Take 3: Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver Review

Last October, I had planned on reviewing Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver. But, as I talked about in an editorial, Hallmark decided to postpone the movie until January 2020. Now that the beginning of the year has come, it means the film has finally arrived! The most exciting part of this movie appeared to be the use of magic. Also, the idea of a facility that specializes in magic is something that has never been featured in a Hallmark film before. These are the things that made me look forward to this installment! This is now the third movie in the Crossword Mysteries series that I’ve not only watched, but also reviewed. As I said in my reviews for the first two movies, I thought they were ok. But I was always interested in seeing how this series progressed. With a combination of magic and crossword puzzles, I wondered how it could raise the bar for the series. Well, since I recently saw the film, we can finally receive an answer to that question!

By the way, I have a new posting schedule where I will regularly publish articles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays!

Crossword Mysteries Abracadaver poster
Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver 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=Crossword+Mysteries+Abracadaver.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because most of the main cast in this movie has also appeared in the first two entries, it helps maintain the consistency of the acting performances. Another factor that added to these performances was the quality of the cast’s acting talents. Once again, Lacey and Brennan did a really good job with the material they were given. It allowed the versatility of their acting abilities to shine through. They also had good on-screen chemistry with each other and with their co-stars. Speaking of co-stars, I liked watching the performances of the supporting cast! One supporting actor that caught my attention was Steve Belford. In this movie, Steve portrays Reed, a new employee at the New York Sentinel. Despite the fact he’s in the film for a limited amount of time, Steve did a great job at bringing charisma to his role. This helped him create a character that was more memorable than I expected!

 

The Magic Manor: Half of this movie took place at the Magic Manor, a facility that hosts magic classes and magic shows. The most impressive aspect of this location was the architecture and design. The overall structure appeared to be Victorian, featuring impressive woodwork and beautiful stained-glass windows. What also made this location so memorable was the various rooms and hallways featured within the manor’s walls. It elevated the mystery aspect of the story, adding to the suspense and intrigue a plot like this calls for. I always looked forward to seeing this place on screen because of its photogenic qualities. I’m not sure what this facility is in real life, but I’d love to see it appear in another Hallmark production!

 

The editing: For the most part, films on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries have pretty good editing. But Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver had editing that was very well-done. One example was scene transitions. When Tess is on the phone with Logan, there were two scenes featured: Tess and Logan talking on the phone in their separate office spaces. The way these scenes were edited gave them a smooth transition. It also appeared flawless, like the movie itself did not miss a beat. The editing definitely helped make this project visually appealing!

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Image of magic show essentials created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/card”>Card vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The absence of crossword puzzles: In my review of Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder, I talked about how the insignificance of the crossword puzzles was one of the film’s biggest flaws. In Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, crossword puzzles barely make an appearance. This took away a large portion of the series’ identity. Also, there were missed opportunities to use these puzzles as clues for the mystery. Like I said in my review of the previous film, the lack of crossword puzzles makes the film’s creative team see their idea as too niche for sustainability. It is also starting to make me wonder why this series is called “Crossword Mysteries”?

 

Some scenes being drawn-out: About half of the scenes in this film are dialogue heavy. While the dialogue itself was necessary for the story, it made these scenes feel drawn-out. Because of this, it also made the film’s overall pace seem slower than most Hallmark mystery movies. Personally, I think there should have been a balance between action and dialogue heavy scenes. That way, the film’s sense of intrigue would never be in danger of faltering.

 

The “don’t-get-involved” cliché: While this cliché is not always featured in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries films, I find that it doesn’t work outside of the first or second movie in a series. This is the case for Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver. Tess’s aunt and Logan constantly tell her not to bother trying to solve the mystery. I understand that they had Tess’s best interests in mind. But these warnings were being spoken after she successfully solved two mysteries. If this series does receive a fourth movie, I hope this cliché is dropped from the story.

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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.

My overall impression:

Like I said in the introduction, Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver is the third film in this series that I’ve watched and reviewed. In my opinion, this movie is the strongest of the three! While it does have flaws, the film also has elements that elevate the material. There were even aspects of the story that could help maintain the series’ consistency. In recent years, I’ve noticed that Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has taken their films more seriously. They also are more likely to try new things when it comes to story-telling. Things like this make me prefer movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries over those from Hallmark Channel. Even though Hallmark’s main network has made some good films, it seems like they are comfortable telling the kinds of stories that are more “tried-and-true”. Since Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver is the first movie I’m reviewing in 2020, it looks like my year is off to a good start!

 

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

 

Do you like the Crossword Mysteries series? Are there any series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries that you’re looking forward to? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder Review

Yes, I know Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder has already premiered. But since I haven’t reviewed a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film since August and since I reviewed Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For, I thought that a review for the second movie should be in order. In my review of the first film, I said that it had potential to start a strong and entertaining series. Even though the movie had its flaws, there were things about it that I enjoyed. Now the sequel has arrived! In this review, it’ll be interesting to see where this series has improved, where it still needs to grow, and if it has what it takes to be a long-lasting series. Who knows? Maybe September or October could become Crossword Mysteries Month! Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start this review of Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder.

Crossword Mysteries Proposing Murder poster
Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder poster created by Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Crown Media Family Networks. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=143&FeedBoxID=986&NodeID=307&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Crossword%20Mysteries%20Proposing%20Murder&IsSeries=False.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Just like in the first film, the acting was one of the highlights of Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder! Both Brennan and Lacey seemed comfortable in their roles, based on how natural their portrayals came across on screen. What works in their favor is how they’ve worked together in other Hallmark productions. This helped them build a believable on-screen relationship. In years past, I’ve enjoyed Kimberly J. Brown’s performances in films such as the Halloweentown series, Ellen Foster, and My Sister’s Keeper. Seeing her appear as Logan’s sister was such a pleasant surprise! Though her time in the movie was very limited, she still found a way to shine in this project. I hope she can receive a lead role in a Hallmark production some day!

 

The on-screen chemistry: Like I just said, Lacey and Brennan worked together on other Hallmark projects prior to the creation of this series. This aspect helped them have good on-screen chemistry! Throughout Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder, the characters of Logan and Tess had a relationship that felt realistic and convincing. It also seems like their friendship was progressing from where it started in the first film. Watching Logan and Tess’s relationship grow provides one of the lighter moments of this movie.

 

An incorporation of history: While this element was only brief, I thought it was interesting how history was incorporated into the story. I’m not going to spoil anything if you haven’t seen this movie yet. What I will say is I found this to be more educational than I was expecting. The element of history also made sense with what was happening on screen. History isn’t always included in films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. It’s inclusion in Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder added something unique to this movie!

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Wedding cake image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/enjoyable-wedding-card_953556.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited amount of suspense: In any mystery film, there’s a certain amount of suspense that can be found within the story. But in Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder, I found very little suspense in the narrative. While a few suspenseful moments were presented, it wasn’t enough to be consistent. Because of this, it made the threat seem not as significant as in other mystery stories. It also felt like the characters kept their distance from any real sense of danger.

 

The pace: As I’ve talked about before, mystery movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries usually have a faster pace. Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder, however, ended up having a slower pace. This caused the film to feel drawn out and not as engaging as it could have been. The film’s slower pace prevented the project from being thrilling and exciting, components that make a good mystery story. Add the limited amount of suspense, this movie is a few steps away from being a typical Hallmark Channel movie.

 

Crossword puzzles being insignificant: In Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For, crossword puzzles played a huge role when it came to solving the mystery. This time around, these puzzles were featured for only a short amount of time. Also, they weren’t used to solve the movie’s overarching mystery. The idea of having these puzzles be clues in a mystery is not a bad idea. But their limited appearance makes it seem like the series’ creative team is starting to realize how niche this concept really is.

sunday-s-crossword-1238083-1279x852

Crossword puzzle image created by jaylopez at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/JayLopez.”

My overall impression:

Just like the first movie, I found Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder to be ok. Sure, it had its strengths, such as the acting and inclusion of history. But the movie had some of the same flaws that its predecessor did. If Hallmark wants this series to be successful, the creative team behind it needs to improve upon these things. The next movie in this series is Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, a film that I’m looking forward to! Magic isn’t always found in Hallmark films, so this project has the potential to be something interesting. The idea of a facility that houses magic shows seems fascinating, as a location like this has never been featured in any Hallmark production. Mystery and magic could go hand-in-hand, especially with Halloween approaching. I just hope that its better than the first and second film.

 

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

 

Have you seen the films from the Crossword Mysteries series? Which series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For Review

Since I happened to see Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For right after I saw the latest episode of When Calls the Heart, I felt that I needed to write a review for this movie. Also, it’s been two months since I last reviewed a mystery film from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, so it was time for me to get back to talking about mystery movies. I remember when this project was first announced at Hallmark’s Winter TCA Event last year. At the time, I wondered how this series would be any different from the other mystery series that had already been established. In a Word on the Street story last August, I talked about how the movie was about to go into production. This led me to speculate whether the film would be released in Fall of 2018 or early 2019. It looks like I was right in one of those predictions, as this movie premiered in early March. Did this movie stand out from all the other mystery movies on the network? The only way to solve this mystery is to read my review of Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For!

Crossword Mysteries -- A Puzzle to Die For poster
Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For 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=Crossword+Mysteries+A+Puzzle+to+Die+For.

Things I liked about the film:

  • The acting: I thought the acting in Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For was good! Ever since this project was first announced, I was excited to see Lacey Chabert and Brennan Elliott star in another movie together. This is because I’ve enjoyed their performances in other Hallmark projects. In Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For, both Lacey and Brennan did a really good job portraying their characters! Their performances display a sense of believability and emotionality that is required in a mystery story. They also had a good amount of on-screen chemistry. I also think the supporting cast did a good job in their acting performances! I’ve always enjoyed watching Barbara Niven’s performances in other Hallmark productions. So, it’s no surprise that I found myself applauding Barbara’s portrayal of Tess’s aunt, Candace. Her versatility helped make her character seem as realistic as possible. Even though Candace was only on-screen for a limited amount of time, I’m hoping this character can play a bigger role in future movies.

 

  • The incorporation of crossword puzzles: Every mystery series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has their own unique identity, even though almost all of them focus on solving murder mysteries. Having crossword puzzles associated with this story was a creative and unique way to set this series apart from the other stories on the network. Having the puzzles correlate with the mystery worked really well for this movie. I also liked the idea of the Crossword Puzzle Tournament that was featured in the film. With the way this type of competition was portrayed in the movie, it kind of reminded me of spelling bees or chess tournaments. However, the competition itself felt like its own unique event.

 

  • The big city landscape: In most of the mystery series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the primary location of the story is in a small, sometimes fictional, town. In Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For, the story took place in New York City. This was a nice change in scenery which worked well of this particular story. Seeing the different businesses and facilities within this film was very interesting! One of my favorite locations in this movie was the Ping-Pong Hall, where Tess was playing a game of Ping-Pong with a friend. Not only is Ping-Pong rarely seen in Hallmark movies, but I’ve never seen a facility like this in any other Hallmark production. I hope a mystery can place at this Ping-Pong Hall in another Crossword Mysteries film!
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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:

  • A slow pace: Throughout the film, the overall pace was slower than in most of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ films. This caused the story to feel drawn out. It also made some scenes drag on longer than they might have been intended. The issues relating to the film’s pace definitely took away some of the film’s excitement.

 

  • A lack of suspense: In most mystery films, there is a good amount of suspense that helps the audience stay invested in the story. In Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For, the suspense was not as abundant as in other mystery movies. While there were suspenseful moments within this narrative, the film’s total amount of suspense was not fluid. This aspect did affect my overall enjoyment of the film.

 

  • A confusing story element: While watching this movie, there was one part of the story that really confused me. During this film, Pierre was the lead organizer of the annual Crossword Puzzle Tournament. He was planning on retiring and handing the title over to Tess. However, when the Tournament arrived, it looked like Pierre was competing in the competition. No one in the film seemed to notice that this could have been a conflict of interest. I don’t know if I just missed an important plot point or if the screenwriters forgot to include significant details into their script. But I found this part of the film to be very puzzling (no pun intended), even after I saw the film.
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Crossword puzzle image created by jaylopez at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/JayLopez.”

My overall impression:

Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For was just ok. It didn’t impress me, but it didn’t make me feel like I wasted my time. However, I do think this movie has the potential to start a strong and entertaining series. This movie has the pieces to lay out the foundation for a series that can be intriguing and engaging. The cast did a good job with their performances, there were creative elements found within the narrative, and the mystery itself was well written. At Hallmark’s Winter TCA Event last month, it was announced that there would be three more Crossword Mysteries movies, which will premiere in October. It will be interesting to see how this series continues, especially since there’s only so much that can be done with crossword puzzles. When October finally comes around, I do want to see what these films have in store and if this series can stand on its own.

 

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

 

Have you seen Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For? Are you excited for the rest of the Crossword Mysteries films to premiere? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen