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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Not on Lifetime: 'Pray for the Wildcats'

I'm split on whether "Pray for the Wildcats" actually qualifies as a movie that could air on Lifetime or the Lifetime Movie network.

This 1970s made-for-TV nugget is crazy enough to generate the kind of Tweet-storm reserved for movies like "Girlfriend Killer" or "Sinister Minister." But...there's zero sex (at least none on camera), and the primary characters are all male. BUT...this wild thriller focuses on three relationships on the ropes and a psycho who is pulling the strings on the fate of the characters.

Admittedly, I've been dying to see this movie for a while and recently tracked it down on YouTube.
The cast is pure gold: Andy Griffith, William Shatner, Robert Reed, Marjoe Gortner and Angie Dickinson!

Griffith plays eccentric millionaire Sam Farragut, who owns a construction equipment company. He contracts an ad agency to develop a campaign for his organization. The creative team finds that it has its hands full with the loony Farragut.

He hates their ideas and decides they should have a wild weekend to bond. Farragut drags ad men Warren (Shatner), Paul (Reed) and Terry (Gortner) on a motorcycle ride through Mexico. These guys packed lightly for this trip but carry plenty of emotional baggage.

Warren is being fired by the agency and has health issues...oh, and he's having a fling with Paul's wife. Paul's marriage is falling apart, and Terry's girlfriend is unexpectedly pregnant. And they all are given leather jackets that read "Wildcats" adding to the weirdness of this sales venture.

None of these issues compares with the nightmare that awaits them on this trip with Farragut. The wealthy geezer is a risk taker, and these three suburbanites aren't exactly Evel Knievel material. Things really get out of control at a cantina when a drunken Farragut accosts a hippie girl. Her boyfriend tries to intervene and is beaten up by Farragut. That should have been a warning, but these sad sacks stick with their nutty host.

Farragut becomes even more out of control when he meets up with the hippy couple again. A fight ensues, and Farragut grabs an ax! Without offering spoilers, let's just say that the hippies aren't the winners in the in this confrontation. Terry doesn't tell his buddies what happened, but cops arrive and start asking questions. Warren figures out that screwball Farragut is up to no good and tries to figure out how to do the right thing.

There are numerous other plot twists, but definitely look for this movie. As mentioned, AWESOME cast. Where else can you see Captain Kirk, Mike Brady, Sheriff Taylor and Police Woman in action?

Griffith steals the show as the evil Farragut. Of course, he's no stranger to playing villains ("A Face in the Crowd") and devours his role as the psychopathic millionaire.

Shatner also shines as the washed up ad exec who is torn between his mistress and wife. With his oversized glasses and quiet disposition, his character Warren is personifies the term "milquetoast."

"Pray for the Wildcats" originally aired as an "ABC Movie of the Week" back in 1974. It is very dated and pretty tame compared to today's fare, but Griffith's wild performance is definitely makes it watchable. Highly recommended for fans of old school TV.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: 'The Wrong Crush'

The fireworks flew during the Fourth of July weekend premiere of "The Wrong Crush." This tale of revenge, obsession and murder debuted last night and was a perfect way to wind down a star-spangled weekend.

"The Wrong Crush" follows Amelia (Victoria Konefal), a teen queen track star with some heavy baggage. Although she is a model student and super athlete, Amelia harbors a dark past filled with alcoholism that may have contributed to the death of a friend. She's worked hard to get her life back in order, but her mom Tracy (Lesli Kay) hasn't forgotten her hellion ways. Tracy works at a nursing home with BFF Gwen (Vivica A. Fox -- also one of the film's producers), who provides a good sounding board for her parental woes. Rounding out this semi-happy circle of family and friends is boyfriend Scott (Pedro Correa).

On the periphery is creeper Jake (Ricardo Hoyos), a smooth talking new kid who sets his sights on Amelia. Someone else has their eyes on Amelia. She caught someone looking into her home and is being watched by a couple during track practice. It turns out the couple is Mr. and Mrs. Hessler (Jon Briddell and Meredith Thomas), the parents of a friend who was killed in a drunken car accident in which Amelia was involved.

So, everything is in play for a stalker-mystery focused on Amelia. Admittedly, these movies are a bit difficult to review without giving out key plot twists. Still, it's safe to say that Jake is up to no good, and Amelia isn't completely blind to his affections. Still, she seems to think the magic words "just friends" will keep him at bay. No dice! This guy has a stalker board with pics of Amelia, so he means business.

Amelia is definitely in trouble. Will mom and/or Scott come to the rescue? Will Mrs. Wheeler in the nursing home eat her vegetables? And will Jake's stalker wall continue to grow?? The sparks will fly again tomorrow, July 4, at 7 p.m. (CST).

"The Wrong Crush" definitely does a lot of things right, particularly developing solid characters to propel the story forward. Konefal offers an effective performance as a young lady doing all the right things but haunted by a bleak past. Hoyos is picture perfect as the psychotic stalker. He's somewhat understated as the obsessive nutcase, which works. The audience knows he's up to something, but Hoyo's sweet smile and easy going presence belies a much more sinister force. TV veteran Kay ("As the World Turns," "Bold and the Beautiful") is excellent as the mother who can't let go of the past and reluctant to trust her daughter. Konefal balances a unique chemistry with both Hoyos and Kay. With her male antagonist, she's both flirty yet uneasy. And with Kay, she's desperately trying to win back the mother she spurned.

At the helm is veteran "Wrong" director David DeCoteau ("The Wrong Child," "The Wrong Roommate"), who has collaborated with the talented Ms. Fox on a number of projects. He knows his way around TV thrillers and does a solid job of building suspense while focusing on the dramatic subplot of Amelia's past.

The fuse was lit last night, so if you missed this firecracker, put a few franks on the fire and get ready for another "Wrong" classic on LMN.

"The Wrong Crush": Directed by Davie DeCoteau; Starring Victoria Konefal as Amelia, Lesli Kay as Tracy, Vivica A. Fox as Gwen, Ricardo Hoyos as Jake, Pedro Correa as Scott, Reatha Gray as Mrs. Wheeler, Meredith Thomas as Mrs. Hessler, Jon Briddell as Mr. Hessler

8 Questions with Jeff Marchelletta of ‘Sinister Minister’

Lifetimers recently experienced religion gone wrong in “Sinister Minister.” This fact-based thriller premiered on Lifetime in May and has been in steady rotation on both Lifetime and the Lifetime Movie Network.

If you've been wanting to catch it, your prayers are answered. "Sinister Minister" steps back on the pulpit at 9 p.m. (CST), July 9 on Lifetime and again at 1 a.m. on July 10. 

Among its talented cast is Jeff Marchelletta, who plays John Wells. John is trying to win back ex-wife (Nikki Howard), who is being seduced by the evil Pastor D.J. (Ryan Patrick Shanahan).

During his relatively young career, Marchelletta has more than 40 film and television acting credits to his name – including appearances on popular TV series “Criminal Minds,” “Hannah Montana” and “Las Vegas.” The versatile Marchelletta also has appeared in Off-Broadway productions and applies his talents behind the scenes as a partner with Industry Standard Films (along with Cliff Broadway and Josh Mandel).

Marchelletta took time to participate in an e-interview with LM Mental to discuss “Sinister Minister” and his career.

LM Mental: You recently starred as John Wells, the dad/ex-husband in “Sinister Minister”. Do you have any interesting stories about the making of this film?

Jeff Marchelletta: One of the most interesting things about the film was that it was based on a true story. At first, I thought “Really, a pastor who is a serial wife killer?” After the premiere, I saw some online stories come out about the case that may have inspired the movie. According to the Los Angeles Times, Arthur Schirmer, a Pennsylvania man was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of his wife. The prosecutors dubbed him "the sinister minister." Then, CBS News reported that he was also found guilty to third-degree murder in the 1999 death of his first wife. He is serving life without parole in jail. Sadly, I’m not surprised in today’s world with ignorant dimwits hiding behind religion. There’s a line in the film where D.J., the pastor (played by the cool Ryan Shanahan) implies he gets away with everything because he’s a “holy man” and everyone believes him. I know there are bad eggs that use religion for their own agenda in every sector, but it makes me think of what’s going on in the middle east with ISIS and how a band of misled evil murderers hide behind man-written words. I believe in God and am a Christian, and go to a couple of really cool progressive churches in Los Angeles. Religious books like the Bible and Torah are beautiful with important historic stories that help teach us lessons. These books are inspired by God but written by man. Anything written by man is open to personal opinion, bias and interpretation. In today’s world, we as an “intelligent” species should all be able to understand that.

LM Mental: Was this your first Lifetime movie? Were you surprised at all of the Twitter activity during its premiere?
Marchelletta: Actually, it’s not my first Lifetime movie. I was recently in another titled “Forgotten Evil,” written and directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, who gained notoriety for the successful “Sharknado” franchise. So, Twitter was really buzzing for that premiere also.

Yes, I am surprised at all the Twitter activity for “Sinister Minister.” It’s exciting and a lot of fun. Jose Montesinos, the director of “Sinister Minister,” started a text thread with the cast. We were all joking around at first, then Nikki Howard (who’s plays the lead Trish) texted us all and said, “Hey, we are trending on Twitter!” I believe Twitter shows the Top 20 trends, so someone on the thread texted “We’re trending at 18!” Then another text “17!” Then “16!” “14!” “13!” “Trending at No. 12 now!” I don’t know which was more fun, the private text thread or trending on Twitter.  

LM Mental: What – or who – inspired you to become an actor?

Marchelletta: That’s a tough question because the inspiration has to keep coming for me. It’s a tough business, so as an artist you need ongoing inspiration. I see a lot of movies, plays and indie films, and am often inspired by filmmakers and other actors. I also find inspiration in class, a getaway trip, museums and more. You’d be surprised where you can find inspiration. You just need to be present and open to it.

My first inspirations, however, came from going to Broadway as a kid. I grew up just outside of New York City. My parents always took us on family trips to see Broadway shows during the holiday season. It was always so thrilling to me as a kid to sit and watch it all happen live. Magical. I still have vivid memories of it.

LM Mental: What have been some of your favorite projects?

I have several but I’ll pick a few. “Criminal Minds” on CBS was a favorite because I was guesting on a highly anticipated two-part season premiere. “Las Vegas” on NBC was also cool; I was guesting opposite Josh Duhamel, who is a great actor. Coincidently, I met him before in Larry Moss’ master scene study class. What was really great about the “Las Vegas” shoot was that the episode titled “Mothwoman” had a Comic-Con theme. That brings me to my next project “Ringers.”

“Ringers: Lord of the Fans,” is a feature-length documentary I produced that explores how “The Lord of the Rings” has influenced western popular culture for more than 50 years. It features interviews with Elijah Wood, Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin and others. It was narrated by Dominic Monaghan, and we spent three and a half years making it. I learned a ton about filmmaking on that project; it was like a crash course. It was tough at times, but it was a creative team that all listened, collaborated and respected each other. I’m still close with the crew today. Believe me when I say that does not happen on every project. “Ringers” ended up being a tremendous success for all of us. It received a lot of attention, good press, and we sold it to Sony Pictures for worldwide distribution. That was huge for me as it was the first project I ever produced.

LM Mental: What advice do you have for actors entering the industry?

Marchelletta: Work your ass off. Honestly, work hard and keep at it. Work on your craft, technique, your voice, yourself, take challenging classes with good teachers, read plays, do plays, see every film and play you can. It takes real commitment, serious effort and time. You may have to balance it with other work to earn money especially at first. That’s been a key word for me not only regarding the entertainment industry but also in my life - balance. When someone comes to LA to be an actor and says, “I’ll give it 2 years,” they are not in it for the right reasons. For a real creative person, a true artist, there is no time frame to stop. If you really have the soul of an artist then being creative is like breathing. You just need to do it and find a way to be creative in some form.  

LM Mental: Do you feel networks such as Lifetime offer indie filmmakers and actors a good outlet to spotlight their talents?

Marchelletta: Yes, I do. Lifetime and other cable networks are great outlets to get your work out there. Lifetime movies have gotten better over the years in my opinion. Some of their biopics are really good too. I’ve even recently seen some movies that premiered at Sundance play on Lifetime. As I mentioned, I’ve also produced some indie films. A few of them have kicked ass in the film festival circuit; getting great reviews and critical acclaim, winning some awards and getting good distribution. However, I suspect some will never reach as large an audience as say the two Lifetime movies I was recently a part of. I just learned that “Sinister Minister” premiered in the Top 25 rated shows at No. 15 as reported by TV By The Numbers. That’s a lot of eyes on that film and really good news!     

LM Mental: What's your next project?

Marchelletta: I have a few projects in the works. I shot a supporting role in “Union” written and directed by Whitney Hamilton which is currently in post-production. It’s the story of a woman who disguises herself as her dead brother to survive in the Confederate ranks during the Civil War. Whitney really put together a great project and team. It was shot in Alabama at some stellar and authentic locations, and the wardrobe and makeup crews really nailed it. I portray Doc Cobb, a Civil War era surgeon, who is in for a big surprise while tending to one of his patients. You can check out some info, pics and teasers here.  I have a cool role in “The White Orchid,” which was executive produced by the Estate of Humphrey Bogart that should be releasing soon. It’s the story of a shy investigator who assumes the identity of a small-town murder victim in order to solve her gruesome death. It stars Olivia Thirlby, John Carroll Lynch, Jennifer Beals and others. I portray Tony, San Francisco’s Hotel Rex bartender, who has some important clues for the film’s hero. Also, I worked on “Blindness,” an art-themed indie film. It was written and directed by Annette Cyr and will be at the 2017 Palm Springs International Shortfest June 20-26,2017. I portray Charles Lockridge, a high-end Gallery Dealer who is a bit of womanizer with a touch of faux sophistication. Check them out and support indie film if you can.

LM Mental: What would be your dream project?

Marchelletta: Besides being in one of Steven Spielberg’s next movies? Or, the next big sci-fi adventure thriller set in outer space?? I’d like be on a successful well-written TV series portraying a cool school guidance counselor or therapist. I know it sounds crazy but I’ve had that thought. I think it would be a great role and fit for me. Perhaps I wish I had someone like that to talk to when I was a teen. Lifetime maybe?

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.