Lifetime Film Review: His Fatal Fixation (dir by Stuart Acher)

His Fatal Fixation tells the story of Lilly Abrams, a woman who discovers that not even changing her name can ensure her safety.

Lilly (played by Sarah Fisher) is a physician’s assistant.  When we first meet her, she’s getting ready for a date with the handsome and successful Jason.  However, that date is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Spencer (Stephane Garneau-Monten), Lilly’s stalker.  According to Lilly, she and Spencer went on one date and Spencer has been following her around ever since.  He claims that he just wants to protect her but it’s obvious that the only person that Lilly needs to be protected from is him.

Since Spencer’s arrival ruins dinner, Lilly and Jason go back to her place and order a pizza.  Unfortunately, when there’s a knock at the door, it’s not the deliveryman.  Instead, it’s Spencer!  Spencer promptly stabs Jason to death and, after slashing Lilly’s face, he ends up falling out of a window.  It appears that Spencer’s dead but …. is he?

A few months later, Lilly is trying to rebuild her life.  She’s moved to a new city.  She’s changed her name to Stella Gordon.  She takes medication to help deal with her PTSD.  And, after visiting a plastic surgery clinic, she even manages to get rid of the nasty scar that Spencer previously left on her face.  The folks at the clinic like her so much that they give her a job.  Soon, Stella is even having an adulterous affair with her boss.  You know that you’ve made it once you start cheating with a married man.

Still, Stella is haunted by her past.  She has frequent nightmares and sometimes, she swears that she can feel Spencer watching her.  But isn’t Spencer dead?  Stella knows that he certainly looked like he was dead after he fell out of the window but how can she be sure?

Strange things start happening.  Someone sends her a dozen lilies, just like Spencer used to do.  People die mysteriously.  Is Spencer back or is Stella losing her mind?  While Stella wrestles with that question, she also grows close to a heavily bandaged patient named Joshua.  Soon, Joshua will be removing the bandages and he’s specifically requested that Stella be there to see his repaired face….

His Fatal Fixation is an enjoyably over-the-top melodrama from Canada.  It’s the type of film where it’s best not to worry too much about the plot.  Sure, there’s all types of plot holes and the film’s characters don’t always act in the most logical or reasonable of ways.  But if you treat the film as the cinematic equivalent of a trashy, sex-filled novel, it’s a lot of fun.  The director even manages to craft some genuinely creepy dream sequences.

Sarah Fisher has appeared in a lot of these films and she does a pretty good job of capturing both Stella’s fear and her hope that she’s actually found a new life, away from her stalker.  Before she became a Lifetime mainstay, Sarah Fisher played Becky Baker on Degrassi.  One of the things that I love about Lifetime films is that they often provide a chance to check in on how my favorite Degrassi cast members are doing.  (Since many Lifetime films are Canadian productions, it’s not surprising to that they tend to be full of Degrassi alumni.)  Fisher is not the only former Degrassite to appear in His Fatal Fixation.  Cory Lee, who played Ms. Oh on the series, also has a small but important role.

His Fatal Fixation is an enjoyable Canadian thriller.  See it with someone who isn’t stalking you.

Lifetime Film Review: Secrets In The Woods (dir by Sara Lohman)

I have mixed feelings when it comes to the idea of camping.

On the one hand, I grew up in the Southwest.  By the time I was 12, I had already lived in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Louisiana.  My family moved a lot and there were times when we did live in the country.  I’ve spent time on farms.  I love the city a bit too much to ever be called a country girl but, at the same time, I could probably adapt if I ever had to enter the witness protection agency and they gave me a new life in rural Arkansas.

And, even though I currently live in the suburbs and spend as much time as I can in the city (or at least I did until this year started), I still enjoy a nice country vacation.  I enjoy going up to the lake.  Jeff and I usually go out to Mt. Nebo at least once a year.

So, camping is not necessarily something that I can’t do.  That said, I would be lying if I said that I’m really an experienced camper.  To be honest, I find the wilderness to be a bit creepy.  I’m the girl who jumps at every sound and who freaks out at the sight of a bug.  I may say that I’m spending the weekend up at the lake but what that means is that I’m spending the weekend in an air-conditioned lake house with WiFi and cable.  By that same token, going up to Mt. Nebo doesn’t mean actually camping out on a mountain.  It means staying in a nice cabin and making sure that there aren’t any wild animals wandering about whenever I step out on the front porch.

My point is that I could relate to Sandra, the main character in the recent Lifetime film, Secrets In The Woods.  As played by Brittany Underwood, Sandra is a smart, independent woman who may not have a lot of experience camping but who is determined to make the most out of the weekend that her boyfriend, Brant (Taylor Frey), has in store for them.  Brant is definitely a country boy and he’s looking forward to showing Sandra around the cabin where he grew up.

Brant seems like a nice guy but, from the start, the camping trip has its problems.  For one thing, a stop at a gas station leads to Sandra meeting a super creepy local who seems like he’s trying a bit too hard to be friendly.  Then, when Sandra arrives at the cabin, she finds a picture of Brant’s dead mom.  Though Sandra may not notice it, those of us watching immediately notice that Sandra and Brant’s mother share a physical resemblance.

A series of unfortunate events leads to Sandra injuring her foot and then losing the bag that not only had all of her clothes but also her shoes and the keys to Brant’s truck.  They’re stranded up at the cabin!  Brant says not to worry because his father will be along soon.  And if Sandra wants to change clothes, she can just wear some of his mother’s old dresses and….

Uhmmm, wait …. what?

Okay, seriously, if a guy tries to get you to wear his mother’s clothes, it’s a huge red flag.  I don’t care what the situation is.  Even if it means spending the entire weekend in just your underwear, you do not agree to your boyfriend suggesting that you wear his mother’s old dress.  YOU JUST DON’T!  Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Anyway, things get even worse when Brant’s father, Langley (Jim Klock), shows up and it turns out that father and son have been looking forward to trapping Sandra in the wilderness….

You’ll probably be able to guess where Secrets In The Woods is heading from the minute that Brant and Sandra first show up at the cabin but no matter.  The fact that movies like this are occasionally predictable is a part of a fun.  We know that Sandra’s making a mistake by trusting Brant and the real suspense comes from waiting for Sandra to figure out what’s going on as well.  Brittany Underwood is a sympathetic lead and she’s ably supported by Kabby Borders, who plays her sister.  Depending on what’s going on at any particular moment, Taylor Frey is both convincingly likable and convincingly creepy as Brant.  Meanwhile, Jim Klock turns Langley into a wonderfully hissable villain.

Secrets In The Woods is fun, as the best Lifetime films tend to be.  See it before you go on your next camping trip.

“The Funnies” Lives Up To Its Name

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Remember when comics were kinda nuts?

Okay, fair enough, plenty of them still are, but too many are self-consciously nuts, and if there’s one thing we could all do with a bit more of in these trying and uncertain times, it’s comics that are naturally nuts in the truest, and most unforced fashion. Comics that are nuts because they don’t know how to be anything else — and because there’s no real reason for them to be anything else. Meet Desmond Reed’s The Funnies.

Revolving around a quintet of spaghetti-limbed characters named Ralph Jonathan, Wallace T.J., Henrietta Susan, Gil Christopher, and Mona Gertrude, the vignettes in Reed’s magazine-sized comic are simple, straightforward and, yes, funny, whether they tell “stories” per se or simply function as jokes in and of themselves, and while there’s a stylistic through-line to all of Reed’s art — one that, in fairness, borrows elements…

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“Big Punk” Proves You Really Are As Young As You Feel

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Her name may be better known in the punk and DIY ‘zine scenes than it is among the comics community writ large, but Janelle Hessig has been at it for a long time. A foundational figure in the 1990s East Bay DIY movement, Hessig’s seminal Tales Of Blarg was more than a product of its times, it’s proven to be downright timeless, and in recent years she’s introduced the broader public to the talents of Liz Suburbia, among others, via her Gimme Action publishing imprint — which has also been home to some of her own cartooning.  In other words, she’s been around — but her work never gets old.

As evidence for this assertion I offer Big Punk, her latest uniquely-formatted (it’s more, shall we say, horizontally-oriented than you’d typically expect) ‘zine that comes our way courtesy of Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club, a publisher that’s helped…

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Rage (1972, directed by George C. Scott)

Wyoming sheep rancher Dan Logan (George C. Scott) and his teenage son, Chris (Nicolas Beauvy), spend a night camping out on their land.  While Dan stays in the tent, Chris decides to sleep outside, underneath the stars.  The next morning, Dan leaves the tent to discover that all of his sheep are dead and that Chris is having violent convulsions.  Dan rushes his son to the local hospital, where he hopes that the family’s longtime physician, Dr. Caldwell (Richard Basehart), can save his son’s life.

However, at the hospital, Dan is separated from his son.  Two doctors that he’s never met before — Dr. Spencer (Barnard Hughes) and Major Holliford (Martin Sheen) — take over his case.  They tell him that Chris was probably just exposed to an insecticide and that both Dan and his son are going to have to stay at the hospital for a few days.  Dan is confined to his room and not allowed to see his son.

What Dan doesn’t know is that both he and his son have been unwittingly exposed to a secret army nerve gas.  Though the experiment was only meant to be performed on the animals that were grazing on Dan’s land, Dan and Chris were accidentally sprayed.  When Dan discovers the truth about what’s been done to him and his son, he sets out to try to get revenge with what little time he has left.

Fresh from refusing an Oscar for Patton, George C. Scott made his feature film directorial debut with Rage.  (He had previously directed The Andersonville Trial for television.)  As a director, Scott sometimes struggles.  Rage is so relentlessly grim and serious that even the most experienced director would have had a difficult time making it compelling.  The scenes in the hospital are effective claustrophobic but they’re also often dramatically inert.  The only humor in the film comes from Scott’s overuse of slow motion.  When even simple scenes, like throwing coffee on a campfire, are shown in slow motion, it goes from being ominous to unintentionally humorous.

As a director, Scott did make a very wise decision by casting himself in the lead role.  No one was better at portraying pure, incandescent anger than George C. Scott and the film picks up once Dan discovers what’s been done to himself and his son.  Once Dan sets off to get revenge, Rage becomes an entirely different film, one that is about both a father’s anger and the cold calculation of a government that views him as just as a subject to be tested upon.  The final scene is especially effective and suggests that Scott could have become an interesting director if he had stuck with it.

Scott would direct one more film, The Savage Is Loose, before devoting the rest of his distinguished career to performing.

Film Review: Avalanche (dir by Corey Allen)

The 1978 film Avalanche tells the story of a beautiful resort that’s been built in the mountains of Colorado.  Self-righteous photographer and activist Nick Thorne (Robert Forster) keeps insisting that it’s not environmentally safe to build a resort up in the mountains.  According to him, there’s too much snow building up and it’s inevitably going to lead to an avalanche.

The owner of the resort, David Shelby (Rock Hudson), insists that Nick doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Sure, David may have had to cut a few ethical corners to get his resort built and he may currently be under criminal investigation but that doesn’t make David a bad guy.  All he wants is to have a nice and expensive resort located in the most beautiful and dangerous place on Earth.  Does that make him a bad guy?

Unfortunately, if David was watching the film with the rest of us, he would be aware of all the shots of snow ominously building up on the side of the mountain.  However, David would still probably be distracted by the presence of his ex-wife, Caroline (Mia Farrow).  David would love to get back together with Caroline but Caroline finds herself growing attracted to Nick.  When David isn’t chasing after Caroline, he’s trying to keep his mother, Florence (Jeanette Nolan), from drinking all of the liquor in the resort.  Good luck with that!  Florence is an eccentric old person in a disaster film so, of course, she’s going to be drunk off her ass for the majority of the run time.

There are other dramas occurring at the resort, of course.  TV personality Mark Elliott (Barry Primus) is upset because his ex, Tina (Cathey Paine), is hooking up with arrogant skier Bruce Scott (Rick Moses).  Bruce is upset because Tina expects him not to cheat on her.  Ice skater Cathy Jordan (Pat Egan) is hoping to conquer her insecurities.  Rival ice skater Annette River (Peggy Browne) is …. well, she’s there.  To be honest, I’m not really sure what the whole point of the ice skating rivalry was since they all end getting buried in snow regardless.  Then again, maybe that is the point.  An avalanche doesn’t care about your personal dramas.  All it cares about is destroying tacky resorts that overuse wood paneling.

Yes, the avalanche does come crashing down the mountain eventually.  It takes a while, though.  There’s almost an hour of Rock Hudson walking around with a pained look on his face before the snow finally comes crashing down.  For all of Nick’s talk about how the avalanche would probably be the result of too many people skiing, it actually happens because someone crashes a plane into one of the mountains.

Obviously, the avalanche is the main reason why anyone would want to watch a movie called Avalanche.  Anyone with any knowledge of the disaster genre knows that no one watches these movies for the human drama.  They watch them because they want to see at least 10 minutes of solid destruction.  A disaster movie can get away with almost anything as long as the disaster itself looks good.

The disaster in Avalanche does not look particularly good.  This film was directed by Roger Corman and, despite being one of the most expensive films that Corman ever produced, the avalanche effects are definitely a bit cut-rate.  At the same time, the cheapness of the special effects does provide the film with its own odd charm.  Just consider the scene where one of the ice skaters gets covered in snow while spinning around with a triumphant smile on her face.  (Sure, she might be dead and she’ll certainly never make it to the Olympics but at least she finally mastered a fairly basic skating move.)  The avalanche effects are super imposed over the image of the skater spinning but it’s obvious that it didn’t occur to anyone to tell the skater, “Hey, act like there’s a gigantic amount of snow crashing down on you!”  It’s so inept as to be charming, like when a child draws a really ugly picture but it’s cute because at least they tried and, as a result, you wait until the child leaves your house before you throw it away.

The thing I love about Avalanche is how everyone is even more ineffectual after the avalanche than they were before it.  Usually, in a movie like this, the disaster leads to unexpected heroism and the villains getting the comeuppance.  In this one, the avalanche just inspires more stupidity.  Fire trucks and ambulances literally collide with each other while heading for the resort.  At one point, a group of fireman set up a net directly underneath someone falling out of a ski ramp chair just for the person to somehow land a few inches to the left of them.  Though the film sets David Shelby up to be the villain, it’s hard not to feel that everyone at the resort is just an idiot.

Listen, I love Avalanche.  It’s terrible but it’s a lot of fun and the less-than special effects go along perfectly with the overheated (or, in some cases, underheated) performances.  Rock Hudson wanders through the movie with a strained smile on his face that has to be seen to be believed while Mia Farrow and Robert Forster both try so hard to make their underwritten characters credible that you can’t help but kind of appreciate their devotion to a lost cause.  If nothing else, the shots extras reacting to superimposed shots of the avalanche makes this film worth a look.  This is a cheap and silly movie and if you don’t enjoy it, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

Film Review: Corvette Summer (dir by Matthew Robbins)

The 1978 film, Corvette Summer, tells the story of Kenny Dantley (Mark Hamill).

Kenny is a student at a high school in Southern California.  He lives in a trailer park and he’s kind of dumb.  He’s the type who rarely shows up to class and, when he does, it’s just to discover that he managed to score a D-minus on his last test.  Kenny doesn’t think school’s important, though.  All Kenny cares about is cars.  He doesn’t date.  He doesn’t have friends.  But he can rebuild a corvette and spend hours talking about why it’s the greatest car in the world.

Yes, Kenny’s an idiot.

Kenny’s auto shop teacher, Mr. McGrath (Eugne Roche), warns Kenny that he’s spending too much obsessing on cars.  Don’t fall in love with a car, Mr. McGrath says.  A car is just a machine and a machine will always let you down.  A machine is something that you build so you can sell it and move on to something else.  To me, Mr. McGrath makes sense but Kenny’s like, “No, that’s totally squaresville.  Real melvin, man.”

(Well, okay, Kenny doesn’t use those exact words but you can tell that he’s thinking them…..)

Anyway, Kenny and the shop class have just rebuilt a red corvette and Kenny’s convinced that it’s the greatest car ever.  However, on the same night that the car makes its debut by cruising down the streets of Kenny’s hometown, it’s stolen!  Maybe Kenny shouldn’t have given the keys to Danny Bonaduce.  Kenny gets so angry that he smashes a cup of coke and attempts to beat up Bonaduce.

Mr. McGrath tells Kenny that these things happen and he suggests that Kenny instead look into enrolling at a community college after high school.  Kenny, however, is too obsessed with finding his car to listen to Mr. McGrath.  He even prints up flyers with a picture of the corvette.  “Have you seen this car?” the flyers ask.  Amazingly, it turns out that someone has.  He tells Kenny that he saw the corvette in Las Vegas.

That’s all it takes for Kenny to head to Nevada.  Of course, since Kenny doesn’t have a car, he has to hitchhiker.  Despite the fact that Kenny looks like a killer hippie and tends to spend a lot of time yelling in a somewhat shrill manner, he’s picked up by Vanessa (Annie Potts).  Vanessa is an “aspiring prostitute” who lives in a van.  “Vanessa” is written on the side of the van, which means that it will be useless if anyone ever needs to use it as a getaway vehicle for a bank robbery.  Way to go, Vanessa.

Once they arrives in Las Vegas, Kenny and Vanessa work a series of different jobs while looking for that corvette.  Along the way, Kenny falls in love, discovers that there’s more to life than just cars, and also suffers a bit of disillusionment when one of his mentors turns out to be not as perfect as Kenny originally believed.

Corvette Summer is best known for being Mark Hamill’s first post-Star Wars role.  He’s in almost every scene of the film and, to be honest, his performance kind of got on my nerves.  Some of that is because, as written, Kenny is almost unbelievably stupid.  But Hamill doesn’t help things by giving a rather shrill performance in the lead role.  Though the film may be a coming-of-age comedy, Hamill is so intense in the role that he comes across as being less like a naive teenager and more like a mentally unbalanced time bomb.  You find yourself hoping that he’ll get the car back before he’s forced to take hostages.  Annie Potts is a bit more likable as Vanessa but her character is dreadfully inconsistent.  One gets the feeling that she’s mostly just there so that Kenny can finally lose his virginity and be a little bit less of a loser by the end of the movie.

I will say that I did really like the performance of Kim Milford, who plays a superslick car thief named Wayne Lowry.  As I watched the film, it took me a few minutes to realize where I recognized Milford from.  He was the star of Laserblast, a film that featured Milford finding a laser gun and using it to blow up a sign advertising Star Wars.  Milford only has a small role in Corvette Summer and we’re not supposed to like him but he’s so handsome and sure-of-himself that it’s hard not to prefer him to the rather histrionic character played by Mark Hamill.

Corvette Summer is such a film of the 70s that watching it is like stepping into a time machine.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course.  Indeed, in 2020, the main appeal of a film like this is a chance to see how people lived in 1978.  (It’s always a bit odd to watch a movie where no one carries a phone or has a twitter account.)  Watching this film in 2020, it’s hard not cringe a little at the sight of not only Kenny hitchhiking but also people stopping to pick him up.  Seriously, are they just trying to get killed?

Here’s The 2nd Trailer For No Time to Die!

Here is the 2nd trailer for what will probably be Daniel Craig’s final outing as British secret agent James Bond, No Time To Die!

Speaking as someone who has had mixed feelings about Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond (I loved Skyfall and I liked Casino Royale but Quantum of Solace and SPECTRE rank as two of the worst Bond films of all time), I have to say that this trailer looks pretty good.  If nothing else, I’m happy to see an emphasis on action as opposed to the whiny angst that overtook SPECTRE.

As critical as I’ve been of Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the character, he’s a good actor and he’s got an underappreciated talent for comedy.  Oddly, the Bond films haven’t really taken advantage of that talent.  Craig has been the grim and serious Bond. which may be true to Ian Fleming’s original conception of the character but which hasn’t always made him a compelling cinematic hero.  Hopefully, Craig will actually get a chance to have some fun with the role in No Time To Die.


Music Video Of The Day: Born to be Wild, covered by Kim Wilde (2002, directed by Phil Griffin)

Originally, I wanted to share the video for Kim Wilde’s cover of You Keep Me Hangin’ On but for some reason, it’s impossible to find a good upload of that video on YouTube.

So, instead, I went with the video for a less-known Kim Wilde cover, her version of Born To Be Wild.  Born To Be Wild was written in 1968 by Mars Bonfire.  Mars meant for it be a ballad but when Steppenwolf got their hands on it, they turned it into what has been described as being the first “heavy metal” song.  Born To Be Wild was prominently featured in Easy Rider and it’s appeared in countless films since then.  If someone is going to ride a motorcycle in a movie, chances are that Born To Be Wild is going to appear somewhere on the soundtrack.

I guess it was inevitable that Kim WIlde would eventually end up covering Born to be Wild.  Kim Wilde was actually born Kim Smith but her father was a 1950s rock and roller who performed under the name Marty Wilde.  (Marty was one of the first British rock and roll stars.)  When Kim started her music career, she used her father’s stage surname so it can be argued that Kim was indeed born to be Wilde.

This video was directed by Phil Griffin, who has also done videos for Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox, Amy Winehouse, and a host of others.