The Films of 2020: The Lost Husband (dir by Vicky Wright)


The Lost Husband tells the story of Libby (Leslie Bibb).

Libby had a good life.  She lived in a big house in the suburbs of Dallas.  She had a handsome and loving husband named Danny (Kevin Alejandro).  She was the proud mother of two wonderful children, Abby (Callie Hope Haverda) and Tank (Roxton Garcia).  But then, one day, there was a car wreck.  Abby was injured and now walks with a limp.  Danny was killed.  And Libby was left a widow and a single mother.

When she loses her home, Libby and the kids try to live with Libby’s chain-smoking mother, Marsha (Sharon Lawrence).  Largely due to the fact that Marsha is a terrible human being who resents her daughter, that doesn’t work out.  Instead, Libby ends up moving out to a farm that’s owned by Aunt Jean (Nora Dunn).

Jean is plain-spoken but far kinder than Marsha.  She lives in a house without a television or a dishwasher.  Amazingly, she does have indoor plumbing.  Still, despite not having many modern luxuries, Jean proves herself to be a far stronger and far more caring person than Marsha ever was.  She not only gives Libby and her children a home but she also encourages Libby to work on the farm….

What?  Well, okay, maybe that doesn’t sound like Jean is doing Libby a favor by making her do physical farm labor but actually she is.  When Libby goes to work, she meets the handsome and single James O’Connor (Josh Duhamel).  James is the farm manager and, of course, he’s got some tragedies of his own that he’s still struggling to deal with.  Though James is at first skeptical as to whether or not Libby is ever going to be able to handle working on a farm, he’s impressed with her determination.  He also bonds with Tank and Abby and even goes as far as to teach Abby how to beat up the local bully….

And right now, you’re probably thinking that this is another silly Nicholas Sparks adaptation, the type of movie that’s perhaps destined to show up on Lifetime in another year or so.  Well, the film may very well play on Lifetime at some point in the near future but there’s still much more to The Lost Husband than just a romance between two troubled souls who work on a Texas farm.  The film is more concerned with Libby’s struggle to come to terms with the loss of her husband than it is with the possibility of her finding a new one.  Yes, James is a great guy and he looks like Josh Duhamel but this is a film that understands that Libby has to take care of herself first.

The Lost Husband is not really a movie that will take you by surprise but it’s still a gentle and sweet-natured film, one that has a good heart and is often sincerely likable.  Leslie Bibb and Josh Duhamel are both believable as two people who are still struggling to recover from their own pain but who still haven’t given up on the idea of finding some sort of happiness.  One thing I liked about the film is that it treated both Libby and James with respect.  Though Libby is not a natural-born farmer, she’s not portrayed as being some sort of spoiled city girl, either.  (In other words, she may not be excited about milking a cow but she still does it without accidentally getting a face full of milk.)  Meanwhile, James may be skeptical about Libby working on the farm but, at the same time, he’s not particularly rude or resentful about it.  Libby and James are both allowed to be adults, which is something of a rare occurrence in films about city girls returning to the farm where they grew up.

The Lost Husband is a nicely done romantic drama.  It’s not a film that’s going to change your life but it will definitely hold your attention if you happen to watch it on a rainy afternoon.

Cleaning Out The DVR: I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter (dir by Seth Jarrett)


I recorded I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter off of Lifetime on April 22nd.

Could you kill your BFF?

I’d like to think I could not.  In fact, as of right now, I have at least six BFFs and I wouldn’t kill a single one of them.  To be honest, I doubt that I’m physically capable of killing any of my BFFs.  Four of them own guns, which would definitely give them an advantage over me.  Way back when I was skipping school and shoplifting makeup, another one of my BFFs was training with the IDF.  I wouldn’t even think of trying to kill her, largely because I love her, she’s like a sister to me, and I’m pretty sure she’s been taught a hundred different ways to stop me.  So no, I would not kill any of my BFFs.  And I wouldn’t kill any of my former BFFs, either.  It’s not that I couldn’t, it’s just I imagine I’d be an obvious suspect and then there’s all the guilt and the damnation and all that.

However, there are apparently quite a few people in the world who are not only capable of killing their BFF but who have actually done it!  There’s even a Lifetime show about it.  I Killed My BFF always starts by detailing how wonderful the friendship was before the friends decided to commit murder.   The identities of the murderer and the victim are not revealed until the final few minutes of the show so the whole point of watching an episode of I Killed My BFF basically amounts to spending 50 minutes of trying to guess who is going to snap first.

The show itself was so successful that it’s even led to a mini-movie franchise.  The first I Killed My BFF film aired in 2015 and it was an instant classic.  Now, three years later, we have a second I Killed My BFF film, The Preacher’s Daughter.

Who is the preacher’s daughter?  Her name is Lily Adler (Megan West) and she seems like she’s perfectly happy being a leading member of her father’s (Joe Gretsch) congregation.  She’s in charge of the youth ministry and she’s always very prim and proper.  Little does the congregation suspect that Lily used to be a wild child who had an abortion when she was a teenager.

The congregation also does not know that Rev. Adler is estranged from his son, Jason (Matthew James Ballinger).  After their mother commits suicide, Lily attempts to repair the relationship between her father and her brother but, instead, she just ends up spending a lot of time with Jason’s older girlfriend, Rae (Carly Pope).  Soon, Lily is once again drinking and doing drugs.  It’s not until Jason’s mysterious death that Lily turns on Rae and starts trying to recruit Rae’s teenage daughter, Scarlet (Katherine Reis), into the church.

It all leads to (you guessed it!) murder!

When it comes to The Preacher’s Daughter, it’s hard to avoid the fact that none of these people really seem to be BFFs.  I mean, Lily and Rae do hang out with each other for a while but that’s mostly just because of Jason.  And while Lily and Scarlet do become close, it’s debatable whether or not they could really be considered BFFs.  If anything, it seems more like a mentor/protegé type of relationship.

But no matter!  It was still fun trying to guess who would end up killing who.  A sign of the film’s success is that you could easily imagine either Rae, Lily, or even Scarlet turning out to be the murderer.  Megan West was memorably creepy in the role of Lily and there’s a baptism scene that deserves a place in the Hall of Fame of WTF Lifetime Moments.  Joel Gretsch also does a good job as the charismatic but judgmental Rev. Adler and the film’s ending packs a nice punch.

I look forward to watching future installments of I Killed MY BFF with my BFFs.  Hopefully, none of them will ever try to kill me…

Back to School Part II #39: The Glass House (dir by Daniel Sackheim)


the_glass_house_2001_film

Originally, I was planning on using the 2001 thriller The Glass House as one of my guilty pleasure reviews.  Because, seriously, this film truly is one of the guiltiest of all guilty pleasures.  I mean, there’s so much that you can criticize about the movie but it’s so much fun that I always feel rather bad for doing so.  However, after giving it some thought, I decided to use The Glass House as one of my Back to School reviews.  Seeing as how I just totally trashed a Leelee Sobieski film called Here On Earth, it only seems fair to now recommend one of her films.

In The Glass House, Leelee plays Ruby Baker, a 16 year-old whose parents are killed in a car accident.  Though their uncle (Chris Noth) wants to adopt them, the will states that Ruby and her nine year-old brother (Trevor Morgan) will instead be looked after by their parents’ best friends, Erin (Diane Lane) and Terry (Stellan Skarsgard).

Now, here’s the thing.  This is going to blow your mind.  Guess where Erin and Terry live?  They live in a big mansion in Malibu and the entire house is made out of … GLASS!  We have a title, right!?  But wait, there’s more!  Guess what Terry and Erin’s last name is?  That’s right — GLASS!  So, the house is not only literally a glass house but it’s also the Glass house as well!  And beyond that, there’s that old saying that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and … well, that really doesn’t apply to this film.

Anyway, I’m making such a big deal about the title because it pretty much tells you everything that you need to know about The Glass House.  There is not a single subtle moment to be found in this entire film. And really, this is not a film that requires or rewards subtlety.  We know that Terry Glass is up to no good from the minute we meet him, largely because he’s played by Stellan Skarsgard and when was the last time Stellan Skarsgard played a trustworthy character?  Skarsgard pretty much gives the same performance here that he’s given in almost every thriller that he’s ever appeared in (including David Fincher’s rehash of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo — which I’m still ticked off about, by the way) but it works wonderfully because there’s not a hint of pretension to The Glass House.  It just wants to entertain and it does just that.  There’s little that can match the entertainment value of watching Stellan Skarsgard go totally over the top.

Sure, the film has all sorts of flaws.  Ruby’s intelligence changes from scene to scene, depending on what the film’s story needs her to do.  (For that matter, the same thing can be said about every character in the film.)  But the film’s a lot of fun and Leelee Sobieski gives one of the best and most sympathetic performances of her career.  Ruby may be an inconsistent character but she’s so well-played that you like her anyway.  In a film that often threatens to go just a little bit too crazy, Leelee gives a performance of both believable grief and believable inner strength.  She keeps the film grounded just enough that you’ll continue to watch even when the narrative hits a rough patch.  As well, Bruce Dern is hilariously sleazy as a possibly duplicitous attorney.  The only thing more entertaining than watching Stellan Skarsgard go over the top is watching Bruce Dern do the same thing in the same film.

The Glass House is one of those films that seems to show up on cable constantly.  And, 9 times out of 10, I’ll at least watch at least a little bit of it.  It’s just a fun movie.

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: Lost Boy (dir by Tara Miele)


After watching River Raft Nightmareit was time to finish watching Lost Boy.  I say finish because, if I am remembering correctly, I actually watched the first hour when Lost Boy had its Lifetime premiere on July 25th.  However, after 60 minutes, I turned over to SyFy and I watched Lavalantula.  At the time, I probably said, “I’ll finish watching this on the DVR.”  And it only took me 3 months to get around to it!

Lost Boy opens with every parent’s worst nightmare.  Six year-old Mitchell Harris is flying a kite in the park when he’s abducted.  Eleven years later, Mitchell is still missing but his mother, Laura (Virginia Madsen), is convinced that he’s still out there.  She continues to put up flyers and, every time the police call to ask her to identify another body, Laura fears that it will turn out to be her son.

In the 11 years since Mitchell vanished, Laura has become a successful and influential advocate for missing persons but it’s come at the cost of her family.  She is separated from her husband, Greg (Mark Valley).  When Greg’s new girlfriend, Amanda (Carly Pope), gets pregnant, Greg asks Laura to finalize the divorce.  Laura is hesitant, not wanting to end their marriage while Mitchell might still be out there and looking for them.  For his part, Greg seems to have moved on and accepted that his son his dead.  Meanwhile, Mitchell’s twin sister, Summer (Sosie Bacon), deals with her guilt and anger by rebelling.

(It wouldn’t be a Lifetime movie without a rebellious teenage daughter.)

One night, a 17 year-old boy (Matthew Fahey) emerges from the shadows and stares at one of Laura’s flyers.  Soon, the boy shows up at the high school, watching Summer.  And then, one night, the boy suddenly appears at Laura’s front door.  When Laura sees him, she is immediately convinced that Mitchell has returned home.

But has he?  Both Greg and Amanda are suspicious of “Mitchell.”  For one thing, Mitchell doesn’t seem to have many clear memories of his family.  As well, he refuses to tell anyone who kidnapped him or where he’s been.  He encourages Summer and his younger brother, Jonathan (Jacob Buster), to do dangerous things and then threatens to hurt them if they tell on him.  Though Mitchell makes a big show of having nightmares about his ordeal, he’s actually awake while he’s tossing and turning.

Perhaps most damning of all, when Mitchell, Greg, and Jonathan take a DNA test, Mitchell switches his DNA with Jonathan’s and again threatens to kill Jonathan…

So, yes, it’s pretty obvious that Mitchell is not who he says he is.  However, whenever anyone points out how strangely he’s acting, Laura makes excuses for him.  She’s so happy to have her son back that she’s willing to overlook all of the inconsistencies in his story.  Or, at the very least, she is until she finds out that Mitchell has been threatening Jonathan.  But, by that point, Greg is convinced that Mitchell is his son and now, suddenly, he’s the one who is making excuses for him…

I liked Lost Boy, even if it did ultimately get somewhat predictable.  Moodily shot and featuring an excellent lead performance from Virginia Madsen, Lost Boy made me wonder what I would do if I ever found myself in a similar situation.  Hopefully, I won’t ever have to find out.

Trailer: Elysium (Official)


Elysium

It’s not often that a filmmaker makes such a major splash in the industry with their initial full-length film becoming not just a commercial success but one which gained widespread critical-acclaim. South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp is one such filmmaker. Initially tapped by Peter Jackson to direct the planned HALO film adaptation Blomkamp ended up doing District 9 (based off of his own short film Alive in Joburg).

The film became the sensation of San Diego Comic-Con 2009 which raised the hype for it’s inevitable release a month later. It’s now been 4 years since District 9 and we finally get a chance to see the first official trailer (a 10-minute film reel was shown to invited industry and press which showed a bit more of what the film will be about) for Blomkamp’s much awaited follow-up to his hit first film.

Elysium looks to continue Blomkamp’s attempt to bring social awareness to the scifi genre and do so with a mixture of real-world gritty realism and scifi fantasy. just looking at the trailer the space station Elysium where all the rich and privilege live in a paradise-setting look like an amalgam of the HALO ringworlds and the Citadel Station from Mass Effect.

It’s still months away, but just this teaser of a trailer has just raised Elysium to the top of my list for most awaited films of 2013. If it’s as good or better than District 9 then Blomkamp will cement himself as one of his generation’s best instead of a flash in the pan like so many of his contemporaries.

Elysium is set for a wide release date of August 9, 2013.