Take 3: Red Corner Review

The theme of Gill’s, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, and Rebecca’s, from Taking Up Room, blogathon is one of the most creative! In The Odd Or Even Blogathon, a participant had to pick two movies; one released in a year ending in an odd number and one released in a year ending in an even number. The moderators then chose a movie for the participant out of those two options. One of my two options was the 1997 movie, Red Corner, which is the film I’m reviewing for the event. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned Red Corner. Last October, I reviewed the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’, in honor of Bai Ling’s birthday. While talking about that episode’s story, I mentioned how the episode was very reminiscent of the film due to topics discussed within the script. After watching ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’, I wondered how similar it was to Red Corner. Similar to the Touched by An Angel episode, curiosity got the best of me, which led to this review.

Red Corner poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Avnet/Kerner Productions

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The cast of Red Corner was strong! But because the majority of the story revolves around Bai Ling’s and Richard Gere’s characters, I’ll focus on their performances in this review. The profession of a lawyer is typically presented in entertainment media as being serious. Therefore, when an actor or actress is cast as a lawyer, there aren’t many opportunities for them to be expressive in that role. Despite this, Bai found a way to bring expressive emotion to her portrayal of Shen Yuelin! Even when this emotion was displayed in a simple fashion, such as Shen looking at another character in a certain way, it was more than enough to prevent this character from becoming dull or forgettable. In my review of the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’, I talked about Bai’s strong sense of emotionality. While talking about this strength, I said it allowed Bai’s performance to contain depth. Once again, she uses her sense of emotionality to her advantage in Red Corner! But this time, Bai uses it to bring humanity to her character, allowing the audience to see Shen as more than just a lawyer. One example shows Shen and Jack visiting the nightclub where Jack first met the murder victim. During this scene, Jack recalls some of the events that led up to the crime. When he brings up something funny said by the murder victim, Shen giggles at the English translation of the murder victim’s comment.

Prior to watching and reviewing Red Corner, I had seen two of Richard Gere’s films; Pretty Woman and Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. What makes Richard’s role in Red Corner different from those in the two aforementioned films is how his character, Jack Moore, faced higher stakes. This gave me, as a viewer, an opportunity to see Richard work with different material. In Red Corner, he was very expressive in the lead role. Richard used a variety of emotions to show how a person in Jack’s situation might feel. While trying to obtain phone records, Shen explains to Jack how these records are unavailable. This causes Jack to feel frustrated. As his conversation with Shen continues, Jack becomes more agitated over the powerlessness of their situation. Tension grows between both characters because of the agitation.

The mystery: A large portion of Red Corner focuses on finding the truth behind a murder. This mystery is drawn out throughout the story, letting the audience see it unfold as the film goes on. While reflecting on this movie, I came to an interesting realization. When it comes to seeing “amateur” detectives in entertainment media, lawyers solving mysteries are not as common. Sure, there are series like Matlock, Perry Mason, and Darrow & Darrow. But these are the only lawyer led mystery stories I can think of off the top of my head. Having Shen play an integral role in Red Corner’s mystery was a good creative choice! This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed seeing the film’s mystery play out! The way Shen gathered clues and made discoveries was interesting to watch. Her professional interactions with Jack added to my enjoyment of the mystery. I was intrigued from start to finish, curious to see what happens!

The mise-en-scène: Good mise-en-scène seamlessly blends into a movie and effortlessly weaves within the story. Great mise-en-scène elevates a given scene to help it stand out for all the right reasons! When it comes to this part of Red Corner, I will talk about two scenes. The first one takes place at a fashion show, where Jack and a Chinese businessman named Dan attend. During the show, Jack and Dan are having a conversation, which is captured in a medium shot. When Dan is speaking to Jack, he is covered in a red light. Jack is also covered in this red light, but a faint blue light is shining on his head as well. Without spoiling the movie, I will say this was a good visual to foreshadow what is about to come. The second scene takes place at the prison. Jack and a group of soldiers are walking up a concrete staircase. This short journey is shown in a long to medium shot. The scene uses a limited amount of lighting, which sets a tense and suspenseful tone. Similar to the first scene I described, all of the elements in the second scene come together to indicate what is about to happen.

The Odd Or Even Blogathon banner created by Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, and Rebecca, from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some held-back punches: As I said in my introduction, I saw the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’ If you read my review for that episode, you’d know I described it as being “emotionally intense” due to the nature of the story and the subject matter involved. Because Red Corner shares similar topics with the Touched by An Angel episode, I was expecting the film to be more emotionally intense, especially since it has an R rating. The brutality of the Chinese jail system and the strictness of the Chinese government are shown in this movie. However, the brutality I expected to frequently see was shown in glimpses. Meanwhile, the strictness was either confined to Jack’s court case or mentioned in passing. I understand there’s only so much you can include in an R rated film. But it seems like more emphasis was placed on figuring out “whodunit”.

Some characters talking over each other: Because Chinese is spoken by several characters, English translations are provided either through on-screen text or an official translator within the court and jail system. More often than not, I was able to understand what these characters were saying. But there were times when I had difficulty doing so. This is because some characters talked over one another. One good example is when Jack is first taken to jail. At the prison, a general is explaining to Jack, in Chinese, why he was arrested. An attending soldier provides necessary English translations to Jack and the audience. However, the soldier spoke at the same time as the general. I had to rewind the movie in order to catch what the soldier had said.

Some things left unexplained: Like I said earlier in my review, I liked seeing how the mystery in Red Corner played out! For the most part, I was able to follow along with the events happening on screen. But there were a few times where I wish explanations were given. During the murder investigation, Shen acquires a crucial piece of evidence that could impact Jack’s trial. But along the way, this piece goes missing. When Jack’s final trial arrives, Shen presents the aforementioned piece of evidence. This left me confused as to how she re-obtained it. While this is heavily implied, it isn’t thoroughly explained. As a viewer, I appreciate how the mystery’s information wasn’t spoon-fed. However, I think some of the connections within the mystery could have been stronger.

Courtroom image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/isometric”>Isometric vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before watching Red Corner, I had come across a few reviews about the film. In those reviews, the general consensus was how the movie was predictable. While I respectfully disagree with this statement, I will say Red Corner left me wanting a little bit more. I was expecting the 1997 film to be ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’ times ten. As I said in this review, I thought Red Corner was going to be more brutal and emotionally intense. There was emotion to be found in this movie, with some brutality along the way. But I didn’t have the same reaction after watching this film like I did with the Touched by An Angel episode. Maybe I shouldn’t have set my expectations on the higher side. Just because two projects happen to share similar subjects and ideas doesn’t mean they will be executed in similar fashions. What I can say about Red Corner is it is an interesting and insightful picture that has something important to say. It is also somewhat educational, especially when it comes to international relations and law. If you are interested in seeing this movie, I’d recommend watching it as a companion piece to The Spirit of Liberty Moon. But if I were you, I would watch Red Corner first.

Overall score: 7.1 out of 10

Have you seen Red Corner? If so, what are your thoughts on the film? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Buzzwordathon 2022: Review of ‘How to Write Good’ by Ryan Higa

Earlier this month, I announced I was participating in this year’s Buzzwordathon. In that announcement, I said I would write reviews for the books I read during this readathon, as a way to stay motivated throughout the year. Because I just finished reading my pick for January, it’s time for the first review of Buzzwordathon! This month’s theme is ‘Who, What, When, Where, Why, or How’, meaning my choice had to have one of these words in the title. With that said, I chose How to Write Good by Ryan Higa!

Here is a screenshot of my copy of How to Write Good. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

In this book, the Youtuber explains how to write a book by using parts of his life to elaborate these steps. As an avid reader and someone who has an interest in writing, I already knew what these steps were. However, it was interesting to read them from the perspective of a non-professional writer. The parts of his life that Ryan shares are those that were brought up in his ‘Draw My Life’ video from this Youtube channel. In How to Write Good, these parts are explained in further detail, which allows the reader to gain insight into Ryan’s thought process and sense of humor. Speaking of humor, the comedy that Ryan became well-known for on the internet does appear in this book. One area where his humor is present is the consistent comic strips. How to Write Good features comic strips of Ryan and his ghostwriter, Sarah, who appears in these strips as a literal ghost. This play on the word ‘ghostwriter’ shows the cleverness that can be found in Ryan’s Youtube videos!

Here is a screenshot of one of How to Write Good‘s comic strips, to illustrate the point I make in the next paragraph. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

As I already said, How to Write Good contains comic strips revolving around Ryan and Sarah. Even though these illustrations are good, I wish they were more colorful. The comic strips in this book are coated in a predominantly blue hue, with pops of red every now and then. Because a Youtuber co-wrote How to Write Good, I was expecting the book to be filled with mixed-media. Along with the text, I imagined Ryan’s words paired with photos, illustrations, and links to his videos. Unfortunately, there were only two photos within the 224 pages. The only video that is referenced in this book is the aforementioned ‘Draw My Life’ video. Despite these flaws, I did enjoy reading How to Write Good! It was informative and insightful, while being entertaining along the way. If you’re a fan of Ryan’s comedy or want to learn about writing from a different perspective, then this is the book for you!

Overall score: 4 out of 5 stars

Have fun during Buzzwordathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Disclaimer: How to Write Good contains a few slurs and the topic of suicidal thoughts. However, these subjects are brought up in relation to the bullying Ryan experienced in his childhood and middle school years.

I Will Always Love You: ‘The Bodyguard’ at 30

When I think of the word “umpteenth” paired in the same sentence as film, I think of a movie that you love so much, you don’t mind watching it over and over again. A movie that deserves your undivided attention whenever it appears on television. A title that never fails to make you smile every time you hear it. For me, that film is none other than 1992’s The Bodyguard! If you were to ask me what my top ten favorite movies of all time are, The Bodyguard would be placed somewhere on that list. When I received my first Sunshine Blogger Award, I talked about how I loved this film’s soundtrack. So, for a blogathon that revolves around movies viewed for the “umpteenth” time, I found the perfect opportunity to write about The Bodyguard. But because it is turning thirty this year, simply reviewing this movie wasn’t going to do. Therefore, I decided to write an editorial explaining why I love the film so much! Without further ado, let me tell you why The Bodyguard still hold up thirty years later!

The Bodyguard poster created by Tig Productions, Kasdan Pictures, and Warner Bros. Pictures

The Acting

We can’t talk about The Bodyguard without also talking about Whitney Houston. From what I’ve heard over the years, Whitney had little to no acting experience prior to working on the 1992 film. But her portrayal of Rachel Marron does not reflect what she didn’t have. Instead, Whitney did a fantastic job presenting Rachel as a complex character! Miss Marron is a singer and actress who is constantly presenting herself as a lovable starlet who can do no wrong. Behind the scenes, she is a mother and sister who craves control over her life and career. Whitney’s emotions and expressions weave through the story and adapt to each situation. A great example is the scene before Rachel’s concert. While backstage at the Mayan Club, Rachel receives a disturbing note. When she addresses this to Frank and her friends, Bill and Sy, Rachel discovers the delivery of these notes has occurred more than once. In this scene, she goes from being excited about her concert to expressing genuine concern and fear over the note to being upset by not knowing the severity of the situation sooner. Whitney delivers each line and expression in a realistic way, highlighting how multi-layered Rachel is as an individual!

Recording studio image created by Senivpetro at freepik.com. Music photo created by senivpetro – www.freepik.com

I’ve always thought Kevin Costner should have portrayed James Bond at least once in his career. Now I know it’s an unspoken rule that James Bond has to be portrayed by someone from England/Europe. But before you write off my opinion as being silly, just hear me out. In The Bodyguard, Kevin is cast as Frank Farmer, a former Secret Service agent. While watching this film for the “umpteenth” time, I can point out some similarities Frank shares with the legendary 007. For starters, Frank has a signature drink, which is orange juice. He also has the look, with Frank sporting a suit and bow-tie at the Academy Awards. Frank possesses the poise, skill, and experience to successfully do his job. He can even turn on the charm when he wants to, as Rachel successfully tears down his defense mechanism of keeping his distance from others. But the most important part of my argument is that Kevin has the talent! What works in Kevin’s favor is his ability to consistently carry a collected and serious composure. While this is expected for a character like Frank, Kevin is given moments where genuine emotions are expressed. When Frank and Rachel go on a date to a restaurant, they talk about a woman from Frank’s past. As Rachel makes a joking remark about how she thinks the relationship ended, Frank remains silent, giving Rachel the impression the subject is no laughing matter. A few seconds later, Frank begins chuckling, revealing how he pulled a trick on Rachel. This scene shows that even though Frank is strong and can hold his own is his profession, he is still a man of feelings and fears.

Ski lodge during winter-time image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ski-station-background_3423830.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Whitney and Kevin give great acting performances individually. However, it’s their on-screen chemistry that helps make their interactions memorable! From the moment Rachel and Frank first meet, you can feel the sparklers sizzling. Their banter bounces off each other like an exciting game of ping-pong. At first glance, you wouldn’t think Rachel and Frank would get along. This is because their personalities are the opposite of one another. But when they share private, intimate moments, Rachel and Frank are kindred spirits, understanding each other in a way that can’t be easily explained. The strong on-chemistry is not limited to the interactions between Whitney and Kevin. The interactions they share with the other actors in the film feel believable as well. One good example are the times when Frank interacts with Rachel’s son, Fletcher, portrayed by DeVaughn Nixon. Because of Fletcher’s desire to learn more about his mother’s bodyguard, the audience receives wisdom from Frank, along with clarity about why he is who he is. Fletcher’s curiosity of Frank is innocent and full of wonder, which presents the perfect counterpart to the dangerous and harsh reality of Frank’s career. These conversations between sweet and adorable Fletcher and tough and no-nonsense Frank kind of remind me of the conversations of Sarah and Eric from The Crow. The moments with Frank and Fletcher also allow the audience to take a break from the action and suspense The Bodyguard contains.

Sailing on the sea image created by Michele L at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Michele L.”

The Soundtrack

While we’re talking about Whitney Houston, let’s discuss the soundtrack. In my first Sunshine Blogger Award post, I said Whitney’s songs are such a timeless addition to any playlist. In the case of The Bodyguard soundtrack, these songs perfectly showcase the vocal range Whitney is known for! Delivering half of the soundtrack’s songs, Whitney flawlessly masters three different genres. The tracks ‘Run to You’, ‘I Have Nothing’, and the classic ‘I Will Always Love You’ are presented as emotional ballads that amplify the scenes they’re featured in. Meanwhile, ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘Queen of the Night’ are sassy and energetic pop tunes that are somewhat reminiscent of the “get up and dance” feel of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. ‘Jesus Loves Me’ gives Whitney an opportunity to contribute to the world of gospel music by presenting a heartfelt, powerful melody. These six songs not only compliment Whitney’s singing abilities, but they also add to the album’s musical diversity.

The Bodyguard soundtrack boasts a total of twelve songs. Each track is a good representation of its respective genre. As I already mentioned, ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘Queen of the Night’ are sassy and energetic pop tunes. However, those are not the only pop songs featured on the album. Lisa Stansfield’s ‘Someday (I’m Coming Back)’ is a pop song that revolves around a finished relationship. Pop influences can also be heard in the rock song ‘What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding’, sung by Curtis Stigers. ‘It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day’, performed by S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M., is a laid-back hip-hop track that is as straight forward as its title suggests. Another laid-back tune is ‘Even If My Heart Would Break’, an R&B song that features the vocals of Aaron Neville and the saxophone sounds of Kenny G. Alan Silvestri delivers on a theatrical score that carries a somber and serious tune. Finishing the soundtrack is Joe Cocker’s ‘Trust In Me’, which adds some country flavor to this strong album.

Since I own a copy of The Bodyguard soundtrack, I thought it would make sense to post a picture of it in this editorial. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The Kitchen Scene

In almost any action movie, there is that one scene audience members talk about long after the movie ends. It usually involves a lot of action, showing characters in an exciting battle of good versus evil. But there is a scene in The Bodyguard that, I feel, is the best scene from any action film. In what I call “the kitchen scene”, Tony, one of Rachel’s bodyguards, is upset over a miscommunication caused by Frank. In a fit of rage, Tony decides to take his frustrations out on Kevin Costner’s character. But he quickly realizes he made a big mistake. Throughout this scene, Kevin’s fight choreography is fast and filled with adrenaline. But he executes the clean choreography with precision and focus while maintaining a cool, collected composure.  Even though the kitchen is a smaller space, different parts of the kitchen are utilized. From Frank pinning Tony to the floor with a chair to Tony being thrown across the kitchen counter, the actors see the limited space given as a challenge instead of a hindrance. The best part of this scene is how there is no music or dialogue. This forces the audience to give their undivided attention to what is happening on-screen. While “the kitchen scene” is shorter in time length, it’s delivery is affective!

Vintage style kitchen image created by karlyukav at freepik.com Light photo created by karlyukav – www.freepik.com

Blending Several Genres

The Bodyguard consists of four genres: action, mystery, drama, and romance. On paper, it seems like there would be an overwhelming amount of content in this one story. In reality, however, these genres end up complimenting and working with each other instead of competing or clashing with one another. The 1992 film revolves around Rachel’s dilemma, which involves her life being threatened by an unknown perpetrator. While this mystery takes place throughout the movie, the audience is given enough clues, suspects, and possible motives to keep them invested in the mystery solving process. Action is sprinkled into the story to raise the stakes and keep viewers on the edge of their seat. As I mentioned earlier, the moments with Frank and Fletcher allow the audience to take a break from the action and suspense The Bodyguard contains. The drama among the Marron family and the romantic moments between Rachel and Frank are also placed in the story to give the audience time to breathe after scenes focusing on the mystery and action. In these moments, the audience learns more about the characters, as well as their motivations for making certain choices. The cycle of these four genres moves like an ocean’s wave, in ebbs and flows.

Magnifying glass image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/magnifying-glass-with-fingerprint-in-flat-style_2034684.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/flat”>Flat vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Its Timeless Story

In the world of cinema, there are two types of film: those that are products of their time and those that stand the test of time. I can only speak for myself, but I feel The Bodyguard belongs in the latter category! Like I said in my previous point, this film consists of four genres. Instead of these genres coming together to create a convoluted narrative, the story ends up not being difficult to understand and follow. Even if you have seen The Bodyguard before, like I have, the script provides an intriguing plot, hilarious one-liners, and dialogue that is well-written, with these aspects of the film making your two hours of viewing worthwhile. Speaking of the plot, it is not defined by the time of its release. The assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan is mentioned on a few occasions. However, this is done to provide context to Frank’s part of the story. The romance between Rachel and Frank is based on the classic trope of opposites attracting. But the quality of the acting performances and on-screen chemistry make this concept work. While the film does contain heavier moments, they’re not too unbearable. This allows the movie to have a higher re-watchability rate.

The Umpteenth Blogathon banner created by CineMaven from Essays from the Couch.

While on a dinner and movie date, Rachel asks Frank how many times he has seen Yojimbo, a Japanese film from the early ‘60s. Frank responds by saying he has seen it a total of 62 times. While I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen The Bodyguard in my life, I found this quote to be such a coincidence, as I’m writing about the film for the Umpteenth Blogathon! Whether you choose to watch this movie for the first time or plan on re-visiting it, The Bodyguard is a movie that, in my opinion, still holds up. It is not only an exciting action flick paired with an intriguing mystery, but there are moments in this story that can make you think. While talking with Fletcher, Frank tells him that when someone is afraid, that means they care about something. Frank’s quote not only provides an interesting perspective on fear itself, but it also highlights the intent of my editorial. Why do we celebrate the birthday of a loved one? Why do we commemorate a holiday or important historical event? Why did I write about a film that was released thirty years ago? It’s because we care about those people, events, or films. Watching a movie for the “umpteenth” time is like spending time with a good friend. You may know every line by heart and how the story plays out, but the time well spent will always be cherished.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

If you’d like to check out the other entries in the Umpteenth Blogathon, you can visit this link:

https://cinemavensessaysfromthecouch.wordpress.com/2022/01/18/for-the-umpteenth-time-blogathon/

Word on the Street: ‘To Catch A Thief’ Remake and Film about Beanie Babies on the way

When I write a Word on the Street story, I sometimes talk about stories that were covered on the Youtube channel, Clownfish TV. I not only like Kneon and Geeky Sparkle’s commentary, but I also learn about subjects I never would have known about before. So, when I watched one of their newer videos, I figured it would be an interesting topic to discuss on 18 Cinema Lane! In the video, ‘Elizabeth Banks Doing a BEANIE BABIES Movie?!’, my initial assumption was the movie being similar in execution to the 2014 hit, The Lego Movie. But as I watched the video, I learned the film would revolve around the popularity of Beanie Babies in the ‘90s. While analyzing an article from The Hollywood Reporter, Kneon and Geeky share how actors Elizabeth Banks and Zach Galifianakis are going to headline a film based on The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute, a book written by Zac Bissonnette.  According to the original article, the movie will focus on the production and consumption of the classic stuffed animals, including “a celebration of the women who helped power Ty Warner’s success”.

Tiger stuffed animal image created by alesia17 at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/alesia17.”

While watching Kneon and Geeky’s video, ‘Elizabeth Banks Doing a BEANIE BABIES Movie?!’, they brought up a documentary titled Beanie Mania. In this documentary, the rise and fall of Beanie Babies are explored. From “a lot of drama” to “the one woman even has a rap song she wrote” (referring to a rap song dedicated to the Beanie Babies), Beanie Mania presents the perspectives of those heavily affected by the iconic toy. As I watched Kneon and Geeky’s video and listened to their commentary, I couldn’t help but feel Elizabeth and Zach’s project was a re-hash of the HBO Max documentary. When speculating which direction the film was headed, Geeky says “I think their take on it’s going to be very similar, cause I think the one guy that wrote the book they’re basing it on was in the documentary”. With this and everything else said, it makes me wonder what is the point of Elizabeth and Zach’s movie? What can they offer to the conversation that Beanie Mania didn’t? Personally, I’d like to see a documentary about Tickle Me Elmo, the coveted toy that dominated 1996.

Preschool classroom image created by Vectorpocket at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by vectorpocket – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Speaking of re-hashed ideas, this next story I found in Kneon and Geeky’s video, as it was an advertised article on Deadline’s website. According to the aforementioned site, Justin Kroll writes about a “remake of the classic thriller To Catch a Thief” in the pre-production stages. The Paramount Pictures project has recruited Gal Gadot to star in the film and produce it. Eileen Jones will pen the script, with Jaron Varsano and Neal Moritz also producing the movie. Similar to what I said about the Beanie Baby film, I wonder what the point of this remake is? I know you can ask that about any cinematic production. But what can this creative team bring to the table that Alfred Hitchcock and his team hasn’t already? Personally, I think the remake seems unnecessary.

Image of vintage movie camera created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What are your thoughts on these movie news stories? Are you anticipating any of the projects mentioned in this article? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Sources to articles referenced in this article:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/zach-galifianakis-elizabeth-banks-starring-in-apple-film-the-beanie-bubble-1235073361/

deadline.com/2022/01/eileen-jones-paramounts-to-catch-a-thief-reboot-gal-gadot-1234908113/

Take 3: Knives Out Review

Over the past week, I thought about what my first movie review of 2022 would be. Was I going to select a title from my DVR or choose a film that has been recommended to me? I knew that whatever movie I picked, it was probably going to set the tone for the rest of the year. Well, I just saw the 2019 production, Knives Out. This is a movie I had heard of because of its mixed reviews. If I’m going to be honest, it was a film I was originally planning to avoid. A few years ago, I saw the 2017 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. Without spoiling the story, I will say the ending made me not like the film. When I heard about Knives Out, I assumed it was going to let me down like Murder on the Orient Express did. But is that what really happened? Keep reading, as I’m about to start my first movie review of the year!

Knives Out poster created by T-Street, Lionsgate, and MRC

Things I liked about the film:

Ana de Armas’ performance: When I watch a movie that features an ensemble cast, I sometimes look for the performance that stood out among the rest. In Knives Out, that performance came from Ana de Armas! A variety of situations can happen in a mystery story. Therefore, you need actors or actresses who will respond to those events through their acting talents. With Ana’s portrayal of Marta, she was able to express a wide range of emotions, showcasing how versatile her acting abilities are. One great example happens in a tense scene with Marta and a member of the Thrombey family. Because a traumatic situation happens during that scene, Marta responds by holding back a scream and trying to fight back tears. That emotional response helped Ana’s performance appear realistic!

The set design: Because the majority of Knives Out takes place at Harlan Thrombey’s house, I will focus on this location in this part of my review. Harlan’s house was one of the most impressive structures in film! The exterior adopted a Victorian style that boasted warm brown brick. But the house’s interior is where the set design shines! The winding staircase in the main foyer is paired with railings in a rich dark wood. Almost every crevice displays either a statue, souvenir, or book. This specific detail gave the space its own personality. Some of the windows showcased stained glass designs, with at least one bearing intricate images. There were even secret compartments! Harlan Thrombey’s house was truly any mystery writer’s dream!

Not showing a complete picture: Within the first half of the movie, the police question members of the Thrombey family, as well as people connected to the Thrombeys. When each character is sharing their side of the story, the audience gets to see what happened in flash backs. But it’s important to point out how each character’s perspective was different. When a situation happens, whether real or fictional, there are various sides of that story. That causes the overall picture to not be complete, no matter how many perspectives are shared. For Knives Out, this part of the script felt realistic. It reminds the audience how they don’t always receive a complete narrative, especially since they weren’t present during the actual event.

Detective work image created by Photoroyalty at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/investigation-background-design_1041877.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Photoroyalty – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Little to no interactivity: I, personally, like mystery films where the story allows the audience to solve a case alongside the characters. But Knives Out had the same flaw Sherlock Holmes in New York did: featuring little to no interactivity in the script. In the first half of the film, the story is exposition-heavy. Along with character backstories and flash backs explaining what happened, the story reveals “whodunit”. Since all this took place within the movie’s first half, it felt like the screenwriter spoon-fed the information to the viewers instead of letting them figure things out. While there is a twist toward the end of the film, I feel it would have been more effective had the rest of the story allowed the audience to participate in the mystery.

The Thrombey family’s dysfunctionality: Stories featuring family dysfunctionality can be hit or miss. They can either be heart-warming and somewhat silly, like the television show, The Middle, or painfully unenjoyable, like the Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Back When We Were Grown-Ups. In the case of Knives Out, the Thrombey family’s dysfunctionality was somewhere in between. I understand this was meant to create tension among the characters and provide them with possible motives. However, there were times when the dysfunctionality was overbearing. It got to the point where it not only overshadowed the mystery, but some parts of the story felt like they belonged in a drama. In my opinion, I think some of this dysfunctionality should have been toned down.

Weaker characters: In my list of the top ten worst movies I saw in 2021, I talked about how I didn’t like Raising Arizona. Two of my reasons were a) the characters were not charming or likable enough to make their dysfunctionality tolerable for the audience and b) the characters were one-dimensional and uninteresting. Knives Out’s Thrombey family experienced a similar flaw. These characters lacked depth, as they were each defined by one aspect. It also didn’t help how they were so similar to one another. All of the older family members were successful to varying degrees. Meanwhile, the younger family members simply enjoyed the fruits of their parents’ or grandparents’ labor. Because the characters were weak, the dysfunctionality was less tolerable for the audience, as the characters weren’t able to make up for that.

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My overall impression:

Mysteries are one of the most popular genres on 18 Cinema Lane. The creativity and intrigue found in this genre make these types of stories interesting. Speaking of interesting, I find it such a coincidence how Knives Out is the first movie I reviewed in 2022. The reason is Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver was the first film I wrote about in 2020, written on January 8th. But I did not enjoy Knives Out as much as the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries title. One of the issues lay in the story’s little to no interactivity, as I felt like I was just watching characters do things. While the mystery itself contained interesting components, such as not giving the audience a complete picture of what happened, it could have been stronger. The Thrombey family’s dysfunctionality also could have been toned down. But there were parts of Knives Out I did like, such as Ana de Armas’ performance and Harlan’s house. With that said, I thought the movie was ok.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Do you like watching mystery films? If so, are there mystery movies you’re looking forward to seeing? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

18 Cinema Lane: What Readers Can Look Forward to in 2022

Since 2019, I’ve been posting a beginning of year article to prepare my readers and followers for the new year. I do this out of courtesy for those who have taken the time to read and hear what I have to say. For 2022, I don’t have as many announcements as in previous years. However, these announcements I feel are important enough to share. Like past years, I will first start by revealing my blog’s stats from 2021. I’d also like to thank you for your continued support of 18 Cinema Lane!

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2021

Total Blog Posts: 115

Total followers: 109

Total Comments: 306

Total Likes: 634

Awards: 1

Participated Blogathons: 41

Total Movie Reviews: 278

Total Word on the Street stories: 5

An Important Change to the Gold Sally Awards

2022 marks the fourth year of the Gold Sally Awards, a movie award where my readers and followers choose the winners! When I announced the winners of the third annual event, I said I would start presenting two voting polls at a time. This decision was made in order to move the polls at a smoother pace. For this year’s awards, my new plan will go into full effect! So, when voting season comes around, you’ll be choosing two sets of winners with each poll post.

18 Cinema Lane’s 4th Annual Blogathon

When I wrapped up my Olympic Dreams Blogathon in July, I said I would be hosting another yearly event in 2022. That statement is true, as I still plan on hosting another blogathon. At the time, I hadn’t chosen a theme. But I am happy to say that I have picked one! What it will be is going to be revealed when I officially announce my blogathon this month!

2022’s Buzzwordathon

If you look near the top of my blog’s home page, you will see a tab called ‘Readathons’. But as of 2022, I have only “accomplished” one readathon, which was 2020’s Filmathon. In the few times I have participated in a readathon, I end up not finishing all my books within the readathon time frame. Instead of enjoying the overall experience, I’m left feeling disappointed. So, in order to make up for past “failures”, I have decided to join the 2022 Buzzwordathon! This readathon is a year-long event hosted by Kayla from the Youtube channel, BooksandLala. Each month, participants must read a book based on a pre-chosen word. Throughout 2022, I will write a review for the books I read for this event. This will give me an excuse to keep up with the readathon!

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Have fun in 2022!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2021

Like I said in my list of the worst movies I saw in 2021, this year is a little different. Since 2018, most of the movies on my best list have been those I have reviewed. But a few titles on those lists weren’t covered on my blog. 2021 is the first year where every film on my best list has been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane! It should also be noted how each of these titles were either blogathon entries or Blog Follower Dedication Reviews. Therefore, I will include a link to each of these reviews on my list! As I said in my worst movies of 2021 list, I saw several films this year that I liked. This article is reflective of those feelings. But unlike my aforementioned list, there will be Honorable Mentions. So, with that said, let’s end 2021 on a high note with the top ten best movies I saw in 2021!

Honorable Mentions

Cape Fear (1962), Bathing Beauty, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part, Elizabeth Is Missing, and The Girl Who Spelled Freedom

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10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series is a newer story that began last year. Despite how young this series is, it has grown over the course of four movies! This chapter not only recognizes its strengths, but also improves on some of the previous movies’ mistakes. Giving equal focus to the main and side mysteries is one example. Speaking of the mysteries, the overarching story was intriguing and engaging. There were even new characters added to this film I wanted to know more about. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff’s story didn’t receive a lot of development. With this and everything else said, I hope this series continues in 2022!

Take 3: Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Review + 360, 365, 370, and 375 Follower Thank You

9. A Star Is Born (1937)

In my three (soon to be four) years of movie blogging, I never thought I’d ever see any version of A Star Is Born. But now that I have seen the original from the ‘30s, I can honestly say it was better than I expected! The story’s honesty about the entertainment industry and maturity toward heavier subjects was such a surprise. What was also a surprise was the use of mixed-media throughout the film, as it was ahead of its time. Even though A Star Is Born was released toward the beginning of the Breen Code era, it highlights the quality storytelling that came from this period in time. With the constant changes in the entertainment landscape, as well as technology, I can kind of see why this story has been remade on more than one occasion.

Take 3: A Star Is Born (1937) Review

8. The King and I (1956)

In 2021, there is at least one movie from the ‘50s on my best and worst movies list. But since I already talked about I Dream of Jeanie and The Trap, it’s time for The King and I to shine! This was the first time I had seen this version of the story in its entirety. Despite that, I found the film to be quite enjoyable! It is a good looking and sounding film, with the costume design, musical numbers, and set design building an aesthetically pleasing picture. The most memorable part of the movie was Tuptim’s interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin! As I said in my review, it served as a good example of how everyone can view a text differently. The scene itself was more interesting than I expected.

Take 3: The King and I (1956) Review

7. Holly and Ivy

Because Hallmark creates so many Christmas movies, it can sometimes feel like they blend together. However, that is not the case for Holly and Ivy! What helps this title stand out is showing realistic characters dealing with realistic situations. This is quite different from those Hallmark pictures where the conflict either revolves around returning to a small town, saving a beloved establishment, or planning a major event. The emotional balance within this story added to my enjoyment of the picture. It never felt like the creative team was trying to emotionally manipulate me or force a reaction out of me. Looking back on the few Christmas films I reviewed this year, I can say with all honesty that Holly and Ivy was the best one!

Take 3: Holly and Ivy Review

6. Rigoletto

In my opinion, Rigoletto is to Beauty and the Beast what Ever After: A Cinderella Story was for Cinderella. What I mean by this is Rigoletto does an effective job at executing a non-magical version of Beauty and the Beast! Even though there have been musical versions of this particular story, such as the 1991 animated production from Disney, the 1993 film chose music as one of the story’s themes. This was an interesting choice, as it showed the audience the talent and skill it takes to be a good singer. Another interesting choice was the story taking place during The Great Depression. As I said in my review, this creative decision helped the film achieve its own identity.

Take 3: Rigoletto Review + 350 and 355 Follower Thank You

A Star Is Born (1937) poster created by Selznick International Pictures and United Artists

5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly

This is the first year an UP Network movie has appeared on any of my best lists! While Sincerely, Yours, Truly does contain a similar story to those found on Hallmark Channel, it makes up of that in genuineness and sincerity. The movie also presented interesting ideas, such as a grant proposal process and avoiding the “it’s not what you think” cliché. The on-screen chemistry and witty banter between the lead actor and actress definitely added to my enjoyment of this film! I don’t know what’s in store for UP Network in 2022. But I hope they continue to release quality productions like Sincerely, Yours, Truly!

Take 3: Sincerely, Yours, Truly Review + 295, 300, 305, 310, and 315 Follower Thank You

4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host

This entry in the Perry Mason movie series is one of the most memorable titles! One of the reasons why was the titular talk show host. Featuring real life talk show hosts in this story was a good idea. Having them portray talk show hosts on the radio was an even better idea, especially since some of those hosts had their own television show. That creative decision gave them new material to work with. The engaging nature of the mystery, where the outcome unfolds as the story goes on, maintained a steady amount of intrigue. This served as another way Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host stood out in the mystery genre!

Take 3: Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host Review + 290 Follower Thank You

3.  The Love Letter

Over the years, I have enjoyed finding and watching Hallmark Hall of Fame movies from years, even decades past. Sometimes, there are hidden gems that can be discovered. 1998’s The Love Letter is one of those gems! Unlike Chasing Leprechauns, the creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame title found a way to allow the realistic and whimsical aspects of the story to co-exist. In fact, the whimsical part of the movie is what made the project one of the most unique in Hallmark Hall of Fame history! The film does contain the elements you’d usually find in a production of this nature, such as historical accuracy. But that just adds to the strength of The Love Letter!

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Love Letter Review

2. The Three Musketeers (1948)

Isn’t it interesting how another Gene Kelly movie made it to my best list’s top three? Despite the weird coincidence, I did enjoy this version of The Three Musketeers! There was so much about this project I liked, from the strength of the ensemble cast to the stellar fight choreography. However, the best part of the film was how much detail went into it. This can be seen in the set design and costumes, where research and care are also reflected. While I still haven’t gotten around to reading the novel this movie is based on, The Three Musketeers was definitely an entertaining story!

Take 3: The Three Musketeers (1948) Review

1. The Karate Kid (1984)

When it comes to the world of cinema, nothing beats the classics! The timelessness of 1984’s The Karate Kid allows the film to have a strong rate of re-watchability. The film’s story also contained ideas and messages that caused me to think, which is not something I’d expect from a sports movie. As I write this list, Mr. Miyagi’s words immediately come to mind. Whether it’s the famous “Wax on, Wax off” quote or his wisdom about karate, these words not only help The Karate Kid remain a memorable picture, but also give the audience something to apply to their lives. Add some exciting karate sequences and you have a solid film that has stood the test of time!

Take 3: The Karate Kid (1984) Review (Olympic Dreams Double Feature Part 1)

The Karate Kid (1984) poster created by Delphi II Productions, Jerry Weintraub Productions, and Columbia Pictures

Have fun in 2022!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Worst Movies I Saw in 2021

When it comes to my best and worst of the year lists, 2021 is a little different. For one, this is the first year where I don’t have any Dishonorable Mentions. This is because I didn’t see enough movies to justify having this portion on the list. For another, my list has the least number of movies that were “so bad they were bad”. The reason is most of the films on this year’s list were disappointments. When I look back on my movie viewing in 2021, I feel most of the titles I saw and/or reviewed were either ok or fine/decent. Sure, I did see several films I liked. But some of those will be discussed on my best of the year list. Speaking of lists, let’s start counting down the top ten worst movies I saw in 2021!

Two disclaimers:

  1. As I’ve said in past lists, I did not write this list to be mean-spirited or negative. It’s simply a way to expressive my own, honest opinion.
  2. Some of the movies on this list have been reviewed on my blog. I will include a link to my reviews of these films.
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10. I Dream of Jeanie (1952)

This movie made me wish I had saved an hour and twenty-nine-minutes by reading Stephen Foster’s Wikipedia page. For a “biopic”, I Dream of Jeanie wasn’t very informative. While I did learn a few things, the story didn’t capture an almost complete picture of the famous composer. It also showcased him in a not-so-favorable light. Because he was portrayed as a desperate push-over, Stephen was a character that exuded sympathy to the audience. What did not help was how the film placed more focus on other characters and events as well, such as the oh so annoying Edwin P. Christy. Speaking of Edwin, this movie would be called “The Edwin P. Christy Show” if given an honest title.

Take 3: I Dream of Jeanie (1952) Review

9. Country at Heart

This movie is notorious among the Hallmark fans for having more than one release date between 2019 to 2020. Too bad it wasn’t worth the wait. What could have been an interesting story turned out to be another tale of a woman from the city coming back to her small hometown. This is also one of those films where the protagonist says they are going to do something, but ends up spending most of the movie not doing the aforementioned thing. Country at Heart’s biggest flaw, though, lay in the singing abilities of the main character, Shayna. Throughout the story, Shayna’s talents were treated as if she were the next great undiscovered talent. But, in reality, her talents were, at best, fine. I don’t know if Jessy Schram sang in the movie or if there was a singing double. However, this part of the film dissuaded me from buying what the movie was selling.

8. The Trap (1959)

What a weird coincidence for another movie from the ‘50s to end up on my worst list. Even though The Trap is classified as a drama, the creative team placed more emphasis on the drama within the story. When you have gangsters in your film, this is not the genre you want to place your movie in. Since my warning came way too late, the 1959 title was a boring combination of a Suddenly rip-off and a road trip picture. Adding insult to injury, the excitement and action you’d expect from a gangster film was so far and few between. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t fall asleep during this movie, as I wanted to on more than one occasion.

Take 3: The Trap (1959) Review

7. Jane Doe: Ties That Bind

It is possible to make a good movie revolving around a debate. The Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Sweet Nothing in My Ear, is a beautiful example of this. With Jane Doe: Ties That Bind, however, adding a debate to a mystery story doesn’t work. This is because it goes against the very nature of the mystery genre, which emphasizes finding a concrete resolution to the story’s conflict. Unfortunately for the 2007 movie, a debate was the most focused part of the script. Because of that decision, the debate overshadowed the mystery itself. When everything was said and done, the debate wasn’t resolved. If I could summarize this film in one meme, it would be the one where the woman asks “You did this for what”?

6. Hometown Hero

It’s a shame that not one, but two PixL movies ended up on my list, especially since I rarely talk about their films on my blog. The reason why Hometown Hero is considered one of the worst movies I saw this year is because of how bland it was. This caused me not to care about any of the characters or their stories. It also doesn’t help that the main actor and actress had such weak on-screen chemistry, it felt like their characters were becoming good friends instead of romantic significant others. Similar to what I said about choice number seven, I would choose the meme of the woman asking “Where’s the flavor”? if I needed to summarize Hometown Hero in one meme.

I Dream of Jeanie (1952) poster created by Republic Pictures

5. The Price of Fitting In

Lifetime has an infamous history of creating PSA/“after school special”/cautionary tale movies, which cover a variety of serious, real world subjects. When I came across this 2021 title, I was curious to see what new topics and issues would be discussed in this film, especially considering it’s been a long while since Lifetime created a movie of this nature. But unlike the network’s other PSA/“after school special”/cautionary tale productions from decades past, The Price of Fitting In suffers from an identity crisis. The script spends the entire movie trying to figure out what type of story it wants to adopt. This led several parts of the narrative to either be underdeveloped or unresolved. The Price of Fitting In does recognize how a robotics team can experience similar peer-related situations like other extracurriculars, so I’ll give the movie credit where it’s due. I just wish that idea had belonged in a better film.

4. Raising Arizona

The best way to describe how I feel about this movie is by using an analogy: You’re listening to someone tell a joke. But when it’s time to deliver the punchline, that person forgets what it is. So instead, they either try to come up with a new punchline on the spot or they attempt to figure out what the original punchline was.  In Raising Arizona, the comedic moments lasted so long, the punchline got lost in translation. Some of the jokes didn’t make sense because of this. The characters were not charming or likable enough to make their dysfunctionality tolerable for the audience. If anything, they were one-dimensional and uninteresting. The only part of the movie that prevented me from DNFing (did not finish) it was Leonard Smalls. He was such a mysterious and intriguing character, that I wish I watched a movie about a character like Leonard.

3. Durango

As I said in my review from July, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Durango is “the first western set in Ireland”, according to IMDB. For the first of its kind, it was a step in the wrong direction. Stories in the western genre are known for having higher stakes, giving the audience an excuse to stay invested in the characters well-being. Durango didn’t get that memo because most of the stakes were so low, the characters’ plans worked out too perfectly. Despite never reading the book this Hallmark Hall of Fame title is based on, I can tell how weak this script was. What was also weak was Matt Keeslar’s performance and his on-screen chemistry with Nancy St. Alban. Watching this movie on Hallmark Drama was a blessing in disguise. I may not have saved some time, but at least I saved some money.

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Durango Review

2. Chasing Leprechauns

Yet another Hallmark movie set in Ireland joins the list. Since the network doesn’t create many St. Patrick’s Day themed movies, it is frustrating when a story relating to this particular holiday doesn’t stick the landing. With Chasing Leprechauns, the creative team wanted to include a whimsical element without making the movie too whimsical. Like I said in my review of the 2012 film, those involved with the project wanted to have their cake and eat it too. When I look at the movie’s poster, it feels like false advertising. For one, Chasing Leprechauns is a drab looking picture, not the lush, green paradise the poster wants you to believe. For another, there are no leprechauns in the story, despite the word ‘leprechauns’ being in the title. Hallmark is known for releasing some of their movies on DVD. As far as I know, Chasing Leprechauns was never made available for purchase. Maybe its poor quality is the reason why?

Take 3: Chasing Leprechauns Review

Remember when I said there were two PixL movies on my worst list? Well, The Cookie Mobster is the second film. For those who are not familiar with PixL, this is an entertainment company that typically creates “rom-coms” similar to those on Hallmark Channel. Because of that, this 2014 film was way too ambitious for the company’s own good. The light-hearted tone of the scouting troop’s story and the darker tone of the former gangster’s story ended up clashing with each other. Adding to that, the screenwriters didn’t display an understanding for several of the movie’s subjects. The weak script caused me to question the story’s validity, which took away any opportunity for me to stay invested in the story. The more I think about The Cookie Mobster, the more I wish it had been created by INSP or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Since I’m talking about Durango again, I’m re-posting my screenshot of the film’s poster. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Have fun in 2022!

Sally Silverscreen

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List 2021

Another year, another Christmas wish list! Since I started my blog in 2018, I have created and maintained this annual tradition. In these posts, I share a list of movie-related things I would like to receive for Christmas. Most of the items on these lists have been realistic, but there have been a few items that were based on wishful thinking. For some of the categories on this year’s list, it took months to figure out what I wanted to wish for. This is much different from years past, as some of the wish list items were chosen almost immediately. But that stop me from creating a brand-new list! So, without any delay, it’s time for me to share what I’d like for Christmas!

Here is a screenshot of my Christmas tree this year! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Something You Want

On my first Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List, I said I wanted to see Hallmark Hall of Fame team up with Trans-Siberian Orchestra to create a Christmas movie musical. But since I published that list three years ago, it doesn’t seem like that is one of Hallmark’s priorities. Instead, I’d like to see the band team up with GAC Family to create a movie! While I haven’t seen any of this network’s films, I have heard good things about them. Plus, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has been known for being a family-oriented musical group. This collaboration could be a win-win situation. Because GAC Family is a newer network, they are probably still looking for new content ideas. As for TSO, it would be a good opportunity to showcase new music. From what I’ve heard, there weren’t any musicals among their selection of Christmas films. So, this would be something new for the network!

Since I’m talking about Trans-Siberian Orchestra again, I’m including this picture of my TSO CD collection. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Something You Need to See

As I mentioned in my post, Top 10 Things I’d Like to See in When Calls the Heart’s Ninth Season, 2021 is the second year in a row Hearties won’t receive a Christmas movie. This is such a puzzling decision for Hallmark Channel, especially since the show draws a lot of viewership numbers for the network. These viewership numbers have led these Christmas movies to be successful. I wish Hallmark, as well as the creative team behind When Calls the Heart, would consider creating another Christmas movie. It would be wonderful to see a Christmas wedding in Hope Valley! In recent years, it seems like Hallmark has made less Christmas-related wedding films. But since Hope Valley has never hosted a wedding at Christmas time, it would bring something new to their table!

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Back in March, I reviewed a movie titled Making of a Male Model. In that review, I talked about how I loved Kay’s (the female protagonist’s) dress, describing it in detail. I even included a photo of the dress in my review, though its quality was poor. Because of how much this dress stood out to me, I knew it was going to appear on my Christmas Wish-List! Once again, I apologize for the photo’s poor quality. It’s one of those outfits that needs to be seen to be believed!

Here is a poor quality picture of the dress I was talking about. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

A book I’ve read that I’d like to see adapted into a film

Earlier this year, I announced I was venturing into American Girl doll collecting. One aspect of this realm I find fascinating is stop motion short films. There have been several films released under the American Girl banner, with some of these titles focusing on a character from the company’s Girl of the Year line. While looking back on these movies, I took note of how only a few Girl of the Year characters received their own cinematic story. One of the characters that didn’t was Lindsey, who was American Girl’s first Girl of the Year. She was released in 2001, a time when the company never considered making movies for the Girl of the Year characters. To make up for this, I would love to love to see a fan-created, stop motion film based on Lindsey’s story! I reread her book this year and I enjoyed it the second time around. It was funny and intriguing, two qualities that would make a stop motion film interesting!

Lindsey book cover image found on Goodreads and created by American Girl.

What are your thoughts on my Christmas wish list? Which item did you find the most interesting? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at Christmas!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Nutcracker Prince (1990) Review

With 2021 soon coming to a close, this will be my last movie review and my last blogathon entry of the year! Because the Christmas season is upon us, I figured a Christmas flick was the way to go! As was announced by MovieRob, December’s Genre Grandeur theme is Non-Disney Animated Films of the 90’s. While looking for possible titles through a general internet search, I came across The Nutcracker Prince from 1990. Prior to writing this review, I had heard of the film. But I had never seen it. Over the years, it has been said most movie adaptations of The Nutcracker ballet are bad. Since I’ve only seen the Barbie version many years ago, I can’t agree or disagree with this statement. So, for this review of The Nutcracker Prince, I will only be judging the 1990 title.

The Nutcracker Prince (1990) poster created by Lacewood Productions, Boulevard Entertainment, Allied Filmmakers, and Cineplex Odeon Films

Things I liked about the film:

Use of color: The Nutcracker ballet is a production that is known for being colorful. Therefore, the use of color in an adaptation of this story can make or break it. The way color was used in The Nutcracker Prince complimented the source material! One good example is the Christmas party at Clara’s family’s house. The primary colors in the background were a faded red and coral. But Clara’s dress boasted a hue of sea foam green. This color selection allowed Clara’s dress to stand out against the background. It also gave Clara as a character definition and focus.

Utilizing the ballet’s musical pieces: Another iconic part of The Nutcracker ballet is its music! From the ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ to ‘Waltz of the Flowers’, these pieces of music have become a staple in not only the soundtrack of Christmas, but also in the world of classical music. What’s interesting about the ballet’s music in The Nutcracker Prince is how it was utilized in different parts of the story from the original show. The ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ can be heard twice in this film. The first time is during Clara’s family’s Christmas party, as the adult attendees are dancing a waltz. The second time is when Clara is dancing with the Nutcracker in the middle of the night. Only this time, she’s singing a song called ‘Save This Dance’, with the music from ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ serving as a background melody. Using these pieces in different contexts show how versatile they are. They elaborate a scene’s specific tone as well.

A backstory for the Nutcracker: In The Nutcracker ballet, the audience watches as the Nutcracker transforms into a human. Since there are no explanations provided for this transformation, the audience is forced to accept what happened at face value. In The Nutcracker Prince, the creative team makes sure to provide their audience with a backstory for the titular character. I can’t get into detail about this part of the story, as I don’t want to spoil the movie. But all I’ll say is there is an explanation given for why this character becomes a nutcracker. I like how this film’s creative team took a part of the ballet and gave it a new story. This shows one example of how they respected the source material while also bringing something new to the table!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

No Land of Sweets: What sets The Nutcracker apart from other ballets is the second half of the production, reserved for the Land of Sweets. This is the part of the story where Clara and the Nutcracker visit the aforementioned land where sweet treats are brought to life through dance. The Nutcracker Prince omits the Land of Sweets. Instead, this land is replaced with The Land of the Dolls. From a creative perspective, I understand why the movie’s creative team made this decision, as they didn’t want to copy-and-paste the source material. But, on the other hand, I was disappointed by the lack of the Land of Sweets. That’s because I was curious to see how the ballet’s second half would translate to animation.

The amount of focus on The Mouse King vs. The Nutcracker: Within the ballet’s first half, the Nutcracker fights in a duel with The Mouse King, the villain in the story. Like The Nutcracker Prince, this duel served as a conflict in the ballet. However, it lasted for only one scene. In the movie, the conflict takes up the majority of the plot. Similar to what I said earlier, I understand why the film’s creative team made this decision, as they wanted to provide their story with a solid conflict. But because of that decision, it took away time from exploring The Land of the Dolls and showcasing elements from the Land of Sweets.

Unclear parts of the story: Within The Nutcracker Prince, there were a few parts of the story that I wish were clarified. On Christmas Eve, after Clara receives a doll named Marie, her parents say this is the last doll Clara will get. With little to no context provided, I was unsure if Clara was simply growing up or was about to pass away. At several points in the film, Uncle Drosselmeier mentions his nephew. To prevent spoilers from being revealed, I won’t share too many details about that part of the story. However, when Drosselmeier’s nephew does appear in the film, I was confused of the identity of this character. I’m assuming that information was supposed to be heavily implied. However, if it was related to the plot, it should have been clearly explained.

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My overall impression:

As I said in my introduction, I’ve heard most movie adaptations of The Nutcracker ballet are bad. The Nutcracker Prince from 1990 has been included in that conversation. But now that I have seen this movie, I can finally give my own honest opinion about it. With that said, I personally thought it was fine. With any adaptation, The Nutcracker Prince is not the “end all, be all”. Sure, there are parts of the story that could have been stronger. But I will give this film credit where it is due. Similar to what I’ve said about remakes, a good adaptation should do two things: respect the source material and bring something new and unique to the table. I can honestly say The Nutcracker Prince does both of those things! The story itself goes in different directions than the ballet. At the same time, the movie’s creative team uses elements of the ballet to their advantage, such as the colorful palette and the musical pieces. So, if you’re a fan of The Nutcracker, animated movies, or lesser-known projects of the ‘90s, then I would suggest adding The Nutcracker Prince to your to-watch list this Christmas season!

Overall score: 7.1 out of 10

Have you seen any film adaptation of The Nutcracker? Are there any animated movies you like watching during the Christmas season? Please tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen