Like I said in my list of the worst movies I saw in 2021, this year is a little different. Since 2018, most of the movies on my best list have been those I have reviewed. But a few titles on those lists weren’t covered on my blog. 2021 is the first year where every film on my best list has been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane! It should also be noted how each of these titles were either blogathon entries or Blog Follower Dedication Reviews. Therefore, I will include a link to each of these reviews on my list! As I said in my worst movies of 2021 list, I saw several films this year that I liked. This article is reflective of those feelings. But unlike my aforementioned list, there will be Honorable Mentions. So, with that said, let’s end 2021 on a high note with the top ten best movies I saw in 2021!
Cape Fear (1962), Bathing Beauty, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part, Elizabeth Is Missing, and The Girl Who Spelled Freedom
10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series is a newer story that began last year. Despite how young this series is, it has grown over the course of four movies! This chapter not only recognizes its strengths, but also improves on some of the previous movies’ mistakes. Giving equal focus to the main and side mysteries is one example. Speaking of the mysteries, the overarching story was intriguing and engaging. There were even new characters added to this film I wanted to know more about. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff’s story didn’t receive a lot of development. With this and everything else said, I hope this series continues in 2022!
In my three (soon to be four) years of movie blogging, I never thought I’d ever see any version of A Star Is Born. But now that I have seen the original from the ‘30s, I can honestly say it was better than I expected! The story’s honesty about the entertainment industry and maturity toward heavier subjects was such a surprise. What was also a surprise was the use of mixed-media throughout the film, as it was ahead of its time. Even though A Star Is Born was released toward the beginning of the Breen Code era, it highlights the quality storytelling that came from this period in time. With the constant changes in the entertainment landscape, as well as technology, I can kind of see why this story has been remade on more than one occasion.
In 2021, there is at least one movie from the ‘50s on my best and worst movies list. But since I already talked about I Dream of Jeanie and The Trap, it’s time for The King and I to shine! This was the first time I had seen this version of the story in its entirety. Despite that, I found the film to be quite enjoyable! It is a good looking and sounding film, with the costume design, musical numbers, and set design building an aesthetically pleasing picture. The most memorable part of the movie was Tuptim’s interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin! As I said in my review, it served as a good example of how everyone can view a text differently. The scene itself was more interesting than I expected.
Because Hallmark creates so many Christmas movies, it can sometimes feel like they blend together. However, that is not the case for Holly and Ivy! What helps this title stand out is showing realistic characters dealing with realistic situations. This is quite different from those Hallmark pictures where the conflict either revolves around returning to a small town, saving a beloved establishment, or planning a major event. The emotional balance within this story added to my enjoyment of the picture. It never felt like the creative team was trying to emotionally manipulate me or force a reaction out of me. Looking back on the few Christmas films I reviewed this year, I can say with all honesty that Holly and Ivy was the best one!
In my opinion, Rigoletto is to Beauty and the Beast what Ever After: A Cinderella Story was for Cinderella. What I mean by this is Rigoletto does an effective job at executing a non-magical version of Beauty and the Beast! Even though there have been musical versions of this particular story, such as the 1991 animated production from Disney, the 1993 film chose music as one of the story’s themes. This was an interesting choice, as it showed the audience the talent and skill it takes to be a good singer. Another interesting choice was the story taking place during The Great Depression. As I said in my review, this creative decision helped the film achieve its own identity.
This is the first year an UP Network movie has appeared on any of my best lists! While Sincerely, Yours, Truly does contain a similar story to those found on Hallmark Channel, it makes up of that in genuineness and sincerity. The movie also presented interesting ideas, such as a grant proposal process and avoiding the “it’s not what you think” cliché. The on-screen chemistry and witty banter between the lead actor and actress definitely added to my enjoyment of this film! I don’t know what’s in store for UP Network in 2022. But I hope they continue to release quality productions like Sincerely, Yours, Truly!
4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
This entry in the Perry Mason movie series is one of the most memorable titles! One of the reasons why was the titular talk show host. Featuring real life talk show hosts in this story was a good idea. Having them portray talk show hosts on the radio was an even better idea, especially since some of those hosts had their own television show. That creative decision gave them new material to work with. The engaging nature of the mystery, where the outcome unfolds as the story goes on, maintained a steady amount of intrigue. This served as another way Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host stood out in the mystery genre!
Over the years, I have enjoyed finding and watching Hallmark Hall of Fame movies from years, even decades past. Sometimes, there are hidden gems that can be discovered. 1998’s The Love Letter is one of those gems! Unlike Chasing Leprechauns, the creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame title found a way to allow the realistic and whimsical aspects of the story to co-exist. In fact, the whimsical part of the movie is what made the project one of the most unique in Hallmark Hall of Fame history! The film does contain the elements you’d usually find in a production of this nature, such as historical accuracy. But that just adds to the strength of The Love Letter!
Isn’t it interesting how another Gene Kelly movie made it to my best list’s top three? Despite the weird coincidence, I did enjoy this version of The Three Musketeers! There was so much about this project I liked, from the strength of the ensemble cast to the stellar fight choreography. However, the best part of the film was how much detail went into it. This can be seen in the set design and costumes, where research and care are also reflected. While I still haven’t gotten around to reading the novel this movie is based on, The Three Musketeers was definitely an entertaining story!
When it comes to the world of cinema, nothing beats the classics! The timelessness of 1984’s The Karate Kid allows the film to have a strong rate of re-watchability. The film’s story also contained ideas and messages that caused me to think, which is not something I’d expect from a sports movie. As I write this list, Mr. Miyagi’s words immediately come to mind. Whether it’s the famous “Wax on, Wax off” quote or his wisdom about karate, these words not only help The Karate Kid remain a memorable picture, but also give the audience something to apply to their lives. Add some exciting karate sequences and you have a solid film that has stood the test of time!
Now that I’ve seen 1984’s The Karate Kid, it’s time for me to review its respective sequel; The Karate Kid Part II! Long before I even thought about starting a movie blog, I had only seen a snippet of this film. Like I said before, I am willing to give a chance to movies I haven’t watched in their entirety. Because of that and because the majority of The Karate Kid Part II takes place in Japan, which has hosted the Olympics four times, my blogathon became a good excuse for checking this sequel out! Sequels, like any type of film, can be hit or miss. There are times when the next chapter can allow the overall story to “go the distance”; expanding the narrative and bringing something new to the table. Meanwhile, there are sequels that waste their potential by trying to recapture the magic of the previous installment. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the creative team and their intention for creating another film. If you want to know what type of sequel The Karate Kid Part II is, you’ll just have to keep reading this review!
Things I liked about the film:
More focus on Mr. Miyagi: The first film was about Daniel’s personal journey; hence the film being titled The Karate Kid. While the majority of the movie revolved around the protagonist, we get to learn about Mr. Miyagi through his interactions with Daniel. But only parts of Mr. Miyagi’s backstory are revealed in these interactions. The Karate Kid Part II places more emphasis on Mr. Miyagi’s story. As I mentioned in the introduction, the sequel takes place in Japan, where Mr. Miyagi is originally from. However, the audience also witnesses people from Mr. Miyagi’s past interacting with him. The reason for the sequel primarily taking place in Japan is because Mr. Miyagi receives a letter from his former love interest, Yukie, about his father’s ill-health. By crossing paths with Yukie again, Mr. Miyagi is given the opportunity to reflect on past life choices. He also has to deal with the ramifications those choices had created. This new direction in the overall story shows that even though Mr. Miyagi is a good teacher with plenty of wisdom to share, he is still a human who, like Daniel, is constantly learning.
Interactions among the characters: In my review for The Karate Kid, I talked about how the interactions among the characters were one of the strongest parts of that film. The sequel has the same strength as its predecessor, which provides consistency to the overall story! Having Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita reprise their roles helps maintain this consistency, as both actors are now familiar with each other’s talents. One of the strongest scenes in the movie is when Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are watching the sunset on the beach. In this moment, we not only learn more about Daniel, but we get to see him support his mentor and friend. The Karate Kid Part II shows Daniel having grown up since the events of the first film. Even though Daniel is still a teenager with a teenage perspective, he is more willing to put others before himself, as well as open his mind to new opportunities and experiences. Right as Mr. Miyagi boards his plane, Daniel joins him in the plane terminal. The reason why he wants to join Mr. Miyagi on this trip is because he wants to be there for his friend and mentor, especially since that friend and mentor has been there for Daniel. Not only does Daniel purchase a book about the specific place in Japan where Mr. Miyagi is from, but Daniel also uses some of the money from his savings account to pay for his ticket. Like I said in my review for the first movie, interactions like Mr. Miyagi and Daniel’s were made possible by the quality of the acting performances and the screenwriting!
The scenery: Although most of The Karate Kid Part II takes place in Japan, the movie was actually filmed in Oahu, Hawaii. Despite this change in location, the scenery was simply beautiful! Because Okinawa is presented in the film as a seaside town, there are several shots of the water that are featured. As I previously mentioned, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel are watching the sunset on the beach. Parts of this scene are shown through long shots, capturing the sun’s soft orange glow against the gray of the sky and water. In my review of the first installment, I talked about how one scene transitioned from a medium to a long shot, in an effort to showcase a part of the Grand Canyon. A scene where Daniel is practicing a breathing technique on a dock uses a similar transition. However, instead of starting with a medium shot, it begins with a close-up of Daniel. It then evolves into a long shot of the ocean, with clear blue water surrounding the dock and green palm trees found in the background.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A limited presence of Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship: Before watching The Karate Kid Part II, I was interested in seeing how Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship differed from his relationship with Ali. Even though I liked seeing Ali and Daniel together, I can see why their relationship didn’t survive past the first film. Daniel and Kumiko were a nice couple. It also helps that Ralph and Tamlyn Tomita had really good on-screen chemistry. But Daniel and Kumiko’s relationship was shown less than Ali and Daniel’s relationship. Because of this, it caused their relationship to feel rushed. In one scene, when Daniel is getting into Kumiko’s car, Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” is playing on the radio. This is not only the film’s official song, but the song’s official music video heavily emphasizes Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship. Anyone who has heard “Glory of Love” would agree that it is better suited as a “wedding song”. Having this piece of music surround a teenage couple that has known each other for about less than three months feels a bit misleading. Also, The Karate Kid is a trilogy, followed by the television show, Cobra Kai. If the third movie and/or TV show is anything like the beginning of the second film, “this could all end in tears” (Bartok’s (from 1997’s Anastasia) words, not mine).
Karate fight sequences being used sparingly: One of the flaws of the first movie was how the karate fight sequences had a limited presence in the overall story. In The Karate Kid Part II, there are even less karate fight sequences. With a movie called The Karate Kid, you expect a certain amount of karate to be featured in the film. While both movies are not action oriented, fight sequences can add excitement to the overall story. Fighting was primarily avoided in The Karate Kid Part II, as both Mr. Miyagi and Daniel try to find other ways to resolve their issues. This was one of the central themes of the narrative: exploring other problem-solving avenues before using fighting as a last resort. However, karate is the heart of this series. When you choose to show only a handful of fight sequences, you have little exciting material to work with.
No satisfying resolutions for parts of the story: In The Karate Kid Part II, there were a few parts of the story that were not consistently told within the overall film. Because of this, I feel their resolutions were not satisfying. While taking a trip through town, Kumiko reveals to Daniel that she dreams of becoming a dancer. However, the type of dancing she’s interested in is not taught in Okinawa. Toward the end of the film, Kumiko tells Daniel that she plans on going to the United States in order to pursue her dream. But this resolution feels kind of random. There is no lead up to the resolution itself. Daniel also doesn’t provide any advice to Kumiko in regards to her personal dilemma. For this part of the story, the journey from Point A to Point B was missing.
My overall impression:
The Karate Kid Part II is a fine film. But I don’t think the script was as tight as it was the first time around. I like how the story focused on Mr. Miyagi, as it offered new story-telling opportunities. But, to a degree, it came at the expense of Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship, as it was shown for a limited amount of time. If Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” had revolved around Mr. Miyagi and Yukie’s relationship, it would have made more sense. Not only is The Karate Kid Part II primarily Mr. Miyagi’s story, but he and Yukie have history together. While the theme of using fighting as a last resort is important, it prevented the movie from featuring more karate fight sequences than the previous film. As I’ve stated before on my blog, a movie’s title partially serves as a promise to the audience. With The Karate Kid Part II, I can’t say this promise was completely broken. This is because, according to Mr. Miyagi, karate should be used in self-defense only, emphasizing how karate consists of more than just fight sequences. But when a movie features any form of marital art, people, more often than not, come for the cool-looking and exciting fight sequences. I appreciate how this film wasn’t just a carbon copy of its predecessor. It shows the creative team put legitimate thought and care into their project. If you enjoyed the first film, I’d say give its second chapter a chance. Even though there are stronger sequels out there, The Karate Kid Part II is certainly not one of the worst.
Overall score: 7.3 out of 10
Have you seen The Karate Kid Part II? Are there any sequels you are a fan of? Please tell me in the comment section!
For my first two blogathons, I wrote editorials as my contribution for the event. These articles were ‘Phantom of the Megaplex’ at 20: A Reflection on the Movie-Going Experience and Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbooks: How Relevant are They Anyway? This time around, I wanted to do something different. Therefore, I chose to write a double feature review! Because this year’s blogathon is Olympic themed, I selected The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid Part II. In 1984, the Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles. The Karate Kid not only takes place in California, but it was also released in 1984. Years ago, I had seen about half of this movie. As I said in my review for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, I am willing to give films a second chance if I haven’t finished them or haven’t watched them in several years. It’sbeen a long while since I have seen The Karate Kid, so I thought my blogathon would provide a good excuse to revisit it.
Things I liked about the film:
The interactions among the characters: In stories that heavily rely on the relationships between various characters, how well-acted those characters are and the quality of their interactions will make or break that story. With The Karate Kid, these interactions served as one of the strongest parts of the film! That is because all of them felt natural and believable. When Daniel and Ali go to Gold N’ Stuff for the first time, you can see these characters are genuinely having a good time. They acted the way you’d expect a typical teenager would; smiling while racing each other at the go-kart track, laughing as their bumper boat crashed into another boat, and critiquing their pictures from the photobooth. Because of Ralph Macchio and Elisabeth Shue’s performance, as well as the script, their relationship came across as realistic. When it comes to Daniel’s relationship with Mr. Miyagi, we are given the opportunity to witness healthy mentor/student interactions. If one were given instructions, but not the reason behind those instructions, it can be easy to get frustrated. This happens after Daniel receives a series of instructions from Mr. Miyagi. But when Daniel discovers the reason why he has been following these instructions, you start to see him gain an understanding and appreciation for what Mr. Miyagi has taught him. Similar to what I said before about Daniel and Ali’s relationship, this period of learning and discovery contains a lot of realism. It shows that, with the right support and guidance, we can learn things such as how to think for ourselves.
The cinematography: The Karate Kid is a movie that has better cinematography than most of the film fan community gives it credit for. To prove my point, I will bring up one of the film’s earliest scenes as an example. At the beginning of the movie, Daniel and his mom are driving through Arizona. This particular scene starts with a medium shot, placing primary emphasis on Daniel’s mom’s car. As their journey down this road plays out, the camera pulls away from the car and delivers a long shot of a section of the Grand Canyon. Characters’ interactions are also captured well on film! At a Halloween party, Daniel is dressed up as a shower. When Ali wants to talk to Daniel, she goes behind the costume’s curtain. Their conversation is shown in a close-up shot, which allows the audience to feel like they are that small space with Ali and Daniel. I really liked how the karate tournament was filmed! It involved a combination of medium and close-up shots, allowing the audience to witness the action. The camera was also steady, which made the scenes appear clear.
The music: Music is an important component of any movie. A song or instrumental piece can elevate the mood within a scene or highlight a scene’s intended point. The scene where Daniel attends his first day of school serves as a great example. In the background, “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama can be heard. Having this song play during this scene makes sense for several reasons. Daniel’s story starts in September, which is technically summer until September 21st or as late as September 24th. Daniel is also having a difficult time adjusting to his new home, believing the move to be a “cruel” gesture on his mother’s part. The music itself is light with a higher tempo, as the sunny California environment pairs nicely with the tune. The struggles Daniel is experiencing are heavily emphasized, with the help of Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer”.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The on again/off again nature of Daniel and Ali’s relationship: I liked seeing Daniel and Ali together and I thought Ralph and Elisabeth had good on-screen chemistry. However, I didn’t like the on again/off again nature of their relationship. I know that every relationship, whether platonic or romantic, has their issues to deal with. I also understand that a relationship where both parties are younger are going to handle those issues differently than a relationship where both parties are older. With Ali and Daniel, they became frustrated over their issues too easily. This causes them to enter and exit their relationship too quickly. While I was glad to see Daniel and Ali work things out, I wish they were less hasty about their relationship by talking things through.
A limited presence of karate fight sequences: The Karate Kid is not an action movie, but a coming-of-age story where one develops a better understanding of karate. Even though I knew that before watching this film, I feel the presence of karate fight sequences was limited. We see about three fight sequences toward the beginning of the film, with the majority of them taking place during the tournament. The rest of the story focuses on Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel the foundations of karate. In the middle of the movie, I think there should have been one or two fight sequences. For example, instead of simply showing Mr. Miyagi breaking the loiters’ glass bottles at the beach, a karate fight sequence had taken place. That way, the excitement that comes from these sequences would be consistent throughout the movie.
Small details that don’t make sense: While watching The Karate Kid, I noticed some small details that, to me, didn’t make sense. In one scene, Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that karate is about what is in your mind and heart, not about what belt you have. If that is the case, why do belt ranks exist in the first place? Why work toward earning another belt when what’s in your mind and heart are more important? At the tournament, the people running the event acted like they weren’t familiar with Mr. Miyagi’s “dojo”. Yet, on the scoreboard, there is a pre-made logo next to Daniel’s name. How was this logo able to be made if no one organizing the tournament had heard of Mr. Miyagi’s “dojo”?
My overall impression:
The Karate Kid is a film that is considered a “classic” for good reason. It not only features exciting karate fight sequences, but it also uses one-liners well and has a strong script. But, in my opinion, the reason why the 1984 picture has earned this title is because it’s the type of movie that sticks with you. “Wax on, Wax off” is one of the most quotable lines in film history. Whenever I hear that line, I think about how there’s a reason for everything. I also remember how Daniel had to learn the meaning of “Wax on, Wax off” for himself instead of Mr. Miyagi telling him what it means. The Karate Kid is also a movie that has the ability to make you think. Whether or not this was intentional, you can’t help but reflect on the things that Mr. Miyagi says. You also can’t help but think about how those things can apply to real life. It’s been amazing exploring the world of ‘80s cinema. I’ve found some hidden gems, revisited some classics, and stumbled upon some stinkers. With The Karate Kid, I’d say it is definitely a keeper! I hope you stick around, because I’ll be reviewing this story’s second chapter!
Overall score: 8.2 out of 10
Have you seen The Karate Kid? Are you looking forward to my review of The Karate Kid Part II? Let me know in the comment section!
For the Legends of Western Cinema Week, I was trying to decide if I should write a movie review for the 2015 film, Forsaken or create another television show review for Walker, Texas Ranger. Instead of selecting just one, I chose both options as my submissions for the blogathon! Prior to writing this post, I had never seen Walker, Texas Ranger. When I accepted my fourth Liebster Award back in July, I shared how I had never watched anything from Chuck Norris’ filmography. Hamlette and Heidi’s event gave me an excuse to not only change that, but to also expand my cinematic horizons to more westerns. Similar to last March’s review of Murder, She Wrote, I have randomly selected three episodes that happened to be airing on the INSP channel. This time, the episodes will be in the order of when I watched them, instead of chronologically. Each episode will be broken down into five categories: what I liked about the episode, what I didn’t like about episode, the story itself, other factors from the episode, and my overall thoughts. After reviewing these three episodes, I will share my final assessment of the show as a whole.
Episode Name: The Covenant
Season 3, Episode 11
Premiere Date: December 9th, 1995
What I liked about this episode:
My favorite scene in ‘The Covenant’ takes place toward the beginning of the episode. During a karate class, Walker notices how one of his students, Ricardo, is missing their purple belt. When he asks Ricardo about the whereabouts of his belt, Ricardo tells Walker he placed the belt in his recently deceased sister’s casket so she could take it to Heaven. After his confession, Walker gives Ricardo another purple belt. When this happens, Ricardo’s face immediately lights up. The music playing during this moment sounded like a tune you’d hear when an athlete in an inspirational sports movie reaches a breakthrough. This scene was both heart-breaking and heart-warming, allowing it to stand out in this episode!
What I didn’t like about this episode:
Chuck Norris’ claim to fame is his karate skills, which have become a huge draw for any of his productions. This fact is the reason why Walker is an intelligent karate master. While karate was incorporated into this episode, its presence was very limited. In fact, the story was 80% crime drama, with 20% action. Before watching ‘The Covenant’, I had expected the episode to be 50/50 when it comes to the drama and action. However, the only times karate could be seen are in a montage during a karate class and in the story’s climax.
The story itself:
When I first read the synopsis for ‘The Covenant’, it caused me to ask two “what ifs” about The Karate Kid (the original 1984 film). What if Daniel had never crossed paths with Mr. Miyagi? What if Daniel had joined Cobra Kai? I thought watching this episode of Walker, Texas Ranger would give me a basic idea of what these “what ifs” might look like. But as I reflect on ‘The Covenant’, I realize that comparing the stories of Daniel and Tommy, a student of Walker’s, is like comparing an apple pie to an Apple computer. While Cobra Kai was the villainous/antagonistic group in The Karate Kid, I don’t recall any member of that group breaking the law. Meanwhile, the gang that Tommy interacts with are comprised of legitimate criminals with violent actions and police records. This makes Tommy’s situation more dire than Daniel’s.
To me, this episode of Walker, Texas Ranger felt rushed, as the overall pace was faster than other shows of this nature. I don’t know if this is because ‘The Covenant’ was the first episode of Walker, Texas Ranger I had ever seen or if this was a legitimate creative error. But whatever caused this to happen, I found it difficult to keep up with the story. Another flaw I noticed was how context was missing in certain areas of the narrative. Even though this episode is called ‘The Covenant’, I am still confused as to what the covenant is in relation to the plot. Was it an ideology or a group? This question was never answered.
The other factors from this episode:
I was not expecting this episode to be Christmas-themed. However, the plot did not feel like a Christmas story. Sure, there were decorations shown in the background. But ‘The Covenant’ could have taken place in any time of year and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
Every television show is bound to have aspects that feel of its time. With Walker, Texas Ranger, there are elements that definitely look like it came from the ‘90s. This can be seen through the characters’ clothes, the background graffiti, and even the opening montage. These things definitely make any show feel like a time capsule.
Throughout my life, I’ve seen established shows include real-life topics in their episodes. Sometimes, these topics are effortlessly woven in with the episode’s plot. The anti-gang message of ‘The Covenant’ seems like a PSA was wedged into the overall story. I was given the impression the show’s creative team had chosen to write a narrative around an actual issue. There was some dialogue that sounded more like potential slogans than actual conversation. Even a message at the end of the episode revealed how the ‘The Covenant’ was dedicated to young victims of gang violence.
My overall thoughts:
‘The Covenant’ is the episode that inspired me to write about Walker, Texas Ranger. The “what ifs” relating to The Karate Kid are also a part of that inspiration. This episode ended up being different from what I expected, as the limited presence of karate is one reason why this is the case. Even though I liked the inclusion of karate, there was less of the sport than I had been led to believe. This is because the episode leaned more toward the criminal/police procedural part of the overall story. If anything, ‘The Covenant’ came across as part crime drama, part “after school special”, with the anti-gang message being dropped into the story rather than woven in. While this is not one of the worst television episodes I’ve ever seen, it definitely could have been stronger.
Rating: A 3 out of 5
Episode Name: The Juggernaut
Season 3, Episode 16
Premiere Date: February 10th, 1996
What I liked about this episode:
In ‘The Juggernaut’, Walker has a limited presence within the story because he has to attend a weekend tournament. This creative decision allows the stakes to be raised to a higher level. It presents a scenario where the hero isn’t always readily available to save the day. It also forces the secondary characters to rely on their own skills to resolve the overarching conflict. Another component is how the episode’s villainous character posed a legitimate threat to Walker and those around him. Connie’s husband, Brad, was a terrifying character because of his realistic nature. Patrick St. Esprit’s performance added to Brad’s sinister persona as well. All of these elements helped make the episode suspenseful and it made me fear for the characters’ lives.
What I didn’t like about this episode:
As I just mentioned, Walker has to attend a weekend tournament. Because of this, Trivette steps in to host a self-defense class at a retreat for domestic violence survivors. I liked how the actual tournament was shown in the episode, as referenced events or situations aren’t always visually presented in TV episodes. But what I didn’t like was how the tournament itself seemed more like a karate clinic. This is because the referee was coaching the athletes during duels and the athletes were surrounding the ring as if listening to an instructor in a class. At the retreat, Trivette led his self-defense class in an interesting way, allowing the survivors to hit him while he was wearing multiple layers of padding. This helped the survivors become comfortable with striking an attacker. The actual lesson didn’t take place until the episode’s halfway point. In my opinion, this moment should have happened sooner in the story.
The story itself:
Unlike ‘The Covenant’, the topic of domestic violence was woven into the story of ‘The Juggernaut’. Instead of dropping this real-life subject into the plot and making it seem like a PSA, the situation presented in this episode feels like it belongs in the show’s world. It gives the message an opportunity to organically grow within the story. Because the retreat is led by Alex, a deputy district attorney and a friend of Walker’s, she’s the one who takes charge of the plot. She was also able to use her skills and expertise to save the day. I like how Alex progressed the narrative forward, as it gave one of the show’s secondary characters a moment to shine. It reminded me of The Babysitter’s Club, where each book is told from a different perspective.
The other factors from this episode:
I thought Alex’s cabin looked cute, despite the living room being the only interior shot shown! The green porch was not only eye-catching, but inviting as well. I also think the grounds surrounding the cabin were scenic. I don’t know if this is a real-life house or if it was a set created for the show. However, the location scout did a good job when choosing this particular spot!
During the retreat, C.D. tells Connie a story about a retreat participant who was able to turn her life around. After this story was told, C.D. asks Connie if she’ll write a happy ending to her own story. When Connie asks him why he wants to know, C.D. tells her how he wants to share her story with future retreat participants. To me, this was the sweetest moment of the episode!
Speaking of C.D., ‘The Juggernaut’ presented the second time I’ve seen C.D. become seriously injured. I’m not sure if this happened often on the show or if it’s just a coincidence. But I felt like bringing it up as a factor of this episode.
My overall thoughts:
When I first reviewed Murder, She Wrote last March, I ended up liking the second episode, ‘Film Flam’ more than the first one, ‘The Legacy of Borbey House’. The exact same thing has happened with ‘The Covenant’ and ‘The Juggernaut’, as I prefer ‘The Juggernaut’ over ‘The Covenant’. The story of the third season’s sixteenth episode contained a better written narrative. It also helped that the delivery of the domestic violence topic didn’t feel forced or preachy. With Walker in the episode for a limited amount of time, it allowed the story to have higher stakes. It also gave secondary characters more screen time and opportunities to be involved in the plot. ‘The Juggernaut’ kind of reminded me of Touched by an Angel, where the series’ regulars approached real-life topics with their wisdom in tow and kindness toward those who needed their help. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I liked ‘The Juggernaut’!
Rating: A solid 4 out of 5
Episode Name: The Lynching
Season 3, Episode 8
Premiere Date: November 18th, 1995
What I liked about this episode:
There were two scenes in ‘The Lynching’ where Walker interacts with Jonah, a man who is accused of killing a local woman. In the first scene, Walker is questioning Jonah about the murder. When he is asked why he ran away from the crime scene, Jonah reveals he was so afraid, that he wanted to go to “Jonah’s Island”. It is implied that “Jonah’s Island” is an imaginary world Jonah created in his mind. Another scene has Jonah stating that he’s “slow in the head”. Walker tells him how there’s nothing wrong with him and how some people get in trouble for moving too fast. These moments were emotionally touching and contained heart.
What I didn’t like about this episode:
Wilma Casey, a local woman from a smaller Texas town, is killed in broad daylight. The people in this town are so upset by her death, that they form a mob against Jonah. Statements such as “Wilma was a good woman” were spoken among the members of the mob. Other than those vague statements, no explanation was given for why Wilma was so beloved. A small amount of information about Wilma is provided in this episode, revealing how she’s wealthy and how she helped Jonah after his parents died. But her influence in the town is not told. Was she a philanthropist or a former governor? These questions were never answered in ‘The Lynching’.
The story itself:
The story within the ‘The Lynching’ is a murder mystery, as Walker and other members of law enforcement come together to solve Wilma’s case. With a variety of clues and some shady characters, this plot was intriguing as well as engaging! It also made more sense for the plot to rely on the criminal/police procedural aspect of the show, as the majority of murder mysteries incorporate law enforcement officers in the story. The actions and choices of the people involved in the case did raise more questions than I expected to ask. In one scene, Walker comes across an object that could be used in court. However, he chooses not to collect this object as evidence. These questions didn’t take me out of the episode, but it happened more often than it should have.
The other factors from this episode:
Wilma’s house in ‘The Lynching’ was absolutely picturesque! Most of this location was captured in exterior shots, with only the kitchen and office being shown on screen. Like Alex’s cabin in ‘The Juggernaut’, I’m not sure if this is a real-life structure. But whoever was the location scout for Walker, Texas Ranger deserves recognition!
According to INSP’s website, Trivette “is a little less “high noon,” and more “high tech” when it comes to fighting crime”. Based on the three episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger I saw, Trivette doesn’t use technology more or less than the other characters. INSP’s description makes it seem like he is the go-to guy for technology, similar to Angela’s adopted role on Bones. After seeing this show, I think the article from INSP is a little misleading.
At one point, Jonah has to be transferred from the jail to another location. Instead of taking him to a second jail, the people associated with Wilma’s case take Jonah to a secret area. What surprised me was how Walker didn’t suggest Alex’s cabin as a safer place for Jonah to stay. Even though the cabin is used for Alex’s domestic violence survivor retreats, I’d like to think she wouldn’t mind allowing Jonah to temporarily stay at her cabin.
My overall thoughts:
While I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as ‘The Juggernaut’, I did like it more than ‘The Covenant’. As someone who goes out of their way to talk about mysteries from time to time, the story was interesting enough to keep me invested in the plot. It contained the components that are usually found in a mystery: a collection of clues, potential suspects, some surprises, and suspense. Having this episode lean more toward the crime drama side of the show made sense with the narrative being told. This story is not without its flaws, however. Some of the actions and choices of the people involved in the overarching case were questionable in terms of believability. The lack of explanation for Wilma’s importance also didn’t help. Similar to ‘The Juggernaut’, the situation in ‘The Lynching’ felt it belonged in the world of Walker, Texas Ranger. This episode could have easily followed the footsteps of ‘The Covenant’, placing a message in the script and writing a story around it. Instead, ‘The Lynching’ focuses on themes that the audience could relate to; such as treating others as they would like to be treated.
Rating: A 3.6 out of 5
My final assessment:
In my first review of Murder, She Wrote, I said the show as a whole, based on the three episodes I wrote about, was fine. I also said that I’d watch the show if I had nothing else to do. With Walker, Texas Ranger, I thought it was fine as well. However, the overall quality of the episodes was more consistent than the ones from my Murder, She Wrote review. Even though ‘The Juggernaut’ was the best episode of the three I chose, I did enjoy watching ‘The Lynching’. My least favorite episode was ‘The Covenant’, as I thought it was just ok. One aspect that stood out to me was how karate was only used during select moments of each episode. There was enough action in ‘The Juggernaut’ and ‘The Lynching’ to keep the plot interesting. However, I thought ‘The Covenant’ was a little light on action. While I probably don’t see myself watching Walker, Texas Ranger religiously, I wouldn’t mind checking out an episode or two if it happened to pop up on my television. But who knows? Since last March, I’ve seen more episodes of Murder, She Wrote than I originally expected.
Have you seen Walker, Texas Ranger? Are there any episodes you’d want to see me review? Tell me in the comment section!