Saturday, 25 May 2024

Spirit of the holidays is full of Christmas cheer on cable

This may not come as a surprise to anyone that the Hallmark Channel has been the champion of Christmas movies during the holidays.

To keep their exalted status, Hallmark unleashed a torrent of themed films back in October.

First out of the gate was “You, Me and the Christmas trees,” a story about an arborist (Danica McKellar) who helps a Christmas tree farmer (Benjamin Ayres) rescue his seasonal business. Of course, they end up falling for each other because that’s in the holiday spirit.

Just in case you miss the point, most of the Hallmark holiday movies have Christmas in their titles, but to switch it up a bit there’s “Making Spirits Bright,” a Victorian-themed “A Dickens of a Holiday,” and then a detour of sorts to “Eight Gifts of Hanukkah.”

Near the end of the Christmas line for Hallmark is “The Christmas House 2: Deck the Halls,” Sharon Lawrence and Treat Williams star as a married couple with two adult sons who find themselves in a Christmas decorating competition.

Seeking to be the top holiday movie destination, the Lifetime Channel just might be giving Hallmark a run for its money with its holiday-themed lineup called “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime,” with a premiere of 30 new movies in 30 days right up through Christmas Day.

Hardly needing an introduction, singer Reba McEntire and actor John Schneider, as the singing duo of Georgia and Joe Winter and years after their personal and professional breakup, agree to reunite and participate in a Christmas Charity concert in “Reba McEntire’s Christmas in Tune.”

Turner Classic Movies, or TCM, has announced a Classic Christmas Marathon, which by the looks of the 76 movies scheduled for the week leading up to Christmas Day is not in the same holiday ballpark as Hallmark and Lifetime.

According to TCM, Christmas movies come in all varieties, from warmhearted family stories about the holiday itself to comedies and dramas that feature incidental Christmas settings to crime thrillers and even Westerns.

Not on the list of classic Christmas films are “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story,” but then why not start off with the Oscar-winning Bing Crosby favorite “Going My Way” (1944) and the Christmas Day showing of the Judy Garland musical “In the Good Old Summertime” (1949).

Judy Garland, the mother of Liza Minnelli, introduced one of the most beloved holiday tunes, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” in Vincente Minnelli’s “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944), which is set over the course of an entire year but has a truly memorable Christmas sequence.

You can usually spot the Christmas-specific movies by their titles, such as the English drama “The Holly and the Ivy” (1952), “Bush Christmas” (1947) from Australia, the Robert Mitchum-Janet Leigh romance “Holiday Affair” (1949).

Add to those titles, the short film “Compliments of the Season” (1930), the episodic “Christmas Eve” (1947), and a modern retelling of the Nativity story in the short “Star in the Night” (1945).

There’s possibly the best version of the Dickens tale about the redemption of a mean-spirited miser in “A Christmas Carol” (1938), and a modern take on the story written by “The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling, “Carol for Another Christmas” (1964), a TV movie starring Sterling Hayden.

Netflix has a slate of Christmas movies that it admits is not quite as robust as Hallmark Channel’s selection, at least not yet, but claims you can still get your fill of snowfalls, hot cocoa and Santa magic on demand.

With the streaming service of Netflix, it’s even easier to find a Christmas movie to get in the holiday spirit. Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes meet-cute over the purchase of a gorgeous Scottish castle in “A Castle for Christmas.”

The British comedy “Father Christmas is Back” has a great cast of Kelsey Grammer, John Cleese and Elizabeth Hurley. Four sisters reunite for a Christmas holiday in a Yorkshire castle and are joined by their estranged father, Grammer’s John Christmas.

To compete with the Hallmark Channel’s collection of romantic Christmas movies, Netflix is bringing back “A Knight Before Christmas” which tells the story of a medieval knight transported to modern-day Ohio.

A fish-out-of-water story, Josh Whitehouse’s Cole time travels to 2019 and encounters disillusioned teacher Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens) preparing for a loveless holiday season. PG-rated romantic antics ensue, but this cheesy flick may still be worth a watch.

Another sappy romantic holiday movie, “The Holiday Calendar” follows an aspiring photographer stuck in her small-town dead-end job. An antique Advent calendar passed down from her grandmother arrives just in time to point her toward love and a more fulfilling career.

Aside from “The Miracle on 34th Street” which will run on HBO Family, where do we find “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story?” For the former, look to Amazon’s Prime Video as well as Tubi and and the latter gets a marathon treatment on TBS.

May everyone enjoy the Christmas spirit with family, friends and the occasional fruitcake (OK, maybe not that) and a Happy New Year.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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