Take 3: Mystery 101: An Education in Murder Review

In 2020, I haven’t reviewed Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ films as often as I had wanted to. This is because of two reasons. The first is how I’m not always able to watch a film as soon as it is released. The second is how I’ve devoted my time to re-capping When Calls the Heart. But since I just watched the newest film in the Mystery 101 series and because some of my most popular content is Hallmark Movies & Mysteries related, I decided to review Mystery 101: An Education in Murder! I’ve watched all of Hallmark’s mystery movies that have premiered this year, so far. In my opinion, I think these projects are stronger than the newer Hallmark Channel movies I’ve seen. While there are patterns that Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ films follow, each series tries to tell a different kind of story. The series themselves have a distinct identity, preventing these films from blending into one another. The Mystery 101 series is just one example. Taking an academic approach to the mystery genre, this collection of films has quickly become a fan favorite. I still can’t believe that after this story started a year ago, it’s already on the fifth chapter!

Mystery 101 -- An Education in Murder poster
Mystery 101: An Education in Murder poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=143&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=307&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Mystery+101+An+Education+in+Murder.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: What I liked about the performances in Mystery 101: An Education in Murder is how every actor and actress presented their character as if they were individuals from real-life. While the film’s writing makes this aspect a possibility, the quality of the actors’ talents also helps. All of the interactions between the characters felt realistic and their conversations came across as natural. Even though there were actors and actresses that were new to the series, there were others that have either regularly appeared in the Mystery 101 series or another mystery series. Steve Bacic was one of the main cast members in the Garage Sale Mystery series. Because of his work in those movies, it gave him an understanding on how a typical Hallmark Movies & Mysteries project works. Despite Steve being in the film for a short amount of time, his performance benefitted from his experiences working with Hallmark’s second network.

 

Travis and Amy’s interactions: Seeing Travis and Amy’s relationship grow over the course of the series is one of the best parts of these films! As I said in my Mystery 101 review, the on-screen chemistry between Jill and Kristoffer helps. In Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, these moments featuring Amy and Travis were more light-hearted and humorous. This was meant to provide the audience with periodical breaks from the darkness within the story. One of these moments was when Travis and Amy are waiting to be seated at a restaurant. Even though this was meant to be a romantic date, Amy’s dad showed up and the dinner became an unintentional group event. This scene was hilarious and provided light-hearted interactions between these characters!

 

The mystery: Cold cases are not often featured in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ films. This kind of mystery in Mystery 101: An Education in Murder gave the audience a different story from what is usually shown on Hallmark’s second network. It encourages the creative team behind this series or any mystery series to think outside the box when it comes to story-telling. Instead of relying on physical objects as clues, the clues themselves were found in the dialogue spoken by the suspects. This provided an interesting approach to the mystery itself and how it was solved. Using language as a tool for solving a mystery is a concept that I’ve rarely seen in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

The “don’t-get-involved” cliché: In my Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver review, I talked about how the incorporation of the “don’t-get-involved” cliché was one of the flaws of that film. This is because I feel this cliché doesn’t work outside of the series’ first or second movie. Mystery 101: An Education in Murder is another film that adopts this cliché. Within the first twenty minutes of the film, Travis tells Amy not to get involved with the case. I know that he told her this with the intention of keeping her best interests in mind. I am also aware that the mystery itself was a cold case. However, Travis told Amy this after she had helped him successfully solve more than one mystery and after he called her a “consultant” while talking with a former colleague. If Travis had expressed his concern about Amy getting involved in the first or second movie, it would feel justified. But in the series’ fifth film, this cliché seems unnecessary.

 

A limited presence for some characters: Some of the characters in Mystery 101: An Education in Murder are featured less than others. As I already mentioned, Steve Bacic was in the film for a limited amount of time. When I first saw this film’s trailer, I had assumed Steve’s character, Mac, would play a bigger role within the story. However, he was only presented in a handful of scenes. I’ve enjoyed watching Preston Vanderslice’s performances in the Mystery 101 series! It makes me happy whenever Bud shows up in any movie. However, it feels like this character is stuck in the same place. I’m not an expert on the subject of the teaching profession. But, by the fifth movie, I feel like Bud should be further along in his educational journey. If this series receives a sixth movie, I hope we can see Bud passing his final exams or watch him graduating.

 

A few overlooked story-points: There were a few story-points in this movie that were not fully explored. A series of Mark Twain’s transcripts were incorporated in the overall story. They were shown at the beginning of the film as the cause for the mystery taking place. I’m not going to spoil the film if you haven’t seen it yet. However, I think these transcripts should have had a stronger connection to the overarching mystery. There was one suspect who was directly connected to the case. Again, I will not spoil the movie. But I think this character’s part of the story was, to a certain extent, overlooked.

Books Seamless Pattern
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My overall impression:

The Mystery 101 series is, in my opinion, one of the stronger of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ series. Its quality has been consistent and I’ve enjoyed watching each chapter. In fact, Mystery 101: Words Can Kill was one of the best movies I saw in 2019! Similar to that film, I did like Mystery 101: An Education in Murder! While it did have some flaws that prevented the project from being better than it was, I had a good time solving the mystery alongside Travis and Amy. Having the mystery be a cold case provided an interesting change to the series. The way the mystery itself was approached was also unique. Language has always played a role in any mystery. But in Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, dialogue from the suspects was used as clues for solving the case. Because of everything that’s been happening in the world at this time, it’ll be a while before we see another Mystery 101 movie. However, I hope we can receive another chapter in this series soon!

 

Overall score: 7.9 out of 10

 

Have you been watching Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ newest films? If so, which one has been your favorite so far? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Mystery 101 Review

Because my review of Ruby Herring Mysteries: Silent Witness was fairly successful (with 55 views and 5 likes), it made sense for me to continue reviewing mystery films on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The next film that the network released was Mystery 101. I was pretty excited to see this film because of Jill Wagner’s and Kristoffer Polaha’s involvement in the movie. One of my favorite Hallmark movies from last year was Pearl in Paradise, so I was looking forward to seeing Jill and Kristoffer lead another Hallmark production. However, I had low expectations for this film. This is because Mystery 101 appeared to have some of the same aspects of other mystery movies from this network. But, because I enjoy watching the mystery films on Hallmark’s second channel, I decided to give this movie a chance. Was this film as enjoyable as Pearl in Paradise? The only to solve this mystery is by reading my Mystery 101 review!

mystery 101 poster
Mystery 101 poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=143&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=307&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Mystery+101.

Things I liked about the film

  • The acting: The cast in Mystery 101 was one of the best parts of this film! As I said in my introduction, Jill Wagner’s and Kristoffer Polaha’s involvement in this film was what excited me about the project. Their performances did not disappoint, as both of their talents appeared very natural and believable on-screen. I was also impressed by the acting performances of the supporting cast. I was pleasantly surprised to see Preston Vanderslice within this film. I’ve really enjoyed his performances in other Hallmark productions, like Cooking with Love. His portrayal of Amy’s teaching assistant, Bud, was very good. I also liked Andy Thompson’s portrayal as Eldon, the university maintenance employee. His performance was so memorable, I’m still thinking about it as I write this review.

 

  • The on-screen chemistry: Because of their on-screen chemistry in Pearl in Paradise, I had a feeling that Jill Wagner and Kristoffer Polaha could also have on-screen chemistry in Mystery 101. Like their acting performances, Jill and Kristoffer’s on-screen chemistry did not disappoint either. Anytime Amy and Travis interacted with one another, it always came across realistically and convincingly. The banter between them was good to hear and the situations they were a part of were interesting to see. If this movie is the start of a new series, seeing Amy and Travis’ relationship grow will be something to look forward to.

 

  • The mystery story: In most mystery movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, there are one or two mystery stories within the overall film. In Mystery 101, there were four mysteries within this movie’s narrative. This was a creative and ambitious approach, trying to do something different from the other movies on the network. Having more than one mystery with the film’s story allows the audience to stay engaged in what is happening in the narrative. It also made for an interesting interactive experience.
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What I didn’t like about the film:

  • A slower pace: Throughout Mystery 101, the pace was on the slower side. It almost seemed like the film wanted to take its time with each mystery instead of being as suspenseful and fast-paced as possible. It didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the film, but it was something that I noticed.

 

  • A delayed start of the mystery: As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, I feel that a film’s mystery should be introduced within the first few minutes of the movie. However, the mystery in Mystery 101 was introduced toward the end of the film’s first 20 minutes. I understand that this is a first movie to a potential new series, meaning that the film’s first few minutes are crucial to setting up the world of the overall series. But I still feel that this film’s mystery should have been introduced within the first 10 to 15 minutes of the film. This way, the story could have jumped right into the mystery and the audience could have started their mystery-solving journey a lot sooner.

 

  • Some of the mysteries not connecting with other mysteries: I won’t spoil Mystery 101 if you haven’t seen it yet. But some of the mysteries within this narrative didn’t connect with the other mysteries in this movie. Out of the four mysteries that were introduced in this story, two of them were stand-alone mysteries. They kind of felt like they were there just for the sake of being there. If Mystery 101 becomes a new series and continues to include more than one mystery in their films, I hope these mysteries have some connectivity with each other.
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My overall impression:

Like Ruby Herring Mysteries: Silent Witness, Mystery 101 was a good start to this specific series. But, after watching Mystery 101, I liked this movie more than Ruby Herring Mysteries: Silent Witness. When comparing the two stories, I think that Mystery 101’s story had more creativity to it. The very idea of having more than two mysteries being explored within one movie is something that isn’t often seen on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. It’ll be interesting to see what’s in store for Mystery 101 in the future. Even though Hallmark Movies & Mysteries films, to a certain extent, seem to follow a formula, it looks like the network is putting in a good amount of effort to create movies and series that are unique and creative from each other. Hopefully, these efforts can continue as new series are welcomed and returning series come home.

 

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

 

Have you seen Mystery 101? Would you like to see this series continue? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Love, of Course Review

Since both of my reviews from this year’s “Fall Harvest” line-up have been pretty well-liked and since I don’t know if I’ll review any movies before my Halloween double feature, I decided to review Love, of Course. Like a lot of the movies I talk about on 18 Cinema Lane, I had low expectations for this film. While I’d seen Cameron Mathison and Mackenzie Vega perform in at least one Hallmark movie before, I had never seen any of Kelly Rutherford or Gabby Douglas’ acting performances. Also, the story of a parent spending time with their children at college is not new for Hallmark, as A Lesson in Romance was released four years prior to Love, of Course. However, I wanted to watch this film with an open mind, hoping that, at least, some creativity was incorporated into this story. Was Love, of Course the surprise waiting at the end of the corn maze? Let’s take the trip through this review to find out!

Love, of Course poster
Love, of Course 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=Love%2c+of+Course.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The entire cast of this movie was great! Everyone brought their A game to their specific roles, with all of the performances appearing natural and believable. The talents of the actors complimented each other, making the film even more enjoyable. Before watching Love, of Course, I was impressed by Mackenzie Vega’s performance in Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Beach House. Mackenzie’s portrayal of Cara was great in this film as well! I hope Mackenzie can appear in more Hallmark movies in the future.

 

The on-screen chemistry: Kelly Rutherford and Cameron Mathison gave a great performance individually and as a pair. One thing that added to the portrayal of their characters was their on-screen chemistry. Amy and Noah’s relationship came across very convincingly. It also looked and felt like their relationship was developing over the course of the film. Watching Amy and Noah’s interactions was definitely one of the highlights of this film!

 

The fall and harvest themes: I thought the fall theme was incorporated really well in Love, of Course! There was a lot of fall related things in the movie; from the idea of someone going back to school to the desserts that Amy makes for the people around her. I also liked how this story focused on the theme of harvest. Farmer’s markets have been featured in Hallmark movies before. However, Love, of Course showed the process of how a farmer’s market participant prepares to sell their product at a farmer’s market. I found this aspect of the film very informative and interesting!

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Corn field image created by Rene Cerney at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Rene Cerney.”

What I didn’t like about the film:

The under-utilization of Gabby Douglas: Even though Gabby doesn’t have as much acting experience as some of the other cast members in this film, I was disappointed by how little screen time she was given. Gabby is not only one of the top billed actresses in the film, she is also featured on the film’s poster. While watching this film, I noticed that Gabby was present in the movie for about five minutes or less.

Fresh Tasty Red Apples in Wooden Basket on Green Grass
Red apples in basket photo created by Valeria_aksakova at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/fresh-tasty-red-apples-in-wooden-basket-on-green-grass_1284495.htm’>Designed by Valeria_aksakova</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Valeria_aksakova – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

I’ve seen the majority of Hallmark’s 2018 “Fall Harvest” movies. Out of all those films, Love, of Course is the best one from this line-up! Outside of the Christmas season, the “Fall Harvest” line-up has been the strongest on Hallmark Channel! In fact, I think this year’s “Fall Harvest” line-up was better than last year’s. Even though Love, of Course had some elements that are usually found in Hallmark movies, there were also aspects within the film that were creative and interesting. It was also nice to see that the cast was made up of familiar faces (Mackenzie Vega from The Beach House) and new members of the Hallmark community (Kelly Rutherford). I’m hoping that these familiar faces can continue to work and thrive in the Hallmark community and that today’s new members can be the familiar faces of tomorrow.

 

Overall score: 8.3 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on this year’s “Fall Harvest” line-up? Which movie has been your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game Review

It seems like my posts and reviews about Hallmark Movies & Mysteries films are a big hit on 18 Cinema Lane. My most popular movie review is my Hailey Dean Mysteries: A Will to Kill review at 131 views and counting! The Word on the Street post about Marrying Father Christmas going into production is the most popular post on my blog at 212 views and counting! To keep up with this apparent demand, I decided to review Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game. Back in April, I reviewed Reap What You Sew: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery, giving the movie the score of 7 and receiving pretty good feedback on the review itself (that review got 3 likes and 10 views). Then, in May, I shared the official synopsis for Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game in a Word on the Street post. In that post, I speculated that Niall Matter’s character, Nick Miller, could replace Martin as Aurora’s love interest. Was my speculation correct? Solve this mystery by reading my review of Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game!

Aurora Teagarden Mysteries -- The Disappearing Game poster
Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=143&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Aurora+Teagarden+Mysteries+The+Disappearing+Game.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: This cast was solid! Everyone in this movie gave such a memorable performance! While watching this film, there were two actors that really stood out to me. One of them was Niall Matter, who, I think, gave the best performance in any Hallmark movie he’s starred in this year (so far). There was one scene where his character, Nick, was talking to Aurora about the murder victim. In that moment, his eyes looked as if they contained so much pain, showing just how much emotion Niall gave to that portrayal. The other actor is Curtis Tweedie, who portrayed Brian, one of the students at Lawrenceton College. Curtis packed so much emotion into his role that my heart actually went out to his character, feeling bad for him whenever he was upset. Though Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game was Curtis’ first Hallmark movie, I would love to see him star in more Hallmark productions, especially a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie!

 

The interactions between characters: Something that always remained consistent in the Aurora Teagarden series is the various interactions between the characters. It’s always nice to see favorites from the series, such as Aurora and Aida, interacting with new characters, like their cousin/nephew Phillip. Anytime a new character is introduced in this series, it feels like they are effortlessly woven into each story or the series as a whole. The characters’ connections to each other and the conversations they share are always a delight, especially in Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game. Nick, for example, was introduced in this movie as a new character in the series. However, Niall not only fit in amongst the cast, but his character fit in amongst the different characters as well, whether they were new-comers or veterans to the series.

 

The mystery: In most mystery movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the primary focus is placed on solving the murder mystery. With Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game, Aurora and her friends were also trying to solve a kidnapping case. This second mystery added a new layer to this series and told a story that is rarely written into a mystery movie on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Having more than one mystery also maintained the amount of intrigue that is expected in the Aurora Teagarden series.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Arthur’s lack of screen time: For three years, the Aurora Teagarden series has introduced their audience to several memorable characters. One of them is Arthur Smith, who is portrayed by Peter Benson. Known as the husband of Captain Lynn Liggett-Smith and for telling Aurora to let the police solve the mystery on more than one occasion, Arthur has appeared in all nine Aurora Teagarden films. However, in Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game, it seemed like Arthur didn’t receive as much screen time compared to the other films in the series. In the latest Aurora Teagarden film, it felt, to me, like Arthur’s significance as a character got reduced.

 

Aurora and Nick’s limited amount of time together: Nick Miller, one of the newest characters in this series, is Aurora’s next-door neighbor. Throughout Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game, there were subtle hints to the idea of Nick and Aurora pursuing a romantic relationship. While it’s understandable for the screen-writers to take their time when developing this on-screen relationship, I feel that Aurora and Nick didn’t spend enough time together. The amount of time they spent together on-screen was so limited, it was hard to determine if Candace Cameron Bure and Niall Matter had good on-screen chemistry.

 

The mystery’s start time: Usually, the start of a mystery movie’s mystery takes place within the first few minutes of the film. For Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game, the start of the film’s mystery didn’t happen until about 20 minutes into the movie. Personally, I think this length of time was a little too long. The ideal amount of time for a movie’s mystery to start, in my opinion, is somewhere between 10 to 15 minutes.

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My overall impression:

I really enjoyed Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: The Disappearing Game! It was better than Reap What You Sew: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery and it continued to spark my interest in this series. Something that I’m definitely looking forward to seeing in these movies is the growth of Aurora and Nick’s relationship. As Rick said in Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”. His quote can definitely be applied to Aurora and Nick’s friendship, as their story is far from over. As for the Aurora Teagarden series, I would still like to see an Aurora Teagarden Mystery Month, similar to the Garage Sale Mystery Month in August and Hailey Dean Mystery Month in June. The Aurora Teagarden series is still one of the strongest movie series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, so I do think this idea could work. As long as there are stories to tell, there will always be a mystery for Aurora to solve.

 

Overall score: 7.7-7.8 out of 10

 

Have you seen the Aurora Teagarden movies? Which movie in the series is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen