The Christmas Retreat

Rhiannon Fish Moves up the Likability Scale

This one was OK. The first time I really liked Rhiannon Fish in a role was in the recent Hallmark Mystery, Nicky and Nora: Sister Sleuths. So I went into this one giving her the benefit of the doubt and she really came through, showing some good acting and comic timing. She is very very pretty, which is not always a plus.

She starts off playing a real pill and a bit of a brat. And she does it well, starting with her first chance confrontation with the hero, from whom she steals a cab. She is on her way to getting engaged to her long-term boyfriend who ends up dumping her instead. And you can’t blame him a bit. She is all about her work and career, not even silencing her phone during what she expects to be a marriage proposal (Besides being 45 minutes late despite the Cab Caper).

Her mother sees the problem and insists she spends Christmas with her at a Christmas Retreat, which surprise surprise ends up being owned by the guy she just screwed (as in tricked out of the cab, of course). He has just resigned from his company because he was unjustly passed over for a promotion. Good for him.

As she spends time at the retreat with her mother and participates in the activities designed to help the guests regain their Christmas spirit, she finally starts to enjoy herself and own her issues. At first, her reluctance to give up her phone and her bad attitude towards participating lead to some comedy and funny banter with Mark, the hero. Most of the middle got a little on the boring side, and the end was marred by Mark’s behavior toward Rhiannon in the inevitable “big misunderstanding”, which was even more confounding than usual. Her ex-boyfriend shows up all contrite and wants her back, and Mark gets jealous, ignoring their established strong connection and her practically begging him to admit their love. For a nice guy, he acted like a stupid jerk.

Anyway, he regains his sanity and goes after her resulting in the happy ending. They both give up their careers for a more authentic and easy-going life in the woods, spreading Christmas cheer all year long.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Love & Where to Find It

Pretty Dull, but Credit Where Credit is Due.

This one starts off owing a lot to You’ve Got Mail. Leena’s little local coffee shop is threatened by a big corporate store that also sells coffee moving in across the street. She meets cute with the manager, Jonah, and they really hit it off before she finds out who he is. Meanwhile, she is helping her best friend send messages to a guy she likes on a dating app because her friend is not a good writer and she is. She really has a rapport with him. It turns out that the guy she is getting personal with via text message is not her friend’s potential date but is Jonah. He is doing the same for his friend as she is. By now the manager is “the enemy” but little does she know.

Thankfully, they drop this trope once the two friends meet on a real date and no longer need a go-between. The main couple starts running into each other and despite her hostility, it is amazing how much they have in common.  They are even friends with the same pig, Bella, at an animal rescue farm. He: “ When I look into Bella’s eyes it’s like she is staring into my soul.” She: ”Totally!” I’m not kidding. And it’s not like “Bella” is even one of those cute pigs. Bella makes a brief cameo appearance and she is the ugliest pig I’ve ever seen. No wonder she got kicked to the curb, poor thing.


He volunteers at the rescue center during Thanksgiving “rescuing turkeys.” What that involves, I don’t know and I’m not sure I want to, but she is all in. “I’ve always wanted to do that!” He: “You totally should, It’s so fulfilling!” They are both pretty flaky, but I give UPtv points for straying from the usual conventional personalities and interests that are usual for the main couple. As well as promoting Animal Rescue. There’s also a lot of talk about Vegetarianism. The secondary couple loves meat so that provides some balance. Even though the coffee shop goes out of business they avoid all the drama and angst that usually accompanies that plot development. Her main interest is in baking, so her attitude is “Oh well, onward and upward.” Points for that too.

All in all, this was not that good. The reason this earned 6 stars from me was Clayton James who played Jonah. He was charming and lovable and was totally smitten with Leena, who was not very lovable in my opinion. But he was really sweet, and the secondary couple was likable as well.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

February 1, 2022

Blueprint to the Heart

No Make-Over Necessary

My main problem with this one was why any home renovation show or interior designer with any taste would want to change this carpenter’s cute, authentic, and cozy home. They wanted to rip out the hardwood floors, remove the original old wood fir tree beams and knock out the walls to make it a McMansion-style house. And they wanted to do the same to him, basically. This guy who was a casual, cheerful, very talented carpenter who looked like a poor man’s Chris Pratt. And I mean that as a compliment. However, the chemistry between the two principals was excellent and good triumphed over evil in the end. Probably doesn’t deserve it, but I’m giving it 7 stars for the likability and overall appeal of the hero.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

January 31, 2021

Don’t Forget I Love You

Very Smiley

This was very nice, pleasant, and boring. We meet our heroine, Emilie Ullerup, listening to daily affirmations with her earbuds as she is getting ready for work, going to work, and arriving at work. Already, I’m disconnected and struggling to stay awake. The lady’s voice is very soothing. Emilie is the head of her own company which specializes in neatening and organizing peoples’ spaces.

Despite her roots showing, we get that our heroine leads a sterile life that is very planned out with no surprises or spontaneity.

On her 30th birthday, she visits her father who has a time capsule from her dead mother. It contains 5 beautifully calligraphed challenges for her daughter to accomplish to enrich her boring dull life. Even though she seems perfectly happy and very cheerful. The first one is “Meet Someone New”. The last one is “Tell Someone You Love Them” (presumably someone not a relative, single, and of the opposite sex). So we know that her mother has reached out from the grave to get her workaholic daughter A Man. But we don’t know that yet because the last edict is not revealed until the end. LOL.

She meets her super cute neighbor, a single dad (widowed) who is a bit of a slob and has just moved into the neighborhood. He is the target and he will not escape. She helps him unpack his boxes and it’s on. They do the rest of the challenges together. The only hiccup is another predatory female who also has her eyes on him. Who is gorgeous and nice, by the way.

We’ve seen this all before but Emilie and Clayton James (formerly Clayton Chitty), who plays The Man, bring nothing to the show, although Emile tries very hard to be super cute and endearing. A little too hard. Clayton is very cute, like I said, but doesn’t move the needle as far as personality. The whole shebang is about as contrived as the photo of the mountain scene that is propped up behind them during one of their last “adventures.” It just goes through the motions but without even a fan to ruffle the hair.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

January 24, 2022

Christmas on the Menu


Josie’s bakery failed because of a review by Tanner, an influential restaurant critic. She is working at her friend Nina’s restaurant and preparing to go home for Christmas to develop a menu for her Mom’s Bed and Breakfast when Tanner walks in with his editor, Pepper. Nina serves him Josie’s new dessert, her Red Velvet Cheesecake, and Tanner loves it. When Josie goes home to the B&B, surprise surprise, Tanner shows up. He explained that his original review was not so mean, but it was re-edited to get more notice and to boost circulation. The romance begins.

I liked Kim Shaw’s performance in this, but a lot of the movie didn’t make sense. First, Cynthia Gibb looks way too young to be a 35-year-old’s mother. (Good for Her!) Also, the actor who played Kim’s ex-boyfriend was 7 years younger than her and they were supposed to be the same age. Kim Shaw has a very fresh-faced look and looks young, but somehow, the ages seemed squished together. I was confused by why the ex-boyfriend was hanging around Kim’s mother all the time at the B&B.

The love interest/food critic was handsome but kind of a non-entity. And since when does a professional food critic agree to only give a good review or no review? His editor, Pepper, was the antagonist who doctored honest reviews to make them negative. And food critic just let her do that without a peep. What a wimp. Where is the integrity? She follows Tanner to the B&B because she “likes likes” him, and presumably to prevent Tanner from repairing his relationship with Josie. Luckily, also present at the grand opening of Mom’s B&B were two nationally known reviewers who loved everything. If the little newspaper gave a bad review, it would reflect on them, not Josie, the chef (who was also famous and lauded in her own right anyway.) To sabotage Josie’s dessert, Pepper eats a whole big bowl of Kim’s special whipped cream the night before! A trigger warning for binge-eaters would not have gone amiss. And she didn’t even deny it! Why didn’t she just say she broke the bowl when she was getting something else out of the refrigerator? Such a strange choice to sabotage a rival. Pepper needs her own movie, especially since we saw the glimmerings of regret as she drove off. Or it may have been all that whipped cream.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

December 20, 2020

The Last Bridesmaid

Bad Vibes

I am a fan of Paul Campbell so I thought I’d give this a re-watch, even though I didn’t remember being overly impressed the first time around. Paul was fine. Rachel, Rachel, Rachel. I used to like her all right. She used to be one of the go-to Hallmark actresses. The more I have seen her in recent years, the less I like her. She has a real stagey acting style. She says her lines like she knows there is an audience watching her. No matter what role she plays, beneath the smiles and niceness, she kind of comes across like she knows she is kind of superior to everyone else. This is just the way she comes across to me. I know she has her fans, and that is fine.

I found that her interaction with Paul Campbell came across as borderline hostile especially at the beginning. And it wasn’t due to the story. Her eyes were so cold when she looked at him in a few scenes, I actually got a little freaked out. I wish I knew what was going on there, if anything.

The story wasn’t all that bad, hence a semi-respectable 6 1/2 stars from me. The script seemed well-written and had some cute and clever lines. I liked that she was playing her age not an almost 40-year-old actress playing a young inexperienced girl just starting out in her career. The jewelry-making subplot was interesting and added a lot to the usual love story. The message was a good one: Follow your dreams, do what you love, but stay sensible and grounded. The romance as scripted did not come out of nowhere, the relationship developed naturally and realistically.**6 1/2 stars out of 10**

May 26, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.