Bottled With Love

Bethany Bottles Charm

This is another take on You got Mail, which was a new take on In the Good Old Summertime, which was a new take on The Shop Around the Corner. That’s OK because it is a  sure-fire and enjoyable trope for a romantic comedy. Closed off  Abbey is disappointed in love again, and on the advice of her aunt pours out her heart in a letter which is found by Nick. He emails her and they start a correspondence. They really connect on a deep level.

Meanwhile, free-spirited Nick is summoned from his vagabond life by his father and sister who want him to temporarily help with the family corporation. Their star employee is none other than focused, efficient, no-nonsense workaholic Abbey who is paired up with Nick, who definitely marches to a different drummer. They strike sparks off of each other because they are so different, but as they get to know each other, they see the other’s value, and become attracted.

The pen pals finally agree to meet, but before that can happen, Nick realizes that his soulmate pen pal is none other than uptight Abbey. He freaks out and stands her up. She blocks him on email.

On a mission for the company, which is a whole other story, Abbey and Nick continue to bond and fall in love especially since Nick now knows Abbey’s business self is so different from her personal self. Nick finally confesses that he is her secret pen pal and humbly apologizes for not telling her sooner and crying off from their big date. Now here is where the Hallmark version differs from its predecessors. Instead of being thrilled that her pen pal soulmate is the same guy she is falling in love with in person, she gets mad! This is because the Hallmark formula demands a conflict and misunderstanding that has to be resolved in the last 20 minutes of the show. In addition to resolving the romance, Nick’s shaky career prospects are taken care of quite nicely as well.

Bethany Joy Lenz is a joy as always and she teams well with talented and attractive Andrew Walker. The scene where she blisses out over her beloved pancakes Nick surprises her with is delightful.  I just can’t say enough about Bethany Joy Lenz. She elevates every show she is in.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

October 15, 2021

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

The Christmas Club

Christmas Magic

This production was blessed by the good acting on the part of Cameron Mathison and Elizabeth Mitchell. They made a good match, and the story was very romantic. A slow development of their relationship with more than a hint of magic provided by the wonderful Gabrielle Rose. Two strangers, both missing true romantic love in their lives, team up to help a little old lady who lost her Christmas Club money. They give her $40.00, and from then on, magic follows them, and brings them together. It was something a little different from the typical cookie cutter offerings from Hallmark. It had some very imaginative and heartwarming plot points. Elizabeth was a little over-sensitive in parts; a little too fragile, but I guess that was her character. They did not drag the misunderstandings out too long. Probably not a re-watch, but I enjoyed it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 22, 2020

Forever Christmas

See it for Christopher Russell

If Christopher Russell is paired with the right female lead, and he has a script that takes advantage of his GQ worthy handsomeness and the kindness that you can see behind his eyes, he can be great. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. It does in this one. The script explores the phoniness behind reality series and how untrustworthy and false they can be. I didn’t much care for the heroine, but Christopher made up for that and had charm enough for both. I did like that they had a fairly sizzling love scene as opposed to the usual chaste kiss at the end of the movie.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 20, 2020

A Wedding Wonderland

A Very Merry Mix-Up…Not!

I’m not sure what the message of this movie was supposed to be. Don’t be such a wimp? Put your too good to be true future husband before your mother from hell? Hallmark Christmas movies are not supposed to make you angry, frustrated, and disgusted.

Lucas proposes to Hallie at his parents snowy mountaintop vacation home. Hallie and her mother are prevented by circumstances from having the tropical destination wedding they both have dreamed of. Mommy is not happy. All hell breaks loose, while the poor bride and groom are put in the middle trying to keep the peace. The bride’s mother’s inexcusably rude and loathsome behavior, as detailed by some of the other reviews was never confronted the way it should have been by either the bride, her groom, or her husband. Or her gracious hosts, the groom’s parents, for that matter. She basically got away with an apology and a half-hearted promise to do better. And that twist at the end only made her horrible behavior even worse. And then, her disapproving but whipped husband just told her he was even more in love with her! What? There was no justice or balance. I feel most sorry for the wedding guests that traipsed all the way up the mountain to be cheated out of a nice wedding and told to go home with a gift bag, and then they ended up having the wedding with just family the next day. What?

I am disturbed by one review that said that the groom was too handsome for the bride. That they “didn’t match” and that he should have found someone more gorgeous. That is the one thing I really liked about this movie. He really was handsome and appealing. She was just a normal looking girl. But he was so in love with her. So tender and considerate. He loved HER, her kindness and generosity. They were friends that were also in love. It wasn’t just the sexual attraction for a beautiful sexy girl that might fade with time. It was true love. If their physical attributes didn’t “match”, their hearts did. Their relationship really lifted this movie to tolerable status.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

November 16, 2020

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 Christmas Bow

Not Just a Cut Above, But Leaps and Bounds Above

Wow! This one was great! How did that happen? Two attractive and appealing characters played by two attractive and appealing actors who did a wonderful job. The acting, particularly on the part of musician, not actress, Lucia Micarelli, was so so good. I hope she continues to add “actress” to her impressive musical resume. The chemistry between the two leads was strong. I loved that she did not have the cookie cutter “Beauty Queen” looks, but was appealing in her own unique way. She well matched with Michael Rady, who is handsome, but in a “normal guy” kind of way. He’s one of my favorites.

The story was excellent and avoided the Hallmark tedious and corny set pieces that their Christmas movies are known for. The introduction of a woman bravely struggling with a largely unknown disease which rendered her dependent on a wheelchair and a grandmother with Alzheimer’s was laudable and affecting. The fact that they did not milk this for cheap tears is a wonder. Along with Kate’s brave fight to regain 100% of her violin skills after her accident it really made this movie both interesting and moving.

And just for the star on top of the Tree, we had the wonderful music. You made a wonderful movie, Hallmark. Was that really so hard?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

November 12, 2020

Love Strikes Twice

22 Going on 37

What did I just see? It was on the Hallmark Channel but was it really a Hallmark movie? It was a time-traveling romantic comedy but that is all it had in common with the usual Hallmark. No pageant-worthy hair, wardrobe, and make-up here. Just great writing, attention to detail, talented acting, and fresh faces.

We enter this rare territory zeroing in on a 37-year-old childless corporate lawyer, whose marriage is about to fail because her main priority is to make partner in her firm so she can “swim with the sharks”. She is troubled about her marriage and confides to a friend that the crossroads in her life seemed to be when she worked with a childhood friend, now her unhappy husband, to try to save the local library building. After an unexpected encounter with her old  boyfriend, now one of the “sharks” she yearns to swim with, she wonders if she should have chosen him rather than the humble high school teacher she is now married to and has so little in common with. If only she could go back in time and with her sophisticated skills and knowing what she knows now about the law, be successful in saving the building. That would certainly change everything for the better and set her life on the path it was meant to be on.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of what happens, because there is so much that happens both personally and professionally. The details and the authenticity make the movie complex, heartfelt, funny, and very entertaining. It is tight and action-packed. There is not a boring minute in it. No usual meaningless filler or tired tent pole scenes. It borrows from many other time travel romantic comedies too numerous to list, but I was most reminded of the delightful 13 Going on 30. Needless to say, when she goes back 15 years to save the library, she also saves her marriage, her husband’s career, her father’s health, and turns her brother’s and her best friend’s lives around. It all culminates at her parents’ 25th anniversary, when she hits her head again and she shoots forward to their 40th, and her real, now transformed, life.

The acting is great all around, but the star of the show is Katie Findlay , whose looks and talent brought even more life and charm to the role that was already well-written. Had she not been cast, the movie still would have been wonderful, but she made it a 10 out of a 10. I fear she will soon be going on to bigger and better things. Sadly for Hallmark-land, I predict we will not be seeing her again on this Channel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

October 4, 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