Lifetime Film Review: Death of a Cheerleader (dir by Paul Shapiro)


Kelly Locke (Sarah Dugdale) appears to have it all.  Even though everyone agrees that she can occasionally be a little bit mean with some of the things that she says, Kelly is still one of the most popular students at Hollybrook High.  She’s a cheerleader.  She’s the leader of the Bobbettes, the school’s most prestigious social group.  She gets good grades, she lives in a big house, and her family has a lot of money.

Bridget Moretti (Aubrey Peeples), on the other hand, wants to have everything.  She’s shy and desperate to fit in.  She wants to be a member of the Bobbettes.  She wants to be a cheerleader.  Even more importantly, she wants Kelly to be her best friend.  Kelly, however, thinks that Bridget’s a little bit strange.  In fact, when Bridget lies to Kelly about there being a party as an excuse to get Kelly to spend time with her, Kelly accuses Bridget of “wanting to be me.”  Kelly then says that she’s going to tell everyone at school about what a weirdo Bridget is so Bridget stabs her to death.

Now, you would think that Bridget would be the number one suspect.  After all, Bridget’s not that smart and it’s not easy to get away with murdering someone, especially when it’s an impulsive act.  However, no one suspects Bridget.  Bridget’s just too shy and nice for anyone to believe that she could possibly be a murderer.  Instead, everyone assumes that another student, Nina Miller (Morgan Taylor Campbell), is the killer.  After all, Nina used to be popular until she dyed her hair and started hanging out with the stoners.  Nina even threatened to kill Kelly once.  Nina says she was just mad and that she wasn’t being serious but that doesn’t stop strangers from calling her house and demanding that she confess….

Now, if this story sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a true story and it’s one that has been recreated on countless true crime shows, including Deadly Women, 1980s: The Deadliest Decade, and Killer Kids.  It was also turned into a made-for-TV movie in 1994, A Friend to Die For, starring Kellie Martin as the murderer and Tori Spelling as her victim.

Death of a Cheerleader is a remake of A Friend to Die For, telling the same basic story but attempting to give it a more modern spin, which in this case amounts to a lot of hand-held camerawork and a far less judgmental attitude towards casual drug use.  The remake also slightly differs in the way that it views its main characters.  If the first film was sympathetic to Bridget, the remake is a bit more ambiguous.  Bridget is portrayed as being slightly off from the beginning and far more openly bitter over Kelly’s success than in the original film.  At the same time, Kelly is portrayed a bit more sympathetically in the remake than in the original.  Tori Spelling played the role as being a straight-up bitch, whereas Sarah Dugdale instead plays her as someone who puts a lot of pressure on herself and who often doesn’t understand how cruel her comments can sometimes be.  The biggest difference between the two films is that the remake focuses for more on the wrongly accused Nina, even allowing her to narrate the story.  If anything, the film’s main message seems to be about how messed up it is that brave nonconformists like Nina are always going to be unfairly blamed for the mistakes of mousy conformists like Bridget.  That’s a good message and one that I certainly appreciated.

The remake of Death of a Cheerleader works well enough.  The hand-held camera work gets to be a bit much but Sara Dugdale, Morgan Taylor Campbell, and Aubrey Peeples all give great performances and the film actually does a better job than the original of capturing the strange culture of high school popularity.  While it may not feature any scenes as iconic as Tori Spelling melodramatically lighting up a joint, Death of a Cheerleader is still an effective Lifetime film.

What Lisa and Erin Watched Last Night #149: Pretty Little Addict (dir by Monika Mitchell)


Last night, the Dazzling Erin and I watched the latest Lifetime film premiere, Petty Little Addict!

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Why Were We Watching It?

Yesterday was all about sisterly bonding time!  Erin and I basically told the rest of the world to get lost and then we spent the entire day hanging out together, talking about life, pondering the great questions of the universe, and laughing.  In fact, we probably spent more time laughing than pondering the great questions of the universe.  We also chased a chicken out of our backyard!  (He belongs to one of our neighbors.)

And really, what better way is there to bond than by watching a Lifetime movie!?  When my friend Trevor informed me that Pretty Little Addict would be premiering last night,  I knew that there was no way that Erin and I were going to miss it!

What Was It About?

It’s about a pretty little addict!

Her name is Jennifer (Andrea Bowen) and she has just lost her father to cancer.  To deal with her sorrow, she drinks.  Meanwhile, across town, Colin Brown (Keenan Tracy) is excited because he’s received a scholarship to run track in college.  Colin’s entire future is pretty much set and it all looks great, assuming that he never loses the ability to walk.

As fate would have it, Jennifer and Colin end up at the same party.  And, when a drunk Jennifer attempts to leave the party, she accidentally runs over Colin.  Colin is crippled and Jennifer is ordered to check into rehab.

While Jennifer is trying to get sober, Colin’s brother, Alex (Scott Lyster), is looking for revenge.  Alex is mentally unstable and has a drinking problem of his own.  He also has a long and violent criminal record.  When he discovers that Jennifer is in rehab, he gets a job working for the vending machine company that just happens to service the machines inside the rehab facility.  Soon, Alex is flirting with Jennifer while also trying to manipulate her into giving up her new found sobriety.

Meanwhile, Colin’s family is making plans to sue Jennifer’s mother…

What Worked?

One thing that you can definitely say about Pretty Little Addict is that it had its heart in the right place.  It sincerely did attempt to use its melodramatic storyline to say something meaningful about addiction and the struggle of recovery.  Both Scott Lyster and Keenan Tracy gave good performances and I also liked Morgan Taylor Campbell in the role of Jennifer’s paranoid roommate.

What Did Not Work?

Good intentions aside, this is one of those films that just never really seemed to come together.  It felt uneven and strangely paced and, even by the standards of Lifetime, the plot was full of obvious and glaring holes.  Alex’s plan seemed unnecessarily complicated.  Considering that he was an alcoholic, he could have just as easily checked himself into rehab and then he would have had much easier access to Jennifer than he did as a fake deliveryman.  It would have been a lot less trouble for him as well.

From the start of the movie to the end, Jennifer was a fairly unlikable character.  Even after she got sober, she never really seemed to understand just how much damage she had done.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I rarely drink so there was a definite shortage of “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moments.  However, I did cringe a little when the rehab patients had to engage in a trust exercise that deal with being blindfolded.  That’s because, in high school, I took part in a similar trust exercise.  My friend Jennifer was blindfolded and I was supposed to catch her when she fell backwards.  However, I’ve only got a three-minute attention span so, by the time she actually started to fall back, I was no longer paying attention and I kind of forgot to catch her.  Whoops!

Lessons Learned

Don’t drink and drive, which is actually a pretty good lesson.

Hallmark Review: Appetite For Love (2016, dir. David Mackay)


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It doesn’t happen every time, but this time they did it. If you came here just with the hopes that I might know some of the songs that were used in the movie, then you can scroll to the end of this review. Hallmark actually included the songs in the credits this time. I’ve added the screenshot that shows them there.

Unfortunately, they also come right out and tell you in the credits the exact cities where they filmed the movie. Darn it, Hallmark! That takes out all the fun of trying to figure it out.

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Note: Notice the Asian and black lady. I think this is the first Hallmark movie I’ve ever seen with so many people who aren’t white.

We open up with shots of a city which is supposed to be Chatham, Georgia. Seems like a nice place to live. The coffee truck comes right out and tells us that there are “No Bad Days”. Oh, and that’s Mina played by Taylor Cole who’s about it to have a bad day.

That’s when text boxes appear onscreen to tell us what text messages are going on between Mina and her boyfriend Reed played by Marcus Rosner. I’m sorry but these text boxes…

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are no replacement for the computer and text overlays you get in Hallmark movies directed by Kristoffer Tabori. These look like they belong in a cartoon or something.

Mina works at a place called ICB, which stands for International Corporate Brands. Mina goes into the office building and has a short talk with Zoe played by Morgan Taylor Campbell…

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who looks like she’s on her way to a Laura San Giacomo lookalike contest.

Before we setup the plot of the film we take a short trip to the boardroom.

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This scene actually exists to super early tell us that Mina’s boyfriend is a jerk.

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Now her boss (Michael Kospa) who sits at a desk in front of a poster with a butcher’s knife on it tells her she needs to go to Sycamore Springs, Tennessee. The reason she has to go there is when the plot confusion starts. Her boss named Larry actually says that “ICB recently purchased a small regional chain [restaurants] that corporate wants to re-brand and expand.” Apparently, all the stores except the flagship one have made the appropriate changes. She has to go there and make them fall in line. They aren’t responding to calls or emails. Oh, and she’s from that town because Hallmark. What’s confusing here is that later Mina will tell us that ICB is a brand management company. That would mean they don’t actually own anything. They are a go between for other firms who actually own this “small regional chain” of restaurants. Believe me, that may seem like it’s a small thing, but it does make the plot seem a little weird at times as things don’t quite add up.

Moving on, we have a short conversation with her friend Zoe to make sure we know that Mina left Sycamore Springs over a dude. Then it’s off so that Marcus Rosner can be just as much of a jerk boyfriend without having to stoop to alluding to bestiality like the guy in Christmas Land. Kudos to the cinematographer Eric Goldstein for this shot.

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He made sure to keep the top part of the phone enough out of focus so that we can’t read the Canadian cellphone providers name. They will screw it up later, but credit where credit is due.

The way this boyfriend talks about a five-year plan and only having one baby it made me think of China or something. Just kind of weird, but we don’t have time to discuss that because now Mina is off to Tennessee. We know she’s getting close because the radio is playing nothing but country music.

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Must be a bit of a Twilight Zone too seeing as 97.7 out of Jackson, Tennessee plays R&B and Old Skool according to their website. Apparently, also 95.3 has magically stopped playing rock and pop from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Weird. Anyways, I’m going ahead and turning on country/rock/pop mixture artist Ryan Adams.

I would give you A Kiss Before I Go by Ryan Adams and The Cardinals instead, but some of the videos I embed have a magical tendency to disappear on reviews of Hallmark movies when I don’t like the film. It’s magic, I tell you!

Now Mina nearly runs into some cows before getting out of the car and stepping in poop. Could be worse, Mina. You could be threatened with two years in jail for dancing to country music, being from the city, and getting a drink thrown at you like in Valentine Ever After.

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Of course she immediately runs into her childhood friend that she left town to get away from. That’s Clay played by Andrew W. Walker. After Bridal Wave, I guess he became a cowboy. He deals with the cows, and drops the info that she was known as Willy in town. I love how everyone will keep calling her by that name and won’t stop no matter how many times she tells them too. It’s like they don’t actually care at all what she thinks or wants to do with her life.

Now she pulls into town and goes to the Sycamore Springs Inn. I love that the lady (Fiona Vroom) seems to be disappointed that Mina doesn’t recognize her. Of course we get the popularity line, but we also find out she was a year behind her in school. I grew up in a small town. A year ahead or behind in school usually means you basically exist in a separate universe. Don’t really know what her problem is here. She also tells us of the upcoming Sweetheart Festival. She now checks her PDF file…

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and finds that they are booked solid. That means it’s off to her Aunt’s (Alley Mills) place. It was either that or a roll-away at the Squirrel’s Nest Inn.

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Hey, it’s Norma Arnold from The Wonder Years! That’s all to that really. She’s just there to remind Mina that none of them are going to call her by the name she wants to be called. Off to the restaurant called Hart’s Country!

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It’s at 23904 Fraser Highway in Langley, British Columbia, Tennessee. She’s showed up during United States appreciation month so the Canadian flag that is usually up was taken down. Inside, it looks like a nice diner.

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I think my favorite sign there is “Soup & Sarcasm: Now Served All Day”. That could almost be the tagline for all of my reviews. Of course Clay runs the restaurant. We find out that Clay’s Dad died three months ago. That’s sad, and they will never explain why he sold the restaurant so if you were hoping for some logic there, then you’re out of luck. She informs him that Hart’s was bought by ICB even though they can’t buy anything being a brand management company.

As I seem to do a lot with my reviews, this is as good a time as any to mention something about this movie I don’t know where else to include.

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I really did like the character of Lucien played by Antonio Cayonne who works at the restaurant. He always seemed to be nice and had a kind face throughout while never seeming wasted or a complete cutout of a character. Just wanted to point him out cause he’s a bright point in the film.

Let’s speed things up here since there really isn’t much to this story and you’ve got the setup now. She’s there to make sure they fall in line. It’s how she’s gonna spend time with Clay. Nobody is going to show a shred of dignity by simply calling her by the name she prefers without her reminding them to do it. But most importantly, the restaurant will sort of fight the changes. They kind of compromise, but still prefer to get their ingredients from local sources. It’s like they gave Damon Hill and Howard Chesley some sort of Hallmark movie writing bible and they wrote something quite generic and lazy. Let’s try to hit the main points.

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While I had to use the crib notes credits about the locations, this scene does reveal that this part of the movie was shot in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Also, this scene is one of the very very few times you’ll see Mina check-in with headquarters. It winds up making the final boardroom presentation she gives seem a little weird since you’d think they would have already known this stuff was in the works. That is unless they really trust her that much, which would contradict her boss telling her he thinks “it’s time you took the lead on your own project.” Just another hole in the script. None of these holes ruin the romance part really, but they do make the film needlessly confusing.

We get a conversation now that makes it clear Clay’s Dad did make a deal to sell his place and it included all the changes she is asking of him. That would mean it wasn’t like Hart’s was a public company that was bought out. Yet someone will tell Clay that his Dad would be spinning in his grave if he knew what was going on.

Now we get yet another scene to confuse matters more. Clay goes to the local bar to vent to his friend. We will ultimately find out that Clay took a big loan out to help his friend who runs the bar and Mina will tell him that’s a reason he has violated the agreement, but then that plot point seems to magically disappear from the story and return in a weird way near the end of the movie.

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The next notable scene is one where Mina says that Hart’s will serve Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, and Chicken among other things. One of the people says “it’s not actual food.” Another line that really doesn’t quite make sense at the time it’s uttered. Later we will find out that “actual food” according to her is homegrown which is really the restaurant’s main point of contention with being bought. The rest is small stuff that they can realistically all work out, but using only homegrown ingredients is expensive. This is also the part where we actually find out ICB only manages brands. They don’t actually own the brands in question. And scene! Seriously, as soon as she drops that bit of information so that future parts sort of make sense, it just cuts to Clay fishing.

This is now when Clay suddenly pulls a will out that says his father left the title to the restaurant to him. He says that means ICB owns the brand, which they don’t since they are just a management firm, but that he owns the restaurant itself. What? That just sounds like someone had an afterthought when writing this script. Also, this will not lead the movie to a conclusion of them giving up the Hart’s brand name and keeping the restaurant. That would end the film too soon and make too much sense.

Now we have a brief scene where they complain about uniforms and name tags. Why? The point of a uniform and/or a name tag is so you know who works there when you eat at a restaurant and so you can be polite by calling them by their name rather than “waiter” or “hey you”. It just makes the restaurant sound like they deliberately don’t want anyone from outside their small town coming to this restaurant. It’s weird and out of place.

Then we get the Sweetheart Festival scenes. It’s like they finally decided to stop heavily focusing on this re-branding stuff and give us some fun back and forth between the two leads. People still keep calling her Willy though. Yes, I know that it’s mentioned over and over because it’s supposed to represent that she has been re-branded herself with the new name, but it just makes the locals seem mean. This is especially noticeable with her Aunt.

My favorite part of this festival is when they have a race where they have to stop at stations and eat food from the restaurant. Sounds like a recipe for a lot of people throwing up to me. However, I love when they come to the station that has The Pecan Tsunami on the table.

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The looks they get on their faces when they realize they have to eat that much desert this far into the race are pretty funny.

After the race, both of them start to loosen up and the movie winds down pretty quickly. The two spend some more time together. We find out more about how Clay is going to use local resources even more in the restaurant. The ex-boyfriend shows up and disappears pretty fast. But he doesn’t leave us before giving us two cellphone screen screw ups and a little more plot confusion. He’s not totally selfish.

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You can see the Canadian cellphone provider Bell at the top. The rest of the screen looking weird may be just because I caught the screenshot while the screen itself was changing, but probably not because this likely is just a screenshot given the next thing we see.

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Anyone who has ever used a cellphone knows that thankfully they turn off the screen when you put it to your ear so you don’t accidentally hit buttons. It wouldn’t do that, like it doesn’t here, unless he is simply talking to a cellphone with a screenshot displaying on it.

Now Reed tells Clay at the festival that the agreement Clay’s Dad made prohibits transferring of the property meaning Clay doesn’t own anything. He also says that the $100,000 loan he took out against his business to help his friend’s bar means that “the mortgage and entire property being turned over to ICB.” Wait…what? So first the will is invalid meaning Clay doesn’t own anything, but the loan he took out to help his friend is going to cause the property to be turned over to ICB that owned it in the first place. Did he mean that the bar was going to be turned over to ICB who again doesn’t own anything themselves? I don’t know. It ultimately doesn’t matter, but just adds needless confusion to the story which should be simple.

Now Mina goes back to ICB to tell them they shouldn’t turn Hart’s into “just another cookie-cutter chain”. She shows some photos that she has been taking with her iPad during the movie to show them what she is talking about. But then she starts to talk down to these people. She starts off with some reasonable things about having a place where they serve fresh food and everything. That sounds nice. I mean they have made it clear up to now that the business has close ties to the local farmers that supply them with the ingredients for the food, which the farmers in turn come to eat. They even can get the water locally. Sounds like that could bring down costs a bit and it seems like a neat idea to have a flagship store that is unique in a chain of stores. To my knowledge, this is something businesses do in real life. But of course there’s also the bit about “relentless advertising”, “60-inch TVs”, and “pictures of little league teams”. She also says, “We don’t need to re-brand Hart’s, sir. We should be using Hart’s to re-brand ICB.” Then this happens.

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She says that it would be nice for restaurants to go back to being a place where people “actually talked while they ate”. Not a bad point were it not for the fact that we saw her talking to her friend in a coffee shop just fine at the beginning. We also saw her and many other people talking in a restaurant at the beginning of the movie too.

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Aside from being insulting even though some of her points make sense, again, ICB DOESN’T OWN ANYTHING. At the end of the day, it’s not their decision to make.

Well, of course after Jimmy Mina Stewart gets done with her speech we found out that it works, and in short order she winds up back with Clay. Cut to One Year Later and the business seems to be doing better than before. Must have been the relentless advertising and selling their own bottled water.

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Then they do something I never thought I would see in a Hallmark movie.

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They break the fourth wall for the final shot. Oh, and she’s pregnant.

My final thoughts on this one. The pros are the more ethnically diverse cast, the beautiful outdoor areas in Canada, and definitely actor Antonio Cayonne. The cons are the incessant it’s Mina not Willy thing, the confusing plot with ICB that didn’t really need to be that way, and the usual small towns are the bastions of the real America nonsense. The cons were too much for me this time around. I can’t recommend this one. Out of the recent crop of Valentine’s Day Hallmark movies, I would say it goes like this:

1. Anything For Love
2. Dater’s Handbook
3. Appetite For Love
4. All Things Valentine
5. Valentine Ever After

Here are the songs:

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What Lisa Watched Last Night #138: UnGodly Acts (directed by Carl Bessai)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime original film, UnGodly Acts.

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Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was on Lifetime, of course!

What Was It About?

Outside of a farmhouse in Georgia, Melissa (Megan Park) has been discovered dead.  At first, it looks like she committed suicide but then a bearded guy named Adam (Iain Belcher) announces that he killed her.  It turns out that not only is Adam a schizophrenic who hears voices but he’s also the member of a fundamentalist religious cult.  The head of the cult is the clean-cut Daniel (Brant Daugherty).  Daniel has teeth that are so white that he can probably hypnotize people just by smiling at them.  Another interesting fact about Daniel?  He was married to Melissa, which didn’t prevent him from having sex with the other men in the cult.

Through flashbacks, we discover how Daniel first recruited his cult.  We see how Melissa arranged for Daniel to perform an exorcism on Adam and “cure” him of the voices in his head.  We watch as Daniel becomes more and more domineering and Melissa finds herself becoming disillusioned with him.

What Worked?

UnGodly Acts was a gorgeous film to look at.  British Columbia stood in for Georgia and it looked absolutely beautiful!  Cult life is definitely not for me but I was impressed with how neat and impeccably decorated the inside of that farmhouse was.  I give the cult mad respect for its housekeeping skills.

Brant Daugherty was appropriately charismatic as Daniel, though the film was ultimately stolen by the wonderfully jumpy Iain Belcher.  That said, my favorite character was Matt, who was played by Aidan Khan and who has a truly legendary mustache.

What Did Not Work?

The film was a bit overdirected.  I’m as big a fan of dutch angles as anyone but, after a while, it got all too predictable and I was just like, “Oh, someone’s being interrogated.  Time for the camera to start tilting again.”

It was a strange viewing experience, to be honest.  It was a good film but it was never truly memorable.  It was just missing something.  Add to that, the film ended without definitely solving its main mystery and, needless to say, that was more than frustrating.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

For once, there were none.  I was surprised.  Maybe I would have related to the film more if I was a protestant.  Who knows?

Lessons Learned

Just because you’re in a cult, doesn’t mean you can’t keep a clean house.