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ExMas Review A Bet During the Holidays Turns Enemies Into Lovers ExMas Review A Bet During the Holidays Turns Enemies Into Lovers

Editorials

ExMas Movie Review – Robbie Amell and Leighton Meester Make a Holiday Bet

Leighton Meester and Robbie Amell star in EXmas. Photo Credit: Paulina Stevens/Exmas Film Inc.

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While most holiday movies this time of year are centered around one’s Christmas wish, ExMas takes a different approach.

Beware—spoilers from the movie ahead!

Imagine the worst possible situation that can occur when you come home on Christmas…. is it your parents inviting your ex-fiancée, who broke your heart into a million pieces, over for Christmas dinner after you told them you weren’t coming into town due to previous work commitments but then decided at the last minute on a change of plans as part of a surprise? If so, that’s the exact plot of Robbie Amell (a treat for all of us Upload fans) and Leighton Meester’s (Gossip Girl) new Freevee movie.

And let me tell you, it brings plenty of comedic moments and jokes, sprinkled into what turns out to be a heartfelt plot about owning up to your mistakes and apologizing for shortcomings in a failed relationship, all while expertly capturing the chaos that is going home for the holidays. You know the former couple will find their way back to each other in the end—this is a Christmas movie after all—but it’s less about the destination and more about the journey that gets them to the “aha” moment. 

It’s a fa-la-la-oh-my-god-is-this-really-happening situation that Amell’s Graham and Meester’s Ali turn into a competitive bet to see which one will win over the family’s love and which one will be kicked out before Christmas day.

Along the way, Graham and Ali realize that they aren’t over each other one bit, while also admitting their own faults led to the demise of their relationship. Graham explains that he was doing what he thought Ali wanted—working more so he could work his way up the corporate food chain to make enough money to provide them with the perfect life. However, all Ali ever needed was for him to be there for her, present and willing, though she didn’t voice it either because she was scared he was going to walk away, so, she walked away first. 

It all comes down to a lack of necessary communication in a relationship—which happens far too often to couples these days that are caught up in the hustle and bustle of life—but there’s no shortage of time to talk it out when you’re forced to spend the holidays under the same roof. 

ExMas Review A Bet During the Holidays Turns Enemies Into Lovers

Robbie Amell and Leighton Meester star in EXmas. Photo Credit: Paulina Stevens/Exmas Film Inc.

Graham’s reaction upon walking into his childhood home and seeing the woman who broke his heart standing at the top of the stairs was to freak out, naturally. And who wouldn’t? This is a huge betrayal of trust from the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally and side with you, no matter what. As he tries to make them see the issue, their argument is that she’s been part of the “family for a very long time.”

When he realizes that Ali has ingrained herself into the family by playing Wordle with his sister and helping his brother study for his exams, he realizes that he can’t just up and leave, he has to show the family how “evil she is” by making them dislike her to “save his family” and “save Christmas.”

Admittedly, it’s a pretty extreme retaliation, but one that delivers plenty of good fun, especially since Graham knows her faults and weaknesses—like her competitive streak—and can easily exploit them. And that’s a two-way street as Ali is also able to sabotage Graham, making her the perfect and worthy opponent. Graham leverages Ali’s irrational fear of goats to ruin the dealership’s Christmas party, while she deliberately moves a sign in the bathroom to ensure that he floods it when flushing, allowing her to be the toilet bowl plunger hero. Of course, these are just two adults acting silly so that they don’t have to confront the harsh reality of their former relationship, but it’s all in good fun. 

They both try to make the other jealous with new crushes—and she tries to sabotage his relationship with Jess by telling her that he has problems in the bedroom (though that short-lived romance tanks all on its own when Jess suggests a threesome with her roommate/special friend), while he allows her to invest in Brady knowing that it will eventually end with him trying to sell her a car during the date. 

But it also emphasizes that the dating scene is a scary, scary place, and once you’ve found your person, you have to hold on to them tight and never let go.

It also becomes evident why the family gravitated toward Ali instead of Graham in the first place—and why the duo inevitably broke up—as Graham isn’t present most of the time; he doesn’t care to ask about his family members’ personal lives or keep up a relationship as he’s too busy with work. His sister, Heather, assures him that Ali was always there at every event when he wasn’t. 

The Christmas season, which starts off to be the stuff of nightmares, helps Graham reprioritize what’s important as he begins to see that he took everything that mattered for granted, his family and Ali included. 

When Graham’s father suffers a sudden cardiac arrest following a competitive, yet friendly, game of hockey during the holidays, that’s when he really starts to understand just how much time he’d invested into the wrong thing. Of course, a career is just as important as anything else, but it shouldn’t take precedence over the things that truly matter–and he was working for a boss who expected him to meet a Christmas Day deadline and had no qualms about calling and demanding more from him even when he was in the hospital following a family member’s health scare. At that moment, Graham takes a leap of faith and quits—the start of his new life on the horizon. (This may or may not be a Horizen pun, I’ll let you decide.) 

There were several other factors that brought him to the finish line, where he realized he screwed up and couldn’t live without Ali, including a heart-to-heart with his mom, a night of amazing drunk sex with Ali, and saying goodbye to her after they both forgave each other for the pain they inflicted. 

Once she was out the door, Graham and his family couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing—and in true Christmas movie fashion, they all ran to get the girl, trying to fit into a vehicle that wasn’t up to par for the journey. As they made their way to the other car, Graham found Ali standing at the front door and immediately poured his heart out to her, only for her to explain that she only came back because she forgot her phone. 

Obviously, that was the last cruel joke she played on him as the two made up and sealed the deal with a kiss. Admittedly, there wasn’t undeniable chemistry between Amell and Meester as actors—they sold the friendship more—but the plot was believable enough that you found yourself rooting for them regardless. It’s actually quite nice for the chemistry to feel more grounded and realistic rather than the kind always portrayed in holiday movies that can sometimes feel unattainable for the average couple.

Fast forward to the next holiday, at their home in Los Angeles, Graham came through on his promise to help her start up her bakery truck, proving that his priorities are finally in order, as yet another time jump two years later, revealing that they welcomed a baby together.

And just because so much time had passed, doesn’t mean Graham didn’t have revenge on his mind as he invited his sister’s ex, Heather, for the holidays because they remained such good friends after the breakup.

As they say, payback’s a bitch, but if Graham’s situation is any consolation, maybe Mindy (Veronika Slowikowska) and Heather’s story will have a happy ending. After all, isn’t that the magic of the holidays?

The film also stars Michael Hitchcock, Kathryn Greenwood, Steven Huy, Thomas Cadrot, and Donna Benedicto. It’s available to stream now on Freevee. 

9 Holiday Movies You Need to Watch to Make the 2023 Christmas Season Bright

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Lizzy Buczak is the founder of CraveYouTV. What started off as a silly blog in her sophomore year at Columbia College Chicago turned her passion for watching TV into an opportunity! She has been in charge of CraveYou since 2011, writing reviews and news content for a wide variety of shows. Lizzy is a Music Business and Journalism major who has written for RADIO.COM, TV Fanatic, Time Out Chicago, Innerview, Pop’stache and Family Time.

Chicago Med

Did Dr. Zola Ahmad Leave ‘Chicago Med’ Already?

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Did Dr. Zola Ahmad Leave 'Chicago Med' Already?

Chicago Med introduced a new third-year resident to the fold in season 9—Zola Ahmad played by The Wilds’ Sophia Ali.

Ahmad’s character was initially described as “impulsive” and a troublemaker who tends to cause “headaches” for her Gaffney Medical fellows, which we saw play out in real-time when her unconventional approaches rubbed Crockett Marcel (Dominic Rains) the wrong way.

Marcel tried to give Ahmad the benefit of the doubt on numerous occasions, and Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson) even acknowledged that she was taking a big chance by hiring her on a prohibitionary basis given her track record with previous hospitals—but ultimately, Ahmad’s behavior and decisions to overstep and not follow protocol got the best of her.

When Ahmad decided to declare a patient—letting the fact that he wasn’t a good man dictate her reasoning—dead prematurely (and then attempted to justify it), nearly killing him, Dr. Archer (Steven Weber) chose to suspend her. It was very obviously a fireable offense, so it’s a good thing that the series writers held her accountable. Plus, it seemed like the perfect chance for a teachable moment and a redemption arc, not to mention, there was definitely some chemistry with Ahmad and Crockett that could’ve been explored down the line. She had potential as a character at Med, if she just reeled it in a little bit—and that would’ve been interesting to explore on a more granular level.

However, by Chicago PD Season 9 Episode 9, it was over for Ahmad. 

Did Dr. Zola Ahmad Leave 'Chicago Med' Already?

CHICAGO MED — “A Penny for your Thoughts, Dollar for your Dreams” Episode 9008 — Pictured: (l-r) Sophia Ali as Dr. Zola Ahmad, Dominic Rains as Dr. Crockett Marcel — (Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC)

The series seemingly listened to the Chi-Hards fanbase as Ahmad paid the ultimate price for her reckless decision; Goodwin very briefly (and in passing) informed Crockett that Ahmad was let go, something he called a “shame.”

And that was that. There was no further mention of it, nor is there any indication that she’ll return anytime in the future. Her final episode of the season was listed as Chicago Med Season 9 Episode 8—and it seems like she’ll just be a blip on the radar of the show’s long-running tenure. 

It’s a drastic decision for the series, especially after hyping up Ali’s character at the beginning of the season. Why wouldn’t they give her arc a proper conclusion? Many of the complaints from the fan base were that her character was written inconsistently—her intentions were good most of the time, it was the execution that suffered—and crammed into an already shortened season due to COVID, so they weren’t able to build her character up in a way that would’ve given her the necessary nuance; her portrayal was overly negative and it was hard to defend her actions or keep her around when each week, she was pushing buttons and creating unnecessary issues without having the tenure to excuse them or back her up, like her predecessors Will Will (Nick Gehlfuss) and Natalie (Torrey Devitto). When those two acted irrationally back in the day, they had a history with Med and Goodwin that allowed them to stir the pot. 

It seems that the writing was on the wall for Ahmad from the get-go—the lack of good character development in the writing sealed her fate prematurely and gave fans whiplash with her quick arrival and departure. 

Would you like to see her return to the series?

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

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Editorials

Walker Season 4 Premiere Review – The Quiet

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Walker Season 4 Premiere Review - The Quiet

Walker returned to The CW for its 4th, and, likely final, season. 

Despite a 5-month time jump, the focus remained on serial killer Jackal, whom Walker and Trey were pursuing at the end of season 3, and the suspect that previously drove Cap. Larry James into a tailspin, effectively ending his marriage to Kelly before fate gave them another shot. 

Only this time around, Larry’s wife, Kelly, asks Cordell not to drag her husband down this road again—a promise he intends to upkeep, though, knowing Larry, he’ll figure out that his rangers are up to something and have no other choice but to get involved, especially since Trey’s tip for a detective reveals that Jackal, whose trail previously went cold for several months, is gearing up for “something big.”

This will be the overarching mystery of the season, while other weekly cases will also see our rangers getting into plenty of shenanigans, as they did with their pursuit of the Delmonico brothers. Also, props to all of them for taking part in a steak-eating competition and then jumping into a raid. It was bold of them, but it’s how Cordell wanted to spend his birthday, so I’m glad that despite the best-laid plans being uprooted, he was still able to feel the love from those around him.

A lot seems to have changed in the past five months, as evidenced by Walker and Geri’s steamy hook-up. Even when everything is going wrong, we can have faith in their love being a constant, which is what fans have been hoping for since season 1. 

There’s also Cassie, who blows back into town after taking a lengthy leave to go work for the FBI. She’s back with a newfound confidence about her abilities on the job, but she’s also struggling with a personal decision as she’s been offered a spot at Quantico, which means further uprooting her life and leaving behind her loved ones, er, Trey. 

Yeah, Trey and Cassie kind of addressed the elephant in the room—their feelings for each other—but neither of them was honest about it, so we’ll likely get something more truthful and heartfelt in the near future. 

Another lingering storyline is the break-in at Geri’s place that rattled Stella to her core. She hasn’t been the same since shooting and killing Witt, and it’s likely because she also lied to the police about having met him before. The officer who called her and Liam in over a “breakthrough in the case” said that the case was closed due to lack of resources, but the way he watched Stella sign the paperwork (and questioned if that’s “all she knew”) makes me uneasy—there’s definitely more to this storyline. What does he know that he’s not letting on?

As for change, I think that in the midst of all the “I’m Walker, Texas Ranger, you’re under arrest” in case you needed the reminder, we’re also continuing to see Cordell as a flawed human and a father coming to terms with the fact that he’s about to be an empty nester. It’s the next phase of his life—and one that brings about plenty of concern over the “quiet” that will allow his dark thoughts to flourish. Hopefully, Geri will be the light to cut through all of that. 

What did you think of the episode?

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Wild Cards

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

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Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

I meant to write this post when Wild Cards first premiered on The CW, but time got away from me, and before I knew it, the season finale of the series was upon us! 

I’m not a huge fan of The CW’s decision to axe some of our favorite shows in its rebrand, but what does ease the pain of losing the likes of Nancy Drew is the addition of promising shows like Wild Cards

To be quite frank, Riverdale never did Vanessa Morgan much justice. She amassed a huge number of fans, who were mostly hoping to see her character Toni reunite with on-screen love interest Cheryl (played by Madeleine Petsch) in the later seasons, and while she was seemingly considered one of the “core” characters, she rarely got the storylines she deserved.

We knew she could act—but Wild Cards shows us the depth of Morgan’s talents. It lets her shine, dominate, lead,  and even carry the series, opposite her on-screen partner and potential future love interest, Giacomo Gianniotti’s Ellis. 

Morgan delivers with the role of Max, a whip-smart and very charismatic con artist who utilizes her special skillset to help a “down in the dumps” maritime officer get his mojo back—and, spoiler alert if you’ve watched the season finale, his badge and desk back. 

Despite his initial hesitation with the idea of her joining the force as a consultant, even Ellis comes around, amazed by her abilities and the way she’s able to navigate every crime scene and follow the leads to produce results.&nbsp

The two grow very close over the course of the season’s 10 episodes, largely due to Morgan’s delightful on-screen persona and presence. Even when it’s not clear whose side she’s really on (is she fully on board with helping the cops or does she have a larger-than-life plan up her sleeve to pull off her greatest con yet and help her dad George—90210‘s Jason Priestley—snag a “get out of jail free” card), you find yourself drawn to her and rooting for her because of her likable personality. 

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

Credit: The CW

The series not only gets us invested in Max’s character—learning about her past—and what it entails for her future, but we also find ourselves rooting for Max and Ellis to finally get together… or even test the boundaries of that electric chemistry that they share (a moment that is, sadly, ruined when her husband Olivier (Dewshane Williams) blows into town). 

And it’s the mystery of Max that has all of us begging The CW to renew the series for a second season. We need more Max. We need more Ellis. We need more Morgan and Gianniotti. And we need answers. The good news is that Morgan told TVLine that season 2 of the quirky crime procedural is “very likely,” and trust that we put all our faith in her. 

As for the answers I mentioned we need, well, we need to know who killed Ellis’ brother, a murder that was the catalyst for him to get knocked down from his detective responsibilities in the first place. When he met Max, he was in a hard place, still trying to pick up the pieces of his brother’s death. And though he’s come a long way, surely, the fact that he can crack this specific mystery is one that he won’t be able to pass up. 

At the end of the finale—spoiler alert, again—Max convinced the authorities to help her pull off a heist that was two years in the works, hoping to frame her estranged husband Olivier after he steals a $33 million egg (he’s the one who betrayed her dad and landed him in prison), lessen her father’s sentence, and restore Ellis’ badge. However, there was a piece of the plan she didn’t share with Ellis—she swapped the real egg for a fake egg, and hatched a plan to disappear forever alongside Ricky and her millions. 

She didn’t expect Ellis to figure it out, though, this was one of the weaker points in the episode because she should’ve known him better than that by now, but she figured she’d be halfway across the country and it wouldn’t matter. What she didn’t anticipate in her plan is that Ricky, who was transcribing incriminating recordings from the mob as part of their safety-net policy, would find something on the drive about Ellis’ brother, namely, who murdered him. 

It’s at this moment that we see the biggest change in Max. She’s not the same person she was when the series first started. Her skills have become more valuable to helping than stealing, and she’s grown to care about someone other than herself and her father. She can’t, in good faith, leave with this knowledge and leave Ellis hanging. 

And that’s where we leave off—a promising cliffhanger on a promising series with two very promising leads. 

Your move, The CW.

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