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.

Pumpkin Everything

If You Like Pumpkins, You will Love This One. If You don’t, Avoid at All Costs.

Going by the title and the description of the plot, I didn’t hold too much hope for this one, and I was right. This is just your standard Hallmark placeholder with emphasis on the season and the atmosphere, and little emphasis on making a real effort with a good story and script. There was no depth or complexity to this one at all and it is careful not to step outside the box in any way.  There was little humor, other than seeing some of the townspeople pretend to struggle to lift heavy pumpkins which were obviously very fake, very plastic, and as light as feathers.

Taylor Cole, who I didn’t recognize at first, plays Amy, a very successful best-selling author who has just finished the third in her vampire series. Ahem. She comes home right when she is to start her national publicity tour to help her mom take care of  Gramps, played by Michael Ironside who is also unrecognizable. He just drove his truck into the local coffee shop and ended up with a sprained wrist. He is a real piece of work, this one. He has spent the last 15 years or so pouting and sulking that Amy pursued her dream of being a writer instead of taking over his pumpkin store. He even backed out of paying for her college because of it. Jerk.

Despite Amy’s laudably kind and patient efforts, he obstinately remains semi-estranged from her. Add to this, he keeps having accidents because he won’t acknowledge that he is too old and delusional as to his capabilities to live alone safely. He selfishly won’t go into the retirement community which would give his daughter and granddaughter some piece of mind. And he can’t afford it anyway without selling his home and his pumpkin store. Amy’s old boyfriend, a recovering alcoholic and former delinquent (his mother died) is helping him with the store and is doing a great job.

I was just waiting for Amy to cancel her much sought-after promotional appearance on a national morning show to cater to the old coot, but that didn’t happen. If it had I would have turned this half-hearted effort off in disgust.  She was actually quite firm with him and confronted him with some home truths a couple of times. So that was good. The other bright spots were the underused Amy Groening who played Amy’s agent and the actress who played Amy’s mother. She has a little romance of her own when she charges in to confront the owner of the coffee shop who is rightly planning to sue Grandpa for demolishing his store and ends up falling for him like a ton of bricks. Also noteworthy was a super hip female resident of the retirement community who connects with Grandpa over their love of jazz. She was a star. Of course, it all works out in the end, but not without Grandpa falling off a chair end ending up in the hospital (again).  This knocks some sense into him, literally, and he finally agrees to join the retirement community. It is not explained how he is going to afford it though because he basically gives his store to Corey Sevier instead of selling it for mucho dinero. I guess poor Taylor will have to ante up with her book proceeds. Luckily, it looks like she can afford it. I’m guessing the irony of this will be lost on Grandpa.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

October 10, 2022

The Art of Us

Van Gogh to Hell in a Handbasket

The Art of Us had some “odd for Hallmark” elements in it. Some of which were not unwelcome.

First off, yes, Taylor Cole as Dr. Harper Higgins lies about her Dog Walker/Talented Artist love interest being Vincent Van Gogh’s great-grandson in order to advance her career. So that genuinely crossed the line as far as morals and ethics are concerned. It put other people’s careers and reputations on the line. Hallmark heroines usually do have some foibles and faults to grow past, but being unethical and dishonest for monetary gain is usually not one of them. Especially to people she counts as her colleagues and friends. Secondly, she and her artist actually suffer consequences for their bad behavior. She loses her own career and reputation and he has his show canceled and dismantled. The third aspect that was unusual was that the ex-boyfriend is actually a good honest (and very attractive) guy and the only one smart and educated enough to show any skepticism regarding Tom Becker’s pedigree. Taylor broke up with him because, as an art critic, he told the truth about her art (too technical, no heart or passion) in his review. He was saddened when that truth-telling caused her to quit painting instead of learning and trying again. So yes, Taylor is weak character-wise. the fourth thing is that we forego the 15-20 minutes-to-go in the movie conflict that busts the couple up temporarily. There is a crisis but they face it together.

There were also some big questions to get past in order to buy into the main plot. It is not credible at all that a University art department and respected art dealer would buy into Taylor’s lie about Van Gogh. It is well known that Van Gogh had no children. That such a blockbuster revelation would just be accepted at face value with no investigation is simply ridiculous. That a talented artist would be revealed to be Van Gogh’s great-grandson would be headline news worldwide in the arts community.

I had thought I saw this years ago but I hadn’t. When I saw that it starred Steve Lund, I had to check it out because he is a favorite of mine. He is very engaging, you (I, anyway) really buy into whatever emotion he is trying to convey. There is genuine feeling beyond his words. And when the script calls for it, he can be very funny. He elevates whatever he is in. Taylor Cole? Meh. I can take or leave her. Sometimes she’s pretty good, but in this one she is just average. Maybe her character was to blame though. Everything ends on an upbeat note. It is shown that Tom is on the way to becoming a successful artist, and Harper is happily going back to her own painting with a whole new attitude now that her university career is in shambles.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

February 12, 2022

Making Spirits Bright

Nicely Done

This was a very sweet story with a lot of charm. Even though this was pretty low-key, it kept my interest throughout. Taylor Cole and Carlo Marks were excellent together. I’ve not always liked Taylor Cole, but she really came through as a small-town family-oriented girl, which is not a part one would usually associate with her. I don’t think I’ve seen a Christmas movie based on the business of decorating houses for Christmas. So although the Romeo and Juliet outline was pretty standard stuff, the background it is set against is unusual.

Grace and Tony are the offspring of two fathers who have been feuding for years. They were once close friends and partners in a Christmas decorating business but their differing work styles drove them apart. Tony’s father is a perfectionist which has caused him to miss deadlines and not get the job done. He puts art above money. Grace’s father is into efficiency and making a profit. They both enter the town’s Christmas decorating contest as competitors. However, in an effort to defeat a mutual enemy who emphasizes technology over heart and tradition,  they end up trying to work together.

There are some genuinely touching moments in this and romance is sweet, thanks to the chemistry between the two leads. The Romeo and Juliet romance is appealing as they go from uncertainty to friendship and then love. I loved the relationship of the two mothers, who have remained secret friends throughout their husbands’ feud. Also adding an interesting dynamic was the fraught relationship between Grace and her partner in their home-staging business.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 1, 2021

Falling for You

Taylor is Actually Quite Likable in This

I was never a fan of Taylor Cole, but in this one, playing against type, I quite liked her. For one thing, and I realize this sounds very shallow, her hair has gone out and got itself a makeover. It used to be thin and lank to the point it was quite distracting. At least the style she chose made it seem that way. In this one, it has some body and natural flow and her beauty is undiminished by her “crowning glory.” Tyler Hynes has always been a favorite and the two have quite a bit of chemistry.

Unfortunately the bake sale plot is a bore. An extra star for having the heroine move out of the small town she loves to pursue her career dream. What a concept usually foreign to the usual Hallmark ethos!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

September 21, 2020

One Winter Proposal

As Cute as a Button!

I don’t remember too much about the first one in this little (eventually, I’m sure) trilogy, but I see I gave it a 5 out of a 10. So this one must be a lot better. I am not usually a Taylor Cole fan, but she was perfectly pleasant in this one. Her relationship with her boyfriend was free of stupid misunderstandings and silly juvenile behavior. I liked their sub-plots of her new mystery book and his fledgling snowboard company.

But, hold the phone, the star of this show was Rukiya Bernard as Megan, her best friend! What a cutie! She was so charming and charismatic I couldn’t take my eyes off her! Not a false note in her acting. And Dewshane Williams as her love interest was a worthy match. I liked the chemistry between the 2 couples with each other and the other two in the foursome. I will certainly tune in to the inevitable One Winter Wedding.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

February 5, 2019

Christmas in Homestead


As in no spark or bright spots. This one is an amalgam of Hallmark’s Fish out of Water, and Country good, city bad. It had nothing to lift it up above the plethora of Christmas movies out there and make it worth your time to watch it. Sometimes you find little pearls to give a Hallmark movie watch-ability, or, very very rarely, re-watch-ability. An appealing hero or heroine, or actor or actress with a way with a line or comic timing; Good dialogue, some chemistry between the principals, an evil villain, a truly hard conflict to overcome, A plot that engages and keeps you watching in even a tiny bit of suspense (You know what’s going to happen, but how will they get there?), A heart-tugging moment or some funny situations.

Taylor Cole is undeniably beautiful, but I didn’t fine her appealing. I guess I like the girl next door type that one can relate to. Even beautiful actresses can achieve that quality with good writing or good acting. The character was just boring. The hero was played by an actor that might have some potential* (Michael Rady), but he was also just commonplace, and at times acted very churlish and stupid. The daughter is a talent. She was good.

The premise wasn’t bad: A movie star coming to a small town to play a movie star coming to a small town. But it just collapsed from lazy writing. They did themselves no favors by riffing on one of the most stellar romantic comedies ever made: Notting Hill. Inviting comparison (by the hero coming out the door to a storm of paparazzi and the daughter posing and mugging for the cameras)was not wise. **3 stars out of 10**

December 18, 2016

*Michael Rady has since become a favorite