Take 3: Harvey (1950) Review

This month’s Genre Grandeur is one I have been anticipating! That’s because of the film I selected for the event! January’s theme is ‘Comedies that feature characters who are either Stoners or Drunk’. After doing some research on the internet, I discovered the 1950 movie, Harvey, would be eligible! Harvey is a film I have been wanting to see for several years. Led by the beloved James “Jimmy” Stewart, so many good things have been said about this film. I was also interested in seeing Harvey because of its release date. Recently, I read an editorial by Jillian Atchley titled ‘It’s A Wonderful Life, James Stewart, and George Bailey’. In the article, Jillian explains there are two kinds of James Stewart films; pre-war and post-war. The post-war films, such as It’s A Wonderful Life, contain depth. I’d also add the post-war films feature higher stakes. Since Harvey was released four years after It’s A Wonderful Life, I was curious to see how deep this story would go. I also wanted to see how James would approach a character who is friends with an imaginary rabbit.

Harvey (1950) poster created by Universal Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I have seen some of James Stewart’s movies prior to watching Harvey. What I’ve noticed about his roles in films like The Philadelphia Story, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It’s A Wonderful Life, and Rear Window is how there is a certain amount of charm included in his character’s personality. While portraying Elwood P. Dowd, James’ on-screen personality was different from what I’d seen before. In Harvey, Elwood is more laid-back. He also has a gentler persona, not having a care in the world. But there was one point in the movie where Elwood became somewhat philosophical. When asked by Dr. Lyman Sanderson and Miss Kelly how he first met Harvey, Elwood gives a thorough answer that is thoughtful and reminiscent. His answers to Lyman’s and Kelly’s questions not only captivate them, but the audience as well. This conversation shows there is more to Elwood when you look past the drinking and fascination with Harvey.

There were other performances in Harvey I enjoyed seeing. One of them came from Josephine Hull. Portraying Elwood’s sister, Veta, Josephine’s performance reminded me, to an extent, of Frances Bavier’s portrayal of Aunt Bee Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show. Let me explain myself; like Aunt Bee, Veta has her concerns and worries. You can hear the tension in her voice and see the fear in her eyes, illustrating how much Veta had on her plate. But, like Aunt Bee, Veta had her heart in the right place. All she wanted was for her brother to be a functioning and contributing member of society. Even if her actions weren’t always agreeable, Veta put her brother’s needs before her own. Because of her performance’s consistency, Josephine became an actress I looked forward to seeing on screen!

The set design: When I thought of Harvey, impressive set design was not what came to mind. So, when I first saw the set design in this movie, I was pleasantly surprised! A great location is the Dowd family home, which I wish was given more screen-time. While the house boasts a classic Victorian exterior, its interior was shown the most. In the house’s foyer, the stone staircase immediately caught my eye. Bearing a carved design, this staircase felt like it belonged in a castle! Another part of the home that features carved designs are the door frames. Marble fireplaces and stained-glass windows added exquisite details that highlighted the elegance and charm of the house! Another location I loved was Charlie’s! From some character’s descriptions, the bar sounded like a cheap or sleazy place. But when its interior was shown, it actually looked kind of cozy! The wood paneled walls were covered in framed photos. As a viewer, this gave me the impression the establishment is proud of their history. The booth Elwood sits at also gives off a cozy feel! The dark wood, tall backed seats surround a smaller, dark wood table. Above this seating arrangement was a small Tiffany style ceiling light.

Collection of white rabbit images created by freepik at freepik.com Hand drawn vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lack of comedy: According to IMDB, Harvey is partially classified as a comedy. As I’ve said before, comedy is a subjective genre. But personally, I didn’t find this movie very funny. In fact, I only chuckled once during this hour and forty-four-minute film. I could see the jokes the screenwriters were trying to deliver. Unfortunately, none of these jokes stuck the landing. On IMDB, Harvey is also partially classified as a drama. While watching this movie, it felt like the creative team involved leaned too much into the drama genre. There’s typically nothing wrong with having comedic and dramatic elements in a singular story. In the case of Harvey, the balance between these two elements was not there.

Medical negligence: In real life or fiction, members of the medical profession are human. They are not only capable of helping others, but also capable of making mistakes. However, there is a very fine line between making mistakes and committing medical negligence. In an effort to help Elwood, Veta takes him to a mental hospital called Chumley’s Rest. But due to a registration mix-up, Veta gets admitted into the hospital instead. The idea of mistaken identity and being forced to do something against your will sounds terrifying. Paired with the fact this situation is supposed to be played for laughs makes it worse. Because of this and because of how avoidable the situation was, it didn’t sit well with me.

No explanations for Harvey: As the title suggests, a portion of this story revolves around Elwood’s friendship with Harvey, a 6 foot 3 ½ inch, invisible white rabbit. Throughout the movie, I was waiting for an explanation of what Harvey was. I even waited to see if Harvey would show up on screen. Sadly, none of these things happened. Even though suggestions about Harvey’s purpose were given, no definitive answers were presented. Was Harvey truly an imaginary friend? Was he a mythical creature only Elwood could see? Was Harvey used as a tactic by Elwood to test people’s trust? As I continue to write this review, I still don’t know what Harvey is.

Decisions being flip-flopped: There’s nothing wrong with showing a character changing their mind about something. After all, that prevents them from being static. If a character is going to change their mind on something, you need to show the process of that viewpoint being changed. In the case of Harvey, that process was, sometimes, omitted. When visiting the Dowd family home in search of Elwood, Marvin Wilson, an employee from Chumley’s Rest, takes a romantic fancy to Myrtle Mae, Elwood’s niece. During Marvin’s visit, Myrtle expresses no interest in his romantic advances. But when they meet up again, later in the film, Myrtle suddenly wants to pursue a relationship with Marvin. Her change of opinion feels abrupt, with no lead-up to that decision. The omission of decision transitions sometimes left me frustrated.

Heartbeat image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/medical-logo_763775.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/logo”>Logo vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

“What is the point of this movie”? I’m not asking this to be disrespectful or mean-spirited. I’m asking this because I’m genuinely curious to figure out what that point is. Sometimes, a film’s purpose or intended message is either obvious or easier to figure out. But with Harvey, I don’t know what the creative team was trying to say. Was this movie meant to be a cinematic PSA about how those with mental health related issues should be treated with dignity and respect? Is the film supposed to be an exploration of how some adults lose their sense of imagination the older they become? How am I expected to care about the filmmakers’ message when I don’t have a clear idea what it is? Besides being confusing, Harvey was, for me, disappointing. Because of James Stewart’s involvement in this project and because of the inclusion of a 6 foot 3 ½ inch, invisible white rabbit, I thought the movie was going to be whimsical and charming, with a sense of ‘magical realism’. Unfortunately, the 1950 film was none of those things. The lack of comedy and medical negligence did not help either. In all my years of watching movies, I never thought I’d see a James Stewart film I didn’t like. But, as of January 23rd, 2022, here I am.

Overall score: 5 out of 10

Have you seen Harvey? Which film from James Stewart’s filmography would you recommend I review next? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

If you’re interested in reading Jillian’s editorial, here is the link:

Take 3: The Nutcracker Prince (1990) Review

With 2021 soon coming to a close, this will be my last movie review and my last blogathon entry of the year! Because the Christmas season is upon us, I figured a Christmas flick was the way to go! As was announced by MovieRob, December’s Genre Grandeur theme is Non-Disney Animated Films of the 90’s. While looking for possible titles through a general internet search, I came across The Nutcracker Prince from 1990. Prior to writing this review, I had heard of the film. But I had never seen it. Over the years, it has been said most movie adaptations of The Nutcracker ballet are bad. Since I’ve only seen the Barbie version many years ago, I can’t agree or disagree with this statement. So, for this review of The Nutcracker Prince, I will only be judging the 1990 title.

The Nutcracker Prince (1990) poster created by Lacewood Productions, Boulevard Entertainment, Allied Filmmakers, and Cineplex Odeon Films

Things I liked about the film:

Use of color: The Nutcracker ballet is a production that is known for being colorful. Therefore, the use of color in an adaptation of this story can make or break it. The way color was used in The Nutcracker Prince complimented the source material! One good example is the Christmas party at Clara’s family’s house. The primary colors in the background were a faded red and coral. But Clara’s dress boasted a hue of sea foam green. This color selection allowed Clara’s dress to stand out against the background. It also gave Clara as a character definition and focus.

Utilizing the ballet’s musical pieces: Another iconic part of The Nutcracker ballet is its music! From the ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ to ‘Waltz of the Flowers’, these pieces of music have become a staple in not only the soundtrack of Christmas, but also in the world of classical music. What’s interesting about the ballet’s music in The Nutcracker Prince is how it was utilized in different parts of the story from the original show. The ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ can be heard twice in this film. The first time is during Clara’s family’s Christmas party, as the adult attendees are dancing a waltz. The second time is when Clara is dancing with the Nutcracker in the middle of the night. Only this time, she’s singing a song called ‘Save This Dance’, with the music from ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ serving as a background melody. Using these pieces in different contexts show how versatile they are. They elaborate a scene’s specific tone as well.

A backstory for the Nutcracker: In The Nutcracker ballet, the audience watches as the Nutcracker transforms into a human. Since there are no explanations provided for this transformation, the audience is forced to accept what happened at face value. In The Nutcracker Prince, the creative team makes sure to provide their audience with a backstory for the titular character. I can’t get into detail about this part of the story, as I don’t want to spoil the movie. But all I’ll say is there is an explanation given for why this character becomes a nutcracker. I like how this film’s creative team took a part of the ballet and gave it a new story. This shows one example of how they respected the source material while also bringing something new to the table!

Image of ballerina preparing to dance created by Pressfoto at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People photo created by pressfoto – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

No Land of Sweets: What sets The Nutcracker apart from other ballets is the second half of the production, reserved for the Land of Sweets. This is the part of the story where Clara and the Nutcracker visit the aforementioned land where sweet treats are brought to life through dance. The Nutcracker Prince omits the Land of Sweets. Instead, this land is replaced with The Land of the Dolls. From a creative perspective, I understand why the movie’s creative team made this decision, as they didn’t want to copy-and-paste the source material. But, on the other hand, I was disappointed by the lack of the Land of Sweets. That’s because I was curious to see how the ballet’s second half would translate to animation.

The amount of focus on The Mouse King vs. The Nutcracker: Within the ballet’s first half, the Nutcracker fights in a duel with The Mouse King, the villain in the story. Like The Nutcracker Prince, this duel served as a conflict in the ballet. However, it lasted for only one scene. In the movie, the conflict takes up the majority of the plot. Similar to what I said earlier, I understand why the film’s creative team made this decision, as they wanted to provide their story with a solid conflict. But because of that decision, it took away time from exploring The Land of the Dolls and showcasing elements from the Land of Sweets.

Unclear parts of the story: Within The Nutcracker Prince, there were a few parts of the story that I wish were clarified. On Christmas Eve, after Clara receives a doll named Marie, her parents say this is the last doll Clara will get. With little to no context provided, I was unsure if Clara was simply growing up or was about to pass away. At several points in the film, Uncle Drosselmeier mentions his nephew. To prevent spoilers from being revealed, I won’t share too many details about that part of the story. However, when Drosselmeier’s nephew does appear in the film, I was confused of the identity of this character. I’m assuming that information was supposed to be heavily implied. However, if it was related to the plot, it should have been clearly explained.

Merry Christmas banner created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/merry-christmas-decorative-vintage-background_1359013.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.

My overall impression:

As I said in my introduction, I’ve heard most movie adaptations of The Nutcracker ballet are bad. The Nutcracker Prince from 1990 has been included in that conversation. But now that I have seen this movie, I can finally give my own honest opinion about it. With that said, I personally thought it was fine. With any adaptation, The Nutcracker Prince is not the “end all, be all”. Sure, there are parts of the story that could have been stronger. But I will give this film credit where it is due. Similar to what I’ve said about remakes, a good adaptation should do two things: respect the source material and bring something new and unique to the table. I can honestly say The Nutcracker Prince does both of those things! The story itself goes in different directions than the ballet. At the same time, the movie’s creative team uses elements of the ballet to their advantage, such as the colorful palette and the musical pieces. So, if you’re a fan of The Nutcracker, animated movies, or lesser-known projects of the ‘90s, then I would suggest adding The Nutcracker Prince to your to-watch list this Christmas season!

Overall score: 7.1 out of 10

Have you seen any film adaptation of The Nutcracker? Are there any animated movies you like watching during the Christmas season? Please tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Suddenly (1954) Review

Movies that take place over a 24 Hour time frame (not including time loop movies) are the chosen subject for August’s Genre Grandeur. Since this theme is so broad, I needed to do some research before choosing my contribution. While reading through a list on Wikipedia, I came across the 1954 title, Suddenly. I have heard of this movie because it was recommended by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Last year, I reviewed five of Frank Sinatra’s movies. While most of the movies I’ve seen were either a comedy or musical, Ocean’s Eleven was the only one that was dramatic in tone. This makes Suddenly a unique project in Frank Sinatra’s filmography. Movies from the Film-Noir genre have also been far and few between on my blog. So, I’m hoping this review makes up for that!

Suddenly (1954) poster created by Libra Productions and United Artists

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In Frank Sinatra’s movies I’ve seen so far, he was given roles that allow him to achieve likability. This is made possible through a charismatic personality. While Frank’s character in Suddenly, John Baron, carries himself with suave charisma, he is not someone the audience wants to root for. In fact, this part of John’s personality can make viewers uncomfortable. That’s because, as the movie poster says, he is “a savage, sensation-hungry killer”. The darker material is different from what I’ve seen from Frank’s filmography, so far. However, Frank gave a strong performance that really showcased his range as an actor! While he carried his character with the charisma he has portrayed in other films, he was quick to adopt anger. Whenever someone gave him an insult, John immediately grew intense with rage. It not only showed how John had an underlying instability, but also showed how Frank was like a chameleon with expressions and emotions. These elements help create a character that puts the audience on edge.

Despite being the only actress in Suddenly, Nancy Gates’ did a good job portraying her character, Ellen Benson! While watching this film, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Judy Garland’s acting abilities. This is because, like Judy, Nancy brought a gentleness to her role. Throughout the movie, Ellen always put others before herself. She tries to protect her son, Pidge, from a world she feels is too dangerous. That part of Ellen’s story gives Nancy an opportunity to bring genuine emotion to her role. Toward the beginning of the film, Ellen and Sheriff Tod Shaw, portrayed by Sterling Hayden, debate over her overprotective nature. When Tod brings up her deceased husband, Ellen is immediately moved to tears. James Gleason provides a good counterpart to Ellen Benson with his portrayal of her father, Peter Benson. In the film, he has a more easy-going, light-hearted personality. While I wouldn’t say he was the movie’s comic-relief, Peter did prevent the story from being too dark. Peter’s ability to adapt to any situation and his quick thinking give the audience peace of mind, as it shows he has a good head on his shoulders and will know what to do. It also helps that Peter was the glue that kept his family together.

The subject matter: I was not expecting Suddenly to contain the real-life subjects it did. But they provided a good insight into the views, beliefs, and issues within the time period of the movie’s release. Because the movie takes place in and premiered a decade after World War II, the characters discussed the negative impacts of war. John Baron’s part of the story kind of serves as a cautionary tale when it comes to a war’s psychological aftermath. As John’s plan starts to unravel, the Benson family and Tod accuse John of being “un-American”. This reflects the McCarthyism that primarily took place in the ‘50s.  United States history is also included in the story, with presidential assassination attempts brought up within the script. Tod argues these attempts were failures, because the perpetrators were not only caught, but also frowned upon in history. His insight into this particular subject is interesting, especially remembering what would happen a decade after the film’s release.

Film-Noir’s new setting: Whenever I think of the Film-Noir genre, I think of stories that take place either in big cities or shady places with a dark, ominous tone. With Suddenly, the story takes place in a small, suburban town. This type of location usually hosts stories that are light-hearted and matched with a happy ending. Suddenly’s pairing provided a good contradiction. It also expanded Film-Noir’s horizons, showing that movies from this genre can take place anywhere. It was a creative decision that was definitely thought outside the box!

Children holding American flags during a sunset image created by rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People photo created by rawpixel.com – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some weak performances: While I liked the majority of the acting performances in Suddenly, there were a few that were weak. One of those performances came from Sterling Hayden. When his character was involved in police/serious matters, Sterling successfully carried his character with stoic confidence. But when it came to tender-hearted moments, like when Tod is asking Ellen on a date, Sterling appeared stiff and wooden. Another performance that was weak was Kim Charney’s. I know Kim was a young actor when portraying Pidge. However, Kim carried one expression and emotion throughout the movie, causing Pidge to appear one-dimensional. I am aware that performances from young actors or actresses can be hit or miss. But, for me, Kim’s performance was a miss.

Unclear story details: Suddenly is the type of story where the audience figures out what’s going on as the film progresses. However, there are some parts of the story that don’t receive clarification. When John reveals his plan, he says he is being paid to carry it out. But the audience never learns who this anonymous benefactor is or why John is being paid in the first place. When telling Ellen about his past, John says the “experts” removed the feeling out of him. The identities of these “experts” and the reason for removing John’s feelings are never revealed. The omission of these answers feels like the film’s creative team is intentionally withholding information from the audience.

A self-contained story: The film-noir genre typically shows characters doing what they want and going where they please. This reminds me of Cady’s quote from Mean Girls: “The limit does not exist”. But in Suddenly, the majority of the story takes place in the Benson family home, as John is holding the family hostage. That part causes the movie to feel stagnant and limited, which is the opposite of film-noir’s nature. It also doesn’t help when the movie’s conflict is drawn out for most of the story.

Diner image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/american-vintage-restaurant-hand-drawn_902205.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/food”>Food vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When I think about Tod’s view on presidential assassination attempts, I am reminded of the Touched by An Angel episode, “Beautiful Dreamer”. The majority of the episode’s story revolves around the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, with John Wilkes Booth believing the act will make people see him as a hero. Instead, he is seen as not only a coward, but also one of the most hated people in history. I find it interesting that two different pieces of media from two different time periods share a similar belief. Suddenly also makes me think of the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Foxfire. That’s because the 1954 film felt more like a play than a movie. During my viewing experience, I found myself picturing the Benson family home as a stage, with any event outside of the home taking place off-stage. With the story being self-contained, I honestly feel this production works better in that format. Suddenly provides good insight into parts of the 1950s, with the characters’ dialogue sounding authentic. I also liked seeing Frank Sinatra’s performance, as it shows just how far he can stretch his acting abilities.

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

Have you seen any of Frank Sinatra’s film? If so, which one is your favorite? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Lion Review

I haven’t participated in MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur since April, when I reviewed the 1966 movie, Born Free. To make up for some of that lost time, I decided to review a film for July’s event. This month, the theme isMovies of the Outdoors”. That means the majority of the film has to take place outdoors or the movie has to significantly feature nature within the story. In a search for ideas, I turned to a book that I’ve had in my possession since last year: Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. The pages of this text revealed a title I had never even heard of before. In 1962, 20th Century Fox released a live-action production titled The Lion. Leonard gave this project two out of four stars, saying “Beautiful scenery of Kenya is far better than melodrama about young girl attached to pet lion, with family concerned it is turning her into a savage”. With curiosity getting the better of me, I chose to seek this movie out as my contribution for July’s Genre Grandeur! But will I end up agreeing or disagreeing with Leonard? Keep reading in order to find out!

The Lion poster created by 20th Century Fox.

Things I liked about the film:

William Holden and Capucine’s banter: While The Lion is the fourth film of William Holden’s I have seen, it is also the first film of Capucine’s I have seen. Despite this, I really liked hearing the banter between their characters, Robert and Christine! After Robert arrives at the game reserve’s guest house, Christine reminds him how he is now on a game reserve. In a nonchalant manner, Robert tells her that he won’t bite the animals. In this film, there was a hint of a laid-back persona with William Holden’s character. Even though this was not Robert’s strongest character trait, William pulled it off flawlessly, making his line sound like a piece of natural conversation. Another collection of banter between these characters carried a more serious tone later in the film. When Christine questions Robert’s reason for coming to Africa, he says “I’m here, aren’t I”? In my review of The World of Suzie Wong, I said that William Holden’s performance in that movie was consistent. His and Capucine’s performance in The Lion was consistent as well, each actor delivering their lines with effective execution!

The scenery: The natural landscape of Africa is one of the reasons why I chose to watch this film. Similar to the 1966 movie, Born Free, the African fields served as the principal scenery for The Lion, almost like the landscape itself served as a character in its own right. When Robert’s plane first flies to the game reserve, an establishing shot of a massive mountain is predominantly featured in the background. It was such a beautiful piece of earth, with its white and light blue hues glistening on screen. Like Born Free, the African plains are given multiple opportunities to be featured. But in The Lion, there were other locales that were shown. When Tina, Robert and Christine’s daughter, is on her way to introduce Robert to her pet lion, King, she walks along a winding path. One part of this scene shows Tina and Robert walking past a huge waterfall. While I wish this waterfall had been shown for a longer period of time,  it highlights how there are various types of landscapes within Africa.

Pamela Franklin’s performance: I am not familiar with Pamela Franklin’s filmography. However, she gave a solid performance in The Lion! While watching her portrayal of Tina, I couldn’t help being reminded of Hayley Mills in films such as The Parent Trap. This is because, like Hayley, Pamela carried herself with confidence and a strong sense of self, especially for a young person. These qualities in character paired nicely with Tina’s headstrong personality. Pamela also brought enough emotionality to make her role sympathetic. Whenever she is instructing her per lion, King, on what she wants him to do, you can tell Tina truly cares about him. In one scene, King is leaving with a mate. As Tina is begging him to stay, desperation could be seen and heard in her eyes and voice. Everything I’ve been saying allowed Pamela to still the show!

Image of male lion created by Wirestock at freepik.com. Animals photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

Use of the words “wild” and “savage”: In The Lion, there are a few moments where Robert and Christine use the words “wild” or “savage” when referring to Tina’s interest in the local wildlife and African tribe. At one point, Christine fears her daughter will grow up to be “wild”. I know the ‘60s were a different time compared to the 2020s. But that is not the reason why I didn’t like the characters’ use of the words “wild” and “savage”. By them choosing those words to refer to Tina’s interests, they fail to understand the importance of these subjects. Throughout the movie, Christine, Robert, and even John worry about who Tina will grow up to be in the future. Instead, they should have taken the time to get to know her in the present. Since Tina’s passion for wildlife and her appreciation for the local African tribe is common knowledge to everyone in her life, her parents could have chosen to homeschool their daughter. Those aforementioned interests could have served as the basis for various academic subjects, with Tina’s parents guiding and protecting her along the way. Tina’s upbringing in Africa and a strong educational foundation might afford her a good chance to be accepted into a reputable university. If her parents took the initiative to nurture their daughter’s love for animals, maybe she would have become a veterinarian or operate her own wildlife sanctuary. Some people say “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. However, Christine and Robert’s words fail to recognize a middle ground where all parties are satisfied.

Poor special effects: As I just said in my previous point, the ‘60s were a different time compared to the 2020s. One way this is made apparent is the quality of the technology used in cinema. Sometimes, actors will be placed in front of a green screen, in an attempt to present the illusion that the actors are in a particular location. A few scenes in The Lion showed some of the characters driving through the fields of Africa, with pre-filmed shots of this landscape shown in the background. But during these on-screen trips, a faint but visible blue glow could be seen outlining the characters. This technological error prevented me from getting fully immersed in these scenes. Toward the end of the movie, rain was shown falling in one scene. But the special effect used looked like small images of raindrops lay on top of the scene’s picture instead like looking like the raindrops were falling in that world. That also ruined the illusion of being in the movie’s space.

A drawn-out conflict: Like I already mentioned before, Tina’s parents worry about her future. The way they talk about this conflict sounded like a dire situation. But throughout the film, there was no sense of urgency to find a resolution. Instead, several scenes focus on a safari trip John leads. While I enjoyed seeing Africa’s scenery, these scenes felt like padding to make up for the main conflict being drawn-out. Another part of the story that received more attention than the main conflict was the customs and politics of the local African tribe. I will admit that this part of the script was interesting. However, it took time away from the main conflict, causing its final outcome to be stalled. Even though Tina’s parents solve their problem, the answer doesn’t feel satisfying because of how long the problem was drawn out.

Illustrated African landscape image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. Background vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

Because this month’s Genre Grandeur theme is Movies of the Outdoors”, I knew The Lion would be the perfect choice for this event. As expected, the scenery in the film presented a pleasant picture to look at. But like I quoted in my review of To Catch a Spy, “The scenery can’t save you”. That is certainly the case for the 1962 movie. The pieces of a good project were there; from the strong acting performances to interesting conflicts. But the overall direction wasn’t focused. Instead of working to find a resolution to the film’s main conflict, the story traveled down side paths. This placed more emphasis on other parts of the plot and caused the overarching narrative to be drawn-out. I was also frustrated by the lack of initiative from Tina’s parents to help their daughter reach her full potential with the resources they already had. While I understand they wanted the best for her, they never took the time to ask Tina what she wished for. Honestly, I’d recommend Born Free over The Lion. The story of the 1966 picture is not only straight forward, but its script is also stronger.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

Have you seen The Lion? Which “outdoor movie” would you prefer? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun outside!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Born Free Review + 340 and 345 Follower Thank You

Earlier this month, 18 Cinema Lane received 340 and 345 followers! Before I continue, I’d just like to say thank you to each and every person who has chosen to follow my blog. I appreciate you taking the time to read my articles and listen to what I have to say. Speaking of articles, let’s back to the review! For April’s Genre Grandeur, the theme is “travel films”. Because this topic is so broad, it took me a while to figure out which film I would write about. Then I remembered I had the 1966 movie, Born Free, on my DVR. While Joy and George Adamson, the story’s protagonists, do travel within the movie, it is not the central component of the story. I also have participated in Thoughts From The Music(al) Man’s Star/Genre Of The Month Blogathon, with my review of China Seas being my first contribution. April doesn’t have a theme, so I thought Born Free would be the perfect choice for the blogathon! Prior to writing this review, I had heard of, but not seen, the 1966 picture. This is because I was familiar with the movie’s theme when it was featured on the soundtrack for the film, Madagascar. Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for; the start of this review!

Because I recorded this movie on my DVR, I took a screenshot of the movie’s poster from my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

How the animals were showcased: While I liked the acting in Born Free, it’s the animals that steal the show! Animals were showcased in a natural way, allowing them to be shown in situations that are more realistic. None of the animals were given voice-overs, giving the audience a chance to witness their authentic expressions. A great example is when Elsa, the lion Joy and George take care of, interacts with a male lion. Throughout the scene, Elsa and the male lion take turns roaring. They also can be seen fighting over food. The way these lions were presented made it look like they were having a conversation. The human characters’ conversations about these animals also gave them a humanistic quality. After Joy and George leave Elsa alone with the aforementioned lion, Joy compares the experience to waiting for a daughter to come home from a date. The cinematography and script gave the animals just as much importance as the human characters!

The scenery: The majority of Born Free takes place outdoors, as the African landscapes serve as the principal scenery for the story. Toward the beginning of the movie, Joy is painting in her front yard. A clear blue sky enveloped a large space of plains. This specific location appeared peaceful as long shots were used to capture it on film. Another impressive location was the beach that Elsa, Joy, and George visit. Once again, a blue sky is visible, soaring over the blue of the ocean and bright beige of the sand. The beach was very photogenic, with long and medium shots helping to showcase that location!

The music: I liked the use of music in Born Free! The pieces of instrumental tunes provided the tone for each scene it was included in. When a suspenseful and tense moment took place, the sound of beating drums could be heard. This sound elaborated on the seriousness of what was happening in that particular scene. One example is when, toward the end of the film, Elsa is fighting with another female lion. For more light-hearted, joyful moments, the movie’s theme played in the background. Some scenes that featured this piece of music revolved around Elsa and her sisters as lion cubs.

Mother lion and her baby cubs image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Animals photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

An inconsistent narrative: When a close friend named John suggests Elsa should be placed in a zoo, Joy is completely against the idea. This decision has even resulted in a heated argument between Joy and George. Joy’s decision for wanting Elsa to remain wild is understandable. However, earlier in the film, she doesn’t object to sending Elsa’s two sisters to a zoo. Joy also takes in a baby elephant that Elsa happened to be chasing one day. This specific narrative was inconsistent, which prevented me from getting fully invested in Joy’s side of the story.

The run-time: According to IMDB, Born Free is an hour and thirty-five minutes. But because the story is a simpler one, I don’t think this movie needed that run-time. While watching the film, I noticed how some scenes contained montages. For example, when Joy, George, and Elsa go to the beach, a montage lasting several minutes featured these characters playing on the beach and in the ocean. I feel these montages were placed in the film to satisfy its run-time. Had these montages been shortened, the movie could have had a run-time of an hour or less.

Unnecessary voice-overs: Throughout the film, Joy provides voice-overs to explain what is happening in the story. These voice-overs were beneficial in understanding Elsa’s journey. But there were some scenes where Joy’s voice-overs were not necessary. At the beginning of a scene where Joy, George, and Elsa are at a camp, Joy explains how, one night, she heard the roar of a lion who was eating the livestock of a nearby African village. If the voice-over had not been included in this scene, the on-screen event could have spoken for itself. Having the voice-over only reminded the audience of what they already knew.

Colorful travel suitcase image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/beautiful-illustration-of-travel_2686674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When you think of “travel films”, a movie where the protagonist takes an extravagant and adventurous trip will likely come to mind. However, traveling can mean different things for various people. In the case of Born Free, Joy and George Adamson travel from England to Africa. Throughout the film, they also travel to town and several African villages. As I mentioned in the introduction, Born Free does not focus on the travels of Joy and George. Instead, it prioritizes the relationship these characters share with Elsa. While I liked the natural portrayals of the animals, these depictions are more suited for an older audience. This is also a simpler story, calling for a shorter run-time than the one it received. Not only were some of Joy’s voice-overs unnecessary, but her stance on keeping Elsa out of a zoo was inconsistent. Despite these flaws, I thought Born Free was a fine film! If you are interested in the subject of animals, I feel this is the movie for you!

Overall score: 7.1-7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any “travel films” lately? Do you have any films to recommend for the next blog follower dedication review? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Abominable Dr. Phibes Review

The Abominable Dr. Phibes was recommended by one of my readers named Michael. When I found out the movie was considered a horror-comedy, I thought it’d be a perfect entry for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur, as horror-comedies are the theme for February. Then I discovered the film was released in 1971. Because Kim and Drew, from Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Reviews, are hosting the 6th Annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon, where the subject is movies premiering in years ending in 1, I decided to review The Abominable Dr. Phibes for both blogathons! As of early 2021, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen and written about. Most of these movies have either belonged in the horror genre or have been mysterious in nature. With The Abominable Dr. Phibes, this will be a little different, as part of the story is a comedy. Out of the movies of Vincent’s I have seen, none of them have featured a large amount of humor. So, by choosing this film for the aforementioned blogathons, I am given an opportunity to see Vincent work with slightly different material!

The Abominable Dr. Phibes poster created by American International Pictures.

Things I liked about the film:

The mystery: In horror movies, there is usually a mysterious element that can come in a variety of forms. One of these forms is a mystery. Throughout The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the detectives at Scotland Yard are attempting to figure out why several doctors in their neighborhood are dying of mysterious causes. The way the mystery is presented allows the audience to solve it alongside the characters. This presents the idea of the audience sharing an experience with the detectives in the film. Even though we see what is making these doctors die, it doesn’t take away from the intrigue of the mystery. In fact, it keeps the audience invested in what is about to happen next. Seeing how all the pieces of the story connected was interesting to see. It definitely kept my attention as I watched the film!

The craftmanship: There were several items in this movie that caught my eye due to their quality and artistry. A frog mask is just one example. The head covering mask is covered in three different shades of green, allowing it to shine from many different angles. Gold piping can also be found on the mask, assisting in distinguishing its shape. Jewels add finishing touches as the mask features gold gems around the frog’s eyes and an emerald clasp in the back. Dr. Phibes’ mask also boasts incredible craftsmanship! The eye covering mask is shaped like a bird and is coated in shiny shades of green, bronze, and gold. Both masks were two of the beautiful I’ve ever seen!

The set design: The Abominable Dr. Phibes features several interesting set designs that are worth noting. Despite Dr. Phibe’s house only being shown at night and only part of its exterior could be seen, it was a magnificent structure! Its Victorian style brightened the night with its white frames and cherry wood doors. The house features a grand white marble staircase paired beautifully with chandeliers and crystal sconces. I wish more scenes had taken place by this staircase, as it is an impressive part of Dr. Phibes’ residence! Other locations in the story also displayed memorable set designs.  Dr. Vesalius’ apartment is a great example. Near the front door is a curved, frosted window. The door itself was covered in a light and dark wood that ending up complimenting the faded yellow walls. This location looked reflective of the late ‘60s to early ‘70s due to its color scheme and furniture selections.

Scared audience image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/terrified-friends-watching-horror-movie-in-cinema_1027311.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Vincent Price: As I said in my introduction, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen. Therefore, I, as an audience member, know what he is capable of, talent wise. Despite being the top billed actor in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Vincent wasn’t given much material to work with. He didn’t have any speaking lines in this movie. While there is an explanation given within the story, the only time we hear Vincent’s iconic voice is through recordings. It also doesn’t help that the different ways Dr. Phibes went after his victims overshadows Vincent’s performance. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the creative team behind this film cast Vincent Price simply to get more people to see the movie?

Weak on comedy: The Abominable Dr. Phibes is classified as a horror-comedy. When I made this discovery, I was expecting the movie to be more like Young Frankenstein. Even though there were a few times I found myself giggling, the film didn’t contain much humor. The Abominable Dr. Phibes relies more on the horror genre. It also contains a mystery within the overall plot, which would make it a horror-mystery. I felt misled after these reveals.

Depiction of demises partially used for shock value: Strictly from a story-telling perspective, it was interesting to see how Dr. Phibes carried out his plan. But when the plan is put into practice, the depiction of his victims’ demises comes across as more gross than scary. Within a segment of the story involving rats, there was a brief shot of a rat chewing on what looks like a bloody bone. I won’t spoil The Abominable Dr. Phibes, in case any of my readers haven’t seen it. But parts of the film like the one I described feels like the movie’s creative team just wanted to shock their audience.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon (1) banner created by Kim and Drew from Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Reviews.

My overall impression:

When I think of the term “horror-comedy”, Young Frankenstein immediately comes to mind. Even though I haven’t seen this film, I am aware of its premise. Because of my expectations, I was somewhat let down by The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Sure, its mystery was intriguing and kept me invested in the overall story. But as I look back on this movie, I find myself expecting more. Despite its classification as a horror-comedy, it ended up being a horror-mystery, with very little comedy to be found. I was also disappointed to see Vincent Price underutilized in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. While he was given different material to work with, he didn’t have any speaking lines. The way Dr. Phibes’ victims met their demise overshadowed Vincent’s performance. These factors make his portrayal of the titular character feel like a part of an ensemble instead of someone leading a film. This is an interesting movie, but I can think of stories of this nature that are stronger than this one. I still prefer a picture like The Crow over The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Overall score: 7-7.1 out of 10

Have you seen a horror-comedy? Which film of Vincent Price’s would you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Review

January’s theme for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur is ‘Unreliable Narrator Movies’. I will admit this round of the blogathon wasn’t easy to find movies for, as most of the films that were continuously recommended were those I’d already seen. However, I discovered a movie that I had never even heard of on a list from IMDB. That film is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a title from 1920! Silent movies and those from the ‘20s are not often covered on 18 Cinema Lane. This is due to the availability of the films themselves. Fortunately, I was able to rent The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, as that is one of the reasons why I selected it for this blogathon. I was also curious to see who the unreliable narrator was. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari sounded like an intriguing start to Genre Grandeur!

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari poster created by Decla-Bioscop.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I have said before, acting performances in silent films rely on facial expressions and body language. The actors in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari utilize these acting techniques, as they represent one way to help the audience understand what is happening in the story. Lil Dagover gave a very expressive performance as a character named Jane! When one of her friends, Francis, tells her his friend, Alan, has died, horror and surprise wash over her face. In another scene, when Francis and Jane’s father are talking about a man named Cesare, fear can be seen in Jane’s eyes. This specific behavior tells the audience Jane is afraid of Cesare. The lead actor, Friedrich Fehér, gave an expressive performance as well! While portraying his character, Francis, Friedrich displayed a variety of emotions. A scene where Francis visits a police station serves as a perfect example, as he fearfully informs the police who is likely causing the murders throughout his neighborhood. For an earlier scene, his overall demeanor was much different, as Francis introduces his story as a joyful man with a positive outlook on life. As the titular character, Dr. Caligari, Werner Krauss gave a performance that comes across as unsettling. With wide eyes and exaggerated expressions, Werner appears excited whenever he’s presenting his sideshow act to his audience. Dr. Caligari’s animated demeanor truly makes up for the lack of dialogue!

The title cards: A common staple in silent films is the use of title cards. This concept is incorporated into The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to help the audience understand what the characters are trying to say. Not only is this effectively shown, but we can also see other articles that the characters are given. Toward the beginning of the film, Francis and his friend, Alan, receive a flyer for an upcoming fair. In one shot, the text on this flyer is enlarged, revealing an advertisement for the fair itself. When Francis is figuring out Dr. Caligari’s true identity, he looks through books found in the doctor’s office. As he finds more clues, the audience is shown journal entries from Dr. Caligari himself. The inclusion of these articles makes the overall viewing experience more engaging!

The mystery: Throughout the film, Francis is attempting to solve the mystery surrounding a collection of murders in his neighborhood. In his efforts, he recruits the help of the local police and gathers clues. Out of all the silent films I’ve seen before, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has a pretty unique concept, as it is a mystery. This stands out from movies of this nature I have previously seen and/or reviewed, as those stories were either comedies, dramas, or horror. I also like how the audience gets to experience the story’s events alongside Francis. Even though pieces of the mystery are revealed as the film goes on, it allows the audience a chance to share an experience with the protagonist.

Carousel image created by Daviles at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Daviles – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/carrousel-with-sky-background_954546.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The run-time: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a little over an hour. Because of this, there were scenes throughout the movie that feel like “filler”. When the fair comes to town, scenes where people are walking around the fairgrounds for about a minute to two minutes each are shown. These scenes add up to a collection of moments that are there to satisfy the film’s run-time. In my opinion, this movie did not need to be over an hour. If the “filler” scenes had been shortened or removed, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari could have been a forty- or fifty-minute short film.

An inconsistent use of title cards: While I appreciate the use of title cards in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, I feel its inclusion should have been more consistent. There were stretches of time where title cards were not used, watching as characters spoke with no form of dialogue. This caused confusion when certain scenarios happened on-screen. One of them was a flashback involving Dr. Caligari. Since there were no title cards indicating this was a flashback, it was a confusing transition from one scene to the next. Even the plot twist was confusing, as there was no clear indication, through title cards, that it was a separate component to Francis’ story. This made the overall movie less entertaining.

Some of the musical choices: Music plays a significant role in silent films, as it sets the stage for a particular scene’s tone. In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, however, there were a few scenes where the musical choices did not fit within a scene. When Francis is first introduced in the movie, as he is talking to a man sitting next to him, it sounded like there were two pieces of music playing at once. It made the scene itself feel jarring. Later in the film, when Francis goes to visit Dr. Caligari at his office, music that sounded more joyful than that scene called for could be heard. The piece of music itself felt out of place in that specific scene.

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:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a good example of how far cinema has come. Silent films show us how this particular entertainment medium has evolved over time. Even though I respect the movie for what it brought to the table, the overall project was weaker than it should have been. I found The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to be more confusing than entertaining. This was caused by some of the musical choices and the inconsistent use of title cards. The limited amount of title cards prevented the reveal of the unreliable narrator from being surprising. Because of the film’s run-time, I felt tired by the length of the story. In fact, there were times where I felt taking a nap. Despite these flaws, I am glad I chose this movie for the blogathon! As I said in the introduction, silent films and those from the ‘20s are not often written about on my blog. Therefore, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari joins 18 Cinema Lane’s growing list of movie reviews!

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you ever a silent film? If so, what was your viewing experience? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: To Grandmother’s House We Go Review

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

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

Things I liked about the film:

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

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

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

Christmas Tree with boxes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-tree-out-of-gift-boxes_1448089.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

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

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

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

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

My overall impression:

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

Overall score: 7 out of 10

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

Have fun on Christmas!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Day for Night Review + 250 Follower Thank You

October’s theme for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur is French New Wave Films. Because I’m not as familiar with this particular genre as I am with others, I had to look up potential titles for this review. One of the films that appeared in my internet search was the 1973 French film, Day for Night. When I read the movie’s tagline, “A movie for people who love movies”, I felt it was the perfect choice for the movie blogger I am! MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur is not the only reason why I’m reviewing this film. Day for Night is also my choice for Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s 4th Annual Great Breening Blogathon! When I participated in this specific blogathon last year, I reviewed Vampyr, a movie released before the Breen Code was created. As I already said, Day for Night was released in 1973, two decades after the Breen Code era. Like my Vampyr review, this current article is going to be a blog follower dedication review. Last week, 18 Cinema Lane received 250 followers!

Day for Night poster created by Les Films du Carrosse
PECF, Produzione Internazionale Cinematografica, and Warner Bros.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I’ve said before one of my favorite Hallmark films is An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving. The acting performances are a great part of it, especially Jacqueline Bisset’s portrayal of Isabella. In Day for Night, Jacqueline portrayed American actress, Julie Baker. Her on-screen persona was a pleasant surprise, as it was down-to-earth and kind. This was very different from the “diva” attitude that some lead actress characters are given in stories of this nature. Valentina Cortese is another actress that gave a memorable performance in Day for Night! She portrays Severine, an older actress looking for a come-back. One scene shows Severine turning to drinking as a way to get through the scene and cope with personal issues. Valentina effectively showed the emotional transition her character was experiencing; starting out confident but slowly turning to sadness as the scene continues. Jean-Pierre Léaud portrays Alphonse, a fellow actor who works alongside Julie and Severine. His performance came across very natural on screen, making it look effortless. A scene that shows Alphonse having a bad evening is a good example of this, the look on his face appearing defeated and his body language showing the audience how he was walking aimlessly in a hotel hallway.

The film-making process: The story of Day for Night revolves around a director making a movie alongside his cast and crew. A behind the scenes lens is how the film is presented, with the production process being the primary focus. As someone who loves movies, I found this part of Day for Night fascinating! Seeing the different ways film-making related problems were solved was interesting to watch! The director of the film’s movie, Ferrand, is looking for a car for an upcoming scene. Because of the movie’s budget, he ends up using a car from one of the crew members. Later in the production of “Meet Pamela” (the movie being filmed in Day for Night), the cast and crew are struck with a tragedy. Ferrand decides to cut some scenes from the movie as a result of this event. He discusses these decisions with a script writer named Joëlle, as well as talking with investors.

The cat scene: While filming “Meet Pamela”, the cast and crew want to include a cat drinking milk from a food tray. At first, a kitten is placed in the scene. However, the kitten doesn’t take direction very well. After several failed attempts, the director decides to use a “studio cat” instead. To me, this scene was hilarious because it was a good use of the “comedy of errors” style of humor. It also highlights the idea of animals being difficult to work with in film.

The 4th Annual Great Breening Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

What I didn’t about the film:

Thinly written characters: Day for Night features an ensemble cast, showing their audience how multiple people are responsible for the creation of a single movie. However, all of these characters are thinly written, as they were defined by the main issue they were dealing with in the film’s story. For example, Julie experienced a breakdown prior to the events of Day for Night. Because of this, Julie is known as “the woman who experienced a breakdown”. Throughout the movie, she does talk about her marriage to her doctor and her working hours as an actress. But her personal situation is highlighted the most.

Too much going on: As I just mentioned, this movie has an ensemble cast. This means there are a lot of characters involved in the overall story. It also means Day for Night contains several subplots. Personally, I found it difficult to keep up with the characters, as I thought there were too many to focus on. Even though this happened briefly, there were moments when I forgot who was who. The subplots were not interesting to me, as they revolved around situations I just didn’t care about. It felt more like a bland soap opera than a compelling part of the behind the scenes of “Meet Pamela”. Honestly, I wish this movie had put more emphasis on the film-making aspect of the narrative.

The director’s dreams: On three separate occasions, the dreams of the director, Ferrand, are shown. These scenes are filmed in black-and-white and contain no dialogue. I thought the inclusion of the dreams were random, as they didn’t seem to have anything to do with the overarching story. It also doesn’t help that no explanations are provided for what these dreams could mean. If anything, they were simply there to satisfy the run-time.

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My overall impression:

Like I said in the introduction, the tagline of Day for Night is “A movie for people who love movies”. While I do love movies, I did not love this film. Sure, there were things about it I liked, such as the acting and the film-making process shown. But if you’re going to make a movie, you need to provide your audience with interesting characters worth watching. The characters in Day for Night were thinly written, defined by their personal situations. Even though it can be intriguing to see how characters overcome their obstacles, they have to have other qualities about them. Because of the poor writing for the characters, their subplots were not interesting. Issues among them were basically at a stand-still, not really getting resolved to a satisfying degree. What would have helped this story is if were presented in a mockumentary format, giving more emphasis to the behind the scenes aspect of film-making. Before I end this review, I want to thank all 250 of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers! The success this blog has received would never have happened without you!

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

Have you seen Day for Night? Are there any movies about film-making you’ve seen? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Date with an Angel Review

Teen movies from the ‘80s are September’s theme for Genre Grandeur! Since I knew some of the other participants would talk about more well-known movies from this particular selection, I decided to choose a film that doesn’t always get included in the conversation. On the website, Ranker, there was a list focusing on the greatest teen movies of the ‘80s. A film called Date with an Angel was placed on that list. I have not seen or heard of this title prior to this year. Based on its synopsis, Date with an Angel, shares a similar premise with the film, Splash. While I haven’t seen the 1984 movie in many years, I do remember enjoying it. Because of this, I believed there was a chance I might like Date with an Angel!

Date with an Angel poster created by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092834/mediaviewer/rm1734887424

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While I don’t watch soap operas, I am aware its actors and actresses are required to give a consistent performance in every episode. I was told Michael E. Knight starred on All My Children as Tad Martin. From what I could tell from his performance in Date with an Angel, his soap opera experiences seemed to have paid off! Michael’s portrayal of Jim felt genuine, as the different expressions he showcases appear believable! This is especially the case anytime Jim interacts with the Angel. When he first encounters her after his bachelor party, the shock and awe of the situation can be seen on his face. Very little dialogue is needed to express the feelings in a moment like that one. Speaking of little dialogue, the Angel herself barely has any lines in this movie. Portrayed by Emmanuelle Béart, she was able to use the lack of dialogue to her advantage by relying on facial expressions and body language. In a scene where Jim is determining if the Angel’s wing is healed, she winces and hides her face from him. The consistency of the performance is also what worked in Emmanuelle’s favor. Another actress that did a good job with the acting material she was given was Phoebe Cates! What I liked about her performance was how emotional it was. As the movie progresses, Phoebe’s character, Patty, transforms from a beloved socialite to a woman who let jealousy get the best of her. Similar to Michael and Emmanuelle, Phoebe effectively incorporated facial expressions into her portrayal.

The music: I was really impressed by the soundtrack found in Date with an Angel! One of the best uses of music in this film takes place in a scene where the Angel and Jim find a treehouse in the middle of the forest. When this happens, the song, ‘The Finer Things’ by Steve Winwood, plays in the background, emphasizing how the simpler things in life are, sometimes, the best. There were times when music highlighted the tone of a particular scene. Anytime Jim is with his friends, rock tunes are heard. Meanwhile, piano/music-box music softly plays in the scenes featuring Jim and the Angel. This musical collection definitely added enjoyment to the movie’s audio!

The use of light and fog: Anytime the Angel appears in Date with an Angel, she is highlighted through the use of light and fog. A great example is when the Angel first lands in Jim’s pool. The lights from the pool are the primary source of light in this scene. Fog wraps around the pool area, creating a mysterious oasis with its presence. These creative techniques emphasized how magical and otherworldly the Angel was. In the scenes where the Angel and Jim are in the forest, fog could be seen in the background. Because of its inclusion, it made this location feel secluded, almost like it was Heaven on earth.

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

What I didn’t like about the film:

The Angel is not her own character: In Splash, having a mermaid engage with the human world was a phenomenon. However, Madison was not defined by her mermaid roots. Not only was this character given a name (Madison, in this case), but she was also given her own dialogue. This allowed Madison to play a significant contribution to Splash’s plot. The Angel in Date with an Angel was presented more as a phenomenon than a character. As I mentioned before, the Angel wasn’t given a lot of dialogue. She also didn’t receive a name, being simply referred to as “Angel”. The other characters viewed her as a rarity instead of another individual who happened to appear human. Seeing the Angel not be her own character was disappointing.

Jim’s insignificant composing dreams: Date with an Angel’s synopsis on IMDB reveals that Jim is “an aspiring composer”. Because this particular occupation is not often found in contemporary stories on film, I was curious to see how this would factor into the overall plot. While this detail was brought up on a few occasions, it never served an important part of the story. Music was not used to resolve any conflicts or make any personal discoveries. In retrospect, Jim could have held almost any occupation and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

The cosmetics campaign subplot: One of the subplots in Date with an Angel revolves around Patty’s father trying to salvage a cosmetics advertising campaign. He ultimately decides on finding the Angel so she can be the new face of the campaign. The subplot itself supplies an interesting concept to the overall story. But shortly after this subplot is introduced, it’s quickly dropped from the movie. I found this to be a shame because it could have provided commentary to the plot. One example is how natural beauty is more timeless than the power of any piece of make-up.

I found this angel in my house and I knew it’d be perfect for this review! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”. This is a message Date with an Angel needed to hear. While its inevitable for stories to be repeated over time, this movie felt like an imitation of Splash. As I said in the introduction, I haven’t seen Splash in many years. Therefore, I can’t say if it is a better movie than Date with an Angel. What I can say is this imitation didn’t really allow Date with an Angel to be its own movie with its own identity. Looking back on this film, I’m having difficulty understanding why Ranker would put it on their list of ‘80s teen films. I will admit there are elements in the story that would likely be found in an ‘80s teen movie. A group of goofy, scheming friends and a hilarious misunderstanding are two examples. However, Date with an Angel is not an ‘80s teen film by definition, especially since the characters are adults. Maybe this specific premise, where a human crosses paths with an angel, would have worked better in an ‘80s teen movie. If that were the case, it might have had a better chance of being its own story.

Overall score: 6.4 out of 10

Have you seen any teen movies from the ‘80s? If so, which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here is the link to the Ranker list I mentioned in this review (Date with an Angel is listed at number 107): https://www.ranker.com/list/best-80s-teen-movies/ranker-film