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.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Boston Strangler: The Untold Story (dir by Michael Fiefer)


(Lisa is currently in the process of cleaning out her DVR. It’s going to take a while.  She recorded this true crime thriller off of Showtime on June 1st.)

I have to admit that the main reason that I recorded Boston Strangler: The Untold Story off of Showtime was because I thought it was going to be one of Ulli Lommel’s infamously terrible true crime movies.  I had so much fun reviewing Curse of the Zodiac a few years ago that I always keep an eye out for anything that could possibly have been directed by the infamous Mr. Lommel.

Well, it turns out I was wrong.  This is not one of Lommel’s films.  Instead, Boston Strangler: The Untold Story is a fairly serious-minded examination of the enduring mystery of the Boston Strangler.

Now, the Boston Strangler isn’t exactly a household name anymore.  He committed his murders in the 60s, before the term serial killer had even been invented.  He is thought to have strangled at least 13 women in the Boston area, ranging in age from 85 to 19.  Eventually, a man named Albert DeSalvo was arrested for committing a series of rapes.  While he was awaiting trial on those charges, DeSalvo announced that he was also the Boston Strangler.

For the most part, it was assumed that DeSalvo was telling the truth when he confessed.  In 1967, a movie, perhaps the first ever made about serial murder, was released.  It was called The Boston Strangler and it starred Tony Curtis in the title role.  It still shows up on TCM and, from the start, it assumes that DeSalvo was guilty of the murders to which he confessed.

However, what was often overlooked was that DeSalvo was never actually put on trial for any of the murders.  (In fact, before he confessed, DeSalvo wasn’t even considered to be a suspect.)  In those days, before the discovery of DNA, there was no concrete physical evidence linking DeSalvo to the crime and his confessions were often so inconsistent that many detectives continued to have their doubts about whether or not DeSalvo was telling the truth.  He received a life sentence for a series of rapes and robberies that he had committed but he was never charged with a single murder.  DeSalvo later retracted his confession and then, a few years after the Tony Curtis film came out, DeSalvo was murdered in his cell.

(I should note that, in 2013, Boston authorities announced that DNA evidence had linked DeSalvo to the final murder, that of 19 year-old Mary Sullivan.  However, there are some who argue that the Mary Sullivan murder had so little in common with the other murders that she was probably not a victim of the original Boston Strangler.  Who knows?)

Making this story even more intriguing is that, while DeSalvo was being held for trial, his cellmate was George Nasser who, unlike DeSalvo, actually was considered to be a suspect in the murders.  There is a popular theory that DeSalvo, already facing a life sentence, agreed to confess to Nasser’s murders so that his family would be financially taken care of.

That’s certainly the theory that’s presented in Boston Strangler: The Untold Story.  In this film, DeSalvo (played by David Faustino) is just a loser who ends up being manipulated by his cellmate (Kostas Sommer).  The lead detective (Andrew Divoff) doubts DeSalvo’s confessions but everyone else just wants to be able to close the book on the murders that have gripped Boston in fear.  Boston Strangler: The Untold Story is a strange mismash of styles, veering from docudrama to horror.  It makes for a somewhat jarring viewing experience but the film does create and maintain a properly ominous atmosphere.  Though the film argues that DeSalvo was not a murderer, it still portrays him as being an empty man with no conscience and, even if he wasn’t a murderer, his very existence still left me feeling unsettled.  David Faustino is odd casting as DeSalvo and it takes a while to get used to him.  However, Kostas Sommer is chilling in the Nasser role and SyFy fans will be interested to know that Corin Nemec plays F. Lee Bailey.  If you’re into true crime, I’d say give the film a chance.

2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the year 2016 with the best of Lifetime!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2016!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

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Best Picture
Bad Sister, produced by Robert Ballo, Timothy O. Johnson, Rukmani Jones, Ken Sanders
The Cheerleader Murders, produced by Sharon Bordas, Arthur Edmonds III, Hannah Pillemer, Fernando Szew, Jennifer Westin
Girl in the Box, produced by Stephen Kemp, Charles Tremayne, Thomas Vencelides
Inspired to Kill, produced by Johnson Chan, Michael Fiefer, Douglas Howell, Stephanie Rennie, Vincet Reppert, Nathan Schwab, Tammana Shah, Shawn Tira
Manson’s Lost Girls, produced by Nancy Bennett, Kyle A. Clark, Lawrence Ducceschi, Joan Harrison, Jonathan Koch, Stephen Kronish, Steven Michaels, Lina Wong
Mommy’s Little Girl, produced by Tom Berry, Steve Boisvert, Neil Bregman, Cinthia Burke, Christine Conradt, Curtis Crawford, Pierre David, Donald M. Osborne, Andrew E. Pecs
*A Mother’s Escape, produced by Sharon Bordas, Lori Bell Leahy, Michael Leahy, Kristofer McNeeley, Fernando Szew
My Sweet Audrina, produced by Dan Angel, David Calvert-Jones, Harvey Kahn, Kane Lee, Tom Mazza, Mike Rohl, Jane Startz
The Night Stalker, produced by Matthew R. Brady, Patrick G. Ingram, Michel Rangel, Alisa Tager
The Wrong Car, produced by Mark Donadio, Miriam Marcus, Molly Martin, Michael O’Neil

Best Director
Doug Campbell for Bad Sister
Megan Griffiths for The Night Stalker
*Blair Hayes for A Mother’s Escape
David Jackson for The Cheerleader Murders
Leslie Libman for Manson’s Lost Girls
Mike Rohl for My Sweet Audrina

Best Actress
*Tara Buck in A Mother’s Escape
India Eisley in My Sweet Audrina
MacKenzie Mauzy in Manson’s Lost Girls
Alyshia Ochse in Bad Sister
Karissa Lee Staples in Inspired To Kill
Addison Timlin in Girl in the Box

Best Actor
Zane Holtz in Girl in the Box
Lou Diamond Phillips in The Night Stalker
*Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor: The Return
Antonio Sabato, Jr in Inspired To Kill
Jason-Shane Scott in The Wrong Roommate
Jeff Ward in Manson’s Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actress
*Toni Atkins in My Sweet Audrina
Eden Brolin in Manson’s Lost Girls
Zoe De Grande Maison in Pregnant at 17
Beth Grant in A Mother’s Escape
Ryan Newman in Bad Sister
Zelda Williams in Girl in the Box

Best Supporting Actor
Blake Berris in Wrong Swipe
Rogan Christopher in Pregnant at 17
*Rhett Kidd in The Wrong Car
Christian Madsen in Manson’s Lost Girls
William McNamara in The Wrong Roommate
James Tupper in My Sweet Audrina

Best Screenplay
Bad Sister, Barbara Kymlicka
*The Cheerleader Murders, Matt Young
Girl in the Box, Stephen Kemp
Mommy’s Little Girl, Christine Conradt
A Mother’s Escape, Mike Bencivenga, Blair Hayes, Kristofer McNeeley
My Sweet Audrina, Scarlett Lacey

Best Cinematography
The Cheerleader Murders, Denis Maloney
Mommy’s Little Girl, Bill St. John
*A Mother’s Escape, Samuel Calvin
My Sweet Audrina, James Liston
The Night Stalker, Quyen Tran
The Wrong Car, Terrence Hayes

Best Costuming
Girl in the Box, Barb Cardoso, Tania Pedro
Manson’s Lost Girls, Dorothy Amos
*My Sweet Audrina, Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh
The Night Stalker, Rebecca Luke
The Red Dress, Sophie Pace
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Mary McLeod

Best Editing
The Cheerleader Murders, Eric Potter
Girl in the Box, Julian Hart
Manson’s Lost Girls, Josh Hegard
*A Mother’s Escape, Travis Graalman
My Sweet Audrina, Charles Robichaud
The Night Stalker, Celia Beasley

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Girl in the Box, Claudia Breckenridge, Jen Fisher, Oriana Rossi, Alex Rotundo, Collette Tolen
Killing Mommy, Cinthia Burke, Christie Capustinsky, Kevin Crawley, Kirsten Fairfield, Margaret Harding-Crawley, Corey J. Stone
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Jenni Brown Greenberg, Randi Mavestrand, Kelly Muldoon, Natalie Thimm
A Mother’s Escape, Jenny Hausam, Toni Mario
My Sweet Audrina, Alannah Bilodeau
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Tara Hadden-Watts, Alexandra Holmes

Best Original Score
911 Nightmare, David Findlay
*The Cheerleader Murders, Cladue Foisy
Inspired To Kill, Brandon Jarrett
A Mother’s Escape, Todd Haberman
My Sweet Audrina, Graeme Coleman
The Wrong Car, Ed Grenga

Best Production Design
Bad Sister, Lia Burton, Danielle Lee
Girl in the Box, Andrew Berry, Jere Sallee
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Cynthia E. Hill, Linda Spheeris
A Mother’s Escape, Zackary Steven Graham
My Sweet Audrina, Tink, Janessa Hitsman
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, James Robbins, Courtney Stockstad, Amanda Christmas

Best Sound
*Center Stage: On Pointe
The Cheerleader Murders
Honeymoon from Hell
I Have Your Children
Inspired to Kill
Toni Braxton: Unreak My Heart

Best Visual Effects
Final Destiny
*Flashback
House of Darkness
The Inherited
Little Girl’s Secret
The Watcher

Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you for keeping us entertained in 2016!

Want to see my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2015?  Click here!

And if you want to see my picks from 2014, click here!

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2016 with the 16 worst films of the year!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy