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.

Image of Colorado road created by welcomia at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/mountain”>Mountain photo created by welcomia – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

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

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

Last December, when I published my review of the 1981 made-for-TV movie, When the Circus Came to Town, it was my 700th post! For those who are not familiar with my annual double features, I commemorate the accomplishment of publishing 100 articles by hosting a special double feature, written in an interview style. In the past, my double features sought to answer a pre-selected question or see whether a prediction was correct. This time around, I will not include a pre-determined prediction or question. That’s because this double feature will correlate with The Great Muppet Guest Star Caper Blogathon! When I was invited by Gill (from Realweegiemidget Reviews) to join the event, I was told duplicates were not allowed. Keeping this in mind, I was surprised none of the Muppet movies had been chosen. I was also surprised to discover Big Bird (of Sesame Street fame) had been a guest star on The Muppet Show. With all of that said, I will be reviewing The Great Muppet Caper and Follow That Bird for the 700th double feature!

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

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!

Snowy mountain image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/landscape-background-of-snow-track-and-mountains_968656.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.

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!

Paper Boats in the Sea image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/background-of-paper-boats-with-hand-drawn-waves_1189898.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.

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

My take on The “Flaming Hot…5 Reasons Why” Tag

Last March, Jillian from The Classic Film Connection tagged me for The “Flaming Hot…5 Reasons Why” Tag! For this tag, participants must choose five characters from film and/or television they think is “swoon-worthy”. It has been a while since my last tag post, so I thought writing this article now would be a good way to start the new year! Thank you, Jillian, for your thoughtfulness. Before I start my list, I need to share the tag’s official rules, which are the following:

  1. You must add the name of the blog that tagged you AND those of the Thoughts All Sorts and Realweegiemidget Reviews with links to ALL these sites.. and use the natty cat themed picture promoting this post. (*See below.*)
  2. List 5 of your all-time swoon-worthy characters from TV or Film ie crushes/objects of your affection. And also do mention the actor or actress who plays them, as you might like James Bond as played by Timothy Dalton and no one else.. etc etc
  3. Link to 5 other bloggers.
  4. Add lovely pictures, gifs or videos of those you selected.
  5. If you don’t have a blog (or don’t have time to write a post) join in with your choices on Twitter with this #5TheFlamingHot5ReasonsWhy Tag and tag @realweegiemidge and @Thoughtsallsort and the person who tagged you in your tweet.
  6. Oh…and post these rules.
The Flaming Hot…Five Reasons Why Tag banner found on The Classic Film Connection

Kili

from The Hobbit trilogy

Portrayed by Aidan Turner

Image of Kili created by New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, WingNut Films, and Warner Bros. Pictures

When I saw The Hobbit trilogy for the first time, Kili quickly became my favorite character! While being photogenic certainly helps his case, Kili has such a great personality as well. One of these attributes is his humbleness. Throughout The Hobbit trilogy, Kili never boasts about his royal status. In fact, I didn’t even know he was a prince until Thorin, in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, said Kili and his brother, Fili, were “his sister’s sons”. This choice is one reason why Kili is, in my opinion, the MVP of Middle-Earth!

Bucky Barnes

from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)

Portrayed by Sebastian Stan

Avengers: Endgame Bucky Barnes poster created by The Walt Disney Company and Marvel Studios. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Marvel and Avengers Characters: ©2017 Marvel. Image found at https://www.marvel.com/articles/movies/mcu-heroes-unveil-avengers-endgame-character-posters

Anyone who has followed my blog would not be surprised by this selection. I’ve stated in the past that Bucky is my favorite superhero in the MCU. At 18 Cinema Lane, he has been brought up on more than one occasion; from being a main subject of one of my first editorials to wishing Bucky and his fans would stop getting treated like afterthoughts. In this film series, Bucky has been through a lot of heartbreak. Despite that, he has never used his heartbreak to treat others badly. If anything, Bucky has tried to make the world a better place than how it was given to him. I haven’t seen The Falcon & the Winter Soldier, so I don’t know how Bucky’s story continues after Avengers: Endgame. Out of the entries I’ve seen in the MCU, Bucky’s inclusion has been a highlight!

Apollodorus

from Caesar and Cleopatra (1946)

Portrayed by Stewart Granger

In case you haven’t seen Caesar and Cleopatra, Apollodorus’ picture is in the top right-hand corner of the poster. Caesar and Cleopatra created by Gabriel Pascal Productions, Eagle-Lion Films, and United Artists.

Apollodorus is my favorite character from 1946’s Caesar and Cleopatra! Even though it’s been years since I’ve seen the film, I remember Apollodorus’ charisma and likable personality. He was such a stand-out, I, honestly, wish Cleopatra had formed a relationship with him instead of Caesar. As I said in my review of Caesar and Cleopatra back in 2019, Stewart’s performance was such a joy to watch!

Tom Thornton

from When Calls the Heart

Portrayed by Max Lloyd-Jones

If you have not watched When Calls the Heart, Tom is the gentleman standing on the left in this photo. Image created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel.

Tom Thornton is another character I’ve brought up before on 18 Cinema Lane. However, I haven’t taken the time to explain why he is my favorite character from When Calls the Heart. Tom has been through a series of trials in his life. Similar to Bucky, he doesn’t use those trials as a reason to treat others poorly. By the end of season two, Tom took the initiative to turn his life around. In the season five episode featuring Jack and Elizabeth’s wedding, it seems Tom’s initiative paid off, as he became a businessman. At the publication of this tag, I have no idea which characters from past seasons could make an appearance in When Calls the Heart’s tenth season. If any of them do show up in the upcoming season, I hope Tom is one of them!

Darryl Harding

from Murder, She Wrote

(Season 11, Episode 16 – “Film Flam”)

Portrayed by Jim Caviezel

For those who haven’t seen “Film Flam”, Darryl is the second character to the left. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

To this day, “Film Flam” is still the best episode of Murder, She Wrote I’ve seen! Darryl’s inclusion is one reason why. While Jessica was attempting to solve the episode’s mystery, Darryl got to know a woman named Elaine. Their interactions were a highlight of the story, as Jim and Stacy had strong on-screen chemistry. I haven’t seen every episode of Murder, She Wrote. I have never even seen the four made-for-tv movies that were released after the show ended. But I hope Darryl, as well as Elaine, are acknowledged again.

5 Tags

Maddy from Classic Film And TV Corner

Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy

Erica from Poppity Talks Classic Film

Ruth from Silver Screenings

Olivia from Meanwhile, in Rivendell…

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Worst Movies I Saw in 2022

My worst movies list of 2022 is different from that of the previous year. This time, I’ll be talking about more films that were “so bad they were bad”, as only three of these movies were disappointments. The Dishonorable Mentions portion of the list has also returned! Though I did see more good movies than bad, I couldn’t avoid coming across a “stinker” every now and then. I like to think I’ll, one day, see less than ten films for my annual worst list. But someday has not come this year, as the title of this article suggests. As I’ve stated in past lists, I did not write my list to be mean-spirited or negative. It’s just a way to express my own, honest opinion. Since some of these films have been reviewed on my blog, I will provide links to those reviews.

Dishonorable Mentions

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Vows We Have Made, A Place for Annie, Swim Instructor Nightmare, Nikki & Nora: Sister Sleuths, The Corsican Brothers (1985), and Donnie Brasco (I only watched forty minutes of the film before turning it off)

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10. The New Adventures of Heidi

In 2022, I was hoping to finally find my coveted “so bad, it’s good” movie. Sadly, The New Adventures of Heidi was not it. As I said in my review, this film is “spectacularly average”. The more I think about the 1978 made-for-tv movie, the less justifiable reasons I can think of for the project’s existence. Yes, The New Adventures of Heidi was intended as a “modern” re-telling of Johanna Spyri’s story. But the movie didn’t feel unique enough, despite all the changes. Every year I’ve participated in the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, there has been a pattern between movies that turned out ok and movies that were just disappointing. Hopefully, in 2023, I can break this pattern.

Take 3: The New Adventures of Heidi Review

9. Love in Wolf Creek

When I first read the synopsis for Love in Wolf Creek, I was excited at the idea of a “cozier” story filled with adventure and excitement. The 2022 television film seemed better on paper than in practice. For a movie titled Love in Wolf Creek, there was very little romance in the story. The writing was weaker than I hoped, filled with scenarios that were too unrealistic for my liking. This project was too ambitious for INSP, the network who created the film. It was so disappointing, I didn’t bother watching its sequel, Christmas in Wolf Creek.

8. Harvey (1950)

I think the 1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of Harvey is better than its 1950 predecessor. While I’m aware how controversial my opinion is, the 1972 film had more success executing its intended points. A mistake the 1950 movie makes is trying to be a comedy and a drama. This decision led the comedy to not only be underutilized, but also showcased medical negligence in a way that didn’t sit well with me. “Magical realism” was lacking in the 1950 film. This took away any opportunity for the story to be charming and whimsical. When I reviewed Harvey back in January, it was the most disappointing movie I saw in 2022. Now, eleven months later, the 1950 picture still holds that title.

Take 3: Harvey (1950) Review

7. Journey

The 1995 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation made the same mistake Durango did: not giving the audience a reason to care about the characters and their story. In the case of Journey, the creative team failed to provide explanations for the characters’ choices. At the beginning of the film, the protagonist’s mother, Min, abandons her family, claiming she hates her parents. But the script never explains why she made this decision. Even when there are cut-away scenes featuring Min, she isn’t doing anything significant. How am I expected to care about Min’s choice affecting her family when I don’t even know why she left in the first place?

6. My Mom Made Me Do It

According to a synopsis I read for this 2022 Lifetime film, the protagonist, Jade, turns to stealing in order to help her mom pay the bills. Both the title and synopsis turned out to be a lie because 1) Jade’s decisions were made on her own and 2) Jade never steals anything. What she does instead is crash wealthy people’s parties and photographs their belongings. Other issues contained in this movie are weak lead performances and characters who make one dumb choice after another. I will admit there was at least one effective plot twist. But I wish it had taken place in a better film.

Harvey (1950) poster created by Universal Pictures

5. The Sundowners (1960)

For a little while, I thought The Sundowners was going to be the worst movie I saw this year. Even though I was proven wrong, the 1960 film has still remained in my top five. Like I said in my review, one of the worst things you can do as a film-maker is waste your audience’s time. The story felt longer than necessary, which made the movie two hours and thirteen minutes not well spent. One of my biggest issues with The Sundowners was its “bait and switch” ending. While I won’t go into detail about the ending, as I don’t want to spoil the film, I will say it was cruel for both the characters and the audience.

Take 3: The Sundowners (1960) Review

4. The North Avenue Irregulars

This movie attempts to answer the question; “Wouldn’t it be funny if a group of women came together to solve a mystery”? By the time The North Avenue Irregulars was released in 1979, that question made the film dated on arrival, as there were several television programs from the ‘70s featuring at least one female character solving mysteries or fighting crime. The movie’s creative team told too many types of stories, yet failed at all of them. One minute, the film felt like a precursor to the Mitford series, revolving around a preacher trying to live his best life. The next minute, the film turns into a gangster heist picture, paired with car chases that were longer than necessary. Honestly, I wish this movie was a Scooby Doo-esque story about the film’s fictional band, Strawberry Shortcake. Maybe then the movie would seem more timeless.

3. Lake Effects

For the first time in 18 Cinema Lane history, all the movies in my worst list’s top three are Hallmark productions. Accepting the bronze is the 2012 film, Lake Effects. This movie has so many Hallmark movie clichés, you could create a bingo game around them. You could also create a bingo game around the many storylines found in this script. Lake Effects is a production that relies on style over substance. While Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia was captured well on film, there’s only so much the movie’s creative team could do with the weak script at their disposal. In my review from August, I stated how the movie seemed forgotten over the years. Its poor quality makes it not worth remembering.

Take 3: Lake Effects Review

2. A Boyfriend for Christmas

In 2019 and 2020, a Hallmark Christmas movie ended up in the top three of my annual worst movies list. History is kind of repeating itself with A Boyfriend for Christmas in second place. Like Lake Effects, the 2004 film contained a weak script. But in A Boyfriend for Christmas, I only liked two minor parts of the story. The lack of Christmas magic made my movie viewing experience unenjoyable. It was one of those stories that became worse the longer I watched it. I know this movie is one of the most beloved titles in Hallmark’s cinematic library. Honestly, though, I found it over-rated.

Take 3: A Boyfriend for Christmas Review

1. Francesca Quinn, PI

Remember when I said one of the worst things a film-maker can do is waste their audience’s time? Well, another worst thing a film-maker can do is disrespect their audience’s intelligence. As I watched Francesca Quinn, PI, I was given the impression the film’s creative team didn’t want me to solve the mystery alongside the protagonist. That’s because Francesca explained things that didn’t need explaining. Despite Francesca being a professional private investigator, she constantly made decisions an amateur detective would likely make. Her lack of personality didn’t help either. According to IMDB, Francesca Quinn, PI could replace the Mystery 101 series. The reason is “the main characters’ relationship and the crime at the end of Deadly History are the same as the main characters’ relationship and crime in Francesca Quinn, PI”. If this is the case, the Mystery 101 fans, including myself, deserve so much better.

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

Have fun in 2023.

Sally Silverscreen

Ten Classic Movies I Watched Because of My Blog

18 Cinema Lane is almost five years old. In that time, I have reviewed many films; from the blockbuster to the underrated and everything in between. Sometimes, I had the opportunity to talk about “classic” films. These opportunities were formal introductions to these titles. This list highlights some of the “classic” movies I watched because of my blog. Whether it was a blogathon entry or a Blog Follower Dedication Review, I’m thankful I was able to see these films. That way, I can now have an honest opinion about them. Since I have reviewed all the films on my list, I will provide links in this article. I will also be sharing my thoughts on these films, so anything I say is not meant to be mean-spirited or negative.

The Discovering Classic Cinema Blogathon banner created by Maddy from Classic Film and TV Corner

The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai poster created by Horizon Pictures and Columbia Pictures

Starting this list is the most recent “classic” I reviewed. I chose to write about The Bridge on the River Kwai for The 5th Golden Boy Blogathon, where I was the only participant to select it. This movie made me question why some movies do or don’t end up on AFI’s list of The 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time. Until I watched The Bridge on the River Kwai, I believed these titles met one of two criteria: those that represent the time they were released and those that brought something new to the cinematic table. With the 1957 film, I still haven’t figured out why it’s on the list. I am not saying this is a bad movie. But, at best, I thought it was just fine.

Take 3: The Bridge on the River Kwai Review

A Star Is Born (1937)

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

Before participating in the Fredric March Blogathon, I didn’t have an interest in watching any version of A Star Is Born. Because this story has been remade on more than one occasion, I thought each version was going to share a recycled plot, with little variation among them. As of this list’s publication, I’ve only seen the 1937 original. However, I was surprised by how impressive the movie was! Fredric March’s performance was so strong, not just among the Breen Code era films I’ve seen, but among any movie I have seen. He worked well alongside Janet Gaynor, sharing really good banter between each other. A Star Is Born made me want to actively seek out more films from Fredric’s filmography!

Take 3: A Star Is Born (1937) Review

Funny Face

Funny Face poster created by Paramount Pictures.

As Fred Astaire famously said, “Do it big, do it right, and do it with style”. When it comes to his movie, Funny Face, that’s exactly what happened. This is a pleasant looking production! I remember loving the use of color, as pops of color were placed in scenes with a primarily plain color palette. The musical numbers were also entertaining to watch, with creative ideas woven through them. Though I haven’t seen many of Audrey Hepburn’s films, Funny Face is one of her projects I like. She appeared to be enjoying whatever she was doing, whether it was dancing in the “Basal Metabolism” number or portraying Jo traveling to Paris. Then again, Audrey did famously say “I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls”.

Take 3: Funny Face Review (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly Blogathon Part 2)

All About Eve

All About Eve poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/all-about-eve.

As the last movie I reviewed for 2019’s Clean Movie Month, All About Eve is a film I thought was just fine. A peek behind the theater world’s curtain was refreshing, providing the story with interesting perspectives. The use of voice-overs not only allowed the audience to witness Eve develop as an individual, but connect with the other characters as well. However, I found the title to be misleading, as the story was led by Margo. As I said in my review, the film would be called “Mostly About Margo” or “Sometimes About Eve” if given an honest title.

Take 3: All About Eve Review (Clean Movie Month — #5)

Nosferatu

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The same year I reviewed All About Eve, I also wrote about Nosferatu. My review of the 1922 “classic” was for 2019’s A Month Without the Code. I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to see Nosferatu, as the film was not only created under strict copyright rules, but has also been preserved over time. This film serves as a stone in cinema’s foundation, showcasing elements still found in today’s movies, such as using music to elevate the story’s tone. I don’t often talk about horror films on 18 Cinema Lane. But out of the ones I have reviewed, Nosferatu is definitely one of the better titles!

Take 3: Nosferatu Review (A Month Without the Code — #1)

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird poster created by Brentwood Productions, Pakula-Mulligan, and Universal Pictures. Image found at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:To_Kill_a_Mockingbird_(1963_US_theatrical_poster).jpg

Like I recently said in my list, ‘The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2022’, there are few movies I found better than their source material. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those films! I like this adaptation because the script gets straight to the point sooner than the book did. It also places more emphasis on the trial, the part of the book I found the most interesting. The visual nature of film elevated the suspenseful moments from the original story, presenting realistic situations with an intensified level of uncertainty. This is one of those times where I would suggest skipping the book and going straight to the film.

Take 3: To Kill a Mockingbird Review

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane poster created by Mercury Productions and RKO Radio Pictures. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/89/Citizen-Kane/#.

In my opinion, Citizen Kane is an over-hyped movie. I know that’s a controversial opinion. But when I reviewed the movie in 2019, I didn’t find it the flawless masterpiece others have made it out to be. For starters, I don’t think the film needed an hour and fifty-nine-minute run-time. I also found it difficult to connect with the characters. Despite my view on Citizen Kane, I don’t think it’s a bad movie. If anything, I thought it was decent. But like I said with The Bridge on the River Kwai, I wonder why Citizen Kane is number one on AFI’s list of The 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time?

Take 3: Citizen Kane Review (Clean Movie Month — #2)

Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia poster created by Columbia Pictures. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/4455/Lawrence-of-Arabia/#

This is another “classic” I feel is over-hyped. However, the over-hyped status of Lawrence of Arabia is not to the same degree as Citizen Kane, in my opinion. The 1962 film is one of the most iconic “sword and sandal” titles. But beyond this simplified distinction is a World War I story from a unique perspective. Reviewing Lawrence of Arabia for The World War One On Film Blogathon was not my first choice. I had actually planned to review a different movie, which ended up being released on DVD after the blogathon took place. This last-minute decision was a blessing in disguise, as it gave me an excuse to check out Lawrence of Arabia!

Take 3: Lawrence of Arabia Review

Ben-Hur (1959)

Ben-Hur (1959) poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s, Inc. Image found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ben_hur_1959_poster.jpg

When I chose to watch this movie for a Blog Follower Dedication Review, I had no idea how much I would love it! I remember being so invested in Judah’s journey, I wasn’t too bothered by the film’s three-hour run-time. This is another iconic “sword and sandal” picture. But only referring to this film by that simplified title does it such a disservice. That’s because the movie is, in my opinion, one of the better faith-based films! I’ve heard 1959’s Ben-Hur is a remake of a film from the ’20s. Maybe that version will be covered in a future review!

Take 3: Ben-Hur (1959) Review + 60 Follower Thank You

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me in St. Louis poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s, Inc. Image found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Meet_Me_in_St._Louis_poster.jpg

The Breen Code era gave us some good musicals. Meet Me in St. Louis is no exception! A musical is only as strong as its musical numbers. In the 1944 film, there was an assortment of enjoyable songs. From Judy’s iconic rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to my favorite, “Under the Bamboo Tree”, this part of the story added to my movie viewing experience. While the film does have its flaws, it is a pleasant production. If I were introducing someone to the Breen Code era, Meet Me in St. Louis is a film I would recommend!

Take 3: Meet Me in St. Louis Review + 75 Follower Thank You

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2022

As the sun begins to set on 2022, it’s time to publish my best and worst movies of the year lists! Last year, every film on my best list had been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. But that’s not the case this time around. For this list, only two movies were not reviewed, while another movie served as an editorial subject. Any film I covered on my blog will have a link included in this post. I’m thankful another year was filled with more good movies than bad. I’ll even have more titles in my Honorable Mentions! While these lists have become great traditions on their own, the variety of this collection of films has become another tradition. So, without any delay, let’s begin the list of the best movies I saw in 2022!

Honorable Mentions

Cut, Color, Murder, Sailor Moon S: The Movie, Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), Children of a Lesser God, Sweet Revenge: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Honeymoon, Honeymurder, The Princess and the Pirate, Dirty Little Secret, Singin in the Rain, McBride: Tune in for Murder, McBride: Dogged, McBride: Requiem, Hugo, Akeelah and the Bee, The Shoplifting Pact, and Secrets at the Inn

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10. Fiddler on the Roof

When I reviewed the 1971 musical back in February, I said it was too early to say whether it would be one of the best movies I saw this year. But Fiddler on the Roof captivated me so much, the film ended up on my annual top ten list! I described the movie as a well-made quilt, with each of the film’s strengths representing a different quilt piece. The inclusion of Jewish faith/culture also gave the project a unique identity by asking questions and discussing topics that aren’t often found in musicals. Looking back on this movie, Fiddler on the Roof was three hours well spent. It’s a special project in both the world of musicals and cinema. I hope to check out more Jewish cinematic stories in 2023!

Take 3: Fiddler on the Roof Review

9. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King

Out of all the movies on my best list for 2022, The Lost Empire/The Monkey King is the most unique one! A fantasy film based on Chinese folklore, this was an imaginative production I enjoyed watching. The story was sometimes thought-provoking and even somewhat educational, as it included literature related discussions. Strong acting performances brought to life characters who seemed believable. The set designs boasted a realistic and fantastical setting, which effectively presented the illusion of an immersive world. I wish Hallmark created more movies like The Lost Empire/The Monkey King, where the stories and ideas are more creative. With the network prioritizing rom-coms and dramas, though, I don’t know what their decisions will be in the new year.

Take 3: The Lost Empire/The Monkey King Review

8. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Haunted by Murder

Talking about this movie is bittersweet, as it is the last film in the Aurora Teagarden series. I’ve thought about all the moments the fans will never get to see, such as Aurora and Nick’s first Christmas, Phillip’s college graduation, and Sally falling in love. But if this is where the story must end, at least it ended on a strong note. The realistic and supernatural elements of the story complimented each other nicely. Supernatural elements being incorporated at all gave this chapter a more creative approach to the series. It was nice to spend time with Lawrenceton’s favorite residents; the acting performances and on-screen camaraderie remaining consistent. Even though I would have loved to see the Aurora Teagarden series continue for many more years, I know nothing lasts forever. But as the saying goes “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”.

7. Redwood Curtain

There are very few movies I found better than their source material. Redwood Curtain just so happens to be one of them! The creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation took advantage of the expansive nature of film by providing the story with more locations. Allowing characters like Julia and Laird to appear in the movie showcase the Riordan family dynamic not present in the play. I found Geri more likable as a character in the movie. Lea’s performance paired with the screenwriting gave Geri an empathetic and understanding personality. Redwood Curtain is a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation I wish was re-released on DVD.

‘Redwood Curtain’: From Stage to Screen

6. The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum was one of the biggest pleasant surprises of 2022! Despite the film not being my first choice for its respective blogathon, I thought it was engaging and entertaining. Vincent’s performance didn’t disappoint, as his portrayal of Nicholas was versatile and fueled on emotion. The mystery not only started right away, but it also allowed the audience to experience the journey alongside Francis, the main character. The Pit and the Pendulum is, to me, one of the more effective horror movies, like 1962’s Cape Fear. While this film would be a perfect choice to watch on Halloween, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it around Vincent’s birthday!

Take 3: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) Review

Redwood Curtain poster created by Chris/Rose Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), and Republic Pictures (II)

5. The Song of Bernadette

And another film of Vincent’s joins my list! Faith based films come in two forms; those that emphasize a message and those that emphasize a story. The Song of Bernadette falls into the latter category, as it revolves around religious phenomena affecting a small town. What I like about the 1943 film is how different perspectives relating to the phenomena are explored, highlighting how various members of the town view the events unfolding. The story doesn’t choose sides on the main topic, allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions about what is taking place in the movie. Even though The Song of Bernadette was released during the Breen Code era, the film is a good representation of the quality from that period in cinema. As I said in my review, Easter would be an appropriate time to watch the movie!

Take 3: The Song of Bernadette Review

4. Heaven Is for Real

Heaven Is for Real shares a major similarity with The Song of Bernadette. The 2014 film also revolves around religious phenomena affecting a small town. But what Heaven Is for Real does differently is encourage the audience to have a conversation about their beliefs on Heaven. Like I previously stated, faith based films come in two forms; those that emphasize a message and those that emphasize a story. However, I’ve rarely seen a movie of this nature start a discussion about one of their themes. This creative decision brings something new to the table and gives Heaven Is for Real a unique identity.

3. Words on Bathroom Walls

It seems like I’ve been talking about this title for as long as my blog has been around. But I’m glad I finally got the chance to see Words on Bathroom Walls this year, as it was such a good adaptation! There were changes between text and film. Despite that, the adaptation was, for the most part, respectful to its source material. The visual presentation of the story gave the audience a glimpse inside Adam’s mind. Interactions between the characters were believable, thanks to the actors’ performances and screenwriting. As I mentioned in my review a month ago, the adaptation for Words on Bathroom Walls seems more underrated. Based on the response my review received, my statement may be wrong.

Take 3: Words on Bathroom Walls Review

2. Top Gun: Maverick

I’m going to be honest; I had low expectations for Top Gun: Maverick. That’s because sequels released over ten years after their predecessor can be hit or miss. Top Gun: Maverick ended up surpassing my expectations, making it in the top three of my best of the year list! From what I know about Top Gun, the sequel respected what came before it. At the same time, new elements were added to the story, like focusing on an overarching mission. In a cinematic landscape where a film receiving over a billion dollars has become a rarity, Top Gun: Maverick achieved what some studios only dream of. As the 2020s move forward, maybe more filmmakers will turn to this film as an example of what can be cinematically possible.

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

1. A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love

When it comes to “Godwink” stories, I prefer those that focus on a conflict. While that is the case for A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, I found the overall production impressive! The interactions among the characters, as well as each volunteer’s talent being showcased, provided a nice amount of character development. Christmas activities were incorporated in more unique ways, such as the Romero family’s gift exchange. The inclusion of Advent was a newer approach to the Christmas movie genre. I don’t know what’s in store for the Godwink series. But I’d love to see more adaptations of these stories!

Take 3: A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love Review

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

Have fun in 2023!

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