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.

Magnifying glass image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/magnifying-glass-with-fingerprint-in-flat-style_2034684.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/flat”>Flat vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

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/

Christmas themed movie tickets created Kraphix at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/movie-tickets-christmas_971544.htm’>Designed by Kraphix</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Kraphix – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

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

Take 3: Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part Review (Hallmark Mysteries Double Feature Part 1)

Because I haven’t reviewed a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film since January, I thought writing about the newest Aurora Teagarden movie was a good idea! I also watched the latest mystery film, To Catch a Spy. Therefore, I decided to make my reviews a double feature! First though, we need to talk about Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part! While weddings have been shown in Hallmark’s mystery films, this is the first time one of the protagonists has gotten married within their respective series. Having Aurora finally walk down the aisle makes sense, especially since the Aurora Teagarden series has been on the air the longest. However, it’s still nice to see Aurora and her fiancé, Nick, reach this milestone in the lives. Speaking of miles and stones, let’s hop, skip, and jump through this review of Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part!

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

Things I liked about the film:

Omitting the “planning-a-wedding-in-an-unrealistic-time-period” cliché: Anyone who has read my list of The Top 10 Worst Cliches from Hallmark Movies would know I am not a fan of the “planning-a-wedding-in-an-unrealistic-time-period” cliché. Because this is the first time Aurora and Nick have gotten married, let alone planned a wedding, it would have been easy for the series’ creative team to include this cliché in the script. Instead, part of the story revolved around Aurora and Nick finalizing wedding plans days before their big celebration. I like how the creative team took a different approach when it came to the subject of weddings. It also helps that the wedding itself didn’t dominate the story, like in some wedding movies. Showing a wedding’s planning process in a realistic fashion is quite refreshing. At one point in the film, Nick and Aurora seriously consider postponing their wedding, a conversation that felt mature and considerate. It was nice to see soon-to-be newlyweds take the planning process seriously instead of a) relying on the “power of love” to make everything fall into place or b) become so attached to a physical location, that they do anything it takes just to get married there.

A cold case mystery: Hallmark’s mystery series have sometimes featured cold cases. But these types of cases are not featured as often as cases that take place in an immediate time frame. This is especially true when it comes to the Aurora Teagarden series. The mystery in Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part first took place over twenty years ago. Not only that, but it also relied on dialogue as clues more than physical objects. This kind of story-telling is rarely seen in Hallmark mystery films. It gives the audience a reason to stay invested in the movie, as it forces them to pay attention to what the characters are saying and doing. I also applaud Aurora Teagarden’s creative team for choosing a different kind of mystery for this story. It keeps the overall series fresh and exciting!

Aurora’s wardrobe: An underrated strength in the Aurora Teagarden series is Aurora’s wardrobe! The outfits found in this film not only appeared stylish and modest, but they also complimented Candace Cameron Bure. In a scene where Nick brings Aurora donuts for breakfast, Aurora’s outfit consisted of a simple green skirt and a gray sweater with a green, yellow, and purple plaid pattern. When a piece of clothing features a pattern, you should pair it with a plain colored piece. This is the reason why Aurora’s outfit worked. Another memorable outfit was the one Aurora wore to her rehearsal dinner. The pink, short-sleeved dress was complimented by simple gold and silver jewelry. When Aurora went outside, she wore a navy-blue coat that boasted a light and dark pink plaid pattern. Because the coat featured the same color of pink as the dress, both pieces paired well together!

Wedding couple image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-wedding-invitation-with-happy-couple_1259848.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/wedding”>Wedding vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited amount of humor: In Hallmark’s mystery series, including the Aurora Teagarden series, a certain amount of humor is incorporated into each story. This element prevents the film from becoming too dark. But Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part didn’t feature as much humor as other movies in the series. One reason for this was the absence of Miranda Frigon, who has portrayed Lynn since the series’ beginning. Her dry humor and criticism of Aurora’s involvement in each case has served as comic relief. Without Lynn, a percentage of the series’ humor is gone. Even though, there were two scenes that made me laugh out loud, this movie was one of the more serious stories in the series.

The mystery’s weak connection to the wedding: While I did like the film’s cold case mystery and how the wedding didn’t dominate the story, the mystery itself didn’t connect to the wedding. As I mentioned in this review, the mystery took place over twenty years ago. But as I watched the movie, I felt it could have been placed in its own story. I found myself wondering, “Do we really need a wedding to break up the darkness of this case”? If the series’ creative team really wanted Nick and Aurora’s wedding to remain an important part of the story, the mystery could have been something along the lines of a cold case being connected to the wedding reception venue or a florist being kidnapped.

The dynamic of Charles and Aida’s relationship: Aurora’s father, Charles, attends Aurora and Nick’s wedding. Because Charles and Aida, Aurora’s mother, divorced when Aurora was in college, this is the first time Aurora’s parents have interacted in years. If this had happened in real life, there would be a certain amount of awkwardness and discomfort between both parties. But for Aida and Charles, it seemed like they picked up where they left off. I can see the film’s creative team wanted to showcase cordial, co-parenting exes, similar to the Hallmark Channel movie, Love to the Rescue. What made that concept work in the 2019 film is how Nikki DeLoach’s character and her ex were currently raising a school-aged child. Therefore, both parents needed to co-parent. In the newest Aurora Teagarden chapter, Aurora is an adult. At this point in Aurora’s life, Aida and Charles no longer need to co-parent, let alone be on the same page when it comes to their daughter.

Magnifying glass and fingerprint image created by Alvaro_Cabrera at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/loupe-over-a-fingerprint_853908.htm’>Designed by alvaro_cabrera</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Alvaro_cabrera – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The Aurora Teagarden series is Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ longest running series. Since 2015, fans have watched Aurora solve multiple murders, navigate her love life, and lead the Real Murders Club. With Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part, Aurora, as well as Nick, reach a new chapter in their lives. At the same time, our favorite librarian does what she does best: solve a mystery. This new film contains elements that serve as the series’ strengths; such as showing a type of mystery that isn’t always featured on the network and utilizing different ways to present clues. However, the film is one of the more serious titles in the series. Miranda Frigon’s absence was seen and felt. Because some of the series’ humor comes from her character, most of Aurora Teagarden’s comedy was not there. While Marilu Henner and Andrew Airlie, who portray Aida and Charles Teagarden, have good on-chemistry, I didn’t think the dynamic of their characters’ relationship was well executed. For this flaw, the fault lies in the screenwriting. I’m looking forward to the next installment in the series, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Honeymoon, Honeymurder! Since Hallmark hasn’t created any programs about a honeymoon before, it’ll be interesting to see how the overall story will play out.

Overall score: 7.5-7.6 out of 10

Have you seen Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part? Are you looking forward to Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Honeymoon, Honeymurder? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the wedding!

Sally Silverscreen

Word on the Street: Executive Leader, Michelle Vicary, Walks Away from Hallmark

Last January, I reported how Bill Abbott stepped down from his presidential and CEO position at Hallmark. Now, another business leader from the Gold Crown company has decided to walk away. On May 17th, Nellie Andreeva, from Deadline, published an article about the departure of Michelle Vicary, who was Hallmark’s executive for programming and production. The article states how Michelle will step down from her position “at the beginning of June”. While no replacements have been announced at this time, Randy Pope and Darren Melameth, the company’s SVPs for Programming, Development, and Content Strategy, will serve “as interim co-heads of the department”. The article does not mention why Michelle decided to leave the company. However, Nellie does write how Wonya Lucas, the current CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, “has led a major restructuring” and made diversity and inclusion “a top priority”.

Illustration of woman quitting her job created by stories at freepik.com. Office vector created by stories – www.freepik.com

2021 has, so far, left me wondering if Hallmark has less money than they let on to the public. While everything I’m about to say is pure speculation, I have noticed some things that lead me to believe Hallmark’s entertainment division might not be fiscally strong. Nellie states in the aforementioned article how Lucas’ restructuring of the company has “resulted in some layoffs this year”. Even though the number of layoffs is not mentioned, the news of layoffs is not a good sign for any business. As of mid-to-late May, there have been no announcements for upcoming movies in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series, the Ruby Herring Mysteries series, the Signed, Sealed, Delivered series, and Hallmark Hall of Fame. In fact, there were no new Hallmark Hall of Fame or Signed, Sealed, Delivered films released in 2020. This makes me believe Crown Media Family Networks may be quietly moving away from these series in order to cut costs. In March, it was reported that daytime talk show, Home & Family, would be ending on August 4th. No official reason has been given for the show’s cancellation. Now adding the news of Michelle’s departure, Hallmark appears to be experiencing a rough patch. Everything I said is pure speculation. But I think a tell-tale sign of financial troubles would be if Hallmark created less Christmas movies than they did last year.

What are your thought’s of Michelle’s departure from Hallmark? Do you like the direction the network is currently moving in? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here are the links to the articles I referenced in this post:

Michelle Vicary Steps Down As Crown Media Family Networks’ EVP Programming Amid Continuing Overhaul At Hallmark Channel Parent

https://tvline.com/2021/03/23/home-and-family-cancelled-hallmark-channel-ending-final-episodes/

Hallmark’s Top 10 Missteps From the 2010s That Should Not Be Repeated

When I published my review for Teenage Rebel last December, it became my 225th movie review! Since then, I’ve been thinking about what kind of article I should write in honor of this milestone. A few days ago, I saw a video on Youtube titled ‘Top 6 AG Trends that need to *GO* this Decade’. This video focused on how American Girl could correct their mistakes from the 2010s. Created by pinksmartiesag, it inspired me to think about the ways Hallmark can improve in the 2020s. Like any company, Hallmark is not perfect.  There are areas where they can grow and find success. During the first year of the 2020s, I have seen Hallmark’s mistakes from the past decade seep into 2020. In this list, I will talk about the missteps that Hallmark should leave behind in the 2010s to have a chance to make better choices in this new decade. Similar to the list-articles I’ve written in the past, everything I talk about is based on my opinion of the things I have noticed as a fan and consumer. The list is meant to be critical in a constructive way, not mean-spirited or negative. When I refer to Hallmark in this article, I am focusing on the entertainment division of Hallmark; which consists of the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and Hallmark Drama.

Image of 2010 and 2020 on chart created by Macrovector at freepik.com. Infographic vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com
1. Hallmark Channel’s Over-Reliance on the Romantic Comedy (Rom-Com) Genre

In the 2010s, when Rom-Coms made less appearances in the cinema than in previous decades, Hallmark made it their mission to save this genre from extinction. While Hallmark attempted to preserve Rom-Coms, they ended up putting almost all their eggs in one basket. Now, every movie on Hallmark Channel is a Rom-Com, telling the same types of stories over and over again. This decision has caused the films on this network to feel repetitive and predictable. When you look at a typical poster for a Hallmark Channel movie, you already know how the story will play out. Lately, I’ve been watching and reviewing past Hallmark films, which have much more interesting stories. It feels like those were the days when Hallmark would embrace originality and not shy away from taking creative risks. I would like to see Hallmark experiment with different genres and tell a variety of stories in the 2020s. Creativity and imagination should be the rule moving forward!

2. Continually Using the Same Tropes and Clichés

Because Hallmark Channel has focused on the Rom-Com genre, there are several genre related tropes and clichés that are continually used throughout Hallmark’s film library. In my list of The Top 10 Worst Clichés from Hallmark Movies, I talk about some clichés that have run their course. How many times can you tell a story where a woman from a big city goes back to her small hometown before you call it quits? The constant inclusion of these tropes and clichés cause a given film to be more predictable. Even though some creative teams have approached these story-telling concepts in new and interesting ways, it feels like that has been the exception to the rule. It’s time for Hallmark to either put a new twist on these clichés and tropes or abandon them altogether.

3. The Hypocrisy

Ever since 2019, I have noticed Hallmark’s blatant hypocrisy when it comes to certain areas of their entertainment division. For this point, I’ll provide two examples. In my editorial, When Hallmark Made Their Fans Really Upset, I wrote about how, in 2019, Hallmark advertised they would be airing a new movie every Saturday night for an entire year on Hallmark Channel. However, that statement turned into a broken promise, as there were some Saturdays where no new movies premiered. I also said in that editorial how Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries kept their promises to air a Christmas movie every Thursday and Friday night in correlation with the 10th Anniversary of Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up. When it comes to subjects that Hallmark cares about, like Christmas, that becomes one of their top priorities. For everything else, it falls to the wayside.

While promoting Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups last year, George Zaralidis, Hallmark’s network program publicity vice president, claimed that “diversity and inclusion is a top priority for us”. But there are times when these words sound empty. The upcoming Hallmark Channel movie, Fit for a Prince, is a perfect example. Based on promotional material directly from the network’s website, we can see this is the same type of “royal” movie, starring the same types of actors in the same types of roles. Remind me how this is diverse? When it comes to story-telling, diversity is more than just a character’s appearance. It’s also about the perspectives, beliefs, and journeys those characters bring to the overall story. In my award post, The Sunshine Blogger Award and The Blogger Recognition Award: Two Awards for the Price of One, I said that I wanted to see Bai Ling join the main cast of When Calls the Heart as Hope Valley’s first female Mountie. One of the reasons why I want this is because it would be a beautiful opportunity for Hallmark to put their money where their mouth is. If diversity is that important to them, then they will take no issue in casting Bai on Hallmark Channel’s most popular scripted show.

4. Hallmark Making Promises They Know They Can’t Keep

As I just mentioned in point number three, Hallmark broke their promise to air a new movie every Saturday night for an entire year on Hallmark Channel. But that wasn’t the only promise the company broke in 2019. In my aforementioned editorial, When Hallmark Made Their Fans Really Upset, I talk about several films that were mysteriously removed from Hallmark Channel’s and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ schedules after being promoted for weeks or months. If Hallmark had any thoughts about moving films out of their respective premiere dates, why would they spend so much time promoting them and setting dates? In the seventh season of When Calls the Heart, Clara and Jesse had entertained the idea of having an outdoor wedding. But when the wedding arrived, their ceremony ended up taking place indoors. According to Kami, from Hallmarkies Podcast, that episode was filmed in November. This begs the question; if the creative team behind the show knew it would be too cold to film any outdoor events, why would they mention the idea of an outdoor wedding in the first place? In the 2020s, it would be nice to see Hallmark stick to their word more often. Broken promises lead to broken trust with the viewers, which is not good for any business.

5. An Adoption Ever After Segment During the Seasonal Line-Up Preview Specials

When Larissa Wohl first joined Alison Sweeney in 2019’s “Valentine’s Day & Adoption Ever After Preview Special”, the program was used to not only promote Hallmark Channel’s Valentine themed movies, but also that year’s Cat Bowl, Kitten Bowl, and American Rescue Dog Show. At the time, the cross-promotion made sense. But as Larissa kept appearing in Hallmark’s other seasonal line-up preview specials, as well as the Crossword Mysteries & Friends Preview Special, she ended up overstaying her welcome. Instead of promoting a worthy cause, it felt like she was interrupting the regularly scheduled program to host an infomercial about homeless pets. Most people can get behind the idea of raising awareness for shelter animals. However, using the same tactics over and over again gets repetitive and runs the risk of turning away potential supporters.  I don’t know if Hallmark has any plans to air preview specials for the various seasonal line-ups in the 2020s. If they do, I hope they think twice before adding the Adoption Ever After segments to the specials.

Heart shaped balloons image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by katemangostar – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.
6. Hallmark’s Excessive Obsession with Christmas

Hallmark loves Christmas; I get it. But is it really necessary for them to do the following?

  • Airing both Christmas line-ups for almost three months
  • Showing Christmas movies on three networks throughout the year
  • Creating over twenty movies between two channels
  • Devoting an entire month to Christmas in July

In my opinion, the answer is absolutely not, as there is a fine line between loving something and going overboard. Because of Hallmark’s excessive obsession with the holiday, they are actually doing more harm than good to their line-ups. In 2019 and 2020, the “Countdown to Christmas” and “Miracles of Christmas” line-ups received less viewership than in years prior. Hallmark’s decision to make more Christmas movies year after year prevents their films from becoming beloved classics. Movies like The Christmas Card, A Boyfriend for Christmas, and The Nine Lives of Christmas were able to achieve long term success because they premiered in years where Christmas line-ups were smaller, allowing these projects to stand out. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, Hallmark needs to pull back the reigns on their approach to Christmas. Give Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries ten movies each, as it would challenge each creative team to create something new and unexpected. Save Christmas films for a week in July and for a month and a half toward the end of the year. Once upon a time, Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups were anticipated events. Now, it has become run of the mill and one of the only things Hallmark cares about.

7. Movie Premiere Twitter Parties

For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, Twitter parties take place for the premiere of new Hallmark programs and movies. Let’s use the upcoming movie Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How to Con a Con as an example. Before the film appears on television for the first time, someone directly connected with the project, either the director, producer, or stars, will encourage viewers to send tweets during the movie. There may even be pop up advertisements for the Twitter party while other films or shows are on T.V. When Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How to Con a Con airs on March 14th, viewers can tweet about their thoughts on the film, share their theories with other viewers, and have brief conversations with the stars. Personally, I never participated in these Twitter parties because I wanted to give my undivided attention to the film I was watching. The tweets from the Twitter parties are laced with spoilers, which means I have to avoid Twitter after a new movie or television show episode has premiered. From what I remember, Bill Abbott was a big advocate for this kind of interaction with the customers. But in 2020, Bill stepped down as President of Hallmark’s entertainment division. Also, Twitter isn’t as popular of a social media platform as it was five or ten years ago. With all these factors, it makes me wonder why Hallmark would still promote Twitter parties?

8. Giving Movies Unnecessary Hype

I haven’t seen this happen often on Hallmark networks. However, I have seen it happen enough to know that Hallmark needs to discontinue the practice. The two examples I’ll use for this point are 2014’s Northpole and 2019’s Bottled with Love. Before Northpole premiered, it seemed like news about the film was inescapable. Commercials would air constantly, reminding viewers of what they already knew. Even products directly associated with the film, like the North Pole Communicator, were sold at Hallmark stores. Even though the film received a large viewership number and a sequel, the movie has become forgotten. As the years go on, it is rarely featured in Hallmark’s Christmas schedules. As I mentioned in my review for Bottled with Love, Hallmark chose to overhype this film by proclaiming it was “the best movie you’ll see all year”. But when the movie premiered, it was only a “flash in the pan”. Its viewership numbers were fine, but nothing spectacular. I shared the same thoughts on the film itself. What Northpole and Bottled with Love have in common is how Hallmark overhyped these movies so much, they prevented them from being memorable in the long run. I’m hoping this was just a phase within Hallmark’s lifespan.

9. Launching Television Shows from Movies

Since Cedar Cove became Hallmark’s first scripted television show, Hallmark Channel has had three shows that originally started as a movie or a series of movies: When Calls the Heart, Good Witch, and Signed, Sealed, Delivered. But the only one that has found continued success is When Calls the Heart. While Good Witch has received more than five seasons, its overall quality has dropped since season three, as I’ve mentioned before on my blog. Meanwhile, Signed, Sealed, Delivered was converted into a movie series after the show’s first season and moved to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. This isn’t a good track record for Hallmark. Instead, they should create shows based on new ideas or well-liked books that are overshadowed by more popular titles.

10. Hallmark’s Summer and Winter TCA Events

Twice a year, Hallmark partners with the Television Critics Association to host a special event where they announce upcoming media related projects. Back in 2018, I wrote a Word on the Street story about announcements made at Hallmark’s Summer TCA Event. Recently, it seems like Hallmark makes their more interesting announcements before or after these events. At each TCA event, announcements consist of projects most fans already knew about. Because of this and the fact that fewer social gatherings are taking place because of the Coronavirus, I question why Hallmark still hosts these events? I wish Hallmark would use those finances, time, and resources toward something more productive.

Hallmark’s Summer TCA Event poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=142&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=2018+Summer+TCA.&nbsp;

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here is a link to the article about George Zaralidis’ statement:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/entertainment/news/hallmark-will-include-lgbtq-storylines-in-christmas-movie-lineup-diversity-and-inclusion-are-top-priority-for-us/ar-BB16Py6W

Take 3: The Christmas Bow Review + 265 & 270 Follower Thank You

After a temporary break from blogging to work on a creative side project, I have returned to write a blog follower dedication review! 18 Cinema Lane received 265 followers right before my blogathon, A Blogathon to be Thankful For, started. Because I was reading participants’ articles, as well as writing my own editorial, I planned on publishing this review after the event. Shortly after the blogathon ended, 18 Cinema Lane received 270 followers. As the Christmas season is now upon us, I chose to talk about one of Hallmark’s newest seasonal titles. A film I had wanted to see was Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ The Christmas Bow. What intrigued me was the story’s use of music and the dramatic nature of the plot. Even though Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is known for creating less light-hearted Christmas films than Hallmark Channel, the stories themselves do contain good messages and themes.

The Christmas Bow poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While I’m not familiar with the acting talents of Lucia Micarelli, I feel she did a great job with the material she was given! Lucia’s best scene was when, during a flashback, her character, Kate, is playing the violin for her grandmother. Throughout this scene, Lucia was able to convey so much emotion with her face alone; trying to hold back tears while staying passionate about the music her character loved. Prior to watching The Christmas Bow, I had seen some of Michael Rady’s performances from his Hallmark projects. A consistent part of Michael’s acting abilities is how he makes his portrayals appear so effortless. Whether his character was interacting with his cousin or having deep conversations with his mother, Michael gave a performance that felt natural. The supporting cast in this film was strong, with some stand-out performers among the cast. One of them was James Saito, who portrayed Kate’s relative, Grandpa Joe! Whenever James’ character came on screen, he brought joy with him. That’s because he had a great on-screen personality and his smile lit up the room!

The interior design: I really liked seeing the interior design inside Kate’s family’s home! It was not only creative, but also photogenic. In Kate’s room, the décor was primarily white with splashes of color. With the addition of Christmas lights, the room appeared brighter. This prevented the space from looking drab or unimpressive. The living room featured light and dark stone along one wall and the fireplace. Light wood cabinets from the nearby kitchen complement the stone work. Within this house, there were interesting design choices when it came to specific elements in certain rooms or areas. The upstairs hallway contains a tall white bookshelf. A dark wood ladder and desk pairs nicely with the shelving unit.

The music: When I first read the synopsis for this movie, I knew that music would play a significant role in the story. However, all of the music in The Christmas Bow was pleasant to listen to! Because Kate is a violinist, classical music has a primary place in this film’s soundtrack. As she performs, the songs themselves are really good. From ‘Carol of the Bells’ to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, these were familiar tunes that were strengthened by the sound of the violin. I also liked the story angle the film’s creative team took in regards to the influence music has during the Christmas season. When Kate and Patrick’s cousin meet for the first time at a café, Kate teaches him that closing his eyes will help him see the music. Patrick’s cousin tries this technique as Christmas music plays throughout the café. This lesson also shows how music can play a role in people’s lives.

Adorable Christmas card image created by Rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-greeting-card-vector_2824854.htm’>Designed by Rawpixel.com</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Rawpixel.com – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A less dramatic injury: Based on The Christmas Bow’s synopsis, I expected the film’s protagonist to be involved in a car accident that causes her to be so traumatized, she decides to avoid the violin as much as possible. In the movie, Kate ends up hurting her hand due to getting it caught in a door. Hand injuries and broken bones are serious. However, compared to what I expected, it seemed like this part of Kate’s story wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been.

Obligatory Christmas activities: In my review of I’m Not Ready for Christmas, I mentioned how the Christmas activities featured in the film were obligatory for the sake of reminding the audience that they were watching a Christmas movie. The Christmas Bow has a similar flaw, as Patrick’s cousin continually presents a list of Christmas activities he wants to complete before December 25th. While these activities were woven into the overall story better than I’m Not Ready for Christmas, their presentation in The Christmas Bow felt like they had to be there. The activities themselves were those that have been featured in countless Christmas movies before, such as buying a Christmas tree and making gingerbread houses.

A party planning subplot: One of the subplots in The Christmas Bow revolved around Kate’s family planning a Christmas party at their music store. The subplot itself wasn’t bad and preparation for a party can work as a story concept. But an influx of this type of story during last year’s Christmas line-ups made me hope both networks would move away from showing party planning in their movies. Sadly, Hallmark isn’t aware of that detail as they continue to recycle this plot point.

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

My overall impression:

The Christmas Bow is the first 2020 released Christmas movie from Hallmark I’ve seen. Therefore, I can only compare it to the 2015 film, I’m Not Ready for Christmas. What I will say is The Christmas Bow is far better than I’m Not Ready for Christmas! Sure, there were flaws within the film. But the overall story was engaging with memorable strengths. Music was easily woven into the plot, feeling like it naturally fit in the movie. Character interactions and acting performances helped make the film worth watching. The story itself definitely belonged on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, as the material was more emotional than projects found on Hallmark Channel. While it’s too early to say if The Christmas Bow will go on to become one of Hallmark’s “classics”, I can state here that I liked the film. Thank you to my followers who have supported 18 Cinema Lane! It truly is an accomplishment I appreciate!

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Have you seen any of Hallmark’s 2020 Christmas films? If so, which one has been your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Word on the Street: Hallmark’s ‘Aurora Teagarden’ and ‘Mystery 101’ series will receive a new movie!

Originally, I was going to publish my 255 blog follower dedication review. While I still plan on posting this review, I decided to publish a Word on the Street story instead. In one of last month’s Word on the Street articles, I announced two Hallmark Movies & Mysteries series, Crossword Mysteries and Chronicle Mysteries, were either filming a new chapter or were about to film a new chapter. It looks like these two series are not the only ones to receive a new movie. On Creative B.C., the filming schedule for an upcoming Aurora Teagarden Mysteries and Mystery 101 film were posted! ‘Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How To Con A Con’ will start filming on November 6th and end on November 24th. Even though the movie’s synopsis is not known at this time, I hope it is about comic conventions, based on the listed title. Meanwhile, ‘Mystery 101: Movie 6 – Killer Timing’ just started filming on November 2nd and will conclude on November 20th. Like I said about Crossword Mysteries and Chronicle Mysteries in October, these films in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries and Mystery 101 series will likely premiere in 2021, based on their filming schedules.

Female detective image created by Brgfx at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/female-detective-with-magnifying-glass_1250814.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Brgfx – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What are your thoughts on this announcement? Are you looking forward to any of these films? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here is the link to the TV Movie ‘In Production’ page on Creative B.C.’s website (after November 20th and 24th, ‘Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How To Con A Con’ and ‘Mystery 101: Movie 6 – Killer Timing’ will be removed from the page): https://www.creativebc.com/crbc-services/provincial-film-commission-services/in-production