Film Review: Forever My Girl (dir by Bethany Ashton Wolf)

Forever My Girl is a film about a country music star who doesn’t understand how voicemail works.

It’s been nearly a decade since Liam Pace (Alex Roe) fled his Louisiana hometown.  On the plus side, fleeing his town gave Liam the chance to become a country music star.  He plays to sell-out crowds.  His manager keeps him endlessly supplied with groupies and vodka.  Apparently, he once got so strung out that, afterward, he didn’t even remember telling his father, the Reverend (John Benjamin Hickey), that he never wanted to talk to him again.  The Reverend Pace did have some important news to give to Liam but … oh well.

On the negative side, when Liam fled his hometown, he also left behind his fiancée, Josie (Jessica Rohe).  In fact, they were supposed to be married on the day that Liam left town.  Eight years ago, Josie left him one message.  Every day since then, Liam has listened to that voicemail.  When a groupie accidentally steps on his ancient flip phone, Liam freaks and ends up running barefoot to the closest phone store.  He’s chased by a group of adoring fans.  Video of barefoot Liam goes viral!  Liam doesn’t care.  He’s just desperate to get the phone repaired because, again, Liam doesn’t understand how voicemail works.

(As we learn later in the film, Liam also doesn’t understand how to order stuff online.  He doesn’t even carry his own credit cards.  He’s a celebrity.  People do stuff for him.)

Anyway, when an old friend of Liam’s dies, Liam returns to his hometown for the funeral.  He doesn’t actually attend the funeral, of course.  He just sits outside the church and listens to his Dad give the eulogy.  Josie, when she spots him, proceeds to punch him in the stomach and then introduce him to her daughter, Billie (Abby Ryder Fortson).  Billie is cute and adorable and 7 years old…



(Personally, I think it would have been funny if Josie had replied, “No, she’s your best friend’s daughter and she was conceived right after I called you and left that message…”)

Nobody in town thinks that Liam will ever be responsible enough to be a good father.  They’re probably all looking at him and thinking, “How is he going to be a father when he’s still using a flip phone from 2008?”  But Liam is determined to prove that he can be a good father and also to win back Josie.  Fortunately, it doesn’t turn out to be too hard to win back Josie.  Apparently, she hasn’t had a date in 8 years.  But being a good father, that’s another challenge all together…

Forever My Girl, which is based on a novel by Heidi McLaughlin, is being advertised as a film for people “who love Nicholas Sparks movies.”  Superficially, Forever My Girl may look similar to a Nicholas Sparks adaptation but actually, it’s never comes close to equaling the over the top melodrama of a good Nicholas Sparks film.  If anything, Forever My Girl is such a mild and innocuous film that it feels more like something you’d expect to find on the Hallmark Channel rather than playing in theaters.  You could easily imagine the film being turned into a television series where, every week, Liam would learn another lesson that would lead to him better appreciating small town life.

Forever My Girl is a sweet-natured movie and Alex Roe and Jessica Rothe are appealing in the lead roles.  It’s a film that doesn’t feature people shooting guns or blowing stuff up and, for some people, that’s going to provide a nice diversion from the usual January releases.  But, ultimately, the film is too thin and insubstantial to make much of a lasting impression.

Halloween Film Review: Return To Halloweentown (2006, dir. David Jackson)


We’ve reached the end of the Halloweentown movies. I love how the trivia section for this movie on IMDb says that “Kimberly J. Brown has publicly stated her disappointment with the recasting of her role for unknown reasons even though Brown was fully available for the shoot.” Unknown reasons?


Hmm…flip her around.


Yeah, unknown reasons. Seriously, they parade Sara Paxton around at the beginning of this movie just to make sure you know they got a girl with tits, ass, and a slinky figure. I’m sure there were other reasons as well, but the Disney Channel does like to hire these kinds of girls. That’s not to say that I don’t like actresses such as Dove Cameron, Bella Thorne, or Debby Ryan, but they all share something in common aside from being entertaining. And let’s be fair to Sara Paxton, this movie wasn’t going to work anyways. Even if they had cast Brown in the role. Paxton isn’t a bad actress either. She’s just cast against type. When the three Sinister sisters show up to harass Paxton, Paxton looks like she should be with them. If they wanted to have Paxton in the movie, then they should have condensed the three Sinister sisters into one character who is sweet and kind, but ultimately evil, and cast Paxton in that part. She seems like she could have nailed that role. Let’s talk about the movie.

After we see some scary things such as a pumpkin, a gargoyle, and Sara Paxton, we see the most terrifying thing of all.


And if I didn’t know that there is a scene later in the movie where Reynolds is physically in the same room with Paxton, then I’d say that she is in this movie the way Pierre Kirby is in Movie A within a Godfrey Ho film.


Luckily, hot mom played by Judith Hoag returns who by the way played the original April O’Neal in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990). It’s funny that they replaced a girl like Hoag with Megan Fox, just like they replaced Kimberly J. Brown with Sara Paxton.

Joey Zimmerman also returns as the brother who only exists to be a smartass. But what about that younger sister that made such an impression on me that I don’t think I even mentioned her existence in my reviews of the other films? Yeah, they wrote her out of the movie. Now it’s off to Witch’s University in Halloweentown.


At least the cab driver makes an appearance in this movie. But they can’t even get him right. His face doesn’t move properly. I don’t remember his face making that much bone on bone noise. And I certainly don’t remember his jokes being so lame. Oh, well. We now arrive at Hogwarts…I mean Witch’s University where we meet the main villain of the movie named Silas Sinister.


That’s all well and good Silas, but I’ve seen Monster High and this guy has a much more impressive title.


This is when Paxton runs into the three Sinister sisters.


We can tell they’re evil not because they are rejects from Mean Girls (2004), but because they are desperately trying to make you forget that Paxton is miscast by acting over the top bad. Then we meet totally not Lucius Malfoy.


He informs Paxton that use of magic on campus will be grounds for immediate dismissal. As we find out, it’s Paxton’s fault. As you may recall, Marnie was bragging that she opened the portal between the real world and Halloweentown at the beginning of Halloweentown High. That resulted in a bunch of students from Halloweentown going to real world colleges. As a result, Witch’s University needed to increase enrollment so they opened it up to creatures other than witches. To level the academic playing field, witches are not allowed to use magic. We find this out when we meet Paxton’s Resident Advisor (RA) who is a genie.


I had an RA that was a gay business major who was followed by an Apartment Assistant (AA) that was an optometrist when I went to college. But I guess if they had her twitch her nose in one scene to get in a reference to Bewitched, and they’ve referenced everything else, then throw in I Dream Of Jeannie as well. Two more pieces of setup before I can leap over the rest of this nonsense, which includes time travel again. Yeah, because that part was clearly the best part of Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge.


That’s Paxton’s boy toy for this movie.


And that’s what the rest of the movie revolves around. Basically, Paxton is extremely powerful, and a group called the Dominion wants to use her to rule over the world. The rest of the movie is about that, which includes a scene where Paxton goes far back in time to find an old queen played by herself who becomes the Debbie Reynolds character. And how does it end?


Well, how do you think it ends? The same way as the others. The Cromwell witches use their magic to allegedly destroy the special amulet thingy that is like the ring from The Lord Of The Rings. They even directly reference Charmed again by having Paxton say “by the power of 3” before she, Hoag, and smartass brother do their thing. And yes, I said “allegedly” because they didn’t actually destroy it, but hid it away in case they wanted to make a sequel.


Actually, even though this didn’t work, I could’ve gotten behind a sequel where the brother turns evil. I mean they already used the term the Dominion and one of the things that made Star Trek: Deep Space Nine great is how long they spent slowly building up the ultimate war between the Federation and the Dominion. It could have been neat to see this character that was simmering on the back burner come to the forefront. Oh, well.

As you might have already noticed, this thing was doomed. One, shows or franchises that make the jump to college are the exception, not the rule. There is far too much upheaval that occurs when you do that. Two, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch was off the air, Charmed had worn out it’s welcome, and Harry Potter had just cranked up the maturity level to the point where kids not only could, but did die in that universe. It was also dominating the kids at a magic school thing in 2006, which this tried to compete with. The Disney Channel couldn’t compete. Sure Wizards of Waverly Place came out the next year, but that didn’t try to do the Harry Potter thing. Finally, the first film was a fluke, the second film fixed the problems of the first, and the third film should have spawned a TV Show, but didn’t. This just wasn’t going to happen.

Ultimately, a disappointing end to a reasonably enjoyable series of Halloween themed movies. Now I just need to watch those two Twitches movies before they expire at the end of this month.

Halloween Film Review: Halloweentown (1998, dir. Duwayne Dunham)


By the time this came out in 1998 I had long since stopped watching the Disney Channel or celebrating Halloween. And apparently, I didn’t miss much. I’m not sure how this spawned three sequels.


The movie begins with Gwen Cromwell Piper (Judith Hoag) telling her daughter she can’t go celebrate Halloween like all the other children. Now of course I figured it was because she didn’t want her daughter to be sacrificed to Satan and participate in a holiday that cannot be divorced from it’s Pagan origins. Law Enforcement Guide To Satanic Cults and Part 1 of The Pagan Invasion taught me that. However, it’s nothing fun like that. It’s just that they come from a family of witches and she married a human so she wants to raise them all like humans.


Enter Debbie Reynolds on The Magical School Bus, Marry Poppins style. After showing off to the kids magic grandma style, she leaves to go back to her home. By the way, have you ever noticed that in these kid friendly witch things, their powers are genetically inherited rather than acquired by invoking some sort of non-human entity?


Anyways, after the movie reminds us that Universal still has a trademark on the Wolfman, the kids follow Reynolds back onto the bus.


After seeing some supernatural creatures on the bus, they arrive in Hill Valley…I mean Halloweentown. The kids meet the mayor and that’s important, but who cares cause we now meet the cabby.


He’s like Manny from Grim Fandango! He is the best character in this whole movie. I really hope he’s in the sequels. I can’t say enough good things about him. Well, of course some bad things are happening in Halloweentown and Reynolds is trying to get the mayor to listen, but he doesn’t. The mother also shows up to complain and act worried about the kids. After showing off the town a bit, Reynolds comes to a theater.


I would say that means something bad is going on, but I’ve been told that’s what screenings of Oogieloves (2012) looked like.


But then this guy shows up and freezes Debbie Reynolds and the mom. This leaves the kids to run around town collecting ingredients for a spell to help them. Ultimately, it takes the whole family to deal with the evil. Blah, blah, blah. It’s not a bad setup, but they just don’t do much of anything with it. Disappointing.

In Memory of Robin Williams #2: Cadillac Man (dir by Roger Donaldson)

Cadillac Man

Cadillac Man is a film that I had never heard of until I came across it while skimming what was available OnDemand last week.  It was a film that I only watched because it starred Robin Williams.  I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about including it in a tribute to Robin Williams because Cadillac Man was definitely one of his lesser films.  However, while Cadillac Man may not be a very good movie, it does feature a very good performance from Robin Williams.

Released in 1990, Cadillac Man tells the story of Joey O’Brien (Robin Williams), who is the type of car salesman who has no problem approaching a widow at a funeral and telling her that now is the time to consider buying a new car.  Joey’s a good salesman but he’s also deep in debt.  He not only owes alimony to his ex-wife (Pamela Reed) but he also supporst two mistresses, a married one (a hilarious Fran Drescher) and a single one (Lori Petty).   He’s also owes money to the local mafia don and, as the film begins, he’s been told that he has to sell 12 cars in two days or else he’ll lose his job.

On top of all that, Joey also has to deal with Larry (Tim Robbins),  an insane jerk with a motorcycle and an assault rifle who takes the entire car dealership hostage because he’s convinced that his wife (Annabella Sciorra) is cheating on him.  Larry spends most of the movie firing his rifle up in the air and screaming at the top of his lungs (and yet, it’s also clear that the audience is supposed to like him).  As the cops surround the car dealership, Joey attempts to keep Larry under control while also trying to get back together with his ex-wife…

After I watched Cadillac Man, I looked up the rest of director Roger Donaldson’s credits.  What I discovered was that Donaldson has directed a lot of movies (including guilty pleasure Cocktail and the upcoming The November Man) but only one of them has been a comedy.  The majority of his films are dramas like Thirteen Days and action films like November Man.  In short, Roger Donaldson is not a comedy director.   And when directors who aren’t experienced with comedy attempt to make a comedy, they almost always resort to having all of the actors shout their lines and run around like characters in a live-action cartoon.  That is certainly the approach that Donaldson took in Cadillac Man and the end result was a film that far too often tried to substitute chaos for genuine comedy.

(As just an example of Donaldson’s lack of comedic touch, Annabella Sciorra went through almost the entire film with a bloody cut on her forehead.  Even if her lines or her character had been funny, I would have never known it because I was spending too much time worrying about what the eventual scar would look like.)

And yet, here’s the thing.  As bad as Cadillac Man turned out to be, Robin Williams was actually pretty good in it.  Joey isn’t exactly a likable character but you root for him because of who is playing him.  What’s interesting is that the role, even though it was definitely comedic, didn’t lend itself to the manic intensity that was the trademark of much of Williams’s comedy.  Instead, the humor comes from the way that, while everyone else in his life is essentially going crazy, Joey O’Brien struggles to maintain his facade of calm and confidence.  Williams portrays Joey as being the ultimate salesman and when Joey has to try to convince Larry to release his hostages, he approaches it almost as if he’s trying to sell Larry a car and it’s impossible not to admire Joey’s determination to close the sale without anyone else getting shot.  As played by Tim Robbins, Larry is thoroughly unhinged.  In fact, it’s probably one of the worst performances of Tim Robbins’ career but it’s obvious that he and Williams enjoyed playing off of each other.  Whenever Robbins’ performance goes over-the-top, Williams’ performance brings things back down to Earth and provides whatever pleasure one can hope to get from a film like this.

And that’s why, despite the fact that Cadillac Man is not a particularly good film, it’s an appropriate tribute to the talent of Robin Williams.  It’s one thing to give a good performance in a good film.  However, it takes true talent to give a great performance in a total misfire.

And that’s exactly what Robin Williams did in Cadillac Man.