Marry Me For Christmas

Marry Me For Christmas

Release Date:  2013, Made-for-TV
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  NR
Running Time: 120 mins.
Studio:  Swirl Films
Director: Roger Melvin

Cast:  Malinda Williams (Marci Jewel), Karon Joseph Riley (Blair), Victoria Rowell (Stephanie),  Dawn Halfkenny (Charlene), Brad James (Adam), Tamara Bass (Dana), Carl Anthony Payne, II, Remi Von Nordheim (Bria), Jason Weaver (Franklin), Deetta West (Myra),  GregAlan Williams (Donald), Chrystale Wilson (Elizabeth).

Synopsis:  Smart, stylish Marci Jewel is the owner of an up-and-coming ad agency and thrilled with her single life in New York — except during the holidays. While all of her cousins are married and having babies, Marci remains the lone holdout in the large Chandler family clan.

As the family’s epic Christmas celebration is about to start, Marci promises to come home for the holidays for the first time in years. With a deadline looming for a new client, she drags her employee Adam in tow to Atlanta and does the only thing she can in the face of unbearable pressure from her ailing mom Stephanie and the rest of her family: fakes a fiance.

While caught up in the family’s frenetic holiday drama, Marci learns some unexpected lessons about love, trust and family, particularly when it comes to her new faux fiance Adam and old beau Blair. Source(s): Up TV; IMDB.

Sneak Peek: 

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Marry Us For Christmas

Marry Us For ChristmasRelease Date: 12/7/14 (Made-For-TV; Up TV)
Genre:  Romance

Cast:  Malinda Williams (Marci Jewel), Karon Joseph Riley (Blair), Victoria Rowell (Stephanie), DeEtta West (Myra), GregAlan Williams (Donald), Kristoff St. John.

Synopsis:  In the sequel to the popular UP Original Movie Marry Me For Christmas, it’s a year after Marci and Blair declared their love for each other and decided to tie the knot. But as the big day approaches, Marci is so consumed with work that she hasn’t had time to plan her wedding. To make matters worse, she may have to team up with former assistant/fake fiancé Adam to win a project she’s been vying for – a little tidbit she hasn’t shared with Blair. But Blair, as it turns out, has a secret of his own. Thanks to years of doing pro bono work for financially-strapped clients, he quickly is running out of cash and might have to accept an offer to work for his longtime nemesis, Marci’s manipulative cousin Preston. Meanwhile, Marci’s mother Stephanie is making some rather bold moves of her own with her sexy salsa teacher, Antonio, who’s more than a little smitten with her — and about 20 years her junior.

Will there be a wedding for Christmas? Better yet — whose wedding will it be? Source: Up TV.

Second Chance Christmas

Second Chance Christmas

Release Date: 12/6/14 (Made-for-TV; TV One)

Cast:  Michael Rainey, Jr., Robinne Lee, McKinley Freeman.

Synopsis:  All Lawrence (Rainey) wants for Christmas is his mother and an Xbox. Instead he gets a new dad when Maisie (Lee) decides to marry her boyfriend of six months, Malcolm (Freeman). With Malcolm comes a new home and a whole new set of rules. Of course Lawrence is NOT happy. When a tragic accident turns Lawrence’s world upside down he and Malcolm must adjust to their new family dynamic to survive. With a bit of love, patience, and a second chance, they just might. Source: TV One.

Critics’ Connection: An En Vogue Christmas

An En Vogue Christmas stillOver the years, members of En Vogue (Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, and Rhona Bennett) have gone their separate ways, until they are asked to perform a benefit concert to save the club that made them stars.  They put aside their hesitations to reunite for the special night but first, must overcome their challenging history with Marty (David Alan Grier), their former manager and the man responsible for breaking them up. In the spirit of the holidays, the ladies find forgiveness and come together for an epic En Vogue Christmas concert. Starring: Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Rhona Bennett, Genelle Williams, and David Alan Grier. Directed by: Brian K. Roberts. Written by: Dayna Lynne North.

What the critics are saying about An En Vogue Christmas:

New York Daily News: Hearing En Vogue sing together is all the reason this sentimental movie needs to exist. Original En Vogue members Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron and Rhona Bennett play themselves, and the screen comes alive when they perform, whether it’s an a cappella “O Holy Night” or hits like “Hold On” and “Does Anybody Hear Me?” While the story takes a couple of mildly surprising turns along the way, it isn’t trading in suspense or the shadow of any deep secrets. It’s about a woman that we like a lot, filled with music from a group we also like a lot. Sprinkled with the décor of the holiday season. Fans casual and serious will find nothing not to like.  See full review at NYDaily

The Hollywood Reporter:  In Lifetime’s An En Vogue Christmas, the funky divas — well, three of them: Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron and Rhona Bennett — come together for a special performance wrapped up in a reunion story. The best moments in An En Vogue Christmas are, unsurprisingly, all about En Vogue. (Genelle) Williams and (David Alan) Grier do what they can with their meager narratives, but it’s when the ladies come together and start singing, or even just banter like the friends they are, that the movie really comes together. Ellis, Herron and Bennett all have an alluring magnetism that maximizes when they are together, so when An En Vogue Christmas drifts away from them and towards other characters, it loses some of its magic.  See full review at

Note:  The content of this post is adapted from the primary sources as referenced above.  Click on the links to read the original reviews in their entirety.

Critics’ Connection: Beyond the Lights

Beyond the Lights photoBeyond the Lights is the story of Noni, the music industry’s latest superstar. But not all is what it seems, and the pressures of fame have Noni on the edge – until she meets Kaz Nicol, a young cop and aspiring politician. It is ultimately Kaz’s love that gives Noni the courage to find her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be. Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Danny Glover. Directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood. Written by Gina Prince-Blythewood, Reggie Rock-Bythewood.

What the critics are saying about Beyond the Lights:

The Hollywood Reporter: David Rooney states midway through Beyond the Lights, Minnie Driver’s character, a brassy South London showbiz mother who gives Gypsy’s Rose a run for her money, snarls at her flailing supernova daughter, “Congratulations, you’re a bloody cliché!”  That might be true, but Gina Prince-Bythewood’s entertaining music-biz melodrama is no less satisfying for the familiarity of its soapy trajectory. As the stunned deer in the headlights of fame, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is incandescent, playing a vulnerable young woman suffocating in the processed packaging of a sizzling pop goddess. Strong chemistry with co-star Nate Parker and a pulsing soundtrack should help give this November Relativity release a legitimate commercial shot.  See full review at The Hollywood Reporter.

Entertainment Weekly: Leah Greenblatt says, both Mbatha-Raw and Parker are appealing, expressive actors, and writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) lets them breathe, filling in the boilerplate bones of the story with smartly nuanced commentary on race and fame and the relentless negotiations that a young woman—even one without a record deal—has to make in a world that expects her to be everything but herself.  See full review at Entertainment Weekly.

New York Post: Kyle Smith writes, the teary-eyed sincerity of the music-industry drama Beyond the Lights is at times too much, but despite its cliché elements, the film at least has the feel of a passion project. The rare Hollywood feature that is written and directed by a woman (Gina Prince-Bythewood), Beyond the Lights is an obvious, middling chick flick that moves far too slowly from each predictable plot point to the next. But with its glitzy showbiz backdrop, its lively musical numbers and its theme of self-actualization, it’ll probably connect with fans of The Bodyguard See full review at  New York Post.

USA Today: Claudia Puig, notes, while melodramatic in the vein of A Star Is Born, Beyond the Lights is also a wise and open-hearted look at the price of fame upon personal identity. A romantic drama set amid the music industry, it also provides a powerful message to girls and young women not to conform to hypersexualized hip-hop images.

Though it sounds like a cross between The Bodyguard and the plot of a contemporary romance novel, this movie has more substantive ideas on its mind. Somehow, miraculously, the predictable saga skirts cliché. The soundtrack fuels the movie, but it’s essentially about finding one’s way and embarking on an authentic life plan. While this could have been an all-too-predictable tale (hampered by a clunky title), the familiar story is buoyed by terrific performances by a pair of talented, charismatic actors. Parker conveys an innate sense of decency and strength as well as sensitivity. Mbatha-Raw projects vulnerability, intelligence and warmth, and is thoroughly believable as a singer. See full review at USA Today.

Photo Source:  Suzanne Tenner / Relativity Media.

Note:  The content of this post is adapted from the primary sources as referenced above.  Click on the links to read the original reviews in their entirety.

Critics’ Connection: Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B

Aaliyah Princess of R&B photoLifetime’s original movie, Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, follows the beautiful and talented performer’s inspirational journey, from her debut on “Star Search” at the age of ten to the challenges she faced during her rise to become the Princess of R&B.  The two-hour movie event stars Alexandra Shipp, Clé Bennett, Rachael Crawford, Anthony Grant, Lyriq Bent, A.J. Saudin, and Elise Neal.  The film is executive produced by Howard Braunstein, Debra Martin Chase and Wendy Williams, and is based on the bestseller Aaliyah: More Than a Woman by former Time Magazine music editor Christopher John Farley.

What the critics are saying about Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B.

The Hollywood Reporter:  Allison Keene’s The Bottom Line states, this potentially controversial production found its premiere date on Lifetime, but the results don’t quite live up to the hype. Though her vocals don’t match Aaliyah’s gorgeous cadence (that would have been too much to ask of anyone), Shipp is beautiful and likable in the role but lacks a necessary magnetism. The same is essentially true for everyone in the production. Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B simmers along pleasantly, but never finds its fire.

Aaliyah wasn’t a spoiled brat or a diva, though, and her mother Diane (Rachael Crawford) was no manager. It’s refreshing to see the two’s close relationship portrayed (and the close relationship of their entire family, as well as Aaliyah’s down-to-earth attitude), but it also doesn’t exactly make for exciting television. Perhaps that’s why the movie spends its first half solidly entrenched with Aaliyah and (R) Kelly’s relationship and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them nuptials (which the family had annulled), as the only whiff of scandal. She may have been one in a million, but Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B isn’t able to light the fire that shows why her legacy is still burning bright. See full review at The Hollywood Reporter.

The Wrap:  Mekeisha Madden Toby says, Aaliyah fans will forever wonder what could have become of the performer’s life and career had she not died tragically in a plane crash 13 years ago. Much like the 22-year-old’s legacy, the Lifetime movie Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, is riddled with untapped potential. Instead of digging deep and edifying audiences about segments of the singer and actress’ life that haven’t been covered in a half a dozen music documentaries and specials, the made-for-TV flick premieres Saturday and is serviceable but non-revelatory.

Alexandra Shipp (Drumline: A New Beat and House of Anubis) is winsome in her portrayal of the woman born Aaliyah Haughton and is perfectly believable as an ambitious but introverted tomboy on the verge of international fame and acclaim. Rachael Crawford (The Strain), Sterling Jarvis (Nikita), A. J. Saudin (Degrassi: The Next Generation), and Lyriq Bent (Rookie Blue) also turn in convincing performances as Aaliyah’s mother, father, brother and uncle respectively. All of these actors’ performances are especially profound when one considers the awkward and stunted dialogue they had to work with.

Despite a handful of great performances, this small-screen drama is a forgettable, overly publicized splash in the pan unworthy of the woman it earnestly but clumsily attempts to honor. What a shame. See full review at The Wrap.

Gossip Cop: Shari Weiss wrote, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, the controversial Lifetime movie, premiered on Saturday night, getting ripped by both critics and fans alike.

The project was under fire almost as soon as it was announced earlier this year. Zendaya was originally cast in the title role, much to the chagrin of fans, but then dropped out, later saying that she was not “morally OK” moving forward with it. She was replaced by Alexandra Shipp, and filming commenced, despite protestations from the late singer’s family, who refused to authorize the film. The messy start helped fuel curiosity, as fans continued to fear the final product would do more to harm Aaliyah’s memory than honor it. Those concerns were seemingly confirmed when reviews started coming over the last few days. The Hollywood Reporter said the biopic “fails to capture the magic of why her legacy is still burning bright,” and The Wrap wrote, “Despite a handful of great performances, this small-screen drama is a forgettable, overly publicized splash in the pan unworthy of the woman it earnestly but clumsily attempts to honor. What a shame.” The New York Times declared, “There may be another way, at some point, to celebrate Aaliyah in film, but ham-handed, underwhelming efforts like this don’t help. Instead of a worthy tribute, this film isn’t much more than an on-screen reflection of behind-the-scenes warring, and a case study in when to cut losses.” And Deadline said, “This is a soulless, aimless look at the life of the singer.”

Those negative comments, however, paled in comparison to the firestorm that erupted during the broadcast on Saturday night. Angry fans took to Twitter while watching to call out casting issues, music choices, and alleged biographical errors. At one point, “#LifetimeDisrespectsAaliyah” was even trending, as well as “#LifetimeBeLike,” a hashtag that was still going strong Sunday morning. See full article at Gossip Cop.

Photo Source: IMDB (Christos Kalohoridis/Lifetime Television).

Note:  The content of this post is adapted from the primary sources as referenced above.  Click on the links to read the original reviews in their entirety.

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas

A Madea ChristmasRelease Date: 11/25/14, DVD; 12/13/13, Theatrical Release
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 100 mins.
Studio: The Tyler Perry Company, Tyler Perry Studios, Lionsgate.
Director: Tyler Perry

Cast: Tyler Perry (Madea), Kathy Najimy (Kim), Chad Michael Murray (Tanner), Anna Maria Horsford (Eileen), Tika Sumpter (Lacey), Eric Lively (Connor), JR Lemon (Oliver), Alicia Witt (Amber), Lisa Whelchel (Nancy Porter), Larry the Cable Guy (Buddy).

Story:  Madea gets coaxed into helping a friend pay her daughter a surprise visit in the country for Christmas but the biggest surprise is what they’ll find when they arrive. As the small, rural town prepares for its annual Christmas Jubilee, new secrets are revealed and old relationships are tested while Madea dishes her own brand of Christmas Spirit to all. Source:, official site.