Take This QUIZ On Hallmark's "One Summer"

Starring:  Sam Page, Sarah Drew, Amanda Schull

Released:  2021

Summary:  After recovering from an illness, a husband and father returns to his late wife's beachside hometown, with his children, to spend summer in her childhood home.

One Summer starring Sarah Drew and Sam Page
Sarah Drew and Sam Page Image:  Crown Media

Finally, Some Wonderful Acting!

In Hallmark's quest for new talent, they have repeatedly disappointed fans by slapping couples together who don't belong and hiring based on affirmative action rather than acting ability.  

One Summer is a welcome relief.  Sam Page, Sarah Drew, and Amanda Schull nail their roles in this movie and take viewers on a very emotional journey through the pain of loss.  

One reason this movie stands out among the status quo is because it's based on a novel of the same name by David Baldacci. You may remember Baldacci from his book, The Christmas Train, being made into a Hallmark film back in 2018.

After miraculously recovering from an unexplainable sickness, Jack Armstrong (Page) is quickly thrust into a single parent role when his beloved wife is in a fatal car crash on her way to pick up his medication.  He senses his children blame him for the loss.  Although his wife, Lizzie, always made parenting look effortless, he struggles to connect with his kids like she did.  With his own heart filled with grief, it's even more challenging to meet his kids' emotional needs.

Jack and the kids leave Ohio and head for his in-laws' beach house where Lizzie planned to take them, had he succumbed to the illness that afflicted him since his return from Iraq.

The Palace from Hallmark's "One Summer"
How would you like to call this home-sweet-home?  Image: Crown Media

Mikki is a stereotypical teen with constant mood swings.  Madeline Grace Popovich is excellent in her portrayal of Mikki.  On the surface, she appears overly dramatic and difficult.  She hates being in the beach town because she doesn't fit in, so she demands to go home.  She's withdrawn, miserable, and often lashes out at her little brother, Tyler.  Just when you might feel like smashing her, she opens her heart to Liam and Jenna, revealing the fears that make her act out the way she does.  She's worried her dad will get sick again and die, leaving them parentless.  She's saddened that life keeps moving along without her mom, and she worries it will cause her memories to dim.  Since his parents are divorced, Liam is sympathetic to her plight, and Mikki finds an ally in him, especially since they both share a passion for music.  Mikki is an average teen with internal struggles she simply hasn't learned how to voice.

Tyler, played by Gavin Borders, is much younger, so he handles grief differently.  His little heart hurts from missing his mom too, but he's open to new adventures.  He loves his dad, and he just wants his sister to act nicer--typical for his age.  

Jack's mother-in-law, Bonnie, crosses the line by demanding Jack give her custody of the children.  This outrages the viewer, but right before you write her off, you see she's not the witch she appears to be.  She grieves the loss of her daughter so acutely, she doesn't want to lose the grandkids, too--her only remaining connection to Lizzie.  In the end, she makes things right, and her family stays intact.

Hallmark's "One Summer"
Bonnie is over-protective, but she can't handle another loss.  Image: Crown Media

Amanda Schull, who plays Lizzie, appears to Jack multiple times to encourage him.  She shows him that even though they will always love each other, she wants him to find someone else so he can enjoy life and not be alone.  Jack's conversations with Lizzie give the viewers an inside look at the things he's feeling and thinking, even when he doesn't say it out loud to anyone else.  

Lizzie's appearance is very powerful, but at the same time, I have issues with this type of storytelling.  Although Lizzie references heaven, and her dad says the "Big Guy" is the One responsible for Sam's miraculous recovery, once a person dies, they do not return as some type of ghost.  That is not scriptural. Regardless, because we understand the movie is fiction, we can reconcile the discrepancy.

Amanda Schull plays "Lizzie" in Hallmark's "One Summer"
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, but hey, it's Hallmark.  Image: Crown Media

Sarah Drew, or "Jenna,"  is a delightful Hallmark star who shines brightly.  Although she is attracted to Jack, she gives him the space he needs and makes no demands.  She showers him and his children with kindness and grace from a sincere heart, not so she can gain his favor and affection.  

Some fans expressed disappointment this movie did not feature romance between Jenna and Jack when they expected to see love bloom.  With this plot, however, a fast romance would be disingenuous to the story.  You might say the seeds of romance are planted for Jenna and Jack, but the movie doesn't quite take us to the budding stage.  Even when the movie ends without so much as a kiss or hand hold between the two, it's easy to imagine they will fall in love further down the road once Jack's heart has healed and he's ready to let in someone new.  

My Favorite Statement In The Movie

Jenna's husband was unfaithful to her, which led to their divorce, so she is all too familiar with the shocking and unexpected turns life can take.

Jack marvels at Jenna's ability to read what is going on inside of him.  Jenna tells him, "Disappointment hits you so hard you think it will kill you, but it doesn't. You become sadder, but wiser."

Can't we all relate to that statement?  No one gets through life unscathed, but we will survive and grow stronger from the experience.

So, how many times did you dissolve into tears while watching this movie?  I lost track!

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Do You Wish You Could Have A Do-Over? Hallmark's "Love Strikes Twice"

Starring:  Katie Findlay, Wyatt Nash, and Marshall Williams

Released:  2021 (Fall Harvest)

Summary:   Maggie is a workaholic who is having marital issues.  She makes a wish for a do-over and time travels to 15 years in the past.  She must choose between staying with her husband or her old boyfriend.

Katie Findlay in Hallmark's "Love Strikes Twice"
Image: Crown Media

You Can't Judge A Movie By Its Cover

My expectations for this movie were low, solely based on the movie poster and previews.  Katie Findlay, the 31-year-old actress playing the lead, did not seem like Hallmark material.  She struck me as a cross between a vintage Cupid print and Betty Boop.

Antique 1912 Cupid print
This antique Victorian Cupid print is from 1912.

Mae Questel as Betty Boop
Before she played "Aunt Bethany" in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Mae Questel was Betty Boop.

Katie Findlay in Hallmark's "Love Strikes Twice"
Katie Findlay.  Image: Crown Media

I was wrong, and I admit it.  In fact, no other actress on Hallmark's bank roll could have done the part better.

Straightening Findlay's hair, arranging it in a smart bob, and clothing her in business attire gives her the mature look she needs to be a ruthless 37-year-old attorney clawing her way to the top.   Yet, simply crimping her hair and changing her wardrobe easily knocks 15 years off her appearance.

One aspect I love the most is how the 22-year-old Maggie doesn't lose her 37-year-old legal expertise and maturity.  It's amusing when adults marvel at her advanced vocabulary and legal prowess how she tries to dumb herself down by "like, using, like" more youthful terminology.

Maggie is confident, assertive, resourceful, and smart.  You might even call her devious for the stunt she and Josh pull at the golf club, copying the incriminating papers from the briefcase.  She isn't afraid to stand up for what is right, even when it lands her in jail for "incitement to civil disorder."  Sure, let's ignore real violent crime and arrest citizens who are trying to preserve a library--a beacon of free thought.  Hmmm....sounds like how the FBI is targeting parents at school board meetings these days. 
Maggie gets arrested in "Love Strikes Twice"
Maggie's family can't stop teasing her about being a jail bird. Image: Crown Media

Another fun aspect of this movie is the lively banter Maggie has with her brother, Ash.  They genuinely sound like typical siblings who are always picking at each other.  Their wisecracks are funny, yet it's sweet that Ash is the only one she can turn to about her time traveling predicament, and he believes her.

Maggie &  Ash Hartman in Hallmark's Love Strikes Twice
Maggie and Ash sport the same hair-do.  Image: Crown Media

Maggie goes head-to-head with her boss in court--a boss who has always taught her that nothing is more dangerous than an opponent you don't know. The irony is that she knows him, but he doesn't know her, and this gives her an advantage for the win. 

Findlay brings a refreshing wit and command to her character that makes this movie stand out in the 2021 Fall Harvest line-up.      

Great Mom Advice

Estelle and George Hartman are Maggie's parents, and for some odd reason, they are always dancing.  

Still, Estelle gives her daughter really sound advice on the subject of love.  Many people look for "The One" like you would some elusive and mythical  unicorn.  Estelle points out there isn't just one right match for each person.  If you wind up alone, it's not because you couldn't find the only match heaven made for you.  There are multiple people who would make for a loving and suitable spouse.

Love Strikes Twice
Were you rooting for Josh or Jack? Image: Crown Media

Estelle wisely explains that love is a choice, and it must be made on a continual basis.  Anyone who has been married any length of time can attest to this.  Love changes through the years.  How you feel at the infatuation and honeymoon stage isn't the way you feel at your 40th anniversary.  You migrate from "exciting" to "comfortable," but both forms are in happy spaces.  All of us give our spouses reasons NOT to love us from time-to-time, so aren't we glad they can choose to love us anyway?

Would You Wish For A Do-Over?

Maggie is upset she and Josh are drifting further and further apart.  He thinks she married him out of sympathy, and she's too focused on becoming junior partner at her firm to shift her energies to preserving her marriage.

When she unwittingly time travels 15 years into the past, she faces a moral dilemma.  Knowing what happens in the future with her and Josh, should she avoid marrying him and pick Jack instead?  After all, Maggie and Jack are both driven by ambition and would make the ultimate power couple.

Jack wants to be a power couple with Maggie.
Jack cares more about success than principles.  Image: Crown Media

Viewing her youthful situation through mature eyes, Maggie eventually realizes a person's heart and character are more valuable than their career aspirations.

Has there ever been the stereotypical "one that got away" in your life?  What would you do in Maggie's shoes if you had a chance to stay with your spouse or choose someone else you once dated?  You can share your thoughts anonymously in the poll below.  Just don't try anything crazy like whacking yourself unconscious on a water fountain, hoping to wake up in another time period.  

Woke Warning

I enjoyed this movie and loved how Maggie was determined to leave life better than she found it.  She took advantage of time travel to protect her father from injuring himself on the ladder and her brother from being destroyed by a bad relationship.  Plus, she tipped off Ash about the success of apps.  She saved not only the library, but her marriage, too.

Josh wanted to save the library because he remembered his mom taking him there before she died.
Saving the library changed the whole trajectory of Josh's life.  Image: Crown Media

As usual, Hallmark couldn't leave well enough alone and had to include two "woke" elements to placate a minority of loud dissidents and annoy the crap out of the majority of us who keep hoping Hallmark will go back to "normal."

If Hallmark isn't going to lay of drinking so much Woka-Cola when they are penning scripts, we will continue calling them out on this nonsense.  

Just as in Taking the Reins, Hallmark conveniently tacks on their ideological stand at the very end, indicating they are aware of the turn-off this is to viewers who might otherwise have switched channels had this occurred at the movie's outset.  

First, Ash ends up in a bi-racial marriage because it's apparently taboo not to include at least one mixed-race couple in each movie.  Never mind only 10% of Americans find such unions relatable--the other 90% of viewers don't matter.

Second, instead of working for her original law firm, Maggie ends up with her own law practice in the old library.  In case you missed it, the name of her practice is "Social Justice Law Center."  🤮  Social Justice Law--the perfect woke umbrella to cover manufactured "issues" of discrimination, racism, immigration, sexual orientation, blah, blah, blah.  If you Google "fields of law," Social Justice Law does not pop up in the listings or in the areas of study advertised by colleges of law.  Traditionally, these issues have fallen under Civil Law or Human Rights Law, but since "social justice" is the current buzzword among cultural Marxists, Hallmark acts accordingly, thanks to Crown Media CEO, "Woke Wonya." 

Not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater though, the movie is highly enjoyable and worth the watch--at least up until the last few minutes when the stupid social justice sign appears.

Love Strikes Twice
Image: Crown Media

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Love Strikes Twice
Love Strikes Twice is a fun time travel movie.  Image: Crown Media

"Taking the Reins" Serves As A Great Movie Metaphor

Starring:  Nikki DeLoach, Scott Porter, and Corbin Bernsen

Released:  2021 (Fall Harvest)

Summary:  A writer looking for a cover story returns to her family's ranch to write an article about an equestrian event.  She rediscovers her passion for riding and her ex-husband.  

Hallmark's "Taking the Reins" Starring Nikki DeLoach and Scott Porter
Samantha and Luke get a second chance at love.  Image: Crown Media

Taking The Reins Is The Perfect Movie Title

If ever Hallmark picked the perfect title for a movie, it's this one.  Taking the Reins serves a literal and metaphorical purpose.  

On the surface, the idea of taking the reins refers to Samantha (DeLoach) and her father (Bernsen) guiding a horse, Rascal, during an equestrian competition.  The concept runs much deeper, however.

Why are reins necessary?  Without them, riders would have little, if any, control of their horses.  In the movie, many of the characters are grappling for control and direction in their own lives.  

  • Samantha wants to write a cover-worthy article, and it requires her to pen a story that only she can write.  Her goal is to break the wall between her head and her heart and connect with readers.  To do this, she must become the story.  After falling during a competition three years earlier, Samantha no longer rides, but she takes back the reins, not only to spare her aging father from a potential accident, but to conquer her own insecurities.  Metaphorically, she's taking deliberate steps towards controlling the direction of her career.
Nikki DeLoach with her horse, Rascal, in Hallmark's "Taking the Reins"
Nikki DeLoach is an experienced rider, having grown up on a farm in Georgia.  Image: Crown Media

  • Luke still loves Samantha, even though he walked away when things got sticky, which contributed to their divorce.  This time around, Luke does a better job taking the reins of the relationship.  He starts by asserting himself when Samantha asks him to train her.  He agrees to do it, only if she will listen to him.  When Samantha asks if he still loves her, Luke wastes no time in admitting it and then passionately kissing her. He opens up about his feelings instead of running this time, and he guides the relationship back to steady ground.  
Scott Porter in Hallmark's "Taking the Reins"
Taking the Reins is Scott Porter's first Hallmark movie. Image: Crown Media

  • Samantha's sister, Alexandra, feels a little stuck crunching the numbers for her family's farm.  She has bigger aspirations, but she's too intimidated by her father to broach the subject.  She doesn't have to.  Preston and Bonnie toy with the idea of selling the farm so they can travel.  Instead of selling, however, they pass the reins to Alexandra by promoting her to general manager.
Image: Crown Media

A Story About Second Chances

If you are divorced, can you imagine remarrying your ex?  

On her first ride in three years, Samantha admits it feels "familiar," and Luke ruminates about sometimes needing to step away from something to realize how much you love it.  It appears they are talking about riding, but obviously, they are referring to their relationship.

Divorced couples rarely find their way back to each other, so this is a refreshing story about the power of love making the seemingly impossible a reality.

Samantha also gets a second chance for a better relationship with her father.  Preston is lovingly chided by his wife as being an "old bear."  He's gruff and emotionally distant, which masks the fact that he loves his kids and is proud of them, even though he doesn't show it.

Corbin Bernsen co-stars in Hallmark's "Taking the Reins"
Corbin Bernsen is a veteran actor best known for his roles in L.A. Law and Psych.  Image: Crown Media

Since her departure from the world of equestrian competition, Samantha feels she's been a disappointment to her father.  Preston proves her wrong by showing her a special box where he's kept every article she's ever written.  

A Feel Good Movie With Only One Dumb Part

Any movie starring Nikki DeLoach is always gold.  Although other Hallmark movies have centered on married couples finding each other again, they aren't as common, and that makes this one just a little sweeter.

Unfortunately, Hallmark couldn't resist stamping the movie with a "woke" sticker by tacking on a gay and bi-racial relationship right at the end.  It was forced and obvious, like a patch covering a hole in your favorite pair of jeans.  Did they finish filming the movie, only to realize they forgot to include a scene that would keep cancel culture from burning down their headquarters? 

What Hallmark can't seem to grasp is that they are not including "diversity."  They are actually slapping their audience in the face with political ideology viewers are trying to escape.  It continues to cheapen the Hallmark brand, which is why many fans are looking forward to movies on the new GAC-Family network run by former Crown Media CEO, Bill Abbott.  Abbott never bowed to the mob.


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