What Lisa Watched Last Night #165: Secrets of my Stepdaughter (dir by Jem Garrard)


Last night, I watched Secrets of my Stepdaughter on Lifetime!

Why Was I Watching It?

Why Not?  It was on Lifetime and Secrets of my Stepdaughter is a great title.  As our regular readers know, Jeff, Leonard, and I spent all last month watching and reviewing the first two seasons on Twin Peaks.  As soon as I saw the title of this Lifetime film, I immediately thought of that great line from the third episode of series: “She is full of secrets.”

What Was It About?

When teenager Rachel Kent (Tiera Skovbye) survives a robbery that leaves her best friend dead, she becomes a minor media celebrity.  Everyone loves Rachel but the detective (Lucia Walters) in charge of the case has suspicions.  And soon, so does Rachel’s stepmother, Cindy (Josie Davis).  Rachel is just enjoying being a celebrity too much and when Cindy catches Rachel rehearsing the story of the robbery in front of a mirror, Cindy starts to suspect that Rachel may indeed be full of secrets.

What Worked?

The film told an intriguing story.  It opened with a title card telling us that it was “based on a true story” and I’d believe it.  This is actually something that happens fairly regularly.  A victim of a crime will become a minor celebrity, just to then have it revealed that they actually committed the crime themselves.  People love the attention.  What’s interesting is that you never hear much about these people once it’s revealed that they were not victims but instead guilty.  They kind of get pushed to the side and the story gets abandoned because no one wants to admit to having been fooled.

Josie Davis gave a good performance as Cindy.  She’s appeared in several Lifetime films and it was interesting to see her finally play a sympathetic character for once.  The entire film, however, was stolen by Tiera Skovbye, who was a force of cheerfully destructive nature in the role of Rachel.

What Did Not Work?

This was yet another Lifetime film where the family pet is killed off, presumably so we don’t have any doubt that we’re dealing with a total sociopath.  Killing the dog felt so cruelly unnecessary and totally gratuitous that it made it difficult for me to enjoy the rest of the movie.  It seemed to be done for shock value but, at this point, so many pets have been killed in so many Lifetime movies that it’s no longer shocking.

Seriously, leave the pets alone!

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

“Wow, Lisa, since this movie was about a sociopathic, shoplifting teenage murderer, there were probably a lot of Oh my God!  Just like me! moments!”

Okay, you are no longer my friend.

Actually, to be honest, I did relate to Rachel at the very beginning of the movie.  When she was rehearsing in front of the mirror, I gave her the benefit of the doubt because I do that too.  But then it became obvious that she actually had killed her best friend and the family dog and I was like, “Nope, I have nothing in common with this psycho!”

Lessons Learned

It’s a lot more difficult to fake a crime than you might think.

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: The Hollow (dir by Sheldon Wilson)


Syfy-movie-The-Hollow

So, earlier today, I finally got around to watching the latest SyFy original film, The Hollow.  (The Hollow originally aired last Saturday but I missed it because I was going from Halloween party to Halloween party, wandering around in chilly and wet weather without much on and eventually coming down with a cold as a result.)  Now, it may seem strange to review a made-for-TV movie as a part of a series of grindhouse film reviews but, much like They Found Hell, The Hollow probably would have played at the grindhouse if there was still a grindhouse around for it to play at.

As for the film itself, it was a story of death, curses, family dysfunction, and sisterhood.  The Hollow takes place on Shelter Island.  To be honest, just the name Shelter Island should let you know that something bad is going to happen.  I mean, Shelter Island sounds too similar to Shutter Island for it to be a totally safe place.  One hundred years ago, a legendary storm wiped out the island’s population.  Over the century, the island has recovered and new people have moved in.  But now, another storm is threatening to hit and that storm is bringing a curse with it!  Soon, the island will be attacked by monsters that appear to be made out of dirt and fire…

Of course, the monsters aren’t the only ones coming to Shelter Island.  There are three sisters as well — Sarah (Stephanie Hunt), Marley (Sarah Dugdale), and Emma (Alisha Newton).  Coming from a dysfunctional family, they’re planning on spending Halloween in a cabin on the island and working on their fractured relationship.  Unfortunately, those plans are interrupted by the arrival of the monsters.  As the sisters try to find some way to get off the island, Emma suddenly vanishes.  Sarah and Marley search for her, while dealing not only with the monster but also with other survivors, some of whom are more helpful than others.

I actually really enjoyed The Hollow.  Why?  Well, it all comes down to three things:

Number one, Shelter Island was extremely creepy!  This film is full of images of characters running through a seemingly endless forest, with all the trees enshrouded by a thick fog.  Director Sheldon Wilson took full advantage of the menacing possibilities of his location.  When it comes to a horror film — especially a low-budget one — never underestimate the importance of atmosphere.

Number two, the monsters were genuinely scary and well-done.  You never knew where they were going to suddenly show up and, as a result, you were kept off-balance throughout the entire film.

Finally, the main reason I enjoyed The Hollow was because Stephanie Hunt, Sarah Dugdale, and Alisha Newton were perfectly cast and believable as the three sisters.  I’m the youngest of four sisters and, needless to say, there were many scenes to which I could relate.  Since you believed their relationship and cared about them as characters, this brought a bit more depth to The Hollow than you might otherwise have expected.

The Hollow was a nice surprise.  Keep an eye out for it on the SyFy channel.

Playing Catch-Up With 6 Film Reviews: Avengers Grimm, Bad Asses On The Bayou, Hayride 2, Insurgent, Poltergeist, Tomorrowland


Here are 6 films that I saw during the first half of 2015.  Some of them are on Netflix and some of them were major studio releases.  Some of them are worth seeing.  Some of them most definitely are not.

Avengers_Grimm

Avengers Grimm (dir by Jeremy M. Inman)

Obviously made to capitalize on the popularity of Avengers: Age of UltronAvengers Grimm opens with a war in the world of fairy tales.  Evil Rumpelstiltskin (Casper Van Dien) uses Snow White’s (Laura Parkinson) magic mirror to cross over into our world and he takes Snow White with him!  It’s now up to Cinderella (Milynn Sharley), Sleeping Beauty (Marah Fairclough), and Rapunzel (Rileah Vanderbilt) to cross over into our world, save Snow White, and defeat Rumpelstiltskin.  Also sneaking over is rebellious Red Riding Hood (Elizabeth Petersen) who is determined to kill Rumpelstiltskin’s henchman, The Wolf (Kimo Leopoldo).  

Got all that?

Avengers Grimm is another enjoyably insane mockbuster from The Asylum.  The budget’s low, the performances are intentionally melodramatic, and it’s all lot of fun.  Casper Van Dien has a lot of fun playing evil, the women all get to kick ass, and Lou Ferrigno is well-cast as a labor leader named Iron John.

Avengers Grimm is currently available on Netflix.

Bad_Asses_on_the_Bayou

Bad Asses On The Bayou (dir by Craig Moss)

Apparently, this is the third film in which Danny Trejo and Danny Glover have respectively played Frank Vega and Bernie Pope, two old guys who kick ass in between worrying about their prostates.  I haven’t seen the previous two Bad Asses films but I imagine that it really doesn’t matter.

In this film, Trejo and Glover go to Louisiana to attend a friend’s wedding.  When she’s kidnapped, they have to rescue her and impart some important life lessons to her younger brother.  It’s all pretty predictable but then again, it’s also pretty good for a film called Bad Asses On The Bayou.  This is a film that promises two things: Danny Trejo kicking ass and lots of bayou action.  And it delivers on both counts.

In fact, I would say that Bad Asses On The Bayou is a better showcase for Danny Trejo’s unique style than the better known Machete films.  Danny Trejo is a surprisingly adept comedic actor and he gives a performance here that shows his talent goes beyond mere physical presence.

Bad Asses On The Bayou is currently available on Netflix.

hayride-2

Hayride 2 (dir by Terron R. Parsons)

I should admit up front that I haven’t seen the first Hayride film.  Luckily, Hayride 2 picks up directly from the end of the first film and is filled with so many flashbacks and so much conversation about what happened that it probably doesn’t matter.

Essentially, Pitchfork (Wayne Dean) is a murderous urban legend who turns out to be real.  He killed a lot of people in the first film and he stalks those that escaped throughout the 2nd film.  Like all good slasher villains, Pitchfork is a relentless killer.  He’s also an unrepentant racist, which leads to a genuinely unpleasant scene where he attacks a black detective (Corlandos Scott).  Say whatever else you will about the film, Hayride 2 deserves some credit for being on the side of the victims.  No attempt is made to turn Pitchfork into an anti-hero and the movie is relentlessly grim.

Hayride 2 is an odd film.  The film’s low-budget is obvious in every single scene.  The pacing is abysmal and the performances are amateurish.  And yet, when taken on its own meager terms, it has a dream-like intensity to it that I appreciated.  Then again, I always have had a weakness for low-budget, regional horror films.

Hayride 2 is available on Netflix.

Insurgent_poster

Insurgent (dir by Robert Schwentke)

Insurgent is both the sequel to Divergent and was also 2015’s first YA dystopia film.  Shailene Woodley is as good as ever and I guess it’s good that she has a commercially successful franchise, which will hopefully inspire audiences to track down better Shailene Woodley films like The Spectacular Now.  

All that said, Insurgent often felt even more pointless than Divergent.  For a two-hour film featuring performers like Woodley, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller, Insurgent has no excuse for being as forgettable and boring as it actually was.  The next installment in The Hunger Games can not get here soon enough.

Poltergeist_2015_poster

Poltergeist (dir by Gil Kenan)

When a family (led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) move into a new house, they discover that everything is not what it seems.  For one thing, they come across a bunch of creepy clown dolls.  They also hear a lot of scary sounds.  They discover that the house was built on an old cemetery.  Their youngest daughter vanishes.  And finally, someone says, “Isn’t this like that old movie that was on TCM last night?”

Okay, they don’t actually say that.  However, as everyone knows, the 2015 Poltergeist is a remake of the 1982 Poltergeist.  Since the 1982 Poltergeist still holds up fairly well, the 2015 Poltergeist feels incredibly unnecessary.  It has a few good jump scenes and it’s always good to see Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt in lead roles but ultimately, who cares?  It’s just all so pointless.

Watch the wall-dancing original.  Ignore the remake.

Tomorrowland_poster

Tomorrowland (dir by Brad Bird)

Welcome to the world of tomorrow!  Wow, is it ever boring!

Actually, I feel a little bit bad about just how much I disliked Tomorrowland because this is a film that really did have the best intentions.  Watching the film, you get the sinking feeling that the people involved actually did think that they were going to make the world a better place.  Unfortunately, their idea of a better world is boring and almost oppressively optimistic.  There is no room for cynicism in Tomorrowland.  Bleh.  What fun is that?

Anyway, the film basically steals its general idea from the Atlas Shrugged trilogy.  Tomorrowland is a secret place that is inhabited by inventors, dreamers, and iconoclasts.  Years ago, Frank (George Clooney) was banished from Tomorrowland because, after learning that the Earth was destined to end, he lost “hope” in mankind’s future.  Fortunately, he meets Casey (Britt Robertson), who is full of hope and through her, he gets to return.  They also get a chance to save the world and battle a cartoonish super villain played by Hugh Laurie.  (Why is he a villain?  Because he’s played by Hugh Laurie, of course!)

After all the hype and build-up, Tomorrowland turned out to be dull and predictable.  What a shame.  The Atlas Shrugged trilogy was at least fun because it annoyed the hipsters at the AV Club.  Tomorrowland is just forgettable.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #129: Accidental Obsession (dir by George Erschbamer)


Last night, I watched the Lifetime premiere of Accidental Obsession.

Caroline Cave stars in Accidental Obsession

Caroline Cave stars in Accidental Obsession

Why Was I Watching It?

After A Deadly Adoption, Trigger Point, and Lethal Seduction, it is obvious that Lifetime is on a roll.  In the future, when we look back at the history of Lifetime movies, 2015 will definitely be seen as a high point.  Naturally, how could I not excited by the idea of a Lifetime movie premiering on Sunday?  Surely, Accidental Obsession would prove to be yet another Lifetime masterpiece…

What Was It About?

After Carly (Caroline Cave) escapes from a mental asylum, she murders and steals the identity of a travel writer named Vanessa.  She then manages to meet and befriend an attorney named Heather (Josie Davis).

Within a matter of days, Vanessa has become clingy and possessive.  Not only does she regularly break into Heather’s house but she borrows Heather’s clothes without asking as well!  (Breaking and entering is one thing.  Borrowing without asking permission is something else all together!)  However, it turns out that Vanessa is not the only person obsessed with Heather.  There’s also Heather’s ex-husband, Ray (Sebastian Spence) and a private investigator named Jack (Marc Menard).

(This movie could have just as easily been called Everyone Loves Heather.)

How far will Vanessa go to have Heather all to herself?  Well, Vanessa is kind of a crazy stabby psycho so you can probably guess what ends up happening.

What Worked?

Josie Davis is a Lifetime veteran and, as a result, she knew exactly the right type of performance to give in a film like Accidental Obsession.  As well, Caroline Cave gave a good performance as the psycho Vanessa.

What Did Not Work?

Sad to say, this was definitely a lesser Lifetime film.  The film opens with Carly stabbing Vanessa to death with a huge butcher knife.  Despite the fact that Carly stabbed Vanessa repeatedly, there’s absolutely no blood seen on the knife or Carly afterwards.  It was distracting and it pretty much set the tone for the entire film.  Accidental Obsession definitely felt like a movie that was too rushed to pay much attention to details like blood.

Naturally, all Lifetime film require a certain suspension of disbelief.  Accidental Obsession required a bit too much suspending.  For the entire film’s plot to even come close to making sense, Heather had to be a total and complete idiot.  And it’s true that there are idiots out there but they usually don’t make for compelling protagonists.

There’s also a scene of totally gratuitous animal cruelty.  While I understand that the filmmakers were trying to show us how crazy and dangerous Vanessa really was, those two facts had already been pretty firmly established.  As a result, the scene just felt sadistic and unnecessary.

Finally, Accidental Obsession is way too generic of a title.  Add to that, no one’s obsession was really accidental.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

You meet someone, you try to be nice, and the next thing you know, that person is determined to be a part of every minute of your life.  Yes, Lifetime, I’ve been there…

Lessons Learned

Be suspicious of people who steal identities, want to be your best friend, and attempt to stab your ex-husband to death.  They’re probably up to no good.

Embracing the Melodrama #56: Fierce People (dir by Griffin Dunne)


Fierce People

Much as how Inside Out is a perfect example of how one bad plot twist can ruin an otherwise good film, the 2007 sin-among-the-wealthy melodrama Fierce People shows how one good actor can partially redeem a really bad movie.  That actor’s name is Donald Sutherland and Fierce People is worth seeing for one reason: his performance.

Fierce People tells the story of a teenager named Finn Earl (Anton Yelchin).  As a character, Finn Earl is almost as annoying as his cutesy name.  He’s a permanently sarcastic 16 year-old who goes through life with the same judgmental smirk on his face, while the whole time delivering some of the smuggest narration ever recorded for a voice over in an American film.  Finn’s mother is Liz (Diane Lane), a massage therapist with a drug problem.  Finn’s father is some jerk who spends all of his time in South America, studying cannibal tribes.  (Actually, he’s studying a real-life Indian tribe known as the Yanomami, or the Fierce People.  However, I prefer to assume that he was actually studying a cannibal tribe because that means it’s entirely possible that he was eaten at some point and therefore, Finn will never get a chance to spend any time with father.  That’s the type of reaction that Finn, as a character, inspires.)

Liz and Finn are invited to spend the summer living the guesthouse of the fabulously wealthy Ogden Osburne (Donald Sutherland).  At first, Finn is weary of Ogden and assumes that he must be sleeping with Liz.  However, in a scene that works only because of the performance of Donald Sutherland, Ogden very graphically shows Finn why he’s not interested in having an affair with Liz.  Instead, Ogden is just a nice, rich eccentric.  Unfortunately, the other wealthy people who live around Ogden are not quite as nice and they soon, they start to resent the presence of Finn and his mother.  Finn does manages to befriend Ogden’s decadent grandson (played by Chris Evans) and even starts a tentative romance with Ogden’s granddaughter (Kristen Stewart) but the rest of the Osburne clan is not prepared to be so accepting.  Soon, the film goes from being an annoying comedy to being an annoying drama with a burst of violence and murder.

Fierce People is not a very good movie.  It’s based on a novel and, even if you didn’t know that beforehand, you would guess just from the way that the film tries and fails to present a lot of themes that undoubtedly work better on the page than on the screen.  The film’s attempts to draw parallels between the Yanomami and the wealthy (They’re two tribes and they’re both fierce — OH MY GOD, MIND BLOWN!) are way too obvious and the film’s sudden lurch into drama is handled rather clumsily.  It’s interesting to see Chris Evans before he became Capt. America and Kristen Stewart before she became Bella (and both of them, by the way, give good performances) but Anton Yelchin’s performance as Finn alternates between being smug and being whiny.  (In Yelchin’s defense, he’s developed into a pretty good actor and I loved him in Like Crazy.)

And yet, Fierce People works as an example of what a truly great actor can do with so-so material.  As played by Donald Sutherland, Ogden becomes the jaded moral center of the universe.  Sutherland plays Ogden with a perversely regal air and yet also makes us totally believe that Ogden actually could be helping the Earls out of the kindness of his heart.  It’s a great performance and every minute that Sutherland is on screen, Fierce People works.

If the film had simply been called Fierce Ogden, it would have been a hundred times better.

Donald Sutherland and Kristen Stewart

Trailer: Godzilla (Official Main)


Godzilla2014

Last summer, we saw the return of the giant monster genre on Western screens with Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim. This summer we see the return of the King of the Monsters back on the big screen where he belongs.

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla looks to bring back the King to lay massive destruction on humanity. The trailers haven’t shown whether Godzilla will be the villain of the film or back to fight other monsters. Either as protector or destroyer he will cause much collateral damage on the cities of mankind.

This latest trailer seems to intimate that Edwards’ film will actually be a sequel to the original 1954 film of the same name.

Godzilla will have a May 16. 2014 release date.