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Fatal Desire (2006)
Surprisingly Good - Recommended
Some time back, I read a brief summary of this film in a TV program listing online. For some reason, it sounded better than it's rather "soapish" title would suggest. I recorded it, then all but forgot about it.... until....
Until, in the midst of packing and preparing to move to another state, I got so tired and anxious about the work that I decided to watch some of those old recordings in the hopes that they would get my mind off things. "Fatal Desire" was last of the recorded shows. I couldn't remember why I taped something with a title like that, and counted on it to be worth 15 minutes of watching and put me to sleep.
What a surprise! Within a few minutes minutes I was completely drawn into the story and watched intently. What made the movie so intriguing to me was that all-important aspect of movie-making - character development.
The viewer will know from the first scenes of the film that it will end in a tragedy for the character Joe. Then, a couple of minutes later, we're sent back in time six months. There we meet Tanya, an captivating character who behaves recklessly at bars but seems entirely different at home with a daughter she obviously loves very much.
From there the story turns to her affair with Joe, started over the internet. The viewer can never be quite sure what's going to happen. At times Tanya seems truly sincere. But the film crew has carefully crafted a lead character who just simply gave me "bad vibes." It's like in real life. There's something disturbing about this woman .... but I couldn't quite put your finger on it.
As things move along in the story, it doesn't miss a beat. I spent the entire two hours (counting commercials) taking in every little hint of something wrong in the relationship. They both seem sincere... but the feeling never left that I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
No matter what the ending had been to this film (no spoiler here!), you have two complex very characters in an odd relationship that will keep you in real suspense.
It's an amazing movie - well directed, wonderfully acted, realistic dialogue. I certainly never expected something this gripping!
Ten stars for "Fatal Desire."
This short film was included several years ago in a documentary about Thomas Edison and his early movie-making experiments. It's timeless - an absolute classic!
The video itself is jumpy and splotchy, and primitive by even the earliest silent film standards. But by anyone's measure, the dancer is amazingly good, and this peek into the distant past is well worth watching, if the opportunity arises.
It would be nice if someone put together for commercial sale a collection of very early experimental film projects like this one. Few are likely to be as fascinating as this, but it's amazing to see how dramatically video technology has changed - and how relatively little change there has been in our entertainment preferences.
Dying to Love You (1993)
A True Crime Story
"Dying to Love You" is based on a true crime story that happened in the early 1990s, in the Washington, DC suburbs. The film's story line is faithful to actual events, as published in a paperback book on the crime, "Deadly White Female" (1994).
The real Lisa Rohn was born Lisa Ann Miller in northern California. Raised in a trailer park-resident dysfunctional family, she married at 16 to a sailor, Steven Rohn. When the marriage fell apart, she drifted into prostitution, and accumulated a string of arrests in the San Francisco area. While working the streets, she learned to steal everything from money to credit cards from her clients. Ultimately, she headed east with a partner in crime, Raymond Huberts, and the two ran a very successful identity-theft and credit fraud scheme.
When Huberts got caught, Lisa was on her own. She took a job using one of her favorite aliases - Johnnie Elaine Miller, which happened to be the name of an older sister who had died in an accidental shooting in 1983 (believed by friends to have been a suicide).
It is here that the movie begins. Rohn, aka "Elaine," had developed a keen ability to recognize and exploit vulnerable men, and when she answered an ad placed by Roger Paulsen in the Washingtonian magazine, she knew she had found her mark.
The movie is an accurate re-telling of real events - if anything, it understates both Paulson's naivete and unscrupulousness of Rohn.
The acting is good, and the story well-written, making this one of the better made-for-TV movies. Actress Tracy Pollan, who plays Rohn in the movie, told the Los Angeles times that the film should make people "think twice" before answering personals.
This Property Is Condemned (1966)
This is one of those dramas that is never dated. No matter how many times I watch it, it never loses its magic. Having memorized virtually every line in the movie, I continue to enjoy it more with each viewing.
The 1966 masterpiece, which takes place in a fictitious small town in Mississippi during the depression, was only released on DVD in late 2003. It should be a part of everyone's collection.
The characters and the setting are remarkable in their realism. Natalie Wood's vulnerable bimbo may be the best role of her career (and is Alva Star a perfect name, or what?). Kate Reid, as the middle aged mother who runs a shabby rooming house and quasi-brothel, delivers a rock solid performance. The younger daughter, played by child actress Mary Badham (of "To Kill a Mockingbird" fame) masterfully brings to the screen a complex blend of childlike naivete and cynical worldliness. Redford is memorable in his role as a newcomer on the scene, a temporary guest who clearly has no idea of the conflicted and tragic relationship he is destined to find with an enchanted-but-stained Natalie Wood and her wretched kin.
Indeed, the entire supporting cast in this torrid Tennessee Williams story put in star-quality performances. Collectively, they make this story unforgettable.
Little sister "Willie" is fond of calling her seductive older sister "the main attraction" - a description that could also be used to describe this amazing film.
The Salton Sea (2002)
A haunting and hypnotic film noir
This film begins so much like the classic 1940s film noir - complete with the nightmarish setting, the slow, mysterious first-person monologue, and the flashback sequences - that at first it might seem almost too "imitation." But don't be turned off! This one sets new high standards for the genre.
No matter how you define "film noir," this film offers the best of the classic style along with a brilliant, modern theme. Yes, it's one of those dramas in which all the players are "bad guys" in one way or another. And yes, it is also about squalid, tragic, miserable lives and situations that are fascinating on screen but where we wouldn't want to go in real life. And finally, it follows the time-honored plot formula involving treacherous motives, decadence and corruption, and double-cross -- and, of course, the surprise ending.
I can't say this movie is for everyone. It's a film for adults who can appreciate a complicated, sinister thriller. The backdrop of urban slums and rural blight might be depressing to some, but I find it to be an absolutely brilliant and essential backdrop to the story. Is the violence excessive? Probably, but that's usually the case these days. In any case, it isn't pointless.
The dialogue (and the continuous first-person narrative) is top-notch. The characters are morbidly fascinating and unforgettable. This film's trip into the seamy world of the tweekers (meth heads) and its ominous tale of revenge make for a truly great film.