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The Baker's Son

I apologize in advance for such a shallow review.
Eloise Mumford was in my one of my worst reviewed movies of 2018 but it totally was not her fault. I like her, as well as her co-lead, Brant Daugherty. He's not a favorite of mine, but he gets the job done. The friends to lovers plot was good, and I didn't mind the magical bad bread-good bread-bad bread plot line. It was something a little different from Hallmark. I liked the setting and Brenda Crichlow always does a great job. I even thought the mayor was funny.

Here comes the shallow part.

What the heck was with Eloise's hair and make up? Her hair was a dull mousy brown and looked like it was chopped off with an ax. And her make-up! What was she trying to convey there? Or hide? Did she get a rash? She is a natural beauty and probably needs only subtle highlights. It aged her at least 10 years. Her foundation seemed to crack at every laughline and crinkle. Terrible choice of lip color, and too much eye stuff. Make-up tip #1: Bold Lip or Dramatic eyes, but not both. And as usual, Hallmark actresses doing red carpet level make-up for an ordinary workday at an ordinary modest job. Eloise's look was a bad choice and totally fixable. I would not comment otherwise.

All for Love

Romancing the Seal (Navy)
I thought I'd re-watch this one, because I usually really like Sara Rue, and the very sexy Steve Bacic has become one of my favorites. He is a very busy actor and occasionally stops in to do a Hallmark movie. I wish he'd do more. I thought I would be bumping this one up to an 8 after I saw it again, but no, it's still a 7. The main reason was that Sara really got on my nerves. Both the actress and her character. The actress really overacted and over-did the "I'm so adorable and spunky" bit.

Jo is a romance novelist whose last novel was panned because she got so many details about firefighting wrong. She is in a slump because her novels have lacked authenticity. The current rough draft is about a Navy Seal, and it suffers from the same problem. Her editor, a wonderfully no-nonsense Teryl Rothery, sends her to Seal training school, run by her brother Colin, a former Seal. (Just go with it) Steve Bacic is perfectly cast as the ex-Navy Seal. And Sara Rue is as well as the soft and feminine Jo.

Jo's wimpy behavior at the end when she jumped to conclusions about Colin still being hooked up with his ex was very irritating. I hate the "big misunderstanding" cliché which could be quickly resolved with a little honest communication. When she learned the truth, which had to stalk her and attack her and overpower her to be believed, she was still very namby pamby about going after him. She had to be coerced and implored by all and sundry to fix her stupidity.

This one had a lot of potential, but Sara's over-the-top performance and her character's lack of gumption in the end really disappointed me.

True Love Blooms

Community v. Condos
This was very engaging due solely to the performances and personalities of the two leads, Sara Rue and Jordan Bridges. In addition to their talents, they had excellent chemistry together. Sara Rue is just a delight. And she has been a delight in everything I have seen her in. She radiates warmth and humor that seems to come not only from her acting, but from her real personality. She may be a real rhymes with witch for all I know, but if she is, she is a witch with a ton of charisma. Jordan Bridges is another favorite, and he was particularly good in this. The decision to give him a beard was genius. Somehow, it adds to his power and intimidating persona which makes it even more enjoyable to see Sara worm her way under his skin. As she slowly charms him out of his stubborn attitude, and he gives her a fresh perspective as well, they fall in love. And it is a pleasure to watch.

The story is all Hallmark. Vikki manages a community garden that Chace is buying in order to tear it down and make way for the condominium he is building. We see the conflict from both sides. They are both justified in their position so its a matter of finding a compromise, not one side seeing the light and changing their minds. Of course, the viewer sees the solution long before the two combatants do. When we note that there is 20 minutes to go and Chace heads to the roof of his office building to have a think after he and Vikki seem irretrievable at odds, we think "at last!" after mumbling "roof top garden, dummies," from the couch from the half hour mark on.

The well drawn secondary characters add to the likability of this movie, and keep the rather well-worn plot fresh and involving.

A Wedding Ring

Does Not Ring True
This is not quite a story of a Love for the Ages. More on that later.

First the Two Leads. Lauren Lee Smith was Adequate. Perfectly pleasant and competent, but made no impact with me. The guy was...well let me be frank. Funny-Looking. Most of his face was quite handsome but his eyes were very distracting. They had more chemistry during the flashback to when they were twelve.

Kate is a what I thought was a small town jewelry store owner and designer who is living her dream except her love life leaves something to be desired. Her first boyfriend comes back to town in order to recruit her for a big time position in Chicago with a huge jewelry corporation. They want to move away from their reputation as a cookie cutter mass-produced jewelry maker. They want Kate to develop and head their new design team. Of course the two old friends start a relationship. Kate decides to string him along making him think she might accept their offer in order to stay in contact with him. Besides, she needs a date for her sister's wedding. Nice, right?

Except she does begin to be attracted by the power and money and presumably the opportunity to make a real positive impact on the jewelry industry. They start falling in love and he brings her to Chicago to be wooed by the big company. She accepts the position. She will continue to own her little store and her two loyal employees will run it for her. The girl will finally get an opportunity to design jewelry as well now that Kate will be an a semi absentee owner and the guy will now be the manager instead of just a salesman. This is great because he just had a new baby. By the way, Kate had more chemistry with him than the supposed boyfriend. Unfortunately he is married and loves his wife.

Right before Kate signs the contract, she finds out that the big conglomerate will also buy her store, take it out of her control, and probably fire her two employees. The big boss says that she thought she knew, she thought the boyfriend was supposed to tell her that, and someone must have gotten their wires crossed. She immediately concludes that her true love must have been lying to her and deceiving her so he could get his commission. Of course he is innocent of such ignominy but she won't let him explain. She tells him to have a nice life, hangs up on him and won't take his calls. Nice, huh? Where's the trust??

She doesn't seem sad about loverboy, she is just angry. In fact, she bounces back pretty thoroughly. She finally finds out that it was big bosses fault, not boyfriends, but she just goes on with her life. Big boss re-offers her the position and she can keep her jewelry store but she still won't sell and move to Chicago to make up with her boyfriend. Presumably the professional dreams of her two loyal employees are dashed again and they go back to being drudges. No happy ending for them. Nice, huh?

Turns out boyfriend is really a chef at heart (apparently for the sole reason that they can have a flour fight in the middle of the movie and he can tenderly wipe flour from her face. Eye-role.) After they make up, she tells him that, no, she is not moving to Chicago and that they will be breaking up. He tells her that he quit his job and he is moving to Minneapolis to open a restaurant so they can be together after all! Huh, I thought they lived in a small town? She says OK, then. It's a good thing she did not do the best thing for all concerned and take that opportunity of a lifetime in Chicago, n'est pas? There's a little wrap up at the end when he proposes and she accepts a couple of months later. But if I were him, I would have serious doubts about the depth of her love and commitment.

So like I said, not exactly a love for the ages.

The Last Bridesmaid

Bad Vibes
I am a fan of Paul Campbell so I thought I'd give this a re-watch, even though I didn't remember being overly impressed. Paul was fine. Rachel, Rachel, Rachel. I used to like her all right. She used to be one of the go-to Hallmark actresses. The more I have seen her in recent years, the less I like her. She has a real stagey acting style. She says her lines like she knows there is an audience watching her. No matter what role she plays, beneath the smiles and niceness, she kind of comes across like she knows she is kind of superior to everyone else. This is just the way she comes across to me. I know she has her fans, and that is fine.

I found her interaction with Paul Campbell came across as borderline hostile especially at the beginning. And it wasn't due to the story. Her eyes were so cold when she looked at him in a few scenes, I actually got a little freaked out. I wish I knew what was going on there, if anything.

The story wasn't all that bad, hence a respectable 7 stars from me. The script seemed well-written and had some cute and clever lines. I liked that she was playing her age not an almost 40 year old actress playing a young inexperienced girl just starting out in her career. The jewelry making subplot was interesting and added a lot to the usual love story. The message was a good one: Follow your dreams, do what you love, but stay sensible and grounded. The romance as scripted did not come out of nowhere, the relationship developed naturally and realistically.


Beloved Mini-Series from the Olden Days
I don't remember how this old series from 1979 came to my attention-probably it was praised on one of the Facebook sites I frequent dealing with period drama or British series and shows. After I read the glowing to hyperbolic reviews, I was thrilled to find it at my library. I did enjoy it. It was very good. I loved the time period depicted-1909 to 1918-what a watershed period of history! So much going on.

We follow the likable, plucky, if a little barmy Christina as she is deposited at Flambards a debt-ridden estate owned by her brutish and bitter uncle. By the bye, his hairstyle makes him look like the Devil. I wonder if that was intended.

He has two sons. The handsome older brother, Mark, is equally brutish and as horse-mad as his father, and the youngest, William, is the complete antithesis of both of them: brilliant, forward-thinking, ambitious, hard-working, and kind. He couldn't care less about horses, in fact he hates and fears them after an accident that left him a little lame. His passion is airplanes. He is continually treated with harshness and injustice by his brother and father, but he could not care less. I loved William. His father is no father to him, so he finds a substitute: An older gentleman who is his friend and mentor to his aeronautical ambitions. Christina and William become great friends eventhough she still gets on with Mark and his father most of the time, due to her own love of horses. William tells her right off the bat, by way of a warning, that she is meant to marry Mark for her fortune so he and Uncle can buy more horses and continue their aristocratic and wasteful lifestyle. Pay their debts? Develop their land? Restore the estate? Invest in the future? Please. Thanks to William, Christina has their number right away, and together William and she are an unbeatable team. They are adventurous, brave, and dauntless.

This approximately 12 hour series is divided into 3 parts. The first part ends with Christina and William escaping to London so William can follow his dreams but not before Christina carries on a flirtation with a devoted stable-hand and gets him fired by involving him in her desperate scheme to save her beloved horse from being slaughtered. Admittedly a noble cause, but still. Christina is impulsive but has good instincts. The second section involves their London adventures with William trying to break in to the airplane industry and their close friendship with a like-minded young couple. They are a fearsome foursome, if you will. WWI breaks out and William joins up and becomes a pilot.

In the last section, the resilient Christina takes over Flambards, determined to repair years of neglect, and bring it in to the 20th century. She is reunited with an old friend, and again has to deal with troublesome Mark who returns from the still on-going war.

Although tragedy and tough times are certainly part of Christina's journey, overall, It remains upbeat and optimistic from first episode to last. I think this is because it is based on a trilogy of books aimed at young teens. Serious issues are addressed, bad things happen, but we soon realize that we are not going to be thrown to the wolves, so to speak. To add to the appeal we are treated to more than two nice love stories. Always a big plus. The strange musical score by David Fanshawe, I did not like or understand. But I can't get it out of my head.

Sweet Carolina

Hallmark takes a daring step in the right direction.
It's not often Hallmark actresses get to portray anguish on camera. Luckily they have a real pro and bona fide actress in Lacey Chabert, who did a very credible job. I can think of very few in the stable of regulars who could have pulled off the scene where she learns her beloved sister and brother-in-law have been killed. I cried. The whole ensemble handled the story very well. You can tell they pulled out the "big guns" to meet the challenge of a script that actually called for a range of emotion: Gregory Harrison and Teryl Rothery as the parents, good ole Peter Benson as the city boyfriend who gets dumped for the small town coach, who was played by the always welcome Tyler Hynes. I appreciated that they got a normal looking kid who could act to play the introverted son.

There were very realistic problems and conflicts that had to be resolved. The father was a good guy, but too controlling. Gregory Harrison managed to keep him likable. I groaned when they were setting up for the customary Hallmark food fight ( or snowball fight if it's winter) but it was actually funny, thanks to the performances.

It was good to see Hallmark break out of it's own box a little bit. Fear not, most of the usual templates were still in place, but baby steps! Kudos.

P. S, I just noticed that Lacey Chabert was actually one of the writers. You go, girl!

See Jane Date

Appealing Lead Supported by Huge Cast of the Semi-famous.
I have tried to watch this over the years several times, and for some strange reason could not get into it. I have no idea why. It was a funny and sharp rom-com with a charming cast filled with many stars that have since made their mark elsewhere. The charismatic and likable lead is the only one that I was not familiar with. But obviously it's a personal problem because she had major roles in Buffy, Angel and had a continuing role in Veronica Mars, one of my favorite shows. She is a excellent comedienne and actress. She steals every scene she is in, playing a character that many women would relate to with a performance that makes her character even more likable and endearing. No Drama-Queen-itis. So when she finally does lose it, it makes a real impact.

As for the rest of the talented cast, I feel like I should just name them off. Rachel LeFevre from Twilight, Holly Marie Combs of Charmed, Cameron Mathison of Hallmark fame, Zachary Levi of Chuck and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Joshua Malina of In Plain Sight, The Big Bang Theory and others, Yannick Bisson of Aurora Teagarden Mysteries and The Murdoch Mysteries, and Yanic Truesdale of The Gilmore Girls. Antonio Sabato Jr. I'll stop there.

This will definitely be worth a re-watch at some point. It's not really a romance, more a comedy as the focus is on her career challenges, female friendships, and a series of bad dates and disappointments. The love interest kind of comes out of nowhere, although it is foreshadowed.

Starting Up Love

Good Performances Rescue So-so Plot.
A high powered venture capitalist up for partner in her firm inherits a "cabin" in the wilderness with a handsome caretaker and handyman. She wants to sell it, he wants to keep it in the family as a B & B. Yeah, I know , it sounds like tens of other TV romance plots. But this one actually turned out to be half-way decent thanks to the good acting of Anna Hutchison as Jillian and her reluctant rapport with her co-owner and sometime nemesis. Mysterious Uncle Warthog? Walrus? Wallbanger? And Charlene Tilton as Aunt Marge (who amusingly turns out to have more on the ball than meets the eye) add some interest.

There are some cute situations in the script, which hangs on our heroine deciding to create a start up out of her inheritance to prove to the partners that she is worthy of promotion. As a sidelight, if I had been as successful and qualified to be partner as she was, I would have been out the door to the competition in a second instead of hanging around trying to prove myself to those pompous ingrates. Anyway this keeps her in the wilderness long enough for more conflict, drama, and romance to ensue.

In addition to Hutchison the other highlight in this otherwise fairly stick-to-the-playbook movie, is the performance of Erica Hernandez as Samantha, Jillian's administrative assistant. I was blown away at how she took a nothing-burger part and made it one of the highlights of the show. What an illustration of how good acting can turn a small insignificant part into a keynote.

Baby, It's Cold Inside

Bait and Switch
I signed up for a Hallmark movie and got an infomercial for the Ice Hotel in Canada. Except the script would have been better in the infomercial. The lead actress, Joceyln Hudon, droned her part out in a monotone like she couldn't get the words out fast enough so she could be done with it. Not that I blame her. Meryl Streep couldn't have created any interest with this lifeless script. She was pretty, blonde, and boring. Her main personality trait was being cutely clumsy. I've liked Steve Lund in other parts, so I'll just move on.

This travelogue consisted of jumping from one cold weather activity to another. Baking authentic nordic food, sliding down ice slides, hot-tubbing, touring the hotel, snow shoeing, glass-blowing, maple syrup making, and northern lights viewing. After about an hour of TV time of this frantic activity, the heroine actually asks the hotel owner what there is to do in the area. I kid you not. The most exciting thing that happened was the influential hotel reviewer got a maple syrup pop stuck on his hat. There was a bit at the end where the dead-eyed jealous hotel manager (who actually was pretty scary with her coiled hostility masked by her friendly courtesy) said some mean things to our heroine and briefly scared her off the trail of a new career path and a cute boyfriend. But by that time it was too late. Thanks to that hotel hat guy (what was that Army Ranger hat he had on?) disaster was averted.

This is the second Hallmark movie starring the Ice Hotel. I think an investigation is in order.

As Luck Would Have It

Hey gang! Let's tear down a castle!
As attractive and welcome the fresh faces of the two leads were, this one did not impress. I loved the authentic setting in Ireland as well, but the plot was totally forced. The whole premise was based on a hotel chain wanting to tear down a historic and beautiful castle in order to replace it with a glass, steel, and concrete monstrosity. That is totally bizarre. What traveler to rural Ireland would prefer such an accommodation over a beautiful castle? Not one sane one with any sense or taste. Why would they be visiting Ireland in the first place if not to soak in it's atmosphere, beauty, and history? If you want modern, stay in Dublin. And to think that any representative of the Hotel could lobby for such a notion and still be considered a sympathetic heroine does not fly. Nope. This one did not pass the smell test. If they wanted to copy Leap Year with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, they should have gone all the way and copied the story line as well.

Midway to Love

Appealing leads with great chemistry.
I really liked this one primarily due to the likability of the two principals and their chemistry together. Daniel Stine plays an unconventional though very appealing looking hero who was an unlikely match with Dr. Rachel, who was sharp of mind and looks. Mitchell, her love interest was kind of shlubby looking. Kind of a Vince Vaughn type. She is a famous big earning Doctor (a psychoanalyst) and he is a fourth grade teacher. I do like unconventional pairings so much more that the typical beautiful person falls in love with another beautiful person. It adds intrigue, anticipation, and a layer of emotional depth. I liked that although he was not her equal in terms of career choice or "typical" good looks, he didn't grovel at her feet.

That's it though. The story was unremarkable and, Of course, predictable. The career crisis was interesting and although Dr. Rachel put up with the indignities meted out by the villains way too long, when she did leave, it was a pretty satisfactory scene.

Love at Sunset Terrace

Up TV shows the way again!
This was a very well-done little story. Up TV, in recent days, is really showing up Hallmark in terms of fresh faces, well-written scripts, and character development. The three leads were more than half the appeal. Ellen Woglom was appealing and charming as the female lead. She has a killer smile and I appreciated that she did not have a stick thin runway model body. Carlo Marx was handsome and likable as the vulnerable father who was over-protective and almost needy with his daughter. The young daughter was played by Erica Tremblay. Again, a young actress who was hired for her talent rather than cutesy wutesy looks and perky sparkles. She is the younger sister of the multiple award winning film actor, Jacob Tremblay.

The romantic relationship developed naturally and believably rather than a series of "meet-cutes" and fake instalove based on nothing but two pretty people snarking and bickering at each other. The setting looked like a real place rather than a MacMansion plopped down in front of a stunning view. I'd stay there and feel right at home. The Conflict was the same old same old (workaholic big city girl reconnects with nature while meeting troubled widowed Dad of young girl and presto chango lifestyles are changed and a new family is formed). But Up TV shows once again that this tired plot can be done in an entertaining and engaging way. Hallmark really should be upping their game. I fear they are have become over-reliant on their "big" name stable of actors and actresses at the expense of giving exciting young talent a chance to shine and scriptwriters who work hard to offer a quality product while still falling within the genre's parameters.

Chasing Waterfalls

Chasing but not finding
This was a very boring story with a good cast. I usually like Cindy, but as usual she doesn't have much to work with here. And unfortunately she seemed very stiff with Christopher Russell who is gorgeous as usual but really needs some spark with his co-stars to bring him to life when the script does not give him anything else to work with. She did have a good scene on the phone with her boss though.

Speaking of the script, how do I count the ways that this fell off the cliff (pun intended)? One line comparing a mythical waterfall to a unicorn was used twice. Speaking of which, she found this legendary waterfall which is so elusive people believe it doesn't even exist within a few hours hike from a busy lodge without even trying? She led the world to another hard to find fall earlier because her boss betrayed her and put in the co-ordinateswith the photographs she published in the magazine. We never find out what the outcome of that was. Do the sightseers leave a trail of litter, or do they respect the sacred place? She doesn't quit in anger, like she should have, and is going on to her next assignment. If she changes her mind, we never know about it. Will she continue on with her dream of being a professional photographer, or will she quit and stay with Christopher and his daughter now that he's not mad at her anymore? He was about to send a chopper to the secret location of the mythic waterfall, by the way, when they talked about how secret it was throughout the movie. Another silly lapse in the writing.

Nice scenery though. And in a first for Hallmark, at the end, they are planning to spend the night together in the same tent. We have to assume that means she is going to quit her job and be a wife and mommy (since his ex travels and leaves their daughter with him most of the time. And why should he take on another one of those situations? It all ends very vaguely)

Rose Hill

Good concept but no depth. Should have been a miniseries.
I tried to read the book, but I just couldn't get into it. Probably because I was too used to reading her medieval romances. My point is that my rating has nothing to do with what a disappointment the movie was compared to the book. Bottom line they tried to do too much in two hours. The story was just too big.It needed four hours minimum. Too many characters, too many plot points, too much time elapsing, etc. It ended up being too choppy and just skimmed the surface leaving the viewer uninvested in the characters or the happenings. At least 4 or 5 of the short scenes could have been made into movies by themselves.

One thing for sure: I'm going to give Julie Garwoods original novel another try!

Forever My Girl

He's a real piece of work.
This was not a bad story, but I had a major problem with the character of the male lead. He was weak, cowardly and self-centered. He not only humiliates and devastates his bride right before she walks down the aisle, but he does not even have the guts to tell her to her face or give her a heads up that he was having second thoughts. And he deserts her for fame and fortune. I don't buy for a minute that he just couldn't bare to lose her like he lost his mother. I call B-S on that. If that were true, he would have acted like a man and done it gently and kindly. And re-imbursed her for the wedding expenses. And this was not some woman he just met. It was his childhood and friend of the family.

And then he not only does not respond to her desperate tearful voicemails, but according to him, he listens to them daily. That is just sick. She humbled herself to even reach out to him. Most women would have had some sense of self worth and pride and just moved on. And did I understand that he kept that antique cell phone because he did not want to lose the voicemail? Add dumb to his other sterling character traits.

OK so he reconciles with her and begins to build a relationship with his daughter. But when his daughter almost chokes to death right in front of him, instead of thanking her uncle whose quick thinking saved her life, He just walks around and pouts about it. I guess because he got shown up and wasn't the hero of the situation. Hey buddy, It's not all about you all the time. Your daughter isn't dead no thanks to you. And then, get this, HE DESERTS HIS FAMILY AGAIN! Leaving the mother of his child devastated AGAIN. Only this time he tops this repetition of his first despicable act and devastates his little innocent daughter as well! I tell you this guy is a real prince among men.

Needless to say, he comes back thanks to getting a stern talking to from his manager and is forgiven by one and all. Frankly, given this guys track record, If I were fiancé I would hire a lawyer before the wedding and get him to sign a well-worded pre-nup. Forgiveness and third chances are all well and good, but she has a family to support. Some of that country star money would come in handy when he takes a runner again. But I'm sure she didn't, more's the pity.

Fit for a Prince

So bad it's almost good. No, not really. It's just bad.
I guess someone there at Hallmark supposes that the that the narrow-chested, delicate, bland looks of the actor who played Prince Ronan convey an aristocratic aura because this is the second time he has played a prince. To me, he is miscast as a romantic lead unless it is in a romantic dark-horse underdog role. The testosterone is low in this one.

Now on to Natalie Hall. Apparently Hallmark has decided that she is the go-to female lead when youth and prettiness is required. Unfortunately she has little else to offer. She's not bad but nothing to be especially worthy of scoring 6 Hallmark lead roles in 2 years. The usual Hallmark work-horses had better watch their backs even though most of them have more acting talent, charm, appeal and charisma despite their age.

Others have pointed out many of the ridiculous plot points that abound in this disaster. Their ballroom dance at the end was my pick for most cringe-worthy scene. It looked like a losing effort for Dancing with the Stars. I thought it couldn't get worse until she broke in to a solo routine that would have embarrassed famous bad dancer Elaine Benes from Seinfeld. I thought at one point she was going to drop to the floor and twirl around on her butt. The worst thing in the whole mess was the lack of resolution to the mis-match of how a King was going to unite with an ambitious workaholic partner in a global corporation. It's scary to think this one might need a sequel.

My Birthday Romance

The fake boyfriend romance trope is one of my favorites and has resulted in some of the funniest and most romantic Hallmark movies made. Among them, My Fake Fiancé, Holiday in Handcuffs, Holiday Date, Snow Bride, Surprised by Love, Holiday Engagement, and many more. I was really looking forward to this one. What a bust.

This movie was completely ruined by Callie's dysfunctional parents. And dysfunctional in a not humorous way. They were smothering, overbearing, and controlling. They were on her every. single. minute. to get a boyfriend even when she flat out told them that she didn't need a man to be happy and that she was concentrating on building her business. She is constantly set up on blind dates by them and her sister. Usually in these romances that feature inappropriate over-involvement in grown children's lives, one of the spouses is the voice of reason and provides some balance and common-sense advice to the other parent. Not so in this one. I don't know which of the two parents was more offensive. Possibly the mother, because she made a big point of confiding to Callie that she made her husband wait to marry until she finished grad school. Her desperation to get Callie married did not make sense. And it was made more annoying because Callie, our heroine(?), did not nip it in the bid like any other 35 year old woman would have. She should have quit being so nice and told them flat out to BACK OFF. If they refused, cut off communication until they get the message.

Instead she finds a fake date to her birthday party to get her parents off her back, but instead the parents are on them like vultures. They treat them as if they are madly in love, making them kiss, and immediately act like marriage was right around the corner, instead of just a date she has only known for a week. They publicly toast the happy couple at the Birthday in front of everyone. They make her make a speech when she doesn't want to and she ends up spilling the truth in a way that humiliates her whole family and herself as well.

She actually declares she wishes that she really was Will's girlfriend, because being his fake girlfriend was just so awesome. By the way, Will is mysteriously absent from most of the party and later Carrie starts looking for him after the debacle and is surprised and disappointed he had left. Then 5 minutes later, when he told her he heard her speech, she says she thought he had gone by that time. Lazy writing. Well it all ends as you would expect. But it was just such a painful journey.

The Mallorca Files

Second season is better!
I'm not sure what changes were made, if any, but I am enjoying the second season much more than I did the first. I found the first season mildly entertaining, but the second season I have become invested in the characters. The mysteries seem more clever, and the writing is more humorous and sharper. As always, the scenery is the star of the show, and they have toned down the filters, thank God.

Also, if you are a woman, are you only allowed to be grumpy and strident if you are middle-aged and average-looking like Vera? The female partner is young and pretty. Heaven forbid she be anything but smiley and pleasing. I like that sometimes it is she that solves the crime and others it is the male partner.

Hint of Love

A Winning Recipe
Dennis Andres shines in this entertaining and well-written TV romance. This is the second time I have seen him and he is even better in this one. He plays a cookbook author and blogger whose cooking is aimed at busy single fathers who want to serve up a home-cooked meal in less than 30 minutes. In order to expand his brand he gets hooked up with our Heroine who is a cordon-Bleu trained Cookbook editor who specializes in high end hoity-toity fare. Hilarity, conflict, and romance ensue.

As the down-to-earth rough around the edges hero, Will, Dennis Andres overflows with charm and appeal. He is attractive but not GQ male-model handsome. His line delivery is natural whether funny or heartfelt. A few times it sounded like he was ad-libbing his lines. I guess that means he is a good actor. As his love interest, Debs Howard is well cast with her patrician looks, and has a good character arc. At first, pretentious, snobby, and self-righteous (as Will tells her to her face), we learn that all is not what it seems on the surface. We find out she is from Albuquerque, her parents are down-home "just folks" and her abandoned dream is to open her own restaurant. The "opposites attract" chemistry between the two is right on and the kiss at the end was...yeah.

The script has some wit and good banter: "Who hates Nachos?! That's like hating Freedom!" Couldn't agree more. The initial hostility between the two food-lovers is well balanced. They are at odds but and both have some good points in their arguments. They gradually get on the same page through compromise and listening. There is some good conflict from a snooty boyfriend to a weasel of a boss, and cheer-worthy good triumphing over evil scenes at the end.

I will definitely be looking forward to more TV romances with this talented new-to-the-genre actor. Hope he isn't "discovered" too soon!

Runaway Romance

Only half a story
I had seen a Hallmark movie with Galadriel Stinemann playing an Amish woman before. In that one, she was also in conflict with some of the Amish community over her more liberated thinking. At first I thought this might be part of series in which her storyline and all of the loose ends regarding her character would be tied up. But no such luck! I looked into it and the characters were different women more's the pity. The plot of this one was pretty dull and I didn't like the lead actress. I did like the good comeuppance for the Hollywood bad buys. I was more invested in Galadriel's Amish character and her problems. Hopefully we will get a sequel in which she saves her Inn and gets a happy resolution to her relationship troubles and the bullying Bishop.

It Was Always You

Good Hair!
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 (with the inauthentic modern flowing locks in 19th century Canada). It gave her an edge which improved her usual placidly wholesome look.

I also disagree with the the chemistry between Tyler Hines and Ms Krakow. Tyler Hines 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.

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

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.

Do I Say I Do?

Very entertaining.
I enjoyed this one. Becca Tobin deserves more roles in Hallmark movies if she wants them. I liked the plot which was a little different from the usual with some interesting dilemmas and character development. The two leads chemistry was very good, as was the chemistry between the leads in the secondary romances. The secondary romances added a lot of interest. They were very cute. The pace was good. Always something going on and it didn't get repetitive or bogged down.

Mix Up in the Mediterranean

A Tour de Force performance by Jeremy Jordan
I can't think of too many Hallmark actors who could have pulled off the tricky challenge of playing two brothers, one straight and one gay, One a nice guy, one an arrogant jerk. Jeremy gives a nuanced and funny portrayal. He never overdoes the stereotypical gay mannerisms and voice inflexions, yet the viewer knows immediately which brother is which. Even when the down to earth nice guy is impersonating the gay brother and then going back to his real self. He also makes the gay brother seem redeemable even when he is being controlling and ungrateful. If Hallmark had their own Emmys Jeremy would win hands down for best lead actor. The script is good with some laugh out loud moments and some both amusing and tense situations. There were some sticky plot developments that I was not not sure how they were going to resolve, but the happy ending was achieved very cleverly. I must say it is certainly refreshing for a Hallmark movie to have the small town country boy end up the big city rather than the big city dude to find his bliss in the country. It's got to be a first for Hallmark.

Jessica Lowndes was adequate, but another actress could have mined comic gold as a girl who finds herself attracted to a married gay man and confused and hurt by his changing personality. As it was, a lot of their semi-flirtation was just awkward. She unfortunately has gone back to the over-the-top makeup that she does not need as she is so gorgeous. But I will give her a pass this time as it kind of fit the character.

Kudos all around. Great setting, nice acting (shout out to Callum Blue as Julian Northrup's nice husband), good chemistry, and intriguing plotlines which stepped out of the Hallmark box on several fronts.

Sincerely, Yours, Truly

Natalie Hall shows a gleam of appeal
I have been unimpressed with Natalie hall in her other hallmark ventures, but she was pretty cute in this one. Her chemistry with the leading man was good. I did not like him in the Daisy Hills, the Cyndy(Sp?) Busbee vehicle mostly because of his monochrome look and his weird choice of hairstyle. He looked OK in this one. The plot did not follow the usual formula so that's always worth a star.

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