Christmas in Conway (ABC, 2013)
It’s not your first picnic, is it pretty girl?
Starring: Mandy Moore, Andy Garcia, Riley Smith, Mary-Louise Parker
Plot Synopsis: Suzy Gainsborough’s husband decides the perfect Christmas present for his beloved – but ailing – wife is a ride on a real-deal Ferris wheel, set up in their own back yard. Why? Because it was while riding one many moons ago that Duncan asked Suzy to marry him.
The neighbors are not amused as the 100-foot-high mechanical monstrosity arises in the couple’s back yard. But love is in the air, and not just between Suzy and Duncan. Suzy’s nurse, Natalie, and a young landscaper who’s helping Duncan assemble the giant Ferris wheel also fall under the intoxicating spell of romance. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: I’m so tempted to not even review this film, and just talk about how I laughed for 80 hours when I realized Mandy Moore’s love interest was played by the guy who I thought was the same person as Dean from Gilmore Girls for years. (It’s a tale of confusion that would have never happened if I bothered to actually watch New York Minute instead of just read about it in Teen People features featuring one or both of the actors, who would just be credited as New York Minute love interests.)
Part of me also wants to not even review this film and just do a ranking of everyone’s Southern accents from best (Mary-Louise Parker) to worst (Mandy Moore, on account that she can never decided whether or not she’s supposed to have one).
But that’s not why 3 people come to visit this blog on a daily basis. They come here for important reviews! And so my opinion on this film can be summed up as thus: It’s a weeper. It’s a movie that I would not be surprised to find out was originally conceived by Nicholas Sparks with the overwrought sadness and the themes of the ~power of love~. God, Mandy Moore’s in it too, it really is Nicholas Sparks: Made for TV!
So if that sounds like something you’d be into, you’re probably going to like this. It’s not really my speed though. Though I was happy there was no overwrought flashbacks to someone adopting a golden retriever in Vietnam. GEEZ, A DOG NAMED CHRISTMAS. What was that?
Watch If: You get excited to go to a business conference because everyone is sharing their toys, if you are dismayed that there are no amusement parks around the block, or if your favorite carnival rides are designed for five-year olds.
Skip If: If you are horrified by the idea of going to Myrtle Beach, if your holiday decorating ideas have been knocked for not being subtle or sophisticated enough, or if your blood feuds with neighboring families have started over some high-stakes poker games.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Santa Switch (Hallmark, 2013)
Welcome to your holiday humilation!
Starring: Ethan Erickson, Anne Dudek, Annie Thurman, Sean Astin
Plot Synopsis: A struggling dad gets a new start when a strange encounter magically replaces his mall Santa gig with the real thing. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: Do you ever have movies that just exist? Like you sit there and watch the entire thing, and not a single feeling really registers while you’re doing so. That was my experience with this film. It was there. It basically felt like noise. Nothing really fun happens, nothing ridiculous happens, nothing really anything happens. I felt bad that Anne Dudek and Sean Astin’s careers have amounted to this, but that’s about it.
It’s fine, I guess! I think it’s a perfectly acceptable movie to throw on with your kids and just let wash over you. I just don’t think you’ll remember it one iota the minute the credits start rolling.
Watch If: You regard travel vouchers with disdain, if you are known around town as that dude who listens to the violin music, or if you drink hot chocolate with mint and a dash of yuletide.
Skip If: Your dad always bought you the wrong Squires of Essex video game, if you never think it’s time to stop chasing rainbows, or if every year Santa gives you a stocking of DISAPPOINTMENTS.
Final Rating: ★ ★ (★) ☆ ☆
Holidaze (ABC Family, 2013)
What a coincidence! I prefer my feet planted firmly underneath you, as well.
Starring: Jennie Garth, Cameron Mathison, Mary Kay Place, Shannon Kook
Plot Synopsis: In the movie, Melody, a high powered corporate workaholic for a retail conglomerate, is happy to spend the holidays jet-setting with her girlfriends. However, she’s in for an unpleasant surprise when her boss sends her to her sleepy hometown to convince the reluctant townspeople to allow them to build a new discount store. Now, forced to reconnect with her family and her childhood sweetheart Carter, her task is not so simple, as all are vehemently opposed to everything Melody’s company stands for. Desperate to get out of town and back to her “real” life, Melody takes a spill and wakes up in an alternate universe where she never left home and is married to Carter! Once determined to leave her small town life behind, Melody must make sense of her new life and decide if you truly can go home again. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: Part of me wants to rate it higher than I’m going to. Jennie Garth and Cameron Mathison have cute chemistry! It’s a TV Christmas movie that remembers that people have sex! There are references to penises! (Which reminds me of this stellar moment in TV Movie Christmas history, which I’m sure everyone who looks at this blog for family friendly movies is going to appreciate.) But geez, it hits a lot of the tropes I hate.
For one, it continues the whole, sexist “career professional woman are definitely unhappy and need a good man!!!” schtick. On top of that there is the “small towns are the only acceptable way of life schtick!!” Also, it’s more of a Thanksgiving movie than a Christmas movie.
I have a strong feeling this is going to be one of those movies where I confuse myself into thinking I like it more than I do because there’s definitely elements to rec it. But the message behind the madness? I can’t get behind that.
P.S. This is the THIRD Cameron Mathison Christmas movie this year. Does all Cameron Mathison do nowadays involve celebrating Christmas on film? Please let me know.
Watch If: If you hate it when people use your full name, if you celebrated the alcohol ban being lifted at your local skating rink, or if you think that a solid way to cure amnesia involves showing people some familiar penises.
Skip If: If you are constantly being reminded you are the worst daughter ever, if an ovulation chart is the creepiest thing in the world to you, or if you actually *love* techno music.
Final Rating: ★ ★ (★) ☆ ☆
Christmas in the City (Lifetime, 2013)
What says Christmas more than shopping?
Starring: Ashley Williams, Ashanti, Jon Prescott, Beverly Leech
Plot Synopsis: After closing down her small-town family business, Wendy and her six-year-old daughter Grace move to the big city where an old friend offers her a job in the toy department of Wolmans. But her excitement is short lived when the store’s new consultant, Teanna, ruins the holiday spirit throughout the store by replacing Santa with a hunky male underwear model. It’s only when Grace begins to lose faith in the holiday that Wendy realizes she must bring the true meaning of Christmas back to Wolmans before it is too late. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: First of all, I have no idea what city this is supposed to take place in. You would guess New York, but the kid keeps complaining about disappearing skating rinks and how there is no special tree lighting ceremony, and unless Carmen Sandiego came in and stole every New York Christmas tradition, like she stole the New Jersey Garden State Parkway in that one computer game, well, that doesn’t make sense.
Secondly, this movie continues a weird Lifetime trend of the “sweet white lady” vs. “the horrible black professional women”. I don’t know what exactly to make of it, but I noticed it and it kind of made me uncomfortable?
Aside from those points, this movie was okay. I’d probably watch again if it came on TV, but I don’t think I’ll remember much of it after I finish this review. It’s perfectly acceptable in most ways, but it doesn’t pop. Another one of those laundry movies, I suppose.
Watch If: If you dance along to the music videos blasting in the stores, if you don’t think it’s Christmas if you don’t see a tree getting lit, or if someone playing “The First Noel” is your biggest turn on.
Skip If: If he is a fish to catch not your boss, if you don’t think everyone has an agenda, or if you would prefer a hunkier Santa.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
My Santa (ION, 2013)
Please tell me you’re not falling for Humbug Mommy!
Starring: Samaire Armstrong, Matthew Lawrence, Jim O’Heir, Julie Brown
Plot Synopsis: A young, single mother, Jen, begins to lose her faith in the magic of Christmas. However, when she takes her son Eric to see the local mall Santa, Jen immediately feels an attraction and connection with Chris, the young, attractive man filling the suit. As they begin spending time together, she begins to rediscover her belief in Christmas. Little does Jen know that Chris is the son and heir to the “real” Santa, and his mission is to find himself a Mrs. Claus. As the two fall for one another, Chris faces his inevitable return to the North Pole. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: This movie has a generally cute story at the center of it, and bless the heart of Matthew Lawrence who I don’t think has aged a day in the past 20 years. However, there are things in the execution of this story that make the movie on the whole tough to recommend. First of all, at the climax of the story there is the most comically executed dramatic flashback that I have yet to witness. Full of blue-tinted sadness, horrific dramatic acting, and a cameo by a dude who looks exactly like Ryan Murphy, it’s just generally terrible and it’s supposed to be heartbreaking. Second of all, this film features the worst child performance I have yet to see in one of these films, which is saying something. The poor kid tries his hardest, but he can’t act and since he’s supposed to be a lynchpin for the entire movie, it’s hard to handle.
Like I said, the film has some cute stuff going for it, but it can’t wholly overcome it’s execution, which is sad.
Watch If: You always get a personalized Christmas tree, you can literally see the hurt in people’s hearts, or if you have business cards advertising your friendship.
Skip If: You’re on your fourth marriage, you love using the word skedaddle, or if your favorite kind of Christmas tree is fake.
Final Rating: ★ ★ (★) ☆ ☆
Fir Crazy (Hallmark, 2013)
No whipcream! No nutmeg! No fun!
Starring: Sarah Lancaster, Colin Mochrie, Eric Johnson, Greg Calderone
Plot Synopsis: Elise MacReynolds is no fan of Christmas. Growing up on a tree farm meant every holiday was spent selling Christmas trees on a cold street corner. But when she loses her job and her dad breaks his leg, Elise agrees to run the family tree stand for one last season. Unfortunately for Elise, the family business that has always hosted the MacReynolds’ Farms tree lot has been acquired by home decor conglomerate Brook Glen Elise gets off on the wrong foot with surly Brook Glen CEO Gary Dixon when she almost knocks him down while unloading a big tree. Gary thinks the trees are bad for business and sets in motion a plan to get rid of the lot, for good. Despite her battles with Gary, Elise finds herself catching the holiday spirit as she helps the denizens of NYC find their one perfect tree: Everyone from a baby-on-the-way couple, to a professional basketball team, to a young boy picking out his first tree. Christmas also proves to be the season for romance when charming repeat customer Darren admits he’s been buying trees simply in the hopes of talking to Elise. But when Gary convinces the NYFD to impound the trees and shut down the lot, Elise must find a way to crack his scrooge exterior and make up for lost time. Can Elise pull off a Christmas Eve miracle in time to save the family business? With help from her new beau, family, friends and customers, and a little holiday magic, she just may have a shot. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: In a way, it’s easy to see why Hallmark held this film for a year or two after production. It’s fine. It’s not bad. It’s just kind of there. Colin Mochrie makes faces in the background for some reason, and people sell trees and nothing really actually coheres or fits together. It’s all amicable enough parts, but it makes for a messy, kind of boring whole.
Watch If: If you bring a pint of ice cream to give to someone you’re dumping, if your business skills need SPRUCE-ing up (get it!?!?!) or if you, in fact, do not know how it goes.
Skip If: If you got fired for wearing heels, if when you break your foot you also happen to break your mouth, or if you prefer to keep the reindeer in the barn as opposed to the house.
Final Rating: ★ ★ (★) ☆ ☆
Christmas Bounty (ABC Family, 2013)
Let’s go!!!! Let’s go chop down a tree!!!
Starring: Francia Raisa, The Miz, Will Greenberg, Chelan Simmons
Plot Synopsis:A former bounty hunter turns into an elementary schoolteacher. Determined to have a normal life and keep her bounty hunter past a secret, she reluctantly returns home for Christmas to help save the family business by catching the one bounty that got away. But when her fiancé follows her home for the holiday, she struggles to hide her wild family business and a bounty hunter ex-boyfriend she thought she’d left behind. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: In general, this movie falls into the “bonkers” category I usually enjoy with films of this genre. How could it not when the producers of this film are “WWE Studios and ABC Family”?
The thing is, for me personally, I live right around the place where it takes place and it gets everything kind of offensively wrong about my neck of the woods which drives me crazy. The accents they all use are from Queens and Staten Island. I’ve lived here for 20 years and I have never seen anyone use that much hairspray. When I go to the mall, nobody I see there is wearing hot pants and a belly shirt. Just, it’s all wrong and the whole movie is based around embracing your ~embarassing~ past and when that just means exactly where I live it gets frustrating.
But hey, everything is bonkers! If you enjoy that, you’ll probably get something out of this.
Watch If: Your style tips generally involve adding more gold to an ensemble, if you write “Out of Order” on an elevator in lipstick to make sure people don’t go in there, or if you can only dance when you’re feeling inspired by an engagement.
Skip If: If you loved only in the past tense, if you love being a desk guy, or if you prefer to eat spaghetti when making threats instead of lobster.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Thanks so much! All recognition for this venture is 100% appreciated!
Holiday Road Trip (ION, 2013)
I don’t see what you don’t see in me!
Starring: Patrick Muldooooooon, Ashley Scott, George Hamilton, Uggie
Plot Synopsis: Maya, a recently heartbroken pet supply employee, couldn’t have any less in common with her co-worker, Pat, who happens to be the company founder’s son. But, tasked with traveling across the country on a Christmastime social media tour for the company’s leading canine and most-prized possession, Scoots, fate finds a funny way to intervene. In their race against the clock, the two begin to fall for one another. Unbeknownst to Maya, though, her remorseful ex-boyfriend is in close pursuit, hoping he can win her back. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: This movie screams “I WANTED A PAYCHECK!” on every level. Nobody is trying. The scriptwriters didn’t try. The actors didn’t try. Even Uggie didn’t try (UGGIE DESERVED BETTER THAN THIS THOUGH, LET’S BE REAL). It wasn’t fun in a bonkers way. It wasn’t frustrating in a ridiculous way. It just existed. It was just a thing people did. And that’s the worst kind of this movie to watch at times. I’d rather watch a spectacular failure, than a bland one.
Watch If: If you think SUVs are Mess-U-Vs, if you think the middle of nowhere is a pretty cool place, or if your lack of ambition has gotten where you are today.
Skip If: If your beach trips have been ruined by emotional rollercoasters, if you can’t imagine going to a restaurant without a wine list, or if profanity doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable.
Final Rating: ★ (★) ☆ ☆ ☆
The Christmas Spirit (Hallmark, 2013)
What is your definition of being alive?
Starring: Nicolette Sheridan, Bart Johnson, Olympia Dukakis, Amanda Forreman
Plot Synopsis: Charlotte Hart (Nicollette Sheridan), a distinguished journalist, is spending time with her family over the holidays when a real estate developer approaches their small town with quite an offer. Skeptical and looking for the real scoop, Charlotte drives to see the real estate head honcho to question him. While she’s en route, she gets into a terrible car accident and wakes up in the hospital only to realize that her body is in a coma, but her spirit is very much awake. She meets another spirit, who just happens to be the greedy developer. It turns out that he was on the other end of the accident, and he too is in a coma. With only a few days left before the town votes on the development, Charlotte must try to change the minds of the developer and the town, but that is no easy task when no one can see or hear her. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: This story is a Nicolette Sheridan VANITY vehicle if I ever saw one. You knew you were in trouble once you saw her name credited with the story. Her character is basically a saint. A saint! A pretty, nice, wonderful saint who wants to save the town and everyone and is never able to forget the kindness buried deep in the hearts of others and oh god, it was insufferable. Also, she’s such a genuine soul people think she’s ACTUALLY an angel at times, and I can’t handle it.
I feel like I might have really liked this film too, if it wasn’t so clearly written with one person’s sainthood in mind. That said, I appreciate seeing Mr. Troy Bolton’s Dad is still acting? GO WILDCATS! Get your head in the game! *leaps in freeze frame*
Watch If: If you would never leave school because you would be too busy studying, if priests commend you for writing newspaper articles that are more enlightening than anything they could ever put into one of their homilies, or if you think a first kiss should be earned.
Skip If: Your hometown is a sight, if you keep trying to get out of the spirit business but they keep dragging you back in, or if you don’t think it’s scandalous to date someone two years older than you (or that all ~older boys are creeps).
Final Rating: ★ ★ (★) ☆ ☆