Film Review: Killer Island (dir by Alyn Darnay)


Welcome to paradise!

In this case, paradise is North Captiva Island, which is located just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s a beautiful location, a great place to both take a vacation and perhaps even solve a murder!

In Killer Island, Mike (Brian Gross) and Ashley (Barbie Castro) have come to Captiva Island for a variety of reason.  They’ve come for a vacation and they’ve come to work on their struggling marriage.  Ashley has memories of growing up on the island and issues from the past that she needs to deal with.  And Mike … well, Mike really wants to go fishing.  Fortunately, their friend Jim Ross (Jordi Vilasuso) has a very nice boat.

Jim also has a nephew.  Johnny (Miguel Fasa) is the handyman at the local resort.  He’s always polite and he’s a good worker.  Still, it shouldn’t take long for most viewers to suspect that Johnny might have some issues.  His constantly blood-shot eyes give hint to the fact that Johnny doesn’t get much sleep.  As he explains it at one point, he has dreams and they’re not good ones.  Johnny has a complicated history and two women have recently vanished on the island…

When Ashley finds a broken anklet on a dock, she takes it back to her room.  The locals tell her that people are losing stuff on the island all the time and that it’s probably no big deal.  “Finders keepers,” they tell her.  Ashley just likes it because the words “Hope” and “Believe” are inscribed on each side.  But when Johnny sees the anklet in Ashley’s bedroom, he freaks out.

Of course, Johnny isn’t the only person on the island with something to hide and nothing, not even murder, is as simple or cut-and-dried as it seems.  How far are people willing to go to protect their secrets?

Now, I have to admit that I do have a bias when it comes to reviewing this film.  See, my dream vacation would involve not only going to a beautiful location but also getting to solve a mystery while I was there.  I’m sure I’m not alone in that.  Who doesn’t love the idea of escaping everyday life and getting to examine clues and speculate on motives while relaxing on the beach or exploring a tropical paradise?  Though the film’s cast does a good job, Captiva Island really is the star of the film.  It’s a visually stunning location and the film takes full advantage of it, with the camera swooping over the beaches and focusing on people discussing murder and mystery while the tide comes in behind them.  Director Alyn Darnay and cinematographer Jon Schellenger do a good job of capturing the sunny beauty of the island.

As for the plot itself, it’s enjoyably melodramatic.  Almost everyone has something that they’re hiding.  Some guilty people are easy to spot while others hide their villainy quite well.  It’s a nicely acted mystery, with Brian Cross and Barbie Castro making a believable and sympathetic married couple.  Miguel Fasa steals the show, turning the unstable Johnny into a character who is both frightening and occasionally even sympathetic.  If you’ve enjoyed Barbie Castro’s previous “killer” films (like Patient Killer, Boyfriend Killer, and Girlfriend Killer), you will definitely enjoy this one as well!

Killer Island will be available on VOD on May 25th..

2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the year 2016 with the best of Lifetime!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2016!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

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Best Picture
Bad Sister, produced by Robert Ballo, Timothy O. Johnson, Rukmani Jones, Ken Sanders
The Cheerleader Murders, produced by Sharon Bordas, Arthur Edmonds III, Hannah Pillemer, Fernando Szew, Jennifer Westin
Girl in the Box, produced by Stephen Kemp, Charles Tremayne, Thomas Vencelides
Inspired to Kill, produced by Johnson Chan, Michael Fiefer, Douglas Howell, Stephanie Rennie, Vincet Reppert, Nathan Schwab, Tammana Shah, Shawn Tira
Manson’s Lost Girls, produced by Nancy Bennett, Kyle A. Clark, Lawrence Ducceschi, Joan Harrison, Jonathan Koch, Stephen Kronish, Steven Michaels, Lina Wong
Mommy’s Little Girl, produced by Tom Berry, Steve Boisvert, Neil Bregman, Cinthia Burke, Christine Conradt, Curtis Crawford, Pierre David, Donald M. Osborne, Andrew E. Pecs
*A Mother’s Escape, produced by Sharon Bordas, Lori Bell Leahy, Michael Leahy, Kristofer McNeeley, Fernando Szew
My Sweet Audrina, produced by Dan Angel, David Calvert-Jones, Harvey Kahn, Kane Lee, Tom Mazza, Mike Rohl, Jane Startz
The Night Stalker, produced by Matthew R. Brady, Patrick G. Ingram, Michel Rangel, Alisa Tager
The Wrong Car, produced by Mark Donadio, Miriam Marcus, Molly Martin, Michael O’Neil

Best Director
Doug Campbell for Bad Sister
Megan Griffiths for The Night Stalker
*Blair Hayes for A Mother’s Escape
David Jackson for The Cheerleader Murders
Leslie Libman for Manson’s Lost Girls
Mike Rohl for My Sweet Audrina

Best Actress
*Tara Buck in A Mother’s Escape
India Eisley in My Sweet Audrina
MacKenzie Mauzy in Manson’s Lost Girls
Alyshia Ochse in Bad Sister
Karissa Lee Staples in Inspired To Kill
Addison Timlin in Girl in the Box

Best Actor
Zane Holtz in Girl in the Box
Lou Diamond Phillips in The Night Stalker
*Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor: The Return
Antonio Sabato, Jr in Inspired To Kill
Jason-Shane Scott in The Wrong Roommate
Jeff Ward in Manson’s Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actress
*Toni Atkins in My Sweet Audrina
Eden Brolin in Manson’s Lost Girls
Zoe De Grande Maison in Pregnant at 17
Beth Grant in A Mother’s Escape
Ryan Newman in Bad Sister
Zelda Williams in Girl in the Box

Best Supporting Actor
Blake Berris in Wrong Swipe
Rogan Christopher in Pregnant at 17
*Rhett Kidd in The Wrong Car
Christian Madsen in Manson’s Lost Girls
William McNamara in The Wrong Roommate
James Tupper in My Sweet Audrina

Best Screenplay
Bad Sister, Barbara Kymlicka
*The Cheerleader Murders, Matt Young
Girl in the Box, Stephen Kemp
Mommy’s Little Girl, Christine Conradt
A Mother’s Escape, Mike Bencivenga, Blair Hayes, Kristofer McNeeley
My Sweet Audrina, Scarlett Lacey

Best Cinematography
The Cheerleader Murders, Denis Maloney
Mommy’s Little Girl, Bill St. John
*A Mother’s Escape, Samuel Calvin
My Sweet Audrina, James Liston
The Night Stalker, Quyen Tran
The Wrong Car, Terrence Hayes

Best Costuming
Girl in the Box, Barb Cardoso, Tania Pedro
Manson’s Lost Girls, Dorothy Amos
*My Sweet Audrina, Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh
The Night Stalker, Rebecca Luke
The Red Dress, Sophie Pace
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Mary McLeod

Best Editing
The Cheerleader Murders, Eric Potter
Girl in the Box, Julian Hart
Manson’s Lost Girls, Josh Hegard
*A Mother’s Escape, Travis Graalman
My Sweet Audrina, Charles Robichaud
The Night Stalker, Celia Beasley

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Girl in the Box, Claudia Breckenridge, Jen Fisher, Oriana Rossi, Alex Rotundo, Collette Tolen
Killing Mommy, Cinthia Burke, Christie Capustinsky, Kevin Crawley, Kirsten Fairfield, Margaret Harding-Crawley, Corey J. Stone
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Jenni Brown Greenberg, Randi Mavestrand, Kelly Muldoon, Natalie Thimm
A Mother’s Escape, Jenny Hausam, Toni Mario
My Sweet Audrina, Alannah Bilodeau
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Tara Hadden-Watts, Alexandra Holmes

Best Original Score
911 Nightmare, David Findlay
*The Cheerleader Murders, Cladue Foisy
Inspired To Kill, Brandon Jarrett
A Mother’s Escape, Todd Haberman
My Sweet Audrina, Graeme Coleman
The Wrong Car, Ed Grenga

Best Production Design
Bad Sister, Lia Burton, Danielle Lee
Girl in the Box, Andrew Berry, Jere Sallee
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Cynthia E. Hill, Linda Spheeris
A Mother’s Escape, Zackary Steven Graham
My Sweet Audrina, Tink, Janessa Hitsman
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, James Robbins, Courtney Stockstad, Amanda Christmas

Best Sound
*Center Stage: On Pointe
The Cheerleader Murders
Honeymoon from Hell
I Have Your Children
Inspired to Kill
Toni Braxton: Unreak My Heart

Best Visual Effects
Final Destiny
*Flashback
House of Darkness
The Inherited
Little Girl’s Secret
The Watcher

Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you for keeping us entertained in 2016!

Want to see my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2015?  Click here!

And if you want to see my picks from 2014, click here!

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2016 with the 16 worst films of the year!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy

Film Review: Stalked at 17 (2012, dir. Doug Campbell)


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Between 2009 and 2012, Lifetime must have really decided to get behind this “at 17” series of movies. You’ll notice it’s not just Stalked at 17, but Stalked at 17 TM. This time the opening credits tell us that this movie is “Inspired by True Events.” I guess you can say that when your plot is so vague that it must have happened to somebody somewhere.

The movie begins, and we are introduced to our main character played by Taylor Spreitler. I know her character has a name in the movie, but if the script isn’t going to stop making endless references to the show she was on at the time called Melissa & Joey, then I can call her Lennox.

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That’s a baby monitor that Lennox is listening to. That’s also most likely a future Lifetime movie when they realize that some Internet of Things baby monitors can be used to look inside other people’s homes. That is if they haven’t already. After Lennox goes to use the microwave, she is grabbed by the last 20 minutes or so of the movie before the film cuts to the title card, and it’s one year earlier.

Lennox and her friend are touring a college when we meet our bad guy for the movie on the left.

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It’s also when I realized that the subtitles on the DVD didn’t work and turned on the captions instead. I love that they cast Charles Hittinger as Psycho Dad so he would look really intimidating. It’s probably because if you’ve watched Melissa & Joey, then you know that Taylor Spreitler and vulnerable go together about as much as Bella Thorne and drama.

Psycho Dad invites them to a party, and they of course decide to go. Now, for no good reason whatsoever, a guy wearing a sombrero with a bullseye on his chest.

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We learn some very important information at the frat house. No, not that they decided to make him the one who was adopted by a councilwoman instead of Lennox. It’s that they run a very tight ship after Psycho Dad finds puke on the stairs.

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Now we meet Lennox’s dad played by none other than whitelighter himself Brian Krause.

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I agree, Leo. However, I think Doug Campbell was right to take the title of this movie and start calling the movies “Stalked by”. He’s just jealous because his wife played by Amy Pietz was in Stalked by My Neighbor (2015). This scene exists to tell us that they are having financial difficulties which will play no material role in the film.

Lennox and friend go to the party. As soon as the dialog tells us that Lennox is 16 at present, her and Psycho Dad immediately go upstairs together. After he tells her a sob story, they kiss and it fades to black before going to an establishing shot of her school.

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I hope you like establishing shots of her school because you’ll see them 4-5 times in this movie. Heck, later in the movie you’ll get the exact same shot, but only a minute or so before or after the other shot.

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Thanks to Lennox texting Psycho Dad, we learn that they did it on February 21st exactly because it is their two month anniversary.

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Oh yeah, and his name is Chad. Just like Mister 45 minutes from Accused at 17. Real original there screenwriter Christine Conradt. It looks like Conradt is really passionate about these “at 17” movies seeing as she’s produced five of them. According to her bio on IMDb, she has an “MCJ from Boston University where she focused on cybercrime and juvenile delinquency.” It’s weird that with a focus in cybercrime, she seems to have had nothing to do with Fugitive at 17 (2012) where the girl in question is a hacker.

Now Lennox forgets that this movie is called Stalked at 17 and not Pregnant at 17, but it’s too late. I love how this scene plays out. Lennox is talking to a male friend when she grabs her stomach, and is obviously sick. She makes a mad dash for the bathroom. He quickly follows, but stops at the door, and asks a girl standing nearby to go in to check on her.

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The line actually goes like this: “You really need to find a new friend cause that one out there couldn’t even be bothered to make sure you were okay, and sent me inside instead.”

Meanwhile, the film knows it needs to pad itself out.

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Lennox is at home and finds out she is indeed pregnant. While that is going on, Psycho Chad is buying jewelry online. Back in Lennox’s bedroom, the movie gives us lines that might as well amount to this: “I don’t know if he was wearing a condom. You know what they say? If you look at it, then you go blind. I just had to take his word for it.” Of course Psycho Chad is happy about the news because it means he’ll have a family of his own now with a child who will love him unconditionally.

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Then the two of them go to a restaurant where Psycho Chad blows up at a waiter. That’s basically the rest of the film. Chad gets nuttier, he gets in a fight with Leo, his biological mom he lied about being dead gets out of prison, and they finally get around to where the film started. At least it was fun to see Leo fighting with Psycho Chad along the way.

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Lennox, baby, Psycho Chad, and Psycho Mom all end up at a convenience store where things go wrong and Psycho Chad is shot. Then it shows Lennox with the kid, and fades to black. I think this movie has earned the Godfrey Ho red screen end card for how abrupt the ending occurs.

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Thus ends the classic tale of girl meets boy, girl gets herself knocked up, boy turns out to want a family, boy turns out to be crazy, everyone does their best to pad out the film, boy is shot, and the credits role. I have to admit that aside from this and Accused at 17, I have never seen credits that start by referring to the cast as “the players.”

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At least this one had some kind of a story. That’s way more than I can say for Accused at 17. I have Fugitive at 17 coming soon, then that will be my last “at 17” movie for now.

What Else Lisa Watched Last Night #139: The Bride He Bought Online (dir by Christine Conradt)


Last night, after I watched UnGodly Acts, I watched The Bride He Bought Online.

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Why Was I Watching It?

The Bride He Bought Online actually premiered a few months ago but, for some reason, I missed it.  Even though all of my friends told me that I had not missed much, I took a solemn vow last December to watch every Lifetime film released this year.  So, when I saw that The Bride He Bought Online would be airing again last night, I made sure to watch it.

What Was It About?

This is the story of three teenage girls who have a blog where the specialize in doing mean things to their friends and occasionally to complete strangers.  Kaley (Annalisa Cochrane) dreams of making the blog so successful that she’ll be able to sell it for so much money that she won’t have to bother going to college after high school.  Mandy (Lauren Gaw) is a former unpopular girl who is now awkwardly trying to decide if she really wants to be a mean girl.  And Avery (Anne Winters) is the responsible one who worries that Kaley is going to go far.

And Avery has ever right to be worried because Kaley does go too far.  Pretending to be a mail order bride, Kaley starts an online relationship with a dorky guy named John (Travis Hammer).  Convinced that he’s finally found a woman who will love him, John sends her money and even takes guitar lessons so that he can serenade his bride to be.  When he spends hours waiting at an airport for his nonexistent bride to show up, Kaley and Mandy record him and then upload the video to the blog.

Up until this point, you’ve been feeling pretty sorry for John.  But it turns out that John is actually a pretty dangerous and unstable guy.  Once he figures out what has happened, he kidnaps the three girls and makes plans to sell them to a group of human traffickers.

What Worked?

A lot of people have told me that they didn’t like The Bride He Bought Online but I thought it was actually a very well-done and well-acted film.  It’s a great example of one of my favorite Lifetime movie genres — the Everything Bad That Can Happen Will Happen genre.  Yes, it’s melodramatic and it’s a bit extreme but then again, that’s kind of what we want from Lifetime.

Plus, I’ve had friends just like Kaley, Mandy, and Avery.  Their friendship felt very real to me.  Also way too plausible was the character of John.  As played by Travis Hammer, he was both pathetic and scary at the same time.

What Did Not Work?

Lifetime movies are always so phobic of the internet.  Anytime someone says that they have a blog, you know that something bad is going to happen as a result.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I’m happy to say that, even at my brattiest, I was never as bad as Kaley.  However, I did know quite a few girls like Kaley and I often found myself wondering just why exactly I was friends with them.  So, in the end, I related to Avery.

Lessons Learned

Be nice or you’ll get sold to the Russian mafia.