Take 3: Anna and the King Review

I know what you’re thinking, “What does Anna and the King have to do with the number five”? Well, I’m glad you asked! As Rebecca has stated in the announcement post for the Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon, all entries had to have something to do with the number five, to commemorate the event’s fifth anniversary. For my selection, Anna and the King, which stars Bai Ling, was released in 1999, five years after The Crow premiered. From what I’ve heard, The Crow was Bai Ling’s first American/English film. Last year, when I reviewed the 1956 adaptation of The King and I, I mentioned Anna and the King was a non-musical version of the story. As I write this review, I realize I haven’t seen many non-musical film adaptations of musicals. Sure, I’ve heard of these types of productions. But, off the top of my head, a non-musical adaptation doesn’t immediately come to mind. So, with this review, I will expand my cinematic horizons!

Anna and the King poster created by Fox 2000 Pictures, Lawrence Bender Productions, and 20th Century Fox

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Anna and the King is a drama film with a more serious tone. Therefore, Jodie Foster’s portrayal of Anna is sterner in nature. However, Anna also comes across as being fair. A great example of this is when she is disciplining both her son and King Mongkut’s eldest son. In the evening, when the royal family is bringing Anna dinner, Jodie presents a mild-mannered sweetness that feels genuine. As she’s realizing the dinner is for her and not King Mongkut’s son, Anna never displays any meanness toward her student, as she truly wants to teach him a valuable lesson. King Mongkut himself is also a stern, yet fair character. Chow Yun-fat balances the seriousness and loving sides of his character consistently throughout the film. In one of their many conversations, King Mongkut is asked by Anna if his wives ever get jealous of one another. Even though this question is a personal one, King Mongkut never appears offended. Instead, his calm, collected, and approachable demeanor make the conversation less awkward than it could have gotten. One of these aforementioned wives is Tuptim. Portrayed by Bai Ling, Tuptim is an emotional character that expresses herself in subtle ways. It’s not until she faces a life-or-death moment where more of her emotions are drawn forward. While I won’t spoil Anna and the King for those of my readers who might be interested in seeing it, Bai delivers on the emotional intensity needed for a moment like the one I just mentioned. But even outside of that moment, Bai knows how to use emotion in her and her character’s favor.

The set design: Anna and the King is a beautiful looking film! One of the reasons why is its set design. Everywhere you look, exquisite detail and impressive structure helped elevate the world around Anna and King Mongkut. The royal family takes a trip in a massive river boat. This boat was a deep blue with gold etched artwork. At the head of the boat, a set of giant golden dragons adorn this beautiful mode of transportation. On the walls of King Mongkut’s palace, a full-length mural consistently coats the interior perimeter of rooms and even a hallway. The mural itself appears painted, depicting the natural landscape of Siam. Smaller elements like the ones I mentioned added to the overall beauty of the set design!

The costume design: Similar to the 1956 adaptation, the costume design in Anna and the King was simply elegant! One notable example was Anna’s reception gown. At this event, Anna wore a full length, white gown. The off the shoulder bodice and sparkly skirt was not only eye-catching, it also felt reminiscent of Belle’s gown from the 1991 animated film, Beauty and the Beast. At this same reception, King Mongkut’s wives also wear beautiful gowns. Tuptim’s was especially pretty, a simple yet classy red dress. What also complimented Tuptim’s ensemble was a sparkly gold and bronze crown that adorned her dark hair. The exquisiteness of the costume design carried the spirit of The King and I story!

The Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

The war story-line: Because Anna and the King is a non-musical version of The King and I, there needs to be something to replace the musical numbers. In the 1999 adaptation, that replacement was a subplot about a war between the Siamese and the Burmese. While it was interesting to explore the tense side of ruling a country, I found this subplot to be the weakest one. That subplot was drawn-out, getting resolved at the very end of the movie. With the run-time being two hours and twenty-eight minutes, the war story-line felt longer than it really was.

Under-utilized characters: Anna and the King contains a larger cast of characters. Therefore, some of them are bound to receive less screen-time than others. Tuptim was, once again, one of those characters. After seeing how under-utilized Rita Moreno’s talents were in the 1956 adaptation, I was hoping Bai Ling would receive more screen time. Sadly, she only appeared in a handful of scenes. In the 1956 adaptation, Tuptim created a play based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, giving her a reason to stay on screen a little bit longer. Because there is no Uncle Tom’s Cabin play in the 1999 adaptation and because only King Mongkut’s oldest son reads Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Tuptim, in Anna and the King, has less reasons to stay on screen.

No musical Easter eggs: Before I wrote this review, I was well aware Anna and the King was not a musical film. But because the film is an adaptation of a musical, it was a missed opportunity to not include musical related Easter eggs. In the 1956 adaptation, King Mongkut says “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera” on multiple occasions, whenever he had something important to say. In the 1999 adaptation, however, King Mongkut never says the aforementioned quote. One of the songs from the 1956 adaptation is ‘Shall We Dance?’. During both versions of this story, King Mongkut and Anna dance with one another. However, it would have been nice to hear one of them say “shall we dance.”

Hand-written letter image created by Veraholera at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Veraholera – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/love-letter-pattern_1292902.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Anna and the King is a fine, competently made film. The movie’s creative team clearly knew what they doing, displaying the clear direction they wanted to take their adaptation. But compared to the 1956 musical, I find myself liking the musical more. Without the musical numbers, it feels like the story is missing something. Even though the 1999 adaptation found a replacement for the lack of musical numbers, I was wishing they hadn’t been omitted. I would have even accepted Easter eggs related to the musical, such as quotes from the songs woven into the dialogue. But despite its shortcomings, Anna and the King does attempt to make meaningful changes that were not in the 1956 musical. One of these changes is giving Anna’s son, Louis, and some of King Mongkut’s children their own unique personalities and a little more involvement in the overall story. As for Bai Ling’s involvement in the film, I wish she was given more on-screen appearances. But because Anna and the King is based on The King and I, which also showed Tuptim in only a handful of scenes, maybe I was naïve to think more material was available?

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Anna and the King or The King and I? Can you think of any musicals that received a non-musical adaptation? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Redwood Curtain’: From Stage to Screen

The Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of Redwood Curtain is based on a Broadway play. It was also released in 1995. With these facts in mind, I found Redwood Curtain to be the perfect subject for the Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon. Prior to this event, I saw the movie and read the play. This lent itself to an interesting idea. Discussions about film adaptations often feature films adapted from books, short stories, or poems. Movies born from plays aren’t often included in the conversation. So, I decided to write an editorial highlighting the similarities and differences between the Redwood Curtain play and film. This article contains spoilers for the story of Redwood Curtain.

The Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

Movie-Exclusive Characters

On the stage, Redwood Curtain contains three characters: Lyman, Geri, and Geneva. While there are other characters in the story, they’re only mentioned within the dialogue. Geri’s father, Laird, is one of these characters. According to the script, Laird was a desk-jockey lieutenant in the Vietnam War. This means he “didn’t see a day’s fighting, to come completely unglued in the war.” Laird taught Geri how to play the piano simply to entertain dinner guests. He also developed a dependence on alcohol and died two years prior to the play’s events. Laird is even described as a “drunk.” Because Laird never physically appears in the play, all the information about him is hearsay.

John Lithgow portrays Laird in the film adaptation. The film version of Laird did fight in the Vietnam War, though his specific role was never mentioned. Like in the play, he develops a dependence on alcohol. However, this dependence was Laird’s attempt to cope with war-related trauma. Toward the end of the movie, Geneva shares with Geri how Laird wanted to be a pianist, but didn’t feel he was talented enough. So, he became invested in Geri’s piano career, appearing to live vicariously through his daughter. His presence in the movie shows the audience the strained, yet close relationship between Geri and Laird. Laird’s death within the film’s first half and Geri’s discovery that Laird is her biological father are presented as bittersweet moments.

Redwood Curtain poster created by Chris/Rose Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), and Republic Pictures (II)

Expanding the World

The majority of Redwood Curtain’s story in the play takes place in Arcata’s redwood forest. A few scenes happen in Geneva’s house, Geneva’s car, or a local coffee house. Geri’s first encounter with Lyman is when the play starts, with the lead-up to this moment woven into the dialogue. Events such as Laird’s death take place off stage, prior to the play’s story. The creative team behind a play is given a limited amount of space and time to work with. Therefore, designating a few key locations makes sense among these limitations. In the Redwood Curtain play, Geneva’s house is described as “a large and very fine Victorian house.” The script states her house contains a music room as well. When presenting this play at a theater, only the home’s sitting room and music room would be staged and the style of the house would be heavily implied through décor and set structure.

A plus side to film-making is the freedom to take the story wherever the film-maker chooses. If a movie’s creative team desires to adapt a stage play, that story has the opportunity to grow beyond the boundaries of a stage. In the case of the Redwood Curtain film, the events from the play are contained in the story’s second half. That means the movie’s first half takes place in and around the Riordan family home. This inclusion not only expands the world the characters exist in, but also gives the audience a glimpse into Geri’s world that they wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Filming on location provides benefits to visual storytelling. However, that creative decision has its own limitations. Using Geneva’s house in the movie as an example, a location scout might not be able to secure a location similar to one described in the source material. Even if they succeeded, there’s a process in order to film at a residential building, especially if it’s someone’s real-life home. That’s probably why Geneva’s house is presented as a smaller log cabin with a large deck, but no music room.

A picture of the Redwood Curtain play from my copy of the play’s script. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen

Geri’s Motive

In both the play and movie, Geri attempts to search for her biological father. This attempt is the story’s main conflict. Geri’s reason for her search was different in each version of Redwood Curtain. In the play, Geri knew some information about her past. Prior to the start of the play, Geri discovered Lyman tried to help her and her biological mother get to the United States. The script mentions that Geri began her search when she was twelve. Her search turns into an obsession, to the point of abandoning her musical endeavors. In fact, the play’s synopsis states Redwood Curtain “is a story of obsession and discovery.” Though the information Geri received was partly true, she eventually learns more through her interactions with Lyman.

The movie version of Geri has three motives for her search. Wanting to receive answers about her past was the first motive. The film’s script heavily implies Geri did not know much about her past until the events of the movie. Yes, she was aware she was adopted. But Geri’s belief that Lyman was her biological father stemmed from a photo and a note bearing the name ‘Raymond Farrow’ that Laird gave his daughter after he died. At various moments in the movie, Geri expresses how she feels she doesn’t belong. She even shares these thoughts with the Riordan’s house-keeper, Matilda. These feelings fuel Geri’s journey of self-discovery and finding her biological family. Her third and final motive is her music, which plays a crucial role in Geri’s life. Geri’s believes if she finds her biological father, she will be able to incorporate more emotion into her musical pieces.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.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. 

Significance of the Redwoods

As I’ve said before on my blog, a film’s title can serve as a promise to the audience. In the case of Redwood Curtain, the audience should expect not only to see redwoods, but also to receive an explanation of what the “redwood curtain” is. The “redwood curtain,” in both the play and movie, is the redwood forest itself, where Vietnam veterans choose to live their lives. This is one of the reasons Geri meets with Lyman in the forest. While Geri learns about the “redwood curtain” in each version of the story, the way she learns about it is different. An Arcata Union reporter provides the explanation for the “redwood curtain” to Geri in the play. In the movie, she is given this same explanation by a gentleman working at Arcata’s veterans’ office.  

As I mentioned above, the majority of Redwood Curtain’s story in the play takes place in Arcata’s redwood forest. The redwood forest in the movie only appears in the story’s second half. Because of how often or little this location appears in the story, its association with the characters and the themes connected to it depend on these appearances. Topics relating to the environment are brought up throughout the play. When Lyman asks Geri why she’s visiting Arcata, she tells him she’s studying horticulture and botany at the local college. Geri also claims to have magical powers, which allow her to do things such as control the weather. Within the play, Geneva talks about how her family’s portion of the redwood forest is being bought out by investors. While this part of the story is also in the movie, it is discussed in more detail in the play, from Geneva bringing up the specifics of the sale itself to describing Arcata’s weather. The theme of family connects with the redwood forest in the movie. The Riordan family owns a portion of the redwood forest. While Geri stays at Geneva’s house, Geneva shows her niece a wall of family photos. These photos showcase various members of the Riordan family in the redwood forest. The number of photos and whether or not the photos are in black-and-white indicate how the forest has been in the family for generations.

Wellbeing of Veterans

When I brought up the movie version of Laird, I mentioned how he depended on alcohol to cope with war-related trauma. I also mentioned how Geri learns about the “redwood curtain” at Arcata’s veterans’ office. These are just two examples of how the movie includes the subject of veterans’ well-being. In the history of Hallmark films, veterans have been presented with a sense of reverence and respect. Veteran-related issues have also been included in Hallmark’s programming. An example is a veteran struggling with trauma in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Lost Without You. Even though the film adaptation of Redwood Curtain was released a decade before Hallmark debuted the Hallmark Channel, this tradition can be seen and felt in this Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. At Laird’s funeral, Geri shares with Geneva how she wished the family had addressed Laird’s alcohol dependency sooner. Geneva reminds her niece how Laird had a problem related to his experiences in the war. Geri says the family’s politeness and willingness to skirt the issue are what enabled Laird’s struggles. The points Geri makes to her aunt highlight how seriously these topics are taken in this adaptation.

While veteran-related issues are brought up in the play, it was never enough to be one of the story’s main topics. Compared to the movie, there isn’t the same amount of reverence for veterans. During her first interaction with Lyman, Geri’s personality is pessimistic and bitter. When Lyman asks Geri about the translation of her hometown’s name, Geri responds by saying, “Well, you’re not Spanish. You must belong to the other half of the country’s population.” After Geri learns Laird was her biological father, she says, “You’re right, Lyman, he was the saddest man I’ve ever known.” Geri also says, “And I thought I was joking when I said to follow in my father’s footsteps I had to mope and pine and drink myself to death. Not a very promising path he’s laid out for me to follow.” With the way veterans’ well-being wasn’t addressed, it made the play seem less hopeful. It also seemed like none of the characters were willing to find any solutions.

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Lyman, Geri, and Geneva

As mentioned above, I said Lyman, Geri, and Geneva were the only three characters to physically appear in the play. These three characters also serve prominent roles in the movie. Geri’s personality in the play was pessimistic and bitter. She was also disrespectful when talking to Lyman or talking about Laird. In the movie, however, Geri was a more empathetic character. While interacting with Matilda in the Riordan family kitchen, Laird recalls a memory of Geri when she was younger. In this memory, Laird was tearing up as he was chopping onions. Upon seeing this, Geri asks if Laird is sad because the onions are hurt.

Lyman, in both the play and movie, shares parts of his life story with Geri. In the play, though, more of this information is given. Toward the end of the movie, Lyman tells Geri how, before the war, he would fix and race cars with his dad. He also talks about how he never dated a crush he had. Lyman in the play not only drag-raced vehicles, he also worked in his dad’s garage. He recalls owning a Mustang Boss 302 and never having a girlfriend. Geneva’s family’s portion of the redwood forest was being bought out by investors. As a result of this, Geneva, in the play, is planning on moving to Key Biscayne, Florida, with her husband, Barney. In the movie, however, Geneva expresses no interest in moving out of Arcata. In fact, after one of Geri’s piano performances, Geneva tells Laird how she plans on fighting to keep her land. She and Barney are also divorced.

The cover of my copy of the play’s script. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen

After I watched and read Redwood Curtain, I ended up liking the movie adaptation over the source material. What worked in the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation’s favor was how the story was expanded. Not only were more locations added to the characters’ world, more context was given than the play provided. Even though there were more characters added to the film, the cast as a whole was smaller. Through their interactions, the audience gets a more intimate look into the characters’ relationships. The changes to the characters from the play made them more likable, especially Geri. Both the screenwriting and acting allowed Geri to be one of the strongest protagonists in Hallmark movie history. Redwood Curtain reminded me of another Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on a play: The Boys Next Door. Similar to Redwood Curtain, The Boys Next Door contained multiple locations and provided context to each of the key characters. Since I have seen the 1996 adaptation, but have never read the play, perhaps another comparison and contrast editorial is in order.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s O Pioneers! Review

When I participated in the Legends of Western Cinema Week last year, I reviewed the Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Durango. Unfortunately, the movie was weaker than I hoped. While thinking about what to write about for 2022’s event, I remembered how I had never seen O Pioneers! Therefore, I thought the Legends of Western Cinema Week was the perfect time to finally see the film! In the 1990s, Hallmark Hall of Fame had a history of adapting stories from the western genre. After the premiere of Sarah, Plain and Tall, the story’s sequels were released; Skylark in 1993 and Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter’s End in 1999. Outside of this trilogy, Hallmark Hall of Fame created O Pioneers! (in 1992), Rose Hill (in 1997), and Durango (in 1999). While looking back on this history, one has to wonder if this was done in an effort to capitalize on Sarah, Plain and Tall’s success? Whatever the reason, these films provide more than one perspective of westerns. Now, with that introduction out of the way, let’s review O Pioneers!

O Pioneers! poster created by Craig Anderson Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Lorimar Television, and Prairie Films

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I’ve seen a small handful of Heather Graham’s projects from her filmography. Based on what I’ve seen, she seems to receive one of two types of roles: a “damsel in distress” or the “ditzy” girl next door. But in O Pioneers!, Heather’s role was different. Portraying Alexandra Bergson in her younger years, she not only displayed a motherly persona, she also showcased a quieter strength. After trying to find more fertile farm land, Alexandra comes up with a plan to purchase the surrounding farm land near her family’s home. When she discusses this plan with her brothers, Alexandra explains it in a sure, yet calm way. Even when her brothers doubted her enthusiasm, she consistently maintained her composure, never letting uncertainty get in her way. Through her performance, Heather does a good job at foreshadowing who her character would become!

The majority of O Pioneers! revolves around Alexandra after her family’s farm is established and successful. Because this part of the story takes place fifteen years later, Alexandra is portrayed by Jessica Lange. Throughout the film, Alexandra experiences a variety of situations. This allowed Jessica to utilize different facial expressions, body languages, and emotions. As she reads a letter from her brother, Emil, a warm smile lights up Alexandra’s face. She appears to be sitting in a comfortable position, a friendly demeanor plain to see. Two scenes later, as Alexandra is sharing bad news with Emil, a sullen look is seen on her face. Her tone of voice is serious, as she’s trying to break this news as honestly, but gently as possible. The strength of Jessica’s acting abilities helped her performance appear believable!

One of the most important people in Alexandra’s life is Emil. Portrayed by Reed Diamond, Emil had a personality that was pleasant. Reed adapts to each situation in Emil’s life as well, similar to Jessica’s performance. In the aforementioned scene where Emil receives bad news, a concerned look is shown on his face. He also listens intently to what Alexandra had to say. Emil’s bottom lip quivers, as shock quickly morphs into sadness. The scene ends with Alexandra consoling her brother as he crumbles into tears.

Historical accuracy: O Pioneers! takes place between the late 1880s and early 1900s. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to note how the production looked and felt like the viewer was transported back to that time! In one scene, a man named Frank is walking around the interior of his house. On the wall in the kitchen, a telephone can be seen. The style of this phone is similar to those featured in programs like When Calls the Heart. Another timely piece of technology was the kerosene lamp hanging from the ceiling. This lamp was found in the dining room of Alexandra’s house. Three more kerosene lamps are located in Alexandra’s posh sitting room. Even though these props are smaller components of the movie, it shows how detail oriented this film’s creative team was!

Reed Diamond and Anne Heche’s on-screen chemistry: Anne Heche portrays Marie, a friend of Emil’s since childhood. Most of Emil and Marie’s interactions take place after they grew up, when they are able to live their own lives. During these encounters, I found their on-screen chemistry very sweet! Marie carried herself with a sense of whimsy, almost like she’s a “child at heart”. Meanwhile, Emil is more headstrong, choosing to ground himself in reality. Instead of clashing, these differences worked in Anne and Reed’s favor. The opposites attracting created a balance between their characters. During Marie and Emil’s interactions, they seemed to share an understanding with each other. Their shared history provided that layer of understanding, as well as Anne’s and Reed’s performance.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine, Olivia from Meanwhile, in Rivendell, and Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy.

What I didn’t like about the film:

An episodic story: The story of O Pioneers! revolves around Alexandra’s attempts at creating a successful farm with the land she inherited. But instead of those attempts providing an overarching conflict, the movie is filled with smaller conflicts that are resolved in a shorter amount of time. Ivar is a man Alexandra and her family have known for many years. He claims to have powers from God, which causes him to receive some negative attention. At one point, Ivar is threatened of being sent to an asylum. But in the very next scene, Alexandra simply talks to her brothers about what she’ll do if something happens. After that, the issue is unceremoniously resolved.

Too many characters: O Pioneers! is based on a book I haven’t read yet. Despite this, I could clearly see how large of a cast this production contained. Stories with a larger number of characters can be hit or miss. In the case of O Pioneers!, it didn’t work. Because of how many characters were in this story, some of them didn’t receive the amount of attention I feel they deserved. One of these characters was Amedee, a friend of Emil. A European baseball player, Amedee was such a charismatic character I wanted to learn more about. But with all the other characters trying to compete for attention, he only appeared in two scenes.

Some loose ends: Despite the movie having an hour and thirty-seven-minute run-time, there didn’t seem to be enough time to tie up some loose ends in the story. A good example is when one of the characters gets in trouble with the law. Alexandra visits this character in jail and claims she will help them. However, this issue is never resolved. That’s because this conflict takes place within the last eighteen minutes of the movie. It made me wonder why the creative team would include this part of the script when there was no intention to find a resolution to that conflict?

I know this is a screenshot of Wilma’s house from the Walker, Texas Ranger episode ‘The Lynching’. But Alexandra’s house in O Pioneers! reminded me of Wilma’s house, especially that wrap-around porch! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

There are some movies where the style is executed better than its substance. O Pioneers! is one of those films. As I said in my review, the project looked and felt like the story’s respective time period. The acting as a whole was good as well. But when it comes to the script, it could have been stronger. A major flaw is the movie’s run-time, which was an hour and thirty-seven minutes. This was not enough time to address the story points and characters within the narrative. Personally, I think O Pioneers! should have been adapted into a multi-part mini-series or a television show. With more time, the creative team would have been able to explore more stories and give some underrated characters more attention. Having an episodic narrative for a mini-series or television show would also make sense, as each story would be more condensed than a film’s plot. Like I mentioned in my review, I haven’t read this movie’s source material. Therefore, I don’t know if it’s better or worse than the 1992 Hallmark Hall of Fame production.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen or read O Pioneers!? Is there a book-to-film adaptation you like? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Travel Lessons I Learned from Movies and TV

Movies and television not only provide entertainment, they also tell a story through a visual medium. Something else movies and television do is teach lessons through those stories. Throughout my life, I have learned so many lessons from various movies and television shows. How to travel smart has been one of them. As my blogathon’s theme this year is ‘Travel Gone Wrong’, I have decided to share a list of six travel related lessons I’ve learned over the years! This is especially exciting, as it’s the first list I’ve created for one of my blogathons! The list is based off of movies and shows I have personally watched. I also tried to present a combination of programs where the mishaps were met with either hilarious or horrifying results. Now, have your boarding ticket ready, as we’re about to start this list!

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Never Tell Strangers Where You Will be Staying (Especially if You’re Traveling Alone)

When I reviewed the 1962 film, Cape Fear, I said the most effective “scary movies” are the ones that involve real-life situations. A movie that definitely belongs in that discussion is the classic, Taken. The 2008 title showcases the dangers that can sometimes present themselves in international travel, without coming across as a PSA/cautionary tale/“after school special” type story. This is because the film places more emphasis on the action within the project. Every time I think of this movie, I always speculate how Kim and Amanda might have avoided their plight had they not told a group of strangers, who ended up being human traffickers, which hotel they were staying at. It also didn’t help how they revealed they were both traveling alone. There’s a saying that goes “Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet”. Well, as Kim and Amanda’s situation shows, that isn’t always the case, especially since some people’s intentions are not great. Watching Taken reminded me how you should only share your hotel and travel status with people you know and trust.

Pink travel backpack image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/travel-lettering-with-watercolor-pink-backpack_2686676.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

If You Want to Start any Relationships with the “Locals”, Take the Time to Know Them First

When I refer to “locals”, I’m referring to anyone who is from a particular travel destination, whether it’s “across the pond” or across town. For this point, I have two examples to share. The first is from a movie I reviewed back in January, Red Corner. While in China for business related reasons, Jack becomes attracted to a woman he briefly met at a nightclub. Attraction gets the better of them, as they end up sharing intimate relations with one another. The woman is discovered dead the following morning, with Jack declared a suspect in her murder. The second example, which also involves a man named Jack, is the Lost episode “Stranger in a Strange Land”. Within the flashbacks from that episode, Jack forms a month-long, intimate relationship with Achara, a character I mentioned in my latest Sunset Over Hope Valley re-cap. During their relationship, Jack becomes frustrated that Achara won’t share what her “gift” is with him. Taking matters into his own hands, he barges into her place of employment and demands an explanation. When Achara’s revelation isn’t enough, Jack forces her to give him a tattoo, even though she initially refuses his request. Their relationship ends disastrously, with Achara in tears and Jack unofficially banned from Thailand.

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.thehollywoodroosevelt.com/pool/tropicana-pool-cafe.

I’ve said before that, in my opinion, starting or ending a relationship shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ve also said that both members of a relationship should be equal to one another. Taking that into account, it’s important to remember when two people come together to form a relationship, they bring with them elements of their lives, which includes their respective cultures. This is where my two examples come in. Despite Jack from Red Corner spending such a short amount of time with the aforementioned woman, he had to deal with her government, a government he was not familiar with. He was also not familiar with the Chinese language and cultural beliefs. This, to an extent, left Jack at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, in Thailand, Jack from Lost didn’t respect Achara’s cultural boundaries. As I mentioned earlier, she initially refused his tattoo request. During their confrontation, Achara told Jack her tattoos are “not decoration, it is definition”. Achara also said Jack couldn’t receive a tattoo because he was “an outsider”. Though she doesn’t provide details to her comments, Achara implies her tattoos have a strong connection to her culture. But whenever Jack and Achara are shown having a conversation, they seem to purposefully avoid talking about anything personal. When I first reflected on “Stranger in a Strange Land”, I knew Achara and Jack’s relationship didn’t last for a reason. Rewatching it years later reminded me why. Honestly, both parties from both relationships could have avoided so much heartache if they had taken the time to learn about and from one another. Sometimes, the best way to know more about a specific culture is to interact with those who are a part of it. Seems to me both aforementioned relationships missed a great opportunity.

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

Be Mindful Who You Place Your Valuable Belongings With

Traveling with valuable belongings is inevitable. This has been the case since the concept of traveling was born. A valuable belonging can be almost anything, especially according to the decade. In the 1980s, one of these valuable belongings was camcorders/video cameras. Priceless, irreplaceable family memories were captured on these devices. At the time, they also carried an expensive price tag. I’ve only seen about half of National Lampoon’s European Vacation. The one scene I vividly remember is when the Griswald family have their video camera stolen. Clark asks a passerby to take his family’s picture with the camera. During this photo session, the passerby suggests the family stand in a nearby fountain. After the Griswalds take this suggestion, the passerby runs away with their video camera. While this scene is meant to be played for laughs, a serious point is to be made. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone to take a picture of you with your chosen electronic device. However, if you are in possession of a valuable item, being mindful is key. If something doesn’t add up, don’t hesitate to say or do something about the situation. Similar to what I said about Taken, place your belongings with those you trust.

Travel suitcase image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/water-color-travel-bag-background_1177013.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.

On Your Trip, Know Where Every Member of Your Party Is

A movie I have never talked about on my blog before is the live-action adaptation, Madeline. I’ll admit it has been years since I’ve seen this film. But from what I remember, there is one scene that perfectly fits this discussion. The titular character and her classmates are at a local carnival on a field trip. Toward the end of this trip, Madeline is late for their bus ride home. To avoid getting in trouble, one of Madeline’s classmates holds up a hat to look like Madeline was sitting in her seat. This leads Miss Clavel to assume Madeline was with the rest of the class. But, in reality, she was somewhere else. During any trip, there is so much to think about. Keeping your party together is one of them. If Madeline had told one of her classmates or even Miss Clavel where she was going or how long she would be gone for, the school community would have one less thing to worry about. There’s no “modern” technology present in this film. But if Madeline had access to a cell phone, she should have kept it on and with her at all times. Miss Clavel is known for saying “Something is not right”. Had Madeline been in worse danger than was depicted in the movie, something would have been very wrong.

Snowy mountain image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/landscape-background-of-snow-track-and-mountains_968656.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.

Leave Enough Time to Gather All Your Belongings

A running joke on The Middle is “the blue bag”. This blue bag contains important items, such as snacks, and is meant to travel with the Heck family whenever they go on a trip. Unfortunately, this bag is, more often than not, forgotten. When this realization occurs, the family typically asks in unison, “You forgot the blue bag”? A reason why this bag gets left behind is because the Heck family usually rushes to get to their destination. In my years of travelling and watching The Middle, I know how essential it is to be prepared. This is why I always pack the day before I leave for a trip. The day before I plan to leave, I also gather what I know I will pack and put those items in one place. This has saved me so much headache and stress.

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.

Take Advantage of the Opportunities Around You

Ok, so I know I’ve been sharing lessons I’ve learned relating to more serious, travel related situations. Well, this lesson is serious, but not in the same way. Travelling, whether near or far, can give you opportunities to explore new places, meet new people, and grow as an individual. Two characters who take advantage of this are Brooklyn and Joe from Anchors Aweigh! For the majority of this story, Joe and Brooklyn travel to Los Angeles/Hollywood after receiving permission to leave their Navy base. During their travels, they make new friends, fall in love, even helping make a dream come true. Brooklyn and Joe also visit places not highlighted in a travel guide. But none of that would have been possible if they hadn’t been open to the possibilities of their surroundings. So many discoveries are waiting to be found when you travel. They can come in all different shapes and sizes. How do you find them, you ask? Just be aware of what your surroundings have to offer.

Have fun on your travels!

Sally Silverscreen

The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon is Ready to Set Sail!

All aboard the blogathon train! Spring is a time when vacations are either in the planning stage or just beginning. This is one of the inspirations for my Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon! As was mentioned in the official announcement post, plans can either go hilariously or horrifyingly wrong. So, for this year’s event, entries are classified accordingly. All the participant’s posts will be found on this one communal post, in order to locate them easier. With that said, grab your suitcase and fasten your seatbelts! We’re off on a blogathon adventure!

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Sally from 18 Cinema Lane — Travel Lessons I Learned from Movies and TV

Hilariously Wrong

Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews — FILMS… Our Ladies (2019)

Ruth from Silver Screenings — How to Have a Miserable Vacation

Rebecca from Taking Up Room — The Hardys Take Manhattan

J-Dub from Dubsism — Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 131: “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”

Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy — “French Kiss” (1995)

Classic Movie Muse from The Classic Movie Muse — 5 Reasons Why You Should Watch The Great Race (1965)

Horrifyingly Wrong

Debbie from Moon In Gemini — The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon: Train to Busan (2016)

geelw from “DESTROY ALL FANBOYS”! — The Passenger, Or: Boarding? Pass!, The Gift Or: “Where’s Waldo?” Or: “Really Dead Letter Office”

J-Dub from Dubsism — Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 130: “Airport”

Eric from Diary of A Movie Maniac — THE LOST WEEKEND (1945)

Evaschon98 from Classics and Craziness — movie review: flightplan (2005).

Take 3: Sailor Moon S: The Movie Review

When Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, invited me to join the Wilhelm Scream Blogathon, I had no idea the “Wilhelm Scream” was even a thing. However, I was determined to find the perfect selection for the event! After searching high and low on the internet, it was down to two choices: F9 and Sailor Moon S: The Movie. I ultimately selected the latter because it’s been some time since I last reviewed an animated movie. As a matter of fact, the most recent animated film reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane was 1990’s The Nutcracker Prince back in December of 2021. I was also surprised to discover the “Wilhelm Scream” was featured in Sailor Moon S: The Movie! Even though this is my first time writing about anything Sailor Moon related, I have watched the English dub version of the show years ago. With that said, it has been years since I’ve seen anything Sailor Moon related. To avoid confusion for my readers, I will refer to the characters by their Japanese and Americanized names, if applicable. The version of Sailor Moon S: The Movie I watched is the English dub version. So, “in the name of the moon”, let’s start this review!

Sailor Moon S: The Movie (English dub) poster created by Viz Media, Pioneer Entertainment, Optimum Productions, and Studiopolis

Things I liked about the film:

The animation: Despite Sailor Moon being released in the ‘90s and 2000s, the animation quality still holds up! One consistent element was the use of color! Princess Snow Kaguya, the film’s villain, wants to blanket the world in an infinite layer of snow and ice. Even though wintery environments typically don’t feature an expansive color palette, Kaguya was presented in hues of blue, green, and purple. The wardrobe of the Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts boasted bright hues; from Makoto’s/Lita’s orange sweatshirt to Usagi’s/Serena’s pale green sweater. This showed the creative team’s incentive to use as much color as possible. In some scenes, sparkles were added to provide a layer of dimension to a specific piece of animation. One example is when Luna is looking out at the ocean, as the sparkles give the illusion of the water moving. Another example involving Luna is when she is crying, with the sparkles emphasizing Luna’s emotions. Though the sparkles don’t make the animation 3-D, they do bring depth, in varying degrees, to the film. The fluidity of the animation’s movements also showcase the impressiveness of the movie! In some scenes, snow falls from the sky. The snowflakes fall in a steady progression, to the point where you forget it was likely added as an extra layer of animation. The fluid movement of these snowflakes brought realism to a given scene as well as the world of Sailor Moon!

Interconnected stories: Sailor Moon S: The Movie contains three plots. But it never felt like these plots were clashing or in competition with one another. Instead, they were interconnected, woven together by a strong thread! Two of the plots, Luna’s growing feelings for Kakeru and Himeko’s space journey were heavily affected by Kaguya’s attempts to cover Earth in snow and ice. While Kaguya’s plans provided the tenser moments of the movie, the other two plots served gentler moments, where the scripts messages of selflessness, dreams, and doing the right thing are instilled on the audience. The Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts are the glue that keeps the stories together, as they have some connection to each one. All of these components help the script move in a cycle.

Differing views on astronomy: In the Diagnosis Murder episode, “An Education in Murder”, Dr. Mark Sloan explains to his class how medicine is both an art and a science. This statement, though applying to astronomy this time, is brought to life in Sailor Moon S: The Movie! As I just mentioned, Himeko, a local astronaut, is preparing to make a journey to space. Her approach to astronomy is more scientific, as she chooses to think logically and “by the book”. Her friend, Kakeru, is also an astronomer. But his approach to the subject is more artistic. This is because he uses his knowledge and skills to prove the existence of a moon princess. These characters don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to their respective scientific field. However, they not only care about one another, but they also recognize the importance of space exploration. Himeko and Kakeru’s story shows the audience how everyone can come to any subject differently.

The Wilhelm Scream Blogathon banner created by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

Not feeling cinematic: When I choose to watch a movie, I expect that production to feel cinematic in some capacity. However, that wasn’t really the case for Sailor Moon S: The Movie. Most of the story was episodic, as these plots could have also been featured on the show. As good as the animation was, it looked like it came straight from one of the show’s episodes. The moment that truly felt cinematic was the final battle, with the Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts going up against Kaguya. Every member of the Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts present and the high energy excitement serve as two reasons for the cinematic feel. Even Usagi’s/Serena’s monologue about protecting life made that scene feel larger in scale. But outside that moment, Sailor Moon S: The Movie feels more like an extended episode.

The limited presence of Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista: The Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts from the Outer Planets, Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista make an appearance in Sailor Moon S: The Movie. But outside of their transformations as Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, and Sailor Pluto, they only appeared in the film twice. Their limited presence was a missed opportunity to learn more about Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista. It also prevented these characters from having a stronger connection to the three aforementioned plots. If anything, the presence of Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista make it feel like they were there for plot convenience.

Confusion over the moon princess: As I mentioned earlier, Kakeru uses his knowledge and skills to prove the existence of a moon princess. While this part of the movie was easy to understand, I was confused over the true identity of who this princess was. Based on what some of the characters said, it seemed like Kaguya claimed to be the moon princess. Her place of origin happened to be the moon itself. But Luna planned on pretending to be the moon princess, in order to make Kakeru’s dream come true. When everything was said and done, I don’t feel like I received a definitive answer of who the moon princess was meant to be.

Many years ago, I purchased these Sailor Moon S VHS tapes at a video store sale. However, I’d like to call them relics. Screenshots taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

One of my reasons for reviewing Sailor Moon S: The Movie was the inclusion of the “Wilhelm Scream”. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear this scream while watching the film. Then again, I was so engrossed in the story that I must have missed it. As I said in the introduction, it has been years since I’ve seen anything Sailor Moon related. However, it was nice to revisit the series, even for an hour! The animation still holds up, maintaining its color, depth, and fluidity over twenty years later. Like the show, Sailor Moon S: The Movie features important messages and themes. But it also contained differing views on astronomy, a topic that wouldn’t typically be found in the Sailor Moon series. Despite all these strengths, I wish the movie felt like a movie, instead of an extended tv episode. I also wish Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista had more appearances in the story. If you are a fan of Sailor Moon, ‘90s entertainment, or animation in general, then this is worth an hour of your time!

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

Have you watched Sailor Moon? Do you prefer the Japanese version or the English dubbed version? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Sally Watches…Diagnosis Murder!

For the We Love Detectives Week Blogathon, I was originally going to create a tier rank list of every film from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries I’ve seen. But the more I thought about this idea, the more ambitious it became. Instead of following through on such a daunting task, I decided to submit an entry that was simpler in nature. I’m currently reading The Magician’s Accomplice by Michael Genelin. But I might not finish the book within the blogathon timeframe. So that’s how I came up with my back-up plan! Recently, while on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ website, I came across an episode of Diagnosis Murder titled “An Education in Murder”. What caught my attention was the episode’s synopsis, as it reminded me of an episode of Murder, She Wrote I reviewed back in 2019: “School for Murder”. Curious to see how similar or different “An Education in Murder” was to “School for Murder”, I thought now would be a good time to introduce myself to a “new” mystery show! Before I continue with my review, I’d like to point out the irony of the situation. That aforementioned review of “School for Murder” was not only the first time I had watched Murder, She Wrote, but that was my submission for a mystery themed blogathon!

Episode Name: An Education in Murder

Season 5, Episode 19

Premiere Date: March 5th, 1998

The title card for “An Education in Murder”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

I was impressed by the acting in “An Education in Murder”! But there was one performance that really outshined the rest. Portraying a student named Noelle, Danielle Harris did such a great job with the acting material given! When it comes to describing her character, think Cher from Clueless but more manipulative. There were two sides to Noelle; the sweet, good-natured side she used to give a good first impression and the edgy, sadistic side that causes her fellow classmates to face a living nightmare. Throughout this episode, Danielle effortlessly wove in between these polar opposites, changing her character’s demeanor like a chameleon. It was also interesting to see Noelle interact with the other characters, her unpredictability leaving me wondering what she’ll do next. Danielle’s strong acting talents worked in her favor, as she helped bring to life one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in any tv show!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Similar to “School for Murder”, “An Education in Murder” took place at an affluent private school. Kelly, one of the students of the school, explains to Dr. Mark Sloan, the show’s protagonist, just how affluent the student body is. After class, she says that if a student doesn’t keep up with current events, their GPA will suffer. She also tells Mark how she doesn’t have a wealthy father. Despite these words, Norrington Hall, the school featured in this episode, didn’t feel like an affluent private school. I know there are a variety of private schools with their own unique communities, traditions, and ways of operating on a day-to-day basis. But I couldn’t find anything about Norrington Hall that screamed “look how much money can be dumped into a child’s education”. For one, all the students in this episode didn’t behave or interact any differently from public school students in a typical movie or television show. Mark’s science class at Norrington Hall seems like a standard AP (advanced placement) science class. Sure, the school’s interior and exterior had a nice appearance. But if entertainment media and real-life have taught me anything, public school buildings can look just as nice as those belonging to private schools. The way the characters’ words didn’t match up with the visuals reminded me of Chippewa Falls Library from the Hallmark Christmas movie, Holly and Ivy.

The reason I included this screenshot is to show readers how nice the interior of Norrington Hall is. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The mystery itself:

I’m glad “An Education in Murder” wasn’t a carbon-copy of “School for Murder”! Even though the Diagnosis Murder episode had a main plot and two subplots, similar to Murder, She Wrote’s episode, the story felt unique from the predecessor. Despite having three stories in one episode, it never seemed overwhelming. Each of these plots held a connection to the mystery. Unfortunately, that mystery was so painfully obvious, you might as well place the guilty party under the brightest neon sign you can find. Because of the mystery’s painful obviousness, the resolution was anti-climactic. This led to a weak mystery.  While watching “An Education in Murder”, I was hoping the guilty party was a red herring, with an unexpected twist hiding around the corner. Sadly, this episode was “cut-and-dry”, leaving little room for intrigue.

The other factors from this episode:

  • “An Education in Murder” brought up several messages relating to medicine and murder mysteries I hadn’t thought of before. For instance, after a classmate from Norrington Hall passes away, Mark tells his students how that student’s death is going to make a difference. As morbid as that sounds, he brings up a good point about murder mysteries. Because we, the audience, are so caught up in the story, the murder mystery’s effect on the characters and their surroundings can sometimes be overlooked. This can, to an extent, also be said about real-life cases.
  • At certain points in the episode, Mark gives Kelly advice, ranging from how to prevent dizzy spells to figuring out her life after high school. He helps her in an attempt to provide a trustworthy figure in Kelly’s life. This served as a major difference between Diagnosis Murder and Murder, She Wrote. Out of the episodes of Murder, She Wrote I’ve seen, I don’t recall Jessica Fletcher giving noteworthy advice to younger characters. Maybe the infrequent presence of younger characters on that show was a reason why? Even though this is my first time watching Diagnosis Murder, it makes me wonder how often younger characters appeared on the show.
  • In one scene, Mark’s son, Steve, gives Mark information about the guilty party’s background. This information was used to explain the motive behind the guilty party’s behavior. After hearing this explanation, it made me wonder if the show was implying the guilty party had RAD (reactive attachment disorder)? I’m not asking this to diagnose a character, but simply out of curiosity. If the guilty party did have RAD, why wouldn’t any of the characters mention this? I know this show doesn’t revolve around the psychological aspect of the medical world. Still, I’m surprised the disorder wasn’t openly stated in this episode.

My overall thoughts:

For my first time watching Diagnosis Murder, I was left desiring more from the mystery. Even though it was a different story from Murder, She Wrote’s “School for Murder”, it was painfully obvious who the guilty party was. Because of that, I didn’t find the mystery interactive. However, the parts of the story surrounding the mystery made up for the episode’s weaknesses! “An Education in Murder” was more thought-provoking than I expected, sharing interesting ideas about murder mysteries and medicine. Each plot was connected to the mystery, allowing these stories to share importance in the script. But, as I said in the review, the amount of stories never felt overwhelming. Based on the series synopsis I read on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ website, it seems like Diagnosis Murder wanted to enjoy the fruits of Murder, She Wrote’s labor. I came to this conclusion because each show shares some common aspects, such as featuring an older protagonist. Like with Murder, She Wrote, I might check out more episodes from Diagnosis Murder.

Rating: A 3.5 out of 5

We Love Detectives Week Blogathon banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy

Have fun in Malibu!

Sally Silverscreen

The 4th Annual Gold Sally Awards Has Arrived!

18 Cinema Lane recently celebrated its fourth anniversary! To commemorate such an important milestone, I am, once again, hosting the Gold Sally Awards! As I said last month, each award post will feature two polls at a time. This decision was made to help the voting process move at a faster pace. With that said, this year’s Gold Sally Awards will begin with the Best Movie and Story polls! Because I didn’t post any announcements for the Gold Sally Awards, the first two polls will be available for two weeks; from February 16th to March 2nd. Like years past, you are allowed to vote for more than one nominee. But you can only vote once per person. The link to the polls will be located under each poll. Just click on the word ‘PollMaker’.

Similar to last year, I thought featuring this anniversary image was appropriate for the start of the Gold Sally Awards! Anniversary image created by WordPress.
What was the Best Movie of 2021?
1. The Karate Kid (1984)
2. The Three Musketeers (1948)
3. The Love Letter
4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly
6. Rigoletto
7. Holly and Ivy
8. The King and I (1956)
9. A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
 
Created with PollMaker
What was the Best Story of 2021?
1. The Karate Kid (1984)
2. The Three Musketeers (1948)
3. The Love Letter
4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly
6. Rigoletto
7. Holly and Ivy
8. The King and I (1956)
9. A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
 
Created with PollMaker

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Red Corner Review

The theme of Gill’s, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, and Rebecca’s, from Taking Up Room, blogathon is one of the most creative! In The Odd Or Even Blogathon, a participant had to pick two movies; one released in a year ending in an odd number and one released in a year ending in an even number. The moderators then chose a movie for the participant out of those two options. One of my two options was the 1997 movie, Red Corner, which is the film I’m reviewing for the event. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned Red Corner. Last October, I reviewed the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’, in honor of Bai Ling’s birthday. While talking about that episode’s story, I mentioned how the episode was very reminiscent of the film due to topics discussed within the script. After watching ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’, I wondered how similar it was to Red Corner. Similar to the Touched by An Angel episode, curiosity got the best of me, which led to this review.

Red Corner poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Avnet/Kerner Productions

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The cast of Red Corner was strong! But because the majority of the story revolves around Bai Ling’s and Richard Gere’s characters, I’ll focus on their performances in this review. The profession of a lawyer is typically presented in entertainment media as being serious. Therefore, when an actor or actress is cast as a lawyer, there aren’t many opportunities for them to be expressive in that role. Despite this, Bai found a way to bring expressive emotion to her portrayal of Shen Yuelin! Even when this emotion was displayed in a simple fashion, such as Shen looking at another character in a certain way, it was more than enough to prevent this character from becoming dull or forgettable. In my review of the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’, I talked about Bai’s strong sense of emotionality. While talking about this strength, I said it allowed Bai’s performance to contain depth. Once again, she uses her sense of emotionality to her advantage in Red Corner! But this time, Bai uses it to bring humanity to her character, allowing the audience to see Shen as more than just a lawyer. One example shows Shen and Jack visiting the nightclub where Jack first met the murder victim. During this scene, Jack recalls some of the events that led up to the crime. When he brings up something funny said by the murder victim, Shen giggles at the English translation of the murder victim’s comment.

Prior to watching and reviewing Red Corner, I had seen two of Richard Gere’s films; Pretty Woman and Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. What makes Richard’s role in Red Corner different from those in the two aforementioned films is how his character, Jack Moore, faced higher stakes. This gave me, as a viewer, an opportunity to see Richard work with different material. In Red Corner, he was very expressive in the lead role. Richard used a variety of emotions to show how a person in Jack’s situation might feel. While trying to obtain phone records, Shen explains to Jack how these records are unavailable. This causes Jack to feel frustrated. As his conversation with Shen continues, Jack becomes more agitated over the powerlessness of their situation. Tension grows between both characters because of the agitation.

The mystery: A large portion of Red Corner focuses on finding the truth behind a murder. This mystery is drawn out throughout the story, letting the audience see it unfold as the film goes on. While reflecting on this movie, I came to an interesting realization. When it comes to seeing “amateur” detectives in entertainment media, lawyers solving mysteries are not as common. Sure, there are series like Matlock, Perry Mason, and Darrow & Darrow. But these are the only lawyer led mystery stories I can think of off the top of my head. Having Shen play an integral role in Red Corner’s mystery was a good creative choice! This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed seeing the film’s mystery play out! The way Shen gathered clues and made discoveries was interesting to watch. Her professional interactions with Jack added to my enjoyment of the mystery. I was intrigued from start to finish, curious to see what happens!

The mise-en-scène: Good mise-en-scène seamlessly blends into a movie and effortlessly weaves within the story. Great mise-en-scène elevates a given scene to help it stand out for all the right reasons! When it comes to this part of Red Corner, I will talk about two scenes. The first one takes place at a fashion show, where Jack and a Chinese businessman named Dan attend. During the show, Jack and Dan are having a conversation, which is captured in a medium shot. When Dan is speaking to Jack, he is covered in a red light. Jack is also covered in this red light, but a faint blue light is shining on his head as well. Without spoiling the movie, I will say this was a good visual to foreshadow what is about to come. The second scene takes place at the prison. Jack and a group of soldiers are walking up a concrete staircase. This short journey is shown in a long to medium shot. The scene uses a limited amount of lighting, which sets a tense and suspenseful tone. Similar to the first scene I described, all of the elements in the second scene come together to indicate what is about to happen.

The Odd Or Even Blogathon banner created by Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, and Rebecca, from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some held-back punches: As I said in my introduction, I saw the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’ If you read my review for that episode, you’d know I described it as being “emotionally intense” due to the nature of the story and the subject matter involved. Because Red Corner shares similar topics with the Touched by An Angel episode, I was expecting the film to be more emotionally intense, especially since it has an R rating. The brutality of the Chinese jail system and the strictness of the Chinese government are shown in this movie. However, the brutality I expected to frequently see was shown in glimpses. Meanwhile, the strictness was either confined to Jack’s court case or mentioned in passing. I understand there’s only so much you can include in an R rated film. But it seems like more emphasis was placed on figuring out “whodunit”.

Some characters talking over each other: Because Chinese is spoken by several characters, English translations are provided either through on-screen text or an official translator within the court and jail system. More often than not, I was able to understand what these characters were saying. But there were times when I had difficulty doing so. This is because some characters talked over one another. One good example is when Jack is first taken to jail. At the prison, a general is explaining to Jack, in Chinese, why he was arrested. An attending soldier provides necessary English translations to Jack and the audience. However, the soldier spoke at the same time as the general. I had to rewind the movie in order to catch what the soldier had said.

Some things left unexplained: Like I said earlier in my review, I liked seeing how the mystery in Red Corner played out! For the most part, I was able to follow along with the events happening on screen. But there were a few times where I wish explanations were given. During the murder investigation, Shen acquires a crucial piece of evidence that could impact Jack’s trial. But along the way, this piece goes missing. When Jack’s final trial arrives, Shen presents the aforementioned piece of evidence. This left me confused as to how she re-obtained it. While this is heavily implied, it isn’t thoroughly explained. As a viewer, I appreciate how the mystery’s information wasn’t spoon-fed. However, I think some of the connections within the mystery could have been stronger.

Courtroom image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/isometric”>Isometric vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before watching Red Corner, I had come across a few reviews about the film. In those reviews, the general consensus was how the movie was predictable. While I respectfully disagree with this statement, I will say Red Corner left me wanting a little bit more. I was expecting the 1997 film to be ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’ times ten. As I said in this review, I thought Red Corner was going to be more brutal and emotionally intense. There was emotion to be found in this movie, with some brutality along the way. But I didn’t have the same reaction after watching this film like I did with the Touched by An Angel episode. Maybe I shouldn’t have set my expectations on the higher side. Just because two projects happen to share similar subjects and ideas doesn’t mean they will be executed in similar fashions. What I can say about Red Corner is it is an interesting and insightful picture that has something important to say. It is also somewhat educational, especially when it comes to international relations and law. If you are interested in seeing this movie, I’d recommend watching it as a companion piece to The Spirit of Liberty Moon. But if I were you, I would watch Red Corner first.

Overall score: 7.1 out of 10

Have you seen Red Corner? If so, what are your thoughts on the film? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

I Will Always Love You: ‘The Bodyguard’ at 30

When I think of the word “umpteenth” paired in the same sentence as film, I think of a movie that you love so much, you don’t mind watching it over and over again. A movie that deserves your undivided attention whenever it appears on television. A title that never fails to make you smile every time you hear it. For me, that film is none other than 1992’s The Bodyguard! If you were to ask me what my top ten favorite movies of all time are, The Bodyguard would be placed somewhere on that list. When I received my first Sunshine Blogger Award, I talked about how I loved this film’s soundtrack. So, for a blogathon that revolves around movies viewed for the “umpteenth” time, I found the perfect opportunity to write about The Bodyguard. But because it is turning thirty this year, simply reviewing this movie wasn’t going to do. Therefore, I decided to write an editorial explaining why I love the film so much! Without further ado, let me tell you why The Bodyguard still holds up thirty years later!

The Bodyguard poster created by Tig Productions, Kasdan Pictures, and Warner Bros. Pictures

The Acting

We can’t talk about The Bodyguard without also talking about Whitney Houston. From what I’ve heard over the years, Whitney had little to no acting experience prior to working on the 1992 film. But her portrayal of Rachel Marron does not reflect what she didn’t have. Instead, Whitney did a fantastic job presenting Rachel as a complex character! Miss Marron is a singer and actress who is constantly presenting herself as a lovable starlet who can do no wrong. Behind the scenes, she is a mother and sister who craves control over her life and career. Whitney’s emotions and expressions weave through the story and adapt to each situation. A great example is the scene before Rachel’s concert. While backstage at the Mayan Club, Rachel receives a disturbing note. When she addresses this to Frank and her friends, Bill and Sy, Rachel discovers the delivery of these notes has occurred more than once. In this scene, she goes from being excited about her concert to expressing genuine concern and fear over the note to being upset by not knowing the severity of the situation sooner. Whitney delivers each line and expression in a realistic way, highlighting how multi-layered Rachel is as an individual!

Recording studio image created by Senivpetro at freepik.com. Music photo created by senivpetro – www.freepik.com

I’ve always thought Kevin Costner should have portrayed James Bond at least once in his career. Now I know it’s an unspoken rule that James Bond has to be portrayed by someone from England/Europe. But before you write off my opinion as being silly, just hear me out. In The Bodyguard, Kevin is cast as Frank Farmer, a former Secret Service agent. While watching this film for the “umpteenth” time, I can point out some similarities Frank shares with the legendary 007. For starters, Frank has a signature drink, which is orange juice. He also has the look, with Frank sporting a suit and bow-tie at the Academy Awards. Frank possesses the poise, skill, and experience to successfully do his job. He can even turn on the charm when he wants to, as Rachel successfully tears down his defense mechanism of keeping his distance from others. But the most important part of my argument is that Kevin has the talent! What works in Kevin’s favor is his ability to consistently carry a collected and serious composure. While this is expected for a character like Frank, Kevin is given moments where genuine emotions are expressed. When Frank and Rachel go on a date to a restaurant, they talk about a woman from Frank’s past. As Rachel makes a joking remark about how she thinks the relationship ended, Frank remains silent, giving Rachel the impression the subject is no laughing matter. A few seconds later, Frank begins chuckling, revealing how he pulled a trick on Rachel. This scene shows that even though Frank is strong and can hold his own is his profession, he is still a man of feelings and fears.

Ski lodge during winter-time image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ski-station-background_3423830.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.

Whitney and Kevin give great acting performances individually. However, it’s their on-screen chemistry that helps make their interactions memorable! From the moment Rachel and Frank first meet, you can feel the sparklers sizzling. Their banter bounces off each other like an exciting game of ping-pong. At first glance, you wouldn’t think Rachel and Frank would get along. This is because their personalities are the opposite of one another. But when they share private, intimate moments, Rachel and Frank are kindred spirits, understanding each other in a way that can’t be easily explained. The strong on-chemistry is not limited to the interactions between Whitney and Kevin. The interactions they share with the other actors in the film feel believable as well. One good example are the times when Frank interacts with Rachel’s son, Fletcher, portrayed by DeVaughn Nixon. Because of Fletcher’s desire to learn more about his mother’s bodyguard, the audience receives wisdom from Frank, along with clarity about why he is who he is. Fletcher’s curiosity of Frank is innocent and full of wonder, which presents the perfect counterpart to the dangerous and harsh reality of Frank’s career. These conversations between sweet and adorable Fletcher and tough and no-nonsense Frank kind of remind me of the conversations of Sarah and Eric from The Crow. The moments with Frank and Fletcher also allow the audience to take a break from the action and suspense The Bodyguard contains.

Sailing on the sea image created by Michele L at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Michele L.”

The Soundtrack

While we’re talking about Whitney Houston, let’s discuss the soundtrack. In my first Sunshine Blogger Award post, I said Whitney’s songs are such a timeless addition to any playlist. In the case of The Bodyguard soundtrack, these songs perfectly showcase the vocal range Whitney is known for! Delivering half of the soundtrack’s songs, Whitney flawlessly masters three different genres. The tracks ‘Run to You’, ‘I Have Nothing’, and the classic ‘I Will Always Love You’ are presented as emotional ballads that amplify the scenes they’re featured in. Meanwhile, ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘Queen of the Night’ are sassy and energetic pop tunes that are somewhat reminiscent of the “get up and dance” feel of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. ‘Jesus Loves Me’ gives Whitney an opportunity to contribute to the world of gospel music by presenting a heartfelt, powerful melody. These six songs not only compliment Whitney’s singing abilities, but they also add to the album’s musical diversity.

The Bodyguard soundtrack boasts a total of twelve songs. Each track is a good representation of its respective genre. As I already mentioned, ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘Queen of the Night’ are sassy and energetic pop tunes. However, those are not the only pop songs featured on the album. Lisa Stansfield’s ‘Someday (I’m Coming Back)’ is a pop song that revolves around a finished relationship. Pop influences can also be heard in the rock song ‘What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding’, sung by Curtis Stigers. ‘It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day’, performed by S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M., is a laid-back hip-hop track that is as straight forward as its title suggests. Another laid-back tune is ‘Even If My Heart Would Break’, an R&B song that features the vocals of Aaron Neville and the saxophone sounds of Kenny G. Alan Silvestri delivers on a theatrical score that carries a somber and serious tune. Finishing the soundtrack is Joe Cocker’s ‘Trust In Me’, which adds some country flavor to this strong album.

Since I own a copy of The Bodyguard soundtrack, I thought it would make sense to post a picture of it in this editorial. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The Kitchen Scene

In almost any action movie, there is that one scene audience members talk about long after the movie ends. It usually involves a lot of action, showing characters in an exciting battle of good versus evil. But there is a scene in The Bodyguard that, I feel, is the best scene from any action film. In what I call “the kitchen scene”, Tony, one of Rachel’s bodyguards, is upset over a miscommunication caused by Frank. In a fit of rage, Tony decides to take his frustrations out on Kevin Costner’s character. But he quickly realizes he made a big mistake. Throughout this scene, Kevin’s fight choreography is fast and filled with adrenaline. But he executes the clean choreography with precision and focus while maintaining a cool, collected composure.  Even though the kitchen is a smaller space, different parts of the kitchen are utilized. From Frank pinning Tony to the floor with a chair to Tony being thrown across the kitchen counter, the actors see the limited space given as a challenge instead of a hindrance. The best part of this scene is how there is no music or dialogue. This forces the audience to give their undivided attention to what is happening on-screen. While “the kitchen scene” is shorter in time length, it’s delivery is affective!

Vintage style kitchen image created by karlyukav at freepik.com Light photo created by karlyukav – www.freepik.com

Blending Several Genres

The Bodyguard consists of four genres: action, mystery, drama, and romance. On paper, it seems like there would be an overwhelming amount of content in this one story. In reality, however, these genres end up complimenting and working with each other instead of competing or clashing with one another. The 1992 film revolves around Rachel’s dilemma, which involves her life being threatened by an unknown perpetrator. While this mystery takes place throughout the movie, the audience is given enough clues, suspects, and possible motives to keep them invested in the mystery solving process. Action is sprinkled into the story to raise the stakes and keep viewers on the edge of their seat. As I mentioned earlier, the moments with Frank and Fletcher allow the audience to take a break from the action and suspense The Bodyguard contains. The drama among the Marron family and the romantic moments between Rachel and Frank are also placed in the story to give the audience time to breathe after scenes focusing on the mystery and action. In these moments, the audience learns more about the characters, as well as their motivations for making certain choices. The cycle of these four genres moves like an ocean’s wave, in ebbs and flows.

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Its Timeless Story

In the world of cinema, there are two types of film: those that are products of their time and those that stand the test of time. I can only speak for myself, but I feel The Bodyguard belongs in the latter category! Like I said in my previous point, this film consists of four genres. Instead of these genres coming together to create a convoluted narrative, the story ends up not being difficult to understand and follow. Even if you have seen The Bodyguard before, like I have, the script provides an intriguing plot, hilarious one-liners, and dialogue that is well-written, with these aspects of the film making your two hours of viewing worthwhile. Speaking of the plot, it is not defined by the time of its release. The assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan is mentioned on a few occasions. However, this is done to provide context to Frank’s part of the story. The romance between Rachel and Frank is based on the classic trope of opposites attracting. But the quality of the acting performances and on-screen chemistry make this concept work. While the film does contain heavier moments, they’re not too unbearable. This allows the movie to have a higher re-watchability rate.

The Umpteenth Blogathon banner created by CineMaven from Essays from the Couch.

While on a dinner and movie date, Rachel asks Frank how many times he has seen Yojimbo, a Japanese film from the early ‘60s. Frank responds by saying he has seen it a total of 62 times. While I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen The Bodyguard in my life, I found this quote to be such a coincidence, as I’m writing about the film for the Umpteenth Blogathon! Whether you choose to watch this movie for the first time or plan on re-visiting it, The Bodyguard is a movie that, in my opinion, still holds up. It is not only an exciting action flick paired with an intriguing mystery, but there are moments in this story that can make you think. While talking with Fletcher, Frank tells him that when someone is afraid, that means they care about something. Frank’s quote not only provides an interesting perspective on fear itself, but it also highlights the intent of my editorial. Why do we celebrate the birthday of a loved one? Why do we commemorate a holiday or important historical event? Why did I write about a film that was released thirty years ago? It’s because we care about those people, events, or films. Watching a movie for the “umpteenth” time is like spending time with a good friend. You may know every line by heart and how the story plays out, but the time well spent will always be cherished.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

If you’d like to check out the other entries in the Umpteenth Blogathon, you can visit this link:

https://cinemavensessaysfromthecouch.wordpress.com/2022/01/18/for-the-umpteenth-time-blogathon/