Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Beyond Suspicion/Appointment for a Killing (1993)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.  A few modifications have been made.

When you say that a movie was made for TV, it‘s not usually meant to boost people’s expectations about it.  I’m not saying that it’s fair, but it’s often right.  Take Appointment for a Murder, a.k.a. Beyond Suspicion.  The movie is about a dentist, Stan, who has a thing for killing people for money.  Shortly after divorcing his wife, Joyce, he admits to killing someone, but in such a vague manner that she can’t really pin anything on him.  The next morning, Stan threatens that if she tells anyone, he’ll kill her or arrange to have her killed.

She does go to the police, but they don’t take her seriously.  Stan didn’t give out any details like names, locations or motives.  She does catch the attention of a Federal Agent Ron McNally, who thinks that he can link Stan to several murders.  What really makes Stan  a suspect and makes the whole operation possible is that Stan killed someone that he owed money to, which looked very suspicious.  (There was no proof, of course, but it was very convenient for Stan.)   Joyce agrees to have her house bugged so that the authorities can hopefully get some evidence.

Of course, it’s not that easy.  Stan is a cold, calculating person and would never admit to doing anything so quickly.  Yes, Stan does go over to Joyce’s new place a lot, but he’s not the kind of person that usually makes mistakes.  Plus, you’ve got Joyce’s meddling cat, who starts playing with one of the microphones, drawing Stan’s attention.  (I’ve always thought that this sort of thing is cliché and used only to add some drama, but I digress.)  Joyce does eventually get Stan to confess to murder on tape, thus sending Stan to jail for a long time.

Now, in this case, the movie does reek of being made for TV.  First, you’ve got those fadeouts every fifteen or twenty minutes.  Second, the video quality looks like it was made for the small screen.  Add to that the fact that there’s not much of a detailed story or character development.  (It’s based on a true story.)  There are three big names involved in the movie:  Corbin Bernsen as Stan, Markie Post as Joyce and Kelsey Grammer as Agent McNally.  (Don Swayze is the only other person I recognized.)

The movie takes place in St. Louis.  There are a few establishing shots of St. Louis, like the Gateway Arch, but the rest of the film could have been filmed anywhere.  The houses look like any other houses in any suburban area.  The streets look like they could be anywhere.  I guess one of the advantages of it being so far inland is that you don’t have to worry about coastlines.  (I guess it is kind of hard to put that sort of stuff in inconspicuously.)

I got this as part of a two-pack of movies a long, long time ago with the intention of writing reviews.  (The other movie was To Love, Honor And Deceive.)  Both movies were decent, but I really think I should have skipped these.  I don’t even remember how much I paid for them, but I think it was too much.  If you’re going to watch this movie, I’d recommend waiting for it to come on TV again.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Charlotte Sometimes (2002)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Michael lives alone in the upstairs part of a duplex. Downstairs is Lori, a friend of his. Justin is her boyfriend, who stays over every night. The routine goes that after having sex, Justin falls asleep and Lori goes upstairs to be with Michael. Because of thin walls, Michael hears a lot of it, so he often goes out.

Lori visits Michael one day at work. (He’s an auto mechanic. He also happens to read a lot, but I won’t get into that now.) Lori wants to set Michael up with someone, but Michael won’t even let her say it. Not to long after, Michael meets an attractive woman in a bar that he frequents. She introduces herself as Charlotte.

Now, Michael is in an interesting situation. He’s interested in Lori, but Charlotte is interested in him. Michael and Lori see each other. However, she travels a lot and will be in town for a few days. Whenever she’s back in town, they hook up again. (At least, that’s the impression that I got.) The trouble is that there’s more to Charlotte than Michael is led to believe. I’m not going to say more because it would ruin the movie. I don’t really think that it’s necessary to discuss the movie as a whole.

The only major complaint I had was that there was no sense of time in the movie. I believe that it took place over the course of at least a month, but there was nothing that would indicate the passage of time between scenes. Usually, this wasn’t a problem, but there were times when it got confusing.

There’s a camcorder feel to a lot of the scenes, especially with the lighting. I’m not complaining, though. It was done well. I just don’t know if this would be a turnoff for anyone. A lot of the people I know have strange hang-ups about movies. I think it only adds to the feel of the movie.

As for the extras, there were two tracks for audio commentary as well as a behind-the-scenes/commentary video and another video with Roger Ebert. I found the behind-the-scenes video to be interesting, but I don’t usually go for audio commentary and the video with Ebert didn’t seem that interesting, either. It looked like the video was actually taken from someone’s camcorder.

Overall, the DVD gets five stars.

Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

One of the advantages of renting movies is the ability to see a movie and its sequel within a few weeks of each other. With Airplane 2 – The Sequel!, I felt like I was watching the same movie again. Robert Hays returns as Ted Striker, who, in this movie, was a test pilot for the Mayflower I. The Mayflower I is about to go on its maiden voyage to the moon, but Striker doesn’t think that it will make it. The shuttle is riddled with problems, such as faulty circuitry, but the mission is going ahead anyway.

Those in charge of the program had Striker committed to a mental institution, but he escapes in time to make it to the spaceport and purchase a ticket for the flight. (It was sold out months ago, but he finds a scalper willing to sell him a ticket.) Elaine, played again by Julie Hagerty, is on the flight, but she’s engaged to Simon Kurtz, played by Chad Everett. Captain Clarence Oveur is back as the pilot, but he has a new flight crew. The navigator is named Unger and the first officer is Dunn, giving us a great scene where the three of them recall the chain of command during the war. (“Well, technically, Dunn was over Unger and I was over Dunn.”)

The plot is very similar to the first movie. As I mentioned, Striker finds his way onto the flight and has to win the heart of Elaine while saving the day. He has the help of the control tower, but he winds up the hero. The movie seems to have been made simply to string the jokes together. Some of them are obvious, such as Sonny Bono going to the spaceport gift shop and actually buying a bomb. Some of them are a little more obscure. During the scene with Sonny Bono, you’ll notice a poster for Rocky XXXVIII. There’s another scene on the plane where you will probably miss a sign that reads, “UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY”. William Shatner also appears in the movie as a sort of parody of his role as Captain Kirk. (There’s even a shot of the U.S.S. Enterprise flying by.)

There were no DVD extras in the version that I got from NetFlix. (It’s possible that there are other versions out there.) This means that you may be buying just the movie. If that’s the case, avoid it. It was almost like I was watching the first movie a second time. The only thing that was new was the set of jokes and gags. It’s good, but not that good. The movie gets three stars.