Cleaning Out The DVR: A Killer In My Home (dir by Farhad Mann)


When the lockdown was first announced down here in Texas, my initial reaction was, “Well, at least I can clean out my DVR now….”

Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out like that.  First off, I got caught up trying to work my way through my collection of DVDs and Blu-rays.  Then, I ended up getting distracted by my efforts to binge my way through The Sopranos, Oz, and Deadwood.  And suddenly, here we are!  It’s nearly June.  The lockdown is in the process of ending.  And I’ve barely made a dent on working my way through the 230 programs that I have on my DVR.

Earlier today, I decided to finally get to work by watching the Lifetime film, A Killer In My Home.  A Killer In My Home originally aired on the Lifetime Movie Network back in February.  I was on vacation at the time so my wonderful sister was nice enough to record it for me.  Watching it was an interesting experience, just because there weren’t any COVID-19-themed commercials.  Instead, there were a ton of commercials for Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg.  I mean, seriously — whenever you think about how bad 2020 may be right now, just remember that, even before everything shut down, we had to spend a month and a half dealing with the Tom and Mike charm offensive.

As for the film itself, it tells the story of Allison Wright (Bree Williamson) and her daughter, Hollie (Hannah Vandenbygaart).  Allison and Hollie appear to have the perfect life.  Not only do they live in a huge house but Hollie appears to have the perfect future ahead of her.  Soon, she’ll graduate high school, get a nice car, and go to a good college.  But then, Allison’s husband and Hollie’s father suffers a heart attack!  While he’s dying in the hospital, he’s visited by Jenna Fallon (Krista Bridges) and her withdrawn son, Joshua (Percy Hynes White).  When Allison demands to know why Jenna is visiting her dying husband, Jenna explains that she had an affair with Allison’s husband and Joshua was the result.  Apparently, Allison’s husband spent years visiting and financially supporting Jenna and Joshua.  Now that he’s dead, Jenna and Joshua have no one left to provide for them.

Now, if you were Allison, what would you do in this situation?

Would you say, “Tough shit, you whore.  Get out of here and take that bastard with you!”

Or

Would you say, “Why don’t you come live in our guest house?”

Now, to the film’s credit, Allison’s initial reaction is to tell Jenna and Joshua to go away.  However, a few weeks later, Allison has a change of heart and she allows Jenna and Joshua to move into the guest house.  Jenna and her son are supposed to stay away from the main house and out of Allison and Hollie’s lives.  Needless to say, things don’t work out like that.

Soon, strange things start to happen.  There’s a break-in at the house.  Despite her efforts to ignore him, Joshua still tries to talk his half-sister.  Jenna starts to throw biker-populated parties at the guest house.  Despite the fact that she claims to have no money, Jenna is able to buy her son an expensive jeep.  Allison comes to realize what we realized from the beginning: Jenna has sinister motives of her own!  The only question is whether or not Joshua shares those motives or if he’s just a pawn trapped in a game he didn’t intend to play.

A Killer In My Home is okay.  If I’m not as enthusiastic about it as I am about other Lifetime films, it’s because I never believed that Allison would 1) allow Jenna to stay in the guest house and 2) allow her to continue to stay in the guest house even after it became obvious that some seriously strange stuff was going on.  Allison lost my sympathy by doing that.  However, I did really like Krista Bridges’s performance as the unstable Jenna and I though Hannah Vandenbygaart gave a good and sympathetic performance as the daughter who is basically just sick of dealing with the adults in her life.  I could definitely relate.

Finally, the house was nice.  Lifetime movies always feature the nicest houses and A Killer In My Home featured one of the best!

Lifetime Film Review: The Cheerleader Escort (dir by Alexandre Carriere)


I swear, how did I ever make it through college?

That’s a question that I often find myself wondering while watching a Lifetime movie.  In the world of Lifetime, college is always prohibitively expensive and families — regardless of how big of a house in which they’re living — always struggle to pay their daughter’s tuition.  It seems like, whenever it’s time to head off to college, there’s always either a divorce or a sudden bankruptcy or some other financial calamity designed to destroy idealistic hopes and dreams.  Inevitably, the only way to pay for college is by descending into a sordid world of scandal, infidelity, and occasionally even murder.

That’s the situation in which Cassie Talbot (played by Alexandra Beaton) finds herself in The Cheerleader Escort.  Cassie’s just started at a good college and her best friend is even her dorm roommate!  Even better, she’s just made the school’s renowned cheerleader squad!  It all sounds perfect but there’s a problem.  Cassie has to figure out a way to pay for all of this.  Her parents are divorced and, while her father originally promised to help pay for college, he has since disappeared.  Her mother, Karen (Cynthia Preston), says that he might “be gambling again.”  Well, he’s just gambled away Cassie’s future because, after Karen’s injured in an auto accident, there’s no way that Cassie’s going to be able to afford tuition!

Unless….

It turns out that there are wealthy men, most of whom are members of the college’s alumni association, who are more than willing to help the members of the cheerleading squad pay the bills.  As long as the cheerleaders agree to “spend some time” with them, they’ll donate all sorts of money.  In fact, that was one reason why Cassie was selected for the squad.  It was felt that the alumni would react well to her innocent personality and indeed, they do.  Soon, Cassie is spending all her time with the older and richer Terry Dunes (Damon Runyan).  That doesn’t leave much time for going to her classes but who goes to college just to sit in a boring classroom?

Anyway, it seems like a good arrangement until another member of the squad, Gabby (Joelle Farrow), informs Cassie that she’s pregnant and that the father is another wealthy member of the alumni association.  Gabby is super excited about having the baby.  The baby’s father is a bit less happy about the prospect.  In the real world, this would all probably lead to Dr. Phil doing a prime time special on “Sugar Daddy websites,” but this is a Lifetime movie so, of course, it all leads to murder and scandal.

And thank goodness for that!  I mean, seriously, you’re not watching this film because you’re expecting to see a serious examination of why college is so damn expensive or why so many students are graduating with a mountain of debt.  You’re watching this film for the drama and, on that front, The Cheerleader Escort delivers.  In the grand tradition of previous Lifetime films like Confessions of Go Go Girl and Babysitter’s Black Book, The Cheerleader Escort delivers all of the sordid melodrama that you could hope for.

Really, we don’t ask for a lot when it comes to a movie like this: a little sex, a little melodrama, a nice house, and big drama.  The Cheerleader Escort delivers all four.

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.

Cleaning Out The DVR: I Have Your Children


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After watching 911 Nightmare, I continued to clean out the DVR by watching I Have Your Children.  I Have Your Children originally aired on Lifetime on January 1st.  That’s right — this is the first Lifetime film of the year!

Anyway, I Have Your Children is a film about hostage negotiation and, after reading that, are you still awake?  For whatever reasons, there have been hundreds of movies and TV shows about hostage negotiators and they’re usually pretty boring and predictable.  Some crazy person takes a group of people hostage.  The SWAT team surrounds him.  A hostage negotiator who is haunted by a past failure shows up and does the whole, “Just talk to me” routine.  The SWAT team just wants to shoot the guy and the negotiator does the whole, “You are putting the hostages in danger!” routine.  Usually, it turns out that the guy holding the hostages is doing so because he was screwed over by a bank or health insurance company or maybe he lost all of his money due to a smarmy stockbroker.  There’s usually a scene where the negotiator delivers food to the hostages.

Seriously, a hostage negotiator film just writes itself.  Maybe that’s why there’s so many of them.

Anyway, at first glance, I Have Your Children seems like pretty much your standard hostage negotiator film.  A guy named Calum stops taking his mediation and hijacks a school bus.  It turns out that Calum’s mother is dying but she can’t get the treatment she needs because of the big horrible health insurance company!  Calum is demanding a huge ransom, enough money to be able to pay for his mother’s treatment.  One of the kidnapped kids is the daughter of a claims adjuster at the insurance company!

The SWAT Team just wants to rush in with guns blazing and if that means that all the hostages die, so be it.  Fortunately, Amber Cross (Alaina Huffman) is there to negotiate with Calum.  Amber, of course, has issues of her own.  A hostage died during one of her previous negotiations.  Her ex-husband is planning on marrying a younger woman.  (It’s a Lifetime film, after all.)  Her son is being bullied at school.  Fortunately, Amber’s father-in-law happens to be the chief of police and he’s going to keep Amber employed, even if a snarky reporter and the fascistic SWAT Team leader continue to insist that she’s thoroughly incompetent…

However, towards the end of the film, there’s a big twist and it kind of makes up for how predictable the film has been up to that point.  Obviously, I can’t really reveal the twist without spoiling the film but I will say that it was clever and fairly unexpected and it pretty much saved the entire film from being totally forgettable.  So, if you happen to watch I Have Your Children, the best advice I can give is to stick with the movie and have some faith that it will eventually pay off!

Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with having a little faith.

Hallmark Review: One Starry Christmas (2014, dir. John Bradshaw)


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Don’t you hate it when you sit down to write about a movie and you have no idea how to start it? That’s when you break out The Ramones and just start it by saying you have no idea how to start it. This movie on the other hand starts when we meet our leading lady named Holly Jensen (Sarah Carter) and her boyfriend named Adam (Paul Popowich). Ah, I knew I recognized Paul Popowich. He was on Degrassi: TNG and that short lived Canadian attempt to create both a new Nancy Drew and a new Hardy Boys TV Show. I think these opening scenes can be best described through these three screenshots.

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She is a doctor of astronomy and her Hardy Boy boyfriend is a lawyer. He is going to have to be absent on Christmas because a business opportunity has come up that calls him away to New York. If only he knew he was in a Hallmark movie, then he would have known that is the mark of death for a current boyfriend. Might as well have put up the crown signal to send a message to all men in the area that now is the time to pounce on her. Well, it turns out that her parents are also in New York.

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She gets the idea to visit her parents after looking at a picture of herself and Adam on MyBudsBook. It’s obviously the pot smokers version of Facebook. Then she buys bus tickets because the movie works better having her meet Luke (Damon Runyan) there, then on a plane. That, and her character is supposed to be afraid of flying. Hmmm…funny that both the guys she has vying for her heart both had recurring roles on Degrassi: TNG. By the way…

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these are some of the best fake Internet screens I have seen this year. I just watched Nightcrawler (2014) and it didn’t even fake the Internet this well.

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This is Luke who seems to be talking to me about the boom mic popping into frame in movies. He is a cowboy cause of course he is. He is on his way to a rodeo. At this point, I must admit this was making realize I really should have reviewed Ballad Of A Soldier (1959) for Veteran’s Day.

The bus breaks down and the two of them have a moment. She shares her love of astronomy with him. They have a similar moment later when they talk about Orion. I must say I was disappointed that she didn’t share the origin of Ursa Major with him. That being the story of when Hercules threw a bear into space.

And no, Luke never fights eight men, then throws a log into space. He doesn’t need to because she already likes him and it turns out her dad is a big western fan. It also helps that Damon Runyan does a good job of just playing a helluva nice guy. They could have made him a high price lawyer too and we still would have totally bought that she should be with him.

The rest of this movie is a couple scenes where we see the two of them have some quality time, and the rest is poor Adam drowning. Luke even whips out a brother who can sing. Once Luke got the folks at the company party who were hiring Adam to do line dancing, it was all over. Shortly afterwards she breaks up with him, but not after saying she wants something that honestly sounds like quite the tall order even for Luke:

“No, Adam. I want love. Not the comfortable, safe kind. I want extraordinary, passionate, everything in sync love where their touch electrifies your soul. When what you want most in the world is to make them happy.”

Okay Holly, but that is a bit much for this movie. Just saying. Regardless, she should be with the cowboy. And yes, he shows up on a horse and they kiss.

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I think this is the third Hallmark movie I’ve seen where the guy shows up at the end on a horse. However, it’s the first one where it makes sense. They set it up nicely, he decides to go after her while he’s at the rodeo, and he’s a cowboy to begin with. It fit much better here than in the other two.

My only real complaint about this movie is why did they bother with the character of Adam? I think this would have been deeper and more moving if she had just got on the bus to visit her family, they meet, and they spend the rest of the movie falling in love. Nice and simple. Sure that would have made it a little tougher on screenwriter Rickie Castaneda, but I think it would have been better that way. He really felt like a third wheel on the movie itself. Still, I enjoyed this one. As always with Hallmark movies, it’s nothing to seek out, but it is a perfectly nice thing to flip on to kill some time around dinner for the holidays.

Seeing as I started this by mentioning The Ramones.

Here’s one for Luke (She’s The One by The Ramones):

Here’s one for Holly (I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend by The Ramones):

And here’s one for poor Adam (Indian Giver by The Ramones):