Val’s Movie Roundup #18: Hallmark Edition


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Mystery Woman: Game Time (2005) – For those of you counting. This is my 7th Mystery Woman film. I believe that leaves me four more to see. As for this one, it’s average, which is honestly the best you can expect from most Hallmark movies. Although, my cable box seemed to disagree as the plot summary it gave me described it as a “humdrum whodunit.” In a string of Hallmark movies that screw up computer stuff, this one revolves around a computer game so it has it’s humorous moments.

It starts right off with one of them. A guy comes up to Kellie Martin in the bookstore and tries to show her a computer game mystery to sell in her store. Oh, and I’m getting really sick of the establishing shots of the bookstore in these movies. Do they honestly think we’ll be confused if they just cut to the inside? They show it over and over throughout the movies. But back to the plot. After identifying himself as working in the game business. Kellie Martin comes right out and gives a line that probably came right from the mouth of a politician in the early 90’s getting angry about the game Night Trap without actually knowing anything about video or computer games. She says they are “hours of mind-numbing glee watching some non-human kill and maim everything in it’s path.” I know she comes around over the course of the film, but Martin’s character is plenty young enough to know better. It’s a little ridiculous. But not as ridiculous as what he then says. He says he just “created the world’s very first computer game mystery.” Wow! That must have been news to Her Interactive who had been making Nancy Drew games for years prior. Not to mention going way back to the Sierra games and beyond. I played mystery games all the time as a kid in the 80s.

Then we meet a reclusive author played by William Katt. That’s right! The Greatest American Hero is in this and they kill him off in short order. What a shame. He should have been wearing the suit. He was asphyxiated, which according to this film either means poison or strangling. Honestly, I don’t remember one person saying that he couldn’t have just choked on a piece of a hot dog. What follows starts simple then turns to lunacy that I kind of expect from a movie made in 2005.

We do get to the see the game! It actually looks pretty cool. Seems to have around 35 levels, a trained killer squirrel, and you get to throw a cat at someone pointing a gun at you. That’s kinda cool. However, this game is treated like it’s some unpublished manuscript by an extremely well known author. We often buy that one of those will be worth millions to people, but an unreleased computer game mystery in 2005 is a little ridiculous. Even if they stop to give us an anti-piracy speech about all the money that is made pirating movies and games and tie it back to the Russian mafia with chemical weapons. Fresh off of Napster for this movie! There is also a speech equating playing games to drug addiction. The ending tries to tell us it was just meant to be humorous, but I don’t completely buy that.

There’s also some stupid scenes with Clarence Williams III doing tech stuff. He actually points to a screen that is basically white and reads off of it. It’s clear as day and they linger on it too with Martin coming up to join him and look at it. Then there’s the part where he opens up the hard drive that apparently took blows from a hammer, but it is in pristine condition. Then he describes computer forensics as not being hacking, but then uses a hard drive recovery tool called “H.A.C.K. v7.02”. He also throws around some hard drive jargon. It’s all kind of embarrassing.

But not as embarrassing as when Hallmark actually censored the word “butt” when Williams said “pain in the butt”. He says it. You can clearly see his lips. But the movie goes silent on that word then cuts to Martin. That seems a bit much and makes me wonder if it originally aired that way or if they actually received complaints about it.

Oh, well. This is average, but fun to laugh at the computer and gaming stuff.

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The Color of Rain (2014) – Isn’t it purple? I mean the title screams either The Color Purple, Purple Rain, or just self-important title. Anyways, this is about what happens when cancer kills off a wife and a husband, then have the widows and their children spend time with each other in a Hallmark movie. Yep, I could stop right here, but there a couple of things to mention.

It is boilerplate melodrama. It definitely relies on gender stereotypes. It’s either a Dad thing or a Mom thing or a boy thing with this movie. Couldn’t the poor guy at least know how to do his laundry? I know it’s based on real events as adapted from a book based on those real events, but please. And the kids really needed a little personality. They basically act like they are objects rather than kids. They just do what the plot tells them to do. It’s kind of annoying. It is a little heavy on the religious part, but that’s really not that bad except there is one scene where they are singing with the kids and oh my God, it’s 7th Heaven all of a sudden. Unfortunately, no one finds a joint then acts like a mass murder has happened.

Only two other things are worth mentioning. Near the end the tone shifts rather suddenly concerning their relationship, but then shifts right back without much resolution. They needed to iron that out more. The other thing is awesome. There is a scene where the two are emailing each other and I swear, I believe Lacey Chabert was using Linux. In particular some generic looking version of Ubuntu. Lacey Chabert using Linux in a Hallmark movie is pretty cool to me.

Hopefully you know what you are getting in terms of the content, but this is the quality of production you should demand from the Hallmark Channels. This is what I thought their movies were like till I actually started watching them. I’m up to 63 of them now.

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A Way Back Home/Shuffleton’s Barbershop (2013) – I don’t have much to say about the last two films. This has a troubled singer returning to his hometown only to find that the barber played by Danny Glover who was basically a surrogate father to him is dead. The singer had left town years prior angry about his father, his father’s relationship with his mother, and his brother in the military. I’m not sure if the brother was dead already when he left or not, but he’s gone by the time he comes back. Of course there are two ladies involved in this. This isn’t one where a romantic interest could be absent.

The movie as a whole is just kind of nice. You just sort of spend time with the singer and the folks in town with plot points revealing themselves whenever it’s convenient. Then before you know it, the movie is over. If it were a horror movie, then he would have discovered Glover dead and sought revenge on the town with Glover’s ghost egging him on. It’s close, except instead of revenge, it’s reconciliation with Glover’s ghost and the singer’s recollections of him egging him on.

This one’s okay, but easily forgettable.

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Undercover Bridesmaid (2012) – All you really need to know is that Brooke Burns is ordered to go undercover as a bridesmaid. She is confronted with overt female stereotypes even by Hallmark standards. But she doesn’t descend into Tasha Yar in a dress territory. Thank goodness! They just have her be the way she seems to naturally be in the Gourmet Detective movies and on The Chase. Just a little out of her comfort zone. She is put undercover because someone has made threats to carry out something bad during the wedding.

Really there’s only one more thing I think of that you should know. When I got to the wedding at the end, I thought I must have missed the resolution and was going to rewatch. If you find yourself thinking that, then don’t worry, cause you didn’t. It’s still going to happen.

This one is perfectly harmless. You’re better off with The Gourmet Detective movies, but this was better than Fixing Pete.

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Insomnia File No. 5: Black Ice (dir by Neill Fearnley)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

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If you were having trouble getting to sleep last night at 2 a.m., you could have turned over to Indieplex and watched Black Ice, a Canadian thriller from 1992.

Why is the film called Black Ice?  Well, that’s a good question.  There’s a lot of snow and ice to be seen in the film but absolutely none of it is black.  According to the imdb, this film was also released under the title A Passion for Murder.  I have to admit that I kind of like A Passion For Murder as a title, simply because it’s so generic and empty that it becomes oddly brilliant.  If you were making a parody of the type of movies that Netflix usually lists in the “steamy thriller” category,  A Passion For Murder is probably the title that you would come up with.

But, as for this film, it opens as all thrillers from the early 90s must, with a man in a suit meeting his clad-in-black-lingerie mistress in a hotel room.  The man in the suit is an up-and-coming senator.  His mistress is the mysterious Vanessa (Joanna Pacula).  When Vanessa pressures him to leave his wife, the senator gets mad and leaves.  Vanessa goes back to her apartment, where she is soon visited by the senator.  She and the senator get into a fight.  She shoves the senator into a window, which shatters and promptly kills the senator.

Meanwhile, Ben Shorr (Michael Nouri) is barely making a living as a taxi driver.  He’s an aspiring writer and, just in case we had any doubts about his intellectual bona fides, he has a pony tail and talks almost nonstop.  (Ben also owns a goldfish that he’s named Travis, as in Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle.)  Ben is pretty annoying and when he picks up Vanessa, you’re kind of hoping that she’ll end up killing him like she killed the senator.

But no, it turns out that Ben is supposed to be our hero.  Vanessa asks Ben to drive her from Detroit to Seattle.  And, of course, Ben agrees because … well, there wouldn’t be a movie otherwise.

It turns out that Vanessa is actually a secret agent.  She was supposed to seduce and eventually marry the senator.  Now that she’s accidentally killed him, her supervisor, Quinn, is determined to kill her.  Because this movie was made in Canada, the villainous Quinn is played by Michael Ironside.

The rest of the film is basically Quinn chasing Ben and Vanessa across the northwest.  Along the way, Vanessa and Ben fall in love.  One huge problem with Black Ice is that the audience knows everything about Vanessa before Ben does.  There are a lot of scenes of Ben trying to figure out why Quinn is pursuing Vanessa but, since we already know why, those scenes mostly feel like filler.  If  Vanessa had been as much of a mystery to the audience as she was to Ben for most of the film’s running time, Black Ice probably would have been a bit more intriguing.

As it is, Black Ice is pretty much a standard, low-budget chase film.  Michael Nouri is pretty annoying but Joanna Pacula and Michael Ironside both give good performances.  It snows throughout the entire film and there’s a few genuinely impressive shots of the three main characters running across the icy landscape.  Otherwise, Black Ice is pretty forgettable but it also doesn’t require much thought, which might make it an appropriate film to watch if you’ve got insomnia.

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Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover

Spooky Screwballs: THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (Universal, 1940)


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THE INVISIBLE WOMAN usually gets lumped in with Universal Picture’s monster movies, but has more in common with BRINGING UP BABY or MY MAN GODFREY. In fact, it’s one of my favorite screwball comedies. There are no scares in THE INVISIBLE WOMAN, but there sure are a lot of laughs!

When rich playboy Dick Russell (John Howard) discovers his wild lifestyle has left him flat broke, he has to quit funding eccentric Professor Gibbs (John Barrymore).  The crackpot inventor takes an ad in the paper looking for a “human being willing to become invisible…no remuneration”. His ad is answered by Kitty Carroll (Bruce), a model always at odds with cruel boss Growley (perennial sourpuss Charles Lane). Kitty answers the “call to adventure”, and is given an injection, then placed in the professor’s invisibility machine (“It tickles!”)

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The experiment’s a success, and invisible Kitty seeks revenge on Growley for herself and all working girls in a hilarious scene. Meanwhile…

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4 Shots From 4 Films: From Russia With Love, Zardoz, Highlander, First Knight


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films.  As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

This edition of 4 Shots From 4 Films is dedicated to Sean Connery, on the occasion of his 85th birthday!

4 Shots From 4 Films

From Russia With Love (1963, directed by Terrence Young)

From Russia With Love (1963, directed by Terrence Young)

Zardoz (1974, directed by John Boorman)

Zardoz (1974, directed by John Boorman)

Highlander (1986, directed by Russell Mulcahy)

Highlander (1986, directed by Russell Mulcahy)

 First Knight (1995, directed by Jerry Zucker)

First Knight (1995, directed by Jerry Zucker)

The Sixth Annual Academy Awards: 1919


At the 1919 Academy Awards, Evelyn Preer makes history, Harry Houdini is rewarded for playing himself, and Bolshevism goes on trial!

Through the Shattered Lens Presents The Oscars

Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer

In 1919, as the Spanish Flu continued to infect and kill millions, the world tried to recover from World War I.  After spending six months at the Paris Peace Conference, President Woodrow Wilson returned to the U.S. and launched an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to bring the United States into the newly formed League of Nations.  On September 25th, while barnstorming across the nation in support of the League, a physically exhausted Wilson collapsed and never truly recovered.  On October 2nd, a stroke left him partially paralyzed and blind in one eye.

Even before Wilson’s physical collapse, the U.S. population had reason to feel uncertain about the future.  On January 6th, the wildly popular Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep.  Before his death, Roosevelt had been widely expected to run for President in 1920 and hopefully return the U.S. to the peace and prosperity…

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