Tag Archives: holiday movies

Timeless Christmas

Charles Whitley, gentleman of the early 20th century, lord of his manor, returns from his travels, greets his housekeeper warmly, replaces his leather-bound journal in its hiding spot, and takes a gander at a new piece he’s recently acquired at auction. It’s a time piece, a clock, and would be beautiful on his mantle if he could get it working again. It claims to find your true love when wound on a Christmas moon and will make a fine gift for his fiancée Eliza, of whom he is fond but likely doesn’t love, which is a moot point since he is of marrying age and she is the lady he’s been courting. However, when Charles (Ryan Paevey) wakes up the next morning, the clock and his tepid love life are no longer concerns because…he’s traveled through time, from 1903 to 2020, and though he doesn’t immediately grasp the time travel, he does recognize that an awful lot of strangers are in his home.

That’s because in 2020, his home has been restored and preserved as a historical landmark. The modern tour guides inside are dressed as and claim to be people he knows – his faithful housekeeper Rosie, his butler Fredricks, his fiancee Eliza. Which, if that happened to you, would be pretty mind-imploding. Charles handles it surprisingly well, though it takes some time to convince the museum’s curator Megan (Erin Cahill) of the truth (frankly, it’s incredible that he’s able to). He does look an awfully lot like the portrait of Charles Whitley hanging in the mansion’s front hall though…

As Charles and Megan search for a way to get him back home, they hide him in plain sight – posing as the actor portraying himself. But you know how it is in a Hallmark movie, boys and girls who spend time together fall in love, and rather quickly! What if Charles doesn’t want to go back? Is it rude to say Megan is an upgrade on Eliza? But will it anger the space-time continuum if he stays? And what about the people he’s left behind in the past – what will they think of his disappearance? There’s only one way to find out, folks, and you’ll find it on the Hallmark Channel.

Heart Of The Holidays

Sam’s life is falling exactly into place. She’s finally landed her dream job where she’ll be given the freedom to invest with innovative start-ups. Except her very first day goes so badly she not only quits her job on the spot, she’s also rethinking her relationship with Will, the guy who was on the bring of proposing her. So Sam returns home to small town, New York, where her widowed mother Tammy will be thrilled to have her, and spend their first Christmas together in 8 years.

One of the big reasons Sam (Vanessa Lengies) avoids her hometown is ex-boyfriend Noah (Corey Sevier, who directs himself, Hallmark power move!). Things didn’t exactly end happily (when do they ever?) but in this small town, it’s impossible not to run into the guy who owns the coffee shop/bakery/hot spot/hub, and that’s without factoring in all the town’s busy bodies who are pushing them together. Only a good old fashioned giving spirit can reunite these two, strained as it is. but they’re determined to show the town how “grown up” and “over it” they are by joining forces for humanitarian aid.

Of course that strain is due to the secret feelings they’re still harbouring for each other, and their intimate food bank work will only fan the flames. Plus, all this communal spirit is making Sam see a different side of the town she was so eager to flee all those years ago. And the more she does, the more she remembers the reason she left in the first place: to make the world a better place. Except the big city bustle really got in the way and the next thing she knew it was all about making money. Maybe small town life isn’t so bad after all? And maybe a hunky bakery owner is worth a second chance? And maybe the town’s busybodies will finally give it a rest if they just get it over with and kiss already??? You know what I’m going to say: if you’re the least bit interested, Hallmark is the place to be.

Five Star Christmas

Lucy (Bethany Joy Lenz) and the rest of her siblings are surprised to arrive home for the holidays and find that dad Walter (Robert Wisden) has turned their family home into a bed and breakfast. It’s newly opened and floundering a bit, so when they hear a renowned travel writer is in town, they know a review from her could make or break dad’s business. When she checks in under pseudonym Beth (Laura Soltis), Lucy’s siblings pitch in to either pose as staff or as guests to make the bed and breakfast seem more successful than it is. The only legitimate guest is a guy named Jake (Victor Webster). Sparks fly between Lucy and Jake (well, this being Hallmark, sparks is probably pushing it – picture something a little more akin to a 10 second burst in the microwave, warm but definitely not hot – but the trouble is, her whole family has had to keep up the ruse of being unrelated staff and guests, so their relationship, fledgling as it may be, has started out with a lie, and a pretty big one.

This movie is a little zanier than most Hallmark romances, mostly because the family members are all in character, and apparently some of them have a flair for the dramatic. Except grandpa Walter (Jay Brazeau) who has a flair for the dementia, and there’s no telling what’ll pop out of his mouth at any given moment.

Can a relationship survive a lie about one’s identity? Can a bed and breakfast review survive a brush with grandpa Walt? Do bed and breakfast guests really want to spend as much time together as owners think they do? And how would you feel if your parents secretly turned your childhood bedroom into a rental unit?

Hallmark has one formula for finding love and happiness at Christmas, but there are many variations on the theme of how to get there, and this one has be wanting to pose as my own wacky hotel guest. If you do your own Five Star Christmas cosplay, may I suggest you stay away from accents – those are always harder than you think.

USS Christmas

Maddie (Jen Lilley) has avoided the traditional Christmas Tiger Cruise her whole life. A Tiger Cruise is an opportunity for civilians to ride a ship the last few days of its deployment.  Usually, the ship pulls into a port near their homeport, picks up the “tigers” (family of the servicemembers aboard the ship) and sails the last few days home with them on board. It’s a chance for servicemembers to show their families what they do at sea, and for civilians to see firsthand what the navy does on deployment. The tigers may be sons or daughters if over the age of 8, mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers – much like a Hallmark film, there is no sex aboard a Navy ship (ha), so spouses are not allowed.

Maddie’s father was in the Navy, but she never felt the pull to cruise with him. Now that her sister’s in the Navy, she still doesn’t care to board a ship, but she’s a reporter for a Norfolk newspaper, and her editor thinks there might be a story there. Inevitably she meets Lt. Jenkins Billy, a handsome naval officer who claims not to like Christmas. But when they stumble upon a mystery in the ship’s archive room involving a historical Tiger Cruise hookup, the two spend a lot of intimate time together, and I’m pretty sure the magic of the season just overtakes him.

Am I surprised to learn that a ship that has shared bathrooms also has an archive room? Yes I am. Am I even more surprised that despite shared bathrooms, Maddie somehow has perfectly coiffed hair every day? YES I AM. But if deployment romances are your jam, USS Christmas offers a double bill.

FYI: Shipboard scenes were filmed on the Battleship USS North Carolina, permanently moored in Wilmington, NC.

Forever Christmas

Sophia (Chelsea Hobbs) produces a reality TV show called Extreme Christmas. It takes a little convincing, but she finally gets Will (Christopher Russell) to appear. His schtick is that he celebrates Christmas 365 days a year (he’s “Mr. 365”, according to the book upon which this is based); his appeal is that he’s desperately sexy.

I’ve never seen a Hallmark Christmas movie with so much shirt removal – his of course, repeatedly, while the camera lingers lovingly over his abs. Now, if you’re wondering how a tall, handsome, gainfully employed, not overtly crazy, (straight) dude in a V-neck t-shirt is cuckoo for Christmas (I have never known an unattached man to put up a Christmas tree unprompted), don’t you worry, you can be assured that reality TV will also be asking such questions, only not as nicely.

Yup, Will’s about to find out that reality TV tells its own version of reality, and doesn’t really care about his feelings. And Sophia’s going to learn that her job kind of sucks when you actually care about the person who’s life you’re mocking. Can their love possibly survive mean-spirited editing? Would you feel safe at night, sleeping beside a man obsessed with Christmas year round? And most importantly, is there a director’s cut of this movie that edits around all the humans and just stars that cute dog? As always, the answers, my friend, await you at Hallmark.

Time For Us To Come Home For Christmas

Sarah’s (Lacey Chabert) been away from her firm and her life for a while now, wrapping up loose ends from her mother’s death a few months ago. Before she returns she plans to spend the holidays at a very quaint little inn. The inn is owned by the very handsome and luckily single Ben (Stephen Huszar) and these two are about to have a very good reason to spend lots of time together, apart from already being under the same roof for Christmas. Sarah and Ben have discovered that like, her, all of the inn’s five guests received a special invitation to be here over the holidays, and no one knows where these invitations came from. Not from the inn itself, certainly, and of course the inn can’t find any booking and reservation information that would indicate who the mysterious benefactor is. But the invitations do bear the town’s postmark, so the answer must be local. What a fun little mystery to solve, although, strictly speaking, if it was me in Sarah’s shoes I would have wondered a little harder if the Snowflake Inn was really about to become the Murder Inn. It seems reminiscent of a horror movie plot if you ask me. Also: that’s 5 grown ups who did not question a bossy piece of paper that came anonymously in the mail, ordering them to spend Christmas at some inn. Ask more questions, people!

This is the third movie executive produced by Blake Shelton and based on his song “Time for Me to Come Home” that he wrote with his mother, Dorothy Shackleford. The first movie, 2018’s Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas, and the second movie, 2019’s Time for You to Come Home for Christmas, and now this third one are all independent of each other and have a different story lines, actors, and settings.

Will the mystery be solved by baking cookies? Will the guy from Cool Runnings come out of his shell? Will Sarah and Ben’s budding relationship withstand her being better than him at chess? And would anyone believe that these 5 strangers turn out to have some connecting event in their past? Test your knowledge and your faith at the good old Hallmark channel. Get it while it’s hot.

The Christmas Doctor

Dr. Zoey (Holly Robinson Peete) was a military doctor for 15 years, but when it was time to move on, a decision perhaps made in part with the loss of a favoured patient in mind, she chooses to keep up with her nomadic lifestyle and becomes a travelling locum doctor, which means she gets assigned to different cities to temporarily fill in for other doctors, either at their hospital or medical practice, typically for a few weeks to a few months at a time. Zoey seems to enjoy it, but she hasn’t spent Christmas with her sister in many years and this one’s not going to be any different. After finishing up a big city job in a big hospital, she’s going to the small town of Willowbrook in upstate New York where she’ll be replacing the town’s only doctor. Dr. Ray (Fred Henderson) is beloved by the community but needs surgery. Zoey is a competent replacement, but the townsfolk need time to warm up to her – and she needs time to adjust to small town doctoring, which means doing a little of everything, including knowing which patients are just lonely, and which ones need a patented Dr. Ray home visit.

While in town, Zoey meets Luke (Adrian Holmes), and repeatedly causes him to bump his noggin on things. She’s not trying to drum up business – it’s just kind of their thing, the thing that precedes their falling in love. Falling in love while learning to make recipes with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. Something tells me there MIGHT be a touch of the product placement in this movie. Anyway, the locum goes smoothly, the falling in love goes smoothly, but Zoey will be moving on once again – pretty much right on Christmas day. How can a new love survive such a schedule? Can a rootless doctor develop a sense of home? Have a little faith, guys. Love finds a way, and I will confess that by this movie’s end, even this cynic had tears in her eyes.

Christmas In Homestead

Matt Larson (Michael Rady) is both the owner of a cozy little inn and the mayor of a cozy little town called Homestead. Since you’re watching a Hallmark Christmas romance, you might guess that the town of Homestead goes all out at Christmas – it’s their thing. But this year, their festivities will be disrupted by a movie shoot that’s come to town to capitalize on their unrivaled small-town Christmassiness.

Jessica McEllis (Taylor Cole) is the movie’s producer, as well as its star. She’s kind of a big deal, actually, a movie star that even Matt’s young daughter Sophie admires, and has a poster of her on her bedroom wall. Jessica’s costar Vince (Jeff Branson) is also her ex-boyfriend, though he’s eager to turn that around and be her current boyfriend once again. The paparazzi that have followed them to this small town seem hopeful on this count as well. But Jessica’s heart is pointing her more toward Matt, who is stable and humble, and everything her Hollywood lifestyle is not. So how would that even work, logistically? It wouldn’t, and when a photo of a kiss between the two is published, leading to increased invasion of privacy, that’s pretty much the final nail in the coffin.

Basically, Jessica just wants to get this movie in the can, and walks a fine line as a producer who has to prioritize the work, and as a decent person who wants to allow the townspeople to get back to enjoying their Christmas – and especially not upset a certain handsome mayor.

Will Vince scheme his way back into Jessica’s heart? How many paparazzi will inevitably fall out of trees? Is it weird that Matt’s dead wife was a Jessica fan? And how many cupcakes can one film crew eat? Hallmark has the answers to all of life’s most pressing questions, and if you hurry, you can view to your heart’s content right now, and until Christmas. Enjoy.

Holly & Ivy

Melody (Janel Parrish) has just moved in next door to a single mom with two adorable daughters, the eponymous Holly and Ivy. Melody and mom Nina (Marisol Nichols) are fast friends, and the girls love Melody too, particularly because her car is an unofficial book mobile and the girls are avid readers. Soon (very soon), these two households are inseparable; Melody pitches in with watching the kids, and the kids are eager to help Melody settle in – although, to be fair, Melody has just bought a ‘fixer upper’ that feels more like a crack den than a home at the moment.

Sadly, Nina has just learned that her lymphoma is back, and even though it’s a really big ask, she has no one else, and Melody, friend of just a few intense days, is asked to be the guardian of dear sweet Holly and Ivy should mom Nina pass. In order to be approved for adoption, Melody is going to jump through some hoops, and fast – getting a job, for example, is probably item #1, and proving much harder than she’d anticipated. But getting the house up to code is also pretty crucial. Luckily, she meets a handsome young construction worker who’s surprisingly eager to lend a hand. I say surprisingly only because Melody and Adam (Jeremy Jordan) are younger than our typical Hallmark protagonists. Since Hallmark’s love stories typically emphasize love, commitment, and family over hot sex and passion, their love interests are always firmly in their 30s and ready to settle – at the youngest. Often they’re already widowed or looking for a second chance at love. Melody and Adam are in their 20s – can they possibly be ready for an instant family when they only just met days ago?

Well, in the same Hallmark universe where a young woman impulsively agrees to adopt a virtual stranger’s children, yes. But the first rule about parenting is that Adam and Melody will have to come to grips with some sacrifices, both professionally, and, gulp, romantically. Are they ready to face such tests? Is anybody?

Holly & Ivy is a bit of a surprise. It’s more about Melody’s relationship with the kids, and her promise to Nina, than any budding romance. Luckily by the movie’s end she’ll learn to embrace offers of help and support because hooo boy is she going to need it. Does this sound like the kind of holiday movie you can groove to? Then boogie on over to the Hallmark channel and enjoy the show.

Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special

[Note: not so much a review as a full-on recap and discussion…I’d say *spoilers ahead* except you already know she’s going to sing…right? So let’s get into what she wore and to whom she was bitchy.]

Some might say that a “premise” isn’t really necessary for a Mariah Carey Christmas Special. She’s practically Christmas royalty – hand her a microphone and we’re set. But nobody ever accused Mariah of not being extra, and so we have this:

Tiffany Haddish opens up a book and begins reading a Christmas tale about the year 2020 and how it was very difficult for people, resulting in a general lack of Christmas cheer. We check in with Billy the Elf (Billy Eisner) at the North Pole, who confirms the numbers are dangerously low. He greets Millie Bobby Brown, Bette Midler, and Heidi Klum, who concur (a random consortium, but I’ll take it). Billy surmises that there’s really only one thing to be done:

Cut to: Mariah Carey in a body-con holiday onesie the envy of ski bunnies everywhere, trimming the tree with her beautiful twins, Monroe and Moroccan, and a third child who’s basically just there to do the acting on their behalf. Unfortunately, no such stand-in is available for Mariah, who gives the most wooden Mariah Carey performance of her life (in fairness, she is probably physically incapable of moving her face). Mariah’s secret Santa phone is ringing, and she is summoned to the North Pole to save Christmas the way only Mariah Carey can. To the Batcave! Or the secret Christmas cave behind the fireplace anyway, where a self-propelled sleigh is awaiting to to whisk her away to the North Pole.

Anyway, she arrives to the North Pole like she is its Queen, and she kind of basically is. As “Santa’s Great Friend,” her arrival merits a parade thrown in her honour, rolled out so quickly they must keep it on standby and rehearse it periodically, like funerals for all the members of the royal family.

Or, I suppose I should say the “North Pole” – we’ve really taken increasing artistic license with the North Pole over the years. The geographic North Pole is found in the Arctic Ocean, on constantly shifting pieces of sea ice. It’s mostly just the sea ice, icebergs, and glaciers up there (no, those aren’t synonyms), with plant life mostly limited to grasses, mosses and lichens, not the oodles of evergreens Christmas Special set decorators are prone to overuse.

Mariah consents, from the bottom of her generous bosom heart to give a concert that will bring cheer to all who hear it. In her first costume change (out of 6.5), she appears in a glittering gold gown and stands beside a red lacquered piano to belt out the first of many Christmas carols.

In a third outfit, a short red and black dress with an impressively unnecessary train, she greets Snoop Dogg and Jermaine Dupri for a song, Snoop Dogg looking like he’s blissed out on some sort of special elf blend in a big red Santa suit he’s not remotely self-conscious about. And then Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson join her on stage, and by join her I mean quite visibly play back up singer to Mariah Carey’s lead singer. Wearing green dresses (Ariana in a cute velvet number and Jennifer looking like an absolute vision in sequins) and standing slightly behind and to the sides of Ms. Diva Carey, flanking her like they’re definitely not the stars of this special. When Mariah hits those high whistle notes of hers with a finger in her ear (an affectation when you’re lip-syncing, sure, but Mariah Carey is like 117% affectation), you might almost believe she’s doing it to block out Ms. Grande who’s joining her up in that upper register, but no, Mariah Carey has marked her territory and no one could mistake this as anything but her show. Not even Misty Copeland, ballerina extraordinaire, who’s up next.

Then there’s the silver dress which Mariah wears standing out in the “forest.” Let’s take a moment to shout out the formidable wardrobe department who help Mariah’s considerable assets defy gravity with a minimum of straps or structural support. This, above all, is the magic in Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special. Her wig department is no less overworked but a little less technically proficient. The silver dress segment has her sporting a windblown look that stays windblown even without her dedicated wind machines, of which there are many.

Next we have the great big white dress that takes up nearly the entire stage. If you saw a woman wearing it down the aisle you’d wonder who the hell she think she is (Celine Dion?). She could be hiding several Billy Eichners under there. But then, for the next song, it seems the voluminous skirt is removed to reveal a fitted mermaid dress underneath, with sheer cutouts, no sleeves, and plenty of cleave. This is the portion of our evening in which Mariah will now heal the world, and she does it with two things: candle light, and extensive humming. If you’re thinking about watching this special, BYOC (bring your own candle). Millie, Heidi, and Bette all seem to have been cured. Billy Eichner confirms up: cheer is alive and well! Mariah has indeed saved the day, as we all knew she would.

Tiffany Haddish closes the book on Mariah’s Christmas miracle, but have no fear, we’re all heading back to the North Pole for one last number, and Mariah will be joined onstage by her children, who are pretty enthusiastic little dancers. Her encore deserves one last costume change, into a military/nutcracker inspired red sequined number that is worthy of the song that inspired the special, All I Want For Christmas Is You. Mariah Carey could be cryogenically frozen the other 11 months of the year and just rolled out for Christmas, and to add another billion to her bank account for a song she co-wrote and co-produced with Walter Afanasieff. That song gains in popularity every damn year, it’s a modern Christmas classic and it keeps her busy all December long, belting it out at every tree lighting ceremony across the country. It even broke the record for the longest trip to the number one position, reaching the spot 25 years after the song’s original release. It’s her bread and butter and has the coveted last spot in her Christmas Special (though it’s teased earlier). It’s exactly the kind of special you need around the holidays, and it couldn’t contain any more Mariah per square inch without exploding.