The Preacher's Daughter

Don't let The Preacher's Daughter fool you--even though there are some censored-out "fucks" in it, it's not a "real" movie. It's a born-for-LMN insta-classic! (OK, I'll admit it, I classify any Lifetime movie with a clergymember and sex in it an insta-classic.) How couldn't it be, with a name like that? According to IMDb, there's never been a TV movie called "The Preacher's Daughter," so a movie had to be written, and it looks like it practically wrote itself. (As did the reality show of the almost-same name.)

The preacher's daughter gets arrested in a leopard-print tank
It won't surprise you to hear that the preacher's daughter, Hannah, has run off the rails. She has tattoos and black hair with a purple streak in it. Her bad-news boyfriend stole money out of her wallet, likes to eat marshmallows out of the bag, and gets busted with her in the car and a bunch of unspecified drugs in the trunk. They both get arrested, and frankly, this whole 15 minutes of the movie was totally wasted. Even though he's apparently a drug dealer, the boyfriend doesn't even seem stoned...I really could have used some old-fashioned Lifetime coke-snorting or something.

Anyway, Hannah and her boyfriend get arrested, and she calls her dad the preacher to come pick her up at jail. In order to get a more lenient sentence, she agrees to go live in his custody again.

The church listens to Teenager Hannah singing
 "The Glory of My Longing," a song so annoying and
so relentlessly played in LMN commercials for this
movie that I still get it stuck in my head on occasion.
Then the movie flashbacks to when Hannah was a blonde teenager. If you're like me, though, you're fucking around on the internet or otherwise distracted, and you don't realize the blonde flashback Hannah and the black-and-purple-haired Hannah are the same person, and think that they're sisters or something. (In my defense, as a teenager she isn't allowed to wear make-up, and as a black-haired 20-something she piles the eyeliner on. I didn't realize they were the same actress.)

These trips down memory lane begin when she's not only blonde, but clean-cut, wearing modest clothing and attending her dad's sermons with the rest of her family. There's a hot "music minister" whose job consists of 1) directing the congregation during hymns and 2) giving Hannah personal music lessons. The Hot Music Minister spends a lot of time getting her to sing from her diaphram by placing his hands all over it, which naturally leads to bear hugs from behind, which leads to making out in a pew, which leads to unprotected sex in the Sunday school room!!

Andrew Bowen does her best "I just had unprotected sex
with the Hot Music Minister like an hour ago and now
my Preacher Dad is making me sit on his lap" face.
You don't get to see much boo-tay, but there are some close-ups of Hot Music Minister's wedding ring–clad hand caressing her thigh. I can't describe it any better than the commenter "Don-Florida Man" on Lifetime's Preacher's Daughter page, so here's what he has to say:
Was a beautiful thing seeing her give-up her Christian innocence that way. A gentleman, he took it slow, the way any good man should do if they were blessed to have a Christian virgin. And it was Christian lovemaking, she not stopping him as he forever took away her precious virginity. Could see her a na├»ve Christian girl not worried about protection and letting him show her what guys would expect from her.
And how!

The Hot Music Minister angrily throws the racy photo
his teenaged girlfriend left him in her face
Meanwhile, Hannah-of-the-past has befriended Lifetime's favorite maligned stereotype, a goth. She confesses to her friend that she has no idea about contraception because she was homeschooled, and that Hot Music Minister hasn't had sex with his wife since his fourth kid was born. In addition to wearing dark lipstick and dying her hair black, the goth is a photographer, and she takes some sexy pics of her friend, as girls in Lifetime movies are wont to do. But when Hannah leaves them for Hot Music Minister in the church he gets all angry, shocked that a teenager would tell her best gal pal that she was screwing an older man.

This is a Lifetime movie, so all of that sin isn't about to go unpunished. Hannah's pregnant, of course, and when she tells HMM, he seems shocked that he could get a teenager pregnant. It's really hard to feel sorry for a guy who has four kids, is banging his boss's teenaged daughter in a church, and doesn't have the smarts or the respect to put a rubber on it. Meanwhile, poor Hannah is all, "do you think abortion is a sin?"

I thought this move might break the #1 rule of Lifetime movies (no abortions, ever), especially when Hannah and her goth friend make it all the way to an abortion clinic. But a group of angry protesters intimidate the girls into turning the car around, even though that goes against everything we've learned about both characters through the rest of the movie.

Hannah and her goth friend
I said this movie was a Lifetime insta-classic, and it's not just because it has several scenes in a church and is full of Canadians. One of the marks of a truly excellent Lifetime movie is having a twist that makes absolutely no sense. A courtroom awards sole custody of a baby to the guy who raped the 15 year-old who gave birth to it. A young girl is killed after being mowed down by a speeding car on a quiet residential street and her mom vows vengeance on whomever sent her sext to the whole school rather than the manslaughterer. Etc.

Sometimes, like in The Preacher's Daughter, it's a twist so weird that you completely miss it the first time you see the movie, can't believe you actually saw it the second time, and on the third time say, "OK, I'm really going to pay attention during this part because did that really happen?"

Unfortunately, the movie isn't currently available anywhere online, so I'm telling you the following scene from memory. Until it comes back on LMN and you can confirm for yourself, you will just have to take it as Lifetime legend:

Late one night after Hannah and the goth friend were scared away from the abortion clinic never to return, they are parked in the friend's car on the side of the road somewhere. Hannah is all upset because she doesn't know what to do about her growing fetus. Some creepy state trooper dude comes and knocks on the window, and is giving them shit, and the goth girl gives him shit back (because she's goth and hates authority, duh). After telling them that that they should watch out for "the boogeyman" so late at night, he asks why Hannah is so upset and says, "Maybe I can help." And then Hannah says in voiceover, "it turns out he could help," and explains that he had "some pills" that she took and they made her miscarry.

GURL, don't you realize those are the same pills they would have given you at the abortion clinic?? Wouldn't it have been better to get them from a doctor/pharmacist than a shifty-ass state trooper guy? Was he even a state trooper? Did you pay him for these pills??? Why did he have those pills in the first place?? Is this what conservatives think Plan B is?? What did I just see??

So, yeah, apparently she got a back-alley medical abortion and moved away, dyed her hair black, and hooked up with the drug dealer guy from the beginning of the movie. So that's what happened between the time of the flashbacks and the "present day." But it gets even more Lifetimey.

Who could have known it was a wig??
Back in the present day, after moving back in with the 'rents, Hannah reveals that--unlike we all thought--she didn't dye her hair black after all. It's a wig! This movie just doesn't stop with the plot twists. Hannah goes back to being a blonde and gets a job as a waitress at a local restaurant. One day while waiting tables, she's horrified to run into Hot Music Minister, who has his wife and young four children with him! And wouldn't you know, his wife is super pregnant! She talks nicely to Hannah, and then Hannah's like, I'm getting the hell outta here, and has her friend cover that table while she huffs cigarettes out back.

But when she's leaving, HMM is there waiting for her! He's all, "What the hell happened to the flashback storyline? I was in it, super-confused as to how I could have knocked up someone who isn't my wife, and the next thing you know you're in the 'present day' again and I'm practically out of the movie!" She tells him about the shifty abortion pills, and he says, "But why didn't you go get an abortifacient from a gynecologist, so that you know it's approved by the FDA?" Just kidding! Of course he doesn't say that. He says nothing, because abortion is a strange and dangerous thing, folks, and no matter how you do it, you're going straight to hell, for sure.

And that's why Hannah never comes home that night--no, not the night of the abortion pill flashback, the night she runs into HMM outside the restaurant. The Preacher Dad goes looking for Hannah, and is momentarily sidetracked by the drug-dealing boyfriend from the beginning of the movie who's come to town to see her. Preacher Dad attacks him, painfully pinning his shoulder behind his back and demanding to know where his daughter is before he even politely asks for information. The drug-dealer doesn't know, so the dad heads to the restaurant, where Hannah's coworker tells him about seeing her with "the clean-cut guy who brings his family in here" and that Hannah seemed uncomfortable. Preacher Dad is all, OMG, that must have been Hot Music Minister, and he must have gotten Hannah pregnant and that's why she left town! There's a flashback where HMM tries to resign but won't say why, and Preacher Dad won't let him. Now it all makes sense!

Hannah is so weak after her dip in the baptismal font that
HMM has to carry her from his car all the way up the stairs into
her room (apparently) while her mom yells "Oh my heavens!"
Luckily, HMM knows exactly where Hannah has run off to. The baptistery at the church, of course! (What? I know, I don't get it either.) He arrives there just as she has plunged into the baptismal water...I guess maybe to kill herself...or something? I think she just wanted to see her hair swirl around dramatically, but HMM plucks her right out of there and carries her home.

Hannah has a younger brother of the typical Lifetime variety, a very minor character on the sidelines who is there to show the effects of his family being ripped apart and maybe insert some comedy in the beginning and end of the movie. Here, he tries to throw a punch at HMM after his dad confronts him about his relationship with his daughter, and Preacher Dad stops him, saying that they don't do that in this family. (Yes, the same guy who almost broke the drug-dealer dude's arm.)

Hannah and her goth friend, who now wears colorful sweaters
Well, there isn't much left to the movie after that. Hannah reunites with her goth friend, who no longer wears black bracelets and heavy makeup, and they share some knowing comments about old times in a park. For a moment, it looks so indie-movie that you almost forget all the epic Lifetimeyness you just witnessed.

The Preacher's Daughter isn't on LMN's current schedule but it's available on RedBox with a strangely designed cover that has nothing to do with the movie.

Half a Dozen Babies

You've probably seen at least part of Half a Dozen Babies on LMN before. You know...that movie where the lady gives birth to a half a dozen babies? But in case you haven't seen it, or you'd just like to relieve this fluffy, Hallmark Channel-esque Lifetime movie classic, you've come to the right place.

Half a Dozen Babies is about Becki and Keith Dilley, who spawned the first living sextuplets born in America (in 1993). The TV movie based on their life (from 1999) is a mostly light-hearted tale that begins at a pizza restaurant, where both Keith and Becki work (real life fun fact: it was really a Wendy's). Keith is impressed with Becki's ability to wrangle a parentless children's birthday party, and it's not long before they're fucking behind a pizza crust-filled dumpster and getting married. (The dumpster sex isn't mentioned, but I assume it happened, because that's what I would do if I worked at Papa John's and was boning my coworker. Just sayin'.)

Melissa and Scott Reeves, the married couple
who play the Dilleys, are soap stars #awkwardphoto 
But Alas, Keith and Becki's dreams of having a children's pizza party of their own are dashed when their fertility doctor gets all technical and says, "you both have problems with your plumbing." Apparently adoption isn't an option, because Becki becomes obsessed with procreating. She starts hallucinating positive results to her pregnancy tests, and taking major hormones. You can't help but feel sorry for her human turkey-baster, Keith, who finally has had enough of her personal Pregnancy Pact bullshit.

Becki promises to stop injecting the 'mones but--surprise!--as they're trimming the Christmas tree she announces that she pawned her wedding ring to buy one last, super-powerful babymaker in a syringe. Luckily, this horrible betrayal doesn't keep Keith from getting a boner, and that night he shoots her up and impregnates her (also not shown). But--surprise!--he's impregnated her with HALF A DOZEN BABIES!

(Sidenote: Up until the babies are born (like halfway through the movie) the doctors keep saying that Becki is pregnant with five babies. Unfortunately, due to TV's need for a snappy title, the sixth baby hiding under her spleen is hardly a surprise. But for some reason, waiting for everyone to find out about the sixth baby kept me from changing the channel the first three or four times I saw this movie.)

Becki has always wanted stretch marks! Enjoy, Becki!
Becki is delighted by the fact that she's as pregnant as a dog. She's not going to let it get her down that her doctor said her fetuses are all at severe risk of disabilities and death because she was too Christainy to abort a couple of them. She's too excited about getting stretch marks! Who cares if she has to get her cervix stitched up so she doesn't start accidentally dropping fetuses on the floor? Just think of all the amazing, fun-filled Christmases to come that will have to be paid for with pawned jewelry!

But even with the cervix stitches, Becki ends up bedridden (yet still cheerful) at the hospital. The hospital assembles a top-notch medical team to delivery her litter, and when "the sheer mass of babies and fluid" causes her face to become paralyzed, it's go time! Before Becki goes into surgery, she begs Keith not to "sign any forms," because she doesn't care at all if she dies and leaves him with six babies to take care of.

Becki grasps her giant prosthetic belly while bedridden.
Luckily, the babies are delivered without complication, except for that sixth one hiding under the spleen. Becki and Keith are surprisingly sensible enough to give them names that begin with different letters of the alphabet, and after some fun media interviews, Brenna, Quinn, Claire, Ian, and Adrian are on their way home. Julian, who was having respiratory problems, follows after some intense days spent crying while on a ventilator.

Meanwhile, did I tell you that Keith's mom is Terri Garr, and she's dying? Well, she has cerebral palsy (and lung cancer?), and she and Becki became phone pals while they were both hospital-ridden. We all get a precious few scenes with Ms. Garr, as she lives just long enough for the babies to get out of the hospital to meet her. Then she has a touching scene where she asks Becki's mother (the brilliant Judith Ivey, aka the sister from Hello Again) about loving the babies for the both of them. I dare you not to tear up.

Six babies at once is adorable!
Becki and Keith and their six infants have no choice but to move in with Becki's parents, because Keith's career has not progressed past working at a coleslaw factory. The six babies cry and coo on cue (depending on the scene), and the movie hits its high point with a montage of adorable sextuplet conundrums like laundry and bottle feeding, set to Amy Grant's "Baby, Baby."

Soon, Becki suggests to Keith that maybe she should go back to being a nurse while he stays home since "I make three times what you do." And I laughed and laughed that Keith had wasted so much time chopping cabbages because of outdated gender roles. Becki gets her Lifetime-mandated "I am woman, hear me roar" moment when someone interviewing her asks her if she can balance having a job and six babies, and she responds that she's doing what's best for her family.

The next thing you know, Becki's coming home from work without her purse or even her front door keys in her hand. Keith has experienced some wacky, Mr. Mom-style adventures during his day, but he informs her that he did manage a hot delivery! Oh Becki and Keith, life sure is zany when you have Half a Dozen Babies!!!!! Just wait until Jon and Kate come along.

Destination: Infestation

It was 2007. Samuel L. Jackson's revered Snakes on a Plane had just taken America by storm, and it was ripe for rip-off. But the Syfy Channel (then still called "Sci-Fi") had already blown its film budget for the year on movies like F. Murray Abraham's BloodMonkey and the mutant-insect-related Black Swarm. Some cable channel had to step up with a low-budget, Canadian-made movie where something took over a plane, and I'm so happy that it was LMN and ants. Yes, ANTS ON A PLANE!

The movie begins in all of the ways you'd hope it would, with a Hawaiian shirt–clad dude with a mysterious illness insisting, against doctor's orders, that he not miss his flight out of Columbia. As the passengers make their way on board, we find out some quick 'n' easy background info: one lady's engaged, one lady has a baby, and one is a widow whose teenager daughter thinks she should start dating again.

The Spring Break Partier meets an untimely ant-related
death in the lavatory
Then there are the guys--who are jerks, obviously. There's the guy who HATES BABIES as well as a spring break partier who's wasted off his ass (and spends the rest of the movie asking for more drinks, oblivious to the dangers of killer super-ants). The good guys include the pilot, who is about to retire, and--you're welcome, ladies--a velvet-tongued Antonio Sabato, Jr., as the heroic air marshall!

The plane is barely off the ground when shit starts to go down--but don't worry, that won't make them turn around immediately. Antonio has to fall in love with the hot widow, and that's gonna take some time! And because watching a video I filmed off my TV from my iPad is worth a thousand words, here's the scene we've all been waiting for:

Luckily, the attractive widow is also an experienced entomologist (and of course, no one is surprised--or even suspicious--that an entomologist and a killer swarm of ants are on the same plane). She informs Antonio and the rest of the flight crew that these are a mutated form of bullet ants, so-named because "their sting is like getting hit with a bullet--it takes 24 hours to recover." Luckily, when the pilot gets swarmed he bounces back in 15 minutes or so.

Even though the pilot is recovering from deadly super-ant stings, Ground Control still won't let the plane land!! At first they mocked the pilot for wanting to make an emergency landing just because there are some ants on board, and suggested he use some peanut butter to diffuse the situation. For some reason he didn't yell, "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND, SOME DUDE JUST DIED BECAUSE ANTS WERE SWARMING OUT OF HIS CHEST AND MOUTH!" Instead, he got the hot entomologist to explain that they're deadlier, faster, and yes--even smarter than the average ant. (But hopefully not smart enough to fly a plane by themselves.)

Once Ground Control contacts the CDC, however, it's clear to them that it would be dangerous to public health to let the plane land. Some bald guys have conference calls in darkened rooms, saying things like "Get me the Pentagon!" and "This is a disaster the portions of which we've never seen!" They decide that they'll just avoid the situation entirely and not give the plane any guidance. And the dude from the CDC doesn't seem concerned that they'll crash in the Everglades and the mutant super-ants will take over Florida. Instead, when another bald guy tells him not to tell anyone about this massive cover-up, he's all, "Who would I tell?" Uhm, the news? Your family who lives on the East Coast? TMZ?

No one thinks to use a shoe to stamp the ants
to death
, so Antonio and the entomologist make a
homemade bug spray and go nuts in the cargo hold
Meanwhile, after patient zero is dragged into the cargo hold, the passengers start using fire extinguishers to diffuse various ant swarms. After the entomologist has some much-needed bonding with her boring teenage daughter, she and Antonio go into the cargo hold to find some borax in the freight, which they use to make some insecticide. While she's funneling it into hairspray bottles, he tells her that it's his job to observe people, and he can observe what a special lady she is. He's about to kiss her when the sound of an ant swarm fills the air (yes, it sounds like when the ants show up in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) and they use all of their new bug spray on the approaching hoard. This is really too bad, because the super-intelligent ants have chewed through the fuel pipe, and then done something non-specific that leads to Antonio have to fuse two wires together.

Thanks to Antonio's heroism with another fire extinguisher, and his continuous use of "oh my God, these swarming ants are so gross!" face, the plane is able to land. But unfortunately, the evil bald guy figures out that they're planning on making an unauthorized landing in Mobile, Alabama, and has guys with rifles and shotguns waiting. I guess they are going to shoot everyone as they come off the plane?? Wouldn't it be easier to just spray them down? Luckily, "the media" shows up and the evil guy can't give the order to kill everyone--and he totally would have, because he had confided to his tokenly black secretary that he has two ex-wives and never sees his son, so apparently that's why he can be so heartless as to kill 45 innocent Americans (or in this case, 44 Canadians and Antonio Sabato, Jr.).

Once everyone is safely off the plane, the entomologist sees some ants on the outside of the plane, so she grabs a handy flare gun and fires it at the plane, causing the it to explode. They're going to be quarantined for the next week or so, but at least it will be with Antonio Sabato, Jr.! But as they head off in an orderly fashion, the camera pans to ants--yes, ants! Does this mean that there will be a Destination: Infestation 2??
Antonio Sabato has gotten his woman, his woman's daughter,
the gay flight attendant, and even a dog to safety. But do
any superintelligent mutant bullet ants remain?

Destination: Infestation is currently available on Hulu and may be available free On Demand. I have Time Warner Cable and found it under Free Movies On Demand (channel 1006) --> Lifetime Movie Network --> Lifetime Premieres [Note: Not under "All Movies"!] --> Infestation.

No One Would Tell

The fact that No One Would Tell stars Candace Cameron and Fred Savage and features a cameo from Sally Jessy Raphael at the end means that I will watch it pretty much every time it's on LMN. I just wish this "Monday Night Movie" from May 6, 1996 had anything remotely unexpected in it, because I will continue to watch it repeatedly even though it's kind of awful.

I guess Fred and Candace were a natural pairing, since they're the same age and appeared on popular sitcoms from 1988 to 1993 (Full House went on longer, but it was no longer popular by then). But because Candace played the oldest sibling, and Fred the youngest, it never occurred to me that they could be dating. (Plus, Kevin Arnold lived in the 60s. Problematic.) So No One Would Tell is fun to watch drunk just to see Candace and Fred get it on, by-the-lake style.

But unfortunately, the movie follows the typical Lifetime pattern, so Fred (and all other men) in the movie are the worst assholes ever. No One Would Tell also includes the weird and annoying TV movie habit of having the first scene of the movie be a replay of the climax of the entire film. So it begins with Candace and a letter-jacketed Fred in a fight, Candace telling Fred it's over and Fred telling Candace (by choking her) that he does not agree. Fred then returns to his truck with his hands covered in blood. His friend, Claire's no-good boyfriend from Six Feet Under, is all, "What'd you do, man??!!"

Then we flash back to six months earlier, so we can watch a bunch of scenes of Candace and Fred being cute together knowing that he's a crazy psycho who's going to end up beating her to death. Um, fun? Candace also has a best friend from the cast of Six Feet Under (Vanessa Diaz), along with a second best friend, played by James Van Der Beek's ex-wife. Candace spends much of the film gushing to her besties about how hot Fred is, then denying that he's a total asshole.

Every teenaged boy in a Lifetime movie plays a sport;
Fred's a wrestler.

Fred woos Candace by presenting her with an artificial rose and asking her to spot him while he lifts weights at school. They're soon toasting marshmallows over a fake-log-covered gas jet in the sand by the lake, and she gamely mounts him to splash other ladies in the water.

But there's trouble in 90s Sitcom Crossover Land. Fred gets super-pissed when Candace hangs out with her other friends, especially if a guy is involved. He flips out when she finally meets his mom, who's waiting for him in a parking lot. And more and more bruises are showing up on her body.... Like any Lifetime movie about teens, her friends gossip behind her back, and even say that his ex didn't move, she transferred schools to get away with him! But since they didn't have cellphone cameras back then, they do nothing.

The props dept. apparently had a lot
of fake roses, because Fred gives them to
her on at least 3 occasions in the movie.
Candace's mom is equally unhelpful. She has a creepy boyfriend who can't stop kissing her neck even when company is over. Candace is super-judgmental of the "crappy" way the boyfriend treats her mom, but it totally unaware that beating someone is pretty crappy. She tells her mom it's "nothing" when she finds a giant bruise on her neck, and the mom's like, "Are you sure? And why are your grades suddenly bad? Oh, nevermind, my boyfriend is here to pick me up."

It's about at this point that Fred breaks out the crazy eyes--did they give him pupil dilators? He shows up unexpectedly in her bedroom, confessing that his parents are drunks and that their intense, high school love is forever.

Candace is all "WTF?" as Fred
drags her from the 50s dance.
Then in the next scene, he and Candace are attending the school dance. It's 50s themed, so everyone has dressed up in poodle skirts and is swing-dancing to 50s music, rather than wearing expensive dresses they found at the mall and complaining that they aren't playing "Where Do You Go" by No Mercy. Fred and Candace are some of the best 50s dancers at school, and all goes well until Candace talks to another guy! Fred drags her out of the dance and starts to smack her around some more, and she finally dumps his ass.

But after talking to him on the pay phone at the bowling alley, she has a change of heart, and agrees to go for a ride with him in his pick-up truck. The dude from Six Feet Under is there, so you know what's next....but Lifetime assumes you just switched over from 60 Minutes and plays the death scene for you again.

After Candace is murdered, the usual Lifetime silliness occurs, where the cops are completely worthless and don't don't even bring Fred in for questioning. Eventually James Van Der Beek's ex figures it all out and tells the cops. They bring in the Six Feet Under guy, who confesses that Fred "was whacked" that evening, and they play the blood/"What'd you do, man??!!" part of the death scene over again. When the cops finally bring Fred in, they play the scene again, but this time we see that Fred had a knife that he used to stab Candace in the neck. Then he duct-taped her into a plastic bag and threw her in the lake. :(

Sally Jessy explains that we are all responsible for
Candace Cameron's death.
Lest you think that--and a "Nooooo!!!! Whhhhyyyy!!!!" scene from the mom--is the end, Sally Jessy Raphael is here to tell you otherwise. Third billed, she appears in the movie for several seconds as the judge at Fred's trial. In a voiceover during a montage of scenes where Fred was being a dick to Candace, she admonishes everyone who saw him handling her roughly. You see, this isn't just a schlocky made-for-TV movie, it's a schlocky made-for-TV movie inspired by something that totally could have happened (I'm talking about Candace Cameron and Fred Savage getting together....Is he Christian?)!

Van Der Beek's Ex cries her eyes out while emptying out Candace's locker and--oh my god!--the artificial roses he's been giving her turned into real, dead roses with cobwebs on them! Creepy!! Candace's mom breaks up with the bad-news boyfriend, and all of Candace's friends are very, very sorry. Fred gets life in prison and isn't seen again, until years later when he's spotted in Danny DeVito's tailer. Sally Jessy Raphael was canceled in 2002.

Tall Hot Blonde

When I heard that Courteney Cox had directed Lifetime's latest "danger on the internet" movie I was concerned. Jennifer Aniston's Lifetime movie was practically unwatchable, and it was only 15 minutes long. They are former stars of the same show, and BFFs! What if Courteney's movie didn't have the right combination of crazy, TV-PG sex, and naivetee necessary to pull of a "danger on the web" movie?

To my surprise, Court really came through. "Tall Hot Blonde" (or "Talhotblond," as it appears on the interwebs) was actually much more watchable than most Lifetime movies in terms of dialogue, pace, and even a convincingly suspenseful score by Sasha Baron Cohen's brother Erran. Luckily, it was still fucking ridiculous and awful, as all Lifetime movies should be.

Is Thomas wearing these glasses because we're supposed to
think this movie takes place in the 90s, or that he's creepy?
Thomas Montgomery is a middle-aged steel worker who's married-with-two-children to Carol, played by Laura San Giacomo from Just Shoot Me. They're the perfect married couple, except Thomas is secretly a psychopath who can't sustain an erection. We know this because he has both a creepy moustache and child-molester glasses. And also because of his and Laura's awkward sex scene at the beginning of the film:
CAROL: You...wanna try? [Vagina immediately becomes lubed up enough for intercourse]
THOMAS: [Raises eyebrows, then rolls on top of CAROL fully clothed, makes "putting penis into someone" gesture. Does one test thrust, then rolls off of her.] I'm sorry.
Thomas is part of a weekly poker game, and one night his friends suggest he join them for an online poker game on a gambling website. He's like, "Computer? whaaa? I think we have one of those contraptions!" But apparently he's a quick learner, because the next night he's typing by touch and using suggestive emoticons like a pro.

You'd think an online poker game with your buddies would be an unlikely place to meet an attractive young lady, but Thomas is on the internet for mere seconds before "Talhotblond" pops up, asking him all about himself. When he asks, "Are you REALLY a tall hot blonde?" she immediately sends him a pic of herself in a bikini, so Thomas--and not a single person watching the movie--is convinced that she is who she says she is.

I salute Courtney Cox's choice to not wear makeup for her
role as a nurse, but that's probably why you can't see
her face in any of the publicity photos.
The next day, Thomas's magical computer skills manifest themselves again as he scans a photograph without having to update any software, swearing, or even making the weird "uhhhh," "mmm" and "oh!" noises he moans while using the computer throughout the rest of the film. I guess the photo is of him as a young marine, but it looks nothing like him, and I spent most of the middle part of the movie waiting for it to be explained that they had a dead marine son or something.

Anyway, Courteney Cox shows up as Carol's best work gal pal, who puts the seed of distrust in Carol's mind about Thomas cheating on the internet. Carol, haven't you ever seen a Lifetime movie? The internet is trouble!!! Well, when Thomas goes and buys a laptop on the credit card, Carol knows something's up, so she logs onto the computer and finds out Thomas's awful secret.

By the time she finally confronts him, he's in too deep--the tall, hot blonde has sent him printed out copies of the same photos she IMed, along with some underwear. (She apparently doesn't find it odd that he said he was deployed, yet she can mail him at his house.) He runs into the woods away from the prying eyes of his family, then holds the lacy underpants up to his face, discretely smelling them as his creepy moustache ripples lightly in the breeze.

He gets her phone number, then calls her, whispering while perched on the edge of the tub. She's clearly much, much better than his dumb and dowdy wife, who says stupid things like, "I thought that movie we saw tonight was funny!" He tells the tall hot blonde he loves her, and that he wants to marry her. Little does he know that she'll receive a scathing letter from his wife only days later, that contains a picture of him and his family!

Oh computer, I'd rather stroke you than any real lady!
When the shit hits the fan Carol makes Thomas sleep on the old couch in the garage, but she doesn't go sell the laptop on Craigslist, so of course he keeps talking to Talhotblond on the internet. But when she starts IMing a young coworker of his, Thomas starts to go ripshit. He no longer adjusts his glasses and blinks a lot while reading her IMs, but is now taking his glasses off and wiping imaginary sweat from his eyeballs! He writes things like, "Fine, be his whore!!!" and starts slamming closed the laptop in mid IM-convo, a practice that is not only bad for those with snoopy wives but also those who value their computer.

Finally, Thomas can't take it anymore, and he goes and shoots the coworker right in the face, then throws his rifle and the laptop into a lake. This being Lifetime, though, this was the first scene they showed, thereby spoiling the climax of the entire movie. Oh well, moving on...

The real "Talhotblond." Was it her vagina smell on the
undies, or her hot daughter's? Thomas will never know.
After that, Thomas suggests a camping trip, and there is some marshmallow roasting and successful in-tent boning. But the cops are waiting for them when they return home in the family truck, and when they take Thomas to the police station, Thomas is shocked to find out that the tall, hot blonde is not a tall, hot, blonde afterall! She's the gray-sweatshirt-wearing mother of the tall hot blonde!

Yep, that's the twist: that the person on the internet in the Lifetime movie is not who she said she was. Also, just like Secrets of Eden, this movie was ripped from the same headlines as an old Law & Order episode, and frankly, the L&O was better. (It contained a crawlspace exhumation and some courtroom shenanigans.)

Putting the twist-that-wasn't-really-a-twist earlier in the movie is just one of the many ways in which "Tall Hot Blonde" could have been improved, however. I humbly make these suggestions to Courteney for the next Lifetime movie she directs, which I hope is soon:

1. The lady is supposed to be the main character! Why was I watching some guy I had to look up on imdb to find out he's in Raising Hope sweat in the garage when we could have been watching Laura SanGiacomo freak out about her husband cheating on her? She has some serious acting chops--have you never seen Pretty Woman??

2. Let's just agree to tell Lifetime movies chronologically from now on. You don't need to show us the money scene at the beginning of the movie, and you especially don't have to segue from that scene into the rest of the movie by using a modem sound. Enough said.
Fatal Desire, the best "danger on the internet"
Lifetime movie ever made.

3. Get Anne Heche to play the crazy woman on the internet. (But first, if you haven't seen her 2006 Lifetime classic, Fatal Desire, I'm not sure you should even making a Lifetime movie that has the internet in it.) You don't even have to pay her to say anything--when the cops show up to the supposed Tall Hot Blonde's house and it's Anne Heche, the viewer will know some real crazy shit just went down, just by the look in her eyes. If you have more room in your budget, show lots of scenes of her cackling, and hire Eric Roberts, too.

4. How did this movie not feature a gambling addiction? Thomas is on the poker website every night, but he is somehow not gambling his family out of house and home. A gambling addiction could have tweaked the tension even further. Not to mention, I'm pretty sure that Carol should have to pay with everything she has for being foolish enough to trust a man.

5. "No Touching!" The fact that this movie doesn't have a scene where Carol visits Thomas in prison and tells him what an asshole he is is inexcusable. We only get mere seconds of Carol going, "What's going on here, officers? My husband couldn't possibly be involved with this!" before she herds the kids into the house. Even The Craigslist Killer, one of the worst Lifetime movies of all time, had a prison visitation scene! In fact there are entire Lifetime movies that basically take place in a prison visitation room (Betty Broderick Her Final Fury, I'm looking at you). It's tradition!

That being said, I think Courteney's next Lifetime movie should be about a confused teenager who got raped or has an eating disorder. She can play a helpful teacher or guidance counselor. What Lifetime movie do you want Courteney to make?

Falling for You

"Falling for You" is a quality Lifetime movie by any LMN junkie's measure: It has a former "Beverly Hills, 90210" star, there's a club scene, and it's from the 90s, which means cheesy saxophone and inexplicable fog fills the city streets.

The "90210" star in question is Jennie Garth, who plays Meg Crane, a young city woman who's been hardened after a lifetime of orphanhood. One night while eating dinner alone at a nice restaurant, a guy sees her from outside, says something horribly condescending like, "I can tell you're lonely!" and walks into the restaurant. Who wouldn't be charmed by that?

So they set off to cure Jeannie's loneliness with some unforgettable wackiness (city variety) in the middle of the night. Jennie and her new beau go about this by forgoing a meal at the nice place she was sitting at and instead, stealing some room service from a hotel and eating it by their pool. Unfortunately, the movie shows all the giggling hilarity of stealing ice cream in the hallway, but not the part where they manage to break into the hotel's pool area, which also happens to contain a dangerous concrete ledge than Jennie climbs up on.

Jennie Garth living on the edge
When Jen's mystery man is all, omg, what the hell are you doing up there? she stoically says, "I've lived on the edge so long I've just about made friends with it." Ooo, hardcore. Did I mention this movie started off with a different blonde being thrown out the window? But don't worry, a detective played by Billy Dee Williams is looking into it.

The next morning, Jennie's in her red silk bath robe feeding pigeons out her window when she receives flowers from the mystery man...or are they from her ex? Her ex has been showing up in creepy places, like asleep in her bedroom (he still had keys) and when she's on a date. And it's clear that one of Jen's paramours is connected to the blonde-out-the-window because creepy violin music plays every time they're on screen.

In fact, according to the violins, even Detective Billy Dee Williams is suspicious. He has a rooftop greenhouse where he grows pink roses, which keep showing up elsewhere in the movie. So...that's something, right? As he's a cop in a 90s movie, it won't surprise you to hear he has a partner that he begrudgingly respects even though they have their differences. (In this case, Billy Dee Williams is black and his partner is white, or as the partner says, "I'm civilized, he's not.")

Billy Dee gets dissed on by his obnoxious partner
near the club's house ladder
This isn't the first murdered blonde case Billy has worked on, either! And in the last one, the key witness was killed! While staking out a club full of strobe lights and people wearing black, the civilized partner says he wants to set the record straight: he doesn't believe what "they" say about him: "If you'd planned it, you would have gotten meaner, not weaker." Ouch!

Anyway, it doesn't take long before all the suspicious music--and even the entire ex-boyfriend and Billy Dee greenhouse subplots--are rendered useless, because we figure out that Jeannie Garth's new boyfriend is the killer. How? Well, because he comes over one night and throws her out the window. **But! She lands on  the pigeon ledge a few stories down, and doesn't die!

She's soon ensconced in a fuzzy blue bathrobe at the hospital, and has the most popular illness in the history of film, amnesia. She refuses to talk to Billy Dee and his partner, but makes sure to tell the press that she can't remember the past few months, including meeting a mystery man who probably killed a bunch of other ladies.

Meanwhile, the killer has removed his glasses, and we get a rare peek at him inside his home, doing some mad pull-ups. And uh oh, we see on that all over his walls are carefully matted and framed news clippings about various high-rise murders! That must be awkward when the super stops by unexpectedly! The camera zooms in dramatically on an impressionist painting of a blonde lady and hovers there for a melodramatically long time while the killer grunts in the background.

A rare scene in the movie that isn't incomprehensibly blurry
due to being in a dark room or alley in a 90s TV movie 
But because he's a crazed killer, he can't stay in his high-class killer pad forever. He moves into Jennie Garth's apartment building just to be closer to her. I spent the next 15 minutes of the movie yelling "he's gonna get you, Jennie!", and I definitely thought she in for it when he followed her down the stairs on her way to go jogging. (Unless you're going jogging while gabbing about your man troubles to your gal pal, you run a 85 percent chance of dying on your jogging trip in a Lifetime movie.) Eventually, she strikes up a conversation with him, and love is in the air once more....

But just when you think he's going to try to kill her again, you realize she's been faking her amnesia all along!! It was just a clever ruse so that he wouldn't try to kill her again...and so that she could kill him!

Veteran TV movie bit player Gerry Quigley happens
to show up at the same precinct that Billy Dee works at
to explain the Robert Frost connection
Meanwhile, back at the police station, a gay dude in a leather jacket has shown up to report one of the senior citizens from his poetry class missing. "It was the class about Robert Frost, she'd never miss that!" he yells at the guy at the counter.

Now, here's where I have a real bone to pick with the realism in "Falling for You." (Besides the fact that there is fog in every scene, making the 90s-TV-movie blurriness even worse.) I happen to teach a creative writing class for seniors, and I can say from personal experience that their attendance record is spotty at best, even when you're discussing one of the most generic American writers in history. Besides the countless doctors' appointments to schedule around, there's the real possibility of breaking your hip if it's been raining.

The next thing that happens is that Billy Dee Williams (who is hangin' out by the front desk, like all the coolest homicide detectives do) is like, "Wait, where did she live?!" and the gay teacher goes, "uhhhmm, I think she said the East Side." BD quickly looks her up in the phone book that he keeps nearby, sees she has the same address as Jeannie Garth, and realizes that the killer has murdered the old lady so he can move into Jeannie Garth's building and try to kill her again!!! (The realism of this part I had no problem with.)

BD busts into the old lady's apartment just as the killer has wrestled away a gun that Jennie had pointed at him. But before anyone can shoot anyone else, the killer leaps through the window--the irony!! Perhaps it's because they didn't get to see it in slow-mo like we did, but Billie 'n' Jennie don't notice that the killer did a perfect stunt-man jump, carefully turning into the broken glass as he jumped and going out with his feet first. They assume he's dead, and Billie goes downstairs to draw a chalk outline while Jeannie lays down with her eyes closed and all the lights off on her couch--why not!?

Jennie Garth relaxing after her second near-murder,
shortly before her third near-murder
Well, let this be a lesson to all of us to make sure the person who was just trying to kill us is dead before we decide to take a little nap. Especially if, like Jennie, you happen to be such a sound (and immediate!) sleeper that you don't hear someone climbing into the window that is ten feet away from you!!

Luckily, this time she's able to fend him off with some karate skills (oh yeah, there was one scene in the movie earlier on where it's established that she's learning karate). And then she tosses him through the window--how even more ironic! This time he goes ass-first, and it's confirmed that his body needs to be scraped off the sidewalk.

After some buddy cop summation lines with his partner, Billy heads upstairs to Jeannie's balcony, where he puts a coat over her shoulders, calls her "kid," and gives her some sage advice: "Sometimes it's hard to see the danger in things until it's too late." Jeannie puts her head on his shoulder and some fog floats over them. Yes, that's really how this movie ends.

You can watch "Falling for You" in 10 parts on YouTube, and it's currently on LMN On Demand, which can be found under "Free Movies on Demand" on some cable systems.

Secrets of Eden

John Stamos and Lifetime movies are a rare combining of pop culture pleasures so great that they cease to be guilty. He's the only person to have his own category on this blog! But let me explain it another (perhaps scarier?) way: I've never seen what is widely considered Stamos's best Lifetime work, The Two Mr. Kissels, even though I own it on DVD. Like a guy you've flirted with for so long you're afraid that hooking up with him will ruin it, I'm holding onto it in case I need it, like if it's my birthday and everyone forgets.

Here's Stamos, playing a pastor.
Lifetime movies fit Stamos like a glove, allowing him to throw televised fits not seen since his Blackie days and chew up every close-up with his emoting eyes. But you don't even need to know that to understand how eager I was watch Stamos take off his clothes in "Secrets of Eden." You just have to be someone who likes to sleep with men. And if you are, and you were born between 1978 and 1985, you probably have enough Stamos pop-ins (if he doesn't have a permanent space on your bench) that it will be totally worth it for you to watch this movie.

As this is Lifetime, I can state the obvious up front: there's a lady and she has a total asshole for a husband. She and her domestic-violence-loving spouse are played by stereotypical Lifetime actors (vaguely recognizable and blandy attractive), probably because the Stamos is so expensive -- double whammy, because his mastery of TV acting makes them also seem boring in comparison. This wouldn't be too bad except Stamos is only in the movie for roughly 20 minutes! Not enough Stamos, Lifetime! But since being on stage with a band as old as the Beach Boys has always cast an unattractive haze over Stamos's drumming performances, I'll take what I can get here.

The hottest baptism ever shown on Lifetime
Stamos plays a small-town pastor who wears jeans and fitted flannel(-patterned) shirts with three-quarter sleeves. He starts off the movie by baptising Alice (the lady-tagnoist), and -- naturally -- she has a picnic to celebrate, but her asshole husband can't come because of work. During the picnic we also find out that Alice recently got back together with her husband, and that they have a teenaged daughter who loves The Fray. Alice also has a vaguely ethnic friend Heather, who shows up for five seconds to give her a Ganesh statue and meet Pastor Stamos (who's called "Pastor Drew" in the movie, in a strange throwback to Untouchable).

After the picnic, Alice's bland bully of a husband (who really could have learned a thing or two about how to do a proper Lifetime domestic violence scenes from Stamos himself) goes into a jealous rage that Stamos baptized her....and we later learn that he beat her to death. Well, at least they got the murdering out of the way. Then, four hours later, someone shoots the asshole husband in the back of the head.

Yet another fantastic actress wasted on Lifetime:
Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad and Deadwood
plays the worthless detective
The bloody scene is duly inspected by the wife from Breaking Bad, who plays the detective. Even though the husband was shot through the back of the head from several feet away, they determine that it's a suicide, because the gun in his hand. Genius! And since it was just a suicide, might as well let the local pastor, clad in blue rubber gloves (even the gloves are tight) clean up the house, right?

Well, the medical examiner soon sets the detective straight, and now she's got a murder on her hand! She's also not at all mad at herself for letting some random guy onto the scene of a murder to clean up. But he's the pastor, he must have meant well!! Meanwhile, because I have seen several hundred episodes of Law & Order, I realize that it was totally the daughter that did it.

The detective starts poking around amongst Alice's lady friends, and finds out that she had broken up with her husband because he was an asshole who beat her, then recently took him back for unknown reasons. She had also started to become more spiritual, as evidenced by her going into Heather's spiritual bookshop for the first time even though she had read all her books. (Thanks, flashbacks!) But when Stamos starts showing up at the bookshop after Alice's death, a member of the church's "women's group" lets it drop that the "pastoral counseling" Alice was receiving from Pastor Stamos before her murder was actually the penis-in-vagina kind!!

I don't like Stamos' jeans, but I like his back grasp.
Lifetime, of course, doesn't show anything more risque than some slow-motion panting, but Stamos is a TV veteran and knows how to work a white undershirt. As hot as these all-to-brief flashbacks were, "Secrets of Eden" didn't really deliver on the bad pastor front. I spent many of my pre-teen years crushing on my church's engaged youth pastor (yes, I had a lot going on back then). Now that I'm an atheist, I had been looking forward to enjoying some pastor-sex fantasies with some Stamos flavor mixed in -- without worrying about the hell-related consequences!

But not only does Reverend Stamos never wear anything remotely conservative-looking, he's a shitty pastor. Or so I'm assuming, because we don't seem him deliver a single sermon except for Alice's funeral in the movie -- mostly he's just hanging out in an empty church, waiting to have one-on-one confrontations with various women. Worse still, he doesn't get in trouble for all the premarital sex he's been having! First he's banging a married parishioner on the regular, then he hooks up with a non-Christian after she dies! In any Lifetime movie worth its salt there'd be some angry people on his lawn, or at least he'd give an emotional sermon where he asks for forgiveness.

Stamos may as well just be a smoldering recovering
alcoholic, since this is as pastorly as he gets
Not John Stamos. He stands by his choice to make impassioned love to Alice during her separation, even when the detective confronts him with Alice's lime-green diary of secrets. But apparently the stress of being a hot pastor who has unmarried sex up against walls really was too much to bear, because in one of the last flashbacks of the movie (a short, uninspired "I can't do this anymore" scene), we find out that Stamos was the one who dumped Alice.

Faced with this rejection, is it any surprise that Alice goes back to her asshole husband who enjoyed beating her within an inch of her life? Well yes, actually, it is. The movie goes to great lengths to show us how happy and independent Alice feels while separated -- there's even a dancing around the kitchen while making cookies montage! So it really makes no sense that she'd go back to her husband, especially since every one of her gossipy friends say that they encouraged Alice to get a restraining order and a divorce.

I think Stamos had it in his contract that he got to
wear 3/4 sleeves in 3/4 of the scenes
Unfortunately, no one ever called the cops on the dude themselves, or gets Alice some professional counseling, so she gets back together with him, and he leaves her in a pool of blood. He seems totally sober when he does it, but I guess after the fact he decides to sit in his La-Z-Boy and drink some beer, because that's where his daughter finds him, passed out with a bottle in his hand, and shoots him in the back of the head with his gun.

Naturally (?), she goes to Stamos and he not only goes back to ingeniously put the gun in the husband's hand and "clean up," but tells her that he'll take the blame if they ever bring charges.... I mean, she's an 18-year-old girl who had every right to be terrified of her dad and go temporarily insane, but Stamos decides it would be better for her to keep the secret that she killed her father for the rest of her life, and for him to ruin his life by taking the fall for a crime he didn't commit, because her mother would have wanted it that way.

It doesn't really make sense, but I guess I'm willing to go along with it, especially because there's never enough proof to arrest anyone. The movie ends with Pastor Stamos taking the daughter to college. She gives Stamos a big "thanks for the ride, and for being complicit in my murdering" hug in the quad...and I can't help but wonder if she's going to be thinking about him and his tight-fitting flannel in her dorm room tonight.

The daughter's only publicity still. Sorry lady,
make room for Stamos.

Buy Secrets of Eden on iTunes

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