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House of Secrets (2014 TV Movie)
5/10
Whole basis illogical
27 February 2015
I agree with other reviews regarding predictability of this typical and mediocre Lifetime flick. But (although probably necessary for story to continue) I found it hard to imagine the whole business of selling the house until remaining work was fully-completed was not possible - in view it turned-out this necessary work constituted about 1 or 2% of value of this multi-million-dollar dwelling. and was being completed by a handyman type rather than even a small construction firm.

And the thought of any woman of intelligence even considering stating there until some time passed from the unpleasant divorce, completion of said work, and establishing some real home security to preclude nut-case ex-husband from possible intrusions.

But if these Lifetime stories and their characters acted with logic. how many fewer of their movies would then be made? - 10% of current number is a generous estimate.
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10/10
#2086
24 October 2008
Don't know how many will ever see the 2,086th comment in this site - but just saw a friend's DVD of this film, again. I had missed it due to being in Europe on an extended business trip when it played first-run, and caught some portions of it a few years later, and then completely sometime following.

This was the third or fourth time I'd seen it straight through, and it is one of those very rare films which is as good - maybe even better - on successive viewings.

Robbins, Freeman, Gunton, and all of the remaining cast - whether in larger supporting roles or smaller - are outstanding, without a single exception.

My friend is a computer whiz, with an IQ of probably 150, and widely-expert expert in this area. But he's so immersed in this realm, that whenever forced to use pen and paper (instead of mouse or keyboard) he does so on about the 5th-grade level. After the film (he had bought the DVD, but had never seen it before) he stated he didn't feel the Robbins character could have pulled-off all the shenanigans with the money, from prison via mail (and perhaps sometimes using a messenger of the warden's) the way the film depicted -- whereas today, if such an inmate had a computer terminal available, it would be more possible.

I told him I felt certain the opposite was true. In the era of the story, a very intelligent financially-adept individual - especially a former whiz-kid bank V.P. - could have done what was shown even more effectively and successfully than via computer today, with all the firewalls, and in-house computer nerds any bank has. Someone with both tremendous financial and hacker ability might - but not as easily as Tim did, during a period when signatures and figures on paper and the like were the governing elements.

This aspect is one of the most critical and climactic for the story and its very satisfying ending. And Gunton, a tremendous actor who has done many sympathetic characters, presents one of the best performances portraying a truly evil person - more so for the quieter and "nasty-nice" elements of this portrayal. He juxtaposes quiet demeanor, often even pious, with completely selfish, vicious, amoral actions, as well as humanly possible, with his performance in this role

This is a film for which the term "perfect piece of entertainment" does not exaggerate.
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The Game (1997)
10/10
Outstanding flick
16 October 2008
Like many of the prior comments here, I found this film engrossing and interesting, in terms of its presenting more intelligent fare than most of the offerings today, on large screen or small. Having recently seen it again, it is also a flick which is one of those as interesting on subsequent viewings as the first.

And aside from the excellent cast and performances, and with Michael Douglas, my personal favorite actor -- it managed to combine several genres at once, all of them better-presented than in films where only one would be involved.

Science fiction has always presented unexplainable and impossible features compared with "real life." Heck, 70 years ago, Buster Crabbe as "Buck Rogers," along with his cohorts, was flying throughout the universe in a craft, large and well-equipped and -furnished, much like Kirk and Spock and the "Star Wars" denizens, everyone walking around freely as if they were in a fancy hotel suite. Yet even today, the ships and space stations remain cramped and less-than commodious.

Along with "science fiction'" (and containing many occurrences patently impossible, but somehow credible), this film also has characteristic of the horror genre, "Poltergeist-"type occurrences; also the good old-fashion "noir" flick of the 40's and 50's (the reason why Brian Donlevey died with a healthy estate). It also has pure mystery elements, along with those of sophisticated drama, the "main character (however powerful and rich)" reordering his priorities and finding what's really important in life. It also provided some "road film" scenes, and plenty of danger for the lead character.

There probably are a few other categories, but these are sufficient to describe this outstanding picture, well-crafted, interesting, and one of those few capable of holding your interest throughout.
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10/10
Timeless
12 October 2008
Each Saturday at 8 p.m., and then again on Sunday at 6, our local PBS station has an hour-long presentation of this kind - classic performances by prominent entertainers, mostly musical.

Saw the first ten minutes of this program yesterday before having to leave, but made certain I caught it today.

This is a perfect piece of entertainment, seeing this iconic entertainer, about to turn 50 (aired in Nov., a month before his 50th birthday).

It's simple, him alone on-stage, with his two "primo" conductors/arrangers, Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins, conducting.

Although he had a cold, and completed over two evenings, you'd never know it. This is perhaps the best presentation - ever - to view this great performer, all the more so for its pure simplicity of production.

Also has more than normal nostalgic effect, this being the period of the "Rat Pack," a few years following "Ocean's Eleven," two years following JFK's assassination, and in the heart of the eventful 60's, reminiscent of the many events which had occurred then, and would ensue in the decade's balance.
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Wife Swap (2004–2013)
4/10
Freakish extremes abound
30 September 2008
Some of these presentations are amusing; however, in my estimation, they don't possess the instructive value which the producers/directors seem to feel they portray.

For example, I saw two episodes today. The first had a beauty queen/late-sleeping princess type, whose husband did everything for her, swapping places with a gal obviously not into great concern over appearances (either hers or her home's), with a street performer husband with some sort of metal clips permanently installed in his forehead, permanent red striping on his face, and more tattoos than the typical NBA basket-baller.

As to grooming, the family of the former apparently spent more time applying cologne (even to the kids) after showering, than the latter group might be spending on an entire week's total grooming.

The second had the mom from a family of religious fanatics, and a son wearing a "Promise ring," swapping households with a gal in a self-styled "ultra liberal" family with a son and daughter, each proclaiming himself/herself, respectively, a "stud" and "wild child."

The problem with this show, particularly episodes like BOTH of these, is that I found no empathy for either family in both episodes. In both story lines, I wouldn't care to emulate any of their particular lifestyles,. Neither would I want to spend ANY time in any of these households.

A good way to view most of the folks in this series is to be thankful we don't live in a society dominated by any of these almost freakishly extreme families.

(4* because of the level of fascination provided. This is especially true in viewing how almost every one of the women, as well as their husbands, profess to have virtually every answer and piece of advice necessary to alter their counterparts' lives and families.)
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Mother Knows Best (1997 TV Movie)
8/10
Delightfully wicked parent/in-law
30 September 2008
A friend had seen this flick a while back and recommended it, and I happened to see it listed for a rerun on "Lifetime" today.

Glanced at the prior comments here, and after viewing this opus, would agree with their positive viewpoints.

Joanna Kerns' evil mom was as delightfully and completely selfish, obsessive and wicked a character as one is likely to encounter. "Mother-in-law-from-Hell" is almost too mild an adjective. Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction," and Jack Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets" could qualify to become trainees as mental health workers, comparing their problems relative to Joanna's personality disorders.

Sonny Corleone would exert more deliberation and examination of possible alternatives, before ordering somebody whacked, than this overbearing mother did in engaging a hit man.

However, overall, this was a relatively "quiet" flick, given the nature of the story and plot. I found this appealing, and there was little yelling, and no raucous knife-wielding climax, common to so many "Lifetime" offerings. This made it a better viewing, and the Kerns' character was all the better for her steady, unfailing, almost low-key way by which she portrayed her evil character's persona.

A worthwhile two hours' entertainment.
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'Til Lies Do Us Part (2007 TV Movie)
8/10
Let's get locales back to American soil
23 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Given the economic problems the nation has been experiencing, I think I can offer a suggestion to take a good step towards helping with this situation. Some high official (perhaps the Chairman of the Economic Advisors, or even the President, himself) should contact the CEO of the "Lifetime" network, to encourage them to make their made-for-TV fare in the U.S. For example, this flick, set in Philadelphia, was actually filmed in Ottawa. The vast majority of the network's movies are filmed in Canada (occasionally they use Seattle either specifically or "gernerically"), in British Columbia, Toronto, even Manitoba, etc.). If they were all made in our country, just the lodging, per diem expenses, the fees for "extras" and to rent sites, etc., taken back from Canadian to American recipients, should assist measurably our nation's economic situation.

As to this film, specifically, it has three attractive leads, and a youngster who isn't annoying (something for which one is always thankful).

In addition to musing about the above expected Canadian locale, I also couldn't help but think of "Fatal Attraction" (previous comment also mentioned similarity to this offering) and Glen Close's character. She and Al Sapienza's private dick here would comprise the absolutely perfect pairing of major OCD types. Both attractive, clever, and obsessive in a wholly-vicious, psychopathic fashion, they could have beaten the hell out of one another to their hearts' content.

***Possible minor spoiler following (but shouldn't ruin if read in advance)***

You can pretty well tell where the climax is leading during the last 20 - 25 minutes -- and the married pair have contacted authorities -- but after discovering the tec's electronic duplicity, everything leads to their lolling in the bedroom, and then encountering the villain when they check to see why the water isn't working. They have to know the crazy bastard is still a menace to them, yet are just lallygagging and walking around in the dark as if nothing could be wrong.

Some of the "wacky neighbor," or "spouse with a dark past" films, both Lifetime staples, usually demand physical danger and some violence at the climax. However, at least occasionally, I'd like to see an ending with perhaps some courtroom prosecution of the perpetrator, and a bit of more cerebral explanation of his/her motivations and the like.

Still, this was a better-than-average presentations in this genre, with attractive, capable leads and performances, and well-filmed.
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Road House (1989)
4/10
2* for flick, 2 more for Ben
2 September 2008
Although not a particular fan of either Patrick Swayze (and his "from -A-to-B" acting range), or this film's genre, I saw it first run while staying near a small city with one theater and it was playing.

Many of the cretin-like "good ol' boys" among both the good guys and the miscreants were over-the-top to some extent, but not entirely.

However, in watching some of it again by happenstance today, one thing struck me again, which alone may make this flick worth viewing.

Ben Gazzara is an accomplished actor, and one who manages to accomplish something most actors - prominent or "B/C-List" or below can't: he is usually capable of giving a credible performance, while at the same time "chewing the scenery" like a horde of beavers - no mean feat. HOWEVER, I would rank his character and performance in this singular presentation as the MOST OUTRAGEOUS I've ever seen - and perhaps in the entire recorded history of entertainment on stage, screen, performance art, or even back to performances in ancient Roman and Greek presentations.

Even Bugsy Siegel when having a manic episode, Al Capone at his angriest, or Don Corleone's Luca Braci, would be pussycats compared with the obsessive, sociopathetic, vicious town-bully portrayed by him in this offering. Even Corbin Bernsen's psychotic dentist in those made-for-TV flicks, with all the drilling, extracting and probing without benefit of Novocaine - compared with Gazarra here, make the doc seem simply like man with a slightly different approach to oral hygiene.

This movie would rate about 2* for plot/story - but must be at least doubled for Ben's fascinatingly delightful and outrageous presence.
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A Kidnapping in the Family (1996 TV Movie)
1/10
Total zero (a shame this system provides for minimum of 1*)
2 September 2008
Seeing this film was purely by chance. I was working at home on the computer, and someone was watching it in the next room. I had taken a break for lunch a bit after it had started.

Some movies are mediocre, but you watch sometimes if you haven't anything better to do, or are just vegging-out for a couple of hours. Some are "so bad that they're good," and provide amusement instead of the type of appreciation which the maker may have intended.

Then there are those like this one, which occur not too frequently, but with regularity among this channel and genre.

Even while delivering a topic and subject matter which could be treated to evoke some feeling and meaning for viewers - this production, its characters, and perhaps most of all, the performances - present absolutely nothing of value.

There wasn't a single performance or character which was the least bit sympathetic, and all were vacuous and completely uninteresting in their own ways. Their performances were wooden, and I found it impossible to care about or like the characters meant to be liked and sympathetic; it was equally impossible to be interested sufficiently in the negative characters, or to dislike or care one iota about them either.

Grandmother/mother/father/sister/good guy-new husband - all were big zeroes in terms of what one hopes to find (even minimally) in a story.
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Tick Tock (2000)
6/10
Worse ways to spend a couple of hours
1 September 2008
This was a decent flick to watch at the beginning of a holiday weekend, just before getting ready to head-out. It was a "double-cross," followed by "double-cross," followed by "double-cross..." story, with flashbacks/re-playings of scenes, introduced by a backward-spinning clock face (with fancy Roman numerals, yet!!), sort of a "poor man's 'Roshomon'."

A lot of Lifetime movies have the psychotic, murderous neighbor or babysitter or student, etc., or a heroine dealing with a spouse with a secret pass, and/ or fleeing great danger. This story was a refreshing change in this regard. It had some holes, but was actually as good a mystery/thriller as some of the big-screen, mega-buck, "A"-list movies.

But it did, somewhat amusingly, have one quality which about 98 or 99% Lifetime presentations contain: the male characters were vacuous, clueless and possessed a level of intelligence far inferior to the ladies of the cast.

Anyway, the leads were attractive, and the two gals deliciously "bad," especially the one who was the prime author and leader of the devious undertakings.

I didn't recognize any of the thespians, except for John Ratzenberger, but apparently they have histories in some popular day- and night-time TV fare which weren't programs I ever watched.

All-in-all not the worst way to spend a couple of hours relaxing.
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8/10
The two I've seen were interesting
15 August 2008
I had never seen this show, and tune-in to CMT very seldom, except to watch "Trick My Truck," or the occasional movie they have listed in which I'm interested.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be tuning to another channel, when I hit CMT just as one of these episodes was getting underway. After intending to pause for only a moment, I became interested, and watched the entire episode, with complete interest.

I checked and found it had originally aired in September of 2004, and was the first to vary from the usual format, with the husbands changing locales instead of the wives. (The Cooke//Levine episode.)

Both men were completely likable - Justin Levine, a successful New York City lawyer, and of Jewish heritage, traveling to rural Georgia, with chicken coops and all. His counterpart, "Jay" Clark, a blue-collar factory worker went to the Levine's high-rise, terraced apartment, with superb view - the type you find listed in "New York" Magazine WELL into seven figures.

This was a pleasant program, with Justin actually shopping in the hardware store and doing a very credible job of constructing a gate for one of the animal enclosures, and taking the wife (who preferred the local diner) to a posh Atlanta restaurant for haute cuisine.

"Jay" Cooke, as thoroughly-pleasant a man as you're likely to encounter, was understandably fascinated by the New York City digs and overall scene, and it was honestly heartwarming to observe his bonding with son Pierce, preparing for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah; there could not be a better scenario for displaying the pleasant interacting of two cultures, both religious and social/lifestyle. He was also fascinated by the frenetic, hyper wife, Beverly, a quintessential big city career woman, social butterfly, nervous about her son's upcoming ceremony (and everything else) - but somehow, being also very pleasant at the same time - no mean feat!

This was the only program in this series I'd seen, until today, when I watched another, also produced sometime ago, originally airing January, 2005. (The Lambe-Levy//Farrell episode.)

Here, Marybeth Lambe travels from the family farm in rural Washington state, and her and Mark Levy's seven children, multi-racial, with four adopted. Her counterpart, Janet Farrell, travels from Carmel, New York and her four kids, ranging from earlier teens to tattooed/pierced son, Brian, 20.

Marybeth is quiet, nurturing, early-rising, enjoying an active schedule, and even a bit of "chaos." Janet, while amazingly being such while not being highly-"unpleasant," sleeps late, her husband, Dennis, doing most of the housework (despite multiple back surgeries), an has a somewhat deluded view in assessing the positive effects her presence, requests, ideas and instructions have on those around her. If they were grading same, in her host family surroundings, she'd give herself a solid "10", while Dennis and children would likely be around, say, "4" --MAX.

The most vivid aspect of this program was Marybeth's genuine, sincere interest in Brian's art and talent, and encouraging him to pursue whatever path would come, whether body or fine art.

It was clear from his comments - both during the program and after his mother's return home - that this woman had given him more in this vein in one week than his mother had in 20 years.

When his Mom was reading Marybeth's disbursement of the their $50,000 stipend for the show (in accord with each spouse directing how his/her host family's 50-grand is to be spent) he uttered something about probably "getting a break," since Marybeth had made the disbursement decision (instead of his Mom).

From some other comments and summaries of other offerings in this series, I'd say that, by chance, the two I've seen are probably among the most pleasant and interesting in a positive manner.

I'd give it 8* based upon what I've seen - 9* for my first, and 7* the other, averaged. I think this is simply one of those shows where, instead of being a fan of virtually everything presented, one needs to watch for a bit, and then continue or switch channels, accordingly, based upon that day's particular presentation.

---------------------

Just saw a third episode, several days after the above two. Some difference. From original season, the totally obnoxious, yowling, morbidly-obese "Christian" nut from Louisiana, exchanging households with the attractive, quiet spoken lady from Massachusetts - a "New Age" astrologer and radio show love Guru, whose husband held a Solstice celebration for her almost psycho counterpart. However, for me, this program was wholly fascinating, and the "New Age/astrological" fanaticism almost as nonsensical as the shrieking "Christian" histrionics --albeit at opposite ends of the spectrum. Thank God most folks are sensible enough to be somewhere between.
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Sex & the Single Mom (2003 TV Movie)
2/10
2* is a stretch
9 August 2008
Many Lifetime flicks contain the spouse with the "hidden past," the psychotic neighbor or babysitter or student, who usually whacks a few folks and at the climax wields a carving knife at the hero or heroine. Most of the balance of the network's offerings are like this one: all sorts of romantic, sexual and family angst amount the personnel in the cast.

Here, Gail O'Grady (moving-up on Meredith Baxter in this genre), and her daughter deal with all sorts of feminine romantic problems, but if there is any relationship to "real life," I didn't see it.

Everyone has problems, and they all have a significant depth to the person(s) dealing with them, and one has to deal with them as they occur, and proceed onward.

If real-life problems can sometimes occur in what might be termed "ten-foot square by a mile deep," Gail's problems here, as with most femme leads in this type of offering, seem to be "a mile wide and three feet deep." One follows another, and there is no way to empathize either with her or her daughter in any realistic manner.

And where the female characters here are shallow and somewhat vacuous, the males (typically on Lifetime) are doophuses, and (if possible) even more shallow.

The actors are pleasant in appearance, C-level in terms of material and performances, and while the subject matter is not unimportant, the way it is presented here is.

P.S. I saw this flick on a weekend morning. Was doing some other things, and another person was watching, and my fascination was in it mediocrity. The sequel, "More Sex..." had begun, and about a half-hour into it, I noticed the former lover who had impregnated her, and had earlier announced his returning to his wife (but only after "messing-up" the bed clothes with her in their hotel room) appeared at her door, announcing a now impending divorce. He was in process of wondering why she hadn't informed him of "his son," and wimping about, just as we had to leave. However, had I not had to leave the set then, I'd have changed channels. From this point I'd have preferred somebody stick a knitting needle into my eye rather than having to endure whatever the remaining 1-1/2 hours had in-store.
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Killer's Kiss (1955)
7/10
2* for performances, 3* for nostalgia, 2* for locale
2 August 2008
This is a B-minus film noir, with C-list thespians, and a look at Stanley Kubrick's fledgling efforts on the barest of "bare bones" budgets. It is indicated that production cost $75K. No U.S. receipts are shown, but they couldn't have been a lot - although it apparently recouped cost and maybe 20% profit in - of all places - Spain.

As one person commented, the lead couple certainly weren't Bogart and Bette Davis (hell, they weren't even, say, Sonny Tufts and Vera Ralston).

The view of New York City more than a half century ago is one of the best aspects. There is also a silly scene with some "raucous" Shriner's, with fez, teasing the "hero" by grabbing his scarf. This is a glimpse of the "silent-generation" 1950's, especially at this time just a few years prior to the city riots, assassinations, all the Vietnam goings-on, etc. in the 60's. During this time, harmlessly hell-raising Shriners, along with dentists and doctors on convention, and the like, WERE the most adventuresome persons found on city streets.

One thing I appreciated was Kubrick's realistic portrayal of the lead male, as a moderately-talented boxer, but possessing a "glass jaw," rather than some sort of minor hero. And the boxing scenes were excellent, despite Kubrick's lack of a budget and many of the technical advances which were later available for boxing genre movies in later years.

Actually, the acting was at a level for which "B-" may even be generous, but we perhaps afford it a few more compliments because of who made it. Still, an credible piece of nostalgia.
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Criminal Intent (2005 TV Movie)
5/10
Purely average
30 July 2008
Checked the previous seven comments here as this flick was beginning. Frankly, reading them was as interesting as watching the film. Where there are a great number of comments, you expect them to be diverse, and even with a few, usually somebody loves the move, someone else hates it, etc.

However, among the few here, comments ranged from those who seemed to feel the story, plot and performances were reminiscent of Hitchcock's best, to those who seemed to place it at the bottom end of the frequently mediocre "Lifetime" fare. Descriptions of the plot seemed to vary from feeling it was completely clever and suspenseful to totally banal.

One individual cited that this presentation was filmed in 12 days. I didn't see anything to confirm this, but he seemed certain, and the level of the performances (including that of the usually excellent Linda Purl), seemed to confirm this.

With D. A. Purl turning 50 at time of filming, and defense lawyer Vanessa Angel near 40, both were years senior to the male leads, David Palffy at 35, and Sebastian Spence about a year older. At her age, Angel looks as though she may surpass Joan Rivers in terms of Botox applications long before she reaches the latter's advanced age.

I've come to believe that a major reason for producing these "Lifetime" presentations is to assist in supporting Canada's economy, since most of them seem to be shot there, usually in either Vancouver (as this flick was) or Toronto. I suppose which site is utilized depends on background needed for the particular story, but primarily whether cast and crew are more West Coast or East.

Actually, after viewing the film myself, I feel that just about all the previous ones commenting had it partially correct. I would give it what amounts to an average of these, as well as the overall "ratings" figure shown on this site..

The acting was uninspired, with neither the characters nor the performances particularly engaging. There was something of a "twist," and while somewhat interesting, it seemed to be one which could well be seen coming, and the only possible basis for a "twist," given the dull storyline and equally dull interaction among the lead characters. The ending did involve some knife-wielding, inevitable in most "Lifetime" offerings, but tamer than usual.

And when the mid-30-ish treasury guy (Palffy) and the 50-ish D.A. (Purl) made a date to have dinner together, I couldn't help but wonder whether they might discuss a possible romantic future, or perhaps, more likely, her adopting him.
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2/10
Flagellating albino gave best performance
21 July 2008
Missed this due to traveling when it played first-run, and hadn't caught it until just recently.

What a disappointment. I know the subject matter and settings demanded a significant amount of filming in dim light -- but holy hell!!!! - with his "A-list" status as a director, and everything else about this flick also in the same top category - I got the feeling that Ron Howard had run-out of money for light bulbs.

With folks like Hanks, McKellen and Tautou, each with credentials in the acting profession at the top in his/her own nation - their collective performances could have been equaled by a trio of weirdos in a John Waters opus. Hanks and Tautou moved and delivered lines like a pair of postal workers who had overdosed on Valium.

The best acting and most interesting character was the albino, psychotic religious fanatic, loosening and tightening the cilice around his thigh, proceeding to flagellate himself, and belting an elderly nun like Joe Pesci stomping a rival in "Goodfellas." If somebody totally unfamiliar with the U.S. film industry were told Tom Hanks is considered by many to be its top actor, and by virtually everybody to be on the shortest of "A" lists - and then exposed only to this performance, he'd think whoever conveyed this information to be insane.
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Psych (2006–2014)
10/10
Belated 10* for another U.S.A. Network winner
18 July 2008
My business largely consists of exporting industrial items to Spain, and communicating regularly with business partners there. Because this demands a lot of telephone/e-mail/fax communication during morning and midday hours in Europe, I spend a lot of time working between midnight and 6 a.m. local time.

So I sometimes veg-out early afternoons here, and watch a fair number of "Lifetime" movies and "Beaver" and "Andy Gtiffith" re-runs, etc. during these times. The re-runs can be good (but oft-repeated), and the "Lifetime" flicks provide some "C-level" amusement, and a lot of performances by Meredith Baxter and knife-wielding psychotic neighbors.

The shows I seek-out are relatively few, and perhaps my four favorites include three on U.S.A.: "Monk;: "Burn Notice;" and "In Plain Sight." The fourth is "House," first-run on Fox, but with re-runs also on this cable channel.

With all of the lame, tiresome, even ludicrous game shows and reality presentations, these fine programs are like an oasis in a wasteland.

But for some reason, I only just now watched my first full episode (or even more than a minute or so) of "Psych." From now watching it myself, and checking some comments here and in Wikipedia - I can't imagine how I was so stupid as to miss it to this point. Along with the other four programs above, it is well-cast and -acted, all of the personnel and characters are engaging, and it mixes interesting drama with appropriate and genuinely-funny humor.

Except for an occasional sports event or true "special, I have the Tivo set only for episodes of the four programs mentioned (along with "Larry Sanders Show," and "Columbo," to catch the occasional re-run. "Psych" now added.
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WarGames (1983)
7/10
Now an interesting relic
18 July 2008
I enjoyed this film in its earlier days, when I was a lot younger, and when everyone still operated on the basis that there were red buttons and like-colored telephones in Washington and Moscow, the use of which in a Cold War crisis could determine mankind's fate and survival.

Viewing it now, with modems inserted with land line, full-size, rotary-dialing telephones, and computer hardware (both at the NORAD setting and in Matthew Broderick's bedroom) about a few hundred times heavier than than employed infinitely more efficiently today - it's analogous to watching John Wayne fire WWII bullets pressing the flight stick button on his aircraft, versus the missile launching supersonic planes today.

Given the limitation of even the most advanced equipment a quarter century ago, the way that Dabney Coleman (the computer guru at NORAD), Barry Corbin (the 4-star A.F. general in charge of our nation's defense), and the actor playing the reclusive genius who had created the computer system, were unbelievable, even then, and certainly today.

Ambitious civilians and military seniors - like Coleman and Corbin - would in real life undoubtedly often dislike one another, and likely both be self-centered egomaniacs, probably argue a lot and try to upstage each other. But there is no way they would do so in the childish manner scripted in this opus. But it was fun to watch these two gnaw the scenery like a couple of beavers. Dabney has played the smarmy, ego-maniacal, unctuous character as well as anyone in the history of stage or screen; and Barry Corbin, while having often played more likable characters, is a close runner-up in the "unctuous/smarmy/egocentric" area.)

And the "Falken" character might be reclusive and depressed by his view of mankind's likely doom from the weaponry control systems he had helped create. But his diatribe delivered to Broderick and Sheedy, from his remote Oregon island retreat, while obviously meant to be a message of warning to the viewer, was simply banal and ludicrous.

Also - again, whether viewed "then or now" - the efficiency with which Broderick and Sheedy, individually or together (as a pair of high-schoolers) traveled between their hometown, Colorado, Oregon and back-and-forth) was unbelievable, both in terms of the logistics and monetary costs which would have been involved.

The ease with which Broderick extricated himself from military custody at NORAD (as secure as any facility on the planet) was equally unbelievable. And while we have plenty of evidence today that there are a lot of buffoons at the highest level of government - the personnel portrayed at NORAD were all such doophuses that this was beyond credibility.

But even in 1983, this was more pure science fiction than a portrayal of possible world holocaust. Its enjoyment then was appropriate only on this basis, rather than as a dire warning to mankind. And today, it's solely a relic of a time past.

***Possible spoiler at end***

(At the end, where all of the civilians, military leaders - supposedly the absolutely best-informed, most brilliant in their fields, stood around while Broderick pounded on the NORAD keyboard, providing the expertise to avoid nuclear devastation of the entire planet -- this stretched credibility, even at the science-fiction level, beyond any possible belief.)

And finally, at the very end, the two high-schoolers and all of the NORAD big shots exchange grins, handshakes and tousle one another's hair. This scene doesn't seem to portray what would occur just after (with seconds to spare) world annihilation had been avoided; it seems more like the reaction a bunch of fraternity and sorority members might exhibit after, say, having won the intramural Ultimate Frisbee tournament.
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Down Will Come Baby (1999 TV Movie)
3/10
Weak presentation (but at least, not made in Canada)
17 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I'd normally give this one about 2*, but will add another because it was filmed in its portrayed locale, Phoenix. This is almost unheard-of for "Lifetime" flicks, which alone must be a significant proportion of Canada's economy, since most are filmed there. I was surprised they didn't simply place a few pieces of fake flora around, say, Vancouver, to indicate a more southerly location.

Certainly the subject of any predator affecting the life of a child is a very serious one. However, unlike some others who regard this movie as a meaningful presentation, I simply felt it ludicrous. You don't have to praise a dramatic presentation simply because the subject matter is significant

The story presented perhaps the two most prominent components within "Lifetime's" resources: its most ubiquitous thespian, Meredith Baxter; and its likewise most ubiquitous theme, the completely wacky, psychotic neighbor.

Sometimes the victim, sometimes the villainess, Baxter has done these cable flicks so often she sometimes appears to have "phoned-in" her performance. Very much the case here! The husband's in these presentations are usually vacuous, clueless nerds, also the case here.

The youngsters are sometimes thoroughly annoying, sometimes completely engaging, and you know that virtually all of them probably have a stage mother in the background, prodding them like a trainer with a show horse. But here, the young actress portraying the besieged daughter presented a listless performance (consistent, however, with those by the adults).

However off-the-wall, the obsessive, insane villains in these offerings usually provide a chill or two, even where wacky or unbelievable. Here, even the actress in this role was more boring than interesting.

The two slow-witted parents were so moronic in the way they permitted this nut case to insinuate herself into their family's lives, over the period portrayed in the story - that I couldn't help but feel that, in real life, anyone with even minimal intelligence would have have extricated themselves within less than the "real time" two hours of the airing.

**Possible spoiler here (although what's to "spoil?").**

The "climax" which occurred within the last half hour - especially when the parents are visiting the villainess' former apartment with the elderly landlord (or building super), and their frantic musings, were more amusing than dramatic or frightening. I couldn't get even a minimal feeling of either tension or drama, for imagining Barney Fife and Gomer (or Goober) fluttering about aimlessly and inanely around Mayberry, before Andy would arrive to straighten everything out. In fact, those doophuses could have done a better job and been amusing while doing so.

The overdrawn investigation by the parents, and the storming of the predator-cum-kidnapper's hideout at the end, provided an appropriately silly and inane way to conclude these proceedings.
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Prime (2005)
10/10
A "Lifetime" movie -- but NOT
17 July 2008
Missed this film at first run/premium channel showings, and hadn't really heard of it, despite its obviously significant box office success, as well as the cast leads.

Caught it on - of all places - "Lifetime." One can't help but imagine how the story would have been presented had it been made for this channel, and with the lesser budget and "B/C-list" personnel who would have been in the cast. First, it would have been undoubtedly filmed in Canada, and at some time during the proceedings, somebody would have wielded a knife in an attempt to whack one or more of the characters.

The story here is an interesting one, the three leads are well-cast. Uma Thurman is one of those actresses most would label "good," but in reality has provided excellent or outstanding work in everything where I've seen her. She an Bryan Greenberg are perfect for the younger-man/Jewish and older-woman/WASP couple, and Meryl Streep performs as one would expect - like Joe Montana in a football game or Michael Jordan on-court.

With the budget, production skills, and the talents of the actors and the production/directorial personnel, this film provides a textbook example of outstanding movie entertainment.

Upon seeing it a second time, what I appreciated even more was the fact that the characters DIDN'T over- or unde-rplay one scene in this flick. Every single one rang true. The prototypical Lifetime-type film would have provided at least 50, perhaps closer to 100, moments in the film where the thespians would have either schlepped through the material like postal workers on Valium, or shrieked like Banshees.

First-class films like this one are in this category almost as much for the absence of these qualities as for their positive qualities.
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For My Daughter's Honor (1996 TV Movie)
2/10
Subject matter deserves a better representation
8 July 2008
Any adult male who preys on minors should be - literally - whipped to within the proverbial "inch" of his life. And if this individual also is a teacher doing so with a student, salt and iodine should be added liberally to the resulting wounds.

However, I don't think we have to praise what we feel is a mediocre presentation simply because it addresses a serious problem. I couldn't disagree more with those who have proclaimed this a strong movie about this important situation.

The parents here, along with their victimized daughter, all moved more slowly than postal workers on Valium for the first 1 hour and 50 minutes -- then screamed like Banshees on "Speed" for the final 10. Gary Cole, as the villainous - and thoroughly vacuous and unctuous - teacher, is a very credible actor. But here his performance and character sounded like Jethro from "The Beverly Hillbillies" displaying a "dark side."

Even though this film was made a few years ago, and this problem is perhaps a little more evident today, the principal's speeches about teachers and school officials hugging and touching students to make them feel good, etc., was incredibly stupid and naive on the part of the writers. Anybody with even minimal intelligence knows that in the workplace, school - or anywhere else, males should avoid even the most cursory of physical contact. There are many, many scenarios where even the most innocent physical contact can be misrepresented by one of parties involved, or by someone observing. And even the most tentative addressing by one of the parties will find attorneys gathered as if there were a chemical plant explosion or a group of ambulances (to "chase") at a massive freeway pileup.

All-in-all, this is a serious subject deserving of a much better approach than this flick provided.
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Oxygen (1999)
7/10
Decent "neo-noir"
2 July 2008
This is a pretty fair "neo-noir" presentation, which I'd missed hearing about during the nine years since its release - but found in my paper's local-edition weekly t.v. listings. They only gave it 1-1/2*'s, but noticing that Adrien Brody and Maura Tierney were in the cast, I decided to take a look. One of the best aspects of this flick is the character each represents - two of the most weirdly fascinating, this side of Dennis Hopper and his companions "Blue Velvet," or the cult classic Rory Calhoun opus, "Motel Hell." Brody as the youthful, sort of nerdy-yet-wicked, braces-wearing, nefarious villain; and Tierney as the competent, dedicated, tough detective, with her strange compulsive, secretive nocturnal predilections, sort of a "masochistic savant."

Perhaps not great, and with some contrasting moments. Sometimes the cops here were more realistic and "low-key" than in most of this type of movie fare, and at others were the types of doophuses we see regularly, enforcing the law, in these flicks.

All-in-all, a good 7* presentation, and not a bad way to spend the two hours' viewing.

As a sort of imaginary "sub-plot" I couldn't help visualizing from early-on, I was hoping that Brody and Tierney might meet-up at some point - the confrontation between the quintessential sadist and masochist, respectively. I thought of dialog between them, replicating a joke I once heard: the masochist says to the sadist, "Hit me!" (or, alternatively, "Hurt me!"). The sadist replies, "NO!!" (When they finally met in the interrogation room, there were a couple of occasions when I thought this just might occur.)
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Maury (1991– )
1/10
1* is one too many!
24 June 2008
I got trapped into watching some of this program today, in an automotive waiting room. If I were given the choice, say, to be required to tune-in to this show for an extended period (even if financially rewarded) - or to poke my eyes out with a knitting needle - it would be difficult to choose.

If you wanted to load a time capsule for future generations, to illustrate certain words, to do so for, say, "charisma" or "charismatic," some clips/film of JFK or Dwight Eisenhowed would suffice. For "smarmy," virtually any role played by the talented Dabney Coleman would be a good choice; for "pretentious," any or all of the crowd on "The View" or Katie Couric performing an interview would be perfect.

Maury Povich and "disingenuous" are synonyms. I know that with all of the channels today, and all of the air time to fill, a lot of the fare must be less than stellar. I also understand the there are "different strokes for different folks." I also know that different programs have different demographics - say, "Monk" versus "Friends;" "American Idol" versus a Sinatra or Tony Bennett retrospective. Some shows are so bizarre, so ridiculous, or so "bad," they can promote interest because of the fascination provided. The Bruce Jenner/Village People film, "Can't Stop the Music," is so bad it's thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating in its awfulness.

But "Maury" just plain stinks in every regard. The freaks he displays, for the most part, are so obnoxious, loud, shallow and unsympathetic, even if the unctuous host is exploiting them, you really don't care.

Jerry Springer, with whom Povich is often compared, is admirable by comparison. He allowed his show to morph from its original format with more serious topics, to its present format, certainly for the audience numbers and the financial benefits resulting - but you can also see his tongue is well into his cheek. And with Springer, you can see there is intelligence and intellect in the host, and that he might be someone who'd be a person to help someone where given the opportunity.

By contrast, Povich represents nothing of even vaguely redeeming value or worth, in either his awful program or his smarmy demeanor. And unlike Springer's and others' programs in this "genre," his contains not an iota of humor which might provide some semblance of a reason to watch. It's puzzling - and even frightening - that there are sufficient people among us, who select this program regularly enough to have kept it on-air for years. A 1* ranking is one star too many.
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10/10
Outstanding / ENGAGING
20 June 2008
I'd have given this film a few stars, simply because it was a "Lifetime" presentation actually filmed in the location represented in the story - here, New York City. Most on this channel, whether "set" there, in rural Iowa, Oregon, Virginia, L.A. etc., are filmed in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto or some other Canadian locale.

But if there ever were one deserving the top rating - 10* on this site, it's this movie. Certainly not for originality, for this story has been done many times, in many variations, with several very similar to this specific one. It's also been done pretty often on the big screen, with mega-stars, past and present, from Cary Grant, James Garner, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, et al - and Deborah Kerr, Doris Day, Meg Ryan, and many more. I can think of at least 10-12 more, just as prominent, past to present, off the top of my head, who could be added now, and there are probably many others which could be brought to mind.

Not to drone on, but my point is that, in my opinion, this is by far one of the best of this genre I've seen. I caught it by chance on a mid-day Friday, at a time when I had the TV on only because I was taking a couple of hours following a particularly hectic week. I'd never run across this flick in the 8 years since it was made. And, while the two leads have done enough to be known to most, they were completely unknown to me. The only two actors I knew were Phyllis Newman (Anna's mother) whom I'd seen in some things from her younger days, and Michael Rispoli (Henry, Charlie's best friend) who was outstanding as "Gramma," the menacing juice loan, tough, street guy from "Rounders."

The chance meeting and coupling between both leads' best friends, as a sub-story romance, with the correlation of their being such to Anna and Charlie being only revealed to all later, is an oft-done plot contrivance within the genre, but makes no difference to the enjoyment here (in fact, it enhances it).

Checking some other comments, I agree completely with those which are the most positive. The primary word describing this film is ENGAGING, in caps. This adjective describes the performers; the characters; the chemistry between and among all of the characters, in whatever combination presented, and all of the supporting and even minor roles.

I love films with a "harder edge:" "Rounders;" the escapist Schwarzenegger/Stallone fare; "Goodfellows;" even the classics like "Casablanca," "Gone With the Wind," "Citizen Kane." But for pure, uncomplicated enjoyment, this one was outstanding. With a bare fraction of their budgets, it was equal to the results achieved by "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle." And Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan couldn't have done better than Natasha Henstridge and Michael Vartan here; the co-stars and support personnel here were equivalent to those in these mega-films, as well.
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3/10
Totally devoid
18 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Gotta add a comment to this one!!!

First, ironically, one needs to add the "spolier alert" to conform to IMDb's parameters, but there is absolutely nothing here to be "spoiled."

There are six characters: the good-looking gal whose the A-list mountain guide in the area of the "climb," and apparently among all guides (including Mt. Everest Sherpas) on the planet; her lost love, who disappeared from the titled pass two years prior, whom the party is purportedly seeking, but never find; her store-owner friend, also a guide, who may be better than a Sherpa but no match for her; the weird lead actor who engages her services, and says they'll find her long-missing love in the bargain; his one associate, a computer hacker with purportedly limitless expertise, of a level sufficient that Gates might seek advice from him; and his other colleague, a bodyguard who apparently has an IQ not even near three digits.

There are, of course, nefarious goings-on, and the secret quest of the lead actor is to gain recovery of a satellite which has fallen in the "Pass," and has world-altering and unique data to bring them untold riches. Exactly what is never revealed.

Overacting abounds, the script looks like something which might get a C- in a freshman writing class (but an F if submitted at a higher level), and the thespians gnaw every piece of scenery like a horde of beavers.

The most interesting aspects of this movie for me was juxtaposing portions with three other flicks or roles I've seen.

First, the mysterious, undisclosed secret data makes one recall "The Spanish Prisoner," an A-list/Mamet film, surrounding a valuable corporate "process," never specifically clarified, but better for it. Definitely not so here.

Second, the lead biscuit proved perhaps even more resourceful then "Rambo" in dealing quickly when menaced later in the presentation.

Third, I remember a Steven Seagal flick (don't recall the title) where he was semi-conscious and abed for about 1/3 of the time, and fully-comatose for another 1/3. Although I've not sought viewing a lot of his work, I've seen enough to have noted that while comatose, he provided the best work he ever has, and most in-line with his laconic persona. In this opus, while awake, the young hacker may have been the most engaging personality on-screen, but while indisposed and incapacitated during the latter portion, and unable to emote, he provided the best acting during this seemingly unending two hours.

Take the thin, silly basis for a plot here. Imagine it being compressed into, say, a lbit on SNL, with Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Martin Short in the four roles. They could get record laughs with few changes to the dialog here.

The most interesting aspect in the last analysis is contemplating what information could have been in the spy satellite to be worth "even billions" to any of many nations, and yet rendered worthless (according to the guru hacker) if simply placed upon the internet, with no apparent consequences thereafter? Even a turkey like this one should have at least a small trace of logic somewhere. This one is totally devoid.
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Angels Fall (2007 TV Movie)
5/10
Performing or "reading?"
9 June 2008
Being slim and petite, Heather Locklear was believable in this role, but age-wise a bit long-in-tooth in terms of her age versus the part's. She's also nearly a decade older than her co-star/romantic interest - so perhaps the time's arrived for Heather to enter into more mature roles.

One of the others within this comment section termed the Brody character as "brooding." A better adjective couldn't be chosen.

No surprise, a made-for -TV ," Lifetime" flick, while set in the U.S., actually filmed in Canada. However, the town of Canmore, Alberta, provided outstanding setting and scenery - and is a place I believe I'd enjoy visiting sometime.

The "gal-on-the-run-fleeing-a-past-traumiaic-experience" is one which has been done several times in "Lifetime" and similar genre (perhaps not as frequently as the psychotic neighbor, or spouse with a hidden past, but fairly close).

This flick was kind of like an all right - but not sensational - meal, but where there weren't any condiments to ease its blandness.

The actors here were all competent, but I realized what the problem was when I could here the audio, but had to be out of view for a couple of times. All films, plays and TV dramas/comedies have rehearsal readings, and sometimes stage presentations are produced with "readings" rather than actors in costume and on-set.

The performances in this flick made all of the actors sound like they were doing a reading rather than truly acting in their roles. They did this ably, but there was a wooden, static quality throughout.

Give it a 5* - might be one less if weren't for the scenery.
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