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

Evenings At The Shore: You’re Never Too Old for a Balloon

During a phone conversation, Nell tells Arthur how he’s never too old for a balloon. While she was referencing his birthday, Nell’s quote stuck out to me. When you think of a balloon, simpler and happier times usually come to mind. From the way I interpreted her quote, I think what Nell is trying to say is how you’re never too old to enjoy the simpler and happier things in life. Throughout the series, we have seen the characters try to achieve this in their lives. By Jess and David working together at The Inn at Eagle Point, they always appear to be happy. Megan has re-visited a passion from her past, currently using it to help a fellow artist. But there are characters whose passions are still unknown, the audience left wondering what truly makes them happy. Until that can be discovered, let’s re-cap this episode of Chesapeake Shores!

Just a reminder: If you did not see this episode of Chesapeake Shores, there are spoilers in this re-cap.

Chesapeake Shores Season 5 poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel.

Season: 5

Episode: 6

Name: Love is Here to Stay

Abby’s story: Abby continues to work with Evan on their hotel project. But due to the possibility of the hotel residing on a potential excavation site, the project may come to a halt. In the previous episode, some artifacts were discovered by Abby. In this episode, a representative from the Smithsonian reveals to Abby and Mick how more artifacts were found. The representative also shares that the artifacts might belong to a ship from the 1600s. Because of these findings, the site where the hotel project resides is now deemed an excavation site. Before this news is revealed to Evan, Evan discovers the elevator company working on the project is one that he doesn’t like. He also tells Abby that it bothers him how she kicked him in the head at Tae Kwon-Do class the other day. Later in the episode, after returning from his trip to Iceland, Evan apologizes to Abby by offering her a sweater. Abby uses this time as an opportunity to tell Evan about the hotel project site finds. Before leaving Abby’s office, Evan tells her he’ll think about pulling out of the project. Abby gets her answer at Jess and David’s wedding, as Evan was invited by the bride and groom. He tells Abby he is pulling out of the hotel project, which upsets Abby.

Bree’s story: While walking to her car at the University of Maryland, Jerome keeps Bree company by walking with her. During their conversation, she mentions how she’ll not only be attending her sister’s wedding, but she’ll also be officiating it. Bree invites Jerome to be her plus one. He accepts her invitation and gives her a kiss. One day, while on the beach with Abby, Bree shares what happened at the University. She also reveals there’s another guy she is interested in. At Jess and David’s reception, Jerome apologizes to Bree for spontaneously kissing her. They both agree to act like it never happened. During the event, Bree learns that Kevin invited Luke to the wedding. To avoid any awkwardness, she spends time with Luke after Jerome leaves the reception. But, while Bree and Luke are dancing, Jerome sees them together.

Connor’s story: Connor has spent the past two weeks unemployed. He feels defeated about his dream job turning into a nightmare. However, Mick’s case is what helped make Connor’s decision to leave a little easier. Connor seriously considers his father’s advice of starting a firm in Chesapeake Shores. He even looks at a property for sale, a building that used to be the town’s pet store. While Connor shows his father the property, Mick is impressed with the building’s architecture. He is also impressed with Connor’s blue-print for the firm. Mick not only offers to help, he also gives Connor valuable advice. He tells his son that one of the most important parts of growing up is knowing when to ask for help.

Bride and Groom image created by Freepik at freepik.com  <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/nice-couple-wedding-invitation_841530.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/wedding”>Wedding vector created by Freepik</a> Image found at freepik.com

Jess and David’s story: During the week of the wedding, Jess keeps having recurring dreams about something bad happening to David. So, she wants to get married as soon as possible, in order for these dreams to stop. While David doesn’t think much of the dreams, Jess’s siblings have their own ideas of whether her dreams will go away after the wedding. Despite all of this, the wedding runs smoothly with no issue in sight. Even the reception turns out great! David’s parents change their minds about the wedding location, as they think it was perfect for David and Jess. When Abby asks Jess what she thinks of her wedding, Jess says it was better than her dreams, especially since David survived.

Arthur and Nell’s story: One day, Nell calls Arthur to wish him a Happy Birthday. Arthur responds by telling her it’s been a long time since anyone has called him on his special day. During this call, Nell tells him to go to his front door. After listening to Nell’s directions, Arthur discovers a basket of baked goods on his doorstep. In this basket, he finds birthday cards from Kerry and Caitlyn. When Arthur discovers the artwork inside Kerry’s card, he gets an idea. Later in the episode, Arthur gives Kerry his painting supplies. He explains how he hasn’t used them in years, believing Kerry will put them to better use. When Kerry expresses how nervous she is to paint anything, Arthur tells her to paint anything how she sees it.

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.

Some thoughts to consider:

  • In this episode, Bree expresses her interest in Luke. But she doesn’t know about his past yet. As of this point in the season, the only person who knows about Luke’s past is Mick. If Bree did find out, I wonder how she’ll respond to that information? Would her interest in Luke change?
  • While Arthur performed a nice gesture by giving his art supplies to Kerry, it did make me ask one question. When Arthur said he hadn’t used the supplies in years, I wondered if the paint had expired? For Kerry’s sake, I’m hoping the paint is still good to use. Otherwise, replacing all that paint would probably get expensive.
  • I’m glad this episode didn’t contain the “planning-a-wedding-in-an-unrealistic-time-period” cliché. However, I wish Jess’s concerns over her dreams had been taken more seriously. It was kind of frustrating to see her family brush off her concerns like they were no big deal. Even David didn’t offer any words of encouragement. From a screen-writing perspective, I know creating a subplot out of this concept would have been difficult. But I don’t think Jess’s concerns should have been glossed over like they were.
Evening view from the shore image created by 0melapics at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/landscape-in-a-swamp-at-night_1042860.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by 0melapics – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What did you think of this episode? Are you looking forward to the next one? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun in Chesapeake Shores!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas Review

For my last movie review of 2019, I’m going to talk about the newest film in the When Calls the Heart series, When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas! Since I reviewed last year’s movie, When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing and since I re-cap the show, I thought it would be fitting to keep up the continuity. While I liked the previous movie, I had lower expectations for this year’s project. This was caused by how unappealing the film’s synopsis sounded to me. In a Word on the Street story last month, I discussed how I felt about the synopsis for this movie. To me, it seemed like the screenwriters were running out of ideas and not taking advantage of beautiful story-telling opportunities. It also seemed like they were repeating the same mistakes they made in the previous film. But, like I do for every movie I watch and/or review, I watched When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas with an open mind. I thought that, maybe, the movie could be better than the synopsis made it sound. Was I right or wrong in my guess? We’re about to find out in this review of When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas!

When Calls the Heart -- Home for Christmas poster
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.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Like last year’s movie, the acting in When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas was one of the strongest elements of the project! Everyone in this cast was talented, bringing their characters to life with a sense of well-roundedness. From newer characters, like Nate’s niece, Allie, to veterans of the show, such as Bill Avery, it was a pleasure to see these characters come back on television. What works in this cast’s favor is how most of the cast members have appeared on the show for at least one season. This helps keep up the consistency of both the performances and the overall narrative. It also shows how comfortable these actors and actresses were in the roles they were given.

Learning about backstories through Christmas traditions: At several moments of the movie, the audience got the chance to receive more backstories from some the characters through the sharing of Christmas traditions. With the incorporation of Hope Valley’s Christmas Festival, we learn that one of Lucas’ favorite memories was visiting a German Christmas festival with his parents. Another example is Nate’s Christmas present for Allie. For Christmas, he gets her a charm bracelet. Nate’s sister and Allie’s mom used to have a charm bracelet and would receive a new charm every Christmas. This was an interesting way to learn about these characters. It not only expands the character development, but it also gives the audience story material before the start of the next season.

The character interactions: Similar to last year’s film, I liked seeing the character interactions in When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas! One of the reasons why is because of the on-screen chemistry between the actors within the cast. But the other reason why I enjoyed watching these interactions was because they felt genuine and thoughtful. A great example is the interaction between Florence and Fiona. In this scene, they give each other Christmas gifts that are telephone related: Florence receives a telephone necklace and Fiona receives an embroidered piece of art about keeping people connected. This was my favorite character interaction because it showed Florence and Fiona putting effort into these gifts as well as the growth of their friendship. It was not only well-acted, but also well-written!

211460-OZXMWS-906
Christmas Tree with boxes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-tree-out-of-gift-boxes_1448089.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

What I didn’t like about the film:

Too many plots: There were about eight plots found in When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas. Because the film was only an hour and thirty minutes, there was not enough time for these plots to be fully developed. Instead of lending themselves to an engaging story, they ended up competing against each other to see which one could be the most memorable. What also didn’t help was how almost all of these plots were basic and surface-level. Most of them felt like they could have been featured on any episode of the show, as they seemed ordinary and mundane. The only plot that had any amount of intrigue was Carson and Faith’s story.

Under-utilized characters: When a movie or television show has a cast this large, there are bound to be characters that receive more screen-time than others. But in this movie, there are some characters that could have benefitted from having their own story. Henry Gowan is a perfect example of this. Since Henry doesn’t receive his own plot, this gives him very little to do in the movie. It also doesn’t give Martin Cummins, the actor who portrays Henry Gowan, much material to work with as an actor. Jesse and Clara are another good example. They got engaged at the end of season six, so we could have seen them get married during Christmas-time. Instead, Jesse and Clara’s story was reduced to them saving Lucas Bouchard’s reputation. I understand that the show’s creative team wants to save some story material for the upcoming season. But a Christmas wedding could have been an eventful way to end Hallmark Channel’s Christmas line-up.

Plot points that don’t make sense: Throughout this film, there were some plot points that didn’t make sense. For this part of the review, I’ll give you two examples. The first involves a new character named Walter. He claims to be a struggling traveling salesman, selling his only coat for gas money and not having the funds for a new tire. If Walter is having that much trouble acquiring a steady income, then how he is able to afford a car? Vehicles require constant upkeep in order for them to run smoothly. For Walter to be able to maintain his car’s well-being, he would probably have to sell more belongings of his over a significant period of time. The second example involves Rosemary. After learning about a dilemma related to Hope Valley’s Christmas Festival, Rosemary complains to Lee about Lucas’ poor event planning skills. She then complains about how Lucas should have asked her for help. Ever since her introduction in season one, Rosemary has always been a determined and headstrong woman. No matter what happens, she finds a way to discover a solution to any problem. For Rosemary to not volunteer with any event planning and for her to expect to be asked for anything doesn’t make any sense with her character development.

05
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.

My overall impression:

In 2018, I gave a good review to When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing. While I had issues with the film, there were things about it that I liked. With When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas, however, I can’t give it a good review. But I can’t give it a bad review either. At best, I found the movie to be ok. It had its strengths, like the acting and Christmas traditions serving as opportunities for character development. At worst, this film was a rushed “filler” project that tried so hard to say so much, but ended up saying so little. It felt like the creative team behind this show just wanted to get this movie done and over with so they could move on to the next project. If anything, it was less of a movie and more of an extended episode. After watching this film, I’m kind of concerned for the next season. It doesn’t help when the only thing that was shown in the commercial for season seven was Elizabeth looking at both Nate and Lucas. I’m hoping it is better than this movie was, but I’m starting to wonder if the show’s creative team is still passionate about this story?

Overall score: 6 out of 10

What did you think of this film? Are you looking forward to the next season of When Calls the Heart? Tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen