Val’s Movie Roundup #9: Hallmark Edition


WHACK! You just got hit in the head with a greeting card.

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Bound By A Secret (2009) – This is a good one. It’s very refreshing to come across a Hallmark movie like this. It’s about an actress (Lesley Ann Warren) who quits her career and goes to visit her friend played by Meredith Baxter from Family Ties. I really want to find a movie where she plays a villain. I mean we have Michael Gross as a gun nut in the Tremors movies. I think she has the acting chops to pull it off. But getting back to this movie, there are four issues being faced by the characters. The actress is dying and Baxter’s daughter is actually hers biologically. Baxter is overprotective of her daughter and life in general. Amazingly for a Hallmark movie, they even use the way she treats her china as a metaphor for the way she treats her family. A nice touch that I didn’t expect in a TV Movie. The daughter’s problem is that her husband is out of work and is kind of proud. Think, kind of like the husband in The Crowd (1928), just not as extreme. It’s not tearing the family apart in the same way, but he doesn’t appreciate Baxter helping out. Things move forward, the secret comes out, and it works it’s way to the happy ending. The acting is solid and the script is good. It’s a well made film. This is a Hallmark movie that I can get behind.

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Gourmet Detective: A Healthy Place to Die (2015) – This is another one I liked as much as Bound By A Secret. Yeah, I’m a little biased because I already like Brooke Burns. I enjoy watching her host The Chase. I think she does a good job. I think this is the first of these mystery movies they make for Hallmark that basically did it right. The other ones I’ve seen have issues that make it difficult to follow the story, or to even care. That’s that not present here. It’s just my issue with mysteries in general. I’m a simple person and these plots tend to be too much for me. It starts with a short setup, which I like. It’s almost like they were making a subtle jab at the excuses given in movies for why two people need to go off together. They don’t even try. Dylan Neal shows up at the police station. He mentions he’s going to a resort to give a talk on cooking. The chief basically then just tells Burns you don’t take vacation days, that’s pissing people off, so you’re going. End of story. That happens inside of a couple minutes. During a dinner scene at the resort we meet a reporter who isn’t well liked. Anyone who grew up watching Murder, She Wrote knows that means she’s marked for death. The rest is pretty standard stuff of leading us around till we finally settle on suspects they hope aren’t out of left field, but not incredibly obvious. I think the chemistry between Burns and Neal works. I also like that because of the way Burns is built and carries herself, we really do feel like we’re just watching two people working together. Rather than we’re watching a guy and girl work together. It’s a small thing, but it was just more reason for me to like this movie. I want to see the other one of these they did together.

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My Gal Sunday (2014) – This one on the other hand, my recommendation is to pretend this doesn’t exist. And run far away from anyone who tries to get you to watch it. Honestly, I’m up to 27 Hallmark movies now and this is easily the worst I’ve seen. They might as well have called this The Mystery Cruise II because it has all the same problems as that film and more. It’s also based on a book by the same author. It has the same abrupt beginning. I really think what happened here is that someone picked up the book, didn’t actually read it, but skimmed it looking for key scenes, jotted them down, then wrote the screenplay. I can’t imagine much thought went into the adaptation. Abrupt beginnings are common in books. It works just fine in that medium. It doesn’t work in movies. It especially doesn’t work in TV Movies. An abrupt beginning like this one, which is cringe worthy for other reasons, makes you think you have come back from a commercial in the middle of a show. You could easily think you must have missed something, but no. The movie actually just started. Then it only gets worse. Things just jump around for lack of a better description so you have little chance of really following things or caring to follow things. There are flashbacks that are confusing. The director tries to add a little bit of an artsy transition into them, but it just makes things worse. And there’s no chemistry whatsoever. Sometimes the camera lingers on Rachel Blanchard’s face and what? Is she emoting? Did they forget to say cut? It’s stupid. If you manage to suffer through this whole thing then you are treated to one of the dumbest resolutions ever. If you get there, then you’ll know exactly what I am talking about, but please don’t. Spare yourself this abomination.

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Wedding Planner Mystery (2014) – Jeez! What’s next Nail Technician Mystery or Retro Video Game Salesperson Mystery. Time is money. Don’t think of a title, just throw something onto the word “Murder” or “Mystery”. This is not My Gal Sunday. It’s not good, but it’s a far cry from that movie. It’s also a far cry from Gourmet Detective: A Healthy Place to Die. It’s about a wedding planner and there’s a mystery. Go figure! The wedding planner is played by Erica Durance of Smallville fame. I don’t think I’ve ever complained about the makeup in a movie, but here I go. Durance looks like a plastic doll. I thought maybe surgery, but I think it was just bad makeup cause a couple other of the young actresses also didn’t look good in the same way. Even the guys seemed to be wearing too much makeup. Also, one of the older ladies was wearing a lousy wig. Not like the Lies Between Friends wig, but it’s not good. The movie begins at a wedding and a bridesmaid dies in a car accident. Honestly, I can’t really tell you why Durance investigates. I guess it had something to do with alcohol being served at the wedding, but it just seems like she can’t mind her own damn business. What follows is just boring. In some ways, it’s more like an attempt at a romantic comedy between Durance and some paparazzi-ish reporter. None of it really works. Especially not the voice overs from Durance like she’s suddenly Sam Spade or something. She’s a wedding planner! I can’t recommend this one, but it’s not awful. I just can’t say that you will enjoy it.

Happy Birthday Robert Mitchum: OUT OF THE PAST (RKO 1947)


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One of my favorite actors, the laconic, iconic Robert Mitchum was born August 6, 1917 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Rugged Robert had a wandering spirit, riding the rails in the days of the Depression, and even did time on a Georgia chain gang. Mitchum eventually ended up in California , and was bitten by the acting bug. After small roles in Laurel & Hardy comedies and Hopalong Cassidy oaters, Mitchum got noticed in a series of B-Westerns based on the novels of Zane Grey. His big break came as a tough sergeant in 1945’s THE STORY OF G.I. JOE, which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. But the role that made him a star was world-weary private eye Jeff Bailey in the film noir classic OUT OF THE PAST.

We meet Bailey running a gas station in the small town of Bridgeport, California (an homage to Mitchum’s hometown, perhaps?) He has a mute…

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