Archive for the 'Television' Category

Truth Be Told
Nicely Updated Screwball Romance

Because this is a formula film, there’s no question at all about whether Mark and Annie will get together—so there’s absolutely no spoiler on that front. In films like this, the fun comes from seeing how they get there—and Candace Cameron Bure and David James Elliot make getting there with Annie and Mark awfully appealing. Under the steady and even inspired direction of TV veteran actor Jonathan Frakes, Cameron Bure and Elliot generate the best chemistry of this sort that I’ve seen in a long time. The movie’s tag line is, “A lie brought them together. Will the truth pull them apart?” In true screwball fashion, a simple moral lesson is here delivered with a couple spoonfuls of very tasty sugar.

Eyewitness to Jesus
Can’t Be Pinned Down

The last hundred years or so of biblical manuscript scholarship has generally eroded confidence in the historicity of New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life and words, so the makers of Eyewitness to Jesus can legitimately look on the work of the late German national archaeologist Carsten Thiede as iconoclastic. A great deal is at stake in quarrels over manuscript analysis. So that’s kind of the interesting part of this documentary, originally produced in episodes for The Travel Channel. As long as the narrator keeps us focused on the papyri themselves and the work of scribes and analysts, we’re on compelling ground. Where we get off in the weeds is the travelogue nature of the story.

12 Men of Christmas
Like Lassie is a Cat Movie

Suppose that the point of A Christmas Carol was that Ebenezer Scrooge got his come-uppance and went to jail for insider trading: you’d have Wall Street with a Christmas setting, but it wouldn’t really be a Christmas movie. If, for another instance, Bob Cratchit formed a union and succeeded in instituting a structured compensation package, it might be a British Norma Rae; but it wouldn’t be magical. In reality, 12 Men of Christmas is a fish-out-of-water, mismatched-couple-learns-to-love-each-other rom-com incidentally set during the holidays. It’s entertaining enough in its own way, but there’s no Christmas magic here. It’s a Lifetime movie, through and through. In gal-pals and Gucci we trust. Amen.

Mrs. Miracle
Misses the Mark

Erin Karpluk, star of the TV series Being Erica, is an exceedingly warm and captivating presence as Reba, the reluctantly drafted pageant director. She reminds me of a young Teri Garr crossed with Kathleen Quinlan—Garr’s simple, wry lightness of delivery, and Quinlan’s dark, serious depth and beauty. If the film had centered more on Karpluk’s character and Reba’s relationship with Seth, I would have been fairly happy with this film. Where the film goes wrong, however, is where it absolutely has to go right to work. The audience has to really care about the children and their plight—and find the governess or nanny irresistible.

Secrets of the Mountain
Pssst... Walmart's Making Movies

Raise your hands. How many of you grew up reading Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, or Happy Hollister mysteries? Personally, I can remember spending many an engrossing summer afternoon with such simple-minded but entertaining kid lit… though, even at the time, I felt slightly embarrassed reading them. That feeling of adventurous innocence—coupled with a B-grade, TV-movie Mummy aesthetic—is captured perfectly in Walmart’s second foray into feature filmmaking. Yes, the legacy of the cliff-hanger tradition has us aping Raiders more than Tarzan these day—and Secrets is no Raiders. But if you’re okay with it not trying to be, you will probably enjoy it just fine.

The Christmas Hope
Light in the Darkness of Grief

Can holiday tearjerkers be formulaic? Yes. Can formulaic tearjerkers also be effective, both as entertainment and as much-needed cathartic therapy? Yes, absolutely. And thanks in large part to a surprisingly subtle and moving performance from Madeleine Stowe, this Lifetime TV movie delivers just the kind of emotional package a lot of people probably need this time of year. Yet this particular fantasy is not interested in depicting a sentimental world that doesn’t exist; it’s about allowing us to re-enter the very real, imperfect world in which we actually live. If Christmas is a painful time of year for you, take Mark Addison’s advice. Sometimes it’s just best to let the tears flow. Let The Christmas Hope help you do that.

Love Finds A Home
Good Role Models

As a rule, I do not like romance novels, Christian or otherwise—they foster unrealistic expectations and, in my experience with couples counseling, can be as dangerous to intimacy as pornography. But Janette Oke’s novel-turned-movie left me feeling more positive about the world, about the power of God to turn hard situations into amazing blessings. What struck me most was the innumerable times that people asked for—and were offered—forgiveness. Whether addressing word, deed, or personal prejudice, the ministry of reconciliation was beautifully portrayed throughout the entire film, and my heart was lighter for having watched it.

Eleventh Hour
Ho Ho Hum

I had a hard time figuring out if there was any over-arching story tying the episodes together. I never learned why Hood was working with the FBI or why Agent Young was assigned to work with him. I couldn’t even figure out why they called it Eleventh Hour. This coupled with Sewell’s lack of charisma in the character of Hood and the absence of any sort of chemistry between Hood and Agent Young lead to a rather shallow and two-dimensional story. It’s hard to get interested, much less care. Still, if you liked the series when it briefly aired before being canceled you might like the DVD set.

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