Hallmark Review: Flower Girl (2009, dir. Bradford May)


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Before I start talking about the movie I need to mention a couple of funny things.

First, I kind of like actress Marla Sokoloff. I first saw her on an episode of Melissa & Joey where she played a chiropractor that Joey Lawrence’s character goes to see. I enjoyed her performance. Her and Joey end up in a relationship together. It turns out she’s a virgin. As I recall, he can’t follow through with it. It was humorous to me given the title of this film.

Another coincidence that is similar to that one is another place I had seen Marla before watching this film. The previous film I saw her in was Scents and Sensibility (2011). In this movie Marla’s character will bring up that she enjoys more serious books rather than things like romance novels. There is even a scene where they mention Jane Austen who of course wrote Sense and Sensibility.

Weird that not only were both of those things done after Flower Girl, but that they were the only two other places I had seen her before, which also happen to somehow tie back to this film. Bizarre!

The second thing is something that only someone like myself who, for some reason, has now seen 164 Hallmark movies would notice. All but 5 of which have been since last July.

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I think IMDb nailed it here. Let’s go through those recommendations:

  1. Perfect On Paper is about a girl who is given a job editing romance novels. She is encouraged to date men who are perfect on paper. She eventually comes around to the guy who isn’t perfect on paper, but perfect for her. This movie has romance novels at the center of it, and Marla is encouraged to date a doctor because he is perfect on paper. Also, the actor playing the right guy in this movie is the wrong guy in Perfect On Paper. His last name in that was Cooper, which just so happens to be the last name of the right guy in this movie.
  2. So You Said Yes is about a girl who runs a bridal shop that tries to cater more to the brides actual wants rather than just whatever is the standard wedding they are told they want by the owner. Marla will several times talk about how she does just that. She listens to her clients and uniquely tailors the flowers to be used at the wedding even when that includes something like matching flowers to biker tattoos.
  3. Recipe For Love is about a girl who is given a chance to help ghostwrite a cookbook for a famous cook who is hiding behind a persona that isn’t the real him. Someone ghostwriting books is an important part of this film. That person is also using someone else to pretend that they are the person who is writing the books.
  4. My Boyfriends’ Dogs is about a girl who goes through a series of boyfriends accumulating the dogs they buy together along the way. During all this she passes through a dog store where she keeps running into a guy that winds up being for her. Okay, the connection here is a little weak, but it was written by Gary Goldstein, and he has written both of the Flower Shop Mystery movies.
  5. Bridal Wave is about a girl who is going to be married to a doctor, but at the last minute leaves him for another guy. They will break up when they both realize that they were getting married because it seemed like the next logical step. They both worked together all the time with him as the doctor and her as his assistant. In this movie, one of the two men Marla is dating is a doctor. She will also break it off with him because she thinks both of them were rushing into a possible marriage because they were both just looking for someone. Also, just as in Bridal Wave, they will never make the wrong guy out to be a jerk. He is just not the right guy for her.
  6. In The Wish List, a girl starts the movie as a little girl who is very organized and drawing pictures of her prince charming. It then cuts to her in the present as an adult. She will proceed to make a big list of the things that must be in a guy for him to be perfect for her. She will end up choosing between a doctor and a barista. To try and decide between the two, she makes a list comparing the two of them. The doctor will go away to South America at one point in the movie. This movie also starts off with Marla as a little girl. She is in her grandma’s flower shop before cutting to the present where she now runs the place. Her grandma will even tell her to make a list comparing the two guys she meets. One of them is a doctor. Oh, and yes, the doctor is going to go to South America in this one too.

Like I said, I think IMDb nailed it this time with their recommendations.

I think I’ve nearly laid out the whole plot right there for you. I’ll try to be brief.

The film begins by showing us Laurel Haverford (Marla Sokoloff) as a little girl for what I think was about two seconds. It’s actually kind of cute. When the little girl is onscreen it only says “Flower”, but when it then cuts to Laurel it adds “Girl” to give us the full title. Marla does flowers for weddings.

We are quickly introduced to the two main ladies in Laurel’s life. One is her grandmother Rose (Marion Ross). The other is a friend named Brooke oddly enough played by Brook Kerr. I’m not reading that off of IMDb either. It says it in the credits that the character is Brooke with an ‘e’ and the actress is Brook without an ‘e’. I have no idea why. To add even further confusion to this, the captions say her name is Brook without an ‘e’.

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The introductions are over a wedding as well as a run with Rose and Brooke. Grandma Rose wants her daughter to get hooked up. Brooke might as well be Sarah Fischer from The Wish List cause she has her list of things that must be present in a guy. Well, at least things that show he is up for commitment and jobs he can’t have. Sorry wedding photographers who moonlight as guitar playing bartenders, but Brooke says you won’t do. I actually did know a community college speech teacher who moonlit as a bartender. He was a wonderful teacher.

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This movie wastes no time. Grandma runs right into Dr. Evan Cooper (Terry Maratos) as she is finishing up delivering some flowers. I love the looks on Marion Ross’ face here as she talks with the doctor. First it’s surprise that he knows the Latin name of the flowers. Then it’s kind introductions. That’s followed by a sly look and a question about his marital status. After she finds out he’s not married, she springs up with this face.

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The next major plot point is when Laurel runs into Stephen Banks (Kieren Hutchison) at a wedding. He will be kind of a man of mystery throughout this film. She later runs into him at a table with a bunch of books on it. Stephen suggests a book by Victoria Darling (Bonnie Root).

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I’m not even going to take a guess at what the guy on the cover is holding. I don’t think I want to know.

That’s it for setup. There is a small subplot with an older guy named Gavin played by Nicolas Coster. If you look at Nicolas Coster’s filmography, then you will find that he seems to have been in everything. He’s probably most notable for being on the soap opera Santa Barbara. However, you can also see him in Betsy’s Wedding (1990) that a cross country coach I had liked to Goldengirl (1979) that The Cinema Snob put an impassioned plea out to get it a proper release when he reviewed it to All The President’s Men (1976). In this movie, he might as well not be there.

The remainder of the film is a series of dates with Stephen and Evan. I kind of already gave away the surprise earlier about the romance novels, but trust me, it’s not much of a surprise. The movie really sends you clear messages about it. In the end, she decides to be with Stephen. The film ends with them being married, then getting into a pretty neat looking carriage.

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So, do I recommend it? Honestly, I have to say no. It has things to like about it sure. I really do like Marla. They obviously didn’t have a big budget for the movie, but tailored the film to fit that budget. They didn’t try to fake things like in Bradford May’s film Cloudy with a Chance of Love. Still, for the life of me, I can’t recommend it to anyone off the street. If you happen to turn it on with nothing else to watch, then sure. I do recommend though if you like Marla Sokoloff.

Cleaning Out The DVR #17: Don’t Wake Mommy (dir by Chris Siverston)


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This morning, as I struggled to adjust to the tyranny of Daylight Saving Time, I watched yet another movie off of my DVR.  As our regular readers know, I am currently in the process of cleaning out the DVR by trying to watch 38 films by Friday.  Don’t Wake Mommy was film #17.

(Of course, what I didn’t realize, as I watched Don’t Wake Mommy this morning, was that the Lifetime Movie Network would be reshowing the film in just a few hours time.)

Don’t Wake Mommy premiered on Lifetime on January 3rd.  It was the first Lifetime film of 2016 and somehow, that seems appropriate.  When most people think of the stereotype of a Lifetime film, chances are that they’re thinking of something like Don’t Wake Mommy.

Ashley Bell, who was so good in the Last Exorcism films, plays Molly.  Molly has a wonderful husband (Dean Geyer) and a great career (though don’t ask me to explain what she does, beyond the fact that she works in one of those generic Lifetime offices).  However, ever since giving birth to her daughter, Molly has had to put her life on hold.  Suffering from extreme postpartum depression, she joins an online support group and ends up meeting Beth (Sara Rue).

At first, Beth seems like she’s perfect.  In fact, she’s too perfect.  If you’re a veteran Lifetime viewer like I am, you’ll know that Beth is trouble from the first minute she offers to help Molly out.  (The film also starts with a rather unnecessary prologue, in which Beth harasses another couple.)  Beth is all smiles and good advice but soon, she is literally running Molly’s life.

While Molly’s husband is away, Beth moves into the house.  She keeps Molly constantly medicated and insists on taking care of Ava herself.  When Molly’s BFF stops by, Beth tells her that Molly no longer needs her around.

And then one day, Ava disappears…

Don’t Wake Mommy is a fairly predictable film.  After the 1st 15 minutes or so, you will have figured out everything that is going to happen.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to Lifetime films.  In many ways, their familiarity is a part of their appeal.  But being familiar does not necessarily mean that a film should feel generic and, far too often, Don’t Wake Mommy feels generic.

That said, Sara Rue does a great job playing the unstable Beth and Ashley Bell proves that she’s a capable actress even when she isn’t playing someone possessed by the devil.  Here’s hoping that both actresses get a lot more opportunities in the future to show off what they can do.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Perversion Story, Zombi 2, The Beyond, The New York Ripper


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20 years ago today, the great Italian director Lucio Fulci passed away in Rome.  In the years following his death, Fulci has somehow managed to be both one of the most influential and one of the most underappreciated directors of all time.  This edition of 4 Shots From 4 Films is dedicated to Fulci’s memory and his legacy.

(We’ve dedicated two editions of 4 Shots From 4 Films to Fulci in the past.  Take a look at them here and here.  Fortunately, Fulci was one of the most visually inventive directors of all time.  Even the lesser, low-budget films that he made towards the end of his career can be counted on to offer up at least one memorably surreal shot.)

4 Shots From 4 Films

Perversion Story (1969, dir by Lucio Fulci)

Perversion Story (1969, dir by Lucio Fulci)

Zombi 2 (1969, dir by Lucio Fulci)

Zombi 2 (1969, dir by Lucio Fulci)

The Beyond (1981, dir by Lucio Fulci)

The Beyond (1981, dir by Lucio Fulci)

The New York Ripper (1982, dir by Lucio Fulci)

The New York Ripper (1982, dir by Lucio Fulci)

International Weirdness : “Island Of Death”


Trash Film Guru

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Real quick — what’s the sleaziest movie you’ve ever seen? Strong arguments can be made for a number of contenders, ranging from Joe D’Amato’s Emanuelle In America and Porno Holocaust to Passolini’s Salo (whoops! That’s an “art” film), but given the common national origin if those entrants, perhaps I should re-phrase the question to read : what’s the sleaziest movie not directed by an Italian that you’ve ever seen? In answer to that, may I humbly submit for your consideration Island Of Death.

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Known around the world by various titles ranging from its original, Ta Paidia Tou Diavolou, to Devils In Myknonos, to Island Of Perversion, to A Craving For Lust (and it ended up on Britian’s banned list of “video nasties”no matter what they called it), Greek writer/director Nico Mastorakis freely admits that his main goal with this 1976 production was to outdo Tobe Hooper’s 

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Grindhouse Classics : “The Mutilator” (A.K.A. “Fall Break”)


Trash Film Guru

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A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, a little kid named Ed Jr. decided that he’d clean out his father’s guns for him as a birthday surprise. Dad (Ed Sr., as you’ve probably already guessed) was a big game hunter, you see, and had a cabinet full of rifles and shotguns. One of which goes off accidentally when Ed Jr. is messing with it, blows a hole through the door, and, more crucially, blows a hole through mom. Ed Jr., shockingly, grows up to be a normal college kid. Ed Sr. grows into an old and bitter alcoholic serial killer bent on revenge. Their paths are about to cross.

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Nope, there’s not much mystery as to “whodunnit” in one-and-done North Carolina-based writer/director Buddy Cooper’s (with a “co-director” credit going to John Douglass) 1984 slasher The Mutilator (also released under the considerably duller title of Fall Break

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Cleaning Out The DVR #16: Johnny Belinda (dir by Jean Negulesco)


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Continuing my effort to watch 38 films in 10 days (and, as of today, I only have 6 days left!), I spent part of last night watching the 1948 film Johnny Belinda.

Johnny Belinda takes place in Canada, on Cape Breton Island.  The residents of the island are a hearty, no-nonsense group of people.  They work hard, they don’t play hard because they never play, they farm, and they don’t have much use for outsiders.  When a new doctor, Robert Richardson (Lew Ayres), arrives on the island, he has to work hard to earn their trust.

Dr. Richardson is fascinated by Belinda McDonald (Jane Wyman), a young woman who is deaf and mute.  Belinda lives on a farm with her father (Charles Bickford) and her aunt (Agnes Moorehead).  Everyone in the community assumes that Belinda is a simple-minded and, because her mother died giving birth to her, she is resented by her father.  Only Dr. Richardson believes that Belinda is in any way intelligent and, over her father’s objections, he teaches Belinda sign language.

Dr. Richardson’s secretary, Stella (Jan Sterling), falls in love with him and grows angry when it becomes apparent that he’s more interested in taking care of Belinda than pursuing an adulterous romance with Stella.  Meanwhile, Stella’s husband, a viscous alcoholic named Locky (Stephen McNally), gets drunk and rapes Belinda.  9 months later, when Belinda gives birth to a boy that she names Johnny, everyone assumes that Dr. Richardson is the father.  Soon, both Richardson and the McDonald family are being shunned by the judgmental community.

Locky, meanwhile, is determined to keep anyone from finding out about his crime, to the extent that he’s willing to commit murder.  Both Locky and Stella are determined to take Johnny away from Belinda and it all eventually leads to further tragedy and, somewhat inevitably, a dramatic murder trial.

Much like Random Harvest, Johnny Belinda is another film that I could imagine being remade for Lifetime.  It’s a well-made melodrama that appeals to all of the emotions and features a cast of talented actors doing good work playing characters that are probably just a bit too familiar.  In fact, there’s really not a single moment of Johnny Belinda that will take you by surprise but, despite that, the film still works.  Jane Wyman does such a good job playing the silent Belinda that it makes the entire movie worth watching.  (It’s interesting to contrast Wyman’s innocent, vulnerable, and sympathetic performance here with her far more severe work in The Yearling.)  Reportedly, Wyman devoted so much time and effort to her performance that it was cited as a reason for her divorce from future President Ronald Reagan.  For Johnny Belinda, Wyman lost the chance to be first lady but she did win an Oscar.

(And, for the record, Wyman voted for Reagan in 1980 and 1984, saying that it wasn’t often that you got to vote for your ex-husband.)

Johnny Belinda was nominated for best picture of the year and, with 10 nominations, it was the most nominated film of 1947.  Though it won an Osar for Wyman, it lost best picture to Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet.