Originally, I was going to publish a double feature review of Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken and The Girl Who Spelled Freedom for the American Experience on Film Blogathon. However, I have also been working on another big project that required more time than I expected. Therefore, I was only able to watch one movie, which was The Girl Who Spelled Freedom. Don’t worry, though, because I will coordinate a double feature to celebrate the publication of 500 posts! The 1986 made-for-tv movie had been unknown to me until this year. I stumbled across The Girl Who Spelled Freedom when I was looking through an IMDB list about family-friendly films. After reading the synopsis, I was interested in watching the movie! There aren’t many cinematic stories that feature a spelling bee. In fact, the only one I can think of is Akeelah and the Bee from 2006. I also realize that Disney creates fewer “based on a true story” movies now than they did decades ago. Because a Disney project hasn’t been reviewed on my blog since last December, let’s begin talking about The Girl Who Spelled Freedom!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: As I have stated in the past, it takes a very talented young actor or actress to carry a film. For Jade Chinn, she did such a great job with the material she was given! What made her performance so memorable is how she utilized body language, emotions, and facial expressions to illustrate Linn’s limited use of English. However, these techniques helped address what the character was experiencing. When Linn was traveling on a plane for the first time, she curled up on the floor in fear. The way Linn was behaving showed the audience that cultural differences and language barriers can turn something as simple as a plane trip into a terrifying experience. Another stand-out performer was Mary Kay Place, who portrayed Prissy Thrash! One of her best scenes took place toward the beginning of the film. Prissy and her husband, George, were dealing with the news of how many members are in Linn’s family. Prissy is so overwhelmed, she suddenly bursts into tears. This moment alone displays the emotionality Mary was able to bring to her performance! A heartwarming scene was when George was teaching Linn and her sisters how to count. The performances from the actors in this scene, especially from Wayne Rogers, appeared so genuine. It was also nice to see the dynamic between these characters!
The cinematography: I was pleasantly surprised by some of the cinematography in The Girl Who Spelled Freedom! Even though this is a made-for-tv movie from the mid ‘80s, the cinematography looked like it came from a theatrical production. At the beginning of the film, Linn and her family are crossing a river. One shot is presented as if the viewer is in the water, watching the family moving through the river toward safety. When Linn and her family are staying with the Thrash family, they discover one of the sons is missing. As George and Prissy are searching their home, the camera follows them. This gives the idea the audience are looking for this child alongside the characters.
A balance of heartbreaking and heartwarming moments: With films that deal with emotional material, there are bound to be heartbreaking moments. In The Girl Who Spelled Freedom, there were certainly scenes that were sadder in nature. An example is when Prissy takes Linn and some of her siblings to the park. When the children see a giant statue of the Crucifix, they become scared, as they are instantly reminded of the trauma they experienced. Even though Prissy reminds them that the statue isn’t real, the children are still shaken up by the imagery. At the same time, the film contained light-hearted moments that were heartwarming. At the Thrash family home, Linn accidently walks in on Laura, Prissy and George’s daughter, curling her hair. In an effort to prevent Linn from feeling embarrassed, Laura decides to not only curl Linn’s hair, but also curl Linn’s sisters’ hair. The scene itself was very sweet and showed how a little bit of kindness can make a big difference.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Missing context: The Girl Who Spelled Freedom has the same flaw The Crow did: there are areas of the story that needed context. One strong example is Linn giving sentimental value to a ring. At the beginning of the film, Linn can be seen looking for a ring in the mud. When she is escaping from a group of soldiers in Thailand, she gives the ring to one of the soldiers. In the United States, Prissy gives one of her rings to Linn. Later in the film, Linn is upset when she accidently drops the ring down the sink. The significance of this ring is never addressed in the film. Linn herself never explains why the ring is so valuable to her. If context had been provided to this part of the story, the audience could try to understand why the ring is important to Linn.
A limited presence of the spelling bee: Before watching this movie, I knew there would be a spelling bee featured in the overall story. However, I was expecting a build-up to the spelling bee, similar to Akeelah and the Bee. While we get to see a spelling bee in The Girl Who Spelled Freedom, it was only referenced a few times before the actual event began. Most of the story focused on Linn’s adjustment to life in the United States. Even though watching the spelling bee unfold was satisfying, I wish it had received a little more emphasis in the film.
A few characters receiving character development: In films that feature bigger casts, it is not easy providing character development to every character involved. But when only a few characters receive character development, it can be disappointing. This is what happened with The Girl Who Spelled Freedom. The only characters who are given character development are the members of the Thrash family and Linn. With Linn’s family, the audience becomes familiar with them, but doesn’t get the opportunity to get to know them. This can also be said about other characters, such as Henry Turner, who helped the Thrash family bring Linn and her family to the United States.
My overall impression:
The American Experience is a tricky thing to sum up, as everyone’s experiences are going to be different. This is especially the case if someone is a refugee or immigrant. The Girl Who Spelled Freedom is a perfect example of how unique the American Experience can be. For most of the film, Linn and her family deal with “culture shock”, coming across things and situations that they feel are “unusual”. But over time, they start to create their own American Experience. Linn enters a local spelling bee in 1983. An activity that is typically seen as fun and harmless was seen by Linn as a fight for survival, a view that was shaped by her past experiences. Therefore, she was partially responsible for creating her own American Experience. For a television film from the mid ‘80s, I’d say this is one of the better presentations! While the film does have its flaws, it did feel like a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie before the collection moved to Hallmark Channel. After the film, there was an interview with the real-life Thrash and Yann families. Because the audience was able to hear their sides of the story, it added to my enjoyment of the overall project! It’s a shame fewer networks have decided to create made-for-TV films. There are so many stories worth telling, so I hope they are able to get told someday.
Overall score: 7.6 out of 10
Have you seen The Girl Who Spelled Freedom? Are there any television films you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section!
When you hear the phrase, “Home Sweet Home”, what comes to mind? Perhaps warm, happy memories spent with family or the feeling of being safe within a chosen, personal environment. Unfortunately, some families don’t get to experience these feelings of safety and happiness. This could be the case for a variety of reasons. Because of that fact, I picked the 2000 movie, Taming Andrew, for Realweegiemidget Reviews’ and Taking Up Room’s Home Sweet Home Blogathon. The second reason why I selected this particular film is because of the subject matter itself. When it comes to cinematic stories that revolve around kidnapping, we mostly get two kinds of films; a movie that primarily focuses on the kidnapping or a movie where the supposed kidnapping victim’s identity is questioned. Taming Andrew is about the aftermath of a kidnapping, when a missing child is found. Since that specific storyline is not often found in film, I wanted to see this story unfold.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: In Taming Andrew, there were some acting performances that stood out to me. The most notable one came from Seth Adkins, whose portrayal of the titular character stole the show! When a story revolves around a young character, casting a young actor or actress who can, talent-wise, carry most of the movie is essential. With Seth’s performance, it contained the emotional weight you would expect from a film of this nature. As Andrew’s mother, Gail, is helping Andrew get ready for bed-time, he refuses to show his mother any amount of affection. Andrew turns away from Gail and irritation can be seen on his face. When Gail turns off the light in Andrew’s room, he immediately screams, as the dark room reminds Andrew of what he experienced during the kidnapping. Another good performance came from Jason Beghe! Portraying Andrew’s stepfather, Eddie, Jason presented his character with a sense of realism. As Eddie and Gail are discussing recent events involving Andrew, Eddie is concerned about the safety of their baby. This scene showcases how Eddie’s acting talents appeared natural. Shannon Lawson portrayed Deena, Gail’s friend and co-worker. What made her performance memorable was how she was able to balance a sassy and serious persona. At the beginning of the film, Gail is sharing her fears about her ex-husband with Deena. Filled with concern in her face and words, Deena tells Gail that she’ll stand by her friend, offering to help Gail if she needed it. Later in the movie, when Gail is leaving her job in order to homeschool her son, Deena jokingly agrees that no one will replace Gail at work. These scenes are a good example of Shannon’s versatility when it comes to her acting talents!
Exploring the aftermath of a kidnapping: As I mentioned in the introduction, Taming Andrew focuses on the aftermath of a kidnapping. This means the story primarily shows what happens after Andrew is found. It was interesting to see the journey of a kidnapping victim overcoming their trauma. Because of Seth’s performance and because the script emphasizes Andrew’s emotional, psychological, and educational struggles, it effectively shows how a horrific situation like Andrew’s can affect a child. I also said the aftermath of a kidnapping is not often found in cinema. Since this is the case, I’m glad Taming Andrew chose this route for their script. It highlights what some individuals and families face, as well as address how one person’s decision can cause a ripple effect.
The inclusion of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: In one scene, when Gail and her mother are watching television, they see a news report featuring Gail. This report shows Gail making a speech about her missing son. During the speech, a banner for The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is briefly shown. Buttons and posters displaying the photos of other missing children can also be seen on the television screen. The inclusion of the banner, buttons, and posters was a subtle, yet effective way of showcasing how big of an issue children’s safety really is. It highlights how abduction can take place at any time for any person as well.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Andrew’s return is treated as no big deal: Like I just mentioned, Gail was featured on the news making a speech about her missing son. This news report was on a local news station, with the report itself taking place five months after Andrew was kidnapped. When Andrew returns five years later, no news reports are made about him. In fact, the event itself seems to be no big deal for almost anyone outside of Andrew’s family. Because Taming Andrew is based on true events, I, personally, find it hard to believe the aforementioned local news station wouldn’t cover Andrew’s return. Looking back on missing persons stories where the missing person was found alive, those types of stories tend to receive a lot of attention from the news.
A rushed journey: Even though Andrew’s personal journey was interesting to watch, I found it to be, at times, rushed. One example can be seen toward the beginning of Andrew’s journey. At an evaluation meeting, the medical professionals tell Gail that her son might need to be placed in a school for children who benefit from special education. A few moments later, the audience can see Gail taking Andrew to traditional public school. I know there is only so much story you can tell in an hour and twenty-eight minutes. However, it felt like important steps from point A to point B were missing.
The events of the kidnapping revealed at the end of the movie: When a movie’s story is about a kidnapping, the biggest question on almost every audience member’s mind is what happened during the event itself. These stories, more often than not, show or tell what happened as a way to provide the audience with a sense of closure. Taming Andrew does reveal how Andrew became traumatized by the kidnapping. However, this information isn’t presented until the end of the film. I understand those who have faced traumatic situations face their trauma at their own pace. But, as I already said, there is only so much story you can tell in an hour and twenty-eight minutes. With that said, the events surrounding Andrew’s kidnapping should have been revealed sooner.
My overall impression:
Whenever I participate in a blogathon, I try to choose a film or topic that brings something different to the table. That is certainly the case for Taming Andrew, as it presents the aftermath of a kidnapping. I’m glad a film like this exists because it sheds light on a subject that doesn’t often get talked about in the world of cinema. But there are flaws that held this movie back from being stronger than it was. Parts of Andrew’s journey were rushed and the events surrounding the kidnapping were revealed at the end of the movie. These issues make me wish the film had been two hours. The part where the news completely ignores Andrew’s return is something I found unbelievable, especially since Taming Andrew is based on true events. What I can say about this movie is how it emphasizes the point I made in my introduction, how some families don’t experience safety and happiness. A missing child or trauma can certainly be just two factors that deny families these things.
Overall score: 7.2 out of 10
Are you participating in the Home Sweet Home Blogathon? If so, which movie did you choose to write about? Let me know in the comments section!
Four days ago, my blog received 245 followers! To everyone who helped 18 Cinema Lane become this successful, thank you! None of this could have been a reality without you. BYU-TV recently aired Luna: Spirit of the Whale on their network. Because I don’t get many opportunities to talk about films that feature Native American stories, I felt this film would make a good selection for this blog follower dedication review! The movie is one I had never heard of prior to this year. So, this was also a great chance to expand my cinematic horizons! As I’ve said on multiple occasions, I try to give lesser-known films a “standing ovation”. Luna: Spirit of the Whale is one of those films, as I didn’t see any other blogger on WordPress talk about this movie. By choosing to review this project at all, it will hopefully give this movie a little more recognition than it might be currently receiving.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: While watching Luna: Spirit of the Whale, I noticed strong performances within this cast! One of them came from Adam Beach, who portrayed the protagonist, Mike Maquinna! Throughout the film, Adam did a good job giving his character a wide range of emotions. In one scene, Mike is happy to take a youth named Adam on a short canoe trip. In another scene, Mike is tearfully reflecting on a regret from his past. These emotions helped make Adam’s character well-rounded! Speaking of the aforementioned youth, I also liked Aaron Miko’s portrayal of Adam! A sense of believability is what made this performance enjoyable to watch! With the emotions, facial expressions, and body language, Aaron was able to show the audience that his character had experienced so much in his young life. Prior to watching Luna: Spirit of the Whale, I have seen Erin Karpluk’s performances in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Fixer Upper Mystery series. While she’s in the film for a certain amount of time, the acting material Erin was given in this film was different from the aforementioned series. This is because her performance was allowed to be more dramatic. Erin was able to use that opportunity to her advantage by creating a portrayal that was interesting to watch!
The scenery: As someone who has seen many Hallmark movies, I know that Canada has a reputation for showcasing great scenery! Luna: Spirit of the Whale is no exception to this. Most of the scenery revolves around the water, as the story focuses on a whale. Anytime these scenes appeared in the film, they were appealing to look at! The green hues of the surrounding trees compliment the blues and grays of the water. More often than not, a clear sky enveloped the entire space. Some scenes took place on the shore, an area that was also photogenic! The rocky edge and calm waters set the stage for an inviting place! It really did look like a backdrop you’d see in a Hallmark movie!
The incorporation of Native American culture: Because some of the characters in Luna: Spirit of the Whale are from a Native American/First Nations community, elements of Native American culture are found in this story. The way they are incorporated into the movie is not only educational, but also insightful. These elements are showcased in a reverent and respectful way. During Chief Ambrose Maquinna’s funeral, two men were dressed in wolf fur and crawled on the ground in front of the procession. Before this shot was shown in the film, Mike explains that this particular community believes a deceased chief will have his spirit carried through a wolf (protector of the land) or a whale (protector of the sea). Before any of the canoes go out into the water, a blessing is placed on them, complete with a series of chants. Traditional chants also play a role during the story’s climax.
What I didn’t like about the film:
An unclear time period: According to IMDB, Luna: Spirit of the Whale was released in 2007. Erin Karpluk’s character, Jill, mentions that some people have discovered the story of Luna the whale through the internet. However, all of the televisions in this film look older than 2007. On a canoe trip, one of the youths pulls out a camcorder that appears to have been sold sometime in the 1990s. Everything I just said made it difficult to decipher when this story took place.
A somewhat meandering story: The movie’s main conflict is about a Native American/First Nations community’s attempt to protect a whale they believe physically embodies the spirit of their deceased chief. While this conflict was interesting to see unfold, it didn’t appear until about forty minutes into the film. Personally, I feel this conflict should have been introduced a lot sooner. This not only could have helped the narrative get straight-to-the-point, but it also could have shaved off some of the run-time.
Some scenes that lasted too long: There were some scenes in this film that felt longer than necessary. The scenes where the characters were in the canoes suffered the most from this flaw. Because these scenes emphasized the scenery surrounding the characters, it caused the plot to feel delayed. Scenes like these could have benefited by being shortened.
My overall impression:
Native American stories are not often found in mainstream cinema. This fact can cause movie-goers to look beyond the surface and seek out titles located off the beaten path. Luna: Spirit of the Whale is a part of this discussion, as the film is not well-known. Despite this, I found it to be a fine, decent movie! The elements of Native American culture were incorporated in a reverent and respectful way, while also being educational and insightful. Watching the film’s main conflict unfold was interesting to see, even if it did start later than I would have liked. But if someone were looking for Native American stories told through a cinematic lens, I would recommend Luna: Spirit of the Whale! Finding likable films on BYU-TV is always a treat, so I do appreciate the network’s efforts to introduce their audience to various titles! If I hadn’t came across this film, I might never have discovered it.
Overall score: 7.2 out of 10
Do you have a favorite Native American story told through film? Are there any you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comment section!
1. What is the purpose of Girl Scout fun patches? What is thesignificance of the PB & J patch that you talked about in the introduction?
Girl Scout Fun Patches are created to commemorate experiences where scouts either spend quality time with their troop or learn a new lesson/skill. They can also be earned by completing an activity or reaching a goal. One example is a Lock-In patch, given to a troop or a collection of troops after they spend the night at a local attraction, such as a zoo. The PB & J patch from my introduction is meant to recognize scout members who participate in the creation of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Some soup kitchens, food banks, or homeless shelters will serve these sandwiches to their patrons, with volunteers pitching in to help make the sandwiches and serve them. This experience can teach scouts about playing a vital role in their community and assisting those in need.
2. How did you come across The Last Full Measure?
I learned about The Last Full Measure when I stumbled across several production/behind-the-scenes photos for the movie on Pinterest. I’ve enjoyed watching Sebastian Stan’s portrayal of Bucky Barnes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I was excited to hear he had been given a lead role in this picture. When I read the movie’s synopsis, it sounded like a story that was full of intrigue. I had heard this movie was supposed to be released in October of 2019. For reasons that are unknown to me, the film was pushed back to January of 2020. I was honestly surprised how little attention this project received. It got a small amount of marketing and was in theaters for about less than a month. I’ve also noticed how few movie bloggers have reviewed the film.
3. You elaborated in the introduction how a PB & J sandwich represents acollection of ideas. Can any of these ideas be found in The Last Full Measure?
Absolutely! When reflecting on the story of William H. Pitsenbarger, there are several ideas that come to mind. One of them is how one person can affect the lives of others. Throughout the film, the stories from veterans who fought alongside William are told to Scott Huffman, an employee from the Pentagon tasked with William’s Medal of Honor case. As the movie unfolds, the audience learns how William and his actions impacted the lives of the veterans, as well as William’s parents and Scott’s family. This point is highlighted at William’s Medal of Honor ceremony, where everyone is asked to stand up if they are either a veteran, a family member or spouse of a veteran, or had their life touched by a veteran.
When we think of a PB & J sandwich, it is a singular object that has one purpose: to feed the person that sandwich was created for. When giving the subject more thought, we realize the sandwich itself affects more than the person eating it. There are people who work in the companies creating the peanut butter and jelly. Farmers and agriculturalists grow the wheat to make the bread, as well as the peanuts and fruit to create the peanut butter and jelly. Someone or a group of people make the sandwich, making it whole or cutting it up into separate pieces. If the recipient is given more than one sandwich or has multiple pieces, they can give it to another person. A PB & J sandwich creates an interconnected web where each person plays a role.
4. Are there other patches you can think of that would complement The Last Full Measure?
The most obvious choice would have something to do with veterans. Whether that recognizes sending Valentines to veterans or hosting an Honor Flight, a patch of this nature reminds scouts of a veteran’s importance. Another good choice would be related to history. Events surrounding the Vietnam War are discussed in The Last Full Measure. Age appropriate lessons about a particular war-time era can teach scouts about the event itself and how moments from the past can be applied to the present.
5. Is there anything about The Last Full Measure that you liked or didn’t like?
One element that caught me by surprise was how good the scenery was! When Scott travels to Vietnam to speak with one of the veterans, he is taken to the spot where the battle took place. The place was transformed into a butterfly sanctuary. It was calming and serene to watch, as blue butterflies flew against bright green foliage. The cinematography captured this location well, as soft light radiated within the space. As for what I didn’t like about this film, I found Scott’s part of the story to be the weakest aspect of the narrative. This part wasn’t bad and Sebastian did a good job with the acting material he was given. But I found the veterans’ stories to be much more compelling than what Scott’s story had to offer.
6. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?
I didn’t develop any questions, but two thoughts did come to mind. When William’s parents are remembering their son’s life, they reflect on small details, like the smell of fresh cut grass on his shoes after he mowed the lawn. This reminded me of when Eric Draven, from The Crow, said that “Nothing is trivial”. When we lose a loved one, little things that may seem insignificant to others are the pieces we use to hold on to that person. On Thanksgiving, William’s parents share with Scott and his wife how they try to keep their son’s memory alive. This reminded me of what Sarah said at the end of The Crow about continuing to love someone after they are gone.
7. As stated in answer number one, fun patches are earned by eithercompleting an activity or reaching a goal. What goal or activity could correlate with this movie?
Because The Last Full Measure is rated R, most scouts would not be able to see the film. However, there are activities that troops can participate in that correlates with the movie. Like I mentioned in answer number four, a troop or multiple troops can organize an Honor Flight. This is a plane ride/trip meant to recognize the military contributions of veterans. Younger scouts can make signs and cheer for the veterans as they arrive at the airport. Older scouts can assist their leaders in the event’s organization, showing them how to build connections in their community and organizational skills.
8. Fun patches are about learning new skills or lessons. Are there any lessonsone can learn from this film?
A major overarching lesson that can be found in The Last Full Measure is how our actions and choices can affect the people around us. During the Vietnam War, William’s choice to sacrifice his life for his fellow soldiers greatly affected those soldiers in that battle. It also affected those same soldiers, William’s parents, and even Scott’s family years after the event occurred. This lesson reminds viewers to put a great amount of thought into the things we do before we act on them.
9. Sometimes, patches are created to tie in with a popular movie or IP (intellectual property). If given the opportunity to create a new patch, howwould a patch for this movie look? What activity or goal would need to bemet?
A patch bearing a picture of William H. Pitsenbarger would be an appropriate choice. Another good choice would be an image of the Medal of Honor with William’s name surrounding it. Any activity involving the recognition of veterans would make sense. It could be a grand gesture, such as the aforementioned Honor Flight or decorating a float for a veteran who is a Grand Marshal at a local parade. The act could be smaller in scale, like raking leaves for a veteran during the autumn season or delivering meals for a veteran who may be home-bound. The patch’s goal would strive to help scouts learn about a veteran’s importance and appreciate their inclusion in society.
10. After watching this film, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?
While I found The Last Full Measure to be a fine, well-made film, I think the story itself would have benefited more in a documentary format. I said in answer number five how the veterans’ stories were the most compelling part of the overall narrative. If this story were presented in a documentary, it would have given the veterans themselves a chance to share their experiences, especially since The Last Full Measure was based on a true story. In my last double feature, I reviewed the film Over the Edge. I stated in that review how the film was based on true events. This is one of the reasons why I felt that story should have been told through a documentary.
This year, I’ve seen several tier ranking videos on Youtube. While most of these videos have revolved around books, there have been a few that focus on films. As I watched these tier lists being created, I discovered how there was no list dedicated to Hallmark’s productions. So, I decided to fill that void by making a list of my own! Because Hallmark has created so many movies, my tier ranking list focuses on all the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I have seen in my life. This article is based solely on my own opinion and is not meant to be mean-spirited in any way. I also created this list to bring unique content to my blog. I was trying to complete this post yesterday, but this project took longer than I expected, so I apologize for its late arrival. For this tier ranking list, there will be five categories; Bottom of the Barrel, Ok, Decent/Fine, Good, and Great. I will give each film a brief, but thorough explanation for why it has earned that placement.
Bottom of the Barrel
Back When We Were Grown-Ups
Anyone who has read my list of the Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time would not be surprised to see this movie placed in the Bottom of the Barrel category. To me, this is not only the worst Hallmark Hall of Fame picture, but also the worst Hallmark project ever made. If you’d like to learn more about why I don’t like Back When We Were Grown-Ups, you can check out my list of the Worst Hallmark Movies at this link:
This is another movie I talked about in my Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time list. I’ve only seen Firelight once, but I found it to be so forgettable. When I think about this movie, on rare occasions, I wonder what message it was trying to deliver to their audience? If I, as an audience member, can’t determine what the intended purpose of that specific film is, that likely means something went wrong during the creative process. The rest of my thoughts on Firelight are found in my Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time list at this link:
From what I remember, the overall plot was very lackluster. I also found the premise revolving around a child rarely lying to be unbelievable. A Painted House contains other flaws that prevented me from enjoying this picture. One of them was how a few characters were unlikable for no clear reason. For a stand-alone film, having it end on a cliff-hanger wasn’t a good idea. I haven’t read John Grisham’s novel, so I’m not sure if the film’s creative team adopted any liberties for this project.
While I don’t think Rose Hill is a bad movie, I just wasn’t impressed with the final project. The story as a whole was not the most interesting and Rose herself seemed to sit on the sidelines of her own story. There was a mystery within this script, but that part of the story was poorly executed. This surprises me, as Hallmark Hall of Fame released a film in 1990 with a similar story concept titled Caroline?
My Sister’s Keeper
I liked the first half of this movie, where the audience witnesses the two sisters growing up alongside each other. It provided strong opportunities for each sister to receive character development and the film’s first half felt like it was building up to something bigger. When the second half of the movie arrives and both sisters become adults, the project hits a stand-still where nothing interesting happens. I will say the high-light of My Sister’s Keeper is seeing Kathy Bates riding on an elephant.
I’ve only seen about 50% of this movie. However, based on what I saw, I found the project to be just ok. I didn’t find myself feeling emotionally invested in the story like I did with other Hall of Fame titles. I wouldn’t mind re-watching this one, and maybe even reviewing it, to see if I still hold the same opinion.
When I first saw this film, I thought it was decent/fine. But since its 2013 release, it has been relegated to ok status. The Makeover is a glorified Hallmark Channel movie, complete with the male and female protagonist falling in love with each other. In fact, Hallmark’s first network released a movie with a similar premise the year prior called Fixing Pete. Maybe the first Hallmark Hall of Fame project of 2013 should have been given a stronger story.
Blind Spot was decent/fine upon initial viewing, but is now in the ok category. The film’s cautionary message was given more emphasis than the plot. This caused the movie to feel like it belonged on Lifetime when these kinds of films were in their hey-day. As I’ve said before, Karina Arroyave stars in this Hall of Fame presentation. However, her talents were under-utilized in this picture.
The Magic of Ordinary Days
This is one of the most beloved titles Hallmark has ever made. However, I don’t like or love this project as much as other people do. I found the main plot to be too unbelievable for my liking. Hallmark also glossed over the subject of Japanese internment camps when they could have provided some commentary on how prejudice can negatively affect someone’s perspective. There was one romantic relationship that I knew wasn’t going to lead anywhere, making me wonder why it was included in the first place. The Magic of Ordinary Days is another Hall of Fame movie based on a book, so I don’t know what elements from the novel where translated to the screen.
I reviewed this film for the James Garner Blogathon back in February. On the dvd cover, it is considered “the most-honored television movie of all time”. But, to me, the project is a bit on the over-rated side. I’m not a fan of “slice-of-life” stories, which is exactly what the plot of Promise is. The road to educating the audience about Mental Illness seems like it was paved with good intentions. As I say in my review, it could have been executed better though. You can read my review at the link below if you want to learn more about my thoughts on Promise.
Back in 2015, I felt Just in Time for Christmas was a good movie. After giving it some more thought, I’ve come to see the film as just fine. Like The Makeover, the project is a glorified Hallmark Channel movie. But, unlike the aforementioned 2013 release, Just in Time for Christmas tried to do something different with their creative material. Time travel is rarely incorporated in any of Hallmark’s projects. This release was, I believe, the first time it had been included in a Hallmark Hall of Fame title.
In Love and War
When The World War II Blogathon took place last September, In Love and War is the film I chose to review. As a movie, I liked it for it was. But, as a Hall of Fame picture, it didn’t leave as big of an emotional impact as other titles from this collection have. For a story taking place during World War II, there wasn’t a lot of action in it. There was also an imbalance between the ideas of “love” and “war”. If you want to read my review for In Love and War, you can click on the link below:
I haven’t seen this movie since its 2011 release. From I remember, it was just fine. While I liked the acting, the story was straight-forward. I also found the part about the pregnant teacher working and, eventually, bringing her baby to a compromising environment to be unbelievable. Like I said about Loving Leah, I’m not opposed to re-watching this movie and reassessing my opinion on it.
Front of the Class
This is another picture I haven’t seen in years. However, I thought Front of the Class was a fine film. Similar to In Love and War, it didn’t leave a big, emotional impact on me. But, as I’ve said before, I wouldn’t mind watching this movie again and seeing if my thoughts on it have changed.
The Secret Garden
In my Bonus Double Feature last September, I talked about Hallmark Hall of Fame’s version of The Secret Garden. I liked this adaptation, but I found it to be drawn-out. Looking back on this movie, it seems like the creative team placed so much emphasis on respecting the source material, they forgot to bring their own voice to the table. You can check out my thoughts on three different adaptations of The Secret Garden at these links:
I feel The Boys Next Door is one of the more under-rated titles from the Hall of Fame collection. The acting is solid and the perception of individuals with disabilities is mostly positive. My favorite character from this movie is Barry Klemper, but I felt he was under-utilized in the overall story. Also, some of the language toward the four men with disabilities reflects the time period the film was released in. I wonder how different the play this movie is based on is different from this adaptation?
The Valley of Light
Despite not having seen this movie since its 2007 release, I remember really liking this film! “She won’t give me my chocolate” is still one of my favorite quotes from a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. This film also contains one of the most shocking plot twists in the history of this collection. I definitely want to re-watch this film and possibly share my thoughts on this movie viewing experience!
As I have said before on this blog, Love Locks is the first newer Hall of Fame title that made me feel like this branch of Hallmark was going back to their roots! Yes, this is the type of story you’d likely find in Hallmark Channel movies. But the way Love Locks was presented made the overall project feel like a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. I also like the movie’s original poster, as it is one of the most creative pieces of marketing in Hallmark history! Personally, I think this is a good picture if you want to introduce someone to the Hall of Fame collection!
Love Takes Flight
This is the most recent release from the Hall of Fame collection I’ve talked about, as I reviewed the film last April. Love Takes Flight is a better movie than its marketing campaign made it seem. However, as I’ve noticed with the newer Hall of Fame titles, it lacks emotional depth because it feels like it adopted Hallmark Channel’s “formula”. It also contains other flaws, like having too many plots. Here’s the link to my review of Love Takes Flight if you’re interested in reading it:
The Beach House is another Hallmark Hall of Fame film that was given less-than-stellar marketing. But this didn’t stop it from being better than I expected! As someone who has also read the book, I think the movie did a better job at telling the story than its source material did! I also believe the overall quality of this project is a good reminder of why the Hall of Fame branch exists. This is another title I reviewed, so I’ll provide the link to that post here:
I thoroughly enjoyed Christmas Everlasting when it was released in 2018! In fact, the only aspect of the film I didn’t like was the limited on-screen presence Patti LaBelle received, as I expected her to have a larger role in the film. Similar to other Hall of Fame titles I’ll mention, this movie features a mystery within the overall plot. Mysteries are not often found in Hallmark Hall of Fame projects, so I like how Christmas Everlasting helped bring something different to the table. I reviewed this movie as well, so here is the link:
I liked this movie and the book it was based on! The overall execution of this project made it feel like a Hall of Fame production, making this the collection’s first newer Christmas film to make me feel this way. Similar to Christmas Everlasting, The Christmas Train incorporates a mystery into their story. While this element is also in the book, it brings a unique component to Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Christmas line-up. It’s also special in how most of the film’s events take place on a train, which is rare for a Hall of Fame movie!
The Lost Valentine
This is a good, but sad film! While I appreciate the effort that has gone into Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Christmas movies, it’s nice to see other holidays receive recognition within this branch of Hallmark. The use of flashbacks enhanced the overall story, giving context to the events being presented on screen. Because of how sad the film is, the re-watchability rate is on the lower side of the spectrum. But this is a project I would definitely recommend!
A Dog Named Christmas
A Dog Named Christmas is another Hall of Fame Christmas film I genuinely enjoyed! It does a good job at effectively showing how someone can make a difference in their community. Since this movie places a lot of attention on the titular dog, some story elements end up being over-looked. One of them is seeing how the main protagonist lives his life with a disability. I know there’s a prequel to this film called Christmas with Tucker. I haven’t seen it, but I’d like to see how it holds up to A Dog Named Christmas!
Sweet Nothing in My Ear
I saw this movie for the first time in 2020 and it made me miss the Hallmark Hall of Fame films of yester-year. Even though this story revolves around a debate, the overall project was interesting to watch. Both sides are treated equally and are given enough time to present their case. I don’t like the ending, but I can understand why the creative team made that specific choice. Sweet Nothing in My Ear is a unique addition to the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection!
Pictures of Hollis Woods
I haven’t seen this movie in years, but I recall having a good experience watching it. However, this film has flown under the radar for far too long. The acting is good and the overarching message of family is incorporated into the story very well. I also remember one of the characters lives in and owns a movie theater. This was a highlight for me because that is a dream of mine.
As I’ve said before, mysteries are not often found in Hallmark Hall of Fame projects. It is even rarer when the entire plot is a mystery story. The overall quality of the film’s writing is strong and I also liked the acting performances. However, like I said about Blind Spot, Karina Arroyave’s talents were under-utilized in this project. I’m surprised this movie has never been aired on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, as this title fits the network’s brand.
Grace & Glorie
One of the plot points of this film is a woman from a big city moving to a small town. However, it never felt like the project was following a formula. Instead, the story focuses on the friendship between Grace and Gloria. This part of the movie provided interesting opportunities for character development and exploration of certain themes. The movie also showcased wonderful scenery.
Christmas with Holly
In Christmas with Holly, the protagonist and his brothers take care of Holly after she loses her mother. This part of the movie reminded me of Three Men and a Baby. But what’s great about this 2012 release is how it takes a pre-existing story structure and creates a different narrative with it. While there was a romance in this film, it was never heavily emphasized like in other Hall of Fame titles. The overall story felt well-rounded.
A Smile as Big as the Moon
This is one of my favorite Hallmark Hall of Fame films! I was really impressed with the overall quality of the project when I first saw it in 2012. There is so much to like about this movie, from the acting performances to the messages and themes. To me, this is the perfect example of what a Hall of Fame should be.
I’m not going to lie; I thought the title sounded ridiculous when I first heard it. But the movie was better than I expected it to be! This film does a good job at exploring how childhood cancer can affect a child and the people around them. It also has a genuine sincerity that doesn’t feel too mushy or manipulative. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say this is a good choice to watch around Christmas-time!
The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler
Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are known for having larger budgets than a typical Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film. The creative team behind The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler used that budget to their advantage. The presentation of this film is so good, it feels like a theatrical release! Everything about the movie feels like it is of the highest quality. I honestly wish Hallmark created more Hall of Fame pictures like this one.
Follow the Stars Home
From the moment I first saw this movie, I knew it would be a winner! But it sometimes feels like this film doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. The acting performances from the whole cast is one of the strongest components of this project. This movie also contains one of the most intense scenes I’ve ever seen in a film. Follow the Stars Home does a good job at balancing the lighted-hearted and serious moments of the story.
The Sarah, Plain and Tall trilogy
This series introduced me to Hallmark Hall of Fame as well as Hallmark films in general. I’d say this is one of the strongest trilogies in film history! The overall quality is consistent and it feels like the creative team truly cared about the project they were making. I would like to see Hallmark attempt another series within their Hallmark Hall of Fame branch!
Ellen Foster is an excellent, but sad film! What makes this movie work is Jena Malone’s performance, as she carries the entire project! This movie features one of the few times where a young person is the film’s lead. The story as a whole is an emotional roller coaster ride that makes its audience experience a variety of feelings. I haven’t read the book this film is based on, but I’d be interested in reading how emotionally intense it is compared to the film.
What the Deaf Man Heard
I have fallen in love with this movie since I first saw it! It does a great job showing how far someone will go to show their love for another person. This film also shows how easy it is for people to take things at face value. There are other solid messages in this story, but I don’t want to spoil it. What the Deaf Man Heard is another Hall of Fame title I can’t recommend enough! It’s also based on a book, so I’d like to read it someday!
Even though I’ve reviewed several of the newer mystery films from Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, it has been awhile since I’ve talked about a Hallmark-esque movie. In fact, the last movie of this kind I reviewed was The Carpenter’s Miracle back in March. Since the last two movies that were covered on 18 Cinema Lane were darker, I chose a film that was somewhat lighter. Recently, Up Network aired the 1990 film, A Son’s Promise. Prior to watching it, I had never even heard of this title. However, I am familiar with Ricky Schroder’s acting work, especially his projects from Hallmark. So, I decided to choose A Son’s Promise as my next movie to review! I haven’t heard many people talking about this film, so this review is a perfect opportunity to give an under-rated movie a chance to receive a “standing ovation”!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: A common factor I noticed while watching the acting performances is the amount of sincerity the actors put into their roles. This is definitely the case for Ricky Schroder’s portrayal of Terry. Not only was his performance sincere, but there was also a pure goodness that showed through. In one scene, Terry is sad that he lost his job. As he carries out his tear-filled explanation, you can always tell his heart is in the right place. Veronica Cartwright’s portrayal of Dorothy also contained a genuine goodness to it. She was able to successfully show the gentle nature that humans can sometimes have. No matter what the situation was, Dorothy always remained calm. Donald Moffat did a good job portraying Paw Paw! He brought a sense of believability to his role that was convincing. A good example is when Paw Paw is in the hospital. You could feel the fear and uncertainty of that circumstance because of the quality of Donald’s performance. Despite his limited presence on screen, Donald brought a very memorable role to life!
The messages and themes: Movies like A Son’s Promise are known for containing messages and themes that are important and relatable. In this film, one of the messages relates to dealing with loss. At their mother’s funeral, the youngest son in the O’Kelley family asks if they are leaving their mother in the cemetery. Terry tells him no by telling him and his brothers that they will always carry their mother in their hearts. An overarching theme in A Son’s Promise is trust. When speaking with Dorothy, Terry confesses that he is the only person he can trust. Through Terry’s interactions with various characters, we can see how placing trust in others or choosing not to do so can shape someone’s perspective. This theme also shows how the company we keep can make or break a person.
The scenery: Because this movie takes place in rural Georgia, the surrounding scenery reflects this type of location. Near the O’Kelley family’s house, expansive farmland and rolling hills can be seen. Soft yellows and hints of green make up this location’s official color scheme. Other locations that are shown include a forest and a lake, which boast hues of green and blue. Similar to the aforementioned farmland and hills, these settings are serene and have a peaceful quality to them. Even the cemetery appeared as a tranquil space, with the orange of the fallen leaves set against the gray of the headstones. All of these locations gave the impression that time can stand still and there are places that can make people feel safe.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Some brothers receiving more character development than others: This story is about Terry trying to take care of his six brothers after his mother’s death. Because of the large number of siblings, it is difficult for some of the brothers to receive character development. The movie revolves around Terry, giving the audience an opportunity to truly get to know him as a character. Two of the older brothers are given some character development, while the four younger brothers don’t receive much character development. It also doesn’t help that the four younger brothers were in the film for a limited amount of time. Overall, I felt like I never really got to know Terry’s brothers, but only became familiar with them.
Dorothy’s role in Terry’s life: I liked the character of Dorothy as well as Veronica’s performance. However, Dorothy’s role was under-utilized in this story. When she first meets Terry and his brothers, Dorothy tells them she has more authority than a lawyer and how she has a multitude of resources. But, throughout the film, we never see her professional role in action. Sure, she helps Terry at times. She becomes a shoulder to cry on and provides a listening ear when necessary. However, Dorothy isn’t shown doing much to help Terry’s brothers. I’m not saying Dorothy’s role wasn’t important. I just don’t think its inclusion was effective.
A drawn-out story: The story of A Son’s Promise is centered around Terry trying to get his brothers out of foster care so they can stay together. Since this is the film’s primary focus, it causes the overall story to feel drawn out. I understand this procession would take a significant amount of time in real life. But, in the movie, it makes the project feel longer than its given run-time. Whenever Terry experiences adversity, it felt like the process became prolonged. It got to the point where I heard myself asking “How much longer until Terry finally catches a break”? Because of how drawn-out the story was, some details were glossed over. Throughout the film, a local appliance salesman steps in to help the O’Kelley family. His intentions are never made clear and he also doesn’t provide a reason for wanting to help. The lack of answers for these questions are the result of the drawn story.
My overall impression:
One of the most common types of film that is covered on 18 Cinema Lane is Hallmark/Hallmark-esque films. Not only do I enjoy talking about these projects, but it seems like my readers, followers, and visitors like reading about them. So, I try my best to include these films on my blog. I thought A Son’s Promise was a fine movie. The project contained elements that would normally be found in a movie from the Gold Crown company, such as quality acting and significant themes. But there were also flaws that prevented the film from being greater than it was. One example is how the overall story was drawn-out, causing the picture to feel longer than two hours. What surprised me about A Son’s Promise is how there was no mention of the real life O’Kelley family, despite how this film is based on a true story. In movies like this one, there is, more often than not, a message about the true events and/or a photo of the actual people the project is based on. Maybe the family wanted to protect their identity? If you like Hallmark films, specifically of the Hall of Fame variety, you may enjoy A Son’s Promise. Even though there are movies of this nature that are stronger than this one, its heart is in the right place.
Overall score: 7.1 out of 10
Have you seen A Son’s Promise? Do you like the movies that Up Network has recently aired? Let me know in the comment section!
1. In your double feature’s introduction, you mentioned the fact both Rich Kids and Over the Edge were released in 1979. Is there anything from this time period that could have influenced these films?
At the beginning of the movie, a series of text appeared on the screen. This text stated that Over the Edge was based on true events. According to this part of the film, 110,000 youth under the age of 18 were arrested for crimes of vandalism in 1978. Also, the text revealed that one growing suburban community had young people under the age of 15 represent about a third of its population. Because of this, neighborhood planners/developers were having difficulty finding a way to deal with the situation. These true events not only influenced the film’s creation, but also gave it a reason to exist.
2. In this introduction, you also said you “had never heard of Over the Edge before” you saw Siskel and Ebert’s review. Why do you think this film has gotten very little recognition compared to other films from the ‘70s?
From the way I see it, cinema in the 1970s was about telling stories and doing things on film that had never been done before. Take, for instance, Star Wars: A New Hope and Jaws. Both of those films tested the limits of technology, through the use of animatronics and special effects. The contributions to cinema that were made through these two films helped them become products to remember and stand the test of time. Over the Edge, on the other hand, doesn’t really seem to break any new ground. Movies about youth were not a newer concept at this time. Also, this film had a story that was more grounded in reality. This is different from the previous two films I mentioned, Star Wars: A New Hope and Jaws, that focused on spectacle and creating a sense of escapism for their audience.
3. Do the socio-economics of each film’s world affect the characters or the story?
When it comes to Over the Edge, no. It doesn’t. Honestly, money and economic status are barely brought up in this film. Similar to Rich Kids, the primary focus was placed on the characters and how they reacted to and dealt with their problems. Giving these characters a sense of realism was more important to this creative team than talking about dollars and cents.
4. Do you agree or disagree with Siskel and/or Ebert’s views on these films? Why?
There are a few points both Siskel and Ebert make in their review of Over the Edge that I disagree with. When talking about this film, Ebert shared his disappointment over the movie’s “Hollywood ending” which involves “a big, explosive climax” where the kids of the neighborhood lock the adults inside of their school while they cause a night of chaos. I disagree with Ebert’s view on this third act because, to me, it didn’t feel like an ending you’d find in most blockbusters. While explosions made those scenes look visually interesting, I believe the purpose of those scenes are meant to show how bad a situation can get when the discovery of a solution is prolonged.
Once again, Siskel calls the parents in Over the Edge “a bunch of boobs”. And, once again, I would go so far as to say that these parents are uninvolved in the lives of their children. Throughout the story, they are so wrapped up in their own issues, that they don’t take the time to listen to and understand their children. Sure, there’s one scene where Richie White has a conversation with his mom during a car ride home. But this scene is brief and the conversation is short. In this review, Siskel also makes the argument that the film’s central message is how the country needs more recreational facilities. My counter-argument is how the film’s message is almost the same as the one in Rich Kids: if young people don’t receive guidance from a parent, guardian, or mentor figure, they are going to find it elsewhere.
5. When it comes to both films, Siskel and Ebert agreed on their views of the adult characters in each story. Did these characters have any significance within their respective movie?
Like I said in my Rich Kids review, the lack of involvement from the parents shows just how much they’re needed in their children’s lives. During the film’s third act, at a meeting in the neighborhood’s school, the adults are trying to figure out the reason behind the recent crimes. Teachers, parents, and even the teen center counselor are blamed for Richie White’s death as well as the poor choices of the youth. What this scene does is highlight my point perfectly. It also shows how they all could have done more to help the youth in their community.
6. Besides having young actors as the leads, do these films share any similarities?
One major aspect of this story was how the young characters stuck together and found more trust in each other than in the adults. In Rich Kids, Franny and Jamie were able to help each other deal with their parents’ divorce. For Over the Edge, these characters faced more than one issue, from the death of one of their peers to the changes in their neighborhood. Like Jamie and Franny, the young characters in Over the Edge try the best they can to figure everything out. They do this by talking to each other about their problems and creating their own ideas of “fun”.
7. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?
While I came up with several thoughts and questions while watching Over the Edge, I’ll share just one question and one thought in this review. As I said in answer number four, the children lock the adults inside their school. The room where the adults are in, the auditorium, is located near the main entrance. This main entrance features double doors that have glass windows. Why didn’t anyone think of trying to break the windows in order to escape? To me, this decision not to was baffling, especially since there was a police officer among the group of adults.
Speaking of when the children lock the adults in the school, I saw something among those scenes that made me think about a potential plot twist. While the children are causing chaos, one boy is seen riding Richie’s bicycle. For a moment, I thought the script would pull off a plot twist where Richie ended up being alive and had just escaped police custody. However, that’s not the direction the story chose to take.
8. Is there anything about this movie that you liked or didn’t like?
Similar to Rich Kids, I thought the acting was one of the strongest parts of this film! Since the majority of this cast was made up of young actors and actresses, they proved they had what it took, talent wise, to carry a movie. One of the standout performances came from Michael Kramer, who portrayed Carl Willat. A memorable scene was when Carl was on the phone with one of his friends, curious about what happened to Richie. When he discovers that Richie died, Carl’s face quickly changes from genuine curiosity to being on the verge of tears.
Even though I liked the acting in this film, I think the character development could have been stronger. While I got to know the characters, I feel like I could’ve gotten to know them better. There was always this invisible distance between the characters and the audience. Things they said or did left me with unanswered questions. In the end, this aspect of the movie left more to be desired.
9. Is there any aspect of either film that could be seen as relevant today?
Throughout the film, the idea of actions leading to consequences was an overarching part of this story. One example is when Richie and Carl decide to run away. They steal Richie’s mom’s car and drive without a license or permit. They also carry a gun with them. As a result of these actions, Carl develops a juvenile record and Richie is killed in self-defense. The idea that I just mentioned reminds the audience of the importance of thinking before acting and accountability.
10. After watching Over the Edge, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?
In my opinion, a documentary about the events that inspired this movie would have been more interesting than the movie ended up being. It would be fascinating to hear from multiple perspectives and discover how their lives have changed since then. As for Over the Edge, it seems like the creative team tried to make an elaborate speech out of a simple message. While it can be thought-provoking to a certain extent, it doesn’t really try to do anything new. Over the Edge had so much going on, but at the same time had nothing happening at all.