cgvsluis

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Reviews

Time for You to Come Home for Christmas
(2019)

Funny how goin' back, can get you back where you belong.
This Christmas offering by Hallmark starts at a Christmas Ball from twenty years ago, where a young man surprises his sweetheart who is so busy baking cookies she missed the ball, but he shows up so they can have a dance together anyway.

I was excited to see a Christmas movie starring Allison Sweeney (who I loved in Murder she Baked...ok I love her in everything!...she would have chemistry with cardboard!) and Lucas Bryant (who I loved in both Haven and MVP...ok, I have loved him in everything I have seen him in)...which is why I was really looking forward to seeing them together and they didn't disappoint!

Alison Sweeney plays a single mom/widower, Katherine (Kat), who lives in Boston with her son working at a bank. She takes time off to spend Christmas with her son, Will and her mom tries to talk her in to coming home for a small town Christmas, since it has been two years since her husband's passing. Seeing her son's lack of enthusiasm for staying in Boston convinces, Katherine Moss to go home to Virginia where she will have to face the memories of her late husband.

Before she can even get on the train with her son, Katherine has a meet-cute with what appears to be a street musician when she accidentally drops money in to his actual coffee cup, much to her embarrassment. They end up spending the train-ride together, musician with his "mystery patron". Katherine's son, Will, is quite the artist and they share stories over Christmas cookies on the train. Our musicians name is Jack and he ends up in the same small Virginia town for Christmas. Jack, alone, and Katherine to face her demons. Jack says he is going to "see an old friend".

Kat's mom is struggling to keep up the demands of all of the holiday baking at her bakery and is considering selling the business. She had always thought Kat would eventually take over. Meanwhile a mystery unfolds as to why Jack is in town and coincidentally Kat's husband's band gets back together...with Jack filling in as his replacement for the annual Snow Ball. Meanwhile Jack is talking to a mystery woman named Norah on the phone.

"Small world"-Jack to Kat

Jack works for the USO, post two army tours and an injury...and he can quote Casablanca. As it turns out Kat's husband, Tyler's death is linked to the reason why Jack is in town.

"You are so well put together, it is nice to find a flaw."-Jack

Classic film highlighted: Beyond Tomorrow

Beautiful story that made me want to read the original book it was based on. This is a Christmas highlight.

Ruby Herring Mysteries: Her Last Breath
(2019)

Bears in the Seattle suburbs (at least they got that right).
This is the second entry in the Ruby Herring Mystery series that is supposed to be set in Seattle but is so painfully not. Natalie of Natalie's Naturals goes missing and then turns up dead, putting Ruby and detective Jake back together again. Tommy gives Ruby and Jake a pre-autopsy report and Ruby meets to hash out ideas with her retired crime beat father.

"Nancy Drew Strikes again."-Jake

"He's cute."-Jenny "Yeah if you like know it all detective types."-Ruby

This mystery is filled with yoga, smoothies and a struggling artist, but who poisoned our Natalie?

"My very own Hardy Boy"-Ruby to Jake

Ruby and Jake dance around each other solving clues, while her best friend, Jenny, looks for a house and ends up getting to meet Jake Killian's mom, who just happens to be a real estate agent...which is how they discover that Jake can bake.

"A baker with a badge."-Ruby

I'd like to say this hallmark mystery series is growing on me but it isn't. I like the cast, particularly the two leads...but there is just something lacking in the Chemistry. The writing is decent and has fun references to older detective series...like Cagney and Lacey, etc. I would like to like this more than I do, but so far the first two in the series have left me kind of flat, especially with Aurora Teagarden and the mystery 101 series to compete with.

Hailey Dean Mystery: Dating Is Murder
(2017)
Episode 3, Season 1

"You're ruining everything"-said to Hailey Dean
A missing daughter leads to Hailey investigating an online dating service, penguin match.

"Penguins mate for life and so do our users."-Jessica

Jonas should know better than to make reservations for him and Hailey. Their dates have become unique and predictably unpredictable.

"Nice to know my medical training translates outside of the coroner's office."-Jonas

I liked seeing Jonas being protective, especially in the face of a bully.

"So our dinner-dates have been reduced to crime scenes and police stations."-Jonas

There was another fun surprise appearance by the author of the Hailey Dean series, this time she was the proprietor of a Mexican restaurant.

"Being with you is always an adventure, Hailey Dean."-Jonas

The best part of this series is still our coroner, Jonas. He is the real reason I am hanging in with this mystery.

All of My Heart: The Wedding
(2018)

Are you ready to start the rest of our lives?
The B&B, Emily's country Inn, has been open for a year and Jenny is looking forward to being a fall bride. The couple has a unique way of making wedding decisions...as in Ricky the goat picks their wedding invitations and Brian sets out to build his bride a gazebo. Jenny has invited most of the town to share the joy of their wedding/union.

"I bake it, you sell it."-Jenny to Brian

The usual cast of characters are back...the coffee shop owner-Casey, the general store owner-Tommy, Brian's friend and former coworker-Harry, our blogger and B&B reviewer-Susan, the town staple-Vern, next door neighbor-Alice and the goats (although the kids got a swap out and what happened to the singing tow truck driver, I thought he might perform at the wedding?).

Brian reconnects with his estranged father...and Jenny finds out she has a long lost cousin, Meg, who is in town to claim 1/3 of the B&B which Brian and Jenny can't afford. With their pending wedding, they might be forced to sell the inn.

"We may lose the house, but it is the memories that we keep."-Brian

"You do know you can take the sunset with you."-Brian

This was a beautiful conclusion of Hallmark's All of My Heart series. (Although I am secretly hoping we will get to see them with actual kids, not the goat kind.)

All of My Heart: Inn Love
(2017)

No...this is just the beginning.
I thoroughly enjoyed the original, this sequel starts six months later on the edge of the opening of the B&B. Our couple is engaged, very much in love, adjusting to Buck's county life, and cash poor. It is fall in Buck's County. Jenny's home bake being sold at the local coffee shop is the only thing keeping them fluid. Front of the hardware store, Vern, heads to a family wedding and warns Brian not to mess it up with Jenny. This episode is filled with the usual small town characters and the goat Gabby with her kids. The tow truck driver, Rusty's band "Rusty and the breaks" sound pretty good and make for a fun date night between Emily and Brian as they take a break from the flurry of last minute preparations for Emily's country inn's opening.

A massive rain has the roof leaking which causes all the spare rooms to be completely wet, adding stress and a lot of extra pre-opening stress.

"I love finding little traces of Emily around the house."-Jenny "If it weren't for Emily, we never would have met."-Jenny

Creaky stairs and singing pipes...and then the electricity goes out. The house needs all new wiring!

"Love me and love my toolbox."-Brian

Brian takes a consulting job on a merger to both make a little money and prove his ex-boss wrong, leaving Jenny to greet their first guests alone. Then the big client wants Brian to consult on another deal...pushing out his time in Manhattan to a week. With Brian commuting to the city from Buck's county, he and Jenny barely see each other. Then Jenny looses her distributor, putting more financial strain on the couple.

"I feel like a stock broker going to a rodeo."-Brian

A little bit of a rehash of the first movie while not as good. Brian and Emily still have amazing Chemistry and are what is keeping me watching.

Crossword Mysteries: Terminal Descent
(2021)

Big brain X, BB for short.
Crossword exhibition: Tess versus a super computer...or at least it was going to be until the CEO and inventor of said super computer plummets to his death in an A.I. controlled elevator at his tech company on the day Tess was checking in pre-crossword off.

Logan is called in to investigate the high profile case even though it is out of his jurisdiction.

"How do you think your friend Hammer in there got his nickname?"-Logan "He's in construction?"-Tess "Felony assault...with a hammer."-Logan

There is some great humor in this entry in the Crossword Mystery series on Hallmark. A great and timely topic in this tech heavy mystery and as usual Logan tells Tess to stay out of it. That does not prevent Tess from making friends at a motor cycle club in order to get info on a suspicious plant curator at the tech company.

Wife in the process of divorce, 20 year Cold War ex-partner, tech and CEO rival...there are plenty of suspects, but who did the deed?

"You grow on people."-Tess "Like a fungus?"-Logan

Another great hallmark mystery with the emphasis on the mystery...this is becoming a very slow burn.

"Us O'Conner men, we play things close to the vest."-Logan

Abracadaver
(2020)

Don't you know, a magician never reveals their secret.
"The only thing that would surprise me about you is if you had no surprises."-Logan to Tess

This episode of Crossword Mysteries entitled Abracadaver starts with Tess taking a slight of hand class at the Mystery Manor in New York. As a student, Tess is allowed to celebrate her birthday at the Mystery Manor where normally only members are allowed. We and Tess get a sneak peak of a new trick someone is testing out in one of the "practice" rooms...and then we see the same Magician, "the amazing Alastair and his assistant Bianca" perform on the night of Tess's birthday. Tess ends up with an extra seat at her table, so she invites the new crime writer at the paper...which is how she ends up seated between him and detective Logan for the show. Logan gives her a cute bracelet with a crossword charm for her birthday...and the new crime writer red roses, making you think there is going to be a little rivalry set up for Tess' affections.

The Mystery Manor is in a gorgeous old mansion and the evening's magician performs a disappearing watch with an audience member for his first trick and works up to a trick involving a revolver that Tess gets pulled in to helping out with. She writes her initials on the bullet that will be used in the "bullet catch" trick, the same one Tess witnessed in practice. The magician ends up dying in the performance of the trick and Logan ends up investing...telling Tess to leave it alone, of course!

"I just happen to be here because it's Tess' birthday and we're friends...you know that."-Logan to his partner Winston

Before Tess leaves for the evening to let the police do the investigating, she sees a beautiful woman ascend the staircase alone and Tess follows her, but looses her in a hallway to no where filled with props and historic posters.

"How many times do I have to hear your, 'Tess stay out of police business' speech?"-Tess "As long as you keep disregarding it."-Logan "You're like a paper that keeps printing the same puzzle, day after day after day..."-Tess

Tess goes down the rabbit hole to find an engineer of illusions named Sinclair, using a series of clues. Sinclair was larger than life and fascinating! But the real wonder of this episode is that Logan knows how to tango and there is a great twist with the mystery!

This show continues to get better and the chemistry between Logan and Tess continues to grow. Another solid entry in the hallmark movies and mysteries channel.

Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder
(2019)

"What are you doing? Are you memorizing it?"
Gorgeous vintage wedding ring, pre-1920, the Beale Papers and a book cypher code...it is time for our crossword puzzle guru Tess Harper to team up with her detective pal Logan to solve the murder of her college friend, a professor who is murdered on the day he was to propose to his chef girlfriend using Tess' Sunday puzzle.

"Did you know that wearing wedding bands on the left hand dates back to Roman Times? Yeah, they believed that the vein in your left finger connected directly to your heart."

We get to meet Logan's sister, Angela, who is also in the process of getting married...and seems to be not so subtlety hinting that Tess and Logan should come to her wedding together.

Spies have used book cyphers since the Revolutionary War, same book-3 sets of numbers, first number is page, then line, then word. Logan finds the numbers and once Tess figures out there is a book cypher, the hunt is on to find the right book...and figure out how a scholarship kid could afford such a pricey engagement ring. Is this the key to solving the murder?

Lots of Logan saying, "What are you doing here?" as he encounters Tess working on the mystery that she is supposed to be staying out of while Logan and his new Rookie detective partner solve the crime. In a true twist, Logan's Dad the chief is a lot more permissive with Tess' participation than Logan is, could this be Logan's protective nature showing? There are some fun locales an antique bookstore, university campus and a Connecticut farm.

Tess has a very New York wardrobe of high heels, leather, and tight fitting sweaters...mainly in blacks and greys.

"I could sign up for a cooking class. What's the worst that could happen, I burn a soufflé?"

Logan and Tess seem like an odd couple, but they both have amazing smiles, good laughs and they are growing on me. Tess as usual is filled with tons of interesting factoids and Logan as usual just listens patiently. I don't think there is anything that she could say at this point that would shock Logan. I know these two actors, Lacy Chambert and Brennan Elliot, have amazing Chemistry, because I loved them in their All of My Heart series on Hallmark... goat and all!

"World's first crossword puzzle...published 1913, published in The New York World...diamond shape."

Still not my favorite of the Hallmark Mystery Series, but another solid entry by the Crossword Mystery Team. Oh! And I loved the title of this one "proposing murder"!

"So, am I on the team now, or?"-Tess "Not yet."-Logan

Murder, She Baked: Just Desserts
(2017)
Episode 5, Season 1

When you get the chance, take it.
This is the fifth and last entry in Hallmark's Murder She Baked series based on the cosy mystery books written by the very funny Joanne Fluke.

I wish there were more because this was a great cast, wonderful dialogue, good mysteries, decent sets and an overall enjoyable series. It had heat and humor.

"Just Desserts" has a faceless nefarious figure who is bringing harm to the judges of the Eden Lake Baking Competition or Bake-off that Hannah is the spokesperson for. As the judges start to drop like flies, Hannah who herself has suffered an injury and is hobbling around on a crutch finds herself growing suspicious.

Add in some small town high school basketball, opinionated parents and tough coach turned bake-off judge turned corpse...and you have yourself a mystery!

There is also a tv show and tv station producer associated with the bake-off. Has "hop-a-long-Hannah" met her match?

"She's amazing, she's funny, she's strong...I thought if I kept her close, I could protect her..."

Sweet wrap up to the series...I just wish there were more.

"Just like a great cookie recipe...true love delivers every time."

Murder, She Baked: A Deadly Recipe
(2016)
Episode 4, Season 1

You are irresistible, but you are less irresistible when you break your promise to me.
This is the fourth and very busy entry in the cosy mystery series Murder She Baked.

It starts with Hannah getting nocked down by a potential car thief, the race for sheriff involving Hannah's brother-in-law, and then Hannah and her very pregnant sister finding the body of the current sherif.

Bill, Hannah's brother-in-law, becomes the prime suspect as the competitor to the current sheriff in this year's election.

Norman, the dentist and romantic rival for Hannah is away at a dental conference. This sets up an amusing scene at The Cookie Jar, when Detective Mike grabs the phone from Hannah and chats with Norman...the rivalry continues.

Alison Sweeney and Cameron Mathieson have chemistry for days and it is enjoyable to watch their banter. Our Dentist, Norman...who continues to be almost the perfect man, leaves the dental conference early just to help Hannah investigate.

"I think that no one will be sleeping on that couch tonight."

"For the record, you kissed me."

Great mystery and another must see in the Mystery She Baked Series. (I really wish there were more, but maybe I will try the books.)

Murder, She Baked: A Peach Cobbler Mystery
(2016)
Episode 3, Season 1

A baker who doesn't even know how to bake!
The third entry in the Murder She Baked cozy mystery series on Hallmark, starring Alison Sweeney. In this episode a new bakery opens in the small town of Eden Lake which cuts in to Hannah's profits at The Cookie Jar. To make matters worse the new baker/owner is a college friend of detective Mike and his deceased wife!

Egged on by her family, Hannah orders one of the Magnolia bakery's famous peach cobblers, a supposed family recipe. Along with her family and the mayor, Hannah does a blind taste test in which Hannah's cobbler wins amongst all of the judges. At least two of the judges...including Hannah herself think the Magnolia's pie tastes familiar. That night Hannah figures out why and shares the reason with her sister, who in a fit of defending Hannah bursts out with the reason at the mayor's daughter's wedding rehearsal in front of most of the town. The baker of The Magnolia bakery leaves in tears with a proclamation that she will bring her cobblers to the wedding.

Day of the wedding Hannah does a good deed, someone ends up dead and for the first time Hannah is the prime suspect!!!!!

Valentine's Day is quickly approaching and our dentist Norman seems to be winning major points supporting and helping Hannah. Mike, our handsome detective, is avoiding Hannah because she is the prime suspect in his case.

Meanwhile the real mystery is who will be Hannah's date for the big day?

Sweet, funny and a must watch in the Murder She Baked series.

Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery
(2015)
Episode 2, Season 1

Plum pudding is not made with plums!
I love the Murder She Baked cosy mystery series on Hallmark. The cast is really tight, the dialogue is smart and funny, and the mysteries are pretty good. Alison Sweeney plays Hannah Swenson...small town baker and part time mystery sleuth. She is the owner of The Cookie Jar, which is providing cookies for the Crazy Elf Tree Lot. In this, the second entry the flames are fanned with her two romantic rivals the handsome and unpredictable detective, Mike and the dependable dentist, Norman. There is some comedy as both men show up at the tree lot buying Hannah a tree. Comedy is had, as one tree is donated to charity and the other the two men attach to Hannah's car. There is some great banter with both mother and sister, as each tries to put their romantic choice forward as the obvious candidate for Hannah. But this is a murder mystery, and post a date with our dentist, Hannah arrives at the tree lot to pick up her check for the cookies. Together Hannah and Norman find the owner's dead body. Mike tries but fails to keep Hannah out of this investigation.

Fun cosy mystery that has a bit of a Christmas theme with cookies and plum pudding. A must watch in the Murder She Baked series.

Ford v Ferrari
(2019)

I never watch auto racing and I was on the edge of my seat rooting for Ken Miles to win!
This was a fantastic film and I highly recommend this to movie fans, make an effort to see it. The script was tightly written, with entertaining dialogue. The cinematography was engaging, the acting was phenomenal and the direction was so well done that I was literally rooting for Ken Miles to win!

Ford vs Ferrari is based on a true story and had me googling facts put to us in the film. It depicts the real life determination of Henry Ford II to beat Ferrari at Le Mans after Ferrari had one it 6 times in a row going bankrupt in the process and then mocking Ford's serious offer to buy Ferrari's company, while using his offer to get Fiat to make a better offer. In his determination to beat Ferrari at Le Mons, Ford engineer turned executive Lee Iacocca convinces Ford to let him put together a team of the best, which is how Carroll Shelby (the only American to have won at La Mons) and British born driver/engineer Ken Miles come to be working on the Ford Racing Team...and the rest as they say is history.

The film does an excellent job building the characters and getting you to invest emotionally in the outcome. I have never been a racing fan...but I was right there on the edge of my seat rooting Ken Miles on! There is also an excellent villain developed in the Ford Executive Leo Beebe. It sounds like he really did rob Ken Miles out of the triple crown. I really hope there is a special place in hell.

I want to give a special thank you for the depiction of Ken Miles' wife, Mollie. Often racing movies depict the females as bimbos or so weak-hearted that they are always trying to talk their man out of racing because it is dangerous. Mollie Miles was portrayed as a solid wife and mother, who not only knew a little something about cars but was supportive of her husband and a stand up individual.

I never thought I would see the day that I would be googling and reading articles about auto-racing. True fact Mario Andretti and my Dad are the same age, who knew!

To All the Boys: Always and Forever
(2021)

Will you be my...beginning, my middle, my end?
What a beautiful song to conclude this sweet series adapted from the YA novels by Jenny Han "To All The Boys I've Loved Before". While not as strong as the first movie, this third and final film in the trilogy was better than the second film. There were some great Seoul travel shots and some wonderful shots of New York City...but ultimately this was the final entry in Peter and Lara Jean's romantic love story that started with a bunch of love letters and a fake relationship...and is concluded in this film which starts with The Covey (Lara Jean's) Family in Seoul, Korea for spring break. The big highlights in the film are the senior trip to New York, finding out about college acceptance, the prom, Dr. Covey's wedding, and graduation. This film is like a post card for high school romance and doesn't delve too deep into any heavy topics, although they do make an attempt to heal Peter's relationship with his father and touch on the Covey family grief in regards to their mom.

Sweet, good hearted escapism and perfect Valentine's tribute!

Winter Love Story
(2019)

It's going to be "awesome"..."epic".
Every good story needs a hero that inspires us. This romantic comedy was sweet and loveable. As another critic wrote it seems to rise above the typical hallmark formula. The female character was dreadfully insecure and spoiled, but together with the male lead had great chemistry. The witty banter actually made me laugh. And "nerd books", that was great!

"Where'd you find this place on a list of places where all your fans work?"

This is a romantic comedy about first time author of a non-fictional book about finding yourself after having your heart broken, Cassie. Her book is slow to take off and she gets paired at a book signing with the hugely popular author, Elliot, dubbed "dragon guy" and "nerd book" author by Cassie. From the get go their banter sparks their handlers to think they have the kind of chemistry that sells books on a book tour. Elliot reads Cassie's book, appreciates her writing and asks to go on a tour their publishing house thinks is going to be "awesome" and "epic". On the tour, the witty banter continues as Elliot helps Cassie get over her stage-fright and she helps inspire his third and final novel in his dragon trilogy along with helping him put his past and his ex behind him. Love blossoms between these two who are an incredibly attractive couple along with his dog, Bungie. The short but fun tour ends awkwardly with a misunderstanding that Elliot is going back to his Ex-wife. Can things be put right when Elliot excepts his writer of the year award? You will have to watch it to find out.

Bridgerton
(2020)

Confession/Dirty Little Secret: I Loved It!
Season One: The Duke and I (or The Diamond and the Roguish Duke)

This is a Shonda Rhimes treatment of a fictional historical regency era British romance novel titled The Duke and I by Julia Quinn. One of those novels that you see at the grocery story, typically snickered at and read maybe by house wives...covers often of the torn bodice variety...with men on the cover looking like the infamous Fabio. Do not going in to this series thinking that it is in any way a historically accurate portrayal of regency era anything...have you seen any of Shonda Rhimes other works of fiction?

If, however, you go in to the series thinking this is going to be a mixed cast romp in regency era costumes filled with sex, lavish scenes...and gossip(Shonda's bread and butter), you might find that it is colorful, funny and maybe even a little bit sexy.

I had no expectations going in, I have never read the original books...and honestly I am not a big fan of Shonda Rimes other productions. Right from the start I was really struck by all of the historical inaccuracies, and that is with my inexpert knowledge, but some of the dialogue started to make me laugh...the lush sets drew on my imagination and I really hung in for the friendship and blooming relationship between our two main characters, Daphne and Simon. I know I am a sucker for romance and that is what slid this in to a dirty little secret, you know the ones you are ashamed to admit that you enjoyed!

Season one is ultimately the story of the oldest daughter and fourth of eight Brigerton siblings, Daphne, and her first season coming out to the elite "ton" (ie attempt to snare a husband as all good girls of her time are expected to do). In her presentation to the queen she is favored with her eye and listed in the gossip rags as this season's "Diamond". Her eldest brother and head of the family, Anthony's job is to help Daphne procure a proper match for her and the family. Anthony, who knows more than he should about men's more baser desires and habits, takes his job a little too seriously and manages to scare off the majority of eligible suitors in just the first few days. Daphne meets the arrogant Duke Simon, who happens to be a good friend from Anthony's from boarding school which is how Anthony knows he is entirely unsuitable for Daphne...or so he thinks.

Daphne and Simon out of desperation strike up an agreement to fake a courtship. This will work twofold, it will make Daphne seem more desirable to suitors and keep Simon off the market for pushy moms after his title. During this fake courtship, their hate changed to friendship...and maybe love?

This isn't the end of the drama as there is a large back story involving Simon's youth, relationship with his father and why he doesn't want to have children. This provides the story with the classic romance angst and obstacles or impediments to the couples happiness. There are also the side stories of the other Brigerton siblings, all eight named in alphabetical order, and some of their friends and neighbors. In addition, there is a story only hinted at in this season about the Queen and her relationship with her husband, the King.

I enjoyed this enough that I will be checking out season two...please don't disappoint me Shonda Rhimes and writer Chris Van Dusen.

Hailey Dean Mystery: Deadly Estate
(2017)
Episode 2, Season 1

Life is short and we all deserve to be happy.
"When you asked me out tonight, I was 99% sure that breaking and entering wasn't part of the plan."-Jonas "It's not breaking and entering if you have a key and you are a close friend, and you're not going to steal anything."-Hailey "Yeah, I'm sure that's written in to the Georgia penal code."-Jonas

This is the 2nd entry in the Hailey Dean mysteries in which Hailey, former special prosecutor for district attorney's office turned counselor meets friend Pam post her parents death. Pam is a professor and in the process of using a estate agent to sell her parents home and household items. She has struck up a relationship with her real estate agent, which leads to a double date with Hailey and Jonas. Pam goes missing and Hailey is convinced there is foul play. She ropes her friends and Jonas in to helping her find her friend.

In the process Hailey and Jonas commit a dubious break in to Pam's house which could cost Jonas his Medical Examiner's job and causes a bit of a riff in their growing relationship.

This episode starts and end with Hailey remembering the night that her ex, Will, was shot and killed in front of her. But this time she remembers a critical detail in which she thinks the killer was after her and that it wasn't just a random crime...news which she shares with Will's brother the police officer.

I still find the best part of this series to be the character of Jonas, who gets to both be deeply and sweetly caring in addition to adding some comic relief. By far he has some of the best lines in the series.

"You shouldn't be with anyone who won't accept your baggage. We wouldn't be human if we didn't have any."-Jonas

Atiye
(2019)

Enjoyable Turkish Fantasy that has a side benefit of being a beautiful travelogue.
The Gift is a made for Netflix Turkish fantasy drama about an artist named Atiye, who discovers that she has a much bigger connection to the world at large.

We start with the opening of her first art show where every painting is a variation of a symbol that she has been drawing since she was eight years old. Atiye keeps thinking she is seeing an elderly woman with facial tattoos...to the consternation of her family. One night Atiye sees a news story about a new discovery at the on-going archaeological dig at the ruins of Göbekli Tepe. The news story depicts hieroglyphs of the same symbol that she has used since she was eight. This prompts Atiye to travel to Göbekli Tepe to see it in person. On the way, she meets a young girl with the mark of a star on her forehead. At the dig she meets the discovering professor/archaeologist, Erhan, who was following in the footsteps of his deceased father. Erhan prevents Atiye from getting anywhere near the new discovery, but at night our mysterious star girl leads Atiye into the dig. This one trip in doesn't answer Atiye's questions and she eventually gets found and tossed out. Back at home her family and fiancé all convince Atiye that she is seeing things, needs to be seeing a psychiatrist and be taking medication...until on the verge of her wedding Erhan shows up with the elderly woman with the facial tattoos, who not only really exists but is Atiye's supposedly dead grandmother. Together they go on an adventure working on unraveling many mysteries and discovering that they and their families are intertwined.

There is mystery, intrigue, pursuit by individuals with their own agendas...and a twist for season two.

I highly recommend season one. It was interesting, has beautiful shots of Istanbul, Göbekli Tepe, and Mount Nemrut, and had an interesting story to tell.

Season two was also interesting, although not quite as good as season one...it was like season one with a twist, which added kind of an interesting element to the show in general. The added location of Cappadocia, showcased why it is on my list of must sees in Turkey!

I have been learning to speak Turkish and often watch Turkish tv to help with vocabulary and pronunciation. I mention this because I have read some criticism of the English translation on this series on Netflix. My Turkish is still not good enough to thoroughly comment on this, but even I know enough Turkish to know that "Kizim" is "my daughter" not "sweetheart".

I am looking forward to season three and I am hoping that it will have a happier ending than season two.

Holiday Date
(2019)

Chrismanukkah!
Enthusiastic young designer finally gets the chance to show her sketches to her designer boss on the same day that she is going to dinner with her boyfriend before her friend's party...Boss says she can see potential...but that she should rethink her designs, then her boyfriend wants to "slow down" their relationship, then she meets a friendly stranger at her friend's party who agrees to pretend to be her boyfriend to meet her parents for Christmas.

He is an actor and agrees in order to do research for his new small town roll...actually they both get talked into it by her friend and his agent who are the hosts of said party. They are both living in New York and he is a true city boy who does his best to get in to the role as architect boyfriend visiting small town, Whispering Pines Pennsylvania.

"My inner Ethan is ready to role!" "A bad dress rehearsal means a great show!"

The niece is truly adorable! "It's the prettiest tree I ever saw."

One twist...the actor playing "mr. Christmas" boyfriend is Jewish and has never actually celebrated Christmas...or eaten ham. Her career takes an unexpected turn, fake boyfriend "Ethan" is outed as being Jewish and her amazing family just incorporates it in to their Christmas celebrations.

Big name cast, beautiful Christmas decorations...and our actor grows in to his role. There are some awkward moments, some are funny...some are just awkward.

"She has a glue gun."

I did really appreciate the marrying of Hanukkah and Christmas. That is how it should be.

Christmas Coach
(2019)

Obnoxiously infectious!
The female lead has so much cheerful energy that it was easy to understand how she wins over our overly conservative male lead.

She probably really did graduate from the college of Christmas...and what exactly is cranberry cobbler? It was really a nice touch that she knew a poinsettia was not a flower.

The basic story is a Christmas coach is hired by reserved sub-royalty brits living in America. She works hard to pull out and then recreate their family traditions for them to have the best Christmas ever. This culminates is a Christmas Eve Eve party in which everything goes smoothly, she looks spectacular in a gorgeous red dress (and high five to the costume crew who paired it with that spectacular necklace!), and she surprises the whole family by bringing back one of their oldest traditions. A misunderstanding occurs, which is common in romances...and on Christmas Eve she gets a Christmas surprise meanwhile learning the truth which clears up the misunderstanding...all while maintaining her enthusiastic Christmas cheer.

This was very Christmas-y and good spirited. I recommend giving it a try. Our lead was so overly enthusiastic about Christmas it made me laugh and somehow brought me joy!

Seeing is believing and believing is seeing!

I have never seen snow polo, which must be hard with a white ball.

"It's Christmas Eve, Dad. It's what we do."

Going in Style
(2017)

What's worse than getting shot. Getting shot twice!
Octogenarian comedy with down on their luck pensioners robbing a bank. These three are funny, have great timing and wonderful on screen chemistry.

In this remake, one of our main characters is at the bank trying to get information on his home loan before he and his family are foreclosed upon when the bank gets robbed at gunpoint. During the robbery, he is up close and personal with one of three robbers when the robber tells him that it is society's duty to take care of its elderly. When he and his two best friends find out that the company that they earned their retirement pensions from is no longer supporting the pensioners, but using their money for other reasons...a plan starts to form to rob the bank for what is rightfully theirs, their pension money. They do a trial run at a grocery store called Value Mart...and it goes horribly awry, much to the audience's amusement. This leads them to seek professional assistance in their plan.

Sad commentary on society, but a funny movie that is worth seeing.

Christmas in Montana
(2019)

Does it get any more perfect than this? ...Actually, yes.
A hallmark Christmas movie classic starring two seasoned main actors. The plot consists of California city girl and widowed single mom who is sent to Montana to help either cut costs or people in order to secure a loan for a Montana Ranch and long time client of her company. In Montana she meets handsome rancher who tried the city out as a lawyer, but then came back to the ranch where his heart truly is. He has a wonderful philosophy of not charging family and friends for Christmas trees, hot cocoa, etc. Our big city girl's daughter gets a nice taste of ranch life...grooming horses, collecting eggs, and learning how to knit. Both mother and daughter slow down, open up and talk to each other so they can finally heal after the death of their husband/father. In so doing they find a solution to the business problem and fall in love!

Beautiful snow filled background and a little bit of horseback riding.

"I only wear bolo ties on days ending in never."

A Merry Christmas Match
(2019)

Heading back to Harmony
Our main character is Corey who lives in the small town of Harmony where she is struggling to keep her deceased father's antique shop going, especially since a large ski resort opened in a neighboring town drawing away the tourist. Corey's attachment to keeping her father's antique shop afloat is preventing her from pursuing her dreams in LA, like her bestie the now famous Jillian Winters.

Jillian visits her family and bestie in Harmony, "Santa's final pitstop in the snow", just before Christmas and this leads to a visit by Jillian's new boyfriend Davey and his best friend Ryder Donnelly.

There is a funny meet cute between Ryder and Corey at her father's antique shop where Ryder breaks a chair and tries to buy a clock that is nfs. He falls in love with the clock "I have a thing for old clocks and this one is really cool.", the antique shop...and that's not all.

"When you possess something this perfect and unique you don't just hide it away on a shelf to collect dust. You put it out there and you share it for the world to see. And this clock it wants to tick, to tell time, to live. Are you really going to deny him that?"

"You think I can be bought?""I think I can try."

Ryder is "conceited and a know it all" wealthy heir and "the hunky holiday bachelor", but Corey learns that he is actually genuine, giving and very much in to her. He encourages her to pursue her passions and to give their relationship a chance.

Corey who is "very happy under (her) rock" is reluctant at first but with some persuading finally takes a risk and visits LA, getting to see Ryder on his home turf and learning more about his charitable side.

One of the sweetest conversations takes place at the antique shop during one of Ryder and Corey's first meetings in regards to visiting Alaska: "always wanted to go though. I want to see some real reindeer." "Oh. You like reindeer?" "Who doesn't? They are only like the most magical creature there is. Did you know that all of Santa's reindeer are girls?" "Wait, no. They all have antlers, right?" "Females have antlers too. In fact, males shed theirs during the winter and females keep theirs. So, if all the pictures in the stories are true...all of Santa's reindeer are girls, even Rudolph." "Wow! Who'd have thought." "It makes sense. Women have a much better sense of direction." "I would love to hear more of your impressive knowledge of reindeer."

Moral: If you love it, you should do more of it...aka if it is something that you love it's worth fighting for.

"Your poker-face is on point" I really appreciated the friendly advice that people don't always know how you feel unless you tell them. Excellent advice.

I loved the antiques and as a horologist...I loved the role of the clock.

I thought our two main characters were fun and did a good job building the romance. The supporting cast was great. Ryder's parents house was amazing all decorated for Christmas.

And big hats off to the costume designer for what I think was the best holiday costume of the year...Corey's candy cane pillbox hat with candy cane striped tights and a short red a-frame dress with a white collar. I immediately started searching for a candy cane pillbox hat, I loved it that much!

My favorite line, "If I am being betrothed to another woman, I should at least get a dance in while I can."

Our stars crossed... add this to your list.

The Christmas House
(2020)

Magic is a lot like Christmas, it's meant to be shared.
There was a lot of humor in this Holiday Hallmark offering. Starting with our main character, Mike Mitchell, who is the lead actor in "Handsome Justice", where he plays an attorney who does things like defends a dog who is charged with murder. Mike returns home with the news that his show may be canceled and his parents want to put on one last big Christmas at their Christmas House. The last big Christmas for Christmas House is because the parents, Phyllis and Bill, are selling the house...this brings up a whole melancholy portion of the film where we get to see Phyllis moping about. She is the instigator of selling their childhood home because since she has retired from teaching it has become clear to her that she and her husband no longer share anything nor do they have anything in common leading her to believe they should separate. Then there is the homosexual brother who with his partner is on the verge of a potential adoption after having three previous adoptions fall through at the last minute. I found his character to be a little insensitive to the plight of his brother, who is grappling with the sale of his childhood house and the separation of his parents. The negative aspect of the mom's plans and the brother's insensitivity was not counterbalanced by the humor and holiday cheer. This is a movie that I would have skipped when I was looking for a light hearted holiday film. The acting was decent, especially our main actor playing Mike who was handsome and funny. He was really giving it everything he had...but I am afraid there was too much to overcome. "It's hard to imagine you guys in a different house." "It's not one last Christmas House, it's one last Christmas." "Gives a whole new meaning to the term silent night." "Handsome one, handsome two you're on clean up duty!" "I think you should find things that you like to do." "It's almost Christmas where's the magic?" "It may hurt, but you will get through it. Maybe it's time to dust off the old journal." "Nervous and excited are almost the same thing, so be excited instead."

The Christmas Ring
(2020)

Blessed with a legacy of Love.
There were so many things that appealed to me about this Christmas story.

The story starts with a plucky internet reporter, Kendra, who works for some on-line magazine whose specialty is quizzes like which reindeer do you most resemble? She has been dying to write more serious articles to take their on-line magazine in another direction. Kendra's mother passed away and her father had been holding on to her mother's wedding ring which had been passed down to four generations...but since his passing a couple years ago the ring has gone missing. It has become Kenra's practice to check in antique shops looking for her mom's ring. This is what she is doing when she finds a very similarly styled ring to her mom's, but this one has an inscription that says "Forever My Christmas Love 1948". She learns from the shop owner that you can track the maker of a ring by the jewelry mark...which she does to a small town. The mystery and story behind this inscription intrigues Kendra and she makes a pitch to her boss to write a human interest story about the ring...the boss who just wants to sell advertising thinks the quizzes and celebrity gossip get more eyeballs on the page, so she categorically says no. Kendra decides to take a few days off to do her own sleuthing convinced that she can write an article that will be good enough for her boss to change her mind. Once in the small town she discovers the jeweler has passed away, but that his son is running a bakery out of the same location. The baker is very friendly and is able to find the receipt ledger, which by description and date lead to the purchaser of the ring. Meanwhile in said small town she keeps bumping in to the same handsome but slightly grumpy and suspicious guy...who turns out to be the grandson of the purchaser of the ring and coincidentally the biggest celebrity gossip of the moment. When Michael finds out she is a reporter he becomes even more suspicious that she is really there to do an article on him...and of course when her boss finds out he is involved with the ring story through eavesdropping...red lights her article as long as he is mentioned or featured. "You are the most effectual person I have ever met"

The real story becomes solving the mystery of the ring and the back story of Michael's grandparents, William and Pearl, who ran the small town's general store which was at the heart of the town and a big deal at Christmas. Struggling to keep it operational Michael's brother and he are considering selling the store...which leads to them having one more last big Christmas at the store, including doing all of the Christmas traditions that their grandparents did.

Together Michael and Kendra piece together the story of the ring... "Even though you were looking for your mother's ring, I'm glad you found my grandmother's." "My mom would have loved Pinegrove." "You made me believe you were writing a story about true love. About how love takes sacrifice and risk." Of course there is a misunderstanding...and it ends with a suspenseful moment...will our protagonist finally get together in the end, it was sweet and thoughtful and involved two people striking out on their own to do the work they were meant to do, which may be risky but they will be able to sleep at night, and of course it involves the ring. ...taking buildings of the past and updating them for the future. I am always intrigued by stories from the past...I love trolling antique shops and finding treasures. This was so much fun to follow the inscription to the heart of the story and have it be one of true love. "You're a part of the story now." The actress who played Kendra was a little different than Hallmark's usual lead and I for one liked her, she was gorgeous, independent, self-assured and maybe a little sassy. She and the male lead played well together...but the big star was the mystery of the ring.

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