Matchmaker Santa

Meh.

Reliable Lacey just didn’t do it for me in this one. This movie was made 8 years ago and Lacey Chabert hasn’t changed a bit. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Same hairdo, same lipstick, same signature eyeliner. Honestly, couldn’t she even wash her face before going to bed? On the other hand, If she ever wiped that eyeliner off, I don’t think I’d recognize her. Same affected giggle: It would make a good drinking game. I didn’t think she had much chemistry with her co-star, and the plot was tired and dull. Cupcake maker Lacey is invited to her bosses home for Christmas and she is hoping for a marriage proposal. On the way to meet him she meets a magic santa claus and is picked up by her bosses really nice friend/assistant. They are stranded on the way to her bosses vacation home. While Lacey and the assistant are falling for each other with the help of magic santa, her boss meets an old flame. And that ties it all up and puts a bow on it.

Maybe I just need a break from Lacey, because she can be a good actress, and is great with comedy when comedy is in the script. Unfortunately that’s a little difficult, since watching Hallmarks is kind of a silly hobby of mine. On a promising note, I have seen her in more recent efforts and she has been fine.

Florence Henderson, John Ratzenburger, Robert Pine, and Lin Shay, of Insidious fame, add some credibility. And I did like her love interest. On his own though. I’d like to see him pared up with someone else.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

November 23, 2020

Christmas on the Vine

Too Template-y

Yeh… This was just too by the book for me. Too many cliché set pieces: flirty sledding, flirty snowball fight, save the small family business from the big meanies, cookie baking, wreath making, and the Christmas festival (which also had to be saved). I think even Winter Storm Meghan has an impact! The only good things were Juliana Guill and the quality of the production values. Julianna plays a marketing expert who is sent to save a small local winery from bankruptcy and the evil conglomerate which is buying up all of the land and has it’s eyes on the little vineyard that could. Meredith Baxter Birney makes you hate her as the head of the evil winery. I didn’t like the male lead and didn’t think he had good chemistry with Julianna. Plus his character was stupid: resentful and fighting good advice and counsel almost every step of the way. The end came out of no where and was too abrupt.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

November 15, 2020

Raise a Glass to Love

Subtle Overtones and a Smooth Finish

I went into this one without too many high hopes. Wine has become the new desert food as far as Hallmark food themes go. Also, I have not been overly impressed with the female lead, Laura Osnes. She’s been OK, but just kind of  “meh.”  I liked her in this, and I loved the male lead, Juan Pablo Di Pace. His chemistry with Laura was definitely there, although in truth he would probably would have had chemistry with a fence post.

This one centered around a  female character dealing with feminist challenges. Jenna is studying for her 3rd try at passing the notoriously difficult sommelier exam to become a master sommelier. In the United States, there are only 172 of which only 28 are women. One of these real-life women has a small but important role in this movie. The background provided was interesting and educational.

Jenna is the daughter of legacy vineyard owners and a life long wine lover. She has a long term relationship with the owner of a 3-star Michelin restaurant. Her dream is to become the restaurant’s sommelier. But to become qualified for that position, as in any Michelin rated restaurant, she must pass her master’s exam. She goes home to her parents’ vineyard to study and meets our hero, her family vineyard’s innovative new Argentinian winemaker. As they spend more time together, she realizes that not only is she attracted to him, but that his attitudes and dreams are more of a match to hers than her current boyfriend’s are. Aiden does not respect her opinion on wine and when his master sommelier quits for a better opportunity, he does not even consider her for the position. He apparently has no faith she will pass her master test. In a bit of a twist, when she finally lays all of her feelings and dreams on the table, he changes his mind and hires her whether she passes her test or not. This was actually pretty big for him. Despite this hiccup which separates the potential soulmates, it soon becomes clear that he still doesn’t trust or respect her judgement fully. He depends too much on outside validation such as diplomas and awards on the wine he wants in his restaurant rather than her infallible instinct and taste. His number one concern is the success of his restaurant. Ultimately, she realizes he is a follower, not a leader, and she rightly leaves him and her job. He wasn’t bad, or even wrong. They just did not have the same priorities. The reunion of the two wine lovers is romantic and even touching. They are a perfect match.

It is not rare that Hallmark champions women pursuing their professional dreams over romance (as long as they can have both), but this one was handled with more sophistication and subtlety than the usual Good vs. Bad Boyfriend trope. It added some complications, real-life challenges and hard decisions that women are faced with when finding their best path to happiness and fulfillment.

P.S. Speaking of sophistication, kudos to the design team on the fresh approach to the promotional poster. Nice to see some whimsy for a change.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

September 24, 2021

Deliver By Christmas

Miscast

A man and a woman meet and like each other but each thinks the other is married. Then they meet each other by phone, not realizing who the other is and connect during their phone conversations. What will happen when they realize whom they are talking to? The heroine was charming but the actor that played Josh, the hero, was miscast. First of all he seemed that he did not want to be there. He said his lines in a completely disinterested manner. He was very sexy, don’t get me wrong, but he seemed better suited for a western, or an action movie. Very dangerous and swashbuckling. Just didn’t seem right for the part of a loving and patient single dad and small town guy. I’d be interested to see if he is cast in any other Hallmark type movies. I’d definitely watch, cuz like I said….. but hope he’d be in one that incorporates his look a little better.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 2, 2020

Roadhouse Romance

Lauren and Lockheart

This was very enjoyable thanks to the charisma and southern charm of Lauren Alaina and her chemistry with Tyler Hynes. The plot wasn’t much, but I do love a fish out of water story and two loves being from different worlds. Lauren is back home from her stint in the army and is upset to find that things haven’t stayed the same as when she left her small southern town of Lockheart, Tennessee. Her boyfriend has found someone else, and her family’s charming barbecue roadhouse is on the verge of failure. If that weren’t enough, her dead grandfathers barbecue sauce recipe has been lost and they now use store bought(!!!) Because it’s Hallmark, only a festival can save them, but ticket sales have been slow. Enter Tyler Hynes as a Hollywood TV director who gets stuck in town while driving his girlfriend’s birthday present to her in Nashville. Tyler’s gradual thawing to the ways of a small southern town, and coming to appreciate Lauren, was involving. The shallow girlfriend threatening from the background kept up the tension and suspense.

Unfortunately, the conclusion left a lot of loose ends and questions. Bad girlfriend agreed to give the festival a social media push in exchange for Tyler directing her movie. She holds up her end, but he welshes on the deal! Not Good. Another thing that bothered me was the dissonance between the plot and the theme. The moral of the story seemed to be that change brings good opportunities as well as sadness and disappointment. Yet instead of developing her own recipe for BBQ sauce, which would have symbolized moving forward and a fresh outlook, she just finally finds her grandfather’s. And finally, how are Tyler and Lauren going to make their relationship work when they live in different worlds? Will Lauren leave her small town to develop a singing career? Or will Tyler give up his successful profession to hang around Lockheart Tennessee? Neither option was given any time at all. Like Lauren’s own BBQ sauce, and Tyler’s lack of integrity,  it was left dying on the back burner.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

September 15, 2021

Sweet Autumn

No Cliché Left Untouched

Soooooooooooo Boring. I’ll have to disagree with most of the reviewers here. I usually like Nikki Deloach and Andrew Walker. But Nikki had a weird hairdo and no opportunity to shine because of the dull script and Andrew was just meh in this one for the same reason. It all centers on the over-used-to-death plot of the successful woman’s having to return to her small town to run a business she inherited but has to share with a handsome man who she conflicts with. Lord, I almost fell asleep typing that. Throw in the obligatory festival and a frolic and there you have it. This one, however, is made worse by the dead aunt from whom she inherited the candy store (SWEET Autumn, get it?) reaching back from the grave by leaving cloying and hackneyed words of advice for the couple in order to bring them together. This was a lazy effort and unworthy of the talent.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

October 23, 2020

Secret Millionaire

A Park, A Food Truck, and a Secret Identity

As usual with non-Hallmark TV romances this one strays from the formula just a bit. First of all we have a lack of a festival or small town/big city conflict. This one is the “save the park or whatever” plot. Hey, I didn’t say it was a complete departure!

An indulged son of a real estate mogul has been drifting from one thing to another, while his father wants him to settle down and work with him at his company. He gives him an ultimatum that he has to find a job within a week or he will be cut off from his financial support. Leaving the building he runs into some protesters who are trying to rescue their beloved park from his fathers evil development plans. He conceals his identity and gets a job as a chef in the cute one’s food truck.

Of course, it is only a matter of time before it will be discovered that he is none other than the son of the person who is trying to take the park away. Thus the suspense and tension. The predictable story is enlivened by the cast. Siobhan Williams is a fresh face and is a perfect spunky girl next door type. Steve Lund, a Hallmark regular is as attractive and reliable as usual. And yes, Steve Lund, I saw you in that Allegra commercial. A little side hustle? Good for you. The secondary couple have a sweet courtship, complicated by a rival love interest. Both of the guys are appealing until one of them turns out to be a big phony.

There is corporate-type other woman for our hero to provide some drama, and the Dad learns something about his own grandfather that leads to a happy ending for all. Of course.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

September 14, 2021

Falling for You

Taylor is Actually Quite Likable in This

I was never a fan of Taylor Cole, but in this one, playing against type, I quite liked her. For one thing, and I realize this sounds very shallow, her hair has gone out and got itself a makeover. It used to be thin and lank to the point it was quite distracting. At least the style she chose made it seem that way. In this one, it has some body and natural flow and her beauty is undiminished by her “crowning glory.” Tyler Hynes has always been a favorite and the two have quite a bit of chemistry.

Unfortunately the bake sale plot is a bore. An extra star for having the heroine move out of the small town she loves to pursue her career dream. What a concept usually foreign to the usual Hallmark ethos!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

September 21, 2020

Love is a Piece of Cake

A Bakery is Saved

This is a pretty much a by the book save the ______ story. This one is about a bakery owner whose building has been sold out from under her. Her main focus has been to honor her grandmother’s, from whom she inherited the bakery, legacy not to actually grow the business and make a profit. Thus she is averse to change and shies away from any innovation or move forward because it would take the business further from how she remembers it from her childhood with her Grandmother. And of course, she can’t envision the business without the setting. I really have a problem with running a business like it’s some idealized lifestyle rather than a functional contributor to the economy. It’s all too common in Hallmark-land. Grow or Die, as they say.

Anyway, inspired by a new rich client, whose wedding she is going to provide the cake for, she finally gets a fire lit under her and decides to finally do everything she can to make enough money to buy the building from her landlord herself. Also, she falls in love with her client’s brother and his little girl, who, yes, is truly adorable. She actually is successful in making enough money to make an offer on the building. But not before the inevitable flour fight with her new man and the wipe the flour off the nose kiss.

The big existential crisis occurs when her bid is turned down and she finds out that the real estate company who is buying the building is the employer of the new boyfriend. Of course he is innocent, but she won’t give him a chance. She mopes, sulks, and backslides to her unambitious self and gives up despite the efforts of her kooky assistance and her energetic business manager. Desperate, they finally call in the big guns (her mother) who tells her her grandmother would not approve of her trying to preserve the bakery like it was some kind of monument to her. She tells her that when Granny took over the bakery from her mother, she moved the business into a new building and changed and innovated to save the business. The lightbulb finally switches on for our heroine.

It’s a revelation! The finish is a strong one which moved the needle from lackluster to fairly watchable. She demonstrates that she has really changed by letting go of her controlling “only I can do it right” attitude. She lets her assistant decorate the cake (which turned out really hideous in my opinion) for the wedding, buys a new and even better building, makes her two loyal employees partners, makes up with her boyfriend and is his date to the wedding. The director did some editing to take advantage of the talent and appeal of five year old cutie-pie by making her a flower girl at the last minute. Check that wedding scene out carefully.

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