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Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart 2020 * * * * Stars


"In many ways they were chameleons of pop". That is a reference to the Bee Gees. Yup, it's no wonder these three bros lasted over 40 years in the music biz.

With some timeless pop tunes and interviews from the band and peers alike, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart is one scorcher of a documentary that rather builds to euphoria. Along with Tina (reviewed in April 2021), "Broken Heart" ranks as one of my favorites of that genre. HBO Max, well you done struck again. 

The Bee Gees were essentially the sounds of my childhood. My mom and dad wore those Gibb brothers 8-tracks down to the nub. At a running time of 111 minutes, "Broken Heart" is done with HBO Films being its cinematic, grand wizard. That means the story of the Bee Gees is told cleanly, spontaneously, and with mounds of energy. The docu literally plops onto the screen and says, "look at me". 

Disco Demolition begot, what separates The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart from other docs is its swift method of no BS. "Broken Heart" gets straight to the point with monster archive footage, insightful probes, and stout editing. 

You get to see the Bee Gees involvement with the late Robert Stigwood (Saturday Night Fever soundtrack baby!). You find out that Eric Clapton had influence on their forwarding career (who knew?). You get some stuff from younger brother Andy Gibb. Finally, you get insight into how the trio of lads transitioned from Beatles-style tuneage to disco. Heck, in all my years reviewing documentaries, I've never seen one such as "Broken Heart" that felt so invigorating, so whimsical. 

Oh and the interviews are tops as well. What a cool breath of fresh air to hear Noel Gallagher, Chris Martin, Nick Jonas, and Justin Timberlake tell us how much they like to anatomize these Australian musical distance runners. In retrospect, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart is far from "broken". In fact, it's put together quite nicely. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

My Husband's Killer Girlfriend 2021 * * * Stars


"Your daughter is in great hands". Oh boy oh boy, cray cray femme alert. It's been thirty years and over 1000 pics. Lifetime wouldn't have it any other way. 

So yeah, 2021's My Husband's Killer Girlfriend is my latest write-up. It's about a nanny who frames a woman for leaving her small daughter unattended. And yup, the pseudo nanny just happens to be the lady friend of the woman's ex-hubby. Basically it takes about twenty minutes (and a misplaced edit) before you realize that My Husband's Killer Girlfriend means just what it means. 

"Killer Girlfriend" sans modern times, goes back to basics for all those Lifetime network addicts (like myself). A plot hole here, a campy moment there, some conniving, some frustration, and some all out antagonism. Finally the malefactor character doesn't get away and finally there's a little justice for the victim (or I guess victims). My Husband's Killer Girlfriend is what you call old school hard knocks in the Lifetime network canon. Hey, after watching plenty of Lifetime flicks a la hack man David DeCoteau, you got no complaints here. 

"Killer Girlfriend's" lead is played by Canadian-born Cindy Busby. The other actors are ready and game but you know she's the gamiest. Busby's Leah goes all Richard Kimble trying to accumulate evidence so the po-po can capture psycho nanny Valerie (a well cast Chelsey Reist). Heck, even Leah goes a little nutso herself. She's a mama bear with a chip and a gun and has to do whatever it takes to protect her cub.

All in all, My Husband's Killer Girlfriend is a little far-fetched and well, off-center. No matter. It's also more intricate with more complexity and savagery than most 90-minute Lifetime-rs. Watch for the ultimate, double-female slap scene at a swank restaurant. Oh Lifetime, you almost never disappoint. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Lethal Love Letter 2021 * * Stars


Lethal Love Letter (my latest review) refers to a letter from a terminally ill wife to her husband's ex-girlfriend. I mean how unusual is that? And why would the letter tell said ex-girlfriend to get back together with said husband? Huh? What? Really?

Anyway, "Lethal" has a solid foundation for a good Lifetime network dweller. The problem is that you don't feel any kind of danger for the personas as victims. Lethal Love Letter is like the Romper Room version of a Lifetime thrill ride when it could be so much more. Sure the background music is ominous and people get quasi-murdered but it's just filler as far as I'm concerned.

So yeah, you wanna see "Lethal's" bad guy (played by Rick Malambri) appear more like a JCPenney catalog model than an actual villain? Nah, I didn't think so. And do you want to invest in a flick where the protagonist's job involves working on a homemade blog called Squirrel? Uh no.

Released in June of this year, touted as a mystery whodunit, and featuring a viable running time of 92 minutes, Lethal Love Letter is about a single businesswoman (Amelia) being harassed by an unknown dolt bent on trying to ruin her life. Amelia gets evil texts and emails along with bouts of home invasion throughout. As the viewer, you eventually figure out who is stalking her about 45 minutes in. Oh and what a bland, dry, and non-threatening stalker he is. 

With editing that is choppy, characters who are wishy-washy with big shifts in tone, and a final confrontation that feels like theater play acting, Lethal Love Letter is a straight-up, mixed review for me. Heck, there was never a moment that grabbed my lapels or made me think bad thoughts. Lethal Love Letter as a cinematic lethal "weapon?" I think not.  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Belushi 2020 * * 1/2 Stars


"No one could ever learn how to do what Belushi does and no one ever will man". That's a quote from 2020's Belushi (my latest review). Even nearly 40 years after his passing, John Belushi is still remembered as a comic legend. Heck, in 2004 he got himself a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "We're on a mission from God". Indeed.

So yeah, Belushi is a docu about the shortened life of well, John Adam Belushi. Its 108-minute running time reads like a chronological wiki page, a very polished wiki page that kinda omits some stuff. Belushi spans from John's high school days in Wheaton, Illinois to his eventual death from a drug overdose circa 1982. I always thought of John Belushi as a physical comedian, a thin-aired character humorist, and a lovable goof. He appeared in legendary films like Animal House, 1941, and The Blues Brothers.

John's death at age 33 involved drug intoxication by way of a speedball shot. Belushi doesn't delve into the aftermath of John's demise and drops the fact that someone got indicted for murder after giving him said speedball (the late Cathy Smith). The docu just sort of ends truncated. Forgive me but I wanted a little more as opposed to a pseudo patch job.

Belushi's director (R. J. Cutler) uses unique archive footage along with certain fades and wipes. What he doesn't include is the faces of John's buds like Dan Aykroyd and Carrie Fisher being visually interviewed (why?). Belushi also incorporates animation and that just irks me. I mean why do documentaries need cartoons to explain certain parts in people's lives? It's just trite and a put off.

Bottom line: I'm gonna give Belushi a mixed review but it's worth seeing at least once. I viewed it on Showtime and like John's famous line in Animal House, "it don't cost nothing".

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Perfect Wedding 2021 * * * Stars


"There's so much you don't know about me". So quips a cray cray girl pal in 2021's The Perfect Wedding. Talk about the understatement of the year. 

So yeah, "Wedding" gives the Lifetime Network some needed "life" support. As something about a fiancee whose nuptials are called off because she has been set up by a jealous bestie, "Wedding" is a film that wants to overshadow its TV feel, a feel of which it can't escape. 

The Perfect Wedding has all the usual Lifetime perils. You got the murders (one by lethal injection), the fawning female obsessiveness, and the soap opera conniving. Hey, there's always a few people with screws loose in a Lifetime lifetime-r.  

The Perfect Wedding is also like a conspiracy thriller, a sort of whodunit or who-dun-did-it. It's a flick in which a traumatizing incident happens and then the protagonist has to pick up the pieces in order to get things back to normal. Tenika Davis in the lead as Lindsay, gives a seething performance that sort of separates her from everybody else. She plays detective in "Wedding" as she sifts through the events with a Snake Eyes precision. 

Bottom line: "Wedding" with its Philadelphia setting and sleuth-hound relentlessness, really wants you to take it seriously. The acting (or overacting) is standard here but hey, it's more about the story than anything else. No side character in The Perfect Wedding feels completely wasted (and there are a few of them). There's no plot detail that feels unhinged. Finally, "Wedding" moves at a decent clip as everything unfolds without too much exertion. 

"Wedding's" ending is criminality snare. It feels abrupt and non-climactic but it seems amicable considering everything damaged that came before it. I mean let's face it, in a world of over 2000 past Lifetime pics nothing ever really comes out to be "perfect". Natch. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Evil Stepmom 2021 * * 1/2 Stars


"Poor Gabi, couldn't accept her new family". Um, can you blame her? When people with hidden agendas are involved, it's a slippery slope. 

Anyway, 2021's Evil Stepmom is one of the weirdest, campiest, and most manipulative films in the Lifetime Network canon. As something about a fake mother and daughter who worm their way into a rich family (that lost its mom to a brain aneurysm). "Stepmom" has a little at stake despite holding back on the devious murders (for all the temptation, there aren't any). 

"Stepmom" revels in numerous long shots of the rich family's overly big mansion (you could play a drinking game every time they are shown). Also, the actors have extended expressions on their faces and you salivate for them to just say something (which they eventually do). The rich father is Tim and he is played with reactionary sentiment by Randy Thomas. Tim's youngest is Gabrielle and she is played with a Firstborn quality in Julia Lalonde. 

As usual with any Lifetime endeavor, Evil Stepmom has the antagonists getting away scot-free with most of the characters (including the middle-aged dad) being oblivious to the wily shenanigans that's going on. Without the Internet, smartphone pics, background checks, wide open silver foxes, and dating sites, "Stepmom's" inching conundrum would cease to exist. 

"Stepmom's" hook is soccer dads who don't get too technical in their coaching. "Stepmom's" twist is a pseudo pregnancy which is clearly a trap. "Stepmom's" locales are clearly recycled (overhead shot of a high school is featured hint, hint). Finally, Evil Stepmom would rather stick to the outlined, Lifetime coda structure than punch you in the gut (like Girl in the Basement and/or The Husband did). I'm going with a mixed review which means it's worth at least one viewing. Just don't use your "evil eye". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Hunted 2020 * * Stars


"I make movies". So says the unknown antagonist with camera in tote via 2020's Hunted. He is referred to as "The Guy" and is played by Frenchman Arieh Worthalter. Worthalter goes all out in Hunted while being believably sick. He's like the Terminator with human insides and he just keeps coming. Yup, this dog will defiantly "hunt".

In Hunted, the "hunted" refers to a woman named Eve (played by scream queen enthusiast Lucie Debay). Eve gets put through the ringer when all the girl wanted to do was get a drink at a bar. Heck, a couple mojitos later and she's the prey of a bearded perv and his sheepish lackey. They lead Eve into their car, she initially escapes, and then is pursued relentlessly in the woods.

So yeah, Hunted is a snuff film within a grindhouse within a snuff film. The actors are obviously committed, director Vincent Paronnaud (nice name) likes to style it up, and the film although tasteless, could never be considered as jejune.

Still, we've seen this setup before (remember last year's Let it Snow or the more accomplished Alone?). And despite the film using wolves and Mother Nature as metaphors, Hunted just grows laborious and strained by the hour mark. I mean who are these people? And why is this alpha dude such a remorseless whack job? And why did the victimized girl's boyfriend stop texting or calling?

Basically Hunted has no real backstory, no character background, and the flick becomes a 90-minute snapshot of wildlife crudity. I kinda liked the synth-y musical score, I like battle royals, and I've always been a sucker for certain types of genre tropes. Hunted however, misses the mark as cinematic browbeat. Just imagine Terrence Malick trying his hand at horror and that's what you'll get with Hunted.

Written by Jesse Burleson