Rip in Time

Hall of Fame Worthy-It’s About Time!

I had very high hopes for this one, and I was not disappointed. It debuted on Hallmark Murders and Mysteries which serves as the home of more serious movies that don’t fit the usual Hallmark Romance mold. It was written by C. J. Cox who penned one of the best Hallmarks in recent years, Love Strikes Twice, as well as the Reese Witherspoon favorite Sweet Home Alabama and Rene Zellweger’s New in Town. It starred Niall Matter as Rip Van Winkle’s estranged son who travels from his time to ours and meets single mother Torrey DeVitto, and her son and father, the current owners of the old Van Winkle property.  Time Travel stories are always a safe bet and Niall Matter is a favorite of mine. Torrey DeVitto, not so much, but she was fine in this. Niall seems to have an air of melancholy behind his eyes, which was perfect for this role.

The fish out of water aspect was well done with enough shock and awe at the modern conveniences to make it believable and entertaining, but not so much as to distract from the story and relationship building.

When Torrey, armed with a rifle, and her son first discover Rip cowering in the barn, they flip on the light:

“Are You a Witch?!”

“She was, last Halloween.”

“Please do not shoot me, Witch!”

“Keep Calling me that. Give me a reason.”

“Oh. You are a spinster forced to wear pants to protect your family. I did not mean to offend you.”

“I am not a spinster, and I am offended.”

There really wasn’t much of a plot, other than the family not believing his story, trying to figure out who he is really, hiring him as a temporary farmhand rather than having him locked up, and their adventures in New York City to a hypnotist. It is there that he is taken to a doctor which results in a musket ball being removed from his leg. A musket ball that has not been manufactured since 1830 from an old (Revolutionary) war wound. Explain that one, doubters! Because of that musket ball, their last stop is with a quantum physicist (Ben Wilkinson) who posits that time travel is possible and Rip’s story might be true.

Most of the movie is relationship building with Rip helping Torrey’s bullied son, dealing with the jealous suspicions of his rival for Torrey’s affection, a police deputy, and of course the slow burn romance. Also, a festival. Of course.

The writing was full of authentic details, including bringing in Washington Irving’s classic tale and a lecture on farm machinery of the era. Glad to learn about flax breaks.  Not to mention Ben Wilkinson attempting to explain the science behind time travel to a stunned Torrey and a bewildered Rip.

The romantic conclusion was a little too pat, with many future challenges remaining unaddressed.  But the reach across time, by means of a backpack, provided a reconciliation between Rip and his misunderstood father that was touching and satisfying.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

May 24, 2022

Welcome to Mama’s

Where’s the Pizza?

Isn’t there a saying somewhere to “Never eat at a restaurant called “Mama’s”? Or is that “Mom’s”?

Long after “Papa” “left us”, “Mama” has also passed away and left her restaurant to Amy, a young friend and former manager of another restaurant, whom she used to take care of and mentor. Her will stipulates that Frank, the current head chef, retain his position. Mama’s (husky-voiced Lorraine Bracco) story is told in flashbacks in between the present-day story of trying to save her legacy. Her restaurant was struggling when she retired and it has been in a death spiral under the care of Frank. He was fired from his last job for refusing to comply with his boss’s menu. When Mama agreed to let him be in charge of what he cooked, introducing new dishes to her beloved if tired menu, it didn’t exactly overwhelm the critics or the clientele. His answer is to put a noisy arcade game in the dining area as if it were a sports bar. So no, Frank isn’t exactly God’s gift to chefdom or humanity for that matter. But boy, he acts as if he is. When Amy, the new owner comes in to take over, he is uncooperative and pissy. He refuses to follow his boss’s (Amy’s) orders which got him fired from his last job (he lied to Mama that he had learned his lesson in order to get hired). He also goes behind her back to interview with another restaurant telling his friend he will use his new recipes at Mama’s as a testing ground and then leave if he gets the new position. When Amy finds out that Frank wasn’t honest about what a flop his creations were with an influential critic, she tells him she is replacing his menu and hands the changes to him. He doesn’t even check it out and preps his own menu which causes havoc on the soft opening. In short, Frank is an incompetent louse and not the sharpest knife in the drawer either.

Now you may well ask, why doesn’t Amy fire his sorry A**? Why does she fall in love with him? Why is Amy, a qualified manager such a wuss and give him chance after chance? Why is the restaurant called “Mama’s Ristorante and Pizzeria” when they don’t serve Pizza? Why were Mama and Papa called “Mama” and “Papa” when they didn’t have any kids? Ask away, but I’m afraid I can’t help you. Now this wasn’t all bad. The cinematography was great, the food looked delicious, the acting was tolerable, but the looming shadow of bad (but very cute-I’ll give him that) Frank was just too much to overcome.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

February 28, 2022

Where Your Heart Belongs

Dreadful

This was dreadful. Jen Lilley seems doomed lately to playing contemptible characters. And contemptible characters that are written poorly. Mackenzie is a top marketing executive in New York City who is losing her clients to a shiny new rival. She is stressed out about that when her best friend moves her wedding up and needs her help to pull it off in their old hometown. She hasn’t been home since her mother died and did I hear right that it’s been 10 years? Her father has health problems and his maple syrup business is failing because he stubbornly refuses to modernize despite the financial support and advice of his “employee”, Mackenzie’s old boyfriend played by Christopher Russell. It doesn’t help that the trees he is tapping are not Maple trees.

Her friend wants a simple hometown inexpensive wedding because that is the kind of down-to-earth person she is. Mackenzie basically hijacks her wedding to promote herself to her rapidly departing clientele. The kicker is that she knows she is doing wrong, but just continues to do it. Her actions are contemptible but Jen Lilley plays it with a sugar coating that only makes her seem like the ultimate phony. She uses her friend’s easygoing nature to run roughshod over her while being on the phone almost constantly to her New York assistant talking about her career problems. She browbeats the bride into going with an ugly over-the-top designer dress instead of the flattering simple gown she loves and gets the lovely little country church trashed by the famous D. J. she hires and his followers who also deface a tree that has a sentimental history to the bride and groom.

Meanwhile, even though she finds out her father’s farm is in foreclosure, she makes no attempt to help or find out what’s going on. She is just too busy and important unless she is flirting with Christopher. Near the end, she goes to the banker/lawyer who tells her that Christopher actually has her father’s power of attorney. That finally gets her attention and she somehow concludes that CR is trying to steal her father’s business when he was really financing it to save it. She pouts and sulks when she isn’t looking panic-stricken and is just generally an A-#1 jerk to lovely Christopher as well as everyone else. But does she try communication? Heck, no. In fact, when Christopher tries to set her straight, “she doesn’t have time” to hear it. No idea why her career is on a death spiral. I don’t mind a character who starts out very flawed but has a character arc over time. Jen Lilley is horrid throughout the whole movie until she ruins everything and she has nowhere to go but up.

To make it all worse, Jen Lilley delivers many of her lines so quickly and incoherently it’s like she wants to get them over with instead of actually acting. She has no connection whatsoever with Christopher Russell. The fact that he, her father, and her friends put up with her throughout the whole movie just made this viewing experience even more unpleasant. The only one who finally stands up to her is the bride. Nelson Wong, (for once not named “Kenny”) who usually is a charming presence in any movie, is annoying and horrible in this, and the ending and resolution made no sense whatsoever. This production is populated with many regular Hallmark supporting players but even they cannot prop this one up.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

January 2, 2022

Christmas in Tahoe

Shattered Dreams

Laura Osnes works in her father’s resort hotel and is basically in charge. However, her dream is to manage a big entertainment venue in the entertainment capital of the world: Las Vegas. If she can successfully book her father’s Christmas show, the job is hers. After her star act cancels on her, the movie consists of her going around with her ex-boyfriend trying and to book replacement acts. Her ex is the head guitarist in a successful rock band who fired her as their manager when they started to hit it big. That is why he is her ex. The problem is that the actor who plays the famous rock star is too young and skinny looking for Laura, who has a mature look about her. He looks more like a junior accountant than a rock star.

The other problem is that to me, it seems as if her Dad knows something is up and tries to emotionally blackmail her into staying with him. He goes around looking concerned and puts her on blast making a speech about how proud he is of her and how he doesn’t know how he could get along without her blah blah blah. Unfortunately, he succeeds in his plan. She ends up giving up her dream to stay home and try to make her Dad’s hotel an entertainment destination. Also, she gives it up for her man, who is going to stay there in Tahoe and write instead of performing on tour. Which is his dream. So literally everyone gets their dream except poor Laura! Merry Christmas! Even her co-worker buddy and aspiring singer becomes the opening act for the rock band.

What is it with actors who think they can sing in Hallmark movies lately? Or was it that God-awful song? Hard to tell. How ironic that Laura Osnes, who actually can sing, doesn’t. Couldn’t they even have given her a verse of Jingle Bells or something?

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

December 3, 2021

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

A Taste of Summer

Nothing Special

This had nothing over and above the usual formula. I do appreciate Hallmark’s efforts towards more diversity which this one exemplifies. I found the heroine too glammed up to be relatable or realistic for a hardworking chef in a kitchen. When will Hallmark learn that tarting up their actresses like they were selling cosmetics in a department store is not the way to go. Unless that is their profession. Or on TV. Or a model. The romance was not front and center which was actually refreshing. But Ironically, I didn’t find the chemistry out of the ordinary considering the two leads are married in real life. The actress reminded me of Sandra Bullock but without her appeal and the actor reminded me of Topher Grace.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

August 19, 2019

Love Struck Café

Textbook Hallmark

Nothing special at all. Not much to like here other than the reliable Andrew Walker. I am sure he appreciates the paycheck and the work as an actor, but if he is not careful, he is going to be labeled the Crown Prince of Hallmark movies. I mean, how many of these things has he been in? I didn’t understand the motivations of the heroine. Completely nonsensical. She is given the assignment to convince an old friend and neighbor to sell her property so her boss can encase a beautiful country lake setting in a concrete monstrosity of a residential development. She knows this is a horrendous idea, yet blithely does her best trying to get the nice lady to sign on the dotted line. Why? because of a vague promise of maybe she can be promoted to an architect? To keep a job with a firm that obviously is the lowest of the low? Why would anyone of any character put up with this? She compromises her integrity and endangers a bucolic picturesque ideal location for a resort. Of course, she ends up designing a more suitable project, which her stupid boss (surprise, surprise) just loves. This one was kind of insulting, actually. **3 stars out of 10**

October 19, 2017