Lifetime Film Review: Recipe For Danger (dir by Lisa France)

What’s the perfect recipe for dangers in a Lifetime movie?

Well, you need a pinch of melodrama, a dash of empowerment, a tablespoon of a wimpy spouse, and a quart of psycho energy.  Sorry, I’m not really much of a cook and you can probably already tell.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been obsessed with cooking shows and movies about professional chefs.  I watch and I think to myself, “How come they can do that when I can’t even make toast without nearly burning down the kitchen?”  And, of course, I always take a bit of pleasure when Gordon Ramsay catches a professional chef trying to serve up raw lamb.  “See!?” I shout at the TV, “It can happen to anyone!”

But to get back to my recipe.  Here’s what you need to cook up some danger, Lifetime-style.

You need a protagonist who has a glamorous job and an attractive family.  In the case of Recipe for Danger, Vanessa (Bree Williamson) is the head chef at a very successful restaurant.  Vanessa has a super supportive husband (Adam Hurtig) and a super loyal best friend (Kate Yacula).  Vanessa also has an adopted daughter named Lacy (Annelise Pollman).

You need to have a bit of a moral panic.  In this case, Vanessa is warned that she’s oversharing on social media.  She’s constantly posting pictures of her life and writing about Lacy’s accomplishments.  She’s warned that, if she’s not careful, she’s going to end up with a stalker.  Vanessa laughs off the danger.  She’s proud of her daughter.  She has a great life.  Why shouldn’t she share?

And, of course, you need a psycho!  In this case, that psycho would be Taryn (Sarah Lind).  Taryn’s is Lacy’s birth mother and she wants her daughter back.  Due to Vanessa’s habit of oversharing, Taryn has been able to track them down.  (Who’s laughing now, Vanessa!?)  Taryn manages to get a job working in Vanessa’s restaurant and soon, she and Vanessa are besties!  Everyone tries to warn Vanessa that something is off about Taryn but Vanessa refuses to listen.  Of course, eventually, Taryn kidnaps Lacy.  Can Vanessa rescue Lacy and how many people will end up in the hospital before Taryn’s rampage ends?

This was a pretty standard Lifetime kidnapping film, though I did like the fact that, rather than passively going along with being kidnapping, Lacy was always looking for an opportunity to escape and she got a chance to prove herself to be considerably more clever than even her own birth mother gave her credit for being.  Sarah Lind’s been in quite a few Lifetime films and she does a pretty good job as Taryn, providing a nice balance between charm and psychosis.

In the end, Recipe for Danger is a filling if rather traditional meal.


Lifetime Film Review: He’s Out To Get You (dir by Nadeem Soumah)

So, put yourself in the shoes of Megan (Samaire Armstrong).

You had a wonderful husband.  You had a young child.  You were out driving one day and, because you took your eyes off the road, you ended up having a head-on collision with another vehicle.  You survived.  Your husband did not.  Your child is dead.  What do you do?

Well, Megan decides to check herself into a mental hospital and it’s there that she stays for the next four years.  Because she checked herself in, she can also check herself out.  Eventually, she decides to do just that.  Her doctor thinks that Megan isn’t ready to reenter society but Megan is determined to return to her hometown and reunite with her brother.

Her brother, Greg, lives in a house on a hill that overlooks the ocean.  It’s a big house that towers over the otherwise dead end small town below.  As Duke (Rob Mayes), the local bartender puts it, it doesn’t look like it belongs in the town.  Greg has lived in the house since the death of his and Megan’s parents but when Megan arrives, Greg is nowhere to be found!

When Mega asks around town, everyone insists that they’ve never heard of this mysterious Greg.  At first, Megan thinks that it might be because Greg was always a bit of a recluse.  But, as the days drags on and she can still find no sign of her bother, Megan starts to think that something has happened to Greg.  Could it be a conspiracy or could it all be coincidence?

Or ….. is it possible that Megan never had a brother to begin with!?  That’s certainly what the unhelpful sheriff (Bart Johnson) seems to think.  In fact, the only person who seems to have any faith in Megan is Duke but Duke has a shady history of his own.  Duke not only is a former burglar but he has plans that require more money than he probably possesses.  Is Duke to be trusted or is he lying about what he knows?

And who put that rattlesnake in Megan’s car!?

Yes, the plot of He’s Out To Get You raises a lot of questions.  They’re all answered and some of the answers are more satisfactory than others.  This is one of those films that sets up an intriguing mystery but which doesn’t quite come up with a satisfying solution.  To be honest, though, none of that really matters because — OH MY GOD, THE HOUSE IS FREAKING GORGEOUS!

I have often stated on this site that one of the main things that I love about Lifetime films is seeing the huge houses in which they take place.  I mean, Lifetime has featured a lot of truly stunning homes.  But I don’t know if Lifetime has ever featured house quite as impressive as the one in He’s Out To Get You.  Seriously, this house is huge and it’s tastefully decorated and it has a nice pool and, most importantly, the view is absolutely to die for!  Would I kill to own that house?  Well, maybe not quite but I’d definitely consider it.

As for the rest of the film, it’s well-acted and the villains are properly hissable.  I liked Duke, the morally ambiguous bartender and I thought Rob Mayes did a great job with the role.  That said, the house is definitely the star.

Seriously, it’s beautiful.

Lifetime Film Review: Most Likely To Murder (dir by Kaila York)

Oh Hell Yeah!  Now, seriously, this is the perfect Lifetime movie!

Welcome to Lifetime High School!  It’s a school where students plot to win awards, the mean girls are at war with the one nice girl, the cheereleaders determine who is popular and who is a pariah, and where social media is both a great equalizer and a deadly weapon.  It’s just like any other high school, except it’s a Lifetime high school.  That means that everything is juts a little bit more extreme than usual.  Whereas regular high school cheerleaders might inspire someone to develop an eating disorder, Lifetime cheerleaders plant drugs on their rivals and arrange for season-ending injuries.  And, if that doesn’t work, there’s always murder….

Poor Casey (Madison McLaughlin)!  She used to be popular.  She used to be a cheerleader.  She used to be the one making other people insecure and giving them eating disorders.  But, things happens.  Things change.  Her father was killed in a housefire and now, Casey wears a wig to cover up her own scars.  Casey’s mother (Heather McComb) now works as a waitress and is dating a loser named Harlen (Brendan McCarthy).  Casey’s former best friend, Hailey (Ava Allan), is now her greatest enemy, which means that Hailey not only delights in stealing Casey’s wig but she also plots to make each and every one of Casey’s humiliations go viral.

(You can tell this is a Lifetime High School film because, whenever anyone looks at their phone, they immediately exclaim, “You’re going viral!”)

However, Reagan (Bayley Corman) wants to help Casey out.  Reagan’s a cheerleader but, because she went through a lengthy “ugly duckling” phase, she still feels a lot of compassion for the downtrodden.  Reagan befriends Casey.  Regan encourages Casey to tell the entire school about the fire and to reveal that scars underneath her wig.  Reagan defends Casey against the abuse of Hailey and she tells Casey that she shouldn’t be ashamed of her mother’s waitressing job.  She even encourages Casey to believe that she might win the year-end award for “Most Inspiring” student!

Of course, Hailey and her friend, Clair (Ashlee Fuss), keep telling Reagan that Casey isn’t the perfect, shy person that she pretends to be.  They say that Casey shouldn’t be trusted.  Reagan refuses to believe them.  After all, Clair’s just mad because she broken her ankle in a mysterious accident.  And Hailey’s been upset ever since the cops discovered the stash of pills in her backpack.  (Of course, Hailey swears that the pills don’t belong to her, which sounds like something a pill-popping cheerleader would say….)  Reagan has no reason to believe Hailey and Clair but …. what if they’re right!?

Most Likely To Murder is a lot of fun, precisely because, for the majority of the movie, only the viewers are aware that Casey’s not as innocent as she pretends to be and there’s something undeniably enjoyable about watching her yank the wool down over everyone’s eyes.  She may be a menace but she’s a clever menace and that makes her a lot of fun to watch.  Madison McLaughlin does a great job in the role, making Casey not just dangerous but also sympathetic as well.  I mean, as bad as Casey turns out to be, her tormentors aren’t much better.  In the end, everyone’s kind of evil except for Reagan and her snarky friend, Taylor (Kara Royster).  Needless to say, I’m a fan of any film where the snarky best friend is one of the heroes.

Most Likely To Murder provides exactly what you want from a Lifetime film — melodrama, murder, and high school backstabbing.  It’s a lot of fun and one to keep an eye out for.

Lifetime Film Review: My Mom’s Darkest Secrets (dir by Curtis Crawford)

The special bond between mother and daughter is a theme to which Lifetime often returns.  It’s actually one of the reasons why I love the station and its films.  Whether it’s a case of the mother having to save her daughter from a bad boyfriend or a daughter having to prove that her mother isn’t actually a murderer, it’s rare that I can’t find something to relate to whenever I watch one of those films.  I imagine that’s true for everyone but that seems to be especially true for me.

My Mom’s Darkest Secrets is the latest Lifetime mother-daughter film and, before I get too much into the film and its plot, can I just mention how much I love that title?  I mean that title features everything that we love about Lifetime.  You’ve got the mother-daughter bond.  You’ve got secrets.  And you’ve got darkness.  In fact, the title promises us more than the typical Lifetime film.  We’re not just learning about a mother’s secrets.  And we’re not just learning about her dark secrets.  No — this movie is about her DARKEST secret!  It’s like, “I have many secret and they’re all bad but this one is the absolute worst.”  How can you not find that intriguing?

As for the film itself, it’s all about Ashley Beck-Ford (Nia Roam) and her mother, Sara (Laura Fortier).  When Ashley was born, Sara gave up her daughter for adoption.  Ashley was raised by two wonderful women and Lifetime presents Ashley’s adoptive moms in such a positive and lovable light that, even though the film was inevitably made before the recent controversy, it still feels like a massive “take that!” to Hallmark.  (As often as they’re compared, Lifetime has always been more progressive than Hallmark.)  However, Ashley has now tracked down Sara and she soon discovers that her birth mother is into all sorts of drama.

For instance, Sara’s husband has been murdered and the police suspect that Sara may have been the one responsible!  Even worse, because Sara has arranged for Ashley to eventually inherit the dead man’s fortune, the cops also think that Ashley may have been involved as well!  It’s now up to Sara to dig around and discover the truth and, of course, that’ll mean uncovering some of “my mom’s darkest secrets!”

I enjoyed My Mom’s Darkest Secrets.  Both Sara and Ashley had red hair, so I could relate to them both.  Beyond that, though, Nia Roam and Laura Fortier were both very well-cast.  They had enough in common that you could look at them or listen to the talk and think to yourself, “Yes, they could very well be mother and daughter.”  The credibility of their relationship added some depth and some nuance to the film’s central mystery.  You watch the film and you hope that things work out for them because Sara and Ashley really do seem like they deserve to have that type of relationship that so many other people take for granted.

My Mom’s Darkest Secrets was on the Lifetime Movie Network last night and, with Lifetime being Lifetime, it’ll probably air several more time.  So, keep an eye out for it!

Requiem For A Dream — And A City : Frank Santoro’s “Pittsburgh”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Look, I get it : Frank Santoro’s constructed “persona” within the comics scene rubs some people the wrong way, and that’s started to bleed over into how folks view his work. That’s as unfair to his comics on a purely technical level as it is entirely understandable on a human one, but once in awhile something comes along that’s bound to silence all naysayers, a la Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds or Alan Moore’s Providence, which is to say : a work so undeniably accomplished that even people who “have it in” for the creator(s) behind it based on their “off the field” statements (usually those perceived, correctly or otherwise, to be a reflection of egocentrism) can’t argue with the FACT that they’ve produced something extraordinary. Something that will stand the test of time, no doubt — but may even take it one step further and be well and truly timeless

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Eurocomics Spotlight : Ana Galvan’s “Press Enter To Continue”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Running a stylistic gamut that incorporates everything from Manga to Art Deco to THX 1138 to Black Mirror, Spanish cartoonist Ana Galvan’s English-language debut, Press Enter To Continue — recently published in agreeably sleek and slender hardback format by Fantagraphics — is probably the most HONEST comic in at least semi-recent memory, using an economy of words and minimalist linework to make a bold statement on where we are as a society and where we’re going. It’s both “of the moment” and prescient at once, and immediately establishes Galvan as an auteur in the truest sense, to wit : someone with a singular message and a singular method of presenting and communicating it.
Formally inventive page layouts with a tight internal logic and a fluidity that’s as easy to grasp as it is completely unique mark this as an innovative work even before the pastel color palette, infused with…

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Music Video Of The Day: Animals Medley, performed by David Johansen (1982, directed by ????)

It’s a crime that more people don’t know the name of David Johansen.  The former lead singer of the New York Dolls, Johansen has one of the best voices around and he is unique in that there is not a single genre of music that he has not been able to master.  Of course, Johasen is often cited as one of the earliest punk rockers but he has gone on to perform everything from claypso to lounge to country music.  Johansen has performed under many names, the best known of which is probably Buster Poindexter.  It was as Buster Poindexter that he recorded his highest-charting song, Hot Hot Hot, a song that Johansen has called “the bane of my existence,” because of it’s continued popularity.

This music video features Johansen at his best.  Recorded during his solo period, the Animals Medley features three songs from The Animals: We Gotta Get Out of This Place, Don’t Bring Me Down, and It’s My Life.