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Christmas Town (2008 Video)
This makes the list...for worst Christmas movies
25 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I watched "A Boyfriend For Christmas," starring Patrick Muldoon, a few night ago, and, other than some minor plot holes, it was a pleasant two hours to spend. Here, with Muldoon's newest Christmas movie, I had hopes of watching something light and romantic. This didn't happen.


The brief version: The film's writer dumps into one mix the workaholic mom, neglected Christmas starved kid, a town immersed in Christmas decor, Santa's workshop disguised as nearby factory, nosy kid, elves, Nutcracker dressed guards, romantic interest café owner, estranged father, dead mother, special tree top angel, cult like behavior from townspeople, and thinks this makes for decent holiday fare...not.

The extended version:

More detailed Spoilers below: We have the stereotypical all work no nonsense single mother, played by the capable and lovely Nicole DeBoer. Her father, once a practical one gift per Christmas banker dad, has moved to a town decked in Christmas decor and saturated to a creepy cult like level with "the spirit of Christmas." DeBoer, Liz, travels there at the insistence of her son, a supposed 9 year old who looks more like 13. Of course, her $50,000 Mercedes breaks down, trapping her there for the holidays.

There are decorations everywhere, carolers, announcements over a loud speaker about reindeer having baby get the picture. Her father has become a fry cook in the local café, owned by a surprisingly stiff and rumpled looking Muldoon. He is utterly wasted in this film with little more to do than serve hot chocolate, and make moonie eyes at Liz. I can't even tell you what his character's name is! The point is, in the course of this too-busy film, it doesn't matter.

An example of town creep factor? Liz and Muldoon are at a festival in the town celebrating Christmas Eve Eve (no, not a typo) and the Stepford townspeople completely surround these two people, hold mistletoe over Liz and Muldoon and chant "Kiss kiss kiss" and get mad because she doesn't want to kiss a man she has just met. She isn't allowed to say no? Creep factor of about 9 here. The writers stoke the cult factor into the film by having Liz ask her father about the kool-aid, an allusion to the Jonestown cult.

The subplot of the film involves her bratty, mouthy kid, Mason, who is always running off and disobeying his mother, and who is looking for evidence of Santa. Why? The company next to the town, one NP, Inc., (uh, read North Pole?) is heavily guarded by grouchy men dressed like Nutcracker soldiers, and intimated to be a North American subdivision of the North Pole. I suppose they were going for precocious with the kid, but he only comes off as obnoxious. There is episode after episode of him running off from his mother, uncovering evidence of Santa when, obviously, all anyone in town has to do is tell him that it is indeed Santa's workshop. No, he has to find the sled, see Santa, find the workshop, see the elves...blah blah blah. This is explained by Muldoon at the end when his character says, "We don't want it to be a tourist town," yet anyone can get there and anyone can live there if they desire. I rolled my eyes.

I just loved the part where the kid gets inside of the NP gates, and the red clad boot wearing Santa Army dudes are chasing the him through the factory while his mother is arguing outside with one of the Nutcraker soldiers.

I especially loved the part where he runs into actual Santa, who informs him between Ho Ho Hoing that this little adventure is going on his naughty list. The camera angle they choose makes it look like Santa is leering at the kid. I didn't think they could make Santa any more creepy than Billy Bob Thorton's "Bad Santa," but I was wrong.

The other subplot of the film is the banker fry cook father getting sucked into this Christmas cult because he misses his dead wife and never celebrated Christmas with his kid because of his grief. He decorates his house, fills his conversations with his grown daughter with platitudes about the holiday and the past. He gives her an angel that was her mother's, but nothing ever comes of this. She gets teary eyed. The angel nor the mother is brought up again.

I guess I am supposed to get all warm and fuzzy, but there is not enough character development there for me to care. This film is too much plot and not enough about the characters, yet a film of this genre MUST depend heavily on the characters to make it touching, human, and speak to the essence of the holiday spirit. It never reaches that point.

It's like the writers and director poured every stereotypical aspect of a holiday film into the mix but forgot to write good characters in the process. Making variations on the archetype of the Santa legend with the factory was an interesting idea, but again, there was so much going on in the film, it gets a glance instead of an exploration. All gloss, no depth.

The film ends with Mommy kissing Muldoon in the square during the festival, of course, under mistletoe (thus joining the cult), and the kid, of course, running off again to chase an elf. They all watch Santa and reindeer pass across the moon, fade out.

One, I wonder how films like this even get made, and two, Muldoon and DeBoer are credible and decent actors. What in the world are they doing in this piece of reindeer doo of a film?
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Safe Harbour (2007 Video)
Okay, if you like a film which doesn't require much thinking
1 March 2008
This is a typical Steele novel production in that two people who have undergone some sort of tragedy manage to get together despite the odds. I wouldn't call this a spoiler because anyone who has read a Steele novel knows how they ALL end. If you don't want to know much about the plot, don't keep reading.

Gilbert's character, Ophelia, is a woman of French decent who has lost her husband and son in an accident. Gilbert needs to stop doing films where she is required to have an accent because she, otherwise a good actress, cannot realistically pull off any kind of accent. Brad Johnson, also an excellent actor, is Matt, who is recovering from a rather nasty divorce. He is gentle, convincing and compelling in this role.

The two meet on the beach through her daughter, Pip, and initially, Ophelia accuses Matt of being a child molester just because he talked art with the kid. All of them become friends after this episode and then the couple falls in love.

The chemistry between the two leads is not great, even though the talent of these two people is not, in my opinion, a question. They did the best they could with a predictable plot and a script that borders on stereotypical. Two people meet, tragedy, bigger tragedy, a secret is revealed, another tragedy, and then they get together. I wish there was more to it than that, but there it is in a nutshell.

I wanted mindless entertainment, and I got it with this. In regard to the genre of romantic films, this one fails to be memorable. "A Secret Affair" with Janine Turner is far superior (not a Steele book), as are some of Steele's earlier books turned into film.
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Great, kind spirited little film
28 January 2007
Most people have covered the great aspects of this film, but I will add my two cents into the mix and say that I picked this film up on a whim from the video store. This funny, sweet film covers a basic idea: be true to yourself, believe in love, and it will come to you.

The actors, especially the highly underrated Christian Kane, really drive this film home. He acts with his eyes, and can convey a host of emotions with a glance, a nod, or a tilt of his head. Michael Weatherly's smarmy character is a fresh change from his usual heroic ones, and wow, a Maxim cover model, Estella Warren, who is more than a pretty face. I love it when I don't expect much and I get pleasantly surprised. It, unfortunately, doesn't happen that often. With this film, and with this cast, I was pleased.

What I also like is that, even though it is a newer film, the director didn't do the jostle the camera, zoom in and out crap that is so popular now. I watched fifteen minutes of "I Am Sam" and was 'car sick' from the multitude of angles, jostling, bouncing and zooming. I never have watched it all.

The Special Features part notes that the film is Independent, and low budget. This is proof positive that spending millions on the special effects and the big name actors doesn't net you a winner. I haven't seen anything in a long time I enjoyed so much.

One more thing: Note the Jeana character's favorite actor is Walter Matthau, the father of this film's director.
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