Lifetime Christmas Movie Review: Christmas Perfection (dir by David Jackson)


For me, Christmas Perfection was about as perfect as a Christmas film can get.

It’s all about Darcy (Caitlin Thompson), who grew up dreaming of the type of perfect Christmas that she never actually got to experience.  Her parents are divorced and can hardly handle being in the same room together.  Her best friend has the type of dark sense of humor that doesn’t always go along with Yuletide joy.  Her best friend since childhood, Brandon (James Henri-Thomas), is obviously in love with her but Darcy continually insists that he’s just a friend.  She dreams of a perfect boyfriend, one who makes every Christmas special.

Every December, Darcy sets up her Christmas village.  It’s a recreation of the perfect Irish village that she always used to hear about when she was younger and it’s full of figures that are based on the people from Darcy’s life.  Darcy has created the perfect world in which she wishes she could live.

And then one day, through a little Christmas magic, Darcy wakes up in her perfect village!

It’s a village where every day is Christmas.  Every day, Darcy wakes up and puts on a perfect Christmas sweater.  Her parents, who love each other and never fight in this perfect fantasy world, start every day with a perfectly prepared breakfast.  In her perfect Christmas village, everyone gathers in the pub and dances and Darcy ends up each day by making a snowman with her perfect boyfriend, Tom (Robbie Silverman).

Everything’s perfect, right?

But then, something unexpected happens.  Suddenly, Brandon shows up!  It turns out that, through the same magic that transported Darcy, Brandon is now a part of the Christmas village.  Brandon takes one look around and tells Darcy that this is insane.  She’s created a world that’s so perfect that it’s also a prison.  By creating a rigidly perfect Christmas, Darcy has lost sight of what the holiday is all about!

Darcy dismisses Brandon’s concerns.  But, as day after day passes, she starts to realize that a world without spontaneity isn’t a world worth living in.  Tom may be the idealized guy but that also means that, at the end of every day, he’s going to make the exact snowman in the exact same way and he’s not going to listen to Darcy’s suggestions for how they could make the snowman different.  I mean, everyone knows what a snowman is supposed to look like, right?

Now, I know this might sound like it’s just a Christmas-themed version of Groundhog Day and certainly, that’s a legitimate comparison.  That said, I still liked the film.  It even brought tears to my mismatched, multi-colored eyes.  I looked at Darcy and I watched her obsessive attempts to make the holidays perfect and, as a child of divorce, I knew exactly what she was going through.  Year after year, you wonder why you couldn’t keep your parents together and you fool yourself into thinking that, if you can just get them together for one perfect day, you can magically erase all of the pain and sadness of the year before.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that and sometimes, like Darcy, we spend so much time pursuing an idealized dream that we forget that there’s still joy and happiness to be found in the messiness of reality as well.  It may not always be easy to find but it’s there.  You just have to be willing to look for it.

The film may be called Christmas Perfection but it’s message is that Christmas and families and friends don’t have to be perfect to be special.  And that’s a good message for us all.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Off The Rails (dir by David Jackson)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 205 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only two months to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Off The Rails off of the Lifetime Movie Network on March 26th!)

Oh, poor Nicole (Hannah Barefoot)!

When we first meet her, Nicole is recovering from amnesia.  She knows that she was injured in a catastrophic train derailment.  She knows that she’s married to Mark (Thomas Beaudoin), who seems like the perfect husband.  She knows that her therapist is Dr. Teres (Andrea Cirie).  She knows that she’s oddly obsessed with maps and that she teaches at the local college.  However, she is still not totally sure what her life was like before the accident.  And sometimes, she wonders if she can actually trust Mark.  For instance, she suspects that, while she was in her coma, Mark added onto the deck in the back yard.  Mark swears that it was her idea but why would she want to do that?

Nicole is also convinced that she has never had a Facebook account.  She swears that she’s never been on Twitter.  She doesn’t even know what Instagram is!  “You call me a Luddite!” she says to one of her friends, “I do remember that!”  But, if that’s true, why do all of her friends swear that they’ve talked to her on Facebook?  And why are all sorts of sleazy men approaching her, all claiming that they met her online?

That’s not all Nicole has to worry about.  There’s also the weird visions that she’s having, many of them involving being watched by a menacing-looking raven.  And then there’s the French Canadian photographer (Andreas Damm).  Nicole is not sure who he is but she sure did take a lot of happy pictures with him.  Could it be that she wasn’t as happy in her marriage as both Mark and her therapist insist?

There were some parts of Off The Rails that I really liked.  The story was, at times, genuinely intriguing and I always appreciate it whenever Lifetime films mix a little surrealism in with the melodrama.  The first part of the film does a very good of creating a properly ominous atmosphere and Hannah Barefoot does a good job portraying Nicole’s confusion and paranoia.  Obviously, it demanded a considerable suspension of disbelief to buy into the idea that Nicole could possibly be so ignorant of social media in 2017 but then again, that’s Lifetime for you.  Social media is always the source of all evil in the world of Lifetime.

Unfortunately, there’s a twist at the end of Off The Rails that simply does not work and it actually cheapens the film a bit.  I understand that it’s a Lifetime film and that, therefore, things can never end on too dark of a note but, in this case, the movie’s story demanded and deserved an ending that was just a bit more bittersweet.

Still, I’d recommend Off the Rails.  Up until that final shot, it’s a nicely done Lifetime mystery.  You’ll probably figure out the solution early but it’s still entertainingly melodramatic and just weird enough to be worthwhile.

 

2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the year 2016 with the best of Lifetime!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2016!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

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Best Picture
Bad Sister, produced by Robert Ballo, Timothy O. Johnson, Rukmani Jones, Ken Sanders
The Cheerleader Murders, produced by Sharon Bordas, Arthur Edmonds III, Hannah Pillemer, Fernando Szew, Jennifer Westin
Girl in the Box, produced by Stephen Kemp, Charles Tremayne, Thomas Vencelides
Inspired to Kill, produced by Johnson Chan, Michael Fiefer, Douglas Howell, Stephanie Rennie, Vincet Reppert, Nathan Schwab, Tammana Shah, Shawn Tira
Manson’s Lost Girls, produced by Nancy Bennett, Kyle A. Clark, Lawrence Ducceschi, Joan Harrison, Jonathan Koch, Stephen Kronish, Steven Michaels, Lina Wong
Mommy’s Little Girl, produced by Tom Berry, Steve Boisvert, Neil Bregman, Cinthia Burke, Christine Conradt, Curtis Crawford, Pierre David, Donald M. Osborne, Andrew E. Pecs
*A Mother’s Escape, produced by Sharon Bordas, Lori Bell Leahy, Michael Leahy, Kristofer McNeeley, Fernando Szew
My Sweet Audrina, produced by Dan Angel, David Calvert-Jones, Harvey Kahn, Kane Lee, Tom Mazza, Mike Rohl, Jane Startz
The Night Stalker, produced by Matthew R. Brady, Patrick G. Ingram, Michel Rangel, Alisa Tager
The Wrong Car, produced by Mark Donadio, Miriam Marcus, Molly Martin, Michael O’Neil

Best Director
Doug Campbell for Bad Sister
Megan Griffiths for The Night Stalker
*Blair Hayes for A Mother’s Escape
David Jackson for The Cheerleader Murders
Leslie Libman for Manson’s Lost Girls
Mike Rohl for My Sweet Audrina

Best Actress
*Tara Buck in A Mother’s Escape
India Eisley in My Sweet Audrina
MacKenzie Mauzy in Manson’s Lost Girls
Alyshia Ochse in Bad Sister
Karissa Lee Staples in Inspired To Kill
Addison Timlin in Girl in the Box

Best Actor
Zane Holtz in Girl in the Box
Lou Diamond Phillips in The Night Stalker
*Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor: The Return
Antonio Sabato, Jr in Inspired To Kill
Jason-Shane Scott in The Wrong Roommate
Jeff Ward in Manson’s Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actress
*Toni Atkins in My Sweet Audrina
Eden Brolin in Manson’s Lost Girls
Zoe De Grande Maison in Pregnant at 17
Beth Grant in A Mother’s Escape
Ryan Newman in Bad Sister
Zelda Williams in Girl in the Box

Best Supporting Actor
Blake Berris in Wrong Swipe
Rogan Christopher in Pregnant at 17
*Rhett Kidd in The Wrong Car
Christian Madsen in Manson’s Lost Girls
William McNamara in The Wrong Roommate
James Tupper in My Sweet Audrina

Best Screenplay
Bad Sister, Barbara Kymlicka
*The Cheerleader Murders, Matt Young
Girl in the Box, Stephen Kemp
Mommy’s Little Girl, Christine Conradt
A Mother’s Escape, Mike Bencivenga, Blair Hayes, Kristofer McNeeley
My Sweet Audrina, Scarlett Lacey

Best Cinematography
The Cheerleader Murders, Denis Maloney
Mommy’s Little Girl, Bill St. John
*A Mother’s Escape, Samuel Calvin
My Sweet Audrina, James Liston
The Night Stalker, Quyen Tran
The Wrong Car, Terrence Hayes

Best Costuming
Girl in the Box, Barb Cardoso, Tania Pedro
Manson’s Lost Girls, Dorothy Amos
*My Sweet Audrina, Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh
The Night Stalker, Rebecca Luke
The Red Dress, Sophie Pace
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Mary McLeod

Best Editing
The Cheerleader Murders, Eric Potter
Girl in the Box, Julian Hart
Manson’s Lost Girls, Josh Hegard
*A Mother’s Escape, Travis Graalman
My Sweet Audrina, Charles Robichaud
The Night Stalker, Celia Beasley

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Girl in the Box, Claudia Breckenridge, Jen Fisher, Oriana Rossi, Alex Rotundo, Collette Tolen
Killing Mommy, Cinthia Burke, Christie Capustinsky, Kevin Crawley, Kirsten Fairfield, Margaret Harding-Crawley, Corey J. Stone
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Jenni Brown Greenberg, Randi Mavestrand, Kelly Muldoon, Natalie Thimm
A Mother’s Escape, Jenny Hausam, Toni Mario
My Sweet Audrina, Alannah Bilodeau
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Tara Hadden-Watts, Alexandra Holmes

Best Original Score
911 Nightmare, David Findlay
*The Cheerleader Murders, Cladue Foisy
Inspired To Kill, Brandon Jarrett
A Mother’s Escape, Todd Haberman
My Sweet Audrina, Graeme Coleman
The Wrong Car, Ed Grenga

Best Production Design
Bad Sister, Lia Burton, Danielle Lee
Girl in the Box, Andrew Berry, Jere Sallee
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Cynthia E. Hill, Linda Spheeris
A Mother’s Escape, Zackary Steven Graham
My Sweet Audrina, Tink, Janessa Hitsman
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, James Robbins, Courtney Stockstad, Amanda Christmas

Best Sound
*Center Stage: On Pointe
The Cheerleader Murders
Honeymoon from Hell
I Have Your Children
Inspired to Kill
Toni Braxton: Unreak My Heart

Best Visual Effects
Final Destiny
*Flashback
House of Darkness
The Inherited
Little Girl’s Secret
The Watcher

Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you for keeping us entertained in 2016!

Want to see my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2015?  Click here!

And if you want to see my picks from 2014, click here!

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2016 with the 16 worst films of the year!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #16: The Cheerleader Murders (dir by David Jackson)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by July 10th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)

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The 16th film on my DVR was The Cheerleader Murders and what can I say other than, “Yay!”  No, no — it’s not that I dislike cheerleaders.  While I did frequently turn down the chance to become a cheerleader while I was in high school, that was solely because my sister, our own Dazzling Erin, was already a cheerleader and I was going through one of my “I want to be known for being myself” phases.  No, I was excited about rewatching The Cheerleader Murders because I remembered that this was one of the best films to ever premiere on Lifetime!

As I started to watch The Cheerleader Murders, I found myself wondering whether it would stand up to a second viewing.

Well, it more than stood up.  If anything, The Cheerleader Murders is even better the second time around!

The Cheerleader Murders plays out like an odd combination of YA fiction and disturbing horror.  The film opens with a few scenes of disaster and what’s interesting is that, while all of the scenes are tragic, they’re also darkly humorous.  We see a car full of cheerleaders and jocks crash, killing everyone inside.  We see the prom king and queen falling to their death while trying to get the perfect selfie.  As these disasters play out, we hear our narrator, Ellie (Samantha Boscarino), explaining that her hometown is cursed.  It’s all so cheerfully morbid that, from the minute it began, I was in love with this film.

What’s that?  Oh, you don’t believe that Ellie and her town are cursed?  Well, just consider this.  When Ellie was thirteen, her older sister broke up with her boyfriend.  So the boyfriend broke into the house, killed her sister, and then shot Ellie’s father as Ellie watched!

THAT’S A CURSE RIGHT THERE!

Jump forward three years later.  Ellie is now a 16 year-old cheerleader.  She’s popular and she’s also a good student.  Though you have to wonder about the standards of her high school because she goes to one of those Lifetime high schools where no one ever has to actually go to class or anything like that.  Instead, everyone hangs out at the lockers and gossips.  Even better, if you do go to class, you can apparently just walk out whenever you want.  This happens several times during this film and we never actually hear a teacher say anything like, “Wait!  You can’t just stand up and walk out of class just because your friend is motioning to you from the hallway!”

Ellie has everything but she’s still convinced that she’s cursed.  If she’s not cursed then how do you explain the mysterious disappearance of two her fellow cheerleaders?  Admittedly, one of the cheerleaders is found rather quickly.  Or, I should say, her bloody, severed foot is found rather quickly.  Someone spots it off the side of the road.  (The camera zooms in on the big toe so that we can see the heart that she painted on her the nail.  That’s the type of cheerfully over-the-top film that The Cheerleader Murders is.)  The other cheerleader eventually shows up in orange grove, being chased by a masked man with a huge knife.

Like any good YA heroine, Ellie is determined to solve the mystery.  Fortunately, she has help.  Her dead father shows up occasionally and offers up cryptic advice.  Ellie also has frequent dreams, some of which are rather dark and disturbing by Lifetime standards.

The more that Ellie digs into the mystery, the more obvious it becomes that she knows absolutely no one who isn’t sleazy or insane.  Who killed the cheerleaders?  Was it the school weirdo or the two jealous nerds who are always gossiping about the dead?  Maybe it was the coach, who was apparently having an affair with both a cheerleader and Ellie’s favorite teacher.  Or perhaps that teacher got jealous and decided to seek revenge!  And, come to think of it, Ellie’s boyfriend seems like he might have some issues too.  And, of course, there’s Ellie.  Who is to say that the curse hasn’t driven her insane?  It’s hard not to notice that, whenever the killer strikes, Ellie is usually riding her bicycle right past the crime scene.

One of the more interesting things about the film is that no one else at the high school seems to be that upset over the dead cheerleaders.  The school year goes on.  The remaining cheerleaders continue to cheer at all the football games and, with the exception of Ellie, nobody even seems to shed a single tear over all the teenagers dying in town.  Along with the ghosts and the nightmares and the constant shots of Ellie intensely riding her bicycle from crime scene to crime scene, all of this conspires to give The Cheerleader Murders an oddly surreal feel.

The Cheerleader Murders is one of my favorite Lifetime film because it literally has no boundaries.  There is no moment too over-the-top that this film cannot find an excuse to include it.  The acting is good, the horror (and there is horror) is effective, and the mystery is cheerfully ludicrous.  Make sure you catch The Cheerleader Murders the next time it’s on Lifetime because seriously, this film is a classic!

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(By the way, I made Erin watch The Cheerleader Murders with me when it originally aired.  She said it was actually a pretty accurate portrayal of the life of a cheerleader, except for the murders.)

 

 

Hallmark Review: The Wishing Well (2009, dir. David Jackson)


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It’s not often that I review two movies from two relatively different sources that are both by the same director, but that’s the case this time. David Jackson is also the director who brought the Halloweentown series to an end with Return To Halloweentown. This time he took on something much easier than ripping off Harry Potter with a miscast lead. It’s about a wishing well! Sort of.

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The movie begins before the title card appears, and we meet Abby Jansen played by Jadin Gould. She will be your smiling one-dimensional little girl for the movie. I mean your Hallmark Bailee Madison stand-in for the movie. Then we cut to stock footage of New York City before we meet our leading lady named Cynthia Tamerline played by Jordan Ladd.

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She works for Celeb magazine where not only is Charles Shaughnessy her boss, but her secretary is Lurch with a nose ring.

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Obviously this movie needs to find an excuse to get Cynthia out with the country folk now. That’s why Shaughnessy calls her in and tells her either publish, perish, or become a nanny for my kids. He suggests that she write a story for one of his other magazines called Great Housekeeping. It’s for people who think Good Housekeeping just isn’t good enough. I thought she chose to write about a woman named Angela and her charity to save the vampire flies, but somehow that will cause her to end up in Slow Creek, Illinois to find a celebrity who may have visited their wishing well. But before that, she looks up Angela’s push to save the vampire fly on CelebrityCauses.us. No affiliation with CelebrityCauses.org. This one has Darcy from A Gift Of Miracles writing for it too.

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This time she ripped off numerous encyclopedia entries about flies, but it is a little odd that she copied from the United Church Of God’s magazine Vertical Thought.

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Anyways, she’s off to Slow Creek, Illinois, which is the “Home of the Wishing Well.” Not just any wishing well, but the Wishing Well. That is till the 2011 Canadian film Wishing Well came out to give them some stiff competition for that title.

She arrives at the hotel where she is going to stay and finds that Ernest Borgnine runs the place. Cynthia is in town for a story that she can take back to Celeb magazine…I thought. Regardless, this is where I am obligated to say that these townsfolk are probably hiding a terrible secret about a Muslim American solider who died overseas and whose father was murdered in the town. I mean the movie has Borgnine, it’s a small town, and Cynthia’s last name is Tamerline which is close enough to Cass Timberlane played by Spencer Tracy in the movie of the same name. That meant while watching this movie, I immediately thought of the film Bad Day At Black Rock (1955) which had Tracy and Borgnine in it. Great movie by the way that I simply updated to a modern context. Here’s the trailer.

But onward with this movie now.

Annoying little girl tells us that wishes come true if you believe and make the right wish. Then we find out that not only is the hotel run by someone Retired and Extremely Dangerous, but that the diner is run by ‘Hot Lips’ O’Houlihan (Sally Kellerman).

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Now Cynthia visits the local paper and finds out that it’s run by the little girl’s dad played by Jason London.

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So this is what happened to Eric Camden’s associate pastor’s twin brother.

Cynthia starts to look into this wishing well of theirs. Turns out it was once a hot attraction, but then this happened.

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Don’t you just hate it when your ex shows up and your wish doesn’t come true, but your ex’s does. Now writer Enid Jones had it out for the well.

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But this isn’t enough for her so she goes to dig in the archives. Long story short, Ronald Reagan once visited their well back in the 1960’s.

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That and a UFO was seen on a farm in Slow Creek. Interesting! What else is interesting is that they didn’t pull this Reagan and a wishing well thing completely out of their ass. Reagan actually did visit a wishing well in Dublin, Ireland back in the 1980s. Hmmm…I guess that means I need to listen to some Irish music while I finish writing this review. Well, Dropkick Murphys (Flannigan’s Ball) is Irish enough for someone who is a quarter Irish and from the Bay Area.

Oh, and since Reagan was mentioned. I guess I need to break out Genesis’ Land Of Confusion as well.

More annoying girl, and then Cynthia wakes up the next day to find out that she is now in the Twilight Zone. She is just somebody who has been hired as a local reporter. She calls up people back in New York City, but they don’t know who she is. She doesn’t try to tell them anything personal that only she would know, but just keeps calling.

This is when you can say the film goes on autopilot. Cynthia becomes more of a fixture in the town and discovers just how important this paper is to its residents. The paper is in trouble and might be bought out soon. The little girl is still annoying. A guy dies and she writes his obituary. Another guy sets his house on fire trying to beat his record for how many of his collectible lighters he can have going at once. I’m not making that up. During the scene where he explains his little game and current record I said to my dad that he didn’t mention this is the third house he’s gone through playing this game. Then she is waking up in bed to a phone call telling her his place is burning down. Of course! She writes an article that moves people about the fire. Finally, the townsfolk watch a meteor storm.

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Then this big city guy’s mustache shows up to buy the paper. It’s okay though because it turns out the guy who died left a huge amount of money to the paper in his will. I guess that’s better than the huge wad of cash in a can from Christmas Land.

Now just in case you thought you were finally getting this Twilight Zone like story, she wakes up on a plane back to New York City to receive praise for the story she wrote for the magazine. Yep, makes as much sense as you think it does. By that, I mean very little. She leaves her job at Celeb magazine and goes back to Slow Creek where smiley and her dad know who she is. Then it just ends abruptly.

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That’s it! It’s quite lousy. Even my Dad said this was a stinker and he’s usually easy to please with these movies. No reason to waste your time with this. Go watch Bad Day At Black Rock instead.

Since I happened to catch her this way. I’m really sorry Jordan.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to throw a coin in a wishing well because I’m shipping up to Boston to find my wooden leg and I can use all the luck I can get.

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!

 

Halloween Film Review: Return To Halloweentown (2006, dir. David Jackson)


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We’ve reached the end of the Halloweentown movies. I love how the trivia section for this movie on IMDb says that “Kimberly J. Brown has publicly stated her disappointment with the recasting of her role for unknown reasons even though Brown was fully available for the shoot.” Unknown reasons?

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Hmm…flip her around.

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Yeah, unknown reasons. Seriously, they parade Sara Paxton around at the beginning of this movie just to make sure you know they got a girl with tits, ass, and a slinky figure. I’m sure there were other reasons as well, but the Disney Channel does like to hire these kinds of girls. That’s not to say that I don’t like actresses such as Dove Cameron, Bella Thorne, or Debby Ryan, but they all share something in common aside from being entertaining. And let’s be fair to Sara Paxton, this movie wasn’t going to work anyways. Even if they had cast Brown in the role. Paxton isn’t a bad actress either. She’s just cast against type. When the three Sinister sisters show up to harass Paxton, Paxton looks like she should be with them. If they wanted to have Paxton in the movie, then they should have condensed the three Sinister sisters into one character who is sweet and kind, but ultimately evil, and cast Paxton in that part. She seems like she could have nailed that role. Let’s talk about the movie.

After we see some scary things such as a pumpkin, a gargoyle, and Sara Paxton, we see the most terrifying thing of all.

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And if I didn’t know that there is a scene later in the movie where Reynolds is physically in the same room with Paxton, then I’d say that she is in this movie the way Pierre Kirby is in Movie A within a Godfrey Ho film.

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Luckily, hot mom played by Judith Hoag returns who by the way played the original April O’Neal in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990). It’s funny that they replaced a girl like Hoag with Megan Fox, just like they replaced Kimberly J. Brown with Sara Paxton.

Joey Zimmerman also returns as the brother who only exists to be a smartass. But what about that younger sister that made such an impression on me that I don’t think I even mentioned her existence in my reviews of the other films? Yeah, they wrote her out of the movie. Now it’s off to Witch’s University in Halloweentown.

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At least the cab driver makes an appearance in this movie. But they can’t even get him right. His face doesn’t move properly. I don’t remember his face making that much bone on bone noise. And I certainly don’t remember his jokes being so lame. Oh, well. We now arrive at Hogwarts…I mean Witch’s University where we meet the main villain of the movie named Silas Sinister.

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That’s all well and good Silas, but I’ve seen Monster High and this guy has a much more impressive title.

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This is when Paxton runs into the three Sinister sisters.

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We can tell they’re evil not because they are rejects from Mean Girls (2004), but because they are desperately trying to make you forget that Paxton is miscast by acting over the top bad. Then we meet totally not Lucius Malfoy.

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He informs Paxton that use of magic on campus will be grounds for immediate dismissal. As we find out, it’s Paxton’s fault. As you may recall, Marnie was bragging that she opened the portal between the real world and Halloweentown at the beginning of Halloweentown High. That resulted in a bunch of students from Halloweentown going to real world colleges. As a result, Witch’s University needed to increase enrollment so they opened it up to creatures other than witches. To level the academic playing field, witches are not allowed to use magic. We find this out when we meet Paxton’s Resident Advisor (RA) who is a genie.

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I had an RA that was a gay business major who was followed by an Apartment Assistant (AA) that was an optometrist when I went to college. But I guess if they had her twitch her nose in one scene to get in a reference to Bewitched, and they’ve referenced everything else, then throw in I Dream Of Jeannie as well. Two more pieces of setup before I can leap over the rest of this nonsense, which includes time travel again. Yeah, because that part was clearly the best part of Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge.

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That’s Paxton’s boy toy for this movie.

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And that’s what the rest of the movie revolves around. Basically, Paxton is extremely powerful, and a group called the Dominion wants to use her to rule over the world. The rest of the movie is about that, which includes a scene where Paxton goes far back in time to find an old queen played by herself who becomes the Debbie Reynolds character. And how does it end?

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Well, how do you think it ends? The same way as the others. The Cromwell witches use their magic to allegedly destroy the special amulet thingy that is like the ring from The Lord Of The Rings. They even directly reference Charmed again by having Paxton say “by the power of 3” before she, Hoag, and smartass brother do their thing. And yes, I said “allegedly” because they didn’t actually destroy it, but hid it away in case they wanted to make a sequel.

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Actually, even though this didn’t work, I could’ve gotten behind a sequel where the brother turns evil. I mean they already used the term the Dominion and one of the things that made Star Trek: Deep Space Nine great is how long they spent slowly building up the ultimate war between the Federation and the Dominion. It could have been neat to see this character that was simmering on the back burner come to the forefront. Oh, well.

As you might have already noticed, this thing was doomed. One, shows or franchises that make the jump to college are the exception, not the rule. There is far too much upheaval that occurs when you do that. Two, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch was off the air, Charmed had worn out it’s welcome, and Harry Potter had just cranked up the maturity level to the point where kids not only could, but did die in that universe. It was also dominating the kids at a magic school thing in 2006, which this tried to compete with. The Disney Channel couldn’t compete. Sure Wizards of Waverly Place came out the next year, but that didn’t try to do the Harry Potter thing. Finally, the first film was a fluke, the second film fixed the problems of the first, and the third film should have spawned a TV Show, but didn’t. This just wasn’t going to happen.

Ultimately, a disappointing end to a reasonably enjoyable series of Halloween themed movies. Now I just need to watch those two Twitches movies before they expire at the end of this month.