Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ties that Bind (2006)



I was really excited when I got a chance to review "Ties that Bind" (2006) recently (i.e. it came on TV), because one of the first movies I ever wrote up for this blog is the "Ties that Bind" from 2010. Granted, these movies are completely unrelated, except that they're both Canadian (and bad). But at the end of the first "Ties" I saw, I was left wondering, just what are the ties that bind? The movie seemed to suggest that they are the ties between a woman and her friend who she has lost touch with, then thought was dead (but wasn't). Would this earlier, 2006 "Ties that Bind" enlighten me any further?

The movie begins with Megan and her successful doctor husband having just moved into a new home, and they decide to rent out their guest house. It's too bad they've never seen a Lifetime movie, because then they'd know that the only thing neighbors are interested in is a) using your hot tub, b) stealing your husband, c) killing you, or d) all of the above. It's why we here in New York only talk to our neighbors if we have to. Anyway, Megan gets some awfully crazy applicants, like a goth chick who has a psychiatrist! Luckily, Courtney Allison (Barb from "Malibu Shark Attack") shows up. She's mildly attractive, works at the same hospital as Dave, soon moves in, and definitely falls in that "all of the above" category.

Courtney creepily peering out the window, like neighbors do
What follows next is the usual evil-neighbor sequence of Courtney doing weird things to sabotage Dave and Megan's relationship, but since Megan is the type of person who kisses the phone before she hangs up, I can't really say I feel bad for her. And when Dave shows up at the guest house to fix the thermostat, naturally Courtney puts on some leg-revealing lingerie and tries to get him to fuck her. Dave rejects her advances, and Courtney, trying desperately to tap into Drew Barrymore in "Poison Ivy," replies, "Kiss Megan on the lips for me." Ooooo.

Meanwhile, the actors who play Dave and Megan are doing their best to try to sound real angry with each other, but their fight scenes are pretty much:
Dave: "I'm so mad."
Megan: "Oh yeah, well I'm mad too."
[Megan throws vase on floor in attempt to look like she cares]
Dave: Arrggh!
Meanwhile, Courtney looks on from the darkened hot tub, and Dave looks so much like the white guy from Chappelle's Show that I can't stop watching YouTube clips of The Mad Real World.

Megan wishing the ties
weren't binding
Finally--FINALLY!--Megan goes out for a jog, and I knew she was about to get it. (Unless you're Lucy Liu, if you're a woman you can't go jogging in a Lifetime movie. That's when the Perfect Teacher's wife got mowed down with an SUV, and I don't think I need to tell you what Alyssa Milano did to Mary Jo Buttafuoco when she got back from her jog in "Casualities of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story.") While Megan's out jogging, Courtney stabs Megan's friend and throws her in the pool, and I got really excited because I thought it was Megan and Lifetime was finally killing off a female lead. But no, Megan returns safely and the worst thing that happens to her is that Courtney injects her with some kind of convenient drug and ties her down to her bed. The rest of Courtney's plan isn't really well thought out, as she calls the cops to complain about "the fight next door," then tries to shoot Dave when she shows up at the house.

You'll be relieved to hear that everything works out OK in the end. Dave frees Megan, a cop shows up and kills or wounds Courtney, and presumably, someone is hired to clean out the pool. Dave and Megan, glad to be alive, are only stronger for their experience. In fact, they'll probably never need therapy, and will live happily ever after. I don't think they're going to rent out that guest house again, though.

So what about these ties that bind? I guess the message is that the ties that bind are marriage vows, because Megan and Dave never seem particularly happy in this movie. Maybe it's being co-landlords together? Either way, this "Ties that Bind" does have someone getting stabbed and thrown into a pool; therefore, it wins. And luckily, I found four more movies called "Ties that Bind," so my investigation into bondage in film can continue.



Monday, February 14, 2011

Home for the Holidays and How to Marry a Billionaire

Run-on sentence: I know it's Valentine's Day, and spring is close enough that no one cares about Christmas anymore, but Lifetime Valentine's movies make me puke, and I never got a chance to review my two favorite falalalaLifetime flicks (not counting that one where Malcolm Jamal Warner is a cabbie who drives cross-country, which I somehow managed to miss this year). If you have any reservations about this little 2-months-ago flashback, you should know that it has Stamos in it! But first a little Sean Young.
I caught "Home for the Holidays" one December afternoon while violating my #1 rule for working at home (Don't turn on the TV). How could I resist? Not only did it star Sean Young, it's opening credits ran over a melodramatic "car crash aftermath" scene. The police detective grimly proclaims that no one is left alive...then Sean Young has to tell her niece and nephew their parents are dead.

The wake soon follows, and I had to admit that I was impressed that it took place in a "community center" rather than graveside. Movies, even non-Lifetime ones, can't resist a dramatic outdoors-in-the-cemetery moment, even though in real life we've all been to very few graveside funerals. My admiration was short-lived however, as it soon became apparent that the writers of the movie had never been to a wake. Unless you've been to a wake where flowers kept arriving that the dead woman's sister had to sign for between accepting condolences. (Doesn't this community center have a front desk?)

In general, the wake is kind of like a little party just for Martha (Sean Young). Not only is she getting tons of food and flowers, but she's quickly becoming besties with her child welfare case worker, who she makes sure to introduce to her ex-boyfriend who's showed up unexpectedly. A haggard-looking version of Mark Harmon, he's a big-time lawyer who has gotten sick of the big-time and would like some country charm.

Like most Lifetime movie custody battles, "A Home for the Holidays" ignores both law and sane conduct, and the child welfare office threatens to take away the kids because Martha's apartment is too small. Um, yeah. If the writers have never been to a funeral, I guess it's entirely plausible that they've never seen three people living in a one-bedroom apartment. But I still couldn't believe that this was really the only reason they were going to give for why the welfare office is after Martha (her new BFF is torn, by the way...it's her meanie boss making her do it). They even have a reading of the will, which stipulates that she should have custody, and they do a psych test on the boy but he "passes." Martha has a full-time job, yet still, the new best friend is all, "We're going to have to separate the kids and put them in foster care unless you find a better place for them to live."

Well, what's Martha to do but to physically relocate her childhood home, now turned over to the bank because her dead sister and brother-in-law had so much debt? She gathers together some townfolk, and they hitch up her house and start to move it. But then they find out that some low-hanging electrical wires will get in the way! Luckily, non-hot Mark Harmon steps in and says they can move the house to his mother's property. But uh-oh, they don't have plumbing or electrical hookups, and the mean lady from child welfare says that they then won't pass her inspection. Instead of saying, "OK, why don't we go back to my apartment, which has all those things?" Martha prays for a Christmas miracle. And lo and behold, the power goes on for one second and the mean lady's heart melts. The family is saved!

Get it? It's (one of eight movies) called "Home for the Holidays"!!!!!
Perry King (haggard Mark Harmon) in some Christmas art
a fan posted on his Facebook.

That is pretty much this movie's only connection with Christmas, except that the next morning, there are some presents under the tree, even though Martha couldn't afford any. They're just what the kids asked their dead parents for, and Martha's bestie and now non-ex-boyfriend deny having put them there. So I guess it was Santa?

Home for the Holiday's tenuous link to Christmas is the only thing in tenuously shares with How to Marry a Billionaire, which has the subtitle "A Christmas Tale" tacked on the end lest the one dude dressed as Santa in it is not enough to ensure its annual playing on Lifetime.
Amazing production value...and D, L, and S!
It stars John Stamos as a down-on-his-luck sculptor, as well as the guy from West Wing who took Rob Lowe's place as a down-on-his-luck high school teacher, and a hot black guy as a down-on-his-luck actor. The actor is housesitting for a rich person, and one night Stamos and West Wing guy are hanging out at the mansion, waiting for the actor to stick his finger up a poodle's butt (yeah, I missed something, but it's probably better that we don't know what the set-up was). Stamos is all, "I'm sick of being a loser!" (real line.) He decides he's done trying to find "the one" and is instead going to snag a rich lady before Christmas, and encourages his friends to do the same. "Screw love, let the women take care of us!" he says, and his friends go along with it, because you must do whatever Stamos says.

So the guys set off to pick up women, but all sorts of zany things happen. In one scene, they show up to a "Women's Advisory Commission" event, but all the women are lesbians! You can tell because they're slow-dancing with each other, and hate men. Ultimately, the guys find some rich women to date, but the zaniness isn't over yet!

By the end of the movie, the West Wing guy realizes he's gay and the hot black dude gets an acting job. But back to John Stamos. He's found a rich ditzy blonde to call his own, but he has to impress her parents first. So he pretends he's rich by bringing them over to the mansion, and has his buddies be his servants and so-forth. Oh boy, is it ever zany (that doorbell just won't stop ringing!)! But unfortunately, not even Dabney Coleman and Rhea Pearlman playing the parents, and Stamos' patented "oh my, this is zany look!" from his "Full House" days is enough to make this 15 minutes of "film" even remotely watchable.

In the end, the parents give their approval, but there's still a problem. Stamos has also met an intriguing woman down by the beach! She's an artist like him, and she's played by Gabrielle Anwar, if "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken" means anything to you. It's not long before Stamos and Anwar jump into bed together, in one of the funniest Lifetime movie non-sex scenes ever. I videotaped it off my TV like the bootlegger I am just so you could see all the twirling!

If you have ever seen a movie, you will not be surprised to hear that Stamos ends up with Anwar at the end, and it turns out SHE'S rich! (No one cares about the other woman's feelings, because she is dumb.)

Stamos sculpting by the pool
Minus the zaniness, this movie wouldn't be all that bad if it hadn't come out around the time that "Ally McBeal" became popular, so it kept trying to stick in "dream sequences," like where characters daydream about themselves wearing fat suits in the future. And in the movie's opening scene, Stamos fantasizes about blowing his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. Yes, blowing. Like, he gets really mad, then blows really hard, and the guy's clothes come off, so the girlfriend takes him back. (?)

The movie also has lots of sound effects, and I'm not talking about typing noises where there shouldn't be any. The poodle's bone whirling through the air sounds like some magic wand noise they ripped off of Disney, and it's only about 60 seconds into the movie before they break out that riffing record wickey-waa-wickey-wawa noise.

I don't really know what else to say about these two amazingly abysmal movies, except that they were bad enough that I can't forget them, even months later. Two movies, both really bad in their own way. I love you Lifetime! Merry Christmas, Happy Valentine's Day, and don't ever change.
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