Film Review: The Wedding Chapel (dir by Vanessa Parise)


Sarah (Emmanuelle Vaughier) is a painter who is frustrated because, despite her obvious technical skills, her work still lacks the spark of passion and imagination that it needs to be truly special.  Not only is her first show panned by a snooty art critic but her boyfriend dumps her on the same night!

Jeanie (Shelley Long) is a widow who is still adjusting to life as a single woman.

They are mother and daughter and together …. THEY SOLVE CRIMES!

No, actually, they don’t.  (Though I will say that I think a film or a show or a series of books about a mother/daughter crime solving team would be great and I’m a bit shocked that there aren’t more of them out there.)  Instead, what Sarah and Jeanie do is they return to the small town where they once lived.  It turns out that greedy developers want to tear down the family home. It’s all about eminent domain, which is a totally evil thing that should be condemned more frequently in the movies.

Anyway, it turns out that it’s not just the family home that’s due to be demolished.  The developers are also planning on tearing down the nearby chapel.  While Jeanie’s busy having flashbacks to her teenage years, Sarah’s getting involved in trying to save both the chapel and the house!  Helping out Sarah is a local politician and lawyer with the unfortunate name of Roger Waters (Mark Deklin).  Not helping Sarah is the local sheriff, who keeps arresting Sarah, tossing her in jail, and forcing her to wear one of those really unflattering orange jumpsuits.  Roger bails Sarah out so many times that he soon finds himself falling in love with her.  Sarah, however, doesn’t want to get tied down in a small town.  She has an artistic career to pursue, assuming that she can get in touch with her emotions.

Speaking of love, Jeanie is haunted by memories of her ex-boyfriend, Larry.  As far as Jeanie knows, Larry left for Vietnam and never returned.  She’s always assumed that he must have died during the war but what if …. well, let’s say that he didn’t die in the war.  And what if Larry (Barclay Hope) just happens to be living in that small town?

Oh my God, love’s all around!

First released in 2013, The Wedding Chapel is an exceedingly pleasant film.  Seriously, almost everyone in the film is extremely considerate and nice.  Even the oafish sheriff doesn’t mean to be a jerk.  He’s just doing his job.  Sarah attempts an act of civil disobedience but it’s literally the most mild protest that you could imagine.  This is the type of movie where everyone lives in a nice house and every lawn is perfectly manicured.  Even the abandoned buildings are surrounded by freshly cut grass.  The chapel may be deserted but you’d never know it from looking at it.

It’s a thoroughly predictable movie but, at the same time, it’s too good-natured to be disliked.  No one curses.  No one makes any racy jokes.  This is the type of movie that you could safely recommend to your great-grandmother without having to worry about her getting mad at you afterwards.  Emmanuelle Vaughier gives a pretty good performance as Sarah and director Vanessa Parise does what she can to keep the film from drowning in sentiment.

Since the Halloween season is upon us and this site is going to be 90% horror for the rest of October, I decided that the final movie I would watch in September would be the least terrifying film I could find.  The Wedding Chapel filled that role well.

4 Film Reviews: Bridge To Silence, The Chocolate War, Kiss The Bride, Wedding Daze


Last week, I watched six films on This TV.

Which TV?  No, This TV!  It’s one of my favorite channels.  It’s not just that they show a lot of movies.  It’s also that they frequently show movies that are new to me.  For instance, last week, This TV introduced me to both Prison Planet and Cherry 2000.

Here are four other films, two good and two not so good, that This TV introduced to me last week.

First up, we have 1989’s Bridge to Silence.

Directed by Karen Arthur, Bridge To Silence was a made-for-TV movie.  Lee Remick plays Marge Duffield, who has a strained relationship with her deaf daughter, Peggy (Marlee Matlin).  After Peggy’s husband is killed in a traffic accident, Peggy has a nervous breakdown.  Marge and her husband, Al (Josef Sommer) take care of Peggy’s daughter, Lisa, while Peggy is recovering.  However, even as Peggy gets better, Marge still doesn’t feel that she can raise her daughter so Marge files a lawsuit to be named Lisa’s legal guardian.  While all of this is going on, Peggy is starring in a college production of The Glass Menagerie and pursuing a tentative romance with the play’s director (Michael O’Keefe).

Bridge to Silence is one of those overwritten but heartfelt melodramas that just doesn’t work.  With the exception of Marlee Matlin, the cast struggles with the overwrought script.  (Michael O’Keefe, in particular, appears to be miserable.)  The film’s biggest mistake is that it relies too much on that production of The Glass Menagerie, which is Tennessee Williams’s worst play and tends to be annoying even when it’s merely used as a plot device.  There’s only so many times that you can hear the play’s director refer to Peggy as being “Blue Roses” before you just want rip your hair out.

Far more enjoyable was 1988’s The Chocolate War.

Directed by Keith Gordon, The Chocolate War is a satirical look at conformity, popularity, rebellion, and chocolate at a Catholic boys school.  After the manipulative Brother Leon accidentally purchases too much chocolate for the school’s annual sale, he appeals to one of his students, Archie Costello (Wallace Langham), to help him make the money back.  Archie, who is just as manipulative as Leon, is the leader of a secret society known as the Vigils.  However, Archie and Leon’s attempt to manipulate the students runs into a roadblack when a new student, Jerry Renault (Illan Mitchell-Smith) refuses to sell any chocolates at all.  From there, things get progressively more complicated as Archie tries to break Jerry, Jerry continues to stand up for his freedom, and Leon … well, who knows what Leon is thinking?

The Chocolate War was an enjoyable and stylish film, one that featured a great soundtrack and a subtext about rebellion and conformity that still feels relevant.  John Glover and Wallace Langham both gave great performances as two master manipulators.

I also enjoyed the 2002 film, Kiss The Bride.

Kiss The Bride tells the story of a big Italian family, four sisters, and a wedding.  Everyone brings their own personal drama to the big day but ultimately, what matters is that family sticks together.  Directed by Vanessa Parise, Kiss The Bride featured believable and naturalistic performances from Amanda Detmer, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Brooke Langton, Monet Mazur, and Parise herself.

I have to admit that one reason why I liked this film is because it was about a big Italian family and it featured four sisters.  I’m the youngest of four sisters and, watching the film, I was reminded of my own big Irish-Italian family.  The movie just got everything right.

And then finally, there was 2006’s Wedding Daze.

Wedding Daze is a romantic “comedy.”  Anderson (Jason Biggs) asks his girlfriend to marry him, just to have her drop dead from shock.  Anderson’s best friend is afraid that Anderson will never get over his dead girlfriend and begs Anderson to not give up on love.  Anderson attempts to humor his friend by asking a complete stranger, a waitress named Katie (Isla Fisher), to marry him.  To everyone’s shock, Katie says yes.

From the get go, there are some obvious problems with this film’s problem.  Even if you accept that idea that Katie would say yes to Anderson, you also have to be willing to accept the idea that Anderson wouldn’t just say, “No, I was just joking.”  That said, the idea does have some comic potential.  You could imagine an actor like Cary Grant doing wonders with this premise in the 30s.  Unfortunately, Jason Biggs is no Cary Grant and the film’s director, comedian Michael Ian Black, is no Leo McCarey.  In the end, the entire film is such a misjudged failure that you can’t help but feel that Anderson’s ex was lucky to die before getting too involved in any of it.

2017 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the previous year with my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2017!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2017!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

(As a guide, I used the credits for the imdb.  If anyone has been miscredited or let out, please feel free to let me know and I’ll fix the error both here and, if I can, on the imdb as well.)

Best Picture

Drink Slay Love, produced by Tina Pehme, Kim Roberts, Sheri Singer, Bella Thorne

From Straight A’s to XXX, produced by Austin Andrews, John Bolton, Anne-Marie Hess, Tina Pehme, Kim Roberts, Sheri Singer

Four Christmases and a Wedding

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell, produced by Deen Dioria, David Manzanares, Ron Schmidt, Judith Verno, Frank von Zerneck.

The Rachels, produced by Paige Lauren Billot, Margaret H. Huddleston, Maggie McFarren, Hannah Pillemer, Rebecca G. Stone.

Running Away, produced by Dureyshevar, Jeff Faehnle, Jack Nasser, Jacob Nasser, Joseph Nasser, Bri Noble.

Sea Change. Produced by Sharon Bordas, Alec Chorches, Adam Fratto, Steven Gilder, David MacLeod, A.J. Mendez, Shawn Piller, Lloyd Segan, Stephanie Slack, Fernando Szew

Secrets in Suburbia, produced by Kristopher McNeeley, Jacobo Rispa, Damian Romay, Stephanie Slack, Fernando Szew.

The Watcher in the Woods, produced by Simon Barnes, Alexandra Bentley, Andrew Gernhard, Jennifer Handorf, Paula Hart.

* Web Cam Girls, produced by Tom Berry, Pierre David, Hank Grover, Sheri Reeves, Ken Sanders, Noel Zanitsch* 

Best Director

* Doug Campbell for Web Cam Girls

Michael Civille for The Rachels

Vanessa Parise for From Straight A’s to XXX

Damian Romay for Secrets in Suburbia

Brian Skiba for Running Away

Stephen Tolkin for New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell

Best Actor

James Franco in High School Lover

Zack Gold in Psycho Brother-in-Law

Stephen Graybill in Web Cam Girls

Timothy Granderos in The Twin

Ted McGinley in Fatherly Obsession

* Ryan Patrick Shanahan in Sinister Minister

Best Actress

Barbie Castro in Boyfriend Killer

Holly Deveaux in Running Away

Sedonna Legge in Web Cam Girls

* Penelope Ann Miller in New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell

Heather Morris in Psycho Wedding Crasher

Haley Pullos in From Straight A’s to XXX

Best Supporting Actor

Francois Arnaud in High School Lover

Joe Hackett in Web Cam Girls

William McNamara in Running Away

Patrick Muldoon in Boyfriend Killer

Judd Nelson in From Straight A’s to XXX

* Daniel Roebuck in New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell

Best Supporting Actress

Madison Iseman in The Rachels

Anjelica Huston in The Watcher in the Woods

* Tonya Kay in Web Cam Girls

Paula Trickey in Running Away

Ashley Wood in Wicked Mom’s Club

Lorynn York in Web Cam Girs

Best Screenplay

From Straight A’s to XXX. Anne-Marie Hess.

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Stephen Tolkin.

The Rachels. Ellen Huggins.

* Running Away. Sheri McGuinn.

Secrets in Suburbia. Damian Romay.

Web Cam Girls. Stephen Romano.

Best Cinematography

Drink Slay Love. Vic Sarin.

Four Christmases and a Wedding. Mike Kam.

Off the Rails. Denis Maloney.

Running Away. Patrice Lucien Cochet.

* Sea Change. Jackson Parrell.

Ten: Murder Island. Richard Clabaugh.

Best Costuming

* Drink Slay Love. Liene Dobraja.

From Straight A’s to XXX. Liene Dobraja.

The Lost Wife of Robert Durst. Tina Fiorda.

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Maria Bentfield.

The Rachels. Courtney Stern.

Stage Fright. Monique Hyman.

Best Editing

* From Straight A’s to XXX. Rob Grant.

Four Christmases and a Wedding. Paul Ziller.

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Mark Stevens.

The Rachels. Brett Solem.

Sea Change. Matthew Anas.

Web Cam Girls. Jordan Jensen.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Drink Slay Love. Jessica Green, Catherine Long, Alysha McLoughlin, Sahar Sharelo.

The Lost Wife of Robert Durst. Lorna Bravo, Kelly Grange, Shelly Jensen, Mary Renvall, Melissa Sahlstrom.

* New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Claudia Breckenridge, Daniel Casillas, Nicole Gabaldon, Pepper J. Gallegos, Madeline McCue, L. Taylor Roberts

The Rachels. Taylor Bennett, Austin Cuccia.

Secrets in Suburbia. Andrea Ahl, Trevor Thompson

The Watcher in the Woods. Chloe Edwards.

Best Score

Drink Slay Love. Justin R. Durban

Fatherly Obsession. Aiko Fukushima.

Sea Change. Shawn Pierce.

* Story of a Girl. Travis Bacon.

Ten: Murder Island. Ceiri Torjussen.

The Watcher in the Woods. Felix Bird.

Best Production Design

New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell. Will Albarz, Anthony Medina.

Running Away.   Vincent Albo, Rose Beltran

Secrets in Suburbia. Brendan Turrill.

Ten: Murder Island. Eric Whitney, Caley Bisson.

Tiny House of Terror

* Web Cam Girls. Catch Henson, James W. Thompson Jr., Katherine Bulovic, Valerie Munguia

Best Sound

Britney Ever After

Drink Slay Love

From Straight A’s to XXX

Sea Change.

Under the Bed

* The Watcher in the Woods

Best Visual Effects

* Drink Slay Love

Fatherly Obsession

Sea Change

Stalker’s Prey

Ten: Murder Island

The Watcher in the Woods

And there you have it!  Those are my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2017!  Thank you for your indulgence!  On Friday, I’ll be concluding my look back at 2017 with my picks for the 26 best films of the year!

Previous entries in the TSL’s Look Back at 2017:

  1. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Single Issues by Ryan C
  2. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Series by Ryan C
  3. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Edition (Contemporary) by Ryan C
  4. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Editions (Vintage) by Ryan C
  5. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Graphic Novels By Ryan C
  6. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I saw in 2017 by Valerie Troutman
  7. My Top 15 Albums of 2017 by Necromoonyeti
  8. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Picks For the 16 Worst Films of 2017
  9. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Final Post About Twin Peaks: The Return (for now)
  10. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 14 Favorite Songs of 2017
  11. 2017 in Review: The Best of SyFy by Lisa Marie Bowman
  12. 2017 in Review: 10 Good Things that Lisa Marie Saw On Television in 2017
  13. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 12 Favorite Novels of 2017
  14. 2017 in Review: Lia Marie’s 10 Favorite Non-Fiction Books of 2017

What Lisa Watched Last Night #170: Drink Slay Love (dir by Vanessa Parise)


Last night, I watched a new Lifetime film, Drink Slay Love!

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was on Lifetime, of course!

Plus, it was a Canadian film about vampires.  I love Canada and I love vampires!  Ever since that episode of Degrassi where Emma got a “social disease” while playing Mina in a school production of Dracula, Canada and vampires have mixed well.

(Now, I should admit, that, while watching Drink Slay Love, I was also watching a film called The Dead Don’t Die on YouTube.  I’m a big believer in multitasking.)

What Was It About?

Pearl (Cierra Ramirez) has a life that most of us can only have erotically-themed nightmares about.  She’s a sixteen year-old vampire princess.  She’s headstrong.  She’s a little bit bratty.  She’s convinced that nothing can hurt her.  Even after she’s the victim of an attempted staking, she still insists on going out in the middle of the night by herself.  On the plus side, Pearl doesn’t attack animals.  She only attacks humans, especially Brad, the poor guy who works at a 24 hour ice cream parlor and who never remembers Pearl’s nightly visits, in which she always gets a scoop of mint ice cream and a pint of blood.

However, everything changes when it’s discovered that Pearl is immune to sunlight!  She is a rare vampire who can actually walk around in the daylight.  This leads to her parents getting the brilliant idea of sending Pearl to high school.  There’s a big feast coming up and apparently, teenage blood is in high demand.  However, once Pearl arrives at the school, she starts to make friends, almost despite herself.  She starts to do the type of things that teenagers in Lifetime movies always do.  How can she set her new friends up to be the main course?

Of course, some of her new friends have secrets of their own.  You know how that goes…

What Worked?

This was a nice change of pace for Lifetime.  After endless movies about obsessive stalkers and stolen babies and bad celebrity lookalikes, it was nice to see something different on Lifetime.  I’m going to guess that Drink Slay Love was made with October in mind and really, this is a good movie for people who want celebrate Halloween without getting traumatized.  It’s not particularly scary but it’s got vampires and it’s enjoyably silly.

Cierra Ramirez did a good job as Pearl.  Pearl is a very sardonic vampire, which is the best type of vampire to be.  Ramirez delivered her sarcastic dialogue with just the right amount of bite.  (Heh heh, see what I did there?)

If the director’s name seems familiar, that’s because Vanessa Parise has directed several Lifetime movies.  She does a good job with Drink Slay Love, keeping the story moving at a good pace and getting good performances from the entire cast.

What Did Not Work?

To be honest, I liked the whole film.  Even the occasionally sketchy CGI added to the film’s charm.

“Oh my God!  Just like me moments!”

I related to Pearl.  Well, I didn’t necessarily relate to the blood sucking.  But I was really sarcastic when I was sixteen, too.  Plus, I always used to dress in black and then dare anyone to make a comment about it… (Actually, not that much has changed since then…)

Lessons Learned

Canada and Vampires are a good combination!

Film Review: From Straight A’s to XXX (dir by Vanessa Parise)


814cfc78-0826-468f-a85f-9be1a395efab

I just finished watching the latest Lifetime original film, From Straight A’s to XXX.

Like many Lifetime films, it’s based on a true story.  In this case, it tells the story of Miriam Weeks (Haley Pullos), who briefly became notorious for paying her tuition to Duke University by appearing in adult films under the name Belle Knox.  Her story became notorious because it touched on almost every important cultural issue of the past twenty years.  Stuffy pundits acted as if Belle Knox was somehow a sign of the collapse of civilization.  The story was regularly held up as a sign that my generation was spoiled and entitled, which was interesting since Miriam wouldn’t have ever made her first movie if college was actually affordable.  That’s one issue that, interestingly enough, was rarely brought up in all the discussions about the Duke porn star.  If students are having to do pornography to pay for college, shouldn’t the question be why it costs so much to get an education?

As for Belle Knox herself, she became a media celebrity.  She was interviewed by people like Piers Morgan and she proved herself to be quite adroit at putting that windbag in his place.  Rather than asking for sympathy, Belle defended herself and asked a very important question: why was the stigma of porn on her, as opposed to the men who watched her?

From Straight A’s to XXX does a good job telling Belle’s story.  Interestingly enough, it actually goes out of its way to be fair and evenhanded.  While the film is on Belle’s side, it doesn’t dismiss those who had concerns about how she was paying her way through college.  While Belle is shown defending herself to the media and explaining how her career has empowered her, the film also makes a point to show that not every porn actress is Belle Knox.  At one convention, she’s confronted by two veteran porn actresses who point out that they work just as hard as she does but, unlike her, they will never be invited to appear on CNN, suggesting that the only reason anyone cares about her or what she thinks is because of the novelty of her being a student at Duke.  And while this may be the most pro-porn film to ever appear on Lifetime, it doesn’t shy away from the dark side of the industry.  Belle’s first job is a genuinely disturbing nightmare of abuse and serves as a valuable warning.  Make sure you know who you’re working with before you show up for the job.  As a producer later explains to Belle, there are professionals and unprofessionals in every industry and porn is no different.

As for Duke University — well, let’s just say that Duke doesn’t come across as looking all that good by the end of From Straight A’s to XXX.  With a few notable exceptions, all of the students are portrayed as being rich snobs.  When Belle’s secret life is discovered, she finds herself harassed by every man on campus.  In one particularly disturbing scene, she returns to her dorm room just to discover that her door has been defaced.  When she tries to sleep, drunk frat boys try to break into her room.  When she reports that she’s being harassed, she gets little help.  Her roommate remains supportive throughout the entire film but otherwise, Duke does not come across well.

From Straight A’s to XXX is well-directed by Vanessa Parise, who has also directed such Lifetime films as Perfect High and The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story.  Much like The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, From Straight A’s to XXX is a tribute to a strong woman who was ultimately punished for being stronger than others were comfortable with.  (That From Straight A’s to XXX was written and directed by women goes a long way to keeping potentially salacious material from becoming sordid.)  Haley Pullos is sympathetic as Miriam/Belle and a bearded Judd Nelson does a good job in the role of a porn producer who shows the difference between professionals and unprofessionals in the industry.

Finally, From Straight A’s to XXX ends with Belle becoming a Libertarian activist and that fact alone makes this one of the best Lifetime films of the year so far!  You can’t go wrong with any film that ends with a Libertarian political rally.

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

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 92010 Story (dir by Vanessa Parise) and The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story (dir by Mark Griffiths)


Well, it’s finally done!  A week ago, I started the process of cleaning out my DVR.  I’ve lost track of how many movies that I have watched and reviewed.  And now, finally, I can say that I have finally reached a stopping point.  When I started this process, I only had 5 hours of space left on my DVR.  I now have 48 hours of space.

Keep Calm Because Lisa Rocks

I’m reviewing my final two “DVR” films in one post because they really do go together.  But before I get to the review, here’s a little background.  Lifetime now has it’s very own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  True, it hasn’t proven as popular as the MCU nor have any of the films been as critically acclaimed as Guardians of the Galaxy or the first Avengers.  But, all the same, these four Lifetime films share a common continuity.  Call it the Lifetime Cinematic Universe.  LCU for short.

I’m talking, of course, about the Unauthorized films.  In these films, Lifetime takes us behind the scenes of an iconic old television show.  The first of these films was the absolutely terrible The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story.  Then, earlier this year, we got the not-terrible-but-extremely-forgettable Unauthorized Full House Story.  Finally, on October 3rd and the 9th, Lifetime broadcast the latest two entries in the LCU — The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story and The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story.

I was on vacation when both of those films were originally broadcast but, fortunately, my sister had the foresight to set the DVR to record both of them!  YAY!

(Seriously, my sister’s the best.)

Unauthorized Beverly Hills

Of the two films, The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 film was definitely the best.  In fact, it’s definitely the best of the LCU films to be released so far.  The film starts with a teenage Tori Spelling (played by Abby Ross, who is a lot prettier than the real Tori Spelling will ever be) convincing her father, producer Aaron Spelling (Dan Castellenata), to take a chance on a TV show about high school students.  Spelling recruits Darren Starr (Adam Korson) to run the show and together they cast a group of hopeful performers and fight with the nervous TV execs who worry about the slightest bit of controversy.

They also have to deal with lead actress Shannen Doherty (Samantha Munro), who proves herself to be as difficult as she is talented.  Whereas the Saved By The Bell and Full House films suffered because of a lack of behind-the-scenes drama, The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 film is all about conflict.  From the minute that we first see Shannen, she’s making sure that everyone knows that she’s the star.  And yet, despite that, Shannen Doherty remains a compelling and sympathetic character.  Samantha Munro (who played Anya on my beloved Degrassi) gives a wonderfully complex performance.  When she eventually ends up trying to beat up Jennie Garth (Abbie Cobb, who also appeared on the 90210 reboot), it’s more than just a cat fight.  It’s Shannen declaring that she’s a star and she’s not going to let anyone push her to the side.  And, even if Jennie hasn’t really done anything to deserve being called out, the film ultimately makes the case that Shannen, alone out of the cast, was the one who understood how Hollywood actually worked.  Shannen’s a fighter because she knows the only other option is to be a victim.

Director Vanessa Parise does a good job keeping the action moving and giving us a glimpse of what it’s suddenly like to be world-famous.  Some of the film’s best sequences are just the camera tracking through the studio, giving us a look of each star in his or her dressing room and providing a glimpse into the different personalities who make up the show’s ensemble.  As opposed to the previous Unauthorized films, you finish the Beverly Hills 90210 Story feeling that it was a story worth telling.

One final note — Alyssa Lynch, who played Tiffani-Amber Thiessen in The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell, shows up playing the same role in Unauthorized 90210.  It’s a nice nod to continuity.

The Unauthorized Melrose

The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story picks up where Beverly Hills 90210 ends.  Darren Starr (Korson again) decides that he wants to do a show about people in their 20s.  Aaron Spelling (Castellenata, again) agrees to produce.  Once again, we get a lot of scenes of nervous network executives trying to tell Starr and Spelling what they can and can not do on television.

There’s a great scene in Unauthorized Melorse Place in which Heather Locklear  (Ciara Hanna) strolls out on the soundstage, smirks, and says, “Did anyone order a bitch?”  It’s a great line (and one that I’ve been using ever since I first saw the commercials for Unauthorized Melrose) but, unfortunately, Locklear’s just talking about her character.  Whereas Unauthorized 90210 was all about conflict, Unauthorized Melrose seems to be about how well people get along behind the scenes.

True, there’s a few scenes where the actresses compete for the spotlight and there are hints of jealousy among the cast.  Actor Doug Savant (Joseph John Coleman) gets upset because the network won’t let his gay character have a substantial storyline.  Otherwise, there doesn’t appear to have been much drama behind the scenes at Melrose Place.  That’s a good thing for the people who worked on the show but it doesn’t exactly make for a very compelling unauthorized story.

Along with the characters of Darren Starr and the Spelling family, both the Unauthorized Beverly Hills Story and the Unauthorized Melrose Place Story have one other thing in common, a shared joke.  Both films feature actors talking about losing a role to Brad Pitt and someone else replying with, “Who?”  It’s kind of an obvious joke but, again, I always appreciate continuity.

Keep Calm and Love Lisa

And that’s it!  With these two reviews, I have now not only cleaned out my DVR but I have reviewed every single original film that has appeared, in the year so far, on both the Lifetime network and SyFy!  Thank you for your indulgence and I now return you to regularly scheduled programming…