Cleaning Out The DVR: Sea Change (dir by Chris Grismer)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 162 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Sea Change off of Lifetime on September 17th, 2017!  Incidentally, Sea Change was the final 2017 Lifetime movie that I had sitting on my DVR.  I have now watched and reviewed all of the Lifetime films that I recorded in 2017!)

Based on the novel by Aimee Friedman, Sea Change tells the story of Miranda and T.J.

Miranda (Emily Rudd) is a fiercely intelligent and independent teenager who, having lost her father, is spending the summer on an island with the mother (Maria Drizzia) that she barely knows.  It’s a beautiful island, one that is very popular with rich vacationers, the majority of whom have spoiled children.  It’s a struggle for Miranda to fit in.  She has deeper interests than just popularity and money.  Add to that, she doesn’t swim.  With everyone on the island obsessed with getting in the water, Mirana is stuck on the land.

T.J. (Keenan Tracy) lives on the island year-round.  His family is not rich.  T.J. works for a living and he’s not going to let anyone push him around just because they happen to have more money than he does.  When Miranda first sees T.J. she notices his scars.  When she sees him a second time, the scars have disappeared.  When Miranda falls into the water, T.J. saves her from drowning.  T.J. claims that he just dived after her but Miranda gets the feeling that there’s something more to it, almost as if he was already in the water when she fell in.  When he grabbed her underwater and led her back to the surface, there was something different about his eyes…

Could it have anything to do with the legendary Seawalkers?  The Seawalkers are said to be half-human and half-fish.  Everyone knows the story has to be a myth but, after T.J. rescues her, Miranda isn’t quite sure.  Could the Seawalkers be real and could they be connected to the secrets that Miranda believes her mother to be hiding from her?

You’ve probably already guesses the answers to all of those questions but that’s okay.  Sea Change won’t win many points for originality.  If you’ve seen any other film adaptation of a YA novel, you’ll be able to guess almost everything that happens in Sea Change before it happens.  But, again, that doesn’t matter.  Sea Change is a well-made and likable film, one that is full of gorgeous imagery.  (The film really makes excellent use of that island setting.)  Keenan Tracy and Emily Rudd are both talented actors and they have a nice chemistry.  Underneath all of the talk of Seawalkers, there’s a very real and sincere sweetness to their relationship.  You find yourself hoping that things work out for them and really, in order to work, that’s pretty much the only thing that a film like this has to accomplish.

Sea Change ends with the possibility of a sequel.  Personally, if they did make a sequel, I’d watch it.

 

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Cleaning Out The DVR: The Watcher In The Woods (dir by Melissa Joan Hart)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 163 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded The Watcher In The Woods off of Lifetime on October 21st, 2017!)

There’s something watching in the woods.

At the very least, that’s what Jan (Tallulah Evans) believes.  Jan and her family are spending the summer in Wales, at the Aylwood Manor.  From the minute that they move in, Jan starts to suspect that something is strange about the place.  Sometimes, she thinks that she can hear whispers coming from the nearby woods.  Her younger sister starts to act strangely.  Their parents are convinced that Jan is just playing tricks and trying to frighten them.  When Jan tries to find out more information about both the woods and her new home, she discovers that most of the people in the village don’t want to talk about it.  Those that do speak to her tend to say things like, “Soon, you’ll be gone too.”

(Other than some shots of the beautiful countryside, I doubt this film will do much for Welsh tourism.)

And then there’s Mrs. Aylwood (Anjelica Huston), the mysterious and stand-offish owner of Aylwood Manor.  Thirty years ago, her daughter disappeared in the woods.  Most people in the village believe that Mrs. Aylwood murdered her own daughter.  At first, Jan suspects that she’s a witch and that she not only sacrificed her daughter but now wants to sacrifice Jan’s sister as well!

Of course, the truth might be something altogether different.  It’s not always so easy to tell who is a witch and who is just a grieving mother.  The only thing that Jan knows for sure is that there’s something in the woods and it’s watching…

I have to admit that the main reason I wanted to see The Watcher In The Woods was because it was directed by Melissa Joan Hart and she’ll always be Sabrina, the Teenage Witch to me.  (Don’t start yelling at me about God’s Not Dead 2.  Actors have bills to pay and Melissa gave about as good a performance as anyone could with that script.)  Hart does a pretty good job directing The Watcher In The Woods.  It’s not particularly scary but, for all the talk of witches and demons, it’s not really meant to be a horror film.  Instead, it’s a coming-of-age story with paranormal elements.  Jan not only learns about what’s watching in the woods but she also learns an important lesson about assuming that people are witches.  And, even if it’s not really a scary movie, it does have some appropriately creepy scenes.  The woods are a great location and there’s a scene where Jan nearly downs that’s especially well-handled.  The film is also well-acted, with a natural and believable performance from Tallulah Evans and an enjoyably stylized one from Anjelica Huston.

All in all, The Watcher in The Woods was an enjoyable October treat.

Cleaning Out the DVR #16: Keep Calm and Watch Movies!


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All last week, I was laid up with sciatic nerve pain, which begins in the back and shoots down my left leg. Anyone who has suffered from this knows how  excruciating it can be! Thanks to inversion therapy, where I hang upside down three times a day on a table like one of Bela Lugosi’s pets in THE DEVIL BAT , I’m feeling much better, though not yet 100%.

Fortunately, I had a ton of movies to watch. My DVR was getting pretty full anyway, so I figured since I could barely move, I’d try to make a dent in the plethora of films I’ve recorded.., going all the way back to last April! However, since I decided to go back to work today, I realize I won’t have time to give them all the full review treatment… and so it’s time for the first Cleaning Out the DVR post…

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Cleaning Out The DVR: Story of a Girl (dir by Kyra Sedgwick)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 163 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Story of a Girl off of Lifetime on July 23rd, 2017!)

Michael (Kevin Bacon) owns a pizza place in a small town.  He’s just hired 16 year-old Deanna Lambert (Ryann Shane) to work for him over summer.  Deanna shows up for her first day of work.  Deanna apologizes for being late.  Michael points out that he has no costumers so it doesn’t matter.  Michael then introduces Deanna to his other employee, Tommy (Tyler Johnston).  Deanna looks shocked.  Tommy looks shocked.

“You two know each other?” Michael asks.

“In the biblical sense,” Tommy replies.

And so it goes from there…

Seriously, what was I doing on July 23rd that kept me from watching Story of a Girl?  Was I watching a shark movie on SyFy?  I do remember that Story of a Girl was very aggressively advertised in the days leading up to its premiere and I did actually mean to watch it.  I’ve read the Sara Zarr penned book on which it was based and the commercials made it look fairly good.  Add to that, it was directed by Kyra Sedgwick and co-starred Kevin Bacon and they seem like such a nice couple that I was naturally hoping it would be a good movie.

Three years ago, a sex video featuring 13 year-old Deanna and 17 year-old Tommy went viral.  While Tommy (who, as Michael points out, was committing a felony) suffers not a single bit for taking advantage of his best friend’s younger sister, Deanna is branded a slut and sent into social exile.  Her father, Ray (Jon Tenney), refuses to forgive her.  Tensions at home are exasperated by the presence of Deanna’s brother, Darren (Iain Belcher), his girlfriend, Stacey (Sosie Bacon), and their baby.  Darren and Stacey are planning on moving into a place of their own and Deanna is planning on going with them.

Though it may not be obvious from that plot description, Story a Girl is not a typical Lifetime film.  It takes place in a thoroughly blue-collar milieu and the Lamberts live in perhaps the ugliest, most cluttered house that I’ve ever seen.  Between that house and Ray acting like an asshole 24/7, it’s easy to understand why Deanna wants to get away from these people.  The problem, however, is that, after only a few minutes, most viewers will be desperate to get out of there as well.  And, unlike Deanna, viewers actually have a way of doing that.  They can just change the channel.  The film does have a good and important message but the characters are all so off-putting that a good deal of the audience probably won’t stick around to hear it.

Story of a Girl is a disappointingly superficial film.  The Juno influence is obvious but Story of a Girl never comes to life in the same way that Juno did.  Kevin Bacon is solid as Michael and Ryann Shane does a passable Ellen Page impersonation but everyone else is trapped in a film that’s long on plot but short on depth.  I really wanted to like Story of a Girl but I just didn’t.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Fatherly Obsession (dir by Daniel Ringey)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 166 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Fatherly Obsession off of the Lifetime Movie Network on December 26th, 2017!)

Alyssa Haroldosn (Molly McCook) is a stand-up comedian who has recently moved from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Los Angeles.

That makes sense, doesn’t it?  I mean, I’ve never been to Wyoming, though I did once live in Colorado and I imagine that’s kind of like being in Wyoming.  Still, I imagine that there’s probably more opportunities for a comedian in L.A. than in Jackson Hole.  Then again, it also seems like there would be considerably less competition in Wyoming than in California.  Actually, if Alyssa really wanted to go some place with no competition, she should have moved to Colorado.  Nobody’s funny in Colorado…

But, to get back to the movie, it turns out that Alyssa didn’t just move for her career.  She also moved because 1) her family was way too clingy and 2) she had a stalker.  When we first meet her, she’s living in a cheap motel room and calling 911 nearly every night.  But then she’s lucky enough to meet a handsome realtor named Oliver (Jack Turner).  Oliver not only appreciates a good fish taco but he also knows of a good, empty apartment!

There’s only three issues with the apartment:

  1. It’s in Oliver’s building and, if you live near Oliver, that means that you’re somehow obligated to share a fish taco with him.  Seriously, Oliver never shuts up about his love for fish tacos.
  2. The apartment is empty because the previous tenant — who looked just like Alyssa — was found dead in her bathtub.
  3. The landlord, Robert (Ted McGinley), is a mentally unbalanced stalker who is desperately looking for someone to take the place of his daughter!

You can probably already guess what happens but Fatherly Obsession does add a few new elements to the typical Lifetime stalking formula.  When Robert — like all Lifetime stalkers — spies on Alyssa’s apartment, he doesn’t just watch her on his computer.  No, Robert uses virtual reality glasses!  What that means is that, at random moments, Robert materializes in Alyssa’s apartment and watches her go about her day.  It’s a nicely creepy twist to the usual Lifetime formula.

The biggest problem with Fatherly Obsession is that Alyssa’s a comedian and, as a result, the dialogue is often excessively quippy.  I spent the first half of the movie worried that Alyssa was going to spend the whole movie almost exclusively speaking in one liners.  Then Oliver started talking about fish tacos and I was just like, “Oh my God!  MAKE IT STOP!”

But the film got better as it went along.  Though her character sometimes drove me crazy, Molly McCook did a good job of capturing both the pain of being a stalked and the difficult of recovery.  Ted McGinley was also incredibly creepy as Robert.  Fatherly Obsession was a typical Lifetime stalking film but it had enough interesting moments to make it worthwhile for fans of the genre.

Film Review: The Commuter (dir by Jaume Collet-Sera)


It’s January, which means that it’s time for another silly action movie starring Liam Neeson.  Ever since Taken was first released way back in 2008, Liam has been a regular fixture during the first few months of each new year, either killing terrorists or killing gangsters.  Regardless of the film, he’s always a world-weary guy who loves his family and who has a unique set of skills.  The specific skills may change from film to film but they all pretty much have to do with killing people.

For instance, in the latest Liam Neeson action film, The Commuter, Liam plays Michael MacCauley.  Michael may currently sell life insurance but he used to be a detective with the NYPD.  Judging by some of the things that Michael does over the course of this film, being a detective in New York City apparently requires you to have a set of skills that one would normally associate with James Bond or Jason Bourne.  However, Michael left all of that behind.  Sure, he might still get together with his former partner (Patrick Wilson) for a beer and he still complains about his former captain (Sam Neill).  But Michael’s in the insurance game now.  As he explains it, he’s nearly 60, he’s got a teenage son getting ready for college, and he has two mortgages to pay off.  Michael and his family still haven’t recovered from the recession.  Don’t get him started on Goldman Sachs…

It sure is a good thing that Michael has that good job!

Except, of course, he doesn’t.  One day, Michael arrives at the office, is given a rather weak severance package, and is told that his services will no longer be needed.  Wondering how he’s going to tell his wife and son that their lives are pretty much over, Michael wanders around New York, gets a little drunk, and then eventually boards the train that will take him back home.

Michael is a regular on the train.  As is quickly made clear, he knows all of the other regular commuters, like grizzled old Walt (Jonathan Banks) and neurotic Tony (Andy Nyman).  He’s also still enough of a cop that he notices people who are riding the train for the first time.  For instance, there’s Joanna (Vera Farmiga).  Joanna sits down in front of him and strikes up a conversation.  She asks him what he would do if she told him that there was a bag full of money in one of the air conditioning vents but that, if he takes the money, he’s agreeing to do something for her.  When Joanna gets off at the next stop, Michael checks the vent.  The money’s there and now, so is the task.  Michael has to find and identify one passenger on the train.  If he doesn’t, his family dies…

Even by the standards of a Liam Neeson action film, The Commuter is a deeply silly movie.  However, that very silliness is the key to the film’s appeal.  After getting off to a strong start with a witty montage of Michael repeatedly waking up and leaving for work day-after-day, The Commuter settles down and it seems as if it’s going to be a typical Liam Neeson action film.  However, as the film progresses, things get just more and more bizarre.  Suddenly, Michael is getting into brutal fist fights in empty train cars.  No one in the movie ever seems to care that, every time they see Michael, he’s a little bit more beaten up than he was the last time.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, trains are careening out of control, people are getting shoved in front of buses, and men with snakes tattooed on their neck are giving Michael the side eye.  At one point, Michael nearly gets crushed underneath the train and then has to run and leap to get back on.  You find yourself wondering how a 60 year-old insurance salesman is managing to do all of this.  (The answer, of course, is that he’s Liam Neeson and Liam Neeson can do anything…)

A little over an hour into the film, The Commuter hits an operatic level of silliness, one that will probably never be equaled by any other movie that Liam Neeson ever makes.  If you stop too long to think about any of it, the movie will fall apart.  To be honest, very little of what Michael does make sense but the conspiracy that’s taking advantage of him makes even less sense.  The bad guys are either incredibly stupid or incredibly brilliant, depending on what the story requires from scene to scene.

But no matter!  This is the fourth film that director Jaume Collet-Sera has made with Liam Neeson.  None of their collaborations make much sense but all of them are entertaining as long as you’re willing to sit back, relax, and don’t overthink the logic of what you’re watching.  Much as he did with The Shallows, Collet-Sera makes good use of the film’s limited setting and Neeson is his usual grizzled but charismatic self.  The Commuter is about as silly as can be but it’s an undeniably entertaining thrill ride.

 

Pre Code Confidential #16: Gable & Harlow in RED DUST (MGM 1932)


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(Hello, all! I haven’t been able to do much posting this week due to a severe bout of sciatica. I’m starting to feel better, and have watched tons of films while recuperating… stay tuned!)

  

Rising young MGM stars Clark Gable (31) and Jean Harlow (21) were red-hot in 1932, and the studio teamed them for the first time in the steamy romance RED DUST. Actually, Gable and Harlow had acted together in the previous year’s gangster epic THE SECRET SIX, but as part of the ensemble. RED DUST marked their first pairing as a screen team, and the duo make the film burn as hot as the sweltering jungle setting!

He-man Gable plays he-man Denny Carson, owner of a rubber plantation in French Indochina (now known as Vietnam). Denny’s a no-nonsense, tough taskmaster, as hard on his foremen as he is on the coolies. Into this manly milieu…

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