What Lisa Watched Tonight #204: Escaping My Stalker (dir by Linden Ashby)


Tonight, I watched the first Lifetime movie of 2020 — Escaping My Stalker!

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was the first Lifetime film of 2020, of course!

Seriously, though, 2019 was not an easy year for me as a reviewer.  I got busy.  My time management skills mysteriously fell apart.  As a result, I missed a few Lifetime films and I also didn’t always have time to review quite a few of the ones that I did see.  One of my resolutions for 2020 is to not let that happen again.

I mean, don’t get me wrong.  If I’m not going to be at home when the movie airs, I’m going to set the DVR.  But, this year, I’m not going to let movies pile up on my DVR before I watch them and, even more importantly, I’m not going to get behind on my reviews.  That’s my 2020 resolution and if I break it, I’m blaming everyone who follows me on social media.

Those are the stakes, my friends.

(For the record, I will be watching and hopefully reviewing the remaining Lifetime films on my DVR this weekend.)

What Was It About?

Up until a year ago, 17 year-old Taylor (Ezmie Garcia) was homeless.  Fortunately, she was eventually taken in and adopted by Larry (Linden Ashby) and his wife, Sandy (Alexandra Paul).  Now, Taylor has a job at the local skatepark and her life appears to be heading in the right direction.  However, Taylor also has a stalker!  When that stalker breaks into Taylor’s home and shoots Larry in the leg, Taylor realizes that her new life isn’t as secure as she thought it was.

It’s no spoiler to tell you that Taylor’s stalker is Miles (Andrew James Allen).  Miles lives with his grandmother (Mariette Hartley) and it quickly turns out that grandma is actually encouraging Miles!  Miles and grandma have got their own reasons for wanting to destroy Taylor’s new family, reasons that only become clear as the film progresses.

What Worked

It all worked!

Seriously, Escaping My Stalker was a perfect way to start the new year.  The story was interesting.  The film was well-directed by Linden Ashby.  Ezmie Garcia did a great job playing a character who was a bit tougher than the average Lifetime teenager.  Meanwhile, Mariette Hartley appeared to be having a lot of diabolical fun in the role of the Grandma from Hell.  Even though Miles was not necessarily a sympathetic character, it only took one look at Grandma to understand why Miles turned out the way that he did.

Also, Escaping My Stalker featured a Clu Gulager shout-out!  When Taylor first meets Clu Dunsten (Pedro Correa), she asks him if he’s named after the great character actor Clu Gulager.  They even spend a few minutes talking about Return of the Living Dead!  If that isn’t the best way to start off 2020, I don’t know what is.

Finally, this was not just a Lifetime melodrama.  It was also a film about the homeless situation, which is getting worse day-by-day (and not just on the West Coast, either).  This was a Lifetime film with a conscience.

What Didn’t Work

As I said, it all worked.  This was exactly the type of film that one hopes to see while watching the Lifetime Movie Network.

“OH MY GOD!  JUST LIKE ME!” Moments

To be honest, I could only hope to be as tough and resourceful as Taylor.

Lessons Learned

There are still people out there who appreciate a good Living Dead film.

Up “Snake Creek” — But With A Very Steady Paddle


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

What I think : Dav and Roy, the two protagonists in cartoonist Drew Lerman’s Snake Creek, might be a stand-in for the author himself and a walking potato, respectively. What I know : Lerman wrote and drew one of these strips per day throughout 2018 and 2019, and now they’re all collected in a single — and singularly impressive — paperback that he’s having printed, and offering for sale, via Lulu. I also know that you should buy it. And now I’m going to tell you why.

In a very real sense, these strips follow a direct through-line that you can trace all the way back to George Herriman, but they’re also undoubtedly — as well as unclassifiably (not a real word, I know) — contemporary, despite largely dealing with timeless physical and metaphysical themes. There’s a simple and understated elegance to Lerman’s cartooning that is, above all, 

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Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990, directed by Aaron Norris)


Cocaine is flooding the United States and only one man is to blame!  Ramon Cota (Billy Drago) is so evil that, after killing a group of DEA agents, he appears on closed-circuit television just so he can taunt their superior, John Page (Richard Jaeckel).  When Ramon drives through his home country of San Carlos, he kills the peasants, rapes their women, and murders their babies, just because he can.  He’s one bad dude.

Ramon is untouchable as long as he stays in San Carlos but occasionally he does have to leave the country so he can conduct business.  A frequent flyer, Ramon always buys every seat in first class so that he and his bodyguards can have privacy.  However, what Ramon didn’t count on, was Delta Force’s Col. Scott McCoy (Chuck Norris!).  McCoy and his partner, Maj. Chavez (Paul Perri), aren’t intimidated by that curtain separating first class from the rest of the plane.  As soon as Ramon’s flight enters American air space, they burst out of coach, knock out Ramon’s bodyguards, and then toss Ramon out of the plane.  Being an experienced skydiver (not to mention that he’s also Chuck Norris), Col. McCoy is able to catch up to Ramon and grab him before he plummets all the way to the Earth.

Unfortunately, arresting Ramon in America means that you run the risk of a liberal, Carter-appointed judge setting a low-enough bail that Ramon can go free.  Having taken advantage of America’s own legal system, Ramon murders Chavez and returns to San Carlos, leaving Col. McCoy and the rest of the Delta Force to seek vengeance for their fallen comrade.

Only Chuck Norris returns for this sequel to the greatest movie ever made.  Unfortunately, Lee Marvin died shortly after the release of the first Delta Force.  Even though John P. Ryan (as General Taylor) and Richard Jaeckel both seem to be attempting to channel Marvin’s grim, no-nonsense spirit in their performances, it’s just not the same.  What made the first Delta Force so memorable was the mix of Marvin’s cool authority and Chuck Norris’s general badassery.  Norris is as tough as always but the film still has a Lee Marvin-size hole in the middle of it and, without Marvin glaring at the bad guys and barking at the Washington pencil pushers who think they know how to keep America safe, Delta Force 2 could just as easily be a sequel to one of Norris’s Missing In Action films.  This is a Chuck In The Jungle movie, with drug dealers replacing the usual Vietnamese POW camp commandants.

If you can see past the absence of Lee Marvin, Delta Force 2 is an okay Chuck Norris action movie.  It’s typical of the movies that he made for Cannon but the fight scenes are well-directed by Chuck’s brother and Billy Drago is a loathsome drug lord who gets what he deserves.  Chuck gets a few good one-liners and you’ve got to love the film’s final shot.  Delta Force 2 never comes close to matching the original but at least it’s got Chuck Norris doing what he does best.

Lisa’s Way, Way, Way, Way, Way, Way, Way Too Early Oscar Predictions for January


It’s a new year and that means that it’s once again time for me to do something spectacularly stupid.

Below, you’ll find a list of Oscar predictions.  However, this is not a list of what I think will be nominated on January 13th.  No, instead, these are my predictions for the upcoming year.  This the first installment of my monthly predictions for which 2020 films will be nominated next year at this time.

Just in case it’s not already obvious how foolish this is, consider the following: Last year, at this time, no one had heard of Parasite.  Maybe a handful of people knew that Noah Baumbach’s next film was going to be called Marriage Story.  There were vague rumors about 1917 and there were still serious doubts as to whether Scorsese would ever finish putting together The Irishman.  In short, trying to predict the Oscars 12 months out is impossible.

Needless to say, I haven’t seen a single one of these films listed below so I can’t tell you one way or the other whether or not they’re going to set the world on fire.  Instead, what is listed below is a combination of random guesses and my own gut feelings.  You’ll notice that there are a lot of big names listed, Spielberg, Anthony Hopkins, Ron Howard, and Glenn Close.  Yes, all of them could very well be Oscar contenders.  At the same time, they’re all also a known quantity.  They’ve all got a good track record with the Academy and, as of right now, that’s all that I have to go on.

You may also notice that I’ve listed several films that will, in just a few weeks, be playing at the Sundance Film Festival.  Again, it’s not that I know anything about these films that the rest of the world doesn’t.  Instead, it’s simply a case of I looked at the list of Sundance films, I read the plots, and a few times I said, “That sounds like it could potentially be a contender.”  After all, it seems like at least one nominee comes out of Sundance every year.  Why shouldn’t it happen again?

My point is that you shouldn’t take these predictions too seriously.  Some of the films and performers below may be nominated.  Some definitely will not be.  But, next year, we will at least be able to look back at this list and have a laugh!

So, without further ado, here are my Oscar predictions for January!

Best Picture

Dune

Hillbilly Elegy

The Many Saints of Newark

Minari

News of the World

Respect

Tenet

The Personal History of David Copperfield

The Trial of the Chicago 7

West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Greengrass for News of the World

Ron Howard for Hillbilly Elegy

Christopher Nolan for Tenet

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Denis Villeneuve for Dune

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper in Bernstein

Tom Hanks in News of the World

Lance Henriksen in Falling

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Michael Keaton in Worth

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy

Glenn Close in Four Good Days

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Elisabeth Moss in Shirley

Amy Ryan in Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Last Thing He Wanted

Richard E. Grant in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Mark Rylance in The Trial of the Chicago 7

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Steven Yeun in Minari

Best Supporting Actress

Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy

Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark

Tilda Swinton in The Personal Life of David Copperfield

Marisa Tomei in The King of Staten Island

Helena Zengel in News of the World

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Coming Home (dir by Hal Ashby)


Well, here we are!  It’s January 1st.  In just a few days, the Oscar nominations will be announced and then, on February 9th, the winners will be revealed!  From now until the day of the ceremony, I will be taking a look at some of the films that were nominated for and won Oscars in the past.  As of this writing, 556 films have been nominated for best picture.  I hope that, some day, I will be able to say that I have seen and reviewed every single one of them.

Let’s start things off with the 1978 Best Picture nominee, Coming Home!

Coming Home takes place in California in 1968.  While hippies stand on street corners and flash peace signs, teenagers are being drafted and career military men are leaving for Vietnam and people continue to tell themselves that America is doing the right thing in Indochina, even though no one’s really sure just what exactly it is that’s going on over there.  At the local VA hospital, the wounded and the bitter try to recover from their wartime experiences while struggling with an often heartless bureaucracy and feelings of having been abandoned by their country.

When Marine Corps. Capt. Bob Hyde (Bruce Dern) is deployed to Vietnam, he leaves behind his wife, Sally (Jane Fonda).  Told that she can no longer live on the base while her husband is overseas, Sally gets an apartment, a new car, and eventually a new hairdo.  She also gets a new friend, Vi Munson (Penelope Milford).  Vi smokes weed and is critical of the war in Vietnam.  It doesn’t take long for Sally to start to enjoy the idea of being free and not having to cater to Bob’s every whim.  Sally even ends up volunteering at the local VA hospital.

That’s where she meets Luke (Jon Voight, looking youngish and incredibly sexy), a bitter but sensitive vet who, having gone to Vietnam and returned to the U.S. as a paraplegic, is now outspoken in his opposition to the war.  Luke is also friends with Billy (Robert Carradine), who is Vi’s shell-shocked brother.  When Luke and Sally first meet, they collide in a hallway and Sally gets a bag full of urine spilled on her.  It’s only later that Luke and Sally realize that they knew each other in high school and soon, they’re having an affair.  Luke, who is as gentle a lover as Bob is brutish, brings Sally to her first orgasm in a sensitively-directed scene that should be studied by any and all aspiring filmmakers.

Unfortunately, the problem with having an affair while your husband is away is that, eventually, your husband’s going to come back.  Bob returns from Vietnam and he’s no longer the confident and gung ho officer that he was at the start of the film.  He now walks with a pronounced limp and, like Luke, he’s angry.  However, whereas Luke has channeled his anger in to activism, Bob tries to keep his emotions bottled up.  (He does take the time to give the finger to a few protesters and, considering how obnoxious most of the protesters in this film are, you can’t help but feel that Bob may have had a point.)  When Bob discovers that Luke and Sally have been having an affair, he snaps….

Meanwhile, Billy is having a hard time readjusting to life, Vi is getting picked up by sleazy men in bars, and there’s a ventriloquist who shows up a few times.  There’s a lot going on in Coming Home and, at times, it feels like the film’s trying to cram in too much.  The film often seems a bit disjointed, with semi-documentary footage of Voight hanging out with real paraplegic vets awkwardly mixed in with didactic scenes of Sally turning against the war.

That the love story between Sally and Luke is so effective has far more to do with the performances of Jane Fonda and especially Jon Voight, than it does with anything in the film’s script.  Indeed, the script itself doesn’t seem to be too concerned with who Luke and Sally were before they collided in that hallway and it also doesn’t seem to be all that interested in who they’ll be after the end credits role.  As written, they’re just plot devices, specifically created and manipulated to express the film’s antiwar message.  But then you see Jon Voight’s haunted eyes while he’s listening to a group of vets discuss their experience or you hear the pain in his voice while he talks to a bunch of high school students and it’s those little moments and details that tell you who Luke is.  By that same token, Jane Fonda does a good job of showing each stage in Sally’s liberation, even if you can’t help but feel that the main reason Sally becomes an anti-war feminist is because she’s played by Jane Fonda.

Of course, in the end, the entire film is stolen by Bruce Dern.  You actually end up feeling very sorry for Bob Hyde (and, to the film’s credit, you’re meant to).  It would have been very easy to just portray Bob as being a close-minded pig but the film respects his pain just as much as it respects Luke’s anti-war activism and Sally’s need to be free.  In the end, you actually feel worse for Bob than you do for either Luke or Sally.  Bob is as much a victim of the war as anyone else in the film.

Coming Home was one of the first films about Vietnam to ever be nominated for best picture.  Jane Fonda and Jon Voight both won Oscars but the film itself lost to a far different look at the war in Vietnam, The Deer Hunter.

4 Shots From 4 Leon Isaac Kennedy Films: Penitentiary, Body and Soul, Penitentiary II, Penitentiary III


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

With today’s edition of 4 Shots From 4 Films, we wish a very happy birthday to the one and only Leon Isaac Kennedy!  Born in 1949, Leon Isaac Kennedy was working as a successful disc jockey by the time he turned 17.  (He was known as Leon the Lover.)  Kennedy went on to achieve cult fame by starring as prison boxer Too Sweet in the Penitentiary films, along with appearing opposite Muhammad Ali in Body and Soul and Chuck Norris in Lone Wolf McQuade.  Kennedy, who turns 71 today, is also an evangelist.

4 Shots From 4 Leon Isaac Kennedy Films:

Penitentiary (1979, directed by Jamaa Fanaka)

Body and Soul (1981, directed by George Bowers)

Penitentiary II (1982, directed by Jamaa Fanaka)

Penitentiary III (1987, directed by Jamaa Fanaka)

 

The Covers of Master Detective


Artist Unknown

Master Detective was one of the many true crime magazines that was published during the pulp era.  What sets Master Detective apart is that it continued to be published long after the pulp era ended.  The first issue came out in September of 1929 and Master Detective continued to be published all the way through September of 1995!  That’s nearly 70 years of sex and murder!

That’s also nearly 70 years of memorable and sordid covers.  Below are just a few examples.  When known, the artist has been credited.

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

by Barye Phillips

by Bud Parke

by Edward Dalton Stevens

by Griffith Foxley

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

by Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist