Good day to you, my Heartie friends. How is this week’s Hump Day going for you? As you may have guessed from events that occurred this past weekend, today’s #WonderWednesday is discussing Lori Loughlin‘s first Garage Sale Mystery movie of the month: Pandora’s Box. We’ve got quite a list of WCTH actors in this one. There’s the entire Shannon family: Jennifer (Lori), husband Jason (Steve Bacic, Spurlock), daughter Hannah (Eva Bourne, Clara), and son Logan (Connor Stanhope, Beau). Now that Kevin O’Grady (Frank) has guest starred on WCTH as Archie the lawyer, we can add him to the mix, along with Frank’s lovely wife, Sally, (played by Johann Newmarch, Molly). Then there are the supporting characters: Joel the producer, (Lochlyn Munro, James Addison), and Lucas (Lane Edwards, the man who warned Jack that Rosemary was not headed to San Francisco. He also played 2 different characters on Signed Sealed Delivered. To wrap things up, Neill Fearnley directed. So altogether, we have a total of 9 WCTH affiliates. Wow!

The film has a clever beginning. I always chuckle when I see actors playing actors. Never did I think the Rags to Riches store would be the setting of a reality show; and Jen standing there saying she’s not comfortable with lines given her, or she doesn’t know them at all…quite amusing. But the best part of that has to be watching Dani be completely over dramatic when the camera turns on. And when the highlighted antique, the puzzle box, goes missing, I thought it very quick thinking for a non-actor to think to check the footage. Hmm…

I hate to put the cart before the horse, but the mystery of the puzzle box just fits perfectly right here. It certainly was intricate, just like the plot with all those ins and outs. I loved watching Jen lying in bed trying to figure out the box, putting it aside to go to sleep, then turning her lamp back on to keep on trying. I admit, they had me guessing on the killer. I was suspecting almost everyone, even the new boyfriend at one point; and I never figured 2 murderers. And one of the killers being murdered themselves, even if by accident? Clever! It makes for a very intriguing twist that they both died in the exact same spot.

Let’s talk about the family for a moment or two. I really like the bond between father and son, and how it is strengthened in this film. Logan messes up, and wrecks his dad’s prized car. I would have been furious, but Jason keeps his cool, saying cars can be replaced, but not his kids. I really like that Jason doesn’t let him off the hook, but he does help him in his business ventures to pay for the damage. He even says quite profoundly, “Anything worthwhile takes time.” Logan returns the gesture by genuinely trying to find ways to make the needed money for the classic car.

Then there’s Hannah. Do you like her new hairstyle with bangs? She is very busy the entire movie entertaining that new romance, isn’t she? I had to laugh when he says his name is Officer Brett Ryan, not only because he has two first names, but also because those are the names of two of my brothers. Their vow to only “hang out” is so typical of young single people I know it made me laugh out loud. I got a little upset when Hannah insists that one of the terms of their arrangement be that Brett never open a door. Excuse me, what? Is there something wrong with reinvigorating the almost dead art of chivalry? I don’t think people have to be dating to practice it. But he manages to make himself adorable without it; like when he says the 3 ways to his heart are: “1. Buy me a taco, 2. Make me a taco, or 3. Be a taco.” I also like him trying to find a nice shirt to wear for Hannah, then hears a knock, and decides what he’s wearing is better than keeping her waiting. It’s just one of those nonverbal details that fill out a character, and make a movie even more enjoyable to watch. He also did a very sweet speech to “hang up the hangouts” after that misunderstanding of being spotted with his ex, (BAD HANNAH! DON’T ASSUME!) and she totally called him out on rehearsing it. I liked that. Sometimes the lines spoken in these movies seem too thought-out for the characters, so it’s nice when they mention rehearsing. Only problem was when he mentions that he wants to take part in all those romantic rituals, he didn’t pull flowers from behind his back. That would have been a very nice touch.

Before things are set right, there are some cute moments with Hannah and Jason. Mom’s out saving innocent people from death, but Dad really saves the day at home, doesn’t he? He uses the philosophy that Sally Lynnwood mentions at the end: “ ‘Stressed’ is ‘Desserts’ spelled backwards, and there’s nothing dessert can’t fix.” He sees Hannah’s forlorn face, and immediately asks if she needs chocolate mint ice cream. I love their code! She says she needs double fudge, and he immediately knows it’s serious. He even inquires, “School, guy, or other?” Once again, just an adorable detail to fill out the film.

And let’s not forget that the mother’s name in the wealthy family is Elizabeth.

Okay, that’s it for today. I will see you on Friday. Enjoy your days until we meet again!

It’s Hump Day! Are you surviving so far? Well, maybe today’s #WonderWednesday will give you a little boost. Here’s something that DEFINITELY will! I’m writing another #FanFictionFriday story! I was finally able to work on it yesterday while I was getting my car inspected. Strangest places, huh? I can’t promise it will be ready in 2 days, but hopefully I’ll have it completed and ready in a week or 2.

So! On to today’s #WonderWednesday. This isn’t my typical kind of #WonderWednesday review; I didn’t see it on the Hallmark Channel. It actually came from my library. I had seen the 2 sequels for this particular film on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, but never the original. So imagine my excitement when I just happen to discover it while browsing the shelves for something entertaining! And this particular film is called “The Shunning”.

I know what you’re going to say! “Okay! Who was in it?!” Well, that is the other way my post is different: the connection belongs behind the camera. It occurred to me that I don’t highlight crew as much as cast, and this seemed the perfect opportunity. Anyone want to venture a guess as to who the executive producers are? Brian Bird and Michael Landon Jr., our 2 Papas. Michael also directed “The Shunning”, which should be a clue as to how great it is, right?

The story centers around an Amish community. I’m really curious as to how much research was done, what’s accurate portrayal, what’s creative license. I myself don’t know enough about that religion, nor have I done enough research to make an educated guess. I made a few observations: the lack of technology and the beards, of course, (they make it very difficult to guess the men’s ages). I also noticed they call each other by their full names quite often, as well as their beautiful accents. I became curious as to how their leaders are chosen. Their bishop is a young father, with several older men in the community. I had been under the impression that the “more mature” members of their society led them. Shows what I know! As I mentioned, I need to do my research. I have to say, though, I don’t know how they follow their very restrictive-looking faith at times. I personally am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (more commonly known as LDS or Mormons,) so I know what it’s like to have people stare and raise their eyebrows at pieces of my lifestyle that I consider perfectly normal and mainstream. But wow! I don’t think I could ever live the way they do!

The plot begins with Katie Lapp, a 20-year-old woman sneaking into her barn to play the guitar, and her brother catches her. Apparently the guitar is considered “an English instrument,” and is forbidden. (“English” is how the characters refer to non-Amish people.) Right away it sets the tone: the restrictions of the faith, a young girl trying to obey, her desires pulling her in the other direction. It becomes evident that Katie is soon to marry the colony’s bishop, and become a stepmother to his 2 sons. This means never playing the guitar again, and giving up writing songs, something for which Katie has a beautiful and natural talent. Very few people know of this, 2 being her best friend, and her one true love, Daniel, who drowned 3 years ago. As I listened, it sounded as if the bishop lost his wife around the same time Katie lost Daniel. Imagine how daunting this whole situation must be for her! At 20 years old, Katie is expected not only to become the BISHOP’S wife, (with whom she is not in love,) but step in as caretaker to his boys. She even says, “You’ll have to be patient with me, little Jakob. I’ve never been a mama before.” Then on top of that, she is expected to abandon the one connection she has to her beloved but lost Daniel, (we Hearties like that name, don’t we?!)

The flashback scenes to Katie’s time with Daniel are so heartwarming, so innocently sweet. He strokes her hair as he lovingly murmurs, “You are the most beautiful creature God’s ever made!” Then there’s the memory of their first kiss! First, he encourages her to think of her musical talent as a gift from God, not something she should pray to have Him take away. Then he takes her completely by surprise, her eyes widen, and she gives little response. Daniel backs away, thinking he’s done something wrong. But Katie stops him, requesting, “Can we try that again?” He eagerly but gently complies, but she’s worried she’s not very good. She explains, “I can get it right if we have more practice.” But Daniel becomes almost reverent when he responds, “The problem was…it was perfect. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more.” Feel free to pause your reading to go get your mop, either to clean up the puddle of tears or pieces of your heart…or both!

It soon becomes obvious that there’s a dark secret lurking around the Lapp household. This was done really well! You see an “Englisher” poking around, and asking questions to anyone willing to listen to her. She is able to have a letter delivered to Katie’s mother by the sweetest Amish grandmother figure in the world, Ella May. Just the envelope makes the mother panic, and when she and Katie’s father are alone, she shows it to him, admitting she’s been to scared to open it. He reads it, then throws it in the stove. Every time the parents talk about the situation, the lights are very low, the music gets tense, and their faces look very suspicious. It gives an incredible sense of foreboding. We come to find out this English woman is Laura Mayfield Bennett, Katie’s birth mother.

When Katie discovers this, she goes understandably haywire. She yells, “You are NOT my father!” to the only father she’s ever known. You can see the turmoil in her eyes: the shock of what just came out of her mouth, but standing by her words. She goes into the city, (LOTS of stares! Another great scene!), and walks straight into a clothing store. The sales girl looks surprised and skeptical, but asks how she can help her. Katie pleads, “I want to look like you.” She smiles, and helps Katie pick out an outfit. Katie goes walking down the sidewalk a new woman; no one’s staring at her now!

I thought she was going to stay like that and try to find Laura, but she goes back, and shows up to her wedding. However, she can’t go through with it, and briskly leaves her own ceremony after being the one who objects. The culmination of this list of trespasses, and the fact that she won’t confess and repent, leads to a shunning: no one in the community can eat with, interact, or even speak to Katie. She becomes totally isolated from even her family.

Even in this situation, she does something I consider very big: she gives her father back her dowry money. I thought she would keep it to start a new life. Dad wouldn’t look at her, but she left it there beside him. She tries to get her parents to speak to her by playing the forbidden guitar, but her father only comes outside and smashes it then and there. That’s when I cried! But bless that mother’s heart! She breaks the ban, saying, “I would rather be shunned myself than have another minute in silence with you.” She has a true mother’s heart

It’s there that Katie learns the whole truth. Laura Mayfield was a 16-year-old unwed mother. Rebekah Lapp was 8 months pregnant when she was rushed to the English hospital. Her baby died, and Katie was born to a very frightened Laura. So they met in secret, and Rebekah took Katie as her own. They never told anyone for fear it wasn’t “legal in the English world,” and they didn’t want her taken away from them. This revelation makes up Katie’s mind to go find Laura. One of the final scenes is Katie waiting for a bus. Her father sits beside her, and places the dowry money on the chair beside her. At first he won’t look at her, but gradually, he can’t help himself, and he wraps his baby girl in his arms. But the clincher is when Katie is traveling. She finds a note in the envelope that reads, “I found this in your guitar case. Papa.” It’s her sheet music; the tears refuse to be held back!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this! Your first step is to go to your library and find a copy of “The Shunning,” or heck! Just buy it! 😀 Then we all need to go on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, and find the other 2 movies. Report back Friday! 😉 See ya!

Hello, Hearties…and Postables. How is everybody? Sorry again about yesterday. I would say you wouldn’t believe the kind of day I had, but lots of you DO know exactly what it’s like. So here is what would have been yesterday’s #WonderWednesday.

As you know, we’re in the middle of Lori Loughlin‘s birthday week, (her birthday’s on Saturday,) so this is the Hooked Heartie’s first ever “Lori Loughlin Week”. Monday, we got to know a little about Lori’s life and her family. Today, being #WonderWednesday, we’re discussing a different project of hers. Which one? Well, in the spirit of Christmas in July, I’m reviewing 2016’s “Every Christmas has a Story,” which also stars Colin Ferguson. It also happens to be Lori’s daughter’s (Isabella) first acting job. Quality mother/daughter time! As far as other stars go: Blair Penner, (Faith’s former fiancé,) plays Darren, one of Kate’s coworkers; Bruce Harwood plays Mayor in both arenas; and then there’s Kevin O’Grady. He played the slightly spacey lawyer for Gowan, Archie, on WCTH; and here, he’s Doug, the cameraman. But if you’re a TRUE Lori and Hallmark fan, you’ll recognize him as Frank, the police detective from Garage Sale Mysteries. Lori must really love working with him. For the Postables, there’s Karen Holness, Hattie on SSD: Higher Ground; here she’s Wendy, the bubbly makeup artist.

While I’m at makeup, I just want to point out something I think was done very well. We all know it takes lots of makeup to make actors show up on camera; not as much as theatre, but a lot nonetheless. I really like how Kate isn’t made up all the time. She doesn’t wake up in full makeup, and her face looks scrubbed clean when she’s at home relaxing, even though we know makeup is there. And when she arrives at work, Wendy actually did a makeup job on her, and there’s a clear difference. Just a detail a former theatre major noticed. 😀

One thing I’m adamant about as an actress is intonation; I used to drill this with my students a lot back when I was teaching. Lori does this really well in 2 scenes with her daughter. She says the exact same words, but you know the meaning is completely different because of her tone. First Mia (Isabella) is complimenting Kate about what a great reporter she is, and that she’s Mia’s inspiration to become a journalist. Kate gives a very heartfelt, “Thank you, Mia!” Mia then blurts out that she doesn’t think it was very smart admitting to not liking Christmas on the air. Kate’s smile instantly drops, and she sarcastically retorts, “Thank you, Mia.” On the script, it’s the exact same words. It’s up to the actor to bring the words to life, AND diversify them as well. Good job, Lori!

A really interesting twist to this “story”, (pun intended), is Lori doesn’t play her typical sunny character. She plays Katherine “Kate” Harper, a morning news show host who DOESN’T LIKE CHRISTMAS. But I really like the way Lori portrayed her. She’s not a mean or particularly grumpy person; she’s just doesn’t care for the holiday. It proves you can dislike Christmas, and still be a good person; although I personally don’t know how that works. 😉 But more than that, Kate has a self-discovery that I find quite profound. She says, “It’s not that I didn’t like Christmas; I didn’t know Christmas.” How true is that simple statement? When we don’t know something, we’re immediately prone to dislike it; like children with new foods. Good lesson of which we should all be reminded once in a while.

 

That does beg the question though: Why didn’t she just graciously accept the silly ornament??? If you’re unfamiliar with the film, Kate gets into a professional scrape when the audio is accidentally left on the air after her show, and she’s overheard saying she doesn’t like Christmas…right before she accidentally bumps her guest, and he topples into a Christmas tree. She then has to prove to her audience that she can rediscover her holiday spirit by traveling to the “biggest little Christmas town in the country”, and partaking of the festivities. So I have to ask again: as a famous TV personality, why didn’t she just accept the ornament, then pass it off to someone else? Well, we wouldn’t have a movie if she hadn’t, but it’s food for thought.

I enjoyed seeing Colin in this film too. I recently discovered the show “Eureka”, of which he’s the star; so it was fun seeing him in this movie again now that I’m more familiar with him. And guess what! His name is JACK! Not only is that significant for Hearties, but his name was Jack in Eureka too! My husband and I have noticed that almost every Hallmark show or movie has a Jack in there somewhere. Is it a writer’s husband, or something?

Anyway, he’s got a great character: humors a lot of people, handles Kate, and REALLY knows her! He reminds her of the past they had in college, and says little things like, “You complain when your chardonnay is too cold,” to illustrate their history without being too obvious.  He also runs her show smoothly as it’s producer, and really LIVES in the moment when people are talking to him. My favorite example of this is when Kate and Jack are talking to Vernon Hollister about why he no longer honors the tradition of sending the town a Christmas tree for the square. When Vernon talks about his past, you’ve got to watch Colin’s face. He makes Jack react to every part of the story. When Vernon talks about falling in love with his wife, Jack smiles so wide as if he’s experiencing those feelings for the first time too. Then when Vernon reaches the part about losing his wife in an accident, Jack has a face filled with perfect empathy and despair; personally, I think it’s because he knows what it’s like to lose Kate, not to death, but out of his life.

Once again, there’s SO MUCH I could say about this movie, but I better call it a night. I’ll see you tomorrow for the Lori Loughlin edition of #FlashbackFriday. Ta ta!

So sorry this is a day late. I was taking care of sick kids yesterday.

This is quite the occasion! Once again, we have not one, but TWO groups coming together here today. So a very heartfelt welcome to the Hearties AND the Postables! That’s right, today’s movie review is “Signed Sealed Delivered: To the Altar”, THE best edition of the SSD series YET! We got lucky this time, I almost couldn’t review it. Thank HEAVENS for Jill Morrison, the one visible link between WCTH and SSD. In WCTH, she was Carla, the woman who stayed with Abigail and Elizabeth, then gave birth to twins. She’s also the reason we all got to see Jack hold a baby! In SSD, she is Hazel, an adorable fellow postal worker. But they took her a step further this time. She keeps popping up, filling in plot holes and linking the stories from previous installments of the series to this one. She’s like a trusty sidekick, quietly hanging in the background, but ever present to make the story richer.

Rich it was! To be totally cliché, “I laughed, I cried”…literally. I was laughing hysterically 4 minutes in. My MOTHER cried. My mother does NOT cry in movies; during songs, maybe, but never movies. That’s how incredibly executed this film was, by everyone involved. Eric Mabius (Oliver O’Toole) said in an interview that the script was “impeccable”. I am very inclined to agree! Martha Williamson really outdid herself. I don’t know how she does it! SSD was a TV series first, now this is the 12th movie, (including the pilot and Christmas films,) and EVERY ONE has such an inspirational and UNIQUE storyline. My mind is boggled at Martha’s genius and the cast’s talent to keep their characters’ charm, but still make them grow. I always take notes while watching the shows I plan to review, and I was writing something new every 5 seconds! So many intricacies, jokes, poignant moments, and great dialogue. Even the silent mannerisms, (Norman smelling the paper as a clue to its origin,) and the throw-away lines, (Rita’s offhand comment that the South American tribe Norman’s grandmother lives with is so happy because there’s no Internet,) are brilliant! I think I sprained my wrist!

Even the very first words, a voice over monologue by Oliver, captured my attention with how profound it is! He spoke of how a stamp is the smallest contract there is. When we put a stamp on a letter or package, we are trusting a complete stranger to deliver something valuable to our loved ones. And if that contract is broken, “hearts are broken too”. Did you ever think of a stamp that way, because I certainly didn’t!

I felt for Norman in this movie. He dealt with a lot; too bad we laughed at most of his problems. It all starts at the very beginning with both women squealing his name almost simultaneously. It only escalates from there: all the problems with the wedding, him being told he has to fix some of those said problems, his best man throws him to the wolves with solving the problems by merely suggesting, “Surely you have a cousin…”, that same friend frequently drops the “best man ball” because he is feeling “contemplative” about his own romantic future, then has to have couple’s counseling and dancing lessons with RAMON! (If you’re not familiar with SSD, Ramon is an annoying but elegant Latin character who frequently was putting the moves on Rita.) All this while trying to help Rita work through losing her mother, and being HORRIBLY nervous about the wedding night! And let’s not forget that he received a canoe for a wedding gift when he can’t even swim! The poor man can’t drive, can’t swim, and has never had any…experience! Triple threat!

Although I personally approved of that last one, and that was an excellent moment when Oliver DIDN’T drop the best man ball. Didn’t you LOVE that scene? Norman admits he’s never done anything with anyone by saying he’s never “gone to the movies”, nor has Rita, and he can barely speak for all the nerves. But like the perfect big brother figure, Oliver jumps in with his wise and calm voice telling Norman that he and Rita aren’t GOING to the movies, they “are the movie”. They “are the stars”, and when the time comes, they will know their lines, and “it will be beautiful.” Oh my gosh, that SCENE is just so beautiful! Hats off to Geoff Gustafson

Rita is not to be outdone in the poignancy arena. Her character was so profound! Yeah, she’s still the same quirky and naïve Rita, but Crystal Lowe has such a knack for giving her depth while remaining childlike. When she and Shane deliver the news to Jessica Gordon that her mother has agreed to meet her after a several – year absence, Jessica excuses her reluctance with, “Maybe it’s too late.” Ordinarily, Rita might be too shy to speak up, but not this time! She gives an emphatic, “No!” She declares she “knows what too late feels like”, because she “lost [her] mother this year.” She gently, but firmly reminds Jessica that she can still do things with her mother, ask her questions, and just hug her; all things Rita can’t. Anyone who wasn’t in tears in that scene has a heart of stone!

Well, now we come to Oliver and Shane. I hate to couple them together, but honestly, I don’t know how I would discuss them separately. They’re quite the duo, and play off each other so well, despite the fact that their personalities are so different. Can we start with that wedding dress scene??? Somebody hand me an oxygen mask, because I couldn’t breathe! I love the lead-in: Shane literally kicks off her heels to go chase down an undeliverable box that is supposed to be auctioned off. Oliver catches her, and calls her shelving the item for herself “highly irregular”. He then tries to pull the supervisor card, saying he can’t bend the rules simply because they’re…but he can’t finish. Why? Because Shane slowly leans in, whispers a sweet nothing in his ear, then ACTUALLY bats her eyelashes at him! All the while, Oliver is desperately trying to remain professional, and not smile…and she gets her way.

But I’m glad she did, because that gown was breathtaking. AND MY breath DID get taken when Oliver comes in unseen, then reaches out to help her finish buttoning the dress. HOLY MACROLE! I am amazed again at how writers and actors can get the hearts of their audience POUNDING without being vulgar. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we never thought we’d see Oliver do something so “risqué”, at least for him! But there he is, smooth as silk, even gently shushing her so as not to ruin the moment. And if that weren’t enough, he takes his turn teasing HER. Shane tries to talk her way out of the fact that her boyfriend has just seen her in a wedding dress by saying she thought it would make a nice cocktail dress. He then follows suit by suggesting a shawl or a tablecloth, all the while flashing a knowing smile to her in the mirror as he finishes the long line of buttons. BE STILL, MY HEART!

Oh there’s so much more I can say about this movie! It might take me 3 weeks! I could embellish upon how much I love Gregory Harrison as Oliver’s dad, the way those two played off each other so well when telling the green tie proposal story, or how natural he was when laughing under his breath at his son’s stoic interpretation of a bachelor party. But I think I better end with THE end. There were 3 major happenings in this end alone: the wedding ceremony, the marriage proposal, and the good wishes speech. I admit, I was worried when I saw that Ramon was officiating, because I thought it would be too goofy. But he delivers the perfect blend of humor and reverence. Norman gets all excited to have a ring on his finger; Rita joyfully spots an owl (her obsession!) right after they kiss, as though her mother is blessing the marriage; Shane sees Oliver wearing an ugly green tie, so she knows he’s going to propose; and Oliver’s face shines with quiet triumph that Shane has figured it out.

Let’s chat about that proposal, shall we? He didn’t get to propose with a green tie (an O’Toole family tradition) to his first wife, so you know this is almost sacred for him. He takes her hands so deliberately, then delivers the same speech his multi-great grandfather delivered to his bride-to-be. Among other things, he says, “Don’t look at my tie, look at my eyes,” and “I promise never to wear this tie again.” What woman could resist? But my favorite was, “I’ll love you forever.” Of course she says yes! As he slides the ring on her finger, Oliver tells Shane it belonged to his grandmother, the finest woman he ever knew… “until you”. Shane tries to be calm while controlling her tears, and plays coy by fiddling with the tie. Suddenly, she yanks him forward, and those two share a kiss I can only describe as “unearthly”.

Then it’s just a quiet moment with only the 4 Postables. I think an incredibly touching moment that might be overlooked is Rita asking to see the ring again. She just got MARRIED, for crying out loud! But she’s so unselfish that she shares the joy with her closest friends, and is giddy over THEIR news. Then Oliver delivers the FINEST ending monologue I think I’ve ever heard; no offense, Shakespeare! He calls Shane “MY Shane, my love”. He says he realizes how very lost he was, and through “friendship and faith”, they delivered him. Get it? He ends with the quote on their awards they won in the TV series: “ ‘Through rain, and snow, and dark of night,’ here we are, and I LOVE US!” (That’s very special because it’s what Shane said in passing, when Oliver spontaneously decided to say “I love you” for the first time.

Ho, ho, ho, Hearties! This completely goes against my self-proclaimed “Christmas Purist” nature, but what kind of hip, up-to-date blogger would I be if I didn’t do ONE post about Christmas in July; especially a blogger who talks about Hallmark Channel?! That sounds completely unthinkable! But before I get to that, we have some…Hooked Heartie Guild business to address. I received a question on my feedback survey from the screen name: mnavin. Here is the question:

“I was curious why Jack never got a promotion. When Doug came to town Jack called him constable and Doug said no I got promoted to Sargent when I took the job you refused. So Jack served and then even went to train mounties but never got promoted. Just curious WHY??”

Thank you for the question mnavin!  And thanks for answering the survey!  That IS a really great question; one that I wondered myself.  To be completely honest, I don’t KNOW the answer.  I’ve put the question to someone who knows more about the script than I, so we’ll see if I get a response.  I will let you know the moment I get one.  

So, I shall now bend my holiday principles with a movie from 2015, “Dashing Through the Snow”, (I cannot BELIEVE it’s been that long!  I thought it was from last year!)

The WCTH stars in this one aren’t any from the main cast, but they’re two good ones.  There’s Aaron Craven.  He played Mr. Elliot Garvey in WCTH, (one of the men who tricks Rosemary into going back to the States with them…before Jack intervenes,) and FBI Agent Sam Monroe in Dashing.  And then there’s Andrew Walker.  Oh boy…Andrew Walker.  He probably needs no introduction, but just in case…He played the conniving Billy Hamilton in WCTH, (which is a huge tragedy to many Hearties since they want him as Elizabeth’s new love,) and Agent Dash Sutherland in Dashing.  Get it?  Did you know he’s been in 15 HALLMARK MOVIES?  That’s a lot!  Kurt Evans, who played Agent Fletcher in Dashing, isn’t in WCTH, but there’s a fun link.  He played Stanley Malcolm, the real estate tycoon in “A December Bride”, Daniel Lissing’s movie.  We are all connected in the Great Circle of Hallmark!  Tee hee

To kick things off, I noticed that the carolers at the beginning were singing “Jingle Bells”, of course.  BUT, they started singing at “…in a one-horse open sleigh,” leaving out the very obvious first line.  Did they do it on purpose?  Who knows, but I thought it was worth mentioning.  There is also the year 1914 embossed on the café window, and the teenage baristas joke about putting a foam heart in a crush’s latte.  No, those tidbits probably weren’t purposely directed at Hearties, but as I said, worth mentioning.

And speaking of shows, did you hear all the show and movie talk?  I thought I was a movie buff, but these two, plus the mom, got me beat.  It was great to hear them quote so many lines, sing show tunes, even act out parts of “It Happened One Night”.  It just added to the charm.

Charm.  That describes Ashley to a T!  I LOVE the character of Ashley!  She is just precious!  She’s savvy, yet optimistically naïve; she’s grounded, but still has dreams; she has an eye for detail, but not obsessively; she sees the good in others, but is cautious when needed; she’s finds the joy in almost everything; and she has great philosophies and Christmas spirit.  Here are the prime examples:

  • She considers being a 35-year-old man and never married (because you just don’t want to be) a red flag
  • She reasoned a comparison of how long a broken leg needs to heal, so why shouldn’t the heart need as much, if not more, time.
  • “I’ve seen this movie, and I know how it ends!” (Explaining her trepidation of getting into a car for a 2-day ride with a total stranger. She also looked him up and down before calling him “quasi-attractive”
  • She has a “truth-o-meter”. And thinks someone is a good person if they believe in the idea of Santa Claus
  • She wants Dash to call his mom so she knows it’s okay to get in a car with him.
  • She tells Dash’s “mom” he could use a shave. YES!!! Ashley doesn’t like scruff.  A woman after my own heart!
  • She decorates the inside of a car for Christmas!
  • She sees nothing wrong with squealing, or hanging an ornament on a tree in front of a crowd.
  • “Miracles happen, and tomorrow is another day.” (Agent Hobbs said that, and Dash said Ashley said almost the same thing.)
  • There are no disabilities, only challenges. (wisdom learned from her recently deceased father
  • She thinks everyone should have someone to believe in them.

That sounds like an all-in-all amazing woman to me!  Add to that list that she can knit and craft, and speaks 3 languages.  I’ve been in love with sign language practically my whole life, so when she started signing, I about fell over.  Dash asks her how she learned, and she reveals that her father was deaf.  By this point, the movie is more than halfway through, and it’s the first time we hear that.  I think that says a lot about Ashley as a person, that she didn’t see her dad as “different”.  I think it also says something about her mother, who is hearing.  I’ve heard disturbing stories of deaf people being snubbed simply because they can’t hear, and it’s obvious Ashley’s mother didn’t think that way.  It didn’t stop her from falling in love with him, when someone else may have just written him off as disabled.

Compare that with Dash Sutherland, the FBI agent stuck (in his opinion) in the car with Pollyanna, and he’s recovering from a failed assignment…and he’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  I really like that Andrew didn’t play him bitter, just sarcastic.  He had a hard job, having to find a way to get in the same car with Ashley, and make it look perfectly normal; but he had some great lines and mannerisms to illustrate his feelings.  They got off to a great start when she’s expressing concern over riding with him.  She calls him a “quasi-attractive, charming, friendly, wrinkled-shirt stranger.”  He retorts, as he’s walking away, with “My shirt’s not THAT wrinkled.”  He also calls the car a “squeal-free zone”, calls Ashley’s road knowledge “a minor in geekdom”, and asks if Ashley’s driving instructor was a little old lady from Pasadena.  And he’s an Eagle Scout to boot!  My brothers are Eagle Scouts, so that just made me smile.

Some of my favorite moments of him, though, were the unspoken ones.  For instance, the puppy.  When Ashley brings the puppy to the car window, all he does is look forward, and roll it up.  It was such a subtle move, but for some reason, he made it hilarious!  Then, also with the dog, he does the “I’m watching you” gesture, and I burst out laughing.  There are somber ones too.  Andrew did this really well.  After we find out he’s an agent, he’s struggling not to tell Ashley.  His face is so telling!  He has such a haunted look in his eyes, but tries to keep the carefree and sarcastic persona.  It makes for a really great juxtaposition of characters seeing him sit next to a joyful Ashley.  And his best silent moment: actually shivering and acting cold when he gives her his jacket, instead of the macho, “No, it’s 20 degrees out here, but I’m totally fine.”  Hard to do when filming in summer, even in Canada.

I really love how Andrew and Meghan work together.  The car banter is especially important to the plot since the two main characters are sitting still in a car so much of the time.  But they kept it moving; I never felt like the film was moving too slow.  They even play the jinx game with each other.  The BEST part, however, was the first kiss.  I know, you’re probably thinking, “Duh!”, but this kiss was really well done.  First of all, it’s not at the very end, thank heavens.  The lead-up is fantastic too.  When Dash discovers Ashley’s innocent of any wrongdoing, he drops his phone in a billiard pocket on their way out of the bar where they had dinner.  Now the other agents can’t listen in.  Immediately, you can tell the difference in his tone.  He asks Ashley to tell him basically everything about her, something he couldn’t do when they were being monitored.  When she tells him she wants to open a craft store called “Crafty”, he calls it terrible since that can also mean shifty and dishonest.  Then he stops her, and says, “You’re not any of those things, are you, Ashley Jane Harrison?”  He leans in, with a slight hesitation, for an absolutely adorable kiss, asks her if it was okay, then kisses her again.  May I say, that man is a GREAT screen kisser!  Sorry, Meghan, I forgot to watch you too!

Then the end.  Ashley’s found out Dash is an FBI agent, so of course, she feels betrayed, and plans to “sulk all day”.  But at the town’s festival, who shows up…and in a HAY WAGON?  Earlier, Ashley had expressed her sadness that there would be no hay rides because her father recently passed away.  So he shows up, in a hay wagon, and tells her he thinks she needs someone to believe in her the way her father did; and he wants that someone to be him now.  The man was LISTENING!  Smart man indeed!  Ashley, in return, doesn’t make him suffer.  She took him coming back in said hay wagon as a true sign that he wants to be with her.  She doesn’t pull the coy, cold, “What are you doing here?” routine; she runs straight into his arms, and they share a tight hug…and lift.  Not only is that great for the storyline, I think it gives one last indication of her trusting and caring character.  And that, my friends, wraps this Christmas movie up with a nice little green bow!

Thanks for joining me for Christmas in July.  Join me Friday for what I guarantee will be a #FlashbackFriday you don’t want to miss.  Cheerio, Hearties!