One Summer

Hallmark Blues

This one is a throwback to those old time very earnest Hallmark Hall of Fame type productions that play sometimes on Hallmark Drama. Thus it makes sense that they showed it on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries rather than the main Hallmark Channel. Because Hallmark Drama just shows reruns and this one doesn’t fit with regular Hallmark’s mission statement. Apparently.

It is about a man who lost his wife while he himself was dying from a mysterious disease he got while deployed in Afghanistan. When his wife was getting him medicine she dies in a car crash, leaving him, his 15-year-old daughter and younger son bereft. He “wills” himself well from this unknown but fatal disease. It’s a miracle.

He takes his kids to the little (North?) Carolina Island where his wife grew up so they can heal from all of this sad trauma. He becomes friendly with a nice café owner and his daughter becomes infatuated with her son. The dead wife starts to appear to Sam Page, the Dad, to guide him through his grief.

This is not a real light-hearted cheerful movie. The actors do a fine job. Sam Page, who usually plays such conservative buttoned-up looking characters with the straightest hair part in Hallmark-land, really lets his freak flag fly with longish tousled hair and a scruffy beard. I liked it. Amanda Shull as the ghostly wife and Sarah Drew as the alive love interest do a fine job as usual. Madeline Grace Popovich who plays the typical teen age girl, that is, unreasonable, obnoxious, and whiny, makes you really dislike her. Almost as much as you dislike the annoying and controlling mother of the dead wife. But the young actor who plays the sad anxious little son is fantastic, and really tugs at your heart.

This drama is not about romance. What there is between the parents and their teens is only to cast a hopeful rosy glow on the final scene of the movie. Do not question or think it through. Things cannot proceed with the two single parents until the kids are out of the house because that would be more than just awkward. Enough said.

I like the direction that Hallmark seems to be going with some of their features. Whether they can keep it up throughout the upcoming rampage of Christmas Movies remains to be seen.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

October 8, 2021

The Mistletoe Inn

Has the Big 3: Acting, Writing, and Premise

I’ve have become an Alicia Witt fan since re-viewing two of her excellent early movies. Even these later ones take advantage of her charm and great acting without quite reaching the classic status. This one, though, was really great and her talents pushed this above the Hoi Polloi of the usual Christmas movie fare. This one sends our heroine to a romantic writers conference and competition after her long-time boyfriend dumps her in a shall we say over abundance of ego that she is not the serious writer that he is. It features some authentic insights into the travails of unpublished romance writers. Her chemistry with both her new found friend, Samantha, and her love interest was tops. I usually don’t like traditionally handsome heroes (boring). But this guy had it going on. It should be said that that the producers hit a gold mind with the idea of setting this in a romance writers conference. Great premise, good writing and great acting push this one over the top.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

November 9, 2020

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater

It Wasn’t Bad, But Nothing Out of the Ordinary

I’m a fan of both Ashley and Niall. They both bring credibility to any project they are in. However, lately Ashley has apparently heard or read once too often about her own famous megawatt smile. Some of her scenes have a definite “insert smile here” feel. This was well made and Hallmark pulled out their A-Game for two of their most popular stars. They put a little more work into the plot, this time. Not one of their cookie cutter jobs, although they couldn’t resist the usual flirty snowball fight. However, truth be told, the story was a little boring, and Ashley’s character was a little too sweet and good. Sometimes her behavior with grumpy-pants Niall was kind of cringeworthy. She just would not leave him alone. For me it did not rise past the slightly above average rating. Kudos for having her ex-husband and his wife make appearances and her daughter was very appealing. Oh, and I do like Brendon Zub. He needs more starring roles. Oh Oh. The search for the out of print book was true to life and exactly right. Loved that.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 9, 2020

Anne of Windy Poplars

Almost as Good as Anne of Green Gables

Delightful follow up to Anne of Green Gables (1934 version). The acting by all concerned was very effective, especially the luminous Anne Shirley as…Anne Shirley, and Joan Carroll as the child Betty. Marcia Mae Jones, usually seen as Shirley Temple’s nemesis is perfectly cast as Jen Pringle. Well worth searching for. One of the last “lost” movies on my want to see list. It is not available on DVD and even the Anne Shirley marathon of TCM did not show it. I found it by means of a link which downloaded it to my computer. You can find it as a link on You Tube posted by an angel named Susannah.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

August 29, 2020

Echoes

Weird Ending

Based on a Maeve Binchy novel and set in 1950s Ireland, I enjoyed this miniseries very much until the ending. The actors were great and I liked the story and the romance. But the ending was strange. They kind of didn’t give us closure. It was not a sad or tragic end, it just left us hanging a bit. We are pretty sure our heroine will make the good decision eventually, but the writers didn’t see fit to show us that. And there didn’t seem to be a good reason for it. Without the weird ending, I would have given this a 7.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

April 20, 2020

The Scapegoat

Much Better than the Depressing Book

Excellent story using Daphne Du Maurier’s novel as inspiration. Brilliantly re-formulated to use QEII’s coronation as a metaphor for how we are at the mercy of fate and chance. And how we should make the best of it. Although the initial idea of doppelgangers changing places was Du Maurier’s, this adaptation makes a more satisfying and intriguing plot. Loved it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

April 13, 2020

You’re Bacon Me Crazy

Mismatch

I don’t feel this couple was very well matched. Beside looking very much younger than Michael Rady, the character of Cleo acted like an immature and spoiled High School girl as opposed to Gabe, who responded to her antics in a mature level-headed way. She pulled a dirty trick on him by ordering all that food she didn’t need while she could see that he was being slammed. What a brat! And then, when he successfully delivered it, he didn’t even charge her for it. Did she even apologize? I don’t remember. And then, when he offered to drop out of the competition, she had a tantrum because he was being egotistical instead of taking it kindly the way it was meant. Was he being egotistical? Maybe. but so what? That was his problem.

I’ve always liked Michael Rady, but have been unimpressed by Natalie Hall. She is just another over made up pretty face, and brings nothing special to the table. The story was actually pretty interesting and I did like that there were no big misunderstandings. A nice epilogue at the end further justified the half-hearted “7” that I gave this effort.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

April 8, 2020

A Tale of Two Cities

Not Perfect, but Very Good and Enjoyable

Marvelous adaptation of the Dickens adventure, which I discovered quite by accident. This was a Hallmark Hall of Fame production and was produced in Great Britain. Alice Krige is perfect as the angelic Lucy Manette, filmed one year before her breakthrough role in Chariots of Fire. She somehow manages to make the young Lucy sweet and innocent without making her insipid. I felt Chris Sarandon was rather mis-cast. His features are too strong, dark and heavy for the role of a French Aristocrat masquerading as an gentlemanly but lowly English tutor. He fares a little better as Sidney Carton, but conversely he seems too “strong” for the role of dissolute but weak Sidney. He just does not convey that he could be so chastely yet so completely infatuated with the fainting prone Lucy. He rather muffs one of the greatest last words/hurrahs ever in English literature. Miss Pross, Lucy’s loyal nursemaid who proves her mettle at the last is played by the great Flora Robeson and it is her next to last role. The rest of the cast does well, particularly Peter Cushing as Dr. Manette and Pre-Hercule Poirot David Suchet. Well scripted and adequately directed except for Sidney’s last final scene.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

April 4, 2020

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Star-Studded Cast in this Low Budget Gem

This was a moving family film. I would not call it a teen movie at all. Gilly has been in a succession of foster homes while searching for her biological mother. She finally lands with Maime Trotter. Will she accept that she has finally found a home? The acting is superb on all counts. The young actor who plays Gilly really makes you go from disgust to a grudging liking without changing her basic defiant and prickly personality. Although it does contain some predictable clichés it doesn’t follow a template the whole way. Octavia Spencer was wonderful in her role as the wise no-nonsense teacher. Everyone was great, but I particularly enjoyed her role. Laughter, Cheers, and Tears abound and it leaves you wanting more.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

April 3, 2020

No Time Like Christmas

Attractive Leads Make this Watchable

I usually don”t write a review of a movie unless I really loved it, really hated it, or have some points or observations to make that I think might be valuable. But I am really disturbed by the number of reviews that fault the bad acting of the principal characters. The acting is no better or worse than any acting in a Hallmark or happy Lifetime movie. In fact, the one thing that kept me semi-watching was the charm and attractiveness of the two leads.

If anything, it was the writing that kept me from rating this higher. What happened to the ingenue actress who had a crush on Fletcher? Maybe I missed it, but all of a sudden she has a boyfriend she was very loyal to (per magic Santa guy) all while she was making a play for our hero? And, yes, the snow storm that kept her away from the theatre, while rich guy and the whole audience managed to show up? For a 2 minute show? The one thing that really bothered me though was that widower Fletcher told Emma he never stopped loving her. Huh? What about dead wife and mother to his daughter whose demise made made him so sad for years? Out with the old, In with the new, I guess. And this is really picky. But shouldn’t the daughter have had a bit of a British accent? Considering she was born and raised in England by an English (I presume) mother?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 4, 2019