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.

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Of course Toogle is also a search engine.

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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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t watch this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Val’s Movie Roundup #26: Hallmark Edition


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A Stranger’s Heart (2007) – This is a movie A, movie B, type film. Movie A is about being in a hospital morbidly awaiting someone to die, but have a heart left over for you to receive via a transplant. Movie B is about how all those things we ascribe to our heart in metaphor are literally transferred by what the film calls “cell memory”. Movie A works. Movie B is honestly a little creepy.

The movie begins by introducing our leading lady as a child. This part is kind of unintentionally funny. I know why we need to kill off her mom, but did it need to happen by her stupidly wandering onto a street while singing Oh, Susannah? Then we learn that the little girl had heart problems and then suddenly we’re in the present with her grown up in the hospital. Like I said before, this part works. She is in there with several people including the guy she ends up with. The movie does a good job of getting across trying to find humor in that kind of a situation while waiting for something horrible to happen to somebody else in order to save your life.

Then movie B kicks in. She gets a heart, her female friend gets a heart, and her future boyfriend gets a heart. The female friend starts craving something she hadn’t drank since she was little. Then a little later in the film she goes and meets the family whose daughter’s heart she now has. She comes back complaining that the family basically didn’t see her as their daughter reincarnated. That’s where this film switches from your biological structure changing to a literal transference of high level thoughts and feelings via the heart.

It turns out our boy and girl both received their hearts from a couple who died in a car crash leaving behind their daughter. Then the two of them basically start stalking the little girl who is now without her parents. It’s kind of well meaning, but it is creepy because the movie does want you to believe they have somehow received the love her parents had for her through a heart transplant complete with dreams about the little girl. And yes, it carries this idea all the way through to having the little girl with them as essentially new parents carrying their old parents within them as if the heart is like a symbiotic creature we carry within us.

This movie is a mixed bag, but since it is a Larry Levinson Production, that does mean computer screen screw ups.

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If you can, read that fake webpage. It’s like reading someone’s template rather than an actual post. Also, look at the bottom left hand corner. They took a screenshot of a Windows XP machine and have her looking at it on a Mac.

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The Confession (2007) – This movie is a standard you’ve seen it a million times before soap opera type plot. You have a rich lady who gave up her daughter for adoption a long time ago and is fading health wise. You have her husband who is a gambling addict that wants to inherit her money, but has just been cut out of the will because of his addiction. He runs into an aspiring actress and hires her to play the long lost daughter so he can get the estate through her. The actual daughter turns up a little late and gets taken in as a servant. You know how the rest plays out.

The only difference here is the girl is Amish. That’s it. This is the second in what is either going to be a trilogy with the upcoming film The Reckoning or an ongoing saga. There is enough open ended stuff attached to this movie to warrant another film.

There are two actors you’ll recognize here. Sherry Stringfield from ER is the rich lady and Adrian Paul from Highlander is the husband. I thought they did a good job. The only real problem I had was with the Amish girl who is played by Katie Leclerc. She tries to do a Pennsylvania Dutch accent and it doesn’t work. She’s Texan born and raised in Colorado. Also, it doesn’t help that the actress in the movie fakes a Pennsylvania Dutch accent, thus making us notice Leclerc’s fake accent even more. That is, when she’s actually doing it. When Leclerc gets hired as a servant she magically switches to an American accent. I get why she needs to do it, but people don’t naturally have that ability. I haven’t seen the first film called The Shunning (2011) where the same character was played by Danielle Panabaker, so I can’t speak to whether she was any better at pulling off the accent.

If you don’t let the accent part bother you, then this is fine little soap opera. I am curious how they are going to reconcile her suddenly being in the money with her Amish past since they don’t do it here.

Oh, and no, it doesn’t end with Leclerc chopping off the fake Amish girl’s head because there can be only one. Adrian Paul also keeps his head.

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Be My Valentine (2013) – Since Hallmark just aired a new movie called Lead With Your Heart (2015) with Billy Baldwin, they played this one that also has Billy in it. The movie begins with Kate Burlingham (Natalie Brown) who is about to watch Alec Baldwin in It’s Complicated (2009), when Billy climbs in through her window and rescues her. Just kidding. Her flower store is in a fire and Dan Farrell, played by Billy Baldwin, is the head firefighter. Of course the two are going to come together during the upcoming Valentine’s Day.

Just like Second Chances (2013), while the adults are supposed to be the feature presentation, it’s the child actors that are the most enjoyable part. In this case, it’s Baldwin’s kid and a girl named Rebecca. I don’t know why the adult romance had to be here at all. The story of the two kids is far more interesting and I think Baldwin does a good job as the dad trying to guide his son through young love. It’s also where one of this films funniest parts comes from. When he first meets Rebecca, she is reading a book. He asks her if she plays the games too because apparently, the books don’t make sense if you don’t play the games as well. She says she plays the game on her phone, notebook, and computer. But then he says a version just came out on “the cloud”. He says it’s “majorly interactive” to which she responds “I’m so going to hook into that.” What I want to know is if I can play Teddy Boy on “the cloud”.

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Or, since this is a Hallmark movie, will my Bible games play on “the cloud”?

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It’s stupid questions like this that come to mind when the characters say stupid things because the writers wanted to sound hip. Or maybe that’s just how Canadian kids actually talk. Oddly, while that part of trying to make the kids sound like kids, they get something else almost right on button. Baldwin suggests that instead of brining Rebecca flowers or chocolate, he get more creative and make a mixed tape. After a little confusion for the kid, he figures out that he can make a DVD composed of videos (I think music ones) for her. That’s kind of a reasonable update of the classic mixed tape. Kudos on that one.

This is one of those films that is shot in Canada, but Baldwin walks around with an American flag on his uniform so it’s totally the United States.

It’s fine and enjoyable. It’s a little out of the blue when an old boyfriend shows up to sort of disrupt things a little, but he goes as quickly as he came.

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Chance At Romance (2013) – This one is a real skipper. It doesn’t get much more generic and forced for a Hallmark romance movie, then this one.

It’s about a girl named Samantha Hart (Erin Krakow) who wanders into a photo gallery showing. Heath Madsen (Ryan McPartlin) is the photographer. She likes his work so she goes to his website to look at some of his photos. In this movie he’s a pioneer of HDR photography. She decides to shoot him an email to tell him she likes his work. However, the email ends up in his son’s hand who proceeds to have a back and forth with her pretending to be his dad. He wants her to meet his dad. Her invites her over, something happens weather wise, and that’s how the two are forced to spend time with each other till they fall in love. This movie goes so far as to have him literally show up on a white horse at the end to take her away.

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It’s really boring. There are much better Hallmark romance films out there. Go with Be My Valentine out of the four movies I mentioned here.

However, it does have one thing that is of note for someone like myself who has seen too many Hallmark movies. In three other Hallmark movies they either mention or outright have one of the actors play the Wii. In this one they have moved from pushing that Nintendo console to pushing the Wii U.

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Val’s Movie Roundup #25: Hallmark Edition


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Val’s Movie Roundup #24: Late Night Cable Edition


I guess after watching Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life this had to be the next roundup. Also it’s been 21 of these things since I last spotlighted this genre of movies. I know how that kid could have been cured of his addiction. Watching these four movies.

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Passionate Intentions (2015) – This one wasn’t even in IMDb when I watched it. They’re still processing my submission as I am writing this. This movie is one of those that has the absolute bare minimum plot, and the rest is just sex. It’s about a couple. The girl is about to inherit some money and it comes between them for awhile. Really, who cares. However, while the acting is bad, the plot doesn’t exist, and the sex is boring, it’s actually rather pretty. Here’s two shots.

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The movie may be bad, but at least it was well shot. That’s way more than can be said for some of these. Sadly, they didn’t get someone as good for the sound cause that’s a little off.

Oh, and if somebody knows, then tell me what was with this guy and these dog tags. There are two sex scenes with him where he is wearing them. I don’t remember any explanation given. Is this some fetish I’m not aware of?

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Sexual Wishlist (2014) – Just like Passionate Intentions, this movie has the as little plot as possible and as much sex as possible thing going on. This time it’s a divorce and an argument over who gets a couple of things that keeps them having sex with other people. But this movie has two things Passionate Intentions didn’t have.

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Frankie Cullen

Christie Stevens

Christie Stevens

I’ve seen Frankie Cullen in several of these movies now and he is almost too good for them. I know he has done a few, but he really should be doing B-Movies rather than these. He has enough acting talent for it. His presence usually lifts the movie up.

Unfortunately, Christie Stevens does the opposite. She gives the worst performances I have seen in any of these movies. Her line readings make Ryan O’Neal in Tough Guys Don’t Dance (1987) seem amazing.

At least her lines in Intergalactic Swingers (2013) were so cheesy that it really didn’t matter, but here she is wretched.

Also, some how this movie and Passionate Intentions were shot by the same person, Lex Lynne Smith, but the difference in quality is almost night and day.

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Pleasure Or Pain (2013) – Now that director Zalman King is no longer with us, they seem to be slapping his name onto anything he did. He’s the one who brought us the Red Shoe Diaries. You know, the TV show and movie series that David Duchovny narrated. I always found it funny that you could watch him on network television in the evening, then tune into late night cable and watch him there too. But to the movie.

This is Fifty Shades of Grey if that movie could have actually shown anything. Seriously, that almost tells you exactly what to expect here. Cut out the pointless relationship BS, horrible attempts at characters, and the stupid negotiation scenes and replace it all with arty eroticism. That’s Pleasure Or Pain in a nutshell.

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As you can see, clearly what was missing from Fifty Shades of Grey was a miniature boat. That’s our Christian Grey.

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That’s our Anastasia Steele narrating the story from what appears to be a radio broadcast booth. I’m not sure if they ever explain exactly where she was and it really doesn’t make any difference.

The two meet, get married, and then it’s just erotic scenes from then on. However, while the settings and exact situations may change, it goes to a certain point and never further. Just like Fifty Shades of Grey did. Both go only so far, then dance around there, but don’t actually do anything. King really tried to get arty with this. There’s one scene that both made me think of Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain (1973) and what must have been going on at One Eyed Jacks when Lynch wasn’t there filming Twin Peaks.

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It’s the best of the four films here, but you will get sick of the erotic stuff. There’s really just so so much of it. I was already hurting by the mid point of the movie wanting the thing over with.

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Monster of the Nudist Colony (2013) – Now we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. Take a whiff of those fingernails because that smell is Monster of the Nudist Colony. Not even Frankie Cullen could save this one.

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There’s an ape loose at a nudist colony where all people do is have sex. For some reason Cullen, a detective, is sent to investigate. And investigate he doesn’t. The movie is just some of the worst shot on video sex I have seen since Sexually Bugged! (2014). In fact, I’m quite sure that it’s the same crew. I even recognize some of the music, which by the way, is the worst music ever. And it has lyrics. One of them keeps repeating that he’s “Johnny Wet Pants”.

While everyone is having sex, the ape kidnaps and ties up a couple of the girls like Fay Wray or something. Just like the kid in Cyber Seduction is cured by jumping in a pool, two girls dancing naked while tied to poles turns the ape back into a man. Cause of course it does!

This really is the worst kind of these late night cable movies. It’s one of those where the girls look into the camera looking for approval like they’re a cat that’s just brought a dead rat to their owner.

Steer clear of this one.

Val’s Movie Roundup #23: Hallmark Edition


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Just Desserts (2004) – It’s not every day that I get four decent Hallmark movies. This one I actually enjoyed quite a bit. It’s about a baker whose family bakery is falling on hard financial times. There is a cooking contest going on and he decides to enter. Apparently, his family has some baking secrets. Our main character Marco Poloni (Costas Mandylor) knows his stuff and even some of the bigwigs in the industry, but got slighted along the way and decided to kind of remain in obscurity. However, with the bakery in trouble and a contest that could help draw crowds, he decides to step out of the shadows. Problem is he needs a partner. That’s not an issue though. During a conversation at a fancy restaurant where he is having a discussion on the bakery being bought out, he tries a dessert and it’s almost right according to him. He has a partner! It’s pretty funny, because he comes back to the restaurant and just barges right into her kitchen to ask her to help him with the contest.

The rest is exactly what you expect. What makes it work is largely Costas Mandylor’s performance. Lauren Holly does a good job too. Amazingly, this movie was directed by Kevin Connor who brought us the epic disaster Strawberry Summer. The only problem I can think of here is that I was disappointed that they didn’t have Poloni make a reference Nicolas Cage’s character in Moonstruck (1987). Seriously, you see him walk in front of ovens in a white undershirt and you want him to yell, “I lost my hand! I lost my bride! Johnny has his hand! Johnny has his bride!”

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I definitely recommend this one.

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Before You Say ‘I Do’ (2009) – This one you really have to judge in two separate parts. This movie is about a guy (David Sutcliffe) who proposes to a girl (Jennifer Westfeldt), only to have her change her mind because she was burned by a bad marriage 10 years prior. So while going through a yellow light, he makes a wish that something could be done about what happened to her 10 years before. He is then hit by a car and now he’s in 1999.

The first part of this movie works. The two actors and Lauren Holly do a good job. He immediately goes to where she was working in 1999 believing that they will fall in love at first sight, but it doesn’t happen. So, he warms up to her friend played by Lauren Holly and works to make his way into her life while also trying to talk her out of the upcoming disastrous marriage. This stuff works well enough to enjoy the film. I liked David Sutcliffe and Lauren Holly. Jennifer Westfeldt is good enough. Kind of looks like Phoebe from Friends though. This part really is okay.

But there’s the second part. That’s the time travel. It’s not broken per se, but it’s like they didn’t even try. Really, the only honest attempt I saw to make it look like 1999 was that they had all the computer screens be CRTs. Jennifer Westfeldt looks exactly the same as she did in 2009. They didn’t even bother to change her hair. They also leave it up to you to figure out that he hasn’t gone back in time Back To The Future style, but Quantum Leap style. That is, instead of physically traveling there and thus, there being two of him, he has become unstuck in time and slipped back into his 1999 self. Also, if you went back in time to 1999, we all know it would come up at least once. But nope, he never mentions 9/11. They could have fixed that issue completely by just having him go back 7 years instead. It’s a stupid mistake that is just one more thing that should have been fixed if they were going to put in any effort to the time travel part of the story.

Still, throwing aside that the time travel stuff is a bit of a mess, the romantic comedy works well enough. Not a seek out, but you’ll be okay if this happens to be on.

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Taking A Chance On Love (2009) – It’s weird, but unintentionally I am working backwards through The Note trilogy. This one is definitely better than the third one. It’s still forgettable, but better. This time Peyton McGruder (Genie Francis), the advice columnist, has a woman come up to her and say I love your column, but your advice on taking a chance on love is idiotic. Then she just walks away. It’s rather humorous.

In this one McGruder is not married to Kingston Danville (Ted McGinley). Also, we get to meet the girl that McGruder gave up for adoption many years prior. I think near the end of the film we find out McGruder tried to kill herself while she was pregnant with her. Since that didn’t pan out, she gave birth and put her up for adoption. It seems the girl’s parents went out of the picture and McGruder came back into her life. I’m sure all this information is in the first film. Unfortunately, this movie kind of leaves you in the dark for about 30 minutes. You will think that it’s impossible to watch this one without having seen that one. But that’s not true. You reach 30 minutes and there’s enough exposition that you can follow the movie. Till then it’s a little rough.

Basically, there are four things going on here. The lady who came up to McGruder and insults her needs help resolving a very old incident involving two guys and baby that happened many years ago. McGruder needs to get over her hesitancy and just marry King. McGruder’s daughter needs to stop drinking and not feel she’s in any danger if McGruder gets married. Finally, King and his son need to both get on the same page about the son wanting to be a photographer. That’s it. Just like Signed, Sealed, Delivered, it’s very character driven, not plot driven. It’s not as good as Signed, Sealed, Delivered though.

For those of you who remember when I reviewed the third one, yes, McGinley does have an assholery moment that happens for a minute without really any lead up or anything to follow it. I really want to see the first one just to see if that one has a similar scene. I’m not sure why that’s a thing with these movies, but it seems to be true.

Also, because this is Hallmark, it should be no surprise that two actors from Degrassi: TNG make an appearance. John Bregar who played Dylan is King’s son and Raymond Ablack makes a brief appearance.

Married With Children meets Degrassi: TNG

Married With Children meets Degrassi: TNG

Oh, and unless I missed something or the plot summary on IMDb is wrong, that’s not a California license plate.

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This one is fine, but I get the feeling that The Note trilogy is like the first five Friday the 13th movies. Individually, there not so good, but taken together, then you have something. I’ll find out eventually. Just as all streams lead to the toilet in computer science, it seems that all Hallmark movies eventually come to me. I swear that’s a saying I read in a computer science textbook many years ago.

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Growing The Big One (2010) – Nope, you’d think there was, but according to IMDb there’s only a serious of porn films called Chasing The Big Ones. Not sure how Hallmark lucked out on this title, but good for them.

Now let’s talk about the movie. This is probably my favorite of the four films here. I like Shannen Doherty. She’s never going to win any major awards for acting, but I always seem to enjoy her performances. Kavan Smith is good too. I enjoyed him on Eureka. He is actually pretty interesting because of the way he looks. He can easily come across as a really kind and nice man, but all he has to do is make the most subtle adjustment to his facial expression, and it’s oh my God, he’s a psychopath. For some reason I really like that about him.

Doherty plays a radio show host from Seattle whose grandfather dies so she goes to the country to see this pumpkin farm she has inherited. Suddenly, her job back home disappears when she hears someone else on the radio in her slot. Well, not disappear, she’s reassigned. They want her on this plant show because everyone is going green these days. It’s stupid and Doherty calls them on it, but once her boss hears she now has a farm in the country, her fate is sealed. Thus, Doherty now lives in the country where she broadcasts and livestreams via webcams about a subject she is totally ignorant about.

Enter Kavan Smith! If he was in the film before this, I don’t care, nor do I remember because I want to believe this was the first time we see him. In the middle of the night he tries to break into her house and Doherty nearly maces him. He claims he was fixing the lock because he was friends with her grandfather, but we know he was there to steal the pumpkin seeds. Her grandfather was well known for growing the biggest pumpkins because of his secret method and special seeds. Is there a contest for growing the biggest pumpkin that will make the show a hit, carry the rest of the film, and bring Smith and Doherty together? Of course there is!

This is a movie that works because the two actors are just so enjoyable to watch. I didn’t really think they had any chemistry together, but I didn’t care. I enjoyed it.

One other thing to mention. There is a guy in town who sells manure. His mascot is a superhero character. He even dresses as this superhero at one point. They never say it, but that means his mascot is Shitman.

Val’s Movie Roundup #22: Hallmark Edition


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This one’s okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wouldn’t recommend this one.

Val’s Movie Roundup #21: Hallmark Edition


It was my birthday today and I was diagnosed with a hernia today. Apparently, that means Hallmark movies.

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Elevator Girl (2010) – Almost every Hallmark movie has to have an excuse to get the boy and girl to spend time together. Sometimes that’s to solve a mystery, sometimes Cupid threatens her love life, and sometimes she’s just a stalker. This one relies on people’s ignorance of how elevators work. It begins at a hotel where a guy (Ryan Merriman) goes up to an elevator and presses the up button. The elevator arrives and he gets in. The hotel has three floors: B, 1, and 2. Despite being on 1, that light is still lit till he presses 2. Then the girl (Lacey Chabert) rushes in and joins him on the elevator. Before the thing can move, the power goes out. Since people in movies don’t know that elevator doors can be opened so you can get out in just such situations, the two open up to each other. Let me emphasize this. He is nothing but a perfect gentleman in these scenes. While this is going on we discover that the people on the first floor are the laziest people in existence. A hotel employee says that the bellhops will carry their luggage if they will walk up to their rooms. Seeing as that means a single floor, it’s quite amazing that no one moves.

Anyways, after straightening his tie to remind us that he needs a wife, the power comes back on and they go to the second floor. They then proceed to the same ballroom. He is there to receive an award. She is helping to serve the food and drinks. All we see in this scene is him give a speech and the camera keeps cutting to her smiling. Yep, didn’t pick it up? Neither did I, but apparently that’s what this film considers being rude because we are then told over and over by various characters that he was nice in the elevator, but a jerk at the party. That never happened! The movie just seems to expect us to believe that because he has money and she doesn’t that of course he must have been a jerk. He even says he was a jerk and apologizes. Like I said before, all we saw was him being the nicest guy in the world. I’d bet there was a scene of him being rude, but it was cut. That seems to be a theme in Hallmark films. Mysteriously missing scenes that people and events pretend exist in the movie when they don’t.

Well, this is one of those movies that’s kind enough to put a metaphorical sign around Chabert’s neck that says “This one!” and “Not this one!” around the other girl’s neck. A lady at his office is way too interested in his love life. Priscilla Barnes from Three’s Company is in this. By that, I mean they show her face for a few seconds at the beginning and at the end, but she’s still in the opening credits. Maybe she was getting credited for scenes that hit the cutting room floor. And it all boils down to an average, but somewhat irritating romance movie. The only other thing to note is that the tonal shift near the end is like an asymptotic jump on a graph you had to draw in high school.

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So You Said Yes (2015) – This was a bit of a jump for me. Last I saw of Kellie Martin on Hallmark she was solving mysteries. Now she’s quoting Field Of Dreams about opening a wedding shop. She also reminds us several times that women wrote and directed this movie by giving us annoying body image commentary. Annoying because it doesn’t really need to be there nor does it add much to what supposedly makes her wedding dress shop new and hip. Also, this is the same channel that at least where I am advertises a tightwaisting product, weight loss programs, and products that fix the damage you do to your hair so you can keep damaging it (that’s nearly a direct quote from one of them). That is, when they aren’t running one of their many ads about pee and poop. But at least it’s humorous to watch the kid try and poop in a large vase and hear about a traumatized plastic gator that is forced to watch you defecate.

Oh, right, there was actually a movie I watched in between all those things. That poster is a little misleading. Martin’s hair doesn’t look that good in the movie. In fact, someone insults her hair calling it the bedhead bob and I kind of agreed when I wasn’t supposed to. Well, unlike the majority of Hallmark movies, this one isn’t about finding an excuse for the boy and girl to spend time together. It’s about pairing them up quickly, then finding an excuse to keep them from being together till the movies decides to end.

Martin opens up a new wedding dress shop to try and be more modern, less conventional, and cater more to what the bride wants rather than what other people tell her she should want. In other words, exactly what her competition does in her shop. Guess who her competition’s son is?

A guy comes in to try and tell her that her car is being towed and instead of letting him talk, she berates him only to discover her car was towed. They eventually find each other again and decide to be together. Meanwhile, his mom fights the relationship. She gets so spiteful that in one scene she actually questions a bride’s patriotism for wanting Japanese food at her wedding. Delightful!

This movie is decent. Martin is kind of shoe horned into a character that doesn’t quite fit her. They try to tailor it to her, but the character and her earlier films don’t quite match. We do have a couple humorous shots.

Stop showing computer screens! I'm really not sure what is the registered trademark is here.

Stop showing computer screens! I’m really not sure what the registered trademark is here.

I know Martin is short, but was it really necessary to put her on stilts?

I know Martin is short, but was it really necessary to put her on stilts?

What's with his pants? This is the second Hallmark movie I've watched that seemed to want to have a gay character, then remembered it will air on the Hallmark Channel.

What’s with his pants? This is the second Hallmark movie I’ve watched that seemed to want to have a gay character, then remembered it will air on the Hallmark Channel.

Just remember, if you are watching Hallmark movies on TV, then don’t watch episodes of The Cinema Snob during the commercials. Martin says she’s going to “downward dog him out of her system” in this movie. Enough said.

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Puppy Love (2012) – Here the excuse for the boy and girl to be together is they share a dog. Share a dog. Yes, share a dog. The beginning of the movie has the guy going out of town when his dog escapes the house. This happens after he left though. He plays baseball. Having owned dogs my whole life, I of course kept looking for a collar and license. The dog has a collar, but no license. The dog is picked up by animal control, but not until after the girl’s daughter sees it. The whole timeline of these scenes is mysterious, but basically the dog is put up for adoption almost instantly and then adopted by the girl and her kid. Of course he figures it out and shows up at her house. Amazingly, despite the daughter loving the dog, she is willing to let it go without a fight. He strikes a deal with the daughter that while he is out of town, she can take care of the dog.

That’s the movie’s way of getting the two people to spend time together. Love over a shared dog. According to reviews on IMDb, this originally aired with commercials urging people to adopt dogs. Great, but why does no one mention that this guy didn’t have a license on his dog? Oh, but thank god you got in that line that all men are slobs. Let’s make sure that people still broad brush men and women, but that having a license on your dog possibly meaning the difference between life and death for them isn’t as important. Once she gets the dog, she puts a license on it. We can see it, but there’s only the slightest reference to it from her. Seriously, I really couldn’t push past that.

Still, to be fair, as a love story, it’s just a little below average. By the way, if you watch the movie and notice something I missed, then tell me. I don’t claim to be perfect.

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Keeping Up With The Randalls (2011) – This movie is a lesson in what happens when you miscast your lead actors. We have Kayla Ewell as our leading lady whose other acting credits in Senior Skip Day, The Vampire Diaries, and The Bold And The Beautiful seem to be much more appropriate to her type. We have Thad Luckinbill who was also a soap star, but on The Young And The Restless. Neither is either good enough to, or allowed to properly play against type here. Look here.

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And that’s not the only time that the movie seems to be saying, “Look we got a hot girl here!”

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Yeah, one look at this guy in any other movie and we’d expect to find him in bed with another girl after appearing to be a decent guy. But putting aside the miscasting and that this hair commercial seemed to be trying to tell me something…

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what we have is a meet the parents story. Luckinbill brings Ewell along to a wilderness getaway with his family. His family runs a sporting goods store. Been in the family for generations. His father expects him to take it over despite the fact that Luckinbill’s sister, who looks like Debbie Gibson, is already running it just fine.

What follows are scenes of Ewell trying to prove herself, issues within the family, and the family hurling stereotypes at Ewell. Really, that’s it. They spend some time with her, he gets a backbone about not wanting to be part of the sporting goods business, and his parents come around to reality.

With that out of the way, this is the second Hallmark film directed by David S. Cass Sr. that has an old established actor playing Wii Sports. Seriously. In this one, Marion Ross does boxing. In Murder 101: New Age, Dick Van Dyke played tennis. She is the best actor in this movie and they don’t waste her either. She has good moments.

Of the four films here, go with So You Said Yes. You won’t be wondering when he was rude, you won’t be wondering where the dog’s license is, and you won’t be wondering how these people got cast.

Val’s Movie Roundup #20: Hallmark Edition


Not a whole lot to talk about this time, but let’s take a look anyways. Also, I have finally reached a point where the amount of these films going out is greater than coming in. Meaning the Hallmark streak is going to be coming to an end. There will be more, but hopefully not in such large amounts.

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Always and Forever (2009) – First off, this movie is directed by Kevin Connor who brought us the epic disaster that is Strawberry Summer. However, this one is pretty decent actually. We have a boy and a girl who were an item back in high school, moved on with their lives, but come back to town for a high school reunion. They also happen to be there for their jobs too. He is renovating a hotel and she is the interior designer. As seems to be standard in Hallmark movies, she comes prepackaged with a kid from a previous marriage and a current boyfriend. Nevertheless, they obviously still have strong feelings for each other and they drift back together very quickly. In fact, it’s kind of funny to go from a scene where they practically want to start going at it on the spot to her telling her friends there’s nothing between them. The movie worked well for me and it even had Ted (David Lascher) from Hey Dude. However, what didn’t work for me was when they put product placement at the center of the film’s climax!!!

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Really? What were they thinking!!! That pops out and ruins the scene, and thus the ending. It’s like if at the end of The Warriors, the guys walked over to a vending machine and starting drinking Pepsi to refresh themselves after their journey.

Still, this one is okay. Just know that Kay Jewelers is going to make an unwanted guest appearance at the end.

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After All These Years (2013) – After all these years, I still find Wendie Malick funny. Kind of a PG-13 Kim Cattrall. Anyways, I haven’t said it before, but I usually go into these movies blind. As a result, I was surprised to discover this was a murder mystery. However, unlike most of these, we use The Fugitive model here. Malick breaks up with her husband but in short order finds him dead at her house. When fingers start pointing at her, she goes on the run. What follows is rather humorous. It’s kind of what happens when Hallmark stops trying to sanitize, pander to a Christian audience, or add a political agenda, and just makes some family friendly entertainment. There’s really nothing to talk about here except to say it was fun. Well, except that it showed computer screens so here are two shots.

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The first one shows that her hacker friend is also a hardcore Excel user. The second seems to show that the production crew knew how to run a traceroute. It’s funny, but if you lookup some of those IP addresses, then you’ll find out they are in Canada where Lifetime and Hallmark movies are often produced, if not shot.

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A Bone To Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery (2015) – Going way back here to my 7th roundup and the beginning of this long streak of Hallmark editions to the first Aurora Teagarden movie I watched. I didn’t particularly care for that one and wondered if this first one was better. It is. This one begins with Teagarden working as a librarian and going to meetings of the Real Murders Club. An old former librarian friend of hers dies and leaves her estate to Teagarden. They were friends, but that comes as quite a shock since they weren’t that close. Then Teagarden finds a real skull in her house. Start the mystery!

I mentioned it when I reviewed the second Teagarden movie, and I’m still not sure if these aren’t meant to parody murder mysteries. Well, this one has Teagarden start looking into the skull with interest and she only moves faster and faster till she comes careening into the killers. This one works better in that sense because she has a start point that she builds from. In Real Murders, she finds out about the murder, then starts acting like she just took a massive snort of cocaine. It still gets a little ridiculous here, but works.

It’s funny, but when I watched Real Murders, I read a review for this one on IMDb and someone mentioned a green dress that she buys. There is a scene where she buys a supposedly expensive and great looking dress that people keep telling her looks great on her, but the review was right. It looks bad and clings to her stomach and crotch.

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Also, minor complaint, but maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have Candace Cameron Bure elaborately braid her hair. I guess she could be redoing the braid between showers or something, but honestly, it kind of tells us which scenes were shot in succession and which scenes, without the braid, were shot at other times. It also reminds us of the short amount of time in which TV movies are made.

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And yes, there was one computer screen, but pretty well done. I’m not sure why they could explicitly say she was using Google Earth to look at satellite imagery, but not have her at LinkedIn. Maybe because there would have been ads or real content that shouldn’t be in a movie. The only problem I see is that the URL is a wee bit long for a homepage. At least they thought to simply delete the local URL and type in a fake real looking one for the shot.

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The only other thing worth mentioning is the conversation the killers have with her at the end. I love when the one tells the other to kill her using the bat to which they reply that they don’t like the bat, so let’s drown her instead. It’s a rather humorous scene that I enjoyed.

Oh, one more thing. Now that we have both Candace Cameron Bure and Lori Loughlin doing these mystery movies on Hallmark, it’s crossover time! I want Aurora Teagarden vs. Garage Sale Mystery. I would love to see the two of them not work together. Have them both discover the mystery, but stumble over each other trying to solve it independently. If they’re willing to work with each other again on Fuller House, then Hallmark should strike while the iron is hot.

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Daniel’s Daughter (2008) – IMDb said that if I like this, then I might also like Your Love Never Fails. You all remember what I thought of that offensive piece of propaganda. Luckily, the two are worlds apart. You know what the huge difference is that makes them very different movies? In Your Love Never Fails, she was dragged from her successful job in the city to a small town through legal coercion, then kept there through more legal coercion. In Daniel’s Daughter, she willingly returns to her hometown because her father has passed away and wanted her to see him off. That makes an enormous difference.

It still is a little bit much. At least at the start when we are introduced to her and her job at Perfect magazine. I can’t really do it justice in how over the top it is, but it’s about as subtle as this kid in Nukie saying, “America! Help us!”

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But let’s back up a little because it doesn’t begin there. It begins in a rather vague way. It really could have used a little more exposition. We pick up the gist though. Mom died, Dad basically dumped her on strangers, and their lives went on apart from each other. This all happened in a little town on the East Coast called New Kerry that is on an island.

After some initial hesitancy, Cate Madighan (Laura Leighton) decides that if she is going to espouse the values she does in her magazine, then she needs to return to the island to respect her father’s wishes. She takes her assistant in tow. He’s actually the most likable character in my opinion. He is a city guy, but agrees to go along and makes the most of it. For example, they are at a fair and while he would never have sought it out, he has fun going around and finds some nice things to pick up. He even finds a piece of crystal for his collection that he couldn’t find elsewhere.

When she arrives she finds that two of her father’s friends that used to sing together don’t like each other anymore. Apparently, they had some argument and don’t talk now. We don’t find out why till the end of the movie. The rest is her moping while a guy on the island starts to bring her around and the two begin to fall in love. However, I’m not sure why it was necessary to have him be a former world traveler who then settled on the island. But didn’t just settle there, he says someone told him after he moved there that “There’s a whole world out there” to which he responds “That’s why I’m here.” So he saw the rest of the world and fled into seclusion? They put something at the end that seems to imply that his attitude is a little unhealthy, but till then it feels like an anti-city anti-modern life pro-small town thing. It probably wouldn’t if the opening scene at the magazine wasn’t so over the top.

All that said, this movie is pretty good except for one thing. It’s a bit of a spoiler. Up until the very end of the movie, the father is just a guy who abandoned her and was never a part of her life again. However, after her and the guy get the two bickering singers back together to perform at her father’s funeral, suddenly they remember they have a whole cache of letters that were sent to them about how much he loves her. You don’t say? Couldn’t have shown her those letters the instant she showed up in town? Kind of important, would’t you say? And no, I didn’t hear them say that it was her father’s wish they don’t share the letters with her to give them an excuse for holding back so long. Stupid, but it doesn’t ruin the movie. This one’s okay.