February’s theme for Buzzwordathon is ‘verbs’. Because the act of taking something is a verb, I chose to read The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore by Joan Lowery Nixon. When creating a mystery story, it’s important to make the characters distinct from one another. This way, the reader will be able to keep track of who is who. How Joan achieves this goal is by describing the characters, from what they look like to their personalities. When talking about her friend, Lorna, the protagonist, Christina, says “Lorna is what they call “outgoing” and always seems to know the right things to say”. Meanwhile, Christina describes herself as someone who tends “to keep things all bottled up inside me”. Making these two characters opposites of each other is one way Joan helps the reader remember the story’s characters.
Throughout the book, Christina makes several contradictions that could make a reader frustrated with her. Toward the beginning of the story, while visiting Lorna at her house, Christina contemplates on what should be important in her life. Even though she turns to her friend for advice, Christina is unsure which direction will lead her to an answer. A chapter later, shortly after she’s been kidnapped, Christina asks “Will my children someday have any idea of what I’m like inside”? This quote implies she already knows what is important to her: having a family in the future. If she already found what’s important to her, why would Christina bother to question what is important in the first place? As the story continues, Christina contradicts herself again, by discovering the most important thing, to her, is herself. Didn’t she already figure out what was important back in chapter three?
In all honesty, I can’t recommend The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore. This is because of how weak the story is. It is possible to tell a “coming of age” story while also giving the characters a mystery to solve. Instead of evenly balancing these two concepts, Joan prioritizes Christina’s “coming of age” story over the mystery itself. That decision led to a book where suspense is far and few between, as well as a novel that lacks urgency. What also doesn’t help was how the kidnappers’ identities were revealed earlier in the story. There is an overarching mystery about an unknown kidnapper in Christina’s case. But the aforementioned reveal took away some of the book’s intrigue.
Overall score: 2.1 out of 5 stars
Have fun during Buzzwordathon!
Disclaimer: Because this story includes a kidnapping, some readers may be sensitive to this book. Other subjects that may be offensive to some readers are:
— Some occasions where characters swear
— Christina refers to her father as a “bigot” due his religious beliefs
— Christina, a high school junior, develops a crush on a college sophomore
— Some occasions of violence
— The subject of teen pregnancy is briefly referenced
18 Cinema Lane recently celebrated its fourth anniversary! To commemorate such an important milestone, I am, once again, hosting the Gold Sally Awards! As I said last month, each award post will feature two polls at a time. This decision was made to help the voting process move at a faster pace. With that said, this year’s Gold Sally Awards will begin with the Best Movie and Story polls! Because I didn’t post any announcements for the Gold Sally Awards, the first two polls will be available for two weeks; from February 16th to March 2nd. Like years past, you are allowed to vote for more than one nominee. But you can only vote once per person. The link to the polls will be located under each poll. Just click on the word ‘PollMaker’.
What was the Best Movie of 2021?
1. The Karate Kid (1984)
2. The Three Musketeers (1948)
3. The Love Letter
4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly
7. Holly and Ivy
8. The King and I (1956)
9. A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
The last time I reviewed a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film was last August, when I wrote about Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery. To make up for that, I thought it made sense to review one of the network’s newest titles. As of February 2022, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries only has two new mystery releases; Cut, Color, Murder and Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Haunted by Murder. Like the title of this review says, I’ll be writing about Cut, Color, Murder! For years, I’ve been waiting for Hallmark to create a movie that revolved around pageants. Sure, I received Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Impossible Dream back in 2015. But the pageant in that movie played such a minor role in the overall story. I’ve also heard some of the network’s series have been cancelled, such as Picture Perfect Mysteries, Hailey Dean Mysteries, and Matchmaker Mysteries. So, the idea of a new series is exciting! But is Cut, Color, Murder worthy of the crown? Let’s solve this mystery by starting this review!
Things I liked about the film:
The chemistry among the cast: In most of my movie reviews, I talk about specific acting performances. But this time, I’ll be writing about the chemistry among the cast in Cut, Color, Murder! Within Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ movie series, the chemistry and camaraderie between the characters has been a consistent component. This is especially true when it comes to the network’s newest mystery film! At the beginning of the movie, the protagonist’s sister, Chelsea, is concerned about an upcoming college tuition payment. After the protagonist, Ali, suggests working on pedicures at the salon in order to make extra money, Chelsea sarcastically responds to her sister by saying, “I’ve seen some of those women’s feet. I’d rather drop out”. The interaction I just described came across as realistic, like a conversation two siblings might typically have. This is because Julie Gonzalo’s and Grace Beedie’s acting talents complimented one another. At a restaurant called ‘The Jackson’, Ali and Chelsea have lunch with their mom and some of Ali’s co-workers. Their conversation during this meal revolves around Chelsea possibly joining the Miss Golden Peak Pageant. In this scene, each character is presented with their own unique personality. Ali’s co-workers play a specific role at the salon, as each one volunteers to help Chelsea on pageant day. The way these characters interacted with one another feels like a family, with each member giving Chelsea their love and support. Interactions like this one feel genuine and believable because of the cast’s acting strength!
The banter: A component that can make or break a film is the banter among the characters. With Cut, Color, Murder, the banter was one of the strongest aspects of the overall production! While at the aforementioned restaurant, ‘The Jackson’, Ali meets Golden Peak’s newest detective, Kyle Crawford. During their initial interaction, Ali makes educated analyzes about Kyle’s background based on her observations about him. The way these analyzes were delivered was sharp and precise, showcasing the strength of Julie’s acting abilities and the screen-writing. Kyle takes Ali’s words in stride, as Ryan McPartlin, the actor who portrays Kyle, remains consistent in his performance. At the salon, Ali talks with Golden Peak’s resident officer, Fred Wright, about new develops in the film’s murder mystery. As they exchange details with one another, their banter sounds like an exciting game of ping-pong! Both Julie and Fred Henderson, the actor who portrays Fred Wright, are quick with their line delivery, with each actor effectively meeting with other at their level. The screen-writing also helps with the strength of Ali and Fred’s banter!
How the subject of death was handled: When a mystery story revolves around a murder, death is going to be one of the story’s overarching themes. In the case of Cut, Color, Murder, I’m referring to how the movie’s creative team handled the subject of a deceased spouse, which was unrelated to the movie’s main mystery. During the film, Ali reveals how she lost her husband, Dan, in the line of duty. Whenever this subject was brought up, it was spoken by the characters with a serious tone in their voices. But it was also brought up with a sense of reverence and respect. At two points in Cut, Color, Murder, Ali visits Dan’s gravesite. She has conversations with him as if Dan was sitting right next to her. Ali does try to move forward from Dan’s passing, as his death took place two years prior. Ali decides to move forward on her own terms and she doesn’t receive any negativity for visiting Dan’s gravesite. With the strong acting performances and screen-writing, Ali’s gravesite visits and the characters’ reactions to Ali’s grief felt realistic. The inclusion of Dan’s passing also emphasized how death can impact a community and the people within it.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A limited insight on pageantry: When I discovered Cut, Color, Murder would take place during a pageant, I was excited to see the world of pageants shown through a Hallmark lens. While I did receive some insight into this particular industry, I was left desiring more. It was interesting to see how local businesses and aspiring professionals were affected by a pageant. But other aspects related to this subject felt surface level, such as squabbling pageant mothers. The majority of the story focused on the mystery itself. Because Ali’s sister was the one entering the Miss Golden Peak Pageant, the pageantry in this story felt like a subplot. Looking back on this film, it makes me wish the story had been set in the pageant world, instead of being a bystander to it.
An unclear setting: The majority of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ movie series take place in a small town. While this is true for Cut, Color, Murder, I was unsure where this story took place. For about half the movie, I was confused over the story’s location. When I first saw the salon Ali works at, I thought the story took place in New York City. Because Fred Wright consistently wore a cowboy hat, I then thought Ali’s town was situated in Texas. Before realizing the owner of ‘The Jackson’ shared the restaurant’s name, I also thought the town was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. At the film’s half-way point, I learned Ali, her family, and her co-workers lived in Idaho. Despite receiving this knowledge, the setting didn’t feel like Idaho. In fact, it looked and felt like any other small town from any other Hallmark production.
Few interactions with Ali and Kyle: A lot of mystery films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries feature a male and female protagonist who eventually form a romantic relationship. In the case of Cut, Color, Murder, these protagonists are Kyle Crawford and Ali Bowden. Since it’s unknown at this time if this movie will lead to a series, it’s unclear if Kyle and Ali will come together as a couple. But compared to other Hallmark Movies & Mysteries projects, these characters didn’t spend much time together. Their limited interactions mostly took place in a professional context, whether at the police station or while crossing paths interrogating suspects. Unprofessionally, Ali and Kyle stayed in their own worlds and focused on their own careers. I liked the on-screen chemistry between Julie Gonzalo and Ryan McPartlin. Because of their short amount of time together on-screen, however, I don’t know how this chemistry is going to work in a long-term series.
My overall impression:
As the saying goes, “put your best foot forward”. This can apply to any movie, television, or book series. From what I remember, most of the series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries have not only put their “best foot forward”, but have also presented a collection of films I enjoyed watching. Like I said in my review, it’s unknown at this time if Cut, Color, Murder will lead to a series. But if it is, the movie certainly was a strong start to a potential one! This film gave the audience a variety of suspects, providing many possible directions to the final outcome. Sometimes, clues were discovered through the characters’ dialogue, which showcased the unique inclusion of some of these clues. Cut, Color, Murder displayed other strong qualities, such as the banter and chemistry among the cast. The work of salon employees hasn’t often been featured in Hallmark films. Depending on who you ask, this work can also be seen as important. But as I said in my review, I wish the story had been set in the pageant world. While watching Cut, Color, Murder, I kept thinking how different this story/potential series would be if it had been from Chelsea’s perspective. Come to think of it, Chelsea’s perspective would have made the story a little more interesting. But what will also be interesting, though, is what will happen if this story receives a second chapter.
Overall score: 7.5 out of 10
Have you seen Cut, Color, Murder? Would you like to see this movie become a series? Please let me know in the comment section below!
Another month means another Buzzwordathon review! For February, the theme is ‘Pronouns & Possessive Pronouns’. Because one of the eligible words is ‘you’, my selection is Wish You Well by David Baldacci! Prior to participating in Buzzwordathon, I have read The Christmas Train, which I loved. I also enjoyed its respective film adaptation from Hallmark Hall of Fame. So, when I purchased Wish You Well at a garage sale back in 2019, I thought I might like it. But, in all honesty, I found the book just ok. One of the reasons is about 80% of the book is a “slice of life” story, a type of story I, personally, don’t find as interesting as other stories. Since some parts of the “slice of life” story revolve around farm life, there were times when Wish You Well felt repetitive. Another way the overall story felt repetitive was when the protagonist, Lou, runs away anytime something bad happens. Lou is named after her great-grandmother, Louisa. Because of how similar these names are, it was sometimes difficult to tell which character David was referring to. A few coincidences that seemed too convenient also hurt this book’s case, such as how a restaurant in the small town of Dickens just so happened to be named after the state Lou and her brother, Oz, are from. Wish You Well’s page count is 399. For a story of this nature, I thought this page count made the book longer than necessary.
David’s writing style in Wish You Well is lyrical, to the point where it almost feels flowery. So, if you’re not paying attention to the text, you might find yourself confused by what is happening in the story. Fortunately, I never found this to be a problem, as the story itself is straight forward. David uses the chosen writing style in his favor, putting that effort toward his book’s world building and character development! The way locations are described help the reader picture them in their mind. One example is when David writes about a train station as being “a glorified pine-studded lean-to”. Through his writing, David is able to create characters that are unique to one another. With the descriptive details he chooses, a character like Louisa, for example, sounds as if David is talking about a real-life individual. There are tense moments sprinkled into the story, which held my interest. A court case that takes place toward the end of the book was a tense part of the story that held higher stakes. Because I had never read Wish You Well before, I was curious of the court case’s outcome.
In the afterword material from my copy of the book, David explained how learning about his family’s history was his inspiration for Wish You Well. From the sounds of that, it seems like his intentions were good and his heart was in the right place. But I wish David had written a memoir about his family’s history and his journey through learning about that history, instead of penning a fictional version of it. While reading Wish You Well, I could see how the book inspired a non-profit organization of the same name; the Wish You Well Foundation. However, as I stated earlier, I thought this book was just ok. In the future, I do plan to seek out more of David’s literary work, especially his mysteries/thrillers, as I haven’t read any of those yet. Hopefully, the next book of David’s I read, as well as March’s Buzzwordathon pick, is stronger than Wish You Well.
Overall score: 3 out of 5 stars
Have fun during Buzzwordathon!
Disclaimer: Wish You Well contains some content that some readers may find offensive. This content is the following:
One character who uses racial slurs on more than one occasion*
The use of the word “hobos”*
A chapter focusing on a woman giving birth
At least one mention of an animal passing away
At least one mention of a child passing away
A child smoking on a few occasions
The use of swear words on some occasions
References to child abuse
References to a car accident
(* — This is in relation to the book’s time period, 1940)
As I said in a Word on the Street post last September, it hasn’t been easy finding movie news stories to write about these days. So, when I stumbled across this story on Twitter, I thought it would make a perfect topic for the first Word on the Street article of 2021! According to Aaron Couch from The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. is creating a new film titled Wonka. The movie “hails from Paddington director Paul King and Harry Potter producer David Heyman”. Aaron also says of the script that “Simon Rich wrote the original draft, with Simon Farnaby and King penning the current draft”. As of January 2021, the film is scheduled for a March 17th, 2023 release. It is also about Willy Wonka’s life before his beloved candy factory came into the picture.
While everyone involved with this project is busy creating their next cinematic project, they are forgetting one major detail. Back in the 2005 film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka’s backstory was revealed. Through a series of flashbacks, the audience learns that Willy created his candy factory in spite of his strict father, who forbade the chocolatier from eating sweets when he was younger. Because of this, it makes Wonka seem like it is using rehashed material and trying to pass it off as new. What would have been more interesting is a movie about Ronald Dahl and how he created one of his most iconic stories.
Back in 2019, I mentioned that Taylor Cole announced a third film in Hallmark’s One Winter series; One Winter Wedding. However, the reality of the project seemed distant at the time. This was because two of the series’ stars, Jack Turner and Taylor Cole, were working on separate film projects. Now, two years after Taylor made the aforementioned announcement, One Winter Wedding is finally going into production! On the website for UBCP/ACTRA (Union of British Columbia Performers/Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), the movie will start filming on February 1st and end on February 20th. With this production schedule, I predict One Winter Wedding will either be a Christmas film or a 2022 ‘New Year New Movies’ presentation.
What are your thoughts on these movie news stories? Do you plan on seeing any of the films I mentioned? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!
Here are the links to the articles I referenced in my post:
The fourth poll of the 2020 Gold Sally Award is here! This poll is meant to crown the Best Ensemble out of the movies I saw in 2019! Like the previous polls, you’re allowed to vote for more than one ensemble. But you can only vote once per person. This poll starts today, February 28th, and ends on March 5th.
It’s time to vote for the Gold Sally Award’s Best Story of 2019! In this poll, you will help determine which movie I saw in 2019 had the best story. You’re allowed to vote for more than one story. However, you can only vote once per person. This poll starts today, February 21st, and ends on February 27th.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Because today is February 14th, I decided to change things up a little bit. Instead of posting the Best Story poll as the second poll of this year’s Gold Sally Awards, I decided to post the Best On-Screen Couple poll earlier than I did last year! In this poll, you’ll be voting on who was the best on-screen couple from movies I saw in 2019. Similar to the previous poll, you are allowed to vote for more than one on-screen couple. But you can only vote once per person. This poll starts today, on February 14th, and ends on February 20th.
With the 2nd anniversary of 18 Cinema Lane comes the start of voting for the 2nd Annual Gold Sally Awards! The first poll is to determine the best movie I saw in 2019! Just like last year, you are allowed to vote for more than one movie. But you can only vote once per person. This poll will run from today, February 7th to Thursday, February 13th. Below is the poll and the link where you can vote. If you’re having any difficulties, don’t hesitate to mention it in the comment section.
If you want to learn why the polls have changed this year, here’s the like to the announcement post.
In 2019, I started a special series of polls called The Gold Sally Awards. This was created as an interactive way to commemorate the anniversary of 18 Cinema Lane’s beginning. While I appreciate the success that came in the first year, I’m going to make a major change, in order to improve the awards. During each period of voting, I noticed that very few people cast their votes and participated in the Gold Sally Awards. Looking back on it, I realized something. While I do talk about Hallmark films, they’re not the only type of movie I discuss on this blog. Starting this year, the Gold Sally Awards will be more reflective of this blog and the kinds of films it covers. It will, hopefully, encourage more people to vote. So, the nominees for the 2nd Annual Gold Sally Awards will be based on the movies that were placed on my list of The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2019! There also might be some nominees from the Honorable Mentions section as well! Like last year, the Gold Sally Awards will start in February. It will also commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the start of 18 Cinema Lane!