Monday, February 8, 2016

Stir of Echoes – Be Very Afraid of Hypnotists

Runtime: 99 minutes
Release Date: September 10, 1999
Rating: R
Director: David Koepp

Tom is a working class guy living in a rental home with his son and wife, Maggie. His sister-in-law Lisa is constantly talking down to him and acting like he's a terrible guy, which just gets worse when Maggie announces that she's pregnant. At a party, Lisa decides to hypnotize him. When he comes out of it, the guests all have a good laugh at his expense but his life is changed forever.

After that night, he finds himself seeing things that aren't there. He even has a vision of his neighbor's son killing his whole family and then killing himself. Many of his visions involve a young woman with glasses. After asking around, he learns that she was a mentally challenged girl who lived in the neighborhood and went missing one night. Jake, his son, also sees the same girl and says her name is Sam.

One night, Tom and Maggie go to a football game with their friends and hire a new babysitter. They never used Debbie before, but Jake suggested her after talking to Samantha. Tom starts seeing strange things that night and quickly runs back home to find Jake gone. They learn that Debbie is actually Samantha's sister and after hearing that Jake talks to Sam and saw her in the house, she raced him to her mother. Tom quickly finds himself caught up in the mystery of what happened to Samantha and whether his neighbors and friends had anything to do with her disappearance.

When I was in college, my best friend/roommate and I were far from partiers. We would rather spend the night playing board games, watching Buffy, or hanging out in our room than hitting up a kegger. That led to use watching a lot of movies and going to the movie theater a lot. We probably saw Stir of Echoes six times in the theater, making it second only to Final Destination in terms of the films we saw in the theater. When Netflix recently added it, I was worried that I wouldn't like it as much as I did before. Thankfully my worries were wrong.

Stir of Echoes reminds us of the talents of some actors we forgot about in the past. I can't remember that last time Kevin Bacon starred in a hit film, but he does a really great job here. You really do believe that he's a man slowly losing his mind and you believe that he really does care about the fate of poor Samantha. Zachary David Cope also does a great job as Jake, which makes me wonder why he stopped acting. Credit also has to go to Kathryn Erbe – who many know from Law & Order: Criminal Intent – as Maggie and Illeana Douglas as Lisa. I'm pretty sure she hasn't been in anything I didn't like.

One minor issue is that the director starts throwing too many hints at us towards the end, which makes it easy to figure out what really did happen. I'm also not a big fan of the actual ending, mainly because I think seeing a dead girl wander off with a smile on her face is pure cheese. It does have some great jump scenes that I completely forgot about, and those scenes actually did have me jumping out of my seat.

Stir of Echoes is probably just as good if not better than you remember, and you'll definitely like it poor than the weak sequel that followed.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Fatal Honeymoon – Lifetime Strikes Again

Runtime: 99 minutes
Release Date: August 25, 2012
Rating: NR
Director: Nadia Tass

I promise that Fatal Honeymoon will be the last Lifetime movie I review for quite a long time.

Tina is a sweet, innocent, and somewhat wholesome girl who makes the mistake of crossing paths with Gabe. He's cocky, stubborn, and such a massive asshole that her friends and family wonder what she sees him and why she agreed to date him. She later introduces Gabe to her dad Tommy who instantly doesn't like him. Tina actually has to get in the middle of them when her dad calls her boyfriend out on his rude behavior.

After dating for awhile and moving in together, Tina assumes that marriage is next on the agenda, but Gabe doesn't seem to feel quite the same way. He's more concerned with living his playboy lifestyle and being the big man on campus, even though college ended. When she finally confronts him about their future, he tells her that he bought a ring and will propose when the time is right. She keeps seeing the ring sitting out and when he won't propose, she finally walks out on him.

That leads Gabe to finally pop the question and begin planning their wedding, though he really cares more about the honeymoon. He convinces her to take up diving and plan their honeymoon around a diving trip, even though being in the water scares her. Gabe also pushes her to change her life insurance policy to him. She fails to do so but asks her dad not to tell Gabe as she walks down the aisle.

To make a long story a little less long, Tina winds up dead on their honeymoon. Several witnesses come forward to say that they saw him give her a “bear hug” in the water, and a picture gets released that shows her dead body in the water. With evidence mounting against him, he turns himself into the Australian police to face charges but gets off free. Tommy devotes himself to finding evidence that will put his former son-in-law behind bars.

Fatal Honeymoon is actually a really interesting movie that will leave you angry at the end. This jackass actually got married to another woman while telling reporters how much he loved his former wife and grieved over his loss. Though American police later arrested him for murder, they threw the case out because of a lack of evidence. He's now free to roam around and live a long life while the woman he treated like shit is dead and her loved ones still grieve.

Even though this is a Lifetime movie, Harvey Keitel is really in his element. You'll understand why Tina's dad didn't trust Gabe and why he worked so hard to find evidence that the man murdered his daughter. I have to admit that I actually got a little teary eyed in the end and wound up spending way too much time online reading about the case and true story.

If you don't like Lifetime movies but have an interest in true crime like me, I would recommend watching Fatal Honeymoon and then learning more about the true case.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mimic Movie Review – Funny, Funny Shoes

Runtime: 105 minutes
Release Date: August 22, 1997
Rating: R
Director: Guillermo del Torro

A massive bug infestation led to a group of scientists and experts creating a super hybrid that mimicked a cockroach. Dr. Susan Tyler was one of the team that created the Judas bug. This new bug eliminated the cockroaches that were spreading a virus through the city and making kids sick. They made the bug in such a way that all the insects were females and would die within a few months after being released. Since this is kind of a horror movie, you know that didn't really happen.

Years later, there is a brutal murder in the city. The only witness is a young autistic boy who keeps talking about the funny shoes the man wore. Josh, a researcher working for the CDC, finds some excrement at the crime scene that looks like nothing they ever saw before. Susan is working in her office when two young boys come in with some bugs they want to sell. They also show her the remains of another bug that suspiciously looks like the Judas.

Susan and her husband/fellow researcher Peter get the kids to take them back to where they found the bug. A police officer stops them from going any further, but it does set up the introduction between Susan and Chuy, the young boy from before. To save you some time and keep my plot outline from taking over the review, let's just sum this up. Susan discovers that the Judas bug continued mimicking to survive to the point where it now can mimic the look of a human and has plans to do whatever it takes to keep surviving.

Have you ever had a movie that you remembered fondly and then saw it years later and discovered that it wasn't quite as good as your memories? That's the way I feel about Mimic. I remember seeing it with my older brother in the theater, owning a copy on video, and then later buying a copy on DVD. As my copy mysteriously went missing and Netflix was about to delete the film, I decided to go ahead and watch it.

Mimic is really a dark movie and has some good moments, but it didn't live up the hype in my head. I can't even guess how many people I recommended the movie to over the years, and I wonder how many watched it and wondered what I was smoking. It's not that it's a bad movie, but it's not really a great movie either. I think if it came out today, it would be one of those movies that made its budget back and then just kind of disappeared.

When I say it's dark, I don't just mean the subject matter either. It's literally a dark movie, so dark that I had a hard time seeing what was going on in certain scenes on a high definition television. And come on, who really buys Mira Sorvino as a research scientist? I've seen her in a lot of movies and actually really like her, but the odds of her spending all day working with bugs are about the same as me winning the Powerball. Just so you know, I did not in fact win the Powerball.

As much as I loved Mimic in the past, I just don't think it stands up as well today as it did in the past.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Whisper of Fear Movie Review – AKA Stalkers

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: April 13, 2013
Rating: NR
Director: Mark Tonderai

Time for yet another Lifetime movie review! What can I say? I had to watch what I could before they expired on Netflix.

Diane Harkin is a new to the force police officer. Though the city has a hiring freeze, she apparently had some friends in higher places who helped her land the job, which leaves her less than accepted by her peers. What they don't know is what she changed her name after leaving her abusive ex-husband and took off for a new city with their son in tow.

One of her first cases involves a woman forced off the road by her abusive husband and then shot to death. No one else takes it very serious, even when she shows them proof that the guy stalked her for years. She then takes on a case where a woman named Jane and her current boyfriend are stalked by a woman named Ivy. When Diane learns that Julia from the DA's office didn't file charges, she makes it her personal mission to help Jane in any way possible.

After Ivy continues her stalking, Diane turns to Julia for help. Since this is a Lifetime movie, Julia is currently sleeping with her married boss and believes that he'll help her set up a new task force to bring an end to stalking. He actually goes behind her back and decides to use the funds for that project in a completely new way. As Ivy's stalking intensifies, the two women decide to work together to change the current stalking laws.

As much as I usually love Lifetime movies, this one was way too ridiculous even for me. Jane has a boyfriend who she loves and then has a chance meeting in an elevator with Ivy. After her car won't start, Ivy gives her a ride home. The director tries to show that they have chemistry but it doesn't really work. We then get to see them on their third meeting where they suddenly have so much chemistry that they wind up having sex together.

Ivy somehow has access to all the boyfriend's financial records through her job, so she sets it up so that he loses the loan he already had secured for his new bakery. Can that even happen? The boyfriend goes to Jane, asks her to sign a loan for him, and then storms off and dumps her when she refuses. They then somehow wind up back together without the film explaining what the hell just happened.

It's also pretty ridiculous that this is based on a true story but changes everything about the real story. If I remember correctly, it doesn't even take place in the same city or same state. Drea de Matteo pretty much plays the same character that she does in every film: the hard and tough as nails NY/NJ chick, and Jodi Lynn O'Keefe as Julia practically sleepwalks through the whole film.

The only shining spot is Mena Suvari as Ivy. You can't see her inside the walls and staring at Jane through the vents without feeling at least a minor chill go up your back. Since the rest of the movie is pretty lame, I'm glad I watched it when I had nothing else going on.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Killing Game – Yet Another Lifetime Release

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: October 30, 2011
Rating: NR
Director: Bobby Roth

Eve Duncan is one of the top forensic sculptors working in the world today. She got into the profession after losing her daughter years ago. The serial killer who took and killed her little girl later got caught and found himself on death row, but he refused to tell anyone what he did with the child. When he dies, everyone thinks the horror is over.

That all changes when Eve begins receiving calls and letters from a man who seemingly knows everything about the killings done by the man recently killed. He then warns her that she must save a little girl currently in foster care before he kills her first. Even works with a cop, Joe, who clearly has a crush on her and a reporter by the name of Mark. Though the unknown man tells her that Jane reminded him of her little girl, the two really share nothing in common.

Eve later works with the police to identify Jane and find her current location. When her foster mother turns up dead, the police really aren't sure what to do other than put Jane in foster care. Mark finds her current location, takes Jane to her, and the two kidnap the little girl. Eve takes her to a friend's house out in the middle of nowhere until she decides what to do next. When her mystery man warns her that she needs to dig deeper, she takes that as a sign that she should go back and investigate each grave site uncovered in the past. The deeper she gets into the old cases, the closer she gets to Jane. Unfortunately, the new killer makes it clear that if she can't figure out his identity, she and Jane will be his next victims.

Laura Prepon, what the hell are you doing in a movie like this? This had to be between That 70s Show Ended and before Orange is the New Black started. Watching her in this movie though, I almost wonder how she got work after. No one in this film really does a good job. It's also confusing why they would cast Ty Olsson as Joe when the two have little to no chemistry. While there's some mild flirtation between the two of them, they later have sex and he confesses that he's in love with her, which seems to come out of nowhere. To make it even worse, she apparently loves him too, though she clearly had better chemistry with Mark.

The problem with The Killing Game is that nothing really happens. While it's terrible that he killed the foster mother, we then get stuck with multiple scenes of two characters roaming through the woods and talking without anything really happening. Something mildly interesting will occur, but then we're back to lots of talking.

Even the reveal of the real killer was fairly lame because he was only in a few scenes and didn't really have much of a role. I looked at my boyfriend as soon as the guy came on screen and said it was him. They do try to throw a red herring at us in the form of someone who actually had a major role in the movie, but the way they did it made it pretty clear that it wasn't him. The Killing Game was based on a popular book, and all I can say is that I hope the book was a lot better!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Perfect Guy – The Bad Kind of Lifetime Movie

Runtime: 100 minutes
Release Date: September 11, 2015
Rating: PG-13
Director: David M. Rosenthal

Leah is the type of classic movie character that I hate. Though she has a good job and a good life with her boyfriend of two years Dave, all she can think about is getting married and having babies. After a particular fight, she breaks up with him in the hopes of giving him time to think things over and realize that he wants to marry her and have lots of babies.

While sitting at the bar and waiting for a friend who cancels at the last minute, she meets an irritating businessman who keeps hitting on her. Enter Carter, an attractive man she met in passing at the coffee shop while still with Dave. Carter saves her from a bad situation and seemingly becomes the perfect man overnight. He treats her with respect, loves her cat, loves being around her friends and family, and even wants to make plans with her for the future.

It doesn't take long before he drops the L-bomb and wins over her father, making everyone think he is the perfect guy. That all changes when she sees his dark side. After a man keeps talking to her outside his parked car, Carter suddenly attacks and beats the man senseless. He apologizes and promises that he would never hurt her, but she's had enough and end things. That leads to Carter slowly stalking her, stealing her cat, and basically making her life a living hell while the police do little to stop him.

If you read my plot synopsis of The Perfect Guy and wondered why it sounded familiar, it's because it is literally the same plot of 900 made for television movies released in the 1980s and 1990s. When it ended, I looked at my roommate and said, “didn't we see this movie before,” which prompted him to say it was like a straight up bad Lifetime movie. It literally made no sense why this actually played in theaters and didn't wind up on television instead.

Everything about the movie is a total cliché. Leah is a busy working girl who never quite found the time to settle down and have a family, and Dave is the working guy who isn't quite ready to settle down with her. When she started whining about being 36 and still not being a wife and mother, I seriously wanted to slap her. Does that mean that she expects Dave to marry her and immediately knock her up? She was literally two seconds away from “forgetting” her birth control pills or poking holes in his condoms.

The only redeeming feature is Michael Ealy. I've seen him in a few films, most recently the remake of About Last Night, and I thought he was the standout. He's the perfect combination of sexy and suave in the beginning and dark and creepy later. You actually get why someone would fall in love with him so quickly. He even had a few moments that left me feeling a little squeamish, including when he licked her wineglass to get her lipstick off it and when he literally sucked on her toothbrush. Add to that a scene where he creepily holds her cat while remotely viewing her computer, and it's clear why he's the standout.

The Perfect Guy isn't a horrible movie, but it's one we've all seen many, many, many times before. It sadly lacked all the cheesy fun of a made for Lifetime movie too...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse – My New Favorite

Runtime: 93 minutes
Release Date: October 30, 2015
Rating: R
Director: Christopher Landon

After seeing Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, I officially have a new favorite zombie/horror/spoof movie.

Ben, Carter, and Augie are best friends and scouts together. While Augie still loves being a scout, his friends actually hate it and are ready to quit, especially Carter who thinks they'll never have a chance with the ladies if they stay in the group. Scout Leader Rogers hosts a recruitment day designed to get new boys to join up, but even though it fails miserably, he plans to take them out on a group camping night.

Unfortunately, a janitor working in a biology/medical lab nearly accidentally releases a man infected with a zombie virus. Scout Leader Rogers discovers this for himself when he encounters a zombie deer in the woods and then an infected doctor. The three guys show up for the camp out and think it's weird that he never showed up but go ahead with it anyway. Ben and Carter try to sneak out in the middle of the night after receiving an invitation from Carter's sister's boyfriend to hit up the hot senior party. Augie catches them and seems sad but lets them go.

When the two boys arrive back in town, they find everything practically deserted. Carter thinks this is the perfect time for them to sneak into the strip club, which only ends up with them getting attacked by a zombie stripper and bouncer. Luckily Denise, a hot former student who dropped out of their high school to work at the club, is there to help. The new group of three then meet up with Augie and find themselves tasked with saving the world from the zombies trying to take over their town.

Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is a movie that you really need to see for yourself. It's almost as funny as Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and exactly what I would expect to see in a movie where Tucker and Dale have to fight zombies. There were so many funny scenes that I thought it wouldn't hold up well to a second viewing. After watching it with the roommate one night, I watched it with the boyfriend the next night and loved it just as much.

Some of the more hilarious scenes revolve around Scout Leader Rogers who evidently cannot be killed. Augie accidentally sets him on fire and then leaves him tied to a chair in his basement, and he still survives. Oh, and did I mention that he has an obsession with Dolly Parton? I never thought I would see a movie with a teenage scout running from a zombie while 9 to 5 played in the background, but I'm glad I did.

The only real issue is the crush that Ben has on Carter's sister. She seems like a nice enough character but there's nothing really memorable about her. When he meets Denise and has clear chemistry with her – they even share a kiss – it's hard to see why he would waste his time trying to save a girl who basically never looked twice at him before and has a boyfriend.

Other highlights include Cloris Leachman as the neighborhood's crazy cat lady, the infection taking over her cats, and a teenage girl having a sexual encounter with a zombie. All in all, Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse was just plain good fun.