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/

Sally Watches…Diagnosis Murder!

For the We Love Detectives Week Blogathon, I was originally going to create a tier rank list of every film from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries I’ve seen. But the more I thought about this idea, the more ambitious it became. Instead of following through on such a daunting task, I decided to submit an entry that was simpler in nature. I’m currently reading The Magician’s Accomplice by Michael Genelin. But I might not finish the book within the blogathon timeframe. So that’s how I came up with my back-up plan! Recently, while on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ website, I came across an episode of Diagnosis Murder titled “An Education in Murder”. What caught my attention was the episode’s synopsis, as it reminded me of an episode of Murder, She Wrote I reviewed back in 2019: “School for Murder”. Curious to see how similar or different “An Education in Murder” was to “School for Murder”, I thought now would be a good time to introduce myself to a “new” mystery show! Before I continue with my review, I’d like to point out the irony of the situation. That aforementioned review of “School for Murder” was not only the first time I had watched Murder, She Wrote, but that was my submission for a mystery themed blogathon!

Episode Name: An Education in Murder

Season 5, Episode 19

Premiere Date: March 5th, 1998

The title card for “An Education in Murder”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

I was impressed by the acting in “An Education in Murder”! But there was one performance that really outshined the rest. Portraying a student named Noelle, Danielle Harris did such a great job with the acting material given! When it comes to describing her character, think Cher from Clueless but more manipulative. There were two sides to Noelle; the sweet, good-natured side she used to give a good first impression and the edgy, sadistic side that causes her fellow classmates to face a living nightmare. Throughout this episode, Danielle effortlessly wove in between these polar opposites, changing her character’s demeanor like a chameleon. It was also interesting to see Noelle interact with the other characters, her unpredictability leaving me wondering what she’ll do next. Danielle’s strong acting talents worked in her favor, as she helped bring to life one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in any tv show!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Similar to “School for Murder”, “An Education in Murder” took place at an affluent private school. Kelly, one of the students of the school, explains to Dr. Mark Sloan, the show’s protagonist, just how affluent the student body is. After class, she says that if a student doesn’t keep up with current events, their GPA will suffer. She also tells Mark how she doesn’t have a wealthy father. Despite these words, Norrington Hall, the school featured in this episode, didn’t feel like an affluent private school. I know there are a variety of private schools with their own unique communities, traditions, and ways of operating on a day-to-day basis. But I couldn’t find anything about Norrington Hall that screamed “look how much money can be dumped into a child’s education”. For one, all the students in this episode didn’t behave or interact any differently from public school students in a typical movie or television show. Mark’s science class at Norrington Hall seems like a standard AP (advanced placement) science class. Sure, the school’s interior and exterior had a nice appearance. But if entertainment media and real-life have taught me anything, public school buildings can look just as nice as those belonging to private schools. The way the characters’ words didn’t match up with the visuals reminded me of Chippewa Falls Library from the Hallmark Christmas movie, Holly and Ivy.

The reason I included this screenshot is to show readers how nice the interior of Norrington Hall is. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The mystery itself:

I’m glad “An Education in Murder” wasn’t a carbon-copy of “School for Murder”! Even though the Diagnosis Murder episode had a main plot and two subplots, similar to Murder, She Wrote’s episode, the story felt unique from the predecessor. Despite having three stories in one episode, it never seemed overwhelming. Each of these plots held a connection to the mystery. Unfortunately, that mystery was so painfully obvious, you might as well place the guilty party under the brightest neon sign you can find. Because of the mystery’s painful obviousness, the resolution was anti-climactic. This led to a weak mystery.  While watching “An Education in Murder”, I was hoping the guilty party was a red herring, with an unexpected twist hiding around the corner. Sadly, this episode was “cut-and-dry”, leaving little room for intrigue.

The other factors from this episode:

  • “An Education in Murder” brought up several messages relating to medicine and murder mysteries I hadn’t thought of before. For instance, after a classmate from Norrington Hall passes away, Mark tells his students how that student’s death is going to make a difference. As morbid as that sounds, he brings up a good point about murder mysteries. Because we, the audience, are so caught up in the story, the murder mystery’s effect on the characters and their surroundings can sometimes be overlooked. This can, to an extent, also be said about real-life cases.
  • At certain points in the episode, Mark gives Kelly advice, ranging from how to prevent dizzy spells to figuring out her life after high school. He helps her in an attempt to provide a trustworthy figure in Kelly’s life. This served as a major difference between Diagnosis Murder and Murder, She Wrote. Out of the episodes of Murder, She Wrote I’ve seen, I don’t recall Jessica Fletcher giving noteworthy advice to younger characters. Maybe the infrequent presence of younger characters on that show was a reason why? Even though this is my first time watching Diagnosis Murder, it makes me wonder how often younger characters appeared on the show.
  • In one scene, Mark’s son, Steve, gives Mark information about the guilty party’s background. This information was used to explain the motive behind the guilty party’s behavior. After hearing this explanation, it made me wonder if the show was implying the guilty party had RAD (reactive attachment disorder)? I’m not asking this to diagnose a character, but simply out of curiosity. If the guilty party did have RAD, why wouldn’t any of the characters mention this? I know this show doesn’t revolve around the psychological aspect of the medical world. Still, I’m surprised the disorder wasn’t openly stated in this episode.

My overall thoughts:

For my first time watching Diagnosis Murder, I was left desiring more from the mystery. Even though it was a different story from Murder, She Wrote’s “School for Murder”, it was painfully obvious who the guilty party was. Because of that, I didn’t find the mystery interactive. However, the parts of the story surrounding the mystery made up for the episode’s weaknesses! “An Education in Murder” was more thought-provoking than I expected, sharing interesting ideas about murder mysteries and medicine. Each plot was connected to the mystery, allowing these stories to share importance in the script. But, as I said in the review, the amount of stories never felt overwhelming. Based on the series synopsis I read on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ website, it seems like Diagnosis Murder wanted to enjoy the fruits of Murder, She Wrote’s labor. I came to this conclusion because each show shares some common aspects, such as featuring an older protagonist. Like with Murder, She Wrote, I might check out more episodes from Diagnosis Murder.

Rating: A 3.5 out of 5

We Love Detectives Week Blogathon banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy

Have fun in Malibu!

Sally Silverscreen

The 4th Annual Gold Sally Awards Has Arrived!

18 Cinema Lane recently celebrated its fourth anniversary! To commemorate such an important milestone, I am, once again, hosting the Gold Sally Awards! As I said last month, each award post will feature two polls at a time. This decision was made to help the voting process move at a faster pace. With that said, this year’s Gold Sally Awards will begin with the Best Movie and Story polls! Because I didn’t post any announcements for the Gold Sally Awards, the first two polls will be available for two weeks; from February 16th to March 2nd. Like years past, you are allowed to vote for more than one nominee. But you can only vote once per person. The link to the polls will be located under each poll. Just click on the word ‘PollMaker’.

Similar to last year, I thought featuring this anniversary image was appropriate for the start of the Gold Sally Awards! Anniversary image created by WordPress.
What was the Best Movie of 2021?
1. The Karate Kid (1984)
2. The Three Musketeers (1948)
3. The Love Letter
4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly
6. Rigoletto
7. Holly and Ivy
8. The King and I (1956)
9. A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
 
Created with PollMaker
What was the Best Story of 2021?
1. The Karate Kid (1984)
2. The Three Musketeers (1948)
3. The Love Letter
4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly
6. Rigoletto
7. Holly and Ivy
8. The King and I (1956)
9. A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
 
Created with PollMaker

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Cut, Color, Murder Review

The last time I reviewed a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film was last August, when I wrote about Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery. To make up for that, I thought it made sense to review one of the network’s newest titles. As of February 2022, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries only has two new mystery releases; Cut, Color, Murder and Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Haunted by Murder. Like the title of this review says, I’ll be writing about Cut, Color, Murder! For years, I’ve been waiting for Hallmark to create a movie that revolved around pageants. Sure, I received Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Impossible Dream back in 2015. But the pageant in that movie played such a minor role in the overall story. I’ve also heard some of the network’s series have been cancelled, such as Picture Perfect Mysteries, Hailey Dean Mysteries, and Matchmaker Mysteries. So, the idea of a new series is exciting! But is Cut, Color, Murder worthy of the crown? Let’s solve this mystery by starting this review!

Cut, Color, Murder poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

The chemistry among the cast: In most of my movie reviews, I talk about specific acting performances. But this time, I’ll be writing about the chemistry among the cast in Cut, Color, Murder! Within Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ movie series, the chemistry and camaraderie between the characters has been a consistent component. This is especially true when it comes to the network’s newest mystery film! At the beginning of the movie, the protagonist’s sister, Chelsea, is concerned about an upcoming college tuition payment. After the protagonist, Ali, suggests working on pedicures at the salon in order to make extra money, Chelsea sarcastically responds to her sister by saying, “I’ve seen some of those women’s feet. I’d rather drop out”. The interaction I just described came across as realistic, like a conversation two siblings might typically have. This is because Julie Gonzalo’s and Grace Beedie’s acting talents complimented one another. At a restaurant called ‘The Jackson’, Ali and Chelsea have lunch with their mom and some of Ali’s co-workers. Their conversation during this meal revolves around Chelsea possibly joining the Miss Golden Peak Pageant. In this scene, each character is presented with their own unique personality. Ali’s co-workers play a specific role at the salon, as each one volunteers to help Chelsea on pageant day. The way these characters interacted with one another feels like a family, with each member giving Chelsea their love and support. Interactions like this one feel genuine and believable because of the cast’s acting strength!

The banter: A component that can make or break a film is the banter among the characters. With Cut, Color, Murder, the banter was one of the strongest aspects of the overall production! While at the aforementioned restaurant, ‘The Jackson’, Ali meets Golden Peak’s newest detective, Kyle Crawford. During their initial interaction, Ali makes educated analyzes about Kyle’s background based on her observations about him. The way these analyzes were delivered was sharp and precise, showcasing the strength of Julie’s acting abilities and the screen-writing. Kyle takes Ali’s words in stride, as Ryan McPartlin, the actor who portrays Kyle, remains consistent in his performance. At the salon, Ali talks with Golden Peak’s resident officer, Fred Wright, about new develops in the film’s murder mystery. As they exchange details with one another, their banter sounds like an exciting game of ping-pong! Both Julie and Fred Henderson, the actor who portrays Fred Wright, are quick with their line delivery, with each actor effectively meeting with other at their level. The screen-writing also helps with the strength of Ali and Fred’s banter!

How the subject of death was handled: When a mystery story revolves around a murder, death is going to be one of the story’s overarching themes. In the case of Cut, Color, Murder, I’m referring to how the movie’s creative team handled the subject of a deceased spouse, which was unrelated to the movie’s main mystery. During the film, Ali reveals how she lost her husband, Dan, in the line of duty. Whenever this subject was brought up, it was spoken by the characters with a serious tone in their voices. But it was also brought up with a sense of reverence and respect. At two points in Cut, Color, Murder, Ali visits Dan’s gravesite. She has conversations with him as if Dan was sitting right next to her. Ali does try to move forward from Dan’s passing, as his death took place two years prior. Ali decides to move forward on her own terms and she doesn’t receive any negativity for visiting Dan’s gravesite. With the strong acting performances and screen-writing, Ali’s gravesite visits and the characters’ reactions to Ali’s grief felt realistic. The inclusion of Dan’s passing also emphasized how death can impact a community and the people within it.

Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited insight on pageantry: When I discovered Cut, Color, Murder would take place during a pageant, I was excited to see the world of pageants shown through a Hallmark lens. While I did receive some insight into this particular industry, I was left desiring more. It was interesting to see how local businesses and aspiring professionals were affected by a pageant. But other aspects related to this subject felt surface level, such as squabbling pageant mothers. The majority of the story focused on the mystery itself. Because Ali’s sister was the one entering the Miss Golden Peak Pageant, the pageantry in this story felt like a subplot. Looking back on this film, it makes me wish the story had been set in the pageant world, instead of being a bystander to it.

An unclear setting: The majority of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ movie series take place in a small town. While this is true for Cut, Color, Murder, I was unsure where this story took place. For about half the movie, I was confused over the story’s location. When I first saw the salon Ali works at, I thought the story took place in New York City. Because Fred Wright consistently wore a cowboy hat, I then thought Ali’s town was situated in Texas. Before realizing the owner of ‘The Jackson’ shared the restaurant’s name, I also thought the town was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. At the film’s half-way point, I learned Ali, her family, and her co-workers lived in Idaho. Despite receiving this knowledge, the setting didn’t feel like Idaho. In fact, it looked and felt like any other small town from any other Hallmark production.

Few interactions with Ali and Kyle: A lot of mystery films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries feature a male and female protagonist who eventually form a romantic relationship. In the case of Cut, Color, Murder, these protagonists are Kyle Crawford and Ali Bowden. Since it’s unknown at this time if this movie will lead to a series, it’s unclear if Kyle and Ali will come together as a couple. But compared to other Hallmark Movies & Mysteries projects, these characters didn’t spend much time together. Their limited interactions mostly took place in a professional context, whether at the police station or while crossing paths interrogating suspects. Unprofessionally, Ali and Kyle stayed in their own worlds and focused on their own careers. I liked the on-screen chemistry between Julie Gonzalo and Ryan McPartlin. Because of their short amount of time together on-screen, however, I don’t know how this chemistry is going to work in a long-term series.

Image of hair and makeup station created by freepik at freepik.com. Woman photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

As the saying goes, “put your best foot forward”. This can apply to any movie, television, or book series. From what I remember, most of the series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries have not only put their “best foot forward”, but have also presented a collection of films I enjoyed watching. Like I said in my review, it’s unknown at this time if Cut, Color, Murder will lead to a series. But if it is, the movie certainly was a strong start to a potential one! This film gave the audience a variety of suspects, providing many possible directions to the final outcome. Sometimes, clues were discovered through the characters’ dialogue, which showcased the unique inclusion of some of these clues. Cut, Color, Murder displayed other strong qualities, such as the banter and chemistry among the cast. The work of salon employees hasn’t often been featured in Hallmark films. Depending on who you ask, this work can also be seen as important. But as I said in my review, I wish the story had been set in the pageant world. While watching Cut, Color, Murder, I kept thinking how different this story/potential series would be if it had been from Chelsea’s perspective. Come to think of it, Chelsea’s perspective would have made the story a little more interesting. But what will also be interesting, though, is what will happen if this story receives a second chapter.

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

Have you seen Cut, Color, Murder? Would you like to see this movie become a series? Please let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2021

Like I said in my list of the worst movies I saw in 2021, this year is a little different. Since 2018, most of the movies on my best list have been those I have reviewed. But a few titles on those lists weren’t covered on my blog. 2021 is the first year where every film on my best list has been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane! It should also be noted how each of these titles were either blogathon entries or Blog Follower Dedication Reviews. Therefore, I will include a link to each of these reviews on my list! As I said in my worst movies of 2021 list, I saw several films this year that I liked. This article is reflective of those feelings. But unlike my aforementioned list, there will be Honorable Mentions. So, with that said, let’s end 2021 on a high note with the top ten best movies I saw in 2021!

Honorable Mentions

Cape Fear (1962), Bathing Beauty, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part, Elizabeth Is Missing, and The Girl Who Spelled Freedom

<a href=”http://<a href=”https://www.freepik.com/vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by BiZkettE1 – http://www.freepik.com</a>&quot; data-type=”URL” data-id=”<a href=”https://www.freepik.com/vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by BiZkettE1 – http://www.freepik.com2021 New Year image created by BiZkettE1 at freepik.com.

10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series is a newer story that began last year. Despite how young this series is, it has grown over the course of four movies! This chapter not only recognizes its strengths, but also improves on some of the previous movies’ mistakes. Giving equal focus to the main and side mysteries is one example. Speaking of the mysteries, the overarching story was intriguing and engaging. There were even new characters added to this film I wanted to know more about. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff’s story didn’t receive a lot of development. With this and everything else said, I hope this series continues in 2022!

Take 3: Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Review + 360, 365, 370, and 375 Follower Thank You

9. A Star Is Born (1937)

In my three (soon to be four) years of movie blogging, I never thought I’d ever see any version of A Star Is Born. But now that I have seen the original from the ‘30s, I can honestly say it was better than I expected! The story’s honesty about the entertainment industry and maturity toward heavier subjects was such a surprise. What was also a surprise was the use of mixed-media throughout the film, as it was ahead of its time. Even though A Star Is Born was released toward the beginning of the Breen Code era, it highlights the quality storytelling that came from this period in time. With the constant changes in the entertainment landscape, as well as technology, I can kind of see why this story has been remade on more than one occasion.

Take 3: A Star Is Born (1937) Review

8. The King and I (1956)

In 2021, there is at least one movie from the ‘50s on my best and worst movies list. But since I already talked about I Dream of Jeanie and The Trap, it’s time for The King and I to shine! This was the first time I had seen this version of the story in its entirety. Despite that, I found the film to be quite enjoyable! It is a good looking and sounding film, with the costume design, musical numbers, and set design building an aesthetically pleasing picture. The most memorable part of the movie was Tuptim’s interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin! As I said in my review, it served as a good example of how everyone can view a text differently. The scene itself was more interesting than I expected.

Take 3: The King and I (1956) Review

7. Holly and Ivy

Because Hallmark creates so many Christmas movies, it can sometimes feel like they blend together. However, that is not the case for Holly and Ivy! What helps this title stand out is showing realistic characters dealing with realistic situations. This is quite different from those Hallmark pictures where the conflict either revolves around returning to a small town, saving a beloved establishment, or planning a major event. The emotional balance within this story added to my enjoyment of the picture. It never felt like the creative team was trying to emotionally manipulate me or force a reaction out of me. Looking back on the few Christmas films I reviewed this year, I can say with all honesty that Holly and Ivy was the best one!

Take 3: Holly and Ivy Review

6. Rigoletto

In my opinion, Rigoletto is to Beauty and the Beast what Ever After: A Cinderella Story was for Cinderella. What I mean by this is Rigoletto does an effective job at executing a non-magical version of Beauty and the Beast! Even though there have been musical versions of this particular story, such as the 1991 animated production from Disney, the 1993 film chose music as one of the story’s themes. This was an interesting choice, as it showed the audience the talent and skill it takes to be a good singer. Another interesting choice was the story taking place during The Great Depression. As I said in my review, this creative decision helped the film achieve its own identity.

Take 3: Rigoletto Review + 350 and 355 Follower Thank You

A Star Is Born (1937) poster created by Selznick International Pictures and United Artists

5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly

This is the first year an UP Network movie has appeared on any of my best lists! While Sincerely, Yours, Truly does contain a similar story to those found on Hallmark Channel, it makes up of that in genuineness and sincerity. The movie also presented interesting ideas, such as a grant proposal process and avoiding the “it’s not what you think” cliché. The on-screen chemistry and witty banter between the lead actor and actress definitely added to my enjoyment of this film! I don’t know what’s in store for UP Network in 2022. But I hope they continue to release quality productions like Sincerely, Yours, Truly!

Take 3: Sincerely, Yours, Truly Review + 295, 300, 305, 310, and 315 Follower Thank You

4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host

This entry in the Perry Mason movie series is one of the most memorable titles! One of the reasons why was the titular talk show host. Featuring real life talk show hosts in this story was a good idea. Having them portray talk show hosts on the radio was an even better idea, especially since some of those hosts had their own television show. That creative decision gave them new material to work with. The engaging nature of the mystery, where the outcome unfolds as the story goes on, maintained a steady amount of intrigue. This served as another way Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host stood out in the mystery genre!

Take 3: Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host Review + 290 Follower Thank You

3.  The Love Letter

Over the years, I have enjoyed finding and watching Hallmark Hall of Fame movies from years, even decades past. Sometimes, there are hidden gems that can be discovered. 1998’s The Love Letter is one of those gems! Unlike Chasing Leprechauns, the creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame title found a way to allow the realistic and whimsical aspects of the story to co-exist. In fact, the whimsical part of the movie is what made the project one of the most unique in Hallmark Hall of Fame history! The film does contain the elements you’d usually find in a production of this nature, such as historical accuracy. But that just adds to the strength of The Love Letter!

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Love Letter Review

2. The Three Musketeers (1948)

Isn’t it interesting how another Gene Kelly movie made it to my best list’s top three? Despite the weird coincidence, I did enjoy this version of The Three Musketeers! There was so much about this project I liked, from the strength of the ensemble cast to the stellar fight choreography. However, the best part of the film was how much detail went into it. This can be seen in the set design and costumes, where research and care are also reflected. While I still haven’t gotten around to reading the novel this movie is based on, The Three Musketeers was definitely an entertaining story!

Take 3: The Three Musketeers (1948) Review

1. The Karate Kid (1984)

When it comes to the world of cinema, nothing beats the classics! The timelessness of 1984’s The Karate Kid allows the film to have a strong rate of re-watchability. The film’s story also contained ideas and messages that caused me to think, which is not something I’d expect from a sports movie. As I write this list, Mr. Miyagi’s words immediately come to mind. Whether it’s the famous “Wax on, Wax off” quote or his wisdom about karate, these words not only help The Karate Kid remain a memorable picture, but also give the audience something to apply to their lives. Add some exciting karate sequences and you have a solid film that has stood the test of time!

Take 3: The Karate Kid (1984) Review (Olympic Dreams Double Feature Part 1)

The Karate Kid (1984) poster created by Delphi II Productions, Jerry Weintraub Productions, and Columbia Pictures

Have fun in 2022!

Sally Silverscreen

The Last of the Gold Sally Awards Polls Have Arrived!

Now is the time for the last polls of the Gold Sally Awards! This time around, you will be voting on which on-screen couple is the best one from a movie I saw last year. You will also be selecting a nominee for Sally’s Star of the Year. For the on-screen couple poll, you can vote for more than one nominee. But, you can only vote once per person. The link to the poll is at the bottom of the poll. Just click on the word, “PollMaker”. With the Sally’s Star of the Year Award, you can only choose one nominee per person. Your nomination can be submitted in the comment section of this post. You can learn more about the award at these links:

Announcing the Gold Sally Awards’ Hallmark Star of the Year!

The moment you’ve all been waiting for; The Gold Sally Award’s Star of the Year Award!

Both polls will be running from today, August 21st to August 28th. Due to technical difficulties, I’m unable to update the right side of the homepage. Because of that, my blog logo advertising the Gold Sally Awards Polls will still read “CLICK MY BLOG’S LOGO TO VOTE FOR THE GOLD SALLY AWARD’S BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS AND BEST ENSEMBLE OF 2021”.


Who Was the Best On-Screen Couple of 2020?

 

Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson — Anchors Aweigh
Diane Lane and Neal McDonough — Grace & Glorie
Frank Sinatra and Pamela Britton — Anchors Aweigh
Omri Katz and Kellie Martin — Matinee
Jeff Daniels and Marlee Matlin — Sweet Nothing in My Ear
Ally Walker and Tom Amandes — If You Believe
Anne Hathaway and Charlie Hunnam — Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
Jay Underwood and Lucy Deakins — The Boy Who Could Fly
Michael Wincott and Bai Ling — The Crow
Jill Wagner and Kristoffer Polaha — Mystery 101: An Education in Murder
Created with PollMaker

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Review + 360, 365, 370, and 375 Follower Thank You

Back in May, I said I was planning on reviewing the newest Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries film. Since I try my best to be a blogger of my word, I’m finally getting around to writing about it. Out of all the times I could review this film, it seems like now is more perfect than ever. This is due to the start of Chesapeake Shores’ fifth season, the same season Jesse Metcalfe will be departing from. While I have seen all the movies in the Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries series, I only reviewed the previous title; Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery. In that review, I said the third movie was fine, but caused the series to stumble a little bit. This was because of several flaws in the project, including a mystery that was overshadowed. With any series, each chapter is hit or miss. But will Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery sink or swim? To solve this mystery, you need to read this review!

Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Since I mentioned Jesse Metcalfe in the introduction, I’ll talk about his performance first. Whenever Jesse is given a lead role in a Hallmark production, he carries his characters with a different kind of charisma compared to other lead actors. While Jesse’s performances are expressive, they feel more grounded and down-to-earth, like the character is a realistic individual. When Jeff and Zee discover the mystery’s victim, you can see sadness in his eyes. As he is looking away from the victim, he looks like he might cry due to how emotionally distraught finding a murder victim would be. Like Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jesse and Sarah Lind had good on-screen chemistry! Their on-screen personalities work so well together, like their characters were meant to be with each other.

There are some supporting actors that caught my attention because of the quality of their talents. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Drew Henderson portrayed a friend of Zee’s named Noah. When he appeared on screen for the first time, I immediately took note of how charismatic he was! He also transitioned between emotions very effortlessly. Because of these things, I would love to see Drew lead a Hallmark project! Another performance I liked was Reilly Dolman’s portrayal of Glen, the boyfriend of the murder victim. As he was questioned by Jeff and Chief Madieras, Glen came across as angsty and “rough around the edges”. But it didn’t feel stereotypical or one-dimensional. Instead, a mysterious aura surrounded Glen, making you want to learn more about him. I wish Glen had more appearances in this movie, because I really enjoyed seeing Reilly’s acting talents! Similar to Reilly, Nhi Do appeared in the film for a short amount of time. However, her portrayal of a bank teller named Hazel was very memorable! In her limited time on screen, Nhi showed how she had good on-screen chemistry with the other cast members. While Hazel is talking with Zee about the gossip around the bank, it felt like both characters got along well with each other. While I don’t know what’s in store for the future of this series, I would love to see Nhi Do become a series regular!

The humor: Compared to the other series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series has a more serious tone. This has been a consistent element throughout the overall story. There was humor found in Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery. But it felt like it belonged in that world, simply breaking up the darkness of the film’s tone and subject matter.  While getting ready for his date with Zee, Jeff was looking through some shirts to determine what would look presentable. During this scene, he sniffs one of these shirts, displaying a disgusted look on his face afterward. While this was a simpler moment, it was well-executed because of the writing and acting. The moment itself also felt believable and relatable. In Boston, while Jeff and Andrew, Jeff’s former police partner, are waiting to question a bank robber, an FBI agent shows up. When Andrew questions who the agent is, Jeff replies by saying “A problem”. Similar to what I said before, this exchange was a simple one. Yet, its delivery is what made it funny.

The mystery: In my review of Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, I said the film’s side mystery was barely referenced because it was overshadowed by the main mystery. Personally, I feel both mysteries should have received an equal amount of attention. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, there were two mysteries within the story. While the majority of the script focused on the main mystery, the side mystery was shown for a satisfying amount of time. What also helps is how the main mystery was written as if the audience is solving it alongside the characters. Each clue and suspect was introduced as the film went on, allowing for new surprises to keep viewers on the edge of their seat. This creates a cinematic experience that feels engaging and interactive!

Paper Boats in the Sea image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/background-of-paper-boats-with-hand-drawn-waves_1189898.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:

Little development in Jeff’s overarching mystery: As I mentioned in my review of Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff is attempting to figure out who shot him back in Boston. This mystery is the series’ overarching story, where pieces to this puzzle are given to the audience in small doses as the series goes on. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff receives a lead in his case. I’m not going to spoil this mystery for anyone hasn’t seen the film. But all I’ll say is it feels like we take a step backward immediately after we step a step forward. I understand this series’ creative team wants to carry the story as long as possible, giving the audience a reason to stay invested. While I’m looking forward to seeing how this mystery unfolds, I feel like the audience should have received a little more.

The under-utilization of Britt Prajna: Zee’s friend, Britt, is one of the series regulars in the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series. Her role is similar to Sally from the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, a loyal and trust-worthy person in the protagonist’s life who provides advice and a listening ear. The difference between Sally and Britt is how Sally, sometimes, helps Aurora solve a mystery by using her journalistic skills to talk with potential suspects. As the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series progresses, Britt has been featured less. She’s also not involved in a given mystery, never using her skills to help Zee or Jeff. I know civilians/hotel owners can only contribute so much when it comes to solving crimes. However, I think Britt has more to offer in the world this series has created.

The mystery’s start time: When I reviewed Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, I stated the mystery’s start time was one of the movie’s flaws, as it didn’t begin until a little over twenty-five minutes into the film. While this was remedied a little bit in Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, it still took a while for the main mystery to start. This time around, the mystery didn’t begin until about twenty minutes into the movie. Before the mystery is introduced, the audience gets reacquainted with the characters and they are caught up on what has happened since the events of the previous film. I know this part of the story is important, especially when it has been several months since the last chapter was released. But I think the mystery should have been introduced sooner.

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My overall impression:

When asked why he tries to solve cold cases, Sergeant Webber tells Jeff it helps him be at peace with what has happened in his career. I found this to be an interesting answer, especially coming from a network where the majority of stories are murder mysteries. Some viewers, from what I’ve heard, have voiced their complaints over this creative decision. But after thinking about Sergeant Webber’s answer, I’m starting to see why this might be the case. Stories involving any sort of crime are never pretty. They can invoke fear, bring out the uncertain, and cause confusion. When we see a detective, real or fictional, get involved with a case, we see them attempt to find answers. Sometimes, answers can give us peace of mind, the peace of mind that can help us feel like things are going to be ok.  The series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries represent the familiar, featuring friendly faces the audience has come to know and trust. If surrounded by people or things we are familiar with, it can make us feel comfortable, even when uncomfortable subjects, such as murder mysteries, are brought up. Watching the detectives in these series can remind us of how good people can do good things in our world. Maybe we don’t have the ability to single-handedly solve cases like our favorite TV detectives do. But maybe, just maybe, we can give a little bit of peace.  Before I close this review, I just want to thank all my followers for making 18 Cinema Lane the success it is today!

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

Do you watch the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series? If so, what are your thoughts on the latest film? Tell me in the comments section!

Have fun in Martha’s Vineyard!

Sally Silverscreen

Word on the Street: Made-for-TV Film Projects, including a Hallmark series, in the Works

On July 24th, Google Trends Now reported a Christmas movie is about to begin filming in late August. So far, this film is titled ‘The Seek for Christmas’. But “that may most likely change earlier than it airs”, says Evergreen Movie Productions’ Daniel Lewis. Erin Cahill, an actress who has starred in five Hallmark films, will be the lead actress and a producer on the project, according to the article. Maclain Nelson has also been announced as the movie’s director. The production is being filmed in Natchez, Mississippi, which is located near the Louisiana border. Daniel said ‘The Seek for Christmas’ “is about three sisters who grew aside and their journey of discovering their manner again to one another over the Christmas vacation”. Daniel also said “that filmmakers did their analysis to make the film as authentically Natchez as attainable and have written Natchez Christmas traditions such because the annual Christmas parade into the script”. Even though Hallmark Channel is mentioned in the article and its title, the network has not confirmed their association to this movie, as of late July to early August 2021.

In Kemptville, Ontario, Canada, a Christmas movie has been in production since July 19th. Ashley Kulp, from Inside Ottawa Valley, writes that this movie is, so far, titled “The Christmas Campaign”. Filming locations in Kemptville have included “the former North Grenville District High School on Prescott Street” and downtown Kemptville. Almonte, Carp, and Ottawa have also been announced as filming locations. No story-related details or casting decisions have been made known at this time. Also, it is unknown where this movie will premiere.

The link to the articles I referenced in this post:

https://trends.blogdady.com/hallmark-channel-christmas-film-filming-in-natchez-in-august-mississippis-greatest-group-newspaper/

https://www.insideottawavalley.com/news-story/10442638-what-s-going-on-here-christmas-in-july-holiday-movie-being-filmed-in-kemptville/

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Angelique Jackson, from Variety, reported on July 28th about Hallmark’s plans to create television films based on the company’s Mahogany card line. The article states how these efforts will consist of “a quarterly slate of original movies coming to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries in early 2022”. The pre-production phase of the project started “in early 2021”, with Wonya Lucas, Crown Media Family Networks’ president and CEO, and Toni Judkins, Crown Media Family Network’s current programming and development senior VP, working to get the project off the ground. “Mahogany is a 34-year-old brand that has been an important part of the portfolio since its existence. So for us, it’s not an initiative; it’s bringing something to life through storytelling”, said Wonya. Toni responded to Variety by saying “It was a brand that I love and have known for decades. It just seemed like the most natural, authentic thing to do, to translate and take the inspiration behind the Mahogany card brand and bring it to air”.

This article from Variety mentions how Hallmark has big plans for their Mahogany series. Angelique writes how the network wants “to further expand the franchise to include podcasts and scripted series in the coming years”. According to the article, the Mahogany series is a stepping stone toward programming based on Hallmark’s other card lines, including Eight Bamboo, which highlights “Chinese values and customs”. But in order to make these big plans a reality, Hallmark needs big money to make them happen. In my last Word on the Street story, I speculated how Hallmark might not be as financially strong as in years past. This speculation is based on things happening with the company that I’ve seen and heard as a consumer of some of the network’s programming. To add to this, it should be noted that Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the network that will host the Mahogany films, doesn’t have the strongest numbers in viewership. As of late July to early August 2021, the movie from Hallmark’s second network with the highest number in viewership was Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part, which garnered 1.6 million viewers. This number is lower than those from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ past films, with 2017’s Rocky Mountain Christmas receiving a record-breaking 2.18 million viewers. One of the reasons for these low numbers is how Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is a smaller network compared to the main Hallmark Channel. This means that the second network doesn’t have the same amount of sponsorship opportunities as the first network does. Because of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ smaller size and lower viewership, maybe Hallmark has been cancelling programs like Home & Family in order to put those finances and resources toward the Mahogany series? Like any film project in pre-production, we’ll just have to wait and see how this series will be carried through.

Links to the references I included in this post:

https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/hallmark-mahogany-card-line-tv-movies-2022-1235028599/

http://www.ratingsryan.com/2021/06/cable-tv-ratings-week-ending-june-13.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20171227121829/http://www.showbuzzdaily.com/articles/showbuzzdailys-top-150-friday-cable-originals-network-finals-12-22-2017.html

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Andrea Brooks, who stars on When Calls the Heart as Faith, will be co-leading two upcoming movies. In an article from Heavy, these movies are, right now, titled ‘Sit, Stay, Love’ and ‘Fishing for Love’. With ‘Sit, Stay, Love’, Andrea will star alongside Hallmark alumni, Marcus Rosner. The film will be directed by Heather Hawthorn Doyle. According to the article, this movie is about the following:

“A woman’s tightly controlled life starts to loosen up when she adopts a dog and falls in love with him and the owner of the animal shelter she adopted him from”

For ‘Fishing for Love’, Andrea will star with Spencer Lord. The article from Heavy states “the movie was filmed in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, Canada” and is about the following:

“When Kendall, a successful restaurant designer comes home to Mystic Bay for the annual Big Catch Festival, she finds herself in uncharted waters with town newcomer Zack. Is Kendall baited for trouble in her home town or will she catch true love?”

As of late July to early August 2021, “It’s not clear if either of her [Andrea’s] two new movies will be airing on The Hallmark Channel or somewhere else”, as stated in the article.

The link to the Heavy article I referenced:

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What are your thoughts on these pieces of movie news? Which project sounds the most interesting to you? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Holly and Ivy Review

For the third year in a row, I am participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon, hosted by Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews! This time around, I went back to the Hallmark well. When I first joined the blogathon, I reviewed a Hallmark film titled Christmas Camp. If you read that article, you would know that I wasn’t a fan of it. Last year, I wrote about Little House: Bless All the Dear Children, a film that was a fine, family-friendly picture. Since I still had the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie, Holly and Ivy, on my DVR, I chose to review this title for the 2021 blogathon. In 2020, I didn’t see a lot of Christmas films from Hallmark. In fact, the only newer release I watched and/or wrote about was The Christmas Bow. Within a year, I have heard good things about Holly and Ivy, with my family sharing similar sentiments. Therefore, I figured it was time to finally check the movie out. How does it compare to The Christmas Bow? Like a child counting down to Christmas Day, you’re just going to have to wait to find out!

Holly and Ivy poster created by Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Crown Media Family Networks

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: If the interactions between the characters feel like they are having real-life conversations with each other, that’s how you know the acting in a given film is good. That was certainly the case within Holly and Ivy! All of the characters got along well with one another, as they had good on-screen chemistry. It also helps that the cast as a whole was talented! I’ll be honest, I have never seen any of Janel Parrish’s projects from her filmography. However, I did see her on Dancing with the Stars. The way Janel’s character reacts to various situations came across very naturally. While Melody and her neighbor, Nina, are decorating Melody’s Christmas tree, she shares her reason for collecting elf ornaments. The tone of Melody’s voice and the look in her eyes highlights how reminiscent she is over something as small and simple as ornaments. These acting techniques helped make Janel’s performance feel believable. While we’re on the subject of Nina, let’s talk about Marisol Nichols’ performance. While portraying this character, Marisol embodied what a good mother should be. Despite dealing with her own medical issues, she always tries to take an active role in her daughters’ lives. While decorating her family’s Christmas tree, Nina reveals a special tradition that involves Nina performing a dance routine with Holly and Ivy. This scene shows how much she enjoys the life she has created for herself. While I like the performances of Sadie Coleman and Piper Rubio, the actresses who portrayed the titular characters, I want to talk about Jeremy Jordan’s performance. Similar to Janel Parrish, I am not familiar with Jeremy’s filmography. However, I still liked seeing his portrayal of Adam. His on-screen personality was easy-going and care-free. While he took his profession and hobby seriously, Adam just wanted to have a good time. When he interacted with Melody, you could tell just by watching them that these characters were made for each other. It helped that both Adam and Melody had similar personalities, but were traveling on similar paths in regards to their respective careers.

The presentation of Christmas tropes/activities: Hallmark is known for featuring a plethora of Christmas related tropes and activities within each story. But sometimes, these films are oversaturated with them, as if there is a checklist that needs to be completed. Holly and Ivy shows some Christmas related activities that have been featured in other Hallmark films. It’s the way they are included in the story that sets Holly and Ivy apart from the network’s other titles. In one scene, Melody is decorating homemade Christmas ornaments with Holly and Ivy. The purpose of showing these characters creating Christmas decorations is to give the audience some of Melody’s backstory. That small piece of information was emphasized more than the activity. This scene is an example of how there was enough presentation of Christmas tropes and activities for the viewer to get the intended point. At the same time, if you were to put this same story around any other holiday, it would still work.

An emotional balance: In films that revolve around a serious, real world topic, such as a potentially terminally ill relative, the overall tone tends to be heavy. There are times when viewers warn one another to “have a box of tissues at hand” or share that the film will “pull at your heartstrings”. While there are somber moments in Holly and Ivy, the movie itself never felt sad. In fact, feelings of sorrow and despair never crossed my mind. That’s because the script doesn’t rely too heavily on the sadder parts of the story. Instead, the creative team strives for a balance by also focusing of happier, more joyous moments. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Nina is dealing with medical issues. Even though these issues are discussed and an emergency plan is created if the worst-case scenario happens, Nina puts her energy toward helping Melody and being present in her daughters’ lives. In fact, I can think of more scenes where Nina is enjoying the company of her friends and family than worrying about her medical situation.

The 2021 Christmas in July Blogathon banner created by Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

Adam’s conflict: It’s typical for the male and female protagonist to have their own conflicts within a Hallmark picture. However, I didn’t like Adam’s conflict in Holly and Ivy. Throughout the film, Adam’s parents wanted him to come work at the family car dealership. But Adam would rather stay a contractor and focus on his woodworking hobby on the side. This conflict reminded me of a young, college-bound adult not seeing eye-to-eye with their parents on a potential degree. Because of this, it felt a bit immature for a character that appears to be in his early 30s. One of the film’s messages and Adam’s parents’ mantra is “help where help is needed’. By being a contractor and taking up woodworking, Adam is doing exactly what his parents wanted; helping where help is needed. It baffled me how his parents failed to realize this until the end of the film.

 Chippewa Falls Library being unbelievably ill-equipped: I understand that some libraries deal with more challenges than others. But based on what the movie presented, the town of Chippewa Falls appeared to be doing just fine. There’s no evidence of the town being a predominantly low-income community or having a high crime-rate. What the characters said about the library’s issues didn’t match up with the visuals. During her time volunteering at the library, Melody comes up with several ideas in order to solve some of the library’s problems. Two of these ideas are renting out meeting rooms for events and setting up a “Mitten Tree” to collect hats and scarves for citizens in need. I can only speak from my own experience, but my local library already does these things. With that said, I find it hard to believe that the Chippewa Falls Library wouldn’t utilize these resources already.

The inclusion of Betty the dog: Holly and Ivy have a dog named Betty, who periodically appears in the film. While I don’t have anything against the dog itself, I don’t think it was necessary to include a dog in this story. Having Betty in the movie felt like she was there just for the sake of being there. If you had written the dog out of the script, I don’t think it would make a difference.

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My overall impression:

Like I mentioned in the introduction, this is my third year participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon. Out of the three movies I’ve reviewed, Holly and Ivy is, by far, the best one! Within the past few years, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has, in my opinion, made stronger films than their companion, Hallmark Channel. This is because Hallmark’s second network appears to try different things when it comes to storytelling. Holly and Ivy is a good example of this, as I highlighted in my review. There wasn’t a heavy emphasis on Christmas tropes/activities like in other Hallmark films. Creating a balance between the happier and sadder moments of the story also helps shape the film’s identity. I ended up liking this movie almost as much as I liked The Christmas Bow. Come to think of it, I wish Holly and Ivy was the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for 2020. This story certainly has the ingredients for that to have been a reality. But I guess that wasn’t meant to be.

Since we’re still talking about Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, it’s time for me to share who I’d invite to Drew’s Christmas party! This year, I chose John Christian Plummer! For those who are not familiar with him, John is the father of Charlie Plummer and is one of the screen-writers of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Mystery 101 series. When I look back on the celebrities that have been “invited” to Drew’s Christmas party in the past, actors and actresses made up the majority of the guests. While choosing an actor or actress as a guest is totally fine, I wanted to change things up a bit. To an extent, screen-writers are underrated, especially from Hallmark. Therefore, my invitation will, hopefully, give recognition to at least one of them. Like in 2019 and 2020, my invites are about giving “standing ovations”.

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

What are your thoughts on Holly and Ivy? Which Hallmark movies do you wish had become Hallmark Hall of Fame titles? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at Drew’s Christmas party!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: To Catch a Spy Review (Hallmark Mysteries Double Feature Part 2)

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for; the second part of my Hallmark Mysteries Double Feature! I recently saw the latest mystery film from the network: To Catch a Spy. This picture’s location made the film seem interesting. When I think of movies taking place outside of North America, I can’t think of many that feature Malta as a prominent backdrop. In fact, this is the first Hallmark project to take place and be filmed in Malta! But “destination” movies from Hallmark have been met with mixed results. One of the best films I saw in 2019 was Rome in Love. To me, it captured almost everything this location had to offer. However, not every “destination” film can be as good as Rome in Love. How will To Catch a Spy compare? Keep reading my review if you want to find out!

To Catch a Spy poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

Standout performances: Within the movie, I saw standout performances from some of the actors and actresses. One of the film’s leads, Colin Donnell, gave one of those performances! His portrayal of Agent Aaron Maxwell came across as natural and believable. It reminded me of Stephen Huszar’s performance in the Ruby Herring series. His interactions with Nathalie Kelley’s character, Chloe, showcase this realism well. In the supporting cast, Joe Azzopardi portrayed a hotel employee named Isaac. His best scene was when Isaac’s true identity was revealed. Joe carried his character with suave confidence. This made Isaac so captivating to watch. Another captivating performance came from Becky Camilleri, who portrayed a maid named Rianne. What made her character so memorable was how expressive she was throughout the film! When Chloe is trying to check out of her hotel room, she runs into the hotel’s manager. After their interaction, Rianne walks into the room, appearing genuinely confused. Becky’s expressions helped her stand out among the cast!

Interior design: There were two rooms in To Catch a Spy that boasted fantastic interior design! The first was a sitting room inside Malta’s U.S. Embassy building. Beige and white wallpaper surrounded the interior, with white marble covering the floor. Providing pops of color were a dark wood table and chair set and a green potted plant. These elements came together to create a space that was both classy and elegant. The second space was a local church. When the interior of this location was first introduced, a painted mural on the church’s curved ceiling greeted the audience. Along the walls and pillars, gold was abundantly featured. This large venue could easily rival the Sistine Chapel. Because of everything I just said, I wish this church was shown in more than one scene.

Footage of Malta: According to IMDB, To Catch a Spy not only takes place in Malta, but the movie was filmed there as well. The creative team behind the project definitely took advantage of the country’s picturesque scenery by including it in establishing shots and in the background of some scenes. When Chloe goes on her hotel room’s balcony for the first time, she meets a beautiful view of the clear blue ocean and a city skyline. Because of the buildings’ sandy hue, the skyline ended up complimenting the ocean! In one scene, Aaron and Chloe are walking through a park. This location shared the same sandy stone as the buildings from Malta’s city skyline. It also paired well with a green, grassy field. The peaceful nature of the park certainly made this space inviting to the viewer!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

A disjointed story: There are three plots within To Catch a Spy. They are the travel writing plot, the murder mystery plot, and the international FBI plot. While these plots are interesting on their own, they ended up having a very loose connection. This caused the story as a whole to feel disjointed. Chloe’s occupation and Aaron’s role in the FBI prevented them from interacting with each other like other mystery film protagonists. In fact, Chloe’s skills as a travel writer weren’t really utilized when it came to being an amateur detective. Personally, I think the movie’s creative team should have chosen one or two of these plots and stuck with them.

Things that don’t make sense: Certain things happened in To Catch a Spy that, to me, didn’t make sense. Both examples I will give involve Chloe. After having a scary experience in the city, Chloe tells Aaron she doesn’t want the FBI badge anymore, indicating she doesn’t want any involvement in the case. A scene later, she eagerly attempts to follow a lead related to that case. The fact Chloe changed her mind so quickly was both confusing and jarring. Earlier in the film, one of Chloe’s friends goes missing. She enters her friend’s hotel room in order to discover what happened. Chloe finds two potential clues on the floor and picks them up with her bare hands. This is the same character who not only reads mystery novels in her spare time, but can also guess the guilty culprit early on. Because of this, wouldn’t Chloe know not to leave fingerprints on potential evidence?

Wasted potential for an overarching series storyline: In more recent series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, a storyline that is carried from film to film is included in the script. A perfect example is in the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series, where Jeff is trying to figure out who shot him prior to the events of the series. In To Catch a Spy, the FBI was attempting to catch a criminal named Zypher. While watching the movie, I thought this would be the perfect overarching storyline if this film became a series. However, due to what happens in the movie, this idea did not become a reality. I was disappointed because of how the creative team wasted a potential storyline in their first film. Not every movie is meant to start a series. But if To Catch a Spy leads to a series, it makes me wonder what overarching storyline they could create?

Evening view of Malta skyline image created by bearfotos at freepik.com. Travel photo created by bearfotos – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

Like any type of movie, Hallmark’s “destination” pictures are hit or miss. There have been some I liked, such as Rome in Love and Pearl in Paradise. But other titles featuring an exciting location have disappointed, like Christmas at Dollywood. With To Catch a Spy, it reminded me more of Christmas at Dollywood than Rome in Love. Sure, we got to see Malta in its picturesque beauty. However, as Dory said in an episode of the Hallmarkies Podcast, “The scenery can’t save you”. Unlike the protagonists in Rome in Love, we never get to see any of the characters experiencing the country’s culture or learning from the people of Malta. When Chloe’s co-worker, Sara, is asking Rianne about the history of Malta, the audience doesn’t get to hear what Rianne has to say. Plus, one of the film’s biggest flaws was its disjointed story. There is potential for this movie to start a new series. But if that is Hallmark’s plan, I don’t know how they’re going to, realistically, make it happen. As I said in my review, To Catch a Spy was filmed in Malta. Traveling to various countries in order to film on-location is going to get expensive. I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen To Catch a Spy? Do you want to see this story become its own series? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen