Tag Archives: holiday movies

The Angel Tree

Hallmark imagines that Christmas is a time replete with journalists just desperate for soft, holiday-themed “news.” They’re visiting small town bed and breakfasts, boarding cross-country trains, trying to reunite lost items with their owners, sleeping on war ships, solving charity mysteries, hunting for vintage jewelry, and more. This particular writer, Rebecca (Jill Wagner), has been assigned to go back to her hometown and crack the top secret identity of the person granting wishes that are placed upon the town’s angel tree.

The Angel tree is a tradition that’s been going on now for decades. It was in effect when Rebecca was a child – and it seems she might the only one for whom the angel tree didn’t work. She wished that her family wouldn’t move away, but they did, and she’s kind of been harbouring a sort of resentment ever since. But for many, many others, perhaps 40 or 50 a year, the wishes have magically come true. Since Rebecca’s been writing about it, however, a lot of extra attention has meant a lot of extra wishes. And no matter who the mysterious benefactor is – and the townspeople are very protective of his or her identity – they couldn’t possibly provide for that many people. So Rebecca enlists the help of her aunt, her daughter, and her childhood friend, Matthew (Lucas Bryant) to take care of some of the overflow.

You might guess that Rebecca and Matthew engage in some pretty heavy reconnecting while doing good for their community. But will their budding romance survive Rebecca’s needling? Will she really betray the community’s secret? Will she get fired if she doesn’t? Will anyone be able to grant Matthew’s nephew’s wish, that his deployed mother join him for Christmas? And aren’t there some things in life just better left as mysteries anyway? Find out with The Angel Tree.

Snowcapped Christmas

Claire Benson (Leah Renee) is a figure skater about to get her shot at the gold at nationals – and then, on to the Olympics. But an injury right before a crucial competition sidelines her, sends her to the mountains to recover at a rehab facility, in fact. It might be a nice place to decompress, reassess, oh, and heal – if only Claire’s coach wasn’t such a villainous villain! He’s going to ride her just as hard, injury or no injury.

Thankfully Claire’s mom Dale (Lisa Whelchel) is around to pull her toward some more relaxation and recreation, and so is a handsome dude who seems to be the facility (and the town’s!) jack of all trades. Turns out Luke (Niall Matter) is an ex hockey player, so it would seem that he more than anyone would understand Claire’s predicament. Claire’s been having doubts about continuing with the sport, and it’s nice having someone to confide in. Plus, Luke’s daughter is a total cutie herself, it’s possible that this little family is awakening certain feelings in Claire – like maybe skating isn’t everything, like maybe there’s something missing from her life, and maybe she’s ready to have it.

Will mean coach Julian let her follow her dreams? Will her mother find a true love of her own? Will Claire fail to heed posted signage and nearly fall through some thin ice? I mean, they can’t all be spoilers, can they? Only a trip to your local Hallmark channel will answer all these burning questions and more.

The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Special

I couldn’t call myself a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race if I didn’t gallop over to BenDeLaCreme’s site to rent The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special just as soon as I could. BenDeLaCreme (DeLa for short) was one my all-time favourites on Drag Race, except for the fact that she left in disgrace – not because she lost, but because she chose herself for elimination. Criminy!

DeLa and Jinkx Monsoon work together often (including in the recent Happiest Season) and have a wonderful chemistry. They’ve written the script together and they’ve got their flavour stamped all over it, which is probably why it’s so sticky.

The premise: DeLa wants to give Jinkx the perfect Christmas, with winter wonderlands, sugar plum dreams, and plenty of good old fashioned Christmas traditions. Jinkx, however, is not so keen on the whole Christmas scene. She grew up much less privileged; Santa never spoiled her and the holidays never seemed all that great. Plus, aren’t traditions those things upheld by people who don’t like gays or drag queens? DeLa can’t believe it: did she not even have a family eggnog recipe?

I didn’t grow up with a family eggnog recipe either, to be honest. Not everyone is into salmonella punch, especially not the kind animated by dead grandmas. Which DeLa’s is. Nana Nanog is still deeply invested in seeing DeLa carry out the family traditions, and luckily, our favourite drag queens have a variety of musical numbers planned for us to increase the merry and turn up the jolly.

Numbers like ‘Passive Aggressive Christmas’ and ‘Everyone Is Traumatized by Christmas’ indicate the kind of inclusivity this special is aiming for: the holidays are hard, might as well drink until they go away. Or until you see the Baby Jesus bopping around in a pair of sunglasses and a diaper.

Walt, our miniature dachshund who will be 6 months old on Christmas Day, seemed to love Santa Fa La La (he barked at all the fa la las), but I had a super fun time with their new twist on classics like Baby It’s Cold Outside, the popular holiday song with rape vibes, now rewritten to recount how God convinced Mary to put his baby inside her, and the Nativity Twist, which reclaims the birth of Christ as a feel-good, dance-heavy, nice time.

As you would expect from such drag professionals as Jinkx and DeLa, the looks are on point, the wigs are big, the shoes are high, the makeup is excessive, the costumes are spectacular and numerous. It is most certainly NOT a family-friendly affair if you don’t want your kinds finding out what rhymes with ‘bare-backing’ this Christmas, but for the rest of us, it’s exactly the celebration we deserve this year.

Find The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Special on Hulu if you’re in the U.S., and for rent on their site if you’re not.

Good Morning Christmas!

Melissa Merry and Brian Bright are the hosts of America’s #1 morning TV show; they play a pair of beaming colleagues for the camera but the minute it stops rolling they’re actually always at each other’s throats. Melissa (Alison Sweeney) prefers the rehearsed approach, while Brian (Marc Blucas) likes to improvise, and insists they’re both better without a teleprompter, which may be true, but his lack or preparation does mean Melissa often has to swoop in and save him. After spending the last year squabbling, the network is honouring Brian’s request to break his contract. As Melissa searches for a replacement, the two are sent to a festive small town where they’ll be shooting live on location for the last week before Christmas, and the last week of their show together. They’ll have to pretend to get along for the sake of appearances, which is a rule neither is keen to follow.

Their taped segments include all your holiday favourites: ice skating, gingerbread making, ugly Christmas sweater wearing. And somewhere amid all this forced cheer, Melissa and Brian will actually start to get cozy and discover there’s more to each other than they thought.

Will the Merry & Bright morning show live to see another day? Have you ever seen a hotel room so overwhelmingly decorated for Christmas? Is the only thing worse than an ugly Christmas sweater an ugly Christmas Hawaiian shirt? Did Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan sue when they realized how closely this relationship mimics theirs?

This Hallmark movie truly has it all, even very questionable morals when the show’s producer decides to invade her stars’ privacy, and send spy cameras to capture their romantic declaration live, without their knowledge or consent. It’s dicey. It’s risky. But will it pay off???

Christmas At The Plaza

Historian Jessica (Elizabeth Henstridge) is hired to honour the great tradition of Christmas at the Plaza hotel with a holiday exhibit. The archive room is as vast as it is dusty and she hardly knows where to begin. Luckily head bellman Reginald (Bruce Davison) tells her about the lobby Christmas tree’s traditional finial d’arbre, the beautiful custom ornament that tops the tree. Each year at the Plaza, a new and unique finial sits atop the tree for all to admire. Creating her display around these beautiful baubles, she begins to piece together a story that unites Christmases across the decades and generations. There’s only one problem: one finial is missing, and even the records are blank. What happened in 1969, and how will Jessica find out?

A second piece of luck: Nick (Ryan Paevey) is the handsome decorated hired to deck the Plaza’s halls this years, and he’s on board to help her sort out her exhibit AND crack the mystery. The only thing surer than these two falling in love along the way is that the mystery of the missing ornament will also be romantical in nature. It is the Hallmark way. It’s what we’re all here for, and Hallmark delivers as assuredly as Santa.

Julia Duffy was a pleasure to see as the Plaza’s humourless manager. There was a surprising Alfred Hitchcock Easter egg, a nod to North by Northwest, if you’re playing close attention. The decorations are fabulous, the Christmas karaoke is baffling, and Ms. Henstridge sports the perfect shade of berry for a holiday lip look.

Finding Santa

Grace (Jodie Sweetin) runs a year-round Christmas store and is now the third generation of her family to run the town’s Christmas parade, now in its 50th year. It’s become so well-known that this year it’ll be featured on national (morning) television! Grace really has her hands full. She wasn’t counting on Tom (Jay Brazeau), aka The Best Santa Ever (per the New York Times?), pulling a slip and fall ahead of the big day and breaking his arm in two places. Oh the brittle bones of the elderly, fudging up Christmas. The network is threatening to pull their coverage without him (and strangely, they came before they knew he existed), so Grace is under a lot of pressure to cast a new, perfect Santa. The good news: Tom actually runs a Santa school in the off season. The bad news: this late in the game, they’re all booked up. Curse their in-demand professionalism!

You may have seen this coming, but there is one man who would be a fitting replacement, Tom’s son, Ben (Eric Winter), who is a fully trained but non-practicing Santa. Having been raised to one day take over the fat man’s suit, Ben came to resent Christmas and all things Santa, so stays away for the holidays, and has no problem flat-out refusing their request, even in the face of some pretty pathetic pleading. Determined not to fail, Grace pursues him all the way to Boston, but while she fails to secure him, they do experience some inclement weather and get snowed in in a place that just happens to rediscover his dormant Christmas spirit.

Will the roads reopen in time to save the parade? Will the mayor’s son relinquish his spot on Santa’s sleigh? Will Ben revive his Christmas spirit or will Grace lose hers? My friends, the Hallmark channel has it all, and it is truly yours to discover. Happy holidays!

The Charm Bracelet / A Little Christmas Charm

Holly (Ashley Greene) works in a vintage shop with her best friend, Megan. While stocking shelves with new thrift store finds, they come across a charm bracelet in a coat pocket – surely not meant to have been donated away, it must have snagged on something and fallen off. Holly suspects that the bracelet’s owner is missing it keenly as the charms all seem to meaningful in one way or another – two mark the birth of a child, so the rest must be life milestones as well. Vowing to track down the owner and return the bracelet by Christmas, Holly hits the streets of New York City, because how hard could it be to find a braceletless woman in such a small town?

First stop, her father’s jewelry store, where he uses a loupe to unearth the first clue. There she also runs into Greg (Brendan Penny), whom she’d “met cute” the night before when he spilled her cake, but who turns out to be a crack reporter who’s looking for some “soft news” to report on – something exactly like a missing bracelet and the search to return it to its rightful owner. Reluctantly, Holly agrees to work with Greg, and soon the two of them are chasing down clues all over the city, even dressing up in 1930s gear to board a steam engine for absolutely no reason a phone call wouldn’t have done in a fraction of the time and effort. This poor time management eventually catches up to them. Greg is, after all, working toward a Christmas deadline. Meanwhile, the two are enjoying spending time together. She meets his mom, he admires the jewelry she makes in her spare time, intimacies are exchanged (though no kisses, obvi).

Will Holly find the bracelet owner before the holidays? Has the owner just been going around with a naked wrist this whole time? How does Greg not know what a trilby is? How many scammers will pretend the bracelet is theirs? And will Holly’s pregnant friend that I’ve yet to mention possibly hold in her baby until the mystery is solved? All this AND MORE on the Hallmark channel.

Christmas By Starlight

When her family’s beloved eatery, The Starlight Café, is slated for demolition, Annie (Kimberley Sustad) vows to put a stop to it before Christmas. She storms the offices of Holt Enterprises to get their eviction notice rescinded and the demolition cancelled, but gets mistaken for someone else. William Holt (Paul Campbell), you see, is the heir apparent, but like a typical rich kid has spent most of his life just coasting by on his charm and his family name, relegating the hard work to his long-suffering assistant, Lyle. Daddy Holt is understandably worried about leaving him the company, so he decides to hire a lawyer to follow Will around, solving any legal messes as he makes them. Yes, it’s the most ridiculous plan ever hatched, and that’s saying something on the Hallmark channel.

Anyway, Annie is mistaken for that lawyer. But she is a lawyer, coincidentally, so Will proposes to hire her, fulfilling his father’s obligation without actually having someone meddlesome breathing over his shoulder, and in return, he promises to shut down the demolition plans. Even more preposterously, in her fake position as his guardian lawyer, one of his legal messes somehow involves her organizing an elaborate Christmas fundraiser…and then Will gets roped in too. Does it make sense? No! But they’re doing it and they’re falling in love while doing it. Which, technically speaking should probably be its own “legal mess,” but let’s go along with the spirit of the film and pretend that logic is overrated.

But wait: what if Will can’t hold up his end of the bargain? What if The Starlight Café gets plowed out of existence and this whole thing was for nothing? That’s not super romantic, is it? Total boner killer. Well, lady boner. What a conundrum! What will happen to our star crossed lovers? Can a lawyer get disbarred for posing as a different lawyer? Are all relationships based on business deals doomed to fail? Find out next on the Hallmark channel.

The Christmas House

Phylis (Sharon Lawrence) has finally joined husband Bill (Treat Williams) in retirement, and she’s finding it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. With time on their hands, though, they decide to call their grown sons home and throw one last Christmas House, just like they used to do.

What is a Christmas House, you ask? Fair question. They literally empty the house of all useful contents and stage every nook and every cranny with Christmas decor, inside and out, and then invite the whole neighbourhood over to enjoy, along with cookies and cocoa of course, and even some live entertainment.

Youngest son Brandon (Jonathan Bennett) and husband Jake (Brad Harder) are able to come because their bakery is under renovation but it’s not great timing since they’re waiting to hear whether their adoption will go through – it’s been a long journey and they’ve been disappointed before. Oldest son Mike (Robert Buckley), an actor in LA, is also able to get away because his show Handsome Justice has just wrapped its first season. If the brothers are surprised to learn the Christmas House will return after a two decade hiatus, they’re even more surprised to learn that their parents plan to sell the house after Christmas – and take some time apart.

Much has been made of Hallmark finally including some LGBTQ storylines in its holiday lineup, but this isn’t much of a bone to throw the gay community, to be honest. As you can tell, Brandon and Jake are not going to be the focal point of the story; their love’s already a done deal. This is really about single (and handsome) Mike, who grew up with his eye on the girl next door, Andi (Ana Ayora), who is also convenient back next door for the holidays. Will their spark rekindle? Of course it will. But some painful memories from the past will threaten to put those flames out. Plus, mom and dad’s divorce and Brandon and Jake’s baby worries are kind of romantic bummers. But the Christmas House! That’s what’s important now, even if it’s also the only thing actually catching fire.

Oh Hallmark, how do I love thee? You’re pumping out these holiday cheese balls with such enthusiastic precision. And yet, with an impressive slate of about 40 new Christmas movies a year, this is still the first first movie produced by Hallmark to feature a same-sex married couple and a male gay couple. It’s been a long time coming and yet still manages to disappoint – give the gays their romance!