Take 3: Anna and the King Review

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

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

Things I liked about the film:

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

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

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

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

What I didn’t like about the film:

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

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

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

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

My overall impression:

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

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

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

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Winners of The 4th Annual Gold Sally Awards + the Future of the Gold Sally Awards

Since 2019, I created the Gold Sally Awards. What was once a way to recognize the best Hallmark had to offer, it evolved into a series of polls highlighting the films covered or discussed on 18 Cinema Lane. In the beginning, voter turn-out was strong. The polls served their purpose of allowing readers to interact with my blog’s content. But as time went on, voter turn-out dwindled. There were times when I’ve had to select the winners because a particular poll didn’t receive any votes. With all that said, I will continue the Gold Sally Awards. But starting next year, there will no longer be voting polls. Instead, I am going to create separate, individual awards that are more unique/creative/fun. Now that this update is out of the way, it’s time to announce the winners of this year’s Gold Sally Awards!

Similar to last year, I created a collage on PowerPoint of this year’s winners. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Best Movie: The King and I

Best Story: The Three Musketeers

Best Ensemble: The Karate Kid

Best On-Screen Couple: Marshall Williams and Natalie Hall — Sincerely, Yours, Truly

Best Actress: Janel Parrish – Holly & Ivy

Best Actor: Marshall WilliamsSincerely, Yours, Truly

Best Supporting Actress: Jean Porter – Bathing Beauty

Best Supporting Actor: Robert Mitchum – Cape Fear

Sally’s Star of the Year: Bai Ling

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

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: Point of Origin Review

When the subject of “disaster films” is brought up, one will usually think of films revolving around over-exaggerated, fictionalized disasters. Whether it’s Sharknado or The Day After Tomorrow, these types of titles have become the faces of the “disaster film” category. But what if a movie depicts a real-life disaster that could be experienced by anyone? This is the case of my Disaster Blog-a-Thon entry, Point of Origin. Last month, I searched on Wikipedia for a title to review for May’s Genre Grandeur. During that search, I stumbled across the aforementioned 2002 HBO production. After reading the film was a “fact-based drama about an arson investigator searching for the perpetrator of a string of deadly fires in 1980s California”, I knew it was the perfect choice for J-Dub and Pale Writer’s event! Before I start this review, I would like to point out how this marks two firsts for 18 Cinema Lane. Not only is this my first time participating in the Disaster Blog-a-Thon, this is also the first HBO film reviewed on my blog!

Point of Origin poster created by HBO Films and New Redemption Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The mystery: For the most part, the mystery in Point of Origin allowed the audience to experience it alongside the characters. What also helps is how the mystery started right at the beginning of the film. This immediately hooked the audience into the story, while also giving them a shared journey with the key players on screen. There was room for viewers to speculate what would happen in the story. That gave them the opportunity to interact with the film’s mystery. Three separate components played a role in the overarching narrative. While I won’t give anything away, it was interesting to see these components come together.

The special effects: When John was investigating a crime scene, he would attempt to figure out how the fire started. Toward the beginning of the film, this thought process was visualized through special effects. As John is recounting the information, the actual fire is played out in reverse on screen. This is very different from other mystery movies, as flashbacks might be utilized to speculate the cause of a crime. When it came to the fires themselves, it appeared as if they actually took place in a given scene. It may have been possible for the movie’s creative team to insert footage of fires through editing or CGI, as Point of Origin was released in 2002. However, practical effects were an interesting choice. This creative decision reminded me of productions like The Crow.

Showcasing the dangers of fire: While investigating a local fire, John and his co-worker, Keith, examine a young boy who died on the crime scene. Despite only the victim’s face being shown, it is blackened due to smoke and flame exposure. Later in the film, John visits a surviving burn victim in the hospital. The victim’s face and part of his hand are covered in burns. He even claims that it hurts to open his eyes. Due to the nature of Point of Origin, the story is heavier in tone. However, the incorporation of the dangers of fire never felt like they were there for “shock value” or as a tactic to scare the audience. If anything, it was shown just enough to get the point across.

The Second Disaster Blog-A-Thon banner created by J-Dub from Dubsism and Pale Writer from Pale Writer

What I didn’t like about the film:

Bai Ling’s limited presence: Bai Ling was cast as John’s wife, Wanda Orr, in the 2002 HBO film. Her involvement in Point of Origin is one of the reasons why I sought out this movie, as she is the top billed actress. When I watched the film, however, I discovered Bai appeared in only a handful of scenes. Compared to some of Bai’s other projects, her talents were under-utilized in Point of Origin. It also seems like the main supporting actress, Illeana Douglas, received more screen-time than Bai. Bai did a good job with the acting material she was given. But this situation is very reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn’s involvement in 1994’s One Christmas, where Katharine appeared in about five scenes despite being that film’s top billed actor.

A confusing time period: As I mentioned in the introduction, Point of Origin takes place in the 1980s. Elements from that decade were incorporated into the film, such as vehicles and a typewriter used by John at various moments in the story. Meanwhile, Bai’s wardrobe looked like it came straight from the early 2000s. There was also a scene where a store patron tells another patron not to smoke in the store. This attitude was more prevalent in the 2000s, as smoking in public places was more accepted in the 1980s. The inconsistency with the film’s historical accuracy was so confusing, it was, on a few occasions, distracting.

An unidentified red-haired man: Throughout the movie, a red-haired man made multiple appearances. I won’t spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it. But I will say when everything was said and done, I don’t feel like I received a satisfying explanation of who that character is. Yes, I can assume the red-haired man’s identity. However, when it comes to that character, the movie was building up to something without providing a pay-off.

Magnifying glass and fingerprint image created by Alvaro_Cabrera at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/loupe-over-a-fingerprint_853908.htm’>Designed by alvaro_cabrera</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Alvaro_cabrera – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

For the Disaster Blog-a-Thon, I chose to talk about a film that revolved around a real-life disaster. This is because, in my opinion, these types of titles aren’t talked about as much within the realm of “disaster films”. When it comes to Point of Origin specifically, it was a fine, competently made, intriguing movie. But the 2002 HBO project made me feel similarly to Red Corner. This is ironic, as Bai Ling was cast as the lead actress in both films. What I mean by my aforementioned statement is I held higher expectations for each film, only to be somewhat let down by them. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, the historical accuracy works when the creative team places emphasis on the details. In Point of Origin, however, it seems like the film’s creative team forgot, at times, their project took place in the 1980s. This is because some aspects of the film reflected the time of the film’s release; the early 2000s. I haven’t seen a lot of HBO films, so I can’t make any comparisons with Point of Origin. But I will say, based on other made-for-TV mystery productions, this one felt closer to the middle of the road.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Point of Origin? Are there any HBO films you’d like to see reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Red Corner Review

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

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

Things I liked about the film:

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

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

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

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

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

What I didn’t like about the film:

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

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

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

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

My overall impression:

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

Overall score: 7.1 out of 10

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

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Top 10 Things I’d Like to See in When Calls the Heart’s Ninth Season

With production finished on When Calls the Heart, there has been a lot of speculation about the upcoming season. Because the show’s cast and crew has shared very few behind-the-scenes photos on social media, fans have been left in the dark about plot details, new cast members, and even season nine’s premiere date. While there is silence surrounding When Calls the Heart, I think it’s time I post my list of the top ten things I’d like to see in the show’s ninth season. Last year, I wrote a list titled ‘Top 10 Things I’d Like to See in Chesapeake Shores’ Fifth Season’. As I watched the show’s return in late summer of 2021, it was interesting to see how many things on my list came true. In fact, it was about half. So, with this When Calls the Heart related list, I’ll be curious to see how many of these subjects come to fruition. Since the series hasn’t received a Christmas movie for the second year in a row, I hope my list ties Hearties (the show’s fandom) over until the show comes back to television.

When Calls the Heart poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel.
  1. For Bai Ling to Join the Main Cast

Back in March, I wrote an editorial titled ‘Why Bai Ling Should Join the Main Cast of ‘When Calls the Heart’’. In this article, I explained four reasons why this would be a good idea. A month after I published my editorial, Bai found and liked my Instagram post about it. I brought this up in one of my When Calls the Heart re-cap posts. But, like I mentioned in that ‘Sunset Over Hope Valley’ post, this doesn’t guarantee anything. As I said in my introduction, there have been no announcements about new cast members yet. Until we hear confirmation about whether or not Bai becomes a “Heartie”, I’ll provide a link to my aforementioned editorial, in case you’d like to read it.

Why Bai Ling Should Join the Main Cast of ‘When Calls the Heart’

2. Hope Valley’s First Female Mountie

In my editorial, ‘Why Bai Ling Should Join the Main Cast of ‘When Calls the Heart’’, I talk about how I’d like to see Bai portray Hope Valley’s first female Mountie. While this character doesn’t necessarily have to be portrayed by Bai Ling, I think a female Mountie would provide an interesting dynamic to the show. As I also mentioned in my editorial, it would fit the narrative When Calls the Heart has had since the beginning. If Hope Valley has women owning their own businesses and had a female Mayor at one point, they can have a female Mountie. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt the town to have more than one.

3. True Love for Henry Gowan

As I said in my season eight finale re-cap post, Henry’s storyline was one of the best. He was, honestly, the happiest he has ever been on this show. So, I’d like to see this happy momentum continue by watching Henry fall in love! But, if I had a say, I would want him to share a romantic relationship with someone new. In When Calls the Heart’s eight seasons, Henry has never experienced romance or true love. Therefore, this would provide the show with a new story and a new character!

4. An Attitude Change for Elizabeth

I’ve said before on my blog how I don’t like the direction Elizabeth is going. Ever since the end of season five, she has become more entitled and self-centered. It has gotten to the point where if Elizabeth continues to behave this way, the show’s viewership will drop. In order to prevent this from happening, I think Elizabeth should receive an attitude change. Seeing her become more selfless and putting others before herself would be refreshing. This change would also help Elizabeth gain more likability, something that she is currently losing. With her teaching job in jeopardy, a wake-up call for Elizabeth may be on its way.

5. A Brutally Honest Character

My favorite character in Jurassic Park is Dr. Ian Malcolm. His realism and common sense help him become the film’s “voice of reason”, allowing Ian to be brutally honest as well. I’ve been waiting for a character like Ian Malcom to make a permanent residence in Hope Valley. But any time this kind of character shows up, they only appear for a limited amount of time. Similar to the idea of Hope Valley’s first female Mountie, a brutally honest character would create an interesting dynamic among the citizens of Hope Valley. Sometimes, I feel like the characters on When Calls the Heart are too nice, almost like they’re afraid to be honest. A new resident who goes against that gain would definitely change that.

Sunset image created by Photoangel at freepik.com <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Photoangel – Freepik.com</a> <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/red-sunset-clouds-over-trees_1254327.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> Image found at freepik.com

6. Rosemary’s Theater and/or the Ice Cream Parlor

Season six saw the fruition of Hope Valley’s first public library. While I was happy to see an important resource come to Hallmark’s favorite Canadian town, I was frustrated by how quickly it came. This library became a reality partly because Elizabeth complained loud enough about the town not having one. Meanwhile, Rosemary has been dreaming about her theater since season two and still hasn’t received it. Season nine is the time for Rosemary’s dream to finally come true. It’s also time to see that ice cream parlor Opal brought up back in season five. The beauty of these two facilities is how the show’s creative team can use space they already have on set. Opportunities for new characters and stories could also grow thanks to the theater and/or ice cream parlor!

7. A Season Within a Season

Toward the beginning of When Calls the Heart’s eighth season, the story took place in late spring. An end-of-school-year celebration was a clear indication of that specific time. But as the season was coming to a close, Hope Valley’s children were going back to school. The issue with this change in time was how there was little acknowledgment to it, which led to confusion on my part. To make things less confusing for the viewers, including me, I would like to see season nine take place within a season. For instance, have the story of season nine take place exclusively during Spring. That way, the season would have a tighter timeline.

8. Adopting the Chesapeake Shores Model

One of the best parts of Chesapeake Shores’ fifth season was the new model the show’s creative team adopted. This new model was a cycle that allowed the characters to take a break from the overarching story. An example is featuring every character on one episode except Abby. In another episode, Abby will be back on the show, but Connor will be nowhere in sight. With this approach to storytelling, it allowed a more cohesive narrative to be told. It also helped the show’s overall pace move faster. When Calls the Heart’s cast is arguably larger than Chesapeake Shores’ cast. Because of this, the show could benefit from using Chesapeake Shores’ model.

9. Different Types of Pets

There’s a When Calls the Heart related blog I like called ‘When Calls The Heart Blog’. On this blog, I read a list titled ‘Personal Requests To The Writers…’ The list is similar to mine; a fan sharing what they’d like to see in future episodes. One of these requests is animals, as there haven’t been many pets on the show. I’d like to take it one step further by suggesting different types of pets be featured on When Calls the Heart. Sure, it’s nice to see a dog or horse every now and then. But how about adding a cat to the show? Or a cockatoo? Maybe even a ferret? When it comes to pets, I personally think the sky’s the limit!

10. A When Calls the Heart Thanksgiving Movie

I know what you’re thinking, “How Can When Calls the Heart have a Thanksgiving movie if the show takes place in Canada”? For those who don’t know, Canadians celebrate the holiday in October, while those in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving in November. The fact this holiday has two dates would work in Hallmark’s favor. Because their ‘Countdown to Christmas’ line-up starts in October, the network could start the line-up with a When Calls the Heart Thanksgiving Movie. Then when November comes around, Hallmark Channel could air the movie again, but have a sneak peek for the upcoming season included. A new When Calls the Heart film is something Hearties would look forward to, especially since there hasn’t been a movie from this series in two years. It could also boost ratings for the ‘Countdown to Christmas’ line-up.

When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas poster created by Hallmark Channel and Crown Media Family Networks. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=142&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=When+Calls+the+Heart+Home+for+Christmas.

Have fun in Hope Valley!

Sally Silverscreen

We Need to Talk About the Toxic Relationship of Top Dollar and Myca from ‘The Crow’

Two years ago, I wrote an editorial on why I felt Lestat and Akasha’s relationship from Queen of the Damned was very problematic. When I published that editorial, I had no idea how popular it would become. As of late October 2021, my editorial has garnered 1,301 views and counting! So, that success is a reason for this new editorial. I’ve read many articles and seen many videos about The Crow. But no one has talked about how toxic Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship is. In fact, I’d go so far as to say their relationship is worse than Lestat and Akasha’s. Like my previous editorial, I will present five key reasons why Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship is unhealthy. But before I start my explanations, let me bring up some disclaimers:

  1. In this editorial, I will be addressing the subjects of inappropriate sibling relationships, violence, drug use, and crime. That is because the movie itself addresses these subjects. If you are sensitive to any of the aforementioned subjects, take this disclaimer as a fair warning.
  2. This editorial was not written to be mean-spirited or negative. Its intent is to showcase my honest opinion about this topic.
  3. This editorial was not written to disrespect any persons who worked on The Crow. This includes Michael Wincott and Bai Ling, who portrayed Top Dollar and Myca.
  4. Like most of my editorials, this article is going to be long in length. If you are interested in reading this post, please allow yourself enough time to consume the content.
  5. Unless I say otherwise, the screenshots in this editorial are screenshots I took with my cellphone.
Image of Top Dollar and Myca found on IMDB

An Inappropriate Sibling Relationship

A typical sibling relationship is meant to teach empathy, show how to get along with others, and help maintain a family unit. But with Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship, nothing about it is typical. In fact, it is downright inappropriate. In The Crow, it is revealed these characters are half-siblings. But instead of treating each other like siblings, they interact with each other like a romantic couple. In the very first scene Top Dollar and Myca appear in, it is heavily implied they engage in intercourse. Their physical interactions also appear more sensual in nature. The existence of Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship is illegal, especially in Michigan, the state The Crow takes place in. According to Michigan Legislature, they would be guilty of Criminal Sexual Conduct in the First Degree. This is because Top Dollar and Myca meet these two circumstances: “The actor is a member of the same household as the victim” and “The actor is related to the victim by blood or affinity to the fourth degree”. When the true nature of their relationship is revealed, Top Dollar says Myca is “my father’s daughter, that’s right”. This means both Top Dollar and Myca were fully aware of their involvement in an inappropriate sibling relationship.

Top Dollar and Myca kissing photo found from Top Dollar/Myca (The Crow 1994) – Love song

While Top Dollar and Myca are aware of their relationship’s nature, they go out of their way to keep their relationship private. Any time Top Dollar and Myca engage in displays of affection, it is done when few people or no one is around. In the first scene these characters appear in, there is another woman in the room. However, this woman is dead. In their next scene, Top Dollar and Myca partake in consuming drugs or creating mystical concoctions. When T-Bird and Grange arrive at Club Trash’s lair, Top Dollar and Myca are careful when displaying their affection for one another. Myca sits beside Top Dollar, with his arm draped across her lap. But when T-Bird and Grange leave, Top Dollar places his hand on Myca’s thigh, a gesture that is typically known for being sensual. It should also be noted how this gesture was performed under the table. Out of all the characters in The Crow, only two of them know about Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship. These characters are Grange and Gideon.  It’s safe to assume Grange was already aware of Top Dollar and Myca’s relationship prior to the film’s events. But Gideon finds out about this relationship when he visits Top Dollar at Club Trash’s lair.

Because it can be difficult to see, I put a yellow line next to Top Dollar’s arm. This shows how his arm is draped across Myca’s lap when T-Bird and Grange are around.
This time, I put a circle around Top Dollar’s hand, showing how it is now on Myca’s thigh. You can also see how Myca is holding back Top Dollar’s hair, a gesture I will talk about later in this editorial.
In this picture, it is clear to see how Top Dollar and Myca appear “professional” to keep up appearances.

One of my criticisms of The Crow is how some parts of the story don’t receive context. Top Dollar and Myca’s story is one of them. But based on what was said and not said by these characters, it is assumed their relationship is the result of an absent/dysfunctional family unit. In Top Dollar and Myca’s first scene, Top Dollar reveals the origin of a snow globe. This snow globe, displaying a miniature grave yard, was a birthday gift from their father when Top Dollar turned five. He tells Myca “Dad gave me this. Fifth birthday. He said ‘Childhood is over the moment you know you’re gonna die’.” Top Dollar brings up their father on two other occasions: when he tells Gideon Myca is his father’s daughter and when he tells Eric “Ya know, my daddy always used to say ‘Every man has a devil, and you can’t rest till you find him’.” Meanwile, Myca never brings their father up. In fact, when Top Dollar is talking about the snow globe, she doesn’t express any emotion toward her parent. According to David J. Schow, one of The Crow’s screenwriters, Top Dollar and Myca’s “father was in Vietnam”. In the book, The Crow: The story behind the film, “Top Dollar’s motivation would be to punish the world for Myca’s tragic life”. Taking all of this into account, it seems like Top Dollar and Myca’s father had no qualms about exposing his children to dark and harmful things, especially at a young age.

For this picture, an arrow points out the tear near Top Dollar’s eye, emphasizing how emotional the snow globe is making him.
Meanwhile, as Top Dollar is sharing the snow globe’s origin, Myca expresses no emotion.

They Enable Each Other

If you knew someone who was causing harm to themselves or other people, would you intervene and help them turn toward better choices? Most people would say “yes” if asked this question. But, in The Crow, Top Dollar and Myca do the complete opposite. During their introduction in the movie, Myca asks if the woman in the room is dead. Top Dollar responds by saying, “I think we broke her”, heavily implying they had something to do with the woman’s death. Myca then proceeds to remove the woman’s eyes, with Top Dollar silently watching her perform this act. Top Dollar was fully aware of how much damage he and Myca made in one evening. Despite this, he never tried to stop Myca from obtaining the eyes or question her reason for committing the act. In fact, Top Dollar never intervened during the process. While Myca’s desire to snatch someone’s eyes is explained, Top Dollar continues to enable Myca.

As you can see in this picture, Top Dollar expresses no concern for Myca’s harmful behavior.

In the next scene Top Dollar and Myca appear in, they engage in activities only they would leisurely choose to do. While Myca uses the aforementioned eyes to create a concoction involving smoke, Top Dollar is consuming drugs. During Myca’s “activity of leisure”, Top Dollar silently watches the entire time. He only gets involved when Myca creates smoke, as he ends up breathing it in. While this scene is taking place, Top Dollar’s plate of drugs are located right next to Myca’s goblet. Myca is fully aware of their presence, yet chooses to do nothing about it. What she does do is ignore Top Dollar’s drug use. When Grange and T-Bird arrive at Club Trash’s lair, Myca can be seen turning her body away from Top Dollar, facing her guests. Before Top Dollar consumes the drugs for the second time in this scene, Myca gets up from the table she is laying on and walks away from the situation. Even though she does return to sit beside Top Dollar, she ends up holding his hair back as he consumes the drugs for the third and final time in this scene.

An arrow pointing to Myca’s goblet and a circle around Top Dollar’s plate of drugs highlight how close they are to each other.
Before T-Bird and Grange show up, Myca is facing Top Dollar.
After T-Bird and Grange arrive, Myca turns away from Top Dollar and faces her guests.
The arrow is pointing to Myca’s shoulder, as she is rolling off the table and moving away from Top Dollar.

The previous scene I talked about isn’t the only time Myca turns a blind eye to Top Dollar’s harmful choices. When Gideon pays a visit to Club Trash’s lair, the intent of his visit is to call Top Dollar out for his lack of involvement. This is in relation to Gideon’s Pawn Shop being burned down in an earlier scene. It is in this current scene where Top Dollar reveals he and Myca are half-siblings. After this secret is revealed, Myca places her foot on Gideon’s chest as Top Dollar points his sword at Gideon, both actions attempting to intimidate their guest. Shortly after Gideon tells Top Dollar and Myca “I ain’t twisted like you two fucks”, Top Dollar proceeds to stab Gideon with his sword. Before Top Dollar receives a gun from Grange, Myca can be seen turning her head away from the situation. She turns her head back after Top Dollar kills Gideon.

This picture illustrates how Myca is enabling Top Dollar’s behavior by helping him intimidate Gideon.
This is the same picture/scene as above, but from a different angle.
This is a photo of Myca as she is turning her head away from Top Dollar’s crime, before he shoots Gideon.
This photo shows Top Dollar and Myca after he shoots Gideon, with Myca turning her head back.

When I first watched The Crow, I was really confused by Top Dollar and Myca’s decision to enable each other. Judging by their body language, their love for one another seems obvious. So, seeing them enable the other to hurt themselves or other people told a conflicting story. After talking with some fans of this film, I came up with three likely reasons why Top Dollar and Myca choose to enable one another. The first reason relates to the possible upbringing I talked about in my first point. Because Top Dollar and Myca were likely exposed to dark and harmful things for so long and often, these things have become their “normal”. The second reason is the precedent Top Dollar places on his environment. Since he is the leader of his villainous group, he is the one who sets that precedent, which is a “I don’t care because it’s none of my business” attitude/mindset. With that said, why should Myca be expected to care about Top Dollar’s drug use or violence when he doesn’t seem to care how or where she acquires eyeballs? The third and final reason is how the final product benefits them. As I already mentioned, Top Dollar only gets involved in Myca’s “activity of leisure” after she makes the smoke. This allows him to enjoy the fruits of her labor without worrying about how the smoke is created. In a meeting at Club Trash’s lair, Myca says “I like the pretty lights”, referencing the fires taking place throughout Detroit. This statement alone shows that Myca doesn’t seem to care how those fires came to fruition, but instead how these “pretty lights” make her feel.

This picture from The Crow: The Movie clearly shows Top Dollar and Myca looking disinterested in each other’s concerns and needs.

No Meaningful Conversations

As I said in my editorial, ‘Toxic Valentine: Why Lestat and Akasha’s relationship is very problematic in Queen of the Damned (2002)’, words are needed to build/strengthen a bond. In The Crow, the audience can hear Top Dollar and Myca talking to each other instead of at each other. But when one truly listens to what these characters are saying, it is evident how Top Dollar and Myca are not having meaningful conversations with one another. There are two scenes showing them carrying on a conversation. In the first scene, Myca sees Top Dollar becoming emotional over a snow globe. She acknowledges this by telling him “You are thinking about the past”. However, after Top Dollar tells her the story behind the snow globe, she changes the subject to the dead woman in the room. While Myca does give Top Dollar physical affection by hugging him and kissing him on the head, she doesn’t use words to get to the root of the unidentified problem. No questions about why this snow globe causes Top Dollar to get so emotional are asked. Similar personal moments or comforting sentiments are not shared either. Because of Myca’s decision to not verbally help Top Dollar through his emotions, those feelings and personal turmoil are bottled up and unaddressed instead of being resolved.

A picture of Top Dollar and Myca hugging before she learns the origins of the snow globe.
Instead of verbally comforting Top Dollar, Myca kisses his head.

In the second scene, Top Dollar wishes he were hungrier. He reveals this to Myca after she tells him “You are very restless”. But instead of trying to help Top Dollar find a solution to his problem, Myca says “Be careful what you ask for”. Hunger is a basic need, with eating being an important part of human life. The fact Myca is ignoring this basic need, especially after Top Dollar addressed it to her is concerning. In this same scene, Myca tells Top Dollar “There are energies aligning against you”. His response to her concern is “Seeing is believing, isn’t it?”. Like Myca’s response to Top Dollar’s hunger, Top Dollar’s reaction is also concerning. He doesn’t question what these “energies” are or try to verbally put Myca’s worries at ease. These examples in this point highlight what I talked about earlier: the precedent in Top Dollar and Myca’s environment carrying a “I don’t care because it’s none of my business” attitude/mindset.

In this picture, Top Dollar clearly looks like he doesn’t care about Myca’s concerns.

They Treat Others Horribly

Similar to Akasha from Queen of the Damned, Top Dollar and Myca treat other people horribly. This horrible treatment is experienced by most of the members of their community as well. Like I mentioned earlier, Top Dollar intimidates and kills Gideon, with Myca helping Top Dollar intimidate their guest. I also mentioned the dead woman whose eyes were removed by Myca. However, these are just two examples of their hurtful ways toward others. Whenever something bad happens to someone with a lower social ranking, Top Dollar does not show any amount of sympathy for them. Instead, he treats their misfortune as a joke. When T-Bird visits Club Trash’s lair, he informs Top Dollar of Tin Tin’s death. Top Dollar says he’ll provide a moment of silence for Tin Tin, but uses that time to consume more drugs. Later in the movie, at a meeting in Club Trash’s lair, Top Dollar tells the attendees how T-Bird will not come to their gathering. He says T-Bird has “a kind of a slight case of death” as if passing away is simply an inconvenience. This causes some of the meeting attendees to chuckle, like Top Dollar told a funny joke.

This photo highlights how annoyed Top Dollar looks by T-Bird’s death.

It should also be noted how complete strangers are not safe from Top Dollar and Myca’s harmful choices. As the story progresses, Eric Draven learns his and Shelly’s murders were caused by Top Dollar, as he ordered some of his members to remove Eric and Shelly from their apartment. When Eric crashes the meeting at Club Trash’s lair, Top Dollar orders the meeting’s attendees to kill Eric. While these attendees shoot Eric, Myca stands beside Top Dollar and watches the violence upfold. After the meeting ends earlier than expected, Top Dollar and Myca kidnap Sarah. They do this in an attempt to lure Eric and The Crow toward them, planning to kill both of them in the process. Based on the examples I provided, it is obvious that Top Dollar is the one who causes most of this harm, with Myca as his bystander.

As Top Dollar orders the meeting’s attendees to shoot Eric, Myca simply watches the violence unfold.
This is the same picture/scene as above, but from a closer angle.

No Sense of Shame

The most blatant aspect of Top Dollar and Myca’s part of the story is how they have no sense of shame for what they say and do. This is because they are never given a reason to feel a sense of shame. In Top Dollar and Myca’s environment, there are no “voices of reason” to hold them accountable for their actions and choices. Even when someone, like Gideon, tries to become a “voice of reason”, they end up facing consequences instead of Top Dollar and Myca. Two reasons are likely why “voices of reason” don’t exist in Top Dollar and Myca’s world. Like I’ve been saying in this editorial, the precedent in this environment carries a “I don’t care because it’s none of my business” attitude/mindset. Since Top Dollar and Myca don’t express any concern for others, the people in their environment have no incentive to care what Top Dollar and Myca do. Fear can also be a contributing factor. Top Dollar and Myca have the two highest social ranks in their environment. So, this fact can be a motivator to keep others in line. Out of all the people who work for Top Dollar and Myca, Skank is the only one who openly expresses this fear. After being forced to attend the meeting at Club Trash’s lair, Skank cowers in his seat when Top Dollar calls him out. Skank’s demeanor clearly displays unease, like he is afraid of upsetting Top Dollar. In a community where people are too afraid to speak up, it is no wonder Top Dollar and Myca’s behavior is allowed to run rampant.

This picture illustrates how Skank is cowering in his seat.
This other picture shows the fear in Skank’s face, emphasizing how uncomfortable he is near Top Dollar.

The one person who should have been a “voice of reason” is Grange. As Top Dollar and Myca’s bodyguard and the closest person to them, his job is to look out for their best interests. What he does instead is enable Top Dollar and Myca, as well as encourage them, to carry on their harmful ways. When T-Bird goes to Club Trash, he tells Grange he’d like to meet with Top Dollar. Grange says that won’t be possible because Top Dollar is in a meeting. The next scene reveals Grange’s lie, as Top Dollar is in a bedroom with Myca and a dead woman. This scene shows how Grange is enabling Top Dollar and Myca’s inappropriate sibling relationship while also turning a blind eye to it. When Top Dollar stabs Gideon during his visit to Club Trash’s lair, Grange gives Top Dollar the gun that would ultimately kill Gideon. He also tells Top Dollar and Myca he’ll get someone to remove the dead body. Later in the movie, when Myca discovers a connection between Eric and The Crow, Grange says “So kill the crow, then destroy the man”. He tells Top Dollar and Myca this as a way to enable them to hurt Eric and The Crow. Grange’s reaction to Top Dollar and Myca’s other harmful decisions, like kidnapping Sarah and enabling one another, is either silently playing along or ignoring the problem altogether. With all things considered, Grange shows how he isn’t doing his job well.

When Grange visits Top Dollar and Myca in Club Trash’s lair, he never points out their “activities of leisure” or calls them out for hurting themselves or others.

After I published my editorial about Lestat and Akasha’s relationship, I naively thought I would never come across or even talk about a relationship worse than theirs. But when I watched The Crow for the first time, Top Dollar and Myca proved that idea wrong. I can say with all honesty their relationship is one of the worst I’ve ever seen in cinema. It is so toxic, red flags pop up every time they appear on screen. At first glance, it seems like Top Dollar and Myca love each other. But when one looks beyond the surface, it is plain to see how weak their relationship is. They don’t have a strong sense of care for one another. When something important is addressed, whether it’s a concern, need, or feelings, Top Dollar and Myca ignore them. They also allow each other to hurt themselves or other people with no attempts at intervention. With the way they care so little about the other, it makes me wonder why Top Dollar and Myca are even together at all? But because their backstory would probably be as dark and harmful as the choices they make, maybe it’s better to leave that question unanswered.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

References:

The Crow 1994

The Crow: The story behind the film by Bridget Baiss

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(nwj0dk1ejwrt2atsnhskh4od))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-750-520B

Sally Watches…Touched by an Angel (Again)!

As I mentioned in my recent Word On The Street story, the newest Signed, Sealed, Delivered movie is on its way. Premiering on October 17th, this movie will bring their audience a new chapter to a story that started all the way back in 2013. The series is executive produced by Martha Williamson, who also executive produced Touched by an Angel. Similar to Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Touched by an Angel has seen many guest stars appear over the course of the show’s nine season life-span. One of them was Bai Ling, who guest starred on Touched by an Angel in 1998.

Even though I have seen many episodes of Touched by an Angel before, I don’t recall ever seeing the two-part episode, “The Spirit of Liberty Moon”, the episode I’ll be reviewing for this post. Prior to writing this article, I had heard it was “one of the most moving episodes from the television drama”. With curiosity getting the better of me and because Bai’s birthday is on October 10th, I decided to revisit this show and review this particular episode. Two years ago, I wrote about another Touched by an Angel episode, “The Sky Is Falling”. Like that post, what will be discussed is what I liked about this episode, what I didn’t like about this episode, the story itself, the other factors from this episode, and my overall thoughts.

This is a screenshot of one of the Touched by an Angel DVDs I own. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

Last November, I reviewed an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street titled “And The Rockets Dead Glare”. In that post, I talked about how, while portraying Teri Chow, Bai was forced to rely on emotion instead of actions. This was compared to her characters in The Crow and Lost; Myca and Achara. Because of how effectively she used emotion, Bai was the stand-out actor in “And The Rockets Dead Glare”! I’ve seen only a handful of projects from Bai’s filmography. Despite this, I have noticed that she has a strong sense of emotionality. She not only knows how to control that emotionality, but also how to use that control to her advantage. Portraying a character named Jean Chang, the emotions Bai brought to her role in “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” felt realistic and genuine. Earlier in the episode, Jean crosses paths with Monica and Edward, a toy company CEO, at a local Chinese restaurant. In an attempt to recruit her for an upcoming business trip, they ask Jean why she doesn’t want to go to China. This is where Jean explains her very heart-breaking life story. Throughout this explanation, Bai’s emotions flawlessly adapted with each part of Jean’s story, ranging from blissful reminiscing to tear-inducing sadness. This strength in Bai’s acting abilities allows her performance to contain depth. It also gave the audience a reason to feel empathy/sympathy for Jean.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

One of Edward’s co-workers is his friend, Alex Stella. Throughout “The Spirit of Liberty Moon”, Alex was rude and self-centered, especially toward Jean. It got to the point where his attitude became so annoying, it was tiresome to watch him in a static state. I understand Alex was meant to show the viewer that, sometimes, people won’t change, no matter how hard you try. I’ll also admit this is not a bad lesson to teach. But because of this episode’s story and because of the nature of Touched by an Angel, I wish the angels had paid Alex a visit and opened his eyes to selflessness.

The story itself:

Touched by an Angel is a show that was not afraid to take creative risks. “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” is a perfect example of that statement. I haven’t seen the movie, Red Corner, but I am familiar with its basic premise. The story of “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” is very reminiscent of the film due to topics discussed within the script. Criticism of China’s government and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests are the two major subjects revolving around this episode. Because of the serious nature of these subjects, “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” was heart-breaking and gut-wrenching. Similar to the Touched by an Angel episode, “The Sky Is Falling”, the story of “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” is a fictional narrative wrapped up in a real-life historical event. During Jean’s recollection of her past, black-and-white flashbacks and video footage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests were shown on screen. The use of these visual techniques presented an interesting and creative way to discuss a piece of world history.

The other factors from this episode:

  • As I mentioned earlier, Alex is rude and self-centered, especially toward Jean. To further explain my point, I will bring up two examples from this episode. When Monica suggests a translator should join their business trip to China, Alex suggests speaking to Jean about the idea. While Edward assumes Jean’s ethnicity based on her appearance, Alex carries that assumption into his and Monica’s meeting with Jean. Even though Jean calls Alex out on his assumptions during this meeting about the aforementioned idea, Alex’s promotion of the idea itself should have been more professional. When Alex, Edward, and Monica have lunch at a local Chinese restaurant, Jean soon arrives. The three then discover Jean had lied about her ethnicity. Upset by this discovery, Alex approaches Jean and yells at her in public, accusing her of lying about other things. I understand Alex was disappointed by Jean’s decision. Even Jean admitted that her decision was wrong. But, like I said about the previous example, Alex could have handled this situation more professionally and in private.
  • Throughout the episode, Edward and Jean develop “romantic” feelings for one another. I’m using the word “romantic” loosely, as the only romantic gestures they perform are holding hands and Edward kissing Jean’s head. When a romantic relationship is introduced in a movie or television show, it is usually done with an endgame in mind. Without giving anything away, there wasn’t an endgame for Jean and Edward’s relationship. Their relationship also felt “insta-love”, as it progressed at a quick pace. With all that said, I don’t think a romantic relationship was necessary for this particular story.
  • Touched by an Angel shows the angels going undercover in different professions based on an episode’s mission. In “The Spirit of Liberty Moon”, Monica goes undercover as the Chinese consultant of Edward’s toy company. As Monica interacts with Edward and Alex, I was confused why Monica was the Chinese consultant instead of Jean. When Alex was explaining what Monica would do on their business trip, it made me wonder why Jean wasn’t originally recruited for the consultant position, especially since she knows more about China than Monica. But, without giving anything away, it makes sense why this choice was not made.

My overall thoughts:

“The Spirit of Liberty Moon” is a tough episode to write about. On the one hand, I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from watching it. It contains one of the strongest stories in the show’s history and features strong acting performances, especially from Bai Ling. On the other hand, “The Spirit of Liberty Moon” is not for the faint of heart. This episode is so emotionally intense, I was left mentally drained after watching it. Because of that, the episode doesn’t have a high re-watchability rate. What I will say is this story is an important one. In fact, I would say this episode’s story is one of the most important Touched by an Angel has ever told. So, if you’re interested in watching “The Spirit of Liberty Moon”, my advice would be to watch it in the right headspace. Speaking of Bai Ling, I realized something while watching this episode. As I said earlier, I’ve seen only a handful of projects from Bai’s filmography. Based on her roles I have seen, I noticed how her characters are, more often than not, surrounded by unfortunate circumstances. Myca is one of the villains of The Crow, so her unfortunate circumstances don’t cause the audience to feel any empathy/sympathy for her. But for Teri, Achara, and now Jean, their unfortunate circumstances can, to varying degrees, cause feelings of empathy/sympathy from the audience. During my movie blogging journey, I hope to see Bai portraying a character whose circumstances are more fortunate and happier.

Rating: A solid 4 out of 5

Birthday cake image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/chocolate-birthday-cakes-collection_765437.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/birthday”>Birthday vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Have you watched Touched by an Angel? If so, which episode is your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun on television!

Sally Silverscreen

The Last of the Gold Sally Awards Polls Have Arrived!

Now is the time for the last polls of the Gold Sally Awards! This time around, you will be voting on which on-screen couple is the best one from a movie I saw last year. You will also be selecting a nominee for Sally’s Star of the Year. For the on-screen couple poll, you can vote for more than one nominee. But, you can only vote once per person. The link to the poll is at the bottom of the poll. Just click on the word, “PollMaker”. With the Sally’s Star of the Year Award, you can only choose one nominee per person. Your nomination can be submitted in the comment section of this post. You can learn more about the award at these links:

Announcing the Gold Sally Awards’ Hallmark Star of the Year!

The moment you’ve all been waiting for; The Gold Sally Award’s Star of the Year Award!

Both polls will be running from today, August 21st to August 28th. Due to technical difficulties, I’m unable to update the right side of the homepage. Because of that, my blog logo advertising the Gold Sally Awards Polls will still read “CLICK MY BLOG’S LOGO TO VOTE FOR THE GOLD SALLY AWARD’S BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS AND BEST ENSEMBLE OF 2021”.


Who Was the Best On-Screen Couple of 2020?

 

Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson — Anchors Aweigh
Diane Lane and Neal McDonough — Grace & Glorie
Frank Sinatra and Pamela Britton — Anchors Aweigh
Omri Katz and Kellie Martin — Matinee
Jeff Daniels and Marlee Matlin — Sweet Nothing in My Ear
Ally Walker and Tom Amandes — If You Believe
Anne Hathaway and Charlie Hunnam — Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
Jay Underwood and Lucy Deakins — The Boy Who Could Fly
Michael Wincott and Bai Ling — The Crow
Jill Wagner and Kristoffer Polaha — Mystery 101: An Education in Murder
Created with PollMaker

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

Why Bai Ling Should Join the Main Cast of ‘When Calls the Heart’

When I accepted The Sunshine Blogger Award and The Blogger Recognition Award back in February, I said I wanted to see Bai Ling join the main cast of When Calls the Heart, portraying Hope Valley’s first female Mountie. I also mentioned wanting to see this happen in my list of Hallmark’s Top 10 Missteps From the 2010s That Should Not Be Repeated. However, these explanations were brief. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Out of all the actresses you’d want to see star on one of your favorite TV shows, why Bai Ling?” Well, that is a very good question, and I’m about to give some very good answers! In this editorial, I will provide four major reasons why Bai Ling should join the main cast of When Calls the Heart. Before I thoroughly explain these reasons, I want to bring up three disclaimers. This editorial is meant to be a suggestion to the creative team of the show. So, any casting decisions are up to them. Bai’s career is her own, which means that whether or not she wants to star on When Calls the Heart is a decision only she can make. Whenever I refer to the main cast of the show, I am talking about the actors and actresses who appear in the opening sequence of each episode.

Here is a screenshot from Bai’s Asian Voices interview from 2018. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, AsianVoices Tv.

Bai Would Represent a Series of Firsts for the Show

Since 2014, many characters have come and gone throughout the overall story of When Calls the Heart. Whether these characters have made short appearances or claimed Hope Valley as their permanent residence, each individual has had an important role to play. In the seven and a half season lifespan of the show, there have been no Asian characters featured in any part of the story. Also, no female Mounties have arrived in Hope Valley or any area of Canada. Just in Hope Valley alone, several female characters have been portrayed and written as independent individuals who lead successful lives. From season six to season eight, Fiona Miller has evolved from a telephone operator to a small business owner. Though she has had her obstacles along the way, Fiona has overcome each one in order to achieve her dreams. Having a female Mountie would fit the narrative When Calls the Heart’s creative team has carried since the very beginning. As fans have heard and seen from other on-screen Mounties, this particular job has its challenges. However, I know this new character would prove that she is just as important as the others in Hope Valley!

When Lori Loughlin was removed from the cast due to her involvement in the infamous College Admissions Scandal, When Calls the Heart’s main cast was left without an actress over the age of fifty. The main cast has also not featured any actors or actresses who weren’t white. Because Bai Ling happens to be in her mid-50s, she would become the first actress over fifty to join the main cast in two years. Bai would be the first Asian cast member not only in the main cast, but in the entire show’s history as well.  If Bai’s character chose to form a romantic relationship with either Bill Avery or Henry Gowan, they would become the first prominent interracial couple on When Calls the Heart. Up until this point, the show has had only one interracial couple, which were Robert’s parents. But they only made a brief appearance in the 2017 movie, When Calls the Heart: The Christmas Wishing Tree.

When Calls the Heart poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. 

New Storytelling Opportunities

In the seven years that When Calls the Heart has stayed on the air, many stories have been included in the script. Each story has explored a different character’s background or a different component of the town. If Bai Ling were to join the main cast of the show and portray Hope Valley’s first female Mountie, that would call for a new story to be told. What would it look like to have a female Mountie in the 1910s, when female Mounties were not as common as they are now? What obstacles would this new character face? These are questions that would be answered if this story were introduced. Since When Calls the Heart has never had a female Mountie before, it would be interesting to see her dynamic among the other characters. Would she be friends with those who have appeared on the show for a long period of time or get along better with those who have been on the show for less than three years? Bai is Chinese, so the screenwriters could find ways to incorporate her culture and heritage into her character’s story. Hallmark has never acknowledged the Chinese Lunar New Year in any of their programs. Having one episode revolving around this holiday would be a good place to start.

Here is a screenshot from Bai’s Artist TV interview from 2014. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Szina1000

Bai is an Underrated Actress with Years of Acting Experience

When Calls the Heart has seen many actors and actresses make their appearances on the show. Some of these actors have household names, such as Brooke Shields. Others have been underrated, like Max Lloyd-Jones. But no matter what status an actor has, the majority of the show’s actors have had at least some acting experience before they starred in an episode. For these points, I’ll bring up Jack Wagner and Pascale Hutton as examples. For thirty years, Jack starred on the soap opera, General Hospital. Within that timeframe, he gained acting experience as well as notoriety. When Jack joined When Calls the Heart’s main cast, his fanbase and notoriety grew, giving him a “standing ovation.” Before she became a series regular, Pascale was given small to supporting roles in two Hallmark productions: 2010’s A Family Thanksgiving and 2014’s Recipe for Love. After making her first appearance toward the end of the first season as Rosemary, Pascale made a household name for herself in the Hallmark community. During her time on When Calls the Heart, Pascale has starred in ten Hallmark films! On June 5th, she will star in her eleventh movie from the network, You Had Me at Aloha!

According to IMDB, Bai Ling has 132 acting credits. While I haven’t seen all of the projects listed, I have watched a few of them, with two of those projects being covered on 18 Cinema Lane (a review of The Crow and a review of an episode from the television show Homicide: Life on the Street). Out of Bai’s projects I’ve seen, two of them have been television show episodes from Homicide: Life on the Street and Lost. However, she was given guest-starring roles in those episodes, working with a limited amount of material. In an interview from 2009, Bai Ling said the following in regards to her career:

“On the other hand, there’s one thing I hope even though I’m grateful: I think other roles I have been offered are not near the level of my talent as an actress. I’m hungry for those great magical roles like Kate Winslet gets. Like my role in Red Corner. I also won an Asian Academy Award, but here, those roles don’t come along for me. I can make magic. Magic is a beautiful gift as an actress to play all these different characters. Those opportunities, I am open for.”

The creative team behind When Calls the Heart has a beautiful opportunity to grant Bai’s wishes. Placing Bai in the main cast would give her more acting material than she has received from other television shows. It would also allow her to receive the recognition she deserves.

This is a page from The Crow: The Movie about Bai Ling that was featured in my review of Homicide: Life on the Street. I thought it would be appropriate to include it in this editorial. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Casting Bai Would Force Hallmark to Address Some of Their Hypocrisy

In my list of Hallmark’s Top 10 Missteps From the 2010s That Should Not Be Repeated, I brought up how Hallmark has become blatantly hypocritical since 2019. Their stance on diversity is one area where Hallmark’s hypocrisy has been obvious. Last year, George Zaralidis, Hallmark’s network program publicity vice president, said, “Diversity and inclusion is a top priority for us.” But the network’s actions have been much louder than their words. I will bring up the Canfield family as an example for this point. Season eight has seen the introduction of the Canfield family. Now that the show is about halfway through the season, the Canfield family has appeared in less than ten scenes total. They also haven’t received a major storyline yet. When they do face a conflict, it is resolved in the episode after it was introduced. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and her love triangle have been covered for two and a half seasons. It also has been heavily promoted in the show’s marketing, even when an episode has little or nothing to do with the love triangle. On a recent cover of TV Guide, the only cast members that were featured were Erin Krakow, Chris McNally, and Kevin McGarry. The cover’s caption read “Who will Elizabeth choose? The irresistible love triangle of Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart.” The Canfield family or any other character were not only absent from the cover, but they were also not referenced. Emphasizing one character or storyline is hypocritical, as it undermines the other characters and stories the show has to offer. When Calls the Heart was never meant to be about one character, but about the town as a whole. If Bai Ling were to join this show’s main cast, Hallmark would have no choice but to address some of these hypocrisies. This means When Calls the Heart’s creative team would have to give Bai a significant amount of screen-time and a significant number of lines in the script. She would also have to be significantly featured in When Calls the Heart’s marketing.

This is the cover of TV Guide that I referred to in my editorial. Cover created by TV Guide.

Auggie Pullman, from Wonder, once said “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.” For seven years, When Calls the Heart has given many people their “standing ovations” both in front of the camera and behind it. The show’s creative team has created a place where various talents and skills are celebrated. A lifetime of stories have been told because of the show’s desire to give as many people the recognition they deserve. While a ninth season has not been announced yet, fans have already been making requests for the next season. But these requests have revolved around which suitor Elizabeth will choose. What makes my suggestion different is that it is more meaningful than Elizabeth’s decision, and that it will outlive the hype surrounding the love triangle. At the end of day, it’s about bringing a new voice and perspective to Hope Valley’s table. As I bring this editorial to a close, I have to ask: What makes Bai Ling any different from the other cast and crew members on When Calls the Heart? Doesn’t she deserve a standing ovation too?

Sally Silverscreen

Here are the links where quotes or information came from:

Bai Ling lives the high-voltage life

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/a35879351/when-calls-the-heart-season-9-renewal/

https://www.msn.com/en-us/entertainment/news/hallmark-will-include-lgbtq-storylines-in-christmas-movie-lineup-diversity-and-inclusion-are-top-priority-for-us/ar-BB16Py6W