Last December, I was nominated for The Pick My Movie Tag by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews. My selected topic was “A list of must-watch Hallmark film star biopics”. In my quest to find these kinds of films, however, I found very few Hallmark titles about film stars, especially those I’ve seen. More often than not, I came across Hallmark movies that were based on true stories that were not celebrity related. Therefore, I decided for this tag I would write about the top five Hallmark films based on a true story! Before I list the tag’s rules, I’d like to thank Gill for the nomination, as Gill’s thoughtfulness is appreciated.
The Tag’s Rules
Nominate one or more people to review the film or films of your choice. Or you can request they review something from a certain year, genre, or star. Everyone can review the same thing, or you can request each person cover something different. As long as it’s something they haven’t written about yet, you’re good.
Nominees are allowed to request a different pick for whatever reason no more than five times. Stuff happens. We all know it.
Nominees must thank the person who nominated them and provide a link their blog.
Nominees may nominate others to keep the tag going. Picking the person who nominated them is allowed, or they can nominate someone else. Maybe both.
All participants need to include these rules in their post, whether they’re nominees or picking nominees.
All participants should use the “Pick My Movie” banner or something similar in their posts.
1. The Christmas Choir (2008)
It’s been years since I’ve seen The Christmas Choir. From what I remember, I enjoyed this film! The cast as a whole is strong. Quality in acting talents and screenwriting allow the characters to come across as realistic and endearing. The Christmas Choir is one of Hallmark’s more unique Christmas titles, as it doesn’t follow a formula or contain a certain set of Christmas movie tropes and cliches. In fact, it’s surprising this film isn’t a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, as the story of a choir that started in a homeless shelter seems like the perfect material for that collection of movies. Another thing I remember about The Christmas Choir is the genuine good-heartedness the film exuded. As the Christmas season is on the horizon, this may be a movie I end up revisiting!
2. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (2009)
I first talked about this film in my tier rank list of all the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I’ve seen. In that list, I mentioned the film’s presentation, as the film itself felt like a theatrical release. However, that’s not the only strength The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler contains. Historical accuracy is an element that Hallmark Hall of Fame productions have, more often than not, executed well. This film is no exception, as the movie appropriately reflects the story’s time period! Movies like The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler make me wish Hallmark had created more period dramas. Yes, we have When Calls the Heart. But, to me, that feels like the exception to the rule.
3. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s A Smile as Big as the Moon (2012)
If you asked me to name a “space camp” movie, A Smile as Big as the Moon is the first one that comes to mind. As I said in my aforementioned tier rank list, this film is the perfect example of what a Hall of Fame title should be. I still stand by that statement, with the movie containing so many good components! Similar to The Christmas Choir, the strong acting performances and screenwriting brought to life characters that were worth rooting for. It was also interesting to see what it takes to be enrolled in space camp. The story’s messages and themes are just as relevant today as they were in 2012 or even the late 80s, when the story takes place. A Smile as Big as the Moon is a Hallmark Hall of Fame title that I consider a classic!
4. The Color of Rain (2014)
In my opinion, The Color of Rain is Lacey Chabert’s best film from Hallmark. One reason why is the story in this film is so different from those in Lacey’s other Hallmark movies. The Color of Rain does contain sadder moments, as both families are dealing with the death of a family member. But similar to films like Holly and Ivy, the movie’s creative team adopted a balance between sorrow and joy. It also helps how the cast’s acting talents were strong, as it allowed the characters to be memorable. The more I think about The Color of Rain, the more it feels like a Hallmark Hall of Fame title.
5. A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love (2019)
Personally, I enjoyed this sequel in the “Godwink” series more than the first film. A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love does a better job at explaining and showcasing what a “Godwink” is. Like Holly and Ivy and The Color of Rain, this movie’s creative team successfully balances joy and sorrow. I also think Cindy Busby’s portrayal of Alice is one of her best performances, as it is well-rounded and contained emotionality. In a year when Hallmark premiered new films weekend after weekend, A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love was, to me, one of their stand-outs. I may have to seek out the other two films in this series.
Jillian from The Classic Film Connection – A Hallmark Hall of Fame movie starring at least one “classic” film star
Rebecca from Taking Up Room – A vampire film released after 1960
Eric from Diary of a Movie Maniac – A made-for-TV movie from the 1990s
Andrew from The Stop Button – An underrated sports film
J-Dub from Dubsism – Another entry in the Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate series
This month, 18 Cinema Lane received 445 followers! Therefore, a Blog Follower Dedication Review is in order! Since October is typically known as the Halloween season, I wanted to select a film that was appropriate for this time of year. But I’m also participating in Genre Grandeur, where the theme this month is ‘Movies Directed by the Main Actor/Actress’. So, as the title of this review says, I have chosen to write aboutA Quiet Place! Prior to this review, I had heard of the 2018 film. Mixed results are what I have heard; either viewers have loved the movie or they thought the story’s logistics didn’t make sense. I’ve also heard A Quiet Place is a horror film that thinks outside the box. This is another reason why I chose to review this movie, as I don’t often talk about titles from the horror genre.
Things I liked about the film:
The family dynamic: John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are two actors I am familiar with, primarily for their comedic performances. With John, I have seen clips of The Office, while one of Emily’s most notable performances was in The Devil Wears Prada. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, I’ve seen more comedic actors successfully transition to dramatic acting. John’s and Emily’s performance definitely stuck the landing, as they were both able to convey a variety of emotions through facial expressions and body language! Portraying John and Emily’s on-screen children were Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds, and Cade Woodward. Adding their strong performances, the Abbott family had a really good family dynamic that felt believable and genuine. Toward the beginning of the film, Cade’s character, Beau, really wants a toy space shuttle. However, the toy makes noise, which is a no-no within the Abbott family’s world. Through sign language and facial expressions, John’s character, Lee, explains how Beau can’t have the toy. Beau’s response was a look of pure sadness and confusion on his face. Another memorable scene was when Regan refused a new cochlear implant. Throughout the film, Lee attempts to create a functioning cochlear implant for his daughter. When he gives Regan the implant, Lee is optimistic it will work this time, wide eyes and even a smile conveying this optimism. Regan is not impressed with the new implant, as she’s frustrated at the idea of another implant not working. She not only expresses frustration on her face, she even pushes away her father’s hand.
The atmosphere: As I mentioned in my point about the family dynamic, noise is a no-no in the Abbott family’s world. That’s because unidentified extraterrestrial creatures have taken over their environment, destroying anyone or anything that makes noise. Right in the very first scene, the audience can see how these creatures have driven people away from a small town. It looks like what most people would call a “ghost town”; cars frozen in the street and leaves slowly blowing through the air. The store where the Abbott family visits appears to be an urban explorer’s dream. Natural light from the store’s windows provides the facility’s only source of light. Products are strewn on the floor, waiting for someone to finally pick them up. Cinematography and inclusion of light help create a film that feels very atmospheric!
Use of sound: Even though the Abbott family try to create as little sound as possible, the film itself was not devoid of sound. At various moments in the story, natural sound could be heard whenever the family traveled from place to place. One notable example is when Noah’s character, Marcus, and Lee walk near a river. Sounds could also be heard through headphones or earbuds. In a scene where Lee and Emily’s character, Evelyn, are slow dancing, Evelyn puts one of her earbuds in Lee’s ear. Not only can the song be heard through the earbud, the song is amplified so the audience can hear it too. It serves as a reminder how sound, even noise, plays a role in our lives.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A film that doesn’t feel like a horror film: Like I said in my introduction, A Quiet Place is a horror film. Even the poster bears the hallmarks of a typical horror production. But, to me, A Quiet Place didn’t feel like a horror movie. Sure, there were terrifying moments in the story. But, if anything, the film felt like a dystopian/apocalyptic film with sci-fi elements. As I watched A Quiet Place, it reminded me of a more creative version of Signs.
Questions that are left unanswered: While I appreciate the film’s creative team respecting the audience’s intelligence, there were some questions I wish were answered. For instance, why did the Abbott family choose not to wear shoes? During Lee and Marcus’ hike, they cross paths with an elderly couple. Who were they and why did the elderly man want the creatures to capture him? Couldn’t the couple join the Abbott family and seek safety together?
The science’s confusing logic: As Marcus and Lee attempt to catch fish in a river, Lee explains how it’s ok to make small sounds. While big sounds are bad, they can be cancelled out with bigger sounds. With this logic in mind, why aren’t the extraterrestrial creatures congregating near the river? Why would they even bother trying to capture people, animals, and objects that make noise? Statements like Lee’s made the story somewhat confusing.
My overall impression:
Before I share my overall impression of A Quiet Place, I’d like to thank all of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers! You are the reason why I continue to write and publish so many Blog Follower Dedication Reviews! Now, on to my thoughts on A Quiet Place. I will admit this is a fine, ambitious film that is one of the more unique titles of this nature. However, some aspects of the project could have been stronger. Like I said in my review of Night of the Comet, you need to explain the science in your science fiction story, especially in a way that satisfies the audience. While some of the science in A Quiet Place was explained, other parts of the story were confusing. The movie, to me, felt less like a horror movie and more like a dystopian/apocalyptic film with sci-fi elements. This makes the film’s marketing, as well as its horror classification, somewhat misleading. I am aware there is a sequel to A Quiet Place. Because I thought the movie was just fine, I’m not rushing to see the sequel anytime soon.
Overall score: 7 out of 10
Have you seen A Quiet Place? What movie do you like to watch around Halloween? Please tell me in the comment section below!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Over the past week, I thought about what my first movie review of 2022 would be. Was I going to select a title from my DVR or choose a film that has been recommended to me? I knew that whatever movie I picked, it was probably going to set the tone for the rest of the year. Well, I just saw the 2019 production, Knives Out. This is a movie I had heard of because of its mixed reviews. If I’m going to be honest, it was a film I was originally planning to avoid. A few years ago, I saw the 2017 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. Without spoiling the story, I will say the ending made me not like the film. When I heard about Knives Out, I assumed it was going to let me down like Murder on the Orient Express did. But is that what really happened? Keep reading, as I’m about to start my first movie review of the year!
Things I liked about the film:
Ana de Armas’ performance: When I watch a movie that features an ensemble cast, I sometimes look for the performance that stood out among the rest. In Knives Out, that performance came from Ana de Armas! A variety of situations can happen in a mystery story. Therefore, you need actors or actresses who will respond to those events through their acting talents. With Ana’s portrayal of Marta, she was able to express a wide range of emotions, showcasing how versatile her acting abilities are. One great example happens in a tense scene with Marta and a member of the Thrombey family. Because a traumatic situation happens during that scene, Marta responds by holding back a scream and trying to fight back tears. That emotional response helped Ana’s performance appear realistic!
The set design: Because the majority of Knives Out takes place at Harlan Thrombey’s house, I will focus on this location in this part of my review. Harlan’s house was one of the most impressive structures in film! The exterior adopted a Victorian style that boasted warm brown brick. But the house’s interior is where the set design shines! The winding staircase in the main foyer is paired with railings in a rich dark wood. Almost every crevice displays either a statue, souvenir, or book. This specific detail gave the space its own personality. Some of the windows showcased stained glass designs, with at least one bearing intricate images. There were even secret compartments! Harlan Thrombey’s house was truly any mystery writer’s dream!
Not showing a complete picture: Within the first half of the movie, the police question members of the Thrombey family, as well as people connected to the Thrombeys. When each character is sharing their side of the story, the audience gets to see what happened in flash backs. But it’s important to point out how each character’s perspective was different. When a situation happens, whether real or fictional, there are various sides of that story. That causes the overall picture to not be complete, no matter how many perspectives are shared. For Knives Out, this part of the script felt realistic. It reminds the audience how they don’t always receive a complete narrative, especially since they weren’t present during the actual event.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Little to no interactivity: I, personally, like mystery films where the story allows the audience to solve a case alongside the characters. But Knives Out had the same flaw Sherlock Holmes in New York did: featuring little to no interactivity in the script. In the first half of the film, the story is exposition-heavy. Along with character backstories and flash backs explaining what happened, the story reveals “whodunit”. Since all this took place within the movie’s first half, it felt like the screenwriter spoon-fed the information to the viewers instead of letting them figure things out. While there is a twist toward the end of the film, I feel itwould have been more effective had the rest of the story allowed the audience to participate in the mystery.
The Thrombey family’s dysfunctionality: Stories featuring family dysfunctionality can be hit or miss. They can either be heart-warming and somewhat silly, like the television show, The Middle, or painfully unenjoyable, like the Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Back When We Were Grown-Ups. In the case of Knives Out, the Thrombey family’s dysfunctionality was somewhere in between. I understand this was meant to create tension among the characters and provide them with possible motives. However, there were times when the dysfunctionality was overbearing. It got to the point where it not only overshadowed the mystery, but some parts of the story felt like they belonged in a drama. In my opinion, I think some of this dysfunctionality should have been toned down.
Weaker characters: In my list of the top ten worst movies I saw in 2021, I talked about how I didn’t like Raising Arizona.Two of my reasons were a)the characters were not charming or likable enough to make their dysfunctionality tolerable for the audience and b) the characters were one-dimensional and uninteresting. Knives Out’s Thrombey family experienced a similar flaw. These characters lacked depth, as they were each defined by one aspect. It also didn’t help how they were so similar to one another. All of the older family members were successful to varying degrees. Meanwhile, the younger family members simply enjoyed the fruits of their parents’ or grandparents’ labor. Because the characters were weak, the dysfunctionality was less tolerable for the audience, as the characters weren’t able to make up for that.
My overall impression:
Mysteries are one of the most popular genres on 18 Cinema Lane. The creativity and intrigue found in this genre make these types of stories interesting. Speaking of interesting, I find it such a coincidence how Knives Out is the first movie I reviewed in 2022. The reason is Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver was the first film I wrote about in 2020, written on January 8th. But I did not enjoy Knives Out as much as the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries title. One of the issues lay in the story’s little to no interactivity, as I felt like I was just watching characters do things. While the mystery itself contained interesting components, such as not giving the audience a complete picture of what happened, it could have been stronger. The Thrombey family’s dysfunctionality also could have been toned down. But there were parts of Knives Out I did like, such as Ana de Armas’ performance and Harlan’s house. With that said, I thought the movie was ok.
Overall score: 6 out of 10
Do you like watching mystery films? If so, are there mystery movies you’re looking forward to seeing? Let me know in the comment section below!
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.
When Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews announced the No True Scotsman Blogathon, there was a list of recommendations on the announcement post. On that list, the Disney Pixar film, Brave, was mentioned. At the time I signed up for the event, no other participant had chosen that movie to review. This surprised me, as Brave is a well-known title. Since I happen to own a copy of this film on DVD, I chose to write about it for the event. This DVD was given to my family as a gift several years ago. But until this blogathon, I never got around to watching it. Animated films are also not reviewed on my blog often. This is because I’ve already seen most of animation’s beloved titles. But there are times when there is that one movie that I skipped over on my journey as a movie blogger. Brave is one of those movies, so now it’s time to finally talk about it.
Things I liked about the film:
The animation: Disney Pixar has a reputation for framing their stories in impressive technology. Brave certainly carries that tradition, as the animation looks realistic! In one scene, a close-up of an archery target board is shown. The rough texture was captured through animated technology, making it easy to forget the board wasn’t real. Many scenes took place in a forest at different parts of the day. The natural greens and browns were appealing to the eye, adding depth to the world around the characters. Speaking of hues, I really liked the use of color in this movie! Merida’s hair is a perfect example! No matter where she went, her bright orange hair provided a great contrast. There was one scene where Merida was in a forest at night. Since black was the primary hue in the forest, Merida’s hair gave a pop of color to that scene.
The humor: I haven’t seen a Disney Pixar film in a while. But, from what I remember, humor is a consistent component among these types of projects. When it comes to Brave, the humor was spontaneous, the type of humor I’m a fan of. After a successful day of exploring, Merida is talking to her horse, Angus. Then, out of nowhere, Angus hits Merida with his tail in a silly way. Later in the film, Merida’s suitors are being introduced. The father from one of the clans appears to be talking about a very muscular young man. As the introduction continues, the audience learns the father’s son was hiding behind the muscular young man, actually being much smaller in size.
The writing’s cleverness: While watching this movie, I was able to pick up on the cleverness within the script. When the various clans arrive in Merida’s kingdom, Merida’s mother, Elinor, is making a speech. During that speech, Merida discovers a loop hole that she can use in her favor, as she doesn’t want to get married yet. While we’re talking about the clans, let’s talk about one of the suitor’s fathers. Throughout the story, this character was known as Macintosh. At first, this sounds like a typical Scottish name. However, Brave was dedicated to Steve Jobs, who passed away a year prior to the movie’s release. One of Apple’s products was a Macintosh computer, so naming one of the characters after something related to Steve’s company makes sense.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Inconsistent characters: At the beginning of the movie, Elinor is introduced as a caring, protective mother. During her interactions with her daughter, she didn’t come across as overbearing in her protectiveness. But as Merida grows up, Elinor’s personality becomes a “bait and switch”. While she states in the story how she means well, she is overbearing in her protectiveness. At times, Elinor’s change in personality felt over-the-top. Merida herself is another character I found inconsistent. There were times where her clever and critical thinking skills shined, showing how she is an intelligent explorer. However, there are also times when Merida acts like a stereotypical teenager. I understand Merida is a young character and is not meant to be “perfect”. To me, though, it seems like the writers couldn’t decide which aspects of this character they wanted to emphasize.
Things happening too quickly: There were parts of the story that, to me, happened too quickly. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Merida doesn’t want to get married yet. This causes a conflict between her and her mother. While I won’t spoil the movie, I will say the resolution for this conflict was reached with little build-up. The bridge from Point A to B wasn’t as strong as it could have been. In fact, so much time was spent with Elinor and Merida fighting or both of them working to resolve another conflict, that the marriage conflict was somewhat overshadowed.
Parts of the story that didn’t make sense: Toward the beginning of the film, Merida’s father, Fergus, lost one of his legs while attempting to fight an evil bear. While that part of the story is simple to understand, it’s what can be seen in his castle that didn’t make sense to me. At one point, at least one taxidermic bear is found standing against a wall. After going through such a traumatizing experience, why would Fergus want any association with the animal that severely injured him? While we’re on the subject of bears, there is a witch in the story who is a woodcarver, with her work resembling bears. It is never explained why she chooses bears as her artistic focus. Therefore, her emphasis on this specific type of animal kind of felt random.
My overall impression:
After sitting in a cabinet still wrapped in the manufacturing plastic, my DVD of Brave has finally gotten some use out of it. Now, you’re wondering what my opinion on the film is. Well, I thought it was just fine. There is good effort that was put into this project, as the animation itself shows. But I can think of other Disney/Disney Pixar titles that are stronger than Brave. While I liked the cleverness found in the script, there was more to be desired from the story. Structural issues, like weaker bridges from Point A to B, hurt the script. Also, it didn’t help how some parts of the story didn’t make sense. Despite all of this, Brave does bring something unique to the table. It’s also nice to see Scottish culture/heritage receive more recognition in the world of cinema.
Overall score: 7.2 out of 10
Have you seen Brave? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Tell me in the comment section!
Happy National Read a Book Day! I want to let you know there will be spoilers for both the book and movie in this review. If you want to check out this double feature’s introduction, you can visit this link:
I remember when Hallmark’s adaptation was announced four years ago. The biggest news associated with the project was the casting of Cameron Mathison and Andie MacDowell as Father Tim Kavanagh and Cynthia Coppersmith. This news made fans upset, due to the fact both Andie and Cameron were younger than their characters were described in the book. Their disapproval of the casting led the movie to be one of the lowest viewed films on Hallmark Channel that year, with 1.34 million viewers. I also remember the movie didn’t receive an encore presentation, as is customary for the majority of Hallmark productions. While I’m not sure if this information is accurate, I have heard Jan Karon, the author of the Mitford series, didn’t promote the film.
2. How did you acquire this movie’s respective source material?
Two years ago, I purchased a used copy of At Home in Mitford at a library book sale. I became interested in reading the series before the adaptation’s premiere, as I heard so many good things about it. Since I never got to read any of the books before the movie aired, I was curious to see how different the book was from the film. At the sale, they had the whole series available for purchase. But since I didn’t know if I would like the series, I just bought the first book.
3. Have you read Jan Karon‘s work before? What are your thoughts on her writing?
Like I mentioned in the introduction, I have never read anything by Jan Karon before. So, I didn’t know what to expect from the book. Jan’s emphasis on detail was one of At Home in Mitford’s strengths! An example is when things are being listed off. In the book, Father Tim and Cynthia go to the movies. Within a paragraph, Jan takes the time to mention the snacks they purchased, saying “they went into the empty row with a box of popcorn, a Diet Sprite, a Coke, and a box of Milk Duds”. It’s details like these that make the characters and the story itself feel realistic.
Similar to Saint Maybe, At Home in Mitford is mostly a “slice of life” story. But there are a series of mysteries that are drawn out throughout the text. Because this book has elements of mystery, but is not a mystery novel, the overall sense of urgency was low. At times, it felt like there were too many characters and storylines. Mitford seemed like any other small town I’ve seen in Hallmark’s programming. While reading this book, I kept asking myself, “How is Mitford any different from Cedar Cove? Or Chesapeake Shores?” Maybe if I had read At Home in Mitford before watching any of those programs, I would think differently. But, at the end of the day, I thought this book was a fine, wholesome story.
4. Was the movie different from its source material? If so, how?
Even though there were some similarities between the movie and the book, At Home in Mitford’s film adaptation contained more differences. Some characters were either omitted or changed from the text. One of these characters was Olivia Davenport. In the film, she was a parishioner who was seeking Tim’s guidance for her rocky marriage. Her presence in the movie was very limited, which is different from the book. In the novel, Olivia was a part of At Home in Mitford’s ensemble cast of characters. Her storyline was one of the most important, as she desperately needed a heart transplant. Olivia also helped Mitford’s doctor, Hoppy Harper, move forward from the loss of his deceased wife. As I said in answer number three, I, at times, felt like there were too many characters and storylines in the book. Therefore, I don’t fault Hallmark for leaving out certain parts of the source material. However, if the adaptation’s creative team knew they were going to include one of the book’s characters in their script, then they should have given Olivia a greater significance in the film.
Despite the film adaptation’s differences from the book, some of them had purpose. The novel and film featured a character named Marge Owen. While she became pregnant in both versions of the story, she was given a greater importance in the movie. The book never revealed her occupation, where the film shows Marge owning her own bookstore. She also provides friendship and guidance to Cynthia in the adaptation. As a way to overcome her writer’s block, Cynthia volunteers to restore the church’s paintings. In Jan Karon’s book, Cynthia wasn’t involved with the church. She does attend church services, but she doesn’t go the extra mile for the parish. The movie version of Cynthia tells Tim that she wants to give back. Cynthia’s decision not only gives her a stronger connection to the church, but it also shows how someone living their faith can come in different forms.
5. Do you think the movie was better than the book or was the book better than the movie?
When it comes to At Home in Mitford, I can’t give a yes or no answer. So, I’ll say it like this: As a movie, At Home in Mitford is a fine, run-of-the-mill Hallmark Channel production, with some of the film’s changes improving upon the book. But as an adaptation, it feels like the network was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. The first book in Jar Karon’s series was published before Hallmark Channel came into existence. By the time the adaptation was filmed, Hallmark was already well versed in their formula. Because the adaptation’s creative team tried so hard to fit At Home in Mitford into Hallmark’s brand of film-making, the story was watered down. If Hallmark were serious about faithfully adapting At Home in Mitford, they should have adapted it into a television show, as that is how the book read to me. I also think Jan Karon herself should have been one of the movie’s screen-writers.
6. Saint Maybe and At Home in Mitford share some similarities, such as how both books are written by women. Are there any other similarities you can think of?
Like I said in answer number three, At Home in Mitford is mostly a “slice of life” story. While there are mysteries within the text, the mysteries themselves feel lower in stakes. In the book, Father Tim finds some stolen jewels in an urn. Even though these jewels were connected to an international crime, Jan finds a way to connect this crime directly to Mitford. Father Tim wonders if his antique shop owner friend, Andrew Gregory, may have imported the jewels by hiding them in antique furniture. However, the culprit was a man named George Gaynor, a criminal on-the-run who found solace in Father Tim’s religious wisdom. Though George was arrested for his crime, he received the opportunity to become baptized. Father Tim even kept in touch with George after he left Mitford.
Saint Maybe is also a “slice of life” story featuring several mysteries. Similar to At Home in Mitford, the stakes of these mysteries were lower. Back in my review of Saint Maybe’s film adaptation, I mentioned how Ian discovered the identity of Agatha and Thomas’ father. Because this information was discovered long after Ian agreed to help raise Agatha and Thomas, there wasn’t a strong sense of urgency to do anything about the situation. He doesn’t even tell his family what he found. In fact, after speaking with Agatha and Thomas’ maternal grandmother, the movie version of Ian says to himself, “Thank goodness I didn’t find this information sooner”.
7. Should Hallmark adapt Jan Karon‘s other work? If so, why?
If At Home in Mitford’s film adaptation had received better reception from the viewers, then I’d be curious to see Hallmark adapt the other books in the Mitford series. Because that didn’t happen, Hallmark would have difficulty adapting Jan Karon’s other work, as most of her books are Mitford related. But since Hallmark created a few animated films in the past, I could honestly see them adapting Miss Fannie’s Hat or Jeremy: The Tale of An Honest Bunny. Similar to properties like Hoops and Yo-yo, Hallmark could create merchandise related to these stories as well. I’ve never read Miss Fannie’s Hat or Jeremy: The Tale of An Honest Bunny. But as long as Jan herself is involved with the project, I’d be fine with Hallmark adapting these books.
8. Is there anything about At Home in Mitford you liked or didn’t like?
I’ve heard complaints from Mitford fans about how different Dooley is in the film compared to the book. While I do agree about Dooley being very different in the movie, I actually liked the movie version of his character. Dooley was sometimes the comic-relief in the story. His grandfather, Russell, even called him “a prankster”. My favorite scene was when Dooley removed the ‘Dog Found’ posters almost immediately after Father Tim posted them. Throughout the film, Father Tim actively sought out Barnabas’ former pet parent. He spreads the word about the dog’s current whereabouts by posting ‘Dog Found’ posters throughout Mitford. Since Dooley doesn’t want to see Barnabas go away, he removes these posters behind Father Tim’s back. This scene was hilarious because of its believability.
Compared to the book, At Home in Mitford’s film adaptation felt formulaic. Like I said in answer number five, the movie’s creative team tried so hard to fit At Home in Mitford into Hallmark’s brand of film-making. Instead, the story followed the same beats and tropes/cliches as other Hallmark titles. The film included an adaptation exclusive character named Jack Emery. Throughout the story, he embodied the “business person is a jerk and/or out of touch” cliché, with his sole purpose being the worse datable candidate compared to Father Tim. At Home in Mitford’s film adaptation was released in 2017, two years after All of My Heart. The 2015 movie was one of the network’s most notable films to challenge the aforementioned cliché. Therefore, it made At Home in Mitford kind of seem outdated by comparison.
9. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?
Similar to Saint Maybe, religion/faith was downplayed in At Home in Mitford’s film adaptation. Both Father Tim and Cynthia mentioned they were Episcopalian. In answer number four, I talked about how Cynthia volunteers to restore the church’s paintings. Even though several scenes took place inside the church, we don’t see any characters worshipping within its walls. The tail end of Father Tim’s sermon was shown as well. The book showed how religion/faith played a role in Father Tim’s everyday life. He quoted a Scripture passage to fit almost any situation, even using Scripture to discipline Barnabas. Father Tim also turned toward everyday life to find inspiration for his sermons. Because Hallmark gave us Signed, Sealed, Delivered and has incorporated faith into When Calls the Heart, I’m surprised the network chose to tone down the religion/faith in the At Home in Mitford movie. But, once again, it feels like a missed opportunity.
10. Would At Home in Mitford encourage viewers to read either its source material or any other book?
Because of how many differences are found in the adaptation, I think it might encourage some viewers to check the book out. I can only speak for myself, but this is what inspired me to read the first book in the Mitford series. When I started reading At Home in Mitford, I could immediately tell how different each story was. I said in answer number five that the book read more like a television show. This is because the story was abundant with characters and storylines, as well as storylines being drawn-out. If viewers find themselves watching more tv series than movies, then the book might be for them.
11. After watching this movie, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?
Because the stories in At Home in Mitford revolve around the citizens of a small town, I can see why Hallmark would want to adapt Jan Karon’s series. At the time of the film adaptation’s release, small towns were an exhausted backdrop in Hallmark’s productions, with most of their characters being former or current small-town residents. But it seems like the network was so eager to potentially start a new series, that they lost sight of who this project was intended for. Excluding Jan Karon from the creative process doesn’t help Hallmark’s case. Their inability to adapt pre-existing material, At Home in Mitford in this case, shows how creatively dependent they’ve become on the rom-com genre. In my honest opinion, this movie was made a decade or two too late. Since Hallmark spent so much time showing how every small town was special, Mitford wasn’t given the opportunity to stand out. This movie should have been released either as a Hallmark Hall of Fame production prior to 2010 or on Hallmark Channel between 2001 to 2007.
When I published my review for Teenage Rebel last December, it became my 225th movie review! Since then, I’ve been thinking about what kind of article I should write in honor of this milestone. A few days ago, I saw a video on Youtube titled ‘Top 6 AG Trends that need to *GO* this Decade’. This video focused on how American Girl could correct their mistakes from the 2010s. Created by pinksmartiesag, it inspired me to think about the ways Hallmark can improve in the 2020s. Like any company, Hallmark is not perfect. There are areas where they can grow and find success. During the first year of the 2020s, I have seen Hallmark’s mistakes from the past decade seep into 2020. In this list, I will talk about the missteps that Hallmark should leave behind in the 2010s to have a chance to make better choices in this new decade. Similar to the list-articles I’ve written in the past, everything I talk about is based on my opinion of the things I have noticed as a fan and consumer. The list is meant to be critical in a constructive way, not mean-spirited or negative. When I refer to Hallmark in this article, I am focusing on the entertainment division of Hallmark; which consists of the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and Hallmark Drama.
1. Hallmark Channel’s Over-Reliance on the Romantic Comedy (Rom-Com) Genre
In the 2010s, when Rom-Coms made less appearances in the cinema than in previous decades, Hallmark made it their mission to save this genre from extinction. While Hallmark attempted to preserve Rom-Coms, they ended up putting almost all their eggs in one basket. Now, every movie on Hallmark Channel is a Rom-Com, telling the same types of stories over and over again. This decision has caused the films on this network to feel repetitive and predictable. When you look at a typical poster for a Hallmark Channel movie, you already know how the story will play out. Lately, I’ve been watching and reviewing past Hallmark films, which have much more interesting stories. It feels like those were the days when Hallmark would embrace originality and not shy away from taking creative risks. I would like to see Hallmark experiment with different genres and tell a variety of stories in the 2020s. Creativity and imagination should be the rule moving forward!
2. Continually Using the Same Tropes and Clichés
Because Hallmark Channel has focused on the Rom-Com genre, there are several genre related tropes and clichés that are continually used throughout Hallmark’s film library. In my list of The Top 10 Worst Clichés from Hallmark Movies, I talk about some clichés that have run their course. How many times can you tell a story where a woman from a big city goes back to her small hometown before you call it quits? The constant inclusion of these tropes and clichés cause a given film to be more predictable. Even though some creative teams have approached these story-telling concepts in new and interesting ways, it feels like that has been the exception to the rule. It’s time for Hallmark to either put a new twist on these clichés and tropes or abandon them altogether.
3. The Hypocrisy
Ever since 2019, I have noticed Hallmark’s blatant hypocrisy when it comes to certain areas of their entertainment division. For this point, I’ll provide two examples. In my editorial, When Hallmark Made Their Fans Really Upset, I wrote about how, in 2019, Hallmark advertised they would be airing a new movie every Saturday night for an entire year on Hallmark Channel. However, that statement turned into a broken promise, as there were some Saturdays where no new movies premiered. I also said in that editorial how Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries kept their promises to air a Christmas movie every Thursday and Friday night in correlation with the 10th Anniversary of Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up. When it comes to subjects that Hallmark cares about, like Christmas, that becomes one of their top priorities. For everything else, it falls to the wayside.
While promoting Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups last year, George Zaralidis, Hallmark’s network program publicity vice president, claimed that “diversity and inclusion is a top priority for us”. But there are times when these words sound empty. The upcoming Hallmark Channel movie, Fit for a Prince, is a perfect example. Based on promotional material directly from the network’s website, we can see this is the same type of “royal” movie, starring the same types of actors in the same types of roles. Remind me how this is diverse? When it comes to story-telling, diversity is more than just a character’s appearance. It’s also about the perspectives, beliefs, and journeys those characters bring to the overall story. In my award post, The Sunshine Blogger Award and The Blogger Recognition Award: Two Awards for the Price of One, I said that I wanted to see Bai Ling join the main cast of When Calls the Heart as Hope Valley’s first female Mountie. One of the reasons why I want this is because it would be a beautiful opportunity for Hallmark to put their money where their mouth is. If diversity is that important to them, then they will take no issue in casting Bai on Hallmark Channel’s most popular scripted show.
4. Hallmark Making Promises They Know They Can’t Keep
As I just mentioned in point number three, Hallmark broke their promise to air a new movie every Saturday night for an entire year on Hallmark Channel. But that wasn’t the only promise the company broke in 2019. In my aforementioned editorial, When Hallmark Made Their Fans Really Upset, I talk about several films that were mysteriously removed from Hallmark Channel’s and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ schedules after being promoted for weeks or months. If Hallmark had any thoughts about moving films out of their respective premiere dates, why would they spend so much time promoting them and setting dates? In the seventh season of When Calls the Heart, Clara and Jesse had entertained the idea of having an outdoor wedding. But when the wedding arrived, their ceremony ended up taking place indoors. According to Kami, from Hallmarkies Podcast, that episode was filmed in November. This begs the question; if the creative team behind the show knew it would be too cold to film any outdoor events, why would they mention the idea of an outdoor wedding in the first place? In the 2020s, it would be nice to see Hallmark stick to their word more often. Broken promises lead to broken trust with the viewers, which is not good for any business.
5. An Adoption Ever After Segment During the Seasonal Line-Up Preview Specials
When Larissa Wohl first joined Alison Sweeney in 2019’s “Valentine’s Day & Adoption Ever After Preview Special”, the program was used to not only promote Hallmark Channel’s Valentine themed movies, but also that year’s Cat Bowl, Kitten Bowl, and American Rescue Dog Show. At the time, the cross-promotion made sense. But as Larissa kept appearing in Hallmark’s other seasonal line-up preview specials, as well as the Crossword Mysteries & Friends Preview Special, she ended up overstaying her welcome. Instead of promoting a worthy cause, it felt like she was interrupting the regularly scheduled program to host an infomercial about homeless pets. Most people can get behind the idea of raising awareness for shelter animals. However, using the same tactics over and over again gets repetitive and runs the risk of turning away potential supporters. I don’t know if Hallmark has any plans to air preview specials for the various seasonal line-ups in the 2020s. If they do, I hope they think twice before adding the Adoption Ever After segments to the specials.
6. Hallmark’s Excessive Obsession with Christmas
Hallmark loves Christmas; I get it. But is it really necessary for them to do the following?
Airing both Christmas line-ups for almost three months
Showing Christmas movies on three networks throughout the year
Creating over twenty movies between two channels
Devoting an entire month to Christmas in July
In my opinion, the answer is absolutely not, as there is a fine line between loving something and going overboard. Because of Hallmark’s excessive obsession with the holiday, they are actually doing more harm than good to their line-ups. In 2019 and 2020, the “Countdown to Christmas” and “Miracles of Christmas” line-ups received less viewership than in years prior. Hallmark’s decision to make more Christmas movies year after year prevents their films from becoming beloved classics. Movies like The Christmas Card, A Boyfriend for Christmas, and The Nine Lives of Christmas were able to achieve long term success because they premiered in years where Christmas line-ups were smaller, allowing these projects to stand out. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, Hallmark needs to pull back the reigns on their approach to Christmas. Give Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries ten movies each, as it would challenge each creative team to create something new and unexpected. Save Christmas films for a week in July and for a month and a half toward the end of the year. Once upon a time, Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups were anticipated events. Now, it has become run of the mill and one of the only things Hallmark cares about.
7. Movie Premiere Twitter Parties
For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, Twitter parties take place for the premiere of new Hallmark programs and movies. Let’s use the upcoming movie Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How to Con a Con as an example. Before the film appears on television for the first time, someone directly connected with the project, either the director, producer, or stars, will encourage viewers to send tweets during the movie. There may even be pop up advertisements for the Twitter party while other films or shows are on T.V. When Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How to Con a Con airs on March 14th, viewers can tweet about their thoughts on the film, share their theories with other viewers, and have brief conversations with the stars. Personally, I never participated in these Twitter parties because I wanted to give my undivided attention to the film I was watching. The tweets from the Twitter parties are laced with spoilers, which means I have to avoid Twitter after a new movie or television show episode has premiered. From what I remember, Bill Abbott was a big advocate for this kind of interaction with the customers. But in 2020, Bill stepped down as President of Hallmark’s entertainment division. Also, Twitter isn’t as popular of a social media platform as it was five or ten years ago. With all these factors, it makes me wonder why Hallmark would still promote Twitter parties?
8. Giving Movies Unnecessary Hype
I haven’t seen this happen often on Hallmark networks. However, I have seen it happen enough to know that Hallmark needs to discontinue the practice. The two examples I’ll use for this point are 2014’s Northpole and 2019’s Bottled with Love. Before Northpole premiered, it seemed like news about the film was inescapable. Commercials would air constantly, reminding viewers of what they already knew. Even products directly associated with the film, like the North Pole Communicator, were sold at Hallmark stores. Even though the film received a large viewership number and a sequel, the movie has become forgotten. As the years go on, it is rarely featured in Hallmark’s Christmas schedules. As I mentioned in my review for Bottled with Love, Hallmark chose to overhype this film by proclaiming it was “the best movie you’ll see all year”. But when the movie premiered, it was only a “flash in the pan”. Its viewership numbers were fine, but nothing spectacular. I shared the same thoughts on the film itself. What Northpole and Bottled with Love have in common is how Hallmark overhyped these movies so much, they prevented them from being memorable in the long run. I’m hoping this was just a phase within Hallmark’s lifespan.
9. Launching Television Shows from Movies
Since Cedar Cove became Hallmark’s first scripted television show, Hallmark Channel has had three shows that originally started as a movie or a series of movies: When Calls the Heart, Good Witch, and Signed, Sealed, Delivered. But the only one that has found continued success is When Calls the Heart. While Good Witch has received more than five seasons, its overall quality has dropped since season three, as I’ve mentioned before on my blog. Meanwhile, Signed, Sealed, Delivered was converted into a movie series after the show’s first season and moved to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. This isn’t a good track record for Hallmark. Instead, they should create shows based on new ideas or well-liked books that are overshadowed by more popular titles.
10. Hallmark’s Summer and Winter TCA Events
Twice a year, Hallmark partners with the Television Critics Association to host a special event where they announce upcoming media related projects. Back in 2018, I wrote a Word on the Street story about announcements made at Hallmark’s Summer TCA Event. Recently, it seems like Hallmark makes their more interesting announcements before or after these events. At each TCA event, announcements consist of projects most fans already knew about. Because of this and the fact that fewer social gatherings are taking place because of the Coronavirus, I question why Hallmark still hosts these events? I wish Hallmark would use those finances, time, and resources toward something more productive.
Have fun at the movies!
Here is a link to the article about George Zaralidis’ statement:
While I saw more good movies than bad this year, I wasn’t able to avoid some stinkers. Now that I’ve published my best movies of the year list, I can now discuss which movies were the worst ones I saw in 2020! I watch movies in the hopes of them being good. However, some stories turn out better than others. As I have stated before on my blog, my worst films of the year lists are not meant to be mean-spirited or negative toward anyone’s opinions/cinematic preferences. These lists are just ways for me express my opinion in an honest and informed way. Similar to my best movies of 2020 list, I will start this post with my dishonorable mentions and then move on to the official list!
Working Miracles, Her Deadly Reflections, The Cabin, Thicker Than Water, Touched by Romance, The Wrong Wedding Planner, Murder in the Vineyard, Jane Doe: Yes, I Remember It Well, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, Is There a Killer on my Street?, and Stolen in Plain Sight
10. Angel on My Shoulder
When choosing which movie would end up in the tenth spot, it was between The Cabin and Angel on My Shoulder. Because I had higher expectations for the 1946 movie, that’s the one that was placed on this list. The overall film is painfully average, as I said in my review. Even though there is a clear conflict, it takes quite some time for that to be resolved. The personal journey of the protagonist, Eddie, is stunted. This is due to the character spending most of the story as an unchanged man. After watching Angel on My Shoulder, it makes me thankful that a story about a dog going to heaven was executed so well.
In 2020, I watched most of the movies from Hallmark’s Jane Doe series. Within the nine-film collection, the first chapter is certainly the worst. What makes a good mystery movie is a strong sense of excitement. This is a quality that Jane Doe: Vanishing Act was, sadly, devoid of. Everyone involved with this project looked like their hearts were not fully invested in what they doing. It was as if they wanted to get the film done and over with just to move on to something else. While I continued on with the series, it was in the hopes that the next film would be better than the introduction. If you plan on creating a series, this is not the way you get an audience invested in it.
8. My Husband’s Deadly Past
There are two kinds of Lifetime movies; those that are surprisingly good and those that are predictably unenjoyable. My Husband’s Deadly Past perfectly fits into the latter category. Even though I found the inclusion of psychology/hypnosis to be interesting, the story’s focus on ripping off the 1993 movie, The Fugitive, overshadows any of the film’s strengths. The protagonist in My Husband’s Deadly Past is the type of character that makes one poor decision after another. It also doesn’t help that the movie contains a few romantic moments that feel out of place within the overall tone. Two other films on this list make the same major mistake My Husband’s Deadly Past did. But, to avoid spoilers, I’ll talk about them more later.
7. Out of the Woods
I can honestly say Out of the Woods is one of the most meandering films I’ve ever seen. It takes so long for the story to get to its intended point, that story points are either completely ignored or are not fully developed. One example is how a white wolf continuously crosses paths with the protagonist. No explanation is given as to what the purpose of this wolf was or whether it was real. Another disappointment is how Native American culture is glossed over. Native American stories are rarely found in Hallmark’s library, so it is a letdown when a film containing Native American culture doesn’t work out. If you want to watch an Ed Asner led Hallmark movie with similar ideas and themes, I’d recommend the 2008 movie, Generation Gap. It does a better job at telling a story of two people trying to understand each other.
6. Mystery Woman: At First Sight
Before there was Hailey Dean, there was Samantha Kinsey from Hallmark’s Mystery Woman series. This early collection from the network is one where I’ve seen most of its installments. Out of the movies I have watched, Mystery Woman: At First Sight is the one I disliked the most. Both of the overarching mysteries in this story are poorly written. They are also overshadowed by the drama within the plot. Mystery Woman: At First Sight is the seventh movie in this series, which is a shame because its previous chapters created an enjoyable cinematic run. I’m not sure how much directorial experience Kellie Martin had prior to working on this project. Even though I think it would be interesting to see her direct a Hailey Dean Mysteries movie, her effort on Mystery Woman: At First Sight was not her strongest.
5. Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama
It breaks my heart how this movie disappointed me so much. In fact, Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama is the most disappointing movie I saw in 2020. It copied Pirates of the Caribbean’s homework without trying to understand what made that trilogy of films work. Also, for a movie called Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama, Captain Sabertooth himself sat on the sidelines of his own story. Pinky was a likable character, but making him the protagonist made the title seem misleading. I just hope this film doesn’t dissuade other studios from creating their own pirate narratives.
Remember when I said there were two films that made the same major mistake My Husband’s Deadly Past did? Well, Anniversary Nightmare is one of them. Like My Husband’s Deadly Past, Anniversary Nightmare rips off The Fugitive. But this Lifetime title is so bad, it is, at times, laughable. Both the acting and writing are poor. All of the movie’s flashback scenes are terribly filmed, captured through heavy “shaky cam” and covered in a red film. These two factors made it difficult to see what was happening on screen when a flashback arrived. I haven’t seen a Lifetime movie this bad in quite some time. If you’re interested in participating in Taking Up Room’s So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, Anniversary Nightmare might be an option.
3. I’m Not Ready for Christmas
I didn’t see as many Christmas movies this year as I did in 2019. But I can confidently say that 2015’s I’m Not Ready for Christmas is the worst Christmas film I saw in 2020. While it doesn’t rip off The Fugitive, the movie does place more emphasis on being a pointless, Christmas remake of Liar Liar, a well-known title from the ‘90s. Therefore, I’m Not Ready for Christmas also makes the same mistake A Cheerful Christmas did last year.There were parts of this story that didn’t make sense. Even the title, I’m Not Ready for Christmas, had nothing to do with the events in the plot. When you look past the typical Christmas aesthetic Hallmark can’t get enough of, you realize the story itself isn’t Christmas-y. If the creative team behind this project knew their script wasn’t exclusive to the Christmas season, they should have focused on the messages and themes of the holiday, like If You Believe did sixteen years prior. For their New Year’s Resolution, maybe Hallmark and Lifetime should move away from famous ‘90s films as their source of inspiration.
This movie was so bad, it honestly made me feel uncomfortable. That was because the film’s overarching view on marriage and divorce was so one-sided and skewed. I’ve been told Marriage on the Rocks was originally intended to be a satire. Sadly, that’s not the movie I ended up seeing. What I got instead was a comedy that I didn’t find very funny. The “comedy of errors” direction the screenwriter took just made the character’s situations more complicated, as most of the errors do not receive a satisfying resolution. It’s also a film that feels longer than its designated run-time. If you have never seen any of Frank Sinatra’s, Dean Martin’s, or Deborah Kerr’s movies before, please don’t let Marriage on the Rocks be your starting point.
For most of 2020, I thought Marriage on the Rocks would be the worst movie I saw this year. That was until Twentieth Century came along and proved me wrong. Where Marriage on the Rocks made me uncomfortable, Twentieth Century made me appalled. The fact Lily and Oscar’s relationship was so abusive in a movie classified as a “romantic comedy” serves as one example. Last time I checked, unhealthy relationships were not funny or romantic. To Marriage on the Rocks’ credit, the story featured characters that didn’t support the film’s narrative. Even though, more often than not, they were looked down upon, they always stood up for what they believed in and tried to help the main characters see the fault in their ways. With Twentieth Century, however, there were no “voices of reason”. None of the characters faced accountability whenever they did something wrong or made any attempt to change their ways. When I reflect on this movie, I question what the creative team was trying to tell its audience. But based on my reaction to the final product, maybe I don’t want to know.