Lifetime Film Review: My Mom’s Darkest Secrets (dir by Curtis Crawford)

The special bond between mother and daughter is a theme to which Lifetime often returns.  It’s actually one of the reasons why I love the station and its films.  Whether it’s a case of the mother having to save her daughter from a bad boyfriend or a daughter having to prove that her mother isn’t actually a murderer, it’s rare that I can’t find something to relate to whenever I watch one of those films.  I imagine that’s true for everyone but that seems to be especially true for me.

My Mom’s Darkest Secrets is the latest Lifetime mother-daughter film and, before I get too much into the film and its plot, can I just mention how much I love that title?  I mean that title features everything that we love about Lifetime.  You’ve got the mother-daughter bond.  You’ve got secrets.  And you’ve got darkness.  In fact, the title promises us more than the typical Lifetime film.  We’re not just learning about a mother’s secrets.  And we’re not just learning about her dark secrets.  No — this movie is about her DARKEST secret!  It’s like, “I have many secret and they’re all bad but this one is the absolute worst.”  How can you not find that intriguing?

As for the film itself, it’s all about Ashley Beck-Ford (Nia Roam) and her mother, Sara (Laura Fortier).  When Ashley was born, Sara gave up her daughter for adoption.  Ashley was raised by two wonderful women and Lifetime presents Ashley’s adoptive moms in such a positive and lovable light that, even though the film was inevitably made before the recent controversy, it still feels like a massive “take that!” to Hallmark.  (As often as they’re compared, Lifetime has always been more progressive than Hallmark.)  However, Ashley has now tracked down Sara and she soon discovers that her birth mother is into all sorts of drama.

For instance, Sara’s husband has been murdered and the police suspect that Sara may have been the one responsible!  Even worse, because Sara has arranged for Ashley to eventually inherit the dead man’s fortune, the cops also think that Ashley may have been involved as well!  It’s now up to Sara to dig around and discover the truth and, of course, that’ll mean uncovering some of “my mom’s darkest secrets!”

I enjoyed My Mom’s Darkest Secrets.  Both Sara and Ashley had red hair, so I could relate to them both.  Beyond that, though, Nia Roam and Laura Fortier were both very well-cast.  They had enough in common that you could look at them or listen to the talk and think to yourself, “Yes, they could very well be mother and daughter.”  The credibility of their relationship added some depth and some nuance to the film’s central mystery.  You watch the film and you hope that things work out for them because Sara and Ashley really do seem like they deserve to have that type of relationship that so many other people take for granted.

My Mom’s Darkest Secrets was on the Lifetime Movie Network last night and, with Lifetime being Lifetime, it’ll probably air several more time.  So, keep an eye out for it!

What Lisa Watched Last Night #201: Mommy’s Little Princes (dir by Curtis Crawford)

Last night, as soon as I got home from work, I turned over to the Lifetime Movie Network and I watched Mommy’s Little Princess!

Why Was I Watching It?

Why not?

No, actually, I did have a very specific reason for watching it.  Mommy’s Little Princess was a film that I watched earlier this year but, for whatever reason, I didn’t review it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t record it either.  So, by watching it yesterday, I was able to reacquaint myself with the film before reviewing it.

Because that’s what ethical reviewers do!

What Was It About?

12 year-old Lizzy (Sarah Abbott) is haunted by the memories of her abusive mother and a fear that she’s not that special.  In order to make Lizzy feel a bit better about herself, her adoptive mother, Julianna (Alicia Leigh Willis), decides to send away for a DNA testing kit!

When the results are returned, Lizzy discovers that she’s a little bit French, a little bit English, and a whole lot German!  In fact, she’s even descended from German nobility!  Soon, Lizzy is walking around and telling everyone that she’s a princess.  She covers an entire wall of her bedroom with pictures of European nobility and tells everyone that it’s a collage of her real family.

Unfortunately, not everyone is impressed with Lizzy’s heritage.  Some of them even go so far as to suggest that being distantly related to royalty is no big deal.  Those people, Lizzy kills.

What Worked?

I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed the irony of Lifetime broadcasting a movie about someone being driven crazy as a result of obsessing on royalty when Lifetime is also the same network that has, so far, done one movie about William and Kate and two movies about Harry and Meghan!  It was kind of fun, like Lifetime was saying, “Don’t spend too much time living in a fantasy and, by the way, stick around for the next royal wedding movie….” Mommy’s Little Princess felt wonderfully subversive.

Sarah Abbott did a really good job as poor, psychotic little Lizzy.  You feared her but, at the same time, you felt sorry for her.  As a flashback to her time with her birth mother showed, Lizzy really never had a chance.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked!  This was a fun little Lifetime melodrama and it had just the right amount of self-awareness.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

As far as DNA goes, I’m primarily Irish, Italian, and Spanish.  As far as I know, I’m not related to royalty.  If I was related to royalty and in line for the throne of some country, I would totally hold it over everyone’s head.  Seriously, I would find a way to sneak it into every conversation.  “You’re going to the store?  Hey, could you pick me up some a tiara or something because, after all, I am royalty and I could have you executed.”  My friends would probably get tired of hearing about it.

So, all in all, I guess it’s good that I’m not yet a part of the royal family.

Lessons Learned

DNA tests only lead to pain and misery.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Mommy’s Little Angel (dir by Curtis Crawford)

(I recorded Mommy’s Little Angel off of Lifetime on March 17th.)

Katie Porters (Morgan Nuendorf) may only be 12 years old but she’s already had to deal with a lot.

Her mother, Shawna (Kimberly Laferriere), loves her and swears that she would do anything to protect Katie but she’s also a pill-popping drug addict who is constantly on the verge of losing control.  It doesn’t help, of course, that Katie keeps hiding her mother’s pills.  It’s almost as if Kate is trying to get her mother in trouble…

Her father, Darren (Peter Michael Dillon), just spent three years in jail for physically abusing Shawna.  Darren says that he just wants to be with his daughter but Shawna wants nothing to do with him and moves to a different town to get away from him.  Of course, Darren always manages to track Katie and Shawna down.  That probably has something to do with the fact that Katie is always letting him know where she and her mother are hiding.

Katie’s a bad kid with bad thoughts but no one realizes it, largely because she’s only 12 years old and she always knows how to smile and be charming.  For instance, Shawn’s cousin, Nikki (Amanda Clayton), thinks that Katie’s the best!  And Katie likes Nikki, too!  Of course, what’s not to like?  Nikki has a nice big house and, because she’s desperate to be a mother herself, spoils Katie.  In fact, Katie even tells Shawna that she doesn’t care if anything bad ever happens to Shawna.  “I’ll go live with Aunt Nikki,” Katie says.

What a little brat!

Anyway, something bad does eventually happen to Shawna.  She ends up getting tossed off of the top level of a parking garage.  The police and everyone else assume that Shawna committed suicide.  Of course, what they don’t know is that 1) Darren murdered Shawna and 2) Katie arranged for Shawna to be murdered.

So now, Katie is finally living with her Aunt Nikki!  And you would think that Katie would be happy about this!  But no, Katie’s never happy.  As soon as she moves in, Katie comes to realize that there’s all sorts of things competing for Nikki’s attention.  Whether it’s her job or even her husband, Nikki always seems to be putting other things ahead of Katie.

And then, Nikki discovers that she’s pregnant!

Guess how Katie responds to that?

In recent years, Lifetime has shown a surprisingly large number of psycho kid films.  They really do tap into feelings and fears to which all women can relate.  What if your child does grow up to be a psycho?  Also, what if your friend or cousin does a terrible job parenting and then dies and suddenly, you find yourself obligated to take care of their murderous children?  It’s a concern because, deep down, we’re always convinced that most people have no idea how to raise children.

The thing that distinguishes Mommy’s Little Angel from other Lifetime movie about killer kids is just how efficient Katie is in her villainy.  I mean, Katie doesn’t mess around.  When she decides to set a house on fire, it’s obvious that she knows exactly what she’s doing.  When it’s time for Katie to try to convince Nikki to kill for her, Katie chants, “Kill him, Nikki.  Kill him…”  It’s not just that little Katie is evil.  It’s that Katie’s so happy about it!  It all leads to a film that’s enjoyably melodramatic and over-the-top, even by the wonderful standards of Lifetime.

Seriously, don’t turn your back on Katie…

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: The Psycho She Met Online (dir by Curtis Crawford)

(I am currently in the process of cleaning out my DVR!  It’s probably going to take me longer to do this than it took Theodosia Burr to make her way to Alexandria, Virginia after getting shipwrecked in 1812.  I recorded The Psycho She Met Online off of Lifetime on April 9th!)

Let’s just start with the obvious.

The Psycho She Met Online?

That is, without a doubt, one of the greatest titles in the history of Lifetime movies.  Not only does it tell you exactly what this movie is about (no ambiguity here!) but it also tells you that this film will feature everything that we love about Lifetime films.  When it comes to Lifetime, regardless of the movie, there are two things that will always be true.

First, anyone you meet is going to turn out to be a psycho.

Secondly, anything that begins online is ultimately going to lead to disaster.

In this case, the film is about an EMT named Karen (Chelsea Hobbs).  Karen briefly becomes a minor celebrity when she rescues a man from a serious automobile accident.  The twist is that the man just happened to be her husband, Andrew (Matthew Lawrence)!

With Andrew laid up in the hospital, Karen decides to make some extra money by renting out some of the spare rooms in their house.  She does this be placing an ad online.  Oh, Karen!  Don’t you realize that only crazy people do stuff online!?

(And what does that say about me, posting my film reviews online!?  And you reading them online!?  OH MY GOD, WE’RE ALL CRAZY!)

Anyway, Karen soon ends up with two boarders.  One is a nice old man named Evander Swandson (Robert Welch).  He enjoys going on nature walks and taking photographs.  He respects the rules of the house and does his best to stay out of everyone’s way.  He is apparently among the one percent of internet users who are not insane and, as soon as Evander showed up, I knew he was doomed.

The other room is taken by Miranda (Charity Shea).  Miranda is the psycho of the title.  If her superficial resemblance to Jodi Arias doesn’t convince you of that, just wait until she starts killing people.  Miranda is a dancer at a “gentleman’s club,” though she doesn’t tell Karen that.  Miranda also claims to be Karen’s half-sister and she is just so excited that they will finally have the chance to get to know each other!

At first, Karen is excited too.  She’s always wanted a sister and now, she’ll no longer have to settle for a surrogate sibling relationship with her friend, Aubry (Alexis Maitland).  However, she soon starts to wonder whether she really wants to have Miranda in her life.  Miranda is kind of clingy.  Miranda appears to be a pathological liar.  Miranda gets jealous whenever Karen has plans that don’t involve her.  When Miranda gets upset, she has a habit of ranting to herself.  (Then again, I do that as well.)

And, of course, there’s the fact that Miranda has a habit of killing people…

That’s right, it’s yet another Lifetime movie about an obsessive relationship that goes from being friendly to murderous in the blink of an eye.  Fortunately, this movie was written by Christine Conradt and directed by Curtis Crawford, two Lifetime veterans who know how to make movies like this interesting.  The Psycho She Met Online might never surprise you but then again, the predictability of the format is part of the fun when it comes to Lifetime thrillers.  The best role in any Lifetime film is always the psycho and Charity Shea does a great job as the totally insane Miranda.

All in all, it’s another enjoyable Lifetime film!

Film Review: Mommy’s Little Boy (dir by Curtis Crawford)

On Saturday, Lifetime presented a Mommy Madness marathon, showing a series of melodramas that all, in some way, involved motherhood.  They showed everything from Killing Mommy to Mommy’s Secret to Mommy’s Little Girl.  They ended the night with not one but two premiere films!  Needless to say, I was excited.  After missing last week’s Lifetime movie (though I did DVR it so fear not!), I was looking forward to embracing the melodrama not once but twice!

The first premiere was Mommy’s Little Boy, which naturally came on immediately after Mommy’s Little Girl.  Just judging from the title and Lifetime’s previous record when it comes to children, I assumed that Mommy’s Little Boy would be about a homicidal child.

It turns out I was incorrect.  Don’t get me wrong, of course.  The kid does kill at least one person.  Actually, I think he killed two people but the film is a little bit ambiguous as to whether or not little Eric (Peter DaCunha) meant to let his half-brother Max (Auden Larrat) drown.  You really couldn’t blame Eric if that was the case.  Max was a stone-cold psychopath who started the movie threatening to attack a stray dog with a power drill.  Max got whatever he deserved.  As for that other murder that Eric commits — well, it’s self-defense.  Eric really had no choice.  Eric’s a good kid, dangit!

Instead, it’s his mother who is the problem.  Briana (Bree Williamson) has a really nice house but she’s the type of mother who is too busy sunbathing (while wearing an American flag bikini, no less) to notice that one of her sons is drowning in the pool behind her.  Briana is almost always drunk or stoned.  She brings strange men home with her.  She neglects Eric and sends him to school in grubby clothes.  She murders the neighbor for being condescending, banging her over the head with the same skillet that will later be used to prepare Eric’s breakfast.  Briana’s not the world’s best mother but, at the very least, she has a nice house.

Seriously, you have to see this house.  Have you ever seen House Hunters?  You know how the third house is always a really nice house that, we’re told, is a little bit outside of the house hunters’s budget?  (“Now, this is listed for a little more than you said you were willing to pay but the price may come down…”)  That’s the type of house that Brianna lives in.  Unfortunately, Brianna has kinda trashed the place.  At one point, she explains that she inherited the house after her parents died.  At least, for once, a Lifetime movie took the time to explain why even the trashiest of characters always live in the nicest of houses.

Anyway, Briana’s killed someone and she forces Eric to help her cover up the crime.  That kinda traumatizes Eric.  He’d much rather live with his softball coach, Michael Davis (Paul Popovich).  However, Briana is determined to get in her new boyfriend’s RV and flee to Mexico.  And she expects her only remaining son to come with her.  Whatever is Eric to do!?

Well, you probably already guessed what happens.  Mommy’s Little Boy was a standard Lifetime film but I liked it.  If nothing else, Bree Williamson deserves some sort of award for how totally and completely she throws herself into the role of Briana.  It takes courage to play someone that trashy without winking at the audience but Williamson does it.  Overall, Mommy’s Little Boy was an entertaining addition to Lifetime’s stable of films about mentally unstable maternal figures.

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!


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
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

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #3: Mommy’s Little Girl (dir by Curtis Crawford)

Mommy's Little Girl

After I finished up The Other Wife, I continued to clean out my DVR by rewatching Mommy’s Little Girl.

Mommy’s Little Girl, was premiered on Lifetime on March 19th, is a crazy little kid movie.  How crazy?  Well, the film is also known as Mommy’s Little Murderer and for good reason!  Speaking for myself, I always enjoy a good crazy kid movie because this entire genre is built around an uncomfortable truth: Children are creepy!  They’ve got those squeaky voices and they’re always staring and they don’t have a filter so you never know what they’re going to say to you.  Even worse, it’s somehow considered socially unacceptable to snap at a stranger’s child, even if it’s obvious that stranger has no idea how to raise their children.

Plus, you have to consider that every serial killer was a child at some point.  If a child did decide to kill you, he’d probably get away with it.  You wouldn’t think to be cautious if you were alone with him because everyone assumes that children always have the best intentions.  No investigator would give serious consideration to the possibility that you were murdered by a child.  Even if the kid was arrested, he’d only be charged as a minor.  He would ultimately end up with a clean record while you just ended up as some sort of dumbass ghost haunting the landfill where he dumped your body.

Seriously, people need to think about this stuff before they deal with children.

Consider Sadie Connell (Emma Hentschel), the title character of Mommy’s Little Girl.  Sadie is only 11 years old and, as cute and innocent-looking as she may be, when we first meet her, she’s already killed at least one person.  She arranged for her abusive grandfather to take a nasty tumble down a flight of stairs.  In fact, not only did she kill her grandfather but she also stole his lighter.  She claims that it’s a magic lighter and, despite being a non-smoker, Sadie finds many uses for that flame.  For instance, she can use the lighter to threaten her dolls.  And when a classmate bullies her, she uses the lighter to punish his prized action figures.

Over the course of the movie, Sadie commits a few more murders.  She pushes people off cliffs.  She poisons their food.  At one point, she even places her hands over one unfortunate victim’s mouth and helps to suffocate her.  Sadie is definitely a little bit psycho and yet, as a viewer, I couldn’t help but feel some sympathy for her.  Both her grandparents treated her so badly that you can’t blame Sadie for being a little bit bitter.  As for her classmate with his precious action figures — well, nobody likes a bully.

At the start of the film, Sadie is finally reunited with her mother, Theresa (Fiona Gubelmann), who has issues of her own when Sadie was born and, as a result, allowed her daughter to be raised by her parents.  However, Theresa now has her life together and is ready to raise her daughter!  Sadie is so excited to finally have a family but she’s also extremely paranoid of losing that family.  Some of the film’s best scenes come when Sadie fears that she’s about to be rejected and sent back to her grandmother.  Sadie never becomes a one-dimensional villain.  The end result is a Lifetime film that actually makes you think.

Keep an eye out for Mommy’s Little Girl!