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The Wrong Teacher (2018 TV Movie)
Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte!!!
14 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Miss Charlotte Hanson is a high school English teacher who is not overly engaged with her work. She is sluggish in submitting her fall semester paperwork to her principal, and she describes her teaching of literature as "droning on about dead writers." In teaching Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," Miss Hanson's question for the students is, "Why does Tybalt fight the Montagues?" Answer: "Because he's a Capulet and hates them!"

Rather than challenge her students, Miss Hanson caves into them, allowing them to watch a video version of the play along with discussions of each of the five acts. This decision will come back to haunt her when one of her students decides to insert compromising video footage into the class members' streaming devices.

The student's name is Chris Williams, a pathological liar and murderer with a demented fixation on blonde teachers resembling Miss Hanson. Already, Miss Martin and Miss Beth Singer are teachers who have been dispatched by Chris. Prior to the fall semester, Chris lies about his age and seduces Miss Hanson. He then proceeds to harass and terrorize her and, as well as other soul that gets in his psychotic way. When he murders the kind Vice-Principal who harbors suspicions about him, Chris makes the administrator's death look like a suicide.

In addition to her teaching, Miss Hanson is an aspiring writer of a romance novel. She goes out of her way to have a fling with young Chris to be "inspired" in her novel and to get over her writer's block. As it turns out, her poor judgment results in a local scandal for which she could lose her job.

But the little experiment does lead to a new concept for her novel, which turns into "My Deadly Student." On the dust jacket of the book is the image of an apple from which someone has taken a large bite. In her own life, Charlotte had taken a bite of the apple exactly like Eve. The viewer of this well-crafted film must wait to the final scene to learn who is ultimately expelled from the classroom and the Garden of Eden.
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A Wife's Suspicion (2016 TV Movie)
"Sociopaths Relate to Obsession"
13 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Jack and Kyle were best buddies when Jack stole Renee right from under his bro. But it turns out that Renee has her hands full with Jack, who has not been forthcoming with her about his past. In fact, Jack' s real name is Stephen Boyden, a former drug addict.

"A Wife's Suspicion" (a.k.a., "Evidence of Truth") successfully blends the romantic intrigue with a murder mystery. Renee is an expert forensics analyst, and her boss is none other than Kyle, her ex beau. Kyle's wife Holly was murdered, and Renee believes that a serial killer is on the loose.

In her investigation, the early evidence leads Renee right back to her husband Jack. But the smooth-talking charmer Jack convinces Renee that when he was kissing and hugging Bess, it was only because he was her "sponsor" at the Narcotics No More support center. And there is not enough forensic evidence to tie Jack to the murder of Holly, Jennifer Griegson, or Jade.

The small object of the climbing carabiner figures in the mystery. In the Griegson case, a carabiner had turned up in which the killer had scaled a wall of an apartment building like a mountain climber. If Renee can trace back the carabiner to the owner, she may learn who is the killer.

The film included a good batch of characters and a set of relationships that circled around each other. It was never credible that Renee would leave a devoted family man like Kyle for a playboy-adventurer like Jack. But there was still good suspense and a nice symmetry to the film's action. The film opens and closes at the Devil's Punch Bowl, which is southwest of Portland, Oregon. It is there that the day of reckoning will occur to either validate or reject a wife's suspicion.
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Best Friend's Betrayal (2019 TV Movie)
One of Lifetime's Most Outrageous Offerings!
13 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This dicey film unfolds in the style of high camp with two inseparable friends, Jess and Katie. The pair have bonded on the common ground of the misery of their failed romantic experiences, and their relationship is an ongoing support team for each other.

Their special connection is challenged with the arrival of a best-selling mystery writer who sweeps Jess off of her feet. Katie attempts to rein in her friend and convince her to proceed with great caution before committing to a writer whose forte is violence in his works of fiction.

The small-town ambience of Kirkwood Falls plays a major role in the narrative. The mystery writer, Nick Moore, is returning to his roots as a native son, and he falls instantly in love with Jess and wants to settle in permanently.

The man whom Jess is divorcing, known in the community as "Darko" Marco for his violent proclivities, returns and threatens Jess in her own home. But Marco dies a strange death, pushed over a balcony by an assailant in a hoodie. The key to unlocking the mystery of a string of "accidents" in the town is to identify who shoved Marco down the motel stairs.

This well-crafted film builds in suspense as the details and the subplots become increasingly bizarre. The best scene in the film is an unforgettable sequence of events in a bar when Anna, the young assistant of Jess, decides to kiss Jess on the lips. The scene is witnessed by the major suspects in the murder of Marco, each of whom is driven into a jealous frenzy by observing the kiss.

There is a nice directorial touch with the repetitive sound of boiling water to make tea and coffee. The sights and sounds of the sizzling liquid becomes a metaphor for the passions that are bubbling over and culminate in a dazzling final scene. As a potboiler, "Best Friend's Betrayal" has to be one of most spellbinding of any "guilty pleasures" ever concocted by the writers and producers of the Lifetime Channel. Not to be for the outrageous banter between the two soul mates and the light macabre undercurrent in every scene!!!!
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The Killing Game (2011 TV Movie)
Her Name is Jane!!!
13 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This film adaptation of Iris Johansen's "The Killing Game" is a by-the-numbers thriller with a focus on forensics and the psychological profile of a serial killer.

The actress playing the lead named Eve Duncan makes a convincing forensic sculptor. Eve had a childhood filled with trauma in the rough Techwood district of Atlanta. At age 15, Eve gave birth to a daughter named Bonnie, who was taken away from and killed by a psychopathic killer with the child buried in the Chattahoochee National Park.

But, a decade later, the killer returns with a vengeance, and he is targeting Eve, who has been so successful in her work as a sculptor and because her spirit was never broken. Now, the killer has singled out the little orphan named Jane, knowing the Eve will become attached to the child.

As the action moves from Georgia to Arizona, the film turns into a cat-and-mouse-game with the authorities racing against the clock to discover the identity of the killer known only as "Dom." Through Eve's good forensic work, the trail leads to the place where it all started in Dillon, Arizona. It was there that Kevin Shaw, the son of a preacher, emerges as the profile of the killer.

The film includes a good twist at the end in the revelation of who is Kevin Shaw. There was also a good set of secondary characters including good ol' Joe, who provides the love interest in the film. While "The Killing Game" unfolds as a standard detective yarn, the production values, acting, and the suspense were nonetheless very effective.
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The Vanishing of Mr. Tye Wilson
12 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"Marriage of Lies" (a.k.a., "Presumed Guilty") tells the story of a popular teacher and upstanding member of the community who goes missing. Tye Wilson appears at the outset to be a loving husband. But the initial signs point to his wife Rachel involved in foul play in the disappearance of her husband. The two major questions that drive the film are (a) where and (b) who is Tye Wilson?

The film is successful in setting up a wide range of suspects who may have knowledge of the fate of Tye Wilson. The film's opening scene is a teaser that apparently shows a bloodied Tye being held hostage. His loving wife Rachel, who has suffered from post-partum psychosis, begins to rely too heavily on the toxic mix of wine and her anti-depressants. But, led by a posse of voracious local journalists, the public and the police believe the evidence points to some degree of culpability in Rachel.

But other characters who are suspicious are young Kinna, who is posting enough photos on the internet to demonstrate her obsession about Tye. There is also the sultry realtor Alexa, who had an affair with Tye, resulting in a restraining order against Rachel. There is Rachel's attorney Dylan, who knew Rachel in the past and seems a little too affectionate to his client. There is also Rachel's best friend Jessica, who, at times, who may not seem quite as loyal as Rachel believes.

The two police detectives were a study in contrast with the older cop Gus the wise old owl who is cautious in his appraisal of facts. But his younger, over-eager counterpart Roper is clearly motivated by a rush to judgment to arrest Rachel. Another interesting character is the gossipy neighbor DeeDee, who is all too willing to dish the dirt and influence the direction of the case. A snarky photo-journalist tries to cozy up to the police and harass Rachel, in order to get a scoop.

It appeared as though the actress playing Rachel was directed to perform the role with great understatement. It was surprising both to the detectives and to the audience that Rachel never showed much emotion about her missing husband. Was there something subliminal at work in Rachel's psyche that actually welcomed the vanishing of the mysterious Mr. Tye Wilson?
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Being Frank (2018)
Frankly, This Comedy About Bigamy Was Not Funny!
11 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In the bonus track of the DVD of "Being Frank" (a.k.a., "You Can Choose Your Family"), there was a set of deleted scenes with one that was particularly revealing. In the deleted scene, Frank was reading about the philandering of President Bill Clinton and made a critical remark about the President's conduct. The film needed more of this kind of satirical content if it wanted to be a comedy with any backbone or indeed any humor.

The time is 1992, and Frank's family is gearing up for the Starling Festival, which brings back memories for the time when Frank was courting his life Laura. The film has overtones of a sit com as a potentially heartwarming family film with light comic overtones. The film could have easily moved in the direction of a Hallmark film. Unfortunately, "Being Frank" was at heart a disturbing drama of bigamy in which Frank leads two lives with two separate families.

Was this supposed to be a comedy about a man who could face jail time for his misconduct? The film's snappy dialogue was played with so much understatement that it rarely felt like a comedy. The character of the pothead named Uncle Ross, who impersonates Richie, the fictitious father of Frank's son Phillip, was really the only character who rang true as a comic figure.

There is a lengthy build-up to the declaration of truth of Frank to his two devoted and long-suffering wives, Laura and Bonnie. But the key character in enabling the father's despicable conduct was his young son Phillip. So, in addition to polygamy, Frank was inflicting emotional trauma on his teenage son.

What will Hollywood think of next as a subject for a film comedy? It would be difficult to stoop to any lower depth than the disgusting subject matter of this film.
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Tucker Carlson Tonight: Episode dated 11 October 2019 (2019)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
That Was the Week That Was: A Countdown of the Top Stories!
11 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Dan Bongino, the author of "Exonerated," summarized the three top news stories from the past week. Here is the countdown:

#3 Dan's first story addressed the inherent contradictions in the mantra of the liberal left in "tolerance." At the Trump rally in the Target Center in Minneapolis on Thursday, the demonstrations were not peaceful, but included acts of violence like setting MAGA hats on fire. So much for tolerance!

#2 The second story was Elizabeth Warren's ever-changing memory of the time she left a teaching job and later claimed that she was fired for becoming pregnant. In speech after speech on the campaign trail, Warren told the verbatim story of how her boss "wished her luck and hired someone else for the job." But in video footage from 2007 in Berkeley, Warren explicitly described how it was her choice to leave the job. Even the former employers have gone on the record to assert that they urged her to stay in the job!

#1 This week's top story concerns the so-called whistleblower who complained about Trump's phone call to the President of Ukraine. Bongino noted the irony of more whistleblowers being rumored to come forward to give their impressions of the phone call. With the transcript of the call already in the public domain, Bongino blew the whistle on the whistleblowers for providing not only superfluous details, but also a set of purely subjective impressions of the phone conversation.
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Trust No One (2016)
Semi-Suspenseful Yarn
10 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Even by the standards of a Lifetime picture, "Trust No One" (a.k.a., "Corrupt") depicts a police force that is inept beyond one's wildest imagination. The main character is Kate MacIntyre, the assistant district attorney of Pittsburgh, who rises above an ocean of incompetency to do all of the detective work herself in bringing to justice the international money launderer and murderer Vargano.

The police are completely stumped on the Vargano case when Kate is brought on to research his business transactions and to find away to bring him up on RICO charges. But Vargano has an ace up his sleeve with a mole planted in the police force.

Much of the suspense of the film derives from trying to figure out who is the mole that has led to the death of a key eyewitness, the near murder of Kate's colleague Viv, and the brutal killing of Jessica Hall, who attempts to provide Kate with the key files of Benton Holding Company. Kate races against the clock to piece together the puzzle with the assistance of two detectives, Greg Nealand and Daniel Leaton.

The main problem with the film is that it is far too easy to narrow down the possible characters and identify who is the mole. The purchase of a Porsche may hold the key to building the case against Vargano. The actress playing Kate was convincing as the budding prosecutor, who is forced to take personal charge of all aspects of a Perry Mason-like case, in order to ensure the triumph of justice.
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Walk Away, Frankie Fingers!!!
10 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In the bonus track of the DVD of "A Score to Settle," the efficiency of the production team was on display as 110 scenes were filmed in three weeks during the Canadian shoot. On multiple occasions, the film was described as an action picture with redemptive qualities. The focal point was the moving relationship of a father and his son.

After nineteen years spent in the Grand Bend Correctional Facility, Frankie Fingers is released after serving time for a crime that he did not commit. To save his crime boss from the jail time for murder, Frankie took the rap in exchange for a $450,000 payout upon his release.

But Frankie now has a score to settle with the crime boss Max and the two thugs Jimmy the Dragon and Max. But it is Frankie's old friend named San Quentin ("Q") who holds the key to what happened during Frankie's long period of incarceration.

The revenge drama unfolds around the renewal of the relationship and his son Joey, whom Frankie has not seen in nineteen long years. The young man had a drug addiction problem, but now his message to his dad is to "walk away" and not seek to settle the score.

There is also a love interest when Frankie links up with a woman named Simone. Of all the relationships in the film, the connection between Frankie and Simone seemed the least credible. The scene where Frankie meets Simone walking her kid in a stroller was especially problematic. Why would Simone reject Frankie after they had clearly bonded so deeply?

The recent films of Nicholas Cage are often pillaged by movie reviewers. But this one is worth the watch for Cage's sensitive portrayal of Frankie Fingers. The film's director, Shawn Ku, had a nice touch with the pacing, camera angles, and set ups. The outdoor scenes were especially well photographed. The interesting twist revealed about the son Joey that occurs in the film's final minutes makes "A Score to Settle" a sensitive and thoughtful low-budget film.
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Tucker Carlson Tonight: Episode dated 9 October 2019 (2019)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
The Faux Whistleblower
10 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
There have been two recent appearances on Tucker's show of a former whistleblower, who exposed CIA waterboarding techniques and served nearly two years in prison for his efforts to speak the truth. His name is John Kiriako, and his revelations about the fallout from President Trump's phone conversation with the president of Ukraine call into the question the integrity of the whistleblower's complaint.

Tucker led the discussion by noting that the current whistleblower is being championed by the Democrats and the media as a hero for performing a great service to his country. However, the typical whistleblower is more often ignored and mistreated by those in power. Kiriako offered a detailed definition of a whistleblower as "someone who brings to light evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, or threats to the public health or public safety. And they do this almost always with a great personal cost attached to it." The phone call complaint is that of a leaker, not a whistleblower.

For Kiriako, the individual in question is not a whistleblower, but "an anonymous source for the Democratic staff in the House of Representatives." In other words, the person is a CIA analyst carrying out an assignment intended (1) to frame President Trump as a traitor, (2) to serve as the impetus to starting impeachment proceedings in the House, and, through the saturation effect facilitated by the media, (3) to incite the American public to endorse Trump's removal from office through the dissemination of false information about the phone call. As of October 9, 51% of the respondents in a Fox poll support the impeachment of the President. That majority polling derives from what Kiriako describes as an ambush, especially since President Trump released the transcript of the phone conversation.

Kiriako's own case demonstrates how a legitimate whistleblower reveals secret information at great personal peril. He spent twenty-three months in prison, due to the efforts of the same power elite that is currently attempting to take down President Trump. For Kiriako, "the same people that attacked me are attacking the president. Robert Mueller set up the 'John Kiriakou Task Force' at the FBI. John Brennan petitioned attorney general Holder to charge me with five felonies, including three counts of espionage, all of which were dismissed. And, ironically, it was Peter Strzok who put the cuffs on me in 2012."

In the current situation, the Democrats and mainstream media are superimposing the term onto an individual who does not rise to the level of a whistleblower. One of the tipoffs for Kiriako is the attorney Mark Zaid, who is representing the leaker. Zaid is a CIA insider likely involved the fabrication of the entire charade. When historians write about the Ukraine phone conversation in the future, John Kiriako will be an important reference point to understand how to properly label the individual who filed the complaint not as a "whistleblower," but "a CIA agent directed to assist the Democratic Congress" in the impeachment of an American president.
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Too Static, Not Enough Action
9 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Even actor Ben Kingsley cannot salvage this John Le Carré wannabe thriller "Spider in the Web." The main problem is the talky nature of what should be an action picture inspired by true events.

The gist of the film is the Mossad operation to locate evidence of a chemical plant used to manufacture horrific weapons of mass destruction to be used in Syria by the Assad regime. But the film is vague on the details of such an operation, and the best it can dredge up is some shaky photographic evidence.

Kingsley's character Avram Adereth teams up with a young partner named Daniel, who is the son of one of Adereth's closest friends and career spies. Adereth takes Daniel under his wing, and the two characters play a dangerous double game to locate the so-called Spider in the Web file that will be the "smoking gun" for the evidence of the chemical plants.

There is also a love interest in Adereth's passion for Dr. Angela Caroni, who claims to be an environmental activist. Angela becomes involved in the high-risk operation to steal the computer file Spider in the Web. Angela has perhaps the best line in the film when she tells Adereth, "You make love just the way you live life: in despair."

The main problem with the film was the overly complicated narrative strands and the static nature of the scenes. There is too much filler dialogue and too many long set speeches with Adereth waxing nostalgic about the past. Most of the action was occurring in the Netherlands, where the secrets about the chemical operation were allegedly located.

The film opens with an epigram from Psalms, "Man is like a breath. His days are but a fleeting shadow." But far too much breath was expended in this slow-burner with too many secondary characters and convoluted subplots, the most disgusting of which was the poisoning of fish on the beaches of Antwerp. This was a flat and uninspired film that, in the end, did not shed any significant light on the main topic of chemical weapons and contemporary Syria.
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Tucker Carlson Tonight: Episode dated 8 October 2019 (2019)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
The Hypocritical Stance of the NBA
9 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In the lead segment of this program, Tucker examined the current controversy of the NBA's relationship with China. The individual with the greatest integrity would appear to be Houston Rockets' GM Daryl Morey, who spoke out in support of the displays of civil disobedience in Hong Kong.

Morey was met with a stinging rebuke from the NBA, wherein commissioner Adam Silver pointed to the "consequences" for Morey in exercising his first amendment rights. By contrast, the feckless coach Steve Kerr refused to comment on what he termed a complex "international" situation. The reticence of Kerr is deafening, as he is never silent in lambasting and ridiculing President Trump. Kerr's mantra is always issues human rights. Yet, as Tucker duly noted, the protests in Hong Kong are all about human rights, and it is not remotely a complex "international" situation. Kerr's public posturing is truly appalling.

In a fascinating commentary by sports journalist Jason Whitlock, the bottom line became apparent in the vast reach of the Chinese economy in the major shoe companies based in China and linked to the NBA superstars. Whitlock underscored underlying issues that make it difficult for anyone to criticize China. Kerr and Gregg Popovich are the face of the hypocrites and cowards, who are sustain a never-ending public critique of America while remaining mum on China. Thus far, the mainstream media does not realize how the shoe business figures in the equation.

China expert Michael Pillsbury offered a set of facts that reinforced Whitlock's views. It is especially troubling to contemplate how China seems to wield more influence over the opinion of public figures like Kerr and Popovich than they would care to admit.
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The House Sitter (2015 TV Movie)
"Something is Not Right"
8 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
A grief-stricken family is still recovering from the loss of a daughter when a house sitter strives to manipulate the parents into accepting her as the deceased daughter's replacement. All hell breaks looks as the house sitter plots her dastardly deeds on the nice family.

The house sitter from hell goes by the name Rebecca. But a perceptive old lady working in the local antique store recognizes her as Clair, who was a house sitter for the Peterson family in a neighboring town. Mr. and Mrs. Peterson died in a house fire. Shortly after identifying Rebecca as "Clair," the antique deal is murdered.

Rebecca now settles in to the home life of a lovely couple, Sara and Kyle. Their daughter Amy was racing on the ice with her sister Lauren. When the ice broke, Lauren drowned. The family is still trying to cope with the loss, and Lauren's old bedroom is maintained as a shrine.

The most interesting character in the film is Amy, who has never come to terms with the guilt that she feels over her sister's death. She also believes that Lauren was the favorite of her parents, who subliminally blame Amy for the tragedy. On top of everything, Amy must now co-exist with an interloper who is angling to move in permanently with the family.

Rebecca tries to sell the family on a sob story about her own traumatic past and heroic struggle for recovery. For a brief stretch, Sara buys into Rebecca's story and begins to accept Rebecca as a surrogate daughter. But it is Amy who is relentless in getting to the truth. It is Amy who first recognizes that "something is not right" with Rebecca.

There were some loose ends in the film, including an explanation of why the death of the antique dealer did not raise the suspicions of the family. Another untidy plot element was Amy's boyfriend Travis, who is seduced and apparently murdered by Rebecca. Poor Travis was not even given a proper funeral in the film. But in the end, it is the memory of the close relationship of Amy and her sister Lauren that sustains her through the ordeal with Rebecca and leads her to triumph over the evil machinations of monster.
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Tucker Carlson Tonight: Episode dated 7 October 2019 (2019)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
Whistleblower #2 is a Clone of Whistleblower #1
7 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In this program, chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge summarized the notes of the whistleblower who learned second-hand information about President Trump's phone conversation with the president of Ukraine. The notes were written on July 26, which was shortly after the July 25 phone call had occurred and before the transcript of the call had been prepared. Herridge reported that at the heart of the notes, the whistleblower was outraged and expressed concern about issues of "national security," due to President Trump's conduct. But the words of the transcript released by the White House do not reveal anything remotely resembling a breach in national security.

The heart of the matter in the ruckus raised over the phone call was Trump's request for Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden's dealings with the nation at the time when he was in the powerful position of Vice-President and was using his power to leverage his son's business opportunities in Ukraine. Based on internet research, Tucker's staff came up with the transcript of a conversation with President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in which Clinton used nearly the same wording as Trump in requesting a favor from Blair to conduct an investigation for American political purposes.

One of Tucker's guests was former State Department official Peter Van Buren, who offered views on the apparent second whistleblower who has come forward with claims of knowledge of the Trump phone call. Van Buren claimed that the second individual is likely the source for the information provided by whistleblower #1. In other words, the pair of leaker-whistleblowers are simply repeating the same information they generated while working in tandem prior to the release of the transcript and working only on second-hand information. For Van Buren, this is an old CIA trick known as a "feedback loop" that is designed to make a source appear more credible than it really is.

Tucker concluded that at face value, the stories of the two whistleblowers are a moot point because we have the transcript of the phone conversation that allows us to make up our own minds about whether or not there was any malfeasance committed by the President.
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Seduced (I) (2016)
"No More Sad Eyes"
7 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"Seduced" (a.k.a., "Missed Connections") is a Harlequin romance-style film about the whirlwind affair of Caroline Prati and Gavin Donato. Caroline learns that a mysterious admirer has observed her reading romances on the picturesque water front of Venice, California. Caroline's daughter Issie discovers the "sad eyes" post on the popular Missed Connections website. Young Issie posts a response in her mother's name, and Gavin then moves into action with his gigolo routine. One one thing leads to another, and her mom begins a torrid romance with Gavin.

Mr. Donato oozes charm and sweeps Caroline off her feet. A widow whose husband died of cancer, Caroline now lets loose after two long years of loneliness and frustration by becoming instantly besotted by Gavin. As the CFO of the Funder Storm organization, Caroline is even tempted to embezzle funds and to potentially transfer over $5 million into Gavin's offshore account. While it is clear that Caroline's boss at work engages in unsavory business practices, Caroline seems honest. It will be the love for her daughter Issie that will help to rein in her mother from her newfound urges.

To the delight of her mom, young Issie has recently been accepted at Berkeley. But, intellectually, Issie doesn't seem like the caliber of student Berkeley would admit. After her mom begins to date Gavin, Issie asks her, "How was your date? Did it go good?" Later, when her boyfriend sleeps over at the house, Issie says that she and Noah "had a nice time laying together." To succeed at Berkeley, Issie will undoubtedly need to take bonehead English!

For the romantic relationship of Caroline and Gavin, it is a bad sign when Caroline picks Dickens' "Great Expectations" for her favorite book and Gavin selects Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment." They do not seem like a good match! When Caroline senses that Gavin is running a scam, seeking to entrap vulnerable women who read romantic novels, she partners with another apparent victim of Gavin's, Margot Fouratt. It appears as though Gavin may have murdered women whom he had preyed upon, including Halle Philton and Alexia Montrose.

The quick-thinking Detective Mickle, who is of Italian descent, recognized Gavin as a scam artist. It is obvious that his Italian accent is phony. Working closely with the detective, Caroline is fearful for her daughter when she catches Gavin coaching Issie on matters of love and how to win back Noah. It will take every ounce of determination and courage from Caroline to turn the tables on Gavin, so that her life may return to normal and young Issie may get the remedial attention she deserves in English grammar by studying at the University of California, Berkeley
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Mad Mom (2019 TV Movie)
"She's In a Better Place Now"
7 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"Psycho Mother-in-Law" (a.k.a., "Mad Mom") was an outrageous pairing of two mothers meeting for the first time on the occasion of the planning of their children's wedding. Amber is marrying Lucas, and the two moms could not be different in temperament. Amber's mom Sharon is a hospice nurse, and Lucas's mom Jill is art are dealer. The wild card in the equation is that the nurse is a psychopathic killer.

Most of the action takes place in the spectacular home of Jill, which is filled with priceless art works. But it becomes a scene of virtual carnage after Sharon takes Jill hostage and clearly intends to murder her. Motivated by the fear of losing the affection of her daughter to a surrogate mother, Sharon is unable to tolerate the loss of control and the slightest threat of being upstaged by Jill.

There was an over-the-top musical score of the film, which drew upon the violin sounds of the famous motif of Bernard Hermann in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." The music was so excessive that it contributed to the dark humor that ran through the film. Still, there were stretches when the pacing of the film was slow and the action overly cruel.

At first glance, one would think that the focus of the film would be on Sharon as the female counterpart of Norman Bates. But it is the character of Jill that is the most intriguing. After welcoming Sharon into her home and her family, Jill is on the receiving end of Sharon's sadism. Her kindness and genuine love of her daughter-in-law to be, was contrasted by the brinksmanhip of Sharon, who likely killed Amber's father to avoid competition for the love of her daughter. Now, history would appear to repeat itself in the long torture session of Jill by Sharon.

In the film's opening scene, Sharon murdered one of her patients at the hospice, observing of her victim that "she is in a better place now." Under lock and key of the penitentiary by the end of the film, the same could now be said of Sharon herself.
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Bringing Ashley Home (2011 TV Movie)
The Unconditional Love of a Sister
6 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"Bringing Ashley Home" resembles a docudrama in its attempt to depict the genesis of the Outpost For Hope, the organization founded by Libba Phillips to assist families who desperately search for adult loved ones who have been declared missing. But, at its heart, the film is really the story of the love of one sister for another.

Libba and her sister Ashley (Ash) were always close growing up. But whereas Libba was practical and an over-achiever, Ash was always late, unprepared, and unfocused. It was not until she spent time in rehab that she was diagnosed as bipolar.

When Ash went missing again, Libba discovered a complete breakdown in the "system" in which the police, medical practitioners, and rehab centers would steadfastly refuse to become involved in an entire subculture of human beings that might be best called "the lost people."

It is Libba whose rises to the occasion to recognize the series shortcoming and take charge of the Outpost for Hope Organization. Her obsession to this good cause costs Libba her marriage to the long-suffering David. But it does bring momentary success to the discovery of Ash, who is eight months pregnant and residing in a trailer in Olympia, Washington, due to a kind man.

Based on a true story of Ash, who would eventually disappear for good, when she walked out on her infant son Jake, never to return, the film offers a chilling look at what it is like when a loved one vanishes and no one seems to care. One person who did care and did make a difference was Libba, whose heroism demonstrates the unstinting love of one sister for another.
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I Am Watching You (2016 TV Movie)
The Boy Next Door
6 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This Harlequin Romance-style film focuses on Nora, the writer of a romantic blog that grows in popularity to the extent that she is offered a book contract with a major publisher. For her book, Nora conducts a laboratory experiment in a tryst with her neighbor, a hulk named Lucas. But the experiment turns into a nightmare when Lucas becomes overly attached to Nora, stalking her and photographing her in compromising positions. For Lucas, the romantic entanglement was on a different plane than that of Nora.

The filmmakers draw on the "rear window" motif made famous by Alfred Hitchcock. Both Lucas and Nora are able to peer into each other's apartments through their windows. The voyeuristic theme is developed extensively throughout the film, even with the peephole in the door where the characters spy on each other.

Nora's blog character is named Cassandra, who is a fictionalized version of herself. In classical Greek mythology, Cassandra had the gift of prophecy, but no one believed her. In the case of Nora, it becomes clear that she is blind to the future possibilities of her disastrous encounter with Lucas. It takes Nora's best friends, Scotty and Karen, to remind Nora that she is playing with fire.

The essence of Nora's new novel is what she describes as "the real moment" of sensuality that is at the heart of her own awakening through her contact with Lucas. She pitches her novel to the publisher on the basis of how women are entitled to a fantasy life just like men. But Scotty and Karen recognize that Nora does not even know anything about Lucas, while drawing upon him for the "sharp obsession" that is the title of her book.

Nora's publisher identified "the fine line between obsession and inspiration" that she extracted from Nora's writing. But, from the perspective of Lucas, the inspiration of Nora was translated into his obsession with fateful consequences for the boy next door.
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Honor Student (2014 TV Movie)
Creative Writing 101
5 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The expectation in a thriller that pits one writer against another in a bitter rivalry is that there were would be a modicum of credibility. But nothing in "Honor Student" seems credible from the preposterous character relationships to discourse on the art of creative writing.

The fateful meeting of Teresa A. Smith and Nick Howarth occurred in a prison where Nick was teaching creative writing to the inmates. After Teresa told Nick that she was thinking about writing a story about a student who killed her professor, Nick uses that idea for a best-selling novel. That was not an act of plagiarism, yet the filmmakers string the viewer along with the blackmail and extortion threats of Teresa. The witless Nick is so stubborn that he does not want his reputation sullied and gives in to the blackmail.

After stalking and harassing Nick, Teresa feels confident enough to walk in and out of his home, cook him dinner, and bait him until he willingly signs over the rights to his next book to her. Teresa always seems to be wielding a pistol, yet never seems like a threat to use it. Characters are held at gunpoint one minute, then laugh it off in the next.

One point is clear from the film's exposition: Teresa was guilty of manslaughter in the murder of her writing teacher. She was also guilty of assault, harassment, and blackmail. But it was never truly believable that she was capable of writing a successful novel like Nick. The filmmakers worked overtime in the attempt to "empower" Teresa with creative writing abilities that she never possessed. For Creative Writing 101, this film merits the grade of "D."
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A Deadly Affair (2017 TV Movie)
The Little Owl and the Screws and Bolts Hardware Store
5 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Charlie has given his wife Mary the gift of a little ceramic owl because the owl is the nickname he bestowed on his talkative, librarian wife who always would say "Who." When it turns out that Charle is murdered, a bizarre chain of events leads the tiny community to point the finger as Mary as the culprit.

But it turns out that Charlie may have been sleeping with his wife's friend Susan, who is married to Trevor. In a moment of weakness, Mary kisses Trevor, then regrets her actions. But Trevor becomes obsessive over Mary, and begins to stalk Mary. Susan is an attorney, who offers to represent Mary. But is Susan to be trusted?

Another strange character is Mary's sister-in-law Crystal, who believes that Mary killed her beloved brother. The police are beyond the level of incompetent, even by the standards of a Lifetime film. Mary must do her own sleuth work, beginning to understand why Charlie had scratches on his back shortly before his death. Whoever made those scratches may offer a clue to who was his killer.

Yet another bizarre character is this film is Cassandra, an employee at the Screws and Bolts hardware store, whom Mary suspects of being the mysterious "back scratcher" of her husband. But Cassandra would appear to have a happy marriage and drops out of the film at midpoint. The one character who believes in Mary's innocence is her kind mother-in-law. The two characters begin to bond at the gravesite of their beloved Charlie.

A reference point in the film is Kate Chopin's 1899 novel "The Awakening," which presents ideas that prefigure American feminism. But the film does not provide a thoughtful context for any awakening of the protagonist Mary, other than it is a good idea not to trust anyone in her town!

The main action of the film boils down to the question "What Happened at the Beach House?" where Charlie was stabbed in the back. The principal problem with the film was the unsavory characters. Almost anyone except for Mary and her kind mother-in-law could have been a suspect, including the police detective! In the American judicial system, an accused is innocent until proven guilty. But that legal precedent was not invoked for the friendly little librarian Mary in "A Deadey Affair."
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Tucker Carlson Tonight: Episode dated 4 October 2019 (2019)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
Has the American Intelligence Network Turned Into the KGB?
5 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Tucker led this program by raising the question of what exactly Trump did wrong that has led to the Democratic call for impeachment in the past week. The media anchors have begun to talk about "a national emergency" and "a national nightmare." But at the heart of the issue, it would appear that the basic rules of democracy are now under attack, and the reason has nothing to do with Donald Trump's phone call to President Zelensky.

What is being lost in the current hysteria is that the attack on our democracy is directed against the power of the people. Today, the Democratic faction in Congress abetted by the media are making up their own standards and rules. Hilary Clinton tweeted today that we should even consider scrapping the Constitution.

The best description of the new standards is that they are "double standards." For example, the current outcry against Trump is that he is guilty of criminal misconduct for seeking foreign input from Ukraine and China to reveal the extent of alleged corruption of Joe Biden and his son. But the same people clamoring against approaching foreign governments to conduct investigations were relying on the Steele dossier, which was nothing more than a compilation of foreign gossip used to unseat Trump and reverse the election of 2016. The salacious Steele foreign dossier was used for over two years of investigation during the Mueller inquiry. The Democrats would appear to be only interested in foreign dirt if it serves their purposes.

One of Tucker's guest was Kremlinolgist Stephen Cohen, the author of "War with Russia?" Tucker and Cohen discussed the current modus operandi of attempting to ruin political opponents, driving them out of office by destroying their lives, as opposed to defeating them at the ballot box.

For Cohen, in our entire history, we have never had a scandal quite like the current one. A major precedent identified by Cohen was the way the KGB operated in fabricating false narratives and removing powerful political figures by fabricating lies and labeling insane in order to have them locked away. In other words, it is the secret government modeled on the KGB that is running the American nation today through covert means, as opposed to the will of the people.
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Judy (II) (2019)
A Judy Garland Pity Party
4 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This film primarily focuses on the final year in Judy Garland's life, leading up to her death at the age of 47. Her stormy relationship with wheeler-dealer Mickey Deans, her uneven performances at the Talk of the Town nightclub, and her desperate attempt to gain custody of her two young children, comprised the main narrative strands of the film. Unfortunately, instead of being a celebration of one of the most iconic performers of the twentieth century, the film often turned into a pity party.

Garland went to London out of desperation to earn money in order to provide for her children, Lorna and Joey. The film is factually correct in revealing the children's preference to reside with their father Sid Luft. The pressure exerted on the kids to be their mom's caretaker through constant moves, living out of a suitcase in hotels, and Garland's drug and alcohol addiction, took a tremendous toll on the children.

As a child performer, Garland was subjected to a brutal regimen by the MGM studio. In the film's flashback segments, young Garland is given pills to pick her up for early morning make-up calls and pills to knock her out at night for a few hours rest. She is forced to endure brow-beating lectures from studio mogul Louis B. Mayer. But this string of depressing scenes about Garland's youth overshadows the performing virtuosity and the brimming-over-with-life appeal of Judy as a multi-talented singer-dancer-actress.

From the flashbacks, several brief dramatic scenes include Judy in conversation with her best friend, Mickey Rooney. But there were no dramatic recreations of any of the scenes from the Garland-Rooney musical films, including "Girl Crazy," "Strike Up the Band," "Babes on Broadway," or "Words and Music." For over a decade during the Great Depression Garland and Rooney were America's sweethearts. The unparalleled level of talent of these two youngsters was never on display in "Judy."

Renée Zellweger merits kudos for channeling Garland's devotion to her children. But she was unable to capture the performing dynamism of Garland, especially the energy invested in delivering a song. Even at her worst, Garland was a tornado on stage, connecting viscerally with audiences, and literally throwing herself into her numbers. Garland's instinctive use of gesture with arms in constant motion was downplayed by Zellwegger.

Zellweger's stage presence was too muted, and she never came close to approximating Garland's performing style that turned the 4' 11" Garland into a force of nature. The filmmakers chose to emphasize close-ups on Garland's face, and a number of Zellweger's acting choices were for a squinting Garland with a tic, which was an inaccurate portrayal of the luminous face and capacious smile of the real Judy Garland. In the made-for-television film "Life with Judy Garland--Me and My Shadows," Australian actress Judy Davis captures Garland's frenetic stage energy more completely than Zellweger.

Two of the most sensitive characters in the film were the fictionalized gay couple who idolized Garland and met her in person in London. It was clearly an overwhelming experience for them to bring her into their home and later to provide her with support when she faltered while delivering her trademark "Over the Rainbow" concert coda at the Talk of the Town. It was in those personal and private moments that the essence of Judy Garland came across in the soulful connections she made with audiences. Sadly, there was not enough of that performing magic evoked in the film.
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Veiled Truth (2006 TV Movie)
One Final Trick
4 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"What Comes Around" (a.k.a., "Veiled Truth") is a potpourri film with a little bit of everything surrounding the oldest profession in the world. Carolyn was down on her luck, panhandling spare change when she was taken off the rough streets of New York by the sleazy Jake, who became her pimp.

The woman was known to Jake as "Angie" and, assisted by her friend Kim, she eventually set Jake up for an arrest and prison time. Jake's equally unsavory brother Duane was killed when the police burst into the apartment. After a stint in prison, Jake murders Kim, then makes a beeline to his "Angie," who has now assumed the name of Carolyn with two beautiful children and married to a rising politician named Andy Lomax.

The early part of the film makes effective use of flashbacks, and the second half unfolds Jake's scheme to blackmail Carolyn for $25,000 and to send her out for one final trick with the nefarious Victor Graznov, to whom Jake owes a significant debt.

The feisty Carolyn must improvise in order to save her children whom Jake has threatened to kill, if she doesn't follow his instructions. Carolyn does not confide in her husband, and she withholds from the police vital information about her deceased friend Kim. After she was contacted by a New York detective, Carolyn is guilty of aiding and abetting a felon by not informing the detective about Jake.

The major obstacle to Carolyn's salvation is the Russian overlord Graznov, whom Carolyn drugs and delivers a haymaker at the Four Strands Hotel in Seattle. The best line in the film is when Carolyn tells Graznov, "I punched you while you were still on your feet!" That moment leads to sustained laughter from Graznov's thugs and Graznov himself. Along the way, a major revelation occurs about the paternity of Carolyn's little boy. It turns out that he is Duane's kid, not Andy's!

Graznov now holds all of the cards in determining the fate of Carolyn and her family. In the final stretch of the film, Carolyn does a great deal of racing back and forth from Spokane to Seattle. There is a riveting ending that will determine whether or not Carolyn will be sleeping with the fishes, sleepless in Seattle, or smiling in Spokane.
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Tucker Carlson Tonight: Episode dated 3 October 2019 (2019)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
The Deep State at Work
4 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In his lead segment, Tucker offered an overview of the CIA at work as a self-contained, autonomous branch of the American government. He chronicled in detail the failures of the CIA over the years in crucial instances of faulty intelligence gathering, including the failure to predict the Korean War, the development of the Soviet nuclear bomb, the implementation of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962, the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, failed assassination attempts of Castro, the failure to prop up the Shah of Iran or anticipate his overthrow in 1978, the monumental failure to predict Velvet Revolution of Eastern Europe in 1989, the ineptitude in anticipating Saddam Hussein's attack of Kuwait in 1990, the complete surprise of India's test of an atomic bomb in 1998, and the fiasco of claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in 2003. In fact, the biggest suggest of the CIA over the past half century may have been the creation of the Taliban.

The reason for these failures is the secrecy at the heart of the CIA as a political entity that has been a Frankenstein in modern American history. In focusing on the current attempt of the CIA to undermine the presidency of Donald Trump, Tucker reviewed the events that preceded the inauguration when the establishment was gearing up to destroy Trump's presidency in early 2017. In a rare unscripted moment, Chuck Schumer appeared on television to comment on a tweet of President-elect Trump on January 3, in which he had questioned the integrity of the CIA. Specifically, Schumer said, "from what I am told, they (i.e., the intel agencies) are very upset about he has treated them and talked about them." Trump was unaware that that the intel world had veto power over his decisions.

It is difficult to read Schumer's statement in any other way than a grave threat made subtly to the newly elected, populist president. Trump's obvious problem was that he was acting naively like a leader who had won an election in a democratic nation. Tucker framed his analysis of Schumer's remark with a parenthetical quote by former CIA employee and current CNN commentator Phil Mudd. On October 2, Mudd sent President Trump an on-air warning on CNN to in effect back off or prepare to get hurt by "the brotherhood"!

The implications of Mudd's dire warning is that the CIA is set up to serve the people who work there, not the citizenry of the United States of America. Because it is a secret agency, the CIA has unlimited resources and unchecked power. In the wake of the present plan of the House Democrats that seeks to impeach Trump, the so-called whistleblower turns out to be a member of the Democratic Party and a CIA agent, who had contact with Adam Schiff prior to the disclosure of the complaint. Schiff subsequently lied about the meeting, and the lie went virtually unchallenged in the mainstream media.

Devin Nunes was the chair of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence until January 3, 2019, and he has probably been the most courageous member in Congress to challenge the power of the intel agencies. Appearing on this program, Nunes admitted that Congress has effectively had no control in checking the powerful institution of the FBI. But even Nunes would not go so far as to question the integrity of the CIA, referring only to "a small cadre" of miscreants in Washington, D.C. It was sad to see Nunes drop the ball in making an overly generalized statement about the "swamp," as opposed to directly confronting the issue of a secret government over which all three branches (legislative, executive, and judicial) are helpless against the powers that be in Langley.

Another guest on the program was Terry Turchie, a former FBI Deputy Assistant Director, who called out Phil Mudd for his disturbing remark on CNN. Turchie provided an important insight when he stated that in investigating the workings of the Deep State, it is essential to look for the "abnormal" as a sign of subversive acts. The abnormal starting point for the current wave of madness was the "unmasking" of names committed under the watch of Susan Rice, who subsequently lied about it on television to Judy Woodruff. Another way of describing the "abnormal" in the dynamic of the Deep State is to acknowledge the completely unorthodox way in which the chain of events has led to serious discussion of impeaching the president without following the basic protocol set by previous impeachments, including such basics as taking a vote in the House.
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Suburban Swingers Club (2019 TV Movie)
The Circle of Trust
3 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Edgar Allan Poe wrote a Gothic short story called "The Tell-Tale Heart," about the loud beats of a guilty heart that reveal the truth about the villain. It turns out that a small heart that is part of a bracelet is the tell-tale piece of evidence in this spine-tingling mystery.

Grant and Lori Malick are a lovely couple who have just moved into a new neighborhood outside of San Diego. Their marriage has been upended due to the loss of a little baby, five-month-old Kaleb. As an extremely persuasive attorney, Grant convinces Lori to participate in a neighborhood swap club in which the participants draw lots, then make a bee-line for the bedrooms. The group is known as "The Circle of Trust," one of the greatest misnomers ever to appear in a Lifetime film.

Lori has reluctantly agreed to join the swinger's club because she is desperate to save her marriage. But she formulates three essential guidelines, to which her husband agrees: (1) each partner must think about the other during the "ritual"; (2) the choice of any swap-mate may be vetoed by the other partner; (3) participation in the swinger's club must end if either one of the partners wants to call it off.

Of course, this "experiment" in The Circle of Trust is an unmitigated disaster. Grant cannot keep his agreement and continues to see Giselle after he and Lori have decided to no longer participate in the secret society. For her part, Lori no longer has an interest in Noah, but he immediately begins to stalk her and to issue a blackmail threat.

When Noah is murdered, the film turns into a whodunnit with Grant arrested for the crime. It is at that point that the relationship of Lori and her sister Kat takes center stage. The bonding of the two sisters helps to sustain Lori through her ordeal and ultimately reveal the truth about who killed Noah.

In multiple scenes, Lori is carrying one of her husband's golf clubs (a seven-iron?) around her new home in suburbia, as she genuinely fears for her life. The tiny heart that was left behind at the crime scene will reveal the secret of who stabbed Noah. But the reason the crime is solved is due to the love of one sister for the other. In the end, it is the emotional ties of the sisterhood that triumph over adversity in the fallout from the nefarious suburban swingers' club.
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