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Gross out for Captain Spalding, 22 May 2016

A prelude informs, "On May 18th, 1978, Sheriff John Quincey Wydell along with local authorities in Ruggsville County led a 'search and destroy' mission on a decaying farmhouse. Inside the house, police discovered a collection of diaries and scrapbook detailing the accounts of more than seventy-five murders. The family responsible for these brutal crimes was forever to be known as 'The Devil's Rejects'," The lurid opening scenes invite questions about the Devil's decision to reject this group of cutthroats, who continue their sadistic violence from "House of 1000 Corpses" (2003). Probably, we are meant to think they are so bad, even the Devil wouldn't have them. So, it's here they stay...

Mainly, we follow black-toothed Sid Haig (as Captain Spaulding), sexy blonde Sheri Moon Zombie (as "Baby" Firefly) and demented Bill Moseley (as Otis P. Driftwood). Yes, the names are swiped from Marx Brothers movies, with Groucho's image appearing a couple of times. It's an interesting and potentially plot intriguing homage that adds up to practically nothing...

There is very little plot. This film also misses its connection with a bigger picture. "A Clockwork Orange" and "Natural Born Killers" artfully succeeded by shoving society in your eyes and down your throat. "The Devil's Rejects" does a lot of shaky camera shoving, but doesn't strike the chords. The script has some clever lines, but consists mostly of a four-letter word that rhymes with luck...

From "Midnight Rider" (the Allman Brothers) to "Free Bird" (Lynyrd Skynyrd), the music, helps put you in a party mood. This was not done by Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino with "Singin' in the Rain" (via "A Clockwork Orange"), "Blue Velvet" and "Stuck in the Middle with You" (via "Reservoir Dogs"). They struck the notes that crept you out...

The clown role played by Mr. Haig is the closest writer-director Rob Zombie comes to touching the nerves. More should have been made of his TV program. Have mobs of kids adore him. Show us his fan mail. Drive the "Love-Hate" relationship between violence and American society home. Haig's intro is the film's highlight. While not especially horrific, it is gross and unpredictable. Love the edit from urination to pouring coffee. Points for the dirty pot, too. The dirty texture in sets and locations is a plus. Other characterizations are one-note, through a few hit it adequately. Former "Three's Company" star Priscilla Barnes gets a special shout-out for versatility, endurance and always giving her all.

***** The Devil's Rejects (7/22/2005) Rob Zombie ~ Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe

Seduced (2016/I)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Missed Connections, 5 May 2016

In and around Southern California's beachy Venice community, a serial killer is on the loose. This murderer favors attractive redheads. Meanwhile, red-haired widow Elisabeth Rohm (as Caroline Prati) manages a successful career as an accountant while playing single mom to blonde teenager Jessica Amlee (as Issie). While still very attractive, Ms. Rohm doesn't have much interest in dating. That's about to change. Encouraged by her daughter, Rohm reluctantly checks out an Internet dating site. She meets handsome consultant Jon Prescott (as Gavin Donato). He's extraordinarily good-looking, perfectly toned, and apparently quite wealthy. Possessing a sexy accent, Mr. Prescott also likes to cook. As if that wasn't enough, Prescott focuses his high level of sexual stamina on fulfilling his female companion's every fantasy...

What could possibly go wrong?

Before you answer, remember this is a "Lifetime" TV movie. We know something isn't quite right in the opening scenes, since redheads are being killed while red-haired Rohm is making her "too-good-to-be-true" Internet connection. In a sub-plot, Ms. Amlee considers losing it with sexy Tanner Stine (as Noah). Perhaps this story's greatest strength is that director Jessica Janos and her crew give us an attractive cast and nice photography (by Chris Ekstein). After lulling you to half-sleep on TV romance, the story switches into a higher gear. Dressed to arouse, mysterious Julie Mond (as Margo Fouratt) joins the cast of misconnected characters. The conclusion of "Seduced" is a mash-up of nonsensical scenes that appear to have been put together by a blind squirrel. The story ends up making absolutely no sense.

*** Seduced (4/20/2016) Jessica Janos ~ Elisabeth Rohm, Jon Prescott, Julie Mond, Jessica Amlee

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Keep Your Shirt On!, 1 May 2016

In smallish-town Redford, beautiful 19-year-old Celesta DeAstis (as Rachel Light) likes to open her shirt and swap spit with handsome and muscular Mark Grossman (as Troy). He says college girls are coming on hard and wants to take some photos of Ms. DeAstis to remind him what he's got back home in Redford. After a make-out session, she reluctantly agrees to pose for some topless cellphone photos. Two weeks later, the couple has a bitter break-up, with DeAstis' sexy but strong-armed mama Jennifer Dorogi (as Barbara) throwing Mr. Grossman out on his keister. As you may have guessed, the topless photos are shared on the Internet. DeAstis can't go anywhere without eliciting sneers, snickers and sexual propositions...

"Break-Up Nightmare" is a fairly obvious story...

The "revenge pornography" topic is commendable. But this treatment, by director Mark Quod of writer Delondra Williams' tale, is woeful. It simply degenerates into absurdity. Best is the film's establishment of setting. They begin by giving us a look at Redford, with a little nod to the classic "Peyton Place" opening from the 1960s. Locations are nicely interspersed with interiors throughout. Best performance is that of DeAstis' curly-haired co-worker Freeman Lyon (as Ryan), he cracks bad jokes and acts most naturally. The producers make the town rich in institutionalized Black Power and reverse the gender roles given strong, eyebrow-arched Ms. Dorogi and her girly ex-husband. It seems too much like pandering, though.

**** Break-Up Nightmare (2016/3/6) Mark Quod ~ Jennifer Dorogi, Celesta DeAstis, Freeman Lyon, Mark Grossman

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Not with My Daughter, You Don't, 29 April 2016

A young couple chain themselves to a light cement block and hold hands on a bridge, overlooking some dangerous water. Apparently, they jump. Six months earlier, we meet sourpuss Paloma Kwiatkowski (as Emily Yates). The 18-year-old college freshman is sullen most of the time, leading her lawyer mother Lindsay Hartley (as Jill) to believe Ms. Kwiatkowski may be off her medication. Kwiatkowski is depressed and has an aversion to water (or, she did, previous to the opening teaser). One thing that we see cheering Kwiatkowski up is bad blond boyfriend Jedidiah Goodacre (as Gary Smith). A handsome young security officer, Mr. Goodacre works better than medication. When they meet, Goodacre turns off Ms. Hartley with his bad table manners...

Directed by Paul Shapiro and written by Stephen Lyons, this is a very predictable "Lifetime" TV drama. They handle the assignment successfully. The basic plot, which has been recycled many times, reinforces the demographic viewers' perception that a daughter's boyfriend is usually bad news. To compare and contrast, mother Hartley is given handsome new bed-partner Dan Payne (as Connor Hodges). The younger couple steal the show by offering a nice variety of nasty, sullen, moody, pouty and scowling looks. Hartley is out to there. Of the supporting players, police officer brother James Pizzinato (as Ritchie Smith) shows a good range; when he over-telegraphs, it's due to a lingering camera. The movie is full of stupidity, but it is fun to watch.

***** Dying to Be Loved (4/16/16) Paul Shapiro ~ Lindsay Hartley, Paloma Kwiatkowski, Jedidiah Goodacre, Dan Payne

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Easy on the Eyeliner, 29 April 2016

Here's the set-up… Startlingly full-figured 13-year-old Samantha Boscarino (as Ellie Davis) thinks she is cursed. A van full of partying cheerleaders apparently crashes. Next, a young man appears to expire at a party. Finally, another young man enters Ms. Boscarino's house and shoots half her family. The last shot occurs off camera. That could be a suicide, or an unseen family cat. The important part of what you saw in the opening minutes was the murder of Boscarino's father and sister. The other stuff is part of the curse. Three years later, Boscarino is a sweet 16-year-old high school student. Her cheerleader friends mysteriously disappear and it seems like the curse has returned to frighten Boscarino and quite possibly take her life...

The words "Inspired by True Events" introduce this TV movie...

It does not seem possible that a real "curse" was at work here and the story offers no evidence. Now and then, a dead character seemingly offers support. Possibly, the curse and its connection to a ghost or imaginary character were clearer in writer Matt Young's original story. Director David Jackson, with Eric Potter's editing, moves "The Cheerleader Murders" around by artfully positioning characters into scenes with surprise and relating events with quick inter-cutting. There is very little to warrant this attention, however. Boscarino is very attractive. Her boyfriend Austin Lyon (as Nicholas "Nic" Ryder) is stable (until his final scene). Devin Crittenden (as Ben Forester) is sufficiently creepy, but you may be better off watching the eyeliner.

**** The Cheerleader Murders (4/9/16) David Jackson ~ Samantha Boscarino, Austin Lyon, Tessie Santiago, Devin Crittenden

A Wife's Nightmare (2014) (TV)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Help Me Make It through the Nightmare, 26 April 2016

Following a nervous breakdown, attractive businesswoman Jennifer Beals (as Elizabeth "Liz" Michaels) is sent home from the psychiatric hospital. With help from some balancing medication, Ms. Beals believes she can also return to work. This is great news, because handsome musician husband Dylan Neal (as Gabe) is still looking for a best-seller, after completing two albums. The couple have one son, cute high school-aged Spencer List (as AJ). For some unexplained reason, Mr. List can't attract a pretty girl at school. After grocery shopping one day, mom and dad are accosted by beautiful blonde 19-year-old Lola Tash (as Caitlin Patterson). She claims her recently deceased mother named Mr. Neal as her father...

This makes the sexy young woman Neal's daughter from a brief relationship, occurring way back. Presently living in her car, Ms. Tash is invited into the family. Now, remember Ms. Beals had a psychiatric problem. At first, she accepts Tash as a step-daughter. But Beals starts to see Tash getting very chummy with the family. One scene has Tash spilling a drink on her ample chest, with the camera moving in to show Neal patting out the wetness as it drips down her cleavage. Tash also makes slightly younger List giggle when tickling his upper thighs as they play video games. Beals witnesses these incidents and thinks they may not be so innocent. They are not explicit enough for us to know what's going on, supposedly...

In reality, it's fairly obvious...

This "Lifetime" TV movie never gets away from its formula, but director Vic Sarin and the cast do make it slightly better than ordinary. This is most evident in the four leading players. They remain convincing, as Mr. Sarin keeps their characterizations on track through some idiocy. Beals does not seem like she could have been crazy, but we're not shown that part of the story. List says he loves the "Underground Records" shop where Tash works, but does not recognize the gorgeous blonde who worked there is his new sister. Yet, List portrays his young teenage character very well. The opening minutes go overboard in showing Tash's emotions, but she's quite impressive. Finally, Neal definitively nails his daddy role home.

***** A Wife's Nightmare (12/27/14) Vic Sarin ~ Jennifer Beals, Lola Tash, Dylan Neal, Spencer List

Casting Mabel Adrift, 14 April 2016

Somewhere between the Rocky Mountains and Pittsburg, spunky Mabel Normand (as Sue Graham) lives in a small town. She longs to be a movie actress. When her parents arrange for Ms. Normand to wed rotund Vernon Dent (as Aaron Applejohn) instead of handsome childhood sweetheart Ralph Graves (as David "Dave" Giddings), the spirited young woman decides to leave town. Normand first agrees to elope with Mr. Graves, but she is unable to leave her loving parents. She finally exits her small Illinois town, after winning an invitation to Hollywood from the Mack Sennett studios (as the Golden State Film Company). Appropriately, her departure is in Mr. Sennett's comic style. In Hollywood, Normand is not welcomed as a potential star. The photo she sent was switched with a beautiful young star, by a rival for Graves' attentions. Instead, the studio gives the teary-eyed Normand a job in their wardrobe department...

"The Extra Girl" is not a confident feature-length story, mixing styles with inconsistent success. Although the title presumes Normand becomes an "extra" on her way to becoming a movie star, it never happens. In the film's comic highlight, she does manage a screen test. Norman also takes a lion for a walk around the studio lot, thinking he's "Teddy" the Great Dane. The former canine superstar has a subdued cameo. An obviously villainous Ramsey Wallace (as T. Phillip Hackett) swindles Normand's pitiful parents George Nichols and Anna Hernandez (as Pa and Ma Graham) out of a small fortune and Graves joins them to steal the picture. Normand and Sennett parted after this film and she attempted one more feature before returning to shorts, the genre which made her a popular teenage star. Formerly considered to be one of the screen's finest comediennes, Normand was beset by personal problems and never regained her footing.

****** The Extra Girl (10/28/23) F. Richard Jones ~ Mabel Normand, Ralph Graves, George Nichols, Ramsey Wallace

Ingmar Bergman Goes to Hell, 14 April 2016

Down in Hell, devilishly wicked Stig Jarrel (as Satan) has acquired a sty in his eye. According to an old Irish proverb, "A woman's chastity is a sty in the devil's eye." This painful condition is attributed to a 20-year-old woman on Earth who has decided to remain a virgin until her upcoming wedding night. Satan surmises, we are told (by a helpful on-screen host), that if he can get pretty Bibi Andersson (as Britt-Marie) to sinfully deflower, the Devil will be relieved of his sty. Enter and exit debonair Jarl Kulle (as Don Juan). The legendary lover is serving time in Hell, naturally. His punishment consists of endless seductions without the climactic ending. You may see where this is going...

To wit, Don Juan is sent to Earth where he'll hopefully seduce Ms. Andersson and relieve both himself and the Devil...

Ingmar Bergman begins the comedy with clever direction and settings in Hell. Imagine an old Shakespearian play, with no curtain or audience. The set-up is intriguing and initial trip to Earth heightens anticipation. Then, the story becomes unexpectedly dull. More quaint than clever, Andersson's romantic situation is the main disappointment. Saving the trip is Mr. Kulle's servant Sture Lagerwall (as Pablo), by going after pastor's wife Gertrud Fridh (as Renata). You have to wonder why Richard Burton, a great lover of the Faustian sort, did not re-make the original play as an English language film. Either he couldn't obtain the rights or felt Elizabeth might be unconvincing as the virgin.

******* The Devil's Eye/Djävulens öga (10/17/60) Ingmar Bergman ~ Jarl Kulle, Bibi Andersson, Stig Jarrel, Sture Lagerwall

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Lifetime Folk Tale, 14 April 2016

An accident occurs...

"One year later," wealthy survivor John Novak (as Wayne Griegson) is left widowed. He has also lost the use of his legs and must use an inhaler occasionally, to breathe...

Understandably glum, Mr. Novak resists beautiful daughter Emmanuelle Vaugier (as Jade) when she suggests hiring a caregiver so she and perfectly muscled Matthew MacCaull (as Marco) can go away for a honeymoon. Surprisingly, their spectacular seaside mansion has no visible hired help, so they hire plain and frumpy Jordana Largy (as Samantha) to look after Novak. While the newlyweds are in Hawaii for a month, Ms. Largy starts more and more curvaceous skin. Turning pretty, she develops a taste for plunging necklines and short-shorts. This attracts Novak's attention. Suddenly, he's a new man. By the time Ms. Vaugier and Mr. MacCaull return, things have changed...

There is nothing new about this story. Writer Roslyn Muir follows the "Lifetime" TV movie formula very closely, completing her assignment with high scores. The lush setting and cinematography, by Neil Cervin, is attractive and steady. "Stranger in the House" doesn't take any risks, but director Allan Harmon and his crew manage to make the familiarity feel like a pair of comfortable old shoes. As they check off each cliché, you feel the release of knowing transmitters in your brain. These variations don't always work, but this one looks nice and respects its viewers. When you know what's going to happen, you're still interested to see how the characters are going to make each stupid move...

They make you feel smart.

****** Stranger in the House (4/9/16) Allan Harmon ~ Emmanuelle Vaugier, Matthew MacCaull, Jordana Largy, John Novak

Barrymore Passes the Bar, 9 April 2016

Whiskey-soaked criminal defense lawyer John Barrymore (as Tom Cardigan) goes to night court and defends beautiful blonde streetwalker Helen Twelvetrees (as June Perry) as a favor to his racketeering pal William Boyd (as Valentine 'Vanny' Powers). Although he appears to still be a little tipsy, Mr. Barrymore is a smooth operator in the courtroom. He gets Ms. Twelvetrees off and she moves in as, we presume, Barrymore's monogamous mistress. Twelvetrees encourages Barrymore to stop drinking and concentrate on his career. That advice works on different levels. Barrymore decides to go legit and becomes a successful district attorney with an eye on the governor's chair...

This is a witty courtroom drama with Barrymore in fine form. The legendary actor's fondness for alcohol neatly weaves into the story. Barrymore was still able to perform while drinking, although the deterioration would soon become apparent. Rowland Brown and Gene Fowler enliven the script with great lines and moral dilemmas. The characters "Tom" and "June" are allowed an option to live "in sin" because it works for them. Leggy murder suspect Mary Duncan (Nora Dean) overplays feverishly, but she's a lot of fun. Jill Esmond (aka Mrs. Laurence Olivier) is oddly giddy over Barrymore and a younger tenor. Director George Archainbaud flatters his cast and keeps it moving.

****** State's Attorney (5/5/32) George Archainbaud ~ John Barrymore, Helen Twelvetrees, William 'Stage' Boyd, Jill Esmond

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