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Hallmark Movies 2020

Last Updated on Monday, January 18th, 2021

Dave!Here's a checklist of all the Hallmark original romance movies from 2020 along with my comments on those I've seen.

Special movies of note are marked Favorite, Good, Okay, and BAD.


   

Hallmark Channel Originals 2020

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✓ Good Winter in Vail
(Winterfest • Lacey Chabert and Tyler Hynes • January 4, 2020)
Event planner Lacey Chabert inherits a chalet from her uncle in Vail. Quitting her crappy job that keeps passing her over for promotion, she heads to Vail where she meets a Tyler Haynes and they do not hit it off. But eventually warmer hearts prevail and they decide to host Strudelfest together in order to save a restaurant. Yes. I'm being serious. Tyler Hynes has a dry delivery that was flawless for his smartass character and made the entire movie for me. The beautiful Vail scenery is just icing on the cake.

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Love in Winterland
(Winterfest • Italia Ricci and Chad Michael Murray • January 11, 2020)
Woman gets selected as the winner of a dating show and gets to take the bachelor guy back to her hometown (Winterland!) so they can find out if his pick results in true love. Of course her high school vision-board sweetheart is there, so now she's torn between the romance that didn't work out... and the handsome European guy who's falling in love with her. CAN YOU GUESS WHO SHE CHOOSES? This was a pretty boring movie, and the whole "dating show" angle was done far, far better in last year's My One and Only. Not only that, but Kewlona's Big White Ski Resort was used to much better effect in last year's A Winter Princess. And lastly, she should have picked Jack Turner over Chad Michael Murray!

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✓ Good Love on Iceland
(Winterfest • Kaitlin Doubleday and and Colin Donnell • January 18, 2020)
SHE'S a podcast producer in Chicago. HE'S a photographer who lives a nomadic life around the world. THEY dated when they were students at Northwestern University. Now they end up together again with friends on a vacation to Iceland. This is essentially a travel video for Iceland, which is to say it's fantastic because the country is fantastic. And boy did it make me want to go back. Much of the interaction with the native Icelandic actors (all excellent, especially the guy playing Jóhann) is klutzy and a little embarrassing... but it wouldn't be Hallmark if there wasn't a cheesy awkwardness to it. I enjoyed this one because it was actually shot on location in Iceland (instead of Canada doubling as Iceland, as Hallmark usually does) and they took full advantage of the scenery. But the best thing about it? Hallmark took the same story they've told a hundred times AND ACTUALLY DID SOMETHING TO MAKE IT DIFFERENT! I hope this trend continues because, holy cats, are these getting tired. UPDATE: The guy who played Jóhann is Jóel Sæmundsson and if Hallmark has a brain in their head, they will get him another movie. He is one of my all-time favorite Hallmark characters.

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Amazing Winter Romance
(Winterfest • Jessy Schram and Marshall Williams • January 20, 2020)
An inspirational columnist has lost her inspiration. To get it back, her boss sends her back home to her small town to see if she can figure out what's missing in her life. Of course she runs into her old boyfriend (don't they always?). In this one, her bland boyfriend has build a giant snow maze, and apparently that's what it takes to turn things around. And while the whole maze idea is pretty cool, the idea that it would take AN HOUR to solve the thing is hilarious. A pity they slapped the tired old "journalist returns to her small town and ends up falling in love with her old flame" trope on top of everything, because I spent all 90 minutes swearing I had seen this one already. And the complete lack of chemistry destroys whatever hope there is for entertainment value, so I was checked out almost instantly. So... in the end... not so amazing.

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Hearts of Winter
(Winterfest • Jill Wagner and Victor Webster • January 25, 2020)
Boy. Hallmark really didn't reach much with this one, did they? Widower's daughter enters a television contest to get a home makeover. When they win, designer Jill Wagner shows up and turns their lives upside-down while she fixes up their house... and their lives. Love ensues. Or does it? His love for his deceased wife could end things before they begin. I found it almost impossible to find anything interesting about this generic pain-by-numbers movie. Especially sad since Victor Webster usually ends up in stories that have at least a little more life to them.

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A Valentine's Match
(Love Ever After • Bethany Joy Lenz and Luke Macfarlane • February 1, 2020)
TV personality gets fired from her job in San Francisco because she's lost her "oomph." Rather than sit at home worrying about it all, she heads back to hometown Portland so she can clear her head. While there she's manipulated into running into her former fiancé and running a Valentine's Day auction... with her ex, of course. After a while she starts to fall for him again, eventually finding out that when he broke up with her to go to art school in Europe that all was not as it seemed. Then her boyfriend shows up to surprise her and... predictability ensues. This is a fairly straight-forward Hallmark movie with good performances, great use of the song We Belong by Pat Benatar, and not a lot else.

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Matching Hearts
(Love Ever After • Taylor Cole and Ryan Paevey • February 8, 2020)
FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, WHY ARE WE STILL DOING MATCHMAKER GETS MATCHED MOVIES?!? IT'S BEEN DONE TO DEATH! Drop-dead beautiful Taylor Cole works at a highly successful matchmaking service which has an algorithm that rarely fails. So of course she runs into a guy who thinks that matchmakers are silly. Then she runs into the same guy at her parent's flower shop... he just opened a pet adoption center down the street! Then she finds out that the guy is the half-partner owner of a ballroom she wants to rent... the other half-partner is somebody she matched of course. And just when you think that the coincidences couldn't possibly be more pathetic... the guy is in a magazine article telling people that his best dating advice is to stay single. AND THEN somebody at the matchmaking company wants to use him as publicity for their service and, YOU GUESSED IT, Taylor Cole is the one in charge of finding his perfect match! HOLY CRAP! YOU DON'T THINK HIS PERFECT MATCH WILL BE HER, DO YOU?!? If you don't, this must be your first Hallmark movie. This was just so frickin' pathetic and sad. I know there's a formula to Hallmark movies, but this one is 100% missable and not worth your time. You've seen it before... and done better than this mess.

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The Secret Ingredient
(Love Ever After • Erin Cahill and Brendan Penny • February 15, 2020)
Pastry chef's ex-fiance pastry chef shows up in town from Paris just as she gets nominated to appear on a Valentine secret cooking face-off TV show in New York City. When she gets to NYC, she happens to run into her ex-fiance again. I wonder what he could be doing there? Surely it couldn't be to compete in the same competition? Of course it could be! Absolutely everything is about as predictable as you'd imagine for Hallmark... except the ending, which doesn't end up in a tie for once.

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Love in Store
(Love Ever After • Alexandra Breckenridge and Robert Buckley • February 22, 2020)
Two home shopping network hosts are paired up to sell a variety of merchandise on a television show. But while they're together on the show, they're competing to take over the channel when their boss retires. Oh noes... you don't think they'll fall in love, do you? Yes you do. How could you not? You have seen a Hallmark movie before, haven't you? Nothing new to see here. Move along.

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Just My Type
(Spring Fever • Bethany Joy Lenz and Brett Dalton • March 28, 2020)
Bethany Joy Lenz wants a big promotion from her columnist job at work, but is going to get passed over. Then an opportunity drops in her lap when she runs across a famous writer she likes while visiting her friend's parents in rural Oregon. At first she doesn't want to intrude on his privacy, but ultimately decides her job promotion is more important than what he wants. Even though she's a terrible person who puts her ambition over other people's wishes, the author agrees to a series of interviews and slowly lets her into his life. Inexplicably he falls for her... and her for him... but it's not like she's going to give up that promotion! Or is she? This was a fairly uneventful paint-by-numbers Hallmark outing that did have the benefit of not falling into the "YOU BETRAYED ME!" trap that these kind of stories always do. But that's not much. Certainly not enough for a good movie.

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You're Bacon Me Crazy
(Spring Fever • Natalie Hall and Michael Rady • April 4, 2020)
A food truck chef is out to win $100,000 by entering her food in a city-wide Portland contest. Just as she's gaining confidence in her chances, a guy opens up a "Mo-Bacon" food truck across the street and starts poaching her business. But will a friendly competition lead to romance? Oh probably. It's Hallmark. This is one of those cases where the movie ended up being less than the sum of its parts. I've always liked Michael Rady, and Natalie Hall starred in my second-favorite Hallmark movie of all time, A Winter Princess, so my expectations were rather high. But there just wasn't much here for the actors to work with. Every scene was by-the-numbers, the story was painfully straightforward with no surprises, and I couldn't help but think there was a better movie in here somewhere.

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Fashionably Yours
(Spring Fever • Kat Graham and Kendrick Sampson • April 11, 2020)
With the opening footage of Seattle landmarks... and the story being about a woman who gets passed over for a promotion who decides to leave Seattle, only to have a moving man show her that Seattle has too much to offer to leave it behind... I assumed that Hallmark actually sprang for the money to shoot this in Seattle. Silly me. It's (mostly) yet another Vancouver-doubling-as-Seattle movie. They eat burgers at Bobby Sox, for example, which is East of Vancouver near Golden Ears. At one point you can see that they (apparently) made a Seattle field trip and end up at the Seattle Center, Pike Place Market, and the waterfront (all to the tune of Harry Style's Adore you!). But it begs the question... Why not just have it take place in Vancouver? Anyway... after the pleasant surprise of a diverse cast of beautiful people wore off, I found this to be a straightforward and charming movies... if somewhat slow. And also confusing. This movie had very little to do with "fashion." It was more Marie Kondo than Vera Wang.

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Nature of Love
(Spring Fever • Emilie Ullerup and Christopher Russell • April 18, 2020)
City-slicker woman gets an assignment to do a story on "glamping" (glamour camping). When she gets to the camp, she finds that the nature activities guide is a famous outdoorsman writer she admires. Everything you need to know about this movie can be found in the first five minutes when the woman shows up with no footwear except high heels... and has to be outfitted with boots so she can, you know, WALK AROUND IN THE OUTDOORS. How stupid do you have to be? I can't determine if this is better or worse than the city-slickers in movies who go buy out the store because they are spending the weekend in the woods. Outlandishly stupid at just about every turn, you'd think that maybe the beautiful scenery could save it... except the leads have absolutely no chemistry at all, and the woman is all slap-sticky ridiculous and uninformed about everything. I honestly don't understand if this was supposed to be funny or not. I just found it lame and horribly boring. With Hallmark trying to fill their calendar with more and more movies, it's apparent they don't care if their offerings lack quality or entertainment value. Or common sense.

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Love in the forecast
(Cindy Busby and Christopher Russell • June 13, 2020)
Local weather girl and newly-certified meteorologist dreams of getting to analyze weather data to create the forecast for her job. In a burst of confidence about her career, she moves into a new home which is next door to a handsome farm boy who is living in the city for a year. Farm boy quickly eclipses weather girl's scientific approach by out-forecasting her with old tricks his grandpa taught him. But no worries... he'll totally mansplain weather forecasting and prove his old-time techniques are more accurate than her silly science. This idiotic romp is mind-numbingly boring and relies on all the stupid tropes you know and hate. Of course the woman is so flighty and silly that she can't even reheat a casserole without burning the kitchen down. Of course she falls in love with her Prince Charming because he watches over her so good. Of course this is a painfully predictable story that's barely worth your time. Of course I end up wondering why I even bother with these any more since Hallmark refuses to try anything new.

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Love Under the Olive Tree
(Tori Anderson and Benjamin Hollingsworth • June 20, 2020)
A decades-old family feud leads to a land dispute between two olive-oil producers. A judge decides that the winner of a local olive oil contest will win the dispute, so childhood friends on both sides have to battle it out. Oh dear. I hope they don't fall in love! This predictable slog could have been so much more interesting if they would have at least tried to mix things up a bit. They tease a possible gay romance between the woman's assistant, Adam, and the owner of the cafe, Billy, but of course it goes absolutely nowhere. Heaven forbid Hallmark ever try to give us a deviation from the tired old formula they keep beating into the ground.

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Romance in the Air
(Cindy Busby and Torrance Coombs • August 1, 2020)
Cindy Busby is in danger of losing her marketing job and is forced to take a vacation to recharge or get fired. She decided to head to Lake Tahoe where she spent her summers as a kid. There she runs into her first crush who now runs a struggling hot air ballon business. Naturally Cindy Busby decides to help by using her advertising and marketing skills to help his business get noticed. Alas, she's pretty bad at her job... she create rack cards where you can't see the business name or even what the business is about because it's at the bottom where it gets buried behind other cards... and creates window posters with type so small they're not very effective unless somebody's face is up against the window. And yet her useless "help" somehow works and, as they spend time together, they start falling for each other. Why Hallmark can't hire somebody with actual marketing talents to design their props so they at least have the appearance of being competent is beyond me. Surprisingly, they actually filmed at Lake Tahoe so the scenery is amazing, even if the story (and romance) falls a little flat. Torrance Coombs deserves better than this.

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Love on Harbor Island
(Morgan Kohan and Marcus Rosner • August 8, 2020)
You know Hallmark is scraping the bottom of the intellectual barrel when they hire an actor named Marcus to play a character named Marcus who has a dog named Marcus. Learning lines is tough enough without having to play a character with a different name, amiright? Surprised that they didn't name the love interest Marcus as well, because that would have made things so much easier on the poor guy. Anyway... a flailing interior designer has to rush to help her aunt run her bed and breakfast after she takes a fall. While there she is immediately at odds with the seaplane pilot who flew her to the island. But he ends up being an okay guy after all because he finds homes for rescue dogs. And since she's conveniently just broken up with her workaholic boyfriend, the road is paved on the way to romance! Despite having precious little chemistry with the seaplane pilot. If I were to rate this one, I suppose I'd call it "painfully mediocre."

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✓ Good Wedding Every Weekend
(Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell • August 15, 2020)
For being a total rip-off of the Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid movie Plus One, this isn't as terrible as you'd think it would be... mostly thanks to Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell, who do their best to make the material their own. But anyway... a coupe meet at a weeding and find out that they're attending the same weddings for four weekends and decide to be each other's "plus one" wedding buddy so they don't get hit on. Neither of them are wanting a relationship after their break-ups, so this seems like a good plan. Except I don't think that I'm spoiling anything to say that they end up falling for each other. =sigh= It's actually really good... at first... but the weddings all blur together and the aren't given anything new to do. Then there's the whole "I COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTOOD SOMETHING BECAUSE I ONLY HEARD A PART OF A CONVERSATION" trope that Hallmark seems intent on running into the ground. In this case, it was just stupid and unnecessary, making Kimberley Sustad look stupid for no good reason. And, oh yeah, this movie is a bit revolutionary for Hallmark because one of the weddings is a lesbian wedding! Somehow I thought that the new GLAAD partnership would be just for show, and they would keep kicking the gay football down the field for all eternity... but here we are. LGBTQ PEOPLE EXIST IN THE HALLMARK UNIVERSE! Next step? An actual gay couple as the main story maybe? We shall see.

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✓ BAD Follow Me to Daisy Hills
(Cindy Busby and Marshall Williams • September 19, 2020)
Embarrassinly manipulative in that angst is substituted for story and the musical score has to do the heavy-lifting in lieu of acting. Bad story, bad performances, and no chemistry? I guess Hallmark had no choice but to air this steaming pile after they made the mistake of getting it made in the first place... but something tells me they would have been better off flushing it down the toilet than let their reputation take a hit. Not worth your time to watch, certainly not worth my time to recap (especially since I fast-forwarded through an insufferable chunk in the middle).

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Falling for Look Lodge
(Clark Backo and Jonathan Keltz • September 26, 2020)
This is one of those bizarre films where I shouldn't be complaining because it feels like Hallmark is doing something new (at last)... but the execution kind of falls apart. The leads aren't terrible and it seems like there could be chemistry there, but they don't ever feel authentic and the movie just kinda meanders pointlessly instead of having a story you can latch onto. Clark Backo gets the opportunity she's been waiting for when she gets to fill in as event coordinator at Look Lodge under her perfectionist sister. Her first client is Jonathan Keltz, who's trying to help his sister out with her wedding. Alas, the guy is more focused on work than his sister, and it's up to Clark Backo to keep him on track. Their respective sister drama aside, they somehow find time to fall for each other as each new activity unfolds... even though you don't really see it and the romance comes out of nowhere. Overall it's a pity that the background characters of Teddy and Kate seemed like they had a more interesting story despite barely getting any screen time. There's a good movie in here somewhere, but it would take a major re-think of the script to find it.

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✓ Okay Country at Heart
(Jessy Schram and Niall Matter • October 3, 2020)
Hallmark jerked this movie from their schedule so many times that I was beginning to think that it didn't exist. It was supposed to air last year... got changed to this year... then was moved twice... so can you blame me? I really, really like Jessy Schram (Hannah from Veronica Mars!) and Niall Matter, but am not a fan of Hallmark's attempts at shoe-horning yet another country music "let's write a song together" meet-up into their movie lineup. I'm not a huge fan of country and the songs are never that great. But... this one was actually kinda cute because Jessy Schram is so adorable with her bubbly optimism and happy demeanor. She keeps trying to break into country music, but keeps getting rejected. All that changes when she meets Niall Matter who happens to be working on a song for fake country star Duke Sterling! There are criminal lapses in logic from the start. Niall Matter was not necessary to getting her noticed by Duke Sterling, because Duke Sterling walked into the bar where she was performing anyway... PLUS Jessy Schram's family owns the farm where this annual music festival is held, which means she could have easily gotten to meet Duke Sterling regardless. Things like this drive me insane because it would be so easy to catch this stuff and have a better movie if Hallmark would just have people review their scripts to spot the stupid. This is an okay movie which could have been a good movie with a little work.

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✓ Okay My Best Friend's Bouquet
(Chaley Rose and Nathan Witte • October 10, 2020)
Sometimes the cast saves an otherwise unremarkable story. That's certainly the case here... from the leads right on down to the supporting players. Chaley Rose has been holding out for the right guy to sweep her off her feet with the kind of grand romantic gesture found in old movies. Unbeknownst to her, long-time-friend Nathan Witte has been carrying a torch for her since forever. After she's been announcing every five minutes that "the wedding bouquet is always right" and how much she totally believes in the tradition that whomever catches the bouquet will be next to get married... she's is understandably in a panic when she ends up accidentally catching the bouquet. Especially when it's her best friend who's getting engaged. Rushing into dating a guy she met at the reception so she can fulfill the bouquet's promise, she might end up missing out on the love that may have been in front of her all along. Painfully predictable, the charm of this one isn't the destination but instead the journey.

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✓ Okay Sweet Autumn
(Nikki DeLoach and Andrew Walker • October 17, 2020)
You would think that Hallmark would be running out of "festivals" for their movies... but they always seem to be trotting out yet another idiotic new one as either an artificial deadline to force a lame story-point or as a venue for some lame conclusion to a lame story. This time it's the Sweet Autumn Festival, where Nikki DeLoach has to figure out why her late aunt left half of her candy shop to Andrew Walker instead of leaving it all to her. Thank heavens Nikki DeLoach and Andrew Walker are more than capable of keeping things from falling apart... even though you can see why Aunt Dee did what she did coming from a mile away. =sigh= Andrew Walker can take average material and make it worth watching... like My Secret Valentine, Christmas on my Mind, Date with Love, and the like. But rarely is he given the opportunity to take good material and make it great... like Bridal Wave. Which is why it's so frustrating to see him have to fight against yet another tired, meandering script in attempt to make it interesting... when he deserves so much more. And so do we.

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✓ Good Jingle Bell Bride
(Julie Gonzalo and Ronnie Rowe • October 24, 2020)
RED ALERT! LT. BRYCE FROM STAR TREK DISCOVERY IS IN THIS MOVIE! — Kicking off the holiday season with an interracial romance? Perhaps Hallmark has finally gotten the message that the same old stories could use a new angle. Refreshing! What's not so refreshing is that Julie Gonzalo is yet another wedding planner (hey, if not for wedding planners and bakers, women would barely exist in Hallmarkland). This time she's a wedding planner who has to travel to Alaska so she can track down a rare flower for a Very Important Client's wedding. It's here, in one of the whitest states in the entire nation (less than 4% Black), that very white Julie Gonzalo gets help from a very handsome not-white local. Refreshing! And then, as is Hallmark tradition, events transpire to trap her in a remote Alaska town which is just gaga over Christmas (and not so gaga over having tires with appropriate traction for winter, nor are they gaga over having a single hotel despite holding a touristy festival each year). This gives her time to go gaga over love. This was a perfectly nice movie to start to the season, and I'm more than a little surprised that they would put such a strong entry up front.

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Chateau Christmas
(Merritt Patterson and Luke Macfarlane • October 25, 2020)
This film is interesting for a couple reasons... first of all, Luke Macfarlane actually is a classically-trained cellist. So him playing the cello in this movie is for reals. Alas, Merritt Patterson is not a classically-trained pianist, so her performances are faked (quite well!). More interesting than this, however, is how Jesse Hutch is playing a supporting part instead of headlining. This could be a consequence of there being a pandemic where everybody involved has to quarantine for two weeks before filming... so actors might have to cross-pollinate among the movies... but it still seems strange. But anyway... Luke Macfarlane is corralled into directing an annual Christmas concert at a chateau. There he runs into his ex-girlfriend and former musical colleague, Merritt Patterson (who is on vacation trying to rediscover her passion for music, natch). It will come as a shock to absolutely nobody that they fall back into love. Fortunately Patterson and Macfarlane are solid players who can be counted on... and they don't disappoint. What does disappoint is a story that just kind of meanders around a Christmas concert finale without a lot of focus on the way to getting there... but you can't have everything.

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✓ Good One Royal Holiday
(Laura Osnes and Aaron Tveit • October 31, 2020)
I'm a sucker for the whole royal-falls-for-common-folk trope when it comes to Hallmark movies. Even when they're bad, they're fun because you can at least have a laugh over whatever fictional country they've conjured and the faux pan-European accents of whatever whitebread kingdom they rule over (seriously, can't we get even one Person of Color royal in one of these things?). But when they're good? Well, that's when you get such Hallmark awesomeness as A Winter Princess or My Summer Prince or Royal Hearts. This movie never reaches those heights, but it was a nice one regardless. The Queen and Crown Prince of "Galwick" get stranded in Boston with no place to stay. Fortunately, a woman just happens to be heading home to her family's Connecticut inn for Christmas and volunteers to take them there. After multiple delays, One Royal Holiday ensues. There's a coincidental story semi-twist that's not unexpected, but interesting just the same. Looks like 2020 was a terrible year for just about everything... except Hallmark Christmas movies?

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✓ Okay On the 12th Date of Christmas
(Mallory Jansen and Tyler Hynes • November 1, 2020)
Tyler Hynes works at a game app company. When his co-worker has to run to the hospital for the birth of his kid in the middle of a presentation meeting, Mallory Jansen is tapped to take his place. Together they develop an app called The 12th Date of Christmas and have to run around Chicago to come up with date clue ideas. The movie ends up being fairly linear affair with no surprises, but the leads make it an A to B journey worth taking. What kills the vibe of the film is the weird "lead game designer" competition which has the sole purpose of adding unnecessary drama where it isn't needed. I don't exactly know what the thinking was there, but surely they could have come up with something better than this.

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✓ Okay Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater
(Ashley Williams and Niall Matter • November 7, 2020)
Woman accidentally breaks a man's arm with her Christmas tree. Man needs a place to stay while he recovers since his Christmas vacation plans were ruined. Woman just happens to have a beautiful guest house out back... on a 2nd grade teacher's salary... for him to stay in. I can only guess that her divorce settlement was stellar. Or her school pays truly absurd salaries. In order to pass the time, guy ends up volunteering with the woman at a military base with kids. Hallmark ensues. The casting of the two leads is more interesting than the actual story, but nothing about it is terrible. Overall a nice holiday movie diversion with a very cool idea at the end.

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Christmas with the Darlings
(Katrina Law and Carlo Marks • November 8, 2020)
My enthusiasm was at an all-time low when I saw the concept: woman helps an uncle watch his orphaned nephews through Christmas. First of all... orphans?!? Could there BE a more manipulative plot device? Second of all... having to sit through three whiny kids is not my idea of a good time. But Carlo Marks usually has good Hallmarks and Katrina Law was good on Arrow, so what do I have to lose? Turns out the kids, while manipulative, were mercifully not as awful as I was expecting. The problem was that the movie is boring. It's like nothing really happens. Certainly no surprises. It's just... there. It's like Hallmark said "Let's come up with the most missable movie ever!" then set out to deliver on it.

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Christmas in Vienna
(Sarah Drew and Brennan • November 14, 2020)
Concert cellist accepts a show in Vienna which she intends to be her final performance because she's lost her passion for music. While there she meets up with her college roommate who is watching her cousin's three kids after their mom died. You know the rest. Seriously. Absolutely no surprises here. As wonderful as it is when Hallmark spends the money for location shoots (e.g. actually shooting in Vienna instead of Vancouver and calling it Vienna), they really need to spend some time coming up with a good story to keep things interesting instead of merely relying on having Vienna in the background to do the heavy lifting for them. I was bored... bored... bored from start to finish. Would have been better off looking through the vacation photos I took while I was there and called it good.

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✓ Favorite A Timeless Christmas
(Ryan Paevey and Erin Cahill • November 15, 2020)
Hallmark has very few time travel movies, which is surprising because so many times they're really well done. The last time travel Hallmark I remember was Journey Back to Christmas with Candace Cameron in 2016, and it was excellent. This time Ryan Paevey is a millionaire inventor who repairs a mystical clock that throws him forward in time from 1903 to 2020. There he wakes up in his home which has become a tourist attraction where actors portray him and his staff. He's assumed to be an actor playing Ryan Paevey, but he's actually the real Ryan Paevey... who is said to have disappeared "a hundred years ago." Erin Cahill is an actor playing Ryan Paevey's maid... who was in fact her great, great grandmother. A pretty good story ensues.

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A Nashville Christmas Carol
(Jessy Schram and Wes Brown • November 21, 2020)
Oh joy. The billionth retelling of A Christmas Carol. =yawn= How thrilling. Even Wynonna Judd in a guest spot was going to make this worth watching. Seriously, there's nothing new to say with this Dickens tale. So stop. Just stop it.

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✓ Okay The Christmas House
(Robert Buckley and Jonathan Bennett • November 22, 2020)
The Christmas House has been dubbed "Hallmark's First Gay Christmas Movie," but that's a total lie... the gay couple is a supplemental couple to the main couple, so this is not "Hallmark's First Gay Christmas Movie"... it's the "First Hallmark Movie which Acknowledges Gay People Exist" and there's a BIG difference. The main (non-gay) character is an actor who heads a show called Handsome Justice! And it is about the most hilarious thing you will ever see (if you're a lawyer, you MUST tune into the first five minutes... you will die). But anyway... a straight actor and his gay brother are summoned home by their parents to decorate their family home and turn it into "Christmas House" which is a family tradition. Holiday angst and an overload of emotions ensues. This is not a bad movie at all... except when Sharon Lawrence won't stop blowing that stupid-ass whistle... but it's far from great. It's just so absurd that Hallmark felt that having a gay couple carry an entire movie was so scandalous that they had to relegate them to second-stringers. But it's a start, I guess. Hopefully next season they will just go for it, because remaking the same old movies over and over is getting really stale.

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Heart of the Holidays
(Vanessa Lengies and Corey Sevier • November 23, 2020)
"Look at me! I'm so hopeless I can't even put frosting on a cookie!" I swear, the frequency at which Hallmark attempts to make clever moments out of stupid moments is embarrassing. Like squeezing frosting out of a tube is Just. That. Difficult. Setting aside idiocy like this, Heart of the Holidays was not terrible. Small town girl leaves her sweetheart behind to head to New York City. She loses her brand new job because her current boyfriend bought out the company. Then decides to head back home for the holidays. Of course her old boy friend is still there and still holding a torch for her. This is about as pedestrian as a Hallmark story gets, but the cast makes it work well enough to be watchable.

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A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado
(Rochelle Aytes and Mark Taylor • November 24, 2020)
It's a foregone conclusion that the plot devices that make Hallmark movies possible are ridiculously thin. They kinda have to be. But this one was beyond thin. Mayor's daughter has to find a town Christmas tree and stumbles across the perfect one growing in her friend's neighbor's yard. Of course the neighbor is a single father with an adopted daughter. Of course the father doesn't want to part with the tree. Of course the father is the Brooklyn, Colorado fire chief who is mad at the mayor for budget cuts. Of course the entire town is counting on the perfect Christmas festival to draw much-needed tourist dollars to save the town. Of course the mayor's daughter and firefighter fall in love. There are SO many questions this movie raises. But first would have to be WHY DID THEY WAIT UNTIL THE LAST SECOND TO FIND A TREE IF THE TREE IS SO DANG CRITICAL?!? The leads are certainly appealing enough, it's just that they have this absurd faux town drama to deal with and it's pretty awful. What happens the rest of the year when there's no perfect Christmas tree to draw tourists? Ugh. I don't expect a lot of thought to go into these things... but some thought would be nice.

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Good Morning Christmas!
(Alison Sweeney and Marc Blucas • November 25, 2020)
I kept watching and watching expecting the film to finally find its footing... but it never did. Tired premise. Weak story. Zero chemistry (on and off the air). While not technically terrible, it sure doesn't have enough going for it to be any good. America's #1 talk show team... Melissa Merry and Brian Bright (groan)... are filming their final week of shows at a Christmas festival (groan) in the town of Mistletoe (groan) before Brian Bright leaves for greener pastures. SHE'S a go-by-the-script, everything-must-be-planned-out kinda gal and HE'S a let's-improvise, it's-more-fun-when-we-loosen-up kinda guy, and it's just not working all of a sudden (which makes NO sense, but okay). Fortunately a scheming producer manipulates things so that they have to spend quality time together in the hopes it will make them change their mind. And what else could possibly happen? You know the chemistry is bad when you are rooting for the throw-away distraction-guy instead of the lead-guy. Overall a disappointing swing and a miss that's made all the worse given some of the fantastic other Hallmark Christmas movies we're getting in 2020.

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✓ Favorite Christmas by Starlight
(Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell • November 26, 2020)
When I saw this movie on Hallmark's slate, I was understandably excited. Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell are two of my most favorite Hallmark players, and having them together in the same movie is too good to be true, isn't it? And then I started watching only to find that it's yet another tired "save the restaurant" story where a woman is sad that her parent's beloved diner is going to be torn down, and vows to save it. What makes this special is that instead of the "evil real estate developer" being mistaken for somebody else... it's the woman who is mistaken for somebody else by him! And just when you think that this is going to be the same tired old story in reverse, the guy finds out who she really is right away! Say what?!? You have my attention, Hallmark! Wanting to fool his father, he promises to spare her parents' diner if she will pretend to be his new lawyer for a week. A darn good movie ensues! Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell are at their absolute best and the film is perfect. I would expect nothing less considering they wrote it! Being inclusive by having a gay couple pop up from time to time is just a bonus.

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✓ Favorite Five Star Christmas
(Bethany Joy Lenz and Victor Webster • November 27, 2020)
All the kids come home for Christmas, only to find that their widower father has gotten lonely living alone and turned their childhood home into a B&B. By coincidence, a renowned B&B travel critic named Bea Turner is in the area! So when a woman shows up with the initials B.T. on her purse, they're sure that she's Bea Turner, so the entire family pretends to be fellow guests and staff so dad can get a five star review. Meanwhile... a handsome stranger shows up and wants a room, which may mean romance for the eldest daughter... but can she start a relationship when everything he's seeing is make-believe? This was a really good movie, with a twist that you'll be expecting after the first ten minutes. What's interesting is that they don't save the twist for the very end, which makes the movie far better because the audience is in on it. Really amazed by how many really good Hallmark films we're getting this year!

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✓ Good Christmas Waltz
(Lacey Chabert and Will Kemp • November 28, 2020)
I don't like dance. I don't like musicals. I don't like many of the performing arts. So I fully anticipated to detest this movie on that point alone. But of course Lacey Chabert totally saved it. And the story, which was far more than a pathetic thread between dancing, was actually pretty good. Lacey Chabert wants a fairytale wedding with her fiancé. Part of that includes a wedding waltz so she can be just like a fairy princess! But the fiancé flees to Boston leaving poor Lacey Chabert heartbroken. Fortunately dance instructor Henry Stuart from Reign uses his British accent to convince her to take dance lessons anyway. THEN DANCES HIS WAY INTO HER HEART! More charming than it has a right to be, this is yet another feather in Hallmark's 2020 cap... even if the ending is painfully predictable.

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If I Only Had Christmas
(Candace Cameron and Warren Christie • November 29, 2020)
You would think that Candace Cameron, The Queen of Hallmark Christmas Movies, would be able to have her pick of scripts. If that's the case, why would she pick such a boring one? It's all monotonous talk and not much else. In this one Candace Cameron works for a PR firm and has to work with an out-of-touch VP to see how the magic of Christmas can help save a charity. Or whatever. I was dozing off most of the movie. Even worse than that is the fact that the romance is dead-on-arrival. It's not that there's minimal chemistry... it's that there's no chemistry. What a wasted effort.

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Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing
(Holly Robinson Peete and Colin Lawrence • December 5, 2020)
Yet another chapter in the world's most boring Christmas movie franchise. Note to Hallmark in the event that you deicde to add yet another lackluster entry in this eye-rolling, gag-inducing series... TAKE THE NUMBER OF TIMES PEOPLE SAY "EVERGREEN" IN THE SCRIPT, AND CUT IT BY AT LEAST 75%! I really should have kept track of how many times "Evergreen" is uttered just to stay awake. But, alas... I didn't care. And it's such a shame, because he cast deserves so much more. If we're lucky, this will be the end of it all and everybody can finally move on to bigger and better things.

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Christmas She Wrote
(Danica McKellar and Dylan Neal • December 6, 2020)
As much as I adore Danica McKellar, my love can only go so far. This was a total mess of a movie that started with a terrible concept and then just rode it right off the rails into a kitchen fire... which, coincidentally enough, was the absurd low-point of the film. At no point did I ever understand how the leads ended up together given the lackluster chemistry and bizarre circumstances that set them up. I am perfectly willing to suspend disbelief in order for a Hallmark movie to work, but this one asked way, way too much. You know the story is in trouble when the ex-boyfriend is a more logical and appealing romantic option. Anyway... after losing her job at the paper once it has been bought out, Danica McKellar heads home to celebrate the holidays and come up with her next move. Unfortunately for the new managing editor, there's an outcry when her column is canceled and he has to follow her to hire her back or lose his own job! The inevitable happens, though you'll be left scratching your head trying to figure out how. Just goes to show that even somebody as talented as Danica McKellar can't save everything.

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✓ Favorite Love, Lights, Hanukkah!
(Mia Kirshner and Ben Savage • December 12, 2020)
The refreshing change of having something different to watch in Hallmark's holiday lineup is something to be happy about... especially when you watch as many of these things as I do. Adopted Mia Kirshner is a chef who is facing her first Christmas without her mom. She is so desperate to find family for the holidays that she submits to a DNA "23 and Me" type test and is told that she has family in the area! That's when she finds she is 50% Jewish... and since her birth-mom is Jewish, that makes her Jewish too! Oh what fun! Now she gets to celebrate TWO holidays. Unlike last year's effort, Holiday Date, where Hanukkah was tacked-on to Christmas... this film felt like it was an actual Hanukkah movie. And, let me tell you, when Marilu Henner's reaction when she realizes that Mia Kirshner is the daughter she gave up for adoption... well, that's why you hire Marilu Henner. Fortunately Cory from Boy Meets World is a food critic that's around to help navigate Mia Kirshner's new-found Jewishness and the traditions which come with it (even though he gave a mediocre review to her restaurant). This was a well-crafted movie that was wonderfully different and shows how diversity can keep Hallmark from being trapped in the same old story over and over again. I hope we get more. I hope Hallmark expands past Christmas and Hanukkah for new stories.

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Christmas Comes Twice
(Tamera Mowry-Housley and Michael Xavier • December 13, 2020)
Was it just me who spent the first half hour of this movie wondering when Tia Mowry was going to show up? No? Oh well. We do get Sheryl Lee Ralph, whom I dearly wish got more starring roles in Hallmark movies. Okay then. Tamera Mowry is pining away for the man who got away when she happens upon a magical Christmas carousel which transports her back in time. That way she gets to be an awful person to Michael Xavier all over again! This wasn't a terrible movie but it relied way too much on the charming performances by the cast instead of anything particularly insightful or clever... which I found odd given that time travel is involved. Won't be watching this one twice, that's for sure. Still, I did really like the ending, which was unexpected but expected in a Back to the Future kinda way.

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✓ BAD! A Christmas Carousel
(Rachel Boston and Neal Bledsoe • December 19, 2020)
A woman who restores carousels with her dad (and his horrific $2 toupée) is called to the random faux-European country of "Ancadia" to restore a carousel IN JUST TWO WEEKS as a Christmas gift for the crown prince's niece (that was built by her great grandfather). In one of the klutziest expositional conversations ever, she's told by her Person of Color best friend... "Wait! Ancadia's the one with that prince! He's in all the tabloids... with his arm around a different woman at every red carpet event! They call him the Casanova Prince!" (=groan=) As the restorer and the prince work to get the carousel completed in time for Christmas, you're not going to believe it, BUT THEY FALL IN LOVE! Forget the impossibility of restoring an entire carousel in just two weeks (seriously, there's months of work there)... or the fact that she wouldn't do ten seconds of research to see what the prince looks like before flying to Ancadia... the entire movie is just a colossal waste of time and probably the worst of Hallmark's offerings for 2020 (just two more to go!).

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✓ Favorite Cross Country Christmas
(Rachael Leigh Cook and Greyston Holt • December 20, 2020)
So... if Planes, Trains, and Automobiles was a holiday rom-com with former high school classmates running into each other and trying to get home in time for Christmas during a storm... it might be this. I anticipated that I'd like this one just because it's got Rachael Leigh Cook in it... but whether it's any good is going to depend on A) The story, and B) her co-star. The story, while not exactly original, was good... and her co-star was great... so I guess I liked it? Yeah. I liked it. I really liked it. Very happy that Hallmark Channel went out on a high note this year. And, boy, I hope Hallmark drives a dump-truck of money up to Rachael Leigh Cook's house and convinces her to be in more movies for them next year. She's one of the most consistent regulars they have, and can make even a bad movie worth watching.

   

Hallmark Movies and Mysteries 2020

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Christmas Tree Lane
(Alicia Witt and Andrew Walker • October 24, 2020)
For whatever reason, I've never been a fan of Alicia Witt in these things... but have always been a fan of Andrew Walker in these things. So, from a casting perspective, they kinda canceled each other out. Where things went downhill was in the beaten-to-death story where a small-business-owner-tries-to-save-her-store-from-being-demolished-by-an-evil-developer-who-ends-up-being-the-guy-she's-falling-in-love-with (or, in this case, the son). I mean, holy crap, how is it that they can't come up with ANYTHING different for a story at Hallmark? A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G-! They do this tired plot at least twice a year, and it's gotten so old that I can't even find it funny anymore. Good thing they burned this stinker early in the season... hopefully to make room for something a little fresher as Christmas approaches.

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✓ Good Deliver by Christmas
(Alvina August and Eion Bailey • October 25, 2020)
Yeah, sure this is a story that's been told by Hallmark a half-dozen times already... widower moves to a new town with his kid and catches the attention of a local woman. But they at least try to make it new by mixing it up a bit. First of all, the movie features an interracial couple. Second of all, they combined it with the old she-also-falls-for-a-guy-she-never-met-who-ends-up-being-the-same-guy trope (though how they don't figure it out is beyond me... THEY TALK ON THE PHONE!). Unlike most of the widow/widower/divorcé/divorcée films, this one isn't completely sabotaged by an overbearing and annoying kids. It also helps that August and Bailey are capable actors that have actual chemistry. If you can overlook the unbelievable premise, this is a pretty good start to Cheesy Christmas Movie Season.

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Cranberry Christmas
(Nikki DeLoach and Benjamin Ayres • October 31, 2020)
A husband and wife team create a lifestyle brand called "Cranberry Lane" from their cranberry farm which results is fame and success. But all is not perfect. Separated and on the verge of divorce, they end up promoting a local festival on a popular national television show while pretending to be the perfect loving couple. But as they spend more and more time together, what was pretend ends up becoming reality, and they realize that breaking up might be a mistake. This is harmless holiday fun with solid actors and a perfectly fine story. But holy crow... ANOTHER festival-based movie? This is the single-most tired plot device in the entire Hallmark universe, and I'm so sick of it I could vomit. Come up with literally anything else. At this point it's so tragically lazy that it makes enjoying the movie more difficult than it should be. I was complaining about getting two "evil developer turned romance" stories each year above, but the whole "festival" angle seems to happen at least a half-dozen times a year, if not more. Stop it. Just stop.

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Holly & Ivy
(Janel Parrish and Jeremy Jordan • November 1, 2020)
A dying woman is worried that her girls will be split up after she's gone but, lucky for her, a random new neighbor volunteers to adopt them! Too bad her new home is in such disrepair that she'll never be allowed to adopt kids! Lucky for everybody a building contractor who's sweet on her decides to help her fix her house. Because apparently moving into the girls' house is not an option? I honestly don't know what to make of this movie. I feel bad for hating it... so I guess that I... don't? I dunno. All I do know is that over-manipulative, groan-inducing, eye-rolling stuff like this is most definitely not my cup of tea, so I was not a fan.

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The Christmas Ring
(Nazneen Contractor and David Alpay • November 7, 2020)
A writer for Quizzer.com is trying to find her mom's wedding ring after mom died when she was seventeen. But her dad died before he could give it to her and it was lost. DOUBLE TRAGEDY! Hoping for a miracle, she wanders to pawn shops showing photos of the ring in the hopes of finding it. The best she can do is find a similar ring which she buys as a story idea for Quizzer.com (which must pay really, really, well). She wants to track down the history of the ring for her story even though her editor tells her no. That's when she runs across the ring-owner's grandson and... things don't go great. At first. Then Hallmark happens. This story is buckets of absurd... and not in a good way. They of course had to retread the whole "reporter is betrayed by their editor for changing their story" trope that we've seen a million billion times before. So sloppy, lazy, and awful. Interesting to see Casey Manderson in yet another one of these things... it seems like he's in every fifth Hallmark movie all year long. Why they don't give him a movie of his own seems strange.

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The Christmas Bow
(Lucia Micarelli and Michael Rady • November 8, 2020)
Oh joy. A movie with screeching violin. That's what I need in my life. The good news is that Lucia Micarelli is great and Michael Rady is his usual capable self. When a dedicated violinist is put on medical leave, she retreats home where she runs into an old friend from her youth that may make her recovery be not so bad! And not just because he's now her physical therapist! The movie is okay, but there's a scene early on with double-extra whip cream appearing and disappearing that is so blatantly obvious that it makes you wonder if it was intentional... and you never forget it for the entire movie, even when an annoying, whiny kid keeps popping up. Or that gawdawful screeching violin music appears. This movie is entirely missable, which is a shame. The cast has more diversity than you're used to seeing from Hallmark (including somebody =gasp= in a wheelchair), but the weak story keeps it from being worth your time.

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Meet Me at Christmas
(Catherine Bell and Mark Deklin • November 14, 2020)
It's a yo-yo Hallmark movie! — Catherine Bell's son is getting married on Christmas Eve! Yay! But the wedding planner quit. Boo! The bride-to-be seems nice. Yay! But her parents can't make it in time to help. Boo! But her uncle the photographer is happy to team up with Catherine Bell in order to make the wedding happen. Yay! But Catherine Bell is a widow. Boo! Except it turns out that the uncle is a boy she fell for when they were both out of high school. Yay! Except the reason they never got together is that he stood her up. Boo! But the same night she was stood up, Catherine Bell met her husband-to-be. Yay! Except he's dead. Boo! But the reason the uncle stood her up was a good one. Yay! Except the wedding is ruined because a storm blew a tree through the roof of the venue. Boo! But they relocated everything outside and it will be the most beautiful wedding ever! Yay! Except the uncle gets an emergency photo assignment and will have to leave Christmas Day. Boo! Except he can't bear to leave Catherine Bell and decides to stay. Yay! Except her son finds a photo of her taken by the photographer when they were young and knows there's a secret between them. Boo! But she assures him that the uncle means absolutely nothing to her and his dad will always be the love of her life and nobody else will ever mean anything to her. Yay! Except the uncle overhears her say this. Boo! Then Catherine Bell tells her mom that she can never tell her son the truth... that she did experience love-at-first-site but it wasn't with his dad, it was with the uncle. Yay! Except her son, the bride, and the uncle all overhear her say this after the wedding ceremony. Boo! Except the son forgives her and tells her that the uncle still keeps a photo of her and must still care for her. Yay! But it doesn't matter because she thinks he is leaving on that photo assignment. Boo! But then she finds out that the reason he stood her up when they were young is because he was in the hospital after saving his little brother's life. Yay? And everybody lives happily ever after. Boo! I mean yay! The constant, unrelenting ups and downs of this movie was more absurd than usual, but it wasn't bad. It just could have been better.

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✓ Favorite The Christmas Doctor
(Holly Robinson Peete and Adrian Holmes • November 15, 2020)
Very, very rarely does a Hallmark Channel USA movie surprise me. I tuned into The Christmas Doctor because I love Holly Robinson Peete. But the twist ending of this one floored me. Did not see it coming and I totally should have. It's just embarrassing that Hallmark only let Holly Robinson play supporting characters in so many movies before finally giving her lead parts. At least they rewarded her with a really good film. Bravo. Holly Robinson is a fill-in doctor who gets called from town to town when the doctor there goes on vacation or has an emergency of some kind. It's a nomadic life that keeps her away from her family, but it also helps keep her mind occupied from some tragic experiences when she was an Army doctor. But of course there's a handsome man in town who catches her eye... could she have found a new home that will make her find love, forget the past, plant some roots, and find happiness? Gosh I sure hope so!

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The Angel Tree
(Jill Wagner and Lucas Bryant • November 21, 2020)
When Jill Wagner was a mere wee slip of a girl, she grew up in a city that featured an "Angel Tree" that appears in the middle of town. Folks write their wishes on a paper, add it to the tree, then magically get their wishes granted! Well, except young Jill Wagner, who wished for her parents not to move away but didn't get it. =pout= After Adult Jill Wagner wrote an article about the Angel Tree, her editor promised her a new column if she can write a followup piece about whomever is behind granting all the wishes. So back she goes to her childhood home where BAM! she runs into the boy who was her childhood friend and he's all grown up and hot now! Taking care of his nephew while his mom is deployed. From then on, Jill Wagner runs around doing her best Jessica Fletcher trying to unmask the town's real-life angel. You do learn the identity of the town's mysterious benefactor at the end, but it seems almost inconsequential (and it's not like you have to be a genius to figure it out). Overall a sweet but unremarkable Hallmark Christmas movie, and I wish we would have gotten something more suited to Jill Wagner's talents.

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A Godwink Christmas: Second Chance, First Love
(Brooke D'Orsay and Sam Page • November 22, 2020)
For the love of Godwink, enough with these awful sequels. Much like the two movies which preceded it, this latest edition to the Godwink franchise is bloated with half-baked over-sentimentality. Sam Page is a father of two young sons who decides to move back to his hometown from Hawaii. While there, those pesky "Godwink Coincidences™®" put him in the path of his high school sweetheart. Nothing even remotely interesting or surprising ensues... unless you include Kathy Lee Gifford not making an appearance this time around. Such a waste to put Sam Page in this instead of something more interesting. As usual, this ends with a quick look at the real-life couple who inspired the story. I can only imagine they had a better story to tell?

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USS Christmas
(Jen Lilley and Trevor Donovan • November 28, 2020)
Jen Lilley is a reporter who goes on a "Christmas Tiger Cruise" with her mother because her sister is serving on an aircraft carrier (Tiger Cruises allow family of Navy service members to stay onboard for a short cruise to see what their life is like). While onboard she happens upon some old letters which present a mystery of a couple who met on a Tiger Cruise during the 1960's. Fortunately a fighter pilot (callsign "Grinch" if you can believe it) is on hand to help her solve it... and she might just find a way to help him find the Christmas spirit! This was a unique Hallmark film because it was shot on real ships, and I liked the movie because it was so different from the usual Hallmark fare. Alas it's a little ridiculous. They sit down to dinner at a New York City restaurant while in port, oblivious to what time it is... then have to rush out without eating because they forgot they had to be back on the ship? Really?!? Ultimately this one fell a bit flat, and the romance felt forced. I don't know if it's because of a story issue or a chemistry issue, but something was off. Maybe it was the dialogue? "You know how I told you I'm not scared of anything? I'm scared of falling in love!" Ouch.

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✓ Okay Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas
(Lacey Chabert and Stephen Huszar • December 5, 2020)
Lacey Chabert heads home after her mother dies to tie up her affairs and finish up the legal cases she was working on. While there, she's gifted a stay at The Snowfall Inn by her boss back at the office. EXCEPT NOT REALLY! Turns out that her boss didn't make the reservation after all. Also turns out that there are other guests there with mysterious "secret Santa" gift stays too! BUT WHY?!? Guess that's up to Lacey Chabert and Inn owner Stephen Huszar to try and find out! I didn't particularly love this story (the mystery wasn't terribly compelling), but boy was I happy to see Hallmark at least try something different.

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✓ Okay A Little Christmas Charm
(Ashley Greene and Brendan Penny • December 6, 2020)
Okay... this was a clever one. A woman finds a charm bracelet in a donated piece of clothing and makes it her mission to find the original owner... or her children... so she can return it by Christmas. Following clues on the various charms on the bracelet, and teaming up with an investigative reporter looking for a Christmas story, she gets closer and closer to finding the owner. But she might be finding true love as well!

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A Glennbrooke Christmas
(Autumn Reeser and Antonio Cupo • December 12, 2020)
Super-rich Autumn Reeser is tired of men hitting on her because she's rich instead of hitting on her because she's super-gorgeous Autumn Reeser. So she decides to make a holiday trip back to Glenbrooke, her mom's childhood home, before taking over as CEO of grandpa's company. Using her middle name as her last name and swapping cars with her butler so that she can go undercover and not be recognized(!), off she goes! Where she runs into a handsome fireman... literally. Lucky for her, she nearly burns her house rental to the ground so the fireman can rescue her! Blergh.

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Unlocking Christmas
(Taylor Cole and Steve Lund • December 13, 2020)
It's Jake from Schitt's Creek!... Steve Lund! And why oh why can't Hallmark give him a really good movie to star in? For whatever reason they always seem to stuff him into these overlysentimental flicks that are packed with artificial moments which trigger a cavalcade of eyerolls. They gave him the terrific Christmas Incorporated in 2015, and it's been horrible mediocrity ever since. This time Steve Lund and Taylor Cole are sent on a Christmas mysterious holiday puzzle hunt which has them falling in love... even though their paths may lead them away from each other after a horrible misunderstanding (of course). Maybe next year.

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Swept Up by Christmas
(Lindy Booth and Justin Bruening • December 19, 2020)
I mean, I'm gonna award points for trying to do something new... but an antique dealer and a professional cleaner getting an estate ready for sale as a plot? You know you're in trouble when the most clever thing about the entire movie is that the cleaner guy's business is called "Dirt Force One" (which, let's face it, is not very clever at all). Any attempt at playful banter falls flat. The transition from antagonism to romance made zero sense (he attempts to HELP HER decorate because she's so overwhelmed only to be told "UGH, NO! JUST NO!" when she sees a fricking bow he hung up). And I cannot for the life of me comprehend why Lindy Booth COULDN'T JUST HIRE AN ASSISTANT OR HAVE A FRIEND HELP HER INSTEAD OF CONSTANTLY TELLING US HOW OVERWHELMED AND BUSY SHE IS! The cleaner guy (WHO HAS A TEAM TO HELP DO HIS WORK, OBVIOUSLY!) has an assistant in a wheelchair who's falling for the owner of a local bakery that's a far, far better story idea, yet we're stuck with auction lady and cleaner guy getting in the way of it. "UGH, NO! JUST NO!" all the way around.

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Project Christmas Wish
(Amanda Schull and Travis Van Winkle • December 20, 2020)
"How do you stop feeling sad about your mom being dead?" (paraphrased). Lord, how I loath horribly manipulative garbage like this. When a widower's kid goes on-air to talk about how her daddy's so sad because her mom died three years ago and she just wishes they could have a happy Christmas like they used to... the segment producer dubs the guy "Christmas Dad" and sets out to fulfill the girl's wish by making it their best Christmas ever! (Well, at least since mom died). Things are going great... until the girl goes back on the air to change her wish to "I WANT MY DADDY TO FALL IN LOVE!" and then things just get progressively worse until the movie mercifully ends the only way it can end. What a total dud to be Hallmark's last Christmas movie of 2020. I should have just stopped with Cross Country Christmas. The real shame of it all is that there are moments between Amanda Schull and Travis Van Winkle that were so good that you just know there was a better movie to be had. But, alas... this is the movie we got. Horrifically awful ending and all.

   

Netflix Originals 2020

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✓ BAD Love Wedding Repeat
(Sam Claflin and Olivia Munn • April 10, 2020)
Look, as you can tell from the hundreds of Hallmark movies I've reviewed here, you know I'm able to sit through just about anything no matter how bad. I was not able to sit through this movie! It was so unbelievably, phenomenally stupid that it was essentially unwatchable. Too much idiotic crap plagued the whole "Sliding Doors" retread plot that I couldn't do it. I hung in until Sam Claflin got head-butted by his ex girlfriend and I was DONE. It was such an asinine moment on top of a dozen other asinine moments and there was just no way I could watch another frame

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✓ Favorite Holidate
(Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey • October 28, 2020)
Hallmark films tend to gloss over the unkind parts of a relationship. If there's a problem, it's not because people are real and relationships are complex, it's because of some misunderstanding that gets resolved in ten minutes. Holidate is different, and is actually a good movie because of it. Two random strangers meet in a mall after a disastrous Christmas. In order to avoid such complexities in the future, they strike up an unlikely bargain... they will be each other's dates for the holidays so family and friends will stop making their lives miserable. It's not a spoiler to reveal that they slowly... sometimes painfully... fall in love with each new holiday. The result is funny and sweet in all the right ways, and the cast makes it work when it really shouldn't. The soundtrack is weirdly distracting at the beginning, like it's trying to be manipulative and fails miserably, but really comes together as the movie progresses. I'm guessing it was a stylistic choice to make you think the story is going to be cheesy and stupid on the front end... but end up being the opposite of that.

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✓ Favorite Midnight at the Magnolia
(Natalie Hall and Evan Williams • November 5, 2020)
Within the first 15 minutes, I knew this was breaking into my Top Ten of All Time List. By the end-credits it had become my new #1. Natalie Hall and Evan Williams have immediate undeniable chemistry and you feel that their characters have been best friends for decades (their fathers co-own a jazz bar). They co-host a radio Chicago show about relationships and an opportunity comes along where they might get to take the program nationally. They come up with the idea to invite their boyfriend/girlfriend to meet their families on New Year's Eve to get big ratings so they can seal the deal. But when BOTH of them get dumped after Christmas, they come up with a plan to pretend that it's because they fell in love with each other! Classic! Along the way a lot of feelings happen and, well, you know the rest. I already fell in love with Natalie Hall in Hallmark's A Winter Princess, and now this comes along to show that her performance wasn't a fluke. I've never seen Evan Williams before, but hopefully he ends up in more Hallmark-style flicks. The story is fairly straightforward with only minimal idiocy before the finish line, which is refreshing. If you like these kinds of movies, this one is a no-brainer.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Okay Operation Christmas Drop
(Kat Graham and Alexander Ludwig • November 5, 2020)
Kat Graham is a congressional aid whose budget-cutting prowess is called into action a week before the holidays. Her boss wants to shut down a Pacific island Air Force base which happens to deliver aid and gifts to surrounding islands for Christmas. And of course she immediately clashes with the pilot who has been tasked with showing her around. BEFORE FALLING IN LOVE WITH HIM! This is a basic movie that rises a bit above the usual Hallmark fare thanks to a pretty-good story, decent acting, and the beautiful filming locations on Guam and the surrounding islands. Suffers from easy manipulation and some sappy moments that are almost groan-inducing, but not in a way that kills it. It will shock nobody that eventually Kat Graham melts into a puddle of Christmas cheer and everybody lives happily ever after. Or something like that.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
A New York Christmas Wedding
(Nia Fairweather and Otoja Abit • November 6, 2020)
Welp, I'll give it this much... they tried to do something different. — Just as she's accepting her pending nuptials, a woman is visited by her guardian angel who offers her a glimpse at what could have been if she hadn't kicked her first love to the curb before she got to be her girlfriend. Gotta hand it to Netflix... they skipped right past a gay romance and went straight to bisexual romance (considering her fiancé is a man). Surprisingly, a fresh concept is mired by a decidedly un-fresh story, and things didn't get interesting to me until the very end. Too little too late.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ BAD Love Wedding Repeat
(Sam Claflin and Olivia Munn • April 10, 2020)
Look, as you can tell from the hundreds of Hallmark movies I've reviewed here, you know I'm able to sit through just about anything no matter how bad. I was not able to sit through this movie! It was so unbelievably, phenomenally stupid that it was essentially unwatchable. Too much idiotic crap plagued the whole "Sliding Doors" retread plot that I couldn't do it. I hung in until Sam Claflin got head-butted by his ex girlfriend and I was DONE. It was such an asinine moment on top of a dozen other asinine moments and there was just no way I could watch another frame

Netflix Movie Poster!   
✓ Favorite Holidate
(Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey • October 28, 2020)
Hallmark films tend to gloss over the unkind parts of a relationship. If there's a problem, it's not because people are real and relationships are complex, it's because of some misunderstanding that gets resolved in ten minutes. Holidate is different, and is actually a good movie because of it. Two random strangers meet in a mall after a disastrous Christmas. In order to avoid such complexities in the future, they strike up an unlikely bargain... they will be each other's dates for the holidays so family and friends will stop making their lives miserable. It's not a spoiler to reveal that they slowly... sometimes painfully... fall in love with each new holiday. The result is funny and sweet in all the right ways, and the cast makes it work when it really shouldn't. The soundtrack is weirdly distracting at the beginning, like it's trying to be manipulative and fails miserably, but really comes together as the movie progresses. I'm guessing it was a stylistic choice to make you think the story is going to be cheesy and stupid on the front end... but end up being the opposite of that.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Favorite Midnight at the Magnolia
(Natalie Hall and Evan Williams • November 5, 2020)
Within the first 15 minutes, I knew this was breaking into my Top Ten of All Time List. By the end-credits it had become my new #1. Natalie Hall and Evan Williams have immediate undeniable chemistry and you feel that their characters have been best friends for decades (their fathers co-own a jazz bar). They co-host a radio Chicago show about relationships and an opportunity comes along where they might get to take the program nationally. They come up with the idea to invite their boyfriend/girlfriend to meet their families on New Year's Eve to get big ratings so they can seal the deal. But when BOTH of them get dumped after Christmas, they come up with a plan to pretend that it's because they fell in love with each other! Classic! Along the way a lot of feelings happen and, well, you know the rest. I already fell in love with Natalie Hall in Hallmark's A Winter Princess, and now this comes along to show that her performance wasn't a fluke. I've never seen Evan Williams before, but hopefully he ends up in more Hallmark-style flicks. The story is fairly straightforward with only minimal idiocy before the finish line, which is refreshing. If you like these kinds of movies, this one is a no-brainer.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Okay Operation Christmas Drop
(Kat Graham and Alexander Ludwig • November 5, 2020)
Kat Graham is a congressional aid whose budget-cutting prowess is called into action a week before the holidays. Her boss wants to shut down a Pacific island Air Force base which happens to deliver aid and gifts to surrounding islands for Christmas. And of course she immediately clashes with the pilot who has been tasked with showing her around. BEFORE FALLING IN LOVE WITH HIM! This is a basic movie that rises a bit above the usual Hallmark fare thanks to a pretty-good story, decent acting, and the beautiful filming locations on Guam and the surrounding islands. Suffers from easy manipulation and some sappy moments that are almost groan-inducing, but not in a way that kills it. It will shock nobody that eventually Kat Graham melts into a puddle of Christmas cheer and everybody lives happily ever after. Or something like that.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
A New York Christmas Wedding
(Nia Fairweather and Otoja Abit • November 6, 2020)
Welp, I'll give it this much... they tried to do something different. — Just as she's accepting her pending nuptials, a woman is visited by her guardian angel who offers her a glimpse at what could have been if she hadn't kicked her first love to the curb before she got to be her girlfriend. Gotta hand it to Netflix... they skipped right past a gay romance and went straight to bisexual romance (considering her fiancé is a man). Surprisingly, a fresh concept is mired by a decidedly un-fresh story, and things didn't get interesting to me until the very end. Too little too late.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Favorite A California Christmas
(Lauren Swickard and Josh Swickard • December 14, 2020)
The story of a self-absorbed city-slicker pretending to be a local so he can convince a farmer to sell their land is not new. It's far from new. But the difference here is that the self-absorbed guy leaves his selfishness behind from the first minute he arrives on the farm where he is mistaken for a new ranch-hand that was hired to help the struggling owner. In addition, they don't make him tragically stupid about it all. Yes, he has some trouble adjusting to farm life (to comedic effect), but he genuinely tries to work hard and do his best instead of just complaining constantly and slacking off. Sure it's because he has an ulterior motive in trying to get her to sell... but his eventual 180° turn into somebody who genuinely cares about the farm and falls in love with the owner doesn't seem to come out of nowhere or feel artificial. On top of that, despite his privileged upbringing and carefree ways, he's a genuinely nice guy with a kind heart throughout the entire movie. It's not just something that magically happens when he turns a corner late in the game. Since Lauren and Josh Swickard are married in real life, it's not a surprise that their on-screen chemistry is totally present. And the side-stories of the limo driver and the real ranch-hand (and the mom with cancer) are not tacked-on, but an integral part of the story, which is another pleasant surprise. This isn't just good for a "Hallmark-style" movie, I enjoyed it on its own merits. If there's a problem, it's that just once I wish they could handle the "YOU-LIED-TO-ME-!" moment better because they always end up being so immature and artificial, but I guess you can't have everything. Even so... if only every new take on old material were this well thought-out and realized.

   

Others 2020

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
Christmas Unwrapped
(Amber Stevens West and Marco Grazzini • October 24, 2020)
A journalist gets her first feature assignment (from Cheryl Ladd!) to uncover the secret of where a local charity gets the funding to buy thousands of Christmas gifts each year. But the man in charge of the charity will only ever say that the presents come from Santa, so she's got her work cut out for her! In order to learn the secret, she will have to participate in his 12 Days of Christmas events. Wow. If they spend so much time together, I hope they don't fall in love! There's precious little chemistry here, but the leads are charming enough that things still work well enough... but the whole MY-EDITOR-CHANGED-MY-STORY! idiocy is never realistic, and this one was the worst take on it yet. As if the wasn't enough, the ending is so unearned and so flakey as to be laughable, and I cannot fathom how this movie ever got made with something so flippantly inadequate slapped onto it like this. But I guess that's bound to happen when you're greenlighting 40 new Christmas movies a year.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ BAD Candy Cane Christmas
(Beverley Mitchell and Mark Ghanimé • 2020)
I guess some people live in a fantasy world where they can constantly and consistently think the worst of a person... and that person will still want to be with them. In this case, it's a flower shop owner who is forever bemoaning that the "Candy Cane Lane" Christmas display from her childhood has been shuttered. Her and a local veterinarian fall for each other after a couple of misunderstandings... only for flower shop girl to keep making NEW misunderstandings about him that are awful. And, of course, she doesn't bother to ask about the misunderstandings because apparently it's more convenient for her to just assume the worst. At one point she thinks that he's gotten back together with his ex because she misunderstands something that his assistant said. When it gets cleared up, the assistant says that he's "learned his lesson" and won't ever say anything ever again. And rather than running away as fast as he can, the vet still wants to be with her? Holy crap. But what's worse? The vet's aunt seems oddly charged for sexual innuendo towards her nephew! This was one messed up movie.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Good A Welcome Home Christmas
(Jana Kramer and Brandon Quinn • November 7, 2020)
Do you know how big a crush I had on Charlene Tilton back when she was Lucy Ewing on Dallas? Apparently I was reminded of just how huge a crush it was when she appeared in this flick! Bonus points: we also get Venus Flytrap himself, Tim Reid! But anyway... chronic charity volunteer and part-time counselor helps returning military veterans re-assimilate into civilian life. But her latest case doesn't want any help... EXCEPT WITH ASSIMILATING HER INTO HIS LOVE-LIFE! This is a surprisingly competent movie for Lifetime, even if you saw the ending coming from a mile away. Maybe I was okay with it because I'm such a sucker for military-themed Hallmark movies? Regardless, Jana Kramer redeemed herself here for the truly awful Love at First Bark (2017). But the real treat of this movie was none of the major cast... it was LondonRose Sellars as little Savannah. I wonder if casting directors realize how profoundly talented child actors have to be to not come off artificial, cloying, or groan-inducing annoying. Probably not. Because for every LondonRose Sellars, we seem to get a dozen that are far less capable. In any event... it's the ending that makes this movie worth the watch. Christmas magic doesn't get much better... even if it's cheesy as all getout.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Okay A Very Charming Christmas Town
(Natalie Hall and Jon Prescott • November 8, 2020)
Given my undying love of Natalie Hall, I was excited at the idea of getting two Christmas movies from her this year (the other being Midnight at the Magnolia). Alas, this one kinda short-changes her, relying on the whole OH NOES! THE EDITOR CHANGED/PUBLISHED-AN-EARLY-VERSION-OF MY ARTICLE! trope that's been beat into the ground. This time she's a lifestyle and travel blogger who visits the town of Solvang to write a tear-down of its exploitation of Christmas to become a tourist trap. But of course she comes to love the town... and her guide... and changes her mind completely at the end. Given that they hired Natalie Hall and put up the money to shoot on location in ACTUAL Solvang, it seems weird that they would cut corners on the story, but here we are. Not terrible... just not very special.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
Christmas on Wheels
(Tiya Sircar and Michael Xavier • November 15, 2020)
Well, at least they tried to do something new. A woman is distraught to find that her uncle sold a magical Christmas car that's been used to deliver presents to everybody in town on Christmas (or whatever). But with the help of her uncle's attorney, she manages to track it down... then has a bake sale and an antique auction (or whatever) to raise the money to buy the presents (or whatever). To be honest. I was checked out on this one way early because it was so mundane as to make me feel I would fall asleep never to wake again if I paid too close attention. Sometimes different is just different... not good.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Okay The Christmas Edition
(Carly Hughes and Rob Mayes • November 15, 2020)
When the newspaper she works for is bought out and there's no opportunity for her to advance in the new organization, Carly Hughes quits and moves to Lantern Grove, Alaska so she can take over a small-town local newspaper. Lucky for her, the paper's former owner's son makes the trip worthwhile. But her success in reviving the tiny newspaper gets the attention of the corporation who bought out her old newspaper, and that's probably not a good thing. This was a cute movie made all the better by Carly Hughes, who is really talented on top of being super cute. Apparently she's a famous Broadway actor that I never knew existed... but I sure hope to see more of her after this.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
Christmas Listing
(Lexi Giovagnoli and Travis Burns • November 20, 2020)
Sometimes you see one of these things and just marvel that somebody read the script and though "Yeah! Let's go with it! A realtor hates a rival realtor (HATES HIM!) because he's better at the job than she is... I guess? Maybe it's because he's Australian. In any event, she HATES him. Only to end up stuck at a B&B out in the middle of nowhere with him because they are both competing for a killer listing. =SPOILER ALERT= Of course they end up together even though they are as mismatched as a combat boot and a glass slipper. I sat through the entire movie trying to understand why she hates the guy so much so I could try to appreciate how they ended up together, but I just couldn't because there's simply no cause for it. Except professional jealousy. Regardless, she's SO snippy and SO unlikeable that nothing about them being together makes any sort of sense. Then they go make the guy so phenomenally stupid at the end that he doesn't even know how to read a contract... all so he can call her a "genius." Pathetic. So lazy. That Travis Burns was even able to act like there was chemistry means he's a tremendous talent that deserves better roles.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ BAD! A Taste of Christmas
(Anni Krueger and Gilles Marini • November 20, 2020)
This was a great concept with a good cast (including Nia Vardalos!) which was utterly sabotaged and destroyed by so much idiotic crap that I felt as though my brain would explode. Too many efforts to be funny fell flat on their face because it was stupid, stupid, STUPID. By the time it finally ended I was in a fit of rage that I wasted my time. Letting something burn in the oven. Having water problems explode with leaks all over an entire restaurant kitchen. Turning on a garbage disposal while somebody is working on it. So many inexplicably stupid kitchen mishaps that nobody who has even a remote lick of sense would EVER do. The idiocy just goes on and on and on AND ON. Avoid like the plague.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
Feliz NaviDAD
(Mario Lopez and AnnaLynne McCord • November 21, 2020)
At first I was happy that we were getting what appeared to be more diversity in holiday rom-coms, because here's Mario Lopez in what looks like a hispanic offering! And it sure started out promising enough. But then it just devolved into a bunch of tired clichés that aren't even done very well. Widower gets set up on a dating app by his daughter. Turns out it's a woman in town to help her dad sell her dead mom's toy collection. She wants to "practice date" so she can hit the ground running when she flies back home. Along the way there's a school concert and singing and hokey coincidences that are just dumb. And speaking of dumb... why couldn't we get a fully hispanic main cast with a hispanic Christmas story and a hispanic crew behind the scenes? (Directed by... MELISSA JOAN HART?!?) I mean, any progress is progress, but come on! Ultimately this is more of the same old tired thing with a few diverse touches that flopped the ending. Oh well. Better luck next year.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
Dashing Home for Christmas
(Paniz Zade and Adrian Spencer • November 22, 2020)
Yet another random-strangers-trying-to-get-home-for-Christmas movie... but not nearly as well done as others. The reason for this is kinda simple... the guy is a sweet dork and the gal is a self-obsessed jerk. For the first 3/4 of the movie you will be screaming at the television "WHY ARE YOU STAYING WITH HER! RUN AWAY! RUN FAR AWAY!" I mean, Paniz Zade IS beyond gorgeous, so I get some initial infatuation there... but the idea that he would give her the time of day after he got to know her was just beyond all sense of reason. And even at the end... where she's inexplicably changed for the better... I was still like "Whut?" If you can't come up with a fresh idea, you'd better 100% knock it out of the park. Otherwise, why bother?

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
Homemade Christmas
(Michelle Argyris and Travis Nelson • November 22, 2020)
I am always surprised when a script gets through with a truly terrible lead character. But here we are. Michelle Argyris is a blogger who makes ends meet by being a "holiday problem solver" that can create holiday magic for her clients. From shopping to party decorations, she's got you covered! When she's hired to decorate the Christmas tree at a toy shop, she's mistaken for a brand consultant that's been hired to impress an investor so they can expand. Alas, the investor thinks her idea for the tree are for the shop, loves her thinking, and wants to ONLY deal with her... instead of the actual brand consultant who arrives after he leaves. The toy shop owner is a nice guy who hires local artisans to create handmade, American made toys, and is desperate to expand so he can keep his shop running... but that doesn't matter to the "holiday problem solver" who extorts $5,000 up front plus $15,000 upon completion of the project to work PART-TIME with him. With no choice but to hire her, the struggling shop owner is royally screwed. IT DOESN'T MATTER that she's going to donate some of the money to charity... she's perfectly happy to ruin somebody's business to get paid. I mean, it's a small hand-made toy shop needing money... how does she think that they have $20,000 laying around? Awful. Travis Nelson was perfectly cast as a nice guy, but the script decides to turn him awful at the end too. I honestly have no clue how we're supposed to root for either of these terrible people... and I didn't.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ BAD! Happiest Season
(Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis • November 25, 2020)
This took "boring" to an entirely new level. It's not clever or funny or insightful, it's just boring. What I simply don't understand is how the actors were okay with their characters being so stupid. Kristen Stewart's character "pretends to be straight" and comes off as a moron. Daniel Levy's character "pretends to be straight" and comes off as a bigger moron... "Yes. I am John, Abby's heterosexual ex-boyfriend." Who talks like that? Is that supposed to be funny? Daniel Levy wrote Schitt's Creek and THIS was a line he was comfortable saying? This movie was nothing but one huge disappointment performed by a pretty good cast... badly. And what a shame. How many Hallmark-style Christmas movies starring characters who are lesbians are there? If Hulu was going to put money into one, it should have been something far, far better than this.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
Dear Christmas
(Melissa Joan Hart and Jason Priestley • November 27, 2020)
I'm not a fan of Jason Priestley's acting, so I didn't even recognize him in this movie. I have, however, been a fan of Jason Priestley the man. I read an interview once that asked him why he stuck it out for nine seasons on Beverley Hills 90210 when everybody else was leaving. He said that he believes in "dancing with the girl you brought to the prom" and stayed for nine seasons. He wasn't there for the tenth, but says he regretted not staying. Then, when asked, he returned for the revival, despite having other work. That kind of dedication is to be respected, and that's why I watched this. It wasn't bad, and much of what makes it work is Jason Priestley's dedication to the part. He didn't have much chemistry with Melissa Joan Hart, but that seemed more the fault of the script. In this one, Melissa Joan Hart has the country's most popular podcast on relationships, but hasn't been able to find one herself. That all changes when she heads home for Christmas and meets Chris Massey (Christmassy, ha!), a guy she doesn't remember... but crushed on in the 8th grade. This could have been a classic holiday rom-com if they had shaped it into a better story and ditched the idiotic "We're Moving Too Fast!" trope (when they hadn't even really gone out on a date!). I sure wish when networks spend big money on name stars that they spend the time and money to get them a movie that works.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Favorite Once Upon a Main Street
(Vanessa Lachey and Ryan McPartlin • November 29, 2020)
Okay... I am used to cracking a smile from time to time with holiday rom-coms when they've got clever enough jokes, but I rarely laugh out loud. And yet this movie had me busting up twice. Vanessa Lachey is trying to buy an old building that would be the perfect spot for her year-round Christmas shop. Ryan McPartlin wants the same building for his chocolate shop. They hate each other from the second they meet... then keep ending up together as events (and Mother Nature) conspire against them. The rivalry is actually really funny despite it being so superficial, and that's ALL on Vanessa Lachey and Ryan McPartlin. No, there's no surprises (except an appearance by Patrick Duffy)... and the story is not anything radically original... but the chemistry is really good. By the time it was all over, I was really hoping that they get a TV show together where they solve mysteries or something. You don't toss away lightning in a bottle.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
Too Close for Christmas
(Jessica Lowndes and Chad Michael Murray • December 4, 2020)
Chad Michael Murray is held responsible for ruining Jessica Lowndes's marriage just days after the wedding because he stated an obvious fact at the ceremony. Too bad that his brother is married to her adopted sister and they're stuck in the same house for the holidays. OH NOES! But, miracle of Christmas miracles, Jessica Lowndes starts changing her mind about him as they spend more time with each other. I hope they don't fall in love! This is a perfectly acceptable holiday rom-com with no surprises and nothing too exciting going on. Which means that in order for it to make any kind of impression, the performances, chemistry, and setting better be next-level. But, alas, more of the same. But it was the ending that really killed me. Chad Michael Murray is forbidden from going on a planned skiing trip because, if he does, she wants nothing to do with him? She can't wait until he gets back? RUN, CHAD MICHAEL MURRAY! RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN!

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Favorite Christmas Ever After
(Ali Stroker and Daniel di Tomasso • December 6, 2020)
Okay... imagine my excitement over getting an inclusive movie like this with a lead character in a wheelchair... only to immediately have it sabotaged by an idiotic lapse of logic. A romance novelist is heading off to her annual Christmas retreat at a lodge, but... HORRORS!... her editor (and best friend) is demanding a rewrite of her new Christmas book so it can be released by Christmas. WHICH IS SO STUPID! A Christmas book would have to be completed months in advance in order to have a Christmas release. And you would never release a Christmas book so late. It would have to be released weeks (months?) in advance of Christmas so it had some shelf-life. I don't get it... what are they going to do, edit and print the book on CHRISTMAS DAY? — BUT ANYWAY... She arrives at the lodge only to almost run over the lodge-owner's son (who will be taking over the lodge) WHO LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE THE CHARACTER FROM HER ROMANCE NOVELS! WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!? Romance ensues. What's so frustrating is that the casting is flawless, the story is good, there's a twist that's not entirely unexpected but really, really good, and the dialogue is popping the entire movie. So how could a writer be this talented... yet so inexplicably brain-dead about how publishing works. They couldn't be bothered to do ten minutes research before writing a movie ABOUT PUBLISHING?!? And at the end it is rendered moot anyway? There's so much to like here. But, alas... sabotaged by laziness. Yet still one of my favorites. Go figure.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Okay The Santa Squad
(Aaron Ashmore and Rebecca Dalton • December 7, 2020)
An unemployed art teacher takes a temp job at The Santa Squad which helps people with their Christmas-related tasks. Her first job ends up being at über-wealthy and very busy Aaron Ashmore's house where she helps decorate with his two young daughters. She immediately runs afoul of Aaron Ashmore's horrible girlfriend... which isn't a problem for too long since the unemployed art teacher is really, really pretty. And a lot sweeter than his current mess. The movie is far better than the premise would indicate, even though there's nothing terribly original or shocking that happens. On the bright side, the two girls aren't as irritating as I expected.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Good The Christmas Setup
(Ben Lewis and Blake Lee • December 12, 2020)
I'm just going to say it... this was a good Christmas rom-com that takes a serious hit because Fran Drescher is being Fran Drescher all over it. Such a massively huge distraction. But anyway... Ben Lewis goes home to Milwaukee for Christmas with his best friend since college. While there his mom attempts to set him up with Blake Lee, the "out" gay guy from high school. Alas, Ben Lewis is getting a promotion that will take him to London, so any chemistry they have will be wasted! Or will it? And they do have chemistry, which is not surprising since Ben Lewis and Blake Lee are married in Real Life. While the story is nothing revolutionary, it does have the benefit of being made fresh thanks to a gay couple being in the lead.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
A Sugar & Spice Holiday
(Jacky Lai and Tony Giroux • December 13, 2020)
What happens when you have a flawless cast in a story that just kinda falls... flat? Well, this, apparently. A toxic boss at an architecture firm promises a promotion to two employees, but then tells them right before Christmas that only one of them is getting it based on which idea their client likes best. What's Jacky Lai to do since she's headed home to Maine for Christmas with her parents? Oh... I dunno... wax poetic about her adorable grandmother who died and bake stuff, apparently. There was a much better movie in here somewhere, which is a real shame for the cast which is excellent all the way around. I did like the way the lead character equated all the people in her life to baked goods, which was clever. But the rest? Okay, I guess, but nothing that makes it stand out this year.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ Favorite Dashing in December
(Peter Porte and Juan Pablo Di Pace • December 13, 2020)
Gay romance brought to you by Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Andie MacDowell, and Kacey Musgraves! Peter Porte comes home for Christmas in an attempt to get his mom to sell her ranch. What he doesn't know is that a handsome new farmhand has moved onto the ranch to help his mom run things, and they do not get along. But as they spend more time together, that all starts to change in a very big way. Peter Porte (who is gay and married) has been in some of my favorite Hallmark movies, which is why it's such a shame that he had to go to a different network in order to play a character he's been waiting to play for his entire career. But unless he wants to play a secondary character (or some ambiguous background character) Hallmark sure isn't going to give him the opportunity to play a gay character. Not right now anyway. Fortunately Paramount stepped up to the table and the result is pretty great and the story is a sweet one. I acknowledge that one of the reasons I like this one so much is that it's different from the same ol' straight white Christian woman falls for straight white Christian man holiday romance we've seen a billion times before in one of the six stories that Hallmark recycles year after year. The fact that we get my favorite Kacey Musgraves song and some of the best dialogue you'll ever hear in a rom-com thrown in was just icing on the cake.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
Lonestar Christmas
(Stephanie Bennett and Marco Grazzini • December 14, 2020)
I sure wish that directors of these movies would settle child actors down and get across that less-is-more. It is getting absurdly annoying that this never seems to improve over the years. On those rare occasions where the kids aren't acting unrealistically crazy-stupid in a misguided effort to be "cute" it saves me from having to fast forward through their scenes. But, alas... A woman packs up her annoying kids and heads back to her estranged father's Texas ranch for Christmas. While there she falls for the chef and owner of a local restaurant. No surprises (but plenty of idiotic little girl giggling) ensues.

Hallmark Movie Poster!   
✓ BAD! Christmas on the Menu
(Kim Shaw and Clayton James • December 18, 2020)
Kim Shaw is a head chef and Clayton James is her food critic nemesis... and the last person she expected to see when she headed to the opening of her mom's new bed-and-breakfast! This is about a bland a Christmas rom-com as they get. It's as if they didn't really have a story and just kinda meandered from scene to scene with no real effort put into a story. Every conversation was peppered with dialogue that I'm guessing was supposed to be clever and funny, but just came off as hokey and fake. By the time the celebrity food blogger and the famous home show host shows up in all their artificial glory, I had already checked out. This wasn't awful, it was just... so blah. I'd rather Lifetime have combined the budget from two of these lackluster movies so we could have gotten something actually good. AKA a movie where where the plot twist doesn't revolve around substituting store-bought whipped cream on a dessert (I only wish I was kidding).

   

   

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