Playing Catch-Up: Crisscross, The Dust Factory, Gambit, In The Arms of a Killer, Overboard, Shy People

So, this year I am making a sincere effort to review every film that I see.  I know I say that every year but this time, I really mean it.

So, in an effort to catch up, here are four quick reviews of some of the movies that I watched over the past few weeks!

  • Crisscross
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by Chris Menges
  • Starring David Arnott, Goldie Hawn, Arliss Howard, Keith Carradine, James Gammon, Steve Buscemi

An annoying kid named Chris Cross (David Arnott) tells us the story of his life.

In the year 1969, Chris and his mother, Tracy (Goldie Hawn), are living in Key West.  While the rest of the country is excitedly watching the first moon landing, Chris and Tracy are just trying to figure out how to survive day-to-day.  Tracy tries to keep her son from learning that she’s working as a stripper but, not surprisingly, he eventually finds out.  Chris comes across some drugs that are being smuggled into Florida and, wanting to help his mother, he decides to steal them and sell them himself.  Complicating matters is the fact that the members of the drug ring (one of whom is played by Steve Buscemi) don’t want the competition.  As well, Tracy is now dating Joe (Arliss Howard), who just happens to be an undercover cop.  And, finally, making things even more difficult is the fact that Chris just isn’t that smart.

There are actually a lot of good things to be said about Crisscross.  The film was directed by the renowned cinematographer, Chris Menges, so it looks great.  Both Arliss Howard and Goldie Hawn give sympathetic performances and Keith Carradine has a great cameo as Chris’s spaced out dad.  (Traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam, Chris’s Dad left his family and joined a commune.)  But, as a character, Chris is almost too stupid to be believed and his overwrought narration doesn’t do the story any good.  Directed and written with perhaps a less heavy hand, Crisscross could have been a really good movie but, as it is, it’s merely an interesting misfire.

  • The Dust Factory 
  • Released: 2004
  • Directed by Eric Small
  • Starring Armin Mueller-Stahl, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Kelly, Kim Myers, George de la Pena, Michael Angarano, Peter Horton

Ryan (Ryan Kelly) is a teen who stopped speaking after his father died.  One day, Ryan falls off a bridge and promptly drowns.  However, he’s not quite dead yet!  Instead, he’s in The Dust Factory, which is apparently where you go when you’re on the verge of death.  It’s a very nice place to hang out while deciding whether you want to leap into the world of the dead or return to the land of the living.  Giving Ryan a tour of the Dust Factory is his grandfather (Armin Mueller-Stahl).  Suggesting that maybe Ryan should just stay in the Dust Factory forever is a girl named Melanie (Hayden Panettiere).  Showing up randomly and acting like a jerk is a character known as The Ringmaster (George De La Pena).  Will Ryan choose death or will he return with a new zest for living life?  And, even more importantly, will the fact that Ryan’s an unlikely hockey fan somehow play into the film’s climax?

The Dust Factory is the type of unabashedly sentimental and theologically confused film that just drives me crazy.  This is one of those films that so indulges every possible cliché that I was shocked to discover that it wasn’t based on some obscure YA tome.  I’m sure there’s some people who cry while watching this film but ultimately, it’s about as deep as Facebook meme.

  • Gambit
  • Released: 2012
  • Directed by Michael Hoffman
  • Starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci, Cloris Leachman, Togo Igawa

Harry Deane (Colin Firth) is beleaguered art collector who, for the sake of petty revenge (which, as we all know, is the best type of revenge), tries to trick the snobbish Lord Shabandar (Alan Rickman) into spending a lot of money on a fake Monet.  To do this, he will have to team up with both an eccentric art forger (Tom Courtenay) and a Texas rodeo star named PJ Puznowksi (Cameron Diaz).  The plan is to claim that PJ inherited the fake Monet from her grandfather who received the painting from Hermann Goering at the end of the World War II and…

Well, listen, let’s stop talking about the plot.  This is one of those elaborate heist films where everyone has a silly name and an elaborate back story.  It’s also one of those films where everything is overly complicated but not particularly clever.  The script was written by the Coen Brothers and, if they had directed it, they would have at least brought some visual flair to the proceedings.  Instead, the film was directed by Michael Hoffman and, for the most part, it falls flat.  The film is watchable because of the cast but ultimately, it’s not surprising that Gambit never received a theatrical release in the States.

On a personal note, I saw Gambit while Jeff & I were in London last month.  So, I’ll always have good memories of watching the movie.  So I guess the best way to watch Gambit is when you’re on vacation.

  • In The Arms of a Killer
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by Robert L. Collins
  • Starring Jaclyn Smith, John Spencer, Nina Foch, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Sandahl Bergman, Linda Dona, Kristoffer Tabori, Michael Nouri

This is the story of two homicide detectives.  Detective Vincent Cusack (John Spencer) is tough and cynical and world-weary.  Detective Maria Quinn (Jaclyn Smith) is dedicated and still naive about how messy a murder investigation can be when it involves a bunch of Manhattan socialites.  A reputed drug dealer is found dead during a party.  Apparently, someone intentionally gave him an overdose of heroin.  Detective Cusack thinks that the culprit was Dr. Brian Venible (Michael Nouri).  Detective Quinn thinks that there has to be some other solution.  Complicating things is that Quinn and Venible are … you guessed it … lovers!  Is Quinn truly allowing herself to be held in the arms of a killer or is the murderer someone else?

This sound like it should have been a fun movie but instead, it’s all a bit dull.  Nouri and Smith have next to no chemistry so you never really care whether the doctor is the killer or not.  John Spencer was one of those actors who was pretty much born to play world-weary detectives but, other than his performance, this is pretty forgettable movie.

  • Overboard
  • Released: 1987
  • Directed by Garry Marshall
  • Starring Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Edward Herrmann, Katherine Helmond, Roddy McDowall, Michael G. Hagerty, Brian Price, Jared Rushton, Hector Elizondo

When a spoiled heiress named Joanne Slayton (Goldie Hawn) falls off of her luxury yacht, no one seems to care.  Even when her husband, Grant (Edward Herrmann), discovers that Joanne was rescued by a garbage boat and that she now has amnesia, he denies knowing who she is.  Instead, he takes off with the boat and proceeds to have a good time.  The servants (led by Roddy McDowall) who Joanne spent years terrorizing are happy to be away from her.  In fact, the only person who does care about Joanne is Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell).  When Dean sees a news report about a woman suffering from amnesia, he heads over to the hospital and declares that Joanne is his wife, Annie.

Convinced that she is Annie, Joanne returns with Dean to his messy house and his four, unruly sons.  At first, Dean says that his plan is merely to have Joanne work off some money that she owes him.  (Before getting amnesia, Joanne refused to pay Dean for some work he did on her boat.)  But soon, Joanne bonds with Dean’s children and she and Dean start to fall in love.  However, as both Grant and Dean are about to learn, neither parties nor deception can go on forever…

This is one of those films that’s pretty much saved by movie star charisma.  The plot itself is extremely problematic and just about everything that Kurt Russell does in this movie would land him in prison in real life.  However, Russell and Goldie Hawn are such a likable couple that the film come close to overcoming its rather creepy premise.  Both Russell and Hawn radiate so much charm in this movie that they can make even the stalest of jokes tolerable and it’s always enjoyable to watch Roddy McDowall get snarky.  File this one under “Kurt Russell Can Get Away With Almost Anything.”

A remake of Overboard, with the genders swapped, is set to be released in early May.

  • Shy People
  • Released: 1987
  • Directed by Andrei Konchalovsky
  • Starring Jill Clayburgh, Barbara Hershey, Martha Plimpton, Merritt Butrick, John Philbin, Don Swayze, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Mare Winningham

Diana Sullivan (Jill Clayburgh) is a writer for Cosmopolitan and she’s got a problem!  It turns out that her teenager daughter, Grace (Martha Plimpton), is skipping school and snorting cocaine!  OH MY GOD!  (And, to think, I thought I was a rebel just because I used to skip Algebra so I could go down to Target and shoplift eyeliner!)  Diana knows that she has to do something but what!?

Diana’s solution is to get Grace out of New York.  It turns out that Diana has got some distant relatives living in Louisiana bayou.  After Cosmo commissions her to write a story about them, Diana grabs Grace and the head down south!

(Because if there’s anything that the readers of Cosmo are going to be interested in, it’s white trash bayou dwellers…)

The only problem is that Ruth (Barbara Hershey) doesn’t want to be interviewed and she’s not particularly happy when Diana and Grace show up.  Ruth and her four sons live in the bayous.  Three of the sons do whatever Ruth tells them to do.  The fourth son is often disobedient so he’s been locked up in a barn.  Diana, of course, cannot understand why her relatives aren’t impressed whenever she mentions that she writes for Cosmo.  Meanwhile, Grace introduces her cousins to cocaine, which causes them to go crazy.  “She’s got some strange white powder!” one of them declares.

So, this is a weird film.  On the one hand, you have an immensely talented actress like Jill Clayburgh giving one of the worst performances in cinematic history.  (In Clayburgh’s defense, Diana is such a poorly written character that I doubt any actress could have made her in any way believable.)  On the other hand, you have Barbara Hershey giving one of the best.  As played by Hershey, Ruth is a character who viewers will both fear and admire.  Ruth has both the inner strength to survive in the bayou and the type of unsentimental personality that lets you know that you don’t want to cross her.  I think we’re supposed to feel that both Diana and Ruth have much to learn from each other but Diana is such an annoying character that you spend most of the movie wishing she would just go away and leave Ruth alone.  In the thankless role of Grace, Martha Plimpton brings more depth to the role than was probably present in the script and Don Swayze has a few memorable moments as one of Ruth’s sons.  Shy People is full of flaws and never really works as a drama but I’d still recommend watching it for Hershey and Plimpton.

Hallmark Review: Murder, She Baked: A Peach Cobbler Mystery (2016, dir. Kristoffer Tabori)


I know he probably didn’t, but seeing as Ron Oliver and David S. Cass Sr. have seen some of my reviews of their Hallmark films, I am going to just assume director Kristoffer Tabori read my reviews of Love On The Air and Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery. I say this because he fixed the problems with the way he shot those two films, but still kept some of the style he seems to be going for with his recent Hallmark movies. He still has a fondness for mirrors.



Still doing some framing.



The obstructionist stuff in front of the camera is drastically reduced. I’d say it’s only there when it actually does add something to the shot like these parts.



Thankfully, there was no repeat of the blinded by the light shot from Love On The Air and Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery. The good framing and composition in depth are used sparingly. It’s not something that seems to have been just thrown into every shot like it was before. That alone makes this way better than the previous Murder, She Baked film. I honestly don’t know why Tabori chose to do it this way this time, but I want to thank him for it.


The movie starts off with Hannah (Alison Sweeney) discovering a body in a kitchen after a little film noir voiceover from her. I liked that it chose to open up that way. Then it cuts to a title card telling us: “Two Days Earlier”. This is when the movie reintroduces us to Hannah, the bakery, and the town of Eden Lake. Do I even have to say it anymore? Yes? Okay. And by Eden Lake, they mean Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. I know this because of this shot.


However, kudos to the production crew for knowing this shot of her cellphone would be onscreen for an extended period of time so they simply removed the SIM card.


Of course, the rest of the time it’s just Minnesota license plates where the film is supposed to take place.

A competing bakery has opened up across the street and is run by Melanie and her sister Vanessa both played by actress Michelle Harrison.





I thought the two sisters looked awfully similar to each other while watching it, but I wasn’t sure they were supposed to be twins. I don’t think the film ever says they are twins. I think they had the same actress play both sisters for the convenience of the murder mystery plot. Can’t give away too much, but having the same actress play both sisters makes it easier to swallow the resolution of the mystery. However, it is a little confusing and provides a red herring that I’m not sure they were going for. Melanie is the one who is murdered. Since both sisters are played by the same actress it’s perfectly reasonable for the viewer to think that the one sister killed the other and swapped places with her. Especially since they don’t seem to like each other. Not sure if that was something the filmmakers intended or not. Something tells me they did though because the reason Melanie has her hair up in that shot above like her sister is because Hannah puts it up that way under the guise of protecting it while she bakes.

For reasons that don’t matter, Melanie and Hannah end up in a cook off to see who can bake the best Peach Cobbler. It doesn’t even matter who wins either. All that matters is that Hannah discovers Melanie doesn’t know how to bake because she bought her Peach Cobbler at a store. This is how the film gets Hannah to know Melanie as Hannah tries to teach her how to bake and introduces us to Melanie’s mean sister Vanessa. She’s nasty. Then Melanie dies.

Now here’s something I didn’t notice in the previous film, but it sure was an issue for me this time around. Both this and the previous film have Mike played by Cameron Mathison and Norman played by Gabriel Hogan in them. The problem is that both actors bare a strong resemblance to each other in this movie. I kept confusing the two of them. It really doesn’t affect the movie, but it was part of my experience watching it, so I am passing it on.

Gabriel Hogan

Gabriel Hogan

Cameron Mathison

Cameron Mathison

With Melanie dead, Hannah, her mom, and her sister, AKA The Blonde Brigade, begin to work towards solving the mystery. Or better put, Hannah works towards solving the mystery while the other two blondes are around playing their roles in the story. One of the episodes of Murder, She Wrote that I remember the most is when Jessica Fletcher was really suspected as the murderer. That happens here to Hannah. Something else that I know everyone who has watched Murder, She Wrote thinks is that if Jessica comes to town, then RUN!!!! When Hannah discovers the body it’s:


And this isn’t all there is. Hallmark is well aware that people know they film a lot of this stuff in Canada. I mean it’s spelled out all over the credits for crying out loud. However, it wasn’t until this film that I actually saw them make a joke about it.


In that scene, she tries to tell Hannah to make a run for it by going to Canada. Of course the in-joke is that they are already in Canada.

There are also some well done computer screens and Tabori reuses the technique of overlaying some of the computer stuff onto the shot like he did in Love On The Air.


It’s nice, modern, and has the effect of showing both what’s important on the screen and the character’s reaction to it in the same shot. That helps to keep us engaged rather than having things broken with every cut from the screen to the character and back again.

I also appreciated the scene near the end where Hannah, then Norman, try to social engineer some information out of some people. For me it harkens back to movies like Sneakers (1992) and WarGames (1983), but since this is a murder mystery. It also made me think of The Rockford Files. Rockford socially engineered people all the time and in some episodes even carried around a little printing press to make fake business cards. It’s no wonder that even Kevin Mitnick mentioned The Rockford Files in his autobiography. She also does some dumpster diving.

So with all that babble out of the way, you are probably wondering if the mystery is any good. I could reasonably follow it which is a good thing. However, a section of it is quite obvious. The fact that the other part may be obscured from you till the end doesn’t change that you think you have figured it out from the start, and you basically have. Nevertheless, this installment has changed my opinion on this particular Hallmark mystery franchise. I could go for another one. Even Alison Sweeney who I felt didn’t pull off playing the good character in the previous films finally seemed to settle into the role. That may just be me or that I’ve seen her play the same role three times now, but her performance worked for me. I’d say give this one a shot, but for all the other things I mentioned aside from how well crafted the mystery itself is.

Hallmark Review: Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery (2015, dir. Kristoffer Tabori)


I would have thought this movie was shot by the same cinematographer who did Love On The Air (2015), but IMDb tells me differently. Love On The Air was shot by Jon Joffin and according to the credits of this movie, a Todd Williams shot this one. But both films were directed by Kristoffer Tabori. I guess Tabori has developed a fondness for random camera obstructions and large sections of the frame being out of focus. The blinded by the light shot even makes a return from Love On The Air.







Now in all fairness to Tabori, you can tell that he is probably trying to bring some style to the cinematography of the Hallmark movies he makes. You can see it in shots like these.




I remember Rainer Werner Fassbinder having a fondness for using mirrors like this shot from Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974).


Just like one of Fassbinder’s idols Douglas Sirk did as shown in this shot from Written On The Wind (1956).

Even those other shots show a purpose. Throwing things in front of the camera is probably an attempt at composition in depth, which director Josef Von Sternberg was best known for. Here’s an example from The Scarlet Empress (1934).


That one shot where things are out of focus around the character is framing like this shot also from Ali: Fear Eats The Soul.


The point is, I think I see what he is going for, but it doesn’t come together in this, nor in Love On The Air.

He also brought us Just The Way You Are (2015), Portrait Of Love (2015), A Ring By Spring (2014), and My Gal Sunday (2014). So obviously this movie is going to be about a baker who has been burned by a previous relationship who wants to follow rules for dating someone new, which includes going out of focus transitions, reuses shots from other Tabori Hallmark movies, screws up at least one computer screen, and ends with a bomb being stopped by a wedding ring. Well, not quite. It’s shot the same way Love On The Air was. It’s considerably better than Just The Way You Are. It’s not sleepwalking through it’s plot like Portrait Of Love. It does screw up two computer screens, but not in particularly bad ways. Finally, while it is at least 1/3rd as confusing as My Gal Sunday, it doesn’t end with a bomb being stopped by a wedding ring.

I am actually going to take a shot at talking about the plot of this movie. Something that will probably be disappointing seeing as I’m terrible with these murder mysteries, and the Hallmark ones are particularly confusing for me. I even watched this with my Dad who reads murder mysteries, and he attempted to explain it to me afterwards largely unsuccessfully. I’ll try, but first.

If you’ve read some of my other reviews you’ve probably picked up that I am a fan of The Cinema Snob. What’s odd is that watching this movie had ties back to the two most recent reviews he’s done. The first comes in the form of the commercials. During one of the breaks there was an ad for Liberty University. They are the ones who brought us Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (2014). During these same commercials, Hallmark promoted their upcoming Thanksgiving Day thing hosted by Candace Cameron Bure, who is Kirk’s sister. The Snob reviewed that movie last week.

The other tie-in is a little more loose. The guy who dies in this movie is named Larry Jaeger. This week’s Snob episode is on a really really really bizarre Christmas special called Ms. Velma’s Most Incredibly Magnificent Christmas Week. Velma’s last name is Jaggers. And of course this special comes on a disc along with Rock: It’s Your Decision which I have reviewed on this site.

Odd coincidences that I had to mention. But let’s actually talk about this movie now. Or at least as much as I can before I say I don’t want to spoil things because I actually have reached a point where I’m too confused about the plot to discuss it further.


The movie opens on Hannah’s Cookie Jar Bakery & Cafe where Hannah is played by Alison Sweeney. I don’t remember her place looking like this in the previous film, but I also watched that movie back in August. During the opening scenes where we meet friends, customers, and her nutty mother, we learn that there are a lot of blondes in this town. Also, we hear a Dr. Love (Calling Dr. Love by KISS) on the radio.

No, not that Dr. Love. This lady’s catchphrase is “that life without love is only half a life.” So what’s the other half? I’m assuming it’s referring to having that other person whose happiness becomes and fills in the other half of your life. We also learn that “Crazy Elf is crazy!” And so are his prices!


Later in the film Crazy Elf learns that he should stay in his little house because he gets shot. Crazy Elf is the mascot for a Christmas tree lot owned by Larry Jaeger who as I said is found dead. This is one of those cozy mysteries where the main character really doesn’t have a reason to be investigating other than that she is a busy body. At least the cop friend played by Cameron Mathison keeps telling her this.



the mother is played by Barbara Niven. Last time I saw her was in that lousy lesbian love story A Perfect Ending (2012). I thought I recognized her.

Anyways, now that the body has been discovered, it’s a good time to get a look at Hannah’s license plate.


And they make sure you get a good look at the plate several times throughout this movie. It’s kind of like those movies that want you to believe the movie totally takes place in America because of the American flag in the scene. Like Italian Batman and Prom Night III: The Last Kiss.



However, late in the movie they left in this shot.


Fido is a Canadian cellular company. It’s kind of sad they didn’t fix that considering they went through the trouble of getting the license plates, using actual text messages, and near the end of the film properly faking a phone call to her cellphone that even shows up as Cameron Mathison’s character’s name.


Easy to fix too. Oh, well.

The remainder of the film is her mother nagging her about dating, Mathison telling her to stop putting herself in danger, and a red herring that gets picked up by the cops and jailed. That being Dr. Love who turns out to have been and technically still is married to Larry Jaeger who apparently was a con man. The rest would be just laying out the plot point by point. Otherwise known as this is when the film really lost me.

At this point, having seen quite a few of these Hallmark mysteries, I would say this is a series they can drop. Lori Loughlin is enjoyable enough in the Garage Sale Mystery movies. It’s always funny to see Candance Cameron Bure run around playing Aurora Teagarden like she’s on speed. And I think The Gourmet Detective one’s are the best I’ve seen recently. Even though I wish they would just change Brooke Burns character to being an Inspector given that is what she would be called if she were really on the SFPD. You can even see Prentice E. Sanders referred to as an Inspector in my review of Law Enforcement Guide To Satanic Cults. I only recommend this movie if you are already a fan of the books, which I’m sure my book gal Michelle will probably tell me about if she reads this review.

And this has been possibly the longest and only film school dissection of a Hallmark movie that I will probably ever write.

Val’s Movie Roundup #29: Hallmark Edition


Bridal Fever (2008)

Unfortunately, there is no cowbell in this movie. Okay, this one is about a lady named Gwen Green (Andrea Roth). She works as an assistant editor. Delta Burke plays Dahlia Marchand who writes romance novels, but is going to pen an autobiography. Turning down more experienced editors, she picks Green to be her editor as soon as she sees her. I honestly had to watch this twice because the first time around I missed a few things so I was rather confused as to what Burke’s obsession with this woman was. Honestly, I thought she was a lesbian for a minute there and this shot near the end of the movie didn’t help.

IMG_0074 (1)

The movie begins with one of Green’s friends getting married. Then her friend catches the bridal fever and becomes obsessed with getting married. She drags Green into her nuttiness. So we go speed blind dating. I have seen this scene done in numerous movies, but I think it’s the first time I’ve seen this in one of these montages.


Didn’t work for me no matter how much of a resemblance he might bare to Jeffrey Combs. Green doesn’t find her man here. Instead, she is passing by a bookstore and decides to go in and replace the window display with books by Dahlia Marchand. Sadly, this didn’t feel contrived because I can remember my Dad buying things from his business clients to support them. It doesn’t surprise me that now since she is editing one of Marchand’s books, she would do this. Of course a little slip and fall in the store, and she meets the guy she will end up with. He works at the store.


Sorry, I really didn’t mean to catch him with his “you’re gonna die now” look on his face. The rest of the film plays out like this. Marchand is going to launch her book at his store. Marchand oddly avoids the store. Green works with this guy getting closer and closer. Since her friend has poisoned Green’s mind and since the guy didn’t propose to her on the spot, she gets engaged to the wrong guy. Then we find out that Marchand picked her because she wanted someone who wouldn’t do their job and thus wouldn’t ask her about gaps in her biography. The big gap being her years working at that bookstore. Turns out it’s the guy’s uncle who owns the store that once had a thing with her. It wraps up like you think.

This was okay. Very cliched and it’s one of those ones I like to say sleepwalks through the formulaic plot, but the actors were likable enough, including Delta Burke. I did like that they borrowed the comparing scars scene from Lethal Weapon 3.


You can do worse, but you can also do better.


Audrey’s Rain (2003) – Where the hell did this Hallmark movie come from? It’s got cursing, people who act like real people (kids included), suicide, a mentally challenged or at least mentally cracked in some fashion character, sexual references, direct reference to breasts as “buzzards”, making out, use of the word horny, the kid tries to say Audrey’s sandwiches taste like shit, fart jokes, a fart joke directed at a reverend who just asked Audrey to consider returning to the church, and more.

Seriously, is this the kind of movie Hallmark initially made? Cause this is a far far far cry from the kind of stuff they make today and have for many years. I actually thought I was watching a real movie here. The only things I saw in common with other Hallmark movies were that Larry Levinson was involved. Well, I guess I should talk a little bit about it.


It starts off with Audrey (Jean Smart) trying to blow away a rodent with a rifle. Yay! That scene is the one time this film censors itself. Despite the word “bastard” showing up in the close captioning, the sound falls silent on that word. Funny they did that considering this follows shortly afterwards.


Sure, the sister got her hand on his mouth before he got the full word out, but still. I’ve seen Hallmark censor the word “butt”.

So, you’ve got Audrey, two kids from a sister who killed herself, and another sister who has mental issues. I’m pretty sure she’s supposed to be mentally challenged, but I don’t remember there being enough details to tell you any more than that. And that’s where this film’s real issue is. While you really don’t care too much about this sister, the film does feel like it jumps over sections that were once there or should be there telling us more.

A man from Audrey’s past gets close to her and they do end up together. There’s a quirky friend. There are flashbacks. The kids have problems with the memories of their dead mother. There’s a pretty gut wrenching scene where we think the little girl might have hung herself like her mom did. It all works quite well, but it feels like it should have been a mini-series rather than just a movie. Maybe it was, and then was edited down.

At the end of the day, if you like Hallmark, see it. It’s like no other Hallmark movie out of the 106 I’ve seen so far. Just know that it will feel like it was chopped up.


Love On The Air (2015) – I kind of felt bad watching this when it premiered cause some guy who claimed to have worked on the film tweeted me twice saying he was glad I was enjoying it. I felt bad because the majority of my tweets were complaints about the movie. I don’t think I even mentioned the problems with the actors. Oh, well.

Love On The Air begins with our two leads doing their radio shows on the same network. I don’t remember what the name of their shows were, if they had any, but a modern equivalent would be tweets with #NotAllMen attached for hers and #YesAllWomen for his. It’s that kind of stuff being slung at the beginning of this movie. The largely writing off the other gender based on bad experiences thing. Only it’s far tamer than the stuff you hear online and not as complex. Thank goodness. But it does have that isolationist/separatist rhetoric to it that people cry foul over when it’s skin color, but not as much with gender. She even says “be an island”. I honestly could have done without this as the setup seeing as it’s stuff like this that makes places like Twitter depressing, but that’s the setup.

Our leading lady is Sonia (Alison Sweeney). Our leading man is Nick (Jonathan Scarfe). The two of them end up going at it on the air for a few minutes and that leads to them doing it on a regular basis. You can guess where this goes.

A day for night shot, along with shots that were under lit or shot on cloudy days.

A day for night shot, along with shots that were under lit or shot on cloudy days.

Odd choices of things to focus on or I swear at times the camera just going out of focus.

Odd choices of things to focus on or I swear at times the camera just going out of focus.

This blinding light that keeps shining at you during this scene.

This blinding light that keeps shining at you during this scene.

And random obstructions in front of the camera for reasons beyond me.

And random obstructions in front of the camera for reasons beyond me.

What? You thought they were going to fall in love? Well, that happens too, which is another problem. They have both been burned by certain experiences in their past. Problem is, I think they needed to even out the two of them out a little more. He is noticeably easier to get along with than she is. I know it makes for a little more of a traditional romance of him winning her over, but it would have been nice for them to have dialed down Sonia a little bit. I also know that it begins with her engagement being called off so she’s fresh off a recent bad experience, but I still wanted them to be on more even ground.

However, if you can get past the odd cinematography and the characters starting out on uneven footing, I know I sure didn’t feel they had any chemistry together. Scarfe is kind of warm and a little likable. Sweeney not as much. I understand how spending time with each other reminds them that no matter how many or intensity of experiences you have with a section of the population, you can’t right the whole lot off. However, I didn’t really buy that they should end up together as anything but good friends who do a show together.

I guess this is the kind I say won’t kill ya!

A little personal side note. I think I have mentioned it before, but Sweeney also does a series called Murder, She Baked on Hallmark. I wish that had her killing people with her cooking. She really comes across to me as someone who could play a villain well. I never saw her on Days Of Our Lives so maybe she did there.


All Of My Heart (2015) – This is another one of those Hallmark movies that borrows a screwball plot that you’d find in the 1940’s. It begins with Jenny Fintley (Lacey Chabert) and Brian Howell (Brennan Elliott), I kid you not, each inheriting half of the same house in the country. Being a cook, she sees it as business opportunity to open a bed and breakfast. Being a stockbroker, he sees it as an asset that needs to be liquidated. Hilarity ensues? Not really. This isn’t like Growing The Big One, which is a Hallmark movie and not one of those late night cable movies I’ve reviewed. I still don’t know how Hallmark lucked out on that name.

It’s just them falling in love by spending time with each other. She’s there cause she wants to open a business. He gets stranded there after his job slips out from underneath him. Oddly, the film teases that it’s going to do something humorous like Funny Farm (1988), but doesn’t follow through.


That’s Ed Asner who you probably know as the guy who shoots people in the back on Hawaii Five-O. The other guy is Daniel Cudmore who is probably best known as Jaffa #1 from the Homecoming episode of Stargate SG-1. Asner sits on the bench in front of the General Store and makes humorous comments as well as some important ones at the end of the movie. Cudmore is the colossus who runs the store and is the local plumber. They are both funny in this movie. I wanted more quirky characters. Sure, hoping for the crazy mailman from Funny Farm would be asking too much, but I could have done with more of these two. I would have preferred Chabert and Elliott coming together dealing with the odd, but lovable town rather than just coming together because it’s Hallmark.

My only other complaint has to do with Lacey Chabert. I didn’t watch Party Of Five back when I was kid and have very limited exposure to her work. Largely just Hallmark, but I really want more personality out of her here. Along with looking like she’s wearing more makeup then I care for, she seems to act like she is a kid who just entered her first planetarium. He has some more personality, but I really wanted something like what Shannen Doherty and Kavan Smith had in Growing The Big One.


So, which one of these does this poor dog from one of the commercials on Hallmark say you should see? Audrey’s Rain. Despite it’s problems, it’s so different. If you like Hallmark, you should see it. I’m a little biased though, cause I like Jean Smart.

Val’s Movie Roundup #28: Hallmark Edition

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Oh, and how small of a town?


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


See! It’s not that difficult.

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


Of course Toogle is also a search engine.


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

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

Val’s Movie Roundup #27: Hallmark Edition


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.


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.



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.


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



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



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.


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.


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


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.


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).


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!


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.


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.


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.





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.



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.


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 #9: Hallmark Edition

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


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


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


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


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