Take 3: Anna and the King Review

I know what you’re thinking, “What does Anna and the King have to do with the number five”? Well, I’m glad you asked! As Rebecca has stated in the announcement post for the Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon, all entries had to have something to do with the number five, to commemorate the event’s fifth anniversary. For my selection, Anna and the King, which stars Bai Ling, was released in 1999, five years after The Crow premiered. From what I’ve heard, The Crow was Bai Ling’s first American/English film. Last year, when I reviewed the 1956 adaptation of The King and I, I mentioned Anna and the King was a non-musical version of the story. As I write this review, I realize I haven’t seen many non-musical film adaptations of musicals. Sure, I’ve heard of these types of productions. But, off the top of my head, a non-musical adaptation doesn’t immediately come to mind. So, with this review, I will expand my cinematic horizons!

Anna and the King poster created by Fox 2000 Pictures, Lawrence Bender Productions, and 20th Century Fox

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Anna and the King is a drama film with a more serious tone. Therefore, Jodie Foster’s portrayal of Anna is sterner in nature. However, Anna also comes across as being fair. A great example of this is when she is disciplining both her son and King Mongkut’s eldest son. In the evening, when the royal family is bringing Anna dinner, Jodie presents a mild-mannered sweetness that feels genuine. As she’s realizing the dinner is for her and not King Mongkut’s son, Anna never displays any meanness toward her student, as she truly wants to teach him a valuable lesson. King Mongkut himself is also a stern, yet fair character. Chow Yun-fat balances the seriousness and loving sides of his character consistently throughout the film. In one of their many conversations, King Mongkut is asked by Anna if his wives ever get jealous of one another. Even though this question is a personal one, King Mongkut never appears offended. Instead, his calm, collected, and approachable demeanor make the conversation less awkward than it could have gotten. One of these aforementioned wives is Tuptim. Portrayed by Bai Ling, Tuptim is an emotional character that expresses herself in subtle ways. It’s not until she faces a life-or-death moment where more of her emotions are drawn forward. While I won’t spoil Anna and the King for those of my readers who might be interested in seeing it, Bai delivers on the emotional intensity needed for a moment like the one I just mentioned. But even outside of that moment, Bai knows how to use emotion in her and her character’s favor.

The set design: Anna and the King is a beautiful looking film! One of the reasons why is its set design. Everywhere you look, exquisite detail and impressive structure helped elevate the world around Anna and King Mongkut. The royal family takes a trip in a massive river boat. This boat was a deep blue with gold etched artwork. At the head of the boat, a set of giant golden dragons adorn this beautiful mode of transportation. On the walls of King Mongkut’s palace, a full-length mural consistently coats the interior perimeter of rooms and even a hallway. The mural itself appears painted, depicting the natural landscape of Siam. Smaller elements like the ones I mentioned added to the overall beauty of the set design!

The costume design: Similar to the 1956 adaptation, the costume design in Anna and the King was simply elegant! One notable example was Anna’s reception gown. At this event, Anna wore a full length, white gown. The off the shoulder bodice and sparkly skirt was not only eye-catching, it also felt reminiscent of Belle’s gown from the 1991 animated film, Beauty and the Beast. At this same reception, King Mongkut’s wives also wear beautiful gowns. Tuptim’s was especially pretty, a simple yet classy red dress. What also complimented Tuptim’s ensemble was a sparkly gold and bronze crown that adorned her dark hair. The exquisiteness of the costume design carried the spirit of The King and I story!

The Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

The war story-line: Because Anna and the King is a non-musical version of The King and I, there needs to be something to replace the musical numbers. In the 1999 adaptation, that replacement was a subplot about a war between the Siamese and the Burmese. While it was interesting to explore the tense side of ruling a country, I found this subplot to be the weakest one. That subplot was drawn-out, getting resolved at the very end of the movie. With the run-time being two hours and twenty-eight minutes, the war story-line felt longer than it really was.

Under-utilized characters: Anna and the King contains a larger cast of characters. Therefore, some of them are bound to receive less screen-time than others. Tuptim was, once again, one of those characters. After seeing how under-utilized Rita Moreno’s talents were in the 1956 adaptation, I was hoping Bai Ling would receive more screen time. Sadly, she only appeared in a handful of scenes. In the 1956 adaptation, Tuptim created a play based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, giving her a reason to stay on screen a little bit longer. Because there is no Uncle Tom’s Cabin play in the 1999 adaptation and because only King Mongkut’s oldest son reads Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Tuptim, in Anna and the King, has less reasons to stay on screen.

No musical Easter eggs: Before I wrote this review, I was well aware Anna and the King was not a musical film. But because the film is an adaptation of a musical, it was a missed opportunity to not include musical related Easter eggs. In the 1956 adaptation, King Mongkut says “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera” on multiple occasions, whenever he had something important to say. In the 1999 adaptation, however, King Mongkut never says the aforementioned quote. One of the songs from the 1956 adaptation is ‘Shall We Dance?’. During both versions of this story, King Mongkut and Anna dance with one another. However, it would have been nice to hear one of them say “shall we dance.”

Hand-written letter image created by Veraholera at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Veraholera – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/love-letter-pattern_1292902.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Anna and the King is a fine, competently made film. The movie’s creative team clearly knew what they doing, displaying the clear direction they wanted to take their adaptation. But compared to the 1956 musical, I find myself liking the musical more. Without the musical numbers, it feels like the story is missing something. Even though the 1999 adaptation found a replacement for the lack of musical numbers, I was wishing they hadn’t been omitted. I would have even accepted Easter eggs related to the musical, such as quotes from the songs woven into the dialogue. But despite its shortcomings, Anna and the King does attempt to make meaningful changes that were not in the 1956 musical. One of these changes is giving Anna’s son, Louis, and some of King Mongkut’s children their own unique personalities and a little more involvement in the overall story. As for Bai Ling’s involvement in the film, I wish she was given more on-screen appearances. But because Anna and the King is based on The King and I, which also showed Tuptim in only a handful of scenes, maybe I was naïve to think more material was available?

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Anna and the King or The King and I? Can you think of any musicals that received a non-musical adaptation? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Woman in Gold Review + 440 Follower Thank You

For this Blog Follower Dedication Review, I was originally going to review some episodes of Murder, She Wrote. The two reasons for that decision were a) I haven’t reviewed Murder, She Wrote episodes since 2020 and b) I was going to offer something different for my readers and followers. But since I recently watched Woman in Gold, I chose to write about that movie instead. The 2015 film revolves around the subject of art restoration, specifically art stolen during World War II. When it comes to entertainment media, this subject seems to have received more awareness within the previous decade. Two years after the release of Woman in Gold, the Signed, Sealed, Delivered series tackled this subject in their movie; Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again. In 2014, Robert M. Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, was adapted into a film. These are just three movies, with two of them based on a true story. Think of all the other stories like these that haven’t been covered in film yet?

Woman in Gold poster created by BBC Films, Origin Pictures, Entertainment Film Distributors, The Weinstein Company, and Constantin Film

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Helen Mirren is an actress who has a commanding presence. While I’ve only seen a handful of her movies, the ones I have watched feature her as a lead actress or in a prominent role within an ensemble. In Woman in Gold, Helen portrays Maria, a woman desiring to reunite with a painting of her aunt. Maria was eccentric in the film. But the way she was presented in the movie was pleasant and inviting! On a trip to the airport, Randol ‘Randy’ Schoenberg and his wife are giving Maria a lift. When Randy mentions how much luggage was packed, Maria replies, nonchalantly, how they should arrive in Austria in style. Before meeting with the art museum’s archivist, Maria excitedly tells Randy how their mission is like a James Bond film, with Randy as Sean Connery. This presentation, as well as the on-screen camaraderie, made Maria someone to root for!

In my years of watching and reviewing movies, I have noticed a more successful transition of comedic actors in dramatic roles. This was Ryan Reynolds’ case in Woman in Gold. When Randy first meets Maria, the subject of her recently deceased sister is brought up. After seeing how much stuff Maria inherited from her sister, Randy jokingly remarks how she will no longer have to argue with her roommate. Remembering why Maria has her sister’s belongings, he quickly apologizes for the ill-timed joke. Even when scenes are more light-hearted, Ryan utilized his comedic acting skills. However, it never overshadowed his dramatic efforts!

The more of Daniel Brühl’s movies I see, the more I appreciate his acting talents! So, when I discovered his involvement in Woman in Gold, it piqued my interest in watching the film. Daniel portrayed Hubertus Czernin, a reporter from Austria. Because he supports the art restoration movement, Hubertus uses his resources to help Maria and Randy. The scene where these three characters are interacting for the first time showcases Daniel’s acting skills! While Hubertus is speaking about who he is and why the aforementioned movement is so important to him, you can sense how at ease Daniel is in his role. His mannerisms come across so naturally, the interaction between these three characters felt realistic. With all that said, I wish Daniel had more appearances in this film, as he was only in a handful of scenes.

The historical accuracy: As I’ve said in past reviews, an indicator of a movie’s time period is the inclusion of technology. Some parts of Woman in Gold take place in the late ‘90s. Therefore, bigger, boxier computers are shown at Randy’s law firm. Randy’s cell phone looks like one sold from around that time period, even sporting an antenna. But technology is not the only indicator of when a story takes place. A series of flashbacks show pieces of Maria’s life, including moments from around World War II. In these flashbacks, wardrobe elaborates on that story’s respective time. The World War II segments show Maria wearing sensible blouses and skirts that reach the knees. These parts of the flashbacks even show characters in tailored coats.

The legal side of art restoration: When I think of art restoration, I reflect on the process of restoring a piece to its original form. But because Woman in Gold revolves around restoring art to its original origin, the legal component is explored. A lot of well-known pieces I’m familiar with were acquired by respected museums and institutions. Therefore, I, more often than not, assumed those museums and institutions legally owned those pieces. Even if a museum or institution acquires an art piece, Randy and Maria’s story shows how difficult it is to obtain ownership of such a priceless artifact. Woman in Gold not only highlights United States law, it also addresses Austrian law. This allows the audience to witness the similarities and differences between these two legal systems.

Art tools image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/flar-art-tools-pack_835368.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>.  <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/paint”>Paint vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

How Randy’s grandfather was an afterthought: Throughout the story, Randy’s grandfather, a renowned composer, is brought up by various characters. Maria even claims to have crossed paths with him. Since the film primarily focuses on Maria’s efforts to reunite with her aunt’s portrait, Randy’s grandfather seems like a footnote within the overall narrative. As a viewer, I get the impression Randy deeply cared about his grandfather. A shot of Randy tearing up at a concert celebrating his grandfather’s work serves as one example of this assumption. Unfortunately, I don’t feel I learned enough about Randy’s grandfather from this story.

Some rushed parts of the story: Another thing I’ve said in past reviews is how there’s only so much story you can tell within a given run-time. In the case of Woman in Gold, the movie is an hour and forty-nine minutes. Because of this and because of how long and complimented the legal process is, some parts of the story were rushed. One example was when Maria and Randy took the Austrian government to court in California. I know that any on-screen court case is going to be abbreviated for the sake of time. However, the aforementioned California case only presented the opening arguments and the end result. As someone who wanted to learn more about the legal side of art restoration, it felt like the script skipped some key elements just to get to the exciting parts of the case.

Weak segues between flashbacks and “present time”: I like how the story incorporated pieces of Maria’s life through flashbacks, giving depth to the overall narrative. Unfortunately, I found the segues between these flashbacks and “present time” weak. In one scene, Maria is looking out a window. All of a sudden, a flashback begins. Several moments later, the flashback ends abruptly. Weak segues like this one caused the flow of these scenes to feel a bit choppy.

Courtroom image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/isometric”>Isometric vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression, I’d like to thank every follower of 18 Cinema Lane! I appreciate the time you’ve given to reading and engaging with my content! Now, on to my overall impression of Woman in Gold! The subject of restoring art stolen during World War II has, in the past decade, received more awareness within entertainment media. In the case of the aforementioned film, it explores the legal side of that subject. I did learn how complicated the process of art ownership can be. The movie also had its strengths, such as the acting performances and the project’s historical accuracy. But due to the film’s heavier subject matter, the re-watchability rate isn’t as strong as other films I’ve reviewed. The movie had its flaws as well, with some rushed parts of the story as one example. With all that said, Woman in Gold is a film I would recommend, especially if you’re interested in the topics brought up in this review.

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

Do you see Woman in Gold? Have you seen any films about restoring art stolen during World War II? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Evenings At The Shore: Behind Closed Doors

I want you to think of your favorite character from a tv show. You might have been following that favorite character’s story for years. Maybe that character grew on you so much, they recently became your favorite. Reflect on their story; the journeys they’ve taken, the trials they may experience, and the successes they will achieve. No matter what their story entails, the creative team behind that respective character’s show gives viewers moments they want them to see. Now, think about your favorite character’s story outside of their show. How different would their journey be? Would their story be as exciting or interesting as the show depicts? This is the case for Mick on Chesapeake Shores. In this episode, he is struggling with a very serious issue. However, this particular story is what the show’s creative team wants the viewer to see. Think about what Mick might have gone through outside of Chesapeake Shores’ overarching story.

Just a reminder: If you did not see this episode of Chesapeake Shores, there will be spoilers within this re-cap.

Chesapeake Shores season six poster created by Hallmark Media and Hallmark Channel

Season: 6

Episode: 4

Name: That’s All There is to That

Mick’s story: Because Mick’s doctor refused to refill his painkiller prescription, Mick receives a refill from two different doctors. He creates fake stories in order for his plan to work. To hide his addiction from his family, Mick stores the pills in his car’s glove compartment. However, he is not doing a good job of hiding his problem as he thinks he is. When Mick passes out in his office, Abby becomes alarmed. This is because he forgot to pick up his granddaughters from tae kwon do practice, something he promised to do the day before. When Thomas is paying Megan a visit at the O’Brien family home, he asks her where a series of important documents are located. After she suggests looking in Mick’s car, Thomas not only finds the documents, he also finds the pills. Later in the episode, at a party to celebrate Carrie’s latest art award victory, Thomas privately confronts both Abby and Kevin. All three of them agree to approach Mick as gently as possible when it comes to this subject. That same day, on the O’Brien family driveway, Mick frantically searches for his pills. This is when Thomas confronts his brother, with pills in hand. The conversation does not go over well, turning into a huge, heated argument. Even when Thomas reminds Mick of their father’s alcoholism, it isn’t enough for Mick to come clean.

The next day, Mick crashes into a parked car, due to the effects of the pills. While no one is hurt, the parked car did receive heavy damage. Several moments later, Kevin arrives to help out his father. But inside of calling for a tow truck, he calls Thomas about the incident. Later that day, at the O’Brien family home, Thomas, Megan, Abby, Kevin, and Bree stage an intervention. When Mick arrives, they confront him about his addiction. Feeling cornered, he angrily storms out. Kevin and Abby then follow their dad to confront his addiction further. This doesn’t work either, with Mick going to The Bridge. This is where Mick talks to Luke about his alcohol addiction, with Luke claiming treatment saved his life. Because of this heart-to-heart discussion, Luke successfully encourages Mick to get the help he needs.

Connor and Margaret’s story: Connor is ready to go back to work. Before this happens, Margaret shares the law firm’s financial woes. But they also received a divorce case, involving the couple who owned the pet store the law firm now resides in. Another order of business is having a secretary. This is something Margaret and Connor work on the following day. At the law firm, they meet a potential candidate named Harper. Despite not attending college, she does have secretary experience. Due to this, Connor and Margaret decide to hire Harper for the job. They also agree to make their relationship official.

Breaking heart image created by Kjpargeter at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/broken-heart-valentine-background_1041991.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Bree and Luke’s story: Luke receives news his apartment now has black mold in the floorboards. This means he’ll have to find a new home. Bree volunteers to help him locate another apartment. But every time they check out a place, Luke faces one dilemma: his criminal record. Bree feels Luke is being treated unfairly. Luke has grown used to it. In the meantime, she has offered Luke an invitation to stay at her house.

Kevin and Sarah’s story: Kevin and Sarah have returned from Maui, refreshed and reconnected. Several days after their return, Sarah invites Megan for a visit. During this visit, Sarah reveals she is pregnant again. Megan encourages Sarah to tell Kevin, even though Sarah doesn’t want to get Kevin’s hopes up. Toward the end of the episode, Sarah does share her pregnancy with Kevin. While they are both excited by this recent news, they agree to take things one day at a time.

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Some thoughts to consider:

  • This is one of the heaviest episodes Hallmark has ever created. When a show introduces a serious topic, like addiction, into their story, the overall tone is going to be darker. However, the other plots in this episode couldn’t balance out the heaviness of Mick’s narrative. With Mick’s story specifically, I found the dialogue inconsistent. While some of it sounded realistic, other dialogue felt like it came straight out of a PSA (public service announcement).
  • Maybe it’s just me, but Kevin and Sarah’s story felt a bit cruel. This is the same couple who experienced a miscarriage a season ago. To add to that, this is the last season of Chesapeake Shores, meaning the viewers won’t be able to witness Sarah and Kevin’s journey as parents. I do like how this is another loose end getting tied up. However, it kind of seems like the show’s creative team is making a promise they know they can’t fully keep.
  • It was nice to see Megan in this episode. However, I was really confused by her presence. In the previous episode, Megan was preparing to leave for Los Angeles. She and Mick have said they will try to maintain their relationship long distance. Unfortunately, there was no clear explanation for why Megan was still in Chesapeake Shores. In this same episode, the disappearances of Nell, David, and Jess are explained. Nell is visiting a friend in Ireland, while Jess and David are out of town with David’s mom and sister.
  • As I said in the premiere episode re-cap, it’s a shame this is the last season of Chesapeake Shores. Another reason is how the viewers are going to miss out on Harper’s inclusion in the overarching story. Despite appearing in one scene, I ended up liking Harper as a character. If Hallmark’s upcoming shows, Ride and The Way Home, don’t work out and the network is looking for new ideas, maybe Connor and Margaret’s law firm could serve a spin-off!
Evening view from the shore image created by 0melapics at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/landscape-in-a-swamp-at-night_1042860.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by 0melapics – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What are your thoughts on this episode? What do you think of Kevin and Sarah’s news? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun in Chesapeake Shores!

Sally Silverscreen

Buzzwordathon 2022: Review of ‘Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels’ by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain + Blogathon Annoucement

For August’s Buzzwordathon, the theme is ‘Items/Objects’. Originally, I was going to read Redwood Curtain by Lanford Wilson. This is because a) a curtain could be considered an item/object and b) I already own a copy of Lanford Wilson’s play. But I ended up watching the film adaptation of Redwood Curtain earlier than expected. Therefore, I decided to write an editorial on how similar and different Redwood Curtain’s adaptation is from its source material. That editorial will be published during The Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon. In the meantime, I have selected Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels for this month’s Buzzwordathon, especially since ‘jewels’ could also be considered an item/object! I have blogathon news of my own as well, so keep reading to find out what’s to come!

Here is a photo of my copy of Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Back in 2019, I reviewed Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders. One of the favorite aspects of that book was how distinctive each character was, as there were a lot of characters in the story. Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels contains the same strength. Whether in Cabot Cove or on the Queen Mary 2, each character was unique from one another. At the beginning of the book, the readers are introduced to Maniram, Cabot Cove’s newest resident. He is a jeweler who owns his own jewelry store, sharing his knowledge of valuable gems with Jessica and her friends. Also in this story is Maniram’s cousin, Rupesh. He is a man of many talents, from being a skilled karate athlete to being very knowledgeable with computers. Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels presents him as a room steward on the Queen Mary 2. But as the story progresses, readers find out just how different Rupesh is from Maniram.

Cruise ship near an island image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/holiday-background-on-a-cruise_1182003.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.

Out of the Murder, She Wrote episodes I’ve seen so far, my favorite one is “Film Flam”. What makes this episode great is its educational and insightful approach to the movie premiere process. In Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels, part of the book takes place in London. Instead of bringing up locales that many readers would be familiar with, locations that aren’t often talked about are included in the text. One of them was Grosvenor Square. According to the book, this area was known as “Little America”. A reason is General Eisenhower’s headquarters were located in the Square. During her London adventure, Jessica has dinner at a restaurant called The Ivy. This establishment does exist, boasting a fine dining experience, according to The Ivy’s website. In the book, Jessica describes the restaurant as a “celebrity-driven restaurant that has long been a favorite of London’s theatrical and motion picture crowd”. Meanwhile, The Ivy’s website states “With an enduring celebration of the arts and culture that have defined it since its naissance, The Ivy remains part of the fabric of London life, and a home away from home for its many loyal guests”. Because of reading Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels, I learned more about London’s landscape that I didn’t know before.

Sketch of London image created by Archjoe at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-houses-of-parliament_1133950.htm’>Designed by Archjoe</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Archjoe – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I like about the Murder, She Wrote books is how the stories aren’t novelizations of pre-existing episodes. While this is the case for Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels, it didn’t really feel like the show. That’s because so few characters from the show and previous books were featured. In Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders, a Scotland Yard agent and friend of Jessica’s, George Sutherland, was working alongside Jessica to solve that book’s mystery. When I found out George would be in Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels, I was excited to read about his and Jessica’s reunion. But as I read this book, I discovered George only made a handful of appearances. Compared to other mystery books I’ve read, the sense of urgency in Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels was weaker. What contributed to this flaw was how most of the story focused on Jessica’s trip instead of the mystery. Another contributor was how two intelligence agents were responsible for solving the case. That creative decision made the mystery seem like it was out of Jessica’s reach. It affected her ability of getting involved with the book’s case, especially compared to the show.

Magnifying fingerprints image created by Balintseby at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Balintseby – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/fingerprint-investigation_789253.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

I haven’t read many of the books in the Murder, She Wrote series. But out of those I have read, Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels is my least favorite. This book was fine, interesting enough to keep me invested in the story. However, I was expecting more. There was a short period of time where I lost motivation to read this book. Not wanting to experience another Buzzwordathon fail, I finished the story, especially since I wanted to find out what happens. I do plan to read more Murder, She Wrote books. One of them will be reviewed for my upcoming blogathon. As I stated in the introduction, I had blogathon news to share. That news is I’m hosting a blogathon this November! The theme is ‘World Television Day’. More details about the event will follow…

Overall score: 3.6 out of 5 stars

Have fun during Buzzwordathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Disclaimer: Because Murder, She Wrote: The Queen’s Jewels is a murder mystery story, the subject of murder is brought up on more than one occasion. A suicide is also briefly mentioned and swearing does occur a few times.

Take 3: Easy to Wed Review

As the dawn of August arrives, so does the Esther Williams blogathon! Like last year, I have decided to review another movie from Esther’s filmography. But this time, I selected the 1946 title, Easy to Wed! Similar to the previous year, Easy to Wed was recommended to me. However, this film was suggested by a reader named Becky. That’s not the only reason why I’m reviewing the movie. I’m also participating in The Sixth Van Johnson Blogathon. Since Van happens to star in Easy to Wed, this is a good segue to that event. In the 1946 film, the characters’ trip to Mexico contained the “summer vibes” one would expect from the season. This is an interesting coincidence, as the movie I’m reviewing for the Van Johnson Blogathon is In The Good Old Summertime! My readers will have to wait a little while for that review. For now, though, it’s time to talk about Easy to Wed!

Easy to Wed poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In Easy to Wed, Esther portrayed Connie, a socialite who is wrongly accused of stealing another woman’s husband. Before she meets Van’s character, Bill, the employees at the New York newspaper that accused Connie label her as “spoiled” and “arrogant”. But when Bill meets Connie, he, and the audience, sees she is the complete opposite. In fact, Esther’s on-screen personality was very sweet! I enjoyed watching Connie and Bill’s interactions. The gentle sweetness of Connie’s personality and the charming yet cunning personality of Bill worked, as opposites attracted. Connie’s wittiness also helped this relationship’s favor. One of my favorite scenes is when Bill is riding on an inflatable raft in Connie’s pool. In an attempt to get him to join her in the pool, Connie tries to deflate the raft. Since she wants to catch Bill off guard, she deflates the raft with her foot during their conversation. Not only do Esther’s and Van’s acting abilities add to this on-screen relationship, so does their on-screen chemistry!

When it comes to Lucille Ball’s filmography, I’ve, so far, stuck with I Love Lucy. Therefore, I had an idea of what to expect in her portrayal of Gladys, the fiancé of Warren. Expectations aside, Lucille’s performance was enjoyable to watch! Not only did she work well with the other cast members, she used comedy to her advantage. During Bill’s stay in Mexico, he learns how to use a duck call whistle. While attempting to make a duck call, Gladys opens the door to Bill’s main sitting room and loudly yells “Happy New Year”. Personally, I found this scene hilarious, as the moment itself was unexpected. Speaking of Warren, let’s talk about Keenan Wynn’s performance. His portrayal reminded me of a more dramatic version of “Rooster” from the 1982 adaptation of Annie. What I mean by that is Warren was a cunning man who had a way with words. Another scene I liked was when Warren visited Bill about the newspaper’s libel suit. Because of how cunning both Warren and Bill are, they went toe-to-toe with each other, never missing a beat. What also helped was the quality of both Van’s and Keenan’s talents!

Lucille’s and Esther’s wardrobe: I loved Lucille’s and Esther’s wardrobe in Easy to Wed! However, there were three outfits that absolutely stole the show! Lucille wore the first outfit in the aforementioned duck call scene. A shiny gold top was covered by a velvety blue suit jacket. Deep blue slacks match the jacket, with the outfit complimented by shiny gold shoes. The blue and gold color palette paired beautifully with Lucille’s red hair and blue eyes! During a hunting trip, Connie wore fishing boots over a pair of black pants. A gray turtleneck shirt is under a red and orange plaid jacket. Finished with a maroon cap, the outfit is a classy ensemble that reminded me of the fall season. A few scenes later, Esther wore a light green sweater with cattails on them. A medium length black skirt compliments the cattails on the sweater, as well as Esther’s headband. A pair of brown boots helps pull off a look that would look great during fall or winter.

The “Boneca de Pixe” musical number: Toward the end of Easy to Wed, Connie and Bill perform in a musical number at a party. This number reflected their time together in Mexico. Both Esther and Van sung in Portuguese, dancing alongside each other and a large ensemble of dancers. The dancers’ costumes are so vibrant and colorful, boasting shades of red, yellow, and green. A small orchestra provided the sound, teaming up with Ethel Smith on the organ. Leading into this musical number, Ethel performed an organ solo that was fun to watch! This solo added the energy and excitement this piece needed. Overall, this number made me wish Easy to Wed was a musical.

The Third Esther Williams Blogathon banner created by by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out conflict: Easy to Wed’s conflict revolves around Warren and Bill’s plan to prevent the libel suit from going to court. While it was interesting to see this plan unfold, it was drawn out for most of the story. In fact, this conflict was drawn out for so long, its resolution was delivered in a rapid-fire style within the last ten minutes of the movie. Had this script been a little bit tighter, the resolution’s delivery could have been more satisfying.

An inconsistent use of music: As I’ve said before, music can elevate the mood or tone of a given scene. It can also help make a scene more memorable. The film’s first half featured less music than its second half. Because of this, the memorability of some scenes was weaker. One example is when Bill is hosting a dinner party in his hotel’s sitting room. If music had been playing in the background, it would have heightened the anticipation of Connie’s arrival. The accompanying melody would highlight the growing feelings Bill and Connie have for one another as well. Instead, the scene felt mundane, slogging along to the next part in the story.

No subplots: Like I already mentioned, the conflict in Easy to Wed was drawn out for most of the movie. There are no subplots in this film, as the script focuses on the aforementioned conflict. Personally, I wish the story received a subplot. It would have given the audience additional intrigue to carry them through the film. The newspaper’s photographer could have formed a romantic relationship with the female organist. Maybe his camera goes missing and he has to find it. To me, the lack of subplots felt like a missed opportunity.

Since I loved the outfits described in this review, I decided to share screenshots of them, so my readers could see how great these outfits are! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

In my opinion, Easy to Wed is a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are things about the movie I liked. The acting was strong, the “Boneca de Pixe” musical number was great, and I loved Lucille’s and Esther’s wardrobe. On the other hand, the script could have been stronger. Tighter writing might have helped the conflict reach a satisfying resolution. The conflict could have also been paired with at least one subplot. As I watched Easy to Wed, I was reminded of another movie with a drawn-out conflict: Anchors Aweigh. Because that movie’s musical numbers were more consistent, the audience had something to occupy their time until the conflict could be resolved. As I mentioned in this review, the music was inconsistent in Easy to Wed. Therefore, parts of the story felt longer than necessary. So far, I’ve seen three of Esther Williams’ films. Out of those titles, Easy to Wed is my least favorite. Hopefully, the next picture of Esther’s I watch will be better.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any of the Esther Williams’ films? Are you looking forward to my review of In The Good Old Summertime? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Dr. Phibes Rises Again Review + 420, 425, and 430 Follower Thank You

While looking for a movie to review for my next Blog Follower Dedication Review, I realized it’s been a month since I wrote about a “spooky” title. It’s also been two months since I reviewed a sequel. Because of those factors, I choose to review the 1972 movie, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! Last year, I saw the predecessor, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, after one of my readers recommended it to me. In my opinion, the film was just fine, as I found the horror in the horror-comedy classification heavily emphasized. The fact The Abominable Dr. Phibes received a sequel was surprising to me. That’s because I had no idea the 1971 title received a second chapter until I recently stumbled across it. What other surprises are in store? Let’s take a trip through this review of Dr. Phibes Rises Again in order to find out!

Dr. Phibes Rises Again poster created by
American International Pictures and Anglo-EMI Film Distributors Ltd./MGM-EMI

Things I liked about the film:

A mystery-adventure: In my review of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, I stated how the story was more of a horror-mystery due to the limited incorporation of comedy. Like its predecessor, the sequel also features a mystery. But this time, an adventure story is included in the script, as the characters travel to Egypt. The change in scenery allowed something new to be brought to the overall story. It also added an exciting component, with the audience receiving an opportunity to witness new sights and join the ride with the characters. A new setting made the film’s twists and turns interesting, as Dr. Phibes came up with different ways to attempt to reach his goal. A distinct identity was given to Dr. Phibes Rises Again because of these creative decisions!

Toned down character demises: One of The Abominable Dr. Phibes’ flaws was how over-the-top demises of characters were, as they came across more gross than scary. These demises also overshadowed Vincent Price’s performance, which led to his talents being underutilized. While Dr. Phibes continued to go after anyone who stood in his way in Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the execution of his plan was toned down. Not only were there less demises, but there was also less on-screen gore compared to the first film. Vincent’s acting abilities received more emphasis because of this creative decision. That creative decision also allowed me, as a viewer, to focus on Vincent’s body language, facial expressions, and vocal inflections. Vincent’s role in Dr. Phibes Rises Again felt more like lead actor material compared to The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Robert Quarry’s portrayal of Darius Biederbeck: When I talked about Queen of the Damned in my article, Twentieth Century vs. Queen of the Damned at the Against the Crowd Blogathon, I said the movie presented Lestat as a more likable protagonist. Stuart Townsend’s portrayal of Lestat helps make this statement accurate, as his consistent suave, confidence added to Lestat’s likability. Robert Quarry’s portrayal of Darius Biederbeck in Dr. Phibes Rises Again reminded me of Stuart Townsend’s portrayal of Lestat. This is because Darius’ suave, confidence was similar to Lestat’s. Darius was a goal-driven man, believing in himself and his mission. Even when those around him had their doubts, his confidence was unwavering, presented consistently by Robert. What also helped was how strong Robert’s acting abilities were, giving him an opportunity to present a stand-out performance. These aspects of Robert’s portrayal of Darius made it enjoyable for me to watch!

Egyptian hieroglyphic image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Luxor photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

A somewhat rehashed story: Dr. Phibes’ story in The Abominable Dr. Phibes revolved around trying to find a solution for his deceased wife, Victoria. This quest for a solution drove Dr. Phibes to go after those he felt wronged him and his wife. In Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Dr. Phibe travels to Egypt. But his mission is similar to the first film: find a solution for Victoria. I won’t claim this story is a carbon copy of The Abominable Dr. Phibes. However, I wish it had less similarities to the predecessor.

Confusing parts of the story: A confusing part of Dr. Phibes Rises Again is the return of Vulnavia. Dr. Phibes’ assistant, Vulnavia, was one of the key characters in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Without spoiling the first movie, I will say something happens that prevents Vulnavia from appearing in the sequel. Yet, she does appear in Dr. Phibes Rises Again, with no clear explanation provided. This is just one example of confusing parts of the story that should have received more context.

An unresolved mystery: While in Egypt, Dr. Phibes discovers a sarcophagus. When he opens the sarcophagus, it appears a mummy had been removed. Dr. Phibes even questions what happened to the aforementioned mummy. But after this scene took place, the mystery is never resolved. In fact, it was never brought up after Dr. Phibes’ initial discovery. This made me wonder why the film’s creative team would include that mystery in their script if they had no intentions to solve it on screen?

Scary movie screening image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/small-skeleton-with-popcorn-and-tv_1323292.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression of Dr. Phibes Rises Again, I’d like to thank all my followers! I appreciate your support of 18 Cinema Lane! Now, on to my thoughts on Dr. Phibes Rises Again. On the one hand, the sequel tries to go in a different direction from the first movie. It even fixes some of the predecessor’s flaws. On the other hand, though, Dr. Phibes’ story was similar to his story in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. It also doesn’t help how parts of the story were confusing and a mystery was unresolved. Therefore, I will say this: as a movie, Dr. Phibes Rises Again is fine. As a sequel, it is slightly better than the first film.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen The Abominable Dr. Phibes or its sequel? Are there any sequels you think are better than their predecessor? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Thank You for Boarding the ‘Travel Gone Wrong’ Blogathon!

I know my fourth blogathon, the ‘Travel Gone Wrong’ Blogathon, ended two weeks ago. However, I wanted to provide enough time for participants to submit later entries. But now that the event has come and gone, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who “boarded” this year’s blogathon! As usual, the ‘Travel Gone Wrong’ Blogathon was successful, with a variety of topics being discussed. I enjoyed reading every article sent in, as they provided a great collection of written work! The fun continues because I’ll be hosting my fifth blogathon! But that official announcement will come later this year. Stay tuned!

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Have fun on vacation!

Sally Silverscreen

Travel Lessons I Learned from Movies and TV

Movies and television not only provide entertainment, they also tell a story through a visual medium. Something else movies and television do is teach lessons through those stories. Throughout my life, I have learned so many lessons from various movies and television shows. How to travel smart has been one of them. As my blogathon’s theme this year is ‘Travel Gone Wrong’, I have decided to share a list of six travel related lessons I’ve learned over the years! This is especially exciting, as it’s the first list I’ve created for one of my blogathons! The list is based off of movies and shows I have personally watched. I also tried to present a combination of programs where the mishaps were met with either hilarious or horrifying results. Now, have your boarding ticket ready, as we’re about to start this list!

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Never Tell Strangers Where You Will be Staying (Especially if You’re Traveling Alone)

When I reviewed the 1962 film, Cape Fear, I said the most effective “scary movies” are the ones that involve real-life situations. A movie that definitely belongs in that discussion is the classic, Taken. The 2008 title showcases the dangers that can sometimes present themselves in international travel, without coming across as a PSA/cautionary tale/“after school special” type story. This is because the film places more emphasis on the action within the project. Every time I think of this movie, I always speculate how Kim and Amanda might have avoided their plight had they not told a group of strangers, who ended up being human traffickers, which hotel they were staying at. It also didn’t help how they revealed they were both traveling alone. There’s a saying that goes “Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet”. Well, as Kim and Amanda’s situation shows, that isn’t always the case, especially since some people’s intentions are not great. Watching Taken reminded me how you should only share your hotel and travel status with people you know and trust.

Pink travel backpack image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/travel-lettering-with-watercolor-pink-backpack_2686676.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

If You Want to Start any Relationships with the “Locals”, Take the Time to Know Them First

When I refer to “locals”, I’m referring to anyone who is from a particular travel destination, whether it’s “across the pond” or across town. For this point, I have two examples to share. The first is from a movie I reviewed back in January, Red Corner. While in China for business related reasons, Jack becomes attracted to a woman he briefly met at a nightclub. Attraction gets the better of them, as they end up sharing intimate relations with one another. The woman is discovered dead the following morning, with Jack declared a suspect in her murder. The second example, which also involves a man named Jack, is the Lost episode “Stranger in a Strange Land”. Within the flashbacks from that episode, Jack forms a month-long, intimate relationship with Achara, a character I mentioned in my latest Sunset Over Hope Valley re-cap. During their relationship, Jack becomes frustrated that Achara won’t share what her “gift” is with him. Taking matters into his own hands, he barges into her place of employment and demands an explanation. When Achara’s revelation isn’t enough, Jack forces her to give him a tattoo, even though she initially refuses his request. Their relationship ends disastrously, with Achara in tears and Jack unofficially banned from Thailand.

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.thehollywoodroosevelt.com/pool/tropicana-pool-cafe.

I’ve said before that, in my opinion, starting or ending a relationship shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ve also said that both members of a relationship should be equal to one another. Taking that into account, it’s important to remember when two people come together to form a relationship, they bring with them elements of their lives, which includes their respective cultures. This is where my two examples come in. Despite Jack from Red Corner spending such a short amount of time with the aforementioned woman, he had to deal with her government, a government he was not familiar with. He was also not familiar with the Chinese language and cultural beliefs. This, to an extent, left Jack at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, in Thailand, Jack from Lost didn’t respect Achara’s cultural boundaries. As I mentioned earlier, she initially refused his tattoo request. During their confrontation, Achara told Jack her tattoos are “not decoration, it is definition”. Achara also said Jack couldn’t receive a tattoo because he was “an outsider”. Though she doesn’t provide details to her comments, Achara implies her tattoos have a strong connection to her culture. But whenever Jack and Achara are shown having a conversation, they seem to purposefully avoid talking about anything personal. When I first reflected on “Stranger in a Strange Land”, I knew Achara and Jack’s relationship didn’t last for a reason. Rewatching it years later reminded me why. Honestly, both parties from both relationships could have avoided so much heartache if they had taken the time to learn about and from one another. Sometimes, the best way to know more about a specific culture is to interact with those who are a part of it. Seems to me both aforementioned relationships missed a great opportunity.

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

Be Mindful Who You Place Your Valuable Belongings With

Traveling with valuable belongings is inevitable. This has been the case since the concept of traveling was born. A valuable belonging can be almost anything, especially according to the decade. In the 1980s, one of these valuable belongings was camcorders/video cameras. Priceless, irreplaceable family memories were captured on these devices. At the time, they also carried an expensive price tag. I’ve only seen about half of National Lampoon’s European Vacation. The one scene I vividly remember is when the Griswald family have their video camera stolen. Clark asks a passerby to take his family’s picture with the camera. During this photo session, the passerby suggests the family stand in a nearby fountain. After the Griswalds take this suggestion, the passerby runs away with their video camera. While this scene is meant to be played for laughs, a serious point is to be made. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone to take a picture of you with your chosen electronic device. However, if you are in possession of a valuable item, being mindful is key. If something doesn’t add up, don’t hesitate to say or do something about the situation. Similar to what I said about Taken, place your belongings with those you trust.

Travel suitcase image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/water-color-travel-bag-background_1177013.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.

On Your Trip, Know Where Every Member of Your Party Is

A movie I have never talked about on my blog before is the live-action adaptation, Madeline. I’ll admit it has been years since I’ve seen this film. But from what I remember, there is one scene that perfectly fits this discussion. The titular character and her classmates are at a local carnival on a field trip. Toward the end of this trip, Madeline is late for their bus ride home. To avoid getting in trouble, one of Madeline’s classmates holds up a hat to look like Madeline was sitting in her seat. This leads Miss Clavel to assume Madeline was with the rest of the class. But, in reality, she was somewhere else. During any trip, there is so much to think about. Keeping your party together is one of them. If Madeline had told one of her classmates or even Miss Clavel where she was going or how long she would be gone for, the school community would have one less thing to worry about. There’s no “modern” technology present in this film. But if Madeline had access to a cell phone, she should have kept it on and with her at all times. Miss Clavel is known for saying “Something is not right”. Had Madeline been in worse danger than was depicted in the movie, something would have been very wrong.

Snowy mountain image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/landscape-background-of-snow-track-and-mountains_968656.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Leave Enough Time to Gather All Your Belongings

A running joke on The Middle is “the blue bag”. This blue bag contains important items, such as snacks, and is meant to travel with the Heck family whenever they go on a trip. Unfortunately, this bag is, more often than not, forgotten. When this realization occurs, the family typically asks in unison, “You forgot the blue bag”? A reason why this bag gets left behind is because the Heck family usually rushes to get to their destination. In my years of travelling and watching The Middle, I know how essential it is to be prepared. This is why I always pack the day before I leave for a trip. The day before I plan to leave, I also gather what I know I will pack and put those items in one place. This has saved me so much headache and stress.

Colorful travel suitcase image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/beautiful-illustration-of-travel_2686674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Take Advantage of the Opportunities Around You

Ok, so I know I’ve been sharing lessons I’ve learned relating to more serious, travel related situations. Well, this lesson is serious, but not in the same way. Travelling, whether near or far, can give you opportunities to explore new places, meet new people, and grow as an individual. Two characters who take advantage of this are Brooklyn and Joe from Anchors Aweigh! For the majority of this story, Joe and Brooklyn travel to Los Angeles/Hollywood after receiving permission to leave their Navy base. During their travels, they make new friends, fall in love, even helping make a dream come true. Brooklyn and Joe also visit places not highlighted in a travel guide. But none of that would have been possible if they hadn’t been open to the possibilities of their surroundings. So many discoveries are waiting to be found when you travel. They can come in all different shapes and sizes. How do you find them, you ask? Just be aware of what your surroundings have to offer.

Have fun on your travels!

Sally Silverscreen

The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon is Ready to Set Sail!

All aboard the blogathon train! Spring is a time when vacations are either in the planning stage or just beginning. This is one of the inspirations for my Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon! As was mentioned in the official announcement post, plans can either go hilariously or horrifyingly wrong. So, for this year’s event, entries are classified accordingly. All the participant’s posts will be found on this one communal post, in order to locate them easier. With that said, grab your suitcase and fasten your seatbelts! We’re off on a blogathon adventure!

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Sally from 18 Cinema Lane — Travel Lessons I Learned from Movies and TV

Hilariously Wrong

Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews — FILMS… Our Ladies (2019)

Ruth from Silver Screenings — How to Have a Miserable Vacation

Rebecca from Taking Up Room — The Hardys Take Manhattan

J-Dub from Dubsism — Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 131: “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”

Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy — “French Kiss” (1995)

Classic Movie Muse from The Classic Movie Muse — 5 Reasons Why You Should Watch The Great Race (1965)

Horrifyingly Wrong

Debbie from Moon In Gemini — The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon: Train to Busan (2016)

geelw from “DESTROY ALL FANBOYS”! — The Passenger, Or: Boarding? Pass!, The Gift Or: “Where’s Waldo?” Or: “Really Dead Letter Office”

J-Dub from Dubsism — Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 130: “Airport”

Eric from Diary of A Movie Maniac — THE LOST WEEKEND (1945)

Evaschon98 from Classics and Craziness — movie review: flightplan (2005).

Take 3: Death on the Nile (2022) Review + 415 Follower Thank You

When I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate for my last Blog Follower Dedication Review, I figured by writing about a mystery film, I would be giving the readers what they wanted. Well, for my 415 Blog Follower Dedication Review, I decided to give my readers yet another mystery, as both reviews for Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate and Cut, Color, Murder have been quite successful. This time, though, the movie in question is a more current mystery production from the big screen. Recently, my family rented the 2022 adaptation, Death on the Nile. This is the follow-up title to the 2017 adaptation, Murder on the Orient Express. On 18 Cinema Lane, I have gone on record to state I was not a fan of Murder on the Orient Express’ ending. I would say why, but then I’d have to spoil that movie for my readers. With that said, I watched the 2022 film with an open mind, hoping the ending would be better. But was that enough to be stronger than the 2017 title? Join me as I review Death on the Nile!

Death on the Nile (2022) poster created by Kinberg Genre, Mark Gordon Pictures, Scott Free Productions, TSG Entertainment, and 20th Century Studios

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Sometimes, in ensemble films, there is at least one performance that steals the show. In the case of Death on the Nile, I can’t say that happened, as everyone’s performance was equally strong. So instead, I’m going to talk about how all of the actors and actresses appeared at ease in their roles. Every interaction among the characters seemed natural. Despite the talent being on different journeys in their career, there was a shared chemistry to be found. Gal Gadot did not star in Murder on the Orient Express alongside Kenneth Branagh. However, when they interacted together, it felt like their characters, Linnet and Hercule, had known each other longer than their total screen time. Even actors and actresses whose characters developed their own relationships created a believable on-screen connection. Bouc is a close friend of Hercule’s, but wasn’t brought up or featured in Murder on the Orient Express. Rosalie is a character who made her debut in Death on the Nile. Despite never meeting prior to this film, Rosalie and Bouc formed a romantic relationship that felt genuine. Their bright smiles and warm embraces present the impression they were always meant to be together. It’s interactions like Bouc and Rosalie’s that allowed the overall acting performances to be enjoyable to watch!

An atmospheric setting: The majority of Death on the Nile takes place in Egypt, specifically on the Nile River. Despite a cruise ship being the primary setting for the story, the characters make an excursion to an ancient Egyptian tomb. I’m not sure if Death on the Nile was filmed on-location, on a set, or if everything was green-screened. No matter where the movie was filmed, this particular location was very atmospheric! The structure was covered in a warm sandstone, reflecting the nearby natural landscape. The interior walls were covered in hieroglyphics, only seen through torch light or a flashlight. Before the characters entered the tombs, a long, overhead shot showcased their entry. Even though a structure like this one would likely never be done justice through filmography, it emphasized the scope of a location of that scale!

The Egyptian tombs were not the only atmospheric location in this film. When it comes to the S.S. Karnak, the creative team knew what style they wanted to execute. Boy, did they stick the landing! This ship was posh, bearing the word “elegant” like a badge of honor. The floor was a dark wood, which nicely contrasted the white shiplap walls. Polished glass windows surrounded a grand sitting area, separating patrons into an isolated, beautiful world. Even this aforementioned sitting area was a sight to behold! A detailed oriental rug hosted an island to a set of plush armchairs and a sofa. An elegant bar overlooked both the seating arrangements and the windowed walls, which showcased a perfect view of the river. When I first saw this ship on screen, it looked, to me, like a miniature version of the Titanic.

The use of black and white imagery: Within the mystery genre, black and white imagery has been, in my experience, used rarely in more recently released titles. Even in Death on the Nile, this kind of imagery had a limited incorporation in the movie. But the use of black and white imagery is what stood out to me. This film’s very first scene is captured in black and white. However, it took place during World War I, with the rest of the story taking place in 1937. The distinction of past and present through imagery was clever and visually interesting. This creative tactic was used again later in the story. But this time, color was included to force the audience to focus on that scene’s particular aspects. Like I said about the previous scene, it was an interesting and clever way to use black and white imagery!

Magnifying fingerprints image created by Balintseby at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Balintseby – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/fingerprint-investigation_789253.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The mystery’s delayed start time: One of my least favorite aspects of the mystery genre is when the mystery starts at a later time in the story. This is because I prefer mysteries to be more interactive and get to the heart of the matter sooner. Unfortunately, Death on the Nile did not ask me what I wanted, as the mystery in this movie started at the halfway point. That means the audience was given half a movie to attempt to solve the mystery alongside Hercule. To me, this felt reminiscent of episodes of Murder, She Wrote, where the first half of the story is devoted to the mystery’s build-up. This creative decision caused a much slower start to the movie, as well as a delay in suspense.

A mystery overshadowed by relationship drama: Drama among the characters can work in a mystery’s favor, as it provides possible motives and suspects. Various types of relationships can also create tension within the overall story. But in Death on the Nile, the relationship drama ended up overshadowing the mystery. In fact, it dominated the film’s first half. While characters fell in and out of love, or simply reflected on love, one of my family members asked, “Isn’t someone supposed to get murdered in this story”? I could easily sense this family member’s impatience, as I too felt my good will toward the movie slipping away with each of the characters’ romantic embrace. I have never read any of Agatha Christie’s books, so I’m not sure if these relationships are straight from the source material. However, this part of the story was over-emphasized.

A past detail that doesn’t lead anywhere: Death on the Nile starts with showing Hercule during World War I. In that time, it is revealed he developed romantic feelings for a woman named Katherine. For the rest of the movie, though, this part of the story was never revisited. If Katherine was brought up, Hercule only talked about her in passing. Hercule’s past relationship and his time during World War I getting ignored was confusing to me. Why include these details if there was no plan to follow through on them? It felt like they were added to the story simply for the sake of being there.

Egyptian hieroglyphic image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Luxor photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression of Death on the Nile, I would like to thank my followers for helping make this review a reality! In four years, my blog has achieved far more success than I ever imagined. All of that is thanks to you. Now, back to sharing my overall impression. While the ending/resolution in Death on the Nile was stronger than Murder on the Orient Express’ was, the overall execution was weaker than the 2017 adaptation. The 2022 film contained a similar flaw to Knives Out: the drama among the characters overshadowed the mystery. Having the mystery start at the movie’s halfway point didn’t help Death on the Nile’s case either. Like Murder on the Orient Express, though, the cast was strong in Death on the Nile. In fact, it was difficult for me to choose a favorite performance. The locations in the 2022 production were atmospheric as well. At the publication of this review, I’m not sure if Kenneth Branagh has plans to adapt more of Agatha Christie’s books. It depends, at this point, if the potential is there.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptations of Agatha Christie’s work? Have you read any of Agatha’s books? Don’t hesitate to comment in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen