Author: limmer13

Overboard (2018)

Nobody asked for an Overboard remix, so maybe it was right that the movie got dragged by critics. I already did a number on the original, but hating the idea of this movie is one way to be pleasantly surprised by some of the story’s retooling. It turns out the flipping the script and reversing gender roles can improve things. My main problem with the 1987 film is that the insufferable socialite who’s tossed overboard finds herself exploited by the man she’s cheated. He takes advantage of her vulnerability and then justifies that behavior by pointing finger at her and not himself, all of which is played for laughs and a sense of karma. So what happens when the one in need of his comeuppance is a man? Well, something a little more nuanced.

Kate (Anna Faris), for one, is a lot more sympathetic than the Kurt Russell character she is based on. She actually feels guilty about fooling Leo (Eugenio Derbez), the playboy bachelor and now amnesiac, into thinking he is her husband. It’s a last ditch move by a young widow who knows she can’t continue to juggle three girls, two jobs, and a nursing exam, especially after her mom’s popped off to do some community theater. Revenge is not the aim so much as it is a simple need to keep her life from falling apart. She sets the unsuspecting Leo up with a punishing construction job so that she have money for the mortgage. She enlists his help to cook dinner and get the groceries so she has more time to study. At no point does she abdicate her own responsibilities towards work or family.

Crucially, the power dynamics shift. Kate manipulates Leo, and criminal behavior is criminal behavior, but she doesn’t have complete control over him. He gains independence through his ability to work, and that in turn gives him a network of friends and coworkers. Leo takes cues about how to be husband and father, but he has a lot more room to shape his new identity. He is not trapped at home or at the mercy of people who could take advantage of him physically or sexually, and this telling change makes all the difference. In fact, it’s Kate who must remain guarded. She comes up with an excuse to keep him out of her bedroom and, having seen the way he used to demean women, is wary of letting him alone with her/their daughters. So it is that even a woman who seems to have all the power still does not.

I’ll own to be one of the few people who enjoyed this movie, certainly if we’re comparing it to the original. Its better hold on gender also extends to supporting characters. Kate’s kids each have a distinct personality, and Leo’s two sisters are a riot. Responsible, business-minded Magdalena (Cecilia Suárez) has her eye on the family’s company, but their father favors Leo despite his life of debauchery. I can’t say she’s entirely wrong for pretending her brother was devoured by sharks.

Most of my criticism is directed at the humor, which could be dialed up several notches. Though the laughs are consistent, they’re never very strong. Faris is delightfully neurotic, per usual, and keeps things funny while also being the adult in the room. She and Derbez aren’t always tuned to the same comedic wavelength though. They’re an odd couple not only because of age but also because he tends to be more deliberate and over-the-top in his delivery. In his eagerness to get laughs, he just doesn’t get many. I hope we’ll see more of Derbez and the other Mexican actors regardless. This kind of mainstream cross-production is the kind of cinema I want more of, where large chunks of Spanish dialogue is just a natural thing.

Released: 2018
Prod: Eugenio Derbez, Benjamin Odell, Bob Fisher
Dir: Rob Greenberg
Writer: Bob Fisher, Rob Greenberg, Leslie Dixon
Cast: Eugenio Derbez, Anna Faris, Eva Longoria, Mel Rodriguez, Hannah Nordberg, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Peyton Lepinski, Fernando Luján, Cecilia Suárez, Mariana Treviño, John Hannah, Swoosie Kurtz
Time: 112 min
Lang: English, Spanish
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2019

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Overboard (1987)

So Overboard is about a woman who rips off a guy, falls off her yacht, gets amnesia, and then goes home with said man when he claims that she is his wife. Once they reach his filthy hovel, he makes her clean, cook, and care for his four children. After a while, she starts to believe this lie and he starts to fall in love. Also, this is a comedy.

1987 me is looking at this like LOL, and 2019 me is looking at this like WTF. It’s almost as if this is a horrible story about criminal assault and deception layered on top of deep sexism and misogyny and should never be attempted a second time. How can one watch without considering the fact that Joanna Strayton (Goldie Hawn) is incredibly vulnerable, has no advocate, and doesn’t deserve what happens to her no matter how big a bitch she might be?

Nevertheless, a sick sense of payback is the raison d’être behind this supposed comedy gold. Joanna cuts a ridiculous figure. Her wardrobe contains nothing but sequined swimwear and her diet nothing but caviar that “bursts in the mouth at the precise moment.” She hires Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell) to redo her wardrobe, and when he makes the mistake of using oak instead of cedar, she literally throws him off her yacht.

Sure, Joanna is an awful human. She disdains, well, everyone and treats Dean as another one of her disposable hired help. (She also happens to have some great one-liners, which Hawn delivers with gooey condescension.) None of that merits what is to come, however, because while there are plenty of recourses for not getting paid, kidnapping is not one of them.

That doesn’t stop Dean, who, delighted by this turn of events, sings to the tune of “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” that he’s “got a wonderful slave.” He immediately puts Joanna, whom he calls Annie, to work on a house that looks like a wrecking project on a home renovation show. He has the gall to reason that she should do all the housekeeping since he’s the one earning the paycheck. To make things more unbearable, he outsources his beastly children’s well-being to Joanna. It falls on her to make sure they’re clean, fed, and literate. His hands-off approach is rich though since there’s scant evidence he was ever hands-on with his household or parenting duties.

Dean’s go-to trick is to lie to Joanna that she’s never been bothered by this work before, at least he tries this line until she barks back that it bothers her now. It’s a rousing moment, or at least it would be if she wasn’t being cut down again and again. Joanna constantly tries to stand up for herself only to find her efforts dismissed, and isn’t that the story of womanhood. Whether she’s put into the psyche ward for insisting she is who she is, or is not, or demanding proof from Dean that they’ve actually lived a life together, it’s painful to see her groping around for her own identity. Her existence is made worse because everyone around her is profiting from the deception.

I don’t buy the feel-good part of this story, no matter how hard Russell tries to sell me on his roguish charms. In fact, it’s his likability that makes this movie less palatable, not more so. Eventually Dean’s conscience catches up, but only when Joanna settles into this make-believe life he’s created for her and effectively becomes a “good” woman. She changes not only the Proffitt family’s lives for the better but her own as well, if better means not being a materialistic snob. Being worthy or blameless should have never figured into Dean’s decisions in the first place though. That he violated Joanna’s trust and security is entirely on him, and frankly, it’s not very funny.

Released: 1987
Prod: Nick Abdo, Roddy McDowall, Alexandra Rose, Anthea Sylbert
Dir: Gary Marshall
Writer: Leslie Dixon
Cast: Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Edward Herrmann, Katherine Helmond, Roddy McDowall, Michael G. Hagerty, Brian Price, Jared Rushton, Jamie Wild, Jeffrey Wiseman
Time: 112 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2019

Royal Matchmaker (2018)

From star Bethany Joy Lenz’s chic outfits to my favorite supporting actress Brittany Baristow to the fairy tale Romanian filming location, there’s enough to enjoy about this movie that one can forgive its lackluster story and characters. Lenz plays Kate, matchmaker to the stars, who gets an assignment of a lifetime when King Edward of Voldavia (Simon Dutton) enlists her help to find his son a date for the jubilee ball. She and her assistant (Baristow) have one month to match Prince Sebastian (Will Kemp) with a lady of noble blood, a big ask but a job that comes with posh digs at the royal residence

It’s not overstating things to say that Romania makes a magical Voldavia. It has all the grandeur and quaintness that Americans love in their European kingdoms, both real and imagined. Hallmark takes full advantage of the location shoot and features things like castles backlit by the moonlight and narrow cobblestoned village roads. We get fancy interior shots as well, whether it’s the ballroom, dining room, or even the boiler room. The setting makes quite the contrast from the channel’s usual backdrop of small town America.

I can’t help but think the scenery is doing a lot of the heavy lifting though. The story isn’t bad by any means, but I was hoping for something more worthy of its location. Kate and Sebastian get off to a predictably rocky start; she’s pushy, he’s arrogant, and both are determined to get their way. Kate knows that she can break through the prince’s cynicism and help him not only find love but treasure it as well. Sebastian is equally set on proving that happiness lies in his independence and perhaps his affinity for cars.

The story takes a hands off approach just when it needs some intervention. The second act coasts on the warming relations between the two. The trouble is, Kate and Sebastian aren’t all that interesting when they aren’t together or when they’re just politely acknowledging one another. As the prince grows more receptive to the idea of finding love, we see his softer, more charitable side. There’s a secondary plot involving a crumbling community center that he shows an interest in, and it’s a project that also involves his loyal valet (Joseph Thompson).

However, the story is at its best when there’s real tension, when Sebastian’s flinty personality strikes at Kate’s own resoluteness. He isn’t exactly a Prince Charming on first meeting or the second, and their hostility is what sets things alight. Lenz and Kemp don’t have as much fire once their characters are more comfortable around each other. Kate and Sebastian do develop a friendly relationship, one where she delivers breakfast just to get the scoop on last night’s date, but they’re not together enough for that chummy feeling to rub off.

Released: 2018
Dir: Mike Rohl
Writer: Mark Amato
Cast: Bethany Joy Lenz, Will Kemp, Brittany Baristow, Simon Dutton, Joseph Thompson, Elva Trill, Poppy Roe, Woody Hamilton Hurst
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019

My Secret Valentine (2018)

My Secret Valentine is dopey, loose with plot details, and features almost no people of color, all par for the course when it comes to Hallmark. But the movie also has two actors who leverage what they have and make the most out of a predictable story. Not content with the average “family business owner couples with the guy trying to buy her out” storyline, the filmmakers throw in an additional plot device – secret pen pals à la Shop Around the Corner and You’ve Got Mail. Well, it works because this one hits the sweet spot. It comes down to everyone in the production knowing exactly what they need to deliver and how to do it.

We can start with the setting, which is Oregon but actually some gorgeous countryside near Toronto. Though the story takes place in February, at least some of this movie was filmed in a few months earlier. No matter because the result is beautiful fall colors. They complement the sunsets and lush vineyards that are worthy supporting characters.

One could easily imagine a respected family winery hidden here, such as Grange Family Wines. The winery has been around for decades, but the current owner, Truman (Peter MacNeill), is on the verge of retirement and his daughter hopes to establish herself in Portland’s restaurant scene instead of taking over for him. Nevertheless, Chloe (Lacey Chabert) returns home, only to find that her father is thinking about selling the business to a boxed wine company.

Seth (Andrew Walker) is this self-styled trendy wine company’s rep, confident he can secure a deal and thus his promotion to vice president all in two days. He doesn’t count on butting heads with Chloe, who selfishly wants her dad to keep the winery without thinking about who would run the place. It takes Seth a little longer than expected to win over Truman, however, and in that time, Chloe and the winery start to win over him.

The movie could have easily stuck to the bare minimum and worked off Chloe and Seth’s initial dislike and opposing goals for Grange Wines. It would have been enjoyable as is, but the secret pen pal twist is also a welcome addition. Seth unknowingly rents a cottage belonging to Chloe’s family, and the tenant and landlord start leaving cute notes to one another, not realizing they also kind of hate each other. It doesn’t change the story’s trajectory, but it allows for a little more drama when they decide to meet.

This isn’t the real secret to My Secret Valentine though. What is really surprising is that this is Chabert and Walker’s first project as a couple. The two are so natural together, and their chemistry allows for a lot of the funny, playful moments that make this film stand out. Walker delivers some quality dork moments, especially when Seth and Chloe are trying to sell Grange Wines to local businesses. One of the movie’s best scenes is when Seth adopts what I hope is a purposely awful Texas accent and a shocked but amused Chloe has to roll with it. The two actors have an instinctive knack for one another, and each is willing to give as much as they get. They’re a believable couple but, more importantly, a couple I’d like to see more of.

Released: 2018
Dir: Bruno Rocca, Bradley Walsh
Writer: Carrie Freedle
Cast: Lacey Chabert, Andrew Walker, Peter MacNeill, Tara Yelland, Catherine Burdon
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019

Morning Show Mysteries: A Murder in Mind (2019)

Morning Show Mysteries is a series I want to get excited about but that always lets me down ever so gently by playing it safe. I wish it had a better sense of humor and pushed the boundaries on narrative and character, but I also get why it’s a little dry. Star Holly Robinson Peete is a fantastic addition to the Hallmark lineup (and someone please create a historical series for her now that the When Calls the Heart is working out some issues). Her character, Billie Blessings, however, is just so damn nice and normal. She’s a sober morning show personality, not dull but exceedingly calm and likely the first person you’d call if disaster strikes, which is something that happens often in her orbit. While she’s inclined to help you through a crisis, she always second guesses herself when it comes to her own relationship. It’s been a long game of “will they or won’t they” with detective Ian (Rick Fox), and it doesn’t look like anyone’s going to make a move soon.

That may be why I’m increasingly invested in Billie’s Aunt Cassandra (Karen Robinson) and chef Maurice (Greg Rogers), who are at it again in this episode. The two are always snapping at each other and thus too busy to sense the romantic tension they create just arguing over who walked out the door first. In a secondary plot here, Cassandra finds herself falling for a businessman who visits the restaurant. There’s no reason for her to get hot and bothered by this rando, but it stokes Maurice’s jealousy and I love it.

Too bad that can’t be the main plot, though the mystery this week has enough crackle. It’s a surreal case involving Billie’s friend, Katie (Hilary Jardine), an aspiring actress who’s just landed the starring role in a legal drama. Katie plays lawyer Hannah Kelso (Teryl Rothery) in Kelso’s Law, and the series is based off books written by her son, Derek (Sebastian Gacki), and inspired by Hannah’s career. Katie and Derek’s relationship, however, may be the reason the TV show’s launch turns into a murderous disaster.

Hannah despises Katie. She’s a controlling mother who thinks no one is good enough for her son and wants Katie off the show, but it’s not clear she’d kill to make that happen. Anyway, Katie is not the one who turns up dead; it’s Jerry (Brent Stait), Hannah’s assistant. I wouldn’t write Hannah off because Jerry is murdered at her house, but Katie is not as upfront about things as she might seem and her father is also pretty blunt when asked about the lengths he’ll go to protect his daughter. Then there’s the matter of Jerry himself. He was a former police officer and not a straight-laced one either.

I appreciate that I can keep track of everyone in this case. I don’t know if my mind is numb to these movies or if this is just me advancing in age, but a few of these mysteries have gotten me a bit crossed lately. Being able to identify each person is helpful when everyone has a part in the final reveal. I just wish there wouldn’t be a big information dump at the end. I prefer a taut build-up that keeps pushing the story and its audience forward with each tiny detail. Lulls in the case, however, lead to cute filler material, like Ian’s request for Billie’s help to pull off a dessert birthday party for his daughter. That’s not to say that this is an endorsement of preteens getting parties with chocolate fountains on the regular.

Highlight for spoilers: Hannah is the killer. She sent the threatening letters to Katie and tried to blackmail her, but when someone from her past resurfaced, she had to redirect her attention. That person from her past is Charlie, the businessman who showed up at Billie’s restaurant. He hoped Billie would help him get closer to Hannah, who had wronged him years ago. Charlie and Hannah fought over the will of an old woman who left her sizeable estate to her dog after she died, murdered as it happens by Jerry on Hannah’s order. The woman actually had a second will leaving everything to Charlie, her dog trainer. However, that will was stolen by Jerry, who didn’t burn it as directed but rather hid it in his secret blackmail vault. Hannah killed Charlie’s son, Brian, when he confronted her and then killed Jerry but had her own son think that he had committed the murder. She finally tried to kill Katie and make it look like a suicide, but plan didn’t work, bitch.

Released: 2019
Dir: Kevin Fair
Writer: Amber Benson
Cast: Holly Robinson Peete, Rick Fox, Karen Robinson, Jesse Moss, David Lewis, Kirsten Robek, Greg Rogers, David Paetkau, Dee Jay Jackson, Sebastian Gacki, Hilary Jardine, Hrothgar Mathews, Teryl Rothery, Brent Stait, Milah Thompson
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019