Here's a checklist of all the Hallmark original romance movies from 2014 along with my comments on those I've seen.
Special movies of note are marked Favorite, Good, Okay, and BAD.
✓ June in January (Brooke D'Orsay and Wes Brown • January 18, 2014)
I'm not generally a fan of "wedding planning movies" but this one gets a pass because the leads are good. When a woman gets engaged, she sets into motion the wedding of her dreams which she has been planning with her (now deceased) mother since she was 7 years old. Alas, her fiancé got an offer for his dream job in Cleveland. Which means all her many, many plans for a June wedding have to be moved to January. That's already stressful enough, but toss in a horrible mother-in-law who's dead-set on derailing the wedding (and who is in cahoots with a hideous woman who has a thing for the groom-to-be)... and it all adds up to disaster. These movies always puzzle me. The most important thing to the groom is that he spend the rest of his life with the woman he loves. But the most important thing to her is that she gets the wedding she wants? What's so stupid is that if this were real life instead of Hallmark, they would have just moved to Cleveland together then came back in June to get married. But nnnooooo! At least she finally comes to her senses when her dad gives her a letter from dear ol' dead mom. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a nice lesson to focus on what's important.
✓ Good A Ring by Spring (Rachel Boston and Kirby Morrow • March 8, 2014)
A business consultant meets a fortuneteller at a party and is told "You will receive a ring by spring...or you will never marry!" She thinks this is leading to a proposal from her boyfriend, but the reason he invites her to the most romantic restaurant in town is to break up with her! Oh noes! Not one to have ever given any serious thought to marriage, she is suddenly worried that her fortune will come true since her two friends had their fortunes come true. Lucky for her she started a new consulting job at an aging frat-boy's company and love just might be around a corner... but first she has to meet up with all her ex-boyfriends to find out why they dumped her. I'm giving this movie points for the cast... especially Kirby Morrow, who makes a fundamentally unlikeable character totally charming... and a cameo by Stefanie Powers(?!??!) as the fortuneteller. I'm taking away points because they were too cheap to license product placement from Cracker Jack and just slapped a cheap label that says Cracklin' Fun on a Cracker Jack box which just looked stupid. EVERYBODY KNOWS IT'S CRACKER JACK, PEOPLE!! When it all averages out, this is standard Hallmark fare done fairly well, but the ending is what makes it rise above.
✓ Lucky in Love (Jessica Szohr and Benjamin Hollingsworth • April 5, 2014)
This movie has... Diedre Hall in a guest role! Which is pretty great on its own, but the story is fairly decent as well (the children's book title in this one is the worst one I've seen yet, however: Peggy the Tidy Pig? WTF?!?). When all her wishes come true on April Fool's Day, Mira thinks she has the life she's always dreamed of. Alas, dreaming about a life and living that life are two different things, and she may have been better off before her luck changed. Can she end up lucky in life and love? Well, it's Hallmark. Jessica Szohr (from The Orville) is a compelling lead, which is why I'm surprised she hasn't been in more of these things. In other news, the guy that gets the girl is a straight graphic designer. So nice to finally get representation!
✓ A Lesson in Romance (Kristy Swanson and Scott Grimes • April 19, 2014)
I was not thrilled about watching a movie starring Trump-enabling Kristy Swanson (Buffy, how could you?)... but I'm a huge Scott Grimes fan, so I buckled in and prepared myself for a raging internal conflict. Anyway... Original Buffy is a self-absorbed jerk who ignores her husband and twin children so she can spend all her time at work. Then, on the day where she blows off a road trip for her kids to go to college, her company is sold and she gets a $10 million payday. Her husband is thrilled because it means they can finally spend time together... but she drops the bomb that she's taking a position with the new company and will be busier than ever. That's when Scott Grimes drops the bomb that he's leaving her to go back to college with their kids. Deciding maybe $10 million is enough to live on after all, Original Buffy decides to make a generous donation to the college so she can stalk her husband and attend too. Big fun ensues. This ended up being a sweet and funny movie with Original Buffy perfectly cast as an annoying nuisance who eventually comes around to being a generally okay human being. I liked it okay, but wished the lead was a generally okay human being like the character ended up being.
✓ Mom's Day Away (Bonnie Somerville and James Tupper • May 10, 2014)
Woman who sacrificed everything for her family... career, lifestyle, dreams... decides to ditch her dumbass ungrateful annoying husband and dumbass ungrateful extremely annoying kids to hang out at a resort with her rich best friend over Mother's Day weekend. The family realizes how important she is to their lives. She ends up feeling incomplete without her family. The family reconciles in an absurd about-face where you're supposed to believe that everybody permanently changes their abhorrent behavior and lives happily ever after when reality doesn't work that way. They have gotten away with being selfish turds for years and will likely go back to being exactly who they are. Not that there's anything wrong with pure fantasy, but this was just nuts.
✓ Okay The Color of Rain (Warren Christie and Lacey Chabert • May 31, 2014)
Based on a true story, two people find each other after their spouses die just weeks apart. After finding love again in each other they then have to work at blending their two families into a new family. These kind of movies are not really my kind of thing, but I wanted to give it a chance because of Lacey Chabert. Despite the kids being irritating at random times, it's pretty decent. Totally predictable, filled with unbearable amounts of cheesiness (A SING-A-LONG?), but mildly entertaining just the same.
Looking for Mr. Right (Sarah Lancaster and Kip Pardue• June 7, 2014)
Not seen yet.
✓ When Sparks Fly (Meghan Markle and Christopher Jacot • June 28, 2014)
Let's just get this out of the way... if not for the fact that this stars Meghan Markle, it would be a wholly unremarkable and forgettable movie. Big city journalist girl returns home to write an article about her parent's fireworks business for the 4th of July. She is roped into planning her best friend's wedding to... wait for it... her ex boyfriend. Sparks fly between her and her ex. The inevitable happens as lives are destroyed while true love blooms. There is just nothing... nothing... here to write home about. Which is a shame, because Meghan Markle is actually talented.
✓ Good Angels Sing (Harry Connick Jr. and Connie Britton • July 12, 2014)
Okay... this one is pretty great AND pretty funny, which is surprising given the story. When Harry Connick Jr. experiences the tragic death of his older brother the day after Christmas, the holidays are forever ruined for him and he wants nothing to do with it. Then one day after crashing his bike while avoiding a reindeer in the Austin, Texas woods, he comes across Willie Nelson who's willing to sell him his gorgeous home for half what it's worth. Since Harry Connick Jr. and his wife and son just sold their house and haven't been able to find a new one, he agrees immediately. Once they've moved in they discover that their new home is on Live Oak Lane, a famous street that's world-renowned for Christmas lights and decorations. What follows is a hilarious montage of Harry Connick Jr.'s neighbors bringing him box after box after box of Christmas lights. His most enthusiastic neighbor is Lyle Lovett, who can't understand why Harry isn't covering his house with lights. As it gets closer to Christmas, the boxes of lights and decorations escalate to a hilarious degree. But then there's a terrible accident with Harry Connick Jr.'s father and son... and an all new tragedy... which leads him to rediscover the Christmas spirit. A fantastic cast anchors a pretty darn good Christmas movie that's worth your time to watch.
✓ For Better or For Worse (Lisa Whelchel and Antonio Cupo • July 19, 2014)
Oh gawd. A movie starring Tootie and Blaire from The Facts of Life that’s almost as bad as you’d expect. Except... the story itself is actually not terrible once you get past the coincidence upon which the entire movie hangs (A man opens a divorce lawyer office next to a woman’s bridal boutique which is a source of instant tension, but they have to band together when their kids get engaged to be married). A mostly idiotic movie, but still better than it has a right to be.
✓ Stranded in Paradise (Vanessa Marcil and James Denton • August 9, 2014)
The only reason I suffered through the TV show Las Vegas was because the amazing Vanessa Marcil was in it. She is infinitely watchable, and her toughness is more than a little appealing. Obviously getting her for a Hallmark movie is the coup of coups, and I have no idea why she’s not in more of these things, because she delivered exactly what I expected as an HR executive who flies to a conference in beautiful Puerto Rico so she can get a new job before her disapproving mother finds out she was fired. A hurricane ensues... as does a relationship with a random guy she keeps running into. I don’t know much about James Denton outside of him being the evil Mr. Lyle on The Pretender, but he was very good in this one as well. All in all, a pretty decent flick with the best possible “message” to take away. If only it wasn’t all tainted by Marcil’s toxic mother character, who is garbage right up to the end, regardless of how they try to spin it.
Perfect on Paper (Drew Fuller and Lindsay Hartley • September 20, 2014)
Not seen yet.
✓ Midnight Masquerade (Autumn Reeser and Christopher Russell • September 27, 2014)
A not-so-clever retelling of Cinderella, but with a lawyer and his evil incompetent bosses instead of a woman and her evil step-sisters. A billionaire candy company heiress hires a shady legal firm run by a man and his two incompetent sons who blame all their idiocy on a young lawyer who works under them. The guy, of course, falls for the heiress immediately, and decides to make his move at a Halloween Masquerade thrown by the candy company. Alas, he has to miss the ball because he has to cover for another screw-up... but is convinced by his niece to go to the masquerade anyway. He's hitting it off famously with heiress Autumn Reeser... until he finds out one of his idiot bosses is headed back to the office to check on him. He runs from the ball as quick as he can, but drops his prince costume crown as he escapes. The heiress finds the crown and decides to track down her handsome prince. And... you know the rest. Unfortunately. Absolutely no surprises here.
✓ Favorite Recipe for Love (Danielle Panabaker and Shawn Roberts • October 11, 2014)
Talented yet arrogant, self-absorbed, jerk of a television celebrity chef is having problems putting together a cookbook to promote his brand. Enter Killer Frost, a wannabe chef who is charged with ghost-writing his book with him. She takes the job because she's promised $25,000 which she can use as Le Cordon Bleu Paris tuition money. Naturally they clash at first... before he reveals who he really is and they fall in love. This one may have been formulaic, but the leads totally sell it as entertainment... especially Danielle Panabaker, who really should do more of these things. Hallmark seems content to recycle the same old plot points over and over, which is getting tired... and yet when this much care is taken with the story and casting around that same old plot, it's not so boring (even if the competition at the end was handled badly). Ideally they'd come up with something truly new. But if they can't, this is the way to go.
✓ My Boyfriends' Dogs (Erika Christensen and Tyron Leitso • October 18, 2014)
A woman shows up to a diner soaking wet from the rain in a wedding dress with three dogs, and recounts to the owners the story of how she ended up there. Unfortunately the story isn't that interesting, and you pretty much know who she's going to end up with if you're paying even passing attention.
✓ Favorite One Starry Christmas (Countdown to Christmas • Sarah Carter and Damon Runyan • November 1, 2014)
I'm going to totally spoil the fact that George Canyon makes an appearance as a singing cowboy... and performs a song that's integrated flawlessly into the movie. Our story begins with a Chicago astronomer being frustrated because her boyfriend seems more interested in work than anything else. Even worse, he is going to New York City for a business trip instead of spending the holidays with her. Wanting to spend time with the man she loves at Christmas, she hops a bus to NYC. But when the bus breaks down, her cowboy seat-mate changes everything. This is yet another movie where the boyfriend starts out as mildly frustrating for being a workaholic... but then inexplicably becomes a raging asshole out of nowhere after three years just so you won't feel bad he's gone when he gets dumped. It's such lazy writing. Despite it all, this story is incredibly sweet... crazy romantic... and is one of my favorite Hallmark Christmas films because of it. Just have to ignore the grotesque illogic of the final scene and you're golden.
✓ Favorite The Nine Lives of Christmas (Countdown to Christmas • Kimberly Sustad and Brandon Routh • November 8, 2014)
Superman, an eternal bachelor fireman, has his life changed when a stray cat named Ambrose decides to adopt him because his owner died. Meanwhile a veterinary student and part-time pet store worker is harboring a cat in violation of her rental agreement. When Superman decides to keep Ambrose, he ends up getting help from the vet student after running into her at the grocery store. Cats being cats and romance ensue. There's about a billion reasons to love this movie. The cats, obviously (Ambrose is the best!). But between Kimberly Sustad and Brandon Routh being flawless in their roles and the story being warm and funny, that's more than enough. And then... a few twists sweeten the deal
✓A Cookie Cutter Christmas (Countdown to Christmas • Erin Krakow and David Haydn-Jones • November 9, 2014)
A new single dad in town enrolls his daughter in school... and immediately gets the attention of two teachers trying to catch themselves a man! As if that weren't backwards enough, they're both pretty terrible about competing over him. But their competition is taken to an entirely new level when a teacher "cookie bake-off" contest is announced with a cash prize to take their class on a trip. AND CAN YOU GUESS WHO IS THE SPONSOR OF THE CONTEST? CAN YOU? CAN YOU JUST GUESS?!? This movie is phenomenally lame, stupid, silly, and borderline offensive in the way it paints women. And making Erin Krakow so embarrassingly inept in the kitchen was just pathetic. Nobody is this dumb. And the whole plot is asinine as well... why not just donate the money to the less fortunate than slap together a crazy contest? The money to take the kids on the trip could have been handed over and probably been a lot more money than anything raised. Is anybody at Hallmark vetting these things? And who has compromising pictures of Erin Krakow and Alan Thicke that they would agree to even appear in this thing? Sad.
✓ BAD Northpole (Countdown to Christmas • Tiffani Thiessen and Josh Hopkins • November 15, 2014)
No clue whatsoever why Hallmark has this one on their Christmas slate. It's such a tragically basic and mundane children's movie as to be comical. One thing I can put in the positive column is that they put money into this for a decent special effects budget! And so... little boy with no friends gets a mysterious radio that allows him to talk to a little girl elf at Northpole... the metropolis where Santa and his elves live. Alas, the magic of Christmas has been in steady decline over the years, and this is causing the Northern Lights to stop shining, which will kill Santa... or some such nonsense... so now the boy and the elf have to team up to make people think happy thoughts to save Christmas. Lord. If I had kids, there's no way at all that I'd let them watch this absurd crap, so I have no idea who the audience is supposed to be. The romance between the boy's mom and his teacher is shoehorned in and feels like it. Just a waste of time, money, and energy.
✓ Angels and Ornaments (Countdown to Christmas • Jessalyn Gilsig and Sergio Di Zio • November 16, 2014)
Yet another guardian angel movie for Christmas. Blergh. That being said, this one ain't terrible (though it certainly starts out slow). When a woman who loves Christmas is having a tough time during the holidays (can't find true love... not getting the solo in the community concert) a visit from her guardian angel just might turn things around! Usually I detest these movies because they make the angel be overly-naive or just plain idiotic. This time it's an angel named Harold who's from a different era, but dealing with the modern world doesn't send him into a tizzy of confusion and slapsticky crap I have no desire to watch. And he's great. This should be a benchmark of how to handle an angel in these films. In the end, this is not really my kind of movie (too slow and sappy), but I certainly don't regret watching it.
✓ Good A Royal Christmas (Countdown to Christmas • Lacey Chabert and Stephen Hagan • November 21, 2014)
Tell me if you've heard this before... kind-hearted, working-class American woman is gobsmacked when the Eurotrash boyfriend she's been dating "for about a year" turns out to be the prince of some small fictional European country. A PRINCE! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!? =sigh= You'd think they could come up with something more original when it comes to these "royal" movies, but I guess that's asking too much. So far as this tired-old-trope goes, this one was a notch above the usual fare thanks to the addition of JANE FRICKIN' SEYMOUR(!) as the disapproving Queen Mother that tries to break up her royal son's dalliance with a commoner... and an American commoner at that! The horror! I hope she doesn't invite one of her son's royal old flames to throw a wet blanket on things! (but of course she does) Can the relationship survive? Can the Queen stop being a royal bitch? Can we ever stop thinking that Bucharest isn't Bucharest? Can they EVER make one of these things where the American woman isn't a total ignorant klutz at the beginning before magically transforming into the perfect princess at the end? Yes. Kinda. No. And apparently not. Still... you can do worse than Jane Seymour and Lacey Chabert, so there's that.
✓ Okay The Christmas Shepherd (Countdown to Christmas • Teri Polo and Martin Cummins • November 23, 2014)
Okay... this one features a big beautiful lovable German Shepherd, so what's not to like? When a children's books author's dog runs away during a thunderstorm. The dog was found by her late husband while serving in the Army, so it was like losing a part of him. Lucky for everybody, a widowed dad with a daughter who is struggling to make a living at his failing coffee shop, adopts the dog and gives him a good home. Everybody's lives eventually collide over the dog and it looks like somebody is going to end up unhappy... or will they? While I liked the idea of the story being told, it seemed so klugdgy in the way it came together. But still... a big beautiful lovable German Shepherd.
✓ Good Christmas Under Wraps (Countdown to Christmas • Candace Cameron Bure and David O'Donnell • November 29, 2014)
Candace Cameron is a doctor in San Francisco. But Candace Cameron can't find a job as a surgeon in San Francisco. So Candace Cameron has to find something temporary, and heads to a job in tiny, remote Garland, Alaska... where something strange is going on. Will she fall in love with the town (and the town handyman!) and stay... or pack her bags and get out of town the minute something better comes along? Northern Exposure ensues. And I mean that fairly literally, as it's exactly the same story that's been condensed into a movie instead of a television show. This one turned out far better than it had a right to... probably because the cast was so great.
One Christmas Eve (Countdown to Christmas • Anne Heche and Kevin Daniels • November 30, 2014)
Not seen yet.
✓ BAD Debbie Macomber's Mr. Miracle (Countdown to Christmas • Kendra Anderson and Candus Churchill • December 6, 2014)
There are only so many times you can scream "KILL ME! KILL ME NOW! at the television and not have to worry about your sanity. This movie is horrifically idiotic in every possible direction. Bad ideas. Bad story. Boring setting. And beyond bad acting. I swear, whomever had the idea to have Rob Morrow play the lead character as the stupidest angel ever should never be allowed near Hallmark ever again. This movie tries to be heartwarming, but comes off as deranged. If this is what angels are really like when they try to help humans find their way, God should just destroy all creation and start over. I have few regrets in life. But wasting my time watching this sappy dreck is one of them. THE COMMERCIALS WERE MORE ENTERTAINING THAN THE MOVIE! I mean, seriously, HOW DOES AN ANGEL NOT KNOW HOW TO CRACK AN EGG? EGGS HAVE EXISTED SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME! AND WHY DOES HE KEEP TALKING LIKE HE'S GOT A MASSIVE HEAD INJURY?!? Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.
✓ Christmas at Cartwright's (Countdown to Christmas • Alicia Witt and Gabriel Hogan • December 7, 2014)
An unemployed single mom is having a hard time making ends meet... and planning a great Christmas for her daughter. After getting rejected for seasonal help at a department store because a jealous manager considers her a threat for the guy she likes, things look dire indeed. Until an elevator mishap and a run-in with Wallace Shawn(?!?) has her dressing up as the store's Santa! It's a good job with great pay and a store discount... but what if her secret gets out? WHAT THEN?!? SANTA CAN'T BE A WOMAN! Or can he? This was a mildly amusing Christmas flick that really didn't have a lot going for it... but worked out okay anyway.
✓ BAD Best Christmas Party Ever (Countdown to Christmas • Torrey DeVitto and Steve Lund • December 13, 2014)
"I'm a party planner. That's what I do." Unreal. You know a movie is atrocious when Steve Lund (Jake from Schitt's Creek!) can't save it. This dreck of a film is garbage from start to finish. It's just so ungodly sappy... Torrey DeVitto sobbing when she has a business failure... Steve Lund trying to deliver gut-churning encouragement... and all the overly-dramatic pap that runs like a river of diarrhea through every scene. The story has something to do with a party planner being forced to work with the nephew of the owner when the owner retires. Then, for the biggest party of the year, the new sponsor wants an exclusive event instead of having UNDERPRIVILEGED CHILDREN stinking up their Christmas party (as is tradition in past years). So they get fired and have to plan a competing party FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN that COMES FROM THE HEART! Which just leads to even more laughably bad drama. The story is a steaming pile. Everybody in this steaming pile is bad, even though they've been okay in other things. About the only positive I can offer is the cinematography, which is pretty. Don't even bother. Unless choking down crap appeals to you.
✓ The Christmas Parade (Countdown to Christmas • AnnaLynne McCord and Jefferson Brown • December 14, 2014)
Okay... two things to start. First of all, the periwinkle dress they have her in at the beginning of the movie is heinous with all its wrinkles and puckers. Second of all... DREW SCOTT (of Property Brothers fame) is in this?!? Popular entertainment gossip personality/reporter finds out her fiancé (DREW SCOTT!) is cheating on her... AND SHE IS THE ONE REPORTING THE STORY! Anyway, mortified at finding out this way, she walks off set and drives far, far away where she gets distracted by her phone and runs into a judge's fence in the city of Carver Bend. Then, SHADES OF DOC HOLLYWOOD, she gets sentenced to community service and a fine, essentially imprisoning her in the town for the holidays. She then falls in love with the local innkeeper after he asks for her help in building a parade float for a children's art center. Or something like that. This movie is a laughably bad shadow of a far better movie... the aforementioned Doc Hollywood, which is one of the most charming and romantic movies of all time. Go watch that instead of wasting time on this.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas (Eric Mabius and Kristin Booth Lowe • November 23, 2014)
Not seen yet.
✓ The Christmas Secret (Bethany Joy Lenz and John Reardon) • December 7, 2014)
Well this one was awful. And yet I kept hanging in there through its entire tedious running time with the expectation that whatever twist they were building to would make it all worthwhile. Nope. Eye-roll-inducing pap. When a woman has a serious strain of bad luck... losing her job... getting evicted... being sued for custody of her annoying kids by her comically scumbag ex... it's just one terrible thing after another. Likely because she lost a magical amulet she got from her dad or something. But then the karma pendulum swings and things finally start going her way... including a chance at a new romance with a stalker! The acting is way over the top... not necessarily by the leads, but by literally everybody else (every time "grandma and grandpa" appeared I was hoping somebody walked into the scene and bludgeoned them to death). If ridiculous... and I'm talking ridiculous to an offensive degree... holiday pap is your jam, this is the movie for you.
✓ Sweet Surrender (Arielle Kebbel, Haylie Duff, and Adam Mayfield • August 16, 2014)
Fresh out of the Army, Tom has to return to his childhood home to run his grandma's bed and breakfast while she's in the hospital. Things get complicated when he starts falling for a local police officer. Things get REALLY complicated when he finds out the B&B owes $92,000 in back-taxes. But no worries... his grandma dies and his truly awful ex-girlfriend (who is now the mayor) is conspiring to screw him out of the property. And a great time was had by everybody! The cast is good, the story isn't terrible, and they made a decent imitation-Hallmark movie here... but it was a bit of a slog to get through.
✓ Rescuing Madison (Alona Tal and Ethan Peck • August 16, 2014)
I don't get it. I recorded this on Hallmark Channel... there's the Hallmark Channel logo on it... but I don't think it's a Hallmark Channel Original movie? So I don't know what's going on. Anyway... Madison Park is a famous singer who is rescued from a fire by a down-to-earth fireman named John Kelly. Of course she falls for him while the world is watching (and her jerk manager tries to tear them apart). What's significant about this one is not the story (it's tired and kinda crap), but the actors they got for it. Ethan Peck, Sherilyn Fenn, Ted McGinley, C Thomas Howell, and Kadeem Hardison... it's a dumping ground for the 80's. A fun, predictable diversion, but not a necessary one.