Lifetime Film Review: Adopted in Danger (dir by Craig Goldstein)

DNA tests are tempting, aren’t they?

I mean, I’ve often been tempted to get one, even though I pretty much know all about my family history.  My maternal grandmother was born in Spain while my grandfather’s parents came to this country from Italy.  On my father’s side of the family, everyone is pretty much Irish with a little bit of German and French mixed in.  Despite the fact that I know all of this, it’s still tempting to do the whole DNA thing because then I’d have percentages to go along with my family history.  Percentages make every story better, or so I’ve heard.

Of course, there’s a lot of other people who get DNA tests because they’re hoping that they’ll turn out to have a really badass ancestor or that they’ll find some evidence that they’re actually more interesting than they appear to be.  Remember when Elizabeth Warren got that DNA test that proved she had less Native American ancestry than the average American?  That’s not a story that you’ll see repeated in a 23andMe commercial but it’s one that I found fascinating as an example of the importance that people put on having interesting ancestors.  I mean, technically, what’s wrong with saying, “Yes, my family’s boring but I’m not?”  Instead, we all want to say, “I’m interesting and so is everyone who has ever shared my DNA!”

That said, I’ll still probably never get a DNA test.  People always assume that DNA tests and ancestry research are going to bring them good news (“and then I discovered that I’m descended from the first person to ever open up a fast food restaurant in the state of Wyoming and it just changed everything….”) but it seems to me like they’re just asking for trouble.  Sure, you might be descended from a great and respected historical figure.  Then again, you also might discover that the people you thought were your parents stole you from the hospital.  You might discover that your father was actually the Goatman or something.  (It could happen.)  I mean, seriously, why take the risk when you can just take your grandmother’s word that, just because some your ancestors fought with Franco in the Spanish Civil War, that doesn’t mean that they necessarily agreed with him about everything.

In Adopted in Danger, Candace (Allison Paige) actually does have a fairly good reason for wanting to get a DNA test.  She’s adopted and she has no idea who her birth parents are.  At the very least, she would like to know where she came from just so she can have a complete medical history before she and her husband try to start a family.  That certainly seems reasonable but, unfortunately, it turns out to be a lot more trouble than its worth.  Candace’s DNA indicates that she’s the daughter of real estate developer Tom Mason (Jason Brooks).  However, when Candace goes to see Tom and tells her that he’s her father, Tom refuses to consider the idea.  Tom, in fact, accuses her of just being after money and kicks her out of his office.

Why is Tom so adamant that he’s not Candace’s father?  That’s something that Candace and her friends investigate, in between drinking a lot of wine.  And I do mean a lot of wine.  I think this film may have set a record as far as scenes involving friends drinking wine and discussing DNA might be concerned.  However, all of that wine cannot stop the murderous schemes of a powerful family with a secret to hold and soon, Candace finds herself and everyone she knows being targeted.

The main problem with Adopted in Danger is that it’s fairly predictable.  I kept waiting for a big twist that would reveal that there had been a mix-up with the DNA or that Tom Mason was some sort of imposter or something that would have taken me by surprise but nope.  There’s no mix-up with the DNA.  Tom Mason is Tom Mason.  It’s just he comes from a terrible family and they don’t want anyone to know that Candace is his daughter.  Everything plays out the way you would expect it to play out.

That said, if you’re going to solve a mystery, you might as well do it while hanging out with your two BFFs.  DNA, in Adopted in Danger, may show where you’re from but but your friendships and your lovers show who you are and that’s not a bad message at all.

Lifetime Film Review: Murder in the Vineyard (dir by Craig Goldstein)

If you’ve watched enough Lifetime films, you know that it’s rarely a good thing when you’re living near a vineyard.

I mean, sure, there’s a certain amount of romance to them.  Any single mom who lives in a house near a vineyard is guaranteed to meet at least one handsome stranger.  And, of course, living near a vineyard always means that you have a steady supply of wine so that you can have a fun girl’s night with your sassy, sex-obsessed best friend.

But, seriously, bad stuff happens in those vineyards.  It seems like people are always getting chased around the vineyards.  Often times, spending a night in the vineyards is a good way to get yourself murdered.  Even if you somehow manage to survive your night in the vineyards, there’s still a good chance that you’ll end up getting kidnapped and tied up in someone’s wine cellar.  Vineyards just aren’t worth the trouble.  As if to prove my point, Murder in the Vineyard aired on Lifetime on July 18th.  I recorded it on my DVR (which, unlike a vineyard, is always a good place to visit) and then I watched it earlier today.

Murder in the Vineyard starts off on a good note by featuring a murder in a vineyard.  Within the first few minutes, the film has already lived up to its name and that’s definitely something that I appreciated.  Once we get the first murder out of the way, we met Emma Kirk (Helena Mattsson) and her teenage daughter, Bea (Emma Fuhrmann).  Emma has just taken over the family winery and Bea is struggling to fit in at her new school.  While Emma reconnects with a childhood love, Bea strikes up a tentative relationship with the school football star.

Unfortunately, not everyone at the school is happy about the idea of Bea showing up out of nowhere and dating one of the most popular guys in the class.  The snobby cheerleaders, who we’re told have a history of hazing new students, start to target her.  Suddenly, there’s a website that’s devoted exclusively to harassing Bea.  Nasty rumors are being spread about her at school.  When she goes to a party, someone slips something into her drink.  Someone is targeting Bea and, as you might guess from that murder that we saw earlier in the movie, that someone is prepared to go to extremes.

As far as dangerous vineyard movies are concerned, Murder in the Vineyard was a good one.  There was enough suspense over who was harassing Bea that the film worked as a mystery and the scenes when Emma reconnects with Luke (Daniel Hall) were enjoyable.  Helena Mattsson and Daniel Hall made for a cute couple so you definitely hoped the best for them.  Mattsson and Emma Fuhrmann were also believable as mother and daughter and anyone who was overprotected by their mom will be able to relate to some of what Bea goes through.  Probably the best thing about the film is that the vineyard was pretty.  It was a bit like a Lifetime version of Sideways, in that as much emphasis was put on the beauty of the California landscape as on the plot.  If someone’s going to get murdered in your vineyard, it should at least be a pretty one.

Lifetime Film Review: Instakiller (dir by Craig Goldstein)

In a Lifetime film, the value of social media often depends on what time of year the film is taking place.

If it’s a Christmas film, social media is an amazingly helpful tool that helps single young women meet handsome carpenters and which also allows them to keep tabs on whether or not their hometown is going to be able to afford to put on the annual nativity pageant.  Want to find the perfect Santa Claus?  Well, just hop on Facebook and look up Kris Kringle!  Want to discover that, because of a snow storm, you’re going to have to spend the Holidays in a Christmas-themed inn?  Just check on twitter!

Of course, any other time of year, social media is portrayed as being the tool of the Devil.  Social media is how con artists steal identities and how psychotic children track down their birth mothers.  Social media is how lies are spread and how revenge porn pics are sent to everyone on Sunday morning and how stalkers can keep track of your every move.  With the exception of the films that air during Christmas, Lifetime spends most of the year telling us that we all need to get off the grid and consider learning more about the Luddites.  Perhaps we should all go to a religious retreat in the French wine country.  That’s something that my sister Erin and I have often discussed doing.  I don’t drink wine but I do speak French.  She doesn’t speak French but she does drink wine.  A year living offline, we’d make it work and, by the standards of Lifetime, we would both be a lot safer.

Take Instakiller, for instance.  Harper (Lizze Broadway) is an aspiring fashion designer and influencer and her account on …. wait for it …. Instapixer (!) has suddenly become very popular.  (One thing that I always enjoy about these Lifetime films is seeing the names that they come up with for the movie’s version of real-life social media companies.  Degrassi featured two of my favorites, Facerange and MyRoom.)  Unfortunately, Harper also has a stalker.  He sends her creepy messages.  He follows her as she walks home from school and takes pictures.  (When confronted by a bystander, he smashes the man’s face into a car hood.)  When Harper’s mom, Layla (Kelly Sullivan), forces Harper to delete her account, the stalker sits in his car and screams.  Soon, the stalker is attacking people with golf clubs and strangling them with jumper cables.

Who is Harper’s stalker?  Could it be one of the customers at her family’s coffee shop?  Could it be one of Harper’s coworkers or even one of her friends?  There’s one obvious suspect but he’s so obvious that you know from the minute he shows that he’s going to turn out to be geeky but not dangerous.  To be honest, the identity of Harper’s stalker is not that shocking, just because there aren’t that many suspects.  Once you dismiss all of the obvious red herrings, there’s really only one possible suspect left.

But no matter!  Instakiller is an entertaining Lifetime film, which is to say that if you enjoy Lifetime films, you’ll probably enjoy this one.  Kelly Sullivan and Lizze Broadway are believable as mother-and-daughter and I imagine that a lot of moms will watch this movie and find themselves totally relating to Sullivan’s character and her confusion as to why Harper is willing to put her life in danger just to have an Instapixer account.  Seriously, though, once you hit a thousand followers, the risks are totally worth it….

Cleaning Out The DVR: Lethal Admirer (dir by Craig Goldstein)

I recorded Lethal Admirer off of Lifetime on April 15th.

My friends and I have long debated which episode of Boy Meets World is the worst.

My friend Jen has often said that the worst episode was the one where Eric wanted to adopt a kid and she has a pretty good point, there.  Some others have said that the worst episode was the one where Cory acts like an immature jackass when his mom dares to give birth on a day that he wanted to spend exclusively with Topanga and, again, I think they have a valid point.

Speaking for myself. I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities.

First off, there’s the episode where Shawn joins a cult and Cory starts grabbing him and going, “This is a hug, Shawn!  THIS!  THIS IS A HUG!”  The other one is the episode where Cory and Topanga crash a complete stranger’s wedding and Cory makes their special day all about him.

You know which one I’m talking about.  Cory and Topanga know no one at the wedding.  The only reason that they’re there is so they can get ideas for the own wedding.  Still, Cory feels the needs to stand up during the ceremony and give a lengthy speech about how creepily obsessed he is with his fiancée and how he hopes that the newlyweds will be as much in love with each other as Cory is with Topanga.

The worst thing about this scene is that everyone at the wedding is touched by Cory’s speech.  Nobody says, “And you are?”  No one questions why some strange teenager is making the ceremony all about himself.  No one asks why Cory is suddenly the world’s authority on love.  Add to that, beyond Cory being incredibly self-centered, it’s just an extremely awkward moment.  I mean, it’s bad enough to crash someone’s wedding but then to interrupt with some halfassed speech about yourself?  You feel embarrassed for Cory, for everyone at the wedding, and especially for Topanga.

Well, believe it or not, Lethal Admirer contains a scene that is just as thoroughly awkward as Cory’s wedding speech.  This scene also takes place at a wedding.  Unlike Cory and Topanga, Lloyd (Drew Seeley) is not crashing the wedding.  He was actually invited to attend by his friend and former co-worker, Megan (Karissa Lee Staples).  The only reason Megan invited Lloyd to come with her is because her boyfriend, Chris (Brian Ames), broke his leg when he fell off a ladder.  Megan considers Lloyd to be a friend and even wants to set him up with her sister (Courtney Hope).  However, Lloyd is convinced that Megan loves him.  As Lloyd explains it, his mother has always told him that he has to take big chances and Lloyd does just that at the wedding reception.

And, oh my God!  Anyone who has ever had a friend declare their love at the worst possible moment will be cringing with flashbacks!

Of course, it’s not just that Lloyd has no clue about how to socially interact with people.  It’s also that Lloyd’s a little bit crazy.  In fact, he’s just crazy enough to have killed both Megan’s former boyfriend and her current boss.  Remember that ladder that Chris fell off of?  Well, that was no accident.  Nor was it an accident that, after Megan moved across the country, Lloyd suddenly showed up in her new city.  Lloyd is obsessed with Megan and Megan, for whatever reason, is pretty much clueless until it’s too late.

It’s a typical Lifetime movie scenario but Lethal Admirer is distinguished by a script that makes the very wise decision not to take itself too seriously.  It never becomes a full-blown comedy like A Deadly Adoption but the script of Lethal Admirer features enough one-liners and random nonsequiturs to indicate that the filmmakers were determined to have a little bit fun with the typical Lifetime formula.  I especially liked the interactions between Megan and her sister.  Their relationship rang true.

Also ringing true was the character of Lloyd, who was definitely strange but also just charming enough that you could legitimately accept the idea of Megan wanting to be his friend.  Drew Seeley provided an indelible portrait of a nerd scorned in this film.  His little smile when Megan assured him that he could pass for an intellectual hipster was both deeply creepy and kind of sweet at the same time.

Lethal Admirer was a good Lifetime flick.  If nothing else, it should be shown to everyone as an example of what not to do at a wedding.

Cleaning Out The DVR: The Wrong Mother (dir by Craig Goldstein)

(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 187 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 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 Wrong Mother off of Lifetime on April 8th, 2017!)

(aka The Wrong Mother)

The Wrong Mother is a pretty typical example of a type of Lifetime movie that I like to call a “Trust No One Film.”

These films always deal with the same basic plot.  Take a perfect family, consisting of a perfect wife, a perfect husband, at least one perfect kid, and a perfectly outspoken best friend.  Open the film by establishing that they all live in a perfect house.  Then, the wife makes the mistake of inviting a seemingly friendly person into the house and suddenly, things aren’t so perfect anymore.  Suddenly, the husband is being tempted.  The wife is being deceived.  The children are being brainwashed.  And the best friend usually ends up either dead or in the hospital.  It all happened because the wife trusted someone.  If only she had been willing to embrace her paranoia.

In The Wrong Mother, the perfect wife is Kaylene (Vanessa Marcil), who is run down by a SUV one day while she’s out jogging.  The perfect husband is Drew (Stephen Snedden), who works as an airline pilot and is often not home.  The perfect best friend is Samantha (Elizabeth Bond), who immediately realizes that the key to Kaylene’s recovery will be Kaylene washing her hair and not spending too much time in bed.  The two perfect children are twins and they’re just adorable.  And the perfect stranger is a nurse named Vanessa (Brooke Nevin).  After meeting Kaylene and Drew in the hospital, she talks them into hiring her as a home care giver.  Soon, Vanessa is lounging around the pool in a bikini and forcing Kaylene to take all sorts of pills.  Vanessa is so dangerous that she even wears Lolita-style sunglasses.  Samantha suspects that Vanessa might be hiding something…

And she’s right!

For one thing, Vanessa isn’t actually a nurse.  She’s just someone who was hanging out around the hospital.  For another thing, she knows that Kaylene had the twins via in vitro fertilization.  In fact, Vanessa donated the eggs.  Now, Vanessa wants the children for her own and she’s willing to go to any lengths to get them, even murder.

The lesson here?  TRUST NO ONE!

Anyway, The Wrong Mother is a fairly typical Lifetime film.  Once you’ve seen enough of these films, it becomes fairly easy to predict everything that’s going to happen and that certainly was the case with The Wrong Mother.  (At this point, I can usually guess how many commercial breaks will pass before the best friend has an unfortunate “accident.”)  The main reason to watch this movie is for the performance of Brooke Nevin, who delivers her snarky asides and rolls her eyes with such enthusiasm that she provides The Wrong Mother with a few enjoyable sparks.