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Things get pretty crazy towards the end of the film.  That’s not a complaint, of course.  In general, the more melodramatic and crazy a movie like this gets, the better.  Secrets in Suburbia goes totally batshit crazy, which is exactly what it needed to do.  It’s all terrifically entertaining and in the end, that’s all that really matters.

Howling With “Coyotes”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

In my never-ending quest to find something new worth following on a month-to-month basis, I’ve taken a flier on a few recent Image first issues in the last couple of weeks, and in between the ones I decided to throw the towel in on immediately (No. 1 With A Bullet) and those I’ve decided to stick with on a tentative basis (Port Of Earth), there was one definite standout that hooked me from the outset and didn’t let go and/or up : writer Sean Lewis and standout newcomer artist Caitlin Yarsky’s Coyotes.

So, yeah, that’s the “plot” of this review given away right out of the gate, I suppose, but what the hell, let’s talk about why I felt this was $3.99 well-spent and why I think you should sink your hard-earned cash into it, as well, shall we? I think we shall.

Yarsky’s stunning…

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Music Video of the Day: The Test by The Chemical Brothers feat. Richard Ashcroft (2002, dir by Dom & Nic)

Today’s music video of the day is a personal favorite of mine.  Then again, just about anything that involves The Chemical Brothers is a favorite of mine.

What is the video for The Test about?  That’s a question that I’ve heard asked by several and I’ve read many different interpretations.  Some people are convinced that the video is meant to be a recreation of an acid trip, which is certainly a valid if rather simplistic interpretation.  Myself, I like to think that this video means whatever you, as an individual viewer, choose to believe it means.  Any didactic interpretation, I think, misses the point.

Myself, I will say that the start of the video remind me of Irene Miracle’s iconic dive into the flooded basement in Dario Argento’s Inferno.  (To a lesser extent, it also reminds me of the scene in which Asia Argento falls into a painting in The Stendhal Syndrome.)  Once the action moves to the beach, the video puts me in the mind of one of Jean Rollin’s cinematic dreams.

However you interpret this video, enjoy!