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ThisTV Movie Review: From Dusk Til Dawn

from-dusk-till-dawn.15890I love Michael Parks, ya’ll.

Every time he pops up in a Quentin Tarantino film or a Kevin Smith film I know I’m in for a treat. A real treat. *

Even if he isn’t around very long, he’s still wonderful for the moments he’s on screen. He’s witty and dry and always has some kind of great accent and he might say the filthiest things ever but he’s still mesmerizing to listen to.

He, along with Danny Trejo and Tom Savini, are some of my favorite stars of From Dusk Til Dawn. Not to say that George Clooney and Harvey Keitel aren’t fabulous or anything BUT Danny Trejo makes almost anything better (The Crow 4 aside) and, while Tom Savini isn’t the greatest actor ever, he sure is fun to watch bounce around hamming it up. Just check out his ridiculous codpiece gun! You can’t get much better than that in a schlocky grindhouse type flick such as this!

fhd996FKD_Michael_Parks_002The plot of From Dusk Til Dawn basically breaks down like this: The Gecko brothers need to get themselves into Mexico but it seems the entirety of Texas law enforcement is out to stop them after they killed a bunch of people and blew up a building or two. They take an ex-pastor and his kids hostage in order to use their RV to make it across the border. Things get tense and yell-y for a while but the criminals and their new friends (and I’m using the term ‘friends’ incredibly loosely here) manage to make it across without incident. Once in Mexico they head to a wild biker bar with the hopes of rendezvousing with someone who’ll help them disappear for good. Unfortunately the bar turns out to be a bit wilder than expected when bouncers, barkers, bartenders, and beautiful topless women suddenly turn into ravenous vampires and start killing everyone.

From-Dusk-Till-Dawn-backgroundOne of the things I love most about this movie is the amount of backstory and character development that goes into the main leads when it really isn’t necessary. We know that Seth Gecko (George Clooney) is a thief and a big brother and a killer with a chip on his shoulder who just wants to get someplace safe. Richie Gecko (Quentin Tarantino) is a psycho and a killer and a foot fetishist with an itchy trigger finger and a teeth grinding problem who does what his big brother tells him but only after they fight about it. Their hostage Jacob (Harvey Keitel) is a broken man with a dead wife and two children who don’t know what’s happening to their family anymore as he drags them off in an RV. These characters have motivations and feelings and thoughts and desires and losses of faith and while it makes them seem believable it doesn’t matter AT ALL because once the vampires come out to play it’s all death and dismemberment and blood and guts (SO MUCH blood and guts) and all the stuff we learned about these people becomes pretty much pointless. Sure it comes in handy that Jacob is a preacher (who eventually gets his faith back) and can bless water and make crucifixes, and it comes in handy that Seth is a criminal with a penchant for weapons and bloodshed. But by the end of the big final battle scene none of that stuff really matters. There aren’t enough people left for it to matter.

Santanico_PandamoniumAnother thing I love about this movie is how horrible and creepy looking and nasty the vampires are (well once they take on their demonic visages of course, cause we can all pretty much agree that Selma Hayek is the furthest thing from horrible and creepy looking and nasty at first). When exactly did everyone decide vampires were tragic romantic figures anyway? When did vampires falling in love with their food become such a popular thing? Sure, I’ll admit I went through a silly teenage gothic vampire fascination phase once upon a time, but I also got over it relatively quickly. Vampires should be scary, not sexy. They are dead people who’ve popped back up again to kill living people. Humans are their food, not their love interests. I’m not gonna go out and fall in love with a cow, so why would a vampire go out and fall in love with me? All this rambling leads me to the point (I almost forgot to make) and that is that I appreciate a good, hardcore, graphically violent vampire story where the vampires are monsters and the people are food and while some of them manage to fight back and save themselves, the rest of them end up pretty dang dead because that’s kind of how it works when an apex predator goes hunting through a herd of weaker, frightened prey animals.

From Dusk Til Dawn isn’t art. It isn’t the greatest Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez film. It isn’t even the greatest vampire movie ever. BUT. But it’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch. The special effects are fabulously gross, the language is ridiculously rough, the soundtrack is paired perfectly with the action, and George Clooney is pretty dang hot as a murderous tattooed thug with a bad attitude. It’s the kind of dirty fun movie that you need to partake in every once in a while, just to remind yourself how entertaining they can be.

– Mia V.

From Dusk Til Dawn, 1996
Starring George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu, Cheech Marin
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Written by Robert Kurtzman and Quentin Tarantino

Watch on ThisTV: Sunday 1/18 at 11pm and/or Saturday 1/24 at 9pm!


*Speaking of fabulous Micheal Parks’ roles, I encourage everyone to check out the phenomenally bizarre and uncomfortable and hilarious and dark Kevin Smith feature Tusk, starring Parks and Justin Long. It’s like Silence of the Lambs and Human Centipede only completely different and totally worth watching at least once so you can get to the end and wonder what the heck you just watched.


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ThisTV Movie Review: Carrie

Carrie-708938121-largeI’m not the only one that cries during the prom scene in Carrie, right?

Not during the end of the prom scene, of course, cause that isn’t a time for crying. A time for screaming and yelling and freaking out, maybe, but not for crying.

It’s earlier in the prom that I tear up a bit. When the music is all sweet and the lights are all soft and Tommy Ross’s hair is particularly poofy and Carrie’s face is particularly young and naïve and she’s talking about remembering this night forever and Tommy wants to take her out with the rest of the cool kids after the dance and it’s all so dang nice and adorable and romantic and destined to end very VERY badly.

Every time I watch my eyes tear up, my nose gets a bit sniffly, and I have to reach for the tissue. It’s that moment that all of us that got picked on in high school kind of wished for.

Of course when we realized we weren’t going to be accepted by the cool kids, it was the OTHER prom scene we wished for. The bloody, screamy, scary, nasty prom scene.

But I digress.

The plot of Carrie basically breaks down like this: Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is quiet and shy and bad at volleyball and all the kids at school treat her like garbage. After a particularly cruel event in the girls’ showers the cool chicks are all in trouble and Carrie is beginning to discover she isn’t just a timid little mouse hiding in the shadows. Soon she’s going head-to-head with her insanely religious mother, finding a poofy-headed date for the prom, and stepping out of her comfort zone in order to fit in with the rest of the crowd. Unfortunately for Carrie, the entire senior class, and the janitorial staff of the high school in charge of cleaning up the dance afterward, this is a horror film based on a Stephen King novel and events at the prom go horribly, messily wrong.

carriehairCarrie is a scary movie, so let’s talk about what’s scary about it. The horrible way the other kids treat the main character? It certainly sucks, and it’s sad that people would treat other people that way, but it’s not particularly scary. Carrie’s telekinetic powers? They’re interesting and they certainly do a lot of damage when she lets them go, but are they scary? In a day and age where superheroes are ubiquitous and telekinesis is one of the tamer super powers, it just doesn’t do much to surprise or terrify.

But Carrie’s mother … oooohhh Carrie’s mother. If there was one element of this film that could truly be considered scary, that’s the one I’d name. Played beautifully by Piper Laurie, Carrie’s mom is fanatically religious and also fanatically anti-everything in the world that might help Carrie fit in. She doesn’t explain the facts of life to her daughter, so of course when puberty happens Carrie suffers for it. She doesn’t want her daughter associating with anyone, not other girls or boys with poofy hair. The idea of Carrie going to the prom is laughable, and when Carrie refuses to see it the same way, it doesn’t end well for anyone. After watching this film I bet a lot of people would agree that no matter how strict or crazy or bizarre their parents are, they aren’t anywhere near as bad as Carrie’s mom.

Carrie-1976-21The end of the prom scene could probably be classified ‘scary’ as well. All those kids running and screaming and trying to escape the gymnasium and none of them understanding what is going on or why the door won’t open or a fire hose is spraying them or why people are dying all around them. That certainly wasn’t the freaky wild time any of them were expecting (or if they were there was something really wrong with those kids) when they put on their frilly tuxedos and pastel dresses that evening. But like so many stories by Stephen King (and the good movies based on them) it isn’t so much the big in your face stuff like Tommy and his poofy hair being killed by a bucket or sympathetic gym teacher being almost chopped in half by a falling fixture that truly scares here. It is the little things that get you. Like sweet little Carrie White, who just wanted a place to belong, now covered in animal blood and starting her classmates on fire. Like a group of teenagers huddled together trying to escape across the floor, desperately afraid to let each other go in all the chaos that surrounds them. Like those two idiots who caused the whole commotion, sitting in a window to watch their handiwork and realizing their nasty, mean prank turned into a nasty, mean, bloodbath (literally).

– Mia V.

Carrie, 1976
Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, John Travolta, Nancy Allen
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by Stephen King (novel), Lawrence D Cohen (screenplay)

Watch on ThisTV: Tuesday 11/4 at 1pm, Thursday 11/13 at 7pm, Friday 11/21 at 3pm, Saturday 11/22 at midnight, and/or Monday 11/24 at 3pm!

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ThisTV Movie Review: The Crow-Salvation

1347697681To start off I think it is important to admit that this movie was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. While definitely not as good as the first one, it wasn’t close to as dumb as the fourth one (you can read my review of that crow-shaped turkey here). Eric Mabius was fun in the role of back-from-the-dead vengeance-seeking hero-type, and the story (while basically the same as the first film) had some good moments of its own. I’d go so far as to say I’d even watch this again voluntarily … if it was on TV and nothing else was on and I’d had a drink or three and wanted a nice eyeful of Eric Mabius.

The plot of The Crow(3)-Salvation basically breaks down like this: Alex has a date with the electric chair after being convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Lauren. He maintains he didn’t do it (and we kinda know he’s telling the truth since he’s the hero and all) but no one believes him and soon he’s off to meet his maker. Only a magical little birdy swoops in to change his destiny instead. Soon undead Alex is out to destroy the lives of those that destroyed HIS life. Turns out it was all part of a conspiracy full of crooked cops, twisted taxidermists, and … I’m out of alliterative things to say. Between flashbacks of his lost love, run-ins with his lost love’s sister, and taking the time for some art therapy (crows in glass! crows in blood! we’ve got crows in every format you can think of!), Alex eventually carves his bloody path to vengeance.

moviescrow302Remember how when I reviewed The Crow (didn’t read that review? check it out here) I said part of what helped keep it from getting campy was the sparse dialogue and lack of obvious exposition? Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Crow:Salvation. Exposition is pretty much hurled at the audience in the first few minutes of the movie, as if filmmakers were worried no one would care about anything if they didn’t shove as much back-story and explanation down your throat as possible. And the way the epic romance between Alex and Lauren is presented – in flashbacks just like the first film – is downright cheesy. Lots of spinning and swooping camera motions and kissing for long periods of time in a junkyard. You see one almost conversation, one ugly fight, and more spinny kissing, and you are supposed to believe that it is a love powerful enough to bring someone back from the dead to avenge it when it’s taken away? Hrm, not quite.

I did quite enjoy Eric Mabius’ take on Alex/The Crow (though I would never call the character that cause it sounds silly), and not just because I think the actor is adorable. Alex is a young man with a hard life who was convicted of something he’d never do. He is brutally executed (and I like the way they use his electrocution to mess up his face, instead of using more mime makeup) and comes back angry and crazed and also more than a little bit sad. He has no problem killing those that have done him and his girlfriend wrong BUT also takes time out to make a few jokes, play a little chess, and help Lauren’s sister come to grips with all the crap life has thrown at her (and boy is she gonna need therapy after finding out her dad was a crook, her sister’s boyfriend was wrongfully accused, her family friend is a psychopath, and she was horribly miscast with Kirsten Dunst).

kinopoisk.ruI did NOT enjoy the way the baddies seemed to catch on to the fact that Alex was back via crow/vengeance magic. Why would it ever occur to anyone that such a thing was even possible? Where are these myths that everyone seems to be reading that explain this stuff to them? And if that dang bird is so important and necessary to keeping the magic going, WHY does it keep hanging out where it is so easy to injure or kill? Seems like poor planning on the crow’s part. I also got a little annoyed with Alex’s swanky new super powers. At one point he pretty much flies (in the shape of the arty crow he keeps leaving all over his murder scenes) off a building and I just laughed. Why would he need super powers when he is already a walking, talking, dead guy who can bounce back from shooting himself in the head?

Anyway, so to wrap up let’s take a moment to consider who wore their soundtrack better, as the soundtrack is an important component to any film in The Crow franchise. I think the one for Crow:Salvation is pretty on par as that from the first film. Filter, Stabbing Westward, The Flys, Crystal Method, and even a little Danzig help set the tone for this graphic and violent trip through nightmare land. I especially liked Rob Zombie’s ‘Living Dead Girl’ during the car chase scene. It was fun. Dark and twisted, but fun just the same.

– Mia V.


The Crow:Salvation, 2000
Starring Eric Mabius, Kirsten Dunst, Fred Ward
Directed by Bharat Nalluri
Written by James O’Barr (original comic series), Chip Johannessen

*Watch The Crow-Salvation on ThisTV: Wednesday 10/15 at 9p and Saturday 10/25 at 7p!


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ThisTV Movie Review: TheCrow-Wicked Prayer

The-Crow-Wicked-Prayer-dvdTara Reid as a satanic priestess, ya’ll.

I am not making this up.

The Crow:Wicked Prayer has Tara Reid as a satanic priestess, and Eddie Furlong (Terminator 2 was a LONG time ago) as an ex-con named after a beer, and David Boreanaz (really Agent Booth, come on now, was it necessary to take this role?) as Death because who knows why, and Danny Trejo which should automatically make this film awesome but doesn’t.

You heard that right. Danny Trejo can not help this film.

Expository text all over the screen in the first few minutes can’t help it either. Nice try movie, but no. Just no.

The plot to the The Crow(4)-Wicked Prayer basically breaks down like this: Lily and Jimmy are in love. Lily is a shaman of her Native American tribe, Jimmy is a loser who lives in a trailer full of feathers and scorpions and talks too much to his dog. Not surprisingly they both end up dead (this is a Crow film, after all). Luc and Lola are Satanists on a mission to bring about hell on earth (or something). They steal Lily’s eyes and Jimmy’s heart and then take themselves on a murder spree full of leather pants and silly masks and lots of moments where they look a little bit unsure of their nefarious plans. Within an hour or so of being offed, Jimmy is up-and-at-em again, donning his own goth outfit to fit in with the cool kids and going on a murder spree of his own.

crowefIt’s pretty much the same plot as all the other Crow movies, though with its desert setting and magical/mystical undercurrent, it does feel different than the other movies in the series. There is sunshine – SUNSHINE – of all things, and a lot more backstory and plot development – or at least a lot more attempts at them. There is actually quite a bit less graphic violence and gore and boobs (Crow:Salvation has a lot of boobs for boobs’ sake) so I’m thinking this was a direct-to-TV flick. Not that I NEEDED to see Tara Reid cut out some chick’s eyes, but considering how bloody Crow:Salvation got, I was expecting a higher body count and a bit more blood.

I was kind of expecting a better story as well, though I don’t know why when the quality of films in this franchise has been going down since the second one (though City of Angels would be my fave of the later movies). Part of what makes the very first Crow film and story so good is the lack of excess nonsense. It’s a story about a dead guy who comes back with the help of a magic bird to wreak vengeance on those that have done him wrong. A dark fairytale and ghost story wrapped into one, by explaining things too much it loses some of (or in the case of Crow:Wicked Prayer most of) its magic. Jimmy doesn’t come back just because he lost the love of his life. He comes back because a butthole in tight pants with a chip on his shoulder literally stole his heart. He comes back because dark magic is afoot and mystical business is taking place and he didn’t have much else to do on a Friday night. I’m not saying being strung up and watching your girl killed and then being killed yourself doesn’t give you a reason to go on a vengeance kick. I’m just saying there is too much going on around it to make it seem as intense as it could have been.

crowick1And speaking of ruining the intensity of the story, now some quick thoughts on the wardrobe. David Boreanaz is not a bad lookin’ fella, but fish net shirts are flattering to no one. And Edward Furlong all tricked out as The Crow, with his long hair and delicate features and black choker, just looks like a goth chick who got lost on her way to the Hot Topic.

We’ll end with which Crow film wore the soundtrack better! This installment in The Crow franchise doesn’t seem to rely much on an actual soundtrack. The score is pretty dang good though. Lots of Latin influence, and a similar ‘love theme’ to that found in the first and third film. I dug it. At least until the end credits. The song that plays during those is just awful. I wish I could wash the memory of that right out of my ears. Almost as bad as that from Rambo:First Blood but not quite (few end themes can rival that for worst song ever to finish a movie on).

– Mia V.

The Crow:Wicked Prayer, 2005
Starring Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz, Tara Reid
Directed by Lance Muniga
Written by James O’Barr (original comic series), Norman Partridge (novel), Lance Muniga (screenplay)

*Watch The Crow-Wicked Prayer on ThisTV: Wednesday 10/15 at 11p and Saturday 10/25 at 9p!

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ThisTV Movie Review: The Crow

thecrowBack in the 90’s The Crow was THE romantic movie to beat all romantic movies. Though it was dark and bloody and violent and rainy (so rainy) and though the only really romantic stuff happened in flashbacks and visions, it still caused a generation of girls to swoon. How could they not, when the heart of the story was a man pulled from death to wreak graphically violent vengeance on those that had killed him and his one true love?

The plot of The Crow basically breaks down like this: Shelly and Eric are madly in love and going to get married on Halloween, which makes perfect sense when you see the dark gothic world they seem to live in. But not everyone is all about their happily-ever-after, and a gang of dirty thugs with stupid names take it upon themselves to leave the young couple dead dead dead before they ever get to say “I do.” One year later Eric pops out of the ground like a spring flower, only much paler and crazier. Led by a magic bird (because why not) he picks off the dirty thugs one by one, while also taking a bit of time to himself so he can play the guitar, dispense advice, hang out with a cop, and do some thematic art.


This is a film that could easily fall to campiness and silliness (the main character is running around in leather pants and electrical tape with his face painted up like a mime, after all, and spawned a billion Halloween and cosplay costumes) and what may save it is sparse dialogue with little Big Bad monologue-ing or unnecessary exposition and a great 90’s soundtrack. Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots, Pantera, Rollins Band, and a haunting score by Graeme Revell elevate scenes (even the almost goofy ones) to more memorable and emotionally profound levels. The music matches the mood. It matches the main character’s anger and pain and longing. It matches the rainy city and the dirty buildings and the ugly people who populate this world.

thecrow2The Crow is a dark movie, and not just in content. Most of the action takes place at night, in the rain, in a city that could beat Gotham for being gritty and crime-ridden and sunless. This is not a film for happy endings or happy characters or even happy music BUT it knows that about itself and it runs with it. It doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is – a tale of love and death and vengeance. The main character is not a super hero, even though he’s a walking talking dead man who bounces back from getting shot or stabbed or blown up. He isn’t looking for redemption and he isn’t taking out the bad guys to make the world a better place. He’s in it for revenge, pure and simple, and once he gets it he’s done.

It’s really such a simple premise. It’s really such a simple film. It starts with death (and Ernie Hudson) and it ends with death (and Ernie Hudson). Maybe that’s what makes this film work. As I said before it could so easily fall to campiness. It is a love story with all of the love bits taking place in flashbacks. You know that love story is important because the film tells you it is important. You see the main character’s pain when he first comes back from the dead. You see it when he touches other characters and gets flashes of his love’s last moments. You see it when he wails on his guitar in the rain on a roof and then smashes the instrument into tiny pieces. By the time Shelley and Eric have been properly avenged and the end credits begin to roll you know you have witnessed a great love and a great romance … even if you really just spent the last hour and a half watching people die in ever more violent and creative ways.


– Mia V.

The Crow, 1994
Starring Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Rochelle Davis
Directed by Alex Proyas
Written by James O’Barr (original comic book series), David J Schow (screenplay)


*Watch The Crow on ThisTV: Wednesday 10/15 at 7p and Saturday 10/25 at 5p!

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ThisTV Movie Review: Murders in the Rue Morgue

ruemorgue3Not a fan of Edgar Allan Poe? Never read Murders in the Rue Morgue before? That may actually be for the best if you want to enjoy this film. Not that the film itself is terrible BUT its connection to the source material is rather flimsy at best.

The short story is actually a clever little mystery, with a shut-in detective and a gruesome murder and an ‘ourang-outang’ cause why the heck not. It isn’t Poe’s creepiest story (I’m going with The Pit and the Pendulum for that one) but it’s an interesting read and certainly has enough plot to make a movie.

So why does the 1971 film version of Murders in the Rue Morgue have so much else going on?

ruemorgueThe plot of Murders in the Rue Morgue basically breaks down like this: It’s Paris at the turn of the century and everything is decadent and frilly and kicky and there’s lots of wine and fishnet stockings and champagne. Cesar (Jason Robards) runs a theater troupe performing a murder play at the Rue Morgue (I see what you did there movie) and – surprise surprise – real murders start happening. Bodies start turning up with acid burned faces, a guy that looks a lot like that fella from Phantom of the Opera flits around the city, swishing his cape and causing mayhem wherever he goes, and Cesar soon comes under suspicion of offing his ex-lovers and the ex -members of his troupe. Could a dead man be behind the deaths? Could a young woman’s dreams be more than just the stressed out nightmares of a stalking victim? Could the wardrobe department have possibly found any floatier, rufflier dresses?

So the original short story had a couple of murders, and a detective, and an ape. The film version has a theater and a bunch of acid and dead people all over the place and a pissed off crazy person and some long dream sequences and an ax and a guy in a monkey suit and another guy in a monkey suit and a sinister plot twist you kind of see coming about a mile away. Obviously if you’re looking for a spot-on adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story this is not the movie for you.

ruemorgue2IF, however, you’re looking for a very 70’s horror film with lots of splashy red/orange blood and poofy 70’s hair and bright colors even in dark dungeons and a hint of synthesizer music in inappropriate places, this is definitely the movie for you.

As I said before, Murders in the Rue Morgue isn’t a terrible film. It has a definite creepy vibe and a good who-dunnit undertone. It works very hard to make you believe you know who is behind all the badness and why they’re on a rampage of violent murdery destruction. If you’ve watched enough thriller/horror/mystery films you’ll have a good idea what is really going on well before you get to the end (which is definitely a good bit of horror fun) BUT you’ll still applaud the filmmakers for their effort.

– Mia V.

Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1971
Starring Jason Robards, Herbert Lom, Christine Kaufmann
Directed by Gordon Hessler
Written by Christopher Wicking (screenplay), Edgar Allan Poe (story)

*Watch Murders in the Rue Morgue on ThisTV: Tuesday 10/7 at 11am and Sunday 10/12 at 1pm!

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ThisTV Movie Review: Swamp Thing

swampthing“Not long ago, in the unexplored reaches of the unmapped swamp, the creative genius of one man collided with another’s evil dream and a monster was born.”
“Say hello to your boyfriend baby!” – famous last words from bandana wearing guy

Not all superheroes are created equal. Some can fly and turn back time and force the truth from liars and build super suits and destroy crime rings from the top down. And then some are green and rubbery and growly and spend most of their time punching and throwing guys around. They only hang out in the swamp and are only effective against very specific bad guys, BUT they can at least heal wounds with green glowy magic AND regrow their own limbs JUST LIKE A PLANT!

I’m not sure the Swamp Thing even really counts as a ‘superhero’ but as he does have a dramatic backstory that gave him his powers and he fights bad guys on a regular basis AND he has terrible relationship luck, he seems pretty superhero-ish to me. So I’m gonna go ahead and categorize him that way.

swampthing2The plot of Swamp Thing basically breaks down like this: Sexy but tough government agent Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) travels down to the swamps to help out with security on a secret government project where sexy and kind of ADHD scientist Holland (Ray Wise) is inventing … something green and glowy. Unfortunately Holland’s nemesis Arcane (Louis Jourdan) will stop at nothing to get his hands on that green glowy … whatever it is (some kind of plant/animal hybrid goo I think?) It isn’t long after Cable’s arrival that things go seriously pear-shaped. People die, science labs blow up, Holland seems to die a flame-y awful death, and Cable begins a long series of chases and getting captured and escaping and chases and getting captured and on and on. Seriously this chasing through the swamp business goes on FOREVER. Eventually Arcane gets his hands on the glowy green formula, Cable, AND the mysterious hero-monster-Holland-shaped-viney thing that has popped up and been fighting off his henchmen. The climax boils down to a less than epic battle of monster versus monster where only one silly rubbery creature can survive.

Honestly the plot of the first Swamp Thing movie is (wafer) thin. Not that the plot of the sequel film is that much better but it does have mutants and Heather Locklear and teenagers with dirty magazines and even more chasing and some kind of mysterious backstory so even though it is campy and ridiculous it still has more going for it than this movie. ALL this one has is running and driving and boating and running and getting captured and escaping and getting captured and escaping. Oh and Adrienne Barbeau’s breasts, which I believe was a pretty big draw in 1982 when this movie came out.

swampthing4Unfortunately Swamp Thing (at least in this movie adaptation) is a silly super hero and he’s fighting against a silly super villain. Arcane spends so much time hunting down Holland’s super ‘formula’ and for what? Turns out he is just looking for the secret to immortality and he thinks the green glowy stuff is going to give it to him. And by the way, can I just say that I spent a lot of years thinking scientists spent all their time on important ‘formulas’ specifically because of the importance placed on that word in this movie. He takes the ‘formula’ even after finding out the truth of how it works (which actually doesn’t make any sense AT ALL but I guess we can overlook the believability of the science involved when it is coming from a giant talking plant) and then is the only one surprised that it turns him into a rubbery, furry, man-bear-pig* kind of beast. Then he proceeds to have the most old school video game looking fight EVER with Swamp Thing and any intent to take this film seriously that may have been left just flies right out the window.

– Mia V.

Swamp Thing, 1982
Starring Ray Wise, Adrienne Barbeau, Louis Jordan
Directed by Wes Craven
Written by Wes Craven (screenplay), Len Wein (comic book)

*Watch Swamp Thing on ThisTV: Tuesday 10/21 at 3p and Saturday 10/25 at 9a!

ThisTV Movie Review: Hannibal

Hannibal_movie_posterNot all thrillers are created equal. Sometimes they just aren’t as thrilling, or scary, or complex, or dark, or thought-provoking as you hope they will be. Sometimes they are based on a book that is good, but not quite as good as the book that came before in the series, and sometimes they lose a lot from page to screen that doesn’t keep them from becoming kind of … campy. Sometimes even though the cast is awesome and trying the hardest they can to make the material better, it just doesn’t happen.

Sometimes a thriller is Hannibal, the sequel film (and book) to classic thriller/horror/drama film (and book) Silence of the Lambs.

The plot of Hannibal basically breaks down like this: It’s been a decade since the events of Silence of the Lambs and in that time a lot has changed. Clarice Starling has not only grown to be a hardened veteran of the FBI, she’s managed to transform into Julianne Moore! Hannibal Lecter is still gallivanting around the world played by Anthony Hopkins, but he’s left his asylum garb behind for swanky hats and dapper jackets, and his pre-incarceration life as a psychiatrist behind for the life of a curator to an Italian document library. Just how will these two crazy kids find each other again? Well…after some hard knocks hannibal-645-75come to Clarice’s career she finds herself back on the Lecter case and trying to hunt him down on the other side of the world. Hannibal is being chased by nosey Italian policemen who want a giant reward, as well as creepy former victims who are still smarting at the loss of their innocence – and face. Soon bloody violence, man-eating pig mayhem, and the dinner to end all dinners work to throw Clarice and Hannibal “The Cannibal” back together.

I hate to be THAT person and say a book was better than its movie, and really the Hannibal film isn’t terrible (especially compared to Hannibal Rising, which is so awful I completely forgot I paid to see it in a theater when it first came out). It’s just … not as good. So much had to be left out to make it all fit within a couple of hours. The loss is obvious. And the ending. Grrrr. The ending is completely different. I know a lot of people were angered by the ending of the book, but personally I found it a lot creepier and more fitting with the tone of the story. It is a rough ending to accept but the whole premise is rough to begin with. And maybe it seems to detract from the strength of the main character BUT I never found her to be that strong of a heroine to begin with.

Hannibal_2001_movie_picture_6Clarice Starling is a damaged individual who wants to paint the world in blacks and whites and stop bad guys because once upon a time she lost the person she loved most to a bad guy. She is broken before the story ever begins, even when she puts on her Game Face and meets Hannibal Lecter for the first time. She’s all naïve self-righteousness in Silence of the Lambs, and ten years later in Hannibal she’s hard and bitter and tired and still self-righteous but that self-righteousness is breaking down. It isn’t such a jump of logic to believe that she’d do what she ends up doing at the end of the book (which I will be good and not spoiler because I think everyone should just go out and read the book and then come back and let me know what you thought).

– Mia V.

Hannibal, 2001
Starring Julianne Moore, Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by David Mamet (screenplay), Thomas Harris (novel)

*Watch Hannibal on ThisTV: Saturday October 11th at 7:30pm and Friday October 31st at 9:30pm!

ThisTV Movie Review: Silence of the Lambs

MV5BMTQ2NzkzMDI4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDA0NzE1NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_“It rubs the lotion on Its skin or else It gets the hose again.” – Buffalo Bill
“Here sir, use mine.” – (famous last words) Lt. Boyle

The first time I saw Silence of the Lambs I was about 10 years old and my mother wasn’t home so I was sneaking in a viewing. The only way my little sister would let me get away with it was if I fast-forwarded through a lot of the scenes (fast forward – for all you youngins out there – is something you’d do with video tapes to skip ahead, and since I don’t have time to explain obsolete media formats for you all we are just gonna move on now).

I’ll admit, you miss a lot of the important stuff when you fast forward through a movie. And when you have to deal with a nagging younger sister who keeps threatening to tattle on you if you watch more than about five minutes of the movie at a time (I’ll also admit that it is AWESOME when said nagging sister gets grossed out because you stop fast forwarding at the exact moment someone is graphically murdered – timing is everything girls and boys!).

I could tell that Silence of the Lambs was creepy, and that people died in it, and that people in suits were very intense, but that was about the gist of what my 10-year-old brain understood. It was some years later, when I finally saw the movie in its entirety, that the full impact of the story, acting, and direction really got to me.

the_silence_of_the_lambsThe plot of Silence of the Lambs basically breaks down like this: Young comely FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling (played by Jodi Foster) is chosen to try and weed out information on a notorious new serial killer from previous notorious serial killer Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). She’s all fresh-faced innocence trying to be steely and tough, he’s all classy intensity with a psychotic edge. It’s basically a match made in horror movie heaven! Clarice bares her soul, Hannibal bares his teeth, the serial killer dances about in a suit made of human skin, and eventually an epic showdown in a dark and creepy basement leads to a less than happily-ever-after ending.

So what can I saw about this film that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? Well probably not a whole lot. But I’ll lay down a few thoughts anyway.

I think that Silence of the Lambs is a practically perfect thriller. And one of the main reasons I think that is because I’ve seen it at least two dozen times now and yet it never gets old. I never get bored. I try to watch it as background noise while doing something else and find myself sucked in every time. I notice new things about it every time. It is just that freaking good.

silence2Buffalo Bill is a creepy serial killer. He blew my mind the first time I saw the movie all the way through, but he blew my mind even more when I was older and had done some reading up on real-life serial killers and realized he was based on people that actually existed (Ted Bundy and Ed Gein in case you don’t have the extensive serial killer knowledge that I have somehow ended up with). That adds a whole new dimension to my emotional response to watching him. It’s one thing to watch a Big Bad safely in the knowledge that no one that awful could exist in real life. It is quite another to watch him and know that someone (two someones even!) in real life did exist and did do those horrible things.

I am a big fan of Manhunter, the first film version of Red Dragon, which also features Hannibal Lecter in all his sauve and sadistic glory. His seemingly weak and naïve foil in that story is Will Graham, a former FBI profiler with the distinct honor (if you can call it that) of being the man that caught (almost accidentally) – and was almost killed by – Hannibal Lecter. Watching Silence of the Lambs again after Manhunter it is very obvious how similar the Clarice Starling and Will Graham characters are. They are both so empathetic, both so desirous of catching Big Bads because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO. They both want to SAVE LIVES and MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. And they are both incredibly damaged individuals who fall right into Hannibal’s eagerly waiting hands. He wants something to play with, something to pull apart and inspect under a mental microscope. Something he can build up and then damage even further than it already was. With all his cultured knowledge and air of politeness and love of beauty and art, as well as his taste for human flesh and his sudden outbreaks of extreme and graphic violence, he is a much scarier entity than crazy ol’ Buffalo Bill – even with Bill’s skin suit.

– Mia V.


Silence of the Lambs, 1991
Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Brooke Smith
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Written by Ted Tally (screenplay), Thomas Harris (novel)

*Watch Silence of the Lambs on ThisTV: Saturday October 11th at 5p and Friday October 31st at 7p!


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ThisTV Movie Review: Star Trek The Motion Picture

star_trek_the_motion_pictureI have a friend who calls Star Trek The Motion Picture a ‘very long tea party in space.’ Jokes on him, though, because they don’t even DRINK tea in this movie. And jokes on me, because even with the lack of tea drinking I understand the point he’s making (in his very snarky manner).

The plot for the first Star Trek movie breaks down basically like this: Some giant space anomaly type thing comes along and starts sucking up Klingons and space stations and common sense. Starfleet gets a bit freaked out when it realizes the anomaly is headed toward Earth so they decide to send the Enterprise out to intercept it. Of course Admiral James T. Kirk HAS to lead the mission, even though he’s spent the last few years working a desk at Starfleet headquarters AND the Enterprise has been almost completely rebuilt with a new Captain at the helm. Tensions rise (very slowly) as Admiral and Captain clash, Captain is re-introduced to an old love interest, friends are re-united to less than bromance level excitement, and EVENTUALLY the Big Bad at the heart of the anomaly is revealed to be someone(thing?) no one could have really expected because wow that was kind of a cool and surprising reveal.

startrek2Star Trek The Motion Picture is a big, long, strange mess. It feels nothing like an episode of the show, and nothing like any of the other movies in the franchise. The costumes don’t look right, the characters don’t really act right, and the story just doesn’t FEEL right. It isn’t that this movie is BAD, it’s that it is so WEIRD. Long scenes with people staring at things. Crazy effects and graphics just for the sake of having crazy effects and graphics (“look guys, we have a huge budget and we’re gonna spend it ALL on computer images and models and anything else we can think up!”). The inside of V-ger’s (the Big Bad’s) ship is cool and all, but it goes on FOREVER and traveling through it is just a lot of staring and making faces and staring and gasping in wonder and on and on and ON. The thing is I actually quite like the whole V-ger thing. It’s an interesting idea. Unfortunately it’s buried in all the weirdness of the rest of the movie.

And is it just me, or does it seem like the creators/costumers on Star Trek can’t ever figure out what exactly future fashion will look like? It changes almost every film and sometimes it is way more bizarre than others. In this first film in the series they’ve settled on a future/ancient Grecian … style? … I guess? Lots of short tunics and short dresses and short sandals and, yeah, lots of shortness going on. Except when people pop up in 70’s leisure suits with swanky medallions and bushy beards (Bones was into bushy beards BEFORE they were cool).

startrekAnyway, so yeah, Star Trek The Motion Picture, kind of a mess BUT like I mentioned before, the reveal of the Big Bad is pretty cool and raises all these great questions about robots and artificial intelligence and what it means to be alive and questioning existence and who may have created that existence. And while much of the cast is left in the background, miling around and getting randomly electrocuted from their work consoles, some good depth is given to Spock (quit trying to grow out of your emotions there buddy, it never works out well in the end for you) and Admiral/Captain/WhateverHeIsToday Kirk. From the second he catches sight of the Enterprise you can see in his eyes that he will never love anyone as much as he loves that ship. He’ll never fight as hard for a human relationship as he will for his right to sit in that Captain’s chair. In an incredibly d-bag-like maneuver first thing in the movie he steals the Enterprise from the guy who he told Starfleet to hand the ship to. Poor Captain Will Decker, he never really stood a chance, in his less-than-flattering gray unitard and righteous indignation. Decker wants to be Captain because that’s the next step in his Starfleet career. Kirk wants to be Captain because he’s married to his ship and doesn’t know any other way to be.

star-trek-MP_lIn addendum, some things I noticed and kept track of in this, my dozenth (is that a word? cause I’m using it whether it is or not) viewing of this film: Dr. McCoy walks on and off the bridge of the Enterprise six times for no particularly good reason (he’s the head of medical, why is he ALWAYS up on the dang bridge? doesn’t he have medical stuff to be doing?), there are six costume changes between the main characters of the film and most of those do not seem like they need to happen (though I do find the white short sleeved shirt uniform Kirk sports for a while quite fetching), and the scene that shows off the Enterprise for the first time in the movie takes a whopping five minutes. Five minutes of nothing but showing off the ship from every conceivable angle – to a rendition of the Star Trek theme done on harp, no less. Quick sidenote on that ‘five minutes,’ however, as I think that scene used to be longer. In fact I think several scenes in this film used to be longer, so maybe I had a special edition of the movie OR someone realized along the way that all the staring and gasping and watching scenes did nothing for the flow of the film and cut them down a bit.

– Mia V.

Star Trek The Motion Picture, 1979
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, Stephen Collins
Directed by Robert Wise
Written by Gene Roddenberry, Harlod Livingston

*Watch Star Trek The Motion Picture on ThisTV: Tuesday September 23rd at 7pm, Thursday September 25th at 8am, Monday September 29th at 7pm!


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ThisTV Movie Review: Star Trek II-Wrath of Khan

star-trek-ii-the-wrath-of-khan-poster-star-trek-movies-8475612-1707-2560“Jim Kirk was many things, but he was NEVER a boy scout.” Dr. Carol Marcus
“I don’t believe in a no-win scenario.” Admiral James T. Kirk

Once upon a time James T. Kirk was a captain. Then he was an admiral. Then he was a captain again. And then an admiral. And then he was dead, but not really. And how did all this ridiculous yo-yo-ing start?

Well …

Once upon a time there was a planet where a Big Bad with fabulous hair and a Latin accent was marooned by Captain Kirk and then forgotten. It left him feeling a bit … bitter.

Ok VERY bitter.

So when StarFleet returns to his crappy desert planet and starts poking around at things, this bitter Big Bad is quite ready to bring on an extreme level of vengeance to the universe.

And especially on James T. Kirk.

ST2_1The plot of Wrath of Khan basically breaks down like this: The Starship Reliant is tooling about the galaxy looking for a dead planet to do some science-y business on. Unfortunately the planet they come up with is less lifeless than it at first seems. Khan Noonien Singh, an old nemesis of Admiral Kirk’s from back in his original Captain-y run on television, has been living it up on this desolate wasteland and he’s ready to branch out and explore some new worlds. Within just a short period of time he’s taken control of the Reliant, stolen some swanky life-creating future-tech, and harassed the Enterprise and Kirk in an explosive and nearly life-taking way. Soon Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the jolly Enterprise crew must find a way to retake the future-tech, destroy Khan, and deal with some sudden and surprising family issues (surprise Kirk, it’s a boy!).

movies-star-trek-wrath-of-khanStar Trek 2: Wrath of Khan is not the first film in the Star Trek film series, but it is the first one many fans want to acknowledge exists. It’s the one with the great story, scene-chewing Big Bad, epically quotable dialogue, and wonderful, emotional, tragic ending. It’s the one that combines classic literature including Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, and King Lear with the powered-up version of a 60’s campy scifi show. It’s the one that leads into the next one, and the next one, and the next one, where Admiral Kirk will find himself demoted, promoted, imprisoned, and sucked into a time vortex-y thing.

It’s the one where for a moment, a brief little hiccup of time, James T. Kirk admits he’s old and tired and worn out around the edges and maybe ready for all of the space adventuring to be over.

It’s a tiny little moment, a bit of quiet after Khan has stolen the life-creating future-tech and (supposedly) stranded Kirk and company inside a dead planet and Kirk has screamed Khan’s name in an iconic fashion. Kirk and his lost love interest Dr. Carol Marcus are having a heart-to-heart about life, the universe, and every secret child-shaped thing, when for just a minute – just a tiny little minute – he gives up.

Khan!!!Admiral Kirk, once the most infamous captain of the most infamous ship in StarFleet, has had enough. His ship is a mess, his crew is injured or dead, he’s stranded in a planet with his ex and his surprise son, his enemy from 15 years ago is out to get him, and he’s just had a birthday reminding him that his time in this crazy galaxy is running out.

It is such a brief moment really, and within minutes he’s off and running on another hair-brained scheme to save the day. BUT. But. That doesn’t make it any less of a profound look into the heart of this great man.

James T. Kirk is a legend. A hero. A rebel and a scoundrel and a bit of a man whore.

He’s larger than life. He’s the only one to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru no-win-scenario – because he totally cheated. He’s an idea, a concept, an ascendant point to aspire to.

But he’s also a man. A man with deep weariness who has been around the universe and back and isn’t sure he has it in himself to do it all again.

– Mia V.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, PG, 1982
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Ricardo Montalban
Directed by Nicholas Meyer
Written by Gene Roddenberry, Harve Bennet

*Watch Wratch of Khan on ThisTV: Friday 9/19 11:30pm, Tuesday 9/23 at 9:30pm, and Thursday 9/25 at 10:30am!


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ThisTV Movie Review: She’s Having a Baby

she_s_having_baby“People don’t mature anymore. They stay jackasses all their lives.” Grandpa Briggs

Before Kevin Bacon obsessed over horrible serial killers. Before Elizabeth McGovern was a high lady in England. Before Alec Baldwin was funny. Before any of them were famous for being serious actors, they were just a bunch of 80’s kids starring in a John Hughes movie (because that’s what kids in the 80s did).

The plot of She’s Having a Baby basically breaks down like this: Jefferson Briggs (Kevin Bacon) is young and confused and in love and adorable. He marries his sweetheart Kristie (Elizabeth McGovern) even though his handsome but somewhat skeazy bestie (Alec Baldwin) tells him not to. Jefferson wants to write novels and be happy and spends a lot of time worrying that it isn’t happening for him the way he wants it to. He lies his way into an advertising job (makes sense), buys a house, mows his lawn, tells everyone he’ll be a novelist someday, and keeps waiting for happiness to smack him in the face. Of course that isn’t how happiness in life works, but it takes him pretty much the whole film to figure that out.

She_s_Having_A_Baby_231790sPersonally I love She’s Having a Baby. It’s a very sweet, rather witty, somewhat more grown-up version of a John Hughes story. Of course even with that slightly more grown-up vibe, it is still littered liberally with John Hughes’ film fixtures: someone drives a ridiculous sporty 80’s car, parents/grandparents are bossy and clueless, dialogue is quick and pithy and a little sarcastic, Paul Gleason makes an appearance, much of the story takes place in the middle of Everywhere, Illinois, the main character spends the majority of the time questioning everything around them, and the soundtrack is rockin’ (I dare anyone to not tear up during This Woman’s Work at the end).

It’s a solid, good-natured dramedy that proves a point without being so in-your-face about it that you want to scream and throw things at the TV. Which is good, cause my roommate would be pissed if I messed up her giant swanky LED TV. It’s not as silly as Weird Science, not as overly dramatic as Pretty in Pink, but that nice middle of the road between funny and serious (it actually swings between a fully choreographed singing dancing lawnmowing number to a very intense birthing scene) like Breakfast Club.

bacon-mcgovern-shes-havingThere are, of course, some flaws. Like the great 80’s scifi features of yesteryear such as Space Mutiny and (original) Battlestar Galactica, She’s Having a Baby is extremely dated. The hair and the shoulderpads are too poofy, the walls are too pastel-washed, and the idea that a woman can get married, give up her job, and stay home with the kids forever cause the husband is working is an idea of a bygone era. It’s a perfect little time capsule of suburban, middle class, 80’s life, wrapped up in a sentimental John Hughes-shaped bow. Even the silly end credit scene, with the characters trying to figure out a baby name and lineup of big name stars of the 1980s (Wil Wheaton! Bill Murray! Dan Ackroyd!) throwing in an idea, is so dated it hurts.

Does this detract from the overall enjoyment you can experience watching this film? I don’t particularly think so BUT I am a product of those wonderful 80s and I love watching those old movies and laughing about just how much has changed – and how much has stayed the same – since then. Sure we’ve replaced typewriters with tablet computers, sweaters and long skirts with skinny jeans and hipster vests, and lifelong careers for the jobs of the moment, but deep down we want the same things now that they wanted back then – family, friends, happiness, and a sense of our place in the grand scheme of things.

– Mia V.

She’s Having a Baby, Rated PG-13, 1988
Starring Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth McGovern, Alec Baldwin
Directed by John Hughes
Written by John Hughes

*Watch She’s Having a Baby on ThisTV: Thursday 9/11 at 3pm and Tuesday 9/30 at 9am!

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The (Semi)Ultimate Guide to Stargate SG-1 – Divide and Conquer

stargateseason4Today’s very special episode: 4.5 Divide and Conquer 

“ALRIGHT if we had known ANY of this we might’ve been able to take a few more precautions!” – Col. Jack ‘With Two Ls’ O’Neill

Plot? What plot? Oh THIS one:
Act One – The Tok’ra high mucky muck is set to have a meeting with the American president (but not Michael Douglas) and plans for his visit and safety have to be worked out. This means SG-1 has to play diplomats because they are apparently the only people in the world able to handle things like that (seriously it’s ALWAYS them). Negotiations turn extremely sour when one of the non-SG-1 SG guys suddenly goes postal and starts shooting up the place (I forgot to check for a red shirt but I’m pretty sure the dude was wearing one under his SGC jacket). Luckily none of the REALLY IMPORTANT CHARACTERS die but the stage has been set for the plot of the episode.

Act Two – Anise/Freya of the Tok’ra declares that the Goa’uld have come up with some new mind control technology that is making uber-kamikazes out of people. The rest of the Tok’ra aren’t quite sure they believe in this technology but for the sake of the storyline everyone goes along with it. Eventually O’Neill and Carter are tested for brain tampering and it is discovered that something has definitely been meddled with where their memories are concerned. The Colonel and Major are quarantined and plans continue for the big meet and greet between El Presidente and Tok’ra High Councillor (because now all of a sudden they don’t need SG-1 for this kind of stuff?).

Act Three – Jack tries to sacrifice himself for the good of everyone (but mainly Sam). Sam and Martouf have a sweet moment that should be accompanied by ominous music, Sam experiences an Ah-Ha moment in the nick of time, and Jack is saved having his brain fried but must admit to some things he doesn’t really want to admit to. He then manages to help save the President and the Tok’ra head honcho from Martouf (remember my comment about the ominous music?). All is well once again in the land of aliens and snarky jokes. Only Sam is sad because Martouf is dead, Jack is sad because he’s had to realize some things that just plain suck, and Teal’c is sad because he was almost completely left out of this episode.


Best moment(s) of this episode:
O’Neill making out with a Tok’ra. That was pretty funny. And then him explaining to Daniel Jackson later that the host body likes Jack while the ‘snake’ likes Daniel. That was funny too.

The loaded look that passed between Major Carter and Colonel O’Neill when she finds out he offered to be a guinea pig in case it might save her life later. Not nearly as funny as the kissing Tok’ra bit, but still a great moment.

And DEFINITELY the moment when Sam stops Jack from getting his brain lasered because neither one wants to admit they have THE FEELINGS for each other and the alien lie detector machine thinks that means they are hiding/lying/possessed by false thoughts.

Worst moment(s) of this episode:
Martouf’s death. I mean come on. Why kill off Sam’s potential handsome love interest if you aren’t going to let JAM (that’s my awesome new Jack/Sam ‘ship name) be a thing?


Not-so-important questions raised by this episode and never answered:
Why is Freya/Anise wearing a latex (or maybe pleather?) outfit with a bustier and some kind of weird belt/strap thing going on?

Does Daniel Jackson’s forehead ever get tired from all the brow furrowing he does?

Why did Teal’c go through a blonde goatee period?

Did Stargate have to pay The Simpsons for every use of “Doh!” that O’Neill used in the show?

What the heck is up with Major Carter’s hair?


“I didn’t leave, because I’d have rather died myself than lose Carter.” – Col. Jack ‘Never Jonathon’ O’Neill

– Mia V.

*Watch two episodes of Stargate SG-1 every Sunday from 7-9p on ThisTV! ‘Divide and Conquer’ airs Sunday 7/6 at 7pm!

ThisTV Movie Review: Short Circuit

41J58RCYG9L._SY300_I had a giant crush on Steve Guttenberg when I was younger.

Don’t judge me. He was the Man in the 80s.

Police Academy. Three Men and a Baby. Cocoon. That crazy Village People movie (watch paired with Xanadu as it was meant to be seen, and then ask yourself “why?” while curled up in the fetal position).

Steve Guttenberg was hilarious but nice and always getting one up on the buttholes of the world. He might not have been as handsome as Tom Selleck or famous as Ted Danson. But he was still adorable and I still kind of adored him.

At least until I fell madly in love with Kyle MacLachlan, but that is another story for another time.

Short Circuit is probably my favorite of the Steve Guttenberg oeuvre. Here he gets a chance to play the romantic leading man with only a robot that has achieved consciousness to rival him. It’s no wonder he ends up getting the girl in the end. How can a robot compete with all that ‘Gute’ charm, after all?

The plot basically breaks down like this: Because it’s the 80s and it is pretty much required by law, a robotics company has used a nerdy genius’s genius to create killer robots that can be shipped out to the front lines in battle scenarios. He isn’t terribly impressed by this but is going along with it anyway because plot development. A flashy twist of fate changes all that when robot Number 5 is struck by lightning and becomes self-aware. He escapes the clutches of his creators and goes on a journey of self-discovery that includes a fair amount of disco dancing, bug squashing, bad driving, Three Stooges hijinks, military shoot outs, and Ally Sheedy.

I must have seen this movie dozens of times while growing up, and I’ve seen it at least a half dozen times since reaching adulthood. It’s just so dang cute. Number Five is a messy, curious, dangerous but ultimately lovable character. Ally Sheedy is cute and maternal and willing to put up with Number Five and all the danger he brings with him. And, of course, Steve Guttenberg is adorable as an anti-social geek forced to head out into the big bad world and interact with not only a robot who is bucking his programming but a perky young lady he (almost immediately) has the hots for.

Short_Circuit_Still_08Of course as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed the Important Messages scattered throughout this little family flick. The questions of what makes us human, where the line exists between ‘alive’ and ‘not alive,’ and how responsible we are for the beings we create that see themselves as individuals are very much apparent now that I’m focusing more on the story and less on the fact that a robot is driving a food truck (very badly).

But luckily with a great soundtrack, special effects that hold up surprisingly well, computer interfaces that are totally dated, and a healthy dose of Steve Guttenberg throughout, Short Circuit is just too dang cute to be dragged down by those Important Messages.

– Mia V.

Short Circuit, Rated PG, 1986
Starring Steve Guttenberg, Ally Sheedy, Fisher Stevens, GW Bailey
Directed by John Badham
Written by SS Wilson, Brent Maddock

*Watch Short Circuit on ThisTV: Friday 6/20 at 7p, Sunday 6/22 at 11a


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ThisTV Movie Review: Flash Gordon

flashgordonWhat can I say about 1980’s Flash Gordon?

It is beautifully campy.

It is full of critically acclaimed actors taking on less than critically acclaimed roles (seriously Max Von Sydow, how do you go from The Seventh Seal and The Exorcist to Flash Gordon?).

It is covered in matte paintings and spandex and glitter and laser guns that make that fabulous ‘pew pew pew’ sound.

Queen did the soundtrack. QUEEN! And dang if the main theme song isn’t catchy as all get out.

It’s got fantasy. It’s got science fiction. It’s got a super hero with absolutely no super powers except fabulous hair and the ability to get himself in some really stupid situations.

Basically Flash Gordon is just a big ol’ beautiful mess and way more fun to watch than any movie this ridiculous should be.

still-of-sam-j-jones-in-flash-gordon-1980-flash-aaa-aahh-saviour-of-the-universe-againThe plot basically breaks down like this: Ming the Merciless is being his merciless best and attacking Earth for no other reason than he’s bored (dude, seriously, that just isn’t cool). Football star Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones) and plucky reporter Dale Arden (Melody Anderson), along with super scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov (Topol – because Fiddler on the Roof was a long time ago I guess), get sucked into Ming’s nefarious plot and the next thing you know sexy Princess Aura (Ornella Muti) is coming between the budding Flash/Dale relationship, Brian Blessed is running around in wings and leather underpants (as Prince Vultan) and Timothy Dalton is doing his best soundrel-y Robin Hood impression (as Prince Barin). Lots of yelling, running, shooting, flying, falling, fighting, and outfit changes ensue as our erstwhile heroes try to stop Ming and save the world.

Flash Gordon was released at a time when everyone seemed to be trying to get in on the Star Wars/Superman bandwagon. It was big and expensive and loud and explosive and had just about every element it could grab from the science fiction/fantasy/superhero genres stuffed inside it. The plot is all over the place as if it can’t decide where it’s going. The dialogue is awkward and clunky at best (though Max Von Sydow sure does try to make the most of his Evil Overlord speeches) and the chemistry between our titular hero and his lady love is pretty much non-existent.

Yet for all the (I’m sure unintended) silliness, this remains a film that is just so much fun to watch. Brian Blessed and Timothy Dalton chew up their scenes like no one’s business. The bright colors and shiny bedazzled costumes are almost mesmerizing in their late 70’s, early 80’s splendor. Sam J. Jones is as earnest as earnest can be while playing the part of a dumb beefcake tasked with something way out of his league.

And that Queen soundtrack is just delightful as delightful can be.

– Mia V.

Flash Gordon, Rated PG, 1980
Starring Sam J Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, Topol
Directed by Mike Hodges
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr (screenplay), Michael Alin (adaptation)

*Watch Flash Gordon on ThisTV, Tuesday 6/10 at 3p, Thursday 6/26 at 8:30a


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Music, Murders and Moustache

Murders, feuding brothers, a rogue ex-cop, it all sounds like the plot to half a billion movies at least, but this particular post is all about The January Man, a comedy/thriller (what?) starring Kevin Kline and Susan Sarandon.

MV5BMTk3NzUwNTYzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDYxODg0NA@@._V1_SX214_AL_Nick Starkey (Kevin Kline) is an ex-cop who got booted from the NYC police force after getting mixed up in a scandal and wrongfully accused. Nick is understandably frustrated with the state of law enforcement and so takes himself and his rockin’ moustache and becomes a firefighter instead. One night while leaping through a ground floor window and saving a little girl, Nick encounters his brother (Harvey Keitel), who has come to the scene of the fire to ask him to rejoin the police force.

It seems there is a serial killer on the loose, killing single women by strangling them with a blue ribbon. Hardly the calling card most cinematic serial killers leave behind but everyone’s got to have a thing. Nick’s brother Frank is the police commissioner, and after speaking with the mayor, decides that Nick is the only one who can help them catch this killer. I must point out that Frank’s conversation with the mayor (Rod Steiger), like a lot of conversations in this film, contains a lot of unnecessary yelling. People just start raising their voices for no reason. It’s odd.

Nick is hesitant but decides it is his duty as an honorable, law-abiding man with a moustache to do anything he can to stop the murderer. His one stipulation is that his artist friend Ed (Alan Rickman) be added to the police payroll as his assistant. I can’t say I understand or agree with Nick’s reasoning here, except that his neighbor is Alan Rickman so hey, who am I to judge? His first move is to question the mayor’s daughter Bernadette (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), whose friend was the latest victim of the blue ribbon strangler. Now, maybe it was his confusing history with his brother’s wife (Susan Sarandon), maybe it was his moustache, but after meeting Bernadette, Nick decides to just lay all his cards on the table and tell her that he likes her and wants to take her to a hotel. Somehow his strategy works, and they run off to get intimate in a hotel after only knowing each other a few minutes, movie time.

Luckily, Nick is able to remain mostly focused on his whole mission to catch a murdererthe-january-man and starts to notice strange patterns in the killings. Amidst a much-higher-decibel-level-than-necessary conversation with his brother, Nick sees a truck drive by with the word ‘prime’ on it, and suddenly realizes all the murders that have occurred in the last year have happened on prime number days of the months. Of course this can’t be coincidence. After much head scratching and brainstorming, he figures out when the next murder will take place and prepares to catch the killer.

When a woman is strangled a day ahead of his timeline, Nick’s theory is shot. He inspects the murder scene and discovers that the supposed serial killer jumped out the window of the apartment building of the woman he killed. After examining all the evidence, Nick is convinced that this is merely a copycat killing and that the real serial killer is still at large. This being a movie, no one listens and Nick knows he must solve this case on his own.

I’m just not sure how Nick’s brain works, because this next part really seems to be a bit of a stretch. He lays the areas in the city where all the murders took place and realizes that all the positions connected forms the constellation of Virgo. Furthermore, he uses a computer to lay out the buildings where the murders took place side by side, and marks the exact locations in linear form on blank sheet music and realizes that it makes a song, Calendar Girls. The upcoming murder Nick is sure will take place will be the 12th month of the year in sequence. He figures out what building and floor the next killing will take place on and sets a trap.

To catch Mr. Blue Ribbon, Nick decides to use his new lady friend as bait. Bernadette willingly goes along with placing herself in complete danger with a strangling madman. This really speaks volumes about Bernadette, in my opinion. Nick has a collar for her to put on that will prevent her from actually being strangled. He then places her in the apartment of the next targeted woman and waits. The killer shows up right on time and immediately attacks Bernadette. Amidst the ensuing struggle, Bernadette cries out repeatedly for Nick to bust in and save her but Nick did not think his plan through well enough. His idea, which had been to bust the door down with a sledgehammer, wasn’t properly researched, as he can’t even make a dent in the door. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the toughest, sturdiest door in all of Hollywood.

Nick finally breaks in, ends up chasing the killer all through the building before finally tackling him and taking him into custody. A yearlong murder case all wrapped up. Apparently Bernadette has no hard feelings about Nick taking his sweet time rescuing her while she was murderer bait, and the two walk off into the sunrise together.

That’s pretty much all there is to it! I found this movie to be a bit hard to believe in several instances, and fairly mediocre acting from a cast I know can do better. I do wish Alan Rickman had had more screen time though, he’s awesome. Until next time.



The January Man, 1989, Rated R
Starring: Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Directed by: Pat O’Connor
Written by: John Patrick Shanley

Watch The January Man on ThisTV!
Thursday, June 5th at 11:30 p.m. and Monday, June 16th at 11:00 p.m.

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ThisTV Movie Review: Christine

JohnCarpenterCHRISTINE_1024_3If you look at John Carpenter’s Christine one way, you might see a haunted house/object story. If you look at it another way, you might see all the trappings of a creature feature – minus the creature and plus an evil car. If you squint at it really hard, you may just see a cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t heed the warnings of family and friends. And if you just take a cynical glance at it, all you may see is a campy 80’s horror flick with comely young stars and a demonic old car out to murder people.

Christine is really all of those things (and maybe none of those things). The movie starts off on an assembly line where the titular vehicle tastes first blood. There is no ambiguity about this beautiful car’s demonic nature. And even when Arnie (Keith Gordon), one of our erstwhile teen protagonists, meets her for the first time he is told – very clearly to his face – that she was a car that was ‘born bad.’ He doesn’t listen, even when his best friend (John Stockwell) and parents make their objections to his purchase of her loudly and emphatically known. Angst of the bullying, dating, and family drama follow closely behind that purchase. As does dismemberment and death of course. Because Christine is a lady that doesn’t take an insult to herself or her new owner lying down (standing in park?).

The 80s were a prime period for Stephen King movie adaptations. Christine, along with Pet Semetary and Cujo, are some of the best of the films made from his books. The special effects are kept to a minimum (seriously all you need for a killer car is to black out the windshield so you can’t tell someone is driving her and BAM! – evil ghost car on the loose), the story follows the original text relatively closely, the soundtrack is stellar (in large part due to the integration of music in the novel) and the film takes itself only as seriously as it absolutely has to. It also takes the time to focus not just on the obvious Big Bad (that luscious red Plymouth Fury) but the deeper horror elements integral to the novel but easily overlooked on the big screen.

MMDCHRI EC002Killer cars are scary, sure, but what is scarier is the idea that you can know someone, like someone, LOVE someone, their whole life, and then turn around one day and realize they’ve become a total stranger to you. At the heart of Christine are two teenage boys who have been best friends forever, who have had each other’s backs over the years no matter what, and who find themselves torn apart the second that car comes into their lives. There are some metaphors for life here that we should all be aware of, but you can watch and figure them out for yourselves.

Is Christine the greatest horror film in the history of ever? Nope. Is it the greatest Stephen King adaptation in the history of adaptations? Not really. Is it still an excellent 80’s horror film with a sexy monster/haunted object/Big Bad and relatable characters and a brilliant soundtrack and some great moments of revenge? Totally. So is it worth your time to watch it? I’d say so.

– Mia V.

Christine, Rated R, 1983
Starring Keith Gordon, Dean Stockwell, Alexandra Paul
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Stephen King, Bill Phillips


*Watch Christine on ThisTV on Tuesday, June 3rd at 3pm!



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Apparently You Can Threaten Your History Teacher with a Crossbow with no Repercussions

Lately the films I’ve been reviewing have been of a rather serious/dramatic nature, so this week I thought I’d switch it up with a good ol’ fashioned 90’s teen movie. A slightly (or very) ridiculous plotline is the basis for this movie, but I should point out that the high school characters involved are very serious about the whole thing. Okay, let’s get started!

tingleKatie Holmes is Leigh Ann Watson, a bright high school senior with good grades who just wants to escape her small town and not end up a waitress like her mom. The poor girl has a nice modest home with her mother, clothes to wear, and food on the table. Life is clearly rough for her. Her best friend Jo Lynn (Marisa Coughlan) is also desperate to leave their small town, but only because she wants to run off to Hollywood and make it as an actress, because every movie in this era needed a character like that. Jo Lynn is the wild and crazy one always nagging at Leigh Ann to be more free and take crazy chances and such. She is also apparently in love with a fellow classmate named Luke (Barry Watson) who doesn’t seem to realize she’s alive. The character of Luke is perhaps the single least believable thing about this film—if there is a very tall handsome late-twenties-looking guy in your high school senior class, you should assume there must be something seriously wrong there. High school boys DO NOT look like this.

Leigh Ann’s only real problem in life is that her history teacher, Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren), seems to hate her and is determined to withhold an ‘A’ for a project, which will interfere with Leigh Ann getting the scholarship for college that she is after and becoming class valedictorian (because I guess there is no other way a super smart girl could get into college). When Luke finds Jo Lynn and Leigh Ann hanging out at the school after hours and hands them the answers to the history final, the three end up getting caught by Mrs. Tingle herself who pins the theft of the test on Leigh Ann and assures her that her graduation is now in jeopardy.

The two girls panic, sure that Mrs. Tingle won’t listen to reason, or believe that Luke was thetingle2 one who stole the test answers, even though he’s willing to take responsibility for what he has done. Eventually they decide to go to Mrs. Tingle’s house and try asking her nicely to not ruin their high school careers. Tingle is in no mood to hear their excuses though and somehow Luke comes to the conclusion that they have no choice but to threaten Mrs. Tingle with a homemade crossbow and tie her up in her bed while they figure out how to keep her out of school for the next week so they can graduate. Brilliant solution. The future of America right there.

Jo Lynn puts her mediocre acting talent to use and pretends to be Mrs. Tingle on the phone with the school and calls out sick. Leigh Ann and Luke go off to school so things don’t look amiss and leave Jo Lynn to watch their hostage, who uses this time to start turning the young girl against her accomplices. The other two take turns watching Mrs. Tingle as well and she keeps planting doubts with each of them about the others, until Jo Lynn is fed up with things and goes home. Leigh Ann and Luke remain and finally give in to the longing, affectionate 18-year-old looks they’ve been giving each other.  Jo Lynn of course finds out, as she suspected all along, and while she and Leigh Ann have it out over the handsome young robber of history test answers, Mrs. Tingle escapes and ties Luke up instead. She knows Leigh Ann will be back to the house to check on her and prepares a trap/arms the crossbow that’s still laying around.

In the final showdown Leigh Ann ends up running for her life through the house while Tingle chases after her with the crossbow. At the last minute, another disgruntled student charges through Mrs. Tingle’s front door and ends up taking the crossbow arrow meant for Leigh Ann. Though the girl ended up being stunned but unharmed, Mrs. Tingle believes her to be dead. The school principle shows up just in time to hear Mrs. Tingle confess that she had killed the student, trying instead to kill Leigh Ann.

And apparently that’s it. Really. Somehow the police never ask any questions, including why Tingle had been tied up in her house for several days or why the kids had a crossbow to begin with. Graduation is suddenly happening without a hitch, Leigh Ann is valedictorian like she always wanted, and her muddled friendship with Jo Lynn has been healed. All is well.

This film was meant to be somewhat of a thriller but I really only felt a few moments of thrill, those being when Helen Mirren is FIRING A CROSSBOW at some suck-up young student who’s furious because she got her first ‘B’. It wasn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a masterpiece by any means. Simply put, just another teen movie about how 18-year-olds are superior wise beings who always know better than adults. Until next time.


Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Rated PG-13, 1999
Starring Helen Mirren, Katie Holmes, Jeffrey Tambor
Directed by Kevin Williamson
Written by Kevin Williamson

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Life-or-Death Experiments in a Poorly Lit Hospital

All right, Flatliners! A 1990s ‘thriller/horror’ about what lies beyond. I can’t keep you in such suspense (especially knowing that whatever suspense you’re feeling right now is guaranteed to be more than what I felt during this film), so let’s get started.

MV5BNzgxMzQ2NzQzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzMyMjAzMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR3,0,214,317_AL_The film follows a group of medical students who have more than a passing interest in what happens after you die. I’d like to point out that this cast is pretty incredible, always fun to see some of today’s greatest talent back when they were young and not as picky about scripts (insert winking emoticon here). Kiefer Sutherland is Nelson, a young doctor who comes up with a crazy (I CANNOT stress this enough) plan to figure out what exactly happens to you when you die. Nelson doesn’t feel that potentially screwing up just his career and life is enough though and starts nagging his friends to join in. One by one he manages to convince them; Dr. Rachel Manus (Julia Roberts), David Labraccio (Kevin Bacon), Dr. Joe Hurley (William Baldwin, pre-gravelly Baldwin voice), and Dr. Randy Steckle (Oliver Platt).

Nelson’s idea isn’t just crazy…it’s insane. I seriously cannot stress how dumb this is going to sound: He wants his fellow students to put him under and induce a flatline situation where he is technically ‘dead’ for at least a minute before attempting to revive him with a crash cart and hope that he doesn’t actually die on their watch. It’s clear that his friends are skeptical; it is unclear how he ended up convincing them to do it. So, amidst a lot of complaining and mini-meltdowns, they sneak into their hospital at night to pull off the experiment.

Now this hospital seems…outdated. Creepy stone statues everywhere and extremely poor still-of-kevin-bacon,-julia-roberts,-william-baldwin,-kiefer-sutherland-and-oliver-platt-in-flatliners-(1990)-large-picturelighting. It’s like the real life version of the Beast’s castle in Beauty and the Beast; the forbidden ‘west wing’ that Belle is forbidden to visit so of course she does. Would you want to have a controlled yet hopefully temporary ‘death’ in a place like that? No, not even a tiny bit. But brave/stupid Nelson is pretty set on dying for a little bit, and so they pull it off. He experiences strange flashbacks to his childhood, focusing on a kid he had bullied. When he is brought back, Nelson can’t really explain what happened to him, only that there really is something out there in the moments after death. Intrigued, the other doctors want to try it as well. Except Randy. Randy has a pretty good head on his shoulders and decides he is just going to be an accomplice here.

When Joe experiences death he sees a series of women, most of them giving him googly eyes – it’s downright 90’s-erotic. David sees images of a young girl he also bullied during child. These boys were mean. Not cool. Especially since David and Nelson grew up to have ridiculous hair that is just asking for some mockery. Rachel is last and the men are very reluctant to let her try, especially David who seems to have a budding relationship with Ms. Rachel.  When at last she is in the temporarily dead state, Rachel sees images of her family, specifically events leading up to and immediately after her father’s suicide. While this is happening the power goes out (oh my goodness how is this place a hospital?), and she very nearly stays dead. The other doctors barely save her and everyone is pretty shaken up.

Now everyone who has flatlined has experienced hallucinations of events in their life that still haunt them. The group struggles to deal with these vivid memories, until David decides that he needs to confront the cause. He tracks down the girl he bullied as a kid and apologizes. He is a bit surprised to learn the bullying had a much more long term effect on him than her, but is relieved when the confrontation brings him peace. Joe is also struggling with his past and it is revealed that his dying visions are directly related to his secret tapings of trysts with many an unsuspecting woman. Joe is kind of a jerk. But when his fiancé suddenly dumps him after finding out about these ‘secret’ videotapes, Joe feels at peace as well. Nelson and Rachel are still having a hard time moving on from their hallucinations though. While David helps Rachel cope and start to move on, Nelson seems to lose it and finally confesses that the kid he used to bully ended up dying because of an accident Nelson caused.

Nelson decides the only way to move on from his guilt is to flatline again and apologize to the ghostly specter of the little boy he inadvertently killed. He gets a head start on his friends and races off to the poorly-lit hospital to flatline himself again, but they (like you and I) think this is really stupid and run off to stop him. However, Nelson is just too quick on his feet with these bad decisions and is flatlined by the time they arrive. His crazy plan works though; he confronts the young boy who died and apologizes and is finally at peace when his friends revive him.

So that’s pretty much it. A very quick resolution to a slightly drawn out plot. While I can appreciate this as a 90’s film and admit it might have even freaked a few people out when it was new, I wasn’t very impressed. I feel like the plot gets lost in all the sepia-toned film stock shots of creepy hospital statues. I will say that the eyewear worn by the characters was very ahead of its time; I see hipsters wearing those glasses every day. Until next time.




Flatliners, Rated R, 1990
Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Written by Peter Filardi 

Watch Flatliners on ThisTV!
Friday May 16 at 7:00 p.m.

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18th Century Colin Firth is Nothing if not a Ladies Man (Bad Haircut Aside)

Lies, scandal, bad wigs and poofy skirts. I suppose I could be talking about a good many period piece films, but I am referring to one in particular. Being a moderate fan of the 1990s (sort of) cult classic Cruel Intentions, I was curious to see what an 18th century telling of the story would be like. Obviously if you’ve seen Cruel Intentions or Dangerous Liaisons you know the basic outline of this story, but let’s dive right into my review of Valmont, shall we?

Valmont (1)Colin Firth is Valmont, an arrogant yet charming young man whom all the ladies adore. Annette Bening is Merteuil, a rich and bored young widow who has a thing for elaborate schemes and taking baths with her clothes on (maybe that was a thing back then, I don’t know). One day while chatting with her cousin Madame de Volange (Siân Phillips), Merteuil learns that Volange’s 15-year-old daughter Cecile (Fairuza Balk) is betrothed to some middle-aged guy named Gercourt (Jeffrey Jones) who happens to be Merteuil’s secret on-call lover. It’s twisted already, right?

As you may have imagined, Merteuil is not ok with her little cousin marrying him, and she is pretty annoyed with Gercourt himself since apparently he told Madame de Volange his “former” mistress is a bit nuts. Though to be fair, she is. Wait for it…

It is around this time that Merteuil decides to drag Valmont into this developing fiasco. She asks him to seduce and sleep with her little cousin Cecile so that on their wedding night Gercourt will discover that someone else beat him to Cecile’s closely-guarded virginity. Valmont is about as repulsed by this idea as I was and declines, being far more interested in seducing a married young woman by the name of Madame de Tourvel (Meg Tilly) who is hanging out at the big family house while her husband is away on business. Being a devious human being, Merteuil thinks wooing the young Tourvel is a marvelous idea, and tells Valmont that if he succeeds, he can sleep with her (which would be a reunion since they also had an affair at one time). If Valmont does not win the bet, he has to join a monastery. Not wanting to appear less brave than the crazy woman, Valmont accepts.

As if all this wasn’t bizarre enough, we soon learn that young Cecile believes herself to be in love with her music teacher Danceny (Henry Thomas). She starts secretly exchanging notes with him with the help of Merteuil (who didn’t feel she was entangled enough in everyone’s personal affairs) while Valmont puts those suave 18th century moves on Tourvel. Basically everyone is hanging out at this big country mansion together, ruining marriages and such.

Merteuil keeps helping Cecile write letters to Danceny, pretending to be a sweet cousinvalmont and all while plainly displaying her ‘crazy eyes’. She decides Valmont should help Cecile write a letter, suggesting his male viewpoint would be helpful. The letter writing session soon devolves into Valmont taking (with permission) Cecile’s virtue. This leads to much crying from Cecile as she immediately confesses her indiscretion to Merteuil. Much crying. Cecile cries very loudly.

Meanwhile, Valmont is still in pursuit of young Tourvel , and despite her misgivings, she throws caution and her skirts to the wind and gives it up. He is just too charming to resist. The next morning he tells her he just can’t change his ways and their being together was a mistake. He skips back to Merteuil, barges in on her bath time, and lets her know that he won the bet. Eager to claim his ‘prize’, Valmont is dismayed to learn that Merteuil was not serious about honoring her end of the bargain. Worse yet, he really does love Madame de Tourvel.

As we approach the end of this two hour romp of debauchery, Danceny learns that Valmont slept with Cecile and challenges him to a duel. Foolishly, Valmont gets very drunk the night before the fight, and in his very hung-over state the next morning manages to let Danceny slay him (I really don’t think Cecile is worth all this fuss). The film comes to a rather anti-climactic ending. No public revealing of Merteuil’s scheming, no music by The Verve. Cecile simply marries Gercourt while secretly carrying Valmont’s baby, Merteuil ends up alone (because she is crazy) and Madame de Tourvel says a tearful farewell at Valmont’s graveside.

And there you have it. I actually kind of enjoyed this film, despite the ridiculousness. In my opinion, Colin Firth puts on a talented performance as the mostly good-at-heart bad boy, and Annette Bening is extremely believable as a crazy person. Plus, really bad wigs and poofy skirts! Check it out. Until next time.




Valmont, 1989. Rated PG
Starring Colin Firth, Annette Bening, Meg Tilly
Directed by Milos Forman
Written by Choderlos de Laclos, Jean-Claude Carrière, Milos Forman

Watch Valmont on ThisTV!
Wednesday May 21st at 8:00 a.m.

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ThisTV Movie Review: All the World’s a Moderately Interesting Stage

I was intrigued when I decided on the movie for my next blog post. The cast sounded pretty solid, it was a fairly interesting plot, plus what a cool title: ‘Bigger Than the Sky’. How neat does that sound? After all, what is bigger than the sky? Jupiter, the sun, space…and, as it turns out, the amount of ambiguous, non-committal semi-boredom I experienced when watching this film. Now you’re intrigued too, aren’t you? Read on.

Bigger_Than_the_Sky_FilmPosterMarcus Thomas is Peter Rooker. A plain old average joe kind of guy. Honestly, he’s just boring. So boring that his girlfriend up and takes off. She leaves him a note telling him she was no idea what she wants, only what she doesn’t want – which is him. That is cold. Life is rough for Peter, in a super boring kind of way. So when he ends up auditioning for a local community theatre production of Cyrano de Bergerac, no one is more surprised than Peter himself… except maybe me. I was pretty surprised. Peter awkwardly stumbles through his audition lines and I find myself wondering if he just learned to read a few weeks ago? Yikes. Plainly outshone by all the other auditioning talent, Peter somehow manages to snag the title role of the play, Cyrano. Bravo, Peter.

Earning a spot in the production is pretty awesome, but his theatre commitments quickly begin to interfere with the rest of Peter’s life. His promotion at work is in jeopardy, one of his co-stars is an enigmatic, adorable free spirit blonde named Grace (Amy Smart) and the other, Michael (John Corbett), is constantly waking him up in the middle of the night to drink and help make home movies of Roman centurion fights with sword props.

Peter struggles with his acting as well. He can’t seem to find the passion and emotion needed to play Cyrano. The director and his co-stars grow more concerned by the day. One day at work, seemingly out of nowhere, Peter stumbles upon the talent and voice he didn’t know he had. His boss expresses concerns about his poor work performance, to which Peter suddenly raises his voice, quotes lines from the play, and promptly quits. Just like that. Still feeling the rush of walking out on his former boss, Peter arrives at the theatre only to find the director rehearsing with another actor who he learns has replaced him as Cyrano. Too little too late. But he tells the director it’s okay and asks to stay in the play with a small role, to which she agrees.

As opening night draws near things have become increasingly complicated in Peter’ssean-astin-20050223001737297 personal life. Grace continues to intrigue and eventually seduce him, but the history and tension between her and Michael is palpable. Peter’s replacement, Ken (Sean Astin), also quickly proves to be nearly impossible to work with and I find myself wanting to grab Sean out of this movie and go off adventuring in the forest (yes, I did just make that reference).

When at last opening night has arrived all the craziness comes to a head, because of course it does! Ken is nowhere to be found, Michael confesses his undying affection for Grace which she reciprocates despite kind of leading Peter on (like, a lot), and Peter himself is late. When he finally arrives he is thrown into costume and told he must perform as Cyrano after all. Reluctantly he accepts and manages to pull off a wonderful performance. The night ends splendidly, and as the actors reflect after the show, everything just seems to fall into place. Peter has found himself, Grace and Michael are all canoodle-y, and the show was a success.

While it certainly didn’t blow me away, and I admit I was kind of bored through a lot of this film, I am compelled to single out Marcus Thomas. He did an amazing job convincing everyone that he is one of the most sinfully boring people ever. And that is kind of hard to do, I think. Maybe. Or maybe I just identified with him because I feel like I am kind of boring some days too. Anyway, it’s worth a watch. Probably just the one time though. So go, watch it! Until next time.




Bigger Than The Sky, 2005, Rated PG-13
Starring Marcus Thomas, John Corbett, Amy Smart
Directed by Al Corley
Written by Rodney Patrick Vaccaro

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ThisTV Movie Review: A Desk Jockey Who Is A Cop Who Is A Double Agent Who Is Actually FBI?

Feel like snuggling up on the couch and watching a good thriller? Perhaps something with espionage, secrets, and gunfire? I’m not sure whether or not The Proposal, a 2001 spy thriller starring Jennifer Esposito and Nick Moran, would be the film you’re looking for. But if you enjoy mediocre performances, overused plot twists, and the baggy cargo pants women wore in the early 2000s, then this could be just the B movie for you! Read on…

tbWozhWJsGMV6idUmamd6jlqyzwLet’s just jump right in. Susan Reese (Jennifer Esposito) is a fresh-faced eager cop who’s been stuck doing data entry work since she joined the force. Terry Martin (Nick Moran) is an undercover FBI agent who’s been trying to bust a gang operation for the last several months. When he mentions he is married, he gets invited to a party with Mr. Evil-Gang-Guy Simon Bacig (Stephen Lang). Smooth, quick-on-his-feet Terry is not actually married though, so his boss decides to toss newbie Susan into the field with him to pose as his wife. Right away I’m impressed. As far as anyone knows Susan has been stuck in an office punching numbers since she joined the force, and suddenly she’s undercover, part of a super important secret mission to take down a gang of really bad dudes. Obviously this is a good plan.

The two undercover cops put on a show of living together, grocery shopping together, and having intense discussions as to the severity of their undercover situation. The usual faux married people stuff. But soon it becomes apparent by the extra-long stares and heavy breathing that there is attraction between Terry and Susan. Before you know it they can’t stop making out. A lot. It kind of seems to interfere with their job a little bit, actually.

Then Terry really starts to get in over his head. Aside from his fake wife starting to like him for real, his FBI handlers let him know that Simon may have an informant with the police department. Then Simon, testing Terry’s loyalty to the gang, gets him to carry out a hit on someone he wants dead. The situation is going South at a frightening rate. Terry starts to panic but Susan convinces him to stay with the assignment, dangerous though it is.

When Simon invites Terry and Susan out to his country home to hang out with his gang friends, it’s clear that Simon has figured out Terry’s cover. He tries to get him to slip up, but when Simon ends up letting them leave without any serious injuries or bullet holes Terry can’t figure out why.

As the film approaches the final twist and climactic showdown, Susan is revealed to be9UjZF3pLBRBw15utoRaROAb2idE Simon’s inside source. Dun-dun-dun! What an insane plot twist I never saw coming in a million years! Poor Terry. He is bummed. All those longing looks and excessive kisses were for nothing! He gets in a shootout with Simon and ends up diving for cover near Susan. Even though she betrayed him, Terry can’t help but shield her from bullets and debris and Simon and his guys continue shooting (several feet off target. Really, Simon?). Amidst the craziness surrounding them, Terry and Susan start making out AGAIN. Because if Simon ever does manage to aim at them, why not go out with a bang (haha)?

In the end, we discover that Susan is not actually a data entry specialist, a twisted dirty cop, or even actually on the police force. She is in fact an undercover FBI agent. Hey, just like Terry! What a small world. While the film seemed a bit clichéd and the actors’ performances underwhelming, it was far from the worst thriller I’ve seen. So…a half thumbs up? Maybe one whole thumb? I don’t know. I’ve given you the synopsis; I’ll let you decide the appropriate amount of thumbs for this movie. Until next time.




The Proposal, 2001, Rated R
Starring Jennifer Esposito, Nick Moran, Stephen Lang
Directed by Richard Gale
Written by Maurice Hurley

Watch The Proposal on ThisTV!
Friday May 16th at 5:00 p.m.

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ThisTV Movie Review: In Which There Are No Volleyballs, Ancient Riddles, or Meg Ryan

Philadelphia_113If you can’t tell by my witty blog post title (shame on you), I am referring to a Tom Hanks film; Philadelphia, to be precise. Made in 1993, this drama depicts a young lawyer who is fired from a prestigious law firm. I hadn’t actually seen this film until recently and I can’t believe it took me so long!

Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a sharp, quick-witted lawyer working at a top firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Right away we learn that Andrew is dealing with AIDS. He is managing it as best he can with the help of very supportive friends and family, but made the choice to keep it a secret from his employers.

Early into the narrative, Andrew’s condition starts to worsen. At first he takes sick days, in the hope that his condition will stabilize soon, while he works from home. In an attempt to hide some of his facial lesions, he enlists the aid of his friends to use makeup to hide the blemishes. Andrew needs more professional cosmetologist friends, for the record. They paint him a lovely shade of tequila sunrise-orange…it does not help.

When Andrew finally feels well enough to head back into work he is called in to a meeting with the partners of the firm and is suddenly out of a job. The partners try to blame it on his supposed poor work performance and such, but Andrew knows it is because he is infected with HIV. The snide looks and off-handed remarks on his “limited future” leave little to interpretation. So he goes in search of an attorney to help him win a wrongful termination lawsuit.

He is turned down several times, but eventually a reluctant young lawyer by the name of Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) accepts the case.  Joe is a bit of a homophobic and is doubtful that theirs is a winnable case at first, but he remains open-minded. As he gets to know Andrew his prejudices melt away and he realizes that not only has Andrew been discriminated against by his employers, but this is likely to be a groundbreaking case.

The trial is long and arduous, eye-opening and sometimes humiliating, but Andrew and Joetumblr_inline_mmqvsifq9d1qz4rgp don’t flinch and they don’t back down. After weeks of this the case finally goes to vote and the jury rules in favor of Andrew and Joe, but not before Andrew’s condition takes a sharp decline and he is rushed to the hospital.

Even on his deathbed, Andrew is still the determined-yet-calm young lawyer who so bravely fought for equality. His passing leaves a void in the lives of his loved ones but there is solace in the fact that he is finally at peace.

I was honestly moved by this film. It is truly an insightful look into the prejudices of the modern era, and the acting, in my humble and very unprofessional opinion, is superb. It’s true that the occasional ‘snarky’ line still found its way into my post, but I really have nothing bad to say about this film. Well, except…come on, Andrew’s friends, did you really think that orangey makeup was going to help? Until next time.



Philadelphia, 1993, Rated PG-13
Starring Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Roberta Maxwell
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Written by Ron Nyswaner

Watch Philadelphia on ThisTV!
Thursday April 17th at 7:00 p.m.

ThisTV Movie Review: The Unwavering Appeal of a Tennessee Fishing Hole

Okay, before I dive into this, I would just like to avoid any confusion by pointing out that the movie I will be reviewing today, Tennessee Waltz, was originally titled Tennessee Nights. Why not?

3777780Julian Sands and Stacey Dash star in this “thriller” about a British lawyer framed for murder while vacationing in backwoods Tennessee (…?). Wolfgang Leighton (Julian Sands) probably didn’t have a lot of career choices with a name like that, so a lawyer he became. And because he’s the fun –loving, vacation-in-the-Tennessee-hills type, he went into the music business. After wrapping up a recording/contract session with Johnny Cash, Wolfgang gets a tip on a good fishing spot in rural Tennessee and heads that direction.

After driving a ways, Wolfgang decides to stop for the night at a hotel. Unfortunately, according to Hollywood, decent hotels are hard to come by in the backwoods down south and he is forced to get a room in a questionable-looking trailer park. He discovers the woman in the room next to him; Sally Lomas (Denise Crosby) is a bit nosy and looking for a drinking buddy. This seems like a good time to employ that assertive, dominant lawyer attitude, but Wolfgang is the most soft-spoken lawyer in the history of ever and has trouble getting Sally to leave him alone.

By the time Wolfgang finally gets the message across that he’s not interested in Sally, herTennessee-Nights_jpg drinks, or her sweaty backwoods charm, it is quite late and he crashes on the bed. However, shortly after lying down, he hears a struggle in Sally’s room next door. Screams ensue, and instead of being a hero, Wolfgang loads up his car and gets the heck out of there.

It is here that the film seems to lose track of its supposed genre. Wolfgang trundles on down the road, has breakfast at a diner, and continues on his quest to find that elusive fishing spot that’s apparently worth all this fuss. Along the way he reluctantly picks up a young hitchhiker named Minnie (Stacey Dash) and finds a much more British lawyer-friendly hotel room.

Aside from the fact that he now and then notices a car following him from a distance with some unknown occupants, it seems Wolfgang is back on track. For a time, this film turns into nothing more than a quiet lawyer on a serene fishing journey with a homeless runaway. More or less what he planned on, I’m sure. But eventually the car stalkers are too much even for Wolfgang. At last he decides he must inform local police that he is being stalked and that he believes it has something to do with poor Sally.

As Wolfgang informs local police, they tell him that Sally is in fact dead, and he suddenly becomes a suspect. Both he and Minnie are tossed into jail for a few days. The local law enforcement isn’t able to hold them long though, and after gathering what they learned from the police, Wolfgang and Minnie are sure that the faceless stalkers are after money that Sally had, that they believe Wolfgang now has. Try as they might, they can’t locate the missing money. In a rather anti-climactic ending, Wolfgang is completely cleared, gives up his fishing trip and heads home. Right before his flight leaves, Wolfgang says goodbye to Minnie and shares with her his last guess as to where the money could be. As it turns out, he is finally correct, and Minnie is able to grab the money and be on her merry hitchhiking way.

This independent film was definitely out of the ordinary, but much more a soul-searching drama than thriller. Even so, I found that the plot seemed to get lost amongst the quiet talks and long drives. Who knows, maybe that is that the director was going for? Until next time.




Tennessee Waltz, 1989, rating unavailable (possible PG-13)
Starring Julian Sands, Stacey Dash, Ed Lauter
Directed by Nicolas Gessner
Written by Hans Werner Kettenbach, Laird Koenig 

Watch Tennessee Waltz on ThisTV!
Friday April 18th at 3am or(again) Monday April 21st at 11pm!

ThisTV Movie Review: Legends of Those with Poor Decision Making Skills

Where to begin? I’m sure most of you have heard of the film Legends of the Fall, a mainstream big-budget Hollywood film released in 1994. A lengthy drama about an immigrant family living in an early 20th century Montana, the film features stunning scenery (most of which is actually in Canada) and an engrossing narrative of the Ludlow family struggles. Still, I have many mixed opinions about this movie.

large_uh0sJcx3SLtclJSuKAXl6Tt6AV0The story begins with the youngest Ludlow brother Samuel (portrayed by Henry Thomas) returning home from Harvard University with his fiancée Susannah (Julia Ormond) in tow. Susannah is charmed by the family and Montana life and is quickly accepted by everyone. The Ludlow’s live on a gorgeous Montana ranch, maintained with the help of patriarch William Ludlow’s (Anthony Hopkins) old friend One Stab, and his family. As Susannah becomes acquainted with everyone, One Stab’s young daughter Isabel confides that someday she is going to marry Tristan, the middle Ludlow brother (played by Brad Pitt). Ah, foreshadowing.

Despite her engagement to Samuel, and the not-so-subtle admiration from oldest Ludlow brother Alfred (played by Aidan Quinn), Susannah finds herself drawn to the wild, untamed Tristan, who somehow looks nothing like the rest of the family. With long blonde hair and blue eyes, I am guessing he was something of a young Fabio to the local ladies (if they had any clue who Fabio was).

Even with all this family melodrama, Samuel announces to the family that he feels drawn to Legends-of-the-Fall-legends-of-the-fall-26634748-400-431aid his country as well as Britain against Germany during World War I. All three brothers end up in the war, feeling the need to keep their youngest sibling safe. However, when Samuel is killed in the line of duty, both Alfred and Tristan are overcome with guilt. While Alfred returns home to Montana, Tristan is too distraught and wanders aimlessly around the world, struggling to deal with the death of his younger brother.

When Tristan finally returns home he finds that Susannah is still there and has been waiting for him. They declare their singular affection for each other, much to Alfred’s dismay, and all is well for a time. But Tristan is still having trouble dealing with the loss of Samuel, as well as a tumultuous relationship with jealous Alfred, and he decides to leave home once again. Dismayed, Susannah promises to wait for him forever…but forever ends up being a matter of years. While Tristan is off frolicking with his inner demons she finally gives in to Alfred’s love and propositions of marriage.

At last Tristan comes home for good, only to find Susannah with Alfred. We discover that young Isabel has grown into a beautiful young woman and does indeed marry Tristan. But after a handful of tragedies he once again finds himself alone. It takes way too much death and destruction, but as the film closes the family has at last reformed their bonds and come together again. And that’s pretty much it. Nearly three hours later one must wonder if the somewhat-fulfilling end of this movie was worth all the depressing parts. I, for one, am torn. I’ll let you decide. Until next time.



Legends of the Fall, 1994, Rated R
Starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn
Directed by Edward Zwick
Written by Susan Shilliday, William D. Wittliff

Watch Legends of the Fall on ThisTV!
Be sure to check our schedule for dates and times!

ThisTV Movie Review: It’s Basically Just Rocks and Brooms and Ice, Right?

Before I dive in to what promises to be a riveting read, I would like to wish you all a happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope your weekend was full of green food and drink, jolly music, and joy! And to those of you who have saved all your partying for a Monday evening…well, good luck with that.

Men with Brooms coverNow, on to the main event…curling! That’s right; I am referring to the not-quite-classic-but-pretty-enjoyable film Men with Brooms! I must admit that my curling knowledge and understanding consists of half-heartedly watching muted daytime Olympic coverage of the sport while smirking and making sarcastic comments, but even so I began this movie with an open mind.

The story begins with a death. Against a beautiful Canadian wilderness backdrop, while fishing a granite curling stone out of a lake, we see the narrator of the film, Donald Foley (played by James B. Douglas) die immediately following a heart attack. As his family and friends gather to say goodbye, they discover that Donald’s dying wish was for his mismatched, failed curling team to come together and compete once again. As the old teammates reunite we learn about the various struggles in their personal lives that have brought them all to this point.

As the offbeat group begins to consider competition once again, their reluctant leaderMen with Brooms team Chris Cutter (played by Paul Gross) realizes the one thing they are missing is a coach. With some hesitation, he requests the aid of gruff curling expert Gordon Cutter (portrayed by Leslie Nielsen) who also happens to be Chris’ father. Despite the rocky relationship that father and son share, Gordon joins the team. Amidst several comical practice routines, the men begin to get a handle on their personal and athletic affairs and come together to enter into the big bonspiel to win the Golden Broom trophy (I know what this sounds like, but it actually has nothing to do with wizards or quidditch).

Even with a bit of a rocky (haha) start in the competition, the slightly awkward but loveable team takes everyone by surprise and conquers all, fulfilling the dying wish of their late coach and mentor Donald. Overall, Men with Brooms is a funny, heartwarming tale, and you are guaranteed to learn at least a little about curling, whether you wanted to or not. What more could you ask for in a Canadian sports comedy? Until next time.




Men with Brooms, 2002, rated R
Starring Paul Gross, Leslie Nielsen, James. B. Douglas
Directed by Paul Gross
Written by Paul Gross, John Krizanc, Paul Quarrington

Watch Men with Brooms on ThisTV!
Be sure to check our schedule for dates and times!


ThisTV Movie Review: Shady Wagers, Flat Champagne, and Baseball

Eight Men Out coverAh, baseball, the great American pastime. It almost seems un-patriotic to not enjoy the sport…and yet I must admit I’m not a fan. Not even a little. When I saw that ThisTV would be airing Eight Men Out, starring John Cusack and Christopher Lloyd, I thought to myself ‘A movie about baseball has got to have more plot than an actual baseball game; I think I’ll check it out!’

For those of you who, like me, were not alive in 1919 and don’t have a plethora of baseball trivia stored away in your brain, this film is about a sketchy plan to throw the World Series by having the White Sox deliberately lose, in exchange for making thousands of dollars in bets against themselves. Despite being a pretty awesome team, the players were getting rather frustrated with their compensation. An early scene in the film depicts the players finishing a game and finding their bonus afterwards to be a row of bottled champagne gone flat. Non-fizziness aside, you might think getting paid in booze sounds like a grand idea. But when it comes time to try and pay rent and buy groceries, I’m pretty sure things start to unravel.

So, with all this unhappiness, a plan is hatched among some of the players, and they conspire with some shady rich guys to fix the World Series. What could go wrong?

As the Series got underway, the Sox did a pretty good job of making their losing lookCast lineup legitimate, trading wins with opposing team Cincinnati Reds. But rumors abounded, and after the World Series ended with a final score of 5-3 Reds, an official trial was held to determine what exactly had transpired and who was involved. Despite their planned loss, there were some teammates who claimed to have known nothing of the scandal.

In the end, eight White Sox players were found guilty of conspiring/having knowledge of the conspiracy and banned from professional baseball. All in all, the whole scam did not go as smoothly as planned. Admittedly, this isn’t the most feel-good type of film, but I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, and the cast was solid. So there you have it, my personal and non-professional film critic opinion of Eight Men Out. Until next time.


– Jess D.


Eight Men Out, 1988, rated PG
Starring: John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, Clifton James
Directed by: John Sayles
Written by: Eliot Asinof, John Sayles


Watch Eight Men Out on ThisTV!
Friday March 21st at 5am or(again) Thursday March 27th at 9pm!

ThisTV Movie Review: Eagle Vs. Shark

eagle-vs-sharkLove can be awkward and strange and painful and funny and sometimes only makes sense to those involved in the relationship.

Never has that been made more apparent than in Eagle Vs Shark. This romantic comedy from Loren Taylor and at least one of the writers of Flight of the Conchords is not your typical rom-com fair. Jemaine Clement (Jarrod) is hilarious but not the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘romantic lead,’ and Loren Taylor (Lily) is adorable but just so strange. It’s hard to picture her acting opposite the usual handsome love interests like Matthew McConaughey or Bradley Cooper (which actually makes Jemaine kind of perfect for her).

The plot to Eagle Vs Shark basically breaks down like this: Lily is quiet and awkward and madly in love with Jarrod, who comes in to the fast food restaurant where she works in order to pick up her co-worker, who is not at all interested. Determined to make her love known, Lily crashes Jarrod’s costume party, almost defeats him at his favorite video game, and pretty much inserts herself into his life from there on. Of course the path to true love does not go smoothly for Lily and Jarrod, and soon they are traipsing across the country to exact revenge on Jarrod’s old nemesis, prove their worth to friends and family, and finally (hopefully) find what they are looking for in each other.

eagle_vs_shark3If you are a fan of Flight of the Conchords, or comedy from New Zealand, or that wonderfully hard to watch type of comedy that makes you feel uncomfortable and embarrassed for the characters, Eagle Vs Shark should be right up your alley. There are quite a few moments in this film where you find yourself desperately wanting to look away or take a bathroom break or even pretend you are asleep. They’re funny, but you feel almost bad for laughing.

There are also some amazingly sweet moments where you watch the two leads reach out to each other in quiet, emotionally stilted ways. Ways that you can find yourself relating to because they seem so realistic. We’ve all had those moments in a relationship, especially at the beginning, where we want to connect to another person but have no idea how to make it happen without some awkwardness thrown in. It isn’t huge and flashy and exciting when it finally does happen for Lily and Jarrod. But in its soft and strange simplicity it’s pretty much perfect.

– Mia V

Eagle Vs Shark, 2007, rated R
Starring Loren Taylor, Jemaine Clement, Joel Tobeck
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Loren Taylor, Taika Waititi

Watch Eagle Vs Shark on ThisTV!
Monday March 3rd at 3pm or(again) Friday March 14th at 9am.



Sergio Leone’s THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY is exactly what a western should be: gritty, violent, and full of double-crosses. There’s no shortage of quotable lines but most of the storytelling is visual; alternating between extreme long shots of the scorched world and extreme close-ups of the hard men that inhabit it. Even today, it’s stunning to look at.

The titular characters are three freelancers united in pursuit of a stash of Confederate gold. The “Ugly” is Tuco (Eli Wallach), an impulsive Mexican bandit currently on the run for God-knows-what. The “Bad” is Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), a sadistic bounty hunter with his own twisted moral code. And the “Good” is Blondie (Clint Eastwood), a mysterious gunslinger in full-on Clint Eastwood mode. He’s not much “better” or more heroic than the other two – he’s just smarter and a quicker shot. In this Mars-like world of rock and sky, that’s all that counts.

Watching these three characters trip over each other to reach the gold first is a delight, especially since they so frequently depend on each other. Tuco knows the name of the cemetery the gold is buried in. Blondie knows the grave. Angel Eyes knows neither, so he needs both men alive. Every alliance is fragile, calculated, and temporary, and there are more betrayals here than a game of RISK.

And Leone doesn’t sugarcoat it – this is a deeply cynical film populated by selfish people. While the rest of the country is fighting the Civil War, these guys are fighting for their own wealth. The ongoing war is just part of the terrain to them and later, an obstacle, in the form of a futile battle of attrition over a shabby bridge. Blondie and Tuco arguably do the right thing here – but this “right thing” conveniently aligns with their shared goals. What if it hadn’t?

It’s often darkly funny, too. Eli Wallach’s Tuco is a strangely relatable antihero, whether he’s throwing a body under a moving train or fighting off a bounty hunter from a bathtub (after which he delivers one of the film’s best lines). There’s enough oafish comedy in Wallach’s mannerisms to make him appealing, and enough cold efficiency in his gunfighting skills to make him dangerous. An early gun store robbery is mesmerizing because we never quite know what he’s capable of. All three players are well-drawn and well-performed, but Tuco is easily the most developed. Good and Bad are archetypes pulling together for the inevitable standoff, the outcome of which we have little doubt. But Ugly? We don’t know where he’ll be standing.

Or if he’ll be standing at all.

It’s entertaining as hell, and it’s a classic for good reason. Westerns just don’t get any better.

Check it out this Saturday, February 15th, at 4pm on ThisSpokane. Or see an encore on February 19th or 28th.



Review By: Taylor Adams

F/X (R, 1986)


Don’t mess with Hollywood special effects guys.

The villains in F/X make this mistake, and spend the next ninety minutes paying for it in increasingly hilarious ways. This is a clever popcorn thriller with some great payoffs.

Our hero is effects wizard Rollie Tyler (Bryan Brown), reluctantly recruited by the Justice Department to fake the assassination of DeFranco, a New York mob informant. Compared to goblins and car flips, this looks like easy money for Rollie – just a restaurant, some blood packs, and a .38 loaded with blanks.

Or… were they blanks?

Now Rollie is on the run, DeFranco is really dead, and the Justice Department is “tying off loose ends.” Hunted by corrupt spooks and a detective with an agenda of his own (Brian Dennehy), Rollie must untangle the conspiracy and learn who framed him and why. Along the way he uses every trick in his arsenal (accumulated over a long career of gory B-movies such as “I Dismember Mama”) to outwit his pursuers, and eventually, fight back.

The script is entertaining and well-paced, serving up a constant supply of problems, solutions, and even few major twists. Early on, F/X surprised me by killing of a character I assumed to be protected by plot armor, and a late double-cross involving Dennehy’s detective had me laughing. The tone walks a careful tightrope – dark enough to build real suspense, but light and goofy enough to be fun.

Dennehy is great as a Dirty Harry-esque cop, but it’s Bryan Brown’s show and he makes a charmingly unconventional action hero. He’s basically an ordinary guy with an extraordinary talent for deception, so the obligatory shootouts and fistfights are handled creatively. Being an eighties film, Rollie’s portfolio is refreshingly free of the high-tech stuff we’ve grown so accustomed to in recent movies. It’s strictly hardware – mirrors, latex masks, pyrotechnics, and good old superglue – and F/X is all the better for it as we watch Rollie jerry rig a lethal surprise with little more than the contents of his trunk.

Sure, his tactics are so immaculately timed and staged (particularly in the final thirty minutes) that he seems to possess some mild form of precognition. Many of his ruses depend on the bad guys reacting in a very precise way – and not, for example, putting an additional bullet into an apparently dead body just to be sure. But why pick at improbabilities? It’s a piece of entertainment, not a thesis paper. At one point in F/X, Rollie literally kills a man with a balloon.

A balloon.

To see how he accomplishes this, check out F/X this Saturday at 9pm on ThisTV (or catch an encore on February 25th or 27th).




Review By: Taylor Adams