Hail, Hero! (1969, directed by David Miller)


After going away to college, Carl Dixon (25 year-old Michael Douglas, in his film debut) has returned to his rural hometown.  Though Carl comes from a family with a long military tradition, he’s against the war in Vietnam and is considered to be a hippie by his family.  As soon as his stern father (Arthur Kennedy) sees Carl, he sits him down in the kitchen and, after declaring that no one is going to mistake his son for a girl, cuts his hair.  Meanwhile, Carl’s mother (Teresa Wright) stays out of the conflict between her husband and her son while Carl’s older brother (Peter Strauss) continues to resent Carl for the accident that injured his spinal cord and kept him from going off to war.

Carl has an announcement to make.  Despite being against the war in Vietnam, he’s joined the army.  He will soon be going overseas, where he’ll get a chance to be a hero and where he says he hopes to love the enemy.  No one in his family can understand his decision, though they certainly spend a lot of time talking about it.  Carl can’t explain it either, though he certainly keeps trying.  Eventually, Carl ends up going for a swim with a local girl (Deborah Winters), smoking weed with a woman who lives in a cave with a mummified baby, and painting the family barn with a mural that’s supposed to explain it all.

Hail, Hero! is an extremely talky film that wants to say something about the war in Vietnam but it doesn’t seem to know what.  The film’s too sincere in its confusion to be a disaster but it’s also too muddled to really be effective.  Carl is opposed to the war but he drops out of college and enlists because it’s what his father would have wanted him to do but his father doesn’t seem to be impressed with the decision and Carl doesn’t seem to like his father to begin with so why volunteer for something that you find to be immoral?  The film would have been effective if Carl had been drafted into the war and had to choose between reporting for duty or fleeing to Canada.  But having him drop out of college and volunteer to serve makes it more difficult to sympathize with him when he talks about how opposed he is to the war.

If the film gets any attention today, it is probably because of Michael Douglas in the lead role.  This was Douglas’s film debut.  He was 25 when he made the film and he was already a dead ringer for his father.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t give a very good performance.  He’s miscast in the lead role.  Carl Dixon is supposed to be insecure and conflicted.  Insecure is not something that comes to mind when you think about Michael Douglas.  Instead, Carl just comes across as being petulant and self-righteous.  Hail, Hero! tries to say something about the war in Vietnam but Carl Dixon’s the wrong messenger.

Under Siege (1986, directed by Roger Young)


Let’s say that you are the governor of Arkansas and, once again, your state is running out of money and will soon not be able to afford to pay its bills.  What do you do?

That was the problem facing Governor Bill Clinton in 1986.  His solution was to allow a big Hollywood production to come down to Little Rock and film someone throwing explosive devices at the state capitol.  The capitol building at Little Rock looks like a smaller version of the capitol building in Washington D.C.  The producers of Under Siege needed to shoot a scene where terrorists attempt to blow up Congress.  Even though the state capitol wasn’t actually blown up in the film, the dome did end up with extensive burn marks that were visible for years afterwards.  Many people in Arkansas were not amused that they had to allow a film crew to set their capitol on fire just to pay the bills.  Still, if Bill Clinton hadn’t agreed to blow up the state capitol building, Arkansas could have gone bankrupt and then he probably would have lost his reelection bid in 1986.  If Bill Clinton wasn’t reelected, he never would have been elected to the presidency in 1992, Hillary Clinton would never have been elected to the Senate in 2000 and, in 2016, the Democrats wouldn’t have been stuck with the only possible nominee who could have actually lost to Donald Trump.  When you look at it that way, Under Siege is one of the most significant films ever made.

As for the film, it’s a 3-hour, made-for-TV movie about what happens when Islamic extremism hits home.  Notorious terrorist Abu Ladeen (Thaao Penghlis) has managed to sneak into the United States and is hiding out in Detroit.  He directs a series of attacks on beloved American institutions.  Not only is the Capitol Building bombed but a mall is also attacked.  While President Maxwell Monroe (Hal Holbrook, who was born to play presidents) tries to keep America from falling apart, his hawkish advisers tell him that now is the time to launch a strike against Iran, despite Iran claiming to have nothing to do with the attacks.  Only the director of the FBI, John Garry (Peter Strauss), and the Secretary of Defense, Andrew Simon (Paul Winfield), argue that the president should exercise caution.  Garry is convinced that the attacks are the result of homegrown, domestic extremism and not an international conspiracy.  Garry is a very hands-on FBI director.  He’s the type of FBI director who will chase a terrorist down a street in Washington D.C.  Let’s see James Comey do that shit.

Under Siege probably seemed outlandish in 1986 but it seems prophetic today.  The film’s depiction of both terrorism and the government’s shady response to it turned out to be accurate.  That doesn’t mean that it’s a very good movie.  It was co-written by Bob Woodward of Watergate and Washington Post fame, so of course John Garry is righteous beyond belief and the solution to all of America’s problem begin with contacting a newspaper editor and blowing the whistle.  America may be under siege but a strongly-worded editorial is here to save the day.

Under Siege used to regularly show up on late night television and the DVD was popular overseas.  (In France, it was called Au Revoir, America.)  Not surprisingly, after 9-11, it vanished from circulation.  If you can find a copy, watch it and ask yourself, “Would I blow up my state capitol just to pay the bills?”

2015 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at 2015 by posting my picks for the best of Lifetime!  My nominees for the best Lifetime films and performances are listed below, with the winners starred and listed in bold!  Congratulations to all the nominees and winners and thank you for making this one of the most entertaining years in my long history of watching Lifetime movies!

deadly-adoption

Best Picture
Babysitter’s Black Book, produced by Robert Ballo and Ken Sanders.
Cleveland Abduction, produced by David A. Rosemont and Stephen Tolkin
*A Deadly Adoption, produced by Fritz Manger, Max Osswald, Will Ferrell, and Adam McKay.*
If There Be Thorns, produced by Richard D. Arredondo and Harvey Kahn.
A Mother’s Instinct, produced by Oliver De Caigny and Timothy O. Johnson
Patient Killer, produced by Barbie Castro.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, produced by Joseph Boccia, Don Carmody, and David Cormican.
The Spirit of Christmas, produced by Andrea Ajemian
Stalked By My Neighbor, produced by Robert Ballo.
The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, produced by Ian Hay.

Best Director
Jason Bourque for A Mother’s Instinct
Doug Campbell for Stalked By My Neighbor.
*Rachel Goldenberg for A Deadly Adoption*
Alex Kalymnois for Cleveland Abduction
Vanessa Parise for The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story
Casper Van Dien for Patient Killer

deadly-adoption-trailer

Best Actor
Shaun Benson in Kept Woman
Dan Castellaneta in The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story
*Will Ferrell in A Deadly Adoption*
Travis Hammer in The Bride He Bought Online
Adam Kaufman in A Mother Betrayed
Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor

Best Actress
Josie Bissett in A Mother’s Instinct
Anna Camp in Caught
Kimberly Elise in Back to School Mom
Kelli Garner in The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
*Taryn Manning in Cleveland Abduction*
Kelcie Stranahan in Stalked By My Neighbor

Best Supporting Actor
Ken Camroux-Taylor in Sugarbabies
MacKenzie Gray in If There Be Thorns
Richard Harmon in A Mother’s Instinct
*Patrick Muldoon in Patient Killer.*
Eric Roberts in A Fatal Obsession
Peter Strauss in Sugar Daddies.

Unauthorized Beverly Hills

Best Supporting Actress
Angeline Appel in Babysitter’s Black Book.
Barbie Castro in Patient Killer
Olivia d’Abo in Stolen From The Suburbs
Sarah Grey in A Mother’s Instinct
Jessica Lowndes in A Deadly Adoption
*Samantha Munro in The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story*

Best Adapted Screenplay
*Cleveland Abduction, written by Stephen Tolkin*
If There Be Thorns, written by Andy Cochran.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroewritten by Stephen Kronish and J. Randy Taraborrelli.
Seeds of Yesterday, written by Darren Stein.
Turkey Hollow, written by Tim Burns and Christopher Baldi.
Wuthering High School, written by Delondra Williams.

Best Original Screenplay
*Babysitter’s Black Book, written by Richard Kletter and Michele Samit*
A Deadly Adoption, written by Andrew Steele.
The Murder Pact, written by John Doolan
Patient Killer, written by Bryan Dick and Brian D. Young.
Stalked By My Neighborwritten by Doug Campbell.
Stolen From The Suburbs, written by Alex Wright

clevelandabduction

Best Cinematography
*Cleveland Abduction, Richard Wong.*
Fatal Obsession, Ronnee Swenton.
If There Be Thorns, James Liston.
The Murder PactBranden James Maxham.
Patient Killer, Bernard Salzmann
The Spirit of Christmas, Michael Negrin.

Best Costume Design
Grace of Monaco, Gigi Lepage
If There Be ThornsShanna Mair, Rebekka Sorensen.
Kept Woman
*The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Gersha Phillips.*
Seeds of Yesterday, Claire Nadon.
The Spirit of Christmas, Jennifer Lynn Tremblay.

Best Editing
Babysitter’s Black Book, Ely Mennin
Cleveland Abduction, Henk Van Eeghen.
*A Deadly Adoption, Bill Parker.*
A Mother’s Instinct
Stalked By My Neighbor, Clayton Woodhull.
The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, Allan Lee.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
*Cleveland Abduction, Dugg Kirkpatrick, Susan R. Prosser, Tina Roesler Kewin, Alan Tuskes, Alicia Zavarella*
Grace of Monaco
If There Be Thorns, Jenine Lehfeldt, Tana Lynn Moldovanos.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.  Jordan Samuel, Cliona Furey
The Spirit of Christmas
The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, Amber Crombach.

Best Original Score
Dangerous Company
Cleveland Abduction, Tony Morales.
Her Infidelity, Russ Howard III
Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story, Matthew Janszen
*The Murder Pact, Matthew Llewellyn.*
Sugar Daddies.  Steve Gurevitch.

heather-graham-if-there-be-thorns

Best Production Design
Cleveland Abduction, Derek R. Hill.
*If There Be Thorns, Linda Del Rosario, Richard Paris.*
A Mother’s Instinct, Jason Sober.
The Murder Pact, Caley Bisson.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.  Rocco Matteo.
The Unauthroized Beverly Hills 90210 Story

Best Sound
*The Bride He Bought Online*
Dangerous Company
If There Be Thorns
Stalked By My Neighbor
UnGodly Acts
Whitney.

Best Visual Effects
Becoming Santa
If There Be Thorns
Last Chance For Christmas
*Turkey Hollow*
When the Sky Falls
Wish Upon A Christmas

Tomorrow, I’ll post my picks for the worst 16 films of 2015!

A-Deady-adoption-dancing

Previous Entries In The Best of 2015:

  1. Valerie Troutman’s 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw in 2015
  2. Necromoonyeti’s Top 15 Metal Albums of 2015
  3. 2015 In Review: The Best of SyFy

Val’s Movie Roundup #14: Hallmark Edition


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Love Is a Four Letter Word (2007) – This was really disappointing. I could say something like shit is also a four letter word, but disappointing is really a better word for this movie. The movie is about three couples. The first are newlyweds. The second are an older couple who are getting divorced. The third are the two divorce attorneys handling each end of the older couples divorce. What’s so disappointing is that the beginning of this movie has some of the sweetest, affectionate, and genuine moments between two lovers I have seen in a Hallmark movie. However, it then just degenerates into a pitiful attempt at a 1940’s screwball comedy while trying to keep the emotions of the beginning of the film alive on top of cutting between the three couples to tell their stories in parallel. It doesn’t work! Why couldn’t the movie have stuck with the couple we met at the beginning and just tell a nice simple love story. Is it a sin to follow the principle of KISS when making a movie? That being Keep It Simple Stupid! There’s no reason to waste your time on this movie.

JacksFamilyAdventures1s2

Jack’s Family Adventure (2010) – This movie is okay, but that’s the problem. It’s so okay that it’s not really worth watching. A guy played by Peter Graves dies and leaves a cabin to his son played by Jonathan Silverman. No! I’m not going to make that joke.

Jack decides to take his family to said cabin because we all know that getting away from city life brings families together. While they are adjusting, a guy called Wild Bill (Peter Strauss) shows up. They all have a good time and the family emerges closer than when they arrived. That’s it! Like I said, it’s just so okay that boredom sets in pretty quickly. Not worth seeking out, but you’ll survive if you end up seeing it.

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Dear Prudence (2008) – Was Jane Seymour always this annoying? I think I have only seen her in Live And Let Die (1973). She is like the living embodiment of the wig from Lies Between Friends. Awful! Well, Seymour plays some TV show host who basically shows you life hack type stuff. She gets sent to a special place in Wyoming. It doesn’t take long for her to stumble upon a crime. I didn’t even know this was going to be a murder mystery going into it. I mean it doesn’t have “murder” or “mystery” in the title to tell me. Sadly, that is so common with Hallmark that I was honestly surprised when she came across blood on a carpet. However, I wasn’t surprised to quickly figure out this was actually shot in Canada. Little tip for Canadian productions trying to pretend they are in the U.S.: Don’t have your Canadian actors say the word “about”.

So in between fantasies of Jason showing up to cut off Seymour’s head, a murder mystery unravels. It’s not an interesting mystery by any means, but Seymour and her trusty side kick giving out all these stupid household remedies for everything will suck any fun you might derive from it right out of it. Skip!

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Murder 101: College Can Be Murder (2007) – This is easily the best entry in the Murder 101 series. Despite “murder” being in the title of the movie, it is actually all about Dick Van Dyke trying to get his bike back after it is stolen. It’s an old bike that has a lot of sentimental value. He of course hires his friend played by his son Barry Van Dyke to help him track it down. It’s so funny! Dick keeps seeing people on campus riding his bike around and tries to chase them down. He never catches them. He goes to the gym to try and get in shape in the futile hope that it will help him catch the thief. Barry keeps going around questioning people all about this bike. Posters are put up all around campus. There’s even a scene where Dick is in class and has what I can only describe as a spidey sense that his bike is nearby. He runs out into the hall to find the thief waiting for him on his bike. A hilarious chase ensues.

I would have totally loved this movie if that was what it was actually about. In reality, the stolen bike is just a subplot. I made up some of that stuff, but he does keep chasing after the bike, goes to the gym to gain speed, and Dick does put up posters. Why couldn’t the movie be one long joke about that bike? Instead, some college professor gets killed by eating an orange. At first it’s natural causes, but after Barry does some dumpster diving to retrieve the orange (how the hell did he do that?) they discover he was poisoned. It all winds up revolving around the saying of “publish or perish”. It’s a decent entry in the Murder 101 series, but I really wanted that bike movie instead.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #109: Sugar Daddies (dir by Doug Campbell)


On Saturday night, I watched the latest Lifetime film, Sugar Daddies!

Sugar Daddies

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was on Lifetime and it didn’t have a thing to do with football.

What Was It About?

College is expensive and law school even more so.  Can you blame Kara (Taylor Gildersleeve) for agreeing to become the mistress of the wealthy and considerably older Grant (Peter Strauss)?  Grant pays Kara $5,000 dollars a month, gives her a new car, and flies her around in a private jet.  All Kara has to do is be available whenever he demands her presence.

Except, of course, this is a Lifetime movie and nothing is ever that simple…

What Worked?

To be honest, Sugar Daddies is just a fun film.  Yes, it is dealing with a serious subject and, ultimately, it does come down on the side of being poor but honest.  But, before that, you get to look at all the nice clothes and all the well-decorated mansions and you get to enjoy all of the decadence that comes from being a rich man’s mistress.  Sugar Daddies may be a cautionary tale but it definitely knows how to enjoy itself.

This movie was directed by Doug Campbell, who has previously directed such Lifetime classics as Death Clique, The Cheating Pact, and Betrayed at 17.  As a director, Doug Campbell obviously knows how to make the perfect Lifetime film and how to strike just the right balance of melodrama and social commentary.  He knows exactly how far he can push things without going over-the-top and that skill is on full display in Sugar Daddies.

Plus, the film is really well cast.  Taylor Gildersleeve is a sympathetic and relatable as Kara.  Peter Strauss seems to be having a lot of fun playing his sleazy role.  Timothy Brennan is perfectly intimidating in the role of Peter, Grant’s bodyguard who is willing to do anything to protect his boss.  Ashley McCarthy and Samantha Robinson are also well-cast as Kara’s friends.

What Did Not Work?

Are you kidding?  This was Lifetime at its finest!  It all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I know this where you’re probably expecting me to talk about how I used to have an old, rich boyfriend who helped to pay my way through college but instead, I’d rather point out that Kara and I both own the exact same white dress with black trim!  I was beyond excited when I saw that and plus, it really made me root for Kara because she was someone who I could go shopping with.

Lessons Learned

Private jets are the bomb and we could all use an extra $5,000 dollars a month but sometimes, it’s better to just stick with that demeaning waitressing job.

And, if you do get an old, rich boyfriend, don’t let him talk you into playing the choking game.

Because that never ends well!