As Christmas is just around the corner, it’s time for me to publish my annual Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List! For those who are new to 18 Cinema Lane, I post a Christmas related article in honor of the holiday to sharing the things I, as a movie blogger, would like to receive as Christmas gifts. This is a tradition I started back in 2018. While I know I won’t get most of the items on my list, I try to choose those that seem realistic. Because my blog primarily revolves around movies, I pick “gifts” that have something to do with film. Unless I say otherwise, the screenshots were taken taken by me. If you’d like to read my previous Christmas wish-lists, I will provide the links here:
In 2020, Hallmark didn’t release any new Hallmark Hall of Fame movies. The on-going Coronavirus is likely one of the reasons why this was the case. Due to the lack of Hallmark Hall of Fame films this year, I’d like to see Hallmark create four new HHoF presentations in 2021 to make up for this. I feel that Hallmark has what it takes to tell interesting stories through visually appealing and captivating projects, something I’ve mentioned at various moments on my blog. If they chose to make four new HHoF movies, each story could revolve around a different seasonal component. The first film could have something to do with either St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, or Memorial Day, as those holidays are set around springtime. As the second film might be released during the summer, Fourth of July or Father’s Day could have a primary place in the plot. Because Halloween or Thanksgiving movies from Hallmark are far and few between, the third HHoF film might focus on those holidays. Since Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas movies have a staple in the collection, the last film of the aforementioned four would revolve around Christmas. If Hallmark could create forty new Christmas movies among two networks during a pandemic, then they can find the time to release four new Hallmark Hall of Fame films in 2021.
Something You Need to See
Since I’ve talked about this subject at length before, I won’t repeat myself. All I’ll say is that I want the Tim Pope cut of The Crow: City of Angels to see the light of day. For me, this is more than just re-releasing a decades old movie. It’s about consumer advocacy and respecting the cinematic creative process. As of mid-to-late December 2020, my editorial about this topic has received over 200 views! This means a lot to me because it shows that that many people care about this particular issue. Hopefully, Paramount (the studio who owns the distribution rights to The Crow: City of Angels) hears our voices and releases this version of the film. If you would like to read my aforementioned editorial, here’s the link:
A movie related piece of clothing or accessory I’d want to wear
Similar to last year’s Christmas Wish-List, I have two choices for this category. The first is the cargo slim jeans from Perry Mason Returns! This pair of pants was worn by a gas station employee Perry’s assistant, Paul, interacts with toward the end of the movie. What I like about this pair of pants is how they appear to be a different style of cargo pants that isn’t common. Also, I think it’s cool how the pockets are big enough to fit a rolled up readable magazine. The second is the silver pair of pants Barbara Niven’s character, Joan, wears in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Promise. That is one of the coolest pairs of pants I’ve ever seen! Whenever Joan moved from location to location, the pants always shined. It is definitely an ‘80s piece that I would love to have in my wardrobe.
A book I’ve read that I’d like to see adapted into a film
Instead of talking about one book like I have in the past, I will talk about two of them. Both Hallmark Hall of Fame and BYU-TV have done a good job creating historical/period films in years prior. Because of this, To Stand On My Own: The Polio Epidemic Diary of Noreen Robertson would make a good presentation from either network, as the story takes place in the 1930s! While reading this book back in May, I couldn’t help noticing several parallels between the polio epidemic described in the book and the Coronavirus pandemic the world experienced in 2020. Just to provide one example, Noreen, the narrator of the story, discusses how some businesses were closed to the public and how there were periods of quarantine. If Hallmark or BYU-TV wanted to create a film in response to the Coronavirus, this particular story would be an interesting way to discuss that without coming across as too on the nose.
Another book I read this year was Zlata’s Diary. As I was reading, I came across this quote:
“I think about all the films that could be made in Sarajevo. There are loads of subjects for films here”.
Now that I think about it, I can’t think of many films about the Bosnian War, especially from the perspective of a civilian from Sarajevo. When it comes to Zlata’s suggestion of films about and/or filmed in Sarajevo, maybe this is the decade where that dream comes true. As I said about BYU-TV, they have done a good job at creating historical/period films. What they have also done is effectively told stories involving conflict. A perfect example is the Christmas film, Instrument of War. This movie showed the horrors of World War II without being graphic when it came to violence. With everything I just said, I could see BYU-TV adapting Zlata’s Diary into a film.
What are your thoughts on this year’s Christmas Wish-List? Is there anything movie related you’d add to your list? Let me know in the comment section!
For last year’s Happy Holidays Blogathon, I reviewed the 2014 Hallmark Channel movie, The Nine Lives of Christmas. Even though it was my first time seeing the film, I found myself understanding why it has become so popular among Hallmark fans! Originally, I wanted to write about the 1999 film, If You Believe, and the 2020 Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film, Holly and Ivy. But because I wasn’t able to watch Holly and Ivy this week, due to a schedule that was busier than usual, I decided to stick with the one review of If You Believe. This is a film I have seen before, one I remember enjoying. However, it has been over twenty years since I last saw it. As Up Network was airing If You Believe one day, it was a perfect opportunity to take a trip down memory lane! From what I remember, this movie had a pretty unique concept for a Christmas story. In this film, the protagonist’s inner child comes into her present world to help her grow during the Christmas season.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: When you have a story that revolves around a young character, that specific role needs to be given to a young actor or actress who has the right amount of talent to carry that film. Even though Hayden Panettiere is the main supporting actress, she single-handedly steals the show! While portraying a younger version of the protagonist, she had so much charisma for an actress so young. The versatility found in Hayden’s performance also added enjoyment to her portrayal of Suzie. Some of the best scenes in If You Believe show Suzie interacting with the film’s protagonist, Susan. This is because both Hayden and Ally Walker had good on-screen chemistry and worked well together. Speaking of Ally Walker, I liked seeing her performance as the protagonist! She brought a wide range of emotions to her role, allowing her character to feel like a realistic individual. This was shown in a scene where Susan and her brother are having a disagreement. Throughout the conversation, frustration and anger could be seen on her face. When her brother says he doesn’t want to see her anymore, Susan immediately starts tearing up.
The cinematography: I was pleasantly surprised to find some creative cinematography in If You Believe! A perfect example is when Susan and a writer named Tom have lunch at a local restaurant. As they discuss Tom’s book, the camera zooms in on Susan’s and Tom’s meal at various moments. This was meant to show how much time was passing during their interaction. Another good use of cinematography can be seen toward the beginning of the film. When Susan is leaving her office for the day, there is a shot of her walking in the hallway. This location is lit with a row of fluorescent lights from the ceiling. As this scene plays out, these lights provide a good contrast to Susan’s dark colored outfit.
The messages and themes: If You Believe is a movie that relies more on the messages and themes of Christmas than the aesthetics of the holiday. Even though these messages and themes could be found in films outside of the Christmas season, the script provides a solid argument for why they should be included in a Christmas movie. One of the biggest themes of If You Believe is believing in yourself. What starts Susan’s journey of personal growth is when she tries to dissuade her niece, Alice, from believing in Santa. This is because she stopped believing in things such as dreams and the magic of the season because of those around her putting her down. As the story continues, the audience see Susan regain her confidence and start believing in herself again, with some encouragement from Suzie. A perfect example is when Suzie coaxes Susan to read a manuscript called “Phooey” in order to find the next bestselling novel for her publishing firm, instead of avoiding another new author to help.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A drawn out first half: I found the first half of If You Believe to be drawn out. A few scenes lasted longer than they needed to, which caused this problem to occur. Suzie wants to go out on the town, as a way to help Susan move out of her comfort zone. Susan objects this idea, arguing with Suzie during their entire conversation. While this is an important moment in Susan’s journey, I feel the scene could have been shortened by a few seconds. This way, the point could have been reached sooner.
Telling instead of showing: At several moments in the film, Suzie recalls memories from Susan’s past where she was confident and stood up for herself. She shares these memories in various conversations with Susan, but the audience never gets to see them. I know there’s only so much content that can be shared in two hours. However, there should have been at least one or two flashbacks scenes. That decision would have helped illustrate the points Suzie was trying to make.
Glossing over mental illness: In If You Believe, Susan has a writer friend who happens to have a mental illness. When she suggested her friend take medication, he said his medicine ruined his creativity. This friend doesn’t receive much screen-time and his issues are resolved rather quickly. While I’m glad to see Susan’s friend receive the care and attention he needed, the subject of mental illness was glossed over in this story. Even though this was not one of the main topics of the film, it would have been nice if mental illness were given a little more focus in the script.
My overall impression:
As I mentioned in the introduction, If You Believe is a film that was released in 1999. Despite this, the film still holds up! Even though there are some flaws in this production, the creative team behind the film did a good job at expressing their intended point to the audience. Like I said in my review, one of the messages of this story is believing in yourself. What Susan’s journey tells us is if we believe in ourselves, then we’ll have enough confidence to believe in others. If we believe in others, we are able to believe in the magic of the season. While If You Believe is a more unconventional Christmas project, it’s one that is definitely worth the two hours! If you are able to find this film, please take the time to watch it.
Overall score: 8.3 out of 10
Have you seen If You Believe? Which ‘90s Christmas movie do you like watching? Please tell me in the comment section!
Hometowns to Hollywood’s Celluloid Road Trip Blogathon is about discussing films that revolve around a particular U.S. city. For my entry, I’ve chosen the 2002 film, Chicago. This movie has been on my DVR for three years, the longest a film has ever sat on the device. In fact, Chicago has spent the most time on my DVR, staying there since May of 2017. So, this was the perfect opportunity to finally see it! Even though it was my first time seeing the movie, it was a title I had heard of before. Whenever cinematic musicals of the 21st century are discussed, Chicago is usually brought up in the conversation. However, I never made time to check the film out. Now, in 2020, I am ready to review Chicago!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Chicago is an ensemble film. Therefore, multiple actors pulled off a performance that was enjoyable to watch! Whenever I think about Queen Latifah’s portrayal of Matron “Mama” Morton, I think about how she carried her character with confidence! Even in the musical number, “When You’re Good to Mama”, she appeared comfortable performing in front of an audience. Through the use of music and theatrics, Queen Latifah was able to garner attention from the audience and create an effective on-screen presence! I have seen some of Richard Gere’s films prior to watching Chicago. However, most of those projects have leaned more toward the drama genre. His role, Billy Flynn, allowed him to step out of his comfort zone. Similar to what I said about Queen Latifah’s performance, Richard looked comfortable in his role! He even did a good job when it came to the musical numbers! What I liked about Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ performances is how their on-screen personalities were so different from one another, yet complemented each other so well! It created such an interesting dynamic between these characters. Like I said about Richard Gere, Renée and Catherine did a good job pulling off the musical performances, as well as the portrayals of their characters!
The musical numbers: If you’re going to create a musical, you need to create musical numbers that are worth watching. When it comes to Chicago, the musical numbers were the highlight of this project! They are all presented as dream sequences, to show how Roxie views her world. I found this is to be an interesting creative choice, as most musicals include their musical numbers within the events of the plot. Chicago’s musical numbers were stylized, serving as visual spectacles. Bright colors and lights provide a consistent component, adding to their photogenic appeal. I also liked the creativity that could be found in these musical numbers. An example is “We Both Reached for the Gun”, where all the characters except for Billy are showcased as a puppet.
The historical accuracy: When I was watching Chicago, I noticed how the entire production appeared historically accurate! This film takes place in 1924, which is reflected in various ways. One of them is the hairstyles of the female characters. Both Roxie and Velma sport shorter hair-dos, showing women’s style choices of that time. The costumes, in Roxie’s world and the dream sequences, seemed to belong in that decade. Longer coats were worn by some of the female characters, with a millionaire named Kitty wearing a white one with embroidered flowers in a scene. Set designs and even vehicles showcased the historical accuracy I found in this film! It tells the audience that the creative team behind the project cared about their film’s presentation.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Too much burlesque: While there are plenty of musical numbers in Chicago, the majority of them featured burlesque. Personally, I am not a fan of this particular performance style. Therefore, I didn’t care for burlesque’s abundance. Aside from my personal opinion, the number of burlesque routines felt like they were rehashing the same idea. There was only so many times the movie could present a scantily clad dancer performing mature dance moves before the concept got old. Chicago is a film that, in my opinion, would have benefitted from having less burlesque.
Mixed messages: As I’ve said before, I watch movies to be entertained. However, I can appreciate a film that contains a good message. In Chicago’s case, there were mixed messages throughout the story. One good example revolves around Roxie’s quest for stardom. On more than one occasion, other women have gained more attention than her. This led me to believe the movie’s overarching message would be about how there will always be someone who has more than you no matter how much you strive for what you want. I won’t spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it. But what I will say is the film’s final outcome contradicts the message that seemed to be delivered.
Characters that are terrible people: When I reviewed Twentieth Century last month, I talked about how all the characters were awful individuals. This caused me to lose investment in them and their stories. Chicago has a similar flaw, with most of the characters being terrible people for different reasons. Toward the beginning of the film, Roxie is shown murdering a man, even though he was walking away when the crime was committed. The song, “Funny Honey”, highlights how Roxie is glad her husband, Amos, comes across as ignorant because she thinks that will help her cover up her crime. Out of all the characters in this film, the only one I cared about was Roxie’s husband, Amos. While he was a simple man, he was the only character who was a genuinely good person. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him during the musical number, “Mister Cellophane”.
My overall impression:
The way I feel about Chicago is the same way I feel about Moulin Rouge!: it was ok. The 2002 movie does have merit, which can be found in the acting performances and the musical numbers. But, similar to Moulin Rouge!, Chicago relies more on style than substance. Because the audience knows the protagonist committed a crime, there is no sense of intrigue. It also doesn’t help that the majority of the characters are terrible people. The mixed messages within the story are confusing, with the script saying one thing, but then being contradicted later on. If you’re not a fan of burlesque, then you probably won’t enjoy most of the film’s musical numbers, as they abundantly feature burlesque routines. However, the musical numbers in general were well-crafted, especially on a technical level. Therefore, I would recommend these parts of the film. As for the movie itself, this is one I don’t see myself revisiting.
Overall score: 6 out of 10
Have you checked out the other entries from the Celluloid Road Trip Blogathon? If so, which city that was addressed do you think is interesting? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
While hosting A Blogathon to be Thankful For, I was invited by Crystal to join her Agnes Moorehead blogathon. After accepting the invitation and making a quick search through Agnes’ IMDB filmography, I chose the 1971 Disney film, The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove! According to the synopsis, this is about a small group of children who make a monster so their teacher wouldn’t be ridiculed by others in their town. Recently, Crystal’s brother, Jarrahn, shared the news that Crystal was in a coma. This meant that Jarrahn and Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, would be co-hosting the event. Hearing the news about Crystal was saddening. However, I was glad to see Jarrahn and Gill step up to the plate to help a fellow blogger and sister in need.
Things I liked about the film:
Genuine portrayals: Since I chose to review this movie because of Agnes Moorehead’s involvement, I’ll talk about her performance first. She portrays Mrs. Pringle, a local bird watcher who is also a well-known gossip. Throughout the film, this character took everything she did seriously. It got to the point where she seemed to care too much. However, Agnes’ portrayal was so genuine, I actually liked seeing Mrs. Pringle show up. Other genuine portrayals came from Annie McEveety, Jimmy Bracken, and Patrick Creamer. As Tippy, Scott, and Catfish, these actors appeared to work well together. The friendship between the children felt realistic and it was nice to see their camaraderie over the course of the film!
The messages and themes: Within the story of The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove, messages related to standing up for those you care about, teamwork, and listening to what someone has to say are found. A good example is when Annie, Jimmy, and Catfish work together to build the monster for their teacher. Because Henry Meade, the teacher, is important to the children, they stand up for him and help in any way they realistically can. Annie, Jimmy, and Catfish spend days building the monster by gathering material and putting the pieces together on their own. This part of the story also emphasizes putting others before yourself.
The mystery of the smugglers’ “boss”: A group of smugglers inhabit a run-down house near the protagonist’s small town. Throughout the film, these criminals briefly talk about their “boss”. However, this particular character isn’t revealed until about the last twenty minutes of the movie. The mystery of the “boss’s” identity kept me invested in the film, giving me an opportunity to figure out who this person was. Even though I had an idea of who the “boss” could be, I was surprised by the final outcome.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The run-time: The Strange Monster of Strawberry Coveis an hour and thirty-minute film. While this is the typical length of time for a made-for-tv presentation, it was too long for this particular title. That’s because the story was simple and straight forward, needing only about thirty minutes to be told. The run-time of The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove made the overall project too drawn out.
The smuggling subplot: In The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove, there was a subplot involving smugglers importing valuables into the protagonist’s small town. The subplot itself wasn’t bad, but it felt like it was included in the film just to satisfy the run-time and push the plot forward. As I previously stated, the story is simple and straight forward. The inclusion of the smuggling subplot unnecessarily complicated a narrative that was easier to understand.
The main plot being overshadowed: As I mentioned in the introduction, The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove is about a small group of children who create a monster in order to defend their teacher from being ridiculed. However, when the smuggling subplot is introduced, the children change their focus to finding the smugglers’ hidden treasure. This causes the main plot to be pushed to the side for the sake of highlighting the subplot. With a movie titled The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove, a viewer would expect the film to primarily revolve around the monster the children create. Unfortunately, it doesn’t receive as much attention as the title suggests.
My overall impression:
To me, The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove was ok. However, I feel this specific story would have been better served as an episode from a children’s/family-friendly show. The straight-forward plot could be resolved in a short amount of time. In the movie, it was drawn out to over an hour. It also doesn’t help that the smuggling subplot pushed the main plot out of the way. The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove is not the worst film I’ve seen this year. In fact, I could tell the creative team behind this movie had their hearts in the right place. But when it comes to films of this nature, I have seen better. Younger children might enjoy this title, as it features young characters saving the day. But older audience members might find themselves more bored than entertained.
Overall score: 6 out of 10
Have you seen The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove? Which made-for-tv movie would you like to see me review next? Tell me in the comment section!
After a temporary break from blogging to work on a creative side project, I have returned to write a blog follower dedication review! 18 Cinema Lane received 265 followers right before my blogathon, A Blogathon to be Thankful For, started. Because I was reading participants’ articles, as well as writing my own editorial, I planned on publishing this review after the event. Shortly after the blogathon ended, 18 Cinema Lane received 270 followers. As the Christmas season is now upon us, I chose to talk about one of Hallmark’s newest seasonal titles. A film I had wanted to see was Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ The Christmas Bow. What intrigued me was the story’s use of music and the dramatic nature of the plot. Even though Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is known for creating less light-hearted Christmas films than Hallmark Channel, the stories themselves do contain good messages and themes.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: While I’m not familiar with the acting talents of Lucia Micarelli, I feel she did a great job with the material she was given! Lucia’s best scene was when, during a flashback, her character, Kate, is playing the violin for her grandmother. Throughout this scene, Lucia was able to convey so much emotion with her face alone; trying to hold back tears while staying passionate about the music her character loved. Prior to watching The Christmas Bow, I had seen some of Michael Rady’s performances from his Hallmark projects. A consistent part of Michael’s acting abilities is how he makes his portrayals appear so effortless. Whether his character was interacting with his cousin or having deep conversations with his mother, Michael gave a performance that felt natural. The supporting cast in this film was strong, with some stand-out performers among the cast. One of them was James Saito, who portrayed Kate’s relative, Grandpa Joe! Whenever James’ character came on screen, he brought joy with him. That’s because he had a great on-screen personality and his smile lit up the room!
The interior design: I really liked seeing the interior design inside Kate’s family’s home! It was not only creative, but also photogenic. In Kate’s room, the décor was primarily white with splashes of color. With the addition of Christmas lights, the room appeared brighter. This prevented the space from looking drab or unimpressive. The living room featured light and dark stone along one wall and the fireplace. Light wood cabinets from the nearby kitchen complement the stone work. Within this house, there were interesting design choices when it came to specific elements in certain rooms or areas. The upstairs hallway contains a tall white bookshelf. A dark wood ladder and desk pairs nicely with the shelving unit.
The music: When I first read the synopsis for this movie, I knew that music would play a significant role in the story. However, all of the music in The Christmas Bow was pleasant to listen to! Because Kate is a violinist, classical music has a primary place in this film’s soundtrack. As she performs, the songs themselves are really good. From ‘Carol of the Bells’ to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, these were familiar tunes that were strengthened by the sound of the violin. I also liked the story angle the film’s creative team took in regards to the influence music has during the Christmas season. When Kate and Patrick’s cousin meet for the first time at a café, Kate teaches him that closing his eyes will help him see the music. Patrick’s cousin tries this technique as Christmas music plays throughout the café. This lesson also shows how music can play a role in people’s lives.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A less dramatic injury: Based on The Christmas Bow’s synopsis, I expected the film’s protagonist to be involved a car accident that causes her to be so traumatized, she decides to avoid the violin as much as possible. In the movie, Kate ends up hurting her hand due to getting it caught in a door. Hand injuries and broken bones are serious. However, compared to what I expected, it seemed like this part of Kate’s story wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been.
Obligatory Christmas activities: In my review of I’m Not Ready for Christmas, I mentioned how the Christmas activities featured in the film were obligatory for the sake of reminding the audience that they were watching a Christmas movie. The Christmas Bow has a similar flaw, as Patrick’s cousin continually presents a list of Christmas activities he wants to complete before December 25th. While these activities were woven into the overall story better than I’m Not Ready for Christmas, their presentation in The Christmas Bow felt like they had to be there. The activities themselves were those that have been featured in countless Christmas movies before, such as buying a Christmas tree and making gingerbread houses.
A party planning subplot: One of the subplots in The Christmas Bow revolved around Kate’s family planning a Christmas party at their music store. The subplot itself wasn’t bad and preparation for a party can work as a story concept. But an influx of this type of story during last year’s Christmas line-ups made me hope both networks would move away from showing party planning in their movies. Sadly, Hallmark isn’t aware of that detail as they continue to recycle this plot point.
My overall impression:
The Christmas Bow is the first 2020 released Christmas movie from Hallmark I’ve seen. Therefore, I can only compare it to the 2015 film, I’m Not Ready for Christmas. What I will say is The Christmas Bow is far better than I’m Not Ready for Christmas! Sure, there were flaws within the film. But the overall story was engaging with memorable strengths. Music was easily woven into the plot, feeling like it naturally fit in the movie. Character interactions and acting performances helped make the film worth watching. The story itself definitely belonged on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, as the material was more emotional than projects found on Hallmark Channel. While it’s too early to say if The Christmas Bow will go on to become one of Hallmark’s “classics”, I can state here that I liked the film. Thank you to my followers who have supported 18 Cinema Lane! It truly is an accomplishment I appreciate!
Overall score: 7.8 out of 10
Have you seen any of Hallmark’s 2020 Christmas films? If so, which one has been your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you are having a safe and wonderful holiday! Now that my blogathon has concluded, I would like to thank each participant who took the time to write and submit an article for the event. Your involvement means a lot to me. In fact, I’d say A Blogathon to be Thankful For was more successful than last year’s event! I would also like to take the time to announce a new blogathon I will be hosting in 2021! However, more details will be revealed in January.
Anyone who knows me would know that one of my favorite movies is the Disney Channel film, Phantom of the Megaplex. In fact, this movie has had a great influence on my life, as it showed me that the world of film and the movie-going experience could be fun. Because its milestone 20th birthday was on November 10th, I decided to use my entry for my blogathon, A Blogathon to be Thankful For, to celebrate this special occasion. A lot has changed since 2000, especially the movie-going experience. With that said, this editorial will highlight how different a trip to the theater is now compared to its depiction in Phantom of the Megaplex. The actual birthday itself looked very different than expected, due to the months-long Coronavirus pandemic. For the sake of this editorial, I will be discussing today’s theater-going experience as if 2020 were a typical year. Also, all of the photos are screenshots I took, unless stated otherwise.
Purchasing a Ticket
In Phantom of the Megaplex, Karen, the younger sister of the film’s protagonist, Pete, plans on arriving at the theater at 7:30 in order to catch a 7:50 showing of a movie called ‘University of Death’. When she and her younger brother, Brian, get to the theater, they are stuck waiting in a long line. This is the result of Movie Mason, a patron of the theater, spending more time persuading guests to see better films than taking their tickets. Fortunately, Karen isn’t late to her film. But, when she meets her friend outside the auditorium’s door, Karen and her friend briefly discuss the idea of their other friend saving seats for them. The example I just described shows how movie-goers in 2000 used to arrive much earlier than their movie’s run-time to not only purchase a ticket, but to also claim their seat of choice. In addition, movie-goers arrived early to the theater to avoid any unexpected hiccups like the one I mentioned. Twenty years later, it’s still encouraged to show up early to the theater so you’re not late to your film. However, buying tickets and choosing seats are not an issue like they were before. Thanks to the internet, movie-goers can purchase their tickets on their local theater’s website or from a third-party site like Fandango or Atom Tickets. Movie-goers are given an opportunity to reserve their seats as well. Had the story of Phantom of the Megaplex taken place now, all Karen and Brian would have to do is show an employee their pre-paid, printed out ticket and avoid a line like the one Movie Mason created.
Several scenes in Phantom of the Megaplex show the auditoriums inside the theater. All of the chairs featured are covered in a red material with a folding seat. Theater-goers in 2000 would have this style of chair as their only option. But since then, more cinemas have adopted recliners. There are even theaters that have chosen other forms of seating, such as couches and lounge chairs. However, if you would like to sit in a theater chair from twenty years ago, there is one theater chain that has put these chairs to good use. Two Emagine theaters in Minnesota offer “retro seating”. According to the theater’s website, these are “retro auditoriums that don’t feature recliners, but have throwback seats with throwback prices”.
Because Phantom of the Megaplex is a family friendly film, bars would not be found at the cinema. However, theaters have added bars to their facilities within the past two decades. One example is AMC Theaters’ MacGuffins Bar. AMC’s official website states “the term “macguffin,” coined by Alfred Hitchcock, refers to a plot device that propels a movie forward”. The website, Run Pee (a site that informs audience members of the best times to take bathroom breaks during a movie), shares that MacGuffins Bar sometimes correlates drinks with the movies shown at the theater. One example is “a dino-themed bevvie when Jurassic World 2 was showing”.
Movie’s Poster at the Door
Throughout the Cotton Hills Megaplex, the theater where Phantom of the Megaplex takes place, a movie’s poster is located in front of the auditorium the movie will be playing. In a scene where the “Phantom” causes mischief, a poster for a movie titled ‘Glimpses of Genevieve’ is located right next to the theater’s twenty third auditorium. The film’s title is also electronically shown above the poster. Personally, I have never seen this particular set-up at any theater I’ve attended. Also, theaters today will either not have any indicator (besides the ticket itself) of what movie is playing in the auditorium or the film’s title will be electronically shown above the auditorium’s door. The poster itself will be located in another area of the theater, such as near the main entrance.
One of the characters in Phantom of the Megaplex is a “cinema sitter”, an elderly woman who walks around the premises and makes sure the theater’s patrons are on their best behavior. Her role is similar to that of a hall monitor, reprimanding guests who wander the halls of the Cotton Hills Megaplex. This is another concept that I have never seen or heard of at any theater I’ve attended. I’m also not aware of “cinema sitters” being an official component of movie theaters prior to the release of Phantom of the Megaplex. The only thing closest to a “cinema sitter” in real life is Harkins Theatres’ PlayCenter. This space, located in select Harkins Theatres, is dedicated to looking after children while their parents are seeing a movie. The PlayCenter itself would be compared to a typical day care center, a place where children can be occupied while their parents are away. According to the official Harkins Theatres website, “PlayCenter staff members are trained professionals who work exclusively in the PlayCenter. They are background checked and fingerprinted.”
A row of payphones can be occasionally seen throughout Phantom of the Megaplex. From Pete calling his mom to one of Pete’s co-workers, Lacy, putting a phone back in the payphone holder, these payphones are used to scare Julie, Pete’s mom, and George, Julie’s boyfriend, into going to the cinema to check on Julie’s children. While I’m not denying the existence of payphones in movie theaters, I personally don’t remember seeing payphones in the cinema. Since the film’s release, cellphones, particularly the smart phone variety, have become more common in society. This modern advancement has ultimately led payphones to become more obsolete.
The Projection Booth
The projection booth in Phantom of the Megaplex is operated by Merle, the head projectionist at the Cotton Hills Megaplex. When Pete and Brian ask Merle to resolve one of the “Phantom’s” shenanigans, Merle inspects the projector equipment to show Pete and Brian what likely happened. He even pulls a piece of film strip, proving that the movie itself had not been tampered with. In 2000, movie theaters were not utilizing digital cinema like they are today. Instead of using a digitized film reel or hard drives and internet links, theaters used film reels with strips of film. The closest thing to “state of the art” film projection cinemas had in 2000 was IMAX. Today, theaters are developing their own versions of this projecting concept. One example is Cinemark XD, found at Cinemark Theatres. According to the official website, Cinemark XD uses a “state-of-the-art projector capable of 35 trillion colors”.
In an effort to figure out the “Phantom’s” next scheme, Brian visits a movie spoiler website to discover the plot of an upcoming movie called “Midnight Mayhem”. The idea of spoilers has not changed in twenty years. However, the reveal of movie details has expanded beyond websites devoted to the concept. Spoilers can be found everywhere. Social media platforms have been avoided when big blockbusters are released. Warnings for spoilers can be featured toward the beginning of film reviews. Causal word of mouth may slip a major plot point into the conversation. With recent technological progress and the ability to connect with people from across the globe, it has actually become harder to prevent surprises in movies from being spoiled.
Change is inevitable, especially when it comes to the movie-going experience. Through the lens of film, we are given an opportunity to glimpse the past, even if it is only for a few hours. Phantom of the Megaplex captures how the cinema operated in the beginning of the millennium. It serves as a time capsule for those who remember that specific place in time. The movie is also a reminder of how far cinematic technology and the cinema itself has come. As of November 2020, it is unclear to determine what the landscape of movie theaters will look like by the time Phantom of the Megaplex turns twenty-five. While technology in film has made tremendous strides, there is still a lot that can be done. But will there be a facility to showcase these discoveries? There is no straightforward answer that can be given right now. However, we can still celebrate a movie’s milestone birthday through home entertainment and the internet. Like Movie Mason once said, “tell my theater that even when I’m not here, its magic is never far from my heart”.
Before Pale Writer’s Maxwell Caulfield Blogathon, I had seen two of Maxwell’s three Hallmark films. These titles were Missing Pieces, a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie from 2000, and Second Chances, a Hallmark Channel film from 2013. With one movie remaining, I selected the 2015 title, I’m Not Ready for Christmas, as my entry for the event. From a network that features the same actors and actresses in multiple projects, it’s interesting to note that I’m Not Ready for Christmas was Maxwell’s only Hallmark Christmas movie. As is sometimes the case, my review of this film was also this blogathon’s only article discussing any Hallmark film. When the movie first premiered five years ago, I skipped it in favor of other titles. This is because it was being compared to Liar Liar, a film I had not seen in its entirety, but was aware of the general premise. Personally, I like watching Hallmark films that either seem less predictable or have a creative component. Because the type of story found in I’m Not Ready for Christmas is more unique than Hallmark films from the past three years, I finally decided to check it out!
Things I liked about the film:
The supporting cast: There were several actors in the supporting cast that gave stand-out performances. One of them was this blogathon’s star, Maxwell Caulfield! Even though he was only in a handful of scenes, Maxwell found a way to make his character, Greydon DuPois, memorable. This was achieved through a confident personality and a strong on-screen presence. Another stand-out performance came from Mia Bagley, who portrayed Anna Geller, Holly’s niece. Her sweet demeanor reminded me of Jenny Wilder from Little House on the Prairie. Anna, like Jenny, wanted the best for the people in her life. The Christmas wish Anna tells Santa, where she wishes her aunt were more honest, effectively shows this. Brigid Brannagh is an actress I’m familiar with because her 2011 Hallmark movie, A Crush on You. While watching her portrayal of Anna’s mom, Rose, I could tell her previous experience with the network worked in her performance’s favor. This could be seen in the scene when Rose and Anna are at Anna’s Christmas recital. While Anna waits for Holly to show up, Rose’s face shows disappointment as she knows what lies ahead.
The messages and themes: Hallmark’s Christmas movies feature a variety of messages and themes that the audience can relate to. In I’m Not Ready for Christmas, a major theme is honesty, as Holly works on telling less lies throughout the film. Toward the end of the story, Holly is faced with a professional dilemma that could end her career. Instead of choosing what will benefit her, she chooses to do what is right. Seeing a character deal with a real-life conflict and make a positive decision is something that the audience can appreciate. It can also inspire them to apply these messages of truthfulness and placing others before one’s self to their own life.
What I didn’t like about the film:
An inconsistent performance: When it comes to Hallmark’s Christmas movies, Alicia Witt’s entries have been hit or miss. While I liked A Very Merry Mix-Up and Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane, I was not a fan of Our Christmas Love Song. In A Very Merry Mix-Up and Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane, Alicia was given material that complimented her acting abilities, allowing her performance to come across as consistent. Alicia’s performance in I’m Not Ready for Christmas, on the other hand, was very inconsistent. There were scenes where emotionality shined through, such as when Holly and Drew were sharing their life stories over apple cider. But whenever Holly was under her truth telling spell, she sounded robotic. Alicia’s performance made those moments feel awkward and jarring. I know Alicia has what it takes, talent wise, to carry a film. However, I feel she was miscast in this particular role.
Little to no sense in the story: Several moments in I’m Not Ready for Christmasmade little to no sense. One example takes place toward the beginning of the movie. Anna and her mom, Rose, are upset that Holly, Anna’s aunt, has chosen to attend a private dinner over Anna’s Christmas recital. They feel Holly will miss Anna’s performance because of her personal choice. But this movie was released in 2015 and I’m pretty sure Rose owns a smart phone. With that said, wouldn’t Rose record a video of Anna on her phone and show Holly the video afterwards? Speaking of Anna, another confusing moment happens when Anna interacts with Santa after the recital. In this scene, there’s no clear indication that the Santa Anna is talking to is the real deal or that they had ever interacted before. However, when Santa calls Anna by her name, no one questions how he knows her.
Solving a problem with a problem: An overarching conflict in I’m Not Ready for Christmas is Holly learning how to be honest with others. However, one of the ways she learns this lesson is for some of the other characters to lie to her. In one scene, Holly’s assistant, Jordan, asks for some time off so she can take care of her grandmother. But several scenes later, Holly discovers that Jordan was lying about her personal life. In reality, Jordan was on a date with her boyfriend at the same ice-skating rink Holly and Anna were visiting. I understand why Hallmark made this creative decision, as to remind the audience to treat others as they would like to be treated. But in this story, it felt like the script was trying to solve a problem with a problem. This misstep made the moments where Holly was changing her ways seem like positive outcomes were happening too conveniently in her favor.
A story that doesn’t feel Christmas-y: Despite this movie being titled I’m Not Ready for Christmas, the story itself doesn’t need to belong in the Christmas season. The themes of honesty and self-improvement can be found in any time of year. In fact, this exact plot could have taken place outside of Christmas and it wouldn’t have made a difference. While there are Christmas activities featured in this film, they were obligatory for the sake of reminding the audience that this was indeed a Christmas movie. The scenes themselves forced the film to pause the story instead of allowing those moments to find a legitimate place in the narrative.
My overall impression:
As I said in this review, a major theme of I’m Not Ready for Christmas is honesty. Therefore, I will be honest by saying I did not like this film. This movie makes the exact same mistake 2019’s A Cheerful Christmas did: putting so much emphasis on creating a pointless, Christmas remake of a well-known ‘90s film, that the creative team forgets how to make a good movie. The story has a more unique premise than other films from Hallmark’s library. However, the execution of that story was very poor. The truth telling spell Holly falls under does not lend itself to comedy. Instead, it feels awkward and jarring. What also hurts this film is not utilizing the Christmas elements within the script, causing the film to be devoid of true Christmas spirit. Instead of trying to copy what Liar Liar did almost thirty years ago, I’m Not Ready for Christmas should have been a combination of a modern twist on It’s a Wonderful Life and a Christmas version of the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘Monica’s Bad Day’. If this had been the plan, it might have brought something new to the table.
Overall score: 4.9 out of 10
Have you seen Maxwell Caulfield’s Hallmark films? Are there any Hallmark Christmas films you’d like me to check out? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!
Lately, I have been busy with both blog and non-blog related projects. I’ve also been notified by other blogathon participants that they need more time to write their articles. Because of this, I chose to extend A Blogathon to be Thankful For’s deadline to Wednesday, November 25th.
Welcome to A Blogathon to be Thankful For, the second blogathon hosted on 18 Cinema Lane! From November 19th to the 22nd, participants will share posts about movies, people, and subjects related to Thanksgiving! This post will host the list of participates and their articles of choice, separated by the categories that were set up in May. Each participant put time and effort into their entry/entries, so please check out as many posts as you’d like!