Horror on TV: Tales From The Crypt 5.9 “Creep Course” (dir by Jeffrey Boam)


For tonight’s excursion into televised horror, how about a little mummy-related terror!?

That’s what you get this episode of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt!  From season 5, here is the ninth episode — Creep Course!  What happens when you mix the principal from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the brain from the Breakfast Club with a mummy?  Mayhem!

This episode originally aired on November 10th, 1993.

Val’s Movie Roundup #19: Hallmark Edition


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Safe Harbor (2009) – As far as Hallmark movies go, this was one of the best I’ve seen. Although, it’s almost like it’s 20 years past when it should have been released. It’s about a retired couple played by Nancy Travis and Treat Williams. One day a judge shows up who knows Williams and just dumps a couple of toubled kids on them who need a place to stay. It’s a little of the blue, but okay cause Williams gives a bit of background later. Turns out Williams once punched a cop after that officer shot his dog. Apparently, Williams had been living under a bridge. It’s after that he joined the Merchant Marine. Quite a lot of important information that his wife apparently didn’t know after all those years. I almost expected him to say I also used to go by the name Arnold Friend and did something really bad once.

Of course the judge finds a way to dump a few more kids on them. The couple steps up and decides to take care of them. They meet a little resistance from a lady in Social Services, some of the locals, especially after a fire, and one of their mothers, but for the most part it’s just getting the kids over their issues. Doing that, the movie works. It just feels like something that should have been released in 1989 as it feels reminiscent of episodes of MacGyver.

Since Mystery Woman: Game Time felt the need to censor the word “butt” in the phrase “pain in the butt”, I was rather shocked that not once, but twice, Travis and Williams try to have sex before being interrupted by the kids.

This is one of the good ones.

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Notes from the Heart Healer (2012) – This has to be the most forgettable of the Hallmark movies I have watched so far. It’s a movie technically, but barely. It’s the third film in a trilogy and I’ve only seen this one. It’s about a writer who seems to be an advice columnist type. A lady turns up at one of her book signings. She has been fired, has no place to stay, and has a baby she can’t take care of. She tries to turn to the writer for help, but when the writer’s husband shows up, she runs away. Later on she drops the baby off at the writer’s doorstep.

What follows is a very forgettable story of the writer mulling over a child she had to give up for adoption and what to do with the baby she now has in her hands. There were only two parts that were memorable. First, during the film the writer jots down some diary entries and in one she mentions that cutting the baby in two story. Honestly, I’m not sure why, but what was memorable was that she felt the need to refer to it as a decision made by “Biblical” King Solomon. A war on Christmas type thing where we want to make sure you don’t divorce the widely known story from it being in the bible? I’m really just guessing. It just stuck with me like hearing someone say “up twice down twice” when saying the Konami code. Just not something I think I’ve ever heard someone feel the need to do when that story is referenced. The second thing is when the husband reacts to something about the baby in kind of an asshole manner, for lack of a better word. But it doesn’t really go anywhere.

There, that those are the things I strongly remember tells you how forgettable this one is. Maybe the first two were better. I’ll probably find out eventually.

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Mystery Woman: Vision of a Murder (2005) – Once again, we join Kellie Martin and Clarence Williams III for another murder mystery. I haven’t mentioned her in my earlier reviews of these movies, but there is a character played by Nina Siemaszko who is basically Martin’s Beth Davenport from The Rockford Files. She’s an attorney who is frequently part of the case and definitely is in this one. In this one Martin joins Siemaszko to go to a spa and take photographs of the place. Siemaszko is going there for the spa. It’s not just a spa, but a place that does plastic surgery and other such beauty treatments.

It’s run by Charles Shaughnessy so you know something is up. But just in case you didn’t, Felicia Day is in this looking and acting like “the dog who gets beat” in that lyric from the Alice In Chains’ song Man In The Box. She might as well be wearing a sign around her neck that says “I’ve got secrets to tell.”

Describing much more is spoiling it. A dead body turns up at the spa and Day turns out to be psychic. There is a funny scene where Kellie Martin pretends to be a doctor. Funny, since she’s most famous for her role on ER. And finally, that when you get near the ending, no, it isn’t clever enough to end the way you hope.

Still, decent entry in the series and one of two of them that Kellie Martin directed herself.

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Second Chances (2013) – Yet another Hallmark romance, right? Well, not exactly. Don’t get me wrong, there is a couple, but that’s not really where the story is. The story is with her kids. It’s also a Larry Levinson Production so apparently that means they must include goofs with technology. Not sure why that’s a thing, but it seems to be.

But let’s back up here. The story begins with a firefighter and a 911 dispatcher. They kind of know each other from going back and forth on the radio during calls, but they’re really still strangers. He gets injured and needs to spend some serious downtime according to his doctor played by James Eckhouse of Beverly Hills, 90210 fame. He’s quite good and makes the most of the few scenes he’s in. The dispatcher gets her hours cut back and decides to rent out a room at her house to make up the difference. The firefighter decides to move in. That’s this movie’s excuse for the boy and girl to spend time together.

However, this is when the kids kind of take over the movie. They know that their Mom needs money so they decide to start charging residents of a nursing home a dollar for reading to them. These parts are the best parts of the film. It’s actually a shame that there had to be other parts cause if they had made that the whole film and let it go deeper then it could have been even better. But they don’t, so we do get a little romance between the two as well as some backstory on them. It really isn’t worth going into because you’re watching this for the kids and the two tech goofs.

The first tech goof comes really early in the movie. They obviously thought no one would notice and I don’t blame them here, but considering what it would have taken to make it right, it’s pretty stupid. If you have a better version of this then the one I watched on TV and can prove me wrong, then I’m all ears, but the firefighter picks up a sealed copy of a game the kid is supposedly playing from their living room table and talks to the kid about it. The kid isn’t a collector or anything. That sealed copy of the game is what he is supposedly playing. It’s weird because the two games under it are open. Again, if you have a higher definition copy and see differently, then tell me. But here’s what I was able to capture.

Notice the top of the box that shouldn't be shining if it were really open.

Notice the top of the box that shouldn’t be shining if it were really open.

The second goof, there’s no mistake. Throughout the movie there is a fake 911 dispatch screen. Fake because it’s in a Hallmark movie, but not fake because it looks ridiculous. That is, until for reasons beyond me, they felt the need to give us a closeup of the terminal portion of it where we can see that it’s a DOS command line. It’s open to a directory called “C:\Users\Art Department\” and apparently someone has been typing random crap in and trying to execute it only to get error messages.

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Like I said though, this is one of the better Hallmark movies, and the credit goes to the story with the kids.

Shattered Politics #56: The American President (dir by Rob Reiner)


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Way back in October, around the same time that I first decided that I would do a series of reviews of political films and that I would call it Lisa Gets Preachy (subsequently changed to Shattered Politics), I noticed that the 1995 film The American President was scheduled to be shown on TVLand.

“Hey,” I said, “I’ve definitely got to watch and review that!”

So, I set the DVR and I recorded The American President.

And then, I just left it there.

You have to understand that it’s rare that I ever leave anything unwatched on my DVR.  Usually, within an hour of recording a program, I’ll be watching it.  I have even been known to go so far as to make out very long lists of everything that I have on the DVR, just so I can make check them off after I’ve watched.  As a general rule, I am way too obsessive compulsive to just leave anything sitting around.

But, for whatever reason, I could never work up any enthusiasm for the prospect of actually watching The American President.  I knew that, eventually, I would have to watch it so that I could review it.  Unlike those folks criticizing American Sniper on the basis of the film’s trailer, I never criticize or praise a film unless I’ve actually watched it.  But  I just couldn’t get excited about The American President.

Can you guess why?  I’ll give you a hint.  It’s two words.  The first starts with A.  The second starts with S.

If you guessed Aaron Sorkin, then you are correct!  Yes, I do know that Sorkin has a lot of admirers.  And, even more importantly, I know that it’s dangerous to cross some of those admirers.  (I can still remember Ryan Adams and Sasha Stone insanely blocking anyone who dared to criticize the underwritten female characters in Sorkin’s script for The Social Network.)

But what can I say?  As a writer, Aaron Sorkin bothers me.  And since Sorkin is such an overpraised and powerful voice, he’s that rare scriptwriter who can actually claim auteur status.  The Social Network, for instance, was not a David Fincher film.  It was an Aaron Sorkin film, through and through.

And, after having to deal with three seasons of the Newroom and countless Aaron Sorkin-penned op-eds about why nobody should be allowed to criticize Aaron Sorkin, I’ve reached the point where dealing with all of Aaron Sorkin’s signature quirks is a bit like listening to the drill while strapped into a dentist’s chair.  I am weary of pompous and egotistical male heroes who answer every question with a sermon.  I am tired to endless scenes of male bonding.  I have had enough with the quippy, quickly-delivered dialogue, all recited as characters walk down an endless hallways.  I have no more sympathy for Sorkin’s nostalgic idealism or his condescending, rich, white dude version of liberalism.

Most of all, I’m sick of people making excuses for an acclaimed, award-winning, highly-paid screenwriter who is apparently incapable of writing strong female characters.  I’m tired of pretending that it doesn’t matter that Aaron Sorkin is apparently incapable of viewing female characters as being anything other than potential love interests or silly distractions who need to be told to go stand in a corner while the menfolk solve all the problems of the world.

Fortunately, as a result of The Newsroom, quite a few critics are finally starting to admit what they always knew to be the truth.  Aaron Sorkin is not the messiah.  Instead, he’s a somewhat talented writer who doesn’t understand (or, in my opinion, particularly like) women.  At his best, he’s occasionally entertaining.  At his worst, he’s pompous, didactic, and preachy.

And, of course, Aaron Sorkin is the man who wrote The American President.

So, The American President just sat there until a few days ago when I sighed to myself and said, “Okay, let’s watch this thing.”  As I watched it, I promised myself that I would try to see past the fact that it was an Aaron Sorkin-penned film and just try to judge the film on its merits.

But here’s the thing.  It’s nearly impossible to separate one’s opinion of Sorkin from The American President.  If you didn’t know that Sorkin had written The American President, you’d guess it after hearing the first few lines of dialogue.  The film, itself, was directed by Rob Reiner but it’s not as if Reiner is the most interesting of directors.  (What’s odd is that Reiner’s first films — This Is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, Stand By Me — are all so quirky and interesting and are still so watchable decades after first being released that you have to wonder how Reiner eventually became the man who directed The Bucket List.)  In short, The American President is totally an Aaron Sorkin film.

President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) is a liberal Democrat who, as he prepares to run for a second term, has a 63% approval rating.  However, when Shepherd decides to push through a gun control bill, he finds that approval rating threatened.  And then, when he listens to environmental lobbyist Sydney Wade (Annette Bening) and tries to push through legislation to reduce carbon emissions, his approval rating is again threatened.  And then, to top it all off, he starts dating Sydney.  It turns out that Sydney has protested American policy in the past.  And, since this is an Aaron Sorkin film, everyone outside of the Northeast is scandalized that President Shepherd is having premarital sex in the White House.

And, to top it all off, there’s an evil Republican named Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss) who wants to be President and is willing to use the President’s relationship with Sydney to further his own evil Republican ambitions.

But, ultimately, it’s not just those evil Republicans who make it difficult for Sydney and the President to have a relationship.  It’s also the fact that the President agrees to a watered down crime bill and that he does not hold up his end of the bargain when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.

“You’ve lost my vote!” Sydney tells him.

But — fear not!  There’s still time for President Shepherd to give a speech that will be so good and so brilliant that it will, within a matter of minutes, totally change every aspect of American culture and save the day.  How do we know it’s a great speech?  Because it was written by Aaron Sorkin!

Actually, I’m being too hard on the film and I’ll be the first admit that it’s because I’m personally not a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin’s.  But, to be honest, The American President is Aaron Sorkin-lite.  This film was written before the West Wing, before the Social Network, before that Studio Whatever show, and before The Newsroom.  In short, it was written before he became THE Aaron Sorkin and, as such, it’s actually a lot less preachy than some of his other work.  It’s true that, much like The Newsroom, The American President is definitely Sorkin’s fantasy of how things should work but at least you don’t have to deal with Jeff Daniels throwing stuff or Emily Mortimer not knowing how to properly forward an email.

Instead, it’s a film that will probably be enjoyed by those who share its politics.  (And, make no mistake, The American President is more interested in politics than it is in the love story between Andrew and Sydney.)  Michael Douglas does well in the role of the President.  Meanwhile, Annette Bening is so likable and natural as Sydney that it almost make up for the fact that she’s yet another Sorkin woman whose existence is largely defined by looking up to her man while inspiring him to do the right thing and forgiving him when he doesn’t.  Personally, I would have been happy if the film had ended with Sydney telling the President, “Thanks for finally doing the right thing but I have a life of my own to lead.”

But that wouldn’t be the Sorkin way.