Take 3: Kingdom of Heaven Review

This is my second year participating in the Rule, Britannia Blogathon. In 2020, I reviewed the 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, a movie I ended up liking so much, I now want to read the source material. For the 8th annual event, I chose to write about another film from the 2000s; 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven. This is a movie I have heard about, but never got around to seeing. Until this blogathon, it had sat on my DVR for three years. Since the movie stars Orlando Bloom, a British actor, the Rule, Britannia Blogathon seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally check the film out. One of the few things I knew about this movie was that it had something to do with the Crusades. This is a time period I know very little about. However, this didn’t stop me from giving the film a fair chance. What did I think of this 2005 title? Keep reading if you want to find out!

Kingdom of Heaven poster created by Scott Free Productions, Inside Track, Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures GmbH, 20th Century Fox, and  Warner Bros. Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, Orlando Bloom’s involvement in this project is one of the reasons why I chose to review Kingdom of Heaven. Prior to watching the film, I had seen the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, where Orlando consistently portrayed Will Turner. While the character of Balian is similar to Will, each role is distinct. To an extent, Orlando’s performance in Kingdom of Heaven reminded me of Vincent Perez’s portrayal of Yanko from Swept from the Sea. While Balian is a masculine character, he also displayed a gentle charm. A good example is when Balian arrives in Jerusalem. He gives his prize horse to the servant of his opponent. When the servant asks why Balian would make this decision, Balian replies how he doesn’t want the horse to suffer.

In Kingdom of Heaven, Eva Green portrayed a queen named Sibylla. Despite appearing in the movie for a limited amount of time, I did enjoy watching her performance! I noticed how fluid Eva’s emotions were. This allowed her to adapt to any situation her character faced. It also helps that she was able to excel, acting wise, alongside her co-stars. Another character I wish appeared in the film more was King Baldwin IV. Portrayed by Edward Norton, this character was a leper. Therefore, he was completely covered and wore a mask. Edward’s use of body movement and expressive eyes make up for the lack of facial expressions. His approach to his role made King Baldwin IV a compelling character to watch!

The scenery: “Sword and sandal” movies are known for featuring breath-taking scenery. Kingdom of Heaven also brings beautiful scenery to the table, showcasing desert, oceanic, and forest landscapes. Toward the beginning of the movie, Balian resided in the French countryside. This area was surrounded by deep green forestry, the ground and trees lightly covered in snow. As Balian travels to Messina, the city is met with a clear, blue ocean. The hue of the water beautifully complimented the warm sandstone of the nearby buildings. While Jerusalem is in the middle of a desert, palm trees brought a pop of color to the environment. These plants helped make Jerusalem appear as an oasis.

The historical accuracy: I’m not familiar with this particular period in history. But based on the limited information I do know, the movie appeared to be historically accurate. Throughout the film, knight’s armor could be seen. Helmets, swords, and other related gear adopted an older style. Some of the swords boasted jewels, with Balian’s sword displaying a giant ruby. Even the attack towers from one of the film’s battles looked as if it came directly from the time of the Crusades. As I’ve said about other period films, details like the ones I mentioned show how much the creative team cared about the presentation of their project!

The 8th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon banner created by Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts.

What I didn’t like about film:

Sibylla’s unclear motives: During Balian’s time in Jerusalem, Sibylla becomes romantically interested in him. But she’s already married, a fact that Balian himself is aware of. Balian’s reason for going to Jerusalem was to seek forgiveness for his and his deceased wife’s sins. After meeting Sibylla, he, more often than not, doesn’t object to Sibylla’s romantic interest for him. I was left confused on what her motives were for wanting to be with Balian. At times, I wondered if Sibylla’s situation was similar to Rose’s from Titanic, simply stuck in a loveless relationship and desperately looking for a way out. Other times, I thought Sibylla was attempting to seduce Balian toward sin. I wish these motives were clarified in the script.

A limited incorporation of religion/faith: Because Kingdom of Heaven takes place around the time of the Crusades, I was expecting religion/faith to be one of the cornerstones of this story. While the topic is included in the film, its incorporation is very limited. Before watching this movie, I thought the story was going to be similar to 1959’s Ben-Hur, with the protagonist trying to live his life as a man of the people and of faith. But we never get to see Balian’s internal struggle with these responsibilities. Instead, the audience sees Balian resolve smaller non-religious conflicts which lead to a much bigger conflict. Even though people can be seen praying, there is more to religion/faith than prayer. The script relied more on who would rule Jerusalem than how religion/faith played a role within that world.

A more episodic story: When it comes to “sword and sandal” movies, there is usually an overarching conflict the characters work to resolve over the course of the story. But in Kingdom of Heaven, most of the story is episodic. As I said earlier, Balian wants to go to Jerusalem to seek forgiveness for his and his deceased wife’s sins. Once he has achieved his goal, he moves on to another conflict that is resolved within a short amount of time. This is how the story plays out for about the first half of the movie. There is a major conflict that receives a lot of attention in the film’s second half. However, it feels more like a climax than an event the characters are working towards.

White horse image created by Gabor Palla at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Gabor Palla.”

My overall impression:

Two years ago, I reviewed 1959’s Ben-Hur, a classic “sword and sandal” film. Despite seeing it for the first time, I was over the moon by the strength of the movie’s quality. With Kingdom of Heaven, I didn’t feel the same way. Yes, the 2005 title is a fine, well-made production. But there were times I was confused as I followed along with the story. Like I mentioned in my review, Sibylla’s motives for being romantically interested in Balian were not made clear. However, this is one example of my confusion. Even though this movie was released over ten years ago, I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. But I will say that something happens toward the end of the film that left me wondering if everything the characters worked for was worth it. As someone who knows very little about the Crusades, I was hoping to use my movie viewing experience as a learning opportunity. While I did learn some information, I feel there’s far more I need to discovery. I’ve heard there is a director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven. If this information is true, maybe I’ll check it out and see which version I like more.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Kingdom of Heaven? What is your favorite “sword and sandal” film? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Abominable Dr. Phibes Review

The Abominable Dr. Phibes was recommended by one of my readers named Michael. When I found out the movie was considered a horror-comedy, I thought it’d be a perfect entry for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur, as horror-comedies are the theme for February. Then I discovered the film was released in 1971. Because Kim and Drew, from Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Reviews, are hosting the 6th Annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon, where the subject is movies premiering in years ending in 1, I decided to review The Abominable Dr. Phibes for both blogathons! As of early 2021, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen and written about. Most of these movies have either belonged in the horror genre or have been mysterious in nature. With The Abominable Dr. Phibes, this will be a little different, as part of the story is a comedy. Out of the movies of Vincent’s I have seen, none of them have featured a large amount of humor. So, by choosing this film for the aforementioned blogathons, I am given an opportunity to see Vincent work with slightly different material!

The Abominable Dr. Phibes poster created by American International Pictures.

Things I liked about the film:

The mystery: In horror movies, there is usually a mysterious element that can come in a variety of forms. One of these forms is a mystery. Throughout The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the detectives at Scotland Yard are attempting to figure out why several doctors in their neighborhood are dying of mysterious causes. The way the mystery is presented allows the audience to solve it alongside the characters. This presents the idea of the audience sharing an experience with the detectives in the film. Even though we see what is making these doctors die, it doesn’t take away from the intrigue of the mystery. In fact, it keeps the audience invested in what is about to happen next. Seeing how all the pieces of the story connected was interesting to see. It definitely kept my attention as I watched the film!

The craftmanship: There were several items in this movie that caught my eye due to their quality and artistry. A frog mask is just one example. The head covering mask is covered in three different shades of green, allowing it to shine from many different angles. Gold piping can also be found on the mask, assisting in distinguishing its shape. Jewels add finishing touches as the mask features gold gems around the frog’s eyes and an emerald clasp in the back. Dr. Phibes’ mask also boasts incredible craftsmanship! The eye covering mask is shaped like a bird and is coated in shiny shades of green, bronze, and gold. Both masks were two of the beautiful I’ve ever seen!

The set design: The Abominable Dr. Phibes features several interesting set designs that are worth noting. Despite Dr. Phibe’s house only being shown at night and only part of its exterior could be seen, it was a magnificent structure! Its Victorian style brightened the night with its white frames and cherry wood doors. The house features a grand white marble staircase paired beautifully with chandeliers and crystal sconces. I wish more scenes had taken place by this staircase, as it is an impressive part of Dr. Phibes’ residence! Other locations in the story also displayed memorable set designs.  Dr. Vesalius’ apartment is a great example. Near the front door is a curved, frosted window. The door itself was covered in a light and dark wood that ending up complimenting the faded yellow walls. This location looked reflective of the late ‘60s to early ‘70s due to its color scheme and furniture selections.

Scared audience image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/terrified-friends-watching-horror-movie-in-cinema_1027311.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Vincent Price: As I said in my introduction, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen. Therefore, I, as an audience member, know what he is capable of, talent wise. Despite being the top billed actor in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Vincent wasn’t given much material to work with. He didn’t have any speaking lines in this movie. While there is an explanation given within the story, the only time we hear Vincent’s iconic voice is through recordings. It also doesn’t help that the different ways Dr. Phibes went after his victims overshadows Vincent’s performance. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the creative team behind this film cast Vincent Price simply to get more people to see the movie?

Weak on comedy: The Abominable Dr. Phibes is classified as a horror-comedy. When I made this discovery, I was expecting the movie to be more like Young Frankenstein. Even though there were a few times I found myself giggling, the film didn’t contain much humor. The Abominable Dr. Phibes relies more on the horror genre. It also contains a mystery within the overall plot, which would make it a horror-mystery. I felt misled after these reveals.

Depiction of demises partially used for shock value: Strictly from a story-telling perspective, it was interesting to see how Dr. Phibes carried out his plan. But when the plan is put into practice, the depiction of his victims’ demises comes across as more gross than scary. Within a segment of the story involving rats, there was a brief shot of a rat chewing on what looks like a bloody bone. I won’t spoil The Abominable Dr. Phibes, in case any of my readers haven’t seen it. But parts of the film like the one I described feels like the movie’s creative team just wanted to shock their audience.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon (1) banner created by Kim and Drew from Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Reviews.

My overall impression:

When I think of the term “horror-comedy”, Young Frankenstein immediately comes to mind. Even though I haven’t seen this film, I am aware of its premise. Because of my expectations, I was somewhat let down by The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Sure, its mystery was intriguing and kept me invested in the overall story. But as I look back on this movie, I find myself expecting more. Despite its classification as a horror-comedy, it ended up being a horror-mystery, with very little comedy to be found. I was also disappointed to see Vincent Price underutilized in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. While he was given different material to work with, he didn’t have any speaking lines. The way Dr. Phibes’ victims met their demise overshadowed Vincent’s performance. These factors make his portrayal of the titular character feel like a part of an ensemble instead of someone leading a film. This is an interesting movie, but I can think of stories of this nature that are stronger than this one. I still prefer a picture like The Crow over The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Overall score: 7-7.1 out of 10

Have you seen a horror-comedy? Which film of Vincent Price’s would you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Scarlett Review

Originally, I was going to review a different movie for the 3rd Annual So Bad It’s Good Blogathon. But when I found a DVD copy of Scarlett at a local consignment store, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to review the film! Last year, I discovered Gone with the Wind received a sequel many years after its release. While I’m not a fan of the sequel’s predecessor, I thought the 1994 film would be perfect content for the aforementioned event. According to IMDB, Scarlett premiered as a TV mini-series. This gives the sequel a run-time of six hours, which is even longer than the first movie. I never thought Gone with the Wind needed another chapter, as everything ended on a definitive note. However, curiosity got the best of me, as I wanted to find out if this could finally be the “so bad it’s good” movie I’ve been looking for!

This is the DVD I purchased from a local consignment store. Even the packaging calls Scarlett a six hour film. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While I like the acting overall, there were three performances that were stand-outs. The first one came from Sean Bean. I haven’t seen much from his filmography, but I remember his portrayal of Ian Howe from National Treasure. Based on these two movies, it seems Sean is very talented when it comes to portraying on-screen villains!  Without spoiling the film, I will say Lord Richard Fenton is a despicable individual. However, it was interesting to see how Sean carried his character in each scene he appeared in. Whenever in public or around Scarlett, Richard comes across as a dashing gentleman. But behind closed doors, he reveals himself to be selfish and controlling, which makes Richard’s overall persona very ugly. In all my years of watching movies, I’ve seen few actors effectively portray characters that had likable and unlikable qualities. Within the film, Scarlett, Sean single-handedly accomplished this; making the audience despise Richard, but appreciate Sean’s acting abilities! The second stand-out performance was Annabeth Gish’s! In historical fiction/period stories, few female characters from a wealthier background contain a personality that is gentler in nature. With the way Annabeth approached her character, Anne, she brought something to the table that isn’t seen often. This not only provided a contrast to Scarlett, but allowed Anne to be her own character. Anne’s gentleness came across on screen very naturally as well! Tina Kellegher’s portrayal of Mary Boyle is the third stand-out performance! A strong sense of emotionality worked in Tina’s favor. This component to her performance presented her character as a believable individual, as if Mary had actually existed at some point in time. Miss Boyle experiences some difficult situations throughout the movie. However, Tina pulled off a performance that appeared flawless!

The costumes: In period films, one of the notable aspects is the costumes. They are one example of a physical representation of the story’s respective time period. The costumes in Scarlett not only looked historically accurate, but also impressive! It also helps how the costumes compliment the actors wearing them. Scarlett’s wardrobe was amazing! It featured a color palette that never appeared over-the-top. Each piece featured patterns and textures that felt fitting for the 1870s, with color combinations working well together. I honestly can’t choose a favorite outfit, as it was fun to discover what outfit Scarlet would wear next! While I realistically don’t have any place to wear one of Scarlett’s outfits, it’s nice to think about which piece I’d like to own in real-life.

The conflict between the British and Irish: Within the overall story, there was an ongoing conflict between the British and Irish. According to the Irish characters, this was due to the British wanting to take over Ireland. I’m not familiar with this particular period in world history. Despite that, I found this part of the story to be fascinating! Because of Scarlett’s Irish heritage and the fact she had family living in Ireland, it gave Scarlett a reason to be aware of the political and social environment around her. Her interactions with Richard also highlight the different sides of the conflict itself. There were other people in this story who were directly connected to this conflict as well. One of Scarlett’s cousin’s, Colum, is a priest. However, he is also a member of a group of Irish people fighting for freedom against the British. It was interesting to see how Colum navigated his own struggles of religious duty and standing up for his people.

The Third So Bad It’s Good Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Scarlett and Rhett’s on-again/off-again relationship: I am not a fan of Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship. Even when I try to give it a fair chance and watch it with an open mind, I still do not like their relationship in this movie. One of the reasons why is how it was continually on-again/off-again. This was so repetitive, it became tiresome. It was also difficult to determine if Joanne Whalley and Timothy Dalton, the actor and actress who portrayed Scarlett and Rhett, had any on-screen chemistry. Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship problems did not need to be explored, especially after Gone with the Wind’s ending. In fact, seeing Scarlett and Rhett’s on-again/off-again relationship diminishes one of the most famous scenes and quotes in cinematic history, where Rhett says “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”. In my opinion, this situation took place simply to justify the sequel’s existence.

Unnecessary stories: As I already mentioned in my previous point, Scarlett and Rhett’s on-again/off-again relationship felt like it was taking place simply to justify the sequel’s existence. This wasn’t the only story within the film to make me feel this way. In the first half of Scarlett, Ashley is struggling to keep his business afloat. Scarlett recruits Sam, a former slave of the O’Hara household, to assist Ashley in building more homes, in order to save Ashley’s business. That storyline is one I found myself not caring about. It also didn’t lead anywhere, as it didn’t have a consistent presence in the overall film. Scarlett’s feud with her sister was another story I thought was unnecessary. Throughout the film, they refused to see eye-to-eye about the future of Tara. While Scarlett’s sister was still living in the house, Scarlett was considering selling it. I thought it was odd for Scarlett to think about selling Tara. In the first movie, she loved Tara so much, Scarlett slapped a woman in the face for expressing her opinion against the place. For Scarlett to completely change her mind without any explanation seemed random.

Choppy scene transitions: At some points in the movie, there were scene transitions that were so abrupt, it caused the film’s overall flow to feel choppy. When visiting a family member, Scarlett is about to share how she became so wealthy. Right as she was about to tell her story, the next scene started, showing another family member walking toward his house. It seemed like parts of the movie were missing. Some of these scene transitions were so jarring because the change of tone was so drastic. One scene showed Colum speaking with an Irish neighbor about their plans to fight the British. This dramatic and serious moment was met with a light-hearted scene where Scarlett goes to a horse fair. The journey from point A to point B needed a bridge.

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

My overall impression:

I can’t call Scarlett “so bad it’s good”. In fact, I would never consider it a bad movie. Objectively, this is a competently made project, where the creative team behind it clearly knew what they were doing. Subjectively, Scarlett is a mixed bag. The conflict between the British and Irish was the best part of this story! It was fascinating to see it unfold and discover how the characters were involved. With the parts of the story directly referencing Gone with the Wind, I found those to exist simply to justify the sequel. Until Scarlett went to Ireland, I was questioning why the movie was made. Personally, I would rather watch a miniseries about the British and Irish conflict over the one I just did. As I wrap up this review, I realize I still haven’t found my “so bad it’s good” movie. Time to go back to square one.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Do you have a movie in your life that you’d consider “so bad it’s good”? If so, what is it? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Ladies in Lavender Review

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

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

Things I liked about the film:

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

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

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

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

What I didn’t like about the film:

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

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

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

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

My overall impression:

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

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

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

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Nicholas Nickleby (2002) Review

For A Shroud of Thoughts’ 7th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon, I decided to choose a film that was already located on my DVR. Since last February, I have had a recording of the 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby. Because this story takes place in 19th century England and because this blogathon celebrates British cinema, reviewing the movie seemed like a perfect choice! Nicholas Nickleby is not the first adaptation based on a Charles Dickens novel I’ve written about. Within these two years, I have reviewed Oliver!, Oliver & Company, and The Death of Poor Joe. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know Nicholas Nickleby was based on a book by Charles Dickens until I saw the film’s opening credits. This film selection is a blessing in disguise. It not only gives me an opportunity to watch more movies from my DVR, but it also allows me to expand my cinematic horizons!

This is a screenshot I took with my phone of the movie’s poster that was displayed on my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Nicholas and Smike have one of the most beautiful friendships I’ve ever seen put on film! This is the result of good screen-writing and good acting! Charlie Hunnam and Jamie Bell put emotion and heart into their individual roles. Together, they display strong on-screen camaraderie. A great example is when Nicholas is trying to read a story to Smike at Dotheboys Hall. Nicholas Nickleby contained an ensemble cast. Each actor and actress worked well with one another, as the performances complimented and highlighted every talent shown on screen. From Anne Hathaway’s use of various emotions to Christopher Plummer’s consistency, all the interactions brought out the best in each cast member!

The dialogue: As I just mentioned, Nicholas and Smike’s friendship was partly the result of good screen-writing. The movie’s screen-writing is also what caused the dialogue to be so memorable! Every piece of conversation reflected this film’s time period. However, the dialogue sounded eloquent without being pretentious. It was also easy to understand, allowing the audience to make sense of what the characters are saying. In one scene, Nicholas is helping Smike escape his kidnapping. The way he told Smike to hurry out of his current location contained urgency and importance. Conversations like the one I just referenced were a consistent and present component of this film!

A balance of despair and joy: I haven’t read Nicholas Nickleby, but I have read Oliver Twist. From what I remember, Charles Dickens found a way to balance the ideas of despair and joy. This balance can be found in the 2002 film! In the movie’s darker moments, despair could be seen and felt. It showed how ugliness presented itself in Nicholas’ world. But there was not so much of this ugliness and despair to make the audience feel depressed. Moments of joy and happiness served to counteract the darker moments. When joyous scenes occurred, they felt earned by the characters. At the same time, they didn’t make it seem like the rest of the film couldn’t be taken seriously. Instead, the incorporation of joy showed how there was beauty in the world, especially if Nicholas searched for it.

The 7th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon banner created by Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts. Image found at http://mercurie.blogspot.com/2020/06/announcing-7th-annual-rule-britannia.html.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lots of content in a limited time-frame: Having read two of Charles Dickens’ books, I know there is a lot of content in his stories. While watching Nicholas Nickleby, I could see there was a significant amount of content. The movie is two hours and twelve minutes. But because each plot point was seen as important, the run-time was bogged down by the large number of storylines. This caused the film to feel longer than its run-time. It makes me wonder if this particular narrative would have benefitted from a mini-series format?

Some unsmooth scene transitions: There were a few scene transitions in Nicholas Nickleby that weren’t given smooth transitions. When the story shows Kate’s, Nicholas’ sister’s, perspective, the chapter comes and ends more abruptly than other scenes. It almost feels like the plot temporarily shifts the protagonist role from Nicholas to Kate. Even though Kate plays an important role in Nicholas’ life, she is a supporting character, while her brother is the main character.

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:

Nicholas Nickleby is the fourth adaptation of one of Charles Dickens’ works I’ve reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. Out of these four, the best one is still the 1968 musical Oliver! Because I have read its source material, I know there was some content that was cut from the movie, likely for reasons relating to the run-time. Unlike Oliver!, Nicholas Nickleby contained a lot of content that effected its run-time. However, the story was understandable and the screen-writing was strong! Even though there were a few unsmooth scene transitions in Nicholas Nickleby, it never became a common occurrence. What was common was great acting performances, well-written dialogue, and relatable messages! Nicholas Nickleby does a good job at showing how there is both darkness and goodness in our world. In a year like 2020, where it seems like there is one conflict after another, it can be easy to forget the beauty this world can offer. Because of his bad and good experiences, Nicholas Nickleby always perseveres and never takes anything for granted. This is what we can learn from Nicholas’ story, whether or not Charles Dickens intended to teach his readers.

Overall score: 8.2 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptations from Charles Dickens’ work? Are there any British films you enjoy watching? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Littlest Horse Thieves Review

When it came to The Costume Drama Blogathon, I wanted to choose a movie that was already on my DVR. Out of the six movies that would have fit the requirements, I decided to review The Littlest Horse Thieves! This is a Disney film that I didn’t know existed until this year. Since I reviewed Swept from the Sea and Hallmark’s Hall of Fame’s In Love and War, I thought that I would change things up by selecting a children’s/family-friendly film. What made me want to watch the movie was the historical aspect of the story. Before even hearing about The Littlest Horse Thieves, I never knew that ponies were used in the mining industry. The only animal I knew that went into mines were small birds. I was looking forward to learning something new while being entertained.

The Littlest Horse Thieves poster
The Littlest Horse Thieves poster created by Walt Disney Productions and Buena Vista Distribution. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at https://movies.disney.com/the-littlest-horse-thieves.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When it comes to casting young actors in lead roles, those performances can be hit or miss. In The Littlest Horse Thieves, the performances of all three leads were really good! Chloe Franks, Andrew Harrison, and Benjie Bolgar portray the titular horse thieves. Throughout the film, their characters were endearing and likable. The emotions these actors displayed appeared very genuine, as if their characters were real people. It was really sweet to watch the characters’ friendship evolve over the course of the film. Because of these factors, it made it easy for me to root of Alice, Dave, and Tommy.

 

Historical accuracy: The Littlest Horse Thieves takes place in, I believe, the early 1900s. Every aspect of this movie reflected that particular time-period really well! The sets looked like the audience could step back in time, that this point in history was not too far away. Things like wardrobe, dialect, and even the artwork on the walls brought the early 1900s to life again. Even the issues surrounding mining and employee well-being seemed to come directly from that decade. What made the historical accuracy work in this film was the creative team’s attention to detail. It shows how much care was put into this project.

 

Not so perfect plans: In a lot of children’s/family-friendly films, the young protagonists’ plans always work out in their favor. This is not exactly the case for The Littlest Horse Thieves. I’m not going to spoil the movie in case you want to see it. But the children sometimes overlook important details relating to their plan to save the ponies. I liked how the protagonists’ efforts didn’t go according to plan. This made the characters and their situation seem realistic and relatable.

Pony Face near the Tree
Close-up of pony image created by Flatart at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background photo created by flatart – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out story: The Littlest Horse Thieves had a drawn-out story that seemed to last too long. The first half of the movie focused on the children finding out about the conflict and figuring out how to solve it. The act of rescuing/stealing the ponies didn’t happen until the film’s halfway point. It also only lasted for a few minutes. The second half of the movie shifted the focus from the children to the adults. The overall narrative talked about everything but the most exciting part of the movie.

 

The editing: During the first half of the film, I noticed how less-than-stellar the editing was. It made conversations feel cut-off and transitions between scenes less smooth. These two aspects made the overall flow of the film seem choppy.

 

The conflict between Dave and his stepdad: Within The Littlest Horse Thieves, there was a conflict between Dave and his stepdad. It’s not the conflict itself I didn’t like. How little time was devoted to it is my biggest issue. In the first half of the film, Dave and his stepdad dislike each other. While the stepdad’s reason is never explained, Dave feels his reasons can be justified. His dislike toward his stepdad also affects his younger brother, Tommy. After the ponies are rescued/stolen, Dave and Tommy’s stepdad automatically becomes supportive of the children and their cause. The aforementioned conflict was not fully explored and felt it was there for the sake of being there.

The Costume Drama Blogathon banner
The Costume Drama Blogathon poster created by Debbie from Moon in Gemini. Image found at https://debravega.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/announcing-the-costume-drama-blogathon/.

My overall impression:

Every studio has those films that don’t always get talked about. Disney is no exception to this. That’s why I try to go out of my way to address these films on my blog. Some of them are better than others. But you never knew what’s in store until you give the film a chance. For this particular blogathon, I chose to watch The Littlest Horse Thieves with an open mind. Now that I have seen it, I can honestly say that it was just ok. It’s not one of the worst things that the studio has ever made. But it’s not one of Disney’s strongest efforts. In fact, I could see children, especially younger ones, becoming bored by this movie. However, people who like British and/or historical fiction films will probably like it. Its historical accuracy is pretty satisfying and there are moments that I found educational. I could tell that the creative team behind this film tried their best to make something worthwhile. But it wasn’t as impressive as it could have been.

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

Have you seen The Littlest Horse Thieves? Which film from a major studio do think is underrated? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s In Love and War Review

For The World War II Blogathon, I wanted to talk about a film that no one else had chosen. With this idea in mind, I figured that if anyone was going to review a Hallmark movie, I knew it was, highly likely, going to be me. More often than not, Hallmark Hall of Fame films have told cinematic stories surrounding World War II. Out of all the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies that would be eligible for this blogathon, In Love and War is one that I hadn’t seen. This particular film is based on a true story, using a memoir by Eric Newby as the basis for the cinematic narrative. Within the past five years, true stories are rarely found in Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations. Since this is the first Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I’ve reviewed that does feature a true story, I knew it would a treat for my readers and followers!

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Yes, I purchased a copy of this film so I could write an honest review about it. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The acting: More often than not, Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are known for having talented casts. In Love and War is no exception to this tradition! Callum Blue did a really good job portraying Eric Newby. With believability and versatility, his character was awestruck by the beauty within his surroundings, while not being fazed by reality. Callum effectively portrayed a soldier who hadn’t been too hardened by war and tragedy. I also enjoyed seeing Barbora Bobulova’s performance! She portrayed Wanda, the woman who stole Eric’s heart. Barbora had a very pleasant on-screen presence and flawlessly pulled off an Italian accent. She also used a wide range of emotions, making her character seem as realistic as possible. These are just some of the reasons why her performance was very memorable.

The scenery: The Italian countryside is the only location featured in this film. Despite that fact, the movie’s creative team used this environment to their advantage, especially when it came to story-telling. Even though war had cast a shadow on Wanda’s town, it never lost its quaint charm on screen. This picturesque setting showed that restoring peace in the world could be possible. Seeing the fields and farmlands in the film showed a different perspective of this particular country. When the Italian countryside is incorporated into cinematic stories, it seems like it is, more often than not, romanticized. It also makes it feel like this location can never be touched by the harshness of reality. In Love and War’s scenery was pretty to look at, but it also shows that no space is safe from such a catastrophic event.

The on-screen chemistry: Even though Callum and Barbora were not on screen together for very long, they did have good on-screen chemistry. Eric and Wanda’s relationship was very sweet, containing the amount of sentimentality that makes sense for a Hallmark production. Whenever they spent time together, these characters seemed to truly care about one another. Despite coming from two different backgrounds, their love for each other was able to help them find a common ground. Through communication and understanding, Eric and Wanda were able to learn about the other person as well as about themselves. Because Callum and Barbora’s acting performances were good, they were successfully able to bring these elements to their characters.

italian-villa-in-winter-1221097-1280x960
Italian countryside image created by Bill Silvermintz at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Bill Silvermintz.” Photo by <a href=”/photographer/edudflog-58908″>Bill Silvermintz</a> from <a href=”https://freeimages.com/”>FreeImages</a&gt;.

What I didn’t like about the film:
Low stakes: Throughout the film, Eric becomes  a Prisoner of War and tries to escape from the clutches of the Nazis. However, all of the stakes in this movie felt low. When Eric and his team become prisoners, their situation doesn’t appear or feel harsh. Even when Eric did experience a harsh condition, the effects were temporary. The clear and present danger, which were the Nazis, appeared in the film when it was convenient for the plot. It seemed like Eric wasn’t in as much danger as the movie wanted us, the audience, to think.

An imbalance between peace and conflict: Hallmark films are known for containing a good amount of positivity and making their audience feel good about the film they’re watching. But because In Love and War largely focused on the movie’s more peaceful moments, it made the moments involving conflict seem sparse. This flaw contributes to the previous problem that I just talked about: lower stakes. It also doesn’t create a healthy balance between the two ideas. The imbalance between peace and conflict made the “war” part of In Love and War seem like a distant aspect of the story.

No action: Everyone’s story from the time of  World War II is going to be different. Since the film’s story is about a member of the military who entered enemy territory, having no action in the film makes it feel like something is missing. Not only were there no battles, but there was no fighting in sight. The only scene that involved any amount of military action was when an enemy plane flew over Eric and his comrades. However, this scene ended up being very brief.

World War II on Film Blogathon
The World War II Blogathon banner created by Jay from Cinema Essentials & Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Image found at https://maddylovesherclassicfilms.wordpress.com/2019/04/29/announcing-the-ww2-blogathon/.

My overall impression:

The two most common cinematic stories surrounding World War II involve the American perspective and the Holocaust. While these stories are important, it can feel like other World War II related stories get overshadowed. In Love and War takes a unique approach to this subject, focusing on the British and Italian perspectives. Through these perspectives, interesting ideas get the chance to be expressed. Some examples are standing against group mentality, relying on the kindness of strangers, and changing a person’s way of thinking. As a film about this particular time-period, I liked In Love and War for what it was. At best, this is a decent movie that has its strengths. But, as a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, it didn’t leave as big of an emotional impact as other films from this collection have. I will say that this film is a good introduction to not only Hallmark Hall of Fame, but also to Hallmark movies in general. If someone likes a particular aspect of the movie, they will be able to find other Hallmark films that share similarities.

 

Overall score: 7 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on World War II in film? Which Hallmark Hall of Fame movie do you like? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Edward, My Son Review + 70 Follower Thank You

Two weeks ago, 18 Cinema Lane received 70 followers! The reason why I waited this long to publish my 70 follower dedication post is to decide whether I should review Edward, My Son or The Secret Garden. I ended up choosing Edward, My Son because I haven’t heard many people talk about the film. In fact, I had never heard of this movie until this month. When I chose to review Edward, My Son, I discovered that it was based on a play. I also learned that it was about a father who wanted to protect the well-being and assets of his son. Curious about how this father was going to complete his mission, I became very intrigued by this story. With that, it’s now time for me to review my 14th movie in this series, Edward, My Son!

Edward, My Son poster
Edward, My Son poster created by MGM-British and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/73917/Edward-My-Son/#.

Things I liked about the film:

  • The acting: I thought Edward, My Son had a good cast! Spencer Tracy’s and Deborah Kerr’s performance was one of the most memorable parts of this film! Both of them brought the emotional intensity and versatility that helped their portrayals of Arnold and Evelyn Boult be as strong as they were. All of their emotions appeared very natural, providing depth to their characters and to any given scene. Mervyn Johns’ performance in Edward, My Son was such a pleasant surprise! He convincingly portrayed the terrified nature of his character, Harry Simpkin. Even though this character was not on-screen very often, Mervyn found a way to make this character as memorable as possible.

 

  • The evolution of Arnold and Evelyn Boult: Throughout the film, Arnold and Evelyn Boult evolve as individuals. This process started because of the actions and choices of Arnold. As time goes on, Evelyn changes as a person, being negatively affected by Arnold’s decisions. The way that Arnold and Evelyn evolve over the course of the film was very effective. This was because of how well-written and well-acted these characters were. Arnold and Evelyn’s evolution also effectively showed how time was passing in the story.

 

  • The staging of the sets: Before watching Edward, My Son, I found out this movie was based on a play. When I saw the film, all of the sets reminded me of scenes that could be found within a play. In Edward, My Son, there is no action and very few transitions between locations. The story itself doesn’t seem too complex. These factors helped this play make a smooth transition to the screen. The only thing about this movie that felt cinematic was any time Arnold spoke directly to the audience.

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Birthday party set-up image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/food”>Food photo created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

  • An Absence of Edward: Even though this movie is titled Edward, My Son, Edward never makes an on-screen appearance. In fact, Edward is only incorporated into the film through the dialogue of other characters. Because of this creative choice, it treats Edward and his story like an afterthought. Instead, the primary plot focuses on Edward’s father’s rise to power and fortune. The creative team behind this film did not show and tell their audience about Edward. They never give them the opportunity to get to know and connect with him as a character. Since the audience was not given this chance, the things that happen in Edward’s personal life don’t feel emotionally effective.

 

  • A longer run-time: Edward, My Son is almost two hours. This caused the story to feel a bit drawn out. It also made the film end about 10 to 20 minutes too late. Personally, I think Edward, My Son should have been at least an hour and ten minutes. If this were the case, then the story could have been a bit more condensed.

 

  • An uncompelling story: As I’ve already said, the primary plot of Edward, My Son is about Arnold’s, Edward’s father’s, rise to power and fortune. Since I was more interested in learning about Edward, I didn’t really think Arnold’s story was compelling. Watching Arnold progress from a caring father and husband with good intentions to a self-centered, power hungry man was a little bit interesting. However, it wasn’t interesting enough to make me, as an audience member, satisfied. Had the movie showed the points of view of both Arnold and Edward, I think it would have added intrigue to the overall narrative.

Jewels sparkle in the golden wedding rings lying on the leather
Fancy jewelry image created by Freepic.diller at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/wedding”>Wedding photo created by freepic.diller – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Edward, My Son was an ok film. It definitely had the pieces to be a good, quality project. However, the biggest issue I had with Edward, My Son was the lack of Edward. Even though Edward is not an on-stage character in the play, I didn’t like how Edward did not appear in the movie. The film focused more on Arnold and the changes he experiences over the course of twenty-three years. Therefore, the title should have been more reflective of the overall narrative. In my opinion, I think that Edward should have been an on-screen character. We not only could have gotten to know him, we also could have seen how his father’s choices affected him. It also would have been a great opportunity for an actor to either start their career or help their career grow. I’m guessing there were several actors, at the time, who would have wanted to accept a role in a movie like this. If Edward was an on-screen character, it could have helped an actor achieve a “standing ovation” that they had probably worked very hard to earn. Sadly, this opportunity was not available because of the creative choices that were made for this film. That is the one thing I will take away after watching Edward, My Son. Thank you so much to all my 70 followers! Your support of this blog really means a lot to me!

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

What did you think of my review? Is there a movie from 1949 that is your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen