Month: June 2019

Chance at Romance (2013)

It’s every woman’s online dating nightmare. You email an artist you like, he responds, you quietly determine he’s not a misogynistic creep. Then he takes the leap, invites you to visit, and you accept – only to discover that he has no idea who you are and you have actually been chatting up his twelve year old son. It happens to the best of us.

Sam (Erin Krakow) can’t run away from this nightmare. She’s stuck in some tiny town after a storm closes off all exits and has no choice but to stay with Heath (Ryan McPartlin) and his precocious kid, Donny (Ian Andrew). When the embarrassment wears off, she starts to connect with Donny, who concocted the harebrained scheme so that his widowed father would be less inclined to date his flirty manager, Celeste (Kaitlin Doubleday). Heath, for his part, also warms up to his unexpected houseguest. He’s impressed with her graciousness and is even more eager for her to stay when she helps him find inspiration for his photography again.

Sam starts off as a ridiculous character. She is one of those Hallmark types who loves being in love. She literally wants a guy to come in on a white horse and sweep her off her feet. Getting caught up in an online dating trap, albeit an innocent one, however, gives her better perspective on her love life. We see her grow comfortable with herself, boyfriend or no, and she eventually decides this is bullshit; she’ll just do what she wants to do. Sam could easily have turned cynical, but Krakow finds the lightness in her character.

Andrew is the film’s scene stealer though. The young actor really taps into Donny’s cheeky side. On the one hand, he looks like he spends the weekends playing video games with his friends, and on the other, he passes as the oddball genius who’s getting his MBA before can even get his driver’s license. That Andrew looks like Prince Harry’s squinty kid makes the casting of McPartlin as his dad a bit off, but it’s easily overlooked.

Not so forgivable is the selection of Heath’s supposedly award-winning photography. Folks, it’s not good. Despite being up for a solo show in London, Heath favors stuff you’d find in a Bible verses calendar. Think sunsets, barns, corn – all touched up with loads of photoshop. Sam and Heath connect over a piece called “Horse Meadow,” which I swear was sitting unloved at my local Goodwill last week. His Sam-inspired photos are of even more questionable artistic value. They’re like unwanted proofs from a 90s era Glamour Shots session. I guess no one’s here for the art though, and all that really matters is that Krakow, McPartlin, and Andrew tell a decent story.

Alt Title: Friend Request
Released: 2013
Dir: Bradford May
Writer: Neal H. Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky
Cast: Erin Krakow, Ryan McPartlin, Ian Andrew, Patricia Richardson, Jean Louise Kelly, Kaitlin Doubleday
Time: 84 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019

Perfect Match (2015)

Paul Greene has a secure place on my Hallmark all-star team, but even I have a hard time getting through Perfect Match. I like the pairing between him and co-star Danica McKellar and the plot is as workable as any other, but Greene’s character is so, well, out of character. He plays Adam Parker, an event planner who doesn’t seem to know all that much about event planning. On top of that, he’s kind of a dude, a thirtysomething who can’t wait to join his little brother’s tailgate and maybe shotgun a beer, or ten. Adam is an awkward fit for Greene, not because he can’t play such characters but because this one’s such a nonsensical mess.

It would help if Adam was better at his job. Weddings aren’t in his wheelhouse, but he agrees to help his cousin, Paul (a giddy Anthony Konechny), who’s outnumbered by his fiancée (Elise Gatien) and mother (Linda Gray). Both want a lavish, traditional affair with champagne cake and pink bowties. Paul, however, wants his wedding to be less of a cupcake and hopes Adam can help broker a compromise.

Problems arise between Adam and the actual wedding planner, Jessica (McKellar), when he proposes a sports/cook-out-themed nuptials. His good planning sense seems to have gone out the window with this new assignment, and Jessica grows frustrated with his impractical suggestions and complete disregard for the bride’s tastes. Apparently his organizing skills don’t extend beyond zombie walks and anglers’ conventions, yet we’re to take it on face value that he’s in the right line of work.

Adam and Jessica’s contrasting styles lead to an inevitable clash, and soon they critique other aspects their lives. He takes issue with her tendency to over-schedule while she accuses him of being too laid back. Adam is the type who plans his vacation with a map and a dart and can’t imagine how Jessica can live without spontaneity. She gets her thrills elsewhere though, namely vision boards and weekly menus, and anyway, she believes in love and romance, something Adam could do without.

There’s a version of this story that works and even one that stars McKellar and Greene. Campfire Kiss, for example, boasts a passable version of these characters. You can have two people who butt heads because of their outlook and style, but they should at least be consistent. Adam is cobbled together based on random conflicts the plot needs and, as a result, comes off as erratic and annoying. He’s only likeable because of Greene’s calming presence, which blunts his character’s worst qualities.

Released: 2015
Dir: Ron Oliver
Writer: Patricia Resnick
Cast: Danica McKellar, Paul Greene, Graham Verchere, Elise Gatien, Anthony Konechny, Linda Gray, Nelson Wong
Time: 84 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019

Mystery 101: Playing Dead (2019)

I don’t remember much about Mystery 101, which debuted months ago, but I do remember not caring for it. I’ll be caring a lot more about it, however, if future episodes are like this one, a case full of intrigue and surprise. The mystery centers around movie star Bella Brightman (Rekha Sharma) and her special appearance at the community theater production in Garrison, Washington (I think), where she also own a holiday home. She’s starring in a play called Shadow of Death, which is akin to an episode of Miss Marple. Think country estate, unhappy marriages, and an affair with the vicar. Not everyone’s happy with Bella’s appearance though, and it’s apparent that someone wants her off the stage when she narrowly escapes a few “accidents” involving a lighting rig and prop gun. As the police try to keep her safe, they also investigate a series of burglaries at local businesses, one of which sends an officer to the hospital.

Stars Jill Wagner and Kristoffer Polaha headline this series, and while they’re total pros here, their characters are not at all captivating. Amy (Wagner), an English professor and dramaturge for the play, and Travis (Polaha), a police detective, don’t deviate from the norm in the slightest. They are exactly as you’d expect. Amy is headstrong but caring and, once she gets a taste of crime solving, doesn’t pay any attention to boundaries or the law. She thinks of herself as a one-woman investigation team, though she’d be a shite detective IRL because nothing she collects would be admissible in court. Travis, it turns out, doesn’t care much either. He scolds her every now and again, but warrants be damned because girl’s got skills and she’s kinda cute.

The regular characters have the potential to form a good team though. I like the idea of English majors using their knowledge of Emma to take down criminals – because what the hell else are we going to do with this information? Two of the supporting characters, Amy’s TA (Preston Vanderslice) and her student (Louriza Tronco) might make quirky sidekicks and tagalongs, but they don’t get a chance in this film. They both have parts in the production but don’t contribute to the case in any meaningful way.

The highlights instead are the guest stars and this tangled plot. Even if you think you know whodunit, chances are you can’t piece the whole of the mystery together until the final reveal. This is one of those cases where everyone is hiding something, whether or not it has to do with the main crime. There’s a revolving door of shady people and potential killers – Bella’s angry husband, Duncan (Matthew Kevin Anderson); her enamored costar, Elliot (Luke Camilleri); her suave ex-husband, Sebastian (Colin Lawrence); Elliot’s unloved girlfriend, Josie; the grumpy set decorator, Karl (Aaron Douglas); and the could-be-guilty-because-he-seems-so-innocent director, Vincent (Robert Moloney). Throw in a creepy toy monkey, some chopped up car parts, and a trash bag of prescription meds, and you have a mystery that you won’t mind picking apart.

Highlight for spoilers: Josie and Duncan conspired to murder Bella and frame Elliot. Why? Because they are biological siblings but really because Josie looks like a Shirley Henderson character who is trying to be normal but is actually a creepy, murderous fucker. The two were separated in their youth after their parents died in a fire, a fire that took place in one of the Quick’s buildings. They were placed in different foster homes, which led to very different futures. While Josie did well for herself, her brother had a harder time. It wasn’t until they reconnected and she helped him out that things started looking better for Duncan. All that he had worked for was threatened by his wife’s affair with Elliot Quick, however. When he found out that Bella was going to divorce him to be with Elliot, he and Josie decided to bring both of them down lest another Quick ruin their lives. Duncan laced Bella’s drink with poison, and the siblings, who had staged the robberies, used the evidence to frame Elliot.

Released: 2019
Dir: Blair Hayes
Writer: Robin Bernheim, Lee Goldberg
Cast: Jill Wagner, Kristoffer Polaha, Robin Thomas, Sarah Dugdale, Louriza Tronco, Preston Vanderslice, Matthew Kevin Anderson, Luke Camilleri, Aaron Douglas, Michael Kopsa, Colin Lawrence, Robert Moloney, Rekha Sharma
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019