Cleaning Out The DVR: A Night To Regret (dir by Tim Shell)


I recorded A Night To Regret off of Lifetime on June 19th, 2018!

Poor Chelsea Bilson (Mollee Gray)!

She’s got a lot to deal with.  She’s a college student who is always busy.  Her mother (Marguerite Moreau) is pressuring her to become an attorney, constantly asking her about her grades, and continually talking about how expensive Chelsea’s education is turning out to be.  Her boyfriend has just dumped her, specifically because Chelsea doesn’t ever seem to have any time for him.

All Chelsea wants to do is direct a movie but even that’s become a struggle.  Because her mother is only interested in financing Chelsea’s education, Chelsea is not only having to pay for the movie herself but she’s also having to do it all without her mother finding out what’s going on.  Can you blame Chelsea for just wanting to spend a night unwinding?

It’s while she’s out with her friend Sara (Gigi Zumbado) that Chelsea runs into Mila (Kirsten Pfeiffer) and Liam (Tyler Sellers).  Mila and Chelsea were childhood friends.  As Chelsea explains it, she and Mila were always getting in trouble together.  Mila eventually ended up living on the streets but it appears that she’s doing much better now.  Now, she has expensive clothes and a nice apartment.  And she even has a handsome business partner in Liam.

What is Mila’s business?

She’s a webcam girl and, in Lifetime films, that always means trouble!

Seeing that Chelsea needs money and some confidence boosting, Mila tries to turn Chelsea into a webcam girl.  It’s not really something Chelsea is interested in doing, though she does make a thousand dollars as the result of one eager fan.  That allows her to pay for one more day of shooting, which is a good thing.

What isn’t such a good thing is that it soon becomes apparent that Chelsea’s fan is more than a little unstable and obsessed.  Even after Chelsea makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with him, he still tries to contact her.  He sends her a message letting her know that he likes what she’s wearing.  Chelsea looks outside her bedroom window, just in time to catch a truck driving away.

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s mom has a new friend!  His name is Jake Peters (Kevin McNamara) and he’s a personal trainer!  He has a disconcerting habit of showing up wherever Chelsea happens to be.  Jake seems friendly but there’s something a bit off about him.  He’s a little bit too friendly and he tends to speak in weird self-help clichés.  And, of course, there’s the fact that Jake murdered his mother at the start of the film…

Yep, Jake has some issues.  And it’s not a spoiler to tell you that he’s also Chelsea’s stalker.  He’s got plans to make Chelsea’s one night as a webcam girl a night to regret!

I had to work the film’s title into that last paragraph because I think it’s a pretty good title.  As soon as you hear those words, “A Night To Regret,” you’re immediately intrigued.  A Night To Remember ended with the Titanic hitting an iceberg.  How will A Night To Regret end?

Well, in A Night To Regret, the iceberg is Jake, who is a thoroughly creepy and unsettling character, so much so that you have to feel that both Chelsea and her mother were incredibly naive to not immediately turn and run the first time that they saw Jake approaching them.  Jake is the type who will murder a random passerby, smirk about it, and then not understand why some people are turned off by his behavior.  Kevin McNamara does a great job playing Jake, turning him into a memorable Lifetime villain.

I also liked the performances of Kirsten Pfeiffer and Tyler Sellers are Mila and Liam.  (Interestingly enough, Liam is an anagram of Mila and vice versa.)  Pfeiffer kept you guessing as to whether Mila was just a concerned friend or if her motives were more sinister while Sellers was so charming as Liam that you regretted he wasn’t in more of the movie.  Also giving a good performance was Tina Huang, who projected a wonderful, no-bullshit attitude as Detective Morita.

A Night To Regret is a typical stalker flick but the performances of McNamara, Pfeiffer, Sellers, and Huang keep things interesting.

Cleaning Out the DVR #20: ALL-STAR PRE-CODE LADIES EDITION!


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I know all of you, like me, will be watching tonight’s 89th annual Major League Baseball All-Star G
ame, and… wait, what’s that? You say you WON’T be watching the All-Star Game? You have no interest in baseball? Heretics!! But I understand, I really do, and for you non-baseball enthusiasts I’ve assembled a quartet of Pre-Code films to view as an alternative, starring some of the era’s most fabulous females. While I watch the game, you can hunt down and enjoy the following four films celebrating the ladies of Pre-Code:

DAUGHTER OF THE DRAGON (Paramount 1931; D: Lloyd Corrigan) – Exotic Anna May Wong stars as Princess Ling Moy, an “Oriental dancer” and daughter of the infamous Dr. Fu Manchu (Warner Oland)! When Fu dies, Ling Moy takes up the mantle of vengeance against the Petrie family, tasked with killing surviving son Ronald. Sessue Hayakawa (BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI)…

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The TSL’s Grindhouse: Survival Island (dir by Stewart Raffill)


In the beginning, there was a yacht in the Caribbean.

Working on that yacht was a waiter named Manuel (Juan Pablo Di Pace).  Manuel was strong, handsome, and as sexy as a reality show participant.  He knew how to repair things.  He knew how to catch fish.  His job may have required him to serve margaritas to rich assholes from the United States but he always did it with an attitude.  Manuel was the type of arrogant working man who one would typically expect to find Giancarlo Gianinni playing in a Lina Wertmuller film.  Of course, Manuel is more interested in getting laid than leading a worker’s revolution.  In fact, just before setting out on his latest voyage, he broke up with his girlfriend.  She reacted by pointing at him and laughing evilly.  In a movie like this, that can only mean one thing: VOODOO CURSE!

And then there was Jenny (Kelly Brook) and her husband, Jack (Billy Zane).  While Jenny was the trophy wife, Jack was the American businessman who rented out the yacht for a fishing expedition.   Jack was arrogant.  Jack was outspoken.  Jack was convinced that he knew how to survive at sea, even though he didn’t.  He and Manuel took an instant dislike to each other.  It didn’t help Manuel’s cabin was right next to Jenny and Jack’s and that the sound of Jenny’s ecstatic moaning kept Manuel from getting a goodnight’s rest.

(Of course, another reason that Manuel was having trouble getting any sleep was because, at that very moment, his ex-girlfriend was dancing in a candle-filled room and apparently taking part in some sort of Santeria-related ceremony.)

Well, you can guess where this is going, can’t you?  Jack and Manuel have an argument on the boat.  Manuel gets fired and reacts by taking a towel and throwing it on a stove.  Soon, the boat’s on fire.  Jenny and Manuel wash up on the shore of an isolated island.  For two days, Manuel takes care of Jenny.  He catches fish for her.  He encourages her to swim naked in the ocean.  He yells at her, “You have a perfect ass, senora!  It’s shaped like a heart because God didn’t give you a real one!”  (If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that…)  Despite herself, Jenny starts to fall for Manuel.  Suddenly, Jack shows up on the beach!

Jack soon proves himself to be just as obnoxious on dry land as he was on the boat.  Earlier, Jenny and Manuel had buried the body of the boat’s captain.  Jack promptly digs the captain back up so he can get a change of clothes and some cigars.  Jenny is stunned that Jack would do something so gross.  Jack laughs it off as only Billy Zane can.

Soon, Jack is living on one end of the beach while Manuel is on the other.  And Jenny is stuck in the middle.  Meanwhile, Manuel’s ex-girlfriend is still dancing in that candle-filled room…

Survival Island is a movie that manages to both bad and brilliant at the same time.  In the role of Jenny, Kelly Brook gives a performance that hits so many wrong notes that it almost becomes a perfect example of outsider art.  When she should be scared, she seems to be mildly annoyed.  When she should be happy, she again seems to be mildly annoyed.  The script itself can’t decide whether Jenny is meant to be a noirish femme fatale or a repressed trophy wife.  Jenny never really comes to life as anything other than a plot device but I do have to admire the fact that, even after a shipwreck and several days on a desert island, her makeup was always perfect and her hair was always clean.  Still, considering that the film revolves around her, Jenny is a surprisingly insubstantial character.

Fortunately, the fact that Jenny is such a poorly written character almost doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that Billy Zane is in this movie and he’s exactly the type of shameless, over-the-top performer that this story needs.  There’s nothing subtle about Zane’s performance.  Jack talks to himself.  Even before they end up fighting over Jenny, Jack is always glaring at Manuel.  When he manages to catch something to eat, Jack breaks out into a wonderfully self-satisfied grin and when he suspects that Jenny may have cheated on him, he pouts like a child who has just been informed that his favorite toy was donated to the Goodwill while he wasn’t looking.  Jack’s the type of character who has a snarky comment about everything and Billy Zane is one of those actors who definitely knows how to deliver a sarcastic line or two.  Jack may be a jerk but so what?  He’s an American jerk so, as an American film reviewer, I’m required to be on his side.  Once Jack — and Billy Zane — loses it and goes crazy on that island, nothing else matters.  On the basis of Billy Zane’s presence alone, the film is a guaranteed a certain immortality.  Indeed, the main conflict in Survival Island isn’t between Jack and Manuel.  Instead, it’s between a film that takes itself seriously and a star who does not.

That’s really what makes Survival Island into such a slyly (if, perhaps, unintentionally) subversive film.  The movie may think that it has something to say about class, relationships, and sex but Billy Zane is always on hand to announce,, “No, this is all about watching me go batshit crazy on an island!  That’s all that matters!”  Just as how Jenny must choose between Jack and Manuel, the viewer is forced to choose between taking the movie seriously or just enjoying Billy Zane at his zaney best.

I have a feeling that most people will go with the latter.

In the UK, Survival Island was released as Three.

Cleaning Out The DVR: My Husband’s Secret Life (dir by Philippe Gagnon)


I recorded My Husband’s Secret Life off of Lifetime on March 25th.

Agck!

That looks like quite an accident, doesn’t it?

Lying on the ground is Freddy (Brett Donahue).  Freddy owns a flower store so you might wonder how exactly he ended up lying in the middle of the street, covered in blood.  Some of it could have to do with the fact that Freddy is the husband who is mentioned, in the title, as having a secret.  Freddy may seem like a nice guy but he sure is shady about certain aspects of his past.  For instance, why does he carry a lighter that was made in Russia?  And when he talks in his sleep, why does he speak with slightly foreign accent?  And then there’s his slightly creepy and rather overprotective mother.

As for why he’s lying in the middle of the road, he’s just been run by a man named Arthur (Joe Cobden).  Arthur drinks too much and is frequently a nervous wreck.  Interestingly enough, he once had a respectable job and a strong family.  Whenever Freddy and Arthur meet, it’s on one of those park benches that practically screams, “Secret spy meeting place!”

Hovering over him is Jennifer Jones (Kara Killmer).  Jennifer is Freddy’s wife and, to be honest, she was a bit concerned about her marriage even before Freddy ended up in the middle of the street.  They’ve been married for seven years and yet, there’s still things that Jennifer doesn’t really known about Freddy.  And when she just happens to spot him in the city, getting yelled at by an angry woman, Jennifer’s suspicions become even stronger.  It gets even worse when she twice tries to call him and, after first ignoring her, he answers the second time and blatantly lies about where he is.

Later, when she confronts him, he admits that he was lying about where he was but then asks her why she didn’t call him out if she knew he was lying.  I mean, how dare she allow him to lie!?  That’s classic gaslighting and enough to make everyone watching the film shout, “Get away from him!”

But, shortly afterward, Freddy ends up in the middle of the street and, suddenly, the whole idea of leaving him gets a lot more awkward.  Freddy’s in a coma now and how can you leave someone when they’re in a coma?  While Jennifer waits for Freddy to wake up, her mother-in-law continues to push her away.  What was Jennifer’s husband hiding and why is his mother searching through his house in the middle of the night?  Jennifer is determined to find out!

In all probability, you’ll figure it out long before Jennifer does.  I mean, honestly, when a guy starts speaking in a foreign accent in his sleep, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he’s probably not who he says he is.  In fact, it takes a certain suspension of disbelief to accept that Freddy could have fooled Jennifer for all this time.

But — hey, this is Lifetime and Lifetime is all about suspending your disbelief and having a good time!  Kara Killmer gives a sympathetic lead performance and Joe Cobden has a few good scenes as the perpetually shaky Arthur.  At its most effective, My Husband’s Secret Life deals with a question that we’ve all asked (whether we admit it or not): How well do we know the people we love?

My Husband’s Secret Life is also known as Sleeper.

Drive-In Saturday Night 2: BIKINI BEACH (AIP 1964) & PAJAMA PARTY (AIP 1964)


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Welcome back to Drive-In Saturday Night! Summer’s here, and the time is right for a double dose of American-International teen flicks, so pull in, pull up a speaker to hang on your car window, and enjoy our first feature, 1964’s BIKINI BEACH, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello:

BIKINI BEACH is the third of AIP’s ‘Beach Party’ movies, and this one’s a typical hodgepodge of music, comedy, and the usual teenage shenanigans. The gang’s all here, heading to the beach on spring break for surfing and swinging. This time around, there’s a newcomer on the sand, British rock star The Potato Bug, with Frankie playing a dual role. Potato Bug is an obvious spoof of the big Beatlemania fever sweeping the country, with all the beach chicks (or “birds”, as he calls ’em) screaming whenever PB starts singing one of his songs, complete with Lennon/McCartney-esque “Wooos” and “Yeah, yeah, yeahs”…

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Cleaning Out The DVR: Family Vanished (dir by Mark Sanderson)


I recorded Family Vanished off of the Lifetime Movie Network on July 6th!

“Give me my wedding ring, you white trash bitch!”

— Lisa (Kelly Packard) in Family Vanished (2018)

Here’s two lessons that I learned from Family Vanished:

  1. Be careful how much information you post online.

Seriously, Lisa (Kelly Packard) thought it would be a good idea to post how much she had sold a painting for online.  She also thought it would be a good idea to let the world know that she, her husband (Madison Dirks), and her daughter (Elisa Luthman) would all be in Hawaii on a work vacation.

What happened as a result?  Well, Mike (Todd Cahoon), Carol (Jennifer Taylor), and their daughter (Megan Littler) saw Lisa’s posting.  And they decided that Lisa and her family must have a lot of money.  So, they broke into the family’s house.  They lived there for several days.  They tried on everyone’s clothes.  They slept in everyone’s beds.  They made the house their own and, since they never took off their black gloves, they managed to do it without leaving behind any DNA or fingerprint evidence.

Of course, they quickly discovered that Lisa and her family wasn’t as rich as they assumed.  In fact, a quick perusal of Lisa’s diary revealed that the family itself wasn’t particularly happy.  Still, Mike and Carol were determined to get something for all of their trouble so they stayed in the house until Lisa and the family returned from their vacation.

Second lesson learned:

2. You can only push people so far before they snap.

Sure, Mike and Carol had a lot of fun tormenting Lisa and her family.  They revealed that Lisa had been unfaithful.  They forced Lisa’s husband to bark like a dog.  They taunted Lisa’s daughter for having won so many trophies in school.  Mike and Carol had a lot of fun but they failed to consider just how far some people will go to get revenge.

When their initial ordeal finally ended, Lisa and her husband were not happy to learn that the police had no real leads as to where Mike and Carol went off to.  So, they decided to investigate on their own.  And when they did track down Mike and Carol, well, let’s just say that even the most normal-seeming people can be pushed too far…

So, Family Vanished was a film that I had mixed feelings about.  I’m not a huge fan of movies about people being held hostage.  Films about hostage situations are always a bit too predictable for me.  It always starts with the hostages pleading for their lives and then the nosy neighbor comes over and there’s the big tense scene where the main hostage has to try to get rid of him while someone stands behind the front door with a gun or a knife pointed at his back.  The hostage takers always start taunting the hostages.  I’ve seen it so many times that I just automatically get bored with the situation.

So, the first half of Family Vanished didn’t do much for me but then Lisa and her husband set out to get revenge and it became this totally different, wonderfully over-the-top movie!  I loved watching Kelly Packard and Madison Dirks get mean and vengeful.  Kelly Packard has appeared in many Lifetime movies but I think this is the first one where she actually gets to kick some ass and both she and Dirks seemed to be having a lot of fun with the role reversal.  Add to that, Mike and Carol were so obnoxiously cruel that it was impossible not to get some guilty pleasure out watching Lisa demanded the return of her wedding ring.

With its theme of a terrible crime leading to an even worse revenge, Family Vanished is what I imagine a Wes Craven-directed Lifetime movie would have been like.   It’s Lifetime’s Last House On The Left.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #186: Killer Caregiver (dir by John Murlowski)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime movie premiere, Killer Caregiver!

Why Was I Watching It?

Why not?

What Was It About?

While visiting one of her clients, Mariah Wilson (Nicole Hayden) is shocked when an accident leads to not only his death but also to her breaking her arm.  With months of physical therapy ahead of her, Mariah hires a home caregiver.  Tara (Camila Banus) seems like she’s perfect.  She gets along with Mariah’s estranged husband, Greg (George Stults).  She helps Mariah exercise her arm.  Most importantly, Mariah’s son, Jacob (Jaeden Bettencourt), loves her!

It all seems perfect, except … uh oh!  It turns out that Tara is the daughter of Mariah’s dead client and she’s out for revenge!

What Worked?

Oh my God, the houses were to die for!  Seriously, one of the things that I love about Lifetime films is that they always take place in these huge houses, the majority of which have a pool in the back yard.  But, even by the standards of Lifetime, this film featured some nice houses.  In fact, Greg and Mariah’s house was so nice that I was half expecting Greg to reveal that he worked as a money launderer for the mob.  But no, Greg’s job had something to do with computers.  Having seen this film, I’m now encouraging my boyfriend to get an IT-related job because I could have a lot of fun with a house that big.

However, it wasn’t just Greg and Mariah who had a nice house.  Tara also had a really nice house, too.  For that matter, when Greg, Mariah, and Jacob were forced to stay in a motel for a night, the motel looked really, really good.

From her first appearance, Tara established herself as being a classic Lifetime villain and Camila Banus really threw herself into the role.  From the minute Tara showed up, she was like, “This is my film and now, everyone’s at my mercy!”  A film like this is only as good as its villain and Tara was a great one.

What Did Not Work?

What happened to Eugene?  The well-meaning but intellectually disabled groundskeeper (played by David Meyers) seemed like he was going to be an important character but then he just kinda disappeared.  It was hard not to feel that the character deserved a resolution to his subplot, as minor as it may have been.

Other than that, it all worked!  I mean, I could sit here and wonder if perhaps Tara could have come with a simpler revenge scheme (spoiler: she could have) but that would be kind of silly on my part.  Melodrama is one of the reasons why I love Lifetime movies!  Besides, how can you go wrong when you’ve got a great psycho and a big house?

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

While I personally would never plot anyone’s downfall, I still found myself admiring how organized Tara was about it.  You could tell that she probably made out a To-Do List before she set about destroying Mariah’s life:

  1. Become a caregiver
  2. Get hired
  3. Brainwash Jacob
  4. Drug Mariah…

And so on and so forth.  At least, that’s what I would do.

Lessons Learned

With enough planning and preparation, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.

Plus, computer people make hella money!