Cinemax Friday: Maximum Revenge (1997, directed by Fred Olen Ray)

When a new maximum security prison is finally ready to be opened and filled with dangerous criminals, Warden Glover (Arthur Roberts) gives a tour to reporter Tracy Quinn (Landon Hall).  Unfortunately, the tour is interrupted when a group of terrorists led by Murdock (John Lazar, who is best-known for playing the homicidal record producers in Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls) infiltrate the prison and take over.  Their plan is to set off a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles and trick the United States into a retaliatory strike against the Middle East.

Fortunately, the Warden is able to free the five prisoners who had already been transferred to the prison before it was taken over by terrorists.  It’s now up to the prisoners to defeat the terrorists and defuse the bomb.  They’ve only got an hour to prevent a war!  Fortunately, the prisoners are being led by former CIA agent, Mace Richter (Paul Michael Robinson).  Mace is only in prison because he was framed after a hostage rescue went wrong.  (It turned out that the hostage was in on the plot so Mace killed him.)  Amazingly, the terrorists from that operation are the same terrorists who have now taken over the prison.  What a coincidence!

Maximum Revenge is a Fred Olen Ray movie so you know what you’re getting.  The film rips off Die Hard by having Mace and the crew take out the terrorists one-by-one.  Despite the fact that they’ve only got an hour to stop a nuclear bomb from going off, Mace and Tracy still drop everything so that they can have sex in one of the prison offices.  It seems like that could have waited until after World War III had been prevented but then again, it’s a Fred Olen Ray film.  No matter what else can be said about Fred Olen Ray, he knows what his target audience is watching for.

Paul Michael Robinson is not an extremely compelling action star and the fight scenes are pretty rudimentary.  The prison is obviously an office building and the frequent inserts of the bomb very slowly counting down from 60:00 are good for a laugh or two.  (Most bomb timers count down in seconds but I guess this one was meant to count down in minutes.  At one point, though, the timer reads 16:86.)  Even though the prison doesn’t appear to be that big and the terrorists aren’t that impressive, the timer is still somehow allowed to get all the way down to 00:01 before anyone does anything about it.  That tells you all you need to know.  The best thing about the movie are the end credits, which are filled with joke names.  My favorite was the electrician named Sparks McGee.

Lifetime Film Review: Killer Daddy Issues (dir by Danny J. Boyle)

“What a nice ranch!” I thought as I watched the opening scenes of Killer Daddy Issues.

Listen, I live in Texas.  I’ve grown up all over the Southwest.  I’ve seen a lot of really nice ranches and I’ve seen a lot of really mediocre ranches and the ranch in Killer Daddy Issues is definitely a nice one.  The scenery is green and bountiful.  The hills are covered with beautiful trees.  There’s a big river nearby.  Majestic horses run across the fields.  This is the type of ranch that you definitely want to visit.  Unfortunately, even the best ranches have their issues.

This ranch is currently owned by Grace (Carolyn McCormick) and her daughter, Carrie (Jillian Murray).  They inherited it and a good deal of money after the death of Grace’s husband.  However, a new man has entered Grace’s life.  Carrie is shocked when Grace returns from a five-day cruise with a new husband!  Reed (Chris Riggi) is handsome and charming and young enough to be Carrie’s brother.  Carrie takes an immediate distrust to Reed.  Despite Reed assuring her that he’s already independently wealthy and that he doesn’t have a criminal record, Carrie is convinced that Reed is only after her mother’s money.  Carrie’s suspicions are not eased when Grace is seriously injured during a riding accident.

Meanwhile, Sofia (Kristina Reyes) has made a shocking discovery.  She and her mother both work at the ranch and, while Carrie treats them with superficial respect, it’s still obvious that there’s a world of difference between their lives and the lives of Grace and Carrie.  When Sofia discovers that her father was Grace’s husband and that she’s actually Carrie’s half-sister, she’s not happy at all.  She’s been cheated out of the ranch that she views as her birthright.

Meanwhile, someone is wandering around the ranch with a rifle, taking shots at people.  Hmmm …. I wonder if that could have anything to do with all the other stuff that’s going on at the ranch?

Needless to say, there’s a lot going on in this movie.  Not only do you have a mysterious new husband who might be a murderous gold digger but you also have the issue of Sofia’s paternity.  One thing that really struck me about this film was just how unlikable Carrie and Grace are.  Even though they’re the main characters, both of them seem to be a bit too secure in their positions.  In the beginning, at least, Sofia is a far more sympathetic character because she does have a legitimate complaint.  She had been denied what rightfully should belong to her.  It’s a bit subversive actually.  Even though Carrie and Grace are presented as being the protagonists, it’s clear that the audience’s sympathy is meant to go to Sofia.

Anyway, this one is okay.  It crams three hours worth of plot into a 90-minute runtime and, as a result, the film does occasionally seem to be a bit overstuffed.  There’s a lot to keep up with.  But the ranch is gorgeous and Kristina Reyes gives an excellent performance as Sofia.  This is a good movie to watch on a weekend afternoon.


Lifetime Film Review: Beware of Mom (dir by Jeff Hare)

Okay, I absolutely love this movie.

When Anna (Cystal Allen) loses her husband and one of her daughters, all in one night, it doesn’t do much for her state of mind.  Even though the official report is that the fire that killed them was due to a gas link, this is a Lifetime movie and that means that they had to have been murdered.  And since the name of this movie is Beware of Mom, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to figure out that Anna must be responsible.  However, she didn’t mean to kill her daughter.  Sometimes, you’re just trying to murder your husband and these things happen.

Anyway, Anna and her remaining daughter, teenage Jessie (Monica Rose Betz), move to another suburb and try to start their life over.  Anna is one of those moms who is determined to be the “cool mom.”  She’s friends with musicians.  She has thousands of followers on social media.  She throws big parties at her house and encourages Jessie to stay out late with her friends.

Her new neighbor, Tanya (Rene Ashton), is not a cool mom.  In fact, Tanya is an extremely overprotective, controlling mom who is determined to make sure that her daughter, 16 year-old Kylie (Nicolette Langley), is not led down the wrong path.  She expects her daughter to not date, to not dress provocatively, to not post pictures of herself online, and to not stay out late.  Needless to say, Tayna is not happy about having Anna living next door, especially after Kyle and Jessie become friends and Anna starts to encourage Kylie to rebel.

Soon, Kylie is going to parties, posing online, and making out with a 34 year-old musician!  Tanya tells Anna to stay away from her daughter.  However, Anna is not one to take orders and she also knows both how to fake a break-in and how to poison someone in such a way as to make it appear as if they’ve had a heart attack.

Beware of Mom, indeed.

As I said at the start of this review, I absolutely loved this movie.  The plot is just so melodramatic and Anna is just such an entertainingly over-the-top villain that it was impossible not to love it.  I mean, to a certain extent, anyone watching this film will be able to relate.  I think everyone went through a period where they felt like their mom wasn’t giving them enough freedom or was being overprotective.  Everyone was jealous of the girl who had the mom who apparently let her do whatever she wanted.  This is a film that acknowledges that our jealousy was understandable and then goes on to explain that the reason why the cool mom let her daughter get away with everything was because she was an insane murderer who wanted to kidnap her daughter’s best friend.  It’s so crazy that you can’t help but love it.

It helps that Crystal Allen really dug into the role of Anna.  Whether she was murdering a stranger or encouraging underage drinking, Anna seemed to believe that all of her action were very reasonable and she seemed to be genuinely bewildered that anyone would object.  Allen was well-supported by the performances of the rest of the cast, especially Monica Rose Betz as her conflicted daughter.  It all added up to the type of suburban melodrama that we can all embrace.

Music Video of the Day: One Step Beyond by Madness (1979, directed by Dave Robinson)

“We used to play the Hawaii 5-0 theme as a novelty cover version to start our shows. When we got bored we did this track instead, but the original recording was only 45 seconds long. We didn’t even think it would get on the album. Our record company boss heard it and got our producers to loop it. We still start every gig with it. We’ve tried other songs but that’s the one we always come back to. Cathal’s introduction is a clarion call.”

— Graham “Suggs” McPherson on One Step Beyond

One Step Beyond is actually a cover.  The original version was done by Jamaican SKa singer Prince Buster.  For Madness’s version, a spoken intro was provided by Chas Smash, who was not an official member of the band at the time but who would join a few weeks after the release of One Step Beyond.

The live performance that’s featured in this video was filmed at The Hope and Anchor, a pub in North London.