Hallmark Review: Garage Sale Mystery: Guilty Until Proven Innocent (2016, dir. Peter DeLuise)


Okay, technically the movie doesn’t start by just showing that title card. We first get random shots of things with newspaper clippings in the background while Lori Loughlin looks at a key before we get this title card with a wacky “A” in “Sale”.


Now we see a car begin to pull up next to a house when it comes up and says “Two Years Ago”.


Hmmm….that seems a little unusual. I mean I expect a fake license plate that says “The Native State”…


but don’t movies usually start, then after showing something they cut to the present and say “Two Years Later”? No matter, a guy snoops around, there’s a lady in bed who opens her eyes, baseball cards, and somebody gets shot. Then we cut to “Present Day”.


I love that Loughlin’s shop is a real world antique shop called Country Lane Antiques in Fort Langley, British Columbia. Oh, but it gets better. The name Country Lane Antiques may sound familiar if you watched The Nine Lives Of Christmas cause Superman and McKenna from All Things Valentine ran near it.


The Nine Lives Of Christmas (2014, dir. Mark Jean)

Also, if you follow Glover Rd, which the shop is on, one block up, turn right, then go one block you will reach what used to be the Village Coffee & Tea shown in June In January.


June in January (2014, dir. Mark Griffiths)

Back to the movie though. An old friend of Jennifer’s (Lori Loughlin) comes into the store to tell her some good news. She’s closing her shop and is willing to give Jennifer first dibs on her stuff. What does Jennifer think of this?


Then Jennifer goes home to remind us that Lori Loughlin has been cast as a mother to K-12 children in four separate decades and is still believable in the role. Now we setup a Good Witch style subplot when Jennifer comes into her son’s room and makes sure we know he is good with computers.


Don’t be so hard on yourself, Jennifer! Looks like it’s just a couple of screenshots the art department sent over to be looked at using IrfanView. The one is some modeling program and the other is some Java code written in a text editor. I have to wonder why they went with an image viewer that happens to use such a recognizable mascot/icon. IrfanView is the image viewer with the red roadkill cat as it’s icon. You don’t forget that once you’ve seen it. Also, where did this code come from? You can see the name Jeff and Jeffrey in there. Makes one wonder.

Anyways, after Jennifer and her husband speak in exposition dialog to tell us more about the lady closing her shop, we get to the next day at Jennifer’s shop. Just as her husband did, Jennifer’s employee Dani (Sarah Strange) warns her about just going over to this lady’s shop and buying everything. It’s cause of this.


Look, all you need to know is that those random numbers in an Excel spreadsheet means the shop isn’t doing so well and that Dani hasn’t taken her salary for the last three months. Doesn’t matter because getting her friend’s stuff might help turn the business around. So Jennifer is off to her friend’s place called Past Perfect.


It’s also known as Sadie Ann McMurray Antiques and is located in Mission, British Columbia. The only thing better than that they left the actual phone number of the place on the building is that they gave it the same name as the database that museums and historical societies use to catalog their collections. My city’s historical society uses it.


Inside, Jennifer is in Canadian Pickers heaven. Unfortunately, she can’t possibly buy everything in there because there really is a lot of stuff. The lady tells Jennifer that’s not a problem, they should go eat, and she will explain.


They go to eat at the Mission Lighthouse Cafe, which is of course in Mission as well.

Before I explain the deal here, let me point out a humorous casting thing going on here. I am awful at remembering character’s names and even worse at going from IMDb glamour shots to the way they look in a movie so I don’t know which role Johannah Newmarch plays in this. However, I find it hilarious that she has been in three of the Garage Sale Mystery movies and happened to be in Lifetime’s The Unauthorized Full House Story.

Okay, the deal is this lady was once engaged and she thinks he ran off with another woman two years ago. She has hooked up with a new guy and has decided to move away. She remembered Jennifer and figured she’d just give her everything on consignment. Anything Jennifer happens to sell, she’s to send her 20%. Sounds like a good deal, but first we need to setup another Good Witch style subplot for Dani as they have done with Jennifer’s son Logan (Connor Stanhope).


Actress Valerie McNicol, who obviously stole my first name before I picked it out last year, comes into the store. She’s dressed up like she should be saying racist and anti-Semitic comments at a country club. She’s there to try and lure Dani away from the store. Spoiler alert! Dani ultimately declines her offer. Of course she does! Actress Sarah Strange doesn’t need what this lady has to offer. I mean she is going to be in Kindergarten Cop 2 with Dolph Lundgren after all!

Meanwhile, Logan’s subplot is playing out. I really think screenwriter Walter Klenhard may be a little bit of a fan of WarGames (1983). Just maybe. The deal here is that Logan’s friends want to break into the school’s computer system to change their grades. They want Logan’s help since apparently he’s got skillz! Even his friend’s DDOS attacks don’t work and apparently all the backdoors are closed up. It’s even got 64-bit encryption. What this means is that typing “Joshua” (the backdoor password from WarGames) won’t get you in, some technical jargon, and that apparently his friends have a bot net that they used to attack the school’s computer system. Yeah, his friends just casually mention this. To bring it down to plain terms, it means they have a bunch of computers that they have hacked so that they can use them to attack a particular computer or computers on the Internet to prevent people from reaching it and/or causing things like firewalls to crash. Hence the name Distributed Denial Of Service attacks. The school would have been all over this by now. Guess that’s better than Crackle’s movie The Throwaways (2015) where the hacker character warns a guy going into a night club that Bulgarian hackers are known for anti-virtualization. Yeah, somehow knowing that these hackers are good at writing viruses and malware that operate differently when being looked at by security professionals in order to make their jobs more difficult is important information to know when confronting them in person.

Before we return to the main plot, let’s follow this subplot to its end cause it’s kind of awesome. So with all this buildup, how does he get in? He just keeps trying passwords till he hits the right one. No explanation given. They didn’t even have him do it the same way as Matthew Broderick in WarGames. I mean sure, they couldn’t have him tell his biology teacher that his wife came up with asexual reproduction to get sent to the principal’s office and look at where they write down the password, but still. They could have done something here instead of him just typing in passwords.

He gets in and I believe his friends actually had gotten in on their own before this because what he does is go in to change their grades from A’s back to C’s. That’s an element from WarGames where Broderick changed Ally Sheedy’s grade to an A. Except here it’s done to show that he’s a good kid. Take a look at his computer screen just before he gets into the school system.


It actually says that the screenshot we are looking at is called “Logan’s hacking screen”. That’s just so great. Bravo, Hallmark! I don’t care if this was done on purpose or not. It’s a great easter egg in the movie.

So how do his friends respond to getting C’s? They want to tell the school they broke in and how they did it to become “cyber-security advisors”. That’s movie jargon for Pen Testers or Penetration Testers. They do what Robert Redford’s firm did in the movie Sneakers (1992) by having companies hire them to break into their systems, then tell them how to shore up their security to fix the holes. It’s what the infamous hacker Kevin Mitnick now does for a living. Of course he had to be saved by things like the “Free Kevin” movement to keep from being ridiculously punished by the federal government. These kids not only would get in trouble for breaking in, but would be charged with all the crimes of breaking in and setting up the bot net. I could give you Logan’s face after his friends say this, but I’m pretty sure “the stupidest person on the face of the Earth” clip from Ruthless People (1986) is still up and will do just fine.

Getting back to Jennifer, she finds out that not only does her friend have all the stuff in the store, but a barn full of stuff as well. However, Loughlin is in a series of movies made by people who are probably big fans of Murder, She Wrote. As a result, she stumbles on an underground area that even this lady says she didn’t know existed and there’s a body down there. This movie, just like Murder, She Baked: A Peach Cobbler Mystery, has a part where someone gives Jennifer the “another body!” line. Here’s what Jennifer thinks of that!


The rest plays out like the title suggests. The lady ends up getting arrested for the crime since the body turns out to be the guy she thought ran away with another woman 2 years prior. Jennifer works to figure out who really did it. The mystery is okay. It’s not too cryptic and basically tells you who did it pretty quickly. Jennifer is basically doing the Columbo thing of figuring out how this murder played out while having her strong suspicions of who it is. I’m not a mystery person, but my Dad is, and he seemed to enjoy it well enough. Of course I say this as a person who spent Super Bowl Sunday watching 7 murder mystery movies from the 1930s and 1940s. I’m weird.

There are only a couple of more things to mention. There are a few more locations that are from Mission, British Columbia. There are also a couple more computer screens, but they had nothing I think is worth noting. What I did like is the newspaper.


That story on the right is an actual story from the Calgary Herald with some of the names and facts changed. It’s actually a nice little story about a tow-truck driver who left a wallet with money he promised a friend to send to that friend’s mother in Ghana. The driver found it and turned it in. That’s why Fred Bediako considers bus driver Mustaf Gashi his hero. I wonder why they made the changes they did. I keep spotting Hallmark movies using actual articles from newspapers or official documents posted online. I wonder if they get permission, or need to, in order to use them like this.

All in all, I recommend this one. I just think they need to drop the subplots thing. That was stupid in the Good Witch movies and doesn’t need to be added here. If you want those characters to have a purpose in the story, then actually involve them in the mystery.

Just as with Meet My Mom, here’s Lori Loughlin judging me for taking too long to get to her movie.


Hallmark Review: Harvest Moon (2015, dir. Peter DeLuise)


That’s our girl Jennifer Stone (Jessy Schram) doing Alicia Silverstone from Clueless (1995). In short order she gets a call from daddy who has the sad news that the family is basically bankrupt. Her father is played by Willie Aames who most people will probably remember as Bibleman or one of those short lived sitcoms he was on. I said basically because Hallmark does like to recycle things from earlier movies so…


she inherits a pumpkin farm like in Growing The Big One. Let’s introduce the boy since you know it’s a given that she falls in mud wearing expensive clothes.


That’s Brett Jarrett (Jesse Hutch). The pumpkin farm has been in his family for a long time. I honestly don’t remember how they own the farm, but don’t. Doesn’t matter anyways. The film is about her adapting to living in the country while finding a way to make it a successful business.


There are some side characters, and those actors do a decent job. The problem is that this film would have been fine if it had just been about her turning this otherwise unknown pumpkin farm into a profit center for her and his family. But of course it also has to be about them falling in love. That part never really comes together. I think the one user review on IMDb is reading too much into it seeing it as greed conquers all. It’s more like yet another Hallmark movie where the love story part is unnecessary and forced. It just doesn’t need to be there. I was fine watching her discover the old Jarrett family recipe and turn it into a big success. That part was fine. They just wasted their time with the romance part. And it can even send what I believe is an unintended message that the IMDb user picked up on.

This is one that isn’t terrible, but subpar enough that I really wouldn’t waste your time watching it. Watch Clueless, Funny Farm (1988), and Baby Boom (1987) instead. They do the rich girl comes down to earth, adjusting to quirky country life, and making the most of a sudden shift from city life to country life much better.

At least the computer screen was done well in this.


And some nice shots of the Harvest Moon. Even if it does look close enough to kill everyone with the tides.


Children’s Horror: R.L. Stine’s Monsterville: The Cabinet Of Souls (2015, dir. Peter DeLuise)


The movie begins and we see a girl walking down the street on Halloween. She smashes a pumpkin and Billy Corgan takes revenge on her because her eyes turn creepy. She runs into the forest and becomes a monster. Then the movie reminds me that if I don’t like it, it’s not director Peter DeLuise’s fault cause it’s called R.L. Stine’s Monsterville: Cabinet Of Souls. The missing “the” had to be donated to the band The The who lost one of their the’s in a tragic accident.

Now it’s one year later and the kids are putting on a high school production of Something Wicked This Way Comes. We are introduced to two guys and two girls. Seeing as I got over my Disney Channel addiction a few years ago, I only recognize Dove Cameron seen here in Liv makeup…unfortunately.


This is a horror movie that wastes no time in killing off people.


He is never heard from again after being killed by that candy apple. Just kidding.

Anyways, we now cut to Nora’s Dance & Ballet Academy Halloween Spooky Dance Contest. Cue the Suspiria (1977) footage!

It’s bad enough the High School Musical movies made Disney think we want dancing and singing kids again, but then Nora says this.


No! Don’t do it kids! That’s how we ended up with the movie Nudist Colony Of The Dead (1991)!


Then these two show up. That’s Dr. Hysteria (Andrew Kavadas) and Lilith (Katherine McNamara). Dr. Hysteria then invites the children to visit his Hall of Horrors which is a journey “into the wretched black heart of pure evil itself.” He’s exaggerating though since it’s just a haunted house. He’s not holding screenings of God’s Not Dead (2014), Let’s Be Cops (2014), and Frenemies (2012).

All jokes aside, both of those actors do good jobs in this movie. They manage to actually be creepy and evil right up till the end. He even kills a kid. No joke.

Because the local news station actually had a story with enough information for the first time in days, they air that the girl from the beginning of the movie is still missing. Now we meet a guy who is probably interchangeable with an actor from Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990). I’ll find out when I get to it.


He goes on to brag that he once surfed in a monsoon and outran an avalanche with a broken snowboard so he doesn’t scare easily. I sat through the god awful Extreme Ops (2002) knowing that a guy actually died scouting locations for that studio cash-grab on the extreme sports craze, so this guy didn’t scare me.

Oh, and this movie has kids rapping, so if you are a child, you might not want to show this to your parents because they will probably want you dead. But let’s get to the haunted house.


And I put this screenshot here just so everyone knows that it’s okay to start submitting to IMDb that an alternate title of this movie is Troll 4.


There are scary things in this haunted house such as what Calculus II would have looked like in the sequel to Freshman Father called Sophomore Father: Revenge of the Derivative! There is also a guy making inappropriate references to penises by pretending to sell “brains on a stick”. But nothing is as scary as that ginormous pink scarf they have Cameron wear in these scenes. Seriously, why? She looks like someone is going to throw a saddle on her and start riding her. Also, I played The Walking Dead and know that you don’t want something a zombie can easily grab on to. Of course she stumbles into a backroom during this sequence to to find that maybe some of these monsters are real.


After Cameron figures out that the missing girl has something to do with the Hall of Horrors from a site with a malformed URL that it shows a close up of for no good reason. We see Lilith insist on having this guy wrap his arms around her as they ride her bike before she whispers in his ear that her favorite movie is Joe D’Amato’s Porno Holocaust (1981). The kid is naturally scared by this seeing as his favorite movie with Mark Shannon is Italian Batman (1982).

Now the really creepy stuff starts happening. Dr. Hysteria takes kids in to the backroom and shows them their dreams through a portal he opens up in front of them. Their eyes flash and the kids are now his. We don’t know what that means exactly at this point, but we soon find out.


Inside The Cabinet Of Souls are kids standing around while a fog machine fills the room. It’s a little unclear, but I believe these are the kids souls while their bodies exist in the real world as monsters. It’s all a little unclear. We see some of the monsters walk into the kids bodies. And we see Dr. Hysteria feed off their souls. He does this to one kid who apparently only had one more shot to give cause she dies. I like children’s movies that don’t soft pedal the danger. Harry Potter may have been a bit much, but you get my point. Oh, and before I jump to the end. Just in case the kids aren’t already afraid of clowns.


I love the way this kid acts too. It’s like they gave him a copy of Beetlejuice, told him to watch it, and just do that. Oh, and here’s the kid dying.


He says she’s almost empty, then sucks that last bit of lifeforce from her body. She dissolves to the ground and he says “you were a good worker.” Again, kudos to the actors and the people involved with this production for making this movie genuinely creepy even while making it geared toward a younger audience.


The creepy stuff keeps getting more and more frequent until it finally comes down to whether Cameron is going to join the family or not. Notice two members of the family are rocking the Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th, Part 2 look. Of course Cameron fights back and saves the kids, leaving Lilith, extreme sports guy, and Dr. Hysteria to go into a red oblivion.

I enjoyed this movie. Yeah, I’m sucker for kids movies cause I basically missed out on my childhood by being sick and at home through middle school and high school, but this was well made. I recommend it. Serious points to Andrew Kavadas for the character of Dr. Hysteria.


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 #15: Hallmark Edition


Citizen Jane (2009) – I was quite surprised that this was actually a Hallmark movie. The acting was strong. The story stayed focused. They actually bothered shooting in San Francisco. This almost could have been a small time B-Movie or something I would expect from Lifetime.

It begins with Jane Alexander’s (Ally Sheedy) aunt being murdered. Jane lives with a man named Tom O’Donnell (Sean Patrick Flanery) and it’s never really a mystery that he did it. The film is about how they prove it. Jane has assistance from Detective Jack Morris (Meat Loaf). I think Meat Loaf did a great job and so does Sheedy. We care, we follow, we get a decent movie. The only problem I found is the same one that was in the Lifetime movie Cleveland Abduction (2015). That movie was also based on real events. Even not knowing the true story behind it, you could tell that the film was a superficial treatment that needed much more time to properly tell the story. The same is true here. At times things will feel like they just jumped from one gear to another. Otherwise, it’s one of the most well made of the Hallmark mystery type movies. Even if there isn’t much of a mystery to it. More like mystery in the Columbo sense of the word where we know exactly what happened, but find out how the person is going to be caught.


Garage Sale Mystery: The Wedding Dress (2015) – Again, it’s time for Jennifer (Lori Loughlin) to get involved in a mystery. This time she is at an estate sale and when she returns to her shop she discovers that among the things she has purchased is a vintage 1970’s wedding dress. Great! Except there are blood stains in a pocket. And thank god there are. I say that because this establishes a good reason for her to be investigating while the cops don’t. That’s really nice when it comes to the recent deluge of these murder mystery movies that Hallmark is producing. Usually the woman just comes across as a busybody who should just mind her own business. Here she has something that should spark her interest and the further she looks into it, the more she has a reason to bring her police officer friend into the case. It’s still heavily sanitized in the way you expect from these movies. However, for this series, I think it’s the best one I have seen so far.


Love Under the Stars (2015) – When you boil it down to the basic plot, this is like the Hallmark movie Class (2010). Except it’s much better. It’s about a college girl played by Ashley Newbrough who needs to come up with her thesis in child psychology. Her college advisor played by Barry Bostwick has a niece that teaches a fourth grade class and has Newbrough go there for inspiration. She meets a guy played by Wes Brown who is raising a daughter as a single parent because the mother/wife has passed away. It plays out the way you expect it to and the way Class did, but it’s just better the whole way through. Especially Wes Brown. We can easily understand why she is attracted to him, but he also comes across well as a loving father who appears happy, but also has an underground river of fear and concern for his daughter constantly flowing through him. He is the real reason the film works as well as it does. Newbrough is pretty good too, but she basically walks around the film like she’s hot and horny, to put it bluntly, all the time she’s with him. It makes it difficult to take her character seriously as a real person the way we do with him. In particular, when it comes to her backstory of also losing her mother and the development of the relationship with the daughter. They should have had her dial it back a bit and act less like an infatuated teenager.

Also, the daughter (Jaeda Lily Miller) is a little annoying. I don’t think it’s the actresses fault so much as it is the way her character is written. I don’t think they give her enough credit and let her be more like a real kid with problems, then a cardboard cut out of a troubled child. A little tweaking of her character would have helped.

I really did like the use of the counting thing. When the father leaves her off at school or somewhere else, he counts down a few seconds because he knows she will turn around, usually opening a door, in order to wave to him one more time. She’s afraid he might be gone like her mother is forever. It’s a really nice touch that of course pays off in the end.

All around, this is one of the top tier Hallmark movies I have seen so far.


Operation Cupcake (2012) – I mentioned not giving the character of the daughter enough credit in Love Under The Stars and the problem is in this film too. This is about Army Colonel Griff Carson (Dean Cain) who comes home on leave to his wife Janet (Kristy Swanson) who runs a cupcake shop. The whole thing is about Griff adjusting to civilian life while also awaiting a possible promotion to General. The problem is they don’t give this guy enough credit. Instead, they drag out his adjustment way too long. It shouldn’t have taken him so long and the change should have been more gradual rather than played for laughs as long as it could. He works at the shop with his wife, and there was at least one scene where you wonder if he actually comes from the Army. He is mobbed by a ton of people at the cupcake store that he suddenly has to service. He doesn’t really attempt to put some of his training to use in order take a bunch of unruly people and get them to act in a civilized manner. The scene doesn’t work and the movie just doesn’t really work either. I think they should have had Cain’s character transition more gradually rather than having him be essentially a brick wall that only comes down in the end. Hallmark avoided that with Recipe For Love and that’s why it is one of my favorites. I also think that Dean Cain was miscast. I have difficultly buying any kind of machismo from his character. He just doesn’t fit the part. This is one that’s fine if you wind up catching it by chance, but don’t put your lure out into the Hallmark waters explicitly to see it.

Final note: I didn’t even notice till I was looking at the credits, but Donna Pescow is in this. She was a baker at the store who has some back and forth with Cain. Of course for most people she is from Saturday Night Fever (1977), but I will always remember her as the mom on the TV Show Out Of This World. Makes me want to break out my bootleg copies of that show. To the best of my knowledge, they still haven’t released that show on DVD.

Val’s Movie Roundup #11: Hallmark Edition


Mystery Woman: In The Shadows (2007) – Once again, we join Kellie Martin and Clarence Williams III at the Mystery Woman Bookstore. This time the two are at a book signing when the author announces that his next book will name a KGB agent. I think this is the best of the three Mystery Woman movies I’ve seen so far (Oh Baby, Redemption, and In The Shadows). I like that fact that it involves international intrigue instead of just some local person murdered in Centerville, USA where a busybody takes it upon themselves to investigate. I also love that most of the movie Kellie Martin is in the hospital and out of commission. As much as I like her, it was really nice to see Williams shine. He knows about this secret world and it’s fun to watch him navigate it. I know there are other Mystery Woman films, but of the ones I have watched, this is the one I recommend most strongly.


Garage Sale Mystery (2013) – This, on the other hand, is the typical Hallmark mystery fare these days. It’s not good. This one follows Lori Loughlin who runs a consignment store and hits garage sales for items to resell. When a friend is found dead and it might tie in with garage sales, then this woman who can’t mind her own business begins investigating. There is a cop on the case, but he seems pretty incompetent and worthless to the film. Loughlin just seems to sleepwalk through the whole thing. There just isn’t anything here worth watching. It’s better than some of these mystery movies on Hallmark, but that’s not saying a whole lot. I really wonder who thought it was a good idea to remove all edge, suspense, feeling, and reality from murder mysteries, then decided to make tons of them. At least there is a scene where her son has her play Minecraft to clear her mind. That was interesting even if we never actually see the game or her really play it.


Garage Sale Mystery: All That Glitters (2014) – I guess since it wasn’t a total mound of caca doo doo, they thought it was ready for a full series. It still sucks. Again, one of her friends ends up dead. I guess being friends with Lori Loughlin’s character means you’re marked for death. At least Jessica Fletcher brought death to the places she visited. Loughlin’s just thinning out the population of her own town. This time the person killed is tied to a storage facility she won in an auction. Of course there are rare items and in short order a guy shows up wearing a sign that says I’m the bad guy. Luckily, he’s played by Kavan Smith of Eureka. He was a welcome sight even if by being well known it meant he was the bad guy. I’m not giving anything away here. It’s really really really obvious. Plus, I’m leaving the details out. At least this time people tell her she should mind her own business. She ignores it, but it’s nice to hear some voices of reason. Skip this one too. I wonder if the other two Garage Sale Mystery movies are any better. I doubt it.


Murder 101 (2006) – This is how you do a murder mystery! Someone is murdered, so a cop brings a criminology professor in to help solve the case. Simple! The non-police officer actually has a reason to be there investigating. And the criminals aren’t a joke. Also, this isn’t some weird Stepford Wives world where everything exists in fantasy. It even has Dick Van Dyke and his son Barry who, by the way, looks like Michael Bay in this. It’s kind of funny. A business executive is killed in an explosion. Barry brings Dick into the investigation and an investigative reporter comes along since she was there. It’s nothing amazing, but far better than movies like Garage Sale Mystery, Murder, She Baked, Wedding Planner Mystery, Aurora Teagarden, etc. I wish Hallmark would go back to doing mystery movies like this and Mystery Woman again. They are so much more enjoyable and far better made in general.

Back to School #73: 21 Jump Street (dir by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)


Though the TV series that its based is a bit before my time, the 2012 comedy 21 Jump Street is a personal favorite of mine.  The film tells the story of how nerdy Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and popular but none-too-intelligent jock Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) first met in high school, went to the police academy together, both turned out to really bad cops together, and then returned to high school together.

Why did they return to high school?  Because they’re both working undercover now!  As part of a recently revived program from the 80s (and that would apparently be the original television series), young cops are being sent undercover into high school.  As all the other cops involved with the program appear to be super cops, Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube) has every reason to believe that Schmidt and Jenko will be able to discover who is responsible for dealing a dangerous new synthetic drug known as HFS.

One of the things that makes 21 Jump Street work is that, at no point, does the film pretend that either Channing Tatum or Jonah Hill could still pass for a high school student.  One of the film’s best moments comes when a drug dealing environmentalist/student named Eric Molson (Dave Franco, brother of my beloved James) tells Jenko that he suspects that Jenko may be a cop.  “Why?” Jenko asks.  “You’re taste in music. The fact that you look like a fucking forty-year old man,” Eric replies.

Not surprisingly, Jenko and Schmidt prove themselves to be fairly clueless about how high school has changed.  One thing that I’ve always found interesting about high school films is that often times, regardless of when a particularly film might be set, it still feels like it’s taking place ten to twenty years in the past.  That’s largely because most high school films are made by directors who are trying to relive their youth and, as a result, they end up making a film about a high school in 2014 where all of the students look and act as if they’re living in the 90s.  The truth of the matter is that things change pretty quickly.

That’s one reason why I haven’t set foot back in my high school since I graduated.  As much fun as I did have in high school and even though I’ve been told that I can still pass for high school age (and I still constantly get asked for ID), the fact of the matter is that it’s no longer 2004.

When Jenko and Schmidt return to high school, they do so expecting to have to return to their previous teenager personas.  That’s good news for Jenko and not so good news for Schmidt.  However, once they arrive (and after their class schedules accidentally get switched), they discover that high school has changed.  Jocks like Jenko no longer rule the school and Schmidt is now one of the popular kids…

Before I saw 21 Jump Street, I knew that Jonah Hill was funny.  But the film’s big surprise was that Channing Tatum is just as funny.  Throughout the film, Tatum shows a willingness to poke fun at his own image and proves that he can deliver an absurd one-liner as masterfully as just about anyone else working today.  There’s a lot of reasons why 21 Jump Street is a funny film.  It’s full of funny lines and the movie features a lot of very sharp satire of both the action and the teen genres.  But the true pleasure of the film comes from the comedic chemistry between Tatum and Hill.

It’s just a lot of fun to watch.