Redwood Curtain’: From Stage to Screen

The Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of Redwood Curtain is based on a Broadway play. It was also released in 1995. With these facts in mind, I found Redwood Curtain to be the perfect subject for the Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon. Prior to this event, I saw the movie and read the play. This lent itself to an interesting idea. Discussions about film adaptations often feature films adapted from books, short stories, or poems. Movies born from plays aren’t often included in the conversation. So, I decided to write an editorial highlighting the similarities and differences between the Redwood Curtain play and film. This article contains spoilers for the story of Redwood Curtain.

The Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

Movie-Exclusive Characters

On the stage, Redwood Curtain contains three characters: Lyman, Geri, and Geneva. While there are other characters in the story, they’re only mentioned within the dialogue. Geri’s father, Laird, is one of these characters. According to the script, Laird was a desk-jockey lieutenant in the Vietnam War. This means he “didn’t see a day’s fighting, to come completely unglued in the war.” Laird taught Geri how to play the piano simply to entertain dinner guests. He also developed a dependence on alcohol and died two years prior to the play’s events. Laird is even described as a “drunk.” Because Laird never physically appears in the play, all the information about him is hearsay.

John Lithgow portrays Laird in the film adaptation. The film version of Laird did fight in the Vietnam War, though his specific role was never mentioned. Like in the play, he develops a dependence on alcohol. However, this dependence was Laird’s attempt to cope with war-related trauma. Toward the end of the movie, Geneva shares with Geri how Laird wanted to be a pianist, but didn’t feel he was talented enough. So, he became invested in Geri’s piano career, appearing to live vicariously through his daughter. His presence in the movie shows the audience the strained, yet close relationship between Geri and Laird. Laird’s death within the film’s first half and Geri’s discovery that Laird is her biological father are presented as bittersweet moments.

Redwood Curtain poster created by Chris/Rose Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), and Republic Pictures (II)

Expanding the World

The majority of Redwood Curtain’s story in the play takes place in Arcata’s redwood forest. A few scenes happen in Geneva’s house, Geneva’s car, or a local coffee house. Geri’s first encounter with Lyman is when the play starts, with the lead-up to this moment woven into the dialogue. Events such as Laird’s death take place off stage, prior to the play’s story. The creative team behind a play is given a limited amount of space and time to work with. Therefore, designating a few key locations makes sense among these limitations. In the Redwood Curtain play, Geneva’s house is described as “a large and very fine Victorian house.” The script states her house contains a music room as well. When presenting this play at a theater, only the home’s sitting room and music room would be staged and the style of the house would be heavily implied through décor and set structure.

A plus side to film-making is the freedom to take the story wherever the film-maker chooses. If a movie’s creative team desires to adapt a stage play, that story has the opportunity to grow beyond the boundaries of a stage. In the case of the Redwood Curtain film, the events from the play are contained in the story’s second half. That means the movie’s first half takes place in and around the Riordan family home. This inclusion not only expands the world the characters exist in, but also gives the audience a glimpse into Geri’s world that they wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Filming on location provides benefits to visual storytelling. However, that creative decision has its own limitations. Using Geneva’s house in the movie as an example, a location scout might not be able to secure a location similar to one described in the source material. Even if they succeeded, there’s a process in order to film at a residential building, especially if it’s someone’s real-life home. That’s probably why Geneva’s house is presented as a smaller log cabin with a large deck, but no music room.

A picture of the Redwood Curtain play from my copy of the play’s script. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen

Geri’s Motive

In both the play and movie, Geri attempts to search for her biological father. This attempt is the story’s main conflict. Geri’s reason for her search was different in each version of Redwood Curtain. In the play, Geri knew some information about her past. Prior to the start of the play, Geri discovered Lyman tried to help her and her biological mother get to the United States. The script mentions that Geri began her search when she was twelve. Her search turns into an obsession, to the point of abandoning her musical endeavors. In fact, the play’s synopsis states Redwood Curtain “is a story of obsession and discovery.” Though the information Geri received was partly true, she eventually learns more through her interactions with Lyman.

The movie version of Geri has three motives for her search. Wanting to receive answers about her past was the first motive. The film’s script heavily implies Geri did not know much about her past until the events of the movie. Yes, she was aware she was adopted. But Geri’s belief that Lyman was her biological father stemmed from a photo and a note bearing the name ‘Raymond Farrow’ that Laird gave his daughter after he died. At various moments in the movie, Geri expresses how she feels she doesn’t belong. She even shares these thoughts with the Riordan’s house-keeper, Matilda. These feelings fuel Geri’s journey of self-discovery and finding her biological family. Her third and final motive is her music, which plays a crucial role in Geri’s life. Geri’s believes if she finds her biological father, she will be able to incorporate more emotion into her musical pieces.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.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. 

Significance of the Redwoods

As I’ve said before on my blog, a film’s title can serve as a promise to the audience. In the case of Redwood Curtain, the audience should expect not only to see redwoods, but also to receive an explanation of what the “redwood curtain” is. The “redwood curtain,” in both the play and movie, is the redwood forest itself, where Vietnam veterans choose to live their lives. This is one of the reasons Geri meets with Lyman in the forest. While Geri learns about the “redwood curtain” in each version of the story, the way she learns about it is different. An Arcata Union reporter provides the explanation for the “redwood curtain” to Geri in the play. In the movie, she is given this same explanation by a gentleman working at Arcata’s veterans’ office.  

As I mentioned above, the majority of Redwood Curtain’s story in the play takes place in Arcata’s redwood forest. The redwood forest in the movie only appears in the story’s second half. Because of how often or little this location appears in the story, its association with the characters and the themes connected to it depend on these appearances. Topics relating to the environment are brought up throughout the play. When Lyman asks Geri why she’s visiting Arcata, she tells him she’s studying horticulture and botany at the local college. Geri also claims to have magical powers, which allow her to do things such as control the weather. Within the play, Geneva talks about how her family’s portion of the redwood forest is being bought out by investors. While this part of the story is also in the movie, it is discussed in more detail in the play, from Geneva bringing up the specifics of the sale itself to describing Arcata’s weather. The theme of family connects with the redwood forest in the movie. The Riordan family owns a portion of the redwood forest. While Geri stays at Geneva’s house, Geneva shows her niece a wall of family photos. These photos showcase various members of the Riordan family in the redwood forest. The number of photos and whether or not the photos are in black-and-white indicate how the forest has been in the family for generations.

Wellbeing of Veterans

When I brought up the movie version of Laird, I mentioned how he depended on alcohol to cope with war-related trauma. I also mentioned how Geri learns about the “redwood curtain” at Arcata’s veterans’ office. These are just two examples of how the movie includes the subject of veterans’ well-being. In the history of Hallmark films, veterans have been presented with a sense of reverence and respect. Veteran-related issues have also been included in Hallmark’s programming. An example is a veteran struggling with trauma in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Lost Without You. Even though the film adaptation of Redwood Curtain was released a decade before Hallmark debuted the Hallmark Channel, this tradition can be seen and felt in this Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. At Laird’s funeral, Geri shares with Geneva how she wished the family had addressed Laird’s alcohol dependency sooner. Geneva reminds her niece how Laird had a problem related to his experiences in the war. Geri says the family’s politeness and willingness to skirt the issue are what enabled Laird’s struggles. The points Geri makes to her aunt highlight how seriously these topics are taken in this adaptation.

While veteran-related issues are brought up in the play, it was never enough to be one of the story’s main topics. Compared to the movie, there isn’t the same amount of reverence for veterans. During her first interaction with Lyman, Geri’s personality is pessimistic and bitter. When Lyman asks Geri about the translation of her hometown’s name, Geri responds by saying, “Well, you’re not Spanish. You must belong to the other half of the country’s population.” After Geri learns Laird was her biological father, she says, “You’re right, Lyman, he was the saddest man I’ve ever known.” Geri also says, “And I thought I was joking when I said to follow in my father’s footsteps I had to mope and pine and drink myself to death. Not a very promising path he’s laid out for me to follow.” With the way veterans’ well-being wasn’t addressed, it made the play seem less hopeful. It also seemed like none of the characters were willing to find any solutions.

Children holding American flags during a sunset image created by rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People photo created by rawpixel.com – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Lyman, Geri, and Geneva

As mentioned above, I said Lyman, Geri, and Geneva were the only three characters to physically appear in the play. These three characters also serve prominent roles in the movie. Geri’s personality in the play was pessimistic and bitter. She was also disrespectful when talking to Lyman or talking about Laird. In the movie, however, Geri was a more empathetic character. While interacting with Matilda in the Riordan family kitchen, Laird recalls a memory of Geri when she was younger. In this memory, Laird was tearing up as he was chopping onions. Upon seeing this, Geri asks if Laird is sad because the onions are hurt.

Lyman, in both the play and movie, shares parts of his life story with Geri. In the play, though, more of this information is given. Toward the end of the movie, Lyman tells Geri how, before the war, he would fix and race cars with his dad. He also talks about how he never dated a crush he had. Lyman in the play not only drag-raced vehicles, he also worked in his dad’s garage. He recalls owning a Mustang Boss 302 and never having a girlfriend. Geneva’s family’s portion of the redwood forest was being bought out by investors. As a result of this, Geneva, in the play, is planning on moving to Key Biscayne, Florida, with her husband, Barney. In the movie, however, Geneva expresses no interest in moving out of Arcata. In fact, after one of Geri’s piano performances, Geneva tells Laird how she plans on fighting to keep her land. She and Barney are also divorced.

The cover of my copy of the play’s script. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen

After I watched and read Redwood Curtain, I ended up liking the movie adaptation over the source material. What worked in the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation’s favor was how the story was expanded. Not only were more locations added to the characters’ world, more context was given than the play provided. Even though there were more characters added to the film, the cast as a whole was smaller. Through their interactions, the audience gets a more intimate look into the characters’ relationships. The changes to the characters from the play made them more likable, especially Geri. Both the screenwriting and acting allowed Geri to be one of the strongest protagonists in Hallmark movie history. Redwood Curtain reminded me of another Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on a play: The Boys Next Door. Similar to Redwood Curtain, The Boys Next Door contained multiple locations and provided context to each of the key characters. Since I have seen the 1996 adaptation, but have never read the play, perhaps another comparison and contrast editorial is in order.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Coming to a TV near you: The World Television Day Blogathon!

When I published my review of Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels for August’s Buzzwordathon, I announced I would be hosting a new blogathon this November. I also said more details were to follow. Well, the time has come to reveal more information about the event! As I mentioned in the aforementioned review, the theme is ‘World Television Day’. Because this particular holiday takes place on November 21st, my blogathon will happen between November 19th  and November 22nd. Television is such a broad topic, so here is a list of ideas if you are interested in participating:

  • Television Shows (favorite or least favorite, specific episodes, talent involved, etc.)
  • TV Movies and Mini-Series
  • Films based on or inspired a show (Downton Abbey: A New Era, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, etc.)
  • Books based on or inspired a TV show (Murder, She Wrote, etc.)
  • Songs used in TV productions
  • Sports Events (Super Bowl, Olympics, etc.)
  • Televised Contests (pageants, Eurovision, etc.)
  • Historical Events (Challenger Disaster, etc.)
  • Podcasts or Youtube videos about TV shows
  • History of Television
  • Lost/Found Media related to TV (Sesame Street’s infamous Wicked Witch episode, etc.)
  • Public Service Announcements (PSA) or Public Information Films (PIF)
  • Commercials, Trailers, or TV Spots
Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Once you’ve selected an idea, take a moment to read the official rules:

  1. Please be respectful toward other participants and the subject(s) you’re writing about (especially if you choose to write about historical events on television).
  2. Please let me know in advance if you plan on publishing your post(s) earlier or later than the allotted time-frame (November 19th to 22nd).
  3. Only new posts will be eligible for the event.
  4. Because of how broad the subject of television is, I will not be allowing duplicate entries.
  5. There is a three-entry limit for each participant.
  6. All entries must be original work.
  7. Subjects from any genre, year, or country are allowed.
  8. If you’re interested in participating, please share your idea(s) in the comment section below.
  9. Pick one of the four banners and spread the word about the World Television Day Blogathon!
Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

World Television Day Participants

Sally from 18 Cinema Lane — The Flamingo Rising: Book vs. Movie, Review of Murder, She Wrote: Dying to Retire

Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews — Review of Baywatch (1999) (Season 9, Episode 18 — Water Dance)

Rebecca from Taking Up Room — List of Top 10 Gilmore Girls episodes

Andrew from The Stop Button — Review of Jericho Mile (1979 made-for-tv movie)

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express
Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Have fun at the blogathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Lake Effects Review

‘Family Vacation Films’, that’s the theme of August’s Genre Grandeur. When one mentions this subject, the idea of happy times or fun destinations usually come to mind. What also comes to mind is how a family chooses to go on these trips, mostly to have a good experience. But what if a family takes a vacation out of necessity? And what if it wasn’t possible for that family to take a literal trip? Perhaps a “staycation” would have to be in order. A figurative trip away from personal hardships, doubt, and stresses of everyday life. This is the case of Lake Effects, the movie I’ve selected for this month’s event. While Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, could be a vacation spot, the protagonist and her family live in that location. But due to a family tragedy, they are forced to take a break from their daily lives. Whether a family vacation is close to home or travels abroad, what’s important are memories shared together.

Lake Effects poster created by Life Out Loud Films (LOL), Hallmark Channel, and Anchor Bay Entertainment 

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Around the time of this film’s release, 2012, Jane Seymour appeared in several Hallmark productions. Whether starring in Dear Prudence and Perfectly Prudence or in a supporting role in A Royal Christmas, these roles have been enjoyable to watch. In Lake Effects, Jane’s portrayal of Vivian was one of the strongest performances in this movie! A tradition Vivian and her husband, Ray, shared was Ray giving Vivian a pink rose every Friday. While cleaning out the closet, Vivian finds a box of old roses from Ray. Out of the blue, she starting sobbing. Because of Ray’s death, all Vivian’s bottled-up feelings bubbled over.

Another strong performance came from Scottie Thompson, who portrayed the protagonist, Sara. While sharing a drink with her sister, Lily, Sara reminisces over memories of her father. But when she remembers a secret her father kept from the family, Sara’s demeanor quickly changes. Her face falls in a serious expression, not sugarcoating anything she’s saying. Sara’s tone of voice is also serious, attempting to get Lily to see things from her perspective.

I was pleasantly surprised by Ben Savage’s performance in Lake Effects. His character, Carl, was very different from his portrayal of Corey Matthews from Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World. Carl was an enthusiastic man who was passionate about finding a mythical creature called the Smithy. But there are times when he can be awkward. This is the case when being interviewed by a television host. During the interview, Carl has a blank look on his face, unsure of what to do. Sitting tense on a couch, Carl is nervous about being filmed, especially since he’s never been interviewed before. What made this performance work was how believable it was.

The scenery: At the end of Lake Effects, on-screen text states the movie was “filmed entirely on location at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia”. As someone who never knew this location existed until I watched this movie, I was impressed by the natural beauty it had to offer! The film opens with the sun rising over the lake. The peach-gray glow of the rising sun reflected off the water, creating a peaceful environment. In an overhead, cutaway shot, the lake was shown during the day. The clear, blue water was surrounded by green lawns and a mixture of green and orange trees. Topped off with a clear sky, this location appeared inviting!

Evening view from the shore image created by 0melapics at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/landscape-in-a-swamp-at-night_1042860.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by 0melapics – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

On-the-nose music: As I’ve stated before, music can highlight a scene’s intended mood and elevate emotions among the characters. Even if there are lyrics within the music, those songs should appropriately fit what’s happening on screen. But in the case of Lake Effects, the music was so on-the-nose, it was, honestly, cringey. One example happens when Sara and Lily are sharing drinks at a local restaurant. A live band performs a song containing the lyrics “there’s a storm that’s brewing outside”. A few minutes later, Sara shares Ray’s secret, causing animosity between her and Lily. Because this happened on more than one occasion, the on-the-nose music became annoying.

Inconsistent elements: There were some elements of the story that were inconsistent. Technology was one of them. When Sara is arriving at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, she is experiencing technical issues with her Bluetooth earpiece. She even says “is it still stringing tin cans around here”? A few scenes later, Sara accepts a call on her cell phone in her parents’ driveway. Based on that short call, it seems like her phone is working perfectly fine. As I already mentioned, Sara has a Bluetooth earpiece, as well as a cell phone. This phone looks like a smartphone from around the early 2010s. Meanwhile, Carl receives a call on a flip-phone from the previous decade. In one scene, a cassette boombox was featured at an event. With all that said, it seems like Hallmark forgot when Lake Effects was meant to take place.

Too many cliches: Back in 2020, I reviewed JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift. One of the flaws of that film was how many Hallmark movie cliches were featured in the story. Lake Effects has the exact same issue. The 2012 production was filled with cliches typically found in Hallmark Channel movies. A few of these cliches are the “woman from the city coming back to her small hometown” cliché, the “save the (insert establishment here)” cliché, the “business person is a jerk and/or out of touch” cliché, and the “small town festival conveniently taking place” cliché. What’s frustrating about Lake Effects is how it was originally shown on what is now known as Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. This second network has historically created films that were more dramatic and serious from Hallmark Channel’s lighter content. The inclusion of these cliches made the purpose of this story confusing. Was this film meant to be a Hallmark Channel movie, but Hallmark ended up premiering it on the second channel? Or was Lake Effects always meant to have a serious tone, border-lining Hallmark Hall of Fame?

So many story ideas: Like I just mentioned, there were too many cliches found in Lake Effects. These cliches lent themselves to several story ideas. Because of the inclusion of the “save the (insert establishment here)” cliché, part of the story revolved around Sara attempting to save her family’s home. Since so much emphasis was given to this part of the plot, other story ideas weren’t fully developed. In Smith Mountain Lake, there was a group called the “She-Doos”. This group consisted of women who take occasional trips on their jet-skis. With the “She-Doos”, there was an interesting story idea waiting to come to fruition. Unfortunately, it was competing with several other story ideas, trying to win over the audience’s attention.

Colorful travel suitcase image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/beautiful-illustration-of-travel_2686674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Lake Effects is a movie Hallmark fans typically don’t talk about. It also seems to have been forgotten over the years. Now that I’ve seen the film, I think I have an idea why this is the case. The 2012 title is uninspiring. It’s filled with too many cliches, but doesn’t take the initiative to try anything new. Lake Effects attempts to adopt many different stories. However, the execution of these stories was weak. I will admit the scenery was aesthetically pleasing. But, as I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, “the scenery can’t save you”. Like I’ve also said, a film’s script can make or break a production. If the script isn’t strong, there’s only so much a creative team can do to remedy the issue. While watching Lake Effects, there were a few story ideas trying to burst out of the murkiness of poor content. Sadly, these ideas couldn’t reach above the surface.

Overall score: 4.5 out of 10

Have you seen Lake Effects? Are there any lesser known Hallmark movies you’d like to see me review? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s O Pioneers! Review

When I participated in the Legends of Western Cinema Week last year, I reviewed the Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Durango. Unfortunately, the movie was weaker than I hoped. While thinking about what to write about for 2022’s event, I remembered how I had never seen O Pioneers! Therefore, I thought the Legends of Western Cinema Week was the perfect time to finally see the film! In the 1990s, Hallmark Hall of Fame had a history of adapting stories from the western genre. After the premiere of Sarah, Plain and Tall, the story’s sequels were released; Skylark in 1993 and Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter’s End in 1999. Outside of this trilogy, Hallmark Hall of Fame created O Pioneers! (in 1992), Rose Hill (in 1997), and Durango (in 1999). While looking back on this history, one has to wonder if this was done in an effort to capitalize on Sarah, Plain and Tall’s success? Whatever the reason, these films provide more than one perspective of westerns. Now, with that introduction out of the way, let’s review O Pioneers!

O Pioneers! poster created by Craig Anderson Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Lorimar Television, and Prairie Films

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I’ve seen a small handful of Heather Graham’s projects from her filmography. Based on what I’ve seen, she seems to receive one of two types of roles: a “damsel in distress” or the “ditzy” girl next door. But in O Pioneers!, Heather’s role was different. Portraying Alexandra Bergson in her younger years, she not only displayed a motherly persona, she also showcased a quieter strength. After trying to find more fertile farm land, Alexandra comes up with a plan to purchase the surrounding farm land near her family’s home. When she discusses this plan with her brothers, Alexandra explains it in a sure, yet calm way. Even when her brothers doubted her enthusiasm, she consistently maintained her composure, never letting uncertainty get in her way. Through her performance, Heather does a good job at foreshadowing who her character would become!

The majority of O Pioneers! revolves around Alexandra after her family’s farm is established and successful. Because this part of the story takes place fifteen years later, Alexandra is portrayed by Jessica Lange. Throughout the film, Alexandra experiences a variety of situations. This allowed Jessica to utilize different facial expressions, body languages, and emotions. As she reads a letter from her brother, Emil, a warm smile lights up Alexandra’s face. She appears to be sitting in a comfortable position, a friendly demeanor plain to see. Two scenes later, as Alexandra is sharing bad news with Emil, a sullen look is seen on her face. Her tone of voice is serious, as she’s trying to break this news as honestly, but gently as possible. The strength of Jessica’s acting abilities helped her performance appear believable!

One of the most important people in Alexandra’s life is Emil. Portrayed by Reed Diamond, Emil had a personality that was pleasant. Reed adapts to each situation in Emil’s life as well, similar to Jessica’s performance. In the aforementioned scene where Emil receives bad news, a concerned look is shown on his face. He also listens intently to what Alexandra had to say. Emil’s bottom lip quivers, as shock quickly morphs into sadness. The scene ends with Alexandra consoling her brother as he crumbles into tears.

Historical accuracy: O Pioneers! takes place between the late 1880s and early 1900s. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to note how the production looked and felt like the viewer was transported back to that time! In one scene, a man named Frank is walking around the interior of his house. On the wall in the kitchen, a telephone can be seen. The style of this phone is similar to those featured in programs like When Calls the Heart. Another timely piece of technology was the kerosene lamp hanging from the ceiling. This lamp was found in the dining room of Alexandra’s house. Three more kerosene lamps are located in Alexandra’s posh sitting room. Even though these props are smaller components of the movie, it shows how detail oriented this film’s creative team was!

Reed Diamond and Anne Heche’s on-screen chemistry: Anne Heche portrays Marie, a friend of Emil’s since childhood. Most of Emil and Marie’s interactions take place after they grew up, when they are able to live their own lives. During these encounters, I found their on-screen chemistry very sweet! Marie carried herself with a sense of whimsy, almost like she’s a “child at heart”. Meanwhile, Emil is more headstrong, choosing to ground himself in reality. Instead of clashing, these differences worked in Anne and Reed’s favor. The opposites attracting created a balance between their characters. During Marie and Emil’s interactions, they seemed to share an understanding with each other. Their shared history provided that layer of understanding, as well as Anne’s and Reed’s performance.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine, Olivia from Meanwhile, in Rivendell, and Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy.

What I didn’t like about the film:

An episodic story: The story of O Pioneers! revolves around Alexandra’s attempts at creating a successful farm with the land she inherited. But instead of those attempts providing an overarching conflict, the movie is filled with smaller conflicts that are resolved in a shorter amount of time. Ivar is a man Alexandra and her family have known for many years. He claims to have powers from God, which causes him to receive some negative attention. At one point, Ivar is threatened of being sent to an asylum. But in the very next scene, Alexandra simply talks to her brothers about what she’ll do if something happens. After that, the issue is unceremoniously resolved.

Too many characters: O Pioneers! is based on a book I haven’t read yet. Despite this, I could clearly see how large of a cast this production contained. Stories with a larger number of characters can be hit or miss. In the case of O Pioneers!, it didn’t work. Because of how many characters were in this story, some of them didn’t receive the amount of attention I feel they deserved. One of these characters was Amedee, a friend of Emil. A European baseball player, Amedee was such a charismatic character I wanted to learn more about. But with all the other characters trying to compete for attention, he only appeared in two scenes.

Some loose ends: Despite the movie having an hour and thirty-seven-minute run-time, there didn’t seem to be enough time to tie up some loose ends in the story. A good example is when one of the characters gets in trouble with the law. Alexandra visits this character in jail and claims she will help them. However, this issue is never resolved. That’s because this conflict takes place within the last eighteen minutes of the movie. It made me wonder why the creative team would include this part of the script when there was no intention to find a resolution to that conflict?

I know this is a screenshot of Wilma’s house from the Walker, Texas Ranger episode ‘The Lynching’. But Alexandra’s house in O Pioneers! reminded me of Wilma’s house, especially that wrap-around porch! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

There are some movies where the style is executed better than its substance. O Pioneers! is one of those films. As I said in my review, the project looked and felt like the story’s respective time period. The acting as a whole was good as well. But when it comes to the script, it could have been stronger. A major flaw is the movie’s run-time, which was an hour and thirty-seven minutes. This was not enough time to address the story points and characters within the narrative. Personally, I think O Pioneers! should have been adapted into a multi-part mini-series or a television show. With more time, the creative team would have been able to explore more stories and give some underrated characters more attention. Having an episodic narrative for a mini-series or television show would also make sense, as each story would be more condensed than a film’s plot. Like I mentioned in my review, I haven’t read this movie’s source material. Therefore, I don’t know if it’s better or worse than the 1992 Hallmark Hall of Fame production.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen or read O Pioneers!? Is there a book-to-film adaptation you like? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Lost Empire/The Monkey King Review

Last month, I wrote a list of movies I’d love to review someday. One of those films was The Lost Empire/The Monkey King. Originally, I was going to review the 2001 picture for Bai Ling’s birthday, as it is in October. But because July’s theme for Genre Grandeur is ‘Fantasy Movies of the 21st Century’, I found a reason to see this movie three months early! In my aforementioned list, I said the story of The Lost Empire/The Monkey King is based on Chinese folklore. This is very different from the types of films Hallmark creates today, which seem to, mostly, be recycled, predictable material. In fact, the only new Hallmark movies I’ve seen this year, so far, are Cut, Color, Murder, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Haunted by Murder, and Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King was created during a time when Hallmark wasn’t afraid to take creative risks. But did those risks lead to cinematic rewards? Let’s journey through this review as we find that answer together!

The Lost Empire/The Monkey King poster created by Hallmark Entertainment, RTL, Babelsberg International Film Produktion, Milk & Honey Pictures, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and Hallmark Home Entertainment

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When I reviewed Point of Origin last month, I was disappointed by Bai Ling’s limited presence in that film. To me, it seemed like her talents were underutilized. In The Lost Empire/The Monkey King, however, Bai was given more acting material to work with. This allowed her talents to be satisfyingly showcased! I’ve said in the past how Bai Ling has a strong sense of emotionality when it comes to her acting abilities. This was not only incorporated into her portrayal of Kwan Ying, but her on-screen performance was also fluid. A great example is when Kwan and Nicholas “Nick” Orton interact for the first time. While sharing drinks at a local restaurant, Kwan’s demeanor is giggly and somewhat flirty, reflecting her drunken state. She holds hands with Nick as she casually leans across the table. But as soon as Nick asks Kwan why she needed to see him, her mood changes without missing a beat. Kwan becomes very serious, as she sits up in her seat and even looks over her shoulder. This change in Kwan’s demeanor also indicates what’s to follow in the story.

Years ago, I read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. From what I remember, the Monkey King was portrayed as an older, wiser character who younger characters looked up to. Russell Wong’s portrayal of the Monkey King was much different from what I expected. However, it was enjoyable to watch in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King! The Monkey King in the 2001 film was a humorous character. Russell’s dryer sense of humor and one liners worked in the story’s favor, as it provided a break from the tenser moments in the movie. The humor itself also fit within that movie’s world. When Nick first meets the Monkey King, he is taken aback by his change of scenery. The Monkey King uses that interaction to explain what is happening. Nick asks the Monkey King when the book, The Journey to the West will be destroyed. The Monkey King casually responded by saying, “Midnight. Next Thursday”. What also worked in Russell’s favor was his comedic timing. All of the Monkey King’s humorous moments were delivered at the right place and time. This was not only the result of the screenwriting, but the strength of Russell Wong’s acting abilities as well!

One of the most relatable stories is the “fish out of water” story. In order for this story to work in film, you need an actor or actress who can believably sell this idea to the audience. Thomas Gibson in his portrayal of Nick did just that! The way Thomas expressed emotion appeared more realistic, adding to believability of his performance. Thomas’ ability to adapt to each situation was strong, allowing the audience to witness Nick grow over the course of the movie. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King is not only a “fish out of water” story, but also a “hero’s journey” story. That means the protagonist makes a significant change in his or her life. Throughout the film, Nick makes a personal transformation, gaining confidence as he encounters each obstacle. The way Nick reacts to these changes adds a sense of relatability to the character.

The set design: Immersive and imaginative worlds are a staple within the fantasy genre. The quality of a project’s set design can successfully present that illusion to the audience. I loved the set design in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King because it was able to pull the aforementioned illusion off! Nick is on a business trip to China. Some scenes showcased a typical Chinese city, with smaller details emphasizing the realism of this location. String lights and red lanterns can be seen overhead, which brings a softer glow in the middle of the evening. Vending booths line the streets, elaborating a greater number in population as extras and background characters walk by. Banners and signs in Chinese indicate how that specific part of the city is popular for business.

As the story progresses, more fantastical worlds are shown on-screen. One of these worlds is Jade City. Massive structures boast an ancient Chinese architecture. The ground beneath the characters’ feet displays a pale green hue, subtly reminding the audience of the city’s name. Bright pink flowered trees nicely contrasted the buildings and landscape, bringing a pop of color to the city. Nearby lanterns and window screens are smaller details that show the craftmanship that went into the film’s set design!

The discussion of literature: The main conflict in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King was the fate of the original copy of The Journey to the West. The villains want the book destroyed, while Nick and his friends are trying to save it. This main conflict led to a discussion of censorship versus preservation. The way the discussion is brought up, verbally and visually, was interesting. What was also interesting was the author of The Journey to the West, Wu Ch’eng En, receiving the opportunity to witness the impact of his literary work. I found this part of the story thought-provoking, as it made me think of authors who didn’t really have the chance to see their stories effect the world. The script’s focus on literature brought a sense of depth to a fantastical and whimsical story!

Traditional Chinese dragon image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Design vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some of the special effects: When creating a television movie, there’s only so much technological resources at the creative team’s disposal. I’m also aware cinematic technology was not as strong in the early 2000s as it is in the 2020s. Despite these setbacks, the special effects in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King were not a consistent issue. But when they were an issue, it was noticeably rough. While Nick was trying to find a way back to his world, he encounters a tiger in a nearby forest. This tiger appears to have been created through computer technology. Instead of resembling a real-life tiger, it resembled one from a computer game from the time of the movie’s release. The longer the tiger was on screen, the more dated it looked.

Lack of acknowledgment for Pigsy’s mistake: Pigsy is a character that tags along with Nick on his journey. During this journey, Pigsy makes a mistake that negatively impacts his friends and their mission. There were moments where Pigsy appears guilty about his choice. However, the mistake itself was not acknowledged like I hoped it would. Pigsy’s situation does get resolved. But this resolution was glossed over instead of being properly addressed. That was an underutilization of one of the movie’s themes, which was truth.

Mentioning Nick’s ex: On more than one occasion, Nick’s ex-girlfriend is brought up in the story through flashbacks. At a more climatic moment, her inclusion made sense. But, personally, I found it unnecessary for the ex-girlfriend to be brought up more than once. These parts of the story reminded me of a Hallmark movie cliché I’ve talked about in the past: the “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché. Nick’s ex-girlfriend is only shown through flashbacks, as I’ve already mentioned. However, I’ve also mentioned how pointless it is to bring up a protagonist’s ex when those characters have no plans to get back together.

Tiger image created by Chevanon at freepik.com.  <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/tiger-looking-straight-ahead_999674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/pattern”>Pattern image created by Chevanon – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I watched The Lost Empire/The Monkey King, I noticed some parallels between this movie and The Wizard of Oz.  In the Hallmark production, the characters travel to Jade City. Meanwhile, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends seek out The Emerald City. But comparing The Lost Empire/The Monkey King to The Wizard of Oz does the 2001 film such a disservice. This is because the Hallmark film holds up on its own! I found this production so imaginative, creative, and one of the more unique pictures I’ve seen this year! It was entertaining, engaging, sometimes thought-provoking, and even somewhat educational. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King makes me wish Hallmark would make more movies like this instead of what they’re currently creating. Like I said in the introduction, the 2001 production was made during a time when Hallmark wasn’t afraid to take creative risks. In more recent years, Hallmark has over-relied on one genre to the point where it seems like they don’t want to try anything new. I, honestly, find this to be a shame, as there are so many more stories Hallmark could tell.

Overall score: 7.9-8 out of 10

Have you seen The Lost Empire/The Monkey King? Are there any older Hallmark films you wish received more recognition? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution (1982) Review

In my list of the Top 10 Movies I’d Love to Review, I mentioned finding Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again on Diana Rigg’s IMDB filmography. During that trip on IMDB, I found another film I could review for the Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon. As the title of this review says, that movie is the 1982 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, Witness for the Prosecution! I’ve gone on record to state how I’d like to watch as many Hallmark Hall of Fame titles as realistically possible. If I’m going to be honest, I didn’t think I would ever see Witness for the Prosecution. That’s because the film not only didn’t receive a DVD release, but it doesn’t seem to have received a VHS release either. So, imagine my shock when I found the full movie on Youtube! Mysteries are, arguably, the most popular genre on my blog. This is also not the first time I’ve reviewed an Agatha Christie adaptation. Back in April, I wrote about the 2022 film, Death on the Nile. In that review, I said the movie had a weaker execution than its 2017 predecessor, Murder on the Orient Express. How will Witness for the Prosecution fare against these aforementioned adaptations? All rise, as this review is now in session!

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution poster created by CBS Entertainment Production, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Rosemont Productions, and United Artists Television

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Diana Rigg is one of the eligible Bond Girls for the Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon. Therefore, I will talk about her performance first. In Witness for the Prosecution, Diana portrayed Christine Vole, the wife of the accused party. Throughout the film, she carried her character as a woman from stories in the 1920s. What I mean by this is Christine held her own with confidence, never shaken by the probing of those involved in the legal side of the case. Even when she took the stand, Christine adopted a serious demeanor, as if putting on a “poker face” and refusing to show her deck of cards too early. These acting choices and the consistency of her performance allowed Diana to pull off a captivating and memorable portrayal!

Deborah Kerr is an actress I’ve talked about before on 18 Cinema Lane. While I have seen and reviewed five of her films, none of them were from the mystery genre. Despite this, Deborah held her own, acting wise, among the cast! She portrays Nurse Plimsoll in Witness for the Prosecution. While watching the 1982 production, her performance reminded me a bit of Donna Reed’s portrayal of Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life. Nurse Plimsoll cares about the health and well-being of the film’s protagonist, Sir Wilfred Robarts. Though Wilfred finds her overall nursing approach annoying, Nurse Plimsoll doesn’t give up on her mission. Even though she is stricter on other on-screen nurses, her heart is always in the right place. This can be seen through Deborah’s facial expressions, body language, and emotions.

Even though the cast as a whole was strong, there was one performance that stole the show. This came from Beau Bridges! Witness for the Prosecution shows Beau portraying an American named Leonard. Because his case is presented in a British/U.K. court system, he is a “fish out of water”. The situation itself provides an interesting dynamic for the cast, including Beau, to work with. It also gave Beau an opportunity to utilize a variety of emotions. During the case, one of the witnesses causes Leonard to have an emotional reaction. At the start of the witness’ questioning, Leonard presents a calm “resting face”. But as the questioning continues, he slowly becomes sadder, adopting a growing frown and his eyes filling with tears. This transformation was gradual, allowing Beau to adapt to the on-screen situation.

The set design: The majority of Witness for the Prosecution takes place within a British/U.K. court room. Despite the limited locations, there were some examples of set design that I liked! Inside the court room, the ceiling was domed, with clear glass exposing a view of the sky. Surrounding the dome are etched, white arches. With a green light shown on these arches, they gave the appearance of boasting an antique limestone material, which complimented the dark wood of the court room’s walls and furniture. In the lobby of the court room, painted murals are shown near the ceiling. The lobby’s walls appear to be covered in a two-tone marble material, with the floor revealing a black-and-white tile design. My favorite set in Witness for the Prosecution was Wilfred’s office! The room’s color scheme was brown, beige, and red. When this set was first introduced, a large, dark wood bookcase proudly stood. It was guarded by a dark wood table and two dark brown armchairs. While the walls were beige, the curtains on the window were red, giving the room a pop of color. The more time Wilfred spent in this space, the more the sophisticated, professional, and intelligent appearance of the office complimented his personality.

An in-depth look at the British/U.K. court system: As I mentioned in my point about the film’s set design, the majority of this story takes place in a British/U.K. court room. That part of the movie exposed the audience to the British/U.K. court system. Even though Witness for the Prosecution is not the “end all, be all” when it comes to this specific court system’s portrayal in entertainment media, it gives viewers a chance to compare and contrast it to other court systems in other productions. The layout of the court room itself provides one example. Toward the front of the court room, the witness stand is located at the judge’s right-hand side. This part of the court room is separate from the judge’s stand. Meanwhile, in court room productions taking place in the United States, the witness stand can either be located at the judge’s left or right-hand side. It is also connected to the judge’s stand.  

The Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon banner created by Gabriela from Pale Writer and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

The magical monocle: While working on the case, Wilfred wore a monocle when he was questioning the accused party and his wife. As he questioned them, a light shone through the monocle and directly landed on Leonard and Christine. But these were the only two times Wilfred used the magical monocle. The purpose of the monocle or Wilfred’s reason for using it was never explained. Was this monocle truly magical or was the monocle used as foreshadowing? I wish this part of Wilfred’s character was more consistent.

A dialogue heavy story: With any movie or tv show episode featuring a court case, there’s going to be a certain amount of dialogue within the story. But because Witness for the Prosecution mostly revolved around a court case, the 1982 production feels more dialogue heavy compared to Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express. Before watching Witness for the Prosecution, I had expected more showing than telling when it came to the mystery. Instead of watching the characters making discoveries related to the mystery, I heard about it through the questioning in court. Because of this creative decision, I didn’t find the movie’s mystery as engaging as it could have been.

An inactive detective: In a story where a detective, amateur or professional, is the protagonist, the audience expects to see this character actively solve their respective film’s mystery. Sadly, the viewers won’t witness that in Witness for the Prosecution. Wilfred is a lawyer defending Leonard in his case. However, Wilfred places more emphasis in resolving the case than playing detective. Even though this movie’s mystery was solved, it felt like Wilfred was served the answer on a silver platter instead of discovering it himself. Similar to what I said about the dialogue-heavy story, I didn’t find the mystery engaging because of Wilfred’s inactive detective role.

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My overall impression:

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution shares a similar plot with 1997’s Red Corner: an American man is accused of murder, with his case in a court system outside of the United States. But where Red Corner succeeded and Witness for the Prosecution didn’t is how Shen, Jack’s lawyer in Red Corner, not only played a role in the court case, but also went above and beyond in attempting to solve the mystery surrounding the case. This allowed Red Corner’s story to be intriguing and engaging for the audience. With the 1982 production, Wilfred spends more time on the court case than the mystery wrapped around it. This decreases the audience’s engagement. The dialogue heavy nature of Witness for the Prosecution’s story also affected the mystery’s intrigue. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s presentation is the third Agatha Christie adaptation I’ve seen, which I wasn’t overly thrilled with. I still want to, one day, read her literary work. But based on my reactions to the three adaptations I have watched so far, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll find an Agatha Christie story I like?

Overall score: 6.1-6.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of Agatha Christie’s adaptations? Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie story? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Top 10 Movies I’d Love to Review

Last year, when I reviewed Let Him Go, it became my 275th movie review! But that wasn’t the only movie review that achieved a milestone. My recent review, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, was my 650th post! With these achievements, I decided to write a top ten list, as I haven’t published one yet. Whenever I wanted to review a particular title, I have, for the most part, been able to seek that title out. While most of them have been accessible, some of those films were harder to find. The idea of film accessibility caused me to reflect on which movies I would love to review someday. Therefore, my list of the Top 10 Movies I’d Love to Review was born! The films featured in this list are underrated/lesser known. They were also released over ten years ago. This was a conscious choice, as it keeps each entry on an equal playing field. The entries are listed based on how accessible they are. In this case, “accessibility” means whether I can legally and realistically rent, purchase, or view a film.

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10. A Little Romance

I first saw the trailer for A Little Romance years ago on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The movie looked so sweet and charming based on what my television screen presented. Looking back on the trailer, the story seems like a light-hearted version of Rich Kids; where two young characters go off on an adventure. This is ironic, as both Rich Kids and A Little Romance were released in 1979. I have not only found several DVD copies of A Little Romance, but I am able to rent the film. So, a review of this movie will have to be in order in the foreseeable future!

9. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King

Some of Bai Ling’s projects have been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. In fact, one of my most recent movie reviews was of her 2002 HBO film, Point of Origin. So, when I discovered Bai starred in a Hallmark movie, I knew I had to, eventually, check it out. Based on what I know about the 2001 project, the story is based on Chinese folklore. This is a very different and unique film concept from the types of movies Hallmark creates today. Similar to A Little Romance, I have found several DVD copies of The Lost Empire/The Monkey King. The full movie is available on Youtube as well.

8. Alex: The Life of a Child

Long before 18 Cinema Lane came along, I had learned of Alexandra Deford’s story. After reading Alex: The Life of a Child, I wanted to see its respective adaptation. For the longest time, a twelve-dollar donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was the only way to receive a VHS copy of the movie. But if you visit the non-profit’s website, there is no mention of the film or how to acquire a copy of it. Fortunately, the full movie has been posted on Youtube. So, expect a review of Alex: The Life of a Child in the near future!

7. A Circle of Children and Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II

One of Judy Garland’s movies I like is A Child Is Waiting. For those who aren’t familiar with the 1963 title, Judy portrays a music teacher who works at a school for students with special needs. A decade after the release of A Child Is Waiting, two made-for-tv films, A Circle of Children and Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II, aired. Unlike Judy’s movie, the aforementioned productions are based on the true story of a teacher named Mary MacCracken. Her books were not only the source material for these movies, Mary was also one of the screenwriters for both films. While I haven’t found a physical copy of either movie, A Circle of Children and Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II have been uploaded on Youtube. With everything said, these titles could serve a future double feature!

6. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Redwood Curtain and The Flamingo Rising

I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane how some Hallmark Hall of Fame titles were only sold on VHS. This exclusivity has encouraged me to seek them out. Even though I’d like to see as many of those films as realistically possible, Redwood Curtain and The Flamingo Rising are at the top of my wish list! Each synopsis sounds interesting and Asian/Asian American stories are far and few between in the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection. As of late June 2022, both Redwood Curtain and The Flamingo Rising are available on Hallmark’s streaming service, Hallmark Movies Now. I have also found some copies on VHS.

On-line movie purchase image created by Makyzz at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/on-line-order-cinema-movie-tickets_1577652.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/technology”>Technology vector created by Makyzz – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

5. An Old Fashioned Christmas

I have gone on record to state An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving as one of my favorite Hallmark films. Two years after that movie’s release, Hallmark aired a sequel titled An Old Fashioned Christmas. This is one of Hallmark’s unique Christmas offerings, as it is a period drama. The story also takes place in and was filmed in Ireland. I have come across a few DVD copies of An Old Fashioned Christmas. However, these copies were included in Christmas movie box sets, which have been, more often than not, expensive. The 2010 film has an official page on Hallmark Drama’s website. But the movie isn’t scheduled for any upcoming presentations. Hopefully, when Christmas time rolls around, An Old Fashioned Christmas will appear among the network’s selection of seasonal titles.

4. She Couldn’t Say No

This 1953 comedy starring Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum was originally recommended to me by one of my readers. Since then, I have been trying to find a way to, legally and realistically, watch the movie. No VHS tapes or DVDs of this title have been attainable, as of late June 2022. She Couldn’t Say No has also not been posted on Youtube. Similar to An Old Fashioned Christmas, the 1953 movie does have an official page on Turner Classic Movies’ website. But it doesn’t look like the movie will air on the channel anytime soon. The only option I have left is to wait for the Youtube channel, Cult Cinema Classics, to upload the movie.

3. Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again

While looking for a title to review for the upcoming Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon, I came across this project on Diana Rigg’s IMDB filmography. As soon as I read the title, it gave off Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo vibes. Because of that, I thought I had finally found my “so bad, it’s good” movie. But I discovered Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again is a “Dickens spoof broadcast as part of the BBC’s 1995 “Comic Relief” telethon”. As someone who enjoyed the 1968 musical, Oliver!, I am curious to see what an Oliver Twist sequel would look like. But as of the publication of this list, there have been no uploads on Youtube of Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again. For now, it would be considered “lost media”.

2. The Tim Pope Cut of The Crow: City of Angels

I won’t talk about this entry too much, as I’ve already talked about it in depth in my editorial, Why Now is the Perfect Time to Release the Tim Pope Cut of ‘The Crow: City of Angels’. Personally, I’d consider the Tim Pope Cut a “partial lost film”. The film itself isn’t lost, but this version of it is. Since publishing my aforementioned editorial, it has garnered over a thousand views and counting! This tells me there’s a desire to find and restore the Tim Pope Cut. But, as of late June 2022, this version of the movie hasn’t been restored. For now, all there is to do is wait and “trust the timing”.

1. Four Devils

For those not familiar with this title, Four Devils is a 1928 project that is considered one of the most infamous lost films. The movie revolves around four siblings who form a circus act called the “four devils”. I don’t always receive an opportunity to review films from the 1920s. Therefore, writing about Four Devils would provide unique and intriguing content for my readers. Like I said about the Tim Pope Cut of The Crow: City of Angels, there has been no recent development in the retrieval of Four Devils. In the meantime, I guess I’ll find the book this movie is based on and read that.

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Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Point of Origin Review

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

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

Things I liked about the film:

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

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

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

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

What I didn’t like about the film:

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

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

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

Magnifying glass and fingerprint image created by Alvaro_Cabrera at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/loupe-over-a-fingerprint_853908.htm’>Designed by alvaro_cabrera</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Alvaro_cabrera – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

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

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

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

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Gold Sally Awards is back with On-Screen Couple and Best Ensemble Polls!

Hi everyone! The Gold Sally Awards is almost over! In these polls, you will have the chance to vote for the Best On-Screen Couple and Best Ensemble. Both polls will begin today, on May 25th, and end on June 1st. While you can vote for more than one nominee, you can only vote once per person. The link to the polls will be located under each poll. Just click on the word ‘Poll Maker’.

Who is the Best On-Screen Couple of 2021?

 

1. Candace Cameron Bure and Niall Matter — Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part
2. Daniel Brühl and Natascha McElhone — Ladies in Lavender
3. Ralph Macchio and Tamlyn Tomita — The Karate Kid Part II
4. William R. Moses and Alex Datcher — Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Marshall Williams and Natalie Hall — Sincerely, Yours, Truly
6. John Moulder-Brown and Lynne Frederick — Vampire Circus
7. Janel Parrish and Jeremy Jordan — Holly and Ivy
8. Francis Huster and Geneviève Bujold — Another Man, Another Chance
9. Fredric March and Janet Gaynor — A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Jesse Metcalfe and Sarah Lind –Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
Created with Poll Maker
What is the Best Ensemble of 2021?

 

1. The Karate Kid (1984)
2. The Three Musketeers (1948)
3. The Love Letter
4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly
6. Rigoletto
7. Holly and Ivy
8. The King and I (1956)
9. A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
Create your own Poll Maker

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Disappearance of Flight 412 Review

Aviation is one of the broadest topics when it comes to the world of cinema. However, I was determined to find a movie to review for Taking Up Room’s Aviation In Film Blogathon. While visiting the Youtube channel, Cult Cinema Classics, I came across a film titled The Disappearance of Flight 412. As this title suggests, there is a plane within the story. But the story itself is what led me to ultimately select the movie for this review! The idea of the military possibly crossing paths with a UFO is fascinating, especially in film. I also don’t receive many opportunities to review tv movies from the 1970s. So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready for takeoff, as we’re about to start this review of The Disappearance of Flight 412!

The Disappearance of Flight 412 poster created by Cine Films Inc., Cinemobile Productions, and NBC

Things I liked about the film:

The use of time-stamps and a voice-over: Throughout the movie, a male voice-over can be heard explaining what was happening on screen. His tone is serious, which complemented the film’s tone. The inclusion of this technique reminded me of The Twilight Zone, where the narrator is presenting the film as a case study. Another technique used in this film was time-stamps. These showed how much time had passed since the mystery started. The time-stamps also shared locations, informing the audience when a scene transition took place. This technique added to the film’s intended delivery; a classified file the audience is given exclusive access to.

A different side of the military: When one thinks of the military’s presence in a film, movies involving war/combat typically come to mind. However, there are films that depict the military in less combative environments. The Disappearance of Flight 412 is one of those films, as members of the Air Force are performing daily operations or testing a plane. The 1974 tv movie also focuses on the leadership within the military. As the story revolves around the military’s approach to unexplained phenomena, various military leaders handle the situation in a way they feel is best. With all that said, The Disappearance of Flight 412 presents a different side of the military, allowing the film to have its own unique identity!

The mystery’s start time: I’ve stated before how I prefer mysteries start sooner rather than later. This is so the audience can get, and stay, invested in the mystery. In The Disappearance of Flight 412, the mystery started six minutes into the movie. Because of this, it allowed the audience to get hooked into the story. It also allowed the story to get straight to the point sooner.

Military plane image created by Brgfx at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by brgfx – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A misleading title: This movie is titled The Disappearance of Flight 412. But throughout the story, the audience follows the members of the titular flight. Therefore, they know exactly where this plane ended up. There were two fighter jets, named Tango 1 and Tango 2, that did disappear. However, the title does not acknowledge those jets. With that said, I found this movie’s title misleading.

Few opportunities to know the characters: According to both IMDB and the title of the Youtube video, The Disappearance of Flight 412 is classified as a mystery. But because the story primarily revolves around this mystery, there aren’t many opportunities to get to know the characters. Sure, the audience learns a little bit of information about them, such as some of their military history. However, this information isn’t enough to truly get to know the characters. If anything, the audience simply becomes familiar with them.

The prolonged mention of UFOs: At the beginning of the movie, the aforementioned voice-over provides explanations and details about possible UFO sightings. This sets the stage for what’s to come in the story. After this introduction, though, the subject of UFOs isn’t brought up until about thirty-seven minutes into the movie. If that introduction hadn’t been included in the film, the first mention of UFOs would have been an unexpected surprise for the audience. But because of the introduction’s inclusion and because the introduction felt more like a news reel, it, in a way, presented false expectations of more serious UFO discussion.

Detective work image created by Photoroyalty at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/investigation-background-design_1041877.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Photoroyalty – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

There are movies where the subject itself is more interesting than the film. Some examples are Over the Edge and The Last Full Measure. In my opinion, The Disappearance of Flight 412 fits in this category. As I mentioned in my review, the story primarily revolves around the mystery of the disappearing fighter jets. Since the movie also covers the subject of the military dealing with unexplained phenomena, I think this topic would serve as an interesting documentary. That way, more time could be given to the subject, while also exploring the debates and perspectives surrounding it. At the end of the movie, a series of text states how the film’s characters and events are fictional. Maybe if The Disappearance of Flight 412 had been based on a real-life story, the project would be more memorable than it was.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

Have you seen The Disappearance of Flight 412? Are there any films involving aviation you like? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen