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The Makeover (2013)


The Makeover Hallmark

She may not have achieved the status of “America’s Sweetheart” like Julia Roberts or the name recognition of Reese Witherspoon yet Julia Stiles has had her share of “sweetheart” roles. Her popularity has fallen off since a handful of characters from some teen movies of the 1990’s, and still she has an impressive list of credits. Now this adorable romantic-comedy can be added to her résumé.
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Cover Candy: Special Edition


I realize that there is only one cover to share as I am writing this up, but I cannot resist! Had to post this delightful cover art from new author, Melissa Tagg. Coming late this year, her debut novel Made to Last finally has a cover, and it sounds as delightful as it looks.

Check it out - and a new cover for Liz Tolsma's Snow on the Tulips. Honestly, I think I prefer the former design in this case.
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Unknown (2011)



After a hiatus due to tragic personal issues, Liam Neeson returned to the business of making movie magic with this thriller – and he shows no signs of slowing down since. Now three years later, following his last action-packed film Taken, he takes on a character who is living another's life. But whose?
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1 Message (2011)


Production companies without the backing of a major studio seem to be grasping that audiences want films with a message and purpose – one that will resonate with us in ways that the latest blockbuster never could. Not strictly categorized as “Christian,” this virtually unknown film has a message, one that nearly makes up for its flawed story-telling.
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Timeless by Michelle Madow


About the Book:
Author: Michelle Madow
Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing
Publication Date: 2012
Series: “Transcend Time” (book 3 of 3)
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Historical, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: Drew and Lizzie are now secure in their future. Much to the resentment of Chelsea, they changed the course of the past… or they thought they did. Happy as they are now, both are unaware that Chelsea has campaigned to unleash a horrible curse obtained by a witch that will alter all of their realities. Lizzie soon realizes that in order to be with the man she’s loved twice now, something will have to be done. To hold onto the future… changing the past is key. 
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Broken Hill (2009)


What drew me to this, I don’t know. Apart from the fact that I am constantly on the lookout for wholesome entertainment and its leading lady, it held the promise of a poetic piece of filming and apart from its few flaws, it does portray a sense of poetry in motion.
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2013 Movies!


Hey! On a whim (and thanks to Ruth bringing the first to my attention), I'm sharing a couple of big-screen 2013 releases that I'm *dying* to see! Both look spectacular albeit for different reasons!

                           

What is shaping up and looking good to you in 2013? Let's hear all about it!
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Total Recall (2012)



What to do when scripter’s run out of original ideas? Why, you start to remake blockbusters from the 1990’s, of course. 
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How to Fall in Love (2011)



When one of the cast members of a favorite show appears in something else, I get excited at the prospect of seeing them outside of the character I’ve come to know – in a sense outside of that “comfort zone.” Apart from seeing this was a Hallmark (nearly always an automatic qualifier), the thing that most interested me was its leading lady.
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Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous (2005)


Miss Congeniality 2

Sequels in the eyes of the critics are either a hit or miss. Unless it’s really bad, I usually wind up appreciating any follow-up – especially if it re-visits the same characters and manages to write a good script, preferably one that succeeds in pulling off a “fresh” idea. 
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Miss Congeniality (2000)


Miss Congeniality

In the business of Hollywood, the name that sticks out as one of the most versatile actresses – in her extensive career, is Sandra Bullock. Among my most favorite stars, she is one of them; this film being one of the big reasons why.  
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The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow by Olivia Newport


About the Book:
Author: Olivia Newport
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2013
Series: Avenue of Dreams, book 2
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical, Sequel
Rating: 31/2 out of 5 

Review: Notions and daydreams are not something the hard-working Charlotte Farrow can afford. She is hiding a secret and trying to provide for her young son. Unable to share her burden, Charlotte has protected her secrets at all cost since it would mean immediate dismissal from her work in service at the Banning house. The only person who knows about Henry is Lucy Edwards, the Banning’s only daughter, and Charlotte’s advocate. All of her savings goes towards the care of Henry who was placed with a kindly woman but things are about to get complicated. Henry is dropped off at the Banning home leaving Charlotte in a horrible position. Coinciding with her son’s arrival is the Banning’s coach man, Archie talking of leaving service – and he wants to take Charlotte with him. Suddenly her once orderly life becomes a waiting game as she silently stands by while her employers determine what to do with a child they assume was abandoned.  
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Cover Candy: Edition Five


Put together another edition of some "cover love" today. Found some really great new covers, and a couple that have been re-designed. Enjoy!
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2012 Awards


In the latter part of 2012 (and just this month), I was honored that some of my readers picked this blog as a part of their award "nominee" list. All of your support, friendship and readership means a lot so I wanted to take the time acknowledge the readers and thank them for these blog awards. These were the awards:
 
Best Blogger Friend // Commenters Award // Kreativ Blogger Award
Liebster Award // Seriously, What a Great Blog Award! // Sunshine Award
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The Nanny Diaries (2007)


The Nanny Diaries

I don’t know what possessed us to see this in the theater (other than the trailer’s hilarious quips), but I can still vaguely remember seeing it on the big-screen and being disappointed by some of its directions. With time, I've been able to see this through a new scope. It's more "fluff" than substance boasting a cute cast, plus there is the addition of Captain America!

Could anything be better?  
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Link Love


Since it's been a while, today, we're having some fun with a return of 'Link Love.'
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Blue Bloods, Season Two (2011)



Television doesn’t seem to take the time to single out the importance of family. It becomes all about the next big stunt or villainous traitor. On Friday nights, CBS challenges that with its all-American, “blue-blooded” drama that is nothing if not a look at the bonds a family can sustain. 
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The Sound of Music... Re-Made?


Months ago, Ruth shared on her blog that the classic musical, The Sound of Music was to be re-made in an NBC television production... and I was excited! Needless to say, I totally forgot my mental note to share it with all of you. *My Bad*
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Lost in Austen (2008) - 'Pride and Prejudice' Reimagined with Hilarious (albeit Messy!) Results


Back at its release, I had looked forward to seeing Lost in Austen. Though its premise may slightly offend me, it's overshadowed by how greatly the script amuses its target audience. This is driven by the heroines’ many attempts to fix an otherwise disastrous plot from the beloved Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  

Lost in Austen

Modern Londoner Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper) takes the term Austen "fangirl" to new heights. She has read Pride & Prejudice well over seventy times and prefers Saturday nights with Mr. Darcy, and a glass of wine. After her evening is crashed by her boyfriend (who arrives a bit tipsy), she receives a ridiculously unromantic, drunken proposal from him followed by the discovery of Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arten) in her bathroom! 

Assuming she must be hallucinating, in the split second she turns away, her mysterious visitor vanishes. The following day, she goes about reading more of her book but is again surprised by Miss Bennet, only this time she steps through the door to the past and is unable to return. 
Before she realizes what’s happening, she’s swept into the world that she knows as fiction. Once there she meets the Bennet family including the shy and kind-hearted Jane (Morven Christie); and the ditzy Lydia (Perdita Weeks). In her attempts to make certain the right matches are made – including Jane marrying the love of her life, Charles Bingley (Tom Mison), things begin to backfire when Amanda finds she is the object of Bingley’s affections.

Scrabbling to right every wrong, she is further panicked with the conundrum that is the proud Mr. Darcy (Elliot Cowan). Finding herself losing her own heart was not a part of Amanda’s plan but what is she to do with a story whose heroine has gone missing? 

Lost in Austen Bennet Sisters
  
Say what you will about the scripting, one thing that cannot be argued about this fun spoof of a miniseries is its cast. It’s a star-studded jewel that shouldn’t be missed simply for the pleasure of seeing Hugh Bonnville (Downton Abbey), Christina Cole, Ruby Bentall and Alex Kingston just to name a few. Unlike roles they've been previously known for, these are characters they can have fun with, considering there is little the viewer can take seriously in this "tweaked" classic. One that I don't think anyone meant to be taken seriously. Even with Austen’s name being credited, there is little to be seriously compared to her works. That said, there are nods of respect to her words.  

Recently I watched this a second time through. After seeing it again, I came away confirming what I already knew: I absolutely love this delightful piece of fluff. For those of you who refuse to see a new take on such a  classic piece of lit, you won’t like nor will you appreciate this. For those who can set aside the brilliance of Pride and Prejudice in its literary format, Lost in Austen is a piece of jolly good fun. This interpretation pokes fun at the characters – lovingly so, and makes some more dreadful (if possible) than Austen ever imagined. Then there are the comedic genius antics of Amanda. 

Lost in Austen Darcy
Even the hairstyles and costumes production crews put together cannot be taken seriously. Most of them rarely suit the performer with exception to perhaps Christina Cole whose polished image is to be expected. Much as I liked Jemima’s leading lady, she looked ridiculous in period appropriate costuming, and never adapts to the era. Fortunately, these are minor details in the scope of an otherwise humor laced series.

There's an adorable opening credit sequence, fabulous scripting (the language is wonderful), a memorable scene involving a soaking wet Darcy (avid fans will appreciate this throwback), and general hilarity. The ending is ambiguous with its sudden close; not everything wraps as you may expect. Nonetheless, for the fan who is willing to allow for rules to be bent, this is a bit of sass that may have appalled Jane Austen but greatly amuses me. 

CONTENT: References are made to a marriage never being consummated [including questions of a woman being able to “please” her husband] along with various other sexual innuendo. One remark is made about a man grabbing his privates and “sniffing” his fingers afterwards. Another unmarried couple run away, and another girl admits to lying about being taken advantage of. In an attempt to deter interest, a woman subtly suggests she’s a lesbian and we later find out another character is when she mildly “comes on” to another female. A few British slang words pepper the script and someone is injured causing blood to poor from their head. This is rated TV14.
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Batman Begins (2005)



Given my fondness for superhero, or comic book hero big-screen adaptations, it hardly seemed fair that I’d not yet seen a single version chronicling the escapades of the great Batman. Though several years old, the first in the trilogy from Christopher Nolan is actually very impressive.
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The March Sisters at Christmas (2012)


Though the calendar says that the holidays are now gone for another year, I couldn’t resist posting at least one more review of a new Christmas flick that aired on Lifetime. Flaws and all, this loosely inspired take on the classic Little Women manages to be cute in spite of everything that works against it.  
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Vanished by Irene Hannon


About the Book:
Author: Irene Hannon
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2013
Series: “Private Justice” (book one)
Genre: Christian Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4 ½ out of 5

Review: Since re-discovering my love of a solid mystery novel, it doesn’t take much to embroil an interested reader such as myself in a good one. Few pages in, award-winning author, Irene Hannon addicts interest with her fabulous pacing and creative skills. Hook, line and sinker – all three elements are prominent in this mystery involving a credited reporter Moira Harrison whose accident on a lonely road one rainy night leads her straight to the doorstep of the detective agency Phoenix, INC. and more specifically Cal Burke. Now retired from law enforcement, Cal is skeptical when he hears Moira’s story of a woman lying in the road and a Good Samaritan who never dialed 911 but something about Moira intrigues Cal. Going against the clues, he takes the pro bono case, opening a Pandora’s Box full of secrets in the process.
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Les Misérables (2012)


Les Miserables
 
Some films aspire to cinematic greatness but fall short. Others manage it with seamless effort and surpass those expectations. This film was one of the holiday seasons most anticipated – it’s not hard to understand why but with exception to moments of magnificent passion, charm and powerfulness, that is where my indulgence of this fandom ends.

With no other option before him, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) stole bread to feed his family. For this desperate act, he is punished with a prison sentence. Now, following years of prison life, he’s paid his dues and is released on parole but finds life as a free man harsh. Unable to obtain work, he falls back into the same pattern of thievery, only this time, he’s forgiven by the kindly priest whom he stole from – a man who urges him to take his second chance and do right by it.
 
Years later, he has changed his name, become a prosperous mayor and respected businessman but skipping out on his parole those many years ago has set the law on him again, specifically, one man who has been relentlessly searching for Prisoner 24601, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). 
 
When their paths cross in an official capacity, Valjean realizes it’s only a matter of time before he is found out. His departure is delayed by a chance encounter with his former employee, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who has fallen into despair leading her to a life on the streets as a prostitute, desperate enough to accept the life in order to provide for her young daughter. Ill beyond what medical can provide, Valjean promises the woman he will care for young Cosette, and with the child in tow, he makes his escape. His life then revolves around creating a home for Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) who he couldn’t love more if she were his daughter but with time, France enters a time of unrest leading Valjean and Javert back into one another’s paths.  
 
In the weeks leading up to the release of Les Misérables, I cannot tell you the times it appeared on my dashboard or in article headlines. Initially, the prospect of a musical version of this timeless story seemed oddly dull, I did grow more anxious to see it from the excitement the hullabaloo created plus friends who’d seen it on stage were enthusiastic. Unfortunately - this will probably “shock” many of you and perhaps even offend your cinematic tastes, but it cannot be helped: This was underwhelming. It wasn’t at all what I hoped it’d be in any sphere – and trust me when I say, I really wanted to like this. More than anything in a long time. 
 
To its credit, all of the right elements were in place, including grand landscapes, music, a respected director and a phenomenal cast but it didn't know what to do with them or how to handle the passion the story should evoke. Like all classics, I’ve not read the novel by Victor Hugo. In reading more about it, I've learned that this version is the closest to the novel and that makes the musical even less impacting. As a (cinematic) story, it morphed into a powerful representation of forgiveness and as a result, recognizing the persuasive message of Christianity symbolized in a very suspenseful saga is a presence not just seen but "felt." Here, there is a mistaken implication that the way to God is through man. The first and only time I’ve experienced the story was in the adaptation starring Liam Neeson (which is immediately a point against this version considering it lacks that phenomenal actor!). 
 
Originally written as a musical, I regret to say what should be an intact revolving theme of the script is missed entirely. That’s not to say it couldn’t have worked in this form – in fact, had certain things been altered, this would have been brilliance, but there was a lot of elements skipped over and brushed aside in favor of creating a Broadway-sized production that may be pretty but in pursuing that, it misses the point. By the time credits roll, personally, I was left feeling far emptier than the meaning of the story means to inspire. The entire film is sung in some form or another with only brief moments of dialogue but even then, it’s "sung," and as much as I enjoy musicals, this belittled what impact the story should have had. (Plus for some of the actors, hearing them attempt to have a conversation set to music is painful.) 
 
This lessens the beauty and sway the musical numbers should have had – and in fact, aside from the well-known “I Dreamed a Dream” number, young Cosette’s, “Castles on a Cloud” song and perhaps one or two others, there is very little to praise about the placement of the songs. It’s not that the staging isn’t lovely, it’s more that the script decides to throw out any speaking parts to effectively break from the music and whet our appetites for the next number – and in my humble opinion, choosing not to mix music and a well-written script was poorly done. It may have "worked" had it switched that up.  
 
Lest this seem like a bashing review, let me correct that impression. There is much to be praised in this elaborate re-make. The staging is grand in the scope of each scene, including everything from the outdoor sets to the dark, dingy streets, everything represents the notions of a Broadway spectacle well. Costuming is also a thing of beauty with its lavish brocade patterns and hoop-skirted ladies. And as for the biggest question – or debate if you like, of all, the actors. Interestingly, none of the songs were recorded in the studio with the actors lip-synching; a technique that is easy to spot in the film as the emotion is raw. 
 
Kudos to the ladies, Amanda Seyfried, and Anne Hathaway who both have lovely voices but I wasn’t always impressed with Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. Both men turn in fantastic – as do its four main stars and the entire supporting cast which includes Helena Bonham Carter and Eddie Redmayne, emotional performances but Crowe didn’t have the same vocal talent as some of his co-stars. His one memorable number is “Stars.” (Not only was it powerful with the film work and setting but he actually sounded decent vocally.) To be truthful, I cannot say I was sorry to have seen this film on the big-screen because I’m not. It was beautiful in the small moments (like Valjean meeting Cosette) and aspired to be so much greater than it was. For that, I applaud it. No doubt, it will also pick up a slew of Academy Award nominations; I’m just not sure it will deserve some of the awards it may win. As it stands now, the 1998 version packs a superior emotional punch – and in truth, a story like this deserves that much.
 
(Parental Concerns: There are at least two scenes showing inappropriately corset-clothed women working at their “trade.” One woman grabs for a man’s crotch (out of camera range) as a means of distraction. Women are fondled and we experience Fantine’s first costumer (her expression of pain is focused on while the man kisses her neck). Comically, there is also a scene of a woman straddling another man, with movement. One song references sexual activity. Multiple people are killed by gunfire including one young boy and later men are seen lying in their own pools of blood. Profanity is the commonplace uses including a**, h*ll, sh*t and abuse of deity. The film is rated PG13.)
 

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The Bletchley Circle (2012)


The Bletchley Circle

When the masterful 2005 version of Bleak House premiered on Masterpiece Theatre, we were all introduced to the talents of Anna Maxwell Martin. She starred as the orphaned, ill-treated Esther who finally found purpose at Bleak House before going on to star in a number of smaller roles. Now she has been restored as a leading lady, and she does it all rather marvelously in this three-part mini-series. 
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David Copperfield (2000)


Over ten years ago, Hallmark Entertainment in partnership with TNT produced a two-part, four-hour long adaptation of the Dickens’ classic David Copperfield. It was aired for American audiences but has never been officially released to U.S. viewers. (Go figure!) Overflowing with some talented actors, and hence memorable characters and pretty costumes, this version is more about theatrics than it is staying true to the nitty-gritty of the source material. 
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Come Dance at my Wedding (2008)


Dance is something of beauty to watch. Whether it’s depicting tragedy or something of a more lighthearted jaunt in a performance, there’s something alluring about it. Being a Hallmark usually suggests I’ll enjoy the entertainment but this film had a stronger pull centering on the art of dance.
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Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)


Confessions of a Shopaholic
 
I didn’t grow up in the culture obsessed world of “shopping” nor did my parents spoil me with every fad or trend. Get me inside my favorite retail stores and trust me, I enjoy buying a new pair of shoes or that perfect new outfit for something special (perhaps a bit too much), but for the most part that was not a part of my teen years. However, this movie looked hilarious, add in the fact that the leading man is vastly becoming one of my favorite actors and this film was too difficult to resist.
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Right Where I Belong by Krista McGee


Happy New Year - 2013! - Friends! What fun and creative things did you do to ring in the new year!? Since I am more behind in my writing than I should be, I have a book review today. It's actually the perfect one to start my blogging of 2013 and I hope you agree should you decide to read it.

About the Book:
Author: Krista McGee
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2012
Genre: Christian Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: 5 out of 5

Review: Reading a handful of complimentary reviews can entice any reader to pick up a book with an unfamiliar author’s name to its credit. That was how I become introduced to Krista McGee’s novels; fellow reviewers unknowingly prompted me to request this novel for review. Happily I am not sorry to have done so. The story of seventeen-year-old Natalia is one that will hit its mark with many teens – instead of just “another” teenage romance novel in which the characters are on the brink of falling into places they might not return from or a sordid love triangle, this one has heart (more than any novel – adult or teen – that I’ve read in a long time), and more importantly, it’s grounded in realism not fantasy. In the story, Natalia leaves behind her life in Spain to return to America with her broken-hearted stepmother – just the latest “victim” in a long line of her father’s now ex-wives. Determined to remain unattached in life so that she never follows her father’s footsteps, Natalia finds that God has other plans for her new life in Florida.
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