All Saints Christmas

Good Singing on Hallmark At Last

I really enjoyed this one. It was well-written and I liked all the attractive cast and characters. Even the “big misunderstanding” made sense, not one of the stupid OVERHEARING PART OF A CONVERSATION AND LEAVING RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT PUTTING THE LOVE INTEREST IN AN UNJUSTLY BAD LIGHT WHICH ALSO COMPLETELY CONTRADICTS HIS OR HER ALREADY ESTABLISHED GOOD CHARACTER. I hate that one.

Lisette is an established Grammy award-winning R&B singer who is being supplanted by her record label by a young whippersnapper who is not as talented but gets a lot of buzz on social media due to her relationship with a hot actor. When her manager, who is also very hot, but in the looks department, reminds her that her best and most popular album was produced by her ex, Matthew, she makes it clear that it was a bad breakup that she is still bitter about.  Before she goes to visit her jazz club-owning family in New Orleans she pays a visit to a Christmas Market. She drops a ring on the ground and a nice man picks it up and hands it to her while still on his knees. And who is the chivalrous gentleman but her ex, Matthew! And caught in a classic will-you-marry-me pose on camera which immediately goes viral! Her mother, Orca, (Orca?) video-calls her wondering what the heck is going on and she catches them both together. In an amusing scene, he confirms the engagement to her mother and agrees to visit and meet the family. By mistake. It’s pretty funny. So we have a classic fake fiance situation with the two leads really clicking. There also is a subplot involving a prominent music journalist who is also a fellow New Orleanian whose family is friends with Lisette’s family. She seems to have a history of giving stories about Lisette a negative spin, and they are hostile to each other. The reason for the breach and how it is healed provides a nice little twist in the plot.

Lisette’s well-off family is nice and the characters are well-developed. I thought I was not going to like the stern and strict father, but he turned out not to be overly annoying. There are some funny scenes. One of which is the intimidating father entering Matthew’s room with an ax. Turns out he was just going to cut down a Christmas tree, but the visual was a highlight.  The movie is both well-written and well-acted with some apropos commentary on social media and the music industry. And bonus points for the great singing and music, plenty of scenes showing off New Orleans at Christmas time, and the nicely done finale and resolution to all of the botherations.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Small Town Christmas

Oldie but Goodie

I reached back in time this season to re-watch a 2018 Christmas movie that I really enjoyed but didn’t review. This stars my favorite leading man, Kristoffer Polaha, and Ashley Newbrough, not a favorite but very good. I have no problems with her.

Ashley plays a successful author who is booked to do some events in the small town on which she based her best-selling book. A few years ago she was great friends with a co-worker who used to regale her with stories set in his hometown. On the verge of becoming romantically involved, he ghosted her, leaving her alone in a restaurant waiting for him to show up for their first real date. She called and texted over and over but he never replied and has never been in touch. She is nervous about visiting his home town and she has a right to be because not only is he living there but he owns the quirky local bookstore and is the liaison organizing the promotional events for her new book.

He is thrilled to see her again, basically acting like nothing happened and he did nothing wrong. He is now the guardian of his niece, the adorable Bailey Skodje. It turns out that on the night of their date he received word that his sister and her husband were killed in an auto accident. Now that is pretty awful and tragic, but it still is no excuse for his behavior of disappearing off the face of the earth without a word. But Ashley is forgiving considering the circumstances and they proceed to fall back in love.

The secondary plot is that of a property developer that Ashley got friendly with wanting to “revitalize” the town. Sound good, but when he wants all of the shop owners to sell their stores to him for obscene amounts of money, Kris gets suspicious.  He refuses to sell until he learns that the whole deal is kaput unless the developer can buy all the businesses including his. So in the name of helping his friends and colleagues who need the money, he agrees reluctantly to sell.  Imagine the shock when they find out, thanks to Ashley, that instead of revitalizing the town, he wants to demolish it and put up a big resort! What is a lying sneaky snake! And he seemed so nice! What is refreshing about this, is that the money men like the little town just the way it is. And his petard is hoisted. The rich investors are even going to invest in the town as is while keeping its charming picturesque feel. Towards the end, Ashley finds out that Kris actually wrote her a letter explaining what happened in his life, but he sent it to their old workplace and by that time she had already quit so she never got it. So he had been wondering why she never replied to him. Still no excuse for no phone call or quick text reply, but whatever. The mystery of his behavior which had been an ongoing puzzle is finally solved.

Kristoffer Polaha is such a charmer in this. He is full of energy and his acting was nuanced, low-key, and natural as always. He adds thoughtful touches to his delivery. For example towards the end when he was very turned off by Brad and his slick behavior, he started saying his name like he was saying “Yuck”. Bra-a-d (grimace, cringe-but subtle!) He plays such a sweet guy in this that it made it very funny somehow. I also liked that though he disliked and was jealous of Brad, he just studiously ignored him rather than acting all pouty and hostile. His chemistry with Ashley Newbrough was terrific. Although, in my view, it’s Kristoffer Polaha so he probably would have chemistry with a bag of doorknobs. This one is 4 years old, but it will play again at least one more time before Christmas is over. I highly recommend you check it out if you have the time.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Autumn in the City

New York is so Nice!

This was fairly watchable despite a few troublesome aspects. One of which was the mismatch in the casting. Aimee Teegarden is an attractive and relatively youthful Hallmark leading lady and Evan Roderick as her love interest was a fresh new face and did well. Unfortunately, together, the pair didn’t work. Aimee is in her early 30s playing an almost 30-year-old. Evan Roderick is 6 years younger and could pass for 17. So, for me, the chemistry was off.

Piper has escaped from her hometown and her over-protective parents to pursue her dreams in New York City. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any dreams other than escaping from her dead-end life in Iowa or Omaha or whatever. This leads to a series of temp jobs where she hopes that her destiny will hit her “like a bolt of lightning.” She is almost 30 years old. Honey, if lightning hasn’t struck by now, it’s not going to. The thing is, her passion is right in front of her, but she is totally oblivious. Big Clue: She is constantly drawing and coloring in her sketchbook which is never far from her side. So, Piper, art? Maybe? While waiting for her bolt out of the blue, Piper waves aside several amazing opportunities that most young ambitious *20* somethings starting from scratch would kill for. I could neither sympathize, understand, nor relate. She turns down a supervisory position in a museum, which I’m pretty sure would be snapped up by most master’s degree holders in the field just to get their foot in the door. She takes a job as the personal assistant to a Broadway star. But she is about ready to go on a national and international tour, including London. Piper doesn’t want to go (why not?????!!!!!!!) and quits or is fired. Then she gets a job in an art gallery where she promptly sells a painting they have been trying to get rid of for months and earns a 10% commission which the owner has to insist she accept. New York certainly is the land of opportunity and New Yorkers are all just waiting to give nice mid-westerners cool jobs. But not cool enough for Piper. Despite being a closerthanthis match to her artistic talents, she quits to go back home to her boring life and suffocating parents even ditching her own birthday party. (She is sad because her boss told her her cute sketches weren’t quite gallery show material.) Spoiler alert. She changes her mind at the last minute.

While all this is going on she gets to know Austin, the son of a world-famous journalist and Piper’s next-door neighbor. He is writing a  children’s book about Nathan the Squirrel rather than following in his egotistical mother’s footsteps. His mother won’t let up and she gets him a job he doesn’t want as a reporter and instead of just turning it down, he is a waste of space, acts like a petulant child, and gets fired. Both of these two lead charmed lives, however, even for Hallmark. Austin submits his manuscript to a publisher, thanks to some shaming from Piper, and, even without an agent, it gets accepted. And not only accepted but they want a whole series about Nathan! He had talked Piper into doing the illustrations for his pitch. Lightening Bolt! By the end, after a lot of “tragedy” and triumph, she has her dream career and a boyfriend. There were no pumpkins in this one (pumpkin spice lattes don’t count) but lots of leaves. Attention young midwesterners! Life in New York City really isn’t like this!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If I Only Had Christmas

Interesting Effort

There sure are a lot of mean reviews for this movie. Sounds like some are trying to knock the ubiquitous Candace off of her Hallmark throne. I am not a huge Candace fan, but she’s harmless and she has never looked lovelier than in this tribute to The Wizard of Oz. I thought it was very cleverly done with the names, the characters, and the situations. There wasn’t much of a plot, but at least it wasn’t a stale rehash of the same old Hallmark set-pieces. I watched it to the end with not fast-forwarding, and that’s worth at least a 6 or a 7. I’m not sure why she got so mad at “Glen Goodman” (Glenda the Good witch, Ha Ha) at the end, but that’s just standard Hallmark procedure to provide some tension and to set up the happy ending.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

December 1, 2020

Forever Christmas

See it for Christopher Russell

If Christopher Russell is paired with the right female lead, and he has a script that takes advantage of his GQ worthy handsomeness and the kindness that you can see behind his eyes, he can be great. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. It does in this one. The script explores the phoniness behind reality series and how untrustworthy and false they can be. I didn’t much care for the heroine, but Christopher made up for that and had charm enough for both. I did like that they had a fairly sizzling love scene as opposed to the usual chaste kiss at the end of the movie.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 20, 2020

Jingle Bell Bride

Above Average

Pretty good. Julie Gonzalo was charming and funny and I liked that they incorporated her Latino heritage into the character. I usually appreciate it when there is more going on than just the love story, and this one brought in her professional life and challenges. I like the tension with her coworker trying to steal her client when she got stuck in Alaska. A Sweet love story and I was actually a little moved at one point.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 2, 2020

Tempting Fate

It’s a Bad Idea to Flirt via Text Messages unless You’re Single

**spoilers**

This is another in Lifetime’s Book to Screen series. I gave it a seven because I did watch it with interest through the whole thing. A husband betrays his wife by getting a vasectomy behind her back when he knew she wanted another child. He’s all I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but when she asks that he has it reversed he balks. While feeling angry and betrayed, (and who could blame her?) she goes to a party and meets a young tech millionaire who is a good guy who offers her a pretty sweet business opportunity. Friendship soon turns into flirting via text and ultimately one night of passion. She immediately feels remorse and guilt and cuts off the relationship and her business partnership with him. She reconciles with hubby and all is happy happy happy. But oopsie. She is pregnant. When she breaks the news to hubby (abortion is not even an option) He is very very upset. (and who could blame him?) He leaves her and proceeds full speed ahead to divorce, selling the beloved family home, and breaking up the family. She wants to work it out because they really did have a great marriage and wonderful family before the infidelity. Their two daughters feel the fallout. One hates her mother, the other favors her mother, but acts out in a truly horrendous way and is expelled. He is all you did this! It is all your fault! He refuses to take any responsibility. Well enough plot outline. It all proceeds in a fairly predictable manner.

My main quibble is how happy it all ended. I mean talk about rainbows, sparkles, and unicorns. It ends up she not only didn’t lose a husband, but gained a millionaire baby daddy whose new girlfriend is even welcomed as a family friend and presumably a free babysitter. It was too cheesy even for me.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

June 19, 2019

Just in Time for Christmas

Back to the Future

Lindsay is at a crossroads in her life. She is a professor at a small local college who has just been offered a professorship and a book deal from Yale University. The same day, she has a date with her long-term boyfriend on which he proposes marriage. It was an elaborate proposal and when she doesn’t jump at the chance they have an argument. On her way home she is offered a carriage ride (William Shatner) that turns out to be magical. She is transported 3 years forward in time and her life is going forward as if she had accepted the offer from Yale. She is a respected Yale professor, best-selling author, a local hero, and her book has made her 2 million dollars richer. But woe is me. She still loves her petulant childhood sweetheart and her mother had a heart attack. BUT Mom is now happily remarried and living in Sweden, so that is all right then.

Overall this was an entertaining movie but for me, there were a few problems. First off, in this 2015 (before the quantity over quality directive) movie Eloise Mumford was excellent and cute. I have seen 2 of her later movies with which I had major problems with: One with the movie (she was fine) and one with her. Specifically her hairdresser and makeup artist.  I loved Christopher Lloyd as her grandfather and the winks at Back to the Future and A Wonderful Life. William Shatner is always a hoot. Also, I liked the compromise solution of the ending. Much of the entertainment value rested in the suspense of whether she would choose her professional success or her love life. My main problem was with the boyfriend’s childish personality. The two just didn’t match. My second problem was with her flirty behavior with him throughout the movie, until near the end where she actually flies back home to break up his impending marriage to another woman. Excuse me? No. Just no. The small problem was that she got $2,000,000 as a first-time author of a self-help book published by a University press. Bestseller or not, come on now. The epilogue is totally unnecessary and I love epilogues.

Like I said before, the ending managed a big win for everyone, unless, like me, you wish she would have ended up with the astrophysicist that is mentioned as her Yale love interest instead of small-town coffee shop dude.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

July 4, 2021

Autumn in the Vineyard

Cheers!

One of the better productions in a long time. Set in beautiful wine country, the country-side was gorgeous. Rachel Leigh Cook makes a great Hallmark heroine and her chemistry with the love interest was very good. It started out with some good conflict with her father who not only took her for granted but figuratively slapped her in the face by denying her her rightful place in his business. She rightly struck out on her own by buying her own vineyard, much to his dismay. I love a good comeuppance story. The plot moved on nicely, forcing the h/h to co-manage their vineyard which was somehow sold to both of them at the same time. They had a history and a rivalry already, which added interest to their romance and the development of their relationship. There was a little hint of a secondary romance of an older couple (the hero and heroine’s parents and the heads of competing vineyards.) and a younger couple. There were plenty of interesting secondary characters to keep things moving along. I really like the actress who played the friend. (Ali Leibert) And it was interesting that his family was kind of sketchy. They avoided a real T.V. remote throwing potential plot twist by avoiding the trap of having her save her dad from bankruptcy by giving up her own successful venture. That would have been a terrible message to send. So thank-you. **8 out of 10 stars**

October 11, 2016