Take 3: Forsaken (2015) Review (A Month Without the Code #3)

When I reviewed The Crow back in May, I said in the comment section that I wanted to see Michael Wincott cast in a western, as I thought it would be a perfect casting choice. As the months have gone by, I discovered that Michael had starred in the 2015 western film, Forsaken! The Legends of Western Cinema Week is what reminded me of this wish. As a blogger of my word, I chose to review Forsaken as one of my two entries for this event! The western genre is one that isn’t often covered on my blog. While I do re-cap When Calls the Heart, this is an exception to the rule. The last western I reviewed was Little House: Bless All the Dear Children back in July, with the review before that being last year’s When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas. I figured the Legends of Western Cinema Week served as a good excuse to revisit the western genre for the first time in about a month!

Forsaken (2015) poster created by Momentum Pictures, Mind’s Eye Entertainment, Panacea Entertainment, Rollercoaster Films, and Moving Pictures Media. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Forsaken_Poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When I reviewed Caesar and Cleopatra last September, I said in the comment section how Vivien Leigh’s portrayal of Cleopatra felt like Scarlett O’Hara was playing dress-up. This is because I thought the film’s creative team was attempting to take advantage of the popularity and success of Gone with the Wind. As Michael Wincott’s character, Gentleman Dave Turner, was first introduced with the film’s villains, I wondered if this portrayal was going to be a western genre version of Top Dollar from The Crow. Instead, Michael’s performance and the screenwriting presented a character that was his own person with his own story! A consistent aspect of Michael’s portrayal of Dave was the calmness he displayed. Even in the direst of situations, he always appeared to have control of his emotions. When I think of Kiefer Sutherland, I think of his portrayal of Jack Bauer from 24. Spending so much time on a show with a mix of drama and action seems to have paid off for Kiefer, as he was able to display a wide range of emotions! In one scene, Keifer’s character, John Henry, is recalling a fateful decision from his past. As he reflects over the lives of the people he hurt, his demeanor slowly transitions from remorse to sorrowfully sobbing. I’ve seen very few projects from Donald Sutherland’s filmography. However, I did think his portrayal of Reverend Samuel was strong! In a scene where his character is having an argument with John Henry about faith, Donald’s character quickly goes from calm and collected to yelling with anger. His emotionality definitely added to his overall performance!

The scenery: According to IMDB, Forsaken was filmed in Alberta, Canada. This particular landscape was captured very well throughout the film! Distant mountains paired with a blue sky were shown in establishing shots. These natural elements provided a great contrast to the lush, green fields also found in the movie. Forests were a part of the story as well, with sunlight giving this space a natural glow. The overall setting of Forsaken was picturesque and calming, which is different from the rough terrain that is a staple of westerns. This kind of scenery reminded me of shows like Little House of the Prairie and When Calls the Heart!

The on-screen chemistry:  In Forsaken, John Henry reconnects with his former love interest, Mary Alice, who was portrayed by Demi Moore. Keifer and Demi had good on-screen chemistry, as their characters appeared to truly care about each other! Through these performances, John Henry and Mary Alice’s interactions came across as bittersweet. This drove the point home that the romantic nature of their relationship was left in the past. There was also good on-screen chemistry among the other actors! During the film, the tension between John Henry and Reverend Samuel could be felt. It helps that Keifer and Donald had the emotional intensity to deliver performances that a story like this requires.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Heidi from Along the Brandywine. Image found at https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-legends-of-western-cinema.html.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The under-utilization of Michael Wincott: As I said in my introduction, the reason I chose to watch Forsaken is because I wanted to see Michael Wincott in a western. While I got what I wanted, I felt his talents were under-utilized. In this hour and thirty-minute film, Michael appeared in about five scenes. His character’s significance in the story was also not made clear. Gentleman Dave Turner can be seen spending his time with the movie’s villains. However, he claims to be John Henry’s friend and doesn’t condone the actions of his villainous cohorts. I found this part of film frustrating because Michael and his character had a purpose for being in this movie, but I couldn’t figure out what that purpose was.

More emphasis on drama: When it comes to the western genre, a certain amount of action is to be expected. Not all westerns utilize action to its fullest extent, but enough action is incorporated into most westerns to keep the story interesting. In Forsaken, the majority of the plot focused on the drama between John Henry and Reverend Samuel’s strained relationship. This part of the story wasn’t bad, but it did overshadow the action. Throughout the film, there were moments where action could be seen. Most of the action took place in the climax, which happened during the last twenty minutes of the movie. This creative decision caused the action to be used sparingly.

An overshadowed conflict: The overarching conflict in Forsaken is how a group of villains are trying to take over a small town. To me, this was the most compelling part of the plot. Because the story placed more emphasis on the estranged relationship of John Henry and his father, the conflict wasn’t given as much attention as I expected. This conflict was addressed in the film from time to time. However, it didn’t feel like its placement was consistent. While the conflict does get revolved, it doesn’t happen until the film’s last twenty minutes.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

My overall impression:

On 18 Cinema Lane, it seems like 2020 is the year when wishes come true. First, it was Words on Bathroom Walls receiving a distributor and a release date. Next, it was seeing and reviewing the film, The Wife of Monte Cristo. Now, it’s watching Michael Wincott in a western! As I said in my review, I got what I wanted. However, I feel there was more to be desired from Forsaken as a whole. The conflict involving the villains’ attempts to take over the town was the most compelling part of the movie. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the drama between John Henry and his father. Even though westerns do contain a certain amount of drama, the appeal of this genre is the action/adventure aspect of the world and its characters. This gives the audience the feeling of going on a journey with spirited men and women of the Wild West. Despite this movie being rated R, Forsaken could certainly be transformed into a Breen Code era film! The only two offenses I was able to find were the swearing and the amount of on-screen blood. While violence is expected for a western story, this aspect, along with the language, would need to meet Breen Code standards before production began.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you see Forsaken? Are there any western films you’d like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Crow Review

Because this review is for the “Love Goes On” Blogathon, I decided to write an open letter to The Crow. I know this isn’t my usual style of writing reviews and I know I don’t usually post articles on a Saturday, but I thought of trying something new for this post. So, without further ado, let me start this letter to The Crow.

The Crow poster
The Crow poster created by Dimension Films and Miramax Films. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crow_ver2.jpg

An Open Letter to The Crow,

If you would have asked me years ago what The Crow was, I would have answered you back with this question; “You mean that animated show with the cavepeople”? Back then, all I knew was a cave boy named Cro ruling my television screen, wooly mammoths being saved from eternal freezing, and every episode receiving a ‘happily ever after’. While I knew you, this other Crow, existed, I didn’t know a lot about you. From a distance, you looked like you based your existence on seeking attention, shocking people, and causing controversary. I know it’s not right to judge a book by its cover, but I let myself judge a movie by its outward appearance. This is not something I’m proud of. However, I won’t be the first or last person to do this for a film. As time went on, I learned more about your truths and secrets that were hidden from me before. From Brandon’s untimely passing to the source material itself, this is information that came to me long after you had made your temporary, but successful, stay at the box office. During this 20+ year time period, I had heard people singing your praises. They said things like how you were their favorite movie to how you’ve earned your status as a “cult classic”. It wasn’t until I read the reviews about you from Pale Writer (from the blog, Pale Writer) and Terence (from the blog, A Shroud of Thoughts) that I finally decided to give you a chance. Originally, I had planned on watching you around Halloween. Because your story takes place around this holiday, I thought it would be an appropriate choice. Since you perfectly fit the criteria for the “Love Goes On” Blogathon, I chose to watch you sooner than I expected.

The Love Goes On Blogathon banner
The Love Goes On Blogathon banner created by Steve from Movie Movie Blog Blog II. Image found at https://moviemovieblogblogii.wordpress.com/2020/03/19/announcing-the-love-goes-on-blogathon/.

To show you how much I like you, I’ll talk about the things I liked about you as a film. I have to say the acting was one of the strongest parts of this project! A lot of people have said good things about Brandon’s performance. After seeing The Crow, I can wholeheartedly agree with them! Besides being able to pull off the action sequences, Brandon brought the emotional intensity required for a role like this. His performance was consistent and never faltered. To me, some of the film’s best moments were shared between Eric and Sarah. These moments almost made me cry as they felt so real, containing emotional depth and expressing the relatable ideas of grief and losing a loved one. Speaking of Sarah, I thought Rochelle Davis did a good job providing a balance between adorable innocence and cynical realism. In movies that deal with serious, real world issues, such as death, crime, and loss, it can be easy for a younger actor or actress to be told or directed to act so adorably innocent, that the performance comes off as too sicky sweet. These kinds of performances may be found in programs such as “after school specials” or a Hallmark commercial. The great thing about Rochelle’s portrayal of Sarah is how it felt authentic and genuine, like a young person in that particular environment would react. I was also impressed with Michael Wincott’s portrayal of Top Dollar! Michael not only brought a cool and nonchalant persona to his character, but he also showed how manipulative Top Dollar can be. One moment, he’s tearing up over a snow-globe his father gave him. Several moments later, he’s ignoring the warnings of his henchmen by belittling or killing them. Through Michael’s performance and the screen-writing, Top Dollar was presented as a chameleon with a sinister under-tone.

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Image of crow at sunset created by Rayudu NVS at freeimages.com. Photo by <a href=”/photographer/rayudu238-57835″>rayudu NVS</a> from <a href=”https://freeimages.com/”>FreeImages</a&gt;. Image found at freeimages.com.

Before watching you, I had done research as to what you were about and other aspects of your existence. But, when I watched you, I was surprised by the story’s presentation. It was presented as a mystery, with the pieces falling in place as the film went on. The details of the crime were incorporated in very subtle ways. One example is the portrait of Eric’s band hanging on a wall in Top Dollar’s club. This showed and told a connection between the victim and the perpetrator. As someone who enjoys mystery movies, this creative decision made me feel like my intelligence was respected. A concern I had before watching you was the setting being so dark, I wouldn’t be able to see what was happening on screen. I knew the darker setting was meant to match your tone. But my concerns come after watching The Dark Knight, where most of the action sequences took place at night and used very little lighting. I want to thank you for including an appropriate amount of light in your scenes! There was enough to see what was on screen, but also complement the overall tone and atmosphere. One really good example is after Eric had infiltrated Top Dollar’s lair. While looking for the last surviving gang member, the room is mostly dark except for a flashing light. The light itself helped me see the events unfolding, while the systematic pattern of the light’s inclusion added tension to that scene.

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Here is a screenshot of the Cro title card, the show I referenced in this review’s introduction. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Just because I like you, doesn’t mean I think you’re perfect. Throughout the story, questions emerged that I wish were answered or elaborated upon. How did Eric and Shelly come to know Sarah? Why was Top Dollar continually mentioning his father? How did Eric’s band-mates deal with the loss of Eric and Shelly? I understand there’s only so much story you can tell in 102 minutes. However, I felt myself wanting to know more when it came to these questions. When I was researching you, I learned the story took place in Detroit. Seeing Michigan/Detroit related “Easter Eggs” was something I was looking forward to. But, in this story, there were barely any references to this specific location. Sure, one of Funboy’s gang members mentioned “the Motor City”. However, this story could have taken place in any state’s major city and it honestly wouldn’t make a difference. I’ve also heard good things about Eric and Shelly’s relationship, from being labeled as “adorable” to being named the perfect definition of “relationship goals”. I think Eric and Shelly’s relationship is nice, but I didn’t really develop an emotional attachment with it. The majority of this relationship was shown through a series of short flashbacks. Because of this, I wasn’t able to witness Brandon and Sofia’s (the actress who portrayed Shelly) on-screen chemistry. The culmination of these two factors prevented me from becoming emotionally invested in their relationship.

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Cute Halloween border created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/halloween-background-with-fun-style_1310632.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.

So, now you’ve reached the end of this letter. I think you already know that I like you. When I look beyond your surface, the one that appears violent and darker in atmosphere, I realize you have something important to say. You used the themes of grief and loss during quieter, less action-packed moments. This gave me a break from the intensity of the action sequences. Even though I like you, I haven’t fallen head over heels for you or chosen you as one of my new favorite films. You have flaws that held you back from reaching more of your full potential. But, don’t beat yourself up over this, because every film can’t be a 10 out of 10. Now that I’ve given you a chance, I’ve developed a greater appreciation and understanding of you. I also get why so many people like you so much. You are one of those films that has the power to stick with people long after they’ve seen you. Maybe that’s what makes you so special.

 

Sincerely,

Sally Silverscreen

 

P.S. I’ll give you a score of 7.8 out of 10.

 

Here are the links to Pale Writer’s and Terence’s reviews if you want to check them out:

Rain and Revenge: The Crow (1994)

https://mercurie.blogspot.com/2019/10/the-crow-1994-putting-wrong-things-right.html