What a Scrooge Part 11 (Chasing Christmas, 2005)

Chasing_Christmas_PosterJack Cameron is a bitter man.  His marriage went south with his wife cheating on him and it pretty much left him broke and unwilling to move forward in life.  His daughter wants him to get past it and embrace life…or at least…maybe Christmas. But Jack won’t budge. This brings him to the attention of the infamous Ghosts. Or rather, the organization that gives the the orders of who to visit each Christmas.

But when the Ghost of Christmas Past goes rogue, Jack finds himself and the Ghost of Christmas Present trapped in the past and in a race against time to save the very holiday he despises.

The film is, in some respects, one of the more imaginative takes. The ghosts are all part of a corporate entity. Each Ghost is an employee fulfilling a role. All the ghosts fall into strictly human appearance. And setting up a situation where Jack is stuck in the setting of the past, allowing him to see things that he missed in his youth, revealing how flawed the footing of his marriage from the start.

Of course, you cannot merely come to terms with a failed marriage, as Jack starts to be drawn to the attractive Ghost of Christmas Present. Because truly moving forward in the movies always means finding new love. So, there is a lot of predictability here…but I actually found Arnold pretty sympathetic here. He is pretty good moving from confounded to accepting of the predicament.

This won’t change a Scrooge, but it is a light bit of holiday TV movie fare that entertains.

Dilemmas 2 (A Christmas Prince: the Royal Wedding, 2018)


Christmas_Prince_Royal_Wedding_posterSo, Amber has made a name for herself blogging about her relationship with the Prince and his family. But, surprise, surprise, none of this is sitting well with the Royals. Well, the Queen and the Prince are a bit distracted by unrest in the country. But the employees of the royal family are dead set on keeping the protocols as the wedding looms.

Amber’s New York bred father is in town and things are off to a rocky start (a new actor is in the role and there is a sort of funny gag where Emily tells Amber that he looks different without his goatee). As the country is in turmoil, the problems become bigger as Amber’s blog gets taken down by the royals and her plans to pick the royal Christmas tree is constantly getting interrupted.

The problem is, the austerity subplot kind of undermines Amber. She seem’s downright petty at times. People are losing their jobs and she is mad about her wedding dress. However, the film does try and fix this, as it does show Amber trying to get to the bottom of just why the country’s infrastructure program is performing so abysmally.

They try and do some surprises, both with returning characters and new ones…but I have to say, the biggest twist was pretty easy to anticipate.

I think if you loved the first one, you will enjoy this one. I found the first film perfectly light entertainment, but I do feel like this film hurts itself with its attempts at real world issues being forced into a fairytale format. I did not hate it, but I cannot recommend this one unless you were a die-hard fan of the first film.

Dilemmas (A Christmas Prince, 2017)

Christmas_Prince_PosterAmber is a journalist with big dreams to break a big story. She gets the assignment to go to a small country and cover its playboy prince, who seems far from ready to inherit the throne.  She arrives, only to find that the story she was sent there for is pretty much canceled. But as she expects to return home, she is instead mistaken for the new tutor to the prince’s younger sister, Emily.

Amber plays along but as she gets to know the family, she finds herself torn between her ambition and their welfare. In the middle of this is a scheming cousin who seeks to take the throne for himself.  As with all deception based stories, this all blows up with Amber looking to be the bad guy on the surface, especially after the schemers find paperwork she had uncovered regarding a secret with the prince.

The film sticks closely to a very romanticized portrayal of royalty. The Prince is a pure heart who loves children (in one scene he misses a big event, leaving Amber and Emily to find him having a snowball fight with kids at the orphanage). Emily starts out as a pretentious brat, but is quick to warm to Amber and the two develop a rebellious friendship. And the Queen seems cold at first, but we soon learn she is much kinder than she lets on.

On the other side, Amber is the kind of reporter you expect in this type of story. She really wants the story, but she is also kind and sweet, and the idea of destroying lives for even the biggest story eats at her.  The film tries to mine its emotional content from the trope of “Career or Doing What Is Right”. And yet, it feels pretty pedestrian connected to the fact that her real problem is tied to romantic feelings for the prince. Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole “If I Do This Am I Sacrificing My Soul” is a totally valid trope.  But it seems like whenever we see women facing a dilemma of “doing the right thing, even if it means giving up what you want most”, it always is tied to romance.

That said? I was amused in the film.  I like Rose McIver (from watching four seasons of iZombie) and Alice Krige does a solid job as the Queen…she is able to sell the turn from stern to kind quite well. The film does nothing new for it’s genre…but I did enjoy it as a cute bit holiday entertainment.

Have It All (Desperately Seeking Santa, 2011)

Desperately_Seeking_Santa_PosterMeet Jennifer. She is a hard working executive who oversees the mall that she has worked at since she was 17. She is trying for a promotion within the company.  She also only sees Christmas through the lens of profits for the mall. This year to bring people in, she devises the plan to have a Sexy Santa.

On her way to work one day, she jumps to the front of the line for her coffee, and runs into conflict with David. Of course, she finds out later that David is in the competition for the Sexy Santa.  Against her wishes, the committee settles on David. At the same time, he is trying to save his father’s restaurant from being destroyed for a condo development.

The two slowly start to become smitten with each other as they spar.

This is…well, a pretty standard rom com. Two people meet and do not get along, but you know from moment one that they are going to fall in love. But they follow the formula pretty well.  I mean, it is TV movie level largely light entertainment.

The film hangs heavily on Laura Vandervoot and Nick Zano. Zano’s David is pretty much the perfect guy…he is kind, helpful and remarkably selfless.  Zano brings the boyish charm that fans of Legends of Tomorrow are likely to recognize. Vandervoot is given the harder role…she is supposed to be both a bit cold but sympathetic. A lot of this is done through small moments showing her love for the employees and shop owners in the mall. They do make an attractive couple.

Overall, Desperately Seeking Santa is a cute film that does try and have a bit of heart with it’s conflicts. It is not a deep dive, but it did entertain for the most part.

Follow the Calendar (The Holiday Calendar, 2018)

The_Holiday_Calender_PosterAbbey Sutton is a photographer who has been scared to ever take the same risk as her best friend Josh, a famous globe trotting photographer. He comes back to town for Christmas and starts helping her at the local Santa Display as an assisting photographer. Meanwhile, her beloved Grandfather gives her a gift from her late Grandma… an old Advent Calendar that Grandma believed led her to the love of her life.

Each day, the calendar magically produces a little toy, and Abby starts to connect them the events of the day. This leads to her meeting Ty, a very eligible single father and a doctor. A romance begins…but is he really the guy for her?

You probably can put it all together based on that.  I wanted to like this film when I saw the trailer featured Ron Cephas Jones as the grandfather…but he cannot save it, because the script pushes back. The film also kind of completely forgets about the calendar a lot. In spite of clearly being magical, the rest of the film is just standard mistaken knowledge rom com during Christmas stuff.

At one point, Abby asks Ty what he knows about her…his answer is basically that she is hot and talented. Understandably, his lack of deeper reasons frustrates her…but truthfully? They movie fails to give us much of anything more. There are no compelling characters. Ty is first the blandly decent guy, but turns into the blandly shallow guy. Josh is her best friend who she should probably really be in love with…her parents are apparently pushing for her to take the safety of a job with the law firm they own, but there is little conflict in the film.

It feels like the movie just wants you to take the queues from all the other movies like this that you have seen, and nobody seems invested in giving it a lot of heart, which is disappointing.

The Princess Trap (The Princess Switch, 2018)

The_Princess_Switch_PosterStacy is the owner of a small but popular bake shop. Stacy is a nice but constantly trying to control her future. Right before Christmas, her sous chef Kevin and his daughter Olivia that they entered her in a contest… and she won the opportunity for an all expense paid to a European country to participate in a bake-off. Initially, she refuses.  But after running into an ex, she impulsively decides to go on the trip. Kevin and Olivia join her (as he is Stacy’s Sous Chef).

After arriving, her friends push to enjoy the trip, but not Stacy. She is focused on not making mistakes. Especially after a rival from her past appears on the scene. Stacy bumps into Lady Margaret, who is there as a judge and is due to marry the Prince in a few days.

They find they are practically identical twins (well, yeah, they are both played by Hudgens). Lady Margaret convinces Stacy to switch places so she can experience life as a commoner. Of course, after they switch, both women start to discover what they felt was missing in their lives…including Kevin and the Prince. While Stacy has never been more than friends with Kevin, Margaret is smitten almost instantly, and the same for occurs when Stacy meets the Prince. There are hijinks as the women try and keep their switch a secret.

The movie takes the Fairy Tale approach, where there is very little complexity…for example, at no time do the women have trouble keeping their accents in check. And everything works out perfectly in the end. There is a rather unnecessary addition of a kindly old man who magically shows up randomly whenever a character needs a “push”. Is he some sort of Christmas spirit? An angel? Santa? Who knows. Is he even magical? Or is he just a big time world traveler.

The cast is okay, but nobody rises above the material, instead, all fitting perfectly into the standard roles this kind of story calls for.

So, the film is…alright. I mean, if you love Hallmark style Christmas movies? This is actually pretty fun.

Hunky Clause Is Coming to Town (The Christmas Chronicles, 2018)

Christmas_Chronicles_PosterTeddy and Kate grew up in a happy home with joyful parents and a truly festive father. Through a series of home videos we meet the family, first Doug and Claire, then Teddy and soon Kate. But by the time we reach the present, the happy family is in a different state…Claire is a nurse struggling to keep her fraying home life together at all. Doug is nowhere to be seen and the once tight-knit Teddy and Kate are in constant fights, in part because Teddy has become withdrawn and started to follow a path of crime.

When he is forced to babysit his sister on Christmas eve, Teddy gives into Kate begging him to watch an old Christmas video. Insisting she sees Santa slip into the picture, they set up to watch for Santa.  But rather than just get video proof, Kate slips into Santa’s slay. The two are soon revealed and after a crash landing find themselves having to help Santa successfully get his reindeer, hat and presents and everything delivered within a few hours or ruin Christmas.

It is a pretty simple story with common beats, kids who need to learn the truth about themselves and Christmas…redemption.

Does this mean it is bad or even just boring? Actually, no. The film actually is pretty entertaining. It is light and fun, but still can hit some emotional resonance.  The reveal of why their father is no longer there and how this drives Teddy.

Of course, the biggest help for the film is Kurt Russell as probably the toughest hunk of a Santa Ever. Russell plays the role with a nod to the notion that he is not really the most likely candidate for Santa…but he brings his own kindly tough guy charm to the film. This is a modern Santa, yet still a very magical one.

For me, this one mostly hits the right notes, enough to find it an entertaining holiday film.

Plus, while obviously animated, it was kind of nice that they did not just put a bunch of kids in pointy ears and call them elves.


Well, here we are. Another year has almost passed. for December, a friend made a suggestion this year that maybe I should review a bunch of Hallmark Christmas movies. I hesitated, but decided to go forward. I am not sticking with just Hallmark films…instead, I am just going to dive into the (mostly) Christmas Rom Com TV movie world. Uh…wish me luck…


Panic Inducement

satanic_panicHello and welcome to October at Tripping Through Gateways!!! As with Every October, this month is going to be filled with the scary movies. This year’s theme is Satanic Panic.  This means all the movies I am looking over will have religious connections.  Of course, God and the Devil, angels and demons…light versus dark…all at war with each other. The Exorcist Films and the endless series of films they spawned. The Prophecy movies, the Omen films…countless knockoffs…and also, I am throwing in Hellraiser for good measure.

Hellraiser really doesn’t get all that religious, to be honest, certainly not in the fashion of, say the Omen or the Exorcist. But I have not gone through the series on the blog yet. To be quite frank here, the Hellraiser franchise has one of the worst bad to good ratios of any iconic franchise…often, even when there is a good idea…it gets buried under crap.

So, everybody…let’s panic!

What a Scrooge Part 10 (Scrooge, 1970)

Scrooge_Finney_Poster_originalBefore cementing his career as Jedi Ghost Ben Kenobi, Alec Guinness played non-Jedi Ghost Jacob Marley. As you may recall, Marley had been seven long years as our tale begins. Scrooge is, in this adaption as prior adaptions, uncharitable and cold.

Along with the traditional mockeries of Christmas as humbug, and he unwillingness to offer support to charity, we see him seeming merciful to two older women, offering to let them wait to pay their rent, only to let them know it would be costing more than they even take in there shop in a weeks time.

At his door appears the face of Marley…but he quickly discounts it.


Entering the house he starts to prepare dinner, only to notice the bells in his home start ringing uncontrollably.  He cries out for them to stop and in enters Marley.  While the visual queues of Marley are there…his chains, the cloth holding his jaw (though the film never has this come untied, so the cloth just seems to be a fashion choice)…but Guinness makes an interesting choice in Marley’s movement.  He walks almost as if he is trying to elegantly walk through water.


The film makes a great use of his chains when he becomes angry with Scrooge, they all seem to lurch forward as he rises into the air. I do wish they had kept the line about there being “More of gravy than the grave” when Scrooge explains why he refuses to accept what he is seeing.  It is just a great line.  The other interesting style choice is the phantoms.  In most adaptions, these phantoms are humans tormented by their inability to help the living…and that is if we see them at all.  In this film we get something out of a horror movie.


The ghosts stay pretty traditional for the Present and the Future…but I confess, the Ghost of Christmas Past seems to be an odd stylistic choice. Admittedly, the book’s version is pretty unfilmable but this just seems to be…uninspired.


Although, I do get a chuckle when Scrooge tells her that she does not look like a ghost and she politely thanks him.

Christmas Present deviates the least of the three ghosts.


But truthfully, the ghosts in this adaption don’t really excite me all that much.  They are kind of lackluster performances.  And then we see the face of the the Ghost of Christmas Future.  Bad idea.


This is where the film deviates from previous (and later adaptions in a massive way.  You see, Scrooge finds himself in Hell.


Marley really seems to delight in Scrooge’s misfortune here.  He lets Scrooge know that the Satan himself wanted to have Scrooge work as his clerk.


The sequence gets goofy as a much of muscled men in hoods march in to wrap his chain around him.  Again, Marley seems to delight in this turn of events, and that flies in the face of the Marley of the story. This sequence is a bold idea that ends up just feeling a little on the nose. Fear of hell is not what drives this story, and this borders on a Chick Tract.

At 34, Finney would normally be to young to play Scrooge, but he is aided by some simple makeup and a bit of physical acting to sell himself as much older. Aside from a couple of moments where it gets almost campy, Finney turns in a good performance as Scrooge.

This is the first Musical adaption of Dicken’s tale, and it ends up a bit hit or miss when it comes to songs.  The Marley number is pretty dull and thankfully short. Many of the songs are decent and enjoyable.  I think the best two are the song sung at Scrooge’s funeral and the final big number as Scrooge goes around making merry.

This is a strong adaption overall, in spite of some random mis-steps and certainly an enjoyable take on the classic tale.



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