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This September (2010)
50 Shades of Family Fun in Four parts
By way of introduction, it is important to know that Shades of Love is a sequel to Rosamunde Pilcher's "September". It has an entirely different cast from the miniseries based on the book which debuted 14 years earlier. It is not based on a Rosamunde Pilcher novel, but takes her characters from September and projects what may have become of them about 10 years in the future. For those who have read Pilcher's beloved "The Shell Seekers" and "September", it is interesting to note the whiplash inducing turns in the Noel Keeling character. In Shades of Love he is back to Nasty Noel of the first novel. Poor Alexa of September really got the short end of the stick! If you liked her happy ending of September pretend this one never happened. Although fear not! She does come about in the last episode.
Each of the four parts of this mini-series has some closure while setting up the next episode with some unresolved plot points. We have illicit affairs resulting in pregnancies, adultery, tragic love affairs, boy next door happy love affairs, revenge, forgiveness, betrayal, blackmail, bankruptcy, corporate shenanigans, and 2 cases of grown up children discovering their Mommys and/or Daddys are not who they think they are. All is resolved and ends happily for most after much trial and tribulation. Though Beware: there are several deaths mixed into the pot.
There are some well known actors in this among the older set, and all do their jobs pretty well, although Harriet Walter is terribly wasted in a nothing part. Rebecca Night, who plays one of the most important roles as Laura, was a disappointment. She had a strangely affected way of speaking which was very distracting and a very placid way about her which was not at all engaging. Rosamunde Pilcher excels at writing about nice and good women that you really root for. The actress just made this character dull. Adrian Lucas was a great villain, and the German actress, Esther Shweins, who played the mysterious Olivia Thorpe in season 2 was a stand out: Class, beauty, charisma, and dignity. She even managed to rise above the gigantic and nonsensical plot hole in the last episode.
All in all, I enjoyed it for what it was, but did not rise to the quality of "Coming Home," "The Shell Seekers," or any of Rosamunde's other novels on the page. The scenery was beautiful.
The Wedding March (2016)
Seriously, I couldn't take my eyes off it.
This one was actually not bad at all. The chemistry between Jack Wagner and Josie Bissett was good. They were both age appropriate despite numerous comments about Jack Wagner being 11 years older than Ms Bissett. They looked fine together. At least, at 45, she was playing a woman with a college age daughter instead of a toddler. Same for him. I liked that they did not try to follow the usual Hallmark formula and manufacture a secondary romance between their 2 kids. Instead, casting two talented young actresses who became instant buddies. Jack's daughter looked like a tall and thin Scarlett Johanssen. The one wrong note was Josie's god-awful wig. Why? Surely, if she needed a wig, Hallmark could have afforded one that looked natural. This one was so ugly, I am surprised Miss Bissett herself didn't speak up. I have seen more flattering wigs in a Halloween Costume shop. It was all very strange, especially since her make-up looked quite pretty instead of being laid on with a trowel like many of the Hallmark makeup artists do.
Christian Mingle (2014)
Funny and Good if judged on a Hallmark romance scale
I enjoyed this rom-com very much. I loved the angle of a non-Christian pretending to be an evangelical to catch a Christian guy. Lot's of Laughs. It gently skewers a few foibles of the Christian culture while still being respectful and pro-Christian. Lacey Chabert did a charming job and was quite funny in places. The guy was pretty much a non- entity, unfortunately. This movie has gotten a lot of flack from both Christians and non-Christians. Either Christians not able to laugh at themselves, and non-Christians taking it way too seriously. This is not some kind of manifesto for Christianity that needs to be attacked so virulently. It's just a cute rom-com with using a rather unusual take on a fish out of water story. Morgan Fairchild, by the way. I wouldn't have recognized her. I guess older actresses are screwed either way. Either look your age and get criticized for looking old or have a lot of work done and look frozen and artificial. I admire actresses who choose the former (if they can get work!)
Wedding Bells (2016)
Good comeback for Danica
I am afraid I gave poor Danica Mckellar a pretty hard time for her last Hallmark effort, A Crown for Christmas. She was too old for the part, she was not a good match for the fabulous Rupert Penry-Jones, and she wore too much make up. It was just awkward, including her performance. She was excellent in this. This one confirms that casting the two leads makes all the difference. She made a good match for Kavan Smith, who played her love interest. They were both age appropriate for the story and attractive enough, but not drop dead gorgeous. A very pleasant outing.
It was nice to have the drop dead gorgeous one (Christopher Russell) paired with someone else in the secondary romance. His love interest was a mismatch, and sure enough, to my mild surprise, they did not work out their problems, and split up in the end. Bruce Boxleitner was a pleasure to see, as usual.
The Young in Heart (1938)
Not just another romantic comedy.
Although I once was a sucker for any romantic comedy, especially from the 30's, I have become jaded over the last few years. with the preponderance and availability of so many, thanks to TCM, I have been disappointed time and again. The plots are more often than not cliché'd and predictable. The acting is, although good for the time, usually, very different from the style we are used to today. The chemistry between actors is usually nil. The quality of the production second rate.
What a treat and a surprise this film was! It deserves to be as highly regarded as The Awful Truth, it Happened One Night, and any top notch Romantic Comedy of the 30's. It had me laughing and tearing up. The quality of the production was top tier. Imagine using a clip from the train wreck (which was just a minor plot device) in a 1960's popular TV series. That is just one example of how 1st class this film is. Some of the scenes, particularly the father and son speculating over the construction site over how the workers could possibly be having any fun, and the father's horror at actually having to get a job along with the funeral procession to the door of the Flying Wombat dealership to take his position as a car salesman, are absolutely hilarious. (and not just hilarious "for its time.")
I won't add to the the praise of the actors from other reviewers. Just that I agree wholeheartedly.
It's not just another Romantic Comedy. It has drama and heart as well.
Little Women (1978)
Gives the 1994 production a Run for its Money!
I was surprised and delighted by this 1978 TV miniseries. Shocked, more like it. One of my favorite authors commented in a blog that this series had a huge influence on her as a writer. I was intrigued by this statement and got it out from the library. I didn't expect much considering the sit-com actresses cast in the key roles, not to mention William Shatner as Professor Bhaer. But much to my satisfaction and bemusement, they all did their roles proud. A special shout out to Eve Plumb, as Beth. She was very affecting. Her death was handled with grace, and even beauty. Equally surprising was William Shatner, who was very appealing in the role, tamping down, as he did, his habitual bombastic style. Needless to say, the luminous Dorothy McGuire was a perfect Marmee. And the great Greer Garson added an extra dimension to her Aunt March. The writing was fantastic: sensitive and delicate in places, and very faithful to the book. Due to the miniseries format, it included more of the book's content and was leisurely paced though it never dragged. The 1994 Winona Ryder led film has always been my favorite, and probably will continue to be, but this one came very very close, and in some ways, surpassed it, in my view.
Last Chance for Christmas (2015)
Tony Soprano of the North Pole
I don't like Santa Claus movies in general, but this one was a winner. Hilarie Burton was particularly appealing and sympathetic as the feisty no nonsense Annie who is eventually won over by the shy, fish-out-of- water stable-master, John. Jayne Eastwood as Mrs. Claus, was a hoot. Clearly the brains of the operation, She was the ruthless mob boss, willing to send her minions to steal a little girl's pet reindeer so millions of little children aren't disappointed on Christmas morning. Yes kids, sometimes the end does justify the means. Lots of laughs, a poor single mother trying to save her farm from evil big business, a sweet little romance. and some charming fantasy. Overlook the forced conflict between the two lovebirds, and the questionable ethical issues, and you'll have a good time with this one.
Wish Upon a Christmas (2015)
A widower's son asks Santa in a letter for someone special for his dad. Meanwhile, his Dad's old high school sweetheart, now a successful corporate actuary, comes to town to shut down his factory and the major employer in the charming old-fashioned town. With a little help from a distinguished old man with a white beard mysteriously come to town looking for a lost bauble, everyone gets their happy ending. this is one of the better entries of the season, thanks to some charming performances by the main actors. Aaron Ashmore and the young actor who plays his son are particularly winning. Amelia is well played as well, as is Mr. Tomptey (alias Santa Claus). The only weak link is Allan Thicke who has an unnecessary role as her father. He delivers his lines like he has been nipping at the eggnog one too many times.
A Gift Wrapped Christmas (2015)
The Best of the Season.
I gave this one a "10" on my special scale for Hallmark movies. This one is set apart by the writing, the enjoyable characters, and most especially, the casting. There are probably 5 or 6 basic plots for these things. This one is the closed down/sad widower with a child who needs our heroine (Gwen) to reawaken him and save his relationship with his kid. No the plot is not original, but I judge the good writing in the little details. The relationship between our heroine's sister (the wonderful Beverley Mitchell-so glad to see her again!) and her husband was fleshed out and added to the enjoyment. The appearance of the Mom at the end was a nice touch and added to the depth (don't laugh) of the story. Gwen was cute, funny, charming, quirky, and so very likable. The actress was another Meg Ryan at the height of her romantic comedy powers. She was an absolute delight. Don't ever change. The Dad was handsome and appealing, making his journey from cold and hostile to warm and open fun to watch. The villainess was very scary. What more could one ask for? Great Chemistry between the two leads, that's what. And yes, it delivers there as well.
A Christmas Detour (2015)
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 snow-storm 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 Hallmarks 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!