#BoundByBlackmail, #MommysLittleStar, and more – TV Reviews

Table of Reviews

Bound By Blackmail – Review

Bound By Blackmail – Lifetime – 2 hours and 0 minutes

Nicole just became an empty nester after dropping her daughter, Ari, off at college.  She gets a welcomed text from her friend, Diana, asking to meet up.  Diana asks Nicole to come to a self-help seminar given by Initiative.  Its pillars are productivity, affirmation, and community.  Nicole has never been into self-help, but the idea of community strikes her.  So she pays the $500 fee and attends her first seminar.  She runs into her high school friend, Phyllis, but something feels off about her demeanor.  

After class is over, Phyllis approaches Nicole about her motivation to come.  Nicole was a young mother who dedicated her life to work and Ari.  So her social circle died.  Now, she wants a sense of fellowship again.  Then, Diana cuts off their conversation to introduce Nicole to their leader, Ken.  Ken runs Initiative with his brother, Justin, handling the finances.  Ken shows Nicole the grounds, activities, and member photos.  Nicole leaves, but Phyllis stops Nicole in the parking lot.  Phyllis tells Nicole not to join and to leave.  Phyllis wants to confess more but doesn’t feel safe.  Phyllis promises to meet at Nicole’s home later.

After Phyllis is a no-show, Nicole goes back to Initiative.  She learns that there are 11 levels to the program with classes, and each class costs money.  Justin tells Nicole to bring in new members when Nicole questions the fees.  Nicole will get a percentage of their payment to cover her cost and any members they bring it.  Nicole mentions that this sounds like a pyramid scheme, and Justin stops her immediately.  Nicole asks about Phyllis, and Ken says Phyllis quit in an email.  Nicole leaves to go to Phyllis’s home and asks why she quit.  Robyn, Phyllis’s sister, meets Nicole at Phyllis’s door.  But when Robyn hears the word ‘Initiative,’ Robyn doesn’t want to talk to Nicole and slams the door in her face.  

A day later, Rachel calls to tell Nicole that Phyllis died, and the police say it was an overdose.  Phyllis was sober for 15 years, so Rachel thinks that’s a lie.  After talking to Megan, a young member, Nicole believes Initiative is a cult holding its members captive.  She wants to save Megan before Megan meets Phyllis’s fate.  But they have tapes of Megan with damning information, and Nicole vows to get them back.  She wants to free Megan and find out what happened to Phyllis.  Is Nicole willing to sacrifice herself and Ari?

This movie is a full display of the BITE model for cult mind control.  They love-bomb Nicole and then try to control her emotional well-being by obtaining private information.  While this plot seems far-fetched, you only need to look at NXIVMJonestown, or several MLMs to see that they follow the same structure to gain money and power.  Experienced Lifetimers will have the mystery killer pegged in the first hour.  Instead, use this movie as a teaching tool to recognize these tactics before you, or someone you care about, gets in too deep emotionally or financially.  

I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars

Love you, mom. Now, get out of my room – Ari

You have to go. Get out of here – Phyllis 

I don’t think any 1 person has all the answers – Nicole

Initiative is my family now – Megan 

You have the wrong idea about us – Ken

Initiative is my entire life – Diane

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Mommy’s Little Star – Review

Mommy’s Little Star – LMN – 2 hours and 0 minutes

Olivia and her father, Brad, go to the rehab center to visit her mother, Lauren, for Lauren’s birthday, but Lauren checked out early.  Olivia is disappointed, and Brad consoles her.  Four months later, Olivia attends a drama summer day camp with her friend, Sydney.  Olivia wants to spend time with Lauren, but Lauren is not ready.  Lauren got drunk, fell asleep, and almost burned down the kitchen the last time she watched Olivia.  She worries about making that mistake again.

Before class, Sydney introduces Olivia to a new social media app, Sparxy.  A few kids got internet famous and turned their dance videos into a profit.  Kidflencer Chloe performs on the app with her mom, and, in the past, she became famous after another star shared her video.  Olivia wants to dance on the app with her mom.  She thinks Lauren will want to be around if she is good at Sparxy. Olivia makes a dance video with Sydney and her nanny, Hope.  Sydney and Olivia post the video at the same time.  When Olivia gets more likes than Sydney, Olivia pledges to become famous to get Lauren back.

Lauren promised to meet with a recovery friend, Felicity, but Felicity stood her up.  Aiden sees her alone and pretends to find her wallet.  Aiden tells Lauren his friend isn’t going to make it, so they should eat together.  Olivia texted Lauren because Lauren got thousands of likes in a few hours during Lauren’s date with Aiden.  And another influencer shared her video.  Aiden says good night to Lauren and looks her and Sparxy up online.  He discovers that Sparxy is having a contest.  At the end of the month, the video with the most views will receive $500,000.  Aiden owes dangerous people money, and he needs a payout fast.  Seeing Olivia’s rising popularity, he gets an idea.  He tells Lauren that he is a talent manager and is willing to take on Olivia as a client.  He will have Lauren sign a contract that puts all of Olivia’s winnings in his bank account.  Now, he has to make sure Olivia wins.  

So let’s put this out there. Lauren and Brad are equivalent to Lifetime cops in this movie, and the most intelligent characters are Hope and Sydney.  They trust their instincts and do thorough background checks.  However, viewers shouldn’t overlook the film’s message about influencers and social media.  Olivia wanted fame at all costs because she desired attention from her parents.  Olivia felt she needed likes to feel liked by her parents.  If she’s good at this, they would love her.  That reality is crushing and realistic.  So many join social media to get approval that they lack.  Even when Olivia physically and emotionally hurts people, it’s not enough to stop her.  This movie is a sad reflection of our society that we shouldn’t ignore.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars

Liv, it’s just one video – Sydney

But I need to win – Olivia

She’s just a kid making videos for fun – Lauren

You have actual fans – Brad

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Stalker – Review

Stalker – TV One – 2 hours and 0 minutes

During a scene, the bedpost comes off and almost hurts the star, Tanya.  Her co-star and boyfriend, Adam, screams at the director and prop manager.  They promise to fix the issue before reshooting.  Tanya grabs the bedpost and sees a small heart on it.  She thinks it’s an innocent prank, completes the scene, and walks toward her trailer.  Her assistant, Riley, applauds Tanya for her bravery.  Tanya asks for clarification, and Riley shows Tanya her antidepressant and bipolar medication post.  Shocked, Tanya tells Riley that she didn’t and would never post that for the world to see.  Someone hacked her account.  She wants Riley to take down the post now.  Then, her accountant has another piece of unfortunate information.  Someone stole Tanya’s identity, and the bank froze her accounts.  They think it will take days to figure things out.

Tanya goes home with Adam to forget the day.  When Adam walks away, Tanya gets a text to check his phone.  She sees pictures of Adam with his ex-girlfriend, and she tells Adam to leave.  The paparazzi got wind of the breakup, and now they are taking pictures outside the gate.  An unknown person calls Tanya and tells her to fix the past.  Tanya updates Riley but doesn’t want to call the police.  Tanya dealt with stalkers before and knows the police are zero help.  So Tanya decides to stay home and take a shower.  When she looks at the mirror’s condensation, Tanya sees a heart.  Then, Tanya hears someone moving around the house.  She gets in her car and drives.  Tanya can’t stay in a hotel because the bank froze her accounts.  So, she drives 2 hours to her hometown.

Tanya’s estranged sister, Shelly, lets Tanya in, and they talk about the past.  Tanya looks around her bedroom and out the window reminiscing about her neighbor, Damon.  They would talk every night using the clothesline to pass notes.  Damon owns the home, but it’s empty after he moved away.  Then, she sees something moving in Damon’s house.  She and Shelly go over to check it, and Damon spooks them.  He heard Tanya was in town, and he wanted to say hi.  He planned on staying in his old home, but the utilities are off.  Tanya tells Damon that someone was in the house and calls the police.  Officer Marcus comes over to survey the area and finds nothing.  Although, he takes time to buddy up to Tanya.  Damon sees that Marcus makes Tanya uncomfortable, so he offers to stay with Tanya and Shelly until they find her stalker.  Tanya will confront the darkest corners of her past to reveal the monster.

When the villain appears on the screen, you know that person is the bad guy.  You only want to know why.  As the script peels the layers of Tanya’s life, you learn she isn’t the squeaky, clean image she portrays in the media.  She didn’t leave for a career.  She moved to forget everyone she wronged and everything she did.  It’s no wonder someone is after her.  The plot gives some red herrings, but experienced watchers see them a mile away.

I give it 3 out of 5 stars

Oh, that was karate – Adam

I can cook.  Ok, we’ll order – Tanya

Phone, internet, or pepping tom – Riley

Always about the drama – Shelly

Ah, can you put the sword down now? Please – Damon

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Aloha with Love – Review

Aloha with Love – UPtv – 2 hours and 0 minutes

Darren and Gemma go over the proposal before presenting it to Mr. Barrington.  Gemma hopes that winning the bid will cement her relationship with Darren.  However, Mr. Barrington fumes because the condo development design doesn’t have the number of homes he wanted.  Darren is furious with Gemma’s practical design over customer satisfaction.  Gemma calls her Auntie Lani for guidance.  Lani tells Gemma that she shouldn’t give up if she believes in her design.  Auntie Lani knows Gemma’s talent will shine through.

Later, Gemma meets Darren for lunch, and he talks about their relationship like a business deal.  Gemma decides to end their romantic partnership and walks out.  Gemma goes back to the office and confides in her co-worker Patti.  Then, Gemma gets a call from her sister, Sarah.  Auntie Lani died from a heart attack while eating lunch with their dad, Pono.  Gemma can’t believe it because they talked earlier.  Gemma catches the next flight to Maui.

Pono and Sarah greet Gemma at the airport.  They are happy to see each other but sad about the occasion.  During the wake, Lani’s lawyer approaches with Lani’s will.  Lani wanted Gemma and Sarah to take over her home to renovate it.  And they can decide what to do with the house afterward.  But Lani had one stipulation: the contractor must be Ben.  Ben is Gemma’s high school crush.  Their relationship ended when Ben stood Gemma up to compete in a surf competition.  Gemma concedes with Ben to focus on the task and nothing else because she wants to get back to the mainland soon.  Then they see the house.  It will take a lot more work than Gemma expected.  She tells Ben the home will be a refresh and not a redo, so he quits.  After some poor karma, Gemma hires Ben again.  And just in time.  Darren wants to buy Lani’s land for Mr. Barrington.  If the deal goes through, Darren desires a second chance.  Sarah approves, but Ben makes his unhappiness known.  Between a house and a dollar sign, what will Gemma choose?

Be ready to laugh, cry, and yell at the screen.  Viewers will fall in love with the loving family and picturesque landscapes.  And hearing the actors speak Hawaiian engulfs you into the story.  It’s great to see Gemma end her relationship before meeting Ben.  She didn’t gain strength because of Ben but through Lani’s words of wisdom.  And keep a pen and pad handing because Lani offers some gems.  Gemma uses this time building to house to look forward with a man from her past. This movie is an instant classic for advice, family connection, and genuine emotions.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for part two. 

I give it 5 out of 5 stars

You’re very sunny, aren’t you – Mr. Barrington

Better for who. For Barrington, or for you – Darren

You’ve put too much work into this? – Gemma

I guess the boxes we don’t see are the ones we need to check the most – Patti

No buts allowed. ‘Buts’ just keep you down in the dumps. ‘Yes and’ is what keeps you going – Auntie Lani

But sometimes 1 step back is 2 steps forward – Sarah

And I hope life is treating you more kindly than 15 years ago when I cheated you, with the ocean – Ben

Or well-deserved karma for firing Ben – Emma

Beat it – Pono

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Driven to Murder – Review

Driven to Murder – Lifetime – 2 hours and 0 minutes

After a long night of work, Sarah uses a rideshare app for a lift home.  The driver gets out of the car in the middle of the ride and leaves her alone.  Sarah gets out to find him and realizes she is in a bad neighborhood.  The driver returned and said he walked away to get more change.  They get back in the car and continue the ride.  Sarah shows she has pepper spray, and the driver asks to see it.  He examines the pepper spray and sees it is expired.  When he looks back to show her, he hits and kills a homeless man with his vehicle.  Sarah gets out and starts to call the police, but the driver stops her.  He tells Sarah that they will both be in trouble if they stay.  He convinces Sarah to get back in the car.  They drive to a convenience store, and Sarah runs to the bathroom.  She lies to her friend, Matt, and says everything is ok.  Then, Sarah calls another rideshare and gets in the vehicle.  As Sarah tries to rest in the back seat, she gets stalker images on her phone.  Her previous driver is following her, and he wants her back.  He hits the car and runs it off the road.  When Sarah wakes up, her original driver is in the front seat and the other driver is dead.  This evening will be the worst night of Sarah’s life because her driver is a murdering identity thief.  His name is Jason, and he killed the actual driver for access to his car and job.  Sarah is in the hands of a murdering psychopath.

Please, don’t grow up to be Lifetime lead dumb.  This night stalker thriller would be scary if Sarah didn’t make so many mistakes in the beginning.  By the time she discovers Jason is crazy, you have little to no sympathy for her.  However, you feel terror and sadness for Jason’s murderous crime spree victims.  No one is safe or spared.  This movie is Criminal Minds without the BSU (FTC Affiliate Disclaimer).  While Sarah may anger you, Jason will bring you into the story.  His cunning and manipulation are legendary.  

I give it 3 out of 5 stars

I don’t want to be one of those people who are suspicious of everyone and everything outside of their comfort zone – Sarah

Staying here will be the biggest mistake of your life – Jason

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