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Evidence of Love
Evidence of Love
DVD
Price: $1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars I Don't Have an Axe to Grind, October 21, 2014
I don't know much about this case, but I found that it was "free" on Amazon Prime (TM) -- nothing is really "free," if you know what I mean -- and Amazon recommended it to me based upon other viewings. Plus, Barbara Hershey is in it -- I just screened "Ann Rule Presents: Stranger Beside Me" which is really good, minus the overly long title, plus I hate it when an author's name is in the title of a film -- and I'm a fan of Ms. Hersey, so I had to watch.

I'm sure that people who do know about this case, in particular those that were directly involved, aren't so convinced of the killer's innocence. However, I found her story here to be believable, and so if I were on a jury, I might find her innocent. (BTW: I'm right at the end, with about five minutes left for viewing, so even I don't know how this ends yet. Therefore, I can't give a spoiler.)

Brian Dennehy is almost always good, and he doesn't disappoint again here. He's usually the cop character, but I saw him play the serial killer role as John Wayne Gacy, and he was good in that role, too. Now we get to see him play the defense attorney, so while he doesn't change his acting "MO" too much overall, he still does a nice job here. When will we see him as the prosecuting attorney? He probably already has played that role too, based upon how long he's been acting.

And I found the Ms. Hershey character to be mostly sympathetic too. Yeah, she has issues, particularly as the repressed Texas housewife, but who doesn't? But once again, just like in "Stranger Beside Me," Ms. Hershey gives a good performance, albeit surprisingly restrained for her, minus for when she's being hypnotized. (There's one other scene where she goes into an all-freak out mode, but telling you when might be a spoiler.). But that's what this character needed, being mostly restrained, so Ms. Hershey shows her range, and I found her performance nearly hypnotizing again.

What's the moral of the story? How 'bout, "Don't make an axe of yourself, especially if you go to church on Sundays." Funny, but not interesting. Maybe this one: "Don't axe me if I'm having an affair with your husband; you may not like the answer." Cute, but not quite there. Ah, I got it! "There's no such thing as a 'small' affair, since it can kill you." But then again you'd have to add, "But so can an axe." That one's just right.


The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
DVD
Price: $2.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Texar-kan't-a, October 20, 2014
I've been calling the NFL the "No Fun League" for quite awhile, along with many other fans or used-to-be fans. The NFL keeps changing the rules, making it more and more difficult for the defenses to keep up, what with rules such as: you can't hit the quarterback ever, especially if he plays for the Seahawks. Hey, if that QB is running outside of the pocket, I say he's a running back, and I also say, "Hit him so hard you hurt his whole family." Plus, you've got players such as Adrian Peterson that are supposed to hit people like there's no tomorrow on Sunday, but then act like choir boys on that tomorrow that's called Monday. How are they supposed to do that?

And servicemen that came back from the war? Same thing. "Go out and kill all the Germans you can. But then come home and put down your gun." I imagine that was how it was during and just after World War II.

These are some of the things that you should be thinking about while watching this film. This film takes place in 1946 and 1947, or just about that time, and you had military men coming back from Europe, trying to find jobs or returning to college under the GI Bill. More than likely, most of them had a lot of difficulty just returning to civilian life. The narrator even discusses this at the beginning of the film. But even though the killer was never found, most likely he was ex-military, still ticked off at the world for injustices that he faced. And even though I've never been in the military, I'm guessing those injustices are not just a few.

Hey, it's just a theory, but it's probably a good one. Also, notice the costume that this "gentleman" wore; his MO reminds me of The Zodiac Killer, although that San Francisco-area murderer came onto the scene almost 25 years later. It probably is no coincidence that both of these guys targeted "lovers' lane" victims, as more than likely, both had poor experiences with women -- maybe even poor experiences even getting a date -- and both took that internal pain out on others. Neither one wanted to see a guy with a pretty girl, would be the most likely scenario, and so each made sure that it didn't happen again.

(It's funny. After writing the original review, I read an original "profile" about this killer online, even though I'm not sure it was called a "profile" before John Douglas was in the FBI. So I had to add this parenthetical. At any rate, the profile said he was not ex-military -- I disagree, although I'm still not 100 percent convinced he was -- and it said that the killer was between 30 and 50. I disagree again; most likely, if he was military, he would be 25 to 30, which would be standard range for murders of this type; this guy was in prime physical condition. Also, the profiler said the killer wasn't "negro" -- his words not mine -- "because negroes aren't clever enough to commit these types of crimes." Once again, his words and not mine. Well, I would agree the killer was almost certainly white, but only because the vast majority of serials don't cross racial boundaries, and I believe that all victims here were white. So, we have an ex-military white male, between 25 and 30, who was familiar with the area, and had trouble with women and/or getting dates. In other words: lots of guys in that timeframe.)

I did get a kick out of a cop nicknamed "Sparkplug" here. Pretty comical stuff. And the digital transfer is really pretty terrific as well. The narration is interesting, reminding me of the original "Dragnet." However, the acting is just so wooden that I just can't go 4 today. If the acting were better? I would have no problem giving this minor misfire a higher rating.

Well, it might be difficult for NFL'ers and military personnel to "turn it on and off" at will, just as it was for the original Texarkana killer. But you have a choice; turn on this film or turn it off? I might go with a minor recommendation on a film that really could have been great.


Drew Peterson: Untouchable
Drew Peterson: Untouchable
DVD
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars I Drew My Own Conclusion, October 18, 2014
I surely don't claim to be an expert on this case, but I have watched some news on TV about it -- how could I not? -- and I have read a little bit. And now I've seen this film today, although I believe that I saw it once before, when it first released for TV. All I have to say is: the prosecutors are lucky that I wasn't on the jury.

Oh, it's not that I don't believe that Drew Peterson is necessarily innocent -- obviously, the converse is also true -- but it appears that all of the evidence against him is at best circumstantial. Is Mr. Peterson a misogynist? Well, yeah, probably; but that word is certainly thrown around way too much. (As some evidence: give me a non-slag word that defines a woman who, in general, hates men? Women such as this exist but I can't come up with a word offhand. "Misogynist" has almost lost it's meaning since it is so overused.) Is Mr. Peterson a jerk? Well, yeah, probably, at least according to the way that Rob Lowe plays the role. Is Mr. Peterson a killer? Well, maybe, but his last wife's body was never found, at least according to this film, and his ex-wife was exhumed which gave some evidence that she was probably killed, although not necessarily by him.

I'm sure that you've seen all of those courtroom dramas, where the defense attorney dives into a long soliloquy with something like, "Do I like my client? No, and you shouldn't like him either. But not liking him doesn't make him a murderer. Yada, yada, yada." And if I were his attorney, I surely would have used this strategy, or something like it.

I did really like Mr. Lowe's portrayal here though, although he might have gone all "Melrose Place" a bit, here and there. I actually got a few good chuckles, as Mr. Lowe portrayed Mr. Peterson as a real jerk, without any redeeming qualities. I'm not sure if the producers were going for these few moments of comedy, however, as this film's demographic was obviously women between, say, 23 and 40 -- just Mr. Peterson's type, although younger was seemingly better -- although I still liked this movie being a guy, mostly due to decent acting. And I've always had a soft spot for Mr. Lowe.

I did find the priest going public with a confession as being problematic, for many reasons. Confession was intended to always be private. (No, I'm not a Catholic, for you amateur psychologists out there, which tend to be many.) But divulging this information publicly, even though Ms. Peterson was presumed dead, was a faux pas; it weakened her character, even in death. (Supposedly she knew that her husband probably killed his ex-wife, and since she didn't alert the authorities, she could have been found as an accomplice if alive. Hey, I don't make the rules, people.)

This film may have released somewhat prematurely, however, because I believe that just after release, Mr. Peterson was found guilty and given almost 40 years in prison. But if I would have been on the jury, I would have said -- just like Lee Corso on "College Gameday" broadcasts -- "Not so fast my friend!" Because if you're going to put someone behind bars for murder, you need to be sure that you're making the right call. Did the jury make the right call? Well, only time will tell; more than likely he's guilty but it was a little too circumstantial for me. I would have said, "Show me the body!"


BTK
BTK
DVD
Price: $5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Blind, Tepid and Kooky, October 17, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: BTK (Amazon Instant Video)
I read "Bind Torture Kill" a while back, a book that was really strong, especially as it showed how law enforcement and the media can work together to solve a crime. I also watched "The BTK Killer," a somewhat weaker-but-still-worthwhile effort, as it was a mostly-true bio on Dennis Rader. Sometime before or after that, I rented "I Survived BTK," a film that I panned, giving the review a title something like, "I Survived 'I Survived BTK.'" Yes, I might seemingly be obsessed about this story, but I'm surely not as obsessed as Mr. Rader. Really, I'm not.

So I had to rent "BTK" of course, since I'm not really obsessed, as I just wrote. Supposedly, this film is "inspired by true events," which I've joked before means "it's neither inspired nor true." Well, this film is somewhat inspired and it's somewhat true, so I'll go with a 3 today.

For a serial killer film, I actually laughed too many times. That's right; I laughed. I laughed when Mr. Rader, while preparing to kill a young, married gal, lectured something like, "Now, what did we learn today? We learned to not be a little wh---." Funny, but probably intentional. (From my knowledge of Mr. Rader, this was probably accurate. He liked to lecture more often that my Philosophy professor in college.) I laughed when Mr. Rader's wife first finds out that he might be a serial killer, and starts wailing. It just seemed so fake to me, so I think that this laugh was unintentional.

But some of the story seems to have been changed for no apparent reason. As an example, here they show him picking up young women in his truck, abducting them and killing them. I believe that all of his murders were home invasions, but that may not be true. At any rate, I believe that this was conjecture and was therefore unnecessary.

Well, I just reviewed "Ann Rule Presents: The Stranger Beside Me." I thought that that film was really strong for the genre. Why not watch that one instead? BTK is not really AOK.


Ann Rule Presents: The Stranger Beside Me
Ann Rule Presents: The Stranger Beside Me
DVD
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Underappreciated Film, October 17, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'll admit, I've been a little harsh in my reviews on Ann Rule's books over the years. However, I almost always give her at least a four, but usually add some type of a caveat to that score. I just think that she should be held to a higher standard because she's been writing for so long, and she was a cop as well. And on top of that, she's known criminals personally, criminals such as Ted Bundy, which should give her an inside track on the psyches of psychos.

I've also read the book with the same title from Ms. Rule -- minus the annoying "Ann Rule Presents" -- a book that I really liked, except for her back-and-forth hedging on her personal opinions of Mr. Bundy. In particular, from what I remember -- I read the updated version quite a while ago, so this is from memory -- she added some of the latter chapters after-the-fact to give us some updated information on the case. I had the feeling that those chapters actually subtracted from the overall work rather than added. But maybe that's just me, since I've never read just the original version.

However you feel about Mr. Bundy, and however you feel about Ms. Rule, you should think logically while watching this film and forget about "feelings." I believe that this film is really underappreciated in many ways. I watched this quite a few years ago, and then bought it yesterday so that I could watch it again. I'll surely watch it again still. After all, I've not only read Ms. Rule's book, but I've read quite a few others about Mr. Bundy, and as an aside, I believe that Robert Keppel's are probably the best. At any rate, I lived in Seattle for 30 years and was there when Mr. Bundy was in the news, so I have more than just a passing interest in this case.

I read a partial professional review on this movie -- something that I try not to do before writing a review myself -- and that reviewer wrote something like, "Ann Rule is somewhat self deprecating here." While that may be true, it would only be natural. While all of this was happening, she had no idea who the killer was; the cops had no idea who the killer was. No one knew who the killer was, minus the killer, and perhaps some women who took that knowledge to the grave. So a lot of self doubt was bound to creep into the mind of Ms. Rule at the time, even though evidently she had strong suspicions that "Her Ted" might be "The Ted," no matter how unlikely.

I'm a pretty big fan of Barbara Hershey -- I've seen many of her films, and she always seems to give a strong emotional performance, which she does again here -- and so that is surely a bonus in this movie for me. Furthermore, the overall acting everywhere else, in particular the acting of Billy Campbell, is top notch, which is especially surprising given that this was originally an I-believe made-for-TV affair. But Mr. Campbell did not overplay his hand, and he did not devolve into caricature which many actors playing these types of roles have a very bad tendency to do. (For another strong Bundyesque performance, I encourage you to watch "Riverman." While the actor there plays the role differently, you would expect it. Here, he interacts with friends, while there, he interacts with foes, and Mr. Bundy was surely a sociopath; Mr. Bundy was bound to act quite differently based upon situation.)

It was odd, but Mr. Campbell reminds me of a very toned-down Jim Carrey. He looks somewhat like him, sounds somewhat like him, and has mannerisms somewhat like him. But luckily Mr. Campbell doesn't show us the out-of-control facial distortions, except for maybe when he's in the courtroom.

I'll go with a very strong recommendation on a film whose theme seems to be, "We don't recognize evil, even when it's staring us directly in the face." Indeed. But then again, that's what psychopaths and sociopaths do; they're chameleons who can change their colors whenever they feel like it. Just ask Ms. Rule; she's seen a "friend" turn from green to red in a heartbeat.


Through the Window: The Terrifying True Story of Cross-Country Killer Tommy Lynn Sells (St. Martin's True Crime Library)
Through the Window: The Terrifying True Story of Cross-Country Killer Tommy Lynn Sells (St. Martin's True Crime Library)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $7.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Tone Makes the (Book) World Go 'Round, October 14, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Reading a few of the reviews before making this purchase, I noted where another reviewer wrote something like, "Diane Fanning doesn't know if she's writing a romance novel or a true-crime book." That review almost convinced me not to make this purchase, which would have been a shame. But while I believe that reviewer had a point, I do believe that the review itself was perhaps misguided. Perhaps even the reviewer.

Like I've written many times before, I believe that Jack Olsen is probably the best true-crime author that has lived, thus far. I've read many of his books; I just wish that the late author's publisher would make more of his works available in the Kindle format. But one of his greatest strengths: tone. He always seemed to find the correct tone for a story, no matter what that story was. Usually it was murder, but not always.

And he was certainly no One-Trick Pony, especially with regards to tone. If you read "I: The Creation of a Serial Killer" about Keith Hunter Jesperson, perhaps the best true-crime book ever, Mr. Olsen allowed the killer himself to "write" quite a bit of that book. I believe that Mr. Olsen took notes directly from interviews with Mr. Jesperson and just put them down on paper. Talking about making that book come alive! Wow. You just may gasp while you read. (Surely "I" is not for everyone, especially not for the weak of heart. Many people don't like it, including Mr. Jesperson's daughter, who has written a book herself about being the daughter of a serial killer. But I'm not convinced critics of "I" are always being objective.)

Conversely, if you read "Hastened to the Grave" -- surely not my favorite Jack Olsen book but still very good, nonetheless -- he decided to take a somewhat whimsical tone, even though the subject matter was about murder and mayhem. Maybe even malfeasance. But I think that the tone of that book really worked in that scenario; it made a more-than serious subject readable and "enjoyable," if murder can be enjoyable.

I've read many other books from him: "The Man with the Candy," "Son," "The Misbegotten Son," and "Charmer," to name but a few. (As a side note, "Charmer" was certainly more than interesting to me, since I was probably one of the first people in Kirkland, WA, to know about George Russell's first murder as I was working night shift that night. A cop came into the store very early in the morning and told me about it while I was ringing up his purchase. No one knew who the killer was at that point, however; that would only come after unfortunately two more murders.)

The point is, all of Mr. Olsen's books are unique, at least in tone. And I believe that Ms. Fanning found a reasonable tone for "Through the Window," especially since Tommy Lynn Sells killed so many people. The author had to lighten it up as much as was possible, even though this book is still fairly serious.

The only other serial killer that I can think of that killed so many people in such a short period of time: Randy Kraft. And the only difference really between these guys: Mr. Sells was a heterosexual while Mr. Kraft is a homosexual. You surprisingly could argue that Mr. Kraft was more heinous, but that argument is for another day. (I believe that Mr. Kraft still sits on death row, unfortunately, right down the street from me. He should have been put down long ago.)

One of the smartest things that Ms. Fanning does here: she makes Krystal Surles, the young girl who was the most important living witness (Ms. Surles probably should have died but "God needed Tommy to go to prison," as someone close to the case was somewhat-quoted in this book), the star of the show here, while simultaneously not pandering to the reader. I've read quite a few books from Ann Rule, as a counter example, and I have to admit that Ms. Rule often breaks this rule.

Well, perhaps a weak 4, but a 4, nonetheless. Just remember, tone is everything, and even murder can be written to sound too serious sometimes. Luckily for us, Ms. Fanning doesn't make that mistake here.


Summer Of Sam
Summer Of Sam
DVD
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars It Ain't Impossible, October 7, 2014
When I reviewed the film "The Impossible" with Naomi Watts -- an actress that I really like -- I was skewered as I wrote something like, "'The Impossible' is a great title, because that's what it is. I've seen more poorly-behaved people in the checkout line at Safeway." Maybe people didn't like my Safeway reference. Maybe they didn't want to admit that that film should have shown looting, as that was one of the biggest problems that actually occurred, that always occurs, in scenarios like that. Maybe they shouldn't have shown that someone not giving up his cell phone after the earthquake and tsunami was the worst thing that happened. Because it surely wasn't.

Well, thank God that someone like Spike Lee came along and put some reality back into film, in the underrated "Summer of Sam." Right after the lights go out in New York, he shows people looting, and even way worse than that. These are the types of things that people do; they just can't help themselves. Maybe just like David Berkowitz, the real-life Son of Sam.

This film seems to show that New York didn't reallly "need" someone like Mr. Berkowitz to kill and maim; people can do it themselves, left to their own devices. Mr. Berkowitz and his crimes seem to be just a minor diversion here, even as one character says during the film. "How many did this guy kill? Two? Three? Four? Whatever. Way more than that were killed over a single weekend by other people." Or something to that effect.

Perhaps more importantly, Mr. Lee shows that people can always find any excuse for their own bad behavior. John Leguizama blames everyone, maybe even God, for his affairs, although he conveniently forgets to blame himself. Mr. Berkowitz blames a dog for wanting to kill. (I've read that Mr. Berkowitz claimed later that the whole "evil dog" thing was a lie. Supposedly, he wanted an excuse for a possible insanity defense. I'm not convinced his original story was a lie, however, as his words are rarely believable.) And without giving a spoiler, at the end some "friends" blame another "friend's" misunderstood lifestyle for them thinking he is something that he obviously isn't, is all I will divulge. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

But I didn't buy into everything. As an example, I didn't believe that someone would cheat on Mira Sorvino, or even want to. Just watch the dance scene in the disco; that should make you agree. I did like the references to the mid-late 70s, however: the music, the dance scene, the drug scene, the punk scene. All nice work, and it did bring back some memories, even though I was only in my early teens at the time, and not living in New York.

This seems to be the first serial-killer film that's not really about a serial killer. But then again, Mr. Lee didn't need to bring up the murders too much. People were more than happy to create their own chaos either way, just as the movie "The Impossible" should have shown. It's just that this film was honest enough to show it, while that one took the cowardly way out.


Siren
Siren
DVD
Price: $5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Music to My Ears, and a Sight for Sore Eyes, October 6, 2014
This review is from: Siren (Amazon Instant Video)
I believe that, in general, a Siren is supposed to be an allegory for inner thoughts and desires that we know that are bad for us, but we still can't avoid. The pull, the sound of her voice, is simply too strong. But ultimately, that "inner voice," if we can't tune her out, will eventually destroy us.

Well, at least that's what I got out of "Siren." And I do think that it's a pretty danged underappreciated film.

Tereza Srbova, while she should consider buying a vowel for her last name -- I'm teasing a bit, as I believe she was born in Prague, a city in which I've visited -- is surely a strong actress here. She really reminded me of Mia Farrow in "Rosemary's Baby," and I surely wouldn't be surprised if that character was used here as inspiration for this Siren. In this surely-lesser-but-not-by-much film, Ms. Srbova has a really spooky quality without overdoing it. She is particularly haunting while singing, and from some external reading, she is talented in real life in that area so the voice you hear in the movie is most likely hers.

And the rest of the cast isn't too shabby, particularly the other female lead. Overall, I thought that the cinematography was very good as well. Plus, you get to check out some pretty killer GOG action as well; nothing wrong with that.

For the life of me, I can't understand why this film has gotten such low ratings. OK; maybe I can. Perhaps an American audience is not sophisticated enough for this type of film, what with movies such as "Transformers" and "Twilight" being so popular. Sure, you might argue at this is a cheap shot, a below-the-belt ad hominem, and you'd have a point. But it still is mostly true, I believe.

Well, this film seems to say that we will always hear the song of our desires, and there always will be a price to be paid for it. But I'll say that the price of this film is not too high, and you should listen to me when I sing the praises of "Siren."


The Sex Slave Murders: The True Story of Serial Killers Gerald and Charlene Gallego
The Sex Slave Murders: The True Story of Serial Killers Gerald and Charlene Gallego
Price: $5.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Flowers is a Slave to Cliches, October 5, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book has more clichés than you can shake a stick at. And if you like the opening sentence -- which you shouldn't -- then this book should be right up your alley.

Personally, I liked the writing style about as much as a root canal. By the time that I was at the middle of the book -- I didn't read any further -- I was literally at the end of my rope. Perhaps I was at my wit's end. Take your pick; six of one, half dozen of another.

This is the first book that I've read from R. Barri Flowers, but I'm guessing that it will be my last. As they say, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. And I don't plan on shaming myself again. I hate to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but my eyes began rolling at that halfway point almost as much as your eyes should be rolling by reading this so-called "review."

But with all seriousness, there is certainly a story here. This tag-team partnership killers surely weren't the life of the party, and it's too bad that Mr. Flowers didn't find that story, outside of his little quips and awful clichés. I tell you, I would have given my left arm for a better telling of this story. Maybe even my right arm. I might have even given my left n. . . Oh, that's right. This is family hour. My bad.

Well, I'll keep this brief, as I'm sure that you get the picture, and I've already worn out my welcome and possibly even flogged a dead horse. But, you can lead that horse to water but you can't make him drink, which means that you'll still buy this book, even though I'm going with a big pass. LOL. Not.


Twisted Season 6
Twisted Season 6

5.0 out of 5 stars Straight-Up Top-Notch True Crime, October 1, 2014
As a true-crime aficionado, I've watched many shows, and read (too) many books. "Evil, I" is excellent, even chilling. "Murder Comes to Town," which includes perhaps the best narration and forces the viewer to understand that True Evil lurks in even sunny quarters. I could go on and on, but I won't. But perhaps the finest show is "Twisted."

The camera work is top notch. The narration is excellent, and not over the top. And I really like the psychologists featured here, in particular the gentleman who is featured. (I will research this and add his name later.). What he says makes intuitive sense; you've seen enough "hacks" out there with enough of their own theories to know of whom I'm writing.

Currently, I'm reading "The Sex Slave Murders," by Barri Flowers, which was influenced by an episode from this season. Those murders took place within an hour of where I live, which obviously peaked my interest. But I've seen many episodes that have educated me about many "twisted" people, and after watching you will realize there are many.

If you're looking for true crime at its finest, you've found it with "Twisted." Other shows should and have modeled themselves after this one. I'm going with my highest possible rating: 6.


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