Lifetime Film Review: Killer Daddy Issues (dir by Danny J. Boyle)


“What a nice ranch!” I thought as I watched the opening scenes of Killer Daddy Issues.

Listen, I live in Texas.  I’ve grown up all over the Southwest.  I’ve seen a lot of really nice ranches and I’ve seen a lot of really mediocre ranches and the ranch in Killer Daddy Issues is definitely a nice one.  The scenery is green and bountiful.  The hills are covered with beautiful trees.  There’s a big river nearby.  Majestic horses run across the fields.  This is the type of ranch that you definitely want to visit.  Unfortunately, even the best ranches have their issues.

This ranch is currently owned by Grace (Carolyn McCormick) and her daughter, Carrie (Jillian Murray).  They inherited it and a good deal of money after the death of Grace’s husband.  However, a new man has entered Grace’s life.  Carrie is shocked when Grace returns from a five-day cruise with a new husband!  Reed (Chris Riggi) is handsome and charming and young enough to be Carrie’s brother.  Carrie takes an immediate distrust to Reed.  Despite Reed assuring her that he’s already independently wealthy and that he doesn’t have a criminal record, Carrie is convinced that Reed is only after her mother’s money.  Carrie’s suspicions are not eased when Grace is seriously injured during a riding accident.

Meanwhile, Sofia (Kristina Reyes) has made a shocking discovery.  She and her mother both work at the ranch and, while Carrie treats them with superficial respect, it’s still obvious that there’s a world of difference between their lives and the lives of Grace and Carrie.  When Sofia discovers that her father was Grace’s husband and that she’s actually Carrie’s half-sister, she’s not happy at all.  She’s been cheated out of the ranch that she views as her birthright.

Meanwhile, someone is wandering around the ranch with a rifle, taking shots at people.  Hmmm …. I wonder if that could have anything to do with all the other stuff that’s going on at the ranch?

Needless to say, there’s a lot going on in this movie.  Not only do you have a mysterious new husband who might be a murderous gold digger but you also have the issue of Sofia’s paternity.  One thing that really struck me about this film was just how unlikable Carrie and Grace are.  Even though they’re the main characters, both of them seem to be a bit too secure in their positions.  In the beginning, at least, Sofia is a far more sympathetic character because she does have a legitimate complaint.  She had been denied what rightfully should belong to her.  It’s a bit subversive actually.  Even though Carrie and Grace are presented as being the protagonists, it’s clear that the audience’s sympathy is meant to go to Sofia.

Anyway, this one is okay.  It crams three hours worth of plot into a 90-minute runtime and, as a result, the film does occasionally seem to be a bit overstuffed.  There’s a lot to keep up with.  But the ranch is gorgeous and Kristina Reyes gives an excellent performance as Sofia.  This is a good movie to watch on a weekend afternoon.

 

Lifetime Film Review: The Baby Monitor Murders (dir by Danny J. Boyle)


Apple Springs, Washington might seem like a nice little town but appearances can be deceiving.  Mallory Raymond has gone missing and no one can find her.  The local sheriff seems to suspect that her husband, Glenn (Dustin Lloyd). may have had something to do with it.  Meanwhile, Glenn is spending all of his time in the park where Mallory was last seen.  Is he searching for his wife or is he searching for another victim?

While Mallory is busy disappearing, Cassie (Natalie Sharp) is busy returning.  Cassie grew up in Apple Springs and she’s just returned from college.  She thought she was going to get an internship with a music label but that fell through.  Now, it looks like like Cassie is going to have to spend the entire summer stuck at her parent’s house.  That’s fine with her parents, of course.  They’re heading to Paris and they need someone to housesit.

Not wanting to spend another summer working at the local diner, Cassie is very happy when she just happens to run into Chloe Paine (Nicole LaPlaca), a lawyer who is planning on returning to work but who desperately needs someone to look after her daughter, Becca.  Chloe asks Cassie if she wants the job and Cassie accepts.

Soon, Cassie is spending hours a day over at the Paine house, taking care of Becca.  She gets to know Chloe’s husband, the seemingly friendly Tom Paine (Jon Cor).  She also gets to know Glenn, who it turns out just happens to work with Tom.  Cassie can’t help but notice that Tom and Glenn seem to always be arguing about something.

Strange things start to happen.  One night, Cassie is sure that she’s being watched.  Another night, she hears a menacing voice come over the baby monitor but, when she checks out Becca’s room, she doesn’t find anyone there.  And then, much like Mallory before her, Chloe disappears!

Where has Chloe gone?  Has she been kidnapped?  Has she been murdered?  And if that’s the case, who’s responsible?  Is it Tom, the seemingly perfect husband who seems to have a few secrets hiding underneath the friendly surface?  Or is it Glenn, who appears to be obviously unstable but who swears that the only thing he cares about is discovering what happened to his wife?  Even though almost everyone tells Cassie that she should just quit her job and stay away from the Paines, Cassie knows that would mean abandoning Beeca and that’s not something that she’s willing to do….

The Baby Monitor Murders, which initially aired way back in January, was originally entitled The Babysitter and really, that’s a better title for the film.  While the scene with the voice coming over the baby monitor is an undeniably creepy one, it’s also a rather minor one.  The film’s focus is much more on Cassie and her growing realization that she’s found herself in a dangerous and potentially deadly situation.  Natalie Sharp gives a good and sympathetic performance as Cassie, making her devotion to Becca feel believable and, as a result, giving this film a bit more emotional depth than the typical Lifetime film.  The mystery itself is frequently intriguing and you’ll find yourself going back and forth on whether Glenn or Tom is the one who Cassie should be weary of.  All in all, The Baby Monitor Murders is a good Lifetime film that will keep you guessing.

Lifetime Film Review: Undercover Cheerleader (dir by Danny J. Boyle)


Autumn (Kayla Wallace) has just transferred to a new high school and she has a decision to make.  At her old school, Autumn was the star of the dance team but it turns out that this new school doesn’t have a dance program.  Instead, it appears that Autumn is going to have to settle for either becoming a cheerleader or working on the school paper.

It’s a difficult decision and it was one to which I could automatically relate.  When I was in high school, I was constantly told that I should follow in my sister’s footsteps and try out for cheerleader.  I was also told that, with my big vocabulary and love of gratuitous sarcasm, I would be a natural for the school paper.  Myself, I didn’t want to be a cheerleader because I wanted to establish my own identity as opposed to just following in my sister’s footsteps.  At the same time, I didn’t want to join the paper because, as much as I love to write, I hate being edited.  I ultimately decided to do neither.  However, Autumn apparently has a bit more initiative than I did at that age because she decides to do both!

That’s right.  Autumn is going to try out for the squad and then she’s going to write anonymous articles about her experience for the newspaper!  She’s going to be an …. UNDERCOVER CHEERLEADER!

Autumn makes the squad and, not surprisingly, she discovers that there’s a lot to write about.  For instance, it turns out that that high school’s cheerleading coach is kind of a fascist who forces the cheerleaders to eat laxatives and who takes an immediate and irrational dislike to the only black girl on the squad.  The coach is also obsessed with controlling every aspect of her cheerleaders’s lives and it’s obvious that she’s less concerned with their well-being than she is with winning another championship.  She even forces one cheerleader to seriously injure herself for no apparent reason.

When Autumn’s first article comes out, the entire school is like, “Ewwwww!  Laxatives!?”  Everyone on the squad is trying to figure out who wrote the article.  Why they didn’t automatically suspect Autumn, who they already know is friends with the paper’s editor, I’m not sure.  While the article does get the coach in trouble, it also leads to a cheerleader power struggle and ultimately a murder.  This is a Lifetime movie, after all.

A lot happens in Undercover Cheerleader.  In fact, you could probably argue that too much happens in the movie.  It takes forever to get to that murder, which is unusual for a Lifetime film.  But no matter!  Undercover Cheerleader is a well-acted film and one that even has a few unexpected moments of wit.  Autumn is an interesting character because, even as she writing articles about how much it sucks to be a cheerleader, she’s also discovering that she likes the other members of the squad.  Kayla Wallace does a great job of capturing Autumn’s conflicted emotions about her assignment and she’s well-matched by Maddie Phillips and Ryan Grantham, who play two cynical student journalists.

If you’re a fan of Lifetime films, you should enjoy Undercover Cheerleader. 

Cleaning Out The DVR: Cheerleader Nightmare (dir by Danny J. Boyle)


I recorded Cheerleader Nightmare off of Lifetime on July 29th, 2018.

According to the imdb, Cheerleader Nightmare was originally titled Teen Drone Stalker.  Lifetime often changes the title of the movies that it acquires so I guess it’s not a shock that Teen Drone Stalker became Cheerleader Nightmare.  And I guess I can understand the reasoning behind the title change.  Teen Drone Stalker is a bit of an unwieldy title while Cheerleader Nightmare rolls right off the tongue.  Add to that, as a title, Cheerleader Nightmare promises both cheerleaders and nightmares, which has been a successful Lifetime formula in the past.

That said, Teen Drone Stalker is actually a far more accurate title.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are cheerleaders in this film and one of them does get murdered.  So, it’s not as if the new title is deceptive or anything.  But, in the end, it’s the teen drone stalkers who are far more important to the story than the dead cheerleaders.

(Add to that, Teen Drone Stalker is a great name for a band. I’d probably call them TDS for short, however.)

Anyway, the story centers around Sophie (Taylor Murphy), who is her high school’s official photographer.  She and her friend Mickey (Johnny Vistocky) use a drone to capture exciting action shots of the school’s football team and the cheerleaders.  Sophia has a complicated history with cheerleading.  On the one hand, her mother (Melissa Ponzio) is the cheerleading coach and never makes a secret of the fact that she wishes Sophie was on the team.  On the other hand, Sophie wants to find her own identity and maintain her independence.  Meanwhile, Sophie’s former best friend, Leah (Mia Stallard) is the head cheerleader and Sophie’s boyfriend, Tyler (Jeremy Shada), is on the football team.  You would think that Sophie’s mother would be happy that Sophie’s dating a football player but, instead, she’s concerned because Tyler used to be a juvenile delinquent.

Got all that?

Good, because things are about to get complicated.

While using Mickey’s drone to spy on a party being given at the football coach’s house, Sophie catches Tyler making out with Leah!  Then, someone murders Leah!  Was it Tyler?  Was it one of the other cheerleaders?  Was it Mickey, who seems to have issues with popular students?  Or …. could it have been Sophie!?  Seriously, Sophie seems to have a lot of unresolved issues towards cheerleaders.

I’ll be honest.  I spent the first 45 minutes or so convinced that Sophie would be revealed to be the murderer.  I had it all worked out in my mind.  I was convinced that Sophie suffered from blackouts, during which time she became a murderous named Sofia.  Was I right?  Was I wrong?  I guess you’ll have to watch the film to find out.

That said, I did relate to the character of Sophie.  When I was in high school, I was frequently told that I should I be a cheerleader but I never tried out because my sister was a cheerleader and I was all like, “I have to have my own identity!”  Looking back, it seems like kind of a silly thing to worry about but, at the time, it was like my declaration of principles.  Needless to say, I made my sister watch Cheerleader Nightmare with me so that I could get her opinion.  Erin says that it was an okay movie but she also pointed out that, if the cheerleaders had done a better job, everyone would have been too full of school spirit to commit any murders.  I have to agree with her on that.

Cheerleader Nightmare got off to a good start but it lost its way about halfway through.  I did enjoy counting up all of the red herrings that the film introduced before revealing the identity of the killer but there’s only so much you can really do with a red herring.  In the end, the identity of the murderer was not a big shock and it was hard not to feel that the murder would have been solved a lot earlier if Sophie and her mom had just stayed out of everyone’s way.   Unfortunately, Cheerleader Nightmare was no The Cheerleader Murders.

 

Cleaning Out The DVR: Stalked By My Ex (dir by Danny J. Boyle)


(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 193 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 Stalked By My Ex off of the Lifetime Movie Network on December 15th!)

Now, this is more like it!

At the same time that Lifetime was exclusively showing Christmas movies, the Lifetime Movie Network was continuing to show more traditional Lifetime fare.  It was actually a pretty smart programming decision on their part.  I mean, I love Christmas movies.  But sometimes, regardless of the season, you just want to see a totally over-the-top melodrama, preferably one that features the word “Stalked” in the title.

Take Stalked By My Ex, for example.  It’s hardly the first stalking film to show up on Lifetime and it certainly won’t be the last.  I’m sure that some people will just look at the title and roll their eyes.  But those of us who actually took the time to watch the film know that Stalked By My Ex was Lifetime at its absolute best.

The ex in question is Sam (Yves Bright).  Sam was once married to Chloe (Tamara Braun) and they had a daughter named Olivia (played, as a teenager, by Brytnee Ratledge).  As we discover at the start of the film, Sam isn’t exactly the most stable person in the world.  He’s the type who responds to a trial separation by forcing his way into the house and trying to kidnap his daughter.

Jump forward ten years later.  Sam is in prison.  Believe it or not, he’s not in prison for abusing his wife or trying to kidnap his daughter.  Instead, he’s doing time for some sort of financial mischief.  Chloe has ordered Olivia to have nothing to do with her Dad but, of course, Olivia doesn’t listen.  Teenage daughters never listen in a Lifetime movie, at least not until the final ten minutes of the film.  Olivia has been sending her father letters and saying that she wishes they could be a family again.  When Sam calls, from prison, on Olivia’s birthday, Olivia accepts the call.  When Sam tells Olivia that he’s going to be released soon, Chloe responds by putting her house up for sale, pulling Olivia out of school, and moving back to her old hometown.  When Olivia protests, Chloe tells her that her father is dangerous.

As soon as he’s released from prison, Sam sets about proving Chloe’s point.  He starts to obsessively search for his ex-wife and daughter.  He wants another chance to be a father to Olivia.  Of course, he also wants to kill Chloe.

As far as the film’s plot goes, Stalked By My Ex may be a typical Lifetime film but I still really liked it.  Yves Bright was frightening as the unstable Sam and Chloe and Olivia were completely believable as mother and daughter.  Watching the movie, it was easy for me to relate to them.  I saw a lot of parallels to my relationship with my mom in the relationship between Olivia and her mom.  The film also makes a good point about how history repeats itself and people keep making the same mistakes, especially in abusive households.  (Chloe’s father was abusive and she married an abuser.)

All in all, this was a good Lifetime film.  Not only was it well-made and enjoyably melodramatic but it also gave you something to think about.  While Lifetime was celebrating the sentiment of the holidays, the Lifetime Movie Network was reminding us that not every problem can be solved by Santa Claus.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Give Me My Baby (dir by Danny J. Boyle)


(Lisa is not only watching horror films this month!  She is also busy trying to clean out her DVR.  She has got over 170 movies recorded and waiting to be watched.  Can she view all of them by January 1st?  Keep checking here to find out!  Lisa recorded Give Me My Baby off of the Lifetime Movie Network on May 13th!)

“Layla, are you okay?  Where is Dad going?”

“To Hell.”

That right there is the type of melodramatic and over the top dialogue that runs through every minute of Give Me My Baby, which is quite possibly one of the funniest films that I’ve ever seen on the Lifetime Movie Network.

Give Me My Baby tells the story of Layla (Kelly Sullivan), who spends her days creating new scents for perfume and who has a lot to deal with.  For instance, she’s just entered into a partnership with a self-centered reality TV star named Shannon (Brooke Hogan).  Shannon wants to sell a perfume called Scorched but Layla talks her into calling it Sizzle instead.  Her second husband, Nate (Gabriel Hogan), is a former pro golfer who blew out his knee when he fell out of a golf cart and who still occasionally struggles to maintain his sobriety.  Her stepdaughter, Allison (Laura Hand), has just dropped out of college and has moved back into her old room.  However, the majority of Layla’s stress has to do with her desire to have a baby, despite the fact that, as Allison puts it, “You guys are old.”

Fortunately, Layla and Nate are clients of one of the best fertility doctors around.  Dr. Hartlin (Sofia Milos) may not be cheap (and the film’s script makes a very specific point of saying that her treatment is not covered by insurance) but she seems to sincerely care about her patients.  In fact, she might care too much.  When Layla goes shopping, she just happens to run into Dr. Hartlin.  When Nate is giving golf lessons, Dr. Hartlin just happens to show up.  When Layla wonders why she’s so emotional and temperamental when she isn’t even pregnant yet, Dr. Hartlin tells her that it’s nothing to worry about.  But one day, Nate arrives home and Layla not only smells the scent of booze on his breath.  She also smells the scent of Dr. Hartlin on all of Nate’s clothes…

It turns out that, long ago, Dr. Hartlin used to know Nate.  In fact, she and Nate even had a date or two.  Nate is shocked to discover that Dr. Hartlin is the same girl that he used to know as “Cee Cee.”  Dr. Hartlin explains she had a good deal of plastic surgery after a car accident, the same accident that caused her to have a miscarriage many years ago…

“I’m not going to hurt you.  I just want my baby.”

“It’s my baby.”

“No, it’s my baby.”

“BACK OFF OR THERE WON’T BE ANY BABY!” 

*Layla points a knife at her own stomach*

That’s just another example of the dialogue in Give Me My Baby.  Seriously, this is one of the most batshit insane films that I’ve ever seen on Lifetime.  I wouldn’t necessarily call it good but it’s so crazy that you’ll never forget it.  Sofia Milos goes so over the top as Dr. Hartlin that there’s a chance she might never return to Earth.

That said, my favorite character was Allison. As played by Laura Hand, Allison had a sarcastic attitude about everything.  Even when she was being helpful and trying to protect her stepmother, she still came across like she was annoyed about having to make the effort.  I totally saw myself in Allison.  Someone needs to give Allison a show of her own.

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #36: Killer Assistant (dir by Danny J. Boyle)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by the end of July 11th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)

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The 36th film on my DVR was Killer Assistant (also known as simply The Assistant.)

Killer Assistant originally aired on Lifetime on June 20th and it won major points from me just because of the title.  Though often underappreciated, administrative assistants are the glue that hold most offices together.  If there were no administrative assistants, the entire world would literally stop spinning so I’m always happy whenever I see a movie in which the assistants finally get their revenge.

The assistant of the title is … well, he claims his name is David (Brando Eaton).  That’s not his real name, of course.  And he’s really not from a small town in upstate New York despite what he tells everyone.  He may be a shady character who stole someone else’s identity but that doesn’t mean that he’s not a good assistant!  He especially proves to be invaluable to Suzanne Austin (Arianne Zucker), an editor at a fashion magazine.  As Suzanne struggles to put together the magazine’s 50th anniversary edition (all the while being watched by her boss, who bare a probably not coincidental resemblance to Anna Wintour), David proves to be a great source of ideas.  When Suzanne thinks that she’s seen her husband (George Stults) cheating on her, David proves to be a great source of comfort.

Which is another way of saying that they end up having a one night stand.  How passionate do things get?  So passionate that the sex scene is actually shown in slow motion.  (You know that Lifetime is getting serious when they start using the slow mo.)  However, the next morning, Suzanne announces that the previous night was a “mistake” and tells David that he is fired.

David, however, has other ideas.  After all, he already went through the trouble of attacking one of Suzanne’s other assistants just to make sure that he’d be able to keep his job.  David tells Suzanne that he’s not going anywhere.  He’s going to continue to answer the phones for her and schedule meetings for her.  And if she has a problem with that, he’ll just show everyone the little film that he made of the two of them during the previous night.

So, Suzanne is stuck with David.  And David is now flirting with her rebellious teenage daughter, Calista (Natalie Lander).

Anyway, Killer Assistant is rather ludicrous but I enjoyed it because 1) it was about a crazy administrative assistant and 2) it took place at a fashion magazine and was, therefore, full of bitchy dialogue.  Plus, Brando Eaton did a really good job in the role of David.  He was just so clean-cut, helpful, and cheerful, no matter what terrible things he was plotting.  As I watched the film, I found myself imagining a possible spin-off in which Suzanne is a guest judge on Project Runway and David blackmails her into praising the ugliest dress.  It was fun!

(For those keeping track of my efforts to clean out my DVR, that’s 36 films down and 4 to go!)

What Lisa Watched Last Night #151: Marriage of Lies (dir by Danny J. Boyle)


Last night, after I got home from my aborted attempt to celebrate Memorial Day a week early (read the previous post for details), I watched the latest Lifetime premiere, Marriage of Lies!

marriageoflies_300x290

Why Was I Watching It?

Well, the obvious answer is that not only was it on Lifetime but it also had one of the most stereotypically Lifetime titles ever.

Marriage of Lies!

It just screams Lifetime melodrama, doesn’t it?

There I was, still feeling embarrassed over getting the date of Memorial Day wrong, and what do I see listed in guide?  Marriage of Lies!  As soon as I saw that title, I knew everything was going to be okay.

What Was It About?

Call it Gone Guy.

One morning, Rachel Wilson (April Browlby) wakes up to discover that her husband, popular teacher Tye Wilson (Brody Hutzler), is gone.  Because their marriage is already troubled because of a past infidelity on Tye’s part, Rachel thinks that Tye has just temporarily gone off on his own.  She doesn’t report him missing for two days and, after she does, she suddenly finds that she’s the number one suspect.

Everyone thinks that Rachel murdered her missing husband, including a world-weary detective named Gus (played by Corin Nemec).  At first, it seems like Rachel’s only ally is her best friend (Virginia Williams) but soon, Rachel starts to doubt even her.

With reporters camping out in her front yard and the entire world convinced of her guilt, Rachel starts to wonder if Tye’s actually been abducted and/or murdered or if maybe there’s something even stranger going on…

What Worked?

Marriage of Lies was fairly well-done.  The actors all did a good job.  Among those of us who were live-tweeting the film on twitter, Detective Roper (played by Zachary Garred) quickly emerged as our favorite character.  Roper was Gus’s partner.  Whereas Gus was cynical and beaten-down by life, Roper seemed to actually be having fun with his job.  Of course, he was also pretty quick to assume that Rachel was guilty but that was just Roper being Roper!

The ending, with its suggestion that the truth means nothing and that sensation-seeking observers have no real interest in reality, was properly cynical and nicely done.

What Did Not Work?

The movie played a bit too slowly and the pacing definitely felt a bit off.  (Of course, it’s difficult to judge these things when the action has to stop every 17 minutes or so for a commercial break.)

After all of the build up, I was hoping that the eventual solution to Tye’s disappearance would turn out to be totally fucked up and weird but instead, it pretty much played out the way that I predicted it would after the first five minutes of the film.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I have to admit that I related to the character of Kinna (Madison Iseman), who was one of Mr. Wilson’s students and who had a huge crush on him.  I felt that way about some of my teachers when I was in high school.  Also, much like Kinna, I would probably be totally useless as a member of a search party.

Lessons Learned

It’s easier to vanish than you might think.