Long Lost Christmas

A Nice Quiet Story

Taylor Cole has never been a huge favorite with me but in the past year or two, she has really grown on me. She is very beautiful but does best playing more down-to-earth family-oriented characters. In some roles, her beauty is a almost little off-putting. And she finally settled on a hairstyle that works. This quiet well-paced story really worked for me.

Haley finds out that her mother, who was adopted, had a brother from whom she was separated as a child. Her mother, beautifully played by Jacqueline Ann Steuart, has been sad and reclusive since the death of her husband. As the perfect Christmas gift for her mom, she decides to see if she can find this mysterious brother. With the help of a friend, she narrows the possibilities down to a builder of mountain cabins in Colorado. She goes to visit and meet him to see if he could possibly be her long-lost uncle. The more she learns, she is by turns hopeful and discouraged. In some ways, he fits what she knows about her mother’s brother, but he will not talk about his past and at one point tells her that he never had any siblings. But Haley doesn’t give up and will not be put off, while still trying not to be intrusive and rude. It is a very delicate balance. The truth finally comes out, the mysteries are solved, and it all concludes very touchingly.

Benjamin Ayers, who plays a protege of the possible uncle, and Taylor made a good couple. She needs a strong-looking male lead, and Benjamin fits the bill. The romance seemed right and definitely added to the story. The actor who played her uncle had a strong impact as well. The mystery of why he did not want any contact with the past and wouldn’t acknowledge that he had a sister kept my interest going. He had a lot of charisma. The other aspect that really added to the story was Haley’s friendship with the mysterious Gordon’s daughter, a furniture maker. While Taylor was kept busy in Colorado, her mother is also making progress in joining the land of the living again, thanks to the patient efforts of a compassionate and wise friend. Along with still another side story, of Taylor’s career-defining interior design project and its setbacks and successes, there was a lot going on in this. And that was good. I usually think a number of side stories keep interest up in main plots that almost by definition, have to be predictable and by the book.

Finally, I do want to give Hallmark props for doing away with the bottomless suitcase. Taylor plans only an overnight trip to Colorado and packed accordingly. In the past, regardless of only bringing minimal luggage for a trip, the leading lady pulls out outfit after outfit with different bulky and matching coats out of the magical suitcase. In this one, Taylor actually wears the same sweater two days in a row and makes a point of having to go shopping for more clothes when her trip is extended. Proof positive that Hallmark reads their reviews, as this phenomenon has been a favorite topic with Hallmark commenters for quite some time. The more I think about it, such an issue is made of her not having enough clothes that I think Hallmark is indulging in a little self-deprecating inside humor. Well Played.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

A Dickens of a Holiday

With the Two Lead Actors, It Should Have Been Better

I love Kristoffer Polaha. He is one of my Top 3 Hallmark actors. I have never seen him in a role where he did not elevate the material with his appealing attractive self. And I like Brooke D’Orsay in almost every role I’ve seen her in. There was one I didn’t like her in but we won’t talk about that. She always brings a natural sweetness and heart to her performances. I was looking forward to seeing them together and they did not disappoint.

The story wasn’t much. It wasn’t bad. But it did kind of drag in the middle only providing a stage for the two actors’ acting talents. Jake is a Hollywood action star who wants a sensitive dramatic role in a new film based on his late mother’s favorite book. No one wants him for the part because they don’t think he can do it, including his agent. He agrees to go home to his hometown to play Scrooge to prove he can play a complicated dramatic part. And partly because he had an unrequited high school crush on the director, Cassie. It starts out very intriguing and funny because he is spoiled and pampered and he is terrible in the part. His playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge like he was John Wick was pretty funny, and I wish they had made more of this. Unfortunately, Cassie, as the director, gets him on track way too quickly. I was looking forward to the character development, but he changes into a good guy way too fast for it to be an entertaining journey. This also takes the interest out of a side plot, which is his estrangement from his brother. One heart to heart and all is well.

The crisis comes when, thanks to his loyal and talented assistant, he is about to be offered the dream role but to get it, he has to go to a party thrown by a bigwig. Surprise surprise-On the same night as the big performance. Will he revert to his old self and chuck the play in favor of his big break? None of how this is played out made a lot of sense. At one point Brooke D’Orsay gets ready to step into the part of Scrooge in full glamor girl make-up with lipstick, eyeshadow, and her flowing golden locks tumbling from her nightcap. That would have been another fail for the Hallmark make-up department but it would have been pretty funny watching Scrooge in drag.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 12, 2021

Time for Them to Come Home for Christmas

A Road Trip to Remember

Amnesia stories usually provide rich material for a nice story, and this one is no exception. Jessy Schram, a favorite of mine, plays a young woman who gets dunked in a river after being bumped by a car. We next see her in the local hospital near the Canadian border with amnesia. Her luggage has been lost. The only clue to who she is is an ad for a Christmas Tree lighting in Charleston, SC that she left behind at a local diner. It has a handwritten message on the back saying “Please Come” and signed “Mark”.

“Jane Doe” is an immediate hit at the hospital due to her friendly, spirited, and outgoing nature. Jessy conveys all of that with the underlying vulnerability that she is so good at. She makes a friendly connection with a nice nurse, Paul, who offers to drive her to Charleston as it is on his way to his family’s home. It is almost immediately apparent that Paul is hiding some secret pain as he is very conflicted about going home. Jessy and Brendan are perfectly cast and their performances are spot on. I like that they made Paul a nurse instead of a doctor, thus it made sense when he drives her in an old dilapidated car that conveniently breaks down on the way. A doctor would have flown.

On their road trip, they have a positive impact on all of the people they meet along the way. Including Alison Sweeney in a brief cameo appearance! This is a real thing this year. This is the third movie I have seen in which other Hallmark stars appear briefly in another movie not their own. I think it’s really cool. And very smart given the competition other networks are giving them for the attention of the Christmas movie viewing public.

The movie keeps you engaged at all times what with the mystery behind Paul’s sadness and conflicted feelings going home and Jessy’s real identity. Jessy starts having flashbacks which hint that she may be married and have a child! Why would she leave a husband and child? Is she a bad person? Is he a bad person? It won’t be a spoiler to reassure you that she is not a bad person and her future lies with the nice and attractive Paul.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

November 29, 2021

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

Marry Me at Christmas

Pretty Bad. But I did enjoy Trevor Donovan.

Nothing special here. Same old same old story partially redeemed by the character of Johnny Blake played by a well-cast Trevor Donovan. The secondary characters were played by Hallmark perennials, though the 2 female leads were relative newcomers to the Hallmark stable. Emily Tennant, the bride, who provides the #2 lead was fresh and appealing. I see Hallmark in her future. I wish Hallmark would steer away from extravagantly beautiful heroines toward more down-to-earth girls. I just can relate to cute more than impossibly gorgeous. All though this is a backhanded compliment to the physical beauty of Rachel Skarsten, I was distracted throughout most of the movie by her over-processed long ringlets. What is this? 1989?

The success of these things, for me, depends on the existence of some dialogue with some snap to it, some humor, some surprises(a little suspense?), appealing casting, good acting, enough non-phony not-needless conflict to provide some catharsis or the comeuppance of evil-doers. Do I ask for all of these things at once? No, that would be asking too much. (though it has happened, rarely). But I need at least 2. The “supercute” (gag me) snowball fight kicked off a big fail for me.

On a side note, when, oh when, is Hallmark inc. going to get on the bandwagon and start starring a few of the talented and numerous black actors and actresses as the romantic leads? And I’m not talking about black bosses, black millionaire clients, or black best friends. A.) It seriously calls into question their values, and B.), It’s super stupid business-wise. The most popular and profitable romances and dramas in the theatres today feature black people in the leads. Tyler Perry anyone? What about Malcolm D. Lee and his Best Man movies? There are dozens of examples. Come on. I have more than a few black women friends who would jump on such a Hallmark movie like a duck on a junebug. I can’t believe they have seldom been called on this. WTH?!**4 stars out of 10**

Rating: 2 out of 5.

November 4, 2017