Film Review: Sully (dir by Clint Eastwood)


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The new film Sully is about several different things.

Most obviously, it’s about what has come to be known as the Miracle on the Hudson.  On January 15th, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 had just departed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport when it was struck by a flock of geese.  (They say that it was specifically hit by Canadian Geese but I refuse to believe that Canada had anything to do with it.)  With both of the engines taken out and believing that he wouldn’t be able to get the plane back to either LaGuardia or an airport in New Jersey, the flight’s plot, Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) landed his plane on the Hudson River.  Not only did Sullenberger manage to execute a perfect water landing but he also did so without losing a single passenger.

I’m sure that we can all remember that image of that plane sitting on the river with passengers lined up on the wings.  We can also remember what a celebrity Sully became in the days following the landing.  At a time of national insecurity and cynicism, Sully reminded us that people are still capable of doing great things.  It also helped that Sully turned out to be a rather humble and self-effacing man.  He didn’t use his new-found fame to host a reality TV show or run for Congress, as many suggested he should.  Instead, he wrote a book, raised money for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and appeared in two commercials for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Wisely, Sully opens after the Miracle on the Hudson, with Sully still struggling to come to terms with suddenly being a celebrity.  (That said, we do get to see the landing in flashbacks.  In fact, we get to see it twice and it’s harrowing.  The “Brace! Brace!” chant is pure nightmare fuel.)  Tom Hanks plays up Sully’s modesty and his discomfort with suddenly being a hero.  Even while the rest of the world celebrates his accomplishment, Sully struggles with self-doubt.  Did he make the right decision landing the plane on the Hudson or did he mistakenly endanger the lives of all the passengers and crew members?

A lot of people would probably say, “What does it matter?  As long as he succeeded, who cares if he actually had to do it?”  Well, it matters to Sully.  Some of it is a matter of professional pride.  And a lot of it is because the soulless bureaucrats at the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating Sully’s landing.  If it’s determined that he could have made it back to airport and that he unnecessarily endangered the lives of everyone on the plane, he could lose his job and his pension.  As we see in a few scenes with Sully’s wife (Laura Linney, who is somewhat underused), the Sullenbergers really need that pension.

That brings us to another thing that Sully is about.  It’s a celebration of not only individual heroism but individuality itself.  The NTSB claims that they have computer-generated recreations that prove Sully had enough time and fuel to return to an airport but, as Sully himself points out, the NTSB has ignored the human element in their recreations.  As a result of their obsession with regulation and procedure, the bureaucrats have forgotten that planes are not flown by computers but individuals who have to make split-second decisions.

That’s one of the things that I loved about Sully.  In this time when we’re constantly being told that our very future is dependent upon always trusting the bureaucrats and following their rules and regulations, Sully reminds us that the government is only as good as the people who work for it.  And, far too often, the people are smug and complacent morons.

(For the record, Sullenberger has said that the real-life hearings were not as confrontational as the ones depicted in the film.  However, even taking into account the dramatic license, the overall message still rings true.)

And finally, Sully is a film about what America has become in the wake of 9-11.  Just as in real-life, the film’s Sully suffers from PTSD in the days immediately following the Miracle on the Hudson.  Even while the rest of the world celebrates him, Sully has nightmares about what could have happened if he hadn’t made the landing.  When we watch as Sully’s plane collides with a New York skyscraper, it’s impossible not to be reminded of the horrible images of September 11th.  Not only does it drive home what was at stake when Sully made that landing but it also reminds us that, regardless of what some would want us to beg, there are still heroes in the world.  Not every story has to end in tragedy.  People are still capable of doing great things.  Heroism is not dead.  With tomorrow being the 15-year anniversary of the day when 3,000 people were murdered in New York, Pennsylvania, and D.C., it’s important to be reminded of that.

Sully is a powerful and crowd-pleasing film.  (The normally cynical audience at the Alamo Drafthouse broke into applause at the end of the movie.)  Director Clint Eastwood tells this story in a quick, no-nonsense style.  During this time of bloated running times, Sully clocks in at 97 minutes and it’s still a million times better than that 150-minute blockbuster you wasted your money on last week.  Toss in Tom Hanks at his best and you’ve got one of the best films of the year so far.

Hallmark Review: I Do, I Do, I Do (2015, dir. Ron Oliver)


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I didn’t want to see another movie starring Autumn Reeser right now. I didn’t want to see another movie written by Nancey Silvers right now. However, I haven’t done a Ron Oliver movie in awhile, and he has been nice to me in the past. So let’s talk about I Do, I Do, I Do.

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The movie opens up and we meet Jaclyn Palmer (Autumn Reeser) on the right, her sister Kate (Ali Liebert), and Kate’s camera. This time Hallmark is more subtle with the camera. No obvious Nikon camera strap. Also, it’s a Canon camera anyways. Just thought I would point that out for long time Hallmark fans who remember the Nikon product placement scenes from movies like For The Love Of Grace. Oh, and you can easily miss that Kate is her sister. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t tell you till later. Up till then my Dad and I thought they were just old friends. Even the credits of this movie don’t tell you.

Then probably the weirdest way I’ve seen the wrong guy introduced in a Hallmark movie happens. Jaclyn and Kate are in front of a hospital. An ambulance pulls up, someone is wheeled out of the back of it. Then up springs Dr. Peter Lorenzo (Antonio Cupo) from the gurney.

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He comes over and proposes to Jaclyn while someone films them. I’m quite sure he arranged to have someone film it. At the very least it winds up on sort of YouTube.

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That’s a lot of views! Obviously Dr. Peter Lorenzo is the PewDewPie of doctors. It goes without saying that she accepts his proposal. Now she’s off to some hotel in the woods next to a lake that’s probably in other Hallmark movies. After Autumn does her best shocked look as she pulls up to see a big sign that says “Jaclyn & Peter Forever”, she is greeted by his parents. It’s always a good sign when your mother-in-law to be says this to you.

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Jaclyn is introduced to more craziness such as the “Bridal Cabin” and the wedding dress her soon to be Mom wants her to wear. Seeing as Jaclyn doesn’t like her wedding dress and she arrived in a car, she of course proceeds to get on a bike to ride through the woods to get to town.

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You got me! My only guess is that since her husband is crazy about health and forces that on Jaclyn too, that she felt she had to use a bike instead of a car. Why she has to go through the woods, I have no idea. Regardless, as she is traveling through the woods she runs into Peter’s brother Max played by Shawn Roberts.

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You know, Dexter Durant from Recipe For Love, or Dean if you are a fan of Degrassi: TNG. Since Jaclyn’s sister mentioned earlier that she wishes the two of them could throw caution to the wind like when they were younger, Max jumps off a ledge into the water. You can think of Max as basically the complete opposite of his brother. Oh, and they kiss for reasons. It kind of comes out of nowhere. Let’s move this along now by leaping over some scenes to get to the good stuff.

The next big thing that happens is that Jaclyn wakes up the next day. That day happens to be Valentine’s Day when her wedding is because who gets married on Groundhog Day? Yes, this is one of those movies. People burst into her room to make her up for Peter’s mother’s dream wedding. I think this shot sums up how Jaclyn feels about this.

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You may notice that there is a wipe transition in progress in that shot. Director Ron Oliver uses them a bunch in this movie to good effect. George Lucas used them in Star Wars. It’s a good way to maintain a quick pace by giving you no time to mourn the loss of what was onscreen. It just picks you up from one scene and throws you into the next one. He also matches this with how he progressively shortens the days. Groundhog Day (1993) and the Groundhog Day episode of Stargate-SG1 did this too.

The marriage happens, but it’s a little rocky including wine getting spilled on her. That’s when back at the Bridal Cabin, Jaclyn wishes for a do-over, and her proposal video rolls over to 1,000,000 views.

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Poor Ron Oliver! His video in upper right hand corner only has 567,983 views. At first I thought they would repeat that the way the clock would turn over in Groundhog Day, but it doesn’t. The equivalent here is the phone next to her bed, which rings with a wake up call.

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This time she shows up with heavy eyeshadow and blush. I guess she is trying to maybe get him to not want to marry her. No such luck.

On the next repeat she starts to flip out. I love that they even bring up the possibility that she’s on drugs.

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The doctor thinks she might have cold feet. She keeps telling him she’s living the same day over and over. So of course the doctor says he is going to get her tested for drugs. To get away from crazy town, Jaclyn flees with Max to the main set of the movie.

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Remember the whole learning how to play the piano thing from Groundhog Day? That’s the kind of things that start to happen as the repeats get shorter and shorter. The first thing is to overcome her fear of the water. She didn’t used to be afraid of the water, but Peter kind of got her scared of taking any risks. Apparently, this included going into the water for her. So over the course of several loops Max takes her further and further into the water.

Once that is done, the next thing on the roster is to finally learning how to dance. Again, this repeats over several days. I have to give credit to whoever was responsible for the continuity on this film for these scenes. Take a look.

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Those are from two loops that follow each other. Note that his outfit doesn’t change. It wouldn’t because since he isn’t aware of the time loop, he would be always wearing the same thing. However, since she is aware of the time loop, she wears something different. It’s a nice little detail that also helps to make sure we know another loop has gone by without having to cutaway from the beach.

With that done, learning Italian is next for Jaclyn. The reason for this is that earlier a member of Peter’s family came up to her and just assumed that Max and her were together. However, the whole conversation was in Italian and they lie to her about what she said. She spends several loops learning Italian.

Next is picking out a wedding dress she likes. She even has the wedding she seems to like, but of course Max isn’t convinced. Obviously Max is lord of time because she wakes up once again.

After spending more time with Max, we get the sort of YouTube thing at the start of another time loop.

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I guess we know which one of the producers on this movie was the most important seeing as Kevin Leeson’s Seagull video has 996,876 views over Dan Paulson’s 36,995 views. Although, the production coordinator Alison Stephen tops them all with her 2.9 million views.

Anyways, this is when Jaclyn finally decides to stop the loop by saying that she doesn’t want to marry him. Just like in Bridal Wave, it turns out getting married wasn’t really something either of them wanted to do. She seemed to have been swept off her feet and he was kind of under pressure from his Mom. Even Dad chimes in to tell Mom to sit down here. When somebody tells you to sit down with these eyes…

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then you sit down.

She and Max fall asleep at the beach. The time loop breaks, and they wake up together. After jumping in the water, they go and get married.

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My final thought on this one is that it comes in third out of the four Groundhog Day movies/TV episodes I’ve seen. The first two are Groundhog Day and the Stargate SG-1 episode. However, number four, called Pete’s Christmas, is a huge drop off from this one. I really didn’t like that film. So check out the Stargate SG-1 episode called Window of Opportunity, and this one too. I recommend it.

Here are the songs from the credits:

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Hallmark Review: Valentine Ever After (2016, dir. Don McBrearty)


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Note About Music: If you have come looking for the song at the end, then your answer is This Girl by Justin James. Thanks to Kayla Holder in the comments and Robert Carli for responding to her request about the song. You can find the song here on Justin James’ YouTube channel.

I’ve seen Northern Exposure, Doc Hollywood (1991), Finding Normal (2013), and Christmas Under Wraps (2014). All four of these use the same plot of a doctor who either gets in trouble in a small town or through normal unlucky circumstances winds up having to perform their doctoring services in a small town for a certain amount of time. In Northern Exposure, the doctor simply didn’t read the conditions of his scholarship and wound up being a doctor in a small town in Alaska. In Doc Hollywood, a doctor nearly hits a couple of people walking cattle on a street, but swerves to avoid them and destroys most of a judge’s fence so he has to do a handful of days as doctor in the town. In Finding Normal, a woman taking a cross country trip is pulled over by a cop for speeding and has a litany of past unpaid tickets as well as a warrant out for her arrest. She is sentenced to work as a local doctor in the town she was speeding through. In Christmas Under Wraps, a woman ends up getting an internship at the last minute which means just like Northern Exposure, it’s to Alaska she goes to serve as a local doctor. In all four of those movies/TV Shows, working as a doctor there meant helping to save lives and those towns were in need of a doctor. So let’s see Valentine Ever After’s rehashing of this story.
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First off, take a look at those credits. Dylan Neal we know from The Gourmet Detective series. However, Alana Smithee is a new one on me and IMDb…sort of. It is a long standing tradition for people working on films, especially directors, to ask to be credited as Alan Smithee because the film was so taken away from them, recut, or basically changed so heavily that they don’t want to be associated with the movie. Alana Smithee sure reads like that is what happened here to the person who wrote the teleplay for this film and co-wrote the story with Dylan Neal. What’s really interesting is that until I changed it last night on IMDb to match the onscreen credits–you can still find the name on other sites–Teena Booth who has written numerous Hallmark movies was credited as one of the writers. She could be this Alana Smithee since I have no reason to believe there is an actual person with that name who has a completely blank profile with this film as their only credit.

The way it looked last night on IMDb before I updated the page myself.

The way it looked last night on IMDb before I updated the page myself.

This could mean that Teena Booth is Alana Smithee. It could also be a simple mis-crediting. However, there are some other things that are a little funny here. If you go to the plot summary on IMDb, you will find it is written by Becky Southwell. Becky Southwell is Dylan Neal’s wife.

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It’s a little weird to me that she would have put in the plot summary, but not noticed that her husband doesn’t have writing credits listed on IMDb.

Then if you go to IMDb and look at the full credits for the film you will see Dylan Neal listed as an executive producer for the film.

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There is no onscreen credit for Dylan Neal as an executive producer. There are three onscreen credits for producing the film: Steve Solomos, Jonas Prupas, and Joel S. Rice.

Adding even more confusion to the matter, if you go to Muse Entertainment’s website, who was the production company, they list only Jonas Prupas and Joel S. Rice as Executive Producers.

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It’s a mess. At the very least, I think it’s highly likely that unless an actual person named Alana Smithee comes forward, then this is probably someone who wanted nothing to do with this film. If you look at the film Hidden 3D (2011) you can see the writers used the names Alan Smithy and Alana Smithy. Considering the material of this movie, I get why someone wouldn’t want to be credited for it. I thought I should lay this out there for you since even last night a question about it had already popped up on IMDb’s message boards for the movie.

Now let’s talk about the actual film. If you know that you are going to watch this movie no matter what I have to say, then skip to the end of the review where I give my advice about how to do that and spare yourself some trouble. I know this is a long review and all. I also mention a list of tactics for figuring out the music in a Hallmark movie. I have noticed that quite a few people look for that information.

The movie opens up in a lawyer’s office and we meet our leading lady named Julia (Autumn Reeser). We find out that not only has her mother passed on, but that she is planning to become a lawyer herself but hasn’t passed the bar exam the first two times. She is working on the website for her father’s firm. The dad offers to have her come over for the weekend so he can help her study to take the bar exam again in a couple of weeks. He is proud of her and says he wishes her mother were here to see how well she has done “filling the empty space in this office” left by her dead mother. The scene began with him congratulating her on a brief she wrote for a case that reminded him of how her mother used to construct an argument. But now it’s off to meet her current boyfriend Gavin (Damon Runyan).

He proposes to her. The movie makes sure we know he is a little odd seeing as he starts the proposal by saying “if there’s one thing you know about me it’s that I pick winners.” On the surface, I will grant you that’s not the most romantic way to begin a proposal. Hallmark movies like to setup the wrong boyfriend with these less than subtle hints that the guy doesn’t see it as a union of two people who love each other, will make a great team together, and will do great things, but simply the latter two parts.

His parents jump in and are little rude about the wedding. Standard stuff for a Hallmark movie.

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Now we go to meet Julia’s friend Sydney (Vanessa Matsui). We also see that Julia’s wedding made the papers so we know that she is well known in Chicago where she lives. Sydney speaks tells us her cousin announced at her father’s birthday party that a man named Chad was cheating on her. We also find out that people are calling her all the time about it. Sydney tells her, “Welcome to the upper crust. Say hello to five-star restaurants and goodbye to privacy.” We find out that while Sydney was born into the upper crust lifestyle, Julia had to work her way to get where she is. They decide it would be fun to get out of town for a while and visit Wyoming to go skiing. Sounds neat to me.

Gavin is a little mad that she just suddenly decided to leave town right after he proposed to her. I can understand. He even offers to just drop all the crazy wedding stuff if that is what’s bothering her and just simply go get married now. She doesn’t want to and so he says as long as she comes back. Again, not the perfect choice of words, but nothing here to indicate this is a bad guy. Off to Wyoming we go!

This means we get a shot of a plane and driving on one of those beautiful highways that take you through the mountains. Makes me long for the days when I used to take trips to Lake Tahoe with my parents. Then Sydney tells Julia that the GPS says turn right.

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I’m grateful that this is one of those Hallmark movies that knows how GPS works. It doesn’t require cell towers, but just visibility by a couple of satellites orbiting the Earth. However, sometimes the maps can fail you. I haven’t had it happen often, but it does occur. The United States is big. It also doesn’t help when you apparently think you can clear a rock, but it hits the underside of your car. Course they don’t show it cause budget and it really isn’t necessary. Seeing as they really got themselves lost, they are out of range of any cell coverage. To my knowledge, rare in 2016. Even in rural areas where having a way to call for help is rather important.

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Lucky for them, a cowboy shows up named Ben (Eric Johnson). I love that he knows about this rock that they hit. Why don’t they move it seeing as they obviously have had other people who have hit it and probably have been stranded out there? Well, don’t worry. It will fit right along with the logic of the upcoming scenes. He helps to take them back to his family ranch called the “Destiny Ridge Ranch”.

Now we have a surprisingly normal conversation around the dinner table. We even find out that Ben wants to make the place a dude ranch. Seems like a great idea to me. He’s quite enthusiastic about it actually. One of the great things about living even next door to San Francisco in a suburb, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be able to go only a few miles and encounter endless parks. Even if places like “Destiny Ridge Ranch” aren’t somewhere you’d want to live, they are great places to visit and help to support the people who do want to live there. However, Sydney stumbles upon something that I guess Ben didn’t think of. That being the question of what are these people going to do at night. All the activities he lists are daytime ones. I can honestly see Ben completely missing that himself. Given where he lives he must be exhausted come night time and probably checks out early to sleep. However, this is when mom chimes in and things start to get weird.

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His mom tells him to take the ladies where he goes to have a good time. He takes them to a place called “Million Dollar Cowboy Bar”.

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Seems innocent enough. He tells them “it’s a little different than the bars you’re used to.” Doesn’t seem that different to me. We see a waitress serving alcohol. There’s pool tables. There’s live music. There’s a dance floor. I guess because the live music is country music? Definitely a stereotype, but he’s kind about it. He doesn’t call them hicks or drop lines about Italian boots like Autumn Reeser did in the film A Country Wedding. Sydney makes a beeline for the dance floor and Julia sits down at a table with Ben. She takes notice of a statue in the bar.

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It’s an important and historical statue for the community. Like the kind of statue a town would keep in a town square or at the local historical society so that it doesn’t get damaged or anything. It’s even worth a “pretty penny”. She asks the obvious about why would you keep it in a bar. Ben tells her that they keep it there where they serve drinks and place it right next to a dance floor so that it’s “where people will be to enjoy it.” Does that sound anywhere near logical to you? Does that mean the bar is the most popular place in town? That statement also doesn’t explain away why something worth a “pretty penny” would be somewhere that even an innocent stumble by a waitress could spill a drink on it. Not to mention all the other hazards introduced by keeping such a important and expensive statue uncovered and in the middle of a bar. But that is enough for Julia and she doesn’t follow this up with any more lines.

We also get a brief appearance by an old school friend of Ben’s who wants to dance, but he obviously doesn’t share her feelings. He doesn’t say that, but just that he’s known her since grade school. Julia says she’s obviously waiting on you to get a clue and notice her. True. Not the best choice of words, but we get no impression that he has told her no and doesn’t respond to Julia’s statement except with the grade school comment. Earlier at dinner there is a little girl who likes to “dote” on him. Julia refers to this lady as another woman who dotes on him. The point being that he is a hot item in town and well liked. He’s also responsible and only orders a club soda since he’s going to be doing the driving.

Here’s a nice shot of how things are laid out in the bar.

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Note where the table, Julia (on the left), Ben (on the right), the statue, and the dance floor all are in relation to each other. Now comes the incident.

Sydney is dancing with a man. The man appears to twirl her, but it’s not a full handholding thing. It’s more like she twirled on her own. It causes her to bump into the woman standing behind her holding a drink which spills onto her shirt. The woman asks “What’s wrong with you?!” Sydney apologizes to the woman. She even offers to pay to replace the woman’s shirt. I would call this a simple incident that both of them are at fault for, but it’s the right thing to do on Sydney’s part to offer to pay to replace the shirt she potentially damaged. The woman responds with “I’m asking what you think you’re doing, waltzing in here wearing that getup and flailing all over the place.”

Here is the shot showing Sydney “flailing all over the place” while the woman behind her is flung way far out by her partner.

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Here are two shots of the “getup” Sydney is wearing.

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She waltzed in there because Ben’s mother told him to take them there. That’s why they are at this bar. Sydney didn’t do anything wrong by dancing on a dance floor.

Now Sydney says, “Ok. You can insult my dancing, but not my fashion sense. I’m not the one wearing country floral in the winter.” Very restrained response to an insult that implies Sydney is a big city slut for simply wearing an expensive dress and dancing on a dance floor.

At this point, Ben and Julia stand up from the table. The lady now says, “This is my favorite shirt. Let’s see how you like it.” The woman throws her drink onto Sydney.

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Sydney is surprised by this, stumbles back, and reaches out for something to stabilize her after she has been attacked by the this other woman. She of course ends up touching the statue which causes it to fall over. Julia appears to get up and try and save the statue from falling, but can’t move quickly enough from the table to do so. We don’t see Ben do anything here. The next shot we get of him shows him appearing to be on the dance floor.

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That means he appears to have done nothing to stop the statue from falling over even though he was only a few steps from it and was already standing. So of course this goes right where you think it does. The woman who threw her drink on Sydney is arrested, Sydney and Julia are questioned by the cops, and Ben who witnessed the whole thing explains what happened. Nope!

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Sydney, who was attacked, is booked and has a mug shot taken of her. Julia, who was sitting at a table, stood up, and tried to stop the statue from falling is also booked and has a mug shot taken of her. Nothing happens to Ben and the girl who attacked Sydney. This all occurred in a room filled with witnesses. Most notably Ben, who saw the whole thing.

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Now Julia and Sydney are dragged into the judge’s chamber for an “emergency session”. Note that Julia who is going to become a lawyer is looking at the law books on the shelf. She says, “It means they’re not sure they arrested us on the right charge and they want the judge to weigh in,” when Sydney says she doesn’t understand what an “emergency session” with the judge means. Guess what Julia is looking for on that shelf? She is looking for and finds the “Emmettsville Municipal Code”. That’s when the judge enters the room and immediately takes the book away from her telling her “this is not a library”. The judge, his deputy, and Ben follow in after him.

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The judge lays down the hand of the statue and tells them it’s “evidence of the careless destruction of a historical monument. And that’s a felony.” To that Sydney tells the judge it was “an accidental felony”. I would have mentioned that a drink was thrown at me, but the next thing we hear is the deputy tell her that witnesses saw Julia “rush at the statue and push it right over.” Not Sydney who reached out for something to stabilize herself, but Julia who got up and barely had a chance to move towards the statue.

Now we find out from the judge that the “statue was a monument to my great-grandfather, with an appraised value of $30,000.” When Julia asks to see the statute covering this situation because it might be being misinterpreted, she receives a response from the judge saying “are you saying I don’t know the laws of my own county?” She tries to speak, but is interrupted by the judge who tells her “you two are responsible for the willful destruction of this town’s most cherished possession” which they keep in a bar next to a dance floor. And note that he now blames both of them for this supposed felony even though the deputy just said they only have witnesses that said Julia rushed the statue and pushed it over. Ben still hasn’t said a word even though he saw the whole thing.

Now the judge says he’s not an unreasonable man. He threatens to send them to two years in prison. However, he’s willing to be so reasonable and in this room located in the middle of nowhere where they have been dragged to they are going to be offered a plea bargain. He says the charge would be “disorderly conduct”. Apparently, that would only be a misdemeanor and it would give them 30 days in jail. After being asked if this could be settled by a fine, we find out that the judge doesn’t like fines. “He doesn’t feel that people actually learn their lesson that way.”

Finally, Ben actually speaks up. He says why not community service instead of jail. He says he can “personally vouch for these two, that they meant your granddaddy’s statue no harm.” He is willing to “vouch” that they meant his “granddaddy’s statue no harm”, but he’s not going to speak up in their defense as the only witness to this supposed felony. That’s too much for Ben apparently.

The judge finds this reasonable. He says that would be fine with him if Ben kept them at his place. Where? The judge says, “put them in one of those worker’s cabins you got.” He seems to like the fact that it would save “the town the cost of putting them up.” Shockingly Ben responds that it sounds like the judge is trying to punish him, not them. So he considers having to spend any more time with these women as a punishment, but has no problem with them being sent to jail for two years for an accident he witnessed. What’s the judge’s response to this?

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He condemns Ben for taking them Charlie’s, which by the way, isn’t even the name of the bar as is clearly seen in the shot of the town. As you can see in the screenshot above, the bar is called the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar actually located in Jackson, Wyoming. It even had a big sign saying WELCOME. Also, it wasn’t Ben who even suggested the idea. His mother told him to take them there. Now it’s time to lay into them a little more for being from Chicago.

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He gives them a choice between jail or “community service”. So what’s Julia’s response?

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She asks to make a phone call before being forced to be charged with a felony or take a plea bargain. He refuses her request. No opportunity to defend herself. No legal representation. No opportunity to call for legal representation. She just takes the plea bargain. Who knows how long they would actually be held in the county jail for a felony they didn’t commit.

So let’s sum this up. A woman and her friend get lost and a nice man helps them to get to town. The mother of this man tells him to take them to a bar. This bar has a statue valued at $30,000 sitting in the middle of a place that serves liquid that causes you to lose control of your mind and body. They also place it next to a dance floor. Then one of these woman twirls on the dance floor, doesn’t fling out far from her partner, but bumps a drink another woman is holding behind her. She offers to pay to replace this woman’s shirt. That woman responds by attacking her by throwing her drink at her. While shocked by the drink thrown on her, she reaches out, and touches this statue. As the statue begins to fall, this woman’s friend tries to prevent it from falling. These two woman, not the woman who caused the incident, are arrested and dragged before a judge. The judge threatens, insults, and intimidates them into either spending two years in jail or serving 30 days of labor with the suggestion they be held in “worker’s cabins”.

And that is only 21 minutes and 23 seconds into this film. Are you happy or want to sit through this Valentine’s Day romance film? I sure as hell wasn’t and didn’t want to. No wonder it appears the screenwriter didn’t want their name on this. The original title of the movie was Disorderly Conduct. I can only imagine the screenplay laid this out in a manner that makes sense, but after seeing how the filmmakers actually implemented it, they didn’t want anything to do with it.

I’ve taken up a lot of your time so let’s try and get through the rest of this fast.

The two ladies are then put up in the cabin and given a heater. Then the next morning comes and someone must have realized they really needed a way to explain away the previous scenes. Julia wakes up to a call on her cellphone. It’s her fiancee. He can’t believe she took a plea bargain on a “bogus charge”. He asks if she called her father who runs a legal firm. She says yes, but that he told her “that in a small town, the judge can basically do anything he likes.” Julia then says, “Technically, we did break the law, even though we didn’t do it on purpose, and we were lucky to get this offer.” Any follow up on that? Nope, just implications that maybe she took this judge’s offer because she didn’t want to marry him. Also, no I’m on my way honey from the father because you should have at least been allowed legal defense, you’re my daughter, and I should come there. None of that. The movie is now setup for the typical woman from the city discovers she prefers country life that Hallmark has done so many times over.

In Finding Normal (2013) they had the judge be smart, kind, reasonable, and offer her the option to pay a fine. Also, his charge is “16 hours, 8 hours a day, community service”.

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Finding Normal (2013, dir. Brian Herzlinger)

Now you get the normal stuff. The ladies learn the typical duties on a ranch. Some are fun like learning to ride horses. Some are not so fun, but they are the realities of living on a ranch. They also are able to help out in the community. Julia even overhears that Ben’s ranch isn’t doing so well and tries to help. Of course you know he’s stubborn about that, but she pushes. The mother gives Julia some backstory one how the ranch ended up in the financial predicament it’s in. Basically, the big corporations are to blame, development in the town, and one thing lead to another. The recession didn’t help either. Strangely, the mother tells her that’s why he won’t take her money to help out. No mention of this dude ranch he was obviously trying to put together to transform his place into a source of revenue.

During this stuff they make sure to show that Sydney is clumsy by having her mess up driving a tractor and dropping a window. Nope, she was attacked in that bar. This doesn’t change that fact.

There’s a scene during this that I actually like. Sydney gets assigned to work with a stubborn old guy at a hospital. Well, not stubborn for long. Sydney is checking Twitter instead of talking to him. He says that the last girl “was so chatty, she got on my nerves but right now, I’m starting to miss her.” To her response that she is checking Twitter, he says he knows what Twitter is. He is even interested in what she is doing on there. But it gets better. He asks her exactly how she ended up having to do this for him. As she starts to explain that it was “just a disorderly accident” and that it was at Charlie’s bar he interrupts her and calls the place a dump.

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Yeah, this guy calls the place with this apparent town treasure “a dump”. It’s like the screenwriters came in after those earlier scenes and tried to rewrite the remainder of the film to try and make up for it. Or this is some of the original screenplay. Don’t believe me? After a brief conversation with the mother we cut to the judge.

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He’s watching cat videos. We even get the girls visiting him in a comical matter as if he is actually a lovable judge who really does have a kind heart. The girls come to him because they want to do something a little unusual to raise money for the hospital that is need. The ranch is going to host it. The judge even likes the idea. However, then we get two more sets of people who are sent by the judge to the ranch for community service.

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Umm…considering how Julia and Sydney wound up there it makes me wonder if these people’s “multiple parking tickets” are real. This happens one more time too.

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I get a weird feeling that we are supposed to read these as volunteers that are sent there under the cover of doing community service cause the judge knows they need the help, but considering the beginning, I don’t know.

Now the film goes on auto-pilot. All you really need to know is that the fiancee shows up along with Julia’s family for this grand fundraiser. That’s when we get the scene to make the fiancee a villain. After starting out kind, then being a little nasty talking about Julia, he says “but if Julia develops a taste for the coddling the downtrodden, well, I’ll just have to put my foot down.” Sound familiar? There is a near identical scene in Unleashing Mr. Darcy. Except there it’s not to vilify Mr. Darcy, but simply to provide a last minute romantic speed bump. Unleashing Mr. Darcy was written by Teena Booth. I can’t help but wondering if she is Alana Smithee.

Now the film has Julia kick Gavin to the curb and go after Ben. She buys him in a cowboy auction, and they dance. What’s weird is how uncomfortable he is dancing with her. It’s probably nothing, but in addition to his behavior around the woman he knew from grade school at the bar, it seems a little odd. Regardless, they end up together.

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So why the setup that I’m sorry, is offensive. It could have been fixed so easily too. That’s what angers me more than anything. I felt the same way about A Gift Of Miracles. The simplest thing would have been to have Julia just decide this town is an interesting place to take her vacation after accidentally ending up there. I know there are stupid people out there, but I don’t expect the movie to make me believe that two girls on vacation must be forced to spend time in the town or they would leave. The place where the bar is located is in Jackson, Wyoming. That’s a town surrounded by a bunch of large parks including Yellowstone National Park. If they wanted to keep as much of the script as possible, then start by having the girl who attacked get punished appropriately. If you carefully watch the scene at the bar when the incident occurs then you’ll notice they made sure to direct all the non-principle actors to be completely oblivious to what is going on till Julia has rushed forward to try and save the statue. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s also a movie and I think most people would have let that slide if they were paying attention to notice that everyone else was just minding their own business. Have Ben go use the restroom and come out just afterwards so he isn’t shown as lying to the judge and his deputy. Have the judge suggest the community service in the first place. I wouldn’t like the judge so much for not offering or even demanding the money to repair the statue, but again, it’s a movie and I can let that slide. These would have all been little changes that wouldn’t have cost a dime to make. They wouldn’t even have had to have the lady who threw the drink appear in the movie again and thus potentially pay her more. Ugh! It’s not as bad as Your Love Never Fails/A Valentine’s Date. That one is disturbing. I still do not recommend this movie.

If you are going to watch this anyways, then I highly recommend recording it or in some way not coming till after 22 minutes of the movie. The rest really isn’t bad at all.

I said it already, but I’ll say it again. The guy at the hospital is pretty awesome. He really is. I loved him. The character’s name is George and he is played by actor Eric Peterson. Kudos, Eric! The world needs more small, but excellent character actors like you.

For those who are looking for things like the songs in this or any Hallmark movie: I try to pay attention to the search terms on my reviews and also always try to respond to comments. I have noticed people looking for the name of songs in Hallmark movies and winding up on my reviews. Luckily for the person who did so to find out the song at the end of Dater’s Handbook, it was an REO Speedwagon song and was prominently featured in the movie and my review. Another time I was asked kindly in the comments section if I knew who did a particular song in a Hallmark Christmas movie. I bent over backwards trying to find the answer for them. I did and responded to them. I didn’t receive a thank you, but was suddenly greeted by a down vote on my review the very next day instead. Regardless of whether it was the same person or a coincidence, I’m going to give you a little lesson on how to figure this stuff out for yourself. Here’s what I would do:

1. Check the movie’s credits. This doesn’t always work, but some Hallmark movies do credit the songs that are in the film.
2. Get to the relevant scene, turn up the volume, and use an app such as SoundHound. That’s an application for phones that is amazingly powerful at listening to small snippets of a song and managing to find out exactly who the song is by and on what album you can find it. That’s how I was finally able to answer the person who had asked for my help.
3. Turn on captioning so if the song has lyrics then you have something to Google. Make sure you get the words right and place them within quotes. Sometimes adding the word “lyrics” outside the actual lyrics can help. Again, surprisingly effective. It helps if the song is well known, but it’s Google. They have reached into every dark corner of the Internet.
4. This one is a little bit of a long shot, but not too much. Try contacting someone involved in the movie. Hallmark has an official Twitter account and I’m sure has a presence on Facebook. Shoot the production company a message if you can find them. Sometimes you can get really lucky and there is actually an official Twitter account for the movie in question. I know The Christmas Note and Love On The Sidelines have/had them. Also, you can find people who worked on the film on social media. It can’t hurt to ask. People can be remarkably responsive and kind if you are to them.

I probably should create a whole post to lay out these instructions, but I have gone ahead and included them here as well.

I know that the majority of people appreciate me not acting like a PR department, but trying to give you my honest opinion about Hallmark films I see. However, my disabilities make it very hard for me to take things such as totally anonymous down votes when I can clearly see exactly what in my review triggered it. I have disabled my ability to see those so I can continue to write these reviews. I hope you can understand.

If you’ve reached here, then I thank you for putting up with me.

Hallmark Review: Midnight Masquerade (2014, dir. Graeme Campbell)


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Midnight Masquerade my ass! It should have been called Gender Swap Cinderella and the Unnecessary and Confusing Domain Registration Story. Let’s do the first part, then the second part.

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That’s our Cinderella on the left named Rob Carelli (Christopher Russell). He works at a law firm run by a guy and his two sons. In other words, the father is the stepmother and they’re the stepsisters. The guy on the right is one of the stepsisters.

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That’s our prince named Elyse Samford (Autumn Reeser). She has recently been given control of a candy company by her father. There’s a trademark infringement issue and the law firm representing her company is the one that Carelli works at.

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Yes, there is a young girl who is attached at the hip to Carelli, but in a refreshing turn she isn’t a daughter from a former marriage. Carelli is simply a cool uncle who likes to go bowling with his niece named Ruby (Helen Colliander).

Samford is going to hold a Halloween ball and she invites everyone at the law firm to attend. Of course some work gets dropped on Cinderella and he has to sneak out to attend the party while masked. Cinderella goes dressed as a prince since she is going dressed as a prom queen apparently.

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Oh, and they make sure you know his prince costume is custom made because his sister insists on making it and we see her measure him several times. Yet, that will not be the way Cinderella is identified at the end. I actually prefer the way they figure out it was him, but then why making sure we know this thing is custom made?

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This happens, but he has to get back to the firm before midnight or he’ll be caught as having snuck out. Since she doesn’t know who Cinderella is, one of the stepsisters takes credit, but he acts like a douchebag when they go out so she has her doubts.

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Ultimately, she figures out who the person was dressed as a prince and Cinderella marries his prince in a bowling alley and in bowling shoes since she also likes to bowl.

Thought it was a little confusing that I kept using he for she and visa versa? That was on purpose. That was to give you a little taste of the second part of this story, which is the domain registration story. I’m still confused about it, but I will try to lay it out for you. Maybe you can figure it out. Let’s run this back to the start of the film.

The reason she came to the firm that represents her company called Samford Candy is because of a trademark infringement. Another company has changed it’s name to Sanford Candy and is selling candy in a similar packaging.

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That part makes sense, but the rest doesn’t quite add up. Now Cinderella chimes in that Sanford Candy is cybersquatting. As far as I can tell cybersquatting is something companies made up and got put into law because they didn’t like that anyone can register any domain they want including your company’s name. It probably dates back at least as far as the bickering between MTV and Adam Curry over the domain name mtv.com. Anyways, that would mean that Sanford Candy has registered the domain name samfordcandy.com. At least you’d think that, but Cinderella says that no one has registered samfordcandy.com. If that’s true then Sanford Candy isn’t cybersquatting at all. At best, they are typosquatting as it’s called in the hopes that people will accidentally type sanfordcandy.com when they meant to type in samfordcandy.com. Except that can’t be true either as we will find out.

Later in the film the father yells at one of the sons for having registered sanfordcandy.com by accident. But it gets worse because during that scene the father says this to his son.

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That means Sanford Candy didn’t have either sanfordcandy.com or samfordcandy.com registered before and thus were not cybersquatting. However, this scene now tells us that Sanford Candy now has the domain name samfordcandy.com. At least you’d think that was the case, but then the next scene happens.

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Cinderella explains to the son that the son registered sandfordcandy.com instead of samfordcandy.com. Fine, but then he says that Sanford Candy can still buy the domain Samford Candy needs. It’s a little unclear here whether he actually means that Sanford Candy can still buy the domain or he is explaining that by registering sanfordcandy.com, it means that it left it open for Sanford Candy to register samfordcandy.com. Either way, this apparently leaves Cinderella with the job of filing a motion to set aside, which is the movie’s reason to keep him from going to the ball.

Later on a deal from Sanford Candy comes in to buy Samford Candy. The father tries to encourage the Prince to buy it. She of course doesn’t want to do that. As Cinderella investigates, he finds out that the father is buying up stock in Samford Candy in order to make a killing if a buyout occurs. Okay, except the non-existent cybersquatting that was supposedly going on at the beginning of the movie is brought up again during the finale.

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She points out that she had to find out Sanford was cybersquatting from Cinderella. Okay, then that means the father knew about the cybersquatting? So why was he mad at his son for registering the wrong name? I mean other than the movie needed some excuse for Cinderella to have to sneak out to the ball. It also means that the movie really did mean that Sanford Candy had already registered samfordcandy.com at the beginning of the story.

None of this quite adds up for me. Luckily, there is an easy way to figure this all out. I did a whois lookup for the domain names sanfordcandy.com and samfordcandy.com and they were both registered by Deborah Marks, who is an executive producer of this movie. There, she’s the real villain of the film.

That whole domain name thing is unnecessary and confusing. It gets in the way of what is otherwise an okay gender swapped Cinderella.

Of course there are a few fun things to point out.

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First, this movie came out in 2014, but her receipt is dated October 17th, 2015. Second, that’s a bill for hosting, not for registering a domain. Those two things are not the same thing. Finding this bill is also a reason why she believes Cinderella’s story about the father trying to get her company bought out. So again, why the scene with the son over registering the domain name sandordcandy.com? And if this was some secret, why was she billed for it by the law firm?

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When Cinderella tries breaking into the father’s computer, he tries three different passwords: Dottsandcrossis, EmmettandAndrew, and 150%. Except only the last password has the number of characters that correspond to the password typed in on the screen. The one above is what we are shown for Dottsandcrossis.

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When Cinderella does get into the computer he launches the standard Mac mail program called Mail to look for anything with the name Sanford in it. Except he never does a search for it. He just quickly browses over several emails, then leaves. That said, I love that they actually tried to come up with emails that look real. Look at the one with the subject line “Ball” about a “LARGE Sucker Spider”. There is another email later on that has some joke about a brunette and a redhead trying to break out of jail.

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Does that chart make sense to you?

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Kudos on this screen. Even if SAM is the stock symbol for Samuel Adams beer, and NOK is Nokia.

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And finally, when they are trying to find out how that father is involved in the buyout, they look up individual investors. I’m sure Mister Rogers probably pooled money from everyone in the neighborhood to buy stock in the company. I actually love that they stuck that name in there.

All in all, if you can block out the domain registration thing and just focus on the Cinderella story, then you’ll be fine watching this.

Hallmark Review: A Country Wedding (2015, dir. Anne Wheeler)


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My Comcast connection is on the fritz so I am unable to get screenshots of these Hallmark movies for the time being. Or at least with this movie. That didn’t stop me for close to 100 reviews of Hallmark movies and there’s no need to show you anything from this awful thing.

A Country Wedding is about a guy named Bradley (Jesse Metcalfe). He’s a country musician. He’s going to get married to an actress who looks like she was attacked by a bottle of peroxide. Then there’s this lady who runs kind of a vet/ranch back where he grew up. She’s named Sarah (Autumn Reeser). She sees him on TV and decides to write him a letter. Apparently, when they were kids, they had a fake wedding. He gets the letter and decides to pay a visit since he needs to go back to his hometown anyways to dispose of his childhood home.

What we get when he arrives there is one of the most stock sleepwalking stereotype spewing bullshit Hallmark romances I have ever seen. Either it’s in the way they act or they come right out and say something stupid. It’s like when you hear someone who doesn’t let the fact that they really know nothing about film stop them from trashing it simply because they love books.

But this movie doesn’t stop there. It keeps cutting back to the peroxide lady just to remind us of how stupid they think we are by making her and everyone around her as empty, vapid, and dumb as they can. There’s one scene in particular with this ridiculously tall cake. You see it and immediately make the joke about “couldn’t it be taller” because you are making fun of the fact that they actually put it in the movie. But then the movie has one of the characters say that same line and mean it. That’s how dumb they think you are. This movie makes all sorts of unfounded assumptions about people who live in the city and are rich as well as people who live in rural communities and aren’t rich. They both come across as idiots because in this movie, if you live in a rural community, you are a backwards hick. And if you are rich and live in the city, then you are a rich city hick.

I need to wind this down because the more I think about it, the angrier I get. However, there is one more thing to mention. There’s a scene with Bradley and Sarah at a campfire. She makes some comment about his pristine white cowboy hat. He says it was picked out for him by his manager. She takes it and dirties it up to make it more like something a real cowboy would wear. In other words, she takes that hat and imbues it with meaning about their relationship in a scene that is supposed to be a nice honest moment between them. But then near the end of the film he throws that hat away into oblivion to represent finally breaking ties with his city life. Oops! Forgot you changed the meaning of that hat didn’t you?

Oh, and I guess I need to have this one final complaint. It’s a small one, but it just goes to show how ignorant they expect their audience to be. Sarah makes a comment about his Italian cowboy boots. She says, “they got cowboys in Italy?” Can you think of any other country outside of the United States that is more associated with cowboys in popular culture outside of the United States other than Italy? I’m not stupid enough to believe that this vet who lives in the country is that ignorant. And that’s just one in a long string of snide redneck insults she hurls his way. Not that his character is any better mind you. Nobody comes out looking good in this movie.

When I get this angry about a movie I really want to encourage people to see it and make up their own minds. I did have it embedded here at the time of posting, but this isn’t a Hallmark movie that looks like it’s going to disappear from their lineup anytime soon and it was taken down quickly. So I removed it. If you want to, then catch it the next time it’s on and make up your own mind.

Shattered Politics #70: The Brady Bunch In The White House (dir by Neal Israel)


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What happens when architect and suburban dad Mike Brady (Gary Cole) is elected Vice President of the United States?  Well, President Randolph (Dave Nichols) ends up having to resign when it turns out that he’s thoroughly corrupt.  Mike Brady is sworn in as the new President and then appoints his wife Carol (Shelley Long) as his new Vice President.  He and his wife run an ethical and determinedly old-fashioned administration.  When Senators argue, Carol suggests that they need a time out.  When Mike is handed a report that indicates trouble for the economy, Mike looks at it, signs it, and says, “We can do better.”  When a racist Senator is seated next to a black nationalist at a White House reception, the two opponents are both served peanut butter on crackers by the Alice, the Brady Family housekeeper and soon, they are bonding over their shared love of peanut butter.

Of course, not everything’s perfect.  For instance, middle daughter Jan (Ashley Drane) is haunted by voices in her head that tell her that she’ll never be better than older sister Marcia (Autumn Reeser).  However, fortunately, Jan discovers a talking portrait of Abraham Lincoln who talks some sense to her.

And then, middle son Peter (Blake Foster) accidentally breaks a priceless Ming vase.  All of the other Brady kids take responsibility for breaking it.  President and Vice President Brady quickly figure out that Peter was responsible and, in order to make him confess, they punish every Brady kid but Peter.  And then…

Okay, are you getting the feeling that Brady Bunch In The White House is a stupid movie?  Well, it is.  This 2002 film was made for television and serves as a sequel to the earlier Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel.  It features the same basic idea as the first two films: the rest of the world is cynical and angry while the Bradys are still trapped in the wholesome world of their old television show.  Mike is still offering up life lessons.  Carol is still smiling and saying, “Your father’s right.”  Marcia is self-centered.  Jan is obsessive.  Cindy has issues with tattling.  Greg thinks every girl that he meets is really happening in a far out way.  Peter is always feeling guilty.  Bobby … well, Bobby doesn’t do much of anything.

The big difference is that the Bradys are in the White House now.  They’re still reliving incidents from their TV show but now they’re doing it in the White House.  And, some of it is kinda cute.  Well, I take that back.  Most of it is really stupid but the part about the vase made me smile despite myself.

So there’s that.

But, honestly — no, I really can’t think of any clever way to prove that the Brady Bunch In The White House is actually a subversive satire or anything that’s really worth recommending.

Sorry.

However, I did see A Very Brady Sequel on Cinemax last night.  It’s kind of funny and features a lot of pretty Hawaiian scenery.  Go watch that.  Forget about the Brady Bunch In The White House