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Monthly Archives: February 2011

I’m kicking off my continuing series of Lifetime Movie reviews with a real corker: The Client List.

It’s about an ordinary woman, pushed to her limits to support her family.

Yup, prostitution.

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays a down-on-her-luck former beauty queen with two kids. Her husband is out of work (and usually off-screen). Check out the trailer:

Like all the best Lifetime Movies, The Client List’s tone is dizzyingly varied. Right off the bat, Hewitt plays the role with sassy aplomb, dispensing folksy advice to her dopey,  non-threatening Johns. JLH or Brandy, as she calls herself, quickly becomes the most popular girl at the brothel.

It should be noted that in this particular lifetime universe, men go to prostitutes not to engage in grotesque, demeaning, or pathetic sex acts with total strangers. Instead they mainly go to get advice on how to put the spice back in their marriage, discuss their family problems, and be in the background as the camera zooms in on Brandy in her lingerie.

I guess it’s implied that they have sex too, but it happens offscreen. And it doesn’t seem as gross as it should.

On second thought…

Eventually, the small-town cops put down their doughnuts and finally bust the place. When out-of-work husband finds out (in lifetime land, local news coverage of police busts of small-time brothels interrupts national sports games), the movie shifts to SERIOUS DRAMA. There are tears and arguments and we’re forced to confront the reality of Brandy’s betrayal. When Brandy meets with her Sassy Lawyer, we shift genre yet again to BROCKOVICH-STYLE COURTROOM MELODRAMA.

Just as we’re wondering how Brandy will ever pick up the pieces of her shattered life, we shift back to WACKY as the town’s shrewish wives descend on Brandy’s house, demanding a lesson in her “special skills.”

Brandy flashes a gee-shucks grin, grabs a banana and…it’s cable so we fade out!

In the epilogue we learn that Brandy’s husband is making small steps towards forgiveness. The happy ending (har har) is kind of abrupt — they hug at their kid’s birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese and…that’s it.

We’re left to wonder if they continue to make their home in the small town where Brandy’s escapades have made the national news. That could make for some awkward PTA meetings. Maybe they moved away, changed their names and started over? We’ll never know.

Overall Verdict:

An ideal Lifetime Movie from start to finish. Trashy, campy and totally engaging (Jennifer Love Hewitt’s terrible southern drawl alone is worth the price of admission). There’s even a classic big ol’ plot hole: Brandy and her husband are townies, and the brothel is located within commuting distance. Husband is a contractor/working dude, undoubtedly the type to hang around other dudes in town…and yet it takes a televised bust to clue him in?

Other Notes:

It’s only natural that our protagonist’s spiral include a quicky addiction to some sort of substance; drug panic is an important component of many Lifetime Movies. In this case, Brandy’s cocaine addiction occurs immediately after she tries it once. Oops!

Boredom Rating:

Lifetime Movies are, by their nature, not to be judged on the scale of movies that have artistic merit. But they can be rated along with other films in one category: boringness.

I recently devised a scale for movie boringness based on Million Dollar Hotel, which I determine to be the most boring film ever made. 5 Hotels would be as boring as Million Dollar Hotel, 0 would be as engaging as the Matrix, and 3 would be something like the first “Narnia” movie, which started out interesting and then got really boring halfway through.

The Client List gets 1 Hotel. I think I only checked my email twice. So it was pretty interesting.

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Despite the fact that Mr. Max is male and I’m the kind of gal that usually stays away from lady-oriented entertainment, we both love Lifetime Movie Network (LMN).

You probably think Lifetime Movies are just after-school specials for women over 30. Or that Meredith Baxter is in all of them. This is only half right. Lifetime Movies are also awesome, so awesome in fact that I’ll be reviewing choice films here on the blog. But first, an introduction to the genre:

Why You Should Love Lifetime Movies

You cannot judge a Lifetime Movie by the same criteria you would a regular movie. The best Lifetime Movies

1) are campy.

2) are a little bit trashy. (It’s no fun if they’re too Oprah-y)

3) are imported from Canada. Why does this matter? Because there’s a special joy in watching actors forced to pretend that downtown Toronto is Boston, Atlanta, Seattle or some other notably dissimilar American city. It’s not just the setting that’s Canadian: many of the actors are veterans of other exported shows —  like You Can’t Do That on Television or Are You Afraid of the Dark. Insta-nostalgia!

4) have a dada-esque approach to genre.

In normal movies, writers and directors are expected to pick a genre (such as comedy, drama, horror, etc.) and stick with it. In contrast, Lifetime Movies are free to start out as a suspense film, shift unexpectedly to slightly comedic/family and then, without warning, end as a courtroom drama. It’s like getting 3 films at once!

5) at least one WTF plot hole.

The Canadian Film Industry must run on tight deadlines and just film whatever they’ve got in the first draft because there’s always one detail in the script that makes no sense.

Example: In Intimate Stranger, a Sassy Single Mom who’s used to being on her own shacks up with an older dude, but he ‘aint no Mr. Harris. The older dude gets all controlling and weird (evidenced by a not too subtle scene where he teaches Sassy Single Mom’s milquetoasty teen son to crush butterflies to death). The big creepy reveal: older dude has been living in their attic the whole time, watching their every move. Giant Plot Hole: How do you miss that someone is living in your attic? They actually try to explain this away with the fact that Sassy Single Mom assumed the noises coming from the attic were “squirrels.” But, says the audience, Sassy Single Mom had an alarm system! But that’s explained away by the fact that older dude is good with computers and stuff and could just get around it. But — where did he take a dump? How did he get out of the house in time for work? Don’t start asking these questions — they will haunt you.

Stay tuned for some actual reviews!

Catching the last few minutes of Wheel of Fortune, I have to wonder what they’re doing to those hosts to keep them so well preserved. No joke: the very first video game I owned, on (whadyaknow?) an IBM computer, was Wheel of Fortune. Most of the gameplay consisted of watching a heavily pixelated Vanna White slowly lurch across the screen.

Call me crazy, but people featured in floppy-disc based video games probably should not still look like starlets.

It just started and right away Trebek is teasing Watson. Careful Trebek — I’m not sure we should be mocking the supercomputer that will probably end up enslaving the human race.

Yay! Ken and Brad are taking my advice and focusing their energies on getting quicker on the buzzer.

First commercial break and everybody has money. I’m feeling better already. I have to say I’m still rooting for the humans, particularly Ken. I’m an old softie like that.

Mr. Max says that IBM’s charity reminds him of when SETI was all about begging volunteers to help them look for aliens. How exactly does someone donate unused computer space for cancer research?

Episode’s Highlight: Ken Jennings says “fiddy cent.”

Final Jeopardy: Everyone got the right answer, but Ken’s answer was far and away the most awesomest. That’s a win in my book.

Observations: Mr. Max noticed that they seem to be careful not to have Watson speak too much — they didn’t have him do the introduction to the charity or remark on his victory even though this could have been easily programmed. Would it have freaked people out too much?

Parting Thoughts: How long has Eggland’s Best been sponsoring Jeopardy? I don’t think I ever think of them outside of the context of Jeopardy.

Everyone’s getting introduced, even Watson. Ken Jennings is looking chipper as ever.

Quick segue to…IBM research infomercial.

IBM Engineering Dude reminds us that, even though Watson is made of awesome, there are some concepts it (he?) is incapable of understanding. Watson will never…love?

I’m reminded of that episode of ST:TNG where Data creates a “daughter” who can experience emotions, and then she gets sick, and as she’s dying she says, “I love you, Father.”

And then Data says, “I wish I could feel it with you.”

Then his daughter says, “I will feel it for both of us…”

Sniff.

Now the IBM-sters are talking about how tricky it is to get a machine to understand natural language, and that language is kind of at the “heart” of human intelligence. Are we being set up for Watson to take a little fall?

Apparently not; Watson is again off to a strong start, with Ken and Brad left holding the phone.

What does Watson wager for a daily double? Some random ultra-specific number. That’s very Data-like. Wonder if one of the IBM Engineering Dudes is a fan.

The audience is clapping for Watson’s daily double. Hehe.

A Dana Carvey question and Watson is only 98% sure that the answer is “the church lady.” What’s the algorithm for that?

Another IBM ad. Man, they’re really gunning for…funding? Investors? Somethin’.

Toronto??????

This Watson is a tricky one.

This week, Jeopardy is pulling a major stunt and pitting top champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter against Watson, an IBM computer. Is this worth blogging? Eh, why not.

It’s starting. They’re giving us background on the tournament and players, and catching up with Ken Jennings, who is apparently impervious to the human aging process. Now they’re explaining how Watson works. Watson is a huge computer designed for the sole purpose of playing Jeopardy. Yeah, sounds like a fair fight.

Now Trebek is explaining what an avatar is to a 7PM game show audience. Wow, the Watson “avatar” sure is hideous — what’s with the mesmerizingly awful pencil scrawl animation? Now we’re going to talk about it for eight minutes.

Okay, okay, the exposition is dragging…

Finally, the game is on.

Watson is off and running. Ken and Brad look kinda bummed. The computer designed for the sole purpose of playing Jeopardy is (predictably) whupping their ass(es). This could be a painful week.

Come on Ken and Brad! Ring in before you know it, then mumble a few vocalized pauses until the answer comes to you! Stoop to techniques lesser contestants have used to their advantage!

Cutaway to a cute little video piece in which a bunch of IBM nerdstra talk about engineering the supercomputer, then giggle over beta-Watson’s weak practice games. Sheesh, all the IBM engineers look really young. I guess we’re supposed to notice that IBM is now a hip young company, like Google or something. Okay, it’s turning into a big IBM commercial.

Phew, back to the action.

Watson just chimed in after Ken Jennings with the same incorrect answer, resulting in a snide correction by Alex Trebek. Good to know that  Alex Trebek is able to insult any contestant, regardless of sentience.

Commercial.

Wait, what? Double and Final Jeopardy tomorrow? Okay kids, we’ll pick this up then.

Marketing has lied to me again.

We went to the supermarket looking for a classic don’t-give-a-shit dinner — you know, the kind you throw on the stove or microwave or whatever with all the sauce and chemicals and crap included.

We prefer, of course, to eat stuff that is prepared with some amount of care, but occasionally it’s necessary to say Fuck It and eat something that comes out of a bag.

This was picked up in the frozen section, AKA the lazy section.

See the sauce in the picture? The picture tells a story — namely, that in just a few moments you will be eating ravioli and sauce without having to do too much.

The messaging, as the marketing folks would say, is warm and friendly. It says, “It’s okay to be lazy sometimes. We’re all busy people. It’s cool. It’s organic, even.”

WRONG.

It was frozen ravioli, a cousin of refrigerated ravioli — the kind you see in every supermarket, that almost always comes in packaging that looks like this:

The reason it always comes in that packaging is that the handy window lets you see that you’re buying ravioli sans embellishment. An ingredient for a meal, and not a meal in and of itself. An ingredient that requires boiling water and the selection of an appropriate sauce, etc.

Tasty, but not a don’t-give-a-shit dinner.

So now the bag of frozen ravioli sits in my freezer, judging me.

It says, “you’re too lazy.”

The following scene transpired just moments ago in a local burrito joint.

Attempted Blogger is waiting in line to order burritos. Two 20s-ish dudes are standing behind her, wearing sweatshirts and jeans.

Dude #1: Did you see the game yesterday? Ridiculous.

Dude #2: I know, it was FUCKED…

Hey, what are you getting?

Dude #1: Uh, Buffalo Chicken Burrito, probably.

(a short conversation ensues about the Super Bowl, I tune in only intermittently to the string of football jargon interspersed with”fucked-up” and “insane.”)

Attempted Blogger finally reaches the front of the line and begins to order.

Dude #1: Oh, I dunno, I’ve been doing a lot of reading.

Dude #2: …Like for work, or what?

Dude #1: No, just like to read it, or whatever.

I’m reading this book called, “Gone with the Wind.”

Dude #2: Yeah, what’s it about?

Dude #1: Oh, like the South after the Civil War. There’s this girl, Scarlett O’hara…

I wish I could’ve hung around to hear Dude #1’s synopsis of the plot, but my burritos were up and I had to run.