Take 3: Point of Origin Review

When the subject of “disaster films” is brought up, one will usually think of films revolving around over-exaggerated, fictionalized disasters. Whether it’s Sharknado or The Day After Tomorrow, these types of titles have become the faces of the “disaster film” category. But what if a movie depicts a real-life disaster that could be experienced by anyone? This is the case of my Disaster Blog-a-Thon entry, Point of Origin. Last month, I searched on Wikipedia for a title to review for May’s Genre Grandeur. During that search, I stumbled across the aforementioned 2002 HBO production. After reading the film was a “fact-based drama about an arson investigator searching for the perpetrator of a string of deadly fires in 1980s California”, I knew it was the perfect choice for J-Dub and Pale Writer’s event! Before I start this review, I would like to point out how this marks two firsts for 18 Cinema Lane. Not only is this my first time participating in the Disaster Blog-a-Thon, this is also the first HBO film reviewed on my blog!

Point of Origin poster created by HBO Films and New Redemption Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The mystery: For the most part, the mystery in Point of Origin allowed the audience to experience it alongside the characters. What also helps is how the mystery started right at the beginning of the film. This immediately hooked the audience into the story, while also giving them a shared journey with the key players on screen. There was room for viewers to speculate what would happen in the story. That gave them the opportunity to interact with the film’s mystery. Three separate components played a role in the overarching narrative. While I won’t give anything away, it was interesting to see these components come together.

The special effects: When John was investigating a crime scene, he would attempt to figure out how the fire started. Toward the beginning of the film, this thought process was visualized through special effects. As John is recounting the information, the actual fire is played out in reverse on screen. This is very different from other mystery movies, as flashbacks might be utilized to speculate the cause of a crime. When it came to the fires themselves, it appeared as if they actually took place in a given scene. It may have been possible for the movie’s creative team to insert footage of fires through editing or CGI, as Point of Origin was released in 2002. However, practical effects were an interesting choice. This creative decision reminded me of productions like The Crow.

Showcasing the dangers of fire: While investigating a local fire, John and his co-worker, Keith, examine a young boy who died on the crime scene. Despite only the victim’s face being shown, it is blackened due to smoke and flame exposure. Later in the film, John visits a surviving burn victim in the hospital. The victim’s face and part of his hand are covered in burns. He even claims that it hurts to open his eyes. Due to the nature of Point of Origin, the story is heavier in tone. However, the incorporation of the dangers of fire never felt like they were there for “shock value” or as a tactic to scare the audience. If anything, it was shown just enough to get the point across.

The Second Disaster Blog-A-Thon banner created by J-Dub from Dubsism and Pale Writer from Pale Writer

What I didn’t like about the film:

Bai Ling’s limited presence: Bai Ling was cast as John’s wife, Wanda Orr, in the 2002 HBO film. Her involvement in Point of Origin is one of the reasons why I sought out this movie, as she is the top billed actress. When I watched the film, however, I discovered Bai appeared in only a handful of scenes. Compared to some of Bai’s other projects, her talents were under-utilized in Point of Origin. It also seems like the main supporting actress, Illeana Douglas, received more screen-time than Bai. Bai did a good job with the acting material she was given. But this situation is very reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn’s involvement in 1994’s One Christmas, where Katharine appeared in about five scenes despite being that film’s top billed actor.

A confusing time period: As I mentioned in the introduction, Point of Origin takes place in the 1980s. Elements from that decade were incorporated into the film, such as vehicles and a typewriter used by John at various moments in the story. Meanwhile, Bai’s wardrobe looked like it came straight from the early 2000s. There was also a scene where a store patron tells another patron not to smoke in the store. This attitude was more prevalent in the 2000s, as smoking in public places was more accepted in the 1980s. The inconsistency with the film’s historical accuracy was so confusing, it was, on a few occasions, distracting.

An unidentified red-haired man: Throughout the movie, a red-haired man made multiple appearances. I won’t spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it. But I will say when everything was said and done, I don’t feel like I received a satisfying explanation of who that character is. Yes, I can assume the red-haired man’s identity. However, when it comes to that character, the movie was building up to something without providing a pay-off.

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:

For the Disaster Blog-a-Thon, I chose to talk about a film that revolved around a real-life disaster. This is because, in my opinion, these types of titles aren’t talked about as much within the realm of “disaster films”. When it comes to Point of Origin specifically, it was a fine, competently made, intriguing movie. But the 2002 HBO project made me feel similarly to Red Corner. This is ironic, as Bai Ling was cast as the lead actress in both films. What I mean by my aforementioned statement is I held higher expectations for each film, only to be somewhat let down by them. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, the historical accuracy works when the creative team places emphasis on the details. In Point of Origin, however, it seems like the film’s creative team forgot, at times, their project took place in the 1980s. This is because some aspects of the film reflected the time of the film’s release; the early 2000s. I haven’t seen a lot of HBO films, so I can’t make any comparisons with Point of Origin. But I will say, based on other made-for-TV mystery productions, this one felt closer to the middle of the road.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Point of Origin? Are there any HBO films you’d like to see reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Terry Fox Story Review (Atticus and Boo Double Feature Part 1)

Back in April, I reviewed To Kill a Mockingbird for Silver Screen Classics’ Classic Literature On Film Blogathon. I also read the book earlier this year. When I discovered Rebecca from Taking Up Room was hosting the Atticus and Boo Blogathon, I just had to participate, as it was too good of a coincidence to pass up! Because this blogathon celebrates Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall, I decided to review one film from each of their filmographies. However, I purposefully chose two films that were not only released in the ‘80s, but also had something to do with athletics. For this double feature, I’ll start by reviewing the 1983 movie, The Terry Fox Story. I have to admit I like finding made-for-TV movies from years past. This specific film is an HBO presentation that I watched on Youtube. I will also admit that I knew very little about the true story that inspired the film. So, I was looking forward to being educated on Terry Fox’s story!

The Terry Fox Story poster created by HBO Premiere Films, HBO, and ITC.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I will talk about Robert Duvall’s performance first, as he is one of the reasons why I reviewed this film. In The Terry Fox Story, Robert portrays Bill Vigars, a member of the Cancer Society from Toronto. He doesn’t show up until fifty-nine minutes into the movie, but Robert is given more screen time than he had in To Kill A Mockingbird. With a performance that comes across as natural, Robert made his character feel like a real-life person. One is his best scenes was when Bill gives a pep talk to Terry about ignoring the press. It shows this particular character is trying to look out for Terry’s best interests. Speaking of Terry, Eric Fryer is one of the strongest members in this cast! No matter what scene he appeared in, his performance felt realistic. He displayed the frustrations a patient with cancer might experience, such as when Terry wants to quit his treatments and leave the hospital. There were even times when his character was emotionally guarded, protecting himself from experiencing more pain in his life. Terry stopping people from touching his hair is a good example of this. Despite all the on-screen hardships, Eric brought joy to his role, which helped create happier moments that felt earned. Rika Noda was a part of these happier moments, showing Terry how he can open his heart and allow his personal barriers to be broken down. Portrayed by Rosalind Chao, Rika was an endearing character who, more often than not, brought out the best in Terry. While she gave a good performance individually, Rosalind also had good on-screen chemistry with Eric Fryer. This made me invested in their on-screen relationship and want to see it succeed!

The scenery: Since this movie revolves around Terry’s marathon across Canada, the country’s landscapes serve as photogenic backdrops! When Terry starts his marathon in Newfoundland, he stands on the shores of Cape Spear. With the waves crashing against the rocky shores, this location created a powerful image of a warrior preparing for battle. This waterfront area was also appealing to look at. During his marathon, Terry runs past a city skyline. Behind that skyline was a beautiful sunset. Its pale orange hues illuminated the scene, bringing forth a peaceful picture. A variety of surroundings were featured throughout the marathon. This showed a good representation of the living environments that can be found in an individual country like Canada.

Showing heart-breaking and heart-warming moments: In my review of Nicholas Nickleby, I said one of the strengths of the movie was how there was a balance of despair and joy within the story. The Terry Fox Story had a similar strength, showing both the heart-breaking and heart-warming moments of Terry’s journey. While receiving treatments at the hospital, Terry meets another cancer patient named Bob. Several scenes later, Terry crosses paths with Bob again. This time, the treatments have taken their toll on Bob, making him appear unrecognizable. It was just one example of the ugliness cancer carries, showing the audience a more realistic depiction of the disease. My favorite scene in this film is when Terry’s family and friends are waiting for him to cross the finish line at the seventeen-mile marathon. It was such a heart-warming moment, it made me tear up. This is because it did a good job at displaying what happens when someone believes in another person. It was also a happy occasion that perfectly contrasted the scene’s dark and rainy background!

The Atticus and Boo Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A rushed beginning: I’m aware there’s only so much story that can be told in an hour and thirty-six minutes. However, the first thirty-eight minutesof The Terry Fox Story was rushed. Important events that led up to the marathon were shown in short segments. It felt like these moments were bullet points within a timeline. It also seemed like the film’s creative team tried to squeeze as much of Terry’s story into the script as they realistically could. Only focusing on some of the events would have benefitted the overall project, as the movie’s flow would be even and certain parts of the story could be fleshed out more.

Terry’s bad attitude: After watching The Terry Fox Story, I read Terry’s family was not a fan of the film “for depicting him as ill-tempered”. In the movie, I saw the character of Terry giving some of the people around him a bad attitude. Toward the beginning of the marathon, Terry complains to his friend, Doug, over the smallest of things. He even calls his friend hurtful names. In the few moments when this happened, it made me briefly question why I was rooting for this character. I know this creative decision was chosen to show how humans can be flawed and have their bad days. Eventually, Terry learns from his errors and apologizes to Doug. But when a movie presents a character they want me to root for and, for any reason, that character makes me wonder why I’m rooting for them, that is not a good thing.

Unresolved or under-resolved story points: There were a few story points in The Terry Fox Story that were either unresolved or under-resolved. As I mentioned earlier, Bob and Terry shared two scenes together. The second of these two scenes left an unresolved conclusion, as Bob is never seen again for the rest of the film. The story never explains if Bob beat his cancer diagnosis or if he passed away. Before the marathon, Rika and Terry’s relationship was traveling rocky waters. It wasn’t until the one hour and fifteen-minute mark when Rika’s voice-over could be heard, indicating her and Terry’s issues were resolved. While it was nice to receive this resolution, it could have been received a lot sooner in the story.

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My overall impression:

Before watching The Terry Fox Story, I only knew the bare minimum of Terry Fox’s story. Now, I feel like I’ve been educated on one of the most important pieces of Canadian history! While there are flaws within the project, the 1983 film did a good job showcasing the human spirit on film. Heart breaking and warming moments influence how people view their world, with the movie effectively showing that. The story also reminds the audience that humans are not invincible, as they all have their own limits. Terry Fox and his marathon teaches us what we are capable of when we believe in ourselves and others. As the character of Terry said in The Terry Fox Story, “it’s about reaching out to people and having them touch you back”. Another good lesson this film teaches is how, sometimes, our best is more than enough. Terry’s single act of attempting to run across Canada helped start a conversation we’re still having decades later. Awareness for various cancers are being raised year after year and multiple organizations have joined the fight against this horrible disease. Even though there’s still more work to do done, I’d like to think Terry’s dream is closer to coming true.

Overall score: 8.1 out of 10

Have you heard of Terry Fox’s story? Which “based on a true story” movie would you like to see me write about? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here’s the link to the quote I referenced in this review:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Terry_Fox_Story