A Gift to Remember

Nice!

I really enjoyed this one back in 2017, but I never reviewed it. It came up again during Christmas in July or Merry Movie Week or whatever so I decided to re-watch it. I am pleased to say it really held up.

 First off, it was based on an amnesia scenario and thus was able to avoid the city bad/country good rescue the whatever from the evil corporation,” Let’s go to or save the festival!” Hallmark tent poles. It was actually set in Philadelphia although it is debatable whether it was filmed there. Another point in its favor was that this featured an interracial secondary romance, fairly unusual in 2017 for Hallmark. Third and most important were the talents and charm of the two stars Ali Liebert and Peter Porte. Ali has been up and down with me depending on the state of her botox treatments. One of her main appeals is her unusually expressive eyebrows. So when her eyebrows are working, all is well. I know that sounds funny, but it’s true! This is early-ish in her Hallmark career and her first lead role in a Hallmark after languishing in the friend zone for a couple of years. Peter Porte’s acting chops are not up to Ali’s but he is too gorgeous to be real and he seems like a nice guy. They worked well together.

Ali plays Darcy, a shy and reticent bookstore employee who does not like to take chances or rock the boat. She accidentally runs over Peter Porte on her bike sending him into retrograde amnesia. She feels responsible because she is so nice and in her desire to help him regain his memory she starts uncovering clues to his background and identity. By doing this, she discovers she is persistent, a problem solver, and is willing to conquer the fears which are holding her back from going for the job as manager of the bookstore. She figures out that he is rich, has an important job in the literary world, doesn’t like Christmas, and is about to become engaged to his girlfriend. These conclusions make sense given the clues, but don’t make sense as she comes to know Aiden and don’t jive with his gradually returning memory either. So we have a little mystery going on as well as a roadblock to their growing attraction to each other.  When the truth comes out, it all makes perfect sense and all of the details are tied up. (He is single for one thing) Aiden’s real story results in a very nice ending with Darcy meeting his real family, and her little local bookstore triumphing over Mega-book’s ruthless machinations. And she gets promoted to manager. Ali Liebert just has a special spark in this, and she was just charming.

This part is really silly, but I really liked her make-up. It was pretty rather than glamorous until she had a fancy event to attend, and only then did she have the false eyelashes and the red lipstick. It seems like these days Hallmark actresses put on the Glamour Shots treatment just to walk the dog. Oh, the good old days of 2017.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 26, 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

Spotlight on Christmas

Started off Very Promisingly, but Fizzled in the Last Half

This started off strongly with the great casting of Tori Anderson as a believable A-list movie star. I also liked the actress that played her little half-sister, though I was at first confused about the family dynamics. I found Victor Zinck just OK as the hometown love interest and was underwhelmed by the chemistry. I didn’t believe him in the role. I am apparently in the minority on this issue.

Olivia returns to her hometown after a long absence to escape from the paparazzi after a messy break with her country-western star boyfriend. Alas, she is followed. I immediately liked the character of Olivia, because she was so pretty and nice. Unfortunately, her story got slower and more boring as the movie went on. Interestingly I noted a small cameo by one of my favorite Hallmark actresses at the beginning of the movie, Kimberly Sustad. Had she continued her small contribution in the role of the conflicted paparazzo, it might have added a needed spark to one of the dull subplots. I also noted that it was directed by another favorite, Ali Liebert. Hallmark Actresses Unite! Good for her and better luck next time. I would like to see more of Tori Anderson in these Hallmark-type movies.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

December 24, 2020

A Storybook Christmas

Thanks to the Leads, Worth Watching

Ali Liebert is back in form in this latest holiday offering. There was something about her in the last one, A Gift to Cherish, that seemed a little off. It’s been a week or more since I have seen this, so I’ll just make this brief. This was the unexpectedly male nanny plot. He is a well-known children’s author in disguise and she is an event planner who needs to wrangle this author to the career make or break event she is planning. Little does she know, this reclusive author is right under her nose. I loved that the male lead was just a normal-looking guy, and his rival, her boyfriend, was fictionally male model handsome. She is a controller and scheduler to the point that I really disliked her at times, and he has a more loosey-goosey approach to child raising. So it’s kind of two plots for the price of one. It wasn’t perfect. The constant mantra of “You are safe, You are loved” to her little niece (orphaned) was unbelievably cheesy. But all in all a complex story with a lot going on, some tension, and good chemistry make this worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 14, 2019

Cherished Memories: A Gift to Remember 2

Disappointing Sequel to the Excellent A Gift to Remember

I was disappointed in Ali Liebert in this one. I loved her in A Gift to Remember, but there was just something different about her in this go-round. The character’s personality was just as sweet and overly nice, but she just didn’t connect with me and I can’t quite put my finger on it. (botox?) I found the character of Mrs. Henley very irritating as well. Ali is taking care of her nephew during the season because both of his parents are deployed. He was behaving like a perfectly nice if a little reserved kid, and she was all worried and hovering just because he didn’t behave all joyful and Christmas-y every second. She just wouldn’t rest until he conformed to her expectations of how happy he was supposed to be. She was not disappointed. The kid was bouncing off the walls by the end. I also think the young actor was miscast. Perhaps he was supposed to be adopted. Peter Porte was just fine. In fact, he kind of saved this one for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 27, 2019

Cooking With Love

This should Cement Ali Liebert’s Place in the Hallmark Pantheon of Female Leads

After several turns as “the best friend” of the heroine, where she has all but out shown the leads, Ali Liebert has finally been getting much deserved leading roles in these Hallmark seasonal romances. This one is the best yet. Kudos to Hallmark for recognizing her appeal and giving her prominent roles. I hope she becomes as ubiquitous as Chabert, Reiser, Boston, Polo, and several others.

This one is also helped by a tightly woven plot, good character development, and an attractive leading man who has a real arc into becoming (or being revealed as) a good guy after all. I must quibble at this point over one plot hole. Our hero, a diva chef, has his career almost ruined by a viral video of him throwing food on a restaurant critic in a fit of temper. He reveals later that the video edited out the fact that prior to the food on the lap incident, the victim had made his waitress cry by being so mean to her. Why didn’t he just explain that on Facebook or Twitter? Instead of needing an image rehabilitation, he becomes a hero. It is also absent some of the overdone stupid gimmicks that most of these Hallmarks seem to hinge on. No angels, City bad, country good, factory shuttings, time travel, nor I Hate (just fill in the holiday). What keeps it from getting a higher rating from me is the lack of depth, suspense, pathos, or super hot chemistry between the leads. But it’s good. Really good.

Ali has the super nice girl who is maybe a little too nice role down pat. Plus she has the most energetic eyebrows I’ve ever seen. Very cute, if a bit distracting. Couldn’t take my eyes off of them.**8 out of 10 stars**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

February 26, 2018

Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade

Doris and Rock 2.0

This was a charming romance with the talented and funny Autumn Reeser and the too handsome to live Antonio Cupo. Despite his fictionally good looks, he managed to be appealing and a worthy match for one of my favorite Hallmark actresses. They had great chemistry. This older effort (2012) is so heads and tails above the romances that Hallmark is spewing out these days. No cheesy cheap looking decorations or the phony Christmas tree. No small town with the Christmas name. I absolutely loved that Autumn’s character loved and wore vintage clothes. That was a great imaginative detail written in that wouldn’t even occur to whoever is writing the efforts of the last 2 years. And it really added even more to the homage to an old Doris Day romance. Her stupid boyfriend was not evil, but such a loser that it was fun to hiss and boo at him. There were a few little glitches, such as Henry dressed up as Santa at the end and making out with Emily in front of everyone at the parade. WTH? but other than that, Great writing, a sense of humor, talented stars, a good supporting cast, and lack of Christmas cheesiness made one of the best Hallmark Christmas movies ever.**9 out of 10 stars**

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

November 17, 2017

Autumn in the Vineyard

Cheers!

One of the better productions in a long time. Set in beautiful wine country, the country-side was gorgeous. Rachel Leigh Cook makes a great Hallmark heroine and her chemistry with the love interest was very good. It started out with some good conflict with her father who not only took her for granted but figuratively slapped her in the face by denying her her rightful place in his business. She rightly struck out on her own by buying her own vineyard, much to his dismay. I love a good comeuppance story. The plot moved on nicely, forcing the h/h to co-manage their vineyard which was somehow sold to both of them at the same time. They had a history and a rivalry already, which added interest to their romance and the development of their relationship. There was a little hint of a secondary romance of an older couple (the hero and heroine’s parents and the heads of competing vineyards.) and a younger couple. There were plenty of interesting secondary characters to keep things moving along. I really like the actress who played the friend. (Ali Leibert) And it was interesting that his family was kind of sketchy. They avoided a real T.V. remote throwing potential plot twist by avoiding the trap of having her save her dad from bankruptcy by giving up her own successful venture. That would have been a terrible message to send. So thank-you. **8 out of 10 stars**

October 11, 2016