Lifetime Film Review: Death of a Cheerleader (dir by Paul Shapiro)


Kelly Locke (Sarah Dugdale) appears to have it all.  Even though everyone agrees that she can occasionally be a little bit mean with some of the things that she says, Kelly is still one of the most popular students at Hollybrook High.  She’s a cheerleader.  She’s the leader of the Bobbettes, the school’s most prestigious social group.  She gets good grades, she lives in a big house, and her family has a lot of money.

Bridget Moretti (Aubrey Peeples), on the other hand, wants to have everything.  She’s shy and desperate to fit in.  She wants to be a member of the Bobbettes.  She wants to be a cheerleader.  Even more importantly, she wants Kelly to be her best friend.  Kelly, however, thinks that Bridget’s a little bit strange.  In fact, when Bridget lies to Kelly about there being a party as an excuse to get Kelly to spend time with her, Kelly accuses Bridget of “wanting to be me.”  Kelly then says that she’s going to tell everyone at school about what a weirdo Bridget is so Bridget stabs her to death.

Now, you would think that Bridget would be the number one suspect.  After all, Bridget’s not that smart and it’s not easy to get away with murdering someone, especially when it’s an impulsive act.  However, no one suspects Bridget.  Bridget’s just too shy and nice for anyone to believe that she could possibly be a murderer.  Instead, everyone assumes that another student, Nina Miller (Morgan Taylor Campbell), is the killer.  After all, Nina used to be popular until she dyed her hair and started hanging out with the stoners.  Nina even threatened to kill Kelly once.  Nina says she was just mad and that she wasn’t being serious but that doesn’t stop strangers from calling her house and demanding that she confess….

Now, if this story sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a true story and it’s one that has been recreated on countless true crime shows, including Deadly Women, 1980s: The Deadliest Decade, and Killer Kids.  It was also turned into a made-for-TV movie in 1994, A Friend to Die For, starring Kellie Martin as the murderer and Tori Spelling as her victim.

Death of a Cheerleader is a remake of A Friend to Die For, telling the same basic story but attempting to give it a more modern spin, which in this case amounts to a lot of hand-held camerawork and a far less judgmental attitude towards casual drug use.  The remake also slightly differs in the way that it views its main characters.  If the first film was sympathetic to Bridget, the remake is a bit more ambiguous.  Bridget is portrayed as being slightly off from the beginning and far more openly bitter over Kelly’s success than in the original film.  At the same time, Kelly is portrayed a bit more sympathetically in the remake than in the original.  Tori Spelling played the role as being a straight-up bitch, whereas Sarah Dugdale instead plays her as someone who puts a lot of pressure on herself and who often doesn’t understand how cruel her comments can sometimes be.  The biggest difference between the two films is that the remake focuses for more on the wrongly accused Nina, even allowing her to narrate the story.  If anything, the film’s main message seems to be about how messed up it is that brave nonconformists like Nina are always going to be unfairly blamed for the mistakes of mousy conformists like Bridget.  That’s a good message and one that I certainly appreciated.

The remake of Death of a Cheerleader works well enough.  The hand-held camera work gets to be a bit much but Sara Dugdale, Morgan Taylor Campbell, and Aubrey Peeples all give great performances and the film actually does a better job than the original of capturing the strange culture of high school popularity.  While it may not feature any scenes as iconic as Tori Spelling melodramatically lighting up a joint, Death of a Cheerleader is still an effective Lifetime film.

Back to School Part II #29: A Friend To Die For a.k.a. Death of a Cheerleader (dir by William A. Graham)


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Over the past couple of year, I’ve had so much fun making fun of Tori Spelling’s performance in the original Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? that I almost feel like I have an obligation to review a movie in which she gave a halfway decent performance.

That film would be another 1994 made-for-TV-movie.  It was apparently originally broadcast as A Friend To Die For but most of us know it better as Death of a Cheerleader.  That’s the title that’s used whenever it shows up on Lifetime.  There actually was a time when Death of a Cheerleader used to show up on almost a monthly basis but that was a while ago.  Lifetime has since moved on to other movies about dead cheerleaders.

Technically, as my sister immediately pointed out when I made her watch the movie, the title isn’t quite correct.  Though Stacy Lockwood (Tori Spelling) does try out for and is named to her school’s cheerleading squad, she never actually gets to cheer.  Instead, shortly after the school assembly in which her selection is announced, Stacy is found stabbed to death.  But really, Death of A Future Cheerleader doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

As for who killed Stacy … well, it’s no secret.  This is one of those true crime films where the murderer is not only portrayed sympathetically but is the main character as well.  Angela Delvecchio (Kellie Martin) was a high school sophomore who was obsessed with trying to become popular.  She looked up to Stacey and desperately wanted to be her best friend.  (Why she didn’t just offer to bribe Stacey, I don’t know.  Maybe she hadn’t seen Can’t Buy Me Love….)  When Stacey got a job working in the school office, so did Angela.  Of course, the school’s somewhat sleazy principal (Terry O’Quinn, coming across like John Locke’s worst nightmare) only made it a point to talk to Stacey and pretty much ignored Angela.  When Stacey applied to work on the yearbook, so did Angela.  When Stacey tried out for cheerleading, so did Angela.

In fact, the only time that Angela stood up to Stacey was when Angela was taunting the school’s token goth (played by Kathryn Morris).  That turned out to be a mistake because Stacey never forgave her.  When Angela invited Stacey to a party, Stacey was reluctant to go.  When Stacey did finally accept the invitation, Angela stabbed her to death.

A Friend to Die For/Death of a Cheerleader is based on a true story and the film tries to lay the blame for Angela’s crime on the affluent neighborhood she was raised in.  Just in case we missed the message, the film actually features a Priest (played by Eugene Roche) who says that the community put too much pressure on Angela to succeed.

Uhmmm….okay, if you say so.

Seriously, this is a pretty good little true crime film and both Tori Spelling and Kellie Martin give really good performances but this whole “It’s society’s fault” argument is typical, mushy, made-for-TV, bourgeois liberal BS.  Angela picked up the knife, Angela committed the crime, end of story.  That said, A Friend To Die For is pretty good as far as these movies go.  I already mentioned the performances of Spelling and Martin but also keep an eye out for Marley Shelton, who gets a really good scene in which she explains that she never liked Stacey that much while she was alive.

You can watch A Friend To Die For/Death of a Cheerleader below!

 

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 #19: Hallmark Edition


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Safe Harbor (2009) – As far as Hallmark movies go, this was one of the best I’ve seen. Although, it’s almost like it’s 20 years past when it should have been released. It’s about a retired couple played by Nancy Travis and Treat Williams. One day a judge shows up who knows Williams and just dumps a couple of toubled kids on them who need a place to stay. It’s a little of the blue, but okay cause Williams gives a bit of background later. Turns out Williams once punched a cop after that officer shot his dog. Apparently, Williams had been living under a bridge. It’s after that he joined the Merchant Marine. Quite a lot of important information that his wife apparently didn’t know after all those years. I almost expected him to say I also used to go by the name Arnold Friend and did something really bad once.

Of course the judge finds a way to dump a few more kids on them. The couple steps up and decides to take care of them. They meet a little resistance from a lady in Social Services, some of the locals, especially after a fire, and one of their mothers, but for the most part it’s just getting the kids over their issues. Doing that, the movie works. It just feels like something that should have been released in 1989 as it feels reminiscent of episodes of MacGyver.

Since Mystery Woman: Game Time felt the need to censor the word “butt” in the phrase “pain in the butt”, I was rather shocked that not once, but twice, Travis and Williams try to have sex before being interrupted by the kids.

This is one of the good ones.

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Notes from the Heart Healer (2012) – This has to be the most forgettable of the Hallmark movies I have watched so far. It’s a movie technically, but barely. It’s the third film in a trilogy and I’ve only seen this one. It’s about a writer who seems to be an advice columnist type. A lady turns up at one of her book signings. She has been fired, has no place to stay, and has a baby she can’t take care of. She tries to turn to the writer for help, but when the writer’s husband shows up, she runs away. Later on she drops the baby off at the writer’s doorstep.

What follows is a very forgettable story of the writer mulling over a child she had to give up for adoption and what to do with the baby she now has in her hands. There were only two parts that were memorable. First, during the film the writer jots down some diary entries and in one she mentions that cutting the baby in two story. Honestly, I’m not sure why, but what was memorable was that she felt the need to refer to it as a decision made by “Biblical” King Solomon. A war on Christmas type thing where we want to make sure you don’t divorce the widely known story from it being in the bible? I’m really just guessing. It just stuck with me like hearing someone say “up twice down twice” when saying the Konami code. Just not something I think I’ve ever heard someone feel the need to do when that story is referenced. The second thing is when the husband reacts to something about the baby in kind of an asshole manner, for lack of a better word. But it doesn’t really go anywhere.

There, that those are the things I strongly remember tells you how forgettable this one is. Maybe the first two were better. I’ll probably find out eventually.

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Mystery Woman: Vision of a Murder (2005) – Once again, we join Kellie Martin and Clarence Williams III for another murder mystery. I haven’t mentioned her in my earlier reviews of these movies, but there is a character played by Nina Siemaszko who is basically Martin’s Beth Davenport from The Rockford Files. She’s an attorney who is frequently part of the case and definitely is in this one. In this one Martin joins Siemaszko to go to a spa and take photographs of the place. Siemaszko is going there for the spa. It’s not just a spa, but a place that does plastic surgery and other such beauty treatments.

It’s run by Charles Shaughnessy so you know something is up. But just in case you didn’t, Felicia Day is in this looking and acting like “the dog who gets beat” in that lyric from the Alice In Chains’ song Man In The Box. She might as well be wearing a sign around her neck that says “I’ve got secrets to tell.”

Describing much more is spoiling it. A dead body turns up at the spa and Day turns out to be psychic. There is a funny scene where Kellie Martin pretends to be a doctor. Funny, since she’s most famous for her role on ER. And finally, that when you get near the ending, no, it isn’t clever enough to end the way you hope.

Still, decent entry in the series and one of two of them that Kellie Martin directed herself.

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Second Chances (2013) – Yet another Hallmark romance, right? Well, not exactly. Don’t get me wrong, there is a couple, but that’s not really where the story is. The story is with her kids. It’s also a Larry Levinson Production so apparently that means they must include goofs with technology. Not sure why that’s a thing, but it seems to be.

But let’s back up here. The story begins with a firefighter and a 911 dispatcher. They kind of know each other from going back and forth on the radio during calls, but they’re really still strangers. He gets injured and needs to spend some serious downtime according to his doctor played by James Eckhouse of Beverly Hills, 90210 fame. He’s quite good and makes the most of the few scenes he’s in. The dispatcher gets her hours cut back and decides to rent out a room at her house to make up the difference. The firefighter decides to move in. That’s this movie’s excuse for the boy and girl to spend time together.

However, this is when the kids kind of take over the movie. They know that their Mom needs money so they decide to start charging residents of a nursing home a dollar for reading to them. These parts are the best parts of the film. It’s actually a shame that there had to be other parts cause if they had made that the whole film and let it go deeper then it could have been even better. But they don’t, so we do get a little romance between the two as well as some backstory on them. It really isn’t worth going into because you’re watching this for the kids and the two tech goofs.

The first tech goof comes really early in the movie. They obviously thought no one would notice and I don’t blame them here, but considering what it would have taken to make it right, it’s pretty stupid. If you have a better version of this then the one I watched on TV and can prove me wrong, then I’m all ears, but the firefighter picks up a sealed copy of a game the kid is supposedly playing from their living room table and talks to the kid about it. The kid isn’t a collector or anything. That sealed copy of the game is what he is supposedly playing. It’s weird because the two games under it are open. Again, if you have a higher definition copy and see differently, then tell me. But here’s what I was able to capture.

Notice the top of the box that shouldn't be shining if it were really open.

Notice the top of the box that shouldn’t be shining if it were really open.

The second goof, there’s no mistake. Throughout the movie there is a fake 911 dispatch screen. Fake because it’s in a Hallmark movie, but not fake because it looks ridiculous. That is, until for reasons beyond me, they felt the need to give us a closeup of the terminal portion of it where we can see that it’s a DOS command line. It’s open to a directory called “C:\Users\Art Department\” and apparently someone has been typing random crap in and trying to execute it only to get error messages.

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Like I said though, this is one of the better Hallmark movies, and the credit goes to the story with the kids.

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.

Val’s Movie Roundup #16: Hallmark Edition


Sorry, but during this period my Mom has been having knee replacement surgery so my descriptions are going to be so so at best. Luckily, I know that when it comes to Hallmark movies, you really just want to know whether it’s worth your time. That I can do.

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Mystery Woman: Sing Me A Murder (2005) – This one has Kellie Martin’s character hosting a charity concert for an old timey folk band. At the same time Clarence Williams III is doing side work investigating a series of bank robberies. I reached the end where they explain what really happened and it made little sense to me. I watched that section a second time, and it still didn’t make sense. This movie is a convoluted mess. It’s a shame because I have been enjoying this particular series of films. On the upside, this movie has John Getz in it. Movie lovers might not recognize the name, but you will recognize him when you see him. He is the lover in the Coen Brothers first film Blood Simple (1984). Just with 21 years added on to him. If you don’t have to see all of the Mystery Woman movies, then you can skip this one.

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Falling In Love With The Girl Next Door (2006) – Ever wrote a paper for school, had absolutely no inspiration, but powered through it and churned out something to turn in? That’s this movie. You already know this by just reading that title. It’s about two people who fall in love, want to get married, their parents interfere, and the couple ultimately gets their way. That’s it! Nothing worth seeing here. There are a few big name actors in here, but Bruce Boxleitner and Shelley Long, for example, are completely wasted. A definite skip.

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This Magic Moment (2013) – A film crew comes to a small town to shoot scenes. A local screenwriter hooks up with their lead actress, but belongs with another girl. He ends up with the local girl. I was quite bored out of my mind. However, it did remind me that the movie Love And The Midnight Auto Supply (1977) was shot in a neighboring small town to where I live, so I will have to review it at some point. I even have access to the old local papers from back then when it was being made.

If you can follow the conversations in this movie better than I did then you will probably like it more, but it’s still not a particularly good Hallmark movie of this nature. I’ve reviewed much better love stories such as Recipe For Love and the recent Love Under The Stars. Also, just like Falling In Love With The Girl Next Door, this movie has two good actors that it completely wastes. Those being Charles Shaughnessy and Corin Nemec.

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Mystery Woman: At First Sight (2006) – The interesting thing about this particular entry in the Mystery Woman series is that Kellie Martin herself directed it. It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, but she does at least as good a job as the others who have helmed other entries in the franchise. It begins with Kellie setting out to find her birth mother. She gets embroiled in a murder mystery that involves her biological family. It’s fine, followable, and not sanitized. That’s really the best you can ask for from a Hallmark mystery movie. At the same time, Clarence has his own plot that reveals or at least hints more at his mysterious background. Honestly, I prefer when Martin and Williams work together to solve the mystery, rather than each having their own plot to follow. I think they work well together. Oh, well. Even though this is my 5th Mystery Woman film, there are still six more of these to go. This one is perfectly fine to watch.