Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses

Promising Start and Some Good Scenes but Didn’t Like the Romance.

Jill Wagner plays a hardworking single Mom who wants to get back to Interior Designing but is afraid to leave her stable job as a programming director at an assisted living facility. Donna Mills encourages her to apply for a primo job with her big-shot son redecorating and re-purposing their old unused mansion for office space and a Christmas gala. Donna who was pushing 80 when this was filmed in 2019 looks absolutely gorgeous.

The setup for this is good as Donna’s son is cold, “imperious,” and has no sense of humor, and his V.P. and trusted advisor, Kate, is a cold bitch. They both make it crispy clear they are not impressed by her qualifications or demeanor. And I can’t say that I blame them. For while we like Abby who is warm, enthusiastic, and charming, her qualifications were not the best, and she misspoke during the interview. When they haughtily dismiss her, she has a meltdown and acted like the “interview” was just a formality and she was guaranteed the job. She yells at them and storms out of the room. Very entitled and unprofessional. She’s hired because she has “spunk”.

Jill remains as charming and likable as ever while trying and succeeding in jollying up the Scroogey Nick. He slowly but surely warms up to her, her son, and her ideas (which are diametrically opposed to Kate’s who keeps getting meaner and meaner). His character arc takes up a large chunk of the movie and they start to give each other smoldering looks. Meanwhile, Abby meets a nice doctor who loves kids and whom we like as well. It is a measure of Jill Wagner’s appeal that she remains likable while stringing the nice doctor along while being attracted to Nick and behaving very unprofessionally at times.  Nick keeps following her around like a puppy dog and even at one point stalks her while she is on a date with the doctor and actually horning in on it with scary Kate at his side. It is very awkward and painful to watch.

He loses an important client because he is neglecting his business and I actually started sympathizing with Kate and her frustration. He gives a nice speech to Abby about why his business needs his full attention. Abby’s work on the mansion is a triumph and the writers now decide to rehabilitate Kate instead of punishing her for being so mean to Abby. She acknowledges Abby’s good work and admits she was wrong. A.) They need her to give the good doctor some romantic closure as he is left twisting in the wind by our heroine which is not a good look. B.) They need her to take on the bulk of Nick’s business responsibilities so he can have more of a work/life balance with Abby. So she gets a promotion.

This one ultimately did not fly for me despite Jill Wagner’s appeal. I could never warm up to Nick, especially due to the worthy competition of the sexy and nice doctor. She had more in common with him and it seemed like it was just physical attraction between Abby and Nick. Also, I just couldn’t get quite forget that the actor who played him was that blockhead Warner from Legally Blonde.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

December 21, 2021

Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa

Take a Chill Pill, Jill

Jill Wagner is usually very natural and believable in whatever type of role she takes on. She is always a beacon of maturity and balance. Not so much in this one. She was a bit over-caffeinated and somewhat exhausting. Could it be the influence of being in holly jolly Evergreen?

Lisa, a big city real estate stager decides to briefly go home to Evergreen, the Christmas capital of the world, or at least Hallmarkland. She is disappointed to see Daisy’s Country Store out of business and up for sale and learns that the VIP citizens of the town are scared that a big conglomerate will buy it and put up a McDonald’s or something in the middle of their picturesque little Christmas village. Haven’t they ever heard of Zoning laws? And how to use them? Lisa decides to stage the store to make it a more attractive investment for someone who will keep it the way it was. And presumably, everyone else who won’t as well? She hires handsome Kevin, a famous contractor, who is visiting his morose Dad in Evergreen to help. They transform the dilapidated store, but the prospective buyers fall through. Eventually, she gets her and Oliver, her business partner and BFF’s number one client, Polly, to visit and hopefully buy the store. Polly OOhs and AAhs but doesn’t bite but wants Oliver and Lisa to work for her exclusively. They are thrilled at the opportunity. Kevin hears about it and decides to leave town. Also, Kevin, who doesn’t realize Oliver is gay, thinks Lisa and Oliver are “together.” Of course, Oliver’s sexual orientation is not stated because it is way back in 2018 before Gay people existed in Hallmarkland. But when Lisa falls in a snowbank laughing hysterically (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! NONONONONONONONO!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!) at the prospect of her and Oliver hooking up, we get the idea.

Anyway, Lisa and Kevin reconcile and Lisa buys the store herself. Christmas miracles abound but not without the help of the magic snow globe (see movie #1) a mysterious key to something or other, and a 25-year-old letter to Santa that went astray and didn’t make it to the North Pole.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

December 10, 2021

Hearts of Winter

Ho Hum Hallmark Elevated by the Cast and their Chemistry

The story and the writing is weak, although the interior decorating and shopping bits were mildly diverting. However thanks to the talented cast and the easy chemistry among all the actors, this one earns an 8 from me. Jill Wagner is a very good actress and she and Victor Webster make a great well-matched couple. Victor’s character Grant started out whiny and ungrateful, but he got over it fairly quickly. Lauren McNamara who played Grant’s daughter was also top-notch and has been in several other Hallmark movies. She gets the plot rolling buy winning a free house makeover from Bethany an up and coming Interior Designer. Brendan Zub has impressed me in other productions, but was under-used as Jill’s sensible and supportive brother. I would like to see him as the lead again in further Hallmark movies. Last and certainly not least is the cute and charismatic Rukiya Bernard, Jill’s friend and partner, who brightens every production she is in. Alas, still in the best friend role and not as the lead. Come on Hallmark! Give her a role worthy of her before she gets away. One thing I really liked about this romance is that it didn’t end with the deal-sealing smooch, like they all do, but went on to add a little postscript by having the cast wrap things up back at the redecorated home.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 26, 2020

A Harvest Wedding

Very Nice. And Breaks the Mold in a Few Instances

A Harvest Wedding was above average due to the likability and good acting of the leads, Jill Wagner and Victor Webster. They played age-appropriate, mature, and sensible characters with good heads on their shoulders. Because of this, the plot was not packed with silly misunderstandings, stupid behavior, or battles between good and evil. Jill Wagner has a real Scarlett Johannsen thing going on, though much more down-to-earth looking. Victor Webster was almost too handsome, which made him an unlikely farmer, but his acting was good.

Jill played a wedding planner, Sarah, given the gig of a high-profile society wedding which would really put her on the map career-wise. In addition, a prestigious wedding magazine is doing a piece on the wedding because of the prominence of the family involved despite the fact that the bride, a super nice down-to-earth girl (Andrea Brooks), chose Jill over much more established wedding planners. To add to the complications, the bride does not want a super-fancy formal spectacle, but a simple country wedding at her fiance’s family farm. I liked that the mother of the bride was set up to be a momzilla, but knock me down with a feather, after a heart to heart talk with Sarah and her daughter, she stepped up and helped give her daughter the wedding she wanted, not what fulfilled her own elite society wedding dreams.

In addition, the ending was a refreshing breath of fresh air. Without fail, In Hallmances, the big city career girl gives up all of her professional progress and achievements and moves to the country to be a wife. In this one, the farmer, thanks to his development of a method of rooftop gardening, divides his time between the country and the city, allowing Sarah to pursue her dreams. This is a real departure for Hallmark. The final scene was a treat.**7 stars out of 10**

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

October 26, 2017