Thursday, December 8, 2016

30 Days of Horrible Christmas Movies... Day Eleven

Mistletoe Over Manhattan (2011) - Hallmark Channel

 Eleven days in, it's finally happened.  One of these Christmas movies has earned five vomits.  Now don't misunderstand the vomits, because while Mistletoe Over Manhattan is the most vomit worthy movie we've seen to this point, it doesn't mean it's a bad movie.  In fact, it's one of the better ones to be honest with you, but it hit all the right vomit cues at all the right vomit times.

Lucy (Tricia Helfer) and Joe (Greg Byrk) are a married couple who have come to the end of the line.  Joe, an NYPD cop has neglected his family for years using his job as an excuse, while Lucy, an advertising exec, has moved on to be with her slimy boss Parker (Damon Runyan).

Half a world a way, Santa (Martic O'Carrigan) has about had it with entitled kids, long hours and commercialism and is contemplating shutting it down.  His wife Becca (Tedde Moore) knows that's not what her man really wants, and thus its off to NYC where the Claus' experienced one of their happiest moments as a couple, to bring back some Christmas Spirit and revitalize the old man.

By chance, Becca meets Joe at a diner, and Joe invites Becca. who seems flat out of her mind, back to the home of his wife and kids, which include Bailey the rebellious teenager, and Parker the too-sweet-for-words eight year old, to audition for their open nanny position.   Becca can clearly see that these two still love each other, thus it's time to get all up in their biz and plot to recapture true love... and Christmas Spirit... under the Magic Mistletoe.  Oh, in Manhattan.  Yeah.

So how did Mistletoe Over Manhattan hit all the right vomit cues?  Tired Hallmark Christmas plot?  Check.  Grating holiday music playing throughout?  Check.  Wise old people?  Check.  Cute kid?  Check.  Usually wee get a choice of a cute kid or a bratty teen in need of redemption, this one gave us both!  Painfully predictable ending?  Check.  Then there are all the extras like the smarmy boss who is clearly no good, the added bonus of bufoonery provided Santa and his head elf Sparky, and then there was this scene where Becca and the kids came up with the plan to save the marriage, they fist bumped each other.  That right there made barf right on my television screen.  I almost cried.

Then, as if this movie was afraid it might lose that fifth vomit based on Tricia Helfer's BSG cred, Joe pulls out his acoustic guitar and started strumming and singing Christmas songs.  While that was truly terrible, it was heightened by the fact that I don't think actor Greg Byrk can play guitar OR sing.  At least somebody could've tuned it for my man.  This movie gave us so many vomit worthy moments that I would love to give more vomits than allowed, if possible, but alas I had to vomit in my mouth to keep those down.

But as I mentioned, it's not a terrible movie.  Greg Byrk and Tricia Helfer, usually stuck playing villains, did very well in their roles, and Tedde Moore as Mrs Claus was charming... and a little scary... as the overly intrusive, manipulative, somewhat demonic looking Mrs. Claus.  and if you actually seek out these types of movies... well... this is the one.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

30 Days of Horrible Christmas Movies... Day Ten

The Christmas Swap (2016) - TV One

Ten days in and the feeling that I've lost from my fingertips has spread to my lips, making it difficult to speak and drink liquids without dribbling on myself, but we will soldier forward on this task that no one asked us to do.

Hey kids, you might not remember this but back in the day we had a rush of 'body swap' movies starring people like Dudley Moore, Lindsay Lohan, Kirk Cameron and the like, then as soon as the appeared... they disappeared.  Probably because they were terrible.  But if these modern Christmas movies are good for one thing, they are good for dredging up old plot devices and that's what we get with the Christmas Swap.

Gerry (Dondre Whitfield) is a hardworking barista in Louisiana looking after his bratty son and Alzheimer afflicted mom, also avoiding signing the divorce papers from hateful wife.  Ellis (Christian Keyes) is a driven, super rich, super handsome, super fit LA lawyer who slave drives his employees, constantly cheats on his girlfriend and completely ignores his family back in Louisiana.

One day while Gerry was working the graveyard shift at the coffee shop...  wait, graveyard shift at a coffee shop?  That is a crap gig.  Anyway, while working this graveyard shift Gerry gets a visit from a magical black person.  We're not talking Morgan Freeman from Driving Miss Daisy or Will Smith from Bagger Vance magical, but a legitimate magical black person, and this eleven year old kid grants Gerry his Christmas Wish.  This to have his brothers golden life in Los Angeles.

Now Gerry wakes up in LA, in Ellis' fresh crib next to his smoking girlfriend and everything is awesome.  Nice clothes, nice cars, head of his own Law firm, plus he's a compassionate boss and now his employees love him.  Ellis wakes up in crappy Louisiana, crap job, bratty kid, whiny sick mom, busted ride and terrible clothes.  He's miserable.

Of course the two brothers then set about the business of fixing their respective lives, like Ellis getting Gerry a better a gig and taking better care of their sick mom... by putting in an assisted living facility... while Gerry is giving Ellis a soul and looking after his neglected girlfriend.   But then Gerry starts missing his mom and the bratty kid, while Ellis starts missing... well... this is where this movie just throws Christmas Movie Convention right in the wind.

This is a strange movie in quite a few ways.  So Ellis, the good looking rich brother, decides he doesn't want his old life back and instead wants to stay in Gerry's crap life as sort of fresh start.  I mean he gives legitimate reasons why he wants this, but that's not the way this is supposed to go.  Usually in a movie like this, the estranged wife gets back with her husband and kid, and the neglected girlfriend sees the New Ellis and all is well.  Nope.  Left hanging in the wind.  They might get back together or they might not.  Then I'm thinking surely they're going to cure the mom of her debilitating brain disease... but no... she's f'n dies.  Dead.  And the brothers kind of iron out their differences, but it looks to me like they still kind of hate each other a little.

The weird thing is all of this kind of works.  Whitfield and Keyes are pretty good actors and they both did pretty good with the 'Face\Off' aspects of inhabiting each others skin, and the fact that this movie really flies into the face of Christmas movie convention kind of keeps you guessing a bit, which is damned unheard off in a movie like this.

Yes, there was some tired dialog and uncomfortable melodrama, but it is still a Christmas movie.  And there was this strange scene in the end where the a younger version of the dead Mom was ethereally looking over her adult son, flanked by the child versions of Gerry and Ellis... but Gerry and Ellis aren't dead yet.  I don't who those kids really are.  Demons I'm guessing.

Anyway, what can I tell you?  This one was watchable.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

30 Days of Horrible Christmas movies... Day Nine

Naughty or Nice (2012) - Hallmark Channel

Two things.  First, I thought it was cute seeing 'Family Ties' legends Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross playing a couple in the last Christmas movie I saw, now... say like in this movie... not so much.  Second, the little pictures I use for these movies I get off of a Yahoo images search.  Works fine until you type in something like 'Naughty or Nice' which gives you all kinds not family friendly horrors.  Of course that could be avoided if I just turned on 'Safe Search', but why in the world would I do that?  Crazy talk.

Krissy Kringle (Hilarie Burton) lives on Candy Cane Lane.  Note that Krissy is not related Kris Kringle, just happens to be her name, and they changed the name of her street after she moved there.  Also, it appears actress Hilarie Burton is a natural brunette but I've learned your odds of landing the lead in one of these Christmas movies increases exponentially if one has blonde hair.

Anyway, Krissy is having a rough patch.  She's lost her job, her boyfriend of six years won't propose and... well... that's about it to be honest.  Other than people making fun of her name all the time, Krissy looks to be in an okay spot to me.  One of the downsides of being Krissy Kringle on Candy Cane Lane is that you get tons of Santa mail which also upsets Krissy, until she gets The Book in the mail.  The actual Naughty or Nice list.  Just call out somebody's name, the book opens to their page and reveals all the bad things they've done, and now Krissy can exact revenge on all of the people who have done her wrong.

But sadly, soon Krissy learns that there are two sides to every horrible thing that people do.  I guess.  And where Krissy was using the info to completely destroy lives, at least from where I was sitting, now she's using the book to make things right.  I guess.  Which will somehow get Krissy her old job back and make her boyfriend finally propose.

This one started out pretty good as it had some genuine humor in it that actually made me laugh, helped along by Hilarie Burton being a pretty good comic actress.  But then it had to go and get all Christmassy on us.  I get it, that's the point of the entire exercise, but still, we don't have to like it.  And the deeper this movie descended into false sentimentality and contrived nonsense leading to a series of forced happy endings,  the further it went away from Hilarie Burton's strength as a comedic performer and closer to the weakness of actor ever born, that being translating unnatural melodrama into something palatable.

Plus the book was just a Naughty Book!  According to this book people hardly ever do anything nice.  Which might be true, but who wants to see that in their sentimental Christmas movie?

But at least it did have a couple good laughs, but Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross used up their vomit pass in the last we Christmas Movie we saw them in.

Monday, December 5, 2016

30 Days of Horrible Christmas Movies... Day Eight

A Heavenly Christmas (2016) - Hallmark Channel

This one here is special, not because I'm saying it is, but because Hallmark is saying that it is, as this movie is part of their Hall of Fame series of films, of which I'm told some are really good and these movies usually have actors who are a cut above.  I can tell you that the actors do have better credentials in 'A Heavenly Christmas', but it's still pretty much a run of the mill Hallmark Christmas movie.

Eve (Kristin Davis) is a hardworking trader who could care less that it's Christmas as she deals to cut and money make.  Max (Eric McCormack) is a broken hearted diner operator, ever since his music partner and sister tragically died a few years back.  Now he just flips burgers and looks after his super cute precocious niece Lauren (Jaeda Lily Miller).  These two share a cab one evening as a preliminary meeting, but love is not the air for these two just yet.  It's coming though.

Tragically, Eve slips on the ice, dies, and goes to heaven where she will be under the tutelage of the wise Pearl (Shirley MacLaine) who gives Eve her first angel task, that being answering young Lauren's Christmas prayer to make her uncle happy.  Eve doesn't think she can do this, considering she's not a fan of Christmas and all, but her wings are on the line so she descends back to Earth for the seven days she's given to make this happen.

Sure enough, Max is plenty sad.  His sister's in-laws are coming to take Lauren to a better place, his music career has floundered, he flips burgers for a living and he has no lady love.  Until he meets the amazing Eve.  Now he sees things differently, life is great, Lauren loves Eve, and he thinks he loves Eve as as well.  For her part Eve has seen the error of her hard working ways, and she is falling for Max.  Even though it's against the angel rules.  Besides, once she fixes everything, she goes back to Heaven and everybody she's shone a light one will forget her.  The light will remain, but the memory of her will be forgotten.  Unless... of course... maybe... hopefully... it won't be.

I take full responsibility because I was thinking I was expecting a tad bit more from this one than it was willing to give me.  I mean it starts out with Glenn Close introducing this movie, who is like the female Keith David with her silky smooth voice opening the show.  Then you have Academy Award winner Shirley MacLaine as the wise old person, a better than average cute kid, Kristin Davis who always brings the bubbly cuteness, and Eric McCormack who has mastered the art of being handsome and charming.  But at the end it was the same old tired, retread, Hallmark styled nonsense we've seen over and over again.  My fault for expecting more.

That being said, it's still somewhat more entertaining than the usual Hallmark / Lifetime fare if only because of the charming cast.  I do think that the writers probably designed this thing for actors a bit younger, since both Davis and McCormack are over fifty, with Eve lamenting a life not yet lived, speaking of things that I don't think the average fifty year old woman would be too worried about, and Max supposedly being some kind of recent American Idol-type winner which really doesn't fit.  It does give him the chance to whip out the acoustic and belt out a few tunes though.  I think I said previously that unless it's Lenny Kravitz unplugged or James Taylor I don't want to hear it?  That hasn't changed.

Hall of Fame?  Maybe not.  Better than usual?  Sure... why not.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

30 Days of Horrible Christmas Movies... Day Seven

Christmas Bounty (2013) - ABC Family

From WWE studios we have another Christmas movie that's really not a Christmas movie, just a movie that takes place around Christmastime, but whaddayagonnado?

Tory (Francia Raisa) is a Manhattan schoolteacher engaged to blue blood investment banker James (Will Greenberg) when she gets a mysterious call from Manucci (professional movie thug Alexs Paunovic) that he going to kill her and family.  Well that's not the spirit.  Why does this dude want to kill the lovely Tory?  Because Tory's bounty hunting family traced this cat ten years ago, mainly Tory who was like twelve at the time, and put him away.  Now he's escaped and wants bloody revenge.  HO HO HO!  Of course Tory's fiance doesn't know anything about Tory's bounty hunting past.  I've noticed another theme of these Christmas movies, and probably Lifetime movies in general, is these women lying to their men about their pasts, no matter how mundane these pasts might be.  I know why Tory didn't come clean, because it provides zany mayhem and chaos, but she could've avoided this conflict with a sentence.

Regardless of all of that, now it's back to Jersey for this Jersey girl to gear up with her clan, bring down Manucci, and reconnect with her old boyfriend Mikey (Mike Mizanin).  Also, her fiance decides to surprise her and show up in Jersey which leads to MAD zany mayhem and chaos.  And after the smoke clears, Tory will have a tough decision to make.  Does she go back to being a New York school teacher with her sweet fiance who just loves her to death, or does she stay a bounty hunting Jersey girl with her original love Mikey.  Just so you know, while one is super rich and nice, the other dude is tall, good looking and has abs to die for.  In movieland, we call that a 'no brainer'.

What we have here from WWE studios and 'Christmas Bounty' is a break from our usual Christmas fare.  For starters we have one of the more violent Christmas movies as it has a body count that rivals an Expendables movie.  Hey, are you are a fan of cleavage and sexual innuendo?  Well do I have the family movie for you.  Is there a lot Christmas cheer in this movie?  Well, there was the shootout at a Christmas tree park which was pretty festive, and the beatdown at the mall which had thugs getting pummeled with Christmas presents which brought the yuletide joy.  Ah, and there was the Christmas party where Tory choked out some dad who had violated his visitation rights and kidnapped his son which gave me memories of Santa Claus Coming to Town.  Tory followed that up with the promise of lurid sexual favors to her fiance once she got back from Jersey. Thanks for this ABC Family!  Now called Freeform!  Because the word 'family' just doesn't work so good with movies like this.

But is the movie any good?  No, not really, but it's also not very vomit worthy either.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

30 Days of Horrible Christmas Movies... Day Six

A Christmas in Vermont (2016) - ION tv

Riley (Abagail Hawk) is moving up the corporate ladder crushing dreams and ruining lives while working for some evil acquisition firm run by Preston, as played by a semi-catatonic version of Chevy Chase.  Preston has a big assignment for Riley, go to Sadville Vermont right before Christmas and shut down this realities of North Face, if North Face was underperforming and made really lame clothes.  Seriously, you should've seen the stick figure designs they laid out for Riley.  Awful... just awful.

No problem for Riley who has big life plans for her career, but then she meets the people of Sadville, especially the guy badly running this company, Wyatt (David O'Donnell), and while they don't hit it off immediately... love is unavoidable.  And everything is wonderful as Riley works super hard to turn this sad company around, until the Wyatt and the employees of this pathetic company discover the real reason Riley is in town, that being to liquidate, layoff and shut it down.

Now everybody is sad in Sadville, especially Riley who failed to save the company, lost her future boyfriend... even though she already had one back home who really didn't do anything to deserve getting dumped... and she disobeyed her catatonic boss so she probably doesn't have a job.  It's a really bad situation.  Until out of the blue somebody comes along and fixes everything and makes everything okay!

The bottom line with Christmas in Vermont is that it's kind of terrible.  In fact, I fell asleep on it and had to pick it up the next day, which means I have to watch one and a half horrible Christmas movies today, and that doesn't bring me joy.  The movie moves way too slow, the plot is pulled out of the remedial class of the Hallmark Christmas Movie school, and Abagail Hawk and David O'Donnell couldn't generate enough heat to warm up a piece of toast.  And it had lots of original Christmas music backed by acoustic guitars.  Listen, unless its Lenny Kravitz unplugged or James Taylor... I hate acoustic guitars.  

But this movie did have a few things going for it, such as a lot of old people.  In fact the combined age of Chevy Chase, Howard Hessman and Morgan Fairchild is like 500, and believe me when I tell you, these vets of stage and screen brought their C+ games to these roles.  Most importantly, this movie was directed by one Fred Olen Ray.  Who is that you ask?  A giant among giants of B movie film directors.  It does seem Fred has attempted to reinvent himself in the last few years as he has quite a few of these horrible Christmas movies under his belt, but I'm more familiar with his other work, such as 'The Girl with the Sex-Ray Eyes', and 'Super Ninja Bikini Babes'.  One of the most amazing things about Fred Olen Ray is that he has career that spans 40 years and includes almost 150 directed films, and yet it still looks like he has no idea what he is doing.  That's awesome and that's worthy of subtracting a vomit.


Friday, December 2, 2016

30 Days of Horrible Christmas movies... Day Five

The Tree that Saved Christmas (2014) - UPtv

Little Molly and Little Lucas love hanging out in Vermont on Molly's family Christmas Tree farm talking about their dreams.  Dreams which will not come true, because they never do.  Molly's going to go to NYC to be a writer, and Lucas is going to follow her to take pictures of the skyscrapers.  Sounds like the beginning of a Harry Chapin song.  On this day Molly's dad was clearing a path for the trees and accidentally cut down Molly's favorite tree, even though Molly tried to stop him by launching herself in front of an active chainsaw.  Molly is dumb.  Fortunately though, Molly's dad was able to save the tree... a tree the will eventually save Christmas.  Not really... but that's what they named this movie so we gotta roll with it.

Fast forward a few decades where Molly is in NYC, but not as a writer, instead working for an ice cold publisher who makes Molly do all his menial tasks... like raising his two daughters.  When Molly was tasked with setting up her bosses home for Christmas, damn if the tree that was delivered wasn't a tree from her parents tree farm... which is about to be foreclosed on... and damn if it isn't the very same tree Molly saved so many years ago.  Well that's a sign from Heaven I say, so Molly ditches everything and along with her big brother Ryan (Matt Anderson) they head back home to make things right.

Lucas (Corey Sevier) is back home too, working for his evil dad the banker who is going to transform Molly's family farm into a luxury resort.  But just seeing Molly who left him behind so many years ago just makes everything right again.  Plus the Ice Cold Boss is bringing his two achingly cute daughters to Vermont, mainly because Molly is like the only parent they've known since their mom died some time back.

We must save the farm!  Lucas and Holly must find the love again!  The Father must reconnect with his daughters!  Molly must become a writer!  Lucas must take pictures!  Will any of this happen?  Uh... yeah... Totally.

The Tree that Saved Christmas fights convention for these types of movies.  Yes, we have a plucky heroine who is trying to fight an evil banker to save her family farm, that's pretty tired, but what's unique is the relationship setup.  Normally in a movie like this, the cold widowed father would be the ultimate love interest, considering our heroine is already the defacto mom to these kids, but the filmmakers chose not to do this, even though we spent way more time getting to know Cold Dad than Depressed Ex Boyfriend.  Plus Cold Dad had way more chemistry with Molly than Depressed Ex-Boyfriend.  They probably would've been better served making Lucas a woman as Molly's best friend who she left behind, which still retains all the family banker drama and clears the way for Molly to be  with Cold Dad who this movie carved a path for her to be with anyway.  But they didn't do this and I like it when these tired movies break convention.  Plus it didn't have grating, canned Christmas music playing throughout.  The cute kids were less annoying than usual, though they still liked to have bedtime stories read to them, despite the fact they seemed close to twenty, and Molly's mom carried the mantle of Wise Old Person, and she was kicking the esoteric wisdom like you would not believe.  I'm talking some serious Kung Fu parable type stuff.  I had idea what she was talking about, but doggone... it sure sounded sage.

In the end Lucas is snapping a Christmas picture with everybody who in this movie... except him.  Note that in this picture his woman is standing between her two defacto daughters with Cold Dad's arm around his girl. Lucas whispers to himself 'This is the perfect Christmas'.  How is that even possible Lucas?  Your mom abandoned you and took half the family's money, you just told your dad to f'off and lets not forget he's your boss so you are also unemployed, and in a few months Cold Dad, who just gave Molly a fat publishing contract for her lame Christmas Tree children's stories, is going to be doing your girl.  Lucas will look back on this as the worst Christmas of his life.

And this is why 'The Tree that Saved Christmas' is kind of awesome.  One Vomit!