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24 December 2013

Hallmark Countdown to Christmas 2013

Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas

Just a few more days until Christmas and I am spending the day cleaning and watching a marathon of Hallmark Holiday Movies.  There are some that I tape and watch over and over again and others that I delete after one viewing and maybe watch again if they show up on one of the marathon movie days.  I realize that each of these movies will touch different people in different ways, but here are my thoughts on the 2013 Hallmark Original Holiday movies....

The Thanksgiving House (Premiered November 2, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
A woman buys a house in Plymouth, only to discover that the very first Thanksgiving took place on the property. As a result, she finds herself in a battle with a local handsome historian who wants to tear down her house to study the site. Stars Cerina Vincent and Lindsay Wagner. 

What I liked about it:  I almost missed this movie.  I was out of town for Thanksgiving and had to go online to set up my DVR. When I finally got to see this one, I was glad I didn't miss it.  I really liked the main characters, Mary Ross and Everett Mather.  I just kept rooting for Mary and Everett to get together. Everett embodies small town hope and good will, while Mary has been hurt in the past due to her parents' divorce.  Also, viewers will love to hate Mary's arrogant city boyfriend and the local community gossip blogger.

Watch it again: Yes! I was glad I recorded this to my DVR.  Since it was a Thanksgiving-theme movie, it did not receive the same replay as other movies.

Pete’s Christmas (Premiered November 8, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
A young 14-year-old boy named Pete has the worst Christmas Day ever, only to find that he must repeat the day again and again until he gets it right. Stars Bruce Dern, Zachary Gordon, Bailee Madison, Molly Parker and Rick Roberts. 

What I liked about it:  Repeating the day over again until you get it right is a frequent plot device.  It can be done well or it can be really annoying.  Pete's Christmas is an enjoyable and humorous version.  Pete's a great kid and, as he tries to figure out how to make it all come together, there are a lot of mistakes but also a lot of laughs.  Pete and his family grow throughout the movie, and of course, there is the mandatory happy ending.

Watch it again: Yes, if you can find it.  This one didn't seem to run as frequently as others and unfortunately I didn't tape it.

Snow Bride (Premiered November 9, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
When a reporter encounters the eldest son of a famous political family at a mountain retreat, she winds up pretending to be his girlfriend over Christmas so he can save face with his family. Should she secretly expose newsworthy scoops about the famous family in order to save her job, or trust that she's falling in love for real? Stars Patricia Richardson and Katrina Law. 

What I liked about it:  I had to watch this one in parts.  I am not fond of certain deception plots and if I don't really connect with the characters, then I tend to lose interest.  The movie was super predictable, which I expected.  It was easy to see what would be the big conflict standing in the way of the two characters getting together.  However, about halfway through, I found myself really liking Greta (the undercover gossip reporter) and Ben (the rich son of a politician) and wanted to see them together.  I was surprised by how much I liked Ben's family, who were nothing like I expected. I did find myself wanting to see Ben's mother (who is now a widow) to find her own happy ever after ending, too.

Watch it again:  This is probably a one timer for me, but if it is on, I may tune in again.

A Very Merry Mix-Up (Premiered November 10, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
Alice thinks she is heading to her fiancĂ©’s hometown to meet his parents and spend the holidays, but a mix-up at the airport lands her at the wrong home. However this “wrong” family is just her sort of people and she quickly forms a bond with them, especially with the handsome son, Matt. When she visits the "right" house, will her destiny take a detour? Stars Alicia Witt. 

What I liked about it:  This movie had all of the makings for a potentially great romantic comedy in theory.  The main character accidentally finds herself in the wrong home for the holidays after a series of mix ups.  Of course, the family she meets is her ideal family.  There is also a tie in with time, fate, and a romantic story tied into a special clock. I usually like movies like A Very Merry Mix-Up, but for some reason this one did not grab me.

Watch it again:  Maybe. I liked it but I found myself skipping it to watch others.

The Christmas Ornament (Premiered November 16, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
Widow Kathy Howard is having a hard time facing her first Christmas alone when she meets Christmas tree lot owner Tim Pierce, who helps her to see that there is still hope and love in the world. Kathy, however, is unsure if she is truly ready to move on. Can Tim and the Christmas season help open her heart to a new life? Stars Kellie Martin, Cameron Mathison and Jewel Staite. 

What I liked about it:  I will watch any Hallmark movie with Kellie Martin.  I have loved Kellie Martin since her days in Life Goes On. Martin is paired up with Cameron Mathison in this movie.  The chemistry between the two feels real and there were a few times that I wanted to just give Mathison's character a huge hug.  Also, I loved Martin's best friend Jenna (Jewel Staite).  I wanted her as my best friend.  This was one of those movies that I can tell you exactly what is going to happen and when but it doesn't matter.  I just loved it.

Watch it again: Yes, I watched this one over and over again, but then I like Kellie Martin.

Catch a Christmas Star (Premiered November 17, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
Just as her latest Christmas album is being released, famous singer Nikki Crandon is reunited with her high school sweetheart and starts to believe they may be able to rekindle what they had in the past. However, problems arise in the form of pressure from her record company, an old boyfriend and the paparazzi. Will Nikki be able to overcome the many obstacles to finally be with the only man she has ever loved? Stars Shannon Elizabeth.

What I liked about it:  There is the widow/widower movie where the main character does not have children and then the one where there are children and they get involved in a little match-making.  This was the latter.  When Chris' 10 year old daughter Sophie gets involved in matching up her father with his high school sweetheart, Nikki, you know you will have some laughs as well as some tears.  Would it be terrible to say that one of the things that I did not love in this movie was Nikki's false eye-lashes? Silly, right?

Watch it again:  This one was fun the first time, but I didn't feel compelled to watch it again.

Window Wonderland (Premiered November 23, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
With the Christmas season fast approaching, department store window decorator Sloan Van Doren is hoping to take over the recently-vacated head window designer spot but finds she has to prove herself by going up against rival Jake Dooley. As the two compete they find they may have more in common than they think. Stars Chyler Leigh and Naomi Judd.

What I liked about it:  Window Wonderland was probably one of the funniest Hallmark movies this season.  It was an odd couple story with a few Cinderella elements in it.  I loved Jake.  He was a great guy but I can see why he drove Sloan crazy.  One of my favorite characters in this movie was Sloan's mother Rita (Naomi Judd).  I would be happy to just go back and watch the scenes with her in them. The scene where Sloan and Jake end up locked in the store overnight was my favorite.

Watch it again: Yes, it's a lot of fun.  There was great bantering back and forth between the main characters.

Fir Crazy (Premiered November 24, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
When marketing executive Elise MacKenzie decides to help sell Christmas trees at her family’s Christmas tree lot, she discovers a newfound fondness for the holidays. But all could be lost when the store owner who hosts the tree lot on his block wants to shut it down, and it’s up to Elise to find a way to rekindle his Christmas Cheer. Stars Sarah Lancaster. 

What I liked about it:  There is another trope that is frequently used in holiday movies.  The one where the main character loses a job or a relationship and is not feeling exactly joyful.  Elise has lost both her job and her boyfriend.  Not exactly the normal formula for a happy holiday, but certainly it opens the doors for Elise to find what is really important at this time of year.  I liked Elise's family and the scrooge of a store owner. Darren's attempts to get Elise to go out with himare adorable.

Watch it again:  I enjoyed this one and will watch it if it is on, but it wasn't a keeper on my DVR.

Let It Snow (Premiered November 30, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
A resort executive is sent to a newly purchased lodge in Maine with instructions to turn it in to an ultra-modern resort, and finds a charming, successful lodge loaded with holiday spirit. Will she stick with her boss’s plans to tear everything down or find a way to save what she has come to love? Stars Candace Cameron-Bure and Alan Thicke. 

What I liked about it:  I want a resort in Maine and I want Karla and Paul as parents. And move over Stephanie (Candace Cameron Bure) because I want Brady to myself.  Karla and Paul have been creating Christmas for guests for years.  They are really good at it.  So, good that I wanted to go bake cookies and decorate my house after watching this one.  Hey, I actually looked for a recipe for Potato/Sausage/Cheese soup to make after seeing it in the movie.  Yum!

Watch it again: I definitely enjoyed this one and kept it on my DVR to watch again.

The Christmas Spirit (Premiered December 1, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
Charlotte Hart is a distinguished journalist out to save a quiet New England town from a ruthless real estate developer, but a terrible car accident puts her plans into a spin. Stars Nicolette Sheridan and Olympia Dukakis.

What I liked about it:  Ah, sometimes the actors and actresses influence my feelings about a movie.  Where as I will watch anything with Kellie Martin, I am not a big fan of Nicolette Sheridan.  So, my thoughts on this one is colored by my feelings of who is in the movie.  Charlotte Hart (Nicolette Sheridan) has returned to her small hometown and is helping her brother's family.  This odd couple portrays Hart as the "little guy" defending her town from a major corporate takeover.  This is one of those tropes frequently used in holiday movies.  Of course, in order to defend her town, Hart will have to do it as a spirit, since her body is in a coma at the hospital.  Christmas magic comes in the form of a bit of romance and some major changing of minds.

Watch it again:  This one was fun the first time, but I didn't feel compelled to watch it again.

The Santa Switch (Premiered December 7, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
Even the real Santa Claus needs a break every so often! Dan (Ethan Erickson), a divorcing dad facing unemployment at holiday time, can’t even land a mall Santa job. Then the real Kris (Donavan Scott) visits from the North Pole, leaving Dan in charge of things. Fortunately Dan receives a little guidance from his elf assistant Eddie (Oscar® nominee Sean Astin). Now the fate of Christmas rests in Dan’s hands! Stars Sean Astin, Ethan Erickson, Anne Dudek, Annie Thurman and Griffin Cleveland. 

What I liked about it:  Another trope frequently used in holiday movies has a couple separated and can they rekindle their love? Dan thinks that he can do Santa's job better than Santa.  It was funny to see Sean Astin as Santa's head elf and administrative assistant.  Dan has to learn what is really the thing his family needs most and what Santa's magic is all about as well.  Unfortunately, I never really came to like Dan enough.

Watch it again: This one was fun the first time, but I didn't feel compelled to watch it again.

Hats Off to Christmas (Premiered December 14, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
Instead of getting the promotion she deserves, Santa Hat Factory Assistant Manager Mia Winters is told by her boss to train his son, Nick, for the job instead. Though she is upset at being passed over, Mia soon finds herself falling for the charming Nick. When complications in their fledgling relationship arise, Mia must decide if she can really trust Nick with her heart, and the heart of her young son. Stars Haylie Duff and Antonio Cupo. 

What I liked about it:  This one had a number of tropes - a widowed mother with a son with special needs, a son of a small town business owner who wants to be running a big corporate company and not at home helping his father, and the big corporate world wanting to close down the small hometown business.  Mia is feisty and I liked that about her.  Nick is really a good guy.  I wanted to root for them to get together.  You want the company to be saved and you know there is going to be that Christmas miracle for Mia's son.

Watch it again: This one was fun, and I would watch it again, but I won't go out of my way to find it .

Finding Christmas (Premiered December 15, 2013)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
A disgruntled New York ad executive, Sean, swaps houses over Christmas with Owen, a North Carolina repairman who is also going through his own heartache. Owen meets Sean’s assistant Mia when he arrives in the big city. At the same time, Sean meets Owen’s sister, Ryan, when he arrives in North Carolina. Sparks fly between both couple, With Christmas approaching and the home swap nearing an end, the future for both of these new relationships is up in the air. Can these temporary holiday arrangements lead to long lasting love? Stars Tricia Helfer, JT Hodges, Mark Lutz and Cristina Rosato. 

What I liked about it:  Swapping houses? What a cool plot device.  City slicker Sean ends up in North Carolina, which provides excellent fodder for a few laughs.  Country boy Owen takes on the city. Will broken hearts find love and new relationships? I loved Owen and Mia.  They were great together.  When he sang to her, I couldn't help but say "awww".  And Ryan was surprisingly a good match for Sean.  This one worked for me.

Watch it again: Yes, I definitely enjoyed this one and kept this one to watch on my DVR. And I loved JT Hodges' version of Joy to the World.

Christmas in Conway (Premiered December 1, 2013 on ABC)

Blurb from Hallmark Website:
To the folks in Conway, South Carolina, Duncan Mayor (Andy Garcia) is a very cranky guy. To his wife Suzy (Mary-Louise Parker), he's a doting pussycat. But Suzy is just home from the hospital and cared for 24/7 by nurse Natalie (Mandy Moore), whom Duncan tries his best to ignore. Duncan decides the best medicine Suzy could possibly have – and a Christmas present she'll never forget - is a ride on a real Ferris wheel set up in their own back yard. Why a Ferris wheel? Because it was while riding one many moons ago that Duncan asked Suzy to marry him. 

Where does one find a 45-foot-high used Ferris wheel? Duncan strikes gold in an abandoned amusement park, presided over by a lonely ex-carnival worker Henry. Assembling the mechanical monstrosity is not exactly a one-man job. Duncan gets a crucial assist from Tommy, a former student of Suzy's, who is deeply in her debt. After Suzy set him straight during his troubled youth, he became a successful landscape designer. Meanwhile, the neighbors are not amused, especially prim and proper Gayle Matthews (Cheri Oteri). She's entered her garden in an upscale magazine's "Christmas Showcase" contest. The interest of the contest's judges witnessing the atrocity next door is more than Gayle can bear. Fortunately, her brother is the local sheriff and there are zoning laws to prevent this kind of thing, aren't there? 

Love doesn't strike just once with Suzy and Duncan. Romantic magic also happens between Natalie and Tommy. Are these matches made in Heaven?

What I liked about it:  Christmas in Conway was what I call the bonus movie.  Last year, it was Christmas with Holly.  The movie premiered on ABC and then ran in marathon repeats on the Hallmark Channel a week later.  It was all about true love and pending loss and making a dream come true. I knew this one was going to have a bittersweet ending.  I knew I would need tissues.  I loved Mary Louise Parker and Andy Garcia.  I also loved the secondary budding romance between Mandy Moore's character, Natalie and a local man named Tommy.

Watch it again:  Despite knowing that I would cry, I watched this one more than once.

So, which Hallmark movies are your favorites?

Hallmark Holiday Movie Schedule: http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/

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