Popular Posts

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

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Review: 'The Perfect Stalker'

Another "Perfect ..." Lifetime movie that will no doubt be spotlighted during marathons including "The Perfect Wife," "Perfect High," "The Perfect Teacher," etc.

"The Perfect Stalker" follows Grace (Danielle Savre in an awesome role), an obsessive, abusive suburban wife. Oh, did I mention that she suffers from Histrionic Personality Disorder ... or at least she makes others suffer because of this malady. As any psychotic rich wife would do, she murders her husband for insurance money and starts a new life.

She moves in next to super couple Robert (Jefferson Brown) and Erin (Krista Morin), and that's where the nightmare begins. After meeting Robert,  a kind, sensitive and handsome author, she decides that they are destined for each other. One problem -- Erin! Oh, a sharp neighbor, Wayne (John Koensgen) also is an obstacle. No problem for Grace. She wears some very tight, low cut dresses and pretends that she is being stalked by some nut she randomly met. Robert can't help but want to help her, but soon, people wind up dead, and he is too clueless to make a connection.

Savre creates a classic lifetime villain as Grace. She is smart, sexy and not so sane. Her gorgeous smile offsets her psychotic actions, and Brown's poor character just can't see through the ruse. He and everyone else, however, can see through her clothes! Grace's work and home wardrobe is pretty much nightclub fare!

Kudos also go to Brown, who plays the hapless Robert. From the moment Grace enters the picture, his life is turned upside down. He's just too darn nice to suspect any wrongdoing ... and he pretty much suffers the most in this movie (outside of Grace's victims).

It helps that director Curtis Crawford directed this movie. He's the mastermind behind other "Perfect" movies including "The Perfect Girlfriend" and "The Perfect Boss." Up next for Curtis is "The Perfect Soulmate."

This is one of those awesome thrillers that leaves the audience waiting for the villain to be caught red handed. It's an instant classic that should be making the rounds frequently on all of the Lifetime channels. In fact, it airs next at 7 p.m, Jan. 13 on the Lifetime Movie Network. What better way to celebrate a horror movie holiday -- the first Friday the 13th of 2017??

"The Perfect Stalker: Directed by Curtis Crawford; Starring Danielle Savre as Grace, Jefferson Brown as Robert, Krista Morin as Erin, John Koensgen as Wayne

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Review: 'Turbulence'

If you're like me, you always worry about who's sitting next to you on a plane. I hope to avoid people who snore, smell or are prone to getting airsick. Agent Sarah Plummer has more problems though. She's in business class, sitting next to Michelle, a ruthless criminal who can end her family's life with a simple text message.

That's the nuts and bolts of "Turbulence" (aka "Flight 192"), which recently premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network. This action-thriller features two of my all-time favorite Lifetime regulars Dina Meyer (playing heroine Agent Plummer) and Victoria Pratt (as the sleek crook Michelle). 

The plot focuses on a sleazy senator (Brant A. McCoy), who murders a young lady for refusing his advances. The Feds definitely have a case against this guy as the murder was captured on a security camera. Agent Plummer has a copy of the video and is headed to Washington D.C. to put this dude away. He has other plans however.

His henchpeople Cameron (Justin Johnson) and Michelle are on the case. Cam takes Plummer's husband Ken (Nick Baillie) and son Jacob (Cole Carter) hostage -- at their awesome mansion. Meanwhile, Michelle follows Agent Plummer on her flight to destroy the video. What follows is a cat and mouse game on both land and air.

Michelle definitely has Agent Plummer in a bind, but the resourceful super spy has a few tricks up her sleeve. Still, her family's life hangs in the balance, so she can't be rash in her actions.

"Turbulence" is a good nail-biter, but I really wanted to see two action stars like Meyer and Pratt go mano a mano. Regardless, Pratt maintains a sinister presence as she pressures Meyer's character to choose between her family and her sense of duty. Meyer also shines as the devoted wife and mother, who also is committed to bringing the evil senator to justice. Kudos also go to Johnson as the cold blooded killer, who would easily kill an innocent child without second thoughts.

This movie reunites director Nadeem Sourmah and Baillie, who also does a fine job as the helpless husband. Lifetimes might remember that Sourmah directed Baillie in the awesome "Broken Promise." Sourmah keeps the tension boiling as this thriller builds to an explosive climax.

"Turbulence" takes off again tonight at 9 p.m. (CST) on Lifetime. Fasten your seatbelts for a cool ride with two of Lifetime's coolest action stars.

"Turbulence": Directed by Nadeem Sourmah; Starring Dina Meyer as Agent Sarah Plummer, Victoria Pratt as Michelle; Nick Baillie as Ken, Cole Carter as Jacob, Justin Johnson as Cameron, Brant A. McCoy as Senator Johnson