LMN's Under Age and Out of Control (aka You Can't Handle the Youth) marathon

I must admit, I'm relieved Lifetime Movie Network's Under Age and Out of Control weeklong marathon is over. A whole week of one Lifetime genre is a bit much, and outta control teens are my least favorite genre of Lifetime movie--I easily tire of whiny teenagers and every Lifetime movie starring them has the same plot.

Yes, I'm aware that ALL Lifetime movies have the same plot, but it's too easy to feel sorry for these hapless girls who are grossly undereducated about safe sex and have parents who gave them a computer only so they could rifle through their IMs later. When an adult woman sleeps with a supposed amnesiac who she's defending on charges of polygamy, you can't feel too bad for her when she discovers the guy doesn't actually have memory loss and didn't actually forget marrying all those women. But the poor ladies of the "under age" set never suspect that their boyfriend is a psycho until wayyy after they've had sex (often getting pregnant the first time), after he's freaked out for no reason, and sometimes, after she's given the whole school gonorrhea.

At their worst, UAaOoC movies are like sinister episodes of MTV's Undressed, and not in a good way. As soon as I saw the poor production values and ridiculous plotline of the first movie on the UAaOoC marathon--a teenager meets the "perfect guy" online and he turns out to be a dangerous, dangerous felon--I didn't even bother sticking around long enough to see if the movie was called "Web of Deceit," "Web of Deception," or "Deadly Web."

But a week without Lifetime does something to a woman, and that's make her go to the Lifetime website. There, I participated in the momentous occasion that was my very first vote for Lifetime Movie Network's Pick-a-Flick Friday. When I saw Poison Ivy (I) on the list, I was sure it would win. But to my surprise, the LMN audience was on my side. "If I wanted to watch real movies, I'd watch one of the many other channels I subscribe to," one woman wrote in the comments section. "Show more TV movies!!!"

I voted for "Terror in the Family," starring Hilary Swank. I figured if anyone could transcend the UAaOoC stereotypes, it would be her...and if not, it also starred the mom from Growing Pains and the Dad from the Wonder Years. I was excited when it came in second (I guess?) and was shown during the 10pm slot, but as soon as I saw that it had to resort to the old trick of showing the climax of the movie first and then "flashing back," I knew "Terror in the Family" was in trouble. And when Hilary's geeky younger brother wailed, "my mom...she's bleeeeeding!" into the phone, I knew I wasn't supposed to laugh....

Unfortunately, Dan Lauria (Wonder Years Dad), is nowhere near as good in this movie as he is in the Lifetime classic "Prison of Secrets" (I'm still surprised the scene where he shuts down the sanitary napkin-related riot never ended up on an Emmy reel), and watching Hillary Swank be SO VERY, VERY ANGRY!! was the only entertaining thing this movie had going for it.

"Speak," the movie that won (?) Pick-a-Flick Friday, fared much better, and was almost as good as an actual (non-lifetime) movie. Almost. It has everything going for it--look! they even paid to have publicity photos taken!

From left to right that's DB Sweeney, whose career is going so well I had to scan down to #56 on his imdb credits list to figure out what I knew him from (yes, "The Cutting Edge."); Hallee Hirsh, who played Dr. Greene's bratty daughter on ER; Vampire-lover Kristen Stewart, who I think my boyfriend is starting to get a crush on even though he claims he doesn't like "Twilight"; Elizabeth Perkins, whose skill at playing a self-indulged mother is vastly, vastly wasted in this movie; and some fresh-faced teen who is so forgettable they even forgot to put her in the last photo.

Unfortunately, not even these amazing actors, along with Steve Zahn at his most annoying and veteran character actor Leslie Lyles (she's appeared as 6 different characters in 7 different episodes of 3 different Law & Orders!), aren't enough to save "Speak." The fault mostly lies in the badly written script, including cringe-inducing inner dialogue from Kristen, who's smart, artsy, and oh-so-angsty. "Conjugate this: I cut. You cut. He cuts. She cuts." Yeah, that's something she's actually supposed to be thinking to herself. Tell me you didn't just make a face there.

Worse, though, is the very same aspect that makes this a true "Lifetime" movie--the almost random plot device of having Kristen barely speak* to anyone because she's been traumatized by being raped over the summer. (*omg that's the title of this movie!) The story follows the basic plotline of any "angsty teen discovering herself" film, with Kristen dealing with typical high school problems of alienation and confused feelings (did I mention she's angsty?)--and neither she, nor the movie, really addresses the rape. To just have some rape flashback scenes, along with a needlessly violent scene between Kristen and her rapist tacked on at the end, it not only spoils the flow of the movie, but makes it tacky. In the last scene of the film, Kristen finally SPEAKS to her mother, but before she can say two sentences, some random music comes on and we don't even get to hear what she says...pretty much negating the entire so-called message. I felt kinda dirty at the end. And that's when I knew it was the best choice for Pick-a-Flick Friday after all.

Lifetime Movie N, the next time you decide to run an entire week of the same thing, could you make it all separated at birth movies? Or pyscho ex movies? Or the-husband-totally-did-it murder movies? I think one of those has Treat Williams in it....

Long Lost Son

I crawled into bed with my laptop last Sunday evening, sick and ready to cuddle up with a good Lifetime Movie on Hulu. I chose "Long Lost Son," perhaps because of its dramatic title with overt familiar undertones, but more likely because it stars Gabrielle Anwar, who you may remember as the woman with the scent in "Scent of a Woman," but who I will always remember as Sonora, the blind girl who rides horses off high-dives in the 1991 Disney classic "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken." (you had to be there. and 10.)

I'm sorry to say that I'm very glad I caught this flick on Hulu, where I could fast forward through its numerous boring parts. It has such a tasty description (and trailer!): "Fourteen years ago, Karen (Gabrielle Anwar) lost her son when her estranged husband took him for the weekend and went sailing in a dangerous storm. Though both father and son were presumed lost at sea, Karen glimpses their faces in a vacation video." But after a disappointing "omg my son is alive!" scene, it takes more than 20 minutes of film time for her to reunite with her son. In addition to the usual Lifetime Movie delusion of a protagonist who doesn't call the cops when any sane person would, no one informs Gabrielle about express passport service, and so a large part of the movie flounders in a plotline about her getting to St. Lucia (where the husband and kid are) without the proper papers.

If you insist on watching this movie, fast forward to about the middle, once a hot teenage kid with his shirt off appears (do not press stop for the amiable Australian guy). I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize this is Chase Crawford, in his first-ever role, until I looked the movie up on IMDB. He plays Matthew (formerly "Little Marky"), Gabrielle's long lost son, and thus begins the incredibly awkward mother-long lost son flirtation that lasts the rest of the movie.

Chase's father (Gabrielle's ex) is conveniently away on a trip, and has left his virile, just barely 18-year-old son in charge of their tourist charter boat. After creepily stalking him for a couple of days, Gabrielle finally confronts him. Maybe it's because he's tanned and muscular from so much time out on the sea, but she doesn't tell him that she's his mother and that she thought he was dead for the last 14 years. Instead, she books a trip on the charter.

What follows are many romantic scenes of mother and unknowing son exploring the exotic seas. And before you call me perverse for reading all this chemistry into a movie that clearly isn't supposed to have any, let me point out that no smoking-hot 18-year-old whose dad is away is going to spend all his time showing a woman how to SCUBA dive unless he wants to bone her! He even catches her a crayfish to eat over a lunchtime fire on the beach (and yes, she's wearing a skimpy bikini). She has such a good time that she books a second day with him on the boat and goes to sleep hugging herself in happiness, unworried about the fact that she told a friend of her ex's who she was and why she's on the island.

When the friend calls the ex-husband and he instructs his kid to get the hell out of there, Gabrielle enlists the help of her husband (oh yeah, did I mention she's married?) and the Australian to help her find her son before Hurricane Eduardo (oh yeah, did I mention there's a hurricane coming?) hits the area.

The scene is set for a dramatic reunion when Gabrielle steals a boat and motors out to where her former husband and their son are hiding out. I finally stopped fast-forwarding again and was rewarded for my quick-clicking when Gabrielle burst onto the boat yelling "you bastard!" and attacked her husband. But then the name-calling stops in less than 10 seconds. She sits down on the boat and says, "He's a good kid." The husband agrees, and when said good kid shows up moments later, Gabrielle still doesn't blurt out, "I'm your mother and your father has been lying to you for the last 14 years and I thought you were dead." Instead, the dad calmly informs the son that Gabrielle isn't an IRS agent like he'd said, she is his mother. He then sends them off to talk together on the beach while he fixes the boat's radio. YES, REALLY.

As they walk along the beach (practically hand-in-hand, of course), Matthew expresses no anger or confusion as to why his dad took him away or why his mom hadn't found him until then. Perhaps he's too busy being nauseated that he wanted to bone his own mother, but pretty much all he says is, "It musta been hard for ya" before staring into her eyes and hugging her tight. Their passionate embrace is interrupted by Dad/ex-husband, who announces that the hurricane is on its way and they have to go back to the main island to safety. But oh no! Gabrielle and son are worried about the dad getting in trouble with the law, because even though he took her kid away from her, she wouldn't want him to get in trouble for it or anything. So Gabrielle and Chase go back to St. Lucia and their fucked-up relationship and the dad takes the boat Gabrielle stole and motors off into the sunset.

Of course, they hadn't actually gotten divorced yet before he took the kid and so he wasn't necessarily a non-custodial parent and she wouldn't even have to testify against him if she didn't want to, but whatever. This was one of the worst Lifetime Movies I have ever seen, and I don't think it could have even been saved by an unforeseen blinding accident and a horse jumping off a high-dive.

Deadly Honeymoon

In a bit of LMN SEO, as soon as I heard the title "Deadly Honeymoon" I immediately knew that this movie would be about a deadly honeymoon. I also knew that I had to watch it, especially if it was the fictionalization of that awesome 20/20 episode I saw awhile back about a woman shoving her husband off the balcony during their honeymoon cruise.

Indeed it was, and what a D-level-star–studded gem this movie turned out to be. It was exactly what you want from a Lifetime movie: predictable plot, melodramatic confrontations, and a woman who has a worse boyfriend/husband than you. It stars Summer Glau, who is so convincing as stuck-up Jersey girl Lindsey (I think she's from Jersey) that I didn't figure out that she is the same actress who played crazy-pants River from Firefly until the pivotal moment in the movie, when she's discovered huddled incoherently in a dark alley of the cruise ship.

If you know what the words "deadly" and "honeymoon" mean, you can pretty much ascertain everything that's happened up to this point--Lindsey and her blandly good-looking, cleancut boyfriend Trevor have gotten married and they're on they're honeymoon. Though he's been the perfect boyfriend up until this point, suddenly, after their wedding, he becomes a total fucking asshole who does drugs and doesn't want to hang out with her. (In case you've never seen a Lifetime movie, this never ends well.) After getting into a fight one night in a cruise-ship nightclub, Trevor winds up dead, and Lindsey winds up with no memory of the previous evening.

Luckily, Zoe McLellan* and Eric Palladino** are on the case.
*Peter Krause's wife from Dirty, Sexy Money (you didn't watch that show?)
**that guy who was on several seasons of ER, but never really got a storyline because he was never the most attractive or most interesting of the male doctors

Zoe plays "Gwen Merced," a cruise passenger who also happens to be an FBI agent. Eric Palladino plays the director of cruise security, and arouses in Gwen those age-old feelings of wanting to get laid while on vacation. As she watches Eric aptly wrangle the cruise's security camera tapes, she can't help but admire his rudimentary skills that only interns do at her office. Meanwhile, she begins to suspect that Lindsey isn't telling the whole truth about Trevor....

I'm not gonna give away the ending for you. Not because I don't want to spoil it, but because I don't really remember it, and that's not the point of the movie. The point is that honeymoons can be deadly.

Was this movie as good as the 20/20 episode that preceded it? Not really. But was it entertaining? Definitely.

What Matters Most

(originally published on my defunct blog Anterias)

I was really disappointed to flip to the Lifetime network today only to find I had missed all but 4 minutes of "Alone with a Stranger," described by my on-screen channel guide as: William R. Moses, Barbara Niven (2000) A woman holds identical twins at gunpoint while trying to determine which is her husband and which, his murderous brother. Myst./Susp. [TV-14) D, V [CC]. I turned it on just as the woman had to decide which identical twin not to shoot. The scruffy one ultimately saved himself by saying, 'It's like Lindsey said, 'It's broken, Mommy.'"

Maybe it was the disappointment of missing this gem, or perhaps there is some truth at the only intelligent thing National Enquirer EIC David Perel told me, "Lifetime is like crack for women," but I was soon sucked into the next feature: "What Matters Most."

This movie stars My Two Dads' Chad Allen as a high school basketball player who gets a girl from the wrong side of the tracks pregnant. But they really love each other! You can tell because Chad's character, Lucas, plays the guitar for the girl. She says:"Lucas, you wrote that? It is sooo beautiful." And he replies: "My daddy don't think so."

To be exact, his daddy said (and I quote): "If you think I'm gonna let you go off to college to play the gee-tar like some homo hippie fag, you gotta 'nother thing coming. You're gonna have my grandchillin' and marry some girl, you hear me?"

After the Dad beats Lucas several times and Lucas and his girl have a Zack-and-Kelly's-prom moment and do some bubble-blowing, the young lady (who also happens to be a genius who works at a diner), confesses her news and Lucas proposes.

OK, so at this point I'm about to change the channel, but then Lifetime took ahold of me as~Shock!~in an Everwoodesque plot twist, Lucas gets hurt at a BB-ball game and goes into a coma.

When he awakes, he is unchanged except he walks with a crutch and talks like he has a giant jawbreaker in his mouth. Oh, and he has a baby his father is refusing to admit is his. The movie takes several completely weird and therefore unexpected turns as Lucas tries to kill himself, yells "don't loooook at meeee!" a few times (ok, that was expected), tells his parents he's going to marry the girl they want him to (I guess parents in the South are real keen on their kids getting married at 18), then there's a little switcheroo at the altar and the baby mama marries him instead. You see, it was all a ploy to get around the father's psychotic classism.

At the end of the movie, the Dad that had been beating his son for trying to call the mother of his child and so forth has the baby on his lap and is cooing, "Who's the greatest Grandpa?" And we all learn that it's OK if you brutally beat your child, as long as you allow your wife to drag you away from the wedding procession your crippled son just sprung on you.

Crack, indeed.

I Know My Name is Stevie

I thought I'd start this blog with a review of an old "favorite," I Know My Name is Stevie (also known by the lamer title "I Know My First Name Is Steven"). This was one of those movies I saw as a kid that I really shouldn't have been watching (I must have been like 11 years old. I have no idea what my parents were doing that day), and, like The Big One, a TV movie about the supposedly inevitable LA earthquake, it left such an impression that I still bring it up as much as possible today, hoping someone else has seen this landmark piece of cinema and can remember the image of little Stevie with his arms crossed over his thin frame, covering his nipples with his hands. If you can't get a mental picture of this, perhaps I should tell you that Stevie was played by the same kid who played the Nintendo genius in The Wizard.

The film, made in 1989, is based on the life of Steven Stayner, a boy who was kidnapped in California and held captive for 8 years, where he was subjected to all sorts of horrible sex acts. When his "father" finally abducted another boy, Stevie had finally had enough and up and went to the police.

The movie version of the tale, which is 3 hours long, doesn't stop there. It continues, showing how once Stevie (who now insists on being called Steven) is reunited with his family, he doesn't really like them very much, resists their rules and Christian values, and knocks up his girlfriend and goes and lives in a tralier. It's really quite sad, and as I sat in my living room watching all 3 hours of the story (plus a good hour of commercials for tampons and cleaning products) I could kind of see why Steve put up with his captive father. Sure, being invited into bed with "Dad" and Dad's cackling girlfriend seems awfully weird, but when you're 10 how are you supposed to know any better? Especially when "Dad" just told you that your parents don't even care that you're gone.

Sadly, the real Steven Stayner had an even more depresssing life than the Lifetime movie let on (unsurprisingly, as Lifetime movies always seem to end on an upbeat note)--his brother became a murderer and Steve died in a motorcycle crash before he could see any royalties from the film. In any case, now that I've got this traumatizing movie over and written about, I promise the rest of my posts will be less depressing and slightly more hilarious.
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