Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: The Rachels (dir by Michael Civille)


(Hi, everyone!  I’ve been cleaning out my DVR and reviewing the films that I’ve recorded.  Here’s my final review of the day.  I recorded The Rachels off of Lifetime on January 29th!)

I want to tell you about The Rachels but it’s not going to be easy because, at the same time, I don’t want to tell you too much.  The Rachels is a whip-smart and wonderfully snarky little satire and, because of the non-linear narrative style that the first half of the film employs, there’s very little I can tell you about the plot without spoiling the movie.

Don’t be put off by its origins as a Lifetime film.  Don’t judge the film just because the title was obviously inspired by Heathers.  How good is The Rachels?  It’s so good that I’m tempted to call it nifty.  That’s how good it is.

It tells the story of two teenage girls named Rachel.  They’ve been best friends forever.  They do the morning announcements together, always ending things by reminding the school, “We’re the Rachels.”  Rachel Nelson (Madison Iseman) is blonde and popular, a track star who is loved by everyone.  Rachel Richards (Caitlin Carver) is brunette and she’s slightly less popular than Rachel Nelson.  Rachel Richards is almost always in the shadow of Rachel Nelson.  While Rachel Nelson is praised by her track coach, Rachel Richards is consistently told that she could do better.  And then there’s Roxie (Daniela Bobadilla), a photographer who seems to be slightly obsessed with Rachel Nelson but is disliked by Rachel Richards.  Roxie claims that she was once one of the Rachels but she is continually told, by one of the Rachels (I can’t reveal which one), that she was never really a Rachel.

At a late night party, one of these three girls will fall off of the roof and plunge to her death, the result of an apparent suicide.  The film, in its non-linear fashion, holds off an immediately revealing which one of them fell from the roof and I will do the same.  What I can tell you is that the entire school soon becomes a shrine to the dead girl and the two survivors both use her death to their own advantage.  Both of them, by linking themselves to the now sainted dead girl, become very different types of celebrities.

It makes for a very sharp satire, one that perfectly skewers today’s culture of instant fame and internet grieving.  All three of the main actresses — Maidson Iseman, Caitlin Carver, and Daniela Bobadilla — are perfectly cast and give pitch perfect performances.  This is one of those films where no one turns out to be exactly who you thought they would be.  Well-written, well-directed, and wonderfully acted, The Rachels keeps you thinking and guessing.

That’s really all I can say about the movie without giving away too much.  Keep an eye out for it.

Film Review: Space Trucker Bruce (dir by Anton Doiron)


For most of today, I’ve been posting reviews of films that I watched off of my DVR.  Well, I’m going to take a brief break from that pattern to tell you about a film that I watched last weekend.  It was a low-budget sci-fi film, a real labor of love that the director posted on YouTube.  I watched this film with some of my friends from the Late Night Movie Gang: there was me, Kurt Zellner, Holly Wilson, Janeen Worrall, Phil Kaine, Michael McDow, and Jes Coolbaugh.  For the most part, we enjoyed this film.

The name of the movie was Space Trucker Bruce.  I’m trying to think of the best way to explain the plot and it’s not easy.  It’s a very episodic film and I think it could actually be argued that there really isn’t a plot per se.  Instead, there’s just a lot of stuff that happens. Some of it is connected and some of it isn’t but the randomness of it all is part of the film’s charm.

Space Trucker Bruce takes place in the far future.  The Earth has colonized the solar system.  Humans and human businesses have taken over space.  Bruce (Karl Sears) is a space trucker.  He’s currently in the process of hauling 20,000 tons of hog fat from Earth to a space station.  It’s a lonely job, to be honest.  At the start of the film, Bruce doesn’t have any human companionship.  He does have a robot, though it’s possible that the robot might actually just be a trash can.  You’ll have to watch the film to know for sure.  He has several books to read, including a few by the noted Catholic historian Garry Wills.  He also has movies, which apparently hardly anyone watches in the future.  (Bruce is one of the few people in existence to still know what Star Wars is.)  There’s also a tub of cream cheese that has apparently come to life and which keeps encouraging Bruce to do some really bad things.  Or at least, we assume that the cream cheese has come to life.  Could Bruce just be crazy?

During the journey, Bruce gets some human companionship when he picks up a hitchhiker named Max (played by the film’s director and writer, Anton Doiron).  Max is an affable if occasionally neurotic guy.  He has a hard time adjusting to Bruce’s laid back personality but, on the plus side, Max is willing to watch movies.

The rest of the film — well, I guess the simplest way to put it would be that Bruce and Max have various adventures while making their way to the space station.  Except, they’re not really adventures as much as they’re just stuff that happens.  Calling them adventures would suggest that Bruce and Max were really active participants.  For the most part, they both spend the majority of the film just relaxing in the ship and occasionally responding to stuff that happens.  I mean, if the ship is about to be destroyed then sure, Bruce and Max are going to try to stop that from occurring.  But, for the most part, Bruce and Max are just kind of hanging out.

And that really is the film’s charm.  This is a low-budget film that proudly embraces the fact that it’s a low-budget film.  The sets and the special effects manage to look cheap and effective at the same time.  There’s a real charm to the fact that the director wanted to make a space epic and he managed to do it, despite not having much money.  Even the amateurish acting become charming after a while.  To say that the actors were stiff would be an understatement.  But, at the same time, Karl Sears was perfectly cast as Bruce.  He just was Bruce in much the same way that Anton Doiron just was Max.  There are some films that you appreciate just because they actually managed to get made and seen.  Space Trucker Bruce is one of those films.

Space Trucker Bruce is available, for free, on YouTube.  It’s not a film for everyone but here’s the thing.  If it’s not for you, you’ll know after the first ten minutes.  However, if you’re still watching after those ten minutes then you’ll probably enjoy this odd little movie.

Here’s the trailer!

As for the film, it can be watched here:

 

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Nanny Seduction (dir by Emily Moss Wilson)


(Hi, everyone!  I’ve been cleaning out my DVR over the past week and, today, I’ve been sharing reviews of the film’s that I watched!  I recorded Nanny Seduction off of the Lifetime Movie Network on February 26th!)

Before I talk too much about Nanny Seduction, I want to engage in a little speculation.

First off, looking at the credits, I noticed that several crew members of Nanny Seduction have also been involved with some of the shark films that usually show up on SyFy in the week before the premiere of the latest Sharknado.  That wasn’t a shock.  SyFy and Lifetime movies often tend to be produced by the same companies.  But what I loved about Nanny Seduction is that, in the very first scene, a child is seen receiving a book about sharks for her birthday!  I’m assuming that was an inside joke and I absolutely loved it.

Secondly, I’m going to guess that Nanny Seduction and A Deadly Affair were both filmed at roughly the same time.  Not only do the two films share several actors in common but I’m also pretty sure that the main house in A Deadly Affair was also the main house in Nanny Seduction.  And again, I found that to be very charming.  One of the fun things about watching both Lifetime and SyFy movies is making the connections between them.  It’s actually rather fun to see a familiar face pop up and wonder what their role is going to be this time.  It’s kind of like when Dick Miller shows up in a Roger Corman film or Giovanni Lombardo Radice pops up in one of Michele Soavi’s movies.

As for the film itself, Nanny Seduction pretty much takes the standard Lifetime nanny film to its logical extreme.  Lifetime has a long history of nanny paranoia.  It makes sense, of course.  By hiring a nanny, you’re not only trusting your child with a stranger but, in a way, you’re also admitting that you can’t be two places at once.  You’re admitting that your powers are limited.  Of course, by hiring a nanny — who is inevitably always younger, prettier and more exciting than boring old mommy — you’re running the risk that the nanny will either try to run off with your child or your husband.  Nanny Seduction is one of the first films to suggest that the nanny might do both.

Of course, that’s not all that Kara (Austin Highsmith) has to worry about.  She also has to worry about the fact that her daughter, Erin (Lauren Gobuzzi), is adopted and that Erin’s birth mother (Erin Cahill) is apparently stalking her.  And then there’s the fact that Kara’s husband, Ben (Wes Brown), has a history of cheating.  Even more than the typical Lifetime protagonist, Kara has good reason to be worried when the new nanny, Alyssa (Valerie Azlynn), keeps hitting on her husband.

Speaking of Alyssa, she’s one of my favorite Lifetime nannies.  It’s not that she’s any more evil than the typical Lifetime nanny.  Instead, it’s just that she’s so unapologetic about it.  Most evil nannies at least try to be subtle but Alyssa never even pretends to be Kara’s friend.  She pretty much steps into the house and announces, “I’m going to kidnap your child and run off with your husband.  Deal with it!”  Alyssa is so joyfully and unapologetically evil and Valeria Azlynn is clearly having such a blast playing her that she elevates the entire film.

Nanny Seduction is a lot of fun.  It embraces the melodrama and thank goodness for that!

 

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Mommy’s Prison Secret (dir by John L’Ecuyer)


(Hi!  I am currently in the process of cleaning out the DVR.  I recorded Mommy’s Prison Secret off of Lifetime on May 6th.)

Taylor Reynolds (Kelli Williams) has a secret and, believe it or not, the secret is not that she served time in prison.  Everyone knows that Taylor has a record and, as opposed to what would happen in the real world, everyone seems to be okay with it.  She’s got a nice house in the suburbs, a handsome husband (Justin Reynolds), and a good relationship with her teenage daughter, Bianca (Niamh Wilson).  She’s even best friends with her probation officer!

Of course, it’s not like Taylor killed anyone or anything like that.  She went to prison because she was arrested for DUI and the cops found weed in her car.  She was a model prisoner and apparently, something of a protegé of the warden’s.  She secured an early release from prison and she got her life back on track.

So, what’s Mommy’s prison secret?  Could it be that the weed actually belonged to husband and she basically took the fall for him?  Or could it have something to do with her former cellmate, Meghan (Sarain Boylan)?  Meghan has just been released from prison and of course, she promptly turns up in Taylor’s hometown.  When Taylor is at the supermarket and she realizes that she’s forgotten her wallet, Meagan pops up, pays for her groceries, and tells off the cashier.

Taylor can’t wait to get away from Meghan, who is tough, crude, and has a blonde mullet sorta thing going on.  However, Meghan has other plans,  That night, she shows up at Taylor’s house.  Her car has broken down.  It’s raining.  Taylor’s like, “Go away,” and Taylor’s husband is like, “We can’t kick out a guest!”

Needless to say, that’s a big mistake.  Not only is Meghan soon pressuring Taylor to sneak drugs into the prison but she’s also proving to be a bad influence on Bianca.  Taylor would love to tell Meghan to leave or maybe even call the police but, if she does that, Meghan will reveal Mommy’s prison secret!

What is Mommy’s prison secret?  Well, it’s probably not what you think it’s going to be.  I thought that it was going to turn out that Meghan and Taylor had been more than just cellmates (and there are hints of that being the case) but the secret itself is something totally different and, to be honest, a lot less interesting.

Anyway, the best thing about Mommy’s Prison Secret is Sarain Boylan’s performance as Meghan.  Boylan dominates every scene in which she appears.  Meghan speaks her mind and has literally no secrets and, in an odd way, you actually end up liking her a lot more than you like the duplicitous Taylor.  Even if she is a bad influence who blackmails Taylor into becoming a drug smuggler, it’s hard not to occasionally say, “Go Meghan!”

One final note: Was Taylor named after Orange Is The New Black‘s Taylor Schilling?  I’m going to assume that she was.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Dream House Nightmare (dir by Jose Montesinos)


(Hi!  I’m currently cleaning out my DVR and, though I’m making some progress, I’ve still got over 150 movies left to watch and review!  Will I finish before the world ends in November?  Who knows!?  Anyway, I recorded Dream House Nightmare off of the Lifetime Movie Network on April 2nd.)

I got really excited when Dream House Nightmare started and I saw those three magic words: “The Asylum Presents.”

“Oh, Hell yeah!” I shouted.  “An Asylum film!”

See, whenever I see “The Asylum Presents,” I know that the film that follows is going to be a lot of fun.  The Asylum is shameless about being over the top entertainment.  There is rarely anything subtle about an Asylum film but that’s exactly why people like me love them.  The Asylum has turned melodrama into an art form.

The other reason that I got excited about Dream House Nightmare was, from the opening shots, it was obvious that the film was set and shot in Louisiana.  Seriously, an Asylum film shot in the Deep South?  You better believe I was excited!

And, for the most part, Dream House Nightmare lived up to my expectations.  It tells the story of a house, a really big house that practically anyone would die for.  Madison Dupree (Terese Aiello) loves the house and would love to buy it.  When she sees another couple looking at the house, she even tells them not to bother.  She has determined that the house is going to belong to her.  Can you blame her?  She doesn’t have much else going on in her life.  Years ago, she was named Mother of the Year but now, she has been relegated to the margins of society.  She lives with her disabled daughter (Tenea Intriago, giving a poignant performance in a difficult role) and her white trash husband (Brett Baker).  Why can’t she at least have a nice house?

However, she doesn’t get the house.  A better offer is made by the Wades, Thom (David A. Cole) and his wife, Theresa (Rachel G. Whittle).  Thom is an emergency room doctor.  Theresa is pregnant and is often alone at home while her husband works at the hospital.  Theresa has already suffered one miscarriage and is understandably worried that she’ll have another.  It doesn’t help that the neighbors all think that she’s stand-offish.  (“I’m just shy!” she protests and believe me, as someone who has often been wrongly accused of having an attitude, I knew exactly what she was going through.)

It also doesn’t help that Madison is batshit insane, so insane that she immediately launches a campaign of harassment against the Wades.  She leaves threatening notes.  She goes online and announces that the Wades are having an open house, which leads to a few surprise visitors.  She leaves notes for the other neighbors, making Thom look like a pervert.  When Thom and Theresa hold a party to get to know their neighbors, Madison attempts to blow everyone up.

It’s just all so over-the-top and insane that it’s impossible not to enjoy.  The plot doesn’t have to make sense when it’s this much fun.  It seems somehow appropriate that the film takes place in the Deep South.  Down here, we embrace our melodrama.  This film is a potent combination of Louisiana atmosphere and Asylum melodrama, with a healthy amount of random insanity tossed into the mix.

As I said, I’m always happy when I see “The Asylum Presents.”  Films like this are the reason why.

A Movie A Day #138: Navajo Joe (1966, directed by Sergio Corbucci)


Duncan (Aldo Sambrell) and his gang are the most ruthless and feared outlaws in the old west.  When first seen, they are destroying a Navajo village and shooting everyone that they see.  Duncan even steals a pendant from a young Indian woman.  When that woman’s husband, Joe (Burt Reynolds), discovers what has happened, he sets out for vengeance.  With Ennio Morricone’s classic score playing in the background, Joe kills one gang member after another.  When Duncan and his gang lay siege to the town of Esperanza, Joe approaches the townspeople and offers to defend them.  His price?  “One dollar a head from every man in this town for every bandit that I kill.”

Following in the footsteps of his friend and fellow television star, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds went to Italy in the 1960s and made a spaghetti western.  Navajo Joe was his second starring role, after Operation CIA.  Reynolds has always described Navajo Joe as being one of the worst movies ever made but, with the excepton of Deliverance, Burt says that about every film that he has ever made.  (Burt has also complained that the wig he wore in Navajo Joe made him look like Natalie Wood, which is true.)  While it never reaches the height of some of Sergio Corbucci’s other westerns, Navajo Joe is a frequently exciting movie, featuring one of Morricone’s best scores and a lead performance that is never as bad as Burt claims it was.  At first, it is strange to see Burt Reynolds playing such a grim and stoic character but, by the time he is throwing dynamite at Duncan’s gang, he has grown into the role and proven that he could actually play something other than a giggling good old boy.  As usual for a Corbucci western, both the outlaws and the greedy and ungrateful townspeople stand in for capitalism run amok. Like many spaghetti protagonists, Joe is an outsider who fights to save a town full of cowardly people who will never accept him.  As Joe explains, his ancestors were in America long before any of the townspeople’s ancestors.  America is his land but the forces of progress and greed are robbing him of his home.

Navajo Joe may not be a classic but it’s a solid western featuring one of Burt Reynolds’s most underrated performances.  If you have ever wanted to see Burt Reynolds smile while scalping a man, Navajo Joe is the film to see.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: A Neighbor’s Deception (dir by Devon Downs and Kenny Gage)


(I’m currently cleaning out my DVR and right now, I kinda suspect that a comic book movie might get a best picture nomination before I ever get finished.  By that, I mean that this is taking forever!  But, no matter!  I’m having fun.  Anyway, I recorded A Neighbor’s Deception off of Lifetime on April 8th.)

Welcome to the neighborhood!

And what a neighborhood it is.  Big house, big yards, big SUVs, and … wait, where are all the people?  Chloe (Ashley Bell) and Michael Anderson (Adam Mayfield) have just bought a new house in this neighborhood and everything should be perfect.  Chloe has had her struggles and, from the first minute we see her, it’s obvious that she’s not exactly stable.  She’s nervous and a bit too quick to smile.  Michael feels that the new neighborhood will be perfect for Chloe.

While Michael goes to work during the day, Chloe runs and takes pictures.  It’s a beautiful neighborhood, surrounded by wonderful scenery.  And yet, there’s something off about it.  The streets and sidewalks often seem to be strangely deserted  The first time that Chloe sees her neighbor, he’s driving past her and he barely acknowledges her.

It’s not until later that Chloe and Michael finally meet their neighbors face-to-face.  Gerald (Tom Amandes) and Cheryl Dixon (Isabella Hoffman) seems like their friendly enough but there are hints that everything may not be perfect with them.  For one thing, Gerald is considerably more friendly than Cheryl.  Gerald is also a retired psychologist and starts to counsel Chloe for free.  He says he’s just doing it to be a good neighbor but are his motives truly pure?

That’s what Chloe being to wonder.  It doesn’t help that she’s soon getting mysterious phone calls from a man who blames Gerald for the death of his sister.  The man wants Chloe to investigate Gerald and his past.  Chloe agrees but is her paranoia justified or, as Michael suggests, is she on the verge of having another breakdown?

Written by noted horror expert Adam Rockoff, A Neighbor’s Deception is a hundred times more creepy than the usual Lifetime film.  Wisely, both the script and the direction puts the emphasis on atmosphere.  That big and oddly empty neighborhood becomes as much of a character as Chloe, Michael, Gerald, and Cheryl.  This is one of those films that seems to have literally been bathed in a tub full of existential dread.  As we watch, we find ourselves wondering if the neighborhood is really as creepy as it looks or if maybe Chloe’s paranoia is rubbing off on us.

Chloe is played by Ashley Bell, who some will recognize as being the “possessed” girl in The Last Exorcism.  Bell gives an excellent performance in this film.  She’s immediately sympathetic but, at the same time, she plays the role with just enough a nervous edge that you’re always aware that she could be imagining things.  (Bell is often framed in the scene so that she’s seen alone, reinforcing the feeling that Chloe is not quite living in the real world.)  Also deserving of credit is Tom Amandes, who is all dapper menace as Gerald.

A Neighbor’s Deception ends with a twist that won’t necessarily take you by surprise but no matter.  The journey makes it all worh it.