Take 3: The Lost Empire/The Monkey King Review

Last month, I wrote a list of movies I’d love to review someday. One of those films was The Lost Empire/The Monkey King. Originally, I was going to review the 2001 picture for Bai Ling’s birthday, as it is in October. But because July’s theme for Genre Grandeur is ‘Fantasy Movies of the 21st Century’, I found a reason to see this movie three months early! In my aforementioned list, I said the story of The Lost Empire/The Monkey King is based on Chinese folklore. This is very different from the types of films Hallmark creates today, which seem to, mostly, be recycled, predictable material. In fact, the only new Hallmark movies I’ve seen this year, so far, are Cut, Color, Murder, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Haunted by Murder, and Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King was created during a time when Hallmark wasn’t afraid to take creative risks. But did those risks lead to cinematic rewards? Let’s journey through this review as we find that answer together!

The Lost Empire/The Monkey King poster created by Hallmark Entertainment, RTL, Babelsberg International Film Produktion, Milk & Honey Pictures, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and Hallmark Home Entertainment

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When I reviewed Point of Origin last month, I was disappointed by Bai Ling’s limited presence in that film. To me, it seemed like her talents were underutilized. In The Lost Empire/The Monkey King, however, Bai was given more acting material to work with. This allowed her talents to be satisfyingly showcased! I’ve said in the past how Bai Ling has a strong sense of emotionality when it comes to her acting abilities. This was not only incorporated into her portrayal of Kwan Ying, but her on-screen performance was also fluid. A great example is when Kwan and Nicholas “Nick” Orton interact for the first time. While sharing drinks at a local restaurant, Kwan’s demeanor is giggly and somewhat flirty, reflecting her drunken state. She holds hands with Nick as she casually leans across the table. But as soon as Nick asks Kwan why she needed to see him, her mood changes without missing a beat. Kwan becomes very serious, as she sits up in her seat and even looks over her shoulder. This change in Kwan’s demeanor also indicates what’s to follow in the story.

Years ago, I read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. From what I remember, the Monkey King was portrayed as an older, wiser character who younger characters looked up to. Russell Wong’s portrayal of the Monkey King was much different from what I expected. However, it was enjoyable to watch in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King! The Monkey King in the 2001 film was a humorous character. Russell’s dryer sense of humor and one liners worked in the story’s favor, as it provided a break from the tenser moments in the movie. The humor itself also fit within that movie’s world. When Nick first meets the Monkey King, he is taken aback by his change of scenery. The Monkey King uses that interaction to explain what is happening. Nick asks the Monkey King when the book, The Journey to the West will be destroyed. The Monkey King casually responded by saying, “Midnight. Next Thursday”. What also worked in Russell’s favor was his comedic timing. All of the Monkey King’s humorous moments were delivered at the right place and time. This was not only the result of the screenwriting, but the strength of Russell Wong’s acting abilities as well!

One of the most relatable stories is the “fish out of water” story. In order for this story to work in film, you need an actor or actress who can believably sell this idea to the audience. Thomas Gibson in his portrayal of Nick did just that! The way Thomas expressed emotion appeared more realistic, adding to believability of his performance. Thomas’ ability to adapt to each situation was strong, allowing the audience to witness Nick grow over the course of the movie. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King is not only a “fish out of water” story, but also a “hero’s journey” story. That means the protagonist makes a significant change in his or her life. Throughout the film, Nick makes a personal transformation, gaining confidence as he encounters each obstacle. The way Nick reacts to these changes adds a sense of relatability to the character.

The set design: Immersive and imaginative worlds are a staple within the fantasy genre. The quality of a project’s set design can successfully present that illusion to the audience. I loved the set design in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King because it was able to pull the aforementioned illusion off! Nick is on a business trip to China. Some scenes showcased a typical Chinese city, with smaller details emphasizing the realism of this location. String lights and red lanterns can be seen overhead, which brings a softer glow in the middle of the evening. Vending booths line the streets, elaborating a greater number in population as extras and background characters walk by. Banners and signs in Chinese indicate how that specific part of the city is popular for business.

As the story progresses, more fantastical worlds are shown on-screen. One of these worlds is Jade City. Massive structures boast an ancient Chinese architecture. The ground beneath the characters’ feet displays a pale green hue, subtly reminding the audience of the city’s name. Bright pink flowered trees nicely contrasted the buildings and landscape, bringing a pop of color to the city. Nearby lanterns and window screens are smaller details that show the craftmanship that went into the film’s set design!

The discussion of literature: The main conflict in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King was the fate of the original copy of The Journey to the West. The villains want the book destroyed, while Nick and his friends are trying to save it. This main conflict led to a discussion of censorship versus preservation. The way the discussion is brought up, verbally and visually, was interesting. What was also interesting was the author of The Journey to the West, Wu Ch’eng En, receiving the opportunity to witness the impact of his literary work. I found this part of the story thought-provoking, as it made me think of authors who didn’t really have the chance to see their stories effect the world. The script’s focus on literature brought a sense of depth to a fantastical and whimsical story!

Traditional Chinese dragon image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Design vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some of the special effects: When creating a television movie, there’s only so much technological resources at the creative team’s disposal. I’m also aware cinematic technology was not as strong in the early 2000s as it is in the 2020s. Despite these setbacks, the special effects in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King were not a consistent issue. But when they were an issue, it was noticeably rough. While Nick was trying to find a way back to his world, he encounters a tiger in a nearby forest. This tiger appears to have been created through computer technology. Instead of resembling a real-life tiger, it resembled one from a computer game from the time of the movie’s release. The longer the tiger was on screen, the more dated it looked.

Lack of acknowledgment for Pigsy’s mistake: Pigsy is a character that tags along with Nick on his journey. During this journey, Pigsy makes a mistake that negatively impacts his friends and their mission. There were moments where Pigsy appears guilty about his choice. However, the mistake itself was not acknowledged like I hoped it would. Pigsy’s situation does get resolved. But this resolution was glossed over instead of being properly addressed. That was an underutilization of one of the movie’s themes, which was truth.

Mentioning Nick’s ex: On more than one occasion, Nick’s ex-girlfriend is brought up in the story through flashbacks. At a more climatic moment, her inclusion made sense. But, personally, I found it unnecessary for the ex-girlfriend to be brought up more than once. These parts of the story reminded me of a Hallmark movie cliché I’ve talked about in the past: the “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché. Nick’s ex-girlfriend is only shown through flashbacks, as I’ve already mentioned. However, I’ve also mentioned how pointless it is to bring up a protagonist’s ex when those characters have no plans to get back together.

Tiger image created by Chevanon at freepik.com.  <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/tiger-looking-straight-ahead_999674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/pattern”>Pattern image created by Chevanon – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I watched The Lost Empire/The Monkey King, I noticed some parallels between this movie and The Wizard of Oz.  In the Hallmark production, the characters travel to Jade City. Meanwhile, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends seek out The Emerald City. But comparing The Lost Empire/The Monkey King to The Wizard of Oz does the 2001 film such a disservice. This is because the Hallmark film holds up on its own! I found this production so imaginative, creative, and one of the more unique pictures I’ve seen this year! It was entertaining, engaging, sometimes thought-provoking, and even somewhat educational. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King makes me wish Hallmark would make more movies like this instead of what they’re currently creating. Like I said in the introduction, the 2001 production was made during a time when Hallmark wasn’t afraid to take creative risks. In more recent years, Hallmark has over-relied on one genre to the point where it seems like they don’t want to try anything new. I, honestly, find this to be a shame, as there are so many more stories Hallmark could tell.

Overall score: 7.9-8 out of 10

Have you seen The Lost Empire/The Monkey King? Are there any older Hallmark films you wish received more recognition? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Dr. Phibes Rises Again Review + 420, 425, and 430 Follower Thank You

While looking for a movie to review for my next Blog Follower Dedication Review, I realized it’s been a month since I wrote about a “spooky” title. It’s also been two months since I reviewed a sequel. Because of those factors, I choose to review the 1972 movie, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! Last year, I saw the predecessor, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, after one of my readers recommended it to me. In my opinion, the film was just fine, as I found the horror in the horror-comedy classification heavily emphasized. The fact The Abominable Dr. Phibes received a sequel was surprising to me. That’s because I had no idea the 1971 title received a second chapter until I recently stumbled across it. What other surprises are in store? Let’s take a trip through this review of Dr. Phibes Rises Again in order to find out!

Dr. Phibes Rises Again poster created by
American International Pictures and Anglo-EMI Film Distributors Ltd./MGM-EMI

Things I liked about the film:

A mystery-adventure: In my review of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, I stated how the story was more of a horror-mystery due to the limited incorporation of comedy. Like its predecessor, the sequel also features a mystery. But this time, an adventure story is included in the script, as the characters travel to Egypt. The change in scenery allowed something new to be brought to the overall story. It also added an exciting component, with the audience receiving an opportunity to witness new sights and join the ride with the characters. A new setting made the film’s twists and turns interesting, as Dr. Phibes came up with different ways to attempt to reach his goal. A distinct identity was given to Dr. Phibes Rises Again because of these creative decisions!

Toned down character demises: One of The Abominable Dr. Phibes’ flaws was how over-the-top demises of characters were, as they came across more gross than scary. These demises also overshadowed Vincent Price’s performance, which led to his talents being underutilized. While Dr. Phibes continued to go after anyone who stood in his way in Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the execution of his plan was toned down. Not only were there less demises, but there was also less on-screen gore compared to the first film. Vincent’s acting abilities received more emphasis because of this creative decision. That creative decision also allowed me, as a viewer, to focus on Vincent’s body language, facial expressions, and vocal inflections. Vincent’s role in Dr. Phibes Rises Again felt more like lead actor material compared to The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Robert Quarry’s portrayal of Darius Biederbeck: When I talked about Queen of the Damned in my article, Twentieth Century vs. Queen of the Damned at the Against the Crowd Blogathon, I said the movie presented Lestat as a more likable protagonist. Stuart Townsend’s portrayal of Lestat helps make this statement accurate, as his consistent suave, confidence added to Lestat’s likability. Robert Quarry’s portrayal of Darius Biederbeck in Dr. Phibes Rises Again reminded me of Stuart Townsend’s portrayal of Lestat. This is because Darius’ suave, confidence was similar to Lestat’s. Darius was a goal-driven man, believing in himself and his mission. Even when those around him had their doubts, his confidence was unwavering, presented consistently by Robert. What also helped was how strong Robert’s acting abilities were, giving him an opportunity to present a stand-out performance. These aspects of Robert’s portrayal of Darius made it enjoyable for me to watch!

Egyptian hieroglyphic image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Luxor photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

A somewhat rehashed story: Dr. Phibes’ story in The Abominable Dr. Phibes revolved around trying to find a solution for his deceased wife, Victoria. This quest for a solution drove Dr. Phibes to go after those he felt wronged him and his wife. In Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Dr. Phibe travels to Egypt. But his mission is similar to the first film: find a solution for Victoria. I won’t claim this story is a carbon copy of The Abominable Dr. Phibes. However, I wish it had less similarities to the predecessor.

Confusing parts of the story: A confusing part of Dr. Phibes Rises Again is the return of Vulnavia. Dr. Phibes’ assistant, Vulnavia, was one of the key characters in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Without spoiling the first movie, I will say something happens that prevents Vulnavia from appearing in the sequel. Yet, she does appear in Dr. Phibes Rises Again, with no clear explanation provided. This is just one example of confusing parts of the story that should have received more context.

An unresolved mystery: While in Egypt, Dr. Phibes discovers a sarcophagus. When he opens the sarcophagus, it appears a mummy had been removed. Dr. Phibes even questions what happened to the aforementioned mummy. But after this scene took place, the mystery is never resolved. In fact, it was never brought up after Dr. Phibes’ initial discovery. This made me wonder why the film’s creative team would include that mystery in their script if they had no intentions to solve it on screen?

Scary movie screening image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/small-skeleton-with-popcorn-and-tv_1323292.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression of Dr. Phibes Rises Again, I’d like to thank all my followers! I appreciate your support of 18 Cinema Lane! Now, on to my thoughts on Dr. Phibes Rises Again. On the one hand, the sequel tries to go in a different direction from the first movie. It even fixes some of the predecessor’s flaws. On the other hand, though, Dr. Phibes’ story was similar to his story in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. It also doesn’t help how parts of the story were confusing and a mystery was unresolved. Therefore, I will say this: as a movie, Dr. Phibes Rises Again is fine. As a sequel, it is slightly better than the first film.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen The Abominable Dr. Phibes or its sequel? Are there any sequels you think are better than their predecessor? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The 4th Annual Gold Sally Awards Has Arrived!

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

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

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Plymouth Adventure Review

When I participated in the Fourth Van Johnson Blogathon last year, I reviewed the three episodes of Murder, She Wrote Van appeared in. For this year’s blogathon, I wanted to do something different by writing about one of his films. While looking through my Pinterest board of movie recommendations, I was reminded of the 1952 movie, Plymouth Adventure. This film was introduced to me by the Brannan sisters from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, when they reviewed the movie during my blogathon, ‘A Blogathon to be Thankful For’. The Mayflower journey is one of the most important events in U.S. history. However, it is rarely covered in cinema. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to check this film out! I also liked reading what the Brannan sisters had to say about Plymouth Adventure. Therefore, I was curious to see if my opinion was similar to theirs.

Plymouth Adventure poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The blogathon I am participating in celebrates the filmography of Van Johnson. So, talking about his performance first makes sense. What I liked about Van’s portrayal of a carpenter named John Alden was how his emotions represented the audience, expressing the thoughts and feelings we might experience if we were in his shoes. The moment John boards the Mayflower provides a perfect example. As he is walking around the deck, he is in awe of the ship’s magnitude. When he crosses paths with Spencer Tracy’s character, Captain Christopher Jones, John distinguishes himself from the other passengers as a carpenter, wanting to stand out for his skills and talents. Van’s on-screen personality highlights this distinction among the film’s ensemble!

My favorite character in Plymouth Adventure is Gilbert Winslow, portrayed by John Dehner. John carried his character with class and wisdom, like a true sophisticated gentleman. These characteristics are highlighted well in a scene between Gilbert and Christopher. In this scene, they are discussing the settlers’ reasons for partaking in the journey. Christopher feels they are foolish for throwing their lives away for the unknown. But Gilbert respectfully rebuts that argument by saying the settlers are brave because they sacrificed so much in order to achieve a better, more free life. Dawn Addams portrayed one of these settlers, a woman named Priscilla Mullins. While she was only in the movie for a limited amount of time, Priscilla brought a kind gentleness to the story. This presented a good counterpart to the harshness of the journey itself. I also liked seeing Dawn and Van perform together! They had nice on-screen chemistry and I was interested in seeing where Priscilla and John’s relationship would go. I was not expecting a romance in this film, so that was a pleasant surprise!

The use of color in the costumes: When I think about the 1600s, I think of articles of clothing that look plain and unimpressive. Outfits made for royal family members are an exception, as they were meant to stand-out among a sea of commoners. In Plymouth Adventure, I was happy to see pops of color in the film’s costumes! It was also interesting to see which colors were used. As I mentioned before, Gilbert Winslow is my favorite character in this movie. Throughout the story, he wore an outfit that was covered in an emerald green material. That creative decision not only helped John stand out among the ensemble cast, but the costume itself also complimented his dark hair. Noel Drayton’s costume also complimented his hair! Because his hair is a lighter hue, his costume was a nice burnt orange. Because of this creative choice, I can remember who Miles Standish, Noel Drayton’s character, was, as I am able to pick him out from the crowd. During the Mayflower journey, Priscilla can be seen wearing a simple, yet modest dress. This dress was pink and light yellow, a color combination I liked seeing. Dawn’s costume contrasted nicely against the dark waters from the ocean. It also highlights the character’s kind gentleness.

Showing the journey’s reality: When a movie portrays a historical event or period in time, the serious parts of that story can sometimes get glossed over or even omitted. With Plymouth Adventure, the creative team didn’t shy away from bringing up the harsher, sadder realities of that titular trip. During the journey, the Mayflower is caught in the middle of a storm. One of the settlers fears her son might have gone onto the deck. In an attempt to rescue him, William Bradford makes the selfless choice to find the settler’s son. I won’t spoil the movie, but I will say, at one point, I didn’t think William was going to survive his mission. That scene did a good job highlighting the fear that was constantly present on the Mayflower. History will tell you that the Mayflower journey was a harsh one, with sickness, hunger, and even death boarding the famous ship. So, I appreciate the creative team’s attempts at making the story feel as accurate as possible.

The Fifth Annual Van Johnson Blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

Not enough character development: When a movie’s creative team contains an ensemble cast, it can be a challenge to give each actor or actress involved the recognition they deserve. But with Plymouth Adventure, the screen time each actor received felt inconsistent. This caused the story’s character development to be limited. When Gilbert was first introduced, I was excited to see what his role on the Mayflower would be. Even during his conversation with Christopher about the settlers, I knew Gilbert was important in some way. But as the film went on, he was reduced to being the story’s narrator. These narrations were presented as journal entries, as if he were recording the journey’s history. I’m not denying the importance of keeping historical records. However, I was expecting more for Gilbert Winslow.

How the settlers were referenced: At the beginning of the film, there was an on-screen message which stated Plymouth Adventure was dedicated to the adventurous settlers. As I was watching the movie, I questioned how honest that message was. The settlers in the story were referenced as “fools”. Their motives for taking the trip were constantly in question, even by the ship’s captain. Despite having supporters on their side, like Gilbert Winslow and William Brewster, the settlers faced more disrespect than I expected. Even Christopher Jones accused the settlers of running away in fear from their government, when, from what I remember, they were running to a place where they felt they could create a better government. I’m aware that the settlers probably did face criticism back when the Mayflower journey actually took place. But in the context of the movie and how the Mayflower journey actually played out, that aforementioned message kind of feels disingenuous.

Christopher and Dorothy’s relationship: Because the Mayflower journey was long and grueling, it makes sense for the film’s creative team to create subplots within the script. But out of everything that happened in this movie, Christopher and Dorothy’s relationship is my least favorite. There was one scene where, after a drunken escapade, Christopher approaches Dorothy in the middle of the night. I’m not going to lie, this exchange made me feel uncomfortable. As the story progresses, we learn that Christopher has fallen in love with Dorothy. However, Dorothy is married to William Bradford. Once again, I won’t spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. But, honestly, that subplot was scandalous for a Breen Code era film. I also wish some of that story time had been given to Priscilla and John, a couple who actually had potential to form a lasting, romantic relationship.

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:

Blogathons can be a great way to discover new films and share the ones you love. From my event, ‘A Blogathon to be Thankful For’, I discovered a movie that I had, honestly, never heard of before. With that same title being chosen for the Fifth Annual Van Johnshon Blogathon, it seems like things are coming full circle. When it comes to that title, Plymouth Adventure, I thought it was just ok. For the most part, it appears the movie’s creative team had good intentions for the project. However, I can think of period/historical films that are stronger than this one. I appreciate the creative team’s decision to show the harsher parts of this story, as it illustrates just how difficult the journey was. But there are areas of the script that could have been improved, such as giving Christopher and Dorothy a different subplot. As I finish writing this review, I now realize I need to search for another film to write about for Thanksgiving.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

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 fellow 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 reflected 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 We Heart Pirates Week Tag 2021

When I found out Hamlette, from Hamlette’s Soliloquy, was hosting another blogathon, I knew there would be a tag. I was curious what questions would be asked when I discovered the blogathon would be pirate themed. However, I was looking forward to creating another tag post! Last year, I participated in The Legends of Western Cinema Week, which was partially hosted by Hamlette. During that event, I was introduced to my first blogathon tag! While I don’t watch a lot of westerns, I still answered the tag questions based on the films and television shows I have seen. Because I’ve seen and read more pirate related content, I found it easier to answer the questions in the We Heart Pirates Week Tag than those from The Legends of Western Cinema Week Tag. So, hop onboard this ship as we set sail through my answers!

We Heart Pirates Week blogathon banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy
  1. What are your favorite pirate movies or books?

While I haven’t seen these movies in a while, I have enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy! I remember them being a lot of fun and intriguing. Each character is memorable and the stories are well written. When it comes to pirate books, I recall liking To Catch a Pirate by Jade Parker! It was so good, I could honestly see it adapted into a film!

2. Who are your favorite fictional pirates?

My favorite character from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy is Calypso/Tia Dalma! I know she’s not a pirate, but she does play an integral role within that series. Naomie Harris did such a great job portraying Calypso/Tia Dalma, which is one of the reasons why she’s my favorite character from a pirate movie!

3. What do you like best about pirate stories? (Themes, costumes, aesthetic, etc.)

I’d say the adventure the characters embark on. In any of the pirate movies I’ve seen, there is always a journey that is filled with adventure. It’s interesting to see where the story goes and how the characters deal with their conflicts along the way.

4. If you were going to play a pirate on the stage or screen, what would your costume look like?

I don’t know what it would look like exactly. However, I do know I want it to be elegant. In my review of China Seas, I talk about how beautiful the pirate captain’s costume is. This is because two pieces of his costume were a silk blouse and a detailed jacket. Pieces like those would definitely be in my pirate wardrobe!

5. What pirate ship would you like to serve on?

The Black Pearl from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, of course! It’s too iconic of a ship not to catch a ride.

For this tag post, I thought this picture was appropriate. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

6. Any favorite sea shanties or pirate songs?

I don’t listen to sea shanties or pirate songs. However, I do like the Nightcore version of Lady in Black by Blackmore’s Night, which sounds like it could fit in a pirate movie.

7. Have you ever participated in International Talk Like a Pirate Day?

No, I haven’t.

8. Would you like to go sailing on a real tall ship?

I don’t sail, but the idea of boarding on a real tall ship sounds fun!

9. Have you ever learned anything about real pirates, or do you tend to stick to the fictional kind?

I’ve learned there were several female pirates who roamed the Seven Seas. However, I don’t spend a lot of time learning about real pirates because I’ve been focusing on the fictional ones and their stories, such as Calypso/Tia Dalma and Davy Jones’ relationship.

10.  Why is the rum gone?

Simple, Captain Jack Sparrow drank it all.

Ship steering wheel pattern image created by Jemastock at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by jemastock – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What are your thoughts on this tag? Do you enjoy watching pirate films? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: China Seas Review

Last month, I had planned on participating in the Star/Genre Of The Month Blogathon, with January’s star being Doris Day. However, multiple projects throughout the month had filled up my schedule, preventing me from joining the event. To make up for it, I decided to participate in the blogathon this month, where the featured star is Clark Gable! As the only film of Clark’s I’ve seen up until this point has been Gone with the Wind, I was excited to explore his filmography! When I was choosing which film to write about, I also signed up for the We Heart Pirates Week Blogathon. To meet the requirements for both events, I have selected the 1935 film China Seas! Since Gone with the Wind is considered a romantic drama, it will be interesting to see Clark in a movie from a different genre!

China Seas poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Like I said in the introduction, the only film of Clark Gable’s I’ve seen is Gone with the Wind. Therefore, I didn’t know what to expect from his performance in China Seas. Even though this film was released four years before Gone with the Wind, Clark’s portrayal of Captain Alan Gaskell didn’t feel like a copy of Rhett Butler. For this particular role, Clark adopted the qualities of a natural born leader. Two of them were the strength and perseverance during times of conflict. When Alan is being tortured by the pirates, he never succumbed to the pain or surrendered to the enemy. He stood his ground instead, protecting his ship, as well as the guests and crew aboard it. I was pleasantly surprised to see Jean Harlow and Rosalind Russell in this film! Since I’ve seen very few projects from both of their filmographies, I was excited to see what they had to offer, talent-wise, in China Seas. What I liked about Jean’s performance was how versatile it was. Throughout the film, she used many different expressions as her character, Dolly, is boarding Alan’s ship. A fancy dinner in the ship’s dining room is a good example. At the beginning of that dinner, Dolly is in a pleasant mood, smiling and laughing at a friend’s joke. As the event goes on, she becomes bitter by Sybil’s presence. Speaking of Sybil, Rosalind’s performance was much different from her portrayal of Mother Superior from The Trouble with Angels and Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows. In China Seas, Sybil was more reserved than the other female characters. However, she had a gentler persona, which also helped her stand out. It was nice to see one of Rosalind’s earlier films, as this movie was released three decades before The Trouble with Angels.

The costume design: Some of the costumes in this movie were simply gorgeous! The dresses from the female characters definitely stole the show! At the dinner I mentioned earlier in my review, Jean wore a simple white dress that was slightly off the shoulder. The only applique was a metal paisley brooch, which added an element of pop to the dress. Later in the movie, Jean wears a satin gown. Similar to the aforementioned white dress, the satin gown was also given an element of pop. This time, the straps on the dress were covered with jewels. My favorite costume in China Seas was the pirate captain’s, as his was one of the most beautiful costumes I’ve ever seen in a pirate film! While it is simple, like Jean’s fancy dresses, it is the fine details that help it stand out! Paired with a silk blouse, the jacket is coated with an intricate design. The sleeves and boarders of the jacket are covered in fancy ribbon.

The pirate subplot: When I found out there would be pirates in China Seas, I was excited to see Clark Gable fight against them. The subplot involving the pirates was the best part of the overall story! It contained a mystery that unfolded as the movie progressed, featuring surprises and twists I didn’t see coming. There was also exciting action, which keep me invested. I was actually surprised by the amount of violence in China Seas because it was released in the Breen Code Era, where violence in films were kept at a minimum. However, it wasn’t graphic and over the top. This particular subplot also brought out each character’s true colors. I won’t reveal the movie for anyone, but I will say it was an interesting approach to providing character development!

Star of the Month (Clark Gable) blogathon banner created by Neil from Thoughts From The Music(al) Man

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited presence of the pirates: While I did like the conflict involving the pirates, they weren’t in the story for a long period of time. This part of the film was introduced fifty-eight minutes into this hour and twenty-seven-minute movie, with it lasting for about thirty minutes. I was honestly disappointed by this because I expected the pirates’ conflict to be the main story of China Seas. The captain of the pirate crew was one of the more interesting characters the movie had to offer, as he chose to become a pirate despite coming from a wealthy, noble family. However, the limited presence of the pirates prevented this character from receiving a lot of character development or screen time. Everything I said makes China Seas light on “action” and “adventure”.

A dull first half: As I just mentioned, China Seas is light on “action” and “adventure”. Even though those two things can be found in this movie, the story as a whole leans more into the drama genre. In the first half of the film, the script focuses on Dolly’s jealously toward Sybil. While this encouraged Jean to use a variety of emotions in her performance, I wasn’t interested in this part of the story. Other conflicts taking place in the movie’s first half includes whether Sybil’s pearls are real and Dolly trying to win back Alan’s love. These kinds of conflicts made China Seas feel like it was “Rich People Problems: The Movie”, revolving around problems that seemed stereotypical of wealthier individuals. Throughout the film’s first half, I kept asking myself, “When are the pirates going to get here”?

Confusing areas of the story: There were some areas of China Seas’ story that I found confusing. I’ll provide two examples for this part of the review. When Sybil is outside on the ship’s deck one evening, she is joined by one of Alan’s colleagues. Shortly after, the two can be seen kissing one another. Several scenes later, Sybil is spending time with Alan and expressing romantic interest in him. If she was romantically interested in Alan, why was she kissing another man? My second example is about the ending. While I won’t spoil it for any of my readers, I felt it didn’t fit within the overall story. The ending tried to wrap everything up in a nice little package. But with the events that led up to that ending, that part of the story became more confusing than it should have been. I know this film was released during the Breen Code Era, where happy endings were usually favored. However, the ending of China Seas was, in my opinion, not earned.

We Heart Pirates Week blogathon banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy

My overall impression:

While it was interesting to see Clark Gable in a different role and genre from what I’ve seen before, I found China Seas to be just ok. Were there aspects of the film I liked? Sure. The pirate captain’s costume was beautiful and I did like the acting performances. But I was disappointed by the limited amount of screen-time the pirates received. Before watching China Seas, I had expected the main plot to revolve around Clark Gable’s character dealing with the pirates. However, the most exciting parts of the story took place toward the end of the film, making the movie’s second half stronger than the first. Having a major part of the story focus on Dolly’s jealousy toward Sybil and obsession with Alan didn’t work for me. It came across as petty and immature. I do plan on seeing more of Rosalind’s, Clark’s, and Jean’s films in the future. But I hope the next movie is stronger than this one.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen any of Clark Gable’s films? What is your favorite pirate movie? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Nature of Love Review

I know it has been awhile since I reviewed a Hallmark Channel movie. The last one I wrote about was the 2011 picture, Honeymoon for One, which was my submission for the Out to Sea Blogathon back in March. Since I just watched Nature of Love, I decided to discuss one of Hallmark’s more recent releases. A reason why I’ve watched less new Hallmark Channel movies this year is how most of them reuse the same plot ideas. What set Nature of Love apart is the inclusion of glamping, or “glamourous camping”. This is Hallmark history in the making, as this specific concept has never been featured in a Hallmark film until now. Anytime the network introduces a new idea like this into one of their stories, I’m always curious to see how it will be executed within the movie. As someone who supports Hallmark taking creative risks, I appreciate when they choose to leave their comfort zone.

Nature of Love poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=142&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Nature+of+Love.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Emilie Ullerup is an actress with strong acting abilities! I’ve seen her performances on Chesapeake Shores and in most of her Hallmark movies. What I liked about Emilie’s portrayal of Katie is how expressive it was. One of her best scenes in Nature of Love was when she went on the rope course/zip-lane. The emotions Emilie adopted for her character made the performance appear believable. One of my favorite Hallmark films is Midnight Masquerade. Christopher Russell’s endearing performance is one of the reasons why I love that film. Christopher’s portrayal of Will in Nature of Love was not only endearing, but also charming! I liked how the character of Will was used to instill wisdom to Katie and the audience. It brought a “wise beyond their years” element to Christopher’s character that is not often incorporated in Hallmark productions. A stand-out performance in Nature of Love came from Donna Benedicto! I enjoyed watching her portrayal of Penny, Katie’s new friend from camp. She was expressive and, at times, hilarious. One example is when Penny is telling Katie to reveal the real reason why she’s at the camp.

The scenery: Whenever Hallmark creates a film that revolves around travel, the creative team behind that project usually does a good job at capturing the natural beauty of that location. For Nature of Love, the landscape consisted of forestry, mountains, and lakes. Filmed in British Columbia, these locations were photogenic and appealing to the eye! In two scenes, Will and Katie watch the sun rising over a mountain. The bright colors of orange, purple, and yellow complimented the mountain’s light gray. Two other scenes boasted a field of lavender. The flowers’ shade of purple dominated the screen, with the appearance and abundance of the plants highlighting those scenes. While watching this film, I could tell this film’s creative team loved this location, as they provided multiple opportunities to show this location off! I enjoyed seeing these spaces as much as the creative team liked sharing them!

The glamping experience: As I said in the introduction, I was excited to see glamping featured in a Hallmark movie! Even though the idea of camping has appeared in Hallmark projects before, this is the first time this particular form of camping has been incorporated in Hallmark’s films. Nature of Love successfully promotes the idea of glamping by providing a balance between the “glamour” and “rustic”. The activities shown in this film included canoeing, horse riding, and making s’mores, things that would typically be associated with the camping experience. Representing the glamourous side were gourmet meals, up-scale tents, and resort style amenities. If the purpose of this movie was to entice viewers to desire a glamping vacation, I think it accomplished that mission.

Glamping tent image created by Freepik at freepik.com. Business vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The CGI animals: Hallmark is not known for incorporating CGI into their films. But there have been rare occasions where CGI was found. In Nature of Love, a few CGI animals are included in the movie. While the CGI itself looked fine, it was obvious the animals were added to the scenes in post-production. Fortunately, there was more stock footage of real animals than animals created with CGI.

Weak conflicts: Nature of Love had three conflicts within the script. One of them revolved around the expansion of the glamping resort. This conflict turned into a “save the establishment” story. The other two conflicts were interconnected. They were about Katie going out of her comfort zone and dealing with an ethical dilemma related to journalism. I found all three conflicts to be on the weaker side because they’ve been seen before in other Hallmark films. The creative team behind this movie played it safe with their story.

Things that didn’t make sense: At several moments, there was dialogue spoken by the characters that didn’t make sense within the story. When Katie is talking with her boss, Sabrina, about her article, Sabrina tells her she should write about Will. Katie’s boss acts as if she has no idea who he is. This doesn’t make sense because Sabrina gave Katie the assignment to go to the glamping resort. Because of this, you’d think she would have done research about the resort and the people who work there.

Travel suitcase image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/water-color-travel-bag-background_1177013.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When Hallmark incorporates a new idea into one of their movies, it shows how the network can expand their creative horizons. If the new idea involves travel, it can inspire viewers to take a similar trip like the characters in the story. In the case of Nature of Love, this movie effectively promoted the idea of glamping. With the help of beautiful scenery and a balance between “glamour” and camping, this concept was positively presented to the viewers. But movies are not just meant to promote ideas, they are also created to tell stories. The story of Nature of Love could have stronger. The conflicts were rehashed from previous Hallmark entries and some of the dialogue didn’t make sense in the story. This movie is a fine, harmless production from the network. But when you look beyond the glamping promotion, you will see that Nature of Love is more typical than it appears.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen Nature of Love? Which vacation destination would you like to see in a Hallmark movie? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

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

After a brief break, I have, once again, decided to participate in MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur! For the month of May, the theme is “Reluctant Hero Movies”. I’m not going to lie, my choice of this review required some thought. After spending some time on the internet, searching through lists about “Reluctant Hero Movies”, I finally selected the 2014 picture, Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama! I had never heard of this film prior to watching it. But I was interested in seeing what other studios had to offer when it comes to pirate movies. I enjoy Disney’s Pirates and the Caribbean trilogy, as the high-quality production value is one of the strongest elements. I have seen the fourth film in this series, but I was not a fan of it. I was also curious to discover who the “reluctant hero” of this story would be. This kind of hero can be reluctant for a variety of reasons, so I wanted to see how this theme would be applied to the story of Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama!

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

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The acting performances in this movie ranged from fine to good. But, while watching Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama, I noticed a few stand-out performances! Vinjar Pettersen does a good job presenting Pinky as a “reluctant hero”. In this film, Pinky is a “reluctant hero” because he only aspired to be a cabin boy, not because he didn’t want to be a hero. Despite having this simple desire, Pinky always finds a way to put the ship’s crew before himself. Through a variety of emotions, Vinjar effectively showcases how a pirate’s life can affect someone so young. In one scene, Pinky is excited about having his heroic efforts recognized by Captain Sabertooth. When the praise is given to another crew member instead, Pinky’s face immediately falls and he becomes disappointed. Speaking of Captain Sabertooth, Kyrre Haugen Sydness brought this character to life with the use of exaggerated expressions and sophisticated mannerisms. I’m not familiar with Captain Sabertooth outside of this film. But what I liked about Kyrre’s portrayal is how it presented a different kind of pirate captain than what I’m used to. Sofie Bjerke’s portrayal of Pinky’s friend, Raven, was very endearing! The emotions and behaviors she gave her character realistically showed how a child in Raven’s situation might react in that particular circumstance. A great example is when she locked herself and another character, Rosa, in a storage room on Captain Sabertooth’s ship in order to help Pinky.

The scenery: Pirate movies are usually known for showing picturesque landscapes. The reason for this creative choice is to show the various travels a pirate may take. This film is no exception, as there were some beautiful locations featured! According to IMDB, one of the countries where this movie was filmed was Thailand. From the film’s first scene, where Captain Sabertooth’s crew is walking through a dense jungle, to the moments where the ship is at sea, the natural surroundings of this country are wonderfully highlighted! Aspects of these areas include deep green foliage and clear blue water. Another country where this movie was filmed is Morocco. This location also boasted photogenic scenery, such as a nearby beach. With a sandy shore and bright blue water, this beach appears inviting!

The set design: I was really impressed by the set design that was found in this movie! It appeared to belong in the world this creative team crafted and the style choices made helped the space look visually appealing. One example was the guest room in King Rufus’ palace. An interesting design piece that caught my eye was the two blue marble pillars. They stood out in that room because it was the only pop of color among the palette of white and beige. Captain Sabertooth’s quarters was another interesting space. The dark wood throughout this room was consistent with the wood on the ship. While this would seem like an obvious choice, I noticed how it was coordinated with the color palette of Captain Sabertooth’s wardrobe. In a film like Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama, I’ve never seen a character’s clothing choices complement a room’s interior design. This creative choice brought a newer element to a film of this nature.

Tropical island image created by Brgfx at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/island-background-design_1020626.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Brgfx – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lower stakes: In the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, there was always imminent danger present, causing the stakes to be higher. Beloved characters, like Captain Jack Sparrow, faced harsh weather elements, injury, and even death. The characters in Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama, on the other hand, never appeared to be in any sort of danger. I understand this film was meant to be a more family-friendly version of a typical pirate’s tale. However, that knowledge is what prevented me from fearing for the characters’ well-being. This lack of danger also caused the stakes to be lower than they should have been. There was very little risk involved and not enough adrenaline.

Poor ADR: An element that can help the audience get invested in an actor’s performance is the quality of the ADR, or automated dialog replacement. If done well, the actor’s dialog can look and sound like their character is effortlessly speaking. But, if the ADR is bad, it can be very distracting. The latter is, sadly, the case for Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama. Most of the time, the actors’ dialog did not match up with their mouth movements. The characters’ speech was at a faster speed than the actors’ mouths could move. This error, at times, took me out of the film.

Pinky’s subplot: Throughout the film, Pinky was curious about his biological father’s identity and whereabouts. He is even warned about discovering this information, as he is told that hope can be a dangerous thing. While this is a good message, the story itself could have been given more attention. Within this movie, Pinky’s subplot is treated as an afterthought and doesn’t seem to lead anywhere. Sure, Pinky is given some vague details about where his father could be. But this part of the story never reached a resolution, preventing the audience from learning anything new about Pinky’s past. If anything, the vague details that Pinky receives serve as “sequel bait” for another installment that may or may not exist.

Ship steering wheel pattern image created by Jemastock at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by jemastock – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

I said in the introduction that the high-quality production value is one of the reasons why I enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Even though Disney has capitalized on the pirate movies, that shouldn’t discourage others studios from creating their own pirate stories. However, if any studio is planning on making a pirate film, they either have to go big or don’t even bother showing up. There were some aspects of Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama that seemed to contain a good amount of effort. Stand-out performances and eye-catching set design were just two of the film’s highlights. But, at the same time, the execution of other aspects was poor. Most of the humor felt forced and there were even some jokes that lasted for a little too long. When thinking about this film, it seems like the creative team put a greater emphasis on the style than the substance. It also feels like Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama tried to copy Pirates of the Caribbean’s math homework without having a strong understanding of how the trilogy solved those problems. Personally, I’d stick with the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films for now.

Overall score: 5 out of 10

Have you heard of Captain Sabertooth? Which pirate film do you enjoy watching? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Dora and the Lost City of Gold Review

Originally, I was going to post my review for December’s Genre Grandeur. But, yesterday, I ended up watching Dora and the Lost City of Gold. So, I decided to review this movie instead. I’ll still publish my Genre Grander review, but it will appear on 18 Cinema Lane sometime this week. As I’ve said in two Word on the Street stories, Dora and the Lost City of Gold made Paramount, the film’s respective studio, lose money. One possible explanation lies in the movie’s less-than-stellar marketing campaign. Like a lot of people, I was not a fan of the film’s official trailer. To me, it felt like the studio didn’t understand the source material they were working with, similar to projects like Jem and the Holograms. This caused me not to see the movie in theaters. When I chose to rent it yesterday, I realized that the only theatrically released film from 2019 I reviewed was Avengers: Endgame. It became one of the reasons why I wanted to review Dora and the Lost City of Gold. Prior to watching this film, I have seen a few episodes of Dora the Explorer. But I don’t have fond memories of it like other people do. Let’s wrap this introduction up so we can go on a movie review adventure!

Dora and the Lost City of Gold poster
Dora and the Lost City of Gold poster created by Paramount Pictures, Paramount Players, Nickelodeon Movies, Walden Media, Media Rights Capital, and Burr! Productions. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dora_and_the_Lost_City_of_Gold_poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I was pleasantly surprised by the acting performances in this film! I was familiar with who Isabela Moner was, as an actress, prior to watching Dora and the Lost City of Gold. This is because I have heard she starred in the 2017 film, Transformers: The Last Knight. She did a fantastic job at bringing the iconic Nickelodeon character to life! With a cheerful personality and a sunny disposition, Isabela helped carry this film with a well-rounded performance. Another memorable performance came from Madeleine Madden! In this film, she portrayed Sammy, a fellow classmate of Dora’s. Madeleine brought versatility to her role, allowing her character’s transformation to feel believable. Madeleine’s on-screen interactions with her co-stars also helped this transformation, showing that those with leadership qualities can also be contributing team members. Speaking of team members, Eugenio Derbez gave a stand-out performance as Alejandro. While portraying this character, he provided a balance of comedic and dramatic acting. Incorporating these two different types of acting is not an easy thing to do. However, Eugenio flawlessly pulled this off in his performance!

 

The scenery: For most of the film, the jungle provided scenery for this project. It helped make scenes involving this location visually appealing. The natural beauty of the jungle is captured well on film, allowing for the foliage to stand out and even compliment the movie. Within the jungle, there were structures that represented long abandoned places. It’s likely that these were constructed sets for the movie, but they looked very authentic. One great example is when Dora and her group encounter an ancient aqueduct. Because this location was shown above water and was also immersed in it, it shows the audience the original purpose of this structure and its place in history. This shows that the film’s creative team tried to make their film showcase this location as more than just a pretty place.

 

The messages and themes: At the beginning of the film, Dora’s father tells her that she should strive to be an explorer, not a treasure hunter. This piece of advice is a new take on the saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination”. But it also opens the door to several important themes. The ideas of sharing a unique experience, friendship, and teamwork come directly from the aforementioned advice. These themes are shown through actions instead of just said through words. They also have a shareability among audience members of all ages. The film’s messages and themes were one of the strongest parts of the movie, as it was executed well throughout the script.

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

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some of the CGI: For the most part, the CGI in Dora and the Lost City of Gold looked really good. However, there were some instances when the CGI looked poor. One example is when Dora is petting a baby alligator. If you look closely, you can tell where the animation was inserted into the scene. To me, this appeared off-putting, like the image of the alligator didn’t blend with the rest of the shot. While the encounters with poor CGI were few, I still was not a fan of that.

 

The jokes dragging on for a little too long: I found some of the jokes in this movie to be genuinely funny. But other jokes went on for a little too long. Just one example is when Dora’s father is imitating the sounds of techno music. This joke had the potential to be hilarious, but the length of the joke’s time ruined it for me. Had a few seconds of this joke been cut, it would have helped it reach the punch-line a lot sooner.

 

A somewhat confusing climax: I won’t spoil Dora and the Lost City of Gold if you haven’t seen it. But I will say that I found the climax to be somewhat confusing. This is because of two reasons. The first one is how some things are shown and talked about without being given an explanation. The second is how other things aren’t referenced before and/or after the climax. This made it difficult for me to remain fully invested in what was happening on screen.

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Image of jungle/rainforest created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/tree”>Tree photo created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

In the introduction of this review, I speculated that Dora and the Lost City of Gold became a box office failure due to a less-than-stellar marketing campaign. I find this to be a shame because the movie is better than I expected. Unlike what the trailer made me believe, the studio not only cared about the source material, but it seems like they tried their best to elevate it as well. The movie also has more heart than any of the marketing let on, providing messages and themes that can be revisited long after the movie is over. Dora and the Lost City of Gold is not one of my favorite movies of the year, but it definitely is a memorable one. I kind of feel bad that I didn’t give this film a chance sooner. However, I’m glad that I gave it a chance at all.

 

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

 

Have you seen any theatrically released films from 2019? Has there ever a movie that you regretted not seeing in theaters? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen