Christmas Movie Review 2016 – Day 6: Get Santa

There’s nothing better than reading a book or watching a movie that takes you into a new world. So how have I missed Get Santa, 2014, written and directed by Christopher Smith? I discovered it on Netflix.

get-santa

This movie is fun, endearing, and brimming with British humor and slapstick.

It’s reminiscent of The Santa Clause (my Day 7 review in 2015 which earned 5 of 5 Hot Chocolates) as it sorts out the relationship between a young boy, Tom, and his father, Steve, who has a hard time believing in Santa, although eventually – as does Tim Allen in The Santa Claus – he comes around.

Right off the bat, you know this story doesn’t follow any predictable sort of  “Christmas formula”.

After serving two years in prison for driving the getaway car in a robbery, the movie opens two days before Christmas with Steve’s release as he picks up his paltry possessions, including his most treasured item, a Rubik’s cube, though he has to endure the guard’s mocking comment about having not solved it. In the background, the mainstream news is abuzz over the mysterious appearance of what appear to be Santa’s reindeer roaming the busy streets of London.

day-6-reindeer-loose-in-london

After begging and finally arranging with his ex-wife to see Tom the day before Christmas, Steve meets with his probation officer, Joanna Scanlan as Ruth (at first I thought she was Pam Ferris as Trunchbull in Matilda), and is advised he must check in every day at 5 PM, except for Christmas, the day she takes her pet toad home, or he will go right back to prison. (Big red flag, Steve…) Later that night, nine-year-old Tom finds Santa (who wrecked his new sleigh) in the garage (pronounced like carriage), and calls his dad for help.

Suffice to say, on Christmas Eve Day, there is so much magic happening in this mad-cap fantasy, I don’t want to accidentally give away any spoilers. You’ll have to see it for yourself.

Think:

  • Letters wending their way to Santa as soon as they hit the air stream.
  • Northern Lights that are actually Santa’s skyway for the reindeer to gallop along instead of flying: “It’s complicated”as Santa tries to explain.
  • A toolbag with very cool tools – one in particular that explains how to Santa gets down and up narrow chimneys.
  • Secret Santa Squirrels do exist.

Other burning questions are answered as well.

  • How would Santa look in dreadlocks if he tried to fit into prison?
  • The one thing that makes Santa lose his temper?
  • How smart is Dasher?
  • Santa really does know your secrets.
  • How Santa came to be, from the Laughing Valley “Ho Ha Ho” in Lapland.

Though it’s not Monty Python, this movie has plenty of low laughs including:

  • Reindeer bursts of gas (I’m trying to be delicate.) to communicate.
  • Reindeer poo pellets as ammunition.
  • Elves that cannot travel with Santa due to health issues, i.e., they explode if they rise over 1,000 feet.
  • A nasty probation officer who accidentally eats her toad’s fly.

The British always shine doing this sort of humor – and no, there was no profanity, but we did have to raise the volume so my husband could pick up nuances due to the accent – apparently my rendition is not convincing. Eh? And we had to hit rewind a few times because we were laughing so hard we couldn’t hear the follow-up one-liners.

In the end… this is the kind of movie you don’t want to stop. The attention to detail was spot-on and all the actors nailed their roles. Oscar-winning Jim Broadbent was the perfect Santa.

day-6-santa-in-jail

Things get dicey.

We discover why Santa chose Steve, who has a reputation for never following through, but held onto the Rubik’s cube Santa gave him all those years ago.

rubiks-cube

I never solved one either…

Real life meets hope. Dare I say, it’s good to believe.

I will watch this movie again. There was so much action, so many layers, and so much happening on the side-lines, I know I’ll see new things every time I watch. (I hope I can read the script one day.)

I have to break the mold, and step out of the box on this one.

Get Santa earns extra credit – I’m giving it 6 (of 5) HO HO HO’s!  ♥♥♥♥♥ + ♥

day-6-ho-ho-ho

Christmas Movie Review 2016 – Day 5: Charming Christmas

Last season, I watched Hallmark’s 2015 Charming Christmas, based on the book The Secret Life of Mrs. Claus by Rosalind Noonan as Carly Alexander, with the screenplay by Karen McClellan, but I ran out of days to review it.

day-5-charming-christmas

As I watched it again this year, I’m happy to report it was worth seeing a second time.

Julie Benz plays Meredith Rossman, manager of her parents’ department store. All business, she promotes a deal to franchise Rossman’s, allowing her parents to pass the reins to her as they embrace retirement.

However, her parents are concerned their daughter isn’t slowing down and smelling enough roses, so they make a new deal that if she makes the time to play Mrs. Claus to their new store Santa, they will consider her proposal.

As she drops off Mrs. Claus’ dress for a minor repair, her patience is tried, first by a torpedo of a young boy, Tyler, and then by an attractive man with twinkling eyes who mocks her inability to understand children at Christmas.

Surprise – the man, Nick, played by David Sutcliffe, turns out to be the new Santa hired by Meredith’s mother. Meredith is not happy, as she’s a micro-managing nose-to-the-grindstone over-achiever, and Santa’s “charm” quickly gets under her skin through his flirtatious challenging of her status quo.

Their dialogue is snappy and smart as their attraction to one another is immediately apparent.

There are several sub-plots/B stories going on that strengthen the main story.  We get to peek into the lives and struggles of two of Rossman’s employees, one being the mother of the rambunctious Tyler. To help Meredith’s time constraints, Jesse and Olivia also agree to play Mrs. Claus and wear the dress.

day-5-mrs-claus-dress

It is a pretty dress.

(One thing I didn’t quite get was how that magic dress fit three different women and never needed to be cleaned.)

Nick teases Meredith’s long-ignored playful side into fun Christmas activities, and slowly she starts to relax and realize what she’s given up all these years.

Just when we think perhaps she’ll soften and change, her old business-school classmate, who obviously has a crush on her, makes an offer on the store she can’t seem to refuse…

Nick lets go of his faith in Meredith as Christmas Eve approaches, and suddenly the store has to function without a Santa to the point the kids protest via a sit-in.

Note: The kid scenes with Tyler are especially “charming”.

It took me two times to see the three-way meaning in the title Charming Christmas.

  • Charming can be used as a verb…
  • Charming is the way Santa acts, and with eyes glinting, so describes himself to Meredith.
  • Santa gives a silver charm to each of the staff at the store that holds a special meaning and hope.

The only thing I didn’t quite grasp was the pickle ornament. Nick explained the legend, but the payoff didn’t seem to happen. After such a build up, I wanted to see who found the pickle ornament?

day-5-legend-of-the-pickle

If I have to watch the movie again to find out, I’ll be happy to do so.

The ending was satisfying and left me wanting to know even more about the ever upbeat Santa. A sequel would be a delightful follow-up, and I can only hope.

I give this movie 5 of 5 silver Christmas charms.

christmas-charms

Christmas Movie Review 2016 – Days 3 & 4: Holiday Switch & A Dream Of Christmas

I’m always fascinated when I notice that two similar movies are playing back-to-back on competing channels.  As I finished watching A Dream of Christmas (Hallmark, 2016), I discovered Holiday Switch (Lifetime, 2007; written by Gale (Gayl) Decoursey) had just started, so… it was fun to contrast and compare, and wonder how many ways can A Christmas Carol be redone? Granted, there were not ghosts of Christmas Past, but the depressing Christmas Futures were  convincing.

day-3-a-dream-of-christmas

A Dream of Christmas where Penny is the heroine.

day-4-the-holiday-switch

Holiday Switch where Paula is the heroine.

There were a number of similarities and differences:

The similarities:

  • Both protagonists are female.
  • Both women suffer a blow to the head and pass out.
  • Both women are frustrated with their current lives, and wish they’d made different  choices.
  • Neither movie includes any pets.
  • Both heroines give up really good guys and end up with knuckleheads.
  • Both see remembrances/touchstones of their former lives, but can’t seem to get their guy to relate, yet… in the end, the touchstone is what provokes a flicker of memory and cements them back together.
  • Both of their former husbands have moved on and have new partners.
  • Both remind me of The Wizard of Oz when they came back to themselves. Paula even says “There’s no place like home.”
  • theres-no-place-like-home
  • Both wake up in new beds after their wishes come true.
  • Both learn to appreciate what they had before their lives changed.
  • Both begin to “stalk” their former husbands.

The Differences:

  • Paula hears a voice calling her; Penny’s wish is granted by an angel.
  • Paula wishes to be married to a different guy; Penny wants to be single.
  • Paula enters her new world through a clothes dryer; Penny wakes up in a new apartment.
  • Paula falls asleep, and wakes up where she passed out; Penny hits her head again before waking up.
  • Paula’s children now belong to the new wife; Penny’s sister’s children don’t exist.

Aside from personal details, there are far more similarities than differences, so it’s difficult to watch one movie and then watch the second without noting which movie does something specific best.

For instance, I thought Holiday Switch portrayed Paula’s life to be so unbelievably wretched – very poor, lying to creditors, truly messy home – that she was more believable in her wish that she’d married the other guy.

However, I thought the connection between Penny and her guy was steamier, with the attraction more intense in A Dream of Christmas.

I think they’re both worth seeing and give them each 3 of 5 Visions of Sugar Plums. ♥♥♥

sugar-plums

CHRISTMAS MOVIE REVIEW 2016 – DAY 2: Journey Back to Christmas

Candace Cameron Bure is a seasoned and beloved Hallmark actress. She’s one of my favorites in the genre, and helped kick off the first round of 2016 Countdown to Christmas movies on Hallmark with Journey Back To Christmas by Maria Nation.

day-2-journey-back-to-christmas

So, with Candace on board, and also the hint of time travel, I had high expectations.

Perhaps too high. My final feelings on this movie are divided.

I wanted to rave about this movie. It promised to fulfill my anticipation with time travel, romance, and a little mystery at Christmastime.

This may be a personal issue, but time travel always messes with my mind. Kind of like The Twilight Zone.

One irony was that Hanna actually journeyed forward to experience a family Christmas that she’d never had in the past, so to me, the title Journey Back to Christmas was a bit misleading.

That question led to other questions:

Why didn’t Tobias develop the film in the camera Hanna left behind for 71 years when he was so clearly obsessed with the nurse who impacted his life and mysteriously left without a trace – especially when he knew there were photos of him on it?

How is it possible that Hanna vanished 71 years earlier, yet sent a postcard to her best friend three years later – and does not remember this development (which is a biggie but I won’t spoil it for you)?

See what I mean?  Again, cue the music.

Unanswered questions are not generally a good sign when analyzing a movie. Often they lead to more questions.

For example, it seemed perhaps there would be a romance between Hanna and Jake, the deputy who goes to bat for her. (And by the way, why wasn’t he the sheriff? In the final analysis, the sheriff’s and deputy’s roles could’ve been combined.)

At the end of the movie, out of nowhere, Jake fell in love with his partner who was his kid sister’s best friend, whom he never even noticed romantically until his sister and Hanna pointed out that his partner loved him.  Why hadn’t he realized this?…

I struggled a bit with this review because I so wanted to like this movie.

The enjoyable parts of watching this movie included:

1.  The film did a good job of elevating the tension surrounding the mystery.

2.  The 1940’s were convincingly detailed, and who doesn’t love a good period piece? It’s cool to see  how structures change or withstand the effects of time and progress.

3.  Candace’s portrayal of Hanna was so spot on, I thought she helped carry the movie.

I enjoy Candace in many other Christmas movies – like Christmas Under Wraps (to be reviewed). Last year, though I liked her character in Christmas Detour, I was a bit derailed by that unrealistic vision board (see last season’s review) she carried.

4.  There was a sweet dog angle, with very sweet dogs. (Aw)
dog-day-2

If you can let go of questions that might start to drive you crazy, I recommend investing the time to see this movie.

I give it a 3.5 of 5 Christmas Comet Tails.  ♥♥♥.5
christmas-comet

CHRISTMAS MOVIE REVIEW 2016 – DAY 1: A Heavenly Christmas

It’s that time of year. Christmas is three weeks away, but the days will move faster and faster until we’ll wonder where the time went. I’ve been impatiently waiting until December 1, so I could share my movie reviews.  I started watching Christmas movies a couple of weeks ago, to the point of scaring my husband away. He declared he is boycotting Christmas movies this year due to my overdosing.

We shall see.

(It’s possible I did overdo binge-watching Hallmark’s Christmas in July this summer, but it was refreshing.)
day-1-christmas-in-july

For my first review, I chose A Heavenly Christmas from Hallmark, 2016, written by Gregg McBride, with actors and actresses I’ve always enjoyed.

day-1-a-heavenly-christmas-2

The story takes place in Chicago, and the cast includes Kristin Davis from Sex and The City as Eve;  Eric McCormick from Will & Grace as Max, and Shirley MacLaine from (most recently for me) – Downton Abbey as Pearl, so what could go wrong?

dau-1-shirley-maclaine-downton-quote

She did spice it up.

It doesn’t. This movie had both fun and touching moments. Eve is nice even when  operating as “The Poacher” – the nickname her colleagues use behind her back. But her drive to succeed lands her in trouble from the moment we meet her.  Her scraggly cat’s name is Forbes, and is the only thing that looks amiss in her otherwise perfect apartment.

When she meets Max as they both vie for the same taxi, but end up sharing, she doesn’t give him a second thought. Her selfishness costs him a music gig that is a first step for him in healing the loss of his sister, with whom he shared musical talents.

We are quickly introduced to his adorable eight year old niece, Lauren, who now lives with him per the wishes of his sister and her husband who also died in a car accident. The husband’s in-laws believe it would be better for Lauren to live with them in Florida than stay with Max, who runs a local diner.

Without giving away too much of the plot, an unfortunate accident lands Eve in heaven with her childhood cat. She is soon mentored by Pearl who explains the “rules”.

Eve’s first assignment is to go back to Chicago and make Max happy without becoming attached to him – or Lauren. Though she doesn’t know how, she needs to help him find his music again.

One good thing for Eve is that she can eat whatever she likes and not gain a pound. She also gains a new perspective as she realizes the impact of her absence on her loved ones, whom she’s not made enough time for, her high-rise neighbors, and her co-workers. She cannot believe she was called “the Poacher” in her driven quest to succeed.

day-1-a-heavenly-christmas

This is against the rules. Pearl is not happy.

But Eve does become involved, which clouds her ability to help Max. Only when Max is ready to give up and let Lauren go because he has no faith in himself, does Eve realize what she has to do.  (And yes, watch for the final twists.)

This movie was very well done and the attention given to detail showed. All the set-ups were neatly paid off.

The movie lived up to my expectations of the cast.  A sweet and lovely way to kick off the Christmas season earned this movie five of five candy canes.  (What can I say, there are not one but two cats in this tale.)  ♥♥♥♥♥

day-one-christmas-cats

Include, Exclude, or Omit?

It’s the middle of January, and what’s happening with me?  I’m already thinking of next Christmas.

January Christmas

The temperature is 5 degrees today with a windchill of -14.  The sun is the brightest it’s been this month and the reflection from the new snow is almost daring me to come outside. Sorry, Mr. Sol; I’m content to look. Continue reading

To Finish: Focus, Have Fun, Be Fearless.

Every year, I look forward to Christmas.  Once it’s over, I’m excited by the “clean slate” of the New Year.  What will I accomplish with my resolutions this year?

St. andrews point.jpg

Mother Nature knows how to wipe her slate clean.

During almost 27 years together, my husband and I have developed our tradition of spending New Year’s Day preparing the customary foods to ensure Health, Wealth, and Happiness, which include:

Collard greens for dollar bills.  

Hoppin’ John, black-eyed peas, rice, and bacon for luck, health, and good fortune.

Cornbread symbolizing gold.  We like the spicy version.

You get the picture.  We also continue with the last of the soft Christmas music as we take down the tree, pack away the ornaments, and drink a bit of champagne to toast the New Year as we write our resolutions and open a new calendar. Continue reading

A Little Yule History

Yule log

What does “Yule” really mean?

From the BlogDictionary.com:

The lyric from “Deck the Halls” goes “Troll the ancient yuletide carol.” Amidst all the fa-la-la-ing, did you ever ask yourself exactly what yuletide is?

Yule is the ancient name in the Germanic lunar calendar for a winter festival corresponding to December and January. Later, yule referred to the twelve-day holiday associated with the Feast of the Nativity after the widespread adoption of Christianity through Northern Europe. The word has Gothic origins, but English speakers are most familiar with yule through associations dating to its original use. For example, the yule log, as in the lyric “See the blazing yule before us,” was originally a real tree limb or trunk, but now makes an appearance at Christmastime as a cake shaped like a log.

Yule also carries associations with a farm animal. The Yule Goat carried Father Christmas on his back and is a symbol of Christmas throughout Scandinavian countries. The Yule Goat may have associations tracing back to Norse mythology. The now-famous comic book god Thor rode in a chariot pulled by two goats that could also be eaten and magically regenerate into living creatures again.

Most Americans associate yuletide with singing carols, a tradition in Northern Europe, also known as wassailing.

Continue reading