Sally Watches…Homicide: Life on the Street

Recently, I purchased The Crow: The Movie, a book that explores the production of the 1994 film. While reading that book, I learned that Bai Ling, who portrayed Myca in the movie, guest-starred on an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. The Crow: The Movie also revealed that Jon Polito, who portrayed Gideon, was a regular on the aforementioned television show. As of November 2020, I haven’t seen much from either actor’s filmography. Until a few days ago, I didn’t even know this show existed. Fortunately, I was able to find Bai and Jon’s episode online, which is one of the reasons why I’m reviewing it. Like my other television episode reviews, I will write about what I liked about the episode, what I didn’t like about the episode, the story itself, the other factors from the episode, and my overall thoughts. But similar to my episode review of Touched by an Angel, I won’t be sharing my thoughts on Homicide: Life on the Street as a series, as I’m only focusing on one episode.

Screenshot of Homicide: Life on the Street‘s title card taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: And The Rockets Dead Glare

Season 1, Episode 7

Premiere Date: March 17th, 1993

What I liked about this episode:

As I mentioned in the introduction, I have not seen much from Bai’s or Jon’s filmography. In fact, the only projects of Bai’s I’ve seen is The Crow and the Lost episode, “Stranger in a Strange Land”. Her roles on those programs, Myca and Achara, are presented as mysterious individuals who convey a sense of mysticism. This is portrayed through the characters’ actions and choices. Because Bai’s character on Homicide: Life on the Street, Teri Chow, is not mysterious in the same way as Myca or Achara, this forces her to rely on emotion instead of actions. “And The Rockets Dead Glare” shows Bai effectively using emotion when interacting with Jon Polito’s character, Steve Crosetti, and Meldrick Lewis, Steve’s detective partner. In the beginning of the episode, Teri tearfully reveals the identity of the murder victim and the likely cause of his death. Bai’s performance not only shows how murder can affect those surrounding the victim, but the battles some people may face as well. I also found her to be the stand-out actor in this episode!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Just like The Crow, Jon and Bai share only one scene on their episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. However, a major difference is the aforementioned scene was Bai’s only scene in the entire fifty-four-minute episode. Teri is referenced by Steve and Meldrick long after her initial introduction. But aside from that first scene, she doesn’t make any further appearances. While Bai receives more lines in “And The Rockets Dead Glare” than she did in her and Jon’s scene from The Crow, her character is not as significant in the overall story as I hoped and expected. It also doesn’t help that the mystery in this specific storyline is overshadowed by Steve and Meldrick’s sightseeing adventure in Washington D.C. Because of this, the mystery remained unsolved. For almost an hour, a guilty party was not revealed, no clues were found, and there were no suspects being questioned.

The story itself:

When I first read the synopsis for “And The Rockets Dead Glare”, I felt there was too much going on in the episode’s overall story. After watching the episode, I still stand by that belief. “And The Rockets Dead Glare” features four storylines; Steve and Meldrick’s murder mystery/Washington D.C. trip, another murder mystery involving drugs, a court case featuring two of the series regulars (Beau Felton and Kay Howard), and a member of Baltimore’s police unit, Frank Pembleton, receiving a promotion. With four plots competing for screen-time, all of them ended up underwhelming. Even the one story I was the most invested in, Steve and Meldrick’s murder mystery, was not fully engaging because of the story’s misfocus. The plot that received the most attention, Beau and Kay’s court case, revolved around events from the show’s previous episode. Because of this and because “And The Rockets Dead Glare” is the only episode of Homicide: Life on the Street I’ve seen, I found the story to be uninteresting. Had this storyline been the main focus of a two-part episode, it might have worked better from a story-telling perspective. Every plot in “And The Rockets Dead Glare” lacked a sense of urgency. It seemed like the characters spent more time having casual conversations with one another than actually doing their jobs. This screenwriting decision takes away the suspense and intrigue that is usually found on mystery/crime shows.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Pieces of media from the past can be viewed one of two ways: as products of their time or standing the test of time. Parts of “And The Rockets Dead Glare” were reflections of the ‘90s that felt exclusive to that time period, with no room to expand beyond the decade. While waiting in the hallway at the court house, Beau asks Kay if she’d like to watch Oprah, referring to Oprah’s day-time talk show. Because that show has been off the air for almost a decade, as of November 2020, it doesn’t hold the same amount of relevance it did when “And The Rockets Dead Glare” first premiered. Another example is a conversation Steve has with a government official that has aged poorly, where Steve compliments the official for his use of English.
  • I really liked Homicide: Life on the Street’s introduction! All of the shots were filmed in black-and-white, with hints of red appearing on the screen. This reminded me of The Crow, where the film’s color palette shared similar hues throughout the story. In the introduction, mysterious music could be heard in the background. This sets a tone that indicates a suspenseful outcome of what will unfold.
  • As I said in the introduction, I had never heard of Homicide: Life on the Street before reading The Crow: The Movie. Therefore, I did not see “And The Rockets Dead Glare” when it originally aired. When I watched this episode for this review, I noticed how all of the on-screen text was backwards. I doubt this happened in March of 1993 when the episode first premiered on television. However, I’m wondering if the person who uploaded this episode online made this decision for copyright related reasons?

My overall thoughts:

Now that I have seen Homicide: Life on the Street, I understand why it isn’t well remembered. The episode I watched, “And The Rockets Dead Glare”, was one of the most mundane programs I’ve ever seen. While it had a strong start and promising potential, the stories themselves were not as interesting as they could have been. Despite having seen only one episode of this show, it felt like Homicide: Life on the Street was desperately trying to ride the coat-tails of a show like Law and Order without fully grasping what made a program like that work. Going against Homicide: Life on the Street’s favor is featuring four main storylines in the overall episode instead of one mystery case. The focus on characters having casual-style conversations with each other negatively impacted key areas of these plots. As stated in this review is how Steve and Meldrick’s trip to Washington D.C. overshadowed the murder mystery they were required to solve. If you are a fan of The Crow and are interested in seeing “And The Rockets Dead Glare”, I’d recommend watching the scenes involving Steve and Meldrick’s murder mystery for Bai’s and Jon’s performance alone. Everything else can be skipped, as it’ll just lead you to disappointment.

Rating: A very low 3 out of 5

This is a screenshot I took of my copy of The Crow: The Movie. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
This is a screenshot I took from The Crow: The Movie‘s page about Bai Ling. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
This is a screenshot I took from The Crow: The Movie‘s page about Jon Polito. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Have you watched The Crow? If so, what TV show episode featuring a star of this movie would you like to see me review? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun on television!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death Review

Even though I’ve been reviewing films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries lately, I haven’t reviewed a mystery film from Hallmark’s second network since May. Because of this, I decided to review the newest movie in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series, especially since I have seen the first two installments. Like the other series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Picture Perfect Mysteries has been an enjoyable collection of films. The series also has a distinct identity that sets it apart from the various current offerings on this particular channel. A mystery story featuring a murder mystery stage play is not new, as the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series had a similar concept in the 2019 movie, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: A Very Foul Play. In fact, there was a play poster in the background of Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death that was titled “A Very Foul Play”. However, I was curious to see how a detective and photographer duo would approach this specific type of mystery.

Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Thing I liked about the film:

The acting: In Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death, the acting ranged from fine to good. However, there were some stand-out performances I’d like to bring up. One came from series regular, Trezzo Mahoro, who portrayed Allie’s friend Noah. What I liked about his performance was how lively and expressive it was. A good example is when Noah discovers Maya has figured out the password on his laptop. The look of shock on his face truly appeared genuine. Another note-worthy performance was Willie Aames’! As one of the characters said in this movie, Neil Kahn was “mild-mannered”. While this is true, Willie made this part of his character consistent. Because Neil is a director of mystery stories, this is a different yet interesting creative choice when it comes to acting. Speaking of Neil, I also enjoyed seeing April Telek’s performance! Throughout the film, her portrayal of Neil’s wife was very natural. This is evident in the scene where she and Neil are having an argument about their personal lives.

The interior and exterior design: In some scenes, Neil Kahn’s house was featured on screen. This is certainly one of the most photogenic houses shown in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film! The exterior was pale yellow Victorian, complete with a wrap around porch. Impressive interior designs added to the grand scale that is also shown on the house’s exterior. Dark wood was a consistent component of each room shown in the movie. The living room boasted a large wood fireplace paired beautifully with green marble. Neil’s library also featured wood, as seen in bookshelves covering the walls. An eye-catching design choice was how arches outlined the shelves, an element that isn’t often found. In one scene, the living room in Allie’s house can be seen in the background. A stone fireplace was illuminated with soft lights, with a complimentary bookshelf next to it. This shows how good interior and/or exterior design came from multiple locations!

The cinematography: There was some cinematography in Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death that really surprised me in a good way! One notable example is when a suspect is being questioned at the police station. As the scene plays out, emphasis is placed on the clock and the suspect’s face. They were both zoomed in at various points in the scene, highlighting the suspense and fear a person might face in that situation. Another interesting use of cinematography is when Allie and Sam were having a conversation after the murder victim was discovered. When each character was speaking, they were given close-ups to help the audience focus on Sam’s or Allie’s part of the conversation. This specific area of film-making, cinematography, added intrigue to the overall project!

Masks of comedy and tragedy images created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Story points that didn’t lead anywhere: Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death contained story points that ended up not leading anywhere. One of them was the robberies that were taking place in Willow Brook, the small town featured in this series. During the movie, Sam was in charge of solving the film’s murder and a string of robberies. Unfortunately, this part of the film became an afterthought, as it had little to no connection to the main plot. Another story point involved a local loan shark. While he was shown and mentioned on a few occasions, the loan shark didn’t have a consistent enough presence to be a meaningful part of the story. If this character would have been given more importance, maybe he could have been a red herring.

Allie’s relationship with Daniel: Hallmark Movies & Mysteries series usually show the male and female protagonist forming a romantic relationship over time. Even though this is only the third Picture Perfect Mysteries movie, I feel Allie and Sam will likely become a couple. Because of this, I found Allie’s relationship with Daniel, a newspaper reporter, to be pointless. When Allie’s friend, Maya, suggests that Allie go on a date with Daniel, it felt like the screenwriter was trying to force a love triangle into the story. Allie and Daniel’s departure from their date came across as awkward, like they knew their relationship wasn’t going to last. To me, it seemed like this aspect of the movie was unnecessarily shoved into the narrative.

A choppy pace: I found the overall pace in Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death to be choppy. This is because there wasn’t a good flow in-between scenes. In one scene, Allie and Sam are discussing color paint samples for Sam’s house. Shortly after, one of the murder suspects is giving Allie clues. Mysteries series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries space out scenes that are not mystery related, as to not make the movie feel too dark. However, this installment in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series seemed to fill their script with as much content as possible with the intent to worrying about the overall flow later.

Tools of a writer image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/camera-and-coffee-near-notebook-and-accessories_2399437.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

At best, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death was a fine film. It definitely had its strengths, such as some stand-out acting performances and interesting cinematography. But, in my opinion, the movie felt like it just met a requirement. As I mentioned in this review, this is the third chapter in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series. By this point, the question of how the overarching story arc can move forward should be answered. This film, however, does not answer that question. What it does instead is almost put the series in a stand-still, forcing it to stay in one place. Having story points that don’t lead anywhere is just one example of how this happened. Yes, the mystery was intriguing. But this is only a part of a mystery film. If there are other parts of the story that don’t work, the movie is going to have shortcomings. While it is unknown at this time whether the Picture Perfect Mysteries series will receive a fourth film, I just hope it’s stronger than this movie was.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen the Picture Perfect Mysteries series? Would you like to see this series get a fourth film? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star Review

I am so close to publishing 200 movie reviews! Because of this, I have devoted this week to publishing my 199th and 200th movie reviews. Next week, I will publish a celebratory post to commemorate this accomplishment. Yesterday, I watched Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star. When I posted my review of Perry Mason Returns last month, it ended up becoming more popular than I expected, with the article receiving nine likes! These factors are the reason why I chose to review Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star. For the most part, I have enjoyed this particular series. While some films have been better than others, I haven’t come across an installment that was bad. What works in Perry Mason’s favor is having consistent elements, such as the acting performances. Because these elements have been, more often than not, strong, it has helped the memorability of the series!

While searching the internet for this film’s poster, I took a screenshot of this one, as I love the overall design! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Joe Penny is an actor I’m familiar with because of his performance in Hallmark’s Jane Doe series. What I liked about his portrayal of Robert McCay in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star is how he was given more opportunities to use emotion! A great example is when Robert is being questioned by Perry Mason at the police station. For most of this scene, the sadness and concern of the situation can be seen on Joe’s face. As the scene progresses, Robert’s anger explodes. Another actor that uses facial expressions well is Jennifer O’Neill! Portraying the murder victim’s wife, Alison Carr, Jennifer used her eyes to enhance the emotions her character was feeling. Her best scene was when Alison and Perry are having a conversation at a law library event. During this conversation, Alison tries to convince Perry that despite everything she has experienced, she is fine. But because her eyes contain so much pain, it appears that Alison is falling apart at the seams. Something I enjoy about the Perry Mason TV movie series is how new, memorable characters have been introduced in each story. Michelle Benti, portrayed by Wendy Crewson, is one of these characters. A photo journalist from New York City, Michelle plays an integral part of the story. She also had a great on-screen personality! Because of these things, it makes me wish Michelle became one of the series’ regulars.

The cinematography: There are times when a mystery movie offers visually appealing cinematography to their audience. Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star is one of these films, as I noticed some interesting cinematography while watching the movie! In the scene where Robert is being questioned by Perry, light is pouring into the room through the blinds of the windows. Both the light and shadows reflect off of Robert’s face, highlighting his facial expressions. Toward the beginning of the film, Robert is walking through the city at night. Smoke could be seen at various moments in that scene. This element helped add to the mysterious nature of the story!

Scenes that tricked the audience: Throughout Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, Robert McCay is filming a movie in New York City. This caused a few scenes to be presented in a way that tricked the audience. In the aforementioned beginning scene, Robert finds himself in the city at night. At one point, he is surrounded by two sets of gang members. As the scene goes on, it is revealed that Robert and the gang members are in the middle of shooting a film scene. Later in the film, Robert and one of his co-stars, Kate, are seen having a conversation with each other. At first, it seems like they are gaining a mutual understanding of the murder case. But, like the previously mentioned scene, this moment is also revealed to be a part of Robert’s movie.

New York City skyline with letters image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/new-york-skyline-typographic-silhouette_719554.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:

Characters with wasted potential: While each character in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star gets their moment to shine, there are a few characters that could have had a greater significance in the story. The gang members from the very first scene serve as a good example. I understand these characters were meant to be extras in Robert’s movie. However, I feel at least one of them could have been given more lines and screen time. Who knows? Maybe they would have become a series regular.

The funeral/memorial dinner: When I reviewed the Murder, She Wrote episode, ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, I mentioned how one funeral visitation felt more like a light-hearted dinner party. There was one scene in this movie that made me feel similar to the aforementioned episode. In Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, the funeral/memorial dinner for the murder victim felt more like an award ceremony. This is because of two things; the fact that some characters don’t wear black attire and how one of the murder victim’s closest friends incorporated jokes during his speech. As I said in my review of ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, funeral services are unique to the family hosting that gathering. However, the two factors I brought up prevented this scene from displaying strong feelings of sadness and grief.

An unbelievable stunt scene: I am aware how fictional stories make their audience suspend their disbelief to varying degrees. But in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, there was one scene involving a stunt that didn’t seem believable to me. The stunt itself is not what caused me to feel this way. This was brought on by the stunt coordinator’s decision to allow a civilian, Perry’s colleague Paul, to participate in a stunt without taking precautionary steps beforehand. I understand this particular scene was meant to serve as a comedic moment. But I just can’t believe any stunt coordinator would willingly overlook details like that, especially in a mystery movie that appears grounded in reality.

Magnifying glass image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/magnifying-glass-with-fingerprint-in-flat-style_2034684.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/flat”>Flat vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As the eighth movie I’ve seen in the Perry Mason TV movie series, I’d say Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star is the best one! Despite its flaws, this film did contain a mystery that was not only intriguing, but also captivating from start to finish! Almost every series features at least one chapter that revolves around show business. When this creative decision is chosen, Hollywood usually serves as that chapter’s backdrop. In Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, a movie was being filmed in New York City. This allows a nice change of scenery and a different perspective to this tried-and-true plot point. While watching the film, I couldn’t help being reminded of the Brandon Lee tragedy. It is due to the murder victim also being killed by a prop weapon in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star. There’s no denying the major differences between the real-life and fictional situations. But after watching Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, it does make me wonder if there would have been a heightened sense of awareness had someone working on the film or a person who knew a cast or crew member had seen the 1986 movie prior to production on The Crow?

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

What are your thoughts on the Perry Mason TV movie series? Do you have a favorite mysteries series? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Perry Mason Returns Review + 235 & 240 Follower Thank You

Two weeks ago, 18 Cinema Lane received 235 followers! With The Legends of Western Cinema Week taking place last week, I decided to publish my blog follower dedication review this week. Shortly after the aforementioned blogathon, my blog received 240 followers! As I’ve done before, I combined both achievements into one review. It has been a while since I wrote about a mystery film for a blog follower dedication review. In fact, the last time a mystery movie was discussed in this type of review was Gaslight, when my blog received 155 followers last November. It has also been awhile since I reviewed a made-for-TV mystery film, as I wrote about Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek in May. This provided a good excuse to choose Perry Mason Returns for this blog follower dedication review!

This is a screenshot of the poster I took from my television with my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about the film:

The acting: Even though there were good performances from the actors, it’s the performances from the actresses that steal the show! Holland Taylor’s role in Perry Mason Returns was similar to her roles in George of the Jungle and Legally Blonde. What I liked about her performance in this 1985 film was how it seemed like she was given more material to work with! My favorite scene featuring Holland’s character, Paula Gordon, was when she demanded Perry Mason to leave her house. The anger she brings forth seems genuine, allowing Paula to grace the screen with a sense of authority. Another Gordon family member whose actress gave a solid performance was Roberta Weiss! Even though her character, Laura, appeared in the movie for a limited amount of time, Roberta brought emotionality to her role. When Laura meets with Della after her father’s death, Laura can be seen bursting into tears. Similar to Holland’s portrayal of Paula, Roberta’s performance felt genuine! Like I’ve said in the introduction, I have seen some Perry Mason films, with most of them coming from the TV film series. One thing I have noticed about Barbara Hale’s portrayal of Della Street is how consistent it is. Della has a charming personality, with enough emotion to carry her from scene to scene. This is especially the case in Perry Mason Returns, where she is accused of a crime she didn’t commit. These factors make Barbara’s performance enjoyable to watch! They also make Della a likeable character!

The set design: There was some impressive set design in Perry Mason Returns! The Gordon family’s house boasts interior designs that effectively reflect a wealthier background. Two rooms that were shown on screen were the living room and Arthur Gordon’s office. They were both spacious, with their own distinct styles being presented. Wood played a consistent role throughout the office, from the hardwood floor to the wall’s paneling. Crème with touches of brown was the signature color scheme of the living room. At one point in the film, a beach house appears in the story. This location had a chic, up-scale design, with the black-and-white checkerboard floor nicely complementing the white pillars separating the living room and kitchen. Della’s house also contained photogenic set design! The kitchen featured a wrap-around window that paired well with a breakfast nook area. This space was not only charming, but inviting as well!

References to the television show: While I’ve seen some Perry Mason movies, I have never seen the original television show. Despite this, I liked the references that were included in the script! They were subtle enough not to alienate viewers like me who are not familiar with the show, but not too subtle for viewers to miss. In one scene, an assistant is talking to a judge about Perry’s decision to defend Della. She calls him ‘rusty’ and assumes he’s making a mistake. This is a reference to Raymond Burr returning to the titular role 19 years after the show ended.

Detective work image created by Photoroyalty at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/investigation-background-design_1041877.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Photoroyalty – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Revealing the killer too early: Every murder mystery story sets aside time to reveal who killed the murder victim. However, this usually takes place toward the end of the story. In Perry Mason Returns, the murder victim’s killer was revealed within the movie’s first fifteen minutes. While this didn’t completely spoil the mystery, it would have been more surprising had this information been presented later in the film.

Perry Mason’s belated introduction: As the title of this movie suggests, the story of Perry Mason Returns revolves around Perry Mason. Even though the titular character appears in the majority of the film, Perry himself wasn’t introduced until about thirty minutes into the movie. The beginning of the story was reserved for exposition and the mystery’s set-up. But I still feel Perry should have been introduced sooner.

Paul’s missteps: I know that having Perry’s younger assistant make mistakes yet help save the day is an essential part of this particular character. Whenever Paul, Perry’s assistant in Perry Mason Returns, made a mistake, they seemed like choices most people could anticipate making. In one scene, Paul comes across a piece of evidence he can’t physically take with him. His decision to not take a picture of the evidence with a small, portable camera is one I found baffling. Samantha Kinsey, from the Mystery Woman series, brings a camera with her anytime she looks for clues and evidence. The time period Perry Mason Returns takes place in can’t be used as an excuse either, as smaller cameras existed in 1985.

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

My overall impression:

Prior to writing this review, I have seen some Perry Mason movies, with most of them coming from the made-for-TV film collection. Out of those movies, I feel Perry Mason Returns is one of the series’ stronger entries! The story did seem like a first chapter for this particular narrative. Despite this, I was invested in the overall project from start to finish! Even when the murder victim’s killer was revealed during the film’s first fifteen minutes, there was enough interest to keep the story going. The subtle references allowed the movie to connect with the pre-existing source material. Solid acting performances and appealing set design helped make the film engaging. Perry Mason Returns is a good introduction to the series, an enjoyable film whether or not you watched the original show. Before I end this review, I want to thank each of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers! I’m grateful for the success this blog has reached so far!

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

Have you watched the original Perry Mason television show? Are there any mystery films from this series you’d like to see me write about? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Sally Watches…Walker, Texas Ranger!

For the Legends of Western Cinema Week, I was trying to decide if I should write a movie review for the 2015 film, Forsaken or create another television show review for Walker, Texas Ranger. Instead of selecting just one, I chose both options as my submissions for the blogathon! Prior to writing this post, I had never seen Walker, Texas Ranger. When I accepted my fourth Liebster Award back in July, I shared how I had never watched anything from Chuck Norris’ filmography. Hamlette and Heidi’s event gave me an excuse to not only change that, but to also expand my cinematic horizons to more westerns. Similar to last March’s review of Murder, She Wrote, I have randomly selected three episodes that happened to be airing on the INSP channel. This time, the episodes will be in the order of when I watched them, instead of chronologically. Each episode will be broken down into five categories: what I liked about the episode, what I didn’t like about episode, the story itself, other factors from the episode, and my overall thoughts. After reviewing these three episodes, I will share my final assessment of the show as a whole.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Heidi from Along the Brandywine. Image found at https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-legends-of-western-cinema.html.

Episode Name: The Covenant

Season 3, Episode 11

Premiere Date: December 9th, 1995

The title card for “The Covenant”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

My favorite scene in ‘The Covenant’ takes place toward the beginning of the episode. During a karate class, Walker notices how one of his students, Ricardo, is missing their purple belt. When he asks Ricardo about the whereabouts of his belt, Ricardo tells Walker he placed the belt in his recently deceased sister’s casket so she could take it to Heaven. After his confession, Walker gives Ricardo another purple belt. When this happens, Ricardo’s face immediately lights up. The music playing during this moment sounded like a tune you’d hear when an athlete in an inspirational sports movie reaches a breakthrough. This scene was both heart-breaking and heart-warming, allowing it to stand out in this episode!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Chuck Norris’ claim to fame is his karate skills, which have become a huge draw for any of his productions. This fact is the reason why Walker is an intelligent karate master. While karate was incorporated into this episode, its presence was very limited. In fact, the story was 80% crime drama, with 20% action. Before watching ‘The Covenant’, I had expected the episode to be 50/50 when it comes to the drama and action. However, the only times karate could be seen are in a montage during a karate class and in the story’s climax.

The story itself:

When I first read the synopsis for ‘The Covenant’, it caused me to ask two “what ifs” about The Karate Kid (the original 1984 film). What if Daniel had never crossed paths with Mr. Miyagi? What if Daniel had joined Cobra Kai? I thought watching this episode of Walker, Texas Ranger would give me a basic idea of what these “what ifs” might look like. But as I reflect on ‘The Covenant’, I realize that comparing the stories of Daniel and Tommy, a student of Walker’s, is like comparing an apple pie to an Apple computer. While Cobra Kai was the villainous/antagonistic group in The Karate Kid, I don’t recall any member of that group breaking the law. Meanwhile, the gang that Tommy interacts with are comprised of legitimate criminals with violent actions and police records. This makes Tommy’s situation more dire than Daniel’s.

To me, this episode of Walker, Texas Ranger felt rushed, as the overall pace was faster than other shows of this nature. I don’t know if this is because ‘The Covenant’ was the first episode of Walker, Texas Ranger I had ever seen or if this was a legitimate creative error. But whatever caused this to happen, I found it difficult to keep up with the story. Another flaw I noticed was how context was missing in certain areas of the narrative. Even though this episode is called ‘The Covenant’, I am still confused as to what the covenant is in relation to the plot. Was it an ideology or a group? This question was never answered.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I was not expecting this episode to be Christmas-themed. However, the plot did not feel like a Christmas story. Sure, there were decorations shown in the background. But ‘The Covenant’ could have taken place in any time of year and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
  • Every television show is bound to have aspects that feel of its time. With Walker, Texas Ranger, there are elements that definitely look like it came from the ‘90s. This can be seen through the characters’ clothes, the background graffiti, and even the opening montage. These things definitely make any show feel like a time capsule.
  • Throughout my life, I’ve seen established shows include real-life topics in their episodes. Sometimes, these topics are effortlessly woven in with the episode’s plot. The anti-gang message of ‘The Covenant’ seems like a PSA was wedged into the overall story. I was given the impression the show’s creative team had chosen to write a narrative around an actual issue. There was some dialogue that sounded more like potential slogans than actual conversation. Even a message at the end of the episode revealed how the ‘The Covenant’ was dedicated to young victims of gang violence.

My overall thoughts:

 ‘The Covenant’ is the episode that inspired me to write about Walker, Texas Ranger. The “what ifs” relating to The Karate Kid are also a part of that inspiration. This episode ended up being different from what I expected, as the limited presence of karate is one reason why this is the case. Even though I liked the inclusion of karate, there was less of the sport than I had been led to believe. This is because the episode leaned more toward the criminal/police procedural part of the overall story. If anything, ‘The Covenant’ came across as part crime drama, part “after school special”, with the anti-gang message being dropped into the story rather than woven in. While this is not one of the worst television episodes I’ve ever seen, it definitely could have been stronger.

Rating: A 3 out of 5

As Walker says in ‘The Covenant’, “These belts don’t come easy. You have to earn them”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: The Juggernaut

Season 3, Episode 16

Premiere Date: February 10th, 1996

The title card for “The Juggernaut”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

In ‘The Juggernaut’, Walker has a limited presence within the story because he has to attend a weekend tournament. This creative decision allows the stakes to be raised to a higher level. It presents a scenario where the hero isn’t always readily available to save the day. It also forces the secondary characters to rely on their own skills to resolve the overarching conflict. Another component is how the episode’s villainous character posed a legitimate threat to Walker and those around him. Connie’s husband, Brad, was a terrifying character because of his realistic nature. Patrick St. Esprit’s performance added to Brad’s sinister persona as well. All of these elements helped make the episode suspenseful and it made me fear for the characters’ lives.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

As I just mentioned, Walker has to attend a weekend tournament. Because of this, Trivette steps in to host a self-defense class at a retreat for domestic violence survivors. I liked how the actual tournament was shown in the episode, as referenced events or situations aren’t always visually presented in TV episodes. But what I didn’t like was how the tournament itself seemed more like a karate clinic. This is because the referee was coaching the athletes during duels and the athletes were surrounding the ring as if listening to an instructor in a class. At the retreat, Trivette led his self-defense class in an interesting way, allowing the survivors to hit him while he was wearing multiple layers of padding. This helped the survivors become comfortable with striking an attacker. The actual lesson didn’t take place until the episode’s halfway point. In my opinion, this moment should have happened sooner in the story.

The story itself:

Unlike ‘The Covenant’, the topic of domestic violence was woven into the story of ‘The Juggernaut’. Instead of dropping this real-life subject into the plot and making it seem like a PSA, the situation presented in this episode feels like it belongs in the show’s world. It gives the message an opportunity to organically grow within the story. Because the retreat is led by Alex, a deputy district attorney and a friend of Walker’s, she’s the one who takes charge of the plot. She was also able to use her skills and expertise to save the day. I like how Alex progressed the narrative forward, as it gave one of the show’s secondary characters a moment to shine. It reminded me of The Babysitter’s Club, where each book is told from a different perspective.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I thought Alex’s cabin looked cute, despite the living room being the only interior shot shown! The green porch was not only eye-catching, but inviting as well. I also think the grounds surrounding the cabin were scenic. I don’t know if this is a real-life house or if it was a set created for the show. However, the location scout did a good job when choosing this particular spot!
  • During the retreat, C.D. tells Connie a story about a retreat participant who was able to turn her life around. After this story was told, C.D. asks Connie if she’ll write a happy ending to her own story. When Connie asks him why he wants to know, C.D. tells her how he wants to share her story with future retreat participants. To me, this was the sweetest moment of the episode!
  • Speaking of C.D., ‘The Juggernaut’ presented the second time I’ve seen C.D. become seriously injured. I’m not sure if this happened often on the show or if it’s just a coincidence. But I felt like bringing it up as a factor of this episode.

My overall thoughts:

When I first reviewed Murder, She Wrote last March, I ended up liking the second episode, ‘Film Flam’ more than the first one, ‘The Legacy of Borbey House’. The exact same thing has happened with ‘The Covenant’ and ‘The Juggernaut’, as I prefer ‘The Juggernaut’ over ‘The Covenant’. The story of the third season’s sixteenth episode contained a better written narrative. It also helped that the delivery of the domestic violence topic didn’t feel forced or preachy. With Walker in the episode for a limited amount of time, it allowed the story to have higher stakes. It also gave secondary characters more screen time and opportunities to be involved in the plot. ‘The Juggernaut’ kind of reminded me of Touched by an Angel, where the series’ regulars approached real-life topics with their wisdom in tow and kindness toward those who needed their help. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I liked ‘The Juggernaut’!

Rating: A solid 4 out of 5

This is one of the few shots of Alex’s cabin that was shown in broad daylight. I wonder how many times it was featured on the show? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: The Lynching

Season 3, Episode 8

Premiere Date: November 18th, 1995

The title card for “The Lynching”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

There were two scenes in ‘The Lynching’ where Walker interacts with Jonah, a man who is accused of killing a local woman. In the first scene, Walker is questioning Jonah about the murder. When he is asked why he ran away from the crime scene, Jonah reveals he was so afraid, that he wanted to go to “Jonah’s Island”. It is implied that “Jonah’s Island” is an imaginary world Jonah created in his mind. Another scene has Jonah stating that he’s “slow in the head”. Walker tells him how there’s nothing wrong with him and how some people get in trouble for moving too fast. These moments were emotionally touching and contained heart.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Wilma Casey, a local woman from a smaller Texas town, is killed in broad daylight. The people in this town are so upset by her death, that they form a mob against Jonah. Statements such as “Wilma was a good woman” were spoken among the members of the mob. Other than those vague statements, no explanation was given for why Wilma was so beloved. A small amount of information about Wilma is provided in this episode, revealing how she’s wealthy and how she helped Jonah after his parents died. But her influence in the town is not told. Was she a philanthropist or a former governor? These questions were never answered in ‘The Lynching’.

The story itself:

The story within the ‘The Lynching’ is a murder mystery, as Walker and other members of law enforcement come together to solve Wilma’s case. With a variety of clues and some shady characters, this plot was intriguing as well as engaging! It also made more sense for the plot to rely on the criminal/police procedural aspect of the show, as the majority of murder mysteries incorporate law enforcement officers in the story. The actions and choices of the people involved in the case did raise more questions than I expected to ask. In one scene, Walker comes across an object that could be used in court. However, he chooses not to collect this object as evidence. These questions didn’t take me out of the episode, but it happened more often than it should have.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Wilma’s house in ‘The Lynching’ was absolutely picturesque! Most of this location was captured in exterior shots, with only the kitchen and office being shown on screen. Like Alex’s cabin in ‘The Juggernaut’, I’m not sure if this is a real-life structure. But whoever was the location scout for Walker, Texas Ranger deserves recognition!
  • According to INSP’s website, Trivette “is a little less “high noon,” and more “high tech” when it comes to fighting crime”. Based on the three episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger I saw, Trivette doesn’t use technology more or less than the other characters. INSP’s description makes it seem like he is the go-to guy for technology, similar to Angela’s adopted role on Bones. After seeing this show, I think the article from INSP is a little misleading.
  • At one point, Jonah has to be transferred from the jail to another location. Instead of taking him to a second jail, the people associated with Wilma’s case take Jonah to a secret area. What surprised me was how Walker didn’t suggest Alex’s cabin as a safer place for Jonah to stay. Even though the cabin is used for Alex’s domestic violence survivor retreats, I’d like to think she wouldn’t mind allowing Jonah to temporarily stay at her cabin.

My overall thoughts:

While I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as ‘The Juggernaut’, I did like it more than ‘The Covenant’. As someone who goes out of their way to talk about mysteries from time to time, the story was interesting enough to keep me invested in the plot. It contained the components that are usually found in a mystery: a collection of clues, potential suspects, some surprises, and suspense. Having this episode lean more toward the crime drama side of the show made sense with the narrative being told. This story is not without its flaws, however. Some of the actions and choices of the people involved in the overarching case were questionable in terms of believability. The lack of explanation for Wilma’s importance also didn’t help. Similar to ‘The Juggernaut’, the situation in ‘The Lynching’ felt it belonged in the world of Walker, Texas Ranger. This episode could have easily followed the footsteps of ‘The Covenant’, placing a message in the script and writing a story around it. Instead, ‘The Lynching’ focuses on themes that the audience could relate to; such as treating others as they would like to be treated.

Rating: A 3.6 out of 5

Is is just me or does this house remind anyone of Laura’s boarding house from Little House of the Prairie? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My final assessment:

In my first review of Murder, She Wrote, I said the show as a whole, based on the three episodes I wrote about, was fine. I also said that I’d watch the show if I had nothing else to do. With Walker, Texas Ranger, I thought it was fine as well. However, the overall quality of the episodes was more consistent than the ones from my Murder, She Wrote review. Even though ‘The Juggernaut’ was the best episode of the three I chose, I did enjoy watching ‘The Lynching’. My least favorite episode was ‘The Covenant’, as I thought it was just ok. One aspect that stood out to me was how karate was only used during select moments of each episode. There was enough action in ‘The Juggernaut’ and ‘The Lynching’ to keep the plot interesting. However, I thought ‘The Covenant’ was a little light on action. While I probably don’t see myself watching Walker, Texas Ranger religiously, I wouldn’t mind checking out an episode or two if it happened to pop up on my television. But who knows? Since last March, I’ve seen more episodes of Murder, She Wrote than I originally expected.

Have you seen Walker, Texas Ranger? Are there any episodes you’d want to see me review? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun in Dallas, Texas!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Over the Edge Review (Youth-Led Film Double Feature Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of my Youth-Led Film Double Feature! This review will contain spoilers and here are the links to the double feature’s introduction and the first part:

Introducing My Youth-Led Film Double Feature!

Take 3: Rich Kids Review (Youth-Led Film Double Feature Part 1)

Over the Edge poster
Over the Edge poster created by Orion Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Over_the_Edge_(1979)_poster.jpg

1. In your double feature’s introduction, you mentioned the fact both Rich Kids and Over the Edge were released in 1979. Is there anything from this time period that could have influenced these films?

At the beginning of the movie, a series of text appeared on the screen. This text stated that Over the Edge was based on true events. According to this part of the film, 110,000 youth under the age of 18 were arrested for crimes of vandalism in 1978. Also, the text revealed that one growing suburban community had young people under the age of 15 represent about a third of its population. Because of this, neighborhood planners/developers were having difficulty finding a way to deal with the situation. These true events not only influenced the film’s creation, but also gave it a reason to exist.

 

2. In this introduction, you also said you “had never heard of Over the Edge before” you saw Siskel and Ebert’s review. Why do you think this film has gotten very little recognition compared to other films from the ‘70s?

From the way I see it, cinema in the 1970s was about telling stories and doing things on film that had never been done before. Take, for instance, Star Wars: A New Hope and Jaws. Both of those films tested the limits of technology, through the use of animatronics and special effects. The contributions to cinema that were made through these two films helped them become products to remember and stand the test of time. Over the Edge, on the other hand, doesn’t really seem to break any new ground. Movies about youth were not a newer concept at this time. Also, this film had a story that was more grounded in reality. This is different from the previous two films I mentioned, Star Wars: A New Hope and Jaws, that focused on spectacle and creating a sense of escapism for their audience.

 

3. Do the socio-economics of each film’s world affect the characters or the story?

When it comes to Over the Edge, no. It doesn’t. Honestly, money and economic status are barely brought up in this film. Similar to Rich Kids, the primary focus was placed on the characters and how they reacted to and dealt with their problems. Giving these characters a sense of realism was more important to this creative team than talking about dollars and cents.

 

4. Do you agree or disagree with Siskel and/or Ebert’s views on these films? Why?

There are a few points both Siskel and Ebert make in their review of Over the Edge that I disagree with. When talking about this film, Ebert shared his disappointment over the movie’s “Hollywood ending” which involves “a big, explosive climax” where the kids of the neighborhood lock the adults inside of their school while they cause a night of chaos. I disagree with Ebert’s view on this third act because, to me, it didn’t feel like an ending you’d find in most blockbusters. While explosions made those scenes look visually interesting, I believe the purpose of those scenes are meant to show how bad a situation can get when the discovery of a solution is prolonged.

 

Once again, Siskel calls the parents in Over the Edge “a bunch of boobs”. And, once again, I would go so far as to say that these parents are uninvolved in the lives of their children. Throughout the story, they are so wrapped up in their own issues, that they don’t take the time to listen to and understand their children. Sure, there’s one scene where Richie White has a conversation with his mom during a car ride home. But this scene is brief and the conversation is short. In this review, Siskel also makes the argument that the film’s central message is how the country needs more recreational facilities. My counter-argument is how the film’s message is almost the same as the one in Rich Kids: if young people don’t receive guidance from a parent, guardian, or mentor figure, they are going to find it elsewhere.

 

5. When it comes to both films, Siskel and Ebert agreed on their views of the adult characters in each story. Did these characters have any significance within their respective movie?

Like I said in my Rich Kids review, the lack of involvement from the parents shows just how much they’re needed in their children’s lives. During the film’s third act, at a meeting in the neighborhood’s school, the adults are trying to figure out the reason behind the recent crimes. Teachers, parents, and even the teen center counselor are blamed for Richie White’s death as well as the poor choices of the youth. What this scene does is highlight my point perfectly. It also shows how they all could have done more to help the youth in their community.

Mountain Road Colorado
Image of Colorado road created by welcomia at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/mountain”>Mountain photo created by welcomia – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

6. Besides having young actors as the leads, do these films share any similarities?

One major aspect of this story was how the young characters stuck together and found more trust in each other than in the adults. In Rich Kids, Franny and Jamie were able to help each other deal with their parents’ divorce. For Over the Edge, these characters faced more than one issue, from the death of one of their peers to the changes in their neighborhood. Like Jamie and Franny, the young characters in Over the Edge try the best they can to figure everything out. They do this by talking to each other about their problems and creating their own ideas of “fun”.

 

7. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?

While I came up with several thoughts and questions while watching Over the Edge, I’ll share just one question and one thought in this review. As I said in answer number four, the children lock the adults inside their school. The room where the adults are in, the auditorium, is located near the main entrance. This main entrance features double doors that have glass windows. Why didn’t anyone think of trying to break the windows in order to escape? To me, this decision not to was baffling, especially since there was a police officer among the group of adults.

 

Speaking of when the children lock the adults in the school, I saw something among those scenes that made me think about a potential plot twist. While the children are causing chaos, one boy is seen riding Richie’s bicycle. For a moment, I thought the script would pull off a plot twist where Richie ended up being alive and had just escaped police custody. However, that’s not the direction the story chose to take.

 

8. Is there anything about this movie that you liked or didn’t like?

Similar to Rich Kids, I thought the acting was one of the strongest parts of this film! Since the majority of this cast was made up of young actors and actresses, they proved they had what it took, talent wise, to carry a movie. One of the standout performances came from Michael Kramer, who portrayed Carl Willat. A memorable scene was when Carl was on the phone with one of his friends, curious about what happened to Richie. When he discovers that Richie died, Carl’s face quickly changes from genuine curiosity to being on the verge of tears.

 

Even though I liked the acting in this film, I think the character development could have been stronger. While I got to know the characters, I feel like I could’ve gotten to know them better. There was always this invisible distance between the characters and the audience. Things they said or did left me with unanswered questions. In the end, this aspect of the movie left more to be desired.

 

9. Is there any aspect of either film that could be seen as relevant today?

Throughout the film, the idea of actions leading to consequences was an overarching part of this story. One example is when Richie and Carl decide to run away. They steal Richie’s mom’s car and drive without a license or permit. They also carry a gun with them. As a result of these actions, Carl develops a juvenile record and Richie is killed in self-defense. The idea that I just mentioned reminds the audience of the importance of thinking before acting and accountability.

 

10. After watching Over the Edge, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?

In my opinion, a documentary about the events that inspired this movie would have been more interesting than the movie ended up being. It would be fascinating to hear from multiple perspectives and discover how their lives have changed since then. As for Over the Edge, it seems like the creative team tried to make an elaborate speech out of a simple message. While it can be thought-provoking to a certain extent, it doesn’t really try to do anything new. Over the Edge had so much going on, but at the same time had nothing happening at all.

Sticker design for different generation kids
’70s kid image created by brgfx at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/banner”>Banner vector created by brgfx – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire Review (Halloween Double Feature Part 1)

Happy Halloween! Just to let you know, there will be spoilers in this review.  If you want to read this Double Feature’s introduction, visit this link:

My Halloween Double Feature: An Introduction

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A DVD of The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

  1. In your introduction for this double feature, you mentioned that both Queen of the Damned and The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire were released in 2002. Can you think of anything from around that time period that could have influenced the creation of this film?

When Hallmark Channel began in 2001, the network didn’t have a strong identity like they do today. Because The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire was released the year after Hallmark Channel’s start, the creative team behind this film seemed to have more creative freedom on this project than they would have if it were made in recent years. With this creative freedom, the film was able to explore themes that are normally not found in Hallmark movies, such as various belief systems and raising awareness for endangered species.

 

2. Were you able to follow along with the story and understand what was going on in the film despite not having read the source material?

Absolutely! The thing about The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire is it’s written in a way that made me feel like prior knowledge of the source material wasn’t necessary to enjoy this film. From what I know about the Sherlock Holmes character and series, the stories seem pretty straight-forward. The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire was, for the most part, isolated from the other movies in this particular series. This makes it a good movie to introduce someone to Sherlock Holmes, as the film doesn’t make you feel like you have to watch them in a certain order.

 

3. Was your pre-movie thought addressed?

Because there were no legitimate vampires in this movie, my pre-movie thought was not addressed. The closest thing to vampires in The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire were vampire bats.

 

4. Were you right or wrong in your pre-movie prediction?

I was so wrong in my pre-movie prediction {face palms embarrassedly}. As I mentioned in answer #3, there were no vampires in this movie.

 

5. Within your pre-movie thought for The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, you talked about how a film’s title can act as a promise to a film’s audience. Do you think the title of this movie was deceiving or honest?

It’s actually a little bit of both. On the one hand, most of the characters truly believed there was a vampire on the loose. On the other hand, as I’ve been saying, there were no vampires in The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire. If anything, this film’s title bent the truth.

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

6. Because The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire was released before the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel (formerly known as Hallmark Movie Channel) began, do you think there was anything within this film that could have influenced future films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries?

I believe The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire was one of the movies that helped create the foundation that today’s Hallmark Movies & Mysteries films use in their stories. The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire is a murder mystery, which is the same type of mystery story that a lot of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries films choose to adopt. In terms of specifics, Watson and Holmes use autopsy reports to solve their respective mystery. This reminded me of how Jennifer Shannon, in the Garage Sale Mystery series, relies on Tramell’s autopsy reports to help her solve the case. What surprised me the most was that The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire takes place during the Christmas season. The only Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film that is set during Christmas is Murder She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery. I’m hoping Hallmark can have more of their mystery movies take place during Christmas, so that fans of the mystery series can solve mysteries year-round.

 

7. Did you acquire any new thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?

Yes I did! Here are a few of them:

  • As I mentioned in answer #1, the theme of various belief systems was explored. In The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, every character believed in something. For instance, Sherlock Holmes believed in logic. It was interesting to see how these different belief systems correlated with each other to propel the story forward and help the characters solve the case. An example of this is how Holmes’ belief in logic and Dr. Chagas’ belief in knowledge and awareness of vampire bats were used together to not only prove Dr. Chagas’ innocence, but also to find the culprit.

 

  • As I also mentioned in answer #6, The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire took place during the Christmas season. While the Christmas theme, in this movie, did not have anywhere near as strong of a presence as in Hallmark’s Christmas movies today, I found this choice to be very interesting. When one thinks of what could be found in Christmas movies, the subject of vampires doesn’t normally come to mind. This shows that the concept of vampires can be incorporated into almost any type of movie in almost any time of year. This also shows how Hallmark thought outside-the-box when it comes to their Christmas movies.

 

  • There are very few Hallmark movies that feature characters with disabilities. Even fewer Hallmark movies feature protagonists or significant secondary characters who not only have a disability, but who also contribute to the film’s plot. In The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, Sister Helen, one of the sisters who lived and worked at the church, is blind. However, she didn’t let her disability stop her from helping Sherlock Holmes find the guilty individual and continuing to carry out her congregation’s mission of sharing their faith with the community.

 

8. In The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, did anything stand out to you, whether for better or worse?

For the better, I really think the camaraderie between Holmes and Watson was a highlight of this film. Matt Frewer’s and Kenneth Welsh’s performance was very natural and convincing, making their characters appear like they truly got along with each other. As I was watching this movie, I realized that this camaraderie is the foundation for all of Holmes’ interactions and relationships. If it was not for the believability of the camaraderie between Watson and Holmes, the other times where Holmes interacts with various characters would probably not feel believable either.

 

Now, for the worse, something that I felt was missing from this movie was humor. I’ve mentioned before on my blog that Hallmark incorporates humor into their mystery stories to give their audience a break from the darkness and sadness of the murder mystery. Since, in this movie, there were seldom moments of light-heartedness or humor, the audience isn’t able to take a break from the darkness of the murder mystery and the spookiness of the vampire theme. I don’t know if there is humor within Sherlock Holmes stories, but I’m pretty sure Hallmark could have added some light-hearted moments that would have be more in line with the tone and time period of a particular story like this.

 

9. When people talk about their favorite Hallmark movies or Hallmark movies that they like, no one mentions The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire. Why do you think the majority of Hallmark’s audience isn’t aware of this movie’s existence?

This movie is not available on Hallmark Movies Now and, as far as I know, it has never appeared on any of Hallmark’s networks. Because of this, Hallmark hasn’t given their audience an opportunity to see this film.

 

10. After watching The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, what is the one thing you can take away from this movie viewing experience?

Well, for one thing, The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire is a different film from what is usually found on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. This is because the movie is dialogue heavy, with few moments of suspense and action. However, I do this is a good movie. As I mentioned within this review, I think this movie is a good introduction to Sherlock Holmes. I also think this is a good introduction to mystery stories from Hallmark. In a time when Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is thriving with their mystery series, I believe it’s important for Hallmark fans to be given the chance to watch the films that helped these stories be what they are today. After I watched The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, I gained an appreciation not only for Hallmark’s mystery movies, but also for the foundation that was set in place so these movies could be as entertaining and intriguing as possible.

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Happy vampire image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/several-vampires-ready-for-halloween_1317599.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/party”>Party vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence Review

With Hallmark’s Christmas movie line-ups approaching and Halloween almost around the corner, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is winding down their mysteries series to make way for the upcoming Christmas season. But before Christmas trees can be decorated and Eggnog can be prepared, the Darrow & Darrow series gave fans a third movie to satisfy their mystery solving desire until 2019. Even though Darrow & Darrow is only a year old, the series has proven they have what it takes to run the race alongside the long running Garage Sale Mystery series and fan favorites, like the Hailey Dean Mystery series and Signed, Sealed, Delivered. Because the latest Darrow & Darrow movie is about another murder mystery, it looks like this series has adopted the identity that a lot of the other mystery series, on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, have before them. Despite these series containing the same type of mystery, they have done a pretty good job at setting themselves apart from each other and incorporating as much creativity as possible. Did Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence contribute to helping this series stay creative and original? Keep reading in order to solve this case!

Darrow &amp; Darrow 3 poster
Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Image found at https://www.hallmarkchannelpress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=143&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Darrow+and+Darrow+Body+of+Evidence.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Just like in the previous Darrow & Darrow film, the cast of this movie was really good! Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Tom Cavanagh successfully led this production with performances that appeared very natural. Once again, their on-screen chemistry was a highlight of this film! I was also really impressed with Jordana Largy’s performance in this film, as it was versatile and believable.

 

The mystery: I liked the creativity that was found in this mystery story! Usually, the murder victim’s deceased body is shown on-screen somewhere in the first half of the movie. In Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence, however, the audience never gets to see the body of the murder victim. Most of the mystery stories on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries are about crimes that are less than a year old. The murder mystery in Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence started a year prior to the events in the film.

 

The humor: Like a lot of the series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence incorporates humor into their story as to give the audience a break from the darkness surrounding the mystery. The humor found in this movie kept in line with the humor from the other two movies and was genuinely funny. One of the funniest moments in Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence was when, at Lou’s fundraiser, Chester believed that telling Lou to be safe was the equivalent of cheering Lou on.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

A weaker first half: For the first half of Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence, Claire and Miles debate about whether or not Laura Graham murdered her husband. Also, Joanna helps out an employee at the Darrow & Darrow law firm and Lou tries to raise money for military veterans. Within this first half of the movie, it seems like these subplots, as well as Claire and Miles’ debate, overshadowed the mystery itself. It wasn’t until Joanna and Claire attended an auction that the story seemed to pick up in the second half of the film.

 

An inconsistent pace: Because the first half of the movie was weaker than the second half, the pace was slow for about half the movie. The first 25 minutes of the film being exposition heavy also contributed to the inconsistency of the film’s pace.

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Jump rope and sneakers image created by V.ivash at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/pink-jump-rope-lies-by-black-snickers-on-white-floor_1114248.htm’>Designed by V.ivash</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by V.ivash – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As good as Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence was, I still believe that Darrow & Darrow: In the Key of Murder was the stronger film. Nevertheless, I’m glad to see that this series is continuing on with strength and creativity! Though Hallmark has not yet announced any upcoming movies in this series, I am looking forward to solving more mysteries alongside one of Hallmark’s favorite sleuthing teams! Who knows, maybe we could see a Christmas themed Darrow & Darrow movie one day? If the Murder She Baked series could receive a Christmas movie, anything is possible. For now, all we, the audience and fans, can do is anticipate the Christmas movies from Hallmark and look forward to the other projects both networks have to offer.

 

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

 

Did you watch Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence? Would you like to see a Christmas themed Darrow & Darrow movie? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Without a Trace Review + 35 Follower Thank You

Because I received 35 followers on 18 Cinema Lane earlier this week, it’s time for me to review a film that turned 35 years old in 2018! While looking at my options for which film to watch, I came across a film from 1983 called Without a Trace. After reading the movie’s synopsis, I became intrigued by the mystery aspect of the film. As a fan of the mystery movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, I do enjoy a story that is intriguing and engaging. My interest for Without a Trace grew when I discovered that it was loosely based on a true story. I was curious about how this real-life event would influence the film. Keep reading to see how I feel about Without a Trace!

Without a Trace poster
Without a Trace poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Without_a_Trace.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The whole cast in this movie was good! Kate Nelligan’s portrayal of Susan Selky was definitely one of the highlights of this film! Her performance was so emotional and versatile, that it felt like her character’s emotions were being transferred from her own personal feelings to the audience, allowing viewers to worry about Alex’s fate alongside Susan. I also thought that Kathleen Widdoes’ portrayal of the psychic, Ms. Hauser, was captivating and memorable. Kathleen’s acting talents were so versatile, it had the power to keep viewers engaged in the events happening on-screen.

 

The story: The basic premise of Without a Trace is figuring out what happened to Alex Selky. This story is treated like a mystery, where anyone could be a suspect and every possibility is explored. The way this narrative is written allows the audience members to solve the mystery alongside the characters. Because there are few scenes that feature Alex, it encourages viewers to ask “whodunit” and keeps them engaged as the story unfolds.

 

Comparisons and differences between the early ‘80s and today: Because this movie was released in 1983, I knew there was going to be some differences between the depicted world in the film and the world outside the film today. However, I was surprised by how many of the film’s topics were those that are still being brought up 35 years later. In a scene where Alex’s parents and Detective Al Menetti are being interviewed by several journalists, one journalist asks Al if Alex, a 6 year old child, was too young to be walking to school all by himself. As I watched this film for the first time in 2018, I found myself asking this exact same question. It was also interesting to see and hear how things appeared differently in the early ‘80s compared to today. In one scene, Jocelyn, Susan’s friend, asks Susan why the police aren’t using computers to solve missing persons cases. Because computers have a larger presence in society now than they did 35 years ago, I would have assumed that most crimes are solved with the use of computers. But, it stood out to me how the screenwriters were thinking that far ahead into the future at how some situations, such as those found in Without a Trace, could be improved upon.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Lack of suspense: When I first read the synopsis for Without a Trace, I was expecting a mystery story with suspense and intrigue throughout the film. While this movie did have intrigue, there was very little suspense that was found. There was such a lack of suspense that it made the characters appear like they didn’t have a sense of urgency. This is not a good thing, especially when a film’s plot revolves around a kidnapping.

 

The run-time: Without a Trace is a 2-hour long film. This caused the movie to contain scenes that felt like were included just for the sake of satisfying this run-time. This run-time also made the movie feel longer than it was probably intended. Personally, I think that Without a Trace’s run-time should have been an hour and 25 to 30 minutes. This way, it would allow the story to be more suspenseful and keep the intrigue going throughout the film.

 

The pace: Without a Trace’s pace was slow. This pace made some scenes drag on longer than they might have been intended. It was also the result of a longer run-time, where these scenes were possibly drawn out to fill Without a Trace’s 2 hour long time-frame.

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My overall impression:

Without a Trace is an ok film. Yes, this movie did have its flaws. However, I could tell that the effort, from the movie’s creative team, to make a compelling and thought-provoking film was there, even if that effort was not as strong as I would have hoped. When looking back on this film, I still can’t get over how some things have stayed the same. Trends change, popularity rises and falls, and style evolves. But certain subjects and messages are the things that remain everlasting. As I mentioned earlier, I knew there were going to be differences between the world of the ‘80s that appeared on my tv screen and the real world of 2018 that I’m living in today. Despite these differences, it’s the similarities that left a lasting and the biggest impression on me as I share this film with all my readers and followers. Thank you, once again, for making this review possible. 18 Cinema Lane would not be the same without you.

 

Overall score: 6.5 out of 10

 

Have you seen Without a Trace? What’s your favorite mystery story? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Newton Boys Review + 20 Follower Thank You

In late August, I achieved the accomplishment of receiving 20 followers on my blog! Because some of my recent posts have taken me longer to write and publish than expected, I apologize for the delay in releasing this post. I put a lot of thought into which film I would review for this blog follower dedication post. After looking at and thinking about all of my available options, I decided to go back to the well of talking about a movie that is based on a true story; The Newton Boys. When I started creating these blog follower dedication posts, the movie I reviewed when I received 5 followers was Saving Mr. Banks, a film that is based on the true story of how the Mary Poppins film came into existence. For The Newton Boys, however, this movie is not heart-felt like the aforementioned movie. It explores the relationship of the Newton brothers and how they turned to a life of crime. Before choosing this movie for my 20 follower dedication post, I had never heard of The Newton Boys or the true story behind it. Because this movie seems to be overshadowed by other movies from 1998, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give The Newton Boys the “standing ovation” it deserves. So, as I start this review of The Newton Boys, I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of my 20 followers on 18 Cinema Lane! I would not have been able to reach this milestone without you!

The Newton Boys poster
The Newton Boys poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Newtonboysposter.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The cast of The Newton Boys was superb! Every actor that portrayed a character with an accent pulled it off very well, adding believability to their characters! Before watching The Newton Boys, I had seen a few of Matthew McConaughey’s films, including How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Fool’s Gold. However, The Newton Boys is the film that made me appreciate Matthew’s acting abilities, impressed by how he can, successfully, pull off a performance in both light-hearted romantic-comedies and dramatic historical/period films. I was also impressed with Julianna Margulies’ portrayal of Louise Brown! Julianna packed so much versatility and emotion into her performance, that it truly made her on-screen presence very memorable!

 

The atmosphere: This film takes place between 1919 and 1924. The world that this particular film created was immersive, with every aspect of this film looking and feeling like that time period. The level of detail the creative team behind this movie took in order to make The Newton Boys look and feel authentic was great! From the music to an old-fashioned calculator, even to the beginning introduction of the film itself, everything about this movie adds to the believability of this story!

 

The on-screen camaraderie: As I mentioned in the introduction for my review of The Newton Boys, this movie is about the Newton brothers and how they turned to a life of crime. All of the actors portraying the brothers (Matthew McConaughey, Skeet Ulrich, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio) displayed an on-screen camaraderie that made their characters appear like they truly got along with one another. The bond between these brothers came across in this movie very believably, making this bond feel genuine. In this movie, the relationship between these brothers adds to the overall story.

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What I didn’t like about this film:

The dialect: Because the Newton brothers were from Texas, most of the characters in this movie spoken with a Southern/Texan dialect. Since I’m not used to hearing characters speak with this particular dialect, it was difficult, at times, to understand what the characters were saying. For me, hearing this dialect did take some getting used to. However, the dialogue in The Newton Boys can be understood.

 

The sound editing: Throughout this movie, the music and background sounds were louder than the dialogue. This means that every time a character spoke, I found myself turning the volume up on my television. Whenever there was background sounds or music playing, I turned the volume on my TV down.

 

The run-time: The Newton Boys is a 2 hour and 2-minute film. While watching this movie, I noticed there were scenes in this film that felt like they were incorporated in the movie for the sake of filling in this run-time. Because there are about less than 10 robberies featured in this movie, I think The Newton Boys could have been a 1 hour to 40 or 50-minute film.

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My overall impression:

Like I said in the introduction, I was not aware of the Newton brothers’ story or this film before I decided to write this blog follower dedication post. Now that I have seen The Newton Boys, I can honestly say that I was not only entertained by this movie, I was also educated by it as well! This movie made me feel like I was engaging in a history lesson without having to worry about homework or passing an exam. To me, this was two hours well spent! If you are a fan of movies that are based on true stories or historical/period films, I would definitely recommend The Newton Boys, as I feel this movie did this story justice! Once again, thank you to my followers and readers on 18 Cinema Lane. I look forward to seeing what other movies I’ll review as I keep dedicating these reviews to you.

 

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

 

What is your favorite movie from 1998? What movies based on a true story do you like? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen