Advent Day #13: A Christmas In Tennessee

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OMG. A Christmas In Tennessee is everything that Welcome To Christmas wanted to be. It is almost exactly the same premise but a million times better.

Matthew (Andrew W. Walker) is a consultant for a real estate developer who rolls into White Pines, Tennessee to try to get the townspeople to sell their property so they can put a ski resort there. Allison (Rachel Boston), a single mom, owns the local bakery. She is also one of two descendants of the town founders. Matthew only needs one of them to sign the contract but will they?

Tennessee also has a couple of subplots going on. One involves Allison’s daughter, Olivia (Kate Moyer), wishing the bakery made more money. Santa and Mrs. Claus order a ton of cookies. When Olivia’s tale of Santa’s favorite cookies goes viral, the bakery is busier than ever. A second subplot involves Allison’s mother, Martha (Patricia Richardson), resuming her life after the death of her husband. She is the musical director at the local church but she doesn’t want to sing anymore. And there’s a bit of a love story between Martha and the town mayor.

Unlike Welcome to Christmas, this movie is packed with personality. The only character that gets sidestepped a bit is Matthew’s evil assistant, who doesn’t even get a credit on the show’s IMDB page. (I even forget her name…Rebecca, maybe?) While I didn’t want her to be more involved, she is the cause of the big problem at the end of the movie and we never see her getting her comeuppance. I mean, the lady literally forges a signature. It would have been nice to see her get arrested or something.

I found myself actually charmed by Tennessee. Considering a groaned inwardly when I saw that this was another real estate movie (does big-Christmas-television think that this is an interesting concept? Because it isn’t.). Thankfully, the casting director hired some amazing actors that were able to bring this all together. You’ll definitely enjoy Caroline Rhea as Mrs. Claus. Whoever decided to cast her needs a raise!

Advent Day #12: Welcome to Christmas

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Well, I now have proof that the Hallmark Channel is capable of showing craptastic movies. I honestly thought that I had it all wrong and that Lifetime was the sole culprit in my hatred of Christmas romance movies. Thanks for setting my straight, Hallmark.

Madison (Jennifer Finnigan) is a real estate developer tasked to find a location for her company’s new ski resort. She prefers Mountain Park, Colorado while her rival co-worker is pushing for Christmas, Colorado. Their boss sends Madison to Christmas to check the place out herself.

OK. I admit that I stopped paying attention to this movie about 15 minutes in. It is absolutely terrible. I tried really hard to make myself watch it but I failed miserably. The characters are so bland that I had a difficult time keeping track of who was whom. Add to that the terrible writing. Nothing happened to make me care for the characters or the town or anything on the screen. There wasn’t anything particularly special about Christmas that differentiated it from any other small town. Even Madison’s ‘big’ emotional change from ‘cold corporate bitch’ to ‘small town girl’ was boring.

Seriously, stay away from this movie. I wish there was a way for me to get the ~90 back that it stole from my life.

Advent Day #11: Santa's Boots

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Yes, this movie is called Santa’s Boots. It’s a title that doesn’t make sense until pretty much the end of the movie. Yes, I agree that it’s a dumb title. But let’s try to look past it.

When Holly (Megan Hilty) is forced to take a vacation from her job in Seattle, she heads home to celebrate the holidays with her family. Tired of putting up with her overly critical mother, Holly heads over to the family’s department store to hide. However, she ends up getting wrangled into being an elf for the store’s Santa, who happens to be a young, hot guy named Nick (Noah Mills). Of course, they fall in love.

“Wait, that synopsis didn’t say anything about boots!” You’re right. That is because the boots are an extremely small part of the story. Holly falls in love with Nick, Nick’s uncle falls ill, and Nick kinda ghosts everyone to spend time with his uncle in the hospital. Nick had left his well-loved boots at the department store to get repaired right before the aforementioned uncle issue. Since Holly doesn’t know how to find Nick (other than calling back the Santa temp agency guy when their first call was lost), she decides to pull a ‘Cinderella’ and have a ton of strange men try on Nick’s boots until she finds him. So, see? Nick is the store’s Santa and Holly uses his boots to try to find him. Hilarious, right? I didn’t think so either.

The rest of the movie doesn’t make a lot of sense either. Like so many of the women in these movies, Holly hides the fact that her family owns the store. I’m not sure why anyone would care that she’s the boss’s daughter. She’s still dressed like a freaking elf. And, even though Holly and Nick hit it off, neither of them bother to exchange contact information. Holly does call the Santa temp agency, run by Nick’s friend Rob (Matt Hamilton). Rob loses cell reception in the hospital but at no point does Holly try to call him back. Or send the card to Rob’s company that she talked about. There are so many other ways Holly could have tried to find Nick. If I was Nick, I would have been pissed that she had all of these men trying on my shoes that I just got repaired. But this is a Lifetime movie, of course. And in the Lifetime universe, this is cute.

Do I recommend this movie? Not really. It was so boring. The best thing about the movie was Patricia Issac’s singing. I’m not sure it’s worth sitting through the entire movie for a few snippets of Christmas music. Especially when there are better movies out there.

Advent Day #10: Homegrown Christmas

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Another staple of holiday romance movies is “women who chose careers over family and are now miserable.” That is the basic premise of this movie. It’s probably my least favorite of the storylines.

Maddie (Lori Loughlin) has sold her popular shoe company. Now that she doesn’t have anything to do, she goes home to celebrate the holidays with her family, who happens to own a wood-working company that makes furniture. Her high school sweetheart, Carter (Victor Webster), works for the family company. Even though they are barely on speaking terms, Maddie and Carter have to work together to plan the high school’s winter dance.

I have issues with this movie. They aren’t giant issues but they are there. A lot of the “tension” in the movie is a result of two things: Carter didn’t move to New York with Maddie and Maddie didn’t stay in Claremont with Carter. The two of them harbor so much resentment over the fact that their high school relationship didn’t continue after graduation. I don’t think they state how old the characters are supposed to be but Lori Loughlin is 54 years old and Victor Webster is 45 years old. That is an awful long time to hold onto an ex. I can get into a “They were The One” plot as much as anyone but it just doesn’t work well here.

Also, Maddie frequently tells Carter how talented his woodwoorking is and how he should have his own business. Carter isn’t interested in owning a business and he’s not convinced that anyone would buy his work. Well, one - not everyone would be a good business owner. Just because he is good at making things doesn’t mean he would be good at selling it or keeping the books or any of the other things required to be a business-owner. Two - Carter makes the furniture for the family business! It may not be super creative like the wooden ornaments or miniature houses he made but they are the entirety of the family’s business and it is doing well enough that Maddie’s dad had retired before he passed away and now her mom is retiring. Most business-owners don’t get to do that!

If you can look past some of the problems in the movie, it’s not completely terrible to watch. It is more of a ‘turn on in the background for noise’ rather than a movie you can actually enjoy. I guess this is the first real dud for the Hallmark Channel.

Advent Day #9: Christmas Lost and Found

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Have we actually moved into a land of good Lifetime movies? It’s a little difficult to believe but these past few movies haven’t been too terrible. Christmas Lost and Found seems to follow the current trend of decent Lifetime Christmas movies.

In Lost and Found, Whitney (Tiya Sircar) is an event planner who lives in New York but came to her hometown of Chicago to visit her grandmother, Frances (Diane Ladd). Frances gives Whitney all of the Christmas ornaments they had collected over the years but Whitney accidentally throws them away while cleaning. A mysterious letter shows up sending Whitney and Frances’s neighbor, Brian (Edward Ruttle), on a scavenger hunt around town to find the lost ornaments.

When I saw that Tiya Sircar from The Good Place was the lead actress here, I was hopeful that this would be a good movie. I like quite like her. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. To be honest, the only thing I didn’t really like about the movie was the lack of focus on the actual scavenger hunt. Instead of making the entire movie about that, the writers gave Whitney a job (planning a party and designing a Christmas window for a local department store) that divided her time. While that was nice in itself, it took away from the importance of finding the ornaments. Whitney would frequently just put the next clue in her handbag instead of reading it right away because she had to run off to a meeting or something for the store. I think I would have liked it better if it was just a fun-filled frantic romp around town.

My recommendation? Give it a go. If anything, you’ll come to love Sircar just as much as I do. And that is always a good thing.

Advent Day #8: The Christmas Pact

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Finally! A Christmas movie on Lifetime that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out! Actually, this one was pretty darn cute. I did start out hoping this movie was some sort of sequel to A Different World (for those of you that don’t know, The Cosby Show had a spin-off and it was awesome and it was called A Different World) but it wasn’t. Sad times.

No, A Christmas Pact is the story of the lifelong friendship between Sadie (Kyla Pratt) and Ben (Jarod Joseph). When the movie starts, the pair are eight year old kids. The two of them plant a small Christmas tree in the backyard of their church. Then they make a pact that they will return to that spot every Christmas to keep the magic of Christmas alive. And they mostly follow through, until they grow up and Sadie becomes a professional photographer who travels the world. But Ben always shows up. Eventually, Sadie comes back home and the pact resumes. Everyone else can see that they are in love but will they ever realize it?

Now why did I think this may be A Different World sequel? Because Jasmine Guy and Kadeem Hardison play Sadie’s parents and they were the on-again/off-again couple, Whitney and Dwayne, in the series. While my heart was a little broken that they were playing different characters, I did enjoy seeing them together again. They definitely play a great couple.

As for the movie itself, I found myself actually liking it a lot. I thought that the characters stayed true to their friendship the entire time. Granted, it did seem that they didn’t keep in touch very often when they weren’t on-screen. They could have easily called each other or written letters or whatever but I think most of the ‘out-of-touchness’ was for the benefit of the audience so we knew what was going on in their lives. It was strange but not completely out of the realm of possibility. And, really, it didn’t matter that much. We were here to watch them change as they grew to see if they would grow together or apart. (OK, well, we knew it wasn’t going to be apart…it would be a terrible movie, otherwise.)

I think that is why Pact was so different from other movies. Most Christmas rom-coms need some sort of fabricated conflict to throw two adults into a relationship. This time around, we got to see a relationship turn from friendship into romance. And it was adorable.

Advent Day #7: A Majestic Christmas

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I never thought that I would be looking forward to a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. After Lifetime’s duds, I’m depending on Hallmark to save the season. Movie-wise, at least.

A Majestic Christmas is a slightly different kind of Christmas movie. This one isn’t about the romance as much. Nell (Jerrika Hinton) is from a small town called Briar Falls. Every year, they have a 12 Days of Christmas Festival, which ends with a grand production in the town’s theater, The Majestic. The previous owner of The Majestic passed away, leaving it to her nephew, Connor (Christian Vincent). He has decided that, instead of keeping it as a theater, he’s going to change the building into a multi-plex. Nell, an architect, gets the project from her firm. Everyone in town is sad that they are losing their theater but maybe Nell can get Connor to change his mind.

While I didn’t love this movie, I did enjoy it. I liked that the romance aspect took a backseat to the community events. Instead of trying to make Connor fall in love with her, Nell tried to make Connor fall in love with Briar Falls. Yes, it still had a lot of the problems all of these movies have - people’s jobs are sketchy or they are doing things that don’t really fall into their actual job’s realm, everyone seems to have bundles of money even though they would barely make any with the jobs they have, etc. - but, well, you just have to expect those and look beyond them. I’m more concerned about the characters and the story. Are the ladies in the movie simply as a love interest or are they more than that? In Nell’s case, she is more. She still seems like a young woman who doesn’t quite know where she fits in the world but she is working hard to figure it out and she isn’t relying on anyone to help her do it.

So maybe it’s not a Christmas Classic but it is a Christmas Enjoyment.

Advent Day #6: A Star For Christmas

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Is this a record? It’s only Day Six of this project and I have already watched the worst “Christmas” movie on my list. It’s so bad that I actually may need to add another rule so that I don’t have to watch anything like this again.

A Star For Christmas is another 2012 movie made by Mar Vista Entertainment. (Actually, I’m not sure if it’s Mar Vista or Marvista or MarVista as I have seen it written all three ways.) Love For Christmas was the first of their movies that I watched. As you will recall, also terrible. I think I may need to ban Mar Vista movies from the project, lest I go insane before Christmas Day.

I’m going to give you a little synopsis but, keep in mind, it doesn’t make any goddamn sense. Cassie (Briana Evigan) is a baker in a small town. Because her cupcakes are SO AMAZING, she gets hired as the exclusive craft services treat supplier? The star of the movie, Alex Gray (Corey Sevier), stops by Cassie’s cupcake shop and falls in love with her? They start dating but Alex’s ex-girlfriend, Skylar Saint Jean (Brooke Burns), tries to break them up? Then, um, love?

I wish I was lying when I said this movie didn’t make any sense. Cassie is a TERRIBLE businesswoman. In the first ten minutes of the movie, she literally sells a dozen cupcakes for $6.95 then throws in an extra Santa cupcake because she knew the customer would want it. I want to know where she lives that she can afford to sell her cupcakes for that cheap and still make money. Later in the movie, she claims that she makes all of her money for the year at Christmastime. Girl, you have an actual store with rent and electricity and all that. Don’t ask me to believe that you sell so many cupcakes in December that it can pay for the store plus pay Tricia (Karissa Vacker), your best friend/employee, for an entire YEAR. Also, your store is called Cassie’s Cupcakery. Who let you do that?

Then there is this movie thing. Cassie doesn’t own a television, therefore she knows nothing about the outside world! She has never heard of this super famous actor, who is apparently all over the tabloids. Apparently, she doesn’t read newspapers either. But she does use the internet! Once they start dating, she is all over the paparazzi sites reading dirt on him and getting jealous over it. Even if I suspend some disbelief, allowing her to not know who Alex is, she goes batshit crazy throughout the movie. She’ll be making out with them, then suddenly ask him why he’s doing things for her (BECAUSE YOU MAKE OUT WITH HIM), then she’s running away because he can’t possibly like her, then she sleeping with him. It feels like they filmed all of these scenes then put them together out of order. Like the script was written so she didn’t act like a lunatic but the editor or director messed up the order of the scenes so she looks insane.

Two more things that I hate about this movie: 1. Craft Service Dessert Tables aren’t a thing. Especially not on an ‘action Christmas movie.’ Craft services is a table with snacks (like vegetable trays or muffin trays or something) where the cast/crew can grab a quick bite in between scenes. Cupcakes don’t really fall into that category. 2. There is a running joke that the friends (Cassie, Tricia, and Cassie’s brother Zack) don’t know how to pronounce Skylar’s last name. Is it John? Is it French like Ghawn? But no one ASKS her. And I think they actually pronounce her name different ways TO HER FACE. Then, at the end of the movie, there is a voiceover promo for the in-movie-movie and the announcer says her name is Gee-Ann. Get out of here.

I wanted to like this movie. It had a baker (though I was hoping she was Melissa Joan Hart…she’s another one of my Christmas bucket list actors) and…well, it was really just the baker part that made me want to like it. Instead, it almost made me throw my remote at the screen. So, I’m officially changing the rules now. No more Mar Vista (or Marvista or MarVista) movies. Especially if they are from 2012. That was a terrible year for them. I may need to do a little more research before I watch a movie but I think it will save my sanity in the end.

Advent Day #5: A Twist of Christmas

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You know, I think Lifetime was a little jealous of Jingle All The Way so they figured they had to make their own toy-based Christmas movie. Thankfully, this doesn’t follow Jingle’s path. Instead of parents fighting to find the difficult-to-get awesome toy of the year, A Twist of Christmas has two busy parents mixing up their shopping bags and getting each other’s purchases.

On one side, we have Abby (Vanessa Lachey), a writer for a parenting magazine who lives her life following strict schedules. On the other side, we have Ryan (Brendon Zub), a lawyer who takes life as it comes. Of course, both of them are single - Abby is widowed and Ryan is divorced. As I said, they mix up their purchases but then, thanks to a whole lot of misfortunes, have to spend way more time together as planned. Which makes them fall in love. Of course.

I ended up watching this movie with my 16-year old daughter. And both of us are VERY confused. Throughout the movie, they talk about how each family spends Christmas Day. Multiple times it seems like it IS Christmas Day, only for a character to say Christmas is the next day. Maybe we missed something very important but it seems like time has no meaning here.

Another confusing part, for me anyway, is that Abby’s parents come to celebrate Christmas but are completely useless. Abby asks Ryan to babysit her son, Elliot (Christian Convery), even though her parents are RIGHT THERE. They could babysit him! There is one point in the movie where they are babysitting both Elliot and Ryan’s daughter, Jasmine (Lina Renna), but only because both Abby and Ryan decide to take a long walk to the store? It really makes no sense.

Oh heck, let’s pile the rest of the confusing things into one spot: I have no idea where this is supposed to take place. They reference some Washington DC spots but all of the trees have their leaves and it is very green outside. (Hey, Hollywood! In wintertime in the NorthEast, it is cold, trees have no leaves, and there is sometimes snow. Lush, green grass isn’t a thing in the winter months.) Then there’s a scene where all of the adults take the kids for pictures with Santa but it’s in a stadium? That has an ice rink. Where people both skate and walk in the same space. Yes, there were people ice skating right next to people walking around, looking at stuff. There was even a couple pushing a stroller on the ice. I don’t understand.

Twist isn’t nearly as bad as Love for Christmas. Not by a long shot. However, for most of the movie, Abby is a straight up bitch. She is just so MEAN. Ryan isn’t an amazing character either but I can kinda forgive him since he’s usually reacting to Abby’s terrible attitude. Even when Ryan cracks Abby’s control issues, they aren’t a good couple. I don’t understand why they end up falling in love. Especially in such a short time. At least I think it’s a short time. ARGH.

You know what would save this movie? Chrissy Teigen. I have decided that she would take Abby’s bitchiness and turn it into something charming. I don’t know how she would do it but I have confidence in you, Chrissy! You need to save Christmas!

Advent Day #4: A Shoe Addict's Christmas

 Source: http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/a-shoe-addicts-christmas

Source: http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/a-shoe-addicts-christmas

Since A Shoe Addict’s Christmas first aired back in November, I was really hoping that Hallmark would re-air this in December so I could watch it. I mean, what Christmas movie list is complete without a Candace Cameron Bure movie? Thankfully, Hallmark came through for me.

Basically, this movie is a sort of romantic retelling of A Christmas Carol. Our girl, Candace, plays Noelle, a department store HR manager who (somehow) gets put in charge of helping plan a holiday gala for the local fire station. (The gala is for the fire station but the department store is footing the bill.) Firefighter Jake (Luke Macfarlane) gets assigned to help Noelle plan the festivities. One night, Noelle meets her guardian angel, Charlie (Jean Smart). Charlie tells Noelle that she has given up on her passions in life - photography and love. So Charlie uses shoes to transport Noelle back in time to show her the past three years of Christmases to get Noelle’s professional and love lives back on track.

Hm. Um. Yeah. Shoe Addict wasn’t as terrible as I was expecting. But that doesn’t mean it’s good either. While Noelle proclaims to love shoes, it feels empty. She continually claims that “every shoe has a story” but doesn’t really tell any stories about her shoes. I suppose we can say that Charlie using shoes to transport Noelle back to important moments in her life as a ‘shoe story’….no, no we can’t say that. Because those moments aren’t about the shoes at all. They are about Noelle saying no to things she should have said yes to. Then there is some shoehorned thing about a cross necklace that Noelle’s mom used to wear? It’s another semi-plot line that is introduced then thrown to the side until it’s needed again. Honestly, it feels like the writers wanted to throw so many things into the movie that they just couldn’t bear to cut any of them.

On the good side, I really did enjoy Jean Smart as the clutzy guardian angel. She seemed to be the most genuine character of the bunch. Everyone else turned their Cheese Factor up to 11. With that said, I’m glad I sat through a Candace Cameron Bure movie. I have seen a ton of commercials for her recent Hallmark movies but I’ve never actually sat through one. Now I feel like I sat through them all! And that is my recommendation - find one Candace Cameron Bure movie that sounds interesting and watch that one. Skip the rest.