Take 3: Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver Review

Last October, I had planned on reviewing Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver. But, as I talked about in an editorial, Hallmark decided to postpone the movie until January 2020. Now that the beginning of the year has come, it means the film has finally arrived! The most exciting part of this movie appeared to be the use of magic. Also, the idea of a facility that specializes in magic is something that has never been featured in a Hallmark film before. These are the things that made me look forward to this installment! This is now the third movie in the Crossword Mysteries series that I’ve not only watched, but also reviewed. As I said in my reviews for the first two movies, I thought they were ok. But I was always interested in seeing how this series progressed. With a combination of magic and crossword puzzles, I wondered how it could raise the bar for the series. Well, since I recently saw the film, we can finally receive an answer to that question!

By the way, I have a new posting schedule where I will regularly publish articles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays!

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

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because most of the main cast in this movie has also appeared in the first two entries, it helps maintain the consistency of the acting performances. Another factor that added to these performances was the quality of the cast’s acting talents. Once again, Lacey and Brennan did a really good job with the material they were given. It allowed the versatility of their acting abilities to shine through. They also had good on-screen chemistry with each other and with their co-stars. Speaking of co-stars, I liked watching the performances of the supporting cast! One supporting actor that caught my attention was Steve Belford. In this movie, Steve portrays Reed, a new employee at the New York Sentinel. Despite the fact he’s in the film for a limited amount of time, Steve did a great job at bringing charisma to his role. This helped him create a character that was more memorable than I expected!

 

The Magic Manor: Half of this movie took place at the Magic Manor, a facility that hosts magic classes and magic shows. The most impressive aspect of this location was the architecture and design. The overall structure appeared to be Victorian, featuring impressive woodwork and beautiful stained-glass windows. What also made this location so memorable was the various rooms and hallways featured within the manor’s walls. It elevated the mystery aspect of the story, adding to the suspense and intrigue a plot like this calls for. I always looked forward to seeing this place on screen because of its photogenic qualities. I’m not sure what this facility is in real life, but I’d love to see it appear in another Hallmark production!

 

The editing: For the most part, films on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries have pretty good editing. But Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver had editing that was very well-done. One example was scene transitions. When Tess is on the phone with Logan, there were two scenes featured: Tess and Logan talking on the phone in their separate office spaces. The way these scenes were edited gave them a smooth transition. It also appeared flawless, like the movie itself did not miss a beat. The editing definitely helped make this project visually appealing!

Magician icons set
Image of magic show essentials created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/card”>Card vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The absence of crossword puzzles: In my review of Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder, I talked about how the insignificance of the crossword puzzles was one of the film’s biggest flaws. In Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, crossword puzzles barely make an appearance. This took away a large portion of the series’ identity. Also, there were missed opportunities to use these puzzles as clues for the mystery. Like I said in my review of the previous film, the lack of crossword puzzles makes the film’s creative team see their idea as too niche for sustainability. It is also starting to make me wonder why this series is called “Crossword Mysteries”?

 

Some scenes being drawn-out: About half of the scenes in this film are dialogue heavy. While the dialogue itself was necessary for the story, it made these scenes feel drawn-out. Because of this, it also made the film’s overall pace seem slower than most Hallmark mystery movies. Personally, I think there should have been a balance between action and dialogue heavy scenes. That way, the film’s sense of intrigue would never be in danger of faltering.

 

The “don’t-get-involved” cliché: While this cliché is not always featured in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries films, I find that it doesn’t work outside of the first or second movie in a series. This is the case for Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver. Tess’s aunt and Logan constantly tell her not to bother trying to solve the mystery. I understand that they had Tess’s best interests in mind. But these warnings were being spoken after she successfully solved two mysteries. If this series does receive a fourth movie, I hope this cliché is dropped from the story.

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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:

Like I said in the introduction, Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver is the third film in this series that I’ve watched and reviewed. In my opinion, this movie is the strongest of the three! While it does have flaws, the film also has elements that elevate the material. There were even aspects of the story that could help maintain the series’ consistency. In recent years, I’ve noticed that Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has taken their films more seriously. They also are more likely to try new things when it comes to story-telling. Things like this make me prefer movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries over those from Hallmark Channel. Even though Hallmark’s main network has made some good films, it seems like they are comfortable telling the kinds of stories that are more “tried-and-true”. Since Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver is the first movie I’m reviewing in 2020, it looks like my year is off to a good start!

 

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

 

Do you like the Crossword Mysteries series? Are there any series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries that you’re looking forward to? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Howl’s Moving Castle Review

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know who Jean Simmons was before I signed up for The Wonderful World of Cinema and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies’ 90 Years of Jean Simmons blogathon. So, I had to take a trip to Jean’s IMDB Filmography page. What I discovered was a voice acting credit for the film, Howl’s Moving Castle. Since I’ve never seen this movie and since no other blogathon participant was planning to talk about this movie, I decided to contribute to this blogathon by reviewing this film! Before watching Howl’s Moving Castle, I had seen three other Studio Ghibli films. These movies are Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo, and Tales from Earthsea. I have enjoyed all three of these movies, so I had a feeling that Howl’s Moving Castle would be somewhat enjoyable. How does this movie compare with the other three? Fly through this review if you want to find out!

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Howl’s Moving Castle poster created by Studio Ghibli, Toho, and The Walt Disney Company. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at https://movies.disney.com/howls-moving-castle.

Things I liked about the film:

  • The characters: Like any movie, Howl’s Moving Castle has a cast of characters that are very unique from one another. Not only do these characters have their own distinct physical features, they also have their own personalities. A good example is Howl himself. He has characteristics that help him stand out from the other characters (his hair can change colors more than once) and has a personality that adds to the uniqueness of his character (he is a powerful magician who has his fears and insecurities, but doesn’t let these feelings show easily). These two major concepts make Howl an interesting character. They also help shape the rest of the characters in this film.

 

  • The animation: Studio Ghibli films are known for their artistic animation. Howl’s Moving Castle is no different, filling up the screen with exquisite creations. In fact, the animation in this movie was so good, it honestly looked like priceless art. Everything that was featured on-screen was very detailed, even down to the very look of Howl’s castle. I also liked how the use of color was applied to this film’s animation. The bright colors that were found in some scenes complimented one another and, for the most part, made these scenes feel cheery and light-hearted. Whenever darker colors were used in other scenes, it never looked dull or devoid of color. Instead, these colors accompanied the darker moments unfolding on-screen.

 

  • The humor: When I watched Howl’s Moving Castle, I knew there would be some light-hearted moments sprinkled throughout the film. However, I wasn’t expecting this movie to have as much humor as it did. There were several moments in this movie that I found to be genuinely funny. One of these scenes was when Howl was freaking out over his hair changing from blonde to orange. These scenes, as well as the other humorous moments in this movie, were not only well-written, but also well-executed.
90 Years of Jean Simmons blogathon banner
90 Years of Jean Simmons blogathon banner created by Virginie from The Wonderful World of Cinema and Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Image found at https://thewonderfulworldofcinema.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/coming-up-next-year-90-years-of-jean-simmons-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

  • Lack of exposition: While Howl’s Moving Castle had a basic story that was fairly easy to understand, I found this movie to have very little exposition. Characters were not really given fleshed out backstories and certain events within this story aren’t given a significant amount of explanations. Within this film’s narrative, there’s a war that happens which affects the characters’ environment. However, it is never explained why this war is taking place or how the war started. I was very frustrated by this flaw of Howl’s Moving Castle.

 

  • An underwhelming villain: This film actually has two villains and I found both of them to be very underwhelming. Not only were they not given strong backstories, but they weren’t given any villainous qualities that made them very memorable. Because of this, the only real sense of danger that was found within this story came from the war itself. When it came to the villains themselves, I did not find them to be threatening or scary. To me, both of these villains were wasted potential.

 

  • The run-time: Howl’s Moving Castle is approximately two hours long. This caused the story to feel more drawn out and a little bit too long. Because of this, I felt that the first half of the movie was stronger than the second half. In my opinion, I don’t think this particular story needed this long of a run-time. Having the movie be an hour and twenty or thirty minutes long would have worked better for Howl’s Moving Castle.
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Fairytale castle image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/fairy-tale-castle_837803.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Designvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

At best, Howl’s Moving Castle was decent. It was a fine movie-viewing experience and I enjoyed the film for what it was. However, out of the now four Studio Ghibli films I’ve seen, Howl’s Moving Castle was weaker than the previous three films. This movie does have its merits, but it also has its flaws. It felt like this story was trying to accomplish too much at once, causing some of the film’s meanings and messages to get lost in the shuffle. But, like I’ve already mentioned, most of these issues within the movie’s narrative come from the length of the run-time. I would suggest that people, especially those who haven’t seen this movie, give Howl’s Moving Castle a chance. However, if you have seen other Studio Ghibli films before watching Howl’s Moving Castle and if you really enjoyed those movies, you might want to lower your expectations.

 

Overall score: 7.1 out of 10

 

Have you seen any of Jean Simmons’ films? Do you like watching movies from Studio Ghibli? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen