Sally Watches…Kids Incorporated!

For Terence’s 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon, I was originally going to write an editorial on an episode from Highway to Heaven. But the more I thought about that decision, the more I realized the shows I’ve reviewed so far have one of two things in common: the shows are darker in tone or they cover heavier, real-world subjects. Because of this, I decided to change things up a bit. I have never watched a full episode of Kids Incorporated, but I have seen two performance videos from the show. Since I liked what I saw, I thought reviewing the show for the blogathon would be a good idea! Its light-hearted, joyous tone is definitely different from the other shows I’ve talked about. This will also be the first time a musical show has been covered on 18 Cinema Lane. Like some of my previous TV show reviews, I have chosen four random episodes. Each episode will be broken down into five categories: what I liked about this episode, what I didn’t like about this episode, the musical numbers, the other factors from this episode, and my overall thoughts. I wasn’t able to find a consistent record of when these episodes premiered, so I will not be listing premiere dates this time. But I will share my final assessment of the show toward the end of my review.

The 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon banner by Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts.
Episode Name: Peter Pam
Season 3
 Episode 63
What I like about Kids Incorporated is each character’s preferences and personalities are showcased in subtle ways. Seeing which books the cast was reading is a perfect example of this. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Kids Incorporated.

What I liked about this episode:

When you have a television or movie series that revolves around a group of people, that group needs to consist of actors and/or actresses who have good on-screen camaraderie with one another. With this episode of Kids Incorporated, I immediately took notice of how well these young actors and actresses worked together! The fact this cast also appeared in season two gives the impression they are familiar with each other’s’ talents, which helps make their on-screen relationship convincing. My favorite moment in ‘Peter Pam’ was when Gloria is talking to Stacey about Stacey’s lack of excitement for a new sibling. This conversation came across as sincere and believable, almost like Gloria assumed the role of an older sister looking out for her younger sister. It was a sweet moment that definitely added heart to this story!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

With this episode’s run-time clocking in at a little over twenty-two minutes, there is only so much content that can be included in the project. Because of this, I thought Stacey’s story was rushed. The “Peter Pam” part of the episode was not given the amount of time I expected, with that part of the story taking place in a small handful of scenes. Stacey’s change in perspective from being against the idea of a new sibling to being excited about growing up happens a little too quickly, which causes that resolution to feel unbelievable. I wish more time had been devoted to Stacey’s/the “Peter Pam” story.

The musical numbers:

I actually enjoyed most of the musical numbers in ‘Peter Pam’! They not only sounded good, but the overall presentation was fun to watch! A big surprise was how most of the musical numbers were unrelated to the ‘Peter Pam’ story. Because Kids Incorporated aired on Disney Channel and because this episode retold the story of Peter Pan, I’m shocked the cast didn’t perform a cover of ‘You Can Fly’. Personally, I think that was a missed opportunity.

My favorite musical number was ‘Yo Ho Ho’! It was so whimsical and imaginative, from the colorful costumes to seeing who portrayed which character. Creative changes from the Disney film, like giving Captain Hook’s sidekick more confidence, give the number and story its own voice.  The choreography was fantastic, almost like I was watching a Broadway show! All of the dancers were in sync with one another and there was never a dull moment. The weakest musical number was Stacey’s solo, ‘Take Me Home’. She sang slower than the song’s tempo, which caused her to sound like she was singing out of tune. Stacey is a good singer, but ‘Take Me Home’ did not do her singing talents justice.

The other factors from this episode:

  • While Stacey gave a good acting performance overall, her portrayal of “Peter Pam” was weaker than her portrayal of her “real world” character. Despite this being the first episode of Kids Incorporated I’ve seen, I get the sense that Stacey is a more emotional actress who uses expressions and emotions in subtle ways. Based on her stage presence, Martika is a more dramatic and expressive performer. With that said, I wish a role like “Peter Pam” was given to Martika instead.
  • My favorite costume from this episode is definitely Stacey’s “Peter Pam” costume! It maintains the iconic look of the Peter Pan character, making the costume recognizable. Subtle sparkles on the pink sleeves and collar add a girly twist. Even though I’m not familiar with Stacey’s character, this costume seemed to compliment her personality. I could see this costume standing the test of time!
  • In shows like Kids Incorporated, at least one young character will be fascinated by the idea of getting older. Hijinks then ensue, which causes the character to realize growing up is not what it’s cracked up to be. With ‘Peter Pam’, a new take on this kind of story is presented, focusing on a character wanting to stay young. Instead of showing the downsides of staying young, it highlights how growing up in not always a bad thing. The way this message was executed served as one of the stronger points of this episode!

My overall thoughts:

‘Peter Pam’ was a fine episode. I could tell the creative team had their hearts in the right place, especially when it came to the overarching message. However, I wish the majority of the episode and musical numbers had revolved around the “Peter Pam” story. The parallels between Peter Pan and the desire to remain a younger sibling are an interesting concept. But with all of the content that was included in this episode, Stacey’s story was rushed, with the discovery of a resolution happening a little too quickly. I was pleasantly surprised by how well ‘Peter Pam’ has aged! Having a relatable and timeless message certainly helped its case.

Rating: A 3.7 out of 5

I love how colorful these costumes are! They feel consistent with tone of the show! Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Kids Incorporated.
Episode Name: I Love You Suzanne
Season 2
 Episode 30
Suzanne, wearing a yellow shirt, is dancing with the cast of Kids Incorporated toward the end of the episode. I apologize for the quality of this picture. But I just wanted to say this is one of my favorite moments from this episode! Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Tammy Coleman.

What I liked about this episode:

After Ryan is caught off guard by the fact Riley’s cousin, Suzanne, is blind, Riley reminds Ryan that Suzanne is no different from anyone else. He also points out that Suzanne has feelings and interests similar to Ryan’s. When Ryan is telling Renee and Stacey that Suzanne is blind, they act like her disability is no big deal. Even The Kid quickly befriends Suzanne before breaking out in song. The attitudes and beliefs of the characters highlights this episode’s overarching message: our differences bringing us together instead of holding each other apart. It’s a sentiment that is just as important today as it was in 1985.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Ryan and Suzanne’s first encounter was awkward, as this is the moment when Ryan learns of Suzanne’s disability. I know this moment was intended to be awkward. In fact, I felt embarrassed for both characters. But the fact that it took Ryan a while to realize Suzanne is blind was somewhat unbelievable. He ends up figuring this out when Suzanne says she hasn’t seen the sights in the neighborhood. I guess you could use the excuse of Ryan being so infatuated with Suzanne, that he didn’t notice this detail at first. However, in reality, I feel like Ryan would have caught on a little bit sooner.

The musical numbers:

Unlike ‘Peter Pam’, all of the musical numbers in ‘I Love You Suzanne’ directly correlated with Ryan’s story! It felt like they were effortlessly woven into the episode. Suzanne was included in two of the musical numbers; performing a simple dance and handshake in ‘New Attitude’ and joining the Kids Incorporated cast on stage during ‘I Love You, Suzanne’. This brought home the message I talked about earlier, of our differences bringing us together. Stacey’s solo, ‘Premonition’, was much stronger than ‘Take Me Home’ from ‘Peter Pam’! It showcased her singing talents well and the pace of the song matched with the pace of her voice. The most interesting musical number was Martika’s solo, ‘Too Late for Goodbyes’! Her performance did not take place on stage, but she was edited into the scene through the use of greenscreen technology. Martika appeared in various places, from the wheel of Ryan’s bicycle to reflections in Ryan’s sunglasses. Despite this episode being filmed in the mid-‘80s, the technology holds up pretty well!

The other factors from this episode:

  • After Ryan leaves the P*lace, The Kid finds Ryan trying to fix his bike. The Kid then asks Ryan if he still plans on going to the movies, with Ryan replying how he is tired of them. Even though ‘I Love You Suzanne’ aired in Kids Incorporated’s second season, that scene felt like it was foreshadowing the season four episode, ‘When Movies Were Movies’. It should also be noted that Rahsaan Patterson and Ryan Lambert star in that 1987 episode.
  • This episode was funnier than I expected! While I know this show is meant to be light-hearted, I did not expect ‘I Love You Suzanne’ to contain as much humor as it did. The Kid threatening to leave the room if things got too “mushy” was one of the funniest moments. It contained on-point comedic timing and Rahsaan gave a good acting performance. Comedy definitely prevented this episode from becoming too dramatic or serious.
  • At the beginning of the episode, Riley is performing a magic trick while waiting for Kids Incorporated to start performing. He’s also practicing a magic trick during his shift at the soda shop stand. Riley’s attempts at being a magician fail both times. But it made me want to see a story where Riley creates his own act. Though I haven’t seen a lot of Kids Incorporated episodes, I wonder if a magician ever paid a visit to the P*lace?

My overall thoughts:

I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”. ‘I Love You Suzanne’ is the embodiment of that bumper sticker. Ryan’s story is a simple one, but it ends up working. This is because the overarching message of togetherness feels organic and believable. Even the way the characters talk about Suzanne comes across as realistic. It also helps how all the musical numbers directly correlated with the story. Each one was equally enjoyable; I honestly can’t choose a favorite. Similar to ‘Peter Pam’, ‘I Love You Suzanne’ has also aged well! Everything about it has stood the test of time.

Rating: A 4.1 out of 5

Here is an image from Martika’s solo, ‘Too Late for Goodbyes’. The special effects are impressive, even by 1980s standards. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Tammy Coleman.
Episode Name: Russian 101
Season 4
 Episode 73
This is the final shot of the musical number, ‘That’s America’. I’m sorry if the image isn’t the clearest. But, as you will read in this part of the review, this was my favoritte musical number in this episode. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Tammy Coleman.

What I liked about this episode:

You can tell the character of Ryan has grown up over the course of two seasons! I like how these characters change during their time on the show instead of remaining stagnant. As he expresses interest in a Russian ballerina named Katrina, Ryan takes the time to learn more about her country and culture, as well as ballet. This is very different from “I Love You Suzanne”, where he displays more consideration and respect for his crush this time. ‘Russian 101’ also explores the reality of long-distance relationships, especially when both parties are from different countries. I was not expecting this topic to be addressed, as it is more mature than what you’d usually find in a show like Kids Incorporated. However, it was handled with a sense of honesty.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

When one thinks of the ‘80s from a historical context, the Cold War will come to mind. At the time of ‘Russian 101’s’ release, the Berlin Wall hadn’t fallen yet and some movies and TV show episodes covered this particular conflict in history. But programs like Murder, She Wrote and the original Red Dawn were created for an older audience, people who were aware of what was happening in the world. With Kids Incorporated, I wanted to see how the Cold War was addressed to a younger audience, those who were not as educated on that subject. Unfortunately, the Cold War was glossed over throughout this story. Sure, Russia was mostly referred to as the Soviet Union (a term that is of its time). But the conflict itself was never brought up by any of the characters.

The musical numbers:

Similar to ‘Peter Pam’, I liked most of the musical numbers in ‘Russian 101’! However, my favorite musical number was ‘That’s America’! Not only was it entertaining to listen to, but it was also well choreographed. Some of the dancers were dressed in traditional Russian attire and performed Russian dances. Katrina even participates in the musical number. This highlights a similar message to “I Love You Suzanne”; how our differences can bring us together instead of keeping each other apart. The only minor critique I have is how the Kids Incorporated casts’ costumes should have been red, white, and blue. Also similar to ‘Peter Pam’, the weakest musical number was a solo. But this time, it was Ryan’s solo, ‘I Can Dream About You’. At some points in the song, Ryan sang faster than the music’s tempo. I found this to be, at times, distracting. However, I did like seeing Katrina perform a ballet solo within that musical number.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Toward the end of ‘Russian 101’, Katrina gives Ryan a record of her favorite Russian band. Even though this was a nice gesture, it brings up the question: if Katrina is temporarily in the United States with a traveling ballet company, how was she able to acquire a Russian record? Did she happen to take one with her on the trip?
  • During a conversation with the Kids Incorporated members, Renee compares ballet to basketball. While she doesn’t refer to ballet as a sport, she does acknowledge how, like basketball, ballet requires strength and skill. This stance on dance actually sounds ahead of its time. More people would now consider competitive dance a sport, recognizing the athleticism associated with it. Also, ballet was featured in the Sochi Winter Olympics, even though it was only included in the opening ceremonies.
  • While giving Katrina a tour of his neighborhood, Ryan takes her to the P*lace. He briefly explains the P*lace’s history, expressing his enthusiasm about one of his favorite spots. Because this episode aired in season four, it is to be assumed this history was thoroughly explained in, as least, season one. I liked how this script referenced earlier episodes, as it maintains the show’s overarching continuity!

My overall thoughts:

Out of the three episodes I’ve reviewed so far, I’ve noticed a consistent element. Each episode has aged fairly well, despite premiering four decades ago! I didn’t like how the Cold War was glossed over in ‘Russian 101’. But I do appreciate the episode’s message of our differences bringing us together instead of tearing each other apart. Between ‘Russian 101’ and ‘I Love You Suzanne’, I’d pick “I Love You Suzanne”, as I found that episode to be stronger overall. However, there are aspects of the 1987 episode I liked. One of them was most of the musical numbers. Like the other two episodes, they were fun to watch and were the highlight of the story. ‘Russian 101’ became a nice piece of entertainment that was worth the twenty-one minutes!

Rating: A 3.9 out of 5

Even though ‘I Can Dream About You’ was the weakest musical number in this episode, I did like Katrina’s inclusion in the number. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Tammy Coleman.
Episode Name: When Movies Were Movies
Season 4
 Episode 74
Here’s a picture that was featured in the episode, ‘When Movies Were Movies’. It shows how this musical number was meant to look like a movie from the 1920s. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Kids Incorporated.

What I liked about this episode:

When I read the synopsis for this episode, I was expecting a completely different story. In ‘When Movies Were Movies’, I expected the episode to revolve around the cast’s day-off, with the musical numbers taking place at a movie theater. Each musical number would be based on each member’s cinematic preferences. For example, Renee might want to see a romantic movie, so her song would be a slower tune with a romantic tone. However, this episode was about the early history of cinema, as well as Laurel and Hardy’s contributions to the world of film. Since about a third of this episode showed the cast traveling back in time to the 1920s, an imaginary conflict was created in correlation with the story’s discussion on film. I liked the direction this story took because it was a creative subversion of expectations! Because the topic of film is so broad, it was nice to see the show’s team think outside the box!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Even though Kids Incorporated is somewhat grounded in reality, the locations within the characters’ world are clearly sets in a filming studio. Because of this, I was curious to see what a movie theater would look like in this world. Unfortunately, no movie theater was shown in this episode. In fact, we never see the cast go to the movies. Another thing I didn’t like about this episode was how the cast either didn’t mention a movie’s title or said a fake movie title when suggesting which film they should see. As someone who is interested in ‘80s pop culture, I was looking forward to hearing which films each character would bring up. Like I said before, Kids Incorporated aired on Disney Channel, so I’m surprised no Disney affiliated movies were included in this script.

The musical numbers:

I mentioned earlier how a third of this episode showed the cast traveling back in time to the 1920s. These scenes were presented as a skit where each character is given a role at an imaginary movie studio, trying to figure out what the next big picture will be. Within this skit, two musical numbers directly associated with this part of the story. The first one was Ryan’s solo, ‘Forever (Like Heroes and Fools)’. For a show of this nature, this was a mature number because it brought up feelings and thoughts that might come to mind for people around Ryan’s age or older: failure, self-doubt, and the figurative cost of a dream. The way the overall musical number sounded reminded me of ‘One More Try’ by Timmy T. ‘When Movies Were Movies’ was the second musical number. Even though there was singing and some dancing involved, the number itself was presented as a skit. It was shown in black and white, like a movie from the 1920s. This was the most creative musical number from the four episodes I saw!

I liked all the musical numbers in this episode, but I don’t think Connie, Stacey, and Renee’s number, ‘I’m Still Standing’, fit in its moment of the episode. It should have been a group number placed as the finale. If ‘I’m Still Standing’ had been the last song of ‘When Movies Were Movies’, it would have represented two ideas: the cast finding a solution to their problem in the imaginary world and movies remaining a pastime since the 1920s. ‘The Finer Things’, the musical number that was this episode’s finale, should have been the second number.

The other factors from this episode:

  • According to a comment from Youtube, Kids Incorporated was filmed at Hal Roach Studio. This particular studio also filmed silent comedies from the 1920s. The decision to take a movie-centric episode and using it to pay tribute to the history of the studio shows the creative team put a lot of thought into this story. It also makes me appreciate the efforts made when it came to this episode.
  • In ‘Peter Pam’, Stacey portrayed “Peter Pam” while the rest of the cast portrayed either lost children or pirates. While I liked the musical number, ‘Yo Ho Ho’, I feel there are other roles the Kids Incorporated cast could have portrayed. For example, Martika could have portrayed TinkerBell and Renee could have portrayed Wendy. With ‘When Movies Were Movies’, the roles the cast were given in the imaginary world were more diverse. While Ryan portrays the executive leader of a studio, The Kid and Connie are given the roles of directors. Meanwhile, Richie is portraying an actor from the Western genre and Stacey and Renee are portraying glamourous actresses.
  • Even though there was an overarching message in ‘When Movies Were Movies’, it wasn’t in the center of the story like the previous episodes I saw. This episode primarily focused on the exploration of the early history of cinema. The message came after this history was explained; when it comes to entertainment, sometimes older is better. It’s a message that seems to be relevant today, as I have heard people say they choose to turn toward the older films than the modern ones. In fact, I have found myself doing this on my blog.  

My overall thoughts:

‘When Movies Were Movies’ is my favorite episode out of the four I’ve seen! It not only covers a topic I’m interested in, but the concept was executed in such a creative way! I am disappointed a movie theater wasn’t shown on-screen or any real-life movies weren’t brought up. However, the episode has more positives than negatives. The majority of the musical numbers had a strong connection to the story. ‘When Movies Were Movies’ and ‘Forever (Like Heroes and Fools)’ were the only two that correlated with the cast’s trip to the 1920s. These numbers were interesting for various reasons. It gave the cast different material to work with from a musical and acting perspective. ‘When Movies Were Movies’ serves as a good introduction to movies for a younger audience. How entertaining this history lesson is also helps!

Rating: A 4.2 out of 5

It was interesting to see which characters were given which roles, as it gave the cast new material to work with. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Kids Incorporated.

My final assessment:

I was not expecting to like Kids Incorporated as much as I did! Even though there are episodes I liked more than others, I had an enjoyable experience watching this show for the first time! By this point, I’m going to sound like a broken record. But I was surprised by how well the episodes and their messages held up.  Each episode’s story was simple yet interesting, with a message that was timeless and relatable. These elements work in Kids Incorporated’s favor, as they help the show live on past its prime. Entertaining musical numbers also make this show as enjoyable as I found it! Most of the songs were likable and the musical numbers were a joy to watch. I liked seeing the creativity in some of these numbers, like ‘Yo Ho Ho’ and ‘When Movies Were Movies’. Witnessing imagination come to life is what stands out when I think about this show. I’m actually considering watching all of Kids Incorporated’s episodes and ranking them. Since I don’t create rank posts often, it would be something different from the content I usually publish.

Have you seen Kids Incorporated? Are there any episodes you’d like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the P*lace!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Review

January’s theme for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur is ‘Unreliable Narrator Movies’. I will admit this round of the blogathon wasn’t easy to find movies for, as most of the films that were continuously recommended were those I’d already seen. However, I discovered a movie that I had never even heard of on a list from IMDB. That film is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a title from 1920! Silent movies and those from the ‘20s are not often covered on 18 Cinema Lane. This is due to the availability of the films themselves. Fortunately, I was able to rent The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, as that is one of the reasons why I selected it for this blogathon. I was also curious to see who the unreliable narrator was. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari sounded like an intriguing start to Genre Grandeur!

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari poster created by Decla-Bioscop.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I have said before, acting performances in silent films rely on facial expressions and body language. The actors in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari utilize these acting techniques, as they represent one way to help the audience understand what is happening in the story. Lil Dagover gave a very expressive performance as a character named Jane! When one of her friends, Francis, tells her his friend, Alan, has died, horror and surprise wash over her face. In another scene, when Francis and Jane’s father are talking about a man named Cesare, fear can be seen in Jane’s eyes. This specific behavior tells the audience Jane is afraid of Cesare. The lead actor, Friedrich Fehér, gave an expressive performance as well! While portraying his character, Francis, Friedrich displayed a variety of emotions. A scene where Francis visits a police station serves as a perfect example, as he fearfully informs the police who is likely causing the murders throughout his neighborhood. For an earlier scene, his overall demeanor was much different, as Francis introduces his story as a joyful man with a positive outlook on life. As the titular character, Dr. Caligari, Werner Krauss gave a performance that comes across as unsettling. With wide eyes and exaggerated expressions, Werner appears excited whenever he’s presenting his sideshow act to his audience. Dr. Caligari’s animated demeanor truly makes up for the lack of dialogue!

The title cards: A common staple in silent films is the use of title cards. This concept is incorporated into The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to help the audience understand what the characters are trying to say. Not only is this effectively shown, but we can also see other articles that the characters are given. Toward the beginning of the film, Francis and his friend, Alan, receive a flyer for an upcoming fair. In one shot, the text on this flyer is enlarged, revealing an advertisement for the fair itself. When Francis is figuring out Dr. Caligari’s true identity, he looks through books found in the doctor’s office. As he finds more clues, the audience is shown journal entries from Dr. Caligari himself. The inclusion of these articles makes the overall viewing experience more engaging!

The mystery: Throughout the film, Francis is attempting to solve the mystery surrounding a collection of murders in his neighborhood. In his efforts, he recruits the help of the local police and gathers clues. Out of all the silent films I’ve seen before, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has a pretty unique concept, as it is a mystery. This stands out from movies of this nature I have previously seen and/or reviewed, as those stories were either comedies, dramas, or horror. I also like how the audience gets to experience the story’s events alongside Francis. Even though pieces of the mystery are revealed as the film goes on, it allows the audience a chance to share an experience with the protagonist.

Carousel image created by Daviles at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Daviles – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/carrousel-with-sky-background_954546.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The run-time: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a little over an hour. Because of this, there were scenes throughout the movie that feel like “filler”. When the fair comes to town, scenes where people are walking around the fairgrounds for about a minute to two minutes each are shown. These scenes add up to a collection of moments that are there to satisfy the film’s run-time. In my opinion, this movie did not need to be over an hour. If the “filler” scenes had been shortened or removed, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari could have been a forty- or fifty-minute short film.

An inconsistent use of title cards: While I appreciate the use of title cards in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, I feel its inclusion should have been more consistent. There were stretches of time where title cards were not used, watching as characters spoke with no form of dialogue. This caused confusion when certain scenarios happened on-screen. One of them was a flashback involving Dr. Caligari. Since there were no title cards indicating this was a flashback, it was a confusing transition from one scene to the next. Even the plot twist was confusing, as there was no clear indication, through title cards, that it was a separate component to Francis’ story. This made the overall movie less entertaining.

Some of the musical choices: Music plays a significant role in silent films, as it sets the stage for a particular scene’s tone. In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, however, there were a few scenes where the musical choices did not fit within a scene. When Francis is first introduced in the movie, as he is talking to a man sitting next to him, it sounded like there were two pieces of music playing at once. It made the scene itself feel jarring. Later in the film, when Francis goes to visit Dr. Caligari at his office, music that sounded more joyful than that scene called for could be heard. The piece of music itself felt out of place in that specific scene.

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

My overall impression:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a good example of how far cinema has come. Silent films show us how this particular entertainment medium has evolved over time. Even though I respect the movie for what it brought to the table, the overall project was weaker than it should have been. I found The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to be more confusing than entertaining. This was caused by some of the musical choices and the inconsistent use of title cards. The limited amount of title cards prevented the reveal of the unreliable narrator from being surprising. Because of the film’s run-time, I felt tired by the length of the story. In fact, there were times where I felt taking a nap. Despite these flaws, I am glad I chose this movie for the blogathon! As I said in the introduction, silent films and those from the ‘20s are not often written about on my blog. Therefore, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari joins 18 Cinema Lane’s growing list of movie reviews!

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you ever a silent film? If so, what was your viewing experience? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Chicago Review

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!

Chicago poster created by Miramax Films Producer Circle Co., Zadan/Meron Production, and Buena Vista Pictures.

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.

<a href="http://<a href='https://www.freepik.com/vectors/travel'>Travel vector created by pikisuperstar – http://www.freepik.com</a>&quot; data-type="URL" data-id="<a href='https://www.freepik.com/vectors/travel'>Travel vector created by pikisuperstar – http://www.freepik.comChicago neon sign image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com.

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”.

The Celluloid Road Trip Blogathon created by Annette from Hometowns to Hollywood.

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!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen