Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: The Silver Chalice (dir by Victor Saville)


If you ever needed proof that everyone has to start somewhere, look no further than the 1954 biblical epic, The Silver Chalice.

The Silver Chalice features the film debut of Paul Newman, who later proved himself to be a legitimately great actor.  It’s true that, unlike a lot of actors, Newman made his debut in a starring role.  He never had to humiliate himself with any one-line roles or walk-on bits.  No, Paul got to humiliate himself with a starring role.

Paul Newman was 29 years old when he played Basil, a former slave turned sculptor.  Not only did Newman bear a disconcerting resemblance to Ben Savage (of Boy Meets World fame) but he gave a performance that was so bad that it’s kind of a shock that he ever worked again.  Basil is a passionate artist, one who survived being betrayed by his adopted family and slavery.  Newman comes across like a nice, young man from Iowa.  Usually, Newman looks miserable but occasionally, he flashes a somewhat weak smile.  When Basil gets mad, Newman speaks in a squeaky voice.  When Basil is feeling reverent, Newman furrows his brow like a hungover Russell Brand staring straight into the sun.

“But me and Topanga are soul mates…”

Then again, I’m not sure that any actor could have given a good performance as Basil.  The Silver Chalice has a terrible script, one that was written by Lesser Samuels.  (I’ll avoid the obvious joke about whether or not The Silver Chalice would have been better if written by Greater Samuels.)  Apparently, before Newman was cast, the producers pursued James Dean for the role.  I’m sure we all would have enjoyed seeing Dean slouch his way through the film but I doubt that even he could have done much with The Silver Chalice.

The Silver Chalice is based on a novel, which perhaps explains why there’s so many characters and so many unnecessary subplots.  Basil follows a path that will be familiar to anyone who has seen a 1950s biblical epic.  He’s a young Greek who is adopted into a noble Roman family.  When his kindly stepfather dies, Basil’s stepsiblings sell him into slavery.  It’s not an easy life but Basil is a talented sculptor so Joseph of Arimathea commissions him to make a silver chalice for the Holy Grail.  Basil goes from poor to rich to poor again to rich again to ultimately saved by grace.  He even gets to do the same walking towards Heaven thing that Richard Burton did at the end of The Robe.

Meanwhile, Simon Magus (Jack Palance) is wowing the citizenry with his magic tricks and claiming to be the risen Messiah.  Simon’s assistant just happens to be Helena, who knew Basil when he was younger.  Young Helena is played by dark-haired Natalie Wood.  Grown-up Helena is played by blonde Virgina Mayo.  They were both good actresses but there’s seriously no way that Natalie Wood would have ever grown up to be Virginia Mayo.

Jack Palance pretty much steals the movie, mostly because he gets to wear the silliest costumes:

Poor Paul Newman has to settle for a tunic and a miniskirt, while Jack Palance gets to wear this:

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed the story of Simon Magus.  He tried to show off by flying over the Roman Forum so St. Peter said a prayer and Simon promptly plunged to his death.  Take that, you Gnostic!

Another interesting thing about The Silver Chalice is that the sets are very deliberately fake.  I don’t mean that they look cheap.  I mean, much as in the style of German Expressionism, the sets are specifically designed to remind you that you’re watching a movie.

For instance, look at the wall behind Palance:

Look at this pleasure palace:

Look at Rome at night:

The sets are extremely dream-like and yet everything else about the film is extremely slow and conventional.  One wonders if director Victor Saville was trying to make an art film, though there’s nothing else in his long filmography that would suggest that Saville was anything other than a workmanlike director.  In fact, most biblical epics of the time took a lot of pride in looking as expensive and “accurate” as possible.  Major studios in the 1950s were not known for artistic experimentation, especially when it came to Biblical epics.  It’s hard to know what to make of The Silver Chalice‘s artistic flourishes, which is why it’s easier to just focus on what a terrible performance Paul Newman gives.

That’s certainly what Paul did!  In 1966, when The Silver Chalice finally premiered on TV, Newman took out a newspaper ad in which he apologized for his performance and then asked people not watch.  Apparently, he also used to show the movie during parties on the condition that his guests mock the film while watching it.

I don’t really blame him.  It’s an amazingly dull film and Newman looks absolutely miserable in nearly every other scene.  However, because it did star Paul Newman, The Silver Chalice will always have a life on TCM.

Speaking of TCM, they last broadcast this film on February 24th as part of their 31 Days of Oscar.  (It was nominated for both its sets and its score.)  That is when I recorded it.  And, after watching it yesterday, I was more than happy to erase it.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: The Arrival (dir by David Twohy)


I recorded The Arrival off of Cinemax on March 3rd.  Having just watched it, I am 95% sure that it is not the same movie as the Arrival that I saw in theaters last fall.

It’s true that both films deal with the arrival of aliens and feature scenes that take place in space ships.  And it’s also true that both films involve scientists trying to figure out what the aliens want.  However, The Arrival that I recorded featured far more of Charlie Sheen than I remembered being in the Arrival that I saw in theaters.  Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner were nowhere to be seen but Charlie Sheen was all over the freaking place.

And I mean all of Charlie Sheen.  The Arrival was made back in 1996 and I guess that Charlie Sheen was still working out back then because, seriously, he is either naked or, at the very least, shirtless for the majority of the movie.  What’s funny is that, with a few minor exceptions, there’s rarely a reason for him to be naked.  I guess someone just said, “We might as well record Charlie Sheen looking fit and healthy while we still can…”

The Arrival is a relatively serious movie.  Oh, it has moments of humor but it’s all Hollywood blockbuster humor.  It’s not a comedy by any means.  It’s always strange seeing Charlie Sheen in a serious role because … well, he’s Charlie Sheen.  Plus, he was never a particularly good dramatic actor.  He walks through The Arrival with this grim look frozen on his face and that, combined with his muscular chest, makes him look like a killer robot from the future.  You keep waiting for Charlie to say, “I’ll be back.”

Of course, Charlie Sheen isn’t playing a killer robot.  He’s playing Zane Zaminsky, an astronomer who works for the government.  Or, at least, he did work for the government until he detected an alien signal coming from a nearby star.  He’s fired and blackballed by his boss, Phil (Ron Silver).  Unable to get work, Zane does what anyone would do.  He and Kiki (Tony T. Johnson), the streetwise neighbor kid, set up a DIY astronomy lab in his basement.

At least, that’s what I think he did.  I kind of had a hard time following The Arrival‘s plot.  It all seemed a little bit overcomplicated, especially when savvy viewers will have already guessed that 1) the aliens are real, 2) Phil is an alien, 3) there’s a big government conspiracy involved, 4) and Zane has stumbled across it.

What are the aliens doing on the planet?  To figure that out, Zane’s going to have to go to Mexico and meet with climatologist Illana Green (Lindsay Crouse).  However, we already know what the aliens are  doing.  They’re attempting to destroy the environment so that they can wipe out humanity.  We know this because that’s what aliens are always trying to do!  They’re always either trying to save the environment or destroy it.  My personal theory is that Bill Nye, The Science Guy is actually an alien.  It explains a lot.

Anyway, it may sound like I’m criticizing The Arrival but it was actually kind of a fun movie in its dumb way.  It’s a serious movie but it’s also kind of a silly movie.  Any film that features Charlie Sheen as anyone other than Charlie Sheen is going to be watchable just on a WTF sort of level.  Beyond that, Ron Silver makes for a rather convincing alien and director David Twohy keeps the action moving quickly.  Several of Twohy’s shots are memorably atmospheric, even if they often do feature a bearded and naked Charlie Sheen.

Is The Arrival as good as Arrival?  HELL NO!  Arrival is one of the greatest science fiction films ever made.  The Arrival is a rather minor sci-fi melodrama but it’s fun nonetheless.  Just don’t expect it to make any sense.  To quote the bard, John Lennon, “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.”

Film Review: Stalker’s Prey (dir by Colin Theys)


Before I really get into writing about tonight’s Lifetime premier movie, there’s something that I need to point out.  The movie that premiered on Lifetime was called Stalker’s Prey.  As often happens with Lifetime movies, it actually has more than one title.  Lifetime will often change the title of movies, either to make them fit into the one of the Lifetime “franchises,” (like the Perfect films or the … At 17 films) or just to make them sound more lifetime-y.  According to the imdb, Stalker’s Prey is also known as Hunter’s Cove.  Personally, I think Hunter’s Cove is a better title but Stalker’s Prey does have more of a Lifetime feel to it.

Well, whatever you call the movie, it was a lot of fun.

Stalker’s Prey opens with a real “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment, with teenager Laura (Sharbino Saxon) getting caught staying out too late and making out with her boyfriend, Nick (Luke Slattery).  Now, Nick seems to be a nice guy but Laura’s mother, Sandy (Cynthia Gibb), doesn’t like him.  Sandy and Laura have a strained relationship.  Ever since her parents got divorced, Laura has been rebellious (though her rebellion seems rather mild compared to what some angry teenagers have done in previous Lifetime movies).   Sandy feels that Nick is a bad influence on Laura and that Laura is a bad influence on her younger sister, Chloe (Alexis Lariviere).

(While I did relate to Laura, I was also fortunate enough to be the youngest, so I never had to worry about being a bad influence on anyone.)

Sandy forbids Laura from going out so, the next morning, Laura sneaks out.  She and Nick sail out to an isolated spot.  They relax on the water.  They go for a swim.  They ignore Sandy trying to call them.  And then, of course, a shark comes along and eats Nick.  If not for Bruce Kane (Mason Dye), it would have eaten Sandy as well.

Bruce is the handsome, charming, and kind of odd son of the Mayor.  He just happened to be in the area when he saw Laura being attacked.  He saved Laura from certain death.  Soon, Bruce is a local hero.  He appears on the news nearly every night, assuring everyone that he is going to catch the shark and prove himself worthy of his famous last name.  Meanwhile, Laura has been totally traumatized, which makes sense.  Not only is Nick dead but, thanks to that shark, she’s probably going to have a permanent scar as well.

Remember how I said that Bruce just happened to be in the area?  Well, that’s kind of Bruce’s thing.  Any time that Laura goes anywhere, Bruce just happens to be right there.  He drops by her hospital room.  He drops by her house.  When Laura goes shopping, Bruce shows up in the parking lot.  When Laura stops by the police station, Bruce happens to be walking by.  When she goes back to school, Bruce just happens to be her new substitute teacher.  When she comes home, Bruce is babysitting Chloe.  When she goes to the beach, Bruce shows up with flowers.

Bruce considers Laura to be his girlfriend, despite the fact that she only gave him one pity date and only slept with him because he took advantage of her emotionally fragile state.  Laura wants nothing to do with Bruce but Bruce will not accept that.  Bruce has issues.  Bruce also has a mannequin on his boat but you’ll have to watch the movie to see what that’s all about.

Meanwhile, it appears that the most dangerous thing that you can do in Hunter’s Cove is be a friend of Laura’s.  Not only does Nick get eaten by a shark but her friend Parker (Camrus Johnson) gets beaten up by a baseball-wielding assailant.  Another friend get run over by a car while out jogging.

And, of course, that shark is still swimming around the ocean, like it owns the place…

It makes sense that, after taking over the SyFy network, the sharks would eventually move over to Lifetime.  That said, Stalker’s Prey is an enjoyable melodrama, one that is quite likable in its cheerfully willingness to go over the top to get a reaction.  Mason Dye is memorably creepy as Bruce, who I assume was named after the mechanical shark from Jaws.  What I liked best about the film was the relationship between Laura and her mother.  The mother-daughter interactions between Cynthia Gibb and Saxon Sharbino felt very real and their relationship reminded me of my relationship with my own mom.  It definitely gave the film an extra layer of effectiveness.

Whether you call it Stalker’s Prey or Hunter’s Cove, it was a lot of fun and very entertaining.

Here’s The Trailer For Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


I can’t wait to see this film!  The title is a bit unwieldy but I’m intrigued by the combination of Frances McDormand and director Martin McDonagh.

Here’s the trailer.  It’s red band so you know it has to be good…

Here’s The First Full Trailer For A Little Film Called Justice League!


It says something about how terrible the previous DC films were that people are currently amazed that trailer for Justice League looks kind of fun.  That’s what trailers are supposed to do.  Let’s not forget how excited some people got over the trailers for Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad.

“OH MY GOD!  JARED LETO LOOKS GREAT IN THIS!”  Don’t deny it.  A lot of you yelled that.

That said, the trailer for Justice League does look kind of fun.  I might not see the movie but I’ll definitely rewatch the trailer.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: The Wrong Student (dir by David DeCoteau)


Y’all know that I usually avoid politics like the plague but this is just something that needs to be said:

The U.S. Government could stand to learn a little from a good Lifetime film.  A good Lifetime movie is not expensive (and usually can be viewed for free).  A good Lifetime movie does not demand that the audience watch it but instead, provides a good reason for you to sacrifice 90 minutes of your time.  A good Lifetime movie does not attempt to rob you of your individual freedoms and, in fact, it celebrates your right to talk back to the screen.  A good Lifetime movie delivers exactly what it promises.  A good Lifetime movie does not talk down to its audience.  A good Lifetime movie goes out of its way to keep its audience entertained.  If the U.S. government was more like a Lifetime movie, we wouldn’t have spent the past 17 years dealing with one tedious situation after another.  If the U.S. government was more like a Lifetime movie, life would be a lot more fun and twitter far less annoying.

I found myself thinking about this as I continued to clean out my DVR by watching The Wrong Student.  I recorded The Wrong Student off of Lifetime on March 11th.  I’m glad I did because The Wrong Student epitomizes everything that I love about Lifetime.

Add to that, it’s a film that proves something that I’ve always suspected — soccer is the source of all evil.

Maddie (Evanne Friedmann) is a teenager who loves two things: soccer and the new soccer coach.  The new coach is Dominic (Jason-Shane Scott), who has amazing pecs and abs.  How in love with Dominic is Maddie?  Well, she’s so in love with him that she’s willing to do almost anything to keep him around.  Does that mean that Maddie is willing to poison the old soccer coach?  It sure does.  Does that mean that Maddie is willing to fake an injury so she’ll have an excuse to get naked in the locker room while a mortified Dominic hides his eyes?  Of course!  What about pretending to get drunk at a party and then begging Dominic to give her a ride home?  Hey, who hasn’t done that?  In fact, Maddie is so obsessed with Dominic that she’s even willing to murder her ex-boyfriend.

Maddie’s pretty, intelligent, and apparently her family has some money but she sure does have some issues.  Personally, I blame the soccer.

Amber (Kennedy Tucker) is also on the soccer team.  Amber is living with her Aunt Kelly (Jessica Morris).  Obviously, Amber knows that Dominic is too old for her but he’s exactly the right age for Kelly!  When Maddie realizes that Kelly and the coach are getting close, can you guess what happens?

Anyway, The Wrong Student is a lot of fun.  David DeCoteau has directed a lot of “wrong” films for Lifetime, including The Wrong Roommate and The Wrong Child.  He knows exactly how to make one of these films entertaining and The Wrong Student is an enjoyably self-aware melodrama.  Evanne Friedmann is wonderfully unhinged as crazy Maddie and Jason-Shane Scott looks great without a shirt on.  The Wrong Child is a wonderfully entertaining example of just how much fun a Lifetime movie can be.

Everything should be more like a Lifetime movie.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Forgotten Evil (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)


Earlier tonight, as part of my continuing effort to clean out my DVR, I watched Forgotten Evil!  I recorded Forgotten Evil off of the Lifetime Movie Network on March 12th.

As soon as the words, “The Asylum Presents” appeared on the screen, I knew that I was going to love Forgotten Evil.  Though the Asylum may be best known for the Sharknado franchise and several subversively entertaining mockbusters, they’ve also produced several films for Lifetime.  An Asylum Lifetime film is always delightfully melodramatic and a lot of fun.  My optimism only increased when I discovered that Forgotten Evil was directed and written by the man behind Sharknado, Anthony C. Ferrante.

“This is going to be fun!” I thought and it turns out that I was right.

Forgotten Evil opens with a woman in a bag being dumped over the side of a boat.  The opening scenes have a surreal, almost dream-like feel to them.  Ferrante does a good job of creating a properly ominous atmosphere.  As I watched that bag crash into the water, I was reminded of my own rather morbid fear of drowning.  Fortunately, the woman in the bag survives.  Unfortunately, when she’s found floating by the shore, she has absolutely no idea who she is.

That’s right!  Jane Doe (played by Masiela Lusha) has amnesia!  Even though she does occasionally have flashes of memory, she can’t put together what they all mean.  She has no idea who she was or why she was dumped in the water.  Eventually, she starts using the name Renee but that’s just because she saw a boat named Renee before she nearly drowned.

Amnesia, needless to say, is always a good way to start an intriguing story.  I mean, let’s be honest.  The idea that people can suddenly forget everything is really quite fascinating.  It’s impossible not to wonder what you would do if you were in the same situation.

Despite having no idea who she is, Renee tries to start a new life for herself.  A nurse and a police officer become her new BFFs.  Her therapist becomes her new parental figure.  She even gets a job and a new boyfriend (played by Kyle McKeever), one who is surprisingly good at karaoke!  That’s really not too bad for someone who, just a few weeks previously, was being dumped over the side of the boat.

Except, strange things keep happening.  She loses her job when semi-explicit Polaroids mysteriously appear on her desk.  She continues to have flashes of disturbing images and she’s convinced that someone tried to drown her while she was taking a bath.  She thinks that she sees a mysterious man following her around.  And that perfect new boyfriend of hers?  Well, he appears to be just a little bit too perfect.  It’s hard not to suspect that he’s hiding something.  Especially when he takes her to an isolated cabin which, in a Lifetime movie, is never a good sign…

I enjoyed Forgotten Evil.  This is pure and enjoyable melodrama, well-directed by Anthony C. Ferrante and featuring all sorts of twists and turns.  Masiela Lusha is likable and sympathetic in the main role.  All in all, this is a fun Lifetime movie.  Keep an eye out for it.