** A Christmas Mystery

Hybrid,

Esmé Bianco, Ryan Bittle, John Ratzenberger, John Colton, Anne Leighton, Kristen Miller, Sarah Hoffmeister, JoJo Wright, Carol Mack, Robert Neary, Eric Etebari, Mark DeCarlo, Gib Gerard, Ron McPherson, Asante Jones


Rebecca Clark (Esmé Bianco) is going through the things in her recently deceased mother’s house when she makes a remarkable discovery. In the attic she finds a carefully preserved box containing 12 Christmas cards from a man she has never heard of. As she looks at them she see’s it from a man some distance away who wrote such loving things that she was shocked that her mother had never spoken of this mysterious secret lover. Rebecca’s father has been dead for many years, yet she never knew her mother had taken a replacement. So Rebecca who is a reporter by trade, is taking some time from the office anyway, and she decides to hire a private detective to help her in searching for the man who wrote the cards. But it’s not an easy search, as the guy is nowhere to be found. But as the mystery deepens, Rebecca seems to be turning over stones that do not want to be overturned, and she may be in a great deal of danger.

This premier UPtv Christmas film is a little bit mystery and a little bit Christmas story. They mystery is not real intriguing. It’s more like a TV show like Hawaii 5-0 or Barnaby Jones. The Christmas part isn’t too heavy as it’s mostly a double dip love story between Mom and her secret admirer, and Rebecca and the detective she’s hired to watch over her. We know there are sparks, but there’s serious disappointment and double crossing ahead. So it’s a mild detective tale, and a not so fulfilling love story that takes place around Christmas time. That’s why I wasn’t blown away, and haven’t gotten real excited over this film. I enjoyed it somewhat, and I’m glad I saw it, but I wouldn’t recommending searching high and low for this one unless there’s literally nothing better to see.

[Click here for the IonTV link to the home page for this movie]

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** Christmas at Cartwright’s

Hallmark Channel,

Alicia Witt, Gabriel Hogan, Wallace Shawn, T.J. McGibbon, Linda Kash, Gabrielle Miller, Jayne Eastwood, Ron Lea, Miku Graham, Marsha Regis


Nikki (Alicia Witt) is a single Mom with an 8 year old daughter, and badly in need of a job for Christmas. She heard that Cartwright’s department store was hiring some Christmas help, but things didn’t go so well in her audition, when mysteriously the elevator stops on the wrong floor and she is lead by a kind old Christmas Specialist to the store Santa’s dressing room. Everyone mistakes her for the newly hired store Santa, so she lowers her voice, puts on a brave face and sets off to face the kids.

This was really a pretty nice little new Christmas story. This is the story of the poor angel trying to help out the mortal who needs him while everything seems to go wrong. Yeah, it’s been done before; haven’t they all? But Alicia Witt is really very charming and plays this role as well as anyone else I’ve seen pull it off. You really care that she finally gets what she deserves as the more evil people get their comeuppance as well. She has a really great 8 year old daughter who helps pull off the story, and there’s a romance story too, naturally, as the big oaf doesn’t realize she’s there until it’s too late. But the real kicker in this movie is Wallace Shawn, from The Princess Bride who is “inconceivable” as the elfish angel who’s trying to make things right. He steals every scene he’s in. All in all, I thought this one of the nicest of the new films this year, and one you will probably want to catch on the Hallmark Channel if you have a soft place for romantic and comedic Christmas stories.

[Click Here for the Hallmark Channel Home Page for this film]

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Media Pro Six, Mirrorball Films, Moviehouse Entertainment,

David Tennant, Marc Wootton, Jason Watkins, Pam Ferris, Jessica Hynes, Ian McNeice, Joanna Page


The Nativity! clan are back, and St. Bernadette’s has a new teacher, Donald (David Tennant) taking over Paul’s classroom after the near disaster last year. But when word of a big contest coming up with any school allowed to enter, the class wants to do another Nativity concert this year. It’s being held in a big castle far away, and the school can’t afford the journey, but Mr. Poppy (Marc Wootton) naturally convinces Donald that they have to go and they set out on a long road trip to get there. But things don’t go so well as they end up finding an infant as a stowaway, and they end up with a donkey that Mr. Poppy insists is a magic donkey who is perfect to guide them and the baby to the Nativity. Surely it’s a sign. But they risk their lives and limbs, are still late getting there and are disqualified. Not only that, but everyone is out looking for them, and nobody is very happy about them sneaking off to try to complete.

This worthy sequel to the original Nativity! is possibly better than the original. Certainly there’s a lot more action and adventure, and the road trip is a major undertaking. The performance is certainly better and after arriving at the contest you would expect the story to end, but there’s still lots more to go. More action and adventure is not the only improvements. Marc Wootton has a better feel for the Mr. Poppy character and is, in my opinion, even funnier than he was in the first one. The addition of David Tennant was also quite good. He does a terrific job trying to deal with Mr. Poppy’s madness. The performances are excellent, and the show is a lot better than the first one. But it has all the humor that made the original special. Again, the heavy English humour may be off putting for some, but I enjoyed it very much. I have3 heard of a 3rd movie coming out this year, Nativity 3: Dude, where’s my Donkey? This means that they’re keeping the donkey from this film, and bringing back Mr. Poppy and the kids of St. Bernadette’s. But there is a new teacher once again, and hopefully it will be a pleasant as the others. It’s been theatrically released in the UK and Ireland this Christmas (2014) but we’ll probably have to wait for it till next year in the US. But in the meantime, catch the other two, and see if you agree that 2 is even better than the original. Note, Like Nativity! this film is airing Christmas 2014 on UPtv.

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** Nativity!

Mirrorball Films, BBC Films, Screen West Midlands,

Martin Freeman, Marc Wootton, Jason Watkins, Ashley Jensen, Pam Ferris, Alan Carr, Ricky Tomlinson, Rosie Cavaliero, John Sessions, Phyllis Logan



Paul (Martin Freeman) is an Elementary school teacher at St. Bernadette’s. He’s assigned to produce the school’s Nativity play for the holidays and sets out to do his best. But when he meets an old friend and brags that his “girlfriend” who actually is his ex-girlfriend, who has left for America to work for a large movie company, is bringing a big Hollywood movie crew to film the play and turn it into a big Hollywood blockbuster. Mr. Poppy, his classroom assistant who drives Paul nuts (Mr. Poppy is the Principal’s nephew) overhears the boast, he runs back to the school to spread the word, and when Paul returns he’s suddenly a big hero in the whole town and is unwilling to confess to all his admirers that it’s not going to happen.

This is a British comedy filled with the kind of humour English movies bring. The characters are well developed and quite funny. Paul has his share of detractors as well including Mr. Shakespeare who’s music director of the much more well to do school across the way, and a who’s always anxious to beat the ugly stepchild school St. Bernadette’s. Paul goes through some really silly attempts to make it all right again, and Mr. Poppy is always there ruining everything again. This pair are very good, and managed to make at least one sequel (coming tomorrow) and possible a scheduled 3rd one in 2014 that I haven’t heard about yet. All in all, if you love British humor with the hysterical characters like the Monty Python guys, Fawlty Towers, and Mr. Bean, this is a really funny film. This film screams Christmas in the Isles and will probably make the Brit’s feel homesick, but if you’re not a fan of that kind of humor it could be a little over the top in the humor department. I found it a likeable film, and well worth the time spent watching it. Hint: It’s playing on UPTV this year as well as available on DVD.

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** Christmas in Compton

Bright Idea Entertainment,

Keith David, Omar Gooding, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Orlando Brown, Eric Roberts



Big Earl (Keith David) owns a Christmas Tree lot in Compton, California. His son, Derick (Omar Gooding) is a loser in his Dad’s eyes as he is only interested in the music business and is neglecting the family business. But his dealings with Tommy Maxell (Eric Roberts) of Maxell Records turns sour, losing Derick his big payoff, and putting the future of the tree lot and the whole family’s future in jeopardy.

This is a truly urban Christmas story that is full of good things. There is a lot of humor, and Eric Roberts does a good job as the nasty record exec who would double-cross his own mother for a buck. There’s lots of humor, and good belly laughs through their adventures. There’s some really good music, especially Christmas music that will keep you in the mood. All in all it’s a pretty fair attempt at a relatively new Christmas film (2012). Charles Kim plays the Asian sidekick Steve Ho who brings in a lot of the humor. All in all, there’s a lot to recommend in this film. Reminiscent of some of the early mostly black comedies like 1974’s Uptown Saturday Night and the sequel “Let’s Do it Again”, this is a really funny film. There is a really good cast, a decent story and a lot of good old fashioned family values. Big Earl is an “Archie Bunker” like character who likes to go off on everyone, but he has a really big heart. Cuba Gooding Jr.’s little brother Omar carries the main role very well. He’s able to handle the “young man trying to impress his father” character very well. All in all, it’s a pretty good Christmas comedy, and worth a spot in your queue.

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