Take 3: The Cabin Review

Before I start the introduction of this review, I want to remind everyone that you have until Thursday, February 20th, to cast your vote for the Gold Sally Awards’ Best On-Screen! Here is the link to the poll:

 

The Second Poll of the 2020 Gold Sally Awards is here!

 

As the 2nd So Bad It’s Good Blogathon rolls around, my quest to find a “so bad it’s good” movie continues. Last year, I reviewed All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 in the hopes of finding a film that deserved the aforementioned title. However, the film itself was just ok. This year, I decided to pick a less-than-stellar movie from Hallmark. There have been some good Hallmark projects made over the years. But not all of them are created equal. In fact, some of them are downright polarizing. Originally, I was going to review Three Wise Women, a Hallmark production from 2010. Due to technical difficulties, the movie disappeared from my DVR. So, I chose a back-up option instead. The Cabin is a Hallmark movie from 2011 that is equally as polarizing as Three Wise Women. People who have seen this movie either genuinely enjoy it or they genuinely don’t. Because I had never seen the film prior to 2020, I figured the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon would be an appropriate time to see where my opinions fell on this particular spectrum.

20200212_203558[1]
If you’re wondering why the faces on the poster look washed out, it’s because the photo is a screenshot from my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The scenery: According to IMDB, The Cabin was filmed in Ireland, even though the movie takes place in Scotland. Despite this, I absolutely loved the scenery! Everything was captured so well on film, accentuating the natural features of each location. When both families spend time in a local town, all of the buildings looked so quaint and inviting. A church and castle are also featured in this film, with picturesque grounds to match their stunning nature. The castle was a massive gray structure paired with a small garden of hedges. The greens of this garden nicely complimented the color of the castle. The foyer of the castle was shown, boasting an impressive interior with interesting features, such as a large fireplace and colorful floor tiles. Similar to the castle, a gray stoned church was complimented by the greens of the grass in the cemetery. The foliage surrounding the cabins and in the forest definitely stole the show! Their rich greens and browns were attention-grabbing and appealing to the eye. The creative team behind this movie made the most of their surroundings!

 

The inclusion of Scottish culture: As I already mentioned, The Cabin takes place in Scotland. Because of this, pieces of Scottish culture are incorporated in the story. Elements like attire, food, and activities are showcased on screen. The reason why both families go to Scotland is to participate in an event called the “Meeting of the Macs”, a series of games that are inspired by traditional Scottish sports. Throughout the movie, each family takes the time to experience what Scotland has to offer, from trying the local cuisine to attending a dance party. Toward the end of the film, all of the male characters from each family are seen wearing a traditional kilt. The way these components of the Scottish culture were woven into the film not only served as an introduction for the audience, but was also executed in a respectful and appreciative way.

Scotland Travel Background
Essentials of Scotland image created by macrovector_official at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by macrovector_official – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lack of consistency: In romantic comedies, the consistency of the lead characters and their relationship can help gain fans within the audience. The Cabin, however, lacked that important ingredient. During the duration of the film, Lea Thompson and Steven Brand’s characters, Lily and Conor, are constantly arguing and making up. This is exhausting to watch and it makes it difficult to determine if Lea and Steven have any on-screen chemistry. This part of the movie was more distracting than it needed to be.

 

Weak acting: Half of the cast in The Cabin gave a performance that ranged from fine to good. The other half ended up giving weak performances. One of them came from Lea Thompson, whose portrayal of Lily consisted of smiling, arguing, and looking confused. This is not the kind of well-rounded performance I’ve usually come to expect from the leading actresses in Hallmark projects. Most of the young actors in this cast also gave weak performances, as they often appeared flat and unexpressive. I understand that casting younger actors in films can be hit or miss. But, in this case, it just didn’t work.

 

Two plot ideas that should have been separate: The Cabin contained two good plot ideas; a family going to Scotland for vacation and a family competing in a series of games. Both of these ideas had the ability to stand on their own, providing conflicts and series of events to compliment the story itself. Because of this, these plot ideas should have been placed in their own respective movies. During the first half of the film, the narrative was so dedicated to showing the families sightseeing in Scotland, that little attention was given to the “Meeting of the Macs” event. In the second half of the film, the story revolved around the exercise/training montages of the families to the point where the sights of Scotland were practically ignored. Since these ideas ended up clashing for attention, both of them were given a disadvantage.

 

The audio: Background noise and music can bring a sense of realism or emotion to a scene through various sounds. However, it’s called “background” noise or music for a reason, as it is loud enough to be heard, but quiet enough to not overpower the character’s speech. In The Cabin, the audio was so loud that I found it difficult to understand what some of the characters were saying. Because of this, I had to rewind the movie a few times just to hear or try to guess what was being said. The more I rewound the film, the tiresome it became.

 

Limited presence of the games: Throughout this review, I’ve mentioned the “Meeting of the Macs” event, the athletic competition that provides the reason for the families’ presence in Scotland. Before watching this film, I had expected the event to have a consistent presence in the story. Sadly, that was not the case. The first segment of the games, the preliminaries, didn’t appear until forty minutes into the movie. The final event doesn’t show up until the last twenty minutes of the film. For the rest of the project, the narrative focuses on other things, from one of Lily and Conor’s many arguments to one of the children dealing with a personal issue. While the games themselves were interesting, it wasn’t enough to make up for the script’s other flaws.

2nd Annual So Bad It's Good Blogathon banner
The Second So Bad It’s Good Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room. Image found at https://takinguproom.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/announcing-the-second-so-bad-its-good-blogathon/.

My overall impression:

The Cabin is one of the most polarizing films in Hallmark history. Some people truly enjoy it, while other people don’t. Now that I have finally seen it, I can honestly say that I belong in the latter camp. This is not a well-constructed film. It has far more negatives than positives, with those negatives being painfully obvious. But in this movie’s defense, I have seen Hallmark productions that are worse than The Cabin. If anything, I would place it in Dishonorable Mentions. It’s not a good movie, but there were two things about it that I liked. Truthfully, I can’t say this film is worthy of the “so bad it’s good” title. This is because I didn’t enjoy the movie, for better or worse. So, it looks like I’ll have to go back to square one in my quest to find a project that I would personally consider “so bad it’s good”.

 

Overall score: 5.5 out of 10

 

Have you any Hallmark films that were less-than-stellar? What is the most polarizing film you’ve seen? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

31 Spooks of October Update: I Finished Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders

Yesterday, I finished the second book I had planned to read during “31 Spooks of October”, Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders! This book took me longer to read than California Angel. The only reason for this is because of how busy I’ve been working on other blog related projects. Since October is almost over, I don’t think I’ll get around to reading the last two books on my TBR (to be read) list. However, I will try my best to read Murder on Ice before the month is over. But now that I’ve finished Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders, it’s time for me to talk about on it!

20191024_192420[1]
Ignore the 50 cent sticker on the cover. I purchased the book at a used book sale. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders was a much better book than California Angel! This story is a new tale that takes place within the world of the Murder, She Wrote show. This made me appreciate the book more, since it wasn’t just a novelization of a pre-existing episode. However, the narrative did remind me of the two-part episode Nan’s Ghost, due to the similarities between them. The descriptive imagery and character development were very well-done. I was able to visualize all the locations that were described, from London to Wick, Scotland. Throughout the book, there were comments made about each character to help the reader remember who was who. Since there were a lot of characters in this book, I appreciate the attempt to make each person distinctive from one another. The show adopted a third person perspective when it came to visually telling the story. The book, however, incorporates a first-person perspective from Jessica herself. This new approach was different from the show, but I found it to be interesting. Similar to the show, there were a few thought-provoking moments and statements in this novel. It made me contemplate what I was reading as well as stay invested in the book.

173549-OW976O-997
Cute Halloween border created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/halloween-background-with-fun-style_1310632.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

There were only two things that I didn’t like about Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders. The overall story was not as suspenseful as I expected it to be. Because I’ve seen several episodes of Murder, She Wrote prior to reading this book, I thought that it would have at least 50% of suspense. The other issue was how most of the story focused on Jessica and her friends going on vacation. A very small percentage was about Jessica solving a mystery abroad. This is different from the show, as there is a 50/50 presentation of the vacation adventure and the mystery itself.

 

Overall score: 4.2 out of 5

 

Have fun at the book store!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Madeleine Review (Clean Movie Month — #3)

When I discovered the film, Madeleine, on Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) website, the movie’s premise is what caught my attention. I recorded the film on my DVR and saved it for a special occasion. Since Madeleine was released in 1950, during the Breen Code era, I finally found that special occasion. While learning more about the movie, I made some surprising discoveries. The first was who the director is. David Lean not only directed Madeleine, but he also directed Lawrence of Arabia, which I reviewed last November. Another discovery I made was where the film was made. Madeleine was created in the United Kingdom, meaning that it’s considered a foreign film. The fact that this movie was approved by the Breen Code, as the logo can be seen during the opening credits, surprised me. This is because I was given the impression, after reading the article, “The Production Code of 1930’s Impact on America” from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, that foreign films weren’t directly impacted by the Breen Code. On IMDB, Madeleine is labeled as a crime drama. This detail made me curious as to how the Breen Code would influence this story. Well, the wait is over, as it’s now time to review 1950’s Madeleine!

Madeleine poster
Madeleine poster created by The Rank Organization. Image found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Madeleine_1950.jpg.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I liked watching the various acting performances in this film! Everyone did a good job with the acting material they were given! This is especially the case for the star of the movie. Throughout Madeleine, Ann Todd carried the movie with versatility. This helped her portrayal of the titular character be as believable as possible. Another performance that I enjoyed seeing was Ivan Desny’s! The way he portrayed Emile L’Angelier came across very believably. One such example is anytime Emile appeared ill. Like Ann, Ivan brought versatility to his performance. It worked in his favor, as his character was captivating to watch on-screen!

 

The setting: Like I said about Jersey Boys, the world in Madeleine was well crafted! All of the locations, as well as other aspects of the film, looked and felt like the movie’s respective time period. Even the artwork on the walls of the Smith family home reflected the Victorian era. This showed me that the creative team behind this movie were very detail oriented, caring about what was presented on-screen. Also, like Jersey Boys, the world in Madeleine was very immersive! It made the audience feel like visiting this created world was possible.

 

The on-screen chemistry: I was pleasantly surprised by the on-screen chemistry of Ann Todd and Ivan Desny! Anytime they were on-screen together, they made the relationship of Madeleine and Emile appear believable. Because of this, it was interesting to watch their relationship evolve as the film went on. Ann and Ivan’s on-screen chemistry kept me invested in their on-screen interactions. Even though I knew the fate of Madeleine and Emile’s relationship, I was curious about which directions they would go in. This aspect of the characters definitely added something interesting to the story!

265038-P4TIN9-926
Envelope with hearts image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/hearts-and-pink-envelope-for-mothers-day_1950691.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/love”>Love image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The accents: As I said in my Jersey Boys review, accents in movies can be hit or miss. The characters in Madeleine had accents, but they didn’t reflect where they were from. This story takes place in Glasgow, Scotland. However, every member of the Smith family speaks with a British accent. Emile L’Angelier is known as a Frenchmen. While Ivan tried his best to speak with a French accent, it wasn’t consistent enough to sound believable. More often than not, Ivan could be heard speaking with a British accent. I understand that the film was created in the United Kingdom. But it never felt like an effort was made from the film’s creative team to encourage the appropriate accents for their characters.

 

A drawn-out plot: Madeleine is about a woman who is accused of murdering her lover. However, the crime itself isn’t featured in the story until the film’s half-way point. The first half of the movie is dedicated to showing the build-up to the crime. Personally, I think this part of the story didn’t need to last that long. At most, the build-up could have been fifteen or twenty minutes. If this was done, the narrative would get straight to the point, expressing the script’s idea sooner. This also could have helped shorten the film’s run-time.

 

A lack of mystery: When I found out that this film was considered a crime drama, I was looking forward to seeing a mysterious and intriguing story unfold on-screen. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of mystery in this movie. The creative team behind Madeleine tried to incorporate a mystery in the second half of the film. But because the build-up to the crime was featured in the first half of the story, the second half wasn’t as effective as the creative team had hoped. Madeleine should have taken place during Madeleine’s trial, with flashbacks coming into the story during people’s testimonies. With this approach to the story-telling, the audience could have been left wondering throughout the film if Madeleine was, indeed, guilty.

Clean Movie Month banner
Clean Movie Month banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/cleanmoviemonth85-is-here/.

My overall impression:

Madeleine made me feel the same way that Jersey Boys did. Both films are just ok. There are things about them that I can appreciate. Yet, they were held back from being better than they were. I expected more from Madeleine, thinking I would get an intriguing mystery story. Instead, the narrative was drawn-out and the mystery aspect was poorly executed. But, throughout the movie, I could tell that the creative team behind Madeleine had put in an effort to make the best film they could. Similar to Citizen Kane, I could see the Breen Code’s influence within Madeleine. Anytime Madeleine and Emile kissed, they turned their heads to hide the kiss from the audience. All of their kisses only lasted a few seconds. Madeleine and Emile engaged in an affair throughout the film. But because of how the script was written, their relationship was never labeled as an affair. Also, the word “affair” was never said by any of the characters. After watching this film, I’m now curious to find out what other foreign films were approved by the Breen Code.

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

Have you seen any of David Lean’s films? Which foreign film released during the Breen Code era is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen