My December 2021 Adventures + Overview of the Year

After an entire year of pandemic (and ongoing from the previous year), we’ve finally reached the end of 2021. Its a tad wild and yet 2021 went by incredibly fast despite all the sitting at home, watching TV, playing games, and finding other ways from our own homes to connect with friends. Of course, the blog is not about that and while here took a little slowdown in the last few months mostly for personal IRL reasons, I still think it was very much needed. With that said, a little look at some simple activities in December. We will end with an overview of 2021: some simple numbers, and top 10 lists. You know, this is the normal deal on the last day of the year.

Christmas Decorations

Beyond Monet

Before things started getting worse in Montreal, we managed to make it to the Beyond Monet exhibit. Monet art is something that means a lot to me as art is something is what reminds me of my childhood with my father. With that said, this exhibit was quite the show as its a 360 wall of Monet art that flips through the details of each collection while pairing it with classical music (in majority, there was some opera as well).

OVERVIEW OF 2021

Its the end of 2021 and with that, its time for some quick numbers! First of all, we are dropping blogging statistics this year because its really not something that was top on my list this year. However, let’s focus back on the content that was consumed.

  • Total films watched: 215 movies
  • Total books read: 9 books
  • Total TV series binged: 69 seasons

Top 10 First Time Watches

  1. Hand Rolled Cigarette
  2. Vicious Fun
  3. Dreams On Fire
  4. The Final Girls
  5. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  6. Inglourious Basterds
  7. Better Days
  8. The Dressmaker
  9. Hello! Tapir
  10. Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes

Top 10 TV series

  1. Flourish in Time
  2. Baking Impossible
  3. Our Secret
  4. Squid Game
  5. Moonlight
  6. Lost In Space (Season 1-3)
  7. Love Crossed
  8. A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower
  9. Use For Our Talent
  10. Sweet Home

Overall, 2021 was a decrease in content in general for film watching in general. The actually movie watching for 2021 releases was all focused on what was accessible on streaming services or online. Some of which is still waiting to be written up. Less posts written, less movies watched, a new podcast (which is currently in hiatus for rebuild), more TV watching (I believe since I didn’t track it last year), an unbelievable backlog of movies and TV series to write up reviews and a whole lot less books read is where I’m at as we approach this year-end. However, its been a crazy year in real life so I think all things aside, its amazing that things are still running the way it is.

Drop by tomorrow to see the 2022 upcoming plans post!
There’s some little changes and announcements!

Holiday Marathon: A Castle For Christmas (2021)

A Castle For Christmas (2021)

Director: Mary Lambert

Cast: Brooke Shields, Cary Elwes, Lee Ross, Andi Osho, Tiny Gray, Eilidh Loan, Stephen Oswald, Vanessa Grasse, Desiree Burch

To escape a scandal, a bestselling author journeys to Scotland, where she falls in love with a castle – and faces off with the grumpy duke who owns it. – IMDB

Looking at A Castle For Christmas, I couldn’t help but ask two questions. The first is when was the last time I saw Brooke Shields and the second, when was the last time Cary Elwes was in a romantic comedy? Was it The Princess Bride? On top of that, this film is directed by Mary Lambert who has directed plenty of horror films but not so much romance (as I take a quick look over her filmography and yet, she is at the helm of this film.

Set in the small town Scotland setting and mostly in a castle, A Castle For Christmas is really not all that bad. The cast helps a lot and the whole tone is pretty nice. The plot points do have some odd moments that feel like it edited out a scene or two that was supposed to link it all together. The romance at times is a little bit on the cringey side of things but the setting is really nice for Christmas as it brings these two characters together. The holiday element is also done pretty well also as they transform the castle into a more festive setting and giving it a little more life.

The cast is really the highlight here. Whether we look at the main leads or the supporting cast, they all add a lot of charm to this small town and breathe more life into the film as a whole. The little discussions as they knit or decorate together. It makes the famous author on the run feel accepted when this group understands her point more than the others in the big city. There is a very positive feel-good vibe from those moments alone. It somehow puts the romance element in the background. However, thats not saying that Cary Elwes and Brooke Shields in their respective leading roles should be ignored. Brooke Shields fits into this role nicely whereas Cary Elwes feels at times a little awkward. However, his character is set as a bit of a loner so where he shines is before the whole romantic bits start with their little feud as he tries to get her to leave and she works hard to fit in and stay.

Overall, A Castle For Christmas is an alright holiday romantic comedy. Its cast does it the most favors and makes it a fun feel good film. The romance gets lost a little in the whole setting and the holiday and the supporting cast from the small town and yet, that does do the film a lot of favors as the romance element isn’t its strongest but Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes does fit relativelt well in their individual roles.

Double Feature: A California Christmas (2020) & A California Christmas: City Lights (2021)

A California Christmas (2020)

Director: Shaun Paul Piccinino

Cast: Lauren Swickard, Josh Swickard, Ali Afshar, David Del Rio, Katelyn Epperly, Amanda Detmer, Natalia Mann, Gunnar Anderson, Julie Lancaster

With his carefree lifestyle on the line, a wealthy charmer poses as a ranch hand to get a hardworking farmer to sell her family’s land before Christmas. – IMDB

Being from a place where a white Christmas is usually how it goes, these snowless holiday films sometimes do feel a little strange as it focuses more on the actual romance than the holiday but I suppose that’s how it goes with these sort of Netflix-style “Hallmark” films. A California Christmas is really rather basic. In fact, everything is very simple and predictable whether its the characters to the whole plot itself. It doesn’t carry a whole lot of depth. In these cases, its saving grace will be the chemistry and its setting which the whole small-town farmland has its little fun moments while the chemistry does work seeing as the two leads are actually married in real life which definitely helps things and makes it feel rather natural.

What saves this movie a little bit is that the rich spoiled brat male lead comes to this town to try to pretend to be someone else and use that as a manipulative plot to get them to sell as per his company and his mother the CEO’s request, with that plot comes the blending together and a somewhat fish out of water story as he learns how to do all these farm tasks, posing as a farm hand called Manny who ends up trading up that life for a rather relaxing one with his assistant, Leo. Where the film did have its most fun was the ridiculous and rather comedic moments between Leo and Manny as their friendship grew throughout. Of course, the romance wasn’t all too bad either considering they pulled in a family angle that tugged a little on the heartstrings.

A California Christmas is really everything that you’d expect from this type of holiday romance. Its acceptable for those who enjoy these films but nothing too special for anyone looking for something more.

A California Christmas: City Lights (2021)

Director: Shaun Paul Piccinino

Cast: Lauren Swickard, Josh Swickard, Ali Afshar, David Del Rio, Natalia Mann, Raquel Dominguez, Laura James, Noah James, Julie Lancaster

Follows Callie and Joseph one year after they fell in love, now running a dairy farm and winery, but their romance is threatened when business and family obligations call Joseph back to the city. – IMDB

The sequel of last year’s A California Christmas moves the farmland setting to the city lights of San Francisco as Joseph is summoned back to the city to take care of the company as his mother runs off and passes the duties over to him. Faced with the upcoming nuptials and fitting into the city as well as the different person that Joseph seems to be in the city as well as a lot of revelations about his past life there, Callie starts to have her own doubts.

A California Christmas: City Lights is a step down from the first film. While the first was predictable, this sequel actually feels a lot more unnecessary. Some things in the script feel like a stretch and there is this very odd tone especially with some very cheesy and over the top moments, specifically one where its probably meant to be humorous but didn’t quite hit that way with Manny’s character as he tries to capture the attention of Callie’s best friend Brandy. Its a rather empty sort of pursuit as the connection goes from nothing to something in a very short amount of time. The family element also gets traded out as Callie and Joseph is away in another city but still trying to get those moments in.

The focus is still on Callie and Joseph, the main couple here who is caught up in this new location and new responsibilities respectively. Between the plots of the ex-girlfriend and this whole other side of Joseph comes to light for Callie, it creates these moments of tension as the city undoubtedly tears them apart literally, making it hard to find time to spend together. This plotline actually is one that I’m not a huge fan of in general. Call it a romance film issue that is used so frequently with just secrets and lack of communication which is usually the source all the problems. While its inevitable that it needs to be used to create conflict, it also feels like for the frequent viewer of such films, it such a simple solution whether its talking things through or just commuting to see each other to sort things out whether than each sulking in their own corners.

Sure, I didn’t have high expectations for A California Christmas: City Lights since the first movie was a rather average sort of viewing experience. This film however took some very odd and silly plot points that just felt like while the backdrop of San Francisco has some really nice cityscape, and the world they shift to is rather glamorous, the film in general is dull. It actually took quite a few sittings to get through it. Some of the issues once resolved were pretty decent but the script and the execution was just not too balanced.

TV Binge: Blown Away: Christmas (Season 1, 2021)

Blown Away: Christmas (Season 1, 2021)

Host: Bobby Berk & Katherine Gray

Five fan-favorite glass blowers return to the hot shop to compete in a series of Christmas-themed challenges; the winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize, plus an additional $10,000 will be donated to his or her charity of choice. – IMDB

Let’s just put it out there right now that I never watched any of the Blown Away seasons before this one (at the point where I’m writing this post, but probably will later). I also know nothing about glass blowing. The extent of my knowledge is the one time I went to Seattle and saw it being done at the Chihuly Garden and Glass. With that said, I am really happy with the variety of competition shows that Netflix produces since it shows off a lot of the different arts out there and giving it a platform for others to know more about the artists just quietly working on their craft in their corner.

Blown Away: Christmas is four episodes long and brings back five of the fan-favorites from the past 2 seasons as they compete in different Christmas-themed challenges. The variety is pretty good as well as the whole narrative. The episodes run fairly short as well at about 20-ish minutes. Its very swift to say the least as they run through some of their processes on what they are making and introducing some of the techniques that they are using as they dive into their different meanings towards Christmas whether its memorable presents to the big finale creating their own version of winter wonderland. The artists are all very diverse in their artistic style which always adds to these types of shows. Plus, all the artists are all really interesting people as they share their own traditions.

The show itself is hosted by Bobby Berk who admits right away that he knows nothing about glass blowing but from the Queer Eye show he is very familiar with home decor so his expertise comes into play for the artistic elements of the piece. Plus, he adds in the little pun-y jokes in his narration as well as a fun personality as he hosts with resident judge, Katherine Gray, who is there to offer her expertise in glass-blowing and knows these artists from the previous seasons. The dynamic between the two is pretty good.

Overall, Blown Away: Christmas is pretty fun. Its a great introduction to the show itself and has left me wanting to check out the normal seasons, like the previous 2 seasons. The pieces are truly beautiful and very creative. The whole show is pretty feel good to watch even if it is a competition.

Holidays Marathon: Love Hard (2021)

Love Hard (2021)

Director: Hernan Jimenez

Cast: Nina Dobrev, Jimmy O. Yang, Darren Barnet, James Saito, Rebecca Staab, Harry Shum Jr., Althea Kaye, Mikaela Hoover, Matty Finochio, Heather McMahan

An LA girl, unlucky in love, falls for an East Coast guy on a dating app and decides to surprise him for the holidays, only to discover that she’s been catfished. This lighthearted romantic comedy chronicles her attempt to reel in love. – IMDB

As Netflix steps up its game a little, its kind of a mixed bag when it comes to holiday films. Love Hard was one that caught my eye immediately for 2 reasons. The first being Nina Dobrev that I’ve been following since The Vampire Diaries which is a show that I did love (not so sure about how much I love it now but maybe it’ll be a fun experiment to see how I feel about it now that I’m in my 30s). The second reason being Jimmy O. Yang who seems to be popping up on my radar a lot and I do like his humor quite a bit. While I didn’t expect him to be casted in a romantic comedy, it is nice to see him in it especially when Love Hard is pretty cute when it brings the whole modernized dating scene up front for people looking for love online and the many dangers that could happen as well as the concept of what perfect love is while also making a play on two movies I do like a lot: Love Actually and Die Hard.

Love Hard is a pretty fun romantic comedy. Its not exactly unpredictable as most rom-coms nowadays tend to be lacking on that front. However, with the small town vibe and bringing in the family element in terms of expectations and love on all fronts, Love Hard is pretty well-crafted. It has its heartwarming moments and also some silly ones as well but the chemistry between Nina Dobrev’s Natalie and Jimmy O. Yang’s Josh is pretty decent. They have some really meaningful conversations about romance and encouragement towards being themselves but also uses its comedic comebacks especially for Jimmy O. Yang’s character pretty well also. The whole cast is pretty cool with Harry Shum Jr. playing the attention seeking brother but also getting to flex those singing skills, that I personally haven’t heard since his Glee days. Much like the whole family dynamic of the Lin household, plus all these family holiday films needs a wild grandma and they had one here as well.

Is Love Hard something really out of the ordinary? The plot itself definitely isn’t. It has some of the “How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days” plot where in this case is a blogger with her column on failed online dating but also adds that different ethnic backgrounds angle as they play with some of the Asian backgrounds even if the family feels pretty much assimilated to the small-town US lifestyle. A lot of the Asian household values whether its family business or following dreams or family expectations all come into play here which does feel rather realistic. If there was one thing that I’d nitpick on this was that the film spent a lot of time on Natalie’s angle, probably for most of the film and then suddenly near the end, it switches over to Josh’s angle in the final act which felt a little odd to do since Natalie felt like the character to connect with throughout and then suddenly, the switch with that one scene with Josh near the end felt a little misplaced. Its still a good scene and adds to his character.

Overall, its a harmless holiday romantic comedy. It has a lot of Christmas elements. There’s a good balance between comedy and romance. It also has some fun Christmas moments from putting up the Christmas tree to family moments to Christmas caroling, etc. It does tick a good few of those boxes for what this film sells itself as which all works together in a fun way. Of course, for people who don’t really enjoy romantic comedies, probably not for you but if you like Jimmy O. Yang’s comedy style and romantic comedies are acceptable to you, its a worth a watch.

Double Feature: Angela’s Christmas Wish (2020) & The Grinch (2018)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wrapping up this year’s Holidays marathon on Christmas day is how it usually works so the next double feature is the final 2 movies of the marathon, although I did have one more alternate Christmas movie but we’ll pair it up later after Christmas. This time, its a animated Christmas films double feature with a Netflix sequel, Angela’s Christmas Wish and 2018’s adaptation, The Grinch.

Let’s check it out!

Angela’s Christmas Wish (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Damien O’Connor

Voice cast: Lucy O’Connell, Ruth Negga, Moe Dunford, Brendan Mullins, Shona Hamill, Oscar Butler, Janet Moran

A sequel to the much loved Angela’s Christmas, Angela’s Christmas Wish is a heart-warming tale of a determined little girl who sets out to reunite her family in time for Christmas. – IMDB

There’s something so heartwarming about Angela’s Christmas Wish. It has that same type of charming little girl character for Angela that continues from Angela’s Christmas (review) where Angela’s imagination is one that makes it so beautiful to be a child because of the naivety to believe in the things that she knows probably isn’t true but also shows her big heart. Last year was keeping baby Jesus warm and stirring up a lot of commotion that the townspeople hasn’t quite forgotten as it still gets mentioned but this year, its running around trying to bring her father home. Being an adult watching this, its obvious that whatever she is thinking up is absolutely impossible to happen and the adults do bring it up, however its the persistence and the pure hope of bringing her father back home that makes this such a heartwarming tale, which takes her on an adventure and makes a new friend in the process.

Wrapping it up with a tale about a pauper and what he wished for that made him happy as a string between the conversation and a Christmas surprise to look forward to, Angela’s Christmas Wish is all about family, the meaning of happiness and the best intentions. The story is all about the kids and their shenanigans especially based on their simple minded ideas that kids have, liking digging to Australia. Its all the world that crafts up these cute funny moments that make up this story and makes Angela such a charming character who has this convincing enthusiasm that makes her brother and this other little girl to follow along her since her wish would make for her father getting involved and that would allow him to spend time with her. Its all these little desires from children to be close to their parents and yet, adults can see through those beyond the lines moment that make it so meaningful to watch.

Angela’s Christmas Wish is a fun and heartwarming story. One that has all the right values and such charming characters in a cute little town. The ending bit was so touching also that I got a little teary. Its one definitely worth a watch, especially since its less than 50 minutes in length.

The Grinch (2018)

Director: Yarrow Cheney & Scott Mosier

Voice cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Pharrell Williams, Tristan O’Hare, Kenan Thompson, Sam Lavagnino, Ramone Hamilton, Angela Lansbury, Scarlett Estevez

A grumpy Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) plots to ruin Christmas for the village of Whoville. – IMDB

*Originally posted on Movies and Tea Friday Film Club*

Based on the 1957 Dr. Seuss book How The Grinch Stole Christmas and the third screen adaptation following the 1966 classic TV adaptation and the 2000 live action film, The Grinch is a computer animated film and the second Dr. Seuss by Illumination following The Lorax. Illumination is rather on point with these adaptation. For those who are unfamiliar of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, its about a green-furred Grinch who was born with two hearts too small who lives alone in the mountains with his dog Max above Whoville. The Whos are festive and love Christmas a lot which rubs The Grinch the wrong way that he decides to put a stop to it by disguising as Santa on Christmas Eve and stealing all their decorations, gifts and foods to stop them from celebrating Christmas however, he soon realizes that Christmas is more than the material things and that its all about the Christmas spirit which lives in them and ends up with this revelation making his heart grow two sizes and deciding to give back all that he stole to the Whos who in turn, take him in for their Christmas holiday.

While the first adaptation in 1966 is the one that most interprets the original story, these adaptations all add their own twists to fluff up the full length. In this adaptation, it gives the Grinch a backstory that makes him less of the disagreeable character but one where he grows up suffering from being alone that he doesn’t know how it feels to have companionship whether as friends or family. At the same time, giving a lot of life to certain characters in Whoville and not just focusing on Cindy Lou Who. She still plays a big element but giving her more of a backstory, a ploy to meet Santa with her friends and a connection with her mom. Sure, maybe it does stretch far from the original but all this does add a lot of fun characters. Cindy Lou Who and her friends are very adorable in design just like Max and the addition of a buffalo and then there’s the very fun neighbor Mr. Bricklebaum.

Plus, there’s a decent cast of voice actors from Grinch by Benedict Cumberbatch, Cindy Lou’s mom by Rashida Jones, Cindy Lou by Cameron Seely and Mr. Bricklebaum voiced by Kenan Thompson. Of course, a big part of Dr. Seuss story is the Narrator. In this case, its narrated by Pharrell Williams who actually has some narration that strays away from the original text but still keeps the rhyming and creative elements.

This adaptation of The Grinch still has a lot of heart. Its light and fun and fairly entertaining. There’s no doubt that The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is its best without all the extra bits but as its straightforward story like the 1966 TV movie, however this version does an exceptional job at making it very entertaining. Its still full of the Christmas spirit and its a great effort as an adaptation plus in my opinion, its much more redeeming than the 2000 live action adaptation. This one might have some slight pacing issues but it still delivers as a family holiday animated film.

Double Feature: Operation Santa Drop (2020) & Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

I’m super behind on these Christmas reviews going out so I figured that I’d double down to get all of them out. Back to the double feature reviews, we’re in for a Netflix Original double feature for holiday films.

Hope everyone’s having a Merry Christmas Eve and lets check out these two movies!

Operation Santa Drop (2020)

Director: Martin Wood

Cast: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Trezzo Mahoro, Bethany Brown, Rohan Campbell, Virginia Madsen, Jeff Joseph, Janet Kidder

Congressional aide Erica (Kat Graham) forgoes family Christmas to travel at her boss’s behest. At a beachside Air Force base, she clashes with Capt. Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig), who knows her assignment is finding reasons to defund the facility. – IMDB

Operation Christmas Drop takes a tropic setting for Christmas, much like last year’s Holiday in the Wild (review). In this case, its about the Air Force base doing a good deed on their own means but the facility being on the verge of possibility defunded because of it. Its pretty much a holiday romantic comedy with a bigger cause at heart which has all the right intentions however also feels very familiar. Of course, if these types of movies are your cup of tea, its definitely going to work other than perhaps the computer animated gecko sitting on the wall that looks the most out of place. In the current state of pandemic across the world, it perhaps helps that this sort of destination is one to look forward to in the future when things get back to some form of normal.

Its hard to criticize Operation Christmas Drop. In many ways, the meaning of Christmas and the good deed makes this a rather feel good movie. However, putting it in the context of the romance at heart, it feels a little light. The chemistry is on and off between the two main leads and yet, the whole exploring the place and mostly the character Erica, played by Kat Graham does change her heart as she would have to for to movie to have to fight against her boss, the congresswoman played by Virginia Madsen. The charm is really in how it portrays the villagers and the people in it, plus the setting gives it a lot of extra points. The whole Christmas Drop scene might be the most fun to watch.

Operation Christmas Drop is an alright movie. Its pretty harmless overall and has a decent story to tell especially since its based on a true situation which it makes a point to highlight at the end of the movie. Nameless heroes are the best ones to talk about and possibly the most heartwarming stories. Its very fitting for a holiday film, even if it doesn’t hit all the notes for the romantic arc.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Director (and writer): David E. Talbert

Cast: Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose, Madalen Mills, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, Justin Cornwell, Sharon Rose, Lisa Davina Phillip, Kieron L. Dyer

An imaginary world comes to life in a holiday tale of an eccentric toymaker, his adventurous granddaughter, and a magical invention that has the power to change their lives forever. – IMDB

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a musical fantasy film. I’m all about Netflix putting together these musical films. I also caught up with The Prom shortly after this one but that’s for another post. While its not exactly a Christmas movie in the conventional way, it is one that’s full of magic: the magic of creation especially in terms of toy creations. Its about family and making peace. There’s a bit of silliness to the whole situation as well and some imagination elements but its a fun journey to say the least.

There’s a lot to love about Jingle Jangle even if there are some small pacing issues perhaps and the story is rather predictable in where it will go. However, the musical numbers are really fun and I’m also a sucker for those big musical scenes which almost feels like flash mob. The music itself is good as well. The cast performs it very well. There are some memorable songs in the mix.

Perhaps one of the things that also stand out is that the cast is exceptional, at least to me. Forest Whitaker takes on the main inventor role Jeronicus that has lost his magic after his creation ideas are stolen from his apprentice and at the verge of losing his store that has now turned into a pawnshop, his granddaughter is sent over with the same type of inventive bone as him to warm his life up and also bring back his magic. With a new young boy that wants to be his apprentice in the mix and the postal service lady that wants to win his heart in the most entertaining way and so much personality, it also brings into the mix of Keegan-Michael Key as Gustafson, his apprentice that was actually mislead by Jeronicus’ invention Don Juan Diego who has so much of a human conscious that it doesn’t want to be replicated. Don Juan Diego is animated and voiced by Ricky Martin who does a fantastic job as well. Not to mention that the young stars including the main lead of the granddaughter Journey by Madalen Mills.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is really quite the fun spectacle. The magic and the music and the characters all are quite the charming. Not to mention the setting of the village is nice as well as the toy design that is in the making turns out to be this uber cute Wall-E-esque looking robot. There may be some flaws with this and it has some overacting here and there but then musicals always seem to have that sort of feeling to it and its those moments that blend well with the musical numbers and boosting the story elements.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 (2020)

The Christmas Chronicles 2 (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Chris Columbus

Cast: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Julian Dennison, Jahzir Bruno, Tyrese Gibson, Judah Lewis, Kimberly Williams-Paisley

Kate Pierce, now a cynical teen, is unexpectedly reunited with Santa Claus when a mysterious troublemaker threatens to cancel Christmas – forever. – IMDB

We’re big fans of The Christmas Chronicles (review) so suffice to say, we were looking forward to the sequel. The sequel takes place a year after the events of the first film again during Christmas season where the family is on vacation in the south with the mother’s new boyfriend and son. There’s resistance to both the new relationship and where they are by Kate who ends up scheming a way to escape but ends up falling into a trap that takes her to North Pole.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 is a bit of mixed feelings. On one hand, there are some very fun bits and the characters including the elves and exploring Santa’s Village plus Kurt Russell as Santa Claus and Goldie Hawn having a bigger part this time around as Mrs. Claus are all very entertaining bits for the movie. The animation of the elves and how they are designed is so cute that I went trying to see if somewhere sells these plush but with no luck.

Along with the pros, there were some cons. Most of it had to do with the plot and the whole revenge bit from Belsnickel, an elf that gets punished for doing misdeeds after Santa doesn’t pay attention to him that he act out and gets turned into human. The main issue is the Belsnickel character that is rather an annoying character design and feels a little disjointed in general. Perhaps, its supposed to fit with a child lashing out and being bratty but the execution just felt lacking on his development. The character is more of an issue in the first half and does feel better as it goes further although his character still just feels like the means of creating issues for Santa and his village.

Playing with tech a little as it moves through time travel a little and morphing through locations, The Christmas Chronicles 2 still had the adventure bit locked down and the young characters finally reaching Santa’s village as a means for Belsnickel turns out to get them involved which also brings on some fun characters and adventures. Starting with cameo characters, Tyrese Gibson plays the mom’s boyfriend which is pretty fun and the first time that I’ve seen him out of the Fast and Furious franchise. With Judah Lewis’s brother falling into a smaller role, Kate is paired with a tag along of the boyfriend’s son, Jack played Jahzir Bruno who ends up bonding the two but giving him a journey as he starts fighting his wide array of fears and finding his courage all with the help of Mrs. Claus. Probably the character everyone has been waiting for since the surprise appearance at the end of the first film is Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus, who turns up on quite the role. She creates this balance for Santa. Plus, the whole village’s elves going nuts was quite a hilarious turn of events in a brutally cute way.

Overall, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is alright. It still has the entertainment level and the tone especially with the comedy and family film is done pretty well. The real selling point is in Kurt Russell as Santa who holds up his role really well while expanding it to a memorable Mrs. Claus by Goldie Hawn. It takes on this message about discovering Christmas spirit and a bit like the story of The Grinch where it doesn’t matter so much about where it is but its in their hearts sort of deal. Not quite as outstanding as the first film but still a fun enough one to enjoy for the holidays.

The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)

The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)

Director: Mike Rohl

Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Mark Fleischmann, Nick Sagar, Mia Lloyd, Suanne Braun, Lachlan Nieboer, Ricky Norwood, Florence Hall

When Duchess Margaret unexpectedly inherits the throne to Montenaro and hits a rough patch with Kevin, it’s up to her double Stacy to save the day before a new lookalike, party girl Fiona foils their plans. – IMDB

The Princess Switch, while not exactly a fresh idea, was a fun one in its original release. Vanessa Hudgens is rather fun playing two different characters, playing around with accents and different background and identity swaps. Something like a version of It Takes Two for grown-ups. You can read my review of the first film HERE.

When Netflix announced that there was a sequel, it was hard to imagine what direction they would take. It didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of other stories to tell especially seeing as A Christmas Prince had already gone through 2 sequels by last year and each one feeling less and less entertaining. The Princess Switch: Switched Again hits much lower than the original. Its not exactly unexpected but having a third Vanessa Hudgens character, Fiona, a different sort of character of the prior two is still fun enough however, the plot as a whole is lacking. Because of so many Vanessa Hudgens, everyone becomes passing figures. The story falls really flat as this new scheme comes into play, there’s just more pieces that don’t fit together and its not exciting or entertaining to watch. Some of the new characters try to be funny but it all seems to miss a mark. Nothing seems to be out of the expected and just turns into a fairly disappointing sort of ordeal. Of course, like I said before, its not unexpected.

Much like the first film, Vanessa Hudgens holds up the movie and is definitely the highlight here. She plays these three characters with a different style and vibe. Margaret and Stacy both being different while Fiona is a much more outward character and brings a little more sass and silliness especially with her two minions. Adding into the equation a guy that wants to win over Margaret’s affections, it all boils down to a fairly predictable sort of movie and the characters all being rather one-dimensional. Not that anyone is expecting more (at least I hope not). Other than Vanessa Hudgens and some of the characters from the first film, the thing that gives this one a little more points is that it finally ties up the world that Netflix is building between A Christmas Prince and this one as the royal family from there makes a cameo appearance.

Overall, The Princess Switch: Switched Again is a fairly normal movie, nothing that’s unexpected and everything stays rather predictable. The whole three personalities for Vanessa Hudgens just feels like she works really hard. Everything else feels a little more normal like the relationship between Stacy and her prince while Margaret sorting out things with Kevin. In comparison, it seems to give more weight to Margaret’s character this time as its in her kingdom this time. The whole world that Netflix creates for their Christmas stories is pretty neat. As a finishing thought, seeing as I’ve had rather lackluster feelings to both A Christmas Prince 3 and this one, I really don’t know where Netflix plans to take these stories or this world.

TV Binge: Sugar Rush Christmas (Season 2, 2020)

Sugar Rush Christmas (Season 2, 2020)

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Adriano Zumbo, Candace Nelson
Guests: Adam Rippon, Chris Bosh, Valerie Gordon, Sasha Pieterse, Jordin Sparks, Abigail Breslin

Four sets of bakers compete in Christmas themed baking challenges. First round is cupcakes, second round confections, and final round cakes. After each challenge one group is eliminated and the winner of the final challenge gets $10,000. – IMDB

The second season of Sugar Rush Christmas is structured like the first season. At this point, Sugar Rush has pretty much set their structure in a well-polished way. The focus on time shows a lot of its effect when the different teams make decisions on how to balance between execution of their creative designs in the different stage and how detailed it needs to be to see how much time they save. Sometimes, it fails and sometimes it succeeds which usually makes the first part more interesting to watch then the third round of cakes.

Talking about the different rounds, the themes for each episode is similar to the first season. Christmas and holidays are fairly slim pickings playing around with Christmas trees, winter wonderlands, Santa Claus, etc. What did change a little was that certain episodes had some interesting challenges. One of the best ones had to be the White Elephant one which has the different teams picking a secret ingredient that had to be added to their confection. Some of those secret ingredients ended up having some interesting results. As for the cake challenge, one of the fun ones had to be the secret Santa challenge that had them hiding Santa in their cake designs. Aside from that, they sweetened the deal by having the winning team of first and second round also get a little prize and not only have the $10,000 prize for the final winner.

Sugar Rush Christmas is still hosted by Hunter March and judged by Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo which definitely have a great dynamic after so many seasons of working together. They all are very fun to watch. The guests this season definitely are people that I enjoy especially Abigail Breslin, Jordin Sparks and Sasha Pieterse. One of the fun ones are Jordin Sparks since it has singing bits and she has an upbeat personality while Sasha Pieterse shows off another side from what I’ve seen from Pretty Little Liars and is very professional in her judging.

Sugar Rush Christmas’s second season isn’t exactly making a lot of big differences but it already had established a good structure so its not needed for a lot of change. It fulfils the need of some fun and entertainment while watching a reality baking competition series. It brings a lot of holiday spirit. Every bit as enjoyable as previous seasons!

Check out the Sugar Rush Christmas Season 1 Review here.