We are now toward the end of the Gold Sally Awards! Before I reveal this year’s winners, there are three polls left and the nomination of Sally’s Star of the Year. I’m going to try something different for these next two polls. The Best Supporting Actress Poll and the Best Ensemble Poll will be combined into one voting post. But the voting rules will still be the same as in previous polls. Even though you can vote for more than one nominee, you can only vote once per person. This set of polls will start today, July 30th and end on August 6th. The link to the polls are at the bottom of each individual poll. Just click on the word, “PollMaker”.
As the Tokyo Olympic Games are under way, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in my ‘Olympic Dreams Blogathon’! Once again, my annual blogathon was a success, with a variety of content shared during the event! I really enjoyed reading each article, as a multitude of Olympic-related subjects were covered. I am going to host my yearly blogathon in 2022! However, I haven’t chosen a theme yet. Stay tuned!
I haven’t participated in MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur since April, when I reviewed the 1966 movie, Born Free. To makeup for some of that lost time, I decided to review a film for July’s event. This month, the theme is “Movies of theOutdoors”. That means the majority of the film has to take place outdoors or the movie has to significantly feature nature within the story. In a search for ideas, I turned to a book that I’ve had in my possession since last year:Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. The pages of this text revealed a title I had never evenheard of before. In 1962, 20th Century Fox released a live-action production titled The Lion. Leonard gave thisproject two out of four stars, saying “Beautiful scenery of Kenya is far better than melodrama about young girl attached to pet lion, with family concerned it is turning her into a savage”. With curiosity getting the better of me, I chose to seek this movie out as my contribution for July’s Genre Grandeur! But will I end up agreeing or disagreeing with Leonard? Keep reading in order to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
William Holden and Capucine’s banter: While The Lion is the fourth film of William Holden’s I have seen, it is alsothe first film of Capucine’s I have seen. Despite this, I really liked hearing the banter between their characters,Robert and Christine! After Robert arrives at the game reserve’s guest house, Christine reminds him how he is nowon a game reserve. In a nonchalant manner, Robert tells her that he won’t bite the animals. In this film, there was ahint of a laid-back persona with William Holden’s character. Even though this was not Robert’s strongest charactertrait, William pulled it off flawlessly, making his line sound like a piece of natural conversation. Another collection of banter between these characters carried a more serious tone later in the film. When Christine questions Robert’sreason for coming to Africa, he says “I’m here, aren’t I”? In my review of The World of Suzie Wong, I said thatWilliam Holden’s performance in that movie was consistent. His and Capucine’s performance in The Lion wasconsistent as well, each actor delivering their lines with effective execution!
The scenery: The natural landscape of Africa is one of the reasons why I chose to watch this film. Similar to the 1966 movie, Born Free, the African fields served as the principal scenery for The Lion, almost like the landscape itself served as a character in its own right. When Robert’s plane first flies to the game reserve, an establishing shot of a massive mountain is predominantly featured in the background. It was such a beautiful piece of earth, with its white and light blue hues glistening on screen. Like Born Free, the African plains are given multiple opportunities to be featured. But in The Lion, there were other locales that were shown. When Tina, Robert and Christine’s daughter, is on her way to introduce Robert to her pet lion, King, she walks along a winding path. One part of this sceneshows Tina and Robert walking past a huge waterfall. While I wish this waterfall had been shown for a longerperiod of time, it highlights how there are various types of landscapes within Africa.
Pamela Franklin’s performance: I am not familiar with Pamela Franklin’s filmography. However, she gave a solidperformance in The Lion! While watching her portrayal of Tina, I couldn’t help being reminded of Hayley Mills infilms such as The Parent Trap. This is because, like Hayley, Pamela carried herself with confidence and a strongsense of self, especially for a young person. These qualities in character paired nicely with Tina’s headstrongpersonality. Pamela also brought enough emotionality to make her role sympathetic. Whenever she is instructingher per lion, King, on what she wants him to do, you can tell Tina truly cares about him. In one scene, King isleaving with a mate. As Tina is begging him to stay, desperation could be seen and heard in her eyes and voice.Everything I’ve been saying allowed Pamela to still the show!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Use of the words “wild” and “savage”: In The Lion, there are a few moments where Robert and Christine use thewords “wild” or “savage” when referring to Tina’s interest in the local wildlife and African tribe. At one point,Christine fears her daughter will grow up to be “wild”. I know the ‘60s were a different time compared to the 2020s.But that is not the reason why I didn’t like the characters’ use of the words “wild” and “savage”. By them choosingthose words to refer to Tina’s interests, they fail to understand the importance of these subjects. Throughout themovie, Christine, Robert, and even John worry about who Tina will grow up to be in the future. Instead, they shouldhave taken the time to get to know her in the present. Since Tina’s passion for wildlife and her appreciation for thelocal African tribe is common knowledge to everyone in her life, her parents could have chosen to homeschooltheir daughter. Those aforementioned interests could have served as the basis for various academic subjects, withTina’s parents guiding and protecting her along the way. Tina’s upbringing in Africa and a strong educationalfoundation might afford her a good chance to be accepted into a reputable university. If her parents took theinitiative to nurture their daughter’s love for animals, maybe she would have become a veterinarian or operate herown wildlife sanctuary. Some people say “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.However, Christine and Robert’s words fail to recognize a middle ground where all parties are satisfied.
Poor special effects: As I just said in my previous point, the ‘60s were a different time compared to the 2020s. One way this is made apparent is the quality of the technology used in cinema. Sometimes, actors will be placed in front of a green screen, in an attempt to present the illusion that the actors are in a particular location. A few scenes in The Lion showed some of the characters driving through the fields of Africa, with pre-filmed shots of this landscape shownin the background. But during these on-screen trips, a faint but visible blue glow could be seen outlining the characters. This technological error prevented me from getting fully immersed in these scenes. Toward the end of the movie, rain was shown falling in one scene. But the special effect used looked like small images of raindrops layon top of the scene’s picture instead like looking like the raindrops were falling in that world. That also ruined theillusion of being in the movie’s space.
A drawn-out conflict: Like I already mentioned before, Tina’s parents worry about her future. The way they talk about this conflict sounded like a dire situation. But throughout the film, there was no sense of urgency to find a resolution. Instead, several scenes focus on a safari trip John leads. While I enjoyed seeing Africa’s scenery, these scenes felt like padding to make up for the main conflict being drawn-out. Another part of the story that received more attention than the main conflict was the customs and politics of the local African tribe. I will admit that this part of the script was interesting. However, it took time away from the main conflict, causing its final outcome to be stalled. Even though Tina’s parents solve their problem, the answer doesn’t feel satisfying because of how long the problem was drawn out.
My overall impression:
Because this month’s Genre Grandeur theme is “Movies of the Outdoors”, I knew The Lion would be the perfectchoice for this event. As expected, the scenery in the film presented a pleasant picture to look at. But like I quotedin my review of To Catch a Spy,“The scenery can’t save you”. That is certainly the case forthe 1962 movie. The piecesof a good project were there; from the strong acting performances to interesting conflicts. But the overall directionwasn’t focused. Instead of working to find a resolution to the film’s main conflict, the story traveled down sidepaths. This placed more emphasis on other parts of the plot and caused the overarching narrative to be drawn-out. I was also frustrated by the lack of initiative from Tina’s parents to help their daughter reach her full potential withthe resources they already had. While I understand they wanted the best for her, they never took the time to ask Tina what she wished for. Honestly, I’d recommend Born Free over The Lion. The story of the 1966 picture is not only straight forward, but its script is also stronger.
Overall score: 6.2 out of 10
Have you seen The Lion? Which “outdoor movie” would you prefer? Tell me in the comment section below!
Now that I’ve seen 1984’s The Karate Kid, it’s time for me to review its respective sequel; The Karate Kid Part II! Long before I even thought about starting a movie blog, I had only seen a snippet of this film. Like I said before, I am willing to give a chance to movies I haven’t watched in their entirety. Because of that and because the majority of The Karate Kid Part II takes place in Japan, which has hosted the Olympics four times, my blogathon became a good excuse for checking this sequel out! Sequels, like any type of film, can be hit or miss. There are times when the next chapter can allow the overall story to “go the distance”; expanding the narrative and bringing something new to the table. Meanwhile, there are sequels that waste their potential by trying to recapture the magic of the previous installment. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the creative team and their intention for creating another film. If you want to know what type of sequel The Karate Kid Part II is, you’ll just have to keep reading this review!
Things I liked about the film:
More focus on Mr. Miyagi: The first film was about Daniel’s personal journey; hence the film being titled The Karate Kid. While the majority of the movie revolved around the protagonist, we get to learn about Mr. Miyagi through his interactions with Daniel. But only parts of Mr. Miyagi’s backstory are revealed in these interactions. The Karate Kid Part II places more emphasis on Mr. Miyagi’s story. As I mentioned in the introduction, the sequel takes place in Japan, where Mr. Miyagi is originally from. However, the audience also witnesses people from Mr. Miyagi’s past interacting with him. The reason for the sequel primarily taking place in Japan is because Mr. Miyagi receives a letter from his former love interest, Yukie, about his father’s ill-health. By crossing paths with Yukie again, Mr. Miyagi is given the opportunity to reflect on past life choices. He also has to deal with the ramifications those choices had created. This new direction in the overall story shows that even though Mr. Miyagi is a good teacher with plenty of wisdom to share, he is still a human who, like Daniel, is constantly learning.
Interactions among the characters: In my review for The Karate Kid, I talked about how the interactions among the characters were one of the strongest parts of that film. The sequel has the same strength as its predecessor, which provides consistency to the overall story! Having Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita reprise their roles helps maintain this consistency, as both actors are now familiar with each other’s talents. One of the strongest scenes in the movie is when Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are watching the sunset on the beach. In this moment, we not only learn more about Daniel, but we get to see him support his mentor and friend. The Karate Kid Part II shows Daniel having grown up since the events of the first film. Even though Daniel is still a teenager with a teenage perspective, he is more willing to put others before himself, as well as open his mind to new opportunities and experiences. Right as Mr. Miyagi boards his plane, Daniel joins him in the plane terminal. The reason why he wants to join Mr. Miyagi on this trip is because he wants to be there for his friend and mentor, especially since that friend and mentor has been there for Daniel. Not only does Daniel purchase a book about the specific place in Japan where Mr. Miyagi is from, but Daniel also uses some of the money from his savings account to pay for his ticket. Like I said in my review for the first movie, interactions like Mr. Miyagi and Daniel’s were made possible by the quality of the acting performances and the screenwriting!
The scenery: Although most of The Karate Kid Part II takes place in Japan, the movie was actually filmed in Oahu, Hawaii. Despite this change in location, the scenery was simply beautiful! Because Okinawa is presented in the film as a seaside town, there are several shots of the water that are featured. As I previously mentioned, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel are watching the sunset on the beach. Parts of this scene are shown through long shots, capturing the sun’s soft orange glow against the gray of the sky and water. In my review of the first installment, I talked about how one scene transitioned from a medium to a long shot, in an effort to showcase a part of the Grand Canyon. A scene where Daniel is practicing a breathing technique on a dock uses a similar transition. However, instead of starting with a medium shot, it begins with a close-up of Daniel. It then evolves into a long shot of the ocean, with clear blue water surrounding the dock and green palm trees found in the background.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A limited presence of Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship: Before watching The Karate Kid Part II, I was interested in seeing how Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship differed from his relationship with Ali. Even though I liked seeing Ali and Daniel together, I can see why their relationship didn’t survive past the first film. Daniel and Kumiko were a nice couple. It also helps that Ralph and Tamlyn Tomita had really good on-screen chemistry. But Daniel and Kumiko’s relationship was shown less than Ali and Daniel’s relationship. Because of this, it caused their relationship to feel rushed. In one scene, when Daniel is getting into Kumiko’s car, Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” is playing on the radio. This is not only the film’s official song, but the song’s official music video heavily emphasizes Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship. Anyone who has heard “Glory of Love” would agree that it is better suited as a “wedding song”. Having this piece of music surround a teenage couple that has known each other for about less than three months feels a bit misleading. Also, The Karate Kid is a trilogy, followed by the television show, Cobra Kai. If the third movie and/or TV show is anything like the beginning of the second film, “this could all end in tears” (Bartok’s (from 1997’s Anastasia) words, not mine).
Karate fight sequences being used sparingly: One of the flaws of the first movie was how the karate fight sequences had a limited presence in the overall story. In The Karate Kid Part II, there are even less karate fight sequences. With a movie called The Karate Kid, you expect a certain amount of karate to be featured in the film. While both movies are not action oriented, fight sequences can add excitement to the overall story. Fighting was primarily avoided in The Karate Kid Part II, as both Mr. Miyagi and Daniel try to find other ways to resolve their issues. This was one of the central themes of the narrative: exploring other problem-solving avenues before using fighting as a last resort. However, karate is the heart of this series. When you choose to show only a handful of fight sequences, you have little exciting material to work with.
No satisfying resolutions for parts of the story: In The Karate Kid Part II, there were a few parts of the story that were not consistently told within the overall film. Because of this, I feel their resolutions were not satisfying. While taking a trip through town, Kumiko reveals to Daniel that she dreams of becoming a dancer. However, the type of dancing she’s interested in is not taught in Okinawa. Toward the end of the film, Kumiko tells Daniel that she plans on going to the United States in order to pursue her dream. But this resolution feels kind of random. There is no lead up to the resolution itself. Daniel also doesn’t provide any advice to Kumiko in regards to her personal dilemma. For this part of the story, the journey from Point A to Point B was missing.
My overall impression:
The Karate Kid Part II is a fine film. But I don’t think the script was as tight as it was the first time around. I like how the story focused on Mr. Miyagi, as it offered new story-telling opportunities. But, to a degree, it came at the expense of Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship, as it was shown for a limited amount of time. If Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” had revolved around Mr. Miyagi and Yukie’s relationship, it would have made more sense. Not only is The Karate Kid Part II primarily Mr. Miyagi’s story, but he and Yukie have history together. While the theme of using fighting as a last resort is important, it prevented the movie from featuring more karate fight sequences than the previous film. As I’ve stated before on my blog, a movie’s title partially serves as a promise to the audience. With The Karate Kid Part II, I can’t say this promise was completely broken. This is because, according to Mr. Miyagi, karate should be used in self-defense only, emphasizing how karate consists of more than just fight sequences. But when a movie features any form of marital art, people, more often than not, come for the cool-looking and exciting fight sequences. I appreciate how this film wasn’t just a carbon copy of its predecessor. It shows the creative team put legitimate thought and care into their project. If you enjoyed the first film, I’d say give its second chapter a chance. Even though there are stronger sequels out there, The Karate Kid Part II is certainly not one of the worst.
Overall score: 7.3 out of 10
Have you seen The Karate Kid Part II? Are there any sequels you are a fan of? Please tell me in the comment section!
For my first two blogathons, I wrote editorials as my contribution for the event. These articles were ‘Phantom of the Megaplex’ at 20: A Reflection on the Movie-Going Experience and Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbooks: How Relevant are They Anyway? This time around, I wanted to do something different. Therefore, I chose to write a double feature review! Because this year’s blogathon is Olympic themed, I selected The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid Part II. In 1984, the Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles. The Karate Kid not only takes place in California, but it was also released in 1984. Years ago, I had seen about half of this movie. As I said in my review for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, I am willing to give films a second chance if I haven’t finished them or haven’t watched them in several years. It’sbeen a long while since I have seen The Karate Kid, so I thought my blogathon would provide a good excuse to revisit it.
Things I liked about the film:
The interactions among the characters: In stories that heavily rely on the relationships between various characters, how well-acted those characters are and the quality of their interactions will make or break that story. With The Karate Kid, these interactions served as one of the strongest parts of the film! That is because all of them felt natural and believable. When Daniel and Ali go to Gold N’ Stuff for the first time, you can see these characters are genuinely having a good time. They acted the way you’d expect a typical teenager would; smiling while racing each other at the go-kart track, laughing as their bumper boat crashed into another boat, and critiquing their pictures from the photobooth. Because of Ralph Macchio and Elisabeth Shue’s performance, as well as the script, their relationship came across as realistic. When it comes to Daniel’s relationship with Mr. Miyagi, we are given the opportunity to witness healthy mentor/student interactions. If one were given instructions, but not the reason behind those instructions, it can be easy to get frustrated. This happens after Daniel receives a series of instructions from Mr. Miyagi. But when Daniel discovers the reason why he has been following these instructions, you start to see him gain an understanding and appreciation for what Mr. Miyagi has taught him. Similar to what I said before about Daniel and Ali’s relationship, this period of learning and discovery contains a lot of realism. It shows that, with the right support and guidance, we can learn things such as how to think for ourselves.
The cinematography: The Karate Kid is a movie that has better cinematography than most of the film fan community gives it credit for. To prove my point, I will bring up one of the film’s earliest scenes as an example. At the beginning of the movie, Daniel and his mom are driving through Arizona. This particular scene starts with a medium shot, placing primary emphasis on Daniel’s mom’s car. As their journey down this road plays out, the camera pulls away from the car and delivers a long shot of a section of the Grand Canyon. Characters’ interactions are also captured well on film! At a Halloween party, Daniel is dressed up as a shower. When Ali wants to talk to Daniel, she goes behind the costume’s curtain. Their conversation is shown in a close-up shot, which allows the audience to feel like they are that small space with Ali and Daniel. I really liked how the karate tournament was filmed! It involved a combination of medium and close-up shots, allowing the audience to witness the action. The camera was also steady, which made the scenes appear clear.
The music: Music is an important component of any movie. A song or instrumental piece can elevate the mood within a scene or highlight a scene’s intended point. The scene where Daniel attends his first day of school serves as a great example. In the background, “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama can be heard. Having this song play during this scene makes sense for several reasons. Daniel’s story starts in September, which is technically summer until September 21st or as late as September 24th. Daniel is also having a difficult time adjusting to his new home, believing the move to be a “cruel” gesture on his mother’s part. The music itself is light with a higher tempo, as the sunny California environment pairs nicely with the tune. The struggles Daniel is experiencing are heavily emphasized, with the help of Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer”.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The on again/off again nature of Daniel and Ali’s relationship: I liked seeing Daniel and Ali together and I thought Ralph and Elisabeth had good on-screen chemistry. However, I didn’t like the on again/off again nature of their relationship. I know that every relationship, whether platonic or romantic, has their issues to deal with. I also understand that a relationship where both parties are younger are going to handle those issues differently than a relationship where both parties are older. With Ali and Daniel, they became frustrated over their issues too easily. This causes them to enter and exit their relationship too quickly. While I was glad to see Daniel and Ali work things out, I wish they were less hasty about their relationship by talking things through.
A limited presence of karate fight sequences: The Karate Kid is not an action movie, but a coming-of-age story where one develops a better understanding of karate. Even though I knew that before watching this film, I feel the presence of karate fight sequences was limited. We see about three fight sequences toward the beginning of the film, with the majority of them taking place during the tournament. The rest of the story focuses on Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel the foundations of karate. In the middle of the movie, I think there should have been one or two fight sequences. For example, instead of simply showing Mr. Miyagi breaking the loiters’ glass bottles at the beach, a karate fight sequence had taken place. That way, the excitement that comes from these sequences would be consistent throughout the movie.
Small details that don’t make sense: While watching The Karate Kid, I noticed some small details that, to me, didn’t make sense. In one scene, Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that karate is about what is in your mind and heart, not about what belt you have. If that is the case, why do belt ranks exist in the first place? Why work toward earning another belt when what’s in your mind and heart are more important? At the tournament, the people running the event acted like they weren’t familiar with Mr. Miyagi’s “dojo”. Yet, on the scoreboard, there is a pre-made logo next to Daniel’s name. How was this logo able to be made if no one organizing the tournament had heard of Mr. Miyagi’s “dojo”?
My overall impression:
The Karate Kid is a film that is considered a “classic” for good reason. It not only features exciting karate fight sequences, but it also uses one-liners well and has a strong script. But, in my opinion, the reason why the 1984 picture has earned this title is because it’s the type of movie that sticks with you. “Wax on, Wax off” is one of the most quotable lines in film history. Whenever I hear that line, I think about how there’s a reason for everything. I also remember how Daniel had to learn the meaning of “Wax on, Wax off” for himself instead of Mr. Miyagi telling him what it means. The Karate Kid is also a movie that has the ability to make you think. Whether or not this was intentional, you can’t help but reflect on the things that Mr. Miyagi says. You also can’t help but think about how those things can apply to real life. It’s been amazing exploring the world of ‘80s cinema. I’ve found some hidden gems, revisited some classics, and stumbled upon some stinkers. With The Karate Kid, I’d say it is definitely a keeper! I hope you stick around, because I’ll be reviewing this story’s second chapter!
Overall score: 8.2 out of 10
Have you seen The Karate Kid? Are you looking forward to my review of The Karate Kid Part II? Let me know in the comment section!
The Summer Olympics is just around the corner! Because of this, I decided to choose an Olympic theme for my annual blogathon! In this post, every participant and their article will be featured in a collective list. This set up is similar to my previous blogathons. What is different this year is how there are no separate categories. Each entry represents a different aspect of the Olympics; from the location of a past or present Games to the sport featured in a chosen program.
Last year was the first time I participated in Legends of Western Cinema Week! For that event, I reviewed some episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger and the movie, Forsaken. This year, I decided to review the 1999 Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Durango! One day, Hallmark Drama was airing several older titles from the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection, with Durango being one of them. Since I try to watch as many Hallmark Hall of Fame movies as realistically possible, I made sure to record this film on my DVR. This is not only my first time watching it, but this particular title was only sold on VHS. Hallmark has a history of selling some of their Hallmark Hall of Fame films for home entertainment. As I said in my review of the 1987 movie, Foxfire, some of them have been sold on DVD for $20 apiece. But there were some titles that were only given a VHS release. I don’t know what the original price of these VHS tapes were. But if the DVDs were $20, it makes me assume the VHS tapes might have been sold for a similar price. Would Durango be worth the price if it was re-sold on DVD? Keep reading my review if you want to find that answer out!
Things I liked about the film:
Patrick Bergin’s performance: In Durango, Patrick Bergin portrayed Fergus Mullaney, the father of the protagonist’s girlfriend, Annie. Out of the whole cast, Patrick is the one that, for me, stole the show! Whenever his character came on screen, he delivered his performance with a strong sense of emotion. Toward the beginning of the movie, Fergus is giving a threat to the movie’s protagonist. During this scene, he truly came across as intimidating. The look in Fergus’ eyes was fiery, revealing the anger within him. His tone of voice was loud and stern, indicating he is not someone to be messed with. I wish Patrick had more appearances in this movie, so he could have had more opportunities to show off his acting talents!
The scenery: Within my review of Chasing Leprechauns, I discussed how the film looked drab. This was because that film’screative team didn’t take advantage of Ireland’s natural landscape. That was not the case for Durango, as the majority of the movie took place outdoors and there was a lot of greenery to be found! When the Mullaney family was taking a ride through the countryside, the rolling hills of Ireland were showcased in front of a clear blue sky. On the path, a small stone bridge was seen over a river. This river was surrounded by grassy, green fields. That type of landscape was consistently shown throughout the movie. However, it featured Ireland’s natural beauty, which could encourage someone to visit the country!
The music: In films like those from Hallmark Hall of Fame, orchestral tunes are commonly heard in the background. While that is the case for Durango, the music worked with what was happening on screen. During the protagonist’s journey, grand, sweeping orchestral music could be heard as cattle were traveling through the vast fields of Ireland. Because the scenery is so captivating, having this type of music playing makes sense, as the music represents the viewers’ awe for such a beautiful place. When Annie’s brothers were fighting in public, Mark, the film’s protagonist, tells Fergus what is going on. Even though orchestral music can still be heard, the music is reflective of one’s fear when facing an intimidating man like Fergus. Just like any component of a film, music can make or break a production. The music in Durango definitely worked!
What I didn’t like the film:
Low stakes: A common staple in the western genre is including high stakes in the story. In the movie I reviewed last year, Forsaken, the future of the town was at stake. The fear of the unknown could be felt among the characters, with their dialogue and interactions elaborating this point. The major conflict in Durango was the transportation of cattle from one town to another in an effort to receive a fair price for them. But the stakes associated with this conflict were low, causing me not to feel like any of the characters or their cattle were in danger. This is because, nine times of ten, the characters’ plans work out perfectly. Come to think of it, these plans worked out too perfectly by the standards of the western genre. When a higher stake is introduced in the story, it doesn’t appear until the film’s last nineteen minutes. This stake feels like it was included simply for the script to shoehorn a subtle David and Goliath reference. What is frustrating about that creative decision is the movie’s creative team had the entire project to give us the aforementioned reference. Heck, Durango itself should have been a David and Goliath story.
Fergus Mullaney’s desire to protect his daughter: In a story where a young woman falls in love, it’s common for her father to be concerned for her well-being. This is no different for Durango, as Fergus Mullaney only wants to protect his youngest daughter, Annie. The way he went about protecting her is the issue, as it came across as possessive and bit over the top. Whenever Annie’s boyfriend, Mark, is expressing his love for her or seen interacting with her, Fergus becomes angry. It gets to the point where he threatens to physically harm Mark. If Durango were a comedy and Annie were a teenage girl going on her first date, maybe Fergus’ behavior would be justifiable. But because both Annie and Mark are adults and because this movie is more dramatic in tone, Fergus’ behavior felt out of place.
Matt Keeslar’s performance: I’m not really familiar with Matt Keeslar’s filmography. However, I wasn’t impressed with his portrayal of the protagonist, Mark Doran. He wasn’t as strong of a performer as other actors from Hallmark Hall of Fame productions. For most of the movie, Matt carried a “resting face”, making his face appear static. I could tell he was trying with the material he was given, as there were times where he expressed genuine emotion. But these emotions were, in my opinion, not delivered consistently. With everything I just said and the fact that Matt and Nancy St. Alban, the actress who portrayed Annie, didn’t have strong on-screen chemistry, I was not invested in Matt’s performance.
My overall impression:
In my introduction, I mentioned how Durango was only sold on VHS. After watching the film, I now have an understanding of why this could be the case. Durango is one of the few Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I would consider a dud. With a weak lead performance and many low stakes, I found it difficult to stay invested in the characters and overall story. I also think the way Fergus tried to protect his daughter, Annie, felt out of place in this particular film. According to IMDB, Durango is “the first western set in Ireland”, so the fact this movie was not good is disappointing. On paper, an Irish western is an interesting idea that could have worked with a strong creative team. Unfortunately, Durango had a weak execution. I’m glad Hallmark Drama chose to air this movie, as I can honestly say it is not worth purchasing a copy. Personally, I think Irish cinema, the western genre, and Hallmark Hall of Fame deserve better.
Overall score: 4.7 out of 10
Have you seen Durango? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame movies you’d like to see re-released on DVD? Please let me know in the comment section!
For the third year in a row, I am participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon, hosted by Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews! This time around, I went back to the Hallmark well. When I first joined the blogathon, I reviewed a Hallmark film titled Christmas Camp. If you read that article, you would know that I wasn’t a fan of it. Last year, I wrote about Little House: Bless All the Dear Children, a film that was a fine, family-friendly picture. Since I still had the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie, Holly and Ivy, on my DVR, I chose to review this title for the 2021 blogathon. In 2020, I didn’t see a lot of Christmas films from Hallmark. In fact, the only newer release I watched and/or wrote about was The Christmas Bow. Within a year, I have heard good things about Holly and Ivy, with my family sharing similar sentiments. Therefore, I figured it was time to finally check the movie out. How does it compare to The Christmas Bow? Like a child counting down to Christmas Day, you’re just going to have to wait to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: If the interactions between the characters feel like they are having real-life conversations with each other, that’s how you know the acting in a given film is good. That was certainly the case within Holly and Ivy! All of the characters got along well with one another, as they had good on-screen chemistry. It also helps that the cast as a whole was talented! I’ll be honest, I have never seen any of Janel Parrish’s projects from her filmography. However, I did see her on Dancing with the Stars. The way Janel’s character reacts to various situations came across very naturally. While Melody and her neighbor, Nina, are decorating Melody’s Christmas tree, she shares her reason for collecting elf ornaments. The tone of Melody’s voice and the look in her eyes highlights how reminiscent she is over something as small and simple as ornaments. These acting techniques helped make Janel’s performance feel believable. While we’re on the subject of Nina, let’s talk about Marisol Nichols’ performance. While portraying this character, Marisol embodied what a good mother should be. Despite dealing with her own medical issues, she always tries to take an active role in her daughters’ lives. While decorating her family’s Christmas tree, Nina reveals a special tradition that involves Nina performing a dance routine with Holly and Ivy. This scene shows how much she enjoys the life she has created for herself. While I like the performances of Sadie Coleman and Piper Rubio, the actresses who portrayed the titular characters, I want to talk about Jeremy Jordan’s performance. Similar to Janel Parrish, I am not familiar with Jeremy’s filmography. However, I still liked seeing his portrayal of Adam. His on-screen personality was easy-going and care-free. While he took his profession and hobby seriously, Adam just wanted to have a good time. When he interacted with Melody, you could tell just by watching them that these characters were made for each other. It helped that both Adam and Melody had similar personalities, but were traveling on similar paths in regards to their respective careers.
The presentation of Christmas tropes/activities: Hallmark is known for featuring a plethora of Christmas related tropes and activities within each story. But sometimes, these films are oversaturated with them, as if there is a checklist that needs to be completed. Holly and Ivy shows some Christmas related activities that have been featured in other Hallmark films. It’s the way they are included in the story that sets Holly and Ivy apart from the network’s other titles. In one scene, Melody is decorating homemade Christmas ornaments with Holly and Ivy. The purpose of showing these characters creating Christmas decorations is to give the audience some of Melody’s backstory. That small piece of information was emphasized more than the activity. This scene is an example of how there was enough presentation of Christmas tropes and activities for the viewer to get the intended point. At the same time, if you were to put this same story around any other holiday, it would still work.
An emotional balance: In films that revolve around a serious, real world topic, such as a potentially terminally ill relative, the overall tone tends to be heavy. There are times when viewers warn one another to “have a box of tissues at hand” or share that the film will “pull at your heartstrings”. While there are somber moments in Holly and Ivy, the movie itself never felt sad. In fact, feelings of sorrow and despair never crossed my mind. That’s because the script doesn’t rely too heavily on the sadder parts of the story. Instead, the creative team strives for a balance by also focusing of happier, more joyous moments. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Nina is dealing with medical issues. Even though these issues are discussed and an emergency plan is created if the worst-case scenario happens, Nina puts her energy toward helping Melody and being present in her daughters’ lives. In fact, I can think of more scenes where Nina is enjoying the company of her friends and family than worrying about her medical situation.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Adam’s conflict: It’s typical for the male and female protagonist to have their own conflicts within a Hallmark picture. However, I didn’t like Adam’s conflict in Holly and Ivy. Throughout the film, Adam’s parents wanted him to come work at the family car dealership. But Adam would rather stay a contractor and focus on his woodworking hobby on the side. This conflict reminded me of a young, college-bound adult not seeing eye-to-eye with their parents on a potential degree. Because of this, it felt a bit immature for a character that appears to be in his early 30s. One of the film’s messages and Adam’s parents’ mantra is “help where help is needed’. By being a contractor and taking up woodworking, Adam is doing exactly what his parents wanted; helping where help is needed. It baffled me how his parents failed to realize this until the end of the film.
Chippewa Falls Library being unbelievably ill-equipped: I understand that some libraries deal with more challenges than others. But based on what the movie presented, the town of Chippewa Falls appeared to be doing just fine. There’s no evidence of the town being a predominantly low-income community or having a high crime-rate. What the characters said about the library’s issues didn’t match up with the visuals. During her time volunteering at the library, Melody comes up with several ideas in order to solve some of the library’s problems. Two of these ideas are renting out meeting rooms for events and setting up a “Mitten Tree” to collect hats and scarves for citizens in need. I can only speak from my own experience, but my local library already does these things. With that said, I find it hard to believe that the Chippewa Falls Library wouldn’t utilize these resources already.
The inclusion of Betty the dog: Holly and Ivy have a dog named Betty, who periodically appears in the film. While I don’t have anything against the dog itself, I don’t think it was necessary to include a dog in this story. Having Betty in the movie felt like she was there just for the sake of being there. If you had written the dog out of the script, I don’t think it would make a difference.
My overall impression:
Like I mentioned in the introduction, this is my third year participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon. Out of the three movies I’ve reviewed, Holly and Ivy is, by far, the best one! Within the past few years, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has, in my opinion, made stronger films than their companion, Hallmark Channel. This is because Hallmark’s second network appears to try different things when it comes to storytelling. Holly and Ivy is a good example of this, as I highlighted in my review. There wasn’t a heavy emphasis on Christmas tropes/activities like in other Hallmark films. Creating a balance between the happier and sadder moments of the story also helps shape the film’s identity. I ended up liking this movie almost as much as I liked TheChristmas Bow. Come to think of it, I wish Holly and Ivy was the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for 2020. This story certainly has the ingredients for that to have been a reality. But I guess that wasn’t meant to be.
Since we’re still talking about Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, it’s time for me to share who I’d invite to Drew’s Christmas party! This year, I chose John Christian Plummer! For those who are not familiar with him, John is the father of Charlie Plummer and is one of the screen-writers of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Mystery 101 series. When I look back on the celebrities that have been “invited” to Drew’s Christmas party in the past, actors and actresses made up the majority of the guests. While choosing an actor or actress as a guest is totally fine, I wanted to change things up a bit. To an extent, screen-writers are underrated, especially from Hallmark. Therefore, my invitation will, hopefully, give recognition to at least one of them. Like in 2019 and 2020, my invites are about giving “standing ovations”.
Overall score: 7.7 out of 10
What are your thoughts on Holly and Ivy? Which Hallmark movies do you wish had become Hallmark Hall of Fame titles? Tell me in the comment section!
My third blogathon, the Olympic Dreams Blogathon, is just around the corner! If you are interested in participating, you still have time to sign up. The event begins on July 19th, so there is a week left to join. Click on the link above the banner to learn more about the Olympic Dreams Blogathon!
Because yesterday was 4th of July, I wanted to review a movie that took place somewhere in the United States. While I wanted to publish this article on 4th of July, my day ended up being busier than expected. So, this review is published a day later than I had hoped. Recently, Hallmark Drama was airing several Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I had never seen before. One of these films was 1987’s Foxfire. Years ago, Hallmark’s stores sold select Hallmark Hall of Fame films on DVD for $20 apiece (yes, you read that price right), with Foxfire being one of the titles offered. Before recording it on my DVR, I didn’t know much about the movie. In fact, all I knew was that it was one of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s older titles. When I discovered the film took place in Appalachia, I thought it would be an interesting choice for this time of year. So, would I buy a DVD copy of Foxfire if I saw it at the store for $20? Before we head to the store’s checkout line, let’s start this review!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I’m not familiar with Jessica Tandy’s acting abilities. While I have seen The Birds, I don’t remember her performance in that movie. Despite this, I did like her portrayal of Annie Nations in Foxfire! It was very expressive, using a variety of expressions and emotions throughout the film. When Annie receives an art project from her grandchildren, she appears genuinely overjoyed to receive the gift. A big smile is on Annie’s face and her demeanor is pleasant. At her son’s, Dillard’s, concert, Annie looks truly concerned as he sings a song about a broken relationship. Worry is in her eyes and she never lets Dillard out of her sight. Another actor whose career I’m not familiar with is John Denver. I have heard of his songs, but I didn’t know who he was. In fact, I thought John portrayed one of the brothers on The Waltons. This is because of the mannerisms he carried in Foxfire. When his character, Dillard, was happy, there was a youthful spirit about him. It highlighted how you can take the Appalachian man out of the mountains, but you can’t take the Appalachian culture and heritage out of the man. One of John’s strongest scenes was when, in Annie’s home, Dillard is reminding his mother about her age and potential risks of living alone. As he is talking to her, his eyes look like they are desperately searching for answers to his problems. Even the tone of his voice sounds concerned. A character that is close to both Annie and Dillard is Holly. Portrayed by Harriet Hall, this character kind of reminded me of Baby from Dirty Dancing. This is because when Holly cares about someone, she cares about them with her whole heart. What makes Holly differ from Baby is how her personality was gentler. Because she is a teacher, she chooses to put her students first. When Holly is talking to Dillard about her students, her mannerisms and tone of voice seem motherly. This gives the audience the impression that she truly cares about them.
The scenery: I haven’t seen many films that take place in Appalachia. In fact, I didn’t know Foxfire took place in this location until I read the synopsis. To my pleasant surprise, the scenery was very nice to look at! The Nation family house was surrounded by forestry, with the tall trees providing cozy seclusion and privacy. When Dillard wakes up one morning, he is greeted by the sight of rolling hills on a bright sunny day. These rolling hills could also be seen on a car ride Annie took. When a real estate agent named Prince gives Annie a trip to the market, he takes a scenic route. The aforementioned rolling hills steal the show, but are accompanied by a lake at the bottom and surrounding colonial style vacation homes that can be seen from the road. The locations in Foxfire appeared quaint, similar to the small towns in most of Hallmark’s films.
John Denver’s music: Before watching Foxfire, I had heard a few of John Denver’s songs. Even though I don’t listen to country music much, the songs I have heard were nice to listen to. Within Foxfire, John performed four songs. Most of them were slower, more soulful pieces. This fit the overall tone of the film. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Dillard performs a song about a broken relationship. After his concert, he performs an acoustic version of the song. What I’ve gathered about some country music is how emotional it can be. In that acoustic version of Dillard’s song, his heart and spirit sounded wounded. This can be heard in his voice.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A televised play: Hallmark Hall of Fame has a history of adapting stage plays into movies. One of these titles I really like is the 1996 film, The Boys Next Door. However, what sets the 1996 production apart from Foxfire is how the overall project was executed. Because The Boys Next Door contains more key characters and locations within the story, the way this adaptation was delivered to the audience looked and felt like a movie. Foxfire, on the other hand, contained a smaller cast and had a condensed story, as most of the film takes places at Annie’s house. Even some of the scenes were drawn-out and isolated, like a stage production. While the project was shot like a movie, it felt more like a televised play.
Re-created moments from the past: Throughout Foxfire, Annie brings up several memories from her and her family’s past. Instead of providing flashbacks, four scenes were dedicated to showing the characters re-creating some of these moments. For example, a current day Annie and her late husband, Hector, are reenacting when he first proposed to her. Watching grown adults act like teenagers was a bit jarring, as this prevented me from getting fully investing in these scenes. If anything, the scenes made it look like the film’s creative team didn’t have enough room in their budget to hire additional actors.
Inconsistent elements: At the beginning of the movie, Hector provides a voice-over, explaining the significance of his family and their land. Thinking Foxfire would be from his perspective, I thought this was an interesting way to tell the story. But this was the only time any voice-overs were provided. The end of the film showed Hector breaking the fourth wall for one scene. Not only was the inclusion of this element random, but it made me wonder why it wasn’t consistently woven into the movie.
My overall impression:
Whenever I watch and/or review a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I always ask myself this: “if this movie were sold on DVD for $20, would it be worth my money”? When it comes to Foxfire, that answer would be no. At best, the movie was ok. I appreciate the film’s positive light that was shone on Appalachia. While I haven’t been there myself and while I personally don’t know anyone from there, I have heard of the hardships that the members of the community face. But despite the good will this film seemed to give, the biggest flaw was its overall execution. If I choose to watch a Hallmark Hall of Fame title, I expect to watch a movie. With Foxfire, it felt more like a televised play. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the re-created moments from the past. I couldn’t get past the adult characters acting younger than they were in the “current day”. Now that I’ve seen another Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I can add it to my Tier Rank List! Last year, I created a tier rank list of every Hallmark Hall of Fame film I have seen so far. While I’d like to revisit this list, I will focus on adding more titles for now.
Overall score: 6.2 out of 10
Have you seen Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame titles you’d like to see me review? Please let me know in the comment section!