My fave royal wedding

I am not a royal gusher but when I see things about royal families, I do get a look in when I feel I like them. I therefore am quite aware of who the main Dutch royals are, I know a bit who the main Danish royals are (I quite like their Australian-born crown princess) and I think just about everyone knows who the British royals are. While I do quite like prince William, his wife Kate doesn’t do much for me (never has, even when they got married). In recent years, I thought Harry was turning out quite nicely too. And then he got engaged to Meghan Markle, of tv-show Suits fame. I really like Suits and I really like Meghan too and I admit that I was very much taken by the idea of them as a couple! And today (well, yesterday, as it’s after midnight here), they got married in what I think may be my fave royal wedding to date.

It started special when there was Idris Elba and Oprah Winfrey and George & Amal Clooney walking up to the chapel in Windsor Castle.

I wouldn’t call myself a George Clooney fan, although I do like him, but he sure as hell looked extremely gorgeous in grey (colouring nicely with his hair) in the spring sunshine!clooneys3

I got the greatest kick out of seeing the Suits actors walk to the church. There was gorgeous Gabriel Macht (Harvey Specter on the show) and his lovely wife Jacinda Barrett…

… and Patrick J. Adams (who plays Michael Ross, the man Meghan Markle married on the show!) with his wife Troian Bellisario…

Back in November, when Meghan and Harry had gotten engaged he had tweeted…2017-11-27-Patrick J Adams op Twitter_ _She said she was just going out to get some milk...

… and this morning he followed on from that joke with this Instagram post…

2018-05-19 22_03_22-Patrick Adams on Instagram_ “I_m beginning to think she might not actually be ou

Also Sarah Rafferty (Donna Paulsen on Suits) was there with her husband Santtu Säppäla…

And Gina Torres (who plays Jessica Pearson) and Rick Hoffman (who plays Louis Litt) also came…

There were more illustrious guests (like Serena Williams and Elton John) but I don’t want to go on about guests, I want to show pictures from the wedding!

Harry arrived with his brother William, who was best man…

… and then bride Meghan, driving with her mother Doria Ragland beside her, appeared…

In the church, the two princes were waiting for the bride…wed3 asile0

Doria went into the church alone, and, already fighting the tears, Harry caught her eye…

It must have been quite something special for her to see her daughter get married in such a unique way, she looked very touched throughout the service.

Outside Meghan arrived, accompanied by two page boys who carried her veil…

I kinda loved that she walked down the aisle on her own, as an independent woman of the world.wed3 asile1For the last part of her walk, she was met by Prince Charles (standing in for Meghan’s father who was ill and couldn’t be there), who welcomed her into the family rather than ‘gave her away’. When she got to Harry, you could lip-read Harry saying “Thank you, Pa” to his dad. Awww.

And just after the couple greeted each other at the altar you could also lip-read Harry saying to Meghan “You look amazing”. 🙂

They found each other’s hands and held hands for most to the ceremony, which I found sweet and I don’t think I ever saw other royal couples do so extensively.

Harry uncovered Meghan’s face (another awww!) and they went right on holding hands during the ceremony.

And then maybe the best part of the ceremony came, when Episcopalian bishop Michael Curry delivered his lively sermon about love.Bishop Michael Curry3That man is a good speaker and certainly woke people up, made them sit up and made people smile. Not only the royal couple…

… but many guests looked surprised and bemused…

The best reaction has got to be from Zara Tindall (daughter of Princess Anne, Charles’ sister), who was trying to process what was hitting her…react zara

I think that may have been the moment I said to Mr Esther “best royal wedding ever!” After that wonderful, enlivening sermon came a wonderful gospel choir singing “Stand By Me”, which was stunning…gospel choir2

Harry and Meghan listened from afar…wed7-seated01

And then finally the vows were exchanged (and I wiped away a few tears).

Again, lovely. The way these two look at each other, it’s pretty clear how they feel about each other! After the vows they went out for a few minutes to sign the register. They were followed by Prince Charles who so graciously invited Doria to come with him. One of the highlights for me really was how Charles looked after Doria, who was the only member of Meghan’s family present.doria charles

He was also sweet to Doria after the service, walking with her and talking with her, including her in everything and lending her his arm. I found that very touching.

Back to the wedding service: after the signing, the national anthem was sung and the couple left the church…

They exited the church…

… looked at each other…

… and kissed…

Pictures from another angle…

Ah, the romance! The walked down the steps to an awaiting carriage…

… and then came the carriage ride through Windsor…

Apparently there was also a kiss in the carriage. I didn’t see it on TV, but it was there in the pictures..wed11-carriage (8)

I also found this image somehow very beautiful and endearing…wed11-carriage (13)

The wedding was festive and there was pomp and circumstance, but it also was personal, mixing the traditional more reserved English world of Harry beautifully with the more emotionally demonstrative American world of Meghan. It was about a woman standing on her own, openly embracing a future with a prince, it was about embracing difference and celebrating it. And it didn’t hurt that I found Meghan’s dress absolutely gorgeous and the couple was beautiful to look at.

The rest of the festivities were outside the public eye, except for a moment this evening when the couple left Windsor to go to Prince Charles’s residence at Frogmore house for the evening party. Meghan had changed into another dress, Harry had changed into a tux and they were off in a cute little blue Jaguar sports car…

I don’t often go gaga over royal events. I do usually enjoy them and like looking at the pictures but then easily move on. This wedding, however, somehow touched me more than other weddings have and yes, it even made me actively actually gather all these pictures throughout the day! In a world so hateful and cynical Harry and Meghan today radiated an image of love and inclusion and change. I hope they can continue to do this and wish them all happiness and the best for the future!

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‘Suits’ is almost back!

In early February it was announced that my current fave TV series Suits is returning for the second half of season 7 (the last 6 episodes) on March 28th.

Suits 7b

I saw this short trailer back then…

… and then had to make myself not look at it again and again, because that only gets me worked up and extremely impatient during the wait and I really can’t deal with feeling worked up. Right now my job is fun but very stressful, I can’t take on any TV or movie or upcoming-Richard-Armitage-projects excitement/stress on top of that. However, now that March 28th is almost upon us, I am finally allowing myself to get excited! Here, another promo which is Mike and Rachel centered. Both of them are leaving the show (Meghan Markle to get married to a real-life prince and Patrick J. Adams was ready for wanting new challenges elsewhere), so there will be some nostalgia there…

On Twitter, there’s a countdown going on as well, today featuring Donna (Sarah Rafferty)…

I have a feeling that tomorrow’s picture will feature Harvey (Gabriel Macht)… Arrogant, worked up, pompous Harvey has already been featured here and there…

… but I’m mostly looking forward to vulnerable Harvey behind the tough exterior, like we see in this picture from the upcoming episode!

Suits - Season 7

Maybe I am overly excited (this is a Lizzie Bennet Diaries gif)…

LB overreacting gif.gif

… but it totally beats watching the news these days! 🙂

Suits obsessed, the fanvid edition…

I am still Suits obsessed and this obsession means that I haven’t watched any of the new Richard Armitage projects yet! Sleepwalker (I’m not sure I’m in the right mindset for weird right now) and Berlin Station (love Richard, but the show less so, I’m therefore a little hesitant to start) are on my waiting list, just like the new A Place to Call Home series that has just started airing. So, when I have some free time, I am all caught up in reading Suits fan fics and watching Suits fan videos. I’ve been debating making a proper fan video of my own (that would mean I need to start sourcing clips) but I don’t think I can add that much to the ones that are already out there. There are so many good ones! So, instead of sourcing clips, I just waste my free time watching these. Although, I guess if I love doing this so much, it’s not a waste, right? Anyway, here are some of my faves…

The last episode to date left us with a Donna & Harvey kiss cliffhanger and my fave post-cliffhanger Darvey video so far is this one, set to that new Pink song that I like so much…

There are lots of really good Darvey videos out there, many of them quite dramatic, but here’s one that’s just kinda fun: tips for a future husband (although Donna and Harvey are nowhere near being that on the show)…

The beginning of season 5 has Harvey falling apart and having panic attacks after Donna quits working for him. It’s good to see that even the mighty Harvey can feel vulnerable…

But it’s not only Harvey and Donna that make this show great, the whole Suits team is awesome…

A huge part of the charm of the show is the Harvey and Mike bromance…

…and the Mike and Rachel romance as well…

But with all the drama, there is also a lot of fun, as illustrated in this video (alas parts 1 and 2 have been blocked, I’m sure they’d be great to watch as well if I could see them)…

And here’s some behind the scenes fun set to music…

Yep, I can’t get enough of this. The Suits video playlist I have on YouTube already has 52 videos in it (and still growing)… I could go on and on. I’ve gotta say, hats off the to actors, writers and producers of this show for making it so addictive and inspiring so much great fan art!

My latest binge-watch frenzy: Suits!

I see that it’s been nearly two weeks since my last post! Yikes! When that happens, either ‘real life’ becomes overwhelmingly busy or I shut myself off to indulge in my latest passion. My sabbatical these past two weeks is due to the latter: I have become completely engrossed in the tv-series Suits!

I have been aware of Suits for quite a few years but it’s about corporate law and I thought that wouldn’t interest me, so I let it go. To be clear, corporate law will never be a passion, but this series has something special! The story is centered around hot-shot, cocky, know-it-all, ambitious corporate lawyer Harvey Specter (played by Gabriel Macht). He needs an associate and decides to hire a very talented, very smart college dropout called Mike Ross (played by Patrick J. Adams) as his law associate, despite Mike never actually having attended law school. The show focuses on Harvey and Mike as they solve cases and make deals while maintaining and containing Mike’s secret.

Surrounding Mike and Harvey is a strong cast of characters!

Suits cast

Lawyer Louis Litt (played by Rick Hoffman, on the left in this picture) is eccentric, quick-tempered, very flawed but also somehow endearing. He is a tough lawyer and vengeful, not easy to get along with (he and Harvey have a very contentious relationship) but underneath he is a softie. He adores ‘mudding’ (i.e. mud baths) and cats.

Jessica Pearson (played by Gina Torres, on the right in the picture above) is the head of the New York City law firm. She is cool and calculated, has made every sacrifice possible to make it to the top, but always has the firm’s and her people’s backs in times of crises. You do not want to mess with her, though. She’s a real kick-ass boss!

Then we have Donna Paulsen (played by Sarah Rafferty, 2nd from left). She’s Harvey’s power personal assistant / secretary. Very quick-witted, knows everything that’s going on anywhere and has been with Harvey for many years (he took her with him when he transferred from the DA’s office to the law firm). Theirs is a very close-knit relationship. When in a flashback scene he becomes partner, he tells Donna that “we” have become partner. He depends on her completely and while their friendship is very close in a brother/sister kind of way, there is also the necessary tension and a big ‘will they, won’t they’ quality. When at some point, after a crisis, she leaves his desk to work for Louis, Harvey is totally unhinged for a while.

Harvey is a man who loves life in the fast lane. He is intent on keeping emotion out of business as emotion makes you ‘weak’. He is slick, easy on the eyes, popular with women, loves a nice car, his basketball trophies in his office from clients he has and his record collection. He is also called ‘the closer’ as he is so good at closing deals, he is tough and almost unapproachable on the outside but, if you look more closely, there is a heart hidden inside him which becomes more and more apparent as the series progresses.

Mike is the fake-lawyer. Young, extremely smart, a bit of a happy-go-lucky kinda guy, who is very good-hearted but skirts around legal edges all the time. He has a real desire to do good in the world. Through bad luck and some bad choices he has never been able to go to law school, even though he knows every law textbook by heart (he has a photographic memory). He almost instantly falls in love with Rachel Zane (played by Meghan Markle. Yes, her of Prince-Harry’s-girlfriend fame). Rachel has trouble passing the entrance exam for law school (the LSAT test), not for lack of smarts but because of nerves. She is stuck as a paralegal at the firm. She eventually passes the exam, with mentoring from Mike, and can finally start law school, her paralegal experience coming in handy. It takes two seasons for Mike and Rachel to get together, their relationship really is a lovely one. They are true partners for each other, they live together and are engaged but not married yet.

Mike and Rachel

The world of corporate law is a total alien one to me.  This series is basically about rich people and their firms wanting to be richer. It’s a fast-paced, back-stabbing world, where the right deal with the right amount of compensation is the most important thing. I can imagine Donald Trump being client number one at this law firm. It’s not a world I particularly like, especially in this day and age when you see that millionaires can buy anything, even a presidency, with the right money and people/deals backing them up.

And yet… Suits is addictive and I am not sure why! Maybe it’s because I want to understand that world better? Maybe because it shows that even in that world, so far away from mine, the people are given a human face. If I met Harvey Specter in real life, I think I’d recoil from him and even find him a little scary. Yet, there is a man with a heart in the right place underneath it all that makes me actually really like him! With him, it’s all in the eyes and I admit, I find that very sexy. Jessica, the boss at the law firm, would make me feel intimidated as well, she is not a woman to be messed with. Even Donna could intimidate me, although her heart is more readily shown and she is a lot of fun. Mike and Rachel are the most easily accessible characters in this, they are people I could imagine being friends with in real life.

What also really attracts me is that the women here are strong and the cast is diverse (even the guest cast is diverse). It’s not just white rich men in corporate New York City. Louis is Jewish and in a hilarious scene when you see him meeting his Austrian therapist, he goes all anti-Nazi on him without knowing anything about who this man with the German accent even is. Rachel (just like Meghan Markle in real life) has a black and a white parent. Her black father heads a rival law firm and her white mom is shown on occasion as well (in real life, Markle has a black mom and a white dad). The head of the firm, Jessica, is black and a woman (sadly, she is leaving the show!) and even the latest addition to the core team, secretary Gretchen Bodinski (played by Aloma Wright) who is hired on the spot by Harvey, is absolutely awesome! I love her character, she started in season 5, and I hope they’ll use her even more in the future.

I had been meaning to try an episode of Suits for a very long time as I heard good things about it. I even remember considering buying the first season DVD a long time ago when I saw it in a shop. But… it was about the corporate law world which could never quite pull me over the edge, so I let it be. Then, a few weeks ago, I was reading some blurb about Meghan Markle which mentioned Suits and when I logged onto Netflix that same day, I saw that the first 5 seasons were on there (the first series has 12 episodes, the rest have 16 episodes each), so I gave it a shot! And I haven’t regretted a single moment…

I couldn’t stop watching after 5 seasons, I HAD to know how it continued, so I found ways to watch season 6 and season 7 so far as well! It is still unsure whether there will be a season 8 and whether Meghan Markle will even be a part of that if there were to be an 8th season. I can’t imagine Suits without her… So, if she does happen to end up marrying Prince Harry, I really think she should be allowed to continue acting as well. After all, she’ll never be queen anyhow, she can live a more free life, I hope? Time will tell.

In any case, the series is on a hiatus right now. There was a mid-season finale a few weeks ago which ended on a huge cliffhanger for Donna & Harvey (will they??? won’t they???) and already I’m finding it almost unbearable to wait for the last 6 episodes of season 7 to air at the beginning of next year. Apparently, those last 6 episodes are being filmed now as we speak.

When I get obsessed, like right now with Donna & Harvey (called Darvey to shippers), it gets my creative juices flowing. I’m thinking of a fanfic right now and of course, I needed to make a video as well… But, I just don’t have the time to source video clips. Binge-watching in itself is already so time-consuming and it’s time to enter the ‘real world’ again, I can’t stay hidden away forever. I have been saving a lot of Darvey gifs to my laptop of late and suddenly had the brain-wave to make a video using those gifs! So, that’s what I’ve been working on recently. The quality of the images is not great (they are gifs, after all, and not real video clips), but it gets the message across. So, here is the end result…

So, now that I have all of this out of my system, maybe I can make room for other things again?… Yeah… right… nope, not quite ready yet to move on… I do think I need to maybe read just a few more fanfics and watch a few more videos… Ugh, bingeing is exhausting (I stay up too late!) yet so much fun!

The Hallmark research experience

I have found a guilty pleasure… and it feels a little guilty because it’s sometimes too sappy for words… and not always a real pleasure. And yet, I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame – this moth keeps on hoping to find a little gem instead of a flame.

I may have said before that I am a real sucker for a good romance movie. The power of true love is very powerful to me! It’s hard to get a romance movie right and a romantic comedy in particular, I find. Romantic movies can be too sappy, too dramatic (I’m sorry, but Nicholas Sparks and I are not a great fit), too frothy, too predictable. The characters need to be true and well-rounded, the conflict needs to be real, there needs to be a good arc for the development and growth of the characters, even in a fairytale kind of movie. For romantic comedies there needs to be this extra spark of wit and feeling and dialogue that is a tough mix to crack. But when it’s well done, when the mix works, my heart soars (or aches) and I keep on going back to those movies to get my fixes in times of need! Sometimes such a fix doesn’t need to last long at all…

rom-up-carl-ellie2

At the beginning of “Up” the deeply moving love story of Ellie and Carl is shown in just 4 minutes and later Ellie leaves Carl a touching message.

In recent years it feels like there’s been a drought – there are occasional good romantic movies and there are even fewer good romcoms. Maybe I loved the latest Bridget Jones because, despite it being an old mix made new again, it was well done! And yeah, it had Colin Firth… (by the way, my 12 year old daughter saw it and liked the more loose Patrick Dempsey better… go figure…).

In recent times, mostly due to recent world events but also due to my frustrating job situation (volunteer work is fun but I need a good, paying job), I have come to a place where I am in dire need of feel-good pick me up romantic movies. As it’s slim pickings now on that front, I decided to turn to, yes, the Hallmark Channel! I have been binge-watching tons of romantic Hallmark movies in recent weeks/months. I have counted them: I have seen 48(!!) of them. They are easy to watch, don’t always need your undivided attention, are all 1 hour and 23 minutes long and aim to give you a fuzzy feeling.

The Hallmark formula

The Hallmark love stories have a pretty consistent formula: girl meets boy (PLUS) girl has a boyfriend/fiancé/some guy who’s not good enough sniffing around (PLUS) the attraction between girl and boy is pretty much instant even though they don’t always realize it themselves (PLUS) there are difficulties getting together (PLUS) at around 1 hour in, there may be a kiss or at least a moment when all seems to be heading in the right direction for our right girl-boy couple (PLUS) then all hell breaks loose and they seem lost to each other forever (PLUS)  girl breaks up with boyfriend/fiancé/sniffing guy when she realizes what she wants (PLUS) right in the last 2-4 minutes the resolution happens with a kiss (EQUALS) they live happily ever after!

Hallmark movie themes

There are also some common themes in many of the movies. For instance:

  • Small town country life is wholesome and good, the big city is bad with no morals. OK, this is not always the case but it is very often so. With the recent disastrous US election and pretty much all of rural US voting for Trump, this dynamic seems more telling to me than ever before!
  • Your first love is often your true love – girl returns to small town she grew up in and falls in love with high school boyfriend all over again.
  • Women seem confused and don’t know who they are, meeting ‘the man’ helps them find out who they are and what they really want.
  • Christmas love stories are HUGE and you can only be a good person if you believe in the magic of Christmas.
  • Children are the way to a woman’s heart – if the guy has children or is good with children, the woman melts (metaphorically speaking). Actually, that goes for animals too.
  • To become a princess and marry a prince really is a fairytale come true (and princes tend to be kind but also a little ‘stiff’). I did see one role reversal movie when the regular guy falls in love with a princess on the run. Sadly, it didn’t even come close to Roman Holiday magic… I didn’t much care for the princess…
  • No one ever has sex, not even implied!
  • Hallmark loves certain actors and reuses them a lot. There are some popular secondary role actors that pop up in different movies but some leads are recurring as well. And some of them aren’t half bad…
  • The girl and boy are always caucasian and if there is someone of a different ethnicity then it’s in the best friend / nice colleague supporting role. The most ‘ethnic’ (don’t really like that word, I’m ‘ethnic’ too even if I am blonde and blue-green eyed) lead actress I have seen so far is Meghan Markle, who has in real life apparently recently been officially acknowledged as British Prince Harry’s girlfriend! Gosh, Hallmark will have a field day with that one, should that ever end in a wedding…

meghan-markle

  • Last but not least Hallmark movie theme: the US is full of plastic people, especially over a certain age (most noticeably some mothers in these movies) and some of the leads are plastic too.

I’m sure there are more themes (feel free to add on in the comments!) but these are the big ones I can come up with for now.

But why watch these movies?

Yes, I know the obvious question arising: why do I watch these movies if they are so predictable and the themes are so common and the clichés are so big? I guess it’s the feel-good thing that I am always looking for and the certainty that no matter how tough it gets, everything will be well in the end. These stories are easy to digest and easy digestion is just necessary sometimes. Some of these movies aren’t too bad and can give you that feel-good fix, even though they are almost instantly forgotten once the movie ends. Some are not so great and some are really quite awful – they are so cliché or the leads are awkward / act badly / seem plastic that it becomes something like watching a train wreck: you are fascinated and horrified but just can’t look away! However, even the train wrecks, some of which are downright annoying, can still amuse me as I pick them apart while I watch them. I still repeatedly find myself coming back to these movies because I find myself always, always, hoping for a little gem… and surprisingly, there are a few! Finding one makes me keep on watching these movies in the hopes of finding another one…

Hallmark movies research results

I have a list of all the movies I have seen because otherwise I get confused which ones I have seen and which ones I haven’t (titles are so generic, it gets confusing when you just see a title, especially of an unmemorable movie). In my purely subjective Hallmark research, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • Of the 48 movies I saw, 32 are pretty much instantly forgettable. Some are more enjoyable than others, but forgettable.
  • Sometimes it was the story that annoyed me and often the leads just could not appeal to me: I’d like the girl and not the boy or I’d like the boy but not the girl or I’d like neither! One movie, for instance, had a bookstore owner and while there was a certain charm she didn’t look like she had ever read a serious book in her life. Or the princess in the aforementioned movie about a regular guy falling in love with a European princess – there was nothing European about her, she just didn’t fit. Or there was a girl and a guy planning the wedding of their best friends and that guy… it was refreshing that he wasn’t so smooth but there was something about him that annoyed me to no end (and he’s a recurring Hallmark actor to boot!). Some of the guys looked sooooo smooth, it was off-putting to me. Actually some of the girls were too smooth as well.
  • 7 movies went on the ‘ok’ pile – not forgettable but not quite there yet either. Something would just annoy me a little too much in the story or in the acting for me to absolutely declare it great (for a Hallmark movie).
  • That leaves me with 9 movies I actually enjoyed!
  • In those 9 movies there were 3 male actors that really ‘spoke’ to me (Eric Johnson, Jonathan Scarfe and Andrew Walker) and 3 female leads I really liked (Katie LeClerc, Arielle Kebbel and Ashley Williams)!
The 9 Hallmark movie gems

My two favourite movies are Cloudy With a Chance of Love (although strictly speaking, that is apparently a Pixl movie – and it was 4 minutes longer than the standard Hallmark one) and Love On the Air.

Cloudy With a Chance of Love is about an academic in meteorology in San Diego who must decide between her new job as a popular weather girl or her pursuit of a PhD fellowship. She must also figure out whether her boss is interested in her or is he just using her as a ticket to get promoted to a bigger job in New York?

Cloudy WIth A Chance of Love Final Photo Assets

What I loved about the movie was that the story was good and I especially loved the lead actress, Katie LeClerc. She seemed just as smart as the script had made her, she was quirky and alive and cute and when the inevitable ‘make over’ came, she in the end was able to make it work for herself in a way that was true to herself. There was no distracting lurking first boyfriend/fiancé and in the end, after a real character arc, Deb (Katie LeClerc) was able to choose what was truly closest to her heart, regardless of whether the guy would be there or not. Her boss was more a distraction than the solution to all her dreams…and yet, as in all Hallmark movies, things do end well for our lovely couple. The lead actor (Michael Rady) I knew from a stint on The Mentalist and he did really well here too. I loved that he fell in love with Deb for who she was before anyone else did (other than her bestie and her boss at the university). Yes, I really really liked this one!

My other favourite was Love on the Air. Again, there were strong leads in this one. It’s about two competing radio personalities in Chicago who annoy each other but then find common ground when they have to work together.

loveontheair

Yes, some of the clichés are present: there’s an ex-fiancé who’s still in the picture, there’s the black friend/co-worker thing, there’s the guy helping the girl figure out what she wants but there is also so much more. There is very good banter between these two, on and off air, about their different approaches to love and life, they both are closed off in their own ways and they both thaw, and there’s very good chemistry between the two leads, Alison Sweeney and Jonathan Scarfe. To me, especially Jonathan Scarfe really stood out. He tries to stick to a slick, happy-go-lucky exterior but yet finds himself affected – and acts that beautifully. And he screen-kisses well too.

Watching Jonathan Scarfe lead me to another Hallmark movie that I liked called Angel of Christmas (honestly, who makes up these titles?). From IMDB: “When newspaper staffer Susan sets out to write an article about her family’s much-storied heirloom Christmas angel, it leads her to accidentally meet Brady, a cute, upbeat artist who whisks the resistant Susan into a holiday-time friendship–and maybe more.” There’s also a mystery involved with the history of the Christmas angel.

angelofchristmas

This is one of the most cliché movies of the Hallmark movies that I liked. It’s about Christmas magic and there’s the sniffing potential love interest that contrasts with the guy who is really the true love. What really makes this movie for me, however, is Jonathan Scarfe. There is an almost Simon Baker-ish kind of charm to him and his interest in the lead character played by Jennifer Finnigan (who was alright) is immediately apparent. He does very well in the long-looks department and leaning into personal space and the kissing and all that. Yeah, this one was full of clichés but it was nonetheless a fun, if unlikely, escape ‘magic’ story.

Another one I really liked was one that fed into all the clichés of country being better than the city and the title, Valentine Ever After, is awful too, but what really made this one stand out was the male lead, Eric Johnson! The movie is about two city girls who go to Wyoming, get stranded at a ‘dude ranch’, get involved in a bar brawl and must stay to do community service. The lead actress (a favourite Hallmark actress called Autumn Reeser, quite decent but not my favourite) finds her true calling and her true love (and must also figure out what to do with the fiancé she had already acquired).

vdea-off-2

Eric Johnson plays the true love handsome cowboy and he does it so brilliantly that for me he makes all the clichés alright. He is the silent type with a no-nonsense attitude and when his face breaks into a smile it just melts me every time (and there are loads of forehead crinkles and dimples too!). The man can act with just his eyes and facial expressions and his body language and was such a joy to watch! He’s the only one from all the Hallmark movies that I actually bothered to screencap, have a look-see…

 

Eric Johnson is a recurring Hallmark actor, although this last Valentine movie was his meatiest role yet. Another one he made a few years back was called Fir Crazy and while the movie was alright (the lead actress was so-so to me), I really did like him in the role of a very nice and charming school teacher (this is one of the movies from my ‘ok’ pile).

fircrazy

Aww! Look at him look at her!

Apparently Eric Johnson also played Flash Gordon in a tv series that lasted one season (saw parts of it – I understand why it wasn’t renewed despite Eric Johnson being charming in it) and he now plays in a HBO series called The Knick about an early 1900s New York City hospital, which I plan on watching in time. Apparently he plays a bit of a bigotted doctor in that one. Not sure I can take bigots on right now, but I will in time as I am very curious to see how he does (apparently that series has been renewed, it’s with Clive Owen in the lead). Yes, I really like Eric Johnson, I’ll be watching out for him!

Another actor I discovered who does really well in these movies is Andrew Walker. He made a movie called Bridal Wave (also not strictly Hallmark, I think, as it too is a little longer than a 1hr,23min Hallmark movie). A woman (Arielle Kebbel who also was briefly in Gilmore Girls playing the small role of Dean‘s wife) planning for her wedding at a resort meets a charming local (Andrew Walker) right before the ceremony and has to choose between the man who can care for her financially or the man who truly understands her.

bridal-wave

I’m not too fond of the storyline that this girl is almost marrying someone not right for her and then at the last minute decides not to. However, there is so much chemistry between Andrew Walker and Arielle Kebbel, it almost jumped off the screen! They had done an earlier Hallmark movie together, which didn’t do it for me storywise, but they were magic together then as well. These two just work together well and not only Walker is good, so is Kebbel. I first judged her as too pretty and airy but she is good! She acts emotion very well and Walker does intensity very well.

I wondered if it was just the pairing of those two that was good, but Walker did another movie called Dashing through the Snow and while the lead actress in that was fine and quirky and quite charming, I thought he really nailed it with the portrayal of his undercover agent character whose suspicious heart starts to thaw. The movie is a road movie about a young woman (Meghan Ory) who is stranded at an airport at Christmastime, and accepts a ride from a somewhat mysterious stranger (Andrew Walker) who just rented the last car in town.

dashingthroughthesnow

The plot that involves agents is a bit flimsy but these two together on the road work very well. Yes, many clichés here as well but they aren’t too bad. One of my favourite lines in the movie is when the Ashley (Meghan Ory) character tests her theory that the only truly good people are people who believe in Santa. She asks a tough biker kinda guy, who just rescued puppies and is clearly a very good man, whether he believes in Santa and the biker guy shortly remarks “No, I’m Jewish”.  Ha! There goes her theory! I love that. What I especially love, however, is Andrew Walker’s intensity and he certainly commits himself to his onscreen kisses (as much as Hallmark allows).

Letter Never Sent is another Pixl movie, not shown on Hallmark (I don’t think). I wasn’t sure it would be any good when I read what it was about: Emboldened by the last remaining days of high school, senior Henry (Callard Harris) writes a love letter to his neighbor, Claire (Haley Webb). But, when he runs into her at school joking and laughing with her then boyfriend, he chickens out and never tells her how he feels. Fast forward ten years, Henry returns home to celebrate his mom’s fiftieth birthday. When Claire volunteers to help Henry plan his mother’s party, all his old feelings resurface. Will Henry find the courage to tell Claire how he feels? Will he finally give her the letter he wrote all those years ago? Or, will he chicken out again?

letter_never_sent

It sounded like a bit of a dud to me on paper but it really wasn’t! That was all down to the two leads who did a great job together (despite yet again a fiancé storyline), had good chemistry together and felt very real. Especially Callard Harris had this vulnerability to him which I thought he acted really well.

There is also Love on a Limb about a woman (Ashley Williams) who protests against an old oak tree in her town being felled and chains herself to it. She clashes with the man who comes to chop the tree down (Trevor Donovan) but slowly gets to know him better…

loveonalimb

The lead guy was just too… hunky and flat (characterwise) for me, I didn’t care for him so much, but the Ashley Williams character I liked. She had real spunk and sparkle and I loved the passion she had for this cause and all other causes she championed. I have also seen her in another Hallmark movie where she had the same spunk although I didn’t care that much for the movie. I could imagine people finding her sparkle a bit much but I really liked it. The sparkle was balanced with some sadness and introspection too, which the actress handled nicely. Also, somehow, in a small way, she reminds me a bit of my good friend Amy, which earns her a TON of brownie points.

And finally there was Remember Sunday, which I think is also not technically a Hallmark movie as it’s 10 minutes longer than the standard. It’s a 50 First Dates kind of movie about a man (Zachary Levi) suffering from short-term memory loss who falls in love with the same waitress (Alexis Bledel) every day.

 

Alexis Bledel is most famous for playing Rory Gilmore in the Gilmore Girls but does a good job here too. Actually, it was seeing her in this movie that sparked me re-watching a lot of the Gilmore Girls again recently. In any case, this is a bit of a heart-wrencher with no miraculous memory recovery at the end but still a lovely story. And Alexis Bledel’s big blue eyes are just mesmerizing…

Some honourable mentions

There are some movies that went to the ‘ok pile’ for me, I already mentioned one (Fir Crazy) above. Those ‘ok’ movies are the ones that are quite nice but for me are not quite as good as the ones I have already mentioned.

 

  • There is one about writers falling in love (A Novel Romance) but the leads didn’t quite do it for me and the ending was a little silly.
  • The Dater’s Handbook has Prince Harry’s girlfriend Meghan Markle in it. She’s lovely and quirky and I really got why she fell in love with the guy. I just found the premise a little off. But then again, it did have Jonathan Scarfe in it who I mentioned above – good again but not quite as likeable this time around.
  • Tulips in the Spring was quite standard fare but the lead guy was really cute to look at! And apparently tulips do catch my attention (must be a Dutch thing) even though I am by far not as fascinated with them as people outside my country seem to be.
  • Hitched for the Holidays was fun, but I can’t quite remember why it missed the top sparkle for me. I think it’s the lead actor, not my fave.
  • The Irresistible Blueberry Farm has the aforementioned Alison Sweeney from the radio movie in it and some mystery and sparkle. The annoying bit for me was the fiancé bit with a recurring Hallmark actor I don’t like so much.
  • And The Nine Lives of Christmas was about two people falling in love over cats! I liked the lead actress but, while there was some spark between the leads, it never turned into a real flame for me. But did I mention the cats in it? There were cats who had some real screen time! Cats! Adorable!
Conclusion

Despite clichés there are some very enjoyable Hallmark movies out there. Sure, most of them are forgettable but there are a few little gems in-between. This “research” is still ongoing, I have even more Hallmark movies on my still-to-watch list! So, who knows what else I might unearth?

On a final note: this may have been my longest blog post ever and it’s very true to my escapist nature to boot. 🙂 If you have actually managed to read it all: BRAVO to you! And if you have any Hallmark observations to add, please feel free to do so in the comments.