Like I said in my list of the worst movies I saw in 2021, this year is a little different. Since 2018, most of the movies on my best list have been those I have reviewed. But a few titles on those lists weren’t covered on my blog. 2021 is the first year where every film on my best list has been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane! It should also be noted how each of these titles were either blogathon entries or Blog Follower Dedication Reviews. Therefore, I will include a link to each of these reviews on my list! As I said in my worst movies of 2021 list, I saw several films this year that I liked. This article is reflective of those feelings. But unlike my aforementioned list, there will be Honorable Mentions. So, with that said, let’s end 2021 on a high note with the top ten best movies I saw in 2021!
Cape Fear (1962), Bathing Beauty, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part, Elizabeth Is Missing, and The Girl Who Spelled Freedom
10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series is a newer story that began last year. Despite how young this series is, it has grown over the course of four movies! This chapter not only recognizes its strengths, but also improves on some of the previous movies’ mistakes. Giving equal focus to the main and side mysteries is one example. Speaking of the mysteries, the overarching story was intriguing and engaging. There were even new characters added to this film I wanted to know more about. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff’s story didn’t receive a lot of development. With this and everything else said, I hope this series continues in 2022!
In my three (soon to be four) years of movie blogging, I never thought I’d ever see any version of A Star Is Born. But now that I have seen the original from the ‘30s, I can honestly say it was better than I expected! The story’s honesty about the entertainment industry and maturity toward heavier subjects was such a surprise. What was also a surprise was the use of mixed-media throughout the film, as it was ahead of its time. Even though A Star Is Born was released toward the beginning of the Breen Code era, it highlights the quality storytelling that came from this period in time. With the constant changes in the entertainment landscape, as well as technology, I can kind of see why this story has been remade on more than one occasion.
In 2021, there is at least one movie from the ‘50s on my best and worst movies list. But since I already talked about I Dream of Jeanie and The Trap, it’s time for The King and I to shine! This was the first time I had seen this version of the story in its entirety. Despite that, I found the film to be quite enjoyable! It is a good looking and sounding film, with the costume design, musical numbers, and set design building an aesthetically pleasing picture. The most memorable part of the movie was Tuptim’s interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin! As I said in my review, it served as a good example of how everyone can view a text differently. The scene itself was more interesting than I expected.
Because Hallmark creates so many Christmas movies, it can sometimes feel like they blend together. However, that is not the case for Holly and Ivy! What helps this title stand out is showing realistic characters dealing with realistic situations. This is quite different from those Hallmark pictures where the conflict either revolves around returning to a small town, saving a beloved establishment, or planning a major event. The emotional balance within this story added to my enjoyment of the picture. It never felt like the creative team was trying to emotionally manipulate me or force a reaction out of me. Looking back on the few Christmas films I reviewed this year, I can say with all honesty that Holly and Ivy was the best one!
In my opinion, Rigoletto is to Beauty and the Beast what Ever After: A Cinderella Story was for Cinderella. What I mean by this is Rigoletto does an effective job at executing a non-magical version of Beauty and the Beast! Even though there have been musical versions of this particular story, such as the 1991 animated production from Disney, the 1993 film chose music as one of the story’s themes. This was an interesting choice, as it showed the audience the talent and skill it takes to be a good singer. Another interesting choice was the story taking place during The Great Depression. As I said in my review, this creative decision helped the film achieve its own identity.
This is the first year an UP Network movie has appeared on any of my best lists! While Sincerely, Yours, Truly does contain a similar story to those found on Hallmark Channel, it makes up of that in genuineness and sincerity. The movie also presented interesting ideas, such as a grant proposal process and avoiding the “it’s not what you think” cliché. The on-screen chemistry and witty banter between the lead actor and actress definitely added to my enjoyment of this film! I don’t know what’s in store for UP Network in 2022. But I hope they continue to release quality productions like Sincerely, Yours, Truly!
4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
This entry in the Perry Mason movie series is one of the most memorable titles! One of the reasons why was the titular talk show host. Featuring real life talk show hosts in this story was a good idea. Having them portray talk show hosts on the radio was an even better idea, especially since some of those hosts had their own television show. That creative decision gave them new material to work with. The engaging nature of the mystery, where the outcome unfolds as the story goes on, maintained a steady amount of intrigue. This served as another way Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host stood out in the mystery genre!
Over the years, I have enjoyed finding and watching Hallmark Hall of Fame movies from years, even decades past. Sometimes, there are hidden gems that can be discovered. 1998’s The Love Letter is one of those gems! Unlike Chasing Leprechauns, the creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame title found a way to allow the realistic and whimsical aspects of the story to co-exist. In fact, the whimsical part of the movie is what made the project one of the most unique in Hallmark Hall of Fame history! The film does contain the elements you’d usually find in a production of this nature, such as historical accuracy. But that just adds to the strength of The Love Letter!
Isn’t it interesting how another Gene Kelly movie made it to my best list’s top three? Despite the weird coincidence, I did enjoy this version of The Three Musketeers! There was so much about this project I liked, from the strength of the ensemble cast to the stellar fight choreography. However, the best part of the film was how much detail went into it. This can be seen in the set design and costumes, where research and care are also reflected. While I still haven’t gotten around to reading the novel this movie is based on, The Three Musketeers was definitely an entertaining story!
When it comes to the world of cinema, nothing beats the classics! The timelessness of 1984’s The Karate Kid allows the film to have a strong rate of re-watchability. The film’s story also contained ideas and messages that caused me to think, which is not something I’d expect from a sports movie. As I write this list, Mr. Miyagi’s words immediately come to mind. Whether it’s the famous “Wax on, Wax off” quote or his wisdom about karate, these words not only help The Karate Kid remain a memorable picture, but also give the audience something to apply to their lives. Add some exciting karate sequences and you have a solid film that has stood the test of time!
When it comes to my best and worst of the year lists, 2021 is a little different. For one, this is the first year where I don’t have any Dishonorable Mentions. This is because I didn’t see enough movies to justify having this portion on the list. For another, my list has the least number of movies that were “so bad they were bad”. The reason is most of the films on this year’s list were disappointments. When I look back on my movie viewing in 2021, I feel most of the titles I saw and/or reviewed were either ok or fine/decent. Sure, I did see several films I liked. But some of those will be discussed on my best of the year list. Speaking of lists, let’s start counting down the top ten worst movies I saw in 2021!
As I’ve said in past lists, I did not write this list to be mean-spirited or negative. It’s simply a way to expressive my own, honest opinion.
Some of the movies on this list have been reviewed on my blog. I will include a link to my reviews of these films.
10. I Dream of Jeanie (1952)
This movie made me wish I had saved an hour and twenty-nine-minutes by reading Stephen Foster’s Wikipedia page. For a “biopic”, I Dream of Jeanie wasn’t very informative. While I did learn a few things, the story didn’t capture an almost complete picture of the famous composer. It also showcased him in a not-so-favorable light. Because he was portrayed as a desperate push-over, Stephen was a character that exuded sympathy to the audience. What did not help was how the film placed more focus on other characters and events as well, such as the oh so annoying Edwin P. Christy. Speaking of Edwin, this movie would be called “The Edwin P. Christy Show” if given an honest title.
This movie is notorious among the Hallmark fans for having more than one release date between 2019 to 2020. Too bad it wasn’t worth the wait. What could have been an interesting story turned out to be another tale of a woman from the city coming back to her small hometown. This is also one of those films where the protagonist says they are going to do something, but ends up spending most of the movie not doing the aforementioned thing. Country at Heart’s biggest flaw, though, lay in the singing abilities of the main character, Shayna. Throughout the story, Shayna’s talents were treated as if she were the next great undiscovered talent. But, in reality, her talents were, at best, fine. I don’t know if Jessy Schram sang in the movie or if there was a singing double. However, this part of the film dissuaded me from buying what the movie was selling.
8. The Trap (1959)
What a weird coincidence for another movie from the ‘50s to end up on my worst list. Even though The Trap is classified as a drama, the creative team placed more emphasis on the drama within the story. When you have gangsters in your film, this is not the genre you want to place your movie in. Since my warning came way too late, the 1959 title was a boring combination of a Suddenly rip-off and a road trip picture. Adding insult to injury, the excitement and action you’d expect from a gangster film was so far and few between. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t fall asleep during this movie, as I wanted to on more than one occasion.
It is possible to make a good movie revolving around a debate. The Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Sweet Nothing in My Ear, is a beautiful example of this. With Jane Doe: Ties That Bind, however, adding a debate to a mystery story doesn’t work. This is because it goes against the very nature of the mystery genre, which emphasizes finding a concrete resolution to the story’s conflict. Unfortunately for the 2007 movie, a debate was the most focused part of the script. Because of that decision, the debate overshadowed the mystery itself. When everything was said and done, the debate wasn’t resolved. If I could summarize this film in one meme, it would be the one where the woman asks “You did this for what”?
6. Hometown Hero
It’s a shame that not one, but two PixL movies ended up on my list, especially since I rarely talk about their films on my blog. The reason why Hometown Hero is considered one of the worst movies I saw this year is because of how bland it was. This caused me not to care about any of the characters or their stories. It also doesn’t help that the main actor and actress had such weak on-screen chemistry, it felt like their characters were becoming good friends instead of romantic significant others. Similar to what I said about choice number seven, I would choose the meme of the woman asking “Where’s the flavor”? if I needed to summarize Hometown Hero in one meme.
5. The Price of Fitting In
Lifetime has an infamous history of creating PSA/“after school special”/cautionary tale movies, which cover a variety of serious, real world subjects. When I came across this 2021 title, I was curious to see what new topics and issues would be discussed in this film, especially considering it’s been a long while since Lifetime created a movie of this nature. But unlike the network’s other PSA/“after school special”/cautionary tale productions from decades past, The Price of Fitting In suffers from an identity crisis. The script spends the entire movie trying to figure out what type of story it wants to adopt. This led several parts of the narrative to either be underdeveloped or unresolved. The Price of Fitting In does recognize how a robotics team can experience similar peer-related situations like other extracurriculars, so I’ll give the movie credit where it’s due. I just wish that idea had belonged in a better film.
4. Raising Arizona
The best way to describe how I feel about this movie is by using an analogy: You’re listening to someone tell a joke. But when it’s time to deliver the punchline, that person forgets what it is. So instead, they either try to come up with a new punchline on the spot or they attempt to figure out what the original punchline was. In Raising Arizona, the comedic moments lasted so long, the punchline got lost in translation. Some of the jokes didn’t make sense because of this. The characters were not charming or likable enough to make their dysfunctionality tolerable for the audience. If anything, they were one-dimensional and uninteresting. The only part of the movie that prevented me from DNFing (did not finish) it was Leonard Smalls. He was such a mysterious and intriguing character, that I wish I watched a movie about a character like Leonard.
As I said in my review from July, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Durango is “the first western set in Ireland”, according to IMDB. For the first of its kind, it was a step in the wrong direction. Stories in the western genre are known for having higher stakes, giving the audience an excuse to stay invested in the characters well-being. Durango didn’t get that memo because most of the stakes were so low, the characters’ plans worked out too perfectly. Despite never reading the book this Hallmark Hall of Fame title is based on, I can tell how weak this script was. What was also weak was Matt Keeslar’s performance and his on-screen chemistry with Nancy St. Alban. Watching this movie on Hallmark Drama was a blessing in disguise. I may not have saved some time, but at least I saved some money.
Yet another Hallmark movie set in Ireland joins the list. Since the network doesn’t create many St. Patrick’s Day themed movies, it is frustrating when a story relating to this particular holiday doesn’t stick the landing. With Chasing Leprechauns, the creative team wanted to include a whimsical element without making the movie too whimsical. Like I said in my review of the 2012 film, those involved with the project wanted to have their cake and eat it too. When I look at the movie’s poster, it feels like false advertising. For one, Chasing Leprechauns is a drab looking picture, not the lush, green paradise the poster wants you to believe. For another, there are no leprechauns in the story, despite the word ‘leprechauns’ being in the title. Hallmark is known for releasing some of their movies on DVD. As far as I know, Chasing Leprechauns was never made available for purchase. Maybe its poor quality is the reason why?
Remember when I said there were two PixL movies on my worst list? Well, The Cookie Mobster is the second film. For those who are not familiar with PixL, this is an entertainment company that typically creates “rom-coms” similar to those on Hallmark Channel. Because of that, this 2014 film was way too ambitious for the company’s own good. The light-hearted tone of the scouting troop’s story and the darker tone of the former gangster’s story ended up clashing with each other. Adding to that, the screenwriters didn’t display an understanding for several of the movie’s subjects. The weak script caused me to question the story’s validity, which took away any opportunity for me to stay invested in the story. The more I think about The Cookie Mobster, the more I wish it had been created by INSP or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
Two years ago, I reviewed It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World. I chose to re-watch this movie in an attempt to give it a second chance. For the Anne Bancroft: A 90th Birthday Celebration Blogathon, I decided to do something similar with another movie. This time, the film of choice is The Elephant Man. Many years prior, I saw about ten minutes of the 1980 title. At the time, I thought the film was boring. Upon discovering Anne starred in The Elephant Man, I thought it would give me a good excuse to re-visit this movie. It also provided a good opportunity to check out more of Anne’s filmography. So, in honor of Anne’s birthday, let’s raise the curtain on this review of The Elephant Man!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: When I reviewed The Picture of Dorian Gray last week, I talked about how I was disappointed to see Peter Lawford in a smaller role, as he was one of the reasons why I watched the film in the first place. Anne Bancroft’s role in The Elephant Man made me feel similarly. She is one of the reasons why I chose to review the 1980 title. Like Peter Lawford, she appeared in the film for a short amount of time. However, I did like her acting performance! Portraying a stage actress named Mrs. Kendal, she brought a brightness to the story that was greatly needed. Her kind disposition is one of the reasons why I liked her interactions with John Merrick/ “The Elephant Man”. One of my favorite scenes is when Mrs. Kendal and John are reciting Romeo and Juliet. The way these actors conversed with one another helped create a genuinely sweet moment for both characters!
Speaking of John, I also liked John Hurt’s portrayal of the titular character! When it comes to historical figures or real-life people, it can, sometimes, be difficult to picture that person existing in the same world as us. That’s because we are, at times, so far removed from these individuals. With John’s performance, it made the realization of John Merrick’s/ “The Elephant Man’s” existence come alive. With the help of elaborate makeup, John was able to transform into another person. At the same time, he was able to bring the humanity out of his character. During the movie, John Merrick/ “The Elephant Man” builds a replica of a nearby cathedral. Even though this example is a simple one, it highlights John’s personality, as well as his desire to learn and dream.
Prior to re-watching The Elephant Man, I had seen some of Anthony Hopkins’ films. Out of the films I have seen, most of Anthony’s roles were a source of fear. For example, as I talked about in my review of Audrey Rose, his character seemed to have power over the situation. That’s because he carried the answers Ivy’s parents were desperately seeking. But in The Elephant Man, his character was not a source of fear. This gave Anthony different material to work with. While portraying Dr. Frederick Treves, he came across as charming. Frederick always had his heart in the right place, going to the ends of the earth for John Merrick/ “The Elephant Man”. But there was one scene when Frederick was angry for the right reasons. In that scene, he was truly scary, from angrily yelling to pushing someone across a room. However, this incident was meant to show how one’s suffering can cause another person to react.
The use of black-and-white imagery: Because this story takes place in the Victorian era, the creative team chose to present their project in black-and-white imagery. I found this to be an interesting choice, especially since the film was created during a time when color cinematic imagery was available. Whenever illustrations or pictures from the Victorian period are shown, they are typically in black-and-white. Therefore, the imagery gave the illusion of these illustrations and pictures coming to life. This creative choice allowed the audience to be transported back to that time. To me, I found the overall project immersive, thanks in part to the black-and-white imagery!
The cinematography: Another area of interest was the movie’s cinematography! At times, the camera was positioned as if the view is from John Merrick’s/ “The Elephant Man’s” perspective. When John first goes to Frederick’s office, he stands in a corner of the room. As Frederick is entering his office, the scene is presented from John’s corner, as if John himself is holding the camera. When it came to the cinematography, creative decisions were found. As John is entering the hospital for the first time, Frederick meets him at the front desk. During this interaction, a long shot looking down on John shows him walking around the front desk. This was an interesting way of presenting this scene, shown in a way I never would have considered.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Lots of establishing shots: Throughout the film, establishing shots built up to certain parts of the story. However, the abundance of these shots felt more like padding. A good example is when Frederick is on his way to see John/ “The Elephant Man” for the first time. Before Frederick arrives at his destination, scenes of him walking down streets and alleys are shown. But instead of the three or four establishing shots presented, there should have been only one. If some of these shots were cut, the movie would have a run-time of less than two hours.
Prolonging John’s/ “The Elephant Man’s” appearance: As the title suggests, The Elephant Man revolves around John Merrick/ The Elephant Man. The film is also based on an article titled The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu. With all that said, it appears the creative team tried to emphasize the idea of someone having different life experiences or medical conditions than ourselves. But instead of normalizing John’s appearance by showing him on-screen sooner, John’s presence was prolonged for the first thirty minutes of the movie. During that time, John was either shown very briefly or his appearance was hidden. One example is during a medical presentation, where only John’s shadow could be seen. Even the movie’s poster features John covered up by a mask and cape. These creative choices went against the team’s good intentions.
Missed opportunity for a mystery: While John is having tea at Frederick and Ann’s house, he mentions how he’d like to find his mother and meet her. As soon as John said this, I thought Frederick was going to solve the case. Sadly, this part of the story never came to fruition. This disappointed me because omitting this mystery felt like a missed opportunity. At the same time, I can understand why this mystery was, simply, a passing comment. As I mentioned before, The Elephant Man revolves around the true story of John Merrick/ The Elephant Man. If little to no information is known about his mother, then it wouldn’t be faithful to make up details for the sake of intrigue.
My overall impression:
In The Elephant Man, Mrs. Kendal tells John “the theater is the most beautiful place”. While the theater, both on screen and stage, can be beautiful, it can also be quite ugly. Throughout the 1980 film, the script presents both ugly and beautiful moments in John’s life. The story is told in a way that I’d refer to as a “slow burn”. Even though this movie is based on a true story, it is a character driven narrative. It is also presented in an interesting way. I’m glad I gave this film a second chance! Because of my choice, I got to see familiar actors take on different roles. I also got to see more films from the 1980s. Looking back, I realize both films I re-visited, The Elephant Man and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, were because I reviewed them for a blogathon. It will be interesting to see what film I plan to re-visit next.
Overall score: 7.4-7.5 out of 10
Have you seen The Elephant Man? Did you re-visit a film recently? Please tell me in the comment section!
Now that I’ve seen 1984’s The Karate Kid, it’s time for me to review its respective sequel; The Karate Kid Part II! Long before I even thought about starting a movie blog, I had only seen a snippet of this film. Like I said before, I am willing to give a chance to movies I haven’t watched in their entirety. Because of that and because the majority of The Karate Kid Part II takes place in Japan, which has hosted the Olympics four times, my blogathon became a good excuse for checking this sequel out! Sequels, like any type of film, can be hit or miss. There are times when the next chapter can allow the overall story to “go the distance”; expanding the narrative and bringing something new to the table. Meanwhile, there are sequels that waste their potential by trying to recapture the magic of the previous installment. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the creative team and their intention for creating another film. If you want to know what type of sequel The Karate Kid Part II is, you’ll just have to keep reading this review!
Things I liked about the film:
More focus on Mr. Miyagi: The first film was about Daniel’s personal journey; hence the film being titled The Karate Kid. While the majority of the movie revolved around the protagonist, we get to learn about Mr. Miyagi through his interactions with Daniel. But only parts of Mr. Miyagi’s backstory are revealed in these interactions. The Karate Kid Part II places more emphasis on Mr. Miyagi’s story. As I mentioned in the introduction, the sequel takes place in Japan, where Mr. Miyagi is originally from. However, the audience also witnesses people from Mr. Miyagi’s past interacting with him. The reason for the sequel primarily taking place in Japan is because Mr. Miyagi receives a letter from his former love interest, Yukie, about his father’s ill-health. By crossing paths with Yukie again, Mr. Miyagi is given the opportunity to reflect on past life choices. He also has to deal with the ramifications those choices had created. This new direction in the overall story shows that even though Mr. Miyagi is a good teacher with plenty of wisdom to share, he is still a human who, like Daniel, is constantly learning.
Interactions among the characters: In my review for The Karate Kid, I talked about how the interactions among the characters were one of the strongest parts of that film. The sequel has the same strength as its predecessor, which provides consistency to the overall story! Having Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita reprise their roles helps maintain this consistency, as both actors are now familiar with each other’s talents. One of the strongest scenes in the movie is when Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are watching the sunset on the beach. In this moment, we not only learn more about Daniel, but we get to see him support his mentor and friend. The Karate Kid Part II shows Daniel having grown up since the events of the first film. Even though Daniel is still a teenager with a teenage perspective, he is more willing to put others before himself, as well as open his mind to new opportunities and experiences. Right as Mr. Miyagi boards his plane, Daniel joins him in the plane terminal. The reason why he wants to join Mr. Miyagi on this trip is because he wants to be there for his friend and mentor, especially since that friend and mentor has been there for Daniel. Not only does Daniel purchase a book about the specific place in Japan where Mr. Miyagi is from, but Daniel also uses some of the money from his savings account to pay for his ticket. Like I said in my review for the first movie, interactions like Mr. Miyagi and Daniel’s were made possible by the quality of the acting performances and the screenwriting!
The scenery: Although most of The Karate Kid Part II takes place in Japan, the movie was actually filmed in Oahu, Hawaii. Despite this change in location, the scenery was simply beautiful! Because Okinawa is presented in the film as a seaside town, there are several shots of the water that are featured. As I previously mentioned, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel are watching the sunset on the beach. Parts of this scene are shown through long shots, capturing the sun’s soft orange glow against the gray of the sky and water. In my review of the first installment, I talked about how one scene transitioned from a medium to a long shot, in an effort to showcase a part of the Grand Canyon. A scene where Daniel is practicing a breathing technique on a dock uses a similar transition. However, instead of starting with a medium shot, it begins with a close-up of Daniel. It then evolves into a long shot of the ocean, with clear blue water surrounding the dock and green palm trees found in the background.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A limited presence of Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship: Before watching The Karate Kid Part II, I was interested in seeing how Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship differed from his relationship with Ali. Even though I liked seeing Ali and Daniel together, I can see why their relationship didn’t survive past the first film. Daniel and Kumiko were a nice couple. It also helps that Ralph and Tamlyn Tomita had really good on-screen chemistry. But Daniel and Kumiko’s relationship was shown less than Ali and Daniel’s relationship. Because of this, it caused their relationship to feel rushed. In one scene, when Daniel is getting into Kumiko’s car, Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” is playing on the radio. This is not only the film’s official song, but the song’s official music video heavily emphasizes Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship. Anyone who has heard “Glory of Love” would agree that it is better suited as a “wedding song”. Having this piece of music surround a teenage couple that has known each other for about less than three months feels a bit misleading. Also, The Karate Kid is a trilogy, followed by the television show, Cobra Kai. If the third movie and/or TV show is anything like the beginning of the second film, “this could all end in tears” (Bartok’s (from 1997’s Anastasia) words, not mine).
Karate fight sequences being used sparingly: One of the flaws of the first movie was how the karate fight sequences had a limited presence in the overall story. In The Karate Kid Part II, there are even less karate fight sequences. With a movie called The Karate Kid, you expect a certain amount of karate to be featured in the film. While both movies are not action oriented, fight sequences can add excitement to the overall story. Fighting was primarily avoided in The Karate Kid Part II, as both Mr. Miyagi and Daniel try to find other ways to resolve their issues. This was one of the central themes of the narrative: exploring other problem-solving avenues before using fighting as a last resort. However, karate is the heart of this series. When you choose to show only a handful of fight sequences, you have little exciting material to work with.
No satisfying resolutions for parts of the story: In The Karate Kid Part II, there were a few parts of the story that were not consistently told within the overall film. Because of this, I feel their resolutions were not satisfying. While taking a trip through town, Kumiko reveals to Daniel that she dreams of becoming a dancer. However, the type of dancing she’s interested in is not taught in Okinawa. Toward the end of the film, Kumiko tells Daniel that she plans on going to the United States in order to pursue her dream. But this resolution feels kind of random. There is no lead up to the resolution itself. Daniel also doesn’t provide any advice to Kumiko in regards to her personal dilemma. For this part of the story, the journey from Point A to Point B was missing.
My overall impression:
The Karate Kid Part II is a fine film. But I don’t think the script was as tight as it was the first time around. I like how the story focused on Mr. Miyagi, as it offered new story-telling opportunities. But, to a degree, it came at the expense of Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship, as it was shown for a limited amount of time. If Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” had revolved around Mr. Miyagi and Yukie’s relationship, it would have made more sense. Not only is The Karate Kid Part II primarily Mr. Miyagi’s story, but he and Yukie have history together. While the theme of using fighting as a last resort is important, it prevented the movie from featuring more karate fight sequences than the previous film. As I’ve stated before on my blog, a movie’s title partially serves as a promise to the audience. With The Karate Kid Part II, I can’t say this promise was completely broken. This is because, according to Mr. Miyagi, karate should be used in self-defense only, emphasizing how karate consists of more than just fight sequences. But when a movie features any form of marital art, people, more often than not, come for the cool-looking and exciting fight sequences. I appreciate how this film wasn’t just a carbon copy of its predecessor. It shows the creative team put legitimate thought and care into their project. If you enjoyed the first film, I’d say give its second chapter a chance. Even though there are stronger sequels out there, The Karate Kid Part II is certainly not one of the worst.
Overall score: 7.3 out of 10
Have you seen The Karate Kid Part II? Are there any sequels you are a fan of? Please tell me in the comment section!
For my first two blogathons, I wrote editorials as my contribution for the event. These articles were ‘Phantom of the Megaplex’ at 20: A Reflection on the Movie-Going Experience and Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbooks: How Relevant are They Anyway? This time around, I wanted to do something different. Therefore, I chose to write a double feature review! Because this year’s blogathon is Olympic themed, I selected The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid Part II. In 1984, the Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles. The Karate Kid not only takes place in California, but it was also released in 1984. Years ago, I had seen about half of this movie. As I said in my review for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, I am willing to give films a second chance if I haven’t finished them or haven’t watched them in several years. It’sbeen a long while since I have seen The Karate Kid, so I thought my blogathon would provide a good excuse to revisit it.
Things I liked about the film:
The interactions among the characters: In stories that heavily rely on the relationships between various characters, how well-acted those characters are and the quality of their interactions will make or break that story. With The Karate Kid, these interactions served as one of the strongest parts of the film! That is because all of them felt natural and believable. When Daniel and Ali go to Gold N’ Stuff for the first time, you can see these characters are genuinely having a good time. They acted the way you’d expect a typical teenager would; smiling while racing each other at the go-kart track, laughing as their bumper boat crashed into another boat, and critiquing their pictures from the photobooth. Because of Ralph Macchio and Elisabeth Shue’s performance, as well as the script, their relationship came across as realistic. When it comes to Daniel’s relationship with Mr. Miyagi, we are given the opportunity to witness healthy mentor/student interactions. If one were given instructions, but not the reason behind those instructions, it can be easy to get frustrated. This happens after Daniel receives a series of instructions from Mr. Miyagi. But when Daniel discovers the reason why he has been following these instructions, you start to see him gain an understanding and appreciation for what Mr. Miyagi has taught him. Similar to what I said before about Daniel and Ali’s relationship, this period of learning and discovery contains a lot of realism. It shows that, with the right support and guidance, we can learn things such as how to think for ourselves.
The cinematography: The Karate Kid is a movie that has better cinematography than most of the film fan community gives it credit for. To prove my point, I will bring up one of the film’s earliest scenes as an example. At the beginning of the movie, Daniel and his mom are driving through Arizona. This particular scene starts with a medium shot, placing primary emphasis on Daniel’s mom’s car. As their journey down this road plays out, the camera pulls away from the car and delivers a long shot of a section of the Grand Canyon. Characters’ interactions are also captured well on film! At a Halloween party, Daniel is dressed up as a shower. When Ali wants to talk to Daniel, she goes behind the costume’s curtain. Their conversation is shown in a close-up shot, which allows the audience to feel like they are that small space with Ali and Daniel. I really liked how the karate tournament was filmed! It involved a combination of medium and close-up shots, allowing the audience to witness the action. The camera was also steady, which made the scenes appear clear.
The music: Music is an important component of any movie. A song or instrumental piece can elevate the mood within a scene or highlight a scene’s intended point. The scene where Daniel attends his first day of school serves as a great example. In the background, “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama can be heard. Having this song play during this scene makes sense for several reasons. Daniel’s story starts in September, which is technically summer until September 21st or as late as September 24th. Daniel is also having a difficult time adjusting to his new home, believing the move to be a “cruel” gesture on his mother’s part. The music itself is light with a higher tempo, as the sunny California environment pairs nicely with the tune. The struggles Daniel is experiencing are heavily emphasized, with the help of Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer”.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The on again/off again nature of Daniel and Ali’s relationship: I liked seeing Daniel and Ali together and I thought Ralph and Elisabeth had good on-screen chemistry. However, I didn’t like the on again/off again nature of their relationship. I know that every relationship, whether platonic or romantic, has their issues to deal with. I also understand that a relationship where both parties are younger are going to handle those issues differently than a relationship where both parties are older. With Ali and Daniel, they became frustrated over their issues too easily. This causes them to enter and exit their relationship too quickly. While I was glad to see Daniel and Ali work things out, I wish they were less hasty about their relationship by talking things through.
A limited presence of karate fight sequences: The Karate Kid is not an action movie, but a coming-of-age story where one develops a better understanding of karate. Even though I knew that before watching this film, I feel the presence of karate fight sequences was limited. We see about three fight sequences toward the beginning of the film, with the majority of them taking place during the tournament. The rest of the story focuses on Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel the foundations of karate. In the middle of the movie, I think there should have been one or two fight sequences. For example, instead of simply showing Mr. Miyagi breaking the loiters’ glass bottles at the beach, a karate fight sequence had taken place. That way, the excitement that comes from these sequences would be consistent throughout the movie.
Small details that don’t make sense: While watching The Karate Kid, I noticed some small details that, to me, didn’t make sense. In one scene, Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that karate is about what is in your mind and heart, not about what belt you have. If that is the case, why do belt ranks exist in the first place? Why work toward earning another belt when what’s in your mind and heart are more important? At the tournament, the people running the event acted like they weren’t familiar with Mr. Miyagi’s “dojo”. Yet, on the scoreboard, there is a pre-made logo next to Daniel’s name. How was this logo able to be made if no one organizing the tournament had heard of Mr. Miyagi’s “dojo”?
My overall impression:
The Karate Kid is a film that is considered a “classic” for good reason. It not only features exciting karate fight sequences, but it also uses one-liners well and has a strong script. But, in my opinion, the reason why the 1984 picture has earned this title is because it’s the type of movie that sticks with you. “Wax on, Wax off” is one of the most quotable lines in film history. Whenever I hear that line, I think about how there’s a reason for everything. I also remember how Daniel had to learn the meaning of “Wax on, Wax off” for himself instead of Mr. Miyagi telling him what it means. The Karate Kid is also a movie that has the ability to make you think. Whether or not this was intentional, you can’t help but reflect on the things that Mr. Miyagi says. You also can’t help but think about how those things can apply to real life. It’s been amazing exploring the world of ‘80s cinema. I’ve found some hidden gems, revisited some classics, and stumbled upon some stinkers. With The Karate Kid, I’d say it is definitely a keeper! I hope you stick around, because I’ll be reviewing this story’s second chapter!
Overall score: 8.2 out of 10
Have you seen The Karate Kid? Are you looking forward to my review of The Karate Kid Part II? Let me know in the comment section!
The Summer Olympics is just around the corner! Because of this, I decided to choose an Olympic theme for my annual blogathon! In this post, every participant and their article will be featured in a collective list. This set up is similar to my previous blogathons. What is different this year is how there are no separate categories. Each entry represents a different aspect of the Olympics; from the location of a past or present Games to the sport featured in a chosen program.
Because yesterday was 4th of July, I wanted to review a movie that took place somewhere in the United States. While I wanted to publish this article on 4th of July, my day ended up being busier than expected. So, this review is published a day later than I had hoped. Recently, Hallmark Drama was airing several Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I had never seen before. One of these films was 1987’s Foxfire. Years ago, Hallmark’s stores sold select Hallmark Hall of Fame films on DVD for $20 apiece (yes, you read that price right), with Foxfire being one of the titles offered. Before recording it on my DVR, I didn’t know much about the movie. In fact, all I knew was that it was one of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s older titles. When I discovered the film took place in Appalachia, I thought it would be an interesting choice for this time of year. So, would I buy a DVD copy of Foxfire if I saw it at the store for $20? Before we head to the store’s checkout line, let’s start this review!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I’m not familiar with Jessica Tandy’s acting abilities. While I have seen The Birds, I don’t remember her performance in that movie. Despite this, I did like her portrayal of Annie Nations in Foxfire! It was very expressive, using a variety of expressions and emotions throughout the film. When Annie receives an art project from her grandchildren, she appears genuinely overjoyed to receive the gift. A big smile is on Annie’s face and her demeanor is pleasant. At her son’s, Dillard’s, concert, Annie looks truly concerned as he sings a song about a broken relationship. Worry is in her eyes and she never lets Dillard out of her sight. Another actor whose career I’m not familiar with is John Denver. I have heard of his songs, but I didn’t know who he was. In fact, I thought John portrayed one of the brothers on The Waltons. This is because of the mannerisms he carried in Foxfire. When his character, Dillard, was happy, there was a youthful spirit about him. It highlighted how you can take the Appalachian man out of the mountains, but you can’t take the Appalachian culture and heritage out of the man. One of John’s strongest scenes was when, in Annie’s home, Dillard is reminding his mother about her age and potential risks of living alone. As he is talking to her, his eyes look like they are desperately searching for answers to his problems. Even the tone of his voice sounds concerned. A character that is close to both Annie and Dillard is Holly. Portrayed by Harriet Hall, this character kind of reminded me of Baby from Dirty Dancing. This is because when Holly cares about someone, she cares about them with her whole heart. What makes Holly differ from Baby is how her personality was gentler. Because she is a teacher, she chooses to put her students first. When Holly is talking to Dillard about her students, her mannerisms and tone of voice seem motherly. This gives the audience the impression that she truly cares about them.
The scenery: I haven’t seen many films that take place in Appalachia. In fact, I didn’t know Foxfire took place in this location until I read the synopsis. To my pleasant surprise, the scenery was very nice to look at! The Nation family house was surrounded by forestry, with the tall trees providing cozy seclusion and privacy. When Dillard wakes up one morning, he is greeted by the sight of rolling hills on a bright sunny day. These rolling hills could also be seen on a car ride Annie took. When a real estate agent named Prince gives Annie a trip to the market, he takes a scenic route. The aforementioned rolling hills steal the show, but are accompanied by a lake at the bottom and surrounding colonial style vacation homes that can be seen from the road. The locations in Foxfire appeared quaint, similar to the small towns in most of Hallmark’s films.
John Denver’s music: Before watching Foxfire, I had heard a few of John Denver’s songs. Even though I don’t listen to country music much, the songs I have heard were nice to listen to. Within Foxfire, John performed four songs. Most of them were slower, more soulful pieces. This fit the overall tone of the film. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Dillard performs a song about a broken relationship. After his concert, he performs an acoustic version of the song. What I’ve gathered about some country music is how emotional it can be. In that acoustic version of Dillard’s song, his heart and spirit sounded wounded. This can be heard in his voice.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A televised play: Hallmark Hall of Fame has a history of adapting stage plays into movies. One of these titles I really like is the 1996 film, The Boys Next Door. However, what sets the 1996 production apart from Foxfire is how the overall project was executed. Because The Boys Next Door contains more key characters and locations within the story, the way this adaptation was delivered to the audience looked and felt like a movie. Foxfire, on the other hand, contained a smaller cast and had a condensed story, as most of the film takes places at Annie’s house. Even some of the scenes were drawn-out and isolated, like a stage production. While the project was shot like a movie, it felt more like a televised play.
Re-created moments from the past: Throughout Foxfire, Annie brings up several memories from her and her family’s past. Instead of providing flashbacks, four scenes were dedicated to showing the characters re-creating some of these moments. For example, a current day Annie and her late husband, Hector, are reenacting when he first proposed to her. Watching grown adults act like teenagers was a bit jarring, as this prevented me from getting fully investing in these scenes. If anything, the scenes made it look like the film’s creative team didn’t have enough room in their budget to hire additional actors.
Inconsistent elements: At the beginning of the movie, Hector provides a voice-over, explaining the significance of his family and their land. Thinking Foxfire would be from his perspective, I thought this was an interesting way to tell the story. But this was the only time any voice-overs were provided. The end of the film showed Hector breaking the fourth wall for one scene. Not only was the inclusion of this element random, but it made me wonder why it wasn’t consistently woven into the movie.
My overall impression:
Whenever I watch and/or review a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I always ask myself this: “if this movie were sold on DVD for $20, would it be worth my money”? When it comes to Foxfire, that answer would be no. At best, the movie was ok. I appreciate the film’s positive light that was shone on Appalachia. While I haven’t been there myself and while I personally don’t know anyone from there, I have heard of the hardships that the members of the community face. But despite the good will this film seemed to give, the biggest flaw was its overall execution. If I choose to watch a Hallmark Hall of Fame title, I expect to watch a movie. With Foxfire, it felt more like a televised play. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the re-created moments from the past. I couldn’t get past the adult characters acting younger than they were in the “current day”. Now that I’ve seen another Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I can add it to my Tier Rank List! Last year, I created a tier rank list of every Hallmark Hall of Fame film I have seen so far. While I’d like to revisit this list, I will focus on adding more titles for now.
Overall score: 6.2 out of 10
Have you seen Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame titles you’d like to see me review? Please let me know in the comment section!
Originally, I was going to publish a double feature review of Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken and The Girl Who Spelled Freedom for the American Experience on Film Blogathon. However, I have also been working on another big project that required more time than I expected. Therefore, I was only able to watch one movie, which was The Girl Who Spelled Freedom. Don’t worry, though, because I will coordinate a double feature to celebrate the publication of 500 posts! The 1986 made-for-tv movie had been unknown to me until this year. I stumbled across The Girl Who Spelled Freedom when I was looking through an IMDB list about family-friendly films. After reading the synopsis, I was interested in watching the movie! There aren’t many cinematic stories that feature a spelling bee. In fact, the only one I can think of is Akeelah and the Bee from 2006. I also realize that Disney creates fewer “based on a true story” movies now than they did decades ago. Because a Disney project hasn’t been reviewed on my blog since last December, let’s begin talking about The Girl Who Spelled Freedom!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: As I have stated in the past, it takes a very talented young actor or actress to carry a film. For Jade Chinn, she did such a great job with the material she was given! What made her performance so memorable is how she utilized body language, emotions, and facial expressions to illustrate Linn’s limited use of English. However, these techniques helped address what the character was experiencing. When Linn was traveling on a plane for the first time, she curled up on the floor in fear. The way Linn was behaving showed the audience that cultural differences and language barriers can turn something as simple as a plane trip into a terrifying experience. Another stand-out performer was Mary Kay Place, who portrayed Prissy Thrash! One of her best scenes took place toward the beginning of the film. Prissy and her husband, George, were dealing with the news of how many members are in Linn’s family. Prissy is so overwhelmed, she suddenly bursts into tears. This moment alone displays the emotionality Mary was able to bring to her performance! A heartwarming scene was when George was teaching Linn and her sisters how to count. The performances from the actors in this scene, especially from Wayne Rogers, appeared so genuine. It was also nice to see the dynamic between these characters!
The cinematography: I was pleasantly surprised by some of the cinematography in The Girl Who Spelled Freedom! Even though this is a made-for-tv movie from the mid ‘80s, the cinematography looked like it came from a theatrical production. At the beginning of the film, Linn and her family are crossing a river. One shot is presented as if the viewer is in the water, watching the family moving through the river toward safety. When Linn and her family are staying with the Thrash family, they discover one of the sons is missing. As George and Prissy are searching their home, the camera follows them. This gives the idea the audience are looking for this child alongside the characters.
A balance of heartbreaking and heartwarming moments: With films that deal with emotional material, there are bound to be heartbreaking moments. In The Girl Who Spelled Freedom, there were certainly scenes that were sadder in nature. An example is when Prissy takes Linn and some of her siblings to the park. When the children see a giant statue of the Crucifix, they become scared, as they are instantly reminded of the trauma they experienced. Even though Prissy reminds them that the statue isn’t real, the children are still shaken up by the imagery. At the same time, the film contained light-hearted moments that were heartwarming. At the Thrash family home, Linn accidently walks in on Laura, Prissy and George’s daughter, curling her hair. In an effort to prevent Linn from feeling embarrassed, Laura decides to not only curl Linn’s hair, but also curl Linn’s sisters’ hair. The scene itself was very sweet and showed how a little bit of kindness can make a big difference.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Missing context: The Girl Who Spelled Freedom has the same flaw The Crow did: there are areas of the story that needed context. One strong example is Linn giving sentimental value to a ring. At the beginning of the film, Linn can be seen looking for a ring in the mud. When she is escaping from a group of soldiers in Thailand, she gives the ring to one of the soldiers. In the United States, Prissy gives one of her rings to Linn. Later in the film, Linn is upset when she accidently drops the ring down the sink. The significance of this ring is never addressed in the film. Linn herself never explains why the ring is so valuable to her. If context had been provided to this part of the story, the audience could try to understand why the ring is important to Linn.
A limited presence of the spelling bee: Before watching this movie, I knew there would be a spelling bee featured in the overall story. However, I was expecting a build-up to the spelling bee, similar to Akeelah and the Bee. While we get to see a spelling bee in The Girl Who Spelled Freedom, it was only referenced a few times before the actual event began. Most of the story focused on Linn’s adjustment to life in the United States. Even though watching the spelling bee unfold was satisfying, I wish it had received a little more emphasis in the film.
A few characters receiving character development: In films that feature bigger casts, it is not easy providing character development to every character involved. But when only a few characters receive character development, it can be disappointing. This is what happened with The Girl Who Spelled Freedom. The only characters who are given character development are the members of the Thrash family and Linn. With Linn’s family, the audience becomes familiar with them, but doesn’t get the opportunity to get to know them. This can also be said about other characters, such as Henry Turner, who helped the Thrash family bring Linn and her family to the United States.
My overall impression:
The American Experience is a tricky thing to sum up, as everyone’s experiences are going to be different. This is especially the case if someone is a refugee or immigrant. The Girl Who Spelled Freedom is a perfect example of how unique the American Experience can be. For most of the film, Linn and her family deal with “culture shock”, coming across things and situations that they feel are “unusual”. But over time, they start to create their own American Experience. Linn enters a local spelling bee in 1983. An activity that is typically seen as fun and harmless was seen by Linn as a fight for survival, a view that was shaped by her past experiences. Therefore, she was partially responsible for creating her own American Experience. For a television film from the mid ‘80s, I’d say this is one of the better presentations! While the film does have its flaws, it did feel like a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie before the collection moved to Hallmark Channel. After the film, there was an interview with the real-life Thrash and Yann families. Because the audience was able to hear their sides of the story, it added to my enjoyment of the overall project! It’s a shame fewer networks have decided to create made-for-TV films. There are so many stories worth telling, so I hope they are able to get told someday.
Overall score: 7.6 out of 10
Have you seen The Girl Who Spelled Freedom? Are there any television films you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section!
For this blog follower dedication review, I was originally going to write about the PixL movie, The Cookie Mobster. However, that film became the worst one I’ve seen this year, so far. Because I feel my readers and followers deserve a better movie and because I just reviewed a bad movie two weeks ago (Chasing Leprechauns), I chose a different film for this post. Recently, I watched the 1987 TV movie, Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love, as it happened to be on my DVR. Mystery related media are some of my most popular content, so this review will be a treat for my readers! Even though some films are stronger than others, I have enjoyed the Perry Mason movie series. Three of these films have been covered on my blog, with all of them receiving good scores. Will Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love receive a similar score? Keep reading my review if you want to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Jean Simmons is an actress who I have talked about before, when I reviewed Howl’s Moving Castle two years ago. While that movie was the first of Jean’s I saw, she had a voice-acting role in that film. Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love contains the first live-action role of Jean’s I have seen! What I liked about her portrayal of Laura Robertson is how Jean carried a certain amount of grace throughout the movie. She also gave a different persona to a character of this nature. In films where a woman is involved with politics, the female politicians are usually portrayed with a “no nonsense” personality. Laura Robertson is different because she had a gentler personality, despite running for the United States Senate. Even though he appeared in the movie for a short amount of time, I liked Jonathan Banks’ portrayal of Luke Dickson! He was so expressive; he was like a chameleon. The meeting at the restaurant between Laura’s husband, Glenn, and Luke showcases a perfect example. Jonathan’s face displayed a variety of expressions. Toward the beginning of the meeting, Luke appears serious, as his face is set and he is glaring at Glenn. As he brings up some compromising information, Luke’s face brightens up and he becomes a bit animated.
The Robertson’s house: Despite appearing in the film for less than five scenes, I liked seeing the Robertson’s house in Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love! The house’s exterior was presented in the dark. But from what the audience can see, the house was covered in a gray stone brick. On the left side of the house, a stone cylinder was connected, making the house look like a castle. The most prominently featured part of the house’s interior is the staircase. Notable details are wrought-iron stair rails and a stained-glass window. These design details give subtle clues of how well off the Robertsons are.
The open discussion of mental health treatment: Because of Laura’s history with mental health, the subject of mental health treatment was briefly discussed in this film. While she is afraid this part of her life will prevent her from becoming a Senator, she still willingly brings it up. There is no shame detected in the voices and faces of the characters who address Laura’s mental health treatment. A debate about which kind of treatment is appropriate is even included in the script. This openness toward mental health treatment seems ahead of its time, as society is more aware of mental health now than four decades ago. It also highlights the importance of this particular subject.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Ignored story points: A few story points within Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love’s script were ignored throughout the movie. One example is mentioned toward the beginning of the film. When Luke first called Glenn, he mentions a long-lost son who lives in Arizona. But when Glenn meets up with Luke at a local restaurant, this son was never brought up. In fact, this son is never referenced again. I was disappointed because I was not only curious to see who would portray this mysterious character, but also discover what role this long-lost son would play in the overall mystery. It makes me wonder why this “scandal” was included in the first place?
A late start time for the mystery: As I have said before, I am not a fan of mystery films that start their mysteries at later times. Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love is a movie that does this. The murder victim wasn’t discovered until about twenty minutes into the film. While this timespan featured build-up to this discovery, I think the mystery could have started sooner. In my opinion, introduction of characters and their connections should have been taken care of in the movie’s first ten minutes. The discovery of the murder victim could have taken place at the movie’s fifteen-minute mark.
The closeness of Perry and Laura’s relationship: Within this story, Perry reveals how he and Laura used to be a romantic couple. When Laura’s husband, Glenn, asks Perry if he still has feelings for Laura, Perry says no. However, his and Laura’s actions say otherwise. When Laura and Perry have drinks at a local hotel, they hold hands at one point, with Laura kissing Perry on the cheek. Later that night, Perry brings Laura to her house. Before Perry leaves, he and Laura share a kiss. I found these romantic displays of affection unnecessary. With Laura married and Perry going his own separate way, it felt like the actions among the characters were chosen just to get a reaction from the audience.
My overall impression:
Like I mentioned in the introduction, I have enjoyed the Perry Mason movie series. The films within this series I have reviewed received good scores, as I liked what I saw. However, Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love was weaker than those three movies. It definitely wasn’t bad, but I feel it could have been stronger. A long-lost son being briefly brought up, but never mentioned again took away some intrigue from this story. Similar to what I said in my review of Edward, My Son, the opportunity for an actor to achieve his “standing ovation” through this role was not available because this part of the story was abandoned. The film contained other flaws, like a later start time for the mystery and the unnecessary closeness of Perry and Laura’s relationship. But there are things about the movie I can appreciate. The openness of mental health treatment was a topic I never expected to hear addressed in a Perry Mason film. While there were advancements and progress made within the field of mental health in the ‘80s, society’s perceptions of this topic were not the same in 1987 as they are now. This reminded me of The Boy Who Could Fly, where the use of therapy was normalized. It was a pleasant surprise to see a Perry Mason film address this subject! Before I finish this review, I’d like to thank all of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers! My blog would have never reached this amount of success without you!
Overall score: 7.1 out of 10
Have you seen any of the Perry Mason films? Do you enjoy my mystery related content? Please tell me in the comment section!
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.
Episode Name: Peter Pam
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
Episode Name: I Love You Suzanne
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
Episode Name: Russian 101
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
Episode Name: When Movies Were Movies
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
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!