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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review: 'The Wrong Neighbor'

What happens when you pay for a beautiful woman's lunch at a food truck? In "The Wrong Neighbor," a free lunch turns into a stalking-fest complete with beatdowns, gunplay, illicit photos and spy-cams.

Super chef Tim (Steve Richard Harris) is a nice enough guy. When he helps out Jamie (Ashlynn Yennie) at a food truck, she's seeing stars ... and possibly green clovers, pink harts and yellow moons. You see, she's not a lucky charm, and Tim made the mistake of being a good looking guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Oh, he also happens to move next to her when he and his wife Heather (Andrea Bogart) are going through a trial separation.

So, Tim is kind of on the market ... but not really since he and Heather are in counseling -- which seems about as fun as getting a root canal.

The biggest victim in the divorce? Tim and Heather's daughter Lisa (Christine Prosperi). Lisa is perfect teen queen and star of the swim team. But she has some boy troubles and a tough (yet kind) coach (Michael Madsen, who's in this movie for a millisecond).

Back at Tim's man-pad, he befriends Jamie, which becomes the worst thing he can possibly do. They flirt, drink and almost have sex. And she begins to stalk the living heck out of him. She also becomes friends with Lisa -- introducing her to the world of guns and beer!

Well, it doesn't take long for folks to realize all is not right in Jamie's twisted head. She proceeds to make everyone's life a living hell, including Tim's boss Nate (Dominic Leeder).

Honestly, there's not a lot of thought to put into this movie. It's a classic tale of obsession with very little background on why Jamie is a clingy basket case. She's pretty much full-throttle in love with Tim from the minute they meet and really wants to replace Heather. You'll find the usual cliches in this one, including a family photo with Jamie's photo inserted for Heather's.

Yennie is definitely the perfect villain with menacing stares (often times behind binoculars) and going berserk at all the right moments. The role is a feast for any talented actor, and she effortlessly portrays a psycho in love. Of course, she is well versed in insanity. She starred in perhaps two of craziest movies ever, "The Human Centipede (First Sequence)" and "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)."

The rest of the cast delivers the goods, particularly Prosperi as the impressionable teen. And Madsen? Well, any movie with him is worth watching. I was hoping he'd have a bigger part, but just seeing Mr. Blonde in aviator shades yelling through a megaphone for a few seconds worked for me.

And this movie is expertly helmed by Sam Irvin, who handled the equally awesome "The Wrong House." As in that movie, Irvin balances action and tension while showing how one crazy lady can disintegrate the perfect family.

Definitely check out "The Wrong Neighbor" and think twice before signing your next lease! You never know if another Jamie is out there waiting to wreak havoc on your life.

"The Wrong Neighbor": Directed by Sam Irvin; Starring Steve Richard Harris as Tim, Ashlynn Yennie as Jamie, Christine Prosperi as Lisa, Andrea Bogart as Heather, Dominic Leeder as Nate, Michael Madsen as Coach Jaworski

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review: 'Girlfriend Killer'

Not saying "I do" can easily mean "You die!" The characters in "Girlfriend Killer" discover this morbid fact firsthand!

Yes, it's another Lifetime "Killer" movie courtesy of Barbie Castro and friends. This thriller - with a very original premise - debuted last week and lived up to its awesome title.

Lifetime veteran Castro stars as Carmen, an entrepreneur running a very unique business. She creates special proposals for soon-to-be-engaged couples. Basically, she sets up a dream proposal, then films the magic moment. But ... what happens when someone pops the question and gets a "No" for an answer?

Carmen soon learns that even the most romantic setting can be transformed into a haven for humiliation. When she helps Emerson Banes (Jason Cook) create a Christmas-themed proposal for his girlfriend Marissa (Elisabetta Fantone), it goes badly. Instead of giggling wildly when she receives a ring, Marissa tells him she has a lover on the side.

Carmen rushes to the rescue and comforts Emerson by telling him she'll waive the charges and that he's really a special guy. Like any confused, needy male, he instantly falls for her! Never mind that he was just recently dumped. He's now in love with Carmen!

Well, Carmen's kinda busy, so she fails to notice his crush. She's head over heels in love with production partner and boyfriend Ryan (Brian Gross) and has a testy teen daughter Ayla (real-life daughter Taylor Castro) to contend with.

Ryan is considerably more observant about Emerson's weird behavior, including phone calls and flower deliveries. And when Carmen and Ryan's home is burglarized -- with videos and photos stolen -- they contact super cops Detectives Price (Dina Meyer) and Baker (Corin Nemec). They're on the case, but Emerson is off his rocker. The highlights of his days include staring at a "stalker wall" filled with cut-out pictures of Carmen.

His obsessions intensify, and Carmen ultimately fears for her and her family's life.

This is another solid entry into Castro's "Killer" series ("Boyfriend Killer," "Patient Killer," "Assumed Killer). Castro and Gross share a solid romantic chemistry as the couple terrorized by a stalker, and Cook is perfectly creepy as the obsessed rich guy. Throw in veterans like Meyer and Nemec, and you have a fast-paced, fun Lifetime film. And the younger Castro offers a feisty performance as a typical teen who might be Emerson's next casualty.

"Girlfriend Killer" also reunites Castro with the terrific tandem of director Alyn Darnay and writer Christine Conradt, so it's safe to say that Lifetimers will be more than satisfied. 

Check it out again at 7 p.m. (CST), June 9 on LMN. 

"Girlfriend Killer": Directed by Alyn Darnay; Starring Barbie Castro as Carmen, Brian Gross as Ryan; Jason Cook as Emerson, Dina Meyer as Det. Price, Corin Nemec as Det. Baker, Taylor Castro as Ayla, Khotan Fernandez as Nick, Elisabetta Fantone as Marissa

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review: 'Patient Killer'

We're one day away from the Lifetime Movie Network premiere of "Girlfriend Killer" -- the latest in a line of "Killer" flicks featuring actor/writer/producer Barbie Castro (recently interviewed by LM Mental).

For this review, we go back a few years to the excellent thriller "Patient Killer." Here, Castro plays Blaire, a woman plagued by sleepless nights and nightmares. She enlists the assistance of super psychiatrist Victoria Wrightmar (Victoria Pratt), who has some issues of her own. When she's not helping cure angry obsessive compulsive personalities like the slightly unhinged Derek (Patrick Muldoon), she's trying to manage her love life with super stud Jason (Casper Van Dien - who also directs). Oh...and Dr. Victoria had a patient named Dylan (David Chokachi), who became obsessed with her and committed suicide. So...for support she turns to her mentor Dr. Sylvan (Richard Burgi). 

She's struggling to maintain balance and overcome the guilt of her patient's death, but strange things start happening, including her office being ransacked and boyfriend Jason being beaten to a pulp. There are many red herrings in this thriller -- Derek, who gets weirder with every appointment; Dr. Sylvan, who may have a thing for Victoria; her secretary Nancy (Stacey Dash), who stashes a stun gun in her desk; or possibly even Blaire, who seems pretty helpless but might be harboring some secrets.

This is a classic "whodunnit...and why" thriller strengthened solid performances, particularly Pratt and Muldoon. Pratt is sexy as heck as the shrink who seems to have all the answers ... except to her own problems, and Muldoon is credible as the socially-awkward Derek, flashing nervous grins and twitches when chatting with his beautiful doctor. And Castro paints a perfect picture as the exasperated, helpless Blaire, whose nightmares might hold the keys to this mystery.

Also...this movie offers a "Starship Troopers" reunion of sorts! Original super "Troopers" Muldoon and Van Dien are in the house as is Burgi from "Starship Troopers 2." 

"Patient Killer" makes occasional airings on LMN, so keep an eye out for it. Or...if you really need a "Killer" fix, tune in this Thursday, June 1 at 7 p.m. (CST) for "Girlfriend Killer."

"Patient Killer": Directed by Casper Van Dien; Starring Victoria Pratt as Victoria; Casper Van Dien as Jason; Patrick Muldoon as Derek; Richard Burgi as Dr. Sylvan; Barbie Castro as Blaire; Stacey Dash as Nancy; David Chokachi as Dylan

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: 'Sinister Minister'

What better day to debut a movie about a deviant preacher than SUNDAY? Of course, the smart team at Lifetime knows how to rock a movie premiere, and that was evident during last night's first showing of "Sinister Minister."

This is one of those "based on a true story" movies, and it begins with a bang (literally). Reverend D.J. (expertly played by Ryan Patrick Shanahan) concludes a hot tub lovemaking session with one of his church parishioners, then declares he needs to get home to his wife. When he gets there, however, she apparently has "committed suicide."

Well, the good reverend marries his lover Betsey (Liz Fenning) and moves on rather quickly. Enter Trish (Nikki Alexis Howard), a divorcee in need of a fresh start. She brings her weed smoking daughter Siena (Anjelica Briones) along for the ride, which is quite bumpy to say the least. Trish's life is pretty much a trainwreck, and Siena doesn't help matters. So, they begin to attend Rev. D.J.'s church, which is a very bad move. 

D.J. sets his eyes on Trish ... and eventually Siena. What does that mean for poor Betsey? Well, you can pretty much figure it out from there. Things seem to be going smoothly for the randy reverend until Trish's ex-husband John (Jeff Marchelletta) pops up to make things right. That means the Sinister Minister has to work overtime to get his way. Hot on his trail is supercop Detective Mann (Rachel G. Whittle).

This is a very good thriller with some awesome performances, particularly from the three leads. Shanahan is an excellent villain, flashing a smile while hiding his ulterior motives. Howard's performance as a woman at her wit's end is convincing, and Briones is the picture of a rebellious and impressionable teen.

Good supporting roles too, particularly Whittle and Marchelletta. And kudos to director Jose Montesinos ("Nightmare Wedding") and writer Delondra Williams ("Social Nightmare") for making this a memorable thriller.

"Sinister Minister" joins the ranks of other creature-preacher flicks on Lifetime and LMN - "Sins of the Preacher," "The Preacher's Mistress," etc. Still, this new entry into the Lifetime canon holds its own as an original, engaging and fun cautionary tale about faith, sex, and falling for wrong guy.

"Sinister Minister": Directed by Jose Montesinos; Starring Ryan Patrick Shanahan as D.J., Nikki Alexis Howard as Trish, Anjelica Briones as Siena, Jeff Marchelletta as John, Rachel G. Whittle as Detective Mann, Liz Fenning as Betsey, Chelly as George.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Not on Lifetime: 'When the Bough Breaks'

It's time again (finally) for another installment of "Not on Lifetime" -- movies that aren't on the network but easily fit the description of Lifetime/LMN flicks. This week's movie is "When the Bough Breaks," a movie I've been wanting to see since it was released last year. Thanks to Starz, I had my chance this weekend.

This pregnancy/baby thriller follows a formula not unlike the classic "Hand That Rocks The Cradle." In this movie, however, the villain isn't a nanny but rather a disturbed surrogate mother.

The plot revolves around childless couple John (Morris Chestnut) and Laura (Regina Hall). They visit a surrogate agency and are connected with a young lady who seems to be a perfect fit, Anna (Jaz Sinclair). At first, Anna seems like a wholesome, shy young lady. She introduces John and Laura to boyfriend Mike (Theo Rossi), who fails to impress. He's a serviceman, but comes across as a boorish lout.

So, things should be okay after Anna is successfully inseminated and becomes pregnant with a baby. This is a movie though, and things aren't quite that simple. You see, John is a bit of a hunk ... and once Anna comes out of her shell, she is freaking hot. So, there's some sexual tension ... mainly brought about by her undressing in the window and sending NSFW instant messages. And boyfriend Mike is an absolute nightmare. He's abusive and has a plan to hold the unborn baby for ransom and demand money from the very well-to-do couple.

John's suspicious, so he enlists the help of a buddy at his law firm, Roland (Michael K. Williams) to investigate Anna and Michael. Well, they discover that Michael's a first-class thug, and Anna is a bit of a trainwreck.

Unfortunately for John, Trainwreck Anna is really off the rails and envisions a life with him. He fends off her advances, not telling his wife. Quick note to guys ... when a hot chick sends you video strip-o-grams and dances around the house in her panties, tell your spouse!! There's really no way of explaining WHY you didn't say anything.

You see where this movie is heading, and it's pure Lifetime gold. There is a requisite showdown between the hapless parents and nutty mom ... and (spoiler alert) a feline fatality.

It's pretty easy to figure out where this movie is heading, but the results are still entertaining. Chestnut and Hall are no doubt effective as the picture perfect couple with some intimacy problems and other issues. Newcomer Sinclair works her magic as a sexy, and less than sane villainess. She easily balances sensuality with sinister underpinnings.

Veteran director Jon Cassar creates an uneasy environment for these characters. Although set in an upper crust New Orleans community, the vibe is tense ... with Anna sneaking looks at John while Laura is creating a dream nursery. The story is not unlike any made-for-TV movie, but I'm not complaining. In a world with special effects-laden, mind numbing blockbusters, it's always a relief to see a B-thriller like emerge on the big screen (even though I saw it on TV).

If you need a break from Lifetime...but absolutely can't do without the drama of sinister surrogates and sexually-frustrated spouses, this mainstream movie will do the trick.

"When the Bough Breaks": Directed by Jon Cassar; Starring Morris Chestnut as John Taylor, Regina Hall as Laura Taylor, Jaz Sinclair as Anna, Theo Rossi as Mike, Romany Malco as Todd, Michael K. Williams as Roland

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review: 'Manny Dearest'

I am pretty much a fan of anything with Ashley Scott, so "Manny Dearest" had me hooked based on the preview trailer alone.

Once again, Scott plays the most gorgeous mom in the world. In this thriller, she's Karen, a mother of two precocious boys Max (Dylan Kingwell) and Rex (Jett Klyne). Karen also is romantically involved with recovering alcoholic Greg (Woody Jeffreys).

She is having trouble balancing her career, motherhood and relationship, so she decides to hire a nanny. Unfortunately for her, she discovers manny Alex (Mitch Ryan). He has a way with kids, cleans the house ... and is infatuated with Karen. She hires him on a whim, and Alex begins bonding with the kids, doing housework and alienating the suspicious Greg. 

Alex has a bit of a shady background. His previous client allegedly "committed suicide," and he seems to have a fascination with amusement park Wonder World. Oh, and he has a knack for creating drone cameras to capture Karen's every move. 

He sees himself as a fit for Karen's family, but a few things stand in his way. Greg is the biggest obstacle, so he proceeds to try and turn the kids against him. Alex also has to contend with Cori (Jordana Largy), a hot (and horny) nanny he meets at the playground. She has her sights on him and won't relent until he provides her with some ... ahem ... daycare. Also present is Karen's BFF Gillian (Fiona Vroom), who thinks Alex is a great catch.

Alex, however, is a master stalker and a super psycho, so he has a few tricks up the sleeves of his omnipresent hoodie. So, anyone who crosses his path is in trouble -- including schoolyard bully Brett (Cory Gruter-Andrew) and his dog Jasper(!). 

This gem debuted last night on Lifetime and had everything you'd want in a Saturday night stalker movie - pin-up board with photos of his victim, hidden cameras, etc. Hats off to director Chad Krowchuk for delivering a thriller to remember, and kudos to the cast, especially Scott and Ryan. Scott is credible as the devoted mother, who is painfully blind to Alex's weird behavior. Meanwhile, Ryan shows restraint as the obsessive yet sweet babysitter. He's nice most of the time yet flashes his psychotic tendencies at all the right moments. I also have to give props to the kids. The three boys (Kingwell, Klyne and Gruter-Andrew) are excellent in their roles.

This is a lighter version of classic "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle," but still packs a punch at all the right moments. Also, "Manny Dearest" (originally titled "Stranger With My Kids")  offers a smart variation on the typical nanny from hell movies by offering a memorable male antagonist and is a stark reminder of why it's important to check references for any childcare professional -- no matter how handsome or sweet they may be.

"Manny Dearest": Directed by Chad Krowchuk; Starring Ashley Scott as Karen, Mitch Ryan as Alex, Woody Jeffreys as Greg, Dylan Kingwell as Max, Jett Klyne as Rex, Jordana Largy as Cory, Fiona Vroom as Gillian

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Review: 'Girl Followed'

Raising a teen isn't easy. Teenagers are emotional and rebellious. They's resistant to parental guidance and think they know it all. These days, parents have to stay on top of things or else their kids may wind up like the lead character in "Girl Followed."

This dramatic thriller recently premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network and has been in steady rotation for the past few weeks. Remember the TV show "Blossom" and how the dad had to counsel his kids on a variety of problems? Well, we see Blossom bro Joey Lawrence as the concerned parent dealing with a confused and combative kid.

Lawrence is super dad Jim. He has a great family including beautiful nurse wife Abby (Heather McComb), eldest daughter Taylor (Gianna LaPera) and Regan (Emma Fuhrmann). Regan seems to be a clean teen, but suffers from a number of insecurities. Her friends don't help matters by rubbing her nose in the fact that she doesn't have a boyfriend.

Unfortunately, the one person who tries to help her overcome her problems is Abby's co-worker Nate (Travis Caldwell). He tries to build her confidence while putting the moves on her. Complicating matters is an underwear selfie that Regan sent to a boy at school. She also shares this photo with Nate, which is her biggest mistake. Before long, this pic is everywhere (including the in-box of her dad's boss).

Regan continues to confide in Nate and starts to fall for him, especially after visiting his mansion and taking a spin in his Mercedes (both actually belong to his parents). Nate, however, isn't a complete Prince Charming. He's controlling, possessive and of course...at least 10 years her senior!  And, let's remember she's barely in high school.

Of course, it's up to mom, dad and older sister to save her ... but Nate (or N-Dog) is a pretty devious Lifetime villain.

This May-December stalker mystery is pretty entertaining. Caldwell steals the show as the super creepy Nate, and Fuhrmann offers an effective portrayal of an at-risk teen. Lawrence (who has barely aged since "Blossom") is convincing as the concerned and exasperated pop. He can't wait to put his hands on N-Dog. Wouldn't any dad want to do the same if his youngest girl was being seduced by an older creeper?

This nifty thriller teams director Tom Shell; writers Christine Conradt and Chris Lancey (the trio behind the excellent "Deadly Ex"), and Melissa Cassera (who handles screenplay duties). The audience is definitely in capable hands. Despite the creepy premise of this story, "Girl Followed" never sinks into really creepy territory -- like the real life story of the Tennessee teacher-student manhunt. Definitely check it out. It's definitely a nice addition to Lifetime and LMN programming and offers yet another cautionary tale regarding teens, social media and the dangers of older men preying on insecure girls.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

LM Mental Interview: Barbie Castro

In LM Mental’s FIRST interview, I profile actor/producer/writer Barbie Castro (“Boyfriend Killer,” “Patient Killer,” “Assumed Killer”)

Castro might seem like a new face to Lifetime viewers, but she’s been entertaining audiences for much of her life.

Recently, Lifetime movie audiences experienced Castro’s acting talents as grieving mother Sandra Cruz Durro in “Boyfriend Killer.” She also served as an executive producer on this movie that also stars Patrick Muldoon and Kate Mansi.

Lifetime has proven to be a “Killer” outlet for Castro’s talents. Before “Boyfriend Killer," she starred in and produced “Patient Killer” and “Assumed Killer." Up next for Castro is “Girlfriend Killer.”

Long before Lifetime, Castro  was just another teen with a dream. Growing up in Miami, Castro always wanted to be an entertainer and gained plenty of experience as a vocalist for a girl group – opening for the likes of Menudo – and as a runway model. She also competed in beauty pageants and ultimately found her way to the world of theatre.

Following a stint in her high school drama club, Castro took her passion for performing to college. She worked her way through school and met a lifelong leading man in Eric Castro. The two married, and Castro took on her greatest roles as a wife and mother.

With the support of husband Eric and daughters Rhys and Taylor, Castro launched a career as an actor and producer.

Her first film that she starred in and produced was the short film "Conduit” in 2011 (directed by future collaborator Alyn Darnay, who would go on to helm several Lifetime movies). The thriller earned rave reviews on the festival circuit and received several awards.

A fan of Lifetime films, Castro then focused her energies on producing “Assumed Killer” with screen legend Armand Assante in 2013. The success of that television feature led to collaborations with MarVista Entertainment, and the rest has been history as Castro has been a driving force behind a series of “Killer” movies (alongside veteran screenwriter Christine Conradt) including “Patient Killer” in 2015 (written by Brian D. Young and Bryan Dick, co-starring Victoria Pratt and Casper Van Dien) and the recent “Boyfriend Killer (co-starring Patrick Muldoo and Kate Mansi).  Next up is “Girlfriend Killer,” which is due later this year. Future films also include “Killer Island” (also written by Conradt) and “Lifestyle Killer” (written by Doug Cambpell and David Chester).

Castro took time from her busy schedule to provide LM Mental with an exclusive interview. She discussed her career and offered a glimpse into the upcoming “Girlfriend Killer.”

Barbie Castro and Patrick Muldoon in "Boyfriend Killer"

LM Mental: Can you offer some details on your upcoming film "Girlfriend Killer" and your character?

Barbie Castro: I play Carmen Ruiz, a woman who owns Simply Splendid Proposals. Men hire Carmen to record their wedding proposals. Unfortunately, one of the proposals goes wrong, and a woman declines her would-be husband. My character goes to console him, and he ends up making Carmen the target of his next obsession.

LM Mental: You've balanced producing/executive producing duties with acting in your past few films. Can you discuss the challenges (or advantages) of juggling producing and acting roles during a production?

Castro: People ask me how I do it. I handle most of the pre and post production responsibilities. I rely heavily on Carole Wood, the unit production manager during production. I feel very comfortable with my team. Director Alyn Darnay has been working with me for many years and he is wonderful. He directed “Conduit,” “Boyfriend Killer” and “Girlfriend Killer,” so he knows me well. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with great actors. I guess the bottom line is that through trial and error, I have been able to compile a team that works very well together.

LM Mental: Why do you think films such as "Boyfriend Killer" and other Lifetime movies and others are so popular with audiences? 

Castro: I think we have learned to trust that Lifetime will always have a new movie for us to watch when we are home on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night. Plus, these movies are relatable. It's important to make movies that make us say, "That can happen to me." So, that’s why I think people turn to Lifetime/LMN, and I must add that my films are not TV movies. We target Lifetime, but we are not guaranteed an acquisition from the network... so I could produce a movie hoping the network would acquire it, and it might be turned down. It's definitely a risk.

LM Mental: Do you have a favorite project you've worked on? If so, why is it so special to you?

Castro: So far, all of my projects have been special to me. I don't have one in particular that stands out, but I definitely want to keep this current creative team together as long as possible. Without my collaborators, I wouldn't be as driven to make more movies.

LM Mental: In addition to the collaborators you’ve mentioned, who else would you like to credit for making your projects special?

Castro: Jon Schellenger, cinematographer and the post production team make going to the set a pleasant experience. They all love what they do. It's always a win-win situation. Also,  composer Chad Rehmann and the team at Juniper Post are great. All of my co-stars have been wonderful and remain in contact with me.

LM Mental:  Is there anyone whom you haven't worked with that you'd like to ... or is there a dream co-star you'd love to perform with...and why?

Castro: There is something about Mark Walhberg, Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon... the list goes on. Armand Assante was on that list and I was honored to work with him in "Assumed Killer."  Who knows? Maybe someday I will have the honor of working with them.

LM Mental: Do you think Lifetime offers independent filmmakers an outlet to spotlight their works?

Castro: Yes, definitely. I believe a well-made film with a good script and solid production value can have success on Lifetime/LMN. I am very grateful.

LM Mental: Any other projects beyond "Girlfriend Killer" to mention? 

Castro: I have two scripts in development -- "Killer Island" set to shoot May 2017 and Lifestyle Killer."

Ultimately, my future goal is to figure out how to create a series... since I am in Florida, and I do not want to move to California, I have to figure out how to create work here.

LM Mental: What advice do you have for anyone entering the film industry as an actor or producer?

Castro: As a producer, you have to be honest true to yourself and stay humble. Don't take things personally. For example, many producers do not like to hear or admit to themselves that their product has flaws. If you cannot accept constructive criticism, you will not grow. I usually go to my biggest critic to get advice on the script and on the first draft of the movie because I know this person is going to be blunt and give me an honest opinion. I welcome it. I need it to perfect the final product.

Another mistake that I often see is the lack of post sound/Foley or color correction in films. It's important to seek the help of others who have succeeded in making quality films - a mentor. Surround yourself with people who have succeeded, go to events, take action even if its with a handheld camera. Shoot a short film and learn things for yourself.
For actors, I offer the same advice in terms of taking action. Join the next acting class in town. Meet people. Get headshots. Find an agent. Be true to what you look like and what roles you can play. Submit yourself for roles even if there is no pay, just for practice, so you can have demo reels or IMDB credits. Set goals for yourself and consider relocating if there is not enough work in your hometown.

Also, be likable. People work with people whose company they enjoy, so don't be a thorn in anyone's side on or off set. Be likable. Think like a team player.

Barbie Castro in "Patient Killer"

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Review: Fatal Defense

I really hope "Fatal Defense" doesn't turn people off from self-defense classes. This action-thriller premiered on Lifetime this weekend and pulls no punches (literally) as viewers meet a fighting coach from hell.

At the film's onset, we watch a terrifying home invasion. Single mom Arden Walsh (Ashley Scott) is terrorized by a masked intruder. She's robbed, held at knifepoint and tied up. She survives, but remains scared out of her wits. Her sister Gwen (Laurie Fortier), a police photographer, and a supportive detective (Sherilyn Fenn -- this blogger's college crush) provide some comfort. Still, she's pretty shaken and her cute daughter Emma is equally frightened.

Sister Gwen recommends that Ardent take a self-defense course and suggests one taught by handsome fight master Logan (David Cade). On her first day, he comes on a bit strong ... and not in the creeper sense. This dude pretty much puts a wrestling hold on poor Arden as soon as she enters the door. For some reason. she stays in the class and eventually becomes his star student.

It's not long before Arden becomes attracted to Logan. He, however, is more concerned with her progress in the class. So much so, he invites her on a date and winds up throwing her in a car trunk as a kidnapping simulation exercise. Any attraction she had for Logan is out the window, and she reports him to the cops. Logan is undaunted and still has big plans for her star student. What follows is dangerous cat and mouse game between Logan, Arden ... and the thug who broke into her home in the first scene.

I'll rate this movie in two words -- "kick ass!" Scott is nothing short of awesome as she evolves from victim to ass kicker. Fans will recall her as the Huntress and short-lived super series "Birds of Prey." Well, she is back in action in "Fatal Defense" and packs quite a punch during her fight scenes. Cade is an awesome foil for her, stalking her and plotting new ways to test her self-defense skills.

Kudos to director John Murlowski, who also helmed the equally excellent "Bad Twin," for keeping things exciting. Fenn also is a welcome presence as the helpful cop.

Admittedly, there were moments in the movie where I was reminded of the Peter Sellers "Pink Panther" movies, particularly the scenes where Inspector Clouseau is repeatedly attacked by his butler Cato.

Still, this is definitely an original premise and slightly reminiscent of "The Trainer." Highly recommended.

"Fatal Defense": Directed by John Murlowski; Starring Ashley Scott as Arden, David Cade as Logan, Laurie Fortier as Gwen, Shon David Lange as Rory, Sherilyn Fenn as Detective

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review: 'The Twin'

As a kid, I thought having a twin would be cool. As an adult ... not so much. Maybe I've watched too many Lifetime movies about terrible twins. There was the recent "Bad Twin" and equally awesome "Killing Mommy." These's also "The Good Sister" and numerous other double trouble thrillers. Recently, Lifetime premiered the aptly titled "The Twin," a solid entry in the good twin-bad twin thriller genre.

The plot focuses on the very sane and sweet Tyler (Timothy Granaderos), who is the all-American kid. His identical twin bro is stuck in a psych ward resisting treatment and pretty much being a jerk. Tyler begins a whirlwind relationship with Jocelyn (Jess Gabor) and endears himself to her gorgeous mom (Brigid Brannagh) and their neighbor Jeke (Louis Mandylor).

Unfortunately, he is sympathetic to his nutcase double and visits him frequently at the hospital. You can guess where this is going, right? Tyler visit bad twin Derek, who pulls a switcheroo. Tyler is stuck in the hospital while Derek comes home to a gorgeous girlfriend and a great life. For some reason hospital administrators, including Dr. Rubin (the awesome Mark Lindsay Chapman), don't see any reason to do a DNA test or physical examination to determine the truth. I guess the movie would end pretty quickly if they did. Adding to Tyler's woes are the boorish nurses who seem to have graduated from the Nurse Ratched School of Nursing.

Granaderos runs the show in this movie. He is very effective in balancing the nice Tyler with the psycho Derek. Jess Gabor does a fine job as the clean teen who is in love with Tyler ... and begins to fear the fake Tyler's weird behavior.

Directors Mark Derin and Fred Olen Ray (the legend!) do a great job of balancing suspense with action; and veteran co-stars Brannagh and Mandylor are as dependable as always.

"The Twin" airs again at 9 p.m. (CST), April 6 and 1 a.m. on Lifetime Movie Network and is worth watching. Two great performances from Timothy Granaderos is certainly better than one!

"The Twin": Directed by Fred Olen Ray, Mark Derin; Starring Timothy Granoderos as Tyler and Derek, Jess Gaor as Jocelyn, Brigid Brannagh as Ashley, Louis Mandylor as Jeke, Mark Lindsay Chapman as Dr. Rubin

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Review: 'Mommy's Little Boy'

Briana (Bree Williamson of "One Life to Live" fame) is a single (and very drunk) mother of two young sons -- Max and Eric. These kids could not be any different from each other. Max (Auden Larratt) is a brute who likes to torture the shy Eric (Peter DaCuhna). He also likes to hurt animals...but luckily, Eric saves the day when he tries to plunge a power drill into a defenseless dog.

Although Max definitely is a crappy kid, he's still "Mommy's Little Boy" and can do no wrong ... hence, the title of last night's Lifetime premiere movie. The story really kicks off when the kids are at the pool, and mom is stone cold wasted. After trying to drown Eric, Max decides to show off his diving skills. Bad move. He hits his head and sinks to the bottom as Eric looks on ... and does NOT help.

So, Max drowns and Eric is rid of at least one of his life's problems. Things get really bad for this kid when concerned neighbor Barbara (Brigitte Robinson) tells Briana she's alerting the authorities to her drunken lifestyle and poor parenting. Briana slugs her with a frying pan and proceeds to murder her in front of Eric. She then tells Eric that he's headed to the big house if he utters a word of the killing to anyone.

Eric wrestles with two deaths on his conscience and meets kindly teacher/baseball coach Michael (Paul Popowich), who (whether he likes it or not) becomes a friend/dad figure. Meanwhile, mom is loaded and still trying to cover her murderous tracks.

Yes, this is a family only Dr. Phil could love, but it's one of the most memorable Lifetime clans I've seen in recent years. In short, "Mommy's Little Boy" absolutely rocks. The movie reunites the terrific tandem of writer Christine Conradt and director Curtis Crawford, two of the minds behind last year's classic "Mommy's Little Girl" and a host of other Lifetime epics. Conradt's story balances smarts with schlock to keep viewers engaged, and Crawford builds a steady level of suspense, rarely letting up. Williamson is downright scary and convincing as an abusive alcoholic, and her onscreen son DaCahuna creates a conflicted, compelling kid. He creates a sympathetic character, but the audience is never too sure whether this young man  may be permanently damaged by his upbringing. Supporting actors Natalie Lisinska, Allison Graham and particularly Sebastian Pigott (as the sleazy Shane) also deserve props.

"Mommy's Little Boy" is a big addition to Lifetime's roster of "Mommy" titles -- "Killing Mommy," "Mommy I Didn't Do It," "Double Mommy" (which also premiered this weekend), etc. It's definitely one of the best movies the network has premiered this year. If you missed it, tune into Lifetime on at 9 p.m., April 1 for an encore showing.

"Mommy's Little Boy": Directed by Curtis Crawford; Starring Bree Williamson as Briana, Peter DaCuhna as Eric, Paul Popowich as Michael, Sebastian Pigott as Shane, Natalie Lisinska as Sherry, Allison Graham as Detective Myers, Brigitte Robinson as Barbara, Auden Laratt as Max

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: 'A Deadly Affair'

What does a woman do when she suspects her husband of having an affair? In "A Deadly Affair," Mary (Austin Highsmith) almost has drunken revenge sex with her best friend's spouse Trevor (Alan Powell) but comes to her senses. It's still too late. Poor hubby Charlie (Luke Edwards) winds up as dead as the door nails he was installing in a renovation home.

That's the nuts and bolts of this mystery that recently premiered on Lifetime Movie Network (and airs again at 7 p.m. CST, March 28 on LMN).

Much of the movie focuses on Highsmith's character searching for answers in a sea of whodunnit characters. Could the murderer be the super clingy Trevor? Or, perhaps nightmare sister-in-law Crystal (Lorna Street Dopson)? Best friend and Trevor's lawyer wife Susan (the always awesome Valerie Azlynn) can't be counted out either, as well as Cassandra (Amber Dawn Lundrum), the clerk at Screws and Bolts hardware store. Or ... maybe Mary has some secrets she's hiding. 

Super cop Detective Malone (J. Teddy Garces) is on the case and thinks he may have the goods on Mary. After all, she's been drinking a bit too much lately and doesn't really have her story straight.

Writer/director David Bush (who co-wrote this with Marcy Holland) keeps "A Deadly Affair" from turning into a boring affair. He allows the audience to reel in several red herrings before a climactic reveal. The cast also does a fine job of creating charismatic characters that keep viewers guessing who the killer really is.

This is an above average effort that's fun and not too predictable. Admittedly, I can often figure these movies out, but "A Deadly Affair" had me clueless. The cast deserves much of the credit for keeping things interesting. Just a week prior to the premiere of "A Deadly Affair," Lifetimers were introduced to the trio of Highsmith, Garces and Azlynn in the excellent "Nanny Seduction." In fact, Garces plays the same Detective Malone character in that movie. All of these actors have great chemistry. Highsmith and Garces obviously work well together since they are husband and wife offscreen.

In spite of the title, "A Deadly Affair" isn't a steamy, sexy thriller. It is, however, a solid murder mystery with a talented cast and definitely a must-watch on Lifetime or LMN.

"A Deadly Affair": Directed by David Bush; Starring Austin Highsmith as Mary, Valerie Azlynn as Susan, Alan Powell as Charlie, J. Teddy Garces as Detective Malone, Luke Edwards as Trevor, Lorna Street Dopson as Crystal

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Review: 'Nanny Seduction'

Thanks to Lifetime, the nanny industry may take a downturn. Movies like "Nanny Cam," "The Nightmare Nanny" and "Evil Nanny" don't exactly paint a flattering picture live-in childcare professionals. The latest movie to make parents think twice before hiring help is "Nanny Seduction."

Originally titled "Missing Child," this thriller premiered on Lifetime Movie Network last night and was an awesome alternative to the Oscars.

The plot focuses on orphan Riley (Lauren Gobuzzi), who is adopted by would-be super couple Ben (Wes Brown) and Kara (Austin Highsmith). I say "would-be" because Ben has some skeletons in his closet, mainly past infidelities. The two need help with this young lady. She has some serious issues (fear of the playground and an attachment to a creepy doll) and needs expert care. So, the working couple decides to hire a nanny. Enter Alyssa (Valerie Azlynn), a gorgeous young woman who seems to have a way with kids. Things are going great until Alyssa decides to play footsy (literally) with Ben and makes it clear that she would like to play house with him. He keeps this a secret from Kara, who doesn't completely trust him after past trysts. Adding to this complication is the arrival of Riley's biological mom Vanessa (Erin Cahill), who definitely has some issues of her own.

So, this adoption is in jeopardy, right? Well, this is LIFETIME ... so yes, the adoption is in jeopardy ... Ben and Kara's marriage is in jeopardy ... and those are just some of the problems faced by these characters.

This is one of those movies that has it all: sex appeal, stalkings, seductions, secrets and more. Brown and Highsmith are convincing as the couple on the rocks, and Azlynn is awesome as the sexy kiddie caretaker. Admittedly, the plot is a little similar to the Will Ferrell/Kristin Wiig epic "Deadly Adoption," but this movie still has a few surprises ... and the requisite climactic confrontation. Director Emily Moss Wilson deserves credit for maintaining a solid level of suspense throughout this affair. It's definitely a worthy addition to the many nanny horror stories that occupy Lifetime's airwaves. "Nanny Seduction" will be taking care of viewers next Saturday, March March 4. And if you want an extra dose of leading ladies Austin Highsmith and Valeries Azlynn, check them out in "A Deadly Affair" premiering 7 p.m., March 5.

"Nanny Seduction": Directed by Emily Moss Wilson; Starring Austin Highsmith as Kara, Wes Brown as Ben, Valerie Azlynn as Alyssa, Erin Cahill as Vanessa, Lauren Gobuzzi as Riley

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Review: 'Boyfriend Killer'

Sometimes, it pays to be single -- especially for the characters in Lifetime movies. Take for example the hapless males in "Boyfriend Killer." Sure, the beautiful Krystal (played by the awesome Kate Mansi) seems like a catch. Instead, she's both needy and deadly ... two traits that are a dealbreaker in any relationship.

The story begins with the untimely demise of young stud Preston (Michael Uribe). The audience is well aware that he was a murder victim, but his grieving (and divorced) parents Sandra (Barbie Castro) and Charles (Lifetime legend Patrick Muldoon) are clueless ... until they meet Krystal. Something is not right with this young lady. In spite of a sincere smile, Krystal seems to be hiding something. She showers Sandra and Charles with lies including a false engagement between she and Preston. Mom knows this young lady is up to something, but dad is a little slow on the draw -- after all, he's having some problems with the bottle. Unfortunately, Preston's best bro Troy is too horny to see the truth and hooks up with the scheming Krystal. So, it's up to Detective Sandra to save the day.

Complicating Krystal's fragile psyche is a psychologically abusive dad (Frank Licari) and her new conquest millionaire stud Jack (Eric Aragorn), who is beginning to see that she's trainwreck.

"Boyfriend Killer" is fairly typical of the genre, but a stellar cast helps it rise above expectations. Many kudos to the dueling leads Mansi and Castro. Mansi is the consummate villainess (see "Unwanted Guest" for another fine performance) with that wonderful smile concealing a sinister interior. Castro on the other hand is a cool yet devastated parent determined to bring down her son's killer. She is convincing in all the right scenes and brings some order to the chaos impacting her family. And props go to the always solid Muldoon as a guilt-ridden father coming to grips with his son's death and trying to overcome his own demons. He and Castro are perfect parents in this thriller. Nice supporting roles by veterans Yancy Butler (as Carrie, Sandra's BFF) and Susan Gallagher (as tough P.I. Marley Michaels).

Performances aside, tight direction from Alyn Darnay and a smart story from Christine Conradt keep this Lifetime effort entertaining. This movie might make singles wary of taking on a new partner, but I recommend setting a date with "Boyfriend Killer" the next time it airs -- tomorrow, Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. (CST) on the Lifetime Movie Network.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Review: 'Deadly Ex'

High school reunions can be a scary proposition. You're likely to run into people whose names you forgot ... ex-jocks trying to relive the glory days ... and unhinged former flames. In "Deadly Ex,"  a guy discovers the latter at his reunion and a brief flirtation turns his life upside down.

Gary (Jason Gerhardt) seems to have it all: a great career, loving wife, great kids, awesome home. Well, his wife is on his ass ... constantly. They're having both money and marital woes. Things are looking pretty bad, and he confesses his life's mess to his still hot high school love Valerie (the eternally beautiful Natasha Henstridge). They share a kiss at his reunion and meet a few more times ... as friends.

Gary's wife Jess (Marguerite Moreau) finds out about Valerie and is not happy. It doesn't help that Valerie is drop dead gorgeous and has been in town visiting Gary (a lipstick stained shirt contributes to his downfall). Although Valerie is tempting, Gary loves Jess and wants to repair their marriage. Valerie, however, has other plans. She stalks and sexts poor Gary until he is thrown out of the house.

This emotional pressure cooker builds to a predictable but bloody climax. What can I say?? I loved this Sunday night premiere on the Lifetime Movie Network! Then again, I love anything with Henstridge. Her performance in Lifetime classic "Widow On The Hill" is tough to beat, be she comes close in this one. As Valerie, Henstridge flashes that flawless smile but is ready to unleash her wrath at all the right moments.

Supporting actors Gerhardt and Moreau make for a perfect couple on the rocks, and the actors playing their kids (Matt Cornett as Zach and Sammi Hanratty as Carissa) round out the cast nicely. Hanratty is particularly good as the drama queen daughter.

Originally titled "Inconceivable," this movie is directed by Tom Shell, a guy who usually produces and acts in action flicks. This might explain the conclusion, which is a bit more violent than usual Lifetime movies. He handles the material expertly, balancing drama with schlock and ultimately delivering a memorable stalker movie.

"Deadly Ex": Directed by Tom Shell; Starring Natasha Henstridge, Jason Gerhardt, Marguerite Moreau, Matt Cornett, Sammi Hanratty, Ben Reed.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Review: 'High School Lover'

A celebrity stud falls for a high school teen queen. It's a perfect fairy tale story, but their romance is not only forbidden (and probably illegal) ... it's possibly deadly.

That's the premise for last night's Lifetime premiere of "High School Lover." This is the latest Lifetime epic to feature the talents of Oscar-nominated actor James Franco. In this movie, he plays super single dad Rick who is raising a gorgeous teen daughter Kelly (Paula Singer) and an equally cute little girl Rachel (Ashley Aufderheide). He also has a gorgeous live-in love Samantha (Julia Jones).

Life is awesome for the family, but Kelly is a a typical teen who likes parties and boys. Her two besties Allison (Lana Condor) and Larry (Tyler Alvarez) get her into a secret exclusive get-together where she meets Hollywood bad boy Christian Booth (Francois Arnaud). He zeroes in on Kelly, and she is smitten with him. One thing leads to another, and she begins seeing him on the sly. 

When dad Rick finds out, he's not happy. But he may be too late to convince his daughter that she's too young for Christian (who is 10 years her senior). Oh...and he had a previous relationship with Samantha, which adds to the tension. Kelly's in love, so she's deaf to her father's concern. It's not until Christian's controlling, crazed side emerges that she realizes father probably knows best. 

Twitter was on fire discussing this stalker drama last night and with good reason. "High School Lover" is pretty entertaining. This is part forbidden love story, part stalker drama and part horror movie. It adds up to a pretty solid made-for-TV movie. Franco handles the dad role effortlessly. He's sympathetic but stern as he tries to negotiate with his rebellious daughter. Singer's performance as the confused teen in love (and lust) with the movie star is convincing, and Arnaud is excellent as the celeb stalker.

The story (written by Amber Coney and Jessica Coney) somewhat plausible, and director Jerell Rosales keeps the tension boiling until the explosive (and predictable) climax. 

This movie echoes pre-Lifetime epic "Betrayed by Innocence" featuring Barry Bostwick as a director who unknowingly beds a teenager -- a far more serious movie. 

Check out "High School Lover" and try to suspend your disbelief as there are many unanswered questions. The most important being ... how can the tabloids overlook Christian's relationship with a high schooler ... and why weren't the cops involved when it was discovered that he was dating a teen?

Tune in the next time this is on Lifetime or LMN and perhaps you'll find these answers.

"High School Lover": Directed by Jerell Rosales; Starring James Franco as Rick Winters, Paulina Winters as Kelly, Francois Arnaud as Christian, Julia Jones as as Samantha, Lana Condor as Allison, Tyler Alvarez as Larry, Ashley Aufherderheide as Rachel  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Not On Lifetime: 'Portrait Of An Escort'

Before Lifetime, we were able to view all kinds of sordid stories through made-for-TV flicks. These aired on any of the big three networks and often touched on some racy topics (STDs, drugs). Case in point is this week's "Not On Lifetime" movie, "Portrait of an Escort."

This 1980 classic no doubt carried the stern "Parental Discretion is Advised" warning ... a sure bet that the movie would have some kind of edge to it. Well, "Portrait of an Escort" is actually pretty tame. If anything, this is really a movie about the struggles of single mothers.

In this movie, we meet Jordan (Susan Anspach), a mom trying to make ends meet while working for a real estate firm. She's not licensed to sell homes, so she's in the pool of "office girls" and works for an unsympathetic female boss. Her co-worker Sandy (Mary Frann) informs her that she makes some extra money on the side as a professional escort .... or professional dater. Jordan is in a bind financially and with some hesitation, goes to meet dating service boss Mrs. Kennedy (Edie Adams). Jordan learns that she can keep guys company for a fee, but anything extra is up to her (wink, wink).

Jordan is not about to do anything to break the law, but she does need a second job. So, she does date men for money. She also meets a potential love interest ... aspiring actor Beau (Tony Bill). Coincidentally, he's a bit of a gigolo himself as he's shacked up with the very rich Sheilah (Cyd Charisse). Jordan and Beau begin to fall in love, but keep their careers as "companions" a secret from each other. Complicating matters is a stalker, who begins terrorizing Jordan and her daughter Jessica (Debbie Lytton).

Despite the title, this isn't a sleazy look at prostitution. In fact, there's no sex on screen (only implied by a supporting character).  It is, however, a solid depiction of how hard it is to get a break in a man's world. Anspach is sympathetic and effective as Jordan, a divorcee who is trying to get ahead but can't catch a break. She's sweet and smart, but it's just not enough. Supporting celebs Adams and Charisse liven up this movie as does Bill as an actor on the ropes.

I was surprised to see this movie on Comet, the science fiction/horror channel, of all places. It's definitely worth a watch for the Yacht Rock soundtrack and to see classic stars like Adams and Charisse winding down their careers.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: 'The Rachels'

It may be a while before I can hear the name 'Rachel' after viewing last night's Lifetime Movie Network premiere of "The Rachels." It seemed like this name was in every sentence of dialogue in this satirical teen thriller. Still, the movie didn't disappoint this devoted Lifetimer.

Imagine a "Heathers" for Milennials and you have "The Rachels." In this movie, we meet the two Rachels -- Rachel Nelson (Madison Iseman) and Rachel Richards (Caitlin Carver). They're two gorgeous teen queens who pretty much rule their high school. Nelson is a top track star and poised for success while Richards' primary claim to fame is an icy gaze and better-then-thou attitude.

Nelson falls for stud yearbook editor Tom  (Austin Cauldwell) -- much to Richards' dismay. And soon, she wants to go solo as her very own "Rachel." Well, she winds up dead soon after declaring her independence. It may have been a suicide. Or...was it?

Hot on the trail of this mystery is Tom and fellow yearbook staffer Roxie (Danielle Bobadilla), who may have a closer connection to the Rachels than anyone realizes. Rachel Richards, however, uses the death to leverage her own popularity. She provides the local news outlets with exclusive interviews and rocks some awesome black outfits at school. In spite of the demise of her bestie, she holds tight to the mantra "fame is power."

This Lifetime movie is definitely different than the usual fare, but I liked it. It starts a little slow, but heats up by the second act. Carver is an excellent villainess with her steely stare and arrogant strut. Any high schooler would be putty in her hands. Bobadilla provides an excellent foil for her with her nerdy exterior (think Velma from the Scooby Doo gang) that conceals scheming diva tendencies. Rounding out this trio of teen drama is Iseman, who is spot on as the popular girl wanting to shed superficiality. Also ... look for veteran actor Mark Derwin as Coach Lyons -- a nice surprise for longtime soap fans.

Credit a solid story from Ellen Huggins (who also penned the excellent "Fatal Flip" -- in regular rotation on Lifetime and LMN) and solid direction by Michael Civille for making this a fresh entry into Lifetime's roster of movies.

Admittedly, I am long beyond high school, but I found the premise of "The Rachels" extremely relevant in this era of people being famous for ... just being famous (think the Kardashians, the Trumps). I may be overlooking future airings, but definitely give this a watch the next time it's on.

"The Rachels": Directed by Michael Civille; Starring Caitlin Carver as Rachel Richards, Madison Iseman as Rachel Nelson, Danielle Bobadilla as Roxie, Austin Caldwell as Tom, Mark Derwin as Coach Lyons, Rachel Carpani as Sami Summers, Danielle Macdonald as Ashley, Chelsea Zhang as Gina

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Review: 'Open Marriage'

Two gorgeous couples decide to switch partners. What can go wrong? In "Open Marriage," we discover that anything and everything will go haywire after swapping spouses.

Last night, Lifetime premiered MarVista's "Open Marriage" (originally titled "To Have and To Kill") offering viewers an inside look at the consequences of free love. Of course, this is Lifetime, so there are the usual consequences (guilt, jealousy) and there are much deeper consequences (stalkers, guns, etc.).

The film introduces us to super couples Becca (Nikki Leigh) and Ron (Tilky Jones), and Max (Jason Tobias) and Mindy (Kelly Dowdle). Becca and Ron are happy enough although they are struggling financially and having trouble having a baby. And the passion in their marriage has dwindled a bit. On the other hand, Max and Mindy are living the dream. They're rich and make no secret of their sexy relationship. What's the secret to their happy marriage? They tell Becca and Ron that they have experimented with an open marriage and encourage them to do the same.

Becca and Ron are intrigued and decide to enter a tryst with their friends. One of the key rules is that each spouse is present during the other's "date," So, they switch partners a few times, and it's not long before the green-eyed monster enters the fray. After a night out at a discreet swingers sex club (think "Eyes Wide Shut" on a much lower budget), tensions rise when Becca and Max sneak to a separate room. Ron thinks enough's enough and cancels future dates with Max and Mindy...although they are still friends.

It's not easy to stop swinging though. Ron is drawn back to the club by a mysterious text and is drawn to a gorgeous woman. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure in a mask is watching his every move. Also, a car is mysteriously parked outside Ron and Becca's loft. It seems that a a steamy trip to sexier marriage has started to boil into something more sinister. Of course, there are more sordid details, but divulging them would ruin the movie for those who weren't glued to the TV last night.

This sounds like a typical Saturday night sleaze fest, but solid acting from all of the leads keeps things legit. Most effective are Jones and Leigh as the couple left reeling after the open marriage experiment. Extra kudos for Dowdle as the oversexed Mindy, who has the hots for Ron. Her wild-eyed flirtations are awesome, and she knows how to rock her wardrobe. Tobias anchors things with a cool, understated presence as Ron's best bro.

The show stealers are two supporting characters. Zach Cramblit is Dylan, Becca's gay friend, He's a bit stereotypical, but adds some comic relief to the mix. Oh, and he's the guy who nudges Becca toward swinging. And Debra Wilson (from "Mad TV") is Vulnavia, the hostess of the swingers' club. Bald, tatted and ripped, she is a mysterious figure who holds the keys to a bar, where happy hour involves "happy endings."

Veteran director Sam Irvin (who worked with Jones on the awesome "Wrong House") keeps the suspense building throughout this film, and Jason Byers' story has enough twists and turns to keep audiences guessing until the end.

Missed it last night? Have no fear! Cuddle up with your significant other (or a cocktail) tonight, Sunday, Jan. 15 for this wife-swapping mystery movie. "Open Marriage" airs at 8 p.m. (CST) on Lifetime.

"Open Marriage": Directed by Sam Irvin; Starring Nikki Leigh as Becca, Tilky Jones as Ron, Jason Tobias as Max, Kelly Dowdle as Mindy, Debra Wilson as Vulnavia, Zach Cramblit as Dylan