Take 3: Kingdom of Heaven Review

This is my second year participating in the Rule, Britannia Blogathon. In 2020, I reviewed the 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, a movie I ended up liking so much, I now want to read the source material. For the 8th annual event, I chose to write about another film from the 2000s; 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven. This is a movie I have heard about, but never got around to seeing. Until this blogathon, it had sat on my DVR for three years. Since the movie stars Orlando Bloom, a British actor, the Rule, Britannia Blogathon seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally check the film out. One of the few things I knew about this movie was that it had something to do with the Crusades. This is a time period I know very little about. However, this didn’t stop me from giving the film a fair chance. What did I think of this 2005 title? Keep reading if you want to find out!

Kingdom of Heaven poster created by Scott Free Productions, Inside Track, Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures GmbH, 20th Century Fox, and  Warner Bros. Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, Orlando Bloom’s involvement in this project is one of the reasons why I chose to review Kingdom of Heaven. Prior to watching the film, I had seen the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, where Orlando consistently portrayed Will Turner. While the character of Balian is similar to Will, each role is distinct. To an extent, Orlando’s performance in Kingdom of Heaven reminded me of Vincent Perez’s portrayal of Yanko from Swept from the Sea. While Balian is a masculine character, he also displayed a gentle charm. A good example is when Balian arrives in Jerusalem. He gives his prize horse to the servant of his opponent. When the servant asks why Balian would make this decision, Balian replies how he doesn’t want the horse to suffer.

In Kingdom of Heaven, Eva Green portrayed a queen named Sibylla. Despite appearing in the movie for a limited amount of time, I did enjoy watching her performance! I noticed how fluid Eva’s emotions were. This allowed her to adapt to any situation her character faced. It also helps that she was able to excel, acting wise, alongside her co-stars. Another character I wish appeared in the film more was King Baldwin IV. Portrayed by Edward Norton, this character was a leper. Therefore, he was completely covered and wore a mask. Edward’s use of body movement and expressive eyes make up for the lack of facial expressions. His approach to his role made King Baldwin IV a compelling character to watch!

The scenery: “Sword and sandal” movies are known for featuring breath-taking scenery. Kingdom of Heaven also brings beautiful scenery to the table, showcasing desert, oceanic, and forest landscapes. Toward the beginning of the movie, Balian resided in the French countryside. This area was surrounded by deep green forestry, the ground and trees lightly covered in snow. As Balian travels to Messina, the city is met with a clear, blue ocean. The hue of the water beautifully complimented the warm sandstone of the nearby buildings. While Jerusalem is in the middle of a desert, palm trees brought a pop of color to the environment. These plants helped make Jerusalem appear as an oasis.

The historical accuracy: I’m not familiar with this particular period in history. But based on the limited information I do know, the movie appeared to be historically accurate. Throughout the film, knight’s armor could be seen. Helmets, swords, and other related gear adopted an older style. Some of the swords boasted jewels, with Balian’s sword displaying a giant ruby. Even the attack towers from one of the film’s battles looked as if it came directly from the time of the Crusades. As I’ve said about other period films, details like the ones I mentioned show how much the creative team cared about the presentation of their project!

The 8th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon banner created by Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts.

What I didn’t like about film:

Sibylla’s unclear motives: During Balian’s time in Jerusalem, Sibylla becomes romantically interested in him. But she’s already married, a fact that Balian himself is aware of. Balian’s reason for going to Jerusalem was to seek forgiveness for his and his deceased wife’s sins. After meeting Sibylla, he, more often than not, doesn’t object to Sibylla’s romantic interest for him. I was left confused on what her motives were for wanting to be with Balian. At times, I wondered if Sibylla’s situation was similar to Rose’s from Titanic, simply stuck in a loveless relationship and desperately looking for a way out. Other times, I thought Sibylla was attempting to seduce Balian toward sin. I wish these motives were clarified in the script.

A limited incorporation of religion/faith: Because Kingdom of Heaven takes place around the time of the Crusades, I was expecting religion/faith to be one of the cornerstones of this story. While the topic is included in the film, its incorporation is very limited. Before watching this movie, I thought the story was going to be similar to 1959’s Ben-Hur, with the protagonist trying to live his life as a man of the people and of faith. But we never get to see Balian’s internal struggle with these responsibilities. Instead, the audience sees Balian resolve smaller non-religious conflicts which lead to a much bigger conflict. Even though people can be seen praying, there is more to religion/faith than prayer. The script relied more on who would rule Jerusalem than how religion/faith played a role within that world.

A more episodic story: When it comes to “sword and sandal” movies, there is usually an overarching conflict the characters work to resolve over the course of the story. But in Kingdom of Heaven, most of the story is episodic. As I said earlier, Balian wants to go to Jerusalem to seek forgiveness for his and his deceased wife’s sins. Once he has achieved his goal, he moves on to another conflict that is resolved within a short amount of time. This is how the story plays out for about the first half of the movie. There is a major conflict that receives a lot of attention in the film’s second half. However, it feels more like a climax than an event the characters are working towards.

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

My overall impression:

Two years ago, I reviewed 1959’s Ben-Hur, a classic “sword and sandal” film. Despite seeing it for the first time, I was over the moon by the strength of the movie’s quality. With Kingdom of Heaven, I didn’t feel the same way. Yes, the 2005 title is a fine, well-made production. But there were times I was confused as I followed along with the story. Like I mentioned in my review, Sibylla’s motives for being romantically interested in Balian were not made clear. However, this is one example of my confusion. Even though this movie was released over ten years ago, I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. But I will say that something happens toward the end of the film that left me wondering if everything the characters worked for was worth it. As someone who knows very little about the Crusades, I was hoping to use my movie viewing experience as a learning opportunity. While I did learn some information, I feel there’s far more I need to discovery. I’ve heard there is a director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven. If this information is true, maybe I’ll check it out and see which version I like more.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Kingdom of Heaven? What is your favorite “sword and sandal” film? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Elephant Man Review

Two years ago, I reviewed It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World. I chose to re-watch this movie in an attempt to give it a second chance. For the Anne Bancroft: A 90th Birthday Celebration Blogathon, I decided to do something similar with another movie. This time, the film of choice is The Elephant Man. Many years prior, I saw about ten minutes of the 1980 title.  At the time, I thought the film was boring. Upon discovering Anne starred in The Elephant Man, I thought it would give me a good excuse to re-visit this movie. It also provided a good opportunity to check out more of Anne’s filmography. So, in honor of Anne’s birthday, let’s raise the curtain on this review of The Elephant Man!

The Elephant Man poster created by Brooksfilms, Columbia-EMI-Warner Distributors, and Paramount Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When I reviewed The Picture of Dorian Gray last week, I talked about how I was disappointed to see Peter Lawford in a smaller role, as he was one of the reasons why I watched the film in the first place. Anne Bancroft’s role in The Elephant Man made me feel similarly. She is one of the reasons why I chose to review the 1980 title. Like Peter Lawford, she appeared in the film for a short amount of time. However, I did like her acting performance! Portraying a stage actress named Mrs. Kendal, she brought a brightness to the story that was greatly needed. Her kind disposition is one of the reasons why I liked her interactions with John Merrick/ “The Elephant Man”. One of my favorite scenes is when Mrs. Kendal and John are reciting Romeo and Juliet. The way these actors conversed with one another helped create a genuinely sweet moment for both characters!

Speaking of John, I also liked John Hurt’s portrayal of the titular character! When it comes to historical figures or real-life people, it can, sometimes, be difficult to picture that person existing in the same world as us. That’s because we are, at times, so far removed from these individuals. With John’s performance, it made the realization of John Merrick’s/ “The Elephant Man’s” existence come alive. With the help of elaborate makeup, John was able to transform into another person. At the same time, he was able to bring the humanity out of his character. During the movie, John Merrick/ “The Elephant Man” builds a replica of a nearby cathedral. Even though this example is a simple one, it highlights John’s personality, as well as his desire to learn and dream.

Prior to re-watching The Elephant Man, I had seen some of Anthony Hopkins’ films. Out of the films I have seen, most of Anthony’s roles were a source of fear. For example, as I talked about in my review of Audrey Rose, his character seemed to have power over the situation. That’s because he carried the answers Ivy’s parents were desperately seeking. But in The Elephant Man, his character was not a source of fear. This gave Anthony different material to work with. While portraying Dr. Frederick Treves, he came across as charming. Frederick always had his heart in the right place, going to the ends of the earth for John Merrick/ “The Elephant Man”. But there was one scene when Frederick was angry for the right reasons. In that scene, he was truly scary, from angrily yelling to pushing someone across a room. However, this incident was meant to show how one’s suffering can cause another person to react.

The use of black-and-white imagery: Because this story takes place in the Victorian era, the creative team chose to present their project in black-and-white imagery. I found this to be an interesting choice, especially since the film was created during a time when color cinematic imagery was available. Whenever illustrations or pictures from the Victorian period are shown, they are typically in black-and-white. Therefore, the imagery gave the illusion of these illustrations and pictures coming to life. This creative choice allowed the audience to be transported back to that time. To me, I found the overall project immersive, thanks in part to the black-and-white imagery!

The cinematography: Another area of interest was the movie’s cinematography! At times, the camera was positioned as if the view is from John Merrick’s/ “The Elephant Man’s” perspective. When John first goes to Frederick’s office, he stands in a corner of the room. As Frederick is entering his office, the scene is presented from John’s corner, as if John himself is holding the camera. When it came to the cinematography, creative decisions were found. As John is entering the hospital for the first time, Frederick meets him at the front desk. During this interaction, a long shot looking down on John shows him walking around the front desk. This was an interesting way of presenting this scene, shown in a way I never would have considered.

Anne Bancroft: A 90th Birthday Celebration blogathon banner created by Crystal from In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lots of establishing shots: Throughout the film, establishing shots built up to certain parts of the story. However, the abundance of these shots felt more like padding. A good example is when Frederick is on his way to see John/ “The Elephant Man” for the first time. Before Frederick arrives at his destination, scenes of him walking down streets and alleys are shown. But instead of the three or four establishing shots presented, there should have been only one. If some of these shots were cut, the movie would have a run-time of less than two hours.

Prolonging John’s/ “The Elephant Man’s” appearance: As the title suggests, The Elephant Man revolves around John Merrick/ The Elephant Man. The film is also based on an article titled The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu. With all that said, it appears the creative team tried to emphasize the idea of someone having different life experiences or medical conditions than ourselves. But instead of normalizing John’s appearance by showing him on-screen sooner, John’s presence was prolonged for the first thirty minutes of the movie. During that time, John was either shown very briefly or his appearance was hidden. One example is during a medical presentation, where only John’s shadow could be seen. Even the movie’s poster features John covered up by a mask and cape. These creative choices went against the team’s good intentions.

Missed opportunity for a mystery: While John is having tea at Frederick and Ann’s house, he mentions how he’d like to find his mother and meet her. As soon as John said this, I thought Frederick was going to solve the case. Sadly, this part of the story never came to fruition. This disappointed me because omitting this mystery felt like a missed opportunity. At the same time, I can understand why this mystery was, simply, a passing comment. As I mentioned before, The Elephant Man revolves around the true story of John Merrick/ The Elephant Man. If little to no information is known about his mother, then it wouldn’t be faithful to make up details for the sake of intrigue.

Theater seats image created by weatherbox at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/weatherbox.”

My overall impression:

In The Elephant Man, Mrs. Kendal tells John “the theater is the most beautiful place”. While the theater, both on screen and stage, can be beautiful, it can also be quite ugly. Throughout the 1980 film, the script presents both ugly and beautiful moments in John’s life. The story is told in a way that I’d refer to as a “slow burn”. Even though this movie is based on a true story, it is a character driven narrative. It is also presented in an interesting way. I’m glad I gave this film a second chance! Because of my choice, I got to see familiar actors take on different roles. I also got to see more films from the 1980s. Looking back, I realize both films I re-visited, The Elephant Man and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, were because I reviewed them for a blogathon. It will be interesting to see what film I plan to re-visit next.

Overall score: 7.4-7.5 out of 10

Have you seen The Elephant Man? Did you re-visit a film recently? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Plymouth Adventure Review

When I participated in the Fourth Van Johnson Blogathon last year, I reviewed the three episodes of Murder, She Wrote Van appeared in. For this year’s blogathon, I wanted to do something different by writing about one of his films. While looking through my Pinterest board of movie recommendations, I was reminded of the 1952 movie, Plymouth Adventure. This film was introduced to me by the Brannan sisters from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, when they reviewed the movie during my blogathon, ‘A Blogathon to be Thankful For’. The Mayflower journey is one of the most important events in U.S. history. However, it is rarely covered in cinema. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to check this film out! I also liked reading what the Brannan sisters had to say about Plymouth Adventure. Therefore, I was curious to see if my opinion was similar to theirs.

Plymouth Adventure poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The blogathon I am participating in celebrates the filmography of Van Johnson. So, talking about his performance first makes sense. What I liked about Van’s portrayal of a carpenter named John Alden was how his emotions represented the audience, expressing the thoughts and feelings we might experience if we were in his shoes. The moment John boards the Mayflower provides a perfect example. As he is walking around the deck, he is in awe of the ship’s magnitude. When he crosses paths with Spencer Tracy’s character, Captain Christopher Jones, John distinguishes himself from the other passengers as a carpenter, wanting to stand out for his skills and talents. Van’s on-screen personality highlights this distinction among the film’s ensemble!

My favorite character in Plymouth Adventure is Gilbert Winslow, portrayed by John Dehner. John carried his character with class and wisdom, like a true sophisticated gentleman. These characteristics are highlighted well in a scene between Gilbert and Christopher. In this scene, they are discussing the settlers’ reasons for partaking in the journey. Christopher feels they are foolish for throwing their lives away for the unknown. But Gilbert respectfully rebuts that argument by saying the settlers are brave because they sacrificed so much in order to achieve a better, more free life. Dawn Addams portrayed one of these settlers, a woman named Priscilla Mullins. While she was only in the movie for a limited amount of time, Priscilla brought a kind gentleness to the story. This presented a good counterpart to the harshness of the journey itself. I also liked seeing Dawn and Van perform together! They had nice on-screen chemistry and I was interested in seeing where Priscilla and John’s relationship would go. I was not expecting a romance in this film, so that was a pleasant surprise!

The use of color in the costumes: When I think about the 1600s, I think of articles of clothing that look plain and unimpressive. Outfits made for royal family members are an exception, as they were meant to stand-out among a sea of commoners. In Plymouth Adventure, I was happy to see pops of color in the film’s costumes! It was also interesting to see which colors were used. As I mentioned before, Gilbert Winslow is my favorite character in this movie. Throughout the story, he wore an outfit that was covered in an emerald green material. That creative decision not only helped John stand out among the ensemble cast, but the costume itself also complimented his dark hair. Noel Drayton’s costume also complimented his hair! Because his hair is a lighter hue, his costume was a nice burnt orange. Because of this creative choice, I can remember who Miles Standish, Noel Drayton’s character, was, as I am able to pick him out from the crowd. During the Mayflower journey, Priscilla can be seen wearing a simple, yet modest dress. This dress was pink and light yellow, a color combination I liked seeing. Dawn’s costume contrasted nicely against the dark waters from the ocean. It also highlights the character’s kind gentleness.

Showing the journey’s reality: When a movie portrays a historical event or period in time, the serious parts of that story can sometimes get glossed over or even omitted. With Plymouth Adventure, the creative team didn’t shy away from bringing up the harsher, sadder realities of that titular trip. During the journey, the Mayflower is caught in the middle of a storm. One of the settlers fears her son might have gone onto the deck. In an attempt to rescue him, William Bradford makes the selfless choice to find the settler’s son. I won’t spoil the movie, but I will say, at one point, I didn’t think William was going to survive his mission. That scene did a good job highlighting the fear that was constantly present on the Mayflower. History will tell you that the Mayflower journey was a harsh one, with sickness, hunger, and even death boarding the famous ship. So, I appreciate the creative team’s attempts at making the story feel as accurate as possible.

The Fifth Annual Van Johnson Blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

Not enough character development: When a movie’s creative team contains an ensemble cast, it can be a challenge to give each actor or actress involved the recognition they deserve. But with Plymouth Adventure, the screen time each actor received felt inconsistent. This caused the story’s character development to be limited. When Gilbert was first introduced, I was excited to see what his role on the Mayflower would be. Even during his conversation with Christopher about the settlers, I knew Gilbert was important in some way. But as the film went on, he was reduced to being the story’s narrator. These narrations were presented as journal entries, as if he were recording the journey’s history. I’m not denying the importance of keeping historical records. However, I was expecting more for Gilbert Winslow.

How the settlers were referenced: At the beginning of the film, there was an on-screen message which stated Plymouth Adventure was dedicated to the adventurous settlers. As I was watching the movie, I questioned how honest that message was. The settlers in the story were referenced as “fools”. Their motives for taking the trip were constantly in question, even by the ship’s captain. Despite having supporters on their side, like Gilbert Winslow and William Brewster, the settlers faced more disrespect than I expected. Even Christopher Jones accused the settlers of running away in fear from their government, when, from what I remember, they were running to a place where they felt they could create a better government. I’m aware that the settlers probably did face criticism back when the Mayflower journey actually took place. But in the context of the movie and how the Mayflower journey actually played out, that aforementioned message kind of feels disingenuous.

Christopher and Dorothy’s relationship: Because the Mayflower journey was long and grueling, it makes sense for the film’s creative team to create subplots within the script. But out of everything that happened in this movie, Christopher and Dorothy’s relationship is my least favorite. There was one scene where, after a drunken escapade, Christopher approaches Dorothy in the middle of the night. I’m not going to lie, this exchange made me feel uncomfortable. As the story progresses, we learn that Christopher has fallen in love with Dorothy. However, Dorothy is married to William Bradford. Once again, I won’t spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. But, honestly, that subplot was scandalous for a Breen Code era film. I also wish some of that story time had been given to Priscilla and John, a couple who actually had potential to form a lasting, romantic relationship.

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.

My overall impression:

Blogathons can be a great way to discover new films and share the ones you love. From my event, ‘A Blogathon to be Thankful For’, I discovered a movie that I had, honestly, never heard of before. With that same title being chosen for the Fifth Annual Van Johnshon Blogathon, it seems like things are coming full circle. When it comes to that title, Plymouth Adventure, I thought it was just ok. For the most part, it appears the movie’s creative team had good intentions for the project. However, I can think of period/historical films that are stronger than this one. I appreciate the creative team’s decision to show the harsher parts of this story, as it illustrates just how difficult the journey was. But there are areas of the script that could have been improved, such as giving Christopher and Dorothy a different subplot. As I finish writing this review, I now realize I need to search for another film to write about for Thanksgiving.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Take 3: Matinee Review + 220 Follower Thank You

If you’ve read my recent blog follower dedication reviews, you could tell that I’ve been trying to watch more films from my DVR. This has been a conscious decision, as there are several films that have been there for a year or more. One of those movies is Matinee, as it has been on my DVR since last February. What caused me to record it was how the movie revolved around a movie. Film is a topic that I am very passionate about. Because Matinee was about a subject I’m interested in, it gave me a reason to watch it. While looking back on the movies I’ve reviewed within the past month, I realized that the last film I talked about from the ‘90s was the 1990 adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. This is another reason why I chose Matinee for my 220-follower dedication review, as the movie was released in 1993. Before I start this review, I’d like to thank all of my followers! I’m incredibly grateful for the success this blog has achieved!

Matinee poster created by Universal Pictures. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107529/mediaviewer/rm2632269312.

Things I liked about this film:

The acting: Any time I have seen one of John Goodman’s movies, I have noticed how his character has a larger-than-life personality. Even when John was voice-acting as Sully from Monsters, Inc., that character’s personality was very jovial and memorable. When it comes to John’s performance in Matinee, Lawrence Woolsey also had a larger-than-life personality. The persona that John brought to his role was commanding, allowing the audience to focus on him whenever he came on screen. His performance was not only consistent in this film, but it also plays a consistent part in John’s acting career. It’s nice to see actors you recognize from one movie appear in another one. Omri Katz and Kellie Martin are two good examples of this. I’m familiar with Omri because of his performance in Hocus Pocus. Kellie Martin’s small-screen work is what I have seen from her filmography. Watching Omri and Kellie’s performance in Matinee was a joy to watch! They had good on-screen chemistry and both of their portrayals were convincing!

The historical accuracy: The story of Matinee takes places during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Because of this, the presentation of the film needs to reflects that moment in history. The historical accuracy in this movie was executed so well, I felt like I was transported to 1962. All of the costumes looked like the wardrobe you’d see on a typical episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Cars from that time period can be seen cruising down the street, sporting color palettes that are not often seen on today’s roads. Lawrence’s sea green convertible with matching interior is one example. Even the music set the tone for that environment. When Sherry’s ex-boyfriend, Harvey, returns to town, The Angels’ song, “My Boyfriend’s Back” is heard. Even though this song was released in 1963, the overall sound reflects the soundtrack of that period in time.

The special effects: I was not expecting the creative team behind Matinee to incorporate any special effects into their project. However, these special effects were impressive! They were mostly used during the presentation of Lawrence’s movie, Mant! At certain points in the fictional film, smoke and flashing lights could be seen. Matinee’s climax boasts even more eye-catching effects! In one scene, a section of the theater is being destroyed. During this moment, the theater rumbled as flames engulfed the background. The way these effects came together made this destruction look so real! They also looked very good for a movie released in 1993!

Relevant ideas: I was surprised to find ideas within this story that are just as relevant in 2020 as they were in the ‘90s or even the ‘60s. When Gene and Stan pass by their local grocery store, they see patrons shopping in panic. These patrons grab everything in sight, with one woman buying as much toilet paper as she can carry. While the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Coronavirus are two completely different events, both of them have caused a large group of people to panic. Toward the beginning of the Coronavirus, grocery stores were witnessing the fear their customers carried. The situation became so dire, there were reports about people fighting over toilet paper.

Theater seats image created by weatherbox at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/weatherbox.”

What I didn’t like about the film:

Under-utilized characters: I found some characters in Matinee to be under-utilized more than others. One of them was Gene’s brother, Dennis. From a historical fiction perspective, I understand that Dennis is meant to show how younger children might have responded to an event like the Cuban Missile Crisis. But from the perspective of Lawrence’s movie presentation, I asked myself why Dennis was in the story at all? This makes me wish this particular character had received his own subplot.

Weaker subplots: A few of Matinee’s subplots were either too straight-forward or didn’t lead anywhere. A perfect example involves two of Lawrence’s employees, who pose as a special interest group attempting to ban his movie. Like Dennis’ presence in Matinee, I understand that this part of the narrative contains historical context, showing how some people choose to publicly dislike something to the point of protest. But after they interact with Harvey, these employees disappeared from the film. They didn’t receive a satisfying resolution and were forgotten about as the movie progressed.

Coming soon movie image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Anyone who knows me knows that Phantom of the Megaplex is my favorite Disney Channel movie. It showed me how movies, as well as the movie-going experience, can be fun. Even though Matinee was released seven years prior, it reminded me a lot of the 2000 picture. They happen to share similar ideas, some of them beyond the subject of film. This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed Matinee so much! It was funny and, at times, clever, with relevant ideas woven into the story. The film also had solid components, like the acting and special effects. Most important is how Matinee was fun! In a year when so much has happened, movies can play a role in providing a form of escapism and making viewers feel like they can conquer something, even when events in their world are beyond their control. Before the presentation of Mant!, Lawrence explains to the theater employees why it’s important to release his movie at that given time. He tells them that, despite scary things appearing in his picture, he wants to remind his audience that everything is going to be ok. Lawrence also shares that he wants to remind his audience that his film’s villain can be defeated.

Overall score: 8.5 out of 10

Have you seen Matinee? What movies involving movies have you enjoyed watching? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: From Up on Poppy Hill Review + 200 Follower Thank You

Well, the day has finally come. 18 Cinema Lane just received 200 followers! Before I continue this post, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who helped my blog reach this milestone! I still can’t believe that, within these two years, I’ve made it this far as a blogger. For this review, I thought it would be a good idea to select a film that was requested by one of my readers. Last year, Ospreyshire, from the blog Iridium Eye Reviews, recommended the Studio Ghibli film, From Up on Poppy Hill. I chose this film to write about because I haven’t reviewed an animated movie since February. This is actually the second Studio Ghibli production I’ve discussed on 18 Cinema Lane. Last January, I reviewed Howl’s Moving Castle for the 90 Years of Jean Simmons Blogathon. While I enjoyed the movie, I found it to be weaker than the previous Studio Ghibli projects I’ve seen. Now that From Up on Poppy Hill is the fifth film from the studio I have watched, it’s time to determine how this movie holds up to other films from Studio Ghibli!

Howl’s Moving Castle poster created by Studio Ghibli, Toho, and The Walt Disney Company. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1798188/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0.

Things I liked about the film:

The animation: Over the years, Studio Ghibli has gained a reputation with their signature animation style. The 2-D presentation of each story has stood apart from the 3-D computerized technique most film studios adopted in the 21st century. One of the hallmarks of a Studio Ghibli film is the colorful palettes that are used in each production. From Up on Poppy Hill boasts bright colors throughout the story, creating spaces that appear inviting. The scenes were bright enough to be visually appealing, but not too much to the point of over-saturation. Even when a scene used darker colors, there was still a pop of color included. One example is on a rainy day, when the protagonist, Umi, is carrying a red umbrella. The movements of the characters, vehicles, and boats were smooth, which made them easy to visually follow. Characters were also expressive when it came to dealing with a variety of situations. Similar to Howl’s Moving Castle, From Up on Poppy Hill looked like priceless art!

The humor: An element I’ve noticed within Studio Ghibli’s films is their use of humor. Though From Up on Poppy Hill is a more contemporary story from other Studio Ghibli productions, the humor still fit within the world of that particular film. In one scene, one of the members of the Archeology Club tells another club member that they need to find a way to show how cool their club can be. The fellow club member simply replies with “we can’t”. Toward the beginning of the film, Shun, one of the main characters, falls into a pool of water after performing a stunt while attempting to encourage his classmates to save a local clubhouse. When Umi tries to help Shun out of the pool, their fellow classmates cheer them on as soon as she touches his hand. A great aspect of this movie’s humor is how there was enough to maintain the film’s lighted-hearted tone. At the same time, it didn’t diminish the dramatic moments that momentarily appeared in the story.

The music: While watching this film, the musical selections in From Up on Poppy Hill stood out to me. This is because they fit the tone of their given scene so perfectly! Throughout the story, Umi rises signal flags in order to help her father return home. During these scenes, dramatic piano music would play in the background. For more lighted-hearted scenes, up-beat music could be heard. One example is the movie’s very first scene, which shows Umi preparing for a typical day. Because this film took place in the early to mid-‘60s, the music sounded like it came directly from that time period. When Umi and Shun are in a hurry to reach an important destination, the instrumental tune sounded like it belonged in a program like Hawaii Five-O. All of the music in From Up on Poppy Hill effectively brought a sense of emotion to every moment within the story!

Sailing on the sea image created by Michele L at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Michele L.”

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lack of backstory for the Latin Society’s clubhouse: One of the overarching themes of From Up on Poppy Hill is honoring the past. This is one of the arguments Shun provides in his efforts to save the Latin Society’s clubhouse. There are times when this theme was incorporated into the story well. But, when it comes to the clubhouse, the history of the facility is never revealed. The only thing closest to a backstory that is given was when one of the club members says the previous residents were as messy as the current club members. This creative choice makes the club’s arguments appear weaker than necessary.

Minimal character development for some of the characters: In any film, character development is an important component. This can help the audience connect with a movie’s characters and get invested in their journey. From Up on Poppy Hill gives the majority of character development to Umi and Shun. Parental figures in Umi and Shun’s life, such as Umi’s grandmother, receive some character development. The rest of the characters receive minimal character development, making it difficult to truly get to know them. One example is Sora, Umi’s sister. While watching this film, I became familiar with her as the story progressed. However, when it comes to learning more about Sora, there was more to be desired.

Drawn out scenes: There were a few scenes in From Up on Poppy Hill that were drawn out longer than they needed to be. A perfect example is when Shun’s father is sharing information about his son’s past. I liked learning more about Shun’s backstory. But it was paired with moments of silent pauses that were a little too long. Had these pauses been shorter, this scene might have helped the film shave off some of the run-time.

Skyline of Yokohama, Japan image created by Lifeforstock at freepik.com. Travel photo created by lifeforstock – www.freepik.com. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When I saw From Up on Poppy Hill, there were mentions of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The 1964 Olympics was included in the discussion, not the now postponed 2020 Olympics like I originally thought. The fact this event would be mentioned at all was very interesting. The Olympics are steeped in history, spanning many decades and involving many international parties. As I mentioned in my review, one of the overarching themes of this movie is honoring the past. In the story, history is presented in many forms. Some are embodied as large-scale events, like the Olympics. Others are formed in the relationships we share. From Up on Poppy Hill intelligently and creatively shows its audience how important history is in our lives and our world. As a movie blogger, I recognize how history has made or broken the world of film. But this entry from Studio Ghibli’s collection handles the idea of history with relatability and respect. People from any part of the world can understand the messages presented and maybe take away a small piece of the story and apply it to their own lives. From Up on Poppy Hill is one of the studio’s stronger projects that I am grateful to have seen. A huge thanks goes to Ospreyshire for bringing this film to my attention.

Overall score: 8.3 out of 10

Have you seen Studio Ghibli’s films? Which movie would you like to see me review next? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek Review

It’s no secret that my Hallmark Movies & Mysteries related content is some of the most popular on 18 Cinema Lane. My review of Hailey Dean Mysteries: A Will to Kill has acquired over 1,000 views, making it the most popular movie I’ve ever written about! In recent days, my Aurora Teagarden reviews have garnered a large number of views. Because I was planning on talking about the newest film from this series, these viewership numbers gave me a greater reason to review Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek! In a Word on the Street story from two months ago, I discussed the likelihood of this film being removed from Hallmark’s schedule due to unfinished post-production work. While this work was eventually completed, the film moved from its original release date in April to May 17th. Despite this date change, I’m thankful this movie was able to premiere at all. Because the Coronavirus has prevented Hallmark from creating new content, I appreciate the network’s attempts to adapt to the current situation.

Aurora Teagarden Mysteries -- Heist and Seek poster
Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek poster created by Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Crown Media Family Networks. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=143&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=307&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Aurora+Teagarden+Mysteries+Heist+and+Seek.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: A consistent strength I’ve noticed in the series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is the quality of the acting performances! Specifically in the Aurora Teagarden series, the acting has always been a highlight! Because most of the starring cast has appeared in more than one film, it allows the actors and actresses to become comfortable in that role and help their character adapt to a particular story. One of these actors is Dylan Sloane, who portrays Aurora’s relative, Phillip. Whenever he appeared on screen, Dylan always seemed at ease in his role. With a believable performance, Dylan’s portrayal made it easier for the audience to focus on how Phillip would contribute to the mystery. Newer additions to the cast also gave memorable performances, as two standouts came from Oliver Rice and Brendon Zub! I recognize Oliver from Chesapeake Shores. Since he has had a recurring presence on that show, his role as James gave him the opportunity to adapt to a variety of situations. After seeing his performance in this film, it makes me wish Hallmark would give him a lead role. As for Brendon, I liked what he brought to his role! His character, Eric, had a good persona and fit in well with the pre-established cast of characters. I’d like to see Brendon appear in more Hallmark films!

 

The inclusion of history: When it comes to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ films, history is not often included in the story. This is because most of the stories focus on the current situations going on in a specific location. Since Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek incorporated Elizabethan history into their script, a unique identity was given to that film. It also made the project somewhat educational. Personally, I know a limited amount of information on the Elizabethan era. After hearing the explanation behind “Leicester’s Gift”, I feel like I gained more knowledge about Queen Elizabeth. While this movie doesn’t replace a history lesson, it at least starts the conversation.

 

The absence of the “don’t-get-involved” cliché: There have been times in the Aurora Teagarden series where Aurora is told to not get involved in a case. She is even told this after she had successfully solved more than one mystery. In the series’ thirteenth movie, I’m glad the creative team chose to not include the “don’t-get-involved” cliché! While Lynn tells her not to get in the police’s way, Aurora is never told not to solve the mystery. In fact, there is one scene where Aurora encourages her mom to continue being the voice of reason in her life. This was such a great subversion of expectations, as it gives Aurora freedom to solve the mystery but has someone in her corner to hold her accountable. This creative choice allowed Aurora to be recognized as the intelligent yet imperfect woman that she is!

114885-OOYJTA-978
Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Nick’s engagement proposal: In the trailers for this movie, Nick’s attempts of proposing to Aurora were heavily emphasized. This part of the story, in the film’s marketing, was highlighted more than the plot. Personally, I think this was a creative mistake. It didn’t play as large of a role in the story as I expected. But, because it was shown in the advertising, Nick’s proposal attempts felt predictable. As soon as it was introduced in the film, I correctly predicted the outcome. The proposal’s resolution also felt predictable.

 

A limited amount of suspense: Suspense has a consistent presence in the mystery series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. However, some movies contain less suspense than others. This is certainly the case for Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek. While watching the movie, I noticed how the suspense was used sparingly. In my opinion, I like seeing a healthy amount of suspense in a mystery film. It helps the film maintain a good pace and it creates higher stakes for the story. Since this installment of the Aurora Teagarden series adopted less suspense, it almost gave the story lower stakes than usual. It also felt like the overall level of urgency was on the lower end of the spectrum.

 

Under-utilized clues: In my review of Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, I talked about how the clues were found in the spoken dialogue of the suspects. This was a unique creative choice that worked for that film. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek chose to incorporate physical clues as well as the perspectives of the suspects. Unfortunately, the script provided an imbalance between these perspectives and the clues. This caused the suspects’ perspectives to be given more attention than the clues. The majority of the clues consisted of paper, which created a lack of variety to the types of clues that were found. If the creative team knew how the clues were being under-utilized, they should have placed the clues within the dialogue like Mystery 101: An Education in Murder.

21-150-01
Magnifying fingerprints image created by Balintseby at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Balintseby – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/fingerprint-investigation_789253.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, the Aurora Teagarden series is one of the strongest movie series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. There are movies in this series that are better than others, but I have yet to see a movie that is bad. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek was a likable addition to the series. The inclusion of history gave the project its own identity and the story subverted expectations from a familiar cliché. However, I feel there are movies that are stronger than this one. This chapter in the Aurora Teagarden story was not as suspenseful as other installments. Even though Nick proposing to Aurora progresses the overarching plot forward, it ended up being predictable because of the marketing campaign. Based on the title for the next movie, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and It Feels So Deadly, I’m wondering if Yannick Bisson’s character, Martin, makes an appearance? If Martin returns, that would provide an interesting dynamic as Aurora plans her wedding.

 

Overall score: 7.3-7.4 out of 10

 

Have you seen the newest Aurora Teagarden movie? What do you think the next film will be about? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Au revoir les enfants Review + 165 & 170 Follower Thank You

At the beginning of the month, my blog received 165 followers! While I was figuring out which movie I would review, I was creating a new blogging schedule for myself. Several days ago, 18 Cinema Lane received its 170th follower! So, for this blog follower dedication review, I decided to write about one movie while acknowledging both milestones. I chose to talk about a French film called Au revoir les enfants! Foreign films are rarely talked about when it comes to these specific reviews. In fact, the first one I discussed was Vampyr last October. Au revoir les enfants has also been on my DVR since last February. So, I thought these reasons would be a good excuse to finally watch this film! While Vampyr is a French and German production, I have reviewed a French film on this blog before. For Clean Movie Month, I talked about the 1950 project, Les Enfants Terribles. Will my thoughts on Au revoir les enfants be similar to those on the aforementioned French film I reviewed last year? You’ll just have to read this post if you want to find the answer!

20200111_230227[1]
I chose to use this poster for the review because it verifies that I, indeed, watched this film. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Movies that have young actors make up the majority of the cast can be hit-or-miss. In the case of Au revoir les enfants, this aspect worked in the film’s favor! All of the young actors were not only allowed to act their age, but they were able to work alongside other actors within their age group. This made their performances feel genuine and realistic. Speaking of realism, I noticed that all of the character portrayals and the situations showcased in the movie appeared like it came directly from real-life. It gave these elements a sense of authenticity. Because this film is based on a true story, the creative team’s focus on making the characters and situations look and feel believable seemed to be taken very seriously.

The historical accuracy: This film takes place in early 1944. Because of this, all of the material elements of the project looked like it came directly from that period in time. The wardrobe of all the characters feature articles of clothing that one would likely find within the mid ‘40s. The architecture of the boarding school shows off the preserved interior and exterior style from an era gone by. Even the finer details of the picture, such as the books, feel like relics of that specific year. While watching this film, I noticed the way the characters spoke also reflected the time period. Whenever subjects related to World War II were brought up, it was done in a very subtle way. Even though this was a period film, I never felt like I was being talked down to or like the movie was treating itself like a history lesson. If anything, I felt like I was watching a moment in time.

The presentation of the subtitles: How the subtitles are presented in foreign films is very important. If they can be seen clearly, it allows the audience to better understand what the characters are saying. I liked how the subtitles were showcased in Au revoir les enfants! While all of the text was white, it was presented against backgrounds that were dark in hue. The very first scene in the movie is a great example of this. The station and train itself adopted colors of black and gray. None of the characters in this scene wore bright colors. Because of this creative decision, I never had a difficult time reading the subtitles.

491032-PH3FVI-159
Hanukkah mehorah image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/mehorah-with-flaming-candles_3299423.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like the film:

A weak plot: The more movies I watch, the more I realize that “slice of life” stories aren’t my thing. That’s because I don’t find them to be as intriguing as other cinematic stories. That’s what the majority of Au revoir les enfants is: a “slice of life” story. To me, it didn’t contain as much interest as it could have. It felt like the screenwriter put so much emphasis on the premise of Julien and Jean’s relationship, that there was nothing else to offer in the narrative.

A somewhat mis-leading premise: In the synopsis I read for this movie, it said the film was about a Catholic boy and a Jewish boy becoming friends during World War II. However, the friendship aspect of their relationship isn’t portrayed until about the last twenty minutes of the film. Julien and Jean spend most of the movie apart than together. In fact, Julien starts off not liking Jean as a person. Julien does become nicer to Jean as the film progresses. When this does happen, it just makes them seem like acquaintances more than anything.

Situations being shown, but not explained: Throughout Au revoir les enfants, there are situations shown on screen that aren’t given explanations. One example is when Julien pokes his hand with a compass. As he is doing this, he tells the classmate sitting next to him how it doesn’t hurt. Not only was this action never explained, but it’s never referenced again in the movie. Julien’s action didn’t seem to serve a purpose for his character development or the overall narrative. Moments like this one happened at several times in the film and I found myself being frustrating by them.

3 paris
Illustration of Paris, France created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/travel”>Travel vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my final thoughts on this film, I want to thank each and every one of the followers! 18 Cinema Lane would not be the success it is today without you. Now, on to my overall impression of Au revoir les enfants! Personally, I thought it was just ok. The movie does have merits that are earned, as well as a plot twist that works. But the overall project could have been stronger. As I mentioned in my review, Au revoir les enfants is based on a true story. It felt like the creative team approached the narrative as respectfully as possible. Because the creation of the movie was handled with a sense of reverence, it allowed the film to have the emotional weight it contained. The realism of the acting and writing gave me a reason to stay invested in what the characters were saying and doing. I’m not often given opportunities to watch and review French films. However, I’m glad I chose this movie for my latest blog follower dedication review!

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

What are your thoughts on my review? Are there any French films you’d like to see me review? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Newton Boys Review + 20 Follower Thank You

In late August, I achieved the accomplishment of receiving 20 followers on my blog! Because some of my recent posts have taken me longer to write and publish than expected, I apologize for the delay in releasing this post. I put a lot of thought into which film I would review for this blog follower dedication post. After looking at and thinking about all of my available options, I decided to go back to the well of talking about a movie that is based on a true story; The Newton Boys. When I started creating these blog follower dedication posts, the movie I reviewed when I received 5 followers was Saving Mr. Banks, a film that is based on the true story of how the Mary Poppins film came into existence. For The Newton Boys, however, this movie is not heart-felt like the aforementioned movie. It explores the relationship of the Newton brothers and how they turned to a life of crime. Before choosing this movie for my 20 follower dedication post, I had never heard of The Newton Boys or the true story behind it. Because this movie seems to be overshadowed by other movies from 1998, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give The Newton Boys the “standing ovation” it deserves. So, as I start this review of The Newton Boys, I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of my 20 followers on 18 Cinema Lane! I would not have been able to reach this milestone without you!

The Newton Boys poster
The Newton Boys poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Newtonboysposter.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The cast of The Newton Boys was superb! Every actor that portrayed a character with an accent pulled it off very well, adding believability to their characters! Before watching The Newton Boys, I had seen a few of Matthew McConaughey’s films, including How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Fool’s Gold. However, The Newton Boys is the film that made me appreciate Matthew’s acting abilities, impressed by how he can, successfully, pull off a performance in both light-hearted romantic-comedies and dramatic historical/period films. I was also impressed with Julianna Margulies’ portrayal of Louise Brown! Julianna packed so much versatility and emotion into her performance, that it truly made her on-screen presence very memorable!

 

The atmosphere: This film takes place between 1919 and 1924. The world that this particular film created was immersive, with every aspect of this film looking and feeling like that time period. The level of detail the creative team behind this movie took in order to make The Newton Boys look and feel authentic was great! From the music to an old-fashioned calculator, even to the beginning introduction of the film itself, everything about this movie adds to the believability of this story!

 

The on-screen camaraderie: As I mentioned in the introduction for my review of The Newton Boys, this movie is about the Newton brothers and how they turned to a life of crime. All of the actors portraying the brothers (Matthew McConaughey, Skeet Ulrich, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio) displayed an on-screen camaraderie that made their characters appear like they truly got along with one another. The bond between these brothers came across in this movie very believably, making this bond feel genuine. In this movie, the relationship between these brothers adds to the overall story.

115101-OP45RF-205
Railway Train image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-train-retro-background_1112415.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.

What I didn’t like about this film:

The dialect: Because the Newton brothers were from Texas, most of the characters in this movie spoken with a Southern/Texan dialect. Since I’m not used to hearing characters speak with this particular dialect, it was difficult, at times, to understand what the characters were saying. For me, hearing this dialect did take some getting used to. However, the dialogue in The Newton Boys can be understood.

 

The sound editing: Throughout this movie, the music and background sounds were louder than the dialogue. This means that every time a character spoke, I found myself turning the volume up on my television. Whenever there was background sounds or music playing, I turned the volume on my TV down.

 

The run-time: The Newton Boys is a 2 hour and 2-minute film. While watching this movie, I noticed there were scenes in this film that felt like they were incorporated in the movie for the sake of filling in this run-time. Because there are about less than 10 robberies featured in this movie, I think The Newton Boys could have been a 1 hour to 40 or 50-minute film.

101994-OM0XMB-226
Money image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/bills-and-coins-in-isometric-design_1065328.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business”>Business vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Like I said in the introduction, I was not aware of the Newton brothers’ story or this film before I decided to write this blog follower dedication post. Now that I have seen The Newton Boys, I can honestly say that I was not only entertained by this movie, I was also educated by it as well! This movie made me feel like I was engaging in a history lesson without having to worry about homework or passing an exam. To me, this was two hours well spent! If you are a fan of movies that are based on true stories or historical/period films, I would definitely recommend The Newton Boys, as I feel this movie did this story justice! Once again, thank you to my followers and readers on 18 Cinema Lane. I look forward to seeing what other movies I’ll review as I keep dedicating these reviews to you.

 

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

 

What is your favorite movie from 1998? What movies based on a true story do you like? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen