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During the opening credits, it looks like a flood is causing serious
damage for some people. This turns out to be a boating trip hit by a
storm. Two days earlier, the story begins
After his new book "On
Dating Brainy Women" receives a cool reception, Seattle-area author
Jason Priestley (as Robert "Bob" Childs) decides to take his family out
on a boating trip to Bear Island. While he is away, the book catches
fire... but we'll have to wait and see if the family makes it back, to
learn the good news. Bear Island turns out to be a great name for the
island, because a snarling, blood-thirsty bear hangs around there. But
first, we see how Mr. Priestley and his family got there. The impromptu
trip began calmly. Then
the weather started getting rough, the tiny
ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the
"Christine" would be lost...
It's always nice when a disaster movie adds characterization. In this case, the story is about fractured family values. Priestley was a widower who wed beautiful and brainy Andrea Roth (as Teresa Martin). She's beautiful, blonde, a bit younger and incredibly bright. Bratty teenage daughter Genevieve Buechner (as Christy) asks her step-mom, "Is there anything you don't know?" When the men in the cast are incapacitated, Ms. Roth easily takes command. She shows great strength; but, when manly men are around, Roth trips and falls like a helpless lady. The whole point of the disastrous experience appears to be a divine plan to make them somehow form a family. Too bad there wasn't an easier way. Supporting mother Gabrielle Rose (as Hannah) is good, a second family seems poorly edited in, and the bear might scare small children.
**** Courage (2011-06-18) George Erschbamer ~ Andrea Roth, Jason Priestley, Genevieve Buechner, Gabrielle Rose
The girl "Clara" of this movie's title climbs up to a tree-house and
is, apparently, pushed to her death. One look at this dangerous
tree-house and you're going to wonder how any parent let it stand.
Twenty years later, incredibly, the tree-house is still standing. The
adults who lived on the property, and their neighbors, are not too
smart when it comes to recognizing an obvious hazard. After this
tragedy, we are introduced what looks like a female vigilante in the
form of small but steely-armed Emmanuelle Vaugier (as Helen). She
appears to rescue a different little girl from some unknown peril. The
scene abruptly ends, and we presume it ended horribly because Ms.
Vaugier turns out to be having a nightmarish flashback. Presently,
she's an ex-police detective looking to end a stressful life. That's
not going to be easy...
Vaugier and her family move from Boston, Massachusetts to their beautiful new home in small-town Hallowell. Yes, it's the house with the dangerous tree-house. And, no, they don't plan to take it down. Vaugier's husband is muscular architect Richard Ruccolo (as Mike Clayton). Fifteen-year-old Eva Link (as Emma) and nine-year-old Ella Ballentine (as Kate) are their children. The daughters perform adequately and strengthen the movie by looking and acting like real sisters. Although it seems like a manageable drive to Hallowell, the female residents exclaim the house, "looks so much bigger in real life!" Odd that an architect's family would not have visited, before moving into the new home. Strange things happen almost immediately, and creepy neighbor Jonathan Potts (as Arnold "Arnie" Gray) arrives with a house-warming gift...
From noisy pipes to a nosy neighbor, events are very routine. This may be the intention. Writer-director Andrew C. Erin completes the TV movie thriller skillfully, but without much excitement. There are some puzzling choices, in addition to the dangerous tree-house (someone should have at least mentioned it should be removed). Like, have the older daughter sit in the car's front seat with mom while the younger daughter talks to her "imaginary friend." She's their mother, not their chauffeur; the "imaginary friend" should be spookier. Much of the regular stuff is handled well enough, with Mr. Erin and the crew doing exceptionally well in scenes with ethnically-cast best friend Rachelle Casseus (as Anna). We don't know why she turned up in the small town, but Ms. Casseus is perfect and her last scene may be the story's highlight.
**** Clara's Deadly Secret (2013-10-25) Andrew C. Erin ~ Emmanuelle Vaugier, Richard Ruccolo, Jonathan Potts, Eva Link
Lovelorn press agent Fred MacMurray (as William "Bill" Dunnigan)
accompanies the body of Hollywood movie star Alida Valli (as Olga
Trocki) to her hometown of Coaltown, Pennsylvania. The exotically
beautiful Polish stage actress filmed only the spectacular "Joan of
Arc" before expiring from tuberculosis. Valli had specific requests for
her funeral, but Mr. MacMurray finds it difficult to make the
arrangements. While he is trying, MacMurray has a series of flashbacks
which detail the actress' short career. Oddly, Valli is no stand-out
when we meet her in a chorus line. She wears heavy black pants while
the other dancing girls look sexy kicking up their heels in
short-shorts. Valli, we're told, as two left feet...
A temperamental star gives producer Lee J. Cobb (as Marcus Harris) a hard time, which gives stand-in Valli her big break. Everyone is stunned by the unknown's perfect performance as "Joan of Arc". MacMurray is in love, but tragedy waits in the wings...
In the present, MacMurray gets sympathy and religions counsel from singing priest Frank Sinatra (as Father Paul). After an initial creepiness, Father Sinatra becomes tolerable. Still, his line delivery is ripe with aimless lethargy. You wouldn't want your children left alone with him. Valli is Garbo-like, but doesn't reach the tortured eroticism of the great tragediennes. Granted, approaching both Garbo's "Camille" and Falconetti's "Joan" is an acting feat that may never be achieved. MacMurray is undistinguished, but director Irving Pichel gets him to shine in a couple of instances; the introductory train station scene is nicely staged, and MacMurray emotes very well after Valli dies. The production looks nice in black-and-white.
***** The Miracle of the Bells (1948-03-16) Irving Pichel ~ Fred MacMurray, Alida Valli, Frank Sinatra, Lee J. Cobb
Pretty World War II widow Janet Leigh (as Connie) works as a
"comparison shopper" in New York City. This means she buys merchandise
from rival department stores, brings the goods to her employer for
comparison (of price and quality, presumably), and finally returns the
items as something she really didn't want. She's not a very good
"comparison shopper," but she is very pretty and usually wears tight
clothing. Leigh buys a train from down-on-his-luck department store
clerk Robert Mitchum (as Steve Mason). He recognizes Leigh's scam, but
doesn't report her to the manager. Being pretty has its advantages.
While this costs Mr. Mitchum his job, it does gets him a lunch date
with Leigh in Central Park. They are mutually attracted, but there are
Leigh has a 6½ years old son, Gordon Gebert (as Timothy "Timmy" Ennis). While washing up for dinner, young Gebert peaks in the newest box his mom has bought home as a "comparison shopper." It's an expensive train set, which Gebert assumes to be a Christmas gift for him...
When visiting Leigh, Mitchum makes a fatherly connection with Gebert and decides to buy him a train set, although Mitchum can't afford one, either. Mitchum, as you may recall, lost his job for not reporting Leigh to his store manager. Buying the train set renders Mitchum homeless. No doubt many boys seeing "Holiday Affair" asked their parents for train sets they couldn't afford, in 1949. A bigger problem for Leigh and Mitchum is that she's engaged to marry nice lawyer Wendell Corey (as Carl Davis). After a couple years of dating, Leigh has finally agreed to wed Mr. Corey, on New Year's Day. We're supposed to wonder who she will pick, in the end...
But wait, maybe Mitchum has a dark side...
After the first 30 minutes, watch for an interesting part of the story. Mitchum is allowed to visit Gebert alone, in the boy's bedroom. After he emerges, Mitchum grabs Leigh and forcibly attacks and kisses her, then leaves abruptly. Times have certainly changed. Other than that, this is not a bad film at all. The four main players perform well and the story, while dated, engages.
****** Holiday Affair (1949-11-23) Don Hartman ~ Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Gordon Gebert, Wendell Corey
Back in the 1930s, gangster Edward G. Robinson (as "Big" Jim Stevens)
rules the roost in Chicago. Alas, during a birthday celebration, young
upshot Peter Falk (as Guy Gisborne) takes over for the mob boss. This
irks rival gangster Frank Sinatra (as Robbo), who runs the North Side
of town. He organizes a band of (drink-and-be) merry men to straighten
out Chicago. The illustrious group includes: orphan caretaker Bing
Crosby (as Allen A. Dale), pool hustler Dean Martin (as "Little" John)
and sharp-shooting Sammy Davis Jr. (as Will). Romancing half of the
quartet is beautiful Barbara Rush (as Marian Stevens). She has her own
Considering the talent assembled for this lackluster musical, the level of disappointment is high. Written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, a memorable "(Chicago) My Kind of Town" is the big one. It became a great standard for Mr. Sinatra and he could sing it with passion. Herein, the song almost a bore. An opening instrumental could have been more rousing and Sinatra's interior performance is no show-stopper. The hand-clapping, arm-waving star appears drowned out by all the energy he is lacking. Still, thinking "I'm Sinatra, all I need to do is show up," was usually enough to make cash registers ring-a-ding-ding...
David Schwartz' "Robin Hood" as a gangster musical is a good idea, and seems well-suited for Sinatra and his pals. But the film is far too long, which wastes the interesting concept. Perhaps 1964 was too late, with personal problems and a changing pop culture giving Sinatra, who also produced this film, a run for his money. Sinatra survived, of course, as did everyone in the cast. Surprisingly, it's Bing Crosby who almost saves the picture. He has the easy-going style needed, but doesn't use it to walk through his role. Of the four super-stars, it's Crosby who creates a real character and appears to be having some infectious fun on the screen.
*** Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964-06-24) Gordon Douglas ~ Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Bing Crosby
A nightmare awakens pretty pregnant Anastasia Griffith (as Ivy). After
two miscarriages, Ms. Griffith is afraid of losing another baby.
Handsome husband Brendan Fehr (as David Rose) assures her they're not
leaving the hospital without a live baby. To make room in their big,
beautiful house, the happy couple has a yard sale. Their high school
classmate Clea DuVall (as Melinda "Mindy" White) attends. Coincidently,
Ms. DuVall is quite visible pregnant. A fourth former classmate, lawyer
Stephen Lobo (as Theo Gavros) enters the story. Good thing he's a
lawyer, because everyone's going to need one before this story is
Director Bradley Walsh and his crew do a good job keeping this "Lifetime" TV movie interesting. Cheers to Mr. Walsh and film editor Roger Mattiussi for making the simple pulling of a piece glass from the lead actress's foot look real and nasty. Having the main players know each other back to their high school days (at least) adds some depth to the usual formula. Therein, we do find a good reason for the villain's derangement. However, it does add a problem to the mix. That being, with everything else seeming fine in their relationship, it's difficult to believe one character thinks another character is capable of such a gruesome murder. In spite of this challenge, the players do well in their roles. The ending is way too rough for any miscarriage-prone mother, but it keeps you watching.
***** And Baby Will Fall (2011-01-23) Bradley Walsh ~ Anastasia Griffith, Brendan Fehr, Clea DuVall, Stephen Lobo
While the credits roll, a young boy is chased to the edge of a cliff.
He falls over the edge and looks dead...
Two years later, we meet Southern California brunette Marguerite Moreau (as Emilie). She quits her job to spend more time with husband Richard Ruccolo (as Brian Valentine), their young daughter Natalie Lind (as Olive) and "Hunter" the family pooch. A new family moves in next door, from Denver. They are blonde single mom Abby (as Tamara) and her two sons, Julien Lacroix and Aidan Potter (as Titus and Billy Moor). This new family sends off creepy vibes, which irk Ms. Moreau. Her little girl has a "first official crush" on young rough-playing Potter. Moreau notices her neighbors have bruises and a man caught trespassing demands the return of his son...
Of the cast, devoted mother Brammell is most engagingly mysterious. The younger children are more silly than intriguing; most parents would separate the mismatched pair before they separated themselves. Older son Lacroix uses his hair to play the moody, distant teenager. Director Andrew C. Erin keeps it moving, though. He and his crew effectively uses close-ups to have characters abruptly enter a scene, or has them slither around in the background. By the end of "Playdate" we have a sufficient idea about what has happened, but there are some details which remain too sketchy. Kraig Wenman's original story may have been trimmed. It's not incomplete, just vague.
**** Playdate (2012-04-28) Andrew C. Erin ~ Marguerite Moreau, Abby Brammell, Richard Ruccolo, Julien Lacroix
A nightmare awakens sexy brunette mother Kayla Ewell (as Rachel). The
bloody accident in her dream turns out to be a big part of Ms. Ewell's
"Lifetime" TV drama. Ewell lives in a huge and luxurious home, with her
precious three-year-old daughter "Mia" (impersonated by sisters Ariella
and Isabella Nurkovic). Heartaches in the household arise when Ewell's
estranged husband Bryce Johnson (as Daniel Miller) calls his former
home. A relatively poor city attorney, Ewell says he can't afford to
keep paying for the expensive house and cars. Ewell is miffed. This
means she must go to work. Gasp...
So, the demanding mother goes back to work. She's a courtroom sketch artist in, in cases with Mr. Johnson. They're officially separated, but not yet divorced. He wants to get back together with Ewell, but she refuses due to his cheating past. While she's working, Ewell, must put her doll-like daughter in daycare. It's preferable to hiring a nanny, which Ewell thinks would be a nightmare (and another movie). Doting daycare teacher Christy Carlson Romano (as Gabby) seems nice, albeit a trifle too personal. The title "Deadly Daycare" suggests things will go wrong, and they do...
Writer-director Michael Feifer should have received more support and advice in this effort. Someone with knowledge concerning special needs children and daycare facilities might have been helpful. The characters are incredibly stupid. Dumbest move may be when a central character places a "hidden" surveillance videotape camera in one of the daycare "cubbies" (where the kids keep their balls and books). That's really not the best hiding place in a classroom. One recess, and the camera's kaput. The little actresses playing the little girls are very cute, but they should be doing something else.
** Deadly Daycare (2014-11-29) Michael Feifer ~ Kayla Ewell, Christy Carlson Romano, Bryce Johnson, Tyler Rice
Chicago businessman Martin Short (as Martin Harvey) has good news for
his attractive blonde wife Mary Kay Place (as Katherine). They've
inherited the sailboat once owned by legendary Hollywood actor Clark
Gable. It could be worth a quarter million dollars. There's a catch,
though. They have to pick up the boat and sail it to Paul Anka in
Miami. In recent years, Mr. Anka is more commonly found in Las Vegas.
However, Vegas has no good places to dock your yacht. The first sign of
trouble is when we see the boat has become dilapidated. But it's just a
visual joke, because the ship is seaworthy. Sporting perfect hair and a
fun attitude, Mr. Short hires grungy one-eyed Kurt Russell (as Captain
Ron) to man the vessel. He's got great hair, too, and colored briefs.
Along for the ride are Short's wife and kids: pre-teen Benjamin
Salisbury (as Benjamin "Ben" Harvey) and hot-to-trot teen-aged sister
Meadow Sisto (as Caroline Harvey)...
The funniest scene in this comedy is probably the one where Short and Ms. Place, interested in copulating, accidentally lock themselves in the shower. Director Thom Eberhardt gets a good laugh when Mr. Russell opens the door on the hapless couple. However, the scene is not as fun as it should have been. John Dwyer's script later mentions "I Love Lucy", which reminds us of "The Lucy Show" episode with Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance getting themselves stuck in the shower. With their clothes on, Lucy and Viv were funnier. The "Lucy" episode milked the comedy for all it was worth, but "Captain Ron" wastes the situation. Interesting, too, is how the scene is cross-cut with young Salisbury swigging beer. Somehow, a foul-mouthed 11-year-old beer drinker isn't funny. Finally, the fact that this is Clark Gable's boat is only briefly alluded to, later, when the initials C.G. and C.L. are found on board. Gable isn't funny, either.
*** Captain Ron (1992-09-18) Thom Eberhardt ~ Kurt Russell, Martin Short, Mary Kay Place, Benjamin Salisbury
Popular horror novelist Eric Roberts (as Michael Ryan) is disgruntled
at the reception given his latest effort, a non-horrific attempt at
serious literature. Fans want more of the old stuff. They give Mr.
Roberts a unanimous thumbs down. Drenched in alcohol, Roberts lashes
out at his haggard wife Tracy Nelson (as Christie) and their
mature-looking teenage daughter Remington Moses (as Miri). Remi looks
like her mom. Mother and daughter move out of their Connecticut home
and go into hiding, with Ms. Nelson hoping to make it on savings and
work as a professional photographer. She takes headshots of swarthy
actor David Winning (as Harrison Reese) while Ms. Moses gets chummy
with high school senior Colin Chase (as Kyle Lang)...
Mysterious stuff happens and we wonder if psycho papa Roberts has found his runaway family and is causing trouble...
This lugubrious "Lifetime" TV movie misses the mark in several instances, with the most obvious being a plot twist that strains credulity to the breaking point. The plot point in question is something that works best in comic books. If handled differently, it could work in TV movies; it certainly doesn't work in this production. Age inappropriateness ranges from a few years to a few decades. Transitional shots of waterfalls and babbling brooks may symbolize a story unraveling. Of the cast, Roberts is the most convincing. He could probably hit his marks while sleeping. The man has experience. With Roberts in the opening "book signing" scene, director James Camali and photographer Ronnee Swenton get their most intriguing angles.
*** A Fatal Obsession (2015-03-12) James Camali ~ Tracy Nelson, David Winning, Eric Roberts, Remington Moses
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