Take 3: Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery Review

Here at 18 Cinema Lane, I try to review movies that have been recommended to me by my readers. Typically, I watch movies and write about them in the hopes they are good. But in the case of this review, I’m approaching this film a little differently. In the comment section of my article, ‘The Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time’, one of my readers, Not a fan of Carrot Cake, shared their worst Hallmark movie they’ve watched. That film is the latest Hallmark Movies & Mysteries title, Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. Their thoughts on the movie intrigued me. It made me wonder if it was worse than Francesca Quinn, P. I., the worst Hallmark movie I’ve ever seen. So, without further delay, let’s solve this mystery by reviewing Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery!

Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery poster created by Lighthouse Pictures, Looking Glass Productions, and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

The camaraderie between the cast members: In a movie series, a group of actors will become familiar with one another’s talents and personalities. This familiarity creates a consistency that can be seen in the characters’ interactions. That consistency allows these interactions to come across as believable in the eyes of the audience. As Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery is the seventh film in its series, the camaraderie between the cast members remained continuous not only throughout this story, but also throughout the series! When Hannah, portrayed by Alison Sweeney, and Norman, portrayed by Gabriel Hogan, interacted with each other, their friendship felt genuine. As Hannah’s mom, portrayed by Barbara Niven, discussed her concerns about her daughter’s safety, that discussion between mother and daughter was presented realistically. These interactions were not only the result of the camaraderie between the cast members, but also the cast members displaying an understanding for their characters and their stories!

The inside jokes: Hallmark has a history of incorporating humor into their mystery series. Typically, this humor can be heard within the dialogue between characters or shown through hilarious situations. In Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Hallmark related inside jokes were woven into the script. Frustrated by Hannah’s involvement in the murder mystery case, Mike’s boss tells Mike Hannah is acting like a podcaster. This statement is a reference to Alison’s other mystery series, Chronicle Mysteries. Over lunch, Hannah’s mother, Delores, brings up how Hannah and Mike’s upcoming wedding is never discussed. That conversation references how Hannah and Mike have been engaged since Murder She Baked: Just Desserts, a movie that was released in 2017. These inside jokes provide “Easter eggs” for fans of the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series, as well as fans of Hallmark’s mystery films!

Use of clues: Some mystery stories utilize clues in order for the mystery to be solved. This is the case for several of Hallmark’s titles, including Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. The movie’s mystery begins in 1995. Therefore, one of the clues is a pager, which was used to determine who the victim called before they passed away. Another clue was a set of keys. But these keys helped set up a timeline for the mystery’s events. The incorporation of the clues in Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery combined the past and present in a nice way. It also showcased a variety of objects that could be used to solve a case!

Baking essentials image created by Olga_spb at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/background-with-elements-of-the-bakery_903718.htm’>Designed by Olga_spb</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Olga_spb – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Mike: Since the series’ inception, Mike has always played an integral role in the story of Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen. Because he is a professional detective, he provides a unique perspective to a movie’s case, especially compared to Hannah’s perspective. But in Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Mike wasn’t given much to do. Instead, Hannah solves the mystery single-handedly, relying on Mike less than in previous films. The “opposites attract” dynamic between Hannah and Mike was missing, which took away some of the series’ charm. It also does Cameron Mathison and his character a huge disservice.

Lack of “coziness”: The Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series has garnered a reputation for being a “cozy” mystery. Despite the stories containing murder mysteries, the stories themselves don’t feel too dark in tone. Instead, humor and pleasant character interactions break up the serious nature of the murder mystery. In Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, however, that “cozy” feeling was absent. While I did like the inside jokes woven into the script, the overall tone of the movie was serious. The lack of light-hearted subplots didn’t help either. In context with the series as a whole, this film causes a tonal shift that feels jarring.

Mike and Hannah’s relationship: For this part of my review, I will include spoilers for Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. If you have not seen this movie yet and are interested in watching it, please skip ahead to the part of my review titled “My overall impression”.

The majority of Hallmark’s mystery series contain a romantic relationship between the male and female protagonist. More often than not, these relationships grow as its series progresses. In the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series, viewers have witnessed Hannah and Mike go from being neighborhood friends to a romantic couple. As I mentioned in this review, they became engaged in Murder She Baked: Just Desserts. But in Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Mike and Hannah’s relationship was not prioritized as in previous movies. They didn’t spend much time together in this story. In fact, Hannah spent more time with Norman than with Mike. This creative choice caused Alison and Cameron’s on-screen chemistry to feel weaker compared to other films.

Like I said earlier in this review, Delores mentions how Hannah and Mike’s wedding hasn’t been discussed. I also mentioned how Mike and Hannah got engaged in a movie that was released over five years ago. During that time, fans of the series have been waiting for Hannah and Mike to finally walk down the aisle and say “I do”. But in the last twenty minutes of Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Hannah ends her and Mike’s engagement. Why, you ask? Because she was upset Mike didn’t tell her he was filling his boss in on developments she and Mike found in relation to the story’s mystery. Hannah seems so justified in her choice, she, through a monologue, compares her ended relationship with baking bread, saying something along the lines of the ingredients needing to be respected. Personally, I feel Hannah’s decision to end her and Mike’s relationship was unnecessarily spontaneous. Looking back on this movie, it makes me wonder if Hannah and Mike breaking up was Hallmark’s excuse to discontinue this series?

Colorful image of key created by orchidart at freepik.com. Flower vector created by orchidart – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

I chose to review Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery in an attempt to see if it was worse than Francesca Quinn, P. I. Like I said in the introduction, I also reviewed this movie in response to one of my readers. Now that I’ve seen the film, I can honestly say, in my opinion, it is nowhere near as bad as Francesca Quinn, P. I. However, it is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen this year, so far. In a recent article from The Wrap, Alison Sweeney confirmed another chapter in the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series. Without spoiling Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, all I can say is I have no idea how this is possible. Other than solving a mystery, this movie put the series in a standstill. The film’s creative team didn’t provide a reason for the fans to get excited for the next story. From Mike being underutilized to the lack of “coziness” in the latest chapter, I’m wondering if this series will be another mystery series that will unceremoniously end? I said in my editorial about Francesca Quinn, P. I. how Hallmark’s priorities no longer lie with the mystery genre. Reflecting on that film and Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, it seems like I may be proven right.

Overall score: 5 out of 10

Have you seen Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery? What do you think is in store for the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Why ‘Francesca Quinn, PI’ is the Worst Hallmark Movie I’ve Ever Seen

Once upon a time, in 2018, I declared the Hallmark Hall of Fame title, Back When We Were Grownups, as the worst Hallmark movie I had ever seen. Since publishing that list, I honestly didn’t think any movie would dethrone the 2004 film. That all changed when I saw Francesca Quinn, PI. At the end of 2022, when I released my list of the worst movies I watched, the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film was placed at number one. While I explained why the film earned the top spot on my list, I didn’t discuss why Francesca Quinn, PI is now the worst Hallmark movie I’ve ever seen. As a Christmas present, J-Dub, from Dubsism, nominated me for The Pick My Movie Tag. My mission was to write about a movie I couldn’t stand. This gave me the perfect opportunity to explain why I don’t like Francesca Quinn, PI. Since this editorial is solely based on my opinion, I need to make it clear that everything I say is not meant to be mean-spirited or disrespectful. Examples from the movie will be used to support my intended points. I’d also like to thank J-Dub for the nomination! Because of this tag, I’m now publishing my first editorial of 2023! This editorial is written for a tag, so all tag rules will be posted below.

The Tag’s Rules

  • Nominate one or more people to review the film or films of your choice. Or you can request they review something from a certain year, genre, or star. Everyone can review the same thing, or you can request each person cover something different. As long as it’s something they haven’t written about yet, you’re good.
  • Nominees are allowed to request a different pick for whatever reason no more than five times. Stuff happens. We all know it.
  • Nominees must thank the person who nominated them and provide a link their blog.
  • Nominees may nominate others to keep the tag going. Picking the person who nominated them is allowed, or they can nominate someone else. Maybe both.
  • All participants need to include these rules in their post, whether they’re nominees or picking nominees.
  • All participants should use the “Pick My Movie” banner or something similar in their posts.
  • Have fun!
The Pick My Movie Tag banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

Exposition Dumping

Exposition is an important storytelling component in any story, whether it’s a stand-alone tale or a chapter in an established franchise. This component provides the audience with necessary information about the characters, setting, and overarching conflict. The best way for the audience to absorb this information is, in my opinion, to spread it out throughout the story. That’s not what happened in Francesca Quinn, PI. Within the first six minutes of the movie, the following characters are introduced:

Francesca (the protagonist)

Jim (Francesca’s dad)

Bill (Jim’s friend)

Wynton (Francesca’s childhood friend and detective partner)

Megan (Francesca’s ex-stepmom)

Carl (Francesca’s high school sweetheart and fiancé)

In just one scene, Francesca, Jim, Bill, and Wynton are rapidly introduced to the audience. Within those same first six minutes, Francesca, through a voice over, discusses the six murders Megan committed over the span of four years. Because the audience is receiving so much information in such a short amount of time, they aren’t given the opportunity to truly get to know the characters. They also aren’t given enough time to decide for themselves if they want to care about a particular character. The first movie in a potential series is intended to serve as a first impression for the audience, an indication of what they could expect from the story. With Francesca Quinn, PI’s creative team choosing to dump exposition onto their audience’s plates, that will cause viewers to feel overwhelmed.

Vintage detective desk photo created by Olivier Bourgeois at freeimages.com. Photo by <a href=”/photographer/ornicar69-54520″>Olivier Bourgeois</a> from <a href=”https://freeimages.com/”>FreeImages</a&gt; Image found at freeimages.com.

Francesca Herself

Since coming to fruition in 2001, Hallmark Channel has created several mystery series that would eventually lead to the rebranding of Hallmark’s second network. In these series, the audience follows a central protagonist who comes across as likable. This likability has worked in some series’ favor, expanding a story beyond three films. In the case of Francesca Quinn, PI, there are some factors working against the protagonist. Throughout the movie, Francesca speaks with a monotone voice, using very little emotional inflection. Most of the time, her face carries a blank, serious expression. With the material given, Mallory Jansen tries her best to give her character a wider range of emotion, smiling every once in a while. However, this attempt isn’t enough to make a good first impression on the audience.

Francesca’s limited expressions lead me to my next point; her weaker personality. When beginning a series, a protagonist’s personality could determine that story’s longevity. If the protagonist is presented as friendly, approachable, and even relatable, that could attract more viewers to follow the protagonist’s adventures. Showing a protagonist in various environments is a good way to showcase their personality. In the Aurora Teagarden series, the audience witnesses Aurora in both a professional and nonprofessional setting. Whether she’s trying to get along with her co-worker, Lillian, or interacting with the members of the Real Murders Club, viewers receive a more well-rounded glimpse into Aurora’s personality. Because Francesca’s story primarily revolves around her profession, the audience doesn’t get a strong idea of what her personality is really like. The fact Francesca does not have friends or hobbies outside of her occupation prevents her personality from shining. Another element Francesca’s personality is missing is charisma.

The most well-known detectives in pop culture have a “quirk”, something that sets them apart from other fictional detectives. A great example is Columbo, who is recognized for saying “and one more thing”. With Francesca Quinn, there are no “quirks” that help her stand out among Hallmark’s other detectives. As I previously mentioned, she doesn’t have any interests outside of her profession. She does not have a catchphrase that viewers could easily remember and quote. This missing ingredient is another reason why Francesca is not a likable and memorable protagonist.

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

An Unprofessional Investigator

In Hallmark’s various mystery series, there is a mix of professional and amateur detectives. This provides mystery fans with diverse perspectives, showing how different characters approach a mystery. For protagonists who are professional detectives, their critical thinking and problem-solving skills should give the impression they know what they’re doing. Yet, in Francesca Quinn, PI, Francesca makes several mistakes an amateur detective would likely make. When visiting a potential suspect, Francesca spots the security guard who happens to work at the prison Megan resides in. She, as well as Ella (the lead detective of the Minneapolis police department), chase after the security guard. As the chase continues, the security guard throws a set of fish at Francesca, in an effort to slow her down. Her disgust distracts her from the pursuit, with the security guard getting away. After the security guard trips and falls to the ground, Francesca pulls her gun on him. When Ella tries to calm Francesca down, Francesca tells her, “He threw a fish at me”, justifying her reason for pulling her weapon on the security guard.

The scene I described is just one example of Francesca’s poor decision-making skills. Yet Francesca Quinn, PI’s creative team wants the audience to believe Francesca is a professional investigator with years of experience. The story also establishes how Francesca has her own private investigation firm. Detectives in mystery stories are human, capable of making mistakes and experiencing obstacles. But Francesca crosses the line between human error and appearing incompetent at her job. Toward the beginning of her investigation to figure out who killed Carl, Wynton and Beatrice (a detective who works alongside Wynton) pays Francesca a visit. As Beatrice shares the alibis of the case’s prime suspects, Francesca believes a hit man murdered her fiancé. She is so convinced in her belief, she becomes defensive and argumentative with Beatrice and Wynton. Instead of looking at every possible avenue for a resolution to the mystery, Francesca chooses to be close-minded in her approach to figuring out “whodunit”.

Interior image of detective’s office created by Vectorpocket at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage vector created by vectorpocket – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Unnecessary Explanations

Mystery stories will typically provide explanations when it comes to specific parts of the story. Whether it’s medical terminology or pieces of historical information, these explanations can help the audience better understand the story they are consuming. But Francesca Quinn, PI includes so many explanations, the protagonist ends up explaining things that don’t need to be explained. In the first minute of the movie, Francesca explains what a “murder board” is, saying “a murder board, we call it. Lots of pieces of evidence that hopefully bring you to a conclusion”. This explanation is presented as a voice over, with a “murder board” shown on screen. Speaking for myself, I’ve seen enough mystery programs, especially from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, to know what the aforementioned board is and how it is used.

While voice overs were a way to provide unnecessary explanations, Francesca Quinn, PI’s creative team used other methods to keep this flaw consistent. When Francesca and Wynton visit Megan in prison, Wynton tells Megan the police “do things by the book”. The inclusion of this pun acknowledged Megan’s English teaching career and her request to receive books in prison. Shortly after Wynton made this pun, Francesca explains to Megan, as well as the audience, that not only is “by the book” a pun, she also explains the meaning behind the pun. In my list of the top ten worst movies I saw in 2022, I said Francesca Quinn, PI gave me the impression the film’s creative team didn’t want me to solve the mystery alongside the protagonist. I also said one of the worst things a film-maker can do is disrespect their audience’s intelligence. With all the unnecessary explanations the creative team gave, the opportunity for the viewers to interact with the story was unavailable.

Francesca Quinn, PI poster created by Cartel Pictures, Mystery Island Pictures, Rogers Media, and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

As of the publication of this editorial, there are no announced plans to grow Francesca Quinn, PI into a series. If I’m being honest, though, I hope that doesn’t happen. This is because I truly believe there are mystery stories that are better than this one. A decade ago, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries housed several mystery series that achieved viewership success. Hallmark’s second network would never have boasted the name, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, had it not been for the popularity of these mystery films. Now, in the 2020s, it seems like Hallmark’s priorities no longer lie with the mystery genre. In early March, 2023, only three of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ movies are mystery titles. Out of the ten newer mystery titles to premiere this decade so far, just two of them have received at least one sequel: Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries and Curious Caterer. Looking back on Francesca Quinn, PI, Hallmark’s lack of care and respect for the mystery genre shined brighter than a typical neon sign.

The Nominees

Flapper Dame from The Flapper Dame

Ari from The Classic Movie Muse

Maddy from Classic Film and TV Corner

Ruth from Silver Screenings

Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy

As I mentioned in the introduction, I wrote this editorial for The Pick My Movie Tag. Because I wrote about the worst Hallmark movie I’d ever seen, I will give my nominees the mission to write about a Hallmark movie featured in my worst movies of the year lists. To make it easier for the nominees, I will list those titles below:

One Winter Weekend

Frozen in Love

Love at Sea

Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe

Mingle All the Way

Marrying Mr. Darcy

Yes, I Do

Our Christmas Love Song

My One and Only

Over the Moon in Love

Last Vermont Christmas

A Feeling of Home

Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays

Christmas Scavenger Hunt

Christmas Camp

A Cheerful Christmas

Working Miracles

The Cabin

Thicker Than Water

Jane Doe: Yes, I Remember It Well

JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift

Jane Doe: Vanishing Act

Out of the Woods

Mystery Woman: At First Sight

I’m Not Ready for Christmas

Country at Heart

Jane Doe: Ties That Bind

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Durango

Chasing Leprechauns

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Vows We Have Made

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s A Place for Annie

Nikki & Nora: Sister Sleuths

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Corsican Brothers

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Journey

Lake Effects

A Boyfriend for Christmas

Francesca Quinn, PI

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The 5th Annual Gold Sally Awards has Finally Arrived!

With 18 Cinema Lane’s 5th anniversary in February, the annual Gold Sally Awards is here to mark this occasion! As I mentioned last month, this year’s awards will be presented differently. Each category was created by me, based on topics I’ve brought up on my blog. The award recipients relate to movies I saw in 2022, with some of those movies covered on 18 Cinema Lane. For each category, I will explain the significance of them and why I chose that recipient. So, without any delay, let the Gold Sally Awards begin!

5th Annual Gold Sally Awards Winners created by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The Edwin P. Christy Award

(Most Annoying Character in Film)

Grandpa Marcus from Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Journey

When I saw I Dream of Jeanie two years ago, I was introduced to the character of Edwin P. Christy. In my review of the 1952 movie, I said I found Edwin annoying. This is because he used every opportunity to put the spotlight on himself. He does this so often, I said in my list of the top ten worst movies of 2021 that I Dream of Jeanie’s honest title would be “The Edwin P. Christy Show”. In 2022, I met another annoying character named Marcus, from Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Journey.

Having a hobby can be a good thing. But in Marcus’ case, his hobby for photography turns into an obsession. This obsession causes Marcus’ family to either hide their faces or run away from him whenever he wants to take their picture. Marcus also takes pictures of people without their permission. It even gets to the point where Marcus makes his grandson, who appears to be eight to ten years old, drive a car so Marcus can take photos. His grandchildren jokingly remark how their grandpa will photograph their car accident if something should happen to them, their remark not sitting well with me at all. In Journey, Marcus’ hobby is related to one of the movie’s themes; memories are irreplaceable. The delivery of this theme, though, was an annoying one.

The “She Won’t Give Me My Chocolate” Award

(Best Quote from a Movie)

“Someone who likes their cereal really hot” – Wanda, Point of Origin

The Valley of Light is a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I like. I’ve mentioned in my tier rank list of every Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I saw that “She won’t give me my chocolate” is one of my favorite quotes from this collection of films. When I watched Point of Origin last June, I heard a quote that was so funny, it caught me off guard! In one scene, John’s daughter asks John, the film’s protagonist, what a serial arsonist is, after hearing the term on the news. Without missing a beat, Wanda, John’s wife, answers the young girl’s question by explaining it is “someone who likes their cereal really hot”. I was not expecting Wanda to provide this kind of answer, let alone any answer at all. Its unexpectedness is why I found this quote hilarious!

The Edward Boult Award

(Missed Opportunity in Cinema)

Not Having the Quote, “I have a need, a need for speed”, in Top Gun: Maverick

Back in 2019, I watched Edward, My Son for the first time. In my review of that film, I talked about how Edward’s lack of on-screen appearances was a missed opportunity. Not only did this creative decision prevent the audience from getting to know and connect with Edward as a character, it also denied an actor from receiving the “standing ovation” he deserved. Out of the films I saw in 2022, there were a few times where I felt an opportunity was missed. But not having the quote, “I have a need, a need for speed”, in Top Gun: Maverick was, in my opinion, the biggest missed opportunity of the year. The aforementioned quote is not only the most well-known quote from Top Gun: Maverick’s predecessor, it’s one of the most famous quotes in movie history. Like I said in my review of the 2022 blockbuster, the film did a good job respecting Top Gun. However, I still think “I have a need, a need for speed” should have been referenced somewhere in the movie.

The They Deserve an Award Award

(An Actor or Actress Who Deserves Recognition)

Melissa Joan Hart (for her performance in Dirty Little Secret)

A quote I have always tried to incorporate into 18 Cinema Lane is Auggie’s quote from Wonder: “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.” This is why I go out of my way to talk about movies, people, or movie related topics that may be overlooked. Dirty Little Secret is a Lifetime movie that premiered last year. In this film, Melissa portrays Joanna, a woman who is secretly a hoarder. As I have said in the past, Lifetime has a history of creating PSA/ “after school special”/cautionary tale type of movies. Unlike the majority of those projects, Dirty Little Secret revolves around a story, which happens to address the serious issue of hoarding. Through her performance, Melissa was able to successfully bring forth the humanity of her character. With a strong sense of emotionality and an array of expressions and body language, Joanna became a character the audience could be empathetic towards. Personally, I think Melissa should have, at least, been nominated for an award, as her performance in Dirty Little Secret was one of the best from 2022!

The “Woman from the City Coming Back to Her Small Hometown” Award

(Most Extreme Use of a Cliché)

Lily from Lake Effects

If you’ve read my list of the top ten worst cliches from Hallmark movies, you’d know the “woman from the city coming back to her small hometown” cliché is my least favorite. It’s been used so many times, it makes a story more predictable. There are two cliches from Hallmark productions I’ve never talked about on 18 Cinema Lane: the “younger sibling is free-spirited” cliché and the “artist = free-spirit” cliché. While these cliches have made several appearances in Hallmark projects, including When Calls the Heart, their presence hasn’t been as frequent as other cliches. But these two cliches were fully embodied by Lily, one of the characters in the 2012 film, Lake Effects. From her colorful wardrobe to her dream of studying art in Paris, Lilly adopted every component of the two aforementioned cliches you can think of. The combination of these elements created a character I couldn’t take seriously. In fact, you could make a bingo game revolving around the various ways the “younger sibling is free-spirited” cliché and the “artist = free-spirit” cliché are incorporated into Lilly’s story.

The Standing Ovation Award

(Character Most Deserving of Receiving Their Full Potential)

Kili from The Hobbit trilogy

When I talked about The They Deserve an Award Award, I brought up Auggie’s quote from Wonder. Last November, I created a list of characters who didn’t receive their full potential. With both of that said, I decided to create an award category where I recognize a character that I feel should receive the full potential they deserve. In my tag post, My take on The “Flaming Hot…5 Reasons Why” Tag, I brought up Kili from The Hobbit trilogy. Since I saw all three movies for the first time last year, Kili would be eligible for this award. In that aforementioned tag post, I claimed how Kili was, in my opinion, the MVP of Middle-Earth. This is because there are several attributes that make him a likable character, such as his humbleness toward his royal title. Throughout the trilogy, I was rooting for Kili to achieve his full potential, which I feel could have been possible. But, without spoiling this story, his potential was ultimately denied. I do plan on writing at least one editorial about Kili, so stay tuned!

The Honorable and Dishonorable Mention Award

(Best and Worst Movie from the Honorable and Dishonorable Mention Category)

Best – Akeelah and the Bee, Worst – Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Corsican Brothers

Whenever I publish my best and worst movies of the year lists, I receive few opportunities to talk about the movies in my Honorable and Dishonorable Mention categories. In fact, the only times I talk about these movies are when I get the opportunity to review them on my blog. Therefore, I created an award category to recognize these films. Akeelah and the Bee was such a pleasant surprise for me! It was a feel-good story that felt sincere in the messages and delivery. There were even interesting twists that I did not see coming. Without spoiling the movie, the script did a good job at avoiding a cliché when it comes to competitions in movies. I’m glad I checked out Akeelah and the Bee, as the film was time well spent!

Last October, I reviewed Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Corsican Brothers for the Devilishly Delightful Donald Pleasence Blogathon. After seeing some adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ stories, I thought I knew what to expect from the 1985 made-for-tv movie. But the longer I watched The Corsican Brothers, the more disappointed I became. This story was not the exciting tale with adventure and intrigue I was hoping for. Instead, it was a confusing film with little to no use of urgency. As of the publication of this award post, I still have not read this movie’s source material. Therefore, I don’t know which parts of the production are creative liberties.

The Nosferatu vs. Dracula Award

(Two Movies That Feel Like You’re Watching the Same One)

Harvey (1950) and Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Harvey (1972)

For a Blog Follower Dedication Review, I wrote about 1931’s Dracula. Because I had seen Nosferatu prior to watching Dracula, the 1931 film felt like a re-tread of its predecessor. I even told my readers if they had seen Nosferatu, they’d already seen Dracula. Last year, I reviewed two versions of Harvey; the 1950 movie and the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation from 1972. Though I liked the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie more than its predecessor, I didn’t like how it was a copy of the 1950 film. The movie’s sets even looked almost exactly like they did in the 1950 production. If you’ve never seen any version of this story, I’d recommend only seeing 1972’s adaptation of Harvey.

The Hallmark Hall of Fame Award

(Movie That Feels Like It Belongs in the Hallmark Hall of Fame Collection)

A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love

I have sometimes found a movie that feels like it should have been included in the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection. So, when I find out a story isn’t associated with this series, it surprises me, whether it’s because the movie is based on a true story or the story itself covers a topic found within Hallmark Hall of Fame. That leads me to bring up A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love! Like other films in the Godwink series, the 2021 film is also based on a true story. Subjects related to faith, which usually aren’t found in a typical Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries production, are included within this particular story as well. In my opinion, the overall quality of A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love felt reminiscent of Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I like, such as The Valley of Light and A Dog Named Christmas. I’m honestly surprised SQuire Rushnell’s stories weren’t included in the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection back when Hallmark utilized that banner.

The “Based on a Book I Haven’t Read Yet” Award

(Movie Based on Source Material I Have Not Yet Read)

The Pit and the Pendulum

I feel like, more often than not, I find myself saying that a movie I review is based on source material I haven’t read. This prevents me from judging the film as an adaptation. It’s been years since I’ve read anything by Edgar Allan Poe. I even mentioned this fact in my review of the 1961 adaptation. Fortunately, The Pit and the Pendulum is a book I plan on reading for the upcoming Eurovisionathon readathon. Because of that, I selected The Pit and the Pendulum for this specific award!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Curious Caterer: Grilling Season Review + 455 Follower Thank You

It’s been a little while since I last reviewed a Hallmark film. In fact, this is my first Hallmark movie review of 2023. Since 18 Cinema Lane recently received 455 followers, I thought this would the perfect opportunity to write about a Hallmark production. Besides, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Last year, I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate (as a Blog Follower Dedication Review). Even though I thought it was just fine, the movie had potential to start a new series. Out of the newer mystery films to premiere on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries this decade, so far, Curious Caterer is one of only two to receive a sequel. I will admit when I first read the synopsis for Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, it sounded like a repeat of the first film. It also didn’t help how the trailer revealed very little information about the movie. However, as a thank you to every one of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers, I’m serving up this review of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ latest mystery title!

Curious Caterer: Grilling Season poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate last year, I complimented Nikki Deloach, Andrew W. Walker, and even Kendall Cross on their solid performances. Nikki and Andrew returned to this second chapter with equally strong portrayals of their respective characters! Throughout the film, I was impressed by the strength of the cast as a whole. Every interaction appeared so natural, I was immersed in the story! A great example is when Goldy and her friend, Marla, are unknowingly delivering evidence to Detective Tom’s office. In this scene, Goldy and Marla explain how they conveniently crossed paths with Mason, Tom’s detective partner, in the parking lot. Displaying genuine confusion on their faces, Marla and Goldy bring some of the murder victim’s paperwork, in an attempt to simply help in any way they can. Not wanting Goldy to be involved in official detective work, Tom tells both women how they are interfering with an investigation. During this interaction, Tom carries a stern tone in his voice and a frustrated look in his eyes, displeased with civilians interrupting his work. Meanwhile, Mason displays an easy-going, yet professional persona, trying his best to do his job right. This blend of personalities, emotions, and expressions created a scene that was not only well acted, but was hilarious as well!

The humor: Limited amount of humor was one of the flaws of Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate. This prevented the audience from receiving a break from the story’s heavy murder mystery plot. In Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, however, more humor was incorporated in the script. Like other mystery series on Hallmark’s second network, the humor felt like it belonged in the world of Curious Caterer. While Goldy and Marla are creating a mystery board, Detective Tom arrives at Goldy’s back door. Because this back door contains a see-through window, Tom can see exactly what Marla and Goldy are doing. When they see that Tom has arrived, Goldy and Marla try their best to cover the board up, as they know Tom would disapprove. With a irritated look on his face, he points to the door knob, demanding Goldy open the door. To me, this was one of the funniest scenes in the movie, as the intended ideas were expressed with very little dialogue!

Marla’s involvement in the mystery: In most mystery series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the protagonist’s best friend either has a small role in the mystery or isn’t involved at all. Curious Caterer: Grilling Season gave Marla, Goldy’s friend and co-worker, a greater opportunity to participate in the mystery. During the creation of the mystery board, Marla was thinking up suspects and speculating on their motives. Meanwhile, Goldy was providing insight into other possible theories. Marla also shares information with Goldy about two possible suspects. Creative decisions like this one allow the Curious Caterer series to try new things and stand out from the network’s other mystery titles!

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

What I didn’t like about the film:

Providing far-reaching or no explanations: At the beginning of the movie, Goldy is catering the birthday party of her friend, Susie. Tom is one of the party’s guests, who appears to personally know the hostess. Within the dialogue, though, Tom’s relationship with Susie was never explained. In some mystery stories, explanations for clue discoveries and motive reveals can be so far-reaching, most audience members would have never figured it out on their own. Without spoiling the story, far-reaching explanations were found on a few occasions in Curious Caterer: Grilling Season. For me, this made the mystery less interactive. I also think this could frustrate some viewers.

The under-utilization of Olive: Last year, when I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, I talked about how the audience didn’t receive the opportunity to get to know Goldy’s daughter, Olive. This is because she was featured in a handful of “don’t blink or you’ll miss her” moments. In Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, the audience learned a little more about Olive, such as her participation on a softball team. But similar to the first film, her appearances in the story were limited. This was disappointing, as I was hoping Olive would receive a greater role in the story. Perhaps she could have helped Goldy solve a mystery, with both mother and daughter looking for information related to a case.

No close-up shots of the food: As I talked about the cinematography in Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, I shared my thoughts on the close-up shots of some appetizers Goldy served. Those shots gave the audience an idea of the kind of catering service Goldy provides. At Susie’s birthday party in Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, however, there were no close-up shots of the food. Even Susie’s birthday cake was not featured on screen. Catering plays such a vital role in Goldy’s story, as that is her business. So not featuring a few close-up shots of the food not only feels like a missed opportunity, it takes away some of this series’ identity.

Birthday cake image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/chocolate-birthday-cakes-collection_765437.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/birthday”>Birthday vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I stated in the introduction, Curious Caterer is one of only two newer mystery titles to receive a sequel on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Like I also stated, I had my concerns about the sequel feeling like a repeat of its predecessor. Even though both films share some similarities, I found Curious Caterer: Grilling Season to be a stronger movie than the first chapter! There were times when the sequel improved upon the flaws made in last year’s title, such as incorporating more humor. A sense of consistency was found in the second movie, as the acting was just as strong as it was in the first film. But Curious Caterer: Grilling Season proves this series still has room to grow. The series has so many ideas for future stories! Since Nikki and Andrew have starred in their fair share of Christmas movies, maybe a Christmas mystery is possible? Or a mystery relating to Olive’s softball team is on the horizon, either focusing on the theft of a trophy or a coach is framed for poor sportsmanship? As of the publication of this review, there have been no announcements for upcoming Curious Caterer films. But as the saying goes, “the sky’s the limit”.

Overall score: 7.4-7.5 out of 10

Have you seen Curious Caterer: Grilling Season? Would you like to see this series continue? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Worst Movies I Saw in 2022

My worst movies list of 2022 is different from that of the previous year. This time, I’ll be talking about more films that were “so bad they were bad”, as only three of these movies were disappointments. The Dishonorable Mentions portion of the list has also returned! Though I did see more good movies than bad, I couldn’t avoid coming across a “stinker” every now and then. I like to think I’ll, one day, see less than ten films for my annual worst list. But someday has not come this year, as the title of this article suggests. As I’ve stated in past lists, I did not write my list to be mean-spirited or negative. It’s just a way to express my own, honest opinion. Since some of these films have been reviewed on my blog, I will provide links to those reviews.

Dishonorable Mentions

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Vows We Have Made, A Place for Annie, Swim Instructor Nightmare, Nikki & Nora: Sister Sleuths, The Corsican Brothers (1985), and Donnie Brasco (I only watched forty minutes of the film before turning it off)

<a href=”http://<a href=’https://www.freepik.com/vectors/new-year’>New year vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>&quot; data-type=”URL” data-id=”<a href=’https://www.freepik.com/vectors/new-year’>New year vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com2022 Changing numbers image created by Freepik at freepik.com

10. The New Adventures of Heidi

In 2022, I was hoping to finally find my coveted “so bad, it’s good” movie. Sadly, The New Adventures of Heidi was not it. As I said in my review, this film is “spectacularly average”. The more I think about the 1978 made-for-tv movie, the less justifiable reasons I can think of for the project’s existence. Yes, The New Adventures of Heidi was intended as a “modern” re-telling of Johanna Spyri’s story. But the movie didn’t feel unique enough, despite all the changes. Every year I’ve participated in the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, there has been a pattern between movies that turned out ok and movies that were just disappointing. Hopefully, in 2023, I can break this pattern.

Take 3: The New Adventures of Heidi Review

9. Love in Wolf Creek

When I first read the synopsis for Love in Wolf Creek, I was excited at the idea of a “cozier” story filled with adventure and excitement. The 2022 television film seemed better on paper than in practice. For a movie titled Love in Wolf Creek, there was very little romance in the story. The writing was weaker than I hoped, filled with scenarios that were too unrealistic for my liking. This project was too ambitious for INSP, the network who created the film. It was so disappointing, I didn’t bother watching its sequel, Christmas in Wolf Creek.

8. Harvey (1950)

I think the 1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of Harvey is better than its 1950 predecessor. While I’m aware how controversial my opinion is, the 1972 film had more success executing its intended points. A mistake the 1950 movie makes is trying to be a comedy and a drama. This decision led the comedy to not only be underutilized, but also showcased medical negligence in a way that didn’t sit well with me. “Magical realism” was lacking in the 1950 film. This took away any opportunity for the story to be charming and whimsical. When I reviewed Harvey back in January, it was the most disappointing movie I saw in 2022. Now, eleven months later, the 1950 picture still holds that title.

Take 3: Harvey (1950) Review

7. Journey

The 1995 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation made the same mistake Durango did: not giving the audience a reason to care about the characters and their story. In the case of Journey, the creative team failed to provide explanations for the characters’ choices. At the beginning of the film, the protagonist’s mother, Min, abandons her family, claiming she hates her parents. But the script never explains why she made this decision. Even when there are cut-away scenes featuring Min, she isn’t doing anything significant. How am I expected to care about Min’s choice affecting her family when I don’t even know why she left in the first place?

6. My Mom Made Me Do It

According to a synopsis I read for this 2022 Lifetime film, the protagonist, Jade, turns to stealing in order to help her mom pay the bills. Both the title and synopsis turned out to be a lie because 1) Jade’s decisions were made on her own and 2) Jade never steals anything. What she does instead is crash wealthy people’s parties and photographs their belongings. Other issues contained in this movie are weak lead performances and characters who make one dumb choice after another. I will admit there was at least one effective plot twist. But I wish it had taken place in a better film.

Harvey (1950) poster created by Universal Pictures

5. The Sundowners (1960)

For a little while, I thought The Sundowners was going to be the worst movie I saw this year. Even though I was proven wrong, the 1960 film has still remained in my top five. Like I said in my review, one of the worst things you can do as a film-maker is waste your audience’s time. The story felt longer than necessary, which made the movie two hours and thirteen minutes not well spent. One of my biggest issues with The Sundowners was its “bait and switch” ending. While I won’t go into detail about the ending, as I don’t want to spoil the film, I will say it was cruel for both the characters and the audience.

Take 3: The Sundowners (1960) Review

4. The North Avenue Irregulars

This movie attempts to answer the question; “Wouldn’t it be funny if a group of women came together to solve a mystery”? By the time The North Avenue Irregulars was released in 1979, that question made the film dated on arrival, as there were several television programs from the ‘70s featuring at least one female character solving mysteries or fighting crime. The movie’s creative team told too many types of stories, yet failed at all of them. One minute, the film felt like a precursor to the Mitford series, revolving around a preacher trying to live his best life. The next minute, the film turns into a gangster heist picture, paired with car chases that were longer than necessary. Honestly, I wish this movie was a Scooby Doo-esque story about the film’s fictional band, Strawberry Shortcake. Maybe then the movie would seem more timeless.

3. Lake Effects

For the first time in 18 Cinema Lane history, all the movies in my worst list’s top three are Hallmark productions. Accepting the bronze is the 2012 film, Lake Effects. This movie has so many Hallmark movie clichés, you could create a bingo game around them. You could also create a bingo game around the many storylines found in this script. Lake Effects is a production that relies on style over substance. While Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia was captured well on film, there’s only so much the movie’s creative team could do with the weak script at their disposal. In my review from August, I stated how the movie seemed forgotten over the years. Its poor quality makes it not worth remembering.

Take 3: Lake Effects Review

2. A Boyfriend for Christmas

In 2019 and 2020, a Hallmark Christmas movie ended up in the top three of my annual worst movies list. History is kind of repeating itself with A Boyfriend for Christmas in second place. Like Lake Effects, the 2004 film contained a weak script. But in A Boyfriend for Christmas, I only liked two minor parts of the story. The lack of Christmas magic made my movie viewing experience unenjoyable. It was one of those stories that became worse the longer I watched it. I know this movie is one of the most beloved titles in Hallmark’s cinematic library. Honestly, though, I found it over-rated.

Take 3: A Boyfriend for Christmas Review

1. Francesca Quinn, PI

Remember when I said one of the worst things a film-maker can do is waste their audience’s time? Well, another worst thing a film-maker can do is disrespect their audience’s intelligence. As I watched Francesca Quinn, PI, I was given the impression the film’s creative team didn’t want me to solve the mystery alongside the protagonist. That’s because Francesca explained things that didn’t need explaining. Despite Francesca being a professional private investigator, she constantly made decisions an amateur detective would likely make. Her lack of personality didn’t help either. According to IMDB, Francesca Quinn, PI could replace the Mystery 101 series. The reason is “the main characters’ relationship and the crime at the end of Deadly History are the same as the main characters’ relationship and crime in Francesca Quinn, PI”. If this is the case, the Mystery 101 fans, including myself, deserve so much better.

A Boyfriend for Christmas poster created by Hallmark Entertainment,  MAT IV,  Alpine Medien Productions, Larry Levinson Productions, Gaiam Entertainment, and Hallmark Channel 

Have fun in 2023.

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2022

As the sun begins to set on 2022, it’s time to publish my best and worst movies of the year lists! Last year, every film on my best list had been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. But that’s not the case this time around. For this list, only two movies were not reviewed, while another movie served as an editorial subject. Any film I covered on my blog will have a link included in this post. I’m thankful another year was filled with more good movies than bad. I’ll even have more titles in my Honorable Mentions! While these lists have become great traditions on their own, the variety of this collection of films has become another tradition. So, without any delay, let’s begin the list of the best movies I saw in 2022!

Honorable Mentions

Cut, Color, Murder, Sailor Moon S: The Movie, Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), Children of a Lesser God, Sweet Revenge: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Honeymoon, Honeymurder, The Princess and the Pirate, Dirty Little Secret, Singin in the Rain, McBride: Tune in for Murder, McBride: Dogged, McBride: Requiem, Hugo, Akeelah and the Bee, The Shoplifting Pact, and Secrets at the Inn

<a href=”http://<a href=’https://www.freepik.com/vectors/background’>Background vector created by malikadesign – http://www.freepik.com</a>&quot; data-type=”URL” data-id=”<a href=’https://www.freepik.com/vectors/background’>Background vector created by malikadesign – http://www.freepik.com2022 Sparkler image created by malikadesign at freepik.com

10. Fiddler on the Roof

When I reviewed the 1971 musical back in February, I said it was too early to say whether it would be one of the best movies I saw this year. But Fiddler on the Roof captivated me so much, the film ended up on my annual top ten list! I described the movie as a well-made quilt, with each of the film’s strengths representing a different quilt piece. The inclusion of Jewish faith/culture also gave the project a unique identity by asking questions and discussing topics that aren’t often found in musicals. Looking back on this movie, Fiddler on the Roof was three hours well spent. It’s a special project in both the world of musicals and cinema. I hope to check out more Jewish cinematic stories in 2023!

Take 3: Fiddler on the Roof Review

9. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King

Out of all the movies on my best list for 2022, The Lost Empire/The Monkey King is the most unique one! A fantasy film based on Chinese folklore, this was an imaginative production I enjoyed watching. The story was sometimes thought-provoking and even somewhat educational, as it included literature related discussions. Strong acting performances brought to life characters who seemed believable. The set designs boasted a realistic and fantastical setting, which effectively presented the illusion of an immersive world. I wish Hallmark created more movies like The Lost Empire/The Monkey King, where the stories and ideas are more creative. With the network prioritizing rom-coms and dramas, though, I don’t know what their decisions will be in the new year.

Take 3: The Lost Empire/The Monkey King Review

8. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Haunted by Murder

Talking about this movie is bittersweet, as it is the last film in the Aurora Teagarden series. I’ve thought about all the moments the fans will never get to see, such as Aurora and Nick’s first Christmas, Phillip’s college graduation, and Sally falling in love. But if this is where the story must end, at least it ended on a strong note. The realistic and supernatural elements of the story complimented each other nicely. Supernatural elements being incorporated at all gave this chapter a more creative approach to the series. It was nice to spend time with Lawrenceton’s favorite residents; the acting performances and on-screen camaraderie remaining consistent. Even though I would have loved to see the Aurora Teagarden series continue for many more years, I know nothing lasts forever. But as the saying goes “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”.

7. Redwood Curtain

There are very few movies I found better than their source material. Redwood Curtain just so happens to be one of them! The creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation took advantage of the expansive nature of film by providing the story with more locations. Allowing characters like Julia and Laird to appear in the movie showcase the Riordan family dynamic not present in the play. I found Geri more likable as a character in the movie. Lea’s performance paired with the screenwriting gave Geri an empathetic and understanding personality. Redwood Curtain is a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation I wish was re-released on DVD.

‘Redwood Curtain’: From Stage to Screen

6. The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum was one of the biggest pleasant surprises of 2022! Despite the film not being my first choice for its respective blogathon, I thought it was engaging and entertaining. Vincent’s performance didn’t disappoint, as his portrayal of Nicholas was versatile and fueled on emotion. The mystery not only started right away, but it also allowed the audience to experience the journey alongside Francis, the main character. The Pit and the Pendulum is, to me, one of the more effective horror movies, like 1962’s Cape Fear. While this film would be a perfect choice to watch on Halloween, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it around Vincent’s birthday!

Take 3: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) Review

Redwood Curtain poster created by Chris/Rose Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), and Republic Pictures (II)

5. The Song of Bernadette

And another film of Vincent’s joins my list! Faith based films come in two forms; those that emphasize a message and those that emphasize a story. The Song of Bernadette falls into the latter category, as it revolves around religious phenomena affecting a small town. What I like about the 1943 film is how different perspectives relating to the phenomena are explored, highlighting how various members of the town view the events unfolding. The story doesn’t choose sides on the main topic, allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions about what is taking place in the movie. Even though The Song of Bernadette was released during the Breen Code era, the film is a good representation of the quality from that period in cinema. As I said in my review, Easter would be an appropriate time to watch the movie!

Take 3: The Song of Bernadette Review

4. Heaven Is for Real

Heaven Is for Real shares a major similarity with The Song of Bernadette. The 2014 film also revolves around religious phenomena affecting a small town. But what Heaven Is for Real does differently is encourage the audience to have a conversation about their beliefs on Heaven. Like I previously stated, faith based films come in two forms; those that emphasize a message and those that emphasize a story. However, I’ve rarely seen a movie of this nature start a discussion about one of their themes. This creative decision brings something new to the table and gives Heaven Is for Real a unique identity.

3. Words on Bathroom Walls

It seems like I’ve been talking about this title for as long as my blog has been around. But I’m glad I finally got the chance to see Words on Bathroom Walls this year, as it was such a good adaptation! There were changes between text and film. Despite that, the adaptation was, for the most part, respectful to its source material. The visual presentation of the story gave the audience a glimpse inside Adam’s mind. Interactions between the characters were believable, thanks to the actors’ performances and screenwriting. As I mentioned in my review a month ago, the adaptation for Words on Bathroom Walls seems more underrated. Based on the response my review received, my statement may be wrong.

Take 3: Words on Bathroom Walls Review

2. Top Gun: Maverick

I’m going to be honest; I had low expectations for Top Gun: Maverick. That’s because sequels released over ten years after their predecessor can be hit or miss. Top Gun: Maverick ended up surpassing my expectations, making it in the top three of my best of the year list! From what I know about Top Gun, the sequel respected what came before it. At the same time, new elements were added to the story, like focusing on an overarching mission. In a cinematic landscape where a film receiving over a billion dollars has become a rarity, Top Gun: Maverick achieved what some studios only dream of. As the 2020s move forward, maybe more filmmakers will turn to this film as an example of what can be cinematically possible.

Take 3: Top Gun: Maverick Review + 450 Follower Thank You

1. A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love

When it comes to “Godwink” stories, I prefer those that focus on a conflict. While that is the case for A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, I found the overall production impressive! The interactions among the characters, as well as each volunteer’s talent being showcased, provided a nice amount of character development. Christmas activities were incorporated in more unique ways, such as the Romero family’s gift exchange. The inclusion of Advent was a newer approach to the Christmas movie genre. I don’t know what’s in store for the Godwink series. But I’d love to see more adaptations of these stories!

Take 3: A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love Review

A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love poster created by Crown Media Productions and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Have fun in 2023!

Sally Silverscreen

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List 2022

Tis the season for my Movie’s Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List! For readers who don’t know, this is an annual tradition where I create a list of movie related things I want for Christmas. This year, there are four items on my list. Some of them are realistic, while others are wishful thinking. My Christmas wish-lists take me a whole year to create. That is because I try to put a lot of thought into each category. These categories follow the quote; “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read”. So, with that said, let’s begin this year’s Movie’s Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List!

Christmas letter to Santa image created by Freepik at freepik.com Image by Freepik

Something You Want

In March of 2021, I published an editorial about why Bai Ling should join the main cast of When Calls the Heart. This post explained the reasons why Bai’s inclusion would be beneficial for the show. Unfortunately, she didn’t make any appearances in When Calls the Heart’s ninth season. As far as I know, there have been no major cast announcements either before, during, or after season ten’s production. Therefore, as of December 2022, I have no idea if Bai will become a “Heartie” in 2023. If When Calls the Heart’s creative team decides not to cast Bai in their upcoming season, then I would be interested in seeing her join the cast of Fast & Furious 10. From what I’ve heard, this film is still in the pre-production stage. I also don’t believe Bai has ever appeared in the series. Based on her projects I’ve seen, Bai has talent to offer to the Fast & Furious franchise. But like I said in my aforementioned editorial, Bai’s career is her own, which means her decision to join either the Fast & Furious or When Calls the Heart series will ultimately be up to her.

Here is a screenshot from Bai’s Asian Voices interview from 2018. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, AsianVoices Tv.

Something You Need to See

Last month, I wrote an editorial explaining why Das Sound Machine should represent Germany at Eurovision 2023. In this article, I discussed how Das Sound Machine could realistically compete in next year’s song contest and why that idea should work. As of mid-December, 2022, none of the participants in Germany’s national final have been announced. If Das Sound Machine did compete in Germany’s national final, that information wouldn’t be revealed until sometime in early 2023, as the national final is scheduled to take place in March. You can read my editorial at the link below if you’re interested in learning more about this idea:

Why Das Sound Machine Should Represent Germany at Eurovision 2023

Das Sound Machine image created by Gold Circle Films, Brownstone Productions, and Universal Pictures

A movie related piece of clothing or accessory I’d want to wear

In A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, one of the protagonists, Joy, carried a purse. This purse was a red, satchel style bag with a cross-body strap. I really like how versatile this purse is! It not only looks great during Christmas-time, it also looks great any time of year. The combination of color and style work together to create a visually appealing accessory! I would love to have this purse in my wardrobe!

Out of all the scenes in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love featuring this purse, this was the best shot of it I could find. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

A book I’ve read that I’d like to see adapted into a film

Years ago, I read To Catch a Pirate by Jade Parker. From what I remember, I really liked it! It’s one of those stories I always thought would lend itself to a film adaptation, as To Catch a Pirate contains action, adventure, romance, and intrigue. In the 21st century, Disney has dominated the pirate movie genre with their Pirates of the Caribbean series. But as I said in my Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama review, this shouldn’t discourage other studios from creating their own pirate stories. If the success of Top Gun: Maverick has showed the world of film anything, it’s how audience members will show up if the movie contains a solid story. Maybe, just maybe, they would also show up if To Catch a Pirate became a movie.

To Catch a Pirate book cover found on Goodreads

What are your thoughts on my Christmas wish list? Are there any movie related things you’d like to receive for Christmas/the holiday season? Please tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at Christmas!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love Review

As I stated in my USS Christmas review, I will be making a greater effort this year to review more Christmas movies. For my second Christmas film of 2022, I will be writing about the 2021 title, A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love! In my list of the top five Hallmark films based on a true story, I mentioned the 2019 movie, A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love. While talking about that film, I said the sequel was stronger than the first movie. This is because the 2019 title did a better job at explaining and showcasing what a “Godwink” is. Since publishing that list, I have seen the third and fourth films in the Godwink series. The 2020 movie, A Godwink Christmas: Second Chance, First Love, was, in my opinion, fine. However, it was reminiscent of the first movie, where the “Godwinks” feel more like plot conveniences. What are my thoughts on the fourth film? Keep reading to find out!

A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love poster created by Crown Media Productions and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

Character interactions: Like I said in my Words on Bathroom Walls review, interactions between characters are only as good as the actors and actresses portraying those characters. In A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, I enjoyed watching these character interactions, as they were pleasant! One reason why was how believable the camaraderie felt! A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love revolves around Joy and Eric’s experiences volunteering during the Christmas season. During their time together, they work alongside two other volunteers, Adam and Sadie. Anytime these four actors (Katherine Barrell, Alberto Frezza, Josh Ssettuba, and Faith Wright) interacted with each other on-screen, I always got the impression their characters truly got along with one another and enjoyed each other’s company. This was accomplished partly with the help of the actors’ and actresses’ acting talents!

The inclusion of Advent: Advent is an important part of the Christmas season that, almost always, gets overlooked in Christmas cinema. So, imagine my shock when I see Advent included in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love! Advent was the name of the non-profit Eric and Joy volunteered for. However, the candle lighting and messages associated with Advent were incorporated into the script, correlating with what is happening in the story. The non-profit’s volunteer leader, Angelo, lights each candle at select moments in the film, explaining the significance of every one. Honesty is a message associated with the Advent candles, which connects to a dilemma Joy is facing in her personal life.

The incorporation of a conflict: It’s been several years since I’ve seen A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love. From what I remember, the story contained a conflict the characters were working to resolve. As I said earlier in this review, Joy and Eric volunteer during the Christmas season in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love. The volunteers’ goal is to help a family who lost their house due to a fire. Because the characters work together to resolve this conflict, this part of the story gave the audience a reason to stay invested in the film. It also provided better explanations for what “Godwinks” are.

Showcasing each volunteer’s talent: As I said in my Top Gun: Maverick review, it can, sometimes, be difficult to evenly distribute character development to every character in a group. But in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, the group of volunteers was smaller, which allowed the audience to get to know the characters. One way the movie’s characters received character development was having their talents showcased in the story! Sadie is one of the volunteers, like I mentioned earlier in my review. She is an expert when it comes to computers and technological equipment. When she discovers the Romero family’s computer hard-drive was destroyed in the house fire, Sadie finds a way to save at least some family photos. These photos were given to the Romeros as portraits for their new baby’s room.

Necessary Christmas items image created by Moonstarer at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-elements-collection_994916.htm’>Designed by Moonstarer</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Moonstarer – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Joy’s relationship subplot: At the beginning of the movie, Joy is introduced as a woman in a serious romantic relationship. She has been dating her boyfriend, Danny, for five years. Throughout the film, Joy wonders if she should continue her relationship with Danny. I know A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is based on a true story. I’m also aware Joy needed a personal conflict to work through. However, I, personally, didn’t think the relationship subplot was necessary. In fact, I found this subplot to be the weakest part of the overall story.

An unresolved story: In this review, I’ve been mentioning how the Romero family lost their house due to a fire. This is why the volunteers of the Advent non-profit are helping them. Because the Romero family play such a vital role in the film’s story and because A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is based on a true story, I was hoping they would receive an update at the end of the movie. Unfortunately, the Romero family was never mentioned. This exclusion made their story seem unresolved.

A missed opportunity: When Joy and Eric first meet Katie Graber and her husband, Dr. Louis Graber, they learn about “Godwinks”. Louis claims that, because he’s a man of science, he thinks “Godwinks” are simply coincidences. Meanwhile, Katie is a firm believer “Godwinks” are God’s intervention. While Louis eventually changes his mind on “Godwinks”, I feel the movie’s creative team missed a good opportunity to explore how people can have differing opinions around a singular subject. As I’ve been saying in this review, A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is based on a true story. I also know there’s only so much story you can tell in two hours. However, I wish a little more time had been given to that aforementioned idea.

Financial donation image created by Rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by rawpixel.com – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is only the second Christmas movie I’ve reviewed this year, so far. But based on what I saw, I was impressed! The fourth chapter in the Godwink series was reminiscent of the 2019 movie, A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love. This is because both films a) do a better job showing and explaining what a “Godwink” is and b) featured a conflict the characters were trying to resolve. These types of Godwink stories are the ones I prefer. The movie’s creative team adopted interesting choices that made the story feel more unique. One example was how gift exchanging was incorporated into the script as a way for the Romeros to become acquainted with their new neighbors.  While gift exchanging has been featured in countless Hallmark productions, the way it was presented in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love was creative. From what I’ve gathered, there were no Godwink films released or planned for release in 2022. Perhaps we’ll receive one in 2023, on either Hallmark Movies & Mysteries or maybe even Great American Family?

Overall score: 8.4 out of 10

Have you seen any of the Godwink films? Are there any “Godwink” stories you think should be adapted into a movie? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: USS Christmas Review

While looking through some of my movie reviews from last year, I came to the realization I only wrote about two Christmas films. To make up for that, I will make a greater effort this year to review more Christmas movies. As it was Veteran’s Day two days ago, I decided the first Christmas film review of 2022 would be for USS Christmas! In the two years since its release, I’ve heard good things about this particular Hallmark picture. The network also has a pretty consistent track record when it comes to their military related Christmas titles. This is not the first time I’ve talked about USS Christmas. Back in 2020, I wrote a Word on the Street story about the project. I mentioned that the only Tiger Cruise movie I knew of was the 2004 Disney Channel movie, Tiger Cruise. Therefore, USS Christmas was filling a creative void that hadn’t been revisited in over ten years.

USS Christmas poster created by Crown Media Productions and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Jen Lilley portrays the protagonist, Maddie. Her reason for joining the Tiger Cruise was to spend Christmas with her sister, Amelia, who was portrayed by Stefanie Butler. I really liked the on-screen camaraderie between the sisters! While sharing breakfast at a local restaurant, Amelia and Maddie talk about a variety of subjects. Throughout their conversation, Jen’s and Stefanie’s facial expressions changed with fluidity. The actresses also had nice on-screen chemistry, giving the impression the sisters got along really well. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of Trevor Donovan’s movies. However, I have always thought he was one of Hallmark’s strongest actors. In USS Christmas, Trevor portrayed Lt. Billy Jenkins. At the start of the story, Billy is distant with Maddie, maintaining a sense of professionalism. As the film continues, a kind hearted, more spontaneous side to Billy breaks forth. This progression in Billy’s personality was well executed through Trevor’s acting talents! The naturalness of this progression allowed Billy’s part of the story to be believable.

The set design: Like any Hallmark Christmas film, USS Christmas contained its fair share of seasonal décor. But it was the way this décor was incorporated into the set design that caught my eye. When Maddie’s family has their first dinner on the Tiger Cruise, the dining room is surrounded by white walls. White and blue Christmas decorations are placed in the background, from a blue garland to a white Christmas tree with blue ornaments. These complimentary hues added a sense of elegance to this space! Garland was a nice touch to other sets. A traditional green garland paired with red ornaments and bows was framed around the dark wood windows of the Jenkin family home. A similar looking garland framed the kitchen window of the Contino family home, a room that contained white cabinets. That garland shows how a simple Christmas decoration can complement various different spaces!

The mystery: Mysteries are uncommon in Hallmark’s Christmas films. So, the inclusion of a mystery in USS Christmas was a pleasant addition! In an effort to write a story about finding love on a Tiger Cruise, Maddie finds a journal written by a man named Sam. In this journal, Sam talks about falling in love with a woman named Dorothy. Maddie and Billy spend the rest of the movie searching for Dorothy and Sam, going on a journey to figure out what happened to this couple. While I won’t reveal what Billy and Maddie discover, I will say the mystery itself was intriguing! It gave me a reason to stay invested in the story.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

The Tiger Cruise itself getting overshadowed: It’s been years since I’ve seen Tiger Cruise. From what I remember, the cruise itself was focused on to the point where it was its own character. With USS Christmas, I felt the cruise was overshadowed by the mystery of Sam and Dorothy. As I already said in this review, I liked the mystery in this story. However, that part was prioritized above everything else. When Maddie and Billy go to New York, I thought, “Wait, isn’t this movie supposed to be about the Tiger Cruise”?

Underutilized characters: On the Tiger Cruise, Charlotte is boarding alongside her brother, who is a member of the U.S.S. Polaris. Because Charlotte is also a writer, I assumed she would help Maddie in her quest to find Sam and Dorothy. Unfortunately, Charlotte and her brother briefly appeared in the film for about three scenes. These are just two characters I feel were underutilized.

Inconsistent use of Easter Eggs: The inclusion of Easter Eggs can be a nice treat for viewers and, if done right, can be cleverly woven into the story. There were some nice Easter Eggs in USS Christmas. But I was confused what the overarching direction for these Easter Eggs was. Toward the beginning of the movie, I found a few Easter Eggs related to It’s a Wonderful Life, as Maddie says that is her favorite Christmas film. Throughout the movie, there were at least two Easter Eggs referencing Top Gun. I even caught an Easter Egg connected to Hallmark itself. I wish the film’s creative team had chosen one topic for their Easter Eggs and consistently stuck with it.

Blue sparkly Christmas tree image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/merry-christmas-card_2875396.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I said in the introduction, Hallmark has a pretty consistent track record when it comes to their military related Christmas titles. While some of these titles have been better than others, I haven’t seen a military related Hallmark Christmas movie that was bad or disappointing. With USS Christmas, it was a nice, pleasant film. It isn’t an instant classic for me or a new favorite movie. But, for what it was, USS Christmas was fine. Hallmark’s efforts to tell more creative stories seems to be an exception to the rule. So, I appreciate how the creative team behind USS Christmas strove to create a type of story that isn’t common in entertainment media. It also helps how a mystery was incorporated into the film, as mysteries aren’t often found in Hallmark’s Christmas offerings. I’ve heard Jen Lilley and Trevor Donovan have begun appearing in Great American Family’s (GAF) movies. I’ll have to check out their films from that network!

Overall score: 7.1 out of 10

Have you seen USS Christmas? Which military related Hallmark Christmas movie do you like? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Word on the Street: ‘Aurora Teagarden’ Series Ends as Candace Cameron Bure Walks Away from Hallmark

Earlier this week, it was reported Candace Cameron Bure, one of the most popular actresses in the Hallmark community, has chosen to start a new chapter at GAC Family. With this decision, she will not only star in the network’s future projects, she will also be involved with the behind-the-scenes process of these projects’ creation. Now, Emily Longeretta, from Variety, writes that “there are no plans for new “Aurora Teagarden Mysteries” films”. Emily’s article states that Candace’s partnership with GAC Family “is not exclusive”. Despite this, she will not participate in Hallmark’s ‘Countdown to Christmas’ or ‘Miracles of Christmas’ line-ups either. An official spokesperson for Hallmark gave a statement about Candace’s choice. The spokesperson mentioned how Candace has worked with the network for “over 10 years”. They also said, “We respect her decision and thank her for her many contributions”.

Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

The unceremonious end of Aurora Teagarden Mysteries does not look good for Hallmark. Including this series, the network has cancelled eight programs since 2021. These programs are the following:

  • Home & Family
  • The Bubbly Sesh Podcast
  • Good Witch
  • Matchmaker Mysteries
  • Hailey Dean Mysteries
  • Picture Perfect Mysteries
  • Chesapeake Shores
  • Aurora Teagarden Mysteries

Aurora Teagarden Mysteries is, arguably, the most popular series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. In fact, as of late April 2022, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Haunted by Murder has the highest number of viewership, with 1.7 million viewers. With this series gone, that means Hallmark’s second network will receive less viewership. Less viewership means less sponsorships, which equals less revenue. As for Candace, I’m curious to see what her talents and acting experience have to offer to GAC Family. I haven’t seen any original programming from this network. But I have heard good things about them. Who knows? Now that Candace has an executive role with GAC Family, maybe she and the rest of the network’s leaders can transfer the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection to GAC and rebrand it “Great American Hall of Fame”?

What are your thoughts on Candace’s new partnership with GAC Family? Are you interested in her future projects? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here are the links to the references in this articles:

https://variety.com/2022/film/news/candace-cameron-bure-aurora-teagarden-canceled-hallmark-movies-1235235735/