Let’s Talk About The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)


Yesterday was Sharknado Day.

What is Sharknado Day?  If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.  Sharknado Day is the day that the latest chapter in The Asylum’s Sharknado franchise premieres on SyFy.  That’s the day when people like me cause twitter to go over capacity tweeting about the film.  That’s the day good people all across America try to count the number of celebrity cameos while also trying to keep track of all of the homages and references to past movies that are always waiting to be found in every Sharknado Film.  Yesterday was the sixth Sharknado Day since 2013 and, if we’re to believe our friends at The Asylum, it was also the last Sharknado Day.

Is it true?  Was The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time truly the final Sharknado?  Perhaps.  But somehow, I have a feeling that the flying sharks will return someday.  Critics have always underestimated the production savvy of The Asylum and I wouldn’t be shocked if, after a year or two of nostalgia, we saw Sharknado 7: A New Beginning.

But if The Last Sharknado was truly the final Sharknado, then it can be said that the franchise truly went out on a high note.

The plot — well, usually, the conventional wisdom is that the plot of a Sharknado movie really doesn’t matter.  Usually, it’s assumed that all a Sharknado film needs is a lot of shark mayhem and snarky humor.  And that’s true, to an extent.  And yet, I still found myself getting caught up in The Last Sharknado‘s storyline.  It all deals with Fin (Ian Ziering), April (Tara Reid), the head of a robot version of April (again, Tara Reid), Nova (Cassandra Scerbo), and Skye (Vivica A. Fox) traveling through time, hopping from period to period.  Fin and April’s goal is to stop the first Sharknado and to save the life of their son, Gil.  Nova wants to save the life of her grandfather, even though that might change history to the extent that she would never become a great shark hunter.  As for the robot head … well, she develops an agenda of her own, one that really has to be seen to be believed.

The film has a lot of time travel and, of course, the journey from period to period allows for several celebrity cameos.  When Fin ends up in Arthurian Britain, Neil deGrasse Tyson pops up as Merlin.  During the Revolutionary War, a somewhat sarcastic General Washington is played by Darrell Hammond.  Dee Snider plays a sheriff in the old west.  Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott show on the beach in the 60s.  Touchingly, the film even finds a way to include the late John Heard in the action.  (Heard played a key supporting role in the first Sharknado.)  I’m a history nerd, so I enjoyed all of the time travel.  I especially enjoyed the film’s portrayal of Benjamin Franklin as a rather bitchy eccentric, largely because it’s often forgotten that Franklin was, in real life, a bit of a bitchy eccentric.

(Add to that, how can you resist a film the features both dinosaurs and flying sharks?)

The film takes a surprisingly dark turn during the second hour, as Fin and Skye spend some time in a dystopian future and Nova tries to change history by saving her grandfather’s life.  When Fin points out that doing so will change history and that, for Nova to become a great shark hunter, her grandfather has to die, Nova calls him out for being self-centered.  To their credit, both Cassie Scerbo and Ian Ziering play the argument totally straight and both give heartfelt performances.  Amid all of the comedy and the shark-related mayhem, the film develops a real heart.

That heart is at the center of The Last Sharknado.  To a large extent, the sharks are superfluous.  They’re carnivorous MacGuffins.  Instead, the film is about celebrating not only the bonds between Fin, April, Nova, and all of their friends but also the bond that’s been developed between the characters and those of us who have watched them over the course of six films.  Towards the end of the film, when Fin talks about what his friends and family mean to him, it’s clear that he’s also speaking for the filmmakers.  Just as Fin thanks his friends for sticking with him, the filmmakers take the time to thank the audience for sticking with them.  It was a heartfelt scene and it was the perfect way to end The Last Sharknado.

To those who do not celebrate Sharknado Day, it may seem strange to say that I got emotional while watching the final scene of The Last Sharknado on Sunday night.  Then again, is it any stranger than the idea of a franchise about a bunch of sharks flying through the air, spinning around in a funnel, becoming a major pop cultural milestone?

It’s a strange world and we’re all the better for it.

Back to School Part II #29: A Friend To Die For a.k.a. Death of a Cheerleader (dir by William A. Graham)


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Over the past couple of year, I’ve had so much fun making fun of Tori Spelling’s performance in the original Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? that I almost feel like I have an obligation to review a movie in which she gave a halfway decent performance.

That film would be another 1994 made-for-TV-movie.  It was apparently originally broadcast as A Friend To Die For but most of us know it better as Death of a Cheerleader.  That’s the title that’s used whenever it shows up on Lifetime.  There actually was a time when Death of a Cheerleader used to show up on almost a monthly basis but that was a while ago.  Lifetime has since moved on to other movies about dead cheerleaders.

Technically, as my sister immediately pointed out when I made her watch the movie, the title isn’t quite correct.  Though Stacy Lockwood (Tori Spelling) does try out for and is named to her school’s cheerleading squad, she never actually gets to cheer.  Instead, shortly after the school assembly in which her selection is announced, Stacy is found stabbed to death.  But really, Death of A Future Cheerleader doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

As for who killed Stacy … well, it’s no secret.  This is one of those true crime films where the murderer is not only portrayed sympathetically but is the main character as well.  Angela Delvecchio (Kellie Martin) was a high school sophomore who was obsessed with trying to become popular.  She looked up to Stacey and desperately wanted to be her best friend.  (Why she didn’t just offer to bribe Stacey, I don’t know.  Maybe she hadn’t seen Can’t Buy Me Love….)  When Stacey got a job working in the school office, so did Angela.  Of course, the school’s somewhat sleazy principal (Terry O’Quinn, coming across like John Locke’s worst nightmare) only made it a point to talk to Stacey and pretty much ignored Angela.  When Stacey applied to work on the yearbook, so did Angela.  When Stacey tried out for cheerleading, so did Angela.

In fact, the only time that Angela stood up to Stacey was when Angela was taunting the school’s token goth (played by Kathryn Morris).  That turned out to be a mistake because Stacey never forgave her.  When Angela invited Stacey to a party, Stacey was reluctant to go.  When Stacey did finally accept the invitation, Angela stabbed her to death.

A Friend to Die For/Death of a Cheerleader is based on a true story and the film tries to lay the blame for Angela’s crime on the affluent neighborhood she was raised in.  Just in case we missed the message, the film actually features a Priest (played by Eugene Roche) who says that the community put too much pressure on Angela to succeed.

Uhmmm….okay, if you say so.

Seriously, this is a pretty good little true crime film and both Tori Spelling and Kellie Martin give really good performances but this whole “It’s society’s fault” argument is typical, mushy, made-for-TV, bourgeois liberal BS.  Angela picked up the knife, Angela committed the crime, end of story.  That said, A Friend To Die For is pretty good as far as these movies go.  I already mentioned the performances of Spelling and Martin but also keep an eye out for Marley Shelton, who gets a really good scene in which she explains that she never liked Stacey that much while she was alive.

You can watch A Friend To Die For/Death of a Cheerleader below!

 

Film Review: Mother, May I Sleep With Danger (dir by Melanie Aitkenhead)


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Earlier tonight, I turned over to Lifetime and I watched the much hyped remake of Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?  Having watched, what can I say about it?

*sigh*

Seriously, I had such high hopes.  My hopes for this film were almost as high as I was the day I graduated from high school.  That’s pretty freaking high!

And really, can you blame me?  First off, the film was a remake of one of my favorite Lifetime films.  And, while I usually hate remakes, the original Mother, May I Sleep With Danger was so over-the-top and melodramatic that it practically demanded a Deadly Adoption-style remake.  The idea of mixing the original’s stalker plot with lesbian vampires just sounded so promising!  And, on top of that, James Franco was involved!

Up until I saw the movie tonight, I was under the assumption that James Franco would actually be directing the remake.  Well, he didn’t.  Mother, May I Sleep With Danger was directed by Melanie Aitkenhead and, considering that this was her feature debut, she actually did a pretty good job.  The film is full of atmospheric shots and Aitkenhead gets a surprising amount of mileage out of simply showing the movie’s vampires moving across the screen in slow motion.

Instead of direcing, James Franco served as executive producer and is credited with coming up with the film’s “original story.”  (The actual screenplay is credited to Amber Coney, who also plays one of the vampires.)  Franco also plays a theater professor who directs a production of Macbeth.  In his production, Macbeth is played by a woman and you know what?  That’s a great idea!  In fact, there were times that I found myself thinking that, if I had to choose between watching Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? and James Franco’s Macbeth, I would definitely pick Macbeth.

As for the rest of the film — well, it actually has absolutely nothing in common with the original Mother, May I Sleep With Danger.  The original film’s stars — Tori Spelling and Ivan Sergei — both show up in different roles but it would have been a lot more interesting if they had been playing the same roles.  What if Sergei’s psycho stalker actually didn’t drown at the end of the original and ended up teaching a college class on Victorian literature?  And what if his favorite student just happened to be the daughter of his former obsession (played, of course, by Tori Spelling)?  That would have been interesting!  Instead, Sergei is playing just any professor and Spelling is playing just any mother.

The majority of the film deals with Spelling’s daughter, Leah (Leila George), attempting to work up the courage to tell her mom that 1) she’s a lesbian and 2) she has a new girlfriend, named Pearl (Emily Meade).  What Leah doesn’t know is that Pearl is actually a vampire and is being pressured by her blood-sucking friends to turn Leah into a vampire too.  As well, nerdy and creepy Bob (Nick Eversman) has an unrequited crush on Leah.  When Bob discovers that Leah has a girlfriend, he starts plotting to break them up.

And there’s a lot that I liked about Mother, May I Sleep With Danger.  I liked that the film, unlike a few other Lifetime films that I’ve seen, was unapologetic about being sex positive.  I liked that the film presented an unambigiously positive portrayal of a same-sex couple.  I liked that the vampires were all stylish and enjoyed hanging out in cemeteries.  The film’s best scenes featured the vampires infiltrating frat parties and feeding on the date rapists within.  These were hugely satisfying scenes and I would have been happy if the entire movie had just been scene after scene of vampires attacking Brock Turner.

But despite all that worked about the movie, Mother, May I Sleep With Danger left me feeling disappointed.  After all the hype and the raised expectations and the commercials promising us a masterpiece from “the twisted mind of James Franco,” there was really no way not to be disappointed by the final product.  Unlike last year’s A Deadly Adoption, Mother, May I Sleep With Danger never managed to establish a consistent tone.  It didn’t seem to be sure whether it wanted to be a comedy, a drama, a horror film, or an elaborate send-up of the Lifetime aesthetic.  Whereas A Deadly Adoption was clearly a labor of snarky love, I couldn’t help but feel that Mother, May I Sleep With Danger had probably been made by people who don’t particularly like Lifetime films.  As such, it worked as neither an homage nor a parody.  Instead, it was just another movie about vampires and not a particularly original one at that.

And, hey, I like movies about vampires!  I’ve seen a few hundred of them.  I’ve certainly seen enough to know that Mother, May I Sleep With Danger didn’t bring anything new to the genre.

That said, I still love James Franco!  Seriously, how can’t I?

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Val’s Movie Roundup #27: Hallmark Edition


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Lead With Your Heart (2015) – At this point, I have seen 98 Hallmark movies. I think this is the best one I have ever seen. Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot to say either. The movie is about a couple played by Billy Baldwin and Kari Matchett. Their children are leaving for college and she gets a temporary job out of town. As a result, the two spend more time apart then they probably have in close to 20 years or more. What follows is just a nice little story about how they adapt to their situation. It doesn’t go the easy way and have one of them cheat, or almost cheat, then reconcile. That’s what you would expect. That’s not to say that some people don’t show interest in them, but instead of being a true temptation, it acts as a signal to them about how they need to change to keep their relationship together into this new territory. I especially liked the ending because it involved real compromise and not some fairy tale giving up success for something humble.

You have no idea how refreshing this was to see. Especially considering Hallmark then aired a movie called Just The Way You Are, which I will talk about, that is basically the same, except terrible.

For a Hallmark movie, I can’t recommend it enough.

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Family Plan (2005) – This is more of the standard middle of the road Hallmark movie based off of a plot device that would have made for a screwball comedy in the 1940’s. In this case, Tori Spelling’s company is taken over and for no other purpose then to give this movie a reason to exist, she is advised to pretend she is married. Seriously, this other lady gives her a ring, she puts it on, then she can’t get it off. So, she has to pretend to her boss that she’s married. She hires an actor to play her husband. She also picks up a daughter from her friend. You know how the rest goes.

This kind of movie sinks or swims on the charm of the actors involved. They are no Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, or Katharine Hepburn, but they work well enough. Spelling has never been a great actress, but she does a certain kind of part well and this is one of them. The other actors are in the same boat.

It does get a little boring because it’s so by the book, but that just means it’s a little below average. Like I’ve said before, it won’t kill ya.

One funny goof. In the credits, they forgot to capitalize this guy’s last name.

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Just The Way You Are (2015) – This movie on the other hand can kill you. It will make you beg for another Aurora Teagarden mystery movie where you can just watch Candace Cameron Bure run around like she’s high on cocaine. Also, you won’t be able to listen to Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are for awhile. At least there’s still She’s Got A Way!

It’s basically the same thing as Lead With Your Heart. It even used a licensed song like Lead With Your Heart did. In this case, it’s the original. In Lead With Your Heart, it was a cover of Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong. A couple a ways into their marriage are getting stale in their relationship. Unfortunately, Candace Cameron Bure’s character works for a matchmaking company that uses stupid rules for making relationships work. Yep, it’s one of those movies.

Bure’s idea is for her and her husband to start blind dating while following the rules. It’s all a bunch of boring and stupid nonsense. I remember when that book The Rules came out in the 90’s. Why are we still doing this stuff 20 years later? It’s always the same thing. Yes, statistically certain things show up as significant, but of course following them blindly won’t work. Human beings are far more complex than any set of rules you can attempt to derive through study of them. This isn’t news, and we don’t need yet another movie to remind us of this fact.

Don’t watch this one.

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Perfect On Paper (2014) – I usually save the computer screen goofs for the end of the review, but I think this time they belong at the beginning.

Near the start of the movie, they do a decent job of faking a site called SomebodyDateMe.com.

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But later in the movie, they show a horribly faked website for a fictional school called The Horrock’s School.

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Look at that thing! First, no school would have a webpage that looks like that in 2014. Second, notice the URL is a local file. Third, notice the specific HTML document they are looking at is called “donovan2.html”. Finally, notice that the URL clearly shows they did, or tried, to setup an XAMPP LAMP stack, then either couldn’t figure it out, or just didn’t run it for some reason.

The whole movie is kind of like that. It feels slapped together. It’s about a book editor who is offered a glamorous position in Los Angeles. The whole thing is about her friends trying to reshape her into an LA power girl stereotype to keep their major client played by Morgan Fairchild. Of course, it’s Hallmark, so there’s also a guy.

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See that little bit of grey peeking out from behind that bush? That’s the guy. She throws the coffee over her shoulder and hits him. If you don’t pay close attention, then you won’t see what looks like shears drop from his hand and it’s not mentioned. In other words, you’ll likely think this guy was just behind that bush for no reason except to have coffee land on him and meet her.

He’s the opposite of the “Perfect On Paper” guy that her friends want her to be with for her job. Of course, she was never the glamorous type to begin with. Here, I have to give them some credit because they went with a girl who honestly isn’t glamorous. She’s not especially attractive. That was really nice to see and it fit her character.

You know how it all works out. The only thing to mention is that since they want you to clearly see the difference between the main character and the other girls, questionable trendy clothes show up. I hope they burned this thing after they shot the movie.

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This one is definitely below average. Like I said, it feels slapped together, people kind of stumble through it, and you just want it over with.

Lead With Your Heart is the one to go with here.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? (dir. by Jorge Montesi)


Last night, I watched on old movie on the Lifetime Movie Network.  The name of that movie?  Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?

Why Was I Watching It?

Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? pops up on the Lifetime Movie Network like constantly and it’s always advertised as “the cult classic: Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?”  Now, to be honest, the entire Lifetime Movie Network is something of a cult classic but Mother, May I Sleep With Danger is the only film shown on that network that is actually advertised as being “a cult classic.”  I mean, even something like Confessions of a Go Go Girl is usually advertised as if it’s a perfectly normal, totally serious movie.   Therefore, I figured, if even Lifetime realizes that Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? is a cult film then it must be the most culty cult film ever made.

Plus, just from the title, I think I was justified in assuming that at some point, someone would be heard to utter the line, “Mother, may I sleep with danger?”  In fact, beyond the whole cult film thing, that was actually my main reason for watching the movie.  I wanted to hear that line so I could clap my hands and yell, “We have a title!”

Seriously, I was really looking forward to that.

What’s It About?

 Laurel (played by Tori Spelling, who looks like a Modigliani painting in this film) is a college student who has an overprotective mother (Lisa Banes, who has a great first name) and who is recovering from an eating disorder.  Anyway, Laurel is also a competitive runner and she’s got a chance to go study abroad in China.  However, she also has a really possessive boyfriend named Kevin (played by an actor named Ivan Sergei) and soon Kevin is running her life.  Obviously, he’s dangerous and Laurel’s mother soon starts to dislike him.  Laurel gets mad at her mom before even asking if she can sleep with danger.  Anyway, Kevin eventually ends up locking Laurel up in a cabin that has 8 cross-shaped windows but ony one door.

What Worked?

The genius of this film was that nothing worked.  Absolutely nothing.  Here’s just a few of the more memorable lines from the film:

“Sex, mother!  The word is sex! Sex!”

“You will protect me from everyone and anything now, right? (giggle) Bye!”

“When I don’t see you, I bleed to death.”

“You don’t want me to climb a tower with a gun, do you?”

“I just never learned to trust love.”

“It’s gonna to take the type of time that breaks down mountains.”

And my personal favorite:

“If you’re lying to me, I’ll know by the way you make love to me.” (And let me just say, boys — nothing gets my panties on the floor quicker than hearing something like that.  Seriously, the idea of using fucking as a lie detector is one that needs to be explored.  It would certainly make daytime television more interesting.)

As the psycho boyfriend, Ivan Sergei gives a performance that would seem to indicate that somebody held a gun to his head and yelled, “ACT!  NOW!”  I mean, seriously, I’ve dated a few guys who, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have, but even silly, little naive me knows that if a guy can’t stop twitching and stammers nervously whenever you ask him about his past, chances are that the guy has some issues.  Watching Sergei’s performance here, you ask yourself, “What type of stupid moron would actually go out with this loser?”

Then you remember that this film stars Tori Spelling.  As I mentioned earlier, Tori does not look her best in this film but oh my God, I don’t even know where to begin.  I mean, I don’t want to be all catty here but seriously — when your head is that much bigger than the rest of your body, you’ve got some issues.

When we first see Tori, she’s debating Daisy Miller with a college professor and, amazingly enough, her comments about Daisy Miller’s fate manages to neatly parallel what happens in the movie.  It’s amazing how that happens.  Anyway, once English class is finished, Tori goes running across campus in the most horrid combination of black running capris and purple sports bra ever.  Now, I have to admit that I started running a few months ago.  It helps with my asthma and it’s something that I’ve grown to really enjoy but I always feel a little insecure while running because I’m also something of a klutz.  However, seeing Tori Spelling — with her gigantic head and her stick-like body — running around in that tacky purple outfit with her chicken-like arms and spindly legs flying all over the place, it filled me with all sorts of confidence.  From now on, if I feel insecure, I’ll be able to say, “At least I don’t look like Tori Spelling in Mother, May I Sleep With Danger.”

The mother of the title is played by Lisa Banes.  Her best moment comes when she finds out that Tori is planning on spending the summer in Guatemala with Ivan Sergei instead of studying abroad in China.  She bulges her eyes and literally spits out the line, “GUATEMALA!?  WHAT ABOUT CHINA!?”

What Didn’t Work?

Not once did Tori Spelling or Ivan Sergei say, “Mother, may I sleep with Danger?”  Not once!  Seriously, I sat there for 2 hours waiting to hear that said so that I could clap and cheer and be all cute about it.

“Oh my God!” Just Like Me Moment

There’s a scene where Tori is running across campus and she almost knocks over a few extras with her flying arms.  Back when I was dancing, I did the same thing a few times.  Though in my defense, if those other people hadn’t been in my way, they wouldn’t have gotten kicked.

Lessons Learned

There were several lessons learned.  One of them was that if you’re boyfriend twitches constantly, lies about his identity, and responds to questions about his day by breaking plates, don’t agree to go to an isolated cabin with him.  If you do, however, make sure that isolated cabin has a random canoe sitting nearby.  Seriously, that canoe is important.

The main lesson, I learned, however is not to ever allow myself to be filmed while running because, 20 years later, some snotty little bitch might see the footage and write a blog post making fun of me.