Take 3: Lake Effects Review

‘Family Vacation Films’, that’s the theme of August’s Genre Grandeur. When one mentions this subject, the idea of happy times or fun destinations usually come to mind. What also comes to mind is how a family chooses to go on these trips, mostly to have a good experience. But what if a family takes a vacation out of necessity? And what if it wasn’t possible for that family to take a literal trip? Perhaps a “staycation” would have to be in order. A figurative trip away from personal hardships, doubt, and stresses of everyday life. This is the case of Lake Effects, the movie I’ve selected for this month’s event. While Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, could be a vacation spot, the protagonist and her family live in that location. But due to a family tragedy, they are forced to take a break from their daily lives. Whether a family vacation is close to home or travels abroad, what’s important are memories shared together.

Lake Effects poster created by Life Out Loud Films (LOL), Hallmark Channel, and Anchor Bay Entertainment 

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Around the time of this film’s release, 2012, Jane Seymour appeared in several Hallmark productions. Whether starring in Dear Prudence and Perfectly Prudence or in a supporting role in A Royal Christmas, these roles have been enjoyable to watch. In Lake Effects, Jane’s portrayal of Vivian was one of the strongest performances in this movie! A tradition Vivian and her husband, Ray, shared was Ray giving Vivian a pink rose every Friday. While cleaning out the closet, Vivian finds a box of old roses from Ray. Out of the blue, she starting sobbing. Because of Ray’s death, all Vivian’s bottled-up feelings bubbled over.

Another strong performance came from Scottie Thompson, who portrayed the protagonist, Sara. While sharing a drink with her sister, Lily, Sara reminisces over memories of her father. But when she remembers a secret her father kept from the family, Sara’s demeanor quickly changes. Her face falls in a serious expression, not sugarcoating anything she’s saying. Sara’s tone of voice is also serious, attempting to get Lily to see things from her perspective.

I was pleasantly surprised by Ben Savage’s performance in Lake Effects. His character, Carl, was very different from his portrayal of Corey Matthews from Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World. Carl was an enthusiastic man who was passionate about finding a mythical creature called the Smithy. But there are times when he can be awkward. This is the case when being interviewed by a television host. During the interview, Carl has a blank look on his face, unsure of what to do. Sitting tense on a couch, Carl is nervous about being filmed, especially since he’s never been interviewed before. What made this performance work was how believable it was.

The scenery: At the end of Lake Effects, on-screen text states the movie was “filmed entirely on location at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia”. As someone who never knew this location existed until I watched this movie, I was impressed by the natural beauty it had to offer! The film opens with the sun rising over the lake. The peach-gray glow of the rising sun reflected off the water, creating a peaceful environment. In an overhead, cutaway shot, the lake was shown during the day. The clear, blue water was surrounded by green lawns and a mixture of green and orange trees. Topped off with a clear sky, this location appeared inviting!

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 I didn’t like about the film:

On-the-nose music: As I’ve stated before, music can highlight a scene’s intended mood and elevate emotions among the characters. Even if there are lyrics within the music, those songs should appropriately fit what’s happening on screen. But in the case of Lake Effects, the music was so on-the-nose, it was, honestly, cringey. One example happens when Sara and Lily are sharing drinks at a local restaurant. A live band performs a song containing the lyrics “there’s a storm that’s brewing outside”. A few minutes later, Sara shares Ray’s secret, causing animosity between her and Lily. Because this happened on more than one occasion, the on-the-nose music became annoying.

Inconsistent elements: There were some elements of the story that were inconsistent. Technology was one of them. When Sara is arriving at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, she is experiencing technical issues with her Bluetooth earpiece. She even says “is it still stringing tin cans around here”? A few scenes later, Sara accepts a call on her cell phone in her parents’ driveway. Based on that short call, it seems like her phone is working perfectly fine. As I already mentioned, Sara has a Bluetooth earpiece, as well as a cell phone. This phone looks like a smartphone from around the early 2010s. Meanwhile, Carl receives a call on a flip-phone from the previous decade. In one scene, a cassette boombox was featured at an event. With all that said, it seems like Hallmark forgot when Lake Effects was meant to take place.

Too many cliches: Back in 2020, I reviewed JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift. One of the flaws of that film was how many Hallmark movie cliches were featured in the story. Lake Effects has the exact same issue. The 2012 production was filled with cliches typically found in Hallmark Channel movies. A few of these cliches are the “woman from the city coming back to her small hometown” cliché, the “save the (insert establishment here)” cliché, the “business person is a jerk and/or out of touch” cliché, and the “small town festival conveniently taking place” cliché. What’s frustrating about Lake Effects is how it was originally shown on what is now known as Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. This second network has historically created films that were more dramatic and serious from Hallmark Channel’s lighter content. The inclusion of these cliches made the purpose of this story confusing. Was this film meant to be a Hallmark Channel movie, but Hallmark ended up premiering it on the second channel? Or was Lake Effects always meant to have a serious tone, border-lining Hallmark Hall of Fame?

So many story ideas: Like I just mentioned, there were too many cliches found in Lake Effects. These cliches lent themselves to several story ideas. Because of the inclusion of the “save the (insert establishment here)” cliché, part of the story revolved around Sara attempting to save her family’s home. Since so much emphasis was given to this part of the plot, other story ideas weren’t fully developed. In Smith Mountain Lake, there was a group called the “She-Doos”. This group consisted of women who take occasional trips on their jet-skis. With the “She-Doos”, there was an interesting story idea waiting to come to fruition. Unfortunately, it was competing with several other story ideas, trying to win over the audience’s attention.

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.

My overall impression:

Lake Effects is a movie Hallmark fans typically don’t talk about. It also seems to have been forgotten over the years. Now that I’ve seen the film, I think I have an idea why this is the case. The 2012 title is uninspiring. It’s filled with too many cliches, but doesn’t take the initiative to try anything new. Lake Effects attempts to adopt many different stories. However, the execution of these stories was weak. I will admit the scenery was aesthetically pleasing. But, as I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, “the scenery can’t save you”. Like I’ve also said, a film’s script can make or break a production. If the script isn’t strong, there’s only so much a creative team can do to remedy the issue. While watching Lake Effects, there were a few story ideas trying to burst out of the murkiness of poor content. Sadly, these ideas couldn’t reach above the surface.

Overall score: 4.5 out of 10

Have you seen Lake Effects? Are there any lesser known Hallmark movies you’d like to see me review? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Nature of Love Review

I know it has been awhile since I reviewed a Hallmark Channel movie. The last one I wrote about was the 2011 picture, Honeymoon for One, which was my submission for the Out to Sea Blogathon back in March. Since I just watched Nature of Love, I decided to discuss one of Hallmark’s more recent releases. A reason why I’ve watched less new Hallmark Channel movies this year is how most of them reuse the same plot ideas. What set Nature of Love apart is the inclusion of glamping, or “glamourous camping”. This is Hallmark history in the making, as this specific concept has never been featured in a Hallmark film until now. Anytime the network introduces a new idea like this into one of their stories, I’m always curious to see how it will be executed within the movie. As someone who supports Hallmark taking creative risks, I appreciate when they choose to leave their comfort zone.

Nature of Love poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=142&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Nature+of+Love.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Emilie Ullerup is an actress with strong acting abilities! I’ve seen her performances on Chesapeake Shores and in most of her Hallmark movies. What I liked about Emilie’s portrayal of Katie is how expressive it was. One of her best scenes in Nature of Love was when she went on the rope course/zip-lane. The emotions Emilie adopted for her character made the performance appear believable. One of my favorite Hallmark films is Midnight Masquerade. Christopher Russell’s endearing performance is one of the reasons why I love that film. Christopher’s portrayal of Will in Nature of Love was not only endearing, but also charming! I liked how the character of Will was used to instill wisdom to Katie and the audience. It brought a “wise beyond their years” element to Christopher’s character that is not often incorporated in Hallmark productions. A stand-out performance in Nature of Love came from Donna Benedicto! I enjoyed watching her portrayal of Penny, Katie’s new friend from camp. She was expressive and, at times, hilarious. One example is when Penny is telling Katie to reveal the real reason why she’s at the camp.

The scenery: Whenever Hallmark creates a film that revolves around travel, the creative team behind that project usually does a good job at capturing the natural beauty of that location. For Nature of Love, the landscape consisted of forestry, mountains, and lakes. Filmed in British Columbia, these locations were photogenic and appealing to the eye! In two scenes, Will and Katie watch the sun rising over a mountain. The bright colors of orange, purple, and yellow complimented the mountain’s light gray. Two other scenes boasted a field of lavender. The flowers’ shade of purple dominated the screen, with the appearance and abundance of the plants highlighting those scenes. While watching this film, I could tell this film’s creative team loved this location, as they provided multiple opportunities to show this location off! I enjoyed seeing these spaces as much as the creative team liked sharing them!

The glamping experience: As I said in the introduction, I was excited to see glamping featured in a Hallmark movie! Even though the idea of camping has appeared in Hallmark projects before, this is the first time this particular form of camping has been incorporated in Hallmark’s films. Nature of Love successfully promotes the idea of glamping by providing a balance between the “glamour” and “rustic”. The activities shown in this film included canoeing, horse riding, and making s’mores, things that would typically be associated with the camping experience. Representing the glamourous side were gourmet meals, up-scale tents, and resort style amenities. If the purpose of this movie was to entice viewers to desire a glamping vacation, I think it accomplished that mission.

Glamping tent image created by Freepik at freepik.com. Business vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The CGI animals: Hallmark is not known for incorporating CGI into their films. But there have been rare occasions where CGI was found. In Nature of Love, a few CGI animals are included in the movie. While the CGI itself looked fine, it was obvious the animals were added to the scenes in post-production. Fortunately, there was more stock footage of real animals than animals created with CGI.

Weak conflicts: Nature of Love had three conflicts within the script. One of them revolved around the expansion of the glamping resort. This conflict turned into a “save the establishment” story. The other two conflicts were interconnected. They were about Katie going out of her comfort zone and dealing with an ethical dilemma related to journalism. I found all three conflicts to be on the weaker side because they’ve been seen before in other Hallmark films. The creative team behind this movie played it safe with their story.

Things that didn’t make sense: At several moments, there was dialogue spoken by the characters that didn’t make sense within the story. When Katie is talking with her boss, Sabrina, about her article, Sabrina tells her she should write about Will. Katie’s boss acts as if she has no idea who he is. This doesn’t make sense because Sabrina gave Katie the assignment to go to the glamping resort. Because of this, you’d think she would have done research about the resort and the people who work there.

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.

My overall impression:

When Hallmark incorporates a new idea into one of their movies, it shows how the network can expand their creative horizons. If the new idea involves travel, it can inspire viewers to take a similar trip like the characters in the story. In the case of Nature of Love, this movie effectively promoted the idea of glamping. With the help of beautiful scenery and a balance between “glamour” and camping, this concept was positively presented to the viewers. But movies are not just meant to promote ideas, they are also created to tell stories. The story of Nature of Love could have stronger. The conflicts were rehashed from previous Hallmark entries and some of the dialogue didn’t make sense in the story. This movie is a fine, harmless production from the network. But when you look beyond the glamping promotion, you will see that Nature of Love is more typical than it appears.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen Nature of Love? Which vacation destination would you like to see in a Hallmark movie? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Cabin Review

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

What I didn’t like about the film:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

My overall impression:

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

 

Overall score: 5.5 out of 10

 

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

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen