Who knew I’d be publishing a Word on the Street post this soon into the New Year? In this story, I’ll be talking about two pieces of movie news. The first is about the end of a long-running movie related show. The second story will discuss the new Hallmark films that will likely premiere in February. As I sometimes do, I’ll be sharing my opinion as well as report each piece of news. So, let the first Word on the Street story of 2020 begin!
Two days ago, on January 2nd, the entertainment news company, Collider, made an announcement where they indicated big changes for their collection of content. One particular change that caught my attention was the discontinuation of the Youtube show, Collider Movie Talk. The company stated this decision was made to put more emphasis “towards expanding high-quality, scripted, unscripted, and celebrity-driven content”. Other Youtube shows that are also ending are Heroes, Jedi Council, and Collider Live. Personally, I’m not sad to see Collider Movie Talk go. I started watching the show in 2013, when it was known as AMC Movie Talk. For years, I appreciated the existence of a place where news related to movies was the number one priority. But, over time, I found other movie related Youtube channels that I ended up watching more than Collider Movie Talk. I also talk about movie news on 18 Cinema Lane. Some of these stories feature topics that would probably never get covered by Collider. It seems like competition is one of the reasons why Collider Movie Talk is closing their doors.
On the twitter amount, Hotline to Hallmark, the February line-up for both Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries were revealed. In two separate tweets, movies from both networks were listed with potential release dates. On the official websites for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, synopses and lead actors were featured on their own pages. Here is a list of these films and their premises.
February 1st – A Valentine’s Match, starring Luke Macfarlane and Bethany Joy Lenz (“Fired from her job as a reality TV host, Natalie returns home for Valentine’s Day, only to find herself running the town festival’s auction with her ex-fiancé thanks to two scheming mothers”.)
February 8th – Matching Hearts, starring Ryan Paevey and Taylor Cole (“As Valentine’s Day nears, a matchmaker is tasked by her mentor to find a match for an entrepreneur who believes staying single is the key to success”).
February 15th – The Secret Ingredient, starring Brendan Penny and Erin Cahill (“Small-town baker, Kelly, gets a big surprise when she is invited to compete on a Valentine’s Day baking show in New York City – and an even bigger surprise when she runs into her ex-fiance”).
February 16th – Dead Over Diamonds: Picture Perfect Mysteries, starring Carlos and Alexa PenaVega (“Photographer Allie and Detective Sam’s investigation into a priceless stolen necklace leads to danger and an unexpected death”).
February 22nd – Love in Store, starring Jackee Harry, Robert Buckley and Alexandra Breckenridge (“Two rival home shopping hosts are forced together while competing for a promotion. Along the way they find their on-air chemistry kindles an off-air spark”).
February 23rd – Riddled with Deceit: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, starring Jesse Metcalfe and Sarah Lind (“Former detective Jeff Jackson teams up with Dr. Zee Madeiras to track down their friend’s missing emerald brooch, a thief, and also… a murderer”).
February 29th – Bad Date Chronicles, a PixL production from 2017, starring Justin Kelly and Merritt Patterson (“Leigh runs the website “Bad Date Chronicles,” which allows people to anonymously post horrible date experiences”).
Out of all the movies to premiere on Hallmark Channel, the two I find the most interesting are The Secret Ingredient and Love in Store. With the first movie, it’s the opposite of the “woman from the city coming back to her small hometown” cliché. This could lend itself to a more creative story. For the second film, I’m wondering what exactly the movie is about. Is it about two real estate agents who have their own reality shows or about people who sell products on QVC or HSN style programs? I’ve noticed with the films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries that both stories feature fine jewelry. I’m not sure if this is a coincidence or intentional. What disappoints me about this collection of films is that Hallmark doesn’t seem to be creating a Leap Year themed movie. From what I can recall, a movie from this network has never made a film featuring this once every four years celebration. Also, if Hallmark can make Christmas movies almost a year in advance, then why wouldn’t they plan ahead with a Leap Year movie?
How do you feel about these pieces of movie news? Are you sad to see Collider Movie Talk end? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Happy New Year’s Eve, everybody! Since I published my list of The Top 10 Worst Movies I saw in 2019 yesterday, it’s time for me to post my list of The Top 10 Best Movies I saw in 2019! Like I said before, I found 2019 has been a better year for movies. I saw a lot of good films, but only ten can be considered the best of the year. As I mentioned in my previous list, this article is based on my opinion and films that I personally watched. It’s also not meant to be mean-spirited or negative toward anyone’s opinions/cinematic preferences. Now that the introduction is over, let’s begin by bringing up the Honorable Mentions!
Christmas Bells are Ringing, Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas, Northern Lights of Christmas, A Gingerbread Romance, Kim Possible (2019), Flip that Romance, Chronicle Mysteries: Vines that Bind, Just Add Romance, Boys Town, Men of Boys Town, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, The Last Bridesmaid, Toy Story 4, Return to Oz, I Remember Mama, Ruby Herring Mysteries: Her Last Breath, Merry and Bright, A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love, Time for You to Come Home for Christmas, and The Christmas Club
10. The Nine Lives of Christmas
Who knew I would like this movie as much as I did? As part of the Happy Holidays Blogathon, I watched and reviewed this movie in an attempt to figure out if it was worth the hype it has received. Like I said in that post, I can now understand why so many people like the film so much! The humor within this movie is one of its highlights. Because of the quality of the script and the acting performances, The Nine Lives of Christmas was genuinely hilarious. While watching this movie, I found myself laughing more than I thought I would. Another part of this story that was well-written was the interactions among the characters. They were not only great to watch, but they also appeared natural on-screen. I’m glad I finally realize why this movie always makes an appearance in Hallmark’s yearly Christmas line-ups.
9. Holiday for Heroes
I will admit I had lower expectations for this film than I probably should have. But those lower expectations allowed the movie to surpass them and become the pleasant surprise it was. Holiday for Heroes was so good, that it reminded me of another movie I liked, Operation Christmas. With its genuine sincerity, the messages that were expressed in this story came across very well. I also liked how the formation of the protagonists’ relationship was more realistic than in something like The Christmas Card. Throughout this film, I could tell the creative team’s heart was always in the right place. It made it seem like they truly cared about the project they were working on.
8. Easter Under Wraps
In 2019, Hallmark finally created their first Easter themed movie! Even though it took so long to get to this point, I definitely think it was worth the wait. I really liked the writing within this film, as it created a story that was entertaining. Something I pointed out in my review is how conversations felt like they came from real-life. This helped me stay invested in what the characters were saying and doing throughout the film. Like in most movies from Hallmark Channel, Easter Under Wraps contained messages and themes that were relatable. Just one example is of personal growth. I’m not sure what Hallmark’s plans are for their “Spring Fever” line-up. I hope one of them includes a sequel to this film.
7. Ben-Hur (1959)
This is the first of two movies that I reviewed for a blog follower dedication review. At the beginning of the year, I was thrilled to share this movie with my readers and followers. That’s because I enjoyed it more than I expected to. Ben-Hur is a film that has acquired a lot of critical acclaim. As I said in my review, the hype surrounding it was well-earned. The script itself is one of the strongest elements of the project. Even though Ben-Hur is known as an “epic” picture, it is also a compelling story of faith and perseverance. From the acting performances to the cinematography, these things make this film the masterpiece it is. It’s no wonder Ben-Hur has been able to stand the test of time for so long.
6. Mystery 101: Words Can Kill
One of the newest mystery series that premiered in 2019, Mystery 101, has quickly become one of my favorites. I found the third movie in this series, Mystery 101: Words Can Kill, to be the strongest one. Unlike most of the films on Hallmark’s second network, this movie felt like it had higher stakes. This was caused by the female protagonist’s father being falsely accused on the crime and the male and female leads not being able to see eye-to-eye on the film’s main conflict. I also liked how the book festival was showcased in the movie for a satisfying amount of time. Like I’ll say about another movie on this list, Mystery 101: Words Can Kill shares some of the same positive qualities of its predecessors. It not only keeps up the series’ continuity, it makes me look forward to the future of Mystery 101.
5. Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy
Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy was one of my most anticipated Christmas movies of 2019. After enjoying the second film in the series, Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa, I was looking forward to seeing what was in store for the next chapter. This film did not disappoint! It felt like receiving a hug from a friend one hasn’t seen in a while. The third entry is one of the few Christmas films from Hallmark that tried to do different things with their story. One example is how the script explores the aftermath of the mystery. This is something that is hardly shown in Hallmark’s films, especially in their Hallmark Movies & Mysteries productions. After hearing other people’s positive responses to this movie, I’m hoping that a fourth one is in the cards.
4. Avengers: Endgame
After becoming the king (or queen) of the world, Avengers: Endgame will still be a movie that is remembered for years. Whether debating over the film’s time travel or discussing the highlights and flaws of the project, people are going to find an opportunity to talk about this movie. For me, I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to this particular series of the MCU. Sure, there are things about it that I don’t like. But there is no such thing as a perfect film. Without spoiling the movie, I will say that several interesting decisions were made within this script. These decisions allowed the film to be engaging and, at times, thought-provoking. What also worked in the project’s favor was how it shared some of the same strengths as its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War. This actually helped it maintain a sense of continuity.
3. Kubo and the Two Strings
For my blog follower dedication reviews, I try my best to talk about films that I feel good about sharing with my readers and followers. When I think about Kubo and the Two Strings, it makes me thankful that I chose to watch this movie! This is the first time an animated film has appeared on my best of the year list. I’m glad this movie was the one to make 18 Cinema Lane history because, to me, it deserves it. The story is enriching and beautifully written. It takes elements that we’ve seen before and crafts them in a way that feel like a breath of fresh air. It also helps that the animation is visually appealing. Even though this is the only Laika film I’ve seen, so far, I’d be more than willing to check out what this studio has to offer.
2. Rome in Love
This movie premiered while I was on an out-of-town trip, so I wasn’t able to review it. But when I did watch this film, it ended up being the best Hallmark movie I saw this year! Rome in Love does so many things right when it comes to cinematic story-telling. It went out of its way to use as few Hallmark movie clichés as possible. But when the film did adopt a tried-and-true cliché, it improved upon that cliché, which enhanced the overall story. At times, this film felt like a theatrical production. This is because of how well done the cinematography is. If I were introducing someone to Hallmark’s library of films, this is one of the movies I would choose to show them.
1. Swept from the Sea
When I look back on 2019, Swept from the Sea is the one film I can’t stop thinking about! As the biggest pleasant surprise of the year, it is definitely deserving of the number one spot. There are no such thing as “perfect” films. However, this movie is the only one I saw this year that comes pretty close to it. There is so much to love about this film. But, for me, the best part of the movie was Vincent Perez’s performance! He single-handedly stole the show, which gave me an opportunity to appreciate his acting abilities more than I expected. From the cinematography to the on-screen chemistry, the other elements of this film certainly added to my enjoyment of it. As I think about Swept from the Sea, I feel that this is a movie I wish more people were aware of.
What do you think of my list? Which is your favorite movie of 2019? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Another year, another annual Top 10 article! In 2018, I published my list of The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2018 first. This time around, I’ll be publishing my worst of the year list instead! For me, 2019 has been a better year for movies, as I saw far more good films than bad. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t see any movies I wasn’t a fan of. Similar to last year’s post, this list will be based on movies that I personally saw, as well as my own opinion. Also, this list is not meant to be mean-spirited or negative toward anyone’s opinions/cinematic preferences. Now, let’s begin by bringing up the Dishonorable Mentions!
Our Christmas Love Song, My One and Only, Over the Moon in Love, Hart to Hart: Secrets of the Heart, A Very Country Wedding, Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows, Nightmare Best Friend, Last Vermont Christmas, Always and Forever Christmas (I only watched half of it before turning it off), and Christmas in Louisiana (I ended up watching less than half of it before changing the channel)
10. After the Storm
Sadly, we start this list with an UP Network release. I was hoping any movie from this network didn’t have to end up on my list. But this movie is placed lower on the list than last year’s entry, Christmas on Holly Lane. So, I guess that’s a step in the right direction! Now, back to talking about After the Storm. What made me want to watch this movie is the discussion of natural disasters and their aftermath. In family-friendly, made-for-TV movies, this specific topic is rarely featured in the story. Unfortunately, this film’s narrative placed more emphasis on the romance than the titular storm and its aftermath. Another major issue I had with this movie was the questionable decisions the male and female protagonist make within the film. While these decisions were not necessarily bad, they were also given questionable explanations. I wasn’t able to stay invested in the protagonists and their relationship because of this creative decision.
9. A Feeling of Home
Texas is one of the states that isn’t always featured in a Hallmark movie. This part of the film made me want to give this project a chance. But, similar to After the Storm, the story placed more focus on the romance than in the conflict. There were some editing errors within this film that were painfully obvious. It also doesn’t help that the weakest acting performance came from the lead actress. Watching the female protagonist desperately trying to win over her father’s attention was, actually, quite sad. This made her appear weaker than the majority of female protagonists from Hallmark Channel. I have to ask: who greenlit this script when they knew it was this weak?
8. Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays
In 2018, I saw and really liked Christmas at Graceland. While I thought Wedding at Graceland was ok, it’s the third film in this trilogy that I find to be the worst out of the three. There were a number of plot points in this movie that didn’t make any sense. Why would the female protagonist give her nieces only one small snowglobe but the male protagonist’s children an elaborate and large advent calendar? Also, for a movie set in Graceland, the famous location ends up being a glorified extra by having less than three appearances on screen. Because of this, it makes the story feel like it didn’t need to take place in Graceland. The movie made me wish Christmas at Graceland had never received any sequels.
7. Christmas Scavenger Hunt
The idea of a Christmas themed scavenger hunt is something that had never been shown in a Hallmark production prior to 2019. So, I was somewhat optimistic about this particular movie. Sadly, the potential this film had was wasted on a poorly written script. All of the scavenger hunt clues were way too easy to solve. There was no sense of urgency throughout the film, as well as two separate moments where the male and female protagonist came across as selfish. Not only was the lead actress’s performance weak, but so was the on-screen chemistry between the lead actor and actress. Like other films on this list, questions arose within the story that distracted me from enjoying the movie. One of these questions was why the female protagonist didn’t make her boyfriend take off his expensive tie before baking. All of these missteps added up to a movie that was less entertaining that it could have been.
6. Christmas Camp
When I first heard of this movie, I was excited to see a Christmas themed camp brought to life for the first time in a Hallmark film. I had reviewed this movie for Drew’s Movie Review’s Christmas in July Blogathon. Upon my first and only viewing of the film, I learned that the camp itself was nothing more than an afterthought. What this movie excels at is having a pointless plot and tradition shaming characters whose Christmas doesn’t look or sound “traditional”. Despite the fact this a Hallmark film, these things don’t make it feel like a Hallmark film. If anything, it makes me wonder why the network would greenlight this movie at all? Hallmark has been known for creating a variety of Christmas products to celebrate a multitude of Christmas traditions. With Christmas Camp, it makes the network seem inconsistent with their message.
5. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Back in October, I gave this film a second chance for The Second Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon. Looking back on it, I realize that was probably a mistake. Unfunny humor is the movie’s biggest flaw. Yes, I know that comedy is a very subjective thing. But if a comedic film barely makes me laugh, then it hasn’t done its job well. Other problems in this movie include the run-time and a weak story. There were elements that could have enhanced the project, such as commentary about greed and the power of money. But these things were swept under the rug for the sake of hosting a popularity contest instead of a movie production.
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
This was the first movie I saw in 2019 and boy was it a disappointment. All of the humor was so forced, that I found myself not laughing at any of the jokes. The film’s plot was tedious, which made the movie itself feel longer than its run-time. I also found a few plot-holes within this film. One of them was so large and obvious, that it made me question the existence of the movie’s narrative. While I liked the acting performances and the special effects (both practical and CGI), there were more negatives to the film than positives. This could have been something quirky and fun. Unfortunately, the movie was missing those two important ingredients.
3. A Cheerful Christmas
This is not only the worst Christmas movie I saw in 2019, it’s also the worst Hallmark movie I saw in 2019. It doesn’t help when the lead actress ends up over-acting or when at least one of the actors clearly can’t carry a British accent. But it also doesn’t help when the story is poorly written. This movie made me ask more questions than I had planned to. One question was about the female protagonist’s ability to keep her job after all the business-related blunders she makes. I know that fictional stories require their audience to suspend a certain amount of disbelief. But this movie tried to make me suspend all my disbelief, making me feel uncheerful. While I appreciate the movie’s attempt to avoid a large number of “royal movie” clichés, it wasn’t enough to save the project. In my opinion, it felt like the film’s creative team put so much emphasis on making a pointless, family-friendly, Christmas remake of Pretty Woman, that they forgot how to make a good movie.
2. Ace of Hearts
I’m all for helping smaller, family-friendly films get the “standing ovation” they might deserve. However, for a movie to achieve a “standing ovation”, it needs to be good. Ace of Hearts, unfortunately, fails to meet that criteria. The majority of the acting performances are poor and the pacing is very slow. But the worst offense this movie commits is bad writing. This story had so many plot-holes and inconsistencies, that it was exhausting instead of enjoyable. When the protagonist’s daughter convinces her friend that the reason why her family’s dog is trying to get home is to get back at the film’s villain because it’s his “unfinished business” (she comes to this conclusion after seeing the title of a video game), that’s when you know you’ve come across a bad script. As if that weren’t bad enough, this movie is, apparently, based on a true story. If my true story were handled this poorly, I would be offended and embarrassed.
1. A Page of Madness
A Page of Madness is a silent film from Japan, for those of you who are not familiar with this title. I appreciate the director’s efforts to preserve this movie, especially since, according to Ben Mankiewicz from Turner Classic Movies, the majority of Japanese films created before 1945 are either partially or completely lost. I also understand what the director was trying to do with the project. But just because I’m a grateful and understanding movie blogger, that doesn’t mean I liked the final product. This movie has a plethora of problems that would make this list longer than it already is. So, I’ll share two reasons why A Page of Madness is the worst film I saw in 2019. The first is how it has no plot, narrative, or story. It just contains a premise that goes nowhere. The second is how, in reality, this movie is an artistic experiment masquerading as a film. Personally, I found this to be dishonest and manipulative. At two separate moments, I wanted to fall asleep and turn the movie off. This is one of those times where I wish I would have listened to my instincts.
What are your thoughts on my list? Which is your worst film of 2019? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!
For my last movie review of 2019, I’m going to talk about the newest film in the When Calls the Heart series, When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas! Since I reviewed last year’s movie, When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing and since I re-cap the show, I thought it would be fitting to keep up the continuity. While I liked the previous movie, I had lower expectations for this year’s project. This was caused by how unappealing the film’s synopsis sounded to me. In a Word on the Street story last month, I discussed how I felt about the synopsis for this movie. To me, it seemed like the screenwriters were running out of ideas and not taking advantage of beautiful story-telling opportunities. It also seemed like they were repeating the same mistakes they made in the previous film. But, like I do for every movie I watch and/or review, I watched When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas with an open mind. I thought that, maybe, the movie could be better than the synopsis made it sound. Was I right or wrong in my guess? We’re about to find out in this review of When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Like last year’s movie, the acting in When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas was one of the strongest elements of the project! Everyone in this cast was talented, bringing their characters to life with a sense of well-roundedness. From newer characters, like Nate’s niece, Allie, to veterans of the show, such as Bill Avery, it was a pleasure to see these characters come back on television. What works in this cast’s favor is how most of the cast members have appeared on the show for at least one season. This helps keep up the consistency of both the performances and the overall narrative. It also shows how comfortable these actors and actresses were in the roles they were given.
Learning about backstories through Christmas traditions: At several moments of the movie, the audience got the chance to receive more backstories from some the characters through the sharing of Christmas traditions. With the incorporation of Hope Valley’s Christmas Festival, we learn that one of Lucas’ favorite memories was visiting a German Christmas festival with his parents. Another example is Nate’s Christmas present for Allie. For Christmas, he gets her a charm bracelet. Nate’s sister and Allie’s mom used to have a charm bracelet and would receive a new charm every Christmas. This was an interesting way to learn about these characters. It not only expands the character development, but it also gives the audience story material before the start of the next season.
The character interactions: Similar to last year’s film, I liked seeing the character interactions in When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas! One of the reasons why is because of the on-screen chemistry between the actors within the cast. But the other reason why I enjoyed watching these interactions was because they felt genuine and thoughtful. A great example is the interaction between Florence and Fiona. In this scene, they give each other Christmas gifts that are telephone related: Florence receives a telephone necklace and Fiona receives an embroidered piece of art about keeping people connected. This was my favorite character interaction because it showed Florence and Fiona putting effort into these gifts as well as the growth of their friendship. It was not only well-acted, but also well-written!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Too many plots: There were about eight plots found in When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas. Because the film was only an hour and thirty minutes, there was not enough time for these plots to be fully developed. Instead of lending themselves to an engaging story, they ended up competing against each other to see which one could be the most memorable. What also didn’t help was how almost all of these plots were basic and surface-level. Most of them felt like they could have been featured on any episode of the show, as they seemed ordinary and mundane. The only plot that had any amount of intrigue was Carson and Faith’s story.
Under-utilized characters: When a movie or television show has a cast this large, there are bound to be characters that receive more screen-time than others. But in this movie, there are some characters that could have benefitted from having their own story. Henry Gowan is a perfect example of this. Since Henry doesn’t receive his own plot, this gives him very little to do in the movie. It also doesn’t give Martin Cummins, the actor who portrays Henry Gowan, much material to work with as an actor. Jesse and Clara are another good example. They got engaged at the end of season six, so we could have seen them get married during Christmas-time. Instead, Jesse and Clara’s story was reduced to them saving Lucas Bouchard’s reputation. I understand that the show’s creative team wants to save some story material for the upcoming season. But a Christmas wedding could have been an eventful way to end Hallmark Channel’s Christmas line-up.
Plot points that don’t make sense: Throughout this film, there were some plots that didn’t make sense. For this part of the review, I’ll give you two examples. The first involves a new character named Walter. He claims to be a struggling traveling salesman, selling his only coat for gas money and not having the funds for a new tire. If Walter is having that much trouble acquiring a steady income, then how he is able to afford a car? Vehicles require constant upkeep in order for them to run smoothly. For Walter to be able to maintain his car’s well-being, he would probably have to sell more belongings of his over a significant period of time. The second example involves Rosemary. After learning about a dilemma related to Hope Valley’s Christmas Festival, Rosemary complains to Lee about Lucas’ poor event planning skills. She then complains about how Lucas should have asked her for help. Ever since her introduction in season one, Rosemary has always been a determined and headstrong woman. No matter what happens, she finds a way to discover a solution to any problem. For Rosemary to not volunteer with any event planning and for her to expect to be asked for anything doesn’t make any sense with her character development.
My overall impression:
In 2018, I gave a good review to When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing. While I had issues with the film, there were things about it that I liked. With When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas, however, I can’t give it a good review. But I can’t give it a bad review either. At best, I found the movie to be ok. It had its strengths, like the acting and Christmas traditions serving as opportunities for character development. At worst, this film was a rushed “filler” project that tried so hard to say so much, but ended up saying so little. It felt like the creative team behind this show just wanted to get this movie done and over with so they could move on to the next project. If anything, it was less of a movie and more of an extended episode. After watching this film, I’m kind of concerned for the next season. It doesn’t help when the only thing that was shown in the commercial for season seven was Elizabeth looking at both Nate and Lucas. I’m hoping it is better than this movie was, but I’m starting to wonder if the show’s creative team is still passionate about this story?
Overall score: 6 out of 10
What did you think of this film? Are you looking forward to the next season of When Calls the Heart? Tell me in the comment section!
Last year, in a Word on the Street story, I talked about how Hanukkah would be incorporated into two upcoming Hallmark movies. As time has gone on, these films were revealed to be Holiday Date and Double Holiday. Recently, on Deseret News, a writer named Gillian Friedman shared why she wasn’t looking forward to seeing Hanukkah featured in Hallmark’s films. When I read her article, I found that she had good, valid points to her argument. Gillian wasn’t alone, as I read more similar opinions on the internet. However, I still chose to review Holiday Date with an open mind. Like I mentioned in the aforementioned Word on the Street story, movies that discuss the Jewish faith are not commonly found in Hallmark’s cinematic library. So, I was glad to see that the network was adopting story-elements that we haven’t seen in quite a while. I was also curious to see how Hanukkah would be included in both films. Now that I have seen Holiday Date, it’s time for me to share my honest opinion about this much talked about movie!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Brittany Bristow is an actress that has appeared in several Hallmark projects. Whenever she is given a supporting role, she has always found a way to stand out and be the best actress that she can be. I was excited when I found out she had received the lead role in Holiday Date, as I knew she had what it takes to carry a Hallmark film. Brittany’s performance in this movie did not disappoint! She had a very pleasant on-screen personality and was versatile in her portrayal of Brooke. Another actor that gave a versatile performance was Matt Cohen! For his first time starring in a Hallmark film, he did a really good job portraying Joel. Throughout the movie, Matt was funny and charismatic, which helped make his character memorable. This makes me hope that Matt appears in more Hallmark films in the future! The supporting cast in Holiday Date was solid! What worked in their favor was how well each cast member worked with one another. This was achieved by the good on-screen chemistry between the film’s actors and actresses.
The humor: In my review of The Nine Lives of Christmas, I said that it feels like most of Hallmark’s Christmas movies have been light on humor this year. Seeing Holiday Date as a more humorous story than other “Countdown to Christmas” films was a pleasant surprise. The type of humor that can be found in this movie is “comedy of errors”. Because the story is about a man and a woman who pretend to be a couple, it makes sense to include “comedy of errors” into the narrative. I found the humor in Holiday Date to be well-written and genuinely funny. One scene that I thought was hilarious was when Joel tried to keep Brooke’s dad’s (Walter’s) glasses away from him in an attempt to avoid seeing Joel’s television commercial. Since the whole cast had good comedic timing, it helped all the humor in Holiday Date stick the landing!
A unique story: A story involving a “fake” significant other is nothing new for Hallmark Channel. But, because this kind of story is not featured as often as other narratives, it makes Holiday Date feel like a breath of fresh air! Standing out from other films on the network, Holiday Date creates a sense of memorability for itself. The movie’s creative team went against the grain and focused more on quality than formula. This movie incorporated different story-telling elements into the script. The inclusion of Hanukkah is a good example of this. With this creative decision, it allows for interesting perspectives to be shown and discussed. Watching Joel and Brooke’s family learning and experiencing each other’s traditions and cultures was a great thing to see. It instills the values of friendship and family that are woven into the fabric of Hallmark Channel.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The “it’s not what you think” cliché: In Holiday Date, Joel sees Brooke spending time with her ex-boyfriend. This causes him to assume that she still has romantic feelings for her ex. While I wasn’t a fan of Brooke’s ex-boyfriend showing up unannounced, I found that particular scene to be surprisingly hilarious. But, as for the “it’s not what you think” cliché, I thought it was unnecessary. The main plot of the story already provided a conflict for Brooke and Joel, so they really didn’t need a second conflict. Also, since most of the female main characters in Hallmark movies form a relationship with the male main character, the audience knows who she will ultimately fall in love with.
No subplots: Because Brooke and Joel’s “fake” relationship is the primary focus of the story, the majority of the film’s events revolve around this conflict. However, I found several missed opportunities for subplots to take place. One example is Tessa’s desire to become an actress. During Holiday Date, Tessa auditions for the local theater’s Christmas play. I liked seeing this part of the story unfold. But I think it could have been fully explored if it were a subplot. I also think that some of the characters could have benefited from receiving their own story. In the movie, Brooke’s sister, Ashley, and her husband, Glen, mention that their new house has met some difficulties when it comes to its construction. Like Tessa’s part of the story, this wasn’t explored as much as it could have been. Having one or two subplots might have added some interesting elements to the overall narrative.
An isolated story: One of the reasons why Joel agrees to pose as Brooke’s boyfriend is so he can gain research for a potential acting job. What makes Holiday Date different from other stories with small-town backgrounds is that Brooke’s town, Whispering Pines, didn’t really play a strong role in the story. Sure, a few establishments were featured, such as Brooke’s uncle’s hardware store. But it felt like Joel received a limited scope of small-town life. The people within the town only made brief appearances in the film. This prevented them from sharing their perspectives with Joel and making a bigger contribution to the story. Because of these things, it made the overall narrative feel isolated.
My overall impression:
Films are a subjective medium. Because of this, everyone is bound to view movies differently. Holiday Date is a good example of this. Some people were not a fan of Hallmark choosing to incorporate Hanukkah into their films. Personally, I found Holiday Date to be nowhere near as offensive as some people made it sound. While watching this movie, I could tell the network had the best intentions when creating this film. Through the interactions of Joel and Brooke’s family, it felt like the film’s creative team had their hearts in the right place. Holiday Date is a film that I truly enjoyed! There were a lot of elements that worked in this project’s favor, from the entire cast to the creativity of the story. This film has its flaws, but, to me, the positives outweighed the negatives. When I look back on Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up, Holiday Date will be one of the films that I’ll fondly remember.
Overall score: 7.9 out of 10
What are thoughts on Hanukkah appearing in Hallmark’s films? Have you seen Holiday Date? Let me know in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!
If you want to read Gillian Friedman’s article, here’s the link:
I am back with my first Word on the Street story for December! While Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups are winding down and the “Winterfest” line-up is on its way, I found several Hallmark related movie news stories that I had to share with my readers and followers. Some of these projects are currently in production, but others haven’t even started filming yet. Most of these stories come from the Twitter account, Hotline to Hallmark. Two of these movies can be found on the website, Creative B.C. For this post, I will be reporting on these pieces of movie news and share my sources within this article. Since there’s so many films to talk about and since most of the information is on the basic side, I won’t be sharing my insight this time.
On December 10th, the Twitter account, Hotline to Hallmark, released a tweet about a potential Hallmark project. In this post, it was announced that Hallmark actor, Clayton Chitty, will be starring in a film called “Blueprint to the Heart”. Also, the tweet mentioned that the movie’s network was unknown, as of December 2019. On the website, Creative B.C., this movie is listed on the “In Production” page. Apparently, this project will finish filming on December 13th. Six days prior, on December 4th, Cindy Busby, who is a regular star of Hallmark, tweeted that she was working on a movie in Australia. This tweet, that was re-tweeted by Hotline to Hallmark, shares a link to an article about the film. The article, found on if.com.au, revealed that the project is currently titled “Romance on the Menu”. Based on the synopsis, it sounds like a Hallmark movie. But, as of December 2019, it’s unknown where this film will premiere.
You can visit the Twitter account of Hotline to Hallmark by typing @HotlineHallmark into Twitter’s search bar.
While the two aforementioned projects have no known fate, there are a few upcoming films that have been confirmed as Hallmark movies. Some of these confirmations have been announced from the stars of those films. One of them is a movie that will premiere in the 2020 Christmas season! In a tweet that was included in Hotline to Hallmark’s tweet, Brennan Elliott, a familiar face on both of Hallmark’s networks, revealed that he was working on a movie called “Christmas in Vienna”. In this same tweet, he also shared that the project would be filmed in Vienna, Austria and that the movie’s female lead will be Sarah Drew. Also, on Hotline to Hallmark, news about Taylor Cole’s Valentine’s Day movie was announced! In a Word on the Street story last month, I talked about how Taylor would be starring in a Hallmark Valentine’s Day movie alongside Ryan Paevey. This was one of the reasons why I speculated that One Winter Wedding could either be a “June Weddings” or Christmas movie. In Hotline to Hallmark’s tweet, it mentioned that Taylor herself confirmed that the third One Winter movie was still happening! This tweet says “that the script for Hallmark’s “One Winter Wedding” is being worked on”. As for the Valentine’s Day movie, it now has a working title called “Matching Hearts”. Two other cast members have been announced as well. They are Antonio Cayonne and Latonya Williams.
You can visit the Twitter account of Hotline to Hallmark and Brennan Elliott by typing @HotlineHallmark and @brennan_elliott into Twitter’s search bar.
Two other Hallmark movies have been announced outside of the Hotline to Hallmark twitter account. In an article from International Business Times, several Hallmark stars were interviewed during Christmas Con, a Christmas themed convention that took place in early November. The majority of questions that were asked were about future movie projects. While the answers consisted of wishful thinking and vagueness, only one was definitive. When asked about Hallmark’s Wedding March series, Jack Wagner, one of the stars of that series, said “We will be doing “Wedding March 6” in the spring”. This means that another Wedding March chapter will likely be seen in 2020’s “June Weddings” line-up! On the website, Creative B.C. another movie from the Mystery 101 series has been listed on the “In Production” page. Currently, the film is called Mystery 101: Educated Murders. The “In Production” page reveals that the movie will go into production from January 6th to the 31st. Based on this fact, I’m guessing that the film will premiere in either spring or summer of 2020.
In my review of Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen, I said that I would publish my review of Christmas at Dollywood on December 10th. Since I try my best to be a blogger of my word, I am here to present that review as promised! Out of the all the Christmas movies set to premiere in 2019, Christmas at Dollywood was my most anticipated. Ever since the Home & Family team went to Dollywood three years ago, I have wanted to visit the park ever since. So, when I heard that Hallmark would be featuring the Pigeon Forge attraction in one of their Christmas films, it immediately became a “must-watch” film for me! Christmas at Dollywood is Hallmark history in the making: it’s the first time an amusement park has been featured in a Hallmark movie and the first time Dollywood has ever been incorporated in a film! Because of this, I was hoping that this would be the Christmas at Graceland of 2019. When Danica McKellar and Niall Matter were cast as the film’s leads, it increased my level of excitement for the movie! I’ve enjoyed watching Danica’s and Niall’s acting performances over the years, so seeing them appear together for the first time in a Hallmark production made the movie seem even better!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I thought the overall acting was good in Christmas at Dollywood! When I discovered that Danica McKellar and Niall Matter were going to star in the film, I was so excited to see these two actors working alongside each other on screen! Danica’s portrayal of Rachel appeared natural in this film. With the use of various expressions, she was able to make her performance believable. In his performance, Niall made his character, Luke, seem charming and easy-going. Because of his acting abilities, it helped this character be as approachable and likable as possible. I found myself impressed with the performances of the supporting cast! They not only complimented the main stars, they also complimented one another. It was nice to see Crystal Lowe star in Christmas at Dollywood! Outside of the Signed, Sealed, Delivered series, I feel like her appearances in Hallmark projects are on the rarer side. But despite the fact that she is one of the network’s underrated actresses, she always brings versatility to every role she is given. This makes her performances such a joy to watch!
The on-screen chemistry: Danica McKellar and Niall Matter are not only talented actors, they also present a likable personality to their audience. These things worked in their favor when it came to the on-screen chemistry. Throughout the film, Rachel and Luke always appeared to get along with one another. That’s because both Danica and Niall gave a believable performance, giving their audience the impression that they enjoyed working together. Another thing that helped Danica and Niall was their years of experience leading Hallmark projects. Danica has starred in Hallmark films since 2015, while Niall has been appearing in Hallmark’s movies since 2016. Their similar amount of experience and the quality of their acting abilities made this on-screen duo very memorable!
The acknowledgement of literacy: From time to time, Hallmark likes to incorporate a worthy cause or a real-life non-profit organization into their stories. For Christmas at Dollywood that cause was literacy. Similar to what I said about the overarching message in Flushed Away, this acknowledgement toward literacy never felt preachy or heavy-handed. It always felt like it had a natural place in the story. From the inclusion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to seeing Rachel share bed-time stories with her daughter, the importance of literacy can be seen and heard at several moments in this film. I’m glad this film’s creative team took the initiative to highlight a cause that rarely gets recognition in a Hallmark production.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A misleading premise: When I first learned what this movie would be about, I was led to believe that Christmas at Dollywood was the story of a Dollywood employee (Niall Matter’s character) and a New York City playwright (Danica McKellar’s character) putting on a Christmas show in the theme park. Because of this, I was excited to not only see an amusement park’s debut in a Hallmark project, but to also have an underappreciated but essential theme park component get the recognition it deserves on film. When I saw the movie, however, I discovered that the premise was, yet, another party planning story. Honestly, I was disappointed by Hallmark’s decision to swap a creative sounding narrative for something that was “tried and true” and “safe”. It made the movie more predictable than it needed to be.
A limited presence of Dollywood: Before watching this film, I knew that Dollywood wasn’t going to be featured in the movie for very long. That’s because it is a functioning business, which means the people involved with day-to-day operations can’t afford to close it for an extended period of time. But the park itself was showcased so little on screen, that it made the story feel like it didn’t need to take place in Dollywood. Most of the movie took place in either an office building or Rachel’s house. Also, there are so many unique and appealing elements of the theme park that could have incorporated in the story, such as the attraction, “Wings of America Birds of Prey”. In my opinion, the creative team behind 2018’s Christmas at Graceland did a better job at highlighting the iconic Memphis location than Christmas at Dollywood’s creative team did for the Pigeon Forge theme park.
The party’s absence: Because this is a party planning story, it means the protagonists’ primary goal is to coordinate a VIP party. In Christmas at Dollywood, however, this aforementioned event never gets shown on screen. This is unfair not only for both protagonists, but also for the viewers. Throughout the movie’s majority, we see these characters working hard to create the best event they can. But, because of the party’s absence, that final outcome and pay-off are not included in the story. This makes it look like the protagonists’ efforts weren’t recognized. As for the viewers, they spend almost the whole movie watching these characters put together this elaborate event. Since the party itself is not included in the narrative, it seems like the audience spent all that time waiting for nothing.
My overall impression:
As I said in the introduction, Christmas at Dollywood was my most anticipated Christmas movie of 2019. Because of this, I had higher expectations for this movie than I did for other Hallmark titles. Unfortunately, this movie didn’t live up to those expectations. Sure, it was decent. But it wasn’t the “home-run” I was expecting it to be. The biggest issue I had with this project was how I was led to believe I would receive a creative and intriguing story, only to have it turn into a “run-of-the-mill” narrative. This kind of reminded me of how I felt about the Good Witch episode, “The Prince”. In my editorial, “When Creativity is Squandered: The Wasted Potential on Hallmark’s Good Witch”, I talked about how Hallmark’s desire to tell the same types of stories over and over again caused that particular episode of Good Witch to not reach its full creative potential. What could have been a memorable, historic moment for Hallmark’s television shows ended up being forgettable and tired. With Christmas at Dollywood, there were two “firsts” for Hallmark movie history. Premiering during the 10th anniversary of Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up, this movie could have something really special. Sadly, like “The Prince”, Christmas at Dollywood just came short of its full potential.
Overall score: 7.4 out of 10
Have you seen Christmas at Dollywood? What are your thoughts on Hallmark’s story-telling abilities? Let me know in the comment section!