Take 3: Emil and the Detectives (1964) Review

November’s Genre Grandeur focuses on Live Action Disney Films. Since I happen to have a few movies of this nature on my DVR, I had some options for this month’s event. I also wanted to participate in Taking Up Room’s Distraction Blogathon. Because “red herrings” and “dangling carrots” are a part of the movie distractions subject, I decided to review one film for both events; the 1964 title, Emil and the Detectives. Before both blogathons, I had this movie on my DVR for two years. The intention to review the film was there, but I hadn’t gotten around to writing about it. With these aforementioned events, I now have an excuse to finally talk about Emil and the Detectives! So, find a comfy seat and grab your magnifying glasses, as I’m about to review this 1964 live-action project from Disney!

This poster for Emil and the Detectives is a screenshot from my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The camaraderie among the younger characters: When a story features a group of young characters who either are friends or become friends, the camaraderie between those characters needs to feel believable, especially if the story primarily revolves around them. With this movie, that camaraderie among Emil and the Detectives was definitely genuine! In the scene where Emil meets Gustav, the leader of the Detectives, the connection between these characters is strong, despite them having never met before. As Emil meets the rest of the Detectives, it feels like these group of boys have been friends all along. The strong camaraderie works with this story, as it gives the audience a reason to stay invested in the journey of the characters. The fact each character has their own distinct personality also works in the characters’ favor, as it allows each one to bring something different to the table. The acting performances and the script add to the strength of the characters’ camaraderie, as it makes the interactions between these characters look and feel realistic!

The German backdrop: Thinking about live-action Disney films from this time-period/era, Germany wouldn’t immediately come to mind for me when it comes to a movie’s setting. Even though this studio has created projects with interesting settings, such as The Moon-Spinners, these titles seem like exceptions to the rule. Emil and the Detectives not only takes place in Germany, but was also filmed there as well. While the story’s setting is the city, some of the buildings possess an old-world charm. The apartments displayed wood and brick styles, carrying a more vintage appearance than their more contemporary counterparts seen today. The details of these apartments were also very distinctive. When Pony meets one of the Detectives, her grandmother’s apartment door boasts a rich dark wood. A small stained-glass window and a gold mail slot can also be seen, emphasizing the antique fixtures of yesteryear. Toward the end of the film, the story takes place in an abandoned structure in ruin. Not only was the structure itself impressive, but it served as a reminder of the state of Germany post World War II. Because this film was released nineteen years after the end of World War II, it shows how these characters are not that far removed from this real-life event, providing a sense of realism to the story.

An introduction to the Film Noir genre: Back in 2018, I reviewed the 1978 Disney production, Return from Witch Mountain. In that review, I said the film and its predecessor, Escape to Witch Mountain, would be good introductions to the Science-Fiction (Sci-Fi) genre. Emil and the Detectives is also a good genre introduction, but to the Film Noir genre this time. While this film is not dark and gritty, the elements of Film Noir are certainly present. One great example is the character of Gustav. When a Film Noir story includes a detective, that character will usually have a strong, magnetic personality. This shows the audience this character can be trusted and is also approachable. Gustav is a charismatic child. Even though he is nowhere near perfect, solving any case is always his number one goal. He also displays strong leadership skills, such as helping the other Detectives use their skills to the case’s advantage. Despite being a child, Gustav is somewhat reminiscent of other detectives from the world of Film Noir, such as Philip from The Big Sleep.

The Distraction Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited number of German accents: During the film’s opening credits, German-sounding names were shown on-screen. These opening credits also state Emil and the Detectives was filmed in West Berlin (a term very much of its time). So, I was expecting the majority of the characters to carry German accents. To my disappointment, the only characters using German accents were the adults. The younger characters spoke in either American or British accents, a creative decision I found somewhat jarring. I’m not going to fault the younger actors too much, especially since they were so young when they participated in this project. However, it does make me wonder why the movie’s creative team chose to set this story in Germany if they weren’t able to find actors who could pull off a German accent?

Weaker villains: There are three ingredients to making a stand-out villain: a unique appearance, a strong personality, and a memorable motive. While the Skrinks, the villains of Emil and the Detectives, possess two of the ingredients, they lack the latter: a motive. In one scene, the Skrinks are impressed by how one of the villains, The Mole, escaped from East Berlin by digging a tunnel under the Berlin Wall. But The Mole’s reason for wanting to escape from East Berlin is never revealed. Throughout the film, the Skrinks are attempting to rob a bank. Once again, the reason for committing this crime is not mentioned by any of the villains. The omission of these motives prevent the Skrinks from standing out among other villains from live-action Disney films.

Pony’s under-utilized talents: One of the younger characters, Pony, is interested in writing and journalism. She follows Emil and the Detectives because she wants to write about the Skrinks’ crime for her school’s newspaper. But, throughout the film, the audience doesn’t get to see Pony using any of her writing/journalistic skills. This is a shame because we do get to see the talents of the Detectives. For example, one of the boys happens to be talented in art. Therefore, his talents are used to create an artist’s rendition of one of the villains.

Map of Germany image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. Background vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

1964’s Emil and the Detectives is certainly one of Disney’s more unique, interesting projects. On the one hand, it kind of feels like a Disney production. The way two of the Skrinks are captured contains that “Disney magic” you’d expect from one of their stories. But, on the other hand, it kind of doesn’t feel like a production from Disney. That’s because the Detectives assume child-appropriate versions of actions and choices usually adopted by grown-ups. A perfect example is when Emil and one of the Detectives eat chocolate cigarettes as they wait for a phone call from the rest of their group. As I said in my review, Emil and the Detectives is a good introduction to the Film Noir genre, especially for younger viewers. Some of the genre’s elements are present, but the humor and light-heartedness prevent the story from becoming too dark. I can’t believe this movie has been sitting on my DVR for two years. While I always intended to review this picture, I’m glad I found the perfect opportunity to finally talk about it!

Overall score: 7.3-7.4 out of 10

Have you seen Emil and the Detectives? Are there any lesser known, live-action Disney films you’d like me to check out? Please let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Cape Fear (1962) Review

Happy Halloween to all my followers and readers! Like last year, I am participating in the Spooky Classic Movie Blogathon! For the first event, I reviewed 1953’s House of Wax, a movie I enjoyed. This time around, I’m reviewing the 1962 film, Cape Fear! When it comes to choosing which movie to watch around Halloween-time, the usual selections with fictious monsters, ghost stories, and haunted tales are preferred. But in my opinion, the most effective “scary movies” are the ones that involve real-life situations. In Cape Fear, a former prisoner seeks revenge against the lawyer who testified against him. This synopsis alone sounds more realistic and terrifying than even those scary movies that are considered “classic”. But is this movie as terrifying as it sounds? The only way to find out is if you keep reading!

Cape Fear (1962) poster created by Melville Productions, Talbot Productions, and Universal Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Before watching Cape Fear, I had seen and reviewed Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. One of the best aspects of that film was Robert Mitchum’s performance. In the 1962 movie, Robert’s portrayal of Max Cady stole the show! As a character, Max was a creepy and gross fellow. This was made possible through Robert’s facial expressions, body language, and dialogue. In Max’s first scene with Sam, there is a twinge of anger in Max’s voice. But his demeanor was controlled by a sense of calm. The combination of anger and calm within Max Cady added to the character’s unsettling nature. Another actor that effectively balanced two emotions was Lori Martin! In a scene that takes place after a family emergency, Lori’s character, Nancy, appears calm. Yet, she can be seen crying as she talks to her mother in an angry tone. Without spoiling anything, Nancy did have a legitimate reason to be both sad and angry. But I found this performance impressive, especially for an actress so young!

I’ve seen and reviewed To Kill a Mockingbird and Amazing Grace and Chuck. Based on these two movies, it seems like Gregory Peck gets type-casted as either a lawyer or a politician. While he portrays a lawyer in Cape Fear, the script emphasized how his character is a family man. Like the aforementioned movies, Gregory carried his character, Sam, with professionalism and classiness. At the same time, he was given plenty of opportunity to express emotion. A great example is when Sam meets Max at a nearby restaurant. As Max is telling his story, Sam grows increasingly angry. This scene highlights the fierce protectiveness of a husband and a father. It also gave a sense of realism to Gregory’s character!

The music: Legendary composer Bernard Herrmann provided the music for Cape Fear. Throughout the film, his signature musical style could be consistently heard. Bernard’s strength is using music to elevate the suspense within a given scene.  At the very beginning of the movie, Max is walking through the town as an ominous tune can be heard in the background. This effectively clued the audience in of what would come later in the story.  It also let the audience know to pay attention to Max. With all that said, the music definitely added something special to the overall project!

The cinematography: I was not expecting the cinematography in Cape Fear to be as memorable as it was! It, honestly, reminded me of pictures directed by Alfred Hitchcock! One of my favorite scenes is when Peggy, Sam’s wife, has a dream about her and Sam. While Peggy is sleeping, ghostly images of her and Sam are presented over the main image. These images reveal their concerns over the movie’s events, as well as emphasize their desire for action. This way of presenting dialogue and character interactions was very interesting. It added a sense of spookiness to an already suspenseful story!

2nd Annual Spooky Classic Movie Blogathon banner created by Kristen of Hoofers and Honeys

What I didn’t like about the film:

An exposition heavy beginning: Within the first twelve minutes of Cape Fear, the audience learns about Sam Bowden, his family, Max Cady, his arrest, and why he was arrested. Personally, I felt this was too much information to present in the film’s beginning. In fact, I was disappointed Max’s secrets were revealed so soon. What the screenwriter should have done was sprinkle this information throughout the story. That way, the audience would have a greater reason to stay invested in the mystery.

Dumb decisions from the characters: After a family emergency involving a dog, Sam warns his wife and daughter of Max’s dangerous nature. He instructs his daughter, Nancy, to only leave school and home with either him or his wife, Peggy. But more often than not, Nancy is left by herself, with Sam and Peggy putting her in a vulnerable position. One example is when Nancy gets out of school to find her mother’s car empty. While waiting in the car, Nancy sees Max and attempts to get away from him. Even though she succeeds in this plan, she ends up getting hit by an oncoming car in the process. I know her parents are human and humans make mistakes. However, these mistakes felt unbelievable after some time.

An unrelated court case: Featured in a few scenes, a court case involving an arthritic patient receiving surgery was addressed in Cape Fear. But the only connection this case had with the rest of the story was Sam as one of the associated lawyers. I wish the case had a more significant reason to be in the film. Maybe it could have something to do with Max’s past crime, with two separate mysteries becoming one. I, honestly, wanted to learn more about that case, but was sadly not given the chance.

Scared audience image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/terrified-friends-watching-horror-movie-in-cinema_1027311.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I said in my introduction, the most effective “scary movies” are the ones that involve real-life situations. Even though this is a fictional story, it is effective at being a scarier film! Max Cady is one of the most unsettling characters in film, with Robert Mitchum’s acting abilities highlighting the reason why. Come to think of it, this performance showed a different side to Robert’s talents. Bernard Herrmann’s music added to the scary nature of the story, emphasizing the suspense within the script. But the multiple dumb decisions of the characters took away some from the film’s believability. The beginning of the film was also exposition heavy. However, the overall production felt like an Alfred Hitchcock picture without actually being affiliated with Alfred Hitchcock. With this said, I’d recommend Cape Fear as your next pick for Halloween!

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

Have you seen Cape Fear? Which movie would you watch on Halloween? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Lion Review

I haven’t participated in MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur since April, when I reviewed the 1966 movie, Born Free. To make up for some of that lost time, I decided to review a film for July’s event. This month, the theme isMovies of the Outdoors”. That means the majority of the film has to take place outdoors or the movie has to significantly feature nature within the story. In a search for ideas, I turned to a book that I’ve had in my possession since last year: Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. The pages of this text revealed a title I had never even heard of before. In 1962, 20th Century Fox released a live-action production titled The Lion. Leonard gave this project two out of four stars, saying “Beautiful scenery of Kenya is far better than melodrama about young girl attached to pet lion, with family concerned it is turning her into a savage”. With curiosity getting the better of me, I chose to seek this movie out as my contribution for July’s Genre Grandeur! But will I end up agreeing or disagreeing with Leonard? Keep reading in order to find out!

The Lion poster created by 20th Century Fox.

Things I liked about the film:

William Holden and Capucine’s banter: While The Lion is the fourth film of William Holden’s I have seen, it is also the first film of Capucine’s I have seen. Despite this, I really liked hearing the banter between their characters, Robert and Christine! After Robert arrives at the game reserve’s guest house, Christine reminds him how he is now on a game reserve. In a nonchalant manner, Robert tells her that he won’t bite the animals. In this film, there was a hint of a laid-back persona with William Holden’s character. Even though this was not Robert’s strongest character trait, William pulled it off flawlessly, making his line sound like a piece of natural conversation. Another collection of banter between these characters carried a more serious tone later in the film. When Christine questions Robert’s reason for coming to Africa, he says “I’m here, aren’t I”? In my review of The World of Suzie Wong, I said that William Holden’s performance in that movie was consistent. His and Capucine’s performance in The Lion was consistent as well, each actor delivering their lines with effective execution!

The scenery: The natural landscape of Africa is one of the reasons why I chose to watch this film. Similar to the 1966 movie, Born Free, the African fields served as the principal scenery for The Lion, almost like the landscape itself served as a character in its own right. When Robert’s plane first flies to the game reserve, an establishing shot of a massive mountain is predominantly featured in the background. It was such a beautiful piece of earth, with its white and light blue hues glistening on screen. Like Born Free, the African plains are given multiple opportunities to be featured. But in The Lion, there were other locales that were shown. When Tina, Robert and Christine’s daughter, is on her way to introduce Robert to her pet lion, King, she walks along a winding path. One part of this scene shows Tina and Robert walking past a huge waterfall. While I wish this waterfall had been shown for a longer period of time,  it highlights how there are various types of landscapes within Africa.

Pamela Franklin’s performance: I am not familiar with Pamela Franklin’s filmography. However, she gave a solid performance in The Lion! While watching her portrayal of Tina, I couldn’t help being reminded of Hayley Mills in films such as The Parent Trap. This is because, like Hayley, Pamela carried herself with confidence and a strong sense of self, especially for a young person. These qualities in character paired nicely with Tina’s headstrong personality. Pamela also brought enough emotionality to make her role sympathetic. Whenever she is instructing her per lion, King, on what she wants him to do, you can tell Tina truly cares about him. In one scene, King is leaving with a mate. As Tina is begging him to stay, desperation could be seen and heard in her eyes and voice. Everything I’ve been saying allowed Pamela to still the show!

Image of male lion created by Wirestock at freepik.com. Animals photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

Use of the words “wild” and “savage”: In The Lion, there are a few moments where Robert and Christine use the words “wild” or “savage” when referring to Tina’s interest in the local wildlife and African tribe. At one point, Christine fears her daughter will grow up to be “wild”. I know the ‘60s were a different time compared to the 2020s. But that is not the reason why I didn’t like the characters’ use of the words “wild” and “savage”. By them choosing those words to refer to Tina’s interests, they fail to understand the importance of these subjects. Throughout the movie, Christine, Robert, and even John worry about who Tina will grow up to be in the future. Instead, they should have taken the time to get to know her in the present. Since Tina’s passion for wildlife and her appreciation for the local African tribe is common knowledge to everyone in her life, her parents could have chosen to homeschool their daughter. Those aforementioned interests could have served as the basis for various academic subjects, with Tina’s parents guiding and protecting her along the way. Tina’s upbringing in Africa and a strong educational foundation might afford her a good chance to be accepted into a reputable university. If her parents took the initiative to nurture their daughter’s love for animals, maybe she would have become a veterinarian or operate her own wildlife sanctuary. Some people say “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. However, Christine and Robert’s words fail to recognize a middle ground where all parties are satisfied.

Poor special effects: As I just said in my previous point, the ‘60s were a different time compared to the 2020s. One way this is made apparent is the quality of the technology used in cinema. Sometimes, actors will be placed in front of a green screen, in an attempt to present the illusion that the actors are in a particular location. A few scenes in The Lion showed some of the characters driving through the fields of Africa, with pre-filmed shots of this landscape shown in the background. But during these on-screen trips, a faint but visible blue glow could be seen outlining the characters. This technological error prevented me from getting fully immersed in these scenes. Toward the end of the movie, rain was shown falling in one scene. But the special effect used looked like small images of raindrops lay on top of the scene’s picture instead like looking like the raindrops were falling in that world. That also ruined the illusion of being in the movie’s space.

A drawn-out conflict: Like I already mentioned before, Tina’s parents worry about her future. The way they talk about this conflict sounded like a dire situation. But throughout the film, there was no sense of urgency to find a resolution. Instead, several scenes focus on a safari trip John leads. While I enjoyed seeing Africa’s scenery, these scenes felt like padding to make up for the main conflict being drawn-out. Another part of the story that received more attention than the main conflict was the customs and politics of the local African tribe. I will admit that this part of the script was interesting. However, it took time away from the main conflict, causing its final outcome to be stalled. Even though Tina’s parents solve their problem, the answer doesn’t feel satisfying because of how long the problem was drawn out.

Illustrated African landscape image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. Background vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

Because this month’s Genre Grandeur theme is Movies of the Outdoors”, I knew The Lion would be the perfect choice for this event. As expected, the scenery in the film presented a pleasant picture to look at. But like I quoted in my review of To Catch a Spy, “The scenery can’t save you”. That is certainly the case for the 1962 movie. The pieces of a good project were there; from the strong acting performances to interesting conflicts. But the overall direction wasn’t focused. Instead of working to find a resolution to the film’s main conflict, the story traveled down side paths. This placed more emphasis on other parts of the plot and caused the overarching narrative to be drawn-out. I was also frustrated by the lack of initiative from Tina’s parents to help their daughter reach her full potential with the resources they already had. While I understand they wanted the best for her, they never took the time to ask Tina what she wished for. Honestly, I’d recommend Born Free over The Lion. The story of the 1966 picture is not only straight forward, but its script is also stronger.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

Have you seen The Lion? Which “outdoor movie” would you prefer? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun outside!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Born Free Review + 340 and 345 Follower Thank You

Earlier this month, 18 Cinema Lane received 340 and 345 followers! Before I continue, I’d just like to say thank you to each and every person who has chosen to follow my blog. I appreciate you taking the time to read my articles and listen to what I have to say. Speaking of articles, let’s back to the review! For April’s Genre Grandeur, the theme is “travel films”. Because this topic is so broad, it took me a while to figure out which film I would write about. Then I remembered I had the 1966 movie, Born Free, on my DVR. While Joy and George Adamson, the story’s protagonists, do travel within the movie, it is not the central component of the story. I also have participated in Thoughts From The Music(al) Man’s Star/Genre Of The Month Blogathon, with my review of China Seas being my first contribution. April doesn’t have a theme, so I thought Born Free would be the perfect choice for the blogathon! Prior to writing this review, I had heard of, but not seen, the 1966 picture. This is because I was familiar with the movie’s theme when it was featured on the soundtrack for the film, Madagascar. Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for; the start of this review!

Because I recorded this movie on my DVR, I took a screenshot of the movie’s poster from my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

How the animals were showcased: While I liked the acting in Born Free, it’s the animals that steal the show! Animals were showcased in a natural way, allowing them to be shown in situations that are more realistic. None of the animals were given voice-overs, giving the audience a chance to witness their authentic expressions. A great example is when Elsa, the lion Joy and George take care of, interacts with a male lion. Throughout the scene, Elsa and the male lion take turns roaring. They also can be seen fighting over food. The way these lions were presented made it look like they were having a conversation. The human characters’ conversations about these animals also gave them a humanistic quality. After Joy and George leave Elsa alone with the aforementioned lion, Joy compares the experience to waiting for a daughter to come home from a date. The cinematography and script gave the animals just as much importance as the human characters!

The scenery: The majority of Born Free takes place outdoors, as the African landscapes serve as the principal scenery for the story. Toward the beginning of the movie, Joy is painting in her front yard. A clear blue sky enveloped a large space of plains. This specific location appeared peaceful as long shots were used to capture it on film. Another impressive location was the beach that Elsa, Joy, and George visit. Once again, a blue sky is visible, soaring over the blue of the ocean and bright beige of the sand. The beach was very photogenic, with long and medium shots helping to showcase that location!

The music: I liked the use of music in Born Free! The pieces of instrumental tunes provided the tone for each scene it was included in. When a suspenseful and tense moment took place, the sound of beating drums could be heard. This sound elaborated on the seriousness of what was happening in that particular scene. One example is when, toward the end of the film, Elsa is fighting with another female lion. For more light-hearted, joyful moments, the movie’s theme played in the background. Some scenes that featured this piece of music revolved around Elsa and her sisters as lion cubs.

Mother lion and her baby cubs image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Animals photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

An inconsistent narrative: When a close friend named John suggests Elsa should be placed in a zoo, Joy is completely against the idea. This decision has even resulted in a heated argument between Joy and George. Joy’s decision for wanting Elsa to remain wild is understandable. However, earlier in the film, she doesn’t object to sending Elsa’s two sisters to a zoo. Joy also takes in a baby elephant that Elsa happened to be chasing one day. This specific narrative was inconsistent, which prevented me from getting fully invested in Joy’s side of the story.

The run-time: According to IMDB, Born Free is an hour and thirty-five minutes. But because the story is a simpler one, I don’t think this movie needed that run-time. While watching the film, I noticed how some scenes contained montages. For example, when Joy, George, and Elsa go to the beach, a montage lasting several minutes featured these characters playing on the beach and in the ocean. I feel these montages were placed in the film to satisfy its run-time. Had these montages been shortened, the movie could have had a run-time of an hour or less.

Unnecessary voice-overs: Throughout the film, Joy provides voice-overs to explain what is happening in the story. These voice-overs were beneficial in understanding Elsa’s journey. But there were some scenes where Joy’s voice-overs were not necessary. At the beginning of a scene where Joy, George, and Elsa are at a camp, Joy explains how, one night, she heard the roar of a lion who was eating the livestock of a nearby African village. If the voice-over had not been included in this scene, the on-screen event could have spoken for itself. Having the voice-over only reminded the audience of what they already knew.

Colorful travel suitcase image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/beautiful-illustration-of-travel_2686674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When you think of “travel films”, a movie where the protagonist takes an extravagant and adventurous trip will likely come to mind. However, traveling can mean different things for various people. In the case of Born Free, Joy and George Adamson travel from England to Africa. Throughout the film, they also travel to town and several African villages. As I mentioned in the introduction, Born Free does not focus on the travels of Joy and George. Instead, it prioritizes the relationship these characters share with Elsa. While I liked the natural portrayals of the animals, these depictions are more suited for an older audience. This is also a simpler story, calling for a shorter run-time than the one it received. Not only were some of Joy’s voice-overs unnecessary, but her stance on keeping Elsa out of a zoo was inconsistent. Despite these flaws, I thought Born Free was a fine film! If you are interested in the subject of animals, I feel this is the movie for you!

Overall score: 7.1-7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any “travel films” lately? Do you have any films to recommend for the next blog follower dedication review? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Worst Movies I Saw in 2020

While I saw more good movies than bad this year, I wasn’t able to avoid some stinkers. Now that I’ve published my best movies of the year list, I can now discuss which movies were the worst ones I saw in 2020! I watch movies in the hopes of them being good. However, some stories turn out better than others. As I have stated before on my blog, my worst films of the year lists are not meant to be mean-spirited or negative toward anyone’s opinions/cinematic preferences. These lists are just ways for me express my opinion in an honest and informed way. Similar to my best movies of 2020 list, I will start this post with my dishonorable mentions and then move on to the official list!

Purple 2020 banner created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.
Dishonorable Mentions

Working Miracles, Her Deadly Reflections, The Cabin, Thicker Than Water, Touched by Romance, The Wrong Wedding Planner, Murder in the Vineyard, Jane Doe: Yes, I Remember It Well, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, Is There a Killer on my Street?, and Stolen in Plain Sight

10. Angel on My Shoulder

When choosing which movie would end up in the tenth spot, it was between The Cabin and Angel on My Shoulder. Because I had higher expectations for the 1946 movie, that’s the one that was placed on this list. The overall film is painfully average, as I said in my review. Even though there is a clear conflict, it takes quite some time for that to be resolved. The personal journey of the protagonist, Eddie, is stunted. This is due to the character spending most of the story as an unchanged man. After watching Angel on My Shoulder, it makes me thankful that a story about a dog going to heaven was executed so well.

Take 3: Angel on My Shoulder Review

9. Jane Doe: Vanishing Act

In 2020, I watched most of the movies from Hallmark’s Jane Doe series. Within the nine-film collection, the first chapter is certainly the worst. What makes a good mystery movie is a strong sense of excitement. This is a quality that Jane Doe: Vanishing Act was, sadly, devoid of. Everyone involved with this project looked like their hearts were not fully invested in what they doing. It was as if they wanted to get the film done and over with just to move on to something else. While I continued on with the series, it was in the hopes that the next film would be better than the introduction. If you plan on creating a series, this is not the way you get an audience invested in it.

8. My Husband’s Deadly Past

There are two kinds of Lifetime movies; those that are surprisingly good and those that are predictably unenjoyable. My Husband’s Deadly Past perfectly fits into the latter category. Even though I found the inclusion of psychology/hypnosis to be interesting, the story’s focus on ripping off the 1993 movie, The Fugitive, overshadows any of the film’s strengths. The protagonist in My Husband’s Deadly Past is the type of character that makes one poor decision after another. It also doesn’t help that the movie contains a few romantic moments that feel out of place within the overall tone. Two other films on this list make the same major mistake My Husband’s Deadly Past did. But, to avoid spoilers, I’ll talk about them more later.

7. Out of the Woods

I can honestly say Out of the Woods is one of the most meandering films I’ve ever seen. It takes so long for the story to get to its intended point, that story points are either completely ignored or are not fully developed. One example is how a white wolf continuously crosses paths with the protagonist. No explanation is given as to what the purpose of this wolf was or whether it was real. Another disappointment is how Native American culture is glossed over. Native American stories are rarely found in Hallmark’s library, so it is a letdown when a film containing Native American culture doesn’t work out. If you want to watch an Ed Asner led Hallmark movie with similar ideas and themes, I’d recommend the 2008 movie, Generation Gap. It does a better job at telling a story of two people trying to understand each other.

6. Mystery Woman: At First Sight

Before there was Hailey Dean, there was Samantha Kinsey from Hallmark’s Mystery Woman series. This early collection from the network is one where I’ve seen most of its installments. Out of the movies I have watched, Mystery Woman: At First Sight is the one I disliked the most. Both of the overarching mysteries in this story are poorly written. They are also overshadowed by the drama within the plot. Mystery Woman: At First Sight is the seventh movie in this series, which is a shame because its previous chapters created an enjoyable cinematic run. I’m not sure how much directorial experience Kellie Martin had prior to working on this project. Even though I think it would be interesting to see her direct a Hailey Dean Mysteries movie, her effort on Mystery Woman: At First Sight was not her strongest.

Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama poster created by Dune Films, Norwegian Pirates, Storm Films, Storm Productions, and Ketchup Entertainment. Image found at https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/captain_sabertooth_and_the_treasure_of_lama_rama.
5. Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama

It breaks my heart how this movie disappointed me so much. In fact, Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama is the most disappointing movie I saw in 2020. It copied Pirates of the Caribbean’s homework without trying to understand what made that trilogy of films work. Also, for a movie called Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama, Captain Sabertooth himself sat on the sidelines of his own story. Pinky was a likable character, but making him the protagonist made the title seem misleading. I just hope this film doesn’t dissuade other studios from creating their own pirate narratives.

Take 3: Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama Review

4. Anniversary Nightmare

Remember when I said there were two films that made the same major mistake My Husband’s Deadly Past did? Well, Anniversary Nightmare is one of them. Like My Husband’s Deadly Past, Anniversary Nightmare rips off The Fugitive. But this Lifetime title is so bad, it is, at times, laughable. Both the acting and writing are poor. All of the movie’s flashback scenes are terribly filmed, captured through heavy “shaky cam” and covered in a red film. These two factors made it difficult to see what was happening on screen when a flashback arrived. I haven’t seen a Lifetime movie this bad in quite some time. If you’re interested in participating in Taking Up Room’s So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, Anniversary Nightmare might be an option.

3. I’m Not Ready for Christmas

I didn’t see as many Christmas movies this year as I did in 2019. But I can confidently say that 2015’s I’m Not Ready for Christmas is the worst Christmas film I saw in 2020. While it doesn’t rip off The Fugitive, the movie does place more emphasis on being a pointless, Christmas remake of Liar Liar, a well-known title from the ‘90s. Therefore, I’m Not Ready for Christmas also makes the same mistake A Cheerful Christmas did last year. There were parts of this story that didn’t make sense. Even the title, I’m Not Ready for Christmas, had nothing to do with the events in the plot. When you look past the typical Christmas aesthetic Hallmark can’t get enough of, you realize the story itself isn’t Christmas-y. If the creative team behind this project knew their script wasn’t exclusive to the Christmas season, they should have focused on the messages and themes of the holiday, like If You Believe did sixteen years prior. For their New Year’s Resolution, maybe Hallmark and Lifetime should move away from famous ‘90s films as their source of inspiration.

Take 3: I’m Not Ready for Christmas Review

2. Marriage on the Rocks

This movie was so bad, it honestly made me feel uncomfortable. That was because the film’s overarching view on marriage and divorce was so one-sided and skewed. I’ve been told Marriage on the Rocks was originally intended to be a satire. Sadly, that’s not the movie I ended up seeing. What I got instead was a comedy that I didn’t find very funny. The “comedy of errors” direction the screenwriter took just made the character’s situations more complicated, as most of the errors do not receive a satisfying resolution. It’s also a film that feels longer than its designated run-time. If you have never seen any of Frank Sinatra’s, Dean Martin’s, or Deborah Kerr’s movies before, please don’t let Marriage on the Rocks be your starting point.

Take 3: Marriage on the Rocks Review

1. Twentieth Century

For most of 2020, I thought Marriage on the Rocks would be the worst movie I saw this year. That was until Twentieth Century came along and proved me wrong. Where Marriage on the Rocks made me uncomfortable, Twentieth Century made me appalled. The fact Lily and Oscar’s relationship was so abusive in a movie classified as a “romantic comedy” serves as one example. Last time I checked, unhealthy relationships were not funny or romantic. To Marriage on the Rocks’ credit, the story featured characters that didn’t support the film’s narrative. Even though, more often than not, they were looked down upon, they always stood up for what they believed in and tried to help the main characters see the fault in their ways. With Twentieth Century, however, there were no “voices of reason”. None of the characters faced accountability whenever they did something wrong or made any attempt to change their ways. When I reflect on this movie, I question what the creative team was trying to tell its audience. But based on my reaction to the final product, maybe I don’t want to know.

Take 3: Twentieth Century Review

Twentieth Century poster created by Columbia Pictures.

Have fun in 2021!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Ocean’s Eleven (1960) Review

Peter Lawford is an actor I was not familiar with prior to my participation in the 1st Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon. But, like I’ve said in past blogathons, I didn’t let this stop me to joining Kristen’s event! As I was looking through Peter’s filmography on IMDB, I discovered he had starred in the original Ocean’s Eleven. This is the movie I chose to review for the blogathon because of how rarely heist films are talked about on 18 Cinema Lane. Two years ago, I wrote a review for Logan Lucky when I participated in my very first blogathon. Anyone who has read that article would know how I did not like that film. Another point I’d like to make is how Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero (who all appear in Ocean’s Eleven) starred in another movie I reviewed for a blogathon; Marriage on the Rocks. Like Logan Lucky, I was not a fan of the 1965 movie. With my review of Ocean’s Eleven, however, I’m hoping my luck will start to turn around!

Ocean’s Eleven (1960) poster created by Warner Bros. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/18360/Ocean-s-Eleven/#tcmarcp-196918.

Things I liked about the films:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I have seen and reviewed Marriage on the Rocks. Three of the film’s stars, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero, reunite in Ocean’s Eleven! The 1960 picture allowed Dean and Cesar to work with acting material that was different from Marriage on the Rocks, with their performances appearing more dramatic. Meanwhile, Frank’s portrayal of Danny Ocean contained the same ease he displayed in the aforementioned 1965 movie. Ocean’s Eleven also introduced me to talent that I had never seen before, such as Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. What I liked about Peter’s performance was how he was able to adapt to any situation placed in his character’s path. Even though this was the first time I’ve ever seen Sammy act, I was impressed with the smooth confidence he consistently carried throughout the story! One thing that stood out to me was the on-screen chemistry among the cast! Every actor appeared to work well with each other and compliment their co-stars.

The differentiation among the casinos: In a movie showcasing five casinos, it’s important to differentiate these locations for the audience. This choice avoids confusion and prevents the casinos from blending in with each other. The various New Year’s Eve parties feature creative ways these facilities were able to set themselves apart! At the party in the Flamingo casino, pink balloons served as party decorations. Down the street at the Sands casino, blue balloons could be seen. The costumes of the on-stage performers also highlighted the differences between each location. Dancers wearing burnt orange and white checkered costumes were found at the Desert Inn. Meanwhile, black costumes were worn by dancers at the Sands.

The dialogue: For the most part, the dialogue in Ocean’s Eleven was smartly written and sounded clever! One example takes place during a conversation between Danny’s ex-wife and Sam Harmon. When she is talking about her relationship with her ex-husband, Sam responds by saying how Cloud 9 must have been boring. Another example of smart writing happens when Josh Howard to talking with one of the members of Danny’s group. In their conversation, they talk about bravery. Josh shares that being brave doesn’t make someone invincible. These two examples I shared show how there was effort placed in the script.

The 1st Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon banner created by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes. Image found at https://knwiniarski.com/peter-lawford-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A dialogue heavy first half: Every heist movie sets aside time to lay out the plans for the heist. While the first half of Ocean’s Eleven does feature these plans, it also included explanations of why the members of Danny’s group wanted to pull off the heist. The first half of the story featured explanations of the characters’ personal issues as well. This caused the movie’s entire first half to be dialogue heavy. If some of these explanations had been shortened or cut, it would have presented the heist sooner.

A “bait and switch” third act: With a movie titled Ocean’s Eleven, the audience expects a good portion of the story to focus on the heist itself. While the planning and execution of the heist was shown, the story transitions its focus to Duke Santos and his investigation after the heist takes place. This creative choice made the third act seem like a “bait and switch”. It also caused this part of the story to drag a little bit, preventing the film from ending earlier than it did.

Too many characters: Despite the film containing an all-star cast, I felt there were too many characters in this story. There were times when I had difficulty keeping track of who was who. The large number of cast members also caused some actors to receive less screen time than others, with Red Skelton being one of them. When I saw his name on a casino marquee, I was given the impression he would perform a comedy sketch on the casino’s stage. However, Red was briefly featured in one scene where he was seen arguing with a casino employee. I wondered why this film’s creative team would recruit such a well-known star for such a small part, especially when Red Skelton’s claim to fame, comedy, wasn’t utilized?

Money image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/bills-and-coins-in-isometric-design_1065328.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business”>Business vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Ocean’s Eleven is the first film of Peter Lawford’s I have ever seen. But I have not seen the “Ocean” movies from the 21st century, so I cannot make a comparison. Despite all this, I found the 1960 movie to be a fine first impression! Unlike Logan Lucky, Ocean’s Eleven showcased a heist that was interesting, exciting, and even suspenseful. Clever dialogue and creative set design at each casino were worth seeing and listening. Even the acting was solid, not just from Peter, but from the cast as a whole! However, there are factors that held Ocean’s Eleven back from being a stronger film. While I liked the dialogue, I found the movie’s first half very dialogue heavy. There were also too many characters and the third act felt like a “bait and switch”. But I still thought it was better than Logan Lucky and Marriage on the Rocks. If Kristen brings this blogathon back next year, it’ll be interesting to see what I choose!

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of the “Ocean” movies? Which film of Peter Lawford’s would you want to check out? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Matinee Review + 220 Follower Thank You

If you’ve read my recent blog follower dedication reviews, you could tell that I’ve been trying to watch more films from my DVR. This has been a conscious decision, as there are several films that have been there for a year or more. One of those movies is Matinee, as it has been on my DVR since last February. What caused me to record it was how the movie revolved around a movie. Film is a topic that I am very passionate about. Because Matinee was about a subject I’m interested in, it gave me a reason to watch it. While looking back on the movies I’ve reviewed within the past month, I realized that the last film I talked about from the ‘90s was the 1990 adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. This is another reason why I chose Matinee for my 220-follower dedication review, as the movie was released in 1993. Before I start this review, I’d like to thank all of my followers! I’m incredibly grateful for the success this blog has achieved!

Matinee poster created by Universal Pictures. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107529/mediaviewer/rm2632269312.

Things I liked about this film:

The acting: Any time I have seen one of John Goodman’s movies, I have noticed how his character has a larger-than-life personality. Even when John was voice-acting as Sully from Monsters, Inc., that character’s personality was very jovial and memorable. When it comes to John’s performance in Matinee, Lawrence Woolsey also had a larger-than-life personality. The persona that John brought to his role was commanding, allowing the audience to focus on him whenever he came on screen. His performance was not only consistent in this film, but it also plays a consistent part in John’s acting career. It’s nice to see actors you recognize from one movie appear in another one. Omri Katz and Kellie Martin are two good examples of this. I’m familiar with Omri because of his performance in Hocus Pocus. Kellie Martin’s small-screen work is what I have seen from her filmography. Watching Omri and Kellie’s performance in Matinee was a joy to watch! They had good on-screen chemistry and both of their portrayals were convincing!

The historical accuracy: The story of Matinee takes places during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Because of this, the presentation of the film needs to reflects that moment in history. The historical accuracy in this movie was executed so well, I felt like I was transported to 1962. All of the costumes looked like the wardrobe you’d see on a typical episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Cars from that time period can be seen cruising down the street, sporting color palettes that are not often seen on today’s roads. Lawrence’s sea green convertible with matching interior is one example. Even the music set the tone for that environment. When Sherry’s ex-boyfriend, Harvey, returns to town, The Angels’ song, “My Boyfriend’s Back” is heard. Even though this song was released in 1963, the overall sound reflects the soundtrack of that period in time.

The special effects: I was not expecting the creative team behind Matinee to incorporate any special effects into their project. However, these special effects were impressive! They were mostly used during the presentation of Lawrence’s movie, Mant! At certain points in the fictional film, smoke and flashing lights could be seen. Matinee’s climax boasts even more eye-catching effects! In one scene, a section of the theater is being destroyed. During this moment, the theater rumbled as flames engulfed the background. The way these effects came together made this destruction look so real! They also looked very good for a movie released in 1993!

Relevant ideas: I was surprised to find ideas within this story that are just as relevant in 2020 as they were in the ‘90s or even the ‘60s. When Gene and Stan pass by their local grocery store, they see patrons shopping in panic. These patrons grab everything in sight, with one woman buying as much toilet paper as she can carry. While the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Coronavirus are two completely different events, both of them have caused a large group of people to panic. Toward the beginning of the Coronavirus, grocery stores were witnessing the fear their customers carried. The situation became so dire, there were reports about people fighting over toilet paper.

Theater seats image created by weatherbox at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/weatherbox.”

What I didn’t like about the film:

Under-utilized characters: I found some characters in Matinee to be under-utilized more than others. One of them was Gene’s brother, Dennis. From a historical fiction perspective, I understand that Dennis is meant to show how younger children might have responded to an event like the Cuban Missile Crisis. But from the perspective of Lawrence’s movie presentation, I asked myself why Dennis was in the story at all? This makes me wish this particular character had received his own subplot.

Weaker subplots: A few of Matinee’s subplots were either too straight-forward or didn’t lead anywhere. A perfect example involves two of Lawrence’s employees, who pose as a special interest group attempting to ban his movie. Like Dennis’ presence in Matinee, I understand that this part of the narrative contains historical context, showing how some people choose to publicly dislike something to the point of protest. But after they interact with Harvey, these employees disappeared from the film. They didn’t receive a satisfying resolution and were forgotten about as the movie progressed.

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

My overall impression:

Anyone who knows me knows that Phantom of the Megaplex is my favorite Disney Channel movie. It showed me how movies, as well as the movie-going experience, can be fun. Even though Matinee was released seven years prior, it reminded me a lot of the 2000 picture. They happen to share similar ideas, some of them beyond the subject of film. This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed Matinee so much! It was funny and, at times, clever, with relevant ideas woven into the story. The film also had solid components, like the acting and special effects. Most important is how Matinee was fun! In a year when so much has happened, movies can play a role in providing a form of escapism and making viewers feel like they can conquer something, even when events in their world are beyond their control. Before the presentation of Mant!, Lawrence explains to the theater employees why it’s important to release his movie at that given time. He tells them that, despite scary things appearing in his picture, he wants to remind his audience that everything is going to be ok. Lawrence also shares that he wants to remind his audience that his film’s villain can be defeated.

Overall score: 8.5 out of 10

Have you seen Matinee? What movies involving movies have you enjoyed watching? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Alphaville Review

For July’s Genre Grandeur, the theme is “French Film Noir”. Originally, I was going to review a film released within the Breen Code Era, as I’ve been participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month. But anytime I searched for a French film noir title that premiered between 1934 and 1954, the movie was either too expensive to purchase or unavailable to rent. So instead, I chose to review the 1965 film, Alphaville, as I was able to rent it. In my review of Alice in the Cities, I said that out of all the movies I’ve seen and/or reviewed that were created outside of North America, most of them came from Europe. The majority of these films were released from France. While researching Alphaville, I learned that the movie is labeled as a science fiction story. As someone who has seen both film noir and sci-fi movies, I was curious to see what a story with this specific genre combination would look like.

Since I saw a picture of the film’s poster on my television, I decided to take a screenshot of it. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because I’ve seen a limited number of French films, I wasn’t familiar with these actors and actresses. However, I thought the acting performances in Alphaville were good! Eddie Constantine’s portrayal of Lemmy Caution reminded me of the performances I’ve seen from John Wayne. What I mean by this is Eddie presented his character with a tough and masculine exterior, but allowed emotion to break through that exterior. He also adopted a “no nonsense” attitude that worked for a story of this nature. Anna Karina also gave a performance that worked for this story! She incorporated a gentleness to her portrayal of Natacha von Braun. This can be heard through her soft-spoken voice and seen through her caring nature. Throughout her performance, Anna displayed emotions in a subtle way. In one scene, when Lemmy is being arrested, Natacha can be seen crying as silently as possible. Despite appearing in the film for less than five scenes, I liked watching Akim Tamiroff’s portrayal of Henri Dickson! The best part about it was how believable it was. A good example of this is any time Henri was experiencing a heart attack, as pain could be seen in his face.

The cinematography: There were some scenes in Alphaville that were shot in interesting ways! This was accomplished by applying various film-making techniques. When Lemmy was walking to a particular location, a continuous shot followed Lemmy to his destination. A perfect example can be found toward the beginning of the film, when Lemmy is being led toward his hotel room. For scene transitions, flashing lights were incorporated to signify a bridge between scenes. After Alphaville’s computer, Alpha 60, is finished explaining one of the city’s many beliefs, a neon sign of a math equation flashes until a scene involving Lemmy begins. Toward the end of the movie, some scenes were presented using an infrared light. This was to show a glitch in Alphaville’s technological system.

The film’s sci-fi world: When most people think of the science fiction genre, fantastical worlds with elaborate costumes, set designs, and makeup are usually what come to mind. For Alphaville, the creative team purposefully chose to film in real-life locations. This decision causes the titular city to appear grounded in reality. The science fiction elements of this story were woven into the behaviors of the citizens and the beliefs they hold. Using what they already had to create a science fiction narrative allowed the movie’s creative team to submit a film that goes against the genre’s norm.

Magnifying fingerprints image created by Balintseby at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Balintseby – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/fingerprint-investigation_789253.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The film’s science fiction ideas: In a typical science fiction film, the sci-fi ideas are presented as understandable enough for the audience to know what’s happening on screen. This was unfortunately not the case for Alphaville. The ideas associated with this story were so high-concept and complex, that I found myself not understanding what the characters were talking about most of the time. It also doesn’t help that the characters fail to provide clearer explanations for these ideas. This feels like the creative team expected the audience to know what was being discussed before they saw the movie.

Lack of context: In my review of The Crow, I talked about how questions emerged without an answer or an elaboration being provided. This is the exact same mistake that the creative team behind Alphaville made. The majority of female characters in the 1965 picture can be seen with number tattoos. No context is given for why they have this type of tattoo or the meaning behind the tattoo itself. In one scene, Lemmy and Natacha are attending a gathering where people who disobey Alphaville’s beliefs are being punished. Natacha explains how there are more men than women who get punished at these gatherings. She never gives further explanation for why this is the case. Because of the lack of context, it adds to the story’s overarching confusion.

No sense of urgency: Film noir movies usually have a slower pace. This is done on purpose to flesh out the overall story. However, there is an underlying sense of urgency. While watching Alphaville, I could not detect any amount of urgency in the story. For most of the film, Lemmy could be seen in his hotel room, roaming around the city, or visiting the Alpha 60 headquarters on rare occasions. Even though he resolves the film’s conflict, this doesn’t happen until about the last twenty minutes.

Colorful galaxy image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/lovely-hand-drawn-galaxy-background_2943080.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

I like participating in Movierob’s Genre Grandeur blogathon because it gives me an opportunity to see films that I may not have watched otherwise. This is certainly the case for this month’s selection, Alphaville. A combination of sci-fi and film noir was something I hadn’t seen before. But I found it to be an interesting contribution to both genres. The world presented in this story is not always found in sci-fi narratives. Bringing a newer idea to the table is what basing the world in a more realistic setting did. Cinematography was also a highlight of this project. It gave the film’s creative team a chance to experiment with different film-making techniques. However, the overall story was just ok. This was caused by confusing science fiction ideas and a lack of context. The majority of content from this story flew over my head, as I didn’t understand what the characters were talking about most of the time. I was frustrated by the overall project because I wasn’t able to grasp the concepts within Alphaville.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any French film noirs? Are there any movies from this specific genre you’d like to see me review? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Never a Dull Moment Review

Like I said in my Follow Me, Boys! review, I have several movies on my DVR. Most of these films were recorded last year or over a year ago. Last night, I chose to watch one of these films, which I added to my DVR last June. This film is Never a Dull Moment! Sometime, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will host a marathon called “Treasures from the Disney Vault”. When this event takes place, the network will show a collection of smaller titles and lesser known films from Disney. In one of these marathons, Never a Dull Moment was included in the line-up. While I had never heard of this film prior to the marathon, I have seen two of Dick Van Dyke’s movies. Because one of those films was Mary Poppins, which I have enjoyed, I had a good indication that I might like Never a Dull Moment. Was this the case? Keep reading my review if you want to find out!

Never a Dull Moment poster created by Walt Disney Productions and Buena Vista Distribution. ©Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NeverADullMoment1968.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Before watching Never a Dull Moment, I had seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins. A consistent component of Dick Van Dyke’s acting abilities I have noticed is the strong adaptability. In one scene, his character, Jack, is acting drunk in an attempt to impersonate a gangster. Moments later, Jack is crying over the loss of a fictional Aunt Gladys. This is a great example of how Dick could effortlessly take on any situation through his performance! At limited moments in the film, a gangster named Florian would appear. This character was portrayed by Tony Bill. What I liked about his performance is how calm and collected his persona came across. Even though Florian was Leo Smooth’s henchman, he presented an idea of a gangster that people have come to recognize in film. While I liked Dorothy Provine’s portrayal of Sally, I want to talk about Joanna Cook Moore’s portrayal of Melanie, as her on-screen presence was shorter. Joanna’s personality was bubbly, which appeared natural for her character. During a scene where Melanie is showing Jack some of her figure skating photos, Joanna seemed to use her performance to light up the room. Her on-screen presence was memorable, despite being featured in only three scenes.

The set design: I was really impressed by the set design in Never a Dull Moment! Since the movie takes place in New York, tall skyscrapers and even the Brooklyn Bridge can be seen. This specific set looked impressive, making the location feel larger than life! Another great example of set design was Leo Smooth’s mansion. My favorite feature of this set was the consistency and fine detailing of the woodwork, especially on the staircase! A local art museum is where the film’s heist is featured. During the climax, various art exhibits are showcased. The Pop Art exhibit was the best one, as the art itself was colorful. It was also large in scale, creating a space that felt grand.

The music: If used well, music can help set a tone for either the whole movie or a particular scene. The music certainly did that for Never a Dull Moment! Whenever Jack was sneaking around Leo’s mansion, smooth jazz music could be heard. This fits the tone of those scenes because it emulates a feeling of curiosity that usually comes from film-noir and mysteries. In a scene involving a spinning piece of art, music from a merry-go-round was playing in the background. Since the art itself is colorful and the scene is meant to be humorous, this musical selection makes sense.

Art tools image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/flar-art-tools-pack_835368.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>.  <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/paint”>Paint vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out story: One overarching narrative of Never a Dull Moment revolves around a group of gangsters planning to steal a valuable painting. While an important component of any heist is the preparation stage, this part of the process lasted longer than it should have. Only one scene is dedicated to highlighting the plans for the heist. But the rest of that time was spent focusing on things not related to the heist. One example is Melanie Smooth attempting to relive her glory days as a famous figure skater. Moments like this had nothing to do with the heist and caused the overall story to feel drawn out.

Little sense of urgency: Heist films are usually fast paced, as there is a sense of urgency to carry out the heist. But, in Never a Dull Moment, the amount of urgency within the story was small. For most of the film, Jack hangs out at Leo Smooth’s mansion. This part of the movie was mundane, as little to no excitement was taking place. Even the gangsters’ activities didn’t feel out of the ordinary. A good example is when Leo is painting in his office. While the overall level of excitement picked up when the heist started, the build-up itself was not exciting.

A dull first half: With a title like Never a Dull Moment, you’d think the movie as a whole would be intriguing and action-packed. However, that is not the case for this film. I found the first half of the movie to be dull. This is the result of the story being drawn out and a small amount of urgency. Even though a part of the overall narrative focuses on a heist, this aspect of the story seemed to be an afterthought within the film’s first half. The heist itself took place in the second half of the movie. But this doesn’t make up for the weak nature of the previous segment.

New York City skyline with letters image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/new-york-skyline-typographic-silhouette_719554.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As of late June to early July 2020, I have reviewed four live-action Disney films from the ‘60s. Three out of four of these movies have been ok or “middle of the road”. Never a Dull Moment was one of them. I will say this is a better heist movie than Logan Lucky. However, it wasn’t as exciting as I had expected it to be. The film is titled Never a Dull Moment, but the first half of the story is just that: dull. It also doesn’t help that there was a small amount of urgency. But the movie did contain elements that I did like. Some of them includes the acting and the set design. As weird as it sounds, Never a Dull Moment doesn’t feel like a Disney movie. It’s understandable for a studio to try new things and think outside the box. Never a Dull Moment, however, seems like belongs to a different studio. Like my Follow Me, Boys! review, I can’t fully recommend this movie, but I’m not going to dissuade anyone from watching it either.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of Dick Van Dyke’s films? Which live-action Disney film from the ‘60s do you like or dislike? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Follow Me, Boys! Review + 205 Follower Thank You

Two days ago, 18 Cinema Lane received 205 followers! I want to thank all of my followers for making this accomplishment a reality! Currently, there are several movies on my DVR. In fact, some of these films were recorded over a year ago. So, I decided to choose one of these movies for this review. As the title reads, this movie is Follow Me, Boys!, which had sat on my DVR since early 2018. Every film studio has their hidden gems. While it’s impossible to watch every one of these projects, I try my best to talk about them on this blog. Follow Me, Boys! is a movie I had never heard of prior to recording it. However, there have been some enjoyable live-action Disney films from around the release of Follow Me, Boys!, such as The Moon-Spinners and Mary Poppins. Did I enjoy this film as much as the two aforementioned pictures? Follow me through this review as we’re about to find out!

In case you’re wondering, this is a screenshot of the film’s poster I took from my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While watching this film, there were some performances that I was pleasantly surprised to see. One of them came from Lillian Gish. Last year, I reviewed one of her movies, which was The Whales of August. A similarity between Lillian’s role in that movie and Follow Me, Boys! is how pleasant it was to watch! Even though she was only in the film for a limited amount of time, I liked the moments when her character, Hetty Seibert, showed up on screen! What helped Lillian’s performance was her on-screen personality and the on-screen chemistry she had with her co-stars. I was also surprised to see Kurt Russell’s performance in this film, even though, prior to watching Follow Me, Boys!, I was aware that Kurt had starred in several Disney productions. The one aspect that stood out to me was the emotional strength Kurt carried through his portrayal of Whitey. This especially helped during the more dramatic moments of the story, such as when Whitey was dealing with his father. Kurt’s performance worked in his favor for not only this film, but also for his career long time.

The historical accuracy: The story of Follow Me, Boys! spans a total of twenty years, from 1930 to 1950. During the movie, I noted how good the historical accuracy looked! One aspect of this that serves as proof is the vehicles that are used. Toward to the beginning of the film, Hetty can be seen driving a car that looks like a Ford Model T. Because it’s 1930 at this point in the story, it would make sense for this kind of vehicle to be shown. At the end of the movie, when the story takes place in 1950, Lem and Vida are riding in a Plymouth automobile. These vehicles also helped show the transition between these time periods. It’s details like this one that show how much the creative team cared about the delivery of their project.

The camaraderie among the Boy Scout troop: Because this story spans a long period of time, the members of the film’s Boy Scout troop come and go. However, a consistent element was the troop’s camaraderie. While watching the troop’s evolution, the boys appeared to get along with one another and enjoy each other’s company. More often than not, the troop’s members work together during activities. They also promote the ideas of friendship, teamwork, and respect. The actors delivered the believability through their performances, which helped increase this group’s likeability.

Illustrated image of Boy Scout troop created by Macrovector at freepik.com. Banner vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The run-time: A film’s run-time can make or break that production. If a movie feels too long or short, it could affect the movie-viewing experience. This element definitely impacted my perspective of this film. I watched Follow Me, Boys! on television and the run-time was listed at 2 hours and 33 minutes. On IMDB, the movie has a run-time of 2 hours and 11 minutes. This story did not warrant a run-time this long, with situations being placed in the film for the sake of satisfying this run-time. The movie would have been more enjoyable if it was an hour and thirty or forty minutes long. That way, the overall story wouldn’t feel drawn out.

Little to no adversity: One of the over-arching narratives of Follow Me, Boys! is the formation and existence of a local Boy Scout troop. Despite how much of the story revolves around this group, they don’t experience many obstacles. When the troop does experience a conflict, it becomes quickly and easily resolved. This is different from a story like Troop Beverly Hills, where the troop faced several obstacles that last longer than a few minutes. Because of this choice, it seemed like situations in Follow Me, Boys! happened way too conveniently in the Boy Scout troop’s favor.

Situations happening too quickly: Despite the film being over two hours, some situations in this movie happened too quickly. A perfect example is Lem and Vida’s relationship, with no smooth transitions during each stage. In one scene, Lem and Vida are having their first major argument. A few minutes later, they are seen getting married. I know the film was supposed to show time progressing. However, the poor transitions caused some parts of the story to feel rushed.

Law school textbooks image created by Peter Skadberg at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Peter Skadberg.”

My overall impression:

The way I feel about Follow Me, Boys! is the same way I feel about Summer Magic: it’s just ok. This film did have its merits and it felt like the creative team had their hearts in the right place. But the project does have a big flaw that I cannot overlook. The run-time of Follow Me, Boys! is too long, making the movie feel like it’s dragging its feet through the mud. This was the root of other flaws within the movie, like situations happening too quickly and scenario placements that only serve to satisfy the run-time. I had to, occasionally, pause the film just to check how much time was left. While I can’t fully recommend this movie, I’m not going to dissuade anyone from watching it either.

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

Have you seen Follow Me, Boys! Are there any Disney films from the ‘60s you’d like me to review? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen