Lifetime Film Review: My Stepfather’s Secret (dir by Michael Feifer)


Bailey (Paris Smith) comes home from college and discovers that things have changed since she left.

For instance, her mother, Tina (Vanessa Marcil), is now a vegetarian!  Also, Tina’s suddenly really into exercise and yoga and stuff.  In fact, Tina seems to be happier than she’s ever been and that’s a good thing since Tina previously had some issues with alcohol.  Of course, that’s understandable when you consider that her husband was mysteriously murdered a few years ago.

So, why is Tina so happy now?

Meet Hugo (Eddie McClintock)!  Hugo is some sort of weird New Age massage therapist person and it turns out that he and Tina are going to get married!  They’ve known each other for like two weeks and they’re totally in love!  Bailey is like, “Mom, don’t you think things are moving too fast!?” and the previously cautious Tina is all like, “I love him!”

However, Bailey is convinced that her new stepfather has some secrets and it turns out that she’s right!  But what exactly are those secrets?  Why has he been using Bailey’s computer without permission?  Why is he using her webcam to spy on her?  Why is he constantly getting strange calls and why does he often seem to be distracted by something that only he sees?  Even more importantly, why is Tina acting so weird?  Whenever Bailey tells her about Hugo’s strange behavior, Tina just shrugs it off.  Has Tina been drugged or brainwashed and what, if anything, does that have to do with Hugo’s secrets!?

I have to admit that, as I was watching this movie, I kind of related to Bailey.  After my parents got divorced, I went out of my way to chase off any new guy who thought he was going to be my stepfather.  It wasn’t that I wanted my parents to get back together because I knew they were better off separated.  Instead, it was more that I resented the idea of some stranger suddenly showing up and expecting me to care about what he had to say or anything else.  For a few years, “You’re not my father” was my mantra.  You’re going to be stepfather?  No way!  Of course, for the most part, I was just being an immature brat and, eventually, both my mom and my sisters told me to grow up and knock it off.  Unlike me, Bailey has good reason to be suspicious of her stepfather.

In fact, you could argue that she has a few too many reasons to be suspicious of Hugo.  This film doesn’t leave much doubt that Hugo is a bad guy.  From the minute that he first appears, he might as well be carrying a sign that reads, “I’m Evil, pass it on.”  Amazingly, no matter how obviously evil Hugo may be, Bailey seems to be the only person capable of noticing.  In fact, everyone else seems to be so oblivious to Hugo’s evil that I suspect that the film was meant to be at least a little bit satirical.  With the exception of Bailey, everyone in the film is so incredibly dense that it’s hard not to believe that we’re not really meant to take any of them that seriously.

Anyway, we do eventually learn Hugo’s secret and it’s all pretty silly.  Hugo is not only evil and creepy but he also apparently has a thing about coming up with ludicrously overcomplicated schemes.  Fortunately, the action concludes at a cabin in the woods because it’s a Lifetime film and all true Lifetime films conclude at a cabin in the woods, or at least they should.

Anyway, My Stepfather’s Secret is an almost prototypical Lifetime film, with its untrustworthy male interloper threatening to tear apart an otherwise perfect mother/daughter relationship.  Usually, in these films, it’s the mother who knows best but, in this case, the role are reversed.  Enjoy it while you’re watching it and don’t worry about it afterwards.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #176: Bad Tutor (dir by Jeff Hare)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime film, Bad Tutor!

Why Was I Watching It?

After you watch enough Lifetime films, you come to learn a few things.  For instance, any film that’s called Bad Something is probably going to be worth watching.  Over the years, there have been Bad Students, Bad Teachers, Bad Doctors, Bad Husbands, Bad Assistants, and Bad Realtors.  Really, it was only a matter of time until they got around to a Bad Tutor.

(My hope is that they will follow this up with a film called Bad Tudor, just because I assume all sorts of crazy stuff was going on with the court of Henry VIII.)

What Was It About?

It’s a simple film about three people who have hopes and problems.

For instance, Kelly (Vanessa Marcil) is a widow who is hoping to find a new husband but who also has a rebellious teenage daughter.

Emily (Alex Frnka) is Kelly’s daughter.  She hopes to become a famous singer but first, she has to pass her chemistry midterm.  When the movie starts, she’s currently on the road to getting a D in that class.  Emily says that people are going to be too busy responding to her music to care if she passed chemistry.  Kelly worries that Emily won’t be able to get into a good college with that D following her around.

Devon (Charles Hittinger) is a chemist who claims to be a former teacher.  Devon hopes that he’ll be able to get Emily to fall in love with him, largely because Emily looks just like his dead girlfriend.  Devon’s problem is that he’s batshit insane and the only reason his girlfriend is dead is because he pushed her off of a cliff.

When Kelly meets Devon, she decides that he would be the perfect tutor for Emily.  Little does she suspect that Devon is actually … a bad tutor!

What Worked?

Vanessa Marcil gave a pretty good performance as Kelly.  I liked the fact that, as opposed to the typical perfect Lifetime mother, Kelly not only made mistakes but also owned up to them.

The film’s opening, which started with Devon proposing to his girlfriend and ended with him pushing her off of a cliff, was well-handled.

What Did Not Work?

Here’s the thing: when it comes to Lifetime movies, we all agree, to an extent, to suspend our disbelief.  We accept the fact that characters will sometimes act stupidly and we try not to hold that against them.

But, sometimes, you run into a character who is just so utterly stupid that, try as you may, you just can’t forgive them.  That was the case with Emily in Bad Tutor.  Not only was Emily something of a spoiled brat but she also turned out to be amazingly gullible.  After spending the first half of the movie making fun of the nerdy Devon, Emily changed her tune when Devon claimed to have a friend in the recording industry.  Never did Emily ask for any proof or anything.  Instead, she just ran away from home with Devon.  Looking over her actions, I have to say I’m surprised that she was only failing one class.

Finally, Emily did sing a few times and … well, let’s just hope that she gets into a good college.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I related to Emily, largely because I too was a rebellious teenager who couldn’t sing.

Lessons Learned

I didn’t learn anything because he was a bad tutor.

Cleaning Out The DVR: The Wrong Mother (dir by Craig Goldstein)


(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 187 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 The Wrong Mother off of Lifetime on April 8th, 2017!)

(aka The Wrong Mother)

The Wrong Mother is a pretty typical example of a type of Lifetime movie that I like to call a “Trust No One Film.”

These films always deal with the same basic plot.  Take a perfect family, consisting of a perfect wife, a perfect husband, at least one perfect kid, and a perfectly outspoken best friend.  Open the film by establishing that they all live in a perfect house.  Then, the wife makes the mistake of inviting a seemingly friendly person into the house and suddenly, things aren’t so perfect anymore.  Suddenly, the husband is being tempted.  The wife is being deceived.  The children are being brainwashed.  And the best friend usually ends up either dead or in the hospital.  It all happened because the wife trusted someone.  If only she had been willing to embrace her paranoia.

In The Wrong Mother, the perfect wife is Kaylene (Vanessa Marcil), who is run down by a SUV one day while she’s out jogging.  The perfect husband is Drew (Stephen Snedden), who works as an airline pilot and is often not home.  The perfect best friend is Samantha (Elizabeth Bond), who immediately realizes that the key to Kaylene’s recovery will be Kaylene washing her hair and not spending too much time in bed.  The two perfect children are twins and they’re just adorable.  And the perfect stranger is a nurse named Vanessa (Brooke Nevin).  After meeting Kaylene and Drew in the hospital, she talks them into hiring her as a home care giver.  Soon, Vanessa is lounging around the pool in a bikini and forcing Kaylene to take all sorts of pills.  Vanessa is so dangerous that she even wears Lolita-style sunglasses.  Samantha suspects that Vanessa might be hiding something…

And she’s right!

For one thing, Vanessa isn’t actually a nurse.  She’s just someone who was hanging out around the hospital.  For another thing, she knows that Kaylene had the twins via in vitro fertilization.  In fact, Vanessa donated the eggs.  Now, Vanessa wants the children for her own and she’s willing to go to any lengths to get them, even murder.

The lesson here?  TRUST NO ONE!

Anyway, The Wrong Mother is a fairly typical Lifetime film.  Once you’ve seen enough of these films, it becomes fairly easy to predict everything that’s going to happen and that certainly was the case with The Wrong Mother.  (At this point, I can usually guess how many commercial breaks will pass before the best friend has an unfortunate “accident.”)  The main reason to watch this movie is for the performance of Brooke Nevin, who delivers her snarky asides and rolls her eyes with such enthusiasm that she provides The Wrong Mother with a few enjoyable sparks.

Hallmark Review: Stranded In Paradise (2014, dir. Bert Kish)


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Based on the title you can basically guess where this film starts. It begins at a big company called Connor.com where after a little foreshadowing, Tess Nelson (Vanessa Marcil) is going to end up with James Denton’s character Carter McConnell who clearly lost his thumb in paradise and obviously needs someone to help him track it down. Actually she has been fired because the new boss wants to do some restructuring and she’s going to get the boot. This was shortly before she was going to go to Puerto Rico to a human resources convention since that was her job at Connor.com. Well screw getting fired, she’s going to go anyways. There might be a job there!

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As soon as she gets on the plane is where this movie starts to do things the way I like it. Sure, the plot ultimately nudges these two in a certain direction so that they will end up together, but it never really feels forced, shoved down our throats, or just flat of place. The two of them have a mix up on their plane seating. They both happen to have the bad luck of losing their luggage. They stay at the same hotel. Plot convenient coincidences sure, but nothing feels forced, for lack of a better word. We just spend some time with these characters, and they spend some time together.

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He used to have a job that kept him in one place, but now he does the lecture circuit as kind of a life coach/motivational speaker. She is finding that word has gotten out about her job loss so she is a bit of a pariah. Because the hotel they were both staying at isn’t the brightest when it comes to the construction work being done on it, an electrical fire starts in the middle of the night. Then something happens you’d never imagine. No, not that they both go to a friend’s home who spouts platitudes while a hurricane approaches. No, no, no. She finds a working pay phone in 2014.

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They then both go to Carter’s friend’s home. She used to be a Hollywood starlet, but when that dried up, she moved to Puerto Rico. She would be quite likable if they had dialed her back a little. She is so at peace, so I couldn’t care less about the hurricane, that you’d think she actually wants to die. It really is that bad. I can understand having been through many of them and understand that going into a complete panic is unnecessary, but it’s really like she’s totally oblivious to it. I’m sure you know where this leads.

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That’s right! After the hurricane seems to reverse direction like it’s a car in a different gear, a faked computer screen that uses a local URL shows up. During the hurricane the new boss at Connor.com was trying to get ahold of her. He figured out that with her gone things were kind of thrown into turmoil. Not only was she good at what she was supposed to be doing, but there were things that she was doing that didn’t show up in any paperwork.

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Of course they end up together. She is not only offered her position back at Connor.com, but a promotion to Vice President of Corporate Affairs since she really was doing more than her previous position. This is where I have a little problem with the story. I can understand that Carter would decide that he swung from the extreme of being only in one place all time to traveling all the time, but I’m not sure why she couldn’t find a way to strike a balance between the two. Instead, she goes back to Puerto Rico to catch him at the airport. However, I can kind of still get it because she did hold her previous position for 15 years. That’s a lot of time, and even if it doesn’t make complete sense, I can still buy her making that choice anyways.

This one is worth seeing.