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Stream It or Skip It: ‘Christmas Takes Flight’ on CBS Wonders If a Small Town Pilot Can Win over a Scrooge’s Heart

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Stream It or Skip It: ‘Christmas Takes Flight’ on CBS Wonders If a Small Town Pilot Can Win over a Scrooge’s Heart

CBS continues its quest to make TV movies happen again with Christmas Takes Flight, the second of two holiday originals on the major network’s 2021 lineup. Like last week’s A Christmas Proposal, Christmas Takes Flight is the kind of holiday movie you normally find on Hallmark. But did you think the big networks were gonna let cable have all the fun? So, does Christmas Takes Flight soar or does it fail to get off the ground?

The Gist: Katie Lowes (Scandal) plays Captain Jenny Beckett, a pilot and the daughter of the head of Sundancer Airlines. Her dad Frank (Andrew Airlie) is getting ready to retire and, on his way out, he sold Sundancer to a big corporation. This doesn’t really bother Katie so long as she gets to be VP and the new owners don’t mess with Sundancer’s small town charm and traditions.

Enter: Matt Hansen (Evan Williams), the big company rep who has the heart of a PowerPoint presentation and the charisma of a tax form. He only cares about the numbers — so much so that he absolutely will not let Sundancer waste money and resources for something called a “Santa Flight.” Yep, Matt wants to halt the airline from flying a whole bunch of underprivileged kids and their families to a Christmas village on Christmas Eve eve. Won’t he think of the children?

Christmas Takes Flight leads
CBS

Jenny isn’t the only resident of Snowflake, Montana with problems to solve. Her widower dad doesn’t know how to get back on the dating scene, her slacker brother Charlie (Erik Gow) isn’t doing his job at Sundancer and won’t commit to his now ex-girlfriend Megan (Keisha Haines), and Jenny’s daughter Chloe (Kyra Leroux) can’t decide on a major. Will all of these problems get solved by the time a rerun of FBI: International comes on?

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: It’s a Wonderful Life is playing at the local theater and you better believe it’s brought up in this movie for a reason. Also, can we just talk about the morbid interest that holiday romance movies have with dead moms? Christmas Takes Flight has one, and so does Christmas Sail (Hallmark), One December Night (Hallmark), A Boy Called Christmas (Netflix), Holiday in Santa Fe (Lifetime), Mistletoe in Montana (Lifetime) — and that’s just from this year, and that’s just of the ones I’ve watched. Surely there’s something else that can bring a dad and daughter together!

Christmas Takes Flight, Dad
CBS

Performance Worth Watching: Listen: Andrew Airlie is handsome. The dad is a silver fox/daddy/zaddy in my opinion. Maybe that’s the combination of his piercing blue eyes and silver hair, or maybe it’s because Airlie plays Frank as a smart, put together guy (those low-key festive sport coats!) who is also incredibly sweet and awkward. The dad is the total package, is what I’m saying.

Memorable Dialogue: When Jenny has to push back against Matt’s assertion that they cancel the Santa Flight, she says to her father, “Isn’t our job to keep mom’s dream alive and keep Santa’s Flight on course for the sake of the kids?”

A Holiday Tradition: The Santa Flight is a big deal, not only to Snowflake but surely to Idaho Falls, which hosts the Santa Market. Children and local businesses — the Santa Flight benefits everything that holiday movies cherish.

Christmas Takes Flight, Jenny
CBS

Does the Title Make Any Sense?: Okay, sure, Christmas Takes Flight is technically a fine title. It’s a Christmas movie set at a small town airport. But I have to wonder why they hesitated to just name this movie The Santa Flight? Maybe because kids would tune in hoping to see jolly old St. Nick and would instead see a 30-something Scrooge in Brooks Brothers griping about unsold tickets.

Our Take: If A Christmas Proposal was CBS’s grounded take on the holiday romcom, then Christmas Takes Flight is CBS just going all in on the tropes you know and love from these movies. Before the first commercial break, Christmas Takes Flight dumps so much exposition; seemingly every line of dialogue starts with some variation of “as you know” or “it’s been five years since” or “I’m your brother.” Our leads literally collide while boarding a shuttle from the airport, to which Jenny exclaims with a smile “Slow your roll, pal!” And when Matt checks into the local inn, the front desk worker notices he’s not wearing a wedding ring and point blank asks if he’s a widower. There is so much of this extremely heightened silliness that it almost feels intentional, like the start of Comedy Central’s Hallmark parody A Clüsterfünke Christmas.

The film’s heightened tone owes a lot to Lowes and Williams’ performances. Rarely have I seen two lead characters as diametrically opposed as Jenny and Matt. She’s always smiling, he’s always scowling — their relationship feels like Buddy the Elf trying to instill some Christmas cheer into the T-1000. Matt has one thing on his mind: terminating inessential employees and expenditures! None of this is bad. In fact, it’s highly entertaining to watch these two performers lean into these very familiar archetypes.

Christmas Takes Flight cast
CBS

While Lowes and Williams continue to take big swings, Christmas Takes Flight settles into a cruising altitude. I actually think this movie’s greatest strength is its supporting cast. In a season where a lot of the films have felt more sparsely populated than usual (possibly due to COVID restrictions), Christmas Takes Flight actually gives us three romance plots in one movie. Jenny’s brother and handsome dad also get character arcs of their own, learning something about themselves and finding love along the way. It helps make this tiny town feel like part of a larger, but still tiny, world.

Overall, I think that CBS has made a solid debut in the modern era of holiday TV movies. It’s an era that has been dominated by Hallmark and Lifetime for a while, but CBS’s offerings feel different enough to not feel superfluous. The difference? Like I said with A Christmas Proposal, it’s all about the money. The look of Christmas Takes Flight really adds to the film’s overall quality. All the scenes look like they were shot on-location and not on hastily assembled sets, and the entire film has the sheen of a CBS drama to it. It’s a whole new look for the same old story.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Christmas Takes Flight has a turbulent start but is ultimately a pleasant ride.

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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