Getting in the Holiday Spirit #3: A Christmas Accident (dir by Harold M. Shaw)


Tonight, as a part of my effort to get all of our readers into the holiday spirit, I present to A Christmas Accident, a silent film from 1912!  That’s right — this movie is 103 years old!  When this movie was first released, William Howard Taft was still President and the Ottoman Empire was still a thing!

Anyway, A Christmas Accident tells the story of rich and miserly Mr. Gilton.  Mr. Gilton shares a duplex with a large and impoverished family.  Mr. Gilton may be rich but he’s definitely not happy.  He spends his time arguing with his wife and harassing the local shop owner.  However, he reserves most of his anger for his neighbors.  When his dog dies, he accuses them of poisoning it.  When his wife’s meatloaf disappears, he accuses them of stealing it.

But then, on Christmas, something happens that causes Mr. Gilton to understand the true meaning of the holidays…

As I’ve stated many times here, I am a huge history nerd and films like A Christmas Accident fascinate me.  It’s amazing to see, firsthand, how people lived in 1912.  Add to that, A Christmas Accident holds up pretty well for a 103 year-old film.  William Wadsworth does a pretty good job as the Scrooge-like Mr. Gilton and, as the most prominent of the poor children, Edna Hammel is the epitome of the saintly (if poverty-stricken) children who dominated popular culture at the turn of the 20th Century.

Enjoy A Christmas Accident!

Cleaning Out The DVR: The Christmas Gift (dir by Fred Olen Ray)


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After I watched The Flight Before Christmas, it was time to continue cleaning out the DVR by watching The Christmas Gift!  The Christmas Gift was one of the first Christmas films to show up on Lifetime this year, premiering on November 30th.

Megan (Michelle Trachtenberg) is an ambitious writer who works for a tabloid magazine and who is frustrated by the fact that she’s only assigned to write articles about the best lip gloss for fair skin.  As well, her boorish boyfriend, and fellow journalist, Alex (Daniel Booko) not only dumps her but gets assigned the big story that she wanted!  Michelle’s editor, Cooper (Rick Fox), tells her that, if she really thinks that she deserves better assignments, then she needs to go out and find a story that proves it.

Megan returns home to discover that her aunt has sent her a package of her old belongings.  Going through it, Megan comes across a notebook that was anonymously given to her one Christmas many years ago.  The notebook — and the poem that was inscribed within — inspired Megan to become a writer.  She decides, for her story, to track down the person who gave her the notebook.

Her investigation leads her to Wesley Hardin Johnson, Jr. (Sterling Sulieman), who runs a foster care program.  Megan says that she wants to do a story about the program and the kids that Wesley is helping.  Wesley agrees, on the condition that the story be about the kids and not about him.  For reasons that only make sense when you consider that this is a Lifetime holiday film, Megan decides that this means that she shouldn’t tell him about the notebook.

Not only does Megan have a hit story but she and Wesley are also falling in love!  However, Megan then discovers why her aunt sent her all of her old stuff.  It turns out that her aunt’s retirement community is about to be leveled and repalced with condos.  And who is evicting Megan’s aunt?  None other than Wesley’s father, Wesley Hardin Johnson, Sr. (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs)…

Needless to say, it all leads to misunderstandings and conflicts but it’s nothing that can’t be solved within 90 minutes of narrative.  This is a Lifetime Christmas film, after all.  You watch it with the full knowledge that everything’s going to turn out okay.  The Christmas Gift is a good-natured and likable holiday movie and Michelle Trachtenberg does a pretty good job in the lead role.

Perhaps what is most interesting about The Christmas Gift is that it was directed by the incredibly prolific Fred Olen Ray, who is better known for directing horror films and thrillers than for directing sweet-natured family films.  (That said, if you look at his filmography, you’ll actually come across several movies that you wouldn’t normally associate with him.)  Someday, someone is going to write the definitive overview of Ray’s long and varied career and, hopefully, I will be one of the first to read it.

Cleaning Out The DVR: The Flight Before Christmas (dir by Peter Sullivan)


After watching The Spirit of Christmas, it time to continue cleaning out the DVR by watching The Flight Before Christmas.  The Flight Before Christmas originally aired on December 5th on the Lifetime network.  I was at a Christmas party and I totally missed it.

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The Flight Before Christmas is perhaps the epitome of your typical Lifetime holiday movie.  Stephanie (Mayim Bialik) has never had much luck in love but things are finally starting to look up!  She is planning on moving in with her boyfriend and she has already called her mother and let her know that she won’t be home for Christmas this year.  But then Stephanie’s boyfriend shows up and says that he’s changed his mind.  Not only will they not be moving in together but he wants to break up as well.

That’s it! Stephanie decides.  No more love, no more romance, no more risk of heart-break!  And, since she’s not going to be having hot, just-moved-in-together-sex this holiday season, she might as well just go back home to Connecticut.  She rushes to the airport and manages to get tickets on a flight back home.  Also, at the airport, she meets a jolly fat man with a twinkle in his eye.  His name is Noel Nichols (and is played by Bill Murray’s older brother, Brian Doyle-Murray) and … well, if you can’t guess what’s going on with Noel Nichols then you really haven’t seen that many Christmas movies.

Meanwhile, Michael Nolan (Ryan McPartin) is on the same flight as Stephanie.  Originally, he had seats in first class but, acting out of holiday generosity, he suddenly decides to switch seats with Noel Nichols!  (Are you sensing a pattern here?)  Michael ends up sitting right next to Stephanie.

Well, immediately, Michael and Stephanie don’t get along and we all know that means that they’re destined to fall in love.  However, Michael is flying to Boston so that he can ask his girlfriend, Courtney (Trilby Glover), to marry him.  No, Michael, she’s not right for you!

Fortunately, the plane runs into turbulence and is forced to land at the most romantic place on Earth … Bozeman, Montana.  Seeing as how they’re going to be stranded for a day or two, Stephanie finds a room at a local Bed and Breakfast.  She manages to get the last available room and then, despite claiming not to like him that much, she invites Michael to share the room with her…

Okay, so you’ve read the plot and you already know what’s going to happen.  There’s nothing surprising about The Flight Before Christmas but then again, holiday movies aren’t supposed to be surprising.  They’re light-hearted and somewhat silly and hopefully, you’ll feel good after you watch one.  The Flight Before Christmas is a sweet film that, for me, didn’t quite work.  Try as I might, I simply could not imagine Michael and Stephanie as a couple.  However, I did think that Brian Doyle-Murray did a great job as Noel Nichols.  If I ever meet Santa, I hope he’s just like Brian Doyle-Murray,

(Incidentally, this film ended with a dedication to Mayim Bialik’s father, Barry, who passed away earlier this year.  It was a sweetly sincere moment.)

 

Ho-Ho-Horror!: SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT (TriStar 1984)


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Deck the halls with slaughtered bodies, fa-la-la-lala, lala-la-la!

What better way to spend the Yuletide Season than with SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT, a movie about a psycho Santa running amok in Utah? This 1984 slasher shocker was directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr., usually associated with wholesome family fare like THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRIZZLY ADAMS, IN SEARCH OF NOAH’S ARK, and ANCIENT SECRETS OF THE BIBLE. But Sellier occasionally dipped his toes into exploitation (THE BOOGENS, THE ANNIHILATORS), and hit the bloody nail on the head with this one. The movie was considered controversial in its day, and TriStar actually pulled it from theaters a week after its release due to protests from national PTA groups. Today, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT is regarded as a classic of the slasher genre and holds up quite well next to fright films like FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

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We begin our tawdry…

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Cleaning out the DVR: The Spirit of Christmas (dir by David Jackson)


After watching Becoming Santa, it was time to continue cleaning out the DVR by watching The Spirit of Christmas, which originally premiered on Lifetime on December 19th.

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According to the imdb, The Spirit of Christmas was originally titled Hollygrove.  I imagine that, as often happens when Lifetime picks up a film, the network changed the title to make it a little more “Lifetimey.”  And The Spirit of Christmas is a totally appropriate title.  It takes place during Christmas and some of the main characters are spirits.  However, I have to say that I really prefer Hollygrove as a title.  Hollygrove sounds like the title of one of those gothic romances that my sisters and I love to read, the type where the covers always feature a woman in a nightgown staring back at a big dark house.  (The house is usually sitting on a cliff and waves are crashing below.)  This film may technically be a Christmas film but, at heart, it’s really a tribute to those wonderful paperback novels.

Kate (Jen Lilley) is a broker who, when we first meet her, is relieved that her boyfriend is breaking up with her.  Kate doesn’t have time for love.  Instead, she’s all about her career.  She also doesn’t have time for Christmas and, therefore, she doesn’t complain when her boss asks her spend the early part of her holiday driving out to a deserted inn and assessing the property.

The inn’s pretty nice but nobody wants to spend too much time there because, according to local legend, it’s haunted by its former owner, a bootlegger named Daniel (Thomas Beaudoin).  Well, you should never be too quick to dismiss local legend because, in this case, it’s true!  Spending the night at the Inn, which she believes to be deserted, Kate is shocked when she runs into Daniel wandering around the hallways!

Daniel, as she soon learns, was murdered 90 years ago on Christmas.  Daniel is hanging out around the Inn, still trying to figure out who murdered him and mourning his lost love, Lily (Kati Salowsky).  As Kate helps Daniel try to solve his murder, she finds herself falling in love with the spirit with the hipster beard.  But the holidays are nearly over, and with them Daniel’s time on Earth.  And, of course, Kate’s boss is demanding that she wrap up her appraisal and get back to work…

Anyway, I totally loved The Spirit Of Christmas.  Unlike some of the other Lifetime holiday movies, The Spirit of Christmas managed to mix the holidays with everything that we love about Lifetime movies — there was romance, there was murder, there was interior design, and most importantly, there were elaborate historical flashbacks.  Thomas Beaudoin had great chemistry with both Jen Lilley and Kati Salowsky and the whole film ended with a wonderfully romantic dance scene.  (And I absolutely loved that red dress that Kate was wearing!)  This was the perfect mix of Lifetime and the holidays.

Definitely, keep an eye out for The Spirit of Christmas!

 

Cleaning Out the DVR: Becoming Santa (dir by Christie Will)


Happy holidays!  Well, the year is almost over and soon, it will be time to look back upon all of the films that Lifetime aired over 2015 and announce my picks for the best.  However, before I do that, I need to take a look at the many Lifetime holiday movies that I currently have recorded on the DVR.  (I also need to clear up some space for 2016 because, seriously, that DVR fills up quickly!)

That’s right, it is the season for Lifetime Christmas movies!  And I’m not complaining.  (Or, at the very least, I’m not complaining too much.)  Myself, I love Lifetime movies because of the melodrama, the outrageous plot twists, the out-of-control teenagers, and the psycho boyfriends.  Lifetime Christmas movies tend to be a bit more life-affirming than your typical Lifetime film.  After spending 11 months watching films like Stolen From The Suburbs, Cleveland Abduction, The Bride He Bought Online, and A Deadly Adoption, it takes a bit of adjustment to then watch something like Becoming Santa.  It’s not that Becoming Santa doesn’t have its own merits.  It’s just that it’s so dramatically different from what we usually expect to see on Lifetime.

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Becoming Santa was the first movie that I rewatched in my attempt to clean out the DVR for the holidays.  It originally aired on Lifetime on December 12th.

Conner (Jesse Hutch) works for a toy company and is frustrated by the fact that he can’t get children to put down their phones long enough to get excited over a toy horse that he wants to mass produce.  However, despite his work frustrations, Conner is still happy because he’s in love with Holly Claus (Laura Bell Bundy).  In fact, he’s decided that the Christmas holiday would be the perfect time to ask Holly to marry him.  But first, he wants to get the blessing of Holly’s father.

That might be difficult, Holly explains, because her parents live up north.  Way up north.

However, Conner will not be dissuaded.  And, before you can say Meet The Parents and Little Fockers, Conner is heading up north to meet Holly’s parents.  Of course, on the way up north, Conner is conveniently passed out while Holly takes him through the secret portal that leads to the North Pole…

That’s right!  Holly Claus is the daughter of Santa Claus (Michael Gross) and Mrs. Santa (Meredith Baxter).  It takes Conner a while to realize this, though the fact that his future father-in-law has a big white beard and employs an elf named Mario (Gabe Khouth) should have been a big clue.  However, once Conner does figure it out, he’s okay with it.

But will he be okay with the fact that, if he marries Holly, he’ll be expected to take over the role of Santa Claus?  And, for that matter, how can klutzy Conner hope to compete with Holly’s ex-boyfriend, Jack Frost (Tony Cavalero)?  After all, Jack and Holly have so much in common…

As far as Lifetime holiday movies are concerned, I thought Becoming Santa was actually really cute.  The entire cast had a really sweet chemistry, Gabe Khouth brought an unexpected edge to the character of Mario the Elf, and Tony Cavalero was a lot of fun as Jack Frost.  Yes, I did have a hard time believing that Conner would miss so many obvious clues as to who Holly’s parents truly were but then again, it’s a Christmas movie on Lifetime.  It’s probably not too much to ask us to suspend our disbelief just a little bit!

Becoming Santa was a sweet movie.  It’s scheduled to be rebroadcast on Lifetime on Christmas Day.

Hallmark Review: The Magic Stocking (2015, dir. David Winning)


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And by the “Township of Gilford”, they mean Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, Canada, which based on the Street View on Google Maps looks like a beautiful place to live. The sign normally says Waterfront Commons Park. I know this because they left this shot in the movie and the town square is distinctive as well as the physical centerpiece of the film.

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Also, there is a British Columbia license plate later, but let’s introduce our leading lady named Lindsey Monroe played by none other than Bridget Regan.

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You know, Fiona from The Leisure Class.

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In this alternate universe she has a daughter from a previous marriage. That marriage came to an end because her husband died. I swear Hallmark movies kill more parents than any other movies I know about. The deal is that the mayor named Fred (Fred Henderson) wants her to work with Scott Terrell (Victor Webster) to restore the township’s historic gazebo.

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Scott is an odd duck. He insists that the gazebo be restored to the exact way it used to be, complete with period accurate Christmas lights, and it was even built by his grandfather, but he doesn’t have a picture of it himself because it’s convenient for the plot. Seriously, once he tells you why he is so stubborn about having a historical reference for the gazebo you keep asking yourself why he doesn’t have one already. I mean he even promised his grandfather about the gazebo. Yet, he will harass Lindsey about finding an accurate picture of how the gazebo used to look. He eventually does find it, but it’s a bit ridiculous up till then and feels like Lindsey is playing a point and click adventure looking for the item she needs to complete his quest.

Well, anyways, we have two more people. We already mentioned the daughter…

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and she wants a dog for Christmas, but instead, some random lady sells her a stocking. A magic stocking you might say. Enough of her though cause we now have Grandma Donna (Iris Quinn).

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She has shown up for Christmas with a tree in tow. What’s hilarious here is that they bothered to make sure her car has a Florida license plate and bumper sticker.

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Yet, there’s also this shot of a British Columbia license plate on Scott’s car.

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I’m not sure what’s up with that cause I don’t really remember any specific references to say this is supposed to take place in the US. However, it’s Hallmark, so I think it’s a fair assumption they want you to believe this is the US.

Once Donna shows up then you quickly stumble across the high point of this movie. It’s not Lindsey and Scott. It’s not the little girl and her stocking that delivers plot useful items when the camera cuts. It’s not even restoring the gazebo. It’s watching Fred and Donna together.

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Almost the instant she shows up, Mayor Fred knocks on the door to hit on her apparently having bought every flower at the shop for her. Really, I could and basically will just stop here and say this. The movie has the stocking delivering things from beyond, presumedly from the dead husband, to cheer up Lindsey and ultimately get the daughter a dog. Lindsey and Scott spend time together so they can end up together. The gazebo does get restored and they even get period specific Christmas lights for it. All the while we sit waiting for the scenes with Fred and Donna. They play well off each other. They aren’t wasted older actors like you see in some of these Hallmark movies. They are fun and full of life. They took what seriously is a rather dull and paint by numbers heart strings Hallmark movie and took it up a notch. I could watch a whole movie with just actors Fred Henderson and Iris Quinn together. If you’re already the Hallmark type, and you know who you are, then put up with the lackluster stuff for their scenes.

I guess there’s only a couple of other things to mention. Pay close attention to the conversation the daughter has with the mother about the dead father having wanted to get her a dog. I say this because otherwise the conversation between Lindsey and Donna at the end of the movie about the dog will leave you scratching your head thinking the daughter already knew what they say she doesn’t. I certainly was wondering and had to look back at my screenshots to figure out the subtle detail I missed.

Also, there’s a part where Donna leaves at night to go out with Fred, then we get a daytime scene with Lindsey followed by a night time scene where Donna returns from her date. Not sure if that’s a mistake or not. You’d think something simple like looking at the windows in the house when she leaves would tell you but…

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some of the windows say night and the others say day, but when she returns…

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those same daytime windows tell you night and in between is an unmistakable daytime scene.

Oh, well. Who cares? Donna seems to have had a really good time.

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This may be called Magic Stocking and there are other plot elements here, but you are watching this for the chemistry between actors Fred Henderson and Iris Quinn. Just know that going in.