Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Durango Review

Last year was the first time I participated in Legends of Western Cinema Week! For that event, I reviewed some episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger and the movie, Forsaken. This year, I decided to review the 1999 Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Durango! One day, Hallmark Drama was airing several older titles from the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection, with Durango being one of them. Since I try to watch as many Hallmark Hall of Fame movies as realistically possible, I made sure to record this film on my DVR. This is not only my first time watching it, but this particular title was only sold on VHS. Hallmark has a history of selling some of their Hallmark Hall of Fame films for home entertainment. As I said in my review of the 1987 movie, Foxfire, some of them have been sold on DVD for $20 apiece. But there were some titles that were only given a VHS release. I don’t know what the original price of these VHS tapes were. But if the DVDs were $20, it makes me assume the VHS tapes might have been sold for a similar price. Would Durango be worth the price if it was re-sold on DVD? Keep reading my review if you want to find that answer out!

I really like the poster design for Durango, as it is reminiscent of posters from older western films. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

Patrick Bergin’s performance: In Durango, Patrick Bergin portrayed Fergus Mullaney, the father of the protagonist’s girlfriend, Annie. Out of the whole cast, Patrick is the one that, for me, stole the show! Whenever his character came on screen, he delivered his performance with a strong sense of emotion. Toward the beginning of the movie, Fergus is giving a threat to the movie’s protagonist. During this scene, he truly came across as intimidating. The look in Fergus’ eyes was fiery, revealing the anger within him. His tone of voice was loud and stern, indicating he is not someone to be messed with. I wish Patrick had more appearances in this movie, so he could have had more opportunities to show off his acting talents!

The scenery: Within my review of Chasing Leprechauns, I discussed how the film looked drab. This was because that film’s creative team didn’t take advantage of Ireland’s natural landscape. That was not the case for Durango, as the majority of the movie took place outdoors and there was a lot of greenery to be found! When the Mullaney family was taking a ride through the countryside, the rolling hills of Ireland were showcased in front of a clear blue sky. On the path, a small stone bridge was seen over a river. This river was surrounded by grassy, green fields. That type of landscape was consistently shown throughout the movie. However, it featured Ireland’s natural beauty, which could encourage someone to visit the country!

The music: In films like those from Hallmark Hall of Fame, orchestral tunes are commonly heard in the background. While that is the case for Durango, the music worked with what was happening on screen. During the protagonist’s journey, grand, sweeping orchestral music could be heard as cattle were traveling through the vast fields of Ireland. Because the scenery is so captivating, having this type of music playing makes sense, as the music represents the viewers’ awe for such a beautiful place. When Annie’s brothers were fighting in public, Mark, the film’s protagonist, tells Fergus what is going on. Even though orchestral music can still be heard, the music is reflective of one’s fear when facing an intimidating man like Fergus. Just like any component of a film, music can make or break a production. The music in Durango definitely worked!

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine and Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy.

What I didn’t like the film:

Low stakes: A common staple in the western genre is including high stakes in the story. In the movie I reviewed last year, Forsaken, the future of the town was at stake. The fear of the unknown could be felt among the characters, with their dialogue and interactions elaborating this point. The major conflict in Durango was the transportation of cattle from one town to another in an effort to receive a fair price for them. But the stakes associated with this conflict were low, causing me not to feel like any of the characters or their cattle were in danger. This is because, nine times of ten, the characters’ plans work out perfectly. Come to think of it, these plans worked out too perfectly by the standards of the western genre. When a higher stake is introduced in the story, it doesn’t appear until the film’s last nineteen minutes. This stake feels like it was included simply for the script to shoehorn a subtle David and Goliath reference. What is frustrating about that creative decision is the movie’s creative team had the entire project to give us the aforementioned reference. Heck, Durango itself should have been a David and Goliath story.

Fergus Mullaney’s desire to protect his daughter: In a story where a young woman falls in love, it’s common for her father to be concerned for her well-being. This is no different for Durango, as Fergus Mullaney only wants to protect his youngest daughter, Annie. The way he went about protecting her is the issue, as it came across as possessive and bit over the top. Whenever Annie’s boyfriend, Mark, is expressing his love for her or seen interacting with her, Fergus becomes angry. It gets to the point where he threatens to physically harm Mark. If Durango were a comedy and Annie were a teenage girl going on her first date, maybe Fergus’ behavior would be justifiable. But because both Annie and Mark are adults and because this movie is more dramatic in tone, Fergus’ behavior felt out of place.

Matt Keeslar’s performance: I’m not really familiar with Matt Keeslar’s filmography. However, I wasn’t impressed with his portrayal of the protagonist, Mark Doran. He wasn’t as strong of a performer as other actors from Hallmark Hall of Fame productions. For most of the movie, Matt carried a “resting face”, making his face appear static. I could tell he was trying with the material he was given, as there were times where he expressed genuine emotion. But these emotions were, in my opinion, not delivered consistently. With everything I just said and the fact that Matt and Nancy St. Alban, the actress who portrayed Annie, didn’t have strong on-screen chemistry, I was not invested in Matt’s performance.

Irish heart image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/label”>Label vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

In my introduction, I mentioned how Durango was only sold on VHS. After watching the film, I now have an understanding of why this could be the case. Durango is one of the few Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I would consider a dud. With a weak lead performance and many low stakes, I found it difficult to stay invested in the characters and overall story. I also think the way Fergus tried to protect his daughter, Annie, felt out of place in this particular film. According to IMDB, Durango is “the first western set in Ireland”, so the fact this movie was not good is disappointing. On paper, an Irish western is an interesting idea that could have worked with a strong creative team. Unfortunately, Durango had a weak execution. I’m glad Hallmark Drama chose to air this movie, as I can honestly say it is not worth purchasing a copy. Personally, I think Irish cinema, the western genre, and Hallmark Hall of Fame deserve better.

Overall score: 4.7 out of 10

Have you seen Durango? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame movies you’d like to see re-released on DVD? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire Review

Because yesterday was 4th of July, I wanted to review a movie that took place somewhere in the United States. While I wanted to publish this article on 4th of July, my day ended up being busier than expected. So, this review is published a day later than I had hoped. Recently, Hallmark Drama was airing several Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I had never seen before. One of these films was 1987’s Foxfire. Years ago, Hallmark’s stores sold select Hallmark Hall of Fame films on DVD for $20 apiece (yes, you read that price right), with Foxfire being one of the titles offered. Before recording it on my DVR, I didn’t know much about the movie. In fact, all I knew was that it was one of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s older titles. When I discovered the film took place in Appalachia, I thought it would be an interesting choice for this time of year. So, would I buy a DVD copy of Foxfire if I saw it at the store for $20? Before we head to the store’s checkout line, let’s start this review!

Like I’ve done in the past, I have taken a screenshot of Foxfire‘s poster that was featured on my TV. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I’m not familiar with Jessica Tandy’s acting abilities. While I have seen The Birds, I don’t remember her performance in that movie. Despite this, I did like her portrayal of Annie Nations in Foxfire! It was very expressive, using a variety of expressions and emotions throughout the film. When Annie receives an art project from her grandchildren, she appears genuinely overjoyed to receive the gift. A big smile is on Annie’s face and her demeanor is pleasant. At her son’s, Dillard’s, concert, Annie looks truly concerned as he sings a song about a broken relationship. Worry is in her eyes and she never lets Dillard out of her sight. Another actor whose career I’m not familiar with is John Denver. I have heard of his songs, but I didn’t know who he was. In fact, I thought John portrayed one of the brothers on The Waltons. This is because of the mannerisms he carried in Foxfire. When his character, Dillard, was happy, there was a youthful spirit about him. It highlighted how you can take the Appalachian man out of the mountains, but you can’t take the Appalachian culture and heritage out of the man. One of John’s strongest scenes was when, in Annie’s home, Dillard is reminding his mother about her age and potential risks of living alone. As he is talking to her, his eyes look like they are desperately searching for answers to his problems. Even the tone of his voice sounds concerned. A character that is close to both Annie and Dillard is Holly. Portrayed by Harriet Hall, this character kind of reminded me of Baby from Dirty Dancing. This is because when Holly cares about someone, she cares about them with her whole heart. What makes Holly differ from Baby is how her personality was gentler. Because she is a teacher, she chooses to put her students first. When Holly is talking to Dillard about her students, her mannerisms and tone of voice seem motherly. This gives the audience the impression that she truly cares about them.

The scenery: I haven’t seen many films that take place in Appalachia. In fact, I didn’t know Foxfire took place in this location until I read the synopsis. To my pleasant surprise, the scenery was very nice to look at! The Nation family house was surrounded by forestry, with the tall trees providing cozy seclusion and privacy. When Dillard wakes up one morning, he is greeted by the sight of rolling hills on a bright sunny day. These rolling hills could also be seen on a car ride Annie took. When a real estate agent named Prince gives Annie a trip to the market, he takes a scenic route. The aforementioned rolling hills steal the show, but are accompanied by a lake at the bottom and surrounding colonial style vacation homes that can be seen from the road. The locations in Foxfire appeared quaint, similar to the small towns in most of Hallmark’s films.

John Denver’s music: Before watching Foxfire, I had heard a few of John Denver’s songs. Even though I don’t listen to country music much, the songs I have heard were nice to listen to. Within Foxfire, John performed four songs. Most of them were slower, more soulful pieces. This fit the overall tone of the film. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Dillard performs a song about a broken relationship. After his concert, he performs an acoustic version of the song. What I’ve gathered about some country music is how emotional it can be. In that acoustic version of Dillard’s song, his heart and spirit sounded wounded. This can be heard in his voice.

Children holding American flags during a sunset image created by rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People photo created by rawpixel.com – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A televised play: Hallmark Hall of Fame has a history of adapting stage plays into movies. One of these titles I really like is the 1996 film, The Boys Next Door. However, what sets the 1996 production apart from Foxfire is how the overall project was executed. Because The Boys Next Door contains more key characters and locations within the story, the way this adaptation was delivered to the audience looked and felt like a movie. Foxfire, on the other hand, contained a smaller cast and had a condensed story, as most of the film takes places at Annie’s house. Even some of the scenes were drawn-out and isolated, like a stage production. While the project was shot like a movie, it felt more like a televised play.

Re-created moments from the past: Throughout Foxfire, Annie brings up several memories from her and her family’s past. Instead of providing flashbacks, four scenes were dedicated to showing the characters re-creating some of these moments. For example, a current day Annie and her late husband, Hector, are reenacting when he first proposed to her. Watching grown adults act like teenagers was a bit jarring, as this prevented me from getting fully investing in these scenes. If anything, the scenes made it look like the film’s creative team didn’t have enough room in their budget to hire additional actors.

Inconsistent elements: At the beginning of the movie, Hector provides a voice-over, explaining the significance of his family and their land. Thinking Foxfire would be from his perspective, I thought this was an interesting way to tell the story. But this was the only time any voice-overs were provided. The end of the film showed Hector breaking the fourth wall for one scene. Not only was the inclusion of this element random, but it made me wonder why it wasn’t consistently woven into the movie.

Oranges in tree image created by Jose Luis Navarro at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Jose Luis Navarro.”

My overall impression:

Whenever I watch and/or review a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I always ask myself this: “if this movie were sold on DVD for $20, would it be worth my money”? When it comes to Foxfire, that answer would be no. At best, the movie was ok. I appreciate the film’s positive light that was shone on Appalachia. While I haven’t been there myself and while I personally don’t know anyone from there, I have heard of the hardships that the members of the community face. But despite the good will this film seemed to give, the biggest flaw was its overall execution. If I choose to watch a Hallmark Hall of Fame title, I expect to watch a movie. With Foxfire, it felt more like a televised play. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the re-created moments from the past. I couldn’t get past the adult characters acting younger than they were in the “current day”. Now that I’ve seen another Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I can add it to my Tier Rank List! Last year, I created a tier rank list of every Hallmark Hall of Fame film I have seen so far. While I’d like to revisit this list, I will focus on adding more titles for now.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

Have you seen Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame titles you’d like to see me review? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) Review

For the 2021 Swashbucklathon, I decided to review a movie that one of my readers recommended to me. It just so happens that one of my recent reccomendations, given to me by Patricia from Caftan Woman, was the 1939 version of The Man in the Iron Mask! Years ago, I had seen the 1998 adaptation of this specific title. However, I only have vague recollections of it, so I can’t give an honest opinion on that film. The aforementioned recommendation came after I had reviewed the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers. If you had read this article, you would know how much I enjoyed that film. But how does The Man in the Iron Mask compare to The Three Musketeers? Keep reading to find out!

The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) poster created by United Artists and Edward Small Productions.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I am not familiar with Louis Hayward as an actor. Despite this, I really enjoyed his dual performance as both King Louis XIV and Philippe of Gascony! Whenever Louis Hayward portrayed King Louis, he had a crazed look in his eyes, especially when King Louis was near something or someone he wanted. This can be seen when he meets Princess Maria Theresa for the first time. King Louis displayed a short temper as well. Meanwhile, Philippe had a gentler persona. He even got along with the people around him. When Philippe was apologizing to Maria about his inability to see her earlier in the day, the way he talked to her, as well as his body language, showed how he truly cared about her. Toward the beginning of the film, Philippe is sharing a meal with the Musketeers. He had a jovial disposition during this part of the scene, appearing to be enjoying the company. The Man in the Iron Mask is the first film of Joan Bennett’s I am reviewing. While I don’t have any other performance of Joan’s to compare to her portrayal of Princess Maria Theresa, I did like her performance in the 1939 film! What made it memorable was how well-rounded it was. Whenever Maria interacted with King Louis, she was headstrong, not afraid to stand up to him. But when she is with Philippe, she has a pleasant, more kind-hearted personality. Even though the Musketeers were on screen for a limited amount of time, I enjoyed seeing their camaraderie amongst them! It helps that the actors portraying the Musketeers had good on-screen chemistry!

The costume design: Back in April, I reviewed the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. A strength that movie and The Man in the Iron Mask share is the costume design! Exquisite is the word I would use to describe the costumes shown. One beautiful example is a coat Fouquet wore to a wedding. The black coat was adorned with black sparkly cuffs and edges. It was also covered with gold embroidery. Maria had an impressive wardrobe! One of my favorite outfits is a silk gown she wore when Philippe apologized to her. The gown itself complimented Joan’s dark hair. What adds to the look are the sparkling accessories! Diamond star hairpins could be found in Joan’s hair and a jeweled necklace was around her neck. A little bit of sparkle definitely helped elevate this outfit!

The set design: Another area of this film where the word, exquisite, could apply is the set design! In King Louis’ palace, the walls were covered with detailed wallpaper. Intricate wood carvings covered the chair in his office, showing off the affluence in his life. Carvings could also be seen in other palace spaces, such as over a fireplace in a sitting room. Fine details came in all shapes and sizes, as well as in various materials. In Maria’s room, two angel shaped lamps were located above a desk. These lamps looked like they were made of metal. The little things within these sets showcased the elegance this cinematic world had to offer!

The 2021 Swashbucklathon banner created by Paul from Silver Screen Classics.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Unclear details: There were a few details within the overall story that weren’t made clear. At the beginning of the movie, the Musketeers were named enemies of the King. They were also taken in as prisoners. But I didn’t hear why they were declared enemies. In fact, I don’t remember this reason ever being spoken. Had details like this been clarified, certain parts of the story would be less confusing.

A limited amount of action scenes: After watching the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, I expected to see exceptional fight choreography in the 1939 film. While I did get to see some interesting fight sequences, there was less action in The Man in the Iron Mask than in The Three Musketeers. Looking back on the movie, I can think of only a handful of action scenes in this particular story. What this film emphasized was drama and romance. While having drama and romance can work in a film, this direction in The Man in the Iron Mask was much different than I had anticipated.

A somewhat misleading title: As I said in the introduction, I have seen the 1998 adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask. From what I remember, the audience knew early on there was a literal man in an iron mask. Even though this titular character was in the 1939 film, the mask itself didn’t come in until an hour into the movie. I understand that moment needed build-up. However, I think that part of the story should have taken place much sooner.

Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

So far, the best film I’ve seen this year is the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. There was so much within that film I liked. When watching The Man in the Iron Mask, I wondered if this movie could compare to the 1948 film. While there were things about the project I did enjoy, I still like The Three Musketeers more. The 1939 picture was a likeable one. However, some flaws ended up holding this film back. One of them was how action was used sparingly. Other flaws, such as a somewhat misleading title and some unclear details, brought its score down. But I would recommend this film, especially if you’re looking for a title for Clean Movie Month. The Man in the Iron Mask makes me want to revisit the 1998 version in the future. For now, I need to focus on publishing my next blog follower dedication review!

Overall score: 7.4-7.5 out of 10

Have you seen any versions of The Man in the Iron Mask? If so, which one is your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Rigoletto Review + 350 and 355 Follower Thank You

For my American Girl Instagram account, Dolly Parkington’s Dollhouse, I recently talked about the 1993 movie, Rigoletto. Because of this, I decided to review the film for my next blog follower dedication review! While I heard good things about this particular title, I have never seen it until this year. The one constant statement was how Rigoletto was “Phantom of the Opera for kids”. As someone who has seen the 2004 adaptation of the musical, I was curious to see how it could be adapted into a family friendly version. If you have taken notice, I have recently relied on older movies for my blog’s content. Come to think of it, I only reviewed one new release in 2021 so far. That’s because I enjoy discovering films that are new to me, as well as finding hidden gems in the world of cinema. This also correlates with my blog’s mission of giving underrated titles a “standing ovation”. Now, let’s raise the curtain on this review of Rigoletto!

Rigoletto poster created by Feature Films for Families

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Even though I liked the acting performances from the film’s younger cast members, it’s the movie’s older cast members that stole the show for me! One noteworthy performance was John Huntington’s! Portraying Ribaldi’s butler, Hans, John was able to serve as the story’s comic relief while, at times, being intimidating. When Bonnie’s mother visits Ribaldi’s house in an effort to address an impending eviction notice, Hans gives her a set of instructions. The tone in his voice and the look in his eyes is so intense and direct, even the audience may feel intimidated by his demeanor. But, as I mentioned before, Hans can also be a source of comic relief. In one scene, Hans makes a comment about music. This comment causes Ribaldi to throw a book at Hans. Even though the moment itself was hilarious, I was caught off guard because it was so sudden. While we’re on the subject of Ribaldi, let’s talk about Joseph Paur’s performance! His portrayal of Ribaldi reminded me a lot of the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. In scenes that were more suspenseful in tone, Ribaldi’s persona was aggressive and powerful, with his presence appearing intimidating at times. For more gentler moments in the film, such as when Ribaldi was giving advice to a boy named Porter, his personality was kinder. This allowed Ribaldi to become an approachable character as the story went on. Despite appearing in the film for a short amount of time, I liked Tracey Williams’ portrayal of Gabriella. Not only did she have a pleasant on-screen personality, but she also had good on-screen chemistry with Joseph Paur! Honestly, I wish she had appeared in more scenes.

The music: Because this movie is loosely based on the opera of the same name, there are musical elements within the story. Even though the musical elements were limited, I really liked the music! A memorable song is ‘The Curse’. Performed by Joseph Paur, this was an operatic piece that was powerful and emotional in tone and musical scope. It reminded me of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs ‘The Moment’ and ‘This Is Who You Are’. Toward the end of the movie, Ivey Lloyd, the actress who portrayed Bonnie, performed a song titled ‘The Melody Within’. While Ivey’s voice in the movie sounded fine and delicate, the song itself complimented her talents! Not only was it pleasant to listen to, but it also contained a good message. Musical numbers like ‘The Curse’ and ‘The Melody Within’ gave weight to the film.

Wisdom within the script: As I watched Rigoletto, there were several moments where wisdom could be heard within the script. This was such a pleasant surprise, as I was not expecting to hear that. When Bonnie’s mother tries to talk to Ribaldi about her eviction notice, Ribaldi explains how she has a home while he has a house. During this explanation, it is clear that Ribaldi had enough self-awareness to know what really mattered the most. After interacting with a rude peer, Bonnie reminds her friends how pointless it is to match unkindness with unkindness. While this piece of wisdom was simple, it served as a reminder for how to treat others. What also helped was how these pieces are woven into the script through dialogue. It prevented the wisdom from coming across as mini lectures or heavy-handed.

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”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The “disappearing disabilities” subplot: In the town of Castle Gate, there are several citizens who have a disability. These disabilities could be seen or heard; from a young boy who stuttered to a woman who relied on a wheelchair in order to move from place to place. But as the film progressed, their disabilities were magically reversed. Without spoiling the movie, I understand why this subplot was in the story, as it did serve an important message. On the other hand, it kind of contradicts another important message, one about inner beauty. According to IMDB, Rigoletto “is a branch off of the story line of “Beauty and the Beast”, a story where you would find this kind of message. However, it feels like the movie’s creative team wanted to have their cake and eat it too.

Little to no context: Rigoletto is the second movie I’ve recently reviewed where there was little to no context in certain areas of the story. Toward the beginning of the film, it was stated that Ribaldi’s face became disfigured due to an “accident”. But the audience never learns about the accident itself, as well as Ribaldi’s life before he came to Castle Gate. Ribaldi reveals a magical mirror that he claims was given to him by “Snow White”. However, it is never explained if the mirror actually contains magic or is magical in a figurative sense. Similar to what I said in my review of The Girl Who Spelled Freedom, context would have been beneficial in understanding Ribaldi as a character.

Under-utilizing musical potential: While I liked the songs in Rigoletto, I wish it had been a musical, similar to productions like Beauty and the Beast or The Sound of Music. Throughout the film, I can think of only four scenes that featured characters singing. Even though the story should be the first priority of any movie, Rigoletto relied on the script’s drama more than the film’s musical components. I’m also disappointed by the missed opportunity for at least one duet. Maybe Ribaldi and Bonnie could have sang a song about friendship. Perhaps Gabriella and Ribaldi could have shared a romantic, but wholesome melody. This idea might have become a reality had the movie been a musical instead of a drama with musical elements.

Masks of comedy and tragedy images created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I said in my introduction, Rigoletto has been compared to Phantom of the Opera. However, it felt more like a live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Because I like the 1991 version of the aforementioned story, I didn’t mind this subversion of expectations. In fact, I found Rigoletto to be an interesting re-telling! The emphasis on music within the world of Castle Gate helped the film obtain its own identity. Having the story take place during the Great Depression and relying less on fantastical elements also helps the film’s case. The movie did have its strengths, but it also had its flaws too. I honestly wish Rigoletto had been a musical like Beauty and the Beast, so its full potential could have been reached. If you do like films with musical elements or are a fan of “modern” fairy tale re-tellings , I would definitely recommend this movie! As this review reaches the final curtain, I want to thank all my followers for helping 18 Cinema Lane make it this far! Like I’ve said before, this blog would not be the same without you!

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Have you seen Rigoletto? Are there any musical movies you enjoy watching? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Three Musketeers (1948) Review

Last year, I participated in the Classic Literature On Film Blogathon. Since I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird at the time, I chose to review the book’s film adaptation. For this year’s event, I selected the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers! Because I’m using my TBR Tin to choose which book to read next, I wasn’t able to read the source material before I saw the movie, as I’m currently reading The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley. I was recommended this film by Patricia from Caftan Woman. As I try to see as many film suggestions as I can, this became one reason why I selected The Three Musketeers for this blogathon. I have seen the 1993 adaptation of the story. But I can’t give an honest opinion on that film, as I haven’t seen the movie in years. What will my thoughts be on the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers? Keep reading to find out!

The Three Musketeers (1948) poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s, Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because The Three Musketeers contained an ensemble cast, it’s difficult to choose a favorite performance. However, I will still mention a few of them. For me, Gene Kelly is always going to be known for his performances in musicals. Seeing him work with different acting material was very interesting, as it forced him to utilize his expressions and emotions more. Out of Gene’s films I’ve seen so far, his portrayal of D’Artagnan has become one of my favorites! This performance was so well-rounded, D’Artagnan came across as a mutli-layered character. As Gene had a variety of expressions at his disposal, he was able to adapt to any situation D’Artagnan faced. I am not familiar with Van Heflin as an actor. But I was impressed with his portrayal of fellower Musketeer, Athos! Van’s best scene was when Athos drunkenly tells a story of an aristocrat who was betrayed by a woman from the country he fell in love with. Even though Athos is disoriented by the alcohol, you can tell there is deep emotion in his voice and eyes. Another performance that also became a favorite came from Lana Turner, who portrayed Countess de Winter! Her standout scene was when her character was in prison. The Countess appears disheveled as she begs for her life to end. What made this scene so memorable was the amount of emotion Lana put into her role. She presented a character that was so desperate, she’d be willing to do anything to get out of it.

The costumes: When it comes to scene-stealers, the costumes in The Three Musketeers definitely stole the show! I liked how colorful they were, as bright hues were used on various pieces of apparel. It not only made the characters stand out, but it also helped when telling characters apart from one another. The amount of detail on these costumes was also exquisite! In one scene, the Duke of Buckingham wore a purple shawl. Gold embroidery complimented the shawl’s shade of purple and prevented the piece from becoming plain. At a dinner party, Queen Anne wore a white gown. This gown also contained gold details, which were found on the skirt and bodice. Small jewels near the top of the dress completed Queen Anne’s elegant look!

The set design: If you’re going to create a period film, you have to pay attention to the finer details that go into each set. These details will reflect the effort, research, and care that went into how these sets look. The sets in The Three Musketeers show how much the film’s creative team cared about the presentation of their final product! What I love about the sets in this movie are the fine details that can be found. Carved images are shown in the Duke of Buckingham’s study, covering the fireplace and doorframe in these wooden pictures. They can also be found in other rooms and on other materials, such as on a tin-plated cabinet in a General’s office. My favorite design detail can be found in Queen Anne’s sitting room. As Queen Anne and the Duke of Buckingham are standing near the fireplace, Queen Anne turns a knob found near the top of the fireplace. This action reveals a secret compartment that hides a box of diamonds.

The fight choreography: Any action movie is just as good as its fight choreography. The performative presentation of the fights in The Three Musketeers helped make these fights so memorable! Because of Gene Kelly’s dancing skills, he was able to incorporate leaps into his fight sequences. Watching D’Artagnan leap from place to place gave him a natural superpower that he was able to use to his advantage! Humor can also be found during these fight sequences, which prevented them from being too dark or serious. D’Artagnan’s first duel was against the head of the French police. During this duel, hilarity ensued, from D’Artagnan splashing water in his opponent’s face to pushing his opponent in a pond. This inclusion of humor in the fight choreography allowed the creative team to present these fights in creative and interesting ways!

The 2021 Classic Literature On Film Blogathon banner created by Paul from Silver Screen Classics.

What I didn’t like about the film:

D’Artagnan’s romantic relationships: After rescuing Constance from a home invasion, D’Artagnan falls in love with her. He not only tells Constance he loves her, but they also share a romantic kiss. While I liked Constance and D’Artagnan’s relationship, I felt it was developed too quickly. Later in the film, Constance is kidnapped. In order to save her, D’Artagnan pretends to fall in love with Countess de Winter. However, after his initial meeting with the Countess, D’Artagnan tells Athos how much he loves her. If D’Artagnan was romantically interested in Constance, why would he even bother having feelings for the Countess? That part of the story was confusing.

A weaker villain: There are two villains in The Three Musketeers; Countess de Winter and Richelieu. But one of them definitely outshined the other. Countess de Winter was the stronger villain. She is a criminal by legal context and the audience can witness her committing several crimes. Richelieu, on the other hand, is not presented in the same way. The audience does see him commit a crime of theft, but it is never explained how this was done. Richelieu was also friends with the King of France, a character that was not written or portrayed as a villain. This made me puzzled as to what Richelieu’s true intentions were, whether he was a villain or simply a man who follows his own rules.

The Musketeers spending little time together: When you think of The Three Musketeers, you think of these heroes fighting alongside each other and saving the day together. As I watched this film, I noticed how they spent more time apart. I was disappointed to discover this because that team dynamic the Musketeers are known for had a limited presence. While this separation did allow the audience to get to know these characters individually, we didn’t really get to see this group of friends grow over time. Though there was a lot of content in this movie, I wish more time was given to show the Musketeers together.

Castle photo created by Photoangel at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/old-castle-in-the-mountians_1286237.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/tree”>Tree image created by Photoangel – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Anchors Aweigh was the best movie I saw in 2020. This was a pleasant surprise, as I never expected one of Gene Kelly’s films to receive this honor. Even though it’s only April, the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers has now become the best movie I’ve seen so far! There is so much effort that was put into this project, which is reflective in many parts. The costumes and set designs were impressive because of the detail that was incorporated into them. Many good acting performances can be found, making it difficult to choose the best one. These actors not only did a good job individually, but they also worked well together as a group! Similar to what I said in my Oliver! review, I might read The Three Musketeers because of how much I enjoyed its film adaptation! For now, my top priority is reading the books that are currently on my TBR shelf.

Overall score: 8 out of 10

Have you read or seen The Three Musketeers? What adaptations of classic literature do you like? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party Tag 2021

When Heidi, from Along the Brandywine, started her Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party, she also published an official tag! As I’ve already posted my entry for the event, a review of the Hallmark Hall of Fame picture, The Love Letter, I thought it’d be nice to answer the tag questions. As I said in that review, period dramas are not regularly covered on 18 Cinema Lane. However, I did try to answer each question as best as I could. If you’ve visited my blog before, you’d know this isn’t my first blogathon tag. Last year, when I joined the Legends of Western Cinema Week, I published my answers relating to the western genre. This time around, I’m answering questions about this blogathon’s theme: period dramas!

The Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.
  1. Your current three (or up to five!) favorite period dramas?
  • Swept from the Sea
  • The Enchanted Cottage
  • Ben-Hur (the 1959 version)
  • Nicholas Nickleby (the 2002 version)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

2. What would you recommend to someone who’s never seen a period drama as a starter?

Definitely Swept from the Sea! It was the best movie I saw in 2019 and I wish more people knew about it. Here’s the link to my review:

Take 3: Swept from the Sea Review (A Month Without the Code — #8)

3. A favorite couple that wouldn’t be included in answer #1 (cause I’m figuring those are already top favorites ;)) and/or a favorite secondary character romance? 

I really like both couples from Anchors Aweigh! Even though the movie is a musical, there are romantic elements that work well in the overall story. Without giving much away, it shows how subverting expectations can be a good thing.

4. What do you consider foundational qualities for a healthy romance?

Consent and communication. Two years ago, I wrote an editorial about how Lestat and Akasha’s relationship in Queen of the Damned was not healthy. Their lack or consent and communication serve as two reasons why. I’ll leave a link to the article if you want to read it:

Toxic Valentine: Why Lestat and Akasha’s relationship is very problematic in Queen of the Damned (2002)

5. Worst villain/antagonist?

I’d say Nicholas’ uncle, Ralph, from Nicholas Nickleby. Like my answer for question number three, I won’t give the story away. But I will say that Ralph is one of the reasons why Nicholas and his family experience hardship in that movie.

6. A favorite proposal scene?

I’m not sure if this would count, but I liked Nicholas and Madeline’s conversation, from Nicholas Nickleby, where they reflect on their pasts. It has a good message of strength that came across as genuine. Nicholas and Madeline also look like they truly care about one another.

Heart image created by Dashu83 at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundimage created by Dashu83 – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/happy-valentines-day-and-heart-card-with-happy-valentines-day-and-heart_1747001.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

7. Favorite period drama characters based on a real life couple?

I haven’t seen this movie in years, but I’ll choose The Young Victoria. From what I remember, I liked Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s relationship. Similar to Nicholas and Madeline’s relationship in Nicholas Nickleby,Victoria and Albert looked like they truly loved each other. In a film about royals in the 19th century, I found that part of the story refreshing!

8. Any classic b/w period dramas you like? and 9. Most mature romance in a period drama? (mature as in age and/or characters who are consciously and wisely ripened by life experience, etc.)

For this answer, I combined questions eight and nine. This is because I think The Enchanted Cottage fits both of them. Not only is this movie presented in black and white, but there is maturity within the protagonists’ relationship. Because Robert Young’s character, Oliver Bradford, is a World War II veteran, there are discussions of trauma and self-worth. Inner beauty and self-perception are also explored between Oliver and Laura, portrayed by Dorothy McGuire.

10. Most excruciatingly long, slow burn romance in a period drama?

The first one that comes to mind is Elizabeth and Jack’s relationship from When Calls the Heart. For five seasons, fans were waiting for these two characters to get married. While they eventually tied the knot, Jack was sent away on a Mountie mission, only for him to die at the end of the fifth season. This means that the fans barely got to see Elizabeth and Jack as a married couple.

11. A story that has multiple film adaptations where you love more than one of them?

After thinking about a double feature I wrote, I’ll pick The Secret Garden. Out of the three adaptations I’ve seen, I like the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation and the 1993 film. If you’re interested, I’ve posted the links to the aforementioned double feature and its conclusion.

My Bonus Double Feature Has Arrived!

The Conclusion to My Bonus Double Feature

12. A book you think needs to be made into a film (or a new adaptation)?

Last year, in my Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List, I talked about how I’d like to see To Stand On My Own: The Polio Epidemic Diary of Noreen Robertson and Zlata’s Diary receive film adaptations. Instead of repeating myself, I’m sharing the link to that list, so you can read why I feel this way.

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List 2020

Because this tag is about period dramas, I thought this photo would be fitting. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What are your thoughts on this tag? Do you like watching period dramas? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Ladies in Lavender Review

This is my first time participating in the Luso World Cinema Blogathon. Because I’m not familiar with the subject of Luso World Cinema, I gave my submission careful consideration. A movie I have wanted to watch for a while is Ladies in Lavender. When I discovered Daniel Brühl was one of the blogathon’s recommended subjects, I decided to review his 2005 film, as he is one of the starring actors in that movie. I haven’t seen many projects from Daniel’s filmography. In fact, the only film of his I’ve seen is Captain America: Civil War. So, this is a good opportunity for me to see what his acting talents have to offer outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The synopsis of Ladies in Lavender reminded me of Swept from the Sea, a movie I reviewed two years ago. Because of this, I will compare and contrast these two films from time to time in this review.

Ladies in Lavender poster created by Tale Partnerships, Scala Productions, and Lakeshore International.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: For this part of the review, I will take a moment to talk about Daniel Brühl’s performance, as he is the reason why I reviewed this movie. His portrayal of Andrea was enjoyable to watch! It combined both comedic and dramatic elements that helped make Daniel’s performance entertaining. One example is when Andrea is peeling potatoes with Dorcas. What also worked in Daniel’s favor was how he was able to portray his character realistically. Whenever Andrea is trying to make his wishes known to the other characters, you can see him becoming frustrated at times. This was achieved through Daniel’s facial expressions and body language. Despite not being familiar with Natascha McElhone as an actress, I did like her portrayal of Olga. She appeared throughout the film as an approachable character. Natascha also had a good on-screen relationship with Daniel Brühl as well as with the other actors. A perfect example is when Olga is interacting with Andrea in her cottage. Speaking of on-screen relationships, I liked seeing Judi Dench and Maggie Smith work together in this film. While they have similar acting styles, their characters were allowed to have their own district personalities. This let them shine individually as well as together! One of their best scenes is when their characters, Janet and Ursula, receive terrible news over the phone. As Janet is telling her sister what happened, Ursula immediately crumbles into tears. This scene showcases how the sisters have an unbreakable bond!

The scenery: Similar to Swept from the Sea, Ladies in Lavender takes place in the English countryside. This particular environment provided photogenic scenery that visually complemented the story! Because Ladies in Lavender is set in a seaside town, there are some scenes that take place around the ocean. It was captured very well on film at various moments, from a morning scene where the rising sun perfectly contrasted the water to a night-time shot of the rolling waves. Country landscapes were also included in the movie! In one scene, Olga is painting a landscape of rolling hills with a nearby tower. The location itself contained beautiful green hills that looked great on a sunny day. The gray of the nearby tower paired surprisingly well with the rolling hills’ green hue. Because of how picturesque this space was, it makes sense that Olga would want to capture it on canvas!

The cinematography: I was pleasantly surprised by the good cinematography found in Ladies in Lavender, especially when it came to scenes involving water! In films where a character is drowning, those scenes are usually presented with a fast pace and quick cuts. When we see Andrea’s flashbacks, they are presented at a slower pace. This allowed the audience to see what is happening on screen as Andrea is shown in the water. One of the most beautifully shot scenes I’ve ever seen is when Andrea is playing a violin on a rocky ledge at night. His dark silhouette perfectly contrasts with the deep blue ocean that looks like it sparkles in the evening. The color scheme of blue, white, and black are prominently featured and is visually appealing!

The Second Luso World Cinema Blogathon banner created by Le from Critica Retro and by Beth from Spellbound by Movies.

What I didn’t like about the film:

An unclear direction: In Swept from the Sea, the overall story is a drama with a romance included. This is a clear creative direction that was consistent throughout the film.  Ladies in Lavender is different, as the story went in many different directions. It gets to the point where it was difficult to determine what the plot was about besides the main premise. Was the story supposed to be about a forbidden romance? Or was it meant to revolve around the strained relationship between two siblings? Maybe it was supposed to partially focus on Andrea’s musical dreams? The story of Ladies in Lavender adopted too many ideas. That decision made the overall film feel like it was bouncing around from place to place.

Telling more than showing: At various moments in Ladies in Lavender, the audience is told how Andrea was washed up ashore. We are even shown flashbacks where he is seen drowning. However, we never get to see the events that caused Andrea to fall overboard. Because of this, the audience is not given a complete picture of what happened. At one point in the story, Janet and Ursula meet Olga. They express how they don’t like this new visitor. But the audience never receives an explanation for why Janet and Ursula do not like Olga. Visuals should have been used to illustrate the sisters’ point. If this had been the case, we might have gotten a better glimpse into Janet and Ursula’s perspective.

The exclusion of Andrea’s perspective: I know this movie is called Ladies in Lavender, with the title referring to Janet and Ursula. But because the overall story primarily focused on Janet and Ursula’s perspective, we don’t see the story from Andrea’s perspective. In Swept from the Sea, the story is narrated by Dr. Kennedy. Despite this, the audience is allowed to see that film’s world from Yanko’s perspective. That aspect of Swept from the Sea also gave the audience an opportunity to truly get to know Yanko as a character. With Ladies in Lavender, I feel like I barely know Andrea. The inclusion of Andrea’s perspective would have easily solved this issue.

Paper Boats in the Sea image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/background-of-paper-boats-with-hand-drawn-waves_1189898.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Ladies in Lavender is a film that I found to be just ok. Yes, there are aspects worth appreciating, such as Daniel Brühl’s performance. As a matter of fact, this movie made me appreciate Daniel’s acting abilities more! But if I had to choose between Ladies in Lavender and Swept from the Sea, I’d choose Swept from the Sea. This is because I find that movie to be stronger among the two. With Ladies in Lavender, the direction of the overall story was unclear. While there was a main conflict, it was difficult to determine what the main plot was. More telling than showing was also one of the movie’s flaws, not giving the audience the full picture when it came to certain areas of the story. I found the lack of Andrea’s perspective to be disappointing as well. This prevented me from truly getting to know Andrea as a character. Even though Ladies in Lavender will not be one of the best movies I saw this year, I am glad I participated in the Luso World Cinema Blogathon. I wonder what I’ll chose to write about next year?

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

Have you seen Ladies in Lavender? Are there any Luso World Cinema films you’d like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2020

2020 was a year that threw a huge wrench into a lot of movie-goers’ plans. As theaters shut their doors and new releases continuously changed dates, there were movie related content creators that had to either adapt as best they could or completely change their formula. Fortunately for 18 Cinema Lane, the impact of this year’s Coronavirus didn’t change the type of content published on the site. As with the previous two years, I saw more good movies than bad. This is honestly the first year where I had difficulty creating my top ten best movies list because of the quantity of enjoyable films that left a memorable impression on me. Since I published my worst movies of the year list first last year, I’ll post my best movies of the year list first this time around. As usual, I will begin the list with my honorable mentions and then move on to the official top ten list. Now let’s get this list started!

Sparkly and starry 2020 image created by Kjpargeter at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by kjpargeter – http://www.freepik.com</a&gt; Image found at freepik.com.
Honorable Mentions

Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, Where There’s a Will, Generation Gap, A Beautiful Place to Die: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Sweet Surrender, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Dead Over Diamonds, Riddled with Deceit: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ruby Herring Mysteries: Prediction Murder, House of the Long Shadows, Up in the Air, The Crow, Mystery Woman: Game Time, Fashionably Yours, Finding Forrester, Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), Expecting a Miracle, Time Share, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Wife of Monte Cristo, Cry Wolf, Mystery Woman: Mystery Weekend, Perry Mason Returns, Perry Mason and the Notorious Nun, Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, The Terry Fox Story, Follow Your Heart, House of Wax, Funny Face, and The Christmas Bow

10. Nicholas Nickleby (2002)

Looking back on the four film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ work I’ve reviewed, I realize how lucky I am to come across those I enjoyed. Despite having never read Nicholas Nickleby, this production was both understandable and engaging! With the 2002 version of this story, its balance of joy and despair is a staple of the world-famous author’s I recognize from his other stories like Oliver Twist. As I said in my review of Nicholas Nickleby, it can be easy to forget the beauty this world can offer, especially during a year like 2020. I don’t often come across a movie that is so good, it makes me want to seek out its original source material. For this film, however, I just found an exception!

Take 3: Nicholas Nickleby (2002) Review

9. The Unfinished Dance

This is an interesting entry from the Breen Code era. It’s a darker musical that is dark in nature for the sake of providing thought-provoking commentary. Like I said in my review, The Unfinished Dance does a good job exploring what happens when truth disappears from the world. All of the musical numbers in this film have a strong reason for being in the story, as opposed to typical musicals where the numbers feel more spontaneous than planned. Even though dance is emphasized more than the story, the quality of the routines themselves make this film worth a watch! The movie is a hidden gem that I wish more people knew about.

Take 3: The Unfinished Dance Review + 190 Follower Thank You

8. If You Believe

I’m glad I was given an opportunity to re-watch this film, as it was just as enjoyable as when I first saw it! The story moves away from the aesthetic that most Christmas movies adopt. Instead, it relies on the messages and themes associated with the Christmas holiday. This creative decision is a breath of fresh air, bringing a different kind of narrative that isn’t often found during that time of year. If You Believe is a film that does what it sets out to do. It also helps that it has stood the test of time.

Take 3: If You Believe Review

7. Sweet Nothing in My Ear

This is the kind of Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I wish was made more often, one where unique concepts are explored and celebrated. Instead of following a plot, the story revolves around a debate. The subject matter was not only handled with reverence, but each perspective was shown in a respectful light. I’m not a fan of this film’s ending, but I respect Hallmark’s decision to include it in the script, as it respects the audience’s intelligence. Sweet Nothing in My Ear is a title from this collection that can be used as an introduction to Hallmark Hall of Fame!

6. From Up on Poppy Hill

Studio Ghibli has a reputation for giving it their all when it comes to making movies. Besides their signature animation style, they also take the time to create fantastic worlds and memorable characters. While From Up on Poppy Hill doesn’t contain any of the magical elements that can sometimes be found in Studio Ghibli’s stories, the project doesn’t feel out of place in their collection. The plot is a simple one, but the inclusion of interesting characters and world-building is what makes it work. It also contains a great message about history that fits into the script very well.

Take 3: From Up on Poppy Hill Review + 200 Follower Thank You

Howl’s Moving Castle poster created by Studio Ghibli, Toho, and The Walt Disney Company. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1798188/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0.
5. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is more than just a story about Batman. It’s a chance for audience members to see a side of this superhero that doesn’t often get presented in the world of film. The movie is a good example of how impressive 2-D animation can be. Even though the world has moved on to the wonders of 3-D and computer graphics, there will always be a place for older styles of animation. Despite having seen only a handful of Batman films, I can honestly say Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of the better options! The story itself is just as interesting as the world of Gotham City.

Take 3: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Review

4. Grace & Glorie

Grace & Glorie contains Hallmark’s favorite cliché of featuring a woman from a big city moving to a small town. But what sets this story apart is how that cliché is not the main focus of the film. Instead, the plot revolves around the friendship of Grace and Gloria. Because the titular characters were portrayed by two strong actresses, it made the dynamic between Grace and Gloria interesting to watch. Similar to From Up on Poppy Hill, this Hallmark Hall of Fame title has a simpler plot that works in its favor. Grace & Glorie is a type of story that is rarely seen on Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The movie is also an underrated gem that I wish more Hallmark fans were aware of.

3. Matinee

With the way the theatrical landscape was affected in 2020, it kind of feels weird that a film like Matinee would appear on a best movies of the year list for 2020. But instead of making me miss the cinema or feel jealous of the characters as they get to see a movie in a theater, this particular 1993 title reminded me of what I love about film. Because I have a special place in my heart for Phantom of the Megaplex, Matinee showed me that there is more than one story that could show people how movies can be fun. One of the messages of this narrative is that film can provide a much-needed break from the troubles of the real world. With the way 2020 turned out, Matinee seemed to come at the right place and time.

Take 3: Matinee Review + 220 Follower Thank You

2. The Boy Who Could Fly

Every year, there is that one movie that catches me by surprise because of how good it is. The Boy Who Could Fly was definitely that film in 2020! I was pleasantly surprised by how well the overall story has aged. Given the subject material and the time it was released in, I can certainly say that my expectations were subverted. While The Boy Who Could Fly would be considered a “teen movie”, it doesn’t follow a lot of the patterns that most of these types of stories would contain. The themes of showing compassion for others, dealing with grief, and understanding people’s differences are given center stage.

Take 3: The Boy Who Could Fly Review (PB & J Double Feature Part 2)

1. Anchors Aweigh

Who knew a Frank Sinatra movie would become the best one I saw in 2020? When I look back on this film, I remember how much fun I had watching it! As I said in my review, I spent most of my time smiling and laughing, which shows how the film’s joyful nature can certainly help anyone improve their mood. Anchors Aweigh is a strong movie on so many different levels. The acting, story, and musical numbers alone showcase how much thought and effort went into the overall production. If I were to introduce someone to the Breen Code era or musicals in general, this is the film I’d show them. Anchors Aweigh was certainly a bright spot in a year like 2020.

Take 3: Anchors Aweigh Review

Anchors Aweigh poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, M-G-M Cartoons, and Loew’s Inc. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anchors_aweigh.jpg

Have fun in 2021!

Sally Silverscreen

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List 2020

As Christmas is just around the corner, it’s time for me to publish my annual Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List! For those who are new to 18 Cinema Lane, I post a Christmas related article in honor of the holiday to sharing the things I, as a movie blogger, would like to receive as Christmas gifts. This is a tradition I started back in 2018. While I know I won’t get most of the items on my list, I try to choose those that seem realistic. Because my blog primarily revolves around movies, I pick “gifts” that have something to do with film. Unless I say otherwise, the screenshots were taken taken by me. If you’d like to read my previous Christmas wish-lists, I will provide the links here:

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List 2019

Holly berry Christmas wish-list image created by Freepik from freepik.com. Christmas vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Something You Want

In 2020, Hallmark didn’t release any new Hallmark Hall of Fame movies. The on-going Coronavirus is likely one of the reasons why this was the case. Due to the lack of Hallmark Hall of Fame films this year, I’d like to see Hallmark create four new HHoF presentations in 2021 to make up for this. I feel that Hallmark has what it takes to tell interesting stories through visually appealing and captivating projects, something I’ve mentioned at various moments on my blog. If they chose to make four new HHoF movies, each story could revolve around a different seasonal component. The first film could have something to do with either St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, or Memorial Day, as those holidays are set around springtime. As the second film might be released during the summer, Fourth of July or Father’s Day could have a primary place in the plot. Because Halloween or Thanksgiving movies from Hallmark are far and few between, the third HHoF film might focus on those holidays. Since Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas movies have a staple in the collection, the last film of the aforementioned four would revolve around Christmas. If Hallmark could create forty new Christmas movies among two networks during a pandemic, then they can find the time to release four new Hallmark Hall of Fame films in 2021.

Something You Need to See

Since I’ve talked about this subject at length before, I won’t repeat myself. All I’ll say is that I want the Tim Pope cut of The Crow: City of Angels to see the light of day. For me, this is more than just re-releasing a decades old movie. It’s about consumer advocacy and respecting the cinematic creative process. As of mid-to-late December 2020, my editorial about this topic has received over 200 views! This means a lot to me because it shows that that many people care about this particular issue. Hopefully, Paramount (the studio who owns the distribution rights to The Crow: City of Angels) hears our voices and releases this version of the film. If you would like to read my aforementioned editorial, here’s the link:

Why Now is the Perfect Time to Release the Tim Pope Cut of ‘The Crow: City of Angels’

The Crow: City of Angels poster created by Dimension Films and Miramax Films. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Crow_2.jpg.

A movie related piece of clothing or accessory I’d want to wear

Similar to last year’s Christmas Wish-List, I have two choices for this category. The first is the cargo slim jeans from Perry Mason Returns! This pair of pants was worn by a gas station employee Perry’s assistant, Paul, interacts with toward the end of the movie. What I like about this pair of pants is how they appear to be a different style of cargo pants that isn’t common. Also, I think it’s cool how the pockets are big enough to fit a rolled up readable magazine. The second is the silver pair of pants Barbara Niven’s character, Joan, wears in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Promise. That is one of the coolest pairs of pants I’ve ever seen! Whenever Joan moved from location to location, the pants always shined. It is definitely an ‘80s piece that I would love to have in my wardrobe.

A book I’ve read that I’d like to see adapted into a film

Instead of talking about one book like I have in the past, I will talk about two of them. Both Hallmark Hall of Fame and BYU-TV have done a good job creating historical/period films in years prior. Because of this, To Stand On My Own: The Polio Epidemic Diary of Noreen Robertson would make a good presentation from either network, as the story takes place in the 1930s! While reading this book back in May, I couldn’t help noticing several parallels between the polio epidemic described in the book and the Coronavirus pandemic the world experienced in 2020. Just to provide one example, Noreen, the narrator of the story, discusses how some businesses were closed to the public and how there were periods of quarantine. If Hallmark or BYU-TV wanted to create a film in response to the Coronavirus, this particular story would be an interesting way to discuss that without coming across as too on the nose.

Another book I read this year was Zlata’s Diary. As I was reading, I came across this quote:

“I think about all the films that could be made in Sarajevo. There are loads of subjects for films here”.

Now that I think about it, I can’t think of many films about the Bosnian War, especially from the perspective of a civilian from Sarajevo. When it comes to Zlata’s suggestion of films about and/or filmed in Sarajevo, maybe this is the decade where that dream comes true. As I said about BYU-TV, they have done a good job at creating historical/period films. What they have also done is effectively told stories involving conflict. A perfect example is the Christmas film, Instrument of War. This movie showed the horrors of World War II without being graphic when it came to violence. With everything I just said, I could see BYU-TV adapting Zlata’s Diary into a film.

What are your thoughts on this year’s Christmas Wish-List? Is there anything movie related you’d add to your list? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Sea of Grass Review

When I participated in last year’s Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, I reviewed It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World and One Christmas. The first movie was not my cup of tea, but I found the second movie to be just ok. This time around, I decided to write about one movie starring both Spencer and Katharine. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t watch films from the Western genre often. This is the reason why I chose to review The Sea of Grass. Looking back on the movies I’ve seen from Spencer and Katharine’s filmographies, this is the first time I’ve seen one of their titles where both actors were the leads. Spencer and Katharine are talented actors individually, so it was interesting to see them acting alongside one another!

The Sea of Grass poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In The Sea of Grass, Katharine Hepburn portrays Lutie Cameron, a St. Louis native who moves to the country in order to marry Colonel Jim Brewton. Toward the beginning of the film, Lutie comes across as naïve, as she is a romantic at heart. As she stays in the country, Lutie gains a sense of maturity and grows as a person. Throughout her character’s journey, Katharine was able to show this transition in her acting performance by adopting a variety of emotions. The “sea of grass” this film is named after is Colonel Jim Brewton’s favorite spot. While talking about it with Lutie, Jim describes the fields like a convincing salesman. His face contains a look of longing; reflecting on the past, present, and future of his prized field of grass. The way he talks about it shows how much he cares for this patch of earth. The facial expressions and tone of voice Spencer adopts persuade the audience of this location’s importance. Spencer’s expressions and vocal inflections also reveal the cracks in Jim’s foundation as the story continues. Brice Chamberlain, a local lawyer, is portrayed by Melvyn Douglas. Whenever his character interacted with Lutie, Melvyn was able to, talent-wise, go toe-to-toe with Katharine. He delivered thought-out remarks with a serious calm that one might expect from a respected lawyer. A professional composure was also present in Melvyn’s performance. Because his on-screen personality was different from Katharine’s, it created an interesting dynamic.

The scenery: The majority of The Sea of Grass takes place in the country. Because of this, the natural landscape of this environment is shown in several scenes! When characters travel through the desert, huge mountainous rocks illustrate just how small humans are compared to the large scope of nature. Long and medium shots are used to emphasis this idea. Even the “sea of grass” is featured in a few scenes, its beauty captured well on screen! Sweeping shots showed the vast size of this field. As the wind blew, the movements of the grass looked like the rippling of water. All of these components came together to create a calming space!

Katharine’s wardrobe: Throughout the movie, Katharine showcased an impressive wardrobe that complimented her well! This is because all of her outfits were simple, but elegant. When Lutie and Jim are sharing their first dinner after their wedding, she wears a white long-sleeved dress with a small set of flowers in the front of the dress’s top. Later in the movie, Katharine wears a black-and-white, over-the shoulder dress. This outfit was paired nicely with a dainty black choker and ponytail hair-do. What’s also worth pointing out is how Katharine’s wardrobe in The Sea of Grass appeared historically accurate with the film’s time period.

The Third Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

More emphasis on telling: At the beginning of the movie, several people in Salt Fork inform Lutie about how awful of a person Jim is. He is, apparently, such a bad person, some compare him to a tyrant. While the audience can hear Jim say harmful things, they never get to see him do harmful actions. This creative decision gives the viewers only part of a bigger picture when it comes to Jim Brewton. Whenever the subject of people using the “sea of grass” is brought up, Jim is very specific about how the land should be used. If someone objects to these ideas, Jim tells others what he’s going to do instead of carrying out the deed.

No major conflict: Since the film is called The Sea of Grass, you’d think most of the story would revolve around the “sea of grass” itself. Instead, the film prioritizes the personal events of the characters. Stories that are character driven can work. But when you have an interesting conflict like how to utilize a field of grass, the character’s stories don’t seem as interesting. While the triumphs and tragedies of Lutie and company are highlighted, the “sea of grass” is relegated to a subplot.

Times moves too fast: In a movie where time progresses, there is usually some indicator that a jump in time has occurred. This is done through on-screen text or a voice-over. The Sea of Grass, unfortunately, doesn’t utilize any techniques to inform their audience that time has moved forward, causing changes to appear abruptly. A perfect example are the lives of Sara Beth and Brock. In one scene, Sara Beth is shown as a little girl, while Brock is a toddler. The very next scene shows Sara Beth and Brock as older children, appearing to be ten and eight.

Small, western town image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When I chose to review The Sea of Grass, I wanted to expand my Western genre horizons. This decision taught me that Western tragedies do exist. Despite seeing a handful of Westerns, the movie was quite different from other films I’ve seen in this genre. Even though I knew that this movie was about a rocky relationship, it was sadder than I expected. The Sea of Grass is a fine film with strong components, like the acting and scenery. However, it does have its flaws that shouldn’t be ignored. While the “sea of grass” is shown on screen, it isn’t as significant as the title would suggest. In fact, this location feels more like a glorified backdrop. I will say that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy do work well together as actors. As the years go by, I would like to see more of their films where they both star as the leads.

Overall score: 7.3 out of 10

Do you like watching Western films? Are there any Westerns you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen