Monday, November 16, 2009

Oh God, Not Again

Some personal issues are preventing me from working on these reviews. I will have one up as soon as I can. In the meantime, you can always read the last one, as these movies are relatively interchangeable. Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Heartbeat! It's a LOVE-beat!

Good news! I found a working VCR, so I got to watch the end of Heartbeat today. And it is a doozy. Unfortunately no clips of this one exist that I can find, but please let me know if you have one I can toss up there.

Heartbeat kicks off with a lovely greeting from the authoress herself, who is for some reason in a kitchen making a giant sandwich. I guess we're supposed to think she likes to kick back with a hoagie when she isn't writing interchangable pink-jacketed novels. Apparently, Heartbeat is a "modern love story" about "finding love in unexpected places"! The first unexpected place we go to is an airport, where successful TV producer Bill Grant gives a weird, exposition heavy goodbye to his kids. My god, he is sad to see his kids go. You'd think they were going to China, or into outer space, as opposed to back to their mother for a while. Get used to it, because Bill is King Weepy Weirdo. He also loves kids more then anything else in the world, and the mere prospect of more kids turns him into a raving-yet-nurturing lunatic hellbent on fathering the fuck out of everyone in a ten-mile radius. But more on that later. Bill loves his kids, but he cannot live near them because he produces a very popular soap opera. He also happens to be dating the lead actress on the show. Way to go, Bill! She begs him to come on a trip to Vegas with her, but he declines. I'm sure he won't regret it. Ahem.

Another program filmed in that television station is some vague news program that is produced by the heroine of our story, Adrain (?!) Townsend. Despite the fact that Adrain is a sentence fragment and not a real name, she has managed to succeed in life. She has a sweet-ass house, a sweet-ass job, and a husband who personifies 90's TV movie beefcake. That is, until she goes and finds out she's knocked up from a home pregnancy test that looks like an entry in a third-grade science fair. Maybe it makes a little baking-soda volcano if you got a positive result, I dunno. Her husband is the career type, and hates kids with a passion, so he informs her that she needs to get an abortion or he's divorcing her. Dick move aside, I really have to wonder how she got pregnant if he's that terrified of knocking his wife up. Snip snip, buddy. She goes in for the appointment and finds she cant go through with it, so her husband lawyers up and steals all their furniture and serves her divorce papers in the span of a week. Anyone else getting the feeling he might be the villain in this story?

Meanwhile, Bill calls his floozy starlet girlfriend only to learn that she's cheating on him with her ex. Apparently they met up in Vegas, had a chat, and realized they were still in love. Now she wants to ditch the soap. Bill, being king of the passive aggressive nice guys, agrees to write her out of the show by having her brutally murdered. There's a weird scene where they film a guy strangling her, then everyone applauds, then she tearfully thanks Bill for setting up a really awesome homicide. I guess we are supposed to think Bill is a sweetheart for releasing Ditzy from her contract and letting her run off with her new boyfriend, but having her faux-strangled in front of her friends and co-workers just seems creepy to me. Good thing Bill realizes he has weird issues with women, goes into therapy, and the film ends shortly thereafter.

Psych! Actually, Bill starts noticing Adrain around the office. And around the grocery store. And finally, around her front yard. He haunts her every step, telling cheesy jokes and insisting she comes to a 4th of July party at his place. This would be cute if Adrain did not reject his invitation 4 times, with increasing firmness, and emphasized the fact that she's married in every conversation they had. It's true that Adrain was in the midst of a divorce, but she was clearly not ready to be seeing someone new yet, and his creepy campaign to befriend her is obviously unwelcome. Nevertheless, she finds herself lonely on the 4th and decides to check his party out. As soon as he spots her, he ditches the rest of the party guests and follows her around talking about how amazing his kids are, and how much he loves kids in general, and how much he misses being married to someone who loves kids as much as he does. It's fucking creepy, and if the guy wasn't played by John Ritter I would have assumed he was going to steal her baby and flee to another country to raise it as his own. Since it is John Ritter, Adrain has no choice but to fall stupidly in love with him and his love for her fertile womb. Bummer for Adrain!

The movie gently montages us through the beginnings of their relationship. 10 synth-pounding-beach-jogging-pastel-hued minutes later, Bill proposes to Adrain. She is excited, but she's not sure she's ready to marry him, and she wants to have the baby first. This is completely unacceptable to Bill, who browbeats her about her inability to get over her husband and get on fast track to domestic bliss. She placates him by saying that she'll marry him after she has the baby, but she wants her ex to witness his spawn and maybe have a chance to be a father first. Kinda stupid, but so are Bill and Adrain, so whatever. It's not over yet, but I'm pretty sure you can see where this is going, so let's fast forward. She drops her calf and immediately calls her husband. He comes around and offers to take her back with the baby as long as he has an option to return them to Bill later if he doesn't want them. Adrain is not in the business of being treated like a holiday sweater, so she tells her ex to shove it and tearfully begs Bill to marry her. He agrees on one condition- he wants his name added to the baby's birth certificate as his father. Adrain, who has already established that her creepdar is broken many times before, agrees to this. The last scene has Adrain and Bill walking down the aisle with their baby in their arms. Seriously. I'm pretty sure Bill would have just married the baby if he could have found a legal way to do so.

Awesomeness: 6 out of 20
This movie was many things, but awesome is not one of them. 5 of these points are for the science fair pregnancy test and a cute dog that appears halfway through the film. Sadly, he doesn't get to walk down the aisle with the baby's posse. The final point is just for the unrelenting bizzareness of the whole thing. I hesitate to reward a film that is about a man who stalks a pregnant woman to hang out with her baby more "awesome" points then strictly necessary. This whole thing made my skin crawl.

Star Factor: 7 out of 10
We all know who John Ritter is, and I'd say he's famous enough for 5 points. Polly Draper, who played Adrain, was apparently a major cast member of thirtysomething. She also created some Nickelodeon show called The Naked Brothers Band, so good for her that she kept busy once the TV movie bubble burst. Finally, the evil husband was on the 1/2 Hour News Hour, so I guess he's evil in real life too.

Lifetimeliness: 9 (out of 10)
BABIES! Babies babies babies. Babies? BABIES.

22. Sure hope Danielle steps it up for Palomino.

Friday, November 13, 2009


So, maybe a 15 year old VCR wasn't the best bet to view one of these films on. I have made it through all but 10 minutes of Heartbeat, and I promise you it is fantastic, but I am confident that this movie will have an insane enough climax that it's worth putting off the review until I can see the rest. I am in the process of locating a working VCR, and I will have one soon. So my apologies, true believers. You WILL see the review of Heartbeat late tonight or early tomorrow, and Palomino will available on Monday. That's a promise from me to you.

In the mean time, maybe you'd like to visit this awesome John Ritter fanpage?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let's Celebrate Getting Namechecked in Marie Claire!

Hey all!

Did you see in Smart Bitches, Trashy Books where they got name-checked in Marie Claire? Very cool! My boyfriend and I both have a weird fascination with romance novels, so you can only imagine how much I love that site. High-fives. Did you happen to see who else got name checked in that article? Oh yes. We may not be as smart as those bitches, but I'll bet my camo-patterned can of beer that we're trashier.

In celebration, I have located 4 Lifetime Movies based on Danielle Steel novels. Big ups to the pawn shop by my house for the following films:

Heartbeat: Starring John Ritter (RIP) as a dude deeply in love with a pregnant lady that just got dumped by her husband. Can he win her heart amidst the chaos of her life? More importantly, can we watch John Ritter trying to be sexy without giggling?

Kaleidoscope: Three sisters that were estranged for years are reunited by a private investigator because of a family tragedy. They apparently have some terrible secrets that will probably be hilarious. Fingers crossed for secret babies!

Palomino: A recently divorced photographer finds refuge on a horse ranch, where she photographs pictures of cowboys to ease her pain. Then she's paralyzed. Sounds like fun!

Safe Harbour: I'm having trouble figuring out what this is about from the box. I guess it's about two people who have dead loved ones getting it on in their memory. It sounds classy. Also, the lead woman in it is named Ophelia? Really, Danielle?

Since I am currently out of a job (don't worry, I've got another one lined up already) I plan to review one of these every couple of days. I will try and get Rusty to help me as well. If you've seen these movies, or-- god forbid --read these books, please leave me some comments so I know what you'd like to hear about. First review will go up Friday.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Good News: "Sherri" Isn't As Bad As It Could Be

Let me preface this unusually positive review by saying that Sherri is a Lifetime joint, not the new Arrested Development. It isn't subversive, it isn't terribly clever (aside from a few funny moments), and it lays on the Entertainment For Women frosting with a trowel. But for what it is, it's actually pretty good. I have a deep secret I'd like to share with you: when it comes to comfort food entertainment, my drug of choice is the 90's era sitcom. And I don't mean things we all secretly still like, such as Pete and Pete. Remember Cybil? I love Cybil. I could watch Christine Baranski vamp around to a laugh track all day. It's the era I grew up in, and I was born in a house with the television always on. A good episode of The Nanny gives me the same warm, centered feeling that home-baked cookies give to normal people. So imagine my delighted surprise when I sat down with yesterday and gave the Sherri sitcom a try. Has this show been waiting in a vault since 1994?

Sherri Shepherd: Mother, Comedian, Photoshop Disaster Waiting to Happen

"Sherri" is the kind-of-fictionalized story of Sherri "Tracy Jordan's Wife" Shepherd, a d-list actress who supports herself with a paralegal gig inbetween appearances on TV shows. She's dealing with being a single parent after kicking her cheating husband out. She has a supportive gaggle of girlfriends, a cute kid, and New York city as a backdrop for her wacky single misadventures. It's basically every 90's girl-power sitcom boiled into a powerful concentrate and injected into the bloated corpse of Lifetime's original programing. It could just be a stroke of luck that this zombie is a lovable Bub/Fido type and not a lobotomized murder junkie. (and yes, that last one is a Re-Animator reference. Good job, pop culture junkies!) I watched three episodes, and here's what I liked:

1: The family interaction rings true. If you ever viewed the evening programmatic abortion that was Reba, the sitcom vehicle for a musician that should have been above it, you were probably dumbfounded by the idea that a woman who got a divorce from her husband after he knocked up another woman became BFFs with that babymama within one season of mean-spirited banter. Sherri borrows that plotline, but takes it in a more believable direction: she is beyond pissed at her husband, but works on a smooth transition to singlehood to make things easier on her kid. The sitcom is firm on the premise that Sherri has too much respect for herself to take the cheater back or play godmother to the new kid. The show allows us to feel empathy for everyone in equal turns, and keeps things realistic in a not-realistic sitcom way.

2: The acting works. Sherri should never be allowed to host a talk show again, but that being said, she's an engaging lead. She's funny and personable, and she can handle a pratfall like nobody's buisness. (Yes, I think it's funny when people fall down.) The supporting cast has some great folks as well, including an icy drunk of an office manager and a funny sweetheart of a co-worker/best friend. It's nothing we haven't seen before, but the actors really give it their all, and the lamer jokes tend to float by on the good grace built up by their performances. There are some weak links (Jersey Girl paralegal, I'm looking at you), but I generally had fun watching these folks do what they do.

3: This show knows exactly what it is and has a lot of fun with it. Yeah, some of the jokes are lame, most of the resolutions to situations are unrealistic, and sometimes the moral platitudes ring false. Hello, every sitcom ever made. This show works the sitcom formula for everything it's worth, and by doing that, it frees itself from expectations to be anything else. You want a quietly crafted melodrama about people dealing with infidelity and loss? Cool, go watch Mad Men. You want to watch a sassy lady act empowered, toss out one-liners with her fun friends, and have a dance-off with her office manager to celebrate a birthday? Sherri will be a treat for you.

Let me make it simple for you. Watch the preview here: If you laugh at someone yelling "Boobs!", you will enjoy Sherri. The end.

In other words, Sherri will not land on your short list for Shows That Represent The Golden Age of Television, but it could end up being your comfort food sitcom this winter. It's like green bean casserole- make it at home, eat it with gusto, and don't tell your friends.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Messengers

Obviously, I try to stick to Lifetime movies here. It's such a sinking feeling to watch two hours of shlock on the Lifetime Movie Network only to discover that the movie not only had a theatrical release, but it actually debuted at number one in the box office. And all that happened less than three years ago.

So, yeah. The Messengers. A movie that made no impression on me until it was aired on Halloween weekend on Lifetime. And I watched it, so now I get to write about it. No, I don't care if it's a "real" movie and therefore throws off the entire "Hey! It's That Guy!" scale.

And it's not like this movie is good or makes sense or anything.

The movie starts in black and white. Some shadowy menace is killing the shit out of a family (including a distractingly ugly six-year-old) in their North Dakota farmhouse. Cut to the credits and we're back in full color as the Solomon family is moving into that same house. They're moving from the big city to start over as sunflower farmers.

The relevant Solomon here is Jess. Jess is a teenager and she misses her friends! Also, she is angsty and already has a DUI on her record. A DUI caused after an accident that left her three-year-old brother mute! That is the worst kind of DUI you can get! The DUI accident with the sibling in the's like Rachel just got married. I am glad that reference wasn't strained.

Uh, Rachel Getting Married spoiler alert?

Oh, and because this horror movie rips off every other horror movie, the mute toddler can see all the ghosts but no one else can. And they're everywhere! Mom is tucking in her sheets and you see some ghost legs in the bed. Ghosts be up on the ceilings all the time. The ghosts even haunt the stains on the wall.

So, we have the ghosts from The Grudge haunting the kid from The Sixth Sense inside the house from The Amityville Horror.

Dad Solomon is out trying to learn how to farm when he gets attacked by some vicious crows. A guy shoots at them and they fly off. This lonely drifter with a shotgun is giving a farming assistant job on the spot. And he gets to live on the property. Epic bad parenting job. That is worse than handing the keys to your drunk daughter.

Eventually the ghosts attack the kids and Jess can see them now but no one believes her. Jess first takes the wise approach and acts like the ghosts are looking for help. She approaches the child ghost and it is all sweet on it and then it attacks her and tries to eat her face. This makes less sense when the big plot twist is revealed.

Creepy drifter is also attacked by crows. At the same time, Mom finally starts seeing ghosts coming from the stains on the wall and an attempt is made to flee. At the same time, across town, Jess realizes that the Creepy Drifter is actually the patriarch of the murdered family that is haunting people. Creepy Drifter remembers this after the crows leave him alone and he goes into kill mode. Now we're ripping off The Shining.

Creepy Drifter manages to stab Dad with a pitchfork but the ghosts turn the basement floor into water somehow and drag Creepy Drifter to his doom.

So the ghosts were after Creepy Drifter. Then why were the crows attacking Dad? Why did the Child Ghost scratch up Jess's face? Why did Creepy Drifter remember how murderous he was at the exact moment Jess was all, like, "this guy is murderous."

Oh, and in the flashback where Creepy Drifter remembers how evil he is, it flashes back to someone trying to buy the house from him. Presumably with the same offer made to the Solomons to get them to move out. Who was this mysterious land baron!?

AWESOMENESS: 10 (out of 20)

I have never seen anything this derivative before. Or this ridiculous. But it is fun to watch crows attack that guy from The Practice.


This is a real movie with a real budget so of course there are famous people in it. Jess is played Kristen Stewart from Adventureland, Panic Room, and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE WORTH MENTIONING. The bad guy is played that lovable fellow from Northern Exposure and Sex in the City. Even the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files gets in on the action.

LIFETIMENESS: 0 (out of 10)

For obvious reasons. This movie was startlingly low in women's intuition.

GRAND TOTAL :10 (out of 30)

A ten on a reduced scale is pretty bad. Know what's worse? This movie grossed more than Hot Fuzz and Zodiac at the box office.