Take 3: I’m Not Ready for Christmas Review

Before Pale Writer’s Maxwell Caulfield Blogathon, I had seen two of Maxwell’s three Hallmark films. These titles were Missing Pieces, a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie from 2000, and Second Chances, a Hallmark Channel film from 2013. With one movie remaining, I selected the 2015 title, I’m Not Ready for Christmas, as my entry for the event. From a network that features the same actors and actresses in multiple projects, it’s interesting to note that I’m Not Ready for Christmas was Maxwell’s only Hallmark Christmas movie. As is sometimes the case, my review of this film was also this blogathon’s only article discussing any Hallmark film. When the movie first premiered five years ago, I skipped it in favor of other titles. This is because it was being compared to Liar Liar, a film I had not seen in its entirety, but was aware of the general premise. Personally, I like watching Hallmark films that either seem less predictable or have a creative component. Because the type of story found in I’m Not Ready for Christmas is more unique than Hallmark films from the past three years, I finally decided to check it out!

I’m Not Ready for Christmas poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel.

Things I liked about the film:

The supporting cast: There were several actors in the supporting cast that gave stand-out performances. One of them was this blogathon’s star, Maxwell Caulfield! Even though he was only in a handful of scenes, Maxwell found a way to make his character, Greydon DuPois, memorable. This was achieved through a confident personality and a strong on-screen presence. Another stand-out performance came from Mia Bagley, who portrayed Anna Geller, Holly’s niece. Her sweet demeanor reminded me of Jenny Wilder from Little House on the Prairie. Anna, like Jenny, wanted the best for the people in her life. The Christmas wish Anna tells Santa, where she wishes her aunt were more honest, effectively shows this. Brigid Brannagh is an actress I’m familiar with because her 2011 Hallmark movie, A Crush on You. While watching her portrayal of Anna’s mom, Rose, I could tell her previous experience with the network worked in her performance’s favor. This could be seen in the scene when Rose and Anna are at Anna’s Christmas recital. While Anna waits for Holly to show up, Rose’s face shows disappointment as she knows what lies ahead.

The messages and themes: Hallmark’s Christmas movies feature a variety of messages and themes that the audience can relate to. In I’m Not Ready for Christmas, a major theme is honesty, as Holly works on telling less lies throughout the film. Toward the end of the story, Holly is faced with a professional dilemma that could end her career. Instead of choosing what will benefit her, she chooses to do what is right. Seeing a character deal with a real-life conflict and make a positive decision is something that the audience can appreciate. It can also inspire them to apply these messages of truthfulness and placing others before one’s self to their own life.

The Cool Rider: Maxwell Caulfield Blogathon banner created by Pale Writer from Pale Writer.

What I didn’t like about the film:

An inconsistent performance: When it comes to Hallmark’s Christmas movies, Alicia Witt’s entries have been hit or miss. While I liked A Very Merry Mix-Up and Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane, I was not a fan of Our Christmas Love Song. In A Very Merry Mix-Up and Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane, Alicia was given material that complimented her acting abilities, allowing her performance to come across as consistent. Alicia’s performance in I’m Not Ready for Christmas, on the other hand, was very inconsistent. There were scenes where emotionality shined through, such as when Holly and Drew were sharing their life stories over apple cider. But whenever Holly was under her truth telling spell, she sounded robotic. Alicia’s performance made those moments feel awkward and jarring. I know Alicia has what it takes, talent wise, to carry a film. However, I feel she was miscast in this particular role.

Little to no sense in the story: Several moments in I’m Not Ready for Christmas made little to no sense. One example takes place toward the beginning of the movie. Anna and her mom, Rose, are upset that Holly, Anna’s aunt, has chosen to attend a private dinner over Anna’s Christmas recital. They feel Holly will miss Anna’s performance because of her personal choice. But this movie was released in 2015 and I’m pretty sure Rose owns a smart phone. With that said, wouldn’t Rose record a video of Anna on her phone and show Holly the video afterwards? Speaking of Anna, another confusing moment happens when Anna interacts with Santa after the recital. In this scene, there’s no clear indication that the Santa Anna is talking to is the real deal or that they had ever interacted before. However, when Santa calls Anna by her name, no one questions how he knows her.

Solving a problem with a problem: An overarching conflict in I’m Not Ready for Christmas is Holly learning how to be honest with others. However, one of the ways she learns this lesson is for some of the other characters to lie to her. In one scene, Holly’s assistant, Jordan, asks for some time off so she can take care of her grandmother. But several scenes later, Holly discovers that Jordan was lying about her personal life. In reality, Jordan was on a date with her boyfriend at the same ice-skating rink Holly and Anna were visiting. I understand why Hallmark made this creative decision, as to remind the audience to treat others as they would like to be treated. But in this story, it felt like the script was trying to solve a problem with a problem. This misstep made the moments where Holly was changing her ways seem like positive outcomes were happening too conveniently in her favor.

A story that doesn’t feel Christmas-y: Despite this movie being titled I’m Not Ready for Christmas, the story itself doesn’t need to belong in the Christmas season. The themes of honesty and self-improvement can be found in any time of year. In fact, this exact plot could have taken place outside of Christmas and it wouldn’t have made a difference. While there are Christmas activities featured in this film, they were obligatory for the sake of reminding the audience that this was indeed a Christmas movie. The scenes themselves forced the film to pause the story instead of allowing those moments to find a legitimate place in the narrative.

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My overall impression:

As I said in this review, a major theme of I’m Not Ready for Christmas is honesty. Therefore, I will be honest by saying I did not like this film. This movie makes the exact same mistake 2019’s A Cheerful Christmas did: putting so much emphasis on creating a pointless, Christmas remake of a well-known ‘90s film, that the creative team forgets how to make a good movie. The story has a more unique premise than other films from Hallmark’s library. However, the execution of that story was very poor. The truth telling spell Holly falls under does not lend itself to comedy. Instead, it feels awkward and jarring. What also hurts this film is not utilizing the Christmas elements within the script, causing the film to be devoid of true Christmas spirit. Instead of trying to copy what Liar Liar did almost thirty years ago, I’m Not Ready for Christmas should have been a combination of a modern twist on It’s a Wonderful Life and a Christmas version of the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘Monica’s Bad Day’. If this had been the plan, it might have brought something new to the table.

Overall score: 4.9 out of 10

Have you seen Maxwell Caulfield’s Hallmark films? Are there any Hallmark Christmas films you’d like me to check out? Leave your thoughts 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.

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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

Word on the Street: Two New Chapters for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Series’ Are on the Way

Even though Hallmark’s Christmas season has arrived, there are two mystery movies listed on Creative B.C. that are either currently in production or will soon be in production! The first one is ‘The Chronicle Mysteries 5 – Helped To Death’, which is filming until November 4th. This is exciting news, especially since all of the movies in this series, led by Alison Sweeney, aired in 2019! The second film is ‘Crossword Mysteries: Terminal Descent’. It will start filming on October 26th and end on November 13th. I’m happy to see Crossword Mysteries receive another chapter, as I enjoyed the previous film, Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver! Based on their production schedules, both movies will likely premiere sometime in 2021.

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Have you seen any movie from these series? If so, are you looking forward to the films I mentioned in this article? Let me know 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 4th and 13th, ‘The Chronicle Mysteries 5 – Helped To Death’ and ‘Crossword Mysteries: Terminal Descent’ will be removed from the page): https://www.creativebc.com/crbc-services/provincial-film-commission-services/in-production

Take 3: Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly Review

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ “Miracles of Christmas” line-up is just around the corner! But before that television event can begin, there is one more mystery film I need to talk about. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly is the last new mystery movie to premiere until next year. Despite this, I was planning on reviewing the movie anyways, as I’ve seen this series since the very beginning. In the fourteenth film, a high school reunion is where the mystery takes place. While I did find this idea interesting, I said in a Word on the Street story that I was disappointed the story had nothing to do with Aurora’s ex, Martin. However, I didn’t let this affect my viewing experience!

Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: One of the strengths of the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series has always been the acting performances, with the actors’ and actresses’ expressive natures making these performances enjoyable to watch! Candace Cameron Bure’s portrayal of the titular character was definitely a highlight for this movie! A scene that was one of Candace’s best was when Aurora discovered the murder victim. The shocked expression on her face was very convincing and added suspense to that scene. Another actress that used facial expressions well was Tegan Moss. Portraying the wife of the murder victim, Tegan put a lot of emotion into her performance. This is especially the case in the scene where she is first questioned by the police, as she can be seen crying. Speaking of the murder victim, I was glad to see Toby Levins cast in this film as Jack Larsen! Even though he was in the movie for a short amount of time, Toby brought charisma to his role. This made his performance memorable, as well as make me wish he had stayed in the story a little bit longer.

The design of the high school reunion: This isn’t the first time Hallmark has included a high school reunion into one of their stories. However, the event in the latest Aurora Teagarden movie was the most memorable one I’ve seen! This is because some of the design choices were very creative! In several areas of the hotel’s banquet space, there were displays that represented different extracurricular activities. For example, a display titled “Memories of Cheerleading” featured pom-poms, a megaphone, and pictures of cheerleaders from the reunion’s graduating class. When attendees arrived at the reunion, they were given name tags that looked like school ID cards. The name tags even featured the attendees’ senior high school photos. These design decisions showed how the film’s creative team thought outside the box when it came to this specific story concept!

Aida stands up for Aurora: For most of the series, Aurora’s mother, Aida, has discouraged Aurora from solving mysteries and participating in the Real Murders Club. In Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly, however, Aida seems to have changed her tune a little bit. When visiting the mother of the murder victim, the mother shares her doubts about her son’s murder being solved. Aida takes the opportunity to stand up for her daughter. She tells Jack’s mother that even though she doesn’t approve of Aurora’s decisions, she knows that Aurora is the best at what she does. This was so refreshing to see after the “don’t-get-involved” cliché was placed in the series for so long!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Details that don’t make sense: In this movie, Aurora and her friends attend their 20-year high school reunion. If this story takes place in 2020, it means that they graduated in 2000. Before the event, Aurora and Sally are looking through a memory box that Aurora put together after her graduation. When reflecting on music from their high school years, they bring up Britney Spears and Pink as their favorite artists, which makes sense from a chronological perspective. Shortly after this statement is made, Aurora takes out a Rubik’s Cube and a Walkman from the box, items that are typically associated with the ‘80s. Several scenes later, when the murder victim is discovered at the reunion, the police immediately come to the scene of the crime. During the initial investigation, the attendees of the reunion are not informed of the situation as they curiously wonder what happened to their missing friends. If a situation like this happened in real life, every attendee would be immediately notified of the crime.

No humor: Mystery films from Hallmark’s second network usually incorporate enough humor to prevent the story from becoming too dark. It also allows the actors to explore their dramatic and comedic talents. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly did not contain this component. Lack of humorous or light-hearted moments caused the movie to adopt a more serious tone than previous entries. Audience members were also not given a break from the murder mystery.

Weaker audio: In my review of JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, I mentioned how some of Hallmark’s recent films have experienced bad audio. While the audio in Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly was better than the audio in the aforementioned sequel, it did have its issues. Whenever a character talked loudly, my speakers produced a cracking sound. I’m not sure if this is a movie related or entertainment system related issue. But it is something I felt needed to be addressed.

Photo by Dave Di Biase from FreeImages.

My overall impression:

This chapter in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series made me feel similar to Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death. At best, it is a fine mystery movie with strong elements. But, at worst, it seems like it just met a requirement. I did like the design of the film’s high school reunion, as well as the discussion on how people can change. However, this discussion could have served a greater importance within the overall story. One thing I didn’t like about the movie was how there was no humor to be found. Comedy is something that the mystery series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries have in common, as this component helps the stories avoid being too dark. However, the overall tone in Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly was more serious because of the lack of humor. While I haven’t heard of any upcoming Aurora Teagarden Mysteries films, there was one commercial for a new Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries movie that will premiere in 2021! But if there are any new Aurora Teagarden Mysteries stories on the horizon, I hope they are stronger than Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly was.

Overall score: 7.1 out of 10

Did you see any of this year’s mystery films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries? If so, which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death Review

Even though I’ve been reviewing films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries lately, I haven’t reviewed a mystery film from Hallmark’s second network since May. Because of this, I decided to review the newest movie in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series, especially since I have seen the first two installments. Like the other series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Picture Perfect Mysteries has been an enjoyable collection of films. The series also has a distinct identity that sets it apart from the various current offerings on this particular channel. A mystery story featuring a murder mystery stage play is not new, as the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series had a similar concept in the 2019 movie, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: A Very Foul Play. In fact, there was a play poster in the background of Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death that was titled “A Very Foul Play”. However, I was curious to see how a detective and photographer duo would approach this specific type of mystery.

Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Thing I liked about the film:

The acting: In Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death, the acting ranged from fine to good. However, there were some stand-out performances I’d like to bring up. One came from series regular, Trezzo Mahoro, who portrayed Allie’s friend Noah. What I liked about his performance was how lively and expressive it was. A good example is when Noah discovers Maya has figured out the password on his laptop. The look of shock on his face truly appeared genuine. Another note-worthy performance was Willie Aames’! As one of the characters said in this movie, Neil Kahn was “mild-mannered”. While this is true, Willie made this part of his character consistent. Because Neil is a director of mystery stories, this is a different yet interesting creative choice when it comes to acting. Speaking of Neil, I also enjoyed seeing April Telek’s performance! Throughout the film, her portrayal of Neil’s wife was very natural. This is evident in the scene where she and Neil are having an argument about their personal lives.

The interior and exterior design: In some scenes, Neil Kahn’s house was featured on screen. This is certainly one of the most photogenic houses shown in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film! The exterior was pale yellow Victorian, complete with a wrap around porch. Impressive interior designs added to the grand scale that is also shown on the house’s exterior. Dark wood was a consistent component of each room shown in the movie. The living room boasted a large wood fireplace paired beautifully with green marble. Neil’s library also featured wood, as seen in bookshelves covering the walls. An eye-catching design choice was how arches outlined the shelves, an element that isn’t often found. In one scene, the living room in Allie’s house can be seen in the background. A stone fireplace was illuminated with soft lights, with a complimentary bookshelf next to it. This shows how good interior and/or exterior design came from multiple locations!

The cinematography: There was some cinematography in Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death that really surprised me in a good way! One notable example is when a suspect is being questioned at the police station. As the scene plays out, emphasis is placed on the clock and the suspect’s face. They were both zoomed in at various points in the scene, highlighting the suspense and fear a person might face in that situation. Another interesting use of cinematography is when Allie and Sam were having a conversation after the murder victim was discovered. When each character was speaking, they were given close-ups to help the audience focus on Sam’s or Allie’s part of the conversation. This specific area of film-making, cinematography, added intrigue to the overall project!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Story points that didn’t lead anywhere: Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death contained story points that ended up not leading anywhere. One of them was the robberies that were taking place in Willow Brook, the small town featured in this series. During the movie, Sam was in charge of solving the film’s murder and a string of robberies. Unfortunately, this part of the film became an afterthought, as it had little to no connection to the main plot. Another story point involved a local loan shark. While he was shown and mentioned on a few occasions, the loan shark didn’t have a consistent enough presence to be a meaningful part of the story. If this character would have been given more importance, maybe he could have been a red herring.

Allie’s relationship with Daniel: Hallmark Movies & Mysteries series usually show the male and female protagonist forming a romantic relationship over time. Even though this is only the third Picture Perfect Mysteries movie, I feel Allie and Sam will likely become a couple. Because of this, I found Allie’s relationship with Daniel, a newspaper reporter, to be pointless. When Allie’s friend, Maya, suggests that Allie go on a date with Daniel, it felt like the screenwriter was trying to force a love triangle into the story. Allie and Daniel’s departure from their date came across as awkward, like they knew their relationship wasn’t going to last. To me, it seemed like this aspect of the movie was unnecessarily shoved into the narrative.

A choppy pace: I found the overall pace in Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death to be choppy. This is because there wasn’t a good flow in-between scenes. In one scene, Allie and Sam are discussing color paint samples for Sam’s house. Shortly after, one of the murder suspects is giving Allie clues. Mysteries series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries space out scenes that are not mystery related, as to not make the movie feel too dark. However, this installment in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series seemed to fill their script with as much content as possible with the intent to worrying about the overall flow later.

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My overall impression:

At best, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death was a fine film. It definitely had its strengths, such as some stand-out acting performances and interesting cinematography. But, in my opinion, the movie felt like it just met a requirement. As I mentioned in this review, this is the third chapter in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series. By this point, the question of how the overarching story arc can move forward should be answered. This film, however, does not answer that question. What it does instead is almost put the series in a stand-still, forcing it to stay in one place. Having story points that don’t lead anywhere is just one example of how this happened. Yes, the mystery was intriguing. But this is only a part of a mystery film. If there are other parts of the story that don’t work, the movie is going to have shortcomings. While it is unknown at this time whether the Picture Perfect Mysteries series will receive a fourth film, I just hope it’s stronger than this movie was.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen the Picture Perfect Mysteries series? Would you like to see this series get a fourth film? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Follow Your Heart Review

Last week, I reviewed JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift. While my Hallmark related content, especially from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, has been well-received, my review of the 2020 sequel became more popular than I expected. As of early October, that post has acquired 6 likes and over 200 views! Because of this, I decided to review Follow Your Heart! Hallmark hasn’t released a movie about an Amish community since 2017’s An Uncommon Grace. When Follow Your Heart was added to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Fall schedule, I found it to be a big deal, especially since a three-year creative void was being filled. On multiple occasions, I’ve said that I wished Hallmark would try new things when it came to their story-telling. From the looks of it, Follow Your Heart may be a step in that direction!

Follow Your Heart poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I am familiar with Galadriel Stineman, as an actress, through her work on The Middle. It seems like her acting experiences on that show have paid off! A strength in Galadriel’s portrayal of Kathy Yoder was her transitions between different emotions. After Kathy and her boyfriend, Jack, leave the spa, Kathy received a voice message on her phone about her father’s passing. Galadriel’s facial expression and emotions quickly change from happily care-free to sadly guilty about missing the call. Madison Lawlor did a really good job with her portrayal of Kathy’s sister, Miriam! The consistency in her performance is what made it stand out. In Follow Your Heart, Miriam was upset at her sister for leaving the Amish community. Whenever she interacted with Kathy, the tension between these two characters could be felt. Another character that interacts with Kathy often is Isaac Mast, who was portrayed by Kevin Joy! Throughout the film, Isaac had a more easy-going personality. It also helped that Kevin and Galadriel shared good on-screen chemistry. These factors, along with quality acting talents, assisted Kevin in partially carrying this film!

Good audio: In my JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift review, I talked about Hallmark’s recent issue with poor audio. This was, fortunately, not the case for Follow Your Heart! All of the dialogue could be understood and heard clearly. Various sounds and music played in the background, making their existence known without overpowering scenes. While watching this film, I never felt the need to adjust the volume on my television. This definitely added to my movie-viewing experience!

New takes on tried-and-true cliches: As I also mentioned in my review of JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, Hallmark loves adding cliches in their movies. What I liked about Follow Your Heart was how there were new takes on these cliches! The most overused one is the “woman from the city coming back to her small hometown”. In Follow Your Heart, Kathy comes back to her Amish community. She’s not only returning to a smaller town, but she’s also returning to a culture. Speaking of culture, a cultural misunderstanding influenced the “it’s not what you think” cliché found in this movie. I won’t spoil the story if you haven’t seen the film yet. But I will say this new creative approach presented a dynamic that isn’t often seen in Hallmark’s projects.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Very few explanations about Amish culture: When an Amish community is presented in a film, the film’s creative team devotes some time to explaining certain aspects of Amish culture. With Follow Your Heart, however, it felt like the movie’s creative team expected their audience to be mostly or completely educated about the lives of the Amish. While Kathy does explain that the Amish from Mountain View, her hometown, don’t believe in artistic expression, this is the only explanation about Amish culture the film provides. During one conversation, Miriam brings up the subject of Rumspringa. This is when teenagers or young adults temporarily leave their Amish communities in order to experience the English world. The short journey is meant to help these young men and women choose the course of their future. Sadly, this explanation was not presented in Follow Your Heart.

Incredibly rude friends: In a movie where a female protagonist has to choose between two male characters, the male protagonist is purposefully designed to appear as a better option. But in Follow Your Heart, Kathy’s boyfriend, Jack, was incredibly rude, even by Hallmark’s standards. While Kathy is mourning over her father’s death, all Jack seems to care about is whether she’ll agree to co-host a reality travel show. Even his views on Amish culture are closed minded, as he calls Isaac a “Renaissance man”. Kathy’s manager, Evelyn, is no better than Jack. She puts more emphasis on Kathy’s career than her client’s wellbeing. Evelyn also calls Isaac “sexy” because she likes his aesthetic and Kathy’s Amish attire a “costume”. The rudeness from Kathy’s manager and boyfriend were very off-putting.

Characters’ perspectives changing too quickly: Follow Your Heart featured a few occasions where characters’ perspectives changed too quickly. Kathy’s sister, Miriam, serves as one example. For most of the movie, Miriam is bitter about Kathy’s return to Mountain View. When Miriam comes across an object from the past, she immediately sees her sister in a new light. To me, this transition of beliefs didn’t feel realistic. What would have worked instead was seeing Miriam change over time.

My overall impression:

No movie featuring any Amish community should be the “end all, be all” when it comes to education about Amish culture. While film can introduce people to certain ideas and beliefs, thorough research needs to be done in one’s spare time. With that said, Follow Your Heart could have included more explanations about Amish customs and beliefs. I don’t think it was a good idea for the film’s creative team to assume their audience knew almost everything about a typical Amish community. Despite this, the movie was solid! The most notable aspect of Follow Your Heart was how tried-and-true cliches were presented in new ways. This gave the overall story a breath of fresh air while allowing unique perspectives to be showcased. I wish Hallmark would use this approach when making their films and tv shows; thinking outside the box and taking creative risks. If they did, maybe we wouldn’t see the same reused narratives that expect a different result.

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Did you see Follow Your Heart? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Leave your comments in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift Review

It’s been four months since I last reviewed a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film. To fix this, I chose to write about the newest sequel, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift! I saw the first movie when it premiered four years ago, which I thought was just ok. Therefore, I was not asking Hallmark to grant this title a second chapter. Despite not being a fan of JL Family Ranch, I wanted to watch the sequel with an open mind. Providing Hallmark Movies & Mysteries related content was also my intent. Earlier this month, in a Word on the Street story, I talked about JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift’s trailer. In that article, I said the trailer made the movie feel like it took a tonal shift from the first movie. But unless I watched the movie for myself, I wouldn’t know how this shift would affect my movie-viewing experience.

JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Most of the cast members from JL Family Ranch appeared in the sequel. This worked in the cast’s favor, as they knew what to expect from each other, talent-wise! Teri Polo had good on-screen chemistry with her co-stars, especially those that appeared in the first movie. She also gave her character, Rebecca Landsburg, a stoic persona. This creative choice allowed the audience to see how having so much on her plate really affected her. When James Caan’s character, Tap Peterson, appeared in the film, a sense of defeat could be seen and felt. This was caused by events that take place within Tap’s subplot. In a scene where he goes to the bank to ask for a large sum of money, facial expressions and body language effectively show what is going on in Tap’s mind. New faces in this cast also found their way to shine! Judson Mills is one example, portraying a new character named Caleb Peterson. Though he was only in select scenes, his performance still left a memorable impression on me. One scene showed Caleb on his phone, talking about an important matter. As the scene plays out, Caleb goes from looking concerned to being on the verge of tears.

The scenery: The scenery in JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift effectively reflected the characters’ rural lifestyle, presenting a stylized version of a ranch family. Sweeping establishing shots captured the green pastures surrounding the family’s bed and breakfast. Picturesque fields were shown in scenes where characters ride their horses. When Rebecca and her fiancé, Henry, are having a private picnic, they are sitting next to a river. The clear blue of the water paired with the surrounding grass nicely. These locations promoted the ideas of the calm and tranquility a rural setting can offer!

Tap Peterson’s house: There have been some gorgeous houses to grace the backgrounds of Hallmark’s productions. Tap Peterson’s house in JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift is one of them! Its white exterior boasts a traditional colonial style, complete with a manicured front yard. The interior design within the house displayed a well-to-do setting fit for the prominent rancher Tap is. In one room, the rich wood on the walls complimented a cream armchair with a red pattern. Another room contained white walls showcasing blue and green glass plates. Each design choice was elegant and classy, creating a timeless look in each room presented on screen!

Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Poor audio: While I haven’t seen Follow Me to Daisy Hills or Falling for Look Lodge, I have heard there are audio problems within these movies. It seems like poor audio has become commonplace in Hallmark’s productions lately, as JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift contained the same flaw. All of the characters sounded muffled whenever they spoke, especially when scenes took place outdoors. Because of this, it was difficult at times to understand what was being said. I’m not sure if music or microphone related issues are what caused the movie’s audio to be poor. What I am sure about is this problem was consistent throughout the film.

Too many cliches: I know Hallmark loves their cliches like Santa loves milk and cookies. But JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift incorporated too many cliches that have been featured in many other Hallmark films. Four of these cliches were discussed in my list of the top ten worst cliches from Hallmark movies: the “we’re not together” cliché, the “it’s not what you think” cliché, the “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché, and the “planning a wedding in an unrealistic time period” cliché. JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift also showcased cliches that I’ve never talked about on my blog before, such as the “save the (insert establishment here)” cliché and the “owner of a bed & breakfast trying to impress a travel critic/writer” cliché. If Hallmark knew they were going to use any of these clichés in this movie, they should have put a new twist on them. One idea is to have the travel critic/writer be one of the character’s exes. This way, it creates a compelling conflict of interest dynamic.

Convenient resolutions: On multiple occasions, situations in JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift were resolved too conveniently. One example can be found toward the beginning of the film. After a surprise wedding proposal, two travel writers that had come to the bed and breakfast a day early decide to leave sooner than expected. When John tells them there will be an engagement brunch that same morning and when the writers discover all the food of the brunch are “farm to table”, the writers’ impression of the bed and breakfast quickly begins to change. The circumstances that caused these writers to change their perspective were placed at a convenient time in the story.  But because of how everything in that situation happened so quickly, it made the resolution seem like it was met too conveniently.

First wedding dance image created by Teksomolika at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/newlyweds-dancing-at-their-wedding_983404.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/wedding”>Wedding image created by Teksomolika – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

In 2018, I named Marrying Mr. Darcy the tenth worst movie I saw that year. My reason was how the film could have been better than its predecessor, but ended up being a disappointment. JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift made me feel the same way. The 2020 sequel was a disappointingly average film that never reached its full potential. Instead of receiving an exciting new chapter, the story was drowned in clichés and convenient resolutions. It also didn’t help that the project’s audio was poor. While there are things about this movie I liked, such as the talented cast and Tap Peterson’s house, the script itself didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. When it comes to movies, a story is what makes or breaks that project. In the case of JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, the narrative didn’t do it a lot of favors. As a matter of fact, the movie itself is proof why its predecessor did not need a second part.

Overall score: 5.6 out of 10

Did you watch JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The 2020 Unpopular Opinions Tag

Last week, I announced I would be publishing a celebratory post to commemorate reaching 200 movie reviews. Now that my 200th review is published, it’s time for the celebrating to begin! Two months ago, I read an Unpopular Opinions Tag post from the creator of Iridium Eye Reviews, Ospreyshire. This post inspired me to create an Unpopular Opinions Tag article of my own! However, I waited for the perfect opportunity to post it. Since publishing 200 movie reviews is an accomplishment, I thought this would be a good way to start the week! Before I begin, I’d like to remind my readers, followers, and visitors that these answers are based on my opinion. This post is not meant to be mean-spirited or negative.

Shocked man image created by Cookie_studio at freepik.com. People photo created by cookie_studio – www.freepik.com. Image found at freepik.com.
  1. Popular series I don’t like* (* – as much as other people do)

For this question, I had to put an asterisk by the series I chose. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, I don’t like Signed, Sealed, Delivered anywhere near as much as other people do. I find the overall quality to be inconsistent. While there have been a few movies I enjoyed, the majority of them, in my opinion, are either ok, decent, or bad. It also doesn’t help that the stories tend to emphasize the personal lives of the Postables over the mysteries of the letters. When the next Signed, Sealed, Delivered film is eventually released, I hope it’s one of the better ones.

2. Popular movie I like, but everyone seems to hate

I’ll select two movies for this question: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. I haven’t watched these movies in several years, but I remember liking both of them over the first one. Over time, I discovered most people like the first movie, but dislike the second and third films. Personally, I think the first three films make up a solid trilogy!

3. Love triangle where the character didn’t end up with the character I wanted

I’m going to discuss a relationship from an animated movie for question number three. I haven’t seen FernGully: The Last Rainforest in a long time. However, I recall not agreeing with Crysta’s decision to stay with Pips. I found Pips to be a terrible significant other. Not only does he bully others, but he also manipulates Crysta by creating a false image of himself instead of being honest with her. Based on a video review I saw a few years ago, Pips apparently becomes a nicer person in FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue. But, personally, I feel the sequel was created to justify Crysta’s decision.

4. Popular genre you hardly watch

For me, this genre would definitely be documentaries. Either I don’t have the opportunity to purchase/rent them or I rarely come across one I’m actually excited about. The last one I watched was Life, Animated, which I would recommend to those who are fans of animation. I recently discovered a docuseries called The Road to Miss Amazing, so I might get around to checking that out!

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

5. Beloved character you don’t like

Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara would be my choice for this question. She’s a static character with an unpleasant personality. Following her for about four hours doesn’t help either. I’m also not a fan of Scarlett’s relationship with Rhett Butler, which is one of the unhealthiest relationships in film.

6. Popular show or series I can’t get into

BYU-TV aired reruns of Wind at My Back for a period of time. Because I’m a fan of When Calls the Heart, I thought Wind at My Back would be a show I’d like. I watched two episodes with an open mind, but I ended up not becoming invested in the program. Wind at My Back is a show that tries to be a Hallmark Hall of Fame-esque production without showing an understanding for what makes a Hallmark Hall of Fame project typically work. Based on the two episodes I saw, I found the show to be devoid of humor. Wind at My Back is a show that was meant for someone. However, I recognize that someone was not me.

7. Popular show or movie I have no interest in seeing

When it comes to movies, I have no interest in seeing any of the Sharknado films. I know any title from that series would be a perfect choice for Taking Up Room’s So Bad It’s Good Blogathon. But just because other people say a film is “so bad it’s good”, it doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to agree with them. The tv show I’ll choose for this question is the Canadian program, Heartland. This show has been on the air since 2007. Since this chronological story has been running for so long, I don’t have the time to devote to Heartland. Also, I’m a person who watches more movies than television.

8. Popular show or movie I prefer over the book

This year, I read To Kill a Mockingbird and saw its film adaptation. While I thought the book was fine, I found the movie to be a better story-teller than the source material. The 1962 film went to the heart of the text a lot sooner, cutting out of a lot of the “slice of life” content I wasn’t a fan of. Visual elements, such as suspense and cinematography, helped to enhance the story.

To Kill a Mockingbird poster created by Brentwood Productions, Pakula-Mulligan, and Universal Pictures. Image found at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:To_Kill_a_Mockingbird_(1963_US_theatrical_poster).jpg

Bonus Round: Movie I used to love, but I hate now

In this last question, I’ll talk about two movies. The first is High School Musical, a movie I used to like, but now strongly dislike. When it premiered in 2006, I really liked the concept of a modern-day musical airing on Disney Channel. This brought something new to the table. In a short amount of time, High School Musical became bigger than it needed to be, which made it appear everywhere. It also started what I call the “instant celebrity” trend, where characters are no longer allowed to lead typical lives and deal with typical problems (examples: Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens). These things have turned me off from High School Musical.

The next movie is Avatar, a movie that I don’t dislike, but that I’ve fallen out of love with. I enjoyed the movie when it first came out. But as time went on, it lost relevancy. It also didn’t help when James Cameron kept pushing back the release dates for his sequels. Every movie doesn’t have to start a franchise, with Avatar as a prime example.

Did you like reading my Unpopular Opinions Tag post? Which tag would you like to see me write about next? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Word on the Street: New Trailers for Upcoming Hallmark movies + Official synopsis for next ‘Aurora Teagarden’ movie revealed

I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been easy finding movie news stories to discuss on 18 Cinema Lane. However, I am thankful when I come across news about Hallmark productions! While I did talk about stories revolving around Hallmark films last month, those projects were Christmas related. In this Word on the Street article, I will address Hallmark films that will premiere outside the Christmas season! With the ‘Fall Harvest’ line-up just around the corner, it’s common for viewers to see trailers rolled out as the weeks go by. My Word on the Street story will focus on the first new trailer for the line-up. Before the Christmas season begins, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries likes to air some new films during the Fall. This Word on the Street story will feature a discussion about two upcoming movies; with one receiving a trailer and the other receiving a synopsis. As I sometimes do, I will share my opinion on these pieces of movie news.

Poppy and chamomile pattern image created by Klyaksun at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/seamless-pattern-with-chamomile-and-poppies-flowers_1308007.htm’>Designed by Klyaksun</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Klyaksun – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Two new trailers have been released from Hallmark; with one for a ‘Fall Harvest’ film and the other for an upcoming movie from Hallmark’s second network! The first one represents the Hallmark Channel movie Follow Me to Daisy Hills, which currently has a release date of September 19th. In the trailer, there were three scenes that featured good cinematography! These scenes revolved around a river during the autumn season. The acting from the leads, Cindy Busby and Marshall Williams, appeared stiff to me. However, this is not a reflection of their performances in the film, as the movie has not been released yet. I am disappointed that with a project called Follow Me to Daisy Hills, there were no daisies to be found. It makes me wonder why the film’s town is even called ‘Daisy Hills’ at all?

Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

The other trailer is for one of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ newest titles, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift. This movie is advertised on the main page of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ official website and boasts a release date of September 27th. As I look back on this specific trailer, I noticed how this movie feels like a complete tonal shift from its predecessor. From what I remember, JL Family Ranch was a gritty, modern western that had a certain amount of adrenaline and suspense. According to the trailer, however, the sequel is a heart-felt drama that focuses on family and second chances. Even the color scheme and lighting appear brighter than the first film.

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.

Speaking of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, an official synopsis for Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly has been posted on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ website! Below is the description for the movie:

“Aurora’s high school reunion turns deadly when a body is found in the hotel pool. Aurora and her Real Murders Club help investigate which classmate was most likely to kill.”

Even though the movie sounds interesting, I am disappointed that the “reunited” part of the film will not have anything to do with Aurora’s ex, Martin. In a Word on the Street story back in February, I wondered if Martin would return to the series, based on the film’s title. A dynamic that hasn’t been featured in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film before could have been found in this project. But I guess there’s always the next film. What I do wonder is if any mentions of Nick and Aurora’s engagement will be found within the script? Will we see any wedding planning in the film? If we do, it would continue the story’s overarching continuity.  

What are your thoughts on these pieces of movie news? Are you looking forward to any of the films I talked about? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here are the links if you want to check out each source:

https://www.hallmarkchannel.com/love-at-daisy-hills/videos/preview-follow-me-to-daisy-hills

https://www.hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com/jl-family-ranch-the-wedding-gift/videos/preview-j-l-family-ranch-the-wedding-gift

https://www.hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com/aurora-teagarden-mysteries-reunited-and-it-feels-so-deadly

The Legends of Western Cinema Week Tag 2020

For the Legends of Western Cinema Week, Hamlette and Heidi created a special tag for participants to engage in. Because the event revolves around westerns, the questions are western themed as well. Out of all the blogathons I have participated in, this is the first one that has a tag associated with it. It’s also the third tag I have posted on 18 Cinema Lane. However, the other two tags correlated with National Reading Month. The western genre is not one that I regularly watch, so my answers may seem like a stretch. However, I have tried my best to provide an honest perspective on this particular area of film.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Heidi from Along the Brandywine. Image found at https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-legends-of-western-cinema.html.
  1. What’s the last western you watched?

That would be the 2015 film, Forsaken. I recently reviewed the movie for this event, so I’ll include the link in my post.

Take 3: Forsaken (2015) Review (A Month Without the Code #3)

2. A western of any stripe (happy or tragic) where you were highly satisfied by the ending?

INSP does not often create their own movies, so it’s nice to check out their efforts when they do release a new project. One of their stronger pictures is The Legend of 5 Mile Cave, which premiered last year. The overall story was solid and everything wrapped up nicely in the end. It had a mystery element that kept me invested from start to finish.

3. The funniest western you’ve seen?

I haven’t seen this movie in quite some time, but I do have fond memories of The Three Amigos! The scene with the singing horses and the talking turtle makes me smile every time I think about it.

4. What similar elements/themes show up in your favorite westerns?

When I think about the western genre, a sense of mystery is something that comes to mind. What I mean by this is there’s always that mystery of how the overarching conflict is going to get resolved. Most westerns also contain a journey, where the characters travel over a certain period of time. This creates the feeling of the audience going on an adventure with the characters.

5. Scariest villain/antagonist in a western?

For this question, I’ll give two answers. My first one is Dr. McQueen from my favorite Little House on the Prairie episode, ‘The Wild Boy’ Part 1 and 2. Not only does this villain think it’s acceptable to mistreat a child, he also represents a type of villain that I find to be the scariest. Dr. McQueen thinks in his mind he can justify his choices, even though he is clearly in the wrong. My second choice is Connie’s husband, Brad, from the Walker, Texas Ranger episode ‘The Juggernaut’. He also thinks he can justify his actions, as well as being the type of villain someone could cross paths with in real-life.

Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

6. Favorite romance in a western?

I’ll choose Rosemary and Lee Coulter from When Calls the Heart! When it comes to their relationship, they bring out the best in each other. They have also come a long way since they were first introduced in the story. It does help that Pascale Hutton and Kavan Smith have great on-screen chemistry. Both Rosemary and Lee are the glue that keeps that show together, as they are two of the best things to happen to When Calls the Heart.

7. Three of your favorite westerns?

Here are three westerns I would recommend:

  • The Legend of 5 Mile Cave – One of the stronger films from INSP. The mystery element allows the audience to stay invested in the story.
  • When Calls The Heart: The Christmas Wishing Tree – The best movie out of When Calls the Heart’s collection of films. It took a tried-and-true idea from other Hallmark projects and gave it a new twist.
  • Cowgirls ‘N Angels – Even though this is a modern western, it was one of the best movies I saw in 2018. The acting was solid and the story was endearing.

8. Favorite actress who made 1 or more westerns?

A movie that I enjoy is Portrait of Jennie! Jennifer Jones’ performance is one of the reasons why I like that film. After doing from research on thegreatwesternmovies.com, I discovered that Jennifer starred in the 1946 movie, Duel in the Sun. I have not seen this movie, so I’ll try to find time to check it out!

9. Favorite western hero/sidekick pairing?

Charles Ingalls and Isaiah Edwards from Little House on the Prairie will be my choice for this question. While they’re not western heroes in the traditional sense, they are heroes in their own right. This is because they try to do the right thing and make Walnut Grove a better place.

10. Share one (or several!) of your favorite quotes from a western.

A quote I like comes from the Walker, Texas Ranger episode ‘The Covenant’. Walker tells his students “These belts don’t come easy. You have to earn them” after they graduate to a green belt. This quote highlights how one should expect to work hard if they truly want something.

White horse image created by Gabor Palla at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Gabor Palla.”

What are your thoughts on this tag? Which westerns do you enjoy watching? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen