Here at 18 Cinema Lane, I try to review movies that have been recommended to me by my readers. Typically, I watch movies and write about them in the hopes they are good. But in the case of this review, I’m approaching this film a little differently. In the comment section of my article, ‘The Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time’, one of my readers, Not a fan of Carrot Cake, shared their worst Hallmark movie they’ve watched. That film is the latest Hallmark Movies & Mysteries title, Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. Their thoughts on the movie intrigued me. It made me wonder if it was worse than Francesca Quinn, P. I., the worst Hallmark movie I’ve ever seen. So, without further delay, let’s solve this mystery by reviewing Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery!
Things I liked about the film:
The camaraderie between the cast members: In a movie series, a group of actors will become familiar with one another’s talents and personalities. This familiarity creates a consistency that can be seen in the characters’ interactions. That consistency allows these interactions to come across as believable in the eyes of the audience. As Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery is the seventh film in its series, the camaraderie between the cast members remained continuous not only throughout this story, but also throughout the series! When Hannah, portrayed by Alison Sweeney, and Norman, portrayed by Gabriel Hogan, interacted with each other, their friendship felt genuine. As Hannah’s mom, portrayed by Barbara Niven, discussed her concerns about her daughter’s safety, that discussion between mother and daughter was presented realistically. These interactions were not only the result of the camaraderie between the cast members, but also the cast members displaying an understanding for their characters and their stories!
The inside jokes: Hallmark has a history of incorporating humor into their mystery series. Typically, this humor can be heard within the dialogue between characters or shown through hilarious situations. In Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Hallmark related inside jokes were woven into the script. Frustrated by Hannah’s involvement in the murder mystery case, Mike’s boss tells Mike Hannah is acting like a podcaster. This statement is a reference to Alison’s other mystery series, Chronicle Mysteries. Over lunch, Hannah’s mother, Delores, brings up how Hannah and Mike’s upcoming wedding is never discussed. That conversation references how Hannah and Mike have been engaged since Murder She Baked: Just Desserts, a movie that was released in 2017. These inside jokes provide “Easter eggs” for fans of the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series, as well as fans of Hallmark’s mystery films!
Use of clues: Some mystery stories utilize clues in order for the mystery to be solved. This is the case for several of Hallmark’s titles, including Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. The movie’s mystery begins in 1995. Therefore, one of the clues is a pager, which was used to determine who the victim called before they passed away. Another clue was a set of keys. But these keys helped set up a timeline for the mystery’s events. The incorporation of the clues in Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery combined the past and present in a nice way. It also showcased a variety of objects that could be used to solve a case!
What I didn’t like about the film:
The underutilization of Mike: Since the series’ inception, Mike has always played an integral role in the story of Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen. Because he is a professional detective, he provides a unique perspective to a movie’s case, especially compared to Hannah’s perspective. But in Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Mike wasn’t given much to do. Instead, Hannah solves the mystery single-handedly, relying on Mike less than in previous films. The “opposites attract” dynamic between Hannah and Mike was missing, which took away some of the series’ charm. It also does Cameron Mathison and his character a huge disservice.
Lack of “coziness”: The Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series has garnered a reputation for being a “cozy” mystery. Despite the stories containing murder mysteries, the stories themselves don’t feel too dark in tone. Instead, humor and pleasant character interactions break up the serious nature of the murder mystery. In Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, however, that “cozy” feeling was absent. While I did like the inside jokes woven into the script, the overall tone of the movie was serious. The lack of light-hearted subplots didn’t help either. In context with the series as a whole, this film causes a tonal shift that feels jarring.
Mike and Hannah’s relationship: For this part of my review, I will include spoilers for Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. If you have not seen this movie yet and are interested in watching it, please skip ahead to the part of my review titled “My overall impression”.
The majority of Hallmark’s mystery series contain a romantic relationship between the male and female protagonist. More often than not, these relationships grow as its series progresses. In the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series, viewers have witnessed Hannah and Mike go from being neighborhood friends to a romantic couple. As I mentioned in this review, they became engaged in Murder She Baked: Just Desserts. But in Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Mike and Hannah’s relationship was not prioritized as in previous movies. They didn’t spend much time together in this story. In fact, Hannah spent more time with Norman than with Mike. This creative choice caused Alison and Cameron’s on-screen chemistry to feel weaker compared to other films.
Like I said earlier in this review, Delores mentions how Hannah and Mike’s wedding hasn’t been discussed. I also mentioned how Mike and Hannah got engaged in a movie that was released over five years ago. During that time, fans of the series have been waiting for Hannah and Mike to finally walk down the aisle and say “I do”. But in the last twenty minutes of Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Hannah ends her and Mike’s engagement. Why, you ask? Because she was upset Mike didn’t tell her he was filling his boss in on developments she and Mike found in relation to the story’s mystery. Hannah seems so justified in her choice, she, through a monologue, compares her ended relationship with baking bread, saying something along the lines of the ingredients needing to be respected. Personally, I feel Hannah’s decision to end her and Mike’s relationship was unnecessarily spontaneous. Looking back on this movie, it makes me wonder if Hannah and Mike breaking up was Hallmark’s excuse to discontinue this series?
My overall impression:
I chose to review Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery in an attempt to see if it was worse than Francesca Quinn, P. I. Like I said in the introduction, I also reviewed this movie in response to one of my readers. Now that I’ve seen the film, I can honestly say, in my opinion, it is nowhere near as bad as Francesca Quinn, P. I. However, it is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen this year, so far. In a recent article from The Wrap, Alison Sweeney confirmed another chapter in the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series. Without spoiling Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, all I can say is I have no idea how this is possible. Other than solving a mystery, this movie put the series in a standstill. The film’s creative team didn’t provide a reason for the fans to get excited for the next story. From Mike being underutilized to the lack of “coziness” in the latest chapter, I’m wondering if this series will be another mystery series that will unceremoniously end? I said in my editorial about Francesca Quinn, P. I. how Hallmark’s priorities no longer lie with the mystery genre. Reflecting on that film and Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, it seems like I may be proven right.
Overall score: 5 out of 10
Have you seen Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery? What do you think is in store for the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series? Let me know in the comment section!
For The Master Of Suspense Blogathon, I was originally going to review the 1958 classic, Vertigo. I selected this film because it had been recommended by one of my readers. Unfortunately, my plans fell through at the last minute. So, I had to quickly choose an alternative. As I looked back at the blogathon’s participant list, I discovered the 1955 film, To Catch a Thief, hadn’t been selected. That is the film I am now reviewing for The Master of Suspense Blogathon. I have seen some of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies before this event. From what I know of To Catch a Thief, the 1955 production is different from other titles such as Psycho and Rear Window. But will this difference impact the quality of the film? Keep reading my review in order to solve this mystery!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: In To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant portrayed John Robie, a former jewel thief looking to clear his name. A man of suave charisma, John was afraid of being accused of something he didn’t do. But he never lets this fear get to him. Instead, with the talents of Cary Grant, John was confident and intelligent. Grace Kelly was also cast in To Catch a Thief, portraying Frances Stevens. Frances carried herself with dignified confidence. However, this confidence did not come across as snobbish or arrogant. It added to Frances’ likability, along with her gentle demeanor and respectful elegance. Danielle Foussard is a friend of John’s. Portrayed by Brigitte Auber, Danielle had a spunky streak in her, adding liveliness to her and John’s interactions. A scene I really liked was when John, Frances, and Danielle are swimming in the ocean together. This scene perfectly showcased their personalities, as their banter bounced among each other like a soaring beach ball. What made that scene great to watch was the joining of the acting talents of Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and Brigitte Auber!
The scenery: Most of the car chases in To Catch a Thief are captured in long, establishing shots. This is very different from car chases in other films, where the chases are shown in medium or close up shots. To Catch a Thief’s approach to car chases emphasizes the scenery surrounding these chases. Looking back on this film’s scenery, I can understand why To Catch a Thief’s creative team would make that decision. With the majority of the production filmed in France, the story shows pieces of the French countryside and seaside. Giant green mountains and deep blue waters present an isolated oasis. A smattering of orange roofed houses perched on these mountains add to the movie’s vibrant color palette. On the French seaside, bright yellow sands welcome the deep blue waters of the ocean. Most of the story’s exterior shots feature a blue sky with a handful of clouds. Even the flowers are appealing bursts of color, boasting shades of red, pink, and even purple. To Catch a Thief is a pretty looking movie and it knows it!
The dialogue: During discussions of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, use of music, cinematography, and lighting are typically talked about by fans and film enthusiasts. But one area of film-making I feel is overlooked, specifically when it comes to Alfred’s work, is the dialogue. This element of story-telling was a pleasant surprise in To Catch a Thief! It not only suited the characters respectively, it also sounded like the screenwriters put a lot of thought into what the characters told each other. While driving through the French countryside, John and Frances are discussing Frances’ past. As the discussion carries on, John accuses Frances of looking for a husband on her trip. But Frances responds by saying, “The man I want doesn’t have a price”. This statement represented the respectful elegance Grace consistently carried throughout the film. It also hinted at foreshadowing.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Limited amount of urgency: At the beginning of To Catch a Thief, John learns he is accused of stealing valuable jewelry. He evens claims to have ten days in order to clear his name. You’d think with this tight timeline, there would be a strong sense of urgency in the story. But this urgency to find the truth is, unfortunately, inconsistent. Instead, more emphasis is placed on the scenery, the romance, and the “finer things in life”. While the mystery was resolved, the limited amount of urgency held the story’s suspense and intrigue back.
A small amount of suspense and intrigue: Alfred Hitchcock’s productions are known for incorporating suspense and intrigue. This reputation has earned Alfred the title of “Master of Suspense”. In To Catch a Thief, however, suspense and intrigue were only served in small amounts. Part of this problem results from the limited amount of urgency I previously talked about. Another reason for this problem is how suspense and intrigue were used sparingly instead of evenly spread out throughout the story. It got to the point where I almost forgot this story had a mystery.
Lack of suspects: A typical mystery will include a collection of suspects, individuals who may or may not have a reason to be the guilty party. These characters are presented as uniquely as possible, in order to help the audience remember them and their reasoning. To Catch a Thief lacked this ingredient. Because the mystery was not as prioritized as in other works from Alfred Hitchcock, no room was made to include suspects. There was a red herring in To Catch a Thief, but this reveal felt random. Even the reveal of the mystery’s guilty party wasn’t completely surprising.
My overall impression:
As I said in this review, To Catch a Thief is a pretty looking movie and it knows it. While the scenery was the film’s crown jewel, there were other aesthetically pleasing components of this production, like the costume design and the set design. When it comes to the story, though, it wasn’t as suspenseful and intriguing as other Alfred Hitchcock movies. The visuals ended up overshadowing the script. I will give Alfred Hitchcock credit where it’s due, as it seems like he tried to take a different approach to cinematic story-telling. But out of his films I have seen, I prefer titles like Strangers on a Train.
Overall score: 6.3-6.4 out of 10
Have you seen To Catch a Thief? Which titles of Alfred Hitchcock’s do you prefer? Please tell me in the comment section!
Imagine: you’re re-watching your favorite season of a popular tv show. As you’re watching, one of your favorite characters appears on the screen. But upon this re-watch, you notice something different about this character. It’s a small detail that never crossed your mind before. Because the character in question is your favorite, you’re familiar with their story. This leads you to realize the aforementioned small detail doesn’t make sense with what you know about your favorite character. There are no clarifications included in the season you’re watching. You search the internet for answers, but walk away empty handed. You know this detail was given to your favorite character for a reason. And yet you don’t know what it is.
This is Sally Solves a Mystery, my new series where I will explore television-related topics. Through these editorials, my goal is to solve mysteries that may have been overlooked. I can’t promise I’ll always find the answers by the end of an editorial. But if my writing raises awareness on a given topic, that will be a step in the right direction! To start this series, I will cover a mystery I haven’t seen or heard fans of Lost bring up. Ana Lucia Cortez is a character who was officially introduced in the second season of Lost. Throughout her time on the show, she consistently wears a ring on her wedding ring finger. Yet she admits she isn’t married, and there’s no evidence she was ever engaged. Lost is a television program that is known for piling mysteries onto its plate. However, the mystery of Ana Lucia’s ring has been buried by the show’s other unsolved mysteries. With the help of quotes, screenshots, and examples from Lost, I will address the mystery surrounding this small detail, bringing up theories and questions along the way!
The Ring in Question
Before getting into any questions or theories related to this mystery, we need to discuss the ring itself. Ana’s ring is a thick, silver band that she consistently wears on her wedding ring finger. Despite its placement, the ring does not appear to be a typical engagement ring, as it doesn’t bear any stones. Upon closer inspection, though, the ring seems to boast different designs in different scenes. In the episode, “Two for the Road”, Ana’s ring is visible as she is cleaning a small cut on her head. The ring looks like it has a flat, clear surface, with an etched butterfly design on the side. In “The Other 48 Days”, as some of the dead Tailie passengers are being buried, Ana’s ring continues to present an etched design. But this time, it looks as if it could be a flower or gun’s revolver. The ring showcases a simpler design in “Collision”, while Ana is holding Sayid hostage in the jungle. This design is a curved line, almost looking like the letter V in cursive. Going back to the episode, “Two for the Road”, Ana’s ring can, once again, be seen as she is preparing fruit for Ben/Henry. In this scene, the ring bears a more complicated design, featuring an oval surrounded by deep grooves. Two deep lines are visible on the ring’s side, giving the impression raised triangles are included in the overall design. With this said, could the ring bearing different designs simply be a production error or could these differences be intentional?
Theory #1: A Flipped Image
Creating a television show is not only a business, it’s a complicated equation involving many different avenues and possibilities. Because television is a visual medium, various film-making techniques need to be considered. One of these techniques is Reverse Motion, where, according to Beverly Boy Productions, “action of the film is shown backwards in a reverse motion scene”. This means a filmed image will be flipped and presented in the opposite direction. Reverse Motion is what led me to believe Ana’s ring was originally filmed on her right hand, with the images flipped to appear the ring was on Ana’s left hand. However, evidence reveals this theory is debunked. The Director of Photography for Lost, Larry Fong, admitted Reverse Motion was utilized on the show. But this technique was specifically used whenever characters were driving in Australia. In the book, Lost: Messages From The Island, Larry talks about filming Australian scenes in Hawaii, saying “That’s not such a big deal on the set but we couldn’t get any cars that had steering wheels on the wrong side for certain scenes so we shot everything and reversed the film”. When discussing filming the show’s pilot episode, specifically the scene where Kate, portrayed by Evangeline Lilly, drives a truck in Australia, Larry says “We had to put jewelry on the other side of her; for the guy who had a fake arm we had to put the fake arm on the other arm. Everybody was so confused but all I did on the video monitor, was flip a switch and it reverses it. It wasn’t that hard and it is funny how the simplest solutions come out”.
While Reverse Motion presented the illusion of characters driving in Australia, this illusion can be broken if an actor or actress has a visible facial marking, tattoo, or birthmark. Michelle Rodriguez, the actress who portrays Ana, broke this illusion in the episode “Two for the Road”. Michelle has what I will call a “freckle”, for the sake of this editorial. This “freckle” can consistently be seen on the left side of Michelle’s face. But in “Two for the Road”, as Ana is driving Christian Shephard to an Australian bar, the “freckle” is on the right side of Michelle’s face. The use of close-ups prevented Ana’s ring from being visible in that scene. Because of the “freckle” and because of Larry admitting to using Reverse Motion, this proves Ana’s ring was always meant to be on her wedding ring finger. Question is, why?
Theory #2: A Peek into the Past
One of the trademarks of Lost is the use of flashbacks. These flashbacks have explored the backstories of the main characters from the island. On a few occasions, an accessory has opened the door to a specific character’s backstory. Two examples are Jack’s tattoo in the episode, “Stranger in a Strange Land”, and Mr. Eko’s cross necklace in “The 23rd Psalm”. These facts lead me to believe Ana’s ring may have been intended to explore a part of her past. Unclarified quotes said by Ana herself fuel this theory as well. In the episode, “The Whole Truth”, Ana tells Sayid:
“People don’t like me. I tried to get them to most of my life. I guess I just gave up a while back. I mean, I am what I am.”
This quote leaves me with several questions. Who are these “people”, and why don’t they like Ana? What exactly caused her to give up? What does she mean when she says “I am what I am”? While in the Hatch with Ben/Henry in the episode, “Two for the Road”, Ana tells him:
“I’ve been around a lot of killers in my life. You know what surprises me the most about them? How much they love to talk”.
Upon first hearing Ana’s quote, one would assume she’s referring to the criminals she’s arrested in her police career. But notice how she says “I’ve been around a lot of killers”, not “I’ve arrested a lot of killers”. Could any of these “killers” be the reason why Ana knows so much information about the Army knife she and Goodwin encounter in the episode, “The Other 48 Days”? In that episode, Ana wonders how the Army knife in Goodwin’s possession got on the island. While she and Goodwin are examining the knife, Ana is able to correctly identify the knife’s connection to the U.S. Military. She is also able to locate the knife’s tank stamp, as well as estimate how old the knife is. One might automatically assume Ana came across one of these knives while being a police officer in Los Angeles. But if this were the case, why wouldn’t she have mentioned this during her assessment of the knife?
With Ana’s unclarified quotes, knowledge about the Army knife, and police career, I’m speculating Ana’s ring may have revealed she did some undercover police work she might be ashamed of. This would explain why she’s “been around a lot of killers” and why she feels people don’t like her. Her knowledge about the Army knife might be explained if this theory were true. If she did undercover police work, she would have effectively used her experiences to successfully trick characters like Sawyer into giving her what she wants.
Theory #3: A Connection Between Ana and Sawyer
Sawyer is one of Lost’s main characters, consistently appearing in all six seasons of the show. One of his “quirks” is making pop cultural references, especially those from the Western genre. In season two, Sawyer made some pop cultural references to Ana. In fact, out of the six pop cultural references made to Ana throughout the second season, Sawyer gave her four of them. In the episode, “…And Found”, Sawyer asked Ana if she was married, which she responded by saying “No”. It needs to be noted that Sawyer is the only character to ever question Ana’s relationship status. What should also be noted is Sawyer is the first main character Ana crosses paths with before arriving on the island, crashing into Christian’s car door in “Two for the Road”.
As I previously stated, Sawyer makes pop cultural references, including those from the Western genre. Some of these references have related to programs such as Howdy Doody, Mister Ed, and Little House on the Prairie. But what if one of those references was meant to come from The Lone Ranger? In the 1981 movie, The Legend of The Lone Ranger, Tonto explains the importance of silver bullets to The Lone Ranger. During this explanation, Tonto says;
“Silver is pure. It’s been a symbol of justice and purity since The Year of the Sun”.
Now, you’re probably wondering, “What does The Lone Ranger have to do with Ana”? The answer lies in her ring. As already mentioned in this editorial, Ana is a police officer. Throughout her time on Lost’s second season, she has tried to seek out justice to varying degrees, such as when, in “The Other 48 Days”, Ana digs a pit and places Nathan in it, believing he kidnapped the children in their Tailie group. Plus, Ana’s ring just so happens to be silver. Could Sawyer have planned on calling Ana “Lone Ranger” or “Silver Bullet”? If “Lone Ranger” was Sawyer’s nickname for Ana, her statements about being alone in the episode, “Collision”, would make sense.
In the episode, “The Long Con”, a series of flashbacks reveal Sawyer sold fake jewelry in an attempt to pull off a con. During one of these flashbacks, he tries to sell chain necklaces to unsuspecting customers. But what if he sold rings at one point? If this were the case, perhaps someone gave Ana her silver ring, purchased from Sawyer. But if Ana knew the ring was fake, why would she keep it, let alone continue to wear it? And if Sawyer did sell that ring, why didn’t he notice it or comment on it? Maybe the ring was purchased from Sawyer as part of an undercover investigation, with Ana keeping the ring as a memento. Perhaps Sawyer didn’t mention the ring because he didn’t realize Ana may have played a role in the investigation.
Ana and the Number Three
4 8 15 16 23 42. This set of numbers has become a staple on Lost. The show’s creative team has incorporated these numbers into the story, from Hurley’s winning lottery ticket to some of the characters’ plane seats. During my investigation, there is one number that kept frequently popping up; the number three. Not one of the aforementioned numbers, the number three has been associated with Ana throughout her time on the show. In fact, I’ve compiled a list of all the times the number three has appeared in Ana’s story.
“Exodus Part 1”
During Jack and Ana’s first interaction together, Jack asks Ana three questions: who Ana is, what her name is, and why she’s drinking Tequila and Tonics at ten to noon
Ana’s ring can be clearly seen three times
Ana’s full name is Ana Lucia Cortez, three names. Ana’s first name not only contains three letters, her first and middle name contains a total of three As
Ana’s first appearance on Lost was in the first season’s twenty third episode
Ana’s seat on Oceanic Flight 815 is 42F. The letter F is comprised of three lines
Ana’s ring can be clearly seen three times
When Ana enters the pit, three guys from the main camp are stuck there: Sawyer, Michael, and Jin
Ana appears in three scenes total
Ana’s first appearance in season two is the third episode
“Orientation” and “Everybody Hates Hugo”
Ana hurts Sawyer three times: she punches Sawyer in the pit (“Orientation”), she throws a rock at his head (“Everybody Hates Hugo”), and Ana punched Sawyer again after he refused to put down a rock (“Everybody Hates Hugo”)
“Everybody Hates Hugo”
Ana tells Sawyer he has three seconds to drop the rock in his hand
Ana touches the DHARMA shelter door three times; two knocks, one scratch. This action was shown on screen three times
When splitting into groups to find food, Ana caught fish with Bernard and Jin, a group of three
Ana asks Jin three questions: “You want to help us out over here”?, “You want to eat”?, “Does it look like I speak Korean”?
Ana tells Michael “The Others” first took three tail section passengers. This detail was also brought up in “The Other 48 Days”
“The Other 48 Days”
Ana is told three tail end passengers are missing
Ana asks Goodwin three questions as they’re walking up to higher ground: “Why do you think they’re doing this”?, “Don’t you ever wonder why they attack us”?, “Why do you think they take some of us and not the others”?
When answering Ana’s third aforementioned question, Goodwin explains the three qualities that caused the first three Tailie passengers to be kidnapped: athletic, tough, and poses a threat to “The Others”
While investigating the Army knife, Ana brings up three facts about the knife; its U.S. Military connection, its tank stamp location, and its likely age
On Ana’s police badge, the number three is in the six number digits
On the door of Ana’s mom’s office, the number 315 can be seen
While Ana and Mike are riding in the police car, Mike asks Ana three questions; “So that shrink give you any good drugs”?, “D’ya miss me”?, “You want me to go kick his ass for you”?
Ana said on the police dispatch she and Mike were three blocks away for the domestic disturbance call
On Ana and Mike’s domestic disturbance call, they encounter a family of three; a man, woman, and baby
While keeping an eye on Sayid, Ana pops the magazine into her gun three times
When Ana crosses paths with Jason in a parking lot, she told him three things; “Hey”, “Jason”, “I was pregnant”. The third statement consists of three words.
When Ana is holding Sayid hostage in the jungle, she tells Libby “I’m already alone”. During her conversation with Sayid, Ana tells him “I feel dead”. These statements contain three words
“What Kate Did”
Ana asks Jack three questions; “Where’s the tonic”?, “You sure you want to waste that on me”?, “You gonna try to convince me that everyone here doesn’t hate me”?
“The 23rd Psalm”
Ana makes only one appearance in this episode, where the number twenty-three is in the title
“Fire + Water”
Ana’s ring can be clearly seen three times
When Sawyer and Kate spot Ana and Jack leaving the jungle, Sawyer tells Kate “That’s the third time I’ve seen them walking out of the jungle”
“One of Them”
Ana speaks to Sayid three times: “Where’s Jack”?, “There. See”?, “What”?
“The Whole Truth”
Locke tells Ana the man in the Hatch (Ben/Henry) has been down in the Hatch for three days
Ana, Sayid, and Charlie (a group of three) go on a trip to locate Ben’s/Henry’s hot air balloon
Ana made three appearances in this episode
During their search for Ben’s/Henry’s hot air balloon, Sayid tells Ana they’ve been searching for the balloon for three hours
When Ana and Sayid are interrogating Ben/Henry, Sayid tells Ben/Henry he has three seconds to answer his question
“Ana spoke to Locke three times; “Hey”, “I pressed your button”, “Where’d you go”? Ana’s question contains three words.
This episode name contains three letters and three periods
“Two for the Road”
Ana was told by her mom Jason’s body was found a little after three in the morning
In Ana’s Australian hotel room, her clock reads 3:51
While Jack is cleaning his medical tools in the Hatch, Ana speaks to him three times; “Hey”!, “You’re back”, “So, The Others. They didn’t show up”?
When Michael is sharing information about The Others, Ana asks him three questions; “What about everyone else they took”?, “Cindy”?, “Did you see any other kids”?
“Dave”, “S.O.S.”, and “Two for the Road”
Ana sits on the Hatch’s couch a total of three times; once in “Dave”, once in “S.O.S.”, and once in “Two for the Road”
As this very long and detailed list shows, Ana is often associated with the number three. In fact, this association doesn’t feel like a coincidence. In the special feature segment, “Mysteries, Theories, and Conspiracies” from the Lost season two DVD, Michelle Rodriguez said the following:
“You know, numbers are interesting. Alchemy could have something to do with it too. I think they use a lot of alchemy in this show too. They hint at it. They hint, you know, stars and signs and masonry. A lot of that symbolism is in there”.
If there truly is symbolism behind Ana’s ring and her connection to the number three, could the ring itself and the number three be linked in some way?
Different Versions of Ana
Time is an element experimented on in Lost. Not only were flashbacks used to explore characters’ backstories, “flashforwards” predicted how some characters’ futures would turn out and “flashsideways” broke different time barriers. Despite Ana only consistently appearing in the show’s second season, she did appear in an episode from seasons five and six. Based on where the ring is placed on her hand, it seems like there are different versions of Ana. In the episode, “Exodus Part 1”, and throughout the second season, the ring is on Ana’s wedding ring finger. But in the season five episode, “The Lie”, when Ana stops Hurley on the side of the road, she’s not wearing the ring at all. Ana also acknowledges the fact she’s deceased, telling Hurley “What if I were real” and “Oh yeah, Libby says hi”. The season six episode, “What They Died For”, shows the ring back on Ana’s left hand. But this time, it’s on her middle finger. The scene she appears in is part of an alternate universe, showing the characters as if the pilot episode’s plane crash had never happened. These versions of the same character make me wonder if the ring’s purpose evolved from its original intent, showing the differentiation between each version? The fact there seems to be three different versions of Ana highlights the possible connection between the ring and the number three I mentioned in the previous statement.
Lost is one of the most ambitious shows of our time. In fact, some people might argue the show was too ambitious. The mysteries surrounding the island are what intrigued viewers to watch Lost. But limited answers left the audience frustrated and confused. Because the mystery of Ana Lucia’s ring has been overlooked, there hasn’t been a demand for an explanation. Before the publication of this editorial, there was no speculation around the ring itself. With everything said in this article, my current speculation is how Ana’s ring was originally intended to serve as a peek into a part of Ana’s past. In this part, Ana did some undercover police work involving stolen or fake jewelry, with Sawyer a part of the equation. Something happened during the investigation, causing Ana to feel ashamed of the experience. Since Ana died toward the end of the second season, the ring’s purpose evolved to showing the differentiation between different versions of Ana. However, as of this editorial’s publication, this mystery is currently unsolved.
To read the full description of Reverse Motion, you can visit Beverly Boy Productions’ website at this link:
‘Movies featuring beaches or waterfront scenes’ is March’s theme for Genre Grandeur. I could have selected a Hallmark title, but I chose a different film instead. This seems to be a recurring theme on 18 Cinema Lane this year. Back when I published my editorial, Oh, The Places She’ll Go: A Map of Esther Williams’ Travels, Paddy Lee suggested I check out Charlie Chan at Treasure Island. Since then, I’ve been trying to find the right time to watch the film. When I searched through my movie recommendation board on Pinterest, I knew it would be the perfect movie to write about for this month’s Genre Grandeur! Before Paddy Lee’s suggestion, I had never heard of the Charlie Chan series. From what I’ve gathered, this is a mystery series from the 1920s to the 1940s. A made for TV movie, The Return of Charlie Chan, was released in 1972 and the last movie in the series, Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen, premiered in 1981. Starting this journey in the middle of the series, it’s time to review Charlie Chan at Treasure Island!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I’ve seen a handful of Cesar Romero’s projects from his filmography. Out of those projects, he has carried his character with charisma. In Charlie Chan at Treasure Island, Cesar portrayed a magician named Rhadini. Not only did Rhadini have the charisma I’ve come to expect from Cesar’s performances, he also contained a strong amount of showmanship you’d expect from a magician! Consistency worked in Cesar’s favor, with his performance appearing effortless. Another acting performance that came across as effortless was Victor Sen Yung’s! Portraying Charlie’s son, Jimmy, Victor gave his character a great on-screen personality. His expressions while interacting with other cast members wove together seamlessly. A great example is when Jimmy is helping Charlie get ready for a dinner party. As he is interacting with his father, Jimmy’s emotions transition from pride to confusion to determination without missing a beat! Despite appearing in the film for a limited amount of time, I liked Billie Seward’s portrayal of Bessie Sibley! She had great control over her character’s emotions, allowing her talents to go toe-to-toe with the talents of the other cast members.
The inclusion of magic: As I just mentioned in this review, Rhadini is a magician. He performs magic tricks on a few occasions within the story. These tricks range from a disappearing bird to a levitating table. There were even times when the secrets behind these tricks were revealed, showing the audience how the illusion was achieved. This was a pleasant surprise for me, as I didn’t expect any magic to be featured in the movie. Its inclusion in the story added a unique aspect to the film’s identity!
The humor: In past reviews, I’ve brought up how some mystery films have incorporated humor into their story, as humor gives the audience a break from the heaviness of the mystery itself. Honestly, I was surprised by the inclusion of humor in Charlie Chan at Treasure Island. This is because I was not expecting this aspect to be as strong as it was in the story. In Charlie Chan at Treasure Island, Jimmy was the comic relief. Some of the things he said were genuinely hilarious. During Rhadini’s magic show, Jimmy is recruited to participate in the levitating table trick. Horrified at the idea of being lifted off the ground, Jimmy tells his father, “Oh, but flying makes me seasick, Pop”.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A misleading title: Charlie’s adventures in Treasure Island are the reason why I chose this movie for March’s Genre Grandeur. Because of the film’s title, I expected Charlie to primarily spend his time at the titular location. But when I watched the movie, I discovered that wasn’t the case. While there was an aerial shot of Treasure Island, not much time was spent there. In fact, the characters talked about Hawaii, specifically Honolulu, more than Treasure Island. With that said, it made me wonder why this movie didn’t take place in Hawaii?
Charlie’s outdated “quirk”: In my editorial, Why ‘Francesca Quinn, PI’ is the Worst Hallmark Movie I’ve Ever Seen, I talked about how fictional detectives have a “quirk”, something that sets a detective apart from other sleuths. Charlie Chan does have his own “quirk”. However, it seems very outdated. Throughout the story, Charlie speaks in proverbs. His speech also sounds like broken English. I know the 1930s was a different time compared to the 2020s. But these factors make Charlie’s “quirk” seem stereotypical.
A limited amount of urgency: The main mystery in Charlie Chan at Treasure Island is a murder mystery, as a guest on a plane mysteriously dies during the trip. Charlie and the San Francisco police department discover a series of deaths that took place around the time of the aforementioned murder. But most of the story focuses on the mystery of who “Dr. Zodiac” is, a physic who is ripping off his clients. This focus caused the overall story to have a limited amount of urgency.
My overall impression:
As someone who actively seeks out programs from the mystery genre, I’m always looking for titles I can recommend to my readers. However, I am aware of how mystery films and shows are not created equally. Charlie Chan at Treasure Island was my introduction to the world of Charlie Chan. Unfortunately, this introduction was not as strong as it could have been. While there were aspects of the movie I liked, such as the acting and the humor, the story itself was weak. The misleading title made me wish the film had taken place in Hawaii. Charlie’s “quirk” also makes the story dated on arrival. I’m not sure if I’ll continue watching this series. Perhaps if a particular title fits a blogathon theme, then maybe I will check another film out.
Overall score: 6.7 out of 10
Have you seen any films from the Charlie Chan series? Are there mystery films you’d like to see reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane? Tell me in the comment section!
As I seek out Hallmark’s “older” content (“older” as in older than ten years old), I find myself gravitating toward Hallmark Hall of Fame’s VHS exclusive titles. For those who are not familiar with the history of Hallmark Hall of Fame, there are several movies from this collection that were only released on VHS. Caroline? from 1990 is one of those films. All I knew about this particular title was how the story revolved around a woman claiming to be a long-lost family member. Since I haven’t reviewed a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie in several months, I thought reviewing Caroline? for my latest Blog Follower Dedication Review would be perfect! Over my five years of movie blogging, I’ve noticed how my Hallmark related content has become some of my most popular content. In fact, one of my Hallmark Hall of Fame reviews, After the Glory, has garnered over a thousand views and counting! But will I like Caroline? as much as I liked 1992’s After the Glory? Keep reading my review in order to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: When portraying a titular character, that movie’s actor or actress needs to use their talents to not only carry the production, but also shine on their own. While I’m not familiar with Stephanie Zimbalist’s filmography, she did succeed in this task! In Caroline?, Stephanie’s portrayal of the titular character was so naturally presented, her interactions with the other characters were fluid. One great example is when Caroline is being questioned about her past whereabouts. In a calm voice, she answers every question given to her. As she sits upright in her chair, Caroline recounts how she survived a plane crash, looking away from Grace and Paul Carmichael as she’s remembering what happened. When Paul confronts Caroline over her selfishness, her face effortlessly turns to sadness. Caroline’s mouth conforms into a frown and her eyes appear to be on the verge of tears.
While watching Caroline?, I was fascinated by the interactions among the characters. This was achieved because of the strength of the cast! But two performances that impressed me the most came from Shawn Phelan and Jenny Jacobs! When a younger character plays a significant role in a story, the likability of that character can depend on an actor or actress’ performance. With Heidi and Winston, their interactions felt so realistic! A perfect example is when Winston is looking through a family photo album. Curious about Caroline’s true identity, Winston sneaks into his father’s office in the middle of the night. Several minutes later, Heidi comes into the office, wanting to look at the photo album as well. Throughout this scene, there is tension between Winston and Heidi. Winston is frustrated by Heidi’s constant questions and comments about the photos. He also does not like the fact he can’t look at the photo album independently. Meanwhile, Heidi is frustrated at the idea of being left out of Winston’s activity. She even looks defeated after Winston doesn’t believe her claims that she can read. With a combination of vocal inflections, facial expressions, and emotions, both Shawn and Jenny were able to present a sibling relationship that felt believable!
The element of mystery: As I mentioned in the introduction, Caroline? is about a woman claiming to be a long-lost family member. Even though I wouldn’t consider this film as a part of the mystery genre, the mystery of Caroline’s identity is spread out throughout the story. This creative decision allowed the audience to witness the interactions between the characters. Through these character interactions, the audience is left guessing if Caroline is who she says she is. All I can about the mystery’s resolution is it ended on a plot twist I didn’t see coming. The combination of these creative decisions presented a movie that was captivating to watch!
The messages and themes: Hallmark films, especially Hallmark Hall of Fame productions, are known for featuring strong messages and themes that most people can support. Caroline? is no different, as this story contains a collection of great themes and messages! While in the Carmichael family’s attic, Winston and Caroline are talking about the past. During their interaction, Winston tells Caroline, “My history teacher tells me that the secret to the future is often found in the past”. This quote resonated with me, as I, more often than not, talk about films from the past on 18 Cinema Lane! Later in the movie, Winston is frustrated with Heidi because she won’t receive academic assistance from Caroline. When Winston comes to Caroline with his frustrations, Caroline tells him, “I can’t force her to. I can’t help her unless she wants me to”. That quote alone highlights the importance of respecting one’s wishes. At the same time, Winston’s desire to see his sister academically succeed shows how necessary it is to support those you care about.
The differentiation of time: The story of Caroline? features two time periods: the “present” (1990, when the film was released) and the past (late 1940s to early 1950s). Because of choices in styling and presentation, these time periods appeared distinct from one another. In one scene, Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael (Winston and Heidi’s parents) are debating the legitimacy of Caroline’s claims. This scene takes place in their bedroom, which contains two separate beds. That specific choice in the movie’s set design is a strong reflection of the ‘40s to ‘50s, as it was more common for married couples to have separate sleeping arrangements. It also boasts the historical accuracy between these aforementioned time periods.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Questions left unanswered: Any story containing a mystery will raise some questions within the script. Usually, these questions are answered as the film progresses. But in Caroline?, there were some questions I wish were addressed. While shopping at a bookstore, Winston purchases a book of poems for Caroline. Yet, at Caroline’s party, he gives the book to Heidi. Speaking of Heidi, she is called “Heidi” by her mother, despite her name being Hilary. These are two examples of questions that weren’t explained.
My overall impression:
The story of a character claiming to be a long-lost family member is nothing new. The ‘90s, the decade when Caroline? was released, saw the premiere of 1997’s Anastasia, which revolves around this same type of story. But Hallmark Hall of Fame’s presentation makes several creative decisions that allow their story to travel down different avenues. It goes beyond simply figuring out if the protagonist is the claimed long-lost family member, as the film discusses reaching one’s full potential and helping those that need help. As I mentioned in my review, I was fascinated by the interactions among the characters because of the strength of the cast. That combined with the intriguing nature of the story is what kept me invested in the film! Caroline? is a movie I was Hallmark had re-released on DVD. In fact, I wish more people knew about this movie. With that, I’d like to thank all of my followers, as you are the reason why this review exists!
Overall score: 9 out of 10
Have you seen or heard of Caroline? Which Hallmark Hall of Fame movie would you like to see reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane? Please tell me in the comment section below!
Once upon a time, in 2018, I declared the Hallmark Hall of Fame title, Back When We Were Grownups, as the worst Hallmark movie I had ever seen. Since publishing that list, I honestly didn’t think any movie would dethrone the 2004 film. That all changed when I saw Francesca Quinn, PI. At the end of 2022, when I released my list of the worst movies I watched, the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film was placed at number one. While I explained why the film earned the top spot on my list, I didn’t discuss why Francesca Quinn, PI is now the worst Hallmark movie I’ve ever seen. As a Christmas present, J-Dub, from Dubsism, nominated me for The Pick My Movie Tag. My mission was to write about a movie I couldn’t stand. This gave me the perfect opportunity to explain why I don’t like Francesca Quinn, PI. Since this editorial is solely based on my opinion, I need to make it clear that everything I say is not meant to be mean-spirited or disrespectful. Examples from the movie will be used to support my intended points. I’d also like to thank J-Dub for the nomination! Because of this tag, I’m now publishing my first editorial of 2023! This editorial is written for a tag, so all tag rules will be posted below.
The Tag’s Rules
Nominate one or more people to review the film or films of your choice. Or you can request they review something from a certain year, genre, or star. Everyone can review the same thing, or you can request each person cover something different. As long as it’s something they haven’t written about yet, you’re good.
Nominees are allowed to request a different pick for whatever reason no more than five times. Stuff happens. We all know it.
Nominees must thank the person who nominated them and provide a link their blog.
Nominees may nominate others to keep the tag going. Picking the person who nominated them is allowed, or they can nominate someone else. Maybe both.
All participants need to include these rules in their post, whether they’re nominees or picking nominees.
All participants should use the “Pick My Movie” banner or something similar in their posts.
Exposition is an important storytelling component in any story, whether it’s a stand-alone tale or a chapter in an established franchise. This component provides the audience with necessary information about the characters, setting, and overarching conflict. The best way for the audience to absorb this information is, in my opinion, to spread it out throughout the story. That’s not what happened in Francesca Quinn, PI. Within the first six minutes of the movie, the following characters are introduced:
Francesca (the protagonist)
Jim (Francesca’s dad)
Bill (Jim’s friend)
Wynton (Francesca’s childhood friend and detective partner)
Megan (Francesca’s ex-stepmom)
Carl (Francesca’s high school sweetheart and fiancé)
In just one scene, Francesca, Jim, Bill, and Wynton are rapidly introduced to the audience. Within those same first six minutes, Francesca, through a voice over, discusses the six murders Megan committed over the span of four years. Because the audience is receiving so much information in such a short amount of time, they aren’t given the opportunity to truly get to know the characters. They also aren’t given enough time to decide for themselves if they want to care about a particular character. The first movie in a potential series is intended to serve as a first impression for the audience, an indication of what they could expect from the story. With Francesca Quinn, PI’s creative team choosing to dump exposition onto their audience’s plates, that will cause viewers to feel overwhelmed.
Since coming to fruition in 2001, Hallmark Channel has created several mystery series that would eventually lead to the rebranding of Hallmark’s second network. In these series, the audience follows a central protagonist who comes across as likable. This likability has worked in some series’ favor, expanding a story beyond three films. In the case of Francesca Quinn, PI, there are some factors working against the protagonist. Throughout the movie, Francesca speaks with a monotone voice, using very little emotional inflection. Most of the time, her face carries a blank, serious expression. With the material given, Mallory Jansen tries her best to give her character a wider range of emotion, smiling every once in a while. However, this attempt isn’t enough to make a good first impression on the audience.
Francesca’s limited expressions lead me to my next point; her weaker personality. When beginning a series, a protagonist’s personality could determine that story’s longevity. If the protagonist is presented as friendly, approachable, and even relatable, that could attract more viewers to follow the protagonist’s adventures. Showing a protagonist in various environments is a good way to showcase their personality. In the Aurora Teagarden series, the audience witnesses Aurora in both a professional and nonprofessional setting. Whether she’s trying to get along with her co-worker, Lillian, or interacting with the members of the Real Murders Club, viewers receive a more well-rounded glimpse into Aurora’s personality. Because Francesca’s story primarily revolves around her profession, the audience doesn’t get a strong idea of what her personality is really like. The fact Francesca does not have friends or hobbies outside of her occupation prevents her personality from shining. Another element Francesca’s personality is missing is charisma.
The most well-known detectives in pop culture have a “quirk”, something that sets them apart from other fictional detectives. A great example is Columbo, who is recognized for saying “and one more thing”. With Francesca Quinn, there are no “quirks” that help her stand out among Hallmark’s other detectives. As I previously mentioned, she doesn’t have any interests outside of her profession. She does not have a catchphrase that viewers could easily remember and quote. This missing ingredient is another reason why Francesca is not a likable and memorable protagonist.
An Unprofessional Investigator
In Hallmark’s various mystery series, there is a mix of professional and amateur detectives. This provides mystery fans with diverse perspectives, showing how different characters approach a mystery. For protagonists who are professional detectives, their critical thinking and problem-solving skills should give the impression they know what they’re doing. Yet, in Francesca Quinn, PI, Francesca makes several mistakes an amateur detective would likely make. When visiting a potential suspect, Francesca spots the security guard who happens to work at the prison Megan resides in. She, as well as Ella (the lead detective of the Minneapolis police department), chase after the security guard. As the chase continues, the security guard throws a set of fish at Francesca, in an effort to slow her down. Her disgust distracts her from the pursuit, with the security guard getting away. After the security guard trips and falls to the ground, Francesca pulls her gun on him. When Ella tries to calm Francesca down, Francesca tells her, “He threw a fish at me”, justifying her reason for pulling her weapon on the security guard.
The scene I described is just one example of Francesca’s poor decision-making skills. Yet Francesca Quinn, PI’s creative team wants the audience to believe Francesca is a professional investigator with years of experience. The story also establishes how Francesca has her own private investigation firm. Detectives in mystery stories are human, capable of making mistakes and experiencing obstacles. But Francesca crosses the line between human error and appearing incompetent at her job. Toward the beginning of her investigation to figure out who killed Carl, Wynton and Beatrice (a detective who works alongside Wynton) pays Francesca a visit. As Beatrice shares the alibis of the case’s prime suspects, Francesca believes a hit man murdered her fiancé. She is so convinced in her belief, she becomes defensive and argumentative with Beatrice and Wynton. Instead of looking at every possible avenue for a resolution to the mystery, Francesca chooses to be close-minded in her approach to figuring out “whodunit”.
Mystery stories will typically provide explanations when it comes to specific parts of the story. Whether it’s medical terminology or pieces of historical information, these explanations can help the audience better understand the story they are consuming. But Francesca Quinn, PI includes so many explanations, the protagonist ends up explaining things that don’t need to be explained. In the first minute of the movie, Francesca explains what a “murder board” is, saying “a murder board, we call it. Lots of pieces of evidence that hopefully bring you to a conclusion”. This explanation is presented as a voice over, with a “murder board” shown on screen. Speaking for myself, I’ve seen enough mystery programs, especially from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, to know what the aforementioned board is and how it is used.
While voice overs were a way to provide unnecessary explanations, Francesca Quinn, PI’s creative team used other methods to keep this flaw consistent. When Francesca and Wynton visit Megan in prison, Wynton tells Megan the police “do things by the book”. The inclusion of this pun acknowledged Megan’s English teaching career and her request to receive books in prison. Shortly after Wynton made this pun, Francesca explains to Megan, as well as the audience, that not only is “by the book” a pun, she also explains the meaning behind the pun. In my list of the top ten worst movies I saw in 2022, I said Francesca Quinn, PI gave me the impression the film’s creative team didn’t want me to solve the mystery alongside the protagonist. I also said one of the worst things a film-maker can do is disrespect their audience’s intelligence. With all the unnecessary explanations the creative team gave, the opportunity for the viewers to interact with the story was unavailable.
As of the publication of this editorial, there are no announced plans to grow Francesca Quinn, PI into a series. If I’m being honest, though, I hope that doesn’t happen. This is because I truly believe there are mystery stories that are better than this one. A decade ago, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries housed several mystery series that achieved viewership success. Hallmark’s second network would never have boasted the name, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, had it not been for the popularity of these mystery films. Now, in the 2020s, it seems like Hallmark’s priorities no longer lie with the mystery genre. In early March, 2023, only three of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ movies are mystery titles. Out of the ten newer mystery titles to premiere this decade so far, just two of them have received at least one sequel: Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries and Curious Caterer. Looking back on Francesca Quinn, PI, Hallmark’s lack of care and respect for the mystery genre shined brighter than a typical neon sign.
Flapper Dame from The Flapper Dame
Ari from The Classic Movie Muse
Maddy from Classic Film and TV Corner
Ruth from Silver Screenings
Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy
As I mentioned in the introduction, I wrote this editorial for The Pick My Movie Tag. Because I wrote about the worst Hallmark movie I’d ever seen, I will give my nominees the mission to write about a Hallmark movie featured in my worst movies of the year lists. To make it easier for the nominees, I will list those titles below:
It’s been a little while since I last reviewed a Hallmark film. In fact, this is my first Hallmark movie review of 2023. Since 18 Cinema Lane recently received 455 followers, I thought this would the perfect opportunity to write about a Hallmark production. Besides, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Last year, I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate (as a Blog Follower Dedication Review). Even though I thought it was just fine, the movie had potential to start a new series. Out of the newer mystery films to premiere on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries this decade, so far, Curious Caterer is one of only two to receive a sequel. I will admit when I first read the synopsis for Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, it sounded like a repeat of the first film. It also didn’t help how the trailer revealed very little information about the movie. However, as a thank you to every one of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers, I’m serving up this review of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ latest mystery title!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: When I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate last year, I complimented Nikki Deloach, Andrew W. Walker, and even Kendall Cross on their solid performances. Nikki and Andrew returned to this second chapter with equally strong portrayals of their respective characters! Throughout the film, I was impressed by the strength of the cast as a whole. Every interaction appeared so natural, I was immersed in the story! A great example is when Goldy and her friend, Marla, are unknowingly delivering evidence to Detective Tom’s office. In this scene, Goldy and Marla explain how they conveniently crossed paths with Mason, Tom’s detective partner, in the parking lot. Displaying genuine confusion on their faces, Marla and Goldy bring some of the murder victim’s paperwork, in an attempt to simply help in any way they can. Not wanting Goldy to be involved in official detective work, Tom tells both women how they are interfering with an investigation. During this interaction, Tom carries a stern tone in his voice and a frustrated look in his eyes, displeased with civilians interrupting his work. Meanwhile, Mason displays an easy-going, yet professional persona, trying his best to do his job right. This blend of personalities, emotions, and expressions created a scene that was not only well acted, but was hilarious as well!
The humor: Limited amount of humor was one of the flaws of Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate. This prevented the audience from receiving a break from the story’s heavy murder mystery plot. In Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, however, more humor was incorporated in the script. Like other mystery series on Hallmark’s second network, the humor felt like it belonged in the world of Curious Caterer. While Goldy and Marla are creating a mystery board, Detective Tom arrives at Goldy’s back door. Because this back door contains a see-through window, Tom can see exactly what Marla and Goldy are doing. When they see that Tom has arrived, Goldy and Marla try their best to cover the board up, as they know Tom would disapprove. With a irritated look on his face, he points to the door knob, demanding Goldy open the door. To me, this was one of the funniest scenes in the movie, as the intended ideas were expressed with very little dialogue!
Marla’s involvement in the mystery: In most mystery series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the protagonist’s best friend either has a small role in the mystery or isn’t involved at all. Curious Caterer: Grilling Season gave Marla, Goldy’s friend and co-worker, a greater opportunity to participate in the mystery. During the creation of the mystery board, Marla was thinking up suspects and speculating on their motives. Meanwhile, Goldy was providing insight into other possible theories. Marla also shares information with Goldy about two possible suspects. Creative decisions like this one allow the Curious Caterer series to try new things and stand out from the network’s other mystery titles!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Providing far-reaching or no explanations: At the beginning of the movie, Goldy is catering the birthday party of her friend, Susie. Tom is one of the party’s guests, who appears to personally know the hostess. Within the dialogue, though, Tom’s relationship with Susie was never explained. In some mystery stories, explanations for clue discoveries and motive reveals can be so far-reaching, most audience members would have never figured it out on their own. Without spoiling the story, far-reaching explanations were found on a few occasions in Curious Caterer: Grilling Season. For me, this made the mystery less interactive. I also think this could frustrate some viewers.
The under-utilization of Olive: Last year, when I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, I talked about how the audience didn’t receive the opportunity to get to know Goldy’s daughter, Olive. This is because she was featured in a handful of “don’t blink or you’ll miss her” moments. In Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, the audience learned a little more about Olive, such as her participation on a softball team. But similar to the first film, her appearances in the story were limited. This was disappointing, as I was hoping Olive would receive a greater role in the story. Perhaps she could have helped Goldy solve a mystery, with both mother and daughter looking for information related to a case.
No close-up shots of the food: As I talked about the cinematography in Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, I shared my thoughts on the close-up shots of some appetizers Goldy served. Those shots gave the audience an idea of the kind of catering service Goldy provides. At Susie’s birthday party in Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, however, there were no close-up shots of the food. Even Susie’s birthday cake was not featured on screen. Catering plays such a vital role in Goldy’s story, as that is her business. So not featuring a few close-up shots of the food not only feels like a missed opportunity, it takes away some of this series’ identity.
My overall impression:
As I stated in the introduction, Curious Caterer is one of only two newer mystery titles to receive a sequel on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Like I also stated, I had my concerns about the sequel feeling like a repeat of its predecessor. Even though both films share some similarities, I found Curious Caterer: Grilling Season to be a stronger movie than the first chapter! There were times when the sequel improved upon the flaws made in last year’s title, such as incorporating more humor. A sense of consistency was found in the second movie, as the acting was just as strong as it was in the first film. But Curious Caterer: Grilling Season proves this series still has room to grow. The series has so many ideas for future stories! Since Nikki and Andrew have starred in their fair share of Christmas movies, maybe a Christmas mystery is possible? Or a mystery relating to Olive’s softball team is on the horizon, either focusing on the theft of a trophy or a coach is framed for poor sportsmanship? As of the publication of this review, there have been no announcements for upcoming Curious Caterer films. But as the saying goes, “the sky’s the limit”.
Overall score: 7.4-7.5 out of 10
Have you seen Curious Caterer: Grilling Season? Would you like to see this series continue? Let me know in the comment section!
February’s theme for Buzzwordathon is ‘verbs’. Because the act of taking something is a verb, I chose to read The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore by Joan Lowery Nixon. When creating a mystery story, it’s important to make the characters distinct from one another. This way, the reader will be able to keep track of who is who. How Joan achieves this goal is by describing the characters, from what they look like to their personalities. When talking about her friend, Lorna, the protagonist, Christina, says “Lorna is what they call “outgoing” and always seems to know the right things to say”. Meanwhile, Christina describes herself as someone who tends “to keep things all bottled up inside me”. Making these two characters opposites of each other is one way Joan helps the reader remember the story’s characters.
Throughout the book, Christina makes several contradictions that could make a reader frustrated with her. Toward the beginning of the story, while visiting Lorna at her house, Christina contemplates on what should be important in her life. Even though she turns to her friend for advice, Christina is unsure which direction will lead her to an answer. A chapter later, shortly after she’s been kidnapped, Christina asks “Will my children someday have any idea of what I’m like inside”? This quote implies she already knows what is important to her: having a family in the future. If she already found what’s important to her, why would Christina bother to question what is important in the first place? As the story continues, Christina contradicts herself again, by discovering the most important thing, to her, is herself. Didn’t she already figure out what was important back in chapter three?
In all honesty, I can’t recommend The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore. This is because of how weak the story is. It is possible to tell a “coming of age” story while also giving the characters a mystery to solve. Instead of evenly balancing these two concepts, Joan prioritizes Christina’s “coming of age” story over the mystery itself. That decision led to a book where suspense is far and few between, as well as a novel that lacks urgency. What also doesn’t help was how the kidnappers’ identities were revealed earlier in the story. There is an overarching mystery about an unknown kidnapper in Christina’s case. But the aforementioned reveal took away some of the book’s intrigue.
Overall score: 2.1 out of 5 stars
Have fun during Buzzwordathon!
Disclaimer: Because this story includes a kidnapping, some readers may be sensitive to this book. Other subjects that may be offensive to some readers are:
— Some occasions where characters swear
— Christina refers to her father as a “bigot” due his religious beliefs
— Christina, a high school junior, develops a crush on a college sophomore
— Some occasions of violence
— The subject of teen pregnancy is briefly referenced
In my post about what readers can look forward to on my blog this year, I shared my results of 2022’s Buzzwordathon readathon. Because I had four fails and didn’t finish reading December’s book before the end of the year, I chose to participate in 2023’s Buzzwordathon in an attempt to improve my results. Though I’m publishing my review for January’s selection in February, I did complete the book in the month of January. That book is The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman, as the theme for January was ‘life and death’. This means the words ‘life’ or ‘death’ had to be featured in the title.
One component that can affect my reading experience is the quality of descriptive imagery. This part of the story is what helps readers picture characters, events, and locations in their mind. Throughout The Life She Was Given, Ellen uses comparisons to elaborate on an intended point. An example is when she described the physical appearance of Merrick, an employee of The Barlow Brothers’ Circus. When one of the protagonists, Lilly, meets Merrick for the first time, “his face reminded Lilly of pictures she’d seen of the moon, with craters and dents and rocky parts”. In fact, Merrick was sometimes referred to as “the moon-faced man”. By comparing his face with the uneven surface of the moon, Ellen is not only describing Merrick in greater detail, she also writes how a child would view the world around them.
What drew me into wanting to read The Life She Was Given was the mystery surrounding Blackwood Manor, the home inherited by the book’s other protagonist, Julia. While the mystery itself was intriguing and held my attention, it wasn’t prioritized within Julia’s chapters. Instead, more focus was given to taking care of the horses on the Manor’s farm. Readers learn more about Claude, the man in charge of the farm, and Fletcher, the veterinarian, as well as their connection to Blackwood Manor. But because the mystery was not emphasized in most of Julia’s chapters, it took Julia almost the entire book to solve the mystery.
The Life She Was Given is a tough book to get through. This is not a poorly written piece of literature and I thought the book itself was just fine. The reason why The Life She Was Given is a tough book to get through is because of some of the topics included, which are heavier in nature. Some of these topics are abuse, violence, and mistreatment of animals. Ellen incorporates these subjects into her story in an honest way, not sugar-coating anything or holding back any punches. If you choose to read this book, please be aware of this fact before you start reading.
Overall score: 3.6 out of 5 stars
Have fun during Buzzwordathon!
Disclaimer: As I said in my review, The Life She Was Given contains heavier subjects, such as abuse, violence, and mistreatment of animals. Other content some readers may find offensive are the following:
— Characters swearing at several moments in the story
— Lilly being placed in some concerning situations, such as underage drinking
— Dialogue reflective of the 1930s and 1950s
— One chapter featuring a horse giving birth
— Mentions are characters dying, including a drunk driving accident
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.
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.
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 containstories 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?