Val’s Movie Roundup #29: Hallmark Edition


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Bridal Fever (2008)

Unfortunately, there is no cowbell in this movie. Okay, this one is about a lady named Gwen Green (Andrea Roth). She works as an assistant editor. Delta Burke plays Dahlia Marchand who writes romance novels, but is going to pen an autobiography. Turning down more experienced editors, she picks Green to be her editor as soon as she sees her. I honestly had to watch this twice because the first time around I missed a few things so I was rather confused as to what Burke’s obsession with this woman was. Honestly, I thought she was a lesbian for a minute there and this shot near the end of the movie didn’t help.

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The movie begins with one of Green’s friends getting married. Then her friend catches the bridal fever and becomes obsessed with getting married. She drags Green into her nuttiness. So we go speed blind dating. I have seen this scene done in numerous movies, but I think it’s the first time I’ve seen this in one of these montages.

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Didn’t work for me no matter how much of a resemblance he might bare to Jeffrey Combs. Green doesn’t find her man here. Instead, she is passing by a bookstore and decides to go in and replace the window display with books by Dahlia Marchand. Sadly, this didn’t feel contrived because I can remember my Dad buying things from his business clients to support them. It doesn’t surprise me that now since she is editing one of Marchand’s books, she would do this. Of course a little slip and fall in the store, and she meets the guy she will end up with. He works at the store.

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Sorry, I really didn’t mean to catch him with his “you’re gonna die now” look on his face. The rest of the film plays out like this. Marchand is going to launch her book at his store. Marchand oddly avoids the store. Green works with this guy getting closer and closer. Since her friend has poisoned Green’s mind and since the guy didn’t propose to her on the spot, she gets engaged to the wrong guy. Then we find out that Marchand picked her because she wanted someone who wouldn’t do their job and thus wouldn’t ask her about gaps in her biography. The big gap being her years working at that bookstore. Turns out it’s the guy’s uncle who owns the store that once had a thing with her. It wraps up like you think.

This was okay. Very cliched and it’s one of those ones I like to say sleepwalks through the formulaic plot, but the actors were likable enough, including Delta Burke. I did like that they borrowed the comparing scars scene from Lethal Weapon 3.

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You can do worse, but you can also do better.

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Audrey’s Rain (2003) – Where the hell did this Hallmark movie come from? It’s got cursing, people who act like real people (kids included), suicide, a mentally challenged or at least mentally cracked in some fashion character, sexual references, direct reference to breasts as “buzzards”, making out, use of the word horny, the kid tries to say Audrey’s sandwiches taste like shit, fart jokes, a fart joke directed at a reverend who just asked Audrey to consider returning to the church, and more.

Seriously, is this the kind of movie Hallmark initially made? Cause this is a far far far cry from the kind of stuff they make today and have for many years. I actually thought I was watching a real movie here. The only things I saw in common with other Hallmark movies were that Larry Levinson was involved. Well, I guess I should talk a little bit about it.

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It starts off with Audrey (Jean Smart) trying to blow away a rodent with a rifle. Yay! That scene is the one time this film censors itself. Despite the word “bastard” showing up in the close captioning, the sound falls silent on that word. Funny they did that considering this follows shortly afterwards.

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Sure, the sister got her hand on his mouth before he got the full word out, but still. I’ve seen Hallmark censor the word “butt”.

So, you’ve got Audrey, two kids from a sister who killed herself, and another sister who has mental issues. I’m pretty sure she’s supposed to be mentally challenged, but I don’t remember there being enough details to tell you any more than that. And that’s where this film’s real issue is. While you really don’t care too much about this sister, the film does feel like it jumps over sections that were once there or should be there telling us more.

A man from Audrey’s past gets close to her and they do end up together. There’s a quirky friend. There are flashbacks. The kids have problems with the memories of their dead mother. There’s a pretty gut wrenching scene where we think the little girl might have hung herself like her mom did. It all works quite well, but it feels like it should have been a mini-series rather than just a movie. Maybe it was, and then was edited down.

At the end of the day, if you like Hallmark, see it. It’s like no other Hallmark movie out of the 106 I’ve seen so far. Just know that it will feel like it was chopped up.

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Love On The Air (2015) – I kind of felt bad watching this when it premiered cause some guy who claimed to have worked on the film tweeted me twice saying he was glad I was enjoying it. I felt bad because the majority of my tweets were complaints about the movie. I don’t think I even mentioned the problems with the actors. Oh, well.

Love On The Air begins with our two leads doing their radio shows on the same network. I don’t remember what the name of their shows were, if they had any, but a modern equivalent would be tweets with #NotAllMen attached for hers and #YesAllWomen for his. It’s that kind of stuff being slung at the beginning of this movie. The largely writing off the other gender based on bad experiences thing. Only it’s far tamer than the stuff you hear online and not as complex. Thank goodness. But it does have that isolationist/separatist rhetoric to it that people cry foul over when it’s skin color, but not as much with gender. She even says “be an island”. I honestly could have done without this as the setup seeing as it’s stuff like this that makes places like Twitter depressing, but that’s the setup.

Our leading lady is Sonia (Alison Sweeney). Our leading man is Nick (Jonathan Scarfe). The two of them end up going at it on the air for a few minutes and that leads to them doing it on a regular basis. You can guess where this goes.

A day for night shot, along with shots that were under lit or shot on cloudy days.

A day for night shot, along with shots that were under lit or shot on cloudy days.

Odd choices of things to focus on or I swear at times the camera just going out of focus.

Odd choices of things to focus on or I swear at times the camera just going out of focus.

This blinding light that keeps shining at you during this scene.

This blinding light that keeps shining at you during this scene.

And random obstructions in front of the camera for reasons beyond me.

And random obstructions in front of the camera for reasons beyond me.

What? You thought they were going to fall in love? Well, that happens too, which is another problem. They have both been burned by certain experiences in their past. Problem is, I think they needed to even out the two of them out a little more. He is noticeably easier to get along with than she is. I know it makes for a little more of a traditional romance of him winning her over, but it would have been nice for them to have dialed down Sonia a little bit. I also know that it begins with her engagement being called off so she’s fresh off a recent bad experience, but I still wanted them to be on more even ground.

However, if you can get past the odd cinematography and the characters starting out on uneven footing, I know I sure didn’t feel they had any chemistry together. Scarfe is kind of warm and a little likable. Sweeney not as much. I understand how spending time with each other reminds them that no matter how many or intensity of experiences you have with a section of the population, you can’t right the whole lot off. However, I didn’t really buy that they should end up together as anything but good friends who do a show together.

I guess this is the kind I say won’t kill ya!

A little personal side note. I think I have mentioned it before, but Sweeney also does a series called Murder, She Baked on Hallmark. I wish that had her killing people with her cooking. She really comes across to me as someone who could play a villain well. I never saw her on Days Of Our Lives so maybe she did there.

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All Of My Heart (2015) – This is another one of those Hallmark movies that borrows a screwball plot that you’d find in the 1940’s. It begins with Jenny Fintley (Lacey Chabert) and Brian Howell (Brennan Elliott), I kid you not, each inheriting half of the same house in the country. Being a cook, she sees it as business opportunity to open a bed and breakfast. Being a stockbroker, he sees it as an asset that needs to be liquidated. Hilarity ensues? Not really. This isn’t like Growing The Big One, which is a Hallmark movie and not one of those late night cable movies I’ve reviewed. I still don’t know how Hallmark lucked out on that name.

It’s just them falling in love by spending time with each other. She’s there cause she wants to open a business. He gets stranded there after his job slips out from underneath him. Oddly, the film teases that it’s going to do something humorous like Funny Farm (1988), but doesn’t follow through.

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That’s Ed Asner who you probably know as the guy who shoots people in the back on Hawaii Five-O. The other guy is Daniel Cudmore who is probably best known as Jaffa #1 from the Homecoming episode of Stargate SG-1. Asner sits on the bench in front of the General Store and makes humorous comments as well as some important ones at the end of the movie. Cudmore is the colossus who runs the store and is the local plumber. They are both funny in this movie. I wanted more quirky characters. Sure, hoping for the crazy mailman from Funny Farm would be asking too much, but I could have done with more of these two. I would have preferred Chabert and Elliott coming together dealing with the odd, but lovable town rather than just coming together because it’s Hallmark.

My only other complaint has to do with Lacey Chabert. I didn’t watch Party Of Five back when I was kid and have very limited exposure to her work. Largely just Hallmark, but I really want more personality out of her here. Along with looking like she’s wearing more makeup then I care for, she seems to act like she is a kid who just entered her first planetarium. He has some more personality, but I really wanted something like what Shannen Doherty and Kavan Smith had in Growing The Big One.

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So, which one of these does this poor dog from one of the commercials on Hallmark say you should see? Audrey’s Rain. Despite it’s problems, it’s so different. If you like Hallmark, you should see it. I’m a little biased though, cause I like Jean Smart.

George Romero’s Climactic (?) Finale Is Upon Us In “Empire Of The Dead : Act Three” #5


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So, this is it : no more set-up, build-up, dust-up, or even cover-up : with George Romero’s Empire Of The Dead : Act Three #5, the father of the modern (and, heck, post-modern) zombie genre brings his fifteen-issue four-color epic to a close.  Goodbye, Paul Barnum. Goodbye, Dr. Penny Jones. Goodbye, Mayor Chandrake. Goodbye, Jo. And, most especially, goodbye, Xavier.

Does everyone get a happy ending? I suppose that would be telling, and since dishing out overly-specific “spoilers” isn’t my stock in trade, I’ll just say this much — the story reaches what I’m sure most folks (myself included) would call a decent conclusion, but there’s a lot left hanging, which is especially strange considering that this final installment almost feels more like an epilogue than anything else.

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Please allow me to explain since you, dear reader, deserve at least that much : a good number of plotlines actually wrapped themselves up last issue (the aerial bombardment of New York, the fall of the vampire ruling class, the daring raid on the Federal Reserve, the final fate of characters like Dixie Peach and Lilith), so the only remaining order of business here is for Paul, Penny, and Xavier to rescue “street urchin” Joe and the other kids from the “blood farm” they’ve been shipped to that was discovered by Detective Perez. Which they do in rather spectacular fashion thanks to an all-out invasion courtesy of an army of zombies that has bused in specifically for the occasion. It’s fun, it’s action-packed, it’s well-illustrated by Andrea Mutti with help from inker Roberto Poggi, and Romero’s script is a reasonably compelling little page-turner. But —-

There’s no polite way to get around this, so I’ll just say it : you folks out there who have been “trade-waiting” this series definitely made the right choice,  because this is really the second part of a two-part finale that feels truncated in both directions when read individually, but will feel much more seamless when taken as a whole.miTiCYc-EMPDEAD_3_5_5

That’s hardly a crime, of course — in fact, one could argue that it’s standard operating procedure in modern comics for the monthly “singles” to feel like disjointed segments of a larger whole (look no further than Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s celebrated current run on Batman for perhaps the best evidence of this “trend”) — but for the seven-thousand-or-so of us that actually have been reliably plunking down $3.99 month-in, month-out for this series, it does rather show us up as, well — suckers.

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The other semi-glaring weakness when looking at the series as a whole is that some intriguing ideas that were dropped in here and there along the way appear to have been given the “one-and-done” treatment. It was strongly intimated, for instance, that Barnum might be a vampire himself, but that was never picked up on again, nor do we get any sort of conclusion to Detective Perez’s storyline (well, okay, we do, but he doesn’t seem to be around for it, which is odd, to say the least). So it’s not like everything is wrapped up nice and tidy with a bow here. Most of the big stuff does get a chance to reach the finish line, but some minor to semi-major details are left dangling. So be prepared for that.

Hopefully the forthcoming-at-some-point-here here TV series will address those issues, sure, but it would have been nice to see everything that was brought up in the comic be addressed by the comic before the curtain (prematurely) fell on it, ya know what I’m sayin’?

All in all, then, this isn’t so much an unsatisfying conclusion as it is an incomplete one (even though logically speaking, I suppose, the two should go hand-in-hand). I like the spot where Romero leaves most of his characters (be on the lookout for a really nifty twist involving Mayor Chandrake), and the final page is uncharacteristically optimistic, so in the end our guy George, Mr. Mutti, Mr. Poggi, and cover artist extraordinaire Francesco Mattina have my thanks. I was hoping for a perfect finale, of course, as one always does, but hey, good enough is — well, good enough. And this was certainly that.

Scenes I Love: The Phantom of the Opera (Part 2)


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Here we have the second of three scenes I love from the 2004 film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.

The first scenes was my favorite solo from the film with Emmy Rossum as Christine Daaé performing the solo “Think of Me”. It’s a powerful scene that more than holds it’s own against the other solos in the film. The second favorite scene from this film comes in the beginning of Act II.

“Masquerade” is really the one and only true full cast and chorus production in the film and in the stage musical. While both would have songs and scenes involving multiple characters and a large of background chorus, this one pretty much cements the film’s grandiose and epic visuals.

Director Joel Schumacher may have his detractors and critics, but he definitely nails the grand masquerade ball in the opera house to begin the second half of the film.

Pre-Code Confidential #1: James Cagney in LADY KILLER (Warner Brothers, 1933)


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Pre-Code Hollywood movies like LADY KILLER are always fun to watch. They’re filled with risqué business, sly innuendos, and are much more adult in content than post-1934 films. This little gem features James Cagney in one of his patented tough guy roles as Dan Quigley. Dan’s a brash, cocky movie usher who gets fired for insulting his patrons. While indulging in rolling some dice at a hotel lobby, he sees Myra (Mae Clarke)  drops her purse as she’s leaving. Ladies man Dan follows her to her apartment with it, hoping for some afternoon delight.

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Myra’s grateful, and offers him a drink (Her: “Chaser?” Him: “Always have been!”). Myra’s “brother-in-law” Duke (Douglass Dumbrille) emerges from the next room, and invites Dan to play a little poker. Losing all his dough, Dan leaves the apartment. He comes across a gentleman holding another purse in the hallway looking for Myra. Realizing he’s been set up, he storms back…

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6 Trailers For The Road


Hi there!  Well, I’m on vacation for the next two weeks so this latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers deals with the crazy things that can happen as a result of being on the road!

Enjoy!

1) Road Games (1981)

2) Survival Run (1979)

3) Duel (1971)

4) The Hitcher (1986)

5) Convoy (1978)

6) The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

What do you think, Road Rage Kitty?

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A Yakuza Apocalypse Is Upon Us


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Takashi Miike.

That name conjures up so much many different reactions. Miike has earned the reputation as one of the most dangerous filmmakers currently working. His has dabbled in so many different genres that one could never put a finger on which one he’s best at.

He’s done gangster epics, splatterpunk horror, psychological horror, kid’s fantasy, horror-comedy musical, dark fantasy, samurai period piece right up to video game adaptations. You name the film genre and he’s probably done one or two of it.

His latest, Yakuza Apocalypse, doesn’t really need to be described other than it has yakuza gangsters, vampires, martial arts and giant frog master (the final scene in the trailer makes this film worth the price of admission).

Yakuza Apocalypse made it’s premiere in Japan this past June 20, 2015 and should make the genre film festivals the rest of the year.

Dance Scenes That I Love: Davy Jones and Toni Basil in Head


Today’s dance scene that I love comes from the surrealistic 1968 musical, Head.  It features Davy Jones dancing with the wonderful Toni Basil.

Enjoy and try not to cry because it’s a seriously sad song.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #140: Murder in Mexico (dir by Mark Gantt)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime original film, Murder in Mexico!

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Why Was I Watching It?

I may be on vacation but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to watch and live tweet the latest Lifetime film!

What Was It About?

This was one of those based-on-a-true-crime-story Lifetime productions!  Bruce Beresford-Redman (Colin Egglesfield) is a successful reality TV producer who has trouble being loyal to his wife (Leonor Varela).  When they take a vacation in Cancun, Bruce’s wife is murdered and Bruce quickly becomes the number one suspect.

What Worked?

Colin Egglesfield and Leonor Varela were both well-cast.  Also, the scene where Bruce crosses the Mexico-US border reminded me of the border scenes from No Country For Old Men.

What Did Not Work?

Just speaking as somebody who enjoys live tweeting Lifetime films, it’s always hard to know how to deal with these “true crime” movies.  The whole point of live tweeting is to be snarky and that can be difficult when you’re talking about real murderers, real victims, and real children who will now grow up without their mom and knowing their dad is in prison.  For that reason, Murder in Mexico was not as fun to live tweet as A Deadly Adoption or The Unauthorized Full House Story.

Beyond that, it was hard not to feel that Bruce Beresford-Redman and his crimes were not worthy of the attention that this movie gave to him.  The film attempted to make him interesting by playing up his past as a reality tv producer and trying to maintain some ambiguity as to whether or not Bruce was actually guilty but, ultimately, Bruce just came across as your standard cheating asshole.  In the end, both his guilt and his motives were too obvious to be intriguing.

“OH MY GOD!  Just.  Like.  Me!” Moments

In 2008, I went to Cancun for Spring Break and it was a blast!  Seriously, I had a great time and did a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t post in public.  However, none of those things involved murder and I suppose that’s a good thing.

Lessons Learned

Once a cheater, always a cheater.