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A while back. I dragged a group of friends and coworkers out to one of those retro movie nights at the local theater. They were showing Blade Runner, a celebrated sci-fi masterpiece that I’d never seen. A modern classic according to pretty much everyone.

It was gonna be great! And for about the first 5 minutes, with those wide expansive shots of a futuristic city and the retro synth score, it was. Then the plot started and I wanted to be out of there faster than a Beatles fan skips over ‘Yellow Submarine.’

I searched the Internet for ‘Blade Runner overrated’ and found no significant results. What?

I took to Twitter and was quickly rewarded. I can always count on Lena Webb:

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But Twitter isn’t enough – there needs to exist a full-length article that breaks down the badness of this absurdly overrated movie. So, like the kind souls on Stack Overflow who add helpful things to the Internet for no reason other than pure altruism, I’m going to make the world wide web a better place with this:

6 Reasons You Don’t Actually Need To See Blade Runner

1. It is not Logan’s Run.
10 minutes into Blade Runner, I was already confused. What’s this crap about replicants? Isn’t this the movie where they kill everybody before they turn 30? Wait – is it the one about memory implants?
Answer: Neither. Because both of those movies (Logan’s Run and Total Recall) are about actual things, and Blade Runner is about nothing. Okay, fine, I guess it’s about ‘replicants’ but we only know what those are from a one-paragraph title crawl. Mostly it’s about nothing.

Here’s the thing with sci-fi movies: the sci-fi piece is usually just a backdrop. It’s a way to present a dark mirror of our current world, or make a statement on how society might progress in the future. When you take away the spaceships and tricorders, that’s usually the point. When all you have are noir-esque visuals, there’s nothing meaningful or memorable about the movie.

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Even if she’s pretty!

2. It will ruin your crush on Han Solo.

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If you’re a lady of a certain age, you probably developed a fondness for Harrison Ford via the likable scoundrel Han Solo. Well get ready for Blade Runner to kill your crush dead because Harrison Ford is GROSS in this movie. But, you ask, “It’s Harrison Ford, the lovable carpenter! How is that possible?” I know. It’s hard to believe. But he’s a bad, bad dude.

Why? Well….it’s because…

3. The character was written by Michael Scott.

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Remember that episode of The Office where they made a movie from Michael Scott’s terrible screenplay, Threat Level Midnight? And they had Jim play the part of the villain? And Instead of being a normal take-over-the-world type villain, they had him talking about weird dark shit like humping a corpse? The joke is that Michael Scott was too dense to know that necrophilia is, like, way over the line even for a villain. That’s how it is with Blade Runner. You can tell that the writers were going for a rough around the edges anti-hero. So… they had him smoke cigarettes…

…and drink….

And murder unarmed women in cold blood.

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No, Michael Scott. Just no.

This leads me to my next point:

4. It has a problem with protagonists. And women.
So, given that Harrison Ford is AWFUL in this movie, who is the protagonist? Is there even one?

Some background: The basic plot is that Harrison Ford is a detective brought out of retirement to catch some on-the-run replicants. The replicants are like android slave type things that look human. Okay. So we’re watching the detective go about his gritty investigating, until he catches one of the replicants- a half naked, unarmed prostitute — and shoots her in the back AS SHE IS RUNNING AWAY.

This was the moment where I was 1000% sure the movie was going to completely shift: Ford would be revealed as the real villain and the innocent replicants would become our protagonists. A bait and switch — like how the dude in I am Legend was revealed to be the real bad guy at the end. So imagine my surprise when instead we stayed with Harrison Ford:

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Crackerjack prostitute murderer.

I can’t even begin to described how deeply fucked this movie is about women. At the top of the list of gross things is the skin-crawly combination of violence against women and naked dead body ogling. At the bottom is the personality-free “love interest” character. In the middle is the super rapey scene where Ford traps said love interest in his apartment and force-kisses her.
Seriously, guys. I know the outfits are cool. I know the cinematography is striking. And who doesn’t love 80s synthesizers? But – come now – this movie is totally the worst.

5.It is actually quite boring.
Look, I have a lot of patience for pacing. I like plenty of slow, arty shit. But this movie CRAWLS.

As evidence, the ‘enhance’ scene:

This scene is over 2 minutes long. And everyone in the audience can spot the stupid thing in the photo that he’s ‘enhancing’ in the first 30 seconds. Why does he have to say ‘enhance’ like 100 times? Is it purely to make this scene take as long as humanly  possible?

6. Underneath the glitz, it’s a bad Rutger Hauer movie.
In our post-film parking lot skull session, Mr. Max hit on the truth: Blade Runner is nothing but a dressed up Rutger Hauer movie. Hauer was in a whole bunch of garbage films throughout the 1980s, usually playing the same spooky bad guy in basically the same way. And this is no exception! He just does crazy eyes and hops around. And Daryl Hannah does gymnastics moves in a fight sequence. Does that sound like something that happens in an acclaimed sci-fi masterpiece? Or some straight to VHS trash?

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You know the answer.

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Everyone uses the end of the year as an excuse to come up with a list of useless rankings, and I’m no different. Except instead of analyzing things of actual merit, I’m using my time on earth to categorize the (realistically) dozens of Hallmark and Lifetime movies I’ve watched over the year. While Lifetime’s premieres have been over-hyped and annoying, I’ve still found plenty of solid Canadian-made entertainment on the Hallmark Channel (and non-prime-time Lifetime). So let’s ring in 2016 with a look back at 2015’s top movies made for TV… for ladies.

Chef romance

Back in MY day, Lifetime heroines were either marketing directors or PR executives. Well, blame Iron Chef because marketing is OUT and hospitality is the hot new lady fantasy career. Now it’s all tales of passionate pastry chefs and rebellious restaurateurs, complete with lingering shots of souffles and kitchen montages. For some reason these Chef flicks are usually romances, and the arc is almost always the same: the Chef is a workaholic kitchen magician who can make anything… except love. They either feature a single Chef’s adventures in romance, or a pair of star-crossed food artisans (Chef-on-Chef Romance?).

Case Study: The first movie I ever saw in this genre was Recipe for Love, starring Danielle Panabaker (…?) and Shawn Roberts (who eagle-eyed viewers will remember as Paige’s rapist from Degrassi The Next Generation). I should note that Shawn Roberts bears a striking resemblance to Justin Bruening, who played basically the same character (obnoxious/brilliant/but mostly obnoxious celebrated Chef) in a few episodes of Switched at Birth.

Proof.

Here, our heroine is a young upstart working in a test kitchen. Her boss gives her a special assignment: assist Bad Boy Celebrity Chef in writing his latest cookbook, which is delayed because he’s creative and therefore irritatingly irresponsible. Just like in the nearly identical plot in Switched At Birth, Bad Boy Chef initially clashes with Young Upstart, then romance blooms and they learn and grow together. Fun Fact: Bad Boy Chef’s name is “Dexter Durant” which sounds like a character name a sixth grader would come up with. Also, Mr. Max only ever refers to Shawn Roberts as “Canadian Stifler.”

I actually can’t tell them apart.

1st Related Subgenre: Baking Competition.

An offshoot of Chef Romance, this always features a baking competition as a story device. In Just Desserts, two pastry Chefs reluctantly enter a competition together so Dude Baker can save his failing family business. This checks off most of Hallmark’s possible plot points (Saving the Failing Family Business, Chef Romance, and even Conflict Free Love Triangle since Lady Baker politely dumps her boring rich fiancée for free-spirited Dude Baker). There’s lots of shots of careful sifting and chocolate tempering and flour-y, furrowed brows. I slurp these movies up because I go through British Baking Show withdrawal and this is the next best thing– like when you crave a chocolatey dessert but all you have are baking chips so you just eat those straight out of the bag.

2nd Related Subgenre: Vineyard romance.

Basically a cross between Chef Romance and City Girl Comes Home To the Country (see below). The first one that comes to mind is The Chateau Meroux, in which a woman and her best friend move to the California countryside to run her estranged father’s failing winery. There’s also the Julie Benz one – oh, wait, that doesn’t help because Julie Benz is in 6,500 Hallmark movies. To be more specific, it’s called Uncorked and stars Benz as a high-powered executive who loses her job but finds love with a widower on his picturesque winery. I don’t really remember much about that one other than Julie Benz does this annoying Jessica Rabbit voice throughout.

Conflict Free Love Triangle

This genre is pretty much confined to the Hallmark Channel and sappy Lifetime Christmas movies. It’s like a normal love triangle plot – one girl with two guys trying to win her affection – except no one ever gets mad or fights each other. Guy #1 is almost always rich and successful, but kind of bland. Guy #2 is more rustic/lumberjacky. Eventually guy #1 does something that makes us realize he’s wrong for her (In A Wish Come True, it’s that he doesn’t like puppies, booo!) and Heroine realizes she must follow her heart… right over to that guy in the plaid shirt. Guy #1 is kinda sad but then agrees that Guy #2 is the best choice and they split amicably. This happens in many, many movies – check out my review of A Wish Come True for a classic example.

City Girl Comes Home to the Country

In almost all of these, our heroine is living large in the big city with a fancy job and a handsome but indifferent boyfriend. When her family business/farm needs help, she heads back home to find out what’s really important (and usually reconnect with an old boyfriend). When Sparks Fly follows this formula so perfectly that I’m just going to quote right from Hallmark’s summary:

“Young journalist Amy Peterson (Meghan Markle) is not as happy with her big city life as she’d hoped and it’s starting to show in her work. She’s also not thrilled with her current boyfriend, Phil (Lochlyn Munro), a GQ-handsome businessman who doesn’t quite click with her. When circulation at the “Chicago Post” starts to wane, Amy’s editor sends her back to her hometown to write an article about growing up in her parents’ (Keith MacKechnie and Jacqueline Samuda) fireworks business. With the Fourth of July at hand, this human-interest story will be just what the “Chicago Post” needs.”

Most of these segue right into Conflict Free Love Triangle, with the GQ boyfriend quietly stepping aside. Another choice example is Growing the Big One, a Hallmark movie starring Shannen Doherty that would totally win that game where you come up with movie titles that seem like they’re about poop. In this one, Shannen Doherty is a radio DJ who inherits the family farm and must win a pumpkin growing contest to save it from foreclosure.

How could I NOT include this amazing picture of a huge plastic ball that DEFINITELY looks nothing like a real pumpkin.

The best part of this genre is that you can make up new movies just by mad-libbing the basic plot formula:

A high-powered (professional job title) from (United States City) must return home to (Cutesy made up small town name, a la Stars Hollow) to save the family (old timey business). Will her former flame (cowboy-ish guy’s name) give her a reason to kiss city life goodbye? Tune in at 10AM on Sunday to find out. .

Another awesome example is Christmas in the City, a Lifetime movie where the lead lady takes a high-paying job in a department store’s toy department (?) to save her family’s failing candy shop. The store’s new manager is evil and Christmas-hating, and fires the kindly old man who works as the department store Santa. It turns out that Kindly Old Man is actually the REAL Santa Claus (!!!), which leads me to my next genre….

Santa is Real

It’s disturbing how many Lifetime movies contain a subplot in which Santa Claus is real. I guess it’s a handy deus ex machina for when you don’t know how to end something. The family bookstore is about to be sold? It’s okay, that guy on the park bench with the beard is actually Santa and he winked and now sales are up! Christmas on the Bayou sadly features Ed Asner in the role of Real Santa Claus, and the main arc is resolved when he grants a little boy’s wish for it to snow in the deep south (which might be the dumbest use of a wish ever). We watched this one over Christmas and had to turn it off when the kid actor started singing in a really irritating way so I missed the last scene or two.

Suddenly Supernatural

Along the same lines as ‘Santa is Real’, this Lifetime/Hallmark genre is peppered into lots of their “regular” movies. You’re watching some mild chick flick romance when BOOM someone’s birthday wishes start coming true, or the protagonist finds a magic bottle of wine that turns her into a teenager. Actual speculative fiction understands that it has to flesh out a believable fantasy world — as in, you can’t just add unexpected wizards to a regular courtroom drama and have people “get it.” But on Lifetime or Hallmark (or the Disney Channel) they feel free to throw that crap in with no warning whatsoever.

Related Subgenre: Secret Prince/Princess.

I touched on this in my review of A Royal Christmas. You would think this kind of thing was a one-off, but there’s actually an entirely different Hallmark movie that’s ALSO about imaginary Kings and Princes. In A Princess for Christmas, a woman learns about her secretly royal extended family when she becomes the guardian of her orphaned niece and nephew. Production Note: The royal stuff must sound as fake as possible (“Cordinia”, “Duke of Castlebury Hall”, etc.)

Pathetic Exploitation of Nostalgia

The most disappointing of all the new Lifetime genres, these marketing extravaganzas coldly exploit 30-something nostalgia for trash entertainment. I’ve been sitting out the more recent premieres, but you can find our original reviews of the over-hyped Saved By The Bell Movie here:

The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story and Why Lifetime Movies Should Not “Premiere”

When the Bell goes Off: Lifetime’s worst yet

Impostor Family

There’s probably some Freudian basis for these, but basically they are what they sound like: someone shows up claiming to be a long-lost daughter/sister/mother and we spend the rest of the movie trying to figure who’s going to be pushing who down the stairs. A Wife’s Nightmare features a long-lost daughter as the fake family member. At the end of these the nuclear family is restored, unless Dad was in on it or mom was insane and the whole thing was a delusional fantasy.

Internet Panic

It’s a classic theme that’s been going strong for over a decade,  but it’s worth another mention here. There are several films in “The (insert noun) S/He (Blank) Online” genre, but The Bride He Bought Online was probably the best of 2015. In it, a group of popular teen girls seduce a computer nerd online in order to extort cash. It was kind of weird that they made him a computer programmer, because Lifetime clearly has no idea what that means:

But in the end, I couldn’t really argue with their theme:

It’s an understatement to say that Behind The Candelabra is a Lifetime Movie. It’s more than that. It’s a Lifetime Movie as produced by HBO and directed by Steven Soderbergh. It’s a Lifetime Movie that dreams of being the cinematic cousin of Boogie Nights or, at least, Gia. And it almost succeeds, owing mainly to heavy mood lighting and the generous use of silent steady-cam shots. But when that quiet breaks with a line of dialogue like this:

Liberace: I have an eye for new and refreshing talent.
Scott (bitterly): You have an eye for new and refreshing dick.

BOOM – it’s like someone blew a fart in an empty room.

Behind The Candelabra is, in the words of Mr. Max, a bizarre, inexplicable movie. Instead of treading the standard biopic territory of fame/career arc, it focuses mainly on the creepy courtship of Liberace and his employee manservant child stand-in lover paid gigolo boyfriend significant other, Scott.

Their relationship begins when Liberace hires the foster teen — played with cornfed simplicity by Matt Damon – to be his “personal secretary” and chauffeur his enormous fur performance coat (which sounds like a double entendre, but actually isn’t).

Also, to look like a lost member of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Scott moves into the big mansion with Liberace and the rest of his Entourage of Insanity and assumes the role of head-of-household boyfriend prized Pomeranian. He spends his days poolside, making use of his new collection of bedazzled speedos.

Guess what’s also part of Scott’s job description? SEX.

Good thing Scott’s easygoing because it turns out that Liberace has a yen for some pretty freaky stuff. Because it’s HBO and they can’t help themselves, we get lots of scenes involving the singer’s porn addiction, patronage of sex clubs, and penis implants. Mom, if you’re reading this feel free to stop any time.

It’s not all about sex – there’s shopping and jewelry, too (thanks, montage). Liberace even promises to eventually adopt parent-less Scott, which is wrong on too many levels to explain.

Fretting about his aging face, Liberace decides it’s time for a consult with his personal plastic surgeon (played by Rob Lowe wearing a Kato Kaelin mask).


I bet Kato would have been in this if someone had asked.

Scott tags along for moral support and Liberace decides he’d like to front the cash for a new face for him, too. And guess what it should resemble?

A YOUNG LIBERACE, OF COURSE.

I think we can all agree that surgically twinning your romantic partner is unacceptably creepy. Scott recognizes this but is unable to say no to his powerful sugar daddy, so they both go under the knife.

At this point, Mr. Max said, “I think I need a ‘making of’ featurette on the prosthetics used in the making of this film.”.

However, even new faces can’t save the relationship. Horndog Liberace gets a case of the wandering eye and gives Scott the bogus “our relationship is strong enough for us to see other people” chat. They fight a lot, mostly over jealousy and Scott’s addiction to the cocaine “energy pills” the plastic surgeon prescribed for weight loss.

During an argument, Scott voices regret over giving up his dream of being a veterinarian to become Liberace’s kept boy, to which Liberace replies,

“Want to help animals? Clean up some of this dog shit.”

I don’t know about the real Liberace, but as played by Michael Douglas he seems more than a little sociopathic. “Hiring” a boyfriend and forcing him to have plastic surgery to look like you? Taking advantage of troubled youth?

Pretty cold, bro.

Liberace eventually finds other guys to hang with and kicks Scott to the curb. Scott refuses to vacate their palatial home, threatening first to call the police and then the mafia (!) before he’s dragged out of the house by Liberace’s goons.

TIL Liberace had goons. Who knew?

After that, they lose touch, reuniting only briefly before Liberace’s death from AIDS complications.

Serious aside: This part made me think maybe it’s gross to be exploiting a real person’s life story for campy TV schlock? Just maybe?

The final scene takes place at Liberace’s funeral, which dissolves into fantasy when the casket flies away to reveal a ghost Liberace talk-singing “The Impossible Dream.”

REALLY.

I waited until I finished writing this recap/review before I did any googling because I didn’t want to be influenced by (what I assumed would be) a flood of joke reviews and hate tweets. I was stunned to learn that a lot of people think this movie is actually really good. It even won the audience award at Cannes. Huh?

Well, I’m sticking with my story. After all, I predicted that Black Swan would end up on Lifetime even after it won an Academy Award and I WAS RIGHT. It’s only a matter of time for this one.

cedarlane quesadillas

CedarLane frozen foods and I got history. In college, I nearly subsisted on Cedarlane Quesadillas and Nantucket Nectar Half-and-Halfs. Mr. Max and I would pick them up from the 24-hour Stop & Shop, then return to my dorm room with rented VHS tapes of David Attenborough nature documents.

We were wild, I tell you.

So when I saw that CedarLane redesigned their packaging, my immediate reaction was, ‘Sacrilege!”

(I kind of dislike change.)

On further inspection, the redesign is actually kind of nice. It’s pretty in a minimalist way and it stands out next to the other frozen foods in the “natural” section. Overall, it’s not a huge departure from the original box, except when it comes to the tagline on the side of the box:

“Take home a sexy Italian.”

Get it? Because it’s an Italian dish. Mr. Max and I call dark chocolate cookies “sexy cookies” because it makes sense for a dessert to be sexy. But eggplant? Eggplant is not sexy.

I had big plans for the holidays this year: celebrations in multiple cities, hot beverages of all kinds, a hike in the snow…

But no. Instead I woke up on Christmas Eve with more than the usual amount of malaise and a cough that tasted like a coral reef. I was still convinced I could get over it, so we went forward with our cross-state travel (well, Mr. Max did. I mostly slept in the car with a blanket over my face).

We were supposed to visit with metropolitan-based family on Christmas morning, but by then even I (a person who “ doesn’t get sick”) had to admit that I was really, really, really, sick. Like, too sick open presents. Or move. Or drink.

Instead I slept all day, drifting in and out of fever spells. When I woke up, the TV revealed the silver lining of my unfortunate flu:

The perfect excuse to finally see the Meredith Baxter TV movie that practically defines Television For Women.


A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story is the true-life (according to the title cards) tale of Betty Broderick, the wife of high-powered San Diego attorney Dan Broderick. As a wealthy power couple, the Brodericks are all about swanky balls and country club memberships, and less about, you know, sanity.

Within the first half an hour, Betty ruins Christmas because she got a bad present (a giant diamond ring that’s the WRONG KIND apparently).

Dan responds,  “It’s Christmas. If your Mom wants to behave like a spoiled brat, let’s let her.” Because that’s what you do in front of your children.

It isn’t long before Dan starts palling around with his young new secretary in a convertible.

Dan threatens to leave, and in response Betty burns his clothing in a pile in the front yard. Sensing that this will not end well, Dan moves out, and Betty goes off the deep end in a way that is only plausible in a Lifetime movie.

(I couldn’t get a screenshot of this so I’ll just tell you: she smears a frosted cake on his wardrobe and bed. Points for creativity, right?)

Dan gets a restraining order, but it doesn’t stop Betty’s reign of terror. She starts leaving obscene messages on Dan’s answering machine, drops their kids off in the middle of the night to “live with him,” breaks into the house and spray paints the walls…

…drives a truck into the side of the house, and generally continues to aggressively harass Dan for “ruining her life.” Eventually, she gets a gun and you probably know the rest.


In case you don’t, she totally blows away Dan and his new wife.

And that’s basically the movie, plus the framing device of a still-crazy Betty talking to the camera from jail.

You might be wondering: who exactly is the protagonist? I know the question crossed my mind a few times.

It’s not Dan (because he’s a sleazy lawyer dude who’s sleeping with his secretary). And Betty’s like, a crazy murderer, so it really shouldn’t be her. But since she’s always on-screen, ranting and monologuing, you almost begin to root for her. Even though she’s crazy and actually phenomenally unlikable.

And that is the magic of Lifetime.


Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, The Last Chapter

You might think that a TV movie that begins with a couple arguing and ends with murder and handcuffs completes a natural story arc. But that doesn’t stop Lifetime! There’s actually a sequel — descriptively titled Her Final Fury — and it’s (almost) as good as the original.

Unlike most movie sequels, Her Final Fury actually includes the last ten minutes or so of the regular movie. Why? No idea, but Mr. Max says this detail is his favorite part of either (or both?) movie(s).

Shortly after the murder happens (um, again), we see an unnamed suburban couple gossiping about the case in their front yard. “Did you hear who killed her husband?” whisper-shouts the wife with way too much excitement. I love the randomness of this scene. I guess it’s supposed to show us that the murder is big news in town? At least among this particular couple?


The rest of the movie takes place, more or less, in boring courtroom drama land. Betty doesn’t have a lot to do except hang out in jail so the lady prosecutor becomes the de facto protagonist. The first trial ends in a hung jury, but the dedicated prosecutor is undeterred and immediately signs on for trial #2.

Even behind bars, Betty’s up to her usual antics — threatening her older daughter for testifying against her, ranting to the press, and hiring a PR firm to craft her “image.” Eventually, there’s a showdown on the stand between lady prosecutor and crazy Betty. Betty’s no match for the sharp (and powersuited) lady prosecutor, and she’s finally convicted and sent to jail for a long, long time.


Come on Lifetime, it’s been 20 years. Aren’t we ready for Her Final FINAL Fury: The Parole Hearings?

So, it’s halftime for Liz & Dick. What have we learned so far?

1) A turban is the most versatile fashion accessory OF ALL TIME.

2) The best way to charm a woman is to berate her publicly in a restaurant and/or ruin a dinner party. You’ll steal her heart forever!

3) A romance is most effectively summarized using a 30-second montage where the couple enters trailers on a movie set in order to do the nasty.

4) Every scene must include a nightgown and a liquor bottle,

What are you planning on doing tonight? Catching up on laundry? Watching The Walking Dead (even though the mayor character is getting really, really annoying)? Browsing Etsy for a million hours?

I’ve got a way better idea: join me in live-tweeting/blogging the premier (can you call it that if it’s on TV?) of Liz & Dick! I’ll be bringing the sarcasm via Twitter at @attemptedblog and right here at The Lower Crust. Also — be sure to follow my pal Jen Boudinot (@LMNReviews), the queen of all Lifetime Movie reviewers. It’s gonna be GREAT.