Take 3: The Lion Review

I haven’t participated in MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur since April, when I reviewed the 1966 movie, Born Free. To make up for some of that lost time, I decided to review a film for July’s event. This month, the theme isMovies of the Outdoors”. That means the majority of the film has to take place outdoors or the movie has to significantly feature nature within the story. In a search for ideas, I turned to a book that I’ve had in my possession since last year: Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. The pages of this text revealed a title I had never even heard of before. In 1962, 20th Century Fox released a live-action production titled The Lion. Leonard gave this project two out of four stars, saying “Beautiful scenery of Kenya is far better than melodrama about young girl attached to pet lion, with family concerned it is turning her into a savage”. With curiosity getting the better of me, I chose to seek this movie out as my contribution for July’s Genre Grandeur! But will I end up agreeing or disagreeing with Leonard? Keep reading in order to find out!

The Lion poster created by 20th Century Fox.

Things I liked about the film:

William Holden and Capucine’s banter: While The Lion is the fourth film of William Holden’s I have seen, it is also the first film of Capucine’s I have seen. Despite this, I really liked hearing the banter between their characters, Robert and Christine! After Robert arrives at the game reserve’s guest house, Christine reminds him how he is now on a game reserve. In a nonchalant manner, Robert tells her that he won’t bite the animals. In this film, there was a hint of a laid-back persona with William Holden’s character. Even though this was not Robert’s strongest character trait, William pulled it off flawlessly, making his line sound like a piece of natural conversation. Another collection of banter between these characters carried a more serious tone later in the film. When Christine questions Robert’s reason for coming to Africa, he says “I’m here, aren’t I”? In my review of The World of Suzie Wong, I said that William Holden’s performance in that movie was consistent. His and Capucine’s performance in The Lion was consistent as well, each actor delivering their lines with effective execution!

The scenery: The natural landscape of Africa is one of the reasons why I chose to watch this film. Similar to the 1966 movie, Born Free, the African fields served as the principal scenery for The Lion, almost like the landscape itself served as a character in its own right. When Robert’s plane first flies to the game reserve, an establishing shot of a massive mountain is predominantly featured in the background. It was such a beautiful piece of earth, with its white and light blue hues glistening on screen. Like Born Free, the African plains are given multiple opportunities to be featured. But in The Lion, there were other locales that were shown. When Tina, Robert and Christine’s daughter, is on her way to introduce Robert to her pet lion, King, she walks along a winding path. One part of this scene shows Tina and Robert walking past a huge waterfall. While I wish this waterfall had been shown for a longer period of time,  it highlights how there are various types of landscapes within Africa.

Pamela Franklin’s performance: I am not familiar with Pamela Franklin’s filmography. However, she gave a solid performance in The Lion! While watching her portrayal of Tina, I couldn’t help being reminded of Hayley Mills in films such as The Parent Trap. This is because, like Hayley, Pamela carried herself with confidence and a strong sense of self, especially for a young person. These qualities in character paired nicely with Tina’s headstrong personality. Pamela also brought enough emotionality to make her role sympathetic. Whenever she is instructing her per lion, King, on what she wants him to do, you can tell Tina truly cares about him. In one scene, King is leaving with a mate. As Tina is begging him to stay, desperation could be seen and heard in her eyes and voice. Everything I’ve been saying allowed Pamela to still the show!

Image of male lion created by Wirestock at freepik.com. Animals photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

Use of the words “wild” and “savage”: In The Lion, there are a few moments where Robert and Christine use the words “wild” or “savage” when referring to Tina’s interest in the local wildlife and African tribe. At one point, Christine fears her daughter will grow up to be “wild”. I know the ‘60s were a different time compared to the 2020s. But that is not the reason why I didn’t like the characters’ use of the words “wild” and “savage”. By them choosing those words to refer to Tina’s interests, they fail to understand the importance of these subjects. Throughout the movie, Christine, Robert, and even John worry about who Tina will grow up to be in the future. Instead, they should have taken the time to get to know her in the present. Since Tina’s passion for wildlife and her appreciation for the local African tribe is common knowledge to everyone in her life, her parents could have chosen to homeschool their daughter. Those aforementioned interests could have served as the basis for various academic subjects, with Tina’s parents guiding and protecting her along the way. Tina’s upbringing in Africa and a strong educational foundation might afford her a good chance to be accepted into a reputable university. If her parents took the initiative to nurture their daughter’s love for animals, maybe she would have become a veterinarian or operate her own wildlife sanctuary. Some people say “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. However, Christine and Robert’s words fail to recognize a middle ground where all parties are satisfied.

Poor special effects: As I just said in my previous point, the ‘60s were a different time compared to the 2020s. One way this is made apparent is the quality of the technology used in cinema. Sometimes, actors will be placed in front of a green screen, in an attempt to present the illusion that the actors are in a particular location. A few scenes in The Lion showed some of the characters driving through the fields of Africa, with pre-filmed shots of this landscape shown in the background. But during these on-screen trips, a faint but visible blue glow could be seen outlining the characters. This technological error prevented me from getting fully immersed in these scenes. Toward the end of the movie, rain was shown falling in one scene. But the special effect used looked like small images of raindrops lay on top of the scene’s picture instead like looking like the raindrops were falling in that world. That also ruined the illusion of being in the movie’s space.

A drawn-out conflict: Like I already mentioned before, Tina’s parents worry about her future. The way they talk about this conflict sounded like a dire situation. But throughout the film, there was no sense of urgency to find a resolution. Instead, several scenes focus on a safari trip John leads. While I enjoyed seeing Africa’s scenery, these scenes felt like padding to make up for the main conflict being drawn-out. Another part of the story that received more attention than the main conflict was the customs and politics of the local African tribe. I will admit that this part of the script was interesting. However, it took time away from the main conflict, causing its final outcome to be stalled. Even though Tina’s parents solve their problem, the answer doesn’t feel satisfying because of how long the problem was drawn out.

Illustrated African landscape image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. Background vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

Because this month’s Genre Grandeur theme is Movies of the Outdoors”, I knew The Lion would be the perfect choice for this event. As expected, the scenery in the film presented a pleasant picture to look at. But like I quoted in my review of To Catch a Spy, “The scenery can’t save you”. That is certainly the case for the 1962 movie. The pieces of a good project were there; from the strong acting performances to interesting conflicts. But the overall direction wasn’t focused. Instead of working to find a resolution to the film’s main conflict, the story traveled down side paths. This placed more emphasis on other parts of the plot and caused the overarching narrative to be drawn-out. I was also frustrated by the lack of initiative from Tina’s parents to help their daughter reach her full potential with the resources they already had. While I understand they wanted the best for her, they never took the time to ask Tina what she wished for. Honestly, I’d recommend Born Free over The Lion. The story of the 1966 picture is not only straight forward, but its script is also stronger.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

Have you seen The Lion? Which “outdoor movie” would you prefer? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun outside!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Karate Kid Part II Review (Olympic Dreams Double Feature Part 2)

Now that I’ve seen 1984’s The Karate Kid, it’s time for me to review its respective sequel; The Karate Kid Part II! Long before I even thought about starting a movie blog, I had only seen a snippet of this film. Like I said before, I am willing to give a chance to movies I haven’t watched in their entirety. Because of that and because the majority of The Karate Kid Part II takes place in Japan, which has hosted the Olympics four times, my blogathon became a good excuse for checking this sequel out! Sequels, like any type of film, can be hit or miss. There are times when the next chapter can allow the overall story to “go the distance”; expanding the narrative and bringing something new to the table. Meanwhile, there are sequels that waste their potential by trying to recapture the magic of the previous installment. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the creative team and their intention for creating another film. If you want to know what type of sequel The Karate Kid Part II is, you’ll just have to keep reading this review!

Because I had The Karate Kid Part II on my DVR since last year, I decided to use a screenshot of the movie’s poster from my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

More focus on Mr. Miyagi: The first film was about Daniel’s personal journey; hence the film being titled The Karate Kid. While the majority of the movie revolved around the protagonist, we get to learn about Mr. Miyagi through his interactions with Daniel. But only parts of Mr. Miyagi’s backstory are revealed in these interactions. The Karate Kid Part II places more emphasis on Mr. Miyagi’s story. As I mentioned in the introduction, the sequel takes place in Japan, where Mr. Miyagi is originally from. However, the audience also witnesses people from Mr. Miyagi’s past interacting with him. The reason for the sequel primarily taking place in Japan is because Mr. Miyagi receives a letter from his former love interest, Yukie, about his father’s ill-health. By crossing paths with Yukie again, Mr. Miyagi is given the opportunity to reflect on past life choices. He also has to deal with the ramifications those choices had created. This new direction in the overall story shows that even though Mr. Miyagi is a good teacher with plenty of wisdom to share, he is still a human who, like Daniel, is constantly learning.

Interactions among the characters:  In my review for The Karate Kid, I talked about how the interactions among the characters were one of the strongest parts of that film. The sequel has the same strength as its predecessor, which provides consistency to the overall story! Having Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita reprise their roles helps maintain this consistency, as both actors are now familiar with each other’s talents. One of the strongest scenes in the movie is when Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are watching the sunset on the beach. In this moment, we not only learn more about Daniel, but we get to see him support his mentor and friend. The Karate Kid Part II shows Daniel having grown up since the events of the first film. Even though Daniel is still a teenager with a teenage perspective, he is more willing to put others before himself, as well as open his mind to new opportunities and experiences. Right as Mr. Miyagi boards his plane, Daniel joins him in the plane terminal. The reason why he wants to join Mr. Miyagi on this trip is because he wants to be there for his friend and mentor, especially since that friend and mentor has been there for Daniel. Not only does Daniel purchase a book about the specific place in Japan where Mr. Miyagi is from, but Daniel also uses some of the money from his savings account to pay for his ticket. Like I said in my review for the first movie, interactions like Mr. Miyagi and Daniel’s were made possible by the quality of the acting performances and the screenwriting!

The scenery: Although most of The Karate Kid Part II takes place in Japan, the movie was actually filmed in Oahu, Hawaii. Despite this change in location, the scenery was simply beautiful! Because Okinawa is presented in the film as a seaside town, there are several shots of the water that are featured. As I previously mentioned, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel are watching the sunset on the beach. Parts of this scene are shown through long shots, capturing the sun’s soft orange glow against the gray of the sky and water. In my review of the first installment, I talked about how one scene transitioned from a medium to a long shot, in an effort to showcase a part of the Grand Canyon. A scene where Daniel is practicing a breathing technique on a dock uses a similar transition. However, instead of starting with a medium shot, it begins with a close-up of Daniel. It then evolves into a long shot of the ocean, with clear blue water surrounding the dock and green palm trees found in the background.

Created by me, Sally Silverscreen, on Adobe Spark.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited presence of Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship: Before watching The Karate Kid Part II, I was interested in seeing how Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship differed from his relationship with Ali. Even though I liked seeing Ali and Daniel together, I can see why their relationship didn’t survive past the first film. Daniel and Kumiko were a nice couple. It also helps that Ralph and Tamlyn Tomita had really good on-screen chemistry. But Daniel and Kumiko’s relationship was shown less than Ali and Daniel’s relationship. Because of this, it caused their relationship to feel rushed. In one scene, when Daniel is getting into Kumiko’s car, Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” is playing on the radio. This is not only the film’s official song, but the song’s official music video heavily emphasizes Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship. Anyone who has heard “Glory of Love” would agree that it is better suited as a “wedding song”. Having this piece of music surround a teenage couple that has known each other for about less than three months feels a bit misleading. Also, The Karate Kid is a trilogy, followed by the television show, Cobra Kai. If the third movie and/or TV show is anything like the beginning of the second film, “this could all end in tears” (Bartok’s (from 1997’s Anastasia) words, not mine).

Karate fight sequences being used sparingly: One of the flaws of the first movie was how the karate fight sequences had a limited presence in the overall story. In The Karate Kid Part II, there are even less karate fight sequences. With a movie called The Karate Kid, you expect a certain amount of karate to be featured in the film. While both movies are not action oriented, fight sequences can add excitement to the overall story. Fighting was primarily avoided in The Karate Kid Part II, as both Mr. Miyagi and Daniel try to find other ways to resolve their issues. This was one of the central themes of the narrative: exploring other problem-solving avenues before using fighting as a last resort. However, karate is the heart of this series. When you choose to show only a handful of fight sequences, you have little exciting material to work with.

No satisfying resolutions for parts of the story: In The Karate Kid Part II, there were a few parts of the story that were not consistently told within the overall film. Because of this, I feel their resolutions were not satisfying. While taking a trip through town, Kumiko reveals to Daniel that she dreams of becoming a dancer. However, the type of dancing she’s interested in is not taught in Okinawa. Toward the end of the film, Kumiko tells Daniel that she plans on going to the United States in order to pursue her dream. But this resolution feels kind of random. There is no lead up to the resolution itself. Daniel also doesn’t provide any advice to Kumiko in regards to her personal dilemma. For this part of the story, the journey from Point A to Point B was missing.

Okinawa, Japan image created by Charlie Balch at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Charlie Balch.”

My overall impression:

 The Karate Kid Part II is a fine film. But I don’t think the script was as tight as it was the first time around. I like how the story focused on Mr. Miyagi, as it offered new story-telling opportunities. But, to a degree, it came at the expense of Kumiko and Daniel’s relationship, as it was shown for a limited amount of time. If Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” had revolved around Mr. Miyagi and Yukie’s relationship, it would have made more sense. Not only is The Karate Kid Part II primarily Mr. Miyagi’s story, but he and Yukie have history together. While the theme of using fighting as a last resort is important, it prevented the movie from featuring more karate fight sequences than the previous film. As I’ve stated before on my blog, a movie’s title partially serves as a promise to the audience. With The Karate Kid Part II, I can’t say this promise was completely broken. This is because, according to Mr. Miyagi, karate should be used in self-defense only, emphasizing how karate consists of more than just fight sequences. But when a movie features any form of marital art, people, more often than not, come for the cool-looking and exciting fight sequences. I appreciate how this film wasn’t just a carbon copy of its predecessor. It shows the creative team put legitimate thought and care into their project. If you enjoyed the first film, I’d say give its second chapter a chance. Even though there are stronger sequels out there, The Karate Kid Part II is certainly not one of the worst.

Overall score: 7.3 out of 10

Have you seen The Karate Kid Part II? Are there any sequels you are a fan of? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

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

For my first two blogathons, I wrote editorials as my contribution for the event. These articles were ‘Phantom of the Megaplex’ at 20: A Reflection on the Movie-Going Experience and Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbooks: How Relevant are They Anyway? This time around, I wanted to do something different. Therefore, I chose to write a double feature review! Because this year’s blogathon is Olympic themed, I selected The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid Part II. In 1984, the Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles. The Karate Kid not only takes place in California, but it was also released in 1984. Years ago, I had seen about half of this movie. As I said in my review for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, I am willing to give films a second chance if I haven’t finished them or haven’t watched them in several years. It’s been a long while since I have seen The Karate Kid, so I thought my blogathon would provide a good excuse to revisit it.

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

Things I liked about the film:

The interactions among the characters: In stories that heavily rely on the relationships between various characters, how well-acted those characters are and the quality of their interactions will make or break that story. With The Karate Kid, these interactions served as one of the strongest parts of the film! That is because all of them felt natural and believable. When Daniel and Ali go to Gold N’ Stuff for the first time, you can see these characters are genuinely having a good time. They acted the way you’d expect a typical teenager would; smiling while racing each other at the go-kart track, laughing as their bumper boat crashed into another boat, and critiquing their pictures from the photobooth. Because of Ralph Macchio and Elisabeth Shue’s performance, as well as the script, their relationship came across as realistic. When it comes to Daniel’s relationship with Mr. Miyagi, we are given the opportunity to witness healthy mentor/student interactions. If one were given instructions, but not the reason behind those instructions, it can be easy to get frustrated. This happens after Daniel receives a series of instructions from Mr. Miyagi. But when Daniel discovers the reason why he has been following these instructions, you start to see him gain an understanding and appreciation for what Mr. Miyagi has taught him. Similar to what I said before about Daniel and Ali’s relationship, this period of learning and discovery contains a lot of realism. It shows that, with the right support and guidance, we can learn things such as how to think for ourselves.

The cinematography: The Karate Kid is a movie that has better cinematography than most of the film fan community gives it credit for. To prove my point, I will bring up one of the film’s earliest scenes as an example. At the beginning of the movie, Daniel and his mom are driving through Arizona. This particular scene starts with a medium shot, placing primary emphasis on Daniel’s mom’s car. As their journey down this road plays out, the camera pulls away from the car and delivers a long shot of a section of the Grand Canyon. Characters’ interactions are also captured well on film! At a Halloween party, Daniel is dressed up as a shower. When Ali wants to talk to Daniel, she goes behind the costume’s curtain. Their conversation is shown in a close-up shot, which allows the audience to feel like they are that small space with Ali and Daniel. I really liked how the karate tournament was filmed! It involved a combination of medium and close-up shots, allowing the audience to witness the action. The camera was also steady, which made the scenes appear clear.

The music: Music is an important component of any movie. A song or instrumental piece can elevate the mood within a scene or highlight a scene’s intended point. The scene where Daniel attends his first day of school serves as a great example. In the background, “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama can be heard. Having this song play during this scene makes sense for several reasons. Daniel’s story starts in September, which is technically summer until September 21st or as late as September 24th. Daniel is also having a difficult time adjusting to his new home, believing the move to be a “cruel” gesture on his mother’s part. The music itself is light with a higher tempo, as the sunny California environment pairs nicely with the tune. The struggles Daniel is experiencing are heavily emphasized, with the help of Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer”.

Created by me, Sally Silverscreen, on Adobe Spark.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The on again/off again nature of Daniel and Ali’s relationship: I liked seeing Daniel and Ali together and I thought Ralph and Elisabeth had good on-screen chemistry. However, I didn’t like the on again/off again nature of their relationship. I know that every relationship, whether platonic or romantic, has their issues to deal with. I also understand that a relationship where both parties are younger are going to handle those issues differently than a relationship where both parties are older. With Ali and Daniel, they became frustrated over their issues too easily. This causes them to enter and exit their relationship too quickly. While I was glad to see Daniel and Ali work things out, I wish they were less hasty about their relationship by talking things through.

A limited presence of karate fight sequences: The Karate Kid is not an action movie, but a coming-of-age story where one develops a better understanding of karate. Even though I knew that before watching this film, I feel the presence of karate fight sequences was limited. We see about three fight sequences toward the beginning of the film, with the majority of them taking place during the tournament. The rest of the story focuses on Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel the foundations of karate. In the middle of the movie, I think there should have been one or two fight sequences. For example, instead of simply showing Mr. Miyagi breaking the loiters’ glass bottles at the beach, a karate fight sequence had taken place. That way, the excitement that comes from these sequences would be consistent throughout the movie.

Small details that don’t make sense: While watching The Karate Kid, I noticed some small details that, to me, didn’t make sense. In one scene, Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that karate is about what is in your mind and heart, not about what belt you have. If that is the case, why do belt ranks exist in the first place? Why work toward earning another belt when what’s in your mind and heart are more important? At the tournament, the people running the event acted like they weren’t familiar with Mr. Miyagi’s “dojo”. Yet, on the scoreboard, there is a pre-made logo next to Daniel’s name. How was this logo able to be made if no one organizing the tournament had heard of Mr. Miyagi’s “dojo”?

Martial arts image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/red”>Red vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

My overall impression:

The Karate Kid is a film that is considered a “classic” for good reason. It not only features exciting karate fight sequences, but it also uses one-liners well and has a strong script. But, in my opinion, the reason why the 1984 picture has earned this title is because it’s the type of movie that sticks with you. “Wax on, Wax off” is one of the most quotable lines in film history. Whenever I hear that line, I think about how there’s a reason for everything. I also remember how Daniel had to learn the meaning of “Wax on, Wax off” for himself instead of Mr. Miyagi telling him what it means. The Karate Kid is also a movie that has the ability to make you think. Whether or not this was intentional, you can’t help but reflect on the things that Mr. Miyagi says. You also can’t help but think about how those things can apply to real life. It’s been amazing exploring the world of ‘80s cinema. I’ve found some hidden gems, revisited some classics, and stumbled upon some stinkers. With The Karate Kid, I’d say it is definitely a keeper! I hope you stick around, because I’ll be reviewing this story’s second chapter!

Overall score: 8.2 out of 10

Have you seen The Karate Kid? Are you looking forward to my review of The Karate Kid Part II? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

I Call Upon the Bloggers of the World for the Olympic Dreams Blogathon!

The Summer Olympics is just around the corner! Because of this, I decided to choose an Olympic theme for my annual blogathon! In this post, every participant and their article will be featured in a collective list. This set up is similar to my previous blogathons. What is different this year is how there are no separate categories. Each entry represents a different aspect of the Olympics; from the location of a past or present Games to the sport featured in a chosen program.

Created by me, Sally Silverscreen, on Adobe Spark.

Olypmpic Dreams Roster

Realweegiemidget Reviews — TV… Those Glory, Glory Days (1983)

Critica Retro — Retro cartoon: Laff-A-Lympics

18 Cinema Lane — The Karate Kid (1984), The Karate Kid Part II (1986)

MovieRob — Olympic Dreams Blogathon – 16 Days of Glory (1986), Olympic Dreams Blogathon – Blades of Glory (2007), Olympic Dreams Blogathon – Eddie the Eagle (2016), Olympic Dreams Blogathon – Prefontaine (1997), Olympic Dreams Blogathon – Visions of Eight (1973)

Silver Screenings — When You’re Too Talented For Your Own Good

Dubsism — Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 113: “Personal Best”

Take 3: Holly and Ivy Review

For the third year in a row, I am participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon, hosted by Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews! This time around, I went back to the Hallmark well. When I first joined the blogathon, I reviewed a Hallmark film titled Christmas Camp. If you read that article, you would know that I wasn’t a fan of it. Last year, I wrote about Little House: Bless All the Dear Children, a film that was a fine, family-friendly picture. Since I still had the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie, Holly and Ivy, on my DVR, I chose to review this title for the 2021 blogathon. In 2020, I didn’t see a lot of Christmas films from Hallmark. In fact, the only newer release I watched and/or wrote about was The Christmas Bow. Within a year, I have heard good things about Holly and Ivy, with my family sharing similar sentiments. Therefore, I figured it was time to finally check the movie out. How does it compare to The Christmas Bow? Like a child counting down to Christmas Day, you’re just going to have to wait to find out!

Holly and Ivy poster created by Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Crown Media Family Networks

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: If the interactions between the characters feel like they are having real-life conversations with each other, that’s how you know the acting in a given film is good. That was certainly the case within Holly and Ivy! All of the characters got along well with one another, as they had good on-screen chemistry. It also helps that the cast as a whole was talented! I’ll be honest, I have never seen any of Janel Parrish’s projects from her filmography. However, I did see her on Dancing with the Stars. The way Janel’s character reacts to various situations came across very naturally. While Melody and her neighbor, Nina, are decorating Melody’s Christmas tree, she shares her reason for collecting elf ornaments. The tone of Melody’s voice and the look in her eyes highlights how reminiscent she is over something as small and simple as ornaments. These acting techniques helped make Janel’s performance feel believable. While we’re on the subject of Nina, let’s talk about Marisol Nichols’ performance. While portraying this character, Marisol embodied what a good mother should be. Despite dealing with her own medical issues, she always tries to take an active role in her daughters’ lives. While decorating her family’s Christmas tree, Nina reveals a special tradition that involves Nina performing a dance routine with Holly and Ivy. This scene shows how much she enjoys the life she has created for herself. While I like the performances of Sadie Coleman and Piper Rubio, the actresses who portrayed the titular characters, I want to talk about Jeremy Jordan’s performance. Similar to Janel Parrish, I am not familiar with Jeremy’s filmography. However, I still liked seeing his portrayal of Adam. His on-screen personality was easy-going and care-free. While he took his profession and hobby seriously, Adam just wanted to have a good time. When he interacted with Melody, you could tell just by watching them that these characters were made for each other. It helped that both Adam and Melody had similar personalities, but were traveling on similar paths in regards to their respective careers.

The presentation of Christmas tropes/activities: Hallmark is known for featuring a plethora of Christmas related tropes and activities within each story. But sometimes, these films are oversaturated with them, as if there is a checklist that needs to be completed. Holly and Ivy shows some Christmas related activities that have been featured in other Hallmark films. It’s the way they are included in the story that sets Holly and Ivy apart from the network’s other titles. In one scene, Melody is decorating homemade Christmas ornaments with Holly and Ivy. The purpose of showing these characters creating Christmas decorations is to give the audience some of Melody’s backstory. That small piece of information was emphasized more than the activity. This scene is an example of how there was enough presentation of Christmas tropes and activities for the viewer to get the intended point. At the same time, if you were to put this same story around any other holiday, it would still work.

An emotional balance: In films that revolve around a serious, real world topic, such as a potentially terminally ill relative, the overall tone tends to be heavy. There are times when viewers warn one another to “have a box of tissues at hand” or share that the film will “pull at your heartstrings”. While there are somber moments in Holly and Ivy, the movie itself never felt sad. In fact, feelings of sorrow and despair never crossed my mind. That’s because the script doesn’t rely too heavily on the sadder parts of the story. Instead, the creative team strives for a balance by also focusing of happier, more joyous moments. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Nina is dealing with medical issues. Even though these issues are discussed and an emergency plan is created if the worst-case scenario happens, Nina puts her energy toward helping Melody and being present in her daughters’ lives. In fact, I can think of more scenes where Nina is enjoying the company of her friends and family than worrying about her medical situation.

The 2021 Christmas in July Blogathon banner created by Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

Adam’s conflict: It’s typical for the male and female protagonist to have their own conflicts within a Hallmark picture. However, I didn’t like Adam’s conflict in Holly and Ivy. Throughout the film, Adam’s parents wanted him to come work at the family car dealership. But Adam would rather stay a contractor and focus on his woodworking hobby on the side. This conflict reminded me of a young, college-bound adult not seeing eye-to-eye with their parents on a potential degree. Because of this, it felt a bit immature for a character that appears to be in his early 30s. One of the film’s messages and Adam’s parents’ mantra is “help where help is needed’. By being a contractor and taking up woodworking, Adam is doing exactly what his parents wanted; helping where help is needed. It baffled me how his parents failed to realize this until the end of the film.

 Chippewa Falls Library being unbelievably ill-equipped: I understand that some libraries deal with more challenges than others. But based on what the movie presented, the town of Chippewa Falls appeared to be doing just fine. There’s no evidence of the town being a predominantly low-income community or having a high crime-rate. What the characters said about the library’s issues didn’t match up with the visuals. During her time volunteering at the library, Melody comes up with several ideas in order to solve some of the library’s problems. Two of these ideas are renting out meeting rooms for events and setting up a “Mitten Tree” to collect hats and scarves for citizens in need. I can only speak from my own experience, but my local library already does these things. With that said, I find it hard to believe that the Chippewa Falls Library wouldn’t utilize these resources already.

The inclusion of Betty the dog: Holly and Ivy have a dog named Betty, who periodically appears in the film. While I don’t have anything against the dog itself, I don’t think it was necessary to include a dog in this story. Having Betty in the movie felt like she was there just for the sake of being there. If you had written the dog out of the script, I don’t think it would make a difference.

Christmas family image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/nice-family-christmas-scene-singing-together_1458033.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.

My overall impression:

Like I mentioned in the introduction, this is my third year participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon. Out of the three movies I’ve reviewed, Holly and Ivy is, by far, the best one! Within the past few years, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has, in my opinion, made stronger films than their companion, Hallmark Channel. This is because Hallmark’s second network appears to try different things when it comes to storytelling. Holly and Ivy is a good example of this, as I highlighted in my review. There wasn’t a heavy emphasis on Christmas tropes/activities like in other Hallmark films. Creating a balance between the happier and sadder moments of the story also helps shape the film’s identity. I ended up liking this movie almost as much as I liked The Christmas Bow. Come to think of it, I wish Holly and Ivy was the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for 2020. This story certainly has the ingredients for that to have been a reality. But I guess that wasn’t meant to be.

Since we’re still talking about Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, it’s time for me to share who I’d invite to Drew’s Christmas party! This year, I chose John Christian Plummer! For those who are not familiar with him, John is the father of Charlie Plummer and is one of the screen-writers of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Mystery 101 series. When I look back on the celebrities that have been “invited” to Drew’s Christmas party in the past, actors and actresses made up the majority of the guests. While choosing an actor or actress as a guest is totally fine, I wanted to change things up a bit. To an extent, screen-writers are underrated, especially from Hallmark. Therefore, my invitation will, hopefully, give recognition to at least one of them. Like in 2019 and 2020, my invites are about giving “standing ovations”.

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

What are your thoughts on Holly and Ivy? Which Hallmark movies do you wish had become Hallmark Hall of Fame titles? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at Drew’s Christmas party!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire Review

Because yesterday was 4th of July, I wanted to review a movie that took place somewhere in the United States. While I wanted to publish this article on 4th of July, my day ended up being busier than expected. So, this review is published a day later than I had hoped. Recently, Hallmark Drama was airing several Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I had never seen before. One of these films was 1987’s Foxfire. Years ago, Hallmark’s stores sold select Hallmark Hall of Fame films on DVD for $20 apiece (yes, you read that price right), with Foxfire being one of the titles offered. Before recording it on my DVR, I didn’t know much about the movie. In fact, all I knew was that it was one of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s older titles. When I discovered the film took place in Appalachia, I thought it would be an interesting choice for this time of year. So, would I buy a DVD copy of Foxfire if I saw it at the store for $20? Before we head to the store’s checkout line, let’s start this review!

Like I’ve done in the past, I have taken a screenshot of Foxfire‘s poster that was featured on my TV. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I’m not familiar with Jessica Tandy’s acting abilities. While I have seen The Birds, I don’t remember her performance in that movie. Despite this, I did like her portrayal of Annie Nations in Foxfire! It was very expressive, using a variety of expressions and emotions throughout the film. When Annie receives an art project from her grandchildren, she appears genuinely overjoyed to receive the gift. A big smile is on Annie’s face and her demeanor is pleasant. At her son’s, Dillard’s, concert, Annie looks truly concerned as he sings a song about a broken relationship. Worry is in her eyes and she never lets Dillard out of her sight. Another actor whose career I’m not familiar with is John Denver. I have heard of his songs, but I didn’t know who he was. In fact, I thought John portrayed one of the brothers on The Waltons. This is because of the mannerisms he carried in Foxfire. When his character, Dillard, was happy, there was a youthful spirit about him. It highlighted how you can take the Appalachian man out of the mountains, but you can’t take the Appalachian culture and heritage out of the man. One of John’s strongest scenes was when, in Annie’s home, Dillard is reminding his mother about her age and potential risks of living alone. As he is talking to her, his eyes look like they are desperately searching for answers to his problems. Even the tone of his voice sounds concerned. A character that is close to both Annie and Dillard is Holly. Portrayed by Harriet Hall, this character kind of reminded me of Baby from Dirty Dancing. This is because when Holly cares about someone, she cares about them with her whole heart. What makes Holly differ from Baby is how her personality was gentler. Because she is a teacher, she chooses to put her students first. When Holly is talking to Dillard about her students, her mannerisms and tone of voice seem motherly. This gives the audience the impression that she truly cares about them.

The scenery: I haven’t seen many films that take place in Appalachia. In fact, I didn’t know Foxfire took place in this location until I read the synopsis. To my pleasant surprise, the scenery was very nice to look at! The Nation family house was surrounded by forestry, with the tall trees providing cozy seclusion and privacy. When Dillard wakes up one morning, he is greeted by the sight of rolling hills on a bright sunny day. These rolling hills could also be seen on a car ride Annie took. When a real estate agent named Prince gives Annie a trip to the market, he takes a scenic route. The aforementioned rolling hills steal the show, but are accompanied by a lake at the bottom and surrounding colonial style vacation homes that can be seen from the road. The locations in Foxfire appeared quaint, similar to the small towns in most of Hallmark’s films.

John Denver’s music: Before watching Foxfire, I had heard a few of John Denver’s songs. Even though I don’t listen to country music much, the songs I have heard were nice to listen to. Within Foxfire, John performed four songs. Most of them were slower, more soulful pieces. This fit the overall tone of the film. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Dillard performs a song about a broken relationship. After his concert, he performs an acoustic version of the song. What I’ve gathered about some country music is how emotional it can be. In that acoustic version of Dillard’s song, his heart and spirit sounded wounded. This can be heard in his voice.

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

What I didn’t like about the film:

A televised play: Hallmark Hall of Fame has a history of adapting stage plays into movies. One of these titles I really like is the 1996 film, The Boys Next Door. However, what sets the 1996 production apart from Foxfire is how the overall project was executed. Because The Boys Next Door contains more key characters and locations within the story, the way this adaptation was delivered to the audience looked and felt like a movie. Foxfire, on the other hand, contained a smaller cast and had a condensed story, as most of the film takes places at Annie’s house. Even some of the scenes were drawn-out and isolated, like a stage production. While the project was shot like a movie, it felt more like a televised play.

Re-created moments from the past: Throughout Foxfire, Annie brings up several memories from her and her family’s past. Instead of providing flashbacks, four scenes were dedicated to showing the characters re-creating some of these moments. For example, a current day Annie and her late husband, Hector, are reenacting when he first proposed to her. Watching grown adults act like teenagers was a bit jarring, as this prevented me from getting fully investing in these scenes. If anything, the scenes made it look like the film’s creative team didn’t have enough room in their budget to hire additional actors.

Inconsistent elements: At the beginning of the movie, Hector provides a voice-over, explaining the significance of his family and their land. Thinking Foxfire would be from his perspective, I thought this was an interesting way to tell the story. But this was the only time any voice-overs were provided. The end of the film showed Hector breaking the fourth wall for one scene. Not only was the inclusion of this element random, but it made me wonder why it wasn’t consistently woven into the movie.

Oranges in tree image created by Jose Luis Navarro at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Jose Luis Navarro.”

My overall impression:

Whenever I watch and/or review a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I always ask myself this: “if this movie were sold on DVD for $20, would it be worth my money”? When it comes to Foxfire, that answer would be no. At best, the movie was ok. I appreciate the film’s positive light that was shone on Appalachia. While I haven’t been there myself and while I personally don’t know anyone from there, I have heard of the hardships that the members of the community face. But despite the good will this film seemed to give, the biggest flaw was its overall execution. If I choose to watch a Hallmark Hall of Fame title, I expect to watch a movie. With Foxfire, it felt more like a televised play. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the re-created moments from the past. I couldn’t get past the adult characters acting younger than they were in the “current day”. Now that I’ve seen another Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I can add it to my Tier Rank List! Last year, I created a tier rank list of every Hallmark Hall of Fame film I have seen so far. While I’d like to revisit this list, I will focus on adding more titles for now.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

Have you seen Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame titles you’d like to see me review? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) Review

For the 2021 Swashbucklathon, I decided to review a movie that one of my readers recommended to me. It just so happens that one of my recent reccomendations, given to me by Patricia from Caftan Woman, was the 1939 version of The Man in the Iron Mask! Years ago, I had seen the 1998 adaptation of this specific title. However, I only have vague recollections of it, so I can’t give an honest opinion on that film. The aforementioned recommendation came after I had reviewed the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers. If you had read this article, you would know how much I enjoyed that film. But how does The Man in the Iron Mask compare to The Three Musketeers? Keep reading to find out!

The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) poster created by United Artists and Edward Small Productions.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I am not familiar with Louis Hayward as an actor. Despite this, I really enjoyed his dual performance as both King Louis XIV and Philippe of Gascony! Whenever Louis Hayward portrayed King Louis, he had a crazed look in his eyes, especially when King Louis was near something or someone he wanted. This can be seen when he meets Princess Maria Theresa for the first time. King Louis displayed a short temper as well. Meanwhile, Philippe had a gentler persona. He even got along with the people around him. When Philippe was apologizing to Maria about his inability to see her earlier in the day, the way he talked to her, as well as his body language, showed how he truly cared about her. Toward the beginning of the film, Philippe is sharing a meal with the Musketeers. He had a jovial disposition during this part of the scene, appearing to be enjoying the company. The Man in the Iron Mask is the first film of Joan Bennett’s I am reviewing. While I don’t have any other performance of Joan’s to compare to her portrayal of Princess Maria Theresa, I did like her performance in the 1939 film! What made it memorable was how well-rounded it was. Whenever Maria interacted with King Louis, she was headstrong, not afraid to stand up to him. But when she is with Philippe, she has a pleasant, more kind-hearted personality. Even though the Musketeers were on screen for a limited amount of time, I enjoyed seeing their camaraderie amongst them! It helps that the actors portraying the Musketeers had good on-screen chemistry!

The costume design: Back in April, I reviewed the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. A strength that movie and The Man in the Iron Mask share is the costume design! Exquisite is the word I would use to describe the costumes shown. One beautiful example is a coat Fouquet wore to a wedding. The black coat was adorned with black sparkly cuffs and edges. It was also covered with gold embroidery. Maria had an impressive wardrobe! One of my favorite outfits is a silk gown she wore when Philippe apologized to her. The gown itself complimented Joan’s dark hair. What adds to the look are the sparkling accessories! Diamond star hairpins could be found in Joan’s hair and a jeweled necklace was around her neck. A little bit of sparkle definitely helped elevate this outfit!

The set design: Another area of this film where the word, exquisite, could apply is the set design! In King Louis’ palace, the walls were covered with detailed wallpaper. Intricate wood carvings covered the chair in his office, showing off the affluence in his life. Carvings could also be seen in other palace spaces, such as over a fireplace in a sitting room. Fine details came in all shapes and sizes, as well as in various materials. In Maria’s room, two angel shaped lamps were located above a desk. These lamps looked like they were made of metal. The little things within these sets showcased the elegance this cinematic world had to offer!

The 2021 Swashbucklathon banner created by Paul from Silver Screen Classics.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Unclear details: There were a few details within the overall story that weren’t made clear. At the beginning of the movie, the Musketeers were named enemies of the King. They were also taken in as prisoners. But I didn’t hear why they were declared enemies. In fact, I don’t remember this reason ever being spoken. Had details like this been clarified, certain parts of the story would be less confusing.

A limited amount of action scenes: After watching the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, I expected to see exceptional fight choreography in the 1939 film. While I did get to see some interesting fight sequences, there was less action in The Man in the Iron Mask than in The Three Musketeers. Looking back on the movie, I can think of only a handful of action scenes in this particular story. What this film emphasized was drama and romance. While having drama and romance can work in a film, this direction in The Man in the Iron Mask was much different than I had anticipated.

A somewhat misleading title: As I said in the introduction, I have seen the 1998 adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask. From what I remember, the audience knew early on there was a literal man in an iron mask. Even though this titular character was in the 1939 film, the mask itself didn’t come in until an hour into the movie. I understand that moment needed build-up. However, I think that part of the story should have taken place much sooner.

Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

So far, the best film I’ve seen this year is the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. There was so much within that film I liked. When watching The Man in the Iron Mask, I wondered if this movie could compare to the 1948 film. While there were things about the project I did enjoy, I still like The Three Musketeers more. The 1939 picture was a likeable one. However, some flaws ended up holding this film back. One of them was how action was used sparingly. Other flaws, such as a somewhat misleading title and some unclear details, brought its score down. But I would recommend this film, especially if you’re looking for a title for Clean Movie Month. The Man in the Iron Mask makes me want to revisit the 1998 version in the future. For now, I need to focus on publishing my next blog follower dedication review!

Overall score: 7.4-7.5 out of 10

Have you seen any versions of The Man in the Iron Mask? If so, which one is your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part Review (Hallmark Mysteries Double Feature Part 1)

Because I haven’t reviewed a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film since January, I thought writing about the newest Aurora Teagarden movie was a good idea! I also watched the latest mystery film, To Catch a Spy. Therefore, I decided to make my reviews a double feature! First though, we need to talk about Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part! While weddings have been shown in Hallmark’s mystery films, this is the first time one of the protagonists has gotten married within their respective series. Having Aurora finally walk down the aisle makes sense, especially since the Aurora Teagarden series has been on the air the longest. However, it’s still nice to see Aurora and her fiancé, Nick, reach this milestone in the lives. Speaking of miles and stones, let’s hop, skip, and jump through this review of Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part!

Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

Omitting the “planning-a-wedding-in-an-unrealistic-time-period” cliché: Anyone who has read my list of The Top 10 Worst Cliches from Hallmark Movies would know I am not a fan of the “planning-a-wedding-in-an-unrealistic-time-period” cliché. Because this is the first time Aurora and Nick have gotten married, let alone planned a wedding, it would have been easy for the series’ creative team to include this cliché in the script. Instead, part of the story revolved around Aurora and Nick finalizing wedding plans days before their big celebration. I like how the creative team took a different approach when it came to the subject of weddings. It also helps that the wedding itself didn’t dominate the story, like in some wedding movies. Showing a wedding’s planning process in a realistic fashion is quite refreshing. At one point in the film, Nick and Aurora seriously consider postponing their wedding, a conversation that felt mature and considerate. It was nice to see soon-to-be newlyweds take the planning process seriously instead of a) relying on the “power of love” to make everything fall into place or b) become so attached to a physical location, that they do anything it takes just to get married there.

A cold case mystery: Hallmark’s mystery series have sometimes featured cold cases. But these types of cases are not featured as often as cases that take place in an immediate time frame. This is especially true when it comes to the Aurora Teagarden series. The mystery in Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part first took place over twenty years ago. Not only that, but it also relied on dialogue as clues more than physical objects. This kind of story-telling is rarely seen in Hallmark mystery films. It gives the audience a reason to stay invested in the movie, as it forces them to pay attention to what the characters are saying and doing. I also applaud Aurora Teagarden’s creative team for choosing a different kind of mystery for this story. It keeps the overall series fresh and exciting!

Aurora’s wardrobe: An underrated strength in the Aurora Teagarden series is Aurora’s wardrobe! The outfits found in this film not only appeared stylish and modest, but they also complimented Candace Cameron Bure. In a scene where Nick brings Aurora donuts for breakfast, Aurora’s outfit consisted of a simple green skirt and a gray sweater with a green, yellow, and purple plaid pattern. When a piece of clothing features a pattern, you should pair it with a plain colored piece. This is the reason why Aurora’s outfit worked. Another memorable outfit was the one Aurora wore to her rehearsal dinner. The pink, short-sleeved dress was complimented by simple gold and silver jewelry. When Aurora went outside, she wore a navy-blue coat that boasted a light and dark pink plaid pattern. Because the coat featured the same color of pink as the dress, both pieces paired well together!

Wedding couple image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-wedding-invitation-with-happy-couple_1259848.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/wedding”>Wedding vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited amount of humor: In Hallmark’s mystery series, including the Aurora Teagarden series, a certain amount of humor is incorporated into each story. This element prevents the film from becoming too dark. But Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part didn’t feature as much humor as other movies in the series. One reason for this was the absence of Miranda Frigon, who has portrayed Lynn since the series’ beginning. Her dry humor and criticism of Aurora’s involvement in each case has served as comic relief. Without Lynn, a percentage of the series’ humor is gone. Even though, there were two scenes that made me laugh out loud, this movie was one of the more serious stories in the series.

The mystery’s weak connection to the wedding: While I did like the film’s cold case mystery and how the wedding didn’t dominate the story, the mystery itself didn’t connect to the wedding. As I mentioned in this review, the mystery took place over twenty years ago. But as I watched the movie, I felt it could have been placed in its own story. I found myself wondering, “Do we really need a wedding to break up the darkness of this case”? If the series’ creative team really wanted Nick and Aurora’s wedding to remain an important part of the story, the mystery could have been something along the lines of a cold case being connected to the wedding reception venue or a florist being kidnapped.

The dynamic of Charles and Aida’s relationship: Aurora’s father, Charles, attends Aurora and Nick’s wedding. Because Charles and Aida, Aurora’s mother, divorced when Aurora was in college, this is the first time Aurora’s parents have interacted in years. If this had happened in real life, there would be a certain amount of awkwardness and discomfort between both parties. But for Aida and Charles, it seemed like they picked up where they left off. I can see the film’s creative team wanted to showcase cordial, co-parenting exes, similar to the Hallmark Channel movie, Love to the Rescue. What made that concept work in the 2019 film is how Nikki DeLoach’s character and her ex were currently raising a school-aged child. Therefore, both parents needed to co-parent. In the newest Aurora Teagarden chapter, Aurora is an adult. At this point in Aurora’s life, Aida and Charles no longer need to co-parent, let alone be on the same page when it comes to their daughter.

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

My overall impression:

The Aurora Teagarden series is Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ longest running series. Since 2015, fans have watched Aurora solve multiple murders, navigate her love life, and lead the Real Murders Club. With Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part, Aurora, as well as Nick, reach a new chapter in their lives. At the same time, our favorite librarian does what she does best: solve a mystery. This new film contains elements that serve as the series’ strengths; such as showing a type of mystery that isn’t always featured on the network and utilizing different ways to present clues. However, the film is one of the more serious titles in the series. Miranda Frigon’s absence was seen and felt. Because some of the series’ humor comes from her character, most of Aurora Teagarden’s comedy was not there. While Marilu Henner and Andrew Airlie, who portray Aida and Charles Teagarden, have good on-chemistry, I didn’t think the dynamic of their characters’ relationship was well executed. For this flaw, the fault lies in the screenwriting. I’m looking forward to the next installment in the series, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Honeymoon, Honeymurder! Since Hallmark hasn’t created any programs about a honeymoon before, it’ll be interesting to see how the overall story will play out.

Overall score: 7.5-7.6 out of 10

Have you seen Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part? Are you looking forward to Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Honeymoon, Honeymurder? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the wedding!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Girl Who Spelled Freedom Review

Originally, I was going to publish a double feature review of Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken and The Girl Who Spelled Freedom for the American Experience on Film Blogathon. However, I have also been working on another big project that required more time than I expected. Therefore, I was only able to watch one movie, which was The Girl Who Spelled Freedom. Don’t worry, though, because I will coordinate a double feature to celebrate the publication of 500 posts! The 1986 made-for-tv movie had been unknown to me until this year. I stumbled across The Girl Who Spelled Freedom when I was looking through an IMDB list about family-friendly films. After reading the synopsis, I was interested in watching the movie! There aren’t many cinematic stories that feature a spelling bee. In fact, the only one I can think of is Akeelah and the Bee from 2006. I also realize that Disney creates fewer “based on a true story” movies now than they did decades ago. Because a Disney project hasn’t been reviewed on my blog since last December, let’s begin talking about The Girl Who Spelled Freedom!

The Girl Who Spelled Freedom poster created by Buena Vista Home Video, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), ITC Entertainment Group, Knopf/Simons Productions, and Walt Disney Television. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I have stated in the past, it takes a very talented young actor or actress to carry a film. For Jade Chinn, she did such a great job with the material she was given! What made her performance so memorable is how she utilized body language, emotions, and facial expressions to illustrate Linn’s limited use of English. However, these techniques helped address what the character was experiencing. When Linn was traveling on a plane for the first time, she curled up on the floor in fear. The way Linn was behaving showed the audience that cultural differences and language barriers can turn something as simple as a plane trip into a terrifying experience. Another stand-out performer was Mary Kay Place, who portrayed Prissy Thrash! One of her best scenes took place toward the beginning of the film. Prissy and her husband, George, were dealing with the news of how many members are in Linn’s family. Prissy is so overwhelmed, she suddenly bursts into tears. This moment alone displays the emotionality Mary was able to bring to her performance! A heartwarming scene was when George was teaching Linn and her sisters how to count. The performances from the actors in this scene, especially from Wayne Rogers, appeared so genuine. It was also nice to see the dynamic between these characters!

The cinematography: I was pleasantly surprised by some of the cinematography in The Girl Who Spelled Freedom! Even though this is a made-for-tv movie from the mid ‘80s, the cinematography looked like it came from a theatrical production. At the beginning of the film, Linn and her family are crossing a river. One shot is presented as if the viewer is in the water, watching the family moving through the river toward safety. When Linn and her family are staying with the Thrash family, they discover one of the sons is missing. As George and Prissy are searching their home, the camera follows them. This gives the idea the audience are looking for this child alongside the characters.

A balance of heartbreaking and heartwarming moments: With films that deal with emotional material, there are bound to be heartbreaking moments. In The Girl Who Spelled Freedom, there were certainly scenes that were sadder in nature. An example is when Prissy takes Linn and some of her siblings to the park. When the children see a giant statue of the Crucifix, they become scared, as they are instantly reminded of the trauma they experienced. Even though Prissy reminds them that the statue isn’t real, the children are still shaken up by the imagery. At the same time, the film contained light-hearted moments that were heartwarming. At the Thrash family home, Linn accidently walks in on Laura, Prissy and George’s daughter, curling her hair. In an effort to prevent Linn from feeling embarrassed, Laura decides to not only curl Linn’s hair, but also curl Linn’s sisters’ hair. The scene itself was very sweet and showed how a little bit of kindness can make a big difference.

The American Experience on Film Blogathon banner created by Debbie from Moon in Gemini

What I didn’t like about the film:

Missing context: The Girl Who Spelled Freedom has the same flaw The Crow did: there are areas of the story that needed context. One strong example is Linn giving sentimental value to a ring. At the beginning of the film, Linn can be seen looking for a ring in the mud. When she is escaping from a group of soldiers in Thailand, she gives the ring to one of the soldiers. In the United States, Prissy gives one of her rings to Linn. Later in the film, Linn is upset when she accidently drops the ring down the sink. The significance of this ring is never addressed in the film. Linn herself never explains why the ring is so valuable to her. If context had been provided to this part of the story, the audience could try to understand why the ring is important to Linn.

A limited presence of the spelling bee: Before watching this movie, I knew there would be a spelling bee featured in the overall story. However, I was expecting a build-up to the spelling bee, similar to Akeelah and the Bee. While we get to see a spelling bee in The Girl Who Spelled Freedom, it was only referenced a few times before the actual event began. Most of the story focused on Linn’s adjustment to life in the United States. Even though watching the spelling bee unfold was satisfying, I wish it had received a little more emphasis in the film.

A few characters receiving character development: In films that feature bigger casts, it is not easy providing character development to every character involved. But when only a few characters receive character development, it can be disappointing. This is what happened with The Girl Who Spelled Freedom. The only characters who are given character development are the members of the Thrash family and Linn. With Linn’s family, the audience becomes familiar with them, but doesn’t get the opportunity to get to know them. This can also be said about other characters, such as Henry Turner, who helped the Thrash family bring Linn and her family to the United States.

Winner’s medal image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/golden-awards-set-with-colors-details_844356.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The American Experience is a tricky thing to sum up, as everyone’s experiences are going to be different. This is especially the case if someone is a refugee or immigrant. The Girl Who Spelled Freedom is a perfect example of how unique the American Experience can be. For most of the film, Linn and her family deal with “culture shock”, coming across things and situations that they feel are “unusual”. But over time, they start to create their own American Experience. Linn enters a local spelling bee in 1983. An activity that is typically seen as fun and harmless was seen by Linn as a fight for survival, a view that was shaped by her past experiences. Therefore, she was partially responsible for creating her own American Experience. For a television film from the mid ‘80s, I’d say this is one of the better presentations! While the film does have its flaws, it did feel like a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie before the collection moved to Hallmark Channel. After the film, there was an interview with the real-life Thrash and Yann families. Because the audience was able to hear their sides of the story, it added to my enjoyment of the overall project! It’s a shame fewer networks have decided to create made-for-TV films. There are so many stories worth telling, so I hope they are able to get told someday.

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

Have you seen The Girl Who Spelled Freedom? Are there any television films you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Three Musketeers (1948) Review

Last year, I participated in the Classic Literature On Film Blogathon. Since I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird at the time, I chose to review the book’s film adaptation. For this year’s event, I selected the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers! Because I’m using my TBR Tin to choose which book to read next, I wasn’t able to read the source material before I saw the movie, as I’m currently reading The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley. I was recommended this film by Patricia from Caftan Woman. As I try to see as many film suggestions as I can, this became one reason why I selected The Three Musketeers for this blogathon. I have seen the 1993 adaptation of the story. But I can’t give an honest opinion on that film, as I haven’t seen the movie in years. What will my thoughts be on the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers? Keep reading to find out!

The Three Musketeers (1948) poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s, Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because The Three Musketeers contained an ensemble cast, it’s difficult to choose a favorite performance. However, I will still mention a few of them. For me, Gene Kelly is always going to be known for his performances in musicals. Seeing him work with different acting material was very interesting, as it forced him to utilize his expressions and emotions more. Out of Gene’s films I’ve seen so far, his portrayal of D’Artagnan has become one of my favorites! This performance was so well-rounded, D’Artagnan came across as a mutli-layered character. As Gene had a variety of expressions at his disposal, he was able to adapt to any situation D’Artagnan faced. I am not familiar with Van Heflin as an actor. But I was impressed with his portrayal of fellower Musketeer, Athos! Van’s best scene was when Athos drunkenly tells a story of an aristocrat who was betrayed by a woman from the country he fell in love with. Even though Athos is disoriented by the alcohol, you can tell there is deep emotion in his voice and eyes. Another performance that also became a favorite came from Lana Turner, who portrayed Countess de Winter! Her standout scene was when her character was in prison. The Countess appears disheveled as she begs for her life to end. What made this scene so memorable was the amount of emotion Lana put into her role. She presented a character that was so desperate, she’d be willing to do anything to get out of it.

The costumes: When it comes to scene-stealers, the costumes in The Three Musketeers definitely stole the show! I liked how colorful they were, as bright hues were used on various pieces of apparel. It not only made the characters stand out, but it also helped when telling characters apart from one another. The amount of detail on these costumes was also exquisite! In one scene, the Duke of Buckingham wore a purple shawl. Gold embroidery complimented the shawl’s shade of purple and prevented the piece from becoming plain. At a dinner party, Queen Anne wore a white gown. This gown also contained gold details, which were found on the skirt and bodice. Small jewels near the top of the dress completed Queen Anne’s elegant look!

The set design: If you’re going to create a period film, you have to pay attention to the finer details that go into each set. These details will reflect the effort, research, and care that went into how these sets look. The sets in The Three Musketeers show how much the film’s creative team cared about the presentation of their final product! What I love about the sets in this movie are the fine details that can be found. Carved images are shown in the Duke of Buckingham’s study, covering the fireplace and doorframe in these wooden pictures. They can also be found in other rooms and on other materials, such as on a tin-plated cabinet in a General’s office. My favorite design detail can be found in Queen Anne’s sitting room. As Queen Anne and the Duke of Buckingham are standing near the fireplace, Queen Anne turns a knob found near the top of the fireplace. This action reveals a secret compartment that hides a box of diamonds.

The fight choreography: Any action movie is just as good as its fight choreography. The performative presentation of the fights in The Three Musketeers helped make these fights so memorable! Because of Gene Kelly’s dancing skills, he was able to incorporate leaps into his fight sequences. Watching D’Artagnan leap from place to place gave him a natural superpower that he was able to use to his advantage! Humor can also be found during these fight sequences, which prevented them from being too dark or serious. D’Artagnan’s first duel was against the head of the French police. During this duel, hilarity ensued, from D’Artagnan splashing water in his opponent’s face to pushing his opponent in a pond. This inclusion of humor in the fight choreography allowed the creative team to present these fights in creative and interesting ways!

The 2021 Classic Literature On Film Blogathon banner created by Paul from Silver Screen Classics.

What I didn’t like about the film:

D’Artagnan’s romantic relationships: After rescuing Constance from a home invasion, D’Artagnan falls in love with her. He not only tells Constance he loves her, but they also share a romantic kiss. While I liked Constance and D’Artagnan’s relationship, I felt it was developed too quickly. Later in the film, Constance is kidnapped. In order to save her, D’Artagnan pretends to fall in love with Countess de Winter. However, after his initial meeting with the Countess, D’Artagnan tells Athos how much he loves her. If D’Artagnan was romantically interested in Constance, why would he even bother having feelings for the Countess? That part of the story was confusing.

A weaker villain: There are two villains in The Three Musketeers; Countess de Winter and Richelieu. But one of them definitely outshined the other. Countess de Winter was the stronger villain. She is a criminal by legal context and the audience can witness her committing several crimes. Richelieu, on the other hand, is not presented in the same way. The audience does see him commit a crime of theft, but it is never explained how this was done. Richelieu was also friends with the King of France, a character that was not written or portrayed as a villain. This made me puzzled as to what Richelieu’s true intentions were, whether he was a villain or simply a man who follows his own rules.

The Musketeers spending little time together: When you think of The Three Musketeers, you think of these heroes fighting alongside each other and saving the day together. As I watched this film, I noticed how they spent more time apart. I was disappointed to discover this because that team dynamic the Musketeers are known for had a limited presence. While this separation did allow the audience to get to know these characters individually, we didn’t really get to see this group of friends grow over time. Though there was a lot of content in this movie, I wish more time was given to show the Musketeers together.

Castle photo created by Photoangel at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/old-castle-in-the-mountians_1286237.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/tree”>Tree image created by Photoangel – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Anchors Aweigh was the best movie I saw in 2020. This was a pleasant surprise, as I never expected one of Gene Kelly’s films to receive this honor. Even though it’s only April, the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers has now become the best movie I’ve seen so far! There is so much effort that was put into this project, which is reflective in many parts. The costumes and set designs were impressive because of the detail that was incorporated into them. Many good acting performances can be found, making it difficult to choose the best one. These actors not only did a good job individually, but they also worked well together as a group! Similar to what I said in my Oliver! review, I might read The Three Musketeers because of how much I enjoyed its film adaptation! For now, my top priority is reading the books that are currently on my TBR shelf.

Overall score: 8 out of 10

Have you read or seen The Three Musketeers? What adaptations of classic literature do you like? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen