Category Archives: Romance Movies

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2008) Movie Review

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2008)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Henry Winkler, Brooke Burns, Warren Christie, Connor Christopher Levins, Woody Jeffreys
Director: Michael Scott
Release Date: 13 December 2008
Language: English
Length: 88 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: image_thumb83_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Retired policeman, Ralph (Henry Winkler), is on his way to his niece’s house for Christmas when he makes friends with a stranger, Morgan (Warren Christie), at the airport.  Morgan has no place to go for Christmas and is ready to sleep on the airport floor while he waits for a flight to Colorado and his new job, but Ralph has other ideas.  He persuades his niece, Jennifer (Brooke Burns), to let Morgan stay with them for a few days.  Jennifer isn’t happy about it, but she desperately needs help cooking her first Christmas turkey and Morgan is a chef so she lets Ralph talk her into it.  Morgan isn’t in Jennifer’s home for long before he realizes that she doesn’t seem to have much of a Christmas spirit.  Morgan, Ralph and Brian (Connor Christopher Levins), Jennifer’s son, band together to make this Christmas one that Jennifer will never forget.

Review:

I always enjoy watching the Hallmark Christmas movies during the holidays, but Henry Winklermost of them are just average.  The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is one of the better ones.  I tuned in to watch it because Henry Winkler is the movie.  It was so fun to see him in a movie again!  Henry Winkler  plays Uncle Ralph and is a real character.  He is a retired policeman, so he is tough, but he definitely has a soft, squishy center.  Honestly, Ralph’s character seemed to be a grown-up Fonz from Happy Days, which is probably why I liked him so much!  I also appreciated that Henry Winkler was not afraid to act silly and have fun with his role.  No sense in resting on your dignity at an old age, I say!

The main plot deals with the romance developing between Morgan (Warren Christie) and Jennifer (Brooke Burns), who are polar opposites.  Morgan is a free spirit who has worked all over the world and has no permanent address.  He loves the Christmas season and quizzes Jennifer down on why she doesn’t enjoy Jennifer and Morganthe holiday as much.  Jennifer is a hardworking single mom who doesn’t have time for Christmas.  She sees no point in opening Christmas cards when the person’s name is on the outside of the envelope, has been sending Christmas cards to people she can’t remember for years and has the only undecorated house on the block.  Jennifer is seriously involved with a jeweler, Richard (Woody Jeffreys), but, of course, we all know that Jennifer and Morgan will end up together somehow.  Before the movie starts, you know how it will begin and it doesn’t take long before you know how it will end, but that doesn’t mean you know what happens in between.  It was a lot of fun to see these two characters interact and argue.  Jennifer creatively manages to locate the hot Hanging the LightsChristmas toy for the season for her son, Brian, but it is Morgan’s quick-thinking that enables them to actually get the toy in time for Christmas.  My particular favorite was the Christmas decorating.  Jennifer’s next-door neighbor is extremely upset that Jennifer’s house is the only one that is not decorated on the block.  Morgan gets drafted to hang the lights and very carefully inserts a single red bulb into the strand of white lights to drive the woman crazy – love it!

Morgan makes several good points about the holidays in this movie and it reminded me of how much I love the Christmas season.  I look forward to December for weeks and then, when Christmastime is upon me, it is so stressful that I can’t wait for it to be over.  This is such a horrible attitude to have and the Most Wonderful Time of the Yearwriters of this movie totally called me on it!  Watching this movie reminded me of all of the crazy things that I do not enjoy about the holiday like the pressure to decorate because your neighbors are, the huge feast that we force ourselves to make for guests we don’t even like, the eternal debate between real and fake Christmas trees, sending countless Christmas cards to people who don’t remember you and don’t care, and spending countless hours shopping for the perfect gift.  What I loved about the movie was Morgan and Ralph’s handling of the stress and pressure of the holidays.  Yes you can look at it as a huge list of things to do, but there are so many wonderful things that happen around Christmastime that it is totally worth it and this movie reminded me of that.  There are ways to have fun while performing all of these chores and Brian’s character, played by an adorable Connor Christopher Levins, helped me remember why it is all worth it.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is one of the better made-for-TV movies made in recent years and I am confident that your family will enjoy watching it Most Wonderful Time of the Year 2together.  There are plenty of little laughs and funny sequences for the younger children to get a giggle in, a handsome hero and beautiful girl who fall in love for the teens and a little bit of everything for the adults.  The DVD is very inexpensive for this movie, but I recommend catching it on TV around Christmastime so that it is something special to look forward to.  If you need a bit of a boost to feel the Christmas spirit and are looking for something new and different, this movie will be sure to fit the bill.

Content:

This movie contains a scene with partial nudity, but the actress is completely wrapped up in a towel so nothing is really shown.  There are some verbal arguments and disagreements, but nothing violent.  There is some drinking of alcohol and very mild swearing.  Recommended for viewers ages 5 and up.

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Filed under Christmas, Romance Movies, Romantic Comedy Movies

Be My Valentine (2013) Movie Review

Be My Valentine

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Watch Full Movie Online for Free!

Starring: William Baldwin, Natalie Brown, Lisa Berry, James Thomas, Christian Martyn
Director: Graeme Campbell
Release Date: 9 February 2013
Language: English
Length: 90 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

When hunky firefighter, Dan Farrell (William Baldwin), responds to a call for a small fire in a flower shop, he meets Kate Burlingham (Natalie Brown).  There is an immediate attraction between them and when Dan is put in charge of decorates for the annual Firefighter’s Ball on Valentine’s Day, he is only too happy to accept Kate’s offer to help with the flowers.  After spending some time with her, Dan, a widower and single father, realizes that he is ready to get back into a relationship, but Kate is still recovering from a broken relationship of her own.  Will these two find a way to put the past behind them and fall in love again?

Review:

This movie had the potential to be a sweet little romance but, instead, it was actually pretty boring.  The path to romance between Dan Farrell (William Baldwin) and Kate Burlingham (Natalie Brown) flows really smoothly at first.  They only speak for a few moments at the fire, but Kate’s best friend, Wendy (Lisa Berry) tells Kate about Dan from their high school days.  When Kate runs into Dan at the local grocery store, Be My Valentine Ladies Biddingthey hit it off right away, particularly when Kate offers to help with the flowers and decorations for the party.  Then Kate shares that she was an all-state softball player and ends up on the firefighter’s team as their secret weapon.  Everything is going smoothly and I was waiting for Dan’s son, Tyler (Christian Martyn), to throw a spanner in the works or for Dan to do something stupid, but something came out of left field and changed the whole direction of the movie.  Gavin (James Thomas), Kate’s boyfriend who left 6 months earlier to accept a job in Los Angeles, comes back unexpectedly and proposes to her.  So the last ⅓ of the movie is about Dan and Kate separating while Kate tries to decide what to do.  I did not like that plot development at all and was disappointed with the break and the rushed ending.

Still, even though I did not love the plot, there were some things about the movie that I enjoyed.  The supporting cast was great.  Lisa Berry was fabulous as Kate’s best friend and business partner.  Everyone needs a supportive, blunt friend like her to push you out of your comfort zone (not to mention the oversharing about Valentine’s Day Be My Valentine Firefighter Fundraiserlingerie!).  I particularly enjoyed the subplot with Tyler (Christian Martyn) and Rebecca (Leah McPherson) as a pair of young lovers trying to get through their first date and first Valentine’s Day together.  It was fun to see the romance between the older two reflected in the younger two.  It was also refreshing to have a teenage boy who wanted his father to be happy and was pushing him to start dating again.  The firefighters were a riot.  Michael Cram heckles everyone as Joey and is always trying to set up Dan with his sister, who is newly single.  Michael Xavier stars as Michael, the new guy at the station who is tapped to be the beefcake auctioned off at the yearly fundraiser.  Naturally, he resists being labeled a slab of meat until he sees the ladies lining up to bid on him!

Be My Valentine is a sweet, typically Hallmark movie that is fun to watch around Valentine’s Day.  It is not particularly memorable, but it is not atrocious either and will be sure to have broader appeal.  The film is well acted and the movie is hot in an interesting fashion with some unique camera angles.  This movie is another solid, if unimaginative, offering by the Hallmark channel.

Content:

This movie contains a few scenes with characters drinking alcohol.  There is one scene where the firefighters are in mild peril while fighting a house fire.  The movie is fairly clean and is appropriate for viewers of all ages.  Recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Filed under Hallmark Channel Movies, Romance Movies, Valentine's Day

Listen To Your Heart (2010) Movie Review

Listen To Your Heart (2010)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Kent Moran, Alexia Rasmussen, Cybill Shepherd, Frank Watson, Ernie Sabella
Director: Matt Thompson
Release Date: 14 August 2010
Language: English
Length: 100 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb83_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Danny (Kent Moran) is a struggling musician who dreams of writing famous songs, but spends his time working for small wages.  When Ariana (Alexia Rasmussen) dines at Tony’s, the restaurant where Danny works as a waiter, it is love at first sight.  Danny slips Ariana his phone number, but she doesn’t call him.  He discovers why when Ariana shows up at the restaurant two weeks later and explains that she is deaf and doesn’t own a phone.  Undeterred, Danny pursues Ariana and is thrilled to learn that she returns his feelings wholeheartedly.  Cue the wicked mother (Cybill Shepherd) who is determined to keep Ariana under her protection.  Will Ariana’s mother be able to keep these two lovebirds apart permanently?

Review:

I expected very little of this movie and was absolutely floored at the strength and power of the ending.  The beginning is a typical love story.  The only unique aspect of the story and the characters is that one of them is deaf.  Danny is Kent Moran as Dannyplayed by Kent Moran, a handsome young actor who seems genuinely nice and very sweet.  I confess that I fell in love with him as the movie progressed so I can totally see why Ariana, or Sam as he called her, couldn’t stay away!  Danny is one of those people who changes lives.  He buys newpapers from a dodgy looking man on the street even though he never reads them.  He pitches in to help at the restaurant and does more than he needs to for less pay than he deserves.  He helped take care of his mother during her cancer treatments and still believes that “every day is a great day to be alive,” which was his mother’s greeting for each new day.  Ariana/Sam Alexia Rasmussen as Ariana or Samis played by Alexia Rasmussen.  She is pretty enough, but wasn’t really anything special when she is apart from Danny.  However, Alexia Rasmussen does a great job portraying a deaf person and it is always great to see the deaf community portrayed in a positive light.  Sam lost her father when she was a little girl and then she lost her hearing.  Her mother, Victoria (Cybill Shepherd), is very overprotective and tries to keep Sam away from everyone and everything.  There was definitely a special spark between Danny and Sam and I grew to love them as a couple.  They were so lucky to find this kind of love at the ages of 21 and 24!  Unfortunately, the couple is kind of like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet and their path to love definitely does not run smooth…

At first, Listen To Your Heart was typical for a romance movie.  You have star-crossed lovers, an evil villain trying to keep them apart and then a happily-ever-after, right?  Wrong.  This movie is definitely a hopefully-ever-after.  Sam finally defies her mother and runs off to live with her prince in his small Danny and Arianaapartment, only to learn that Danny has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  This was a huge surprise and I was stunned.  If treated, Danny may have a few more months to live, but his time is definitely limited.  I could not stop crying during the last 15 – 20 minutes and I do not typically cry during movies.  Watching Danny go through chemo, supported by Sam, the love of his life, and Roger (Frank Watson), his best friend, was bittersweet.  I was so grateful that Danny had people who loved him surrounding him during his last days on earth, but it was so difficult to say goodbye to him!  These scenes always make me think about what I would do Danny and His Best Friend, Rogerwith the last days of my life and I think I would spend them in the same way.  Frank Watson plays Roger, Danny’s best friend, and he has a few scene-stealing moments towards the end.  Danny did not have any blood relatives when he died, but he certainly had a family who loved him!  Danny changed so many people’s lives and influenced many for good.  He was inspiring and made me want to try and be more like him. Danny never changed the world and, as an ordinary man, he and many like him will not be remembered for anything they achieved here on this earth.  But this doesn’t mean that he was forgotten.  He changed the course of Sam’s life for certain and, in the end, the story of music changing a life becomes Sam’s instead of Danny’s.

I believe that this movie is totally correct in their portrayal of music – a song can Danny Playing the Pianochange your life.   If you look back over your life, you will almost always find a soundtrack accompanies it.  I can remember special moments and events in my life when a certain song plays on the radio.  Danny composes and performs many songs throughout the movie and, while solid, they were nothing special.  The best musical performances, in my opinion, were the instrumental numbers.  There is a beautiful piano piece played during the credits that I encourage you to listen to while you try to stop crying.

Really, the best part of the movie is the cancer section at the end.  When Danny’s friend, Roger, tells Danny to dump Ariana and move on to another girl who would be easier to be in love with and more fun, Danny tells him “I don’t want to Danny in His Hospital Bedmiss out on something great just because it might also be hard.”  This line stayed with me throughout the movie and it really struck a chord at the end of the film.  It seemed like Danny had very few regrets when he died and I could not say the same if I was in his shoes today.  I find myself strangely inspired by this movie and hope that I can live my life a little bit better.  I should be more inclusive, more positive and not let myself be afraid.  The movie is a bit contrived and, at times, is poorly acted, but the message and the story really inspired me.  Do yourself a favor and don’t be too critical when you watch this movie.  There is a sweet message contained inside if you allow yourself to enjoy it and believe in it.

Content:

This movie contains some scenes of heavy petting and kissing.  There are a couple of bar scenes and Ariana gets drunk for the first time.  There is a scene of attempted rape.  The movie also portrays the suffering of a cancer patient and then eventually, death.  There is some mild violence and fighting, mostly verbal. There are scenes of drinking.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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The War Bride (2001) Movie Review

The War Bride (2001)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

The War Bride

Starring: Anna Friel, Brenda Fricker, Aden Young, Julie Cox, Loren Dean
Director: Lyndon Chubbuck
Release Date: 23 March 2001
Language: English
Length: 107 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb83_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Lily (Anna Friel) falls in love with Canadian soldier Charlie (Aden Young) while he is in London.  She has only known him a couple of days, but marries him in a whirlwind romance dressed in a tablecloth turned wedding dress.  Nine months later, Lily has Lindy (Gabrielle McLaren & Schyler McLaren), their daughter.  Another surprise follows shortly thereafter when Lily and her best friend, Sophie (Julie Cox), both married to Canadians, learn that they are going to be evacuated to Canada where they will be safe.  Lily is looking forward to living with Charlie’s mother, Betty (Brenda Fricker), and sister, Sylvia (Molly Parker), but they are less than thrilled to meet Charlie’s new bride.  Stuck in the middle of nowhere, Lily tries to win over the hearts of her new family and the locals, but it is an uphill battle all the way!

Review:

The War Bride was surprisingly good.  I thought that the film would take place in the UK, so I was a bit taken aback to learn that the bulk of the movie takes place in Canada.  I had absolutely no exposure to what life was like in Canada during Lily and Charlie First MeetWorld War II so everything was new to me.  Charlie’s family were hardworking, simple folk.  They are completely isolated from the rest of the world and war updates and reports completely stop when Lily moves there.  The characters do not listen to radio reports or get regular updates in letters from the front line so they have no idea how the war is progressing.  When Charlie abruptly returns home towards the end of the movie, the war still wasn’t over, Charlie wasn’t injured, and yet he was magically back.  This was frustrating at first, but then I realized that it could be a very effective tool to place viewers in the same situation that the characters would be in.  Information was not readily available or even reliable at the time and it was a completely different world then it is now where we are over saturated with information.

Lily (Anna Friel) and Charlie (Aden Young) are only together for a total of fourteen days before she moves to rural Canada to live with his widowed mother, Betty (Brenda Fricker), and his partially crippled sister, Sylvia (Molly Parker).  The farm is made up of a few ramshackle buildings and is in the middle of nowhere.  Lily is devastated and her visions of cowboys on the plains is Lily and Baby Lindycompletely ruined.  She is a city girl and doesn’t know how to survive on a farm.  Unwelcome and unwanted, Lily could have abandoned her new family and gone to live with her friend, Sophie (Julie Cox), or used Charlie’s military pay to move somewhere else, but she stuck it out.  She learned about gathering eggs from chickens, Betty taught her how to drive, and she tried to help around the house.  Unfortunately, a lot of Lily’s efforts just seem to make her situation worse.  When she makes some nice clothing and lingerie for the local ladies, they are scandalized and think her frivolous.  She makes a special meal of English foods and a few guests refuse to even try what she has made.  But Lily doesn’t let any of this get her down.  She still puts on bright red lipstick, wears her vibrant dresses and keeps trying to make friends.  I would have given up on Charlie’s family, but Lily didn’t.  She is like a ray of sunshine in the bleak little Canadian town and I wish I had a friend like her!

The War Bride features the spare beauty of rural Alberta, Canada.  Scenes are thoughtfully presented to highlight Lily’s character the way a red rose stands out amongst daisies.  A great deal of attention was paid to clothing and makeup to Lily Wondering Alonereally make this movie stand out.  Seamed stockings, garter belts, silk teddies, combinations, high-heeled shoes – there are so many fun outfits!  Lily doesn’t have an extensive wardrobe, but she always looked great, even when she is wearing muted shades or baggy coveralls.  She never feels fully dressed without her bright red lipstick and I absolutely loved this about her!  The music is also carefully chosen and selected to immerse you in the time period.  There is some wonderful music, as well as some great dance sequences.  There is some amazing dancing in London and some more intimate, romantic dancing in Canada.  Emotions, stories, and more are told through the songs that the filmmakers paired with their heartwarming film.

Anna Friel is the movie.  There are other characters in the movie, but she is the heart and soul of the film.  She makes a mellow, period movie into something special.  The film is pretty slow-paced and there really isn’t a lot that happens, Lily Kisses Charlie Goodbyebut you don’t notice because Anna Friel is lighting up the screen.  Lily’s character changes the life of everyone she comes into contact with.  She manages to ease Betty’s (Brenda Fricker) grief over the death of her husband.  She brings peace to Charlie (Aden Young) when he feels like a failure at the end of the war.  She teaches Sylvia (Molly Parker) that she can do more than she allows herself to do and that a relationship with Joe (Loren Dean) is possible.  Life is different and hard for Lily, but she adapts and she makes do.  I am sure that there were a lot of remarkable women during this time period so it was wonderful to see the fictional portrayal of one of them.

Content:

This movie features full-frontal female nudity in brief glimpses.  Women are also shown wearing intimate apparel.  There is some heavy petting that leads to sex, but no actual sex scenes are shown.  There is some British swearing, but nothing too explicit.  There are scenes of drinking and smoking.  PTSD, cheating spouses, and death are presented and discussed.  Recommended for ages 12 and up.

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Murder is Easy (1982) Movie Review

Murder is Easy (1982)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: Agatha Christie Classic Mystery Collection
Starring: Bill Bixby, Lesley-Anne Down, Olivia de Havilland, Helen Hayes, Jonathan Pryce
Director: Claude Whatham
Release Date: 2 January 1982
Language: English
Length: 94 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb84_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Professor Luke Williams (Bill Bixby) is on his first vacation to Europe when he meets the charming Lavinia Fullerton (Helen Hayes) on the train.  Lavinia stuns Luke with a wild story of a string of murders in her small town.  The local police are certain that the deaths were all accidental, but Lavinia is on her way to Scotland Yard to make sure that someone takes action.  Unsure what to believe, Luke is horrified to see Lavinia run over by a car within minutes of their arrival in London.  Luke takes it upon himself to investigate and warn the next intended victim (according to Honoria) and heads off to Wychwood to uncover the truth.

Review:

I am a huge fan of the Agatha Christie movies in all forms and adaptations.  While this particular movie, Murder is Easy, was a made-for-TV movie, there is still quite a bit to enjoy.  The movie begins with an adorable Helen Hayes encountering Bill Bixby’s character.  Helen Hayes is a sweet, charming elderly Luke and Lavinialady who could easily have played Miss Marple herself.  Bill Bixby is the main character in this story and he has been transformed into Professor Luke Williams, a mathematics professor who specializes in computers and probabilities (in the book, this character is a young policeman).  Bill Bixby is earnest and likeable in his role and I particularly enjoyed his voice, which has a lovely, rich tone.  The rest of the cast is just as able and is quite large, though you only need to focus on a few main characters in this version.  Lesley-Anne Down plays Bridget Conway, the other half of the love interest, as well as the future lady of the manor.  She is engaged to Lord Gordon Easterfield (Timothy West), a rather petulant man who acts more like a child than a grown man.  Olivia de Havilland plays Honoria Waynflete, a sweet older lady who becomes Luke’s confidant and sounding board.  Freddie Jones provides some welcome humor as Constable Reed, especially when he interacts with Luke’s brash American personality.

I felt that the acting was strong in Murder is Easy, but the styling and “updating” of the story is now sadly dated.  Luke’s computer programming is really antiquated now, though I am sure it was cutting edge at the time.  One scene shows Luke programming in all of the murders, suspects, and motives for the crimes so that he can solve the murders, but, of course, we know this isn’t possible yet.  The clothing and makeup are also very solidly in the ‘80s camp Lord Easterfield and Bridgetand now seem over-the-top and overdone, especially all of the turned up collars!  The setting of village is lovely, however, and there are some beautiful scenic vistas included in the movie.  There is also some clever writing with some memorable lines.  One of these lines is the iconic, “if no one suspects you, murder is easy,” saying.  This is definitely shown to be true in this story as victims are killed in a variety of ways and seem to have nothing but the loosest of connections.  The pub owner drowns in the stream, a young man falls out of a window, the doctor dies of infection, Lavinia is hit by a car, a young woman dies of a drug overdose, etc.  The only thing that these victims have in common is that they disagreed with the Lord Easterfield at some point.  Another line that I particularly enjoyed was “love the squad car,” when Luke makes fun of the Constable’s bicycle.

What weakens this movie is the lack of focus on the murder mysteries themselves.  Luke is kind of investigating them, but he seems to spend considerably more time flirting with Bridget and trying to woo her away from Lord Easterfield then doing any actual investigating.  Random suspicions and Luke Accusing Bridget on His Computersubplots are thrown in at intervals to derail the mystery, as well.  We catch a brief glimpse of a young Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Ellsworthy, a rather suspicious character who specializes in the occult and witchcraft.  The local lawyer, doctor, and other characters seem to have motives for many of the murders, but they are not really explored or pursued so I don’t know why they were introduced.  They spent a lot of time on computers, the potential of probabilities to predict horse race winners and the slow seduction of Bridget by Luke.  Murder is Easy has a fairly complex plot that is difficult to show in a two-hour time slot on TV so I understand what they were trying to do, but I love the Agatha Christie mystery movies because of their depth and complexity so I was a bit disappointed with this representation.

If you enjoy Agatha Christie movies, you will enjoy Murder is Easy.  It is dated and a bit old, but still very fun to watch.  The acting is solid, the bits and pieces Murder is Easy Coverof the story we get are good, but the ending is a bit of an anticlimax.  Luke seems totally surprised at the end of the movie and it is clear that he never would have solved this mystery.  The explanation of the murders at the end is quite brief and then the movie is over.  Still, I liked the characters and the actors in their roles and, since Agatha Christie’s movies are always character driven, this went a long way to ensuring a higher rating from me.

Content:

This movie contains a couple of dead bodies, though no blood is shown.  Discussions of other methods of death is included, along with drug usage and alcoholic drinking.  Characters are shown drinking and smoking.  Bridget is shown in some body-skimming and sensual lingerie, but nothing too revealing.  There is a bit of racy sexy talk, but nothing specific and nothing too specific, more flirtatious than anything.  Characters marry for money and cheat on spouses or significant others.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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Love’s Kitchen (2011) Movie Review

Love’s Kitchen (2011)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Dougray Scott, Claire Forlani, Lee Boardman, Michelle Ryan, Matthew Clancy
Director: James Hacking
Release Date: 7 June 2011
Language: English
Length: 90 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

Rob (Dougray Scott) is a rising star in the culinary world.  He loves his restaurant in London and is garnering some good reviews, but then his wife dies in a tragic accident and nothing seems to matter anymore.  Three years later, Rob is ready to start over so he purchases the pub that his wife thought would be perfect for them.  Rob moves his daughter, his best friend and a couple of old employees into the countryside to run The Boot, the local pub.  He has recovered his passion for food again and is cooking with his heart, especially after he meets the lovely, recently divorced Kate (Claire Forlani).  But not everyone is happy that the pub is busy and they plot to get rid of Rob once and for all.

Review:

This is a cute little British comedy that was predictable, but still sweet.  The characters are all likeable and you will be rooting for Rob (Dougray Scott) and Kate (Claire Forlani) to get together right after they meet.  Rob is a chef who Love's Kitchen postercooks British basics with flavor and heart.  Kate is a food critic who crushed his first restaurant, but elevates his new pub.  Their romance is predictable and not really too exciting, but they were believable in their roles and I enjoyed the story.  Another romantic subplot takes place between Rob’s best friend, Loz (Lee Boardman), who isn’t exactly attractive, but he is funny and loyal.  He is in love with Shauna (Michelle Ryan), the restaurant’s lovely waitress.  Realistically speaking, Loz shouldn’t have a chance of landing Shauna, but it was fun to see them do the dance and to see where their story ended up.  Gordon Ramsay appears as himself in a few scenes, which was kind of fun.  Love him or hate him, that man is the face of British cooking for most of the world.

For any great romance to have a chance at longevity, there must be something that could keep them apart forever, at least in the movies.  In Love’s Kitchen, The Boot PubMax (Peter Bowles), Kate’s father, and the local lord of the manor, James (Simon Hepworth), don’t like having Rob in the village and are trying to get rid of him.  Max doesn’t like the crowds of tourists that Rob’s cooking is bringing in and James is jealous that Rob has managed to capture Kate’s heart.  They give Rob some time to see if he will fail on his own and, when that doesn’t work, they use all of the committees at their disposal to close The Boot’s doors for good.  Even if Rob is able to overcome this hurdle and keep The Boot open, he will no doubt discover that Kate is the critic that wrote such a harsh review in regards to his previous restaurant.  Will the two lovers be able to find a happily ever after together?  No doubt you will have no trouble connecting the dots, as I did, and Guy Witherspoonfind that the story is pretty predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless.  Far more interesting was the storyline involving an alcoholic food show with a diva like attitude.  I really enjoyed Simon Callow’s performance as Guy Witherspoon.  Guy hosts a rather pretentious cooking show and his staff has a real uphill battle to try to keep him sober and functional for the filming of each show.  While kind of sad in a way, Guy’s character was the easiest to laugh at.

This movie has all of the hallmarks of a traditional romantic movie.  It is pretty light on the comedy, but there are a few funny moments, mainly in regards to Two Main Charactersthe subplots of the movie rather than the main story.  There is a sad, unhappy man who needs new love in his life, a daughter who is ready for a new mother, and a woman who is looking for a man to fall in love with.  Add a few quirky villagers, a diva of a TV host and a couple of villains with plummy accents and you have a sweet little movie.  Like the trifle that Rob is known for, this movie contains layers, but they are obvious and very easy to see.  It is sweet, fluffy and fun to eat then quickly forgotten.

Content:

This movie contains characters who are gay, have an underwear fetish, are rich older women with boy toys, are aging rock stars and a few surprising motorcyclists.  One character drinks a lot of alcohol.  There are some sex scenes, though nothing specific is shown, and a bit of naughty talk between lovers.  There is some mild language, but all of the swearing is British so it doesn’t sound as bad to those of us in the US.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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Cairo Time (2009) Movie Review

Cairo Time (2009)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Siddig, Elena Anaya, Amina Annabi, Tom McCamus
Director: Ruba Nadda
Release Date: 13 September 2009
Language: English
Length: 90 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb84_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) has finally traveled to Cairo to visit her husband, who works for the UN in the Middle East.  Unfortunately, a crisis in Gaza pulls her husband away before Juliette arrives so he asks a good friend, Tareq (Alexander Siddig), to keep an eye on Juliette.  Juliette finds Cairo is nothing like what she expected and struggles to get around on her own in a male-dominated country.  She comes to rely more and more on Tareq to protect her and show her around.  The more time these two spend with each other, the more they seem to be slipping into something more than friendship.  Set against the stunning vistas of Egypt, Cairo Time tells an atypical story of a old-fashioned romance.

Review:

Cairo Time was carefully crafted by someone who clearly loved the country and its people.  The story is slow-moving with hidden depths, just like the Nile itself. Juliette Feels the Heat This movie absolutely captured my feelings about the city of Cairo.  I traveled there myself a few years ago and was thanking my lucky stars that I booked a guided tour after trying to get around Cairo myself for one day.  The city is packed, hot and there are really no traffic rules.  There are no crosswalks to get from one side of the street to the other so I did exactly what Juliette’s character did – find a local and cross when they did!  Egyptian men are aggressive, have no idea of personal boundaries and yet are still oddly charming.  The women you see out and about are covered up and pretty quiet.  The men, on the other hand, are loud, effusive and have an old-fashioned well-mannered air about them.  Unfortunately, they get the idea that all American women are like those they see on TV so they don’t have a very high opinion of tourists, particularly women.

Tareq (Alexander Siddig) was quietly charming and I found him very attractive.  He had his heart broken while in college when the love of his life married Juliette Playing Chess with Tareqanother man.  Tareq is still single and has recently retired from the UN.  Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) is a successful magazine writer with two grown children and a husband who don’t seem to need her any more.  Both of them start off their relationship with awkward silences and uncertain forays into conversation.  But the more time they spend together, the more the silences become peaceful and quiet sharing times.  The culmination of their relationship is a bittersweet visit to the Great Pyramids, an amazing sight that Juliette promised she wouldn’t see without her husband.  There is no physical culmination of the relationship in this movie, which I found extremely effective and a great deal more believable than a torrid affair would have been in this setting.  Juliette just wants to matter to someone again.  Tareq doesn’t want to have his heart broken again, but accepts that this will happen with grace and dignity.  There is a slow build-up to the relationship between these two, a relationship that you know is doomed to fail and yet cannot help but want to see Juliette and Tareqdevelop.  This is not a typical modern-day romance as we think of it today, but a more courtly love as in medieval times.  Both man and woman accept that they will never be able to act up on the love that has developed between them, but they do not deny themselves the pleasure of a little flirtation, some shared moments and bittersweet memories that will see them through the lonely times.

Cairo Time was not at all what I expected, but I found that I enjoyed it.  I was caught up in the sights, the smells and sounds of Cairo, Egypt all over again.  There is something terrifying and, at the same time, alluring about this city.  I Juliette and Tareq at the Great Pryamidstruly enjoyed the romance between Juliette and Tareq and appreciated that the director, Ruba Nadda, showed their love in a more than physical way.  The scenery was interesting and lovely and the story was nice and slow, which made it all the more enjoyable.  Patricia Clarkson looks absolutely lovely in this movie.  She has a gorgeous wardrobe and an amazing body that I would like to have!  Alexander Siddig has that little something special that you look for in a leading man and I was utterly captivated by his character.  If you are looking for something to watch that is not a typical romance movie, Cairo Time may just fit the bill.

Content:

This movie contains a few scenes of drinking and smoking.  There is some mild flirtation and discussion of current issues such as child labor, lack of education, extramarital affairs, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, detentions on the Gaza Strip, etc.  Recommended for ages 12 and up.

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A Month By the Lake (1995) Movie Review

A Month By the Lake (1995)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Edward Fox, Uma Thurman, Carlo Cartier, Alessandro Gassman
Director: John Irvin
Release Date: 22 September 1995
Language: English
Length: 92 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

Miss Bentley (Vanessa Redgrave) enjoys her yearly visits to Italy at an elegant seaside villa near Lake Como.  For sixteen years, she and her father enjoyed their annual holidays, but now that her father has passed away, she is alone.  Miss Bentley is the only British guest until the dashing Major Wilshaw (Edward Fox) arrives.  The Major suggests that they meet for cocktails, only to be accidentally stood up when Miss Bentley becomes engrossed in aiding the Bonizzonis (Carlo Cartier & Natalia Bizzi) new nanny, Miss Beaumont (Uma Thurman).  The romance between the two seems to have fizzled before it even began until the Major becomes enamored with Miss Beaumont and decides to stay on the lake a bit longer.  The more time that Miss Bentley spends with the Major, the more she finds herself falling in love with him, only to find that the Major has his sights set on the tall, blonde American nanny.

Review:

A Month By the Lake is a slow-paced, old-fashioned romance between a quartet of single people.  The setting is gorgeous.  Lake Como is beautiful and showed off Lake Como Italyat every opportunity.  I wish that I could have a monthly vacation in Italy every year!  The guests seem to do nothing but laze about on the lakeshore, putter around the local village, and decide who to dine with.  Entertainments consist of tennis, boating, and amateur magic shows.  I am sure that this would be absolute torture for most modern-day vacationers, but I would love to lounge about with a book and have someone else cook for me!  Granted, you could end up with someone completely ghastly at your dinner table, but that would be a small price to pay to enjoy this beautiful part of Italy.

Miss Bentley is played by the gracious Vanessa Redgrave.  She sounds wonderful and acts with dignity and a bit of whimsy.  I was never quite sure what she was going to do – ride a scooter with a handsome local boy, outswim the men, MSDMOBY EC004or beat the pants off of the Major in tennis.  I couldn’t see what a free-spirited woman like Miss Bentley would see in a rather stuck up Major (Edward Fox), other than his ears, of course, but there is a lid for every pot as they say.  The Major is a bit of a fool, actually, easily swayed by a pretty face, but he seems a solid sort of companion and a girl could certainly do worse.  At least he is kind and tries to get along with others, which is Miss Beaumontmore than I can say for most!  The Major makes a spectacle of himself chasing after Miss Beaumont (Uma Thurman), an American heiress who dropped out of finishing school to play at being a nanny.  Tall, blonde, beautiful and let’s not forget young, Miss Beaumont is enough to turn any man’s head.  She was not a kind person, but she was not unlikable, strangely enough.  In a twisted sort of way, Miss Beaumont actually brought Miss Bentley and the Major together so she is ultimately responsible for their happiness.  To add a spanner the works, there is a wealthy Italian man (Alessandro Gassman) who is romantically interested in the much older Miss Bentley.

The romance is chaste and so different from those we see today.  Set right before World War II, A Month By the Lake will appeal to those who appreciate MSDMOBY EC007films in historical settings.  Even if you have no interest in the developing romance, you can learn a great deal about life in 1937 for the moderately wealthy.  My only complaint with the film is that the love story is kind of strange and I didn’t really see the characters coming together.  There also is not a whole lot to the storyline, which made it difficult for the viewer to stay engrossed.  Still, if you are looking for something to watch while pottering around the house, this movie will fit the bill.  Beautifully filmed with talented actors, this slow-paced story will be sure to appeal.

Content:

This movie contains some scenes of drinking and smoking.  There is some mild language, but it in British or Italian so it is not really noticeable.  Recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002) Movie Review

Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: Cinderella #2
Starring: Jennifer Hale, Tress MacNeille, Rob Paulsen, Corey Burton, Susanne Blakeslee
Director: John Kafka
Release Date: 26 February 2002
Language: English
Length: 73 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

When Jaq and Gus-Gus miss the Fairy Godmother telling the Cinderella story, the mice suggest making a book with more stories about Cinderella in it that they can give to her as a gift.

Review:

“Cinderella’s First Day in the Castle” – The King (voice by Andre Stojka) assigns Prudence (voice by Holland Taylor ) to teach Cinderella (voice by Jennifer Hale) all about being a proper princess and how to prepare a royal banquet. cinderella 2 dreams come true cinderella in dress she hates Prudence begins teaching Cinderella the basics: a princess never prepares her own food, a princess must be attired like royalty at all times, a person’s title dictates where they will sit at the table, commoners are never allowed through the royal gate into the palace, and so many other rules that Cinderella is convinced she is a complete failure as a princess!  When Cinderella realizes that she is failing because she is trying to be something – and someone – she is not, she changes life in the palace for everyone!

This is a great mini-episode about being happy with who you are.  Rather than try to become one of the snobby nobility, Cinderella decides to remain the servant maid that the prince fell in love with.  Every young princess needs a boost in self-esteem and this cartoon may help give your little girl just that thing!  I am not saying to go crazy and be weird and wild, but it is a good Cinderella II Mice Drawing Picturesreminder to all of us that people can tell when you are pretending to be something you are not.  When you are comfortable with who you are, it is easier to make and keep friends and to find a place where you belong.  Take the time to think about what you are doing and why – do you enjoy dancing or fishing or sculpting?  Don’t be afraid to enjoy your favorite activity and to find others who do, too!  Life is too short to spend all of your time trying to make everyone else happy, start with yourself and, because you are happy, others around you will be happier, too.  Just look at Prudence in this cartoon.  She starts off all uptight and unhappy, rigid and unbending and completely unwilling to try something new.  By the end, she is a completely new person!

“Jaq’s Unusual Wish” – Jaq (voice by Rob Paulsen) wants so badly to be helpful Jaqs Unusual Wishto Cinderella, like he used to before she was a princess.  But with so many other people around to help her, what can one little mouse do?  Frustrated with his size, Jaq wishes to be big – and human!  When Fairy Godmother (voice by Russi Taylor) arrives to grant his wish, Jaq is sure that everything will be better now that he is bigger.  But Jaq quickly learns that being human isn’t as great as he thought it would be.  When a chance to really help pops up at the spring festival, will Jaq choose to remain human or to go back to being a mouse?

This episode brings a whole new meaning to the “Are you a man or a mouse?” question!  It is so easy to believe that things would be better if we could just Cinderella and Her Mice Friendschange one part of our lives, but that is not necessarily true.  Happiness can be a choice just like anything else.  Some of the poorest, ugliest, neediest families I know seem to be so much happier than I am.  Money doesn’t buy happiness, neither do good looks or fame.  Also, be aware that your size does not limit your helpfulness.  There is so much that everyone can do to help out – you just have to take the time to figure out how.  This is a good lesson for adults to learn as well.  We all need to make sure that we help others feel needed and valued.  It may be faster and easier to complete a task by ourselves, but others will never learn to do it properly if we don’t take the time to let them help us!

“Anastasia Falls in Love” – It’s love at first sight when Anastasia (the red-headed stepsister of Cinderella – voice by Tress MacNeille) meets the baker in town.  But with a mother like Lady Tremaine (voice by Susanne Blakeslee), Anastasia Anastasia and the Bakersurely won’t have a chance to develop the romance – not without a little help, that is!  When Cinderella’s first attempt to get these two lovebirds together turns into a horrible mess, she has to try to convince Anastasia to give the baker a chance after she gets a makeover, of course!  There is also another romance brewing in the castle: Lucifer (Lady Tremaine’s black cat) and Pom-Pom (the spoiled white cat in the castle).  Will Anastasia come to understand that looks aren’t everything when it comes to love?

This portion of the cartoon teaches us that looks are not the only thing that matter.  Sure, it is easy to be attracted to the outside appearance at first, but if there is no inner beauty to match it, the relationship will usually fall apart.  As women, we are incredibly hard on ourselves and always think that we could be Lucifer & Pom-Pomthinner, more stylish, have better skin, more expensive clothes, a better hairstyle, etc.  While most of us will not be seen as Hollywood’s version of beautiful, those who know us will think we are beautiful because they love us and like us for who we are.  A lovely smile always makes you appear as more attractive than you are.  Kind words make people want to be your friend.  I believe that we become more and more attractive to people as they get to know us – or less and less attractive if we are mean and self-centered. Focus on polishing your inner beauty and the outer beauty will follow.

This is a charming little trio of tales to help boost self-esteem in young girls.  While the animation is not up to par with the original Cinderella movie, it is adequate, if a bit lacking in detail.  The colors are still bright, cheerful and there is plenty of action to keep younger viewers’ interest.  I found myself smiling through this DVD.  Even though it is geared towards a younger audience, there is Cinderella IIplenty to smile and laugh about as Cinderella’s animals friends keep everyone around them on their toes!  The music and songs are not particularly memorable (you won’t go around the house singing them), but they are solid and fit the storyline.  I think the best song is the one that is played while the credits are rolling called “Put It Together.” It is a more upbeat, contemporary song and I found it quite catchy.  There are little to no bonus features on this DVD.  There are a lot of trailers, a music video of one of the songs (“Put It Together”) and a brief feature about the orchestral music featured in the movie.   If your little princess is a fan of Cinderella, this is a DVD that she will enjoy. While this is not one of the strongest direct-to-DVD sequels that Disney has released over the years, young princess fans will not notice the difference.  I found it to be a decent rental, but not something I would be interested in purchasing or watching multiple times.

Content:

This DVD is appropriate for viewers of all ages.  Recommended for ages 3 and up.

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Belle’s Magical World (1998) Movie Review

Belle’s Magical World (1998)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: Beauty and the Beast #3
Starring: Robby Benson, Paige O’Hara, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Anne Rogers
Director: Cullen Blaine, Dale Case, Daniel de la Vega, Barbara Dourmashkin, Bob Kline, Burt Medall, Mitch Rochon
Release Date: 17 February 1998
Language: English
Length: 92 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb83_thumb1_thumb[4]

Synopsis:

Did you ever wonder what happened while Beauty was living in the Beast’s castle before they fell in love?  What kind of adventures did the animated objects in the Castle have with Belle and the Beast?  Join your favorite Beauty and the Beast characters including Belle, the Beast, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip and a whole cast of brand new characters on four special adventures!  Laugh and learn with friends old and new in Belle’s Magical World .

Review:

This is a direct-to-DVD “sequel” that Disney released a few years ago so much expectations were very low.  Imagine my surprise when I found some cute, funny adventures set in the Beast’s Castle!  There are four stories on this DVD including:

“The Perfect Word” – The Beast (voice by Robby Benson) is trying hard to win Perfect WordBelle’s (voice by Paige O’Har) heart so he invites her to a lovely dinner.  Everything is going well until the Beast puts his comfort above everyone else’s and he and Belle have a huge argument.  Neither one wants to be the first to apologize and both refuse to speak to the other.  Webster, a dictionary (voice by Jim Cummings), Crane, a quill (voice by Jeff Bennett), and friends create a letter for the Beast, but the plan backfires when the Beast discovers the forgery!  This episode will teach children about forgiveness and humility.

“Fifi’s Folly” – Fifi, a feather duster (voice by Kimmy Robertson), is certain that Lumiere, a candlestick (voice by Jerry Orbach), has something special planned Fifi's Follyfor the fifth anniversary of their first date, but she has no idea that Lumiere has completely forgotten!  Belle tries to help Lumiere come up with the perfect experience for the two lovers, but the plan backfires when Fifi believes that Belle is trying to steal her beloved Lumiere away and sabotages all of the plans!  This episode will teach children that things are not always what they seem.

“Mrs. Potts’ Party” – Mrs. Potts, a tea pot (voice by Anne Rogers), isn’t feeling like herself due to the winter weather – she even forgets to put tea in the hot Mrs. Potts's Partywater!  To cheer her up, Belle decides to throw Mrs. Potts a surprise party and enlists the help of everyone to help.  Unfortunately, no one can agree as to what Mrs. Potts’ favorites are  – angel food cake or devil’s food cake, a French composition or an original musical piece composed by Cogsworth, a clock (voice by David Ogden Stiers), lilies or roses?  This cartoon teaches children that it is important to learn how to compromise and to get along with others – especially when you are doing something fun like planning a party!

“Broken Wing” – The Beast is furious when Belle forgets a lunch date with him to tend to an injured bird.  First, the Beast banishes the bird, but then he hears the Broken Wingbird’s beautiful song and decides to keep him in a cage.  Now the bird no longer sings, despite all of the Beast’s coaxing.  Meanwhile, Cogsworth is having a difficult time getting his fellow servants to respect his commands and to obey him.  Can the Beast and Cogsworth learn that it is not what you ask, but how you ask that matters?  This episode will teach children to ask nicely for things and to respect others.

After watching these episodes, I grew to love Cogsworth and Lumiere even more than I did from the original Beauty and the Beast movie!  They are considered secondary characters in the original movie, but they really steal the spotlight in “Fifi’s Folly” (Lumiere) and “Broken Wing” (Cogsworth)!  Lumiere is all about having fun and adding romance to every situation.  Cogsworth is organized, punctual and pretty rigid in his world view.  When you pair these two together, Lumiere & Cogsworthsparks really fly as they don’t see eye-to-eye on anything!  They argue pretty spectacularly in “Mrs. Potts’ Party,” making it my favorite episode on the DVD.  One of my favorite lines comes from Cogsworth in response to Lumiere’s claim that he has real talent.  Cogsworth immediately replies “Keep it, I would want to take what little you have.”  There are a lot of little comments and statements made in the cartoons that I felt were geared solely towards older viewers, which I greatly appreciated.  The vocal talent is spot on in this animated film and all of the actors are perfectly chosen and wonderful in their roles. I found myself smiling and laughing along with the antics of these animated objects and really enjoyed meeting new characters in each cartoon.

As much as I enjoyed this DVD, I will warn you that the quality of the animation and song writing is not up to par with the theatrical releases that Disney puts out.  The animation is more blocky and does not have any of the subtle shading that I am accustomed to seeing in the theatres.  Items are blocked with solid colors and are drawn much more simply.  This did not detract from the animated objects or the Beast, oddly enough, but Belle sometimes looks weird.  Her facial Beastexpressions and movements looked strange at times and it was kind of off-putting at first.  You get used to it, but she is the only human in the movie and so it is kind of obvious that the animation was more cheaply done.  The other thing that I did not enjoy was the original songs on the DVD.  I enjoyed the instrumental music that played during the stories, but I did not like the songs that Belle sings in between the different cartoons.  The mini-episodes are already a little too preachy for adults as they try to express some good behavioral concepts for younger viewers and the music added to it was just too much.  The songs are really wordy and all about conveying a certain lesson and message and I just did not enjoy them.

I found myself enjoying this DVD so much more than I thought I would and definitely need to rethink my opinion on the direct-to-DVD releases that Disney Belle's Magical World Beauty & the Beasthas been putting out over the years.  While this one cannot stand up to the original Beauty and the Beast in terms of quality and longevity, there is a lot to enjoy in this “sequel” (even though it takes place in the middle of the Beauty and the Beast story, they call it a sequel).  If you are a Disney fan and/or have some children at home who enjoy Beauty and the Beast, Belle’s Magical World is a definite purchase to add to your viewing rotation.

Content:

There are some verbal arguments in the movie and the Beast roars and gets kind of loud a few times, but there is nothing too scary.  Recommended for viewers of all ages.

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