Alice Oscura, Featured Writer

It’s November and that means it’s Christmas Countdown time again for the Hallmark Channel. And so begins the premieres of their freshly-baked batch of Christmas-themed goodies! While I am aware of the fact that these films may not be everyone’s cup of hot chocolate, there are those hopeless romantics like myself that would enjoy a nice combo of romance at this favourite time of the year. Hallmark’s schedule is available online and so far they have kept their premieres to Saturdays and Sundays. I have taken the brave task of reviewing them for the Christmas fans out there as an extra treat for the Holiday season. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into Part 1 of my series.

#4 Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater

Maggie (Ashley Williams from How I Met Your Mother) is a divorced mom prepping for her first Christmas holiday alone since her daughter is going to be spending the holidays with her father. She tries to keep her mind occupied by volunteering once again at a military base Christmas camp that helps to cheer up kids who have parents serving overseas and cannot make it home for the holidays. An awkward accident with a Christmas Tree…yep, you heard right, sigh…causes her to cross paths with Lucas (Niall Matter), a ruggedly handsome but cynical architect who now has to cancel a ski trip thanks to a wrist injury caused by Maggie.

The pacing on this one drags quite a bit, and the chemistry between the leads seems forced and a bit unnatural. I couldn’t get too invested in this one to be honest. The fun film title seemed to suggest a bit more quirkiness in the script, but that is definitely not the case with what plays out onscreen. The entire story is clumsily put together, and with no apparent passion present it unfortunately just leaves us with a mediocre holiday film.

However, I should note that the interaction with the children in the Christmas camp was sweet and you really felt how much they missed their parents. They do manage to pull off a remarkably successful, heartwarming sequence where they use technology to share the Christmas experience with the military parents, and it does bring a tear to the eye. There’s nothing else to say other than let’s move on!

Alice Claus’s Score: 4 out of 10

#3 The Christmas Bow

Kate (Lucia Micarelli) is a gifted violinist whose lifelong dream of playing in the Rocky Mountain Philharmonic is put on hold by an accident. She returns home to recuperate for the holidays and bumps into her childhood friend Patrick (Michael Rady) who coincidentally is also her physical therapist. They reconnect over childhood memories and by his sneaky little cousin Gavin playing matchmaker at every turn.

I did some research, and it turns out that Micarelli is a real-life professional violinist and did suffer a serious injury in real life, but got lucky and rehabbed quickly. So the actress can relate very well to her role in this movie. She plays very beautifully and passionately and her rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” reduced me to tears, especially when you see the flashback sequence of why she played the song. We also get to hear Micarelli sing too—talk about a triple threat!

The movie, although it has slow pacing, is enjoyable because it directly ties into the characters’ development and touching flashbacks of fond, heartwarming Christmas memories. The leads definitely look comfortable in their roles and do seem to have that aura of knowing each other for a long time. The supporting cast is extremely likeable, and the familial atmosphere sets the perfect tones for this touching, romantic addition to Hallmark’s holiday collection. This is a great one to cuddle up and watch with your loved one.

Alice Claus Score: 6.5 out of 10

#2 Christmas with the Darlings

Jessica Lew (Katrina Law from Arrow) is ending her tenure as assistant to the CEO of the Darlington Corporation on the cusp of the Christmas holidays. However, he asks her for one more favour—his recently orphaned nieces and nephew are returning to the United States and will have to spend Christmas at a posh boarding school since he will be out of the country on business and his slacker brother Max (Carlo Marks), with whom he shares guardianship, just hasn’t got the most reliable reputation when it comes to responsibility. So Jessica has to ensure that the children are organised and dropped off when the time comes. However, upon hearing this news, Max returns home to the Darlington estate and shows great interest in the kids and Jessica. Together, they manage to convince his brother to let the kids stay on for the Christmas holidays instead, while they come up with very creative ways to make the children feel welcome, as well as to help them with the grieving process.

The story is very touching with melancholic tones of the loss of family, and dealing with said loss, especially during the holidays when the mere memory of the lost loved ones can trigger a smile or tears. The smell of cookies baking or seeing a loved one’s handwriting. Seeing their old room or being surrounded with things that they once owned. Traditions become so especially important in keeping those memories alive, and each time it hurts less until it becomes therapeutic.

The development of the characters had an excellent pacing that brings a giggle or two, plus the children are extremely sweet and likeable. The decorations and aesthetics are beautifully done because it was filmed in New England, so you get lots of beautiful snowy backdrops. The two leads have excellent chemistry with each other, and it seems very natural when they finally get together. It’s the real holiday deal, with montages of festive activities like baking Christmas cookies, decorating the tree, building a snowman and a pleasant horse-drawn carriage ride through a blanket of crisp white snow. It’s absolutely jam-packed with the holiday spirit, and is guaranteed to cheer you up and get you in the tree-decorating mood!

Alice Claus Score: 7.5 out of 10

#1 The Christmas Ring

Reporter Kendra Adams (Nazneen Contractor from the series 24) works for a tabloid online news website called Quizzer. She gets tired of writing clickable fluff trash and yearns to write more human interest stories and stories of more substance.

While on the search for her deceased mother’s long-lost engagement ring, Kendra finds a similar ring in an antique store in Boston. The inscription on the ring piques her curiosity and leads her to a small town in Massachusetts named Pine Grove to uncover the mystery. Through a weird twist of fate, she meets the grandson of the owner of the ring Michael Jones (David Aplay), who is currently hot news due to his broken engagement with a mogul’s daughter. He is defensive at first until he realises that Kendra really just wants to uncover the love story behind the engagement ring. The more time that Kendra spends in Pine Grove the more she begins to fall in love with the quaint Christmas-spirited town, it’s warm and friendly townsfolk, and with Michael as well.

The intrigue and history related to the engagement ring is really interesting to follow along on the journey. Plus, you get caught up in the many community-driven Christmas activities that will put you in the right mood for the holidays! Kendra’s love for antiques and the past quite reminds me of myself, so I loved this character a lot.

The atmosphere is bright, and the decorations are absolutely stunning to see as this town goes all out in their festivities. Kendra and Michael’s chemistry is off the charts whilst they try to uncover the past. Filled with holiday sentiment, memories of a woman that touched everyone’s lives in Pine Grove, and a strong cast, The Christmas Ring has the perfect recipe for a sweet Christmas movie treat. The romance is strong with this one and really hits you in the feels. It’s my favourite so far, but we still have quite a way to go on the Christmas Countdown with Hallmark.

Alice Claus Score: 8 out of 10

Thus concludes this first installment to my Hallmark Christmas series. Hope you guys enjoyed it and please don’t forget to click the like button to show your support.

For more Yuletide romance and my review of Netflix’s Operation Christmas Drop you can click here.

39AFB96D-4DEF-4DED-8DFE-3400E758CE9B Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump.

I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, my Instagram is alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For more on me you can click here.