The Wedding Veil Journey

The Best of the Bunch

At the beginning of the movie, The three friends have gotten together and since they are also enjoying their wine, we know it’s been well over a year since the end of “Inspiration” when we learned Emma was newly pregnant. It’s been a total of 3 years since they first bought the veil. We follow Tracy (Alison Sweeney) home and we see that she and Nick (Victor Webster) rarely see each other, as she works during the day as the head of an art auction house, and he at night at his two restaurants. After talking to her friends, Tracy is inspired to give her marriage the kick in the pants it needs and the two end up going on their long-delayed honeymoon. They decide on Greece, the veil in tow, to lend to Nick’s still single sister in Spain. As in the second installment, we are treated to some gorgeous scenery throughout the movie.

I believe this one was very well done. It was very well put together and although not really comedic, had plenty of amusing scenes, dialogue, and a lot of heart. Alison and Nick’s relationship was very loving and mature. Any rough patches were handled by communication and a sense of humor. At one point, Nick starts surreptitiously doing the cooking for one of the owners of the struggling inn they are staying at. His food is inedible which is both a running gag and a real problem. Tracy is irritated when he starts “working” on their honeymoon, but, no worries, it is handled with no silly drama. There is drama in this one, but it is definitely not silly. Tracy and Nick get close to a cute orphan boy, a talented artist and athlete, but who lives at his school under the rule of a temperamental headmaster who actively discourages his art. As he explains to the interfering Americans, Leo will have to earn his living when he leaves the school and can’t afford to indulge his talent in a vocation that will not support him.  He has no one to fall back on, unlike impractical art majors. The neighbor who was raising him after his parents died had to be put in a care facility for early Alzheimer’s. Leo lovingly sends him his drawings weekly but it is doubtful he even remembers Leo. It is a very tragic situation and when Tracy and Nick take Leo to visit him it is a real tearjerker.

Meanwhile, in the light sweet romance department,  the veil works its magic with the young beautiful Inn owner and the grandson of a wealthy aristocrat played by Jane Asher, a British actress most famous for being engaged to Paul McCartney in the 1960s. When the young man called her “Granny”, it was jarring, to say the least. Equally jarring was learning she is almost 80 years old! Off the subject, but hey, we all love the romance and happy endings Hallmark is famous for, right? After her very public breakup with Paul, Jane Asher met Gerald Scarfe, a famous English illustrator and cartoonist. They have been together for over 50 years, and happily married for over 40. Can we have a movie about that, please?

There was a lot going on in this 6th Wedding Veil movie: Mystery (the veil keeps disappearing) light romance, Humor (the inedible food and the victims’ efforts not to hurt the amateur chef’s feelings) suspense and drama ( the antagonistic head of the school), and some real heartwarming moments involving how Tracy and Nick handle their attachment to Leo and how they help him.  Tracy and Nick have to have a think about their whole lifestyle and the kind of people they are individually and as a couple.  I thought it was well handled, with due respect given to balancing each of their careers with their relationship along with how they handle the situation with Leo. Unlike some of its predecessors,  All of the plot threads were fully developed, interconnected, and well-integrated into one coherent story. We are also treated to a thought-provoking defense of the importance of art in everyday life.

Yes, Autumn Reeser and Lacey Chabert do horn in on Alison’s honeymoon, Autumn on a small pretext, but Lacey flying halfway around the world on no pretext whatsoever. This does serve to illustrate what a good sport Nick is, however. Tracy is one lucky woman. I want to add that Alison’s acting in this was superb. I once referred to Alison Sweeney as Hallmark’s best crier. She is, IMHO, but in this one, her performance was truly moving. And she was funny too.

After a 7th couple is brought together by the Wedding Veil, (Nick’s sister is now married, we hear,) Tracy, whose skepticism is a running thread throughout the series is forced to admit that she has no choice but to believe in Magic.  The movie ends with the women going shopping, being lured into a shop, and tempted by a beautiful antique necklace that, oh no! has a legend attached to it. Everything has come full circle. Well played, Hallmark.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Hanukkah on Rye

Tradition!

If you’ve seen You’ve Got Mail, In the Good Old Summertime, or The Shop Around the Corner, this movie will hold no surprises as far as the romance is concerned. But this movie adds family, history, culture and food to the classic romance plot line.

Molly in New York City and Jacob in California are the young single scions of Jewish families who have been in the delicatessen business for 3 (or maybe 4?)  generations. Jacob in California is being sent to New York City to finalize buying their new location. Molly helps run her family’s deli, Gilbert’s, which turns out to be on the same street as the future site of Zimmer’s, Jacob’s family’s new location. Gilbert’s is old school featuring only Jewish food and promotion and technology averse. Zimmer’s is just the opposite, carrying food for all ethnicities and embracing modernity. While Jacob is in NYC his grandmother engages a matchmaker for him as Molly’s family does for her, anxious as they are for them each to find nice Jewish spouses to spawn a new generation of deli owners. They very reluctantly agree to give it a try. They write to each other long hand on paper per the rules under aliases which they will dispense with if they think they may have a future. The very notion of not using the internet to communicate freaks them both out. (“Does she also want me to write with a quill on papyrus under candlelight?!”) They coincidentally also live in the same apartment building getting to know each other face to face while writing to each other anonymously.  You know the drill.

Molly is struggling to bring her family’s business into the 21st century as it is on the verge of going under. Jacob, who finds out that he is actually writing to the same woman he is falling in love with in person struggles both with knowing he will soon be hostile competition and also his guilt in not having the guts to tell her the truth.

When his family shows up in NYC concerned as to why Jacob is dragging his feet and still hasn’t closed the deal, the fit really hits the shan. The two Bubbes both meet the matchmaker at the same time intent on demanding a refund, and Jacob’s true identity comes to light. The ideal solution to the problem of two competing delis on the same street is solved when the two grandmothers learn how it could be possible that their two families’ secret latke recipes are identical. An assist from The Fiddler on the Roof did not come amiss either, reminding one and all that change should be embraced and not avoided.

The whole cast was on point.  Paula Shaw is a standout (as usual) as Jacob’s Bubbe. Whenever she narrows her eyes into slits of anger or suspicion it would cause strong men to tremble and cower in fear. She is hilarious. Another stand out is the anonymous doorman who knows all between the two anonymous correspondents right from the beginning. Also a hoot while barely saying a word. Jeremy Jordan, who was so great in Mix-up in the Mediterranean, plays Jacob, and Yaol Grobglas is sympathetic and lovable as Molly. A classic plot, a well-written and witty script, excellent acting, and attractive leads. Check, check, check, and check. I also have had good luck with Hanukkah stories at Christmas. Check.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Serving Up the Holidays

Indigestible

A restaurant-owning chef whose sales are flagging a bit after a strong debut is sent on a retreat for amateur foodies and chefs by her partner to recharge and find inspiration. This is a Christmas movie, so the main reason for her struggles is Christmas related. She is a daughter of a renowned Chef whose restaurant was always open at Christmas, and because her parents were so busy during the season and always working on Christmas Day, she never got the warm fuzzies for the season. She refuses to institute a comfy simple nostalgic Christmas menu and insists on sticking with her uber-sophisticated artistic creations that we are told are not in demand during the Christmas season. She gives in when she and her partner learn that their main investor is about to pull out due to a lack of Christmas buzz. She arrives at the mountain retreat and learns to her consternation that the class is being taught by her old Cordon Bleu rival and frenemy, James, the love interest.

 I liked the looks of the actress who played chef Scarlett. I think she had a certain edge to her delivery as well. However, the character was written as an arrogant and rude brat. A legend in her own mind. She is contemptuous of her fellow classmates because they are just beginners. She isn’t outwardly unkind to them, but with her body language and cold eyes, you can just feel her disdain for the situation she finds herself in. She rudely doodles on her notebook and conspicuously ignores the chef/teacher while he is trying to lead the class. She contradicts him. When tasked with coming up with ideas for gingerbread that isn’t a gingerbread man, she comes up with designs like a ship in a bottle that are clearly, if not impossible to realize, certainly beyond the scope of the class. She was thoroughly unlikeable and behaved badly throughout most of the show. The character needed an actress who could balance some of the bad traits with some warmth and vulnerability, not enhance them.

Of course, she softens later and learns a thing or two from Chef James and her mother who is also a respected chef but also unpretentious and a breath of fresh air. But by that time, her character is so firmly established that I just didn’t buy the transformation. The hero was a peach and she was a pill, so the romance just didn’t work for me either. He was too soft for her and on her. What she needed was a thorough comeuppance. And she didn’t get it.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

The Holiday Stocking

And an Angel Gets his Wings

A family of a mother, 2 daughters, and a son, are excited about their tradition of pulling out a Christmas riddle from their special Holiday stocking. Whoever solves it first gets to pick out the charity the family as a whole will participate in. 5 stockings, 5 charities.  Even though they have their differences, working together for others at Christmas always brought them together. Thirty or so years later, the brother has died and is about to enter heaven. But first, he is allowed to try to correct his biggest regret, the estrangement of his sisters who have grown apart over the years. In fact, because of long nursed grievances and being too busy with their separate businesses, they are actively hostile and don’t speak. Robert has 12 days (the boss has a thing for the number 12) to bring them back together. He is allowed to come back to earth to fix matters and decides to get them to participate in their old Christmas tradition. But nothing doing. Dani is too busy with being the owner of the biggest black-owned marketing firm in Chicago and Marlow is too busy trying to make her bakery a success. Charity work is not even a stray pen mark on the to-do list. That is until Dani is on the verge of losing a big business opportunity due to no community giving or participation, and Marlow realizes that her daughter Gia is becoming a mercenary self-involved little brat. They both agree to participate in the holiday tradition, led by the executor of the dead Robert’s will, RJ Angel, who is really dead brother Robert in disguise.

The journey to the sisters becoming family again, Gia becoming a good kid, Marlow‘s marriage getting a kick in the pants, and a little romance entering all three ladies’ lives, is very entertaining. It is well-paced, and full of humor, tender moments, and angst. The road to reconciliation is not always smooth, and of course, we have the climatic drama with about a half hour to go in the movie to get over, but all their lives are on the right path at the end. There is a shocker at the end involving CEO Dani that I didn’t see coming, and even dead Robert has a personal revelation that needs some tending to. Penned by prolific black scriptwriter and sometime novelist Cass Sigers-Beedles and directed by Tyler Perry’s first assistant director, Roger M. Bobb, this movie was in the best of hands and it showed on screen. I had never heard of any of the actors but they were all fantastic, particularly Tamala Jones as Marlow.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Merry and Bright

Candy Canes Incorporated

I came upon this older Hallmark Christmas movie by chance a couple of minutes in and up popped Andrew Walker and in walked Jodie Sweetin. I looked it up and not only had I not reviewed this, I had not even seen it. Since I am not reviewing GAC or GAF or whatever they are calling themselves these days anymore, I had caught up with all the movies I had on my DVR.  As I have mentioned, while Jodie has not always been a favorite, she has grown on me in the last 2 years. Her acting and looks always give a down-to-earth relatable aspect to the characters she plays. And she has a killer smile. Andrew is always good, and with the right partner, he can be great. I came in at the “meet cute”. Jodie’s mother (the talented and award-winning Sharon Lawrence) is always trying to fix her up, and Jodie thinks Andrew is a prospective date sent by her mother rather than an important business associate. The misunderstanding results in some pretty amusing back and forth.

Jodie has taken over her grandmother’s candy cane business after her death. It is the family legacy and it is struggling. How successful can a business be with a product you can only sell for 4 or 5 months a year? She knows what she is doing as she has an MBA and gave up a good career in California to take over. The investors or the board of Merry and Bright, the name of the company, have called in a consultant (Andrew Walker) to figure out how to generate more profit for the business. He is Christmas and small-town averse and doesn’t want to be there as much as Jodie doesn’t want him there. They butt heads as Jodie wants to do things her way. This could have been a lot more frustrating than it was, but luckily Jodie is a smart businesswoman and already knows they have to expand their product line.

As Andrew and Jodie work together they soon begin to like and respect each other. Can romance be far behind? That was a rhetorical question. Meanwhile, Sharon has a nice, funny, but heartwarming storyline. I can see why she took this part. She is not a dog person, but a dog at a shelter has caught Jodie’s eye, and Mom reluctantly adopts it for Jodie a week before Christmas as a surprise. Her antics in trying to hide it but not having the heart to leave it alone in the house is cute and sweet. Adorable dogs always elevate a Hallmark movie or any movie, for that matter. Unless the dog is in danger. The final solution to the business problem is clever and sensible. And Jodie lets her Mom keep the dog when she sees how attached they have grown to each other.

This perfectly enjoyable story is capped off by a nice epilogue where we see the renewed success of the business and Andrew getting down on one knee to propose marriage. That is an increasingly rare conclusion to the romance end of these shows these days, and it was refreshing.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Christmas at the Golden Dragon

The More the Merrier

This is a delightful interconnected multi-story movie with an ensemble cast along the lines of Love, Actually, and the Garry Marshall helmed holiday-based productions. The casting and the acting were impeccable. The stories center around a popular Chinese Restaurant whose owners are retiring and will permanently be closing its doors on Christmas Eve. Each story is an engaging little gem and they all come together in a well-organized and balanced way. All of them are wrapped up like a neat little Christmas gift, but leave us wanting more.

First, we meet a lonely widow, played by the classy Barbara Niven, whose CEO daughter, Sara Canning, is frustrated with her for her inability to move on from her husband’s death. They do not remember their late husband and father in the same way at all. At the restaurant, she runs into an employee of her corporation she is friendly with, a divorced father (Antonio Cupo, Wow!) of two girls. He is struggling with how to parent his girls as a single father. Next, we meet the weak son of the owners. He flunked out of college, is quite lost, and with the restaurant closing, his future is up in the air. He is secretly a talented chef but is discounted and dominated by his traditional father. Will he find a backbone with the help of an old friend and classmate? Working as the restaurant delivery boy is a hard-working, kind, and caring young Hispanic who has been accepted at several prestigious universities but can’t afford to go without a scholarship. He is afraid of his father’s reaction if he tells him about his college aspirations. Finally, we have the daughter of the family who has never experienced a traditional American Christmas because she has always worked at her family’s restaurant on Christmas Day. This one provides most of the humor. She is finally free to leave and visit her non-Chinese boyfriend’s family for a “real” Christmas, which, to her confusion and disappointment, turns out to be nothing but a fantasy. It’s actually pretty funny thanks to the lovely boyfriend and his patient family.

I liked that almost all of the characters start out with some unlikeable qualities. Their relationships with each other with the restaurant serving as the foundation serve up much-needed personal growth, shaking up, and change for the better. As they all come together to keep The Golden Dragon open through one more Christmas Day, we see sadness and frustration left behind and reason for hope and optimism in the future. And just maybe a few promising romances on the horizon.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A Kismet Christmas

Kismet Kookies

Anyone who looks at Hallmark movies or their copycats to any great degree gets used to questionable plot points, plot holes, and many opportunities to suspend disbelief. But this one had more than the usual problems you just have to ignore and move past. Going in, I was hopeful and curious to see Sarah Ramos, because I remember her as Lauren Graham’s daughter on Parenthood. Carlo Marks usually gives a likable performance.

Sarah is a prominent children’s author who has to return to her hometown to reward the winner of a contest promoting her new book. Of course, as is required of fictional Hallmark authors, she is suffering from writer’s block and is having trouble finishing it.  It turns out the little winner is the daughter of Travis the boy next door she had a teenage crush on and had been avoiding for over 10 years. After humiliating herself by bursting into his wedding and declaring her love, she has never returned home because of the bad memories. Yeah, it was pretty embarrassing. But why did Travis even answer the door in the middle of his vows? Was this lout raised by wolves? And how did Sarah not know her friend and next-door neighbor was getting married?

Here’s the second problem. Her beloved grandmother Mia (Marilu Henner) still lives in the house across the street. Are they telling me Sarah never visited Grandma Mia when she is supposed to be so devoted to her? 10 years of phone calls, emails, and Hallmark Cards, I guess.

She meets Travis because he lives in his parents’ old house now and gets to know his little girl,(who hugs everyone all the time. I’ve never seen such a huggy little girl) and a rekindled romance ensues. But where is the wife? Is she dead? Divorced? On vacation? I was expecting her to pop up any minute. We find out after a great deal of flirting has been going on that they are divorced and she travels with her band a lot. Whew!

And why did grammy stop making the beloved Christmas cookies again? She taped up the recipe after Sarah ripped it up. Sarah finds it hidden away behind a wall, and she goes ahead and whips up a batch of 12 cookies. These cookies have been missed greatly by the community because they have the magical power of revealing your true love in a dream.(this is what got Sarah into all that trouble)  Yet, we are told there was a line out the door for them. How could there have been “a line out the door” for  12 cookies, especially when at least 4 were already given away?

As usual, there was an unnecessary conflict at the end which was more fake than usual and made no sense. She runs away when Travis suggests that she stay in New Britain to explore their relationship and buy Grammy’s house. Why? After she has a convo with Benny, her agent, in which nothing she didn’t already know is imparted, she changes her mind. She also realizes that the cookies really are magic because she and Travis now love each other as adults and, Yay! He is now single.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

October 27, 2022

Catering Christmas

Very Pleasant

This was a very nice romance. I liked the dynamic between Molly (the caterer hired for the biggest event held in the small town) and Carson ( the leading citizen’s nephew put in charge of this charity gala). Molly is just starting her business which has been her dream since childhood. The name of her catering business is called “Molly’s Menu Magic” which I mention because that is a very silly name. It sounds like it was named by a 4-year-old and doesn’t exactly convey sophistication and expertise.  What was she thinking? Carson is an internationally famous and successful event photographer who is home for Christmas and is helping his Aunt, who hopes that he will take charge of the family foundation when she retires. Carson is smitten by Molly right away, but she rightly is not interested in getting involved with a guy who travels the world 11 months of the year. She wants to concentrate on building her business.

Influenced by Carson’s recommendation, Aunt Jean hires Molly even though she is not as experienced as the most prominent caterer in town. The rest of the movie is Carson trying to get close to Molly and worm his way into her affections. Molly likes him and nicely doesn’t avoid him (she can’t-he is basically her temporary boss) but she is cautious and professional at all times. Daniel’s pursuit of Molly might have come across as a little inappropriate and stalker-ish given the power dynamic, but thanks to Merritt Patterson and Daniel Lissing’s portrayals, it does not. He comes across as very nice, a little vulnerable, and trying to be helpful, and Merritt is very together and has the situation well in hand.  It creates some welcome romantic tension.

One thing I really liked about this was that we don’t have any of the usual catering disasters that threaten the heroine’s future livelihood.  Everything goes smoothly thanks to Molly’s skills and talent. There is a crisis, but it has nothing to do with her and she solves it for them. Molly and Carson get closer against her better judgment and the plot is kept moving by Molly trying to duplicate a lost fudge recipe beloved by Aunt Jean, a cute turn by an as-yet uncredited actress as Molly’s young assistant, and Carson’s growing appreciation of the mission of his family’s foundation (thanks to Molly.) We also have a sweet secondary romance for Aunt Jean. The romantic crisis comes when Carson’s beautiful agent shows up right before the Gala to whisk him away for a fashion show in Berlin confirming Molly’s worse fears. All is resolved with Daniel trading in his glamorous career for a more fulfilling one, and Molly’s business really taking off. Also, I think Daniel and Molly just might make a go of their relationship!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

**This will be my last review of any movie showing on GAC. It has been brought home to me just how pernicious this network is behind its soft words. I was not aware of how closely affiliated the ownership group is to our former president and the PACs that fund and support him and his agenda. I suspect that they may have even been connected to the dark money that funded the January 6th insurrection.**

Pumpkin Everything

If You Like Pumpkins, You will Love This One. If You don’t, Avoid at All Costs.

Going by the title and the description of the plot, I didn’t hold too much hope for this one, and I was right. This is just your standard Hallmark placeholder with emphasis on the season and the atmosphere, and little emphasis on making a real effort with a good story and script. There was no depth or complexity to this one at all and it is careful not to step outside the box in any way.  There was little humor, other than seeing some of the townspeople pretend to struggle to lift heavy pumpkins which were obviously very fake, very plastic, and as light as feathers.

Taylor Cole, who I didn’t recognize at first, plays Amy, a very successful best-selling author who has just finished the third in her vampire series. Ahem. She comes home right when she is to start her national publicity tour to help her mom take care of  Gramps, played by Michael Ironside who is also unrecognizable. He just drove his truck into the local coffee shop and ended up with a sprained wrist. He is a real piece of work, this one. He has spent the last 15 years or so pouting and sulking that Amy pursued her dream of being a writer instead of taking over his pumpkin store. He even backed out of paying for her college because of it. Jerk.

Despite Amy’s laudably kind and patient efforts, he obstinately remains semi-estranged from her. Add to this, he keeps having accidents because he won’t acknowledge that he is too old and delusional as to his capabilities to live alone safely. He selfishly won’t go into the retirement community which would give his daughter and granddaughter some piece of mind. And he can’t afford it anyway without selling his home and his pumpkin store. Amy’s old boyfriend, a recovering alcoholic and former delinquent (his mother died) is helping him with the store and is doing a great job.

I was just waiting for Amy to cancel her much sought-after promotional appearance on a national morning show to cater to the old coot, but that didn’t happen. If it had I would have turned this half-hearted effort off in disgust.  She was actually quite firm with him and confronted him with some home truths a couple of times. So that was good. The other bright spots were the underused Amy Groening who played Amy’s agent and the actress who played Amy’s mother. She has a little romance of her own when she charges in to confront the owner of the coffee shop who is rightly planning to sue Grandpa for demolishing his store and ends up falling for him like a ton of bricks. Also noteworthy was a super hip female resident of the retirement community who connects with Grandpa over their love of jazz. She was a star. Of course, it all works out in the end, but not without Grandpa falling off a chair end ending up in the hospital (again).  This knocks some sense into him, literally, and he finally agrees to join the retirement community. It is not explained how he is going to afford it though because he basically gives his store to Corey Sevier instead of selling it for mucho dinero. I guess poor Taylor will have to ante up with her book proceeds. Luckily, it looks like she can afford it. I’m guessing the irony of this will be lost on Grandpa.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

October 10, 2022

Groundswell

Wetsuits and cover-ups.

Lacey Chabert plays a sous chef who dreams of running her own restaurant. Her “boyfriend” is a famous chef and her boss. When he not only fails to introduce her to an influential food critic who is in raptures over her food and concepts but takes credit for her work as well, she dumps him. So that was good on her. She flees to her Aunt June’s mansion in Hawaii which is right on the beach and must be worth over $30,000,000. She starts to take surfing lessons from a handsome still sad widower.  And in what must be a first for Hallmark, he doesn’t have any kids! Crazy! Other than that, there are no surprises here plot-wise at least. By the end of the movie she learns to surf, wins a $50,000 cooking contest with sad widower’s nice brother, gives her disrespectful user of an ex-boyfriend a final heave-ho (he followed her to Hawaii), gets the guy, and opens her own restaurant there in paradise.

The most interesting thing about this one was waiting for Lacey Chabert to put on a bathing suit. Here she is in Hawaii, living on the beach, taking surfing lessons in the ocean, and she never puts on a swimsuit. What makes it even odder is that her love interest who is giving her lessons is very tan and fit with many abs fully displayed in appropriate swimwear. The optics of it were so weird, that Hallmark scriptwriters felt the need to address it by having him tease her about the wetsuit when she shows up for her first lesson. Something along the lines of, “You’re not in Cape Cod in the winter, you’re in Hawaii, in the summer.” It doesn’t work. Not even a one-piece in the whole movie. I guess when Lacey Chabert doesn’t want to wear a swimsuit, she doesn’t wear a swimsuit! I don’t really blame her for her modesty, but going forward, maybe she should avoid filming in tropical climes when she is required to go in the ocean.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

August 29, 2022