Another year, another failed Blogmas. I like to be consistent. 😂 This year my excuse isn’t work because I had less shifts than I’ve ever had in December thanks to 20% capacity in malls. My excuse this year is . . . um . . . well, I’m not actually sure what it is. Lack of motivation? I was excited for the holiday season back in October, but something inside me fizzled as the days went by. I didn’t put up my family’s nativity scene or watch my favorite Christmas movie The Nativity Story. In fact, I barely watched any holiday movies. I did listen to a fair amount of festive music, but that was about it. If you’re feeling left out in the cold over here on my lifestyle blog, I didn’t do Vlogmas for my YouTube channel either. I desperately wanted, nay, needed to be in the Christmas spirit this year, but I just couldn’t muster up the energy to celebrate. Despite an undercurrent of sadness draining my energy, I still managed to have a lovely day at home with family on the 25th. I watched The Santa Clause & played Crash Team Racing with my brother, cooked a repeat of Thanksgiving with my mom, & watched the Lakers game with my dad & brother. The Lakers beat the Mavericks! 💜💛 We ended the festivities with a fire, popcorn, & Wonder Woman 1984. I didn’t like it as much as the first movie, but it was still a lot of fun to watch. Highly recommend! After that my brother & I watched Friends until midnight, the official end of Christmas. I guess all of that is a good metaphor for 2020, feeling down but making the best of the situation. In the words of Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane, “From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow so have yourself a merry little Christmas now.” 💚 🎄 ❤
H A P P Y H A N U K K A H 🕎 M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S 🎄 H A P P Y N E W Y E A R 🎉
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Back in March 2017, I saw this movie in theaters & reviewed it. I’m going to revisit my original thoughts & see if I still feel the same way. This was my 2nd viewing:
• ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • S P O I L E R S • A H E A D • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ • ⚠️ •
Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up. The love story goes beyond girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy. Belle is the first human, not counting the enchanted objects, to look past Beast’s exterior. Her attention and kindness encourages him to become more human, making his inner transformation just as important as his outer change. They develop a friendship first and then fall in love. I am ashamed to say that despite being initially excited, I allowed myself to be swayed by critics giving their opinion based on the trailers. Once the movie was released and I heard great feedback from lifelong fans, I started to relax and get excited again. I finally saw the movie last Wednesday. When the title card filled the movie screen, I got chills and teared up. In that moment I realized how emotional the experience was going to be for my inner child.
• In the name of consistency, I have an obligation to tell you that fireworks go off over Beast’s castle instead of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. We love a themed castle intro on this blog! I was less emotional in the beginning then I was in the movie theater back in 2017 because there wasn’t as much adrenaline running through me. To be honest, I was thinking of the things I didn’t like before & bracing myself for the movie to be much worse than I remembered. Boy oh boy was I in for a surprise!
The sets are stunning. The village is like the picturesque interior of a snowglobe isolated from the rest of the world. There are golden, ornamental baroque details all over Beast’s castle, specifically French Rococo. Under the curse, the exterior is dark and dramatic; the word gothic comes to mind. As the centerpiece of the story, the enchanted rose is as striking as it needs to be. The theme is appropriately weaved into other parts of the film; Maurice attempts to pick a white rose from Beast’s garden, and Belle’s baby rattle is a red rose. Don’t even get me started on the final scene. The flower-draped ceiling is GORGEOUS!! The entire ballroom looks like springtime, airy & bright.
• Yes yes yes!!! This movie is indeed gorgeous, especially the scenes that take place in the castle. And that final ballroom scene? *faints from the beauty* 😍
Belle is the same beloved character but with a few modifications. Her day-to-day outfits are a quirky mix of materials and patterns, and combat boots are her footwear of choice. The wardrobe update matches her new role as an inventor just like her father Maurice. The yellow ballgown is a simpler design than it’s 1991 counterpart, but when you see how it moves onscreen, doubts will fly out of your mind. The gold touches make it shine, and the skirt floats through the air as if it were weightless. The look wouldn’t be complete without the gold ear-cuff, a subtle nod to Belle’s unconventional style. There is no need to say much about the celebration dress. The way it looks and moves in the ballroom during the final scene will take your breath away. Belle’s hairstyles are simple but very beautiful. My personal favorite is her updo in the library scene accessorized with a blue headband. Of course I have to mention Beast’s wardrobe which goes through a transformation of its own; it becomes more refined and princely as the movie goes on. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran deserves a lot of credit because she came up with outfits for a character who is animated during most of the film. A lot of work went into making sure the animated garments had the depth and detail of tangible clothing. The animators did a phenomenal job.
• I mostly feel the same. I didn’t love the gold ear cuff as much this time around, but I can overlook that one small detail without much hesitation. I know the yellow dress is controversial, & I agree it could’ve been better. However, I don’t hate it as much as the majority. You know why? The celebration dress is stunning enough to erase past sins. The pure white gown embellished with romantic pink flowers is a springtime vision paired with the prince’s powder blue ensemble.
Alan Menken is a musical genius so it’s a no-brainer that I like all of the new songs, especially Evermore. In terms of flow, Days in the Sun is a nice song, but it feels unnecessary. There is no nice way to say this so I’ll just rip off the band-aid. Many of the vocals are heavily edited, and I suspect it has more to do with lack of vocal ability than over-zealous audio editors. It is a fact that Dan Stevens hired a vocal coach to learn how to sing for this movie, and Emma Watson has never sung professionally. I am thrilled with their acting performances, but the vocals leave a lot to be desired; they sound robotic and lack emotion. I found myself holding my breath every time they sang because I desperately wanted it to sound good but knew it probably wouldn’t. A few times I was pleasantly surprised. Emma did a good job with Belle (Reprise), and Beast sounded much better in the second verse of Evermore. I saw a comment on YouTube regarding Emma’s vocals that was well put. I can’t remember the exact words, but this is the basic idea: The original songs, written for an experienced singer, are above Emma’s capabilities. She sounded better singing the songs written for her portrayal of Belle. I had the same problem with Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson. Ewan has sung before in a film, and for the most part his vocals sound good. I know Emma can sing, and I think she was a great choice for Mrs. Potts. The issue is inconsistency. Sometimes the vocals sound good, and other times they sound heavily autotuned. Since both roles require a certain voice, it is possible that manipulation was required to help Ewan and Emma stay in character while singing. The song Beauty and the Beast is a turning point in the story, and Mrs. Potts’ singing voice ruins a bit of the magic in what is an otherwise beautiful scene. Listening to it again, the vocals sound better than I remembered, but there are still some parts that don’t sound as nice as they should. Knowing that Emma has a great voice makes this even more of a heartbreaking disappointment. I love the cast, but this movie is a musical. Acting and vocals should be split 50/50 when considering the potential actors. Perfection was well within reach for this film, and lack of vocal ability was the one and only roadblock. Consider the rave reviews that Josh Gad and Luke Evans are receiving. Why do you think that is? Not only are their acting performances spot-on, but their vocals are spectacular. That is why they are the most successful part of this musical film. I want to end my rant by mentioning that I find the entire soundtrack to be over-edited, even the experienced voices such as Kevin Kline. I would have preferred less effects and rough edges. At least the final result would have sounded more genuine.
• I have notes to add as well as some revisions:
I’m not sure what didn’t click the first time, but Days in the Sun is a lovely song which adds to the story of the objects.
I still love the song Evermore. One detail I failed to mention is the 28-second instrumental intro which all Beauty and the Beast fans should know because it plays as the original 1991 movie begins; a shorter version opens the 2017 movie. I didn’t catch that connection until I rewatched the animated movie which is exactly why I’m watching both the originals & remakes for this series. I love those nerdy details! I still prefer Josh Groban’s version of the song, but considering Dan Stevens took voice lessons for this movie, he did a good job. My biggest complaint is the overediting. I know an effect was used to aid the Beast voice, but I don’t think his singing had to sound robotic as a sacrifice.
I have the same complaint regarding Emma Watson as Belle. I will continue to say this over & over again: If she wasn’t going to have a singing double or go through intense vocal training, I would’ve preferred that autotune take a backseat to a soft, rough around the edges voice. Rewatching the movie gave me this epiphany: It sounds like Emma recorded the songs alone in a large room with major echo. It doesn’t match what Belle is doing onscreen, whether that be walking through the village or exploring the castle. There are a few parts that sound okay, but that’s just not enough. I’m seriously considering a petition to request that Disney rerecord the singing & use a light hand with editing. Honestly, that change would make it near perfect because I love everything else about this film.
The sound editing for Emma as Mrs. Potts & Ewan as Lumière isn’t as bad as I remembered. They are both experienced singers & sound great in character. The same goes for Kevin Kline who only sings one song How Does a Moment Last Forever, an emotional moment that tugs at the heartstrings. I think I was being nit-picky about the audio because of Beast & Belle’s voices, but now that I’ve calmed down, every other character was fine with only a few rough spots.
Animation was the perfect medium for this story because it is a fairy tale that is not at all grounded in reality. When considering a live action version, you have to ask yourself if the story will translate. I commend the crew because I was a believer every step of the way. I like the realistic design of each enchanted object. They fit the style of the movie and still feel like the same beloved characters. I love the way the friendship develops between Beast and Belle. There are so many amazing scenes I could mention such as the library and Belle’s childhood home in Paris, but I will stick with one. Up until the ballroom scene, I was fully invested in the budding friendship. During the waltz when Beast lifts Belle, I felt a strong wave of emotion and instantly knew the relationship had become a love story. I was worried about the transformation because I wanted to be in the moment; I didn’t want to only see Dan Stevens in a wig. I am so relieved that the scene came together because it cemented the couple’s chemistry. I know that Belle’s final quote is controversial, but I LOVED it. I found the playful moment to be cute and relatable.
👸🏻 Belle: “How would you feel about growing a beard?” 😘
🐗 Beast: “GROWL!” 😉
• Yes yes yes!!! I still agree with everything I said about the art direction, the enchanted object designs, & the relationship between Beast & Belle. Dan & Emma have great onscreen chemistry which worked well before & after the beast-to-prince transformation.
💬 Closing Thoughts: There are details that disappoint and frustrate me, and I’m not afraid to talk about them. However, I can’t change anything so there’s no use dwelling on the negative. My emotional reaction speaks volumes, and I will definitely be watching this movie again. Please go and see it before you form an opinion. You might be pleasantly surprised!
• Because of my rants about the singing & effects, you probably think this movie isn’t highly ranked. This is where I surprise both you & me. There are many things to consider. First, this film is close to being a shot for shot remake with very few changes, even in dialogue. Second, I was more emotional during the remake, crying at least three times; I only cried once during my rewatch of the animated movie. Third, I can say without hesitation that the animated movie is better because it has no vocal shortcomings. However, if the singing voices were fixed, I would choose the remake. GASP! I took this review one step further & timed how long Belle sings onscreen. In the span of 120 minutes, she sings for approximately . . . FOUR MINUTES!! That’s only 1/30th of the movie. Stepping back & looking at the big picture, her voice is an important one but wasn’t featured much in an otherwise great movie. Going the extra mile yet again, I watched the movie for a third time with my brother, a frequent movie watcher who is brutally honest. He’s not a fan of musicals, but at the end he told me the criticisms had been too harsh. He didn’t even cringe or say one negative thing the entire film! So, where does that leave my ranking? I won’t reveal anything right now, but you should be prepared for this movie to land very high on the list, higher than even I thought it would be.
As I was writing this blog post, the Gilmore Girls episode currently playing on my iPad, season 3 episode 7, referenced Riverdance. That is the best possible sign that today is a great day to support the Irish arts! Former Riverdance dancer Kincaid Stringer & his mother Shannon Kincaid, a painter, have teamed up for a great cause. They’re selling seven of Shannon’s paintings through Indiegogo for a COVID-19 relief fund; all proceeds will support Irish actors, artists, backstage workers & crews, clubs, concerts, cultural & event spaces, dancers, dance schools, festivals, musicians, performers, singers, theaters, & writers. I grew up dancing & singing so the arts are very important to me. Riverdance is the reason I asked my mom to sign me up for dance classes at the age of four so the Irish arts are also very important to me. Let’s not forget my Irish ancestors! 🇮🇪 The arts have done a lot for us in quarantine so it’s only right that we give back. You can choose to only donate money or receive a painting or two or seven in exchange for your donation. If it’s not already obvious, I’m buying “The Dancer.” Can’t wait to have a gorgeous Irish dancing queen above my bed! 👑 Please consider setting aside $25, or more, to support a great cause & get a piece of Ireland for your home. 💚🤍🧡
*NOTE: The Indiegogo campaign ends on September 17th, & the paintings will ship in November. Because of COVID-19, please consider that shipping could be delayed.
Irish people’s love of dancing has been well documented throughout their written history. In fact, one of the earliest references to dancing details a visit between the Mayor of Waterford and Mayor of Baltimore in 1413. The modern Irish dancing of today is no longer merely a processional combination of singing and dancing as an act of celebrating, but a sport that produces athletes that are physically strong, as well as creative and artistic. What was once a tradition specific to Ireland (as well as England, Scotland, and some parts of America) caught like wildfire in 1994 with the debut of Riverdance. The theatrical show consisting mainly of traditional Irish music and dance took the world by storm and has been a global phenomenon ever since. Now, twenty-five years later, the Irish dancing community consists of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world today. Teachers from around the world have committed themselves to spreading their love and passion for Ireland’s traditional form of expression. Regardless of how far a dancer progresses competitively or professionally, being an Irish dancer is something that is inextricably bound to their identity forevermore. In this piece entitled “The Dancer,” you feel the excitement, the confidence, and the artistry that comes from expressing a centuries-old tradition that has touched the hearts of many. – Kincaid & Shannon
Ireland and Scotland combined have a rich culture within the performing arts, which has resulted in a thriving gig scene. Musicians are constantly pushing the boundaries in order to create new and fresh work that is often steeped in tradition. Many are staunch believers that musical traditions must be preserved as they always have been – the “play it like my father used to” kind of sentimentality. Yet, every generation brings a new wave of talent that feels that this attitude discourages progress and evolution. This debate between tradition and innovation is a tale as old as time. Still, many feel it is possible to honour your origins while also exploring and adapting to the future; they are not mutually exclusive. Irish music legend, Míchéal Ó Súilleabháinn, believed that traditions are never frozen, but rather are fluid. He believed that the idea of authenticity originating from a pure source located in antiquity was bogus! This painting is for the new wave of artists and musicians who are creating some of the most incredible new-age folk / Trad music in the world. Project Smok, Beoga, Talisk, Ímar and the like are leading the way for the future of Irish music. – Kincaid & Shannon
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw
Ériu is the goddess of sovereignty and the mythological mother of Ireland. She is often interpreted as the modern-day personification of Ireland. Along with her two sisters, Banba and Fódhla, Ériu was a part of a triumvirate of goddesses. Before their final defeat, each goddess requested that the island be named for her. This was granted to all of them, but Ériu became the chief name in use. The old Irish name Ériu evolved into Éire in modern Irish and depending on the case is spelled Éireann or Éirinn. This is how we finally arrived with the English name for the country, Erin. The painting has been imbued with symbols to depict all that Ériu embodied within pre-Christian Irish culture. Ériu represents the sacred feminine, as illustrated in the column capitals, or the decorative element at the top of a column, that represent the three phases of a woman’s life cycle – the maid, mother and crone. The stars behind her and the lunala around her neck evoke her role as a lunar goddess. Her hair bleeds into the trees, depicting her connection to the earth and its bounty. She holds this bounty in her hand as a glass of mead, which was served at the feast of Goibhniu, and offered immortality to those that drank it. Around her head is a ring of knot work encasing the land, which is topped by the stone of divisions from the hill of Uisneach, the symbolic and sacred centre of the island in Irish mythology. Ériu’s bones are said to have been laid to rest on this hill and serves as a gateway between the Underworld and the world above. – Kincaid & Shannon
There is much more to an Irish pub than just having a drink. In Ireland, pubs are central to the way of life. Similar to a church, they represent a pillar of Irish social life and community. A place where pints, comfort food, live music, and sport can be always be found; somewhere you can meet friends, neighbors, or even complete strangers, in an inviting atmosphere. It’s for these reasons that recreations of Irish pubs can be found in any city around the world. O’Connor’s was opened as a pub in Galway in 1942 by Thomas O’Connor, and is currently operated by third generation O’Connors. Every inch of it decorated in eclectic memorabilia, the pub has become famous for its hospitality and world-class live music. So much so that Ed Sheeran used it as the location of his music video “Galway Girl” in 2017 featuring actress Saoirse Ronan, furthering the pub’s world-wide recognition. – Kincaid & Shannon
Ireland has a rich tradition of various festivals taking place throughout each year. The Rose of Tralee was first held in 1959 and has since been held every August in Tralee, County Kerry, to select a young woman to be crowned the Rose. Cities all over the world host their own selection balls to determine who will represent them in Ireland. The festival bills itself as a celebration of the “aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility, and Irish heritage” of modern young women. Bursting with music and dancing, this festival celebrates the very best of Irish culture and the future of Irish relations worldwide. The winner and their family become a part of a global network, showcasing how Irish culture is thriving amongst the Irish Diaspora. They say, “Once a Rose, always a Rose.” – Kincaid & Shannon
A session is a casual gathering of musicians playing traditional Irish music, usually taking place in a pub, but has also been known to take place on street corners or even in someone’s kitchen. Irish “trad” music has garnered a deep appreciation, not just in Ireland, but also around the world. It’s important to note that a session is more than just a casual jam between musicians – the focus is on the instrumental tunes found within the Irish tradition – reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, slip jigs, and the like. Whether it be in a pub or someone’s home, sessions are times of brilliant music and ever-flowing drink that have a certain habit of continuing late into the night, if not into the wee hours of the morning! – Kincaid & Shannon
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
These are just two quotes from one of the biggest literary personalities in Ireland’s history, Oscar Wilde. A literary treasure, Wilde was a hugely popular playwright and poet in the late 1800s. Besides well-known works such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and Lady Windermere’s Fan, his biting wit and flamboyant style gained him notoriety as well. As a people, the Irish are known for their good sense of humour, which has bolstered them during periods of great hardship throughout history. Wilde embodied this intrinsically Irish trait to the very end. Even as he faced death, he was cracking jokes and reportedly said, “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do.” A collection of art in support of Irish culture would be incomplete without paying homage to Oscar Wilde. – Kincaid & Shannon
Last weekend I participated in The Bookie Trials Royal Weekender, 48 hours of reading to take everyone’s mind off the Coronavirus pandemic currently affecting most of the world. It was also a contest to find out which team gets a 2-day lead during The Bookie Trials in July. I’m on Team Mage; the other 3 teams are the Bards, Outlaws, & Scribes. Start scrolling to see how I did. 🧙🏻♀️
🗓 Wednesday, March 25, 2020 🗓
1:50pm – I declared my TBR on Twitter & earned my Oath Maker badge.
Noon: Things did not go as planned. Despite trying to get my mind off current events, I received news that the store I work at is closed until further notice & was encouraged to apply for Unemployment Insurance. My reading time turned into a long afternoon & evening spent crunching numbers for an application. I didn’t open a book until 11pm. 😴 💤
Noon – 4pm: I wanted to attempt to finish a 2nd book, but the application process I started on Saturday got in the way. I turned into the Hulk & had a meltdown so it was for the best that I stepped away from reading. I did, however, earn my Master Your Craft badge by watching one of my favorite YouTubers: BooksAndLala.
This weekend didn’t go as planned, & my team didn’t win, but after a horrible reading slump dating back to 2019, I was happy to finish at least one book. I can’t wait for the big event this summer. I vlogged last year so I think I’m going to blog this year. See you in July! ☀️
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Thoughts: I admit that I was in a MAJOR Grinch mood after a long day at work. That being said, this movie wasn’t for me. There was not even one redeeming factor that would motivate me to give it a second chance. I felt zero chemistry between the lead actors, & the story never gave me the warm, fuzzy Christmas feelings I expect from Hallmark. I’m acknowledging I watched this movie once & walking away with no intention of looking back. Onward & upward!
Thoughts: This is classic Hallmark so I own a DVD copy. It isn’t at the very top of my favorites list, but it is on the list. Christopher & Candace are adorable as an onscreen couple, & the story has lots of festive cheer to warm your heart on a cold December evening. Tom Arnold is always quirky & a little cringey in his Hallmark roles; it can be annoying at times, but in this case it doesn’t affect my rating too much. A solid, above average Christmas movie to turn on every holiday season!
Thoughts: Chad & Erica had some chemistry, but even though there were a handful of cute moments, I wasn’t blown away by them as a pair. Erica’s personality as Lauren was bubbly; I could see how it would annoy some, but honestly that was the least of my concerns. Canadian actor Chad Connell played a British character. I’m definitely not an expert, but I was able to notice the accent wasn’t authentic. It was fine at times, albeit a bit generic, but at its worst it morphed into a caricature of the posh upper-class. The side character Maryam also had an interesting accent that left me scratching my head; I wasn’t sure if she was meant to be American or British because the accent was a strange blend of the two that often sounded like a bad Katherine Hepburn impression. Overall this isn’t the worst that I’ve seen, but it isn’t the best either, falling just short of average.
Thoughts: This is another film I try to watch annually. It’s not creme of the crop, but it is a good one. Andrew & Arielle work well as an onscreen pair. Arielle’s character Jessie is annoying throughout film due to her inability to commit, but not enough to stop me from rewatching. The storyline about a bet to marry a girl in order to win a better office is offensive so I’m acknowledging the issue & taking it into consideration with my rating. I’ve also considered that Andrew’s character Aiden realizes his error before the film ends.
Thoughts: There’s nothing outright bad about this film. Brendan & Lacey have good chemistry, & the story is fine. The main issue I have is the title which references Jane Austen’s famous novel “Pride & Prejudice.” There are expectations that come with such a reference, & this movie is only a subtle nod to the story of Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet. In fact, the use of names is the main connection between the source & the Hallmark version. One of my favorite movies is the 2005 Focus Features adaptation so this was never going to live up to my standards. Basically this movie let itself down by referencing a classic romance & falling short.
Thoughts: The leads had some chemistry, but I never reached a point when I was rooting for them as a couple. The side romance also felt lukewarm. My love for Erin Krakow & her stunning wardrobe wasn’t enough to overcome a missing puzzle piece or two or three. I need to mention that the teddy bear Edward gives Ella is one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen. Still trying to shake that image from my brain! I really wanted to like this movie, but it just didn’t blow me away so Pride, Prejudice, & Mistletoe is still my favorite Hallmark movie loosely inspired by Jane Austen.
Thoughts: Becca & Kevin were adorable as an onscreen couple, & the story was sweet. It was good, just not great. I have yet to be blown away by a Hallmark Christmas movie about a singer/songwriter. That being said, I’m willing to rewatch this because it’s one of the better Hallmark offerings centered around music.
Thoughts: Keep in mind my family made jokes during the entire movie so I was definitely distracted. Ashley’s character was fine, but I didn’t feel any chemistry between her & Paul. Because most of these Christmas movies are centered around romance, zero chemistry guarantees a low rating. I didn’t feel much of anything, & that is why I seriously considered a 1 mistletoe rating. I raised my rating slightly because I, as a viewer, was not fully focused. I would consider giving it a second chance at a later date.
Thoughts: This is another movie that’s earned a spot on my watchlist. It’s not perfect but does enough to get the job done when I’m in the mood for some Hallmark. The leads have good chemistry, & I’m a sucker for the “fake dating” trope. I want to note that the moment when Elise breaks down in the parking lot during her business Christmas party is cringey; the stilted dialogue & acting feel forced. The ending is also cringey but not as bad. Just want to be transparent about both the pros & the cons.
Thoughts: After the Holiday Date fiasco, I was extremely cautious going into Hallmark’s second Hanukkah 2019 offering. WHAT AN IMPROVEMENT! It wasn’t perfect, but it had much, much more heart. I was not expecting the leads to have such great chemistry so that was a pleasant surprise. I was also not expecting to cry, but I did! At a business Christmas party (SPOILER), Chris put Rebecca & her family center stage, asking that they share the Hanukkah prayer with the other guests. It may sound like he put them on display like a museum or zoo exhibit, but it came straight from his heart, wanting to make up for taking them away from their intimate family celebration for a business function. This movie restored my faith that Hanukkah has a place on Hallmark.
Thoughts: Based on the marketing I saw beforehand, I wasn’t sure this pairing would be convincing as a couple. I was pleasantly surprised by great acting & sweet chemistry between Alison & Lucas. The final kiss was a bit awkward, but that didn’t spoil the whole movie. It wasn’t perfect but good enough to be labeled “above average.”
Thoughts: Shenae & Steve were so stinkin’ adorable together! One glance at the poster makes me squeal all over again. Obviously the chemistry was great, but that’s not all. The acting was good, & so was the story. Not only is this “above average” but also a candidate for receiving a higher rating in the future. Only time will tell!
Thoughts: At first I was convinced that the leads had no chemistry, but in a positive turn of events I was converted to a believer. Actually, they ended up being great together! I also loved their dynamic with Laurel’s daughter Scarlett. When a child is involved in the plot, trio chemistry is just as important to me as the romance. There was some focus on a side story so I’ll give it a quick mention. One or two parts felt a bit too awkward for interactions between a married couple, but I think Wade was meant to be a bit quirky as well as anxious about keeping his surprise hidden from Betty. Their scene together at the end was sweet so all’s well that ends well. Overall, I’m pleased to say I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. What a pleasant surprise!
Thoughts: After an unconvincing start, the chemistry between the leads & the warmth of the story did improve. However, it wasn’t enough to convince me this movie deserves a spot on my annual watchlist. I didn’t connect enough to care about the main romance. In fact, my favorite part was the side story about author Tina Finnegan learning to love Christmas again after a painful loss.
Thoughts: To be fair, this movie was better than I expected. The Cape Cod setting was pretty; the story was interesting enough to keep me entertained; & the leads had decent chemistry. It wasn’t amazing enough to be a new favorite but good enough to earn a middle of the road rating.
Thoughts: First of all, I want to mention how great it was to see Tamera in her own Hallmark Christmas movie after watching Tia in A Gingerbread Romance. Seriously, I LOVED them growing up. Still do! ♥️ Back to A Christmas Miracle. Brooks & Tamera did have chemistry, but it took me some time to warm up to Marcus as a character. I know there was supposed to be tension in the beginning for the sake of drama, but he just didn’t come across as likeable until later on. Tamera’s radiant smile & sweet personality were perfect for a plot centered around positive, heartwarming stories. This movie isn’t perfect, but it did put me in a good mood & pour some much needed holiday cheer into my life.
Thoughts: Kellie Martin has been my girl since her Christy days. Because I’m such a big fan, I’m picky. Based on the trailer, I wasn’t sure if I liked her paired with Colin. I’m so glad I gave it a chance because I was w-r-o-n-g. Their chemistry hit me out of nowhere! Some of the “saying the same thing at the same time” moments felt forced, but that didn’t spoil the entire movie . Not only did Sara & Travis have chemistry with each other but also with Sara’s daughter Chloe; their dynamic as a trio worked well onscreen. I also loved the cozy Montana setting & all the side characters. Definitely a new favorite & an addition to my annual watchlist.
Thoughts: I was nervous going into this movie; it was highly anticipated because of the leads, & I didn’t want to be disappointed. Good news: I wasn’t! The story was very festive; Alexa & Jonathan had great chemistry; & I loved all the side characters. As Steven’s guard came down, he got a little goofy at times, but as a dedicated Food Network viewer, I know that’s part of Jonathan’s personality in real life. On a serious note, he surprised me with some tender, well-acted moments. Alexa, as always, was fantastic & a joy to watch. Another new favorite!
Thoughts: I love Eloise & Sean as an onscreen couple in Christmas With Holly, but this movie doesn’t compare. The chemistry was there, but it wasn’t on the same level for reasons that I can’t place my finger on. All I can say is that it just wasn’t the same. The character Joe felt overacted at times, not very natural. Actually, that goes for some of the side characters as well, specifically Joe’s Aunt Nellie. Because there were some truly heartwarming moments, like Grace’s reunion with her dog Christmas, my rating is less severe.
Thoughts: I didn’t feel much chemistry between Benjamin & Cindy. Actually, I didn’t feel much of anything during the entire movie. To my surprise, the ending had quite a bit of chemistry & feeling. It wasn’t enough to make me like the film, but it did make me question why I didn’t feel anything sooner. Even though she had very little screen time, I enjoyed Kathie Lee Gifford’s performance; she put a smile on my face which goes a long way in my book. Those two redeeming qualities saved this movie from a worse rating.
Thoughts: I wanted to like this because I felt chemistry between Chaley & Rome. Unfortunately I had a difficult time connecting to both the characters & story. The acting left a lot to be desired as well; it was noticeably patchy throughout the movie. I just never reached a point when I felt invested in what was happening therefore this is not a new favorite.
Thoughts: I have to be honest & admit that the story about Kristin’s daughter writing a song that turns out to be Mariah Carey’s holiday hit “Oh Santa” is too cheesy, even for a Hallmarkie like me. That being said, my rating is high because Brennan Elliott & Lacey Chabert are my favorite onscreen couple on Hallmark. Their chemistry is on a level yet to be reached by another pairing. They’re in a league of their own, & I can’t bring myself to give them a lower rating, even though it should probably be a 3.75 or 4. In this case, I’m definitely biased.
Thoughts: Andrew & Meghan had good chemistry, & I like the idea of two strangers falling in love while forced to take a road trip together in the airport’s last rental car. However, all of that was overshadowed by the idiocy of the FBI. Ashley is wanted for questioning, & unbeknownst to her, Dash is the agent in charge of keeping a close eye on her. Suspicions grow because she speaks Romanian & is transporting a mysterious red box. Turns out she has some Romanian friends, & they are the recipients of the red box that is JUST A PRESENT. After a dramatic arrest, the situation ends up being a giant misunderstanding. I know mistakes can be made, but the whole thing looks so idiotic from the outside looking in. I cannot get over such incompetence, even on TV.
Thoughts: The setting is The Plaza Hotel in New York City which makes the movie feel like an Eloise book come to life but for adults. I didn’t know if Simmons would work with anyone other than Fitz ( AOS reference 😉 ), but Elizabeth had great chemistry with Ryan. Following Jessica’s job setting up a historical exhibition about Christmas at The Plaza was fascinating, especially when she decided to focus on the unique tree topper displayed each year. If you want to sound extra smart, the official name is finial d’arbre. The only issue I have has to do with makeup. For one whole scene, Jessica had lipstick on her teeth. Poor thing! The crew should be keeping an eye on details like that because it’s embarrassing for the actor & distracting to the viewers. 😡 Since that has nothing to do with the cast or story, my opinion remains the same. In the middle of the movie I started to overthink my rating, but at the very end when Nick decorated Jessica’s house, I knew for certain I had found a 2019 favorite. 🎉
Finial – A distinctive ornament at the apex of a roof, pinnacle, canopy, or similar structure in a building or an ornament at the top, end, or corner of an object.
Thoughts: Brooke & Daniel had chemistry, but it didn’t feel romantic, more like friendship. They just didn’t work as an onscreen couple. The story was fine, & the overall vibe of the movie wasn’t a total turnoff. Basically, it was just okay. I was considering 2.75, but I rounded up because it’s Christmas. I could change my mind after the holidays.
Thoughts: Unfortunately this was not for me. I didn’t feel any chemistry between the leads, & the acting was patchy throughout the movie. The story did warm up in the middle but not enough to change my opinion. Actually, I might’ve been too generous with my rating, but I’ll leave it for now.
*Note: To clear up any confusion, the title of the movie did change.
Thoughts: From what I saw, Chelsea & Drew have the potential for good chemistry; unfortunately I didn’t feel it in this movie. Actually, I had a difficult time connecting to anything. I didn’t care about the characters nor feel anything from the story. It all left me feeling cold, no Christmas warmth.
Thoughts: I refused to feed into the hate surrounding this movie until I’d watched it for myself. Having seen it, I’m unfortunately siding with the majority. I didn’t like the characters, especially Joel; his personality was too goofy for my taste. I felt no chemistry between the leads which means I wasn’t invested in the romance. For the record, I’m totally fine with a cheesy Hanukkah movie because all the Christmas movies are cheesy too. My problem is what’s lost in translation. Even though this is a minor Jewish holiday, I don’t think that makes it any less special. What I’m missing from Hallmark’s interpretation is the heart. The prayer scene was a missed opportunity to share an intimate look at a family home during the eight nights of Hanukkah. I know the story is relying on the “holiday date” trope, which we’ve seen before in Hitched for the Holidays. However, it would be nice to see a Jewish family celebrating together rather than one Jew on his or her own in a gentile home, a bit like an exotic animal on display at the zoo. There’s nothing wrong with a teaching moment, but I’m craving serious, heartfelt family moments that are seen in all the Christmas movies. I decided on a rating of 2, but even that feels too generous. Fingers crossed that Hallmark’s 2nd Hanukkah 2019 offering is much, MUCH better.
Thoughts: Brooke had good chemistry with Trevor, more than she did with Daniel in Christmas in Love. Unfortunately I didn’t feel any onscreen chemistry between Trevor’s character Keith & his daughter Jessie. There was no ease about his parenting; it felt more like he was watching someone else’s child. Everything else – the atmosphere, the characters, the story – were fine. I wasn’t blown away by anything, but I’d be willing to watch it again.
Thoughts: The leads Andrew & Nikki had great chemistry. There was strong acting from two Hallmark veterans which gave the story much more depth than one might expect. Another pro is the story which relies on one of my favorite tropes: A woman wishes for a better life, gets her wish, & wants her old life back. I have one stupid complaint so please bear with me. Nikki’s character Penny is the main character because she’s the one who’s unhappy with her life & gets a wish. However, I can’t help feeling the absence of her husband Stuart during a portion of the movie. In the grand scheme of the plot, it makes total sense, but in my own little La La Land it sticks out enough to (slightly) distract me. This isn’t a “girl falls in love with boy” type of romance so my complaint isn’t valid, but I think it’s worth noting just to be thorough. A Dream for Christmas isn’t perfect, but there’s something very sweet about watching a wife fall in love with her husband again because she didn’t realize what she had until it was gone.
Thoughts: What a roller coaster ride! The first 30 or 40 minutes, I was prepared to give a shaky 3 mistletoe or less. Dustin’s attitude rubbed me the wrong way even though I knew the intent was tension between him & Belinda. I did not like him at all! He was more like the jerk boyfriend or second suitor in a Hallmark movie than the charming male lead. Thankfully there was a palpable shift, & they were the cutest, sweetest couple by the end of the movie. I also really loved the concept of teams competing in a one-day scavenger hunt. Such fun! 😉
Thoughts: In theory this should’ve been a new favorite because I’m a sucker for cozy small towns in Christmas movies. Emmett & Nell had chemistry, but the movie overall left me feeling lukewarm. The characters & story didn’t grab me, make me feel invested.
Thoughts: This movie isn’t outstanding, but it has two major things going for it. Number one: The party planning storyline which is fun to watch when done right. Who doesn’t love the idea of a career using a theme, budget, & creativity to throw a party?? That sounds amazing, especially at Christmastime. Number two: Jennie & Nick have great chemistry. They are so cute together, & you find yourself rooting for them from start to finish.
Thoughts: Michael & Nikki had a decent amount of chemistry, but it didn’t blow me away & leave me wanting more. The story was sweet; I liked the idea of the grandmother leaving behind a to-do list of traditions to complete in memory of her. It wasn’t amazing but not bad enough to land below 3 mistletoe. Actually, I’m willing to give this one a second chance next year.
Thoughts: I’ve seen & liked Alison Sweeney & Jordan Bridges in separate Hallmark projects, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about them together. What a pleasant surprise! They were fantastic together. Even though the atmosphere & chemistry took a slight dip in the middle, I really enjoyed this movie overall. Also, I’m a sucker for Hallmark movies set in a cozy inn or lodge.
Thoughts: Alicia Witt starred in A Very Merry Mix-Up, a favorite of mine. When I saw that she was starring in a brand new Hallmark Christmas movie, I was very interested. Unfortunately this did nothing for my Christmas spirit. I didn’t feel any chemistry between the leads nor any connection to the story. Overall it was a big disappointment.
Thoughts: After watching Kristin in 12 Men of Christmas (GASP! A Lifetime Christmas movie), I wasn’t sure I could watch her with anyone else other than Josh Hopkins. I was pleasantly surprised by her connection with Scott Wolf. The chemistry didn’t blow me away, but it was sweet. I also love that adoption was discussed, something that is near & dear to Kristin’s heart as an adoptee herself. The story was emotional enough to make me cry, & the final scene with Danny, Greg, & Katherine singing into kitchen utensils was adorable. 💕
Thoughts: This movie hit me out of nowhere! I didn’t know anything about the plot until I watched it for this marathon. Aimee & Brett had great chemistry, & the story packed an emotional punch. I was near tears for most of the second half, but the floodgates didn’t open until a photo of the REAL LIFE couple was shown at the end. I didn’t know it was based on a true story! I suggest a box of kleenex for this one.
Thoughts: I’m always cautious with movies that I’m anticipating because I could potentially be setting myself up for disappointment. I’m happy to report that this met my expectations. Most of the movie was set at Dollywood, & it was great to get a peek at the theme park. I also loved hearing Dolly Parton sing Christmas songs throughout the film. If you’re curious, she did make an appearance once or twice & perform at the very end. In regard to the romance, Danica & Niall had great chemistry. Definitely a keeper for my annual catalog!
Thoughts: I can’t remember if I saw this movie when it premiered in 2008, but I do know that it’s been on my Christmas watchlist for years. The leads have fantastic chemistry which guarantees lots of romance & resulting squeals. However, the real star in my eyes is Henry Winkler. He is endearing & hilarious; by the end you’ll want him as your uncle too.
Rating: 3.75 Mistletoe, changed to a 4 on December 14th
After my failure to win the Disney Plus Dream Job contest, I decided to get back on the horse & enter the CenturyLink Hallmark Movie Dream Job contest. I didn’t win, but I still started a 25-day marathon on the 1st day of the month. Every day I pull two movies from my advent calendar; one is brand new, & one is from a previous year. I’m writing a mini review for each film & giving it a rating using mistletoe. Here is batch number one from the first five days. ⬇️
⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️ P O T E N T I A L S P O I L E R S ⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️
Thoughts: I wanted to love this because of Tia Mowry-Hardrict, but I didn’t feel any chemistry between the main characters Adam & Taylor. I also didn’t feel the Christmas warmth that I crave from Hallmark. Tia was by far the best part, but that was, unfortunately, not enough to save a movie that is cold & hard to connect to.
Rating: 2.75 mistletoe at first, changed to 2.5 on December 3rd
Thoughts: I rarely dislike a Candace Cameron-Bure movie on Hallmark, but I was skeptical going into this one because I’d never seen her partnered with Tim Rozon. Thankfully I had nothing to worry about! I got the romantic spark I was looking for, & the atmosphere was oh so cozy. The two main characters had the cutest interaction in Betty’s bakery soon after they first met. SWOON! 😍 Speaking of Betty, I didn’t know that Aunt Zelda changed her name & moved to a new town. 😉
Rating: 4 Mistletoe, potentially higher after a rewatch
Thoughts: Tyler Hynes was a fantastic male lead, which was a pleasant surprise because I don’t recall seeing him in anything else on Hallmark. Kellie Pickler was syrupy & cringey at times, but I know that’s a bit like her personality in real life. Some may disagree with this opinion, but at the end of the day I can’t help liking her. She’s the embodiment of the cheesiness we love to obsess over in Hallmark movies. This movie isn’t perfect but sweet enough to press play again.
Thoughts: It’s hard to say what my favorite Hallmark Christmas movie is because there are so many good ones. But, a top contender is The Christmas Card because it’s literally perfect. The leads’ chemistry jumps off the screen. The side characters have had my heart from day one. There’s comedy, drama, & romance. I try to watch this every year, & I suggest you do the same.
Thoughts: Speaking of perfect movies at the top of my favorites list, this film is more lighthearted than The Christmas Card but no less perfect. Aside from the sizzling chemistry, Marilee provides the relatability that I didn’t know I needed on Hallmark. Her awkwardness & love of ice cream always leave me laughing out loud. The cute cats are a bonus. 🐱
Thoughts: I really wanted to like this movie because Chad & Torrey work well as an onscreen couple. Unfortunately chemistry wasn’t enough to carry this movie. The story about Christmas cards was a cute idea, but the execution was lacking. The plot felt like a long commercial for greeting cards, & the pacing for the three interconnected storylines didn’t flow through the entire movie.
Thoughts: Emily & Ryan are fantastic as an onscreen couple. If you haven’t seen it, prepare yourself for more than one squealworthy moment, the least of which is not the dancing scene. *sigh* 🥰 My rating is hard to nail down because I can’t pinpoint exactly what I dislike. All I can say is that I hesitate to give it a perfect score therefore it is just under 5.
Thoughts: Jodie & Andrew are fantastic in other Hallmark projects, but their chemistry with one another was hit or miss in this film. One scene would leave me feeling indifferent & another would have me squealing out loud. Extreme highs & lows! It’s worth mentioning that the side story about Cate’s mom Joy & the new puppy made me cry. 😭
Thoughts: Maggie & Paul had a fair amount of chemistry, & the side character romances were cute. But, I never felt fully connected to the story or invested in the characters. I know this is a sequel, & certain characters made a second appearance. However, I don’t think watching the first movie would’ve made a significant difference. That being said, I’m willing to watch number 1 for the first time & number 2 again to form a complete opinion.
Thoughts: This is the 1st royalty Christmas movie I watched on Hallmark, & it’s the only one I continue to rewatch. Katie McGrath is a stunning Irish beauty. 🇮🇪 Sam Heughan is baby face Jamie Fraser. 🏴 Grandpa Edward, the Duke of Castlebury whose stony persona is melted to reveal a heart of gold, is former James Bond Sir Roger Moore. 🏴 What a cast!
Ms. Darbus is the High School Musical equivalent of Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter. She’s dramatic but loves what she does & the kids in her care. ♥️
HSM 3 came out two weeks before my 15th birthday. Two of my best friends joined me for dinner & a movie theater date. I even made HSM-themed gift bags! Yes, I was THAT superfan. 😂
Final thoughts for the day: I forgot to update you on Disney Plus issues so buckle up. I didn’t experience that many problems in the beginning like other people, but it’s gone a bit downhill since then. Every time I add to my watchlist, previous items disappear. I have to search for certain movies & shows which defeats the purpose of having everything in one place on a watchlist. A recent update added a “Continue Watching” feature, but that hasn’t been working smoothly. For example, I could pause what I’m watching, exit out of the app for a little bit, & come back to the very beginning of that same show or film. Add that to the spinning blue circle of death, and it’s very frustrating to skim through & film clips for a vlog. 😂 I understand the bugs of a brand new app so I want to make it clear that none of this is a dealbreaker. I just want to be honest about how the app is performing right now.
That is it for my 30-day Disney+ marathon. I hope you’ve enjoyed geeking out over Disney with me. If you need more ME in your life, I’m doing a Hallmark Christmas movie marathon. 🎄 Thank you so much for your support! You’ll be hearing from me very soon. 💕