Celebrate Christmas Eve with the return of the Christmas Movie Chart!


It’s back! My spreadsheet for tracking the most commonly used conventions in these made-for-TV Christmas movie miracles that I have been reviewing, now updated with some of the latest and greatest ones from this very year. As you likely know, there are some very conventional conventions too, more so than your average movie or convention or convention about movies. In any case, I found it necessary to start tracking these things and share them with the world. So consider yourself shorn!

Oh, and I’ve added a couple new columns because there are definitely some tropes I missed out on and deserve recognition. Ones such as:

Guy Doesn’t Have to do Current Job – This is something I talked about in the Perfect Christmas List review, and it is often used in conjunction with the “Guy Builds Things” category. Because if you have a male love interest who builds things for a living or is a farmer or has some other lovable, anti-corporate occupation, there is always the concern that he’s also not smart or savvy enough to do anything else. Some movies combat this potential perception by introducing the idea that he actually went to law school or business school and maybe even had success in those fields but chooses his simpler, honest career because of all the reasons we are supposed to love him.

Someone has Xmas Name – Holly, Noelle, Joy, Kris, Nick, to name only a few. Although those might also be all of them. But point is, it is commonplace for people in these movies to have names related to Christmas in some way. I’m not knocking this practice at all or anything. Works for me just fine so long as that person kind of looks like that could be their name. Like if you wanted to have Arnold Schwarzenegger play a character named “Nick”, that would be completely ridiculous and wrong. Or even worse, what if his name was “Howard Langston” like it was in Jingle All the Way? C’mon, there is no way in hell anyone who looks and talks like that is named Howard Langston. And you know, that wasn’t the only  plot point in Jingle All the Way that might have been a little implausible, come to think…

House is too nice – This is something we only started noticing this year and I wouldn’t necessarily call it widespread just yet but we did see some pretty glaring examples in A Cookie Cutter Christmas and Angels and Ornaments, among others. If a character is clearly supposed to be rich and has an amazingly nice house regular people could never afford, so be it, but if it’s a 2nd grade teacher or lady who works in a small musical instrument store, the movie owes us an explanation as to how she can afford vaulted ceilings, indoor brick walls, and an amazing kitchen like the one they might build on a reality show where they build amazing kitchens.

Weird Decorations – Something we did definitely notice last year but seems to have gone to a whole new level now. These movies are all set at Christmastime, obviously, so there are going to be decorations but for some reason, many of these things look different than what you and I put up around the house. Like there’s garland everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Like you will often notice that they hang garland in every door and window frame possible. And if there aren’t enough door and window frames in a shot, they may even just make one up entirely via garland. Be on the lookout for wreaths hanging in random places too. I think I seriously saw one just floating in mid-air once. Oh yeah, and the garland and wreaths are often made out of materials I am not familiar with. Not your standard fake Christmas tree stuff at all, more like a weird, mossy substance that’s not even the right color green and I can’t for the life of me figure out why it would be particularly hard to procure real, regular garland. Debbie MacComber’s Mr. Miracle has some pretty obvious examples of what I’m talking about here. Might even be a microcosm of the entire film really. I’ve seen lights that aren’t Christmas lights too, which is extremely weird for the same reason, as Christmas lights are by far the easiest ones to find. I don’t even know how I’d go about finding Christmas-like lights that aren’t Christmas lights.

One more thing I want to mention that we’ve been including in this category – snow. Of course it’s nice to have snow in a Christmas movie but depending on where/when its filmed and are limited ability to predict the weather, no one can exactly guarantee that legitimate snow is going to make an appearance. And personally, I’m cool with leaving that up to God but sometimes we see fake snow and sometimes it’s really, really bad fake snow. Once again, this seemed somehow more obvious this year. Using cotton or the like is one thing but I saw honest-to-goodness white blankets being used in several movies, including Best Christmas Party Ever. You could even tell the different blankets apart too. There’d be a scene with a blanket in it and then another scene taking place somewhere else and you’d be like, “Hey, there’s that same blanket again.”

I think that’s it for the new categories so please enjoy my latest Christmas Movie Chart, updated last on Friday, which is too bad because I’ve seen a couple more movies, like “Ion’s Back to Christmas” which would score pretty off-the-charts on this chart:


As you can see, Death, Money vs. Christmas, and Jerk Boyfriend or Girlfriend are still the big winners. It does seem like the obvious Canadian accents are down this year, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because the Canucks know I am on to them. You might be thinking that nobody associated with these productions reads this blog and if they did, would not give a damn what I have to say and I think in most cases, you would be correct but not in this one. Because Canadians are a sneaky people whose subterfuge depends entirely on being virtually indistinguishable from their American counterparts. Sneaky but starting to become a little bit complacent, as I pointed out in several reviews. So I think they collectively dialed the accent back a little in 2014, though there were some notable exceptions plus Hallmark seems to have another channel, Hallmark Mysteries and Movies, which featured two new Christmas films, both of which seemed to be exclusively Canadian with little to know attempt to hide that fact. It’s almost as if our neighbors from the North can suppress their nature only so much and desperately needed an outlet (oot-let) to just let it go. The cold never bothered them anyway.

Looking at this chart right now, I am also noticing that there are still some things I need to add. Like for instance “Black Friend”. Oftentimes the white main characters in these movies have a supportive and/or cool black friend to tell things to and maybe get advice from. It’s definitely worth documenting but with Santa supposed to arrive in the next few minutes, I had better get to bed here. Please stay tuned for the 2014 Noggy Awards, coming to this very blog,  where I will include a new, “Best Black Friend” category. It’s gonna be a tough one this year, as we had an appearances from Urkel and a guy in Merry ExMas who was always shirtless and working out for some reason, even thought it had nothing to do with anything. Don’t know how I’m going to pick from those deserving candidates but luckily, I’ve got a few days to eat more and thank about it. Merry Christmas everybody!



Quick Takes 2: The Winter Soldiers – 12/19/14

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‘Twas another Friday before Christmas, and all through the DVR-O, not another better option was stirring, not even something with Charo. That might have been dumber than what I said last year about Jamie Farr and it might not even be true. Because if you have Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special on your DVR, that is probably a better option than any of these movies I am about to talk about and Charo does show up for a minute there. Still, Charo really adds nothing to that magnificent Pee Wee special, other than the realization that Feliz Navidad may be, technically, the most repetitive Christmas song ever written (in an ocean of repetitive Christmas songs). And that Charo may, technically, not be essential to our continued survival as a human race. Like you could take Charo away and I think we’re all right.

That’s a debate best left for a different day though, Flag Day, but for now it’s almost Christmas and I wanted to hit you up with another set of quick takes as we’re coming down to the final stretch here:

1) The Tree That Saved Christmas

First of all, great title. I was already on board with this sucker from the opening credits. Plus, Lacey Chabert is in it and she’s beginning to look a lot like a Christmas Queen this year. It doesn’t hurt that she was also in A Royal Christmas and a few other movies from previous seasons and I actually like her okay. There were some strange, awkward moments and although the Money vs. Christmas paradigm has been explored over and over again, I feel like some of these films are starting to get lazy and just assume we will blindly accept this premise, even if it doesn’t make sense at all. Like the Evil Bank wanted to take Lacey’s parents’ Christmas tree farm away so they could sell the land to Evil Developers to build a resort on but it actually would have really helped the small town they lived in, one hit exceptionally hard by the recent economic depression. Then Lacey fights back by getting her house deemed a historical landmark so it can’t be sold. But then Evil Bank counters with, “Okay, your house is a historical landmark but we are going to physically move it into town where it can be historically landmarky there.” What? You can’t just move a historical landmark. Or a house! But of course, she happened to have The Tree That Saved Christmas and unfortunately for the Evil Bank Guy, he did NOT have The Tree That Ruined Christmas so it’s game, set, match – Chabert. 3 Eggnogs


2.) Christmas at Cartwright’s

You may remember that last year, I spat some venom in the direction of one Alicia Witt. It was nothing personal, I assure you, she just left us with two pretty solid lumps of coal in the forms of A Very Merry Mix-Up and A Snow Globe Christmas. Movies weren’t great and she was unlikable. I’m thinking that puts her at two strikes. And I’m no baseball expert here but I’m pretty sure that one more and she’s out. Well she took another swing with Christmas at Cartwright’s and I don’t think I would call it a complete whiff. More like a long foul ball hit way out of play so that she’s still alive for at least another pitch. This time she plays a single mom, down on her luck, desperately looking for work before Christmas and I almost believe that. Through angel magic, she gets a job as a department store Santa. SHE does. “She” as in, a female. But underneath that suit and big beard and voice that sounds like Homer Simpson when he is pretending to be someone else, no one else picks up on her gender. I have no clue why the angels would want to intervene in quite this specific manner but what the hell, it almost sort of works. And I do give Alicia Witt some credit for trying to break another barrier here. I don’t know if all other actresses would have taken that on. But I also kind of don’t want to know. 2.5 Eggnogs


3.) Nativity!

This is not a normal, made-for-TV Christmas movie. In fact, I believe it was a theatrical release over in the UK but in my country, relegated to repeated showings on the Up Network. We only watched it because we wanted to see Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger and figured we might not understand the sequel without catching the original first. It stars Martin Freeman, who’s pretty generally awesome and there are several other aspects that make this of a higher quality than your average Hallmark fare. That said, is a nominative absolute that gets said a lot these days. Like way more than it used to be and now that I’ve started to notice it more, it’s starting to get on my nerves a little. That said about “that said”, I am going to use it again right now because it does seem to apply really well to the tone of my next statement. Maybe it’s not that we’re using it more now because it’s the trendy thing to do, maybe it just applies more to the way we express ourselves now? That said about that said about “that said”, I will tell you that I didn’t particularly enjoy Nativity! in the sense that it really wasn’t like these other films and thus, left me unfulfilled in this particular context. There was some weird stuff but it wasn’t fun-weird, just different weird. Kind of like the way people over there spell certain words differently like “color” with a “u”. Different and weird but doesn’t really do anything for me. Empty Glass.


4.) Best Christmas Party Ever

There’s another one for you. “Best _____ ever!” We say that a hell of a lot these days. Sometimes people want to punctuate it, literally with punctuation (periods) – “Best. Party. Ever.” I have to admit that this has gotten on my nerves too. More than even “that said” and I’m not totally sure why. There’s the obvious reasons about things becoming over-saturated but I can usually roll with all that. Maybe it’s just the superlative nature of the statement. Everything can’t be the best whatever-it-is ever unless we’re seriously exaggerating or just completely fickle. Like did Best Christmas Party Ever really depict the best Christmas party ever? No. It was more just nice that everything came together and kind of worked out in the end. Was Best Christmas Party Ever the best Christmas movie ever? Hell no. I do give them credit for sort of trying to play with some of the classic tropes (maybe the rich guy’s not so bad, maybe the love interest is just kind of a dick) but then I give them anti-credit for eventually bailing out on it (rich guy really is a dick, love interest is sweet and has hair like strudel). I’m going to give them some Eggnogs too but in this case, only 2.5 Eggnogs. THAT SAID, at least these are the BEST EGGNOGS EVER, which is to say that they are pretty much Eggnogs.


5.) Who’s the Boss

Oh my God, I just figured it out. It was Angela. Angela was the boss. Because she was the person who hired Tony to be her housekeeper (although if you watch the premiere, she actually did this sight unseen, which is pretty amazing considering he was also going to live in her home along with her young son) and paid him to do a specific job for her. I can’t believe this was ever even posed as a question or a matter of any debate. Now as far as who let the dogs out, however, that person is still very much undetermined.


6.) The Most Wonderful Time of Year

This one’s from a few years back (now it might have been called, “Best Time of Year Ever!”) but it happened to be on when I was looking at the TV recently so I watched it again. Good! In fact, it was interesting to see what a Hallmark original made-for-TV movie looked like in 2008. It was kind of better. At least, there was just a slightly different feel and some of the difference involved quality of some kind. Henry Winkler was in this one and I was wondering if it bothers him that he’s played two characters on TV shows with way better names than “Henry Winkler” – Arthur Fonzarelli, aka “Fonzie”, aka “The Fonz” and Barry Zuckercorn from Arrested Development. Although I guess Winkler is kind of a fun/funny thing to say. That guy really has it all. And he was good in this movie too, albeit as more of a supporting role. Maybe because it was a little higher in quality and a generally less whimsical production, I did find myself craving some of that Christmas movie craziness I tend to love so much. About the only thing that came close was a scene where the love interest for Brooke Burns wants to help her get a bike for her son but the bike store is closed so he ends up tracking down the bike store guy and challenges him to a fight in an alley – winner takes bike. The bike store guy is bigger than the love interest and so he accepts these terms, because who doesn’t just want to fight a random guy in an alley on Christmas Eve over a child’s bicycle? But before any of this can really take place, the love interest just nails the guy with a trash can lid, knocking him unconscious. And the whole time, those goofy clarinets are tootling away to indicate light, playful humor going on when really, the store guy could be pretty hurt and the love interest is probably going to jail. 3.5 Eggnogs.


7.) Christmas With the Kranks

Definitely not a made-for-TV movie nor even something theatrically released in other, weird countries. This baby hit the big screen over here in the US of A about 10 years ago but I am including in my Quick Takes Review because I want to point out that many of these larger-scale films are considerably worse than anything you might see on Hallmark or Lifetime or Ion or even Up. And that’s on a bad night. Christmas With the Kranks was terrible. Just terrible. I understood the premise but the actual problem made no sense. A married couple whose daughter has just grown up and won’t be home for the holidays decides they aren’t going spend as much money on Christmas this year and feel like taking a cruise instead. Fine. But none of that means that they can’t celebrate Christmas at all. They can still put up lights, go to holiday parties, whatever as long as they’re not spending a ton of cash but for some stupid reason, Tim Allen decides to write a letter and hand it to everybody he knows, saying that they are skipping Christmas entirely this year and won’t go to parties or do anything festive. Then people get really upset and start harassing him and his Jamie Lee Curtis wife, who acts like she is still being pursued by Michael Myers when neighbors come to the door offering to put their decorations up for them. Then uh oh, it turns out the daughter IS coming home this year, which she tells them at the last minute, and now they have to cancel all cruise plans and scramble to get all their normal, traditional Christmas activities in place and can never tell her that they were planning to do otherwise or……I don’t know. The movie goes way overboard dramatizing all of these events like Home Alone on steroids. It actually think I got ‘roid rage watching it.


8.) The Christmas Parade

It’s probably a sign that I am simply getting old here but I honestly had a difficult time understanding AnnaLynn McCord in this movie. Her delivery and affectations seemed pretty over the top and especially during conversations with her character’s producer, another lady who talked a lot like her, I was completely lost. The guy who played her love interest must have had a hard time too because that dude looked old. Not necessarily old-old but way too senior to be AnnaLynn McCord’s beau, as she only looks about 24 herself, talks like a teenager, and I’m pretty sure some of the clothes she wore were made for a child. Being unabashedly Canadian as well, I can’t imagine he could make heads or tails of much of what she was saying. Thank God he had a copy of the script or they never would have gotten together in the end. That all said (even if I couldn’t understand what was being said), I do appreciate that they tried to make ALM a little bit more of a sympathetic character than I would have expected. And despite what a mismatched couple she and the guy were, their moments of flirtation together looked kind of real. But, that may have been more due to the fact that ALM is in a constant state of flirtation rather than there being any real chemistry. There was even a scene where she was driving, staring straight into the camera, but she was still batting her eyelashes and rolling her tongue over her teeth and doing other weird face-mouth things to indicate sexual interest in what I can only assume was the highway. This all made for a different viewing experience, I’ll give it that, and although we’ve seen some pretty insanely egregious uses of garland this season, I think the Christmas Parade might take the cake. And if there’s cake to be taken for some really bad, self-parody level green screen effects, this movie snatches an entire bakery. And maybe some Eggnogs too. How many? I don’t know, is there a mathematical symbol for cake? I know we have one for pie so you have to assume there’s one for cake too. No? That’s racist. Cake Eggnogs!

Feliz Navidad!

A Perfect Christmas List – 12/16/14


After watching Merry ExMas, I couldn’t wait for Ion Television’s next offering for this year’s holiday potluck. Then I watched A Christmas Mystery, which technically came out before Merry ExMas but I hadn’t seen it yet. Then I turned off A Christmas Mystery because it was totally boring, then I thought I recorded A Christmas Kiss II but saw no sign of it on my DVR, then I looked for another showing and didn’t find anything in the next few days, then I noticed that Ion sure likes re-runs of Blue Bloods, Cold Case, and Flashpoint (maybe because they’re all fun to say?), then I realized I was lucky enough to have caught their Sunday premiere of A Perfect Christmas List and we watched it the other night. After all this effort and jibber jabber, did the movie mark a return to prominence for Ion Television?

Indeed it did. Of course it wasn’t going to top Merry ExMas but few things really could. It’s about a girl named Sara who is the author of a popular children’s book series. Like for pretty young kids. Considerably younger than the kids they actually show her reading to. She’s very close to her grandma, probably because she was Mrs. Cunningham from Happy Days. Unfortunately though, Grandma takes a bad fall down some stairs and injures her leg. Not as bad as being run over by a reindeer (the song, I mean) but still, Granny needs to stay off her feet for a while and might have some blood pressure issues. Sara’s dad tells her this bad news and kind of guilts her into coming home for the holidays. I say “guilts”, even though it’s not a word, because Sara would ordinarily not want to come home for the holidays, because Sara and her mother have what sounds like a stormy relationship. But Sara loves her grandmother. After all, she was the only character on Happy Days who got to call Fonzie by his real first name, and thus, begrudgingly agrees to make the trip

So why do Sara and her mother not get along? Pretty basic reasons. Nothing Sara ever does is good enough, Mother wanted her to follow a different path, and the two are sort of polar opposites, even though they flip personality traits that are supposed to be so opposite. Like for instance, when Sara and her mom make cookies, Sara is measuring everything out perfectly and not just the ingredients either. Like she even uses a tape measure and level to make sure all the cookies are the exact same height whereas Mom just likes to do it all by feel. Pinch of this, handful of that, etc. So Sara is the uptight, anal one, right? Well not necessarily. Because there’s another scene where Mom is trying to get a picture to hang perfectly on the wall. Sara has it’s completely straight but Mom is like no way! To an average person, it may seem straight but to a keen, awesome eye like hers, it requires microscopic adjustments. So maybe Mom is the uptight and anal one? Or it all just depends on whether or not we are talking about cookies or pictures.

The Mom also overhears Grandma talking to her young, love-interest-for-Sara, doctor named Brandon one day and misunderstands the conversation to mean that Granny is dying soon and this may be her last Christmas, when really she’s just talking about moving out of her condo. So we’ve gone from Happy Days to Three’s Company here. Grandma really wants to patch things up between her daughter and granddaughter and now that Mom thinks she’s dying, she’s inclined to be a little more receptive. Sara doesn’t ever catch wind of this misinformation but she’s less of a bitch so that’s her motivation to at least try and play nice with her mother for the time being.

Grandma’s meddling takes the form of this list she made, which is the titular Perfect Christmas List. It’s all stuff she wants Sara and Mom to do together, in hopes that it will repair their fractured relationship, which is an interesting approach given how usually spending more time with one’s parents is exactly how the relationship got fractured in the first place. And it’s all pretty basic stuff on the list too – bake cookies together, go ice-skating, cut down a Christmas tree. But perhaps there is a method to this lack of madness?

Or maybe the madness all comes from how Sara and her mother approach each task? Like for instance, if I was told to cut down a Christmas tree, I would go to a Christmas tree farm where you can cut trees down yourself, cut a tree down myself, and then pay the people who work there. For reasons I don’t understand but certainly appreciate, Sara and her mother take a different route. They see that there is a giant, 20 ft, Christmas tree all decorated in front of one of their local malls and decide that is the one they are going to cut down. Ignoring for a second that it doesn’t make sense that the tree would just be naturally growing there, why do they feel like they need to steal a tree? Especially one that won’t fit in their house? Was this an old family tradition the movie forgot to explain?

Better still is the way they take down this tree. Once again, if it were me, I would probably use some kind of saw. Seems like the natural approach. I guess you always go with an axe too but that might be a little too hardcore for your average non-lumberjack. But also once again, Sara and her mom have something totally different in mind for us. Mom takes a rope and actually manages to lasso the top of the tree. From there she just pulls that sucker down completely, which seems to break it off at the stump pretty clean. Then I believe they do end up using a saw, just to get the top off because like I said, the tree is way too big for their house. So the mall people are just going to show up tomorrow and see their tree, one that would have had to have been growing naturally in front of their establishment for probably about 30 years or so, cut down to a neutered carcass left out for everyone to bear witness to. Right before Christmas. If that’s what you are supposed to do to reconnect with your family or considered part of a perfect Christmas list, count me out. Better to remain frosty with my mom and just hope Granny can skip that one.

This isn’t just an aberration either. Another item on the list is that they need to give money to a local charity but Sara decides that’s totally impersonal and they should instead RAISE the money for charity, by way of dressing like Christmas skanks and busking outside of a local supermarket. How does that give it a warmer, more personal touch though? The charity doesn’t care whose money it is and by the looks of things, Sara and her mom have a lot more cash than the people dropping duckets in their collection plates. Plus they just completely push out some guy playing the sax who was more legitimately in need of charity. Even worse still, they make him part of their act, which inexplicably turns into something that seems to have been inspired by the musical, Stomp. I doubt I’m making much sense myself here so feel free to watch this clip and see what I mean:


I don’t know if it was clear from the video but every time we saw their little collection plate, the money was obviously fake. Like not even close to real money. But why? You’ve got all these people filming the scene, I assume some of them must be carrying wallets with American currency , why not just have everyone loan out some of their own clams and then re-acquire them once the scene is over? But I suppose that makes as much sense as anything in the scene. Probably more.

I did mention that there was, of course, a love interest for Sara. A humble doctor who kind of looks like Wally from Leave It To Beaver. He’s also a handyman, orphan, and big time charitable donator. If they can just throw enough things at you, you will hopefully find at least one of them attractive. And yet another case where the male love interest can’t only be a good guy or a successful guy but has to be able to do something with his hands. He’s got to be able to build something BUT it can’t be because he’s lower-class or just not sharp enough to be financially well off. He could be rich if he wanted to but he’s too real to care about such things. What I really appreciate is that in the case of Brandon, he’s simply just both things. A doctor and a handyman.

The relationship between him and Sara is less interesting. I’m not sure why they even like each other and there isn’t much actual chemistry before she decides he should be her boyfriend but when she asks him to come over on Christmas Eve and then to continue hanging out with her family on Christmas Day and he says he’s unfortunately not available on those dates, Sara takes this as a major dis and confirmation that he’s just not that into her. If a girl you just met asks you over on Christmas and gets mad when you tell her that you have plans, that is what I would consider to be a red flag. If you want pursue this relationship any further, you can expect to spend a lot of it in some kind of trouble.

But of course he’s game for all of this and Sara and her mother do enough wacky things to fulfill Granny’s perfect Christmas list and Granny’s not dying and Happy Days is still the only show I am aware of to have had someone literally jump the shark (I see no connection to that episode and the downfall of the series so I don’t totally understand the genesis of that expression, btw) and there’s a lot of talk about eating bad hot dogs and lemonade. I forgot to mention that part but the gist is that Sara gives Dr. Brandon guff for buying these unhealthy things – hot dogs, lemonade, M&Ms – at the grocery store, only to find out later that he was picking them up for a bunch of orphan kids. And I guess that’s supposed to make it okay? Orphans need healthy food as much as anybody. Oh, and that’s also why the good doctor couldn’t come over on Christmas. He was helping out the orphans. So why didn’t you just say so, Doc? I realize I keep asking questions that probably cannot be answered but this really is the saving grace of A Perfect Christmas List. And Buddhism. Because it’s the questions without answers that clear the mind of conscious thought and bring us closer to nirvana. I don’t know if I quite made it all the way to nirvana but would give this at least…

…3.5 Soundgardens MJS STAGE01 Soundgarden.jpgMJS STAGE01 Soundgarden.jpgMJS STAGE01 Soundgarden.jpgMJS STAGE01 Soundgarden.jpg



The Santa Con – 12/15/14


Have you ever looked at guy and asked yourself, “Is that Urkel?” Like, a version of Urkel all grown up? Happens to me a lot and if you are doing it right now, looking at that picture, I can tell you that this is one of those cases where you are dead right. That IS Urkel, standing right next to Sabrina the Teenage Witch. A Lifetime Christmas movie starring Urkel and STW looking suspiciously at each other with their arms folded? Yes please!

But hold up. Wait a second. You did notice what the name of this film is, right? “The Santa Con?” Because the marketing too is somewhat of a con here. Sabrina is barely in it. Urkel even less so. But this is the picture I see pop up in my DVR menu and doing a Google image search gives me even more of them and very little of the actual main characters. Sex sells, I get it, but come on, Lifetime. You can’t tell us this is a Melissa Joan Hart and Jaleel White joint when really, it’s about two other drips I’ve never heard of.

Or can you? Because even though I got duped into watching this under false pretenses, I ended up liking it. The story itself actually follows a similar path of lying for the greater good. Our real main character is Nick, a lovable con man who gets released from prison and falls right into a job playing Santa Claus at what I think is a mall. You might guess that he used his conning skills to get this job because who the hell hires a guy straight out of prison to be Santa? But no, his sister works there too and just hooked him up somehow. He’d much rather be grifting though and doesn’t take the new job too seriously. This is exemplified when some kid comes to sit on his lap and asks Santa to get his parents back together for Christmas. Even though this wish does not exactly fall under Santa’s jurisdiction, Nick is barely paying attention and nonchalantly agrees to make it all happen.

After being harangued by his sister for promising something not even Dr. Phil could deliver , Nick has a dark night of the soul where he wanders into a church and meets Wendy Williams, who is the pastor there and convinces Nick that the right thing to do here is make this kid’s wish come true. But how?

Through more lies. Nick cons his way into getting a job building an addition onto the kid’s house so he can get closer to the mom and figure out how the hell to get her and her estranged husband get back together. Not to sound like a mom myself here but honesty might have actually been the best policy. If he had just come clean to this lady, Carol, about what her son wished for, he might have at least been able to talk to her about her husband and maybe intervene in some positive way. And if not, at least he gave it the ol’ college try. I think that would have been good enough for Wendy Williams.

Plus, it turns out this marriage might not be worth saving anyway. The husband is a drunk. And I don’t just mean a nice guy who missed a few soccer practice pickups because he was at a bar. I mean someone who has a real problem. A problem that is not going to be solved quickly or even through Christmas magic. Getting drunk is one thing, stumbling in to your son’s piano recital mumbling gibberish in a stolen suit, only to get arrested in front of the whole auditorium is a whole other level of demons.

The movie tries to connect the dots here, saying that it’s all because some jerk who works with Dad stole one of his dynamite ideas for an ad campaign and got a big promotion out of it. This incident alone is what drove him to drinking, which quickly got out of control, causing him to lose his job and descend even deeper into alcoholism. There are several problems with this though. For one, a guy steals your advertising slogan ideas and gets rewarded for them. Bummer. Really sucks but certainly not worth going on an Olympic-level bender for. Especially when they tell us that Dad’s really this brilliant guy with tons of great ideas. There will be other ad campaigns, other slogans, plenty of opportunities to shine again. Also, there is the aforementioned extent of Dad’s drunken behavior. People who are sad or mad about something and turn to the bottle don’t fly off the handle in such epic proportions. This is a sick person who needs real help. And sorry kid, this ain’t gonna get fixed by Christmas, which is only about a week away.

Then there’s another issue and this one is the strangest of them all. Carol says that she and Dad used to drink a ton in college, then their son was born, then Dad managed to quit the booze until just a couple months ago, after that dude stole his ideas. But later, Dad confesses to Nick that the whole reason why this other dude was able to steal those ideas was because they got drunk together and Dad just spilled the whole thing. So Dad was drinking BEFORE the big betrayal. In fact, Dad says he really fell off the wagon something like 14 months ago, which means it has nothing to do with any of these office shenanigans and Dad has been keeping a dirty secret for over a year now in classic, alky style. So here is the big question – why on Earth did the movie choose to include this little tidbit of information? Why couldn’t they just have stuck to the original narrative? I certainly wasn’t buying that one either but by going out of their way to tell us that problem is considerably worse than we originally thought or would have expected from one of these films, what do they gain?

I’ll tell you what they don’t gain. Any faith from me that Nick could or should get these two people back together. I even thought at some point that Carol and Nick were just going to fall in love instead, since Nick is our main man and we are led to believe that he is actually a pretty good guy, even though his default strategy is to lie to people. But while this notion is explored, the movie chooses to go the original route. In part, I suppose, to further demonstrate Nick’s redemption, as he starts to fall for Carol himself but realizes it makes him a better person if he can help get this family back together instead. And he does. In a much weirder fashion than I would have guessed.

So where the hell is Urkel in all this? Well, he plays another ex-con who gets out of prison after Nick and is friends with him so he seemingly moves into Melissa Joan Hart’s house as well and ends up taking over Nick’s job playing Santa at the mall so that Nick can focus full-time on pretending to be a contractor, trying to get that kid’s parents back together. You know what scenes I would really like to have been included in this movie though? The interviews for the job of Santa. They hire one guy fresh out of prison to work with children, who eventually bails on the job but says don’t worry, this friend of mine, also fresh from prison, will just take over for me. And it’s a black guy who looks like Urkel. I mean, I’m sure it didn’t go down just like that but the people in charge of hiring mall Santa had to ask some questions, right? Maybe they just knew it was Urkel and spent the entire time reminiscing fondly about Family Matters. Or they thought they recognized him but couldn’t be sure from where and just took guesses like, “Wait a minute, were you on ‘Who’s the Boss?”, which would then of course devolve into a big conversation about who WAS the boss on that show and how disappointed we all were that the answer to this core question was never revealed, nor even really addressed, in the series finale.

Come to think of it, in addition to wanting to see those scenes (and get a real answer as to who was the boss on Who’s the Boss), I would have also liked to see the ones where Urkel and Melissa Joan Hart get together romantically. The movie hinted that this was going to happen but never delivered. I guess it will have to just be left to our imagination then. Or a spin-off? Whatever it is, I’ll watch it because once again, I do feel like I was the one getting conned here and Lifetime owes us all some Urkel. But also like I’ve already said, I still enjoyed The Santa Con and appreciated the way they just kept flinging crazy ideas and characters at me. One thing I might knock it for is that it didn’t really feel like Christmas at all. I realize I’ve mentioned Santa several times in this review but just like Urkel and Sabrina, this gets quickly shoved into the background and seemingly forgotten about. Plus, sometimes you can just tell the actors either don’t believe it’s really Christmas. I don’t believe Carol and Dad are going to make it long-term, that’s for sure, but all I can do is say the pledge, hope for the best, and give this movie….

3 Alcoholics Anonymous Coins AA LogoAA LogoAA Logo

…and a copy of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band-Aid. The original! dotheyknowitsxmas246



Merry ExMas – 12/9/14


As you well know, we have seen some pretty amazing, bizarre, fantastic, baffling, and insane made-for-TV Christmas movies in our time. Some that made me question the very fabric of reality at times. Christmas With a Capital “C”, All She Wants For Christmas, Karroll’s Christmas, and several others all had moments where I seriously could not believe what was happening on screen. And I’ve seen The Room. With Tommy Wiseau! But I am here to tell you that without a doubt, nothing quite compares to Merry ExMas. Except maybe The Room.

Let me say this again, because I want to make sure I am perfectly clear: Merry ExMas is by far the most unbelievably crazy made-for-TV Christmas movie I have ever seen. And it’s not even close. Other films have their moments, for sure, but Merry ExMas is pretty much one big moment. Last year, I posted links to some of what I thought were the craziest scenes in each thing I reviewed. If I were to do something like that with Merry ExMas, it would just be a link to the entire film. There was even a point towards the end where important things needed to get resolved and the movie might have been starting to run out of crazy juice but like a true champion, just kept throwing haymakers. Refusing to relent to sanity.

Simply reading the description though, none of this would be apparent. Here is what the Ion Television Network’s website has to say:

When misleading photos are published of security company chief Jessie Rogers purportedly caught in a love nest with his rock star client, his humiliated wife, Noëlle, swiftly files for divorce. Unable to convince her of his innocence, Jessie fights in vain to win Noëlle back when a Christmastime blizzard snowbounds the family.

Pretty straightforward, right? You can watch the trailer up there and come away with a similar impression. Christmas movie veteran and another former Superman, Dean Cain, is Jessie Rogers here and Kristy Swanson is Noelle. There are other people you know too – Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Ernie Hudson, Lochlyn Munro whose name may not familiar but you’ll recognize his face, someone related to Chris Farley, etc. By Christmas movie standards, this all sounds fairly innocuous. I guess Dean Cain himself pitched the idea to the production company but he seems like a relatively sensible guy so it’s hard to see how this could all go haywire. Especially when you compare it to something like The Room, which had much more curious origins. A mysterious man from Eastern Europe (won’t say where) suddenly appears with 6 million dollars (won’t say where he got it from) and takes years to self-publish a movie he wrote, directed, starred in, produced, and fired the entire crew several times over the course of production.

So how on Earth could Merry ExMas come anywhere near the level of madness displayed in The Room? I honestly can’t tell you. I have contacted the two production companies whose names appear in the opening credits, looking for answers. Maybe I should write Dean Cain? Before I go any further though, make no mistake – I loved this movie. Like I might seriously give it 5 Eggnogs. And there’s no way in hell I am going to be able to document all the wonderfully insane things or even do their insanity justice by attempting to explain it but the key for me is that it’s not the kind of insane where you don’t know what’s going on. You just won’t know why it’s going on. Like for instance, one scene I guess I can attempt to explain involves a group of people stopping at a bathroom. A couple of them are talking about something related to the plot when suddenly, bees attack. We have no idea where the bees came from or why they are attacking or what led someone to believe that bee attack was a good way to get out of this scene but we understand that the bees have arrived and that everybody needs to get back in the car quickly. In fact, you know what? I am going to come out of video posting retirement and put up a clip of this scene so you can see that I am not the one who’s crazy here.


I also included the preceding shot of Dean Cain wrapping what looks to be a child’s fishing pole, even though there are no characters in this film that you would likely buy this for. Then I left some of the scene that followed the bees so you can get a sense at the blistering pace Merry ExMas can sometimes move at. One second you are down at the beach, using their rest stop bathroom and being attacked by mysterious bees, the next second you are in a weird, almost sepia-toned, blizzard environment, falling off a sled pulled by dogs.

Speaking of slippery slopes, it’s really hard to not post more clips. There are just so many great scenes and great moments. Narrowing them down is almost like an insult to the magnificent totality but how about this. How about I post one more? Just because it was something a little less obvious maybe:


I love how the newscaster stops talking so that Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson can have their convo, then jumps in at the end to back up the Deanster. That is some good reporting right there. Although it probably would have seemed strange to anybody else watching the news who was not in that room. Maybe they just assumed though that someone, somewhere was having a conversation and this guy on TV was just being polite, letting them finish up. I’ll have to keep that in mind myself the next time I see something like this happen. Just another thing I have to thank Merry ExMas for.

Some credit really needs to go to Ion Television too. They delivered several of the biggest hits last season with Holiday Road Trip, All I Want For Christmas, and Christmas Belle. This is the first movie of theirs we’ve watched in 2014 and while they may not match the output of Hallmark or the production value, maybe, of Lifetime, they could very well be the pound-for-pound champs this year. The Up network has been coming strong too but I just can’t imagine anyone’s holding an ace card quite like Merry ExMas. I’ve got another one of Ion’s, A Christmas Mystery, sitting on my DVR and I don’t know why I’m not watching it right now because with their track record, it could be another game-changer. Plus who doesn’t like the idea of a Christmas Mystery? My wife pointed out that while there are so many people dead in these films, there are very few murders (none?). Perhaps Christmas Mystery will finally blaze this trail? In any case, I am excited. Excited for more Ion films and for you to hopefully watch Merry ExMas and be touched by its magic, never thinking of third alternates on the women’s olympic gymnastic team and silly accents the same way again.

I already called my shot with the rating here and in discussing the film further, I only feel stronger in that conviction. I just wish I could paint a funnier picture of it for you but like I keep telling you, there just are no words that could really do the movie justice. Only Eggnogs.

5 of them! eggnogeggnogeggnogeggnogeggnog


Mr. Miracle – 12/8/14


This is not to be confused with the other Debbie Macomber “Mrs. Miracle” books, nor the DC comic book hero “Mister Miracle”, nor even the 80s soft rock band, “Mr. Mister.”, although I’m sure there are some parallels with that last one, as there almost always are when it comes to them. Technically though, it was another Debbie Macomber joint and was what you might call an extension of the Mrs. Miracle franchise. Maybe. Because other than the name, there aren’t a ton of similarities. No one even calls the titular Mr. Miracle, “Mr. Miracle” until the end of the film and it’s a dog who actually does it so it’s possible the translation wasn’t totally accurate. Plus in the Mrs. Miracle movies, the lady’s name is Emily Merkle so kids originally start saying it as “Miracle.” In this case, the guy’s name is Henry Mills, which I don’t think is close enough to “Miracle”, except maybe to a dog whose comprehension of the English language would likely be considered suspect at best.

Mr. Miracle is an angel, I will give him that (just like the band Mr. Mister – told you there would be parallels!!), and he is played by Rob Morrow but I won’t give him that one. Because I have no idea what the hell Rob Morrow is doing here. I am guessing that the description of the character is whimsical, eccentric, maybe delightfully childlike in his innocence. And that is how Mr. Morrow (even that sounds closer to “Mr. Miracle”) plays him but it comes at the expense of all good judgment. Henry Mills ends up seeming more creepy and weird than anything. Every move he makes, every affectation, even his haircut is rather off-putting. The performance borders on that of a developmentally-disabled person, maybe the haircut does too, and I don’t think this was the right direction to go in.

It also doesn’t totally make sense for the character. Like I said, Henry is an angel but we are introduced to two other angels who don’t act like that. Maybe they’ve been working on Earth longer, fine, but if that’s the case, sending someone like Henry down to help out humans is a little bit of a dicey proposition when he doesn’t understand things like humor, why his stomach would rumble, and that it sounds strange to say he taught Shakespeare how to play gin rummy or that he read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when it came out. In fact, his mentor angel spends a lot more time helping him understand the world than he spends helping out the human he’s supposed to be there for. Plus they’re wildly inconsistent with the things he does and doesn’t understand. Broken Wings indeed.

So Henry is here to help somebody, a girl named Addie and I can’t figure out how old she is. I can tell you that someone important to her is dead (pre-dead) but I probably don’t need to tell you that because that is true in just about every one of these films. This time, it’s her Dad, who passed away hoping she would work for this medical clinic he started, I think, but she never did. She had a hard time living up to his expectations and took off to Montana for a while, coming up one credit short of graduating college. Now she’s back at what I believe is a community college but no matter what your views on the quality of an education one might receive at a community college are, you will be surprised by the curriculum here. The class she still needs to take is English Literature and Henry is able to procure a job as their professor somehow. Besides just teaching her how to read a book, one that has been deeply engrained into just about every level of our culture, and write a subsequent report on said book, his greater, angelic goal here is to help her figure out what to do with her life. And learn to fly again, learn to live so free.

Once more, I have to ask, why is it that angels tend to set their sights so low when it comes to helping us? Get a college student to figure out what she wants to do with her life? We don’t need an angel for that. We have guidance counselors. Or Time. What about literally saving peoples’ lives, especially since more of them die young in these movies than in World Wars I and II combined? Preventing terrible things from happening to innocent people, coming up with cures for bad diseases, brownies that truly are guilt-free, etc.? I know Addie could probably use some assistance dealing with the loss of her dad and maybe even a wavy-haired boyfriend for Christmas but still, this feels like a celestial non-emergency to me, yet they’ve got several angels on the case here. And blood that makes me whole. Sorry, I’ve still got Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” in my head and I guess that lyric does not exactly apply. I’m not really sure how it applies to the song either though, come to think.

Of course we know where the movie is headed from the get-go but I have to admit, I found a few things somewhat surprising about the resolution. Addie ends up finding a Christmas card from her deceased father, something he wrote to her when he knew he was going to die. He tells her he knows she thinks he’s never been proud of her but he is and blah blah blah but the weird part is that he also says something about how she needs to find someone to see all the good things in her so she can see them in herself. Kind of a bizarre message, right? Not that she needs to see the good within herself, but she needs someone else to see it first, then her? We also hear the dad’s voice in her head as she reads the card and he sounds about 20. Then when she does hook up with the wavy-haired guy at the end, they share their first kiss and it is seriously like two siblings giving each other a quick peck on the lips or something. Not that two siblings necessarily would do this, I’m just trying to characterize the significant lack of passion here. I don’t generally pay much attention to this smooching scenes but this one really stuck out. Like, that screen door factory in Delaware may have some competition for Least Romantic Thing Ever. Then we learn that in classic D-Mac (Debbie Macomber) style, there appear to be plans to extend the franchise even further, as we get a hint about who Henry’s next angel project may be. It’s some dude from the English Lit class who brings a dog with him to school because of anxiety issues. If I may pull from another vintage Mr. Mister. jam here- Kýrie, eléison – which means, “Lord, have mercy!”

The unfortunate thing is that I’m a big fan of Hon’ DMC (also Debbie Macomber) and thought I was a fan of Rob Morrow too, albeit a fairly casual one. He was good on Northern Exposure, wasn’t he? So who let him go all whack job in this movie? Maybe that’s how the character is described in the book, I don’t know, but it needed to be dialed way back. And I’m all for brand identity but this is a Halloween 3 level of connection to the other two Mrs. Miracle movies. And I’d really like to see Hallmark take this angel business to some higher ground. And for God’s sake, someone get me this Mr. Mister “Priceless Collection” below for Christmas. I’m not sure why the music would be any different than the non-priceless collections out there but it was easily the best picture I could find of that guy on the left.


So that just leaves the rating. I spent most of the movie with a similar expression to Mr. Mister Hair Guy there, which is to say kind of a annoyed and maybe betrayed. In his case, I am just guessing that he was angry that no one told him it was picture day and he didn’t appreciate leaning in like that to fit in the frame. Or he hates the guy sitting next to him because he vetoed yet another song written about his hair. For me though, it was just that two people I thought were my friends – Mac ‘N’ Cheese (still Debbie Macomber) and Rob Morrow – turned in such a dud effort. Two backstabbers and oh yeah, I just found out that Rob actually named his real-life daughter “Tu” as in Tu Morrow, so how about I just give them….

2 (Tu) Eggnogs eggnogeggnog



Wishin’ and Hopin’ – 12/8/14


A new Christmas movie aired on the Lifetime Network this weekend. When I saw this description on my DVR menu, I was not surprisingly intrigued:


What an amazing sentence! I don’t even know how to start processing this information. As such, it had to be good, right? And they don’t even mention that Meatloaf is a part of this thing too. Hell, Chevy Chase might even be the narrator as well. It can’t miss!

Oh yes it can. Which is not to say it was a terrible film. Maybe it was but more importantly, it was not for me. We had to turn it off. And not just turn it off but slam dunk it. And not just slam dunk it but truly posterize the thing, ala Shawn Kemp on Alton Lister back in the day:


Why? It seemed to want to be A Christmas Story (narration, time period, somewhat similar tone) and while there was a time and place for A Christmas Story, that time and place has kind of passed for me. And I sure as hell don’t need another. Like I said, I won’t necessarily tell you that Wishin’ and Hopin’ was terrible. If you thought A Christmas Story was totally charming or that Molly Ringwald should have a French accent, go for it. Me, I was done after about 15-20 minutes.Rating?

N/A. Incomplete. Pete Townshend’s 6th solo albumEmpty Glass


Quick Takes – 12/1/14

Naughty and Nice ChristmasShepherdPoster1Very Brady Christmas   grumpy_cat_christmas_a_schristmas_palm_springs_carouselchristmas-under-wraps-candace-cameron-bure

With Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, Rebecca Black’s, “Friday”, Cybertron Monday, and Taco Tuesday all happening this past week, I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write a proper review. But what about an improper review, you ask? Sure, I could handle that. And I have been watching movies too so all the better.

Below is a little something we like to call “Quick Takes.” Brief reviews of some recent movies shown on the Hallmark, Lifetime, and oh yeah, the Up Network, which is a good name for it because it really is on its way up in this Christmas movie smorgasbord bonanza, giving Hallmark and Lifetime a real run for their money. Plus it’s shorter than “Giving Hallmark and Lifetime a Real Run For Their Money Network”.


#1) Naughty AND Nice (“and” is not capitalized – and may be an ampersand anyway)

Courtesy of the Up Network! And not to be confused with Naughty Or Nice, which is a different movie that I also liked. My wife didn’t like this one as much though. Thought it was boring and to prove this point, fell subsequently asleep. I couldn’t really blame her because it’s about two radio DJs and speaking as a former radio DJ myself, I could appreciate all the little nuances that people like her, ones not quite as familiar with the ‘biz, just might not get. Of course I am kidding about that last part but I will say the movie got a lot better towards the end, in the sense that it got kind of crazy. Maybe I fell asleep too and it was just my dream and my dream was better but either way, I’m happy. Christmas Queen candidate Haylie Duff is back and was as sweet as ever. Her romantic counterpart, not so much but I think his name was “Pepper” and he had a big mansion and strange manservant for reasons I couldn’t understand. That’s a huge step up from this other character who’s house was just a weird sound stage with absolutely no walls. I’d give it 3 Eggnogs and donate at least 3 walls to that other character.


#2) A Very Brady Christmas

Did I mention that Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady) was also in Naughty & Nice? Well, she was, which reminded me that we watched A Very Brady Christmas over the break. Not that it was shown on any of these networks I’ve called out so far nor shown on TV recently period but my wonderful family traditionally screens it every year on Thanksgiving, after dinner and maybe drinks. Because this is the movie that started it all. Like most goodhearted people, I grew up watching The Brady Bunch and years later, while working on a relatively quiet night at a pizza restaurant in 1988 or ’89, I saw this Christmas special on prime time that year. I was pretty young and didn’t know what the hell was happening. Not that A Very Brady Christmas is particularly sophisticated, mind you, but at the time, I just wasn’t yet well-versed in the concept of enjoying bad movies for their badness and baffling choices. That said though, much like all the radio DJ connection in Naughty & Nice, there are definitely nuances here. Like even after seeing it at least 50 times by now, I finally noticed this awesome map painted onto a travel agency window that Mr. Brady visits:

Very Brady Travel Agency

How is that the world? How could someone paint this and figure it was “close enough” to resembling Planet Earth and everyone else associated with the production just go along with it too? Whatever the reason for this and whatever the reason for countless little chestnuts just like it, A Very Brady Christmas will no doubt receive Countless Eggnogs from me,


#3) The Christmas Shepherd

I was cooking or doing something else and had this on with no sound. It stars Teri Polo and Teri Polo’s sad face. Cheer up Teri Polo, I think the other guy found your dog. But none of this made me want to turn the sound on at any point so I’m going to give it a new rating I just made up for movies I bail on, watch with the sound off, or make up entirely – The Empty Glass


#4) Folgers

Not even a movie but they have been sponsoring most of the Hallmark films this year. Folgers cans (or what coffee cans are these days) being prominently displayed and whatnot. I’m hoping they will sponsor me too. What was their old slogan, “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup?” That doesn’t bode too terribly well for the rest of your day but still, Folgers’ money is as good as anyone’s and I will take whatever they send me.


#5) The Nine Lives of Christmas

I realize I already reviewed this sucker but after watching a few others where I really didn’t have any feeling for the main characters falling in love, I figured I owed Nine Lives an apology and maybe even an extra Eggnog for the rating. The male and female leads are relatively better than most, for whatever that’s worth (another Eggnog). But then I realized that the movie did not successfully capitalize on its own name. Sure, “nine lives” is a reference to cats and there are cats in the film but that’s not good enough. The couple should have had nine chances to make it or it should have been like a Groundhog Day kind of thing. Anything to connect to the nine lives concept better than simply, “we have cats”. So because this is such an egregiously missed opportunity, I will officially subtract that extra Nog I wanted to give them for having couple I believed a little more, leaving us…back where we started. Sorry I have wasted your time here.


#6) Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever

I really miss the show, Parks and Recreation. And in Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, Aubrey Plaza recreates her character of April Ludgate as the titular Grumpy Cat and said Grumpy Cat pretty much looks just like Ron Swanson. So why didn’t I enjoy this movie more? And why do talking animals or at least, animals who do things they shouldn’t (play sports, do karate, etc.) always have to foil dim-witted, non-threatening criminals? Going back to my first question though, I guess Grumpy Cat was just a little too smart for its own good. Sometimes I laughed but sometimes it was a laugh of anger. And overall, I could actually imagine myself making this movie and that’s usually not a good thing. I much prefer wondering what the hell the other people making it were thinking. It wonders stuff like that too. Out loud. Which was another problem I had. It was all a little too knowing. A little too, “Look, I’m making a making a movie! You’re watching it right now!! You’re even writing, ‘you’re watching it right now’ right now in your blog.

Grumpy Cat


#7) Christmas in Palm Springs

While Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever certainly dabbled in meta, Christmas in Palm Springs might go Full Meta Jacket here. It’s about a lady in advertising hired to come up with an ad campaign for the city of Palm Springs, CA. Something amazing, something we’ve never seen before, and at some point we realize it is indeed this very movie about Christmas in Palm Springs, called “Christmas in Palm Springs,”

Or is it? Yes and no, I’d say, because it’s also about her family. She is separated/separating from her husband, Patrick Muldoon, because he is too much of a lovable dreamer. I could have saved her the trouble and told her all of this from the get-go but she went ahead and had two children with the guy who are fairly old so at this point, you might as well stick with Muldoon. Especially because in these worlds, there usually isn’t a middle ground. It’s either the lovable-but-less-mature-and-financially-successful-dreamer or an uptight jerk with a stick up his ass so long, it could almost extend to the top of that Palm Springs Tramway, which really is a wonderful tourist attraction.

I forgot to mention that Erin Gray is the mayor of Palm Springs and Ian Ziering plays Muldoon’s literary agent and there’s a black guy we’ve seen in a million movies who works at a hotel and has The Shining but it’s not the other black guy from the movie, The Shining, who works at a hotel and has The Shining. Plus he may not actually have The Shining, now that I think about it. Also now that I think about it, I have just made this Quick Take review into 3 paragraphs when none of the other ones have followed that format. It’s like I’m still stuck in the self-referential world of Grumpy Cat so to make things easier on myself, I will just give Christmas in Palm Springs 3 Eggnogs. One for each paragraph and walls broken by the movie.


#8) Christmas Under Wraps

Candace Cameron, now Candace Cameron Bure, survived being Kirk Cameron’s little sister, appearing in a very weird, very awkward, Marie Osmond Christmas special, and turning into a teen wolf (though sadly, not as part of that movie franchise) to become the leading candidate for the crown of Christmas Queen, vacated by Dame Daphne Zuniga. We still love you, Zunes, it’s just your legacy has to get passed down to someone and CCB can definitely play the game of thrones. She was believable in this movie, which I guess she oughta be considering she played pretty much the same character in last year’s, “Let It Snow!” That’s okay though. I’m not looking for Gary Oldman-like transformations here, I just want someone I kind of like and care about. I’m also not looking for a movie to totally break the mold either. Christmas Under Wraps follows just about every Christmas convention/trope except for, oddly enough, the most common one, which is someone being dead. And by that, I don’t mean dying in the movie, I mean pre-dead. Already dead when the movie starts. So if it’s important to you that a film have pre-deads, I’m sorry but you may not like this one. But if that’s not such a big deal though, then you might want to check it out. And oh yeah, this movie gets bonus points with me because at some point, one of the characters gets this really strange look on his face. I couldn’t figure out what the look was though. If I were to guess and throw all context out the window, I would suggest that he once built a robot and forgot about it and this look was him remembering that he had build that robot. My hypothesis was never confirmed nor denied but I did laugh about it for a while, feeling good enough about myself and the movie to give it 3.5 Eggnogs. And I’ll even switch those Eggnogs with Folgers’ Crystals to see if anyone can tell the difference.

A Royal Christmas vs. An En Vogue Christmas – 11/24/14

Royal Christmasenvchristmas


Lifetime decided to be fashionably late to the party this year by giving the Hallmark Channel a 3-week head start in the Christmas movie bonanza but as we all know, better late than never. And better En Vogue than not. An En Vogue Christmas, Lifetime’s first movie of the season dropped on Saturday night, running right up against Hallmark’s regular offering – A Royal Christmas starring Lacey Chabert and Jane Seymour. I have decided to compare the two films against each other.

To be fair, I actually didn’t see An En Vogue Christmas. It’s possible I’ll get to it eventually but with Thanksgiving and so many other movies coming down the pipe, I can’t promise anything. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to let a little thing like not seeing the film affect my evaluation. Might even work in En Vogue’s favor here. Kind of like that quote from Buddha or Mark Twain or somebody – “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

I did at least watch A Royal Christmas so I will talk about that first. It’s about Emily; a humble, down-to-Earth seamstress from Philadelphia who has been dating this guy named Leo for about a year who is secretly a prince. He has a British accent, which should have been a dead giveaway as to his highnessness but Emily assumes he’s just some regular bloke, studying overseas. They seem pretty in love and so he outs himself at the beginning of the movie. He tells her that he is indeed a prince (of some province we’ve never heard of in the south of France) and he wants to take Emily home to meet his Queen mum for the holidays.

At this point, I don’t know what An En Vogue Christmas is up to. I do certainly remember the group though. During their heyday, there were 4 ladies singing but according to the picture, there are now only 3. Being a Christmas movie, that means the 4th lady must be no longer among the living. RIP 4th lady. But we already know that Emily’s mother is dead too and Leo’s father, the King, has shuffled off this mortal coil as well. Probably at the hands of a scheming Lannister, no doubt. Advantage, A Royal Christmas. No wait a minute, I forgot about the music industry that En Vogue was once a part of. That has been dead for a long time so I am going to give the Christmas Movie Death Advantage to An En Vogue Christmas here. A whole, once-thriving, seemingly indestructible industry must count for more than just one person, right?

But speaking of Lannisters, you might think that Jane Seymour the Queen actually is one because she is a total bitch. Her majesty does not take kindly to her only son bringing home a commoner. Emily is a nice enough girl and everything but she’ll never be royals (royals). At first, it kind of seems like Leo can stand up to this crap but his backbone and common sense kind of fluctuates throughout the film. And of course the Queen has another lady in mind to marry her prince, another royal (royal) who looks and dresses just like her. And surprise, surprise, she is also kind of a bitch. What was a less sarcastic surprise though was that this Duchess is played by Jane Seymour’s real-life daughter.

I can’t imagine there are any kind of love triangles like this going on in An En Vogue Christmas. Not for any reason other than there are 3 surviving members and the film is clearly about the band so no one person’s romantic interests can be the main focus here. Plus they had a big hit with that “Never Gonna Get It” song where they told someone repeatedly that he was never going to get their love and I took those lyrics at face value. I also can’t imagine that any sort of prince was involved but it is technically possible that the singer named Prince was somehow. En Vogue collaborated with Prince on a song for Stevie Wonder’s 2005 album, A Time to Love. That all sounds like a total mess though and not even a hot one. So we’re all knotted up. A Royal Christmas – 1, An En Vogue Christmas – 1.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t need to tell you another thing about A Royal Christmas. You can guess what happens and unlike the song I just mentioned, “Never Gonna Get It”, you ARE gonna get it. If you are anywhere near alive yourself at the moment, nothing in A Royal Christmas will surprise you in the least. The way that Emily stumbles in front of the Queen and other important guests, how the Duchess tries to foil (foil) Emily and Leo’s relationship and of course, Emily cozying up to all the servants because being of lower social standing, they are the only real people in this palace. I guess I will say though, related to that last point, there was technically one thing I didn’t see coming. It was specifically how Emily would get the servants in trouble with their heartless Ice Queen. Let’s just say it involved making a hoagie. In fact, that was literally it. They had never had a hoagie before and Emily was like, “Oh my God, WHAT?!? You HAVE to have a hoagie – NOW!!!” and then they made hoagies and laughed and when the Queen walked in all of this, she fired those servants on the spot. Now when they have to go on job interviews and are asked about the reasons for leaving their last place of employment, they will have to answer with, “Making a hoagie. I was fired for making a hoagie.”

But hoagies notwithstanding, it occurred to me that I had the whole thing backwards. I knew exactly what A Royal Christmas, the movie I actually watched, was going to be but I really had no idea what to expect with An En Vogue Christmas. Ironically, En Vogue hasn’t been en vogue in a long time so who God only knows what they could possibly be up to. If there was one of these movies I didn’t need to see, it was A Royal Christmas. You know what? Screw it – I am going to watch the En Vogue thing right now. I’ll save this review as a draft and be back with you shortly…

There. I have now watched the second film I have been comparing, in hopes that it would give me a better perspective on that very comparison. I’m not sure if it did though. Part of the allure was not knowing. The movie was certainly respectable enough and the surviving members of En Vogue seemed to be hanging in there just fine. Still no mention of this mysterious, missing 4th member but 2 people were dead and the music industry sure as hell didn’t get any alive-er so AEVC keeps the W for that category. But ARC followed more tropes over all and in the end, I enjoyed wondering about AEVC more than actually watching it. So if you want to NOT watch something, I totally recommend that. But if watching something is your bag, I guess I would suggest you make a hoagie and just watch yourself doing that. Although before you do, make sure to read your present employer’s company handbook and thoroughly investigate their policies regarding personal hoagie-making (see also “submarine”, “hero”, “grinder” and of course, “sandwich”). Don’t want to make the same mistake as those royal servants did. Nor do I feel like an actual rating really makes sense in this context so I am going to slightly follow my own advice and just show you a picture of….

1 Hoagie! Hoagie


Angels and Ornaments – 11/21/14


After the production value tour-de-force that was Northpole, Hallmark left us no time to catch our collective breath by unleashing Angels And Ornaments on us a mere 24 hours later. I personally needed more than that to decompress so we waited a few days before firing it up on the ol’ DVR. I knew it wasn’t going to keep pace with Northpole and tried to approach the whole thing with managed expectations.

Still though, I am not sure if I can tell you what I really think of Angels and Ornaments. Instead of answers, I am left with mostly questions. For one, speaking of my DVR, when I looked at the description of the movie, it read something like this:

“Three suitors pursue a hopeless romantic when she makes a wish to find true love before Christmas”.

That’s paraphrasing but the key word is “three suitors.” Because as far as I can tell, there were only two. So who’s the third suitor? There is a third male character but classifying him as a “suitor” gets into some dark territory because – SPOILER ALERT – he is the angel version of the main girl’s grandfather who died in World War II. That said though, our female lead, Corrine, is obsessed with him. Which begs another question:

Why is our female lead, Corrine, so obsessed with her grandfather? I am sure she’s heard all kinds of wonderful stories about him and that’s great but he’s also a man neither she nor her mother ever met. He died while grandma was pregnant. Next question:

How old is Corinne? If her grandfather died in the Big Deuce and her mom was already in utero, I’d say that likely puts her somewhere in her 40s. When looking at the actress, Jessalyn Gilsig (say that 3 times fast – then many other times after that), this seems about right. Not a negative judgement or anything but  somewhat strange for a movie like this. Because this is a character who has never been married, seemingly never been close, and works in a musical instrument store as a sales clerk and that is going to flow right into Question #4:

Why is she rich? This is something I have seen before in other movies like this but haven’t pointed it out much. I am doing it now because there might be a more egregious example here. Corrine is rich. She has an amazing, immaculately-staged apartment with vaulted ceilings and fine art and walls painted in colors that only rich people paint their walls. And she’s supposed to live in NYC. But again, she works in a small music store. Doesn’t even own the place, she’s just a salesperson. In fact the owner of the store is a close, personal friend of hers – Dave. A guy she went to high school with and has presumably seen every day for a while. They get along very well, seem to respect each other, are both single at the beginning of the movie and have been simultaneously single during various points throughout their relationship, and are of similar levels of attractiveness. Guess what’s coming next?

Why are she and Dave not together romantically? The movie does not provide an explanation that is satisfactory to me. At least, anything that would make it acceptable for them to get together at the end. He thinks she has relegated him to the Friend Zone, she thinks….well, I don’t know what she thinks. In fact, she doesn’t seem to know the dude all that well. Kind of like what I was saying in my Nine Lives of Christmas review, there is a very fine line romantic comedies have to walk where they keep the two main characters from getting together but can’t do so in a way that suggests they actually aren’t right for each other. Angels and Ornaments doesn’t come anywhere near pulling this off. If she and Dave haven’t gotten together by this point in their lives, which once again, are hovering around the 40s, and there aren’t extreme external factors preventing them from getting together, it’s safe to say that someone’s just not that into the other someone. To me, them eventually hooking up isn’t sweet and romantic, it’s kind of sad. Especially if requires Divine Intervention to actually make happen (more on that later). Wait a minute, I think YOU might have a question for ME now!

Why are you asking all of these stupid questions? It’s just a movie and movies don’t have to make sense, right? Wrong! While it’s certainly true that tons of things that happen in the movies would never or could never happen in the real world, I believe that they at least need to make sense within their own world. Otherwise, nothing means anything. But let’s go back to the other big component of this film – Harold, the angel who is also Corrine’s deceased grandpa:

Why does he talk like a combination of Jimmy Stewart and an Adam Sandler character? I know he’s supposed to be from a different time and Jimmy Stewart talked like Jimmy Stewart back then but I don’t think that’s meant to be reflective of how regular people actually sounded. Like for instance, no one talks like Jack Nicholson nowadays. Except I guess, Christian Slater still. I suppose I can accept the fact that they wanted to make sure we really knew that Harold was from another time and that’s just going to take us seamlessly to another question:

What has Harold been doing for the last 70 years? He was part of The Greatest Generation but died in The Great Conflict. There is an afterlife, he’s an angel, now it’s the modern day – that leaves a big chunk of time unaccounted for. And now he has to get Corrine and Dave together so he can get into heaven. So it’s not like he’s been chilling with Man Upstairs, playing Foosball, and just decided to pop down and do one of his descendents a solid. Although the aforementioned Man Upstairs did him a solid apparently. Got him a job at Dave’s music shop by calling Dave, doing an impression of Harold, and setting up the interview. Once again, God called Dave and pretended to be Harold, setting up a job interview.

What? Yep, it totally happened, according to another angel who did not get into heaven and is forced to be a hot dog vendor in NYC. Not getting into heaven means eternal work in the food service industry. I didn’t listen carefully enough to the explanation here because I was still reeling from the fact that God and Dave spoke on the telephone. God can do other impressions too. He’s working on a “McConaughey” right now.

I’m kidding here, right? Wrong again! At least, according to the angel hot dog vendor. Technically though, I guess he never said it was Matthew McConaughey. If it’s some other “McConaughey”, does that make it less weird or more weird? Wait, that wasn’t the next question! It was:

So we have angels who help regular people on Earth and God who helps angels help regular people on Earth as well as does a killer impression of some unidentified McConaughey, why do they only seem to want to help people fall in love around Christmas time? Aren’t there more important, significant ways they could attempt to steer society? Ooh that’s a biggie. Probably far beyond the intellectual scope of this silly blog. Let’s just go back to something more on my level:

When Dave and Corrine finally do hook up and later move in together, why do they move into Dave’s place? His apartment ain’t bad but as owner of the music store, he isn’t able to afford anything anywhere near as lavish as what his employees can afford. Maybe that could already answer my next question here but I’m going to ask it anyway:

At the very end, with Dave and Corrine now together, with Corinne having finally got to meet the grandpa she’s been obsessed with for so long, with her now having absolute proof that there is a God and and afterlife, why does she still look sad? Sure, she kind of smiles but it’s muted joy. That layer of melancholy she had at the beginning of the movie has not been lifted. I guess it all still wasn’t enough for her. Then she probably won’t like the answer to my next and yes, FINAL, question of the evening here:

How many Eggnogs am I going to give this sucker? How about 1 for each World War? Or 1 for each time Matthew McConaughey likes to say “all right” at a given moment? In case you don’t know, that means……

…….2 Eggnogs eggnogeggnog