Val’s Movie Roundup #29: Hallmark Edition


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #86: Zandalee (dir by Sam Pillsbury)


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“I want to shake you naked and eat you alive…”

— Johnny (Nicolas Cage) in Zandalee (1991)

As you can probably guess from the quote above, Zandalee is a crazy little movie.

Zandalee takes place in New Orleans, which means that there’s a lot of rain, a lot of jazz, a lot of flamboyant accents, and a lot of sweat.  Zandalee (Erika Anderson) owns a boutique and spends most of her time jogging across the city.  (Zandalee has reddish hair, comes from a Catholic background, and runs a lot so naturally, I related to her.)

During one of her runs, Zandalee happens to pass a thief who is being chased by the police.  The thief flirts with her even while he’s being arrested.  The thief, interestingly enough, is played by a surprisingly hot Steve Buscemi.  Even more interesting is that, though his character makes a dramatic entrance and gets a lot of good lines, Buscemi doesn’t appear again until near the very end of the movie.  There’s really no point to Buscemi being in the film but somehow, it just seems right for him to suddenly be there.

And really, that’s the type of film that Zandalee is.  Odd characters pop up and then disappear.  Plot points are raised and then abandoned.  Events play out almost at random, as if Zandalee’s morning runs are taking her further and further into a dream world.

(It’s all a bit like Lost River, except for the fact that Zandalee is actually memorable in its weirdness, as opposed to just being annoying.)

Zandalee is married to Thierry (Judge Reinhold), a former poet who has abandoned his literary ambitions and taken over the family business.  Now, he’s mostly a figurehead who spends all of his time hanging out with drunk and uninteresting Philistines.  Thierry is so guilt-ridden over giving up poetry that he’s been rendered impotent.  Try as he might, he cannot make love.  As he puts it, while standing naked and staring out into the dark night, he is “a paraplegic of the soul.”

And then Johnny (Nicolas Cage) shows up.  Johnny was Thierry’s childhood friend.  Johnny is a painter and, from the minute he arrives, he’s giving Thierry a hard time for selling out.  Johnny also has long, stringy hair and a mustache and goatee.  He speaks in Nicolas Cage’s trademark muffled monotone, muttering lines of philosophical pretension.  When we first meet Johnny, he’s with Remy (Marisa Tomei, who much like Steve Buscemi, pops up and then vanishes and yet somehow it still seems totally appropriate that she’s in the film) but soon, Johnny has decided that he wants Zandalee.

Or, as he tells her when he approaches her during one of her runs, “I like it when you don’t wear anything underneath….”

Soon, Johnny and Zandalee are having a passionate affair.  Much as Zandalee once inspired Thierry’s poetry, she now inspires Johnny’s art.  Of course, Johnny is also inspired by cocaine.  Along with selling it and snorting it, Johnny also mixes it with olive oil and dips his fingers in it before fingering Zandalee.  And, as effective as some of these Johnny/Zandalee scenes are, it’s still impossible to watch all of this without thinking, “What the Hell, Nicolas Cage!?”

(Even by the standards of Nicolas Cage, Zandalee is a strange film.)

Anyway, eventually, Zandalee breaks it off with Johnny and Johnny’s paintings starts to suffer.  Thierry realizes what has been going on and it all leads to the scene below.

And, believe it or not, that all happens during the first hour!  Even after that epic dance off, there’s still another half hour of melodrama to go!  Zandalee is a seriously odd movie.

Zandalee can be viewed, in its uncensored entirety, on YouTube.  Usually, I’d embed the film at the bottom of this review but Zandalee is so extremely NSFW that it’s probably safer if you just go to YouTube and search for it yourself.

niccagezandaleeSeriously, Nic Cage wants you to do it.