Category: television

‘Victoria’ Season 3 Review

If you follow me on social media you know I am much more of a movie person than TV. I prefer the brevity of a movie with 2 hours of a story and then I’m done and can move on with my life. So if I stick with a television show for an entire season it is pretty compelling. If I watch it for multiple seasons than you know I love it. Well, I just finished season 3 of the PBS show Victoria, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Victoria consists of 8 episodes each season and tells the story of Queen Victoria beginning when she assumes rule at 18 in 1838 and her marriage with Prince Albert in 1840. Victoria and Albert were a real love match and had 9 children together.

The show does such a good job capturing the highs and lows of a marriage. Jenna Coleman is fantastic as Victoria and she has such chemistry with Tom Hughes as Albert. She is a strong woman obviously as the queen but he is not without his own source of strength. They feed off each other so well and it feels like they are actually married!

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Season 3 starts in 1848 and Victoria is facing a time of upheaval with a group called  the Chartists that are seeking better conditions for the working class.Victoria, believing they are a work of peaceful protest wants them to be able to deliver their charter while Lord Palmerston  (Laurence Fox) and others are against it. Members of Victoria’s own staff become involved when her handmaid Nancy (Nell Hudson) becomes engaged and then married to the cook Mr Francatelli (Ferdinand Kingsley). I also really enjoyed Abigail Turner as a castle employee (not sure what her role is) who is both intrigued and disappointed by the revolutionaries.

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The dreaded cholera comes into play and Prince Albert is very involved with a hotheaded scientist and inventor Henry Cole (David Newman). The Irish famine is ending and people are journeying to America. We get a little elicit side romance between Duchess Sophie (Lily Travers) and a footman (David Burnett).

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Finally there is lots of debate and conflict over how Albert and Victoria are going to raise their children and what their various roles mean. Albert becomes in charge of the Great Exhibition of 1851. This is all very compelling, well acted, directed and of course costumed! It’s delicious programming!

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The only part that didn’t work for me is a plot thread involving Victoria’s half sister Feodora (Kate Fleetwood). I know she is supposed to be selfish and devious but I found her character more annoying than a satisfying adversary. It just didn’t work for me and I found myself looking away whenever it got back to her story.

Other than that it was 8 episodes of great programming! I highly recommend it. It’s a rare show that has kept up its quality through 3 seasons. We will see if it can do 4 after what happens in the finale. A lot of the credit goes to writer and creator Daisy Goodwin who has read Victoria’s diaries and seems to have a real admiration and love for her. Jenna Coleman naturally deserves the other half of the credit. She’s remarkable in the role and deserves all the emmys if you asked me!

Have you gotten to see Victoria Season 3? What did you think of it? Let’s talk in the comments section.

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Highs and Lows of Christmas Movies 2018

The new year is here and I am taking down my Christmas décor. It has been quite the season with me covering every new Christmas movie in 2018 whether on television or feature film. All together I watched 85 new films over Christmas:

Here are some of my takeaways from the season:

Highs-

    1. Whimsy for the Win- whether on Hallmark, Lifetime or Netflix, movies with a little bit of magic and whimsy won me over. I really enjoyed Shoe Addict’s Christmas where Candace Cameron Bure learns the risks she could have taken in her life from the amazing Jean Smart and how she should take more leaps of faith in the future.
      Christmas Perfection on Lifetime was in deed perfection with its story of a girl who gets to live her perfect Irish Christmas over and over again including having her friends and family act just the way she wishes they would. Naturally, it isn’t too long before she realizes the perfect Christmas isn’t so perfect after all. It was funny, sweet and had something to say. Other whimsy that worked for me A Very Nutty Christmas, Christmas Chronicles, A Christmas Switch, The Truth About Christmas and believe it or not Santa Jaws.
    2. Ensembles are the Best- most of my favorite movies of 2018 Christmas were less 2 people romances and more ensemble pieces about an entire town or family celebrating Christmas. I loved Road to Christmas with its funny script and likable performances, Christmas Pen Pals was amazing telling multiple love stories all through the medium of writing love letters, Last Vermont Christmas told the story of a family and I related to it strongly (they even have a cooking competition which my siblings did and the 3 sisters could have been me and my sisters).
      Christmas on Holly Lane was a bit more grim and realistic but its strong cast and multiple storylines made me wish it was a pilot to a series not just a movie. The When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing was a return to form after a rough season 5 and one of the best episodes the series has done.
      Hometown Holiday did a good job telling multiple love stories, had a snow room and a really well executed near kiss (no more O Holy Night in these movies! It’s a really hard song!). I also loved Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa which told multiple stories of a town. Some were silly fun and a few like the lead and his rocky relationship with his Dad were surprisingly touching. Finally, Anna and the Apocalypse combined zombies, musicals and Christmas with a strong ensemble to create a delightful feature film.
    3. Hit the Formula Well- some movies this season worked for me almost in spite of themselves. The charismatic actors and bubbly touches won me over to admittedly tired premises. The Christmas Contract had a fresh non-Winter setting and 2 leads bubbling with chemistry in the fake fiancé Christmas trope. A Majestic Christmas didn’t villainize either character for working hard, had great chemistry and a dancing scene that I loved. Christmas Bells are Ringing made me actually like a Hallmark wedding and Christmas Joy was just bonkers enough to be fun.
      A Godwink Christmas and Once Upon a Christmas Miracle were both based on true stories and were very sweet with excellent casts. It’s Christmas Eve actually went a little meta with the script commenting on romcom clichés and it worked for me. I also enjoyed Every Day is Christmas‘s take on A Christmas Carol with the focus being on the Scrooge character not being obsessed with money, but failing to overcome her grief at the loss of her parents being a clever take.
      No Sleep Til Christmas took a wacky concept of insomniacs ‘sleeping’ together and worked it into a classic romcom mold and it was charming. Mr 365 is a fun one if you like something a little bit steamier and Country Christmas Album did the fading singers making an album together story well. I also liked Christmas at Grand Valley, Mingle All the Way, The Princess Switch, Christmas Lost and Found and Small Town Christmas mostly because of the cast and some swoonworthy moments (I loved the date in Grand Valley!).

LOWS

There were definitely some lows in the season so let’s talk about those

    1. Grown-up in the Wrong Ways- Some of the worst of the season were films that in trying to be edgy missed the mark. The biggest offender was Life Size 2 which solution to making the original Disney Channel property grown up was talk about sex a lot. I also hated Christmas Manger who seemed to believe a faith-based message means a lot of anger, abuse and misery (watch Angela’s Christmas instead for a good faith-based film).
      A lot of people loved Every Other Holiday but I’m not one of them. I thought all of the characters were extremely selfish, and I had zero faith the renewed relationship would be a happy one at the end. Shoelaces for Christmas was tough to get through with one of the most selfish, obnoxious teenage protagonists I’ve seen in a while. I also did not like Homegrown Christmas with Lori Loughlin’s sister acting like a jerk and Victor Webster’s leading man having a grudge that was unreasonable. A Wedding for Christmas had my least favorite TV movie trope- the mean-spirited wedding planner/bridezilla, and big surprise- I did not like it!Finally Christmas Everlasting had so much good but was hurt by a quilting guild of women that had a token black friend and when she dies they replace her with her sister immediately! They were the worst!
    2. Yawn, Did I Just Watch a Movie- I mentioned movies where the formula was executed well. Sadly there were a bunch where it did not work for me. My least favorite from Hallmark was Return to Christmas Creek where the family drama was contrived and grating (as was the reconciliation) and the movie judged a perfectly reasonable Christmas as being not good enough. Let people celebrate however they want!I also thought Poinsettias for Christmas, Santa’s Boots, Christmas at the Palace, Entertaining Christmas, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, Memories of Christmas, Christmas Around the Corner, Christmas Wonderland, Christmas with a Prince, Christmas at Honeysuckle Lane, Jingle Belle, Hope at Christmas, A Christmas in Royal Fashion, Welcome to Christmas, Christmas in Tennessee all failed to make any kind of impact on me. Either chemistry wasn’t there or the script didn’t work, and I will quickly forget they even existed.
    3. Jane Austen Failure- both of the attempts to brand films with Pride and Prejudice failed on Hallmark channel. Christmas at Pemberley Manor was the better of the two but it had almost nothing to do with Pride and Prejudice except for having the same character names. Pride Prejudice and Mistletoe was based on a separate novel, which I did not like, and the script was about 2 people planning a party, which I do not recall being an element of Pride and Prejudice LOL. Neither of these movies had anything to do with Pride and Prejudice so it was distracting to be constantly looking for those elements.
    4. Medium Movies- there were also a bunch of movies that were passable entertainment (better than the yawns) but nothing to write home about. Those include The Grinch, Holiday Calendar, My Christmas Inn, A Veteran’s Christmas (too cheesy for me but nice elements), Christmas at Graceland, Time for me to Come home for Christmas, Northern Lights of Christmas, Jingle Around the Clock (they tried so hard on this one but too much boardroom talk), Christmas on the Coast, Christmas in Love, A Gingerbread Romance, Hometown Christmas, A Twist of Christmas, A Midnight Kiss and The Christmas Pact. All of these got around 3/5 from me.

If I was going to give advice to Hallmark I’d say maybe not every movie has to be a person coming to the country and realizing her city life is awful? How about taking some risks like with Reunited at Christmas which was flawed but about a woman scared of marriage and wanting to live together with her boyfriend indefinitely. That’s a new topic for Hallmark!

I would also encourage all the studios to keep working on diversity. I appreciated Hallmark having POC leads for the first time. It perhaps wasn’t perfectly executed but it was a step in the right direction. Also I liked TVOne’s offerings especially Coins for Christmas with the delightful Essence Atkins.

Finally, there were some misses that were ambitious misses. In particular Nutcracker and the 4 Realms and A Snow White Christmas. Keep trying to think outside the box!

So there you have it. My report card of Christmas movies 2018. What were some of your favorites of this year at Christmas? I’d say it was a mixed year. A lot I enjoyed. A lot of meh but almost nothing that I absolutely hated like Engaging Father Christmas and The Perfect Christmas Present last year. Even Return to Christmas Creek was watchable. It was just its judgy tone that irritated me but it had cute moments.

From here we go on to Winterfest!

Recent Festive Hallmark Reading

Good morning friends! It may be only October but my life is already in full holiday mode with Countdown to Christmas starting this Saturday! The Hallmarkies podcast is planning on covering every film (and some from other networks) and that is no easy task with 37 films from Hallmark alone!

Part of getting ready for the season includes reading the many books that the Hallmark films are based on. I still have a few left to finish (most I am listening to as I work) but I thought I would update you on my thoughts on the various festive novels

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The Nine Lives of Christmas by Sheila Roberts

This is the novel that a classic Hallmark film of the same name is based on and honestly I prefer the movie. The lead in the novel is a little too dumb for my liking (Kimberley Sustad is so fun in the movie). This is harmless and a little steamier than movie but nothing too crazy

2.5 crowns

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The Godwink Effect by Squire Rushnell and Louis DuArt

If you enjoy inspirational stories like the Chicken Soup for the Soul books then you will enjoy this book. It’s about little coincidences which to the authors are proof of God’s investment in our lives. In Mormon world we might call them tender mercies of the spirit. They are making a movie off of one story from the book featuring Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell who we love (and are going to appear in a combined interview later on our podcast).

3 crowns

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The Christmas Company by Alys Murray

This book actually comes from Hallmark Publishing and we had the chance to interview Alys (who was a delight). For a Christmas Carol nut like myself this was a lot of fun. It’s about a town that recreates Christmas Carol each year when the company man wants to stop it. The girl who is obsessed with the tradition and big business conflict and opposites might just attract. It’s really cute

4 crowns

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Hope at Christmas by Nancy Naigle

Normally I’m a sucker for books about readers but this didn’t do much for me. It’s about a woman with single Mom and her daughter who become friends with a local bookstore owner and a local teacher. Ryan Paevey will need to bring tons of charm to this one as our hunky teacher because it was just flat

2.25 crowns (Nancy has another book Christmas Joy on this season but I haven’t read it yet because not available on audiobook)

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The Trouble with Christmas by Debbie Mason

This book actually started out really strong. I liked the snarkiness of the lead character and it was kind of novel to have her be the bad guy for refusing to bring the usually evil business to the small town of Christmas. However, the more in love she got the more bland it got (and steamy to be warned!). It ended up just being a fine romance novel if you like that kind of thing. Eric Mabius should be fun playing the sheriff in the Hallmark version.

2.8 crowns

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Time for Me to Come Home by Dorothy Shackleford

Please ignore the snore-worthy title this actually wasn’t half bad. It is based on a song by Blake Shelton and written by his Mother. It is basically a road trip book with a cynical country music star and a sarcastic young lady burned out on love find they have more in common than they thought. LOL. This one is pretty clean and short so not a bad little read. Megan Park is an appealing actress so hopefully it will be a fun little movie

3.25 crowns

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Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz

This honestly was disappointing as I am huge Jane Austen fan and enjoyed Unleashing Mr Darcy which aired on Hallmark Channel. I am confident the movie will be good with Lacey Chabert and Brendan Penny but the book didn’t work. I don’ think making the lead female Darcy instead of Lizzie really works. Aside from the proposal and helping Lydia Darcy doesn’t take as many risks in the story so he works better as the secondary lead not the main lead. It ended up being a fairly flat romance novel about a stuck up city girl who kisses an old flame under the mistletoe and then determines she is actually in love with him. Not really Jane Austen worthy drama LOL

1.75 crowns (sorry but I have high expectations when you involve Austen. Not as terrible as Austenland at least)

So there you have it. What are some of your favorite Christmas reads? Any good Christmas romance you enjoy? I would love to hear your suggestions.

(I am also currently reading The Second Sister by Marie Bostwick and enjoying it. It will be the Hallmark Hall of Fame film for this year called Christmas Everlasting)

Hallmark Christmas Week 2 Mini-Reviews

So today is Monday and that means we’ve had another weekend of Hallmark original movies. Make sure you are subscribed to our podcast on itunes and/or youtube to hear Amber and my full thoughts on the films every Wednesday.

Until then let me share with you my mini-reviews of the 4 new movies we got this weekend. Let me tell you guys- it was a little rough! There is one I particularly didn’t like but the rest were just ok for me. I think Amber and I will have a ton of fun hashing them out on the podcast and I did enjoy live tweeting them. One thread you can see my path to crazy town and how it went down! LOL

The Sweetest Christmas-

This movie was perhaps a little better than I expected it to be because the plot is pretty lame. Lacey Chabert plays a woman who wants to enter a gingerbread contest but needs to borrow her ex’s oven to do so and sparks fly! Some Hallmark movies rise and fall on the chemistry of the actors and this would be one of them. Also the side characters were really strong. I loved her sister who actually told her how stupid she was being (when Kylie asks her what she should say about the oven she said ‘You could say can I borrow your oven?’. That made me laugh). Also his buddy at work played by Jonathan Adams was a lot of fun. I also thought it was strange that the ‘wrong guy’ in this was the one that made more of an effort and seemed more invested in winning her heart. Still Lea was a charming single Dad and these high school boyfriends are hard to pass up on Hallmark Channel. This is no Miss Christmas but it’s an okay way to spend an evening.

Overall Grade- B

A Song for Christmas-

This is another one that was a hair better than I thought it would be because the plot is very tired. Becca Tobin was very cute as a singer who is left behind by her stupid manager in a small town and she gets to know the VERY hunky Kevin McGarry. They had good chemistry and the movie did a good job giving them lots of flirty situations that were fun (like getting a tree off of a truck never felt so cozy).

However, I did have some issues with the movie. First, she does not sound like a country singer at all so they should have just made her a popstar. I think this fact prevented us from hearing much music which we were kind of promised in the publicity. The title is A Song for Christmas and you literally hear 1 song. He spends a lot of time strumming on the guitar which was dreamy but I would have liked to hear more singing. And my other problem is this movie leans heavily on the ‘city girls are stupid’ Hallmark trope. There is so much dialogue about how the city has poisoned poor Addie and she needs to be rescued by the country. My favorite was the mother (a rescued city girl) says ‘When I got here I didn’t know the difference between a palm tree and a Christmas tree…’ It’s so funny because I would say most movies it’s the country folk that are perceived as less educated but not in Hallmark. LOL.

Overall Grade- B-

Enchanted Christmas-

Going into this weekend I was pretty excited about Enchanted Christmas. I love dance movies and the chance to see real life couple, Carlos and Alexa PenaVega, together was exciting. However, it was just okay for me. They obviously had great chemistry and the dancing was fun. I liked it was set in Utah and on twitter I got to make a lot of lame Utah jokes, so that was enjoyable.

My issues with the movie is a plot thread where he gets an opportunity to go on a world dance tour with a fellow dancer annoyed me. This friend is relying on him to join the world tour and it is a tremendous opportunity. I know we are expected to give up everything for love in these movies but shouldn’t our true love also be supportive of our dreams? Couldn’t you write the story so he did both? I saw another this week where a girl gave up her dream of being in a Broadway play because her love couldn’t handle waiting 6 months for her. Why not have the play and it ending with her doing both? That would be so romantic and meaningful. This was particularly weird because he left his partner in the lurch. I guess perhaps I am asking too much and should just get swept up in the magic but I think there are ways to do both (One Starry Christmas is an example of supportive work ending).

I also felt like the weak attempt at diversity was disappointing. Having one of your characters make tamales for Christmas is not enough Hallmark Channel! You need to do better!

Overall Grade- C+

Engaging Father Christmas-

So this movie was a sequel to last years Finding Father Christmas and Hallmark sequels have a dubious track record at best but this one was based on a book so I had hope. I ended up being severely disappointed!!! There are good things about this movie. The chemistry between Erin Krakow and Niall Matter was great and the proposal sequence and their kisses was very romantic.  I also love Andrew Francis in anything!

However, I could not get over the idiotic plot of Miranda getting blackmailed by a creepy reporter who is threatening to expose her background as the son of James Whitcomb, the famous stage actor of the previous film. The idea that anyone would care about the child of a stage actor is tough to believe but the lengths to which she goes to hide this made me crazy. In no world is it a good decision to break things off with Ian in order to save a family that won’t publicly recognize her shame. This is crazy talk and it made me crazy. Plus, it was all so telegraphed and the script expected you to be surprised by the reveal of the reporter. Groan. I hated it. At a certain point the gossip monger is telling the truth and the Whitcomb family needs to grow up and acknowledge that. It’s certainly not worth sacrificing your love for it!!!

Also, they make a big Christmas Carol error having Ghost of Christmas Future showing Scrooge his young self. No sir!!! (That’s a small thing but it did annoy me).  It was just all so stupid and annoying. I couldn’t take it!

Overall Grade- D+

So there you have it. My thoughts on this weekends movies. What did you think of the movies? Make sure to listen to the podcast and let us know what you think.