What Lisa Watched Last Night #161: Under The Bed (dir by Daniel Myrick)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime premiere film, Under the Bed!

under-the-bed

Why Was I Watching It?

Well, there were a few reasons why I watched it.  First off, it was on Lifetime and, by this point, it’s kind of a tradition around these parts that I always live tweet every Lifetime premiere.  Secondly, I watched it so that I could write this review.  After all, it’s a new year and that means that it’s time for a new set of What Lisa Watched Last Night reviews!

Add to that, the film had the word “bed” in the title so I assumed there would be a lot of sex.

What Was It About?

It’s yet another Lifetime stalker film!  This one, which is apparently based on a true story, features Hannah New as Callie Monroe.  Callie’s an acclaimed journalist who has a beautiful home, a cute dog, and absolutely no love life.  She’s just broken up with her longtime boyfriend and its going to take more than winning a Pulitzer for her article about climbing Kilimanjaro to fill the void in her life!

What Callie doesn’t know is that there’s a man  (played by Pat Healy) living underneath her bed.  Seriously.  He’s broken into her apartment.  He’s put secret cameras all over the place.  And he is now literally living underneath her bed, from which he regularly sends her messages.

Say it with me now — Agck!

What Worked?

Under the Bed was directed by Daniel Myrick, who co-directed the original Blair Witch Project.  There were a few effectively creepy scenes in the movie.  I mean, just the idea of having a stranger living with you in your bedroom without your knowledge is creepy in and of itself.  You could probably argue that the success or failure of this film depended on whether or not it inspired you to look underneath your bed after watching it.  I know I did.

Hannah New gives a good and sympathetic performance as Callie and Pat Healy is appropriately frightening as her stalker.  Beverly D’Angelo also provides some good support as Callie’s mother.

What Did Not Work?

(Spoiler Alert)

Freddy the Dog dies.  Freddy is an adorable little dog that Callie owns.  Unlike his owner, Freddy understands that there’s a man living underneath the bed.  So, one day, the man puts Freddy in a bag and buries him alive.  And we see all of this happen and, quite frankly, it’s too much.  First off, there was no reason to kill Freddy.  Secondly, the burial scenes ends on a somewhat ambiguous note so you’re not really sure whether or not Freddy was fully buried or not.  I spent the entire final hour of the film waiting for Freddy to suddenly show up and it really depressed me when he didn’t.

There’s more to the thing with Freddy than just the fact that I don’t like scenes of animal cruelty.  The scene itself didn’t only feel unnecessary but it also felt incredibly mean-spirited as well.  If you want to kill the dog that badly, have him dragged off-screen and do the little whimper thing.  Instead, by having us watch as Freddy’s buried alive, it felt like the film was saying, “Look how edgy we are!  We killed the dog!”  It felt terribly out-of-place and it soured me on the entire film.

It also didn’t help that the stalker was so obvious about what he was doing that, pretty soon, you started to resent Callie for being so naive.  When Callie finally discovered her stalker and started to fight back, it never felt empowering.  Instead, I was just kinda like, “Well, it’s good that you’re finally aware of what’s going on in your apartment but this could have all been avoided if you had just happened to glance under your bed once or twice over the past week.”

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

In some ways, I could relate to Callie but — and this is the important thing — I know I don’t have to worry about anyone living underneath my bed because, between all of my scrapbooks and old magazines, there’s no room under there.

(That said, Doc Bowman does enjoy hanging out underneath my bed but I’m pretty sure he can be trusted.)

Lessons Learned

Be kind to animals, dammit.

For Your Consideration #3: Angelina Jolie in Maleficent


Mal

Way back in March, when people like me first started to ask ourselves what and who would be nominated for Oscars in January, a lot of us assumed that 2014 would be the year of Angelina Jolie.  We predicted that her film Unbroken would be an Oscar front-runner and quite a few people felt that Angelina herself would become the second woman to win the Academy Award for directing.

And, it could still happen!

However, with Angelina being pretty much ignored by most of the traditional Oscar precursors and Unbroken getting positive but hardly rapturous reviews, it’s starting to look more and more like Unbroken will be lucky to receive a picture nomination, much less a mention for Jolie.

Now, I haven’t seen Unbroken yet so I can’t really judge whether it deserves any awards consideration or not.  However, I can say that Unbroken is not the only film for which Angelina Jolie deserves consideration.

Maleficent came out this summer and did quite well at the box office but it seems to have been forgotten and that’s a shame because it features one of Angelina Jolie’s best performances.  The film itself is a revisionist take on Sleeping Beauty, re-telling the story from the point-of-view of the fairy queen Maleficent (played, of course, by Angelina.)

In this version of the story, we see that the true villain was Sleeping Beauty’s father, Stefan (Sharlto Copley).  When they were younger, Stefan and Maleficent were lovers but the Stefan eventually abandoned her, knowing that having a relationship with a winged fairy would only serve to thwart his own ambitions.  Years later, when the humans attempt to conquer Maleficent’s kingdom, it is announced that whoever slays Maleficent will become the new king.  Knowing that Maleficent is still in love with him, Stefan drugs her and then cuts her wings off.  Using her wings as evidence to back up his claim that he has killed her, Stefan becomes the new king.  The now wingless Maleficent is left alone and embittered.  When Stefan’s daughter, Princess Aurora, is born, Maleficent announces that, on her sixteenth birthday, Aurora will sink into a deep sleep and will only be awaken by the kiss of someone who truly loves her.

Maleficent was one of those films that truly divided critics.  Male viewers tended to rightfully criticize the film for being tonally inconsistent and for relying too much on CGI.  Female critics, however, understood that none of that mattered.  As flawed as the film may have been, we knew that the most important thing was Angelina Jolie’s performance.  She may have been playing a fairy and she may have been appearing in a movie that was dominated by CGI but Angelina Jolie brought such strength and complexity to the role that she transcended all of the film’s flaws and instead created a thoroughly real character.  We understood and we related to Maleficent’s fury.  When she first woke up to discover that her wings had been stolen from her, it was devastating because the moment was real.  We all knew what had truly happened to Maleficent.  When she sought revenge, we sought it with her.  When she regretted her actions, we shared her regrets.  Her pain was our pain and her triumph was our triumph.

Angelina Jolie gave one of the best performances of the year in Maleficent and she certainly deserves your consideration.

Angelina-Jolie-as-Maleficent

Quick TV Review: Black Sails – Episode One.


BlackSailsPoster-610x903As HBO is usually pretty successful when it comes to its wide array of shows, other channels have thrown their hats into the ring. Showtime was quick to follow them and HBO’s sister channel Cinemax now has two shows under their belt with Strike Back & Banshee.

Starz is still a baby at the series game, but they’ve had an arsenal of their own. With the Spartacus series wrapped up and DaVinci’s Demons’ 2nd season prepped to go later this year, Starz is looking to get more of its shows out the door.

Black Sails is Starz’ latest entry.  It starts off running out of the gate, but it’s hard to tell if the show really has legs at this point. Although the premiere is January 25 (tonight, as of this writing), the full episode was released both online and on the Starz on Demand channel for the past week. Either they’re confident this will increase viewership or they perhaps figure the show may not get as far as it should. Either way, it’s available to see.

I like it, I do, but so far I have 3 problems with Black Sails:

1.) I feels too much like the video game Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. This is a mixed bag. If you’ve played the videogame, you know the environment and all of the sea battles in Black Sails have a familiarity to them that will leave you smiling. You may not feel as lost in the show if you’ve played the game or picked up a history book. On the flip side, because there’s a game just like it, it’s quite possible that Black Flag could steal (or already has) Black Sails’ thunder if the show doesn’t come across as exciting.  I’m hoping it’s the first case, myself.

2.) Michael Bay’s name is attached to it. It’s invoked like it’s Bruckheimer, and I suppose that when his name is mentioned, one probably thinks of explosions and girls. Black Sails has that all over the place, but that could have happened without Bay’s name. It could be a deterrent to some who still have the bad taste of films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon in their mouths. Let’s be honest, what kind of name is Dark of the Moon anyway?

3.) Rather than taking the mystical route of DaVinci’s Demons or the more swashbuckling style of something like Pirates of the Carribean or Cutthroat Island, Black Sails shoots for something more ruthless and businesslike. The ruthlessness – the blood and gore (when it happens) is welcome. The business part of it all had me hoping that the series doesn’t keep moving in that direction over time. While I understand that the entire show can’t be on the sea (like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – how I love that film), that so much of it is on land made me sigh a little. In fact, the opening sequence of this really is the only part that actually takes place on the open sea.  It’s very similar to NBC’s Dracula. You expect a dark, brooding Vampire tale in Victorian London, and you get a political battle whose biggest highlight is Dracula showing up in the day for a business meeting. That’s not really fun.

To it’s credit, as the pilot, this episode has to establish all of the players involved. The grit of it all is interesting, at least. It’s dirty, maybe even a little dark, but it’s also a little boring to all have the minutiae of the dealings thrown out there like that. If I choose to think of the pirate battles in the same vein as Sons of Anarchy’s motorcycle chases, it’s possible we could have one sea battle every two or three episodes. Maybe that won’t be too bad overall, but they’re going to have to amp this up quick before they start losing the audience. Give us a swordfight or a musket fired or something.

Okay, here’s what we have:

Hoping to bring the same flair for violence to the pilot that he brought to one of Game of Thrones’ best episodes, Neil Marshall (Doomsday, Centurion, The Descent) does his best to give the West Indies in the 18th Century a bloody introduction to the audience. He does a great job with the content he’s given. You can’t complain about what you’re seeing in terms of the atmosphere. Black Sails starts in the open sea with a ship under attack. We come to find that the ship holds the key to a special cargo, one that Captain Flint (Toby Stephens, the Bond villian in Die Another Day) is dying to get his hands on. Flint, though considered a legend among the pirate world, is having a tough time holding on to his crew. Having led them on a wild goose case, some of the crew feels it’s time to replace Flint’s leadership with someone more able to bring everyone a profit.

As Flint’s crew take over the ship, they find John Silver (Luke Arnold), who has acquired a page ripped out of a book that the cook stole. He joins Flint’s crew, saving his own skin. When Flint finds the journals (and the book with the missing page), he decides to port into Nassau to meet with Richard Guthrie, a rich businessman who helps to fund some of his escapades. While getting themselves situated in Nassau, Silver realizes that the page he has must have come from one of the books and looks to see if he can locate where it came from. We come to find through the course of the episode that the page is the key to locating  a ship carrying a near incalculable wealth, more than enough to Flint’s crew to live happy.

That appears to be the main story arc in Black Sails. The show introduces a number of characters. You have Eleanor Guthrie (Malecifent’s Hannah New), who helps to keep the pirates in business while trying to forge a name for herself outside of her father. Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy, who I may name as a Hottie of the Day), a courtesan who makes side deals out of the local brothel. I like both of the women in Black Sails, but I can’t exactly say they’re the best of roles for either individual. They’re both strong in the sense that they can take care of themselves, yet (and maybe this is just me) I hoped that maybe for Eleanor in particular was a character that was calling the shots in her position. The pilot gives the impression when you first meet her that she does, but it kind of collapses into a yield between her and Captain Vane (Zach McGowan), who’s out to make himself the number one pirate of the Carribean. Perhaps as the series goes on, this will improve. Vane is your bad guy, that’s easy to see, but there’s so little shown about him that McGowan might as have had a mustache to twirl between his fingers.

So far, of the characters, Flint is the only one I have any kind of care about, and Stephens is delivering the best performance of everyone there. No one person is bad, though. I’m hoping his character can keep the crew enthralled. I haven’t seen enough of everyone else that endures me to them just yet, which is almost the same problem as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. You know who’s involved, but give me a reason to think about them after the show fades to black. Even the slowest Walking Dead episodes leave me wondering and salivating for the next episode.

I’m ready to see where Flint goes, but I’m just not sure I’m sold on everyone else.