Joy for Christmas

The Mystery of the Lost Plot. Or Was it Kidnapped?

This movie began by ticking me off. Cindy Busby plays a publicist whose boss screws up a booking with their client leading to great embarrassment for her. Then he turns around and throws her under the bus when it was his fault. And apparently, it is not the first time. Now, most “Hallmark” heroines would suck it up and take one for the team, but not Cindy. She ups and quits on the spot! Her boss is horrified because she is his star employee. So as quickly as it made me angry, it immediately redeemed itself.

At a loss as to her next career move, the family business beckons. Her sister is a top executive with the family firm and she tells her that they need her desperately. All of the money meant to fund their big charity of the year has been swindled. Cindy left the firm after her father, under the apparent influence of his second wife and her son, had gotten away from the charity, community and people-focused ethos begun by her dead mother and is now solely focused on profits. So it’s the two sisters, “the Silver Belles” against the rest of the family. This is shaping up nicely into an interesting story involving more than a hint of family skullduggery with a dose of wicked stepmother and an equally wicked half-brother. And maybe even some justice served, groveling, and redemption on the horizon.

To save the charitable event she recruits a fellow victim of the charity swindler, Sam Page, a famous ex-baseball player. It isn’t easy because he eschews social events and is a famous scrooge. It seems like a high cost and low probability of benefit scheme, and it’s boring. But with only the support of her sister, she finally succeeds in getting his help. Romance proceeds but they fail in attracting enough donations to benefit the needy children. And disappointingly for the intrigue and plot, the stepmother turns nice and helpful all of a sudden.

Cindy and Sam have fallen in love and shared intimate confidences. At the end of the failed event her still wicked stepbrother spitefully twists her words about Sam to him which results in hurt, confusion, and a breakup.

Ok, it’s all shaping up as usual and I was all set for the misunderstanding to be cleared up, the charity saved at the last minute, and best of all for the bad stepbrother to get his comeuppance. Then the story just falls apart at the seams. I don’t know what happened but either the writers either lost the plot or the powers that be in charge of family values at GAC tampered with the script. Without warning or explanation, the stepbrother’s firmly established conniving bad guy persona gets abandoned and he’s suddenly all about goodness, family values, rainbows, and unicorns. The charity and the romance are rescued in a non-related plot development and the bad guy is as happy as the rest of the family. It was downright insulting. So this was an 8, got demoted to a 6 or 7 during the middle, and ended up a 1. I’ll be nice and up it to a 3 out of respect for Cindy Busby and Sam Page who were great together.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

December 29, 2021

Toying With the Holidays (The Holiday Train)

On Track

Workaholic Danielle ( Can we get a Hallmark heroine who is kinda lazy just one time?) is taking her son home for Christmas to experience the holiday the way she did when she was a child with all of the bells and whistles, including the town’s famous holiday train. At the last minute, her boss lays a project on her that she can work on through her vacation. She briefly stands up to him but when he frowns at her, she caves. When will we have a female employee who is a shining star for the company not give up her power and submit to the boss’s unreasonable demands? In this case though, she is not struggling with the project throughout the movie casting a pall on the family time and celebrations. She pretty much knocks out the project right away and we move on to the important stuff. How refreshing!

Dani is as energetic at home as she is at work and when she learns the Holiday Train which her late Dad took the lead on for the town is kaput, she is determined to set it back on track (no pun intended). To that end, she gets together with Chad Michael Murray who repairs her Dad’s Lionel train she found in the attic. He is a train enthusiast as well as a hobby shop owner. CMM is as lazy and disorganized as Dani is efficient and hardworking. He’s also a little grumpy and a slob. (“Sorry, It’s the maid’s day off.” “Are you sure she isn’t hiding under all that stuff?”) His business is suffering (surprise surprise) possibly because he leaves his store open with no one on the floor while he is in the back room repairing stuff with headphones on so he can’t hear if he has any customers who might would want to buy something but more likely just steal it and he would never know the difference. But opposites attract. Danielle whips his business into shape in no time with a website and a human presence minding the store. CMM embarks on restoring the holiday train and romance ensues, despite some competition from the frisky flower shop owner next door.

Cindy was well cast as the peppy smiley Dani and I liked the pairing with laidback CMM who can do “scruffy” like nobody’s business. Cindy looked great as did the actress who played her Mom who had a little promise of a romance of her own. The Lionel train aspect was interesting. I love trains. Also, I loved Danielle’s house, which looked like a real home in a real neighborhood.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 21, 2021

A Christmas in Royal Fashion

Mis-Cast

I know this was a fairy tale-type movie, so I won’t criticize all of the unlikely events that occur. In fact, I enjoyed the ending where they provided a book end to the story to match the “This is a fantasy-don’t judge us” beginning.

My main problem was with the casting and the acting of Diarmaid Murtagh who played the prince. I should probably blame the director rather than the actor, though. The character was supposed to be an immature and devil-may-care international playboy. That’s why King sent him to America in place of the ambassador: to learn some responsibility. First off he was too old for the part of an immature scamp who needed to grow up and get his priorities in order. And once he got to America, he had a personality transplant and acted like he had a stick up his you-know-what the whole time. And he acted like he had never been out of the castle. Oooooh…The Ocean. Hardly an international playboy. He might make a good Viking,

but as a suave handsome prince, he was a bust. You know how they say, “He cleaned up well!” ? Stay with the bedraggled Barbarian thing, Diarmaid.

Cindy Busby was likable as usual, as a girl who just wants to do the right thing and a good job, but gets caught up in an embarrassing and career-wrecking situation of her own making.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 14, 2021

Follow Me to Daisy Hills

Another Delusional Store Owner Without a Lick of Business Acumen or Common Sense

Cindy Busby, a small-town girl, runs her dead mother’s general store which is going bankrupt. Her Dad calls her ex-boyfriend, a New York City wunderkind who specializes in saving businesses from failure, to come home and help them keep the store from failing. For free. Cindy resists all of his sensible advise until she doesn’t. She won’t even move the candy away from the front door where shoplifters and moochers can reach in and steal it. Because God forbid the elderly patron has to step into the store, pass what tempting merchandise there is, and go to the register to actually pay for her candy. Oh no, her not having to cross the threshold to get her Snickers is the “highlight of her day.” How dare he suggest customers have to pay for their merchandise?! He is a hard-hearted capitalist and all he cares about is money and profit. I kid you not. This store owner’s father has a heart attack from the financial stress and he is about ready to use his life savings to keep the store afloat. She is totally unaware that there is not enough cash to pay the bills, college for her young sister costs money, and an online presence is not an instrument of the devil. She is a menace to her family and the business.

It is easy to see that it didn’t take a marketing genius to save the store, which had little to offer customers except the 10 bags of Cheetos and 15 cartons of oatmeal that were skillfully arranged on the otherwise empty shelves. What finally saves the store is her getting hit with a clue-stick that her fellow townspeople can use the store to sell their own homemade products from BBQ sandwiches to baked goods to art. A real go-getter of a business owner would have realized this years ago. An energetic ten year old playing with their “Little Tykes Let’s Go Shopping” play store would have done a better job of merchandising.

I usually like Cindy Busby, but her character in this one was so technophobic, ignorant, unpleasant, and stubborn my eyeballs practically fell out of my head from all of the eyerolling.

The only other aspect I want to comment on is the weirdness of the way they groomed the hero. His colorless hair was slicked back from his pale forehead in a way that would only be acceptable if he had had a ponytail. but since men with ponytails are verboten on Hallmark, He looked like a dang Nazi. He’s probably a nice enough looking guy in real life, but he was downright creepy-looking in this.

Also this movie is in IMDb under Hearts of Down Under. I think someone confused this with another Cindy Busby Hallmark that actually was set in Australia, Hearts Down Under, now called Romance on the Menu. Somebody really screwed up.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

September 21, 2020

Love in the Forecast

Yay Teamwork!

Finally Hallmark teamed Christopher Russell up with an actress he had some chemistry with! He showed a lot more personality than he has in some of his recent roles. The best he’s been since Midnight Masquerade. Although I seem to be the lone ranger here, Cindy Busby is one of my favorite Hallmark actresses and she did not disappoint in this one. The basic plot isn’t anything much but the two leads really played off of each other well. It was a straight up romantic comedy with no festivals or save the— fill in the blank— gimmicks to prop up a tired plot and fill in the 2 hours. Plus, there was a lot of good information about the weather.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 15, 2020

Lucky in Love

I Change My Vote!

When I first saw this movie 4 or 5 years ago, I gave it a 5. I just rewatched it and I am bumping my grade up to an 8. Unfortunately, this is a sad commentary on how mediocre the current crop of Hallmark-type movies are. They now churn them out so frequently, that the quality of the acting, plot, chemistry between the leads, directing and writing has inevitably suffered. Consequently, when I see one that is half-way decent or has one great thing going for it, it earns at least a 7 from me. This one features some actors who have since made it pretty big in Hallmark-Land. namely Benjamin Hollingsworth, Ryan Kennedy, and Peter Benson. And low and behold Cindy Busby in a bit part as a friend of our heroine and barely recognizable with brown hair. I loved Jessica Szohr in the lead role as a girl who achieves the life of her dreams due to a series of coincidences. She was very exotic looking and a far cry from the pageant ready looks favored by most hallmark heroines. Her acting was top notch as well, and I loved the ups and downs she goes through to achieve her happy ending and the right man for her. All in all, it was very entertaining, especially since they didn’t cling to stereo type black or white characterizations. The guy who was the initial “villain” turns out to be a great guy, and our good girl heroine turns into a bit of a bitch before she sees the error of her ways. It looks like Jessica has gone on to other projects besides Hallmark. Hallmark would do well to groom more female leads with her range and interesting looks.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 1, 2020

Wedding March 5: My Boyfriend’s Back

For the Love of All that’s Holy! Will Someone Please Help Josie?!

Although the plot is tired and the writing unoriginal, this one was worth looking at due to the principal love interests. Cindy Busby has been a favorite for quite a while. Tyler Hynes caught my interest as soon as he appeared in a Hallmark last year. He has now become a big favorite. I will give any Hallmark a chance if they have one of these two actors.

On the other hand, poor Josie Bissett’s hair situation has become a concern. She is a lovely woman who has aged gracefully and plays women of her own age. The pairing with Jack Wagner works. I am not sure what is going on with her health or her hair, but there are plenty of attractive wig options out there for those who are in need of some extra assistance. If she has been wearing wigs, they are frightful: stiff and cottony looking. If that’s her real hair, please buy some conditioner or go back to the darling pixie haircut she was once famous for. Sorry, but this is something is totally fixable. I am being cruel to be kind.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

June 9, 2019

A Puppy for Christmas

Would Have been Kind of Awful Except for the Great Cast.

Cindy Busby is one of my favorite Hallmark actresses, so I gave this one a whirl. She plays a journalist who has been given an opportunity to write a feature on the secret of a happy marriage. At first, her character, Noelle, is very annoying and does some really stupid things. Like buy a dog while living in her boyfriend’s apartment without consulting with him, taking the badly behaved dog to work without permission, and being incompetent writing her feature story. She is not likable at all. She is also snotty to her office mate, a handsome but kind of dorky fellow writer. And the dog is possessed by the devil. But, hey, Cindy Busby! I couldn’t stay irritated for long, and she finally starts to redeem herself. She is dumped by her commitment phobic boyfriend of 5 years, and, now homeless, is invited to spend a country Christmas with her super-nice and dog-loving office colleague.

The male leads were superb, which further bumps it up. Christopher Russell plays the bad boyfriend, for a change, and does a great job. Greyston Holt was very very attractive and the complete opposite from his rival. He played a bit of an eccentric with long hair and a beard. For a change, he also had a fiance who shared his outdoorsy and adventuresome spirit, which added some interest to the final happy ending. I also liked his quirky sister, and Cindy’s older friend.

Clichés, tired plot elements, and an unbelievable coincidences would normally doom a Hallmark movie. But this one is saved by the cast, some well fleshed out characters and a few unusual additions.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 23, 2018

Marrying Mr. Darcy

Well Done!

I think I enjoyed this one more than the first one, Unleashing Mr. Darcy. Loved the 2 leads, although Ryan Peavy’s role in this sequel was just to be loving and supportive. The acting of Cindy Busby and Frances Fisher was superb and took center stage here. Cindy really made you feel how torn Elizabeth was between people-pleasing and asserting her own dream of the wedding she wanted. You were with her every step of the way as frustration with Aunt Violet and the way she was subtly taking over the wedding plans built and built. On the other hand, Frances’ acting was such that one felt a little empathy for her point of view as well. You couldn’t really hate her too much. She wasn’t painted as the evil aunt like she was in the first one. You understood how much she loved Donovan Darcy and his sister, and knew that she meant well. And this was due to Fisher’s acting. Another actress might have made her the stock wicked witch character. I loved it when Elizabeth finally rebels during the choosing of the reception details and asserts her own authority. I loved Aunt Violet’s state of shock, and her appreciative “Well Done!” as Elizabeth storms off. The relationship of Jenna and her “Bingley,” Henry Robson, added a nice layer to the principal romance. They were down-to-earth and clear-eyed. They reminded me of the Carrie Fisher/ Bruno Kirby characters in When Harry Met Sally. The romance took second place to the drama of Elizabeth becoming acquainted with the realities of Donovan’s life and his responsibilities, her inner conflict, and the outward drama of Aunt Violet’s influence. And that was more than fine.**9 out of 10 stars**

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

June 4, 2018

Royal Hearts

Charming Heroine makes this One Barely Bearable

Cute and likable Cindy Busby accounts for almost all of my stars with one star reserved for the male lead. Royal Hearts is an extremely hackneyed plot which presents no surprises, twists, or suspense. It strictly follows the template set forth in innumerable Royal themed romances. Fish out of water heroine and, in this case, her Dad, shake up the royal protocol, is briefly seduced by a royal handsome bad guy, but ends up with the “poor” commoner she had a meet cute with at the beginning after rubbing each other the wrong way throughout most of the movie. Oh. And the kingdom gains its independence thanks to the Americans. What would they do without us? I started out looking forward to seeing James Brolin, but he quickly out-wore his welcome with his over the top impression of Sam Elliot.

It was kinda funny that the first scene in the movie is Cindy teaching Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which intentionally or unintentionally hearkens back to her breakthrough role as Elizabeth in Unleashing Mr. Darcy. This was released around 3 months before the sequel to that movie. Coincidence? **6 stars**

March 3, 2018