Saturday, May 16, 2009

Country Justice aka Family Justice (1997)

Network: CBS
Original Air Date: January 14th, 1997

The beauty of being sick (which I have been all week) is that you sometimes, in a ill-stupor, come across movies you never knew were worth seeing. This happened to me last night when I put on Lifetime in the hopes of drifting into a nice “Television for Women” slumber. Of course, slap George C. Scott into anything and chances are I’ll want to see the whole thing anyway, but I was please with just how good Country Justice was.

George C. Scott plays Clayton Hayes, an aging miner who takes care of his loving granddaughter Emma (Rachel Leigh Cook). She begins to long to see her mother Angie (Ally Sheedy) and during one Christmas break she travels alone to her mother’s shabby mobile home in another state. There she meets Ray (Don Diamont, looking hot even with a mullet), Angie’s lover. Smitten with Emma, who looks even younger than 15 years old (creepy!), he wines and dines her and after one hazy night of sex (was it rape? Even Emma doesn’t know…), she becomes pregnant. With the help of her grandfather, Emma has the baby and after some woeful medical bills, decide Clayton should adopt the little boy so he can have medical insurance. Of course, creepy Ray – who’s been prowling around Clayton’s place for some time now - decides better of it and gets custody of a kid he really doesn’t want. Clayton takes off with the baby and with the help of his fellow trucking and mining buddies, goes on the lam.

Lifetime is where it's at!

Let’s face it, by 1997 most tele-films were nothing to write home about. Granted a few good ones came out, but the interest in small screen stand alone features was pretty sad, and no wonder, since the 90s was the age of the disease-of-the-week. It's easy to see why this movie came and went under the radar. Well, thank god then for Lifetime who has kept this film alive over the years. I have seen it advertised several times, but never had a chance to catch it until last night. Here I am, over 12 hours later and I’m still thinking about it. I mean, it’s not some incredible study on human existence or anything, but it’s thoughtful, sweet and yeah, a little sentimental – in a good way. This was one of Scott’s last films and I think a nice turn for such a strong actor who often played it a little louder. Here he’s just a grandfather. Kind, caring and oh-so-watchable. Cook is great and lovely in the part. I felt really bad for her and her situation and although I thought Ray was mega-hot, Diamont definitely got the creep vibe working. I couldn’t wait to see him just go away. Sheedy is good, but her part is small and doesn’t really figure in like the other three.

OK, so you hear the words Country Justice and George C. Scott and I know you’re thinking he’s just going to blow off Ray’s head, but he doesn’t and I’m glad this movie wasn’t some crazed hillbilly crime drama. Instead it’s about people taking care of their own and finding hope in the darkest circumstances. In other words, it’s about life. So I guess that makes Lifetime the perfect station to play this underrated drama!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Join My Facebook Group

Hey all,

I just started a Made for TV Mayhem Group over at Facebook. Come one, come all, ya'll. Sign up or the Equalizer will put a cap in your ass. Seriously.

Also, one of my fellow Retro Slashers scribes, Christian Sellers just wrote a fun article on a Small Screen Slasher called I Saw What You Did, which stars Tammy Lauren and Shawnee Smith. Stop by and check it out, yo!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Remake: The Real Scoop

Imagine the jaw-dropping horror that ensued when I read that Jerry O’Connell was going to star in the remake of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Seriously, the obnoxious actor from Joe’s Apartment is slated to play Jim Hutton’s befuddled character in the small screen classic?

Well, no, actually.

Turns out I misread that little tidbit (and it inspired the Remakes Schremakes piece) , although I was correct that they are remaking Don’t. Guillermo del Toro co-wrote and will produce and Katie Holmes will star. Granted, hiring beautiful, poised tabloid fodder would not be my first choice as Darby’s replacement, but I’m not too upset about the remake. For one, it’s a bona fide obscure classic. Second, it’s made for television and while so many remake supporters say these “re-imaginings” bring attention to smaller genre films, most remakes are of movies even non-horror fans are pretty familiar with. So, if it shines a light on the television film, one of the most oft-maligned genres, than more power to them. The story itself is already radically changed, according to IMDb:

A young girl sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend discovers creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own.

It also doesn’t hurt that this movie is being done by del Toro. Recently, I was reading the script review of the Nightmare on Elm Street remake at Retro Slashers, written by my fellow contributor BodyCounter, and he pointed out that the great remakes (The Fly and The Thing) were remade by visionaries. If del Toro isn’t a true visionary than I don’t know who is. I think if anyone can capture the claustrophobic fantastical home invasion fear of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, it’s him.

2011 is some time from now, but I’m already eagerly counting the days!

And I can’t believe I just said that, but it’s true!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cry Panic (1974)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: February 6th, 1974

Even with the upcoming release of Dark Night of the Scarecrow the fact still lingers that most of the classic television movies have yet to find a home on DVD (or even on vhs for that matter). Whether they are stuck in copyright hell or the studios just think a DVD release won't generate any revenue, there are still plenty of interesting movies available. I’m always shocked at what I can find on disc in some cheap release. Would I prefer a better transfer, extras and perhaps a little commentary from the actors or filmmakers? Sure, but beggars can’t be choosers, and I support the release of any TV film wholeheartedly.

Looks dead to me!

I was happily surprised when I picked up a copy of Cry Panic, which is featured on a two movie disc with something called The Inside Man (not a TV movie), to find a very good movie. I think it’s easy, even for big fans of television films (yeah, all three of us!) to forget that dozens, if not hundreds of television movies came out in that golden era and just because it doesn’t have Trilogy or Satan in the title, they’re still worth checking out.

She's got a secret.

And that brings me to the actual film (I know, enough already, on with the movie!). John Forsythe puts in a good turn as David Ryder, a man who’s been driving all night to a job interview. As he’s passing through a small town, he accidentally hits a man, knocking him (and his own car) into a ditch. Once he realizes he’s killed this man, Ryder high tails it to the first house to call for help. A beautiful woman (Anne Francis) answers the door, leads him to the phone and hands him a stiff drink. Back at the sight of the hit and run, Sheriff Cabot (the great Earl Holliman) has already begun pulling out the car and searching for the dead man. When no body is found, Ryder is led to the police station to make a statement and told he’s just drunk and tired and needs to rest. The mysterious woman shows up a bit later at a bar, giving Ryder the heads up that something is just not right in this idyllic little desert town. Things begin to unwind in a confused fashion as nothing Ryder claims to have happened can be substantiated. Has he gone crazy or are his conspiracy theories correct?

They've got a secret too.

Cry Panic is pretty great. There’s a little bit of Lynch-esque beats with Francis and the concept of nothing-is-what-it-seems-in-this-small-town. Of course, it never goes to the extremes Lynch does, nor does it possess any kind of nightmarish imagery, but there is definitely a feel to this film, or at least during the first half. The second half is played a bit more straight as the mystery gets ironed out, but is just as enticing as the first.

The actors in Cry Panic are great, giving every bit of dialog a second meaning. Is the postman really trying to abscond with Ryder’s mail or is he just sorting the letters? I love the way it all unfolds in front of Ryder. The pacing is phenomenal. It’s slow, yes, but deliberate and helps make the mystery interesting to us. The bits with the mysterious woman are done in just such a way that it leaves a palpable air of unease afterwards. Cry Panic is a movie that knows its medium and how to pull off small screen thrills without going to grandiose measures. It’s all about the little things here and does not disappoint.

Ryder has seen better days.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Secret Weapons (1985)

Network: NBC
Original Air Date: March 3rd, 1985

Yes, sometimes great gifts come in small packages. As small as DVD packages.

I’ve had a copy of Secret Weapons sitting around my apartment for what seems like forever, but is actually more like 3 years. I started to watch it back in the day, but for whatever reason, never made it past the halfway point. Not that it was bad or boring, I think I had to do something like a chore or work or something really stupid. And being the kind of half-assed person I am, I put the movie aside and then it got lost in the shuffle of the TV movie madness known as my life.

Cut to last week and here I am desperately looking for something to pick up the old spirits and this movie somehow surfaced to the top of my pile. I don’t know exactly how it got there except to say that I now believe divine intervention is real. So I popped it on and TV movie heaven commenced.

Secret Weapons is meant to expose the sordid underpinnings of the Russkies and the lengths they would go to ruin anyone from the US of A. Instead, it’s a really campy look at sex for sex’s sake - TV movie style. The Russians are enticing beautiful young school girls who speak good English to basically become high-priced hookers who do a little spying on the side. Once you’ve been selected, you go to a “school” where they teach to pick the locks, have you watch girls in bikinis dance, oh, and also force you to have sex. Once you’ve graduated, you can take those very valuable lessons and seduce various visiting Americans and expose them (literally!) when needed.

See what American TV makes you do:

The school is run by Colonel Victor Khudenko (James Franciscus) and the training is conducted by his very serious wife Vera (Sally Kellerman looking fab!). Two of the students are Elana Koslov (Linda Hamilton) & Tamara Reshevsky (Geena Davis). Although both graduate, it’s obvious that Elana is the one the Colonel and Vera are counting on. They need her to be successful to keep their business going. Too bad Elana has this thing called a conscience, which tends to get in the way of her missions. Sure she’s successful at busting a young rich kid (Christopher Atkins), but goes all head over heels when she’s assigned to Jack Spaulding (Hunt Block, who I loved as Lee Ramsey on One Life to Live). What will Elana do? Has watching girls in bikinis dancing turned her into a full blooded American patriot or will she remain loyal to her country and kick her man to the curb? Well, you’ll have to watch to find out…

How you say? Very cute American boy (Hunt Block)

Secret Weapons is a lot of fun. Every subtle element is completely overblown and becomes ridiculous. I mean, is it possible the Russians really thought Americans were like that? Or is it just the Red’s wishful thinking? Or rather was it just the screenwriters' wishful thinking. I mean, the 80s were awesome, but not this awesome. The scene with the bikinis and girls putting on lipstick is worth the price of the DVD.

Trust me.

The actors are all great and manage to keep the ludicrous ideas at bay. Hamilton was something else. Quite beautiful, she always had an air of confidence about her and was prefect for the part. Seriously, the Cold War would have been a lot more fun if this movie were based on any facts. Of course maybe it was, because was there a better decade to have a sexy spy than the 80s. Imagine the hair!

James Franciscus being James Franciscus but Russian. Meow.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Remakes Schremakes!

With the news that Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is being remade, I realize not even made for television movies are safe from the recycle machine in tinsel town. I informed some fellow bloggers of this and it turns out Don’t isn’t the only film being fitted for a new look. Check out some of the movies we found heading into production.

I came across these:

Shattered Innocence: Lindsay Lohan (re) recreates the days of Shauna Grant's life in adult films. Her coke dealer/boyfriend is played by Alec Baldwin, only he cleans up his act and she ends up being cast in the next Steven Soderbergh film.

This House Possessed: Tom Welling plays straight laced musician Gary Stralhorn who hires a beautiful nurse named Sheila (played by Thora Birch) and they fall in love while investigating his haunted iPhone.

Gargoyles: Daman Wayans plays the head of a gargolyle cult, who fears being exploited by Jason Lee and his daughter played by Jamie Pressley.

The Babysitter: Anna Lynne McCord plays the enigmatic new housekeeper for a family consisting of the Octomom and her 14 babies (all played by Dakota Fanning). Turns out the babysitter isn’t evil (leave that up to mom), she’s just a crappy housekeeper.

Dr. Cook’s Garden: Mathew Broderick replaces Bing Crosby as the evil doctor. Instead of “euthanizing” patients he deems immoral, he makes them look at Sarah Jessica Parker (played by Michael Bolton) in a bikini!

Aunt John at Kindertrauma knew of some others:

Home for the Holidays (2009): In ailing health, Benjamin Morgan (Joel Higgens of Silver Spoons fame) summons his four estranged adult daughters (Shannen Doherty, Tiffani Amber Thiessen, Tara Reid, and Soleil Moon Frye) home for one final Christmas to bury the hatchet. Since his daughters hold him responsible for the bizarre suicide death of their mother (Dallas & Models Inc.’s Linda Gray seen only in a flashback guzzling from a box of wine and riding a donkey perilously close to a wood chipper), the elder Morgan further alienates his daughters by telling them that his second wife (Tracey Nelson) is plotting to kill him. One by one, as Christmas draws near, the daughters are pitch forked to death, which begs the question, who is behind the killings? The second wife with a body count in her past? The town doctor (played with aplomb by Ted McGinley)?

Fallen Angel (2009): In this gender-reversed, Univision-produced, update of the 1981 Emmy Award-wining T.V. movie of the week Fallen Angel (starring Dana Hill, Richard Masur, and Melinda Dillon), twelve-year-old Juan (Ugly Betty’s Mark Indelicato) is unhappy with his widower father's relationship with a family friend. Feeling lonely, Juan readily accepts the friendship of an adult woman named Hortence (Will & Grace and Devil Times Five star Shelley Morrison) and joins the after school, interpretative dance school she owns. Soon, Hortence is convincing Juan pose for photographs that become more and more revealing. Hortence turns out to be one of those not-often seen on television lady pedophiles that works in child pornography and she plans to make Juan a "star." Will Juan's father (funny man, and we use that term loosely, Paul Rodriguez) be able to help his son before it's too late?

Michael Ferrari at Cinema du Meep informed me of these films:

A remake of Sybil with Hilary Duff: When she's mean and ugly she turns into Haylie Duff. Tina Fey plays the psychiatrist role because she wears glasses and looks smart.

Sooner or Later: Now starring Gossip Girl's Blake Lively as the 13 year old girl who falls for rock star/music teacher Justin Timberlake.

Brian’s Song: A reboot with The Rock and Chad Michael Murray, now set against the world of competitive male cheerleaders. Instead of one of them dying of cancer, this time he'll have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Duel: Now set in the future with Jason Statham playing everyman David Mann who after just getting out of jail (wrongly accused of killing his wife) is now being chased by a hybrid Mack Truck/Prius. There will be many illusions to the oil crisis. One scene involves Statham lighting oil on the road so he can later escape a fireball in his souped up Mercedes.

The Boy in the Plastic Bubble: It's about time this gets a redo. But because it's the future, he won't need a bubble anymore. He is implanted with a mechanism within that allows all germs and bacteria to be retracted and sent in any direction he chooses. The government finds out about this breakthrough technology that his renegade doctor gave him and decides to use him as a weapon to fight against the war on terror. Shia Lebouf could play the boy and Miley Cyrus as the love interest.

I could also remake Bad Ronald with all 3 of the Jonas Brothers playing him. One could be good Ronald. One can be Bad Ronald and the other can be Prince Norbit of Atrantra.

For my next screenplay, I'm going to write a remake of Dark Night Of The Scarecrow. I envision Jamie Foxx and Zach Efron in the Charles Durning and Larry Drake roles, respectively. Oh, and it's going to be set in modern day L.A.

Unkle Lancifer at Kindertrauma told me about these:

Crow-Raven Farm: Raven Simone stars as a typical housewife who slowly comes to the realization that her dream home is over run with pilgrim ghosts.

The Bermuda Debts: Connie Selleca finds herself facing bankruptcy due to the high cost of trying to raise her beloved pet, a giant turtle.

Mother May I Sleep with Dana Carvey?: Tori Spelling stars in this horror thriller about an aspiring actress who will do just about anything to star in a proposed "Church Lady" movie.

Rob Zombie’s Don’t Go to Sleep 2: Double Cheese, Hold the Obituaries: A now adult Kristen Cumming returns to the role that made her famous in this highly anticipated sequel to the 1982 television classic. Cumming, as Mary, has just been released from a mental hospital and soon finds work managing a local pizza joint. Spurred on by the ghost of her dead sister Jennifer, Mary in a misguided effort to resurrect Ruth Gordon takes pizza cutter in hand and begins to slice up both customer and employee alike.

And even across the pond it’s remakes-a-go-go, just ask Ross at Anchorwoman in Peril!:

OMG! You mean you haven't heard about the upcoming "reimagining" of Everybody's Baby: The Rescue Of Jessica McClure??! It stars Miley Cyrus as "Jess" McClure, a hot 17-year-old heiress who tragically falls down a 50ft sewer pipe whilst leaving a hip Miami nightclub. Can her hot young friends, together with some misunderstood Latino street punks, manage to rescue her (and find love) before time runs out and she misses her audition for America's Got Talent? I can't wait!!! Apparently, there's even gonna be a cameo from Sharon Osbourne... as a bag lady who shows Jess how to catch rats for food at the bottom of the hole.

Finally, my boyfriend David Cohen told me about this one:

Crawlspace: Stars Dane Cook as an extraordinarily annoying drifter who suffers flashbacks from his USO tour . He moves into the crawlspace of a home owned by a troubled elderly couple played by Bill Murray and Lily Tomlin. Their common hatred of the drifter draws the couple back together. Tentative title: Crawlspace-gasm.

*Thanks everyone for helping me out with this and special thanks to Michael for the idea and to Aunt John for the Home for the Holidays and Fallen Angel art!!! You all rule!!!