Film Review: Air (dir by Ben Affleck)

Air opens with a montage of the 80s.  Ronald Reagan is President.  MTV is actually playing music.  Wall Street is full of millionaires.  Sylvester Stallone is singing with Dolly Parton for some reason.  Because the specific year is 1984, people are nervously giving George Orwell’s book the side-eye.  Everyone wants an expensive car.  Everyone wants a big house.  Everyone wants the world to know how rich and successful and special they are.

What no one wants is a pair of Nike basketball shoes.  All of the major players are wearing Adidas and Converse while Nike is viewed as being primarily a company that makes running shoes.  CEO Phil Knight (played by Ben Affleck) is considering closing down the basketball shoe division.  Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), however, has a plan that he thinks will save the division.  Instead of recruiting three or four low-tier players to wear and endorse Nike shoes, Sonny wants to spend the entire division’s budget on just one player.  Sonny is convinced that a young Michael Jordan is destined to become one of the best players in the history of basketball and he wants to make a shoe that will be specifically designed for Jordan.

The problem is that Michael Jordan doesn’t want to have anything to do with Nike because Nike is not viewed as being a cool brand.  Jordan wants to sign with Adidas, though he’s considering other offers as well.  He also wants a new Mercedes.  Even though everyone tells Sonny that he’s wasting his time and that he’ll be responsible for a lot of people losing their jobs if he fails, Sonny travels to North Carolina to make his pitch personally to Jordan’s mother (Viola Davis).

For it’s first 50 minutes or so, Air feels like a typical guy film, albeit a well-directed and well-acted one.  Almost all of the characters are former jocks and the dialogue is full of the type of good-natured insults that one would expect to hear while listening to a bunch of longtime friends hanging out together.  For all the pressure that Sonny is under, the underlying message seems to be one of wish fulfilment.  “Isn’t it great,” the film seems to be saying, “that these guys get to hang out and talk about sports all day?”  When Sonny runs afoul Michael Jordan’s agent, David Falk (Chris Messina), one is reminded of the stories of temperamental film executives who spent all day yelling at each other on the telephone.  The efforts to sign Jordan feel a lot like the effort to get a major star to agree to do a movie and it’s easy to see what attracted Damon and Affleck to the material.  Even though the majority of the film takes place in the Nike corporate offices, it deals with a culture that Damon and Affleck undoubtedly know well.

But then Jason Bateman delivers a great monologue and the entire film starts to change.  Despite his reluctance to sign with Nike, Michael Jordan and his family have agreed to visit the corporate headquarters.  Sonny has a weekend to oversee the creation of the shoe that will hopefully convince Jordan to sign.  When Sonny shows up for work, he’s excited.  But then he has a conversation with Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman), the head of marketing.  Strasser talks about his divorce and how he only sees his daughter on the weekends.  Every weekend, Rob brings his daughter the latest free Nike stuff.  His daughter now his 60 pairs of Nike shoes.  Rob admits that, even if he loses his job, he’ll probably still continue to buy Nike shoes because that’s now what his daughter expects whenever she sees him.  Rob compares Sonny’s plan to the Bruce Springsteen song Born in the USA, in that the tune sounds hopeful but the lyrics are much darker.  If the plan succeeds, Nike will make a lot of money.  If it fails, Rob and everyone in the basketball division will be out of a job and that’s going to effect every aspect of their lives.  Rob points out that Sonny made his decision to pursue only Michael Jordan without thinking about what could happen to everyone else.  Sonny says that success requires risk.  Rob replies that Sonny’s words are spoken, “like a man who doesn’t have a daughter.”

It’s an honest moment and it made all the more powerful by Bateman’s calm but weary delivery of the lines.  It’s the moment when the film’s stakes finally start to feel real, even though everyone knows how the story eventually turned out.  As well, it’s in this moment that the film acknowledges that the Air Jordan legacy is a complicated one.  Rob talks about how the shoes are manufactured in overseas sweatshops.  Later, when discussing whether or not Michael Jordan should get a percentage of the sales, Jordan’s mother acknowledges that the shoes aren’t going to be cheap to purchase.  They’re going to be a status symbol, just as surely as the Mercedes that Jordan expects for signing with the company.  Air becomes much like that Springsteen song.  On the surface, it’s a likable film about a major cultural moment, full of dialogue that is quippy and sharply delivered without ever falling into the pompous self-importance of one of Aaron Sorkin’s corporate daydreams.  But, under the surface, it’s a film about how one cultural moment changed things forever, in some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse.

It’s an intelligent film, one the creates a specific moment in time without ever falling victim to cheap nostalgia.  Matt Damon gets a brilliant monologue of his own, in which he discusses how America’s celebrity culture will always attempt to tear down anyone that it has previously built up.  Ben Affleck plays Nike’s CEO as being an enigmatic grump, alternatively supportive and annoyed with whole thing.  As for Michael Jordan, he is mostly present in only archival footage.  An actor named Damian Delano Young plays him when he and his parents visit Nike’s corporate headquarters but, significantly, his face is rarely show and we only hear him speak once.  In one of the film’s best moments, he shrugs his shoulders in boredom while watching a recruitment film that Nike has produced to entice him and, because it’s the first reaction he’s shown during the entire visit, the audience immediately understands the panic of every executive in the room.

Air is a surprisingly good film.  It’s currently streaming on Prime.

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


Cleaning Out The DVR: I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter (dir by Seth Jarrett)

I recorded I Killed My BFF: The Preacher’s Daughter off of Lifetime on April 22nd.

Could you kill your BFF?

I’d like to think I could not.  In fact, as of right now, I have at least six BFFs and I wouldn’t kill a single one of them.  To be honest, I doubt that I’m physically capable of killing any of my BFFs.  Four of them own guns, which would definitely give them an advantage over me.  Way back when I was skipping school and shoplifting makeup, another one of my BFFs was training with the IDF.  I wouldn’t even think of trying to kill her, largely because I love her, she’s like a sister to me, and I’m pretty sure she’s been taught a hundred different ways to stop me.  So no, I would not kill any of my BFFs.  And I wouldn’t kill any of my former BFFs, either.  It’s not that I couldn’t, it’s just I imagine I’d be an obvious suspect and then there’s all the guilt and the damnation and all that.

However, there are apparently quite a few people in the world who are not only capable of killing their BFF but who have actually done it!  There’s even a Lifetime show about it.  I Killed My BFF always starts by detailing how wonderful the friendship was before the friends decided to commit murder.   The identities of the murderer and the victim are not revealed until the final few minutes of the show so the whole point of watching an episode of I Killed My BFF basically amounts to spending 50 minutes of trying to guess who is going to snap first.

The show itself was so successful that it’s even led to a mini-movie franchise.  The first I Killed My BFF film aired in 2015 and it was an instant classic.  Now, three years later, we have a second I Killed My BFF film, The Preacher’s Daughter.

Who is the preacher’s daughter?  Her name is Lily Adler (Megan West) and she seems like she’s perfectly happy being a leading member of her father’s (Joe Gretsch) congregation.  She’s in charge of the youth ministry and she’s always very prim and proper.  Little does the congregation suspect that Lily used to be a wild child who had an abortion when she was a teenager.

The congregation also does not know that Rev. Adler is estranged from his son, Jason (Matthew James Ballinger).  After their mother commits suicide, Lily attempts to repair the relationship between her father and her brother but, instead, she just ends up spending a lot of time with Jason’s older girlfriend, Rae (Carly Pope).  Soon, Lily is once again drinking and doing drugs.  It’s not until Jason’s mysterious death that Lily turns on Rae and starts trying to recruit Rae’s teenage daughter, Scarlet (Katherine Reis), into the church.

It all leads to (you guessed it!) murder!

When it comes to The Preacher’s Daughter, it’s hard to avoid the fact that none of these people really seem to be BFFs.  I mean, Lily and Rae do hang out with each other for a while but that’s mostly just because of Jason.  And while Lily and Scarlet do become close, it’s debatable whether or not they could really be considered BFFs.  If anything, it seems more like a mentor/protegé type of relationship.

But no matter!  It was still fun trying to guess who would end up killing who.  A sign of the film’s success is that you could easily imagine either Rae, Lily, or even Scarlet turning out to be the murderer.  Megan West was memorably creepy in the role of Lily and there’s a baptism scene that deserves a place in the Hall of Fame of WTF Lifetime Moments.  Joel Gretsch also does a good job as the charismatic but judgmental Rev. Adler and the film’s ending packs a nice punch.

I look forward to watching future installments of I Killed MY BFF with my BFFs.  Hopefully, none of them will ever try to kill me…

What Lisa and the Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #105: Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse (dir by W.D. Hogan)

Last night, my friends, the Snarkalecs, and I watched the latest SyFy original film, Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse!  So, was Zodiac as good as Sharknado 2, as underrated as End of the World, as overrated as Invasion Roswell, or as bad as Heebie Jeebies?  Or was it just somewhere in between?  Let’s find out!


Why Was I Watching It?

Why were we watching it?  Because I’m a snarkalec and that’s what we do!  We watch original films on SyFy, we tweet along, and we do our best to try to get things to trend.  My hope was that Zodiac would eventually become a trending topic on California and end up freaking out a lot of people who would naturally assume that the legendary Zodiac Killer had finally been caught.  Unfortunately, last night, we were competing with football and this is America.  Nothing beats football.

What Was It About?

Good question.  It was a SyFy movie so naturally, the world was on the verge of ending.  And somehow, the upcoming apocalypse involved the signs of the zodiac and an ancient stone that was found in a deserted mine.  There was a bad business guy named Woodward (Aaron Douglas) or maybe he was a government guy.  But, for some reason, he wanted to get the stone so he could do evil things with it.  Luckily, there were three scientists (Joel Gretsch, Andrea Brooks, and Emily Holmes) and one scientist’s son (Reilly Dolman) who were attempting to save the world.  And Christopher Lloyd was in it, playing yet another scientist who had apparently invented holograms or something like that.  There was also a guy named Marty (Ben Cotton) who was a survivalist and lived in a really spacious bunker.

And let’s see, what else happened?  Fire rained from the sky.  Raging floods soaked the Earth.  Woodward flew around in a helicopter.  The scientists spent a lot of time driving around in an SUV.  A lot of stuff happened.  How it was all related was not always easy to follow but, then again, we all know that if you’re tying to make logical sense out of a SyFy film, you’re doing it wrong.

What Worked?

You know what?  I always think that when people criticize SyFy films, they’re missing the point.  SyFy films are supposed to be silly, the special effects are supposed to be cheap, and the performances are supposed to be melodramatic.  Occasionally — like with Sharknado 2 for instance — these elements come together perfectly.  And then other times, like with Zodiac, the end results are fun for two hours and quickly forgotten about afterward.  Zodiac was no Sharknado 2 but it gave us everything that we typically want from our SyFy films, it was a fun movie to tweet along with, and it gave the viewers a few laughs.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Zodiac was a Canadian film and Canada certainly looked pretty.

What Did Not Work?

For a film that was sold as being about the signs of the apocalypse destroying the world, the greatest sign of all — Scorpio — was sadly underused.  I kept expecting a scorpion-shaped cloud to form in the sky but it never happened!  Speaking as a Scorpio, I was very let down.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

My favorite character was Sophie (Andrea Brooks), the kickass scientist who survived being buried alive in a mine, not to mention Aquarius, Capricorn, and Sagittarius!  And she did it all while rocking the traditional SyFy scientist outfit of tank top and tight jeans.  She also had great hair!  If I wasn’t already planning on being the Black Widow, I’d be Sophie for Halloween.  She was the best!


Lessons Learned

Don’t mess with the Zodiac.