Hallmark’s Top 10 Missteps From the 2010s That Should Not Be Repeated

When I published my review for Teenage Rebel last December, it became my 225th movie review! Since then, I’ve been thinking about what kind of article I should write in honor of this milestone. A few days ago, I saw a video on Youtube titled ‘Top 6 AG Trends that need to *GO* this Decade’. This video focused on how American Girl could correct their mistakes from the 2010s. Created by pinksmartiesag, it inspired me to think about the ways Hallmark can improve in the 2020s. Like any company, Hallmark is not perfect.  There are areas where they can grow and find success. During the first year of the 2020s, I have seen Hallmark’s mistakes from the past decade seep into 2020. In this list, I will talk about the missteps that Hallmark should leave behind in the 2010s to have a chance to make better choices in this new decade. Similar to the list-articles I’ve written in the past, everything I talk about is based on my opinion of the things I have noticed as a fan and consumer. The list is meant to be critical in a constructive way, not mean-spirited or negative. When I refer to Hallmark in this article, I am focusing on the entertainment division of Hallmark; which consists of the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and Hallmark Drama.

Image of 2010 and 2020 on chart created by Macrovector at freepik.com. Infographic vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com
1. Hallmark Channel’s Over-Reliance on the Romantic Comedy (Rom-Com) Genre

In the 2010s, when Rom-Coms made less appearances in the cinema than in previous decades, Hallmark made it their mission to save this genre from extinction. While Hallmark attempted to preserve Rom-Coms, they ended up putting almost all their eggs in one basket. Now, every movie on Hallmark Channel is a Rom-Com, telling the same types of stories over and over again. This decision has caused the films on this network to feel repetitive and predictable. When you look at a typical poster for a Hallmark Channel movie, you already know how the story will play out. Lately, I’ve been watching and reviewing past Hallmark films, which have much more interesting stories. It feels like those were the days when Hallmark would embrace originality and not shy away from taking creative risks. I would like to see Hallmark experiment with different genres and tell a variety of stories in the 2020s. Creativity and imagination should be the rule moving forward!

2. Continually Using the Same Tropes and Clichés

Because Hallmark Channel has focused on the Rom-Com genre, there are several genre related tropes and clichés that are continually used throughout Hallmark’s film library. In my list of The Top 10 Worst Clichés from Hallmark Movies, I talk about some clichés that have run their course. How many times can you tell a story where a woman from a big city goes back to her small hometown before you call it quits? The constant inclusion of these tropes and clichés cause a given film to be more predictable. Even though some creative teams have approached these story-telling concepts in new and interesting ways, it feels like that has been the exception to the rule. It’s time for Hallmark to either put a new twist on these clichés and tropes or abandon them altogether.

3. The Hypocrisy

Ever since 2019, I have noticed Hallmark’s blatant hypocrisy when it comes to certain areas of their entertainment division. For this point, I’ll provide two examples. In my editorial, When Hallmark Made Their Fans Really Upset, I wrote about how, in 2019, Hallmark advertised they would be airing a new movie every Saturday night for an entire year on Hallmark Channel. However, that statement turned into a broken promise as there were some Saturdays when no new movies premiering. I also said in that editorial how Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries kept their promises to air a Christmas movie every Thursday and Friday night in correlation with the 10th Anniversary of Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up. When it comes to subjects that Hallmark cares about, like Christmas, that becomes one of their top priorities. For everything else, it falls to the wayside.

While promoting Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups last year, Mike Perry, the CEO of Hallmark, claimed that “diversity and inclusion are a top priority for us”. But there are times when these words sound empty. The upcoming Hallmark Channel movie, Fit for a Prince, is a perfect example. Based on promotional material directly from the network’s website, we can see this is the same type of “royal” movie, starring the same types of actors in the same types of roles. Remind me how this is diverse? When it comes to story-telling, diversity is more than just a character’s appearance. It’s also about the perspectives, beliefs, and journeys those characters bring to the overall story. In my award post, The Sunshine Blogger Award and The Blogger Recognition Award: Two Awards for the Price of One, I said that I wanted to see Bai Ling join the main cast of When Calls the Heart as Hope Valley’s first female Mountie. One of the reasons why I want this is because it would be a beautiful opportunity for Hallmark to put their money where their mouth is. If diversity is that important to them, then they will take no issue in casting Bai on Hallmark Channel’s most popular scripted show.

4. Hallmark Making Promises They Know They Can’t Keep

As I just mentioned in point number three, Hallmark broke their promise to air a new movie every Saturday night for an entire year on Hallmark Channel. But that wasn’t the only promise the company broke in 2019. In my aforementioned editorial, When Hallmark Made Their Fans Really Upset, I talk about several films that were mysteriously removed from Hallmark Channel’s and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ schedules after being promoted for weeks or months. If Hallmark had any thoughts about moving films out of their respective premiere dates, why would they spend so much time promoting them and setting dates? In the seventh season of When Calls the Heart, Clara and Jesse had entertained the idea of having an outdoor wedding. But when the wedding arrived, their ceremony ended up taking place indoors. According to Kami, from Hallmarkies Podcast, that episode was filmed in November. This begs the question; if the creative team behind the show knew it would be too cold to film any outdoor events, why would they mention the idea of an outdoor wedding in the first place? In the 2020s, it would be nice to see Hallmark stick to their word more often. Broken promises lead to broken trust with the viewers, which is not good for any business.

5. An Adoption Ever After Segment During the Seasonal Line-Up Preview Specials

When Larissa Wohl first joined Alison Sweeney in 2019’s “Valentine’s Day & Adoption Ever After Preview Special”, the program was used to not only promote Hallmark Channel’s Valentine themed movies, but also that year’s Cat Bowl, Kitten Bowl, and American Rescue Dog Show. At the time, the cross-promotion made sense. But as Larissa kept appearing in Hallmark’s other seasonal line-up preview specials, as well as the Crossword Mysteries & Friends Preview Special, she ended up overstaying her welcome. Instead of promoting a worthy cause, it felt like she was interrupting the regularly scheduled program to host an infomercial about homeless pets. Most people can get behind the idea of raising awareness for shelter animals. However, using the same tactics over and over again gets repetitive and runs the risk of turning away potential supporters.  I don’t know if Hallmark has any plans to air preview specials for the various seasonal line-ups in the 2020s. If they do, I hope they think twice before adding the Adoption Ever After segments to the specials.

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6. Hallmark’s Excessive Obsession with Christmas

Hallmark loves Christmas; I get it. But is it really necessary for them to do the following?

  • Airing both Christmas line-ups for almost three months
  • Showing Christmas movies on three networks throughout the year
  • Creating over twenty movies between two channels
  • Devoting an entire month to Christmas in July

In my opinion, the answer is absolutely not, as there is a fine line between loving something and going overboard. Because of Hallmark’s excessive obsession with the holiday, they are actually doing more harm than good to their line-ups. In 2019 and 2020, the “Countdown to Christmas” and “Miracles of Christmas” line-ups received less viewership than in years prior. Hallmark’s decision to make more Christmas movies year after year prevents their films from becoming beloved classics. Movies like The Christmas Card, A Boyfriend for Christmas, and The Nine Lives of Christmas were able to achieve long term success because they premiered in years where Christmas line-ups were smaller, allowing these projects to stand out. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, Hallmark needs to pull back the reigns on their approach to Christmas. Give Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries ten movies each, as it would challenge each creative team to create something new and unexpected. Save Christmas films for a week in July and for a month and a half toward the end of the year. Once upon a time, Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups were anticipated events. Now, it has become run of the mill and one of the only things Hallmark cares about.

7. Movie Premiere Twitter Parties

For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, Twitter parties take place for the premiere of new Hallmark programs and movies. Let’s use the upcoming movie Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How to Con a Con as an example. Before the film appears on television for the first time, someone directly connected with the project, either the director, producer, or stars, will encourage viewers to send tweets during the movie. There may even be pop up advertisements for the Twitter party while other films or shows are on T.V. When Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How to Con a Con airs on March 14th, viewers can tweet about their thoughts on the film, share their theories with other viewers, and have brief conversations with the stars. Personally, I never participated in these Twitter parties because I wanted to give my undivided attention to the film I was watching. The tweets from the Twitter parties are laced with spoilers, which means I have to avoid Twitter after a new movie or television show episode has premiered. From what I remember, Bill Abbott was a big advocate for this kind of interaction with the customers. But in 2020, Bill stepped down as President of Hallmark’s entertainment division. Also, Twitter isn’t as popular of a social media platform as it was five or ten years ago. With all these factors, it makes me wonder why Hallmark would still promote Twitter parties?

8. Giving Movies Unnecessary Hype

I haven’t seen this happen often on Hallmark networks. However, I have seen it happen enough to know that Hallmark needs to discontinue the practice. The two examples I’ll use for this point are 2014’s Northpole and 2019’s Bottled with Love. Before Northpole premiered, it seemed like news about the film was inescapable. Commercials would air constantly, reminding viewers of what they already knew. Even products directly associated with the film, like the North Pole Communicator, were sold at Hallmark stores. Even though the film received a large viewership number and a sequel, the movie has become forgotten. As the years go on, it is rarely featured in Hallmark’s Christmas schedules. As I mentioned in my review for Bottled with Love, Hallmark chose to overhype this film by proclaiming it was “the best movie you’ll see all year”. But when the movie premiered, it was only a “flash in the pan”. Its viewership numbers were fine, but nothing spectacular. I shared the same thoughts on the film itself. What Northpole and Bottled with Love have in common is how Hallmark overhyped these movies so much, they prevented them from being memorable in the long run. I’m hoping this was just a phase within Hallmark’s lifespan.

9. Launching Television Shows from Movies

Since Cedar Cove became Hallmark’s first scripted television show, Hallmark Channel has had three shows that originally started as a movie or a series of movies: When Calls the Heart, Good Witch, and Signed, Sealed, Delivered. But the only one that has found continued success is When Calls the Heart. While Good Witch has received more than five seasons, its overall quality has dropped since season three, as I’ve mentioned before on my blog. Meanwhile, Signed, Sealed, Delivered was converted into a movie series after the show’s first season and moved to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. This isn’t a good track record for Hallmark. Instead, they should create shows based on new ideas or well-liked books that are overshadowed by more popular titles.

10. Hallmark’s Summer and Winter TCA Events

Twice a year, Hallmark partners with the Television Critics Association to host a special event where they announce upcoming media related projects. Back in 2018, I wrote a Word on the Street story about announcements made at Hallmark’s Summer TCA Event. Recently, it seems like Hallmark makes their more interesting announcements before or after these events. At each TCA event, announcements consist of projects most fans already knew about. Because of this and the fact that fewer social gatherings are taking place because of the Coronavirus, I question why Hallmark still hosts these events? I wish Hallmark would use those finances, time, and resources toward something more productive.

Hallmark’s Summer TCA Event poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=142&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=2018+Summer+TCA. 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Accidental Friendship Review + 275, 280, and 285 Follower Thank You

Last November and December were, for me, the busiest months of 2020. As I was completing articles and reviews before the end of the year, 18 Cinema Lane received 275, 280, and 285 followers! Instead of writing three reviews to commemorate each accomplishment, I am writing one review to recognize all three accomplishments. Since I felt like watching the 2008 Hallmark movie, Accidental Friendship, that’s the film I choose for this blog follower dedication review. This is a title that I’ve never seen in its entirety. Because of that, I didn’t know the movie was based/inspired by a true story. The idea of Hallmark creating films out of true stories is nothing new. However, I don’t recall many Hallmark movies from the perspective of people in homelessness. When I watch more Hallmark projects released before 2010, I notice how this particular time period saw stories that were more unique from those in recent years. It is one of the reasons why I find myself seeking out Hallmark’s older films than their newer ones.

Accidental Friendship poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While I’m familiar with Chandra Wilson from seeing her on advertisements for Grey’s Anatomy, I have never seen any of her performances. Therefore, I didn’t know what to expect from her acting abilities. As I was watching Accidental Friendship, I saw how Chandra stole the show! From what I know about Grey’s Anatomy, it is dramatic and deals with a variety of circumstances. Because of her involvement on that show, Chandra was able to adapt to any situation her character, Yvonne, was facing. This made her performance emotional as well as believable! During the film, Yvonne experiences both heartbreak and joy, from losing a precious item to dancing to Christmas music with her dogs. In every situation, Chandra gave her performance her all to the point where you couldn’t help feeling bad and/or rooting for her character. When it comes to police officers in movies and television shows, they seem to share similar personality traits. This can range from being tough to “no nonsense”. With Kathleen Munroe’s portrayal of Tami, a newer type of personality is given to this kind of character. She was gentler than her fellow officers and also had an easy-going persona. This not only helped Tami form a friendship with Yvonne, but it helped Kathleen deliver a likable performance as well! I haven’t seen a lot of projects from Gabriel Hogan’s filmography. But some of the movies I have seen were those from the Murder, She Baked series. In that series, Gabriel portrayed a supporting character who was trying to win over Hannah’s heart. In Accidental Friendship, Gabriel was given more material to work with. This allowed him to show how he is capable of giving his character, Kevin, a charming personality! It also helped that he had good on-screen chemistry with Kathleen Munroe!

The lighting: Lighting can be an unsung hero when it comes to movie productions, as it can enhance a film’s tone and highlight the vision a creative team is striving towards. With Accidental Friendship, lighting was used to showcase the different lives of Yvonne and Tami. During Yvonne’s parts of the story, the scenes were cast with a grayish blue light. This represented the dire outcome Yvonne was facing on a day-to-day basis. Tami’s parts of the story were captured in a warm yellow light. It showcased how Tami’s life was desired and comfortable, complete with a successful career and a growing romance.

Yvonne’s dialogue: From time to time, Yvonne talks about her situation by referencing luxury items she doesn’t own. When she is making plans with Tami to meet up at a specific location, Yvonne says she’ll record the meeting in her Blackberry. Later in the film, when Yvonne is sharing a meal with a friend, she tells him she’ll have to get a new shopping cart. Yvonne says she’s getting an “upgrade”. The way she spoke about her circumstances was clever, especially from a screenwriting perspective. The references to luxury items provided a subtle contrast to Yvonne’s reality. This decision in writing was definitely “outside the box”, an idea I might not have thought of myself.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

A somewhat misleading title: This film is called Accidental Friendship, implying that the story will revolve around a friendship that originally wasn’t meant to be. However, the friendship of Yvonne and Tami does not officially begin until the movie’s halfway point, with the film’s first half focusing on the differences between Yvonne’s and Tami’s life. Even when the halfway point does arrive, they don’t refer to each other as friends until the end of the movie. In fact, Yvonne refuses Tami’s help for most of the story. All of these factors cause the film’s title to come across as somewhat misleading.

Tami and Kevin’s relationship: Throughout the story, Tami develops a relationship with a police officer named Kevin. While this relationship was fine and there was good on-screen chemistry between Kathleen and Gabriel, I didn’t like how this was Tami’s only personal conflict. It didn’t serve a lot of interest because it was more predictable than other areas of the story. The inclusion of Tami and Kevin’s relationship feels like a network decision, making part of the project seem like a typical Hallmark Channel picture. Because the story itself is sadder than most of the films from Hallmark’s main channel, the relationship kind of felt out of place within the overall tone.

Situations that don’t get resolved: In the story, there are some situations in Yvonne’s life that don’t receive a resolution. Since readers who might not have seen this film may read this review, I won’t spoil the movie. Hallmark films are known for showing their characters reaching a resolution that is satisfying for both the character and audience. Even if the character doesn’t get exactly what they want, they receive answers that are close enough to their original goals. Had at least one of Yvonne’s situations been resolved within the story, it would have given the audience one less thing to worry about.

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My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression, I want to thank all of my followers for their support and patience. 18 Cinema Lane has almost 300 followers, a stepping stone that would have never been reached without you. The blog does mean a lot to me, so I appreciate visitors taking the time to read my content. Now, on to my overall impression of Accidental Friendship! This is a fine, well-made film. In fact, the overall quality of the movie felt like a Hallmark Hall of Fame production. But I do wish the majority of the story had focused on Yvonne’s perspective, as I found it to be more interesting than Tami’s. I also thought the title was somewhat misleading, as the friendship doesn’t happen until the movie’s halfway point. As I said in my review, Accidental Friendship is sadder than the films that have recently been found on Hallmark Channel. Therefore, it doesn’t have the same amount of re-watchability like other Hallmark films. When I saw Accidental Friendship, I was surprised to see most of the story take place during the Christmas season. It makes me wonder why the movie isn’t included in Hallmark’s annual Christmas line-ups?

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

How many of Hallmark’s pre-2010s films have you seen? Do you enjoy Hallmark movies that feel more like Hallmark Hall of Fame productions? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Worst Movies I Saw in 2020

While I saw more good movies than bad this year, I wasn’t able to avoid some stinkers. Now that I’ve published my best movies of the year list, I can now discuss which movies were the worst ones I saw in 2020! I watch movies in the hopes of them being good. However, some stories turn out better than others. As I have stated before on my blog, my worst films of the year lists are not meant to be mean-spirited or negative toward anyone’s opinions/cinematic preferences. These lists are just ways for me express my opinion in an honest and informed way. Similar to my best movies of 2020 list, I will start this post with my dishonorable mentions and then move on to the official list!

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Dishonorable Mentions

Working Miracles, Her Deadly Reflections, The Cabin, Thicker Than Water, Touched by Romance, The Wrong Wedding Planner, Murder in the Vineyard, Jane Doe: Yes, I Remember It Well, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, Is There a Killer on my Street?, and Stolen in Plain Sight

10. Angel on My Shoulder

When choosing which movie would end up in the tenth spot, it was between The Cabin and Angel on My Shoulder. Because I had higher expectations for the 1946 movie, that’s the one that was placed on this list. The overall film is painfully average, as I said in my review. Even though there is a clear conflict, it takes quite some time for that to be resolved. The personal journey of the protagonist, Eddie, is stunted. This is due to the character spending most of the story as an unchanged man. After watching Angel on My Shoulder, it makes me thankful that a story about a dog going to heaven was executed so well.

Take 3: Angel on My Shoulder Review

9. Jane Doe: Vanishing Act

In 2020, I watched most of the movies from Hallmark’s Jane Doe series. Within the nine-film collection, the first chapter is certainly the worst. What makes a good mystery movie is a strong sense of excitement. This is a quality that Jane Doe: Vanishing Act was, sadly, devoid of. Everyone involved with this project looked like their hearts were not fully invested in what they doing. It was as if they wanted to get the film done and over with just to move on to something else. While I continued on with the series, it was in the hopes that the next film would be better than the introduction. If you plan on creating a series, this is not the way you get an audience invested in it.

8. My Husband’s Deadly Past

There are two kinds of Lifetime movies; those that are surprisingly good and those that are predictably unenjoyable. My Husband’s Deadly Past perfectly fits into the latter category. Even though I found the inclusion of psychology/hypnosis to be interesting, the story’s focus on ripping off the 1993 movie, The Fugitive, overshadows any of the film’s strengths. The protagonist in My Husband’s Deadly Past is the type of character that makes one poor decision after another. It also doesn’t help that the movie contains a few romantic moments that feel out of place within the overall tone. Two other films on this list make the same major mistake My Husband’s Deadly Past did. But, to avoid spoilers, I’ll talk about them more later.

7. Out of the Woods

I can honestly say Out of the Woods is one of the most meandering films I’ve ever seen. It takes so long for the story to get to its intended point, that story points are either completely ignored or are not fully developed. One example is how a white wolf continuously crosses paths with the protagonist. No explanation is given as to what the purpose of this wolf was or whether it was real. Another disappointment is how Native American culture is glossed over. Native American stories are rarely found in Hallmark’s library, so it is a letdown when a film containing Native American culture doesn’t work out. If you want to watch an Ed Asner led Hallmark movie with similar ideas and themes, I’d recommend the 2008 movie, Generation Gap. It does a better job at telling a story of two people trying to understand each other.

6. Mystery Woman: At First Sight

Before there was Hailey Dean, there was Samantha Kinsey from Hallmark’s Mystery Woman series. This early collection from the network is one where I’ve seen most of its installments. Out of the movies I have watched, Mystery Woman: At First Sight is the one I disliked the most. Both of the overarching mysteries in this story are poorly written. They are also overshadowed by the drama within the plot. Mystery Woman: At First Sight is the seventh movie in this series, which is a shame because its previous chapters created an enjoyable cinematic run. I’m not sure how much directorial experience Kellie Martin had prior to working on this project. Even though I think it would be interesting to see her direct a Hailey Dean Mysteries movie, her effort on Mystery Woman: At First Sight was not her strongest.

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

It breaks my heart how this movie disappointed me so much. In fact, Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama is the most disappointing movie I saw in 2020. It copied Pirates of the Caribbean’s homework without trying to understand what made that trilogy of films work. Also, for a movie called Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama, Captain Sabertooth himself sat on the sidelines of his own story. Pinky was a likable character, but making him the protagonist made the title seem misleading. I just hope this film doesn’t dissuade other studios from creating their own pirate narratives.

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

4. Anniversary Nightmare

Remember when I said there were two films that made the same major mistake My Husband’s Deadly Past did? Well, Anniversary Nightmare is one of them. Like My Husband’s Deadly Past, Anniversary Nightmare rips off The Fugitive. But this Lifetime title is so bad, it is, at times, laughable. Both the acting and writing are poor. All of the movie’s flashback scenes are terribly filmed, captured through heavy “shaky cam” and covered in a red film. These two factors made it difficult to see what was happening on screen when a flashback arrived. I haven’t seen a Lifetime movie this bad in quite some time. If you’re interested in participating in Taking Up Room’s So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, Anniversary Nightmare might be an option.

3. I’m Not Ready for Christmas

I didn’t see as many Christmas movies this year as I did in 2019. But I can confidently say that 2015’s I’m Not Ready for Christmas is the worst Christmas film I saw in 2020. While it doesn’t rip off The Fugitive, the movie does place more emphasis on being a pointless, Christmas remake of Liar Liar, a well-known title from the ‘90s. Therefore, I’m Not Ready for Christmas also makes the same mistake A Cheerful Christmas did last year. There were parts of this story that didn’t make sense. Even the title, I’m Not Ready for Christmas, had nothing to do with the events in the plot. When you look past the typical Christmas aesthetic Hallmark can’t get enough of, you realize the story itself isn’t Christmas-y. If the creative team behind this project knew their script wasn’t exclusive to the Christmas season, they should have focused on the messages and themes of the holiday, like If You Believe did sixteen years prior. For their New Year’s Resolution, maybe Hallmark and Lifetime should move away from famous ‘90s films as their source of inspiration.

Take 3: I’m Not Ready for Christmas Review

2. Marriage on the Rocks

This movie was so bad, it honestly made me feel uncomfortable. That was because the film’s overarching view on marriage and divorce was so one-sided and skewed. I’ve been told Marriage on the Rocks was originally intended to be a satire. Sadly, that’s not the movie I ended up seeing. What I got instead was a comedy that I didn’t find very funny. The “comedy of errors” direction the screenwriter took just made the character’s situations more complicated, as most of the errors do not receive a satisfying resolution. It’s also a film that feels longer than its designated run-time. If you have never seen any of Frank Sinatra’s, Dean Martin’s, or Deborah Kerr’s movies before, please don’t let Marriage on the Rocks be your starting point.

Take 3: Marriage on the Rocks Review

1. Twentieth Century

For most of 2020, I thought Marriage on the Rocks would be the worst movie I saw this year. That was until Twentieth Century came along and proved me wrong. Where Marriage on the Rocks made me uncomfortable, Twentieth Century made me appalled. The fact Lily and Oscar’s relationship was so abusive in a movie classified as a “romantic comedy” serves as one example. Last time I checked, unhealthy relationships were not funny or romantic. To Marriage on the Rocks’ credit, the story featured characters that didn’t support the film’s narrative. Even though, more often than not, they were looked down upon, they always stood up for what they believed in and tried to help the main characters see the fault in their ways. With Twentieth Century, however, there were no “voices of reason”. None of the characters faced accountability whenever they did something wrong or made any attempt to change their ways. When I reflect on this movie, I question what the creative team was trying to tell its audience. But based on my reaction to the final product, maybe I don’t want to know.

Take 3: Twentieth Century Review

Twentieth Century poster created by Columbia Pictures.

Have fun in 2021!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2020

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

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Honorable Mentions

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

10. Nicholas Nickleby (2002)

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

Take 3: Nicholas Nickleby (2002) Review

9. The Unfinished Dance

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

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

8. If You Believe

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

Take 3: If You Believe Review

7. Sweet Nothing in My Ear

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

6. From Up on Poppy Hill

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

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

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

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

Take 3: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Review

4. Grace & Glorie

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

3. Matinee

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

Take 3: Matinee Review + 220 Follower Thank You

2. The Boy Who Could Fly

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

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

1. Anchors Aweigh

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

Take 3: Anchors Aweigh Review

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

Have fun in 2021!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: To Grandmother’s House We Go Review

For the last Genre Grandeur of 2020, the theme is ‘Alternative Christmas Movies’. Whenever I think of this term, films where the story doesn’t rely on typical Christmas elements always comes to mind. After watching and reviewing If You Believe, I remembered another ‘90s Christmas movie I hadn’t seen in years: To Grandmother’s House We Go. However, when I thought about this film, it didn’t seem to focus on the Christmas holiday like other titles, such as those found on either of Hallmark’s networks. Sure, both Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are wearing Santa hats on the movie’s poster. You can also see Christmas lights behind the Olsen twins in the aforementioned image. But the story itself is not one that is exclusive to the Christmas movie genre. In fact, the idea of siblings running away to another family member’s house can be found in a plot from any time of year. Even the title, To Grandmother’s House We Go, doesn’t contain any Christmas references. Now that this introduction is almost over, I’ll take another trip down memory lane by reviewing this film from 1992!

To Grandmother’s House We Go poster created by Jeff Franklin Productions, Green/Epstein Productions, Lorimar Television, and Warner Bros. Television.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The appeal of any Olsen twins production is watching Mary-Kate and Ashley’s characters go on adventures that most of the audience will never experience. Though it has been years since I’ve seen any of their movies, I remember Mary-Kate and Ashley giving their characters a sense of likability, no matter the situation. This is what happened in To Grandmother’s House We Go, as Julie and Sarah were a delight to watch as the story progressed! Despite their young ages, Mary-Kate and Ashley had good comedic delivery. A good example of this is when Julie and Sarah give a street musician chicken drumsticks, using the edible item as a tip instead of money. It should also be noted that Mary-Kate and Ashley’s characters came across as genuine throughout the story. In a scene where they overhear their mother, Rhonda, telling her friend her daughters are a handful, the looks on the twins’ faces display feelings of sadness and betrayal that immediately makes the audience feel bad for Julie and Sarah. It also helped that Mary-Kate and Ashley worked alongside actors who can, acting wise, stand on their own! One of them is Cynthia Geary, who portrays Rhonda. When Julie and Sarah are missing, genuine concern can be seen on Rhonda’s face. Because the twins’ journey lasts the majority of the movie, it allows Cynthia’s performance to contain a good amount of consistency.

The inclusion of western movie scenes: Eddie is a delivery man who frequently visits the convenience store Rhonda works at. When something happens in Eddie’s part of the story, scenes from various western movies are shown to visualize how Eddie views his life. Usually, these scenes mirror what Eddie is doing in the “real world”. An example is when Eddie is taking a short cut to the convenience store, as a scene of Roy Rogers riding off the beaten path is presented while Eddie is driving his truck. The reason why these western scenes were included in the film is because Eddie loves westerns and dreams of owning his own ranch. What I liked about this element is how it provided a unique way to present a character’s perspective that isn’t usually seen in Christmas films. In movies of this nature, dream sequences or flashback scenes are given to a character when the story needs to share their point of view.

The messages and themes: A common component in family-friendly movies is the messages and themes that can be found in the overall story. This is especially the case for productions involving the Olsen twins. In To Grandmother’s House We Go, Julie and Sarah overhear their mother say her daughters are a handful and that she’d like a vacation. This causes the twins to run away to their grandmother’s house, in an attempt to help their mother. When all is said and done, the overarching lesson is how our words can, for better or worse, affect the actions of others. Doing the right thing is a theme that can also be found in To Grandmother’s House We Go. Harvey, one of the bandits in the film, helps his wife, Shirley, steal Christmas presents in order to sell them for money. As Harvey and Shirley spend more time with Julie and Sarah, Harvey starts to wonder what his life would be like if he wasn’t a criminal. While I won’t spoil the movie for anyone, Harvey does take the film’s aforementioned theme to heart.

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:

Rhonda and Eddie’s inconsistent relationship: At the beginning of the film, Eddie wants to go on a date with Rhonda. No matter how many times he flirts with Rhonda, she politely declines, as she’s only interested in being his acquaintance. After Eddie finds out Rhonda is a single parent, he gives up pursuing her as a potential significant other. For the rest of the movie, Rhonda and Eddie go back and forth between liking and disliking one another. Their disagreements are resolved rather quickly and they get along for a short amount of time as well. While Cynthia and J. Eddie Peck work well together as actors, the inconsistency of their on-screen relationship prevented me from becoming fully invested in it.

The lottery subplot: Throughout the movie, Eddie is convinced he will win the lottery. He frequently purchases lottery tickets, hoping to win the jackpot so he can afford his dream ranch. This wasn’t a bad subplot, as it effectively connected to the main plot. However, with the majority of the plot revolving around Julie and Sarah’s journey, as well as Rhonda and Eddie’s search for the twins, the lottery subplot felt like it was included to provide an extra conflict. To Grandmother’s House We Go has enough going on to satisfy the run-time, so this specific part of the story didn’t necessarily need to be there.

A drawn-out story: Even though the main plot of To Grandmother’s House We Go is straight forward, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the plot going. But some parts of the story do cause the overall project to feel drawn-out. In an attempt to raise $10,000 for a kidnapping reward, Rhonda and Eddie plan on selling other people’s Christmas gifts, with the intention of buying those gifts back after the twins have been returned. The entire process of their plan is shown in the movie, lasting for several scenes. This part of Rhonda and Eddie’s subplot could have limited to one or two scenes, as to help tell the story in a shorter amount of time.

Christmas snowman image created by Freepik at freepik.com  <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas-tree”>Christmas tree vector created by Freepik</a> <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/set-of-pretty-christmas-tags_1337932.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> Image created by freepik.com

My overall impression:

Calling To Grandmother’s House We Go an ‘alternative Christmas movie’ is tricky. On the one hand, there are scenes in the movie that rely on typical Christmas elements more than others. One of them is when Julie and Sarah are building a tiny snowman in front of their apartment building. But, as I said in the introduction, the story itself could be found outside of the Christmas season. For the sake of this review, I’ll call this film a “partial alternative Christmas movie”. As for the movie itself, To Grandmother’s House We Go is a fine, harmless, family-friendly title. Similar to what I said about The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove, the 1992 picture will be more appealing for a younger audience, as the main story revolves around young children going on an adventure. Personally, I have no desire to re-watch it. Despite this, I am glad I was able to revisit the film.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Do you remember watching any of the Olsen twins’ movies? If so, which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun on Christmas!

Sally Silverscreen

12 Delights of Christmas Tag – 18 Cinema Lane Edition

Earlier this month, I was tagged by Heidi from Along the Brandywine to participate in the 12 Delights of Christmas Tag. As I have mentioned before, December was a busy month for me, as I had both blog and non-blog related projects to work on. However, I definitely wanted to complete this post before Christmas. This tag is a blessing in disguise for me because I haven’t produced much Christmas related content this year. Like I said about the Hallotober Tag, the 12 Delights of Christmas Tag will definitely fix that!

The 12 Delights of Christmas Tag banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

1. A favorite Christmas tradition?

Opening presents on Christmas morning!

2. Say it snowed at your domicile, would you prefer to go out or stay curled up inside?

Personally, I’m not a fan of cold weather. Therefore, I’d rather stay inside and watch a movie.

3. Tea or hot chocolate?

Why not both?

4. Favorite Christmas colors (i.e. white, blue, silver, gold, red and green etc)? 

I know that purple isn’t a traditional Christmas color. However, I’ve recently noticed that purple and red make a surprisingly good color combination for this time of year!

5. Favorite kind of Christmas cookie?

Preferably one with chocolate!

6. How soon before Christmas do you decorate (also, and more specifically, when does your tree go up)?

Normally, I put my tree up after Thanksgiving. This is because I’m busy preparing for the aforementioned holiday throughout the majority of November.

My little Christmas tree I mentioned in my post, ‘Oh Lil Christmas Tree: My New Christmas Project’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

7. Three favorite traditional Christmas carols?

Carol of the Bells, We Three Kings, and O Holy Night

8. A favorite Christmas song (i.e. something you might hear on the radio)?

Definitely ‘Christmas Eve Sarajevo’ from Trans-Siberian Orchestra! Fun fact, this is the song that introduced me to the band!

9. A favorite Christmas movie? 

If I had to choose one, it’d be the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, November Christmas. It tells a type of story you don’t often find on Hallmark these days.

10. Have you ever gone caroling?

No, I haven’t.

11. Ice skating, sledding, skiing, or snow boarding?

For this question, I’ll choose sledding, as that’s the winter outdoor activity of these four I’ve participated in the most.

12. Favorite Christmas feast dish?

Personally, I think you can’t go wrong with cranberry sauce!

Essential items of Christmas image created by Moonstarer at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-elements-collection_994917.htm’>Designed by Moonstarer</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Moonstarer – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Who I am tagging:

— Lady Kelleth from Lady Kelleth

— IMA from The Cinema Post

— Nisha from The Local Ticket

— Sarah from Room For A Review

— Diane from In Dianes Kitchen

— Lucy from Fun With Orzo

— Kingsley from Divine-Royalty

— Myles from Enticing Desserts

— Eggsandwich04 from KS Blogs

— Simran from The Preserver of Life

— Pale Writer from Pale Writer

— Dbmoviesblog from dbmoviesblog

— J-Dub from Dubsism

What are your thoughts on Christmas? Would you like to participate in this tag? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List 2020

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

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List 2019

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

Something You Want

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

Something You Need to See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: If You Believe Review

For last year’s Happy Holidays Blogathon, I reviewed the 2014 Hallmark Channel movie, The Nine Lives of Christmas. Even though it was my first time seeing the film, I found myself understanding why it has become so popular among Hallmark fans! Originally, I wanted to write about the 1999 film, If You Believe, and the 2020 Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film, Holly and Ivy. But because I wasn’t able to watch Holly and Ivy this week, due to a schedule that was busier than usual, I decided to stick with the one review of If You Believe. This is a film I have seen before, one I remember enjoying. However, it has been over twenty years since I last saw it. As Up Network was airing If You Believe one day, it was a perfect opportunity to take a trip down memory lane! From what I remember, this movie had a pretty unique concept for a Christmas story. In this film, the protagonist’s inner child comes into her present world to help her grow during the Christmas season.

Screenshot of If You Believe‘s poster taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When you have a story that revolves around a young character, that specific role needs to be given to a young actor or actress who has the right amount of talent to carry that film. Even though Hayden Panettiere is the main supporting actress, she single-handedly steals the show! While portraying a younger version of the protagonist, she had so much charisma for an actress so young. The versatility found in Hayden’s performance also added enjoyment to her portrayal of Suzie. Some of the best scenes in If You Believe show Suzie interacting with the film’s protagonist, Susan. This is because both Hayden and Ally Walker had good on-screen chemistry and worked well together. Speaking of Ally Walker, I liked seeing her performance as the protagonist! She brought a wide range of emotions to her role, allowing her character to feel like a realistic individual. This was shown in a scene where Susan and her brother are having a disagreement. Throughout the conversation, frustration and anger could be seen on her face. When her brother says he doesn’t want to see her anymore, Susan immediately starts tearing up.

The cinematography: I was pleasantly surprised to find some creative cinematography in If You Believe! A perfect example is when Susan and a writer named Tom have lunch at a local restaurant. As they discuss Tom’s book, the camera zooms in on Susan’s and Tom’s meal at various moments. This was meant to show how much time was passing during their interaction. Another good use of cinematography can be seen toward the beginning of the film. When Susan is leaving her office for the day, there is a shot of her walking in the hallway. This location is lit with a row of fluorescent lights from the ceiling. As this scene plays out, these lights provide a good contrast to Susan’s dark colored outfit.

The messages and themes: If You Believe is a movie that relies more on the messages and themes of Christmas than the aesthetics of the holiday. Even though these messages and themes could be found in films outside of the Christmas season, the script provides a solid argument for why they should be included in a Christmas movie. One of the biggest themes of If You Believe is believing in yourself. What starts Susan’s journey of personal growth is when she tries to dissuade her niece, Alice, from believing in Santa. This is because she stopped believing in things such as dreams and the magic of the season because of those around her putting her down. As the story continues, the audience see Susan regain her confidence and start believing in herself again, with some encouragement from Suzie. A perfect example is when Suzie coaxes Susan to read a manuscript called “Phooey” in order to find the next bestselling novel for her publishing firm, instead of avoiding another new author to help.

The 2nd Happy Holidays Blogathon banner created by the Brannan sisters from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn out first half: I found the first half of If You Believe to be drawn out. A few scenes lasted longer than they needed to, which caused this problem to occur. Suzie wants to go out on the town, as a way to help Susan move out of her comfort zone. Susan objects this idea, arguing with Suzie during their entire conversation. While this is an important moment in Susan’s journey, I feel the scene could have been shortened by a few seconds. This way, the point could have been reached sooner.

Telling instead of showing: At several moments in the film, Suzie recalls memories from Susan’s past where she was confident and stood up for herself. She shares these memories in various conversations with Susan, but the audience never gets to see them. I know there’s only so much content that can be shared in two hours. However, there should have been at least one or two flashbacks scenes. That decision would have helped illustrate the points Suzie was trying to make.

Glossing over mental illness: In If You Believe, Susan has a writer friend who happens to have a mental illness. When she suggested her friend take medication, he said his medicine ruined his creativity. This friend doesn’t receive much screen-time and his issues are resolved rather quickly. While I’m glad to see Susan’s friend receive the care and attention he needed, the subject of mental illness was glossed over in this story. Even though this was not one of the main topics of the film, it would have been nice if mental illness were given a little more focus in the script.

Group of Christmas figures image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-cute-christmas-character_3188970.htm’>Designed by Pikisuperstar</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I mentioned in the introduction, If You Believe is a film that was released in 1999. Despite this, the film still holds up! Even though there are some flaws in this production, the creative team behind the film did a good job at expressing their intended point to the audience. Like I said in my review, one of the messages of this story is believing in yourself. What Susan’s journey tells us is if we believe in ourselves, then we’ll have enough confidence to believe in others. If we believe in others, we are able to believe in the magic of the season. While If You Believe is a more unconventional Christmas project, it’s one that is definitely worth the two hours! If you are able to find this film, please take the time to watch it.

Overall score: 8.3 out of 10

Have you seen If You Believe? Which ‘90s Christmas movie do you like watching? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Christmas Bow Review + 265 & 270 Follower Thank You

After a temporary break from blogging to work on a creative side project, I have returned to write a blog follower dedication review! 18 Cinema Lane received 265 followers right before my blogathon, A Blogathon to be Thankful For, started. Because I was reading participants’ articles, as well as writing my own editorial, I planned on publishing this review after the event. Shortly after the blogathon ended, 18 Cinema Lane received 270 followers. As the Christmas season is now upon us, I chose to talk about one of Hallmark’s newest seasonal titles. A film I had wanted to see was Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ The Christmas Bow. What intrigued me was the story’s use of music and the dramatic nature of the plot. Even though Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is known for creating less light-hearted Christmas films than Hallmark Channel, the stories themselves do contain good messages and themes.

The Christmas Bow poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While I’m not familiar with the acting talents of Lucia Micarelli, I feel she did a great job with the material she was given! Lucia’s best scene was when, during a flashback, her character, Kate, is playing the violin for her grandmother. Throughout this scene, Lucia was able to convey so much emotion with her face alone; trying to hold back tears while staying passionate about the music her character loved. Prior to watching The Christmas Bow, I had seen some of Michael Rady’s performances from his Hallmark projects. A consistent part of Michael’s acting abilities is how he makes his portrayals appear so effortless. Whether his character was interacting with his cousin or having deep conversations with his mother, Michael gave a performance that felt natural. The supporting cast in this film was strong, with some stand-out performers among the cast. One of them was James Saito, who portrayed Kate’s relative, Grandpa Joe! Whenever James’ character came on screen, he brought joy with him. That’s because he had a great on-screen personality and his smile lit up the room!

The interior design: I really liked seeing the interior design inside Kate’s family’s home! It was not only creative, but also photogenic. In Kate’s room, the décor was primarily white with splashes of color. With the addition of Christmas lights, the room appeared brighter. This prevented the space from looking drab or unimpressive. The living room featured light and dark stone along one wall and the fireplace. Light wood cabinets from the nearby kitchen complement the stone work. Within this house, there were interesting design choices when it came to specific elements in certain rooms or areas. The upstairs hallway contains a tall white bookshelf. A dark wood ladder and desk pairs nicely with the shelving unit.

The music: When I first read the synopsis for this movie, I knew that music would play a significant role in the story. However, all of the music in The Christmas Bow was pleasant to listen to! Because Kate is a violinist, classical music has a primary place in this film’s soundtrack. As she performs, the songs themselves are really good. From ‘Carol of the Bells’ to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, these were familiar tunes that were strengthened by the sound of the violin. I also liked the story angle the film’s creative team took in regards to the influence music has during the Christmas season. When Kate and Patrick’s cousin meet for the first time at a café, Kate teaches him that closing his eyes will help him see the music. Patrick’s cousin tries this technique as Christmas music plays throughout the café. This lesson also shows how music can play a role in people’s lives.

Adorable Christmas card image created by Rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-greeting-card-vector_2824854.htm’>Designed by Rawpixel.com</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Rawpixel.com – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A less dramatic injury: Based on The Christmas Bow’s synopsis, I expected the film’s protagonist to be involved a car accident that causes her to be so traumatized, she decides to avoid the violin as much as possible. In the movie, Kate ends up hurting her hand due to getting it caught in a door. Hand injuries and broken bones are serious. However, compared to what I expected, it seemed like this part of Kate’s story wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been.

Obligatory Christmas activities: In my review of I’m Not Ready for Christmas, I mentioned how the Christmas activities featured in the film were obligatory for the sake of reminding the audience that they were watching a Christmas movie. The Christmas Bow has a similar flaw, as Patrick’s cousin continually presents a list of Christmas activities he wants to complete before December 25th. While these activities were woven into the overall story better than I’m Not Ready for Christmas, their presentation in The Christmas Bow felt like they had to be there. The activities themselves were those that have been featured in countless Christmas movies before, such as buying a Christmas tree and making gingerbread houses.

A party planning subplot: One of the subplots in The Christmas Bow revolved around Kate’s family planning a Christmas party at their music store. The subplot itself wasn’t bad and preparation for a party can work as a story concept. But an influx of this type of story during last year’s Christmas line-ups made me hope both networks would move away from showing party planning in their movies. Sadly, Hallmark isn’t aware of that detail as they continue to recycle this plot point.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The Christmas Bow is the first 2020 released Christmas movie from Hallmark I’ve seen. Therefore, I can only compare it to the 2015 film, I’m Not Ready for Christmas. What I will say is The Christmas Bow is far better than I’m Not Ready for Christmas! Sure, there were flaws within the film. But the overall story was engaging with memorable strengths. Music was easily woven into the plot, feeling like it naturally fit in the movie. Character interactions and acting performances helped make the film worth watching. The story itself definitely belonged on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, as the material was more emotional than projects found on Hallmark Channel. While it’s too early to say if The Christmas Bow will go on to become one of Hallmark’s “classics”, I can state here that I liked the film. Thank you to my followers who have supported 18 Cinema Lane! It truly is an accomplishment I appreciate!

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Have you seen any of Hallmark’s 2020 Christmas films? If so, which one has been your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: I’m Not Ready for Christmas Review

Before Pale Writer’s Maxwell Caulfield Blogathon, I had seen two of Maxwell’s three Hallmark films. These titles were Missing Pieces, a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie from 2000, and Second Chances, a Hallmark Channel film from 2013. With one movie remaining, I selected the 2015 title, I’m Not Ready for Christmas, as my entry for the event. From a network that features the same actors and actresses in multiple projects, it’s interesting to note that I’m Not Ready for Christmas was Maxwell’s only Hallmark Christmas movie. As is sometimes the case, my review of this film was also this blogathon’s only article discussing any Hallmark film. When the movie first premiered five years ago, I skipped it in favor of other titles. This is because it was being compared to Liar Liar, a film I had not seen in its entirety, but was aware of the general premise. Personally, I like watching Hallmark films that either seem less predictable or have a creative component. Because the type of story found in I’m Not Ready for Christmas is more unique than Hallmark films from the past three years, I finally decided to check it out!

I’m Not Ready for Christmas poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel.

Things I liked about the film:

The supporting cast: There were several actors in the supporting cast that gave stand-out performances. One of them was this blogathon’s star, Maxwell Caulfield! Even though he was only in a handful of scenes, Maxwell found a way to make his character, Greydon DuPois, memorable. This was achieved through a confident personality and a strong on-screen presence. Another stand-out performance came from Mia Bagley, who portrayed Anna Geller, Holly’s niece. Her sweet demeanor reminded me of Jenny Wilder from Little House on the Prairie. Anna, like Jenny, wanted the best for the people in her life. The Christmas wish Anna tells Santa, where she wishes her aunt were more honest, effectively shows this. Brigid Brannagh is an actress I’m familiar with because her 2011 Hallmark movie, A Crush on You. While watching her portrayal of Anna’s mom, Rose, I could tell her previous experience with the network worked in her performance’s favor. This could be seen in the scene when Rose and Anna are at Anna’s Christmas recital. While Anna waits for Holly to show up, Rose’s face shows disappointment as she knows what lies ahead.

The messages and themes: Hallmark’s Christmas movies feature a variety of messages and themes that the audience can relate to. In I’m Not Ready for Christmas, a major theme is honesty, as Holly works on telling less lies throughout the film. Toward the end of the story, Holly is faced with a professional dilemma that could end her career. Instead of choosing what will benefit her, she chooses to do what is right. Seeing a character deal with a real-life conflict and make a positive decision is something that the audience can appreciate. It can also inspire them to apply these messages of truthfulness and placing others before one’s self to their own life.

The Cool Rider: Maxwell Caulfield Blogathon banner created by Pale Writer from Pale Writer.

What I didn’t like about the film:

An inconsistent performance: When it comes to Hallmark’s Christmas movies, Alicia Witt’s entries have been hit or miss. While I liked A Very Merry Mix-Up and Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane, I was not a fan of Our Christmas Love Song. In A Very Merry Mix-Up and Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane, Alicia was given material that complimented her acting abilities, allowing her performance to come across as consistent. Alicia’s performance in I’m Not Ready for Christmas, on the other hand, was very inconsistent. There were scenes where emotionality shined through, such as when Holly and Drew were sharing their life stories over apple cider. But whenever Holly was under her truth telling spell, she sounded robotic. Alicia’s performance made those moments feel awkward and jarring. I know Alicia has what it takes, talent wise, to carry a film. However, I feel she was miscast in this particular role.

Little to no sense in the story: Several moments in I’m Not Ready for Christmas made little to no sense. One example takes place toward the beginning of the movie. Anna and her mom, Rose, are upset that Holly, Anna’s aunt, has chosen to attend a private dinner over Anna’s Christmas recital. They feel Holly will miss Anna’s performance because of her personal choice. But this movie was released in 2015 and I’m pretty sure Rose owns a smart phone. With that said, wouldn’t Rose record a video of Anna on her phone and show Holly the video afterwards? Speaking of Anna, another confusing moment happens when Anna interacts with Santa after the recital. In this scene, there’s no clear indication that the Santa Anna is talking to is the real deal or that they had ever interacted before. However, when Santa calls Anna by her name, no one questions how he knows her.

Solving a problem with a problem: An overarching conflict in I’m Not Ready for Christmas is Holly learning how to be honest with others. However, one of the ways she learns this lesson is for some of the other characters to lie to her. In one scene, Holly’s assistant, Jordan, asks for some time off so she can take care of her grandmother. But several scenes later, Holly discovers that Jordan was lying about her personal life. In reality, Jordan was on a date with her boyfriend at the same ice-skating rink Holly and Anna were visiting. I understand why Hallmark made this creative decision, as to remind the audience to treat others as they would like to be treated. But in this story, it felt like the script was trying to solve a problem with a problem. This misstep made the moments where Holly was changing her ways seem like positive outcomes were happening too conveniently in her favor.

A story that doesn’t feel Christmas-y: Despite this movie being titled I’m Not Ready for Christmas, the story itself doesn’t need to belong in the Christmas season. The themes of honesty and self-improvement can be found in any time of year. In fact, this exact plot could have taken place outside of Christmas and it wouldn’t have made a difference. While there are Christmas activities featured in this film, they were obligatory for the sake of reminding the audience that this was indeed a Christmas movie. The scenes themselves forced the film to pause the story instead of allowing those moments to find a legitimate place in the narrative.

Blue sparkly Christmas tree image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/merry-christmas-card_2875396.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I said in this review, a major theme of I’m Not Ready for Christmas is honesty. Therefore, I will be honest by saying I did not like this film. This movie makes the exact same mistake 2019’s A Cheerful Christmas did: putting so much emphasis on creating a pointless, Christmas remake of a well-known ‘90s film, that the creative team forgets how to make a good movie. The story has a more unique premise than other films from Hallmark’s library. However, the execution of that story was very poor. The truth telling spell Holly falls under does not lend itself to comedy. Instead, it feels awkward and jarring. What also hurts this film is not utilizing the Christmas elements within the script, causing the film to be devoid of true Christmas spirit. Instead of trying to copy what Liar Liar did almost thirty years ago, I’m Not Ready for Christmas should have been a combination of a modern twist on It’s a Wonderful Life and a Christmas version of the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘Monica’s Bad Day’. If this had been the plan, it might have brought something new to the table.

Overall score: 4.9 out of 10

Have you seen Maxwell Caulfield’s Hallmark films? Are there any Hallmark Christmas films you’d like me to check out? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen