Special Event: Hallmark Christmas Movies 2023
November 5, 2023 7:47 PM - Subscribe

Per this discussion last year, I'm starting a thread for Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, assuming there's probably not a lot of people to discuss EACH movie in separate posts, but some folks may want to discuss them in general.

Within this, I'll post discussion of the movies as I get through them, or as anyone else goes through them. I've been saving them off Philo TV for once I have free time again, which I may have a lot of this holiday season.
posted by jenfullmoon (119 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
“Never Been Chris’d” looked cute but the reviews haven’t been great. Recorded it but haven’t watched yet.
posted by Clustercuss at 8:10 PM on November 5, 2023

Here we go!

Under The Christmas Sky: Kat is an astrophysicist who specializes in the sun. She recently got into a car accident that's caused a blind spot in her left eye that hasn't healed on its own, which means she's officially blocked from ever going to the space station like she planned. While still out on medical leave for the holidays, she hangs with the family and is offered a wee bit of a job consulting at the planetarium to jazz up their exhibits for Christmas. This partners her with current employee David, who's a wee bit stodgy on presentation, but you know he'll come around. He has a daughter, Lila, who is a total space nerd and just looooooves Kat right off.

Our Fun Beta Couple is Kat's super-charming brother Andy, who still hasn't figured out what to do for a career yet, who totally likes Celeste, a hot and charming redhead who works at the planetarium. He pitches in with her toy drive and ... whatever else ;)

Things I liked:
* Everyone is very cute in this, but especially Andy, who is charm personified. Give this man many more Hallmark movies, please.
* I like the Blind Spot Cam they break out occasionally so you see what she's dealing with.
* Lila is an adorable space nerd with a light-up wheelchair and when Kat confesses she can't go into space, Lila says she can't either (I gather a kid at school is giving her shit over this) and they clasp hands and it's soooooo sweet, I kvelled.
* Space!
* Everyone is very nice and supportive of each other, no jerks here unless you count whatever jackholes bully Lila in school and stomp on her ornament.
* Kat decides that even if she can't ever go to space (and there's no miracle cure in this movie for the blind spot), she's still enough into her work that she can deal with that. Good for her.

Things I'm confused on.
* They have NASA....er, NSP...(note: there's a shot clearly saying NASA at the start of the movie) in Kansas City? Doesn't NASA/space offices in general have their buildings by oceans for launches? Or is she just visiting KC from wherever NSP is, because they seemed to get over there for a visit mighty quickly.

Not so much my thing:
* I'm beyond tired of Magical Christmas Job Offers Elsewhere in every movie and Kat seems to have them handed to her like Christmas cookies by her friends. That said, it's reasonable for her to consider moving onto museum curation or whatever else if she decided she couldn't bear not going into space.

Recommended viewing, in my opinion. Could have a bit of a hotter romance between the leads--they're quite friendly but don't quite have the steam that Andy exudes in like, every scene--but enjoyable and sweet. And SPACE!
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:10 PM on November 5, 2023 [3 favorites]

A game my partner and I play every year with hallmark/Netflix Christmas Universe/similar movies is trying to reconstruct the plots from the title and poster alone. I highly recommend this!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:36 PM on November 5, 2023 [1 favorite]

Thing I forgot to mention: David is SEPARATED from his wife. For seven years. NOT divorced. (Insert Will/Jada reference here.) It's clearly spelled out with that word. What the heck, Hallmark? That seems so open-ended and messy, not to mention a bit difficult to have a happy ending when your hero still needs to get divorced first. Where is the wife, anyway, did she just abandon her kid and run off?

Oh yeah, and David for once has NOT bought a Christmas gift for a girl he's known for only a month, which is rather refreshing in its honesty that that isn't normally a thing people would do except in Hallmark. (Meanwhile Celeste certainly did for Andy.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:55 AM on November 6, 2023 [2 favorites]

What do we think will be the subject of the inevitable cookin/baking competition this season? I'd love it if they'd take one of the fall vineyard movies and do a mulled-wine sequel with everyone getting sloshed.
posted by TwoStride at 6:33 AM on November 6, 2023 [1 favorite]

WOOHOO I am into this! I will be watching a number of the new movies.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:02 AM on November 6, 2023 [1 favorite]

Where Are You, Christmas? Addy is an overloaded Christmas branding expert who has snuck off to the Maldives for Christmas (a Hallmark sin) for the last six years to decompress, but is guilted into going back to her Christmas town because her brother's going to propose. She accidentally makes a wish on a Santa app (?!?!) that Christmas would be gone, has a car accident, and then wakes up in Pleasantville....i.e. black and white world where Christmas doesn't exist and there's a billion New Year's Eve movies running since June and everyone is vaguely cranky and snappish.

Addy figures out that getting people to remember Christmas puts them back in color again, starting with the traumatized ex-soldier/mechanic/love interest, Hunter. (Who's mildly funny bundling himself up to hide his color.) Addy, weirdly enough, stays in black and white while everyone else is turning colors. Her dad (Jerry/Terry/Larry/Garry from Parks and Rec) is fairly cranky over all of this, and also Addy not being around as much.

It was...okay, I guess? I wasn't madly in love with it, not sure why. It felt like a four hour long movie somehow. I did find a review that points out the major plot holes in this, and it's accurate. That said, I do like how Addy gets progressively pissier and pissier that she's not turning back into color, yells at the app and pitches her phone out the window.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:19 PM on November 6, 2023 [1 favorite]

Where to Watch All 114 New Christmas Movies This Year

One. Hundred. Fourteen.

That is a round up of various channels and streamers, not just Hallmark, obviously, but that is a truly mindboggling number of holiday movies.
posted by the primroses were over at 7:09 PM on November 6, 2023 [1 favorite]

jenfullmoon, THANK YOU for this thread. I haven't had a chance to delve into this year's offerings, but the past couple of years I've totally leaned into corny Xmas movies as comfort food (and my cynical teenage sons were surprisingly supportive, in the vein of "Hey mom, if it makes you happy...") so I am very much looking forward to getting my craft room cleaned out so I can curl up in my MomChair with a cuppa (whiskey or hot cocoa) and a box of Kleenex while the Schmoop and the sons are playing GameBox or whatever on the big TV.

I'll even try to review something at some point, in order to be a good thread participant. Try, anyway.
posted by cinnamonduff at 7:32 PM on November 6, 2023 [3 favorites]

Oh, and while I haven't managed to get even a tenth through the list the primroses were over posted, could I request that if people find a non-Christian holiday movie, maybe give that a little extra shoutout?

From last year, although I came across it a bit after Hannukah: Menorah in the Middle on Hulu, which features the same general concepts (in this case, saving the family bakery), but with more blue and less red/green (and much tastier-looking food). Plus, Sarah Silverman and her real-life sister as secondary characters. Quite enjoyable.
posted by cinnamonduff at 7:45 PM on November 6, 2023 [1 favorite]


This is brilliant. I always enjoy reading your impressions of media.

Whether I'll wind up seeing any of these is debatable this year. I'm so overworked, I never seem to get away from my desk, even on nights and weekends. My media intake is a mere fraction of what it typically is, and even then, i never really set out to watch any of these movies, but if they're on and there is nothing else on I want to see, I'll let them run.

About the only one I really want to see this year (and likely won't as I doubt it will make it into the broadcast schedule on channels I actually get) is this one and the only reason for that is that apparently part of it was shot around these parts, and I always love a good game of spot-the-local-landmark.
posted by sardonyx at 8:53 PM on November 6, 2023 [2 favorites]

At my house, we watch a lot of Hallmark movies, especially at Christmastime.

I get pulled out of the stories because so many of the leads are used so often. They seem like high-throughput romantics because they have a new epiphanic romance like three nights a week on my TV. Not trampy, exactly, because they're so chaste, but just....one after another, you know?

So every time there is a fresh face we get excited. Not the same-old, same-old pretty-eyes-and-stubble/bangs!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:40 AM on November 7, 2023

Today's movie: Checkin' It Twice, because hockey. I note that I was watching this while filling out FMLA paperwork, so I may have been distracted on details.

Scott is an older-than-usual hockey player in whatever you call the minor leagues of hockey. He gets transferred around a lot and has now been transferred to Idaho and the "Fighting Trout." He meets Ashley the NYC real estate agent and they accidentally end up with each other's debit cards, and also he's staying with her family apparently.

Both have career angst: Ashley seems kind of meh on her job, then gets Yet Another Magical Job Offer Out Of Nowhere...the usual. Scott feels like he has to prove he's as good at hockey as his dad was (hate to say it, but he's probably...not) and ends up spending a lot of time coaching his younger teammates and then gets forced to coach peewee hockey. Gee, why don't you become a coach?

There are some ridiculous funny moments in this one, and I don't just mean the Fighting Trouts:

What's new in town? "We got a water treatment plant."

The show has to point out for the non-hockey people that Scott has a chance of moving up to the big leagues every time there's an incident in Boise. "Walker plays right wing! YOU play right wing!" "I remember."

"Where's Dave?" "He's not allowed within 50 feet of the referee any more." (Dave waves from far away.)

Grandma apparently makes THE WORST eggnog, which Scott is warned about but obviously feels obligated to try anyway. He literally backwashes it. (Why hasn't anyone told Grandma there's a reason why nobody will drink it?) Also Grandma is not helping her case when she says, "Well, finally someone who doesn't get all paranoid about that salmonella!"

Lil' Ashley used to throw three day temper tantrums about taking the tree down, so her dad planted a tree outside for her that she decorates.
"Isn't a Christmas tree inside the house?"
(deadpan) "No, I've never heard of that."

They play "Merry Fishmas," in which people have to hook fish ornaments out of a bunch of ball ornaments. This cracks me up.

In the end, Scott finally gets called up to Boise, having turned the team around...IN A WEEK. SERIOUSLY, HE'S BEEN IN THE LAND OF TROUT FOR A WEEK?!? This entire movie was a week and he's had that level of career turnaround?!?!

It continues to be ridiculous to me that everyone has business deals on Christmas Eve or whatever. NOBODY WANTS TO WORK THEN. Ashley gets two effing days to decide on the Magical Job Offer.

In the end, after waiting his entire career to move up to the big leagues, Scott decides to become an assistant coach instead. This sounds implausible to me.

I found some aspects of this entertaining (Fishmas!) and I like Kevin McGarry quite a lot--he's probably um, older than 32 though. Kind of found Ashley bland and the romance not really doing much of anything, though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:01 PM on November 7, 2023 [2 favorites]

could I request that if people find a non-Christian holiday movie, maybe give that a little extra shoutout?

Last year's Hanukkah on Rye was much better than it had any right to be. Silly in the way that they all are, but delightful in the way that most of them aren't.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:01 AM on November 8, 2023 [4 favorites]

I loved that one!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:50 AM on November 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

Ms. Christmas Comes To Town: Look, I'm being a completionist and making myself watch the Movies and Mysteries channel movies too. Truth be told, I usually don't like them very much since they put the more depressing ones on it and mostly I watch Hallmark Christmas for the lulz, and these movies have no lulz. Anyway, our title character (Gail) is some TV host on the Holiday Shopping Channel (oy, I hate that shit). Her doctor goes on about the joy she inspires every year and I'm like...on home shopping?! Anyway, I guess cancer's returned and she has about "a year or two." I note this is the shortest version of this conversation like, ever, it goes from "it's been nearly five years clear!" to "um...nope, it's back, you got a year" and they don't even spell out what. Brain tumor? (Yes.)

Meet Amanda, who works for Ms. Christmas and is on a blind date. It's not the blind date she was expecting, which is to say she sat at the wrong table and Travis uh, just didn't say anything about it?

Gail decides to retire and leave on her own terms, after doing a tour first. She says her contract allows her to name Amanda as her successor, which sounds like a surprisingly good contract. Amanda is dubbed "Ms. Holiday." Gail's boss insists that they travel with a nurse, just in case. Hi, Travis! Gail declares that nobody knows why Travis is here or that anything is wrong. Gail's boss says to claim he's her godson trying to learn about the business.

Meet James Andrews, "the man I almost married," who writes to Gail but she doesn't write back. Well, meet his silver fox picture, anyway. They are heading to Gail's hometown of Exeter first, HMM, you think he's gonna show up? Duh. Gail won't go to dinner though.

Travis says he only has scrubs in his wardrobe. This somehow leads Gail to insist that he gets a haircut, when his hair is already pretty short. I can't say I notice much difference--like, shaping? Also, this is a rare Male Makeover Scene, hmm. He's even dubbed "Mr. Winters."

Anyway, they drive around distributing gifts or whatever, wear outfits, Gail and her ex try to figure out why they broke up in the first place (her career, I guess?), her dying is eventually found out by Amanda, there's brief health scares, and Travis asks Amanda if she wants to be a couple for Christmas, which will be used as a title at some point. The movie ends before Gail's death, on a cheerful last "Merry Christmas!"

I don't like downer subject matter or watching someone's last Christmas in a different sort of wham way, but I suppose it's not bad otherwise. But I don't get the downer Christmas movies at all.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:58 PM on November 8, 2023

I missed yesterday. Here is Christmas By Design. Disclaimer: one of my degrees is in design, focusing on clothing.

Charlotte is a "high class" clothing designer with a business named Alastair (?) that ends up being flooded, forcing her to go home to Connecticut for "Elf Capades" for a week. (Having had two floods, I LAUGH at only one week to fix.) Apparently Elf Capades was founded by her dead dad the mechanic and her ex is discontinuing them ("it's not my priority right now") after this year. Most movies would be about saving the Elf Capades, or showing what they are, but not so much this movie, which mostly seems to forget about it. They don't even show much of it. Also, apparently no elves? I note that I read it's based off some book called "Jingle Jammies," which is a nauseating title but also makes sense given what is to come.

Charlotte's employee, who is clearly Venezuelan but the movie CLAIMS SHE'S JEWISH, signed up Ms. Luxury Designer for a discount, family friendly, department store design contest with a fashion show on Christmas Eve, which she gets let into as first runner up for reasons that don't make much sense. Nor does entering her into anything budget-friendly. Because there is some pajama event in the Elf Capades, she decides to make pajamas. Honestly, both sets she makes, they ugly. Like I can't even, Wal-Mart does 'em better. Why the ugly muddy maroon fabrics, why the weird cuts? The design aspect of this movie stinks, they don't show much Elf Capades, there's some drama with Mom's new man or something....

What is good about this is the actress is cute and charming, despite being saddled with a relatively unpleasant character at times, and the love interest, Spencer the mechanic (I note they meet by her hitting his car, and then they get into "city slicker vs. country rube" arguments), is nothing but handsome, charming, sweet, et al. Spencer perhaps deserves better than a girl who rags on him for his coveralls, y'know, because he's a mechanic...like her dad.... and he overhears her singing his praises, followed by scorning him because her life is in New York, and he wears coveralls. Girl, I know you're into fashion, but mechanics wear those for a reason. Get over it.

Did I mention that her last minute replacement pajama entry is coveralls? Which are still pretty ugly and in some kind of dark plaid you can barely see? And she literally bails out of the contest at the last minute to drive home for 4 hours to the pajama event? And yet somehow she still gets hired anyway because the guy says he respects her putting family first?

Mostly this is pretty bad, but the actor in it is delightful and deserves a far better movie than this one next year. Spencer is about the only reason to watch this movie.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:45 PM on November 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

Jenfullmoon, I wish I could get your reviews in my home Plex server.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:10 PM on November 10, 2023 [4 favorites]

I'm so annoyed! I was really enjoying "Mystic Christmas" and then the player has super crashed on me and won't reboot! GRRRRRRRRRR. May not be able to get one in today, darn it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:36 AM on November 11, 2023

Just saw this terrible Mario Lopez one from last year. He was basically okay the rest of everything else was simply awful. This is definitely one to be skipped.
posted by sardonyx at 9:27 PM on November 11, 2023

Mystic Christmas seems to have stopped recording at the 28 minute mark, I can't fix it or delete it, I'm super annoyed and sent a complaint to Philo, got some weird bounceback email to that. SIGH.

Moving on: Joyeux Noel: copy editor Lea gets fascinated by an anonymous painting turning up in Denver and she finds the journal of the painter, "F," that did it for "Ma Fleur" in France at a "magical" market where people find true love. She suggests it as a story and the suggestion is taken, but an actual reporter is assigned to the job and Lea has to beg her way into the trip. As for the reporter, Mark, he's normally some kind of burned-out war reporter who isn't into this at all--or Lea nitpicking the definitions of words--but well, here they are, re-creating "F" and "Ma Fleur's" dates to track down the missing couple. This actually works pretty well to track down the handcrafted box, the ice cream shop her parents owned, etc. However, there's no happy ending for this couple, as Ava ("Ma Fleur") ditched F and left him sad and alone...until he married someone else, anyway. This is a realistic buzzkill for everyone, but a story is written anyway, and Mark learns to be less of a cynical gloomy gus.

There is also a subplot where a kid reporter harasses Mark about gnomes. I'm not sure what to make of this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:19 AM on November 12, 2023 [1 favorite]

Flipping for Christmas:
Before we begin, I'm already like, "I am not into this subject matter, I hate remodeling houses, this is not going to be my jam unless there's something secretly spectacular or more interesting than home remodeling." Eh, not really, it turns more into small town real estate war?

Abigail does some kind of real estate...stuff, and has acquired a new asshole client, Antonio, who goes on about gentrification and wanting to find someone who isn't fazed by holiday shutdowns. Abigail is all "workaholic, cool with that..." FOR NOW.

So, the situation: 104-year-old Uncle Frank (brother-in-law's uncle) died and co-left the house to BIL John and sister Claire and Bo the contractor. If this makes sense to you, please explain it to me...and the couple want to flip it and sell it, but Bo wants to turn it into a B&B and won't sell. Awkward! The couple's way of deciding this is to...more or less lock them in the house to work it out? Huh? Anyway, of course they fight and then start paint rolling each other.

Random aside: "I've never had cranberry sauce on a hot dog before."

Oh no! Creepy real estate guy wants to gentrify her small town now! And won't be persuaded out of squishing out the town's lone coffee shop! Also, Antonio likes to swoop on in during the Christmas season when everyone's distracted to get great deals!
The mayor is fine with gentrification. Abigail goes on about the horrors of fast food restaurants moving in and I'm all, like every other town in our lives? Antonio ups his offer, the mayor accepts, Ashley manages to figure out it's protected land because of the animals and thus it can't be sold. Oh, and apparently now she's in on the B&B. Ashley quits Antonio's account.

Eh, I don't know if it's a bad movie or not, mostly kinda eye-rolly though. I'm so not into the subject matter that perhaps I am a bad judge of it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:52 PM on November 12, 2023

Thanks for posting that Decider link to the Ms. Christmas movie, jenfullmoon. That one just aired here and I spent the whole time trying to figure out where I recognized the main male love interest and that Decider piece tagged him as being from UnReal. Of course that's where he's from, but in my head he's kind of in the same slot/category/whatever as John Barrowman from Arrow/the Arrowverse (or that Dr. Who spinoff that I've never watched). The older male love interest, in contrast, actually is from the Arrowverse (very minor re-occuring character) so that didn't help me trying to figure out who Mr. Red Suit was.
posted by sardonyx at 9:41 PM on November 12, 2023 [1 favorite]

Okay, Mystic Christmas finally started working again for me! So far this is one of my top ones for the season because it and everyone in it is quite quirky.

Juniper is some kind of marine biologist/veterinarian?/seal rescuer who travels around constantly, and is also socially awkward around people to the nth degree. She's a fun level of quirky, as is about everyone else in this movie to varying degrees, which makes this movie for me. Her best friend Candace, working in the same field, calls her to come to Mystic and help rehab a seal. I note this comes with yet another Magical Job Offer, but at least this one makes sense in context and isn't out of the effing blue about it.

Ten years ago at Candace's wedding, Juniper shared a magical weekend with the best friend's brother, Spencer. Then she wrote him a long email, he never replied but claims he replied (spoiler alert: it's still in drafts), nothing happened. Now they're in the same town again for however long, what shall happen?! Also, there's a cute kid who's also socially awkward, and three Very Eager Beaver interns for Juniper to deal with, which kind of freaks her out socially. They don't really care.

In fun events, there's a boat parade, light show, trivia, tour, fake Northern lights, and people in Dickensian costumes. Juniper's spent Christmas in 11 different locations and finds it odd to repeat the same things every year, but this is fun, right? Also,
Juniper is delightfully dorky/nerdy/awkward and everyone else rolls with it.

It's yet another "heroine needs to learn how to settle down in a small town" movie, albeit a bit less obnoxious about it in some respects (see end quote). Spencer does politely call her out for (a) not wanting to make connections, (b) kind of always being that person who brags about her trips, never repeating a Christmas twice, etc. and it seems like a wee bit of shaming to someone who never quite gets out of town, in that George Bailey sort of way. That's fair. Later Juniper admits she was a bit relieved to not hear from him ten years ago, hm.

Juniper gets some excellent advice from her dad: asks how her gut feels about staying in Mystic, she says she's 50/50, he says when she's feeling 51% on a side, go for it. Juniper doesn't want to change her life just for a guy...but Candace is all, yeah, and your best friend, and the interns...Then Spencer agrees to leave the restaurant...

Cut to next year. she took the job, but Spencer is packed and returning from a trip at the train station. He's been traveling around and they have plans to do more of it.

Quotes from the movie:
Guy at conference: "It can't be the best Christmas song if it's less than 30 years old....Everyone KNOWS the best Christmas song is Good King Wenceslaus."
Juniper: "I...like the donkey song."

Juniper is asked to come to Mystic and help a stranded seal. "The Northern Lights will be there next year, right?"
"Visibility is decreasing every year until 2025 but essentially...yes...."

Candace: "How come everyone had a better time at my wedding than I did?"
Spencer: "Because you had a terrible date."
(Everyone looks awkwardly at the kid in the room.)

Juniper: "Don't think of me as your boss, think of me as Head...Seal...Lady."

Lou the kid asks Juniper what a sand dollar is. "It's a ... dead body."
Candace: "You could have said fossil."
Spencer: "Skeleton would have been less upsetting."
Juniper: "This is what happens when I explain things on the fly..."
Lou's reaction: "Fascinating."

Spencer: "If you had to stay in one place for life, where would you go?"
Juniper: "The moon!"

"I can always stay and do more nothing." (I forget who.)

There's a gay guy with a crush who has the easiest asking out EVER, I'm so jealous: "I don't like desserts ,but I like you. Can we hang out sometime?"
"Is now a good time?"
"Now is my favorite time."
Would that it was always that easy.

Just for fun, here's an article with some commentary on these movies:
"Most Welcome Trend in Endings "Bravo to characters realizing long-distance relationships can work in the short-term, so no one needs to sacrifice a dream for a chance at love. In Hallmark Channel’s Mystic Christmas, George Bailey-esque Sawyer (Chandler Massey) embarked on his long-awaited year-long European adventure, while jet-setting seal rehabilitation expert Juniper (Jessy Schram), who realized she wanted to be part of a team and family, took a full-time job in Mystic, Connecticut, and used vacation days to meet up with him.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:13 PM on November 13, 2023 [3 favorites]

My Christmas Guide: hey, it's a Movies and Mysteries movie I don't hate! Actually pretty much like it! And it's like, cheerful and stuff and not depressing and about death!

The plot: College professor Trevor went blind from retinitis pigmentosa a few years ago and has a cane, but keeps literally running into the campus construction. He is a wee bit of a crank about it (i.e. threatening to sue even though the foreman is all, "I put cones out!"), giving me flashbacks to last year's "Noel Next Door" when the hero had similar reactions to street injury. The dean suggests he go out on leave until the construction finishes, to which I laugh and say, "COLLEGES NEVER FINISH CONSTRUCTION, THEY'RE LIKE SARAH WINCHESTER'S HOUSE." Anyway, his kid Annie bugs him to get a guide dog (even though Trevor is essentially all, dude, I'm barely holding single parenting while blind together as is, let's not add another life form to the equation), and he gets on very well with the human trainer, Peyton.

Peyton is a nice girl (it's very sweet that she finds out stuff Trevor did pre-blindness and then takes him to those places again), but she has a dipshit boyfriend named Chad (of course he's named Chad) who is AWOL most of the time, probably cheating, the usual. He has a friend named "Chainsaw" who gives him relationship advice like, you can't afford to buy her a Christmas gift, tell her you'll take her to Mexico in the spring! Punt it to Future Chad! Chad also tries to shake Trevor's hand, tells Trevor that he's going to "get serious" with Peyton (later we see him trying to figure out how to get a "promise" ring, not an engagement ring) and "She's beautiful. You should see her," shit like that, to which Trevor is all, "I may be blind but I can tell she deserves better than you" to. Later we find out this moment was caught on camera, causing Peyton to break up with Chad immediately.

The one thing that doesn't work in this movie is the inevitable third act turn/Big Mis/whatever in which Trevor (a) has that incident with Chad, (b) the dean tells him to go on medical leave again. Out of effing nowhere, because neither of that shit seems bad enough to provoke that reaction, Trevor is all, "take the dog back and I'm going on leave from work, because... reasons." Also weird is showing Trevor having flashbacks to Peyton that obviously he couldn't um, see.

Also, his daughter Annie gets bullied at school and when the kid pretends to be blind at her, Annie shoves cake into his face. Trevor is called in for this and told she should have turned the other cheek/come to the principal about it. To which Trevor is all, "what, and be called a snitch? Screw this, I'll deal with it." Annie, however, simply finds out the bully is a bedwetter and tells him she'll blab it around school if he doesn't stop. Go Annie.

I will note that the actor does have impaired vision/is legally blind.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:47 PM on November 13, 2023 [1 favorite]

Never Been Chris'd: This is a legitimately different Hallmark movie, for sure. Two best friends/co-business partners, Liz and Naomi, go home for the holidays and keep running into their mutual high school crush, former BMOC Chris Silver. Chris Silver is played by Tyler Hines, who is as close to a "bad boy" (really, more of a snark boy) that you will get on the Hallmark Channel. He is excellent in pretty much everything because even in playing not-so-Hallmarkish dudes, he gives good Hallmark. These days Chris is a high school English teacher and a vegan, super friendly to all, and seems to be a wee bit down lately, and he's basically holding high school reunions daily in town.

I note the title is an in-joke between the girls that any girl he's dated has been Chris'd. Like "christened," I presume, or kissed.
This sounds like it's going to be love triangle hell, but not really. Both girls like him. Naomi ends up being the one that dates him. Liz is fine with that. Chris suggests an LDR and then Naomi is all "omg I barely know him," there's a brief breakup, and then they get back together at the end. Tyler Hines is a hot Hallmark kisser, no question.

Otherwise, there's a wee bit of parental drama, in that Naomi wishes her mother wasn't so close (as in, I'm moving to your town close) and Liz is annoyed at her mother and thus isn't around much. I also note that Liz is Jewish and Hanukkah is mentioned and a party is thrown, so this may be the token Hanukkah movie this year since I don't think I've seen any obvious ones in the listings.

There is a vague sideplot about how people always think Naomi is Liz's employee (I note Liz is white, Naomi is Asian) rather than business partner. Nobody outright says "racism," but the amount of times that comes up, hm. Another vague sideplot is how Liz got rejected from Stanford and then finds an acceptance letter, but they don't seem to ever get back to that topic.

This isn't much of a romance even though technically there was one. It's really more about the girls' friendship than anything else, with Chris joining the pack. I applaud this movie for doing something different, plus good use of Tyler Hines.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:14 PM on November 14, 2023

Chris Silver is played by Tyler Hines, who is as close to a "bad boy" (really, more of a snark boy) that you will get on the Hallmark Channel

Is it a problem that although I didn't know the actor's name, I knew exactly who you meant? He is my favorite Hallmark Guy for sure.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:28 AM on November 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

... Tyler Hines, who is as close to a "bad boy" (really, more of a snark boy) that you will get on the Hallmark Channel.

Is he the one with the persistent stubble, and pale blue eyes? Wait, Google tells me that I'm thinking of Ryan Paevey.

Tyler Hines is the one who I think of as "CanCon Matthew Perry" whenever I see him onscreen.

Carry on, brave critic jenfullmoon!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:35 AM on November 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

MetaFilter: There is also a subplot where a kid reporter harasses Mark about gnomes.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:38 AM on November 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

The Santa Summit: This turns out to be a really well done movie. Added bonus is that the writer, Frank Longo, is on Reddit and posting about it.

I have seen a fair amount of petty bitching about how Santa-Cons are total drunkfests IRL (true, a friend of mine's husband got in a damn brawl at the one in SF...I don't think he's allowed to come back) and Hallmark doesn't show total drunkfests. But drink is mentioned and people seem to be enjoying themselves. There's sledding, line dancing, Christmas karaoke, gingerbread house decorating, and a silent disco. A+ for activities. Special bonus points to the pedicabbing reindeer and the roaming Christmas tree.

Three teachers, Jordin, Ava, and Stella, go to the Santa Summit. This movie juggles three potential romances in one go without dropping a ball.

Jordin's plotline is (I'm guessing, I never saw it) the movie Serendipity. She loses her distinctive handcrafted wallet, and REALLY hits it off with Liam, the finder of said wallet. Unfortunately the two are separated in the crowds before exchanging names and numbers, and both were in hats and beards, and yes, this IS like a masquerade ball. Both of them roam about trying to find each other, Liam attempts to Google and kind of fails at it (I am unclear as to how implausible it might be to find the lady's picture but not her name once he Googles for "name of town art teacher"), but builds her a gingerbread house she'll spot and leaves her a note for a place to meet. Clever.

Ava, a proud nerd girl, is in love with fellow nerd teacher Ben, who goes to Santa-Con every year. Her quest is to confess her love to him. Because it's Hallmark and not my shit life, this goes great for her.

Stella, a grumpy former music teacher who's now forced to teach English because music is expendable, finds herself annoyed by Freddie, who has decided to become the fourth musketeer to her friend group. Yes, it's a grumpy/sunshine romance, as he ends up growing on her. The movie makes it work.

This is the Christmas sprirt. What would you call it? "Herd mentality?"

"You know how hard it is to drink eggnog in a beard?"

"There is romance in the air."
"Nothing says romance like a lot of randos in a club."

"How can you think about a guy when there are little...random volcanoes in front of your face?"

"I asked around, no needlepoint wallets."

"It's like a romantic Where's Waldo."
"You fell for a girl with a big bushy beard..."
"Hey, everyone has a type."

"What's a Christmas pizza?"
"It's a pizza shaped like a snowman, DUH."
"How was I supposed to know that?"

"I have to spend time teaching teenagers to care about The Great Gatsby. I don't like The Great Gatsby either!"

"We are the three musketeers. There's no 4th musketeer".
"The whole book is about a guy who becomes the 4th musketeer. I thought you were an English teacher?"

"The power of Christmas must determine your fate. Who are we to interfere with that?"

"DJ Ginger Jeff and the Fresh Pine"

The reindeer says it's pretty easy to find attraction with another person but finding friends is harder. I disagree most strongly with that, sir.

"I have to be my own sweatpants!"
"What...is happening right now?"

"You are a very wise reindeer."

"You are my biggest slice" of my mental pie.
"You guys are really weird together!"

"Told you I'd build you that dream house."
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:00 PM on November 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Someone just explained to me the Stanford letter in Never Been Chris'd: Liz knew she got into Stanford and didn't tell Naomi so she could go to school with her.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:03 PM on November 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Mystery on MIstletoe Lane: I'm watching this movie while waiting around for a friend to finally finish up at the ER so I can pick her up. "Hey, I'm on medication that gives me SUPER insomnia and I don't have to go to work tomorrow, let ME pick her up," I said. I note friend has been at the hospital since 3:15 p.m., took several hours to get into the emergency room, took a few more hours to get registered, and now they are giving her four sets of tests. I decided to put on a Hallmark movie when I get home, making the joke that we'd see how long it took to be interrupted while watching it. Foolish me, I've finished it, it's after 11 and she's still not done yet.

Anyway, I didn't take notes on this one and I accidentally hit the post button way sooner than I wanted to, so this will be a two part post.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:18 PM on November 15, 2023

I appreciate that they are actually doing a Christmas mystery on the mystery channel, which makes it more interesting than the ones on here usually are. Heidi has been hired as some kind of new historical director in a town, which comes with a house to live in. Her kids are bored, start going through the house and find that someone's left behind a treasure/scavenger hunt throughout the house.

The love interest in this is David, the previous job holder/house-liver, who quit the job to start his own business but still hangs around quite a bit. He seems nice, but every time he comments that Heidi's been in the job a week and done more than he did in two years, I'm thinking, "dude, how much of a slacker WERE you at this job?!" not to mention that he didn't notice all of the stuff in the house and he's like, into remodeling. Nice dude, but...obtuse?

Anyway, David's dad turns out to be the son of the original owner of the house, who ran a Christmas house (hence the title) and left this game behind for his kid, but the family broke up due to tragedy, etc.

There's a very slight subplot about how the deputy mayor is kind of a jerk for no good reason and threatens to fire Heidi when she wants to re-decorate the house again. Then the mayor gets up and is all, "She can decorate the house."

I deem it a quietly pleasant movie to watch.

"Yay, a freezing cold Christmas!" Apparently it doesn't snow in North Carolina and these kids have never heard of a (Hallmark) white Christmas.

"It's about a smelly reindeer. That's clever."

"Ms. Wicks has done more for this manor in a week than I have for two years." Dude, did you suck at your job or what?

"Apparently they saw something called a hashtag."
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:27 PM on November 15, 2023

I watched "Never Been Chris'd" last night and I HATED it. OMG, so boring - I appreciate them trying to do a different kind of story but this one fell super flat for me. No chemistry between any of the leads (lead guy creeped me out), no legitimately cute or funny side characters.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:23 AM on November 17, 2023

I just listened to a podcast in the car where the ladies also hated it. Hated that everyone basically slipped back to immature high school mode (which is what I expected from a high school reunion movie, personally), didn't like the guy too much.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:20 PM on November 17, 2023

Everything Christmas: I don't think I can write a great review of this since I watched it off and on over several days, with Shit Going On, insomnia, etc., but also, I just don't know what to say about it and kind of wonder if I had trouble following it because I had Shit Going On, or because it's a bit awkward and weird? I can't even find a decent review of it anywhere.

The concept is that Lori-Jo (Christmas fanatic) and her (guilty workaholic) friend Tori go on a road trip to "Yuletide Springs, where it's Christmas all year round." LJ quits her job to do this trip and drags Tori along while she feels guilty and answers email. However, because it's a road trip, stuff goes wrong and the girls end up in OTHER Christmas towns on the way. I kind of suspect they just used the same town over and over again and changed the signs. They also keep running into the same hot dudes again and again, and keep running into Kris Kringle over and over again. Is he actual Santa, or just a magician named Kris Broadstadt? Who's to say?

This did not stand out for me as a movie, and mostly just kinda feels like deja vu over and over again.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:00 PM on November 17, 2023

I liked how this video review said the only thing that stood out was a random Henry Rollins quote.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:12 PM on November 17, 2023

Okay, here's a guessing game for the people on this thread: guess which Hallmark movies I watch today. And when I say "watched" I mean caught some portion of ranging from approximately 15 minutes to about 60 minutes. Now, since I'm not in the US, I'm not watching on the same channel as most of you. I have no idea if the movies are new this year or from past years. (With one exception, and I only know it's new because it has been advertised to death.)

To be totally fair and transparent, I really don't know what the titles of the movies actually are. Two-thirds of them were on when I started watching them (i.e. sat down to take a break between chores, while waiting for something to come out of the oven, etc.). One I happened to catch at the beginning, but the title was so generic, it didn't stick in my head. I'm sure I can look them up (and will do so if people start to guess).

1. A fake-dating scenario.
A Mexican American singer has been threatened or stalked (I think), so her record label has hired a bodyguard for her. The guy seems to have no family and may be ex-military (or maybe not, but somebody was going on about Semper Fi, so draw your own conclusions.) The singer doesn't want to worry her family about her security problem so she makes the bodyguard pretend to be her boyfriend as she visits for the holidays. There's a B or C plot about tensions between the singer and her former best friend. Name that movie.

2. A learn to love and trust again scenario.
A single mother with a young teenage son helps a guy fix up a lighthouse. The guy's dad died, leaving him the lighthouse and a pile of debt. She falls for him while the teenager struggles with feelings of abandonment brought on by his dad starting up a new relationship and a new family. A developer wants to buy the lighthouse and either turn it into and AirB'nB or tear it down and build vacation condos (or something). Name that movie.

3. A family reconciliation scenario.
An estranged sister and brother (and his wife) are summoned by their mother to spend Christmas in Scotland. They arrive to find themselves staying at a Scottish castle because (SURPRISE), their mother is a duchess, or technically, was a duchess before abandoning her family and ancestral home one Christmas Eve to abscond to the US with her singer boyfriend and his band. The mother never told the kids they were nobility and never introduce them to their (now deceased) family members, including their uncle the duke, who recently died. The sister starts cozying up to the property manager and the siblings start to mend their torn relationship. Name that movie.
posted by sardonyx at 7:11 PM on November 18, 2023

Ooo oo I know some!

1 is "Undercover Holiday". I gave it a 3/10 last year in my Twitter review.

3 is a premiere from this year, "A Merry Scottish Christmas"
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:40 PM on November 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

Just watched A HEIDELBERG HOLIDAY - delightful! Sweet, homey, family forward- just what a Hallmark movie should be. Female lead was in last years A HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR which I also really liked.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:42 PM on November 18, 2023

ThePinkSuperhero gets two points for two correct answers.

Anybody else care to guess at number two on the list?

I saw the last 20 minutes (give or take) of the Heidelberg Holiday last weekend. I think I missed out on most of the Germany scenery, to my disappointment. As for the story, I couldn't help but think it odd that the American has to teach the Germans all about Christmas traditions, which, given that the Germans started a whole bunch of what we now consider holiday staples seems a bit backwards, but it is an American movie for American audiences and heaven forbid the foreigners are the main lesson teachers.

And yes, watching parts of these movies is pretty typical for me. They're nice and easy to pop in and out of when I'm needing a quick break. And even at their worst they're better than football.

I know I shouldn't give reviews or form opinions given that I only see portions of the movies, but the Scottish one today was really bad. Even though I had time to watch the whole thing, I gave up about halfway through as it all just seemed so forced and forced for no good reason. The brother and his wife were having problems in their marriage, but I never got a clear sense of exactly what problems and why (although I can speculate). The siblings are estranged because they got too busy for each other. Again, okay, but the level of disdain seems too much for simply drifting apart. It didn't help that I couldn't find a reason to care for any of the characters.
posted by sardonyx at 10:39 PM on November 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

Just so I don't forget: #2 is from 2023 and titled Navigating Christmas.
posted by sardonyx at 8:44 AM on November 19, 2023

Okay, so I haven't caught up on the ones other people have mentioned recently (I did guess the Undercover movie, but obviously I'm late to answering) and I'm trying to watch "in order" of release anyway, but I just found out about the existence of "Love in Plane Sight" (WaPo gift link article on it), a 5-minute romantic comedy made by United.

"Mom, Dad, my life partner is the sky!"
United Airlines made a Hallmark-like Christmas movie. We reviewed it.
The short film will either warm your holiday heart, or make you reach for the airsick bag. Our team did both.
As soon as we learned about the film, our Hallmark-loving-slash-loathing team had to stop what we were doing and watch all 345 seconds immediately.
He’s Sam K. Young, “but my friends call me by my initials,” he adds. “S.K.Y.”
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:37 PM on November 20, 2023

Okay, so I'm still home sick for a few days and not up to doing much, so here we are with "Christmas Island." I was excited for this one because I like the main actors in it, plus the word "island," which I am a sucker for. But I dunno, I was only feeling so-so on it? Andrew Walker and Rachel Skarsten are both performers who need a little extra something in their parts, a zing to them (see last year's movies, "The Royal Nanny" and "Three Wise Men and a Baby", which both fit them great), and these are more...normal people they are playing, which just doesn't give them enough zing to work with? Just my opinion there. (I feel similarly about Tyler Hines and Ryan Paevey as well.)

Anyway, Kate is a private/charter pilot who's gotten hired to fly the Sharp family (have some kind of clothing business) to Europe, but bad weather (in Europe? Not totally clear as to where the "bad weather" is since every day is sunshiny once they land) forces them all to land on "Christmas Island" somewhere in Nova Scotia. Her co-pilot is basically all "Don't even get friendly with me, I'm gonna sleep on the plane." (Note: Canadian movie! I heard one "oot!") Oliver is the prickly air traffic controller on the ground who doesn't like jokes about cocoa or like to fly, and yes, he does get the irony of his line of work.

Since Kate has nothing else to do and the nanny is already in Europe, Kate ends up having to do nanny Christmas stuff, which made me snicker every time the word "nanny" was used, per her last movie. Oliver's family does put up the Sharps and entertains them for a few days, in which the family gets into lobster trapping, fashion design, and letters to Santa in the mail. (As a person who sews/designs, I'm fairly impressed the mom got 4 dresses done in 3 days, but she does seem to be an expert.) Why yes, it does remind me of "Come From Away: Christmas, Non-Terrorism Edition." Kate and Oliver hang out and get less prickly at each other. By the time the weather clears up, nobody wants to leave. Happily, the movie just gets the couple together without making the girl give up her job (she actually gets to keep the job), I guess we just presume the Sharps will want to visit there fairly often.

It was okay, but not the standout movie I expected. (This reviewer, this one, and this one were more into it. It may just be me?) Probably the most distinctive thing about this movie for me was the lobster trap tree. This is...why yes, a bunch of lobster traps in a circle after circle after circle. It looks quite nice lit up, actually.

Btw, I finally found a review of Everything Christmas. The reviewer wasn't that into it either.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:41 PM on November 20, 2023

A Heidelberg Holiday: I thought from the title this would be a Hanukkah movie (seriously, are we even getting any this year?!), but it's not, it's A Very German Christmas. Just so you know. I will say this: I'm not normally into German well, anything, but I actually really liked this? I'm not that into the European movies most of the time, but I was enjoying this one.

"I work out of my parents' garage and my best friend is a blowtorch."

Heidi Heidelberg, a glass blower and maker of ornaments, has gotten into the Heidelberg craft fair in Germany. (I note that Heidi finds her own name kind of standout/amusing in America, but the Germans, not so much.) She stays with a family her oma knows and hits it off with them very sweetly, but particularly Lukas, a woodworker who has his own angst about how he's "not really an artist." ("You create the magic of Christmas, I create a place to put your socks and underwear.") They hang out together pleasantly and he's very supportive of her, both in dialing back her aggressive American chattiness in sales and supporting her when she has to deal with post office drama.

"Can I give you an little unsolicited advice on your solicitation?"

"Ever heard of UPS?" "Yes...." "I mean, Universal Private Shipping. The lesser-known UPS."

She packs a display case with her and pre-sells pieces at the market and even sells out, but she had to ship 20 boxes to Germany separately and can't afford it. The postal worker guy suggests she use UPS...not UPS the evil shipping company that I despise like poison, but another version of UPS that's a lot cheaper. Turns out UPS2 is just as awful, as her ornaments go to Iceland and Ireland and then by the time they show up, almost all of them are a mess of glass shards. I'd cry too. I note that I'm a crafter--I've done lamp/flameworking in the past, it's not my major craft but I've certainly tried it out--and I really, really felt for this lady and her beautiful work being utterly trashed. Seriously, folks, don't use anyone called UPS, as UPS1 has also smashed my glass before.

I like how Heidi gets the idea to use Lukas's boxes and her own smashed glass to do mosaics (disclaimer: I used to teach glass mosaic making). I'm not sure how it would work to literally have to bait and switch what someone's already paid for (I note the family volunteers to deal with the angry customers for her, interesting...also I guess Germans are a lot nicer about this than Americans would be), but well, you gotta make lemonade out of lemons and all that, I suppose.

This is the second movie in a row to mention Belsnickel, which I forgot to bring up earlier in the last review, because I haven't heard of it. But now it's mentioned twice. There's also the concept of "stocking secrets" (Christmas wishes) and if you give someone some kind of chocolate dessert called a "shrudenkus" (I am totally guessing on the spelling of this, I have no clue) proves you have a crush on them. Someone slips Heidi one, much to Lukas's surprise--presumably it was his matchmaking parents' stocking secret there. "Perhaps the suitor didn't even know about this."

Anyway, I give this one a recommend. I tend to prefer wackadoo Hallmark and I wouldn't say this is wackadoo, but crafting movies get big points from me and everyone is lovely in this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:14 PM on November 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

The chocolate thing was a studentenkuss, aka a "student's kiss" because it's a university town. Here's an explanation. (and TIL that it's a trademarked thing from one random chocolatier who I hope enjoyed their Hallmark feature).
posted by TwoStride at 8:42 PM on November 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

Thank you for answering that! It is adorable.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:57 PM on November 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

And one more before I sleep tonight!

A World Record Christmas: This one mentally had two strikes against it for me before I started: (a) Movies and Mysteries movie, (b) I did not like last year's autism Christmas movie. This movie is way better than that, though. Charlie is an actual kid, with actual kid personality and goals and quirks and reality, and while the autism stuff crops up here and there, mostly he's just a regular kid. He just wants to top a world record (a thing people in his town do every year at Christmas for kicks), and also get his biodad to actually pay attention to him. Well, that last one probably isn't going to work out because Peter is a fucking flakypants who moved nearby to Charlie years ago and is all "oh, yeah, the kid probably is emailing my old email" when his child is brought up. Obviously he ain't paying child support.

However, Charlie's mom and stepdad are legitimately great, and Rick is obviously Charlie's real dad in all senses of the word, and for a married couple in Hallmark, they have GREAT loving, friendly, supportive chemistry. I usually don't like married couple Hallmark movies, but these two work. And I liked Amy, Charlie's best friend that he has a crush on, even if she's not going there romantically (I feel for ya, kid). I also liked the nice Guinness lady, who makes sure to introduce Charlie to her own kid.

In the end, Charlie is distracted by his biodad's flakiness and loses the record, but later sets it on his own without a judge later. He also gets a baby sibling, which is what he wanted for Christmas. Awww. Also, this is based off a real life kid, which is also awesome.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:25 PM on November 20, 2023

Lovely review of A World Record Christmas.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:30 PM on November 21, 2023

I have not watched this, and am not sure if I will or want to, but this review for Best. Christmas. Ever! (not Hallmark) is...certainly something.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:51 PM on November 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

That's quite the review. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by sardonyx at 2:21 PM on November 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

Navigating Christmas: the other Christmas Island movie, except this is St. Nicholas Island.

Melanie got dumped by her husband for another woman, and he's in turn ditched their son Jason for the holidays for his pregnant girlfriend (which he so far refuses to tell his kid about). Kid is sulky, pouty, and about to cheat on a paper, Melanie's pretty cranky herself. But she books a stay in a lighthouse for the holidays and then throws a fit when she finds out that the contract involves decorating the lighthouse. (I note that this actually seems to take only a few minutes and the place did not look all that decked?) The lighthouse owner, Peter, rents it out so he doesn't have to deal with the decorating, which he doesn't have the heart for since his dad died, you know the drill. Basically, everyone is cranky and kind of annoying, but they do mellow out.

Kid meets a girl. There are "reindeer games," which is fun. Melanie and Peter hang out and have a genteel good time. But there's a secret, Peter's dad was in debt and Peter is about to sell the lighthouse to a guy who will mow it down...or not, as Melanie offers to partner with him on it. There's also a brief scene in which Jason runs off on a boat and uses Morse code to say "happy holidays."

I agree with the review that it is not a particularly standout movie. Pleasant enough, I guess, and I generally like Stephen Huszar, but you won't remember much about this afterwards.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:49 PM on November 21, 2023

A Merry Scottish Christmas: Before I begin, I didn't watch Party of Five and I don't have any commentary on the nostalgia casting of Po5 actors, sorry. That said, even I picked up that they had a bar named Salinger's, run by a Charlie. Will Kemp, who has costarred with Lacey Chabert in other Hallmark movies, cameos in this one and is the best. I definitely saw some commentary online on how duke titles don't work like that (fair) and how much older is Scott Wolf than his mother in this movie (also apparently fair). I don't know how much older Scott was supposed to be than Lacey on the show and whatever, but mostly I'm all, what's with his orange skin tone? Reminds me a bit too much of Matthew Perry (RIP).

Anyway: Brad and Lindsay are estranged siblings who have drifted apart over the years and are invited (along with Brad's wife Sarah) to go stay in Scotland for the holidays. Unbeknownst to them, their mother Josephine ran off at age 20 to California to follow a rock band, abandoning her noble Scottish heritage. Her brother, Duke Daniel, has recently died and left her/the siblings(?) Glencrave Castle, and it's up to them to figure out who's going to take over. Obviously both siblings start to get along better, Scottish people are fun, Lindsay has a brief romance with Mac the property manager, and everyone elects to move from California to become a duke and duchess.

"We have 30 Christmas trees."
"Are you a duchess who loves Christmas?" "I was supposed to be."
"And you never come to our ugly Christmas sweater parties!"
Why does anyone need 30 bathrooms? Well at least you don't fight over them...
"Mom, this isn't Downton Abbey." "We just become a duke and a duchess?" "You can hold titles" if you want to. Huh?
"Welcome to Salinger's, I'm Charlie." O RLY? Even I got that one.
Please don't explain the haggis.
"Reh-zoo-mehs" is how they say resumes in this movie.
There's Scotch whiskey tasting. And they say there's no booze in Hallmark.
"Are we just getting caught up in the fantasy?" is a legit thought.
There is a drink called "Dirty Reindeer," which I guess is hot cocoa?
Hello, isn't that Will Kemp? And she only knows how to waltz and tango...from Will Kemp? "Here we do the Highland Fling!" Adding to Lacey's resume.

I don't have much else to say? It was pleasant enough, but I do feel bad for any dude playing a love interest to Lacey Chabert once Will Kemp shows up onscreen.

Answering this one: The brother and his wife were having problems in their marriage, but I never got a clear sense of exactly what problems and why (although I can speculate). They were doing IVF. Of course there's a baby by the end.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:55 PM on November 21, 2023

I suspected it was baby related, although I'm kind of disappointed that it wasn't some big secret twist.

It's funny that we've had at least three movies here (Heidelberg, Navigating and Scottish) that premiered before they did in the States. Oh well, it makes my guess-the-movie game more challenging. Actually, now that I think about it, that world record one also aired earlier here than it seemed to there. That one is so not my thing that I avoided it completely.

Like you, I've never seen an episode of Party of Five, so the casting did absolutely nothing for me. In fact, when I was complaining to somebody how bad it was, I had to qualify my comments saying I think they were Party of Five alumni. That show and Dawson's Creek are pretty much equivalent in my head: shows of a similar era that I've never seen that graduated actors and actresses that are famous enough I have some idea who they are but I'm never entirely sure which one came from which show.
posted by sardonyx at 7:54 PM on November 21, 2023

And we're on my final "already recorded" Hallmark movie to write about! (I note one movie seems to have aired but not recorded, so I dunno on that one, it'll just have to wait.) The backlog is now over, so I guess I'll just have to catch up on "Deck the Hallmark" reviews or something for a few days.

I can definitely recommend Holiday Hotline, which takes the ol' "Shop Around The Corner" penpal idea (see last year's "Hanukkah on Rye") and turns it into a phone friendship with a guy perennially calling for turkey cooking advice. Great move, adore it, love the actors in it. Niall Matter is always a pleasure to watch, as is Emily Tennant.

Abby is a British sous-chef whose ex/boss betrays her, she quits both her job and cooking for the time being, and her parents get her a trip to Chicago for November/December or so. While there, her neighbor Margaret asks her to work the "Holiday Hotline" (you know, the one where people call for turkey cooking advice) as a substitute, and since her British accent makes people think she can't cook a turkey and her mom is American, she puts on an American accent and an in-character name, "Peggy," to answer calls.

IRL, Abby moves into a building with nice neighbors and one cranky one, Jack, an architect who's been tasked to fix up the building and gets a wee bit overly cranky when Abby accidentally breaks something. Jack is a widowed dad whose kid is guilting him into doing a homemade Thanksgiving even though he doesn't cook, and he ends up calling the hotline (a lot) under his given name of "John" begging for assistance. "John" and "Peggy" hit it off over the phone, as do Jack and Abby IRL, but once Abby figures out who she's been talking to, how the heck do you break that news? Of course, it's Hallmark, so it all works out. Her hotline boss, Roger, considers this to be his favorite show. Also, if you're not so into kids in Hallmark movies, this one doesn't show the kid as much.

This movie makes a lot of hay over the various ridiculous things people do with turkey, which is delightful. If you don't like dad jokes or corny turkey jokes (as the Decider reviewer apparently does not), this won't be for you, but eh, it was fun for the holidays.

I love all these traumatic weird things people did to turkeys: dressed them up, stuck them on a hockey stick, forgot to take the bag off. "Sure, they could Google it, but there's nothing like talking to real life people."

"It's a turkey. How hard could it be?"
"This from the brother who couldn't even toast a Pop-Tart."

"Should I thaw my turkey on the rack of my car" while I'm driving? Can I heat it with an electric blanket? Leave it outside in Florida? I give this movie props for all these funny visuals, right here.

"Why is the turkey in the bathtub?"
"Because he's cold."
I note "John's" family had a backup turkey ready to go. "I don't know if I should be grateful or insulted."

"The Lovebirds," with Peggy and John, is Roger's favorite show now.

"You're really committed to this no-cooking thing, aren't you?"
"I am, and it's liberating."

"I wanted to get the roast turkey ornament, but I didn't want anyone getting suspicious."

"I'm looking at a turkey from '99, sitting in my grandma's freezer."
"Margaret, is that you?!"

"I thought this hotline was about turkeys, not chickens."

This whole Imagine Spot dance is really cute, actually. "Let's not let this moment go to baste."

"You're asking if the guy who just asked you to his house is ghosting you?"
"You're jealous of...yourself?"
"He let Peggy go."
"It's time for Abby to come clean."

"A turkey is not a garage, Henry!"

"I don't have any butcher's twine, would it be ok if I used Christmas ribbon instead?"

"I need to see a woman about a turkey."
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:14 PM on November 22, 2023

Yeah, the parts I caught of this one (some at the beginning and some at the end) I actually enjoyed. I was going to put this one in guess the movie post, but now I don't have to. I'm starting to suspect the real game should be "guess if sardonyx will make it through a whole movie (in one sitting) this season, and if so, how many?"
posted by sardonyx at 11:47 PM on November 22, 2023

Does everyone use the Hallmark movie app? I very much enjoy using it to track the movies I want to watch and have watched - it even lets you mark your favorites!

jenfullmoon, you have sold me on Holiday Hotline.

Last watch for me was an oldie, "Christmas Sail" - woman comes home to help stubborn Dad who hates Christmas. Why? Because his dead wife loved it so much! But now he's in foreclosure and has an old messy boat (literally, it just has a bunch of junk on top). So woman and her way-too-cute daughter enter it into the hometown boat parade to win $25,000 to help Dad save his house. And woman even gets her high school sweetheart, who has apparently just been waiting around for her! It was a 5/10 for me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:33 PM on November 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

Let me just throw out a plug for my favorite Hallmark Christmas movie I've watched to date ever - "Ghosts of Christmas Always". The Hallmark Movie app tells me it is airing on 12/5 at 2am so set your DVR now!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:02 PM on November 23, 2023

I won't even put this up for a guessing game, but today's partially watched (well, technically listened to as I was in the other room making lunch) was The 12 Pups of Christmas. It's kind of a shame, as this one actually sounded worthwhile. Apparently, the cheating ex-finance and the new-boss-developing feelings ended up in fight and were arrested and hauled off by a cop.

As for the plot: it's one of jenfullmooon's miraculous Christmas-time job offers, but but apparently the canine-focused company is struggling and is heading for bankruptcy. Hopes are pinned on the doggy psychologist/psychiatrist/therapist/whatever to save it.
posted by sardonyx at 2:17 PM on November 24, 2023

Oh, man, I saw PART of that pups movie (but only part) in a hotel room last year! Sadly I don't feel like I can review it.

However, I am here to tell you about A Season For Family, which is another Movies and Mysteries weeper! Single dad Paul is widowered and has a son named Cody, who hasn't been told he's adopted yet because he and the dead wife wouldn't tell Cody until Cody is ten. (I'm guessing he's nine?) While at ski school, Cody makes a new soulmate bestie in Wesley, who's visiting from SF. His mom, either named Rose or Maddie or both, is a hotel general manager in SF instead of Utah because her dad owns a hotel and they didn't do the nepotism thing. Anyway, Rose/Maddie finds out that Cody and Wesley are siblings, tells Paul, and then Paul continues to kill time for an hour and 45 minutes hedging over whether or not to tell Cody he's adopted early. Literally everybody is all DUDE JUST TELL HIM ALREADY!!!! This is entirely why this movie is two hours long, because by the time Paul is guilted enough by both boys wanting to be together in their letters to Santa ("Dear Santa: Pleez forget about the Playstashun"), Cody has already figured out he's adopted and both boys are delighted to find out the truth.

In other news, why doesn't Rose/Maddie just work for her dad, who owns a hotel? Nepotism. Then he offers her a job and well, 'nuff said. Paul's ski store is going under due to lack of clientele--will he take a job in Colorado or just freak out that this is all too fast? Paul is a nice dude, but freaks out too easily.

I note that the kids' big conversation on screen is how their parents keep losing stuff and take forever to get out of the house. Isn't that a kid...thing?

The characters are cute. I like Brendan Penny (gives good Hallmark) and the redhead playing Rose/Maddie is also delightful. But you are seriously just like, "dude, spit it out already" for most of two hours. Would have preferred a more upbeat take on this, perhaps on the usual channel and have this spit out faster?
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:10 PM on November 24, 2023

Here's round two of guess the movies. (Same rules as last time, although I should probably clarify that not all of the movies that are televised here are technically Hallmark movies, but they're still of the general genre.):

#4. Workplace colleagues to lovers scenario
A publisher/editor/media-outlet owner of some sort goes back to writing, penning a series of website posts that detail multi-step plan/scheme to fall in love before Christmas, even though she doesn't believe in the process and thinks it's a stunt. A photographer with dreams of getting a gallery show is assigned to work with her to document her love journey. Along the way she strengthens her relationship with her sister and ensures her family's/mother's charity foundation has a successful Christmas fundraiser.
(Viewing time: approximately 20 minutes)

#5. Found family scenario
Strangers on a bus. When bad weather grounds a flight to Denver a bunch of strangers with nothing in common rent a van to dive to their Christmas destination. Among the group are a daredevil, a robotic-seeming tech bro, a social media influencer, and a couple from overseas. Over the course of the journey, they get to know and like each other--and encounter absolutely zero stormy weather conditions, and certainly nothing that would ground a flight.
(Viewing time: approximately 85% to 90% of the movie--huge improvement, I know! But this one was actually worth watching and I put in an effort to make enough free time to watch it.)
posted by sardonyx at 9:16 PM on November 24, 2023

I haven't seen or heard of #4 but would watch it. I'm going to guess (AND I HAVEN'T SEEN THIS YET) that #5 is 'Holiday Road," which is supposed to come out this weekend.

I'll write up "Catch Me If You Claus" tomorrow, but honestly, it was quite good? Like actually a good part for Luke McFarlane, a man I've always kind of thought of as a bland himbo, but they actually made him work well in this one. Go figure!
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:09 PM on November 24, 2023

One point to jenfullmoon for guessing number five. It was Holiday Road, and it's definitely a movie I'd recommend. It's different enough that it was entertaining, but easy enough to figure out if you have to pop in and out (as I typically do). There are a number of "big twists" that happen, but every one of them is absolutely predictable if you've ever watched more than a handful of these movies. There is one other plot point that makes absolutely no sense (and honestly wouldn't be feasible in real life) but I'll wait to comment on that until after people get a chance to watch the movie. (Seriously, dude what the hell were you thinking? Were you trying to get yourself locked up by the authorities?)

I'll leave the guessing on number four opened for a while. To be honest, I was hoping for more out of this one, given the female lead (hint, it's somebody who made her name and career outside of Hallmark movies) and maybe I shouldn't judge, given that I only saw the wrap up to the movie, not the build up, which is always the best part, but I think it was a wasted opportunity.
posted by sardonyx at 8:48 AM on November 25, 2023

Catch Me If You Claus: A surprisingly good movie. I will say that I've never felt strongly about Luke MacFarlane one way or the other before this. He's always gave off stoic boring guy vibes in everything he's been cast in--I note that in Hallmark, some dudes are pretty bland and some are not (see previous rants about how I don't like it when the quirkier Hallmark actors are cast as regular boring dudes and how it's a waste of their talents) and Luke's always been cast on the bland side. But in this movie, he's an earnest, well-meaning, well-intentioned, kinda innocent-seeming himbo-ish dude (think Channing Tatum in The Lost City) AND DARNED IF IT DOESN'T WORK AND I ACTUALLY FOUND HIM INTERESTING. Delightful, even. This is what I call Ludicrous Hallmark, and it WORKS.

The plot: Avery is the daughter of a famous newscaster, works as a TV researcher, and wants to be an anchor, but so far nobody wants to let her do that job. When the lead anchorwoman gets laryngitis, Avery successfully argues to let her do the 5 a.m. news slot on Christmas Day, and who's going to see her if she screws it up anyway? Avery goes home, determined to get a good night's sleep before 4 a.m. wakeup time, only to find a hot himbo in her house. Since there's a "Santa Crook" going around robbing houses this time of year, she reasonably assumes she's nabbed the guy, ties him up with Christmas lights, and plans to bring him to the cops/give herself an awesome scoop for the 5 a.m. newscast. However, the guy claims he's (the new) Santa Claus and all of his Santa abilities haven't kicked in yet (must be the storm/power outage, perhaps it took out his personal wi-fi? Sure did take out phones), insists on delivering the mis-delivered present to her kid neighbor, they get caught by security, and end up going on the run throughout the night, hanging out with the local theater troupe, and realizing that the "Santa Crook" thing is tied in with a corrupt mayor being outed as a bad guy and that everyone's looking for a flash drive. So hey, it's even a mystery!

For those wondering, our new Santa (Santa Chris Vanderschmidt, the Kringles are long gone) was already having kind of a rough night before this, and his dad will get on his case for not getting everything done in time, also the reindeer have taken off... and yeah, people don't look like the old St. Nicholas stereotype these days. There is also a concept of "pivotal gifts" that reveal who a person is supposed to be.

Avery makes it to air and tells the story of corruption and the lookalike "Santa Crooks" (Santa Crook has a partner in crime), but leaves Actual Santa out of it. After the show's over, they kiss.

One TV anchor is named "Bink Binkerson."
"A penguin has fallen in love with a chihuahua?"
"I am not the Santa crook."
"It wouldn't be a Christmas party without spam reindeer."

Avery: "I have a crucial day tomorrow!"

Santa Chris: "I am very strong, I will break out of this...." but he can't break out of being tied up with lights.
Santa Chris on cookies: "The cravings are real."

Avery: "You look like a model."
Santa Chris: "Thank you....but....The Santa Claus has not looked like the proverbial Father Christmas for quite some time."

"Why are all the hot ones crazy?"
"You could be at home in bed, dreaming of sugarplums...and teleprompters!"

A member of the theater troupe, after seeing sketches of Santa Chris and Avery on the news at 1 a.m.: "We don't judge here."

"We may not be our parents, but we may be great in our own way."
"I'm supposed to be on the air in 14 minutes?"
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:45 AM on November 25, 2023

Since the guessing seems to have stopped, number four is How to Fall in Love by Christmas with Terri Hatcher.
posted by sardonyx at 6:14 PM on November 25, 2023

A few recent watches:

MY CHRISTMAS GUIDE - I like the idea of this movie more than the actual movie. The leads did not have good chemistry and I think it's probably professionally unethical to romantically pursue a client at your guide dog rescue. Plus it creeps me out when the lead has a child who is RIGHT THERE every step of the romance. Also, "Annie, however, simply finds out the bully is a bedwetter and tells him she'll blab it around school if he doesn't stop. Go Annie." - it was even better because she found out her bully's BULLY was a bedwetter and got her bully free. Overall 5/10 for me.

A DICKENS OF A HOLIDAY - A movie star comes home to do a community theater show on Christmas Eve while he waits on a big movie role. His HS crush is directing! Then on Christmas Eve (of course), he's told he has to go make an appearance at a party to get the big role and everyone tells him he should just skip the show and go? Stupid. So he pretends to go but then he actually doesn't. Meh. 4/10.

OUR CHRISTMAS JOURNEY - Holly Robinson Peete stars as the mother of two, including an 18yo non-verbal child on the autism spectrum (played by an actor with autism). Her ex-husband sets up a weekend test at an independent living facility for the child in a cute Christmasy town and they all stay in a local B&B while he goes for his test. Mom & Dad reunite, Grandma makes friends, Daughter gets some overdue attention plus a cute new boy friend. HRP is wonderful; the rest of the performances were uneven but overall the whole thing is very sweet and you love to see the representation. 6/10.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:25 AM on November 27, 2023

I enjoyed "A Dickens Of A Holiday" last year, which is in the Ludicrous Hallmark category because Scrooge is being played by a young, hot action hero actor (also by Kristoffer Polaha, who gives really good Hallmark), and at one point the director chick is all, "Screw it, I'll play Scrooge!" during the "he's supposedly going to bail on the show to go to Hollywood" bit. With her hot long blonde hair hanging out of her cap and not even trying to play a dude, because presumably she knows Hot Actor Guy will return, lol.

Our Christmas Journey was...not my thing. In the "boring and weepy-ish Hallmark" territory for me. Probably my least favorite movie in the 2022 batch after "Christmas Bedtime Stories," the most notoriously bad Hallmark movie I've ever seen in my life. Usually Hallmark movies are either fun or dull, but this was just plain WTF. If anyone wants me to rant about this movie, I can, but that would involve me spoiling the whopping swerve it does in the last 15 minutes. I will say (non-spoilering) that it is not the sort of movie you think it is going to be and that is entirely the problem with it.

Okay, now that I answered this, I'm gonna go write up "Holiday Road," which somehow took me three days to watch, but I really enjoyed it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:21 PM on November 27, 2023

Holiday Road: we're told this movie is inspired by true events. Many snippy people at the airport just trying to get to Denver. That Song is stuck in my head like mad every time I think of the name of this movie (also there was the usual Lampoon movie marathon on the day before). One guy rents the lone remaining van in the airport they're at and is persuaded to let a bunch of others into the van. There's breakdowns, getting lost, decking the car, Elf Games, and a wee bit of extortion going on. Our cast:

* Clay, a dating app inventor/data guy who's a bit cranky, the car renter.
* Dana, an adventure chaser who's rebelling against being kept indoors due to a heart condition as a child.
* Maya, an influencer/vlogger who insists on filming everything. "Hashtag VanClan!"
* Tricia and Ben, a mother/son duo who are going to meet Ben's biological mom. Tricia's a bit nervous about this.
* Amber, a bartender/singer just trying to get home to her 8-year-old son...okay, daughter, but I can't resist that line.
* Dusty, a cranky old dude who mostly doesn't talk a lot but has sympathy towards Amber's situation.
* A couple from Hong Kong named Lei and Kai who are going to visit her sister. Wife has brought her own karaoke machine and is looking to resolve some family issues, husband is cranky and likes to pretend he doesn't understand or speak English (it's pretty obvious from the subtitles he does), but will happily bust into karaoke moves.

There's very nice resolutions for people in this one, along with making unlikely friendships. Heck, I was even endeared by Maya, who is Quite Much for a lot of the movie. The Hong Kong couple amused me, especially the guy's subtitled commentary and how his wife is trying to nice up his remarks. The romance between Clay and Dana is pretty low-key, but the ending of it is very enthusiastic. I enjoyed this one. Heck, I'd watch "Holiday Road 2," it would make perhaps a better franchise than "Time For Whoever To Come Home For Christmas."

"There are storms...somewhere, and it's messing things up...everywhere....The people on TikTok are saying it's epic...in a bad way." (note that much like Navigating Christmas, these storms are happening off camera.)
"I apologize for that photobomb of negative energy."
"My advice: if you don't need to travel, don't." Kinda too late to tell people from Hong Kong that.
"I said your order was typical of a Chad, I didn't call YOU a Chad."
"She thinks other people will want to watch us travel."
"I think making a van feel like Christmas is very important."
Maya got busted for distracted driving. "I tried to fight it, but the evidence was on TikTok." "Hashtag vanclan is blowing up. Tricia, your claustrophobia moment is getting likes."
"You cannot teach someone to dream and then not let them dream."
On a kid hitting Maya up for two grand: "What would your mother think?" "She came up with the idea."
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:46 PM on November 27, 2023 [1 favorite]

Okay, now that Holiday Road has been reviewed: Why the hell was Dusty carrying around bundles of cash wrapped up in cellophane as he was going through an airport? I'll admit I was wrong, I thought the rule was $10,000, but I see that's only if you have to cross US Customs. Flying domestically in the US, it appears there is no limit, but even then travellers are cautioned that the TSA can question you if they are suspicious about money. Yes, he said he made his money in oil (I think) but I seriously doubt he was receiving wads of money as his compensation. And why is he carrying cash now. I get he's the grumpy, everything-was-better-in-the-past dude, but come on!
posted by sardonyx at 7:07 PM on November 27, 2023

Oh, Dusty's entire financial situation was sus. Like he can just pull two grand out of his butt right now? Why? He didn't get much explanation in this movie other than in his last major scene and they never did explain the money.
Um, see, things like this are why I wanted this thread :P
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:17 PM on November 27, 2023

Again, I know I shouldn't let reality intrude on my feelings about these movies, but it bugged me during the portion of My Christmas Guide that I saw when the prof just waltzed into the guide dog centre and was immediately given a dog. Somehow, I don't think that's how it works. There are waiting lists and shortages of dogs. And yes, I think there's an ethical boundary that was crossed in the movie as well.
posted by sardonyx at 8:35 PM on November 27, 2023

Hahahah yeah, that ain't how guide dogs work at all. I don't even have extensive knowledge of the guide dog program (my relatives attempted to raise some) and I know that one :P
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:42 PM on November 27, 2023

Letters to Santa: This one features actors I like from other shows: Rafael de la Fuente from Dynasty and Katie Leclerc from Switched At Birth. So I'm somewhat partial to it for that reason alone even if I didn't like what was done with their characters on those shows. I think I'd call this one a Mixed Bag Movie because it's about a separated couple who have been awkwardly separated for four months, apparently because Enrique is concentrating on running the family restaurant instead of being Cool Musician Guy, and also because he donated Rebecca's book advance money to his mom (and doesn't seem to have explained the situation?). Unfortunately, poor Rebecca has to play Ticked Off Mom in a lot of scenes, which isn't fun, combined with Enrique being kinda baffled as to what's going on and their marriage counselor being all, "Y'all should just TELL EACH OTHER STUFF ALREADY." Throw in a hot Zumba instructor employee for him and a British illustrator guy for her for some small jealousy, and here we are.

The premise of the movie is that their kids get what they think is a "magic pen," because they write their Santa letters, and then Grandma and Auntie are fishing them out and giving the kids what they want (except that PlayStation). So, we're not into Ludicrous Hallmark Magic territory on this one, as an FYI. You want a dog? Here's a puppy on your doorstep, etc. It's pointed out early on that uh, what happens if the kids ask for something you can't provide? Uh....well, the kids do think Liam the illustrator is an actual elf to help their mom with the book, as it turns out, so....

This sounds like it's some kind of Parent Trap setup, but it's not really. The parents more or less work out their stuff and become happy and amicable again, and it's sweet once they do that. There's a lot of Mexican/Hispanic culture stuff going on and the characters are pleasant and friendly when not in cranky modes. So I'd deem it All Right To Watch, I Guess. It's not the best, it's not the worst, it had enough enjoyable moments for me to stick with it to the end.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:36 PM on November 27, 2023

Lifetime heats up the Christmas movie genre.

I don't know if this will get televised here on a channel I get or if I'll stumble across it in my usual manner, but I'd certainly be curious to read people's thoughts on it.
posted by sardonyx at 5:57 PM on November 28, 2023

"We barely mention the word ‘Christmas.’ There’s no gingerbread bake-off, there’s no festival, that town that’s going to hell and you gotta save it,”


lol, hardly ever get around to Lifetime movies except a few a year randomly, but this amused me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:38 PM on November 28, 2023

I'm just dropping in to note that the first part of A Biltmore Christmas was filmed in my office, like, literally in the specific room in the office I work in when I'm back in Asheville and not WFH in the Triangle. In the movie, it evidently stands in for a Hollywood studio.
posted by thivaia at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2023 [2 favorites]

Well I was going to add A Biltmore Christmas to today's special edition of Guess the Movie: What is THAT person doing in a Hallmark/Christmas movie, but since it's been mentioned already, I won't bother, except to say: "Jonathan Frakes is doing Hallmark movies now? When did that happen?" Also, for the record I saw less than 10 minutes of this one: just the final three scenes.

So with Biltmore off the table that just leaves one for tonight's guessing game. I highly doubt if anybody south of the border will have the same "What is SHE doing in a Christmas movie?" reaction as I experienced, but I'm willing to be pleasantly surprised if I'm wrong.

#6. Discovering yourself (with a little help) scenario
A movie star who got his start in comedy returns to the club that gave him his big break in an effort to show studio executives he's perfect for the role of a funny super hero. A comedy writer/assistant commits the club owner to sponsor the town's Christmas festivities, including a defunct talent show that nearly ruined the club owner's reputation. The shy writer is happier out of the spotlight, but circumstances force her to take to the stage, with a little help from a certain someone. Name the movie. (Watched about 20 minutes of it.)
posted by sardonyx at 6:35 PM on November 29, 2023

Our Christmas Mural. Hi, I'm up too early, I need something to do to kill the early morning hours in which I am brain dead, but I don't want to watch one of the big movies I might be more into. (I also note I'm pretty well overscheduled until oh, Monday, so it may be a while for me to make my catty comments on "Lit Up," watch the time travel movie, etc. I want to save those for good brain space time!) Why not try A Christmas Mural?

I give it props for having a very dramatic, attitudinal artist opening. "No, this is good ol' fashioned rage." Olivia's a widowed curator/single mom in NYC and she's been immediately fired for Christmas, or at least they are out of money in the new year. So she goes home to her hometown, her mother enters her at the last minute in the mural contest, and she hangs out with the hottie/annoying runner up/art therapist, who treats her son who's still sad over Dad's death.

I really can't come up with much of anything to say about the plot--it's art, it's another weepy-ish "learning to love again after husband's death" movie--but I did like the actors in it, who were quite compelling when the plot was just okay.

A few quotes:
"I didn't stand you up. I left in the middle of the date." "I HOSTED BINGO."
"Me doing art therapy with her son? That was a date?"
"What wrong idea? It's a pot roast."

I have not seen the movie star movie to be able to guess it, alas.

43 Funny Hallmark Christmas Movie Memes Celebrating The Seasonal Magic Of Predictably Cliché Plots
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:57 AM on November 30, 2023

The movie star movie is Laughing All The Way. I hope that link works outside of Canada. For some reason, this movie doesn't seem to exist on IMDB. It's a Lifetime movie, but I'm geoblocked from the Lifetime site and can't direct you to the right link for it.

The big-name star is Mary Walsh, who, I'm sure, most Americans wouldn't recognize. And she's the point of watching this movie. Not necessarily for her performance as the comedy club owner, but for her fabulous outfits. I swear every penny of the budget for this movie went into her wardrobe and it shows. It's among the best she has ever looked. I mean it's not her Marg Delahunty, Princess Warrior iconic outfit but then again, nothing really is--even the updated version, Marg Delahunty, Warrior Queen.

And if you liked those clips, I'm sure you'll enjoy Marg and former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer (I'm sure her comments would earn her an honorary MeFi membership) and this retrospective of some of the 22 Minutes regulars, including Walsh and Mark Critch (whose show Son of a Critch recently aired in the US), talking about their interactions with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The whole video is worth watching. Walsh has a bit with Chretien near the beginning, but I've started the clip a bit before the two minute mark, just so you can see Walsh out of character, and listen to the build-up as she talks about a famous encounter with Harper.

I guess I should explain that This Hour has 22 Minutes is a long-running (it began in 1992--in comparison, the Daily Show first aired in 1996) news and current events satire show. It typically opens with the cast doing the fake news anchor thing, but there are other segments as well where the cast members perform skits or do impressions or appear as regularly occurring characters. Besides Marg, Walsh also played Mrs. Eulalia, alongside Cathy Jones as Mrs. Enid--a pair of senior citizens who talk about what's going on.

The one thing, however that 22 Minutes is famous for, however, is the political ambush. In their role as "journalists" the 22 Minutes team join scrums, chase down politicians of all stripes and generally just bring down people who are often too big for their britches. The smarter politicians go along with it. The rest just come across as miserable idiots.

Now, Walsh has retired from being a 22 Minutes regular and has gone on to do all kinds of other things, but she made her name on 22 Minutes.

(Oh, and for an added bonus of Canadiana, I'm pretty sure the guy who plays the town mayor in the movie is the same actor who does the Canadian Tire commercials.)
posted by sardonyx at 6:30 PM on November 30, 2023

Everybody is getting in on the act. Now, they're doing fire safety tips in a Hallmark style. (I have no idea if this link will work as it's to a LinkedIn post).
posted by sardonyx at 7:48 AM on December 1, 2023

Hello, I am briefly back at this since I have a free night.

Christmas in Notting Hill: Graham is a famous English footballer out on medical leave, wondering what he's going to do with his life. Georgia is an American teacher wondering what job to do next. She's visiting her sister, who's about to get engaged...to Graham's brother, as it turns out. Graham has to tell her he's famous--not something he's used to--and she finds it off putting. She's also a bit upset easily at broken ornaments and lost necklaces and her little sister getting engaged before her. But they're both cute and charming together, which is enjoyable. It's pleasant enough but not a huge standout. Yes, Ted Lasso comes up. Also features a brief bit of English panto--I saw one yesterday and yup, they are weird.

(After Georgia finds out that Graham is in possession of the ring his brother's giving his girlfriend...not knowing well, anything) "Who am I going to tell? I don't know your brother. Or his girlfriend."
What's a panto like? "Imagine what happened if the Rocky Horror Picture Show had a baby with a Disney movie and half the cast was dressed in drag."
"of all the professional soccer players in the world, you had to be Henry's brother?" "Technically he's my half-brother..."

Also, there is a moment where Graham tries to use his Celebrity Power to find Georgia's lost necklace. Nobody is motivated to get up until free drinks to the finder are announced.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:26 PM on December 4, 2023

And finally, "Haul Out The Holly: Lit Up," the sequel to last year's HOA-Gone-Wild movie, "Haul Out The Holly." Now, last year I didn't know what to make of this insanity of a movie. It was Ludicrous Hallmark for sure, but also irritating because of all the Christmas HOA nagging. (A recap: Emily's parents created an insanely demanding Christmas decoration set of rules and regs for their neighborhood, Evergreen Lane, and then passed them on to Jared, and when Emily moved into the house after her parents moved to Florida and she got dumped and whatever, was mandatorily forced to decorate whether or not she was in the mood to do so. You can't fight the HOA, so you might as well date it/give into it. Stephen Tobolowsky is in this, as Ned.) Since last year's sequel to one of my favorite Ludicrous Hallmark movies, "Christmas Under Wraps," did such a lackluster sequel in "A Cozy Christmas Inn," I did not have high hopes for this.

Well. Dare I say it, I was pleasantly surprised, as this is probably the Top Ludicrous Hallmark Movie Of All Time. Because boy, did it ever roll with the "HOA from hell" thing and top it. This year, we have Emily on board with the neighborhood decoration demands and dating Jared, and the 'hood is thrilled to have the "Jolly Johnsons," reality TV show decoration winners, moving in. However, the Johnsons are SUPER COMPETITIVE AT EVERYTHING, actually read the HOA handbook in great detail, and start changing the rules and demanding constant Christmas competitions, which they of course expect to win.

They are also into overshadowing everyone. Setting off fireworks at the tree lighting ceremony (I see nothing wrong with this), but then they REALLY READ THE HOA BOOK (vegan, decorated) and nitpick stuff like "Won't you get finger fatigue doing the snowball fight and the baking contest on the same day?" and "How come Pamela has won with the same recipe seven times in a row?" (LEGIT), suggesting that everyone compete with the exact same recipe, there's an invite-only "Norwegian Santa Academy," they redo the entire holiday schedule, and they're best friends with Chad Kroeger. Also, they add an army of synchronized singing gnomes and Jared, Mr. Citations, is talked out of/befriended out of writing them up, especially by getting a nickname, "Jingle Jared."

Someone please explain to me how the Jolly Johnsons diss ugly holiday sweaters? Wouldn't that be their thing? Anyway, Jared "cites" them by forcing them to go to his White Elephant/ugly sweater party. THE SUFFERING! THE PUNISHMENT! Oh, and then the Johnsons not only show up in "quite cute" sweaters that are not ugly, they DESTROY THEIR HOA BOOKS, THROW A POETRY JAM AND QUIT EVERYTHING. Which Ned is aiding and abetting. The fuck, Ned?!? (Emily is all, wait, if I could have quit last year...?) Emily immediately throws Ned out of the Santa's Helpers.

Emily's parents (the HOA creators) are brought in from Florida. Dad is quoting The Art of War and how to drive the Jolly Johnsons out, Emily wants to integrate them into the neighborhood and make peace. This somewhat goes well, with the Johnsons rejoining the HOA but still wanting to throw competitive games. And then Emily gets called a Grinch "if the stocking fits." BOY DOES EMILY LOSE IT AT THAT ONE, accusing them of ruining Christmas, and forcing a one-off competition between her and Jane Johnson. The neighborhood trains Emily in what to do. Emily later offers little Jimmy her practice gingerbread house to eat since he says his parents never let him eat works of art. Poor kid still isn't allowed to eat it once his parents spot it, and Jimmy says the dreaded words, "I wish we'd never won Ho Ho House!"

Hi, Eric Mabius is back for a second cameo! And team jackets. Alas, Emily decides to quit the contest even though she's sure she might lose, because she can't stand this whole war thing. This gets applause and hugs. Fine, Jane, you get your way, you win. I love how Emily just hands her the win...and then Jane is all, "what if we just want to be a part of Evergreen Lane?" and gets all verklempt. "We just wanna be the Johnsons again." Everybody wins! Jared then proposes later, which is adorable.


Ned: "They were wearing beanies. WITH NO POMPOMS."
Jared: "If you choose to wear a beanie hat and not a pompom, you are a Grinch in hiding."
Emily (pompom'd) to Ned: "Where's your pompom?" (Ned runs away in panic)

Emily: "I don't think that you're prioritizing Christmas!"
Jared: "Emily Melrose! The woman I had to cite last year to get her to go to my White Elephant party?!"

Jared: "I may be a simple man, but I do NOT make simple holiday plans."

Ned: "YOU ALL KNOW I HAVE LIFELONG DIBS OVER THE CHRISTMAS CRUELLER!" (note: pronounced like I spelled it, his pronunciation was immediately corrected.)
Pamela: "This is not Pastrygate, Ned."

Emily: "He was rehearsing for two hours how he's going to greet them tomorrow. Accents. Costume changes. Musical numbers."

Jolly Johnsons: "Oh, the second truck is dedicated to decorations."

Pamela: "Ned, nobody cares! Time is an illusion!"

Pamela: "How can something so hideous come out of something so cute?"

Emily: "It's like Christmas has turned into the Hunger Games!"

Ned: "No man can serve two Santas."
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:04 PM on December 4, 2023

I very much enjoyed "A Biltmore Christmas"; I think "magical time travel for love" is my favorite of all the Hallmark movie tropes (second would be "Come to my castle and be royal").
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:21 PM on December 6, 2023 [1 favorite]

I look forward to getting to it at some point!
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:44 PM on December 6, 2023

A Biltmore Christmas: Time travel! 1940's! Kristoffer Polaha, who always gives good Hallmark! And has a hot deeper voice as a 1940's movie star, to boot. Charming as heck, too. Bethany Joy Lenz is a modern day screenwriter rewriting the 1947 hit "My Merry Wife," in which an angel is forced to fix up his wife and another guy. Lucy the writer has some issues with happy endings, and the producer guy suggests she visit the Biltmore for a change of heart/mind. While there, Lucy discovers that the movie's hourglass is legitimately real and sends you time traveling. After a few brief in-and-out trips to 1947, where she's mistaken as a "candy cane girl" named Sandra and a movie fan named Margaret finds out about the time travel, Lucy ends up with a broken hourglass, waiting on repairs for it, and having a very charming time with Jack while trying to make sure the lead actress remains in the picture.

I enjoyed this very much. It's not a particularly funny movie, but I really enjoyed the leads (especially Jack) and the time travel and the beauty of it, and use of Jonathan Frakes were all delightful.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:34 PM on December 7, 2023

I'm up too early again! Let's burn off a movie I probably won't be that into (i.e. more Movies and Mysteries), Time For Her To Come Home For Christmas. This is some kind of Blake Shelton "series" that just uses the same song over and over again, no particular continuity you need to keep track of.

Carly is a musician who gets hired for a 'holiday" job to whip a small church choir into shape. They seem like they can sing, but could use a conductor to get them all singing at the same time, basically. Carly is cute, sweet, and sparkly and loses her favorite guitar pick, which is picked up by hottie ex-military guy Matt, who has cheekbones for days and can sing and is so freaking gorgeous there's no way he should be single. There is a vague "we never got together" mention with him and his female best friend, but whatever.

For those of you wondering if this plot is a bit fishy, you are correct because (a) Carly is being paid out of pocket by the minister, and (b) turns out the minister's wife is her long lost aunt. Her dad abandoned her as a baby and wrote some letter she never opened when she turned 18, but her aunt found out that her mom died and invited her here, which suddenly makes the plot make sense since she's never lived here before.

It was pleasant enough. Not super memorable, but most people in it are quite hot and I enjoyed it well enough at the crack of dawn. I also note that Maya from "Holiday Road" is in it, playing another super-enthusiastic character.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:31 AM on December 8, 2023

Last night's watch was "A Not So Royal Christmas" and this was truly the most bonkers films I've seen this year. An American working at a tabloid focusing on royals in make-up European countries tries to track down a count who actually doesn't exist but the country is keeping that a secret because of tourism so they find a guy to pretend to be the count for the reporter who also lied about working for a reputable paper instead of a tabloid AND (spoiler alert) THEY FALL IN LOVE. So weird. 5/10.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:59 AM on December 8, 2023

I really, really look forward to that movie, The Pink Superhero. A royal/non-royal movie is something they clearly needed to do.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:55 AM on December 8, 2023

I also really enjoyed "Catch Me If You Claus". So zany and fun! Any movie with a wacky theatre troupe is A-OK by me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:02 PM on December 8, 2023

My Norwegian Holiday: So Henrik, a Norwegian injured skier, has his assistant, Jessica Johnson, quit on him right before they returns to Norway for his sister's wedding. (I note it takes him awhile to spell out she's his employee and not ex.) Coincidentally, a grad student/substitute teacher also named Jessica Johnson (JJ) is in the same shop, there's a mixup on drinks, and Henrik spills her drink. He tracks her down for a replacement and offers her his nonrefundable ticket under her name, especially since she has a troll from his hometown on her desk from her grandma. Is it fate?!

Anyway, Norwegians, or at least Henrik's family, are super friendly and her chair encourages someone who's writing a dissertation on the polar ice caps to like, go see some, so she goes. It's a pleasant enough hangout, and Henrik and family are nice when you get to know them. Supposedly Norwegians are standoffish, but not this bunch. And coincidentally, it turns out Henrik's coach is probably JJ's...grandfather?! Surprise!

I do note that the Decider review points out that the setup of this definitely comes off as weird, but how could it not, really. Like I've certainly heard on the Internet the stories of "my ex broke up with me, I have this refundable ticket, I'm giving it to a girl of the same name" before, so that's a legit real thing that happens and you gotta go with it, but had I not heard that, it'd be weird. Perhaps the Decider writer missed those stories on the Internet?
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:12 AM on December 9, 2023

Up at 3 a.m. again! Once again watching stuff I may not be as into. Though this one was all right, I guess.

Christmas With A Kiss: Mona is a social media manager living in NYC who goes home for her family's carnival. She's been having bad luck with the dating apps--after a great long date, her date tells her he's getting back together with his ex--and she's afraid of getting shamed for being 32 and unmarried and childless. "I'm gonna be 40." "In eight years," from When Harry Met Sally is actually said.

Well, girl goes from no dudes and bad luck to TWO, TWO DUDES! Mona re-meets her high school boyfriend Fletcher, a firefighter and hometown boy looking for excitement, like hot chocolate with gummies in it. (Actual inexplicable answer.) Mona is all up for re-connecting, especially once he admits why he broke up with her out of nowhere as a teen.

Meanwhile, at home her parents (a) want to retire and pass the carnival off to Mona, who is all, um,... to this, and (b) they have a hot single reporter named Des writing about them. Des is "old fashioned" on technology and disses Mona's job to her face a bit, which is obnoxious. Look, I don't like "influencer" and "social media manager" and "hey, it's your girl Mona, come over here to the carnival" selfie vids so much either (see "Holiday Road"), but even I admit it's a job, which Des finally admits to after her videos get people in the door or whatever.

Most love triangles make it obvious as to who the winner is going to be, but it takes awhile here. Fletcher seems to get a little weird again, while Mona finds a version of the article that disses on her family and commercialism. But Des apologizes, rewrites the article, and gets her brother-in-law home for Christmas somehow, so he wins. Also, Fletcher wants "excitement" and not settling down with kids, so there you go, I guess. This one was pleasant enough and not boring, as I kept wondering which dude was going to win, so there's that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:22 AM on December 9, 2023

To All A Good Night: I read the premise of this--it sounded like real estate drama--plus it being Movies and Mysteries, and I did not expect to like it. I'm a big fan of Kimberly Sustad, but she is Quirky Hallmark and I was already writing the review in my head that she's wasted in Weepy Hallmark. WELL, BOY WAS I WRONG. This movie has about 40% Weepy Hallmark, but about 60% of what I'd call Semi-Wacky Hallmark, and it was GLORIOUS. Whoever wrote this mix of a movie did an excellent job of mixing all of the Hallmarks together.

The plot: Cece is a freelance photographer whose dad (a) eloped on a cruise ship with a woman he'd just met, (b) died soon after that, (c) leaving her and the stepmother Vivian 50% each of his property, Willow Glen. Dad always did an event called "Good Night" in which people decorated trees on his property, but Cece frankly hasn't had the heart to do it this year. (I note people are literally still giving her donations for it.)

While out in the woods, Cece sees a motorcyclist have an accident. After calling for help, she makes a point of not taking off his helmet for possible further injury potential (is this a legitimate thing? I know not to move someone, but am unclear if moving a helmet causes, I dunno, swelled head?), and even though from CameraCam we can tell he doesn't see her very well, he has ID'd her elephant necklace. The fellow also--AND THIS IS OUTTA NOWHERE--proposes marriage to her and makes her promise to marry him if he doesn't die. Cece, trying to talk him into staying alive, agrees to it and even makes a comment about doing it at Christmas. And THIS is where I was all, THIS IS WACKY HALLMARK!!! WHERE IS THIS RANDOM PROPOSAL COMING FROM??!? I note Cece also promises to be his friend, visit him in the hospital, and bring him a "Sal burger."

Cece makes it into the hospital room while Sam (the motorcycle guy) is out having a scan, so she leaves behind the burger and a hot pink elephant balloon, but also sees a text come up on his phone about real estate, which makes her have a mental freakout that Sam is here to buy her family property. Sure, Sam does work for his family's fancy real estate company, but Sam isn't into that sort of thing even though he does work for his dad.

I will note that Sam asks around who saved him, but Cece says nothing and hides her necklace (and is wearing very open necked shirts), and even though pretty much everyone in town knows who he means, they all keep their mouths shut. I note that the movie calls this out, and also Sam has figured out early on it's her, but doesn't call her out on it for awhile.

Sam and Cece are adorable together. I think Mark Ghanime is new to Hallmark, but man, he gives good Hallmark! Let's keep him! He's charming and fun and if there's any flaw in him, it's that it's hard to believe he was formerly in despair when he was injured in military service and lost his three best friends. We eventually find out that Cece's dad was also a military man and had a lot of ex-military pen pals, Sam and Vivian being some of them (so the sudden elopement was not as out of nowhere as it sounded), and her dad had asked Sam in his last letter before death to come to town and look after Cece and that he says it's fine for them to get married, which was a running joke between her and her dad. Finally, that made sense!

Sam, Vivian, and Cece decide with two days notice to put on the tree event after all, and Vivian says she'll give her half of Willow Glen to Cece to do what she sees fit with.

Other aspects of this movie:
* Max the thieving dog, which is a running joke throughout the movie, especially when he ends up with a letter.
* A horrifying drummer toy, Bongo Santa with light up satanic eyes, that freaks everyone out every time it pops up.
* Everyone being obsessed with Sal's burgers.
* Cece has decked herself in silly glasses, hat and a boa just now. While Sam walks by.
* THERE'S ASL IN THIS MOVIE!!! Sam also knows how to sign and snark on the "city boy" commentary being said about him.
* I note a tree is being decorated with all of Max's stolen stuff. Sam decorates with elephants.

"I'll be the scandal of Harmony Bay."
"Won't be the first time."
"Or the last time, either."

"Two college degrees and you're taking pictures of dogs."

To: Max the dog thief: "Go home. Seek professional help."

Cece on the proposal: "I didn't think he was going to remember!" Legit.

"Do people just randomly give you money all the time?"
"Yes, I have this town hypnotized, it's working better than I had planned."

"I'm actually impressed that nobody has sold you out yet" on the necklace (which I note she is conspicuously not wearing in her open necked shirts), "if someone offered a $5 reward, this little subterfuge of yours would be over in 15 seconds. If your nose grew any longer, you could rest King Arthur" (the nickname of her camera) "on it."

"People are enjoying the mystery."

"I like that you just used the word cahoots in conversation."
"It's a good word."

An hour and ten minutes into the movie, that kid outs her in front of Sam. "Where's your Christmas elephant? You said you never take it off." "Well, I did take it off."

"You did! Why didn't you say anything?"
"You never said anything either!"

"Are you suggesting I plan an entire event in two days before Christmas Eve?"

"If it comes up, tell her I said to marry you."

"Your dog belongs in a federal prison."

":If you were thinking about kissing me, now would be a really good time." Awwww!
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:28 AM on December 9, 2023

Last one for today, I'm almost caught up....but leaving the house in 15 minutes.

Magic in Mistletoe: "We can't unring this bell." "Ring a louder bell."

Cranky-ass Christmas author Harrington Davis tweeted something cranky. He published his first novel at age 18 and hit the best seller list, but as a cranky adult, he's gone into seclusion. A sixth book is coming out on Christmas Day, but really, shouldn't the book come out a little earlier so people can buy it before the 25th? BUT NOW, Harrington has tweeted, in all caps, "THERE'S NO MAGIC IN MISTLETOE. CHRISTMAS IS A JOKE. IT'S ALL ABOUT MONEY." He self-canceled on Twitter! This is why April Collins, publishing troubleshooter, is called in. She will make him do an apology tour at the Mistletoe Christmas Festival (which predates him, it's his hometown, he hasn't been there since his parents died.). Which is to say she threatens lawsuit.

As we go through Mistletoe, some things are clear: (a) yes, a lot of the books are based on real life people and places, (b) the town has clearly used the books as an opportunity to drum up tourism, businesses are created to look like the book's businesses, etc., and (c) maybe Harry has a point about commercialism re: his hometown? "I wrote this love letter to Christmas and it turned into a tourist attraction," he says later. Much as I hate to bring up She Who Must Not Be Named, the reason why theme parks built a bunch of Hogwarts all over the world is that people really really really really wanna go to Hogwarts. Why not the same with Mistletoe?

However, the weird thing about this movie is that you think it's gonna be a guy becoming less Grinchy throughout the film, but seriously, ONCE HE LANDS IN MISTLETOE, HE IS TOTALLY FINE. Does not openly complain about how everyone uses his book for marketing. Does not find any interviewer annoying. He is a perfectly nice human being and only has a couple of outbursts of cranky, none of them in public (he and April briefly fight over the lawsuit thing and her putting up a tree in his house). He does make a sincere apology and no excuses, though. "Oh, come on, I'm not that big of a Grinch," he says later. So it's kind of weird to have a movie about a grinchy guy learning to be less grinchy when...he's fine after like 20 minutes of movie.

Overall it's fine, but Harry being perfectly fine for most of the movie seems to ah, ruin what sounded like the intended plot?
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:47 AM on December 9, 2023

"Christmas on Cherry Lane" was cute but I had a hard time keeping track of all the various ways the families were connected. Is there a map out there?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:13 PM on December 10, 2023

Hahahaha, what do you think I've been doing today? I was trying to get the movie over with, had to start watching it from the beginning halfway through again, and have tried to figure out what the hell was going on ever since. This is as close as I've found.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:32 PM on December 10, 2023

Glad it's not just me!!! I struggle in general keeping track of too many characters.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:36 PM on December 10, 2023

Christmas on Cherry Lane: I planned on just getting this movie over with because it sounded like a whole lot of House Stuff and I don't care about House Stuff (see Flipping for Christmas), but ended up having to restart watching it again halfway through. This is because (SPOILER ALERT) it shows three families in three different time periods, presumably in the same house but I am terrible at ID'ing that shit and in one timeline the kitchen is being remodeled. Also I will note that frankly, all of the filming, clothes, etc. seem to be deliberately timeless. The 1970's couple--the pregnant couple where her family shows up en masse when they have barely moved in--all have timeless, non-eye-bleeding clothing (seriously, the 70's had the worst fashion) and other than John's jacket a bit, they really look like anyone from any time period. Nobody has their cell phones out, even in the 2023 storyline. They occasionally show a "1973" on the screen or something, but otherwise you would not be able to tell except for the occasional reference to the gas crisis and how John (who owns both a gas station and a mechanic shop) ISN'T taking advantage of people, and then there's a random Y2K reference later.

Anyway, the plots:

1970's: John and Lizzie are about to have a baby and have moved into a new house. Lizzie's ENTIRE FAMDAMILY show up and move into the house. This is stressful. John is already a fix-it guy and finds it annoying when the family offers to fix stuff. Then someone briefly breaks into his business and he has to go off and talk to a cop, then the wife goes into labor.

1990's: Widowed Regina has found love again with Nelson and announces to her adult kids that she's retiring early, getting married and moving to Florida and this is their last Christmas in the house. Winnie seems to take it relatively well, her brother Conrad Does Not and seems to want to anti-Parent Trap and break up the relationship, and starts harping on Christmas stuff they did with their dead dad. This leads to a game in which one person is blindfolded and then the other person tells them how to safely wrap up an ornament, which is certainly not a game I've seen in Hallmark before. However, when Conrad insists on singing Christmas carols but using "doo be doo" or whatever for the lyrics and making people guess the song, Mom is all politely, "Conrad, I'm busy cooking here." Catherine Bell must be the most placid human being on earth because that woman never gets more than a tetch slightly annoyed at people, just gives a very polite speech about how she loves you but she's gonna do what she wants here.

On a side plot, Conrad's friend Ivy is John and Lizzie's kid and is apparently the brief foster parents of one of the characters below (called "Sam" back then). And I think the cop John talked to was Regina's dead husband. They even make a joke about selling the cop the house if they move.

2023: Mike (Jonathan Bennet, not technically doing a sequel to "The Holiday Sitter" but it sorta felt like it) and his husband, whose name I am not entirely sure of the spelling of and I wish it'd been written out on screen (Xian? I think? I first thought it was "Cian," but then they mentioned an X), have (a) moved into this house, (b) are STILL WAITING ON THE KITCHEN REMODEL TO FINISH because they're throwing a 12 person dinner party that night, And then (c) oh, btw, can you foster a 6 year old girl TONIGHT?!? Mike is a ... highly strung...individual as is, and he's a chef so he's super irritated if he can't cook (at one point he uses the dreaded word "microwave," he's so desperate), and even though literally HE HAS A RESTAURANT HE COULD COOK AT and a friend of theirs offers them her kitchen, Xian is all, "No, I want the kitchen smells!" Added bonus of "we have to hide the remodel from the social worker" is now thrown in, too. Come on, guys, either cook elsewhere or call for takeout, because clearly your remodel guy is more interested in bringing you cookies ("where did you make those?" "My house?" This only irritates Mike further because he can't make ANYTHING at his own house) and asking where you're from. I note that Xian answers it, "I'm originally from the Philippines and raised here." We find out later his parents died when he was a kid, HE ended up in foster care, and at one point ended up in foster care at Christmas and he remembers the decorating fondly (see above).

Basically Mike is pretty pissy, food-snobby ("If you ever make me serve canned cranberry sauce, I want a divorce." "Totally fair."), eyes-bugging-out, and freaking out all the time. Xian is clearly The Chill One in the relationship--his name literally means peace--and he has to sing Christmas carols periodically to try to get Mike to not bounce off the walls from stress.

Also, Winnie from the 90's is now a famous singer of some sort (who used to work for Mike), like she wanted to be in the 90's. She recommended they buy the house. Also, the restaurant is "Repair Gastro Pub?" I guess somehow the repair shop is now a damn gastro pub.

I *think* I finally sorted it out? It's like the pilot of Modern Family combined with The Lake House. Not a bad idea, but confusing to keep track of everything and everyone, especially when literally all the time periods look the same.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:39 PM on December 10, 2023

Bravo, jenfullmoon!

STILL WAITING ON THE KITCHEN REMODEL TO FINISH - find me a contractor willing to work Christmas Eve, lolololol.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:33 AM on December 11, 2023

Thought same!
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:00 AM on December 11, 2023

"Round and Round" was another great one! I am such a sucker for a time travel trope.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:53 PM on December 11, 2023 [2 favorites]

I also look forward to that one!

I have now just finished "A Not So Royal Christmas." This is straight up LUDICROUS HALLMARK, FOLKS. We're not super trying to do realism, nor do we care, nobody is really taking this plot seriously at all and that makes it work. Like Balaga (reference here), it's Just For Fun! I love that they for once did a totally different royal movie. Silly AF, so I was amused. (I note this video review gave it an F+.) Will Kemp and Brooke d'Orsay give good Hallmark and are very cute. Plot is silly, but that's about what I expected. Also, of course everyone's English in a fake European country.

So we're in the country of Sorhagen, which I assume is supposed to be some kind of fake European Nordic country, but seriously, this has the most African-British/African-Canadian(???) cast I've ever seen in (a) a fake royal movie, (b) frankly, outside of a Mahogany production. Kudos to them. Anyway, their Count bugged off five years ago, having found true love at Daytona Beach and abdicated (note: not sure if that's exactly the word when you're not king?), chucked his royal seal out the window, and nobody's seen him since. The castle staff have been faking that the count is presumably still around for YEARS for tourism purposes, not that that's going well.

Charlotte is an American royal/history buff who wanted to live in London and to do so for her visa, got a job working for a tacky royal tabloid. Five years in, she still can't get a raise and negotiates with her divey boss that if she can get an interview with the "reclusive" count, she'll get one. She can literally just walk into the palace and find someone.

Adam is a world traveling, never-settling-down dude (Will Kemp, hottest Brit in Hallmark...alas, not a huge dance movie though for him, but there is a ball) who hasn't been around Sorhagen in the last ten years and I guess nobody knows him but his friend and his mother. Adam just got a gig working as a landscaper at the palace, where he finds the royal seal under a bush and is attempting to turn it in to someone when Charlotte walks in. She thinks he's the duke, but lies that she works for a classier royal publication so people will respect her. Pretty soon the royal committee running the castle is all, "hey, we can take advantage of this and drum up some publicity." Adam goes along with it and gets inspired to do things like encourage the staff to like, use local businesses instead of importing shit for the ball. Of course he and Charlotte are adorable together, and she's not into him for his duke-ness so much as he's not very duke-y and is actually rather a dork. It's cute.

Of course there's an inevitable "You lied to me that you're not a tabloid journalist!" "Well, YOU lied to ME that you're a DUKE!" ridiculous eye-roll moment, but inevitable given what kind of plot we've got. Also, the king and queen are all, "You know what, we're fine with this charming rando pretending to be my nephew," and after Adam outs himself at the ball, they are all, "Hey, why don't we make him an HONORARY count?" and Adam is all, "sure, as long as I can use my own name, live in my own house, not follow rules and date who I want," and they're all, "sure, that is exactly how fake royalty goes!"

Added bonus: Adam wears glasses, the royal snooty guy makes him not wear glasses, and he goes back and forth between them and people make cracks that the Clark Kent shit doesn't work.

This movie doesn't really give much of a shit about plausibility, and you know what? Because we're not really taking any of this shit seriously, it's here for lulz. And lulz are lulz. If you're here for lulz, this is the movie for you! That said, I secretly wished that Original Lars would have blown in from Daytona, just for a cameo, tanned and with a blonde bimbo, just for kicks. Missed opportunity, show.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 PM on December 11, 2023

I caught maybe about 10 minutes (in total, non-consecutive minutes) of Cherry Lane. At first I thought it was some kind of Good Witch Christmas special because it had both Catherine Bell and her blond partner (the one that came after Chris Potter and whose name I don't know) from the witchy show as a couple.

I'm not even putting tonight's movie up for a guess and that's because it was SO stupid it just annoyed the heck out of me. 'Tis the Season to be Merry seemed to take the approach that logic doesn't matter, that you can just make up stuff that contradicts what happen in the previous scene and that the main character, a relationship expert and author is dumber than a pile of rocks. Evidence of this:

#1. Guy she's falling in love with is thinking of heading out to work at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand so she asks him if that's what he wants, he replies "I want somebody to tell me to stay" and not only does she not tell him to stay, she doesn't answer him at all and runs off, inspired to rewrite her book. This is the same woman who kept stressing the important of communication in dating.

#2. She thinks the guy took off for Thailand and now she's miffed. She spots him in an airport (she's there for other stupid reasons) and yells at him that he's awful because he plans to go off to build houses for elephants and not say good-bye. Houses for elephants? What have they got some kind of Habitat for Humanity/Pachyderms deal going on? Do elephants want open floor plans like every other person on a renovation show these days? I have SO many questions about elephant accommodations. The movie was a complete waste of 20 to 30 minutes of my time.
posted by sardonyx at 7:53 PM on December 12, 2023

That said, I secretly wished that Original Lars would have blown in from Daytona, just for a cameo, tanned and with a blonde bimbo, just for kicks. Missed opportunity, show.

If it were Netflix, they'd do a sequal Netflix with the same actor playing both guys.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:11 PM on December 15, 2023

I've been off the Hallmark train for a week--attention span not so great for 2 hour movies at the moment, but hopefully I'll get back--but here's some recaps from elsewhere.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:48 AM on December 18, 2023

Okay, I think I will save Round and Round for attempting to watch it with a friend.

Friends and Family Christmas: Hallmark's first lesbian romance, I believe, which reminded me so much of reading "Written In The Stars" and the beginning was similar enough that I seriously started Googling to see if there'd been a book to movie deal. Anyway, Amelia (lawyer) and Daniela (artist) are fixed up by their parents, really don't hit it off at all on the one date, then end up fake dating. Their parents are around an awful lot, particularly Daniela's who are probably on every other date along with them.

Overall it's cute. Daniela is adorbs and Amelia's not bad either, albeit a bit straitlaced. I don't know if I think it's all that memorable beyond "first lesbian romance on Hallmark," but it was pleasant enough, and the gang getting together to help with Daniela's proclamation of love on Christmas was pretty cute. The parents are very nice parental figures as well, and I liked how Daniela discovered she'd photographed Amelia years before meeting her.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:05 PM on December 18, 2023

"Heaven Down Here" was OK - when a movie is based on a song, it's always a little worrying. Script was real cheesy, particular the pastor who basically spoke in proverbs, but highlights include the performances by Krystal Joy Brown and Phylicia Rashad. 6/10
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:23 PM on December 18, 2023

LOL, watching it right now since I keep being interrupted by phone calls and I assumed I didn't have to closely follow it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:40 PM on December 18, 2023

Heaven Down Here: four people get snowed in/stranded in a diner on Christmas Eve:

* Dan, grumpy slacker artist running the diner who makes his remaining employee work several more hours so he can "go to a party" and by that he really means "game in his office," as it turns out, because nobody likes him all that much.
* Imani, a stressed out waitress/widow/single mom just trying to get home to her 8-year-old son...and daughter. She's super pissed that having to work a few more hours alone when she didn't have to means she can't be there for the kids.
* Father Felix, a former corporate guy turned priest with a kid he's estranged from, just trying to hit people up for the homeless dinner. Nice guy, albeit "speaks in proverbs" is certainly accurate. One gets a bit of vibe with Imani, but, well, priest.
* Clara, a friendly but snoopy home health care nurse who gets the idea to investigate why her client Nancy is so sad and what that has to do with her client's daughter, and has walked off with a file of information on the daughter she finds in the house in hopes of making a dying woman happier. Turns out the daughter is dead, and she had a baby. And Imani--also adopted--recognizes her lone baby picture pre-adoption in that file.

Anyway, while trapped in the diner, they eat together, they decorate, they try to make the evening bright, it's pretty sweet, actually. You really feel for Imani, as that actress is knocking it out of the park. Honestly, not bad for a Movies and Mysteries weeper-sort of movie. I was actually like, touched and stuff.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:56 PM on December 18, 2023

I caught the tail end of that lesbian one, and all I kept thinking was: if you care about that giant teddy bear, you wouldn't be putting him outside on a park bench where he's going to get wet and dirty and sticky and potentially mouldy. I mean even if they had cleared the bench of snow, his feet were still resting on the snowy ground.

I also caught the first part of that Blake Shelton one, and again, I kept focusing on the dumb details, like why that musician wouldn't put her pick in the guitar case where it belonged and not in the pocket of her jeans, especially when she wasn't playing and wouldn't be playing anytime soon. I mean she was commuting to an entirely new state.

If anybody wants to take a stab at guessing another, here's a clue: James Bond as a senior royal eventually gives his blessing to a family member who falls in love with a commoner from Buffalo (even though the actress surely isn't from Buffalo, or anywhere else in the US of A).
posted by sardonyx at 8:51 AM on December 19, 2023

The Secret Gift of Christmas: features the most Manic Pixie Dream Girl-presenting gift shopper of all time. Bonnie twinkles and sparkles and styles throughout the movie, albeit she does admit that her social media is all fake and she's a real girl underneath all of that. She does do great gifts. Bernard, a young adult, hires her to shop for his uncle Patrick, a hunky widower with a plain sense of style and who, left to his own devices, would buy people plastic plants. Bonnie bonds with his kid over losing their moms. There's a music teacher who kind of goes a bit awry in various ways (thinking the gift means Patrick Likes Her Like That, giving away her gift), not sure what to make of that.

I like the leads very much, god knows this woman is twinkling like fuck and the guy is hot and always gives good Hallmark. But this is yet another gift shopper plot and lord knows it doesn't stand out from the rest of them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:32 PM on December 19, 2023

Round and Round: I was excited to watch this one, watched it with a Jewish friend of mine, both of us were actually rather disappointed. Not as well written as either of us were hoping for and I'm kind of baffled at the good reviews. The idea's fun--Rachel is reliving the seventh night of Hanukkah/her parents' meet-a-versary, in which she loses the jelly donuts to accidents, her boyfriend gets "airport cold" and flakes on meeting the family, and the house ends up on fire. Bizarrely enough, her attempts to say, pre-emptively stop the fire don't work and the house ignites for totally different reasons, the donuts keep flying, etc., so that's new.

She ends up telling Zach, the DND dice geek/artist guy who's been invited to the family meal and who made her lose the donuts, because he's a geek and you get geeks to help you with that sort of thing. Zach in turn introduces her to his comic book store friend Sean, who hits it off with Rachel's fake-English cousin. Rachel learns to pre-emptively break up with her boyfriend, invite that lonely old lady behind her in the donut line to the meal, have someone DRIVE the donuts to the party, etc. So that part is great. What's not so great is that honestly, neither of us liked Zach all that much, as he's kind of semi-annoying most of the time and a bit razzy and Rachel's pretty stressed out, and I don't know, the romance bit didn't quite go for either of us? Also unclear as to how her ex, who's conveniently been broken up with earlier in the day on the last day, this time actually wants to show up at the house. That was pretty weird for everyone.

Best part of the movie for me was to find out the dreidel* thing ran in the family and that everyone else in her family had been through it too. I really liked that. And Zach is all, "hey, it's been one day for me" and then the memories of all the other days start kicking in. Also enjoyed the recurring use of the 80's. and recurring use of the guy playing music in the subway.

* note: my friend was all, "I have that dreidel." Me: "Break it out, let's spin it and see what happens." She did not. Friend also said, "It's not very Hanukkah-y," which I suppose is a good point once they drift off into having a lot of scenes at the comic book shop, forgetting to go light candles. She also said, "that's not the prayer they say," and "you can't really shape latkes into anything." I guess the heart shapes were Hanukkah miracles.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:25 PM on December 19, 2023

Sealed With A List: I loved this one! I had expected it to be kind of a blowoff movie, but it was utterly charming and I loved both leads like mad and all their sweet friends. Loved it, loved it.

At the end of last year, Carley had the following happen to her: (a) her best friend Jamie moves to Italy for a sommelier job, and Jamie wants her to make a list of stuff she wants to do* and do it, (b) she loses out on a promotion and the boss's slacker son gets to be her boss. Carley forgets about her resolutions, as we all do, until the end of November this year, when Jamie says she's returning for the holidays. Oops. This year, Wyatt the slacker son doesn't bother to check a quality control report, causing people to get shirts that literally rip easily and Carley is ticked off. But when the dreaded "SOMEONE DID THIS" meeting happens and Wyatt's about to admit it was him slacking, Carley decides to take the blame and the firing to get herself out of the job. Interesting choice there.

* quit my job, have an adventure, take up running, make a friend, read a full book, stuff like that.

Carley ends up asking Wyatt to be more or less her accountability partner for making her goals in a month, which is pretty odd to have going since she didn't like him too much before (everyone else Carley knows upon meeting Wyatt: "Isn't that the guy who got your job?" Wyatt: "Yes."), but darn it if it doesn't work and ADORABLY SO. I mean, sure, I could quibble at him paying kids to throw snowballs at her for running motivation, but she doesn't seem to mind, and he can also be quite helpful in getting his maid to teach her better sewing skills. She ends up more or less being his accountability partner once his dad cuts him off from his trust fund (I note this seems to be that the maid and butler won't wait on him any more, though Wyatt does get his own apartment as the show goes on), and Wyatt grows up, actually starts taking interest in his job, etc.

They are both cute as buttons and I loved it so.

And now I'm all caught up. I think there's one more left to go and then it's over, y'all. I've never finished this early, now what do I do with my life?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:37 PM on December 19, 2023

Round and Round: I was excited to watch this one, watched it with a Jewish friend of mine, both of us were actually rather disappointed. Not as well written as either of us were hoping for and I'm kind of baffled at the good reviews.

A time travel trope gets me every time!!! And the twist with the family knowing was a fun surprise.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:33 AM on December 20, 2023

A Kiss Before Christmas: I can't believe this came out in 2021 when it feels like it was filmed in 2004. Not just the cast, the whole office setting felt very pre-pandemic, like the movie was frozen for decades and they trotted it out just because. Still, James Denton did a cute job on the "It's a Wonderful Life" spin. 7/10.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:40 AM on December 21, 2023

And the final review for the year...of Hallmark anyway, if I get to watching anything else like the Lifetime cowboy sex movie I saved, we'll see... Miracle in Bethlehem, PA. I'm told this is not filmed in the actual town and it's very Movies and Mysteries in the "vaguely Christian, people go to church and wear crosses but aren't that preachy" sort of way. As the review points out, there's plenty of Bible names to keep track of in the story though.

Mary Ann just adopted a baby, Natalie, as a single mom and gets stranded there due to storm. A local former guitarist, Joe, takes her in when there's no room at the inns. I note at the beginning of the show Joe is a lazy layabout who gave up guitar (I think his dad got sick/died or something and he quit the band) and his girlfriend dumps him for slobbery/lazy-ness/no longer being a Cool Band Guy at the beginning. However, with Mary Ann and Natalie around, he perks up and gets goofy and fun and his family is also goofy and fun--I believe I saw rings being thrown onto reindeer antlers on people's heads, Joe goofy dances, etc.

Then the ex, Brooke, stomps back in, clearly regretting giving up a boyfriend during Cuffing Season. She gets rightfully pissed that Joe cleaned up his house and got dressed up and was about to take a romantic walk in the snow and wasn't motivated to do any of that for her, which...yeah, no argument with that being depressing AF. After that, Mary Ann is all, "this has gotten awkward, I must flee." Except obviously she doesn't, she calls her mom and is all "surprise, I have a baby, come over here" and all is well. It was pleasant enough.

*takes a bow* Thank you for reading. I never got any of those "watch Hallmark movies for money" gigs I applied for, but this was still fun! Hope people enjoyed!
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:51 PM on December 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

Wonderful, jenfullmoon! I am still giving myself this week to catch up on any movies I still want to watch and then my season will be done.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:12 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]

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