Music Video of the Day: Go! by Public Service Broadcasting (2015, dir by ????)


Seeing as how today is Moon Day, this seems like the perfect time to pick this video for music video of the day!

This is from Public Service Broadcasting’s 2015 album, The Race For Space.  As you can probably guess from the title, every song deals with the American/Soviet space race of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.  Go!, the eighth track from the album, deals with the first moon landing.

Enjoy!

Film Review: Red Sparrow (dir by Francis Lawrence)


God, this film was a mess.

Red Sparrow is a spy thriller that features a lot of spies but not many thrills.  Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika Ergova, a Russian ballerina whose career with the Bolshoi is ended when another dancer drops her on stage.  Fortunately, Dominka’s sleazy uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts) has a new career in mind!  Maybe Dominka could be a sparrow, a spy who seduces the enemy!  Just in case Dominka doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life seducing westerners, Ivan arranges for her to witness a murder and then informs her that she’ll be eliminated as a witness unless she does what he tells her.  This, of course, leads to Dominkia attending State School 4, where she is schooled in the arts of seduction by Matron (Charlotte Rampling).  Upon graduation, Dominka is sent to Budapest, where she falls in love with a CIA agent named Nash (Joel Edgerton) and a lot of predictable spy stuff happens.  Despite all of the sex and violence, it’s just not much fun.

Red Sparrow has all the ingredients to be an enjoyably trashy 90-minute spy flick but instead, it’s a slowly paced, 140-minute slog that just seems to go on forever.  Throughout the film, director Francis Lawrence (no relation to the film’s star) struggles to maintain a steady pace.  Too much time is spent on Dominka’s life before she suffers the injury that should have opened the film.  Meanwhile, the only interesting part of the film — Dominka’s education at State School 4 — goes by far too quickly and, despite the fact that she was giving one of the few interesting performances in Red Sparrow, Charlotte Rampling vanishes from the film early on.  Once Dominkia gets to Budapest, the film really slow down to a crawl.  Joel Edgerton’s a good actor and an even better director but he gives an overly grim and serious performance in Red Sparrow and he and Jennifer Lawrence have next to no romantic chemistry.

(That lack of romantic chemistry petty much dooms the final forty minutes of the film.  It’s easy to imagine a much better version of Red Sparrow in which Bradley Cooper played the role of Nash.  True, that would have been like the 100th time that Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence starred opposite each other but why not?  It worked for William Powell and Myrna Loy.)

As for Jennifer Lawrence, her performance is okay.  It’s not one of her best and there’s a few moments where it seems as if she’s more concerned with maintaining her Russian accent than with what’s actually going on in the scene but, for the most part, it’s a good enough performance.  That said, you do have to wonder how long she can go without having another hit film.  Despite being heavily hyped, Passengers, Mother!, and Red Sparrow all underperformed at the box office.  (In defense of Mother!, it was never going to be a box office hit, regardless of who starred in it.)  As talented as she is, it’s sometimes hard not to feel that, as an actress, Jennifer Lawrence has lost some of the natural spark that took viewers by surprise in Winter’s Bone, launched a whole new genre of dystopian YA adaptations with The Hunger Games, and which previously elevated unlikely films like The House At The End Of The Street.  She was a far more interesting actress before she became J Law.

Here’s hoping that she finally gets another role worthy of her talent!

Music Video of the Day: Mojo by Peeping Tom, featuring Rahzel, Dan The Automator (2006, dir by Matt McDermitt)


This video was released 12 years ago.  Watching it today, it’s interesting that television hasn’t changed much.  The cop show, the infomercial, the porn film, the horror film, the evangelist, every single one of them is currently playing somewhere.

Yes, that is Danny DeVito sitting on the couch at the end of the video.  I like to think that he’s meant to be Frank Reynolds.

Enjoy!

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (dir by Richard Brooks)


The 1958 best picture nominee, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, opens with a 30-something Paul Newman doing something stupid.

It’s a testament to just how incredibly handsome Paul Newman was in the 1950s that he can still be sexy even while he’s stumbling around in a drunken haze and attempting to jump over hurdles on a high school football field.  Newman is playing Brick Pollitt, youngest son of the wealthy cotton farmer Big Daddy Pollitt (Burl Ives).  Brick was a star athlete in high school but now, he’s a drunk with an unhappy marriage and a lot of bitter feelings.  When Brick attempts to jump over the hurdles, he breaks his ankle.  The only thing that keeps Brick from being as big a loser as Biff Loman is the fact that he looks like Paul Newman.

Brick is married to Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor), a beautiful woman who may have grown up on the wrong side of the tracks but who has married into money.  The only problem is that it doesn’t seem like Brick is ever going to get that money.  With Big Daddy getting older, everyone in Mississippi is wondering which Pollitt son will inherit his fortune.  Will it be drunken, self-pitying Brick or will it be Goober (Jack Carson) and his wife (Madeleine Sherwood)?  One point in Goober’s favor is that he and his wife already have five rambunctious children while Brick and Maggie have none.  In fact, gossip has it that Brick and Maggie aren’t even sleeping in the same bed!  (While Maggie begs Brick to make love to her, Brick defiantly sleeps on the couch.)  The other problem is that, for whatever reason, Brick harbors unending resentment towards … well, everything.  Perhaps it has something to do with the mysterious death of Brick’s best friend and former teammate, Skipper…

Brick, Maggie, Goober, and the whole clan are in Mississippi to celebrate Big Daddy’s 65th birthday.  Big Daddy is happy because he’s just been told that, despite a recent scare, he does not have cancer.  What Big Daddy doesn’t know is that his doctor (Larry Gates) lied to him.  Big Daddy does have cancer.  In fact, Big Daddy only has a year to live.

Whenever I watch Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, I find it’s helpful to try to imagine what it would have been like to watch the movie in the 1950s.  Imagine how audiences, at a time when married couples were still regularly portrayed as sleeping in separate beds and when men were naturally assumed to be the kings of their household, reacted to seeing a film where Elizabeth Taylor was literally reduced to begging Paul Newman to make love to her while Newman hopped around on a crutch and continually found himself getting stuck in embarrassing situations.  Though it may seem tame by today’s standards, the film was undeniably daring for 1958 and watching it is like stepping into a time machine and discovering that, yes, there was a time when Elizabeth Taylor wearing a modest slip was considered to be the height of raciness.

Of course, the film itself is quite toned down from the Tennessee Williams’s play on which it was based.  Williams reportedly hated the changes that were made in the screenplay.  In the play, Skipper committed suicide after confessing that he had romantic feelings for Brick, feelings that Brick claims he did not reciprocate.  That was glossed voter in the film, as was the story of Skipper’s unsuccessful attempt to prove his heterosexuality by having sex with Maggie.  By removing any direct reference to the romantic undercurrent of Brick and Skipper’s relationship, the film also removes most of Brick’s motivation.  (It’s still there in the subtext, of course, but it’s probable that the hints that Newman and Taylor provided in their performances went straight over the heads of most audience members.)  In the play, Brick is tortured by self-doubt and questions about his own sexuality.  In the film, he just comes across as being rather petulant.

And again, it’s fortunate that, in the film, Brick was played by Paul Newman.  It doesn’t matter how bitter Brick becomes or how much he whines about not wanting to be around his family.  One look at Newman’s blue eyes and you understand why Maggie is willing to put up with him.  In the role of Maggie, Elizabeth Taylor gives a performance that manages to be both ferocious and delicate at the same time.  Maggie knows how to play the genteel games of the upper class South but she’s definitely not going to let anyone push her around.  It’s easy to see why Big Daddy prefers the company of Maggie to his own blood relations.  It’s not just that Maggie’s beautiful, though the implication that Big Daddy is attracted to her is certainly present in the film.  It’s also the she’s the only person around who is as strong and determined as him.

Indeed, seen today, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof‘s main strength is that it’s a masterclass in good acting.  Williams’s dialogue is so stylized and his plot is so melodramatic that one bad performance would have caused the entire film to implode.  Fortunately, Newman and Taylor make even the archest of lines sound totally natural while Burl Ives and Judith Anderson are both the epitome of flamboyant charisma as Big Daddy and Big Mama.  It takes a lot of personality to earn a nickname like Big Daddy but Ives pulls it off.

Along with being a huge box office success, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof was nominated for best picture of 1958.  However, it lost to Gigi.

Music Video of the Day: Lilac by Blue Hawaii (2018, dir by ????)


This is an interesting video.

On the one hand, it leaves me wishing that I was on a beach somewhere, preferably Hawaii but I’d even settle for Daytona.  Maybe not Atlantic City, though.  That’s way too far up north.  And don’t even get me started on the beaches in Maine.

On the other hand, it also leaves me worried that something really, really bad is about to happen.  It’s a video that manages to be both positive and ominous at the same time.

Enjoy!

Cleaning Out The DVR: A Night To Regret (dir by Tim Shell)


I recorded A Night To Regret off of Lifetime on June 19th, 2018!

Poor Chelsea Bilson (Mollee Gray)!

She’s got a lot to deal with.  She’s a college student who is always busy.  Her mother (Marguerite Moreau) is pressuring her to become an attorney, constantly asking her about her grades, and continually talking about how expensive Chelsea’s education is turning out to be.  Her boyfriend has just dumped her, specifically because Chelsea doesn’t ever seem to have any time for him.

All Chelsea wants to do is direct a movie but even that’s become a struggle.  Because her mother is only interested in financing Chelsea’s education, Chelsea is not only having to pay for the movie herself but she’s also having to do it all without her mother finding out what’s going on.  Can you blame Chelsea for just wanting to spend a night unwinding?

It’s while she’s out with her friend Sara (Gigi Zumbado) that Chelsea runs into Mila (Kirsten Pfeiffer) and Liam (Tyler Sellers).  Mila and Chelsea were childhood friends.  As Chelsea explains it, she and Mila were always getting in trouble together.  Mila eventually ended up living on the streets but it appears that she’s doing much better now.  Now, she has expensive clothes and a nice apartment.  And she even has a handsome business partner in Liam.

What is Mila’s business?

She’s a webcam girl and, in Lifetime films, that always means trouble!

Seeing that Chelsea needs money and some confidence boosting, Mila tries to turn Chelsea into a webcam girl.  It’s not really something Chelsea is interested in doing, though she does make a thousand dollars as the result of one eager fan.  That allows her to pay for one more day of shooting, which is a good thing.

What isn’t such a good thing is that it soon becomes apparent that Chelsea’s fan is more than a little unstable and obsessed.  Even after Chelsea makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with him, he still tries to contact her.  He sends her a message letting her know that he likes what she’s wearing.  Chelsea looks outside her bedroom window, just in time to catch a truck driving away.

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s mom has a new friend!  His name is Jake Peters (Kevin McNamara) and he’s a personal trainer!  He has a disconcerting habit of showing up wherever Chelsea happens to be.  Jake seems friendly but there’s something a bit off about him.  He’s a little bit too friendly and he tends to speak in weird self-help clichés.  And, of course, there’s the fact that Jake murdered his mother at the start of the film…

Yep, Jake has some issues.  And it’s not a spoiler to tell you that he’s also Chelsea’s stalker.  He’s got plans to make Chelsea’s one night as a webcam girl a night to regret!

I had to work the film’s title into that last paragraph because I think it’s a pretty good title.  As soon as you hear those words, “A Night To Regret,” you’re immediately intrigued.  A Night To Remember ended with the Titanic hitting an iceberg.  How will A Night To Regret end?

Well, in A Night To Regret, the iceberg is Jake, who is a thoroughly creepy and unsettling character, so much so that you have to feel that both Chelsea and her mother were incredibly naive to not immediately turn and run the first time that they saw Jake approaching them.  Jake is the type who will murder a random passerby, smirk about it, and then not understand why some people are turned off by his behavior.  Kevin McNamara does a great job playing Jake, turning him into a memorable Lifetime villain.

I also liked the performances of Kirsten Pfeiffer and Tyler Sellers are Mila and Liam.  (Interestingly enough, Liam is an anagram of Mila and vice versa.)  Pfeiffer kept you guessing as to whether Mila was just a concerned friend or if her motives were more sinister while Sellers was so charming as Liam that you regretted he wasn’t in more of the movie.  Also giving a good performance was Tina Huang, who projected a wonderful, no-bullshit attitude as Detective Morita.

A Night To Regret is a typical stalker flick but the performances of McNamara, Pfeiffer, Sellers, and Huang keep things interesting.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Survival Island (dir by Stewart Raffill)


In the beginning, there was a yacht in the Caribbean.

Working on that yacht was a waiter named Manuel (Juan Pablo Di Pace).  Manuel was strong, handsome, and as sexy as a reality show participant.  He knew how to repair things.  He knew how to catch fish.  His job may have required him to serve margaritas to rich assholes from the United States but he always did it with an attitude.  Manuel was the type of arrogant working man who one would typically expect to find Giancarlo Gianinni playing in a Lina Wertmuller film.  Of course, Manuel is more interested in getting laid than leading a worker’s revolution.  In fact, just before setting out on his latest voyage, he broke up with his girlfriend.  She reacted by pointing at him and laughing evilly.  In a movie like this, that can only mean one thing: VOODOO CURSE!

And then there was Jenny (Kelly Brook) and her husband, Jack (Billy Zane).  While Jenny was the trophy wife, Jack was the American businessman who rented out the yacht for a fishing expedition.   Jack was arrogant.  Jack was outspoken.  Jack was convinced that he knew how to survive at sea, even though he didn’t.  He and Manuel took an instant dislike to each other.  It didn’t help Manuel’s cabin was right next to Jenny and Jack’s and that the sound of Jenny’s ecstatic moaning kept Manuel from getting a goodnight’s rest.

(Of course, another reason that Manuel was having trouble getting any sleep was because, at that very moment, his ex-girlfriend was dancing in a candle-filled room and apparently taking part in some sort of Santeria-related ceremony.)

Well, you can guess where this is going, can’t you?  Jack and Manuel have an argument on the boat.  Manuel gets fired and reacts by taking a towel and throwing it on a stove.  Soon, the boat’s on fire.  Jenny and Manuel wash up on the shore of an isolated island.  For two days, Manuel takes care of Jenny.  He catches fish for her.  He encourages her to swim naked in the ocean.  He yells at her, “You have a perfect ass, senora!  It’s shaped like a heart because God didn’t give you a real one!”  (If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that…)  Despite herself, Jenny starts to fall for Manuel.  Suddenly, Jack shows up on the beach!

Jack soon proves himself to be just as obnoxious on dry land as he was on the boat.  Earlier, Jenny and Manuel had buried the body of the boat’s captain.  Jack promptly digs the captain back up so he can get a change of clothes and some cigars.  Jenny is stunned that Jack would do something so gross.  Jack laughs it off as only Billy Zane can.

Soon, Jack is living on one end of the beach while Manuel is on the other.  And Jenny is stuck in the middle.  Meanwhile, Manuel’s ex-girlfriend is still dancing in that candle-filled room…

Survival Island is a movie that manages to both bad and brilliant at the same time.  In the role of Jenny, Kelly Brook gives a performance that hits so many wrong notes that it almost becomes a perfect example of outsider art.  When she should be scared, she seems to be mildly annoyed.  When she should be happy, she again seems to be mildly annoyed.  The script itself can’t decide whether Jenny is meant to be a noirish femme fatale or a repressed trophy wife.  Jenny never really comes to life as anything other than a plot device but I do have to admire the fact that, even after a shipwreck and several days on a desert island, her makeup was always perfect and her hair was always clean.  Still, considering that the film revolves around her, Jenny is a surprisingly insubstantial character.

Fortunately, the fact that Jenny is such a poorly written character almost doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that Billy Zane is in this movie and he’s exactly the type of shameless, over-the-top performer that this story needs.  There’s nothing subtle about Zane’s performance.  Jack talks to himself.  Even before they end up fighting over Jenny, Jack is always glaring at Manuel.  When he manages to catch something to eat, Jack breaks out into a wonderfully self-satisfied grin and when he suspects that Jenny may have cheated on him, he pouts like a child who has just been informed that his favorite toy was donated to the Goodwill while he wasn’t looking.  Jack’s the type of character who has a snarky comment about everything and Billy Zane is one of those actors who definitely knows how to deliver a sarcastic line or two.  Jack may be a jerk but so what?  He’s an American jerk so, as an American film reviewer, I’m required to be on his side.  Once Jack — and Billy Zane — loses it and goes crazy on that island, nothing else matters.  On the basis of Billy Zane’s presence alone, the film is a guaranteed a certain immortality.  Indeed, the main conflict in Survival Island isn’t between Jack and Manuel.  Instead, it’s between a film that takes itself seriously and a star who does not.

That’s really what makes Survival Island into such a slyly (if, perhaps, unintentionally) subversive film.  The movie may think that it has something to say about class, relationships, and sex but Billy Zane is always on hand to announce,, “No, this is all about watching me go batshit crazy on an island!  That’s all that matters!”  Just as how Jenny must choose between Jack and Manuel, the viewer is forced to choose between taking the movie seriously or just enjoying Billy Zane at his zaney best.

I have a feeling that most people will go with the latter.

In the UK, Survival Island was released as Three.