October Positivity: The Perfect Stranger (dir by Jefferson Moore and Shane Sooter)

The 2005 film, The Perfect Stranger, opens with Nikki Cominsky (Pamela Brumley) feeling very stressed and underappreciated.

She’s an attorney and she really should be heading off for work but first, she has to make her daughter’s school lunch.  (Her daughter is not extremely appreciative.)  Meanwhile, her husband has just informed her that he’s canceling their date night because he has to go to a baseball game with a client!  Nikki was so looking forward to going to a nice restaurant.  Finally, to top all off, the neighbors are religious and they keep inviting Nikki to church.  Argggh!  The frustration!

Nikki gets to work and the aggravation continues.  Her administrative assistant calls her “Mrs. Cominskey,” making Nikki feel old.  (“Mrs. Cominskey is my mother-in-law!” Nikki snaps.)  Plus, there’s a weird note on Nikki’s desk.  The note is inviting her to dinner and it is signed Jesus.  At first, Nikki is convinced that her neighbors somehow broke into the office and left the note on her desk.  But then she realizes how weird that sounds.  Instead, she decides that the note is from her husband.  Obviously, he canceled his plans and they’re going to go out to dinner.  Yay!  But why would her husband sign the letter as Jesus?  “He must be joking,” Nikki says, with a laugh.  Okay, then.  Everyone has their own sense of humor.

Nikki heads to the restaurant straight after work and discovers …. that her husband is not there.  Her husband went to the baseball game.  Her husband was not playing a joke on her.  He really is the type of insensitive idiot who would break a date with his wife and go to a baseball game with client.  (You deserve better, Nikki!)  However, her neighbors aren’t there either.  Instead, there’s a blonde man (Jefferson Moore) wearing a suit who says that his name is Jesus and he wants to have a conversation with her.  Nikki’s first instinct is to leave but Jesus offers to pay for dinner.  That changes Nikki’s mind and I guess that’s understandable.  A free dinner is a free dinner!

Nikki and Jesus go on to have the most awkward dinner date ever.  Nikki wants to talk about how annoyed she is with her life.  Jesus wants to talk about Heaven.  Nikki complains about religion.  Jesus tells her that her problem is not with religion but with religious people.  Nikki says that she feels like she could get just as much out of being a Hindu or Muslim as she could out of being a Christian.  Jesus laughs at her.  There’s one long stretch of time when we just see Jesus and Nikki talking but we don’t actually hear what they’re saying.  Maybe they’re discussing the food, which does look pretty good.

The Perfect Stranger is an example of a popular sort of faith-based film, one in which Jesus has dinner or coffeewith an unbeliever and basically spends an hour telling them that they’re stupid.  Jesus always has the advantage in these films, largely because the screenwriter is on his side and the non-believers are usually limited to repeating a bunch of clichés about all the bad things in the world.  That’s certainly the case with The Perfect Stranger, in which Nikki is not only an agnostic but also a bit of a flake.  One gets the feeling that many of these films was made less to reach nonbelievers and more to give believers a chance to laugh at the other side.  Then again, consider how negatively most people of faith are portrayed in mainstream films, one could argue that the faith-based film industry is basically looking at Hollywood and yelling, “I learned it from watching you!”

Anyway, the important thing is that Nikki felt better about her life and she got a free dinner.  Good for Nikki.

Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 10/16/22 — 10/22/22

I watched very little television this week because I’ve been preparing for Halloween!  I’ll have to get caught up on what I’ve missed later.  Or, I’ll just shrug off the previous two episodes of Bachelor in Paradise.  These are the difficult life choices that we all face.

Abbott Elementary (Wednesday Night, ABC)

Janine’s insistence that the kids drink more juice leads to a crisis at Abbott!  Meanwhile, Ava continues to be the best character on the show.  This was a funny episode, though Gregory is going to have to tell Janine how he feels at some point soon or I’m going to start to lose respect for him.  Melissa and her teacher’s aide provided a lot of good laughs.  I have a feeling I would be a pretty annoying teacher’s aide, as well.

The Amazing Race (Wednesday Night, CBS)

The Amazing Race goes to Jordan!  The scenery was lovely and, after struggling over the last two legs of the race, Claire and Derek finally had another good day.  Yay!  I wrote about the latest episode of The Amazing Race here!

Atlanta (Thursday Night, FX)

Earn, Van, and Lottie go camping!  After last week’s wild episode, this week was definitely a bit more low-key.  This episode was a funny, well-acted, but somewhat melancholy exploration of Earn and Van’s relationship.  Earn wants Van to go to Los Angeles with him.  Van said that she loves Earn but the episode ended without a decision on moving to L.A.

Bubblegum Crisis (Nightflight Plus)

I watched the second episode of this anime on Saturday morning.  There were robots and a lot of explosions and the bad guys were referred to as being “boomers,” which made me smile.  I have no idea what’s going on but the visuals are impressive.

Fantasy Island (Tubi)

Check out this week’s review of Fantasy Island here!

Ghosts (Thursday Night, CBS)

The ghosts tried to save a tree and Thor became an environmentalist.  It was funnier than it sounds.

Hell’s Kitchen (Thursday Night, FOX)

For the first time this season, it was men vs. women.  And shockingly enough, the men pretty much destroyed the women during the service.  Usually, it’s the opposite on Hell’s Kitchen.  The women usually come together during their first dinner service while the men struggle.  It usually takes a while for the women to start fighting with each other.  Chef Ramsay was so angry that he demanded three nominees from the women.  Ramsay sent home the chef who he felt had lost her passion to win.  No, I cannot remember her name and yes, I’m too lazy to look it up.

The Love Boat (Paramount Plus)

Check out this week’s review of The Love Boat here!

Night Flight (NightFlight Plus)

On Friday night, I watched an episode of this old show, one that featured interviews with music video directors.  The video for Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill was discussed.  That song, incidentally, is one of my favorite James Bond songs.

Survivor (Wednesday Night, CBS)

I reviewed this week’s episode here!

AMV of the Day: Sunako Nakahara (You’re So Creepy)

As another week comes to a close, it’s time for another AMV of the Day!

Anime: The Wallflower

Song: You’re So Creepy (by Ghost Town)

Creator: Venny (please subscribe to this creator’s channel)

Past AMVs of the Day

The Astros and the Phillies Are Both One Victory Away!

Congratulations to both the Astros and the Phillies!

Today, the Astros beat the Yankees with a score of 5-0!  (Who wants Houston now!?)  The Phillies defeated the Padres 10-6.  The Astros are now 3-0 in the ALCS.  The Phillies are 3-1 in the NLCS.  After tomorrow’s games, both of these teams could be heading to the World Series!  Of course, the Yankees and the Padres could always turn things around.  It’s never over until it’s over.  That’s the great thing about baseball.  But I’m starting to really look forward to an Astros/Phillies World Series!

Good luck tomorrow to all the teams!

Horror on TV: Circle of Fear 1.22 “The Phantom of Herald Square” (dir by James H. Brown)

Tonight, on Circle of Fear, Sheila Larken plays Holly Brown, a young artist who meets and falls madly in love with James Barlow (David Soul).  Unfortunately, this leads to her being harassed by a frightening old man (Victor Jory) and it turns out that James has got a terrible secret of his own.

This melancholy story was the final episode of Circle of Fear, which was cancelled after its first and only season.  This episode makes for a good note for the show to go out on.  It originally aired on March 30th, 1973.

Circle of Fear may be over but Horrorthon continues!  We’ll be back with more televised horror tomorrow!

TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Queen of Blood (dir by Curtis Harrington)

Queen of Blood (1966, dir by Curtis Harrington, DP: Vilis Lapenieks)

Here’s a question: what happens when Roger Corman buys the rights to two Russian science fiction films, decides to jettison basically everything but the special effects footage, and then hires experimental filmmaker Curtis Harrington to shoot an entirely new film around that footage?

You end up with the 1966 film, Queen of Blood!

Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you. Queen of Blood is actually pretty good and director Harrington manages to smoothly integrate the Russian footage with the new footage. Basically, it works out so that you’ll see a Russian shot of the spaceship taking off or landing and then you’ll see a shot of John Saxon, Dennis Hopper, or Basil Rathbone sitting on a set and pretending like they’re in space.

The film opens with Dr. Faraday (Basil Rathbone) discovering that aliens have been transmitting a message to Earth. They’re sending an ambassador to meet with the Earthlings but the aliens’ spaceship ends up crash landing on Mars! Faraday arranges for an Earth spaceship, the Oceano, to go to Mars and rescue the ambassador.

Aboard the Oceano is a cast made up of a few familiar faces. John Saxon plays Allan, who is the de facto leader of the expedition and also engaged to marry Dr. Faraday’s assistant, Laura (Judi Meredith). A young-looking Dennis Hopper is Paul Grant, an astronaut. Don’t get too excited about Hopper being in the cast. Queen of Blood was made when Hopper was still trying to pursue mainstream film stardom so he gives a rather bland performance here. There’s a few scenes where you can tells that Hopper is on the verge of smirking at some of his dialogue but, for the most part, he plays the role extremely straight. Rounding out the crew is Anders (Robert Boon) and Tony (Don Eitner), neither one of whom would go on to star in Easy Rider, Blue Velvet, or Nightmare on Elm Street.

It’s a difficult journey. The Oceano keeps running into Russian-filmed turbulence on the way to Mars. When they do land, they discover that the ambassador (Florence Marly) is waiting for them to rescue her. She doesn’t talk much nor does she have any interest in eating Earth food. She does seem to like every member of the crew except for Laura. Of course, the ambassador’s defining trait is that she likes to drink blood….

All things considered, Queen of Blood works pretty well. While none of the performances are particularly memorable (though Basil Rathbone does bring some old school class to what is essentially a cameo role), Curtis Harrington does a great job creating and maintaining a properly ominous atmosphere. It takes a while for the crew to finally find the Queen of Blood but, when they do, Harrington gets every bit of creepiness that he can out of the character. The film even ends on an appropriately dark note, suggesting that the human race may be just too stupid to survive.

Queen of Blood is an entertaining B-movie. Watch it the next time you’re in the mood for some intergalactic blood-sucking fun!

Remember When The Burger King Was Your Trainer?

The bad news is that work has been really busy this week.

The good news is that, a few weekends ago, I got my old Xbox out of storage and I discovered that it still works!  I’ve been blowing off steam by playing Fight Night Round 3, which I still think is the best boxing game that I’ve ever played.  From the creation of your boxer to the training to the path to becoming champion, Fight Night Round 3 is one addicting fight game.  I do think that the game cheats by letting your opponent take more punishment than I think any other boxer could handle but that’s what games do.

After all these years, I had forgotten that you could pick the Burger King to be your trainer.

Back when this game first came out, how many of you were like me and automatically picked The Burger King because you thought he’d give you some sort of special skill in the ring that none of the other, non-mascot trainers could provide?  I always went with The Burger King as my trainer until I realized he wasn’t any good.  All he did was dance around the stage and probably steal my prize money when I wasn’t looking.  Back in the day, I actually got sick of seeing him listed as even being an option.  I wanted to fire him and bring in a real trainer, like Jack from Jack in the Box or maybe the Grimace.

This weekend, when I played the game for the first time in years, I used the Burger King as my trainer for old times sake.  Oscar de la Hoya knocked me out in three rounds.  I’m done with the Burger King but I look forward to playing Fight Night until my Xbox finally gives up the ghost.

Retro Television Review: California Dreams 2.2 “Ciao, Jenny” and 2.3 “Wooing Woo”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Saturdays, I will be reviewing California Dreams, which ran on NBC from 1992 to 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

This week, one member of the Dreams escapes and a new one shows up!

Do surf dudes still have attitude and feel mellow in Italy?  Let’s find out.

California Dreams 2.2 “Ciao, Jenny”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 18th, 1993)

This episode opens with Tiffani announcing that she is now working as a candy striper at the hospital!  Hey, wait a minute.  Didn’t Lisa do the same thing on Saved By The Bell?  Wasn’t there later an entire episode of One World about this?  Did Peter Engel just have an entire closet full of candy striper uniforms that he handed out to the casts of his various show?

Of course, the whole candy striper thing is only the B-plot.  The A-plot features Jenny auditioning for a place at a music school in Europe.  Jake, who is now everyone’s best friend, has decided that he’s in love with Jenny and he doesn’t want her going to California.  He even writes a song about how much he loves Jenny.  Matt helps him out with the song, which seems kind of weird since Jenny is his younger sister.  “It’s in the key of A, off-tempo,” Matt announces, “follow me for the changes!” I love musician talk.

Anyway, the song leads to some kissing but it doesn’t make Jenny stay so Sly suggests that maybe they should hypnotize Jenny so that she blows her final audition.  Jake thinks that is a super idea.  Perhaps he remembers the time that Zach brainwashed the entire school with subliminal messages on Saved By The Bell.  (“Zach, Zach, Zach….”)  Somehow, Sly learns how to hypnotize people and, just as improbably, Jenny gets hypnotized.  Eventually, though, Jake realizes this was a stupid idea and confesses what he did.  Jenny is so touched that she decides to turn down the chance to go to Italy.  Realizing that he can’t be responsible for her missing out on this opportunity, Jake breaks up with Jenny.  Jenny eventually forgives Jake for being a jerk and then leaves for Italy.

Uh-oh, the Dreams just lost one of their three lead singers!  What are they going to do now?

California Dreams 2.3 “Wooing Woo”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 25th, 1993)

Jenny’s gone and the Garrisons promptly offer up her old room to a Samantha Woo (Jennie Kwan), an exchange student from Hong Kong.  Mr. Garrison says that everyone should keep in mind that Sam will probably be quiet and shy.  Instead, Sam turns out to be talkative and fashionable.  Meanwhile, the Dreams are searching for a new singer and …. oh my God!  Sam can sing!  In fact, when she auditions for the Dreams, she sounds like she’s lip-synching to something that was actually recorded in a studio as opposed to being performed in a musty garage.

Of course, no sooner has Sam joined the band than Jake, Tony, Sly, and even Matt start competing to see who can be the first kiss her.  It turns out that Sam is too clever for all of them but then again, who wasn’t?  When Sam finds out what they were planning, she threatens to leave America unless the boys agree to do something that will help them understand what it feels like to be “treated like a piece of meat.”  It all leads to Jake, Tony, Sly, and Matt putting on dresses and getting hit on by football players.  “Woooooo!” the audience says.  And so, Sam joins the California Dreams.  She would remain a member longer than the siblings who started the band and she and Tony would eventually become the longest-running couple on the show.

As for those two episodes, they both represent the extent to which California Dreams rebranded itself as a musical version of Saved By The Bell.  That said, both Jennie Kwan and Jay Anthony Franke brought some needed energy to the show.

Next week, Matt destroys Jake’s bike and Sly moves in with the Garrisons!

Horror Scenes I Love: The Church Scene from 28 Days Later

In a film full of disturbing and frightening moments, this is the one that always gets to me.  I think it’s a combination of how apologetic the clueless Jim is and also just the way those heads pop up when he says, “Hello?”

From Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later:

Book Review: The Face by R.L. Stine

In this 1996 R.L. Stine novel, Martha is a popular high school student with a problem.

Ever since she was involved in a mysterious accident, she has had amnesia!  Her friends have been told not to tell her too much about what happened because it’s important that she remember it all on her own.  Her friends agree to not tell her about what happened and, if you know anything about teenagers, you know how good they are not gossiping and keeping secrets.  Martha’s recovery is in good hands!

Martha keeps having flashes of memory, all of which involve some sort of drama that occurred at a cabin between her and her friends.  And whenever Martha tries to calm her nerves by drawing, her hands instinctively draw a picture of a boy who she doesn’t even know, a teenager with a scar over his eyebrow!  (OH MY GOD, A SCAR!  That’s always bad news in any book written by R.L. Stine.  Personally, I think scars are sexy and mysterious.  In Stine’s books, they’re almost always a sign of anti-social behavior.)  Sometimes, Martha discovers that she’s drawn the boy’s face without even realizing that she was drawing at the time.  That’s weird.  Like, how would you not realize that you were drawing?

Anyway, I was really hoping that it would turn out that Martha had been given a hand transplant and her new hands belonged to a murderer or something and now Martha was sleepwalking and strangling people with her new murder hands!  But, to be honest, that’s more of a Christopher Pike type of thing than an R.L. Stine thing.  Instead, this is another R.L. Stine book where the lead character starts to get menacing phone calls and then eventually, she discovers that it’s because all of her friends are keeping secrets and cheating on each other.  There is one surprisingly violent decapitation and some nonsense about hypnotism.  If there’s anything that I’ve learned from R.L. Stine, it’s that hypnotism is very easy to learn.  Despite a promising premise, this is pretty much a standard R.L. Stine rush job, one that efficiently hits all of the expected notes without digging too deep into the characters or the story.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this book is that the Face itself never comes to life.  From the cover, I figured that the drawing would actually start to move its lips and speak and totally freak Martha out.  I mean, the cover literally says, “He had something to tell her …. from beyond the grave.”  But once again, a talking picture is probably more of a Christopher Pike thing than an R.L. Stine thing.  I really should have read more Christopher Pike this October.  Oh well.  Live and learn!