What Lisa Watched Last Night #181: Nightclub Secrets (dir by Joe Menendez)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime Movie Network premiere, Nightclub Secrets!

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was on the Lifetime Movie Network, of course!

However, I also have to say that I really liked the title.  Usually, whenever the word “secrets” appears in the title of a Lifetime movie, it’s a good sign.  And, let us not forget, this title not only promised us secrets but nightclub secrets as well!  As anyone who has watched 54 can tell you, nightclubs are full of secrets…

What Was It About?

It’s the story of two sisters and their alcoholic mother.  Rachel (Rachel Hendrix) is wild and does mysterious things.  Zoe (Kate Mansi) reads mysteries and teaches a creative writing class, in which she encourages her students to be sadists when it comes to coming up with difficulties for their characters to overcome.

It’s also the story of a murder.  When Zoe is informed that Rachel’s been murdered, she decides to investigate her sister’s secret life.  It leads to the shy and repressed Zoe getting a job as a “bottle girl” at the same nightclub where her sister worked.  How many secrets can you fit in a nightclub?  It’s time for Zoe to find out!

What Worked?

I liked the sibling relationship between Rachel and Zoe.  It rang true and it’s authenticity provided some needed depth to the film’s plot.  Kate Mansi, who played Zoe, has done a quite a few Lifetime films and always does a good job of striking the right balance between emotional honesty and melodramatic fun.  As well, I thought Gigi Rice did a good job playing the alcoholic mother.

Towards the end of the film, there was an enjoyably absurd twist.  I won’t spoil it in this review but it was still fun, even if it did demand quite a suspension of disbelief.

What Did Not Work?

For a movie that was called Nightclub Secrets, the film really didn’t feature enough secrets about the nightclub.  I was hoping for something that would be a little bit more fun and sordid like Confessions of a Go Go Girl or maybe Babysitter’s Black Book.  Instead, this movie was a pretty much a standard Lifetime murder mystery that just happened to feature a nightclub.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I related to both of the sisters.  I can be wild like Rachel.  I can be shy like Zoe.  Zoe and I both love solving a mystery.  That said, I don’t know if I’d ever want to work in a nightclub, if just because I’m not a huge fan of crowds, drunks, or, for that matter, working.  So, if I got a job in a nightclub, I supposed it would have to be one of those struggling nightclubs that no one ever goes to.  Of course, those nightclubs always go out of business after a few weeks so it probably really wouldn’t be worth the trouble to even apply for the job.

On an unrelated note, I used to live near a nightclub where you were required to bring your tax return if you wanted to get inside.  If you didn’t make a certain amount of money, you weren’t allowed to enter.  Needless to say, on any given night, you could find the least likable people in the world standing in line outside of the place.  If any business was ever begging to be the target of a wacky, Ocean’s 11-style heist, it was that place.  Of course, the last time I drove by there, it had been turned into a Gold’s Gym.

Lessons Learned

It’s not easy being a bottle girl.

6 Late Film Reviews: 300: Rise of Empire, About Last Night, Adult World, Jersey Boys, Ride Along, and Trust Me


Well, the year is coming to a close and I’ve got close to 50 films that I still need to review before I get around to making out my “Best of 2014” list.  (That’s not even counting the films that I still have left to see.  December is going to be a busy month.)  With that in mind, here are late reviews of 6 films that I saw earlier this year and had yet to get around to reviewing.

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1) 300: Rise of an Empire (dir by Noam Munro)

Last night, I watched 300: Rise of an Empire for the second time and I still couldn’t figure out what exactly is going on for most of the film.  I know that there’s a lot of fighting and a lot of bare-chested men yelling and, whenever anyone swings a sword, they suddenly start moving in slow motion and dark blood spurts across the screen like Jackson Pollock decorating a previously blank canvas.  The style of 300 has been co-opted by so many other films that 300: Rise of an Empire feels more like an imitation than a continuation.

At the same time, I’m resisting the temptation to be too critical of 300: Rise of the Empire for two reasons.  First off, this movie wasn’t really made to appeal to me.  Instead, this is a total guy film and, much as I have every right to love Winter’s Tale, guys have every right to love their 300 movies.  Secondly, 300: Rise of an Empire features Eva Green as a warrior and she totally kicks ass.

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2) About Last Night (dir by Steve Pink)

Obviously, I made a big mistake this Valentine’s Day by insisting that my boyfriend take me to see Endless Love.  (I still stand by my desire to see Winter’s Tale.)  I say this because I recently watched this year’s other big Valentine’s Day release, About Last Night, and I discovered that it’s a funny and, in its way, rather sweet romantic comedy.

About Last Night tells the story of two couples, Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) and Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall).  All four of the actors have a very real chemistry, with Hart and Hall bringing the laughs and Ealy and Bryant bringing the tears.  The film itself is ultimately predictable but very likable.

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3) Adult World (dir by Scott Coffey)

In Adult World, Emma Roberts plays Amy Anderson, an aspiring author and recent college graduate.  Despite her own overwhelming faith in her own abilities, Amy struggles to find a job outside of college.  She is finally reduced to working at Adult World, a small adult bookstore.  Working at the store, she befriends the far more down-to-earth Alex (Evan Peters) and eventually discovers that one of her customers is also her idol, poet Rat Billings (John Cusack).  Amy proceeds to force her way into Rat’s life, volunteering to work as his assistant and declaring herself to be his protegé.  However, it turns out that Rat is far less altruistic than Amy originally thought (and with a name like Rat, are you surprised?).

Adult World is a flawed film but I still really enjoyed it.  The story has a few problems and the film never really takes full narrative advantage of Adult World as a setting but the entire film is so well-acted that you’re willing to forgive its flaws.  Cusack gives a surprisingly playful performance while Evan Peters is adorable in a Jesse Eisenberg-type of way.  Emma Roberts shows a lot of courage, playing a character who is both infuriating and relatable.

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4) Jersey Boys (dir by Clint Eastwood)

Clint Eastwood’s upcoming American Sniper has been getting so much attention as a potential Oscar contender that it’s easy to forget that, at the beginning of the year, everyone was expecting Jersey Boys to be Eastwood’s Oscar contender.  In fact, it’s easy to forget about Jersey Boys all together.  It’s just one of those films that, despite its best efforts, fails to make much of an impression.

Jersey Boys is based on one of the Broadway musicals that tourists always brag about seeing.  It tells the true story of how four kids from the “neighborhood” became the Four Seasons and recorded songs that have since gone on to appear on thousands of film soundtracks.  The period detail is a lot of fun, Christopher Walken, who has a small role as a local gangster, is always entertaining to watch, and the music sounds great but Eastwood’s direction is so old-fashioned and dramatically inert that you don’t really take much away from it.

Hopefully, American Sniper will be the work of the Eastwood who made Mystic River and not the Eastwood who did Jersey Boys.

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5) Ride Along (dir by Tim Story)

School security guard Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) wants to marry Angela (Tiki Sumpter) but Angela’s tough cop brother James (Ice Cube) doesn’t approve.  In order to prove himself worth, Ben goes on a ride along with James and the results are just as generic as you might expect.  Probably the only really funny part of the film was the way that Hart delivered the line, “You’re white!  You don’t fight!” but we all saw that in the commercial so who cares?

On the plus side, Ice Cube has a lot of screen presence and is well-cast as James.  As for Kevin Hart — well, he should probably be thankful that About Last Night came out a month after Ride Along.

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6) Trust Me (dir by Clark Gregg)

In Trust Me, Clark Gregg both directs and stars.  He plays Howard, a fast-talking but ultimately kind-hearted talent agent who mostly represents children.  After losing some of his most popular clients to rival agent Aldo (a hilariously sleazy Sam Rockwell), Howard meets Lydia (Saxon Sharbino), a 13 year-old actress.  Soon, Howard is representing Lydia and trying to land her a starring role in a major production.  Howard also finds the time to tentatively date his next door neighbor (Amanda Peet).  However, there’s more to Howard than meets the eye.  He is haunted by the death of one of his previous clients and his guilt leads him to become especially protective of Lydia.  When Howard concludes that Lydia is being sexually abused by her crude father (Paul Sparks), he attempts to protect her from both him and the Hollywood system that’s threatening to corrupt her.  It all leads to an oddly tragic conclusion…

I say “oddly tragic” because Trust Me is, in many ways, an odd film.  As a director, Gregg gets good performances from his cast but he never manages to find a consistent tone.  The film starts as a Hollywood satire and then it becomes a romantic comedy and then it turns into a legal drama before then becoming an all-0ut attack on the way the entertainment industry treats child actors and then finally, it settles on being a tragedy.  As a result, Trust Me is undeniably a bit of a mess.

And yet, it’s a compelling mess and the film itself is so heart-felt that you can’t help but forgive its flaws.  If nothing else, it proves that Clark Gregg is capable of more than just being Marvel’s Agent Coulson.

Back to School #75: The Spectacular Now (dir by James Ponsoldt)


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Though the film was embraced by critics and performed fairly well at the box office, it’s hard not to feel that The Spectacular Now was one of the more overlooked films of 2013.  For all of its acclaim, it’s a film that was not only ignored at Oscar time but which also rarely seemed to feature much in Oscar speculation.  That’s a shame but not particularly surprising.  With a few notable exceptions (American Graffiti, The Last Picture Show, Ordinary People, and Juno, for example), films about teenagers are usually ignored by the Academy, even if the film in question is as good as either Easy A or The Spectacular Now.

In fact, I would argue that, along with being one of the best films of 2013, The Spectacular Now is a Say Anything… for my generation.

The Spectacular Now follows two teenagers over the course of their senior year in high school.  Sutter Kane (Miles Teller) is one of the most popular kids at school.  He’s charming, he’s funny, and — perhaps not surprisingly — he’s also deeply troubled. He’s angry that his father is no longer in his life and he often takes his anger out on his mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh).   He works as a salesman at a men’s clothing store where his boss (Bob Odenkirk) is willing to overlook the fact that Sutter often comes into work drunk.  Sutter, you see, also happens to have a slight drinking problem that is slowly but surely transforming into full-blown alcoholism.

When Sutter is dumped by his long-time girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson), he goes on a drinking binge that only ends with him being woken up on a stranger’s lawn by Aimee (Shailene Woodley).  Aimee is one of Sutter’s classmates and is the complete opposite of most of Sutter’s friends.  Aimee is shy, doesn’t drink, and prefers to spend her time reading manga.

As you can probably guess, Sutter and Aimee do become a couple.  And yes, Sutter does help Aimee come out of her shell and Aimee does help Sutter to start to deal with all of the pain and anger that he attempts to hide.  You can probably predict all of that but what you can’t predict is just how likable and believable both Teller and Woodley are as a couple.  You believe in their relationship and the film handles it (including the scene where they have sex for the first time) with an unusual amount of sensitivity.

There’s an extended sequence towards the end of the film where Sutter and Aimee finally get to meet Sutter’s father.  At first, you want to be as exciting and as optimistic as Sutter is.  This is especially true once you discover that his father is being played by Kyle Chandler, who is one of those actors that you just instinctively want to like.  Of course, Sutter’s father turns out not to be the hero that Sutter was expecting to meet and it’s simply devastating, for both the viewers and the characters.  I’ve always felt that it takes a certain amount of courage for an actor to play a truly bad character.  (By bad, I don’t mean evil as much as I mean just the type of fuckup that we’ve all known and by which we’ve all been let down.)  Chandler has that courage.

I guess it would be a bit predictable for me to wrap this up by saying The Spectacular Now is a spectacular film.  So, instead, I’ll just recommend that you see it.

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