Val’s Movie Roundup #18: Hallmark Edition


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This one’s okay, but easily forgettable.

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

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

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

Val’s Movie Roundup #13: Hallmark Edition


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Cupid, Inc. (2012) – Okay, who would have thought that Jamie Kennedy would actually be decent as Cupid? This is the guy who taught us how to survive a horror movie and was in Son Of The Mask (2005). But yep, he plays Cupid and does a good job. But he really isn’t a big part of the film all things considered. That falls to Joely Fisher. The deal is that she has to get a new couple together by Valentine’s Day, then she will find her true love. If Jamie Kennedy showed up and told me that, then I would probably ask him if I should see Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone (2005), but she takes him up on his offer. The rest can be boiled down to four words: It’s a Hallmark movie. Believe it or not, this is my first Valentine’s Day Hallmark movie, so I guess it’s the best one I have seen. I’ll tell you this, it’s much better than Gabe the Cupid Dog (2012).

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Fixing Pete (2011) – This one is kind of like Recipe For Love, but not as good. This has dark haired Brooke Burns who is tasked with making over a frat boy looking guy for his upcoming book tour. People often complain about female stereotypes, but this one has the male stereotypes in spades when we are introduced to Pete (Dylan Bruno). Luckily, that doesn’t last long and the two move closer and closer to each other. It’s nice, but if you can find Recipe For Love, then watch that instead.

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Murder 101: New Age (2008) – Once again it’s time for the Van Dykes to solve a murder. This time there are four of them. We’ve got Dick, Barry, Shane, and Carey. As the title suggests, the New Age movement plays a part here. Apparently, after The Nanny, Charles Shaughnessy joined the New Age movement. Basically there’s a room with him dead and gun in his hand while the only other people there are in a really deep meditation. So who killed him? It goes from there. I can’t believe it took till my third Murder 101 movie to realize that Barry Van Dyke’s character is not a cop, but a PI. Not sure then why the Van Dykes seem to just take over the investigation, but who cares. All that matters is that there is a scene where you get to see Dick Van Dyke play tennis on the Wii. When I saw that, I knew my life was complete. Actually, there are several humorous lines surrounding technology. Better than the mystery movies you get from Hallmark nowadays.

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Dad’s Home (2010) – Been awhile since I watched Mr. Mom (1983), but I think it’s probably quite similar. Except kill off the Mom and set it during this generation’s Great Depression. Really, that’s it. We watch him as he settles into his new role as a stay at home dad while looking for work. Before he had a nanny that took care of his kids, but she’s let go after he’s let go from his job. Not sure why she was let go though since he somehow is able to keep this very expensive home and cause of the ending where I swear he decides to not work again. Of course, there has to be a romance thrown in. The hot and nice blonde teacher takes a liking to him and things progress. The only thing that was memorable was when dad interviews for a job at a tech company. The head of the company actually refers to Social Network Accounts as SNAs. I couldn’t even find that in Urban Dictionary. He asks him if he podcasts. I also swear he asked him if he was on Orkut. That’s the social network that was really popular in Brazil. He also asks if he “does Twitter”. What? Was this intentional to show that the guy was actually clueless about the industry he was in or did the writers not know what they were talking about. Or were they trying some feeble attempt to make fun of tech companies. I think it’s the feeble attempt one since they mention a company acupuncturist. Grow up! These are jokes I would expect from a standup comedian. You can skip this one.

Val’s Movie Roundup #10: Hallmark Edition


My memory may be a little fuzzy on these since they are all murder mystery movies. Also, some other stuff like getting Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Fester’s Quest for the NES working interjected themselves between viewings. Don’t judge me! I had them as a kid and they need to be beaten. Luckily, because of the kind of movies these are, I don’t think it will be a problem.

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Mystery Woman: Oh Baby (2006) – I hadn’t seen Kellie Martin since she was on floor dead in her final episode of ER. I really enjoyed her on that show. This movie pairs her with Clarence Williams III who people probably remember best from The Mob Squad, but I remember him from The General’s Daughter (1999). Martin runs a book shop she took over from her uncle called Mystery Woman Books. The movie begins with a guy getting murdered on a golf course by the partner they were playing with. A woman then shows up at the bookstore with a baby. She knew Martin’s uncle so Martin opens up her home to her and her baby. Soon the mother disappears to join the husband who is on the run. The husband is a groundskeeper who witnessed the murder, but instead of reporting it, ran away. Thus, the police are after him as a suspect. Martin and Williams gear up to try solve the crime. This is the best murder mystery series I have seen so far on Hallmark. Martin and Williams are likable. They don’t come across as busy bodies. You can follow the mystery. You actually care to follow the mystery. And it isn’t sanitized to the point of looking like the Stepford Wives. This one is worth checking out.

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The Gourmet Detective (2015) – This is the film that introduces us to the Brooke Burns’ cop who still identifies herself as a detective even though SFPD officers of her type are called inspectors. It also introduces us to Dylan Neal, know as The Gourmet Detective. The setup for him and getting them together is pretty stupid. I can’t believe Neal kept a straight face while explaining that he is called The Gourmet Detective because if a key ingredient runs out, then someone like him hunts down a replacement. The setup BS is just annoying. The rest of the mystery is done well enough. Apparently, just like the second film, a journalist dies. The only really noteworthy thing is that they bother to stop and give us a real recap of what has been figured out so far. I don’t think any of the other ones I’ve watched have done it, or at least in a useful manner. This is really nice. Especially for someone like myself who has difficulty following along. Okay to see, but the second one is better because it doesn’t have all that setup stuff.

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Murder, She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery (2015) – Think that title is long enough? Why not The Incredibly Sensibly Dressed Baker Who Stopped Making Cookies And Became An Amateur Detective. Maybe that will inspire Hallmark’s next series. This is one of those films that people seem to refer to as a cozy mystery. I guess cozy means sanitized and set in nice areas to the point that the Stepford Wives are soon to arrive and the town is going change it’s name to Pleasantville any day now. The movie is about a baker played by Alison Sweeney. After a friend and a delivery driver get killed, she investigates. A cop played by Cameron Mathison comes into things. He’s really just there to add a romantic interest in much the same way they did in Wedding Planner Mystery. It’s neat that Sweeney actually cries over the loss of her friends. In the others it’s like it’s just an excuse to investigate or they don’t seem to care. I remember a scene in Lies Between Friends where Gabrielle Anwar just stared from a distance at the dead body of her friend like she caught her doing something dirty. I would recommend any of the other three films listed here over this one. It’s so sanitized that things like suspense simply don’t exist.

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Mystery Woman: Redemption (2006) – Again, we return to the bookstore with Martin and Williams. This time John Ratzenberger plays a Vietnam vet who shows up in the bookstore and soon after is found murdered. The investigation ultimately leads back to something that he and others went through during the Vietnam war. They found something special that they were planning to return to the government later on, but never did. All the good things about Mystery Woman: Oh Baby are present here. In addition, they don’t have to keep a baby in tow. Plus, the story is more interesting. The two Mystery Woman movies are definitely the ones to go with here. I have one more of these films to go and will write about it once I have seen it.

Val’s Movie Roundup #9: Hallmark Edition


WHACK! You just got hit in the head with a greeting card.

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Bound By A Secret (2009) – This is a good one. It’s very refreshing to come across a Hallmark movie like this. It’s about an actress (Lesley Ann Warren) who quits her career and goes to visit her friend played by Meredith Baxter from Family Ties. I really want to find a movie where she plays a villain. I mean we have Michael Gross as a gun nut in the Tremors movies. I think she has the acting chops to pull it off. But getting back to this movie, there are four issues being faced by the characters. The actress is dying and Baxter’s daughter is actually hers biologically. Baxter is overprotective of her daughter and life in general. Amazingly for a Hallmark movie, they even use the way she treats her china as a metaphor for the way she treats her family. A nice touch that I didn’t expect in a TV Movie. The daughter’s problem is that her husband is out of work and is kind of proud. Think, kind of like the husband in The Crowd (1928), just not as extreme. It’s not tearing the family apart in the same way, but he doesn’t appreciate Baxter helping out. Things move forward, the secret comes out, and it works it’s way to the happy ending. The acting is solid and the script is good. It’s a well made film. This is a Hallmark movie that I can get behind.

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Gourmet Detective: A Healthy Place to Die (2015) – This is another one I liked as much as Bound By A Secret. Yeah, I’m a little biased because I already like Brooke Burns. I enjoy watching her host The Chase. I think she does a good job. I think this is the first of these mystery movies they make for Hallmark that basically did it right. The other ones I’ve seen have issues that make it difficult to follow the story, or to even care. That’s that not present here. It’s just my issue with mysteries in general. I’m a simple person and these plots tend to be too much for me. It starts with a short setup, which I like. It’s almost like they were making a subtle jab at the excuses given in movies for why two people need to go off together. They don’t even try. Dylan Neal shows up at the police station. He mentions he’s going to a resort to give a talk on cooking. The chief basically then just tells Burns you don’t take vacation days, that’s pissing people off, so you’re going. End of story. That happens inside of a couple minutes. During a dinner scene at the resort we meet a reporter who isn’t well liked. Anyone who grew up watching Murder, She Wrote knows that means she’s marked for death. The rest is pretty standard stuff of leading us around till we finally settle on suspects they hope aren’t out of left field, but not incredibly obvious. I think the chemistry between Burns and Neal works. I also like that because of the way Burns is built and carries herself, we really do feel like we’re just watching two people working together. Rather than we’re watching a guy and girl work together. It’s a small thing, but it was just more reason for me to like this movie. I want to see the other one of these they did together.

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My Gal Sunday (2014) – This one on the other hand, my recommendation is to pretend this doesn’t exist. And run far away from anyone who tries to get you to watch it. Honestly, I’m up to 27 Hallmark movies now and this is easily the worst I’ve seen. They might as well have called this The Mystery Cruise II because it has all the same problems as that film and more. It’s also based on a book by the same author. It has the same abrupt beginning. I really think what happened here is that someone picked up the book, didn’t actually read it, but skimmed it looking for key scenes, jotted them down, then wrote the screenplay. I can’t imagine much thought went into the adaptation. Abrupt beginnings are common in books. It works just fine in that medium. It doesn’t work in movies. It especially doesn’t work in TV Movies. An abrupt beginning like this one, which is cringe worthy for other reasons, makes you think you have come back from a commercial in the middle of a show. You could easily think you must have missed something, but no. The movie actually just started. Then it only gets worse. Things just jump around for lack of a better description so you have little chance of really following things or caring to follow things. There are flashbacks that are confusing. The director tries to add a little bit of an artsy transition into them, but it just makes things worse. And there’s no chemistry whatsoever. Sometimes the camera lingers on Rachel Blanchard’s face and what? Is she emoting? Did they forget to say cut? It’s stupid. If you manage to suffer through this whole thing then you are treated to one of the dumbest resolutions ever. If you get there, then you’ll know exactly what I am talking about, but please don’t. Spare yourself this abomination.

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Wedding Planner Mystery (2014) – Jeez! What’s next Nail Technician Mystery or Retro Video Game Salesperson Mystery. Time is money. Don’t think of a title, just throw something onto the word “Murder” or “Mystery”. This is not My Gal Sunday. It’s not good, but it’s a far cry from that movie. It’s also a far cry from Gourmet Detective: A Healthy Place to Die. It’s about a wedding planner and there’s a mystery. Go figure! The wedding planner is played by Erica Durance of Smallville fame. I don’t think I’ve ever complained about the makeup in a movie, but here I go. Durance looks like a plastic doll. I thought maybe surgery, but I think it was just bad makeup cause a couple other of the young actresses also didn’t look good in the same way. Even the guys seemed to be wearing too much makeup. Also, one of the older ladies was wearing a lousy wig. Not like the Lies Between Friends wig, but it’s not good. The movie begins at a wedding and a bridesmaid dies in a car accident. Honestly, I can’t really tell you why Durance investigates. I guess it had something to do with alcohol being served at the wedding, but it just seems like she can’t mind her own damn business. What follows is just boring. In some ways, it’s more like an attempt at a romantic comedy between Durance and some paparazzi-ish reporter. None of it really works. Especially not the voice overs from Durance like she’s suddenly Sam Spade or something. She’s a wedding planner! I can’t recommend this one, but it’s not awful. I just can’t say that you will enjoy it.