Hallmark Review: Straight From The Heart (2003, dir. David S. Cass Sr.)


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You know what the best part of Straight From The Heart is for me?

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It’s that I’m almost 100% positive that’s the director David S. Cass Sr. With this movie, I will have seen 15 of his Hallmark movies. It’s nice to finally put a face with the name. The reason being that they refer to him as Mr. Cass in the movie.

Correction: According to a commenter identifying themselves as David S. Cass Sr. himself, that is most certainly NOT a picture of him.

Anyways, he’s asking a photographer named Jordan Donovan (Teri Polo) if she likes garbage, not because her photos are garbage, but because she likes taking pictures of garbage. Work isn’t going well for her. Now we are introduced to a cowboy named Tyler Ross (Andrew McCarthy). Friends and family of these two decide to play matchmaker and with an ad in Country Connections, Jordan is in now in the country with Tyler.

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Honestly, there is less to talk about here than most. Sure there are details. He lost a wife and child. There is an issue with wild horses and his property that has ties back to his father in law from the now dead wife. Jordan was proposed to, sort of, before she came to the country. By sort of, I mean he asked her to move in with him, but not marriage.

None of that is really too important. What you have here is the cowboy who is damaged. A photographer who is a little lost both in her work and personal life. Then you have this little matchmaking scheme that gets them to spend some time together. They go through a series of different experiences together developing a friendship.

This is one of those really early Hallmark movies so it looks good. You can tell more money went into this then the stuff you see nowadays on the channel. That also means it’s one of those that censors itself. Twice, Jordan says the word “butt” and it falls silent on the word. It’s still in the captions though.

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The acting is good too. In fact, I would be recommending this as one of the best one’s I have seen if it didn’t have one problem that really bothers me. I don’t really see any reason that these two people should end up together as lovers. It doesn’t make sense. It makes perfect sense that they should end up as close friends, but asking me to buy them as lovers feels as genuine as if she were a mail order bride and they just lived happily ever after. I see these two people as having helped to heal each other, not fell in love with each other. That part felt forced to me. Especially the ending where it almost felt like he shows up just out of obligation to the script.

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If that part doesn’t bother you, then this is worth seeing. It certainly is one of the best looking Hallmark movies I’ve seen.

Val’s Movie Roundup #27: Hallmark Edition


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Lead With Your Heart (2015) – At this point, I have seen 98 Hallmark movies. I think this is the best one I have ever seen. Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot to say either. The movie is about a couple played by Billy Baldwin and Kari Matchett. Their children are leaving for college and she gets a temporary job out of town. As a result, the two spend more time apart then they probably have in close to 20 years or more. What follows is just a nice little story about how they adapt to their situation. It doesn’t go the easy way and have one of them cheat, or almost cheat, then reconcile. That’s what you would expect. That’s not to say that some people don’t show interest in them, but instead of being a true temptation, it acts as a signal to them about how they need to change to keep their relationship together into this new territory. I especially liked the ending because it involved real compromise and not some fairy tale giving up success for something humble.

You have no idea how refreshing this was to see. Especially considering Hallmark then aired a movie called Just The Way You Are, which I will talk about, that is basically the same, except terrible.

For a Hallmark movie, I can’t recommend it enough.

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Family Plan (2005) – This is more of the standard middle of the road Hallmark movie based off of a plot device that would have made for a screwball comedy in the 1940’s. In this case, Tori Spelling’s company is taken over and for no other purpose then to give this movie a reason to exist, she is advised to pretend she is married. Seriously, this other lady gives her a ring, she puts it on, then she can’t get it off. So, she has to pretend to her boss that she’s married. She hires an actor to play her husband. She also picks up a daughter from her friend. You know how the rest goes.

This kind of movie sinks or swims on the charm of the actors involved. They are no Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, or Katharine Hepburn, but they work well enough. Spelling has never been a great actress, but she does a certain kind of part well and this is one of them. The other actors are in the same boat.

It does get a little boring because it’s so by the book, but that just means it’s a little below average. Like I’ve said before, it won’t kill ya.

One funny goof. In the credits, they forgot to capitalize this guy’s last name.

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Just The Way You Are (2015) – This movie on the other hand can kill you. It will make you beg for another Aurora Teagarden mystery movie where you can just watch Candace Cameron Bure run around like she’s high on cocaine. Also, you won’t be able to listen to Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are for awhile. At least there’s still She’s Got A Way!

It’s basically the same thing as Lead With Your Heart. It even used a licensed song like Lead With Your Heart did. In this case, it’s the original. In Lead With Your Heart, it was a cover of Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong. A couple a ways into their marriage are getting stale in their relationship. Unfortunately, Candace Cameron Bure’s character works for a matchmaking company that uses stupid rules for making relationships work. Yep, it’s one of those movies.

Bure’s idea is for her and her husband to start blind dating while following the rules. It’s all a bunch of boring and stupid nonsense. I remember when that book The Rules came out in the 90’s. Why are we still doing this stuff 20 years later? It’s always the same thing. Yes, statistically certain things show up as significant, but of course following them blindly won’t work. Human beings are far more complex than any set of rules you can attempt to derive through study of them. This isn’t news, and we don’t need yet another movie to remind us of this fact.

Don’t watch this one.

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Perfect On Paper (2014) – I usually save the computer screen goofs for the end of the review, but I think this time they belong at the beginning.

Near the start of the movie, they do a decent job of faking a site called SomebodyDateMe.com.

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But later in the movie, they show a horribly faked website for a fictional school called The Horrock’s School.

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Look at that thing! First, no school would have a webpage that looks like that in 2014. Second, notice the URL is a local file. Third, notice the specific HTML document they are looking at is called “donovan2.html”. Finally, notice that the URL clearly shows they did, or tried, to setup an XAMPP LAMP stack, then either couldn’t figure it out, or just didn’t run it for some reason.

The whole movie is kind of like that. It feels slapped together. It’s about a book editor who is offered a glamorous position in Los Angeles. The whole thing is about her friends trying to reshape her into an LA power girl stereotype to keep their major client played by Morgan Fairchild. Of course, it’s Hallmark, so there’s also a guy.

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See that little bit of grey peeking out from behind that bush? That’s the guy. She throws the coffee over her shoulder and hits him. If you don’t pay close attention, then you won’t see what looks like shears drop from his hand and it’s not mentioned. In other words, you’ll likely think this guy was just behind that bush for no reason except to have coffee land on him and meet her.

He’s the opposite of the “Perfect On Paper” guy that her friends want her to be with for her job. Of course, she was never the glamorous type to begin with. Here, I have to give them some credit because they went with a girl who honestly isn’t glamorous. She’s not especially attractive. That was really nice to see and it fit her character.

You know how it all works out. The only thing to mention is that since they want you to clearly see the difference between the main character and the other girls, questionable trendy clothes show up. I hope they burned this thing after they shot the movie.

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This one is definitely below average. Like I said, it feels slapped together, people kind of stumble through it, and you just want it over with.

Lead With Your Heart is the one to go with here.

Val’s Movie Roundup #25: Hallmark Edition


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A Wish Come True (2015) – If Pete’s Christmas (2013) is Hallmark’s Groundhog Day (1993), then A Wish Come True is kind of their Big (1988). The movie is about a girl named Lindsay Corwin (Megan Park). For a a good chunk of the beginning of this film she looks like a teenager. The opening scene may even be of her as a teenager. I’m not sure because the next thing I knew, she was about to turn 30, but looked the same. And this picture later of her supposedly at 18 sure didn’t help.

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Each birthday she makes a wish, and each time it doesn’t come true. Until her thirtieth birthday, when they all come true at once. Just like Big, this catapults her far beyond where she is supposed to be at her age. Promotion, big house, etc. She even receives a toy house that I’m pretty sure Celine and Julie were once trapped in (pretentious cinema snob joke).

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As is almost always the case, there is a romantic interest. The movie is one of the average ones of this sort. You really can’t spoil it because of the nature of a Hallmark movie, but I will say it doesn’t quite end like Big. Same sort of result, but a little different. This one is worth seeing. Just remember she’s actually supposed to be 30 even during the scenes where she has glasses and her hair up. Trust me!

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Love By The Book (2014) – You see that picture of the girl (Leah Renee) in the poster. She doesn’t look like that in the movie. That poster makes her look like she could be believable as a smart, kind, business woman with a passion for books. This is closer to the way she looks in the movie.

Even that isn’t completely accurate. I apologize for the lack of a proper screenshot, but you’ll have to take my word for it. She’s the girl you cast for the stuck up high school cheerleading bitch. This is a David S. Cass Sr. movie and just like Class (2010), Keeping Up The Randalls (2011), and Uncorked (2009), one or two of the leads has been cast against type. In this case it’s the girl. The guy is fine in the role. Nothing amazing, but he fits. She does not. She looks like she belongs in Mean Girls (2004) with her squeaky voice and I don’t buy her being able to add, let alone run a business. Whoever keeps doing the casting for David S. Cass Sr. Hallmark movies should be fired. It isn’t fair to the actors and it ruins the movie. They aren’t good enough to play against type, so cast them appropriately so they can do their thing.

The movie itself is about a girl who owns a bookstore and has a business consultant thrust upon her by a big investor in her business. He tries to help her, she resists, she has a boyfriend who obviously doesn’t belong with her, and you know where it ends up.

It would be average, but Leah Renee is totally miscast and it nearly completely ruins the film. It’s not a total crash and burn though.

Oh, and kudos to the Art Department for bothering to setup an XAMPP LAMP stack to run their fake webpages on.

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Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Truth Be Told (2015) – We are going really far back to my very first Hallmark movie roundup. I even received what I think is my one and only thumbs down so far. I assume because of my rather harsh review of Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris With Love (2015). I try to tell you what I thought having watched it. And having watched the most recent entry in the series, I stand behind it. This is one series on Hallmark where they really need to air at least from the Christmas episode up to whatever they are currently showing before the new entry airs. This isn’t one where you can just jump in anywhere like the Aurora Teagarden or Garage Sale Mystery movie series. Hallmark really seems to be carefully trying to craft something special that is notches above their usual material. It’s not fair to you and the series to just jump in at any point. At least not without then going back and watching the earlier ones. I still have to see the pilot/first movie myself.

So, the movie itself. We once again join the Postables as they call themselves at the dead letter office of the United States Postal Service. There is a letter that has been in a fire, but clever Norman (Geoff Gustafson) knows a way to bring the ink back to life from his time in the system as a kid. I really liked this short little procedural part. It honestly made me think of Dan Aykroyd’s character in Sneakers (1992) when he tells Robert Redford how to defeat a keypad lock form an old friend who was in Desert Storm. On the other side of the conflict. They give Redford what sounds like complex instructions, but it turns out it’s just kick the door in. I would love them to have Norman do more tricks like this in the future that he has picked up from his many childhood friends. I also want more procedural elements in general. I think I would enjoy the show more from seeing them work together rather than a personal backstory revealed through an encounter with something from one of their pasts.

This one does that though. This time poor Oliver (Eric Mabius) gets a visit from his father who he has no desire to see. Let me take a moment to say, can we please both give Oliver a break, and give him a marijuana brownie or something to let him loosen up for a bit. The poor guy is wound tighter than a drum. Also, I half expect him to open up a letter and find it has anthrax in it or something else horrible happen to him in the next film. In this one, his father has a bomb to drop on him (not literally).

While Oliver confronts his past, the letter leads Norman and Rita (Crystal Lowe) into the life of a young girl who’s Mom mysteriously disappeared in Afghanistan. It turns out the letter was written by someone else, not the mother. She hires them to find out who wrote it. At present, the mother is presumed to have worked with the enemy. The “Truth Be Told” of the tile is something that Oliver didn’t know about his father and the young girl finding out the truth about her mother. Although, I think we are going to find out even more about her in the next entry in the series.

The only other thing I can think to mention is that Rita has a romance novel she is writing. Apparently, there’s a scene in it where a woman is accidentally branded. I have no reason to believe otherwise, but I think she means branded like Cecil B. DeMille’s The Cheat (1915) branded. I want to hear more from this novel. She certainly seems to have more of a sexual imagination than the guy who directed Bikini Spring Break (2012) and Jailbait (2014).

I think you can come in to this without having seen the prior ones, but really, if you can, record it and hold on till you see the previous ones. I think you will be doing yourself a real favor.

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A Ring By Spring (2014) – This is paint by numbers Hallmark. You can tell from the title. Hell, that picture would probably have you thinking it’s offensive to women. It’s not.

The movie is about a business consultant played by Rachel Boston. She is called in to help a company that buys used college supplies, then resells them. She gets a reading that says she will have a ring by spring or she never will. Honestly, she doesn’t seem to take it very seriously, which is nice. It’s just kind of in the back of her mind. Of course, we know she is going to end up with the nice guy who runs the business rather than anyone else she might meet.

The two things that work are the ending and Boston herself. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s not a proposal. It’s a nice little, ah, I get it moment for Boston’s character followed by her ending up with the guy. While the stuff leading up to it didn’t work so great for me, the ending did.

The other thing that works is Boston’s facial expressions. I think it’s her big eyes, but she does some great shocked looks.

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Seriously, the movie is worth seeing just to watch her face.

Unfortunately, this movie is one of those that screws up computer screens. And again, it’s a stupid mistake that they for some reason beyond me decide to show in a lingering closeup. In this case, Boston is talking to a guy via her iPad, but we can clearly see it’s just video playing that she is talking to. It’s only made worse when in a following scene she is shown a video and we can clearly see it looks the same as her supposed chat.

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I really don’t understand why the closeup was necessary. Especially when in the same scene it’s fixed because presumedly the top of the video went away since they weren’t touching it or they touched it to make it go away. Probably they noticed it, touched it to make it go away, but didn’t reshoot the earlier scenes.

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I said the ending worked for me, but the real reason is to see Boston do her looks. She does the same sort of thing in A Gift Of Miracles (2015). I forgot to include screenshots that time, but I did describe the expression on her face like she just saw Chuck Norris eat a Cadillac. I haven’t enjoyed an actor almost solely on the basis of their facial expressions since Jim Carrey.

Val’s Movie Roundup #22: Hallmark Edition


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Ordinary Miracles (2005) – This movie begins with a judge hearing a case of two foster parents who want to give up their foster daughter back into the system because she is too much for them. What they tell the judge she has done is pretty minor and if they are foster parents then they should have been able to handle it. Anyways, the judge grants their wish, but unfortunately is stuck because she has no where else to put her but into juvenile prison.

With that over with, some blonde shows up to plead her case as the judge is leaving for a vacation of sorts. This lady was obviously hired because of her angelic appearance, but she’s just plain annoying. I say this because she harasses the judge about helping the girl. She says she cares deeply about what happens to her. She didn’t care enough to show up to the case under the guise that her department is too busy. Fine, but if you care so much about her, then instead of bothering the judge, do something about it yourself! Instead, she guilts the judge into taking the girl out of holding to try and foster the girl herself.

The rest is pretty typical. There’s the boyfriend who’s the bad influence. The judge tries to do research into her past to find her missing parents. And the girl goes through some adjustment issues. There’s also a minor subplot with the judge’s parents as well. Nothing particularly interesting or great. It’s just decent.

The only thing that bothered me, other than the blonde, was the supposed visit from the ghost of the daughter’s dead mother. It’s almost like they were planning to do more with it, but didn’t. She has a nightmare near the beginning of the film that we are told was actually her talking to someone. Later we actually see the ghost of her mother talk to her. I don’t really know what the point of that was. It doesn’t add anything and feels out of place.

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Ice Dreams (2010) – There are quite a few characters here so I’m going to try and give you the gist. You have an ice rink that isn’t doing well financially and looks run down. It’s run by two guys. One who is there for comic relief and a couple of speeches. The other is the male romantic interest who really runs the place. Then you have a girl who used to skate and is allowed to skate at the rink after hours. She is having financial difficulties. Another lady is trying to help her daughter get into skating. Then you have the mother of the girl who skates at night trying to come back into her life.

The romantic interest helps to setup the after hours skater as a coach for the young girl. He and her become an item. The skating rink is brought up to snuff. The mother comes back into the life of her daughter. Everything raps up nicely.

This one is definitely a straight average Hallmark movie. The only thing is that it is cluttered with a few too many characters. However, that kind of helps to give a reason for the film to keep going without feeling padded out.

This one’s okay.

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The Last Cowboy (2003) – This is one of those movies where there really isn’t anything to talk about except it’s problems and little noteworthy things. The plot is that the patriarch of the family has died and the inheritance is a bit of a mess for the family. Basically it’s all an excuse just to have Jennie Garth and Lance Henrikson bash heads till they find a way to keep the Texas ranch and be family again.

Okay, now the other stuff. First, this actually has Bradley Cooper in it. Well before he did The Hangover. He is barely in the movie, but you can tell he had talent even here. And yes, he looks even more boyish.

Second, the movie takes place in Texas. However, it was clearly filmed in California. Maybe if you don’t know the open spaces of California that well then it might not be as obvious, but I am familiar with the big parks in the Bay Area. Every time they try to say they are in Texas it’s like this shot from Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes! (1978).

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There’s even a scene where we see a Texas license plate and it’s like when a foreign film puts an American flag in the scene so we totally believe they are Americans. Like this shot from the Argentinian porno spoof of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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There is a great scene near the end of the movie when the barn burns. Lance Henrikson goes in and comes out with his arm on fire. He just walks over to the two other people nonchalantly. In fact, he begins to just stand there like he doesn’t even care before one of the other actors puts it out with his hat. That’s badass!

The only other thing is a weird censorship issue. I remember when they muted the word “butt” in Mystery Woman: Game Time (2005). In this they mute two uses of the word “ass” and one use of the word “jackass”. It’s in the movie because you can hear them say the words around it and mouth “ass” and “jackass”, but it falls silent on those words. Makes me wonder if maybe Hallmark has become more conservative then they were when they first switched from an explicitly religious station to what they are now. However, later in the film someone says the word “jackass” and it isn’t censored. Figure that one out cause I don’t know what happened.

This one is okay if you can keep yourself from saying, “It’s fucking California!,” every time they show “Texas”. I know I did.

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Uncorked (2009) – I usually don’t mention the directors of these Hallmark movies, but this one was done by David S. Cass Sr. who has done many of the ones I have reviewed so far. Notably, he did Class (2010) and Keeping Up With The Randalls (2011). Both of those movies had miscast leads. This one has one obvious miscast that almost ruins the movie. There’s something else in addition to it that truly ruins it, but let me summarize first.

This is yet another movie about how a woman with a successful job in the city who isn’t happy and avoids an unhappy relationship to end up in the country with another man. This time it’s wine country. The guy has a kid so that means he was once married. I really wonder what screenwriters would do if they didn’t have cancer and drunk drivers to kill off spouses and parents in movies. In this case, it’s cancer. She is in town for a convention and ends up spending some time with him since he is a bit of a local celebrity. She loses out on one business opportunity, gets another, but leaves it to go back to him and put her business skills to use to help his winery.

Sounds fine when I summarize it like that, but it has two big problems. The first is the casting of the male lead. Just take a look at him.

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This guy should be playing a serial killer like a murderous lumberjack, not a romantic lead. At least not with that facial hair and his sizable build. In fact, he made me think of Eric Freeman in the now infamous Garbage Day scene from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987).

The second problem comes when you reach these two lines:
Girl: “I’ve only know you for four days.”
Boy: “It seems like so much more.”

No, no it doesn’t. It seems like you spent even less than four days together. I kept pausing it to look at the running time because I was wondering how this film was going to make us believe they should be together with so little time spent together. It was a real problem for me.

Also, we never get as convinced that she should be unhappy with where she is in life as we do in other Hallmark movies. Usually it’s kind of obvious, but here you wonder why she couldn’t have made that part of her life work rather than making a sea change.

I wouldn’t recommend this one.

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.

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 #17: Hallmark Edition


Usually these roundups are short, and I like it that way, but not this time. Not by choice either. These movies just happen to give me a lot to talk about. To borrow from one of my all time favorite TV Shows Quantum Leap: “Oh, boy!”

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Strawberry Summer (2012) – Man, was this a stinker! This is like a prototype version of Recipe For Love. You have a girl who comes into the life of a male star with problems. That star is pretending to be something they are not. They have talent, but it’s being hidden by their fake persona. The girl helps him to throw that facade aside and be himself. The two walk off in to the sunset together. Simple. Shouldn’t be hard to do, right? Here’s how you screw it up.

In Recipe For Love, she is assigned to ghostwrite a TV cook’s cookbook. She was in a job position she didn’t care for, so she has a strong motivation to make this work and push past his initial standoff nature. In Strawberry Summer, she’s basically a stalker. She lives in a small rural town in the California Salinas Valley where they are going to hold a strawberry festival. She’s the queen. She uses the fact that the country singer’s manager is an old college friend of her’s to get him to come and perform. Then she all but proceeds to jump him. But of course she can’t, so instead she looks up information about him online so she can get closer to him. This all plays out rather innocently, but that’s what she’s doing. They screwed this up by removing any good reason for her to be in his life. She’s just a really big fan who thinks she can fix a celebrity she likes a lot. In real life those people have restraining orders put on them. Have his aunt live in town and she invites him to the festival where the rest of the film can then proceed. There, I fixed this part of the movie. I said this part because there are other blunders like the computer screens.

I don’t think I have seen any other Hallmark movie show the screens of a computer more than this one does. The computer screens are hilariously fake. You can actually see that the URL is a local file. In one case she is supposed to be looking at a pseudo Wikipedia page for the singer, but it’s referred to as “Internet Web Search Online Encyclopedia”. When she typed in the search it was called “Internet Encyclopedia Search”. The URL is called “C:\Users\LLP\Desktop\Jason Wiki Page.htm”. They couldn’t call it Wikipedia, but it’s in the URL of the page. And LLP stands for Larry Levinson Productions who seems to make all of these Hallmark movies.

In general, they have the most generic titles for things: “Video Search” and “search engine”. That’s not too uncommon in movies. Remarkably generic, but I’ve seen some stupid ways of avoiding saying Google. However, while she uses “Video Search” at the beginning to show her Mom a video of the singer, later in the movie the singer is talking to his manager and the manager says he saw what he did because there’s this thing called YouTube. But that’s not all! While she is doing a search on “search engine” we can see the box in the upper right corner of Internet Explorer for doing searches that says Google. I can’t do these justice. I apologize for the quality of these screenshots, but I watched this on TV and this was the only way I could get these.

IMG_7265 IMG_7266 IMG_7267 IMG_7268 IMG_7270Along with everything else, notice that the “Community Theater” has an area code for Mexico. They couldn’t even be bothered to do a Google search to put the area code for where the movie takes place. I’m guessing they just made it up. You might say I’m nitpicking and that of course I noticed because I have a degree in Computer Science, but the reason I bring up all these errors is because these screens don’t need to be there. All she does is look at the screen and read it out loud anyways. Have her look at the screen, but don’t show it, then have her talk or make a phone call to her local Mexican Salinas Valley Community Theater. There! I fixed this part of the movie too. But there’s more.

She is the head of a glee club. The members of the glee club want to do R.E.M. or Journey for the singing contest at the festival. But no, that would mean LLP would have to spend money on this production so it’s suddenly important for the kids to do When The Saints Go Marching In. She also says she picked it because it’s one of the top marching band songs. Marching band? I thought they were a glee club? If they are a glee club, then do Shiny Happy People. If they are a marching band, then do Separate Ways (Worlds Apart). In fact, when I went to Cal their marching band did that song. And if you were confused about which they were before the ending, then the performance itself isn’t going to help.

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I can only guess that they were going to do a marching band, but then must have realized how ridiculous the kids would look or it would cost too much, but they already had the uniforms and they couldn’t change the script. I don’t know! I don’t know! And no, they can’t sing well either. No worries though, because apparently the 11 other acts, which we don’t see, must be abominable and these kids win. But this part is even worse. The rationale she gives the kids for going with When The Saints Go Marching In is that the important part is taking a song and making it yours. Fine, but then why is the rest of the film about how the singer needs to stop riding his one hit wonder song that he didn’t write to do his own material instead? Oh, and since I don’t know where else to stick it, when he announces he actually grew up in New York City, he then corrects himself to say “not those parts”, but “the good parts”. What parts exactly are “those parts”? Parts that are so well known and looked down on by rural folk that it’s really important for him to say “the good parts”. Oh, and he can’t sing either. He just does a generic Hank Williams impersonation.

Oh, then there’s the scene where he eats strawberries. Apparently, he’s never eaten them before. Fine. Then he has a major allergic reaction to them. Fine. But then he gets miraculously better. Really? Then of course Hallmark has to show commercials for EpiPen, which is a device you would use for just such a violent allergic reaction. And while I didn’t see it myself, according to other reviews, he later pops a strawberry in his mouth and nothing happens. Of course.

I guess the last thing worth mentioning is that this is my second Hallmark film that wastes Shelley Long. Why? Why get her and then completely waste her? I actually paused the movie, went to YouTube, and watched the morgue fight and desert jump scenes from Outrageous Fortune (1987) just to remind myself that she can be funny.

And there’s three more of these Hallmark movies to review still! At least the next one is decent.

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Mystery Woman: Wild West Mystery (2006) – I’ll keep this one short. It’s like every other Mystery Woman movie I’ve reviewed except this one does something I really liked. It has Bruce Boxleitner in it, and instead of like Falling In Love With The Girl Next Door, which wasted him and Shelley Long, he has some great moments in this one. I loved the parts where he acted like a total slime ball. It was great! The movie as a whole is average, but it was so refreshing to see them actually use one of the older well established actors’ talents instead of squandering them. The plot is just an old Western TV star, played by Boxleitner, who does wild west shows and someone apparently is accidentally shot. Kellie Martin and Clarence Williams III are on the case. I just wish they had done Mystery Woman as an actual TV show so they could have dialed back on the complexity of the cases and actually developed Williams’ character’s spy past more instead of just teasing it all the time.

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A Gift of Miracles (2015) – I don’t know how this time around I wound up with three Hallmark movies that were really bad. At least this one is better than Strawberry Summer.

The movie is about a girl who is a PhD candidate who doesn’t realize you have to write appropriately for your audience. Her advisor at the college tells her that, reminds her that she needs to make this pitch for her research work in order to get her PhD, and sends her to meet with a guy who apparently is good at writing. He tells her the same thing and agrees to help her. Then she storms off. Apparently, her mother died when she was one, a window breaks at night, and she finds a box with things in it that also contains a list of people.

Now she goes back to the guy and soon the two are off on an adventure to get these items to the people who are supposed to have them. Somehow this is going to help her writing. I don’t know how, but the film tells me so. Also, this guy apparently has quite the imagination because he has the worst looking poster for Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land I have ever seen on his wall.

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Good thing they picked that book instead of Time Enough For Love. That one has the main character go back in time and hook up with his Mom. Seriously. But then again, why go with the book that is about a Christ-like figure and a hard line agnostic either? I’m not entirely convinced these people have actually read Heinlein. Maybe there’s something I’ve forgotten. It has been a long time since I read it.

Anyways, the two start going around and magical coincidences happen. Some aren’t so magical like running into someone you were looking for in a parking lot after you have to pull over having had car trouble. A few years back I was doing research on a club that was at my old high school in the 1980’s. Sometime in the next year or so after I was actual hit by someone in the club while in my car stopped at a light right outside that school. Really weird stuff happens. It didn’t mean my dead grandmother made it happen. I love when they bump into the lady in the parking lot and Rachel Boston, who plays the girl, gets a look on her face like she just saw Chuck Norris eat a Cadillac.

But apparently if you string enough of these things together, then a very scientifically minded person will start believing her dead mother is making things happen from the afterlife. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: FINE! But tell me how this has anything to do with her inability to recognize that you need to write for the audience who will read it? How is a belief that her mother is watching over her from beyond going to fix that? Why is that in the movie at all? Why couldn’t she just find the box. Set off to return the items. Place the romantic interest at a central point thru which she has to travel in order to return them like they did in My Boyfriends’ Dogs. Then she learns about her mother and believes she is watching over her. There! Movie fixed!

Oh, and her pitch that she needs to write to get her PhD is plagiarized from an actual WWF report (pg. 15, http://www.wwf.se/source.php/1154907/ebm_report%202006.pdf). Here’s her pitch and here’s the part of the real world report where they just ripped it off for the movie.

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We actually see her type some of it at the end of the movie just in case we thought for a moment that maybe she was just reading this report earlier in the film.

The part about her inability to write for people who aren’t an expert in her field and her need to do so to get her degree had no reason to be part of this movie. All it does is send the message that when you are too scientific, believing in the afterlife will mean you can suddenly teach difficult things in easy to understand sentences and deliver them with passion. Couldn’t have any similarity to Jesus, right? Nah! Hallmark isn’t a religious station anymore. At least it is harmless rather than offensive like it was with Your Love Never Fails. At least I hope this was meant to be a religious reference and not just really bad writing like Strawberry Summer.

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For the Love of Grace (2008) – Yes! We’ve made it to the last movie here and it also isn’t good. I have watched numerous Hallmark TV Movies that are obviously failed pilots, but this one is new to me. I swear it must have either been a three hour movie that was then edited down or was a whole season of a TV show that was edited together into a single movie.

Okay, she’s engaged to the guy who played The Shep (Kevin Jubinville) on Degrassi: TNG so we know he’s a douchebag already. The fireman who couldn’t look any more different from our Barbie main character grabs a piece of pizza, looks like he had his nose shoved in poop, then we see a couple pictures of a girl. That’s how we know his wife is dead. Then a fire happens, and for reasons I still am not sure of, he is walking by her house and saves her.

The most frustrating thing is how the female lead’s friend keeps telling her how much she changed after the fire. It’s infuriating because we only got to see her for a few minutes before the fire so there is no change as far as we are concerned. It’s just the way we see her in the first place. So, she’s suddenly into photography? Really, you don’t say. How does that matter to us! Oh, I mean except to sell Nikon cameras. Yeah, they make sure you know that camera is a Nikon camera. But honestly, why the photography when what she does is make a cookbook?

The rest is a love story that revolves around her finding out these fireman also do a lot of cooking. She was going to do a different book, but decides to do a fireman cookbook instead. And no, no one makes the joke about whether they serve dinner with Molotov cocktails.

The main problem with this film is that it has swiss cheese character and plot development. This could have been decent even though I kept looking at the two of them and thinking this would be awesome if that was Britney Spears and Danny Trejo. Yes, she has more chemistry with her female friend, but this still could have been okay if it didn’t keep making these leaps, then saying things as if we were there the whole time. It’s very annoying. However, this is the least worst of the three bad ones here.

Plus, it also has Justin Kelly from Degrassi: TNG in it as well! Obviously, the upcoming Lifetime Unauthorized Degrassi movie will be that while it appeared they were in school the whole time, they were actually starring in lots of Lifetime and Hallmark movies.

I really recommend that if you need to watch a movie with “For the Love of” in the title, then watch For the Love of Rusty. And while you’re at it: Adventures of Rusty, The Return of Rusty, The Son of Rusty, My Dog Rusty, Rusty Leads the Way, Rusty Saves a Life, and Rusty’s Birthday too. Cause German Shepherds rule!

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For those who read the beginning and made it to the end. Here’s a compilation of Oh, Boys! And yes, I’m aware that the show is basically about God sending a man around in time along with a guardian angel to fix things done by Satan.