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Like Cats and Dogs (2017)
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 ocean side home on the west coast because an old college buddy is nearby. It 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. 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 get's writers 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.
Moonlight in Vermont (2017)
Moonlight in Vermont is your typical country bad-city good, pretend boyfriend to make old boyfriend jealous, issues with dad Hallmark fare. The only thing to set it apart is good production values, cute setting, and the always reliable Lacey Chabert. Unfortunately she is not given too much to work with here. Her love interest is pretty cute as well and her step mother was a nice smart woman and not the source of tension or conflict. Her rejection of city life for stop to smell the roses country living was too quick and not well supported.
Love at First Bark (2017)
Banal and Boring
Love at First Bark is one of Hallmark's more mediocre offerings. Other than some cute dogs and the odd dog-training tutorial, this one has nothing at all to recommend it. It is a very lazy effort with a cookie cutter script and unremarkable leads. Usually one can find something to like in these things: a little unexpected twist, appealing actors, some cute lines, an old favorite star in a secondary role, some genuine chemistry between the leads, a villain you love to hate, a heart-tugging moment, etc. etc. This one was a complete waste of time.
The heroine is particularly annoying. She stubbornly refuses a handsome and sweet dog-trainer's help in getting her new pooch under control until she finally changes her mind. She is very immature about her business and her love life. When she sees her new boyfriend who is obviously and unaccountably in love her being nice to his ex-wife, she goes to pieces. He has outright told her he no longer has any interest in his ex and why. She sees his ex give him a smooch in the middle of a crowded party. This is so upsetting to her that she offends a valuable and much needed client and petulantly breaks up with the dog trainer on the spot. She shuts him down when he literally begs her to listen. Very mean and unreasonable. He is very confused and doesn't understand. She passive aggressively tells him that she needs to focus on her new business (after she just dissed a potential client, mind you) and doesn't have time for a relationship. Unfortunately for him, she apologizes soon after and he stupidly takes her back. That is all. As another reviewer noted, and adding to the irritating nature of this Hallmance, are Julia's false eyelashes. They are so thick and long that she could literally sweep the floor with them. They deserve a cast credit of their very own. It gets 3 stars from me because the dog trainer/love interest was a super nice guy and very good looking. The rest of the cast was also very competent.
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
Not your typical teenage movie.
Enjoyed the humor and performances and the sweet upbeat ending. The only downside was the insufferable behavior of our heroine throughout most of the movie. She was thoroughly unlikable. Also, the improbable casting of Hailee Steinfeld as someone who would be unpopular in high-school with her gorgeous face and super-model body and quirky fashion-sense, was eye-rolling. The writing was excellent as there was not one one-dimensional character in the cast. No one was all bad or all good. This movie turns the typical John Hughes- type cast of characters on their ear: the nerdy Asian with a crush on Nadine, the former friend who abandons her for the popular clique, the dumb jock brother, the neurotic mother, the trusted, unconventional but wise teacher, the handsome entitled and popular unrequited love interest. they are all here...but not here. They are different. Even our lovable but awkward heroine who finally finds her way. Like I said, she is not all that lovable. Hmmmm. I take back what I said about this being a downside. As far as the ending: Yay! this is how Pretty in Pink should have ended.
Mysteries at the Museum (2010)
Like a sound machine, but really really interesting.
This is a great show. It is amazing what fascinating little nuggets of history they dig up. Some of the stories are so compelling I am continually amazed that they aren't more well known. Some of them would make great films. I will very often research the stories on my own to get more information. Usually, the portrayals are fairly accurate, although they do emphasize certain aspects and play down (or ignore) others for dramatic purposes.
I usually DVR the show and watch it in bed, preparing to go to sleep. As fascinating as it is, conversely,it has a somnolent affect on me, and I usually have to re watch 2 or even 3 times to get through all of the stories. I think it is partly due to the reliable and unchanging rhythm of the show. they start out each entry the same way: setting the scene with the museum that holds the artifact that will introduce the related story, first mentioning some of the other museum holdings, then describing the physicality of the artifact in question. Then they tell the story with silent actors pantomiming the narration.
The narration itself has its own certain conceits: then never use one word when three will do, and adjectives abound. They never use a simple word, when a fancy one exists. (It's never a book, It's and "ancient tome" . People don't die, they "succumb to injuries"). Another little conceit is the rhetorical question and the use of puns. For example, In the story of the Double Eagle balloon crossing of the Atlantic: "Will their "lofty" ambitions be fulfilled? Will the balloon rise to the occasion? Will a slave that worked as a seamstress trying to get confederate plans to the Union be able to "thread the needle" and sneak past guards? How did a brassiere "boost" a young mother's bank account?" I love it. It's amusing.
Don Wildman, the host, is superb. He has a great tone, and conveys a sense of urgency, when called for, without getting all worked up. And always has this kind of amused inflection. Plus he is very easy on the eyes.
Another thing that is part of the predictable comfortable rhythm is timing and flow. When they finish one story, they immediately start the next one, saving the commercial break until a crucial cliffhanger. After the commercial break, they briefly recap the story and proceed. This is good for fast forwarding through the commercials, or if you doze off during the story, you can get up to speed without having to rewind. I swear, it's the same pattern over and over. It's like waves crashing on a beach. Two other shows that are just as good are Mysteries of the Monument and Mysteries of the Castle.
My Christmas Love (2016)
Not one in a million, but probably about one in 25 anyway
I try to watch all of the Hallmark movies. There are very few I haven't seen. I watch them all in hopes of stumbling upon another Moonlight Masquerade, Holiday in Handcuffs, Straight from the Heart, My Fake Fiancée, A Family Thanksgiving, or Gift Wrapped Christmas. It's almost a game with me. These are some of my favorites off the top of my head, and let me tell you, Hallmances that I would re-watch are few and far between. It's no coincidence that my favorites usually feature talented actresses, usually with a flair for comedy, in the title roles: Teri Polo, Daphne Zuniga, and Melissa Joan Hart. Now, I will also add Meredith Hagner to the list. Her sprightly presence is not the only reason this movie succeeds, but it is an important factor. To that I will add a very appealing male lead, good writing (funny situations, dialogue, a few heart-tugs, and a twist even I did not see coming) and an older fan-favorite as an anchor: in this case, Gregory Harrison. Every once in a while, there is a perfect storm of actors, writing, and directing that makes my mission to at least give all of the Hallmark movies a chance, worthwhile. Why doesn't it happen more often?
Christmas in Homestead (2016)
As in no spark or bright spots. This one is an amalgam of Hallmarks 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 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, 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.
A Dream of Christmas (2016)
Another hackneyed plot device, but....
Our heroine, Penny, frustrated because her loving but frequently absent husband may not be home for Christmas, casually voices a random thought about how she wishes she had never been married. Voila! A busybody and eavesdropper behind her in line uses her Christmas Angel powers to grant her her "wish." Except it is not a real heartfelt desire, it was just a momentary voicing of some mild frustration. She loves her husband dearly, and her husband is crazy about her. He is absent because he is a wildlife photographer, and it is now or never to catch the reindeer migration for his book, which is a mutual dream for the couple. She can no longer go with him because they decided she had to give up her marketing of his photos to get a paying job to support them until his business becomes profitable. And now she has to give a presentation that may lead to a big promotion.
Horrified and bewildered at her new life, she encounters the Christmas demon er, angel again, but the cold rhymes with witch refuses to take back her thoughtless whim..er sincere wish. It was nice to see Cindy Williams again, but the character she plays is really creepy, scary, and mean. I don't think this was intended. I blame the director. She has the gall to blame Penny's dilemma and tragic consequences (her happily married sister is now single and her children no longer exist) on Penny and then on God himself, refusing to see it was her grossly inappropriate and unasked for meddling that is at fault and it is her responsibility to fix all of the collateral damage.
Enjoying some of the perks of her rich and successful new life, Penny briefly flirts with just moving forward and forgetting her past. A very handsome new client wants to date her, she likes her VIP status, her important position and the work she does, and her Jaguar. Who wouldn't be tempted? Luckily she and her husband never had children. So that is an important hurdle she doesn't have to jump. Only two things are wrong. She misses her husband, and her sister is no longer a happily married mother.
It sounds like I didn't like this movie, but I really did. It is based on a very weak premise, but Penny's journey really is done well. Her flirtation with the client, who seems at first like a great guy, is tanked because she knows and feels like she is still married. She seeks out her husband, now a very successful corporate photographer, and sparks still fly. The chemistry between them is some of the best I've seen in a Hallmark movie. Andrew W. Walker, a Hallmark perennial, really touched my heart in this, as did Nikki Deloach, as Penny. Of course, all is settled in typical Hallmark fashion but this one had some intriguing qualities and even a few surprises.
Journey Back to Christmas (2016)
Strong ending redeems a lackluster tale.
***Huge spoilers****Unlike many, I am not a huge Candace Cameron Bure fan. I find her competent. The first ¾ of this movie left me rather cold, despite the wonder and mystery provided by the great concept of a miraculous Christmas comet. The main character, Hanna, was just a too sweet cardboard cutout. However, the time travel gimmick usually delivers stories that keep me engaged, or at least semi-engaged, and this one was no exception. I did roll my eyes at the irrational behavior and attitudes of some of the townspeople and the police. Why all the hate and suspicion of nefarious motives on the part of the police chief, Her primary supporter, Jake's, partner, and the town busybody? The conflict was too manufactured and not rational. When Hanna, fresh from segregated 1945, is examined by the black doctor, and interrogated by the black chief of police, why no surprise or incredulity? They missed a great opportunity to add a little depth to the story there, and it would have taken all of 20 seconds. Her one champion, Jake, a policeman, was nicely played by Oliver Hudson. Sarah, Jake's partner, was foreshadowed to be the love interest, but for most of the movie, her cynicism and unfounded suspicions made her very unlikable.
The last ¼ of the show is more than redeemed by the appearance of the Tom Skerrit character. Now an aged and respected figure whose life was changed by Hanna by her kindness to him when he was a little boy, he validates her story. He leads the way to finding a solution to her predicament of which life to lead. Previously unknown ties between Hanna of 1945 and Hanna of 2016 are uncovered. The doubters are proved wrong and they are even a bit redeemed in the process. Both Hanna and the understanding cop,the two leads, find their happy endings, though hers was cheesy to the max. Oh well. Sometimes cheese is the way to go.
Everything was tied together beautifully. The last quarter of the film had me in tears. It was that good. I don't think I have ever seen a Hallmark movie that went from "blah" to stellar with such whiplash speed!
Broadcasting Christmas (2016)
3 stars for Melissa alone.
. I love Melissa Joan Hart, I really do. But this Christmas offering is pretty dull. Our heroine is competing with our hero (Dean Cain) for the co-host chair on Regis and Kathie lee. No. Regis and Kelly. No. Kelly and Michael. No .In this movie it is called Rise and Shine. They are former lovers and co-workers. Melissa broke up with Dean because he was chosen over her for a big promotion 6 years prior, and she was just so embarrassed about that. Melissa looks young enough still to pass as an under 35 broadcaster on her way up. But Dean Cain, at 50, just looks absurd trying to play the role of a person of approximately the same age. At one point he pleads with influential Dad at the dinner table that he wants to earn the National spot on his own without Daddy interfering.
Melissa was great as usual. Her rant on live TV when she promotes herself, a virtual unknown, for the Network morning show is funny and entertaining. And her charm and naturalness in trying out for the job would have won her the job immediately in real life over the 3 no-talents she is competing against. There's a big reveal at the end which you see coming a mile away, that really does Dean Cain no favors in making his role believable or sympathetic. I enjoyed Jackee Harry's work in this, and am glad to see Cynthia Gibb still working despite playing her own age. Holy Cow! I just realized that that was Richard Kline playing Melissa's Dad. Totally did not recognize him!