The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2021

Like I said in my list of the worst movies I saw in 2021, this year is a little different. Since 2018, most of the movies on my best list have been those I have reviewed. But a few titles on those lists weren’t covered on my blog. 2021 is the first year where every film on my best list has been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane! It should also be noted how each of these titles were either blogathon entries or Blog Follower Dedication Reviews. Therefore, I will include a link to each of these reviews on my list! As I said in my worst movies of 2021 list, I saw several films this year that I liked. This article is reflective of those feelings. But unlike my aforementioned list, there will be Honorable Mentions. So, with that said, let’s end 2021 on a high note with the top ten best movies I saw in 2021!

Honorable Mentions

Cape Fear (1962), Bathing Beauty, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part, Elizabeth Is Missing, and The Girl Who Spelled Freedom

<a href=”http://<a href=”https://www.freepik.com/vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by BiZkettE1 – http://www.freepik.com</a>&quot; data-type=”URL” data-id=”<a href=”https://www.freepik.com/vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by BiZkettE1 – http://www.freepik.com2021 New Year image created by BiZkettE1 at freepik.com.

10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series is a newer story that began last year. Despite how young this series is, it has grown over the course of four movies! This chapter not only recognizes its strengths, but also improves on some of the previous movies’ mistakes. Giving equal focus to the main and side mysteries is one example. Speaking of the mysteries, the overarching story was intriguing and engaging. There were even new characters added to this film I wanted to know more about. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff’s story didn’t receive a lot of development. With this and everything else said, I hope this series continues in 2022!

Take 3: Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Review + 360, 365, 370, and 375 Follower Thank You

9. A Star Is Born (1937)

In my three (soon to be four) years of movie blogging, I never thought I’d ever see any version of A Star Is Born. But now that I have seen the original from the ‘30s, I can honestly say it was better than I expected! The story’s honesty about the entertainment industry and maturity toward heavier subjects was such a surprise. What was also a surprise was the use of mixed-media throughout the film, as it was ahead of its time. Even though A Star Is Born was released toward the beginning of the Breen Code era, it highlights the quality storytelling that came from this period in time. With the constant changes in the entertainment landscape, as well as technology, I can kind of see why this story has been remade on more than one occasion.

Take 3: A Star Is Born (1937) Review

8. The King and I (1956)

In 2021, there is at least one movie from the ‘50s on my best and worst movies list. But since I already talked about I Dream of Jeanie and The Trap, it’s time for The King and I to shine! This was the first time I had seen this version of the story in its entirety. Despite that, I found the film to be quite enjoyable! It is a good looking and sounding film, with the costume design, musical numbers, and set design building an aesthetically pleasing picture. The most memorable part of the movie was Tuptim’s interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin! As I said in my review, it served as a good example of how everyone can view a text differently. The scene itself was more interesting than I expected.

Take 3: The King and I (1956) Review

7. Holly and Ivy

Because Hallmark creates so many Christmas movies, it can sometimes feel like they blend together. However, that is not the case for Holly and Ivy! What helps this title stand out is showing realistic characters dealing with realistic situations. This is quite different from those Hallmark pictures where the conflict either revolves around returning to a small town, saving a beloved establishment, or planning a major event. The emotional balance within this story added to my enjoyment of the picture. It never felt like the creative team was trying to emotionally manipulate me or force a reaction out of me. Looking back on the few Christmas films I reviewed this year, I can say with all honesty that Holly and Ivy was the best one!

Take 3: Holly and Ivy Review

6. Rigoletto

In my opinion, Rigoletto is to Beauty and the Beast what Ever After: A Cinderella Story was for Cinderella. What I mean by this is Rigoletto does an effective job at executing a non-magical version of Beauty and the Beast! Even though there have been musical versions of this particular story, such as the 1991 animated production from Disney, the 1993 film chose music as one of the story’s themes. This was an interesting choice, as it showed the audience the talent and skill it takes to be a good singer. Another interesting choice was the story taking place during The Great Depression. As I said in my review, this creative decision helped the film achieve its own identity.

Take 3: Rigoletto Review + 350 and 355 Follower Thank You

A Star Is Born (1937) poster created by Selznick International Pictures and United Artists

5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly

This is the first year an UP Network movie has appeared on any of my best lists! While Sincerely, Yours, Truly does contain a similar story to those found on Hallmark Channel, it makes up of that in genuineness and sincerity. The movie also presented interesting ideas, such as a grant proposal process and avoiding the “it’s not what you think” cliché. The on-screen chemistry and witty banter between the lead actor and actress definitely added to my enjoyment of this film! I don’t know what’s in store for UP Network in 2022. But I hope they continue to release quality productions like Sincerely, Yours, Truly!

Take 3: Sincerely, Yours, Truly Review + 295, 300, 305, 310, and 315 Follower Thank You

4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host

This entry in the Perry Mason movie series is one of the most memorable titles! One of the reasons why was the titular talk show host. Featuring real life talk show hosts in this story was a good idea. Having them portray talk show hosts on the radio was an even better idea, especially since some of those hosts had their own television show. That creative decision gave them new material to work with. The engaging nature of the mystery, where the outcome unfolds as the story goes on, maintained a steady amount of intrigue. This served as another way Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host stood out in the mystery genre!

Take 3: Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host Review + 290 Follower Thank You

3.  The Love Letter

Over the years, I have enjoyed finding and watching Hallmark Hall of Fame movies from years, even decades past. Sometimes, there are hidden gems that can be discovered. 1998’s The Love Letter is one of those gems! Unlike Chasing Leprechauns, the creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame title found a way to allow the realistic and whimsical aspects of the story to co-exist. In fact, the whimsical part of the movie is what made the project one of the most unique in Hallmark Hall of Fame history! The film does contain the elements you’d usually find in a production of this nature, such as historical accuracy. But that just adds to the strength of The Love Letter!

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Love Letter Review

2. The Three Musketeers (1948)

Isn’t it interesting how another Gene Kelly movie made it to my best list’s top three? Despite the weird coincidence, I did enjoy this version of The Three Musketeers! There was so much about this project I liked, from the strength of the ensemble cast to the stellar fight choreography. However, the best part of the film was how much detail went into it. This can be seen in the set design and costumes, where research and care are also reflected. While I still haven’t gotten around to reading the novel this movie is based on, The Three Musketeers was definitely an entertaining story!

Take 3: The Three Musketeers (1948) Review

1. The Karate Kid (1984)

When it comes to the world of cinema, nothing beats the classics! The timelessness of 1984’s The Karate Kid allows the film to have a strong rate of re-watchability. The film’s story also contained ideas and messages that caused me to think, which is not something I’d expect from a sports movie. As I write this list, Mr. Miyagi’s words immediately come to mind. Whether it’s the famous “Wax on, Wax off” quote or his wisdom about karate, these words not only help The Karate Kid remain a memorable picture, but also give the audience something to apply to their lives. Add some exciting karate sequences and you have a solid film that has stood the test of time!

Take 3: The Karate Kid (1984) Review (Olympic Dreams Double Feature Part 1)

The Karate Kid (1984) poster created by Delphi II Productions, Jerry Weintraub Productions, and Columbia Pictures

Have fun in 2022!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Review + 360, 365, 370, and 375 Follower Thank You

Back in May, I said I was planning on reviewing the newest Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries film. Since I try my best to be a blogger of my word, I’m finally getting around to writing about it. Out of all the times I could review this film, it seems like now is more perfect than ever. This is due to the start of Chesapeake Shores’ fifth season, the same season Jesse Metcalfe will be departing from. While I have seen all the movies in the Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries series, I only reviewed the previous title; Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery. In that review, I said the third movie was fine, but caused the series to stumble a little bit. This was because of several flaws in the project, including a mystery that was overshadowed. With any series, each chapter is hit or miss. But will Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery sink or swim? To solve this mystery, you need to read this review!

Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Since I mentioned Jesse Metcalfe in the introduction, I’ll talk about his performance first. Whenever Jesse is given a lead role in a Hallmark production, he carries his characters with a different kind of charisma compared to other lead actors. While Jesse’s performances are expressive, they feel more grounded and down-to-earth, like the character is a realistic individual. When Jeff and Zee discover the mystery’s victim, you can see sadness in his eyes. As he is looking away from the victim, he looks like he might cry due to how emotionally distraught finding a murder victim would be. Like Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jesse and Sarah Lind had good on-screen chemistry! Their on-screen personalities work so well together, like their characters were meant to be with each other.

There are some supporting actors that caught my attention because of the quality of their talents. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Drew Henderson portrayed a friend of Zee’s named Noah. When he appeared on screen for the first time, I immediately took note of how charismatic he was! He also transitioned between emotions very effortlessly. Because of these things, I would love to see Drew lead a Hallmark project! Another performance I liked was Reilly Dolman’s portrayal of Glen, the boyfriend of the murder victim. As he was questioned by Jeff and Chief Madieras, Glen came across as angsty and “rough around the edges”. But it didn’t feel stereotypical or one-dimensional. Instead, a mysterious aura surrounded Glen, making you want to learn more about him. I wish Glen had more appearances in this movie, because I really enjoyed seeing Reilly’s acting talents! Similar to Reilly, Nhi Do appeared in the film for a short amount of time. However, her portrayal of a bank teller named Hazel was very memorable! In her limited time on screen, Nhi showed how she had good on-screen chemistry with the other cast members. While Hazel is talking with Zee about the gossip around the bank, it felt like both characters got along well with each other. While I don’t know what’s in store for the future of this series, I would love to see Nhi Do become a series regular!

The humor: Compared to the other series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series has a more serious tone. This has been a consistent element throughout the overall story. There was humor found in Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery. But it felt like it belonged in that world, simply breaking up the darkness of the film’s tone and subject matter.  While getting ready for his date with Zee, Jeff was looking through some shirts to determine what would look presentable. During this scene, he sniffs one of these shirts, displaying a disgusted look on his face afterward. While this was a simpler moment, it was well-executed because of the writing and acting. The moment itself also felt believable and relatable. In Boston, while Jeff and Andrew, Jeff’s former police partner, are waiting to question a bank robber, an FBI agent shows up. When Andrew questions who the agent is, Jeff replies by saying “A problem”. Similar to what I said before, this exchange was a simple one. Yet, its delivery is what made it funny.

The mystery: In my review of Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, I said the film’s side mystery was barely referenced because it was overshadowed by the main mystery. Personally, I feel both mysteries should have received an equal amount of attention. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, there were two mysteries within the story. While the majority of the script focused on the main mystery, the side mystery was shown for a satisfying amount of time. What also helps is how the main mystery was written as if the audience is solving it alongside the characters. Each clue and suspect was introduced as the film went on, allowing for new surprises to keep viewers on the edge of their seat. This creates a cinematic experience that feels engaging and interactive!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Little development in Jeff’s overarching mystery: As I mentioned in my review of Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff is attempting to figure out who shot him back in Boston. This mystery is the series’ overarching story, where pieces to this puzzle are given to the audience in small doses as the series goes on. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff receives a lead in his case. I’m not going to spoil this mystery for anyone hasn’t seen the film. But all I’ll say is it feels like we take a step backward immediately after we step a step forward. I understand this series’ creative team wants to carry the story as long as possible, giving the audience a reason to stay invested. While I’m looking forward to seeing how this mystery unfolds, I feel like the audience should have received a little more.

The under-utilization of Britt Prajna: Zee’s friend, Britt, is one of the series regulars in the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series. Her role is similar to Sally from the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, a loyal and trust-worthy person in the protagonist’s life who provides advice and a listening ear. The difference between Sally and Britt is how Sally, sometimes, helps Aurora solve a mystery by using her journalistic skills to talk with potential suspects. As the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series progresses, Britt has been featured less. She’s also not involved in a given mystery, never using her skills to help Zee or Jeff. I know civilians/hotel owners can only contribute so much when it comes to solving crimes. However, I think Britt has more to offer in the world this series has created.

The mystery’s start time: When I reviewed Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, I stated the mystery’s start time was one of the movie’s flaws, as it didn’t begin until a little over twenty-five minutes into the film. While this was remedied a little bit in Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, it still took a while for the main mystery to start. This time around, the mystery didn’t begin until about twenty minutes into the movie. Before the mystery is introduced, the audience gets reacquainted with the characters and they are caught up on what has happened since the events of the previous film. I know this part of the story is important, especially when it has been several months since the last chapter was released. But I think the mystery should have been introduced sooner.

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My overall impression:

When asked why he tries to solve cold cases, Sergeant Webber tells Jeff it helps him be at peace with what has happened in his career. I found this to be an interesting answer, especially coming from a network where the majority of stories are murder mysteries. Some viewers, from what I’ve heard, have voiced their complaints over this creative decision. But after thinking about Sergeant Webber’s answer, I’m starting to see why this might be the case. Stories involving any sort of crime are never pretty. They can invoke fear, bring out the uncertain, and cause confusion. When we see a detective, real or fictional, get involved with a case, we see them attempt to find answers. Sometimes, answers can give us peace of mind, the peace of mind that can help us feel like things are going to be ok.  The series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries represent the familiar, featuring friendly faces the audience has come to know and trust. If surrounded by people or things we are familiar with, it can make us feel comfortable, even when uncomfortable subjects, such as murder mysteries, are brought up. Watching the detectives in these series can remind us of how good people can do good things in our world. Maybe we don’t have the ability to single-handedly solve cases like our favorite TV detectives do. But maybe, just maybe, we can give a little bit of peace.  Before I close this review, I just want to thank all my followers for making 18 Cinema Lane the success it is today!

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

Do you watch the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series? If so, what are your thoughts on the latest film? Tell me in the comments section!

Have fun in Martha’s Vineyard!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Review

Because my Hallmark Movies & Mysteries related content has been well-received, I try to make an effort to write about Hallmark’s mystery films whenever I can. Since the only new mystery movie to premiere this month is Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, I wanted to review it. So far, I have been impressed with this particular series. The first two films, A Beautiful Place to Die: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery and Riddled with Deceit: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery were in my Honorable Mentions on my list of the best movies I saw last year! They were such a strong start to a new series, that I couldn’t wait to see the rest of the story unfold! Jeff and Zee, the lead characters of Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries, make a good mystery solving team. It also helps that the scenery is nice to look at. Now, let’s set sail through this review of Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery!

Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery is the third film in the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series. Because of this, the main cast from the previous films also star in the newest installment. It works in the cast’s favor, as it allows each actor and actress to become familiar with their characters. While watching this movie, I could tell the members of the main cast were comfortable in their roles. This included Jesse Metcalfe and Sarah Lind! They both adopted an on-screen personality that complimented their characters. Jesse and Sarah had good on-screen chemistry as well. With each new film in a mystery series comes new supporting actors. One of them was Garfield Wilson. Portraying a local artist named Carl, Garfield gave a performance that was memorable! When Jeff and Zee inform Carl that Bernie, an art studio manager, has passed away, Carl becomes distraught. With a strong sense of emotionality, Garfield was effectively able to show how much Bernie meant to his character.

Including an overarching story: An overarching story within the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series is the mystery of who shot Jeff in the back prior to his retirement from the Boston Police. The inclusion of this story gives the series a sense of continuity. What also helps is allowing pieces of the mystery to be discovered as the series progresses. In Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff comes across a breakthrough as he reflects on the past with Zee. While I won’t spoil this part of the story, it does give the audience something to look forward to for the next film!

Creative set design choices: While watching Hallmark films, I always enjoy seeing the interesting set design choices from the various sets of a given movie. With Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, there were some interior and exterior design choices that I found visually appealing! In one scene, Jeff visits a restaurant in the hopes of meeting Zee there for dinner. Even though the main entrance features a plain glass door, its black frame pairs nicely with the gray stone exterior wall. This wall can also be seen inside the restaurant, complimenting the warm wood counter located nearby. In another scene, Jeff is using a punching bag on his porch. I have rarely seen punching bags found in outside spaces when it comes to cinema. So, this design choice was definitely creative! Plus, the view of the seaside makes the scene more photogenic!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

An overshadowed mystery: At the beginning at the movie, Zee’s doctor friend, Eli, is murdered. However, this character is barely referenced throughout the film. Zee and Jeff don’t discover the murder until the last thirty minutes of the movie. This is because the majority of their time is spent solving the murder of an art gallery manager named Bernie. It is possible to make a good mystery movie featuring more than one mystery. But for Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, there either should have been an equal emphasis on both mysteries or have the main murder mystery be the only one in the story.

A glossed over event: Toward the start of the story, the characters are preparing for an upcoming regatta benefit gala. But similar to what I said about Eli, this event is barely referenced in the film. In fact, the event itself is not shown on screen. I found this disappointing because I like when events like this are featured in mystery stories, as it is interesting to see the ideas the movie’s creative team can come up with. Now that I think about it, I think this is one of the few times where an anticipated event in a mystery film doesn’t play a significant role in the overall story.

The mystery’s start time: Most mystery stories start their respective mysteries within a short amount of time. It is done to help the story move along at a steady pace. With Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, the main mystery didn’t officially begin until a little over twenty-five minutes into the film. This time was used to set up the mystery and re-establish the significance of the series’ main characters. But, personally, I don’t think that needed to be done in almost thirty minutes. Ten to fifteen minutes is, in my opinion, more than enough time to address those two aforementioned aspects of the story.

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My overall impression:

At best, Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery is a fine movie. But, at worst, it is a step backward from the first two films. What I like about this series is how it has created an identity that sets itself apart from the other series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. One way it has accomplished this is by including an overarching story that can be found throughout each movie. I know every project isn’t created equally, as some stories are better than others. However, the third chapter made the overall quality of the series stumble a little bit. The first mystery movie of the year should put their best foot forward. For Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, it could have been a stronger first impression. With a glossed over event and an overshadowed mystery, there are areas of the story that might have added more interest to the overall plot. Starting the main mystery almost thirty minutes into the movie also hurts its case. According to a production sheet I found on UBCP/ACTRA’s (Union of British Columbia Performers/Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) website, a fourth Martha’s Vineyard Mystery movie will go into production next month! Hopefully, that film will be better than this one was.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Did you watch the films on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries? If so, which series is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here is the link to the production sheet I mentioned in this review:

https://www.ubcpactra.ca/whats-shooting/ (click on the words “Current Film and TV Production List”)