Thursday, September 18, 2014

Legend of Lizzie Borden gets a new DVD release date!

When Lizzie was announced earlier this year and then pushed back to August of 2015, many of us wondered if this incredible telefilm was ever going to see the light of day. It's been in limbo hell for, like, ever, a damn shame for such a highly regarded made for television movie. It looks like things are moving though, and the release date has been pushed up to October 7th, 2014! You can put in a preorder at Amazon here. Also, Cinedigm has this page in place for the upcoming release.

OMG, I think we're here folks! Order it now!

And, maybe now we can move on and get Liz Montgomery a Lifetime Achievement Award! Geesh!

Image courtesy of Cinedigm

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The USA World Premiere Movie Project: Maternal Instincts (1996)

This review has been posted in conjunction with the Daily Grindhouse's year long tribute to the USA World Premiere Movie.  

Maternal Instincts is notable for a couple of reasons. For one, Delta Burke (who also served as Executive Producer) goes for the gold in a fun bad girl turn. But, even cooler, if we can go back to January 17th, 1996 for a minute (or forever… I remember liking it there), Maternal Instincts marks the second night in a row that a new Delta Burke TVM premiered. The first film, A Promise to Carolyn, was a somber CBS production based on a true crime case about two sisters seeking justice for their other sister’s death (at the hands of a wicked stepmother, no less!). For Maternal Instincts, Burke takes a 180 and can be seen moving from abused stepdaughter to a desperate wannabe babymaker whose infertility sparks an interesting but flawed stalking thriller.

Burke is Tracy Horton, a barely contented housewife who is married to a not horrible but somewhat controlling husband. She spends her days working as a volunteer in the maternity ward of the local hospital, and seeking medical aid in getting pregnant. Her doctor, the serious but caring Dr. Eva Warden (Beth Broderick from Are You Lonesome Tonight) performs a typical procedure to help Tracy, but along the way discovers the patient has ovarian cancer. Tracy’s husband, Stan (Tom Mason) gives Dr. Warden consent to perform a hysterectomy, hoping it will save Tracy’s life. Unfortunately, Tracy goes from hysterectomy to hysteria, and once she finds out she’s been denied a chance to have a baby, her family, friends and the good doctor become targets of vengeance.

After "accidentally" murdering Stan things go from bad to worse when Tracy finds out Eva is pregnant (Random TV trivia note: Mason was knocked off again just two months later by Jaclyn Smith in My Very Best Friend… this guy had no luck in 1996). The bulk of the film revolves around Tracy’s crazy antics as she anonymously terrorizes the doctor. From filling Eva’s syringes with cooking oil (!) to falsifying her patients’ records, Tracy is set on ruining Eva’s life. But the desired outcome is fuzzy: Does she want Eva to miscarry or does she want the baby for herself? I guess when you are this crazy you don’t really know what you want anyway (at least that’s my pat response to my own question!), but a little guidance on her ultimate motivation would have been nice.

Maternal Instincts was met with mixed reviews when it originally aired. Honestly, it is indeed an inconsistent telefilm that has been made a little better over time, thanks to numerous reruns on Lifetime that have allowed audiences a chance to review Burke’s spirited un-Suzanne-Sugarbaker-like performance (although, if Suzanne had been cheated out of beauty pageant title, it’s not so hard to imagine a similar response).

Burke knew she was stepping out of the audience’s comfort zone, and in an interview to promote Maternal Instincts she said, “[W]hen I had this chance to play this fascinating character, of course I had to say yes… We tend to think that a maternal instinct is impelled by love. But here we have a woman whose obsessive need for a child has somehow distorted those instincts and turned her into a hate-filled human being.”

The actress dives in headfirst and keeps the whole project afloat; and, lets face it, it looks like Burke is having the time of her life slinging wrenches, pushing shopping carts into pregnant women and running down good looking architects. However, while I do enjoy watching Burke go bonkers, there is still a much better film somewhere inside of this just waiting to be born (ha! I got a million of 'em).

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The USA World Premiere Movie Project: Sins of the Mind (1997)

This review has been posted in conjunction with the Daily Grindhouse's year long tribute to the USA World Premiere Movie.  

Strange But True: Mike Farrell, who stars in Sins of the Mind, co-wrote the muddled, but oh-so-70s jiggly-tastic TV movie Ebony, Ivory and Jade (starring Bert Convy, no less!).

Not That Strange but Still True: Farrell served as an executive producer on this USA Original film.

And Totally Strange and Probably Not True: If you go by the logic of Sins of the Mind, hot girls who get hit on the head become sex addicts.

OK, I am pretty sure that last statement is patently false, but it made for a good hook, and leads me to my review of the wild, weird, and intriguing Sins of the Mind; a movie that was not even registered on my small screen lovin’ radar until recently, when Kent from the Movies About Girls podcast mentioned it on one of the shows (he told me it was must see TV). When I saw it was a USA Original I thought, “Hey, I can exploit this tidbit for my own purposes.” And here we are. So let’s get started:

There once was a good little girl named Michelle (Missy Crider). She was wholesome, a wonderful daughter and an up and coming (and employed!) artist. That all changed when she was in a car accident that nearly killed her and left her with brain damage. No worries, though. As far as the doctors can forsee, there will be a need for therapy but Michelle should make a full recovery. Which she does. Unfortunately, the doctors did not detect that the injury has made her a slave to her own impulses. At first Michelle just seems less censored and spunkier (keyword: spunk) and perhaps she is now a girl with a good appetite. But that appetite hungers for more than food and before you can say, “What’s the number to Nymphos Anonymous?” Michelle is having sex with almost any man who doesn’t seem to mind taking advantage of a girl with brain damage. And that, my friends, turns out to be a lot of guys!

But that’s (almost) not what Sins is about. Sure, there’s plenty of the tawdry to be found – Michelle becomes a prostitute for a spell and also has to attend a group therapy session full of rapists and other seamy types. The other “sin” Sins is commenting on is that of the illusory suburban family ideal. On the surface it would seem the household is merely blind to Michelle’s erratic nature, but as the film progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that they simply do not want to deal with the issues Michelle’s problems bring into the family. From raging sibling jealousy to a “live by my rules or get out of the house” discipline style, Michelle is lost in a family that desperately aches to exist inside a Norman Rockwell painting.

In fact, Rockwell is name dropped during an intense dinner scene. While Michelle and her “Uncle” Frank (Robert Pine, giving off a sleaze vibe early on) squirm in their seats after being discovered in the act by Michelle’s sister Allegra (Cyia Batten, of the Pussycat Dolls!), the parents continue to eat, drink and be merry until Allegra finally stomps off in disgust - a moment which cannot be ignored.

This would seem to be the makings of solid soap storytelling if it were not for the fact that Sins is touted as a true story. And that’s where it all goes hinky, folks. The performances are top notch, with Mike Farrell (who signed on first as a producer and had not intended to appear in the film) and Jill Clayburgh bringing home the bacon, adding depth to a fairly ludicrous situation (I was squealing “Oh my god!” at various moments - in a good way). Unfortunately, there is a lingering air of - for lack of better words - women hate. It’s not misogynistic; Sins does its best to make us feel for Michelle and even though she longs to be an object of desire, she is never treated by the film as an object of ridicule. But she is only redeemed through the love of her father, the help of a male psychiatrist (which might not seem unusual, except the female psychiatrist proves to be utterly worthless), and the understanding of other males who just happen to be sex offenders! The mother and sister are portrayed as virtuous but petty and, if you are Jill Clayburgh, sometimes drunk. Yes, we get it, in Middle America alcoholics are more acceptable than sexaholics. It is unfortunate that Michelle finally learns to circumvent the longing for male desire, but constantly turns to men for other forms of support.

That said, Sins is one damn good watch. As I said earlier, the acting is fantastic, and Crider is phenomenal in the lead role. She is childish, vampy and confused all at once. The bigger her hair gets, the worse off she is (thank you, nineties TV). Aside from a few questionable moments (hey, is that a nymphomaniac sitting on her daddy’s lap?), she remains a captivating and sympathetic character.

Sins is directed with sensitivity (and an ability to create a salacious TV-PG scenario) by the great James Frawley, that man behind The Muppet Movie, and many episodes of The Monkees. He, and screenwriter Sharon Elizabeth Doyle do a commendable job of creating a metaphor out of Michelle’s sex addiction, making it feel less sleazy than it probably should have.

And one last random fact: Sins, which aired on June 11th, 1997, ran against a rerun of Bionic Ever After?

Life is strange sometimes. Make it stranger and watch Sins.