The Ultimate Guide to Christmas Specials

Christmas TV specials, limited series and movies are bigger than ever these days from now until the New Year, you’ll be able to find some festive yule-tide programming every night of the week. From the traditional viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life, the different versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to baking shows and live music specials, we’ve got them all listed on the new Christmas TV Specials page. (Since not all of the networks list their specials early, this list will be updated throughout the coming weeks, so check back often for new additions!)

'The Hero' is a Sad Tale with a Great Voice

Movie Review for "The Hero."
Laura Prepon and Sam Elliott in The Hero (Northern Lights Films)


There’s very little comedy in the comedy/drama, The Hero, starring Sam Elliott. The funniest scene in the whole movie happens in the first two minutes of the film where an aging actor is rehearsing a voice-over for a barbecue sauce commercial. Of course he nails it on the first try but the sound engineer asks him to read the line a couple of times more and each time they sound exactly the same. (How can anyone ask Elliott to do something different?) From there, the story goes downhill. Yes, the movie is well-acted and a lot of people are going to love this film. Just not me.

Elliott plays Lee Hayden, a Western TV and movie star who feels as if life has passed him by. It doesn’t help that he can’t seem to rustle up any new work or that his health is failing due to cancer. We learn pretty quickly that he was once married to a good woman and has an adult daughter that he should be proud of. But like so many of these types of movies, he of course screwed up those relationships long ago. His only real friend is his former co-star Jeremy (Nick Offerman) who now serves as his drug dealer. It is through this friendship that he meets stand-up comic (and fellow drug consumer) Charlotte (Orange is the New Black’s Laura Prepon) who just so happens to like older men. The two hit it off for some strange reason. He invites her to a gala honoring the actor with a lifetime achievement award. She accepts, gives him a special pill for the occasion and he wakes up the next day not remembering much of anything, but he gave one heck of a speech that has the internet buzzing.

Movie Review for "The Hero."
Nick Offerman and Sam Elliott (Nothern Lights Films)
This romance (which isn't exactly made in heaven) is challenged when Lee catches her act and discovers that he is the butt of her jokes. She later gives a feeble excuse as for the reason why she said the things that she said, so that settles that, right?

Meanwhile, Lee is trying to patch things up with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter) who proves that she is much more than just the B in Apartment 23. Unfortunately, she isn’t given much to do than call him by his first name instead of "Dad" and complain about what a horrible father he is. When says that he just wants to move on from those disappointing years of her life, so that settles that, right?

The Hero is full of pat answers but none of it feels real. There are some powerful acting moments between characters where the scene should feel real, but they don’t. The story seems very familiar as we’ve seen all of this type of drama before. The resolutions feel forced, predictable and unbelievable.

Writer/director Brett Haley wants this movie to be a celebration of life, but instead it made me feel like mourning even though the story ends on a high note. Sorry, but watching people go from scene to scene with either a cigarette, a pill or alcohol in their hands is just depressing. All of the characters just sort of resign themselves that this is their lot in life and this is as good as it gets. As a Christian, this frustrates me. I want to tell them that there is so much more to life, but standing up in the middle of a movie theater to do so would be awkward, so I don't.

So yes, it’s great to see Sam Elliott again on the big screen and hear his golden voice, but honestly, those old “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner” commercials are more uplifting.

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