Showing posts with label The Santa Summit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Santa Summit. Show all posts

Thursday, November 30, 2023

What's the Deal With Those Hallmark Holiday Movies? - Rosy the Reviewer Weighs in - Which Movies Will Make Your Holiday Bright and Which Movies Will Turn You Into the Grinch?

It's that time of year again.  Hallmark holiday movies abound, and I have to admit, I have not really fallen for them in past years, but I decided to do my duty for you, do a bit of bingeing to see if any of them would get my holiday bells ringing and to help you decide which ones you should watch. You are welcome.

Now we all know that all Hallmark holiday movies are pretty much the same.  The most common storyline involves an overstressed, overworked woman who returns to her sweet small hometown and meets a farmer/storekeeper/ widower (fill in the blank) and falls in love while at the same time finding a more meaningful life either by winning some home-spun competition or by saving the town when some corporate bad guy wants to foreclose on the hotel/store/farm (fill in the blank). 

Other tropes involve:

  • Man and woman " meet cute" or "meet ugly" - Meeting "ugly" - you know, the opposite of "meet cute." "Meet cute" is some adorable way a couple meets - he knocks her over in a park and they bond over their love of Jerry Lewis movies (look it up) or some other oddity. "Meet ugly" means they immediately hate each other.
  • Boy meets girl, boy loses girl...girl meets boy, girl loses boy...they find each other know the drill.
  • There is often a dog, a well-meaning older person, magical entity or device or an overly precocious child who brings our couple together (don't get me started on overly precocious children in movies)!
  • Sometimes someone dies or royalty is involved (usually the boyfriend turns out to be a prince) 
  • Often starring mostly unknown actors or ex-child stars needing a career boost
  • Someone sings a Christmas song
  • Often filmed in Canada but pretending to be in the U.S.
  • Always a message
  • And, of course, it snows. 

All of the movies have some or all of those components.  

So why do we watch if we know how they are going to turn out?  We watch because the predictability is comforting and all of these movies end with some important message that reminds us of the meaning of the holidays - be kind, show grace toward others, be generous, love your family and find the courage to live a meaningful life.  Or something like that.

So let's get in the mood. Put on your Santa hat, start a fire in the fireplace, cuddle up under a fluffy blanket, get a glass of wine and cozy up to the TV with me for some holiday cheer.  And remember, I do this all for you.  

Happy Holidays.

The Santa Summit (2023)

Liam (Benjamin Hollingsworth) and Jordan (Hunter King) meet at a "Santa Summit."

What's a "Santa Summit?"

It's a holiday celebration where everyone in town goes bar hopping dressed like a Santa.  Liam finds and returns Jordin's wallet that sports an adorable embroidered house on it that she designed herself.  It's her dream house. You see, she never got to live in a nice house.  Fittingly, turns out Liam is a builder. There is an instant attraction, even though they are dressed as Santas and never take off their beards. Something in the eyes. But then they get separated and since they forgot to share their info, how will they find each other in a sea of Santas?

Well, we know they will, but remember, it's the journey.  And is this an enjoyable journey?  Well...yes it is, thanks to an engaging cast: Liam and his brother, Mac (Dan De Jaeger); Jordin and her friends - the grumpy, Stella (Stephanie Sy), and Ava (Amy Groening), the "Lord of the Rings" fan - both of whom are looking for love; and others they meet along the way.

Written by Russell Hainline and directed by Jeff Beesley, there are many of those "just missing each other set ups" and little adventures as the two run around town trying to reconnect. Do we care if they find each other?  Of course, it's Christmas!  Don't be a Grinch!

King and Hollingsworth are engaging actors as are the rest of the ensemble and they create a fun holiday atmosphere.

Only a few of the usual Hallmark movie tropes are in evidence here -

  • The two "meet cute" and bond over their love of tacos and the movie "Casablanca" - check
  • Liam is a builder who has just moved to Jordin's small town to get away from a job he didn't like and to find meaning  - check
  • By meets girl, boy loses girl and vice versa but they find each other- check
  • Someone sings a Christmas song - check
  • Filmed in Canada with unknown actors - How did I know it was filmed in Canada?  When one of the actors said the word "about," it came out "aboot." - check
  • And there is a message: "You don't become happy because you find love.  You find love because you are already happy."  And here much of the happiness comes from friendship - check and check.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fun little romp that will warm your heart and make you look for some mistletoe.

A World Record Christmas (2023)

Based on a true story, a young Washington State autistic teen attempts to break a world record by stacking Jenga blocks.

Charlie (Aias Dalman) wants one thing for Christmas.  He want to break a world record.  And that's actually not an odd thought because he lives in a town known for breaking a Guinness world record every year (this year the town is going for wrapping the most presents in an hour).  So what does Charlie decide to do?  He decides to break the world record for stacking Jenga blocks onto one vertical block. The record is 1400 blocks! He also gets the idea to get the town involved by making his attempt a fundraiser for autistic kids. Decorate a Jenga block and help a kid.

But Charlie is also hoping his breaking the record will get the attention of his  absent biological Dad, Peter (Matt Hamilton).  He believes his Dad is absent because he is ashamed of him. Considering his Dad lives nearby, no, Charlie, he's just a jerk.  Charlie also wants the attention of his friend, Amy (Daphne Hoskins), whom he is starting to have feelings for. Meanwhile, Charlie's mother, Marissa (Nikki Deloach), and stepdad, Eric (Lucas Bryant), are very supportive parents but they are struggling with a bad patch in their marriage.

Written by Mark Hefti and Antonio Cupo and based on the real life story of Aulden Maxwell, who in fact broke the world record for stacking jenga blocks and who makes a cameo appearance, this is a refreshing break from the usual Hallmark holiday movie fare. It feels natural and real.  And yes, Charlie is autistic but that is not portrayed as a limitation nor is it necessarily the centerpiece. He's just a kid who wants his Dad to be proud of him. Directed by Jason Bourque, this movie is all about family.  And did I say it's heart-warming?  Well, it is. And I mean that in a good way. No cheese here.

The actors are wonderful - believable and real, especially Aias, the young autistic actor who plays Charlie. And much of the action takes place in a library, of which I approve.

Yes, it's supposed to be Washington State and was filmed in Canada, but that's the only predictable trope. Well it snows, too, but this Hallmark holiday film is able to avoid the often cheesy tropes to give us a film about acceptance, about family, about community, and one that focuses on a mature romance. It also reminds us that one doesn't need to be a biological Dad to be a real Dad.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is what the holiday season is supposed to be about.  Do yourself a favor and see this film. It's destined to be a classic. It will make even the most Grinchiest of you shed a happy tear or two.

A Biltmore Christmas (2023)

A screenwriter is hired to rewrite a classic 1947 holiday movie and finds herself transported back in time to the set of the original film.

Lucy Hardgrove (Bethany Joy Lenz) is a screenwriter and gets her dream job - writing the script for a remake of a beloved 1947 holiday movie, "His Merry Wife!" (think "It's a Wonderful Life.") "His Merry Wife!" was filmed at the historic Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, so when the head of the studio doesn't like the ending that Lucy has written for the remake because it deviates from the original's happy ending (she is a bit of a cynic about happy endings and doesn't believe people really makes sacrifices for those they love), he sends her to the Biltmore Estate for inspiration and to rethink her ending.

While there, Lucy is transported back in time to the original 1947 set of "His Merry Wife!" thanks to a magical hour glass and she meets the star of the film, Jack Huston (Kristoffer Polaha) and they fall in love. She is able to hop back and forth with the help of the hourglass and Margaret (A.K. Benninghofen), a goofy woman she meets there, and Lucy actually finds herself in the movie but you know what happens when you travel back in time, right? When you do it, you run the risk of changing the future so Lucy must stay back in 1947 to make things right before she can return to the future.

Directed by John Putch, the film starts out in black and white with a bad Jimmy Stewart impression featuring the filming of the original movie, which is how I knew this was a bit of a send-up of "It's a Wonderful Life." The Jimmy Stewart thing. But surprisingly, this movie is a also a bit of a parody of Hallmark movies themselves, which I found refreshing. The actors were fun, and written by Marcy Holland, this was a nice departure from the usual Hallmark holiday movie.

The Biltmore is a lovely setting for a film and, I guess there was too much of an opportunity to resist to promote the Biltmore and Asheville and, boy, do they, but you can set your DVR and fast forward through the ads if you want.  But also refreshing that this movie was actually filmed there, not in Canada, not that I have anything against Canada.

This one is not that trope heavy but there are some constants here:

  • Magical device helps Lucy travel back in time and meet the leading man - check
  • Someone sings a Christmas song - check
  • It snows - check
  • And there is a message: Cynical writer discovers that people do really give up what they want to make someone else happy.

Rosy the Reviewer says...cynical reviewer enjoyed this one.


A Merry Scottish Christmas (2023)

Out of the blue, estranged siblings Leslie (Lacey Chabert) and Brad (Scott Wolf) are summoned to a Scottish castle by their mother, Jo (Fiona Bell).  

Turns out their mother had some secrets. She was born in that castle and is a Duchess! They always thought she was a hippie! Not wanting to fulfill her destiny, Jo ran away with an American and made up lies about herself. All news to her kids.

Brad is married and he and his wife are having trouble getting pregnant so are doing IVF.  Leslie is single, a doctor, and married to her work, frustrated by the fact that there is so much administrative work.  Of course, Leslie meets Mac (James Robinson), a handsome Scottish fellow and romance is in the air, but what this movie is really focused on is the relationship between siblings, Leslie and Brad, and what will bring them back together.  Written by Audrey Shulman, Andrea Canning, and Dustin Rikert and directed by Rikert, this is a nice departure from the usual Hallmark movie romance. 

But you are not home free does this film fulfill the usual Hallmark Holiday Movie tropes?

  • Scott Wolf needed a gig - check
  • Leslie doesn't marry a prince but there is royalty involved - she is a Duchess - check
  • At least it wasn't filmed in Canada (but it wasn't filmed in Scotland either.  It was filmed in Ireland)! check - non-check
  • And there is a message - Family is important - check.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the brother/sister angle is a nice departure from the usual Hallmark rom/com and it all takes place in a beautiful location with a great message.

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

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And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!