Take 3: The Sea of Grass Review

When I participated in last year’s Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, I reviewed It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World and One Christmas. The first movie was not my cup of tea, but I found the second movie to be just ok. This time around, I decided to write about one movie starring both Spencer and Katharine. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t watch films from the Western genre often. This is the reason why I chose to review The Sea of Grass. Looking back on the movies I’ve seen from Spencer and Katharine’s filmographies, this is the first time I’ve seen one of their titles where both actors were the leads. Spencer and Katharine are talented actors individually, so it was interesting to see them acting alongside one another!

The Sea of Grass poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In The Sea of Grass, Katharine Hepburn portrays Lutie Cameron, a St. Louis native who moves to the country in order to marry Colonel Jim Brewton. Toward the beginning of the film, Lutie comes across as naïve, as she is a romantic at heart. As she stays in the country, Lutie gains a sense of maturity and grows as a person. Throughout her character’s journey, Katharine was able to show this transition in her acting performance by adopting a variety of emotions. The “sea of grass” this film is named after is Colonel Jim Brewton’s favorite spot. While talking about it with Lutie, Jim describes the fields like a convincing salesman. His face contains a look of longing; reflecting on the past, present, and future of his prized field of grass. The way he talks about it shows how much he cares for this patch of earth. The facial expressions and tone of voice Spencer adopts persuade the audience of this location’s importance. Spencer’s expressions and vocal inflections also reveal the cracks in Jim’s foundation as the story continues. Brice Chamberlain, a local lawyer, is portrayed by Melvyn Douglas. Whenever his character interacted with Lutie, Melvyn was able to, talent-wise, go toe-to-toe with Katharine. He delivered thought-out remarks with a serious calm that one might expect from a respected lawyer. A professional composure was also present in Melvyn’s performance. Because his on-screen personality was different from Katharine’s, it created an interesting dynamic.

The scenery: The majority of The Sea of Grass takes place in the country. Because of this, the natural landscape of this environment is shown in several scenes! When characters travel through the desert, huge mountainous rocks illustrate just how small humans are compared to the large scope of nature. Long and medium shots are used to emphasis this idea. Even the “sea of grass” is featured in a few scenes, its beauty captured well on screen! Sweeping shots showed the vast size of this field. As the wind blew, the movements of the grass looked like the rippling of water. All of these components came together to create a calming space!

Katharine’s wardrobe: Throughout the movie, Katharine showcased an impressive wardrobe that complimented her well! This is because all of her outfits were simple, but elegant. When Lutie and Jim are sharing their first dinner after their wedding, she wears a white long-sleeved dress with a small set of flowers in the front of the dress’s top. Later in the movie, Katharine wears a black-and-white, over-the shoulder dress. This outfit was paired nicely with a dainty black choker and ponytail hair-do. What’s also worth pointing out is how Katharine’s wardrobe in The Sea of Grass appeared historically accurate with the film’s time period.

The Third Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

More emphasis on telling: At the beginning of the movie, several people in Salt Fork inform Lutie about how awful of a person Jim is. He is, apparently, such a bad person, some compare him to a tyrant. While the audience can hear Jim say harmful things, they never get to see him do harmful actions. This creative decision gives the viewers only part of a bigger picture when it comes to Jim Brewton. Whenever the subject of people using the “sea of grass” is brought up, Jim is very specific about how the land should be used. If someone objects to these ideas, Jim tells others what he’s going to do instead of carrying out the deed.

No major conflict: Since the film is called The Sea of Grass, you’d think most of the story would revolve around the “sea of grass” itself. Instead, the film prioritizes the personal events of the characters. Stories that are character driven can work. But when you have an interesting conflict like how to utilize a field of grass, the character’s stories don’t seem as interesting. While the triumphs and tragedies of Lutie and company are highlighted, the “sea of grass” is relegated to a subplot.

Times moves too fast: In a movie where time progresses, there is usually some indicator that a jump in time has occurred. This is done through on-screen text or a voice-over. The Sea of Grass, unfortunately, doesn’t utilize any techniques to inform their audience that time has moved forward, causing changes to appear abruptly. A perfect example are the lives of Sara Beth and Brock. In one scene, Sara Beth is shown as a little girl, while Brock is a toddler. The very next scene shows Sara Beth and Brock as older children, appearing to be ten and eight.

Small, western town image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When I chose to review The Sea of Grass, I wanted to expand my Western genre horizons. This decision taught me that Western tragedies do exist. Despite seeing a handful of Westerns, the movie was quite different from other films I’ve seen in this genre. Even though I knew that this movie was about a rocky relationship, it was sadder than I expected. The Sea of Grass is a fine film with strong components, like the acting and scenery. However, it does have its flaws that shouldn’t be ignored. While the “sea of grass” is shown on screen, it isn’t as significant as the title would suggest. In fact, this location feels more like a glorified backdrop. I will say that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy do work well together as actors. As the years go by, I would like to see more of their films where they both star as the leads.

Overall score: 7.3 out of 10

Do you like watching Western films? Are there any Westerns you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift Review

It’s been four months since I last reviewed a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film. To fix this, I chose to write about the newest sequel, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift! I saw the first movie when it premiered four years ago, which I thought was just ok. Therefore, I was not asking Hallmark to grant this title a second chapter. Despite not being a fan of JL Family Ranch, I wanted to watch the sequel with an open mind. Providing Hallmark Movies & Mysteries related content was also my intent. Earlier this month, in a Word on the Street story, I talked about JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift’s trailer. In that article, I said the trailer made the movie feel like it took a tonal shift from the first movie. But unless I watched the movie for myself, I wouldn’t know how this shift would affect my movie-viewing experience.

JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Most of the cast members from JL Family Ranch appeared in the sequel. This worked in the cast’s favor, as they knew what to expect from each other, talent-wise! Teri Polo had good on-screen chemistry with her co-stars, especially those that appeared in the first movie. She also gave her character, Rebecca Landsburg, a stoic persona. This creative choice allowed the audience to see how having so much on her plate really affected her. When James Caan’s character, Tap Peterson, appeared in the film, a sense of defeat could be seen and felt. This was caused by events that take place within Tap’s subplot. In a scene where he goes to the bank to ask for a large sum of money, facial expressions and body language effectively show what is going on in Tap’s mind. New faces in this cast also found their way to shine! Judson Mills is one example, portraying a new character named Caleb Peterson. Though he was only in select scenes, his performance still left a memorable impression on me. One scene showed Caleb on his phone, talking about an important matter. As the scene plays out, Caleb goes from looking concerned to being on the verge of tears.

The scenery: The scenery in JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift effectively reflected the characters’ rural lifestyle, presenting a stylized version of a ranch family. Sweeping establishing shots captured the green pastures surrounding the family’s bed and breakfast. Picturesque fields were shown in scenes where characters ride their horses. When Rebecca and her fiancé, Henry, are having a private picnic, they are sitting next to a river. The clear blue of the water paired with the surrounding grass nicely. These locations promoted the ideas of the calm and tranquility a rural setting can offer!

Tap Peterson’s house: There have been some gorgeous houses to grace the backgrounds of Hallmark’s productions. Tap Peterson’s house in JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift is one of them! Its white exterior boasts a traditional colonial style, complete with a manicured front yard. The interior design within the house displayed a well-to-do setting fit for the prominent rancher Tap is. In one room, the rich wood on the walls complimented a cream armchair with a red pattern. Another room contained white walls showcasing blue and green glass plates. Each design choice was elegant and classy, creating a timeless look in each room presented on screen!

Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Poor audio: While I haven’t seen Follow Me to Daisy Hills or Falling for Look Lodge, I have heard there are audio problems within these movies. It seems like poor audio has become commonplace in Hallmark’s productions lately, as JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift contained the same flaw. All of the characters sounded muffled whenever they spoke, especially when scenes took place outdoors. Because of this, it was difficult at times to understand what was being said. I’m not sure if music or microphone related issues are what caused the movie’s audio to be poor. What I am sure about is this problem was consistent throughout the film.

Too many cliches: I know Hallmark loves their cliches like Santa loves milk and cookies. But JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift incorporated too many cliches that have been featured in many other Hallmark films. Four of these cliches were discussed in my list of the top ten worst cliches from Hallmark movies: the “we’re not together” cliché, the “it’s not what you think” cliché, the “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché, and the “planning a wedding in an unrealistic time period” cliché. JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift also showcased cliches that I’ve never talked about on my blog before, such as the “save the (insert establishment here)” cliché and the “owner of a bed & breakfast trying to impress a travel critic/writer” cliché. If Hallmark knew they were going to use any of these clichés in this movie, they should have put a new twist on them. One idea is to have the travel critic/writer be one of the character’s exes. This way, it creates a compelling conflict of interest dynamic.

Convenient resolutions: On multiple occasions, situations in JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift were resolved too conveniently. One example can be found toward the beginning of the film. After a surprise wedding proposal, two travel writers that had come to the bed and breakfast a day early decide to leave sooner than expected. When John tells them there will be an engagement brunch that same morning and when the writers discover all the food of the brunch are “farm to table”, the writers’ impression of the bed and breakfast quickly begins to change. The circumstances that caused these writers to change their perspective were placed at a convenient time in the story.  But because of how everything in that situation happened so quickly, it made the resolution seem like it was met too conveniently.

First wedding dance image created by Teksomolika at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/newlyweds-dancing-at-their-wedding_983404.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/wedding”>Wedding image created by Teksomolika – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

In 2018, I named Marrying Mr. Darcy the tenth worst movie I saw that year. My reason was how the film could have been better than its predecessor, but ended up being a disappointment. JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift made me feel the same way. The 2020 sequel was a disappointingly average film that never reached its full potential. Instead of receiving an exciting new chapter, the story was drowned in clichés and convenient resolutions. It also didn’t help that the project’s audio was poor. While there are things about this movie I liked, such as the talented cast and Tap Peterson’s house, the script itself didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. When it comes to movies, a story is what makes or breaks that project. In the case of JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, the narrative didn’t do it a lot of favors. As a matter of fact, the movie itself is proof why its predecessor did not need a second part.

Overall score: 5.6 out of 10

Did you watch JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Legends of Western Cinema Week Tag 2020

For the Legends of Western Cinema Week, Hamlette and Heidi created a special tag for participants to engage in. Because the event revolves around westerns, the questions are western themed as well. Out of all the blogathons I have participated in, this is the first one that has a tag associated with it. It’s also the third tag I have posted on 18 Cinema Lane. However, the other two tags correlated with National Reading Month. The western genre is not one that I regularly watch, so my answers may seem like a stretch. However, I have tried my best to provide an honest perspective on this particular area of film.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Heidi from Along the Brandywine. Image found at https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-legends-of-western-cinema.html.
  1. What’s the last western you watched?

That would be the 2015 film, Forsaken. I recently reviewed the movie for this event, so I’ll include the link in my post.

Take 3: Forsaken (2015) Review (A Month Without the Code #3)

2. A western of any stripe (happy or tragic) where you were highly satisfied by the ending?

INSP does not often create their own movies, so it’s nice to check out their efforts when they do release a new project. One of their stronger pictures is The Legend of 5 Mile Cave, which premiered last year. The overall story was solid and everything wrapped up nicely in the end. It had a mystery element that kept me invested from start to finish.

3. The funniest western you’ve seen?

I haven’t seen this movie in quite some time, but I do have fond memories of The Three Amigos! The scene with the singing horses and the talking turtle makes me smile every time I think about it.

4. What similar elements/themes show up in your favorite westerns?

When I think about the western genre, a sense of mystery is something that comes to mind. What I mean by this is there’s always that mystery of how the overarching conflict is going to get resolved. Most westerns also contain a journey, where the characters travel over a certain period of time. This creates the feeling of the audience going on an adventure with the characters.

5. Scariest villain/antagonist in a western?

For this question, I’ll give two answers. My first one is Dr. McQueen from my favorite Little House on the Prairie episode, ‘The Wild Boy’ Part 1 and 2. Not only does this villain think it’s acceptable to mistreat a child, he also represents a type of villain that I find to be the scariest. Dr. McQueen thinks in his mind he can justify his choices, even though he is clearly in the wrong. My second choice is Connie’s husband, Brad, from the Walker, Texas Ranger episode ‘The Juggernaut’. He also thinks he can justify his actions, as well as being the type of villain someone could cross paths with in real-life.

Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

6. Favorite romance in a western?

I’ll choose Rosemary and Lee Coulter from When Calls the Heart! When it comes to their relationship, they bring out the best in each other. They have also come a long way since they were first introduced in the story. It does help that Pascale Hutton and Kavan Smith have great on-screen chemistry. Both Rosemary and Lee are the glue that keeps that show together, as they are two of the best things to happen to When Calls the Heart.

7. Three of your favorite westerns?

Here are three westerns I would recommend:

  • The Legend of 5 Mile Cave – One of the stronger films from INSP. The mystery element allows the audience to stay invested in the story.
  • When Calls The Heart: The Christmas Wishing Tree – The best movie out of When Calls the Heart’s collection of films. It took a tried-and-true idea from other Hallmark projects and gave it a new twist.
  • Cowgirls ‘N Angels – Even though this is a modern western, it was one of the best movies I saw in 2018. The acting was solid and the story was endearing.

8. Favorite actress who made 1 or more westerns?

A movie that I enjoy is Portrait of Jennie! Jennifer Jones’ performance is one of the reasons why I like that film. After doing from research on thegreatwesternmovies.com, I discovered that Jennifer starred in the 1946 movie, Duel in the Sun. I have not seen this movie, so I’ll try to find time to check it out!

9. Favorite western hero/sidekick pairing?

Charles Ingalls and Isaiah Edwards from Little House on the Prairie will be my choice for this question. While they’re not western heroes in the traditional sense, they are heroes in their own right. This is because they try to do the right thing and make Walnut Grove a better place.

10. Share one (or several!) of your favorite quotes from a western.

A quote I like comes from the Walker, Texas Ranger episode ‘The Covenant’. Walker tells his students “These belts don’t come easy. You have to earn them” after they graduate to a green belt. This quote highlights how one should expect to work hard if they truly want something.

White horse image created by Gabor Palla at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Gabor Palla.”

What are your thoughts on this tag? Which westerns do you enjoy watching? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Forsaken (2015) Review (A Month Without the Code #3)

When I reviewed The Crow back in May, I said in the comment section that I wanted to see Michael Wincott cast in a western, as I thought it would be a perfect casting choice. As the months have gone by, I discovered that Michael had starred in the 2015 western film, Forsaken! The Legends of Western Cinema Week is what reminded me of this wish. As a blogger of my word, I chose to review Forsaken as one of my two entries for this event! The western genre is one that isn’t often covered on my blog. While I do re-cap When Calls the Heart, this is an exception to the rule. The last western I reviewed was Little House: Bless All the Dear Children back in July, with the review before that being last year’s When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas. I figured the Legends of Western Cinema Week served as a good excuse to revisit the western genre for the first time in about a month!

Forsaken (2015) poster created by Momentum Pictures, Mind’s Eye Entertainment, Panacea Entertainment, Rollercoaster Films, and Moving Pictures Media. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Forsaken_Poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When I reviewed Caesar and Cleopatra last September, I said in the comment section how Vivien Leigh’s portrayal of Cleopatra felt like Scarlett O’Hara was playing dress-up. This is because I thought the film’s creative team was attempting to take advantage of the popularity and success of Gone with the Wind. As Michael Wincott’s character, Gentleman Dave Turner, was first introduced with the film’s villains, I wondered if this portrayal was going to be a western genre version of Top Dollar from The Crow. Instead, Michael’s performance and the screenwriting presented a character that was his own person with his own story! A consistent aspect of Michael’s portrayal of Dave was the calmness he displayed. Even in the direst of situations, he always appeared to have control of his emotions. When I think of Kiefer Sutherland, I think of his portrayal of Jack Bauer from 24. Spending so much time on a show with a mix of drama and action seems to have paid off for Kiefer, as he was able to display a wide range of emotions! In one scene, Keifer’s character, John Henry, is recalling a fateful decision from his past. As he reflects over the lives of the people he hurt, his demeanor slowly transitions from remorse to sorrowfully sobbing. I’ve seen very few projects from Donald Sutherland’s filmography. However, I did think his portrayal of Reverend Samuel was strong! In a scene where his character is having an argument with John Henry about faith, Donald’s character quickly goes from calm and collected to yelling with anger. His emotionality definitely added to his overall performance!

The scenery: According to IMDB, Forsaken was filmed in Alberta, Canada. This particular landscape was captured very well throughout the film! Distant mountains paired with a blue sky were shown in establishing shots. These natural elements provided a great contrast to the lush, green fields also found in the movie. Forests were a part of the story as well, with sunlight giving this space a natural glow. The overall setting of Forsaken was picturesque and calming, which is different from the rough terrain that is a staple of westerns. This kind of scenery reminded me of shows like Little House of the Prairie and When Calls the Heart!

The on-screen chemistry:  In Forsaken, John Henry reconnects with his former love interest, Mary Alice, who was portrayed by Demi Moore. Keifer and Demi had good on-screen chemistry, as their characters appeared to truly care about each other! Through these performances, John Henry and Mary Alice’s interactions came across as bittersweet. This drove the point home that the romantic nature of their relationship was left in the past. There was also good on-screen chemistry among the other actors! During the film, the tension between John Henry and Reverend Samuel could be felt. It helps that Keifer and Donald had the emotional intensity to deliver performances that a story like this requires.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Heidi from Along the Brandywine. Image found at https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-legends-of-western-cinema.html.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The under-utilization of Michael Wincott: As I said in my introduction, the reason I chose to watch Forsaken is because I wanted to see Michael Wincott in a western. While I got what I wanted, I felt his talents were under-utilized. In this hour and thirty-minute film, Michael appeared in about five scenes. His character’s significance in the story was also not made clear. Gentleman Dave Turner can be seen spending his time with the movie’s villains. However, he claims to be John Henry’s friend and doesn’t condone the actions of his villainous cohorts. I found this part of film frustrating because Michael and his character had a purpose for being in this movie, but I couldn’t figure out what that purpose was.

More emphasis on drama: When it comes to the western genre, a certain amount of action is to be expected. Not all westerns utilize action to its fullest extent, but enough action is incorporated into most westerns to keep the story interesting. In Forsaken, the majority of the plot focused on the drama between John Henry and Reverend Samuel’s strained relationship. This part of the story wasn’t bad, but it did overshadow the action. Throughout the film, there were moments where action could be seen. Most of the action took place in the climax, which happened during the last twenty minutes of the movie. This creative decision caused the action to be used sparingly.

An overshadowed conflict: The overarching conflict in Forsaken is how a group of villains are trying to take over a small town. To me, this was the most compelling part of the plot. Because the story placed more emphasis on the estranged relationship of John Henry and his father, the conflict wasn’t given as much attention as I expected. This conflict was addressed in the film from time to time. However, it didn’t feel like its placement was consistent. While the conflict does get revolved, it doesn’t happen until the film’s last twenty minutes.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

My overall impression:

On 18 Cinema Lane, it seems like 2020 is the year when wishes come true. First, it was Words on Bathroom Walls receiving a distributor and a release date. Next, it was seeing and reviewing the film, The Wife of Monte Cristo. Now, it’s watching Michael Wincott in a western! As I said in my review, I got what I wanted. However, I feel there was more to be desired from Forsaken as a whole. The conflict involving the villains’ attempts to take over the town was the most compelling part of the movie. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the drama between John Henry and his father. Even though westerns do contain a certain amount of drama, the appeal of this genre is the action/adventure aspect of the world and its characters. This gives the audience the feeling of going on a journey with spirited men and women of the Wild West. Despite this movie being rated R, Forsaken could certainly be transformed into a Breen Code era film! The only two offenses I was able to find were the swearing and the amount of on-screen blood. While violence is expected for a western story, this aspect, along with the language, would need to meet Breen Code standards before production began.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you see Forsaken? Are there any western films you’d like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Sally Watches…Walker, Texas Ranger!

For the Legends of Western Cinema Week, I was trying to decide if I should write a movie review for the 2015 film, Forsaken or create another television show review for Walker, Texas Ranger. Instead of selecting just one, I chose both options as my submissions for the blogathon! Prior to writing this post, I had never seen Walker, Texas Ranger. When I accepted my fourth Liebster Award back in July, I shared how I had never watched anything from Chuck Norris’ filmography. Hamlette and Heidi’s event gave me an excuse to not only change that, but to also expand my cinematic horizons to more westerns. Similar to last March’s review of Murder, She Wrote, I have randomly selected three episodes that happened to be airing on the INSP channel. This time, the episodes will be in the order of when I watched them, instead of chronologically. Each episode will be broken down into five categories: what I liked about the episode, what I didn’t like about episode, the story itself, other factors from the episode, and my overall thoughts. After reviewing these three episodes, I will share my final assessment of the show as a whole.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Heidi from Along the Brandywine. Image found at https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-legends-of-western-cinema.html.

Episode Name: The Covenant

Season 3, Episode 11

Premiere Date: December 9th, 1995

The title card for “The Covenant”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

My favorite scene in ‘The Covenant’ takes place toward the beginning of the episode. During a karate class, Walker notices how one of his students, Ricardo, is missing their purple belt. When he asks Ricardo about the whereabouts of his belt, Ricardo tells Walker he placed the belt in his recently deceased sister’s casket so she could take it to Heaven. After his confession, Walker gives Ricardo another purple belt. When this happens, Ricardo’s face immediately lights up. The music playing during this moment sounded like a tune you’d hear when an athlete in an inspirational sports movie reaches a breakthrough. This scene was both heart-breaking and heart-warming, allowing it to stand out in this episode!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Chuck Norris’ claim to fame is his karate skills, which have become a huge draw for any of his productions. This fact is the reason why Walker is an intelligent karate master. While karate was incorporated into this episode, its presence was very limited. In fact, the story was 80% crime drama, with 20% action. Before watching ‘The Covenant’, I had expected the episode to be 50/50 when it comes to the drama and action. However, the only times karate could be seen are in a montage during a karate class and in the story’s climax.

The story itself:

When I first read the synopsis for ‘The Covenant’, it caused me to ask two “what ifs” about The Karate Kid (the original 1984 film). What if Daniel had never crossed paths with Mr. Miyagi? What if Daniel had joined Cobra Kai? I thought watching this episode of Walker, Texas Ranger would give me a basic idea of what these “what ifs” might look like. But as I reflect on ‘The Covenant’, I realize that comparing the stories of Daniel and Tommy, a student of Walker’s, is like comparing an apple pie to an Apple computer. While Cobra Kai was the villainous/antagonistic group in The Karate Kid, I don’t recall any member of that group breaking the law. Meanwhile, the gang that Tommy interacts with are comprised of legitimate criminals with violent actions and police records. This makes Tommy’s situation more dire than Daniel’s.

To me, this episode of Walker, Texas Ranger felt rushed, as the overall pace was faster than other shows of this nature. I don’t know if this is because ‘The Covenant’ was the first episode of Walker, Texas Ranger I had ever seen or if this was a legitimate creative error. But whatever caused this to happen, I found it difficult to keep up with the story. Another flaw I noticed was how context was missing in certain areas of the narrative. Even though this episode is called ‘The Covenant’, I am still confused as to what the covenant is in relation to the plot. Was it an ideology or a group? This question was never answered.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I was not expecting this episode to be Christmas-themed. However, the plot did not feel like a Christmas story. Sure, there were decorations shown in the background. But ‘The Covenant’ could have taken place in any time of year and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
  • Every television show is bound to have aspects that feel of its time. With Walker, Texas Ranger, there are elements that definitely look like it came from the ‘90s. This can be seen through the characters’ clothes, the background graffiti, and even the opening montage. These things definitely make any show feel like a time capsule.
  • Throughout my life, I’ve seen established shows include real-life topics in their episodes. Sometimes, these topics are effortlessly woven in with the episode’s plot. The anti-gang message of ‘The Covenant’ seems like a PSA was wedged into the overall story. I was given the impression the show’s creative team had chosen to write a narrative around an actual issue. There was some dialogue that sounded more like potential slogans than actual conversation. Even a message at the end of the episode revealed how the ‘The Covenant’ was dedicated to young victims of gang violence.

My overall thoughts:

 ‘The Covenant’ is the episode that inspired me to write about Walker, Texas Ranger. The “what ifs” relating to The Karate Kid are also a part of that inspiration. This episode ended up being different from what I expected, as the limited presence of karate is one reason why this is the case. Even though I liked the inclusion of karate, there was less of the sport than I had been led to believe. This is because the episode leaned more toward the criminal/police procedural part of the overall story. If anything, ‘The Covenant’ came across as part crime drama, part “after school special”, with the anti-gang message being dropped into the story rather than woven in. While this is not one of the worst television episodes I’ve ever seen, it definitely could have been stronger.

Rating: A 3 out of 5

As Walker says in ‘The Covenant’, “These belts don’t come easy. You have to earn them”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: The Juggernaut

Season 3, Episode 16

Premiere Date: February 10th, 1996

The title card for “The Juggernaut”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

In ‘The Juggernaut’, Walker has a limited presence within the story because he has to attend a weekend tournament. This creative decision allows the stakes to be raised to a higher level. It presents a scenario where the hero isn’t always readily available to save the day. It also forces the secondary characters to rely on their own skills to resolve the overarching conflict. Another component is how the episode’s villainous character posed a legitimate threat to Walker and those around him. Connie’s husband, Brad, was a terrifying character because of his realistic nature. Patrick St. Esprit’s performance added to Brad’s sinister persona as well. All of these elements helped make the episode suspenseful and it made me fear for the characters’ lives.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

As I just mentioned, Walker has to attend a weekend tournament. Because of this, Trivette steps in to host a self-defense class at a retreat for domestic violence survivors. I liked how the actual tournament was shown in the episode, as referenced events or situations aren’t always visually presented in TV episodes. But what I didn’t like was how the tournament itself seemed more like a karate clinic. This is because the referee was coaching the athletes during duels and the athletes were surrounding the ring as if listening to an instructor in a class. At the retreat, Trivette led his self-defense class in an interesting way, allowing the survivors to hit him while he was wearing multiple layers of padding. This helped the survivors become comfortable with striking an attacker. The actual lesson didn’t take place until the episode’s halfway point. In my opinion, this moment should have happened sooner in the story.

The story itself:

Unlike ‘The Covenant’, the topic of domestic violence was woven into the story of ‘The Juggernaut’. Instead of dropping this real-life subject into the plot and making it seem like a PSA, the situation presented in this episode feels like it belongs in the show’s world. It gives the message an opportunity to organically grow within the story. Because the retreat is led by Alex, a deputy district attorney and a friend of Walker’s, she’s the one who takes charge of the plot. She was also able to use her skills and expertise to save the day. I like how Alex progressed the narrative forward, as it gave one of the show’s secondary characters a moment to shine. It reminded me of The Babysitter’s Club, where each book is told from a different perspective.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I thought Alex’s cabin looked cute, despite the living room being the only interior shot shown! The green porch was not only eye-catching, but inviting as well. I also think the grounds surrounding the cabin were scenic. I don’t know if this is a real-life house or if it was a set created for the show. However, the location scout did a good job when choosing this particular spot!
  • During the retreat, C.D. tells Connie a story about a retreat participant who was able to turn her life around. After this story was told, C.D. asks Connie if she’ll write a happy ending to her own story. When Connie asks him why he wants to know, C.D. tells her how he wants to share her story with future retreat participants. To me, this was the sweetest moment of the episode!
  • Speaking of C.D., ‘The Juggernaut’ presented the second time I’ve seen C.D. become seriously injured. I’m not sure if this happened often on the show or if it’s just a coincidence. But I felt like bringing it up as a factor of this episode.

My overall thoughts:

When I first reviewed Murder, She Wrote last March, I ended up liking the second episode, ‘Film Flam’ more than the first one, ‘The Legacy of Borbey House’. The exact same thing has happened with ‘The Covenant’ and ‘The Juggernaut’, as I prefer ‘The Juggernaut’ over ‘The Covenant’. The story of the third season’s sixteenth episode contained a better written narrative. It also helped that the delivery of the domestic violence topic didn’t feel forced or preachy. With Walker in the episode for a limited amount of time, it allowed the story to have higher stakes. It also gave secondary characters more screen time and opportunities to be involved in the plot. ‘The Juggernaut’ kind of reminded me of Touched by an Angel, where the series’ regulars approached real-life topics with their wisdom in tow and kindness toward those who needed their help. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I liked ‘The Juggernaut’!

Rating: A solid 4 out of 5

This is one of the few shots of Alex’s cabin that was shown in broad daylight. I wonder how many times it was featured on the show? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: The Lynching

Season 3, Episode 8

Premiere Date: November 18th, 1995

The title card for “The Lynching”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

There were two scenes in ‘The Lynching’ where Walker interacts with Jonah, a man who is accused of killing a local woman. In the first scene, Walker is questioning Jonah about the murder. When he is asked why he ran away from the crime scene, Jonah reveals he was so afraid, that he wanted to go to “Jonah’s Island”. It is implied that “Jonah’s Island” is an imaginary world Jonah created in his mind. Another scene has Jonah stating that he’s “slow in the head”. Walker tells him how there’s nothing wrong with him and how some people get in trouble for moving too fast. These moments were emotionally touching and contained heart.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Wilma Casey, a local woman from a smaller Texas town, is killed in broad daylight. The people in this town are so upset by her death, that they form a mob against Jonah. Statements such as “Wilma was a good woman” were spoken among the members of the mob. Other than those vague statements, no explanation was given for why Wilma was so beloved. A small amount of information about Wilma is provided in this episode, revealing how she’s wealthy and how she helped Jonah after his parents died. But her influence in the town is not told. Was she a philanthropist or a former governor? These questions were never answered in ‘The Lynching’.

The story itself:

The story within the ‘The Lynching’ is a murder mystery, as Walker and other members of law enforcement come together to solve Wilma’s case. With a variety of clues and some shady characters, this plot was intriguing as well as engaging! It also made more sense for the plot to rely on the criminal/police procedural aspect of the show, as the majority of murder mysteries incorporate law enforcement officers in the story. The actions and choices of the people involved in the case did raise more questions than I expected to ask. In one scene, Walker comes across an object that could be used in court. However, he chooses not to collect this object as evidence. These questions didn’t take me out of the episode, but it happened more often than it should have.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Wilma’s house in ‘The Lynching’ was absolutely picturesque! Most of this location was captured in exterior shots, with only the kitchen and office being shown on screen. Like Alex’s cabin in ‘The Juggernaut’, I’m not sure if this is a real-life structure. But whoever was the location scout for Walker, Texas Ranger deserves recognition!
  • According to INSP’s website, Trivette “is a little less “high noon,” and more “high tech” when it comes to fighting crime”. Based on the three episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger I saw, Trivette doesn’t use technology more or less than the other characters. INSP’s description makes it seem like he is the go-to guy for technology, similar to Angela’s adopted role on Bones. After seeing this show, I think the article from INSP is a little misleading.
  • At one point, Jonah has to be transferred from the jail to another location. Instead of taking him to a second jail, the people associated with Wilma’s case take Jonah to a secret area. What surprised me was how Walker didn’t suggest Alex’s cabin as a safer place for Jonah to stay. Even though the cabin is used for Alex’s domestic violence survivor retreats, I’d like to think she wouldn’t mind allowing Jonah to temporarily stay at her cabin.

My overall thoughts:

While I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as ‘The Juggernaut’, I did like it more than ‘The Covenant’. As someone who goes out of their way to talk about mysteries from time to time, the story was interesting enough to keep me invested in the plot. It contained the components that are usually found in a mystery: a collection of clues, potential suspects, some surprises, and suspense. Having this episode lean more toward the crime drama side of the show made sense with the narrative being told. This story is not without its flaws, however. Some of the actions and choices of the people involved in the overarching case were questionable in terms of believability. The lack of explanation for Wilma’s importance also didn’t help. Similar to ‘The Juggernaut’, the situation in ‘The Lynching’ felt it belonged in the world of Walker, Texas Ranger. This episode could have easily followed the footsteps of ‘The Covenant’, placing a message in the script and writing a story around it. Instead, ‘The Lynching’ focuses on themes that the audience could relate to; such as treating others as they would like to be treated.

Rating: A 3.6 out of 5

Is is just me or does this house remind anyone of Laura’s boarding house from Little House of the Prairie? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My final assessment:

In my first review of Murder, She Wrote, I said the show as a whole, based on the three episodes I wrote about, was fine. I also said that I’d watch the show if I had nothing else to do. With Walker, Texas Ranger, I thought it was fine as well. However, the overall quality of the episodes was more consistent than the ones from my Murder, She Wrote review. Even though ‘The Juggernaut’ was the best episode of the three I chose, I did enjoy watching ‘The Lynching’. My least favorite episode was ‘The Covenant’, as I thought it was just ok. One aspect that stood out to me was how karate was only used during select moments of each episode. There was enough action in ‘The Juggernaut’ and ‘The Lynching’ to keep the plot interesting. However, I thought ‘The Covenant’ was a little light on action. While I probably don’t see myself watching Walker, Texas Ranger religiously, I wouldn’t mind checking out an episode or two if it happened to pop up on my television. But who knows? Since last March, I’ve seen more episodes of Murder, She Wrote than I originally expected.

Have you seen Walker, Texas Ranger? Are there any episodes you’d want to see me review? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun in Dallas, Texas!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Desolation Canyon Review + 120 Follower Thank You

Two weeks ago, 18 Cinema Lane received 120 followers! I had wanted to publish this post much sooner. But due to other blog posts that I felt had to be posted before the end of the month and technical difficulties related to the weather, this blog follower dedication review had to be put on hold. Fortunately, I now set aside some time to publish this important post! For my 120 follower dedication review, I chose a movie that was released in July of 2006. Originally, I was going to talk about Monster House. However, when I discovered that there were two Hallmark movies that were released in the aforementioned month and year, I decided to choose one of those films instead. Desolation Canyon is the movie that I ended up picking. Since I haven’t reviewed a Western film since Allegheny Uprising back in March, I wanted to see how Hallmark approached this particular genre. Films of this nature are rarely seen on Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. In fact, when it comes to stand-alone films, the last Western that either network created was JL Family Ranch from 2016. Despite this, I know that Hallmark has what it takes to tell stories from this genre, especially after watching programs like When Calls the Heart. Now, let’s see if Hallmark pulled off a good movie in this review of Desolation Canyon!

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I apologize if this poster doesn’t have the best quality image. I decided to take a picture of it on my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I was really impressed with the acting in Desolation Canyon! Before watching this movie, the only Hallmark film of Patrick Duffy’s that I saw was The Christmas Cure. In that movie, his character was more light-hearted, in order to fit the tone of that film. In Desolation Canyon, Patrick’s portrayal of Tomas had that same light-heartedness. But this time, his character was also tough and rugged, which was a good fit for the genre. Patrick was able to successfully bring both of these elements to his character, helping him to be a likable protagonist. Stacy Keach also did a good job at portraying the character of Samuel. Even though he has a tougher persona than Tomas, Samuel still was an honorable individual. Stacy was able to incorporate these aspects of the character through the believability of his performance. The rest of the cast brought the best of their acting abilities to their roles, keeping me investing in their on-screen stories!

 

The script: Desolation Canyon’s script was such a pleasant surprise by how well written it was! Anytime the three protagonists spoke to each other, their dialogue was witty and clever. In fact, all of the dialogue in this film sounded like real-life conversations. It’s also important to point out that the character development was well done. There was one character in particular who not only grew as an individual, but also pulled off a very effective plot twist. I’m not going to say which character it was, in case you haven’t seen this movie. But I thought this part of the film shows how good this movie’s script was!

 

The movie’s created world: Hallmark doesn’t create period films often. But, when they do, the network puts all they have into their projects. Everything in Desolation Canyon looked and felt like the time period this story took place in. Even the natural scenery felt like it fit within that cinematic world! The care for detail showed, as even smaller props added a sense of authenticity to the narrative. It tells me, as an audience member, that the creative team behind this film made the best effort possible to bring this world to life on-screen!

horse saddle - soft focus with film filter
Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Under-utilized characters: Even though this movie had well-crafted characters, some of them were under-utilized. One example was Alejandra, who was the wife of Samuel. Since she was given an interesting backstory, I had assumed that she would serve a significant purpose within the overall narrative. Unfortunately, Alejandra didn’t really do anything besides keep Olivia, Samuel’s daughter-in-law, company. This disappointed me because Alejandra was both a well-written and well-acted character. It just seemed like all of the potential this character had was wasted.

 

A weak plot for the bandits: In Desolation Canyon, the group of bandits play a key role in the story. Their subplot, however, wasn’t as strong as their on-screen presence. For most of the movie, the bandits were primarily seen on their journey. The only things they talked about were the journey itself or about an injured member of the group. It wasn’t until about the last thirty minutes when the bandits receive any semblance of a plot. While the father-son relationship between Johnny and Abe was an interesting element, it felt like it had little connection to the bandits’ subplot. If anything, the aforementioned element should have been its own plot.

 

The inclusion of the bounty hunters: The story of Desolation Canyon featured two bounty hunters who, like the protagonists, were searching for the bandits. While these characters were interesting, they didn’t really add anything to the overall story. Throughout the film, these bounty hunters follow the protagonists in an attempt to seek revenge toward the bandits. But anytime they showed up, it seemed like they were there for the sake of plot convenience. If this part of the story was eliminated from the film, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

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Small, western town image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Desolation Canyon is a much different Hallmark movie than what the network provides today. It doesn’t feature the usual tropes and clichés that are found in the romantic comedies that dominate Hallmark Channel. Instead, this Western is filled with interesting character development, action, suspense, and a story with stakes. Desolation Canyon was released in 2006, only five years after Hallmark Channel premiered. This was a time when movies had more creative freedom and thought outside the box. While I wish that Hallmark would go back to this kind of story-telling, I’m glad to have been given the opportunity to revisit the films of the network’s past. Desolation Canyon is a film that I found entertaining! There are things about the story that could have better. On the other hand, this movie had creative choices that I liked seeing. It amazes me how my followers continue to be supportive of 18 Cinema Lane! With that, I will end this review by thanking each and every one of my 120 followers!

 

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

 

Do you like watching Hallmark movies? What genre would you like to see the network incorporate into their stories? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen