Lifetime Film Review: Mommy, I Didn’t Do It (dir by Richard Gabai)

If there’s an Eye Rolling Hall of Fame, the recent Lifetime film Mommy, I Didn’t Do It definitely has earned inclusion.

Seriously, this film was full of some championship-level eye rolling.  It’s a courtroom drama and a murder mystery.  Ellen Plainview (Danica McKellar) is an attorney whose teenager daughter, Julie (Paige Searcy) is on trail for murdering one of her former teachers.  When Julie is first arrested, Ellen rolls her eyes.  When Ellen visits Julie in jail and explains that they don’t have the money to bail her out, Julie rolls her eyes and sighs.  You can just tell she’s thinking, “My God, mom, you’re so lame!”  When Detective Hamer (Jaleel White) explains why all the evidence points to Julie, Ellen again rolls her eyes and Detective Hamer counters her by rolling his own eyes.  When Ellen approaches the dead man’s wife (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), the wife not only rolls her eyes but narrows them as well.

It gets even better once the trial begins.  The prosecutor, Kimberly Bains (Jen Lilley), rolls her eyes whenever Ellen makes an objection.  Whenever a witness testifies that Julie was obsessed with the victim, Ellen rolls her eyes and then Julie rolls her eyes at her mother rolling her eyes and then Kimberly rolls her eyes at both of them.  When the weird boy who is obsessed with her tries to save Julie by confessing to the murder, the amount of eye rolling probably sets a world record.  In the real world, of course, this type of courtroom behavior gets people cited for contempt but, in the world of Lifetime, it’s just the way that people communicate.

Don’t get me wrong.  The film itself did not make me roll my eyes.  Yes, it was totally implausible and it was full of silly scenes but it’s a Lifetime film.  That’s what we expect Lifetime.  Even more importantly, that’s what we want from Lifetime.  When it comes to a quality Lifetime film, there’s really only two rules: 1) the more ludicrous, the better and 2) the more melodramatic, the more entertaining.

While the film’s story might be ludicrous, the mother-daughter relationship between Ellen and Julie felt very real and both Danica McKellar and Paige Searcy gave sincere and believable performances as mother and daughter, which went a long way towards explaining all the eye rolling.  Seriously, when I was Julie Plainview’s age, I rolled my eyes for 24 hours a day and I wasn’t even accused of murder.

Mommy, I Didn’t Do It is actually a sequel to a previous Lifetime movie, The Wrong Woman.  In that one, Ellen was wrongly accused of murder and was arrested by the same idiot detective who arrests her daughter in Mommy, I Didn’t Do It.  (If nothing else, these two films show how vindictive authority figures can be.)  As long as this is going to be a franchise, I’d like to suggest that the next installment could feature Eric Roberts, recreating his role from Stalked By My Doctor and its sequel. Maybe he could treat Julie while Ellen defend him in court.

Seriously, it sounds like a great idea to me.


Film Review: Fatal Defense (dir by John Murlowski)

Last night’s Lifetime premiere, Fatal Defense, opens with a nightmare scenario.  Arden Walsh (Ashley Scott) is attacked in her home by a masked intruder.  While her daughter, Emma (Sophie Guest), sleeps upstairs, Arden is bound and gagged in the living room.  Fortunately, the intruder is scared off before he can do anything else but both Arden and her daughter are haunted by nightmares afterward.

What can Arden do to reclaim her safety?

Get a gun.

That was my immediate reaction.  Just go out and buy a gun.  The next time you think that you see someone wandering around in the back yard, fire a warning shot.  If that doesn’t work, aim for the head.  See, that’s one reason why I love my sister.  I may be terrified of guns but she’s a great shot.

However, Arden doesn’t get a gun.  Even though her totally kickass sister, Gwen (Laurie Fortier), suggests that Arden take advantage of her constitutional rights, Arden doesn’t want a gun in the house.  Maybe she doesn’t trust Emma.  Then again, she does live in the People’s Republic of California and it would probably be a lot more difficult for her to get a gun than it would be for me to get a gun here in Texas.  Who knows?

So, since Jerry Brown won’t let her defend herself with a gun, what ever can Arden do?

She and Gwen do a google search for self-defense classes and they come across an old Geocities site for Logan Chase (David Cade).  Logan not only knows how to break someone’s arm but he looks good without a shirt as well!  Plus, he apparently teaches his self-defense class in a tiki bar.  Gwen enrolls and, one montage later, she can now kick ass with the best of them!

(While I understand that you can learn how to do practically anything in a montage, I was still impressed.  My knowledge of self-defense is basically either use mace or, if you can’t get to your mace, yell, “I don’t know you!  That’s my purse!”  and then kick like a Rockette.)

Unfortunately, Logan has some issues.  He seems like a nice guy and a good teacher and it’s kind of sweet in a creepy way when he suddenly shows up at the Los Angeles Arboretum, where Arden is apparently one of two employees.  However, Logan is soon talking about how his ex-girlfriend was murdered because she didn’t know to fight back.  He also has a habit of suddenly yelling about how, if Arden doesn’t learn how to defend herself, she’ll never be able to fight off psychos like him.  That may seem like a red flag but he is kind of cute and that GeoCities web site of his was pretty impressive.  But then Logan suddenly puts handcuffs on Arden’s wrists and locks her in the trunk of his car.  Things kind of go down hill after that…

My twitter friends and I had a lot of fun last night, watching and snarking on Fatal Defense.  It was a fun and entertaining Lifetime film, one that mixed over the top melodrama with some real-world concerns.  (I mean, let’s be honest.  We all need to know how to defend ourselves.  It’s a scary world.)  This is one of those films where it’s best not to worry too much about whether or not the plot totally makes sense.  Myself, I was amazed that Arden could afford such a nice and big house.  I guess the Los Angeles Arboretum pays well.  But, at the same time, that’s why we watch Lifetime movies!  We don’t want to see the cramped apartments that most people live in.  We want to see big beautiful houses and big beautiful melodrama.  On both counts, Fatal Defense delivered.

That said, it’s still hard not to feel that Arden could have avoided a lot of trouble if she had just got a gun.

The only defense you need.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Girls Night Out (dir by Philippe Gagnon)

Last night, before I went to bed, I continued to clean out my DVR by watching a Lifetime film, Girls Night Out.  I recorded Girls Night Out off of the Lifetime Movie Network on January 22nd.  It was the earliest recording on my DVR.

Girls Night Out tells the story of McKenzie (MacKenzie Mauzy) and three of her closest friends.  They’ve been close since college.  They were all in the same sorority.  They have a long history laughs, pranks, fun, and barely concealed resentment.  Now, they have all graduated and they’ve all found individual success.  McKenzie is marrying Reese (Cody Ray Thompson), who is nice but kind of boring.

While her friends take McKenzie out to celebrate, Reese runs into a guy at a bar.  Brandon (Jacob Blair) seems nice but he’s not!  In college, Brandon used to date McKenzie.  But, one night, after getting her drunk, Brandon raped McKenzie.  When McKenzie reported him, Brandon was kicked out of school.  He lost all of his friends at his fraternity.  He lost his chance to play in the NFL.  Brandon wants revenge and that revenge starts with kidnapping Reese.

Brandon announces that, unless McKenzie and her friends follow his every order, he will kill Reese.  He divides the four of them into two teams and then has them recreate extreme versions of some of the pranks they played in college.  One team is sent searching for thrown-away food and used condoms.  One team is ordered to sneak into a morgue and kiss a corpse.  One friend has to strip down to her underwear while her teammate writes on her with a marker.  Meanwhile, the other two friends have to go buy crack.  And that’s only the beginning…

Girl’s Night Out is a film that asks, “How far would you go for your friends?”  That’s the question that I found myself wondering as I watched.  I never joined a sorority but, when I was in college, I had a group of friends who were like sisters to me.  I called us the SBS, which stands for Sexy Bitch Squad.  My friend Lea used to call us the BNC, which stood for Big Nose Crew, which I think was her sweet way of trying to make me feel better about my own nose.  But regardless of what we were called, we were and are extremely close.  So, I could definitely relate to the scenes involving the bachelorette party and the male strippers.

But, I asked myself, if someone’s fiancée was being held prisoner and being threatened with murder, would I go to the same lengths as the characters in Girls Night Out?

Probably not.

I mean, seriously — climbing into the dumpster and looking for a used condom?  Ewwww.  Kiss a corpse?  No way!  But, luckily, I know that none of the members of SBS (or the BNC) would ever ask me to.  They know me well enough to know better.  That’s the great thing about friendship.  You don’t have to pretend like you’d wear high heels in a crack house just to keep your friend’s boyfriend from being murdered.  You can be yourself, flaws and all.

As for the rest of Girls Night Out … well, it took it a while but it won me over.  At first, everyone in the film seemed so shallow that I had a hard time imagining how I could ever have any sympathy for them.  But then Brandon showed up and was such a hateful character (and Jacob Blair did such a good job of bringing this loathsome jerk to life) that I found myself really looking forward to seeing him get his comeuppance.  Let’s face it — we’ve all had a Brandon in our lives and our greatest regret is that we never go a chance to witness him getting repeatedly kicked in his genitals.  Knowing that Brandon would eventually get his ass kicked was more than enough to keep me watching the film.

It took a while but seeing Brandon get what he deserved made the film more than worth watchiing.

Film Review: Stalker’s Prey (dir by Colin Theys)

Before I really get into writing about tonight’s Lifetime premier movie, there’s something that I need to point out.  The movie that premiered on Lifetime was called Stalker’s Prey.  As often happens with Lifetime movies, it actually has more than one title.  Lifetime will often change the title of movies, either to make them fit into the one of the Lifetime “franchises,” (like the Perfect films or the … At 17 films) or just to make them sound more lifetime-y.  According to the imdb, Stalker’s Prey is also known as Hunter’s Cove.  Personally, I think Hunter’s Cove is a better title but Stalker’s Prey does have more of a Lifetime feel to it.

Well, whatever you call the movie, it was a lot of fun.

Stalker’s Prey opens with a real “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment, with teenager Laura (Sharbino Saxon) getting caught staying out too late and making out with her boyfriend, Nick (Luke Slattery).  Now, Nick seems to be a nice guy but Laura’s mother, Sandy (Cynthia Gibb), doesn’t like him.  Sandy and Laura have a strained relationship.  Ever since her parents got divorced, Laura has been rebellious (though her rebellion seems rather mild compared to what some angry teenagers have done in previous Lifetime movies).   Sandy feels that Nick is a bad influence on Laura and that Laura is a bad influence on her younger sister, Chloe (Alexis Lariviere).

(While I did relate to Laura, I was also fortunate enough to be the youngest, so I never had to worry about being a bad influence on anyone.)

Sandy forbids Laura from going out so, the next morning, Laura sneaks out.  She and Nick sail out to an isolated spot.  They relax on the water.  They go for a swim.  They ignore Sandy trying to call them.  And then, of course, a shark comes along and eats Nick.  If not for Bruce Kane (Mason Dye), it would have eaten Sandy as well.

Bruce is the handsome, charming, and kind of odd son of the Mayor.  He just happened to be in the area when he saw Laura being attacked.  He saved Laura from certain death.  Soon, Bruce is a local hero.  He appears on the news nearly every night, assuring everyone that he is going to catch the shark and prove himself worthy of his famous last name.  Meanwhile, Laura has been totally traumatized, which makes sense.  Not only is Nick dead but, thanks to that shark, she’s probably going to have a permanent scar as well.

Remember how I said that Bruce just happened to be in the area?  Well, that’s kind of Bruce’s thing.  Any time that Laura goes anywhere, Bruce just happens to be right there.  He drops by her hospital room.  He drops by her house.  When Laura goes shopping, Bruce shows up in the parking lot.  When Laura stops by the police station, Bruce happens to be walking by.  When she goes back to school, Bruce just happens to be her new substitute teacher.  When she comes home, Bruce is babysitting Chloe.  When she goes to the beach, Bruce shows up with flowers.

Bruce considers Laura to be his girlfriend, despite the fact that she only gave him one pity date and only slept with him because he took advantage of her emotionally fragile state.  Laura wants nothing to do with Bruce but Bruce will not accept that.  Bruce has issues.  Bruce also has a mannequin on his boat but you’ll have to watch the movie to see what that’s all about.

Meanwhile, it appears that the most dangerous thing that you can do in Hunter’s Cove is be a friend of Laura’s.  Not only does Nick get eaten by a shark but her friend Parker (Camrus Johnson) gets beaten up by a baseball-wielding assailant.  Another friend get run over by a car while out jogging.

And, of course, that shark is still swimming around the ocean, like it owns the place…

It makes sense that, after taking over the SyFy network, the sharks would eventually move over to Lifetime.  That said, Stalker’s Prey is an enjoyable melodrama, one that is quite likable in its cheerfully willingness to go over the top to get a reaction.  Mason Dye is memorably creepy as Bruce, who I assume was named after the mechanical shark from Jaws.  What I liked best about the film was the relationship between Laura and her mother.  The mother-daughter interactions between Cynthia Gibb and Saxon Sharbino felt very real and their relationship reminded me of my relationship with my own mom.  It definitely gave the film an extra layer of effectiveness.

Whether you call it Stalker’s Prey or Hunter’s Cove, it was a lot of fun and very entertaining.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: The Wrong Student (dir by David DeCoteau)

Y’all know that I usually avoid politics like the plague but this is just something that needs to be said:

The U.S. Government could stand to learn a little from a good Lifetime film.  A good Lifetime movie is not expensive (and usually can be viewed for free).  A good Lifetime movie does not demand that the audience watch it but instead, provides a good reason for you to sacrifice 90 minutes of your time.  A good Lifetime movie does not attempt to rob you of your individual freedoms and, in fact, it celebrates your right to talk back to the screen.  A good Lifetime movie delivers exactly what it promises.  A good Lifetime movie does not talk down to its audience.  A good Lifetime movie goes out of its way to keep its audience entertained.  If the U.S. government was more like a Lifetime movie, we wouldn’t have spent the past 17 years dealing with one tedious situation after another.  If the U.S. government was more like a Lifetime movie, life would be a lot more fun and twitter far less annoying.

I found myself thinking about this as I continued to clean out my DVR by watching The Wrong Student.  I recorded The Wrong Student off of Lifetime on March 11th.  I’m glad I did because The Wrong Student epitomizes everything that I love about Lifetime.

Add to that, it’s a film that proves something that I’ve always suspected — soccer is the source of all evil.

Maddie (Evanne Friedmann) is a teenager who loves two things: soccer and the new soccer coach.  The new coach is Dominic (Jason-Shane Scott), who has amazing pecs and abs.  How in love with Dominic is Maddie?  Well, she’s so in love with him that she’s willing to do almost anything to keep him around.  Does that mean that Maddie is willing to poison the old soccer coach?  It sure does.  Does that mean that Maddie is willing to fake an injury so she’ll have an excuse to get naked in the locker room while a mortified Dominic hides his eyes?  Of course!  What about pretending to get drunk at a party and then begging Dominic to give her a ride home?  Hey, who hasn’t done that?  In fact, Maddie is so obsessed with Dominic that she’s even willing to murder her ex-boyfriend.

Maddie’s pretty, intelligent, and apparently her family has some money but she sure does have some issues.  Personally, I blame the soccer.

Amber (Kennedy Tucker) is also on the soccer team.  Amber is living with her Aunt Kelly (Jessica Morris).  Obviously, Amber knows that Dominic is too old for her but he’s exactly the right age for Kelly!  When Maddie realizes that Kelly and the coach are getting close, can you guess what happens?

Anyway, The Wrong Student is a lot of fun.  David DeCoteau has directed a lot of “wrong” films for Lifetime, including The Wrong Roommate and The Wrong Child.  He knows exactly how to make one of these films entertaining and The Wrong Student is an enjoyably self-aware melodrama.  Evanne Friedmann is wonderfully unhinged as crazy Maddie and Jason-Shane Scott looks great without a shirt on.  The Wrong Child is a wonderfully entertaining example of just how much fun a Lifetime movie can be.

Everything should be more like a Lifetime movie.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Forgotten Evil (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)

Earlier tonight, as part of my continuing effort to clean out my DVR, I watched Forgotten Evil!  I recorded Forgotten Evil off of the Lifetime Movie Network on March 12th.

As soon as the words, “The Asylum Presents” appeared on the screen, I knew that I was going to love Forgotten Evil.  Though the Asylum may be best known for the Sharknado franchise and several subversively entertaining mockbusters, they’ve also produced several films for Lifetime.  An Asylum Lifetime film is always delightfully melodramatic and a lot of fun.  My optimism only increased when I discovered that Forgotten Evil was directed and written by the man behind Sharknado, Anthony C. Ferrante.

“This is going to be fun!” I thought and it turns out that I was right.

Forgotten Evil opens with a woman in a bag being dumped over the side of a boat.  The opening scenes have a surreal, almost dream-like feel to them.  Ferrante does a good job of creating a properly ominous atmosphere.  As I watched that bag crash into the water, I was reminded of my own rather morbid fear of drowning.  Fortunately, the woman in the bag survives.  Unfortunately, when she’s found floating by the shore, she has absolutely no idea who she is.

That’s right!  Jane Doe (played by Masiela Lusha) has amnesia!  Even though she does occasionally have flashes of memory, she can’t put together what they all mean.  She has no idea who she was or why she was dumped in the water.  Eventually, she starts using the name Renee but that’s just because she saw a boat named Renee before she nearly drowned.

Amnesia, needless to say, is always a good way to start an intriguing story.  I mean, let’s be honest.  The idea that people can suddenly forget everything is really quite fascinating.  It’s impossible not to wonder what you would do if you were in the same situation.

Despite having no idea who she is, Renee tries to start a new life for herself.  A nurse and a police officer become her new BFFs.  Her therapist becomes her new parental figure.  She even gets a job and a new boyfriend (played by Kyle McKeever), one who is surprisingly good at karaoke!  That’s really not too bad for someone who, just a few weeks previously, was being dumped over the side of the boat.

Except, strange things keep happening.  She loses her job when semi-explicit Polaroids mysteriously appear on her desk.  She continues to have flashes of disturbing images and she’s convinced that someone tried to drown her while she was taking a bath.  She thinks that she sees a mysterious man following her around.  And that perfect new boyfriend of hers?  Well, he appears to be just a little bit too perfect.  It’s hard not to suspect that he’s hiding something.  Especially when he takes her to an isolated cabin which, in a Lifetime movie, is never a good sign…

I enjoyed Forgotten Evil.  This is pure and enjoyable melodrama, well-directed by Anthony C. Ferrante and featuring all sorts of twists and turns.  Masiela Lusha is likable and sympathetic in the main role.  All in all, this is a fun Lifetime movie.  Keep an eye out for it.

Film Review: Double Mommy (dir by Doug Campbell)

Lifetime followed Mommy’s Little Boy with the American premiere of Double Mommy.

Double Mommy is another Canadian-produced Lifetime film.  This one is a bit of a spiritual cousin to Double Daddy.  Like Double Daddy, Double Mommy starts with a high school party, ends with the arrival of two babies, and finds the time to include some homicide in between.  It’s also something of a class drama, with the rich being very evil and the middle class being very saintly and the lower class being pretty much nonexistent.

In Double Mommy, Jess (Morgan Obenreder, best known to readers of the site for playing Charisma Carpenter’s daughter in Bound) is pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl.  However, she’s not sure who the father is.  She wants the father to be Ryan (Griffin Freeman), her perfect boyfriend.  But she suspects that the father might be Brent (Mark Grossman), Ryan’s former best friend.  One night, while Ryan was away, Brent gave Jess a drink.  He said it was nonalcoholic and the can said “Cola.”  But the way the camera lingered on that can before Jess actually drank it, everyone watching the movie knew that it was drugged.  Jess has only vague memories of the rest of the night but she knows what happened.

A paternity test reveals that one twin was fathered by Ryan and the other by Brent!  At this point, I said, “So, which one is going to be the evil twin!?”

Well, the film never really got around to answering that question.  Instead, it focused on the attempts of Brent’s rich father (Bruce Boxleitner) to pay Jess and her family off.  It turns out that Jess is not the first girl that Brent has raped and his father has been covering up for him.  Jess is determined to expose Brent as a rapist.  Jess hangs banners at school.  She posts Brent’s picture on social media.

Let’s give Double Mommy credit where credit is due.  In the characters of Brent and his father, the film makes a point about how one generation enables the bad behavior of another and how misogyny can be passed down from father to son.  Furthermore, Jess never allows herself to simply be a victim.  She’s a fighter who never apologizes for standing up for herself and who, most importantly, never blames herself for the rape.  But, with all that in mind, Double Mommy would have been so much better (and certainly more empowering) if Jess had gone all Ms. 45 or I Spit On Your Grave on Brent’s ass.

I mean, it’s true that, as a result of Jess’s efforts, Brent loses a scholarship and gets booed at a soccer game.  That’s all good but Brent was such a loathsome character that he deserved much worse.  If there’s ever been a character in a Lifetime film who deserved to be locked in a cage and beaten until he confessed to his crimes, it was Brent.  After an hour of Brent smirking, bragging, and drugging, I was ready to see Jess pick up a gun and blow his head off while uttering a priceless one-liner.  Instead, Brent just got embarrassed and eventually ended up running around with a gun of his own.  What could have been an empowering little revenge flick turned into a typical Lifetime movie.

That said, the film was well-acted and nicely put together.  Mark Grossman turned Brent into a disturbingly familiar villain.  (We’ve all known a Brent.)  I just wish the film had gone a bit further in giving Jess her revenge.