Always Amore

The Recipe Needed a New Twist

This was well-acted by the talented and beautiful Autumn Reeser, as always. She has never disappointed and I approach a Hallmark movie featuring her with optimism. The same goes for Tyler Hynes, who gives a warm and natural performance. He plays a kind of restaurant whisperer hired by the primary investor in Autumn’s restaurant to turn things around.  Kind of like chef Gordon Ramsay in Kitchen Nightmares but super nice and not swear-y. Unfortunately, this one is the done-to-death “save the restaurant” plotline. Autumn plays a still-grieving widow who is struggling to keep her late husband’s legacy, which is his restaurant, alive.  The problem is that doing that means keeping herself, the restaurant, the menu and recipes, and the staff mired in the past. Case in point, as pointed out incredulously by Tyler, despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, they are still expensively importing their tomatoes from Italy because that’s what her husband did. I sincerely doubt that Italian tomatoes are any better than good ol’ American tomatoes. And so does Tyler, who is exceedingly compassionate and patient despite some very trying hostile attitudes. He finally convinces her that there is no legacy without a functioning restaurant. A restaurant emphasizing love, family, and tradition is all very well, but there is none of that if a profit is not being made. Once that pilot light is turned on, it’s just a matter of convincing the bank to give her a loan to buy out her main investor who is going to sell to a big corporate entity. But the bank is not going to do that until the restaurant shows some signs of life. She has to convince her husband’s protege, himself a brilliant chef, to enter a food competition to generate buzz.  He is reluctant because he perceives that as being disloyal to his mentor. After plenty of annoying waffling, he agrees. And Autumn contributes her awesome baking skills to the effort. But what about when intimidating but beloved Mother-in-law Patty “Bad Seed” McCormack finds out what they are up to? Is she going to be like lovely wise “Nonna”, or scary Rhoda?

Besides the talented cast (including a personal fave, Latonya Williams, as the contest head, and the talented child actor, Erica Tremblay, as Autumn’s daughter) the food photography is gorgeous and the menu items look delicious. Or as they describe in the movie, “glorious, stunning, delectable, genius, a miracle, etc.”. Heavy on the tension and distress, as well as the thesaurus, and light on the wit and humor, the script is the same old retread of the same old “save the business” story and with nothing special to set it apart. Autumn’s recovery from grief and finding her own path and a new love was fine, but it was hardly anything new.

Despite the finest freshest ingredients, if the recipe isn’t good, neither is the dish.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

April 7, 2022

The Wedding Veil Legacy

Last but not Least

The script was not a challenge for good actors: no great emotional highs and lows, but the whole cast of seasoned Hallmark actors did an excellent job. All handled the good humor and banter with aplomb. I particularly enjoyed Matty Finochio as the assistant, Stanley.

Tracy, played by Alison Sweeney, the third woman in the triumvirate of Wedding Veil owners begins her story by breaking up with her boyfriend, Finn. It is handled very maturely. He has gotten a great job across the country, and Tracy does not want to leave New York or her own great job. They are sad to part ways, but as we have gathered from the previous two installments, they have grown apart lately anyway.

Tracy takes the veil to a tailor(?) to have a snag repaired and meets Victor Webster getting fitted for a tuxedo. There is some good-natured raillery. Allison is planning an important party for her job and is in the market for a new caterer. Her search brings her to a new restaurant accompanied by Autumn and Lacey. Lo and behold Victor is the head chef and part-owner with his family. The meeting between the women and Victor is chuckle-worthy thanks to the three actresses’ comic timing and easy rapport.

The side story of Tracy’s mission to obtain a newly discovered early draft of the famous Emma Lazarus poem for the museum where it can be enjoyed by the public is interesting. It adds some suspense and provides the pretext (Victor might know an investor), along with picking out art for the new location of Victor’s restaurant, fun with food, and rug hauling around, for the promising couple to spend more time together. Alison and Victor make a good pair both age-wise and in physicality.

Unlike the second installment, the plot is tightly written. There are quite a few little stories, but the focus remains on the couple and their developing relationship. Every individual side element gets tied into the whole, including the Emma Lazarus poem welcoming immigrants to America. The continuing mystery of how the veil got to San Francisco is well incorporated into this final chapter and provides a satisfying conclusion involving a lovely coincidence and a twist. After the veil does its job of finding husbands for the three likable friends, it finds its own happy final home.

Of the three movies, I rank the first one the best for its humor, this one second for the well-constructed plot, and the second one my least favorite. 7 1/2 stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

February 21, 2022

The Wedding Veil Unveiled

Prego!

In part two of the trilogy, The Wedding Veil Unveiled, Autumn Reeser is going to Italy to teach an Art History class for a month or so. She is taking the veil with her to confirm that it is the same veil in the portrait, and if so, to learn the history behind it. For one thing, how did it get to San Francisco? First of all, if I were Lacey Chabert or Alison Sweeney I would be royally P.O. ed that Autumn Reeser got to go to Italy for her part of the trilogy, and I didn’t. The beautifully photographed scenes in that country were one of the best parts of this one. While Autumn and her love interest are investigating the story behind the veil worn in the portrait by the fictional artist Amici we vicariously explore some beautiful destinations including Venice, Verona, Burano, and Padua. No Rome, and I didn’t miss it at all.

It seemed like there were more side stories in this one than is usual. The story behind the Veil was intriguing and well thought out. They brought in some hurdles for Autumn to overcome in teaching her Art History class which were engaging. It was good that they had the capable and poised Autumn screw up a little bit. Her buttoned-up personality needed to be loosened up. Her love interest, Paolo, had his own problems. He was part of a family that has been in the lace business for generations. We get to know his large loving family, which was nice. But he wants to expand the business, and his father is too cautious and conservative. One of the stories, about the young student who couldn’t afford the tuition came out of left field and was basically a time-filler since it was completely untethered to anything else going on in the stories. Since we didn’t have baking shenanigans, ice skating, or snowball fights? With the extraneous details given about the boy’s situation, it seemed like they were going to hook it in somewhere, but in the end, they just didn’t get it done.

Although the male lead was handsome and likable, the romance was just so-so, and more than a little routine. But I liked the meet-cute and the meet-cute part II. And when the final scene showed them getting married I admit I had an “Awwhh” moment. Maybe there was just too much other stuff going on.

I just want to add that Autumn’s wardrobe in this was beautiful and well-chosen and she looked great. I questioned a lot of the choices for (or by?) Lacey Chabert in part I, but the only thing that was a little questionable in this one was her choice of shoes to go sightseeing in. She looked very uncomfortable. Part 3 featuring the cynical unromantic Alison Sweeney character was well set up and I’m looking forward to it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

February 15, 2022

The Wedding Veil

Lacey and Lace

This was pretty entertaining and I’m looking forward to the next 2 installments of the trilogy starring Autumn Reeser and Alison Sweeney. This first one featured Lacey Chabert with Kevin McGarry playing the love interest.

Three friends are in San Francisco for their yearly get-together. They are out antiquing and Lacey spies a beautiful vintage wedding veil. The owner tells them that the veil comes with magical powers. Whoever owns the veil will meet their true love while it is in their possession. The girls decide to all buy it together, and Lacey will take it home. She soon meets Kevin McGarry and they have an instant connection. Coincidentally they both live in Boston where they plan to continue to see each other. While at the airport, Kevin sees the wedding veil with Lacey and overhears her having a conversation about planning a wedding that he assumes is hers. (It’s not.) He immediately gives her the brush and leaves. Lacey is confused and disgusted.

They keep meeting up while in Boston because Lacey is an assistant curator of a museum and he is the rich philanthropist who is hosting a gala to raise money for the museum. What follows is a quite amusing series of encounters between the two where Lacey seems very open to a relationship while Kevin thinks she is about to get married. He acts very attracted to her and then keeps backing off, confusing and angering poor Lacey to no end. Meanwhile, he can’t understand why such a seemingly nice woman is acting like a cheat and a tease. It’s Cute. The truth finally comes out after an hour and 15 minutes. The subplot is also interesting. Lacey discovers a dirty and faded 19th-century portrait of a bride wearing a very familiar-looking veil in the Museum’s basement and finds out it is a lost masterpiece. She wants it to be the centerpiece of the gala but it has to be restored in record time. So there is a lot of running around and intrigue over that.

Lacey’s wardrobe choices in this were very odd. She wears a lot of flowery floating low cut off-the-shoulder dresses one of which, I swear, looked like a filmy nightgown. You could see right through much of it. They would have been OK for a formal garden party but not for shopping, at work, or rooting around filthy basements. I’m also not sure I liked the pairing with Kevin McGarry although they were fine individually. The chemistry between the 3 queens of Hallmarkland was off the charts, however.

After Lacey and Kevin tie the knot, Autumn Reeser will be taking the veil to Italy with her to have it researched to see if it’s the same veil in the portrait. The suspense is killing me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 10, 2022

A Glenbrooke Christmas

Autumn and Latonya Shine in This. More Latonya, Please.

This was an adequately entertaining Hallmark, and as such, I was a little disappointed because I really expect the best from Autumn Reeser. Also, Antonio Cupo looked super hot and perfectly cast as the fire chief she falls for. I also like the poor little rich girl trope as well. Autumn plays Jessica, a powerful and wealthy businesswoman who is soon to completely takeover her Grandfather’s real estate company. Before her life gets even more consumed, she decides to visit the small town of Glenbrooke, a place that her beloved late parents held dear. She hides her position and wealth so she will be treated like a normal person. As she settles in, she learns the famous Glenbrooke Church Bells are broken and the town can’t afford to fix them. Of course, the needed $10,000 is chump change to her, but she doesn’t want to reveal her wealth. Especially since Antonio Cupo hates rich people.

First of all, Mr. Fire Chief got off to a bad start with me by yelling at nice Autumn for something that was totally his fault. He jay-walked out in front of her car without looking and blamed her for not paying attention! Grrrrrrrrrr. He was sexist and entitled as Mr. Small Town VIP. He got better, then reverted to type again near the end, where he accused Autumn of the same bad behavior he was guilty of. Latonya Williams was adorable as Ruthie, another firefighter, who tells Antonio a few home truths at the end. Overall it was good, although not problem-free, in addition to Mr. Fire Chief’s character flaws.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 14, 2020

The 27 Hour Day

Chill!

**spoilers**

This was a very calm Hallmark with the usual shenanigans showing up only briefly. A highly successful A-type personality who is an efficiency expert has the rug yanked out from under her when she is not invited on a speaking tour with an Oprah Winfrey-like self-help guru. “Oprah” tells her that her life is efficient but meaningless. Lauren, played by Hallmark fave, Autumn Reeser, is annoying but thanks to Autumn’s charm and acting talent, not intolerably so. She goes on a prescribed retreat in Montana where she learns to calm down and sit still for a minute. She and the son of the family who owns the retreat share an attraction and become friendly. And that’s about it. He is having some easily solved financial problems and is sort of starting to regret his decision to give up veterinary school. There is a honey fest, a super-cute pig instead of a dog, and there is a group cooking scene where no food is thrown(!), but brownies are burnt. Also, there is a kiss between the two 30-somethings that is not interrupted by a rainstorm, a snowball, or a busybody but fades to black. Do we see them waking up together the next morning? No. But I think Hallmark was testing the waters here. If the “family-friendly” crowd doesn’t rise up in protest, this type of scenario may be in the offing at some point for two mature adults.

By the end, Autumn, her work-life balance back in balance visits her mother and turns down Oprah’s invitation because a speaking tour would throw things back out of balance. The retreat owner returns to veterinary school in upstate New York which is just a “short plane ride” from Autumn’s home base, New York City. There is only a vague hint and hope that their relationship may turn into something more significant. Another interesting take for Hallmark.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

August 8, 2021

All Summer Long

A Wisp of a Plot with all of the Cookie Cutter Elements of the Typical Hallmance

This lame effort is saved by the appeal and the talents of the two stars, Autumn Reeser and Brennan Elliot. As always, their superior acting skills saved the day. They are very engaging with whomever they are paired with and it’s about time they were paired together. I was not disappointed. I just wish they had been given a better vehicle worthy of their talents. And I’ve got to say that “Admiral” character gave me the creeps for some reason. Also, a shout out to Christopher Russell, who played the romantic rival for Autumn’s affection. He was her leading man in one of my very favorite Hallmark Romances, Midnight Masquerade.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

August 27, 2019

Love on the Menu

Delicious!

This is how it’s done, Hallmark. Good Job! When you have two engaging and attractive leads who are good actors and have good chemistry, it already puts it far ahead of the majority of Hallmark offerings. Bravo Autumn Reesor and Kavan Smith. Add an interesting inside look at restaurant goings-on and an agreeable restaurant (and chef) makeover plot and you have a definite winner. Kudos to the beautiful and authentic food photography. The love story is built slowly and realistically. The leads did not have silly misunderstandings or antics. When there was a bit of conflict at the end, it was resolved quickly with a very nice groveling scene and a deserved abject apology. There was a tough boss who turned quite evil at the climax for some drama and tension.

I also want to compliment the wonderful young actress who played our hero’s teenage daughter. Jordyn Ashley Olson is lovely and a very promising young talent. Latonya Williams also adds sparkle, as usual.

I only mark it down for two aspects. The gourmet breakfasts that our chef-hero cooked for his daughter and were meanly rebuffed by her were so over the top, the scenes were cringe-inducing. Also, the ending was a little sudden and needed another scene to tie the loose ends up nicely. Maybe they are planning a sequel. I’m in.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 3, 2019

Season for Love

Follows the Usual Recipe

With the preponderance of food related careers among our Hallmark protagonists, I suppose it was only a matter of time before we entered the world of competition Barbecue. This one was not bad due to the presence of Autumn Reeser, one of the better Hallmark Actresses. In fact, everyone did a good job in getting the most out of their lines. Otherwise, it was strictly by the Hallmark cookbook, and totally predictable. Noteworthy, however, in this entry, was a nice ex-husband with whom our heroine had no conflict whatsoever. He was a good father, and even the new love interest, an excellent Marc Blucas, liked him, and visa versa.**6 stars out of 10**

August 28, 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