Cleaning Out The DVR: Lifeguard (dir by Daniel Petrie)

I had a long day on Wednesday so I unwound the only way that seemed appropriate.  I watched Road House, the classic film in which Patrick Swayze plays Dalton.  Dalton is the second-greatest bouncer of all time.  Who is the greatest?  None other than Dalton’s mentor, Wade Garrett!

Now, there’s a lot of reasons to love Road House but the performance of Sam Elliott in the role of Wade Garrett is definitely one of them.  If you don’t cry a little when Ben Gazzara’s goons murder old Wade, you just don’t have a heart.  In the end, of course, Wade’s bloody corpse gets left on top of the bar and, honestly, I think that’s the way Wade would want to go.

Anyway, watching Road House reminded me of just how awesome Sam Elliott is so I decided to follow it up by watching another Sam Elliott film, one that I had previously DVR’d off of TMC last week.  Filmed in 1975 and released in ’76, Lifeguard features a youngish Sam Elliott as the title character.  Even though the lifeguard in question might be named Rick Carlson, it’s hard not to think of this film as essentially being Wade Garrett: The Early Years.

When Lifeguardopens, Rick Carlson is 32 years old.  He’s been a lifeguard since he graduated high school.  In his youth, he was a championship-winning surfer.  Now, he’s an aging beach bum who is content to spend both the summer and the winter sitting in his lifeguard tower, watching life on the beach and occasionally saving someone from drowning.  Rick has a small apartment, several girlfriends, and a legion of adoring fans.  Younger lifeguards like Chris (Parker Stevenson, who would later co-star on Baywatch) view him as being a mentor.  Beachgoers view him as being an authority figure, the type that can go to if the surfers are being obnoxious or if some old perv is wandering around exposing himself.  17 year-old Wendy (Kathleen Quinlan) flirts with him and, against his better instincts and common sense, Rick often flirts back.  Despite a bit of gray in his hair and the fact that he gets winded a bit easier, Rick is still living the same life that he was living when he first graduated high school and he’s happy with that.

Or, at least, he is until he gets an invitation to his 15 year high school reunion and he discovers that everyone else is actually living a real life with real responsibilities.  When he discovers that his former girlfriend, Cathy (Anne Archer), is now divorced, Rick starts to think about what could have been.  When another former high school friend, Larry (Stephen Young), offers Rick a high-paying job selling cars, Rick finds himself wondering if it’s time to leave the beach and finally get a “real” job.

Lifeguard is an episodic film, a mix of comedy and drama that has an unexpectedly melancholy feel to it.  For the most part, the film asks us to sympathize with Rick’s desire to spend the rest of his life on the beach but, at the same time, it also doesn’t deny that there are drawbacks to Rick’s lifestyle.  Rick’s living the life he wants but he’s largely doing so alone, unable to build up any sort of personal connection with anyone who isn’t 16 years younger than him.  Interestingly enough, for a film called Lifeguard, we really don’t see Rick rescuing many people or doing anything else that you might expect to see a lifeguard doing.  Modern viewers will probably spend the entire movie waiting for Rick to give a speech about why being a lifeguard is a holy calling but that moment never happens.  Instead, it’s pretty clear that Rick mostly just enjoys hanging out at the beach and being a lifeguard allows him to get paid to do just that.  Watching the film, I could not help but compare Rick’s laid back attitude to the overly earnest lifeguards who populated Baywatch.  Mitch Buchannon would have kicked Rick off the beach for not taking the job seriously enough.  As well, as opposed to the vibrant cinematography that we’ve come to expect from beach movies, the visual style of Lifeguard is often moody and underlit.  At times, the beach itself looks like it’s suffering from an existential crisis.  The sand looks dull.  The skies above the water often appear to be gray and full of clouds.  Rick has apparently decided to spend the rest of his life on the ugliest beach in California.

It’s a flawed film, to be sure.  The attempts to mix drama and comedy often lead to uneven results and Anne Archer, Parker Stevenson, and Stephen Young are stuck with underwritten characters.  (The film’s script especially lets Young down, making Larry such an obnoxious character that it’s hard to believe that he and Rick would have ever been friends in the firs place.)  When the film does work, it’s due to the performances of Kathleen Quinlan and Sam Elliot.  Though her character is a cliché (the rebellious teenager who isn’t as worldly as she thinks she is), Quinlan does a good job of giving the character a personality that makes her more than just a stock temptation.  

The film belongs, of course, to Sam Elliott and he is perfectly cast.  As he would do decades later in The Hero, Elliott does a wonderful job of suggesting the little doubts that lurk underneath the laid back surface of his character.  His strongest moment occurs not on the beach but when Rick goes to his high school reunion and realizes that he no longer fits in with his former classmates, all of whom have careers and families.  Rick goes from being cocky to insecure in a matter of minutes and Elliott captures Rick’s emotions beautifully.  At that moment, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Rick.  One can understand why he’s tempted to leave the beach for the real world but, at the same time, one can also see that Rick understands that it might be too late for him to do so.  He’s spent the last 15 years in a perpetual adolescence and the rest of the world has moved on.  Elliott perfectly captures the moment when Rick realizes that his happiness has come with a price.  Rick is a flawed (if ultimately good) person but Sam Elliott gives a flawless performance in the role.  Just as surely was Wade Garrett rescued Dalton when Wesley’s men tried to stop the beer delivery, Sam Elliott saves Lifeguard.

Stroker Ace (1983, directed by Hal Needham)

In 1983, Burt Reynolds had the choice of appearing in two films.

He was offered the role of former astronaut Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment, a role that director/screenwriter James L. Brooks wrote specifically with Reynolds in mind.  The role was designed to play to all of Reynolds’s strengths and none of his weaknesses.  It was also a key supporting role in a film that was widely expected to be an Oscar contender.

Or, Reynolds could star in Stroker Ace, another car chase film that was going to be directed by his old friend, Hal Needham.  No one was expecting Stroker Ace to be an Oscar contender but Needham and Reynolds had made three similar films together and all of them had been hits at the box office.

Reynolds decided to star in Stroker Ace.  Jack Nicholson received the role of Garrett Breedlove and went on to win his second Oscar.  As for Burt, he later called Stroker Ace “the beginning of the end.”

The title character of Stroker Ace is a good old boy race car driver.  He’s a typical Reynolds character.  He grew up in the South and learned how to race cars by watching moonshiners outrun the police.  Now, he’s a star on the NASCAR circuit but he’s also arrogant and needlessly self-destructive.  Because this is a Hal Needham car chase movie, those are portrayed as being good traits.  When Stroker loses his former sponsor after pouring wet concrete on him, he’s forced to accept sponsorship from a crooked chicken mogul (played by Ned Beatty, who deserved better).  When Stroker’s not driving his car while dressed as a chicken, he’s romancing the prudish Pembrook Feeney (Loni Anderson).

It’s hard to describe the plot of Stroker Ace because it really doesn’t have a plot.  There’s a few scenes where Burt looks directly at the camera and smirks.  It’s supposed to remind us of Smoky and the Bandit but Stroker Ace doesn’t have the spectacular stunts that the first film had nor does it have the comedic energy of Jackie Gleason.  Instead, it’s got Jim Nabors as a mechanic named Lugs.  The former star of Gomer Pyle does say “Golly” but he doesn’t sing.

The main problem with Stroker Ace is that there’s no reason to root for Stroker Ace.  The Bandit was good at his job and cared about his car.  The same thing is true about the stuntman that Burt played in Hooper.  Stroker is a racer who would rather destroy his car than come in second and who loses his sponsorships because of his own stupid behavior.  Stroker Ace doesn’t care about anything so it’s difficult to get outraged over him having to wear a chicken suit while racing.

Reynolds later described turning down Terms of Endearment for Stoker Ace as being one of the biggest mistakes of his career.  When he talked about how the Terms of Endearment role won Nicholson an Oscar, Reynolds added that he didn’t win anything for Stroker Ace because “they don’t give awards for being stupid.”  It was a missed opportunity for sure and Reynolds would have to wait another fourteen years before Boogie Nights finally proved that he could do more than drive cars and smirk at the camera.

Despite the failure of Stroker Ace, Reynolds and Needham remained friends and even made two more film together (Cannonball Run II and Hostage Hotel).  Their friendship later served as the basis for the relationship between the characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

Horror on TV: Baywatch Nights 2.20 “Hot Winds” (dir by Parker Stevenson)

On tonight’s episode of Baywatch Nights, the wind is making people in California go insane!  Could it because the wind is hot and annoying?  Or is it that there’s a Satanist doing something evil out in the desert?

Don’t worry, California!  David Hasselhoff and Angie Harmon are on the case!

This episode originally aired on May 3rd, 1997.

Cleaning Out The DVR: My Christmas Prince (dir by Sam Irvin)

(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 193 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 My Christmas Prince off of Lifetime on December 3rd!)


That’s an actual headline that is seen in My Christmas Prince.  The prince in question is Prince Alexander Theodore William Hendricks (Callum Alexander), who is the next in line to take the throne in some little European country that’s definitely not the UK despite the fact that everyone there speaks with a British accent.

Everyone knows that Alexander as a prince, everyone but his girlfriend, Samantha (Alexis Knapp).  She just thinks he’s a diplomat and technically, he is.  It’s not so much that he lied to her about being royalty.  It’s just that he didn’t tell her the whole truth.  He wants to be judged based on who he is and not his royal heritage.  Of course, by not telling Samantha that he’s a prince, he also hasn’t told her that he will eventually be expected to return home and rule his country.  Samantha has plans of her own, which don’t involve being the Queen of a small European country that is definitely not the UK.  She’s just been hired to design a summer school program for every school in the Bronx!  The children need her!

(Personally, if I had the chance to be the ruler of a small country that pretty much only exists to support its royal family, I would say screw the children and catch the next flight to Monaco.)

Anyway, when Samantha decides to spend her Christmas with her family in Wyoming, Alexander decides to follow.  And no sooner has Alexander stepped into the local diner then a waitress immediately recognizes him as the crown prince of whatever country it is that he is from.  It turns out that she saw pictures of him online, attending a cocktail party with the royal family of Sweden.

(Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lifetime movie if the Internet didn’t somehow threaten to destroy everyone’s happiness.)

Anyway, it takes Samantha a few minutes to get used to the idea that her boyfriend is a royal prince.  Of course, her parents are excited.  The entire state of Wyoming is excited.  But you know who isn’t excited?  Alexander’s mother!  Nope, she is scandalized at the thought of Alexander marrying a common American.  She’d rather Alexander marry a baroness.  Could this possibly lead to a bunch of misunderstandings and unlikely visitors coming to Wyoming?

What do you think?

Every Christmas, it seems like there’s at least a handful of Lifetime and/or Hallmark films that feature obscure European royalty falling in love in small town America.  Once you’ve seen one of these movies, you’ve seen them all.  There’s not a surprising moment to be found nor a disparaging word to be heard in My Christmas Prince, which is a mildly pleasant but eminently forgettable movie.  To be honest, I don’t really demand too much from these movies but My Christmas Prince just didn’t work for me.  For a predictable movie like this to work, there needs to be a real chemistry between the two leads but there really didn’t seem to be much of a spark between Knapp and Alexander.  Much like the movie, they just seemed to be going through the motions.

I’ve often been asked which member of the Royal Family I relate to.  Usually, I say Pippa Middleton but, to be honest, it’s the little girl in the picture below:

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #21: Hidden Truth (dir by Steven R. Monroe)

(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 Sunday, December 4th!  Will she make it?  Considering that she only has a day left, probably not.  But keep checking the site to find out!)



I recorded Hidden Truth off of the Lifetime Movie Network on September 18th.  It premiered before that on Lifetime and I even live tweeted it but I didn’t record it until it re-aired on LMN.  I’m glad that I did that because, as I rewatched Hidden Truth, I was surprised by how much I had forgotten about the film.

Hidden Truth is one of those Lifetime films that takes place in a small town where everyone knows each other.  It tells the story of a girl named Zoe (Diana Hopper) who is upset because 1) her father, Pace (Brendan McCarthy), may have killed her mother, 2) he’s now an alcoholic, and 3) she’s being raised by her loving but overprotective aunt, Jamie (Sarah Lind).  Zoe is desperate to get out of town so she starts having an affair with a local rich guy, Michael (Shawn Christian).  She wants his money.  He claims to be in love with her….

And then, one day, Zoe turns up dead and floating in the river.  The sheriff (Parker Stevenson) immediately suspects that Pace got drunk and killed his daughter.  Soon, Aunt Jamie is the only person in town who believes that her brother is innocent.  Can she clear his name?  Can she solve her niece’s murder?  Can she uncover the hidden truth…

Ironically, for the viewer, there’s nothing at all hidden about the truth in this movie.  The movie actually opens with Michael murdering Zoe and dumping her body in the river.  So, from the start, we know who the murderer is.  The film instead becomes about watching Michael try to cover his track and wondering when Jamie will finally figure out what happened.

It’s actually a different approach from what we’re used to with Lifetime but I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about it.  The problem is that Michael really isn’t that clever.  He’s a sloppy murderer and he’s sloppy when it comes to covering his tracks and there’s no moment when you think to yourself that he might get away with it.  And since Michael is a thoroughly despicable and inept character, it’s not like you find yourself conflicted as you watch him try to cover his tracks.  At no point do you think, “He’s a bad guy but I kinda hope he gets away with it.”

I guess what I’m saying is that the Hidden Truth would have worked better if the truth had remained hidden until the final five minutes of the film.  Still, you have to give the filmmakers some credit for trying to do something different.

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #9: The Perfect Daughter (dir by Brian Herzlinger)


After I finished watching Anne of the Thousand Days, the next film on my DVR was The Perfect Daughter.  The Perfect Daughter originally aired on March 26th on Lifetime.  According to the imdb, it was originally called The Carpenter’s Daughter but I imagine Lifetime changed the title so that it could fit in with films like The Perfect Teacher.

(Add to that, The Carpenter’s Daughter sounds like it should be another one of those films where Tom Hanks argues that Jesus survived the crucifixion and ran off with the Magdalene.)

Anyway, the perfect daughter of the title is Natalie Parish (Sadie Calvano).  Natalie seems to have a great future in front of her.  She’s pretty, she’s smart, and she’s responsible.  She has the grades to get into the Ivy League college of her choice.  On top of all that, despite being shy, she has just been elected student council president!

Oh sure, not everything is perfect for Natalie.  She doesn’t have a boyfriend.  She’s frequently insecure.  She idolizes a mother that she’s never met and her father, Martin (Brady Smith), may be a hunky blue-collar type of guy but he’s also extremely over protective.  He worries that Natalie will grow up to be like her mother, who apparently was not the saint that Natalie believes her to be.

Martin grows even more concerned when, while driving home one night, he comes across his daughter in the middle of the road.  She went to a party, she got drunk, and she had sex with popular jock Sam Cahill (Reiley McClendon)!  Martin freaks out and takes his daughter to the hospital, causing her nonstop embarrassment at school.  He also demands that Sam be arrested for raping his daughter.

Of course, what Martin is overlooking is that Sam did not rape his daughter.  As Natalie tells him, the sex was consensual.  Martin is shocked but he’ll be even more shocked when Natalie reveals that she’s pregnant.

Complicating matters is that Martin is working for Sam’s father, the snobbish Bruce Cahill (Parker Stevenson).  The film also suggests that Martin may be in love with Bruce’s wife, Julie (Meredith Salenger).

What I was wondering, as I watched the film, is why Natalie was chasing after Sam when Martin’s business partner, Nick (Johann Urb), was so much hotter.  And he was also single!  Seriously, Sam was a nice guy and everything but Nick epitomized this sort of sweaty, manly glory, the type of sexy that otherwise seems to be limited to the guys that you see in pickup truck commercials.

ANYWAY — The Perfect Daughter may sound like a typical Lifetime film but actually, it’s not.  Though there is a little bit of melodrama towards the end, The Perfect Daughter is more of a character study of an overprotective father struggling to accept that his daughter is growing up.  The story has a bit more nuance than the typical Lifetime story but, at the same time, the decision to tone down the melodrama comes at a cost.  The Perfect Daughter is a well-acted and intelligent film but it’s not a particularly fun movie.

In the end, it’s okay but it’s no Perfect Teacher.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #132: His Secret Family (dir by Michael Feifer)

Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime original movie, His Secret Family!


Why Was I Watching It?

Last Friday, I not only cried and cried while watching the finale of Degrassi but I also attended a blue moon party that was held in downtown Dallas.  Needless to say, I spent most of Saturday recovering and we all know that the best way to recover from a crazy night is by watching the latest Lifetime original movie!

What Was It About?

Oh my God, poor Haylie Duff!  Earlier this year, she played a woman named Sarah who married a murderer in Til Death Do Us Part.  In His Secret Family, she again plays a woman named Sarah and, once again, she is married to a murderer!  Of course, in this case, her husband is not just a murderer.  He’s got another wife, another family, and another really big house.  It turns out that Sarah is actually the secret wife.

David O’Donnell plays the husband.  When he’s with Sarah, he claims that his name is Jason Goodman.  When he’s with his other family, he uses the name David Marcus.  So is it Jason or David?  Well, regardless of his actual name, he’s more than a little insane.  When he realizes that it’s simply too expensive to support Sarah and their son, Brandon, David decides to both vanish and to frame Sarah for murder.

However, Sarah happens to be best friends with the detective (Parker Stevenson) working her case.  Even though she’s a major suspect in a murder investigation, he allows her to leave town so she can go up to Santa Monica and track down her husband.

Oh, and did I mention that Brandon needs a bone marrow transplant?  And that only David is a match?

What Worked?

This movie was fun in a “how much more batshit insane can this movie get” sort of way.  It wasn’t just that David/Jason was a bigamist with rage problems.  No, this movie also made his a sociopath who coldly refused to do anything to save his son’s life.  Perhaps the film’s best scene was when Sarah confronted David about his secret life, just to have David calmly respond, “Do I know you?”  David O’Donnell was obviously having a lot of fun playing such an insane character and, as a result, he was a lot of fun to watch.

Add to that, since David had two families, he also had two houses.  And seriously, they were both totally to die for!  One thing that I love about Lifetime movies is that everyone owns a big house and the inside of the house is always so incredibly clean and tasteful.  For a hyperorganized germaphobe like me, a Lifetime house would be the equivalent of paradise.  And this film had two of them!

What Did Not Work?

The whole film was full of plot holes and while I usually say that it’s not necessary for a Lifetime movie to make sense, some of the holes in this case were rather deep.  For instance, I could believe that David would end up with two families.  And I could buy that David would eventually realize that it’s cheaper to only have one family.  But, with all that in mind, I never quite understood the whole point of David trying to frame Sarah for murder.  David was already easy enough to hate without tossing in a random murder.  If anything, David just seemed to making things unnecessarily complicated.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Much like Sarah, I often find myself driving to different towns and claiming to be a real estate agent just so I can take a tour of a nice house.  It’s fun!

Lessons Learned

Secrets, secrets are no fun.  Secrets, secrets hurt someone.