With Hallmark Channel’s annual Countdown to Christmas and Great American Family’s Great American Christmas now in full swing, and Lifetime and other networks loading their sleighs, we’re here to help you choose between the season’s many offerings. Each Thursday, we’ll spotlight the movie that should be at the top of your weekend list and preview why other debuts will make you merry.
THE ONE TO WATCH
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How to Fall in Love by the Holidays
(Streaming Friday, Nov. 3 for free on The Roku Channel)
One of the best things to come out of the holiday movie boom is that not every plot now revolves around a twentysomething returning home to help save her family business. There is room for different stories, including this one about a fiftysomething woman trying to save her own business. Teri Hatcher stars as Nora Winters, the CEO of a lifestyle magazine and website, whose financial backers want her to bring in the coveted 18-39 demo for advertisers or else. Their solution: A partnership with “a revolutionary new dating app” that gives singles steps to meet people the old-fashioned way, in-person — and for Nora to pen a column about using the app to prove Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year to fall in love. Think of it less as an accomplished woman being pimped out by her board and more as a formidable woman who’s closed herself off, professionally and personally, being asked to open back up again (a request Nora’s family seconds).
From the trailer, you know who Nora is destined to end up with: the photographer (Dan Payne) assigned to keep her honest. But Hatcher keeps the journey compelling, showing relatable exasperation at fumbled meet-cutes and earnest surprise when the holiday magic actually appears to be working. Also, Nora is the season’s best-dressed heroine to date, from her lush beige coats, feather-cuffed pajamas, and sweater dress to her vibrantly-colored power suits and climactic formal charity event attire.
Runner-Up: The Santa Summit
Even if you purposely stay home on the day your city holds its annual Santa Con crawl, you will enjoy our runner-up pick, The Santa Summit (premiering Sunday, Nov. 5 at 8 pm on Hallmark Channel). Three best-friend teachers reconnect during one long, life-changing day of festive beverages. While recently-single Jordin (Hunter King) searches for the soulmate Santa (Benjamin Hollingsworth) whose name she didn’t catch before they got separated, Grinch Stella (Stephanie Sy) gets her groove back slaying “Jingle Bells” at a sing-a-long and Ava (Amy Groening), the unicorn Lord of the Rings-loving geek in a Hallmark movie, hopes to finally tell a colleague (Adam Hurtig) she’s in love with him. With Cher’s “DJ Play a Christmas Song” spinning at the silent disco, this film can get anyone into the holiday spirit.
The Best of the Rest…
My Christmas Guide (premieres Thursday, Nov. 2 at 8 pm and repeats Saturday, Nov. 4 at 10 pm on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries)
Legally blind actor Ben Mehl makes his Hallmark debut as Trevor, a college literature professor and single dad who’s still adjusting to the loss of his vision when guide-dog trainer Peyton (Heartland’s Amber Marshall) introduces him to golden retriever Max. It’s interesting to learn how that companion bond is built, and satisfying to watch Trevor eventually tell off Peyton’s Current Boyfriend, Chad (Justin Gerald Nurse), who is the absolute worst.
Never Been Chris’d (premieres Saturday, Nov. 4 at 8 pm on Hallmark Channel)
Lifelong besties and business partners Naomi (Janel Parrish) and Liz (Pascal Lamothe-Kipnes) reluctantly head home to Iowa for the holidays and are shocked to find their mutual high school crush, Chris (Tyler Hynes), is suddenly keen to spend time with both of them. Points for originality and for keeping us guessing longer than most movies, but whether either gal needs to be Chris’d is up for debate.
A Dash of Christmas (premieres Saturday, Nov. 4 at 8 pm on Great American Family)
Required to prove she knows her way around the kitchen for a marketing job at a foodie startup, Megan (Laura Osnes) enlists baker Aaron (Christopher Russell) for a crash-course. Expect one romantic kneading montage, a slo-mo dance to “O Christmas Tree,” and lots of long, silent glances.
A Wesley Christmas Wedding (streaming Thursday, Nov. 2 on BET+)
Delicious drama comes from every direction in this sequel, as Wesley family matriarch Sylvia (Jasmine Guy) and momzilla Diana (Valarie Pettiford) face-off planning the holiday nuptials of their son Todd (Terayle Hill) and daughter Ryan (Judi Johnson), respectively. Extra juicy is Todd’s villainous ex Jannelle (Sydney Mitchell) crashing the engagement party.
A Christmas Frequency (now streaming on Hulu)
With the radio show she produces on the brink of cancellation, Kenzie (Ansley Gordon) has the brilliant idea to stage live blind dates on-air to score her recently-separated host, Brooke (Denise Richards), a company Christmas party plus-one. Unfortunately, the top contender turns out to be Kenzie’s crush, swoonworthy Ben (Jonathan Stoddard), who works in the same excessively decorated office building.
We’re Scrooged (premieres Sunday, Nov. 5 at 7 pm on UPtv)
Ambitious former sweethearts, architect Sarah (Tamara Duarte) and sports agent Scott (Andrew Bushell), return to Minneapolis for their 10-year high school reunion solely to close business deals with classmates. The virtual Ghost of Christmas Present, who haunts them in a kind of joint late-night zoom, gives this dual Christmas Carol a fresh twist.
2023 Christmas Movie Schedule
Flipping For Christmas (premieres Friday, Nov. 3 at 8 pm on Hallmark Channel)
Cold-as-ice realtor/designer Abigail (Ashley Newbrough) is asked to convince contractor Bo (Marcus Rosner) to sell the home he’s co-inherited with her brother-in-law rather than turn it into a bed and breakfast. She’s taught some valuable lessons about gentrification, prioritizing purpose over profits, and people putting cranberries on hot dogs.
Christmas Holidate (streaming Thursday, Nov. 2 on ALLBLK)
The only way for single Holly Harper (Jasmine Burke) to get her mother (Deanna Yarborough) and aunt (Natalie Baker) to spend Christmas together again as a family is to bring home a boyfriend. Cue her using the dating app she’s developed — and a glitch that sends her one-man IT department (Iroko Anyogu) and multiple suitors to the door. Preposterous? Yes. But also surprisingly touching in the end.
Reporting for Christmas (now streaming on Hulu)
Hardnosed Chicago TV reporter Mary Romero (Tamara Feldman) is sent to Iowa to do a puff piece on a station advertiser — a toy company that produces Mistletoads — and has to convince the founder’s grandson, Blake (Matt Trudeau), to sit for an interview. Journalistically, we have more than one problem with what happens to her report. But we do approve of Blake having a rare Christmas movie shirtless scene!
Our Christmas Wedding (premieres Sunday, Nov. 5 at 8 pm on Great American Family)
In this sequel, Nicole (Holly Deveaux) and Michael (Drew Seeley) get engaged on Thanksgiving and, in order to marry in her dream venue, have to plan a wedding in two weeks. It’s as stressful as it sounds, but at least there’s time for musician Michael to busk a great rendition of “O Holy Night” before the chaos kicks off.
Heart for the Holidays (streaming Thursday, Nov. 2 on BET+)
This is sort of like the Showgirls of Christmas movies in that every decision made is fascinating, starting with workaholic L.A. entrepreneur Rachel (Erica Peeples) not having a scar after she undergoes a heart transplant in a small-town hospital up the coast. One bright spot is Asia Harmony, the luminous actress playing teen Amy, who receives a kidney from the same beloved donor and has a brother (Kyle Lowder) for Rachel to flirt with.
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