Connect with us


Stream It or Skip It: ‘Under the Christmas Tree’ on Lifetime Is the Lesbian Holiday Romcom You’ve Been Waiting For




Stream It or Skip It: ‘Under the Christmas Tree’ on Lifetime Is the Lesbian Holiday Romcom You’ve Been Waiting For

Lifetime proudly diversifies its holiday offerings with Under the Christmas Tree, a new movie with LGBTQ+ leads who get to do all of the silly, cheery seasonal fun that’s long been the domain of plain ol’ straight couples. But where does Under the Christmas Tree rank amidst all of Lifetime’s holiday offerings? Is this movie as full of cheer as the Rockefeller tree, or is it a bummer like Charlie Brown’s tree?

The Gist: Charlie (Lost in Space’s Tattiawna Jones) is the arborist (a.k.a. tree expert) on staff with the governor of Maine. Her task: find the perfect tree to serve as Maine’s official symbol of Christmas. She finds the perfect tree — but it’s growing on property owned by the Beltran family.

The Beltrans run the Christmas Shoppe, a family-owned maker of ornaments and holiday gifts and goodies all made in the tiny town of Camden. Mom (The Santa Clause trilogy’s Wendy Crewson) and dad (Veronica Mars’ Enrico Colantoni) are retiring, leaving the company in the hands of some pushy investors who want to modernize the operation, and their daughter Alma (Good Witch’s Elise Bauman). Alma loves Christmas, values tradition, and really loves and values the exact tree that Charlie wants to chop down and ship to the capital in Augusta!

Lifetime holiday movie - Under the Christmas Tree
Photo: Lifetime

Alma’s a much tougher sell than her parents, who are on board with letting their tree go out in a blaze of Christmas glory. But as Charlie tries to persuade Alma, both women realize there’s something more going on than just a simple negotiation. They’re clearly attracted to each other, and everyone in town — from Alma’s parents to her bestie, a superstar baker played by Ricki Lake — can tell. But will Alma and Charlie speak up about their feelings? If so, will they want a long distance relationship? And most importantly, will this darn disagreement over a tree keep these two from falling in love?

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Sure, the movie has all the trimmings of the modern holiday romcom that we all watch on a loop for all of November and December. Heck, this is the second Christmas movie about an arborist that I’ve watched this year! But I think Under the Christmas Tree has stronger ties to the classics — classy, witty romances like Christmas in Connecticut and The Shop Around the Corner. The plots aren’t similar, but they share a vibe.

Under the Christmas Tree, Alma's parents
Photo: Lifetime

Performance Worth Watching: Enrico Colantoni excels at playing dads, and he brings it in this movie. Cast Colantoni in more movies as a Christmas dad.

Memorable Dialogue: Elise Bauman’s Alma gets a lot of good one-liners, courtesy of screenwriter Michael J. Murray. There’s, “Christmas in July is the best. Every day is a reason to eat egg nog ice cream.” And theres my personal fave: “I did not name my chickens after gay divas.”

A Holiday Tradition: Of course there’s the lighting of the state tree, and there’s also an annual lighting of a tree in Camden — the tree in the Beltran’s backyard. The Christmas Shoppe also has an annual party, and there’s even a gingerbread house competition that raises money for the school’s arts programs.

Under the Christmas Tree, Charlie
Photo: Lifetime

Does the Title Make Any Sense?: It’s a tad on the generic side, but Alma does specifically mention that she’s always imagined getting married under the Christmas tree.

Our Take: This is how you do it. This is how you not only make a holiday romcom with gay leads, but it’s how you make a holiday romcom period. The leads are fantastic, the supporting cast feels full, the holiday cheer overfloweth — this is just a great Christmas movie.

Under the Christmas Tree, Alma
Photo: Lifetime

As Charlie and Alma, Jones and Bauman are complete delights. They both bring a totally new, youthful energy to this very traditional genre. Their characters are filled with unexpected quirks, like the incredibly Type-A Charlie being kind of a wrecking ball when it comes to dating. She’s a complete professional but she’s persistent, shows up unexpectedly, and plans grand gestures but forgets to follow instructions. And if you were to judge Alma by her thrift store cool looks and Bettie Page bangs, you’d think she would be too tough for Christmas. But really, Alma is the Christmas Whisperer (that is literally what one character calls her). She has this deep affection and respect for Christmas, as well as a specific POV of what Christmas means to her.

That’s why it feels so rewarding to watch these two circle each other for most of the movie, as they cautiously flirt and then optimistically bond. And their interactions wouldn’t be as rich as they are without help from a truly standout supporting cast and a script that offers up natural dialogue and some genuine jokes. And I have to praise director Lisa Rose Snow for turning out a holiday TV movie that is visually interesting, where camera shots enhance the chemistry between performers. That first date scene? Fantastic.

Under the Christmas Tree, Charlie and Alma
Photo: Lifetime

But the thing that sold me on Under the Christmas Tree, not just as a fun way to spend two hours during the 2021 holiday season but as potentially a movie worth coming back to year after year, is a scene where Alma talks about her favorite Christmas movies. Specifically, she mentions watching Vera-Ellen in White Christmas as a kid and knowing immediately that she was a lesbian. As Charlie jokes, White Christmas made her gay.

This one little scene needs to be underlined, highlighted, spotlit, celebrated, and meme’d because it is exactly why queer holiday movies need to be made. Queer people, like the fictional character Alma, have long had our own reads on the season, our own holiday problems, our own interpretations of the classics. Christmas has forever been an integral part of the queer experience, no matter what close-minded people wrongly believe. Scenes like this one, where a lesbian happily talks about what Christmas means to her as a queer person — we, and I also include my gay self, need to see that! Make the yuletide gay and make the subtext text.

Our Call: STREAM IT this year and stream it every year.

Watch Under the Christmas Tree on Lifetime


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




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.”

Continue Reading


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




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

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.’’

Continue Reading


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




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.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2017