Week in Review – 11/20/15

I’m still playing catch up here but did tune into the Hallmark Channel’s double-feature last weekend, starting with the curiously-titled, I’m Not Ready For Christmas.


I say “curiously-titled” because there is absolutely nothing about this movie that suggests anyone is not ready for Christmas. After a little digging though, we discovered that Alicia Witt, who plays our main character, Holly, actually moonlights as a singer and her latest single is in fact called, “I’m Not Ready For Christmas.” The song doesn’t really have anything to do the movie either (even contains a swear word!) so I have to imagine it was just a separate deal and part of the negotiation process involved titling the film after the song in an effort to promote it? I’ll tell you what the movie does have though – tropes. Like, pretty much all of them. We’ve got Santa, we’ve got magic, money vs. Xmas, dead parents, black friends, houses that are way too nice, and weird decorations in the sense that there are more Christmas trees in this movie than you have ever seen in your whole life. Just pause the DVR during any scene that takes place in a public interior space (Holly’s office, school auditorium, ice rink) and you will be able to count at least 4 of those suckers in the frame. One trope that I haven’t talked about or columned in my spreadsheet is all the business deals that just happen to go down right around Christmastime. This happens so much in these movies but probably never in real life, right? I mean, I don’t know about you but I pretty much just stop answering the phone at my office altogether when December rolls around, let along make major decisions or promotions or hires or anything past the 15th. If you work in retail, of course you may be super busy but even then, I doubt there’s a ton of significant corporate shifting going on.

In any case, I have not mentioned the main plot point of I’m Not Ready For Christmas, which is that Holly’s niece pulls a Liar Liar and wishes that Holly will not tell anymore lies. All the things she could have wished for and she picks that. And it’s not even totally correct because the issue is not so much that Holly lies, it’s that she doesn’t make time for friends and family because she values her career over all else. I believe we’re supposed to believe that by not being able to lie or make up phony excuses, Holly will come face-to-face with the bigger issue that is not valuing her family but I can’t imagine that the 7-year-old could have played this kind of a long game with her lone wish. Still though, it’s a decent enough premise although they could have paid it off better, with all the uncomfortable situations that might have arisen from it. In fact there really wasn’t any conflict whatsoever to come out of Holly telling brutally honest truths yet at some point, the niece wishes that Santa will undo her previous wish and give Holly the power to lie again. This girl has a non-present father, non-alive grandparents, and lives in a world with Isis but spends her two wishes on what ultimately amounts to nothing. And if it really takes magic to learn a lesson, I’m not sure you’ve totally learned it. What I’ve learned is that Alicia Witt, while still far from my favorite leading lady, is here to stay and being that she is a double-threat (movies and music), I at least owe her a double-nog.

In this image taken on November 5, 2012, two glasses of double whipped eggnog are shown in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)


After double-nog double-threat Alicia Witt’s latest vehicle, Hallmark followed up their own weekend double-feature on Sunday Night with Christmas Incorporated.

Christmas Inc

I had said that the name alone guaranteed at least a 3 Eggnog rating but I might want to back away on that. There are some good things, like the sheer amount of garland used in just about every scene. What I’m Not Ready For Christmas Is to Christmas trees, Christmas Incorporated is to garland. Like garland that doesn’t even make sense sometimes. Every hard edge in the movie is trimmed with it, even if it’s blocking a drawer from opening or presents multiple fire hazards. Then there’s a weird little town with a self-described unemployable mayor and a secondary character named Piper who drives our the main girl around, works at the front desk of her hotel, as a barrista at the coffee shop, and then seemingly as a waitress at a fancier restaurant. She doesn’t work at the local toy factory though, which has fallen on hard times due to its inability to modernize, tipified by not selling their products online. And it’s not that they don’t want to sell products online or want remain charmingly old school either, they just seemingly can’t get it done. In 2015! How is that even possible? But what they miraculously can do is change one of their stuffed bears in production to say something different, now asking you to make a wish, and these bears will get out to retailers in time to be purchased by the masses despite it being December 12th or later and most stores no longer even ordering new stock. Plus the bear doesn’t actually grant wishes. This is a terrible idea and no offense to the scrappy little toy factory but let’s be honest here, they pretty much deserve to get shut down. Even on Christmas? Especially on Christmas! How could you blow it so badly for so long during the most critical juncture? I guess I have now myself become the bad guy in these movies.

I will also say that the main characters don’t necessarily make me want to change my ways. They’re nice enough but I don’t believe them, together or apart, and I don’t care how many wish bears they manage to sell through purely word of mouth (!), these people are all doomed. At least the toys aren’t made in China but they soon will be and the romance already is. What the hell does that mean? It means it’s time to wake up, America!

2 Eggnogs! eggnogeggnog


I kind of tuned in and out of some reruns this week as well…

Debbie Macomber’s Trading Christmas – Saw this again the other day and while I can’t remember how many Eggnogs I originally gave it, I now want to give it more. It kind of falls into On Strike For Christmas territory in that I like it unironically and without my usual snark. Totally opposite from Christmas Incorporated, I completely believe all the main characters and care about them too. But if Debbie Macomber could do such a good job with this, why do I hate her Mr./Mrs. Miracle movies so much? Maybe Trading Christmas was just her Jagged Little Pill? Meaning, she only really had one great album despite releasing others. Except I don’t personally like Jagged Little Pill and consider it great so maybe that’s a bad metaphor. Her Tapestry perhaps? Did Carole King have other albums besides Tapestry? She must have, right? But she did write plenty of classic songs outside of Tapestry, that’s for sure. Jeez, I’m really struggling to make this point and I’m sure you get it anyway. Nevermind (but did you get that?).

Let It Snow – So Alan Thicke really fired his daughter on Christmas Eve? I guess I knew that and even commented about it in my original review but man, that is cold, even for a bad guy in a Christmas movie, even from the perspective of someone who has aparently now become a bad guy in a Christmas movie. But this is definitely good enough to watch. And Candace Cameron is more of a Michael Jackson going back to my earlier failed metaphor. She’s got two really solid albums (movies), maybe a third depending on how generous you’re feeling about Bad (Moonlight and Mistletoe).

The Christmas Clause – This one was from 2008 but since it was not only filmed in Canada but a pretty much full-frontal Canadian production, it felt more like it was from 1998, in American Standard Time. Lea Thompson played the main character and it’s almost a reverse Christmas Carol plot. She is a sweet mother of three but totally overwhelmed with her kids, motherly obligations, struggling career, etc. and wishes what it would be like to not have any of these major hastles so she gets to live for a while as a successful, single bitch. She actually does a good job and the overwhelmingness is accurately portrayed but the lesson doesn’t really make sense because she loves her children and instantly wants them back while in the other life, as any decent person would. So what is there left to learn? Or even do? Other than just kind of make me sad because I want this lady to get back to her kids.

One Christmas Eve – This has been on a couple times in the past couple weeks and I’ve kind of had it on the background and for the life of me, I can’t figure out exactly what’s going on. Too many characters and too many injuries requiring medical attention. Who wants to spend Christmas in the hospital? And were they also snowed in? I couldn’t tell that either and obviously, no one wants to be injured and spend Christmas in a hospital while snowed in but I’m sure this movie is trying to sell us on the fact that with the spirit of the season, even this can be magical. Maybe it’s even successful in this lofty endeavor, I don’t know, but I just wasn’t willing to commit the necessary brain space to figuring it all out. Anne Heche is in the film, if that helps. It didn’t help me.

Love at the Christmas Table – It’s good to see Winnie Cooper grown up and back in action and I found her totally likable in one of these roles. Also good to see her returning again this year with a new movie coming out Thanksgiving Week on Hallmark. Think it’s called A Crown For Christmas too but anyway, Love at the Christmas Table is generally abnoxious. WAY too much serious conflict with the male “love” interest. They only see each other once a year and spend some of those times in pretty vicious fights. Love should not be that hard. Even at the Christmas Table.

Speaking of new movies on the horizon, the good news is that it looks like Lifetime has taken my advice and has a seemingly Thanksgiving-related film premiering this Saturday. The bad news is that it involves Muppets. Maybe not THE Muppets but muppets of some kind. And I’ve never understood the appeal there. I feel like Lifetime may have jumped the shark here and it’s nowhere near as cool as when Fonzie did it.



Quick Takes 2 (Quick Take Harder) – 12/19/13



Alex:  ‘Twas the Thursday before Christmas and all through the DVR, not a better option was stirring, not even something with Jamie Farr (that was literally the dumbest thing I could come up with). Actually, I find these movies below all better options than anything with Jamie Farr, I was never a big M*A*S*H* fan and I did enjoy each and every one of them in their own special way. Actually, some of them I liked in some other movie’s special way. Actually, I like to say “actually” a lot. And mislead you before clarifying things with said “actually.”

Actually–err, I mean, anyway, I know we’ve got the weekend coming up and this may be your last chance to check out some of these great holiday flicks before the government takes them away for the year. So if you’re looking for any recommendations and have seen all the other movies I’ve liked so far and are actually able to tell what those are, based on my reviews, I give you many kudos AND another set of Quick Takes to make your season bright.

Battle of the Bulbs – If you had come to me in the past as some kind of Future Ghost and told me that Kevin Arnold’s narrator voice and the guy who played Max Headroom would one day face off in a Christmas light decorating contest, I would have said, “Gee thanks, Future Ghost, I can’t think of less relevant information to give me about the future. Nothing about how to avoid wars or plagues or poison monkeys? Just that little factoid, huh? Also, why are you a ghost in this analogy?” But regardless of relevance, this is actually about as well-crafted and put together as one of these movies can be. Even better than a  big budget Hollywood release like Deck the Halls. Sure, it lacks some of that insane magic I like to lampoon on this very blog but still, major props to you, Battle of the Bulbs. And take 3.5 Eggnogs while you’re at it.

The Christmas Consultant – If you had come to me in the past as some kind of Future Ghost and told me that David Hasselhoff was going to one day star in a made-for-TV Christmas movie on deep cable where he plays a guy people hire to decorate and plan their holiday parties and whatnot , I’d say, “Yeah, that probably sounds about right. But look, Future Ghost, I am trying to get some sleep here. Can you just give me the gist of it real quick and let me go back to bed (assuming that FG woke me up to tell me this, which seems logical to me)?” And then Future Ghost would say that in preparation for his performance, the ‘Hoff would watch another movie that hadn’t come out yet, the Tim Burton remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and do his best imitation of Johnny Depp, who will actually be a respected actor in the future. But David Hasselhoff won’t be? I don’t think I want to live in such a shrill, pointless time, Future Ghost! Is there anything I can do to stop this from happening? No, except try to look surprised when it does. And give this movie 3 Eggnogs.

Debbie Macomber’s Trading Christmas – It’s like an audible version of Finding Christmas but with better known actors and a story with a lot more juice. I guess that’s why they put the “Debbie Macomber” name in front of it and whoever wrote Finding Christmas will just fade into the ether. D-Mac does know how to spin a good yarn and while two of the characters’ romantic repartee is classically annoying, there is a certain sweetness and realness to the Faith Ford-Gil Bellows courtship that is actually quite touching for a second. There aren’t a lot of holes to poke in this one, other than Tom Cavanagh’s character’s strange supply of wheat grass but good nonetheless. 3.5 Eggnogs.

Hat’s Off For Christmas! – Duff hits for the cycle. She had a home run with Christmas Belle, a triple last year with All About Christmas Eve, and a pretty nice, standing double with Hats Off For Christmas (and who really cares about a single). This time, she works in a Christmas store, open all year round, specializing mainly in Christmas-related hats. And they are having financial difficulties? The hell you say! But don’t worry, they bring in the guy from Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade to do essentially the same thing he did in that movie. Not understand their old-fashioned, homespun approach at first, replace all ramps with more profitable stairs, fall in love with the main girl character, eventually manage to save the business while still recovering his Christmas spirit in the process, and then wife up that main girl character, right after an unfortunate misunderstanding drives them away from each other for a few tense moments. 3 Eggnogs

Holiday in Handcuffs – For all their star power (Melissa Joan Hart, Mario Lopez, Markie Post, June Lockhart), this movie just isn’t as fun as it should be. Oh wait, I see the problem. It’s another ABC Family joint. I guess that’s why there’s a little bit of raunch factor too (handcuffs, uh oh!). Melissa Joan Hart’s lame boyfriend ditches her on Christmas Eve, right before he was supposed to meet the family so she does what any normal, red-blooded girl would do – kidnaps some stranger and takes him home instead, pretending he’s the boyfriend. But you know what they say about fake relationships, right? Damnit, if you don’t, I have completely failed as a writer and a human being here. Holiday in Handcuffs doesn’t fail that badly but I’m still going to give it 2 Eggnogs.