Christmas 2018 Double Feature: Dreamworks Home For the Holidays (2017) & Trolls Holiday (2017)

Its Christmas day so I shifted things around to keep it light and fun. After some thought, the best is to put together another double feature of animated shorts. This time, it is two Dreamworks holiday specials, one for Home and the other for Trolls. Both of which I have not seen the films so watching their holidays special is going to be a completely new experience to dive into each of these worlds.

Let’s check it out!

Dreamworks Home: For the Holidays (2017)

Dreamworks Home For the Holidays

Director: Blake Lemons

Voice Cast: Rachel Crow, Mark Whitten, Ron Funches, Matt Jones, Atticus Shaffer, Ana Ortiz, Nolan North, Ben Schwartz, Kelly Clarkson

Oh takes it upon himself to introduce Christmas joy to his fellow Boovs. Unfortunately, his well-meaning mission nearly destroys the city. – IMDB

While I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy Home For the  Holidays, there is something here that definitely didn’t quite hit the mark and that might have to do with the animation or the character design or even just the type of humor it chooses to have. I’m not sure its something that I’d go and watch the TV series for or the movie for.

The idea of Home is cute to say the least and the characters I see can work for the young children audience. For me though, I can’t say that it worked quite as much. It also has the idea that it reminded me a lot of Lilo and Stitch in a lesser way and I hold Lilo and Stitch very close to my heart. Home for the Holidays is a fun 45 minutes though. It has some nice tunes and songs to keep it lively. There is a strong Christmas holidays all throughout and even has parts for Kelly Clarkson and Ben Schwartz, both that I like quite a bit.

Some good and some bad but in terms of holiday cheer, this one does have quite a bit. As a family thing, it does seem like maybe it might be more for the kids than the parents. But then, I’m not a parent yet, so maybe I’m wrong.

Trolls Holiday (2017)

Trolls Holiday Special

Director: Joel Crawford

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, James Corden, Ron Funches, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, Kunal Nayyar, Walt Dohrn, Kevin Michael Richardson

When the Queen of the Trolls, Poppy, finds out that the Bergens do not have holidays, she enlists help from her friends, Branch and the Snack Pack, to help her bring holidays to the Bergens. – IMDB

22 minutes of fun Trolls time. I’m going to be honest here that other than playing with actual Trolls toys in the 90s when I was a kid, I have never watched the movie before. I’ve heard the song from the movie sung by Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick but other than that, I have no idea how it all goes. Suffice to say, this one seemed and was absolutely colorful and fun.

I’m a big fan of Anna Kendrick, whether its her acting and her singing. I think she’s so dynamic as an actress so I have full confidence in her capability. And my first experience with it here definitely proves that its a pretty fun time and a lot of it has to do with all the quality singing that goes into each scene. Its abundant but that is what highlights the talents of both Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake because it is their fortes. Of course, I can’t get past this one without talking about Bridget, voiced by Zooey Deschanel who I happen to love also. Trolls Holiday had all the cards on its side for me to absolutely enjoy and I did with all my heart. It was light, happy, colorful and fun. There’s a positive message about friendship and communication and listening.

While Trolls Holiday isn’t exactly a Christmas movie mostly because Poppy goes to her best friend, Bridget to pitch one of their many holidays to hopefully make them happier, it is still a happy experience because of how silly all the Trolls holidays are and how they present it.

This Dreamworks Christmas double feature is done!
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

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Christmas 2018: A Kiss For Christmas by Melody Grace

A Kiss For Christmas: A Holiday Collection
by: Melody Grace

A Kiss For Christmas

In Holiday Kisses… Writer Dash needs peace and quiet to finish his new script, but he wasn’t betting on inn-keeper Ellie and the local Starbright festival to give him a jolt of holiday inspiration.

In Unexpectedly Yours… Sophie has been dreaming of a magical winter holiday in New York City. Can a chance encounter with musician Austin bring her festive dreams to life?

In Unwrapped… When a unlikely couple gets snowed in on the way to the wedding, a flirty game of truth-or-dare sends temperatures soaring. – Goodreads

A Kiss For Christmas are three novellas set during the holidays and bring two unlikely people together in whichever scenario describe above. Technically, that is alright. It is usually how these sort of contemporary fictions work and they can be really predictable. Which don’t get me wrong, these three are very predictable. My deal is that I’ve never seen anything more formulaic in my life. When something falls into formula too much: disagreement or conflict or some sort of mismatch feeling in the beginning, a hidden physical attraction to each other, a situation that brings them together, some fun sexy bed time, a misunderstanding and then happily ever after. I’m serious, each of these three are structured that way just wrapped up in their different world of one of the series that Melody Grace has created. For people who like this sort of thing, I’m sure it works absolutely. For myself, too much structure and formula really does feel insulting to my intelligence and in turn it gets boring.

I’m not going to look at each of these one by one because there really isn’t’ that much difference to it. The only difference is that the level of hotness of each is supposed to increase from one to the next. I don’t argue that Melody Grace has a knack for writing out these fairly drawn out sexy moments. It is one of the better structured ones. I just have grown out of stories like this where you have two incredibly beautiful people who get attracted to each other physically and then spend time together for like one night and feel they are soulmates then after one night of sexy fun, they believe they are meant to be forever. I’m a romantic but even that seems a tad too much to take in.

However, looking past the romance which is about 85% of this novel, it does deliver on a lot of holiday moments. The first story Holiday Kisses sets itself in a town that probably seems to be inspired by Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls and the Starbright Festival and all the little Christmas gestures here are rather sweet. The second Unexpectedly Yours is set in New York and brings in a lot of the Serendipity inspired activities: snow, ice skating, etc. The last one Unwrapped takes a snowed in situation at the airport at a hotel so it has the least Christmas elements here.

Thank goodness I got this one for free. That is all that I have to say. I would be even more frustrated with A Kiss For Christmas if it wasn’t. But I’m cheap and only grab free stuff on wherever I got this one from which I can’t remember. I’m not the audience for something like this It is the official last book of this contemporary romance that I am reading for a good while (at least a year if not more). Next year will be something moving in another direction and might not even have any straight romance stuff and nothing with sex scenes probably. I can’t know those things in advance so I’m done with this genre for a while.

Christmas 2018: Christmas Wedding Planner (2017)

Christmas Wedding Planner (2017)

Christmas Wedding Planner

Director: Justin G. Dyck

Cast: Jocelyn Hudon, Stephen Huszar, Kelly Rutherford, Rebecca Dalton, Eric Hicks, Joey Fatone

Wedding Planner, Kelsey Wilson, is about to have her big break: planning her beloved cousin’s lavish and exclusive wedding. Everything is going smoothly until Connor McClane, a devilishly handsome private investigator, shows up and turns Kelsey’s world upside-down.  – IMDB

The good streak of holiday films plummets with Christmas Wedding Planner. It falls into the incredibly predictable movie even more than any other ones I’ve seen. There’s really awkward chemistry and lacking of romance also. I’m not exactly sure where to start. It did a few redeeming points and moments so it wasn’t something I hated just something I probably wouldn’t want to watch again.

Christmas Wedding Planner

Most of these holiday romance movies are already quite predictable and that is a given. It usually doesn’t bother me too much because the formula it has works when it pairs up a charming pair, a few funny and heartwarming moment and things still feel fun to watch because of this natural chemistry or whatever supporting cast and shenanigans and situation that it is in. Christmas Wedding Planner is missing a few of those elements. It feels a bit disjointed because the story does jump around fairly fast but then if it was longer, it probably wouldn’t have changed much for this story. It is really where it falls flat because it is about as generic as generic can get. On top of that, the cast itself didn’t really seem to be feeling it. Kelsey (Jocelyn Hudon) and Connor (Stephen Huszar) on paper did have dialogue that normally would be relatively okay but then some of the dialogue felt like it was so rehearsed that it didn’t feel natural anymore. That is where my problem with this works because they both look great together and when they aren’t talking and just looking at each other, you can feel the chemistry a tad but then the script kicks in and it just knocks it all down.

The saving grace here though, despite the script is Kelly Rutherford as Aunt Olivia. Kelly Rutherford has this elegance and charm that radiates through her role and it works with the role she is playing as the controlling and disapproving aunt and somewhat seems to have a change in her role towards Kelsey at the end. The other is Joey Fatone who is really just a supporting role as George, Connor’s brother but somehow it was fun to watch him do his little bit.

Overall, there isn’t much to say about Christmas Wedding Planner. I don’t have a whole lot that I liked about it. In terms of holiday, this is about a holiday wedding so there was a whole lot of that going on. The wedding dress and outfits are pretty nice. However, it was the script and the lack of chemistry between the romance interest in a good few moments that pulled it down for me.

Christmas 2018: The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Christmas Chronicles

Director: Clay Kaytis

Cast: Kurt Russell, Judah Lewis, Darby Camp, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Oliver Hudson, Lamorne Morris, Martin Roach

The story of sister and brother, Kate and Teddy Pierce, whose Christmas Eve plan to catch Santa Claus on camera turns into an unexpected journey that most kids could only dream about. – IMDB

An adventure this one definitely is. The Christmas Chronicles is a fun little adventure full of everything that we love. I have to say that Kurt Russell as Santa is a pop of difference. Judah Lewis and Darby Camp are great as kids. It gave me this whole vibe of what great Christmas movies that we love had especially when tackling the power of to believe in Santa. The story is a bit generic and expected but the enthusiasm and the pure humor of the whole thing along with all the fun action-packed bits definitely set it apart whether its racing down the streets in flashy race cars or commandeering a sleigh ride and the different aspects that gives it some fun moments makes it never forget what it is and stays true to its purpose.

Christmas Chronicles

The highlight of The Christmas Chronicles definitely hands down goes to Kurt Russell who truly takes us for a fun little Christmas ride as after the kids scare him and make him crash land in Chicago, to chase down his Santa hat, his reindeers and his bag of toys. With the help of Teddy (Judah Lewis) and Kate (Darby Camp), this adventure is kind of an interesting way to see Santa portrayed in a rather non-traditional way. Its refreshing and Kurt Russell’s version is so memorable.

Other than that, what I did like a lot also has to go to the computer graphics and how it makes up for all the cute designs here and just how everything comes to life. For one, the reindeers are done so lively and the expressions in their eyes are fantastic. Just like when we get to see these North Pole elves who have their fantastical language but all so unique in their design just like how they look so cute but have this very hilarious ugly side when the situation is needed. They are so cute and charming.

Overall, The Christmas Chronicles is a fun Christmas adventure. It has a lot of the Polar Express feels, especially because a few parts takes the music from that movie, especially with the same concept of believing in Santa and the power of this belief and trying to get someone (in this case Teddy) to regain belief. At the same time, it also has these musical moments where Kurt Russell has a singing moment. There are a ton of elements here. Its festive and fun and honestly, its been a while that I’ve felt like any holiday films released in the last few years has made it onto our annual holiday movie marathon, but this one definitely fits all our criteria.

Christmas 2018: Stinky Santa by Otto Fishblanket

Stinky Santa
by: Otto Fishblanket

Stinky Santa

Jingle bells, Santa smells –
he smells of mouldy cheese.
He doesn’t wear any trousers
so you can see his knees.
A new work by renowned poet and part-time aeronautical escapologist, Otto Fishblanket, Stinky Santa is a book about a smelly Santa. It is illustrated by celebrity childen’s book illustrator, Gerald Hawksley. – IMDB

It seems like I’m taking a childish turn of events over here. Its not a bad thing at all. I was going through my Kindle and realized I had at some point gotten this Stinky Santa book for free. Its two short stories set in rhyming poetry about the holidays. The first is called Stinky Santa which talks about Santa who doesn’t like to shower and smells a lot but then gets all nice for Christmas to deliver the gifts and goes back sweaty and dirty and goes back to his usual routine. Its a little silly but somehow quite fun and satisfying to read. Plus, the drawings are done pretty cute as well. It fits into what I think kids will enjoy. Plus, the writing runs off the tongue well especially because it does rhyme well so never feels too forced.

The second story or poem (not sure what to call it yet) is what they say is a “surprise gift”. Its a nice little perk called Santa’s Grotty Grotto. Most people probably wouldn’t refer to Santa’s workshop as a grotto but here it works a little like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or something where the place is usually empty and desolate and then it comes to life when it snows. Its a nice thought because even for myself, living in Canada, there is more Christmas spirit and holiday cheer when it snows outside and it just feels more suitable for the holiday season the way that I like it.

Both of these stories is just fun and entertaining. It has some funny bits and a lovely reading experience. Plus, its quick and quirky which also fits into something similar to Dr. Seuss. I mean, there is no comparison because Dr. Seuss is always a gem to read and irreplaceable but I had some similar vibes here and there with the creativity and the silly nature of the material. It is a nice break from the novels and romance and all that stuff that I’ve been reading and watching so the change of pace works for me.

Christmas 2018 & TV Binge: Nailed It! Holiday! (Mini-series, 2018)

You can see reviews for the main seasons here:

Season 1
Season 2

Nailed It! Holiday! (2018)

nailed it holiday

Host: Nicole Byer & Jacques Torres

There are shows that talk about refined baking competitions and such but there is also a great joy in watching amateurs bake because its a learning curve and everyone has to start somewhere. Nailed It! has taken that concept and really excelled with it. Sure, Season 2 had its odd moments where it forgot what it was trying to do but overall, it still brought a lot of joy and laughter to some of the odd baking things that came out of some of these episodes. With that said, I was excited to see that Nailed It Holiday is now a thing. It keeps the same format, very much like the first one which focuses its first round on Baker’s Choice and its making smaller baking things like cookies, cake pops and cupcakes while its second round is the money maker, literally, because you can win $10,000 with  making a cake creation. This time we also see a hint of what might be potential new extension or a new direction for the show in the 7th episode as it escapes the baking realm and jumps into the DIY crafts realm. I’ll talk about that a little later as a final wrap-up discussion point.

Nailed It Holiday

Nailed It! Holiday! definitely did do exactly that. Its hilarious and a ton of fun. It themes itself around the different holidays during this winter season from a good few Christmas to simply winter themes to Hanukkah and takes us straight to a countdown to New Year’s. I’m guessing if you do watch this one or two episodes a week, you might actually reach New Year’s Eve to watch the countdown. The creations themselves are super nice. Its still very much difficulty but its always the how the choice of candidates in the competition that brings a lot of fun because of just how ridiculous some times these things turn out to be. At the same time, they add on a different special button in each one episode themed also around the holidays from unwrapping presents or untangling lights which also makes it fair because if they finish it during the 3 minutes, they can get back to their baking right away. Its a nice twist to the freeze button in the second round.

Nailed It Holiday

Nailed It has always seemed to want to divert away from its baking competition formula. And doing the DIY crafts route is a good one for sure. It might eventually also run out of topics at some point but it has its potential also. The one episode we had was definitely just a taste or maybe a market test in their own right to see how well received it is. I thought it was a fairly fun episode. I like to do DIY crafts as well so this was right up my alley. Crafts have the potential to go horribly wrong and they can also be pretty entertaining to watch as well. I would be down to see if they do a season of this especially of Nicole Byer continues to host.

Talking about that, the reason that Nailed It works despite whatever content they have is in part all the good creative things they do and finding the right type of participants and having a good angle, like this Holiday theme mini series. But the biggest reason is Nicole Byer. She is just the heart and life of this show. While Jacques Torres is a fun match for her, the crafts episode proves that she really can have the same dynamic with another host as well. Its her personality that makes it so fun to watch. Nailed It Holiday is a really fun season and I hope that they continue with this show, whether it be in baking (which I probably would prefer as it works well) or even if they expand to crafts.

Christmas 2018: Mooseletoe by Tiffinie Helmer

Mooseletoe
by: Tiffinie Helmer

Mooseletoe

Alaska’s matchmaking moose, Bullwinkle, has his sights set on a most unlikely pair. Holly Noelle Snow loves Christmas so much she could be one of Santa’s elves, and Reese Sutton might as well be Scrooge. But there is no way BW will allow these two to ruin his perfect track record. Even if he has to bind them together with Christmas lights. – Goodreads

It is always a struggle to find holiday books and Mooseletoe fits a lot into the movie selections that I have made this holiday season. Its contemporary romance set during Christmas in Alaska in a town with a Christmas-y name and a story revolving a lady with a Christmas-y name. We soon learn why but it couldn’t be more in your face. Suffice to say, there are quite a few holiday elements and that works. The matchmaking moose also works. I realized that this moose is part of other books by Tiffinie Helmer which I haven’t read before or even heard of and responsible for other couple pairings that are in this town. I have nothing against it. Its a decent idea plus I like moose and how it should be used more in winter settings.

My main issue with Mooseletoe is very much the fact that it hits a lot of aspects I find wrong with these contemporary romance books. One of them is the dialogue. Its a tad cringey at times and the ways certain descriptions are written were equally odd. There is this thing about writing contemporary romance that really needs to be read out loud before finalizing because it never feels like I am reading a real couple (or maybe I just don’t talk like that).

Then we have this sped up romance that sometimes works but in this case, it also falls into this frustrating situation and the love at first sight but not embracing it thing and these meaningless arguments. Its a bit too much for me. There are some intimate scenes and it was okay written and I am rather indifferent to it. However, my main issue is the personality characteristics of the main couple, Holly and Reese where it feels very contradicting in parts in what happens before and after.

To be fair, Mooseletoe did bring in a family element. That part was a nice twist and surprise to the story. I enjoyed having those bits because even if you move alone to Alaska, real life is more than romance (no matter how much of a romantic I can be). On that same note, the moral of ths story behind this pairing is a positive message about having courage to push through the bad and see the good to be happier sort of thing. And to not let the bad define you. All very good messages just its not in a very fun read for myself. Overall, a few good ideas, but the writing style is not for me.

***On a side note, I am starting to think contemporary romance is something I need to stay away from for a while. Its the contemporary genre that really gets me very irritated.***