Take 3: Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death Review

Even though I’ve been reviewing films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries lately, I haven’t reviewed a mystery film from Hallmark’s second network since May. Because of this, I decided to review the newest movie in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series, especially since I have seen the first two installments. Like the other series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Picture Perfect Mysteries has been an enjoyable collection of films. The series also has a distinct identity that sets it apart from the various current offerings on this particular channel. A mystery story featuring a murder mystery stage play is not new, as the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series had a similar concept in the 2019 movie, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: A Very Foul Play. In fact, there was a play poster in the background of Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death that was titled “A Very Foul Play”. However, I was curious to see how a detective and photographer duo would approach this specific type of mystery.

Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Thing I liked about the film:

The acting: In Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death, the acting ranged from fine to good. However, there were some stand-out performances I’d like to bring up. One came from series regular, Trezzo Mahoro, who portrayed Allie’s friend Noah. What I liked about his performance was how lively and expressive it was. A good example is when Noah discovers Maya has figured out the password on his laptop. The look of shock on his face truly appeared genuine. Another note-worthy performance was Willie Aames’! As one of the characters said in this movie, Neil Kahn was “mild-mannered”. While this is true, Willie made this part of his character consistent. Because Neil is a director of mystery stories, this is a different yet interesting creative choice when it comes to acting. Speaking of Neil, I also enjoyed seeing April Telek’s performance! Throughout the film, her portrayal of Neil’s wife was very natural. This is evident in the scene where she and Neil are having an argument about their personal lives.

The interior and exterior design: In some scenes, Neil Kahn’s house was featured on screen. This is certainly one of the most photogenic houses shown in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film! The exterior was pale yellow Victorian, complete with a wrap around porch. Impressive interior designs added to the grand scale that is also shown on the house’s exterior. Dark wood was a consistent component of each room shown in the movie. The living room boasted a large wood fireplace paired beautifully with green marble. Neil’s library also featured wood, as seen in bookshelves covering the walls. An eye-catching design choice was how arches outlined the shelves, an element that isn’t often found. In one scene, the living room in Allie’s house can be seen in the background. A stone fireplace was illuminated with soft lights, with a complimentary bookshelf next to it. This shows how good interior and/or exterior design came from multiple locations!

The cinematography: There was some cinematography in Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death that really surprised me in a good way! One notable example is when a suspect is being questioned at the police station. As the scene plays out, emphasis is placed on the clock and the suspect’s face. They were both zoomed in at various points in the scene, highlighting the suspense and fear a person might face in that situation. Another interesting use of cinematography is when Allie and Sam were having a conversation after the murder victim was discovered. When each character was speaking, they were given close-ups to help the audience focus on Sam’s or Allie’s part of the conversation. This specific area of film-making, cinematography, added intrigue to the overall project!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Story points that didn’t lead anywhere: Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death contained story points that ended up not leading anywhere. One of them was the robberies that were taking place in Willow Brook, the small town featured in this series. During the movie, Sam was in charge of solving the film’s murder and a string of robberies. Unfortunately, this part of the film became an afterthought, as it had little to no connection to the main plot. Another story point involved a local loan shark. While he was shown and mentioned on a few occasions, the loan shark didn’t have a consistent enough presence to be a meaningful part of the story. If this character would have been given more importance, maybe he could have been a red herring.

Allie’s relationship with Daniel: Hallmark Movies & Mysteries series usually show the male and female protagonist forming a romantic relationship over time. Even though this is only the third Picture Perfect Mysteries movie, I feel Allie and Sam will likely become a couple. Because of this, I found Allie’s relationship with Daniel, a newspaper reporter, to be pointless. When Allie’s friend, Maya, suggests that Allie go on a date with Daniel, it felt like the screenwriter was trying to force a love triangle into the story. Allie and Daniel’s departure from their date came across as awkward, like they knew their relationship wasn’t going to last. To me, it seemed like this aspect of the movie was unnecessarily shoved into the narrative.

A choppy pace: I found the overall pace in Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death to be choppy. This is because there wasn’t a good flow in-between scenes. In one scene, Allie and Sam are discussing color paint samples for Sam’s house. Shortly after, one of the murder suspects is giving Allie clues. Mysteries series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries space out scenes that are not mystery related, as to not make the movie feel too dark. However, this installment in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series seemed to fill their script with as much content as possible with the intent to worrying about the overall flow later.

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My overall impression:

At best, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death was a fine film. It definitely had its strengths, such as some stand-out acting performances and interesting cinematography. But, in my opinion, the movie felt like it just met a requirement. As I mentioned in this review, this is the third chapter in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series. By this point, the question of how the overarching story arc can move forward should be answered. This film, however, does not answer that question. What it does instead is almost put the series in a stand-still, forcing it to stay in one place. Having story points that don’t lead anywhere is just one example of how this happened. Yes, the mystery was intriguing. But this is only a part of a mystery film. If there are other parts of the story that don’t work, the movie is going to have shortcomings. While it is unknown at this time whether the Picture Perfect Mysteries series will receive a fourth film, I just hope it’s stronger than this movie was.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen the Picture Perfect Mysteries series? Would you like to see this series get a fourth film? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Alice in the Cities Review + 210 & 215 Follower Thank You

Three weeks ago, 18 Cinema Lane received 210 followers! Because I was in the middle of coordinating my PB & J Double Feature and reviewing films for Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month, I postponed my 210-follower dedication review. During that time, my blog also received 215 followers! This caused me to combine my 210 and 215 follower dedications into one review. Since last March, I’ve had a recording of Alice in the Cities on my DVR. As you can tell by the title of this post, this is the film I have chosen to write about. Every so often, I try to watch and/or review a movie that was created outside of North America. Most of these films have come from Europe. Prior to watching Alice in the Cities, the only German film I’ve written about on 18 Cinema Lane was Nosferatu. What’s interesting is how, like the 1922 movie, Alice in the Cities was restored as a result of two different versions of the project. According to a message at the beginning of the film, the movie was filmed in two separate millimeters.

This is a screenshot of the poster I took with my phone that happened to be featured on my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: According to an article from Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) website, Wim Wenders, the director of Alice in the Cities, was inspired to create this film after watching Rüdiger Vogler and Yella Rottländer perform together in a previous project. Having these two actors reunite for Alice in the Cities was a smart decision! I liked Rüdiger’s portrayal of Philip because it was consistent. Not only that, but he had a coolness about him as his character moved from one scene to the next. No matter what scenario was thrown in his path, Philip was calm and collected. This made Rüdiger’s performance appear effortless! Something that I noticed while watching Yella’s performance was how believable it was. Whether she was questioning Philip’s “scribbles” or asking for food, Yella’s body language, facial expressions, and overall demeanor appeared as one would expect from a child in Alice’s particular situation. It also helps that Yella worked with Wim and Rüdiger prior to this movie. Because of this, Yella appeared comfortable in the role she was given!

The cinematography: Alice in the Cities is filmed in black-and-white. This was done not only because of a personal decision by the director, but also to avoid having Alice in the Cities be compared to Paper Moon, a movie that was released a year before Wim’s project. When film fans think about black-and-white movies, productions that were released before 1965 will likely come to mind. However, it’s important to remember those titles were presented in black-and-white because filming in color was rarely an option. With Alice in the Cities, its presentation was purposefully chosen, which proved to be more interesting than I would have expected. It caused the story to be frozen in time, allowing the narrative to serve as a time-capsule. Having a few characters appear on screen at a given moment makes each interaction feel intimate, like the audience is directly a part of these verbal exchanges. I also liked how some scenes looked like the view came straight from Philip’s perspective. One great example is when Philip is boarding a train in Amsterdam.

Philip and Alice’s interactions: The majority of this story revolves around Philip’s search for Alice’s grandmother, which results in Philip and Alice spending a significant amount of time together. As I mentioned before, Rüdiger and Yella had worked together in a previous film. This helped their interactions come across as realistic. In the aforementioned TCM article, one of Wim’s inspirations for Alice in the Cities was his friend, who happened to be a single parent. This explains why Philip and Alice’s interactions feel like they are between father and daughter. Because of the quality of their acting abilities, Rüdiger and Yella were able to bring this idea to life in their performance! They were also able to equally carry the film.

Map of Germany image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. Background vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like the film:

Scenes feeling like padding: There were some scenes in Alice in the Cities that ended up feeling like padding. One example is when Philip and Alice go to an ice cream shop. Within this scene, a shorter scene of a child eating their ice cream next to a juke box is included. This scene didn’t serve the overall story and felt like it was there just to be there. Personally, I think scenes like the shorter one I mentioned should have been cut from the film.

The run-time: IMDB lists Alice in the Cities with a run-time of one hour and fifty minutes. To me, this caused the movie to feel a bit too long. Like I previously stated, there were scenes in this film that felt like padding. Their purpose seemed to be that of satisfying this run-time. The story itself was also straight-forward. These two factors made me believe that, at least, ten minutes of this movie could have been shaved off.

An inconsistent exploration of Philip’s beliefs: At certain points in Alice in the Cities, Philip expresses his beliefs about topics like his dislike toward television and why he takes photos. Philip presents an interesting way of looking at things that most people wouldn’t think twice about. Unfortunately, these beliefs were not explored to a satisfying extent. As the story places a primary emphasis on Philip’s search for Alice’s grandmother, this exploration gets lost in the shuffle. It also creates an inconsistent inclusion of this part of the story.

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My overall impression:

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) features an interesting article about Wim Wenders and the creation of Alice in the Cities. After reading about Wim’s personal struggles as a filmmaker and after learning about this film’s restoration efforts, it makes me glad that Alice in the Cities was able to see the light of day! Movies involving road trips usually don’t interest me. But because of Rüdiger Vogler and Yella Rottländer’s performance, I found myself invested in the journey of their characters! Creative cinematography and addressing Philip’s beliefs also help make this film likable and well-made. Even though Alice in the Cities is a fine film, there were things about it that prevented the overall project from being better. The main plot didn’t allow Philip’s beliefs to be explored to their fullest extent. It also doesn’t help that some scenes felt like padding. However, I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to share this film with my followers! Thank you for helping 18 Cinema Lane reach these milestones! This blog would not be the same without you!

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

Have you seen any movies created outside your home country? If so, what was your movie-viewing experience? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here’s a link to the article from Turner Classic Movies that I mentioned in my review:

http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/719889%7C0/Alice-in-the-Cities.html

Word on the Street: Exciting news about upcoming Hallmark movies!

Last month, I talked about several movie titles that belong to either confirmed Hallmark movies or potential Hallmark movies. A few days after I published that post, there were some details revealed about three of the movies I mentioned! There was also a movie that was recently discovered on Hallmark Channel’s website! In this post, I will talk about these details and what they mean for these specific movies. I will also share my thoughts on these pieces of movie news. So, now let’s talk about these movie details, the moment you, my readers and followers, have been waiting for!

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In my aforementioned Word on the Street story, I listed several movie titles that could belong to potential Hallmark movies. Two of these titles are “Flip That Romance” and “Picture Perfect”. When I revisited the website, What’s Filming, I noticed that there were names of cast members listed who are now attached to these projects! For “Picture Perfect”, the stars of this film are Arielle Kebbel, Alexa PenaVega, and Carlos PenaVega! After making this discovery, I wondered if this could be the movie that Hallmark was talking about last year. At their Winter TCA Event last January, Hallmark announced that Alexa and Carlos PenaVega would receive their own mystery movie on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Within their announcement, Hallmark shared that Alexa’s character would be a photographer. Based on this information, the casting, and the title, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Picture Perfect” ended up being the movie that Hallmark talked about all those months ago. For “Flip That Romance”, Crystal Lowe has now been attached to the project, according to What’s Filming. The chances of this movie being a Hallmark film are, right now, 50/50. On the one hand, Crystal has been in several Hallmark films, including the Signed, Sealed, Delivered series. On the other hand, Crystal’s involvement does not guarantee that this will be a Hallmark movie. As of early February 2019, Hallmark has not confirmed or denied that “Flip That Romance” is their movie. We’ll just have to wait for more information to be revealed about this project.

If you want to check out the sources for this movie news story, here’s the link:

http://www.whatsfilming.ca/inproduction/ (after February 6th and 15th, “Flip That Romance” and “Picture Perfect” will be taken off the “In Production” page)

https://www.crownmediapress.com/PressReleaseList/?SiteID=142&NodeID=144&page=18 (the announcement can be found in the article titled “ALEXA PENAVEGA AND CARLOS PENAVEGA IN DEVELOPMENT WITH NEW MYSTERY MOVIE FOR HALLMARK MOVIES & MYSTERIES”)

Camera
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While on Hallmark Channel’s official website, I stumbled across a title for an upcoming Hallmark film! The movie is called Lost & Found and it’s scheduled for a March 23rd release. Nikki DeLoach and Michael Rady will star in the film. An official synopsis was also posted on the website, which is the following:

From the website of Hallmark Channel:

 

“Two single parents come head to head when their kids want to adopt the same dog. Agreeing to co-foster, free-spirited Kate and type-A Eric must work together to find the dog’s forever home.”

 

While I think the synopsis sounds fine, it does remind me of the film, Puppy Love, starring Candace Cameron Bure. That film was ok, but I thought the idea of two complete strangers sharing a pet was a bit too unrealistic for my liking. Despite the similarities that Lost & Found shares with Puppy Love, I’m still willing to give this film a chance. I’ve enjoyed Nikki’s and Michael’s acting performances in the past, so I’m hoping that their performance in this new movie is just as good.

Here is the link to the movie listing on Hallmark Channel’s website:

http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/lost-found

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In my previous Word on the Street story, I talked about how a Hallmark Christmas movie was planning on filming in Stonington, Connecticut. Last week, a short article by The Westerly Sun revealed a new detail about the film! The article’s author, Harold Hanka, says, “The cast and its plotline haven’t yet been revealed, but the director said the story involves military veterans”. While looking at the photo within this article, I noticed three business signs that were located over some of the buildings. Wondering if any of these signs were associated with real businesses, I did my research for each sign. The only business that I couldn’t find any information about was A & J’s Coffee Shop. This makes me wonder if Hallmark made this business up specifically for this movie? Maybe the protagonist’s parents are “A & J” and the coffee shop is a family business? We’ll just have to wait for more details to emerge for this movie.

If you want to check out the article from The Westerly Sun, here’s the link:

https://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/stonington/photos-it-s-beginning-to-look-a-lot-like-christmas/article_4a8fcd6a-2399-11e9-9e5d-5729dc583ec6.html

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What are your thoughts about these pieces of movie news? Are you excited for any of these films? Tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Pearl in Paradise Review

Now that we’re halfway through Hallmark’s “Summer Nights” line-up, I can give you my honest opinion about this collection of movies. For the most part, the “Summer Nights” line-up has put style over substance. The first three movies; Love on Safari, A Summer to Remember, and Love at Sea (which I just reviewed last week) have all featured amazing locations (South Africa, Fiji, and a Royal Caribbean cruise) where Hallmark filmed for the first time. However, each film’s plot felt sub-par at best. When these movies were first announced, I immediately picked Pearl in Paradise as the “Summer Nights” movie I was looking forward to the most! The idea of a Hallmark Channel movie incorporating a mystery into one of their film’s main plots instantly caught my attention. Having Fiji as the backdrop to this particular story raised my level of excitement for the movie! But, I kept my expectations for Pearl in Paradise low because I didn’t know if I would enjoy the movie. Do you want to solve the mystery of what score I gave this film? Read my review of Pearl in Paradise in order to close this case!

Pearl in Paradise poster
Pearl in Paradise poster image created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. Image found at https://www.hallmarkchannelpress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=142&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Pearl+in+Paradise.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I thought the cast of Pearl in Paradise was talented! Jill Wagner’s and Kristoffer Polaha’s performance was very well executed and believable, with both of their talents complimenting each other! Not only did I like each of the lead actors’ performances, I also liked the performances of the secondary and side characters. One of my favorite characters in Pearl in Paradise was Daniela, portrayed by Naomi Sequeira. Daniela was such a positive and joyful character whose on-screen presence was a pleasant addition to this story! Naomi’s acting abilities were showcased great in this film and I hope she can appear in more Hallmark productions in the future!

 

The on-screen chemistry: Jill and Kristoffer are great actors together and individually! They also have what it takes, talent wise, to lead a Hallmark project. Pearl in Paradise really does highlight that, as their delivery of well-written banter was spot-on! To me, Jill and Kristoffer’s on-screen relationship felt authentic and believable, making it seem like they were truly getting along and becoming better friends. For their first time starring in a Hallmark movie together, I think they both pulled off a great performance!

 

The story: In my introduction, I mentioned that the film’s story excited me the most about Pearl in Paradise. This story was not only a highlight to this film, but it also helped set Pearl in Paradise apart from the other films in the “Summer Nights” line-up! The plot surrounding the mystery of the pearl and the journey to find it was engaging and intriguing! Pearl in Paradise’s story made me feel like I was watching a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film, where the film’s mystery kept me guessing until the reveal. Pearl in Paradise’s story was also well-written from start to finish!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

An inconsistent pace: Before the main characters’ hike to find the pearl started, the film’s pace felt inconsistent. Because of this, some scenes lasted longer than other scenes, making these longer scenes feel slower and a little too drawn out. Once the journey to find the pearl started, the overall pace became more consistent.

 

Too much build-up: As I’ve just mentioned, the pace of the film became more consistent when the character’s hike started. Before this journey begins, however, there is about 40 minutes of build-up leading to the event. Though the build-up was a necessary component to the story, it didn’t add any excitement to the journey within the film.

 

Loads of exposition: Exposition is always needed in a story. Too much exposition in a certain part of a movie can affect someone’s enjoyment of a film. In Pearl in Paradise, there was a lot of exposition in about the first 15 minutes of the film. This made the beginning of the film feel slower than intended.

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Fiji island image created by Sebastian Szlasa at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Sebastian Szlasa.”

My overall impression:

Pearl in Paradise is, so far, my favorite movie from this year’s “Summer Nights” line-up! While the first three movies in this line-up have chosen to focus more on the setting than the story, Pearl in Paradise found a way to balance the beauty of Fiji and the compelling nature of the film’s plot. Because mystery stories are a rarity in Hallmark Channel movies, it was a treat to find such a good mystery story in this movie! If Hallmark decided to give Pearl in Paradise a sequel, I would like to see a cross-over between this movie and A Summer to Remember, especially since both movies were filmed in Fiji and have at least one character who is passionate about photography. Though I already gave my opinion on the “Summer Nights” line-up so far, there is still one more movie left to premiere: Season for Love. After I watch that movie, I can see if my opinion on this line-up remains the same or changes in any way.

 

Overall score: 8 out of 10

 

Have you seen Pearl in Paradise? What is your favorite “Summer Nights” movie so far? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen