Chasing Waterfalls

Chasing but not Finding

This was a very boring story with a good cast. I usually like Cindy, but as usual, she doesn’t have much to work with here. And unfortunately, she seemed very stiff with Christopher Russell who is gorgeous as usual but really needs some spark with his co-stars to bring him to life when the script does not give him anything else to work with. She did have a good scene on the phone with her boss though.

Speaking of the script, how do I count the ways that this fell off the cliff (pun intended)? One line comparing a mythical waterfall to a unicorn was used twice. Speaking of which, she found this legendary waterfall which is so elusive explorers believe it doesn’t even exist without even breaking a sweat. It turns out was within a few hours hike from a busy lodge. She led the world of waterfall enthusiasts to another hard-to-find fall that she promised to keep secret. Her boss betrayed her and put in the GPS coordinates with the photographs she published in the magazine. We never find out what the outcome of that was. Do the sightseers leave a trail of litter, or do they respect the sacred place? She doesn’t quit in anger, like she should have, and is going on to her next assignment. If she changes her mind, we never know about it. Will she continue on with her dream of being a professional photographer, or will she quit and stay with Christopher and his daughter now that he’s not mad at her anymore? He was about to send a chopper to the secret location of the mythic waterfall, by the way, when they talked about how secret it was throughout the movie. Another silly lapse in the writing.

Nice scenery though. And in a first for Hallmark, at the end, they are planning to spend the night together in the same tent. We have to assume, since it is Hallmark, that this means she is going to quit her job and be a wife and mommy (since his ex travels and leaves their daughter with him most of the time. And why should he take on another one of those situations?) It all ends very vaguely.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

March 23, 2021

The Courtship of Eddie’s Father

A Great Cast, but This is Ronny Howard’s Movie

I have just seen this movie again after many years. It was always a favorite, and if I remember correctly I may have first seen it in the theatre when I was a little younger than Ronny Howard was when he played the titular role. It is based on a very short book of the same title by Mark Roby. It is very faithful to it. It has all of the pivotal scenes and most of the small ones. It even expands some characters that play a very small part in the book. The new housekeeper, renamed Mrs. Livingston, to the recent widower, Tom, and his son Eddie has a greatly expanded role. She is perfectly played by Roberta Sherwood and the Spanish lessons are added as well. The role of Dollye Daly played by Stella Stevens and her romance with Tom Corbett’s employee, the radio personality and playboy, is also greatly enhanced. Although Stella competently plays the ditsy, sweet but book-smart Dollye, she is comic gold in her bowling scene and her drum solo. Neither are in the book. We completely understand why Norman, the quintessential womanizer, played by Jerry Van Dyke, is very intrigued during the former, but falls for her hook, line, and sinker when she screws up her courage to favor the nightclub with her unforgettable stylings on the drums.

Glenn Ford is great as the still-grieving father struggling to raise his son as a single father in New York City. Dina Merrill is perfectly cast as the sophisticated career woman whom he falls for. She is not a villainess, but does not have a maternal bone in her body. Shirley Jones plays the warm lovely next-door neighbor whom we know is going to be “the one.” But the movie really belongs to Ronny Howard whose performance brings Eddie to life. He is adorable and real. He makes the funny lines funnier and the sad parts more poignant. When he conflates the death of his goldfish with the death of his mother the resulting hysteria and horror is heartbreaking and terrifying. Tom does not understand and in his panic and pain cries, “A fish is a fish but his mother was his mother!” But Elizabeth does. This was Ronny’s big scene and it is a tour de force. But he handles the subtle scenes masterfully as well. His quiet politeness hiding his uncertainty and suspicion during his first meeting with Rita (Dina Merrill), His fear and desperation when Tom tells him he is going to marry her. His happiness and hope when his Dad finally asks Elizabeth for a date. There is not one phony second in his performance.

This is one of those movies that has something for everyone: Wit, physical comedy, drama, suspense, tenderness, and a slow-burn romance. And it delivers on every one.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

January 14, 2022

North to Home

Finding Your True North

This is another high-quality offering by Hallmark and was shown on Hallmark Murders and Mysteries. They seem to be using this branch of their network to show productions that go a little deeper and are a little more complex than a romantic comedy. They are more about family relationships, drama, overcoming problems, and learning life lessons. There is a bit of a romance included but it’s hardly the main attraction.

The movie starts off with three sisters and their relationship. The two oldest live in the same city, not in Alaska, and are at odds because the oldest, Hannah, is so wrapped up in her career that she has no time to spare for the younger and her two daughters. She is married happily and, also happily, they do not have any children. The younger, Beth, is a happily married stay-at-home Mom, who is getting tired of that role and feels unfulfilled. She is being tempted to go back to her successful career. The younger sister, Posy, lives in Alaska with the parents. She yearns for travel and adventure but feels obligated to take over their parents’ café upon their imminent retirement. They are all about to meet up in Alaska to celebrate their mother’s 60th birthday which is also the 25th anniversary of a mysterious bad happening.

As the movie goes on, surprising aspects to the girls’ relationship and their family are revealed. All is not as we were first led to believe. The career-oriented Hannah learns she is pregnant (not terminally ill-Yay!). What will be the fallout with Adam her husband? Beth’s husband finds out she is secretly testing the waters of going back to her successful career and feels betrayed. Posey is falling in love with a mountain climber and travel writer which falls in with her dreams of travel as opposed to running her parents’ café.

The lesson of the story is “”sometimes you find your calling but sometimes you’re calling finds you” and each of the sisters in turn learns this is true for them. In the process, a tragedy is explored, a mother is released from a 25 year long guilt, a young man finds closure. And revelations lead to understanding and new paths forward.

The actors were well cast, and their parts well-acted, especially Kimberley Sustad as the middle sister and overprotective mother, Beth. At one point she is accused of “Catastrophizing everything!” I also loved Matthew James Dowden who played Adam, Hannah’s husband. He usually plays sketchy characters, but he was wonderful as an unqualified good guy in this. The one fly in the ointment was the casting of Luke, Posey’s love interest. His looks, demeanor, and speech cried vacant surfer dude, not educated sophisticated world traveler and author. It was laughable. Where was Ali Liebert, the director? Everything else was so good.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 13, 2022

Rose Hill

Good Concept but no Depth-should Have been a Two or Three Parter.

I tried to read the book years ago, but I just couldn’t get into it. Probably because I was too used to reading her medieval romances. My point is that my rating has nothing to do with what a disappointment the movie was compared to the book. The bottom line is that they tried to do too much in two hours. The story was just too big. It needed four hours minimum. Too many characters, too many plot points, too much time elapsing, etc. It ended up being too choppy and just skimmed the surface leaving the viewer uninvested in the characters or the happenings. At least 4 or 5 of the short scenes could have been made into movies by themselves. this was a hallmark hall of Fame production as opposed to just a Hallmark movie of recent years. Fun Fact: this was Vera Farmiga’s first role.

One thing for sure: I might give Julie Garwoods original novel, For the Roses, another try!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

March 11, 2021

Sugar Plum Twist

Or… The Redemption of Ms Kat

The romance was as lame as can be but I loved the message and the character arcs. From the beginning, Ms Kat the head of the ballet company was a very unsympathetic character. Cold, Rigid, harsh, and snooty. Maybe a little bit bigoted. I loved the way she turned around. The actress, Rachel DeBenedet, did a superb job. We hear a little back story of why she blew up at our heroine Natalia. And when she sees that Natalia was not being disloyal with all of the hard work and professionalism, she apologizes sincerely and promotes her. And then she makes the finale perfect on her own initiative reflecting Natalia’s vision and dreams. The good ending, interesting plot, beautiful dance, seldom seen Latino culture well presented rescued this one which did get a little draggy at times.

“Is Miss Kat actually smiling? It’s a Christmas Miracle!”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 9, 2022

Forever My Girl

This Guy is a Piece of…Work

This was an actual theatre release movie. I thought it was a TV Romance made for UPtv or ION or Lifetime. It’s about a country music superstar who returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of a friend (except he forgot to go). He encounters the ex-fiance whom he jilted at the altar, and she has a little girl. He does the math.

This was not a bad story, but I had a major problem with the character of the male lead. He was weak, cowardly, and self-centered. He not only humiliates and devastates his bride right before she walks down the aisle, but he does not even have the guts to tell her to her face or give her a heads up that he was having second thoughts. And he deserts her for fame and fortune. I don’t buy for a minute that he just couldn’t bear to lose her like he lost his mother. I call B-S on that. If that were true, he would have acted like a man and done it gently and kindly. And reimbursed her for the wedding expenses. And this was not some woman he just met. It was his childhood friend and friend of the family.

And then he not only does not respond to her desperate tearful voicemails but according to him, he listens to them daily. That is just sick. She humbled herself to even reach out to him. Most women would have had some sense of self-worth and pride and just moved on. And did I understand that he kept that antique cell phone because he did not want to lose the voicemail? The message is not stuffed in the machine, moron, it’s on your service provider’s network. Add dumb to his other sterling character traits.

OK, so he reconciles with her and begins to build a relationship with his daughter. But when his daughter almost chokes to death right in front of him, instead of thanking her uncle whose quick thinking saved her life, He just walks around and pouts about it. I guess because he got shown up and wasn’t the hero of the situation. Hey buddy, It’s not all about you all the time. Your daughter isn’t dead no thanks to you. And then, get this, HE DESERTS HIS FAMILY AGAIN! Leaving the mother of his child devastated AGAIN. Only this time he tops this repetition of his first despicable act and devastates his little innocent daughter as well! I tell you this guy is a real prince among men.

Needless to say, he comes back thanks to getting a stern talking-to from his manager and is forgiven by one and all. Frankly, given this guy’s track record, If I were his fiancé I would hire a lawyer before the wedding and get him to sign a well-worded prenup. Forgiveness and third chances are all well and good, but she has a family to support. Some of that country star money would come in handy when he takes a runner again. But I’m sure she didn’t, more’s the pity.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

March 10, 2021

The Wedding Veil

Lacey and Lace

This was pretty entertaining and I’m looking forward to the next 2 installments of the trilogy starring Autumn Reeser and Alison Sweeney. This first one featured Lacey Chabert with Kevin McGarry playing the love interest.

Three friends are in San Francisco for their yearly get-together. They are out antiquing and Lacey spies a beautiful vintage wedding veil. The owner tells them that the veil comes with magical powers. Whoever owns the veil will meet their true love while it is in their possession. The girls decide to all buy it together, and Lacey will take it home. She soon meets Kevin McGarry and they have an instant connection. Coincidentally they both live in Boston where they plan to continue to see each other. While at the airport, Kevin sees the wedding veil with Lacey and overhears her having a conversation about planning a wedding that he assumes is hers. (It’s not.) He immediately gives her the brush and leaves. Lacey is confused and disgusted.

They keep meeting up while in Boston because Lacey is an assistant curator of a museum and he is the rich philanthropist who is hosting a gala to raise money for the museum. What follows is a quite amusing series of encounters between the two where Lacey seems very open to a relationship while Kevin thinks she is about to get married. He acts very attracted to her and then keeps backing off, confusing and angering poor Lacey to no end. Meanwhile, he can’t understand why such a seemingly nice woman is acting like a cheat and a tease. It’s Cute. The truth finally comes out after an hour and 15 minutes. The subplot is also interesting. Lacey discovers a dirty and faded 19th-century portrait of a bride wearing a very familiar-looking veil in the Museum’s basement and finds out it is a lost masterpiece. She wants it to be the centerpiece of the gala but it has to be restored in record time. So there is a lot of running around and intrigue over that.

Lacey’s wardrobe choices in this were very odd. She wears a lot of flowery floating low cut off-the-shoulder dresses one of which, I swear, looked like a filmy nightgown. You could see right through much of it. They would have been OK for a formal garden party but not for shopping, at work, or rooting around filthy basements. I’m also not sure I liked the pairing with Kevin McGarry although they were fine individually. The chemistry between the 3 queens of Hallmarkland was off the charts, however.

After Lacey and Kevin tie the knot, Autumn Reeser will be taking the veil to Italy with her to have it researched to see if it’s the same veil in the portrait. The suspense is killing me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 10, 2022

Fit for a Prince

So Bad It’s Almost Good. No, Not Really, It’s Just Bad.

Cindy Cordella is a seamstress at premier dress designer Rebecca’s dress shop. Little does anyone know that it is Cindy the Drudge who is doing all of the dress designing without proper recognition. Rebecca’s shop is hired to do the dresses for the wedding of the year that Prince Ronan is expected to attend. Cindy hopes that if she does a good job her loyalty will be rewarded. Prince Ronan visits the shop, meets Cindy, and they hit it off much to the displeasure of two jealous females. Does this sound familiar?

I guess someone there at Hallmark supposes that the narrow-chested, delicate, bland looks of the actor who played Prince Ronan convey an aristocratic aura because this is the second time he has played a prince. To me, he is miscast as a romantic lead unless it is in a romantic dark-horse underdog role. The testosterone is low in this one. And I don’t always prefer a Steve Bacic or a Ben Ayers, Kris Polaha, or Antonio Cupo. I also like sweet and funny types like Luke Macfarlane and Paul Campbell.

Now on to Natalie Hall. Apparently, Hallmark has decided that she is the go-to female lead when youth and prettiness are required. And when I say youth, I mean closer to 30 than 40 or 45. Unfortunately, she has little else to offer. She’s not bad but nothing to be especially worthy of scoring 6 Hallmark lead roles in 2 years. The usual Hallmark work-horses had better watch their backs even though most of them have more acting talent, charm, appeal, and charisma despite their age.

Others have pointed out many of the ridiculous plot points that abound in this disaster. Tip: Don’t eat greasy pizza while handling your dress materials. Tip: don’t roll your rack of dresses anywhere near a chocolate fountain. But their ballroom dance at the end was my pick for “most cringe-worthy scene.” It looked like a losing effort on Dancing with the Stars. I thought it couldn’t get worse until she broke into a solo routine that would have embarrassed famous bad dancer Elaine Benes from Seinfeld. I thought at one point she was going to drop to the floor and twirl around on her butt. The worst thing in the whole mess was the lack of resolution to the mismatch of how a King was going to unite with an ambitious workaholic partner in a global corporation. It’s scary to think this one might need a sequel.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

March 9, 2021

The Mallorca Files

The Second Season is Better!

I’m not sure what changes were made if any, but I am enjoying the second season much more than I did the first. I found the first season mildly entertaining, but in the second season, I have become invested in the characters. The mysteries seem more clever, and the writing is more humorous and sharper. As always, the scenery is the star of the show, and they have toned down the filters, thank God.

In response to some of the comments on Miranda’s personality, if you are a woman, are you only allowed to be grumpy and strident if you are middle-aged and average-looking like Vera? The female partner is young and pretty. Heaven forbid she be anything but smiley and pleasing. I like that sometimes it is she that solves the crime and others it is the male partner. It’s a very fun and light show like Death in Paradise. Sadly it doesn’t look like there will be a season 3. I’m still hoping.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 6, 2021

My Birthday Romance

Painful.

The fake boyfriend romance trope is one of my favorites and has resulted in some of the funniest and most romantic Hallmark movies made. Among them, My Fake Fiancé, Holiday in Handcuffs, Holiday Date, Snow Bride, Surprised by Love, Holiday Engagement, and many more. I was really looking forward to this one. What a bust.

This movie was completely ruined by Callie’s dysfunctional parents. And dysfunctional in a not humorous way. They were smothering, overbearing, and controlling. They were on her every. single. minute. to get a boyfriend even when she flat out told them that she didn’t need a man to be happy and that she was concentrating on building her business. She is constantly set up on blind dates by them and her sister. Usually, in these romances that feature inappropriate over-involvement in grown children’s lives, one of the spouses is the voice of reason and provides some balance and common-sense advice to the other parent. Not so in this one. I don’t know which of the two parents was more offensive. Possibly the mother, because she made a big point of confiding to Callie that she made her husband wait to marry until she finished grad school. Her desperation to get Callie married did not make sense. And it was made more annoying because Callie, our heroine(?), did not nip it in the bid like any other 35-year-old woman would have. She should have quit being so nice and told them flat out to BACK OFF. If they refused, cut off communication until they get the message.

Instead, she finds a fake date to her birthday party to get her parents off her back, but instead, the parents are on them like vultures. They treat them as if they are madly in love, making them kiss, and immediately act like marriage was right around the corner, instead of just a date she has only known for a week. They publicly toast the happy couple at the Birthday in front of everyone. They make her make a speech when she doesn’t want to and she ends up spilling the truth in a way that humiliates her whole family and herself as well.

She actually declares she wishes that she really was Will’s girlfriend because being his fake girlfriend was just so awesome. By the way, Will is mysteriously absent from most of the party and later Carrie starts looking for him after the debacle and is surprised and disappointed he had left. Then 5 minutes later, when he told her he heard her speech, she says she thought he had gone by that time. So did she know he was not there when she gave her speech, or was she surprised and disappointed at his absence? Lazy writing. Well, it all ends as you would expect. But it was just such a painful journey.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

March 8, 2021