Lifetime Film Review: My Stepfather’s Secret (dir by Michael Feifer)


Bailey (Paris Smith) comes home from college and discovers that things have changed since she left.

For instance, her mother, Tina (Vanessa Marcil), is now a vegetarian!  Also, Tina’s suddenly really into exercise and yoga and stuff.  In fact, Tina seems to be happier than she’s ever been and that’s a good thing since Tina previously had some issues with alcohol.  Of course, that’s understandable when you consider that her husband was mysteriously murdered a few years ago.

So, why is Tina so happy now?

Meet Hugo (Eddie McClintock)!  Hugo is some sort of weird New Age massage therapist person and it turns out that he and Tina are going to get married!  They’ve known each other for like two weeks and they’re totally in love!  Bailey is like, “Mom, don’t you think things are moving too fast!?” and the previously cautious Tina is all like, “I love him!”

However, Bailey is convinced that her new stepfather has some secrets and it turns out that she’s right!  But what exactly are those secrets?  Why has he been using Bailey’s computer without permission?  Why is he using her webcam to spy on her?  Why is he constantly getting strange calls and why does he often seem to be distracted by something that only he sees?  Even more importantly, why is Tina acting so weird?  Whenever Bailey tells her about Hugo’s strange behavior, Tina just shrugs it off.  Has Tina been drugged or brainwashed and what, if anything, does that have to do with Hugo’s secrets!?

I have to admit that, as I was watching this movie, I kind of related to Bailey.  After my parents got divorced, I went out of my way to chase off any new guy who thought he was going to be my stepfather.  It wasn’t that I wanted my parents to get back together because I knew they were better off separated.  Instead, it was more that I resented the idea of some stranger suddenly showing up and expecting me to care about what he had to say or anything else.  For a few years, “You’re not my father” was my mantra.  You’re going to be stepfather?  No way!  Of course, for the most part, I was just being an immature brat and, eventually, both my mom and my sisters told me to grow up and knock it off.  Unlike me, Bailey has good reason to be suspicious of her stepfather.

In fact, you could argue that she has a few too many reasons to be suspicious of Hugo.  This film doesn’t leave much doubt that Hugo is a bad guy.  From the minute that he first appears, he might as well be carrying a sign that reads, “I’m Evil, pass it on.”  Amazingly, no matter how obviously evil Hugo may be, Bailey seems to be the only person capable of noticing.  In fact, everyone else seems to be so oblivious to Hugo’s evil that I suspect that the film was meant to be at least a little bit satirical.  With the exception of Bailey, everyone in the film is so incredibly dense that it’s hard not to believe that we’re not really meant to take any of them that seriously.

Anyway, we do eventually learn Hugo’s secret and it’s all pretty silly.  Hugo is not only evil and creepy but he also apparently has a thing about coming up with ludicrously overcomplicated schemes.  Fortunately, the action concludes at a cabin in the woods because it’s a Lifetime film and all true Lifetime films conclude at a cabin in the woods, or at least they should.

Anyway, My Stepfather’s Secret is an almost prototypical Lifetime film, with its untrustworthy male interloper threatening to tear apart an otherwise perfect mother/daughter relationship.  Usually, in these films, it’s the mother who knows best but, in this case, the role are reversed.  Enjoy it while you’re watching it and don’t worry about it afterwards.

Lifetime Film Review: Saving My Baby (dir by Michael Feifer)


Poor baby Lilly!

She’s only a few weeks old and her life is already all drama all the time!

First off, Lilly was born slightly premature, shortly after her mother, Sarah (Brianne Davis), was involved in a serious and suspicious auto accident.  Then, while her mother is still in a coma, her father, Travis (Jon Prescott), decides to take Lilly and run off to Palm Springs with her.  Accompanying Travis is his overprotective mother, Virginia (Kathleen Quinlan) and Jessica (Tonya Kay), who just happens to be the friend who introduced Sarah to Travis in the first place.  Speaking of just being friends, that’s what Travis swears that he and Jessica are but we all know that’s not the case.  We know this because this is a Lifetime film and it’s rare that anyone’s ever just a friend in the world of Lifetime.  Of course, Sarah’s parents and her sister object to Travis taking the baby to Palm Springs but what can they do?  He’s the father.

Of course, eventually, Sarah wakes up and she’s like, “Where’s my baby?”  When she hears that Lilly has been taken to Palm Springs, she quickly calls up Travis and demands to know what’s going on.  Travis assures Sarah that his mother is looking after Lilly and promises that they’ll return the following morning.  Sarah then hears Jessica talking in the background.

“IS JESSICA THERE!?”  Sarah asks.

Travis, not surprisingly, doesn’t have a quick answer for that.

As should already be obvious, there was a lot more to Sarah and Travis’s whirlwind romance than just love.  Unlike the attempted murder, the baby was never a part of the plan.  However, now that Lilly’s been born, Travis definitely wants to keep her.  Jessica, meanwhile, is concerned about how much Sarah and her family are willing to pay for the return of Baby Lilly….

Kidnapped children are pretty much a staple plot point when it comes to Lifetime movies.  That really shouldn’t be surprising.  The most effective Lifetime films are the ones that deal, however melodramatically, with real-life fears and what could be more scary than the thought of losing your baby?  Whereas other mothers in Lifetime kidnapping films at least get to spend some time with their child before the abduction happens, Sarah wakes up to discover that her baby has been taken to another city.  When she desperately asks her sister for information of how the baby looked before she was taken away, it’s a moment of intense emotional honesty.

Saving My Baby is a bit unique among Lifetime kidnapping films in that it actually spend more time with the kidnappers than with the family of the kidnapped.  Don’t get me wrong.  Sarah is a sympathetic character and Brianne Davis does a good job playing her but the film is far more interested in Jessica, Travis, and Virginia.  As played by Jon Pescott, Travis spend most of his screentime wearing the haunted expression of someone who knows that he’s made the biggest mistake of his life.  Not only does he have his wife angry at him but his mother won’t stop telling him that he’s a terrible father and his girlfriend keeps demanding that he get rid of both his mother and his daughter.  Kathleen Quinlan does a great jon, keeping you guessing about Virginia.  You’re never quite sure how much she knows about what Travis and Jessica are planning.  However, the film is totally stolen by Tonya Kay, who is like a force of destructive nature in the role of Jessica.  Jessica may be evil but you can’t help but sympathize with her frustration at times.  I mean, everyone around her is just so incompetent!

Saving My Baby is an entertaining Lifetime kidnapping film.  Wisely, the film eventually moves the action to Las Vegas, which is the perfect location for the movie’s melodrama.  For the film’s finale, Saving My Baby makes good use of the Nevada desert, with the desolation perfectly capturing the feeling of hopelessness that Sarah’s been feeling ever since the disappearance of her daughter.  It all leads to gunfire and tears and hopefully, a lesson learned about letting your no-good son-in-law take your granddaughter to Palm Springs.  We can only hope.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Party Mom (dir by Michael Feifer)


(I recorded Party Mom off of the Lifetime Movie Network on March 30th.)

Party Mom tells the story of two moms who live in Los Angeles.

Jackie (Krista Allen) is a party mom!  She has a nice house in Beverly Hills, where the party never ends.  She’s always quick to point out that she looks young enough that she could pass for being Ashley’s sister instead of her mother.  For her part, Ashley (Amber Frank) kinda wishes that her mother would be a little more traditional.  Of course, Jackie’s usually too busy trying to get Ashley’s friends drunk to really worry about what her daughter wants.

Caroline (Megan Ward) is definitely not a party mom.  Instead, she’s a hard-working, no-nonsense mom who lives in the Valley with her husband, Gary (Brian Krause), and her two daughters, Brittany (Elise Luthman) and Emma (Savannah Judy).  Caroline just can’t understand today’s teenagers, with their social media and their iPhones and their lack of interest in hanging out with their boring parents.  In Caroline’s day, teens would have loved a chance to spend a night watching TV and eating popcorn with mom and dad!  Now, they just want to sneak out of the house and take selfies.

Brittany thinks that Jackie is the best, though Caroline isn’t quite sure that she wants her daughter hanging out in a mansion where all of the adults are just as stoned and drunk as the kids.  Caroline even attempts to put her foot down and ground her daughter.  Of course, that doesn’t really work.  Instead, Brittany simply sneaks out of her bedroom window and heads for Beverly Hills!

Of course, since this is a Lifetime film, it all leads to the usual combination of underage drinking and tragedy.  When Brittany and a group of drunk friends leave the mansion, a terrible car accident leaves only one survivor.  Jackie finds herself on trial for involuntary manslaughter.  Caroline and Gary are determined to see Jackie pay for being a party mom but Jackie’s rich enough to afford a slick attorney.  In fact, Jackie doesn’t even seem to feel that bad about the car accident or almost anything that happens afterward.  As she explains it, all of the tragedy is due to people from the Valley coming into Beverly Hills, where they don’t belong.  It all leads to murder, arrests, and one final confrontation.

I liked Party Mom, largely because, in high school, my best friend’s mom was a party mom and watching this movie brought back a lot of memories.  At the time, it was always fun going over to my friend’s house and literally getting to do anything that I wanted to do.  Looking back now, of course, it’s easy to say that my friend’s mom was incredibly irresponsible and probably should have been forced to go on Dr. Phil or something.  But, at the time, I was a lot like Brittany.  I just thought it was cool that there was an adult around who refused to care what was being done in her house.

Krista Allen does a really good job in the role of Jackie, tearing through the film like an irresponsible, perpetually drunk tornado.  She especially does well towards the end of the film, when Jackie really goes off the deep end.  Like all good Lifetime film, the melodrama in Party Mom is over-the-top and we’re all the better for it.

Cleaning Out The DVR: The Bachelor Next Door (dir by Michael Feifer)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 182 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded The Bachelor Next Door off of Lifetime Move Network on December 2nd, 2017!)

It’s time for yet another Lifetime film featuring Haylie Duff as a woman being menaced by a neighbor!

In this one, Haylie plays Alex.  Alex is a painter who lives with her boyfriend, Gavin (Stephen Bruns).  Alex hasn’t found much success as a painter but, fortunately, Gavin has one of those financial jobs where he spends all of his time talking about when the markets in London close.  So, even though Alex hasn’t sold a painting in forever, she still gets to live in a really big and pretty house.

But then one day, that house nearly burns down!  Fortunately, the new neighbor, Donnie (Michael Welch), just happens to notice that a fire has broken out in the kitchen so he runs over and he saves the day.  Or, at the very least, Donnie claims that he just happened to notice the fire.  Donnie seems to have some issues.  He’s way too nice and way too quick to want to help out around Gavin and Alex’s house.  Plus, sometimes he goes back to his own house and he throws a screaming fit.  Again, Donnie would appear to have some issues.  Still, Alex goes ahead and sets Donnie up with her sister, Sage (Brittany Underwood).

And for a while, it seems like everything’s just perfect.  Sage and Donnie make for a really cute couple.  Or at least they do until Donnie accidentally calls Sage by her sister’s name.  Uh oh!

Meanwhile, Gavin keeps asking Alex to marry him and Alex keeps saying no.  Alex says that she’s worried that, if she gets married, she’ll become complacent and boring and she’ll lose her edge as an artist.  I have to say that this part of the movie was handled very well.  Alex and Gavin seemed like a “real” couple and Haylie did a good job capturing all of Alex’s fears about commitment.  I could relate to Alex and, as a result, I was more emotionally invested in her story than I am in the typical Lifetime movie.

Anyway, Gavin refuses to give up.  He keeps asking her to marry him and when Alex finally says yes, everyone’s overjoyed.  Except for Donnie…

And why should Donnie care?  It all goes back to something that happened years ago.  Donnie is not as much of a stranger as everyone initially thinks that he is…

The Bachelor Next Door was actually pretty good.  I’ve gotten to the point where I really look forward to these Haylie-Duff-In-Danger Lifetime films.  Haylie always does a really good job in these movies and, in The Bachelor Next Door, she ably supported by Michael Welch, Steve Bruns, and Brittany Underwood.  The Bachelor Next Door has suspense, flashbacks, a great ending, and two great houses.  What more could you ask for?

 

Cleaning Out The DVR: Cradle Swapping (dir by Michael Feifer)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 186 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Cradle Swapping off of Lifetime on May 7th, 2017!)

This year, there was a surprisingly large number of Lifetime films about babies either getting kidnapped or switched at birth.  If Lifetime films tend to use to melodrama to bring to life the fears of its audiences, 2017 was a year when everyone was scared about who or what their baby would grow up to be.

In Cradle Swapping, Grandma (played by Patrika Darbo) takes one look at the baby that her daughter has brought home from the hospital and announces that it doesn’t look anything like her supposed parents.  Needless to say, neither Alicia (Amanda Clayton) or Ray (Brandon Barash) are happy to hear this.  They argue that all babies look the same.

No, Grandma says, all of her babies looked exactly like her.

Of course, that’s not the only time that Grandma points this out.  Later, after Alicia and Ray have just returned from the hospital with their baby, Grandma takes another look at it and announces that the baby still looks nothing like her mother or father.  This time, Alicia gets even more upset about it.  “Way to go,” everyone tells Grandma.

Grandma actually has a pretty good point but it’s understandable why Alicia doesn’t want to hear it.  Alicia already has a lot to deal with.  Baby Hannah refuses to look her in the eye.  Baby Hannah refuses to breastfeed.  Baby Hannah is always crying.  When Alicia and Ray take Hannah to the hospital, a doctor demands to know if Alicia has ever used drugs.  “Just in college,” Alicia replies, “experimenting.”

It turns out that Hannah is going through opioid withdrawal!

At first, Ray blames Alicia for taking prescription medication.  Alicia blames Ray for not being supportive.  Maybe they should be redirecting their blame at hospital…

See, it turns out that Hannah is not their baby.  Instead, their baby was taken by the incredibly sleazy Tony (Tyler Johnson), who left another baby in her place.  Getting little help from the hospital or the authorities, Alicia and Ray take matters into their own hands, setting out to track down Tony and find their baby.  However, what they don’t know is that Tony is involved in a much bigger conspiracy than they even suspect….

I have to admit that I liked Cradle Swapping more than I thought I would.  Amanda Clayton and Brandon Barash were sympathetic as the parents and they were easy to relate to.  I appreciated the fact that they started the movie in over their heads and they were still in over their heads when the movie ended.  They never turned into action heroes or superhuman investigators.  Instead, they were just two ordinary parents trying to find their baby.  You want them to succeed and the end result is an above average Lifetime film.

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #9: Inspired To Kill (dir by Michael Feifer)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

itk

Wow, it’s Antonio Sabato, Jr. again!

That’s right, Inspired To Kill co-stars Antonio Sabato, Jr.  Interestingly enough, the previous movie that I watched in my effort to clean out the DVR, Remote Paradise, also co-starred Antonio Sabato, Jr.   Also interestingly enough, both Inspired to Kill and Remote Paradise feature Sabato playing an enigmatic, older man who has an affair with a lonely and insecure woman.  In both films, it turns out that Sabato is not exactly who he first appears to be.  (If you want, feel free to insert your own joke about Sabato endorsing Donald Trump here because I’m too lazy to come up with one.)  Perhaps not coincidentally, both films were directed by Michael Feifer and both films premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network.

(For the record, I recorded Inspired To Kill off of LMN on November 13th.)

Inspired To Kill tells the story of Kara (Karissa Lee Staples), a self-described aspiring writer who is recovering from a personal trauma.  (Her boyfriend was murdered, which is definitely one way to get out of a relationship.)  Having fled the painful memories of her former life in New York City, Kara is now living in Los Angeles and everything should be perfect….

Except, it’s not!

Yes, Kara may be living in L.A. but everyone knows that, if you want to be a real writer, you have to live in NYC.

Yes, Kara has been accepted into a prestigious creative writing program but her professor (Jay Pickett) is a total sleaze who keeps trying to hit on her.

Yes, Kara has managed to land a job as a barista but her boss (Daniel Booko) is a demanding jerk.  He even gets upset when she misses work for several days in a row.

Yes, Kara has met the cute and charming Jason (Matthew Atkinson) but Jason sometimes seems oddly hesitant about pursuing a relationship with her.  (Plus, Jason wants to be a lawyer, which means that, when the revolution does come, he might be on the wrong side.)

Yes, Kara is renting a room from the fun-loving Charlie (Olivia d’Abo) but Charlie is also a heavy drinker and can be a bit self-absorbed.  Charlie’s solution to every problem is to go out, get drunk, and pick up a college student … actually, Charlie might have the right idea…

And yes, Kara has finally managed to meet her idol, the true crime writer P.K. Reese (Antonio Sabato, Jr) but there seems to be something a little bit off about him.  He’s supportive of her as a writer but, at the same time, he gets upset if anyone other than him reads her work.  He says that he wants to meet her friends and yet, he goes out of his way to avoid them.  And when more and more people in her life start to suddenly die, Kara finds herself wondering if maybe her new lover was somehow involved…

You’re probably thinking that you’ve got Inspired To Kill all figured out but there’s a big twist that occurs towards the end of the film.  Now, I have to admit that I figured out the twist, largely because I’ve seen so many Lifetime films that it is now basically impossible to fool me.  But, even with that in mind, the twist was still pretty clever and actually, a lot of fun in its wonderfully implausible way.  I mean, if you’re expecting the twist to actually make any sense than you have no business watching a Lifetime movie in the first place.  Don’t worry about logic.  Just sit back and enjoy the film.

Anyway, I rather liked Inspired To Kill.  It’s an enjoyable and well-acted little thriller, one that will keep you entertained.  It’s the type of unapologetically crazed and lurid melodrama that reminds me why I fell in love with the Lifetime Movie Network in the first place.  Inspired To Kill is a lot of fun.  Keep an eye out for it!

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #8: Remote Paradise (dir by Michael Feifer)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Thanksgiving, November 24th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

remote-paradise

I recorded Remote Paradise off of the Lifetime Movie Network on October 30th.  As is often the case with Lifetime movies, Remote Paradise was actually produced under a different title: Dark Paradise.  I’m not sure why, exactly, Lifetime decided that Remote was somehow more appealing than Dark.  But regardless, Paradise is Paradise, right?

Anyway, as this film started, I thought I might be able to relate to its story.  I say this despite the fact that, in the starring role, poor Boti Bliss was occasionally forced to wear some of the most unflattering outfits that I’ve ever seen in a Lifetime film.  Seriously, a huge reason why I watch Lifetime films is because I like seeing what people are wearing and how they decorate their homes.  At the start of the movie, Tamara (played, of course, by Boti Bliss) not only wears horrid overalls but she also lives in a pretty small and cramped house.  That was definitely a red flag.

However, once I got over her house and her sense of style, I started to relate to Tamara.  At the start of the film, she’s informed that her father has died and she’s inherited close to 8 million dollars!  A shocked Tamara mentions that she and her father didn’t even get along.

Hey! I thought, I used to fight with my Dad too!

Since Tamara has just broken up with her boyfriend, she decides to invest the money by going on a trip with her two best girlfriends.

Hey!  I thought, I’m close to my girlfriends too!

So, they got to Hawaii.

OH MY GOD!  I yelled I’VE BEEN TO HAWAII!

While in Hawaii, Tamara meets a sexy boat captain who claims that his name is Dario (played by Antonio Sabato, Jr).  Dario says that he’s from Italy.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!?  I’VE BEEN TO ITALY!

Soon, Tamara is swept off her feet by the handsome but mysterious Dario.  She spends all of her time with him, dreaming of their future together.

OH MY GOD, I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR HANDSOME AND MYSTERIOUS TOO!

Meanwhile, one of her friends is beat into a coma by an unknown attacker….

Okay, I can’t relate to that.  I guess I should be happy about that…

One morning, Tamara wakes up to discover that not only is Dario gone but so is her bank account.  That’s right, Dario stole all of her money and then fled Hawaii!

Sorry, Tamara, can’t relate…

And — oh my God! — Dario’s not even Italian!  Tamara learns that Dario has been overheard speaking in Portuguese!  OH MY GOD — HE’S BRAZILIAN!

Okay, I’ve lost the ability to relate to the movie…

And so, Tamara and her non-coma friend go to Brazil, looking for revenge.  And I will say this for “Dario.”  He may be sleazy.  He may be evil.  He may be every woman’s worst nightmare.  But damn!, he’s got a nice house!

I like nice houses!  But … no, sorry, still no longer relating…

Anyway, Remote Paradise is okay.  Boti Bliss has been in several Lifetime films and she always tends to overact but that actually worked to her advantage here as Tamara seemed to be an overly dramatic person in general.  (I especially enjoyed the way she spat out the word “bastard,” when she saw Dario’s car.)  The story’s predictable but there’s a last minute twist that will not take you by surprise but, fortunately, the film does shy away from letting the Tamara pursue her vengeance.  In the end, what’s important is that the beach looked good and so did Brazil and so did Antonio Sabato, Jr.

And, most importantly, so did his house!