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.

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

It Was Always You

Good Hair!

Elizabeth is engaged to a fellow dentist, safe boring George, a childhood friend. They go to their old island neighborhood to throw a party for George’s mother and to prepare for their upcoming wedding. George’s brother David with whom she has had a stormy relationship with is also there. When George is stranded on the mainland, Elizabeth and David are thrown together planning the party.

I did not like the relationship between Tyler Hynes (David) and Erin Krakow who played Elizabeth. Tyler Hynes was his usual rough around the edges attractive self. I really usually like him. But his character in this one was irritating. He was out of line about things that were none of his business. The whole relationship bordered on the inappropriate and stalkerish. She was engaged to his brother and he needed to lay off and leave her alone.

And why did the fiance brother not just get a boat over to the island when the bridge was under repair? Ridiculous.

I disagree with the apparent majority opinion about Erin’s hair. I liked the different cut from the way her fans are used to seeing her on When Calls the Heart, which I’ve never seen, (with the inauthentic modern flowing locks in 19th century Canada). It gave her an edge that improved her usual placidly wholesome look.

I did like the end. I’m a real fan of the “One year later” endings. I like that Erin followed her dreams of travel. Tyler’s childhood note to Erin was really sweet and romantic. And I liked that the stick-in-the-mud brother had finally loosened up with the right woman.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

March 2, 2021

Where Your Heart Belongs


This was dreadful. Jen Lilley seems doomed lately to playing contemptible characters. And contemptible characters that are written poorly. Mackenzie is a top marketing executive in New York City who is losing her clients to a shiny new rival. She is stressed out about that when her best friend moves her wedding up and needs her help to pull it off in their old hometown. She hasn’t been home since her mother died and did I hear right that it’s been 10 years? Her father has health problems and his maple syrup business is failing because he stubbornly refuses to modernize despite the financial support and advice of his “employee”, Mackenzie’s old boyfriend played by Christopher Russell. It doesn’t help that the trees he is tapping are not Maple trees.

Her friend wants a simple hometown inexpensive wedding because that is the kind of down-to-earth person she is. Mackenzie basically hijacks her wedding to promote herself to her rapidly departing clientele. The kicker is that she knows she is doing wrong, but just continues to do it. Her actions are contemptible but Jen Lilley plays it with a sugar coating that only makes her seem like the ultimate phony. She uses her friend’s easygoing nature to run roughshod over her while being on the phone almost constantly to her New York assistant talking about her career problems. She browbeats the bride into going with an ugly over-the-top designer dress instead of the flattering simple gown she loves and gets the lovely little country church trashed by the famous D. J. she hires and his followers who also deface a tree that has a sentimental history to the bride and groom.

Meanwhile, even though she finds out her father’s farm is in foreclosure, she makes no attempt to help or find out what’s going on. She is just too busy and important unless she is flirting with Christopher. Near the end, she goes to the banker/lawyer who tells her that Christopher actually has her father’s power of attorney. That finally gets her attention and she somehow concludes that CR is trying to steal her father’s business when he was really financing it to save it. She pouts and sulks when she isn’t looking panic-stricken and is just generally an A-#1 jerk to lovely Christopher as well as everyone else. But does she try communication? Heck, no. In fact, when Christopher tries to set her straight, “she doesn’t have time” to hear it. No idea why her career is on a death spiral. I don’t mind a character who starts out very flawed but has a character arc over time. Jen Lilley is horrid throughout the whole movie until she ruins everything and she has nowhere to go but up.

To make it all worse, Jen Lilley delivers many of her lines so quickly and incoherently it’s like she wants to get them over with instead of actually acting. She has no connection whatsoever with Christopher Russell. The fact that he, her father, and her friends put up with her throughout the whole movie just made this viewing experience even more unpleasant. The only one who finally stands up to her is the bride. Nelson Wong, (for once not named “Kenny”) who usually is a charming presence in any movie, is annoying and horrible in this, and the ending and resolution made no sense whatsoever. This production is populated with many regular Hallmark supporting players but even they cannot prop this one up.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

January 2, 2022

Christmas at the Plaza

The Lead Actress and Her Character are Lame in what is Otherwise a Top-Notch Hallmark

This one had a great setting (The Plaza in New York) and an interesting premise to hang the romance on. Jessica is at the iconic hotel to put together a history of “Christmas at the Plaza” and finds a theme in the fact that the Christmas tree every year at the Plaza has a different custom-made tree topper. She is missing a year, mysteriously, and her quest is to solve the mystery, and hopefully produce the long-lost topper. The love interest, the wonderful Ryan Paevey is this year’s hotel decorator. This also featured a last-minute secondary romance, which was touching. As a secondary character, Julia Duffy is a joy. We need to see more of her. She added humor and quirkiness to her lines, that a lesser actress would have done little to nothing with.

The one weak link was Elizabeth Henstridge, whose delivery was very blah, and gave the impression of low-energy and coldness. It wasn’t helped by her character’s tolerance of her boyfriend who was rude and thoughtless and obtuse. Even when the charismatic and attractive Ryan (can you tell I’m a fan?) shows interest in her, she just can’t be bothered to break up her two-year relationship until her hand is forced. And the laziness extended to the workplace. The character’s first reaction, when faced with the challenge of having to actually figure out her presentation on her own without it being handed to her on a silver platter, was to quit. Maybe another actress could have made her relatable and likable but Miss Henstridge, though very pretty, is not much of an actress. At All.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

November 28, 2019

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

The Christmas Train

The Stars and the Setting Put this one Over

A lower-tier Hall of Fame-caliber movie, but Hall of Fame worthy nonetheless. The cast was strong and the main actors were well known and respected. Dermot Mulroney and Kimberly Williams Paisley made an attractive and likable couple. I personally find Danny Glover incredibly annoying, but I love Joan Cusack and enjoyed her role in this movie. The setting on the train to California? I loved it, but I’m prejudiced. I was lucky enough as a teen to travel from Chicago to Los Angeles on the El Capitan and The City of Los Angeles and back again during the Christmas Season. The plot was OK and benefited from being based on a David Baldacci book. The twist at the end really saved the story, though. After reading another reviewer’s comparison to the book, I really am considering reading the book upon which this was based.

Reviewing Hallmark Christmas movies is kind of a stupid hobby of mine, and I like to review the dreadful ones and the enjoyable ones or if I think I have something valuable to point out. I am jotting down a little review of this one because it’s a cut above the usual. **8 out of 10**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 5, 2017

Like Cats and Dogs

Pure Fantasy but Without Elves

Like Cats and Dogs is a pleasant little outing with some good positives, and only a few annoying details. Cassidy Gifford does a good job and appears to be quite a competent actress, with a flair for comedy. I won’t mention how much she resembles her mother. The only quibble I have with her appearance is the goth-ish eyeliner she wears. It steals every scene. I wondered if this was the make-up imposed upon her by the production, but no, apparently she did her own make-up. The character she plays is likable, and her situation is relatable. She is a casual, fun-loving, junk-food eating, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may type of gal with an artistic temperament. She is unsure what to do with her life, now that she has graduated from college and broken up with her boyfriend. She is working at her parents’ accounting firm but it is not for her. In an effort to find her direction she rents a fabulous oceanside home on the west coast because an old college buddy is nearby. That must be a great job if she can afford such a getaway. Unfortunately, due to an error, it has also been rented by a guy who is her polar opposite in every way: an uptight, regimented, control freak with an evil girlfriend. Oh yes. He also is a health food nut and owns a cat who does not get along with her doggie, Frank (Cassidy’s tribute to Dad?). He presents her with a roommate agreement that puts Sheldon’s in Big Bang Theory to shame. He is working on his doctoral dissertation and has weird hair. He sounds horrible, but he is actually kind of adorable. Especially when he gets writer’s block. The inevitable happens. And also he finishes his dissertation inside of a week. Also, she finds a career as a photographer and working in an art gallery. Where she gets her own show. This poor kid. What a nightmare. There’s nice little twist at the end which, if you were paying attention, was easily foreshadowed. **7 stars out of 10**

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

April 20, 2017

Every Christmas has a Story

Don’t Look too Closely and it Might Keep Your Interest

This was a weak premise but was bolstered by likable leads, two mysteries, and a nice romance. There was even a bit of a twist at the end regarding the nature of one of the mysteries that I didn’t see coming.

I must say off the bat that even though Lori Loughlin is 6 years older than her co-star, she looks great and the match was very believable. If she has had work done, one certainly can’t tell, unlike some other older actresses that Hallmark casts inappropriately. Had to get that off my chest.

Of course, one has to suspend disbelief in order to find an excuse to get Lori out of the city to the small town that will help her find her Christmas spirit. Once there, the mystery of why the annual town Christmas trees, that were the town’s main attraction during the season quit coming, and why Lori lost her Christmas spirit to begin with. What is the town trying to hide from the talk-show host/journalist? It did keep my interest, although the deep dark secret wasn’t too deep, or all that dark. I thought it was kind of clever that the whole town was conspiring to create a phony mystery that the journalist could “investigate” and thus help them out. They pulled a fast one on the audience and Lori! **8 stars out of 10**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

November 14, 2016

A Christmas Detour

On the Road Again

A high-strung writer gets hooked up with an irreverent laid back fellow and a seemingly happily married couple on the way to visit their families on Christmas. They are thrown together when a snowstorm cancels their flight and they decide to share an automobile to get to their destinations. The Candace Cameron character is traveling to the Hamptons to meet her fiancée’s family for the first time. It is a road movie in which romance blossoms, true character is revealed, and secrets are uncovered. The fiancé and his parents are deliciously evil, Cameron-Bure, while always reliable, is quite likable and funny, and the married couple and the hero are well played, interesting, and nice to look at.

What I really want to address, and this movie is a perfect example, is Hallmark’s penchant for casting 40 year-olds in the roles of 20 or early thirty-year-olds. Aren’t there any promising young actors and actresses out there?. I am tired of seeing the same faces over and over. It is particularly absurd in this one. The older experienced couple who have a 20-year relationship and a daughter old enough to have a beautiful old home, are played by actors who are the same age, if not younger, than the couple they are meant to be mentoring! **8 out of 10 stars**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 1, 2015