Take 3: Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird Review (The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper Double Feature Part 2)

Welcome to part two of The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper Double Feature! Like my review of The Great Muppet Caper, this review of Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird will be spoiler-free. I will also be referring to the movie as ‘Follow That Bird’ instead of its full title. If you would like to know why I selected this movie, I will provide the link to this double feature’s introduction. The link to my review of The Great Muppet Caper will be provided as well.

The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper Double Feature is On Its Way!

Take 3: The Great Muppet Caper Review (The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper Double Feature Part 1)

Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird poster created by Warner Bros. and Children’s Television Workshop

1. Were you familiar with Follow That Bird before The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper Blogathon?

Similar to The Great Muppet Caper, I was familiar with Follow That Bird before participating in the blogathon. I own a copy of the film’s soundtrack, so I knew what the story was about. When it comes to the movie itself, I’d only seen pieces of it.

2. Who was the featured guest star in Follow That Bird?

Sesame Street’s Big Bird was a guest on The Muppet Show. As I said in my review of The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets and Sesame Street were created by Jim Henson. Keeping this fact in mind, I’ve always seen the characters from each intellectual property (IP) as being extended members of the same family. So, when it comes to The Muppet Show, I was surprised Big Bird was considered a “guest”.

3. How would Follow That Bird’s story change if a different Sesame Street character was the main character?

Like The Muppets, Sesame Street has a large cast of characters. Whether that character is a human or a muppet, each one has their own unique personality, set of likes and dislikes, and talents to offer. With that said, this would a completely different movie if the story revolved around a different Sesame Street character. Grover is one example, as an important part of his character is his desire to become a superhero. If Grover were the main character of a Sesame Street movie, his story would likely be a “superhero’s tale”, where the protagonist fights crime and saves the day with superpowers.

4. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?

While watching Follow That Bird, I found some parts of the story confusing. As some of the characters watch a news report on a television at Mr. Hooper’s store, Chevy Chase makes a cameo appearance as a newscaster. During the weather report, he quotes the theme song to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Out of all the references Chevy could make in a Sesame Street movie, why that one? Wouldn’t it make more sense for Fred Rogers to appear in the film and quote the theme song of his own show? Another example is when several characters spot Big Bird in a parade. These characters can clearly see their feathered friend, but their path is blocked due to the parade taking place. How come none of the characters considered getting out of their car and following Big Bird through the parade on foot? It’s decisions like this one that, for me, didn’t make sense.

Similar to The Great Muppet Caper, I was surprised by which characters were included in the movie and how much screen-time they received. Toward the end of Follow That Bird, Elmo makes such a brief cameo appearance, he doesn’t even have any lines. On one hand, Elmo was introduced on Sesame Street in 1980. By the time Follow That Bird was released in theaters, he had been on the show for about five years. On the other hand, at the time of Follow That Bird’s premiere, Elmo was not as popular as he would later become. Despite these facts, I was kind of surprised by Elmo’s limited appearance.

5. Follow That Bird was the first Sesame Street movie ever created. Why do you think it took the show’s creative team that long to make a film?

I have two answers why this decision was likely made. A lot of the cast members from the Sesame Street show worked on Follow That Bird. This includes cast members who worked on Muppet related projects, such as The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppet Show. Like I said in my review of The Great Muppet Caper, my guess is Sesame Street’s creative team wanted to prevent creative burn-out and spreading their talent too thin.

At the time Follow That Bird was released, Sesame Street had been on the air for sixteen years. During that time, the show’s creative team worked very hard to cultivate a program that was creatively and educationally consistent. Like any television show, Sesame Street’s audience grew over time. When it comes to creating a movie, I would guess Warner Brothers, the studio who distributed Follow That Bird, and Children’s Television Workshop, Sesame Street’s production company, wanted to wait until they felt they could make a satisfying profit on the film.

The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews

6. Is there anything about Follow That Bird you liked or didn’t like?

As I said in answer number four, I was surprised by which characters were included in the movie and how much screen-time they received. But I also found it interesting how these characters were utilized in the story. On Sesame Street, Oscar the Grouch, more often than not, stays in his trash can and maintains a negative disposition. These factors cause Oscar to appear on the show in certain situations, such as interacting with The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. While he still had a negative disposition in Follow That Bird, Oscar explored the world beyond his trash can. That’s because he was one of the assigned drivers searching for Big Bird. In Follow That Bird, Oscar was a lot more humorous than I expected. My favorite line of his was spoken during the road trip preparations. Oscar exclaims how he loves a good goose chase. Then, he randomly says, “Let’s get lost”. Giving Oscar more humorous lines and allowing him to join the road trip gave this character an opportunity to be utilized more than he has on the show!

In my review of The Great Muppet Caper, I mentioned the characters’ knowledge of being in a movie as one of the story’s overarching jokes. This was one of the highlights of the 1981 film, as the dialogue relating to the joke was cleverly written and successfully delivered. Two of the characters in Follow That Bird, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count, acknowledged the film’s audience was watching their movie. But other than “The Grouch Anthem” and the end credits, this knowledge was not consistently brought up in the script. That is just one example of a creative element that wasn’t fully utilized in the 1985 movie.

7. Could a new Sesame Street movie work in 2023?

Since its debut in 1969, Sesame Street has become a global phenomenon. The success of the show has encouraged countries outside of the United States to create their own version of Sesame Street. In the thirty-eight years since Follow That Bird’s premiere, the cinematic landscape has become more globalized. If Sesame Street’s creative team wanted to make another movie, an important question they would have to answer is which characters will be included in the story. Would it exclusively focus on the characters from Sesame Street or would it also feature characters from one of the international shows? If you wanted to create a movie in 1985, you had three distribution options: releasing the film in theaters, premiering the movie on television, or putting the production directly on video cassette. With the invention of streaming services, studios and production companies are now given the option to forgo the process of theatrical releases, as well as selling a movie on physical media. The distribution of a Sesame Street film is another important question the show’s creative team would have to address.

8. What does Sesame Street mean to you?

To me, Sesame Street represents the idea of timelessness. The show has found its place in the pop cultural landscape and stayed there for over fifty years. In that timeframe, the world and Sesame Street itself has seen so many changes. But despite all of that, some elements of the program have remained the same. Each episode has been given an official letter and number. Follow That Bird even adopted this component from the show, with ‘W’ and ‘B’ being the movie’s letters, representing the studio that distributed the film, Warner Brothers. That simple creative decision has taught children the alphabet and how to count. This knowledge lays the educational foundation so children can master other skills, such as constructing sentences and mathematical equations. The simplicity and consistency of including letters and numbers into Sesame Street is a reminder of the timeless nature of these lessons.

9. After watching Follow That Bird, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?

According to Muppet Wiki, Sesame Street created three television specials in the 1980s focusing on Big Bird traveling around the world; Big Bird in China, Big Bird in Australia, and Big Bird in Japan. With Follow That Bird being released in 1985 and with the story about Big Bird traveling outside of Sesame Street, it makes me wonder if the movie was meant to correlate with the aforementioned television specials? Speaking of the movie, I thought it was a fine, pleasant, cute enough production. But compared to The Great Muppet Caper, Follow That Bird could have been stronger. There were several creative elements within the movie that weren’t consistently utilized. “The Grouch Anthem” and the end credits being the only two instances of the characters acknowledging the audience is watching their movie is just one example I mentioned in my review. As I also mentioned in my review, some creative decisions didn’t make sense, such as Chevy Chase quoting the theme song of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. However, this wasn’t a bad first attempt at making a movie. In fact, there are aspects of the project that worked in the movie’s favor, like the musical numbers! I feel Follow That Bird is one of those films that younger children would enjoy more than an older audience member would.

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Have fun at the blogathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Great Muppet Caper Review (The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper Double Feature Part 1)

Welcome to part one of The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper Double Feature! Unlike past double feature reviews, my review of The Great Muppet Caper is spoiler-free. If you’re wondering why I chose this movie for the blogathon, you can check out this double feature’s introduction at the link below.

The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper Double Feature is On Its Way!

The Great Muppet Caper poster created by
ITC Entertainment, Henson Associates, and
Universal Pictures

1. Were you familiar with The Great Muppet Caper before The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper Blogathon?

I had heard of The Great Muppet Caper prior to being invited to the blogathon. One reason why I’m familiar with the 1981 film is Christine Elizabeth Nelson’s cameo. Christine is the daughter of Jerry Nelson, who was not only a member of The Muppets cast, he also worked on The Great Muppet Caper. Christine’s mother, Jacquie Gordon, wrote a book about her, titled Give Me One Wish: A True Story of Courage and Love, which chronicled Christine’s young life with a Cystic Fibrosis diagnosis. When I sought out her cameo, before seeing The Great Muppet Caper, I admit I was confused why Christine referred to Kermit as a bear. But as I watched the movie, I realized her line was part of a running joke where Kermit and Fozzie Bear are mistaken for twins, as they wear similar looking hats.

2. Who was the featured guest star in The Great Muppet Caper?

That would be John Cleese! He portrayed a character named Neville, a wealthy British resident. John and Joan Sanderson were featured in the scene where Miss Piggy breaks into a high-end home in an attempt to portray her boss, Lady Holiday.

3. If Neville was portrayed by a different actor, how would his role in The Great Muppet Caper change?

The Great Muppet Caper is similar to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World in that the majority of the cast is given smaller roles, which results in a shorter amount of time on-screen. This surprised me, as I expected John to have more appearances in the movie. While John did a good job with the limited material given, I don’t think the role of Neville would change no matter who portrayed him. This is because The Muppets were the stars of the show, which is expected for this particular title.

4. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?

In the film’s opening number, “Hey A Movie!”, a city landscape served as the number’s backdrop. From what I could tell, the city didn’t look like the background on Sesame Street. I was surprised by this creative decision, as both The Muppets and Sesame Street were created by Jim Henson. Because of this fact, I expected more cross-overs between the two intellectual properties (IPs). But the only Sesame Street reference I could find in The Great Muppet Caper was a cameo appearance from Oscar the Grouch. Personally, I think having Sesame Street serve as the backdrop for “Hey A Movie!” would have been a nice nod to that show. With both Sesame Street and The Muppets containing their own large cast of characters and their own specific stories, it makes sense why The Great Muppet Caper featured little acknowledgement of Sesame Street.

The inclusion and exclusion of certain Muppet characters also surprised me. Looking back on The Great Muppet Caper, I remember Pepe the King Prawn was nowhere to be found. In my recollections of The Muppets, Pepe and The Great Gonzo have been good friends. So, I was a bit confused why Pepe wasn’t featured in the story. After doing some research about the character, I learned he joined The Muppets family in 1996, a decade after The Great Muppet Caper premiered. Had Pepe starred in this movie, he likely would have worked with Lady Holiday’s fashion label.

The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews

5. The Great Muppet Caper was not only the second Muppet movie created, it was also released at the end of The Muppet Show’s run. Why do you think the creative team behind the Muppets chose to make and premiere this film toward the end of the show’s lifespan?

If you want to create a movie, especially a good one, there is a lot of time, dedication, creative energy, and resources needed to make that a reality. This can also be said for the creation of a television show. Many cast members from The Muppet Show also worked on The Great Muppet Caper. Had both of these programs been created around the same time, this creative team would have run the risk of their talent being spread too thin as well as creative burn-out.

6. Is there anything about The Great Muppet Caper you liked or didn’t like?

One of the overarching jokes in this story was the characters’ knowledge of being in a movie. The way this knowledge was written and delivered felt like the film’s creative team was winking at the audience. One example is when Lady Holiday, portrayed by Diana Rigg, tells Miss Piggy about her brother, Nicky, and why she doesn’t like him. After Miss Piggy asks Lady Holiday why she’s telling her this information, Lady Holiday responds, in a nonchalant and matter-of-fact way, that what she said is exposition and it needs to go somewhere. I liked this part of the story because of how it was cleverly incorporated into the script. The quality of the screen-writing made this overarching joke feel like it fit within the movie’s world.

The plot of The Great Muppet Caper revolves around Kermit, Fozzie Bear, and The Great Gonzo solving the mystery of stolen jewels. As someone who seeks out media from the mystery genre, I was intrigued by the idea of a mystery story starring The Muppets. But when I watched the movie, I quickly learned the musical numbers were given more emphasis than the mystery. Because I enjoyed watching and hearing these numbers, I didn’t mind this creative decision too much. However, I still wish the mystery itself was given a little more focus.

7. Could a new Muppets movie work in 2023?

In the short term, I believe a new Muppet movie could work, purely based on nostalgia. The Muppets is an IP (intellectual property) many people are fond of, so the movie itself might have a huge draw on opening weekend. But for long term success, meaning memorability, merchandising, and home entertainment sales, the story needs to be able to stand the test of time. To achieve that, the script has to be timeless and straight-forward.

8. What does The Muppet Show mean to you?

When I think of The Muppet Show, the word “tradition” comes to mind. It’s one of those shows the family can watch together, sitting around the television every weekend and enjoying the program, as well as each other’s company. With the large cast of characters, a variety of guest stars, and plenty of musical numbers, there seems to be something for everyone. Sadly, I can’t think of many shows today like The Muppet Show, a show that brings families together.

9. After watching The Great Muppet Caper, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?

When it comes to movies, especially musicals, sometimes the simplest, most straight-forward stories are the ones that work the best. As I reflect on The Great Muppet Caper, I am reminded of Singin in the Rain and Anchors Aweigh. These three films contain stories that are easier to follow. But the strength of the talent, pleasant musical numbers, and execution of the final product worked in the story’s favor, making each title so enjoyable to watch! Seeing The Great Muppet Caper was such a fun experience! I found myself laughing and smiling during the film, as it exuded so much joy. That joy will carry in my heart long after the end credits roll. Then again, how can you not feel joy when The Muppets come around?

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Have fun at the blogathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Black Narcissus (1947) Review

For the first Genre Grandeur of 2023, the theme is ‘Movies that take place in Cold weather situations (snow, ice, hail, etc.)’. While I could have selected a Hallmark title, I decided to pick another film instead. As I looked through my recommendations board on Pinterest, I remembered the 1947 movie, Black Narcissus. Suggested by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, this story takes place in the Himalayas, a mountainous region known for colder temperatures and snowy landscapes. Prior to watching Black Narcissus, I had heard this movie was controversial at the time of its release. All I knew about the film was its synopsis and the fact it premiered within the Breen Code era. Is Black Narcissus worth the trek up the mountain? Keep reading my review to find out!

Black Narcissus (1947) poster created by The Archers and General Film Distributors

Things I liked about the film:

The dialogue: In my review of When the Circus Came to Town, I mentioned how the dialogue was surprisingly profound. This was also the case in Black Narcissus, where the dialogue was sometimes profound, even thought-provoking. After Christmas Eve service, the Young General congratulates Sister Clodagh on the birth of Jesus. This statement brings up an excellent point about Christmas. When there is a new baby in a family, the family will be congratulated on their new arrival. So, congratulating Jesus’ birth makes sense, especially given the religious context of the holiday. After Sister Clodagh tells the Young General how the sisters don’t speak of God in a casual sense, Mr. Dean replies how God should be as common as bread. Even though Mr. Dean made this statement while drunk, he did make an interesting point. From the way I interpreted it, it seems like Mr. Dean thinks Christians should live their everyday lives with God present in it.

The set design and scenery: Off the top of my head, I can’t think of many movies taking place in the Himalayas. Therefore, I was excited to see this locale through a cinematic lens. The Himalayas did not disappoint, as the landscape looked so photogenic, it honestly appeared as a piece of art! One example is a shot of the mountains, where the snow caps dissolved in an ombre palette of white to light blue, transforming to a deep blue. Not only were the exterior shots appealing to the eye, the interior shots were interesting to look at as well! My favorite room in the palace was the “blue room”. In this room, the walls are covered in a mural primarily boasting hues of blue, periwinkle, and purple. Pops of green can be found on the mural, presenting the illusion the room has been submerged into the sea. Complimenting the space is a blue, circular chair with yellow, flowered stitching and a crystal chandelier.

The Young General’s wardrobe: Even though the Young General appeared in the film for a limited period of time, I absolutely loved his wardrobe! In fact, his wardrobe stole the show! My favorite outfit was the one he wore during the Christmas service. While attending the service, the Young General’s attire was white with gold details. Because winters in the Himalayas are colder, his outfit was beautifully paired with a fur coat covered in a leopard pattern and puffy white sleeves. Adding a light gold turban, the Young General’s attire was impeccably designed by Hein Heckroth!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Few introductions to Himalayan culture: In 1956’s The King and I, Anna, as well as the audience, are introduced to Siamese culture through her interactions with various characters. One notable example is Tuptim’s interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, where her perspective on the text provides an insight into her cultural background. Before watching Black Narcissus, I was hoping to learn more about the people of the Himalayas. Unfortunately, the film’s creative team didn’t take the time to show Himalayan customs, traditions, and beliefs. Yes, the Young General is interested in learning more about Christianity and there is a spiritual leader who makes a handful of appearances in the movie. But these parts of the story were not explored to a satisfying extent.

Little to no explanations: Kanchi is a seventeen-year-old young lady who arrives at the convent. Mr. Dean explains to Sister Clodagh how Kanchi is a “troublemaker” who isn’t wanted by anyone. Was Kanchi truly a “troublemaker” or is she simply misunderstood? Why does it seem like no one wants her around? Why was Kanchi given little to no dialogue in the story? Is she non-verbal or was she so traumatized by something from her past, that she chooses not to speak? This is just one example of how little to no explanations were found in the film. That creative decision didn’t allow the audience to get to know Kanchi and understand the reason behind her choices. Because of how common explanations were omitted, I was confused by the end of the movie.

Relying on a premise instead of a plot: When I reviewed When the Circus Came to Town last December, I talked about how the made-for-tv movie relied more on a premise (the story’s hook) than a plot (what keeps the audience invested in the story). Black Narcissus contains the same flaw. Prior to seeing this film, I thought the first half of the story would show the sisters’ journey up the mountain, with the story’s second half chronicling the creation of the convent. The movie completely omits the journey, going straight to the convent’s creation. For the majority of the story, the sisters are shown going through the motions of keeping their convent afloat. While the sisters’ deal with their own personal issues, there was no overarching conflict that needed to be resolved.

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My overall impression:

Objectively speaking, Black Narcissus is a competently made film. In fact, I could tell the creative team behind the project cared about what they were making. But subjectively, this is one of the most confusing movies I’ve ever seen. That is because so many parts are the story were given little to no explanations. I didn’t know the 1947 film was based on a novel until I saw the film’s opening credits, so maybe this is a case where the source material does a better job than the adaptation when it comes to explaining things? Black Narcissus is a film that emphasizes style over substance. While there was appealing scenery, set design, and costume designs, the story was missing an overarching conflict. Missed opportunities to learn more about Himalayan culture were in this story as well. With everything I said, I can’t give a strong recommendation for Black Narcissus. Instead, I would suggest checking out movies like 1956’s The King and I and The Nun’s Story.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen Black Narcissus? Which movies featuring cold weather situations are your favorites? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Sea Change Review

Have you ever read a film synopsis that sounded so “bonkers”, you just had to check the movie out for yourself? That’s what happened when I stumbled across the 2017 Lifetime film, Sea Change. This is a movie I had never heard of until this year. It’s also a fantasy story, a genre Lifetime rarely creates projects for. Based on the film’s synopsis sounding so “outside of the box” for Lifetime, I not only had to seek the movie out, I had to review it as well. Whenever I’ve talked about Hallmark productions, there have been times when I wished the network would take a break from the typical rom-com or drama. The same can be said for Lifetime. In recent years, that network has relied on mystery thrillers and true crime stories, with the occasional drama. But how does Sea Change fare as a fish out of Lifetime’s waters? Let’s dive in and find out!

Sea Change poster created by Piller Squared/The Segen Company and Lifetime Television

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While watching Sea Change, I discovered Siobhan Williams starred in the film. Knowing that name sounded familiar, I looked through my movie reviews to see if I had reviewed any of her movies. Sure enough, I had not only written about Flicka: Country Pride, I had also talked about her character from that movie! Similar to Flicka: Country Pride, Siobhan portrayed a popular “mean girl” named Ginny. But in the 2017 Lifetime production, Ginny was a lot less annoying. Siobhan’s expressions were fluid, allowing her character to experience a variety of emotions. When a local lawyer questions Ginny about her cousin’s whereabouts, Ginny responds in a nonchalant way, an unconcerned look on her face and a tone of voice that lacks urgency. But when a family tragedy occurs, shock is stamped on Ginny’s face. Her eyes appear to stare out into the distance and paired with a frown.

While I haven’t reviewed any of Keenan Tracey’s projects, I have seen some of his Hallmark programs, including When Calls the Heart. In Sea Change, Keenan portrayed TJ, a young man who was staying on the island for the summer. During the story, Keenan consistently maintained a laid-back, easy-going personality. This consistency made his performance appear effortless! I also liked seeing Emily Rudd’s portrayal of the protagonist, Miranda! Similar to Siobhan’s performance, Emily portrayed her character with a variety of emotions. One of her best scenes took place toward the beginning of the movie. In this scene, Miranda is recalling a memory of her late father. Her mother reveals some information that goes against this memory. As soon as she receives this information, shock trickles down Miranda’s face. Her eyes become really wide and her lip quivers ever so slightly.

The scenery: In Sea Change’s opening credits, it was mentioned the movie was filmed in Nova Scotia. This Canadian locale presented a very convincing Maine! While Miranda went jogging, she traveled near the edge of a grassy cliff, which overlooked the ocean. The bright orange and yellow hues of the sunset paired beautifully with the dark blue ocean waters. This same ocean was captured magnificently at night-time! While on her jog, Miranda visits the ocean’s shore in the evening. A color palette of deep blue, black, and even purple created an environment that was beautiful in a dreamlike way. The scenery definitely stole the show and felt like a character itself!

A mystery subplot: As I said in the introduction, Sea Change is a fantasy story. But within this story, a mystery was included as a subplot. At the beginning of the movie, a murder takes place on the beach. The island’s law enforcement and a local lawyer attempt to solve the case. The audience learns early on who the culprit is. But what kept me invested is seeing how this information would be discovered by the lawyer and law enforcement team. With the gathering of clues, the mystery provided an element of suspense to the overall story. It was a familiar thread Lifetime wove in a newer way!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Poor audio: I’m well aware a typical made-for-tv production works with a smaller budget. With that said, part of the budget should be reserved for quality audio equipment. In Sea Change, the characters’ dialogue was so quiet, it sounded like they were mumbling. This forced me to turn up the volume on my television, as it was difficult to hear what the characters were saying.

Questions left unanswered: According to Sea Change’s synopsis, Miranda “makes a startling discovery about her connection to the Seawalkers”. Throughout this one hour and twenty-one-minute film, this connection was never revealed. Leo, one of the Seawalkers, tells his sister how Miranda will save them. The question of how Miranda will save the Seawalkers was never answered either. These are just two examples of questions that were not resolved. This is especially an issue toward the end of the movie, when the story is left open-ended. I’m not sure if this was done as a weak attempt at setting up a sequel or leaving room for the audience to interpret what might happen. But by the end of the story, you’re left with more loose ends than necessary.

Few appearances from the Seawalkers: When I reviewed the 2012 Hallmark movie, Chasing Leprechauns, I mentioned how the titular leprechauns could be heard and not seen. This made that film’s title seem somewhat misleading. Sea Change contains a similar flaw. While the characters talk about the existence of Seawalkers and while the movie’s synopsis brings them up, the Seawalkers themselves are rarely shown as Seawalkers. More often than not, they are presented in human form. From the perspective of an audience member, I speculated this creative decision was likely made as a result of the production’s limited budget.

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My overall impression:

Fantasy is a genre Lifetime rarely delves into. After seeing Sea Change, though, I think I know why the fantasy genre doesn’t often appear on Lifetime. Based on its synopsis, I thought Sea Change was going to be a “bonkers” picture. I even believed this could be my “so bad it’s good” movie. The movie itself is an average, weak imitation of Twilight. If you’ve seen or read that story, or any story similar to Twilight, you’ve already seen Sea Change. While there were aspects of the film I liked, I, honestly, can’t recommend it. One reason why is how so many questions are left unanswered. As I said in my review, the film’s ending is left open-ended. Since Sea Change seems to be a stand-alone story, this fact will only leave viewers frustrated. What made this movie disappointing, for me, was how unmemorable it was. Because Lifetime rarely creates projects in the fantasy genre, it’s a shame Sea Change didn’t stand out, for better or worse.

Overall score: 5.5 out of 10

Have you seen Sea Change? Did you ever come across a film synopsis that sounded so “bonkers”, you felt you had to check out the movie? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Christmas Thief Review

Merry Christmas to all my readers and followers! For the last movie of the season, I wanted to review something different. That’s because the Christmas movies I reviewed this year have been Hallmark productions. So, I chose to write about the Ion Television film, The Christmas Thief! This review marks two firsts for 18 Cinema Lane. The Christmas Thief is the first Ion movie I’ve ever written about, as I don’t often watch Christmas films from that network. Up until Christmas 2022, I have never reviewed a Christmas themed mystery movie. However, I know how popular the mystery genre is on my blog. With all that said, here is my gift to you; a sweet treat called The Christmas Thief!

The Christmas Thief poster created by Thriller Films, Scripps Networks, GPS, and Organic Media Group

Things I liked about the film:

Stand-out performances: While watching The Christmas Thief, there were some acting performances that stood out for the right reasons! One of them came from Jarrid Masse! Portraying a detective named Nick, Jarrid carried his character with a strong sense of charm. At the same time, Jarrid maintained the professionalism you’d expect from a detective. Even though I’ve only seen pieces of Top Gun, Jarrid’s performance reminded me of Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Iceman. I really liked seeing Nick’s interactions with his detective partner, Marie. Portrayed by Rachel Cerda, Marie had an easy-going personality. This not only complimented Nick’s personality, it helped create good on-screen camaraderie between Marie and Nick. I wish Rachel and Jarrid shared more scenes, as these two actors appeared to work well together! Bryson JonSteele portrayed Lana’s nephew, Henry. I enjoyed watching his performance, as it came across as believable! When he interacted with Lana, the film’s protagonist, Henry would sometimes adopt an accent that would be heard in a noir film. Because he looks up to his aunt as a role model, Henry has a child’s belief that he has to behave this way in order to be a good private investigator.

Henry’s subplot: As I just mentioned, Henry looks up to his aunt as a role model. He finds her private investigator dreams appealing, which inspires him to solve a mystery of his own. Shortly after Lana arrives home for Christmas, Henry asks for her help. He’s attempting to figure out if the neighborhood Santa is the real one or just a volunteer in a costume. When younger characters are incorporated in a Christmas movie, they are either there for the sake of being there or they have a minor role in the story. Henry’s subplot allowed him to have a bigger role than some younger characters in Christmas films. Having Henry’s subplot connected to the main plot also helps. With everything considered, I found this part of the story adorable!

The mystery: More often than not, I have enjoyed watching Hallmark’s mystery films. But I’ll be one of the first movie bloggers to admit the murder mystery storyline can sometimes feel repetitive. With The Christmas Thief, the mystery was a theft, which prevented the movie’s tone from becoming too dark. I also think the mystery itself was executed well! With clues sprinkled throughout the story, the audience could participate in solving the mystery alongside Lana and Nick. The creative team’s decision to make the mystery a top priority kept viewers invested in the movie. Lana’s interest in private investigation gave her a strong reason for getting involved in the case. All these pieces came together to deliver a more creative Christmas story!

Group of Christmas figures image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-cute-christmas-character_3188970.htm’>Designed by Pikisuperstar</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Poor audio: In some outdoor scenes, the audio’s quality was poor. When characters spoke to one another, it sounded like they were trying to communicate underwater. While watching The Christmas Thief, I, at first, thought there was something wrong with my television’s sound system. But the more this occurred, I realized it was an issue with the movie itself. It seems like the film’s creative team forgot to add ADR (automated dialog replacement) in post-production.

Inconsistent parts of the story: When it came to The Christmas Thief’s script, there were inconsistencies. It didn’t happen frequently, like in A Boyfriend for Christmas, but it was still a story-related issue. One example involves Lana. Through a voice-over at the beginning of the movie, Lana reveals how she has never believed in Santa, even when she was a child. Yet, during a stakeout with Nick, she claims the neighborhood Santa is real. There’s nothing wrong with showing a character change their perspective over time. In Lana’s case, however, that journey from point A to B was never shown. So, Lana’s change in belief came across as sudden.

A message’s weak delivery: Lana has always dreamed of becoming a private investigator. But her career prospects don’t seem as bright as she originally thought. Through a heart-to-heart conversation with her mother, Lana and the audience receive one of the film’s important messages: Sometimes, a dream not coming true can be a good thing, as your skills and talents can lead you in a better direction. I have rarely seen this message incorporated in entertainment media, so I was glad to see it addressed in The Christmas Thief. However, without spoiling the movie, Lana’s career decision backtracked on this message. I was disappointed by this, as the message could have had a better execution.

Magnifying glass image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/magnifying-glass-with-fingerprint-in-flat-style_2034684.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/flat”>Flat vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Christmas mystery films are, in my opinion, far and few between. Sure, there have been Christmas projects containing elements of mystery. But the only Christmas mystery movie I can think of is Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery. This is why I appreciate the story of The Christmas Thief, as Ion seems eager to think outside the box. Though the film does contain its strengths, it’s not without its flaws. The poor audio was noticeable to the point where I, honestly, thought my television’s sound system was experiencing technical issues. There were even inconsistencies in the script, but not as bad as A Boyfriend for Christmas. At the end of the day, Ion’s efforts to try something different should be recognized. With the network’s recent desire to create more Christmas mystery films, it makes me wonder if Ion will eventually become a mystery exclusive channel?

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen The Christmas Thief? Are there any Christmas mystery films you can think of? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun during Christmas!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: A Boyfriend for Christmas Review

This month’s Genre Grandeur theme is ‘Films With Santa Claus or Santa Claus impersonators’. With that in mind, I knew I’d find at least one Hallmark movie starring jolly old St. Nick. While reflecting on various titles, I remembered one film I had never seen in its entirety. That film is 2004’s A Boyfriend for Christmas. Over the eighteen years since its release, this movie has garnered a reputation among the Hallmark fan community. A Boyfriend for Christmas has been labeled a “classic”, as well as, more often than not, securing a place in Hallmark’s annual Christmas line-ups. When it comes to Hallmark Christmas movies with notoriety, I try to check them out in an attempt to discover if their “hype” is deserved. This is why I reviewed The Christmas Card and The Nine Lives of Christmas in the past. So, has A Boyfriend for Christmas earned its reputation? Keep reading my review while you’re waiting for Santa’s arrival!

A Boyfriend for Christmas poster created by Hallmark Entertainment,  MAT IV,  Alpine Medien Productions, Larry Levinson Productions, Gaiam Entertainment, and Hallmark Channel 

Things I liked about the film:

The parallels between Holly and Ryan: When the audience meets the film’s protagonists, Holly and Ryan, in “present day”, they see these two characters are at odds with each other. On the surface, Ryan and Holly are as different as night and day. But in one specific scene, it is shown they have more in common than they realize. In this scene, Holly and Ryan come home after a long day. The choices they make in their respective home are presented in parallels, alternating between the two characters. For example, Holly turns on the radio at her house, while Ryan turns on his television at his apartment. Toward the end of this scene, Holly and Ryan look out their window to observe their landscape. Ryan is greeted to a lighted city skyline and Holly sees her neighbor’s outdoor Christmas decorations, as well as the moon. Through these visuals and without the use of dialogue, the idea of Ryan and Holly sharing more similarities was effectively showcased!

Holly’s figure skating past:  When Ryan shares dinner with Holly’s family, he and the audience learn about Holly’s figure skating talents. Not only did she place second in a state final (when she was younger), she also has the trophies to prove her dedication and athleticism. As indicated in the dialogue, Holly retired from the world of figure skating. However, she performs an impromptu skating solo at a local outdoor rink. This was the most interesting part of Holly’s story! I wanted to learn more about her relationship with the sport. It’s too bad this side of Holly was only brought up in passing, as it could have lent itself to a fascinating subplot.

Ice skating pair photo created by fxquadro at freepik.com. Image by fxquadro on Freepik

What I didn’t like about the film:

Inconsistent writing: Throughout A Boyfriend for Christmas, there were several instances of inconsistent writing. Holly’s interactions with Ryan are a perfect example. Toward the beginning of the story, it is revealed she and Ryan are working on the same pro bono case. This scene’s dialogue gives the impression Holly has met Ryan before. While leaving the court house, she crosses paths with Ryan, hearing his voice and seeing his face. But when Holly and Ryan interact at a Christmas tree lot several hours later, it doesn’t seem to cross her mind that she’s recently heard his voice. Even when Ryan arrives at Holly’s house on Christmas Day, she acts like she’s never met him. Inconsistencies like this one made the story too unbelievable for my liking.

Lack of Christmas magic: When I reviewed Chasing Leprechauns last March, I said the film wanted to have its cake and eat it too. This was because the story included a magical element (leprechauns), yet prioritized the realistic aspects of the movie’s world. A Boyfriend for Christmas makes the exact same mistake. Santa appears several times in this story. Yet, he never utilizes any Christmas magic. Even when he’s giving Holly her titular boyfriend for Christmas, the execution of her wish was not magical or whimsical. It honestly makes me wonder why Santa was incorporated in the movie at all?

Holly’s subplot with Ted: Ted is Holly’s ex-boyfriend. His behaviors and actions clearly indicate how he’s “bad news”, providing one reason why he and Holly aren’t meant to be. I know his inclusion in the story was intended to present a conflict for the protagonists. However, it reminded me of Paul and his conflict from The Christmas Card. Ted’s personality, plus Holly’s lack of interest in getting back together with him, gives the audience the impression this relationship isn’t going anywhere. Because of that, this subplot felt like a waste of time.

The fast pace of Holly and Ryan’s relationship: In a typical Hallmark movie, the protagonists’ relationship progresses in a shorter amount of time. But in A Boyfriend for Christmas, Ryan and Holly’s relationship evolved too quickly. In fact, it felt very “insta-love”. Despite acting like she’s never met Ryan before, Holly almost immediately falls head over heels for him. She doesn’t even question why Ryan is suddenly interested in her. Because of how fast this on-screen relationship progressed, it was difficult to determine if Kelli Williams and Patrick Muldoon had any on-screen chemistry.

Santa stationary image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/creative-christmas-letter-and-envelope-template_3281562.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

My overall impression:

There are some Hallmark Christmas movies that have gained notoriety. Some of this “hype” was earned, such as the case for The Nine Lives of Christmas. Other times, the “hype” felt more over-rated, like how I kind of feel about The Christmas Card. Sadly, A Boyfriend for Christmas falls into the latter category. This is not a movie I was impressed with. The script was one of the weakest I’ve ever witnessed in a film. Like I said in my Lake Effects review, if the script isn’t strong, there’s only so much a creative team can do to remedy the issue. Unfortunately, the other aspects of the movie didn’t make up for the script’s weaknesses. The acting ranged from wooden to serviceable. The set design didn’t leave a memorable impression. There was no charm, whimsy, or Christmas magic present in the story. If anything, A Boyfriend for Christmas was a huge letdown from what it could have been.

Overall score: 4.3 out of 10

Have you seen A Boyfriend for Christmas? What Hallmark Christmas movies do you think are surrounded in “hype”? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: When the Circus Came to Town Review

For many film fans, Christopher Plummer will best be remembered as Captain von Trapp, from The Sound of Music. A poised and serious man, Captain von Trapp is a leader who stood his ground, even if that meant leaving behind everything he and his family have ever known. In the 1981, made-for-TV movie, When the Circus Came to Town, Christopher portrays a character who is seen as a leader. But this time, the leadership role is much different. For The Charismatic Christopher Plummer Blogathon, I wanted to go off the beaten path when it came to Christopher’s filmography. If it wasn’t for this event, I never would have heard of this television film. When I read the synopsis for When the Circus Came to Town, the story sounded heart-felt and somewhat inspirational, as it revolves around a woman who joins a circus in order to seek a change in her life. But is my entry for the blogathon as “razzle-dazzle” as the circus appears to be? Keep reading the greatest review on earth in order to find out!

When the Circus Came to Town advisement created by Entheos Unlimited Productions, Meteor Films, and CBS 

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: While watching When the Circus Came to Town, I kept wondering if Christopher Plummer had ever been cast in a Western. That’s because his portrayal of Duke, the circus ringmaster, felt reminiscent of the cowboys who are unfazed by their lifestyle. When Duke and Mary, portrayed by Elizabeth Montgomery, meet for the first time, Christopher’s tone of voice and the way his character speaks to Mary are nonchalant and matter-of-fact. His whole demeanor exudes a “been there, done there” attitude, a man who has been on the road for far too long. But when Christopher needed to turn on the charm, he effectively brought showmanship to his character. The film’s very first scene is a perfect example of this, as Christopher carries his character with charm and confidence.

As I mentioned in the introduction, When the Circus Came to Town revolves around Mary, a woman who joins a circus in order to seek a change in her life. Elizabeth portrayed this character, showcasing Mary’s transformation from a quiet woman who tried not make waves to a confident lady who was not afraid to take a leap of faith. At her father’s funeral, some of the attendants were asking Mary questions. Overwhelmed by the uncertainty of her future and frustrated by other people answering questions for her, she excuses herself from the conversation. But before she leaves, Mary answers every question given to her at the reception. The way she answers these questions is matter-of-fact, with a sharpness in her tone of voice. This scene seemed like foreshadowing, confidence ready to burst forth in Mary’s heart.

When Mary was interested in joining the circus, she met Louie, one of the circus’ clowns. Portrayed by Tommy Madden, Louie had a charismatic and easy-going personality. He even had a good sense of humor, allowing nothing to stand in his way. Louie was the kind of friend an audience member would wish they could have in their life, a one-in-a-million kind of person. Tommy’s on-screen chemistry with Elizabeth was pleasant! This made me look forward to Louie and Mary’s interactions, as these characters appeared to get along well with each other.

The dialogue: Dialogue in made-for-TV movies can be hit or miss. Sometimes, characters’ conversations sound like they came directly from real-life. Other times, the dialogue can make viewers think, “No one talks like that”. In When the Circus Came to Town, there were times when the dialogue was more profound than I expected. When Mary first meets Louie, she confesses how she ran away from home. After Louie jokingly asks her if she’s too old to run away, Mary says in a sad, serious tone, “I had to wait for everybody to die so I could do it”. Up until this point in the story, Mary has felt she hasn’t lived life on her own terms. She has either put the needs of others before her own or she, simply, went through life’s motions. This has made Mary question who she really is and what she truly wants out of life. Her aforementioned quote, to me, spoke volumes. It also showed how much thought went into the dialogue.

A peek behind the circus’ curtain: When any industry is prominently featured in a story, a film’s creative team has an opportunity to give the audience a chance to glimpse some of its realities. One of these realities is showing a behind the scenes look at what it takes to make that industry work. The titular circus in When the Circus Came to Town sometimes displays the practice, care, and determination it takes to make something like a circus appear effortless. Mary’s first job was cleaning the animals’ cages. While the job itself wasn’t showstopping, it was an important one. This also highlights how every role is a necessary one, especially since it takes so many people to put on a show.

The Charismatic Christopher Plummer Blogathon created by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews and Gabriela from Pale Writer

What I didn’t like about the film:

Christopher Plummer and Elizabeth Montgomery’s on-screen chemistry: Elizabeth and Christopher did a good job with the acting material they were given, as their individual performances were strong. Unfortunately, their on-screen chemistry was weak. The way Duke was written was part of this problem. The circus’ ringmaster was a womanizer who was a little too friendly with the alcohol. Duke was also a more static character, not displaying a strong desire to change his ways. This left me wondering why Mary would try to attract Duke’s attention, especially since Louie had the better personality?

No overarching plot: Like I said in the introduction, When the Circus Came to Town’s story revolved around Mary joining the circus. However, that part of the story is the hook, the part that encourages the audience to become interested in the film. What this movie was missing was an overarching plot, the part of the story that keeps the audience invested. Once Mary joined the circus, the script bounced around between Mary, Louie, Duke, and Jessy, the circus’ accountant. There was one part of the story that addressed the circus’ financial woes. Even though this could have served as an overarching conflict/plot, it was introduced in the last twenty-eight minutes of the movie. To me, this was a missed opportunity.

A limited distribution of character development: When the Circus Came to Town had the same flaw Top Gun: Maverick did: there was a limited supply of character development. In my point where I talked about no overarching plot, I said the story bounced around between Mary, Louie, Duke, and Jessy. These four characters received the most character development in the story. The other characters, especially those from the circus, either didn’t receive any character development or just enough for the audience to become familiar with them. When a film has a larger cast, I know it can be difficult to give each cast member and their character attention. Personally, I think there was not enough time to address all these characters and stories.

Group of clowns image created by Freepik at freepik.com. Image by Freepik

My overall impression:

Ringmasters have, sometimes, referred to their circus as “the greatest show on earth”. This bold statement has signified the circus company’s confidence and satisfaction in their final product; the show itself. That aforementioned quote can’t be said about When the Circus Came to Town. This is not a bad film, as it does contain strengths. Some of these are the acting performances and the profound dialogue. If I had to be honest, though, this story would have worked better as either a multi-part mini-series or a television show. The 1981, made-for-TV production featured so many moving parts. An hour and thirty six minutes is, in my opinion, not enough time to address all of that. Reflecting on When the Circus Came to Town and The Sound of Music, Christopher Plummer was cast as a leader. Out of his projects I’ve seen, this seems like pure coincidence. However, I’d like to point out Christopher’s portrayals in both When the Circus Came to Town and The Sound of Music highlight his acting versatility.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen any of Christopher Plummer’s films? Are there any you’d like me to review? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love Review

As I stated in my USS Christmas review, I will be making a greater effort this year to review more Christmas movies. For my second Christmas film of 2022, I will be writing about the 2021 title, A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love! In my list of the top five Hallmark films based on a true story, I mentioned the 2019 movie, A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love. While talking about that film, I said the sequel was stronger than the first movie. This is because the 2019 title did a better job at explaining and showcasing what a “Godwink” is. Since publishing that list, I have seen the third and fourth films in the Godwink series. The 2020 movie, A Godwink Christmas: Second Chance, First Love, was, in my opinion, fine. However, it was reminiscent of the first movie, where the “Godwinks” feel more like plot conveniences. What are my thoughts on the fourth film? Keep reading to find out!

A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love poster created by Crown Media Productions and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

Character interactions: Like I said in my Words on Bathroom Walls review, interactions between characters are only as good as the actors and actresses portraying those characters. In A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, I enjoyed watching these character interactions, as they were pleasant! One reason why was how believable the camaraderie felt! A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love revolves around Joy and Eric’s experiences volunteering during the Christmas season. During their time together, they work alongside two other volunteers, Adam and Sadie. Anytime these four actors (Katherine Barrell, Alberto Frezza, Josh Ssettuba, and Faith Wright) interacted with each other on-screen, I always got the impression their characters truly got along with one another and enjoyed each other’s company. This was accomplished partly with the help of the actors’ and actresses’ acting talents!

The inclusion of Advent: Advent is an important part of the Christmas season that, almost always, gets overlooked in Christmas cinema. So, imagine my shock when I see Advent included in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love! Advent was the name of the non-profit Eric and Joy volunteered for. However, the candle lighting and messages associated with Advent were incorporated into the script, correlating with what is happening in the story. The non-profit’s volunteer leader, Angelo, lights each candle at select moments in the film, explaining the significance of every one. Honesty is a message associated with the Advent candles, which connects to a dilemma Joy is facing in her personal life.

The incorporation of a conflict: It’s been several years since I’ve seen A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love. From what I remember, the story contained a conflict the characters were working to resolve. As I said earlier in this review, Joy and Eric volunteer during the Christmas season in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love. The volunteers’ goal is to help a family who lost their house due to a fire. Because the characters work together to resolve this conflict, this part of the story gave the audience a reason to stay invested in the film. It also provided better explanations for what “Godwinks” are.

Showcasing each volunteer’s talent: As I said in my Top Gun: Maverick review, it can, sometimes, be difficult to evenly distribute character development to every character in a group. But in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, the group of volunteers was smaller, which allowed the audience to get to know the characters. One way the movie’s characters received character development was having their talents showcased in the story! Sadie is one of the volunteers, like I mentioned earlier in my review. She is an expert when it comes to computers and technological equipment. When she discovers the Romero family’s computer hard-drive was destroyed in the house fire, Sadie finds a way to save at least some family photos. These photos were given to the Romeros as portraits for their new baby’s room.

Necessary Christmas items image created by Moonstarer at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-elements-collection_994916.htm’>Designed by Moonstarer</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Moonstarer – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Joy’s relationship subplot: At the beginning of the movie, Joy is introduced as a woman in a serious romantic relationship. She has been dating her boyfriend, Danny, for five years. Throughout the film, Joy wonders if she should continue her relationship with Danny. I know A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is based on a true story. I’m also aware Joy needed a personal conflict to work through. However, I, personally, didn’t think the relationship subplot was necessary. In fact, I found this subplot to be the weakest part of the overall story.

An unresolved story: In this review, I’ve been mentioning how the Romero family lost their house due to a fire. This is why the volunteers of the Advent non-profit are helping them. Because the Romero family play such a vital role in the film’s story and because A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is based on a true story, I was hoping they would receive an update at the end of the movie. Unfortunately, the Romero family was never mentioned. This exclusion made their story seem unresolved.

A missed opportunity: When Joy and Eric first meet Katie Graber and her husband, Dr. Louis Graber, they learn about “Godwinks”. Louis claims that, because he’s a man of science, he thinks “Godwinks” are simply coincidences. Meanwhile, Katie is a firm believer “Godwinks” are God’s intervention. While Louis eventually changes his mind on “Godwinks”, I feel the movie’s creative team missed a good opportunity to explore how people can have differing opinions around a singular subject. As I’ve been saying in this review, A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is based on a true story. I also know there’s only so much story you can tell in two hours. However, I wish a little more time had been given to that aforementioned idea.

Financial donation image created by Rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by rawpixel.com – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is only the second Christmas movie I’ve reviewed this year, so far. But based on what I saw, I was impressed! The fourth chapter in the Godwink series was reminiscent of the 2019 movie, A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love. This is because both films a) do a better job showing and explaining what a “Godwink” is and b) featured a conflict the characters were trying to resolve. These types of Godwink stories are the ones I prefer. The movie’s creative team adopted interesting choices that made the story feel more unique. One example was how gift exchanging was incorporated into the script as a way for the Romeros to become acquainted with their new neighbors.  While gift exchanging has been featured in countless Hallmark productions, the way it was presented in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love was creative. From what I’ve gathered, there were no Godwink films released or planned for release in 2022. Perhaps we’ll receive one in 2023, on either Hallmark Movies & Mysteries or maybe even Great American Family?

Overall score: 8.4 out of 10

Have you seen any of the Godwink films? Are there any “Godwink” stories you think should be adapted into a movie? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Top Gun: Maverick Review + 450 Follower Thank You

A few days ago, 18 Cinema Lane received its 450th follower! With that achievement comes a Blog Follower Dedication Review! A few of my recent movie reviews were for films released in the 2020s. I recently saw Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to Top Gun. Therefore, I will continue this momentum by writing about the 2022 blockbuster! While I’ve only seen pieces of Top Gun, I am familiar with its general premise. I’m also aware of how Top Gun: Maverick is the second film about the United States Navy I’ve reviewed this month. About a week ago, I wrote about the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Christmas film, USS Christmas. In that review, I said the 2020 title was a nice, pleasant film. Even though USS Christmas was fine, it wasn’t an instant classic for me or a new favorite movie. How will Top Gun: Maverick compare to the aforementioned Hallmark project? Keep reading this review if you have a need, a need to find out the answer!

Top Gun: Maverick poster created by Skydance Media, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, and Paramount Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Jennifer Connelly portrayed Penny, a character who was not in Top Gun. Despite being a sequel exclusive character, it felt like Penny was always meant to be in the story. The on-screen chemistry between Jennifer and Tom Cruise is an example of this statement. When Maverick visits Penny’s bar for the first time in years, he reconnects with Penny. Their interactions are friendly, a camaraderie that appears natural between them. This on-screen chemistry was consistent, which allowed Maverick and Penny’s interactions to be pleasant to watch! Speaking of Maverick, let’s talk about Tom’s performance! Since the story of Top Gun: Maverick takes place over thirty years after its predecessor, Maverick’s personality has matured in that time. However, it still contained that “prove ‘em wrong” spirit that makes him such a beloved character. In a scene where Maverick is seeking advice from Iceman, he reflects on the loss of his friend, Goose. As the past collides with the present, Maverick becomes emotional, tears quickly filling his eyes and his bottom lip quivering. This scene shows how, even though Maverick carries himself with a sense of professionalism, emotion still shines through, thanks to Tom’s strong acting abilities!

I’m not familiar with Miles Teller’s filmography or acting talents. However, I really liked his performance in Top Gun: Maverick! Miles portrayed Rooster, Goose’s son. Rooster’s involvement with the Top Gun program causes tension between Rooster and Maverick. During a disagreement between these two characters, Rooster has a lot to get off his chest. He starts yelling at Maverick, the anger felt, seen, and heard in Rooster’s voice and face. Even though Rooster’s anger is explosive in this scene, Miles displays control over his character’s emotions. He also has potential to be the lead actor in a future film!

The cinematography: Sometimes, action films can be plagued with “shaky cam”. This causes the events on screen to be indistinguishable, which can impact an audience member’s enjoyment of a movie. Fortunately, this is not the case for Top Gun: Maverick! During the scenes where characters are flying, there are many shots of them within their respective planes. There are also shots of the planes in various positions, directions, and angles. These shots are captured with a steady camera, delivered with crisp precision and clarity. One of my favorite scenes was when Maverick is racing his motorcycle alongside a plane. Showcased in a medium shot, this race contains the spirit Maverick has exuded since the first film. With a steady camera, the shot is presented from Maverick’s right side, with Maverick in the fore-ground and the plane in the background.

Including a mission: From the pieces of Top Gun I’ve seen, I recall the story heavily revolving around the training within the Top Gun program. While there is training in Top Gun: Maverick, the story prioritized an overarching mission instead. Each step of the mission is presented with the use of modern technology, such as computerized images on a television monitor. The inclusion of this mission gave the characters something to work towards. It also gave them a conflict to resolve. From an audience perspective, the mission keeps them invested in the story as it unfolds.

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:

No inclusion of the quote, “I have a need, a need for speed”: One of the most iconic parts of Top Gun is the quote; “I have a need, a need for speed”. That quote is not only the most recognizable one from the 1986 movie, it’s one of the most famous quotes of all time. With the amount of respect given toward the predecessor in Top Gun: Maverick, I expected the aforementioned quote to be included somewhere in the 2022 film. Unfortunately, this quote was never spoken or referenced. I know this seems like a trivial flaw. But I think not including the quote is a missed opportunity.

Iceman’s fate: For this part of my review, I will spoil Top Gun: Maverick. If you have not seen this movie and plan on watching it, skip this portion and go straight to where it says “A limited distribution of character development”.

Iceman makes an appearance in Top Gun: Maverick. Even though he has become an Admiral and the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Iceman is dealing with medical related issues. These issues lead to his death around the film’s half-way point. I am aware the story needed a conflict. But having one of the “legacy” characters die felt, to me, like the film was giving mixed messages. As I already mentioned, Top Gun: Maverick was respectful toward its predecessor, emphasizing the idea of honoring the past and respecting what came before you. If this sentiment is true, then why would the movie’s creative team allow Iceman to be written out the way he was? Couldn’t Iceman be allowed to live his life as peacefully as possible? I know the Top Gun story wasn’t intended to become a franchise. However, I don’t believe Iceman should have died, especially since Goose already died in the first film.

A limited distribution of character development: When a story involves a group of people, it can, sometimes, be difficult to evenly distribute character development to every character in that group. In Top Gun: Maverick’s case, this flaw wasn’t avoided. Among the group of young lieutenants, the two that receive the most character development are Hangman and Rooster. Some of the lieutenants get a little bit of character development, while the rest don’t receive any. Besides Rooster and Hangman, I felt like I truly didn’t get to know the lieutenants, just simply became familiar with them. Like I’ve mentioned before in this review, I have only seen pieces of Top Gun. Therefore, I don’t know if this flaw was in that film. But since a part of Top Gun: Maverick’s story focuses on a team working together, I wish I had gotten to know more than just two lieutenants.

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My overall impression:

During the overarching mission in Top Gun: Maverick, there are two miracles that are discussed. While I won’t be revealing these miracles, as I don’t want to spoil the film, I will be talking about the two miracles this movie produced. The first miracle is the amount of reverence and respect Top Gun: Maverick displayed for its predecessor. Creating a sequel to a beloved movie, especially after a thirty plus year time frame, is a challenging feat. I can only speak for myself, but I think Top Gun: Maverick’s creative team pulled off this feat better than expected! The second miracle is how successful Top Gun: Maverick has become since its release. In a post-pandemic cinematic landscape, having a film garner over a billion dollars has become rarer than it was a decade ago. Even if a movie does acquire that much money, it may not receive critical praise. Top Gun: Maverick not only acquired a large profit, but also achieved critical acclaim. With all that said, this movie truly pulled off the impossible. Before I end this review, I’d like to point out how this review represents a miracle. That miracle is the success of 18 Cinema Lane, which would not be possible without my blog’s followers. Therefore, I would like to thank each and every one of them!

Overall score: 8.3 out of 10

Have you seen Top Gun and/or Top Gun: Maverick? Which movie do you think deserves a sequel? Please tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Alex: The Life of a Child Review

‘Films About Doctors, Nurses and Hospitals’. That’s the theme of this month’s Genre Grandeur. There were several titles I could have selected to write about. But after re-reading my list of the top ten films I’d love to review, I decided to take a different approach for November’s event. When I published the aforementioned list in June, I talked about the 1986 made-for-TV movie, Alex: The Life of a Child. The film is based on Frank Deford’s book of the same name, which recounts the life of his daughter, Alex. Because of her Cystic Fibrosis diagnosis, Alex spent a significant amount of time interacting with doctors and nurses, as well as spending time in the hospital. Therefore, I thought Alex: The Life of a Child was an appropriate title to review for November’s Genre Grandeur!

Alex: The Life of a Child title card created by Mandy Films and American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Image found on the Youtube channel, JPG Highlands Vlog.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When you have a story that primarily focuses on a younger character/person, you need to recruit a younger actor or actress who has the talent to carry that film on their shoulders. In the case of Gennie James’ portrayal of Alex Deford, her performance highlights the idea of children being smarter than they sometimes receive credit for. Toward the end of the film, Alex asks her doctor whether she’s going to die. Her tone of voice is matter-of-fact, containing a sense of understanding for what’s going on. Alex’s doctor, Dr. Tom Dolan, tries his best to be as honest as possible, while also sugar-coating the news just enough to keep it bearable. Alex then tells Tom, “Ok, I think you better go now”, empathy felt in her voice. However, this empathy was for Tom, as Alex knew how difficult her passing would be for him.

Danny Corkill portrays Alex’s brother, Christian Deford. Even though he appeared in only a handful of scenes, Danny’s performance was a strong one! After receiving the news his family will be adopting a child, Christian goes to his room. In there, he listens to a series of recordings Frank created while Alex was still alive. Throughout this scene, Danny consistently carries a long look on his face. His eyes stare off into the distance, searching for the one person who won’t come back home. Those eyes are paired with a frown and a sad tone in his voice. This scene alone showcases how difficult a family member’s passing can be on a child, especially if that family member is their younger sibling.

Alex and Christian’s mother is portrayed by Bonnie Bedelia. What I liked about her performance was how expressive it was. Shortly after receiving the news about Alex’s diagnosis, Frank and Carole are worried about their daughter’s outcome. During her conversation with Frank, Carole’s eyes are filled with sadness and fear. A deep sense of concern is in Carole’s voice, as she and Frank wonder how much longer Alex will live. That scene displays a portrayal that feels believable, thanks in part to Bonnie’s strong acting abilities!

Respect toward the source material: As I mentioned in the introduction, Alex: The Life of a Child is based on a book written by Alex’s father, Frank. In my list of the top ten movies I’d love to review, I said I had read this book. Even though it’s been years since I read Frank’s novel, there were parts of the story I recognized from the text. One of them was the Deford family’s recording for their answering machine. In both the book and movie, the Deford family creates a funny recording for their answering machine, where they pretend to be in the shower while the phone is ringing. They record the message in the bathroom, leaving the faucet running and singing songs. This moment served as a hilarious moment in Alex’s life, stressing how Alex attempted to seek out the bright spots in her world, despite the severity of her illness.

Addressing the subject of patient advocacy: During one of her hospital stays, Alex’s lung collapses. She not only is in pain, she recognizes where the pain is coming from. When she tells a doctor what is happening, the doctor doesn’t believe her. But when Alex told a nurse she couldn’t breathe, Alex’s concerns were addressed. The subject of patient advocacy, especially for younger patients, is one that has received more acknowledgment in recent years. Alex’s story took place in the 1970s, with the film released in 1986. Therefore, this scene’s inclusion feels ahead of its time. It can also show viewers, including younger viewers, that you should stand up for yourself, even in a medical setting.

A screenshot of my copy of Alex: The Life of a Child. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The adoption subplot: Throughout the film, Frank and Carole Deford plan on adopting a child. This decision comes after the death of their daughter, Alex. In real life, the Deford family did adopt their youngest daughter, Scarlet. But this information was not included in the film’s source material, which was published in 1983. Scarlet’s adoption was addressed when Frank’s book was re-released in 1997, a decade after the film premiered. Because a good amount of the movie focused on this subplot, it took away focus from Alex’s part of the story, even though the film is titled Alex: The Life of a Child.

No acknowledgment for the Deford family’s involvement with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: According to Frank Deford’s bio on Goodreads, “he became involved in cystic fibrosis education and advocacy after his daughter, Alexandra (“Alex”) was diagnosed with the illness in the early 1970s”. Frank even became a chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Unfortunately, none of this information is included in the film. In fact, the aforementioned foundation is never brought up. I know there’s only so much story you can tell in an hour and thirty-three minutes. However, I wish this part of the story was included in a subplot instead of the adoption subplot.

Unclear time period: Similar to the book, the movie is told from Frank’s perspective, as he recalls Alex’s short life. Because of the visual nature of film, the audience witnesses some of these moments brought to life. But since the presentation of the “past” scenes doesn’t look much different from the “present” scenes, it was sometimes difficult to determine what part of the story was being told. For the sake of the film, I think the story should have been told in chronological order.

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My overall impression:

Back in April, I reviewed Brian’s Song. In that review, I said I wasn’t as emotionally affected by the movie as I thought I would be. This is because I was familiar with Brian and Gale’s story before watching the film, which prevented me from becoming caught off-guard by the emotional, sadder moments in the story. I ended up having a similar experience while watching Alex: The Life of a Child. As I mentioned in this review, I have read the source material prior to seeing its adaptation. Therefore, I already knew how Alex’s story would play out. From what I remember of the book, I do feel the film was respectful to Frank’s text. I also think the strong acting performances worked in the movie’s favor. Alex: The Life of a Child is a fine, competently made television film. But if you’ve read the book, you’ve already seen the movie.

Overall score: 7.1-7.2 out of 10

Have you seen or read Alex: The Life of a Child? Is there a “based on a true story” movie you’re a fan of? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen