Rusty’s Top 10 TV Shows of 2015 December 18, 2015Posted by Rusty in Uncategorized.
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Welcome to my third annual post where I list my ten favorite television programs of the year. Usually I do this on Facebook, but I had opinions.
Disclaimer: I don’t watch everything. And there are some things I watch, but I’m a year behind (Jane the Virgin and Rectify come to mind). The list goes for all television during the calendar year, not just the strength of a show’s individual season.
Defending Champions: Breaking Bad (2013) and Fargo (2014).
Drops: True Detective (#8 last year), Mad Men (#4 last year), The Good Wife (#2 last year)
Honorable Mentions (no order): Fresh Off the Boat, Orange is the New Black (#6 last year), You’re the Worst (#10 last year), Inside Amy Schumer, Last Week with John Oliver, Bob’s Burgers (#9 last year), Brooklyn 99 (#7 last year).
10. Better Call Saul – The whole season worked. Episode-by-episode it could get uneven but the penultimate episode, “Pimento,” stands up with almost anything in the Breaking Bad universe.
9. Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt – I was not a big Titus fan! And the Krakowski character felt like good microwaved leftovers. But Ellie Kemper gave the best comedic performance of the year. Think about how crazy this plot is and how dependent it is on one actor to make it work (same compliment goes to #3 on list). Also, Jon Hamm. This was the best Jon Hamm performance of the year.
8. Master of None – As good as advertised, but maybe a little too proud of itself? As great as the deep dives into aging, the immigrant experience, and show biz racism were, I lost it any time Aziz Ansari yelled, “The Sickeninnnng!”
6. Show Me a Hero – Best praise I can give is that this is very David Simony. I appreciated how this miniseries made it clear that white people who want to protect their neighborhoods and communities are dooming poor minorities to a terrible life. I also appreciated that they had a poor character breaking the rules to receive public assistance and that choice was seen as reasonable and sympathetic, and right. Really hit me in my bleeding heart.
5. Veep (#3 last year) – There was something off-putting about Selina Meyer actually being in charge. I don’t mind the incompetence and the backstabbing, but the administration’s powerlessness was such a big draw in previous seasons. They were all fighting over scraps. Now they’re fighting over the country. But, man, how good was Anna Chlumsky’s breakdown?
4. Silicon Valley – Hard to beat a billion dollar deal going down in a Mexican restaurant being interrupted by a mariachi band while your nemesis eats sushi he brought from home. I would also totally drink Three Comma Tequila.
3. iZombie – Yes. Seriously. It’s so good. It’s better than Veronica Mars and is almost as good as Peak Buffy. More shows should be about zombieism caused by energy drinks where the protagonist is a zombie working at a morgue who eats brains for sustenance but also to help solve their murders. It is consistently funny, sad, and super gross. Best zombie show on tv.
2. Fargo (#1 last year) – As much as I love iZombie, there is a huge jump in quality to the top-2 spots. Fargo is so beautiful and audacious, and unlike last year (in which I deemed them the best show on TV), they stuck the landing. I wish the literal deus ex machina was a little more subtle, but the visuals and the characters (especially Peggy and Hanzee) were fantastic. Halfway through I thought Peggy was annoying and nonsensical. By the end I wanted Kirsten Dunst to win every award out there.
1. The Americans (#3 last year) – This year The Americans skipped the overarching season-long story format that Buffy and Veronica Mars had perfected. I love Buffy and Veronica Mars, but it was a bad fit for The Americans. Two straight season finales that made the season-long plot seem ridiculous. And when your show’s hook is so outlandish, ridiculous is a bad look.
So they dumped that and became the best thing on TV. I can think of multiple moments that were better than anything else on the boob tube. The disgusting body contortionist scene, the intimate tooth removal, the long conversation about evil with an old woman who knows she is about to be killed, any scene with Philip needing to seduce a girl his daughter’s age, and, of course, the daughter reveal. That reveal was primed to be as good as Hank figuring out Heisenberg or what was in the hatch in Lost. Instead of bombast or shock, the moment was underplayed as a long but tough conversation. It was respectful to the characters and therefore respectful to the audience. This show really is the best.
Jeopardy! December 15, 2015Posted by Rusty in Uncategorized.
So I was recently selected to appear on Jeopardy and my first episode is scheduled to air on January 21. Do not ask how I did. The worst case scenario is winning a thousand bucks and I am not going to risk a thousand bucks to satisfy your curiosity.
(Well, winning a thousand bucks after flying to LA and back and three nights at a hotel. Let’s just say the worst case scenario is grossing a thousand bucks.)
I will tell everyone what filming an episode is like. You get picked up at a local hotel at 7am, meaning East Coasters had a bit of an advantage here. 7am Pacific is 10am America.
They film five episodes a day and have two alternates there just in case. No one knows who the alternates are as all episodes are randomly drawn. There are apparently some episodes where they have locals who can drive in serve as alternates, but we didn’t have that for our taping.
We did have co-champions because of all the rescheduling around Alex Trebek’s knee surgery. I was supposed to be on a month ago, and all of my showmates were in the same boat. We also had two former alternates who were guaranteed to get on that day. One was formerly a local alternate, the other had the bad luck to be there for Matt Jackson’s huge run. That guy’s name was also Matt. Two people with the same name are not allowed on stage together.
You get there at 7:15 and fill out paperwork. For the next ten hours you’re hanging out with your competition. Our group of 12 (10 of whom were shuttled in together) were stuck in a room together for the whole time so of course we all ended up rooting for each other. That was the most surprising thing to me. When you are watching these people on stage you are rooting for them to get every answer right. You want everyone to win. There was one guy in our group that, uh, we didn’t really like. But we were rooting for him too.
(Of course, on stage, it’s the opposite. The negative vibes I sent my opponent when she got a Daily Double…)
So you get the rules explained to you and they even go over strategy. They specifically tell you to hunt for Daily Doubles if there’s less than a minute left in a round or to go after the big money clues. They ask you to shorten categories (Don’t say, “2015 In Memorium.” Say, “2015.”) so we can get to everything. They even reminded contestants that jumping around the board is fair game.
One question I got a lot is whether I was told what to study. No, they don’t tell you what categories you’re going to get. It’s random. No hints. Luck comes into play there. There was one game I didn’t take part in where I was superconfident I would have won a ton of money (and that was before no one got Final Jeopardy right). There was another game I didn’t take part in where I would have gotten destroyed. That’s what makes the Matt Jacksons, Arthur Chus, Julia Collinses, and the Ken Jenningses so impressive.
Oh, another question that comes up: The Buzzer. Is the buzzer annoying? Yes! It is! Especially at first when the defending champion has that in-game experience. They do have rehearsals with the buzzer, but it’s different when the lights are on and its Alex Trebek reading to you, ready to pounce if you do something stupid. They asked a $1,000 question about one of my favorite horror movies and someone else beat me to it. That feels TERRIBLE. It feels like your whole life has been coming to THIS MOMENT and someone else usurped it.
But… I also buzzed in when I could feel my opponents trying to do the same. That feels great. It feels like finding a $100 bill on the ground. All this money up for grabs and they gave it to me!
Another fun game thing that people don’t know is that you actually have unlimited amount of time to make a Final Jeopardy wager. So when you see someone screw that up, it’s really unforgivable. Except I screwed it up. I effed up my math twice. It’s only addition and subtraction, but under the lights, around makeup people and tech guys putting up barriers and the sound guy checking your mic and ARRRRGGGHHHH. Here’s how bad it was: I forgot how to carry the one.
(My screwup did not affect the outcome of that game which is either really good or really bad, so I don’t mind letting you know I screwed it up.)
The whole show still takes 20-30 minutes and there are other fun behind the scenes things happening. Like, does Alex Trebek ever screw up a question? Sure! All the time! He pronounced Don Juan as Don Jew-Ahn. They just rerecord him during the commercial breaks. There was one question where he said “Ireland” instead of “island.” Bad news when the answer to the question (or more accurately the question to the answer) is “Ireland.” They scrubbed it and replaced it with a different clue.
If you’re not on TV, you’re in the audience watching with everyone else. You’re actually sequestered which means no cell phones and you can’t go to the bathroom without an escort. Someone was watching me while I hit up the Sony cafeteria salad bar. I was sitting across from my fiancee, brother, and sister-in-law and we were told not to make eye contact with each other. I low-fived my brother when he came in during a rehearsal and he got in trouble.
After my run was over (SPOILER: I did not win the seven straight games necessary to make me defending champion going into the next game), I just called my family down and we left for drinks. God, did I need those drinks. Our group of 12 featured one smoker, one vaper, and four ex-smokers. Everyone wanted cigarettes. One person who had never smoked before said she wanted a cigarette. We were happy, friendly, soaking it in. But we were so nervous.
Finally, the thing I’m most interested in now is how I came off on TV. I was surprised to see our backstage alpha, the woman who was everyone’s favorite, on stage. She, in my opinion, came off as cold, quiet, and humorless. I can vouch for her. She was none of those things. The guy I didn’t like that much? He came off fine. I do know that my introduction smile was incredibly creepy. I looked at the monitors when they were doing the THIS IS…JEOPARDY! intros and what did I see? A fucking Jeopardy logo! I couldn’t see when I was supposed to smile. My family saw. They said I muffed it.
Win or lose, I was on Jeopardy. I have a very achievable bucket list. Get married to someone I love. I’m engaged. Don’t need to be rich, but need to be comfortable. When I started Lifetime, Wow! I was making less than 30K in a very expensive city. I’m a public health official now and even though I wouldn’t say no to more money, I am comfortable. Someday I want to raft the Upper Gauley river in West Virginia. It’s supposedly brutal, but I think after multiple Lower Gauley runs, I’m ready. And I’ve always wanted to be on Jeopardy. Once I got the call, I have tried avoiding the trap that my goal was winning Jeopardy. Or winning five Jeopardies to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. My goal was to be on, so, win or lose, I did it.
HEY! IT’S THAT GUY!: 2
I am giving this a couple of points because I hold myself in high regard. I don’t think my opponents are going to become super famous. I did go toe-to-toe with a veterinarian specializing in shark’s blood. That’s pretty metal.
I am going to assume that any question my female opponents got that I didn’t know was because of their women’s intuition. Very Lifetimey. Also, more importantly, Alex Trebek may have asked me about a certain Lifetime review blog…
GRAND TOTAL: 26
Not quite as good as the best Lifetime movie, but pretty darn special to me. Please watch my first episode on January 21.
A Deadly Adoption June 22, 2015Posted by Rusty in Uncategorized.
Tags: 25-29, a deadly adoption
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I am torn about this. On one hand, it’s great that two bankable A-list comedic actors can play it straight and prove that Lifetime movies are funny, wonderful things without (almost) skidding into satire or spoof. On the other hand, isn’t this all a little insulting? The meta-joke only works because the actors involved are “better” than the material. Better in terms of Q-Score? Sure. But better in terms of talent? I dunno. Mom at Sixteen may be a turd, but Mercedes Ruehl has more Oscars than every Saturday Night Live alumnus combined.
The problem here is that the goal was to recreate. And it was such a good recreation (except for two missteps) that the movie didn’t end up any better or any worse than your average Lifetime jam.
The movie opens with a party being thrown by the Bensons: Financial author Robert, pregnant organic baker Sarah, and diabetic baby Sully. They’re the perfect family! And they have a beautiful Craftsman on a lake! Unfortunately, the structural integrity of their dock was decidedly not perfect. Sarah falls off the dock and hits her head. She loses the baby.
Five years later, there are cracks in their domestic bliss. Robert has given up drinking and refuses to do a book tour for his most recent book. Too many demons on the road! Robert is also overprotective of Sully, now six. Sully suffers from diabetes and Robert is constantly monitoring her sugar intake (“Chekhov’s Insulin”). He won’t even let Sully ride a bike without training wheels! No one has moved past the devastation of the miscarriage. So, obviously, it’s time to adopt.
The adoption agency introduces the Bensons to Bridget. Bridget is six months pregnant and is living in a homeless shelter. She recently dropped out of college because one of Robert’s books advised her not to accumulate too much debt. The Bensons immediately invite Bridget to live with them during the remainder of the pregnancy. According to the adoption lady (who we are about to learn is very bad at her job), this is a common arrangement.
As soon as Bridget moves in, she’s making moves on Robert. Sunbathing, come hither looks, even going so far as to HIDE SUNSCREEN so Robert will have to reach over her to retrieve it. Seduction 101. Bridget is also texting a mystery man and is seen around town by one of Sarah’s employees with a tattooed dirtbag in a vintage pickup truck. The dirtbag isn’t all terrible. He pulls Sully out of traffic when Bridget lets her ride around without training wheels.
But some secrets are too big to keep. Sully is peeping on Bridget in the shower and notices that she isn’t really pregnant. So Bridget and Dirtbag kidnap Sully and hole up in a cabin. Guess what blood sugar regulating drug they forget to bring with them!
Robert is the first to catch on that something is awry and goes rifling through Bridget’s things. He finds a copy of one his books and notices that he signed it on one of his bacchanalian book tours. And he signed Bridget. With his wang. (Bonetown.)
The Bensons call the cops and it turns out that “Bridget” killed the real pregnant Bridget. This “Bridget” is actually Jodi. And since there’s a murder, the adoption officially qualifies as deadly. That and one of Sarah’s employee recognized Dirtbag buying candy bars (their insulin replacement) and he followed him back to the cabin. He gets shot in the face for his troubles. Double deadly.
Dirtbag murdered two people so it’s hard to feel too sorry for him, but he’s getting played, too. He’s thinking they kidnapped Sully for ransom. Nope. Jodi is planning on leveraging her possession of Sully into starting a life with Robert. She rents a boat, motors down to the Bensons, and knocks out Sarah and places her in a closed garage with the car running. Robert isn’t so keen on starting that life together so she shoots him twice in the shoulder/arm. When she runs back to the cabin (“Ugh, I forgot the insulin again!”), she shoots Dirtbag in the stomach and gets ready to make a run for it.
Robert jumps in his own boat and just beats Jodi to the only bridge out of town. There’s a brief standoff, but Sully and Robert get away via the unconventional method of jumping off the bridge. Jodi aims her pistol at them but is shot in the back by Sarah.
The film’s last scene is its worst. The family gathers in the kitchen and sings together. It’s stupid. Oh, and there’s a
AWESOMENESS (out of 20): 13
There was a lot to like here. The actress who played Bridget/Jodi was fantastic. Turns out she’s from Canada. Lifetime is in her blood. The movie was funny without bringing too much attention to itself. “When we lost the baby, I went crazy. I said yes to every book tour.” “I found an unopened box of chocolates today. Come on, Sarah, you know the dangers of diabetic ketoacidosis!” Very good.
Of course, like every other Lifetime movie, the film flagged in the middle and the ending took 20 minutes longer than really necessary. But, if you’re going for a recreation, it’s pretty impressive to be able to ape the structual weaknesses.
HEY! IT’S THAT GUY! (out of 10): n/a
Nope, not doing it. The idea of this movie blows the rating scale to smithereens. No points for Ferrell or Wiig. However, I was impressed that Dirtbag was reprising his role as Dirtbag in It Follows.
LIFETIMENESS (out of 20): 16
Here we go. The movie was so close to perfect. The opening credits using a boring white font over helicopter footage of Vancouverish, Canada. Scenes were slightly off-center and many shots held on for one beat too long. Dirtbag’s vintage pickup truck was the perfect detail for a Lifetime baddie. The cereal was generic off brand. People walked around with coffee cups that were obviously empty. When Sully wasn’t allowed to ride a bike, you knew the last scene would have the overprotective parent loosening up and Sully on two wheels. And I was ecstatic that there were so many boats. It’s Lifetime! There’s always a boat. But…
First, having Kristen Wiig fall off a dock after 45 seconds foreshadowing her falling off a dock was too much, especially in the first scene of the movie. I had no idea going in if they were going to play it straight, and I still didn’t know after that scene. It was goofier than almost anything else on Lifetime, and my favorite Lifetime movie features bigamy and amnesia.
Second, Ferrell and Wiig didn’t have what it takes for Lifetime. There was an undercurrent of parody in their performances, like they weren’t trying their hardest because Lifetime movies are poorly acted. But, as mentioned before, that’s a little insulting, isn’t it? The actors in those movies are trying their damnedest, but they either don’t have the talent or, more likely, it’s hard to stand out as a good actor in a low-budget tv movie factory. Ferrell actually did ok since his material was so self-serious (both of the lines of dialogue I quoted were from him), but Wiig was lost. And both SNL alums were powerhoused by a Canadian CW actress who is listed as a singer-songwriter on Facebook. If you don’t respect the Lifetime, it will chew you up and spit you out.
Finally, the last scene. Just a family dancing and singing for 45 seconds. It’s the only time they didn’t have the guts to play it straight and the entire movie suffers as a result. It was a last-stab “have it both ways” move in case the playing it straight route didn’t work. That’s a shame because the playing it straight route mostly worked!
GRAND TOTAL: 29
Pretty good! I am happy I watched it. I am happy it exists, even if it only means more people paying attention to Lifetime. And it’s nice to have my tastes cosigned by comedic actors with the chops of Ferrell and Wiig. Lifetime movies are funny not because we laugh at them, but because we laugh with them. We laugh with the twists, the accidents, and the directing choices. We laugh with the sound editing and the plot’s reliance on boating. Lifetime is great. I should watch it more often.
Lizzie Borden Took an Ax January 27, 2014Posted by Rusty in 17-20, lizzie borden, Uncategorized.
This movie was a bummer. A shame, since it had all the right components: Massachusetts setting, axe murders, Wednesday Addams. These are all the things that I like very much! This movie was directed right at my wheelhouse! But goodness gracious what a bore. How can you combine Wednesday Addams and axe murders and get something so vanilla?
We’re in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892. You think Fall River is terrible now (spoiler: it is), imagine Fall River before they got their paws on that battleship that all the Boy Scouts visit. But Lizzie only lives an hour outside of Cape Cod, so things can’t be all bad. Lizzie is a preacher’s daughter who lives with her older sister and her stepmom. The dad is a strict skinflint (as The Good Book teaches!) which bothers Lizzie. Lizzie likes the parties and the champagnes and even has a line of credit at the old-timey dress shoppe. She is basically 19th Century Fall River’s answer to Paris Hilton. How will these two resolve their differences?
We don’t get the chance to find out (OR DO WE!?) as Pastor Borden ends up with a terminal case of the face holes. Lizzie finds the body and screams and the maid calls the police. The police are there checking for evidence when, surprise!, they find Lizzie’s stepmom in her room. The face holes were contagious! Lizze had earlier told the maid that Mom got a note saying a friend had taken ill and had left the house to meet her. No note, no leaving. That doesn’t look good for Lizzie.
Of course, no one wants to blame this meek 22-year-old girl for slaughtering her family. And with no physical evidence linking her to the crime, the police spend some time focusing on the Help.
This is a big case, so the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sends down the best prosecutor they’ve got. He immediately concludes that Lizzie Borden is guilty. How else could someone kill a woman, lie in wait in the house for 90 minutes, kill the Pastor, and then ditch all of the evidence? Lizzie’s alibi is fairly weak. She claims she was in a shed on the property clearing our a pigeon coop and eating pears. Three pears. “WHO EATS THREE PEARS IN A HOT AND DUSTY BARN!?” yells the prosecutor in what has to be one of the best sentences ever said on Lifetime. One pear is, normal, I guess. Two pairs is really pushing it. But three? Three pears? What kind of sordid hedonist eats three pairs?
Lizzie starts destroying evidence (like her dress with the mysterious blood-colored “stew” stain) which leads to her being interrogated on the stand. Lizzie prepares for her time on the stand by getting a good night’s sleep, wearing her Sunday best, and doing an ass-ton of heroin. Lizzie doesn’t do a very good job of testifying on her own behalf and gets charged with murder. Oh, also, there’s a one second shot of a bloody axe before we go to commercial.
The movie is guilty of doing tons of that shit. Weird one second shots of axes before commercial, single frames of a woman’s back, and the soundtrack. Can’t forget the soundtrack! The movie is filled with some Black Keys knockoff blues rock band in the background.* It’s atrocious. So, to be clear, the movie is guilty of being boring AND ugly AND loud.
*Someone on the Twitters pointed out that Lizzie Borden has the same soundtrack as Black Snake Moan. Don’t think that was a compliment
Lizzie is charged and then nothing of consequence happens for an hour. Lizzie’s older sister (who has an airtight alibi that doesn’t involve produce) is called to the stand. Lizzie tells Big Sis to tell the truth. Instead, she perjures herself by saying that it was her idea, not Lizzie’s, to destroy evidence. She also says Lizzie never showed signs of having a temper (cut to a flashback of Lizzie throwing a glass at her stepmom). The prosecution is getting their asses whooped, so they go to the oldest trick in the book: entering skulls in as evidence. When Lizzie sees the skulls, she faints and then BOOM another commercial.
I noticed this with Flowers in the Attic too. When did Lifetime forget how to transition into commercial breaks? There’s a “big” “plot” point or “shocking” “twist” and without getting half a second to marinate on it, I am watching a commercial for a prescription drug that helps with post-menopausal intercourse. It’s distracting.
Oh, the skulls are never mentioned again. It is never made clear how they implicated Lizzie in any way.
Lizzie is acquitted after an hour of deliberations and is free to go. She immediately jumps back on the party circuit where she is treated like a carnival act. But, hell, she likes the attention. When Big Sis calls her out for that, Lizzie tells her that she did in fact murder her family. She stripped naked, axed her stepmom, changed back into her clothes, ate three pears, waited for her dad to come home, stripped naked again, and axed her dad before changing back into her dress to “find” the bodies. THE END!
Lizzie Borden ended up becoming a spinster. She never married. No kids. Which is clearly beneficial to Lifetime since no one can sue for libel on the family’s behalf. Can you imagine if they did that to Amanda Knox? Christ. Lizzie Borden was acquitted not because she was a lady and ladies aren’t capable of murder. She was acquitted because she, most likely, DIDN’T DO IT.
Bill James, the father of advanced baseball stats, wrote a book on popular crime and spent a chapter focusing on Lizzie Borden. Conclusion: there was no way that Lizzie Borden could have been convicted of murder. Is it implausible for someone to lay in wait for 90 minutes in a house after killing someone? Yes! You know what else is implausible? “She stripped naked, axed her stepmom, changed back into her clothes, ate three pears, waited for her dad to come home, stripped naked again, and axed her dad before changing back into her dress to “find” the bodies.”
Anyways, BOOOOO. I got your back, Lizzie.
I guess some props should go out to Christina Ricci for treating the material like it wasn’t a big, fat joke. She was clearly a cut above the other actors, so, bully to her. But the rest of the movie was awful. Intrusive soundtrack, a plot that didn’t make sense (they never, ever established a motive for Lizzie murdering her family, but the movie did go out of its way to establish that half of Fall River hated the Bordens), and these stupid flourishes that are supposed to be scary, I guess. They’re just distracting.
HEY! IT’S THAT GUY!: 8
Christina Ricci will always have a place in my heart for guiding me through puberty, but she isn’t a big name anymore. What has she been in the last five years? Bucky Larson? Oh, Lizzie’s sister was played by Clea DuVall. Always nice to see her get some work.
The prosecutor was played by Hollis from Scandal. YOU WILL PAY FOR DEFIANCE, SIR!
More lady baddies. Weird. Anyways, there wasn’t really anything Lifetimey about this movie other than plot sagging over the final hour.
GRAND TOTAL: 18
WOOF! The movie was bad and I am DISAPPOINTED. I had been looking forward to this for months. MONTHS!
Flowers in the Attic January 20, 2014Posted by Rusty in 30-36, flowers in the attic.
Before Saturday night, I didn’t know a thing about Flowers in the Attic. I knew there was some incest, which, I guess, is kind of a big thing. The incest is notable. Very notable incest. But, beyond that, I just knew that a great many of my lady friends – H$ included – have read Flowers in the Attic and have a special place in their heart for it. And they all told me to watch the Lifetime adaptation because the book was crazeballs. I straight up accused one of lying to me when she told me a character gets tarred. Literally tarred. Well, she made an idiot out of me.
(A quick note: I “livetweeted” this whole shebang at my personal account. It went very well! But the pressure of making dozens of spur of the moment jokes kind of takes away from the whole “pay attention and work on making jokes later” strategy I’ve been using since August, 2007. I might have missed some things while taking screenshots of a grandmother threatening her family with a knuckle sandwich.)
So we meet the, ugh, Dollanger family. All of their names begin with “C.” (Because of this, I am going to stick to calling Heather Graham “Mommy.” Going back and forth to make sure I have the right C-name; this is time consuming enough as it is!) The four blonde kids are called “The Dresden Dolls.” “They call us that because we look perfect.” “We are perfect,” replies the mother in the first of many examples of top-notch screenwriting. Anyways, they’re perfect family does not have a dad with a perfect driving record. The dad dies in a car accident right after getting that big promotion to Head of Sales! Aw, shucks!
So now we start learning some fun family secrets. The family’s wealth was built on credit. Which is to say the bank would like their stuff back, please. Oh, and Mommy and Daddy were also niece and uncle. So there’s that. Mommy and Daddy got disinherited from their family after eloping (THIS IS A REASONABLE REASON TO DISINHERIT SOMEONE!) and now Mommy needs to go groveling back to her wealthy, religious, anti-incest family to get back into the will. In order to do this, Mommy needs to pretend that her kids don’t exist since the kids are the product of Satan or something.
The only reasonable thing to do here is lock them in an attic.
Here’s what we’ve got: Christopher, Jr, probably around 16-years-old. Cathy, probably around 14-years-old. And twins, Carrie and Cory who are probably around five. We can forget about the twins. They are only good for getting pale and eating poison doughnuts. Let’s focus on the older kids, Christopher and Cathy. These two assholes are the stupidest kids in popular culture since Lex and Tim in Jurassic Park. Sixteen and 14 is old enough to know better about incest. And, probably more importantly!, it’s certainly old enough to not get physically abused by your crazy grandmother and old enough to make an escape. By the end of this movie you’d think these kids WANTED to stay in an attic.
Oh, the grandmother. She is played by The Wicker Man’s Ellen Burstyn. She is a national treasure. And she will not take any of your guff or backtalk.
Granny certainly has her talons in this family. She asks Mommy to show her kids what happens when people disobey, and Mommy reveals that her back has been all Kunta Kinte’d up. Granny loves her switch.
The plan here is to hide the kids in the attic, wait for the rich Grandfather to die, and then they can leave with their inheritance. This is a stupid plan. It’s kind of hard to predict when an old man will die. The getting back into the will part proves easy enough though. Grandpa throws a big party celebrating The Prodigal Mommie Dearest’s reunion with the family. Mommy even lets Christopher and Cathy sneak around the house to watch Mommy being showered with congratulations and jewels. They also find out that Mommy is dating a lawyer who doesn’t know about the kids.
So, here’s where I start to get lost. Cathy is complaining that they have been in the attic for over a year and they havent seen their mom in over a month. WHOA! Are we on Downton Abbey time? That was a 2001-esque flash-forward. That brings me back to how these kids are too old for this shit. Punch Granny in the face! Run! Do something!
Anyways, mom was honeymooning in Venice. And Granddad has been dead for months. The attic isn’t about secrets anymore. It’s about convenience.
So, naturally, when Christopher and Cathy escape the attic they spend the night swimming in a lake and handfeeding a deer. The movie has already shown that the train station is within walking distance of their mansion-prison. Go! You stupid fucking kids!
Mom’s new husband is later shown shooting the deer. Someone on Twitter pointed out that he was going “metaphor hunting.”
So while the Christopher and Cathy are doing an incredible job of not escaping their prison, Granny keeps accusing them of having inappropriate feelings towards each other. I mean, if you get burned by the incest bug once, shame on them. Get burned twice, shame on me.
Grandma gets burned twice.
Grandma does whatever she can to separate Chris and Cathy (except for, you know, NOT LOCKING THEM IN A FUCKING ATTIC) and even tries to ugly up Cathy by forcing her to cut her hair or watch the twins get starved out. They call Granny’s bluff, but Grandma win out by TARRING CATHY’S HAIR IN HER SLEEP. Chris helps cut the hair and begins half an hour of awkward touching and stolen glances that culminates in full blown intercourse.
Look, I love Lifetime and the source material here seems a wee bit over-the-top. I was ready for something ridiculous. It’s to Lifetime’s credit (?) that, man, this was GROSS. Ack. I will go out on a limb here and say that the scariest thing about a movie with so much physical abuse and torture was watching these two get completely unmoored and start boning each other. Props (??) to Lifetime.
Let’s wrap this up. All the kids end up sick and the boy twin even needs to go to the hospital. He dies. Turns out Mommy was putting arsenic in their doughnuts. The kids now – NOW! – realize they need to escape. Naturally, the family has built an electric fence around the perimeter of the property, so there’s no way out! Thankfully they run into Mommy’s new husband, explain that they are his secret stepkids, and HE ACCEPTS THIS NO QUESTIONS ASKED and helps them escape. THE END.\
AWESOMENESS: 16 (out of 20)
The dialogue was terrible, the kids were idiots, and the pacing was way, way off. The screenplay was amateur hour. But, man, at the end of the movie, I felt GROSS. The bad guys, Mom and Grandma, were off-the-rails evil and it was awesome. If I was flipping through and this turned up, I would keep it on. It’s like Lifetime-squared.
HEY! IT’S THAT GUY! 10 (out of 10)
I mentioned that Grandma was played by national treasure Ellen Burstyn. Burstyn was the bad guy in The Wicker Man remake, so she presumably knows how it got burned. Oh, she was also the lead in my favorite movie ever (The Exorcist) and was the female lead in Requiem for a Dream. Woman knows her way around the creepy.
Mommy Dearest was played by Heather Graham, aka Roller Girl from Boogie Nights. She was great in this. All of her bad actress tendencies were put to good use. The vapidness came off as creepy instead of, you know, vapid.
Cathy was played by Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men. She will be very famous some day and look back at this movie and have a good chuckle.
LIFETIMENESS: 7 (out of 10)
All the bad “guys” here were women. That’s unusual! The family unit was fine until the patriarch died. And what happens when you lose the man of the house? Your kids get locked in an attic! The stepdad was the only non-evil non-hostage in the whole movie. This movie was big on good dads.
GRAND TOTAL: 33 (out of 40)
Still, though. This movie brought the goods. Melodrama, incest, neglect, abuse, deer. I’m guessing Lifetime will rerun the Hell out of this, so set your DVRs accordingly.
And it’s good to be back! See you next week for the Lizzie Borden movie!
What Has Kate Been Up To? July 17, 2012Posted by Rusty in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far
So, as you know, this blog took a long hiatus. We were out of commission for months. I can’t speak for H$, but on my end it was just plain old laziness. And Netflix. Oh my God, guys, Downton Abbey is very good!
I will speak for Kate though. Kate was our newest addition, she did a few reviews, including my favorite, and then disappeared from the face of the Lifetime reviewing Internet.
Well, Kate has been busy. She has been in a band, The Outfits, and they just released their first record. Buy it here. Seriously, buy it. I am buying it.
Even if you don’t want to buy it, maybe give it a listen.
Without sounding too much like a lame-o, I can tell you that I am very, very proud of Kate and the other The Outfits (who I met at Kate’s wedding) and I hope they sell tons of records and make dozens of dollars and YAY FOR THE OUTFITS.
The Familiar Stranger July 10, 2012Posted by Rusty in 17-20, 20-24, the familiar stranger.
The Familiar Stranger, aka My Husband’s Double Life.
We’re only at the titles and we’re already in trouble. At no point is the husband a stranger and at no point does he have a double life. An inauspicious beginning.
This was a weird movie for getting back in the swing of things. No famous actors listed in the movie description and a boring sounding plot. But, thank the Lifetime gods, 90 seconds in:
Oh man do I love me some Baby Michael Cera. This isn’t my first go around with Mr. Cera. Never forget Stolen Miracle.
Oh, right, The Familiar Stranger. This review will be awfully short. This movie was totally without conflict. There is no danger, no dilemma, nothing for the audience to care for or worry about. It is exactly how not to write a teleplay. I could distill the entire two hours into two paragraphs. But you, dear readers, deserve more. You deserve three paragraphs.
Patrick is married to Peachy (Oh. My. God.). They have two kids: Ted and Chris. They are the perfect Ohio family. Then Patrick is accused of defrauding a hospital by awarding money to fake grants. He took over $25,000 and ends up serving a suspended sentence. Ashamed by it all, Patrick disappears and leaves a suicide note. His body is never found. (A detective says the currents are too strong to which I respond: “OHIO!”) He leaves behind a wife, two kids, and a cancer ridden mother who immediately kicks the bucket.
Peachy uproots her family, gives away the dog, and moves to a neighborhood that you know is dangerous because there is a siren blaring in the background the entire GODDAMNED time. She begs for a job and gets one despite being crazily unqualified. (For that part of Ohio we’ll just say her skin color was qualified and leave it at that.) We get a ridonkulous flash forward (new kids; Peachy has glasses now!) and see that Peachy has made it. And then she gets a letter from the Social Security Administration asking for all of her kids survival benefits back. Patrick is alive.
Peachy tracks Patrick’s SSN back to Kennebunkport, Maine. Peachy confronts Patrick and has him arrested. He pleads not guilty but after being confronted by his kids he changes his plea to no contest. He is sentenced to four years in Shawshank. Peachy’s kids thank her for being an amazing mom and an amazing dad all in one. They graduate from schools and the family is a pillar in the community.
WHERE IS THE CONFLICT!? There was no dramatic court case, no sense of danger. The filmmakers thought about painting Pat’s new girl as some kind of evil hussy, but the movie veers off that route fast. It wouldn’t be fair and it’s not really that much different than Peachy being happily married to an extortionist.
The big flash forward halfway through illustrates exactly how ridiculous this is. Trying to make something from nothing. Living hard with two kids and a low paying job. Temporary layoffs. Good times. Easy credit ripoffs. Good times. BUT NO! We get five minutes of that. Then, boom, the future! And everything is fine! Even Pat did everything but turn himself in and then he ultimately pleads guilty! Aristotelian unities, my ass!
I think I did a pretty good job of describing how boring this was, yes? More demerits for the sound editing. Why is it that every Lifetime movie fails at sound editing? Ugh, that siren. I hated that siren.
This movie was really bad.
HEY! IT’S THAT GUY!: 10
I gave Stolen Miracle a nine in this category for Michael Cera, and that movie had no one else in it. At least I recognized Peachy from Independence Day. She was the white lady. Not the First Lady. The other one.
One of the older versions of the kids was in a few episodes of Veronica Mars. Not a big deal, but I spotted it a second faster than immediately. (Oh my God, he was in the Michael Cera episode of Veronica Mars! Worlds colliding!) (This blog and I used to be friends, a long time ago.)
The guy who played Patrick is like the ultimate That Guy. He is so familiar looking! Looking through his IMDB profile, it appears that I have seen him in like ten things. I recognize him from zero of them.
In order to get the plot summary in at three paragraphs, I left out one of the wildest instances of women’s intuition ever. When Patrick is less than 20 minutes late from work, Peachy goes off the rails and “knows” that Patrick killed himself. The movie plays this like she’s some kind of psychic genius.
Well, what’s the opposite of intuition? Because Patrick used that hysteria to get a TEN YEAR HEAD START on Peachy and the Social Security Administration. Bravo, Peachy.
Oh, and she’s the perfect mom. She had spunk.
GRAND TOTAL: 20
So there was no familiar stranger. Peachy knew who Patrick was the second she laid eyes on him. And Patrick didn’t have a double life. One of those lifes was dead. That’s just one life. This movie was built on a foundation of lies and boredom.
But, Michael Cera!
Drew Peterson: Untouchable January 30, 2012Posted by Rusty in Uncategorized.
Let’s start off with an admission: I did not know very much about Drew Peterson. I remember an Illinois housewife going missing and her significantly older husband being a suspect. I also remember that the husband’s previous wife died suspiciously. And that’s it. Seriously. I had no idea he had been arrested. When Lifetime announced that Rob Lowe would be playing Drew Peterson in a Lifetime movie, I got the Petersons mixed up. I thought he was playing Scott Peterson.
(Also, as an FYI, if you’re going to murder your wife, CHANGE YOUR NAME FROM PETERSON! If I was Rusty Bundy and I had a totally logical desire to kill sorority girls, I would change my fucking name first thing. That would be the first step in my nefarious plot. If your hometown has a homicidal clown problem and you’re named Gacy, people are going to look at you funny. Change that shit up.)
But then that trailer happened and suddenly this was all I could think about. I even wrote a practice post to get my head back in the game. So was the movie worth the hype?
Yes. Mostly. I daresay this is my favorite Lifetime movie based on a true story. Those are usually my least favorite, even worse than the ones about Christmas miracles. But this one rose above type and provided two hours of “OWNAGE.”
Drew Peterson: Untouchable follows the format perfected in one of the best Lifetime movies ever made: Widow on the Hill. The accused murderer is telling his/her side of the story to local media. In both movies, the format makes no sense. It’s filler. At least in Widow on the Hill the last scene of the movie is of the good guys’ turning the TV off. In Untouchable, it’s never clear when or if the interview ends. He is being interviewed and then he gets arrested? When was the interview? What?
Anyways, Drew Peterson is a psycho cop with a hilarious Chicago accent. He is very nasty to his third wife, Karen. Although, to be fair, Karen is kind of a bitch. I get that they need to make Drew Peterson somewhat likable so we can identify with Wife #4, but, uh, Karen was an abused murder victim? Has Lifetime ever portrayed an abused murder victim as such a pill?
Drew gets dispatched to a hotel where he meets a toothsome front desk lady named Stacy. There are sparks! When Stacy realizes that this humble cop is also a rich dude who owns a bar and a MOTHERFUCKING PLANE, she goes all-in and they start a sex affair. He buys her a fancy car and even sneaks her into his basement for sexxx while his wife sleeps upstairs. Smooooth.
Karen gets wind of the affair and a quickie divorce is in the works. She gets half and Drew gets to start over with a new, young, pregnant wife. A reasonable trade. But, ugh, Karen keeps being nasty! What is an ex-husband to do?
Lucky for Drew, Karen doesn’t show up to pick up their kids. Drew has a neighbor go into her house to look for her and lo and behold she is dead. Drowned in an…empty bathtub? That’s weird. Ruled an accident. Because who wants to take an extra look at community icon Drew Peterson? Other than Karen’s family. They think he did that shit.
The Petersons get a new next door neighbor and she takes a shining to Stacy. Stacy even shows her around the neighborhood, reminiscing about the times she snuck into Karen’s house while she was sleeping for quickies with Drew. Whoa. OVERSHARE. The neighbor points out that that is stone cold and Stacy is all, “oh yeah.” Now that she’s married she is starting to see the evil of Drew’s ways.
Drew gets more and more controlling as the years go by. He gives Stacy a cell phone and if she doesn’t answer by the third ring there is Hell to pay. When Stacy catches Drew going through her e-mails, she protests and tries taking the computer away from him. He shoves her into the television. The neighbor walks in on this and Stacy’s honesty is refreshing: “Drew just pushed me into the TV.” Succinct and accurate.
So Drew is totally crazy. Duh. The last straw is the death of Stacy’s sister (which really comes out of nowhere). After Stacy hugs her widowed brother-in-law, Drew accuses them of having an affair. Then he calls her a whore and a slut and tosses her around a little bit. Stacy claims the marriage is over. Drew doesn’t get the memo. He stalks her, breaks into their home, terrorizes her. And then she disappears. Drew claims she phoned* him after finding another man and ran off. Leaving four kids behind. Right.
*I have been watching way too much The Good Wife.
So obviously Drew did that shit. The media gets involved because the local newspaper reporter remembers Drew Peterson from Karen’s death. The neighbor and Stacy’s living sister circle the wagons and put up missing person posters in their yards and generally make Drew’s life hard. Drew, for his part, is acting like a crazy person. He gets engaged to another 23-year-old, starts a dating competition on a radio show, and talks nonsense to national media like Larry King.
The “Stacy took off” story starts to lose some steam when Drew’s drug-addict half-brother (Ethan from LOST!) comes forward and admits that he helped move a mystery barrel from Stacy’s bedroom to Drew’s car. Stacy’s pastor comes forward and claims that Stacy confessed that Drew went missing the night of Karen’s death. Drew gets arrested but doesn’t go sanely. He performs a slow-motion strip tease while changing into his prison oranges. The End. Thank God we at least got five seconds of topless Rob Lowe.
Oh god, I didn’t even mention “I’m untouchable, bitch.” I guess it was sort of anti-climatic? Drew Peterson was eminantly touchable. The police touched him and threw him in jail. Also, watching the trailer 45 times kind of takes some of the novelty away.
Still well worth anyone’s time.
HEY! IT’S THAT GUY: 8
I dunno. I don’t want to give Lifetime too much credit for hiring a well-known actor who is actually working on a regular basis. If they throw a ton of money at someone, that’s not really as impressive as seeing someone before or past their prime. That being said, Rob Lowe was the bad guy in two of the funniest movies ever made: Wayne’s World and Tommy Boy. (I guess you could make a case that a post-NAFTA Midwestern economy was the bad guy in Tommy Boy, but whatever.) And the dude banged a 16-year-old on tape and got away with it. Living the dream!
Stacy was played by the lady from The Big Bang Theory. I was shocked to find out that she is younger than me. Either she looks old or I look young. Karen was in Season Four of Mad Men but her character was shitty so no extra points there.
And Ethan! From LOST! He knows a thing or two about making pretty blondes disappear.
As previously mentioned, the Karen character was pretty problematic. Demerits. Everything else was spot on. Women being terrorized and abused but nothing can be done because of an evil man and his evil police force buddies.
GRAND TOTAL: 28
This movie wasn’t great, but it flies by fast enough and Rob Lowe does a nice job. Twenty-eight is usually a slam dunk recommendation, but, I dunno, it could have been more.
I do think the best possible outcome is that Stacy Peterson shows up after spending the last year in Tahiti and Drew Peterson sues Lifetime for a jillion dollars. If he gets acquitted, Lifetime might be in some trouble.
Sexting in Suburbia January 17, 2012Posted by Rusty in 25-29.
Tags: sexting in suburbia
It’s time for another one of our patented January pushes as Lifetime burnout is replaced with the optimism of a new year. And, let’s be honest, I need at least one practice review to get back in the swing of things before Untouchable comes out. I mean, have you seen this?
That is obviously the highest priority. But Sexting in Suburbia wasn’t bad either!
Dina is walking down the halls of her high school. People are staring and pointing and laughing. I suspect bullying! Dina opens her locker and a bunch of condoms fall out. Totally burnt, Dina. A boy, probably an ex-boyfriend, offer to help her clean up the prophylactic avalanche, but he is rebuffed. Dina storms off.
Hey, Dina. Why did you open your locker? Was it just to have condoms spill out and then put them back? Because you clearly didn’t put anything in or take anything out of your locker. So why open it in the first place, right?
Dina goes home, emo vlogs, and then hangs herself.
What is with these Lifetime movies and the vlogging? NO ONE VLOGS.
So now Dina’s mom, Rachel, must get to the bottom of this horrible tragedy. Clearly everyone is to blame for her daughter’s suicide except for her daughter. No lead will go unfollowed, no sext will go unanswered for!
The trail gets hot when Dina’s field hockey friend tells Rachel to check Dina’s phone for scandalous evidence. (“Most dirty laundry is offered up for public consumption” ~No high schooler, ever.) Rachel finds a sext.
We flashback to homecoming. Dina is looking fine and tonight’s the night she gives her virginity to that dude from earlier, Mark. Except Dina has second thoughts. She just isn’t ready! So she skips the afterparty. Mark is clearly upset at losing out on nookie and not even getting an apology beej, so Dina tries to keep things spicy by sending him a naked photo. Via text! A “sext,” if you will. Mark doesn’t really need the pick-me-up since he is knee high in high school poon when Dina sends the photo.
From a filing standpoint, this is a disaster. The movie hits the first commercial when Mark starts boning Dina’s rival, Skylar. But the first scene back from commercial is the sext. That’s the more dramatic scene! That needs to be pre-commercial. And then after the sext there is a fade out! Implying a commercial break! Did the good people at Activia Yogurt not want to wait an extra 90 seconds for their product placement? Ugh. Come on, Lifetime editors. Get it together.
Obviously the sext “goes viral” the very next day. Dina’s life is ruined.
Rachel is going on a witch hunt. The school administrators won’t help her look at everyone’s Facebook accounts and texts out of “privacy concerns” so she writes an op-ed that gets published on the front page of their podunk newspaper. The community needs to act. Since Dina sent her sext to Mark and only to Mark, he is arrested on suspicion of child pornography distribution.
Skyler is acting like a total B and is being set up as the obvious bad guy. Flashbacks show she was the lead bully in the anti-Dina crusade. She stole Mark, took the field hockey captaincy from Dina, and she had access to the sext since Mark received it when his penis was inside of her vagina. Motive and opportunity!
Rachel is the subject of some neighborhood terrorism after her op-ed and Mark’s arrest. Dina’s grave is vandalised (Dina Van Slut! Ya burnt!) and someone put a bunch of pictures of a noose in her mailbox. Things culminate when someone throws a brick through her window. (The brick throw is supposed to be surprising. It is telegraphed from a mile away by the camera angle. Another poor job of editing and composition.)
Mark and Rachel have a tete-a-tete and they both think that Skyler was responsible. Rachel just happens to be besties with Skyler’s mom so she goes in for the confrontation. Skyler denies any wrongdoing and the moms hug it out. But then Rachel finds evidence of the vandalism and intimidation stuff in Skyler’s bathroom! Skyler later admits to sending the text to one person, a mutual friend, Claire. Skyler’s mom points out that she didn’t tie Dina’s noose so not to worry.
Rachel asks the police to drop the child pornography charges on Mark (something she has no right to do, obviously) and prosecute Skyler instead. The police, and I have no idea how they did this without violating the Fourth Amendment, show Rachel evidence that the text “went viral” when Claire sent it to 40 classmates.
Rachel speeds home and finds Claire inside Dina’s room (?) watching some vlogs (??). Claire apologizes for ruining Dina’s life. But not for sending the texts. Wait, huh? It turns out that Skyler convinced Claire to narc on Dina for her sextapades to their field hockey coach. Dina is cut from the team and loses her field hockey scholarship (ahahah) to her fictional college of choice. That was the final straw for Dina.
Awesomely, when Dina confronts Skyler and Claire about this, Dina grabs Skyler’s field hockey stick and beats her in the face with it. That is the highlight of the movie right there.
Claire tells Rachel that she couldn’t have sent the texts since she lost her phone at homecoming. Who had it? SKYLER’S MOM! Rachel’s bestie sent it out because Dina kept beating out Skyler for all the varsity letters, scholarships, and boyfriends.
But Skyler’s Mom makes one crucial and TOTALLY INEXPLICABLE mistake. She kept a naked Dina pic on her personal phone. Like, as a trophy. Think about how stupid that is. Skyler finds the pic, puts two and two together (this also makes no sense, but whatever), and confronts her mom. Skyler’s Mom comes clean.
Skyler freaks out, storms out of the house, and is texting her mother that she “will never forgive her.” While she’s driving. And you know what that means! BOOM! Head-on collision! Yesssss. What a great throwback to the mid-90’s Lifetime playbook. So good.
Rachel confronts Skyler’s mom in the hospital. Skyler won’t walk again. There goes that field hockey scholarship! Then Rachel goes home to watch Dina vlog in happier times. Claire starts a movement with Mark to ban cell phones for the rest of the semester. Right, because it was the cell phone’s fault.
The movie was so delightfully stupid and over-the-top. The editing was bad to the point of distracting, but, hey, it’s Lifetime. And I love it when a movie about one thing also takes the time to use melodramatic tragedy to teach you about another thing. Like in When Friendship Kills, a movie about anorexia where one character drinks and gets hit by a car. Sexting is bad, but texting while driving is also bad! So many lessons!
HEY! IT’S THAT GUY!: 1
All newcomers here. Rachel was played by Liz Vassey who was Captain Liberty in The Tick. I guess she was in Dr. Horrible too, but, and I apologize in advance, I thought Dr. Horrible sucked.
You read the review, yes? This is some pretty Lifetimey stuff. Had to take one negative point because Mark and Skyler get a pass for having sex in high school. No one gets mad. No one gets pregnant. It’s a welcome change, but it’s a clear deviation from the Lifetime formula.
GRAND TOTAL: 26
This review was all foreplay for the Rob Lowe awesomeness premiering this Saturday, but it was pretty good foreplay. It will be re-airing Saturday, January 28 at 6pm eastern. Set your DVRs accordingly.
Hey, Lifetime Jokes on SNL! October 18, 2011Posted by Rusty in Uncategorized.
Holy mother of God it’s difficult to embed Hulu videos on WordPress. Sorry, you have to click to see this great SNL sketch.
Worst part: Describing Lifetime as “television for white women.” Uh, have you seen “Sins of the Mother“? And how could you miss that Lifetime is remaking Steel Magnolias with an all-black cast? (To be fair, if you have diabetes you are probably black or Southern, so that makes sense.)
Best part: “She named the baby Tanya.” “Yes.”That is a perfect description of movies like Sins of the Mother, The Pregnancy Pact, and Fifteen and Pregnant where the physical act of giving birth turns a little girl lost into a strong and forceful mother who puts family first.Makes me want to puke.