Last week, I posted the Best Actor poll for the Gold Sally Awards. But no votes were received within that week. So, I’m extending this poll from today, April 6th to April 13th. Like I’ve said before, you can vote for more than one nominee. However, you can only vote once per person. The link to the poll is listed at the bottom of the poll image.
For this blog follower dedication review, I was originally going to write about the PixL movie, The Cookie Mobster. However, that film became the worst one I’ve seen this year, so far. Because I feel my readers and followers deserve a better movie and because I just reviewed a bad movie two weeks ago (Chasing Leprechauns), I chose a different film for this post. Recently, I watched the 1987 TV movie, Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love, as it happened to be on my DVR. Mystery related media are some of my most popular content, so this review will be a treat for my readers! Even though some films are stronger than others, I have enjoyed the Perry Mason movie series. Three of these films have been covered on my blog, with all of them receiving good scores. Will Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love receive a similar score? Keep reading my review if you want to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Jean Simmons is an actress who I have talked about before, when I reviewed Howl’s Moving Castle two years ago. While that movie was the first of Jean’s I saw, she had a voice-acting role in that film. Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love contains the first live-action role of Jean’s I have seen! What I liked about her portrayal of Laura Robertson is how Jean carried a certain amount of grace throughout the movie. She also gave a different persona to a character of this nature. In films where a woman is involved with politics, the female politicians are usually portrayed with a “no nonsense” personality. Laura Robertson is different because she had a gentler personality, despite running for the United States Senate. Even though he appeared in the movie for a short amount of time, I liked Jonathan Banks’ portrayal of Luke Dickson! He was so expressive; he was like a chameleon. The meeting at the restaurant between Laura’s husband, Glenn, and Luke showcases a perfect example. Jonathan’s face displayed a variety of expressions. Toward the beginning of the meeting, Luke appears serious, as his face is set and he is glaring at Glenn. As he brings up some compromising information, Luke’s face brightens up and he becomes a bit animated.
The Robertson’s house: Despite appearing in the film for less than five scenes, I liked seeing the Robertson’s house in Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love! The house’s exterior was presented in the dark. But from what the audience can see, the house was covered in a gray stone brick. On the left side of the house, a stone cylinder was connected, making the house look like a castle. The most prominently featured part of the house’s interior is the staircase. Notable details are wrought-iron stair rails and a stained-glass window. These design details give subtle clues of how well off the Robertsons are.
The open discussion of mental health treatment: Because of Laura’s history with mental health, the subject of mental health treatment was briefly discussed in this film. While she is afraid this part of her life will prevent her from becoming a Senator, she still willingly brings it up. There is no shame detected in the voices and faces of the characters who address Laura’s mental health treatment. A debate about which kind of treatment is appropriate is even included in the script. This openness toward mental health treatment seems ahead of its time, as society is more aware of mental health now than four decades ago. It also highlights the importance of this particular subject.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Ignored story points: A few story points within Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love’s script were ignored throughout the movie. One example is mentioned toward the beginning of the film. When Luke first called Glenn, he mentions a long-lost son who lives in Arizona. But when Glenn meets up with Luke at a local restaurant, this son was never brought up. In fact, this son is never referenced again. I was disappointed because I was not only curious to see who would portray this mysterious character, but also discover what role this long-lost son would play in the overall mystery. It makes me wonder why this “scandal” was included in the first place?
A late start time for the mystery: As I have said before, I am not a fan of mystery films that start their mysteries at later times. Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love is a movie that does this. The murder victim wasn’t discovered until about twenty minutes into the film. While this timespan featured build-up to this discovery, I think the mystery could have started sooner. In my opinion, introduction of characters and their connections should have been taken care of in the movie’s first ten minutes. The discovery of the murder victim could have taken place at the movie’s fifteen-minute mark.
The closeness of Perry and Laura’s relationship: Within this story, Perry reveals how he and Laura used to be a romantic couple. When Laura’s husband, Glenn, asks Perry if he still has feelings for Laura, Perry says no. However, his and Laura’s actions say otherwise. When Laura and Perry have drinks at a local hotel, they hold hands at one point, with Laura kissing Perry on the cheek. Later that night, Perry brings Laura to her house. Before Perry leaves, he and Laura share a kiss. I found these romantic displays of affection unnecessary. With Laura married and Perry going his own separate way, it felt like the actions among the characters were chosen just to get a reaction from the audience.
My overall impression:
Like I mentioned in the introduction, I have enjoyed the Perry Mason movie series. The films within this series I have reviewed received good scores, as I liked what I saw. However, Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love was weaker than those three movies. It definitely wasn’t bad, but I feel it could have been stronger. A long-lost son being briefly brought up, but never mentioned again took away some intrigue from this story. Similar to what I said in my review of Edward, My Son, the opportunity for an actor to achieve his “standing ovation” through this role was not available because this part of the story was abandoned. The film contained other flaws, like a later start time for the mystery and the unnecessary closeness of Perry and Laura’s relationship. But there are things about the movie I can appreciate. The openness of mental health treatment was a topic I never expected to hear addressed in a Perry Mason film. While there were advancements and progress made within the field of mental health in the ‘80s, society’s perceptions of this topic were not the same in 1987 as they are now. This reminded me of The Boy Who Could Fly, where the use of therapy was normalized. It was a pleasant surprise to see a Perry Mason film address this subject! Before I finish this review, I’d like to thank all of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers! My blog would have never reached this amount of success without you!
Overall score: 7.1 out of 10
Have you seen any of the Perry Mason films? Do you enjoy my mystery related content? Please tell me in the comment section!
After a short hiatus, the Gold Sally Awards polls are back! This time, you can choose which actor was the best one out of the movies I saw in 2020! As usual, you can vote for as many nominees as you’d like. But you can only vote once per person. The poll begins today on March 29th and ends on April 5th. You can vote by clicking on the link under the poll image.
The Gold Sally Awards recognizes the crucial role screenwriting plays in the filmmaking process. Among the best movies I saw in 2020, you can choose which film contained the best story! Even though you can only vote once per person, you are able to vote for more than one nominee. As I’ve said before, the link to the poll is featured under the list of nominees. This poll starts today, March 15th, and ends on March 21st.
Any time I participate in a blogathon, I try to choose a film or topic that brings something different to the event. This allows my entry to stand out, as well as offer a sense of variety to the blogathon’s subject. When searching Joan Collins’ filmography, for Realweegiemedget Reviews’ Joan Collins Blogathon, I came across the 1983 television movie, Making of a Male Model. What intrigued me to the point of wanting to watch it was how it told a story from a completely different perspective. In films that revolve around modeling or the fashion industry, the story usually focuses on a female protagonist. With Making of a Male Model, a man is entering the modeling world. Out of the films I’ve seen involving modeling, the only one featuring a male model in the starring cast is the Disney movie, Model Behavior. Add the fact I’ve haven’t seen many of Joan’s projects, I am definitely eager to start this review!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Because Joan Collins’ involvement in this movie is one of the reasons why I chose to review this film, I’ll talk about her performance first. In stories where the head of a fashion or modeling firm is one of the main characters, they either have an obvious self-centered personality or they come across as emotionally distant. With Joan’s portrayal of Kay Dillon, she brought something different to a role like this. For most of the film, Kay appeared genuinely kind-hearted and nurturing. The only times Kay sounds self-centered is when she is upset. When Kay and Tyler discuss their plans over lunch is a perfect example, as she explains how she can’t spend much time with him because she had spent ten years building her career. Speaking of Tyler, I enjoyed watching Jon-Erik Hexum’s performance! He did a good job portraying a character in his specific situation. At the beginning of the movie, Tyler is a “fish out of water”, overwhelmed by the modeling world and taken aback by some of the things that take place in that world. As the film progresses, Tyler gains more confidence and his perspective begins to change. I also liked Jeff Conaway’s portrayal of Chuck Lanyard! It was dramatic and emotional without being over-the-top. One of Jeff’s best scenes is when his character is comparing the modeling world to a stage play. That scene proved to me Jeff has the talents for a Broadway show!
The costume design: In one scene, Tyler and Kay attend a costume party. The costumes were so elaborate and detailed, I honestly thought they were going to the Met Gala! One of the party goers wore a large hat in the shape of eyes. The piece around the blue eyes appeared periwinkle, with the hat portion blending into a pretty purple. Kay’s dress was absolutely gorgeous! It was covered in sparkles, allowing the dress to shine whenever Joan moved. The top of the dress was gold, with the skirt adopting an ombre design of blue and purple. A clear jeweled collar completed the look. During a photo shoot, one of the models was wearing a hat with a bird on it. The bird was covered in purple jewels, sparkling anytime the model moved her head. It was such a cool piece that I’d love to have in my wardrobe!
An insightful look into the world of modeling/advertising: Out of the episodes of Murder, She Wrote I’ve seen, my favorite one is ‘Film Flam’. One of the reasons is the behind the scenes look at how a movie premiere is organized. Throughout Making of a Male Model, the world of modeling and advertising is explored. When Tyler goes to apply for a catalogue modeling job, he is turned down due to his appearance and his lack of a portfolio. This instance shows how fast-paced this particular world can be and how one must always be prepared to bring a good first impression. At one point in Tyler’s journey, Tyler takes part in television commercials. Before a commercial for cologne was filmed, the director conducted a practice run in order to help Tyler remember what to do. It was interesting to see how the sets were constructed, how far the crew was willing to go to create an image or an idea. It was also interesting to see the prep work that goes into creating a commercial.
What I didn’t like the film:
Lack of on-screen chemistry: During the film, Tyler and Kay form a romantic relationship. However, I never sensed a spark between them. Jon-Erik and Joan worked well together from an acting perspective. But when it came time for their characters to become intimate, it felt like they were following story points within a script instead of allowing their characters to form a connection. Tyler and Kay’s relationship comes to fruition after the costume party I mentioned earlier. But up until that moment, Tyler and Kay did not express any interest in falling in love each other. So, the formation of their relationship, from a story telling perspective, felt forced and random.
Following the same beats: As I said in the introduction, I wanted to watch Making of a Male Model because it told a model’s story from a man’s perspective, which is not often explored in the world of cinema. Because of this, I was expecting the movie to tell a different kind of story from others of this nature. Sadly, it was just more of the same. The story followed a lot of the same beats as other modeling/seeking fame films. Making of a Male Model featured tropes such as “the two-faced boss”, “a cautionary tale about fame and fortune”, and “a friend in crisis”. This movie had an opportunity to take different avenues of the modeling or advertising world that either haven’t been or are rarely discussed in film. But that opportunity was not taken advantage of.
Telling more than showing: There were some moments in Making of a Male Model where characters told more than showed what was happening. As I already mentioned, Chuck compares the modeling world to a stage play. I did like Chuck’s monologue and Jeff’s performance. However, because this monologue was given before Tyler’s modeling career began, it denied the audience a chance of seeing Tyler’s journey firsthand, without being spoiled. At the costume party, a man named Ward accuses Kay of breaking a contract. It gets to the point where Ward starts causing a scene. Since this accusation is presented as hearsay, it is never determined who was telling the truth.
My overall impression:
I know that stories are bound to get repeated overtime. But there is a fine line between telling similar stories and rehashing material. Making of a Male Model fits into the latter category, as the same tropes are adopted from other films of this nature. Honestly, this disappoints me because I was expecting more from this movie. Despite finding Making of a Male Model to be just ok, there are aspects of the film I liked. One of them is the insightful look at the modeling/advertising world. This part of the story held my interest, as I found it to be a fascinating exploration. With that in mind, I think the concept of this movie would have worked better as a television show or documentary.
Before I finish this review, I’d like to let my readers know I did choose another book from my TBR Tin. For those who don’t know, I announced in January how I would choose which book to read next from a hot chocolate tin I won last year. My second TBR Tin book of the year is
(insert drumroll here)
Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn!
Yes, this is a book I said I was going to read in 2019. But I’m glad to finally get around to reading it!
Overall score: 6.1 out of 10
Have you seen Making of a Male Model? Which projects of Joan Collins’ have you watched? Let me know in the comment section!
To celebrate the anniversary of 18 Cinema Lane’s beginning, I host a movie awards to highlight the best films I saw in the previous year. As I had several projects on my plate in February, the Gold Sally Awards were pushed back. However, the Gold Sally Awards are still happening, starting with the Best Movie category! In this division, all of the films that were featured on my Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2020 list will compete for the title of Gold Sally Awards’ Best Movie. Like in years past, you are allowed to vote for more than one nominee. But you can only vote once per person. This poll starts today and ends on March 14th. On the bottom of the poll, there is a link where you can submit your vote. If you’re having technical difficulties, please don’t hesitate to speak up in the comment section.
When you hear the phrase, “Home Sweet Home”, what comes to mind? Perhaps warm, happy memories spent with family or the feeling of being safe within a chosen, personal environment. Unfortunately, some families don’t get to experience these feelings of safety and happiness. This could be the case for a variety of reasons. Because of that fact, I picked the 2000 movie, Taming Andrew, for Realweegiemidget Reviews’ and Taking Up Room’s Home Sweet Home Blogathon. The second reason why I selected this particular film is because of the subject matter itself. When it comes to cinematic stories that revolve around kidnapping, we mostly get two kinds of films; a movie that primarily focuses on the kidnapping or a movie where the supposed kidnapping victim’s identity is questioned. Taming Andrew is about the aftermath of a kidnapping, when a missing child is found. Since that specific storyline is not often found in film, I wanted to see this story unfold.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: In Taming Andrew, there were some acting performances that stood out to me. The most notable one came from Seth Adkins, whose portrayal of the titular character stole the show! When a story revolves around a young character, casting a young actor or actress who can, talent-wise, carry most of the movie is essential. With Seth’s performance, it contained the emotional weight you would expect from a film of this nature. As Andrew’s mother, Gail, is helping Andrew get ready for bed-time, he refuses to show his mother any amount of affection. Andrew turns away from Gail and irritation can be seen on his face. When Gail turns off the light in Andrew’s room, he immediately screams, as the dark room reminds Andrew of what he experienced during the kidnapping. Another good performance came from Jason Beghe! Portraying Andrew’s stepfather, Eddie, Jason presented his character with a sense of realism. As Eddie and Gail are discussing recent events involving Andrew, Eddie is concerned about the safety of their baby. This scene showcases how Eddie’s acting talents appeared natural. Shannon Lawson portrayed Deena, Gail’s friend and co-worker. What made her performance memorable was how she was able to balance a sassy and serious persona. At the beginning of the film, Gail is sharing her fears about her ex-husband with Deena. Filled with concern in her face and words, Deena tells Gail that she’ll stand by her friend, offering to help Gail if she needed it. Later in the movie, when Gail is leaving her job in order to homeschool her son, Deena jokingly agrees that no one will replace Gail at work. These scenes are a good example of Shannon’s versatility when it comes to her acting talents!
Exploring the aftermath of a kidnapping: As I mentioned in the introduction, Taming Andrew focuses on the aftermath of a kidnapping. This means the story primarily shows what happens after Andrew is found. It was interesting to see the journey of a kidnapping victim overcoming their trauma. Because of Seth’s performance and because the script emphasizes Andrew’s emotional, psychological, and educational struggles, it effectively shows how a horrific situation like Andrew’s can affect a child. I also said the aftermath of a kidnapping is not often found in cinema. Since this is the case, I’m glad Taming Andrew chose this route for their script. It highlights what some individuals and families face, as well as address how one person’s decision can cause a ripple effect.
The inclusion of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: In one scene, when Gail and her mother are watching television, they see a news report featuring Gail. This report shows Gail making a speech about her missing son. During the speech, a banner for The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is briefly shown. Buttons and posters displaying the photos of other missing children can also be seen on the television screen. The inclusion of the banner, buttons, and posters was a subtle, yet effective way of showcasing how big of an issue children’s safety really is. It highlights how abduction can take place at any time for any person as well.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Andrew’s return is treated as no big deal: Like I just mentioned, Gail was featured on the news making a speech about her missing son. This news report was on a local news station, with the report itself taking place five months after Andrew was kidnapped. When Andrew returns five years later, no news reports are made about him. In fact, the event itself seems to be no big deal for almost anyone outside of Andrew’s family. Because Taming Andrew is based on true events, I, personally, find it hard to believe the aforementioned local news station wouldn’t cover Andrew’s return. Looking back on missing persons stories where the missing person was found alive, those types of stories tend to receive a lot of attention from the news.
A rushed journey: Even though Andrew’s personal journey was interesting to watch, I found it to be, at times, rushed. One example can be seen toward the beginning of Andrew’s journey. At an evaluation meeting, the medical professionals tell Gail that her son might need to be placed in a school for children who benefit from special education. A few moments later, the audience can see Gail taking Andrew to traditional public school. I know there is only so much story you can tell in an hour and twenty-eight minutes. However, it felt like important steps from point A to point B were missing.
The events of the kidnapping revealed at the end of the movie: When a movie’s story is about a kidnapping, the biggest question on almost every audience member’s mind is what happened during the event itself. These stories, more often than not, show or tell what happened as a way to provide the audience with a sense of closure. Taming Andrew does reveal how Andrew became traumatized by the kidnapping. However, this information isn’t presented until the end of the film. I understand those who have faced traumatic situations face their trauma at their own pace. But, as I already said, there is only so much story you can tell in an hour and twenty-eight minutes. With that said, the events surrounding Andrew’s kidnapping should have been revealed sooner.
My overall impression:
Whenever I participate in a blogathon, I try to choose a film or topic that brings something different to the table. That is certainly the case for Taming Andrew, as it presents the aftermath of a kidnapping. I’m glad a film like this exists because it sheds light on a subject that doesn’t often get talked about in the world of cinema. But there are flaws that held this movie back from being stronger than it was. Parts of Andrew’s journey were rushed and the events surrounding the kidnapping were revealed at the end of the movie. These issues make me wish the film had been two hours. The part where the news completely ignores Andrew’s return is something I found unbelievable, especially since Taming Andrew is based on true events. What I can say about this movie is how it emphasizes the point I made in my introduction, how some families don’t experience safety and happiness. A missing child or trauma can certainly be just two factors that deny families these things.
Overall score: 7.2 out of 10
Are you participating in the Home Sweet Home Blogathon? If so, which movie did you choose to write about? Let me know in the comments section!
While I saw more good movies than bad this year, I wasn’t able to avoid some stinkers. Now that I’ve published my best movies of the year list, I can now discuss which movies were the worst ones I saw in 2020! I watch movies in the hopes of them being good. However, some stories turn out better than others. As I have stated before on my blog, my worst films of the year lists are not meant to be mean-spirited or negative toward anyone’s opinions/cinematic preferences. These lists are just ways for me express my opinion in an honest and informed way. Similar to my best movies of 2020 list, I will start this post with my dishonorable mentions and then move on to the official list!
Working Miracles, Her Deadly Reflections, The Cabin, Thicker Than Water, Touched by Romance, The Wrong Wedding Planner, Murder in the Vineyard, Jane Doe: Yes, I Remember It Well, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, Is There a Killer on my Street?, and Stolen in Plain Sight
10. Angel on My Shoulder
When choosing which movie would end up in the tenth spot, it was between The Cabin and Angel on My Shoulder. Because I had higher expectations for the 1946 movie, that’s the one that was placed on this list. The overall film is painfully average, as I said in my review. Even though there is a clear conflict, it takes quite some time for that to be resolved. The personal journey of the protagonist, Eddie, is stunted. This is due to the character spending most of the story as an unchanged man. After watching Angel on My Shoulder, it makes me thankful that a story about a dog going to heaven was executed so well.
In 2020, I watched most of the movies from Hallmark’s Jane Doe series. Within the nine-film collection, the first chapter is certainly the worst. What makes a good mystery movie is a strong sense of excitement. This is a quality that Jane Doe: Vanishing Act was, sadly, devoid of. Everyone involved with this project looked like their hearts were not fully invested in what they doing. It was as if they wanted to get the film done and over with just to move on to something else. While I continued on with the series, it was in the hopes that the next film would be better than the introduction. If you plan on creating a series, this is not the way you get an audience invested in it.
8. My Husband’s Deadly Past
There are two kinds of Lifetime movies; those that are surprisingly good and those that are predictably unenjoyable. My Husband’s Deadly Past perfectly fits into the latter category. Even though I found the inclusion of psychology/hypnosis to be interesting, the story’s focus on ripping off the 1993 movie, The Fugitive, overshadows any of the film’s strengths. The protagonist in My Husband’s Deadly Past is the type of character that makes one poor decision after another. It also doesn’t help that the movie contains a few romantic moments that feel out of place within the overall tone. Two other films on this list make the same major mistake My Husband’s Deadly Past did. But, to avoid spoilers, I’ll talk about them more later.
7. Out of the Woods
I can honestly say Out of the Woods is one of the most meandering films I’ve ever seen. It takes so long for the story to get to its intended point, that story points are either completely ignored or are not fully developed. One example is how a white wolf continuously crosses paths with the protagonist. No explanation is given as to what the purpose of this wolf was or whether it was real. Another disappointment is how Native American culture is glossed over. Native American stories are rarely found in Hallmark’s library, so it is a letdown when a film containing Native American culture doesn’t work out. If you want to watch an Ed Asner led Hallmark movie with similar ideas and themes, I’d recommend the 2008 movie, Generation Gap. It does a better job at telling a story of two people trying to understand each other.
6. Mystery Woman: At First Sight
Before there was Hailey Dean, there was Samantha Kinsey from Hallmark’s Mystery Woman series. This early collection from the network is one where I’ve seen most of its installments. Out of the movies I have watched, Mystery Woman: At First Sight is the one I disliked the most. Both of the overarching mysteries in this story are poorly written. They are also overshadowed by the drama within the plot. Mystery Woman: At First Sight is the seventh movie in this series, which is a shame because its previous chapters created an enjoyable cinematic run. I’m not sure how much directorial experience Kellie Martin had prior to working on this project. Even though I think it would be interesting to see her direct a Hailey Dean Mysteries movie, her effort on Mystery Woman: At First Sight was not her strongest.
5. Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama
It breaks my heart how this movie disappointed me so much. In fact, Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama is the most disappointing movie I saw in 2020. It copied Pirates of the Caribbean’s homework without trying to understand what made that trilogy of films work. Also, for a movie called Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama, Captain Sabertooth himself sat on the sidelines of his own story. Pinky was a likable character, but making him the protagonist made the title seem misleading. I just hope this film doesn’t dissuade other studios from creating their own pirate narratives.
Remember when I said there were two films that made the same major mistake My Husband’s Deadly Past did? Well, Anniversary Nightmare is one of them. Like My Husband’s Deadly Past, Anniversary Nightmare rips off The Fugitive. But this Lifetime title is so bad, it is, at times, laughable. Both the acting and writing are poor. All of the movie’s flashback scenes are terribly filmed, captured through heavy “shaky cam” and covered in a red film. These two factors made it difficult to see what was happening on screen when a flashback arrived. I haven’t seen a Lifetime movie this bad in quite some time. If you’re interested in participating in Taking Up Room’s So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, Anniversary Nightmare might be an option.
3. I’m Not Ready for Christmas
I didn’t see as many Christmas movies this year as I did in 2019. But I can confidently say that 2015’s I’m Not Ready for Christmas is the worst Christmas film I saw in 2020. While it doesn’t rip off The Fugitive, the movie does place more emphasis on being a pointless, Christmas remake of Liar Liar, a well-known title from the ‘90s. Therefore, I’m Not Ready for Christmas also makes the same mistake A Cheerful Christmas did last year.There were parts of this story that didn’t make sense. Even the title, I’m Not Ready for Christmas, had nothing to do with the events in the plot. When you look past the typical Christmas aesthetic Hallmark can’t get enough of, you realize the story itself isn’t Christmas-y. If the creative team behind this project knew their script wasn’t exclusive to the Christmas season, they should have focused on the messages and themes of the holiday, like If You Believe did sixteen years prior. For their New Year’s Resolution, maybe Hallmark and Lifetime should move away from famous ‘90s films as their source of inspiration.
This movie was so bad, it honestly made me feel uncomfortable. That was because the film’s overarching view on marriage and divorce was so one-sided and skewed. I’ve been told Marriage on the Rocks was originally intended to be a satire. Sadly, that’s not the movie I ended up seeing. What I got instead was a comedy that I didn’t find very funny. The “comedy of errors” direction the screenwriter took just made the character’s situations more complicated, as most of the errors do not receive a satisfying resolution. It’s also a film that feels longer than its designated run-time. If you have never seen any of Frank Sinatra’s, Dean Martin’s, or Deborah Kerr’s movies before, please don’t let Marriage on the Rocks be your starting point.
For most of 2020, I thought Marriage on the Rocks would be the worst movie I saw this year. That was until Twentieth Century came along and proved me wrong. Where Marriage on the Rocks made me uncomfortable, Twentieth Century made me appalled. The fact Lily and Oscar’s relationship was so abusive in a movie classified as a “romantic comedy” serves as one example. Last time I checked, unhealthy relationships were not funny or romantic. To Marriage on the Rocks’ credit, the story featured characters that didn’t support the film’s narrative. Even though, more often than not, they were looked down upon, they always stood up for what they believed in and tried to help the main characters see the fault in their ways. With Twentieth Century, however, there were no “voices of reason”. None of the characters faced accountability whenever they did something wrong or made any attempt to change their ways. When I reflect on this movie, I question what the creative team was trying to tell its audience. But based on my reaction to the final product, maybe I don’t want to know.
2020 was a year that threw a huge wrench into a lot of movie-goers’ plans. As theaters shut their doors and new releases continuously changed dates, there were movie related content creators that had to either adapt as best they could or completely change their formula. Fortunately for 18 Cinema Lane, the impact of this year’s Coronavirus didn’t change the type of content published on the site. As with the previous two years, I saw more good movies than bad. This is honestly the first year where I had difficulty creating my top ten best movies list because of the quantity of enjoyable films that left a memorable impression on me. Since I published my worst movies of the year list first last year, I’ll post my best movies of the year list first this time around. As usual, I will begin the list with my honorable mentions and then move on to the official top ten list. Now let’s get this list started!
Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, Where There’s a Will, Generation Gap, A Beautiful Place to Die: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Sweet Surrender, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Dead Over Diamonds, Riddled with Deceit: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ruby Herring Mysteries: Prediction Murder, House of the Long Shadows, Up in the Air, The Crow, Mystery Woman: Game Time, Fashionably Yours, Finding Forrester, Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), Expecting a Miracle, Time Share, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Wife of Monte Cristo, Cry Wolf, Mystery Woman: Mystery Weekend, Perry Mason Returns, Perry Mason and the Notorious Nun, Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, The Terry Fox Story, Follow Your Heart, House of Wax, Funny Face, and The Christmas Bow
10. Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
Looking back on the four film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ work I’ve reviewed, I realize how lucky I am to come across those I enjoyed. Despite having never read Nicholas Nickleby, this production was both understandable and engaging! With the 2002 version of this story, its balance of joy and despair is a staple of the world-famous author’s I recognize from his other stories like Oliver Twist. As I said in my review of Nicholas Nickleby, it can be easy to forget the beauty this world can offer, especially during a year like 2020. I don’t often come across a movie that is so good, it makes me want to seek out its original source material. For this film, however, I just found an exception!
This is an interesting entry from the Breen Code era. It’s a darker musical that is dark in nature for the sake of providing thought-provoking commentary. Like I said in my review, The Unfinished Dance does a good job exploring what happens when truth disappears from the world. All of the musical numbers in this film have a strong reason for being in the story, as opposed to typical musicals where the numbers feel more spontaneous than planned. Even though dance is emphasized more than the story, the quality of the routines themselves make this film worth a watch! The movie is a hidden gem that I wish more people knew about.
I’m glad I was given an opportunity to re-watch this film, as it was just as enjoyable as when I first saw it! The story moves away from the aesthetic that most Christmas movies adopt. Instead, it relies on the messages and themes associated with the Christmas holiday. This creative decision is a breath of fresh air, bringing a different kind of narrative that isn’t often found during that time of year. If You Believe is a film that does what it sets out to do. It also helps that it has stood the test of time.
This is the kind of Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I wish was made more often, one where unique concepts are explored and celebrated. Instead of following a plot, the story revolves around a debate. The subject matter was not only handled with reverence, but each perspective was shown in a respectful light. I’m not a fan of this film’s ending, but I respect Hallmark’s decision to include it in the script, as it respects the audience’s intelligence. Sweet Nothing in My Ear is a title from this collection that can be used as an introduction to Hallmark Hall of Fame!
6. From Up on Poppy Hill
Studio Ghibli has a reputation for giving it their all when it comes to making movies. Besides their signature animation style, they also take the time to create fantastic worlds and memorable characters. While From Up on Poppy Hill doesn’t contain any of the magical elements that can sometimes be found in Studio Ghibli’s stories, the project doesn’t feel out of place in their collection. The plot is a simple one, but the inclusion of interesting characters and world-building is what makes it work. It also contains a great message about history that fits into the script very well.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is more than just a story about Batman. It’s a chance for audience members to see a side of this superhero that doesn’t often get presented in the world of film. The movie is a good example of how impressive 2-D animation can be. Even though the world has moved on to the wonders of 3-D and computer graphics, there will always be a place for older styles of animation. Despite having seen only a handful of Batman films, I can honestly say Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of the better options! The story itself is just as interesting as the world of Gotham City.
Grace & Glorie contains Hallmark’s favorite cliché of featuring a woman from a big city moving to a small town. But what sets this story apart is how that cliché is not the main focus of the film. Instead, the plot revolves around the friendship of Grace and Gloria. Because the titular characters were portrayed by two strong actresses, it made the dynamic between Grace and Gloria interesting to watch. Similar to From Up on Poppy Hill, this Hallmark Hall of Fame title has a simpler plot that works in its favor. Grace & Glorie is a type of story that is rarely seen on Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The movie is also an underrated gem that I wish more Hallmark fans were aware of.
With the way the theatrical landscape was affected in 2020, it kind of feels weird that a film like Matinee would appear on a best movies of the year list for 2020. But instead of making me miss the cinema or feel jealous of the characters as they get to see a movie in a theater, this particular 1993 title reminded me of what I love about film. Because I have a special place in my heart for Phantom of the Megaplex, Matinee showed me that there is more than one story that could show people how movies can be fun. One of the messages of this narrative is that film can provide a much-needed break from the troubles of the real world. With the way 2020 turned out, Matinee seemed to come at the right place and time.
Every year, there is that one movie that catches me by surprise because of how good it is. The Boy Who Could Fly was definitely that film in 2020! I was pleasantly surprised by how well the overall story has aged. Given the subject material and the time it was released in, I can certainly say that my expectations were subverted. While The Boy Who Could Fly would be considered a “teen movie”, it doesn’t follow a lot of the patterns that most of these types of stories would contain. The themes of showing compassion for others, dealing with grief, and understanding people’s differences are given center stage.
Who knew a Frank Sinatra movie would become the best one I saw in 2020? When I look back on this film, I remember how much fun I had watching it! As I said in my review, I spent most of my time smiling and laughing, which shows how the film’s joyful nature can certainly help anyone improve their mood. Anchors Aweigh is a strong movie on so many different levels. The acting, story, and musical numbers alone showcase how much thought and effort went into the overall production. If I were to introduce someone to the Breen Code era or musicals in general, this is the film I’d show them. Anchors Aweigh was certainly a bright spot in a year like 2020.
For the last Genre Grandeur of 2020, the theme is ‘Alternative Christmas Movies’. Whenever I think of this term, films where the story doesn’t rely on typical Christmas elements always comes to mind. After watching and reviewing If You Believe, I remembered another ‘90s Christmas movie I hadn’t seen in years: To Grandmother’s House We Go. However, when I thought about this film, it didn’t seem to focus on the Christmas holiday like other titles, such as those found on either of Hallmark’s networks. Sure, both Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are wearing Santa hats on the movie’s poster. You can also see Christmas lights behind the Olsen twins in the aforementioned image. But the story itself is not one that is exclusive to the Christmas movie genre. In fact, the idea of siblings running away to another family member’s house can be found in a plot from any time of year. Even the title, To Grandmother’s House We Go, doesn’t contain any Christmas references. Now that this introduction is almost over, I’ll take another trip down memory lane by reviewing this film from 1992!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: The appeal of any Olsen twins production is watching Mary-Kate and Ashley’s characters go on adventures that most of the audience will never experience. Though it has been years since I’ve seen any of their movies, I remember Mary-Kate and Ashley giving their characters a sense of likability, no matter the situation. This is what happened in To Grandmother’s House We Go, as Julie and Sarah were a delight to watch as the story progressed! Despite their young ages, Mary-Kate and Ashley had good comedic delivery. A good example of this is when Julie and Sarah give a street musician chicken drumsticks, using the edible item as a tip instead of money. It should also be noted that Mary-Kate and Ashley’s characters came across as genuine throughout the story. In a scene where they overhear their mother, Rhonda, telling her friend her daughters are a handful, the looks on the twins’ faces display feelings of sadness and betrayal that immediately makes the audience feel bad for Julie and Sarah. It also helped that Mary-Kate and Ashley worked alongside actors who can, acting wise, stand on their own! One of them is Cynthia Geary, who portrays Rhonda. When Julie and Sarah are missing, genuine concern can be seen on Rhonda’s face. Because the twins’ journey lasts the majority of the movie, it allows Cynthia’s performance to contain a good amount of consistency.
The inclusion of western movie scenes: Eddie is a delivery man who frequently visits the convenience store Rhonda works at. When something happens in Eddie’s part of the story, scenes from various western movies are shown to visualize how Eddie views his life. Usually, these scenes mirror what Eddie is doing in the “real world”. An example is when Eddie is taking a short cut to the convenience store, as a scene of Roy Rogers riding off the beaten path is presented while Eddie is driving his truck. The reason why these western scenes were included in the film is because Eddie loves westerns and dreams of owning his own ranch. What I liked about this element is how it provided a unique way to present a character’s perspective that isn’t usually seen in Christmas films. In movies of this nature, dream sequences or flashback scenes are given to a character when the story needs to share their point of view.
The messages and themes: A common component in family-friendly movies is the messages and themes that can be found in the overall story. This is especially the case for productions involving the Olsen twins. In To Grandmother’s House We Go, Julie and Sarah overhear their mother say her daughters are a handful and that she’d like a vacation. This causes the twins to run away to their grandmother’s house, in an attempt to help their mother. When all is said and done, the overarching lesson is how our words can, for better or worse, affect the actions of others. Doing the right thing is a theme that can also be found in To Grandmother’s House We Go. Harvey, one of the bandits in the film, helps his wife, Shirley, steal Christmas presents in order to sell them for money. As Harvey and Shirley spend more time with Julie and Sarah, Harvey starts to wonder what his life would be like if he wasn’t a criminal. While I won’t spoil the movie for anyone, Harvey does take the film’s aforementioned theme to heart.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Rhonda and Eddie’s inconsistent relationship: At the beginning of the film, Eddie wants to go on a date with Rhonda. No matter how many times he flirts with Rhonda, she politely declines, as she’s only interested in being his acquaintance. After Eddie finds out Rhonda is a single parent, he gives up pursuing her as a potential significant other. For the rest of the movie, Rhonda and Eddie go back and forth between liking and disliking one another. Their disagreements are resolved rather quickly and they get along for a short amount of time as well. While Cynthia and J. Eddie Peck work well together as actors, the inconsistency of their on-screen relationship prevented me from becoming fully invested in it.
The lottery subplot: Throughout the movie, Eddie is convinced he will win the lottery. He frequently purchases lottery tickets, hoping to win the jackpot so he can afford his dream ranch. This wasn’t a bad subplot, as it effectively connected to the main plot. However, with the majority of the plot revolving around Julie and Sarah’s journey, as well as Rhonda and Eddie’s search for the twins, the lottery subplot felt like it was included to provide an extra conflict. To Grandmother’s House We Go has enough going on to satisfy the run-time, so this specific part of the story didn’t necessarily need to be there.
A drawn-out story: Even though the main plot of To Grandmother’s House We Go is straight forward, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the plot going. But some parts of the story do cause the overall project to feel drawn-out. In an attempt to raise $10,000 for a kidnapping reward, Rhonda and Eddie plan on selling other people’s Christmas gifts, with the intention of buying those gifts back after the twins have been returned. The entire process of their plan is shown in the movie, lasting for several scenes. This part of Rhonda and Eddie’s subplot could have limited to one or two scenes, as to help tell the story in a shorter amount of time.
My overall impression:
Calling To Grandmother’s House We Go an ‘alternative Christmas movie’ is tricky. On the one hand, there are scenes in the movie that rely on typical Christmas elements more than others. One of them is when Julie and Sarah are building a tiny snowman in front of their apartment building. But, as I said in the introduction, the story itself could be found outside of the Christmas season. For the sake of this review, I’ll call this film a “partial alternative Christmas movie”. As for the movie itself, To Grandmother’s House We Go is a fine, harmless, family-friendly title. Similar to what I said about The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove, the 1992 picture will be more appealing for a younger audience, as the main story revolves around young children going on an adventure. Personally, I have no desire to re-watch it. Despite this, I am glad I was able to revisit the film.
Overall score: 7 out of 10
Do you remember watching any of the Olsen twins’ movies? If so, which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comment section below!