Friday, January 31, 2014

Lifetime Movies: A Baby Boomer's Appreciation and The Week in Reviews

[Where I review "Nebraska" and DVDs "Blue Jasmine," "Fruitvale Station," 20 Feet From Stardom" and "In a World" along with the "Book of the Week" and the Judy Collins concert.]

But first


Lifetime Movies: A Baby Boomer's Appreciation


Over the years, I have been known to dabble in the occasional Lifetime Movie.

OK, dabble isn't quite the right word.  They are actually one of my guilty pleasures (and I have many).

I know what you are thinking.  You have probably written them off as fluff at best and a waste of time at worst, but I am here to disabuse you of that notion.

There is nothing to be guilty about!

Yes, many of the movies are ground out in what I have come to see as a Canadian repertory machine, but there are some real gems amongst them. 

If you like campy, there is campy.  If you like women in jeopardy, you got it.  If you like, "kidnap my daughter, and I will hunt you down," check. "Save me from my addiction?"  Yep.  And there are some good true-life biopics, too.

Here are the reasons why I like them:

1. They feature strong women triumphing over adversity. 
I don't like movies that don't have women in them.
 
Films with strong women characters are under represented in general. Sweden, a most forward thinking country, has just instituted a rating system (The Bechdel test) that tests and rates films as to gender bias, and for a good rating the film must have at least two named women and those women must talk about something other than men. Lifetime movies would pass that test!  The women in Lifetime movies not only do more than talk about men, they are usually kicking their butts!

2. Comforting Titles and Plot Devices.
It's always comforting to know what to expect. 

In the case of Lifetime Movies, if the title begins with the word "Perfect," as in "Perfect Teacher," "Perfect Roommate," or "Perfect Husband," you know they are going to be anything but. 

Likewise, you can bet that the movie will start out with something brutal, alarming or tantalizing and then go to a "Three Years Earlier" or "Three Years Later" plot exposition.  And then it will usually end with the bad guy caught, the ghost debunked or the evil doer dead, and our heroine will drive off unharmed thinking she is rid of the problem... and then the last frame will show something that makes us think...OR IS SHE?
All very comforting stuff.

3. They employ Canadian actors.
I love Canadians, so happy that Canadian actors are getting work.

Almost all of the Lifetime movies these days are filmed in Vancouver or Toronto, Canada, and its environs.  They also seem to use the same actors, so it is sort of a repertory company.  I have come to recognize many of them.  It's fun to see an actor star in one film and then play a supporting role in another.  I watch so many Lifetime movies, they are almost like old friends.

4. It's fun to spot the Canadian locations.
The librarian in me really enjoys busting them for trying to substitute Vancouver, BC for San Francisco or Seattle or Toronto for New York City. They sometimes fluff their continuity issues. 

I mean...really one time when they were supposed to be in San Francisco, I noticed an on-ramp sign pointing to Whistler (B.C)!  When the film was supposed to be set in Salem, Oregon, I was able to see a road sign with an unusual French name, so just for the fun of it, I looked up the name and it was in Kowloon, B.C.  I know, it's nerdy, but it's fun.  And it doesn't take any research to know they are in Canada when a character walks into the local Visions Youth CENTRE. 

Vancouver has become the de facto location for Seattle and San Francisco locations, because I believe it's cheaper and there are incentives to film there.  And as I said, many of the movies are filmed in Canada with Canadian actors and then sold to Lifetime.

5. There is usually a nice healthy moral or lesson to be learned.
The bad guy gets his, the addiction is overcome or we learn Mother was right!

6.  And they can be downright (and sometimes unintentionally) fun!


So let me serve as your personal guide to the best (and, sometimes, most hilarious)
Lifetime Movies.


Here then is a list of some of my favorites from someone who has had a "lifetime" of experience watching this genre:

(NOTE: Titles often vary for different markets).



Killer Reality (2013)



This one is brilliant. 
Imagine "The Bachelor," but the girls get their champagne glass filled instead of a rose, and they also get killed off one by one. It is unintentionally hilarious (I think it's unintentional, anyway) with lines like "You signed a full disclosure giving us carte blanche to subject you to whatever emotional distress we want" and while in Mexico, one of the Mexican cameramen says about the reality show, "You Americans really watch this stuff?  It makes our Mexican novelas look like Shakespeare."

Moral: There are consequences for going on "The Bachelor."





Sexting in Suburbia (AKA Shattered Silence) (2012)


A teen commits suicide after her sexting pics are made public (This one is actually quite good).

Moral:  Keep your nude pics to yourself.





Haunting of Sorority Row (2007)



A former (dead) sorority sister haunts the sorority to take revenge. 

I wonder if Leighton Meester is regretting this one.

Moral:  Maybe pledging a sorority isn't such a good idea.





Road Rage (1999)



The title tells it all.

Moral: You know that sign on the back of some trucks that says, "How's my driving?" and gives you a number to call if the driver isn't doing a good job of driving?  Don't.




Terror in the Family (1996)



A teenage Hilary Swank terrorizes her family - the usual teen stuff.  Every dysfunctional family cliché is here.

Moral:  This is what happens when you try to be your child's friend.




Crimes of Silence: She Woke Up Pregnant  (1996)




The title tells it all.

Moral:  Yet another reason to fear your dentist!




A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story (1992)


Biopic of Betty Broderick who murdered her husband and his mistress.  Meredith Baxter was a fixture on Lifetime movies for awhile.

Moral:  Don't marry a psycho.


All time greatest titles ever!
(some of these are not yet available on DVD but look for them)!

My Stepson, My Lover (1997)
You can figure this one outHuge ick factor.

Deadly Spa (2013)
A mother and daughter go to a spa only to discover they can't leave! 
So much for mother/daughter trips. Geez, I just wanted a facial!

Killer Hair (2009)
Murder in a hair salon. 
Who knew hair could kill?

Honeymoon with Mom (2006)
What happens when you get left at the altar? - - Mom!

I Me Wed (2007)
Tired of being asked when she is going to get married, our heroine decides to marry herself (I can't even make this stuff up)!

Forever 16 (2013
Why forever 16? 
Because she's a vampire, silly.
A teenage vampire has to keep changing schools to keep her true identity hidden.  The scenes of her drinking blood in the girls' restroom between classes is classic!

Coed Call Girl (1996)
Tori Spelling stars as the Coed. 
She looks as much like a coed as I do.
Title is self explanatory. 

Here is a bit of a tease, literally.  Priceless.






And, drum roll please, my all-time favorite Lifetime movie title ever:


Mother May I Sleep With Danger?
Laurel (Tori Spelling again) has an abusive boyfriend and her mother must save her.

If my daughter had asked me that I would have said, "Who?  What? Absolutely not! No, no and no and don't ask me again! And by the way, why are you talking like that?  Sleep with 'danger?'  Who's "Danger?"

So I hope I have shed some light on the Lifetime movie phenomenon and perhaps taken some of the shame away from indulging.  Let us not judge lest we be judged!  Now I have to get back to Lifetime's latest "Lizzie Borden Took an Axe."

(Lifetime movies are now coming out on DVD, available via Amazon Instant Video, on the Lifetime website or sometimes available in full on YouTube).

Share your favorite Lifetime Movie moment --
If you dare!



***In Theatres Now***


Affecting tale of a son taking his elderly Dad on a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his imagined winnings from a Publisher's Clearing House-like contest.
Here is another dysfunctional family similar to the family in "August: Osage County," which I reviewed in my Academy Awards blog a few weeks ago, but this is a much sweeter tale. 
In the hands of director Alexander Payne ("The Descendants," "Sideways"), it captures the redemptive power of a son's love.  Children often take their parents at face value and do not know about the experiences that formed them. We may turn into curmudgeons but there is usually a reason why.

The black and white photography captures the bleakness of some Midwestern small towns that have been abandoned by the young and the bleakness of aging.  The film is nominated for a Best Picture Oscar as are Bruce Dern and June Squib, an 80+ actress who is finally getting the recognition she deserves, who play the aging husband and wife.  Nominated for Best Original Screenplay is our own local screenwriter, Bob Nelson, who was one of the original cast members of Seattle's late night TV show, "Almost Live," Seattle's version of Saturday Night Live which played from 1984-1999.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Beautiful little film that might be depressing to those of us who see a nursing home in our future.  Go on a road trip with your kids first!




***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)
Blue Jasmine (2013)
A story reminiscent of the Bernie Madoff scandal, a once wealthy and snobby woman must seek help with her blue collar sister. 
Cate Blanchett gives a stunning and funny performance as a woman grappling with loss and mental illness.
Rosy  the Reviewer says...No matter what you think of Woody Allen's personal life, you can't fault his brilliance as a writer and director.
Cate gives a great performance, but I am still rooting for Meryl ("August: Osage County") to win Best Actress.
A day in the life of Oscar Grant, the day before he was gunned down in an infamous true incident on a BART station platform in Oakland, CA, New Year's Day, 2009.
Michael B. Jordan gives a stunning performance made all of the more poignant as we know he is living out Grant's last day on earth.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Absolutely gut-wrenching, but a must-see.




20 Feet from Stardom (2013)




Documentary about our most famous back-up singers and the road they traveled, featuring Darlene Love and Merry Clayton.

Ever wonder who those singers are doing the "oooh" and "la la la" parts behind your favorite bands?  Well, here they are telling us what it's like to be super talented, but forever upstaged by singers luckier than they were.  Darlene Love fronted The Blossoms who toured with the Beatles when I saw them in 1964.  She was exploited by Phil Spector.  Merry Clayton is the voice singing with Mick Jagger on "Gimme Shelter" and many, many other songs. Well deserved nomination in the Best Documentary category for an Academy Award.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you love music, you will love this. 





In a World (2013)



A glimpse into the male dominated world of movie trailer voice overs.

Can our heroine break into this male dominated world?  Lake Bell wrote, directed and stars.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fun glimpse into a world most of us know little about.  Lake Bell is someone to watch!



***In Concert***


Judy Collins


We had the pleasure of seeing Judy Collins perform at the Edmonds Center for the Arts

I have been a lifelong fan, and it was wonderful seeing her in this small venue.  She came out all in white - white gown, white hair and sang like an angel.  She paid tribute to Pete Seeger, who was a huge influence on her (we all sang "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?) and who recently died (she was at his bedside).

During the course of the evening, Judy shared career and family anecdotes (she grew up in a musical family with a blind father).  She was warm and carried herself with the ease of someone who has mastered her craft.

Only disappointment was that she didn't sing "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" and "Send in the Clowns."

Rosy the Reviewer says...A beautiful, shining evening.  Upcoming concerts will be in Arizona and Wisconsin.  See her if you can.  You won't be disappointed.






***Book of the Week***


Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn (2013)


Detailed biography of an evil master mind.

I read biographies and true crime, because I am interested in how people get to where they get.  In Manson's case, his unhealthy home life doesn't really explain him. His need to be somebody and lack of empathy for others screams sociopath or worse and led him into an early life of crime culminating in the horrific Manson Murders.  

This picture that appeared in the newspaper upon his capture scared the crap out of the entire country.





I moved to California in 1970 and was already scared of the Zodiac killer and earthquakes so then this. It was a crazy time.

Guinn sets Manson's story in the context of the times.  An unsettling subject,  but wonderfully written.

Rosy the Reviewer says...absolutely riveting look into, not only the mind of a killer, but into the times in which he was able to perpetrate his evil.

That's it for this week. 
See you Tuesday.
Thanks for reading!
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Check your local library for DVDs and book mentioned.



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