MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Day 25 – It’s A Wonderful Life – Christmas Movie Review 2016

I will be hard pressed to ever find a better Christmas movie embodying the hope of believing in the magic of Christmas than It’s A Wonderful Life. Have you ever considered what the world would be like had you never been born? You might be surprised, and it might inspire you to share a kind word or a smile – you never know what makes the difference in another’s life.

From Day 25 – CHRISTMAS – 2015:

Drum roll please. Merry Christmas! I’ve saved the best for last, and though you may have already guessed, the Day 25 selection for my Christmas Movie Review on Christmas Day is It’s A Wonderful Life – 1946, Liberty Films.

Day 25 - It's a wonderful life
I choose this movie for one reason.

It’s my favorite.  (The fact that we named our dog ZuZu might tip my hand.)

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George and Zuzu

headshot as an elf

ZuZu’s first Christmas

Why it is my favorite? Continue reading

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Day 23 – Prancer – Christmas Movie Review 2016

Oh my. I can’t believe I missed seeing Prancer until this year. Written by Greg Taylor, and originally debuting in 1989 through Orion Pictures, it’s not as mainstream as other Christmas movies. I’ve been waiting two weeks for the library to call, and finally watched it here. I can’t wait to watch it again on a bigger screen.

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For anyone who’s ever been that awkward kid, not quite dressed right, with the loudest off-key voice in the choir, and who continued to have faith in the unseen, magical world of childhood beliefs, you will immediately be sucked into the earnestness of almost-nine year old Jessica.

A full moon is predicted for Christmas Eve, when even more magical things happen. Jessica misses her deceased mother, fights with her older brother, and routinely challenges her working-to-get-by father as he slogs through his own grief.

She and BFF (most of the time), Carol, watch in horror as one of the decorative reindeer being hoisted over the main street, falls to the ground and breaks in two. It’s Prancer, and he can’t be put back together again.

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Subsequently, Jessica happens upon an injured reindeer, who looks exactly like Prancer, and takes it upon herself to hide the creature from her father, call the vet behind his back, work for the most frightening recluse in town to earn enough to buy oats (when all her Christmas cookies run out) for Prancer, and sends a letter to Santa with her plan for Christmas Eve.

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Prancer has a sweet tooth.

I won’t go any further than that, except to say that nothing goes smoothly – nor should it – when there’s an hour left in a movie.

But that’s okay, as the stakes increase, the tension rises, and the most tender scenes between Jessica and the rest of her world occur during this time.  Her favorite part of that famous New York Sun 1897 editorial to (also eight year old) Virginia goes like this:

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, or even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. (Full text of that editorial here.)

Rebecca Harrell Tickell plays the indomitable Jessica and I want to see more of her work; she was that good. She was supported by a stellar cast, including Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman, Abe Vigoda, Michael Constatine, and Ariana Richards.

Prancer earns 5 of 5 “Yes, Virgina, there is a Santa Claus.” ♥♥♥♥♥

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! It’s good to believe!

Day 16 – (Two For One Special) – Holly’s Holiday & A Christmas Wedding Date – Christmas Movie Review 2016

So many holiday movies this season – so little time left before Christmas! I watched these movies back-to-back on Lifetime and though they offer different plotlines, they both struck a similar chord (Maybe it was a Friday night date night theme…), so Day 16 includes a review of each:

Holly’s Holiday, 2012, written by Justine Cogan and Andrea Janakas.

A Christmas Wedding Date, 2012, story by Jeffrey Schenck & Peter Sullivan; screenplay by Peter Sullivan and Fred Olen Ray.

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Holly, of course, is our heroine.

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Rebecca is our heroine.

Both these single ladies, Holly and Rebecca, live shallow lives and don’t realize the perfect man for them is someone they’ve already rejected.

Again, though their stories are topically different, even more similarities stand out:

  • Both are career-driven.
  • Both want perfect lives.
  • They both change in big ways, though Rebecca has a bigger story arc as she has some real issues lurking judging by her original callousness (and downright meanness) as she tries to cover up her high school pain and hurt. Holly’s arc is more about reassessing her priorities as she matures.
  • Both suffer a bump to the head before the “real story” begins.
  • Elements of magic enter into their predicament:
    • Holly’s “dream man” is a dream man – the mannequin she admires comes to life after she is knocked unconscious.
    • Rebecca has to repeat a most frustrating day in her life until she gets it right – courtesy a taxi driver/angel, aka Mr. Destiny, played by George Wendt. (Yes, Norm on Cheers.)
  • Both these movies are challenged by timeline issues and unanswered questions. The most taxing for me include:
    • What exactly does the twinkling ornament George gives Rebecca do?
    • Why doesn’t Chad tell Rebecca nothing happened between him and Molly the first time she asks instead of waiting until the last time she asks? (It seemed like fifty times, but I stopped counting.) Especially since the whole reason they broke up at least 10 years earlier hinges on this one factor.

Moments of over-acting, inconsistent details, too direct/unrealistic dialogue, heavy-handed messages, and the points listed above, can each distract a viewer enough to flavor the entire movie.

Neither of these movies reached the potential I hoped they each would.

As a screenwriter, even if a movie isn’t quite what I anticipate, I watch for something the movie does right, and/or something I can learn and use as I move forward with my own writing.

In Holly’s Holiday, I loved the poses Bo (and his parents) relived as they recounted their favorite “jobs”. These scenes were Saturday Night Live funny.

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Bo as a mannequin.

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The muscle shirt pose.

I also enjoyed the character and fresh portrayal of Milo by Jeff Ward. Without Holly realizing it, he rocked her world.

In A Christmas Wedding Date, one of the initial scenes captures comic realism when the HR person tiptoes around Rebecca’s being downsized and confuses her with another employee.

Combined, these two movies earn a shared total of 4.5 of 5 Christmas Dates. You decide who gets the edge.  ♥♥♥♥.5

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Christmas Date Bread

Day 9 – Pete’s Christmas – Countdown to Christmas Movie Review 2016

From ARC Entertainment (II) in 2013, Pete’s Christmas (available on Netflix) is not so much the tale of “Woe is the poor, misunderstood middle-child” as it is an introspection on not feeling sorry for yourself, even when it’s easy to do.

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Imagine waking up on Christmas morning in your younger brother’s bunk (who, though uber-smart, still wets the bed) after being displaced on Christmas Eve by a crotchety grandfather (Bruce Dern brings it!) with a chip on his shoulder.

Further, imagine an over-achiever mom, who because she tries to do everything from being the main breadwinner (just until Dad finds a new job after being downsized) as a veterinarian who’s on-call 24/7, to following every holiday tradition to ensure her family “enjoys” Christmas, creates more pressure for perfection.

Finally, the last straw. Watch your older brother delight in his new football. See your younger brother (in some disbelief) open the telescope you asked for… then watch desperate realization set in when each parent thought the other parent took care of you. It’s Christmas, and YOU HAVE NO PRESENT.

Such is the plight of the sometimes forgotten middle child.

Does Pete suck it up and make the best of it?  Absolutely not.

Crestfallen, his day goes from bad to worse, when he:

  • Gets snowball-bombed by the neighborhood bullies
  • Tears his pants before meeting the cutest new neighbor ever – Kate, played by one of my favorite actresses, Bailee Madison
  • Is dragged to go Christmas caroling in matching family sweaters
  • Is creamed at the traditional neighborhood football game
  • Is unfairly blamed for the Christmas tree catastrophe (Thanks older bro.)
  • Suffers through a disastrous holiday dinner, also indirectly attributed to him
  • Watches his grandfather’s unhappiness spill over into the rest of the family

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Before his grandfather huffs away, he gives Pete a mysterious box from “the old country” merely saying he could see Pete was having a bad day, and it was time to pass it on.

There’s nothing in the small wooden box. Another disappointment.

The only good thing about this Christmas is that Pete gets his room back and the day is over.

Or is it?  He wakes up again and suffers through the same nightmare.  It takes him a few more rounds (In the vein of Groundhog’s Day, and Edge of Tomorrow, Pete is doomed to repeat the same day over and over again until he gets it right; i.e., make it right.) to figure out that he’s not dreaming nor is anyone playing a trick on him.  It is in these first few repeats that I personally have a hard time exerting patience, yet I understand they are necessary for what’s to come. (Hence, it influenced my rating below.)

For that is when the fun begins. Pete starts playing with his foreknowledge and what he can do with it. He takes sweet revenge, although it sometimes backfires as he hones his skills.

After a few rounds of employing these tactics, his victories start to feel hollow. He digs deeper, takes a good look at himself, his family members, and his budding relationship with Kate. As he stops delighting in selfish antics, he begins to understand the struggles in the lives of his loved ones.

Instead of trying to changing his circumstances, he realizes that if he changes, perhaps that will impact the others. Try as he does, he seems to keep missing that final mark. So where does he turn to make it all right?

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(Hint: Pete’s final understanding of the box makes ALL the difference.)

This movie is a little off the beaten track.

How many Christmas films have the instrumental version of Radiohead’s song “Creep” almost continually in the background? One brother even calls another a weirdo at the right time. Here is Straight No Chaser’s version. Because it’s one of my haunting favorites, I’ll share part of the lyrics – clean version.

This could be the middle-child anthem.

CREEP by Radiohead (sample)
…But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo,
What am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.I don’t care if it hurts,
I want to have control,
I want a perfect body,I want a perfect soul,
I want you to notice,
When I’m not around,
You’re so very special,
I wish I was special.[Chorus:]
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo,
What am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.Oh, oh…

I give this under-the-radar (for now) movie a 4 of 5 Matching Christmas Sweaters. ♥♥♥♥
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CHRISTMAS MOVIE REVIEW 2016 – DAY 7 : A December Bride

I’ve mentioned my fascination with similarly themed Christmas movies. Once again, I managed to find – in close proximity – two movies that reminded me of one another. First I watched Hallmark’s 2016 A December Bride, written by Karen Berger, so I’ll review it first for Day 7.  We’ll visit Hallmark’s 2016 The Mistletoe Promise, written by Richard Paul Evans for Day 8.

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(Though different set-ups, the similarities involve secret pacts between the couples. For a hilarious secret pact, I suggest Hitched For the Holidays, which I reviewed in 2015.)

As soon as the main character, Layla, introduces her cousin Jessica to her fiancé Jack at a business function, her December wedding is doomed when they immediately hit it off.  We see Layla’s nervousness as she watches their eyes connect, and blames Seth, an acquaintance who suggests that Jessica and Jack could help each other business-wise. I wondered why she was so insecure at this late date and why she had to blame Seth?

Caving to family pressure, and having secured her cute neighbor as her date, she agrees to attend the wedding, but at the last minute, he gets sick. Desperate, she allows Seth to take her – to make it up to her – after they bump into one another near his office where she’s on her way to pitch her abilities as a professional house-stager to the realty developer in town, as she tries to move on from being an eternal design assistant. He’s not buying.

But, it turns out he’s a wedding guest, and  assumes she and Seth are a couple, so as a favor to Seth… he agrees to give Layla a trial run – if she can turn Seth’s pathetically under-decorated, yet luxurious bachelor home into a holiday paradise for the Christmas Tour of Homes.

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Okay, it’s not this bad.

(PS: Yes, we’ve seen the bachelor pad makeover before too, per A Bride For Christmas, which I also recommend from last year.)

As this puts her into direct competition with her boss, she’s promptly fired. Now she has to win the tour’s highest honor.  As she and Seth are linked together, they’re invited to more holiday functions as a couple, and somehow… to save face, it pops out that they’re engaged. They decide to carry the charade through until Christmas.

During the process of preparing Seth’s home for Christmas – trimming the tree, making wreaths, stringing popcorn – their attraction grows, though Layla holds back.

The unresolved issue of forgiving Jessica (and Jack) still weighs her down. One sticking point for me was not that Layla should forgive, rather it was that Jessica didn’t seem truly contrite – merely that all should be forgiven because she and Jack fell in love.

I felt there should be something more from Jessica. Where’s the sense of honor when the two cousins were so close? And, why did she also steal Layla’s dream of a December wedding? She is not the “December Bride” this movie is about.

However, all the story lines neatly wind up, so I give this movie 3.5 of 5 popcorn strands.

♥♥♥.5

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!  ♥♥♥♥♥ + ♥

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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A Dream of Christmas where Penny is the heroine.

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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.”
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  • 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. ♥♥♥

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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.

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

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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?

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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.

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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.)  ♥♥♥♥♥

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