Well, another blogathon has come and gone. While the turn-out this time was smaller, it was still a nice event. I was not only introduced to a made-for-tv film, I was also inspired for a future editorial! I even finally got around to writing about Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising! To everyone who participated, thank you for joining my World Television Day Blogathon. There will be another blogathon taking place in 2023. But the theme and dates are still pending. In the upcoming months, I will also be introducing a new series. As it’s been said in the Signed, Sealed, Delivered series, however, you have to “trust the timing”…
A few days ago, 18 Cinema Lane received its 450th follower! With that achievement comes a Blog Follower Dedication Review! A few of my recent movie reviews were for films released in the 2020s. I recently saw Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to Top Gun. Therefore, I will continue this momentum by writing about the 2022 blockbuster! While I’ve only seen pieces of Top Gun, I am familiar with its general premise. I’m also aware of how Top Gun: Maverickis the second film about the United States Navy I’ve reviewed this month. About a week ago, I wrote about the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Christmas film, USS Christmas. In that review, I said the 2020 title was a nice, pleasant film. Even though USS Christmas was fine, it wasn’t an instant classic for me or a new favorite movie. How will Top Gun: Maverick compare to the aforementioned Hallmark project? Keep reading this review if you have a need, a need to find out the answer!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Jennifer Connelly portrayed Penny, a character who was not in Top Gun. Despite being a sequel exclusive character, it felt like Penny was always meant to be in the story. The on-screen chemistry between Jennifer and Tom Cruise is an example of this statement. When Maverick visits Penny’s bar for the first time in years, he reconnects with Penny. Their interactions are friendly, a camaraderie that appears natural between them. This on-screen chemistry was consistent, which allowed Maverick and Penny’s interactions to be pleasant to watch! Speaking of Maverick, let’s talk about Tom’s performance! Since the story of Top Gun: Maverick takes place over thirty years after its predecessor, Maverick’s personality has matured in that time. However, it still contained that “prove ‘em wrong” spirit that makes him such a beloved character. In a scene where Maverick is seeking advice from Iceman, he reflects on the loss of his friend, Goose. As the past collides with the present, Maverick becomes emotional, tears quickly filling his eyes and his bottom lip quivering. This scene shows how, even though Maverick carries himself with a sense of professionalism, emotion still shines through, thanks to Tom’s strong acting abilities!
I’m not familiar with Miles Teller’s filmography or acting talents. However, I really liked his performance in Top Gun: Maverick! Miles portrayed Rooster, Goose’s son. Rooster’s involvement with the Top Gun program causes tension between Rooster and Maverick. During a disagreement between these two characters, Rooster has a lot to get off his chest. He starts yelling at Maverick, the anger felt, seen, and heard in Rooster’s voice and face. Even though Rooster’s anger is explosive in this scene, Miles displays control over his character’s emotions. He also has potential to be the lead actor in a future film!
The cinematography: Sometimes, action films can be plagued with “shaky cam”. This causes the events on screen to be indistinguishable, which can impact an audience member’s enjoyment of a movie. Fortunately, this is not the case for Top Gun: Maverick! During the scenes where characters are flying, there are many shots of them within their respective planes. There are also shots of the planes in various positions, directions, and angles. These shots are captured with a steady camera, delivered with crisp precision and clarity. One of my favorite scenes was when Maverick is racing his motorcycle alongside a plane. Showcased in a medium shot, this race contains the spirit Maverick has exuded since the first film. With a steady camera, the shot is presented from Maverick’s right side, with Maverick in the fore-ground and the plane in the background.
Including a mission: From the pieces of Top Gun I’ve seen, I recall the story heavily revolving around the training within the Top Gun program. While there is training in Top Gun: Maverick, the story prioritized an overarching mission instead. Each step of the mission is presented with the use of modern technology, such as computerized images on a television monitor. The inclusion of this mission gave the characters something to work towards. It also gave them a conflict to resolve. From an audience perspective, the mission keeps them invested in the story as it unfolds.
What I didn’t like about the film:
No inclusion of the quote, “I have a need, a need for speed”: One of the most iconic parts of Top Gun is the quote; “I have a need, a need for speed”. That quote is not only the most recognizable one from the 1986 movie, it’s one of the most famous quotes of all time. With the amount of respect given toward the predecessor in Top Gun: Maverick, I expected the aforementioned quote to be included somewhere in the 2022 film. Unfortunately, this quote was never spoken or referenced. I know this seems like a trivial flaw. But I think not including the quote is a missed opportunity.
Iceman’s fate: For this part of my review, I will spoil Top Gun: Maverick. If you have not seen this movie and plan on watching it, skip this portion and go straight to where it says “A limited distribution of character development”.
Iceman makes an appearance in Top Gun: Maverick. Even though he has become an Admiral and the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Iceman is dealing with medical related issues. These issues lead to his death around the film’s half-way point. I am aware the story needed a conflict. But having one of the “legacy” characters die felt, to me, like the film was giving mixed messages. As I already mentioned, Top Gun: Maverick was respectful toward its predecessor, emphasizing the idea of honoring the past and respecting what came before you. If this sentiment is true, then why would the movie’s creative team allow Iceman to be written out the way he was? Couldn’t Iceman be allowed to live his life as peacefully as possible? I know the Top Gun story wasn’t intended to become a franchise. However, I don’t believe Iceman should have died, especially since Goose already died in the first film.
A limited distribution of character development: When a story involves a group of people, it can, sometimes, be difficult to evenly distribute character development to every character in that group. In Top Gun: Maverick’s case, this flaw wasn’t avoided. Among the group of young lieutenants, the two that receive the most character development are Hangman and Rooster. Some of the lieutenants get a little bit of character development, while the rest don’t receive any. Besides Rooster and Hangman, I felt like I truly didn’t get to know the lieutenants, just simply became familiar with them. Like I’ve mentioned before in this review, I have only seen pieces of Top Gun. Therefore, I don’t know if this flaw was in that film. But since a part of Top Gun: Maverick’s story focuses on a team working together, I wish I had gotten to know more than just two lieutenants.
My overall impression:
During the overarching mission in Top Gun: Maverick, there are two miracles that are discussed. While I won’t be revealing these miracles, as I don’t want to spoil the film, I will be talking about the two miracles this movie produced. The first miracle is the amount of reverence and respect Top Gun: Maverick displayed for its predecessor. Creating a sequel to a beloved movie, especially after a thirty plus year time frame, is a challenging feat. I can only speak for myself, but I think Top Gun: Maverick’s creative team pulled off this feat better than expected! The second miracle is how successful Top Gun: Maverick has become since its release. In a post-pandemic cinematic landscape, having a film garner over a billion dollars has become rarer than it was a decade ago. Even if a movie does acquire that much money, it may not receive critical praise. Top Gun: Maverick not only acquired a large profit, but also achieved critical acclaim. With all that said, this movie truly pulled off the impossible. Before I end this review, I’d like to point out how this review represents a miracle. That miracle is the success of 18 Cinema Lane, which would not be possible without my blog’s followers. Therefore, I would like to thank each and every one of them!
Overall score: 8.3 out of 10
Have you seen Top Gun and/or Top Gun: Maverick? Which movie do you think deserves a sequel? Please tell me in the comment section below!
‘Films About Doctors, Nurses and Hospitals’. That’s the theme of this month’s Genre Grandeur. There were several titles I could have selected to write about. But after re-reading my list of the top ten films I’d love to review, I decided to take a different approach for November’s event. When I published the aforementioned list in June, I talked about the 1986 made-for-TV movie, Alex: The Life of a Child. The film is based on Frank Deford’s book of the same name, which recounts the life of his daughter, Alex. Because of her Cystic Fibrosis diagnosis, Alex spent a significant amount of time interacting with doctors and nurses, as well as spending time in the hospital. Therefore, I thought Alex: The Life of a Child was an appropriate title to review for November’s Genre Grandeur!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: When you have a story that primarily focuses on a younger character/person, you need to recruit a younger actor or actress who has the talent to carry that film on their shoulders. In the case of Gennie James’ portrayal of Alex Deford, her performance highlights the idea of children being smarter than they sometimes receive credit for. Toward the end of the film, Alex asks her doctor whether she’s going to die. Her tone of voice is matter-of-fact, containing a sense of understanding for what’s going on. Alex’s doctor, Dr. Tom Dolan, tries his best to be as honest as possible, while also sugar-coating the news just enough to keep it bearable. Alex then tells Tom, “Ok, I think you better go now”, empathy felt in her voice. However, this empathy was for Tom, as Alex knew how difficult her passing would be for him.
Danny Corkill portrays Alex’s brother, Christian Deford. Even though he appeared in only a handful of scenes, Danny’s performance was a strong one! After receiving the news his family will be adopting a child, Christian goes to his room. In there, he listens to a series of recordings Frank created while Alex was still alive. Throughout this scene, Danny consistently carries a long look on his face. His eyes stare off into the distance, searching for the one person who won’t come back home. Those eyes are paired with a frown and a sad tone in his voice. This scene alone showcases how difficult a family member’s passing can be on a child, especially if that family member is their younger sibling.
Alex and Christian’s mother is portrayed by Bonnie Bedelia. What I liked about her performance was how expressive it was. Shortly after receiving the news about Alex’s diagnosis, Frank and Carole are worried about their daughter’s outcome. During her conversation with Frank, Carole’s eyes are filled with sadness and fear. A deep sense of concern is in Carole’s voice, as she and Frank wonder how much longer Alex will live. That scene displays a portrayal that feels believable, thanks in part to Bonnie’s strong acting abilities!
Respect toward the source material: As I mentioned in the introduction, Alex: The Life of a Child is based on a book written by Alex’s father, Frank. In my list of the top ten movies I’d love to review, I said I had read this book. Even though it’s been years since I read Frank’s novel, there were parts of the story I recognized from the text. One of them was the Deford family’s recording for their answering machine. In both the book and movie, the Deford family creates a funny recording for their answering machine, where they pretend to be in the shower while the phone is ringing. They record the message in the bathroom, leaving the faucet running and singing songs. This moment served as a hilarious moment in Alex’s life, stressing how Alex attempted to seek out the bright spots in her world, despite the severity of her illness.
Addressing the subject of patient advocacy: During one of her hospital stays, Alex’s lung collapses. She not only is in pain, she recognizes where the pain is coming from. When she tells a doctor what is happening, the doctor doesn’t believe her. But when Alex told a nurse she couldn’t breathe, Alex’s concerns were addressed. The subject of patient advocacy, especially for younger patients, is one that has received more acknowledgment in recent years. Alex’s story took place in the 1970s, with the film released in 1986. Therefore, this scene’s inclusion feels ahead of its time. It can also show viewers, including younger viewers, that you should stand up for yourself, even in a medical setting.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The adoption subplot: Throughout the film, Frank and Carole Deford plan on adopting a child. This decision comes after the death of their daughter, Alex. In real life, the Deford family did adopt their youngest daughter, Scarlet. But this information was not included in the film’s source material, which was published in 1983. Scarlet’s adoption was addressed when Frank’s book was re-released in 1997, a decade after the film premiered. Because a good amount of the movie focused on this subplot, it took away focus from Alex’s part of the story, even though the film is titled Alex: The Life of a Child.
No acknowledgment for the Deford family’s involvement with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: According to Frank Deford’s bio on Goodreads, “he became involved in cystic fibrosis education and advocacy after his daughter, Alexandra (“Alex”) was diagnosed with the illness in the early 1970s”. Frank even became a chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Unfortunately, none of this information is included in the film. In fact, the aforementioned foundation is never brought up. I know there’s only so much story you can tell in an hour and thirty-three minutes. However, I wish this part of the story was included in a subplot instead of the adoption subplot.
Unclear time period: Similar to the book, the movie is told from Frank’s perspective, as he recalls Alex’s short life. Because of the visual nature of film, the audience witnesses some of these moments brought to life. But since the presentation of the “past” scenes doesn’t look much different from the “present” scenes, it was sometimes difficult to determine what part of the story was being told. For the sake of the film, I think the story should have been told in chronological order.
My overall impression:
Back in April, I reviewed Brian’s Song. In that review, I said I wasn’t as emotionally affected by the movie as I thought I would be. This is because I was familiar with Brian and Gale’s story before watching the film, which prevented me from becoming caught off-guard by the emotional, sadder moments in the story. I ended up having a similar experience while watching Alex: The Life of a Child. As I mentioned in this review, I have read the source material prior to seeing its adaptation. Therefore, I already knew how Alex’s story would play out. From what I remember of the book, I do feel the film was respectful to Frank’s text. I also think the strong acting performances worked in the movie’s favor. Alex: The Life of a Child is a fine, competently made television film. But if you’ve read the book, you’ve already seen the movie.
Overall score: 7.1-7.2 out of 10
Have you seen or read Alex: The Life of a Child? Is there a “based on a true story” movie you’re a fan of? Let me know in the comment section!
For my World Television Day Blogathon, I was originally going to review one of the books in the Murder, She Wrote series. But with the recent passing of Angela Lansbury, I thought it would be a bit too soon. Therefore, I decided to write about the top ten characters who didn’t reach their full potential instead. What does it mean for a character to reach their “full potential”? In my opinion, it means a character is given the opportunity to reach their goals, make their dreams come true, and allow their stories to be told to a satisfying extent. Unfortunately, some characters are denied these opportunities for various reasons. This list will address the characters I wish had received their full potential. For the sake of this discussion, I will focus on characters who appeared in television shows or made-for-tv movies. While there are some characters I have talked about before, I tried to include those I never talked about on 18 Cinema Lane. There will also be spoilers for the television shows and movies discussed in this list.
1. Matthew Rogers from Little House on the Prairie
Yes, I’m starting this list with a character I’ve written part of an editorial about. However, I feel there’s an argument to be made for Matthew not reaching his full potential. On Little House on the Prairie, he was introduced in the show’s last season. Within that season, Matthew only appeared in a total of three episodes, departing in the series finale. This left him with little to no time to reach his full potential. Meanwhile, characters such as Albert Ingalls, Willie Oleson, and even Nancy Oleson had their potential recognized because they were introduced in earlier seasons. Had Matthew made his debut in, say, season seven, his chances to reach his full potential may have been stronger.
2. Jamey Farrell from 24
24 was released during a very interesting time. It was almost ten years after the premiere of Jurassic Park, a film that showed Dr. Ian Malcolm breaking the mold of a “geek/nerd”. But 24 was also released almost ten years prior to Iron Man, when the idea of the “cool geek/nerd” would be fully embraced by the media. Before Robert Downey Jr. accepted the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man, Karina Arroyave portrayed Jamey on 24. A beautiful, intelligent, and charismatic woman, Jamey had the potential to be the Dr. Ian Malcolm of the show. In fact, I think if the show’s writers had allowed her to reach her full potential, Jamey could have been the reason why the media embraced the “cool geek/nerd” idea a lot sooner than they did. As the events of 24’s first season unfolded, though, Jamey’s sparkling personality became watered down and her unique attire morphed into looking just like every other employee. Becoming a villain and dying after appearing in ten episodes ended all chances of Jamey reaching her full potential.
3. Jiggy Nye from Felicity: An American Girl Adventure
Another character I’ve written an editorial about joins this list. In the 2005 made-for-tv film, Jiggy was presented more as a victim than a villain. This is because he didn’t come across as a big enough threat to the protagonist. It also doesn’t help how Jiggy’s backstory was poorly incorporated into the script. Felicity: An American Girl Adventure is based on a six-book series. Like any adaptation, changes were made between books and film. When it comes to Jiggy’s part of the story, though, it seems like he received the short end of the stick. From a writing perspective, he deserved so much better.
4. Libby from Lost
Out of all the characters from Lost to not receive their full potential, especially those from season two, Libby is the one you can make the strongest argument for. Introduced as one of the “Tailies”, there was so much mystery and intrigue surrounding her and her story. When Libby and Hurley started a romantic relationship, things seemed to be going well with her character development. Sadly, Libby’s story was short-lived, as she died toward the end of the second season. Because of her departure, none of the mysteries surrounding her were ever addressed. Libby never even received any flashbacks.
5. Amédée Chevalier from Hallmark Hall of Fame’s O Pioneers!
I first mentioned Amédée in my review of the 1992 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. In his limited appearance in the movie, he had so much potential. From his athleticism to his charisma, Amédée could go anywhere and be anyone he wanted. Sadly, his story was cut short due to dying off-screen of appendicitis. From the information I’ve found about Amédée, he only made three appearances in the book. This makes me wonder if his full potential was always meant to be denied?
6. Captain Lynch and Judy from Crusoe
Long before 18 Cinema Lane existed, there was a television adaptation called Crusoe. In the season premiere, Captain Lynch and Judy arrived on Robinson’s island. Similar to Libby from Lost, Judy and Captain Lynch were surrounded in mystery and intrigue. But toward the end of the season premiere, these characters departed from the show. While Captain Lynch died, Judy was taken away by the Royal Naval Police, never to be seen again. It also didn’t help how Crusoe survived for only one season.
7. Barry Klemper from Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Boys Next Door
I always thought there was an argument to be made for Barry Klemper’s full potential in the 1996 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. A photogenic and articulate man, Barry had a passion for golf, which he kept alive at his job at a driving range. Had he received a more one-on-one, individualized approach to his care, I honestly think Barry could have lived a, somewhat, independent life. But all that momentum Barry had was destroyed when his father showed up and intimidated him. This interaction caused Barry to spend the remainder of the story in a psychiatric hospital. The Boys Next Door is based on a play that I have not read or seen in its entirety, so I’m not sure how respectful the adaptation is to its source material. All I know is Barry Klemper not reaching his full potential is, in my opinion, heart-breaking.
8. Moon from Cedar Cove
The proprietor of Moon’s Café, Moon is one of the most important characters of the 2013 Hallmark Channel show. Along with coffee and baked goods, Moon serves up wisdom to those who will provide a listening ear. I even recall one episode where he claimed he was adopted. This tidbit could have opened the doors to a compelling story for Moon. But during Cedar Cove’s three season run, Moon, more often than not, was overshadowed by the other characters and their stories. Since the show ended in 2015, there have been no announced plans to release a Cedar Cove movie or reunion special. Hallmark’s lack of interest in revisiting their first scripted show leaves Moon with no more chances to reach his full potential.
9. Harris Trinsky from Freaks and Geeks
After watching some episodes of Freaks and Geeks, Harris has become my favorite character from the show. His “wise beyond his years” perspective make him a character the “geeks” can trust and others can respect. Harris also had a lot going for him, from his intelligence to his interest in Dungeons & Dragons. Unfortunately, Freaks and Geeks lasted for only one season. The fact Harris was a recurring character didn’t help his case either, as he appeared in ten of the show’s eighteen episodes.
10. Jesse and Clara from When Calls the Heart
When I was creating this list, I, at first, didn’t think there were any characters from When Calls the Heart who didn’t reach their full potential. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized Jesse and Clara fit my list’s criteria. Clara came to Hope Valley in season two, still healing from a broken heart. Season three saw the arrival of Jesse, seeking a second chance after living a life of crime. When Clara and Jesse became a couple, they had their whole lives and relationship ahead of them. But the longer they stayed on the show, the more overshadowed they became. Jesse and Clara were given few good stories during their time on When Calls the Heart. They were also denied the outdoor wedding of their dreams. Clara and Jesse were written out of the show after season seven.
Rebecca from Taking Up Room has great blogathon ideas, hence why these events are so fun to participate in! The latest event, The Fake Teenager Festivus Blogathon, is no exception. For this blogathon, participants are asked to pick a movie or show featuring young adults, older teenagers, or older adults who have portrayed teenagers. As soon as I read the blogathon rules, I immediately thought of Charlie Plummer’s portrayal of Adam in Words on Bathroom Walls. Charlie was born in 1999, which means by the time of the film’s release in 2020, he was 21 years old. Words on Bathroom Walls is about a high school senior with Schizophrenia. I first started talking about this film in 2019, when I mentioned it in my Book Adaptation Tag post. In my Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish List that year, I wished the film would receive a distributor, a studio that would release the movie. When the film received a distributor and release date the following year, I meant to get around to watching the movie. With Rebecca’s blogathon, I have an excuse to finally review Words on Bathroom Walls!
Things I liked about the film:
Interactions between characters: When it comes to interactions among characters, they are only as good as the actors and actresses portraying those characters. In the Words on Bathroom Walls adaptation, the cast was strong, which allowed their characters’ interactions to appear believable! The interactions between Adam and Maya serve as one example. Adam’s friend, Maya, comes over to his house to tutor him. When she enters Adam’s room, Maya discovers his collection of cookbooks. This leads to a verbal match, both Adam and Maya sharing their greatest achievements in good fun. Throughout the film, Charlie Plummer portrays Adam with a laid-back personality. Taylor Russell brings to life Maya’s studiousness, direct, and confident demeanor. Their interactions showcase how Adam’s and Maya’s personality are compatible, despite the fact they are the opposite of one another.
Seeing what’s in Adam’s mind: In the Words on Bathroom Walls book, Adam goes into detail how his Schizophrenia diagnosis impacts him and his world. His honesty about his diagnosis gives the story a sense of realism. But with Words on Bathroom Walls being adapted into a movie, the story gained the opportunity to visually present what goes on in Adam’s mind. At various moments of the story, Adam sees three people, who are his hallucinations. When he starts a new medication, these hallucinations begin to disappear. But the way their disappearance happens on screen looks like a technological glitch, a slow and steady process instead of instantaneous. This not only gave the audience something interesting to look at, it allowed them to gain some understanding into Adam’s experiences.
Breaking the fourth wall: Adam’s story in the Words on Bathroom Walls book is presented through the notes of a therapist. This literary approach made the story feel like Adam was speaking directly with the reader, as if he was having a private conversation with them. Adam’s therapy sessions are included in the adaptation. Because these sessions are only shown in certain parts of the film, they give Adam the opportunity to break the fourth wall. These moments still contain the honesty, emotion, and even humor I came to like about the book. The fourth wall being broken felt reminiscent of the book’s direct storytelling. This translation between adaptation and source material worked in the story’s favor!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Father Patrick’s inconsistent presence: Father Patrick is a movie exclusive character in Words on Bathroom Walls. He serves as a mentor figure to Adam, giving him advice and words of wisdom. I liked this dynamic between these characters, as there were no mentor figures at St. Agatha’s Catholic School in the book. However, Father Patrick only appeared in about four scenes total. I wish he had appeared in some more scenes, especially since the character himself was so well written and acted.
Adam’s limited perspective on Catholicism: One of the best parts of the Words on Bathroom Wallsbook was Adam’s perspective on Catholicism. In the story, Adam attends St. Agatha’s Catholic School, despite his decision to not adopt the religion. Reading Adam’s thoughts on Catholicism provided an insight that isn’t often included in stories featuring religious affiliated schools. In the adaptation, Adam’s perspective on Catholicism was featured. But its inclusion was so limited, it was watered down, compared to the book.
Toned down humor: What makes Adam such a likable character in Words on Bathroom Walls is his sense of humor. Julia Walton, the author of the book, gives the protagonist a drier sense of humor that contains a hint of sarcasm. However, Adam’s sense of humor was never depicted as mean-spirited or disrespectful. What Julia also does is provide a good balance between a humorous and serious tone. The adaptation prioritizes the story’s serious tone instead of trying to achieve the aforementioned balance. I know that mental illness/Schizophrenia is a topic that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But I think that balance between seriousness and humor was better executed in the book.
My overall impression:
No matter how good or bad an adaptation is, there are bound to be changes between text and visual piece of entertainment. Words on Bathroom Walls is no exception to this, as I noticed several changes among both media. But despite these changes, the Words on Bathroom Walls adaptation was, more often than not, respectful to its source material. This is one of the reasons why I liked this film! The strength of the cast’s acting abilities worked in the movie’s favor. It allowed believable interactions between the characters. Interesting film-making techniques were incorporated into the project, such as the special effects. This enhanced the visual presentation of what goes on in Adam’s mind. Looking back on this movie, it seems like it is one of the more underrated adaptations. Why that is, I have no idea.
Overall score: 8.3 out of 10
Have you seen or read Words on Bathroom Walls? Are there any adaptations you’d like me to see and/or read? Let me know in the comment section!
The day you’ve been waiting for is finally here; the World Television Day Blogathon! Since the dawn of television, this particular medium has become a staple in popular culture. Through this lens, history has been recorded and memories have been made, giving people a way to look back on the past. Television’s broad landscape has provided something for everyone, from cozy mystery shows to beloved musical competitions. In this blogathon, various television related topics will be showcased. Each entry highlights different decades, made-for-tv movies, and shows, illustrating the importance of World Television Day!
When we talk about book-to-film adaptations, we are quick to point out how both pieces of media are different. Some of these differences can lead to insightful conversations between the fans and the casual audience. Other differences can cause a negative reaction, from readers walking out of the theater mid-film to Youtube videos showcasing fans’ rants and complaints. But one topic I haven’t heard addressed is why these changes between book and film likely happened. This topic can be applied to any adaptation. For the sake of my editorial, though, I’m writing about Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising. Back in June, I published a list of the top ten movies I’d love to, one day, review. The 2001 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie was on that list. Because I own a copy of Larry Baker’s novel, I thought it would be interesting to read the book after I saw the movie. Now that I’ve consumed both pieces of media, I have gained an understanding for why Hallmark likely made the changes they did. There are four main reasons why The Flamingo Rising’s book is different from its adaptation, which will be explored in this editorial. This article contains spoilers for the story of The Flamingo Rising.
Abraham Isaac Lee is the protagonist of The Flamingo Rising. In Larry Baker’s novel, Abraham takes a biographical approach to telling the story, reflecting on various moments that occurred in his life. He even goes into detail about the history of his parents and Grace’s parents. According to IMDB, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising has an hour and thirty-four-minute run-time. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, that run-time gives a film’s creative team only so much time to tell a story. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s adaptation of The Flamingo Rising condensed the events in Abraham’s and his family’s life. The book explains how Hubert, Abraham’s father, purchased the land for The Flamingo Drive-In before Abraham and his sister, Louise, were adopted. While Hubert was a soldier in the Korean War, he sent building plans and business ideas to his wife, Edna, who was put in charge of putting those plans into fruition. The purchase of the land and creation of The Flamingo Drive-In, in the movie, took place long after Hubert left the military and in a shorter amount of time. Both Abraham and Louise are teenagers for the majority of the movie, with only one flashback showing the siblings as babies.
There are many characters in The Flamingo Rising. While reflecting on his life, Abraham takes the time to explain who each person in his life is, as well as giving these people a significant presence in the story. Most of these characters were present in The Flamingo Rising movie. But because the film’s run-time is an hour and thirty-four-minutes, their parts of the story were reduced. Abraham’s sister, Louise, is one of these characters. The book reveals Louise grew up to become an actress, as Abraham claims she had the talent for it. In one scene, Louise expresses interest in flying in Harry “Judge” Lester’s plane. This interest was sparked by a promise Hubert made to his children. The movie’s script, however, never addresses why Louise wants to fly with “Judge”. In fact, the audience never sees her flying in “Judge’s” plane. When it comes to Louise’s acting, it was only mentioned once throughout the movie. During a conversation between Abraham and his friend, Gary, Abraham mentions how his sister wants to be an actress someday.
From what I’ve heard over the years, a typical made-for-TV movie costs somewhere between one to three million dollars. While that sounds like a lot of money to the average movie blogger, that amount is actually on the lower end of the financial spectrum, when it comes to making movies. If the aforementioned millions were the budget for Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising, it would explain why some parts of the source material were cut from the movie. In the book, Abraham shares his family had a temperamental dog named Frank. This dog was so unstable, he not only bit Louise, he was forced to live in an empty room above Abraham’s room, due to the dog’s behavior. In the film, however, Frank the dog is nowhere to be seen and is never acknowledged by any of the characters. If a movie’s creative team chooses to include an animal in their production, the training, veterinary care, and other related expenses will need to be factored into the overall budget. Working with an animal trainer also requires time, something the creative team behind The Flamingo Rising only had so much to spend. Therefore, the inclusion of Frank the dog was an expense the adaptation’s creative team likely thought was unnecessary.
Location scouting is a film-making component also affected by a creative team’s budget. Like I said in my editorial, ‘Redwood Curtain’: From Stage to Screen, a location scout might not be able to secure a location similar to one described in the source material. Even if they succeeded, there’s a process in order to film at a residential building, especially if it’s someone’s real-life home. This process, along with the budget, is the probable reason why the funeral home has a different appearance in the movie than described in the book. Larry Baker’s novel gives the West Funeral Home the look of a “Southern plantation style house”, complete with white columns and Jeffersonian arches. The Home also contains a garage full of hearses and limousines. The Flamingo Rising’s adaptation gives the funeral home a different exterior. Referred to as the Knight Funeral Home in the movie, the facility boasts a bungalow style in a dark green hue. The Home’s garage is not shown on-screen. However, the Home itself does feature a full-sized porch. The funeral home’s interior has more appearances in the book than in the movie. In fact, the only time the Lee family enter the Knight Funeral Home is shortly after Edna dies. For those two scenes, the creative team may have filmed them on a set, away from the building that portrayed the funeral home.
Appropriateness of Content
For many years, Hallmark garnered a reputation for presenting themselves as a “family-friendly” company. This has been reflected in their programming, including their Hallmark Hall of Fame productions. As someone who’s read The Flamingo Rising book, I’ll be the first person to say there are some parts of the story that are not “Hallmark appropriate”. One of these parts is Louise’s social life. Abraham, in the novel, recalls how, one night at The Flamingo Drive-In, Louise snuck out with some male college students. During this interaction, these males attempt to take advantage of her. Even though Louise is saved just in time by some of the drive-in’s employees, the ordeal is a frightening one. This event is not included in the movie. The only older characters Louise is friends with are Polly and Alice, who all happen to work at the drive-in. It should also be noted that Abraham and Gary are the only male characters Louise hangs out with in the film.
Louise’s story was not the only one to change in Hallmark’s efforts to keep the adaptation “Hallmark appropriate”. Polly, an employee of The Flamingo Drive-In, is a very problematic character in the book. A reason for this is due to her racism. Polly expresses how she didn’t like her high school becoming integrated. She also thinks Abraham is “too brown”, causing Abraham to have self-image related issues. Even though Polly’s role in the movie is smaller, she never comes across as racist. In fact, racism is never addressed in the film. Polly, along with Alice, appear to get along with both Abraham and Louise. Alice, throughout her time at the drive-in, gives Abraham advice and looks out for him, like an older sibling would look out for their younger brother or sister.
When an author creates a story, they sometimes don’t consider how that work could be translated to film or television. If that author’s work does receive an adaptation, the casting can dictate how the story changes. Abraham describes Alice Kite, in the book, as being “as tall as my mother”. Edna is six feet tall in the novel. Because of her height, Alice wore baggy jeans and shirts, never shorts. Elizabeth McGovern and Angela Bettis were cast as Edna and Alice in the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation. According to IMDB, Elizabeth is 5’7, while Angela is 5’3. Alice wardrobe’s, in the movie, included tank tops and shorts. This creative decision was likely made to compliment Angela’s height.
In both the book and movie, Grace looks like her mother. Turner, Grace’s father, tells Edna, in the film, “she looks just like her”, referring to his daughter’s resemblance of his late wife. But Grace’s mother never makes an on-screen appearance, as she dies before the movie’s events. Therefore, The Flamingo Rising’s creative team cast an actress that resembled the actor portraying Turner. William Hurt portrayed the owner of Knight Funeral Home. He appears blonde in the film, despite his character having “coal-black hair” in the book. Erin Broderick was cast as Grace, though it isn’t known if Erin or William was recruited to the movie first.
When I reviewed the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, O Pioneers!, back in July, I said that story should have been adapted into a multi-part mini-series or a television show. That’s because I felt an hour and thirty-seven minutes was not enough time to tell a story with that many moving parts. I feel similarly about The Flamingo Rising. Because Abraham, in the book, is reflecting on his life, there are a lot of characters and plot points included in the text. With the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation being an hour and thirty-four-minutes, Larry Baker’s story was forced to be condensed.
There are several parts of The Flamingo Rising book that were either omitted or changed in the adaptation, due to these parts not being “Hallmark appropriate”. With that said, it makes wonder why Hallmark Hall of Fame chose to adapt Larry Baker’s novel over a story that was more “Hallmark appropriate”? This situation kind of reminds me of when Hallmark Channel adapted At Home in Mitford. Last September, I reviewed the 2017 film for one of my double features. After reading the book and watching its adaptation, I came to the conclusion the network wasattempting to fit a round peg into a square hole, trying so hard to fit At Home in Mitford into their brand of film-making. Perhaps something similar happened to The Flamingo Rising, causing history to repeat itself sixteen years later?
While looking through some of my movie reviews from last year, I came to the realization I only wrote about two Christmas films. To make up for that, I will make a greater effort this year to review more Christmas movies. As it was Veteran’s Day two days ago, I decided the first Christmas film review of 2022 would be for USS Christmas! In the two years since its release, I’ve heard good things about this particular Hallmark picture. The network also has a pretty consistent track record when it comes to their military related Christmas titles. This is not the first time I’ve talked about USS Christmas. Back in 2020, I wrote a Word on the Street story about the project. I mentioned that the only Tiger Cruise movie I knew of was the 2004 Disney Channel movie, Tiger Cruise. Therefore, USS Christmas was filling a creative void that hadn’t been revisited in over ten years.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Jen Lilley portrays the protagonist, Maddie. Her reason for joining the Tiger Cruise was to spend Christmas with her sister, Amelia, who was portrayed by Stefanie Butler. I really liked the on-screen camaraderie between the sisters! While sharing breakfast at a local restaurant, Amelia and Maddie talk about a variety of subjects. Throughout their conversation, Jen’s and Stefanie’s facial expressions changed with fluidity. The actresses also had nice on-screen chemistry, giving the impression the sisters got along really well. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of Trevor Donovan’s movies. However, I have always thought he was one of Hallmark’s strongest actors. In USS Christmas, Trevor portrayed Lt. Billy Jenkins. At the start of the story, Billy is distant with Maddie, maintaining a sense of professionalism. As the film continues, a kind hearted, more spontaneous side to Billy breaks forth. This progression in Billy’s personality was well executed through Trevor’s acting talents! The naturalness of this progression allowed Billy’s part of the story to be believable.
The set design: Like any Hallmark Christmas film, USS Christmas contained its fair share of seasonal décor. But it was the way this décor was incorporated into the set design that caught my eye. When Maddie’s family has their first dinner on the Tiger Cruise, the dining room is surrounded by white walls. White and blue Christmas decorations are placed in the background, from a blue garland to a white Christmas tree with blue ornaments. These complimentary hues added a sense of elegance to this space! Garland was a nice touch to other sets. A traditional green garland paired with red ornaments and bows was framed around the dark wood windows of the Jenkin family home. A similar looking garland framed the kitchen window of the Contino family home, a room that contained white cabinets. That garland shows how a simple Christmas decoration can complement various different spaces!
The mystery: Mysteries are uncommon in Hallmark’s Christmas films. So, the inclusion of a mystery in USS Christmas was a pleasant addition! In an effort to write a story about finding love on a Tiger Cruise, Maddie finds a journal written by a man named Sam. In this journal, Sam talks about falling in love with a woman named Dorothy. Maddie and Billy spend the rest of the movie searching for Dorothy and Sam, going on a journey to figure out what happened to this couple. While I won’t reveal what Billy and Maddie discover, I will say the mystery itself was intriguing! It gave me a reason to stay invested in the story.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The Tiger Cruise itself getting overshadowed: It’s been years since I’ve seen Tiger Cruise. From what I remember, the cruise itself was focused on to the point where it was its own character. With USS Christmas, I felt the cruise was overshadowed by the mystery of Sam and Dorothy. As I already said in this review, I liked the mystery in this story. However, that part was prioritized above everything else. When Maddie and Billy go to New York, I thought, “Wait, isn’t this movie supposed to be about the Tiger Cruise”?
Underutilized characters: On the Tiger Cruise, Charlotte is boarding alongside her brother, who is a member of the U.S.S. Polaris. Because Charlotte is also a writer, I assumed she would help Maddie in her quest to find Sam and Dorothy. Unfortunately, Charlotte and her brother briefly appeared in the film for about three scenes. These are just two characters I feel were underutilized.
Inconsistent use of Easter Eggs: The inclusion of Easter Eggs can be a nice treat for viewers and, if done right, can be cleverly woven into the story. There were some nice Easter Eggs in USS Christmas. But I was confused what the overarching direction for these Easter Eggs was. Toward the beginning of the movie, I found a few Easter Eggs related to It’s a Wonderful Life, as Maddie says that is her favorite Christmas film. Throughout the movie, there were at least two Easter Eggs referencing Top Gun. I even caught an Easter Egg connected to Hallmark itself. I wish the film’s creative team had chosen one topic for their Easter Eggs and consistently stuck with it.
My overall impression:
As I said in the introduction, Hallmark has a pretty consistent track record when it comes to their military related Christmas titles. While some of these titles have been better than others, I haven’t seen a military related Hallmark Christmas movie that was bad or disappointing. With USS Christmas, it was a nice, pleasant film. It isn’t an instant classic for me or a new favorite movie. But, for what it was, USS Christmas was fine. Hallmark’s efforts to tell more creative stories seems to be an exception to the rule. So, I appreciate how the creative team behind USS Christmas strove to create a type of story that isn’t common in entertainment media. It also helps how a mystery was incorporated into the film, as mysteries aren’t often found in Hallmark’s Christmas offerings. I’ve heard Jen Lilley and Trevor Donovan have begun appearing in Great American Family’s (GAF) movies. I’ll have to check out their films from that network!
Overall score: 7.1 out of 10
Have you seen USS Christmas? Which military related Hallmark Christmas movie do you like? Let me know in the comment section!
Ok, so you probably read the title of my editorial and thought, “Sally, don’t you know Das Sound Machine is not a real musical group”? Readers who are familiar with Eurovision will likely think, “Isn’t Germany planning on hosting a national contest”? As of November 9th, 2022, Germany’s national broadcasters, NDR/ARD, have announced their plans to host a national final “in early March”, according to Eurovoix News. The application process for potential representatives is currently open. There’s even the likelihood of the broadcasters seeking out artists and their respective record labels to participate in the selection. With Germany still looking for a Eurovision representative, I think it would be really cool if the cast members who portrayed Das Sound Machine in Pitch Perfect 2 represented Germany in Eurovision next year! It sounds like a pipe dream on paper. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I realized how my idea could realistically work. Before I explain how Das Sound Machine could compete in 2023’s Eurovision, I’d like to first explain why this plan should work.
Germany Desperately Needs a Showstopper
In 2023, there will be thirty-seven countries participating in Eurovision. Twenty-six of those countries will compete in the grand final, with Germany being one of them. Even though Germany automatically qualifies for the grand final, because they are one of the “Big Five” countries, they still need to stand out with a memorable entry. But if Germany is serious about their chances at Eurovision success, they need an entry that will stand out for the right reasons. In 2021, Germany placed second to last in the grand final, with a total of three points. This year, Germany received last place with only six points. As NDR/ARD searches for the perfect representative, they can use that desperation to not get a low score as motivation to submit the best entry possible. Germany was not the only country in 2021’s grand final to receive disappointing results. The United Kingdom didn’t receive any points, while Spain only got six points. The following year, Spain and the United Kingdom sent Chanel and Sam Ryder to Eurovision, who both placed in the top three.
There Has Never Been an A Capella Entry at Eurovision
Over Eurovision’s fifty plus year history, a variety of musical genres have been represented. But according to my research, no country has ever submitted an a capella entry. If Germany were to select Das Sound Machine to represent them next year, an original a capella number would not only bring something new to Eurovision’s table, it would give Germany a chance to try something different. According to an article from Wiwibloggs, this year’s national final, Unser Lied für Turin, was not met with favorable results. This is because of “the lack of variety within the songs but also for its production”. Before 2021, Italy had neversent an entry that was strictly rock. Sure, their entries may have contained elements of rock. ButMåneskin and their song, “Zitti e buoni”, was the first rock group Italy selected for Eurovision. This huge musical risk led to huge rewards, as Italy not only won Eurovision for the first time since 1990, but Måneskin has also found success after their song contest victory. The public’s response to Unser Lied für Turin and Italy’s recent Eurovision achievements should encourage Germany to think outside the box.
Das Sound Machine’s Performance Abilities
Das Sound Machine was given only two performances in Pitch Perfect 2: their Car Show number and their World Championship Finale number. Despite these limited performance opportunities, Das Sound Machine uses their talent to create what is, in my opinion, the best moments of the film! While reflecting on these two performances, there are three key elements that could help Das Sound Machine at Eurovision. The first is their energy! As I said earlier in this editorial, there will be twenty-six countries competing in the grand final. From what I’ve heard, the grand final’s run-time can reach up to four hours. Having performers who can consistently maintain a high energy level during their performance would keep viewers both in the stadium and at home invested in the show.
Das Sound Machine’s second key element is their mastery of the choreography! Because Eurovision is a live show, representatives need to give the audience something interesting to look at. Whether it’s dance routines, large scale props, or cool special effects, these ingredients could work in a representative’s favor. Based on Das Sound Machine’s aforementioned performances, each member displays control over their body, allowing every movement to stay parallel to the beats within the songs. This understanding between the physical and the musical showcase Das Sound Machine’s musicality. The third key element is the group’s creativity! During their World Championship Finale number, Das Sound Machine had very few props at their disposal. Instead of seeing it as a limitation, they used this as an opportunity to be creative! While performing Fall Out Boy’s “Light Em Up”, some Das Sound Machine members got into a strategic formation, coming together to create a ship. Other members of Das Sound Machine stood on either side of the formation, giving the appearance of water.
After seeing Pitch Perfect 2 for the first time, I remember thinking, “I wish Das Sound Machine was a real group”. Whenever I think about that movie, I always feel Das Sound Machine is the much stronger group than the Barden Bellas. If I get the opportunity to watch Pitch Perfect 2, I only watch the scenes featuring Das Sound Machine. It seems like I’m not the only one who feels this way. On the Youtube channel, King Samo, there are two videos featuring Das Sound Machine’s performances. In the comment sections of these videos, over a thousand commenters praised Das Sound Machine. Most of the comments were about how the group should have won the film’s World Championship. But there are other commenters who simply want to express their love for Das Sound Machine. Three commenters on the World Championship Finale video have made the following comments this year:
As a German person it’s insanely hilarious to me how every other country seams to think of us as this overly perfect nation when really, we’re not comparable with incredible groups like “Das Sound Machine“ at all. Just look at our contestants for the Eurovision Song Contest. We embarrass ourselves everytime. So can we please have them perform for us this year?
If DSM were a real group they would’ve won Eurovision and they would of deserved to win.
this would win the eurovision
As the comment section of the aforementioned videos show, there is built-in enthusiasm for Das Sound Machine. If Germany sent Das Sound Machine to Eurovision next year with a strong, original a capella number, that could translate well for grand final televoting.
How This Could Work
According to official Eurovision rules, the maximum number of group members is six. This means Das Sound Machine couldn’t have the number of members they did in Pitch Perfect 2. From an a capella perspective, though, a six-person group could still create a strong original number. According to Wikipedia, only two Pitch Perfect 2 cast members are listed as official members of Das Sound Machine: Flula Borg and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen. NDR/ARD would recruit four German a capella singers to accompany Flula and Birgitte. If Das Sound Machine were selected to represent Germany at next year’s Eurovision, expenses related to the contest would be co-funded by NDR/ARD and Universal Music Group, as Das Sound Machine was created specifically for Pitch Perfect 2. Universal Music Group is Universal Studio’s music label. On their website, there are eight German music labels associated with Universal Music Group. If possible, more than one of these labels could help fund any Eurovision expenses.
As of early to mid November, 2022, only three participating countries have chosen their representative. About half of the participating countries are planning on hosting a national contest. With the weeks leading up to Eurovision, it’s exciting to hear who will be selected to compete. This anticipation reminds me of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, as the golden tickets are waiting to be discovered. Unlike Ronald Dahl’s story, receiving a “golden ticket” to Eurovision is not as simple as tearing open the wrapper of a candy bar. Each participating country has their own process of choosing their representative. Even if they do choose to host a national contest, various factors go into making that event a reality. My idea of Das Sound Machine representing Germany at 2023’s Eurovision is just that: an idea. Even if Das Sound Machine were selected to participate in Unser Lied für Liverpool, there’s no guarantee they’ll be granted that “golden ticket”. But no matter who ends up representing Germany next year, I still believe Das Sound Machine should receive their “standing ovation”. So NDR/ARD, if you’re reading this, will you consider giving Das Sound Machine their Eurovision “golden ticket”?
Have fun at Eurovision!
Here are the link to the sources for this editorial:
Even though Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups just started about two weeks ago, the network may be planning ahead for next year’s seasonal programming. While on IMDB recently, I stumbled upon a movie listing for what could be an upcoming Hallmark production. According to this listing, which I included a screenshot of in my article, there appears to be a third Gift to Remember film in the pre-production stage. As of the publication of this Word on the Street story, Hallmark has not made any official announcements about their film related projects for 2023. However, if ‘Gift to Remember 3’ (the project’s current working title) is going to be created, then this would fit a trend Hallmark has been practicing this decade. Since last year, Hallmark has been creating sequels for films that premiered several years ago. Some examples are the following:
The Nine Kittens of Christmas – Sequel to 2014’s The Nine Lives of Christmas
Debbie Macomber’s A Mrs. Miracle Christmas – Continuation of the Mrs. Miracle series, last film aired was 2014’s Debbie Macomber’s Mr. Miracle
A Cozy Christmas Inn — Sequel to 2014’s Christmas Under Wraps
The first film in the Gift to Remember story, A Gift to Remember, was released in 2017. Its sequel, Cherished Memories: A Gift to Remember 2, premiered in 2019. In place of ‘Gift to Remember 3’s poster, the cover for Melissa Hill’s stand-alone novel, The Gift of a Lifetime, is featured on IMDB. Since two of Melissa’s books, A Gift to Remember and The Charm Bracelet, have been adapted into Hallmark films, it would make sense if the network adapted The Gift of a Lifetime into a movie. But it does make me wonder if ‘Gift to Remember 3’ will incorporate elements from The Gift of a Lifetime’s story or if The Gift of a Lifetime will be its own film? While looking back on the aforementioned sequels, I realized they were continuations of movies that first aired in 2014. As of the publication of this Word on the Street story, nine Hallmark Channel Christmas movies from that year have not received sequels. I not only question why the network would choose 2014 specifically on focus their sequel efforts on, but also which 2014 film, if any, will be the next to receive a second chapter?
What are your thoughts on this potential piece of movie news? What book of Melissa Hill’s would you like to see adapted into a film? Please tell me in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!
Here is the link to ‘Gift to Remember 3’s page on IMDB: