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.

Hallmark Review: Help For The Holidays (2012, dir. Bradford May)


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What we have here is a story about an elf at the North Pole who becomes disillusioned with her job. She feels that there must be more out there. She has lost some of the Christmas spirit because she’s always making toys, but never really gets to see the lives she touches. Santa takes notice and decides to send her on a mission. There is a family who runs a Christmas store. They too have begun to loose the Christmas spirit. They are so tied up with the business that they are neglecting their children and look forward to Christmas being over. Santa sends her in to be a nanny for the kids and help them rediscover the Christmas spirit. She helps them to see that they are missing experiencing Christmas themselves by spending it with their children. She also helps them to see the lives they touch through their business that helps other people to celebrate Christmas. In the process, discovering the importance of her work at the North Pole. However, she also meets the uncle of the family who also tries to help people during Christmas, but in a little different way. The uncle and the family are a little on the outs, but she helps to bridge the gap so they can reconnect. She also falls in love with him even though that was against the rules. But since Santa isn’t a bad guy, he of course gives her the choice to become human. Although her passion for the work she does at the North Pole has been rekindled, she decides to become human. She can continue to help people have a Merry Christmas with the uncle whom she has fallen for. In the end, we see the newly extended family under the tree at Christmas as Santa looks on from the North Pole. The end.

Well, that’s not quite how it goes. That would’ve been nice. Instead, add more cliched writing and demonizing of the parents to that story, with less of the Christmas spirit stuff.

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This is our elf Christine played by Summer Glau. She is not really disillusioned with her work, but kind of feeling cabin fever for lack of a better term. We get a brief scene to make sure we know the kids of the family aren’t happy, the parents have systematized “traditions”, and that their uncle disapproves. Then Santa sends her on her mission under the name of Christine Prancer.

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Of course she gets hired immediately which is good. Unrealistic, but it would have felt like the movie stalling by not keeping things moving along. She encounters the parents issues with Christmas because as the mother puts it, they are “kneecap deep in it”. Understandable, but this won’t ultimately lead to any kind of discovery about taking some pride and enjoyment in what they are doing during Christmas to help people celebrate. They will just say they are going to cut back at work, have some of the employees do some of it, and spend more time with kids. The employee part certainly came as a surprise since everything leading up to that made me think the two parents ran the entire operation themselves.

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Then we find out about the origin of the store. It was a family thing they used to do that ultimately expanded into a business. Again, this movie doesn’t do anything with this. They just have them cut back on work hours and spend more time with the kids.

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Now the film starts to hit its stride so to speak. She starts to warm up to the uncle who certainly has the Christmas spirit. She starts to clash with the parents. Sometimes because she does sort of overstep her boundaries such as when she and the uncle decorate the home tree which the mother clearly wants to hold onto as a family thing. She feels that her trust has been violated, which it has. They also sneak in a line that hints that they only decorate the tree because they own a Christmas store, but they really don’t do anything with that. And of course she becomes good friends with the children. It ends the way I said, but not with a Christmas spirit thing really going on. Basically, the parents just reconnect with their kids at Christmas time.

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It’s all nice and everything, but it’s not really a Christmas story. October Kiss is almost the same thing and takes place at Halloween. There’s really not much of a Christmas spirit rediscovery here. It’s a nanny brings a family together and finds love at the same time story that happens to take place with Christmas characters during the Christmas season. Nothing really wrong with that, but it is cliched and falls back on the old demonize the parents who work thing. The story afforded them the opportunity to bring the Christmas spirit into the story and instead of demonize, help the parents to step back and reevaluate the work they do in a new and more meaningful light.

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The acting is fine all around, but I particularly liked Steve Larkin as Santa.

Nothing bad here, but it is nothing special when it could have been. It feels like a missed opportunity.

Hallmark Review: Cloudy With A Chance Of Love (2015, dir. Bradford May)


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Okay, before I review this, I have to point out that this is the second Hallmark movie I’ve reviewed that stars Katie Leclerc which has a lazy title card. At least this one has something going on behind it. Unlike the plain white text on a black background for the movie The Reckoning.

With that out of the way. Let’s talk about this movie. Remember A Gift Of Miracles? Yeah, it’s the same setup here. A girl played by Katie Leclerc needs to get a research fellowship in order to get her PhD. The difference is that it in no way means she needs to believe in an afterlife, and she doesn’t get her pitch from a real world World Wildlife Federation report. So, there’s that going for this movie.

In digital computers there’s no such thing as a curve. Curves are approximated by a series of lines. Use enough of them and you get what looks like a curve. In movies, story arc and character arc are approximated with scenes instead of lines. Use enough of them and you get what looks like an arc. But if you don’t, then you end up with awkward jumps that have your audience asking questions like: “Why are they talking like she’s worked there for months? Didn’t they just hire her?” That’s this movie. It was also clearly done on the cheap, and it shows. Also, for fans of the Mystery Woman Hallmark movies.

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They show establishing exterior shots of the fictional Pacifica University that Leclerc’s character attends over and over and over again. I get it! You came up with a more realistic sounding university than California University from Beverly Hills, 90210, but every time you show it I notice that it says “Library and Learning Resource Center” on the building that also apparently houses this “Meteorology Weather Center”.

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The movie is about Deb, played by Katie Leclerc, who is a doctoral candidate meteorologist that gets called in at the last minute to replace a TV meteorologist. She’s encouraged to do it because it will make her stand out. The movie is about her trying to decide whether she really does want to pursue that research fellowship or if this TV thing is actually something she enjoys. Of course they need to give her a makeover. And who better than fashion victim survivor Stacey Dash. This girl.

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Who 20 years prior in Clueless (1995) was this girl.

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I mentioned this movie was done on the cheap. Here’s an example.

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That’s Leclerc standing in front of a green screen that we are supposed to know is a green screen, but then it cuts to a reporter on the scene.

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Oh, did I say “on the scene”? I meant in front of another green screen.

Also, this is one of those Hallmark movies where we can hear the rain in the scene, but it isn’t actually there. However, this movie does have an excuse for that. For plot convenience so that there’s conflict at the end, Deb’s friend is doing a documentary on the drought in my home state of California. I’m sure that’s why they didn’t use a rain machine. At least the scene is way better than the one I remember from one of the Garage Sale Mystery or Aurora Teagarden movies. In that one they were outside, umbrellas with drops on them, probably in Fall, with puddles around them, and the sound of rain, but there was no rain as noted by the perfectly still puddles.

Jumping ahead to the end. I totally believe this is not a backdrop behind them.

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Also…

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that’s Deb’s competition for the fellowship and that’s almost 100% of everything you see and hear her doing for that fellowship. And yet, the movie will constantly have Deb’s mentor saying that this girl is giving her really stiff competition and that she’s at serious risk for losing the fellowship. The least they could have done was tell us what she’s doing, right? Nope, there’s a speech at the end she gives, but we come in at the very end of it and they just have a generic blue Powerpoint card with the name of the university up throughout the whole scene.

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Does it matter who the guy is? Well, that’s him. That’s the scene where he and Deb talk as if they’ve worked together for months, but for the viewer she just got hired.

It really doesn’t matter what I say about this. It’s not worth watching. Leclerc is fine and the news anchor is a bright point in the movie. However, it’s done so cheaply and jumps so much plot and character wise that while it’s conceivably possible to push past all that, it’s like this actor trying to actually believe he’s outside.

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Horror Film Review: Motel Hell (1980, dir. Kevin Connor)


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You read the title of this post correctly. This is directed by Kevin Connor who has made numerous Hallmark films I’ve reviewed on this site. In addition, Bradford May was the camera operator on this film who also went on to direct numerous Hallmark movies I’ve reviewed. And it has one more connection to Hallmark because it has John Ratzenberger in it who went on to be in a few Hallmark movies.

So with all those connections to Hallmark in this 80s horror film, does it have any similarities to those films? Actually, it does in a way. In the case of Kevin Connor, it makes sense to hire a director who has proven themselves to be able to make a memorable movie with a small budget to make your small TV Movies.

Let’s talk about the movie now.

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The film opens with Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun) sitting on the porch of his Motel Hello. The ‘O’ being in need of replacing as it keeps going out. Thus changing the name of the place to Motel Hell. Smith drives out to the road and we see a motorcycle carrying a guy and a girl go past a sign.

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Smith sells smoked meat out of his motel. He sees the motorcycle hit something then go down. The guy is dead, but the girl is still alive. He loads them up and brings them back home.

Smith doesn’t live alone. He lives with his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons). Look familiar?

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If a painful game of tug of war came to mind, then you do recognize her, because that’s Balbricker from Porky’s (1981). She grabs no dicks in this movie. This is Rory Calhoun’s film. And he makes it known with his time tested and approved way of calming kids down who just ran scared after wandering through a slaughterhouse.

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We are now introduced to the three other characters who matter in this movie.

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First, the girl who survived the crash. Her name is Terry (Nina Axelrod). She wakes up to find out that her boyfriend is long gone. Smith has already buried him.

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Second, the 80s sheriff Bruce Smith (Paul Linke). He’s Vincent Smith’s kid brother.

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And inspector Bob Anderson (E. Hampton Beagle). Oh, poor poor Bob. Because after he gets this goodbye from Vincent.

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Bob makes an unfortunate discovery about Vincent’s secret garden.

Yep, Vincent’s meat comes from people. Let me try and explain it the best I can. He sets traps on the nearby road so that people crash. He goes in and gasses them. He then takes them back to his secret garden and slits their vocal cords. He then plants them in the ground leaving just their head poking out. That’s why when the bag covering their heads are pulled off they just making groaning almost zombie like noises. Then he appears to hypnotize them using colorful pinwheels and hypnotic noise before he snaps their necks with a noose attached to a tractor trailer. They are then turned into the meat that he sells. Rather gruesome, but there honestly isn’t a whole lot to it. Here’s the scene that basically sums it all up.

Luckily, one of those heads is attached to John Ratzenberger. I say luckily because it means we finally all got our wish. Cliff Clavin has no way to tell his annoying stories anymore.

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Oh, and Ratzenberger is captured after a van carrying himself and several bandmates hits a trap laid by Vincent. And you know what? More bands need to be named after Sergei Eisenstein movies.

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That’s basically the film right there. Vincent and Ida collecting bodies, feeding the heads, and justifying it all to themselves with crazy talk. Then Bruce and Terry eventually figure things out and the net closes in on them.

There is one particular capturing scene that is worth watching. Here’s the capture of the kinky couple.

The other thing that is worth mentioning is that Wolfman Jack is in this. He plays a reverend.

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According to Motel Hell, the lord works in mysterious ways. Sometimes the lord provides you with an excuse to confiscate a copy of Hustler for your own personal collection.

Horror really isn’t my thing and this film does begin to wear out it’s welcome at a certain point, but it’s Calhoun’s performance and the creepy atmosphere that makes it work. There are more clips up on YouTube if you want to see more in order to make your decision about watching this or not. I guess you have my recommendation.

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Val’s Movie Roundup #28: Hallmark Edition


Yay! I’ve cracked 100 of these Hallmark movies now and with this post I will have reviewed 96 of them. Oh, yeah! There’s more of them.

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Healing Hands (2010) – When I read the plot summary for this I thought of the movie Powder (1995). That’s reaching back to my childhood there. Then I thought of the hilarious Mad TV sketch where the Terminator is sent back to protect Jesus. In particular, when Jesus keeps resurrecting Judas because he is supposed to betray him.

Sadly, that sketch is better made and has more interesting things to say then this movie. It really is amazing the difference in quality between Hallmark movies. Same thing can be said about late night cable movies. As the title suggests, this movie is about someone who has “healing hands”. It’s about a guy named Buddy (Eddie Cibrian). Buddy works as a janitor. One day Buddy is on a roof with his friend. Buddy’s friend hurts his finger, but is stubborn about putting a bandaid on it. Buddy finally convinces him to, but then Buddy falls off the roof.

Now Buddy is in the hospital and apparently his temperature is 105, which a nurse says is the highest a body can survive. While that doesn’t sound right to me, what happens next certainly isn’t right. If this were ER they would probably try inducing hypothermia. In Healing Hands, Buddy is put in water. Not ice, but water. I’m sure it’s meant to remind us of baptism, but it looks like they’re not even trying to save Buddy. Luckily, Buddy recovers anyways, but not without a really odd musical choice first. During the fever, we get a flashback, but at this point we really have only seen Buddy and his now fiancee, since Buddy did propose, for only a few minutes. So it only has like two scenes to show because that’s all of the movie so far. During this part, it plays what sounds like Quiet Storm jazz. It’s a strange choice of music to play.

Well, now Buddy has “healing hands”. It takes him a little bit of time to figure it out, but after he heals this…

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with just his touch, Buddy knows something is up. We can also see that it is taking a lot out of Buddy doing it. I usually don’t care, but I don’t really want to spoil the surprise. I’ll just say that Buddy is adopted and that comes in to play. Of course, the news and the townfolk eventually catch on to Buddy and his miracle hands. It’s about Buddy trying to help, while the world either wants to treat Buddy as a freak of nature or just a tool, rather than a person. That’s giving it a lot of credit.

This whole movie just feels like amateur hour in every way. I don’t know of any other way to describe it. It’s like a high school production of a play called Healing Hands that a student wrote. Something like Highlander or Heroes did more with this kind of material. The movie barely does anything with it, which is a shame cause it’s not a concept doomed from the start. Too bad.

Oh, and notice the number of times I called him by his name? The movie does it even more. It kind of sucks the seriousness out of the whole thing when people keep saying Buddy over and over again.

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Freshman Father (2010) – Ah, college. Six yeas of education at a junior college, then three years of suicidal inducing hoop jumping at Cal. But at least I passed first semester calculus on my first attempt. Cause apparently, when you go to Harvard at 18, married, and with a baby, the hardest thing will be passing first semester calculus. No joke, this movie inspired by John Wand, a guy who actually did go to Harvard with a wife and baby in tow, makes almost the entire movie about him passing first semester calculus. It’s kind of a disgrace to John Wand. Especially when they were even to lazy to copy some actual Calculus problems from a text book, but instead we get this.

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You see part d! It says find and simply f(0) when f(x) = (x+1)(2x+1)(3x+1)(4x+1)(5x+1). In other words 1*1*1*1*1 = 1. Also, c which says here’s a function, don’t take the derivative of it, but just write it again. This after a question that spells out exactly what the subscript on the function means. And look at the rest of that test. I see no summations anywhere. Those are just derivatives. The test layout doesn’t makes sense. None of it makes sense. If they couldn’t even get that right, then wow!

Before we lay more stuff to bare, let me tell you the setup. It begins at senior prom where we meet John Patton (Drew Seeley) and the future Kathy Patton (Britt Irvin). Notice they didn’t use John Wand’s actual name nor do they say it’s based on, but only inspired by a true story. Of course she gets pregnant and they get married. After her mom tells her the key to marriage is a “happy boss”, it’s off to Harvard on a full scholarship to the nicest apartment ever for a student on scholarship, married, with a kid, going to a very expensive school.

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Yeah, in what world does this movie take place? In a world where this is Calculus 101. On the first day if I’m not mistaken.

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I love when she brings home a fan and he says they can’t afford it. Sure, because it’s the fan that doesn’t make financial sense here. None of this would matter if the whole film wasn’t about this kid overcoming the very things that are totally misrepresented. And it never gets better. The only thing I can say in it’s defense is that it does get across that the kid cares about his child. However, I would bet John Wand has a few choice words for how they present his ex-wife. She barely exists except to complain about how the baby doesn’t seem to like her, confess she got herself pregnant, then she just abandons the baby with him. You thought they would explain how she got herself pregnant? Of course not! That would possibly make John Patton seem like an idiot for not wearing a condom. And no, I don’t think she poked holes in a condom she gave to him like in the movie Your Sister’s Sister (2011).

Oh, and this is another one of those Hallmark movies that censors itself. The two of them are at a theater when she starts having contractions. She curses and the movie bleeps it. This is one of several Hallmark movies that censor words as innocent as “butt”. Sometimes inconsistently like in The Last Cowboy. If they can’t air it that way, then why is it shot that way? There must be something to the process of making these movies I’m not aware of or there is that much of a disconnect between the producers and the network.

He keeps trying to do the herculean task of passing first semester calculus, which seems like it takes him several semesters. The timeline in this movie isn’t exactly clear. It must go more than one semester though because we see he celebrates Halloween and appears to be at a Christmas party with his calculus professor. Also, I believe she has the baby during the holiday break.

Yeah, we meet two of his professors and they are remarkably kind to him. That part isn’t misrepresented. I did encounter several professors who were very nice and personable people when I went Cal. I can even say that’s it’s not unheard of for a professor to give you a passing grade when you should fail because it isn’t important that you actually passed. That happened to me. Granted there were health circumstances involved, but you get the point.

Which reminds me, my upper division computer science courses still had way more students in them then his first semester calculus class. The only time I saw classes that small were labs and discussion sections. Those two things are also oddly missing from this movie. It makes it seem like it’s just you, the professor, and the material. I doubt things were that different 7 years before I went to a four year college. This movie takes place in 2000.

There’s also this ridiculous back and forth with the dean as if she is there anytime you need to talk to her. Granted he is a rather unique student that she would be aware of, but it comes across as pretty ridiculous. Especially when he says to her that he thinks she got her PhD in 5 years, but she corrects him and says 6. Really? 6 years? Seriously? That’s pretty quick to get a PhD in physics. A simple Google search says 8.2 years. I mean it takes 4 just to get a bachelors, how is possible to get two degrees higher with only two more years? Makes no sense.

None of this makes any sense. It guts, flattens, and trivializes what this guy did in real life. At least they didn’t show some footage of the real John Wand at the end like The Blind Side (2009) did just to make sure we knew how much they screwed up. Don’t put yourself through this.

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Portrait Of Love (2015) – And don’t put yourself through this either. Although this is just boring rather than almost offensive. This is just absolutely paint by numbers Hallmark. Just like the movie Chance At Romance is. A woman who is a successful fashion photographer is offered a job in Paris. Take a minute and see if you can guess what happens next?

Did you think she goes back to the small town she came from because of a flimsy excuse by the writers so she can reconnect with an old flame? Of course you’re right. I really wonder how many of these Hallmark movies are the exact same movie.

Oh, and how small of a town?

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So small it’s just called Bank. How hard is it to just come up with a fake name for things like this? I’ve seen them do it in other Hallmark movies. In Second Chances they needed an author for a book so they took one of the screenwriter’s names that worked with the producer Larry Levinson and just dropped the ‘c’ in Rachel to get Rahel Stuhler.

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See! It’s not that difficult.

When she arrives it turns out there is an art contest going on and all you need to know is that he has a daughter who helps to push them back together. You know how it plays out. There is a little bit of nice genuine emotion near the end that the film does deserve credit for. However, the rest feels like it was made by zombies with their aspiring acting zombie friends. There’s a continuity error at one point and this horrible go to out of focus transition that is used at least twice.

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And it’s not short either. It hurts the eyes. Also, the same director who did this uninspired film did the uninspired Just The Way You Are. I’m almost 100% positive that he even uses this exact same shot in that movie as he does in this movie.

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I’m beginning to feel for the directors of these movies. They must be handed some awful scripts, shoestring budgets, and very little time in order to make these movies. I refuse to believe that these same directors would make these kind of stupid mistakes or take such generic stuff if they had any choice in the matter.

Won’t kill ya, but it may put you to sleep.

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A Kiss At Midnight (2008) – Thank goodness I watched this film for this batch of Hallmark movies cause it’s actually enjoyable. No, not because it’s script is any less generic. No, not because they get computer screens correct. It’s because of the actors young, middle aged, and old. The kids do a good job. Faith Ford is funny. Hal Linden of Barney Miller is in this and is a welcome presence. Even if he does make a sexist joke that is meant to be sexist, but is oddly out of place. But most importantly, it has the Got Milk? guy.

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Just like the games Truxton and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are running jokes on Classic Game Room and AVGN respectively, I take every opportunity to reference Tammy And The T-Rex, in which he gets killed in by a T-Rex with Paul Walker’s brain in it.

But back to this movie. The plot is that the boy and girl run competing dating websites. The girl, played by Faith Ford, signs up on the guy’s site to bring back information that his computer dating site doesn’t work. Of course, the guy has two little girls who get involved to ultimately bring them together. Also, Faith Ford’s mom and Hal Linden get married as a little subplot. It’s all just well acted and pleasant enough to be an enjoyable, all be it forgettable, hour and a half or so. I think that’s all anyone asks of a Hallmark movie. It’s just remarkable how illusive that can be at times.

Amazingly, this is by the same director, Bradford May, who brought us Elevator Girl, Healing Hands, Jack’s Family Adventure, Dad’s Home, Operation Cupcake, and Chance At Romance.

This one did have computer screen screw ups or at least stupid attempts to make generic versions of Google.

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Clearly, GMail is dead and we should all be using Toogle Mail. Also, notice that it looks like you are seeing a screenshot of a browser being looked at within a browser.

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Of course Toogle is also a search engine.

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The religion listed in this dating profile is “Spiritual”. They didn’t have a problem showing a dating profile saying a person was a Christian earlier, but then there are two of them listed as “Spiritual”. I’m guessing those people are Satanists and don’t want to scare away potential sacrifices. At least that seems to have been the logic that went into the video Katy Perry, the Super Bowl and Satan based on the quote in it’s description.

Out of the four here. This is the one to go with. It’s a good time.

Val’s Movie Roundup #26: Hallmark Edition


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A Stranger’s Heart (2007) – This is a movie A, movie B, type film. Movie A is about being in a hospital morbidly awaiting someone to die, but have a heart left over for you to receive via a transplant. Movie B is about how all those things we ascribe to our heart in metaphor are literally transferred by what the film calls “cell memory”. Movie A works. Movie B is honestly a little creepy.

The movie begins by introducing our leading lady as a child. This part is kind of unintentionally funny. I know why we need to kill off her mom, but did it need to happen by her stupidly wandering onto a street while singing Oh, Susannah? Then we learn that the little girl had heart problems and then suddenly we’re in the present with her grown up in the hospital. Like I said before, this part works. She is in there with several people including the guy she ends up with. The movie does a good job of getting across trying to find humor in that kind of a situation while waiting for something horrible to happen to somebody else in order to save your life.

Then movie B kicks in. She gets a heart, her female friend gets a heart, and her future boyfriend gets a heart. The female friend starts craving something she hadn’t drank since she was little. Then a little later in the film she goes and meets the family whose daughter’s heart she now has. She comes back complaining that the family basically didn’t see her as their daughter reincarnated. That’s where this film switches from your biological structure changing to a literal transference of high level thoughts and feelings via the heart.

It turns out our boy and girl both received their hearts from a couple who died in a car crash leaving behind their daughter. Then the two of them basically start stalking the little girl who is now without her parents. It’s kind of well meaning, but it is creepy because the movie does want you to believe they have somehow received the love her parents had for her through a heart transplant complete with dreams about the little girl. And yes, it carries this idea all the way through to having the little girl with them as essentially new parents carrying their old parents within them as if the heart is like a symbiotic creature we carry within us.

This movie is a mixed bag, but since it is a Larry Levinson Production, that does mean computer screen screw ups.

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If you can, read that fake webpage. It’s like reading someone’s template rather than an actual post. Also, look at the bottom left hand corner. They took a screenshot of a Windows XP machine and have her looking at it on a Mac.

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The Confession (2007) – This movie is a standard you’ve seen it a million times before soap opera type plot. You have a rich lady who gave up her daughter for adoption a long time ago and is fading health wise. You have her husband who is a gambling addict that wants to inherit her money, but has just been cut out of the will because of his addiction. He runs into an aspiring actress and hires her to play the long lost daughter so he can get the estate through her. The actual daughter turns up a little late and gets taken in as a servant. You know how the rest plays out.

The only difference here is the girl is Amish. That’s it. This is the second in what is either going to be a trilogy with the upcoming film The Reckoning or an ongoing saga. There is enough open ended stuff attached to this movie to warrant another film.

There are two actors you’ll recognize here. Sherry Stringfield from ER is the rich lady and Adrian Paul from Highlander is the husband. I thought they did a good job. The only real problem I had was with the Amish girl who is played by Katie Leclerc. She tries to do a Pennsylvania Dutch accent and it doesn’t work. She’s Texan born and raised in Colorado. Also, it doesn’t help that the actress in the movie fakes a Pennsylvania Dutch accent, thus making us notice Leclerc’s fake accent even more. That is, when she’s actually doing it. When Leclerc gets hired as a servant she magically switches to an American accent. I get why she needs to do it, but people don’t naturally have that ability. I haven’t seen the first film called The Shunning (2011) where the same character was played by Danielle Panabaker, so I can’t speak to whether she was any better at pulling off the accent.

If you don’t let the accent part bother you, then this is fine little soap opera. I am curious how they are going to reconcile her suddenly being in the money with her Amish past since they don’t do it here.

Oh, and no, it doesn’t end with Leclerc chopping off the fake Amish girl’s head because there can be only one. Adrian Paul also keeps his head.

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Be My Valentine (2013) – Since Hallmark just aired a new movie called Lead With Your Heart (2015) with Billy Baldwin, they played this one that also has Billy in it. The movie begins with Kate Burlingham (Natalie Brown) who is about to watch Alec Baldwin in It’s Complicated (2009), when Billy climbs in through her window and rescues her. Just kidding. Her flower store is in a fire and Dan Farrell, played by Billy Baldwin, is the head firefighter. Of course the two are going to come together during the upcoming Valentine’s Day.

Just like Second Chances (2013), while the adults are supposed to be the feature presentation, it’s the child actors that are the most enjoyable part. In this case, it’s Baldwin’s kid and a girl named Rebecca. I don’t know why the adult romance had to be here at all. The story of the two kids is far more interesting and I think Baldwin does a good job as the dad trying to guide his son through young love. It’s also where one of this films funniest parts comes from. When he first meets Rebecca, she is reading a book. He asks her if she plays the games too because apparently, the books don’t make sense if you don’t play the games as well. She says she plays the game on her phone, notebook, and computer. But then he says a version just came out on “the cloud”. He says it’s “majorly interactive” to which she responds “I’m so going to hook into that.” What I want to know is if I can play Teddy Boy on “the cloud”.

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Or, since this is a Hallmark movie, will my Bible games play on “the cloud”?

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It’s stupid questions like this that come to mind when the characters say stupid things because the writers wanted to sound hip. Or maybe that’s just how Canadian kids actually talk. Oddly, while that part of trying to make the kids sound like kids, they get something else almost right on button. Baldwin suggests that instead of brining Rebecca flowers or chocolate, he get more creative and make a mixed tape. After a little confusion for the kid, he figures out that he can make a DVD composed of videos (I think music ones) for her. That’s kind of a reasonable update of the classic mixed tape. Kudos on that one.

This is one of those films that is shot in Canada, but Baldwin walks around with an American flag on his uniform so it’s totally the United States.

It’s fine and enjoyable. It’s a little out of the blue when an old boyfriend shows up to sort of disrupt things a little, but he goes as quickly as he came.

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Chance At Romance (2013) – This one is a real skipper. It doesn’t get much more generic and forced for a Hallmark romance movie, then this one.

It’s about a girl named Samantha Hart (Erin Krakow) who wanders into a photo gallery showing. Heath Madsen (Ryan McPartlin) is the photographer. She likes his work so she goes to his website to look at some of his photos. In this movie he’s a pioneer of HDR photography. She decides to shoot him an email to tell him she likes his work. However, the email ends up in his son’s hand who proceeds to have a back and forth with her pretending to be his dad. He wants her to meet his dad. Her invites her over, something happens weather wise, and that’s how the two are forced to spend time with each other till they fall in love. This movie goes so far as to have him literally show up on a white horse at the end to take her away.

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It’s really boring. There are much better Hallmark romance films out there. Go with Be My Valentine out of the four movies I mentioned here.

However, it does have one thing that is of note for someone like myself who has seen too many Hallmark movies. In three other Hallmark movies they either mention or outright have one of the actors play the Wii. In this one they have moved from pushing that Nintendo console to pushing the Wii U.

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Val’s Movie Roundup #21: Hallmark Edition


It was my birthday today and I was diagnosed with a hernia today. Apparently, that means Hallmark movies.

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Elevator Girl (2010) – Almost every Hallmark movie has to have an excuse to get the boy and girl to spend time together. Sometimes that’s to solve a mystery, sometimes Cupid threatens her love life, and sometimes she’s just a stalker. This one relies on people’s ignorance of how elevators work. It begins at a hotel where a guy (Ryan Merriman) goes up to an elevator and presses the up button. The elevator arrives and he gets in. The hotel has three floors: B, 1, and 2. Despite being on 1, that light is still lit till he presses 2. Then the girl (Lacey Chabert) rushes in and joins him on the elevator. Before the thing can move, the power goes out. Since people in movies don’t know that elevator doors can be opened so you can get out in just such situations, the two open up to each other. Let me emphasize this. He is nothing but a perfect gentleman in these scenes. While this is going on we discover that the people on the first floor are the laziest people in existence. A hotel employee says that the bellhops will carry their luggage if they will walk up to their rooms. Seeing as that means a single floor, it’s quite amazing that no one moves.

Anyways, after straightening his tie to remind us that he needs a wife, the power comes back on and they go to the second floor. They then proceed to the same ballroom. He is there to receive an award. She is helping to serve the food and drinks. All we see in this scene is him give a speech and the camera keeps cutting to her smiling. Yep, didn’t pick it up? Neither did I, but apparently that’s what this film considers being rude because we are then told over and over by various characters that he was nice in the elevator, but a jerk at the party. That never happened! The movie just seems to expect us to believe that because he has money and she doesn’t that of course he must have been a jerk. He even says he was a jerk and apologizes. Like I said before, all we saw was him being the nicest guy in the world. I’d bet there was a scene of him being rude, but it was cut. That seems to be a theme in Hallmark films. Mysteriously missing scenes that people and events pretend exist in the movie when they don’t.

Well, this is one of those movies that’s kind enough to put a metaphorical sign around Chabert’s neck that says “This one!” and “Not this one!” around the other girl’s neck. A lady at his office is way too interested in his love life. Priscilla Barnes from Three’s Company is in this. By that, I mean they show her face for a few seconds at the beginning and at the end, but she’s still in the opening credits. Maybe she was getting credited for scenes that hit the cutting room floor. And it all boils down to an average, but somewhat irritating romance movie. The only other thing to note is that the tonal shift near the end is like an asymptotic jump on a graph you had to draw in high school.

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So You Said Yes (2015) – This was a bit of a jump for me. Last I saw of Kellie Martin on Hallmark she was solving mysteries. Now she’s quoting Field Of Dreams about opening a wedding shop. She also reminds us several times that women wrote and directed this movie by giving us annoying body image commentary. Annoying because it doesn’t really need to be there nor does it add much to what supposedly makes her wedding dress shop new and hip. Also, this is the same channel that at least where I am advertises a tightwaisting product, weight loss programs, and products that fix the damage you do to your hair so you can keep damaging it (that’s nearly a direct quote from one of them). That is, when they aren’t running one of their many ads about pee and poop. But at least it’s humorous to watch the kid try and poop in a large vase and hear about a traumatized plastic gator that is forced to watch you defecate.

Oh, right, there was actually a movie I watched in between all those things. That poster is a little misleading. Martin’s hair doesn’t look that good in the movie. In fact, someone insults her hair calling it the bedhead bob and I kind of agreed when I wasn’t supposed to. Well, unlike the majority of Hallmark movies, this one isn’t about finding an excuse for the boy and girl to spend time together. It’s about pairing them up quickly, then finding an excuse to keep them from being together till the movies decides to end.

Martin opens up a new wedding dress shop to try and be more modern, less conventional, and cater more to what the bride wants rather than what other people tell her she should want. In other words, exactly what her competition does in her shop. Guess who her competition’s son is?

A guy comes in to try and tell her that her car is being towed and instead of letting him talk, she berates him only to discover her car was towed. They eventually find each other again and decide to be together. Meanwhile, his mom fights the relationship. She gets so spiteful that in one scene she actually questions a bride’s patriotism for wanting Japanese food at her wedding. Delightful!

This movie is decent. Martin is kind of shoe horned into a character that doesn’t quite fit her. They try to tailor it to her, but the character and her earlier films don’t quite match. We do have a couple humorous shots.

Stop showing computer screens! I'm really not sure what is the registered trademark is here.

Stop showing computer screens! I’m really not sure what the registered trademark is here.

I know Martin is short, but was it really necessary to put her on stilts?

I know Martin is short, but was it really necessary to put her on stilts?

What's with his pants? This is the second Hallmark movie I've watched that seemed to want to have a gay character, then remembered it will air on the Hallmark Channel.

What’s with his pants? This is the second Hallmark movie I’ve watched that seemed to want to have a gay character, then remembered it will air on the Hallmark Channel.

Just remember, if you are watching Hallmark movies on TV, then don’t watch episodes of The Cinema Snob during the commercials. Martin says she’s going to “downward dog him out of her system” in this movie. Enough said.

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Puppy Love (2012) – Here the excuse for the boy and girl to be together is they share a dog. Share a dog. Yes, share a dog. The beginning of the movie has the guy going out of town when his dog escapes the house. This happens after he left though. He plays baseball. Having owned dogs my whole life, I of course kept looking for a collar and license. The dog has a collar, but no license. The dog is picked up by animal control, but not until after the girl’s daughter sees it. The whole timeline of these scenes is mysterious, but basically the dog is put up for adoption almost instantly and then adopted by the girl and her kid. Of course he figures it out and shows up at her house. Amazingly, despite the daughter loving the dog, she is willing to let it go without a fight. He strikes a deal with the daughter that while he is out of town, she can take care of the dog.

That’s the movie’s way of getting the two people to spend time together. Love over a shared dog. According to reviews on IMDb, this originally aired with commercials urging people to adopt dogs. Great, but why does no one mention that this guy didn’t have a license on his dog? Oh, but thank god you got in that line that all men are slobs. Let’s make sure that people still broad brush men and women, but that having a license on your dog possibly meaning the difference between life and death for them isn’t as important. Once she gets the dog, she puts a license on it. We can see it, but there’s only the slightest reference to it from her. Seriously, I really couldn’t push past that.

Still, to be fair, as a love story, it’s just a little below average. By the way, if you watch the movie and notice something I missed, then tell me. I don’t claim to be perfect.

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Keeping Up With The Randalls (2011) – This movie is a lesson in what happens when you miscast your lead actors. We have Kayla Ewell as our leading lady whose other acting credits in Senior Skip Day, The Vampire Diaries, and The Bold And The Beautiful seem to be much more appropriate to her type. We have Thad Luckinbill who was also a soap star, but on The Young And The Restless. Neither is either good enough to, or allowed to properly play against type here. Look here.

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And that’s not the only time that the movie seems to be saying, “Look we got a hot girl here!”

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Yeah, one look at this guy in any other movie and we’d expect to find him in bed with another girl after appearing to be a decent guy. But putting aside the miscasting and that this hair commercial seemed to be trying to tell me something…

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what we have is a meet the parents story. Luckinbill brings Ewell along to a wilderness getaway with his family. His family runs a sporting goods store. Been in the family for generations. His father expects him to take it over despite the fact that Luckinbill’s sister, who looks like Debbie Gibson, is already running it just fine.

What follows are scenes of Ewell trying to prove herself, issues within the family, and the family hurling stereotypes at Ewell. Really, that’s it. They spend some time with her, he gets a backbone about not wanting to be part of the sporting goods business, and his parents come around to reality.

With that out of the way, this is the second Hallmark film directed by David S. Cass Sr. that has an old established actor playing Wii Sports. Seriously. In this one, Marion Ross does boxing. In Murder 101: New Age, Dick Van Dyke played tennis. She is the best actor in this movie and they don’t waste her either. She has good moments.

Of the four films here, go with So You Said Yes. You won’t be wondering when he was rude, you won’t be wondering where the dog’s license is, and you won’t be wondering how these people got cast.