Week in Review + Happy Thanksgiving – 11/25/15

This last weekend, Hallmark brought two more offerings to the table including the latest installment of their flagship Northpole franchise. Then we had another interesting Up Network joint and even Lifetime has officially entered the mix. And have you heard of the other Hallmark Channel? Movies and Mysteries, it’s called? Well they debuted a new movie called, and I quote, “Murder She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery.” This is still just he calm before the storm too because later this week, Hallmark is about to really drop the hammer. A little more on that later but first, let’s talk some Northpole.

Northpole-Open-For-Christmas-POSTER

Out is Robert Wagner as Santa, Tiffani Thiessen Mellancamp, and whoever played the kid and man in that last one. Now there’s another guy playing Santa who I am less suspicious of and another early 90s TV star, Lori Loughlin, as the main gal. Then we have Dermot Mulroney/Dylan McDermott as the love interest, which kind of surprised me because this dude is only a few months removed from a relatively successful Summer theatrical release, Insidious 3. Maybe it’s just me but there’s something about him that seems kind of jerky. Not like he’s a terrible person or anything, just not as warm-looking as most male protagonists are in these films. Plus in Insidious 3, he and his kids lived below a vacant apartment and his terrorized daughter said she heard banging upstairs and something came through the ceiling and when Mulroons and the building manager went to check it out, they discovered creepy gelatinous footprints all over the place, which definitely should not be there and the exchange between the two of them went something like this:

Building Manager (at the sight of the footprints): “I don’t know what to tell ya…”

Mulroons: “You can tell me who’s gonna pay for the crack in my ceiling!”

And that’s pretty much all he had to say on the matter. How about calling the police, Mulroons?!? Someone or something broke into this apartment and is terrorizing your daughter! Your family is not safe!!! And why is the building manager just kind of like, “Meh?” about the whole situation too? He’s not going to be able to rent that place with creepy spirits coming in and leaving their gelatinous footprints everywhere. But anyway, this has pretty much nothing to do with Northpole: Open For Christmas. Or does it? Because Mulroons is a single dad, with a young daughter who may be psychic (or is at least precocious) and they are fixing up an old hotel with a lot of vacant rooms and perhaps some spiritual activity going is down in them. I admit this is a bit of a reach but so are several other things in the movie. For one, Santa needs Lori Loughlin to regain her Christmas spirit and get that old hotel, left to her by a deceased Aunt, back up and running again to keep Christmas itself up and running. They kind of explain this concept of the hotel being a “power station”, something which generates the holiday spirit Santa needs but I’m still not sure why Loughlin is so critical to the process. He sends out his favorite elf, Clementine, to go help but there are other elfs already out there so I’m not sure why Clementine is so critical to the process either. Yet with all these elves and a lady who really isn’t even that down on Christmas (drinks her coffee with two, loving hands), the plan still isn’t working so Clementine just does what she should have done in the first place, which is take Loughlin to Northpole, explain that Santa and magic and Christmas spirit is real and for reasons that don’t make sense, she just needs to not sell her deceased Aunt’s Vermont Inn to keep the whole thing going. Ignoring the relative implausibility for a minute, that’s actually a fairly reasonable request. But Loughlin is still a little unsure and somehow, this all also hinges on her budding romance with Mulroons. If that works out, she keeps the Inn and saves Christmas (even though the Inn, while restored, does not have any customers and seems overmatched by the newer resorts in town). If not, she takes some heartless job talking people either in or out of things in London and Christmas is doomed, I guess? Santa needs a much tighter operation, Mulroons should have gotten his family the hell out of that apartment in Insidious 3, Loughlin should have married Jesse from Full House, the river that runs down the middle of Main Street in Northpole should be frozen over with people ice skating on it, and I should have liked this movie a little bit more than I did. It’s definitely got a higher level of quality and charm than most, in some ways, and I’m definitely cool with Lori Loughlin and Bailee Madison. The Vermont Inn thing hits me right where I live, which is White Christmas, but it just somehow never all came together in the way I had hoped or wanted. I’ll say 3 Eggnogs, 1 for each “Chapter” of the Insidious movie franchise and at least 3 Eggnogs more than I would have given any of them:

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I mentioned an interesting Up Network joint earlier and I wasn’t just putting words together. There really was such a thing, a movie called Angels in the Snow that premiered on Sunday night.

angels in the snow

That’s Kristy Swanson, who’s starting to assemble a pretty nice resume of these films, and she’s married to the other white dude but things aren’t going particularly well for the family. Kids are mean to each other and mom and dad are about to get a divorce. The dad thinks that getting them all together in this remote, beautiful cabin over Christmas will set things right again and then proceeds to spend most of his time taking business calls, which certainly fulfills the trope quota nicely but seems to defeat the stated purpose of the the trip. Plus the parents are just too cold to each other at this point. It’s clearly over and there isn’t a damn thing anybody can do about it. That’s where the titular Angels in the Snow come in. It’s another family, who show up at their door in the middle of the night after supposedly crashing their car in the woods, seeking refuge from a blizzard which has hit the area hard. I’m all for being a Good Samaritan but Kristy Swanson is clearly running for Jesus here because within seconds, literal seconds, she ushers these strangers in, tells them that all their wet, cold clothes will soon be replaced by her family’s warm clothes and instructs them all to stay in various spare rooms throughout the cabin. Everyone kind of goes along with it just as instantly too. I don’t even think they introduce themselves. It all happens that quickly. Then there is never any talk of what the next steps are going to be. Is the stranded family going to call for a tow truck or report any of this to the police or try to find some other way to get to their destination? We might assume that they will be on their way once the blizzard passes but for all we know, they could be staying with Swanson’s family forever.

And it turns out this other family, the Tuckers, are the best people ever. All really happy and super nice to each other and positive about every single aspect of life with nothing even resembling a rough edge. At first I thought that being around such a bunch of cartoonshly stereotypical goody goodies might help unite Swanson’s family in making fun of them but the movie was equally goody goody. It’s also really non-racist. Both sets of teenage kids instantly take up some degree of a romantic relationship with each other and like I said, the Tuckers could not be better human beings. They even try to help patch up Swanson’s family without overstepping any bounds but it still looks like it’s not gonna happen. Then the movie takes somewhat of a dark turn and we realize that part of the issue between the parents is not just that the dad works too much but another equally-explored trope, which is being unable to get over a fairly recent death. Except this time, it’s not a parent or a spouse but a baby. Swanson and her husband had another child, a 4th one, who sadly was not with us for very long. This is where I draw the line. I can (and frequently do) handle the parent or spouse being dead, so long as they are pre-dead before the movie starts and it doesn’t delve too deeply into the loss itself but a child is too much for me. I would have strongly preferred a lighthearted family-vs-family basketball game instead. Then the dad himself almost dies when a tree falls over on him and even that doesn’t fix his relationship with Kristy Swanson so I’m really thinking that along with the other serious events here, maybe this couple really isn’t going to make it. All I know is that I’m no longer having fun and that, of course, they are somehow going to make it. It’s hard to review because for about the first half, I was feeling pretty good but then things just went downhill. I suppose I should take a page from the Tuckers and put a positive spin on this so I’m going to say 8 Eggnogs (out of a possible 5) but I’m really only doing that to seem as nice as they are and as generous and non-racist as Kristy Swanson’s character is.

 

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Remember when I said Lifetime wisely too my advice with a Thanksgiving-themed movie? Well unfortunately, I should have been more specific because they gave me one with Muppets, based on a previous Jim Henson story and now current nightmare of mine.

TurkeyHollowPoster

It’s definitely not your mother’s Lifetime holiday movie and thus, wasn’t really my cup of tea either. Creepy Muppets, narration by rapper Ludicris, smarmy teenage girl bitch character, evil turkey farmers – these are not the droids I’m looking for. On one hand, I do want to applaud the Lifetime Network for trying something new here but as we all know from the popular buddhist koan, if that one hand claps, it does not make a sound. There were some good lines, I will give them that. And I actually liked Mary Steenburgen as the crazy aunt who lives in the woods and will properly use both hands to applaud for her resurgence in what is probably the 4th quarter of her career. She went years just being someone I had no feelings about whatsoever to suddenly turning into this lovely, charming, funny older lady. But other than that, there were way too many line-y lines, a terrible dad who I didn’t believe at all, a once-mentioned obnoxious teenage girl (why is this a character we want to see/hear?), and of course, the thrice-mentioned Muppets, with that last one being a deal-breaker for me. Not because I’m terrified of Muppets of anything (although I am), it’s just that their presence represents too dramatic of a tonal shift. The movie becomes something else – in this case, maybe even a horror film –  and the holiday theme gets overshadowed. As such, I can’t really, in all good conscience, give it any eggnogs but I do appreciate the vegetarian agenda here so gladly present Turkey Hollow with 1 Tofurkey.

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Speaking of cooking, I was able to find the Hallmark Mysteries & Movies channel (somewhat of a mystery itself) and watch Murder She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery, which like Northpole, is actually part of a larger franchise.

Murder she baked

It’s about a lady who bakes and solves crimes and since there have only been two movies so far in the series, I can believe that these 2 or so murders she’s been connected with so far are purely coincidence. If this keeps happening though, I am going to get suspicious that she is the one committing the murders, just like Angela Landsbury’s character did 264 times during Murder She Wrote. But anyway, MSBAPPM is actually pretty good. Liked the main girl and the idea of a mystery is cool BUT it does get a little tricky because just like introducing Muppets into your movie, making the focal point revolve around solving a murder tends to overshadow the theme of Christmas. I guess that’s why no one has coined the term,”Chrismysteries”, yet. It’s like two ingredients that are both good on their own but don’t necessarily mix together that well when you’re baking something or trying to come up with a metaphor about baking something. They do sprinkle in another ingredient that is somewhat novel, which is the notion of a legitimate love triangle. Usually there’s the just the typical rich jerk who cares only about money and ruining Christmas vs. the sweet sensitive man who builds furniture with his bare hands and teaches music to puppy orphans at the local church but this time, both suitors seem like legitimately fine fellows. I’m pretty sure the edge goes to Mike though because he is A) a cop, B) a little more down to Earth than Norman and C) the only one who appears in the movie poster above. Still though, credit for trying. Things are much more interesting when the characters and relationships aren’t so cut and dry. My only complaint is that they look a little too similar. In fact, maybe that’s really Norman on the poster and not Mike. I guess I have some more complaints, like how plum pudding didn’t really have that much to do with the mystery and that there are no plums in plum pudding anyway but these are just minor quibbles because at least I can now tell Dylan McDermott apart from Dermot Mulrooney and ultimately, this is the most interesting movie I’ve seen this year. I don’t always watch Chrismysteries but when I do, I drink dos Eggnogs. Plus another 1.5 after that. So 3.5 Eggnogs in total. Does that make sense?

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I also mentioned Hallmark dropping the hammer later this week and that means an unprecedented 5 nights in a row with an original movie premiere, starting on Thanksgiving Eve (11/25) and going through Sunday. Sunday is also when Ion Television joins the party and oh yeah, Lifetime has movies on Saturday and Sunday. I’m sure Up’s got something in the hopper too and I have no idea how I’m going to be able to watch all this but if I’ve learned one thing from these films, it’s that Christmas is no time to be lazy. Business deals, whirlwind romances, and the saving of Christmas itself all happen with great regularity so the least I can do is watch movies. Stay thirsty, my friends.

Dos Equis

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3 thoughts on “Week in Review + Happy Thanksgiving – 11/25/15

  1. Your writing is brilliant, clever and incredibly perceptive. Please write your own Christmas movie. You certainly have the expertise and insight to know what makes a 5 Egg Nog story! Looking forward to the next series of reviews, which I find I often like better than the movies.

  2. Is there a 12 step group for the Hallmark channels? I am powerless to stop watching. Even if I’ve seen them three or four times……

    Clementine terrifies me, TERRIFIES me. She reminds me of that insane child/woman in ORPHAN, except scarier.

    I love how one always, ALWAYS, can set one’s watch by the precise moment the mild at best conflict/tiny misunderstanding happens between the romcom leads: it comes at exactly 1:42 (in the two hour slot). The editor must have a edict posted on the wall: WE DON’T CARE ABOUT ANY MISE EN SCENE, CUT THIS THING ANYWAY YOU WANT AS LONG AS THE MINI CONFLICT COMES AT 1:42. GREENWICH TIME SPACE STATIONS DEPEND ON THIS MARKE4LR.

  3. I actually thought this second Northpole installation was better then the first. Lori is simply a better actress then are old pal from Saved by the Bell. And I love the Murder She Baked series. Allison Sweeney is super cute and fun to watch. Turkey Hallow was such a disappointment with major plot holes. I feel had Jim Henson lived long enough to complete this project, it really would have been a classic. But as it is, it doesn’t completely feel like a creation from it. It’s too choppy, too many weird plot devices that don’t make sense and even the cuteness of the puppets and my own personal love for all things Jim Henson can’t make up for that.

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