Lifetime Film Review: A Daughter’s Plan To Kill (dir by Ian Niles)

So, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Greg (Matt Dallas) has got a nice life and lives in a nice house and he’s got a happy family.  He’s married to Katie (Claire Coffee) and he’s got two teenage children who live at home, Lauren (Lauren DiMario) and Tommy (Liam Obergfoll).  However, Greg also has another teenage daughter out there, Samantha (Jordan Lana Price).  Greg was never in Samantha’s life when she younger so why not make up for lost time by inviting her to come live with him, his wife, and her half-siblings?

I mean, what could possibly go wrong, right?

From the minute that Samantha moves in, there are hints that all might not be ideal with the situation.  Samantha is moody and frequently loses her temper.  When Tommy gets his first car, Samantha gets angry and demands to know why she’s never been given a car.  When its pointed out to her that Tommy’s been working hard to earn the car, Samantha accuses Greg and Katie of making her feel like an outsider and, to be honest, she actually does have a point.  I mean, if you’re going to invite someone to come live in your house as a permanent member of the family, maybe don’t make a big deal about how everyone but her is going to get a car.  It’s just common sense.

Meanwhile, all the boys at the high school are fascinated by Samantha, which makes Lauren feel even more insecure than usual.  Samantha alternates between pressuring Lauren to hook up with a shallow jock named Milo (Will Tomi) and trying to drown Lauren in the swimming pool.  “Didn’t any of you see her holding me under the water!?” Lauren demands.  “No,” her friends, “because you were under water.”

Greg’s response is to spoil Samantha, hoping to win her love and maybe some peace.  Katie thinks that Samantha needs some discipline.  As for Samantha …. well, she’s just planning on killing everyone.  Hence, the title of the film.

Let’s talk about that title because I really like it.  A Daughter’s Plan To Kill tells you everything that you need to know about this film but there’s also a wonderfully sordid bluntness about it.  There’s no ambiguity to be found in this title.  This daughter doesn’t have a “secret” or a “hidden past,” or any of that.  No, she has a “plan to kill.”  As a pretty well-organized person myself, I always appreciate someone who has a plan.

Anyway, plotwise, A Daughter’s Plan To Kill is pretty much a standard Lifetime evil family member film.  You know that Samantha’s bad as soon as she shows up and you spend most of the film amazed that no one else seems to have figured it out yet.  That said, the film’s definitely an entertaining example of the genre and Jordan Lana Price seems to be having a lot of fun in the role of Samantha.  Samantha may be evil but she’s evil with just enough style to be entertaining.

Lifetime Film Review: My Wife’s Secret Life (dir by Jason Bourque)

So, let’s say that your husband has cheated on you.

Now, obviously, the easiest thing to say is that you should just dump his ass but reality is always a bit more complicated.  The fact of the matter is that you’ve got two kids with him.  You two share a big suburban home.  He’s got a successful career as an attorney.  You’ve got a successful career of your own.  And he says that he’s sorry.  He says that he’ll never stray again.  Even if you’re not sure that you’ll ever be able to trust him again, you do love him.  So, you say that you forgive him.  You say that you’re giving him a second chance.  But the doubt and the pain still lingers.

What do you do?

How about having a one night stand with a near-stranger?

That’s what Laurel Briggs (Kate Villanova) does at the beginning of My Wife’s Secret Life.  She’s at a business conference.  Oddly, the hotel somehow screwed up her reservation and, as a result, she’s been separated from her colleagues.  She meets a handsome and charming man (Matthew McCaull).  One thing leads to another and Laurel ends up spending the night with this man.  (If you’re wondering why I’m not telling you the man’s name, that’s because he uses several over the course of the film).  That morning, when she leaves his hotel room, she makes it clear that she doesn’t want to see him again.  Laurel just wants to return home to her husband, James (Jason Cermak), and move on with her life.

Of course, this is a Lifetime movie so it’s not going to be that simple.  At first, Laurel’s one night stand doesn’t seem like he’s capable of taking the hint.  He’s the type of guy who shows up at your office unannounced and tries to guilt you into spending the day with him.  Then, eventually, he become the type of stalker who breaks into houses and leaves behind roses and poems by Lord Byron.  Soon, he’s not only stalking Laurel but he’s also pursuing a relationship with Laurel’s sister (Marnie Mahannah).

It turns out that our Lord Byron-obsessed stalker is more than just the typical type of obsessive who regularly shows up in Lifetime movies.  He’s got his own reasons for specifically targeting Laurel and her husband and it turns out that he’ll stop at nothing to accomplish his sinister goals….

Sounds pretty melodramatic, right?  Well, I supposed it is but that’s kind of the point.  I mean, that’s why we watch Lifetime films.  We watch them for the infidelity and the dangerous men who have secrets and the women who make one mistake and then have to spend the entire movie dealing with the consequences.  Enjoying a Lifetime film is all about embracing the melodrama and this is a film that cries out for a hug.  This is a film that celebrates everything that we love about Lifetime.  Director Jason Bourque keeps the action moving at an enjoyably quick pace and he’s aided by a cast who keeps the action grounded in reality.  Villanova and Cermak have exactly the right chemistry to be believable as a couple struggling to keep their marriage alive and Matthew McCaull is a wonderfully magnetic force of chaos and destruction.  It’s an enjoyable film and, since it’s a Lifetime film, it will probably be aired multiple times between now and 2021.  So, keep an eye out for it!

Lifetime Film Review: Amish Abduction (dir by Ali Liebert)

Amish Abduction tells the story of Annie (Sara Canning) and Jacob (Steve Byers).

As you may have guessed from the title (and the trailer, if you watched it), Annie and Jacob are Amish.  They live in a simple home.  They dress modestly.  They ride around in a buggy.  Annie talks about how little she trusts “the English.”  They spend a lot of time working in the fields.  They appaear to be about as Amish as Amish can be.  However, it quickly becomes obvious that Jacob has grown disillusioned with Amish life.  He wants to leave the community and live with the English.  He’s even purchased a phone!  “Look at everything that it can do!” he says in amazement as he stares down at the screen in his palm.  He tries to give Annie a phone as well but Annie has no use for it.  Not yet, anyways….

However, it turns out that Jacob is not merely suffering from a second Rumspringa.  Jacob’s gotten into some serious trouble.  He’s been buying whiskey from one of the English, a redneck who likes to wander around in the Pennsylvania wilderness.  When the redneck starts acting like a jackass, Jacob kills him.  When the police show up at the village and start asking questions, the Amish keep quiet.  They want nothing to do with the outside world.

One morning, Annie wakes up and discovers that Jacob has left during the night.  He’s abandoned his culture, his religion, and his wife.  However, Jacob has taken their son with him.  Jacob is willing to go to court and demand custody.  Annie will have to leave the village and enter the world of the English in order to save her son from his increasingly demented father.

Ah, the Amish.  I have actually lost track of the number of movies that I’ve seen about the Amish.  Films about the Amish always emphasize the idea that the Amish are simple people who reject modern technology and still live the way that their ancestors lived back in the very distant past.  Inevitably, these movies always have at least one scene where an Amish person is amazed by a television or a radio or a phone.

Of course, the truth is far more complicated.  There’s a fascinating documentary called Devil’s Playground, that follows several Amish teens as they go through Rumspringa, which is a time when they can take part in the modern world and decide for themselves whether or not to be baptized into the Amish church or to leave the community.  As that documentary demonstrated, just because the Amish don’t take part in much of modern society, that doesn’t mean that they’re ignorant of it.  Unfortunately, most films take a far more simplistic (and rather condescending) approach to portraying the Amish.

That said, Amish Abduction is one of the better “Amish” films that I’ve seen recently.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that its a 100% accurate but it does mean that, at the very least, it treats its characters as something more than just outsiders to be gawked at.  Sara Canning, in particular, gives a good and heartfelt performance as Annie and the film presents her character and her concerns in a fair and even-handed manner.  She was particularly strong during one scene in which Annie has a nightmare about what it would like to become one of the English.  Amish Abduction may be about the Amish but it’s also about a woman trying to protect the most important thing in her life and who can’t relate to that?

Lifetime Film Review: Sleeping With My Student (dir by Tom Shell)

So, here you are.

You’re middle-aged.  You’ve just split up with your adulterous husband.  Your teenage daughter is upset because she’s about to start at a new school.  Even worse, you’ve just been hired to be the new principal at that school.  It’s the summer.  You’re at a conference.  This is your last chance to enjoy yourself before a new school year begins.

You’re at the hotel pool.  Suddenly, a handsome man who is quite a bit younger than you jumps into the pool and, after briefly fooling you into thinking that he’s drowned, he starts up a conversation with you.  He’s charming in a simple way.  He says that you were sexy when you were concerned that he might be dead.  He invites you back to his room and you know exactly why.

Do you go with him?

That’s the decision that Kathy (Gina Holden) is faced with at the start of the Lifetime film, Sleeping With My Student.  What does she do when she’s given the opportunity to have one night of passion with Ian (Mitchell Hoog)?  Well, your answer is right there in the first half of the film’s title.  And, as you can probably guess from the second half of title, Ian eventually turns up as a student at Kathy’s school!  Even worse, Ian has a reputation for being a bad boy and a trouble maker and soon, he’s dating Kathy’s daughter, Bree (Jessica Belkin)!

Of course, it all turns out to be about more than just one night stands and bad disciplinary histories.  It turns out that it wasn’t a coincidence that Ian showed up at the hotel and jumped into the pool at the same moment that Kathy just happened to be there.  It also wasn’t a coincidence that Ian just happened to end up getting transferred to Kathy’s new school.  It’s all a part of a massive scheme that Ian has cooked up in order to get vengeance for something that happened in the past.  I mean, seriously, no one should be surprised.  There are no coincidences when it comes to Lifetime.

Speaking as someone who has seen a few hundred Lifetime films over the past few years, I enjoyed Sleeping With My Student.  Gina Holde, Mitchell Hoog, and Jessica Belkin were all well-cast in their rules and the great Gerald Webb showed up as Officer Compton, the school security officer who first explains that Ian is bad news.  Yes, the plot was a bit predictable but that’s honestly a part of the film’s appeal.  You don’t necessarily watch a Lifetime film because you want to see something unexpected.  Instead, the appeal of these films is to be found in their very predictability.  There’s something comforting in knowing that, on Lifetime, no one night stand will turn out to be just a one night stand and that the film’s villain will always do something particularly evil at the halfway mark.  The best Lifetime films are cinematic comfort food.  They give you exactly what you want and they don’t demand much in return and we’re all the better for it!

Lifetime Film Review: Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter (dir by Catherine Cyran)

I have to admit that, for some reason, I’ve always had a weakness of Mafia movies.

For whatever reason, I just find them to be fascinating, as well as terrifically entertaining.  And when I say that I love mafia movies, I’m not just talking about the ones that everyone else loves, either.  I mean, sure, I love The Godfather films and Goodfellas and all of that.  I can’t wait for the Sopranos prequel to come out next year and I’m eagerly counting down the days until The Irishman drops on Netflix.  However, I also love the Mafia movies that everyone else seems to hate.  Some day, I’m going to get around to writing a stirring defense of Gotti.  Just you wait!

I’m half-Irish and fourth-Italian.  As far as I know, I don’t have any relatives involved with organized crime and, to be honest, I should probably be offended by all of the Mafia stereotypes that I’m exposed too whenever I turn on the television.  But, I have to be honest.  If my father had been in the Mafia, I totally would have used it to my advantage.  I would have been like, “You think you’re some sort of big shot, like Frankie Valli or somebody?  Do you know who my faddah is?  You want me to call him down here right now?”

The Lifetime film Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter is all about being the daughter of a very powerful man.  Victoria Gotti herself even narrates the film and appears in cut-away scenes to discuss what it was like to grow up as the daughter of notorious mob boss, John Gotti.  At the same time, Chelsea Frei plays Victoria in dramatized scenes, showing her talking to her father (Maurice Benard) and dealing with her good-for-nothing husband, Carmine (Elijah Silva).  Because the film is told entirely from Victoria’s point of view, we only see John Gotti through her eyes. In this film, John Gotti is a loving father who is often away from his wife and daughters because he’s either in jail or hiding out from the authorities.  He’s fond of saying stuff like, “Nothing’s more important than family.”  Despite the fact that Maurice Benard gives a convincing performance as Gotti, you’re never quite sure what’s actually going on in his head.  Is he a ruthless murderer or is he just a blue collar guy looking out for his family?  The film isn’t sure but then again, Victoria seems to be unsure as well.  Undoubtedly, someone like John Gotti had to keep a lot of himself hidden away from even those closest to him.

Because of the film’s Victoria-centric structure, we don’t actually get to see any of the standard mafia action.  We hear about people getting taken out by the mob but we don’t actually see any of it happen.  Those hoping for a big mafia epic will undoubtedly be disappointed.  (The film is nearly over before John Gotti even takes over the Gambino Family.)  Instead, the film focuses on Victoria dealing with people judging her because of who her father is and her subsequent marriage to the worthless Carmine.  To be absolutely honest, there’s really not much going on in the movie, as most of the major action occurs off-screen.  However, Chelsea Frei gives a good performance as Victoria and the film occasionally does a good job of contrasting Gotti family life with Gotti crime life.  It’s not a classic mob film but it does provide just enough Cosa Nostra swagger to keep the viewer occupied until the release of The Irishman.


What Lisa Watched This Morning #204: Your Family Or Your Life (a.k.a. April’s Flowers) (dir by Tom Shell)

The morning, I watched the latest Lifetime Movie Network premiere, Your Family Or Your Life!

Why Was I Watching It?

Your Family or Your Life premiered last night on the Lifetime Movie Network but, because it was All Saints’ Day, I spent yesterday with my sisters, singing Shakira songs, not watching anything on television, and basically staying completely offline.  However, I did set the DVR because a non-Christmas related Lifetime premiere is going to be a rarity from now through December.

When I got home this morning, I promptly watched Your Family Or Your Life.

What Was It About?

David Meyer (Alexander Carroll) is a former alcoholic who is now a successful attorney.  His work has led him to discover some illegal shenanigans concerning Erica Hearns (Angelica Bridges).  Hoping to say out of prison, Erica sends Ed (Eric Michael Cole), the world’s most incompetent hitman, to kill David.  Ed manages to make David’s death look like a suicide but David’s widow, Kathy (Jennie Garth) is not convinced.  For that matter, neither is David’s stepdaughter, April (Luca Bella).  Kathy’s best friend, Michelle (Alexandra LeMosle) has some suspicions as well!  Like I said, Ed’s not very good at this.

So now, Ed and Erica have to figure out a way to silence all of the people who don’t think that David committed suicide.  Fortunately, for them, they’ve got an inside player.  Little does April suspect that her boyfriend, Damon (David Gridely), is actually one of Erica’s relatives!

What Worked?

Jennie Garth is just the greatest!  Depending on how old you are, you either know her primarily from Beverly Hills 90210 or What I Like About You.  This film had a 90210-style plot with a What I Like About You attitude and it was fun to watch Garth do things like beat up a burglar with a baseball bat.  Garth brought a lot of energy to her roll.

Angelica Bridges was entertaining as the villain.  Her frustration with Ed was wonderfully performed.  When she realized that Ed had basically screwed up a very simple murder, I think anyone who has ever been a supervisor could relate to her frustration.

The mother-daughter relationship between Kathy and April felt very realistic, especially when it came to Kathy’s immediate dislike of Damon.  That might be because Luca Bella actually is Jennie Garth’s daughter.

What Did Not Work?

I regret that the film made it clear, from the start, that David had been murdered.  I would have preferred a more ambiguous approach, one that left you wondering if David actually had been murdered or if maybe Kathy really was just seeing what she wanted to see.

I also regret that the film did NOT feature the following dialogue:

“Your family or your life!”

“I’m thinking about it!”

“Oh my God!  Just Like Me!” Moments

I also keep a baseball bat near my bedroom door, just in case I ever have to use it.  I don’t think I could wield it as decisively as Jennie Garth does, though.

Lessons Learned

If you’re going to hire a hitman, spend a little extra and get one who is actually good at his job.  Otherwise, things just get too complicated.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #203: Designed to Kill, a.k.a. Deadly Runway, a.k.a. Fatal Fashion (dir by Doug Campbell)

Last night, I turned over to the Lifetime Movie Channel and I watched a movie that has many names.  When it was originally released on Netflix last year, I believe it was called Deadly Runway.  According to the imdb, it’s also known as Fatal Fashion.  Lifetime aired it under the title Designed To Kill.

Well, no matter which title you want to go with, I watched it!

Why Was I Watching It?

How can I review it without watching it first?  This isn’t rocket science, people!  Beyond that, though, I was in the mood for a good Lifetime melodrama.  Of course, right now, Lifetime is currently only showing Christmas movies from here to eternity.  So, if you want to see the type of Lifetime film that we all know and love, you’re only place to turn is the Lifetime Movie Network.

What Was It About?

Basically, it’s a murderous remake of Pygmalion!

Oh, you doubt me?  Well, consider this — Jennifer Higgins (Linsey Godfrey) — is given a job at the local high school, teaching a class about fashion.  David (Joshua Hoffman) ends up in her class, hoping that he can practice his skills as a photographer.  David is awkward, shy, wears glasses, has no fashion sense, and his hair is almost always a mess.  Jennifer takes one look at him and decides to prove that she can turn anyone into a super model.  Next thing you know, David has new clothes, a new haircut, and a new career.  He almost gets a new girlfriend until Jennifer gets jealous and pushes her off a ledge.

See, there are a few differences between Jennifer and Henry Higgins.  Some of them are obvious.  Jennifer is a woman and is flirtatious.  Henry was a man and a bit of a prick.  But perhaps the biggest difference is that Jennifer Higgins has a tendency to get obsessed with her models and, as mentioned above, Jennifer’s willing to kill people.

Anyway, David is enjoying his new life as a model and Jennifer is enjoying being his mentor but then it turns out that David’s friend, Caitlyn (Ellen Michelle Monohan) has model potential as well!  How will Jennifer handle it when Caitlyn and David are soon appearing on covers together?

What Worked?

Oh Hell, it all worked.  This was so over the top and fun and melodramatic that there was no way not to love it.  Linsey Godfrey was wonderfully insane as Jennifer Higgins and Monhan and Hoffman made for a very adorable couple.  This movie was a lot of fun.

And before anyone starts nitpicking this film or debating whether or not the plot fully made sense, allow me to remind you that if you’re taking a film like this seriously, you’re doing it wrong.  This film was designed to deliver pure entertainment and that’s exactly what it does!

What Didn’t Work?

It all worked!

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I related to Caitlyn, mostly because we both have red hair, bad eyesight, and a low tolerance for alcohol.

Lessons Learned

Henry Higgins could have been worse.