Take 3: To Catch a Spy Review (Hallmark Mysteries Double Feature Part 2)

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for; the second part of my Hallmark Mysteries Double Feature! I recently saw the latest mystery film from the network: To Catch a Spy. This picture’s location made the film seem interesting. When I think of movies taking place outside of North America, I can’t think of many that feature Malta as a prominent backdrop. In fact, this is the first Hallmark project to take place and be filmed in Malta! But “destination” movies from Hallmark have been met with mixed results. One of the best films I saw in 2019 was Rome in Love. To me, it captured almost everything this location had to offer. However, not every “destination” film can be as good as Rome in Love. How will To Catch a Spy compare? Keep reading my review if you want to find out!

To Catch a Spy poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

Standout performances: Within the movie, I saw standout performances from some of the actors and actresses. One of the film’s leads, Colin Donnell, gave one of those performances! His portrayal of Agent Aaron Maxwell came across as natural and believable. It reminded me of Stephen Huszar’s performance in the Ruby Herring series. His interactions with Nathalie Kelley’s character, Chloe, showcase this realism well. In the supporting cast, Joe Azzopardi portrayed a hotel employee named Isaac. His best scene was when Isaac’s true identity was revealed. Joe carried his character with suave confidence. This made Isaac so captivating to watch. Another captivating performance came from Becky Camilleri, who portrayed a maid named Rianne. What made her character so memorable was how expressive she was throughout the film! When Chloe is trying to check out of her hotel room, she runs into the hotel’s manager. After their interaction, Rianne walks into the room, appearing genuinely confused. Becky’s expressions helped her stand out among the cast!

Interior design: There were two rooms in To Catch a Spy that boasted fantastic interior design! The first was a sitting room inside Malta’s U.S. Embassy building. Beige and white wallpaper surrounded the interior, with white marble covering the floor. Providing pops of color were a dark wood table and chair set and a green potted plant. These elements came together to create a space that was both classy and elegant. The second space was a local church. When the interior of this location was first introduced, a painted mural on the church’s curved ceiling greeted the audience. Along the walls and pillars, gold was abundantly featured. This large venue could easily rival the Sistine Chapel. Because of everything I just said, I wish this church was shown in more than one scene.

Footage of Malta: According to IMDB, To Catch a Spy not only takes place in Malta, but the movie was filmed there as well. The creative team behind the project definitely took advantage of the country’s picturesque scenery by including it in establishing shots and in the background of some scenes. When Chloe goes on her hotel room’s balcony for the first time, she meets a beautiful view of the clear blue ocean and a city skyline. Because of the buildings’ sandy hue, the skyline ended up complimenting the ocean! In one scene, Aaron and Chloe are walking through a park. This location shared the same sandy stone as the buildings from Malta’s city skyline. It also paired well with a green, grassy field. The peaceful nature of the park certainly made this space inviting to the viewer!

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.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A disjointed story: There are three plots within To Catch a Spy. They are the travel writing plot, the murder mystery plot, and the international FBI plot. While these plots are interesting on their own, they ended up having a very loose connection. This caused the story as a whole to feel disjointed. Chloe’s occupation and Aaron’s role in the FBI prevented them from interacting with each other like other mystery film protagonists. In fact, Chloe’s skills as a travel writer weren’t really utilized when it came to being an amateur detective. Personally, I think the movie’s creative team should have chosen one or two of these plots and stuck with them.

Things that don’t make sense: Certain things happened in To Catch a Spy that, to me, didn’t make sense. Both examples I will give involve Chloe. After having a scary experience in the city, Chloe tells Aaron she doesn’t want the FBI badge anymore, indicating she doesn’t want any involvement in the case. A scene later, she eagerly attempts to follow a lead related to that case. The fact Chloe changed her mind so quickly was both confusing and jarring. Earlier in the film, one of Chloe’s friends goes missing. She enters her friend’s hotel room in order to discover what happened. Chloe finds two potential clues on the floor and picks them up with her bare hands. This is the same character who not only reads mystery novels in her spare time, but can also guess the guilty culprit early on. Because of this, wouldn’t Chloe know not to leave fingerprints on potential evidence?

Wasted potential for an overarching series storyline: In more recent series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, a storyline that is carried from film to film is included in the script. A perfect example is in the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series, where Jeff is trying to figure out who shot him prior to the events of the series. In To Catch a Spy, the FBI was attempting to catch a criminal named Zypher. While watching the movie, I thought this would be the perfect overarching storyline if this film became a series. However, due to what happens in the movie, this idea did not become a reality. I was disappointed because of how the creative team wasted a potential storyline in their first film. Not every movie is meant to start a series. But if To Catch a Spy leads to a series, it makes me wonder what overarching storyline they could create?

Evening view of Malta skyline image created by bearfotos at freepik.com. Travel photo created by bearfotos – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

Like any type of movie, Hallmark’s “destination” pictures are hit or miss. There have been some I liked, such as Rome in Love and Pearl in Paradise. But other titles featuring an exciting location have disappointed, like Christmas at Dollywood. With To Catch a Spy, it reminded me more of Christmas at Dollywood than Rome in Love. Sure, we got to see Malta in its picturesque beauty. However, as Dory said in an episode of the Hallmarkies Podcast, “The scenery can’t save you”. Unlike the protagonists in Rome in Love, we never get to see any of the characters experiencing the country’s culture or learning from the people of Malta. When Chloe’s co-worker, Sara, is asking Rianne about the history of Malta, the audience doesn’t get to hear what Rianne has to say. Plus, one of the film’s biggest flaws was its disjointed story. There is potential for this movie to start a new series. But if that is Hallmark’s plan, I don’t know how they’re going to, realistically, make it happen. As I said in my review, To Catch a Spy was filmed in Malta. Traveling to various countries in order to film on-location is going to get expensive. I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen To Catch a Spy? Do you want to see this story become its own series? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Top 10 Characters Ruined by Hallmark

I apologize for not posting any new content lately. I’ve been working on a personal project for my American Girl Instagram account, which has taken me longer than I expected. But I’m ready to get back in the saddle and continue with your regularly scheduled programming! I also plan to review the newest Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries film. However, I forgot to record it on the day of its premiere, so that review will be posted later than I had hoped. Recently, I watched a video on Youtube titled ‘disney ruined these characters and i’m mad about it’. Created by a Youtuber named Caitlin McKillop, this video discussed Disney Channel characters that were “ruined” over the course of their respective series. It made me think about all the characters from Hallmark that, I feel, were ruined at one point or another. For my list, “ruined” will mean characters who regressed in character development or were not given an opportunity to reach their full potential. None of my choices were picked out of disrespect, mean-spirit, or negativity. As I have mentioned in past lists, this article is based on my own opinion. The characters on my list and in the Dishonorable Mentions section are from movies, movie series, or television shows created by Hallmark.

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Dishonorable Mentions

Juan Medina from After the Glory/An American Story, Barry Klemper from The Boys Next Door, Jace from The Music Teacher, Chideh from The Wild Girl, Matthew from The Valley of Light, every character from Back When We Were Grownups, Brett from Love in Winterland, Willow from Our Wild Hearts, Alex from Date with Love, Emma Graham from Love by the Book, Charlotte from Yes, I Do, Cowboy from A Painted House, every character from Firelight, Belinda Phillips and Dustin Cooper from Christmas Scavenger Hunt, Laurel Cooper and Clay Shepard from Wedding in Graceland, Blair from The Nine Lives of Christmas, Wil Fuller from Good Witch: Spellbound, Bree O’Brien from Chesapeake Shores, and Lauren from A Cheerful Christmas

10. Florence and Rose from The Magic of Ordinary Days

At first, I was going to put Jace from The Music Teacher in the number ten spot, as I found his transformation from bullied victim to a man who overcame his traumatic past a little too unbelievable. But the more I thought about how the creative team of The Magic of Ordinary Days glossed over the subject of Japanese internment camps, as well as missing out on a good opportunity to explore the theme of racial prejudice, I knew Florence and Rose had to be placed on this list. It’s been several years since I’ve seen The Magic of Ordinary Days. From what I remember, it felt like the sisters’ role in the story was to, simply, boost the protagonist. When one of the sisters received her own subplot, it primarily revolved around a romantic relationship that the audience knew wouldn’t lead anywhere because of where the man in that relationship was from. As I said in my article, ‘My Tier Rank List of Every Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie I’ve Seen!’, this movie is based on a book, one that I haven’t read. Therefore, I don’t know which parts of Florence and Rose’s story were true to the source material. What stings, though, is how these two characters weren’t given a chance to reach their full potential, especially in a collection of films where prominent Asian American stories are far and few between.

9. Jess O’Brien from Chesapeake Shores

In the first episode of Chesapeake Shores’ third season, Jess said how she had to deal with a lot of horrible things in her life, but was able to live with those parts of her life because they were secret. Jess has also mentioned dealing with PTSD. But as the show progressed, those parts of Jess’s life were never explored. Instead, more emphasis was placed on Jess’s love for David. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does put a hindrance on her potential for growth. With Chesapeake Shores receiving a fifth season, I hope Jess’s past is incorporated more into her story.

8. Kevin O’Brien from Chesapeake Shores

Within the first season of Chesapeake Shores, Kevin was shown displaying PTSD-like symptoms. Even though he claimed he didn’t have PTSD, Kevin was clearly dealing with some personal issues. Similar to Jess, Kevin’s issues were not brought up throughout the show. What made me put Kevin in the eighth place on this list is how he and Sarah were not given the wedding of their dreams because Chesapeake Shores’ fourth season contained only six episodes. Because Kevin was the first character from the main cast to get married, it feels like the show’s fans were cheated out of witnessing Chesapeake Shores history unfold. Hopefully, the show’s creative team makes up for this in season five.

7. Shane McInerney from Signed, Sealed, Delivered

The way Shane’s story has played out in this series is similar to Angela’s story from Bones. At the start of their respective series, each character was given a piece of their identity that set them apart from the other characters. For Angela, it was her passion for art. For Shane, it was her affinity for all things technological. But as time went on, these pieces were either ignored or morphed into something else. Angela’s passion for art evolved into exclusively utilizing technology. Meanwhile, Shane’s love for technology was abandoned. Out of the four main characters from Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I feel like Shane’s backstory was explored the least. From what I remember, the only time Shane’s backstory was highlighted was in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Impossible Dream. If Hallmark decides to continue this film series, I hope Shane receives a little more attention in the script.

6. Nathan Grant from When Calls the Heart

Having the same occupation and looking similar to Jack Thornton doesn’t help Nathan, driving home the idea of being the late Mountie’s replacement. His involvement in the love triangle just made things worse. Whenever I think of Nathan, his desperate attempts to win over Elizabeth’s heart overshadow all of his good qualities. Since the love triangle has lasted as long as Nathan has appeared on the show, this has prevented the audience from seeing Nathan as his own person. Now that this event is over, Nathan’s positive attributes will hopefully be highlighted more throughout season nine.

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5. Elizabeth Thornton from When Calls the Heart

You could make the argument that Elizabeth has always been entitled. However, from season one to most of season five, that entitlement was masked under a veil of sincerity. One example is when Elizabeth forbade her sister, Julie, from seeing Jack’s brother, Tom. But when Jack passed away, that veil disintegrated, making Elizabeth more self-centered. There are several examples I could give to illustrate my point. But the one I will use is how, toward the end of season eight, Elizabeth unnecessarily snapped at Rosemary when Rosemary tried to give Elizabeth advice. Elizabeth apologizes to Rosemary in the season eight finale, but it feels like she apologized just so Rosemary could listen to her problems. Similar to what I said about Nathan, the love triangle did Elizabeth no favors. She claimed she didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or give anyone the wrong idea, even though she ended up doing both of those things. I’d like to think Elizabeth will change at least some of her ways in season nine. Since she has acted this way for so long, though, I’m not holding my breath.

4. George O’Hanrahan from Good Witch

In the movie series, George was the glue that kept his family together. It was also nice when he fell in love with Gwen, allowing him to have his own subplot. But when Good Witch converted into a television show, Gwen was no longer in the picture. This took away the only subplot George had, as well as leaving the audience with no explanation for Gwen’s disappearance. What adds insult to injury is how he regressed into a vulnerable and gullible man. The change in George’s character makes him appear as a stereotypical version of who he used to be. Because older adults are usually given smaller roles in Hallmark shows, it’s disappointing to see Good Witch not give George the quality story he deserves.

3. Martha Tinsdale from Good Witch

Martha’s personality, in the movie series, was not for everyone. Determined and head-strong, Martha was almost always talking about how great Blairsville was or how Blairsville has more to offer than Middleton. But the reason why she did this was because she saw the potential her town had. She encouraged others to care about their neighborhood in an attempt to help them see Middleton the way she saw it. No matter what she said or did, Martha was never mean or a bully. That changed when the Good Witch television show reached its third season. In an episode where the Middleton Theater was about to open, Martha bullied Stephanie into not serving gourmet popcorn because Martha didn’t like the idea. I was taken aback by how Martha treated Stephanie, as this was completely different from the Martha I had come to know. Martha’s character development was complex, but the show’s writers oversimplified it to the point of watering it down.

2. Abigail Pershing from Good Witch

Abigail was one of my favorite characters from this series because of how complex she was. While she was different from Cassie, it’s not as simple as comparing these characters to the Wicked Witch of the West and Glenda. Abigail did things that Cassie would not normally do. But when the audience learned why Abigail did these things, they realized Abigail had the right reasons for doing them. In the movie, Good Witch Halloween, Abigail entered the Halloween Queen contest, the same contest Stephanie entered. Abigail knew how much Stephanie wanted that title, so she became Stephanie’s rival in order to make Stephanie work for what she wanted instead of expecting to receive the title like in years past. While the rivalry in this movie made sense, it felt pointless within the rest of the series. Both characters appear immature, with Abigail becoming meaner. Like Martha’s character development, Abigail’s character development was oversimplified. Just thinking about how much Abigail has regressed breaks my heart.

1. Cassie Nightingale from Good Witch

Cassie is, singlehandedly, what made this series so special. She was the embodiment of what makes a great character; carrying good morals and showing the audience how anyone can make a difference. But as the show went on, Cassie became a shell of who she used to be. In one episode from season three, one of Cassie’s friends suggested Cassie should be less like herself. This statement is the problem with the Good Witch television show: Cassie isn’t like the Cassie I had come to be a fan of for almost a decade. What makes things worse is how Cassie doesn’t make as many contributions to the story as she did in the movie series. In fact, when I think back to Good Witch: Spellbound, I can’t recall Cassie doing anything significant within the plot. If I had known this is what would happen to one of my favorite characters, I would have objected the conversion from movie series to television show.

Adhesive bandage image created by aopsan at freepik.com. Background photo created by aopsan – www.freepik.com

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Sunset Over Hope Valley: The Love Triangle is Finally Over

I have been very vocal about how I dislike When Calls the Heart’s love triangle. When several people from the show claimed it would end in season eight, I was hoping they were telling the truth. But as this chapter of the show is coming to an end, I can honestly say that the love triangle is officially over! Other good news comes from a commercial at the end of the episode announcing season nine! While I’m not surprised by this announcement, I am happy to see the show taking a new step forward. Overall, I’d say this season has been, for the most part, good. Yes, it did have its flaws. However, these can become areas of growth for the next season. It is amazing how far Hope Valley has come. From a town that was broken by sorrow and uncertainty to a place filled with hope and brighter days, Hope Valley has grown beyond expectations. Now, as the door of season eight comes to a close, let’s re-cap this episode of When Calls the Heart!

Just a reminder: If you did not see the season finale of When Calls the Heart, there may be spoilers within this re-cap.

When Calls the Heart poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel.

Season: 8

Episode: 12

Name: The Kiss

Major stories:

Elizabeth feels guilty about the way she has treated Rosemary. She immediately apologizes to Rosemary, who ends up forgiving her. Elizabeth tells her friend all about her relationship troubles with Nathan and Lucas. Rosemary reminds Elizabeth how she needs to choose a man that she can see herself spending a lifetime with. These words are taken to heart as Elizabeth visits Nathan to tell him that she loves him, but she is not in love with him. She also tries to tell Lucas how she feels, but is interrupted by Wyman at the café. In this episode, Landis is still in Hope Valley. He continues to believe that Angela’s educational needs will interfere with the educational opportunities of Elizabeth’s other students. However, Elizabeth insists that she wants Angela to attend the Jack Thornton School. Minnie becomes doubtful due to Elizabeth’s job being in danger. But she still allows her daughter to make her own decision. Elizabeth tells Rosemary how Landis threatened to shut the school down if the students and their parents refused to attend because of Angela becoming a new student. Rosemary agrees to publish the story in Hope Valley’s newest version of their newspaper; The Valley Voice. This plan worked, as every student agrees to walk the Canfield family to the school building on the first day of a new school year. The act shows Landis how kind and supportive the Jack Thornton School is. He tells Elizabeth he will find a way to help her keep her job. On Robert’s first day as Jack Jr.’s new babysitter, Elizabeth gives him a note that needs to be given to Lucas. Later that day, however, Elizabeth notices the note in Robert’s hands. He says the saloon was closed and that Lucas was gone. When Elizabeth goes to the saloon, she sees Robert was telling the truth. She asks Rosemary and Lee where Lucas went, with Lee pointing toward the road leading out of town. Even though Elizabeth runs down that road, she knows she missed Lucas. Consoling a broken heart on a bridge, Lucas happens to show up. They share a passionate kiss, making their relationship official. Lucas also notices Elizabeth isn’t wearing her wedding ring anymore. Toward the end of the episode, Lucas and Elizabeth have a private date at the library. On this date, Elizabeth plans to read some of her final manuscript, which was sent to Elizabeth from Helen earlier in this episode.

Preparations are being made for Hope Valley’s race for mayor. Mike sits outside Ned’s Mercantile, collecting names of potential nominees. The only people who express interest in running are Bill, Mike, and Fiona. Mike shares with Fiona that he not only told Henry about his plans to connect a pipeline to the train depot, but Henry also agreed to make this plan a reality. To Mike’s surprise, Henry gives him complete leadership over the petroleum plant. Henry decides to leave Hope Valley in an effort to find what makes him happy in life. As Henry looks at the café’s sign, it is to be assumed Henry is trying to locate Abigail. As Rosemary is busy writing her first newspaper and organizing information, Lee has difficulty figuring out his purpose in life. While talking to Joseph about his worries, Joseph tells Lee two of life’s most important moments are when someone is born and when that person discovers why they were born. These words lead to Lee’s decision to run for mayor. After Lee shares this news, Rosemary says she would like to acquire a better printer press and an official staff if she is to take her new occupation seriously.

Newspaper image created by Zlatko_plamenov at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-psd/newspaper-mockup_1386098.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/mockup”>Mockup psd created by Zlatko_plamenov – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Minor stories:

Faith is sad to see Carson’s packed bags at the Infirmary. But she doesn’t stop him from leaving. Carson and Faith share one last moment together, where all they do is hold each other. When it’s time to leave, Carson is met with most of Hope Valley’s residents waiting by the stagecoach, as they wish to send him off. This causes Carson to be pleasantly surprised. As he boards the stagecoach, Clara and Lee find the engagement ring that was missing in the previous episode. However, Carson still chooses to leave Hope Valley. Faith is disappointed, as she hoped Carson would change his mind. While helping Nathan with a minor injury, Nathan tells her how she’ll make a good doctor. Faith says that, like an injury, it will take time to heal. During Carson’s send-off, Nathan brings Jesse back to Hope Valley. Clara and Jesse are excited to see one another again. Lee gives Jesse some time off of work, which Clara and Jesse use as a second honeymoon. Ned also returns to town, explaining to Florence what has been happening. He has been trying to acquire a patent for an adhesive bandage he created.

Adhesive bandage image created by aopsan at freepik.com. Background photo created by aopsan – www.freepik.com

Some thoughts to consider:

  • While the majority of this season has been good, the season premiere and finale were fine. They met their requirements instead of going above and beyond. I wish the Hope Valley mayor race was saved for season nine and not shoehorned into season eight’s last episode. This way, the dynamic between the candidates could be explored throughout the season.
  • The references to Abigail this season were not only random, but the amount of references made the creative team’s wishes a little too obvious. Even though some people from the show have expressed interest in working with Lori again, the network made the ultimate decision to distance themselves from her. In my opinion, I don’t think Abigail will ever be seen on the show again. When Calls the Heart is one of Hallmark’s most successful programs, so I doubt the network’s leaders would risk tarnishing their crown jewel in any way.
  • I really hope Henry returns to Hope Valley. His story has been one of the best from season eight, as he received more character development and growth. As I have stated in a Sunset Over Hope Valley re-cap post, I hope Bai Ling considers joining the main cast of the show. If she does, maybe her character could form a relationship with Henry. That way, he might find someone new to make him happy.
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What are your thoughts on When Calls the Heart‘s season finale? What would you like to see in season nine? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun in Hope Valley!

Sally Silverscreen

It’s time to vote for the Gold Sally Awards’ Best Story

The Gold Sally Awards recognizes the crucial role screenwriting plays in the filmmaking process. Among the best movies I saw in 2020, you can choose which film contained the best story! Even though you can only vote once per person, you are able to vote for more than one nominee. As I’ve said before, the link to the poll is featured under the list of nominees. This poll starts today, March 15th, and ends on March 21st.

In case you’re wondering, this is a screenshot from the Murder, She Wrote episode, ‘The Legacy of Borbey House’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Which film from 2020 had the Best Story?

 

Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
The Unfinished Dance
If You Believe
Sweet Nothing in my Ear
From Up on Poppy Hill
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Grace & Glorie
Matinee
The Boy Who Could Fly
Anchors Aweigh
 
 
 
 
 
 
Created with Poll Maker

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

Sunset Over Hope Valley: It’s the Little Things

Jesse’s new haircut. Henry presenting yellow roses to Florence. Clara and Rosemary opening a box of inventory from Dottie. What do these things have in common? They are all small details that make a big impact! When it comes to writing, it’s the little things that count. With Jesse’s haircut, it maintains the consistency within the show’s overarching story. Yellow roses symbolize friendship, which Henry was seeking after the accusations he made in the previous episode. Dottie is a character that hasn’t appeared on the show in several seasons, so hearing Clara and Rosemary say her name was a pleasant surprise. Throughout this season, I will be on the lookout for more small details that stand out in the script. In the meantime, let’s start this re-cap of When Calls the Heart!

Just a reminder: If you did not see this episode of When Calls the Heart, there may be spoilers within this re-cap.

When Calls the Heart poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. 

Season: 8

Episode: 3

Name: From the Ashes

Major stories:

When attempting to remove more oil from the geyser, Mike suggests to Lucas that the crew should drill another 50 feet. Even though it is a risky move, Lucas agrees to the idea. As the crew continues to drill, they feel a rumbling beneath the ground. After the crew runs away from the geyser, oil begins to burst out of the hole. All of the sudden, the geyser explodes into flames. This was caused by a high-pressure blowout that took place during the initial drilling. Lucas and Jesse try to figure out what to do, while also trying to keep the other crew members safe. They are eventually joined by Bill, Henry, Ned, and Nathan. Henry suggests dynamite be used to distinguish the fire, an idea the rest of the men agree to. Right before this plan is put into place, Fiona shows up to lend a hand. The group gathers all the dynamite they can find and push them from a cart into the fire. Their plan works, causing no fatalities or major injuries. The fire also causes little to no damage.

While Rosemary and Elizabeth discuss Elizabeth’s potential relationship between Nathan or Lucas, Lucas crosses paths with them on his way to the library. After Elizabeth ends her conversation with Rosemary, Lucas tells Rosemary how he noticed his mother appeared different than usual. This causes him to want to call his father in an attempt to surprise his mother. At this point in the episode, Lucas still doesn’t know about his parents’ situation. While editing Elizabeth’s manuscript, Elizabeth shares how it’s difficult to keep Helen’s secret from Lucas. She suggests Helen tell her son what’s been going on. When Elizabeth looks out the window in Helen’s room, Helen addresses Elizabeth’s feelings for Nathan and Lucas. After the geyser explosion, Lucas meets Helen at the Café. When he asks her where his father is, she tells him she’ll find out where he is. Eventually, Lucas finds out the truth about his father. He approaches Elizabeth and asks her why she kept this secret from him. She says Helen told her not to say anything to him. A few scenes later, Helen visits Elizabeth at her home. She feels overwhelmed by her relationship issues. Elizabeth reminds Helen how she needs to show her husband her vulnerable side and fight for her marriage. Helen pauses the editing process on Elizabeth’s manuscript to go home and rekindle her relationship with her husband. Meanwhile, Lucas is still upset with Elizabeth. She tells him what she told his mother. Lucas feels Elizabeth doesn’t know what she is talking about because she is currently not in a relationship.

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Minor stories:

At the Mercantile, Lee receives a package. This package contains a chair he purchased on his and Rosemary’s South American vacation. Jesse, who also happens to be at the Mercantile, tries to sit in Lee’s chair. Lee discourages this, as he says it’s bad luck if he isn’t the first person to sit in the chair. To take Jesse’s mind off of the chair, Lee instructs Jesse to take Lee’s motorcycle to the lumberyard, as Lee plans on selling it. When Jesse goes to Lee and Rosemary’s house, he chooses to ride on the motorcycle, discovering how much he likes it. However, Clara disapproves of the motorcycle when Jesse pays his wife a visit at the dress shop. Jesse decides to buy the motorcycle from Lee. After Lee sells it for $20, Jesse takes a trip to a neighboring town on the motorcycle. During his journey, the motorcycle runs out of gas, causing Jesse to walk with the motorcycle to his destination. Meanwhile, in Hope Valley, Rosemary takes a seat in Lee’s chair while he is at work. Unfortunately, Lee’s chair breaks due to a cracked leg. When Lee comes home, Rosemary apologizes for breaking Lee’s chair. Lee then reveals how he and his grandfather built a chair like the one Lee bought when he was younger. He also shares how he misses building things. At the end of the episode, Rosemary creates a work station for Lee, so Lee can get back to building again.

Bill asks Nathan if he’s still interested in purchasing his land, as Bill says there is another buyer interested in the property. Nathan replies he has changed his mind. Andrew, a Mountie who mentored Nathan, informs him of an inquiry that is about to take place. Because a Mountie was killed in last season’s prisoner transfer, Andrew is investigating Nathan’s involvement in the Mountie’s death. Because Andrew was mentored by Bill, Bill notices the tension between Nathan and Andrew. At Nathan’s office, Bill asks Nathan why he doesn’t like Andrew. Nathan doesn’t provide any details. Andrew visits Bill, in order to inspect the potential courtroom for the inquiry. Bill asks Andrew the same question he asks Nathan. Just like Nathan, Andrew doesn’t provide any additional information.

The day after the geyser explosion, Florence notices how Ned appears in pain whenever he walks. Florence volunteers to take him to the Infirmary. While at the Infirmary, Faith discovers Ned has an internal ankle fracture due to Ned’s foot falling into a hole. However, Carson says Ned has an external ankle fracture. Frustrated by this experience, Faith shares her feelings with Clara and Fiona after Ned’s visit. Later in the episode, Faith shares with Carson how her recent experience is similar to what she went through in medical school, where she wasn’t taken seriously and no one seemed to listen to her. She tells Carson how she wants to be heard and seen as a doctor.

Heartbeat image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/medical-logo_763775.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/logo”>Logo vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Some thoughts to consider:

  • Even though I liked the storyline involving the geyser, I wish it had lasted a little longer and raised the stakes a bit higher. This could have been one of the most suspenseful moments in the show’s history, with the audience questioning certain characters’ outcomes and wondering what the explosion’s aftermath will look like. I will say this particular storyline was more interesting than most of the subplots in the season premiere.
  • I heard a theory of Jack possibly returning to Hope Valley after his identity was mistaken and he experienced amnesia. Because Jack is brought up in the preview for next week’s episode and after Bill mentioned the other buyer interested in his property, maybe this theory could be true? It would provide a convenient way for Elizabeth not to choose Nathan or Lucas. However, nothing has been confirmed or denied by anyone associated from the show.
  • Now that Lee is going to start building again, I wonder if he’ll finally build Rosemary that theater she wanted since season two? It could provide the show’s creative team with a story to give Rosemary and Lee. The theater would also create growth in Hope Valley.
Sunset image created by Photoangel at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Photoangel – Freepik.com</a>.<a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/red-sunset-clouds-over-trees_1254327.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What are your thoughts on this episode? Are you looking forward to the Canfield family’s introduction in the next episode? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun in Hope Valley!

Sally Silverscreen

Sunset Over Hope Valley: Praying for a Solution

When Lee goes to the Infirmary after he injured his back, Joseph Canfield, a new character on When Calls the Heart, tells Rosemary he’ll pray for Lee. Not only was the gesture thoughtful, but it also highlights an important component of the show. Since the show’s beginning, faith has been interwoven throughout the overall story. Whether it was Elizabeth’s students putting on a Nativity play during Christmastime or the characters adding Biblical values to their lives, faith is one of the cornerstones of Hope Valley. It has been a while since services were shown in the church or since a pastor has stayed in the town for more than a few episodes. Adding a new pastor to When Calls the Heart’s growing cast of characters would continue to emphasize the importance of faith. It would provide the town with someone to turn to whenever someone is struggling. The pastor’s journey of faith could also be explored. In the meantime, let’s start this week’s re-cap of When Calls the Heart!

Just a reminder: If you did not see this episode of When Calls the Heart, there may be spoilers within this re-cap.

When Calls the Heart poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. 

Season: 8

Episode: 2

Name: Honestly, Elizabeth

Major Stories:

Helen Bouchard spends her morning reading Elizabeth’s manuscript. When Lucas visits her at the Queens of Hearts Saloon, Helen expresses no interest in leaving her room. Later that day, as Elizabeth is on her way to the Infirmary to visit Lee, Lucas asks Elizabeth if she’ll visit Helen. After Lucas explains how Elizabeth is easier to talk to, Elizabeth agrees. At the Saloon, Elizabeth arrives at Helen’s room, bringing a basket of homemade muffins. Helen refuses the muffins and also frowns upon Elizabeth’s lateness when it came to handing in her manuscript. When Helen asks if Elizabeth can meet with her the next morning to look over Elizabeth’s manuscript, Elizabeth agrees. The following day, Elizabeth and Helen work on editing the manuscript. They have difficulty seeing eye-to-eye, as they only finish the first page. To resolve this issue, Elizabeth suggests they take a break by going for a walk. On this walk, Helen reveals that she likes Elizabeth’s honest writing. She also confides in Elizabeth how her husband left her. Helen says her husband was in London the last time he was located. She tells Elizabeth not to tell Lucas about this news. When Lucas arrives to invite Elizabeth to dinner, she turns down the invitation. Instead, she recruits Lucas to help plan a special night in for Lee and Rosemary. Throughout the episode, Helen takes notice of Lucas’ feelings for Elizabeth.

A box for the Coulters arrives at their house. Joseph Canfield comes to help Lee bring the package into the home. During this procedure, Lee hurts his break. He is taken to the Infirmary by Rosemary, Joseph, and Jesse. At the Infirmary, Carson discovers Lee has sprained his back. He tells Lee and Rosemary how Lee will have to rest at the Infirmary until the afternoon, when Lee will be able to go home. Back at home, Lee is still in pain. He plans to take it easy by sitting on the sofa. Later that evening, Elizabeth surprises Lee and Rosemary by planning a special night in. She gives them wine and a record that have something to do with Hawaii. As they dance to the music, Lee confesses to Rosemary how he has always wanted to visit Hawaii. The next day, they discover what the box contained. While the majority of the contents consist of coffee, they also give a sombrero and poncho to Elizabeth’s son, Jack.

Old-fashioned books image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/books-seamless-pattern_1539033.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Minor stories:

Nathan visits Bill with the intention of starting the process of Ally’s adoption. Even though Bill thinks it is a bad idea with Ally’s father in prison, Nathan explains how this is the perfect time to start the process. As Bill fills out the necessary paperwork, Nathan finds a map of Bill’s property. Bill explains how the land is for sale, as he doesn’t spend much time using it. Later in the episode, Nathan tells Elizabeth how he plans to visit Bill’s land. He also shares his desire to settle down. Before the episode ends, Nathan expresses his feelings about Bill’s property to Elizabeth, saying how it would the perfect place to build a house. Elizabeth tells him how she cares about him and is concerned about the future of their relationship. She doesn’t want to lose him like she lost her husband. Even when Nathan explains how he’d quit being a Mountie, that doesn’t dispel any of Elizabeth’s concerns. After Nathan tells her he loves her, Elizabeth rides away on her horse, Sergeant.

Toward the beginning of the episode, Fiona opens her barber shop, which is called Nichols and Dimes. She explains how she incorporated her former boss’ name into her business, as a symbolic gesture to show how she is more than just “a small spoke in a big wheel”. When she is seeking customers, Henry, Jesse, and Mike turn down the offer. As the episode progresses, Mike comes to the barber shop after he lost a bet with Jesse. As Fiona is giving Mike a haircut, she explains why she re-opened the barber shop. During this process, she accidently cuts Mike’s ear with the trimming scissors. Horrified by the ordeal, Mike rushes to the Infirmary. Later in the episode, Mike returns to the barber shop. He apologizes for abruptly leaving. Fiona tells him both of them are equally to blame. She then becomes surprised when Clara and Faith bring Jesse and Carson to get a trim.

While driving through the country roads, Joseph Canfield experiences car trouble as the car’s engine stops working. He goes to Hope Valley in search of help. When he enters town, Joseph finds Jesse and asks him for help, an offer Jesse accepts. When Jesse finishes fixing Joseph’s car, they witness Robert’s horse-riding adventure. As Robert loses control of the horse, Elizabeth chases after him while riding her own horse. When revisiting Hope Valley, Joseph expresses interest to Bill about purchasing the gas station. Joseph also shares how he’d like to call Hope Valley his home. Bill and Henry take Joseph to Henry’s house, which is currently for sale. Even though the house needs some repairs, Joseph purchases the house, claiming it will be the perfect place for his family to live. After this exchange, Henry visits the mercantile. When he discovers his letter has been returned and partially opened, Henry demands to know who is responsible. Carson, who just so happened to come to the Mercantile at that very moment, suggests Henry leave in order to prevent the conflict from escalating further. As Henry is leaving, he collapses on the stairs. While Carson reminds Henry of his troubling blood pressure, Henry tells Carson how nothing he does will ever be good enough. Carson takes Henry to the Infirmary in an attempt to resolve this issue.

Barber Shop image created by dgim-studio at freepik.com Ribbon vector created by dgim-studio – www.freepik.com

Some thoughts to consider:

  • This episode was much stronger than the season premiere! I liked how the overall story placed more emphasis on the plots and conflicts of the characters instead of the love triangle and relationships. Within the episode, interesting storylines were either revisited or introduced. Nathan’s plan to adopt Ally is one example. After Nathan explained why he wants to adopt Ally now, I have gained an understanding for the creative team’s decision to not use Ally’s father to serve a multi-episode storyline.
  • Why is Mollie suddenly interested in Bill romantically? For seven seasons, Mollie has never expressed any desire to be in a relationship with anyone. In this episode, she seemed jealous of Helen when Mollie spotted Helen and Bill at the Saloon. To me, this part of the story feels random.
  • Similar to the previous season, there is a lot of mystery surrounding Henry’s character. Not only do we not yet know the significance of the letter, but also why Henry is suddenly interested in getting back into the petroleum business with Lucas. I hope we start receiving answers as this season continues.
Sunset image created by Photoangel at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Photoangel – Freepik.com</a>.<a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/red-sunset-clouds-over-trees_1254327.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What are your thoughts on this episode? Which storyline interests you the most? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun in Hope Valley!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Love Letter Review

I’m not going to lie; I love a good blog party! So, when I discovered Heidi, from Along the Brandywine, was hosting the Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party, I couldn’t wait to sign up! Period dramas are not regularly covered on 18 Cinema Lane. While I do have a re-cap series for When Calls the Heart, I choose what films to watch based on how interesting their stories sound. There have been period dramas I loved, such as Swept from the Sea. But, for this blogathon, I wanted to review a film I hadn’t seen before. For about a year, I’ve had the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, The Love Letter, on my DVR. Because parts of the movie take place in the 19th century, I felt it fit Heidi’s time period requirement of the 1600’s to World War II. I try to watch as many Hallmark Hall of Fame titles as I realistically can. Prior to reviewing The Love Letter, the only Hallmark Hall of Fame movie from 1998 I’ve seen is Grace & Glorie, which was one of the best movies I saw last year! While not all movies from this collection are created equally, I do watch these movies with an open mind.

Since an image of The Love Letter‘s poster was featured on my television, I took a screenshot of it with my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because The Love Letter heavily relies on the performances of its lead actor and actress, this part of the review will focus on Campbell Scott’s and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s portrayal of Scott Corrigan and Elizabeth Whitcomb. With Campbell’s performance, there was always a sense of focus in his character. This focus could be seen in Scott’s eyes. When he was inspecting the desk at the antique store or restoring that same desk, Scott’s focus showed how much he cared. This was a consistent part of the character and helped whenever he wrote to Elizabeth. In historical fiction/period films, it would be easy for the screenwriter to give their lead female character one distinct type of personality. Elizabeth Whitcomb, on the other hand, held a balance of two that brought something unique to the character. She had a youthful radiance about her, being a “romantic dreamer” at heart. However, Elizabeth carried herself with a graceful maturity that prevented her from becoming childish or immature. Jennifer brought both aspects to Elizabeth equally and beautifully, allowing her character to be multi-dimensional.

The historical accuracy: I am not an expert on the 1860s and its historical significance. But based on what I do know about this particular period in time, Elizabeth’s part of the story looked and felt historically accurate! The Whitcomb family home was furnished with pieces that appeared antique, from the couch in the sitting room to the desk Elizabeth and Scott share. Dark wood held these structures together, with green cushions and intricate carvings finishing the couch and desk. The costumes were very detailed and also reflective of the 1860s. Embroidery on Elizabeth’s jacket and the overall design of her lacy parasol serve as two examples. Even the dialogue spoken by the characters sounded like it came directly from an era gone by. Pieces of the story like the ones I mentioned tell me, as an audience member, the creative team behind this film cared about the presentation of this part of their project!

A fantastical element: Most of the stories from the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection are grounded in reality, which means that fantastical elements are rarely found in these scripts. With The Love Letter, the story revolves around two people from different time periods who communicate to each other through letter writing. The idea of time manipulation is a concept that would likely be found in either a fantasy or science fiction film. While stories like Somewhere in Time and Portrait of Jennie have been dramas paired with this specific concept, I don’t recall Hallmark Hall of Fame creating their own film like that before or after 1998. Because The Love Letter’s creative team chose to include a fantastical element into their overall project, it gave the movie an opportunity to stand out from other titles. This was a creative risk that worked in the film’s favor!

The Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Scott being engaged: A trope that has appeared in several Hallmark films is the male or female protagonist being engaged at the beginning of the story, only to fall in love with someone else by the end of that story. This trope has found its way into The Love Letter. For most of the movie, Scott is engaged to a woman named Debra. As he finds himself falling in love with Elizabeth, he strings Debra along and keeps the letter writing a secret. Scott does tell Debra the truth about his feelings, but this doesn’t happen until the movie is almost over. Personally, I think this trope is pointless, as the audience is spending time with a relationship that will end up leading nowhere. Scott should have remained single so the script could give its undivided attention to his and Elizabeth’s exchanges.

A rushed explanation: When fantastical or science fiction elements are included in a script, it helps to provide clear explanations to the audience so they can understand what is happening on screen. In The Love Letter, Scott’s mother tells Scott that an imbalance in the time-space continuum is the reason why he and Elizabeth are able to write to one another. However, this explanation was rushed, with Scott’s mother briefly bringing it up on only two occasions throughout the whole movie. She gives Scott stamps from the 1860s and had a special kind of writing ink made for him. Scott’s mother even found a post office that has existed since the Civil War era. These objects and the post office felt more like they conveniently benefited the plot instead of serving as ‘macguffins’ to move the story forward. As I already mentioned, this kind of story is rarely found in the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection. Despite this, a little more time should have been devoted to providing a clearer explanation.

Lack of physical interactions between Scott and Elizabeth: Because Scott and Elizabeth are from different time periods, it is not possible for them to physically interact with one another. Even though this is the nature of the story, it prevented the audience from seeing the on-screen chemistry between Campbell Scott and Jennifer Jason Leigh. One of the staples of a romance film is the on-screen chemistry between the lead actor and actress. Since that element was missing from The Love Letter, I was only invested in Scott and Elizabeth’s relationship to a certain extent. While their words were romantic, verbal communication only plays a part among any given couple.

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

My overall impression:

As I said in my review, most Hallmark Hall of Fame stories are grounded in reality. These stories are also on the simple side, with messages and themes that audience members can relate to. Even though The Love Letter has a fantastical element that is rarely found in films from this collection, it has a simpler story that works! Romance through words and thoughts is what carries the overall story, with important advice woven into the script. Forming a relationship with someone you truly love and never giving up on yourself are nice sentiments that can make audience members feel good about what they are watching. The movie also has the ingredients of a good Hallmark Hall of Fame title, like the level of detail when it comes to the film’s historical accuracy. It is true the movie has its flaws. However, the execution of a creative risk like this makes up for The Love Letter’s weaknesses. Films such as this one make me wish Hallmark would be more creative with their stories and think outside the box more. With the ball in their court, I don’t know what their next creative step will be.

Overall score: 8 out of 10

Have you seen The Love Letter? What Hallmark Hall of Fame movies would you like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: If You Believe Review

For last year’s Happy Holidays Blogathon, I reviewed the 2014 Hallmark Channel movie, The Nine Lives of Christmas. Even though it was my first time seeing the film, I found myself understanding why it has become so popular among Hallmark fans! Originally, I wanted to write about the 1999 film, If You Believe, and the 2020 Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film, Holly and Ivy. But because I wasn’t able to watch Holly and Ivy this week, due to a schedule that was busier than usual, I decided to stick with the one review of If You Believe. This is a film I have seen before, one I remember enjoying. However, it has been over twenty years since I last saw it. As Up Network was airing If You Believe one day, it was a perfect opportunity to take a trip down memory lane! From what I remember, this movie had a pretty unique concept for a Christmas story. In this film, the protagonist’s inner child comes into her present world to help her grow during the Christmas season.

Screenshot of If You Believe‘s poster taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When you have a story that revolves around a young character, that specific role needs to be given to a young actor or actress who has the right amount of talent to carry that film. Even though Hayden Panettiere is the main supporting actress, she single-handedly steals the show! While portraying a younger version of the protagonist, she had so much charisma for an actress so young. The versatility found in Hayden’s performance also added enjoyment to her portrayal of Suzie. Some of the best scenes in If You Believe show Suzie interacting with the film’s protagonist, Susan. This is because both Hayden and Ally Walker had good on-screen chemistry and worked well together. Speaking of Ally Walker, I liked seeing her performance as the protagonist! She brought a wide range of emotions to her role, allowing her character to feel like a realistic individual. This was shown in a scene where Susan and her brother are having a disagreement. Throughout the conversation, frustration and anger could be seen on her face. When her brother says he doesn’t want to see her anymore, Susan immediately starts tearing up.

The cinematography: I was pleasantly surprised to find some creative cinematography in If You Believe! A perfect example is when Susan and a writer named Tom have lunch at a local restaurant. As they discuss Tom’s book, the camera zooms in on Susan’s and Tom’s meal at various moments. This was meant to show how much time was passing during their interaction. Another good use of cinematography can be seen toward the beginning of the film. When Susan is leaving her office for the day, there is a shot of her walking in the hallway. This location is lit with a row of fluorescent lights from the ceiling. As this scene plays out, these lights provide a good contrast to Susan’s dark colored outfit.

The messages and themes: If You Believe is a movie that relies more on the messages and themes of Christmas than the aesthetics of the holiday. Even though these messages and themes could be found in films outside of the Christmas season, the script provides a solid argument for why they should be included in a Christmas movie. One of the biggest themes of If You Believe is believing in yourself. What starts Susan’s journey of personal growth is when she tries to dissuade her niece, Alice, from believing in Santa. This is because she stopped believing in things such as dreams and the magic of the season because of those around her putting her down. As the story continues, the audience see Susan regain her confidence and start believing in herself again, with some encouragement from Suzie. A perfect example is when Suzie coaxes Susan to read a manuscript called “Phooey” in order to find the next bestselling novel for her publishing firm, instead of avoiding another new author to help.

The 2nd Happy Holidays Blogathon banner created by the Brannan sisters from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn out first half: I found the first half of If You Believe to be drawn out. A few scenes lasted longer than they needed to, which caused this problem to occur. Suzie wants to go out on the town, as a way to help Susan move out of her comfort zone. Susan objects this idea, arguing with Suzie during their entire conversation. While this is an important moment in Susan’s journey, I feel the scene could have been shortened by a few seconds. This way, the point could have been reached sooner.

Telling instead of showing: At several moments in the film, Suzie recalls memories from Susan’s past where she was confident and stood up for herself. She shares these memories in various conversations with Susan, but the audience never gets to see them. I know there’s only so much content that can be shared in two hours. However, there should have been at least one or two flashbacks scenes. That decision would have helped illustrate the points Suzie was trying to make.

Glossing over mental illness: In If You Believe, Susan has a writer friend who happens to have a mental illness. When she suggested her friend take medication, he said his medicine ruined his creativity. This friend doesn’t receive much screen-time and his issues are resolved rather quickly. While I’m glad to see Susan’s friend receive the care and attention he needed, the subject of mental illness was glossed over in this story. Even though this was not one of the main topics of the film, it would have been nice if mental illness were given a little more focus in the script.

Group of Christmas figures image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-cute-christmas-character_3188970.htm’>Designed by Pikisuperstar</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I mentioned in the introduction, If You Believe is a film that was released in 1999. Despite this, the film still holds up! Even though there are some flaws in this production, the creative team behind the film did a good job at expressing their intended point to the audience. Like I said in my review, one of the messages of this story is believing in yourself. What Susan’s journey tells us is if we believe in ourselves, then we’ll have enough confidence to believe in others. If we believe in others, we are able to believe in the magic of the season. While If You Believe is a more unconventional Christmas project, it’s one that is definitely worth the two hours! If you are able to find this film, please take the time to watch it.

Overall score: 8.3 out of 10

Have you seen If You Believe? Which ‘90s Christmas movie do you like watching? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: House of the Long Shadows Review

Vincent Price is an actor who has become as much of a household name as the Michael Jackson song he provided the voice-over for, Thriller. Prior to my involvement in the Vincent Price Blogathon, the only film of Vincent’s I have seen is one that is very different from what he is known for: The Whales of August. Last August (me reviewing The Whales of August in August was not intentional), I reviewed that film for the A Month Without the Code Blogathon. Even though I liked Vincent’s performance in that movie, I found the movie itself to be mundane. So, for this current blogathon, I wanted to watch one of Vincent’s films that contained more horror. When I discovered House of the Long Shadows, I was intrigued by the movie’s synopsis. For those of you who have visited my blog before, you would know I enjoy a good mystery from time to time. Because of this film’s mysterious nature, I had hopes to get, at least, some enjoyment out of this project!

House of the Long Shadows poster
House of the Long Shadows poster created by London-Cannon Films and Cannon. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LongShadows.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Prior to watching House of the Long Shadows, I haven’t seen many of the projects from Desi Arnaz Jr.’s filmography. In fact, I’ve only watched his guest appearances on I Love Lucy and his special appearance on The Brady Bunch. Despite this, I was impressed with his lead performance in the film! His casual yet effortless acting style worked with how the character was written. Desi’s acting abilities fit the role of the protagonist, Kenneth Magee! I also liked Julie Peasgood’s portrayal of Mary Norton! Her expressions and emotions really highlighted the sense of urgency her character was experiencing. A scene where Julie sold me on what Mary was going through is when Mary first comes to the Manor to warn Kenneth of the unseen dangers he will face. Because this blogathon is dedicated to Vincent Price, his performance should not be overlooked. As I said in the introduction, the only other film of his that I’ve seen is The Whales of August. The great thing about House of the Long Shadows is how Vincent is given more material to work with as an actor. This allowed him and his character to have a more commanding presence!

 

The use of music: The music that can be heard in the film’s background does a really good job at keeping the movie’s tone consistent. Throughout Kenneth’s stay at the Manor, scores that sound mysterious, sinister, and even sad are played at various moments of the movie. At times when the tone changes, the music never skips a beat and adapts with the events of the story. A great example is when Kenneth is driving to the train station. When the weather is fair and the sky is sunny, light-hearted music can be heard during Kenneth’s drive. As soon as the skies turn dark and stormy, ominous music takes the place of the previous tune.

 

The element of mystery: For those who haven’t yet seen House of the Long Shadows, I won’t spoil the story. What I will say is the mystery element of the film was well-written! The narrative is presented in a way that allows the audience to solve the mystery alongside Kenneth and Mary. This creates an interactive and shared experience between the characters and the viewers. It also maintains a sense of intrigue throughout the movie. As the story unfolds, it makes the audience wonder what will happen next.

Terrified friends watching horror movie in cinema
Scared audience image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/terrified-friends-watching-horror-movie-in-cinema_1027311.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited use of horror: Vincent Price is an actor who is known for starring in horror-esque films. This detail made me believe House of the Long Shadows would be a horror movie. While there are elements of horror to be found, they primarily existed in the film’s second half. The story as a whole placed more emphasis on the element of mystery. This made the movie not as scary as I expected.

 

Diane and Andrew’s subplot: In House of the Long Shadows, there is a subplot involving a young couple named Diane and Andrew. They are in the area of the Manor due to a vacation gone wrong. While watching this movie, I found their subplot to not be integrated in the overall story as well as the other characters’ stories. If anything, it felt like it was there for the sake of being there.

 

The limited use of lighting: I understand the limited use of lighting was adopted to emphasis the atmosphere of the Manor. Where this succeeds on that regard, it also hides the beauty of the Manor itself. One of the most striking features of this location is the grand staircase. It had visually appealing details, such as the gold ornamentations along the iron bars of the stairs. Unfortunately, it was difficult to see this part of the Manor clearly because there was little to no lighting in this space.

Vincent Price Blogathon banner
The Vincent Price Blogathon banner created by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews and Barry from Cinematic Catharsis. Image found at https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/2020/02/20/vincent-price-blogathon/

My overall impression:

Vincent Price: a name that is, more often than not, associated with projects featuring ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night. While this has become a part of Vincent’s legacy, it’s important to remember what he offered to the horror genre, as well as the world of film, as an actor. When I watched his performance in House of the Long Shadows, Vincent’s performance reminded me of Bela Lugosi’s performance in the 1931 film, Dracula! Even though both actors are on screen for a certain amount of time, they use their acting abilities to control the camera’s focus and command its undivided attention. As for the film itself, House of the Long Shadows is truly a hidden gem! Despite being different from what I expected, it’s a movie I think fans of mystery, horror and Vincent himself will enjoy! Maybe the final words of this review are nowhere near as memorable as Vincent’s closing monologue in Thriller. But they do have a special place in this post.

 

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

 

Have you seen any of Vincent Price’s films? If so, which one is your favorite? Tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Mystery 101: An Education in Murder Review

In 2020, I haven’t reviewed Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ films as often as I had wanted to. This is because of two reasons. The first is how I’m not always able to watch a film as soon as it is released. The second is how I’ve devoted my time to re-capping When Calls the Heart. But since I just watched the newest film in the Mystery 101 series and because some of my most popular content is Hallmark Movies & Mysteries related, I decided to review Mystery 101: An Education in Murder! I’ve watched all of Hallmark’s mystery movies that have premiered this year, so far. In my opinion, I think these projects are stronger than the newer Hallmark Channel movies I’ve seen. While there are patterns that Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ films follow, each series tries to tell a different kind of story. The series themselves have a distinct identity, preventing these films from blending into one another. The Mystery 101 series is just one example. Taking an academic approach to the mystery genre, this collection of films has quickly become a fan favorite. I still can’t believe that after this story started a year ago, it’s already on the fifth chapter!

Mystery 101 -- An Education in Murder poster
Mystery 101: An Education in Murder poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=143&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=307&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Mystery+101+An+Education+in+Murder.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: What I liked about the performances in Mystery 101: An Education in Murder is how every actor and actress presented their character as if they were individuals from real-life. While the film’s writing makes this aspect a possibility, the quality of the actors’ talents also helps. All of the interactions between the characters felt realistic and their conversations came across as natural. Even though there were actors and actresses that were new to the series, there were others that have either regularly appeared in the Mystery 101 series or another mystery series. Steve Bacic was one of the main cast members in the Garage Sale Mystery series. Because of his work in those movies, it gave him an understanding on how a typical Hallmark Movies & Mysteries project works. Despite Steve being in the film for a short amount of time, his performance benefitted from his experiences working with Hallmark’s second network.

 

Travis and Amy’s interactions: Seeing Travis and Amy’s relationship grow over the course of the series is one of the best parts of these films! As I said in my Mystery 101 review, the on-screen chemistry between Jill and Kristoffer helps. In Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, these moments featuring Amy and Travis were more light-hearted and humorous. This was meant to provide the audience with periodical breaks from the darkness within the story. One of these moments was when Travis and Amy are waiting to be seated at a restaurant. Even though this was meant to be a romantic date, Amy’s dad showed up and the dinner became an unintentional group event. This scene was hilarious and provided light-hearted interactions between these characters!

 

The mystery: Cold cases are not often featured in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ films. This kind of mystery in Mystery 101: An Education in Murder gave the audience a different story from what is usually shown on Hallmark’s second network. It encourages the creative team behind this series or any mystery series to think outside the box when it comes to story-telling. Instead of relying on physical objects as clues, the clues themselves were found in the dialogue spoken by the suspects. This provided an interesting approach to the mystery itself and how it was solved. Using language as a tool for solving a mystery is a concept that I’ve rarely seen in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film!

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

What I didn’t like about the film:

The “don’t-get-involved” cliché: In my Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver review, I talked about how the incorporation of the “don’t-get-involved” cliché was one of the flaws of that film. This is because I feel this cliché doesn’t work outside of the series’ first or second movie. Mystery 101: An Education in Murder is another film that adopts this cliché. Within the first twenty minutes of the film, Travis tells Amy not to get involved with the case. I know that he told her this with the intention of keeping her best interests in mind. I am also aware that the mystery itself was a cold case. However, Travis told Amy this after she had helped him successfully solve more than one mystery and after he called her a “consultant” while talking with a former colleague. If Travis had expressed his concern about Amy getting involved in the first or second movie, it would feel justified. But in the series’ fifth film, this cliché seems unnecessary.

 

A limited presence for some characters: Some of the characters in Mystery 101: An Education in Murder are featured less than others. As I already mentioned, Steve Bacic was in the film for a limited amount of time. When I first saw this film’s trailer, I had assumed Steve’s character, Mac, would play a bigger role within the story. However, he was only presented in a handful of scenes. I’ve enjoyed watching Preston Vanderslice’s performances in the Mystery 101 series! It makes me happy whenever Bud shows up in any movie. However, it feels like this character is stuck in the same place. I’m not an expert on the subject of the teaching profession. But, by the fifth movie, I feel like Bud should be further along in his educational journey. If this series receives a sixth movie, I hope we can see Bud passing his final exams or watch him graduating.

 

A few overlooked story-points: There were a few story-points in this movie that were not fully explored. A series of Mark Twain’s transcripts were incorporated in the overall story. They were shown at the beginning of the film as the cause for the mystery taking place. I’m not going to spoil the film if you haven’t seen it yet. However, I think these transcripts should have had a stronger connection to the overarching mystery. There was one suspect who was directly connected to the case. Again, I will not spoil the movie. But I think this character’s part of the story was, to a certain extent, overlooked.

Books Seamless Pattern
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My overall impression:

The Mystery 101 series is, in my opinion, one of the stronger of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ series. Its quality has been consistent and I’ve enjoyed watching each chapter. In fact, Mystery 101: Words Can Kill was one of the best movies I saw in 2019! Similar to that film, I did like Mystery 101: An Education in Murder! While it did have some flaws that prevented the project from being better than it was, I had a good time solving the mystery alongside Travis and Amy. Having the mystery be a cold case provided an interesting change to the series. The way the mystery itself was approached was also unique. Language has always played a role in any mystery. But in Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, dialogue from the suspects was used as clues for solving the case. Because of everything that’s been happening in the world at this time, it’ll be a while before we see another Mystery 101 movie. However, I hope we can receive another chapter in this series soon!

 

Overall score: 7.9 out of 10

 

Have you been watching Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ newest films? If so, which one has been your favorite so far? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen