Chaos Attraction

More Interesting Hallmark Movies I Saw This Year

2017-12-29, 8:27 a.m.

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More Interesting Hallmark Movies I Saw This Year:

The Christmas Train: So apparently it’s still a thing in 2017 for people to take a cross country “Christmas Train” trip from the East to West Coast. Here’s our cast of characters:

* Tom, a former war reporter who’s now just writing some article on Things That Happen On A Christmas Train.
* Ellie, a former war reporter/Tom’s ex who’s now a Hollywood screen doctor. She works for/is adopted daughter to....
* Max Powers, famous movie guy of some sort who’s still a romantic after four wives, three of whom get together like a book club weekly to gripe about him. Max made Ellie get on the train because he wants to write a movie about being on a train. Tom and Ellie are unthrilled to run into each other again, especially when Max is so blatant about fixing them up.
* Steve and Julie, a couple who plans to elope on a train because his parents don’t like him marrying a poor girl.
* Higgins, a former train conductor who got canned but clearly still wants to be doing the job.
* John Kelly, lost his wife, plays checkers viciously.
* Lillian(?), Tom’s casual off/on actress girlfriend who decides to meet him halfway through the ride and force him into getting married. Tom is all, “uh, we’ve never been that serious, wtf?”
* Misty, a supposed psychic of the psychometric sort (i.e. she touches your item and gets visions).
* Agnes, who’s been riding trains for 20 years and snoops on people constantly.

The plots of this movie are:
(a) Can Tom and Ellie reunite again now that both of them are no longer stressed out war correspondents? (Duh, it’s a Hallmark.)
(b) Will Steve and Julie get married despite the minister not making it onto the train and Steve’s parents threatening to disown him? (Duh, it’s a Hallmark and I guess Max is also a Universal Life Church guy..)
(c) Will Higgins and Lillian get jobs they actually like? (Duh, it’s a Hallmark.)
(d) Who’s stealing people’s random small, not terribly valuable items on the train? (I’ll leave that one a mystery here, but it wasn’t who I expected--I was guessing Misty because of the psychometry or Agnes because of snoopiness.)
(e) Is Misty actually psychic? See below.
(f) What the hell is Agnes just doing riding around on trains for 20 years? (It’s her job--she’s a train marshal. This is something that exists?)
(g) When the power goes out and the train is stranded outside of cell reception, will everyone freeze to death? (Of course not, it’s Hallmark. Tom and Ellie snowshoe out and somehow find COWBOYS to rescue them out of nowhere.)

If you are like me and you are perhaps thinking things like, “I dunno about you, but my last train ride, we just sat there and occasionally I talk to someone nearby me and that’s it and once in a while the train ends up late,” you’re not wrong! This is a far more interesting train ride than most of them. And it’s because....

Best part of the movie is the end, where Tom and Ellie find a script Max wrote: HE HAD A SCRIPT WRITTEN ABOUT ALL OF THIS AND THEY RECOGNIZED THE LINES. “THIS ENTIRE TRIP WAS A MAX POWERS PRODUCTION.” Max somehow found out that Tom and Ellie were on the same train and decided to hire “Steve,” “Julie,” and “Misty” to deliver some lines and then he hired Lillian to break up her own moribund relationship, but she’s getting a job in Max’s next movie so she’s totally cool. Please write me in as a villain in the movie, she begs Ellie. So that happened. (Also, see below.) In the end, Tom gets the wedding rings he donated to “Steve” and “Julie” back and proposes to Ellie, and then it snows in LA because it’s Hallmark.

Quote Corner:
“No secrets on the train. Especially the Christmas train.” -Agnes
“Max Powers always gets what he wants.” -Max
“Last time you were on a train you lost the love of your life.” “I guess....” -Misty and Tom.
“I’m going to be at the bar.” “When will you get back?” “Two days.” --Tom and Lililan, Tom’s reaction to her sudden desire to get married.”
“I thought you didn’t like your career.” “I don’t, I’m a cartoon robot.” -Tom and Lillian.
“Well, I didn’t see that coming.” -Tom upon Agnes flashing her badge at him.
“The rest was the magic of the Christmas train...” -Max

“Mistletoe Inn.”
This movie is interesting because other than the fact that it takes place during December, it really didn’t have to be a “Christmas” movie. It’s not about the usual Christmas-themed stuff. One gets the feeling that someone sold this plot to Hallmark, and then the “We need to come up with *33* Christmas movies?!” edict came down from Hallmark HQ and someone thought, “Hey, we can shoehorn some Christmas into this.” Which, hey, is fine. Not every plot has to be about making some poor schmuck embrace the magic of Christmas.

As a loser writer sort, I rather appreciated this plot, actually. Kim is a wannabe writer with a partially done first novel and not a lot of mojo. Her boyfriend Garth writes her a breakup note, saying that he wants someone who is a Serious Writer, not someone who won’t even show her work anywhere. So okay, fine, Kim tracks down a writing conference (in December, someone’s putting this on?) being held at the Mistletoe Inn and signs up, only to find out that Garth is at this one as well and he’s just acting like a prize turd whenever she’s around.

Her first night there is rather embarrassing--the opening party was supposed to have a dressup theme as your favorite literary character and she didn’t get the e-mail canceling that because someone complained. For the record, Kim showed up in a white old fashioned dress with a necklace with little gifts on it-- as the Ghost of Christmas Present. For the record, other than the dress being kinda old fashioned, it’s not that bad. It’s no Tarts and Vicars party, now is it? Also, she has a meet cute in which she falls into a snowbank and meets a cute typewriter-using guy, Zeke. Kim is annoyed later when he uses it in his novel, and also, staying in a room nearby a guy whacking away on his typewriter is annoying in 2017. But other than that stuff, he’s quite nice. Especially when compared to Garth, who shows up to writing group and greets everyone with “Hello fellow writers! And Kim.” He also blogs about her on some romance blog and then is all, “Sorry about the blog.”

Kim makes friends with a girl named Samantha. At the conference, some J.D. Salinger-esque hermit romance writer named H.T. Cowell is supposed to be finally coming out with a new 800 page book and whoever wins the writing competitions gets to have HT critique their work personally. Samantha spends the movie tracking a guy in tweed, who she thinks might be HT in disguise.

Kim and Zeke get partnered up and hang around. He talks her out of going to the world’s most depressing agent talk by uh...replicating it with snowmen named “Evelyn Crabbe” and “Kelly Lovelife.” They got a romantic dinner. We find out that Kim’s novel plot involves fake dating during the holidays. WHY, THAT SOUNDS LIKE A HALLMARK PLOT TO ME. Zeke reads it and tells Kim she needs more description and the characters need to be more realized and she set it in NewYork City and it doesn’t feel like she’s actually gone there. So they go, of course. Oh, at some point Kim gets her book critiqued by professional agents and they agree with Zeke, saying things like “your structure is respectable” and also pointing out that she needs more detail and her characters are too perfect. Kim is quite devastated (she asks them to mentor her and they say no, but also say that they’ve been more hopeful to her than to everyone else), but goes on to work on the novel some more.

For whatever reason (I forget), Kim has Samantha submit her novel to the “whose novel will HT read?” thing, except Garth comes up behind her and pulls Kim’s book out of the competition. Oh noes!

And finally, we get to the Great Reveal of who the reclusive author is! Much to Sam’s disappoint, she’s only been stalking HT’s editor. Nope, it’s Zeke, whose real first name turns out to be “Hezekiah.” That poor guy. He wanted to hide his identity, his wife left him, he has whopping writer’s block and that 800 page book of his is just some rereleased anthology or something. Kim is unthrilled at finding this out, though on the good news side, she already got her novel critiqued by HT Cowell! (Samantha ends up winning the contest, btw.) She thought Zeke was a struggling writer like her instead of a success! Former success, Zeke points out.

Anyway, Kim goes home and rewrites her novel and sends Samantha some pages. Samantha passes them on to Zeke, who in turn passes them on to his editors, who in turn decide they’d like to help her out. Garth asks to get back together with Kim so she can get him in with Zeke, and Kim is all, “Thanks, no, I’m busy” to that. She and her dad get together for Christmas and her dad’s invited someone else over... guess who? So, they get back together, presumablly still working on their writing issues. Now we get to wait for Kim’s novel to become a Hallmark movie, I guess...

I thought this was handled pretty well regarding the psyches of writers and critiquing and how to deal with that sort of angst. So, good job there.

Christmas Getaway: Bridget Regan (as “Emory,” I believe), is a travel writer who’s spent every Christmas out of the country. I’d like to note that this movie takes place in Northern California rather than New York or Some Other East Coast Snowy Area, so that was surprising. Anyway, her editor gets the cute idea to assign her to going to Pine Grove to write about a traditional Christmas. I had never heard of this place but apparently it does exist IRL, though I don’t know if it’s quite the holiday travel destination that this movie makes it out to be for the people of NorCal (especially since I never heard of it before and it doesn’t look like there’s much about it online. I’d say if you’re in California and want a cute Christmas town with snow, go to the Grass Valley/Nevada City area. They already did a Hallmark movie about that one though!). As you might imagine, if the place is a hot tourist destination, it might be hard to get a last minute reservation, and sure ‘nuff, A Very Merry Mixup happens when Emory and a dad and daughter end up booked in the same large cabin, weather happens and nobody can leave, etc. This is a movie that is pretty well carried by the (international) charms of Bridget Regan, who is as usual lovely. However, I’m used to seeing her on stuff like “White Collar” and “Peggy Carter,” where she played much more tricksy characters, so one is kind of surprised when she doesn’t like, turn out to be an evil spy or con artist or something. I sort of felt the same way watching Katrina Law in a movie last year when I normally see her playing a lesbian assassin on Arrow.

Switched for Christmas is the movie all Hallmark/Candace Cameron Bure fans have been waiting for: TWO of her!

So Chris Dixon and Kate Lockhart are twins who haven’t been spending much time together. They live in different towns. Chris is a divorced (yes, in Hallmark, she’s divorced) single mom of two kids, a high school teacher, and she’s kind of getting bored having to plan the “Winter Wonderland” event that her principal just wants to be the same every single year. Kate is the Glamorous Single High Powered Lady in Jimmy Choos who just got forced to plan the office holiday party, even though as far as she’s concerned nobody even wants to go to the holiday party (and says so). Their dad forces them to dine together, which leads to them having an argument over whose life is harder (uh, duh, the single mom’s is, can’t even argue this) and talking about the parties neither of them wants to plan. So they get the idea to trade places for a bit, especially since Chris is supposed to be off work and the kids are going to their dad’s so Kate won’t actually have to do any work or parenting.*

For those of you wondering how Chris is going to handle doing Kate’s job....there’s a scene where an angry client comes in and Kate talks Chris through handling him via Bluetooth, though Chris finishes it off by encouraging him to get a bigger kitchen.

However, the “get rid of the kids” plan goes awry because Chris called her kids offscreen to tell them about the switch. The kids take the opportunity to fuck with Aunt Kate a bit before cheerfully announcing to her that nope, they are NOT seeing their dad for the holidays, they are gonna hang around and watch her try to parent! At one point Kate passes a kid a bunch of storebought cookies to bring to a meeting and he’s all, why didn’t you make them yourself? She just chuckles and is all, “You’re adorable.” Subtext: Yeah, right.

Anyway, the major plot of this is that NOW while switched is the perfect time for them to meet guys! How very Wakefield twin of you! Anyway, Chris/Kate meets a hot guy at Kate’s job and Kate/Chris runs into a guy she had a crush on back in the day who bailed on their date. As “Chris,” this gives her the opportunity to ask him what the hell happened. Answer: he showed up early and saw her kissing another guy...because she’s a twin and I guess he hadn’t been informed of that. That’s the world’s nicest way of explaining a flake and bail date ever. Even though both twins agree that getting involved with dudes under false pretenses is a super bad idea and they shouldn’t, things happen. Despite the dudes thinking that they are dating a single mom/not a single mom and having that changed, they are totes kewl with this, with the work guy even saying that he saw Kate every day for 3 years and had no interest until Chris showed up.

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