2018 In Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the previous year with my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2018!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2018!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

(As a guide, I used the credits for the imdb.  If anyone has been miscredited or left out, please feel free to let me know and I’ll fix the error both here and, if I can, on the imdb as well.)

(For my previous best of Lifetime picks, click on the links: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Best Picture

The Art of Murder, produced by Neil Elman, Bryce Fishman, James Lourie, Hannah Pillemer, Edgar Rosa, Fernando Szew

The Bad Seed, produced by Justis Greene, Harvey Kahn, Elizabeth Guber Stephen, Mark Wolper.

Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey. Produced by Mary Petryshyn, Charles Tremayne, Jeff Vanderwal

Cocaine Godmother, produced by Jamie Goehring, S. Lily Hui, Jonathan Koch, Stephen Michaels, Andrew Molina, Alisa Tager, Shawn Williamson.

Conrad & Michelle: If Words Could Kill, produced by David Manzaners and Judith Verno

*The Girl in the Bathtub, produced by Kevin Leeson, Emanuel Pereira, Diane Sokolow, Rachel Verno*

Girl in the Bunker, produced by Kim Bondi, Stephen Kemp, Thomas Vencelides

I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter.  Produced by Len Murach and Rick Van Meter.

No One Would Tell. Produced by Shawn Angeliski, Paddy Bickerton, Martin Fisher, Lisa Richardson, Danielle Von Zerneck

Terror in the Woods. Produced by David Eubanks, Les Franck, Adam Freeman, Leslie Greif, James Heerdegen, Ashley Hudson, Christina Ricci, Eric Tomonsanus, DJ Viola

Best Director

Jim Donovan for Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey

Gail Harvey for No One Would Tell

Seth Jarrett for I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter

Rob Lowe for The Bad Seed

*Karen Moncrieff for The Girl in the Bathtub*

Guillermo Navarro in Cocaine Godmother

Best Actor

Burgess Abernethy in Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance

Kevin Fonteyne in Lover in the Attic

Rob Lowe in The Bad Seed

Austin P. McKenzie in Conrad & Michelle: If Words Could Kill

*Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor: Patient’s Revenge*

Henry Thomas in The Girl in the Bunker

Best Actress

Haylie Duff in Deadly Delusion

McKenna Grace in The Bad Seed

Caitlin Stasey in The Girl In The Bathtub

Bella Thorne in Conrad & Michelle: If Words Could Kill

Megan West in I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter

*Catherine Zeta-Jones in Cocaine Godmother*

Best Supporting Actor

Juan Pablo Espinosa in Cocaine Godmother

David Fierro in Lover in the Attic

Joel Gretsch in I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter

Patrick Muldoon in A Tale of Two Coreys

*Jason Patric in The Girl in the Bathtub*

Rossif Sutherland in Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey

Best Supporting Actress

Krista Allen in Party Mom

Cara Buono in The Bad Seed

Angela Kinsey in Terror in the Woods

*Lydia Look in Mistress Hunter*

Jenny Pellicer in Cocaine Godmother

Katherine Reis in I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter

Best Screenplay

The Bad Seed.  Barbara Marshall.

Believe Me: The Abudction of Lisa McVey. Christina Welsh.

Cocaine Godmother.  Molly McAlpine, David McKenna.

The Girl in the Bathtub. Karen Moncrieff.

*No One Would Tell. Caitlin D. Fryers*

Terror in the Woods. Amber Benson.

Best Cinematography

The Bad Seed. Peter Menzies, Jr.

Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey. Sasha Moric.

Cocaine Godmother. Guillermo Navarro.

Girl in the Bunker. Fraser Brown.

*I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter.  Brian J. Reynolds*

Terror in the Woods. David McGrory.

Best Costuming

*The Art of Murder. Steviee Hughes.*

Cocaine Godmother. Jori Woodman.

Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance. Claudia Da Ponte, Diah Wymont.

I Killed My BFF: The Peacher’s Daughter.  David Anthony Crowley.

Psycho Prom Queen.  Anie Fisette.

A Tale of Two Coreys.  Jennifer Garnet Filo.

Best Editing

The Bad Seed, Eric L. Beason.

Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey. Lisa Grootenboer.

Cocaine Godmother. Luis Carballar.

*Conrad & Michelle: If Words Could Kill.  Henk van Eeghen*

The Girl in the Bathtub.

Girl in the Bunker.  Stephen Kemp.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Cocaine Godmother.  Laura Copó, Victoria Ferguson, Brittany Isaacs, Andrea Manchur, Joanna Mireau, Adam James Phillips, Trefor Proud, Juanita Santamaria, Ronnie Sidhu, Vicki Syskakis

Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance.  Lorna Bravo, Helena Cepeda, Jenni Brown Greenberg, Shelly Jensen, Melissa Rankl, Cydney Sjostrom

I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter. Missy Scarbrough and Christina Kim.

*Lover in the Attic. Crystal Broedel, Brittanie Cruz, Robin Styles, Diana Valerie, Nataleigh Verrengia*

A Tale of Two Coreys. Katherine Chandler, Lynnae Duley, Monique Hyman, Katie Kilkenny, Kaity Licina, Megan Nicoll, Rebecca Violet Schroeder, Adina Sullivan

Zombie at 17.  Jessica Awad, Cinthia Burke, Christine Capustinsky, Shannon Doyle.

Best Score

Cocaine Godmother. Eduardo Aram.

The Girl in the Bathtub.  Adam Gorgoni.

Lover in the Attic. Ozzy Doniz.

No One Would Tell. Mark Lazeski.

A Tale of Two Coreys. Jim Dooley.

*Terror in the Woods. Ozzy Doniz.*

Best Production Design

*The Art of Murder. Yana Veselova.*

Cocaine Godmother.  Eric Fraser.

The Girl in the Bathtub. Laura Lola Maier.

Girl in the Bunker. Andrew Berry.

Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance. Mayne Berke, Ashley Swanson, Vincent Wright

Lover in the Attic. Lindsay Glick.

Best Sound

Cocaine Godmother

*Deadly Delusion*

House of Darkness: New Blood

Killer Under The Bed

Lover in the Attic.

Terror in the Woods

Best Visual Effects

The Bad Seed.

Cocaine Godmother

Deadly Delusion

House of Darkness: New Blood

*Killer Under The Bed*

Zombie at 17

And those are my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2018!  (Lifetime had a pretty good year.)  Now, I’m off to make my selections for the best of SyFy 2018!  I’ll be back …. well, maybe not soon.  It took me about three hours to do my Lifetime post.  So, I’ll be back eventually.

Lisa Marie’s 2018 In Review:

  1. The 10 Worst Films of 2018

 

When Machine Gun Met Al: Gangster Land (2017, directed by Timothy Woodward, Jr.)


Chicago in the 1920s.  Booze may be illegal but that’s not keeping people from drinking and gangsters from making a killing.  When an amateur boxer named Jack McGurn (Sean Faris) joins the mob, he befriend an up-and-coming criminal named Al Capone (Milo Gibson).  While Capone rises through the ranks, McGurn is always by his side, usually firing a tommy gun.  When Capone finally becomes the boss of Chicago, McGurn becomes his second-in-command and a leading strategist in the war against Capone’s rival, George “Bugs” Moran (Peter Facinelli).

If you’re looking for a historically accurate film about 1920s Chicago, look elsewhere.  Today, “Machine Gun” McGurn is best known for being the mastermind behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (which, of course, is recreated in Gangster Land) but it’s doubtful that he was ever Capone’s second-in-command.  Famed Capone associates like Frank Nitti, Gus Alex, and Murray Humphreys are nowhere to be found in Gangster Land, nor is Eliot Ness.  Instead Jason Patric plays the righteous and fictional Detective Reed.

What the film lacks in historical accuracy, it makes up for in gangster action.  There’s enough tommy gun action, car chases, and showgirls to keep most gangster film aficionados happy.  All of the usual Capone stuff is recreated: Johnny Torrio is assassinated, Dion O’Bannon is killed in his flower shop, and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre scandalizes the nation.  Though the film never displays anything more than a Wikipedia-level understanding of the prohibition era and there’s not a single gangster cliché that isn’t used, Gangster Land is briskly paced and makes good use of its low-budget.  Sean Faris is stiff as McGurn but Milo Gibson (son of Mel) is better than you might expect as Al Capone and the underrated Jason Patric makes the most of his limited screen time.  Fans of The Sopranos may want to watch for the chance to see Meadow herself, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, as McGurn’s showgirl wife.

A Second Review of The Losers (dir. by Sylvain White)


Usually, I’m not a big fan of action movies.  If you see me in the audience of an action movie, it means that I’m either 1) on a date with a guy who really doesn’t care if I’m bored out of my skull, 2) the movie is actually a film with action as opposed to an action film, or 3) there’s absolutely nothing else playing.  It was because of that third reason that yesterday afternoon, I could be found at the Regal Keystone, watching The Losers.

Surprisingly enough, however, I ended up enjoying The Losers.

Why?

Six words: Idris Elba, Jason Patric, and teddy bear.

Idris Elba.  Oh God, where to start?  I think Idris Elba may be one of the best actors working today.  If you’ve seen him in The Wire then you’ve seen him as an intimidator.  (And, admit it, The Wire was never as good after Stringer Bell got killed.)  If you’ve seen him on The Office than you know that Elba can also be unexpectedly funny.  In the Losers, Elba gets to be both scary and funny at the same time.  (And incredibly sexy though I doubt that’s going to be a big selling point for this film’s target audience.)  Idris Elba manages to look convincing while both blowing things up and, during one of the film’s many postmodern moments, commenting, “Wow, this is sleazy.”

Elba plays Rocque, the second-in-command of a paramilitary group known as the Losers.  Much like the A-Team and the Expendables (both of which will be coming along later this year), the Losers are betrayed by their government and wrong declared dead.  They — a glowering Elba included — find themselves stranded in Bolivia where they pass the time working in a doll factory, betting on cockfights, and plotting vengeance against Max.

Who is Max?  This question is at the center of The Losers and it’s never really answered (perhaps it will be in the sequel).  It’s insinuated throughout the film that he’s involved with the CIA, that he’s a terrorist, or that he’s just a patriotic businessman.  Of course, the answer is that Max is actually Jason Patric (a.k.a. the son of Father Damien Karras). 

I have to admit that, in  the past, Patric has never really impressed me much as an actor.  In the past, he’s always seemed a bit stiff and humorless.  Patric plays Max as a man who is not only a comic book villain but who is totally aware of it as well.  You can tell that Max is having a lot of fun being evil and that Patric is having fun playing evil.  Patric’s over-the-top but compelling villainy let’s the audience know that this movie has no pretensions beyond entertainment.  It makes both Patric and the film enjoyable to watch.

And this leads us to the teddy bear.

At the start of the movie, the Losers are rescuing a bunch of children who are being held hostage by some random bad guy in Bolivia.  As they load the thankful children into a waiting helicopter, an angelic little boy attempts to hand over his teddy bear as a thank you gift.

“No,” Col. Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) replies, “you keep it.  It will bring you luck.”

The angelic child smiles and clutching his teddy bear, he goes into the helicopter.  The helicopter then lifts up into the air and promptly explodes.  As the Losers stare at the burning wreckage, the camera zooms in on the only thing that apparently wasn’t incinerated in the explosion. 

Yes, it’s the teddy bear.

And as soon as I saw that, I knew that the Losers was going to work.  I soon as I saw that teddy bear, I knew that this was a film that felt no shame at being a work of pure pulp fiction.  In this age when every studio film is trying to feel independent and when most filmmakers would be too self-consciously hip to actually do something as shameless as show that little bear among the wreckage, the Losers went for it.  The Losers said, “We don’t care if it’s an obvious move and thoroughly illogical for a teddy bear to survive — with just a few burns — an explosion that so totally incinerated 25 people that not a single body part is seen among the wreckage.  We’re showing the damn bear!”

That’s when the Losers won me over.

A few more random thoughts on The Losers:

1) As Arleigh pointed out in his review, one of the film’s biggest strengths is the chemistry of the Losers themselves.  As opposed to most ensemble action films, all of the Losers are given clearly definable personalities, all of them are given something important to do, and most importantly, you believe that these guys would actually choose to hang out together.  When one of the Losers is eventually revealed to be a traitor, you feel the entire group’s shock and pain.  This adds an extra layer to the film that, for whatever reason, I suspect we won’t be seeing with The A-Team.

2) The Losers is yet another film that demonstrates the importance of not only walking in slow motion but having something to throw to the side while doing so.  It just looks incredibly cool on-screen though people tend to get annoyed when you attempt to do the same thing in real life.

3) Throughout the movie, we are continually told that The Losers are waging war on the CIA and the American establishment in general.  The audience I was with loved this.  Once again, this validates my theory that the best reflection of the times can usually be found in contemporary pulp.

4) Zoe Saldana is in this film too as a mysterious woman who helps the Losers track down Max.  In the style of Carrie-Ann Moss and the Girl with the dragon tattoo, she gets a chance to kick a lot of ass and I have to admit that I found this so inspiring that, once I got home, I stripped down to my undies, stood in front of my bedroom mirror, and attempted to execute a few flying kicks of my own.  The lesson I learned from this is that I’m not Zoe Saldana.  That and, regardless of how soft the carpet is, it still hurts when you end up falling flat on your ass.

In the end, The Loser is the perfect definition of stupid fun.  I’ll take stupidly fun over funny stupidity any day.

Review: The Losers (dir. by Sylvain White)


There’s something to be said about DC’s attempt to try and take some of the thunder away from Marvel as the two battle it out over the hearts and wallets of the film-going public. With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight DC’s properties has lagged behind that of Marvel when it comes to being adapted to the big-screen. Some would say that this is a good thing in that DC hasn’t flooded the market with too many comic book titles adapted to film. Marvel’s track record has been very good but they’ve also had some very awful comic book-to-film titles which at times almost derails this Golden Age of comic book films. But even with the misses Marvel has released they’ve done a good job of keeping their name brand in the film public’s eye.  DC hasn’t been very good at this but this may be changing soon.

While not part of the DC Universe proper the Vertigo line of titles do belong under the DC umbrella. Vertigo has always been the more mature-oriented publishing arm of DC with well-known and critically-acclaimed writers such as Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis and Alan Moore being the top names releasing titles under that aegis. There’s already been several films based-off of the Vertigo line with Constantine and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen being two. Two examples which haven’t gone over well with comic book fans and film-goers. We now have another title from DC/Vertigo which hopes to break that cycle of mediocrity. The Losers (written by Andy Diggle) as directed by Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard) is a funny and exciting action-comedy which definitely had a chance to be one of the great comic book films if it actually had a coherent storyline.

The Losers is pretty much the name of the special-ops covert team the audience gets to know from start to finish. The basic premise to this film is actually straight out of late 80’s and early 90’s action films. A team of badass operatives gets betrayed during a covert mission by unknown parties who may or may not be working for the very organization the team has worked loyally for. For this particular reiteration of that action flick staple the team literally calls themselves the Losers and their betrayal occurs while in a secret mission inside Bolivia to take out a narco-terrorist. While their mission to take out this bad man does happen it does so with some new wrinkles such as first saving 25 innocent Bolivian children before the airstrike called in by them happens within 8 minutes. This eventual betrayal now forces the Losers’ commander, a military colonel called Clay (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), to take his 5-man team deep under while convincing their CIA masters that they died during the operation.

The rest of the film revolves around the Losers being discovered by a third-party as still being alive and given a choice. The choice being to remain under the Agency’s radar, stay dead and in Bolivia or take on this third-party’s mission to take out the very man who betrayed them, get back their good name and return to their families or, for some, their old lives. Heading up this mysterious benefactor is the one and lovely Zoe Saldana (fresh-off a little flick called Avatar). She’s pretty much the only female of note in the whole film. One would think she’s the token female, but she’s more than capable of holding her own in a testosterone-fueled action-comedy.

What would an action-comedy about betrayed badass special-ops guys (and gal) without a bad guy to match. In The Losers we get the betrayer of the team in Max (played with an almost James Bond villainish flair by Jason Patric). He’s the one who gave them the team their last official mission in Bolivia and the same one to frame them for the a heinous crime they didn’t commit. To say that Max is over-the-top in terms of on-screen villainy would be an understatement. While the character doesn’t prance or growls his way through the film he does have a certain je ne sais quois about him that doesn’t pigeonhole him as your typical uber-bad guy.

One would think that with such a simple enough revenge and wronged team-on-a-mission set-up it would be quite an easy story to create and film around. I would have to say that the screenplay adapting the first two volumes of the original source material had left much to be desired. While it wasn’t a total waste there wasn’t enough of a story beyond creating set-pieces for the characters to either shoot at and blow stuff and people up, Max to show the audience how evil he really is, or show Saldana’s and Morgan’s character together either fighting or getting it on. The whole script used almost seemed like it was culled from a much bigger one.

What we do see on the screen was exciting and funny enough that it helps cover up enough of that major flaw of a non-existent story. In fact, I would say that the film behaved almost like an extended, well-shot and well-casted pilot for a new tv action series. It’s almost what I would expect USA Network’s excellent spy-comedy Burn Notice to look like if shot on 35mm, given a multi-million dollar budget and shot on exotic locations. The film definitely would’ve benefited from an additional 20-30 more minutes to help add muscle to the story. The fact of the matter is that the story actually was able to flesh out the main characters enough that they were all quite distinct in personalities without ever becoming cardboard copy caricatures.

It’s the chemistry between the ensemble cast which shines in The Losers. While Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), Zoe Saldana and Jason Patric were the three main leads (with each of them pushing their own agenda over the other two) the rest of the players were very good in their roles. Idris Elba (The Wire) as Clay’s second-in-command Roque does a very good job of balancing out the cool-headed team leader. his name may not be spelled like it but he definitely was the rogue factor in the whole film. While the team itself wasn’t an amoral team of killers and expert covert ops operators it was the character Roque who came closest and Elba played him with enough menace that one might’ve wondered why he was actually still with the team instead of going off on his own. Columbus Short as driver extraordinaire and Óscar Jaenada as Cougar (got a hilarious reaction from Saldana’s character upon hearing of the name) the expert marksman who never seems to miss are good in their roles as well, but the one who stole every scene he was in was Chris Evans as Jensen who filled the role of team tech and communications expert.

Chris Evans is definitely not a novice when it comes to being part of a comic book film. He’s already done two portraying the wise-ass brother in the Fantastic Four franchise and already tapped to play one of Marvel Comics’ most iconic characters in Captain America. His character portrayal of the Losers’ Jensen is more akin to his work as Johnny Storm in the FF franchise. He was the funniest thing and most lively character in The Losers. He pretty much got the best dialogue and his comedic timing was on point. He definitely kept the film from leaning towards the too-serious side of the equation. His singing of Journey’s classic motivational song, “Don’t Stop Believing”, was one of the funniest moments in the film and the song itself ended up being the closing credits musical choices which I thought was quite appropriate.

Sylvain White’s work in this film I would say would constitute as being good and, at times, bordering on being very good. There were a few stylistic choices by White which elevated the action sequences into comic book territory such as sudden pauses in the action to capture a good kill or scene like one would see in a panel of a comic book page. Even some of the camera angles mimicked those angles used by comic book artists to create a more dynamic and stylized point of view of the scene. I thought his use of the slo-mo shots of the team walking towards the screen was done overmuch. It was good to show the team together for the first time with something exploding in the background, but just once would’ve been enough. His background as a music video director showed too much in The Losers that at times it became too distracting. Fortunately, it didn’t detract from the fun everyone seemed to be having on-screen. There’s talent in White as a filmmaker if he would just trust in his growing sense as a feature filmmaker and not fall back on his music video directing days. I did like the choice of using the original comic book art to highlight the starting and ending credits of the film. Artist Jock’s artwork was great to see on the screen.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with The Losers. I enjoyed the film despite a glaring flaw in the story (which was really nowhere to be seen). The film took the comic book film staple of “origin story” a bit too far and made the whole production look like a glorified and high-budgeted tv pilot for an action series. In fact, if DC and Warner Brothers wanted to make a series out of The Losers they already have said pilot in the can and just continue things from there. What really saves this film from becoming a huge disappointment was the cast and how much fun they had on-screen. The action scenes were not great but they had life in them and when propped up by some of the comedic stylings of one Chris Evans made the sequences enjoyable. While The Losers will not be anything to scare Marvel Studio into cranking out something similar it does help bring attention to some of the more non-superhero properties DC has in its Vertigo line. The film definitely has more excitement in it despite its major flaw than either Constantine and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I do hope it does well enough that a sequel gets greenlit and helps build more of a story in the follow-up now that introducing the characters and the world are now out of the way.